A Pain in the Side

By Jennifer L. Adkins (jladkins@iglou.com)

Summary: Crooks burglarizing STAR Labs manage to steal kryptonite and severely injure Clark with some kind of energy weapon. For him to survive, surgeons need to operate — and in order for them to be able to do that, Lois must track down yet more kryptonite.

Warner Bros. owns this playground, I just play with the toys when they aren't looking.



"Lois! Could you please do as I ask? Just this once? You know that you get tired quickly these days. Let me check out the NIA offices alone, and you take a nap. I promise, next year, I'll let you throw yourself at death's door as often as you like."

"You're good, Clark. You know just the right buttons to push. OK."

"Thank you, honey."

Later that evening, Clark slowly crawled into bed. When Lois rolled over and started to hug him, Clark hissed and pulled away.

"What's wrong?"

"Don't worry. I'll tell you in the morning. Go back to sleep."

Lois sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. "Now you have me worried. Tell me, Clark."

Clark stretched out on the bed. "On my way home, I heard a burglar in STAR Labs. When I entered, two men had removed several items from the safe, including the kryptonite. When I came toward them, the taller one fired some sort of energy weapon at me. The beam hit me, the other guy hit me in the side with a bat, and I blacked out. I woke up about thirty minutes ago, and called the police."

"Your side still hurts?"

"Yeah. I hope a good night's sleep will take care of the problem. When I fought Metallo, I was sore for over a day, so don't worry."

"Do they still have the kryptonite?"

"I think so. I didn't see it in the lab. We can't do anything tonight, but tomorrow we can find it. *If* we get some sleep."

"If you're sore, I could sleep on the couch."

Clark pulled Lois down next to himself. "Not on your life."

Lois smiled, turned off the light, and snuggled in to sleep.

When Lois' alarm went off the next morning, Lois leaned over Clark to turn it off. **I guess he was too tired to fix breakfast this morning.** Knowing that Clark could get dressed for work in seconds, Lois decided to let him sleep for an extra half hour.

After dressing, Lois went to awaken Clark.


When she touched his shoulder, she could tell that he had a fever. Sweat was beading on his forehead. Lois sat down, mad at herself for not paying closer attention when she had leaned over him after waking up. She turned Clark over, and he moaned. Lois pulled down the covers to look at Clark's side. An angry, plate-sized bruise covered the right side of Clark's chest and abdomen.

Lois whispered, "Clark, you lunkhead, why didn't you tell me it was this bad?"

Clark's eyes fluttered. "Uhh, Lois?"

"Yes, Clark."

"My side really hurts."

"I can see that. Why didn't you tell me that it was this bad last night?"

"It wasn't this bad. Looks like I may need to take a sick day."

"You need more than that. You need a doctor."

"It should get better on its own. Why don't you go to work, and I'll call if I need you, all right?"

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I may even be able to come to work later."

"Don't you dare! I don't care if you get all better, you need a day off. Oh, and please don't go out ~->ing unless the world is falling apart, OK?"

"I'll try."

At 11:30 A.M., Lois decided to go out, get some lunch, and check on Clark. As Lois headed for the elevator, Perry yelled.

"Lois! After you check on Clark, head down to the Lexor Hotel. We just got a report that Superman was saving fire victims from the upper floors, then collapsed after bringing the last ones out."

Lois ran for the elevator. "On my way, Chief!"

"Lois! Don't you be running until after you've had that baby, you hear?"

Lois hung her head. "Yes, Chief." Then Lois went only slightly more slowly toward the elevator.

Perry just shook his head.

Superman was just being put in the ambulance when Lois arrived. Henderson came over to talk to her.

"Lois! Where's your better half?"

"Home sick. What happened to Superman?"

"As far as we can tell, after he brought out the last person, he just grabbed his side and collapsed. They're taking him to Metropolis General."

"Thanks, Inspector."

Lois worried as she drove to the hospital. When she arrived in the emergency room, she asked about Superman at the front desk. A doctor came around the corner.

"Ms. Lane?"

"Yes? How is Superman?"

"Not good. He was awake when they brought him in, but he is unconscious now. Do you have any idea what happened?"

"I just finished a story for the afternoon edition, but there's something that I didn't include. Superman was attacked by an energy weapon last night. He came by the apartment where my husband and I live, and asked to spend the night. My husband has a cold, so we decided that they could take care of each other while I was at work today. Superman thought that he would recover quickly, but, obviously, that didn't happen."

"No. It looks like he has a broken rib, and a damaged organ that I guess would be the equivalent of a spleen. We really need to operate, but his skin is impenetrable."

"Uh huh. Then we need kryptonite."

"Yes. Do you know where we can find some?"

"I have some ideas. Is he stable?"

"He should be OK for a day or two. After that…"

"Thank you, Doctor. Can I see him?"

"Just for a minute. Down the hall, on your right."

Lois sat in the chair beside Clark's bed. He was dressed in a hospital gown, but his hair was still slicked back.

"Oh, Clark."

After sitting for a few minutes, Lois headed home.

"Hello, Martha?"

"Lois! How are you!"

"I need your help. Do you know where we might find more kryptonite?"

"Why would you need kryptonite?"

"Clark was hurt last night, and the doctor says that he needs surgery."

"Oh, my! What about Dr. Klein?"

"That chunk was stolen. I'm going to start looking for the men who stole it. I was hoping that you and Jonathan might be able to find some there, just in case I can't find this."

"We'll try. You be careful!"

"I will. I'll call again tonight at 8 P.M. your time."

"We'll be here. If we're not, it will mean that we found some and are on our way. We'll leave a message on your machine."

"Bobby? Did you get the information?"

"The question is, did you get the pizza?"

Lois let Bobby into the apartment, and pointed at the kitchen table.

"Where's Clark?"

"He's…in the tub. He has a cold, and the warm water helps. Now…"

Bobby starts to talk around the pizza in his mouth. "OK, OK. Intergang is trying to re-establish itself in the world smuggling operation, and the leader wanted to get Superman out of the way. They invented an energy weapon that will have lasting effects on Superman. Well, the effects are supposed to last 4 to 5 days, anyway. It's supposed to interfere with his natural healing ability, and temporarily disable him. Then, they can do what they want and not worry about the consequences. This thing is powered by kryptonite, but they only get one use out of each piece. After that, the kryptonite is a useless hunk of rock. Word on the street is, Superman interfered in their robbery, and they had to use that piece then and there. Now they have to find another piece, because they were planning on using it for something big in a couple of months. Is that other pizza mushroom? I love mushrooms."

"Sure. So, that kryptonite is gone. Do they have any ideas on where to find more?"

"What am I, their keeper? I can't even find out who's pulling the strings, let alone what he knows! Now, I have a date with some dessert. I'll see you later."

"Bye, Bobby."

**Four or five days. Clark won't survive that long.**

"Martha, any luck?"

"None. I'm sure that we could find some with Clark's help, but without him…"

**Without him…** "Martha, I have one last idea. You two keep trying, OK?"

"How is he?"

"Holding on, barely. If you find anything, call Perry and tell him that you need to talk to me. He'll page me."

After Lex Luthor's second miraculous return from the dead, Superman had built him his own prison. Lois contacted the warden, and she agreed to a special late night meeting.

Lex was sitting in a meeting room, on the opposite side of bullet-proof glass.

"Lois! What a pleasant surprise! What brings you out so late, my love?"

"Lex, I need your help. I just found out that Clark has been cheating on me, and I'm really sick and tired of putting up with this 'I have to save the world' nonsense, and he won't divorce me because of the baby. I arranged for Intergang to get a weapon to kill him, but they botched the job. They used the last piece of kryptonite that we could find, and now I need more. Can you help me?"

"Lois, are you high? I can't believe that you are the same woman who helped Superman throw away the key to this prison."

"Look, Lex, if you can't help me, I'll find someone else. If I don't kill him now, I'll never be free of him."

Lex opened a compartment in his (robotic) right forearm. Lois' eyes widened.

"Something I heard about. I thought that it sounded cool. Guard, please hand this to the lovely lady. Maybe, once you're free, you can come back to me. We could raise the superbrat together."

"I'll…consider it, Lex. You may not want me. I get a little…moody when I'm pregnant."

"Oh, really? Is this moodiness? Well then, we'll just have to keep you pregnant, won't we?"

Lois took the kryptonite from the guard, who, as usual, had heard absolutely none of the conversation. When the baby started to roll around in protest, Lois hurried to the car and wrapped the kryptonite in lead foil. The baby quieted down.

**Men. They'll believe anything that they want to believe.**

Lois called Martha to tell her the good news.

The next evening, Lois visited Clark in the hospital.

"The doctor said that you could leave tomorrow, if you could find someone to take care of you. Clark and I would be happy to volunteer."

"I heard that he had a bad cold?" Clark's eyes twinkled.

"I think that he is finally getting better." Lois leaned down to whisper, "At least, he will if he can manage to stay home and take care of himself. Otherwise, I may have to kill him myself."

Clark whispered back, "I'll take that as fair warning." Then he looked around and, seeing no one, pulled Lois down for a very long kiss.

"Lois, about this gun…"