The Air that We Breathe

By Leanna Bush (CALPAL1.AOL)

Summary: What is Clark Kent to do? His pregnant wife is missing, and Lex Luthor is on the loose.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first fanfic story. Although I've been a fan of "Lois and Clark" since the beginning, this is the first time I've actually taken the proverbial pen to paper. I've enjoyed reading all of the other fine fanfic stories and hope that someone likes this one. Comments and feedback (good or bad — although please be gentle with the bad! -) are welcomed! :)


The buzzing of the alarm clock pierced the stillness of the bedroom. Clark rolled over on his side and reached out to silence the noise. His eyes focused on the flashing red numbers which read 5:30am. Stretching, he quietly slipped out from under the covers, careful not to disturb his wife. Lois stirred once but then drifted back into a deep sleep. 'No sense in waking her up just yet,' Clark thought to himself as he made his way to the bathroom to shower.

It had been a busy night, and he'd had to leave Lois more than once to patrol the streets of Metropolis as his alter ego. As quiet as he'd tried to be, he'd still managed to disturb her with each departure as Superman. Although she'd promised to go right back to sleep, he'd returned home after one outing extinguishing a raging fire at Metropolis Chemical to find her watching the news on tv. When he'd gently admonished her for waiting up for him, Lois had responded that she was only trying to get a heads up on the latest breaking stories. After all, she'd argued feebly, she was a reporter and should therefore be knowledgeable on news-worthy events, even if they did happen in the dead of the night. Clark wasn't fooled by her excuse for one minute. Two years into marriage and no matter how many times he'd assured her that nothing was going to prevent him from returning home to her safe and sound, Lois stilled worried about him whenever he wore the red and blue suit. It was a quality that Clark found nerve-racking, especially now that Lois was pregnant but, at the same time, also overwhelmingly endearing.

After showering and changing, super-speed style, Clark scurried about the kitchen, preparing a hearty breakfast. Soon, he returned to the bedroom, carrying a tray of food accented by a single red rosebud. His mother had certainly been floored to see her son fly by the window so early in the morning. Explaining that he needed "just the right something" to adorn Lois' breakfast tray, he had followed Martha's suggestion that he look in her rose garden. Immediately spying the beautiful bud, Clark gently removed it from the rosebush, quickly pecked his mother on the cheek, and jetted home to Metropolis, all in under 5 minutes…Now he paused at the doorway of the bedroom, watching his wife as her chest rose and fell rhythmically with sleep. She looked so peaceful that he hated to wake her but knew that he couldn't wait any longer. She'd already be furious with him for letting her sleep through the alarm. Placing the breakfast tray on the dresser nearby, Clark gingerly sat down on the bed next to Lois. "Hey, sleepy-head," he whispered into her ear as he bent down to place kisses on her neck in an effort to rouse her from her dreams. Lois began to stir.

"No, it's too early to get up," she protested. "Just give me five more minutes and then…" Her voice ended in an inaudible murmur. Not even Clark, with his super-hearing, could make out what she'd said.

"Come on, Lois," he persisted. "I have breakfast all ready for you." He began to stroke her bare arm which had escaped the constraints of the sheets.

"Mmmmmmmmm," Lois responded, "That feels wonderful, Clark. What time is it anyway?"

"Ummmm, it's about 6:00am," he answered and then braced himself for her irritation at being allowed to sleep past the alarm.

"Really?" she mumbled. "I feel like I just went to sleep. Well, I guess I'd better get going." She didn't budge from her current position. Although she knew she had to get up, her body just didn't seem to want to cooperate. Slowly, she forced herself to sit up. "Ohhhh, my head," she complained as she rested her head against Clark's firm chest as the room began to spin.

"Lois? Honey, maybe you should stay home today and take it easy. I mean, the past few days have been really slow at the Planet. What do you say that I call Perry and tell him not to count on you today?" Clark asked as he reached for the phone and began to dial the number.

"No, Clark," Lois argued as she gently pried the receiver from her husband's hand. "We have that lunch date with Bobby Big Mouth, remember? I'm just a little tired, that's all. Besides, I'm sure that I'll feel better once I taste your pancakes." Lois looked up at him and smiled that smile that made it impossible for Clark to deny her anything.

Still not totally convinced that it was a good idea for her to go into work on such little sleep, he placed a hand to her forehead and was relieved when he discovered that it was cool. Drawing her into an embrace, he felt her nestle her head on his shoulder. "I don't suppose I could persuade you to maybe take the morning off? You know you need your sleep, especially now." He placed a hand loving on her very swollen stomach.

"Clark…" Lois was cut off in mid-sentence as she tried to unsuccessfully stifle a yawn. "You know I'd go stir-crazy being cooped up in the house all morning. And anyway, what makes you think I could get any sleep without you beside me? You just want to scoop that airport story all for yourself!" She giggled and gave him a playful kiss on the cheek. "I'm starving!" she continued as she reached for her robe. Spying the breakfast tray on the bureau, she flashed Clark a large smile. "Why Mr. Kent…I do believe you're spoiling me!" she mimicked in her best _Gone with the Wind_ accent.

Clark returned her smile. "Well, that *is* part of my job, Mrs. Kent," he replied gallantly cupping his hand to her cheek and kissing her on the forehead. He carried the tray over to the bed and motioned for Lois to sit back down. She propped herself up against the headboard which was no mean feat since she was fast approaching her eighth month.

"Oh, Clark," Lois sighed as she spotted the single red rose. She brought it to her nose and inhaled its rich sweet scent. "How did I ever get lucky enough to have such a thoughtful husband?"


It was 4:00am at the Metropolis Maximum Security Prison. Lex Luthor sat awake in his cell, staring up at the ceiling. In two more hours, he'd hear the wake-up buzzer ringing through the cell block. The door to his 6x6 foot room would automatically be unlocked, and he, along with the other 500 inmates, would be escorted by armed guards to the common dining area to begin their day. Afterwards, there would be a few laps around the perimeter of the prison ending with him serving his stint in the laundry room.

He still couldn't quite fathom the fact that here he was, Lex Luthor, once the 3rd richest man in the world and certainly the richest in Metropolis reduced to eeking out an existence as a prison inmate. Lex's eyes began to burn with an all-too-familiar rage as he thought of the three people responsible for his present circumstances: Lois Lane, once his blushing bride; Clark Kent; and that good-for-nothing boy-scout, Superman. While in prison, he'd made it a point to keep up on the latest happenings around the city and was truly sickened when he learned that Kent and Lois had actually become husband and wife. How a woman of Lois' obvious intelligence could even stomach the idea of sharing Clark's bed, let alone his worthless life, was simply beyond him. Here she'd had the opportunity to become the wife of one of the most eligible bachelors in Metropolis and what did she do instead? Stood him up at the altar and, to add insult to injury, had glibly stood by as he had leapt to his apparent death. Once he'd returned to reclaim her love, all she could reply was that she pitied him! How dare she treat *him*, Lex Luthor, as a person to be scorned?! Well, he'd make sure that he exacted his revenge on *all* three of them!

As Lex was entertaining himself with plans of destroying Lois, Clark, and Superman, he failed to notice that the dim security light, which shone throughout the prison block at all hours of the night, had mysteriously been extinguished. In fact, it wasn't until he heard the metal clang of his cell door opening that his thoughts returned to the present. Suddenly, all of his senses heightened as he became acutely aware that someone was in his cell.

"Who's there?!" When no answer was forthcoming, Lex spoke again. "I *demand* to know who is in here!"

In a hushed whisper, a voice replied, "I'm here to help you, Mr. Luthor." Just as Lex was preparing to lunge at the shadow of the figure, he felt someone grab him from behind and then he slumped to the floor, unconscious.


Lois and Clark exited the elevator and stepped into the hustle and bustle of the Daily Planet. Making her way to her desk, Lois plunked herself down with an audible thud in her chair. Seven months along and she was finding it harder and harder to stand for long periods of time. She made a mental note to ask Clark for a backrub the minute they returned home that evening. Lost in her thoughts of his soothing touch easing the tension in her muscles, she didn't notice Jimmy standing there awaiting her response. What had he just asked her?

She smiled, "I'm sorry, Jimmy, my mind was elsewhere just now. What were you saying?"

Patiently, Jimmy repeated his question, "I asked you if you'd checked your phone messages?"

'I haven't been here a full five minutes before Jimmy comes bounding over to play twenty questions,' she thought irritably. 'Now just wait a moment,' she immediately scolded herself, feeling guilty for being so hard on Jimmy. 'He's only trying to make sure that you remember to listen to your voice mail. After all, you could have avoided lots of problems last time when you forgot to check and then ended up waiting at that restaurant for 30 minutes before Clark showed up.' Ah, yes, the miracles of modern technology. Didn't anyone know how to *write down* messages anymore? Shaking her head, Lois replied, "No, not yet Jimmy. Why? What's up?"

Jimmy cleared his throat and took a deep breath. 'Way to go, Olsen,' he thought glumly. 'Looks like you'll have to be the one to tell her now!' "Uh, well," Jimmy looked down at the floor carefully avoiding Lois' eyes. "Bobby Big Mouth called. It seems as if he gave his inside info to some reporter at the _Metropolis Star_ who promised him a full twelve course meal at Chez Pierre's in exchange." He placed a copy of the morning edition of the _Metropolis Star_ on her desk as if to validate his story.

There, on the front page, Lois spied the story she'd planned on sharing a byline on with her partner and husband.

Jimmy glanced up at Lois and noticed the change of color in her face. "Well, uh, gotta go! The chief wants me to get a head start on those Metropolis fashion show photos!" Glad for an excuse to leave, Jimmy turned and dashed towards the elevator.

Lois picked up the paper, her face positively glowing with indignation and anger. Unaware of her latest mood swing, Clark came up from behind her and put his arms around her. "What are *you* doing reading the _Metropolis Star_ Miss I-wouldn't-be- caught-dead-reading-such-trash?"

Unable to contain her emotions any longer, Lois whirled around to face him. She held up the paper and shook it as she managed to finally choke out her reply. "LOOK!!!! Bobby Big Mouth, that double-crossing, no-good jerk sold his story to *this* worthless rag!" Lois could feel the tears beginning to sting her eyes. "I can't *believe* he'd pull a low-down dirty trick like this! I've…we've been scooped by, of all papers, the _Metropolis Star_! I'm gonna call Bobby right now and give him a piece of my mind!" Lois snatched the receiver from the phone and then realized she'd have to look up Bobby's new number since he periodically changed it 'for security measures' he'd told her at the time. "Where did I put that number?" she yelled at no one in particular.

Clark flipped through the article; Lois was right, they'd been scooped by Metropolis' own version of the _National Enquirer_. On the brighter side, the story was only a relatively small one about the latest problems to plague the new Metropolis Airport which had cost the taxpayers 3 million to build and which had yet to open due to the fact that its entire computer system, initially hailed as a breakthrough in technology, was, to put it mildly, worthless. Rumor had it that the new mayor of Metropolis had given the construction contract to an old friend of his in exchange for his silence about some of the politician's more questionable practices. Still, it would do Clark no good to explain all this to Lois. He knew that once her temper flared, it was just best to try to steer clear until she calmed down.

Starting back to his own desk, he overheard her leaving a colorful message on Bobby's answering machine. He sighed; it was sure to be a long day.

Perry White peered around the newsroom. Spying Clark, he beckoned him into his office.

"Well, Son, how's Lois taking the news about the big scoop?"

"Uh, well, you know how she gets, Chief. Let's just say that Bobby Big Mouth will have a friendly little message waiting for him on his answering machine this evening."

Perry laughed, "That woman always did have a fiery temper. Well, anyway, I'm calling you in here to give you a story about a theft at the Metropolis Museum of Art. It seems that several precious gems and artifacts mysteriously made their escape early this morning. Wouldn't surprise me to find out that Intergang was behind the whole thing. Anyway, you'd best get down to the police station for the latest."

"Sure, Chief," Clark replied as he made his way out of Perry's office.

"And, Son?" Perry called after him. "Send Lois in here. I've got something else for her to work on."

"Will do, Chief," he called over his shoulder. Something told Clark that in deference to her progressing pregnancy, Perry had what was commonly referred to in polite journalistic terms as a 'safe story' in mind for Lois.


Lex Luthor awoke with a start. The last thing he remembered, he was lying on his cot, planning new ways to seek revenge on two nosy reporters and one eternal do-gooder in a red and blue suit. He glanced around his new surroundings and realized that he was in a bedroom adorned with very expensive furnishings. Heavy draperies hung from high windows, effectively smothering any amount of sunlight. Next to the bed itself, an antique-style telephone sat on a small nightstand. 'Surely that doesn't work,' he thought to himself as he lifted the receiver. His question was answered when he heard no dial-tone in his ear. In a strange twist of fate, had he been kidnapped from prison by Nigel, his former servant? No, that was impossible; he'd read about Nigel's untimely demise. Luthor slowly sat up but was forced to lay back down on the bed when the room began to swim. His head throbbed as he strained to recall if he'd seen who was in his cell right before his world went black. As if in answer to his thoughts, the door to the room opened, and a tall muscular fellow came over and peered down at him.

"Ah, so I see you're awake. Enjoy your beauty rest?" the figure snarled. "Well, it's time to get up. The boss wants to see you," and with that, the guy slung Luthor over his shoulder.

After several turns down a long corridor, the guy stopped by a large oak door. Knocking three times, a voice from within called him in. The guy dumped Luthor in a chair, handed him a glass of water, and instructed him to swallow a single white capsule. At first, Lex tried to protest but, in his groggy state, was no match for the man who simply forced the pill down his throat saying, "It's only aspirin." Looking up, Lex was surprised to see who was sitting across from him.

"Hello, Lex," the pouty blonde behind the desk greeted him. "Feeling refreshed from your little nap?" Mindy Church, clothed in a red dress which emphasized her voluptuous curves, eyed him intently with a smile on her full lips.

"Mindy Church!" he exclaimed. "Why…" but before he could finish his sentence, he was interrupted.

"I suppose you're wondering how you got here? Well, let's just say that a girl like me has many friends in this town." She batted her long false eyelashes in his direction.

"*You* broke me out of jail?" Lex replied in disbelief. Although he knew all about Mindy's true nature, Lex still couldn't believe that this woman had the resources to pull off such a thing.

"Why, Lex," she answered. "You don't believe me? I have lots of tricks up my sleeve. Too bad my husband wouldn't listen to me. I'm hoping that you won't make the same mistake."

Intrigued by her words, and more than a little attracted to her physically, Lex decided to play along. "Why, my dear, I'm sure that you do. Bill Church didn't know what a lucky man he was," he finished as he eyed her up and down. A brief smile crossed his lips as he thought of the two of them together. She was even more beautiful than Antoinette. Winning her affections would certainly be pleasurable. "Why don't you tell me exactly why I'm here."

Mindy smiled. She hadn't expected Lex Luthor to be so charming. He was much more handsome in person than he was in pictures even in spite of the fact that his once full head of dark brown hair was gone. In its place was a smooth bald scalp which reminded her of a certain British actor who used to be on a science fiction television show. Adding Luthor to her small band of loyal followers would be a challenge. "Well, as I'm sure you know, *I'm* the head of Intergang."

"Is that so?" Luthor raised an eyebrow.

"Yes it is," she responded. "But I sometimes have trouble with people taking me seriously," she continued in her best Betty Boop voice.

"Really? Why, my love, I find that quite difficult to believe," Lex countered. "I can assure you that you have my undivided attention." 'Until I can find a way to lure you to my bed and then to outsmart you,' he thought.

"It's sad but true, Lex," she explained. "But enough about that problem. On to the real reason I brought you here. I want to *kill* Superman. He's always raining on my parade." Mindy extended her bottom lip into a playful pout. "I've tried to bring him down before. Why I even engineered a Kryptonian flu virus to make him deathly sick. But, in the end, he might as well have caught the sniffles for all the good it did me." She stood up and came around to within inches of Luthor's face. "I know that you'd like to see him in a pine box too so if we just put our heads together, I *know* we can get rid of him once and for all." She drew closer and planted a kiss firmly on his lips. "So, will you help me?"

"Well, Mindy," he replied, "I can't understand why you need *my* assistance. After all, I've tried several times to "finish him off" as it were but I, myself, have not been successful." 'What *exactly* is it that you want from me, my dear?' he wondered to himself. He knew that Mindy Church, as airheaded as she might at first appear, was a woman of iron will. Surely she didn't expect him to fall for the old "I need the help of a big strong man like yourself" routine, did she?

Mindy drew in a breath and continued, "But, Lex, if you help me get rid of Superman, then you and I can head Intergang together."

'I'm Lex Luthor, darling,' he thought to himself. 'I'm not about to share any power with you!' Still, if he could employ Mindy's help in doing away with the overgrown boy-scout then maybe he stood a chance of overthrowing her as well and assuming control over Intergang. Lex turned on his brightest most charming smile. "My darling, when you put it like that, how could I possibly refuse?"


Lois stole another glance at her watch. It was now approaching 2:00pm and there was still no sign of Clark. Where was that husband of hers? After she'd stormed out of Perry's office with her so-called "assignment" (covering a nice safe flower arranging show down at the Metropolis Civic Center), she looked over at his desk just as he was preparing to leave for the police station. Still upset over the Bobby Big Mouth fiasco and her instructions from Perry about making sure she "stop to smell the flowers" while she was writing her story, she dismissed Clark's attempts to lighten her mood. Thankfully, he finally left her with a promise to be back in time for an early lunch since their plans with Bobby had fallen through.

"Okay, Clark, I'm giving you exactly five more minutes. We're hungry!" she said to herself, rubbing the bulge in her stomach. "It won't be long now, little one, before you and your mommy go to lunch *without* daddy." As if in sympathy, the baby kicked in response. Lois smiled, "I can tell that you're going to be strong-willed just like me."

She sighed as she put the finishing touches on her story before emailing it to Perry. She absent-mindedly began chewing on the end of her pencil. "Oh this is ridiculous," she said aloud to no one in particular. "Obviously, Clark's gotten tied up with his *real* story."

She arose from her chair with every intention of storming out to lunch. As she approached the elevator, she had a sudden change of heart. After all, it wasn't Clark's fault that he'd gotten a really great story to work on. And, she knew that Perry was just looking out for her. Still, she couldn't quite shake the irritation she felt. Always one to pride herself on being able to handle any situation, she had lately perceived that others were treating her like she was a fine porcelain doll, ready to crack at any moment. 'Well, soon the baby will be born and things will be back to normal,' she reassured herself.

Finding herself outside the Daily Planet building, she decided to cross the street to the corner drug store. Fifteen minutes later, she re-emerged, carrying a Double Fudge Crunch candy bar. This would tide her over until she and Clark could get away for a late lunch. As she walked back toward the office, she suddenly decided to make a slight detour for the car.

Driving always helped her collect her thoughts. And she knew that she'd have to clear her head before talking to Perry or Clark about the way she was feeling lest she say something in the heat of the moment that she would later regret. Reaching the car, she clumsily climbed into the driver's seat. Before she could hit the automatic lock button, the back seat door flew open and a man scrambled inside.

"Hello, Lois, my love," a familiar voice hissed in her ear. "Happy to see me?"

Lois felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end as she steadied her voice. "Lex, I thought you were in jail."

"Yes, well, you thought wrong, my darling. I'm sorry to have to do this, but you look like you could use a nap." A cloth that reeked of chloroform was placed over Lois' nose and mouth and within seconds, she was out cold.


Lois awoke, disoriented, and tried to focus her blurred vision. To her dismay, she noticed that her earlier headache had returned with a griping intensity. Nothing around her even gave her the slightest hint as to where she was. She remembered Lex Luthor suddenly opening the back door of her jeep and placing a handkerchief saturated with some chemical over her mouth. And now she was in a cell-type cage in the dark damp basement of some building. A large, black, fuzzy spider slid stealthily down the wall to her left, causing her to recoil with fear. If only she'd stayed in the office instead of deciding to go for a drive, she might be in Clark's arms, sitting in front of the TV, enjoying a relaxing backrub instead of cooped up God-only-knew-where!

'What are you? Galactically stupid?!' that voice scolded her. Exhausted and more than a little frightened, Lois felt like her emotions would overwhelm her. As the tears started to form in the corners of her eyes, threatening to cascade down her flushed cheeks, she noticed someone stride up to the bars.

"Ah, my love. So I see you've awaken."

Her eyes, still blurred from the chloroform and now the tears, caught sight of Lex Luthor, wearing perhaps the most evil smile she'd even seen.

"Well, I'm sure you're wondering why you're here. As you know, before my unfortunate incarceration, I was Superman's biggest rival. Always trying to think of inventive, if not down right life-threatening, ways of testing his powers and his patience. Sadly, my efforts proved fruitless, although I came *so close* on our wedding day with the whole kryptonite cage thing." Luthor waved his hand aimlessly in the air. "But alas, in the end, Superman won, albeit temporarily, by having me imprisoned."

"During my time at Metropolis Maximum, I've had time to ponder my past acts. A lesser man may have simply given up and accepted the inevitable, but not Lex Luthor. No, I put my time to good use, keeping abreast of current affairs and the like. I read about your wedding to Mr. Kent and may I also say that you make a radiant mother-to-be. Of course, in a perfect world, you would be mine and that baby would be ours." Lex paused for effect, letting Lois digest all that he'd said up to this point.

"You should know by now, however, Lois, that this *isn't* a perfect world. As much as I may rejoice in your happiness, I can't help but feel betrayed by your actions of late. Don't you know by now, Lois, that I'll *always* come back for you? You and I are meant to be together, are meant to raise a family together. However, your marriage and now your pregnancy complicate matters just a bit, wouldn't you say? You can't very well be mine now…at least not in this lifetime. I suppose I'll have to find solace in power instead of with you."

"Of course, that presents another problem. In order to have ultimate power over this city, you see, I'll need to eliminate three key citizens: you, Kent, and Superman. After all, although I will always be hopelessly in love with you, you and Kent are just a little *too* nosy for your own good. I mean, even if I were to give you another chance at marrying me, who's to say that the two of you wouldn't bring me down a second time? And then, of course, there's the whole Superman thing. He just throws a damper on things."

"Lex, please…" Lois tried to reason but Luthor was too wrapped up in his own fantasies to listen.

"Hush, my dear. No sense in getting worried over what you are not in any position to change. I'll see you in a little while, I promise, but first I need to make a few arrangements," and with that, Lex turned and strode out of the room.


Clark Kent returned to the Daily Planet just shy of 3:00pm. 'Lois is going to kill me,' he thought to himself as he rode the elevator to the second floor. His story about the gem heist from the Metropolis Museum of Art had been relatively straightforward enough. A variety of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones and artifacts had been stolen clearly by someone on the inside. After talking to the police, the museum security guards, the museum curator, and x-raying the place for any hidden clues that pointed to Intergang, he was satisfied that this was nothing more than a common robbery.

He had been on his way back to the Planet building when he'd heard about Luthor's escape from prison. Just the thought of that man on the loose was enough to make Clark edgy. He'd changed into Superman and had gone to Metropolis Maximum Security Prison to investigate. He didn't find much evidence that helped to explain Luthor's sudden disappearance. Deciding that it was best to return to the office where he could keep a watchful eye on Lois, Clark left the prison but assured the guards that he'd be on the lookout for Lex.

On the way back to the Daily Planet, however, he'd encountered numerous cries for help. He saved a small wayward boy from being hit by a car when he got away from his mother and ran into the street; he landed a plane that had lost a wing at New York's La Guardia airport; he rescued a hijacked bus full of tourists visiting Washington, D.C.; and he assisted in the search for survivors when a 7.0 earthquake ripped through China. Exhausted, he finally arrived back at the office.

"Chief?" Clark stuck his head into Perry's office. "Here's the story on the Metropolis gems heist. I also have a variety piece on some of Superman's latest activities. By the way, have you seen Lois? Did she make it back from the flower show yet?"

Perry looked up from his desk. "Good work, Clark," Perry responded as he took the printouts from Clark's outstretched hand. "Ah, no, I haven't seen Lois, but she did return from the flower show about three hours ago. I'm sure she's around here somewhere. Anyway, I suggest you find her and then you kids go on home. It's a slow news day around here, and Lois looks like she could use the rest. Of course, don't tell her *I* said that, or she'll insist on hanging around here a few more hours."

Clark smiled. Yep, that sounded like the woman he loved. Tell her to do something, and she immediately set about doing the opposite. "Okay. See ya tomorrow, Chief."

As he was returning to his desk, Clark's phone began to ring. "Hello? Kent here," he spoke into the receiver.

"Ah, just the reporter I wanted to talk to," came the response on the other end of the line.

"Luthor?!" Clark could hardly believe his ears.

"The one and only," Lex gloated.

"What do *you* want?"

"It seems I have something, or someone, that you're missing."

Panic tightened around Clark's throat. "Lois!"

"Very perceptive, Mr. Kent. Now, if you want to see her alive again, you'll get a message to Superman."

Clark listened and jotted down the instructions. "If you so much as lay a hand on her, Luthor, I swear I'll spend my dying breath in making you regret it!"

"Now, now, Mr. Kent. Threats don't flatter either of us. Let's just hope that Superman cares enough to do as you ask of him." A dialtone hummed in Clark's ear. He replaced the receiver and then sped off to his wife.


Mindy stood across from Lex Luthor staring at an aerosol- type canister, only half-listening to Lex's ramblings about the scientific properties of kryptonite gas. 'Was this science lesson really necessary?' she asked herself. After all, She didn't have the slightest clue as to the mechanics involved when she turned the key to start her car, but that didn't mean that she couldn't *drive* it! 'Surely I don't need to know the exact temperature at which kryptonite forms a gas in order to be able to appreciate its effects on Superman,' she told herself. Finally, unable to stand the incessant chatter from Lex any longer, she interrupted him in mid-sentence.

"Lex," she said, turning on her brightest smile. "I think I get it. Once Superman arrives to save Lois Lane, we turn on the kryptonite gas. As Superman breathes, the oxygen in his body will be replaced by kryptonite gas, thereby suffocating him. I have been known to use cyanide gas before; the basic principle is the same."

Lex stared at Mindy, for once, speechless. This woman was certainly more clever than she looked. Something told him that he'd better watch his back. Her wide eyes, which could be mistaken for a complete lack of intelligence on her part, actually served to disguise a cunning woman who knew how to use her appearance to disarm a man. He almost had to admire her ability to deceive. 'Ah, but that's a dangerous game you play, my dear, when you pit your wits against those of Lex Luthor,' he thought.

"So, Lex, when is Superman going to show up anyway?" Mindy intruded into his thoughts in that pouting voice of hers.

"Soon, my dear Mindy. Very soon. Come with me; we still have a few things to do before our man in red and blue makes his entrance," Lex laughed wickedly as he pictured the Man of Steel finally meeting his doom.


Lois laid down on the small bed that took up most of the room in her cell. She silently prayed that no matter what happened to her, her unborn baby would survive. She knew that Luthor was more than capable of killing her and maybe even Clark but the thought of her son or daughter dying before he or she had had a chance to live was almost more than she could bare. On the verge of total despair, Lois could feel tears stinging her cheeks. For several minutes, she gave in to the feeling of hopelessness. She blamed herself for her current state of affairs. Why hadn't she just listened to Clark earlier that morning and taken a sick day? By now, she'd be waiting for Clark to come home to her instead of waiting for Luthor to carry out whatever deranged plan he'd dreamed up this time. Why couldn't she have waited for Clark and gone to lunch with him? Suddenly, that small voice inside her head took on a fierce urgency. 'LOIS!!!! Get a grip right now! Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, why don't you see if you can help yourself out of this mess?! You used to mean the world to Lex Luthor and maybe you still do. Maybe you can use his weakness to your advantage!' As if on cue, the door to the basement creaked open.

"Well, it won't be long now, love, and this will all be but a happy memory," Luthor laughed like a madman. "I've put in a call to your husband and if he did as I asked, Superman should be arriving momentarily. How does it feel to know that you'll have the privilege of watching him take his last breath?"

Lois swallowed the sickening feeling that was lodged in her throat. She drew in a deep breath and forced herself to smile. "Lex, I've been thinking. How I could have *ever* married Clark Kent is beyond me. I've *always* had feelings for you. " 'Not a total lie,' she told herself. 'Why, right now I have overwhelming feelings of disgust and hatred for you, Lex.' "Can't you find it within your heart to forgive me? I…I…I still love you." She choked the words out. 'Now, that's a total lie, Lane!' she scolded herself.

Hearing those words from Lois made Luthor regret what he was about to do…almost. He walked up to her cell to face her. Out of sheer desperation, Lois reached through the bars and touched his face. Lex backed away, reeling from her act. He remembered when he would have given anything for a response like that from his beloved Lois. He closed his eyes and drew in a sharp breath. Lois watched him and started to feel a sense of relief. It appeared as though his feelings for her were still there. Maybe she did have a shot at getting out of here after all. Recovered from his brief emotional reaction, Lex Luthor came up to her cell once again. As she tried to reach out for him again, he slapped her hand away with such force, that Lois knew she was deluding herself to think that he'd do anything but kill her.

"Lois! Did you really think that I'd fall for such an obvious attempt to win your freedom? There was a time when I would have given you the world if you'd only showed me that sort of affection. That time, however, has past. *You*, Kent, and Superman will pay for what you've done to me!!" he screamed in a rage. As he was preparing to turn away, the door to the basement suddenly flew open.

"SUPERMAN!" Lois gasped.

Lex whirled around to face his adversary. "Well, well, right on time, Superman," he applauded. "I could always count on you to be punctual. Are you ready, then, for your date with death?"

Superman looked over at Lois. 'Thank God she's still alive,' he thought to himself. 'I could never forgive myself if anything ever happened to her.' He then focused his attentions on Lex. "I don't know what you have in store, Luthor, but I can assure you that you won't win. Clark Kent has already called the police, and they'll be here soon to take you back to prison where you belong." He stared Luthor right in the eye.

"Really?" Lex responded. "Well, I'm afraid that they will be too late to save the two of you." He withdrew a walkie talkie from his coat pocket. He spoke into the small device, "It's showtime!" Suddenly, a thick cloud of greenish gas began to permeate the room. Clark clutched his temples in agony.

"Kryptonite!" he uttered as he dropped to his knees.

"Yes!" Lex hissed in his ear. "And make sure you breathe deeply, Superman! You never know which breath will be your last!" He turned towards Lois, "Mon cherie, I do hope you won't hold this against me! After you watch *him* die, you'll see what I have in store for you!" Lex Luthor all but skipped with joy as he exited the room.

"Clark!" Lois called from behind the bars. "Clark, I…" her words were cutoff as she experienced a severe wave of dizziness. Feeling disoriented and very nauseous, she barely made it back to her cot before she collapsed. She tried to inhale deeply but found that she could only gasp for air. Her breathing became rapid and shallow as she began to choke on the gas. 'What's happening?' she asked herself in a voice thick with panic. 'Why am I affected by kryptonite? It's only dangerous to Clark…' The answer suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks. The baby! Of course, the baby had both human and Kryptonian traits and, at this minute, it looked like that either he or she possessed more of Clark's genes.

Lois began to shake as she realized that Luthor had indeed succeeded in his diabolical plans. She, Clark, and their baby were all going to *die* right here and right now! She and Clark would never get the chance to see the child they had been looking forward to ever since they'd found out about her pregnancy. Tears flowed down Lois' cheeks which only made it harder for her to catch her breath.

Memories of Clark came rushing back to her mind so fast that she was sure they would suffocate her before the kryptonite gas did. She remembered the first time she'd seen him in Perry's office. Although she'd brushed him off as a "hack from Nowheresville," she knew that if she'd been totally honest with herself, she'd have to admit that she was attracted to him, at least physically, from that moment. She remembered their "almost first date" when she'd gotten sick on that Chinese food, and Clark, always understanding and gentle, had carried her to the bedroom door.

Little things came back to her with absolute clarity. The way he'd touch her cheek, the way his firm lips met hers, and the way he held her when they went flying. She'd *never* have the chance to do any of those things again! If only she'd known that today was the beginning of the last day of her life… There were so many things she still hadn't said… As she drifted off into unconsciousness, her last thoughts were of the man she loved more than life itself. She only hoped that in the short time they'd been together, he knew how hard she had fallen for him.

Clark lay on the floor, withering in pain and gasping for air. He tried to call out to Lois but couldn't get enough oxygen in his lungs to do more than murmur inaudibly. It just wasn't fair! Here he and Lois were finally together after all of the obstacles which had threatened to keep them apart forever. Here they were looking forward to welcoming their first child, and now he'd never get to see his son or daughter look into his eyes with the love only a child can have for a parent.

And then there was Lois. The thought of his leaving her sent an indescribable wave of sadness straight to his heart. What would life be like for her without him? What would his life in the next world be like without her? How could he possibly *have* a life if she weren't with him to share in it? Even if his soul continued to live on in another place after his body died, he knew that it wouldn't be a blissful existence, not when he was separated from all that he held dear to his heart. The pain at knowing that he was leaving Lois and his unborn child was worse than the pain he experienced as the kryptonite gas filled his lungs with every breath he took. He'd never feel her in his arms again; never see the look of surprise on her face when he whisked her to a faraway city on the spur of the moment; and, worst of all, never feel the weight of her soft lips pressed against his. He found it harder and harder to keep his eyes open. His throat, nose, and chest were burning from inhaling the gas. His vision was blurred (although whether that was from the kryptonite or the tears in his eyes he wasn't sure), and his eyes were bloodshot red. As he began to drift away, he could hear Lois calling out to him in sharp shallow breaths.

"Clark…Clark…Please, I need you…Can't breath…Please help me…help us…"

'That's funny,' Clark vaguely thought to himself. 'Lois shouldn't be affected by any of this…' In an instant, his mind seemed to clear as he thought of his wife and child. What if their baby was reacting to the gas?! It was bad enough that he was experiencing kryptonite poisoning but to think that Lois and his helpless unborn child were suffering was more than he could bare. Surely the canister that held the deadly fumes was hidden somewhere in this room. Forcing himself to focus the small amount of energy that had not yet been drained from him, Clark scanned the room. Spying the aerosol container, he rasped into a fit of coughing as he took a few shallow breaths. "Lois…"

Hearing her name, Lois staggered off the bed and onto the floor. Slowly, painfully, she inched her way towards the sound of his voice. "Clark…I'm here," was all she managed to utter before a darkness overcame her.

Mustering every last ounce of strength he had left, Clark struggled to fill his lungs with his last bit of oxygen. If this didn't work, he knew that he wouldn't have the energy left to try again. He let out a stream of cool breath aimed right at the canister. Just before he blacked out, he managed to freeze the nozzle of the container.


Lex Luthor slipped down the hall, his hand in his pocket. Although he owed his freedom to Mindy Church, he wasn't about to stick around to say thank you. 'We'll run Intergang together,' he remembered her words. If she thought he bought *any* of that ridiculous drivel, then she deserved what he was about to do. He had never dared to trust anyone completely which was why he was still alive. Reaching the door that Mindy's guard had ushered him through only hours before, he slowly turned the knob. Opening the door ever so slightly, he peered through. He saw a figure sitting behind the large mahogany desk. Aiming the .45 caliber gun he'd stolen off the body of one of the guards he'd stationed outside of the basement, he pulled the trigger.

"Why Lex," said a familiar voice behind him. "What a *mean* thing to do!"

He spun around on his heel and came face to face with Mindy Church. Enraged that his plan to rid himself of this woman and take over Intergang had been foiled, Lex pointed the gun at her. "Well, you know what they say, my dear, only the fittest of us survive. I'm afraid I really can't afford to keep you around. After all, you know too much. Goodbye, my love."

"Hold it right there!" The words cut Luthor to the quick. "Drop your weapon immediately!" A uniformed police officer emerged from the dimly light hallway. He turned to Mindy Church. "Thank you, Mrs. Church, for helping us find Mr. Luthor. The Metropolis police force is grateful for your assistance. Is there anyone else here besides you?"

Mindy flashed a knowing smile at Lex. "No, Officer. Mr. Luthor asked me to help him kill Superman, but, luckily, you arrived in time to stop his plans. I can't understand why anyone would want to kill Superman, a man who has done nothing but good deeds for this city."

"Okay, Mr. Luthor, what say I take you to your home away from home?" The officer pushed him towards the stairs.

"NO!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!! You won't get away with this!" he snarled at Mindy Church as he was led away. "I promise that I'll make you pay for what you've done to me!"

Mindy Church smiled as he was pulled past her. "Now that you've taken care of Superman for me, Lex, Intergang is all mine!" she whispered as he was handcuffed and escorted out.


Lois awoke with a start. She looked around the room and realized that she was in the hospital. Confused, she tried to sit up. She peered down and noticed that the bulge that she'd become attached to over the last seven months was gone. Panic- stricken, she rang for the nurse.

A short time later, a strawberry-blond woman appeared carrying an infant. Lois looked at her for a long time; she was sure that she'd seen her somewhere before. Opening her mouth to speak, Lois noticed that a doctor had entered the room. The man was dressed in a green surgical scrub suit. His face was partially concealed by the mask tied around his mouth. Underneath his surgical cap, she could see wisps of grey hair. As the nurse and doctor spoke to each other, Lois let out a small gasp as she realized who they were. They were Jor-El and Lara, Clark's biological parents! She recognized them from the pictures the globe projected when Clark showed her the only link he had to his homeworld. The two of them were holding what Lois assumed was her baby. But how did they get here? She struggled to recall the last thing that happened before she blacked out. She remembered being in a damp dark room with Clark only he was dressed as Superman. And then she remembered the greenish kryptonite gas that began to fill the room. She remembered gasping for breath and then…

Lois felt her heart thumping hard against her chest. She was dead! That was the only explanation she could come up with. She had *died* in that room. But what about Clark? What about her baby? She tried to call out to Lara and Jor-El but found that her raw throat made no sound. It was like when she was a little girl and had a terrible nightmare. She would call out for her mother but would find that her voice was only a hoarse whisper. Suddenly, she realized that Jor-El and Lara were leaving her room with the infant in their arms.

"NO! NO! That's my baby!" Lois managed to finally yell as they walked off into the distance. Overcome with a powerful sense of grief, Lois began to sob.


"Lois," a soft voice beckoned her and then a gentle hand touched her forehead. "Can you hear me?" She felt a warm kiss on her cheek. Slowly, she forced herself to open her eyes. The first face she saw made her heart race.

"Clark?" she murmured.

"Yes, it's me," the soothing voice continued. He stroked an errant hair away from her face. "Shhhhh, don't try to talk. You've been through too much." She felt the mattress bounce slightly under his weight as Clark sat down beside her. He held her hand close to his heart, and she could hear his breath coming in quick gasps.

Peering up at him, she noticed he was crying softly. She raised her hand and touched his smooth face. "What is it?" she whispered. "Clark, is this real? Or am I dead and watching you mourn me? Did our baby…I dreamed our baby…" but she couldn't bring herself to finish the horrible thought.

"Oh God, no, Lois," he sputtered gathering her into his strong arms.

She was relieved to feel the baby kicking within her. "Tell me what happened," she pleaded.

Clark took a few deep breaths which, up until a few hours ago, he didn't think he'd ever do again. "What's the last thing you remember?"

Lois frowned, struggling to piece together the events that had taken place. "I remember Lex and being trapped in a basement. I remember you knocking down the door as Superman and then I remember that I couldn't breathe." She tightened her grip on Clark, recalling the helpless feeling of gasping for air.

"Lex tried to kill me by poisoning me with kryptonite gas. Right after I came through the door, he flooded the basement with the noxious fumes. I started to choke and then you…"

Lois squared around to look into his eyes. "It's okay, Clark," she said reassuringly. "Go on."

"Just as I was about to black out, I heard you calling out to me. You were barely able to speak as you struggled to breathe. And then I understood why. The baby…our baby…was being affected by the gas. The demand on your body to support both of you was too great. When I thought of the two of you suffering," Clark swallowed hard as he fought back tears at the memory. "I summoned every last bit of strength I had and froze the nozzle of the gas canister."

Lois clung to him, burying her face on his shoulder. She'd almost lost the man she loved and their child. Even if she had somehow managed to survive, it wouldn't have been worth living if either of them had died.

"Once the fumes began to subside and disperse, I regained consciousness. You were still out, but I could feel your vital signs returning to normal. The baby…was very, very weak. I scooped you up in my arms and flew you to Metropolis General. Fortunately, the medical staff reacted quickly and saved our daughter." Clark winced at revealing the baby's sex. He knew Lois had wanted to be surprised.

Lois' eyes grew wide. "It's a girl?" she asked incredulously.

"I'm sorry. I know you didn't want to know."

"No, Clark, that's okay. We're going to have a daughter," Lois repeated slowly. She guided Clark's hand down to her stomach. "Clark," she smiled. "We're going to be parents! Isn't that something?" she breathed, the reality of it hitting her all at once in a rush. Until now, the idea had seemed rather distant, like she was watching it happen to someone else.

"Yeah," Clark agreed. "I'm going to be the father of a little girl!" He pulled Lois even closer to him.

"I love you, Clark," Lois held his face in her hands.

"I love you, too," he replied. "More than life itself."