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Superman: Fractured Reality

 

Story Parameters Superman: Fractured Reality
Author: RedKryptonClark aka RKC_EB Story Details

Characters: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olson, Chloe Sullivan, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent, The Justice League, Kara, and Lex & Lionel Luthor.

Story Parameters: Action, Romance, Angst, Drama. This story is a sequel.
Length: Novel, In Progress.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Clark Kent has reset time by embracing an alternate universe where he did not save Lana in RECKONING in order to restore balance to the world after Lex Luthor let loose a nuclear weapon that destroyed a large chunk of California and was indirectly responsible for the death of Clark's closest friends including the love of his life, Lois Lane. The Ripple Effects from Clark’s adjusting time will unleash a new enemy upon Metropolis and Earth that Clark Kent is ill-prepared to face…will this reality bring forth a fate worse than the one that he erased?

Chapter Index 1 Chapter Index 2

Prologue

Chapter 1 Chapter 2

Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Chapter 5 Chapter 6

Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Chapter 9 Chapter 10

 

Chapter 11 Chapter 12

Chapter 13 Chapter 14

Chapter 15 Chapter 16

Chapter 17 Chapter 18

Chapter 19 Chapter 20

Chapter 21 Chapter 22

Chapter 23


 

 


Superman: Fractured Reality

Prologue


The stars twinkled endlessly across the universe bathing the emptiness of space with their brilliance. A small object floated end over end in constant rotation moving forward by the remaining inertia that had launched it into space thousands of years ago. It had traversed great distances and had silently witnessed the death of stars, the birth of comets, and helplessly watched ships fly by without giving the asteroid appearing object a second thought.

Suddenly the emptiness of space seemed to come alive. A giant rapidly moving wave of energy pulsated across the universe on a direct outwards path. The object turned to face the energy wave and watched helplessly as it crashed straight into it, the object was thrown millions of light-years off of its course and when it stopped spinning it found itself plummeting towards the outer atmosphere of a blue planet covered with several large land masses. It accelerated and punched through the earth's atmosphere creating a large sonic boom as it caught fire and rapidly descended towards Earth.

A small Japanese fishing boat that was circling the Antarctic Circle bobbed in the icy waters as the stars twinkled overhead. The boat's captain watched with great interest as the sound of the sonic boom ricocheted off of the icy ocean, echoing for miles. Above he saw a fireball rapidly racing towards the Earth's surface. The captain's eyes grew wide as he realized the object was heading his way. He started screaming out in alarm and barely had time to hit the deck when the fire coated object impacted into the Antarctic ocean and sent a thirty foot wall of water straight up into the sky. The icy water showered the boat’s deck and caused the boat's anchor to heavily strain against the impact’s currents that threatened to detach the boat from its hold on the ocean's floor.

The captain began shouting for his crew to assist with keeping the boat afloat. Heart hammering in his chest, he turned and stared into the water where the object had disappeared and couldn't see anything. Members of his crew appeared to help. Then his first mate suddenly began pointing towards the ocean. With a shaking hand, the captain pulled a large flood lamp off of the wall and activated it. The lamp’s rays bobbed over the empty ocean like a firefly flickering on and off on a warm summer night; barely permeating the impregnating darkness. Suddenly a loud splash was heard and something shot straight out of the water, causing ocean water to again shower the deck of the already soggy boat.

The First Mate screamed, grabbed the light from his captain and shined it up into the air. The men on deck barely had time to register what they were seeing before blood curdling screams erupted out of their lungs as their lives flashed before their eyes.

******

Three days later a German scientific expedition liner came upon what appeared to be an abandoned fishing boat. They pulled up along side of it after their hails brought no response from the crew.

One of the German crew-members, Heinrich climbed his way onto the deck and began slipping as he stepped into a sticky, gooey substance. He looked around and gulped when he recognized the smell as that of human blood. His senses immediately went on high alert – the deck was caked in blood. Nervously he looked around and called out to any survivors and wasn't surprised not to receive an answer. Kneeling down he examined the carnage on the deck and realized that the crew of the boat had been ripped from limb to limb, their bodies were pummeled to the point of beyond recognition of even being human remains.

The large man fought with his gag reflex and with shaking hands picked up an object that stuck out from what he could only assume had been the stomach cavity of a man.

“What do you have there?” a crew-mate, Gunther asked from above deck.

Heinrich stared long and hard at the blood encrusted object and shook his head. “Looks like a thorn...” he shouted back. “Or maybe a tooth...or a tusk?”

“Tooth or tusk? From what?”

The man held up the twelve inch object for Gunther to see. Gulping deeply, he replied, “I have no idea.”


Chapter 1


In the late afternoon sun, Jonathan Kent’s eyes bulged against the near bone crushing embrace that he found himself in by his son, Clark Kent.

“It’s good to see you too, son,” Jonathan stated, patting his son affectionately on the back and choking back a tear of happiness in seeing his wayward son safe and at home.

Clark sheepishly realized that he had picked his father up off of the ground in his exuberance to see him again. Gently he put Jonathan Kent back down and beamed back at him. Clark planted his fists on either side of his hips and looked his father up and down. Jonathan Kent’s six foot frame was slightly more hunched over than when Clark had left him eight years ago and his blond hair was now liberally peppered with grey. Clark also noted that Jonathan wore glasses making him look distinguished and wise at the same time.

He didn’t quite know what to say, for so many years Clark had lived in a reality where Jonathan Kent had died of a heart attack. Even though he had reset time and had memories of Jonathan Kent being alive, he still thought of the previous timeline as being more real than this one. It was like waking from a horrible nightmare where everyone you loved had died and when you woke up everything was as it should be.

A corner of Jonathan’s mouth hitched upwards into a lopsided smile. “You’re looking at me like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clark.”

Nervously, Clark shifted from foot to foot and squinted his eyes. “Maybe that’s because it’s kinda true?” he offered.

Frowning, Jonathan shook his head and smiled. “Come on inside son, your Mom just made an apple pie and I know she’ll be delighted to see you.”

Clark looked around the Kent farm in confusion, judging by the height of the corn and the age of the calves in the field and height of the grass in the fields, he figured it was late spring. “What’s Mom doing home? Shouldn’t she be off performing her Senator duties?”

Jonathan’s eyes clouded briefly over and he sighed. “We’ve got a lot to tell you as well, son.”

Not liking his father’s ominous tone, Clark followed his father towards the house. The door crashed open and Martha Kent exploded out of the house. “CLARK!”

“Mom!” Clark shouted back, beaming. He picked his mother up and grinned delightfully as he swung her around in a circle. Martha laughed when Clark put her down. She reached up, grabbed either side of his face and planted a big kiss on his lips.

Laughing, Clark circled his arm around her shoulder while she hugged his waist. Jonathan gently pushed the door open and squeezed his son affectionately on his shoulder as they made their way into the house.

Clark glanced around and was overcome by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu, absolutely nothing had changed in the house which was a fact that he found to be very comforting.

Martha steered Clark towards a stool in front of the kitchen table and immediately began fussing over getting him something to eat.

“Don’t even try to stop her son, she’s a woman on a mission,” Jonathan replied in response to Clark’s pleas for her to not over extend herself.

They sat down for dinner and Jonathan and Martha filled Clark in on the doings in Smallville and what his old friends and their neighbors had been up to. While polishing off the last of his dinner, Clark asked, “So Mom, why aren’t you in Topeka or DC?”

Martha and Jonathan exchanged knowing, nervous glances.

“What?” Clark fearfully asked.

Jonathan shook his head and pointed to Martha. “You tell him, dear.”

Putting down her fork, Martha studied her son’s fearful expression. She wet her lips and said, “About three years after you went off to travel the world Lex’s army of lawyers managed to make good work of the legal system and got Lex out of jail on a small technicality that had been made by the prosecution against his case. He was cleared of all charges in Lana’s death and was a free man.”

Clark’s eyes widened with worry.

Martha continued, “Since he was cleared of the charges, Lex began funneling money into the community and fostered up a lot of support to run against me.”

Disbelief filled Clark’s green eyes. “LEX is now our State Senator???”

Jonathan and Martha again exchanged glances.

“What?” Clark laughed. “Don’t tell me that he’s our US Senator!”

“Senator Burke was killed in a mob hit and the Governor appointed Lex to his place,” Martha unhappily reported.

Memories of his past life where Lex sent one of his super soldiers after Senator Burke surfaced. No longer the slightest bit hungry, Clark pushed himself away from the table, stood, and rubbed his fingers down the sides of his face and brought his fingers together at the tip of his chin. “I can’t believe this…I did it all for nothing.”

“Did what, Clark?” Jonathan asked.

Clark spun around and faced his confused parents. He threw his hands helplessly out to the sides. “It’s happening all over again! But this time it’s worse because Lex is now positioned such that he won’t need to use Chloe to break into the US Missile Defense Mainframe, he’ll have the contacts in place in Washington to get them himself!”

“Clark! What are you talking about?” Jonathan demanded.

Martha and Jonathan watched their son’s eyes go out of focus as he obviously was in the middle of heavily contemplating something. “Oliver!”

“Oliver? Who’s Oliver?” Martha asked.

“Oliver Queen…is he in Metropolis or Star City?” Clark asked, planting his hands heavily upon the table. He caused the silverware to shake.

Jonathan’s eyes narrowed. “We don’t know who you’re talking about son.”

Clark stepped back for a moment and closed his eyes. “You’re right I never met Oliver in this timeline…”

“This timeline?” Jonathan asked, hopelessly lost.

“I have to find him, I’ll explain everything later, bye!”

Martha and Jonathan ran to the back door and watched their son lift off into the sky and rocket into the encroaching darkness of nightfall and veered off towards Metropolis.

“Now I’ve seen everything,” Jonathan said, mouth gaping wide open.

“I told you that our son could fly,” Martha replied with a wink and a smile.

“Yeah, but I never thought I’d actually see it with my own eyes,” Jonathan responded and gave his wife a proud squeeze around her waist.

*************************

Clark soared over The Daily Planet’s golden globe and shot off towards Oliver’s Metropolis Clock Tower Apartment. Since Dark Thursday never happened, Clark wondered if Oliver would ever have moved to Metropolis in the first place. As he neared the posh apartment, Clark activated his x-ray vision and looked inside and spied a lone figure wandering around the apartment: male, approximately 6’3”…it could be Oliver. Hovering outside the building Clark peered through the large doors that hid Oliver’s Green Arrow lair. A grin spread over Clark’s face as he detected rows of arrows, bowcasters, and other assorted techno-gadgets hanging on the concealed room’s walls.

Rapidly Clark landed on Oliver’s balcony, opened the door, and let himself into the apartment. The furnishings were still as modern as they had been in the past. Oliver looked up from his portable laptop that he’d been carrying and found himself staring at a giant dark haired man wearing a red jacket, blue t-shirt, jeans, and work boots. The man was impressively muscular…he appeared to be nearly bursting out of his clothing.

“Who the hell are you?” Oliver demanded. Seeing that the intruder didn’t enter his apartment through his elevator he demanded, “How in the hell did you get in here?”

A bemused smile crossed Clark’s face. “I flew in.” He chuckled over Oliver’s confused expression. “I see you’ve grown attached to your favored new style of facial hair. The goatee suits you, Oliver.”

Oliver watched the man carefully as he walked around the apartment with a strange sense of familiarity. The blond billionaire’s eyes widened as Clark approached his lair and pried open the doors. His mouth flew open as Clark walked inside and removed a bowcaster off of the wall and filled an arrow into it.

Quickly Oliver put his hands up. “What do you want from me? Who sent you?”

Clark frowned turning the weapon over in his hands. “How is the Green Arrow business for you these days, Oliver? Bad guys keeping you on your toes?” Clark watched as Oliver made to reach for his cellphone. In a blink of an eye, Clark grabbed it and returned to his place across the room. He watched with amusement as Oliver stared in disbelief at the spot where the phone had been.

“Looking for something?” Clark playfully flickered the phone back and forth in his fingers.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a friend of a few of your friends…Bart Allen, Arthur Curry, and Victor Stone,” Clark finally stated, trying to make his nervous friend a bit more comfortable with his presence.

Oliver tried to look confused. “Who?”

“You know, your other Justice League friends?” Clark offered and grinned as Oliver’s jaw dropped in confusion.

“How…?”

Clark exhaled deeply. “If I told you the how you wouldn’t believe me, let’s just say that in another lifetime you and I were friends and I want us to get that way again. My name’s Clark Kent.”

“Clark Kent?” Oliver’s eyebrows screwed together as he wracked his brain for reason of why that name sounded familiar. “I think Bart mentioned you once…he said you were fast like he was which would explain the cell phone.”

Clark arched a brow and nodded his head. He tossed Oliver’s cell phone onto a nearby chair and aimed the bowcaster directly at Oliver’s face and let loose of the trigger. Oliver’s eyes widened in terror as he watched the arrows tip race quickly towards the spot right between his eyes. A split second before it would’ve pierced Oliver’s skull in two, Clark raced towards the arrow, grabbed it, and headed out onto the balcony.

Oliver shook his head and looked around. He spied Clark staring up towards the sky twirling the arrow in his fingers.

Folding his arms across his chest, Oliver said, “I don’t suppose you could’ve given me a demonstration of your skills without causing me to nearly piss all over myself?”

Clark chuckled. He threw the arrow at Oliver who caught it and watched as Clark bee-lined for Oliver’s stack of weights. Clark picked up one of the solid steel cast 100lb dumbbells as if it was as lightweight as a bag of feathers. Placing his enormous palms on either end of the dumbbell, Clark squeezed and the handle bar inside the two large weighted sides burst and broke apart. Oliver’s mouth dropped open as Clark showed him the now destroyed dumbbell. Carefully, Clark placed the halves on a table and aligned up the stress marks, activated his heat vision he soldered the dumbbell back together. He picked it up, walked over to Oliver, and dropped the dumbbell into his hands. Oliver struggled against the unexpected weight. Lightly he touched the steel bar and snatched his finger away when it contacted the hot metal.

Taking the weight out of Oliver’s hand Clark put it on the ground and shrugged. “I’m bulletproof, I have super-breath, super-speed, super-strength, ice breath, heat vision, oh and I can fly.”

Oliver’s eyebrows shot up in merriment. “Fly?”

Clark slowly lifted himself off of the ground and rose himself towards Oliver’s ceiling. Oliver stood below Clark and shook his head in amazement. “Well you’re a walking…and flying apparently…Swiss Army Knife, aren’t you? What are you, Clark Kent?”

Popping back down onto the ground, Clark replied, “I’m one of the good guys and I need your help.”

“My help?”

“Yeah, you know Lex Luthor, the guy you went to Excelsior Academy with? I need to know everything that you know about his release from Belle Rieve,” Clark demanded.

Oliver crossed his arms over his chest. “Why do you want to know about Lex?”

“I think he might be up to something that could cause a lot of innocent people to die and needlessly suffer,” Clark revealed.

Scratching his goatee, Oliver responded, “I may not like the guy, but he got out of his sentence fair and square. The prosecution put a shady cop on the stand as a witness. Lex’s lawyers found out that he was intoxicated that night when he arrived on the scene. His testimony was thrown out and Lex got off.”

“His testimony? What about the testimony of the kids and driver of that bus? What about MY testimony?”

Oliver narrowed his eyes. “Clark Kent – that’s where I know you from, you were Lana’s boyfriend, right? Yeah I don’t know what to tell you Clark, but it was enough evidence that the judge threw out the conviction.”

“A judge that Lex most likely paid off,” Clark growled.

“Or his father,” Oliver countered.

“Lionel Luthor would never have lifted a finger to help get his son out of Belle Rieve. He would’ve happily thrown Lex into a cell and swallowed the key to keep him in there,” Clark spat back.

Oliver’s eyebrows arched upwards. “Know the Luthors quite well do you?”

“More than I’d like to,” Clark answered.

“Look I’d love to help you with your little vendetta against our US Senator but I’ve got other problems to worry about.”

“Like what?” Clark asked, his curiosity peaked. He crossed his arms over his chest and walked over to the large computer monitor that Oliver was studying. He saw Oliver sifting through a bunch of satellite images.

“I take it you trust me?” Clark asked.

Oliver looked Clark up and down and answered, “I’ll trust you after I see your reaction to what I’ve got to show you.” Oliver typed up some data and pulled up several new-stories that were printed in the overseas version of The Daily Planet. “There’ve been recent reports of a strange creature attacking small tribes in Africa. Whatever this thing is it’s leaving behind the worst carnage that anyone has ever seen before.”

“Well Africa is filled with dangerous animals, maybe it’s a pack of lions or something,” Clark offered.

“Can lions swim to Antarctica?”

Clark furrowed his brows in confusion.

Oliver pulled up satellite photos that showed the deck of the abandoned Japanese fishing boat that was discovered by the Germans. Oliver focused in on the guy standing on the deck.

“What’s he holding?” Clark asked.

“He claims it was a tooth or something of the sort. Any idea what kind of creature has twelve inch long teeth?”

Oliver pulled up a map of Africa. “It’s making its way up the coast line, if this thing reaches cities…”

“The greater the chance of casualties,” Clark said completing Oliver’s thought. “What have you done to try to investigate this thing?”

“I sent Bart over on my jet two days ago, he was supposed to report in today, but I haven’t heard from him.”

Clark studied the map and asked for exact co-ordinates for where Bart was sent to investigate. Oliver handed them over and in a flash, Clark was gone, leaving Oliver confused and alone in his apartment.


Chapter 2


Fueled with worry for the safety of his friend it took Clark less than half of an hour to rapidly fly the distance across the Atlantic Ocean. He then turned his trajectory southwards down the West African Coast towards the Congo region. It was almost dawn and Clark wanted to find Bart as quickly as possible.

Clark spied the smoke from above before his body told him that he’d reached the correct co-ordinates. Furrowing his brows in deep concentration, Clark crashed through the dense jungle foliage causing monkeys and birds to screech irrationally at being prematurely awoken from their slumber.

Clark landed on the outer edges of the smoldering remains of a small village. Where there were once shabbily knocked together houses and a town well lay hot embers and debris. Squatting, Clark examined the remains of a villager and felt his stomach turn over as the person’s body was almost unrecognizable. From what he could see the person’s facial features were forever frozen into an expression of utter terror. Clark gently pushed the eyelids down over the victim’s eyes and attempted to smooth the fear out in his cheeks. A lone tear escaped Clark’s eye as he saw piles of body parts lying around the area, they looked like they’d been ripped apart. He activated his x-ray vision and scanned the jungle for the creature that caused this destruction. Nothing in a forty mile radius was large enough to fit the bill of a creature that would have twelve inch long teeth.

Reassured that the coast was clear and worried for the safety of his friend, Clark shouted, “BART!!!” X-Ray vision still activated Clark scanned the village’s wreckage looking for signs of his friend. Fear squeezed his chest that perhaps his fast footed buddy had gotten caught by the creature and didn’t survive. His superhearing then detected a weak voice cry out, “Help.”

Clark dashed across the village and spied a pile of fallen palm trees. He rapidly threw them giant trunks out of the way and dug through the fronds and discovered Bart buried at the bottom of the pile. Even through the caked on dirt that Bart had smeared all over his face and in his hair, Clark could tell that his face was ash white.

“Bart! Are you alright?”

“Clark?” Bart meekly asked, his eyes barely going into focus. “Man am I glad to see you.”

The pungent smell of blood hit Clark’s nose and he glanced down at Bart’s legs. Using his x-ray vision he saw that both of Bart’s femurs were cracked. Bart had managed to somehow rip the sleeves off of his jacket and make tourniquets to stop himself from bleeding to death, but judging by his barely holding onto consciousness, Clark doubted he had much time left.

“This is going to hurt buddy, but it’ll hold you over until we can get you to a doctor,” Clark warned and then activated his heat vision and cauterized the open wounds on Bart’s legs.

Bart howled an inhuman cry of pain as Clark burned the wounds closed.

When finished, Clark brushed the hair out of Bart’s face and said, “Sorry. Come on, let me get you to a doctor.”

“What’s the point, amigo? I’m done for,” Bart weakly replied.

“I hardly think you’re at death’s door, Bart,” Clark countered, gently gathering his wounded friend up in his arms.

“Wait, grab that,” Bart said, pointing to a recording device that had fallen to the ground. Clark picked it up and looped the strap around Bart’s neck. The younger man’s face was haggard in appearance, his brown eyes filled with sorrow. “I might as well be dead. My legs are useless.”

The full implication of what Bart was saying hit Clark. If his legs didn’t heal, Bart wouldn’t be able to run. His speed was his identity, if his legs didn’t heal he’d a mere mortal and not supercharged. Clark smiled. “I have a feeling that a part of your abilities include superhealing, you’ll be back on your feet before you know it.”

“Dude, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your help, but the closest big hospital that is probably equipped to best help me is in Cairo - I really don’t want to be treated there,” Bart asked.

“How about Metropolis General then?”

Bart’s eyes focused on Clark’s face and filled with disbelief. “Last time I checked bro, you can’t run on water.”

The corner of Clark’s mouth itched upwards into a cocky smirk and he playfully arched a brow. “Running? Who said anything about running?”

Bart’s mouth gaped open and he grabbed onto Clark’s neck for dear life as Clark burst them straight up into the air and flew them back home towards Metropolis.

*************************

It is a little known fact that politicians rarely have time to sleep, a fact that Capital Hill’s newest Freshman Senator had recently become all too familiar with. Sitting in his office on Capital Hill, Lex Luthor sat behind his desk pouring over stacks of notes that were attached to piles of massive bills that were waiting their turn to go up for vote on the Senate floor. As he stared into his empty mug of coffee he wondered if it was possible that The US Congress and Senate could be personally responsible for keeping the Columbian Coffee market in business. Twiddling a pen between his fingers, Lex groaned as he tried to make heads or tails out a proposed Federal Land Grant bill that was going through the Senate in the next three days.

Overly tired, Lex pushed the paper aside and moaned, “What do I care if the people in Montana want the Feds to pay for the upkeep of twenty thousand acres of land?” When Lex ran for office he went in with starry eyed visions of being in a position to make real decisions that would affect the lives of millions of people, he never suspected that he’d be spending over half of his time buried under mountains of paper and red tape bureaucracy. The politicking made up for the hours that Lex wasted reading the seemingly endless stacks of bills that crossed his desk. Seasoned Senators laughed at his dedication and told him that given time he’d learn that nobody in Washington ever read the bills – they just made deals with each other to get their legislation passed. Although Lex admitted that he loved cutting corners, he didn’t much think that his constituents would much like it if he didn’t do everything in his power to deserve the honor of being their US Senator.

He knew that there were a large number of voters who were waiting for him to crash and burn. Lex wasn’t elected to this seat, he was appointed to it and if he wanted to win another term he needed to prove himself worthy of being in this office. Even though his manslaughter case had been thrown out and he had numerous high powered doctors give him a clean bill of physical and mental health, there were still rumors floating about his sanity. The last thing he needed was for word to get out that he wasn’t doing his full research on bills and vote in a way that would be contrary to what would be best for the people of Kansas if he wanted them to believe in him.

Lex also found that by reading the bills from cover to cover he discovered hidden gems buried under the pages of legal babble. Bills were used by politicians as means for hiding pet projects that often had nothing to do with the legislation at hand. It was these hidden amendments that Lex used to his fullest advantage when negotiating with his fellow Senators; by knowing his opponents most treasured projects he held true power over them.

He had discovered that there were some savvy seasoned politicians who understood this game as well. They always came to him wearing false smiles wondering when Lex would propose his first bit of legislation, thereby discovering his weakness. Smiling, Lex always replied, “When the need arises… when the need arises.”

At this time, Lex’s pet project needed to remain hidden and buried. If anyone caught wind of what he was up to Lex would be back in Belle Rieve faster than one could say indictment hearings.

Lex knitted his fingers together and glanced at his Movado desk clock and saw it was 3:30AM. His cell phone rang right on time.

“What have you got for me?” He demanded, massaging his temple.

“There’s been another attack, Mr. Senator. This time in the Congo, we’re emailing you images right now.”

Lex hung up, pulled out his private laptop, and waited for the photos to upload. The first thing that Lex did when he arrived in Washington was to seek out a money hungry mole in NASA’s hurricane watch satellite division. Lex had ordered the man to keep a close eye out for any unusual astronomical activity and report it to him immediately. Luthor Corp had its own series of satellites orbiting the Earth, however, the more data that he had access to the less likely something would escape his eye. When he received a call a week ago about a large meteorite hitting in the Antarctic Ocean and the news of the massacred crew that was found near the objects landing spot caused Lex’s six sense to tell him that this could be the sign that he was waiting for.

The images finished downloading and Lex greedily poured over them. All that the satellite images showed him was fire. Quickly he called up his own team of satellite engineers and asked them to pull up all data that the Luthor Corp satellite might’ve picked up in the same co-ordinates with the surrounding timestamps. Lex tapped a pencil against his desk, pulled out a map of Africa and made another line showing its upward climb toward the globe’s equator…towards more populated civilized human settlements.

Lex had a turning point in his life on the night that he was arrested. After getting so drunk after losing his election to Jonathan Kent that he had run Lana Lang off of the road and killed her, Lex hadn’t had a drink since then. But it was moments like these where he desperately fought the urge to find a bottle of vintage scotch to sooth his frayed nerves. Instead, he opened a pack of gum and shoved a piece in his mouth. He recalled how his rantings from that night about a man who could fly and shoot fire from his eyes earned him a one way ticket to Belle Rieve. His “loving and caring” father immediately ordered the doctors at the facility to perform several rounds of electro-shock therapy on his brain in order to “relieve his son from these images of madness.”

Lex knew better. Something happened that night that he couldn’t explain. One moment he was chasing Lana down trying to catch her on her cell phone to apologize for frightening her and then the next he was blinded by visions from what he believed to be were from the future. Even after the doctors had repeatedly zapped his brain, Lex still clung on tightly to many of those memories. He could vividly recall Lana Lang walking down the aisle at a church and agreeing to marry him. Lex also recalled a visitor from the stars who flew around Metropolis wearing a blue and red costume. The being was powerful and from what Lex could recall – he was also an evil menace to society.

It was this being that Lex had begun searching for in earnest once he had been released from Belle Rieve. Quietly he poured his own private funds into his 33.1 project knowing that he needed to create an army of super soldiers to combat this powerful foe. He had briefly worked with the government but found Senator Burke’s empty threats to cut off funding to be too big of a liability. He needed to be in complete control and managed the situation. Why let someone else have power over you when you can be in their spot instead? Lex often wondered.

As he stared at the satellite images and saw the destructive trail of fire, death, and heartache that this creature had left in its wake. Lex was more than certain that he had been visited by an angel that fateful winter night and the angel had warned him of a coming apocalypse. In his heart he knew that it was because of this alien entity that his final memories of fire and bombs going off were going to happen.

Why else would the world be in such peril if it was not trying to defend itself against a powerful alien foe?

*************************

Clark had contacted Oliver upon their return to Metropolis and took Bart to a healing facility outside of the city limits funded by the JLA with it’s own hand picked set of doctors. As Clark had suspected the moment that the doctors set the bones in both of Bart’s legs, his tendons and surrounding tissues began to super regenerate. Bart would have to remain in traction for a week or so but the doctors confirmed that Flash should be as good as new by then.

The sun was rising over Metropolis bathing the city in a golden glow. Clark burst out of Oliver’s elevator and found Oliver huddled together with AC and Victor around his control centers.

AC and Victor immediately descended upon Clark and gave him handshakes, claps on the back, and welcomed him back to the world of the living.

Oliver crossed his arms over his broad chest and scrutinized Clark. “Good work with bringing Bart back. After talking with AC and Victor here, they’ve convinced me that you’re someone who cn be trusted.”

“Glad to hear,” Clark replied. He had dropped off Bart’s camera to Oliver before taking Bart to the facility and nodded his chin towards the screen. “Did he get anything?”

Victor sat down at the controls and continued to work on cleaning up the footage. “Luckily it was all digital so even with the camera being stuck in muck for a few hours the images didn’t corrode like they would’ve on standard film. I had to do some work though because parts of the video feed were jumbled and hard to make out.” Clark walked behind Victor and watched as he started up the footage. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve watched this - we have no idea what we’re looking at.”

Clark watched as Bart had obviously been speeding along tracking the creature as it moved through the dense jungle foliage. From what Clark could see of it, the thing was huge – probably fourteen feet tall, bipedal, had a powerfully strong chest, and was covered in spikes. Victor quickly pulled up a single frame from Bart’s footage and Clark examined it closely. He felt chills race up and down his spine. “It doesn’t look like it came from here.”

AC stated, “There’s nothing in the ocean that could’ve mutated into looking like that thing, so I doubt it’s an evolutionary sea mutant.”

Listening to AC’s comments Clark continued to watch the footage. The creature then stopped, sniffed the air and let loose a bone chilling snarl, veered directions, and came upon the village. Bart’s camera caught about twenty seconds of villagers screaming for their lives as the beast flung open their homes that immediately caught on fire. Suddenly the creature came close to Bart and raced after a group of cowering villagers who’d climbed up a bunch of trees. The camera captured the creature rip the trees out by their roots and fling them aside once he got a hold of the screaming people. The camera went black as the trees fell on top of Bart. The video was now obscured but several minutes of blood curdling terrified screams punctured the remaining audio.

Clark gulped down a wave of nausea again, wiped his forehead clean of a trickle of sweat, and asked, “Can you back up the footage? I think there were a couple of captures where you can clearly see the creature’s front side.”

“Already done, Clark,” Victor replied, and brought up the screen caps of the creature as it turned around and spied the people in the trees.

Leaning forward, Clark closely examined the creature. “Something about this thing looks vaguely familiar.”

Oliver’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Please explain where you’ve seen a giant spike covered beast before, because I believe I missed that lesson in my zoology course in college.”

“I haven’t seen THIS before, but there’s something familiar about it…” Clark replied, massaging his chin. He racked his memory but came up with only phantom flickers of memories that he couldn’t quite place. “Victor does it look like the creature’s got something hanging on its chest there? Can you zoom in on it and see if we can read it?”

Victor shook his head, impressed that Clark would manage to see a detail like that, considering all that he could focus on was the sight of the creature standing right on top of a screaming male. “Give me a few seconds to clear up the image.”

AC tapped Clark on the shoulder. “Where’ve you been all of these years, bro?”

“Training,” Clark truthfully replied. “Looks like I picked the perfect time to return to the world of the living, huh?”

His buddy’s eyebrows shot up in agreement.

“Here you go, Clark,” Victor said. “That’s the best that I can do…don’t know about you but I have no idea what that thing says.”

“Looks like some sort of strange hieroglyphic,” Oliver stated. “Victor can you try to match the symbol up in to the Egyptian databases?”

“No need, you won’t find it there,” Clark stated, chills raced up and down his spine as the memory that had been flittering just out of reach snapped into focus - Titan. “It’s not from this Earth, the symbol is Kryptonian.”

“Kryp-what?” AC asked.

“Kryptonian…from the planet Krypton.” Clark looked at the trio of men and sighed. “It’s where I’m from. The planet no longer exists, it exploded. My parents sent me to Earth to save me before the planet was destroyed.” He pointed at the screen. “That symbol is from my native language.”

Oliver had a strangely impressed expression on his face. He said, “That’s why you can do all of those things, because you’re an alien?”

“I prefer Intergalactic Traveler,” Clark coolly replied. “But, yes, my molecular makeup is different than humans which is why I have the abilities that I do.”

Victor glanced at his friend and asked, “So does that symbol mean anything to you or tell you anything?”

Clark’s face became a strange mask of confusion as he reread the symbol again. He shook his head. “Yeah I can read it, but I don’t know what it means. This thing reminds me of an alien from my homeworld that I fought…in another lifetime. It had the same sort of boney scales that it used as aweapon, but it wasn’t covered in them like this thing is.” Clark’s face was covered in worry. Titan had been killing machine and this thing was a thousand times more deadly. “That fisherman must’ve found one of those scales – that was what was sticking out of the victim, not a tooth.”

“Looks familiar, but you don’t recognize it or know what it is?” Oliver asked.

Clark wracked his brain going over all of Jor-El’s teachings but came up blank. “No, this thing didn’t exist in any of the Kryptonian archives that I’ve studied.”

“What does the symbol say?” AC asked.

Everyone stared at Clark as one word escaped his lips, “Doomsday.”


Chapter 3


Clark talked with Oliver throughout the morning and happily agreed to his friend’s offer to provide for him whatever he needed as protective gear to go up against this creature. Clark described his costume, drew out his family crest, and also told Oliver about the glasses that he had created for him in his previous lifetime. Oliver seemed delighted in helping to create Clark’s techno gadgets. He said he’d get right on it and called in the Justice League’s special costume tailor. After several minutes of being measured from end to end the man said that the uniform would be ready by evening.

Somewhat dubious, Clark arched a brow. Oliver explained that his tailor was used to odd costume requests and understood the urgency of expediency.

Changing the subject, Oliver asked, “How are you going to find out more about this thing?”

“There are two people who might be able to help me. One doesn’t know that I know him and the other – well I don’t know how much help she’ll be but you never know,” Clark replied. “Before I go to ask their help, I need to position myself in a place where I can be on top of leads first hand when they come in so that I can better track this thing.”

“Where are you going to do that?” Oliver asked.

Clark smiled. “At The Daily Planet.

**************************************

After spending a few moments gathering printouts of screencaps of the carnage in the village, Clark quickly typed up a story about the massacre in the Congo village to bring to Perry White as a current writing example. Oliver watched in amusement at the rapid speed that Clark typed out his article. Clark excluded much of the details about the creature because the last thing that he wanted was for gung ho monster chasers to head to Africa to try to find this thing.

He stopped at a department store and purchased a stylish blue suit, dress shoes, pale blue shirt, and red, white, and blue striped tie. Also purchasing a pair of designer reading glasses, and a briefcase, Clark was ready to go find Perry.

It was mid-morning when he stepped through the revolving doors of The Daily Planet. He felt a bit odd not having his costume underneath his suit, so he knew that he wouldn’t be able to perform any of his superhero duties until Oliver came through with that for him. Clark walked over to the reception desk and cleared his throat. The smartly dressed young woman looked up at him and asked, “How can I help you?”

Clark was stunned the young woman was the same girl from his previous life. Before she had been covered in piercings and wore all black now she looked like a respectable young woman. He smiled at least the snap in time had helped her to straighten out her life. “I’m looking for what floors these people are on,” Clark said, handing her a list with Perry, Lois, and Chloe’s names on them.

“Mr. White and Miss Lane are on floor twenty-three. I don’t see a Chloe Olson in our staff directory,” she replied.

Clark frowned. “How about Chloe Sullivan?”

“Chloe Sullivan? Yeah she’s on floor twelve.”

“Thank you,” Clark replied, frowning. So Perry and Lois had advanced four floors and Chloe was demoted by five. Why wasn’t she married to Jimmy? Or were they married and she just kept her maiden name? Clark would have to ask her when he saw her.

As he was stuffing the list of names into his briefcase a waft from a familiar spicy floral perfume floated in the air and danced in his nostrils. He snapped his head up and saw the elevator doors close before he could reach them. Sighing, he pressed the button and waited for the next car and headed to the twenty-third floor. His heart fluttered excitedly in his chest; at least now he knew that Lois was in today and not off chasing down an assignment. Clark wondered how she would react to seeing him since they didn’t spend nearly as much time in their youth together in this lifetime as they had in the previous. Then again, he thought they also didn’t part in the awkward manner that they had previously. He knew that when he left she saw him as a friend but nothing more. Would she still remember him? He smirked and thought, How could she not remember you, Clark? How many other guys has she met standing stark naked in the middle of cornfields?

The elevator doors opened and immediately Clark felt slightly out of place. The twenty-third floor had always been considered prime real estate when working at the Planet because it was the penthouse level of the building and housed all of the original Art Deco architecture that decorated the walls and ceilings. Clark glanced up and saw a large stained glass window that glittered and through it he could see the building’s distinguishable large globe. The room had been modernized, he noted and there were television screens mounted to the walls spewing forth up to date 24 hours news footage.

“Are you looking for someone?” A woman asked him.

Clark glanced down at the small Asian woman and smiled. “Yes, I’m looking for Perry White.”

“The paper’s Chief Editor? His office is over there. Is he expecting you?”

“Not really,” Clark admitted.

“You’ll want to talk to Angela to see if he’s free. Her desk is right outside of his office,” the woman explained and moved along.

Rounding the corners Clark kept looking for Lois’s office but couldn’t locate it. Finally he stopped at Angela’s desk and explained that he would like to speak to Mr. White. Perry’s assistant was frazzled in appearance. Her frizzy red hair desperately needed combing, her eyes were bloodshot, and from what Clark could tell her hands were shaking from ingesting too much coffee. The frantic assistant scanned over her boss’s calendar and buzzed his office. “Mr. White, there’s a…what’s your name?”

“Clark Kent.”

“There’s a Clark Kent here to see you.”

Perry’s voice boomed over the speaker phone, “Clark Kent??? CLARK KENT? Holy bungee cords send him in here!”

A large grin spread over Clark’s face, at least Mr. White seemed to remember their encounter from years ago when Clark had saved his life even when he was without powers.

Clark stepped into the office and immediately whistled. “Mr. White you’ve been doing well for yourself at the paper!” Perry’s office was covered in intricate wood carvings and the desk that he sat at appeared to be original from the era that it was created. The office smelled of vintage oak furniture and had large panoramic view windows that looked out all over the South Eastern side of Metropolis. The view was spectacular.

“Clark Kent! I swear you must be a mind reader. Don’t ask me why but I was perusing the local interest section of the paper the other day and read an update on Smallville’s corn festival and remembered you. I found myself wondering what in the heck you were doing with yourself and look at you! Here you are standing in my office!” Perry’s appearance hadn’t changed the slightest bit. The man’s brown hair was sprinkled with grey and might’ve been slightly more receding at the hairline, but his eyes still twinkled with the same devilish delight and intelligence that Clark always associated with the man.

Clark grabbed Perry’s offered hand and happily pumped it, grinning broadly from ear to ear. Perry motioned towards a chair and asked him to sit down. “So what have you been doing, Kent?”

“Travelling actually, and allowing the world to be my university and the people that I meet be my professors,” Clark replied.

“Uh huh, done any writing?”

“Professionally? No. But I’ve kept long journals of my travels and never stopped writing,” Clark offered, pulling out one of his journals that he had taken with him when he explored the small provinces of China.

Perry sifted through it and read some of Clark’s verse and threw it back towards Clark. He had a look of disappointment on his face. “You know I like you kid, but I need something concrete if I’m going to hire you on. I can’t very well just hire you because I owe you a favor.”

Quickly, Clark pointed his finger in the air and smirked. “How about a major scoop then?”

He handed Perry the photos of the destroyed village and the article that he’d written. He wrote it using all of Perry’s favorite styles and formatting; as it stood it was press worthy.

Leaning back in his chair, Perry shoved a red vine between his teeth and began chewing on it while he read the article and examined the pictures. “When exactly was this?”

“Yesterday, I just flew in from Africa this morning,” Clark replied, biting his lip at the irony of his statement.

“How’d you stumble upon this story?” Perry asked, eyebrow arched.

“I was in the area studying the disappearance of a rare type of monkey due to human encroachment upon the jungles when my guide and I heard sounds of mass panic. By the time we came upon the village, whatever had roared through there was gone.”

“So you didn’t actually see whatever did this?” Perry asked, his eyebrow cocked, his blue eye closely scrutinizing the well dressed and soft spoken young man seated across from him.

“No, Sir.”

“Any idea what it was?”

“No, Sir.”

“I don’t know it rather smells like a Bigfoot story. Stories like that are better suited for The Inquisitor not The Daily Planet,” Perry chewed on his red vine and nodded his head.

“But sir, you’re paper’s written articles about this before! You don’t want to run it?” Clark asked.

“I’m not printing any more stories about this so called African Menace until I get hard proof that something really is out there and that it’s not just a bunch of tribal folks making war on each other. Your style is impeccable though. Do you think you can sniff out stories like this here in Metropolis?”

“Absolutely, Chief,” Clark replied, getting over his disappointment over being passed over for his first byline.

“Your days of wanderlust are over?”

“Yes, Sir. I’m home for good,” Clark answered, smiling and pushing his glasses up his nose.

“Well then, it looks like you’ve got yourself a job! Welcome to The Daily Planet son!” Perry White exclaimed. Standing up he shook Clark’s hand. He then pounded on the intercom, “Angela! Get in here and take Clark Kent down to HR and have him fill out all of the new hire paperwork. Tell them to put him on at pay grade twelve. Get an extension set up for him and tell IT to get him a computer right away.”

“Where’s he going to be sitting?”

A broad, sneaky grin plastered over Perry’s face.

His assistant seemed to know what was coming, she asked, “Not another one, Chief?”

“Yep.”

“Ok, fine, but you really should warn him first about what he’s getting himself into.”

“Now where would the fun be in that?”

Clark heard Angela sigh. “Send him out.”

“Warn me about what, Mr. White?”

Before Clark could receive an answer he was pushed out the door and was standing by the young assistant while she IMed her contact in the IT department.

“Come on Mr. Kent, let’s get you down to HR.”

Clark’s pleas for info regarding his office assignment fell onto deaf ears. He guessed he would just have to wait to find out where he was going to be assigned to sit and could only hope it would be with Miss Lane.

***************************

Two hours later Clark was back in Perry’s office receiving a run down on the press’s time-schedules and exactly when each day the Chief Editor expected story updates from his top reporters. Clark was busily taking notes when the door to Perry’s office burst open. The intrusion was completely unexpected and Clark ended up throwing his papers all over the room.

“You’ll never believe who I got to agree to talk to me, Chief! Come on venture a guess!”

“Santa Claus!”

“Be serious, here…come on!”

“Who?”

“Mayor Wilkins! Can you believe it Chief? Even in the midst of the allegations of sexual misconduct he still agreed to see me!”

“That’s great, I knew you could do it!”

Clark crawled on his knees picking up his papers and found himself staring at two long, very shapely female legs. He gulped, shoved his glasses up his nose, and let his eyes travel all of the way up the woman’s form. Suddenly his nostrils picked up that all too familiar scent and he launched himself to his feet. His eyes screwed together in confusion when he saw that back of her head.

“Lois? What did you do to your hair?”

Simultaneously Lois and Perry White turned to face the intruder in their conversation. Clark nearly lost hold of his papers as Lois turned towards him. From when they met in high school, Clark had always known Lois as a dirty blond, the woman standing before him had a full head of chestnut dark brown hair.

Clark had been nervous about seeing Lois again knowing that she wouldn’t remember any of the events that they’d shared in the past history that he’d erased, but the last thing he expected was to have his breath completely taken away upon seeing her again. He couldn’t rip his eyes off of her face and how it looked framed by a full head of dark curls.

“You two know each other?” Perry asked, a sliver of a delightful smile burst over his face.

Lois narrowed her eyes and stared at the strangely star-struck taller man standing behind her. When recognition didn’t immediately hit her eyes, Clark rolled his eyes and realized that he was going to have to start up their old game. “Gee Lois, I didn’t think it would be so easy to forget me considering that you spent over a year sleeping in my bed!”

A look of indignation crossed Lois’s face before understanding dawned on her. “CLARK?”

Arms crossed over his chest, Perry pursed his lips together into a tight smile at this unexpected turn of events. He teased, “So you two REALLY know each other?”

“Chief, it’s not like THAT,” Lois growled. “I stayed on the Kent farm for a while when I was just out of high school. Clark slept on the couch.”

“Why doesn’t it surprise me that Mr. Kent here would give up his bed for a beauty like you?” Perry asked, obviously enjoying egging on his favorite reporter.

Lois rolled her eyes. “Can we FOCUS here? My interview is in an hour, I just wanted to give you a heads up before I headed out”

“GREAT! You can take your new partner with you,” Perry said, beaming.

Screwing her nose up as if she just smelled something stinky she spat, “Partner? How many times do I have to go over this with you? I DON’T need a partner!”

“When you’ve figured out how to properly spell and stopped pretending that you’re William Faulkner by filling your articles with endless run on sentences – perhaps THEN I will think that you can survive on your own without a partner, until then, you’re stuck,” Perry retorted.

Clark shifted on his feet.

“Fine,” Lois growled. “Who’s my new partner?”

Perry’s eyebrows shot straight up in the air. “Oh I think you can guess who.”

Lois paused for a heartbeat and then incredulously cried, “CLARK?”

“The man has mad writing skills, Lois. You can learn a lot from him. I don’t know how it is but this guy knew exactly how to properly write an article in The Daily Planet’s exact style,” Perry replied, complimenting Clark.

“Why thank you, Mr. White,” Clark said. “I do my homework.”

“Kiss ass,” Lois spat at him.

Clark stared at her in shock at her rudeness. “Lois!”

“Fine, follow me, Smallville – just try to keep up, alright? Don’t slip on those obviously new shoes of yours, I don’t have time for you to stop and wipe the dirt off of your knees,” Lois snarled and breezed out of Perry’s office.

“You’d better follow her, Kent.”

Quickly, Clark shoved his papers into his briefcase and raced after Lois’s retreating shapely form. She turned a corner and burst into a large office on the opposite side of the building. Clark stepped inside and immediately whistled. Lois’s office was slightly smaller than Perry’s but was nearly identical otherwise. He noted that the wall behind Lois’s desk was covered in awards and photos of her shaking hands with important people. Her panoramic windows showcased the North Western side of Metropolis and had a great view of Luthor Tower. “Wow!”

Spinning on her heel, Lois crossed her arms under her breasts, and cocked her head towards Clark. “You know, I had to sweat my way up from the basement of this place to earn my way into this office. What exactly did you do in order to earn a place here, huh? Did you win first prize in a corn shucking contest? Or maybe shake a box of Cracker Jacks and somehow won access to the spotlight here at the Planet?”

Clark found himself utterly distracted by how Lois’s arm position was predominantly helping to display her breasts through her thin red silk shirt. “Helloo…Earth to cow kisser, Clark!”

Clark glanced around the office and found that a second computer had just been set up on a desk facing opposite to hers. When he rounded the desk he saw a list of passwords and logins with his name on them. His finger brushed against the shiny new nameplate that they’d brought in that read “Clark Kent Daily Planet Star Reporter.”

He turned the plate around so that Lois wouldn’t see the title and shrugged. “I met Perry a long time ago in Smallville, I saved his life, helped him to get off of booze.”

“Of course you did,” Lois said, her mouth curved into an overly sweet smile, shaking her head slightly. “Clark Kent always Johnny on the spot to help some poor Schlob to turn his life around.” Lois dropped her arms, groaned, yanked open a desk drawer, and pulled out her digital recording device. “Come on, time’s wasting, Smallville.”

Clark left his briefcase at his desk and chased after Lois.

“I’m guessing he brought you on a high pay rate too, huh?” Lois asked.

“You know it’s not appropriate to talk about that, Lois!”

Darting in and out of hustling co-worker traffic, Lois made her way to the elevator doors and slammed on the button, ignoring his comment. “You know I bet if I had a penis I probably would’ve been hired on at a much higher rate than I was too.”

Not letting that comment go, Clark retorted, “I don’t know, I think if you had a penis Lois you probably would’ve ended up a front page story instead of a reporter here, especially if you were wearing skirts as tight as the one you’re wearing today.”

All traces of annoyance melted off of her face and Lois burst out laughing. “Smallville, look at you, you actually said that without blushing, maybe I was wrong - maybe you really are ready for city life.”

The elevator doors burst open and Clark and Lois waited for a stream of people to exit before getting into the empty car. Clark smiled. The second the doors closed he walked next to her and planted a hand against the wall by her head and whispered, “You have no idea what I’m ready for Lois. The question is, are you ready?”

A look of utter disbelief crossed Lois’s face. She squinted her hazel eyes and asked, “Are you flirting with me, Smallville?”

“Perhaps,” he answered, drinking in the sight of the slightly askew nose. “I love your hair-color, Lois it makes you look very mature. You’ve grown into a beautiful woman.”

Clark detected a quick flush pass over Lois’s cheeks at the compliment. “Wow, you’ve obviously been out of the dating circulation for too long, Clark. Cut it out,” Lois demanded.

“Why?”

“Because…you’re Clark Kent!”

He reached over and pounded on the pause button on the elevator and it jerked to a halt.

“What are you doing? We’ve got an interview to get to,” Lois stated. Her eyes suddenly found themselves examining Clark’s big green eyes that were hidden behind a pair of very sexy wire framed glasses. For a moment she thought she could get lost in them.

Cautiously Clark reached out and took a long dark curl of hers and let it fall through his fingers. Her familiar fruity shampoo fragrance filled the elevator. Memories of their past life together flooded Clark’s mind and his body ached for the woman he loved.

Lois’s face fell. “It reminds you of her, doesn’t it?”

“Who?”

Rolling her eyes, Lois replied, “Lana?”

“Lana?” Clark moved away from Lois and studied her closely. He laughed. “Lois, there isn’t one single millimeter of anything on your body or in your soul that even remotely reminds me of Lana.”

Hazel eyes smoking with annoyance, Lois pounded on the elevator button and it began its journey downwards again. “Of course I don’t, I’m not a perfect little dead angel who’ll forever be held up on this unattainable pedestal that no mere mortal can even dare to aspire to be like…something I may add that even Lana herself never managed to reach.”

A cocky grin spread over Clark’s face. “Am I detecting a hint of jealousy in your voice, Lois?”

She spun on her heel and faced Clark, her nose only a few centimeters away from his. “Never for one moment think that I ever wished that I was Lana Lang. That sweet but spineless simpleton and I had absolutely nothing in common.”

“Spineless? I seem to recall that you once called her gutsy,” Clark threw back, planting his balled fists on his hips.

“Yeah well, obviously first impressions can be wrong. Fortunately for us, my opinion of you remains the same,” Lois spat back.

Cocking a brow up inquisitively, Clark asked, “And what would that be? A geek?”

Pursing her lips together into a victorious smile, she replied, “Complete now with glasses.”

Clark walked up next to her and whispered into her ear, “But you like geeks in glasses, don’t you?”

Lois stared at the ceiling of the elevator. “What has gotten into YOU?” The doors opened and Lois burst out into the lobby with her grinning partner following in hot pursuit. “Don’t even think of falling for me farmboy – I’m way more than you can handle.”

“I don’t know I can handle quite a lot…more than you can imagine, actually,” Clark retorted.

“Are you interested in learning how to catch a dirty politician in a lie or do you want to keep getting shot down by me?”

“I’m great at multi-tasking, Lois,” Clark replied and choked back a snort of laughter at the adorable appalled expression that crossed over Lois’s face.

She darted out onto the street. The sounds of horns, car engines throttling, people shouting into their cell phones assaulted Clark’s ears as Lois dashed over to the curb, shook her curvy leg towards the street, and whistled loudly. A cab roared to a halt and Clark opened the door from his partner. “Chivalry noted, Smallville. Now get in before I tell the driver to spin out and leave your buns of steel behind.”

“So you have been checking me out, Lois,” Clark answered, pulling one of her old lines back and throwing it right back at her.

Rolling her eyes Lois spat out that she wanted to get to City Hall and glared at Clark like he’d just swiped the last cookie off of the counter.

“Are you sure that your cows aren’t missing you?”

“Sorry Lois, they’ve got my Dad to keep them company, I’m afraid that I’m all yours.”

“Any chance I can return my obnoxious gift back to its original sender?”

Beaming, Clark replied, “Not a chance in hell.”

Clark grinned as Lois turned and stared out the window pouting. He desperately wanted to grab a foot of hers and give it a massage, one of the sure fire ways that he knew of cracking her of these icy moods, but he also didn’t need to be slapped in the face right now. Figuring that he’d pushed her far enough, Clark backed off, and let Lois stew in her own thoughts. At least she was willing to continue their usual bickering game and Clark knew where that usually landed them. He grinned at the thought and looked out his own window and failed to see Lois turn her head back and give him a complete once over. His superhearing did, however, detect her barely audible gulp. That was enough of a small victory to keep him grinning for the rest of the day.


Chapter 4

Clark stared bemusedly at the perturbed expression that marred Lois’s face as she emailed her draft of the interview with the Mayor over to him to edit.

“Explain to me again how exactly it was that you knew to ask Mayor Wilkins if he was responsible for filtering funds from his free housing funding project into an off shore Cayman Account that was under the name of his mistress?”

Furiously, editing Lois’s atrocious spelling and inserting his own observations from the interview into the article Clark bit his lip. He realized that he was going to start to hate it when elements from both timelines intersected and were true in both. “Call it a hunch.”

“Hunch my ass! That was the lynch-pin for our article! You saw how his face went white and how he immediately ordered us out of the office afterwards; he all but admitted to the scandal! Good God Clark, I hope that you have proof to follow up that accusation with! You do know that we can’t write that into article without something to back it up with, right???”

Clark buried his face deeper into his computer.

“Are you listening to me? Do you have anything?”

Nervously, he squeaked, “Define anything.”

“CRAP! I knew it! You’ve got nothing! NOTHING!” Lois seethed and paced back and forth in their office. “You know that I’ll never be invited to see the Mayor again thanks to your asking that question.”

“Looking for another celeb picture to hang on your wall? I mean really Lois, what do you care? He’s going to get kicked out of office soon. I’m sure the deputy mayor who steps in for Wilkins will give us the red carpet treatment for getting his predecessor booted from office,” Clark replied.

“UGH! That’s not the POINT Clark! You can’t shout fire into a crowded building without there being flames to back up your warning!”

Quickly, Clark began typing into a series of encrypted screens and asked Victor for a little help. Several moments later, Victor returned to him a sheet providing him with Wilkin’s Cayman Account number w/ the name of his mistress attached to it. With a smirk he printed it off.

“Would you like to get that for me, Lois?” he coolly asked and buried himself back into his editing.

Lois snatched the paper off of the printer’s tray and continued ranting, “You know we could even get docked a pay grade for doing something childish like this. That was SUCH a rookie move, Smallville! Why on earth did I even let you speak?”

“Lois?”

“I mean come on, what does journalistic integrity mean to a small town farmboy, right?”

“LOIS!”

“WHAT?” Lois’s eyes burned with the heated fire that immediately got Clark's heart palpitating wildly in his chest.

Clark leaned back in his swivel chair and knitted his fingers under his chin. Eyes twinkling he pleaded, “Take a look at what you’re holding.”

“What?” Lois shouted and then remembered the piece of paper in her hands. Clark waited while she looked it over. Her face went from full of anger to wide eyed disbelief. “CLARK! How in the world did you get this? You know what this means? All of those allegations are TRUE!” She twirled on her heel happily in a circle and did a ridiculously silly jump in the air. “Perry is going to LOVE US!”

Clark held back a laugh, god he loved it when Lois got all competitive. Cocking his brow, Clark purred, “Oh it’s US now?”

“Huh?” Lois looked at Clark and suddenly realized what he meant. She tried to shrug it off. “Well we ARE partners.” She pursed her lips together and rolled her eyes. “I guess this means we can share the front page byline.”

Clark laughed out loud. “Oh gee how generous of you, Lois especially since Perry assigned us both to this case to begin with!”

She chewed on her lower lip for a moment and tossed her head back shaking her brown hair out of her face. “Maybe Perry wasn’t an idiot for assigning you to work with me. This might actually work out.”

He narrowed his eyes and stated, “You know that almost smelled like a compliment.”

Rolling her eyes, Lois sat back down, and replied, “Yeah well don’t expect that to become a habit around here.”

“Unless I keep pulling stuff like that out of my hat,” Clark added, leaned forward in his chair and continued to finish editing the article. He then emailed it back to Lois for final review.

She read it over and sighed. “Damn, White was right, you know your stuff. I’m sending it down to the presses.”

Clark stood up. “Do we need to do anything right now?”

“Nope, just wait for another story to come in,” Lois answered.

“I’ll be back then,” Clark replied and exited the office without giving an explanation of his departure.

He made his way to the stairwell and blurred down eleven floors. Exiting on floor twelve he began searching for Chloe. Finally on the East side of the building in the middle of cubical hell he found his old friend hunched over her desk pounding away at her computer. Her small desk was piled sky high with magazines and the floor around it was filled with random pieces of electronics and gadgets. His eyes narrowed slightly as he studied her from behind, her hair was short and spiky rather like how she used to keep it cut in high school.

Not turning around, Chloe barked, “You know I really hate it when people lurk over my shoulder!”

“Sorry, I can leave if you’re busy,” Clark answered and faked turning around to leave.

Chloe spun so fast in her chair that Clark wondered if she was going to break the swivel on it. “CLARK??? OMIGODHOWAREYOU???”

Chloe leaped out of her chair and threw her arms around Clark's waist and buried her face against his chest. With a grin plastered on his face Clark engulfed his old friend in a big bear hug.

“Now that’s what I call a welcome back reception!” he replied, gently rocking her in his arms.

Chloe pulled away from Clark and scrutinized his face. “What’s up with the glasses?”

“What? Don’t you like them?” Clark asked, pushing them back up his nose.

She crossed her arms over her chest and replied, “Yeah, but it’s not like you need them, right?”

Quickly, Clark looked around them and saw no one was listening. He leaned in close to her and whispered, “They’re a disguise.”

A small dubious laugh escaped Chloe’s mouth. “You know Clark glasses are rather like windshields; people seem to think that just because they’re in their cars that the world around them can’t see them picking their noses – but you know glass IS transparent, it hides nothing.”

“Nice analogy, thanks Chloe,” Clark replied, smirking at her.

“Well I’m sorry but who’s going to be fooled by only a pair of glasses? I mean, who would be that gullible?”

Clark shrugged. “You might be surprised.”

“Why do you need a disguise?” Chloe wondered aloud, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Well, I don’t need it quite yet, but I will,” Clark weakly offered. He waved a hand and asked, “What about you? What are you doing these days?”

“I write an advice column,” Chloe answered, sitting down and pointing to an extra chair for Clark.

He straddled the chair and guessed, “Love advice?”

Chloe coughed out a laugh. “Hardly, I’m Techno-Geek Girl, I write a column answering questions and giving technical advice to the computer challenged people of the world. Think of me as a one woman tech support team.”

“Wow,” Clark said, trying to make his reply sound encouraging. “How did you end up with that job?”

“Well you know after my prison term…”

PRISON???” Clark’s mouth dropped open and his eyes bugged out of his head in disbelief.

A devious grin spread over Chloe’s face. “You know I’ve been waiting for the day for you to come back JUST so I could see that expression on your face when I brought that up. Seriously that just made my day, Clark.”

He helplessly held his hands up and shook them demanding her to fork over the details.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Lois and I were working on this big undercover story chasing down a lead that a mob informant had sent Lois’s way that something big was about to go down with the Camiacchio business. We went undercover as waitresses in a strip bar that Roberto Camiacchio owned. I managed to get away long enough one night to swipe the main harddrive on their office’s computer. When I got it home and hooked it up I found out that the Feds had been monitoring all activity going in and out of the computer. They immediately descended upon me and had me arrested for interfering in a Federal racketeering case. They then got a subpoena and picked my computer's harddrive apart and found all sorts of lovely illegal activity stored there...they went after me full tilt.”

Clark’s face was covered in a mystified expression.

Chloe continued, “The paper did everything that they could to back me up, they gave me the best lawyers, but the Feds decided to make an example of me to the Press that they’ll lay down the law to any reporter who interferes with their undercover operations and uses illegal methods to uncover the news. I got eighteen months in the slammer.”

Utterly speechless, Clark had no idea how to respond to that. Seeing the pained look in Clark’s eyes Chloe added, “I mean I guess it wasn’t so bad. Perry was outraged and in spite of everything he kept me on payroll. I got several big insider exposes written on the internal corruption of the correctional institutions here in the country.”

“Wow. I don’t know what to say, Chloe. I had no idea.”

“Of course you didn’t, I mean it’s not like you got WMET up there in your Arctic igloo, right?” Chloe joked.

Clark arched a brow in her direction and gave her a small encouraging smile. “Well I’m sure that your friends and family supported you, right?”

Chloe suddenly got all frigid. “Yeah, right.”

“What? I’m sure that Lois…”

She snorted a laugh. “LOIS! Yeah, Clark, Lois was a big support to me. I got eighteen months in the slammer and my misery helped her to ascend to the penthouse in the sky.”

Shifting uncomfortably, Clark asked, “What does that mean?”

“Lois supported me all of the way through the trial, you know? She tore the Federal lawyers apart and really did a great job on the witness stand and all, but at the same time, she used my trial and the case as the stories that launched her career. She became Perry’s golden girl all because she was championing my cause,” Chloe icily reported. “She got all sorts of awards for her coverage of the trial – Lois gets all of the fancy and juicy assignments. When I got out, ask me what I got Clark? Huh?” Chloe shoved a paper into Clark’s hands. “I got signed on as the paper’s Techno-Geek Girl. I get to travel the city going to big technology and comic book conventions. Woohoo! All of the nerds and dorks of the world see me as their very own Princess Leia for the paper. I can’t tell you how many pathetic marriage proposals I’ve gotten from lonely, still living with their parent geeks around Metropolis. I get to do everything for this paper EXCEPT report actual news. I don’t actually do anything that matters here.” Quickly she turned away and brushed aside a tear.

Clark studied the paper with her column. “I wouldn’t say that Chloe. I mean look at this, you answered a bunch of questions to a technically challenged seventy five year old woman, I’m sure that in her eyes you are her hero because she now has a better understanding on how to open pictures of her grandchildren.”

“It’s not the same thing,” Chloe growled.

“If you hate your job so much why don’t you…”

“Quit? And do what Clark? I’m a convicted felon who the hell is going to hire me?”

Clark thought on that for a moment and brightly answered, “Oliver!”

“Oliver? Who’s Oliver?”

“Oliver Que…” Clark’s voice petered off realizing that Chloe had never met him. “I know someone who I can talk to.”

“Billionaire Oliver Queen? You know him? Exactly how long have you been back in town Clark? I guess I’m bottom on your list of priorities, huh?”

“Chloe!” Clark spat angrily. “Look, I’m sorry but I had things to do when I got back. And for your information I only got back last night. You have NO idea what I went through to get to where I am right now.” He reached over and took her hand. “Hey, I’m sorry that you were handed a rough deal. Trust me though, it could’ve been worse.”

Chloe barked indignantly at him. “How?”

“Well, you could be dead. Believe me, spending time in prison might not have been fun but at least you’re alive and healthy,” Clark answered sternly. He suddenly found himself wondering if her powers ever emerged, judging by the fact that she didn’t bring them up he could only assume that they hadn’t yet.

The reporter in Chloe surfaced and she narrowed her eyes at Clark. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Come by the farm tonight. I have a lot of explaining to do to my parents and you might as well be there too so I don’t have to go over everything again,” Clark offered. He then looked at his watch. “I’d better get going or she’ll send the dogs out to find me.”

“Who?”

Clark realized that given Chloe’s rather bristling attitude towards he cousin, she probably didn’t want to hear about his new position, but he knew that he had to tell her rather than have her see his name appear on the front page tomorrow alongside Lois’. “My partner.” He put a smile on his face. “Looks like you finally got through to me after all Chloe. I’m a reporter here at the Planet!”

Chloe’s face froze into an expression of confused disbelief. “Wow, ok left field answer there, didn’t see that one coming. So who…” Her blue eyes quickly burned into his with an intensity that caused Clark to cringe. “You’re partnered with LOIS aren’t you?”

Meekly, Clark flashed a lopsided grin in her direction.

“This just gets better and better,” she mumbled. “She eats partners for breakfast, Clark. Watch yourself.”

“Don’t worry, I can hold my own with her. Chloe…”

“Yeah?” she grimly replied. “I hope so, for your sake.”

“See you tonight at the farm? Say sevenish?”

“Alright.”

Clark pushed the chair back and left her desk. Walking away he realized that he forgot to ask about Jimmy, but considering he didn’t see any photos of the two of them together he was suddenly very glad that he forgot to ask. Something told him that would be another sore spot for her and he didn’t much feel like pouring salt into another of her open wounds.

************************

Clark found Lois sitting at her desk tapping a pen against her keyboard. She scrutinized him from the moment that he walked into the office until he sat down. Smoothing his tie against his shirt he asked, “What?”

“Let me guess you now see me as a heartless big bad wolf, right?”

“What are you talking about?” Clark asked.

“Chloe? I’m sure she spit poison all over you about how I rose victoriously through the ranks while she wasted away in prison?”

“How did you…?”

“I am an investigative reporter, Smallville. Besides it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you’d go track her down, you guys are friends.”

Clark studied Lois’s eyes he saw pain lurking behind their anger. Cautiously he admitted, “You name did come up.”

“Chloe saw what she wanted to see, Clark. At the time I was fielding top level stories left and right. Chloe’s trial was only a fraction of the case load that I was carrying at the time. Our state’s Governor was in over her head having allegedly hired an illegal alien as her children’s nanny and I cracked that case wide open. THAT story made me a top reporter, not covering Chloe’s trial.” She glanced at him and saw that Clark didn’t appear to be making any judgments either way. She continued, “I went to see her every week for the first six months that she was in there, did she tell you that? I sent her care packages every week with amenities to help make her stay easier. Did she ever once thank me? No. She continued to just get more jealous and resentful towards me. Finally she couldn’t take it anymore and demanded that I stop coming to visit her. I tried a few times but she flat out refused to come and talk to me.”

Lois massaged her forehead. “Do you have any idea what I did for her? I was the one who demanded that Perry keep her on payroll even though she was in prison. Perry wanted to side with the board and cut their losses and all ties with her but I forced him to recognize what she did for the paper. Look I won’t deny that she got the shortest end of the stick in that whole fiasco. As reporters, we all occasionally cross that fine line in order to get to the truth – she got caught. She didn’t deserve what happened to her and unfortunately there’s nothing I can say that can convince her that I spend every day of my life hating myself that I couldn’t do something more to help her out!”

Clark pushed his chair back and rolled himself next to her desk. Gently he took Lois’s right hand in his and brushed her bangs out of her eyes. “What have you guys done to try to patch things up between you two?”

“There’s nothing TO DO, Clark. She won’t listen to me. Prison changed her. I mean she pushed aside everyone who she loves – me, Jimmy…not having you around…I think she felt like the whole world was out to get her and she hasn’t been willing to let go and move on,” Lois replied. She suddenly became self conscious of the weight of Clark’s hand on hers and the intensity of the sincerity that burned from his large green eyes. She gulped and did something utterly uncharacteristic, she put her own hand over his and softly urged, “Maybe you can get through to her, Clark. She always listened to you in the past if anyone can get through to her you can.” Her hazel eyes quickly glanced away. “I miss her.”

Clark smiled. “I’ll do my best.” Not wanting to push the moment, Clark moved away from her and changed the subject. “So do we actually get to leave at 5?”

“Yeah well there aren’t any stories going on at the moment, so go ahead and take off Clark. Maybe your second day will be more exciting and you'll have your rear glued to your chair all night.”

“What about you?”

“I just have some paperwork to finish and I’ll be on my way home,” Lois answered, burying her face behind her computer. Clark could tell that talking about Chloe took a toll on her and she was trying to hold her composure together until he left.

Not wanting her to feel uncomfortable, Clark gathered his things, and made to exit the office. Before he did, he paused by her desk, and gave her shoulder a soft squeeze. As he opened the door, Lois softly called out to him, “Clark?”

He turned around and saw her flicker a glance in his direction. “It’s nice having you back.”

Clark stared back at her and felt his heart constrict in his chest. This was the side of Lois that she never showed to anyone and it was the side of her that he loved with a burning passion. He loved her fire and spirit, but he equally loved her when she was vulnerable. She portrayed the portrait to the world of being the top lioness in the pride, yet with him, he got to see the kitten lurking below that facade. It was her own secret identity that she never showed to the outside world. She only showed it to Clark, rather like he was only willing to show his full alien side to her and to no one else. It was no wonder, he thought, that they were perfectly suited for each other. They understood each other better than anyone else could on this planet because they were the same in so many ways.

“I’m glad to be back, Lois and I couldn’t be happier than being partnered with you. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Clark replied and exited the office. As he shut the door, he saw a small lopsided grin spread over her face that caused his heart to jump happily in his chest.


Chapter 5


Clark made a quick stop at Oliver’s and retrieved his uniform. Oliver informed him that it would take a few days to get the glasses made and he handed over an extra pair of extra giant aviators that he used himself when undercover as the Green Arrow to hold him over for helping to conceal his identity.

Thanking Oliver for his costume, Clark briefly mentioned Chloe and her mad research skills. Oliver shrugged and replied that he’d be happy to meet her. After confirming that Bart was doing well and that there was no new information on Doomsday’s whereabouts, Clark took off to complete a list of chores he needed to accomplish for his next order of business.

The sun was beginning to dip over the horizon when Clark appeared over Reevers Dam holding a bag full of freshly purchased clothes and his briefcase a half an hour later. He quickly scanned the parking lot and confirmed that most of the Dam’s employees were gone for the evening. Clark then glanced towards the sky and shouted, “J’onn I need your help!!!”

Clark nervously chewed the inside of his mouth as he scanned the sky hoping that his old friend was somewhere nearby. Suddenly a bright red streak appeared and soared across the brightly lit sunset sky. Suddenly an older, stern faced, African American man was standing beside Clark.

“J’onn,” Clark said greeting the man with a smile. “It’s nice seeing you.”

The man furrowed his brows suspiciously at Clark. “How do you know who I am?”

“It’s a long story that I’ll happily tell you after you help me out with something,” Clark offered. Seeing that J’onn wasn’t about to budge without some sort of assurance, Clark added, “Look Jor-El mentioned you in my training, alright?”

Slowly, the Martian nodded his head and folded his arms across his chest. “How may I assist you, Kal-El?”

Clark mirrored J’onn’s pose and pointed his chin towards the dam. “There’s a ship buried somewhere down there that has my cousin Kara Zor-El trapped in it. I can’t locate it because its hull is made of lead. I need your eyes to locate it.”

If J’onn J’onzz had been suspicious before he now radiated apprehension and mistrust.

Chuckling, Clark sighed and scratched his head and authoritatively stated, “I am Kal-El, last son of the planet Krypton. My father Jor-El and mother Lara sent me to Earth to be a beacon of hope for the people of this planet. They sent you, their most trusted friend to Earth to watch over me in case anything happened where I got in too deep over my head. You have powers similar to mine and some that I don’t, including the ability to see through lead.”

J’onn frowned but nodded his head. “How do you know that Kara Zor-El lives and is down here?”

Clark exhaled a large batch of air. “Because over twenty four hours ago I reset time and in my previous lifetime Kara was buried down there and has been trapped in suspended animation.”

Luckily for Clark, J’onn was well aware that his father had done the same thing for Krypton on multiple occasions, and reluctantly accepted Clark’s answer.

J’onn turned and activated his Martian vision and began scanning the water. His heated x-ray vision burned aside years of soil. “I think I’ve found it – there!”

Clark activated his own x-ray vision and saw a large dark form under the water where J’onn was pointing. Throwing off his jacket and shoes, Clark dashed towards the reservoir and dove into the water. Swimming through the water with powerful strokes he zeroed in on the large spacecraft. Under water he activated his own heat vision and blasted it towards the locking mechanism of the ship. Years of being trapped under water had corroded the activation mechanisms of the ship’s outer hull. Clark’s heat finally broke through the rust and tarnished lead. Clark pushed himself backwards a safe distance from the ship as it started to move and lights began to flash. Suddenly the ship began to ascend out of the water and Clark swam alongside it as it broke the water’s surface. He quickly scanned the area and still didn’t see anyone. His eyes grew wide as the hull broke open to reveal a silhouette of a young woman lying in slumber inside the chamber.

A grin cracked over Clark’s face as an invisible veil of air rippled around her body releasing her from stasis. Large blue eyes flickered open and a single word escaped from her lips, “Kal-El.”

Before Kara could launch herself out the ship, Clark snapped up out of the water and grabbed her wrist. Slyly grinning he cocked up a brow and asked, “You called?”

Before Clark could react a bare foot whipped out of the chamber and crashed against his face. Blond hair flying, Kara became a blur of motion and as she launched herself at Clark. The two densely weighted Kryptonian bodies crashed into the water as Kara threw wild punches towards her attacker. In the growing dim light of the evening Clark found it difficult to evade every hit and cringed as Kara’s foot connected dangerously close to his groin area.

Some thanks I get for releasing you, cousin, Clark angrily thought as he sped towards her taut and challenging body. Using his superspeed in the water Clark snatched her hands and using his iron tight strength, clamped her wrists together in his right hand and twisted them behind her back. Clark then super-jumped them out of the water towards the shore. He held her out at arms distance and concentrated all of his heat vision onto the floating ship and quickly averted his eyes as it exploded and the debris flew in every direction. He watched the dam itself and was relieved to see that the debris from the ship didn’t hit it and damage the structure.

“LET GO OF ME!” Kara demanded as she squirmed in Clark’s hold. Like an annoying bug, Clark held her out at full arms length and let her kick with all of her might. Her 5 foot 5” frame didn’t allow her the distance to be able to successfully reach his body. With amusement Clark thought she looked like a wildly moving cartoon character.

Cocking his head to the side, Clark smirked at Kara. “Are you through?”

Long streaks of wet hair fell in front of her face giving her the appearance of a crazy person. “LET ME GO HUMAN!”

Clark laughed and shook his head. “Kara Zor-El did you not even pay the slightest bit of attention to how I just destroyed your ship?”

The use of her full name momentarily shocked the girl out of her struggles. “Where did you learn that name?”

“It’s a long story, short side of it, but I’m who you’re looking for, I am Kal-El. Although here on Earth, I’m known as Clark Kent.”

Kara sneered. “Impossible! You’re a grown man!”

“I assure you Kara Zor-El, he is not lying,” J’onn stated from a safe distance.

Her eyes grew wide as they fell upon J’onn. “You! Why are YOU here?” Clark felt the air crackle as Kara shot poison filled daggers in J’onn’s direction.

“Promise you won’t try to escape or kick me if I let you go?” Clark asked.

Looking somewhat overwhelmed, Kara nodded her head. “I do not understand, how is this possible, you’re supposed to be a baby.”

“You’ve been trapped in suspended animation for 27 years,” Clark said calculating the time.

Kara pushed her hair out of her eyes and howled, “TWENTY SEVEN YEARS???” A cool breeze shifted over the water and her eyes suddenly flickered down her body and she realized that she wore only a tiny sheer shift. J’onn handed Clark the bag that he had brought with him to the Dam. Clark reached inside and handed her the outfit that he had purchased for her.

“Put these on. We need to get out of here then, someone will have likely seen the ship explode and come to investigate.”

In a flash Kara was dressed in a pair of blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a red t-shirt. Clark glanced at J’onn, “Meet me at the farm?”

Nodding the Martian bolted up in the sky and left them in a trail of red. Clark smiled affectionately at his cousin. “Come on Kara, I have some wonderful people for you to meet! Follow me!”

Clark lifted up off of the ground and smiled as Kara frowned and then shot up after him. Laughing at his unsure cousin, the two Kryptonians chased each other through the sky towards the Kent farm.

**********************

Clark landed in the driveway of his house and glanced upwards to see Kara defiantly hovering over the barn examining her surroundings. He rolled his eyes and flew up to her side. “What’s wrong?”

“Where are we?”

“At my parent’s farm.”

“Your parents are dead, Kal-El.”

“Yes, my birth parents are dead. These are the Kents; they adopted me and raised me. Trust me, you’ll love them!”

Kara stared suspiciously at Clark. “What if they don’t like me?”

“Well if you insist on hanging out here like a free-floating weather vane, they very well might not like you. Come on, they’ll be thrilled to meet you.”

“Why are we here?” Kara asked, folding her arms over her chest.

Clark felt bubbles of frustration begin to rise. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. “I live…well lived here growing up. If you behave yourself you can live here too.”

A cow mooed in the field. She wrinkled her nose as the stench from the pastures reached her nostrils. “What is that primitive beast?”

Clark smirked. “It’s a cow, don’t worry, it won’t hurt you.”

Stubbornly Kara refused to budge. Clark pleaded with her, “They’ll love you Kara, come on inside with me.”

His cousin crossed her arms over her chest and begrudgingly landed on the ground next to him. J’onn stood near the porch waiting for them. Clark rolled his eyes as both J’onn and Kara stared uncertainly at each other. “You two, will you just get over it already? Krypton is gone, let bygones be bygones.”

Clark gave Kara a stern look and held up his finger to her silencing her protests. “Just, please let me explain everything, ok?”

With both of his new charges flashing hostile silent glances at each other, Clark sighed and walked into the house. He found his parents and Chloe sitting in the kitchen together.

Martha suddenly looked flustered at the unexpected addition of two new guests.

“Mom, Dad, Chloe I’d like to introduce you to a couple of people. This here is J’onn J’onzz, he was a friend of my father, Jor-El.” He watched with amusement as Jonathan’s eyebrows shot straight up in the air. “And this…” he said putting his hands firmly on Kara’s shoulders and presenting the very attractive young blond girl to his parents. “Is Kara Zor-El. She is my cousin.”

Clark found it difficult to hide a smirk as he watched his parents and Chloe’s mouths all drop towards the floor in astonishment.

He then introduced his parents and Chloe to Kara. Martha was the first to snap out of her shock, she immediately jumped forward, and wrapped her arms around Kara. “Welcome to the family, Kara!”

Arching an eyebrow at Clark, Kara uncertainly patted Martha on the back and gave the red haired woman a half smile. Jonathan beamed. “Welcome Kara! It’s wonderful that Clark finally has someone in his life who is just like him so that he won’t feel so alone. Clark, when did you find out that you had family here on Earth?”

“It’s a long story that I think it’s time that I told you all about.”

“Who is she an earthling sister?” Kara asked pointing at Chloe.

Chloe’s eyebrow shot up. “Earthling? Why do I suddenly feel like I should be on the set of STAR TREK?”

“What is STAR TREK some space station?” Kara asked.

Clark chuckled and directed her towards a stool to sit down onto. “I’m sure you’ll find out soon, cousin. Chloe’s my best friend.”

“And she knows what you are?”

“Yes, I trust her with my secret,” Clark replied.

Kara wrinkled her nose. “Secret? Why would you want to hide what you are? Some Prince of Krypton you are to cower and hide yourself away and not share your abilities to the world!”

Annoyed, Clark released a long breath of air that he’d been unconsciously holding. He wrinkled his eyes and squeezed at the bridge of his nose as a sharp pain burst in his skull. He’d forgotten how often he and Kara used to butt heads in the beginning when she’d been released from stasis. “I’ll explain everything, Kara. I promise.”

“Not until we all have dinner,” Martha replied. “I’ll put on something to eat.”

“No need, Mom,” Clark replied right as his super hearing detected the sound of tires coming up the driveway. He walked outside and met the delivery guy and returned carrying a stack of pizzas and drinks.

Clark chuckled at everyone’s puzzled expressions. “So sue me, I planned ahead for this evening.” After putting down the pizzas, he picked up his bag that still held his briefcase, extracted from it a large package of Oreos, and threw them at his very startled Martian friend.

“Dig in folks,” Clark ordered as he explained the concepts of pizzas to Kara. Everyone gathered around the dining room table and ate with small talk. When they were mostly finished, Clark asked everyone to move into the living room and then he began his long narrative of explaining the events that took place in his alternate lifetime.

His audience sat in silent rapture as Clark laid out the details of the world he lived in before he reset time.

He finished by explaining how he changed the course of history and then sat down and waited for everyone’s reactions.

Jonathan and Chloe were both the most affected by the news. Jonathan gulped deeply and spoke up first, “You’re telling me that you sacrificed Lana’s life for mine?”

Clark shrugged. “Sort of, the reality was that I should’ve never asked Jor-El to turn back time that first go around. By letting her go the events that transpired years later would never have happened had she just died.”

“But Lex wasn’t a Senator in that timeline,” Martha stated.

“No, which also means that he probably now doesn’t have a reason to blow up California,” Clark answered.

“Unless he somehow remembers something from what happened right?” Martha asked, her blue eyes filled with confusion.

Jonathan muddled through things. “Wouldn’t he remember things the same as you did?”

“Well see, that’s the problem,” Clark replied. “See for me, I returned in the timeline now, however the change took effect that election night. Do you remember Lex that evening? He kept ranting and screaming about Superman?”

“How can I forget he kept screaming it right in front of my face,” Jonathan replied, waving a hand in front of his face indicating the high levels of booze that came off of Lex’s breath at the time.

“So he somehow remembered you from that other timeline?” Martha asked. She looked at J’onn and asked. “Is that possible?”

“Resetting time is very tricky. Most people don’t remember it. However from what I know of Lex’s past, his father had put him through several rounds of electrotherapy, correct?”

Clark nodded his head.

“Then it’s very possible that his mind was still somewhat fractured enough that he could’ve received the data from both timelines,” J’onn agreed.

Jonathan let out a small chuckle. “And to think I had thought that Lionel was being a sadistic bastard for forcing several new rounds of shock therapy on Lex when he was imprisoned.”

“He was protecting you, wasn’t he Clark?”

J’onn spoke up. “Lionel Luthor is an Ambassador of the House of El. It is probable that he was working to help Kal-El.”

Bored with the conversation, Kara bolted up from her seat on the couch. “Where was I during all of this?” Kara asked with her arms crossed over her chest, mirroring her cousin’s stance.

“Honestly? I don’t know. You and I parted ways when I went off to my training. You headed out to explore the world. I can only guess that you were still doing that and hadn’t returned home to Metropolis,” Clark said.

Chloe sat at the edge of the couch and was staring off into space chewing on her thumbnail. Clark could tell she was digesting the news that she had likely died the last go around and was stewing on the idea that she was meteor infected.

Clark then focused his attention on J’onn and Kara and explained, “I wanted you both here for a specific reason.”

“What so if you didn’t need me you would’ve just left me in stasis?” Kara demanded.

Exhaling an annoyed breath, Clark turned to his blond cousin and said reassuringly, “I wasn’t going to leave you down there. I released you as soon as I had enough free time. I love you, cousin I wouldn’t have abandoned you.”

She flashed him an uncertain frown and watched Clark walk into the kitchen.

With that said he retrieved his briefcase. “I’m still not discounting Lex Luthor as a real threat to our safety, but right now we have a larger problem to worry about.” He handed over the satellite images of Doomsday to both his cousin and J’onn. “I revisited all of my father’s lessons and he never mentioned anything about this creature. Do either of you know anything about something called Doomsday?”

J’onn examined the image with great interest. “He is wearing a Kryptonian symbol on his chest.”

“Yes, that’s where I found out his name.” Clark felt a stab of disappointment realizing that J’onn didn’t know what it was. He knelt in front of his cousin and looked up into her eyes. “You told me before, in the past life, that you enjoyed studying ancient Kryptonian history. Come on Kara, does the name Doomsday mean anything to you?”

Her hand began to slightly tremble. “He cannot be here.”

“He IS here, though. What is he, Kara?”

Kara’s large icy blue eyes stared into her cousins. “He will be the death of us.”

The room got completely still – no one dared to breathe. A single tear cascaded down Chloe’s face as everyone waited for Kara to continue. She gulped and explained, “He was an abomination, created by a mad scientist in the early days of Krypton. This scientist Bertron created Doomsday to be the ultimate survivor. He created it by re-engineering leftover pieces of the creature over and over until it was near indestructible. The beast has no conscience and is full of hate. It learns its enemy’s weaknesses and immediately adapts to anything that someone might use on it that manages to hurt it. He regenerates almost instantaneously. I believe that the Kryptonians hurdled him off towards the edge of space hoping it would never land on another inhabitable planet again. I don’t know how it got here.”

“It probably got caught in the rift created when Clark reset time,” J’onn offered.

“So it’s indestructible?” Clark asked.

Kara shrugged. “I do not know.”

Clark slowly nodded his head. “Well I guess we’ll have to wait and try to figure out how to disable him. We can’t have him reach any densely populated areas. I’ve seen first hand the carnage that this beast can wreck on people’s lives.” Martha and Jonathan noted the shadow of pain that cast itself over Clark’s green eyes as memories surfaced in his mind. Staring hard at J’onn and Kara to judge their reactions; he stated, “We have to stop it.”

“Then let’s go find it!” Kara barked, ready to bolt.

“Easy girl! You’re not going anywhere!” Clark replied grabbing her by the shoulders and forced her back onto the couch. He squatted in front of his scowling teenage relative and said, “You need to learn what it’s like to be human. Also you have other abilities that you’re going to need to master before you can go into battle.”

“Other abilities?” Kara asked; her interest piqued in spite of herself.

“Yes.”

“Teach me,” she ordered.

Clark chuckled. “I will, but first I’ve got something that I have to do.”

“What’s that?”

The left side of his mouth itched upwards into a smirk. “Be super, of course.”

Chloe shifted her eyes at her friend in confusion. “Who are you and what have you done to Clark Kent?”

She then angrily jumped to her feet and stormed out of the living room towards the back kitchen door.

Clark quickly spun towards his parents. Jonathan waved him on. “We’ll take care of Kara – go!”

Taking his cue to leave as well J’onn followed Clark out onto the deck. “Call me when you need me,” the Martian offered, flashed his eyes red, and flew off in a streak of red. Clark supersped to Chloe’s car and through her open window ripped her keys out of the ignition before she realized that they were gone. He noticed that she’d begun to cry once she got out of the house. She quickly averted her face to hide her tears.

“Chloe,” Clark said in a soft voice. He squatted next to her car door, reached inside and wiped her face with his thumb. He sheepishly glanced at her, “I dumped a hell of a lot on you, didn’t I?”

He saw her lower lip quiver as she inhaled a deep breath. “Why didn’t you just let me stay dead?”

“It doesn’t work that way, Chloe,” Clark replied.

“Were we really that happy, Clark?” she whispered.

“Who?”

“Me and Jimmy.”

He felt the hairs rise on his arm. He gulped and nodded his head. “You both were crazy for each other and great parents.”

“I really screwed up, Clark. He was so sweet and kept coming to see me in prison. He always had a smile on his face and went out of his way to cheer me up, but I stupidly let the jaded other prisoners get to me and…they chipped away at my confidence until I thought he was visiting me out of pity. I turned on him and he never did anything to deserve the way I treated him. He won’t even look at me now. If we happen to end up in a hallway together, he turns around and runs away from me.”

“I’m sorry,” Clark replied.

Chloe picked up a stray napkin that was tucked between her car seats and blew her nose. “And apparently I’m a freak. Fitting isn’t it? The freak hunter is a freak herself.”

“Hey, you have an amazing power, don’t get yourself down about it,” Clark replied. “I’ll tell you what, Oliver and his guys will be able to help you out with learning to use it. You’ll make a great addition to the team.”

Her large grey-blue eyes flickered over Clark’s open and honest face. “I’m not exactly an angel anymore, Clark. I’m a felon.”

“Maybe, but you learned your lesson, right?”

She shrugged. “I guess.”

“Trust me, when you get to meet the guys, they won’t judge you for cutting corners,” Clark replied. “Can you promise me something?”

“What?”

He reached inside her car and held her hand firmly. Chloe saw that genuine warmth and love that always radiated from Clark’s big eyes as they held hers tightly. “Promise me that you’ll patch things up with Lois.” She heard his voice catch slightly, “She misses you something fierce but doesn’t know how to get through the barriers you’ve put up between you both.”

A strange dawning fell on her as she saw the urgency in Clark’s pleading eyes. “You really love her, don’t you?”

“More than you’ll ever know.”

Flashing one of her trademark smirks, Chloe rolled her shoulder,s and replied, “I think flying across the galaxy, risking getting sucked into a black hole, resetting time all so that you could save the woman that you love is all the evidence that I need of your love for her, Clark.”

He appeared slightly stunned. “You believe me then?”

She tightened her grip on his hand. “Oh please, Clark you were always an alright reporter in high school, but you were no creative writer. There’s no possible way that YOU could make up a story like that unless it was real.”

“Gee thanks,” Clark growled, with a smile.

Chloe let go of Clark’s hand and took her keys back from him. “I’ll do it. I miss her too, Clark.”

With a large grin plastered over his face, Clark reached inside her window and kissed Chloe on her forehead. Laughing, Chloe watched him walk away from her car and look up towards the sky.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Metropolis,” Clark answered, testing the air.

“Don’t you want a ride?”

In a blurring motion, Clark was suddenly fully changed into his blue and red superhero costume complete with cape and boots. He held Oliver’s spare glasses in his hand and put them on. With a smirk he replied, “Thanks, but I’ve got the transportation angle covered.”

Chloe quickly threw open her car and watched with her mouth wide open as Clark shot straight up into the air, grinned back in her direction, waved, and flew off.

“Whoa,” she whispered. Heart racing in her chest, a large grin spread over her face. After so many years of feeling like a failure, Chloe suddenly felt like she was a part of something again and that her life had a purpose. She ran to her car and fired up the engine and sped towards Metropolis.

She wanted to be there to see Lois’s face when she learned that a man can fly.


Chapter 6


Chloe gulped and felt her stomach lurch as the elevator ascended past her usual twelfth floor stop as it made its way towards the twenty-third floor. She knew her cousin’s habits; Lois never went home in the evening and would still be holed up in her office.

She exited the elevator onto the lush top floor of The Daily Planet holding a tray of coffee cups as a peace offering for her cousin. The cups slightly quivered under her trembling hand as she walked through the nearly deserted hallways towards Lois’s office. She saw a light shining under Perry White’s office and heard his voice rumble behind a closed door. Picking up her pace, Chloe darted past the Chief Editor’s office towards her cousin’s office door. Lois’s door was also shut. Tentatively Chloe pressed her ear against the door and heard two voices mumbling inside. One she was able to pick out as belonging to Lois and the other was male.

Gripped with uncertainty, Chloe didn’t want to disturb Lois if she was talking to a source. She then heard Lois let out a casual laugh. Her eyes grew wide as she recognized the responding laugh of the second occupant and froze. Chloe’s heart began to slam in her chest and she felt all wetness immediately dry in her mouth from fear. Before she could decide if she wanted to bolt or not the door quickly opened. The unexpected movement caused her arm to involuntarily jerk and Chloe yelped as the two coffees in her tray toppled over and poured over the front of her shirt.

Her large blue eyes widened as she found herself gazing into the wide gray eyes of Jimmy Olson. “Are you alright?” he asked, digging into his pocket he pulled out the hanky that he used for wiping his lens-caps clean and pathetically attempted to help her to dry off.

Chloe’s cheeks burned from embarrassment. Rolling her eyes she lied, “They were cold anyways, don’t worry Jimmy.”

He met her eyes and squinted them slightly. “You know, I’ve got a clean t-shirt at my desk, I’ll get it for you to change into.”

“It’s Ok…” Chloe replied to his rapidly retreating form. She exhaled and started at the ceiling.

“Come on in here, Chlo, I have a huge stack of napkins that you can use to clean up with,” Lois offered from the doorway.

“Thanks,” Chloe said, tossing the cups and tray into Lois’s trashcan. She pulled her shirt out from against her body and happily began sopping up excess coffee up with Lois’s stash.

She glanced over at Lois and saw her perched on the edge of her desk staring intently in her direction. Chloe examined her older cousin; in the past by the middle of the day Lois would be a mess, Chloe realized looking at her cousin that her makeup was impeccably made, her hair still held in it’s style, about the only thing that betrayed the long hours that she had spent at the office were the deep creases in her skirt from sitting at her computer.

“What’s up, Chloe?” Lois softly inquired.

Before Chloe could answer, Jimmy burst into the room and handed a white t-shirt to his soaked ex-girlfriend along w/ a full roll of paper towels.

“Keep the shirt,” Jimmy said, awkwardly grabbed the door knob and darted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Chloe peeked out though the blinds and saw him race to the elevators. Her heart sank as she watched him get inside. “He still can’t even stand to be within five feet of me…not that I blame him,” Chloe whispered.

She turned the lever knob to close the blinds and looked at Lois’s exposed office windows. “Here,” Lois said, got up, and tapped a button on a control box on her office wall.

Chloe watched as long blinds slipped down from the ceiling and covered all of the windows giving her complete privacy. “Whoa. That, um…that’s some perk.”

“Yeah well you never know when you might have source come in who wouldn’t want to be seen by the outside world. I’ll turn around if it makes you more comfortable,” Lois stated. She locked her door and began riffling through one of her file cabinets.

Rapidly, Chloe began stripping off her wet and ruined shirt and sopped up the excess coffee from her skin. “Do you think that coffee is an herbal skin softener?”

“Well it’s shocking that my skin’s still alright considering I’ve dropped more cups on myself than I can count,” Lois replied, grinning.

Chloe briefly sniffed the t-shirt and felt her heart tug in her chest, even sitting in a drawer in Jimmy’s desk it still slightly smelled of his musky aftershave. She sighed and tugged it over her head. “So much for the goth computer chick look that I try to go for,” Chloe said.

Lois extracted a bag out one of her drawers and handed it to Chloe. “We should get that into the bathroom before the stain sets.”

“Is that how it’s going to be? We’re bonding over laundry?” Chloe asked, arching an eyebrow. She sighed. “Lois, I…” Her tall cousin stared intently at her. Suddenly, Chloe felt a giant lump form in her throat and her lower lip began to quiver. “I was an idiot. You were just trying to help me and I pushed you away.” Lois’s brows arched upwards her face filled with hope. Chloe looked away. “I also know that you got to where you are through hard work on your other stories. I’m so, so sorry for ever implying that you used my being in jail to get you here.”

“I’ve missed you, Chlo,” Lois replied, her voice deep with emotion.

“Me too, Lo.”

Suddenly, Chloe found herself wrapped up in her cousin’s arms. The two women unsuccessfully fought back the urge to cry. A couple of minutes later, Lois stood up, and wiped her eyes. “So much for my makeup.”

“You look great, Lo,” Chloe answered. Scratching her forehead, Chloe asked, “So where do we go from here?”

“I'm good with ignoring the past and living in the present, how about you?” Lois offered.

“Sounds great!” Chloe agreed, grinning.

Suddenly they heard a loud bang against the door followed by a yowl of pain. The cousins frowned and Lois unlocked her door to find Jimmy standing outside nursing his nose, his camera dangling around his neck.

“You have GOT to see this!”

Lois and Chloe followed his finger as he pointed towards one of the large LCD screens that circled the twenty-third floor. A new report blared with an Asian female reporter shouting into her microphone, The bridge which has been under repair suddenly gave way under a bus full of schoolchildren. Their screams could be heard for miles as the bus teetered on the edge of the hole, threatening to plummet into the freezing Metropolis River below. Even though the children climbed to the back of the bus to try to help balance the vehicle their doomed fate appeared to be inevitable.

Lois and Chloe watched in horror as a shaky camera zoomed in on the teetering schoolbus. Before rescue crews could attempt to reach the vehicle – a stranger appeared out of nowhere. This is a WMET exclusive! A man wearing what appears to be a blue and red costume grabbed the back of the bus and pulled it away from the hole.

Eyes wide, Lois stepped as close as she could to the screen and watched as the man wearing a red cape ripped open the emergency door off of the back of the bus and helped each child off of it.

Here's what you won't believe folks...look at how our mystery hero made his exit!

Chloe examined her cousin's jaw as it dropped towards the floor as the figure lifted off of the ground, waved to the children, and flew off.

Lois’s entire body tingled with goosebumps. In a near whisper, Lois ordered, “Get my keys, Chloe we're going to find that guy.”

After a half of a heart beat the three were racing towards the elevator in hot pursuit of the biggest story of the year.

********************************

Lois, Chloe, and Jimmy all piled into Lois's SUV. Flooring it, Lois exploded out of The Daily Planet's underground parking lot. Chloe gripped her door handle in fear while Jimmy's eyes darted out of the windows searching the sky for the man in the red cape.

“What the hell do you think that was? Did you see the footage? He just FLEW off! There weren't any wires or any exhaust or smoke trails coming from him indicating that he was using some sort of a device to assist with his flight!” Lois excitedly exclaimed, swerving dangerously in and out of traffic.

“You know, Lo, we really don't want to become the next story here – slow down a little bit will you?” Chloe insisted, gulping.

She stared at her cousin and saw something that she wasn't expecting a look of utter devious delight played over Lois's features. “Chloe this guy just played boy scout to a group of school kids, don't you think that he might come to our rescue if we needed it?”

That comment yanked Jimmy out of his Pulitzer dreams and he barked, “What?”

Lois laughed. “Oh relax guys, I'm a great driver, I've taken tons of defensive driving courses there's no reason to worry.”

Chloe watched the light ahead of them turn yellow and instead of slowing down, Lois gunned the accelerator. “LOIS!” The light turned red and the SUV fired through the intersection. The SUV was suddenly bathed in a bright light and the sound of a loud horn blared from the left side of their truck. Lois, Chloe, and Jimmy screamed as a tanker truck barreled straight towards them from cross traffic.

The light briefly darkened and suddenly the reporting crew gripped tightly onto anything around them as the SUV lifted straight off of the ground. Jimmy immediately began firing photos out his window as he captured the tanker truck drive safely underneath them.

“What the hell?” Lois screamed and then her eyes flickered to her rearview mirror. A grinning handsome face half covered by sunglasses was peering in through the back window. “Jimmy! Chloe!”

Jimmy whirled around and fired off a shot and then lowered his camera. Sheepishly he shrugged. “Probably shouldn't have done that, I might've blinded the guy.”

Lois eased her foot off of the accelerator and put the truck into park as their savior gently lowered the car towards an empty parking lot. Fumbling in her purse, Lois extracted and turned on her digital recording device. Before the tires had even hit the ground, Lois had unhooked her seat belt and opened her car door. Flinging herself out of the car, she raced around the truck and found herself face to face with a massive man wearing a dark blue costume with a giant S emblem blazed on the front of it. The evening wind gathered around his cape and sent it swirling around his impressively toned body.

For a moment, Lois forgot entirely how to speak as she stared at the man's chiseled jawbone and windswept dark hair. Her heart fluttered uncontrollably in her chest and she forgot everything around her as her eyes drank in the glorious sight of what had to be the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes upon.

“Are you alright, Miss?” the man asked in a deep, rumbling voice.

Lois gulped, smiled brightly, and began nervously fidgeting with her shirt’s collar. “Yes...thanks to you.”

Jimmy began snapping photos of the man as he stood behind the truck with his arms crossed over his chest.

“That was a very dangerous thing you did there, Miss Lane. You could've gotten yourself and your friends killed with that reckless driving,” the man scolded.

Disbelief filled Lois's eyes and she squeaked, “You know me?”

“Who wouldn't know Metropolis's finest reporter?”

Chloe watched the exchange behind her hand as she hid a large smirk. Clark's fancy glasses barely disguised his identity. She found herself almost horrified by how her brilliant cousin seemed to be completely oblivious to the obvious.

“And who are you?” Lois asked. “Where did you come from?”

The corner of Clark's mouth itched upwards and he leaned in towards the woman he loved. He whispered, “Get yourself home safely and maybe I'll let you know.”

Lois's eyes grew to the size of saucers as she watched a large grin spread over the man’s face. Waving to the group, the mystery man bolted straight into the sky and vanished into the twinkling evening lights.

The trio raced back towards the office and Lois typed up her first hand account. Jimmy hooked up to Clark's computer and showed Lois “the money shot” of the mystery man standing in the parking lot with his arms crossed.

“What's the S for?” Chloe innocently asked. “I mean every superhero has to have a name, right?”

Tapping her pencil rapidly against her palm, Lois pushed away from her computer and began to pace her office. “S...S for spectacular?”

“Doesn't really roll off of the tongue, Lois.” Chloe kidded.

“Stunning? Sexy?” Lois asked, gazing out the window.

Jimmy exploded with laughter. “Yeah, I think a guy who can lift cars and fly them over the city should be named SexyMan!”

A light laugh escaped out of Lois's mouth. “Yeah, sorry, I was kidding. But dear lord, Chloe did you see the size of that man's chest and his arms? God he's built like some super tank!” Words flew rapidly through her brain and suddenly one popped out at her... “Super! That's it Chloe, he's Superman!”

Chloe suddenly grew a giant grin across her face. “I think that's perfect Lois...a real headline grabber!” She watched in complete amusement as the dreamy smile on Lois's face expanded and lit her up radiating her natural beauty. Chloe shook her head as Jimmy and Lois put the final touches on their story including several pictures of the SUV in flight. She couldn't help but think that all of their lives were about to turned upside down.

Chloe also wondered how long it would take for Lois to recognize the man behind the flimsy mask and how pissed she would be when she figured it out that the “stunning and sexy” man who she was hopelessly smitten with was Clark Kent.


Chapter 7


The warm evening breeze rustled through the foliage of the plants that liberally adorned the garden on Lois’s balcony. In a dreamlike state she danced her way around her pots and over doused them all with their evening water. For all that Lois was a horrible cook she discovered that she loved gardening. She found her flowers and vegetables to be a plush oasis in the daily grind of living in a city built of brick, glass, concrete, and cold steel.

Her ears detected the whistle of her teapot that she’d put on and went back inside to make herself a cup of herbal tea. She let her tea bag seep, slowly unbuttoned her shirt, and retreated into her bedroom. Once inside she shucked off her work clothes and climbed into a pair of comfy military grade sweatpants and an old flannel shirt. She rolled up the sleeves and examined the worn red and gold plaid shirt. She remembered the day when she and Martha Kent were heading to Goodwill with several boxes of things and Lois had spied Clark’s flannel shirt and snatched it before it could be given away. Lois then grabbed a large clip and twisted her hair up off of her neck and piled it onto the top of her head. After stuffing her sore feet into a pair of thick socks she headed back to the kitchen and got her tea. She walked back out onto her patio and sat herself down in a chaise lounge. Staring up at the stars, Lois realized that she could barely see them due to the light pollution and exhaust from the city. She still fancied that if she concentrated hard enough she’d be able to spy a flying man dancing amongst the stars.

For some reason her mind turned away from Superman and landed again on Clark Kent. She still couldn’t believe that he was not only back from his long hiatus from the world but had returned as a reporter for The Daily Planet. She mulled over how he had managed to come across those Cayman records of Mayor Wilkins and began to wonder exactly where Clark had been hiding for the past few years. Her mind whirled rapidly forward with crazy theories and she began to wonder if perhaps he had been recruited by some covert division of the military or government. For a moment she nearly discarded the idea but she did know that his mother had connections in Washington, perhaps it wasn’t such a screwball thought after all. How else could he, a simple farmer, break into unbreakable Cayman account records?

She wiggled her toes and blew on her mug and took a drink of the sweet Jasmine scented liquid as she muddled over that thought. Suddenly she felt a quick breeze and she slightly shivered. Lois’s large hazel eyes peered over the brim of her mug and she felt all blood drain from her face. Standing in front of her on her balcony’s ledge was Superman. Acutely aware at her very unglamorous appearance, Lois tried to hide unsuccessfully behind her cup.

“Oh god, couldn’t have given me a warning that you were coming could you?” she whispered.

“But I did warn you, Miss Lane,” Superman pleasantly stated from fifteen feet away.

Lois’s eyes narrowed. “How did…?”

“I have superhearing,” her caped new arrival replied. He then gestured towards her. “I apologize, I shouldn’t have listened in on your private…mutterings.”

A small grin formed on Lois’s face. “It’s alright. Can you come down from there? You’re making me nervous.”

The man smirked. “Why are you worried that I’m going to fall?” Flailing his arms, Superman suddenly toppled backwards and back flopped over the ledge of the balcony.

Lois screamed, spilled her tea all over her patio, and dashed towards her balcony. As she leaned over the edge an annoyed frown came over her face as Superman hovered right below her line of sight and eagerly peered towards the ledge waiting to see her expression. He reached up, grabbed the brickwork, and pulled himself back up onto her patio. Clark stared at Lois’s terrified and annoyed expression and fought down the urge to snatch her into his arms and kiss her. Instead he cleared his throat and smiled in her direction.

“As you can see it would take a lot more than a little fall to break my neck, Miss Lane,” Clark stated, making sure his voice remained deep and unrecognizable.

A sliver of a smile crept over Lois’s lips. “Just don’t do that again, ok? You nearly gave me a heart attack!” Clark watched her as she quickly snatched the clip out of her hair and self-consciously shook her long dark tresses loosely around her shoulders. His eyes fell onto the shirt she was wearing and his heart skipped a beat. He involuntarily inhaled a quick breath when he recognized it as being one of his flannel shirts from high school. Clark wondered when she had pilfered it. Lois appeared to be deciding what to do and he could tell she desperately wanted to change her clothes. Lightly he stepped onto the patio and took her elbow in his large hand and twirled her around to face him. Her eyes grew the size of saucers as he flashed a wide, open smile. “I know that you’ve had a long day at the office, don’t think of changing on my account.”

Her chin dipped towards her chest as her brows narrowed suspiciously. In a small voice she asked, “How did you know I was thinking that? Are you a mind reader too?”

“No, I just sensed it by the way you’ve been fidgeting,” he answered. “If you’d like to get your recorder, I’m sure that you’d love an exclusive interview?”

Lois’s face brightly lit up and she squealed, “Really?”

“I wouldn’t dare thinking of giving anyone else the exclusive,” Superman replied.

“Why not?”

“Are you not Metropolis’s number one reporter?”

Lois blushed. “Well…I…maybe...”

Superman cocked his head at her and arched an eyebrow over the rim of his sunglasses. “Beautiful AND modest, I understand you’ve won the Kerth award three years in a row, that’s hardly something to sneeze at.”

Lois rolled her shoulders and grinned. “Oh stop it, I’m just good at my job.”

“Exactly. That’s why I want you…”

Eyes growing large, Lois felt her heart plunge into her stomach as her nerves began to fray. Her knees slightly wobbled. She gulped and squeaked, “Want me?”

Clark had carefully chosen his words and was enjoying seeing Lois get flustered. He cocked a brow and completed his sentence “…to interview me?”

“Interview??? RIGHT!” Suddenly feeling very foolish, Lois shouted, “Don’t go ANYWHERE!”

Clark watched her dart into her apartment, hunting for her purse in order to grab her recorder. A slight breeze rustled through Clark’s hair as he examined her flowerbeds. His mind’s eye traveled back to Lois’s previous garden, it had been a colorful oasis of various flowers. This time around the flowers were still there, however half of her beds were now filled with vegetables and herbs. He stared at her large plump tomatoes and recognized some carrot plumes. Clark grinned knowing that those were vegetables that one could eat raw. He also recognized mint, sage, two kinds of basil, and some cumin. He reached over and brushed his fingers against a large lavender bush and released its heady woody floral scent into the air. He didn’t remember Lois particularly liking lavender the difference caused him to slightly frown.

“Don’t you like lavender?”

Realizing that Lois had misinterpreted his facial expression, Clark smiled. “I like lavender just fine. Do you do anything with it?”

“Actually, I do. I like to sprinkle it in my bathwater,” Lois stated.

“Wow,” Clark said and thought to himself, How very girly of you, Lois.

Self-conscious, Lois asked, “So is this an interview of me, or you?”

Clark turned around and smiled. “Sorry…” He was glad that he wore the large glasses for he was certain that his eyes had just bugged out of his head like a cartoon character.

Lois had taken advantage of her three seconds inside to change her clothing. She now wore a pair of low rise jeans and a low cut white peasant blouse that exposed her toned mid rift. It took every ounce of Clark’s strength to rip his eyes off of her impressive cleavage, especially when he realized that she wasn’t wearing a bra under the sheer top. He forced his eyes upwards and focused on how stunning her dark brown hair looked against the white fabric. Clark noticed a sliver of a pleased smile spread over Lois’s face; she had obviously realized that she’d gotten his full attention and had finally gotten the upper hand in the meeting.

Quickly, Clark spun away from her, he felt his heart hammering in his chest, and suddenly felt very hot as his mind drifted back to the dark impressions of Lois’s nipples that showed beneath her top’s fabric. Gulping hard, he snapped off a sprig of lavender, and crushed it between his fingers, releasing the scent in the air. His deep voice rumbled, “So anyways, fire away, Miss Lane.”

“What are you?” Lois asked; her tone soft and full of wonder as she stared at the yellow S that was emblazoned on Superman’s cape.

Clark turned around and met her hazel eyes. “I’m one of the last survivors of a planet called Krypton….that’s K-R-Y-P-T-O-N. My parents put me in a ship and sent me here to earth to be raised amongst humans. I grew to love the people on my adopted homeworld and vowed to use my special abilities to protect them from dark forces.”

“Dark forces?”

“Corruption…war…criminal activity…things of that sort.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a full time job the Earth is filled with that sort of evil,” Lois replied.

“Perhaps, but for now, I’m staying in Metropolis to help protect this fine city. Unfortunately there’s plenty of crime here that I'm...suited to assist with.”

He watched as her nose crinkled and she asked, “You’re not human…how can you do the things that you do?”

“My people lived in a solar system that circled a red sun. The yellow sun of this system nourishes molecular makeup and gives me my special powers,” Clark replied.

“That’s interesting,” Lois absently replied, scribbling notes as her recorder continued to do its thing. “What can you do?”

Clark folded his arms over his broad chest and said, “I have super enhanced strength and speed and hearing and breath. I’m fireproof. I have x-ray, heat, and micro vision and I have super and freezing breath.”

“And you can fly.”

He grinned. “And I can fly.”

A suspicious expression crossed Lois’s face as she read over what Superman had just listed off to her. “What does Super and freezing breath mean?”

Smiling, Clark pointed to the puddle of tea on her patio floor and blew on it. Lois’s eyes widened as the puddle turned to ice. Superman put up a finger, ceased blowing, and stared intently at the puddle. Suddenly it melted and began to bubble. “Freezing breath and heat vision.”

“Wow,” Lois stated dreamily.

The last time around, Lois had made a snarky comment on him being a walking Swiss Army knife, this time she seemed...distracted. Clark grinned.

“And Super breath?”

Quickly Clark scanned the sky and located a large patch of clouds that were covering the moon. He grabbed Lois’s hand and pulled her to his side and pointed towards the heavens. Inhaling deeply, Clark blew skywards and punched a hole through the cloud mass revealing the bright, full moon.

As Lois stared at the shiny orb she shook her head with disbelief. “That’s amazing!” Clark stared down into her wide eyes and as she peered in his direction he could tell she was desperately trying to see his eyes through his glasses. Softly she said, “Tell me something real about you…something that you maybe haven’t even told your best friend…wait, do you have friends?”

Clark smirked. “Yes I have friends, in fact I live a rather ordinary life by day, it keeps me grounded, you know? And it connects me to the people on this planet and helps to make me one of them…even if I’m not.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Since I was a young boy.”

“And were you always…different…growing up?”

“My abilities developed as I grew older. When they first started I was really confused, I mean how exactly do you fit in when you’re indestructible, or can run faster than a speeding bullet?” Clark asked. He stared pointedly in her direction, “You have no idea how difficult it was growing up, not knowing who or what I was and having to keep everything that was so…special…about me from those who I cared the most about. I lived in constant fear every day that if they did find out what I was that they’d think I was a freak and leave me.”

Lois’s heart ached for the handsome stranger. “You must’ve been a lonely childhood. Don’t you have anyone in your life who knows the real you? Like maybe a girlfriend or a wife?”

Clark rubbed the back of his neck and to her first part of the question replied, “Sure…a few.” Lois’s eyes widened in shock. Clark then realized the full question that he had been asked and he let out a laugh. “Uh not what I meant…I meant that there are a few of my friends who know my secret…but it’s a burden that I don’t have the luxury of sharing with too many people. Their knowing could put their lives in danger.” Clark realized he still hadn’t answered the question that he knew she was dying to hear the reply. With a small smile he said, “I don’t have a girlfriend or a wife.”

A sly grin formed on Lois’s face. “Not that you haven’t had your fair share of women fawning over you over the years I’m sure. I mean, who wouldn’t be interested in a tall dark handsome stranger from the stars?”

Clark couldn’t help himself and flashed a lopsided smile. “You might be surprised…some girls thought I was a dork.”

“A dork?” Lois asked incredulously. “You? Whoever those ditzes were, I question their tastes in men.”

The irony of Lois’s words caused a sharp giggle to nearly erupt out of Clark. He quickly covered it by coughing. Deciding that he needed to end this line of questioning, Clark turned and pulled the recorder and pad of paper out of her hand and then placed them on a nearby planter. Before Lois could react he quickly scooped her up into his arms and advised, “You’d better hold onto my neck.”

“Why?”

“Just do it!”

Lois stared suspiciously at Superman and did what she was told. A large gasp burst out of her lungs as he shot them straight up into the air.

The wind whipped against Lois’s clothes and she shook her head to knock a large lock of hair out her eyes as she clung tighter around Superman’s neck. Superman’s eyes fixated on some distant spot in the night’s sky and Lois took the opportunity to watch as her apartment’s surrounding buildings grew tiny and Metropolis became a blanket of twinkling lights. She felt her stomach rise upwards into her throat, like she felt whenever she was giddy and climbing up a high incline on a rollercoaster. Suddenly their rapid climb slowed down and Superman stilled them far above the city. Try as she might, Lois couldn’t speak. Her heart raced in her chest with excitement. She gently chewed on her lower lip and waited until Superman met her eyes. He smiled brightly and Lois nestled her head against his firm shoulder.

Clark’s heart burned in his chest as Lois made herself comfortably at home in his arms. Skillfully he raced them towards the clouds that he had blown aside and burst them right through it. He felt his charge shiver slightly as the cloud’s condensation cooled her cheeks and nose. Lois gripped tighter against Superman’s body, pressing herself against his chest for warmth. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and realized that she should’ve kept her warm flannel shirt on because now that she’d changed tops she was freezing!

Clark sensed her discomfort. The cape he wore was used for aerodynamics and as a shield against fire, for simple flight, it was an unnecessary part of his costume. Deftly he hovered over the top of a fluffy cloud. Lois peered down and stared at his boots, they appeared to be planted firmly in the middle of the foggy floating body. Gently he released his hold on her legs and Lois’s eyes bulged as she clung tighter to his neck. Clark gasped as she dug her nails into his skin and raked them against his hairline. Quickly he reached around, unhooked his cape from his costume and moved it around Lois’s neck. He suddenly realized that he wouldn’t be able to clasp it with one hand.

Lois watched his fingers fumble with the clasp. Heart pounding in her chest she felt Superman’s arm squeeze itself tighter around her waist and for good measure he hooked a finger through one of her jean's belt loops. Reluctantly she let go of her left arm and with his help got the complicated clasp shut. They smiled at each other as Lois encased herself in the warm fabric. Clark cradled her again in his arms and shot them upwards and then rapidly dipped them down. Lois’s stomach jumped from her gut to her lungs and back again as Superman took her on a machine free rollercoaster ride amongst the stars. She found it difficult to speak in the high atmosphere but still smiled at his entertaining showing off. She hadn't had this much fun in years.

Gently Clark released his hold on her legs and pried her left hand from around his neck and knotted his fingers amongst hers. Lois’s legs had instinctively entwined with his in order to prevent herself from falling. She looked on anxiously to see what her flight partner was doing. He nodded his head reassuringly in her direction, smiled, and then gently moved his arm fully around her waist and held her stomach. He gestured to her legs and mouthed, “let go.” With Superman’s cape billowing out behind her, Lois slightly jerked and released her vice-like grasp from his legs. She squeezed her eyes shut tight until she realized that she was flying. Her hazel eyes popped open and she was tightly held in Superman’s right arm at his side holding her hand.

All of her life Lois had been fearless, doing daredevil feats, most of the time to spite her father. From skydiving, to high cliff diving, to white water rapids jumping, this had to be the most exhilarating experience of her life. Superman gently moved her to arms length and with his cape fluttering around her, she experienced the allusion of self propelled flight. Momentarily she forgot being cold, she was free.

Clark happened to glance at Lois's profile and noticed that her neck was covered in goose bumps. With the skill of a classically trained dancer, Clark lightly twisted his wrist and brought Lois rolling towards his body. Now wrapped up in his arms, he bulleted them down through the clouds and back towards Metropolis.

Before Lois could wonder where they were going, Superman landed them on top of the rooftop of the Metropolis Union Bank. The location gave them a panoramic view of the city. He lightly twirled her out of his arms and watched as her face alit with wonder at the dazzling landscape below them.

Lois ran her fingers against the inside of the strange fabric and felt as if every nerve in her body was alive...truly alive! Breathless she spun around on wobbly legs and stared at her companion. Before he could react, she had snaked her arms around his shoulders and flashed him a vibrant smile. Clark's heart pounded as butterflies fluttered in his chest and any and all thoughts in his head froze. Her long fingers barely danced across the skin on the back of his neck causing Clark to exhale from a jolt of unexpected pleasure. She then dug her fingers into his thick dark hair and brought his lips towards her face.

In a husky voice she whispered, “I can't fly, but there's no saying I can't make you feel lighter than air.” Unable to resist what she was offering, Superman descended upon her lips that were an exciting blend of icy cool softness with hot breath that lurked behind them. So completely thrown off was he by the passionate power of their kiss that Clark didn't realize until it was too late what Lois was doing. His eyes snapped open and the world was much brighter around him...his goggles were now in the prized possession of Ace Reporter Lois Lane.

He gulped...twice.

Lois stepped back and scrutinized him from toe to eyes. Clark felt like a bug trapped in a glass jar being examined by its captor. He felt utterly self conscious and was terrified that she would recognize him on the spot. Slowly he folded his arms across his chest and tried to come off cool now that she had stripped him of his eye-wear. Lois's face was unreadable for a few moments and then she smiled.

“Why do you hide those beautiful eyes behind these things?” Lois gushed. “You look so much better without them.”

She didn't recognize him! Clark didn't know whether to be horrified by how utterly blind she was or relieved. He coughed and lowered his voice. “They're not just glasses...they're a part of my costume...to help provide me with anonymity.”

“Oh, your life must be sooo hard! You poor, poor man!” Lois oozed and draped her arms around his neck again. Clark folded his arms around her body and felt his cheeks flush as he realized even though she knew he was an alien, she thought of him as just a person. He smiled, Lois was still Lois. He exaled a deep sigh of relief. She brushed her chin against his neck and cooed, “I promise, I won't say anything about the glasses, just promise me something in return?”

Suspicious, Clark inquired, “Am I going to regret agreeing to this?”

Lois giggled. “No silly!” She turned her hazel eyes in his direction and pleaded, “Promise me that if we're alone that you'll take them off?” Lois nibbled on the side of her mouth and stared at him like a kid being offered a huge wrapped present at Christmas time.

Relief flooded over Clark and he happily agreed. He pulled her into a tight hug and suddenly felt very uncomfortable as he could sensed her hard, erect nipples digging into his chest. He buried his head into her hair and fought to remind himself that this Lois wasn't in on the secret. As it was, his head started spinning and he began to panic that perhaps letting her kiss him wasn't such a good idea. What if??? Clark shook the idea from his head as nonsense. Suddenly Lois slipped an arm from his shoulder to his waist and hooked it around his middle. His eyes grew wide as her fingers began to wander around his back and then downwards...

“Miss Lane!” Superman gruffly said and quickly ended their embrace.

Lois's face flushed with embarrassment. Trying not to make her feel foolish Clark quickly offered, “You must be freezing! Come on and I'll take you home.”

Sheepishly Lois smiled and nodded her head. Superman again cradled her in his arms and flew her back to her apartment's balcony. There he danced to a stop and let her down.

He smiled broadly at her and stepped onto her balcony. Before leaving Clark examined the expression on Lois's face – it was one of complete wonder...and infatuation.

Oh crap, he thought and gulped. Covering up his sudden worry, he brightly signaled the end of their evening.“Well I'd better be going...and you have one heck of an article to write Miss Lane! I look forward to reading it!”

As quickly as he arrived, Superman waved goodnight and sped away into the stars. Lois raced towards her balcony edge and watched him until he became a spec in the night.

Lois felt flushed, elated, and euphoric. It wasn't until Superman was long gone that she realized that she had something held tightly in her hand...it was his sunglasses.

“It wasn't just a dream,” she whispered dreamily. Lois felt as though she was still dancing amongst the clouds, with a giddy, giggle, she twirled her way into her apartment as the mystery man from another planet marched his way into her heart.


Chapter 8

Clark landed at the Kent family farm, removed his costume, and changed into a blue t-shirt and white sweat pants. His large feet padded down the stairs as he scratched his head. Clark glanced to his right and saw his cousin sitting Indian style in front of the unlit fireplace. Sitting to her left was the family dog Shelby. His face had turned completely white from age. The golden retriever’s hazy brown eyes opened and he let out a tiny woof.

Stooping over, Clark scratched his old friend’s ear. “Hey Shelby, how’re you doing boy? Remember me?”

Shelby responded by thumping his tail on the floor a couple of times, he then loudly groaned, repositioned himself on the floor, and fell back asleep.

“Apparently he has something called arthritis, it causes pain the dog’s joints. He nearly tripped me four times this evening from walking too slow,” Kara said as she thumbed through a large encyclopedia. “I once had to jump to avoid crashing into him and banged my head on the ceiling.”

Clark was too preoccupied to see the humor in her antics with Shelby. He absently nodded his head and then buried his face in his hands.

Returning to the encyclopedia, Kara said, “These humans are worse than Kryptonians, I have lost count of how many wars that they have engaged in over the years against each other.”

“Yeah well at least they haven’t blown up their planet, so they are a step ahead of Kryptonians,” Clark dully replied.

Kara peered up over her book and noticed Clark’s defeated posture. “What is wrong with you, Kal-El?”

With an annoyed grunt, Clark dropped his arm against his couch’s armrest and reminded her, “Its CLARK, not Kal-El.” Uncomfortable silence filled the room as Clark gazed out the dark living room window. “I screwed up, Kara.”

She then said something that Clark wasn’t expecting. “You look like your father right now. Jor-El always brooded – he acted as if the weight of the entire planet rested on his shoulders.”

Her cousin shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe he did? It was my understanding that he tried resetting time over and over on Krypton to save it and yet no matter how many times he did it, the planet always perished.”

“My father hated him for that. He always felt that Jor-El was too cavalier with resetting time. He thought his brother played God too much and should’ve consulted others.”

Clark didn’t much feel like hashing out old family feuds with his cousin. “He isn’t an easy person to get along with, but he does mean well.”

Kara saw that Clark’s interest was waning on the subject, so she changed it back to his own personal turmoil. “What happened Clark, why do you feel like a failure?”

“A failure? I look that bad huh? Well I wouldn’t go that far…but I think I made a big mistake.” Kara’s large blue eyes bore into his waiting for him to continue. Shelby let out a low belch and the room suddenly smelled like dog food. Clark smirked at the dog whose front left foot had begun to twitch in his sleep. He gazed sheepishly at Kara and admitted, “I let Lois kiss me.”

Kara rolled her eyes. “How exactly is that a screw up?”

“Because I was Superman when she kissed me…not Clark Kent.” He waited to see if she grasped the full meaning of his words. Her eyebrows scrunched together and she shook her head. He continued, “She’s totally enamored with him, Kara…Superman…not Clark Kent.”

“But you’re Superman,” she pointed out.

Launching to his feet, Clark rubbed his hands angrily through his hair and began pacing the living room. “Yes, but I’m not Superman…I’m Clark Kent.”

“What?” Kara asked, completely bewildered.

Clark tried to articulate his frustration, he spat out, “I’m Clark Kent…that’s who I am, Kara. Superman…that’s what Jor-El wanted me to become, he sent me here to be this beacon of light for humanity, to give them hope…but that’s not WHO I am.” He glanced at his cousin and saw that she still wasn’t making the connections. He exhaled deeply and added, “I was raised to be human…I was raised with humans, by humans, to BE a human. I think like them, I learned my values from Jonathan Kent – they guide me in life and help me to make the decisions that I make – my Kryptonian heritage didn’t help me with developing that…well not until I got older.

“Superman is what I can do, but Clark Kent is who I am. It’s like Lois has fallen for the pretty color of a sports car and likes the bells and whistles in it but doesn’t care how the thing actually runs.” Realizing that that analogy didn’t make a lot of sense, Clark plopped down onto the couch in frustration. Shelby felt the vibration of Clark’s action and whimpered in his sleep.

Finally Kara nodded her head. “I understand your problem. This isn’t really a problem, the answer is simple, Clark.”

“It is?” Clark replied, cautiously.

Her eyes rolled. “You just have to tell her that you are Superman.”

Clark let out a little laugh. He sarcastically spat, “Right, totally easy, thanks Cuz!”

“Why not? What’s wrong with telling her? You didn’t have any problems telling her the last time around and look how things came out?”

Gingerly he planted his elbows on his knees and leaned towards Kara. “Last time around she wasn’t enamored with Superman and last time we got together…she died.”

“You did all of this so that you both could be together again, right? Then why should this be any different?”

“Lois is different…her hair is darker and she’s…”

“She’s what?”

Clark shrugged. “She’s more girly.”

“So you don’t love her?”

Taken aback, Clark sat upright. “What? No of course not…I mean of course I do! All that I’m saying is that things are different and I can’t be certain that she’ll act the same way. For all I know since she’s interested in Superman, she might hate me for keeping the truth from her.”

“And do you think that this will get easier the longer that you keep it from her?”

Snarling, Clark growled at her and flashed her a “I hate it when you’re right” scowl. Kara sweetly smiled back at him.

“This is a nightmare. Do you know that when I saw that love-haze look on her face as she watched Superman fly away I experienced a huge pang of jealousy?”

Kara’s eyes grew wide and she attempted to smother a rising fit of giggles.

“This isn’t funny Kara!” Clark began pacing again. He abruptly stopped and his expression turned wild. “Oh dear lord, I’m stuck in a love-triangle from hell…me, my secret identity, and the woman who I love.”

Not able to control herself any longer, Kara burst out laughing, rolled onto her back, and stamped her feet on the floor as she howled with laughter. Now awake, Shelby thumped his tail, wiggled over to Kara and licked her face which only caused her to laugh louder.

Clark stared murderously in her direction and was even more horrified when his parents emerged from the top of the stairs. Martha was tying her bathrobe shut – both had been rudely awakened by the ruckus that he had caused.

“Sorry Mom and Dad, I didn’t mean for us to wake you up.”

Yawning Jonathan asked, “What is going on?”

Kara wailed, “Clark is jealous of himself!”

Martha gazed on sympathetically at her son who buried his face in his hands. She wrapped him up in her arms and steered him towards the kitchen. “Come on I’ll make some cocoa and you can tell us all about it.”

Frustrated with his cousins high pitched peals of laughter Clark obediently followed his parents into the kitchen and relayed his problem to them. Clark ended his recount of events by adding, “In this timeline Lois and I barely got to know each other when we were younger. We were acquaintances for only two years – what if she never learns to see me in any way other than just a plutonic friend?”

Jonathan and Martha recognized the lost puppy dog expression that marred Clark’s handsome features, it was his trademark that he wore on his face for years while growing up when he always felt like an outsider. Jonathan’s heart went out for his son, the boy was able to pull busloads of kids safely away from what would have been certain death, but understanding love had always been his biggest hurdle in life. Clark snatched a snickerdoodle off of a plate of homemade cookies and shoved the whole thing in his mouth and devoured it in three chews. Martha pulled a steaming pot of cocoa off of the stove and poured everyone frothy mugs of the sweet smelling drink.

Staring intently into his cocoa, Clark felt a lump forming in his throat as he croaked out, “I guess that just might be the price that I have to pay for resetting time and like it or not I’ll just have to accept that working with her will be enough.”

Kara sauntered over to the table, finally having sobered up from her laughing fits. “Stop being a crybaby Kal-El. What did you do the last time around that helped to speed things up?”

“I moved in with her,” he said brightly.

“That’s correct. And now, think about it in this timeline your cousin has just moved in from out of town and you simply couldn’t impose yourself on your aging parents by living with them,” she reasoned, arching her thin brow his way. She saw Jonathan’s eyebrows shoot up.

“Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Kent,” Kara apologized, burying her face behind her mug. Her tastebuds delighted at the taste of the sweet, creamy drink.

Martha patted Kara’s hand and then turned to her son. “And it is SUCH a long commute every day to Metropolis, you’ll miss all of the morning news if you have to drive that distance every day.”

“And remember son, I taught you the greatest gift of all for persuasion,” Jonathan added.

“What’s that Dad?”

“The power of guilt…remind her how we took her in and let her live with us all of those years ago…”

“And gave her jobs!” Marth piped in.

“Mom! Dad! I couldn’t do that! You both didn’t really feel that she was an imposition…did you?”

Jonathan sighed. “No son, in fact quite the opposite.”

A sly grin spread over Martha’s face and she leaned over on the table. Hiding a grin behind her mug she said, “Your father and I always hoped that you would see what was always so blindingly obvious to us all along.”

“What was that?” Clark demanded, completely befuddled.

“That you and Lois were perfect for each other, even back then.”

Clark stared at his mother like she had just sprouted a second head. He then stared at his father who was beaming one of his trademark lopsided smiles. “It’s true son.”

“But we constantly fought together!”

Kara broke apart a cookie for herself and shrugged her shoulders. “Cousin…don’t you know anything? Fighting equals foreplay.”

Eyes opening wide, Clark studied his parents for confirmation. Jonathan shrugged his shoulders and confessed, “We always knew that there was something brewing under the surface between you two Clark. Lois always seeemed like a perfect fit for you..but you were young…”

“And I was in love with Lana,” Clark added.

Martha nodded. “Your powerful feelings for Lana overshadowed your ability to see what was right in front of you. Then again Lois was in a similar boat with you…she was busy dating men with qualities that she thought that she wanted in men…not what she needed.” Clark’s mother flashed him a smile that caused wrinkles to crinkle around her eyes.

She continued, “Being a teenager and young adult is hard. So many people marry too young to the first person who they were in love with and they just don’t realize that their needs will change as they get older. Sometimes that first great love simply is there to allow you to understand the feelings so that when your true love comes your way, you’re able to recognize him.” She leaned over the table, squeezed Jonathan’s hand and they pecked each other on the lips.

“But you two married young,” Clark pointed out.

“Yes, son. But we also had gotten over our childhood crushes and loves. If people are lucky they’ll find their great love early in life, but many people need time,” Jonathan countered.

“The best relationships happen when two people truly know themselves before seeking someone else to try to fulfill them,” Martha explained.

Kara listened intently to the conversation. “You have many rules for falling in love on this planet.”

Jonathan chuckled. “Trust me there are no rules on love.”

Clark attempted a smile and drank down a smooth chocolately slug from his cup. “I guess the question now is where is Lois?”

“Lois knows who she is Clark, she’s an award winning reporter for The Daily Planet. If anything, I’d say her fascination with Superman is simply a means for her to escape from the drudgery of her job,” Martha reassured, with a smile.

“Kind of like girls fantasizing about rock stars,” Kara quipped.

Clark arched a brow inquisitively in her direction.

A sly smile spread over her lips. “What? Some of those guys on MTV are hot.”

“Nice,” Clark moaned. His cousin had been free for only a few hours and her brain was already rotting from an infusion of pop culture.

Kara’s teasing smile spread further across her face and she challenged, “Think about it if you would just tell her that you were Superman, she’d think of YOU as a rock star.”

“Hardly…she’ll be pissed off that I didn’t tell her right away. Lois never sees me as anything other than a dorky farmboy…” Clark massaged his forehead angrily. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Just be yourself, son. Lois will come around,” Jonathan said and clapped his son on the shoulder. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to bed, otherwise the cows will have to march up the stairs and wake me up to feed them in the morning.”

Martha kissed Clark on the forehead and followed Jonathan upstairs. Alone with his cousin, Clark looked at her.

Kara looked slightly alarmed. “The cows do not come into the house demanding breakfast do they?”

Clark grinned. “No that was a joke, Kara.”

She smiled in relief. She wrung her fingers together. “I don’t suppose that you found out anything more about Doomsday did you?”

“Not yet. I’ve got friends helping me though – if there’s a way to find him, they’ll locate the creature,” he reassured.

“Get some sleep, Clark. You’ll be able to think clearer in the morning.”

Smirking slightly, Clark nodded his head and got up to climb onto the couch.

“Go up to your room…your parents fixed up the attic for me, I’m all set,” Kara replied, smiling.

“Thanks,” Clark said brightly. “The spiders don’t bother you?”

“Why should they? It’s not like you’ll be here that much longer and I can just takeover your bedroom, right?” she asked arching a brow.

He grinned back. “Let’s hope so. Goodnight, Kara.”

“Goodnight, Kal-El.”

Too exhausted to worry further, Clark crawled into bed and fell asleep.


Chapter 9

Half way across the US the early morning papers began their distribution. Lex Luthor’s eyes popped open after barely closing at the sound of a tentative knock on the bedroom door of his Senatorial home.

“This had better be good,” he growled.

His bedroom door smartly opened and his manservant/bodyguard Patrick entered the room. “I apologize for disturbing you, Senator Luthor, however, I thought that you would want to see this.”

Patrick handed over a nighttime edition of The Daily Planet to Lex’s waiting hands while turning on his master’s bedside table.

The 50 point front page headline read “Superman Saves Metropolis Schoolchildren from Certain Death” by Lois Lane. Next to it was another equally large article with the headline, “My Evening with Superman.”

Wide awake, Lex devoured the text. The name Superman triggered buried flashes of memories that had been buried in his sub-consicious for four years. His palms began to sweat as he flipped through the paper reading one miraculous story about the caped crusader after another.

“This is it, Patrick. This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Lex murmured.

“I thought it might be, Senator. When you are done with the paper the national news has picked up on the story. There’s fresh coffee waiting for you in your office.”

“Thank you.” With a wave of his hand, Lex dismissed his manservant, climbed out of bed and watched the sky as the sun began to creep over the horizon to signal a new day. He threw on his bathrobe; it looked like he wasn’t going to get any sleep after all.

*************************

Clark carried a tray with 2 large coffees and a bag of danishes into The Daily Planet to share with his partner. From the moment he dropped into Metropolis he had been confident about everything but today he felt a sliver of fear ripple though his soul, things weren’t going as planned. There was a murderous Kryptonian creature on the loose on the planet and Lois Lane was proving to be just as elusive of prey to catch.

He burst into their office to find Lois gazing at her spectacular expose on Superman…or more accurately at the huge photo of Superman that accompanied the article. As quickly as the door opened she shoved the paper aside and nervously straightened her jacket.

“Hey Smallville,” Lois said, her eyes turned towards the window and began scanning the skyline.

Clark rolled his eyes and delivered her coffee and a pastry to his partner. “I doubt that he’s going to spend his days flying around for your entertainment.”

An offended look marred Lois’s dreamy expression. “I do NOT expect Superman to waste his day entertaining me. I know that he has plenty of work to do. Besides, he confided in me that he lives a normal life outside of his superhero duties.” A sly smile spread across her face. “So you DID read my interview? What did you think? Isn’t he amazing?”

Clark exhaled an irrational pang of irritation course through him and he arched a brow in her direction. Pursing his lips tightly together he did the only thing that he could do, he agreed. “Yep, Superman’s quite amazing.”

“Don’t you wish that you hadn’t decided to go home early? You missed out on all of the fun!” Lois’s eyes were clouded again in that dreamy haze that had covered her features the night before.

Clark flattened his tie and sat down at his desk. He grumbled, “I’ll take your word on it.” Quickly he logged into his computer and connected into The Daily Planet’s live news feed while he sorted through his email. He changed the subject, “So what’s your poison? There’s a city council meeting at eleven…”

Lois fiddled with her long ponytail that hung over her shoulder. Her lips drooped. “Boy that sounds dull doesn’t it?”

Before Clark could respond they both heard a bellowing voice outside of their office shout out, “LANE! KENT! GET IN HERE!”

Jumping to their feet, Lois and Clark raced towards Mr. White’s office.

“What’s up Chief?” Lois asked.

Their boss first picked up the front page and showed it to Lois, “Great job on the Superman exclusive – daily circulation on this is through the roof, we’re even having to do a reprint!” Before Lois could reply he continued, “Fifth and South Central there’s a hot story brewing that I want you two to get all over. There’s a new chemical plant that’s gone in half a block from Metropolis Elementary. Parents are lined up out on the street protesting and not allowing it’s employees to enter.”

“Who’s the plant owner?” Clark inquired.

“Unsure, building formerly was a part of Luthor Corp,” White responded.

“We’ll get right on it, Chief!” Clark declared with a grin.

Their boss studied his number one reporter as her eyes were glued onto the image of Superman on the front page that he was waving around. “Anything that I can do for you, Lois?”

Startled, she jumped and smiled sheepishly, “No Chief, we’re on it.”

Clark’s long legs strode back into their office with Lois hot on his heels. “So I think that you should cover the human interest angle and talk to the parents while I talk to the plant manger,” Lois declared.

With a loud snort, Clark replied, “No way am I letting you into that plant without me, Lois.” He spun around on his heel, causing Lois to abruptly stop just moments before crashing into him. “We’re partners, that means we work the story together – I hate to break it to you but you’re not ditching me like a bad date.”

“You know I have managed over the years to chase down stories by myself.” She stared indignantly at him. “Besides, I wasn’t planning on ditching you, it’s just that I’m sure that you’re better with the whole ‘human interest’ side of things is all.”

Clark sat down at his computer and quickly located the information of the building in question. He filled out an online request to City Hall asking for copies of the bill of sale for the plant. He then pulled on his jacket and watched while Lois stuffed a danish into her mouth, grabbed her keys, purse, and jacket and marched towards the door. On their way out, Lois shouted, “Olsen! Come on!”

From across the bullpen Jimmy jumped from his desk, camera at the ready.

As they marched along, Lois said, “Olsen, this is Clark Kent…Clark, Jimmy Olsen.”

“Yeah, Lois we know each other already,” Jimmy replied with a confused expression. “What’s up, CK? How was your trip?”

“Good, I got to see a lot of the world,” Clark replied.

“Man, did you miss major excitement last night!” Jimmy's bright blue eyes sparkled with joy. “I've never seen anything like it. Clark, Superman can FLY! FLY, I tell you!”

Clark shrugged his shoulders. “I've seen a lot of people do pretty remarkabl things Jimmy.”

“Bet you've never seen anyone fly before though!”

The trio stopped by the elevator and the doors hissed open in time to save Clark from having to spit out one of his daily lies. Taking advantage of the moment, Clark turned to Lois and his eyes immediately fell upon her white blouse's neckline that had shifted slightly and from his angle he could see deeper into her cleavage.

He squeaked, “Lo-is.” Quickly he coughed and she crossed her arms under her breasts which only succeeded in making her cleavage larger.

“Yes, Clark?”

Clark suddenly became aware of the light scent of lavender that wafted to his nose. Remembering that Lois said that she bathed in the stuff, a full blown vision of her nude popped into his head and all logical thoughts vanished as his palms began to sweat.

Swiftly, Jimmy took advantage of the hole in conversation. “How fast do you think that he can fly? I mean can he fly as fast as a plane? And if so what size of a plane?”

Lois shifted her weight and her blouse fell back into its normal position. A small smile spread on her lips and her eyes glazed over as she re-imagined herself in flight with Superman, clutched securely in his burly, protective arms. She softly sighed.

All sensual thought of Lois vanished from Clark's head as a wave of jealousy coursed through him. He barked,“How do you think that a chemical plant was granted city ordinances when it's so close to a school?”

The question had the hoped for effect, Lois snapped out of her own daydream. “Someone lied to someone.”

With a hiss the elevator doors opened and the trio briskly walked through the sparsely crowded Dail Planet Lobby.

Clark's brows knit together. He pushed his glasses up his nose and retorted, “Or got paid off.”

A chill ran through both Lois and Clark's bodies. They turned to each other and stated in unison, “Mayor Wilkins!”

Breath thick with excitement, Lois said, “Clark, that money! It wasn't Mayor Wilkins just skimming local money off for his mistress, he was hiding a bribe!”

“Trying to at least. No wonder that he went white. He probably was relieved that we thought that he was just hiding a mistress.”

Lois threw her hand up and whistled for a taxi as they hit the outside pavement. “Of course he was relieved. There aren't just local laws, but likely Federal laws that he'd be breaking if the truth came out that he willingly knew about this.”

Clark opened the door to a cab that stopped in front of them. Jimmy jumped in followed by Lois and then Clark. Clark handed the driver the address.

“You know, when I was looking up the address of the plant, I found something else. It's right by the waterfront. With the extreme efforts that our local Green Conservation Groups have been working with the local government to clean out the harbor, how do you think that they'll like learning that there might be a potentially hazardous chemical plant right on the water?”

An unwitting voice or reason came from Jimmy. “Before you guys start calling in the tree huggers, why don't we make sure that they ARE in fact making something toxic in that plant. For all that we know they might just be making soap or something.”

A large smile pressed across Clark's face at his friend. “You're right, Jimmy..innocent until proven guilty!”

The cab sped through Metropolis hitting very few red lights and before the reporters knew it they arrived at their destination. Lois paid the driver as Clark opened the door for his partner and Jimmy. A large crowd of angry citizens were crowded around the front of a warehouse called “McGovern Chemicals.”

Lois snorted. “I guess we can rule soap out.”

The optimistic smile on Jimmy's face fell. Clark chucked him on the shoulder. With a sigh, Jimmy said, “I'll go get some photos.”

Fully into reporter zone, Lois spied a wiry security guard standing outside the building, and staring nervously at the crowd. She bounded over in his direction.

Clark strode behind her in time to see her curl her fingers into the wire with one hand, and with the other she extracted her press pass out of her pocket and flashed it at the guard. “Lois Lane, The Daily Planet.” She cocked her head and flashed him a little lopsided smile. “Any chance that you can get me and my partner here in to see your boss?”

“I'm quite certain that he'd like to be able to tell his side of the story and spread some good press about this situation,” Clark offered.

The young man stared suspiciously at them. “But you're reporters, I'm sure that all that you want to do is write about how horrible McGovern Chemicals is.”

With complete sincerity plastered across her face, Lois's eyes fluttered to the kid's name badge and she reasoned, “Tim? We're with The Daily Planet, NOT The Inquisitor, we print the truth not sensationalized journalism.” She slipped a business card through the fence. “Could you please take that to your boss and see if he'll let us come talk to him?”

Tim nodded his head and ducked into a nearby doorway and vanished inside the building.

Clark chuckled. “Lois, I believe that you can convince a man in a desert that he needs to buy a boat.”

“Congratulate me when we're inside.” Lois planted her fists on her hips and she examined the crowd. “What if this place isn't toxic?”

“A chemical plant not toxic? How likely would that be, Lois?”

“I don't know. Sometimes I just think that people jump too easily to conclusions is all. I mean, if this place we really dangerous, don't you think that Superman would be here?”

Clark realized that her eyes were flickering around the entire area, including the bright blue sky scanning for his alter-ego. He rolled his eyes. “Exactly WHAT would Superman do about a chemical plant? Yank it off of it’s foundation and relocate it to Timbuktu?”

Lois glanced at her partner and felt the weight of his intensely incredulous stare. “Fine, you're right, there's nothing that he could do about it. Environmental crime isn't exactly his forte, he's more of a man of action.”

The protestors began shouting in earnest as a group of new security guards showed up and opened the gates a hair to let four frazzled employees inside the facility.


From the crowd Clark spied a young woman with black hair trying to press her way through the writhing angry mob towards the gate. A heavyset woman spied her and grabbed the woman’s arm and began screaming in her face. “How can you work there? They’re endangering the lives of our CHILDREN!”

Clark sensed the mood of the crowd turn, it went from being just angry disorganized mob to unified in wave of searing hatred as they all surrounded the factory worker. Quickly Clark picked up his cell phone and loudly pretended to take a call and stepped away from Lois. Her attention shifted entirely onto the mob giving Clark the split moment that he needed to dash away.

Seconds later a blue and red blur fell out of the sky and crashed into the middle of the mob. The victim was mid scream as the sound of fabric ripping filled the area as unknown assailants tore the woman’s factory uniform. She pleaded, “I need to feed my family! This is the only job that I could get!”

Superman wrapped his arms around the factory employee and jumped over the crowd of arms that stretched upwards trying to claim their prize.

Scowling he growled, “You all should be ashamed of yourselves! Is this what you call a peaceful protest? Who here is going to pay for this woman’s uniform?”

The woman wept in his arms as Superman floated over to the gate and safely deposited her on the company side of the gate. She tugged up her ripped sleeve and bolted into the factory's back door.

“We have a right to protest here! I have a petition for it! Don't try to shame us, Superman!” An angry man yelled from the crowd. In a flash, Clark towered over the bespeckled balding man.

He studied the paper that now shook in the man's hand. “That petition gives you the right to peacefully protest, not terrorize and attack factory employees. These people have families! They have children to feed...”

“What about our children??”

The crowd cheered in unison.

Superman spread his hands out. “Look, it's possible that you have a valid reason to protest this company being here, but until an investigation can be made on the place, you all might be getting yourselves upset over nothing. As citizens you have the right to speak your minds, but please, leave the employees alone. Do you all want to get slapped with assault charges? Because that woman has the right to file them against you all! How would you all like it if you were just trying to go to work and someone came along and ripped your clothes? You'd be humiliated, wouldn't you?”

The crowd went silent. From across the way, a large proud grin plastered itself over Lois’s face. A small voice spoke at Clark's side. “Superman?” He turned his head and saw an older gentleman, he was holding out a wad of bills. “I think that I accidentally ripped that woman's uniform. Here, this should cover it.”

Clark fanned out the money and suddenly found fistfuls of dollars pointed in his direction. He took a few bills from each person until he had gathered enough money that he believed would cover a new uniform for the woman. The crowd parted for him and he handed it to one of the guards who darted off inside to deliver it to the employee.

Faster than a blink of the eye, Clark sped off across the city and returned carrying a bunch of unused crowd barriers and dropped them forty feet away form the entrance. “Everyone, you need to follow the rules of the protest petition and you must be forty feet away from the building. Any of you who step beyond this barrier will be considered breaking the law.”

The crowd murmured and obediently moved behind the barriers. Superman handed the petition to the factory guards and said, “If anyone crosses these barriers and further breaks the rules of the petition, it is in your right to call the police. Something tells me though, that they'll behave themselves from now on.”

“Thank you, Superman,” the female guard replied as she watched him raise off of the ground and disappear into the sky.

Lois's heart pounded in her chest after watching the exchange. She knew that Superman would end up somehow saving the day. Even if the folks inside the company stonewalled she and Clark, at least wouldn't walk away from the day empty handed and without a story. Lois did feel disappointed that Superman didn't stop to say hello to her, but she supposed that he likely failed to see her.

From behind her she heard the snap of a cell phone being turned off. “Did I miss anything?”

Rolling her eyes, Lois sighed. “Only a Superman sighting! Clark you have the worst timing for making phone calls.” She turned around and arched a brow at her tall partner.

Jimmy raced over from the crowd with a large grin plastered all over his face. “CK I got the most amazing shots – look!”

Clark studied the thumbnails on Jimmy's camera of himself doing crowd control. He smiled. “Great job Jimmy. I feel bad that I missed it.”

“Oh I wouldn't worry too much, I'm sure that you'll get to see him soon!”

Tim the security guard arrived. “You two have clearance to come inside.” The man apologized, “Sorry, no cameras allowed.”

“It's OK. Lois, CK I'm going to head back to the Planet to process these.”

“See you back at the bullpen, Olsen,” Lois replied and walked towards the open gate. “Ladies first, Smallville. Try to keep up.” Clark watched her march inside and promptly enjoyed the view from behind.

“Absolutely, Lois.” With a lopsided grin, he straightened his tie and followed her inside.


Chapter 10

Chloe studied her hair again in the mirror one last time before darting out of the ladies room and into the lobby at The Daily Planet on her way to her interview with Oliver Queen. She turned a blind corner directly into Jimmy Olsen. The two cracked heads, audibly howled, and slapped their foreheads in unison.

“Watch where….Jimmy?” Chloe abruptly swallowed her tirade when she realized who it was that she ran into. “Oh god.”

“Chloe I’m so sorry, I was looking at camera and didn’t even see you. Are you alright?”

She knitted her brows together and opened her eyes wide. “I think that I have a goose egg forming right in the middle of my forehead.”

Gently, Jimmy lifted her fingers off of her face and his pale eyes widened with alarm. He smiled brightly. “No worries – let’s go get some ice on that, it’ll go down right away!” He started steering her towards the elevators.

Chloe put on the brakes. “Jimmy I can’t. I have to be somewhere.”

His face fell. “Oh.” Lighting up again, he asked, “Big story to report on?”

She chewed the inside of her mouth. “No.” Her voice lowered. “Job interview.”

Jimmy looked like he had sand kicked all over his ice cream cone. “Oh.”

Slowly, she sat down on a bench, her shoulders deflated. “I don’t know why I bother, who’d hire a felon?”

“I would!” Jimmy chirped.

She smiled broadly. “Thanks, Jimmy.”

“I’m sure that you’ll do great, although I’ll admit that I’ll miss your weekly Geek Girl Colum. I’ve learned some great tips from you.”

In the span of a heartbeat, her cheeks burned as brightly as the lump on her forehead. Chloe found herself overcome by emotions that she had buried for years for the sweet man at her side. As quickly as they rose they were smothered in shame. How could she have turned her back on such an amazing and generous guy?

Slightly wobbly, she got to her feet. “I’d better get going. What were you in such a hurry about?”

Beaming, Jimmy flashed his close up photos of Superman at the factory. “Lois was right there and there weren’t any other reporters. We’ll scoop everyone!”

“That’s great, Jimmy,” Chloe replied, with a smile. “I’ll see you later.”

Before he could say anything, Chloe ducked her head and darted towards the door. The throbbing in her forehead felt like a drum beat, pounding her stupidity into her brain on how effortlessly she had screwed up her own life and could find no way to find absolution, nor a reason that anyone should offer her forgiveness for her own idiocy.

************************************


“Marcus Washington, pleasure to meet you both,” the factory owner beamed his glaringly white teeth at Lois Lane. “Lois Lane…I never thought that I’d have the pleasure of meeting such a well known celebrity here in Metropolis!”

Lois nodded her head slightly. “Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with us on such short notice.”

The heavy set man pumped Clark’s hand enthusiastically. “My pleasure. With what will likely be a PR nightmare forming outside, I’m more than happy to grab the opportunity to show our side of things.”

Clark pushed up his glasses. “So what exactly does McGovern Chemicals make?”

“We’re a part of a global company called ARB International. ARB is the world leader in manufacturing industrial cleaning solutions for companies. McGovern was acquired by them five years ago. We specialize in creating cleaning solutions that counter radioactive spills.” His dark eyes saw the surprise that jumped into both Lois and Clark’s eyes. The dark skinned man held up a hand. “Before you get all worried, remember, I said that we create the cleaning solutions we don’t do anything that’s actually radioactive here.”

“But don’t they need to be tested?” Lois asked.

“We’re just the manufacturing plant; we don’t create the formulas and test them here. That takes place at our corporate offices in Nebraska; although our resulting products are of course heavily regulated before leaving the plant.”

Mr. Washington led the two reporters down a long walk way that ended up at a door that opened onto a metal catwalk that looked over the entire manufacturing plant. Below large vats of chemicals bubbled and brewed with large amounts of steam rising under glass domed covers to prevent the vapors from escaping into the room’s air. The room strangely smelled sulfuric and clean at the same time. Employees raced around the vats below testing the chemical’s levels wearing jumpsuits but no face masks or gloves. The vats were very loud; Mr. Washington had to raise his voice over them to be heard.

“This is where the solutions are created. Everything that goes into our solutions are natural based. Although admittedly you wouldn’t want to get the stuff on your skin because it would cause severe rashes. But overall it’s not as toxic as you might expect.”

“Why is that?” Lois asked, unconvinced.

“We’re a new division specializing in green solutions for non-green problems. In the past any contact with such cleaning solutions would have meant instant death or immediate hospitalization for anyone who incorrectly came in contact with them. Our specialized formula is designed to specifically go after radioactive matter only,” the plant manager explained with a broad, toothy smile.

“How is it possible that the solution knows to only go after radioactive agents?” Clark inquired.

The man shrugged. “I admit that I’m not a scientist. I can only tell you what I’ve seen firsthand with the demonstrations that corporate has sent to us.”

“So the protesters outside…” Lois began.

The man’s dark eyes filled with sympathy. “I can completely understand their concerns. ARB had no idea that there was a school so close to this facility when they picked up the plant for a song a year and a half ago.” He led them out of the plant and in through another door that had them far above the distribution portion of the factory. “This plant sat vacant during the recent turned economy for many years. ARB got it for a good price and spent a lot of money retrofitting it to bring it up to code and to customize the facility for our needs.”

Clark lowered his glasses slightly and activated his X-Ray vision and studied the walls of the plant. From what he could tell they were heavily reinforced with industrial grade steel.

“McGovern and ARB have a long standing relationship with the EPA & OSHA; our facility is 100% up to code. In fact, OSHA gave us the highest marks for employee safety prior to opening this week!”

Lois and Clark peered down at the complex series of conveyor belts that distributed and sealed the solution into large drums.

“The chemicals go through four final rounds of purification through the machines over there on the far north side of the room before they’re ready for distribution,” Mr. Washington stated, pointing towards the opposite wall. “By the time that they’re ready to get loaded onto trucks and sent off for sale, the chemicals themselves are relatively harmless.”

Using his magnification ability, Clark’s vision zoomed in and he studied the drums. Nowhere on them could he see toxic stickers.

Marcus must’ve seen Clark’s intense stare and he chuckled. “Trust me, if they were toxic, the EPA would’ve made us plaster our drums with warning signs.”

“What about the vats of the chemicals in the other room though? I saw the toxic labels all over the vats there,” Lois pointed out.

“Yes, the chemicals start off harsh, but our purification process removes the toxins out of it.”

“What would happen if you had an accident in that room?” Lois demanded. “What if those unstable chemicals got out? Wouldn’t the children or the harbor be in serious danger of contamination?”

Mr. Washington chuckled. “We have safety protocols in place that would prevent any large catastrophes. The entire facility is equipped with special underground tanks that would catch any chemicals that tried to leak through our floors. There’s no way for the chemicals to find their way to the harbor.”

Clark activated his x-ray vision and saw a series of complex tanks below the concrete surface. He then examined the ceiling and asked, “What about an explosion?”

“The chances of that happening are slim,” the plant manager assured. “If something did happen we have the most highly advanced air filtration system built into the facility. It’s designed to trigger whenever there are significant changes in the chemical makeup of the air in the room. It is so sensitive that it would trigger warnings to our plant supervisors & security team before we were even aware that there was a problem brewing.”

The trio walked out of the distribution plant and walked into the large control room. Mr. Washington showed them the screens and large controller boards that examined every aspect of the manufacturing process. He pointed to a monitor that was covered in charts – all were strongly bright green indicating that the plant was running in safe mode.

After getting a detailed tour of the control room, they made their way out and into a series of long hallways that led away from the plant and towards the offices. Lois was asking Mr. Washington about what sorts of positions that they offered for employees. They passed a large graphic that showed the layout of the employee offices and Clark activated his super hearing; with it he penetrated into the office and began scouting out any anomalies. He focused his hearing towards the accounting department. He sifted through several conversations about facility expense costs, payroll discussions, and focused in on one voice. He couldn’t make out what the individual was saying but he was mumbling incoherently under his breath about something. Clark’s eyes widened when he picked out two words, “Senator Luthor.”

Clark broke into the conversation, the blood pounding in his ears, and asked, “Are you aware that this facility used to be a part of Luthor Corp?”

Mr. Washington stared blankly at Clark’s curve ball question. “I suppose that’s possible. As I stated before, this warehouse had been sitting vacant for many years before ARB acquired it.”

Lois peered around their host and flashed Clark a “where are you going with this?” expression.

“Does this facility receive any sort of Federal funding?”

The man’s eyes opened wide. “Federal funding? Why on earth would we receive that? Our products are targeted for the private sector only.”

Stepping closer to the man and using his large physical frame to block any sort of retreat path, Clark zeroed in on the man pining him to a spot next to the wall. “Plants that would produce anything that would be radioactive would require intense Federal scrutiny. You can’t live without them and vice versa.”

Mr. Washington slightly gulped and appeared uncomfortable with being blocked between the two reporters. “True we would be out of business without our customers, but we have nothing to do with how they receive their own funding to keep their companies afloat. As much as I would love to receive extra Federal funding, unfortunately that just isn’t the case here, we are at the mercy of the needs of our very exclusive and focused customer base.” The man’s confused expression convinced Clark that he was telling the truth.

Walking around the man, Lois put a hand on Clark’s arm and bore her hazel eyes into his green orbs. “I think that we have enough for our story, don’t you think so Clark?”

His entire frame relaxed and he smiled. “There is one more thing that I would like to ask, if I may?” Clark shoved his glasses up his nose again and stepped away from the plant manager, giving him room.

“Of course,” Mr. Washington asked slightly suspiciously.

“The woman who was attacked by the mob outside, have you seen her? Is she doing alright?”

The man’s face brightened. “Tamara? The poor thing was a wreck when she came into work and was so relieved Superman helped her out. In fact, we’re all grateful for Superman’s assistance. The crowd showed up at the crack of dawn before my security team could attempt to put up those crowd barriers. We were this close to calling in the police for assistance. Frankly, we prefer not having to do so, don’t need that kind of attention you know what with being new in the neighborhood and all.”

Clark smiled. “We’d love to be able to talk with Tamara, if that’s possible. I’m sure that she wouldn’t mind being able to thank Superman in our story.”

Mr. Washing beamed. “Absolutely, let me get her. I’ll be right back!”

Lois and Clark were left alone standing in the hallway. A sliver of a smile spread on Lois’s face and she chuckled at Clark. “Wow Smallville, I never would’ve pictured you as the heavy. I swear if that man had been hiding anything, you would’ve scared the truth right out of him.” Clark grinned, his partner wore an expression of extreme satisfaction on her face. “Maybe Mr. White really did know what he was doing when he paired you up with me.”

He flashed a lopsided smile. “So you like aggressive Clark Kent?”

“I’ll admit, I don’t mind seeing him show up every once in a while,” Lois said. She chewed the side of her mouth. “Just don’t make a habit of bringing him out all of the time.” She leaned in close to him. “We really don’t want to make a habit of scaring our sources!”

With a large smile, Clark replied, “I’ll keep that in mind and chalk it up to one of Lois Lane’s rules of reporting…don’t scare your source.

Lois laughed and pulled a face. “Remind me to remember that one myself.”

After a few minutes the woman came out and gushed over Superman. Clark left the building with a warm feeling in his gut that he had been able to help the woman out. Out on the pavement, Lois said, “I’ll cover the Superman angle of the story if you want to work up your impressions on what we learned about the plant.”

Clark stopped in his tracks and gave her a sideways glance. “I would’ve thought that you’d want to cover that since that’s the meatier part of the article.”

She tucked a stray brunette clump of hair behind her left ear and said, “Call it reporter’s intuition. You were onto something in there Smallville. Something tells me that this is your story…the one that could be your big break.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know…I’m not ready for that. How about, we’ll combine the two parts into one large article and share the byline.”

Lois studied her tall friend with wonder. “You’re amazing Smallville. That thing that you did back there, it was all for the story wasn’t it? You really don’t have ambition of your own do you?”

“It’s all about uncovering the truth, Lois. That’s what being a good reporter is, right?”

Sticking her hand out to hail a taxi, Lois bore her eyes into his. “No Clark it’s not.” He flashed a startled, worried expression. She beamed mischievously. “It’s how you become a GREAT reporter!”

Beaming from ear to ear, Clark jumped into a cab along with his partner and the two raced off towards The Daily Planet to begin working on their article.


Chapter 11

Chloe studied her hair again in the mirror one last time before darting out of the ladies room and into the lobby at The Daily Planet on her way to her interview with Oliver Queen. She turned a blind corner directly into Jimmy Olsen. The two cracked heads, audibly howled, and slapped their foreheads in unison.

“Watch where….Jimmy?” Chloe abruptly swallowed her tirade when she realized who it was that she ran into. “Oh god.”

“Chloe I’m so sorry, I was looking at camera and didn’t even see you. Are you alright?”

She knitted her brows together and opened her eyes wide. “I think that I have a goose egg forming right in the middle of my forehead.”

Gently, Jimmy lifted her fingers off of her face and his pale eyes widened with alarm. He smiled brightly. “No worries – let’s go get some ice on that, it’ll go down right away!” He started steering her towards the elevators.

Chloe put on the brakes. “Jimmy I can’t. I have to be somewhere.”

His face fell. “Oh.” Lighting up again, he asked, “Big story to report on?”

She chewed the inside of her mouth. “No.” Her voice lowered. “Job interview.”

Jimmy looked like he had sand kicked all over his ice cream cone. “Oh.”

Slowly, she sat down on a bench, her shoulders deflated. “I don’t know why I bother, who’d hire a felon?”

“I would!” Jimmy chirped.

She smiled broadly. “Thanks, Jimmy.”

“I’m sure that you’ll do great, although I’ll admit that I’ll miss your weekly Geek Girl Colum. I’ve learned some great tips from you.”

In the span of a heartbeat, her cheeks burned as brightly as the lump on her forehead. Chloe found herself overcome by emotions that she had buried for years for the sweet man at her side. As quickly as they rose they were smothered in shame. How could she have turned her back on such an amazing and generous guy?

Slightly wobbly, she got to her feet. “I’d better get going. What were you in such a hurry about?”

Beaming, Jimmy flashed his close up photos of Superman at the factory. “Lois was right there and there weren’t any other reporters. We’ll scoop everyone!”

“That’s great, Jimmy,” Chloe replied, with a smile. “I’ll see you later.”

Before he could say anything, Chloe ducked her head and darted towards the door. The throbbing in her forehead felt like a drum beat, pounding her stupidity into her brain on how effortlessly she had screwed up her own life and could find no way to find absolution, nor a reason that anyone should offer her forgiveness for her own idiocy.

************************************


“Marcus Washington, pleasure to meet you both,” the factory owner beamed his glaringly white teeth at Lois Lane. “Lois Lane…I never thought that I’d have the pleasure of meeting such a well known celebrity here in Metropolis!”

Lois nodded her head slightly. “Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with us on such short notice.”

The heavy set man pumped Clark’s hand enthusiastically. “My pleasure. With what will likely be a PR nightmare forming outside, I’m more than happy to grab the opportunity to show our side of things.”

Clark pushed up his glasses. “So what exactly does McGovern Chemicals make?”

“We’re a part of a global company called ARB International. ARB is the world leader in manufacturing industrial cleaning solutions for companies. McGovern was acquired by them five years ago. We specialize in creating cleaning solutions that counter radioactive spills.” His dark eyes saw the surprise that jumped into both Lois and Clark’s eyes. The dark skinned man held up a hand. “Before you get all worried, remember, I said that we create the cleaning solutions we don’t do anything that’s actually radioactive here.”

“But don’t they need to be tested?” Lois asked.

“We’re just the manufacturing plant; we don’t create the formulas and test them here. That takes place at our corporate offices in Nebraska; although our resulting products are of course heavily regulated before leaving the plant.”

Mr. Washington led the two reporters down a long walk way that ended up at a door that opened onto a metal catwalk that looked over the entire manufacturing plant. Below large vats of chemicals bubbled and brewed with large amounts of steam rising under glass domed covers to prevent the vapors from escaping into the room’s air. The room strangely smelled sulfuric and clean at the same time. Employees raced around the vats below testing the chemical’s levels wearing jumpsuits but no face masks or gloves. The vats were very loud; Mr. Washington had to raise his voice over them to be heard.

“This is where the solutions are created. Everything that goes into our solutions are natural based. Although admittedly you wouldn’t want to get the stuff on your skin because it would cause severe rashes. But overall it’s not as toxic as you might expect.”

“Why is that?” Lois asked, unconvinced.

“We’re a new division specializing in green solutions for non-green problems. In the past any contact with such cleaning solutions would have meant instant death or immediate hospitalization for anyone who incorrectly came in contact with them. Our specialized formula is designed to specifically go after radioactive matter only,” the plant manager explained with a broad, toothy smile.

“How is it possible that the solution knows to only go after radioactive agents?” Clark inquired.

The man shrugged. “I admit that I’m not a scientist. I can only tell you what I’ve seen firsthand with the demonstrations that corporate has sent to us.”

“So the protesters outside…” Lois began.

The man’s dark eyes filled with sympathy. “I can completely understand their concerns. ARB had no idea that there was a school so close to this facility when they picked up the plant for a song a year and a half ago.” He led them out of the plant and in through another door that had them far above the distribution portion of the factory. “This plant sat vacant during the recent turned economy for many years. ARB got it for a good price and spent a lot of money retrofitting it to bring it up to code and to customize the facility for our needs.”

Clark lowered his glasses slightly and activated his X-Ray vision and studied the walls of the plant. From what he could tell they were heavily reinforced with industrial grade steel.

“McGovern and ARB have a long standing relationship with the EPA & OSHA; our facility is 100% up to code. In fact, OSHA gave us the highest marks for employee safety prior to opening this week!”

Lois and Clark peered down at the complex series of conveyor belts that distributed and sealed the solution into large drums.

“The chemicals go through four final rounds of purification through the machines over there on the far north side of the room before they’re ready for distribution,” Mr. Washington stated, pointing towards the opposite wall. “By the time that they’re ready to get loaded onto trucks and sent off for sale, the chemicals themselves are relatively harmless.”

Using his magnification ability, Clark’s vision zoomed in and he studied the drums. Nowhere on them could he see toxic stickers.

Marcus must’ve seen Clark’s intense stare and he chuckled. “Trust me, if they were toxic, the EPA would’ve made us plaster our drums with warning signs.”

“What about the vats of the chemicals in the other room though? I saw the toxic labels all over the vats there,” Lois pointed out.

“Yes, the chemicals start off harsh, but our purification process removes the toxins out of it.”

“What would happen if you had an accident in that room?” Lois demanded. “What if those unstable chemicals got out? Wouldn’t the children or the harbor be in serious danger of contamination?”

Mr. Washington chuckled. “We have safety protocols in place that would prevent any large catastrophes. The entire facility is equipped with special underground tanks that would catch any chemicals that tried to leak through our floors. There’s no way for the chemicals to find their way to the harbor.”

Clark activated his x-ray vision and saw a series of complex tanks below the concrete surface. He then examined the ceiling and asked, “What about an explosion?”

“The chances of that happening are slim,” the plant manager assured. “If something did happen we have the most highly advanced air filtration system built into the facility. It’s designed to trigger whenever there are significant changes in the chemical makeup of the air in the room. It is so sensitive that it would trigger warnings to our plant supervisors & security team before we were even aware that there was a problem brewing.”

The trio walked out of the distribution plant and walked into the large control room. Mr. Washington showed them the screens and large controller boards that examined every aspect of the manufacturing process. He pointed to a monitor that was covered in charts – all were strongly bright green indicating that the plant was running in safe mode.

After getting a detailed tour of the control room, they made their way out and into a series of long hallways that led away from the plant and towards the offices. Lois was asking Mr. Washington about what sorts of positions that they offered for employees. They passed a large graphic that showed the layout of the employee offices and Clark activated his super hearing; with it he penetrated into the office and began scouting out any anomalies. He focused his hearing towards the accounting department. He sifted through several conversations about facility expense costs, payroll discussions, and focused in on one voice. He couldn’t make out what the individual was saying but he was mumbling incoherently under his breath about something. Clark’s eyes widened when he picked out two words, “Senator Luthor.”

Clark broke into the conversation, the blood pounding in his ears, and asked, “Are you aware that this facility used to be a part of Luthor Corp?”

Mr. Washington stared blankly at Clark’s curve ball question. “I suppose that’s possible. As I stated before, this warehouse had been sitting vacant for many years before ARB acquired it.”

Lois peered around their host and flashed Clark a “where are you going with this?” expression.

“Does this facility receive any sort of Federal funding?”

The man’s eyes opened wide. “Federal funding? Why on earth would we receive that? Our products are targeted for the private sector only.”

Stepping closer to the man and using his large physical frame to block any sort of retreat path, Clark zeroed in on the man pining him to a spot next to the wall. “Plants that would produce anything that would be radioactive would require intense Federal scrutiny. You can’t live without them and vice versa.”

Mr. Washington slightly gulped and appeared uncomfortable with being blocked between the two reporters. “True we would be out of business without our customers, but we have nothing to do with how they receive their own funding to keep their companies afloat. As much as I would love to receive extra Federal funding, unfortunately that just isn’t the case here, we are at the mercy of the needs of our very exclusive and focused customer base.” The man’s confused expression convinced Clark that he was telling the truth.

Walking around the man, Lois put a hand on Clark’s arm and bore her hazel eyes into his green orbs. “I think that we have enough for our story, don’t you think so Clark?”

His entire frame relaxed and he smiled. “There is one more thing that I would like to ask, if I may?” Clark shoved his glasses up his nose again and stepped away from the plant manager, giving him room.

“Of course,” Mr. Washington asked slightly suspiciously.

“The woman who was attacked by the mob outside, have you seen her? Is she doing alright?”

The man’s face brightened. “Tamara? The poor thing was a wreck when she came into work and was so relieved Superman helped her out. In fact, we’re all grateful for Superman’s assistance. The crowd showed up at the crack of dawn before my security team could attempt to put up those crowd barriers. We were this close to calling in the police for assistance. Frankly, we prefer not having to do so, don’t need that kind of attention you know what with being new in the neighborhood and all.”

Clark smiled. “We’d love to be able to talk with Tamara, if that’s possible. I’m sure that she wouldn’t mind being able to thank Superman in our story.”

Mr. Washing beamed. “Absolutely, let me get her. I’ll be right back!”

Lois and Clark were left alone standing in the hallway. A sliver of a smile spread on Lois’s face and she chuckled at Clark. “Wow Smallville, I never would’ve pictured you as the heavy. I swear if that man had been hiding anything, you would’ve scared the truth right out of him.” Clark grinned, his partner wore an expression of extreme satisfaction on her face. “Maybe Mr. White really did know what he was doing when he paired you up with me.”

He flashed a lopsided smile. “So you like aggressive Clark Kent?”

“I’ll admit, I don’t mind seeing him show up every once in a while,” Lois said. She chewed the side of her mouth. “Just don’t make a habit of bringing him out all of the time.” She leaned in close to him. “We really don’t want to make a habit of scaring our sources!”

With a large smile, Clark replied, “I’ll keep that in mind and chalk it up to one of Lois Lane’s rules of reporting…don’t scare your source.

Lois laughed and pulled a face. “Remind me to remember that one myself.”

After a few minutes the woman came out and gushed over Superman. Clark left the building with a warm feeling in his gut that he had been able to help the woman out. Out on the pavement, Lois said, “I’ll cover the Superman angle of the story if you want to work up your impressions on what we learned about the plant.”

Clark stopped in his tracks and gave her a sideways glance. “I would’ve thought that you’d want to cover that since that’s the meatier part of the article.”

She tucked a stray brunette clump of hair behind her left ear and said, “Call it reporter’s intuition. You were onto something in there Smallville. Something tells me that this is your story…the one that could be your big break.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know…I’m not ready for that. How about, we’ll combine the two parts into one large article and share the byline.”

Lois studied her tall friend with wonder. “You’re amazing Smallville. That thing that you did back there, it was all for the story wasn’t it? You really don’t have ambition of your own do you?”

“It’s all about uncovering the truth, Lois. That’s what being a good reporter is, right?”

Sticking her hand out to hail a taxi, Lois bore her eyes into his. “No Clark it’s not.” He flashed a startled, worried expression. She beamed mischievously. “It’s how you become a GREAT reporter!”

Beaming from ear to ear, Clark jumped into a cab along with his partner and the two raced off towards The Daily Planet to begin working on their article.


Chapter 12


Chloe tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore the throbbing pain that radiated from the center of her forehead. As the freight elevator bumped along towards the top floor of the building, her heart hammered in her chest. It had been a long time since Chloe had been in a position where she had been face to face with anyone of any real importance having been shuttled into geek central on the paper. Finally the elevator stopped and the door creaked open. Tentatively she stepped into the spacious loft apartment and visually soaked in the modern furniture, peppered with brightly colored accents.

“I’m not going to say it again,” a disembodied voice rumbled. “Just fix the problem alright?” She heard a grunt rise from the center of the room and a blond head poked itself up from laying down on a couch.

Clearing her throat, Chloe studied the tall man, Oliver Queen was even more handsome than the pictures that she constantly saw of him plastered all over the business and social sections of The Daily Planet. Oliver Queen rubbed his goatee and smiled at her. “Sorry, I hate talking to company lawyers.” He put the phone down and walked towards her. Pumping her hand, he said, “Oliver Queen and you must be Chloe Sullivan.”

“Yes. I’m not too early am I?”

He smiled. “Right on time.” With a slight spring to his step, Oliver walked over to his bar, filled two glasses with ice and opened a bottle of mineral water that he poured into both glasses. He handed one to Chloe without her asking and ushered them over to his couches. He peered at her over the top of his glass and his eyes fell upon the lump on her forehead. “I’d hate to see the other guy.”

Chloe let out a small self-conscious sigh. “Accident prone.”

Leaning back, Oliver said, “So Clark tells me that you’re good with computers.”

“Yeah, I know my way around them,” she agreed but paused on extrapolating further, uncertain of how much she wanted to incriminate herself.

Oliver sensed that she was hiding something. He leaned forward and stated, “He said that you were arrested for hacking.” When he saw the panic rise into her eyes he put his hand up. “Don’t worry, frankly I find that to be an asset rather than a deal breaker.” His deep brown eyes penetrated in her direction. “I’ve assembled a team of highly skilled individuals who often go on sensitive projects where they could use someone to watch over their activities and help them from afar. From what Clark said about your skills, I think that you might make a good fit for that role.”

Intrigued, Chloe asked, “What would the role entail?”

“Monitoring their safety mostly. You’d need to be able to hack into security feeds and gain access to oftentimes high level secured servers and be able to assist them by shutting off security fields and such. Be able to break into security cameras to help the team navigate safely out of ops without detection…that sort of thing.”

Her eyes went wide. “You actually want me to utilize the skills that I went to prison for?” She exhaled deeply and stared at the floor, her mind spinning.

Oliver's eyes narrowed. “Clark did tell you that this was the job right?”

“He ah, didn’t really give me specifics. I’m surprised that he would approve of this sort of a thing for me,” Chloe muttered.

“Yeah, he does seem to be kind of a boy scout,” Oliver stated. “Look if you’re not interested, I get it. All of us risk a lot doing what we do. What I can tell you is that I’ll have your back. My team, they’re exceptional at getting out of sticky situations and if you’re as good as Clark seems to think, I’m sure that you can cover your tracks to protect yourself. I’ll be able to help you out with that. I’ve got access to the most advanced satellite networks on the planet. It would take a genius hacker to be able to track down the cyber footprints that my organization leaves behind. These guys by the way are all Clark’s friends.”

Chloe tapped her fingernails against her glass, her brows furrowed in deep concentration.

“We can start you off with just some research if you’d prefer and see how you like it.” He stood up and gruffly added, “Although I have to confess that at the moment I’m not quite sure why Clark referred you to me. We need someone with confidence and that seems to be sorely lacking from you.”

Her eyes burned with annoyance. “Have you ever spent time in prison Mr. Queen?” She rose to her feet and glared at him. “No privacy for anything…ANYTHING. Even in a women’s prison you’re always completely aware of your surroundings and not pissing off the wrong people.”
Oliver sensed that strength in Chloe coming forward that he had hoped was hiding in there. “So what did you do to assure your safety?”

“I made connections with the right people who could protect me and worked trades to make sure that I got put onto the safest job duties.”

He crossed his massive arms over his chest. “Sounds like you’ve got some good negotiating skills.”

Chloe realized what he was doing. “I suppose. I kept my nose clean because I wanted out of there. I don't ever want to go back.”

“Clark didn’t tell you anything, did he?”

She slowly shook her head. Her eyes narrowed on his lower face then and studied his jaw. These guys by the way are all Clark’s friends. Those words rattled in her brain. A connection popped in her mind. “You’re The Green Arrow, aren’t you?” Chills of excitement raced through her body.

A broad full grin spread over Oliver’s face. “Now that’s the kind of analytical mind that I’m looking for on my team.” He reached into his pocket and extracted a set of keys and pointed out the window. “See the old Woolsworth building over there and it’s clock tower?”

“Yes.”

“Head over there, take a look around and let me know if you see anything there that interests you.” He chucked her a cell phone. “Call me on that if you have any questions.”

Chloe stared at him stunned. “You’re hiring me?”

“Well you haven’t exactly said yes, so let’s just say that I’m giving you a test drive if you’d like. If you feel that what’s there will meet your needs and skills and help to keep you under the police's radar, maybe we can work together.”

“But you don’t even know me.”

Oliver’s dark eyes penetrated into her confused blue orbs. “Clark trusts you, believe me, that’s enough for me.” He smirked. “I’m not exactly going to argue with a guy who can shoot fire from his eyes, you know?”

Chloe grinned, tossed the keys and caught them. “I’ll give you a call later.”

“Just not in the evening. I have somewhere, non-League related to be.”

“Alright,” Chloe said turning to leave. “Oh and Mr. Queen? Thank you for giving me a chance. Not very many billionaires would even consider hiring a former con.”

“Chloe, my team is all about second chances.” They shared a small smile and Chloe darted to the elevator. As she punched the down button her belly continued to perform back flips, but this time instead of being caused by nerves – they were from excitement.

*****************************

Lois broke free of her dreamy non-productive gazing out her office window as she ceased watching the sun crawl towards the horizon. She and Clark had submitted their story a half an hour ago and were waiting on Perry’s verdict on it. The story, she felt, was balanced but lacked that big punch to make it past the front page’s top fold. Although Olsen's handsome photos of Superman in the thick of the near riot likely would give them a top page spot.

Her hazel eyes turned towards her partner. Clark was uncomfortably hunched over pouring over pages of tiny text on his computer screen. She remembered when they lived together at the Kent Farm when he was in High School and that Clark could throw perfect full field passes to his team mates on the Crow’s football team, now his eyes were so bad that he had to sit mere inches away from his computer monitor. She had always thought of him as a geek as a kid because he had been a stereotypical farmer teenager: sweet, hard working, and a poster boy for flannels and work boots. Her lip curled up slightly, although she used to rag on him about his appearance, there was always something comforting about his down to earth attire. As her eyes sized up his pin-stripe dress shirt and red silk tie that was still perfectly knotted at his neck, Lois admitted that he had grown up nicely. The glasses still reminded her of that geek kid who she used to terrorize with her “White Snake” marathons at three in the morning.

Instinctively she walked behind him and placed her hands on either side of his neck. For the briefest moment she felt his muscles tense up at the unexpected contact. She smiled and began moving her thumbs in circles at the base of the back of his neck. Lois felt Clark melt back into her touch and a small sigh escaped his lips as her thumbs worked deeper into his skin.

“What’s so attention captivating that you’re burning your retinas out reading that tiny print?” Lois asked. Her eyes nearly popped out of her skull, the font must've been set to 6. “God Smallville, it's no wonder that you're as blind as a bat.” She shifted her head to peer around his left shoulder and shoved her arms forward to his keyboard, with his extreme size, she had to stand on her tip toes behind him. “Look, I’ve got a trick to show you.” She pressed down on the control button with her left hand and then scrolled upwards with his mouse’s wheel.

Clark made a very unmanly audible squeak as he watched the text grow larger. His large hands moved to cover Lois’s. “Show me how you did that.” She manipulated his large meathooks and puppeted his hands into repeating the steps. Lois flashed a lopsided grin as she realized that Clark was completely impressed.

She giggled, slowly moved her hands up his arms to his head, and ruffled his hair. “Still the same, Clark Kent.”

Clark spun in his chair, his knees crashed into hers and she lost her balance. Swiftly Clark snatched her and placed his beautiful brunette partner into his lap. Still smiling, he asked, “You hungry? Want to go grab something?”

Lois stared at him with a slightly scandalized expression at his audacity and forwardness. She knew that she should jump out of his lap, but for some reason, it felt…right being there. “You are something else…bumbling rookie one moment and charming Charlie the next.”

“I live to keep people guessing,” Clark offered back. His smile dropped as their office door crashed open. Lois bolted out of Clark’s lap, eyes wide and cheeks hot with guilt as Perry filled their doorway. Clark looked on slightly sheepish, like a dog that just got caught chasing chickens; he was sorry to get caught, but not sorry about having fun.

Perry arched a brow at them. “Celebrating a good day of reporting? Well it’s not over yet, Lane and Kent. The Senator just arrived in town and is holding a fundraiser black tie event – I want both of you there to cover it.”

“Lex Luthor is in town?” Clark asked, suddenly all business. His eyes flickering to the bills that he had been critically examining that Lex had voted into law.

“Yes. Try to find out what’s hot in Washington right now, will you? We could use some good DC news for the paper,” White insisted. He tossed a press bundle at Lois.

“How about our article?”

“The chemical plant piece? Nicely balanced – not sexy but I think that after running that piece we should see fewer near riots over there. Olsen's photos helped get you guys over the fold on that one. You’re still digging for some follow-up dirt on it though aren’t you?”

“Yes, Chief,” Clark agreed.

Lois backed up Clark. “Clark sensed that something squirrely might be going on over there. We’re working a few other angles.” Clark resisted the pull of his right lip at the way that Lois jumped in and supported him when both of them knew that the story was essentially dead.

“Good to hear! Let me know how that party went…remember find out what they’re doing with our tax dollars!” Perry then exited the office leaving Lois and Clark alone.

“I guess rain check on that dinner invite?” Clark asked standing up. “Want me to pick you up? I’m sure that parking will be limited around the Plaza.”

“Sure,” Lois said, her eyes traveled up Clark’s tall frame. “Do you have a tux?”

He pulled on his jacked, grabbed Lois’s and helped her into it. “Affirmative.”

“We want to get there just when the event begins so that we can see who all arrive and make a list of them to decide who are the most important people to talk to and who not to waste your time on.”

Clark examined the party invite that Perry had provided along with the press passes. “I wonder what Lex is up to? Why would he bother coming back to Metropolis right now? It's not like elections are even this year.”

The pair headed towards the elevator and Lois shrugged. “Who knows why Senator Cue-ball does what he does”

“Maybe he's about to pass a bill that'll make him unpopular with the voters back home and he's trying to do a peremptory strike on public opinion and is going to make some big charitable donation or something to try to distract people.”

Lois laughed, pounded the elevator button and crossed her arms over her chest. “Wow, old grudges never die with you, do they?”

A look of deep concern crossed Clark's face. “He's not to be trusted, Lois. I've known Lex for a long time he never does anything without having some alterior motive backing up his actions.”

The doors chimed open and they waited for the car to empty before climbing in. Lois smiled. “I'd forgotten about that.”

“About what?” Clark asked, his brows furrowing in confusion.

“You Kent men – you expect a lot out of people, lord help those who do not live up to your code of ethics.”

Clark grinned. “We believe in justice and common sense and decency. I don't see that there's anything wrong with expecting people to live by a moral code.”

She arched a brow at him. “People are flawed though, we make mistakes.” Her hazel eyes peered deeply into his own. “I want you to go to this party with an open mind Clark. It's possible that Lex learned from his mistakes and that he's a changed man.”

Impressed, Clark was slightly taken aback. “Isn't that usually my line?”

“Yep, usually it is,” Lois lobbed back. “Good thing that you have me around to help to keep your mind straight, right Smallville?”

He leaned towards her and in a husky voice barbed, “That is a good thing because being around you again, makes me imbalanced.”

The doors opened and they headed towards the garage. Chuckling at Clark's bumbling flirting, Lois beeped her door open and Clark waited until she was safely inside. He peered through her door and said, “I promise to be on my best behavior, Lois.”

“Good,” she said, with a grin. “Because these things can get pretty dry and dull fast which makes that liquor go down even faster. I can't make that same promise.”

“In that case, I'll pick you up. Seven?”

She grinned. “Sounds good, Smallville.” Clark closed her door and watched as she pulled her car out and exited the garage.

With a smile on his face, Clark activated his superhearing. He stared at his watch, he had an hour to kill before he needed to get ready for the evening. Zeroing in on a young girl's cry, in superspeed, he changed and blasted off across the city.


Chapter 13

After having to punch a hole through six feet of dirt to break through an unused drainage pipe to retrieve a little girl’s rat terrier who’d gotten himself trapped underground, talking a distraught young man from jumping off of the Metropolis bridge, snatching a pedestrian out of the way of a runaway delivery truck’s path, hog-tying two jewelry store robbers before they could get their hands on some cash, and helping an elderly woman carry her groceries into her apartment, Clark Kent arrived home to change into his tuxedo that Martha had pressed for him.

He came down the stairs with his shiny dress shoes gently tapping out a quick pace. Martha’s face lit up like the fourth of July with pride. “Oh Clark, you’ve grown into such a handsome man,” she said, fussing with his jacket’s lapels.

Clark patted his jacket pocket to make sure that his glasses were in place. He stroked the front of his dress shirt to smooth it and asked, “You think Lois will be impressed?”

Jonathan’s eyebrows shot up. “Son, she’d be crazy not to be.”

“How’re things going on the Lois front?” Kara asked, chomping down a large forkful of salad.

Remembering his partner draping herself over him this afternoon in his office, Clark smiled. “Going as planned. She seems to be getting more comfortable with me again, which is a good thing.”

Kara jabbed a fork in his direction. “Explain to me again why you aren’t just telling her outright that you’re Superman?”

Clark shrugged uncomfortably. “She’s somewhat different than she was before. I knew her longer in the past reality and we had more time to get to know each other. Besides I want to make sure that she’s in love with ME and not Superman.”

“Won’t she get pissed that you’ve been lying to her?” Kara asked, eating more of her dinner.

“Lois will be pissed regardless of when I tell her, it’s all a matter of finding the right moment to ensure that Hurricane Lois doesn’t strike land afterward.” Clark gave his cousin an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry that I haven’t been around to show you how to use your powers.”

“It’s alright, Mr. Kent has been helping me,” Kara replied.

Eyebrows shooting up, Clark grinned. “Really? And how is that going, Dad?”

“Oh you know, I’ve had experience doing this once before, it’s pretty much the same,” Johnathan replied with a smile.

“That bad huh?”

Kara looked offended. “I’m a good student, thank you very much!”

Johnathan laughed. “It’s not so bad, son. In fact, it’s rather nice having another youngster in the house, it makes me feel young again myself.”

Clark glanced at his watch, put on an overcoat, and made his way towards the door. “I’ll see you all later.”

“Have a good time Clark!” Martha said as they watched him fly out and into the night.

******************************


Taking a deep breath Clark patted his hair into place and stuffed his glasses on before knocking on Lois’s door. He heard a frazzled voice inside order, “It’s open, come on in Clark!”

Clark cracked her door and walked inside. He started saying, “You know living in the big city it’s not very safe to have your door unlo….” Words froze in his mouth as he turned and saw Lois standing along the backside of her couch, leaning over putting a heel on. She quickly straightened, stomped into her heel, and flashed him a lopsided smile. Lois had her hair twisted into an intricate braid on her head with loose curls spiraling around her face and bangs. She wore a pale lavender cocktail dress that plunged in the front and came out in a belle shaped chiffon skirt. Around her neck she wore a set of off white pearls that matched the tiny seed pearls that decorated the entire top portion of her dress. Sparkling silver hoop earrings dangled on her ears. She had applied evening make-up that accentuated her eyes and made her lips glossy and full.

Lois herself was visually examining her partner, with his hair styled perfectly into place, and his classically tailored tuxedo that peeked out from a wool black overcoat with a white silk scarf tucked into the collar, he looked like he had just stepped out of a 1940’s black and white film; all that he was missing was the top hat. Even with his square jaw locked into a dazed expression he was breathtakingly handsome.

She gulped and squeaked, “You clean up nicely, Smallville.”

Clark approached her and took one of her hands in his, gently he raised it over her head and lightly turned her around in a circle in front of him so that he could examine her from all angles. The back of her dress had a square opening that revealed a pattern of three tiny moles that she had on her back. Lois smiled with giddiness at Clark’s playfulness. “You’re stunning, Lois.” Before Lois could react, Clark placed a hand in the small of her back and pulled her against him. He stared deeply into her eyes and stated, “I wish that we weren’t going to a job, I don’t know if I’m going to like sharing you with everyone at that party looking like this.”

Lois gazed back into his green eyes and asked, “Since when did bumbling Clark Kent turn into a world class flirt?”

“When he grew up and realized that the only person worthy of laying his eyes on is the stunning woman who he’s holding in his arms,” Clark replied with a grin.

Lois groaned. He contemplatively puckered his mouth a bit. “Too much?”

She chewed on her lower lip, secretly she started to feel slightly dizzy from his flattery. She found it strangely exciting that he was getting to her. “Just a bit over the top.”

With flair Clark spun her out of his arms and Lois stopped twirling right in front of her jacket and purse. She handed her coat to Clark who held it out for her. While he lowered it onto her shoulders he inhaled her scent, hints of lavender mixed with spicy perfume. Lois felt his large form behind her and without thinking she leaned back against him and placed a hand upon his cheek. Clark peered down her shoulder and examined the line of her jaw and tried to meet her eyes to find out what she was thinking. From her somewhat confused expression, he could tell that she didn’t quite know what she was doing either. Lightly he slipped his arms around her waist and buttoned her coat for her and then rested his hands at the center of her body’s core.

Lois could smell Clark’s masculine scent from behind her. On top of his musky aftershave she detected the light smell of rain. “Is it raining out?”

Clark’s eyes widened remembering that he’d flown closely next to the clouds on his way over, he must’ve trapped a small bit of condensation in his coat. Thinking fast he replied, “No, but it was drizzling a little in Smallville when I left there.”

Seconds slipped by and Clark gently turned her around to face him. Her eyes penetrated his and she chewed on her lower lip. Lois seemed lost over what she was doing, realization of her inaction broke over her features and flustered, she broke the moment, cleared her throat and in a husky voice stated, “We should go, don’t want to be late.”

Although Clark felt disappointment rise as she pulled away, but he knew that she was correct; they were on a schedule. Lois grabbed her purse, fussed slightly with her hair, and led Clark out of her apartment. After locking it she looped her arm in his that he offered and they headed to his truck.

Lois had a wide smile on her face as she climbed into the passenger’s seat. Clark closed the door and asked through the window that she had rolled down, “Why are you smiling?”

“You, you’re still the farm-boy. I wore this dress because I knew that the chariot that you’d bring to get me in would arrive on giant truck tires.”

“You can take the boy off of the farm..” Clark said with a smirk and then jogged around the truck to climb into the driver’s seat.

In her seat, Lois whispered, “Just please don’t ever take it completely out of him.”

*********************


Lois and Clark clipped on their press passes and made it through security before entering through the doors of the swanky penthouse apartment that Lex Luther owned in Metropolis. Lois immediately grabbed a glass of champagne and began whispering to Clark the resumes of each of the party guests. She subversively pointed to a poofy gray haired woman wearing a long sparkling blue dress that was overly fancy for the occasion. “That’s Margaret Stronghold, she’s the widow of former Governor Martinson’s brother. Steer as clear of her as possible, unless you want to be cornered for an hour strong-armed into listening to her go on and on about how well her prize winning Persians are doing on the cat show circuit.” Her eyes suddenly fell upon a tall form heading in their direction. “And that is...”

Clark threw his hand out and strongly grabbed an extended hand. With a smile, Clark said, “Oliver Queen. I didn't know that you were going to be here tonight.”

“Shockingly the Senator wouldn't pick up a call from me if I had news that his estate in Smallville was burning to the ground, however, whenever he's here and wants money, it's funny how an invitation always finds it's way into my mailbox,” Oliver replied with a smirk. His eyes then fell upon Clark's lovely partner. “Your photos don't do you justice, Miss Lane.”

Clark's eyes burned with sharp annoyance as he watched Lois smile brightly as Oliver kissed the top of her hand. With a single step, Clark blocked half of Lois and coldly asked, “Aren't there other debutantes here who are dying to find themselves on the arm of Metropolis's most eligible bachelor?”

Both Oliver and Lois looked at Clark with surprise.

“I suppose, but I do confess that I prefer for women to have brains in their head that they know how to use.”

“Keep looking around, Oliver. I'm sure that there are plenty of them here tonight,” Clark ordered.

Lois stood between then and arched a brow. “OK I don't know what's going on here, but dry cleaning this dress would cost me a fortune, I need to get it away from this pissing match. Why don't you both just take them outside and measure them, alright?” With a lopsided smirk, Lois rolled her eyes and retreated towards the closest waiter carrying around champagne goblets.

Oliver shook his head at Clark. “Subtle, Clark.”

“Look, she's confused enough already without you coming in to confuse matters,” Clark anxiously explained, rubbing his hand nervously on his neck. His eyes scanned the room attempting to locate his lovely partner.

“Yes, I read her expose, she sounded like a woman in love,” Oliver further tormented.

Clark's annoyed eyes glared into Oliver's. “She's got a crush. And if we weren't assigned to come to this thing, I would've had her on a date this evening.”

Oliver grinned. “Go out and measure them. That woman's got fire to her. You sure that you can handle that much woman, Clark?”

Smirking deeper he replied, “I certainly can better than you.” Clark exhaled and closed his eyes. “I'm sorry, Oliver. I'm just...”

“Crazy in love? Don't worry about it, Clark, you've spoken and have been heard loud and clear,” Oliver responded in order to prevent his burly friend from having to further explain himself. “Not that I blame you, if I had a woman like that in my sights, I'd probably go all Neanderthal around anyone who tried to get between us also.”

Annoyance blazed in Clark's eyes, yet he smirked. Grabbing two glasses of champagne and handing one to Oliver, he asked, “So why do you think that we're here?”

“Lex didn't say on his invite other than it's a matter of great importance. Seriously he's on one big power trip if he really thinks that his opinion means that much in Washington,” Oliver stated.

Scrunching his brows together contemplatively, Clark inquired, “What do you mean by that?”

Oliver's brown eyes flickered in Clark's direction. “I have it on good authority that the Washington elite don't think much of him. They don't overly trust him because they believe that he somehow rigged his election. He's kept himself mostly clean since he's been in Washington, but there is a stain on his position there.”

“I wouldn't be so sure of that Intel,” Lois responded, sidling back up to her partner. She cocked her head towards the study doors. Approximately 15 men and women all wearing business suits and surrounded by men in black poured into the room.

Mentally Clark checked the faces against those of the members of the Senate including the head of the Senate. His eyes widened when they fell upon Vice President Hogan. “What are you up to, Lex?”

As if on cue, several other people poured out of the study doors including an African American woman who nearly filled the space of the double doors. Behind her Lex arrived and with a hand casually stuffed into his pocked he addressed the crowd. “I wanted to thank you all for coming here this evening. I hope that you all are enjoying the food and champagne, because I strongly recommend that you hold onto good times and good memories; for I fear that they will be far in between in the coming days.”

Oliver, Clark, and Lois all shared puzzled expressions. The room went black and a large screen mechanically dropped from the ceiling above. Lex began tapping on an electronic remote and satellite images appeared on the screen.

“About a month ago something came down from out of the sky and landed in the ocean. This thing destroyed a fishing crew,” Lex explained, showing a tiny image of something large hulking in a fishing boat in night waters. Clark and Oliver knowingly stared at each other and then ripped their attention back to the screen as Lex showed swashes through the African jungles that looked like a bulldozer had cleared a path.

Lois leaned into Clark. “Clark?”

“Um huh?”

“Was this the thing that you reported on to Perry White when you first came back to Metropolis?”

Clark gulped, he sometimes hated how observant Lois could be. He shrugged. “I don't know Lois, I never got a look of it.”

“Three days ago it made it's way to a large seaport outside of Cairo.” Lex showed everyone several gruesome images of bodies that had been ripped to shreds. The older men and women in the room screamed and turned away from the carnage.

“That's BARBARIC! Why are you showing this to us, Senator?” Ms. Stronghold wailed.

“Because, it has vanished off of the face of the planet. We don't know where it had disappeared to, until today.” Lex showed them a large shipping cargo freighter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Clark walked closer to the satellite image. Activating his macro vision he could see human body parts strewn all over it as well.

“This freighter was located 200 miles off of the East Coast, the entire crew was dead,” Lex explained.

Lois brushed past Clark and stormed into the center of the room. “Lex, this information looks like top military intelligence. What on earth is possessing you to show it all to us tonight?”

“Lois, you should know the answer to that question,” Lex challenged. He stared into her blank and confused eyes. Placing a finger under her chin, he invaded her personal space. “Of all of the people in Metropolis, you should be able to figure it out.”

Understanding dawned. “You want Superman.”

A knot twisted in Clark's chest.

“Yes, Lois. I want Superman...I want his help. Our country needs his help. This creature is going to threaten our very existence. I believe that Superman could help our military come up with a line of defense to stop this beast before it takes American lives,” Lex stated. “Today, both Congress and the Senate had closed door sessions and have agreed to fund a brand new special branch of the military that is entirely focused on locating and capturing this thing.”

The light of the satellite played over Lex's features and he added, “We would like Superman to helm this special organization. Vice President Hogan agreed to come here to show our Super charged ally that even the White House is behind this.”

The room erupted in mumbles. Lex turned off the projector and the lights went back on. Before Clark could walk up to Lex, Oliver placed a hand on his huge bicep. “Don't fall for it, Clark. You see that woman standing behind him? That's Agent Amanda Waller, she's ruthless. Lex always had his pet project in studying meteor freaks, right? Waller was a part of a government project that did the same thing. Only our boys in blue, they weren't nearly as humanitarian in their treatment of their subjects as Lex was. I guarantee you if you side with Lex you'll find yourself strapped to a chair and experimented on.”

Clark stared evenly at him. “Don't worry, I have no intention of giving myself over to Lex.”

Clark stepped out of the shadows and stood beside Lois, his massive frame towered over Lex. A small anemic smile plastered itself over Lex's face. “Clark Kent. You know I thought that I saw your name sharing a byline with Miss Lane here on a front page story...but frankly, I thought it was a typo.”

“You should know Lex that I've always taken initiative in tracking down the truth. Being a reporter was a logical career move for me to utilize my instincts,” Clark shot back.

“Well, I always guessed that you were too good for the farm. Good for you, Clark.”

Lex made to turn away from his old acquaintances and Clark asked, “What's your interest in Black Creek Montana, Lex? Planning a new location for a secret lab?”

Smiling, Lex said, “Now THERE'S the Clark Kent that I know...” he turned and faced his old friend. “Always making wild accusations without having facts to back them up.”

Clark approached Lex and towered over him. “You signed three of Senator Boyton of Montana's bills in the past several months that were all boring land grants – not exactly the stuff that I'm sure would interest you in any other way, other than article 856 of the latest Billings Land Expansion Grant that stated that an ex-Vietnam era military base in Black Creek would be decommissioned and released for public sale.” Clark further invaded Lex's space. “Two days after that grant was passed, one of LuthorCorp's subsidiaries went in and bought the entire land.”

“Really, Clark? You actually READ the bills that we pass? Do you know that most Senators have no idea what is in each of those bills? We mostly just get the cliff notes versions to vote on,” Lex joked.

“What are you going to do with the lab, Lex? You own it now,” Clark demanded.

In a low voice, Lex said, “Fine if you must know, it's the perfect location as headquarters for Task Force X – the group that we've just passed into law today to capture that beast. The facility was under utilized by the service and under funded. I agreed to buy it and keep it running at my own expense. I'm doing the country a service Clark. There's nothing insidious in my actions. If you'll excuse me, I have other guests to attend to.”

Clark glanced at his partner. Lois's brow was arched and she was tapping her foot. “He's hiding something.”

“Yeah, I know,” Clark agreed.

“Dirty rat won't get away with it.” Turning on her heel Lois headed to the door and grabbed her coat. “Come on Smallville, we have a story to write.”

“What are you going to say?” Clark asked, as he helped her into her coat.

“Not what he's suggesting,” Lois answered, storming out of the penthouse. Clark threw on his coat in hot pursuit. “I'm quite sure that Lex thinks that Superman is going to just man up and become the Government's puppet. We have to warn him against that, Clark, and FAST.” As the elevator doors closed on them, Lois said, “He's doesn't want Superman as an ally Clark, he wants to dissect him.”

“Whatever happened to giving Lex some leeway?”

Lois pounded on the elevator door. “That was before he decided to mess with my Superman.”

The doors shut and Clark felt a strange mixture of pride and horror at Lois's determination to protect Superman. He did decide one thing though, he was much happier having Lois on his side, than not and found himself pitying Lex for the hell that he would likely face from his partner if he dared to mess with Superman. With that thought, Clark smiled.


Chapter 14


The hours ticked away and before Clark knew it rays of pre-dawn light began to brighten the sky outside their Daily Planet office window. He dug his hand’s heels into his eyes to wipe away sleep and replaced his glasses. Blinking a few times he scanned over their article one last time seeking out typos and grammatical errors. After not finding any, he peered over his monitor and asked, “Lois, alright if I submit our article?”

Lois’s bloodshot eyes were gazing intently at a spot on the floor. “Earth to Lois…”

She shook her head and sighed, “Sorry Clark. If it’s free of typos get it in, we should be able to just make the morning edition. The printers are holding a spot for it on the main page.”

Clark called down to the printing room and informed them that the article was on the way. He then stood up, pulled on his coat and offered his hand to his partner. “Come on, we’re going home.”

Lois allowed her partner to roll her up into her coat and lead her towards the elevators. The bullpen only had a slight hum as early morning staffers began arriving for their morning duties.

The elevator opened and Perry White stepped out. He held up his phone. “Just read the article, good writing you both. Take the day off.”

Smirking, Lois replied, “Oh please, Chief, since when do you know me to take a day off? A couple of hours sleep and I’ll be ready for an evening follow-up.”

All light fell from Perry’s face. “It wasn’t a suggestion, Lane. You haven’t taken a day off in weeks – that’s an order.”

Sleep vanished from her eyes. “But Chief…! What if Superman responds….?”

“I’m sure if he feels the need to have his favorite publicity girl share his reply with the world, that he’ll find a way to give you the exclusive scoop. If not, don’t worry, I have a whole building of able writers who can fill in for you for a day,” Perry responded, backing away and moving towards his office. “Kent make sure that I don’t see her until tomorrow morning – that’s an order!”

Clark helped Lois into the elevator and paused as Perry cleared his throat. “Kent, I’m sorry. I should’ve printed that story that you brought us on the day that you arrived here.”

Smiling, Clark replied, “Well you can thank Senator Luther for the satellite photos that he sent us, we now have the pictures to go along with the story.”

Perry grinned, raised his fingers to his forehead and saluted Clark on his way.

Lois’s shoulders slumped, dejected. “He hasn’t even bothered to glance in my direction since that exclusive interview. Why would Superman single me out now?”

Clark steered her into the open elevator and pushed the lobby button. “I’m sure that he’s just been busy, Lois.”

She looked away unconvinced. Twenty minutes later they arrived on her doorstep. Lois opened the door and Clark followed her inside. He removed her coat and Lois turned and glanced up at her partner, his once perfectly combed hair was now sticking up all over the place, his tie hung loosely around his neck and the top buttons of his dress shirt were wide open to reveal a perfectly chiseled V at the top of his chest. Somehow, even messy and tired Clark still managed to look dashing. She searched into his green eyes she felt a strange sense of peace wash over her. As she stared at Clark she realized that if she allowed herself, she could let her guard down for him, and completely expose herself to him. She wouldn’t care. Lois knew that Clark would never take her for granted. He was a rock and for the first time in her life she wanted to feel less like stone herself.

A sliver of fear crept through her senses. She felt herself standing at a fork in a road. Making up her mind she decided to do something that she never did, Lois would hand Clark the reigns, and let him decide which path that she should take. Cocking her head she said, “Follow me, Smallville.”

Shock registered in Clark’s eyes as he squeaked, “Excuse me?”

Too tired to argue, Lois said, “I’ve got a guest room that you can sleep in.” Clark shrugged out of his coat and followed her down her hall. She flicked on a light and Clark found himself staring into a very hot pink bedroom. Pink walls glared back at him and a graphic black and hot pink bedspread covered the bed. Accessories all over the black furniture were also pink. For a moment, Lois didn’t understand the dumbstruck expression on Clark’s face. She then burst into laughter and stroked a hand against his arm. “Sorry, the decorating in here wasn’t my choice. This is Lucy’s room whenever she’s in town.”

Clark grinned and sighed with relief. “How often do you see her?”

“Who? Lucy? She’s here every few weeks. She’s got a sales job and she’s on the road a lot…jet setting around the world as usual.” A hint of bitterness entered her tone. “Nothing but the high life for my sister.”

Crossing his arms, Clark leaned against the hallway wall and stared into her eyes. “I thought that you were over being jealous of your sister.”

She sighed. “I am, really. I guess that I’m just tired,” she lied. Every blood vessel in her body crackled with anticipation. Clark peered over her shoulder and gazed into a cracked door that he assumed was her bedroom. Seeing where his eyes were going Lois’s skin quivered, she placed a foot forward onto a path that promised change. She pushed her door open and stopped in the door’s threshold. Lois pointed at her shoulder blades. Gently Clark unhooked the top of her dress and unzipped it for her. His eyes followed the line of her back and saw it gape open enough to show a peep of lacy panties and suddenly he felt very hot. She stepped into her room and Clark shifted his focus and studied the colors in her room, sky blue and yellow with hints of red.

His colors.

Clark’s eyes fell on a couple of photographs on her wall and his mouth fell open.

Lois’s cheeks burned slightly. “Why are you surprised, Clark? The time that I lived on the Kent farm, I look back on those years with great fondness; they were the best years of my life. Your family gave me a real home.” She turned and burned her gaze into his eyes.

“Even with me on it?” Clark asked, arching a brow.

“Well, admittedly, I did sorta think of you as a dorky over protective brother-type.” Clark felt his jaw clench and then loosen as her eyes travelled down the full length of his body. She took a step backwards into the center of her bedroom, as if tethered by an invisible string, Clark followed. “Boy that was stupid of me…” her eyes flickered back towards his and in a single motion, her dress billowed into a lavender pile at her feet. “wasn’t it?”

In a heartbeat, Clark had his arms around her waist and crashed his lips upon hers. All of the pent up desire that he’d been bottling up for weeks erupted as he gathered his willing beloved into his arms. Lois groaned and wrapped her arms around his neck, digging her left hand fingers into his hair while she threw her legs around Clark’s waist she tightened them behind his massive form locking her in place. Her right hand fingers tugged at his shirt’s button holes. Clark really wanted to help her out, but feared that if he put her down, the woman he loved more than life itself would come to her senses and banish him into that girly room alone. His hands smothered her against him. He felt the heat of her body through his clothes and felt his senses leaving him. She gyrated her hips against his waistband slightly as their kiss deepened. Her fingers finally released the buttons from their prisons and knowing that Clark had a firm hold of her she ripped his shirt off of his arms and down his back. Jumping down from his waist, Lois tugged on his belt bringing him closer towards her so that she could manipulate the buckle. Clark stepped out of his shoes and yanked his undershirt off exposing his massive bare chest to her.

Clark’s large hands knotted themselves into her updoo and released her hair from the braids. Her dark hair billowed around her shoulders. His eyes fell on her lacy cream colored strapless bra and panties and in a husky voice, he asked, “Are you sure? You’re not just going for me because Superman’s not here?”

Lois turned, climbed on her bed, reached behind herself, and unhooked her bra. “I’m not interested in a fantasy, Clark. I want a real man. I want you.”

With a wide grin, Clark shoved all doubt from his mind and flew into her open arms.

*************************


“Did you know that I secretly had a thing for you, even way back when?” Lois asked from the crook of Clark’s arm. Her leg tangled with his under her covers. “I thought that you were a dorky farmboy, but I liked that about you.”

Clark squinted in disbelief and asked, “Why in the hell didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Because, you were in love with Lana and you never even knew that I was alive.”

Clark felt her heart beat against his chest, his fingers stroked her back. “Trust me, I knew that you were alive. And all of my snarking – all of my joking, I was masking the fact that I couldn’t ever take my eyes off of you,” Clark replied. He nuzzled her hair. “Even when Lana was in the same room you always outshined her. I guess I was just too blind to understand what was going on.”

“You were one screwed up teenager,” Lois stated, matter of fact.

Clark grinned. “Back at you.”

She yawned and snuggled closer to him, a large contented smile oozed across her face.

Realizing that he needed to tell her at some point, Clark cleared his throat. “I have something that I should probably tell you, Lois.” He stroked her back. Feeling a bit nervous he said, “There was a reason that I was so screwed up as a teenager. You see, I wasn’t like everyone else. I had this giant secret that was keeping…a secret that no one could know. It was big. I’m somewhat surprised that you never figured it out being as intuitive as you are.” Clark stared at the ceiling and took a deep breath. “I’m not from here, Lois. I’m…” His ears detected a sound and he turned his head towards his chest. “Lois?”

Flopping his head against her pillow Clark groaned, she was snoring away, happily asleep.

“I promise, I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he whispered and promptly followed her to dreamland.

*************************

Clark awoke to the smell of something burning. Shrugging into a pair of flannel boxer shorts that Lois had laid out for him Clark followed the acrid scent without a lot of worry, having lived with Lois for a couple of years on the Kent farm, he learned to recognize the stench of her cooking disasters. He found Lois dancing around her kitchen waving away smoke, she wore a tight tank top and undies. With a grin, Clark billowed his cheeks and blew a large amount of the smoke out towards her open patio door.

He walked behind her and snuggled her waist. “What are you trying to make, Lois?”

Annoyed and angry she threw a skillet layered with black burnt gunk into her sink. “It was supposed to be pancakes.”

Clark nuzzled her neck and reached onto her drying rack and extracted a clean skillet. “Want me to make breakfast?”

“NO! I can do it,” Lois insisted, yanking the pan out of his hand.

“I can help,” Clark offered.

Lois’s eyes widened and then closed as Clark’s hands roamed under her tank top and down her left thigh. “That’s not really helping me…to cook…”

“Not really hungry for food,” Clark countered, taking the pan out of her hand again, he flicked off the stove and twirled her out of the kitchen. Clark crashed her against his body and descended on her lips. Lois gently extracted his glasses and put them on the counter and then greedily grabbed his face as tightly as possible in her hands all of the while powering her entire soul into their kiss. Clark felt extremely light headed and giddy as his hands traveled across her back pulling her tank top higher. In three steps they were on her couch and became a web of arms and legs. Clark’s fingers were working their way towards her panties waistband when they were interrupted by an insistent buzzing.

Lois pleaded into his mouth, “Ignore it…day off.”

Grinning, Clark said, “I’ll get rid of them.” Lois groaned, sat up and nibbled on his neck while Clark grabbed his coat, and extracted his cell phone from his pocket. Without bothering to ask who it was, he blurted, “This had better be good.”

“We need you here NOW Clark,” Oliver’s insistent voice barked into the phone. Clark closed his eyes and focused on the feel of Lois’s lips as they explored his neck. He inhaled with anticipation as she boldly pulled open the flap of his boxers.

“Why?” Clark asked, tilting his head, Lois found his lips and claimed them as her own.

Ollie’s barely audible voice barked back, “This thing is your mess, Clark. You need to come clean it up.”

Clark let go of their kiss and Lois straddled him on the couch. She wiggled her eyebrows and pushed herself down his legs onto the floor. There she settled in and pulled his legs around her. Clark stared at the ceiling his eyes wide as she yanked his boxers clear off. “Is it…causing…any…problems???” He squeaked the last word between the quickening of his breath.

There was a pregnant pause on the phone. “You know, I’m sure that we’d all love to hang out with our girlfriends rather than deal with marauding monsters, Clark, but right now, we don’t have that luxury.”

“Is it causing…problems?” Clark insisted, his world began blurring around him as Lois’s lips and tongue performed magical feats that made concentration near impossible.

“Not yet. Nobody knows where it is…”

“GREAT, call me when you hear any news.” In a split second Clark turned off the phone, dropped it on the floor, reached down, and pulled Lois back onto his lap. With a twinkle in his eye he teased, “No fair allowing me to have all of the fun alone.”

Lois squeaked as Clark gathered her in his arms, then stood up, and teased, “Your hair smells like smoke, I think that you need a bath.”

Placing her on the floor and taking her hand, Clark led her giddily towards the bathroom.


******************

An hour and a half later, they emerged, squeaky clean, and feeling rejuvenated. Wearing his tux pants and undershirt, while Lois wore a t-shirt and jeans, Lois’s wet hair clung to her shoulders and she grinned at him.

“I don’t think that I’ll ever look at a bathtub the same again thanks to you,” she teased.

“Water’s good for a lot of things, other than just drinking,” Clark replied.

Lois inhaled his lips. When she let go, she gushed, “Yes, it does a body good.”

Clark put on his dress shirt and picked up his coat. Lois pouted. “I need to get a change of clothes Lois. And I’ll grab us some dinner.” Clark stuck his finger in her face. “No sneaking off to work while I’m gone.”

With a twinkle in her eye, Lois took his finger into her mouth and tickled it with her tongue. Clark suddenly wondered if he was making a mistake leaving. She handed it back to him then and sighed. “Go get your spare clothes…not that you really need them.”

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Clark promised. Kissing her deeply, Clark smiled and forced himself out of her apartment.

Once he was out of her sight, Clark rushed to the farm where he did a quick change before zipping back to Metropolis to face Oliver’s wrath.

 

*******************************************************


 

Chapter 15


“…Oliver Queen’s been calling and calling, Clark. Clark? Hello?”

Images of flying through white clouds evaporated into puffs of pale blond hair. Clark blearily found himself staring into his cousin’s large blue eyes. Jamming the heels of his hands into his eyes to wipe the sleep from them, he peered suspiciously at Kara. “How long have you been sitting there?”

A sly grin slithered across Kara’s face. “Long enough to see that you were very, VERY happy in sleep land, cuz.”

He flopped his head into his pillows as reality erased away the last traces of mental erotic pleasure that he’d partaken in during his evening slumber. “What do you want, Kara?”

“Oliver Queen keeps calling you, he says that he wants you to come over today.”

“Was it urgent?”

“No, I guess he must’ve felt that I was unreliable as a messenger because he called here three times trying to make sure that he left his message for you,” she replied, her brows scrunched together in confusion.

Clark laughed. “I think that I might’ve forgotten to mention you to him – he probably had no idea who he was talking to.”

She shrugged and stared sharply at him. “So out with it.”

“Out with what?”

“What were all of the happy chipmunk noises about?” she teased.

Clark narrowed his eyes. “Like I’m going to tell you.”

“You should you know. I took courses on dream analysis back on Kandor. I could help you to dissect them and get to the bottom of any unresolved issues that you might be trying to solve while you sleep,” she answered proudly.

He shoved his fingers through his thick dark hair and smiled broadly. “I think that I’m good, Kara. But thank you for your offer.” He attempted to shove himself onto his elbows and make his way out of bed.

Kara pushed down on his covers and glared into his eyes. “Are you sure? Towards the end there, you looked guilty.”

“Guil..ty?” Clark stammered with disbelief.

“Yes.” She stared sternly at him. “The funny thing about dreams is that they usually tell us things that we weren’t even aware were bothering us.”

“Why would the people of Kandor think that dream analysis was important?”

“Because dreams work out things that oftentimes we can’t figure out in our conscious mind. Many of our greatest scientists came up with large advancements in technology after they had their dreams analyzed.”

He narrowed his eyes in his cousin’s direction. “You’re not going to let me up until I tell you, are you?”

Kara smiled sweetly. “Affirmative, Kal-El. Now spill.”

“Fine,” he growled. To the best of his recollection he recounted the dream back to her omitting the details that caused him to “make happy chipmunk noises” in his sleep.

Eyes glazed over and in deep thought, Kara began pacing in Clark’s room. “So what really happened last night?”

Knotting his fingers behind his head, Clark replied, “We got off late after staying up all night working on the Lex Luther story. I drove Lois home and said goodnight to her at her door and flew home.”

“No pink and black room sighting?”

“No. I have no idea how she has her spare room set up.”

“Interesting…OK did you meet Perry White on your way out of work last night?”

“No.”

“OK your conversation with him shows that you are resentful that he hasn’t acknowledged the fact that you brought this story to him weeks ago and could’ve made you a big shot reporter right off of the bat. You’d seem like a Johnny come lately if he tried to print it now that the cat is out of the bag,” Kara explained. “So much for your Pulitzer.”

Before Clark could respond, she plunged forward. “Did Lois complain about Superman not contacting her?”

“Yes,” he replied, annoyed.

“Well that explains why you were guilty over what you did in your dream. Consciously you know that Lois is still pining over Superman and yet you took advantage of her in your dream.”

“Advantage of her? In my dream? Isn’t that what dreams are for?” Clark cried out.

“Of course, and normally no one would think twice about it because face it, you were just living a fantasy right? The only problem was that you, yourself knew, even deep down in your subconscious that taking advantage of her now would be a bad idea because she’s confused. She even openly repeated her confusion DURING your dream, so even your dream self knew that you were being a dog when you jumped her bones.”

Clark felt a headache coming on as he glowered at Kara. He sighed, he couldn’t argue her point. “What else?”

“The scary bedroom is easy – you don’t want to be a guest in her house, you want to be in her room, with Lois. It’s why you visualized yourself all over her bedroom – photos of the farm, your colors in her decorating - you see it as being your home. A large part of you is screaming that you belong there.”

He had no response to that statement either.

“Did Lois have a thing for you in high school?”

“Yeah, intense hatred…or at least annoyance.”

“I think that whole conversation was more wishful thinking on your behalf. You know that Lois is who you truly belong with, yet I think that subconsciously you wish that you both had recognized your feelings sooner so that you wouldn’t be apart right now. Lois would’ve fallen in love with you first, not Superman,” Kara said, planting her fists on her hips. “I think that’s about it. Feeling any better?” She threw up a finger before he could reply. “Oh and the phone call with Oliver…subconsciously you literally enjoyed sticking it to him that you got the girl and he didn’t.”

Throwing his blankets off, Clark thrust his finger at his door. “Out!”

Kara pouted. “The truth hurts, huh?” With a smug expression on her face and leaving a waft of giggles on the air, she bounded out of his door and retreated downstairs.

Shaking his head Clark left the safety of his comfortable bedroom and headed into the bathroom to shower and get himself ready for the day.

An hour later, he and Kara were on the road in his truck.

“Explain to me again why we’re driving to Metropolis rather than flying?” She asked, enjoying the warm sun as it bathed down on her face through the window.

“Because I’m planning to stop by and see Lois after we stop at Oliver’s. I need wheels for that.” He turned and looked at her. “Feel free to fly off when we’re done…just don’t…”

“…Let anyone see me. Yeah, yeah,” Kara answered. “Is Superman ashamed of his cousin?”

“No. It’s just that the world is just getting used to there being one all powerful alien in the world, I don’t know how they’d take there being two.”

“Humans are weird, they probably would see it as a sign of a forthcoming invasion,” Kara replied, fiddling with the radio looking for a better station.

“Exactly,” Clark agreed.

“So you’ve decided that I’m trustworthy enough to meet your friend Oliver. That’s a step in the right direction,” Kara stated.

He shrugged. “You know more about Doomsday than I do, maybe you can shed some light on any intel that he has. Just be careful Kara.”

She studied the worried expression on her cousin's face. “What?”

“Oliver...he's never met a blond that he doesn't like.”

Smirking, Kara replied, “Don't worry, billionaire bachelors hold little appeal or interest for me.”

Clark beamed with pride and he lightly hummed as they wove their way through the busy streets of Metropolis.

“Where are we going again?”

Clark leaned out the window and stared up at the tower of the old Woolworth building. “There.”

************************

Clark pushed the stained glass doors at the top of the Woolworth tower open and ushered his cousin inside.

“What the hell, Clark? Did you not understand it when I said to keep this place a secret?” Oliver's voice boomed from above.

Before Clark could respond, a familiar female voice replied, “It's OK, she's his cousin.”

“Thanks, Chloe.” The short blond woman wove her way down the winding stairwell with a large grin plastered over her face.

“What do you think?”

“What is this place?”

“We call it the Watchtower, it's in the dead center of Metropolis, we can see the whole city from here. Perfect lair for a merry band of superheros don't you think?” Chloe asked with a bright smile on her face.

Clark smiled. “I take it Oliver hired you?”

“Yep! Been working all morning monitoring Queen Industry satellite signals looking for our missing spiny monster.”

Kara walked towards one of the large screens and began typing into the nearest terminal. Suddenly the screen exploded with a mad rush of satellite still images.

“Make yourself at home,” Chloe said, eyebrow arched.

“Thanks. These primitive machines are easy to use,” Kara cooly responded.

Chloe glowered at Clark who shrugged back.

Oliver stood beside Clark and watched while Kara blasted through the feeds. “You were looking FOR the creature, correct?”

“Yeah...?”

“You'll never find him that way.”

Clark walked beside his cousin, understanding her logic and explained. “You have to look for evidence of where he's been.”

“It snuck into the country. It spent weeks hiding in jungles undetected overseas, it won't want to come out into the open until it's ready to be seen...until it's found it's target.”

“Which will be?” Oliver inquired, eyebrows up.

“Clark and myself.”

Eyes wide, Clark stared at her. “Think that you could've shared that bit of information with me sooner? Why would it come looking for us?”

Her large, liquidy blue eyes bore up in his direction. “Because we're the last children of Krypton – our ancestors made that creature, tortured it, and then sent it flying off into space for millenniums. It's got to have a major grudge against anyone or anything Kryptonian.”

“How would it even know that we're here?” Clark asked as he watched Kara select topographic paths from Florida to Metropolis. She systematically began pulling live satellite feeds from the past 72 hours and began a brand new visual search.

“Likely it can smell us.” Before either members of the peanut gallery could comment, Kara continued. “When we use our powers we release a special pheromone that the creature likely can smell. Humans can't detect it.”

“And why can the creature?”

Kara glowered. “He was designed with that knowledge, it was embedded in it's DNA.” She paused her search and zoomed in on a forested area along the lowest area of the Appalachian Trail. “There!”

Oliver and Chloe walked up behind the two El cousins. “What are we looking at?”

“See that tree? It's gotta be over eighty feet tall. It was ripped right out at the roots and thrown down the mountain.”

Smirking, Oliver counted. “Come on, it could've toppled over in a recent mudslide, that doesn't prove anything.”

“No. It didn't fall down, LOOK at it.”

She zoomed further down the tree. Approximately fifteen feet from the base all of the branches were broken. “Something grabbed the tree right there, ripped it out from it's roots, and threw it down the side of the mountain. It was thrown a good four hundred feet before it bounced and landed another three hundred feet away..”

Chloe gulped. “That tree is four times larger than that creature.”

“Exactly” Kara began plotting out charts. “If my calculations are correct, it'll reach Metropolis by Friday.”

*****************

Clark sagged against the window sill and peered out the center of the large stained window that illuminated the tower with light. His eyes scanned the city that he loved so much. He knew that Kara was behind him and stated, “We should go looking for it, we can't let it reach the city. Thousands of people could get hurt if we lead it here.”

Placing a hand on his shoulder, Kara cleared her throat. “That's a lot of land for us to try to cover, Clark. We'd waste energy in the search. Trust me, it'll make it's presence known plenty early for us to take it on before it reaches Metropolis.”

Eyes large and contemplative, Clark said in a low voice. “You're sure we've only got about four days?”

“Plus or minus a couple of days at most.” Kara stared at her cousin's broad back. “Go to her, Clark. Spend as much time as you've got with her. I'll work with the team here try to come up with a plan of attack.”

“That doesn't seem fair.”

In a soft voice she responded. “And neither would it be if we died without your ever having a chance to tell Lois how you feel about her.”

“This creature, what do you think could destroy it?”

“I don't know. The scientists of old threw everything at it and it just became more invulnerable with every new weapon that they used on it.”

“What about Kryptonite?”

“Maybe.” Kara snorted. “Exactly how would we get it somewhere where it could be in contact with Kryptonite? And what happens if it immediately becomes immune? We'd be powerless and it would be able to destroy us in a heartbeat.”

“Bad idea?”

Kara squeezed his forearm. “You worry about saving mankind, I'll work with Oliver and Chloe to come up with more options.”

“I'll be back later.”

Kara smiled as he headed out of the tower, all of the while a knot twisted in her gut. She didn't have the heart to tell her cousin that irregardless of how much planning they did, defeating Doomsday on their own without a Kryptonian army to back them up would likely be impossible.

*******************************


 

Chapter 16


Lex Luthor sat in his luxury apartment and read over Lois and Clark’s article denouncing Task Force-X and their plea to Superman not to give in to the government’s call to help. Heat rose to his head and caused his ears to turn red giving him the appearance of a bald Tasmanian devil. Angrily he crushed the paper and violently threw it into the trash.

“Those hacks don’t know what they’re talking about, Senator. Don’t worry, Superman will come to listen to what you have to say,” a voice re-assuredly stated from behind his desk.

“And what makes you so sure about that, Agent Waller?” Lex turned as stared at the sturdy woman who had been working on her laptop in a corner of his office. “Superman hand selected Lois Lane to share his story with the whole world. That annoying former muffin peddler is his golden girl.” Rising from behind his desk, Lex began pacing his office.

“Superman’s got one purpose in life – that’s to protect people. Whether he trusts the government or not, he’ll find his way here to talk the matter over to you. If there’s even the slightest chance that joining forces with us could save lives, he’ll do it.” Her lips pressed together in a determined line.

“I don’t know, Lois isn’t my biggest ally if Superman truly trusts her opinions then he’ll stay away.” Lex turned away and failed to add what annoyed him the most about the article, that his former “friend” Clark Kent would also advocate ignoring a plea from his country’s Government in order to save people’s lives. Did Clark really hate him that much that he would advocate putting people in harm’s way?

Waller realized that there was no getting through to the stubborn man, and she made her exit to leave. “I’m heading back to the offices. Remember, we’ve got a telecommunication with the Joint Chiefs at sixteen hundred. You’d better do everything that you can to be sure that when we all get on the phone, that Superman is on board.”

Lex’s shoulders twitched. He picked up his mug of coffee, a folder filled with the latest intel on the creature, and retreated outdoors onto his patio. Three secret service men flanked it and faded into the background. Sitting down at an iron grid table, Lex put down his cup and studied the Metropolis skyline. The sky began to rumble as storm clouds crept across the city skyline threatening to douse Metropolis with rain. Oblivious to the looming threat, Lex then examined LexCorp’s headquarters and the Daily Planet next to it. For so many years his family had been a big part of this city, the thought of some monster coming along and destroying it all sent waves of melancholy and anger over the Senator. His thoughts were a jumbled mess, a part of him didn’t want to trust Superman, but for the life of him, he couldn’t put his finger on why he felt that way. It was that irrational sort of thinking that often got him into trouble in the past. The last thing that he needed was for his old mental demons to take control again…not when a real crisis loomed in the near future.

As he flipped through the photos of a gruesome mass murder in a small town outside of Raleigh that Task Force-X had managed to swoop in and cover up before the press got wind of it, Lex hoped to god that Waller was right about Metropolis’s self propelled hero and that he’d come to their aid and together stop this creature once and for all. Even though he didn’t trust the flying savior, Lex was smart enough to realize that he wouldn’t be able to defeat this thing without the alien’s help.

************************

With Whitesnake thumping in her ears, Lois’s feet pounded against the pavement as she tore down the winding path through Metropolis’s city park on her daily jog wearing a tan tank top and black shorts. With Perry’s self imposed day off in full force, she had opted for an even longer than usual run to work through the myriad of thoughts that crashed through her head and to work off pent up energy. A large gust of wind chilled her body’s core as she jogged her way back towards her apartment complex reminding her that the weather which started out as warm and sunny was quickly turning stormy. Lois abruptly stopped to retie her shoe and was startled to suddenly see a Daily Planet hooded sweatshirt being shoved into her face. Removing her earbuds, she grinned at the person offering the clothing.

"It’s getting cold out here, Miss Lane. Metropolis doesn’t need it’s star reporter coming down with a cold because she was caught in a rainstorm unaware.” Clark found it difficult to pull his eyes away from Lois’s heaving chest that was covered in perspiration.

Breathing heavy still from exertion, she smiled oblivious to Superman’s wandering eyes, and allowed him to help her into the warm sweatshirt. “Thank you, Superman. I didn’t realize that providing clothing to the cold and sweaty was part of your duties.”

He smiled. “Whatever services are required of me, I am here to assist.”

Lois got her breathing under control and took a swig from her water bottle that she had attached to her fanny pack. She used the diversion to mask her nervousness and asked, “Did you see my article?”

Superman paced in front of her, his arms crossed over his chest. “I did and I have to say you made many valid points.”

“You can’t allow yourself to become a pawn of the Government, Superman. People are for the most part good, but the government agency which is sworn to protect it’s citizens – it’s not always on the level,” she explained.

“I know all about political corruption, Miss Lane.” Superman studied her reactions. Lois absently patted down her hair which had become to come loose from her ponytail thanks to the wind. She also discretely tried to wipe the sweat off of her face. With a heavy heart, Clark realized that she was trying to make herself look good for him. “You and your partner made good arguments on why I should stay away, however, I cannot just ignore the Senator’s call to help.”

Lois stared evenly at him. “You don’t know Lex Luthor, Superman. He’s never on the level and is 100% self serving. Whatever he wants to ask of you there will be some sort of a hidden agenda behind it.”

Superman’s green eyes bore down into Lois’s pleading gaze. “I do understand what I’m coming up against, Miss Lane. However, there are things that you don’t know about this creature.”

Her eyes filled with curiosity. “You know what it is?”

He nodded his head. “It’s an abomination. It never should’ve come here, and frankly, I don’t know if it can be stopped.”

A small laugh escaped out of Lois’s mouth. “But, you can stop anything.” When she saw a flash of fear rise in Superman’s eyes, she felt a stab of panic. “You can, can’t you?”

“I don’t know, Miss Lane. This creature, it’s not of this world, it’s from mine. It…” Clark screwed up his eyebrows trying to decide how much to tell her and then finally determined that anything short of full disclosure wouldn’t help anyone at this point. “It was created by scientists as a guinea pig to test weapons against. Over time, it became resistant to everything that the scientists threw against him. The only way that they were able to save everyone was to send it off into space. Somehow it hurtled here and is now out for revenge.”

“Revenge against whom?” Lois squeaked.

“I believe that I am its target,” Superman revealed.

“Because you’re Kryptonian?”

“Yes.” He studied Lois’s appalled expression.

“But you didn’t do anything to it.”

“And neither did all of the humans who it has hurt along the way. So far, I haven’t been able to locate the creature, but it’ll be my mission to find it before it can reach the city. I’ll have to face it head on, alone.”

“But you don’t know if you can defeat it…”

“Not yet, at least. That’s why I need to talk to Senator Luthor. Even though I doubt that he’ll know anymore than I do, it’s possible that he might be able to help me in some way. I have to try,” Superman said. “I’m out of options.”

Uncertain of what else to do, Lois threw herself at Superman and circled her arms around his waist. “What can I do to help you?”

Tenderly he cupped her chin and met her worried eyes. “I need you to promise something for me.”

“Ok.”

He waited half a beat to give import to the fact that she had just blindly vowed a promise to him. “When the time comes, if it breeches the city, I need you to go against all of your instincts as a reporter and steer clear of the confrontation. It’s dangerous, Lois. It won’t think twice about taking out anyone in its path.”

She chewed on her inner lip. “I’ll try….”

Superman gently removed her arms from his waist and sternly demanded, “NO. Lois, you have to stay away. That’s the only way that I’ll be sure that my story will be told.”

“I’m a reporter, Superman. Wherever the news is, that’s where I’ll be.” She saw his nostrils flare in anger. “But I will try to keep a large distance between us. Besides, maybe you’re wrong and it’s not going to come here.”

He nodded his head. “Yes, let’s all hope that I am wrong on that account, for everyone’s sake.” Glancing at the sky he reported, “The rain will start soon, you had better get home.”

Without further ado, he flew off, leaving Lois feeling unsettled, alone, and confused.

*******************

A large raindrop bounced off of Lex’s skull, signaling that it was time for him to go back inside. Feeling rejected he picked up his empty mug and folder and turned to go back inside. As he reached out to open the patio door that led to the apartment a looming blue and red figure reflected in the glass behind him.

“Nice to see what quick reflexes you have, boys,” Lex scornfully spat as he realized that not one of the three Secret Service men pulled weapons or even moved on Superman’s unannounced appearance.

“I believe they know that I mean you no harm,” Superman coolly replied.

The head of the detail muttered into his comm device on his sleeve. “He’s clear, Senator.”

Lex rolled his eyes. “And there you go, Superman, your tax dollars at work – you’re officially allowed the highest security levels from the United States without even needing to present any form of ID. You do pay taxes don’t you?”

Superman cocked his head. “I am a law abiding citizen of the United States, I pay my taxes. Of course I do not get compensated for my superhero duties, so I’m afraid that I don’t file claims as such.”

Narrowing his eyes, Lex teased, “You sure that you don’t put any expenses on your taxes though, costumes? Hair gel?”

“I would never pad my taxes unlawfully, Senator,” Superman stoically responded.

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Lex answered, sadly realizing that Superman was about as much fun as trying to chat up a tax auditor. “Would you care to join me inside? I’m afraid the weather is turning.”

The caped superhero nodded and followed Senator Luthor inside. Clark studied his old friend and realized that just like Lois, Lex made zero indication that he recognized him as Clark Kent. He found this freeing and slightly disturbing at the same time.

“Superman, your country needs your help. I’m guessing that you saw that slanted piece of journalism today that explained our predicament?”

Inside, Clark bristled at the slam on his story. Outwardly, he coolly stated, “I thought that the piece was fair and balanced.”

“Your favorite reporter and her copy boy partner both despise me, for reasons unknown I may add. I’m quite sure that both of them would love nothing more than to see me fall flat on my face and have you reject my offers outright,” Lex said.

“Well it’s a good thing that I don’t allow public opinions to sway my own decisions. What do you want to talk about, Senator?”

Lex shut off the lights in the room and activated his slide show that he had presented the night before. At the end, it included the new slides with this morning’s carnage. “The creature was long gone by the time our team got there and it left no trace as to where it disappeared to.” Lex noted the intense pain that spread over Superman’s stoic face at the gruesome images in the photos.

Superman turned towards Lex and stated, “My heart goes out to the families of the victims. No one should die like that.”

“Yes, it is a tragedy. Do you know what this creature is by any chance?”

“You assume because it is alien, like I am alien that I would know of it’s origins?”

Lex snapped his mouth shut and quickly said, “I apologize. Up until your appearance and announcement that you were from another planet, our entire civilization was ignorant to the fact that there was life outside of our solar system, much less beings who resembled us but had powers of the gods.” Lex’s eyes grew wide with horror. “The thought that there are even more civilizations out there, more alien forces that even you don’t know about is...disturbing.”

“I never said that I didn’t know of it.” Superman watched Lex sharply zero his eyes back to his and lock hard onto them. “I didn’t know of it when I first heard of it, however. From my research there’s only one in existence. It was banished from my planet many, many years ago.”

“How long?”

Superman shrugged. “Thousands of years?”

Jaw dropping, Lex’s eyes popped open. “Thousands? You’re telling me that thing is thousands of years old?”

“And it survived being cast into outer space for most of it’s life.” Superman stepped closer to the Senator who quickly snapped to attention. “This creature is older than your species. It was tortured by my kind and was used and abused by its creators. It doesn’t understand love, it only knows pain and wishes to exact suffering wherever it goes. And nothing can stop it.”

That snuck through Lex’s fog of amazement. “Everything has a kill point, Superman, you just have to know its weaknesses.”

“That’s the problem, it was used as a guinea pig by our brightest and most creative scientists. They repeatedly found it’s kill points and then brought it back to life, and killed it again until it was able to survive each attempt. Finally it had no kill points and they were forced to fling it out into space to save them from the unkillable creature that they created.”

Repulsion spread across Lex’s features. Superman put up his hand to still his words. “You don’t need to lecture me of the barbaric ways of my ancestors. Apparently they were a group of radicals who were fractured off from the rest of the scientific community. Their actions were not sanctioned by the Kryptonian government.” Clark turned his gave back onto Lex’s. “It’s not like humans have never participated in barbaric acts, right? Gladiators come to mind? The Crusades? Nuremberg?”

“Touche. So how can we kill it?”

“Who says that we can?” Superman replied back.

“Everything can die, Superman, mark my words.” Lex sat down in his chair and knotted his fingers together.

Superman leaned over and spread his fingers out on the desk and invaded Lex’s personal space across the desk. “Our scientists had weapons that were light years more advanced than what you currently have. There is no weapon that will take it out.”

“You know, I’m disappointed. I thought that Superman was supposed to be this radiating beacon of light and hope, and yet you offer me nothing. You are the world’s biggest hype buzz kill. Has it occurred to you that perhaps our ‘primitive weapons’ maybe aren’t as backwards as you think that they are? Or are you simply a publicity whore, looking for all of the glory yourself and not wanting to share kill credit.”

Superman narrowed his eyes at Lex and glared. “You’re a fool.” Superman pulled himself upright and thrust a finger at the carnage that remained on the screen. “You can expect more scenes like this if you try coming after this thing. The more you try to go after it, the more lives will be lost.”

Lex rubbed his lips and then threw up his hands in defeat. “Fine! We mere humans can't do anything, what do you suggest that we do? Tell the citizens of the United States to just roll over and expect to die if they come in contact with this thing?”

In a low voice filled with emotion, Superman responded, “I'm working on finding a solution for the problem. It's mine to take care of.”

“Seems like a big burden, even for you to handle by yourself.” Lex noticed the mans shoulders slump as his eyes seemed glued to the horrific images that flashed before him. “We can help you, you're not alone.”

Superman said nothing.

“Can you give us anything?”

“Yes.”

Lex's eyebrows shot straight upwards. “We'll do anything to help.”

“Quietly order the evacuation of Metropolis. It needs to be empty of citizens in four days.”

The few hairs on the back of Lex's shoulders stood straight up. He suddenly felt cold as he thought for a moment that he smelled fear coming from his indestructible guest. “It's coming here?”

“I believe so.”

“It's coming after you?”

“Yes.”

“In retribution for what your kind did to it in the past?” Lex assumed.

“Yes.”

Superman turned towards the door. A light sheen of rain had begun to tap against the window panes, each drop sounded like a second ticking by on a clock. “Minutes count. It needs to be done quietly. I don't know how savvy this creature is and if it could figure out that people leaving a city far north from where it's currently located that it might indicate that I'm here. We need to get the people out of the city before it arrives. I'm planning on trying to meet up with it before it gets here, but if I miscalculate...we need to be sure that people are safe.”

“Do you agree to allow the military to come in and act as assistance in case there are those who refuse to leave and to offer you back up?”

Cracking the door open, a cold wind rushed through Lex's office. Superman locked his eyes on his old friend and searched them for any signs of ulterior motives that might be lurking behind them. He saw none and only concern.

“I would appreciate the backup.”

With a nod of his chin, Superman was out the door and flew off into the stormy late afternoon.

Lex picked up his phone and dialed it.

“Waller.”

“Get the Joint Chiefs on the line, we're in.”

***************************


 

Chapter 17


Superman spent the better part of the day hovering over Metropolis on traffic control duty as the storm that raged against the city. He put out fires, snatched cars before they spun out of control and into on coming traffic, dumped sand over slick, oily roads to keep motorists safe, and whisked pedestrians out of the way from becoming Metropolis Nightly News roadkill.

It wasn't until evening that he felt secure enough in leaving fate to the citizens of Metropolis when the rain had changed over to howling wind so that he could think about getting some dinner. Fully changed into street clothes. Clark nervously straightened his tie and gave himself a visual one over to make sure that he looked alright and didn’t accidentally put something on backwards or forgot to put something on – raincoat, dress shirt, jeans, dress boots, glasses – wallet in his pocket – he smiled, he hadn’t forgotten anything. Clark arrived at Lois's apartment doorstep slightly damp from the weather, hoping that she'd be interested in catching a bite to eat with him.

With his super hearing he confirmed that Lois was at home by the sound of her footsteps inside. Smiling he knocked on her door. The sight that greeted his eyes was not one that he expected when she threw open the door; clad in a tiny blue and white bikini, Lois dripped from head to toe with sweat.

"Smallville! Oh thank GOD that you're here!"

"What's going on, Lois?" Clark asked, his eyes fixated on her glistening cleavage.

Lois shoved him inside her apartment and immediately he crashed into a wall of blistering heat. Her apartment reeked like the Crows locker-room after a football game. "Why is it so hot in here?"

"My radiator decided that it's the little engine that could. The damned thing won't shut off! I don't know what happened. I came home from my afternoon run and found my apartment like this! Of course my building Supe decided to take this weekend off to visit his mother upstate. I tried calling four repairmen but they want to charge a small fortune to come here after hours on the weekend." Her large hazel eyes scanned his face for his reaction. She begged, "PLEASE tell me that you know how to fix radiators?"

Before Clark could answer, Lois raced around his back and yanked his raincoat off.

"I can certainly look at it," Clark offered. His eyes grew large as she began loosening his tie. "Lo-is? What are you doing?"

"There's no way that I'm letting you get your nice dress shirt all sweat soaked just because you've agreed to help me with my problem. Come on, take it off, Smallville," Lois ordered.

Eye brow arched, Clark smirked. "You sure that this isn't just some elaborate scheme of yours to get me out of my clothes?"

That barb broke through her wall of over-heated frustration, she rolled her eyes and snapped his tie at his knees. "Cheeky." Cocking her head slightly, she added, "It might've been, had I even known that you were coming over...which I didn't, since I had no idea if you got the 600 messages that I left for you. Ever heard of turning on your cell phone? I‘ve been calling you for hours."

“Sorry, Lois. The storm has been playing havoc on my cell service. Looks like I just have a nose for knowing that you were in trouble! So here I am, at your service,” Clark lied. He then grinned as he nimbly unbuttoned his shirt and untucked it from his jeans revealing a tight white undershirt that outlined every muscle on his torso. He placed his shirt on top of his raincoat.

Lois's eyes locked on Clark's broad chest and his bulging arm muscles. She always remembered that Clark was fit when they were teenagers on the farm, but she had no idea that he was packing Uzi sized guns under his coat. Her dazed fixation didn't go unnoticed by Clark whose grin widened as her fingers slowly reached out and traced his ribcage. Her tentative touches sent shockwaves through his system. He felt his breath quicken. Gulping, he asked, "Do you have any tools?"

"What?" Blinking rapidly, Lois jerked herself out of her stupor. She snatched her hands away from his chest and nervously swiped the back of her hand across her forehead which resulted in just moving her sweat around.

"Tools, for the radiator?"

She shook her head to clear out the cobwebs. "Oh yeah...of course, they're over there. I tried fixing it but got nowhere." Mustering up what energy she could she darted ahead of her partner and snatched up two sets of brown objects - one was covered in bright red ladybugs. "Your choice - oven mitts or oversized leather garden gloves?"

Clark plucked the gloves out of her hands and put them on - they fit his massive hands perfectly. "What on earth are you doing with gloves this large?"

"Wrong sized gloves in the package, once open the store refused to refund me for the manufacturer’s screw-up. Nice huh?" Lois rolled her eyes as sweat dripped off of her face and landed on the floor. "God I'm a mess. I've taken four showers since I've come home from my run and I just can't stay cool." She suddenly looked extremely self-conscious. "I must stink something fierce, I sweat the deodorant right off, so much for 24 hour protection."

Settling on the floor next to her blazing radiator, Clark smiled. "Lois I was raised with barn animals, trust me after years of mucking stalls, there are very few smells that bother me." From out of the corner of his eye he saw her hands ball up into fists and she planted them gruffly onto her sides. Realizing that he stepped in a big steaming pile, he back peddled...right into another one. "I didn't mean that you smell like a barn, Lois. I'm just saying that I've smelled worse." He winced and waited for a punch.

Lois dropped her arms. "Oh relax, Smallville. Before you bury yourself any deeper - I know what you meant."

Cheeks burning from embarrassment, Clark studied the radiator. He saw something odd on the wall behind the device. Realizing that Lois was lurking right over him, Clark coughed and then fanned himself. "Would you get me a glass of water, Lois?"

Any and all look of annoyance that might've been on her face melted away. "Oh god, I'm sorry, of course, right back. I might be out of ice though..."

As she raced to the kitchen going off on another tirade about her freezer not making ice and her refrigerator being cold enough to keep leftovers frozen for months, Clark sat up and peered down the backside of the radiator and was startled to discover a row of tiny Kryptonian symbols burned into the wall. They read, "You owe me, cousin. Now get her naked already."

He let out a small laugh at her audacity and shook his head as he mouthed, "Kara."

Suddenly a tall glass of water appeared in front of him. Lois was already downing hers in huge gulps while she patted herself with a wet towel. Clark drunk from his glass and peered over the top of the lip to examine Lois's long legs. He suddenly began to sweat and it had nothing to do with the heat.

"Any idea what's wrong with it?"

Squinting at the old heating device he reached underneath and began to slowly twist on a pressure release valve. "This got knocked or kicked at some point. I’m guessing that there must’ve been some sort of a pressure build up that caused it to malfunction."

“Can you fix it?”

Clark could've tapped it back into place with a flick of his pinky finger but didn't want to show his powers off so he picked up a large wrench and began working on the valve until it twisted down into a locked position. He examined Kara’s handiwork, from what he could tell she loosened the gauge and then likely superheated the oil inside the radiator triggering it to overheat the room. He checked the temperature dial which was blazing at 100 degrees. Once he cooled down the oil, it should go back to normal. The trick would be not do it gradually so that he wouldn’t bring attention to himself.

"Why don't you go turn on your air conditioner and we'll see if turning off the heat will do the trick now, ok?"

Nodding, Lois ran down her hall and shouted back, "Done!"

With Lois out of the room, Clark lightly blew on the radiator and dropped it's temperature by twenty degrees. He removed his glove and gauged that the temperature was already dropping in the room.

Lois ran back into the room and skidded to a stop in front of him. "Did it work?"

Sitting on the floor he smiled and nodded his head while he removed the gloves.

A giant grin stretched over Lois's face and she threw herself at him. Clark caught her slick body in a bear hug. "Thank you so much, Smallville."

Beaming with pride, Clark asked, "So does this earn me that dinner that we keep missing?"

"Absolutely - and I'll even let you treat!" Lois teased back.

Clark flashed her a scandalized expression.

“What? I’m an independent woman with a good job, I can pay for my own meals you know?”

“Yes, Lois, I’m well aware of that. And myself, I’m an old fashioned kind of a guy. I wouldn’t dream of letting you pay.”

Lois suddenly became conscious of Clark's large hands circling her waist and resting on her bare stomach and thigh. She also realized that she was probably sweating right into his jeans. As quickly as she could she extracted herself from his lap and stood up. She offered him a hand and helped Clark to his feet.

“Do you want to clean up first?” she offered.

“No, go ahead, I’ll wait for you.”

“But it’s still boiling in here,” Lois answered, worry wrinkles crinkled above her brow.

“It’s alright, I’ll go stand by your balcony doors where it’s cooler.” Clark smiled at her.

“Thank you, I’m so hot that I‘ve been contemplating ripping off my swim suit in hopes that that would make me cooler.”

Clark shrugged his shoulders. “You know I wouldn’t object if you felt like doing that.”

“I’m sure that you would. Sorry, no peep show for tonight, Smallville.“ Lois smirked, jumped up on her tip-toes, and pecked his cheek before darting off down the hall to shower and clean up.

Beaming, Clark’s hand traced the ghost tickles of where her lips had connected with his skin. It was their first non-co-worker type physical contact. Once he safely heard Lois shut herself into the bathroom, he super inhaled the hot air out of the living room and blew it out her balcony doors. He tested the air. The room’s temperature fell to 78 degrees but it still had a stale odor that lingered throughout. He raced outdoors, shot up into the atmosphere, through the storm clouds, and punctured the calm air above. Once there he filled his lungs with fresh, clean air. After landing back into Lois’s apartment he puffed the crisp air into the room and sniffed, it now smelled fresh rather than sour. Into the howling stormy wind, Clark zipped around Lois’s planters and gathered large armfuls of flowers that he quickly assembled into vases and spread them around her living room. He blew warm air on the flowers to activate their scents. The room now smelled like a meadow instead of a prison block.

Glancing around, he opened the windows on the opposite side of the room. He heard the bathroom door open and Lois wandered out wiping down her hair. She wore a short red satin bathrobe and flip flop bunny slippers.

“Bathroom’s all yo…” Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head when she walked into the living room. She spun in a full 360 degrees circle. “What happened? It’s cool in here!”

Leaning against the back of her couch, Clark shrugged his shoulders. “I opened the windows on the other side of the room and managed to catch a really nice cross-breeze.”

“Stupid, Lois, why didn’t you think of that?” She spied his makeshift bouquets all over the room, spun on her heel and stared at him with wide eyed amazement. “You went out in the storm to make bouquets? Why?”

Clark rounded the couch and sidled up to her side. Placing a finger under her chin so that she was gazing up into his bespeckled eyes, he said,“I wanted the room to smell sweet, like you.” Lois looked at him, unsure of what to do about his overly corny but ridiculously adorable come-on. He then sniffed his own arm. “I unfortunately, do not. I should take you up on that shower.”

Her voice cracked slightly as she said, “Follow me, Smallville.” Grabbing his shirt and tie, Clark followed her down the hall towards the bathroom. She handed him a large red beach towel and Clark headed in to take a shower.

Clearing her throat, Lois quickly changed into jeans and a pale blue fitted sweater. After putting on boots she headed back into the living room. There she closed her window and then she slid her balcony door shut. The temperature in the room was perfect – warm.

She glanced around the room and tested it with her nose. Clark had heavily picked from her lavender, sweet peas, and sunflowers. There was no trace of how it previously smelled like a locker room. As she studied the bouquets – the flowers were placed in assorted hodgepodge messes, but it was the thought that counted. Lois felt her heart swelling and a lump formed in her throat. In all of her life she couldn’t remember anyone being so considerate of her. An hour ago she was on the brink of a massive panic attack and now other than her toolbox sitting on her coffee table with all of the tools neatly put away, you would never have guessed that it had been roasting in her apartment.

Her thoughts betrayed her, she was wrong, Clark had always been considerate of her needs. Repeatedly when she was young he opened his family house to her and forfeited his bed so that she could get a good night’s sleep and sacrificed his own. Long ago, Lois had buried the pain that went along with her best friend abandoning her when he went off on a world trip, soul searching after the loss of his high school sweetheart. She had acclimated herself to losing people after her mother died when she was young. Clark’s departure had hit her harder than she would ever confess to anyone. Couple that with Chloe being cold and cutting her out of her life when she was imprisoned, Lois dove into her work to compensate for losing the only people who she felt that she could confide in.

She plopped herself heavily down on the couch and examined one of the sunflowers - it sparkled with shimmering raindrops that slowly descended onto other flowers below it. She’d always loved sunflowers, they were the one bright flower that she always grew because they reminded her of the Kent farm. The Kents were a dream for her - a family that she didn’t have growing up. Living on the farm, sowing their own soil, eating their own produce, it was a simple existence that Lois admired but knew was never her calling. With her military family background, she was never happy unless she was constantly on the move, meeting new people, seeing new things, and finding out what made places tick.

Never stay in one place long enough to form deep emotional attachments.

Clark’s trip had done him good. When she knew him growing up he was a timid, kind young man who had a knack for knowing exactly what buttons of hers to push to send her off on one of her crazies. Lois touched the sunflower and smiled, she always loved those ridiculous fights of theirs in the end they’d usually end up exhausted with her pouring her guts out to Clark. He never minded and always listened and rarely judged. For all that Clark bugged the heck out of her, he also had an eerie knack of knowing what was wrong with her at all times. He didn’t always know what to say to resolve her problem, but when the chips were down, he always came through with just the right thing to say to make her see at she wasn’t out of the game of life.

She suddenly realized that she wasn’t alone in the room. Her best friend was back in her life. Clark stood in her hallway, slowly putting his tie on, watching her through his glasses. As her eyes locked on him, some emotion that she couldn’t identify stirred inside of her, and for no good reason that she could think of it happening, she felt tears well up in her eyes.

Clark cleared his throat. “Lois, I wanted to thank you for being so considerate of me.”

Slowly standing up, Lois’s eyes flashed over the room in bewilderment. “Me? What are you talking about?”

Buttoning his cuffs, Clark responded, “My shirt…you’re right, I was ready to just jump right in and help with your problem. I would’ve made a mess of it had I kept it on. I wouldn‘t want you to be seen in public with someone who looked like a slob.”

The tears that Lois had been holding at bay released. Suddenly, she felt like she had been fumbling with the wrong key in locked door for years and had finally grabbed the right one and slid it home. As fast as her legs could take her, she raced across the room, threw her arms over Clark’s shoulders and locked her lips tightly against his.

It only took Clark a second to get over this shocking turn of events. He circled her waist and brought her as close to his body as possible. Clark thought that his heart was going to burst clear out of his chest from joy...the first crack in the wall between them had formed. With any luck, he’d soon be able to knock it down entirely; he only hoped that it would happen before it was too late to matter.

************************


 

Chapter 18


If Clark had ever doubted that Lois was Lois was Lois, their truck ride to Fung Wu’s immediately dispelled that worry. From her passenger’s seat Lois spent the entire ride back seat driving at Clark’s navigation skills and yelling at fellow motorists. An occasional well placed hand signal completed the trifecta to the madness that is Lois Lane: loud, always in motion, and always thinking of everyone and everything except herself. Clark grinned from ear to ear throughout the entire trip enjoying coasting along on the wake of the crazy wave that sat to his right.

He parked the truck and jogged around her door to help her out when they reached their destination. However, Lois was already stomping into a puddle right beside her car door. She stared at him with amazement. “Were you going to open the door for me? And do what? Carry me across the puddle?”

“Whatever milady needs, I’m here to please,” Clark offered.

She slammed his door shut and took his offered elbow and stomped into another large puddle. “Chivalry noted Smallville. But all this distressing damsel needs is FOOD! So what is this place?”

Clark goggled his eyes at her in disbelief. “What do you mean? You haven’t been here before?” Fung Wu’s was always Lois’s favorite Chinese joint. Wondering if this was one of those cross-timeline mix-ups he asked, “You do like Chinese food, right?”

“Oh pu-leeze, what kind of a reporter would I be if I didn’t like one of the top take out foods in America?” Lois asked, with bewilderment.

He sighed with relief and made to open the door for her but then abruptly decided against it. Lois barely stopped herself from pancaking right into the wooden barrier. “What? It smells good; I trust your judgment on tasty food, Clark.”

Giving her a stern yet hopeful scowl, he asked, “Will you let me order?”

She arched a brow in his direction and crossed her arms over her chest. “Only if you’ll let me object if I don’t like what you pick,” she countered. “But I do appreciate your asking me first – it’s nice to know that you are already acknowledging who wears the pants in this relationship!”

Clark rolled his eyes and threw the door open. After sitting down and perusing the menu, Clark ordered all of Lois’s favorite dishes and was even more relieved when she demanded that the Mongolian beef be extra spicy. His stare at her when she said it was so intense that she suddenly felt flushed under his obvious desire.

Once the waiter retreated to the kitchen with their order, Lois began fidgeting and found it difficult to meet Clark’s eyes.

“Do you want to talk about what happened back in your apartment?” Clark asked. “Because if it’s bothering you…”

Lois suddenly became very intrigued with the different signs on the Chinese Zodiac on her placemat. Her eyes slowly crept up and found the heat gone from his expression. Clark quietly peered in her direction, fully composed, 100% calm, and collected – the exact opposite of how she felt.

She cleared her throat and took a sip from her water. “I’m not sorry, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
A broad smile formed and spread over Clark’s face. He knotted his fingers together, leaned across the table and met her eyes down low and agreed, “Me neither.” Casually he unlaced his hands and snaked his fingers across the table where he lightly twisted them around hers. Clark watched Lois take a deep breath and fear rise in her eyes as she stared at their fingers. “Lois?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m not expecting anything huge out of the gates here,” he explained. To further get his point across he gently tightened his hold on her fingers. Her eyes met his and they held his determined expression. “We have a lot to catch up on. This is new, for the both of us, I’m happy to go at whatever pace that you’re comfortable at.”

That swooping feeling that Lois experienced in her apartment returned. A relieved smile brightened her face. “How do you do that, Smallville?”

“What?”

“Know exactly what it is that I need to hear to put me at ease?”

“If I told you, you probably wouldn’t believe me,” he muttered, letting go of Lois’s hands, he covered up his comment with taking a sip of hot tea.

Lois narrowed her eyes at him. “Spill, Smallville.”

He flashed puppy-dog, confused eyes her way. “Why would you want me to spill tea all over myself?”

She let out a light laugh. “I meant whatever it is that’s pressing down inside of that big, handsome noggin of yours that you don’t want to tell me, not your drink, silly.”

Clark flashed a cocky smirk and straightened his tie at the knot. “You think that I’m handsome?”

“Less so by the minute if you keep throwing my off-handed compliments to you back in my face,” Lois responded in kind. Seeing that Clark’s playing with his tie had sent it sideways, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at her how cute and dorky he was at the same time.

Clark examined his dinner companion. Her dark hair was pulled back into a clip with wet wisps clinging to her neck. Every bit of him wanted to tell her what he was holding inside, he knew that she’d be able to handle it; unfortunately he still didn’t know where he stood against…himself. That particular annoyance was one that he had no interest in bringing this evening and attempted to keep the conversation steered far away from his heroic alter ego.

He changed tactics. “If you had a big secret that you were dying to tell someone, but you knew that telling that person this secret would put that individual into great danger, would you do it?”

She had just picked up her hot tea mug and halted its rise half way to her lips. “What secret are you worried that I’ll find out, Smallville? The fact that you have a pretty young blond staying at the Kent farm with you?”

Clark’s eyes grew huge and was happy that he wasn‘t currently drinking anything, otherwise he would‘ve choked on it. “How on earth did you find out about Kara?” A sliver of a sly smile spread over her lips. “Oh, Chloe, right?”

“I’m hardly jealous of your cousin, Clark. Unless of course you’re kissing cousins; and if THAT was the case you would certainly be in danger…of the law coming after you.”

Clark’s face screwed up into an appalled, grossed out expression. Lois burst out laughing knowing that such a thing would never even occur to mild mannered, uptight Clark Kent. When she sobered up, she tapped the table. “Actually I met her in my hallway today. For some reason she came to my apartment looking for you. It’s why I left a bazillion messages for you today – I figured you must’ve been on your way to see me.”

Reaching into his pocket, Clark extracted his phone which he’d forgotten to turn on during his Superman duties. He flicked it on and burst out laughing at the forty-six messages waiting for him, all from Lois. “Sorry, I had turned it off when I wasn’t getting a signal earlier today – saving the battery charge you know.” He put the phone aside and bore his green eyes in her direction. “So what did you think of her?”

“She seems ni…wait, why does Chloe know about this mystery cousin and I don’t?”

“She stopped by the farm the other night and met her.”

The waiter stopped by and delivered their flaming poo-poo platter. Lois picked up a beef skewer and put it on the grill over the flickering flame. “She looks like she should be sporting pig tails and wearing lederhosen while frolicking in the Swiss Alps with sheep.”

Clark stuffed a crab rangoon in his mouth and waited until he’d swallowed the melted hot cream cheese before saying, “Her side of the family is from Minnesota. She got all of our Scandinavian genes.”

“Which side of your family is she from?”

Hiding a smirk, he truthfully replied, “My fathers. Speaking of family, what about you? What’s up with Lucy these days?”

Lois savored her hot smoky roasted beef skewer and stated, “Lucy is just great. When Lex was institutionalized his father went through his sons legal dealings and dropped the charges that he had outstanding against my sister. She has since gotten a job, if you’ll believe it, as a sales person for a software company. She has a massive salary and travels the globe.”

“Do you ever get to see her?”

“Sure, she breezes through Metropolis every few months.”

Visions of his erotic dream surfaced in Clark’s head. He quickly stuffed a hot onion ring into his mouth to mask the flush that rose in his cheeks. As casually as he could sound, he innocently inquired, “Does she stay with you?”

She gazed at Clark like he’d suddenly sprouted a second head. “No way, even for a night; we’d kill each other. She’s got a condo that she owns in the Upper East Side. Nothing but the high life for my sister.”

Clark polished off a chicken leg and said, “I don’t know, I prefer what you do. You’ve got a great apartment, an office with an amazing view of the Metropolis skyline, and the world’s most handsome partner that you can flash googly eyes at all day long…”

His snark was rewarded with a balled up napkin being thrown at his face.

“You know, if it’s crowded there at the Kent farm, I might have a solution for you,” Lois offered, steering the conversation back in his direction.

Clark’s brows shot upwards. “Really? What’s that?”

“You didn’t by chance see the building across from my balcony did you, when you were picking flowers? Of course you didn’t, you were too busy not getting rained on…or being fried by lightning. Anyways, it’s an old textile plant that has been converted into office buildings with the top level being a massive loft apartment. The apartment has been fully renovated; I think that they just finished it. It’s got wonderful vintage wooden floors, exposed fixtures…I don’t know, but it rather screams, Clark Kent.”

His stomach slightly dropped that she wasn’t offering up her spare room, but the thought of living right across the street from her was equally appealing. He could keep an eye on her and not seem quite as needy as asking to crash her apartment.

Smiling brightly, Clark said, “That sounds great, Lois. I’ll be sure to check it out.”

“Why don’t we stop by before work tomorrow? I just saw a sign up that it’s for rent. In this city, even in a recession, it won’t be available for long.”

“Sounds like a plan,” he said. The two of them chatted throughout dinner and enjoyed catching up on lost time. Afterwards, Clark took Lois’s hand and walked her back to the truck and drove her home. The evening ended at her apartment’s door. She tried to convince him to stay over due to the storm picking up again, but Clark shrugged it off saying that he had chores to finish on the farm, gave her a light kiss on upturned lips, and agreed to meet up with her at 7:30 to check out the apartment.

As Lois settled in for the night and studied the outline of the dark building from across the street while chewing on her left thumbnail. She found the thought of Clark being just across the street from her very appealing. She didn’t quite understand why, but the thought of having him too far away frightened her. Some dark corner of her mind feared that he might leave her again. She just got him back, she didn‘t know what she’d do if he vanished on her.

“Don’t be silly, Lois. Smallville’s not going anywhere,” she muttered and shut the blinds. No matter how much she tried to convince herself, nagging butterflies twisted her gut in knots. She thought over their dinner conversation, she had kept her game face on the whole night because she didn’t want him to know how happy she was to have him back in her life. She could feel that blanket of smothering loneliness lift off of her shoulders and she began to believe that perhaps light would return to her life. She had laughed, truly laughed for the first time in years tonight. It felt good.

Turning out her lights when she crawled into bed a thought crossed her mind, she realized that she hadn’t thought once of Superman all night. She wondered if she had become so immediately enamored with him because she was projecting her fears onto an unattainable hero who she could pretend would never leave her; then if he did, she would understand - the world needed him more. As she drifted off to sleep, she could still smell Clark’s masculine scent in her nose and the feel of his full, warm lips against hers, and for the first time in days she had someone who wasn’t an unrealistic fantasy to frolic with her in her dreams.

***********************************


Ears still ringing from Kara howling at him that he was a backwards idiot for thinking that moving across the street from Lois was a better idea than being across her hall, Clark stood outside Lois’s door offering bear claws and coffee the next morning. With her hair smartly twisted up on the top of her head and sporting a red dress shirt and khaki pencil skirt, Lois snatched up her raincoat, briefcase, and sprinted ahead of Clark to get the day started, juggling her coffee and breakfast.

Weaving through loud Monday morning traffic and dodging puddles, Lois and Clark pounded on the door of the rental office of the former Downsend’s Textile Company. A smartly dressed African American woman with a name badge that read “Ms. Palmer” opened the door and ushered them inside and was thrilled to hear that Clark was interested in the loft apartment. “The rest of the building has been converted into office buildings, but we just couldn’t bare that top floor being used for a business and converted it into living space instead. We were just about to put an ad out today for it, if you want it, I’ll take the cost of the ad right out of your first month’s rent for the trouble that you’ll save us.”

Liking how the day was going already, Clark and Lois followed Ms. Palmer up to the top floor in a freight elevator. When she unlocked the large steel and wood door for the loft, both Lois and Clark’s eyes lit up at the sight before them. The loft was vast. It was divided up with a single wall that ran through the center of the loft. The wall divided the place into rooms and housed all of the plumbing in the apartment. The bathroom was located directly to their right when they walked inside. Along the same dividing wall as the kitchen. The bathroom which had a glass shower and recycled copper fixtures over the sink and toilet opened up on the opposite side of the kitchen wall into what would be an ideal bedroom area.

Across from the kitchen was a large open area that could easily fit a dining room table, a living room, and office. Off of the bathroom was a single giant closet. Half of the loft had windows surrounding it that ran from the bedroom side around to the northern corner. Three of the windows were covered in vintage stained glass art deco designs. The non-window side of the loft had exposed brick walls and exposed pipes that raced across the roof. Clark examined the newly restored wood floors. They occasionally were pitted with deep round grooves where old equipment had spent years settling down on them. None of the indentations would cause a person to trip on them since the floors had been recently polished and sanded down.

Both Lois and Clark then spied a door at the far northern corner of the apartment. Ms. Palmer smiled and told them to open it. Clark found a hidden stairwell behind it that lurked behind the door that led straight up to another locked door. Ms. Palmer handed him the key, when Clark flung the door open he found himself up on a giant rooftop. Brisk morning wind ripped through his hair and raincoat. Lois tucked her hand over her eyes as she spun and examined the 360 degrees view.

“Wow!” she said into the wind. “You can almost see Smallville from up here.”

Clark peered off towards the west and realized that Lois was correct. From the rooftop you could see the entire city. The wind carried the fresh salty scent of the bay on it.

“Does the roof access come with the apartment?” Lois asked.

“Yes. We put up the safety railings, so it’s considered in a way to be a bonus room.”

Lois placed a hand on his chest and wrapped her other arm around his back. Peering into his eyes she said, “My building doesn’t even have roof access, Clark. Can you imagine gazing at the stars from up here?”

A smile spread over Clark’s face while his heart swelled, Lois knew him so well. Circling his arm tightly around his beloved he gave the view a final once over. Even on the cloudy, post-storm morning, he could still see for miles in all directions. This place would be perfect for him to spot trouble anywhere within Metropolis.

Heart bursting with happiness, he stated, “I’ll take it!”

******************************


Chapter 19


The sun finally burst through the clouds and the gray clouds began their reluctant retreat leaving Metropolis in a radiant glow. Clark and Lois drove through the city towards The Daily Planet with Lois providing decorating advice to her partner for his new apartment. When they were three blocks away from work Clark spied Jimmy walking to the office. He pulled over and the photographer crammed into Clark’s truck cab.

At a stop light, Lois groaned about being stuck by the gearshifts when she spied four military grade Hummers driving through the middle of the intersection.

“Turn left, Smallville!”

“Why?”

“Follow those trucks!”

Jimmy stared quizzically at the two reporters. “Since when does a sighting of a few random military vehicles warrant a full scale investigation?”

Lois burned an annoyed glare in his direction. “Call it a hunch.” Clark followed her instructions, knowing full well why the trucks were in the city. They shadowed the convoy for twenty blocks until it turned into an older residential area of the city that was just south of Suicide Slums. The area was heavily crammed with middle class family housing that dated back to the fifties.

As they passed one large public structure Clark abruptly put on the breaks and pulled over. The three of them exited onto a very empty street. Jimmy began snapping photos and asked, “Where did they all go?”

At 9:30am in the morning, Hoover Middle School should’ve had its playground teeming with children if not at recess then there should’ve been a PE session in progress. The only movements in the school yard were the tetherballs that lightly tapped against their polls in the light morning wind waiting to be punched. Clark’s super-hearing picked up nothing inside the buildings.

“It’s not a national holiday,” Lois observed. “Why aren’t there any kids in school?”

Clark examined the houses across the street. “There aren’t even any dogs barking around here.”

Jimmy and Lois joined his side and realized that every house on the street had empty driveways.

Snapping photos, Jimmy stated, “There should be soccer mom vans all over this block. Where are they?”

The trio piled into the truck and headed deeper into the residential grid. They finally stumbled upon an older part of the city with some of the last neighborhoods that predominantly consisted of family run businesses. All of them had dark windows with closed signs hanging on their doors.

Lois saw something on the ground outside of a local deli. She jumped out of the truck to pick it up. When Clark and Jimmy arrived at her side they found themselves looking at a well loved stuffed bunny.

“No way that this would’ve been left behind unless the family left in a hurry.” Lois felt chills race through down her spine that had nothing to do with the wind that rustled through Jimmy’s curly hair. The street was eerily quiet with only the distant hum of traffic coming from the other grids of the city.

“Everyone is gone, but why?” Jimmy asked.

As if in answer to his question, the growl of a Hummer pierced the air and barreled through a cross street four lanes up from their position.

Jimmy caught a photo of it before it vanished from view. Behind the Hummer they watched two SUV’s and a small car cross the intersection along with two Hummers that brought up the rear.

“The military is moving the citizens out, why?” Lois asked, placing the bunny safely next to the closest closed doorway.

Clark grabbed her shoulder and the three of them raced back to the truck and made to follow the convoy. Clark dodged through side streets so that the military vehicles wouldn’t catch their tail. As they approached the outermost suburbs, Clark abruptly turned the truck into a driveway and killed the engine. Jimmy threw his super telephoto lens on his camera and aimed it down the street.

“What do you see, Olsen?” Lois asked.

“Roadblocks. Army guys are patrolling them with large rifles. The cars are being allowed through the roadblocks,” he reported.

“What’s at the end of this street?” Clark asked.

“Doesn’t look like anything except a giant set of warehouses,” Jimmy told them. He threw his camera back up and began firing off some shots. “Hold on something is coming through the barricade…it’s a bus that looks like it’s full of people.”

“Military?”

“Nope, civilians.”

Lois crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. “Looks like a standard military disaster preparation center. They’re likely cataloging the people and are then shipping them off to god only knows where.”

“Do you want to try to talk to the servicemen?” Clark offered, knowing that it was probably better to ask than to assume anything with his partner.

“Not a good tactical move, Smallville unless we want to find ourselves shipped out as well. I’ve got a better idea. Let’s go back, I know someone who we can get answers from,” Lois replied.

Clark waited until the military servicemen were occupied with dealing with another bus before he pulled out and headed back towards the city.

*********************************


Jimmy watched in amazement at Clark as he wolfed down his second 12” roast beef sub while they all sat around a table at Tony’s Sub Shoppe waiting for Lois’s source to arrive. Lois’s eyes glued themselves to the door. She absently sucked down on her diet coke and didn’t taste her turkey sandwich but simply ate it in a mechanical way to burn off nervous energy.

Clark grinned. “This might be the best roast beef that I’ve ever had.”

“I now see why it is that you’re as big as you are, CK. How is it that you don’t weigh like 400 pounds eating like that?”

Smiling brightly, Clark replied, “Chasing after Lois all day is a great exercise program. She helps me to maintain my girly figure.”

Lois didn’t even hear Clark’s comment, her eyes remained fixed on the door.

“You’re nuts, CK.” Yanking his eyes off of his happy friend, Jimmy asked, “Are you sure that he’ll be here? You didn’t even call…”

“Trust me, Olsen. He comes in here every day.”

“But if there are big things happening…”

She ripped her eyes off of the door and glared at the photographer. The bell over the door tinkled and in walked a portly, balding beat cop.

“Banks!”

The cop had been smiling at the pretty young blond behind the counter. The sound of Lois’s voice made his smile fall. “Lane…” he glanced at the floor nervously. He shuffled her way and said in a low voice, “I already told you that I don’t get paid until next week.”

Lois’s brows wrinkled together in confusion. “What? Oh, no, I know that you’re good for it, that’s not why I’m here.”

Clark and Jimmy watched on with interest as Lois worked her source. She made the policeman sit at their table and introduced him to her partner and colleague. Rapidly she told him what they saw today and asked, “I know that you’re always on top of the gossip at the station…what’s going on?”

Sweat beads burst onto the beat cop’s upper lip. He wiped it off and flashed a pleading expression. “I could lose my job, I’m sorry Lois.”

She shook her head and spread out her hands. “I promise, God’s truth, I won’t name you as a source.”

Roger flashed an unconvinced scowl. “They know that you’re a part of our Friday poker game, Lane. They’ll know where the info came from.”

“No one is going to nark on you, trust me. I’ve got more dirt on all of your buddies than they would EVER want me leaking to our gossip section of the paper. They’ll leave you alone,” Lois promised.

“You won’t name me?”

“How would that help me, Banks? You’ll never talk to me again if I did,” Lois explained.

Clark leaned across the table and slammed home the last nail in the coffin. “You know if Superman can trust her with his secrets, I think you can be pretty certain in knowing that yours are safe with hers as well.”

Banks let out a long sigh. In a low voice he revealed, “Metropolis police are working with the military to clear out the city. It’s all very hush hush. Apparently they want to keep it under wraps from the media for as long as earthly possible as to not create panic.”

“Why would they do that?” Lois wondered.

Her source peered around the empty shop and leaned forward and whispered, “I’ve heard that they’re worried about IT coming to Metropolis.”

“It?”

The fat man nodded his head so fast that his chin wobbled on its own long after he had stopped.

“It - what, Roger?”

“The Senator’s creature.”

Lois’s annoyed expression froze and turned to horror. She remembered Superman’s warning her about leaving the city. “Thank you, Roger.” She reached into her purse and handed him a twenty. “Have lunch on me.”

The cop couldn’t get up fast enough. Lois leaned across the table and confessed, “Superman warned me that he was worried that the creature might target Metropolis.”

“Why?” Jimmy asked.

“Because he’s here,” Clark answered. “It’s after Superman, isn’t it, Lois?”

Her eyes filled with worry as a lump formed in her throat. She nodded her head.

Clark leaned back in his chair, and provided a nice calculated identity diverting observation, “He didn’t take our advice. He’s working with Lex.”

For the life of her, Lois could find no reason for this happening. “Why would he do that?”

Jimmy finished off his grilled cheese and stated, “Maybe he thinks that he can’t handle this beast on his own.” Both Lois and Clark glared at Jimmy; who immediately felt like a bug under a spy glass. “What? Can’t superheroes ask for help?”

A sliver of a smile found its way on Clark’s lips. “Sure they can, Jimmy. We’re just unsure that Lex is the right person to trust.”

“Well you both made an excellent case for his not trusting the Senator’s motives…I’m sure that thanks to your article he didn’t go into this blindly,” Jimmy said.

“It is his job to protect the people of Metropolis.” Lois swallowed hard. “Buck it up, Smallville and let’s put our hurt pride aside. He’s thinking of the greater good.”

“So what are you guys going to do? This is a huge story,” Jimmy pointed out.

“That will risk putting people’s lives at risk if it comes out!” Lois cried. “People will panic. Rather than calmly follow the military, they won’t be thinking straight…people can die once mob mentality is unleashed.”

“Let’s go back and write the article but sit on it for a day. We can give them an extra 24 hours to clear as many citizens out of Metropolis as possible,” Clark offered.

“By tomorrow evening the remaining people will suspect something anyways when people stop coming in to work. We’ll get Chief to run it then,” Lois added.

Unanimously they stood up and exited the sub Shoppe and returned to work plan in hand.

****************************


“You two expect me to sit on top of a military cover-up story that will sell thousands of papers? Do you both know that if we go along with your idea, there will be hundreds if not thousands fewer people in Metropolis to buy them by the time the story hit’s the stands? At that point they won’t be interested in the news, because they ARE the news! ”

“Chief, we’re just thinking about people’s safety,” Clark countered.

“That’s the job of the police, not a reporter Kent! And DON’T call me CHIEF!”

Perry paced his office with a frown deeply creased on his face. Sitting heavily down, he said, “Fine, I’ll wait…BUT you need to get a big fish on the hook. Either you get Superman to directly support this, or you get the Senator to fess up.”

Lois laughed. “Senator Luther would never admit anything to us.”

“Well then I’m sure that Superman will be happy to provide you with all of the delicious quotes that you can possibly ever need to win a Pulitzer,” Perry countered.

“I don’t know how to find him, Perry!”

Her boss flashed a toothy grin. “You’re his favorite reporter, Lane. I’m sure that you’ll figure out some way to get his attention. Now GET OUT OF MY OFFICE AND GET TO WORK!”

As they shut the door behind him, Clark gulped. “That went well, don’t you think?”

“Sure, Smallville. Any ideas on how to flag down a Superhero?”

“Not really, if I think of any, I’ll let you know.”

Lois sighed. The day just went from rainy to sunny to crappy. She could only hope that the forecast would improve soon, she didn‘t want to think how it could get any worse.

***************************


Chapter 20


Lois stared out of her office window, her eyes scanned the sky in vain hoping to catch a glimpse of Metropolis’s superhero.

“Is it my imagination or does it even seem quieter out there?” she asked.

From his desk chair, Clark shrugged his shoulders. “It must be the fewer people on the roads.”

“I suppose you tried Lex’s office?” Lois inquired.

“His staff says that he went out of town suddenly this morning. He’s expected back tomorrow,” Clark replied. He opened up a link to one of Oliver’s satellite trackers and watched it as it zeroed in on the Black Creek facility and tracked it for heat signatures. He didn’t see anything different than earlier. He had no idea where Lex might’ve run off to.

Abruptly, he pulled back in his chair and stood up. “I think that we need caffeine, want me to get you anything?”

“Sure, Smallville.”

Clark chewed the inside of his mouth and stated, “You know, I bet that you’d get a better view of the city from the rooftop…you know, to look for Superman?”

Lois turned to him and cocked her head in surprise. “That’s a great idea.”

Hiding a smile, Clark exited the office and waited while Lois bolted up the stairs to the roof access before he dashed up the elevator shaft, changing mid flight.

The daylight had begun to recede towards the horizon and Lois rubbed her arms against the chilly evening air. She deeply inhaled the scents from the roof. The air smelled slightly of salt but was fresh from last night’s rain. The usual sounds of the city hummed below. As she peered over the ledge the bridge appeared to be as crowded as usual. So far the evacuations hadn’t affected normal evening traffic flow. With her eyes trained in that direction she spied movement in the air. From the distance it almost looked like a colorful bird. It swooped down, plucked a pedestrian out of the middle of the road and deposited it onto the sidewalk right as a car braked to a quick stop.

She smiled broadly. Loudly, she shouted, “Nice catch, Superman!” Her eyes widened as the caped superhero quickly turned his head in her direction. Lois’s breath caught in her throat as he suddenly appeared on the ledge smiling down at her.

“Thank you, Miss Lane,” Superman replied.

Lois pulled a face. “For what?”

“Your compliment.”

“You heard that?” she asked, incredulously.

“Of course, it’s how I knew that you were up here,” he coyly said. “I’m glad to see that you didn’t catch a cold yesterday. I take it you got home in plenty of time?”

Lois felt her hands go slick as her nerves picked up again. She no longer felt cold. “Yes, thank you.”

Superman smiled at her. “Is there anything that I can do for you, Miss Lane?”

Shaking the cobwebs from her head, Lois nodded. “I was wondering if you knew anything about the evacuations going on around the city. Are you working with the Senator on this?”

Superman studied Lois. Her hair had since fallen out of it’s twist and was now tied back into a curly ponytail. Clark loved her hair when it looked messy. “I did ask for Senator Luther’s help with the evacuations. I am only one man, there isn’t a lot of time for me to try to convince a whole city of people to leave their homes.” He paced the rooftop. “Had I held a press conference, people would’ve panicked and I would’ve had even more problems on my hand then the coming battle.”

“Coming battle?” Fear filled Lois’s eyes. “So you fully believe that the creature is coming here for you?”

Superman held Lois’s eyes. “I do.”

“Oh god. What are you going to do?”

“I’m working on a plan of attack. Right now getting everyone out of the city safely is my top priority. The last thing that I want is to have citizens in the line of fire. I don’t think that I could bear it if anyone perished when I had a chance to get them out of Metropolis,” Superman said. Clark’s own fear crept up in his eyes.

“What can I do to help?” Lois asked. Approaching Superman, she lightly touched his arm.

Gently Clark covered his hand over hers, hoping that he could give her some strength that he himself did not feel in order to tide her fears. “About a third of the city has been evacuated, you can tell the rest of the city what’s going on. I think that there are now enough fewer people that they should be able to vacate it without causing too many riots or trouble.” He gazed into her eyes and saw that she had tears in them. “What’s wrong?”

Her thoughts returned to her enjoying the idea of having Clark living across the street from her. “And to think, I was so happy this morning. I somehow convinced myself that the future might be bright and cheerful…hopeful.”

Superman held her hand tightly. “Well I’m not ready to just lay down and die for this creature. It’s coming to my turf, I’ll have the home field advantage over it.”

“But you don’t know if you can defeat it?”

“I’m working on that. Speaking of which, I have planning to do. Please heed my advice, Miss Lane. If or when the creature shows up, please keep yourself at a safe distance from it,” Superman reminded her. With a squeeze of her hand he shot up in the air and took off.

Lois rubbed her arms together and searched the sky for answers that were not there. She then heard the door open and Clark came out juggling a tray off coffees. He handed one to her and asked, “Did I miss him?”

“Yes.”

“Really? Darn it! What did he say?” Clark asked.

“He said that the threat is real and that we should run our story.” Lois turned her red eyes in Clark’s direction. “In a few days, Superman might die.”

Clark circled his arm around her shoulder and she snuggled into his warm embrace. With more truth behind his words than Lois would know, he said, “Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen.”

**************************

After they got their story written and stamped with Perry’s approval, Clark told Lois that he was going to pack up his truck and start moving into his new apartment. They made plans to meet up so that she could help him.

Before going back to the Kent farm, Clark stopped at Watchtower to see what progress the team was making with coming up with a plan of attack.

Kara, Chloe, and Oliver sat around a war table with Bart spinning around them in wheelchair.

“Hey guys, how’re things going?” Clark asked.

Chloe brought up a giant grid of the city. She had large areas in yellow. “These areas have been evacuated. Your story should get the rest of the city cleared out by evening tomorrow.”

“I’m officially the only citizen in Metropolis who will actually be moving INTO an apartment tonight,” Clark said.

“Why are you doing that, exactly?” Oliver asked. “Have you paid your rent in advance in case you croak?”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Chalk it up to me praying for the outcome that I want out of this confrontation and that I’ll have somewhere close by to put up my feet and recover,” Clark answered.

Chloe glared at Oliver. He shrugged. “Look big guy, I’m all for rallying for a win here, but we’ve been going over stuff and haven’t gotten very far in figuring out a game plan.”

Clark met Kara’s eyes. “Kara, there must be something that you can think of. Did the creature ever come across Kryptonians who had powers under the Yellow Sun? Could our powers possibly alone destabilize it somehow?”

Sighing, Kara replied, “Unknown. I even asked J’onn and he has no knowledge on the subject.”

Feeling slightly better, Clark stated, “So it’s possible….”

“Yeah, I guess. But I’m not about to pour all of my hopes into something that ‘might’ be possible. Those scientists who created Doomsday were vile, wicked men, I’m quite sure that they tested that - but who knows,” Kara answered in an annoyed, frustrated tone.

“I’m sorry that I haven’t been here brainstorming with you,” Clark said, sensing that possibly her current mental state was projected in his direction.

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t do that, Kal-El.”

“Do what?”

“Take on the entire responsibility of this problem as your own. I’d like to think that even though I spent years in stasis that I can still use my upper brain functions to develop a plan of attack for the two of us to follow without needing your help,” Kara spat.

Clark gripped her shoulder and lightly massaged her back with his thumb, hoping to help her to relax. “I have complete faith in you Kara, you know that.” He pushed his glasses up his nose and studied the city grid closely. “So what have you all thought out so far.”

“Mostly, we’ve just found good strategic places to set up look-out base camps,” Oliver stated. Chloe highlighted the buildings that had the best vantage points with easy close together roof access for quick getaways.

“Lex Luther offered military grade weapons to assist,” Clark said.

Kara shook her head. “Without being able to look over the inventory, I don’t know if any of them would be useful or not.”

“What if Clark can get you access? He and the Senator used to be buddies,” Bart suggested. “I’m sure that he could hook you up with the intel.”

Kara’s brows shot upwards. “It would be worth a shot if you could pull it off, cousin.”

“I tried calling Lex today - he’s out of town,” Clark said, not knowing how much he liked the idea of introducing his cousin to a former crazy man.

“Maybe he’s gathering support in Washington on what weapons he can offer. Make the meeting happen, cousin,” Kara ordered.

Clark stared evenly into her large blue eyes and saw conviction in them. She said, “It’s possible that they have things in their arsenal that we haven’t seen before.”

He crossed his arms over his chest authoritatively. “And you’ll know that for certain?”

“Clark, my father was a military commander and scientist, I know more about munitions that probably all of your world’s greatest military geniuses combined.”

“Ok, I’ll see what I can do,” Clark replied.

“Just make it quick. If they don’t have anything that I might think will be useful, we need to go back to thinking again.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice. I know the tight schedule that we’re under,” Clark replied. With a tip of his fingers to his brow he made to leave.

“Oh cousin?”

“Yes, Kara?”

“I took the liberty of clearing your room out and packing a moving truck for you this morning. You’re ready to move into your new apartment.” She smiled like a cat ready to pounce on a mouse.

“And how long before you completely took over my bedroom?”

“Oh that was done in twenty minutes. Somehow I doubt that you’ll ever want to return to it,” she cooed.

“Why?”

“I painted it hot pink and black.”

Rolling his eyes, Clark made his exit of Watchtower leaving everyone dumbfounded over why Kara suddenly became afflicted with a massive fit of the giggles.

**************************


Chapter 21

Lois darted through traffic and raced up the ramp of Clark’s moving truck. Her eyes grew wide as she examined the amount of stuff that he’d crammed into the truck.

“Smallville, is there any furniture left at the Kent farm?” she asked to her hoodie covered t-shirt clad partner.

Smiling, Clark replied, “My cousin was desperate to get her hooks into my bedroom. I think that she must’ve emptied half of Mom and Dad’s house out.”

She examined the remaining furniture that sat in the truck and asked, “Is that your couch from your barn?”

“Yeah she emptied out my space up there. Looks like I’ll definitely have a piece of the Kent farm here in Metropolis,” Clark proudly stated as Lois scrambled over the couch to pick up the inside end.

“That’s great, Smallville. Just so long as it doesn’t smell like it came from there,” Lois replied, wrinkling her nose and hoping that it didn‘t smell like cow poop.

Clark laughed as he walked backwards down the ramp. From his end he absorbed most of the weight of the couch, leaving it up to Lois to just deal w/ awkwardly carrying her end of the large piece of furniture.

“This thing is strangely lighter than I would’ve expected,” Lois stated as she marched down the ramp and followed Clark inside the building to the freight elevator where they put the couch down beside several large piles of boxes and a squashy red arm chair.

After filling the elevator with a few more items from the van, Clark locked it and they headed up to his loft. Lois peered over Clark’s shoulder and was startled to see that the apartment already was piled with boxes and assorted pieces of furniture. After they put the couch down in the middle of the proposed living room area, she asked, “How did you get all of this stuff up here already?”

“Kara and a couple of her friends dropped it off earlier today and began unpacking it for me,” he lied, knowing full well that he’d emptied half of the truck in about two minutes upon his arrival.

“Where did they go off to?”

“The mall - my cousin has the attention span of a gnat sometimes,” Clark replied.

Both pushed up their sleeves and worked for two and a half hours straight to empty the truck. Before the last load was emptied, Clark called in a pizza order just as they had managed to dump the last boxes off inside his apartment.

Lois flopped onto the couch, her arms dropped like lead pipes down at her sides. Clark pulled up an ottoman and yanked her tennis shoes off and began massaging her feet.

A low, happy groan escaped from Lois’s lips. Her smile broadened as his hands moved up to her calves and began kneading her muscles through her work out pants. Clark had just started moving up to her thighs when his door buzzed. Lois groaned in protest at the noise.

“Pizza,” he said, stood up and extracted his wallet from his pocket. Taking his order from the delivery guy he paid him and then came back inside.

Lois had a blissed out smile on her face. “I might be too relaxed to move.”

“You don’t have to, I’ll bring the food to you,” Clark offered. He dug open some boxes and located a couple of plates. The delivery man had brought soda in cans so he brought a couple of them over. After handing her a plate with three slices on it, Clark sat beside her on the couch.

Lois accepted the food and wolfed her pizza down, having realized that the exercise had amped up her appetite.

“I wanted to thank you, Lois. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten all of this done without your help,” Clark said, grinning in her direction.

“Well it would’ve taken you until Christmas but I‘m pretty confident that you could‘ve emptied that truck by yourself. But you’re welcome. I’m happy to help my new neighbor,” Lois replied. Her nerves suddenly tightened up and her cheeks flushed.

“What’s wrong?” Clark asked, noting her sudden downcast eyes.

“Do you realize that in a few days, Superman might be gone? In fact if this creature is as powerful as Superman says that he is, we all might be gone,” Lois said.

Disturbed by her line of reasoning, Clark shook his head. “Lois, what are you talking about? I’m sure that Superman will do everything in his power to keep any fight that he might have with that beast away from civilians. So long as we stay out of the line of fire, we’ll be fine.”

Her eyes scanned his apartment then locked onto his eyes. “You know better than that, Clark. We’re reporters. This will be a story of a lifetime.”

“Lo-is…”

“How will we be able to report on it if we don’t see what happens?” She saw the fear rise in his eyes. “Don’t worry, Smallville. I plan to give our local superhero a wide berth, but if we want that story of the century, we’re going to have to get as close as we can to the action. If you’re worried about the danger, I promise that I’ll protect you.” Clark really didn’t like the twinkle that began to sparkle in her eyes. “Are you with me?”

Putting their plates aside, Clark took her hands and held them tight. “Lois, didn’t Superman warn you to stay away from the fight?”

“Oh pu-leaze. When have you ever known me to follow anyone’s orders?”

The pizza suddenly crashed like two ton boulders hitting Clark’s stomach. “Why would you want to see that, Lois? What happens if…if…” he choked on the words. “What if he doesn’t make it?”

Lois gulped. “A part of being an objective reporter is being willing to report terrible news along with good news Clark. Besides, we can’t think like that. This is Superman we’re talking about. I have faith in him that he’ll save us from that creature…and himself.”

Not having an answer for that, Clark took her shoulders and pulled her into his lap. Lois snuggled into his broad arms. Sweat from the workout of the move had heightened the scent of her fruity shampoo that mingled with the earthiness of his leather couch. Clark inhaled the combined scents allowing his brain to create a memory, an olfactory reminder of what he was living for.

“I missed you, Lois. All of those years that I was away.” Clark replied. “I didn’t realize until I was gone how much it was that I had relied on your advice to talk me though my problems.”

“You didn’t write me, or call me, though,” Lois stated, with a hint of sadness.

“No. I was in a bad, dark place. Anyone or anything that reminded me of home, I avoided at all costs,” he answered.

“I understand. The urge to run away from your problems? I’ve done that my entire life,” Lois admitted.

“You’re an incredibly strong woman, Lois. I can’t see you ever running away from your problems.”

Tugging slightly on his shirt, Lois inhaled Clark’s masculine scent. “I’m not as strong as you think that I am.”

Clark slightly pushed her away and then cupped her face in his large hands. “Don’t tell me that , I get most of my strength from you.”

“We really might be in trouble then,” Lois said, with a sad smile on her face.

Heart pounding in his chest, Clark gently lowered his face to hers and brushed his lips tenderly against hers. Before she could attempt to deepen their kiss he pulled away and brushed her cheeks with his thumbs. “I promise you, Lois, whatever strength you feel like you don’t have, I will find it in myself to share it with you.”

Her large hazel eyes searched his face and saw only deep sincerity and love. Gently she pulled his glasses off from his face and straddled his lap. Before Clark could get his head around the change in her position she descended upon his lips. Quickly Clark spread his hands across her back and pushed her as close to him as possible hoping that somehow the simple act could merge them into being one person. Lois lightly tickled his lips with the tip of her tongue and Clark obliged with her unspoken request for more access. Their kiss deepened as Clark’s hands roamed on her back. He felt his head swim as her fingers dug into hair and began to tug on it to maneuver his head in a way that allowed her better access to his mouth. Unconsciously their bodies began swaying in unison. When Lois felt herself getting slightly dizzy from the lack of oxygen she let go of their kiss and threw her arms up in the air. Clark grabbed the edges of her shirt and lifted it over her head. With reverence he lightly caressed the inside of her cleavage as he brought his hand down. Oh how he’d missed every perfect curve of her body.

She arched a brow in his direction and he followed mimicked her move. Lois ripped his shirt off leaving his hair sticking out in all directions. Clark then pushed himself down the couch, keeping Lois on top of him handing her the driver’s wheel. Straddling Clark’s lap, Lois rubbed her hands across his expansive chest and touched his rock hard chest muscles.

With a seductively sly smirk she whispered, “Milk, it sure does a body good.”

Clark wrapped her up in his arms and she captured his lips again. They had just become a tangled web of legs and arms when Clark’s back pants pocket began buzzing.

“Ignore it,” Lois ordered, as her fingers moved to his belt to unlatch it and distracted him by kissing him even deeper.

As much as he hated to do it, Clark yanked his cellphone out of his pocket and flipped it open to check the caller id. With his right eye popped open he attempted to see through Lois’s bangs. Abruptly he jerked free of Lois’s hot lips and cursed, “Damn.” Flicking the phone on, Clark cleared his throat. “Hey Chief, what’s up?”

“What’s up? Have you at all looked outside? Thanks to your little story, chaos has erupted in Metropolis. Looting and rioting has begun! And Superman appears to be nowhere to be found!”

Startled Clark sat upright with Lois pushing herself off of his legs. Her eyes wide with anticipation.

“We’re on it, Chief.” He snapped his phone shut. With pleading and apologetic eyes he reported, “Work calls.”

****************************

After quickly dressing and driving as close as they could to The Daily Planet Clark and Lois found Jimmy snapping photos of a city gone berzerk. They watched in stunned amazement as the normally sedate citizens of Metropolis raced in every direction like chickens being chased by a fox in a henhouse. Around them lay wreckage of multiple car accidents and papers flying everywhere from looters gone amuk. Flanking groups of police crowd control patrols began entering into the mix trying to bring some order to the screaming crowd.

“What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they realize that making this kind of a ruckus will only get the creatures attention and bring it here even sooner?” Lois asked while Jimmy fired off shots of the crowds.

“There’s no reasoning with the mob mentality, Lois,” Clark explained. “I’ll be right back.”

Lois turned around to ask him where he was going only to realize that she was talking to empty air.

Suddenly from out of the sky, Superman plummeted and landed hard on top of an overturned truck and spoke into a blowhorn. “Citizens of Metropolis, heed my words.”

The intense screaming and shouting that filled the air suddenly all died down. Everyone stopped with their running and stared at the caped superhero.

In his hand, Superman held up a copy of The Daily Planet showing off Lois and Clark’s story on the front page. “Please, do not be alarmed. This wasn’t meant as a warning that this possible attack was imminent. It was meant as a warning to ask you all to quietly leave the city in an orderly manner. Panicking will only draw its attention to this place and could bring it here even sooner.” A woman grabbed her daughter and clung to her for dear life.

“Why didn’t you warn all of us before?” a terrified woman shouted from the crowd. Others voiced their agreement to the question.

“Perhaps I had faith that the good citizens of Metropolis wouldn’t de-evolve into animals upon receiving our warning. Not to mention I know that times are rough, most of you will want to earn every last dollar that you can before you’d have to evacuate the city.”

“How do you even know that it‘s coming here?”

Anger boiled in Lois’s veins. Unable to deal with the mob’s stupidity she broke her way through the crowd and demanded, “What is wrong with you people? Do you really think that Superman would’ve allowed us to run this story if he didn’t believe it to be true?”

From over her head, Superman pleaded, “Go home each of you and pack. I’ll clear the roads for you so that you all can leave in an orderly manner.”

Police Chief McGinnis appeared at Lois’s side and blared into his own horn. “The police are ready to assist in any way that we can to get you all out of the city safely. Please, follow Superman’s advice. And from this moment on - any sign of further looting will get you thrown immediately into jail!”

As quickly as the crowd appeared it dispersed. Jimmy ran up to Lois’s side. “Well that could’ve gone better.”

Superman nodded to the Police Chief and rapidly flew around the city and began cleaning up the debris left behind. In no time other than some remaining smoke and the stench of panic that still lingered on the air, you never would’ve known that the city had been close to ripping itself to pieces.

Lois shook her head and nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned around to find Clark standing behind her holding a pad of paper and a pen. “What did I miss?”

“EVERYTHING! Smallville, you have the worst knack for picking the wrong moments to take off for the dumbest reasons,” Lois scolded.

“But I got some quotes from those fine officers over there on what they were doing to keep the crowd at bay during the riot,” Clark protested.

She sighed and snapped, “Come Clark, we have another story to write.”

Lois stormed ahead of them. Jimmy arched a brow in Clark’s direction and made a swishing motion with his wrist. “Puu-cheee! Better not keep the little woman waiting, CK.”

“Knock it off,” Clark kidded, grinned, and dashed after Lois.

***************************

After cranking out yet another headliner of a story, Clark walked Lois back to her apartment, gave her a kiss at the door, and retreated back to his new apartment. Luckily no one had gotten seriously hurt during the riots but that didn’t stop him from feeling horrible about being otherwise engaged and not hearing the people’s panicked cries for help.

Clark quickly sifted through his boxes and put his bedroom, kitchen, and most of his living room together. As much as he would’ve liked to have gotten all of the work done, he didn’t need to draw Lois’s suspicions by having his entire apartment set up in one night.

From one of Kara’s hastily packed boxes, he extracted a cigar box that had once belonged to Lois’s father. Flipping it open he found some old photos from High School. He stopped on one that had him and Lois playing basketball outside of his barn. Clark was protecting the ball and Lois was crawling all over him trying to get it away from him. A large smile spread over his lips. It wasn’t exactly a perfect “couple” type of a portrait, but for now it would serve as a beginning point of photos to frame. Mentally he reminded himself to ask Jimmy to take some photos of them together. Snapping the box shut, he rubbed the heels of his hands over his eyes and realized that he needed sleep. After showering, Clark emerged out of his bathroom, wearing black sweat pants and began folding down the sheets on his bed.

His eyes immediately darted across the street to Lois’s balcony. His heart skipped a beat when he saw her sitting in her patio chair sipping a cup of tea. She wore a flannel bathrobe and slippers. Suddenly her face lit up like the fourth of July when she saw him. Clark’s heart thundered in his chest and at the same time, he nervously wondered if Lois was waiting for him or Superman. He saw her pick something up and then he heard his phone buzz.

Flashing a grin in her direction, he picked it up. He seductively arched an eyebrow and said, “Hello?”

“The bedroom looks nice, Smallville.”

“Maybe you should come over here and check it out for yourself,” Clark cooed invitingly.

Lois laughed. “Tempting…tempting…”

“You had better get inside, you’ll get chilled to the bone out there,” Clark advised.

He heard rather than saw the smile in her voice. “I can rest easy now, just wanted to see you safely to sleep on the first night in your new apartment.”

“Thank you, Lois.”

She blew him a kiss, waved, and said, “Goodnight, Smallville.”

"Goodnight."

Clark watched her snap off her phone and lock herself into her apartment. Unable to control himself he activated his x-ray vision and through her blinds he saw her standing on her tip-toes peeking through the blinds in his direction. Grinning, he turned off his light and watched her blinds snap shut and she headed to bed.

Closing his eyes, Clark activated his super-hearing. He heard Lois brush her teeth and then climb into bed. Concentrating only on the strong, steady sound of her heartbeat, Clark allowed the comforting sound to lull him to sleep.

***************************


Chapter 22Chapter 22


In the morning, Clark called to Lois said that he’d have to meet her at the office since he had to run a few errands. Then switching into Superman mode he began his daily morning routine of checking local traffic, which had steadily dwindled as more cars were vacating the city and rather than coming into it.

When he realized that Metropolis didn’t require his assistance, Clark made a quick stop at Watchtower and then flew to Lex Luthor’s apartment seeking the Senator’s audience. The armed Secret Service agents jolted at Superman’s arrival on the outside patio.

“I take it that he’s back?”

One of the agents talked into his sleeve communicator right as the patio door opened and Lex rudely invited Superman inside.

Lex planted his fists on his hips, threw down the morning copy of The Daily Planet and shoved Superman Lois & Clark’s article about the riots into Superman’s face. “Explain to me what part of our plan had you announcing things prematurely to the city? I had my ear chewed off already today by the city Mayor wanting to know who’s going to pay back the businesses that lost inventory during the riots.” Lex walked up to Superman and held his stony stare. “I don’t appreciate getting yelled at before I’ve had my morning coffee, particularly for something that I’m not responsible for.”

“If we didn’t get the word out, rumors would’ve started once employees realized that people just weren’t coming into work anymore. Tabloid TV would’ve started posting ridiculous news stories and we would’ve had much larger problems on our hands than a few stores getting broken into,” Superman icily replied.

“And how exactly do you know that?”

“Call it a hunch.”

Lex’s jaw went slack. “A hunch? I got my ass chewed out because Superman had a hunch? I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize that the safety of the people of Metropolis would weigh entirely on your hunches.”

“My hunches are usually better than most people’s opinions when they’re armed with facts. That being said, I am sorry for the panic that ensued, that wasn’t my intention.”

The Senator evenly glared at the caped superhero, his nostrils slightly flared in annoyance as his eyes flashed back to the article. Before Lex could say a word, Superman added, “I’m also aware of the personal grudge that you have against Miss Lane and Mr. Kent. I happen to highly respect their work. On this subject, you and I will just have to agree to disagree, I have little interest in arguing that point with you.”

Lex’s lips pursed together in a tight irritated pout. “I have no say over who you pick to do your PR. I do however, care about my own and we’re in the middle of a crisis here in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Exactly what have I done recently that would make you believe that I have forgotten that I might die in the next couple of days trying to protect this city and world?”

Once again, Lex’s frown deepened and his ears began to turn red. Breaking the tension, Superman walked towards the middle of the room and asked, “If you still want to offer those weapons, I’d be interested in examining what you have available to use.”

Eyebrows lifting, Lex spat, “I thought that you were worried that they’d be too – what was the word that you used? Oh yes, ‘primitive’ to do any good?”

“Oh they still very well might be.” Superman noticed that Lex appeared close to exploding. He added, “What I would like to do is have my weapons expert take a look over your inventory to see what might be usable.”

“Your weapons expert?” Lex balked. “And who might this be?”

“A colleague of mine. Her name is Claire Conners. If you’ll grant her security clearance I’ll send her over right away,” Superman offered.

“Security clearance? What you mean blindly?”

“Yes.”

“I’m a United States Senator, I don’t just let total strangers come up to me and ask to see Top Secret military intel!” Lex cried.

Superman extracted a file from, apparently thin air, and produced it for the Senator. Lex immediately flipped through it and examined the forged identity credentials that Chloe and Oliver stayed up all night assembling for Kara.

“Funny, you’d think that a woman who was as young and brilliant like this Miss Conners appears to be that she would’ve shown up on my radar while she was getting her simultaneous PhD’s in Astro-physics and Mechanical Engineering from Cambridge,” Lex snarked. He glared at the obviously fake papers.

“Keep up on everyone who attends universities all around the globe do you?” Superman countered.

“These papers are obviously fake,” Lex stated point blank. “Believe me, I would’ve heard about a brilliant engineer/physicist who was this beautiful.”

“She’ll pass your Government’s background check with flying colors,” Superman advised, ignoring Lex’s comments on his cousin’s appearance.

“Oh I’m quite sure that she will, I have little doubt that you have all of your bases covered and that her cover is impenetrable. Who is she really?”

Superman approached the Senator and invaded his personal space. “She’s someone who’s vitally important to this operation. I expect you to view her as an extension of myself and provide to her the same courtesies that your Government would extend to me. Otherwise, you can consider this alliance to be over and you can kiss your planet goodbye.”

Lex puffed his shoulders and then abruptly sat down in his chair. “Fine. To show you that MY own good faith is still in tact, we’ll run her background check and offer her the same clearance that you have. Send her over at ten thirty sharp – she’ll be cleared by then.”

With a curt nod of his head, Superman exited Lex’s office and flew off across the city. Lex dropped all of “Claire’s” files except her photo. He studied the woman’s strong jaw line and intelligent blue eyes. “Who are you really, Claire? And why is Superman breaking lord knows how many laws to hide your true identity?”

******************************


Clark flashed over to Watchtower. Adjusting his tie after his super-speed clothing change; he found Kara and Chloe madly working on computers.

“You’re set for a meeting with the Senator at ten-thirty.”

“He bought it?” Chloe asked incredulously.

“Not really. He accused me of handing him fake papers. Apparently Lex watches students who attend overseas Universities as well, not just ones here,” Clark replied.

“Wouldn’t shock me, he’s got to find his minion lackeys from somewhere. They can’t all be from the US,” Chloe responded.

Clark walked over to his cousin who wore tight jeans and a red tank top. Behind her hung a neatly pressed navy blue business suit ready to be changed into at a moment’s notice.

“Chloe and Oliver have gone over everything with you, right?”

“Yes, Cousin. Lex Luthor is a world class scumbag, I’m to take everything that he says with a grain of salt, and pay only attention to the weapons that he presents to me,” Kara reported.

Clark’s green eyes pleaded. “Whatever you do, DON’T…”

“…Tell him who or what I really am. Do not under any circumstance bring up the names Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Martha or Jonathan Kent, Chloe Sullivan, or Green Arrow,” Kara added, hijacking Clark’s train of thought. She bore her big blue eyes in his direction. “Trust me, cousin, I know what’s at stake. I’m not about to screw us all over by stupidly blowing anyone’s cover. I am however, currently working for Queen Industries so I can bring up Oliver’s name if I feel like getting Lex’s goat.” She smirked.

“And what do you do for me?” Oliver asked, from his corner of the room where he’d been quietly observing the interactions between the cousins.

“Deep Space Telemetry Analyst,” Kara answered. “I help keep your satellites in the sky and study the data they bring back.” Flipping her long blond hair, Kara absently stated, “I haven’t decided whether that sounds like the coolest or most boring job on the planet. It’s probably a combo of the two, regardless it sounds very brainy!” Her cousin appeared nervous enough to cough up his own spleen. She stepped away from her computer and straightened Clark’s tie. “Don’t worry, cousin. I won’t let you down.”

His cousin’s confidence restored a smile to Clark’s face. “I know that you won’t. I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about you being in the same room as him.”

“Trust me, I can handle myself with Lex Luthor. Tick tock, you’d better get to work. I’ll call you when the meeting is over,” Kara informed him.

Giving his cousin a tight hug, Clark was about to leave, when he remembered to ask, “Any new sightings or signs of Doomsday’s whereabouts?”

Chloe shook her head.

Kara frowned. “No…it puzzles me, I don’t know where it went to.”

Clark nodded. “Alright, well let’s hope that this is a good thing for us and that it’s holed up somewhere and it’ll give us a bit more time to fully devise our game plan.” With a nod, Clark made a speedy exit to The Daily Planet to start his work day.

*****************************


Clark barely stepped into his office door when Lois grabbed his jacket and yanked him back out into the hallway.

“What’s going on, Lois?”

“Perry’s called a Planet-wide meeting that’s about to start,” Lois explained.

Unable to put down his briefcase, Clark carried it with him and they crammed their way across the bullpen through throngs of their fellow reporters.

“MOVE IT!” Lois ordered as she elbowed her way through the crowd of her colleagues.

“Sorry, excuse us,” Clark apologized to their fellow reporters who flashed his partner dirty glances.

Once assembled, Perry walked out of his office and raked a hand through his thinning grey hair and addressed the crow. “I want to thank you all for being here today. As you all are aware our city is about to get put into full blown military lockdown per the request of our Senator and Mayor. We’ve received word from the Mayor that as of tonight Marshall law will be declared and after five if anyone wishes to leave the city will have to do so via military escort.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know for certain if this creature is coming here, however, I would prefer to err on the side of caution. We have been granted special consideration from the Mayor to keep our doors open during the crisis since no other press will be allowed past the military barricades. Even though our daily circulation just dropped to the triple digits – our national and international circulations have quadrupled over the past evening. All eyes in the world are on Metropolis. This quite possibly is going to be an opportunity of a lifetime for each of you – we’ve got front seat passes to an event that can shape the course of our world’s history and other than the local television stations – there will be no competition for headlines.”

Perry glanced across the crowd and saw expressions that ranged from outright fear to excitement as whispers spread over the bullpen. “As of this moment, I am giving each one of you a choice. If you have small children, elderly parents who you tend to, or beloved family in other states who need you – you are free to leave the Planet today and can come back when the crisis is over. You will be paid for your time off and your PTO will not be affected. This comes directly from upper management. The Daily Planet is a family and the last thing that we want is for any of our family members to suffer tragic losses because they felt obligated to work.

“We can work on a skeleton crew if need be. I’d like everyone to report to their editors and managers in the next half hour if you wish to leave. I have already informed all of management the numbers of people who we can afford to lose.

“Let me again state – leaving will not reflect poorly upon you in any way,” Perry added. Sighing, he wrung his hands together. “For everyone else who is remaining, we stand at the precipice of history. Think being able to witness the first detonation of the Atom Bomb, man walking on the moon, Columbus discovering the Americas – this is THAT kind of event. Being in just the right place at the right time during this crisis – this is it folks, this is Pulitzer material. For the brave who remain, I’ll expect 100% from each of you. We’ll devise coverage grids and hopefully have every major area of the city covered where Superman and the beast might face off. Your safety is our #1 concern. Don’t be an idiot. You report the news only, don’t become the news by getting in the middle of the action. We’ll establish a buddy system so no one gets left behind.

“Thank you all for your time,” Perry said, and ignoring hands retreated back to his office.

Clark studied his partners face. Her eyes sparkled. Yanking on his coat she dragged him back towards their office. “Did you hear that, Smallville? Pulitzers!” She stormed in their office door, abruptly spun around and slammed her palm against his chest again preventing him from internal access. One of her satisfied half smirks crossed over her face. “We’ll need to be mobile during the event…I need to get in touch with my father and see if I can secure Jeep…”

“Don’t you have an SUV?” Clark asked, pushing past her and finally put his briefcase down and removed his coat.

“Yeah, but it’s not open air…”

“Which is a good thing! Lois, it’s not going to be safe running around without being under protection,” Clark advised, and pushed his glasses up his nose.

She flashed him an even glance. “Falling debris? Right. The only problem is that my SUV is big and bulky, I’d prefer a smaller one that would be easier to maneuver.”

Slightly cringing inside, Clark realized that Perry just unleashed Mad Dog Lane. He feared that there was no way to get the dog back in it’s cage now that it’s been released.

Lois grabbed a poster tube that sat in an umbrella stand in the corner of the office. She carried it over to the small work table that sat in the corner of the office and shook out what ended up being a large map of Metropolis. She extracted a box out from under a pile of boxes that cluttered the corner of the office. Clark’s brow shot up when he saw it full of toys & trinkets. She slammed a small souvenir paperweight of The Daily Planet’s globe on top of the Planet’s location on the map. She then pulled out a small lady liberty holding scales and placed it on City Hall. Extracting other objects that accurately depicted major landmarks in the city, Clark began to see a pattern emerging from Lois’s apparent madness. She pulled out a red sport scar Hot Wheel and parked it in front of The Daily Planet; Clark didn’t need any explanation that it represented herself.

Slowly and methodically she walked around the map. “So Smallville, where do you think that the creature will come from?”

Apprehensive about allowing Lois to get in the middle of the action, Clark decided to go along with Lois’s planning to see where it led her. “From the south.”

“The obvious and direct path?”

Clark shrugged. “Let’s assume that it moves on instincts more than relying on brain power.”

“Good point. Scratch off using stealth to get into the City,” Lois agreed, and frowned. She flashed him an apologetic smile. “Sorry it’s all that I’ve got in here that’s creature related.”

A large grin spread over Clark’s face as Lois deposited a plastic cow at the southern end of the city map. “Truly terrifying, Lois.”

“Yeah well let’s just hope that they never learn to fly because you know falling bird poop is bad enough,” Lois snarked back. Her eyes met his for a moment, in the span of a second both momentarily forgot that the world was on the brink of war, and shared a heartbeat of levity. It broke as Clark’s eyes dropped back to the map. Lois asked, “Will it come from the water?”

“I don’t think so. It abandoned the water once it hit land,” Clark stated.

Lois held a retractable red sharpie over the city. “Where will Superman lure the creature?”

“Is that Superman?”

She grinned and nodded and clicked the pen’s bottom. She immediately drew a long red line down Central. “Other side of Central we start getting heavily into residential housings, he’ll lure it as far away from family homes as possible.”

Clark folded his arms across his chest and watched Lois’s mind as it worked out her interpretation of his battle plan. He found himself curious on what she would come up with.

“He wouldn’t want the city crippled after the battle so he’d try to keep it away from the financial district and City Hall.” Lois marked off their section of the city.

“That still leaves what 80 square city blocks uncovered. That’s a lot of real estate, Lois, even for you to cover.”

“I know, but at least we’ve got a starting point.”

As Clark studied the map, he nodded his head in agreement. Clark studied the remaining area closely, Lois had done a great job of laying out an area that was filled with businesses, warehouses, and car lots. Metropolis University and Met Gen were located in that remaining grid as well, Clark would have to keep the creature away from those two places. But for the most part - her grid work was sound. A small smile of pride crossed Clark’s lips that he covered by pushing his glasses up his face.

Without realizing it, Lois just managed to provide Superman his first real strategic break on coming up with a game plan for fighting Doomsday.

******************************


Chapter 23

Kara completed signing the final line from the stack of non-disclosure agreements that Lex’s assistant presented to her before she would be able to review the United State’s arsenal of top secret weapons.

Once the task was completed, the assistant scanned her signatures into the government database, and then buzzed Lex’s inner office to announce her arrival.

From his desk, Lex sized up the woman who entered his office carrying a briefcase. She wore practical navy blue pumps with chunky heals, a smartly pressed navy suit jacket and slacks, and a silk cream colored tank underneath. Her hair wove into an intricate French twist, and she sported a pair of red framed glasses.

“Dr. Conners, it’s an honor to meet you,” Lex said, moving to greet the woman and shake her hand.

Kara firmly matched his handshake. “Likewise, Senator. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice.”

“You know I’ve always had an interest in satellite technology; LexCorp produces some of the finest satellites in the world, I’m surprised that our paths haven’t crossed before,” Lex probed.

Placing her briefcase on a chair, Kara knitted her long fingers together in front of her and bore her eyes into Lex’s. “Please, Senator. Time is precious. You know as well as I do that fishing excursions will get you nowhere with me. Shall we agree to drop your informal interrogations in lieu of deciding if your Government can help Superman to save the planet?”

A thin smile spread over Lex’s lips and met his eyes. “I like your directness. And you are right; protecting the citizens of the United States is our top priority.” He reached to pick up the phone. “I just need to get our top grade weapon expert on the line so that he can go over specs with you…”

“Not necessary. Trust me, we’ll waste less time by allowing me full access,” Kara curtly butted in. Lex stared blankly at her and then dropped the phone into the cradle. With the slightest hesitation he handed a remote to his guest and sat down.

Kara activated a few buttons and a glass screen dropped out of the ceiling. Lex typed in some access codes to his computer and pushed back in his chair while the room lights went dim and shades dropped over the patio glass doors, plunging them in darkness.

An assortment of folders opened for Kara. She immediately trashed the one that said “Nuclear.”

Lex’s brows shot upwards. “You don’t even want to look at our most powerful weapons? Can I ask why?”

“This creature has survived for thousands of years in the void of space – surrounded by the harshest forms of radiation that the universe has ever created, your weapons will have no effect on it,” she stated. “Besides, I doubt that you’d want to have to create a radioactive hot zone in the middle of Metropolis.”

“If that was the price for saving humanity, I think that our President wouldn’t hesitate to authorize such action,” Lex replied.

Kara turned and faced the Senator. “This creature is immune to your radioactive weapons, such authorization won’t be necessary.”

Lex studied the woman with a puzzled expression on his face.

She turned back to the screen and absently blasted through their artillery weaponry. She paused on several scud type missiles and earmarked them and moved on. Lex watched as she perused the folder filled with guns and ammunition. Kara sighed.

“Too primitive?” Lex offered, trying to hide his contempt.

Slowly she nodded her head. “The ammunition won’t even ding his exoskeleton. Think about your diamonds and how they’re the hardest substance on your planet…now think of that strength in the form of living, breathing tissue, and you have Doomsday.”

“Doomsday? Is that what you call it?”

“No. It’s what the scientists who created him called it,” Kara stated.

Lex felt a chill quake through his body. “That’s more than slightly ominous.”

“It didn’t start with that name – it got it when they realized that they’d made the creature so invincible that they couldn’t kill it.” Her head cocked and she excitedly tapped on a folder titled “Bio weapons.”

A sideways grin spread on Lex’s face. “Sure, don’t go nuclear; let’s instead release a killer toxin into the environment that could just slowly kill mankind.”

“Your world contains elements on the most basic level that are not on Krypton – some of your toxins might work if aimed at his vulnerable spots.”

“I thought that he doesn’t have any vulnerable spots.”

“He’s got five – his nose, mouth, eyes, and ears.” She pursed her mouth as she slowly began reading through the specs of the different bio engineered weapons.

Lex studied the woman as she read through complex pages of medical jargon that explained in detail how each bio weapon was created. He found himself fascinated and was dying from curiosity on how she could possibly know so much about this alien creature. Kara pulled a couple of files out of the folder while she continued perusing them. A long, sad sigh escaped from her throat. “Your government confuses me. Why can they come up with dozens of bio engineered toxins that can kill a person instantaneously or cause ELE pandemics if they were ever released into the world, yet they don’t support scientific research for say coming up with synthetic, clean fuel sources?”

“I’m assuming that that is a rhetorical question?”

Kara met Lex’s inquisitive gaze. She smiled. “Of course. Time is of the essence.”

Getting up from his chair, Lex walked behind the athletic blond and crisply stated, “Well perhaps if we ever get some spare time, we can discuss the topic in greater detail…say over coffee?”

A sliver of a smile spread over Kara’s lips. She turned and locked onto his blue eyes. “Actually I would enjoy that. However, at this moment, I’m more interested in finding ways to help Superman defeat Doomsday.”

Lex plopped down on a leather couch and wove his fingers together and knocked his chin over their tips. “So what do you think will happen if this Doomsday isn’t defeated?”

Kara momentarily froze. Lex watched as she gulped. Her eyes filled with deep concern. “All of mankind will perish.”

A sliver of an unbelieving smile touched Lex’s mouth. “I’d hardly think…”

Kara planted a fist on her left side and glared sternly at her bald companion. Her voice turned cold and commanding, “You want to know what life would be like on this planet if Superman were defeated and Doomsday was left on his own? Your government will call its troops from locations all over the world to fight it. Millions of soldiers will die and your mighty military force will crumble. Once they have exhausted their entire non-ELE weapon arsenal, they will think to move onto the larger weapons, believing that human casualties would be just collateral damage, they’ll start unleashing them over their own soil; populations be damned.

“This will be their mistake. The first small nuke that they use on Doomsday will alert him of the sophistication level of your countries weaponry and he’ll make it his mission to discover how to locate the hidden caches of the weapons. He’ll use fear and terror on those protecting the launch codes and will be victorious in starting World War III.” Lex’s eyes widened as her voice grew stronger. “It won’t care what co-ordinates the weapons are set at. Every enemy of the United States will realize that they’re under attack and they will retaliate and Global Thermonuclear War will ensue. After the fall out, humanity will be at its weakest. If he’s far enough away from the massive blasts, the weapons won’t affect Doomsday in the slightest. He’ll crush every remaining human on the planet. If you’re lucky enough to have a massive bomb go off right on top of him, Doomsday will be blown to smithereens.”

“And what’s left of humanity will survive?” Lex asked with a hint of hope in his voice.

Kara shook her head. “All that they’ll have is a reprieve. The beast is designed to regenerate. From what I understand its core molecular structure is directly paired with indestructible nanites.”

“Nanites? Nano bots?”

“Yes, microscopic robots designed for one sole purpose - survival. They learn from mistakes,” Kara answered. “These nano bots were initially created in order for the scientists to study the effects that their experiments made on the creature from an internal perspective. They put the bots inside of the beast hoping that they would deliver back data to them. The bots were expensive, so the scientists stupidly programmed a mild sentience program into them allowing them to put their own existence first and foremost. The bots went rogue and saw the creature as their ultimate stronghold. The bots gathered data and learned to super enhance the beast’s own immunity against whatever the scientists threw at the creature. Once that happened, every time the scientists tried to destroy the beast, the bots simply recreated it from its most core molecular level until it became what it is today – indestructible.”

Her eyes bore into Lex’s. “It only takes one nano bot to survive for the beast to regenerate. Just one of them and it will replicate and recreate the beast. And whatever killed it, the bots will devise immunity to it. If humans manage to destroy the beast with their nukes, the beast will be brought back to life and it will be beyond angry. It will see its death as an ultimate challenge from mankind and it will wipe out humanity.”

For the first time of the day, Lex showed fear in his eyes. She walked towards him, Kara’s heel clicks were the only sound in the room. “It’s not a weapon that your government can harness. The nanites cannot be reprogrammed – they have one mission and it’s to survive. They’ll win the war.”

“So what’s the plan then? If Superman can’t kill it, how are we going to survive?”

“The plan is that Superman won’t fail.” Kara turned back to screen and retreated back to the main menu of weapons. With a hard lump in her throats she confessed, “Superman loves humanity even more than his own life; he’ll do whatever is necessary to ensure that you’ll survive.”

Her fingers hovered over a folder that read EMP pulses. Lex affixed his gaze on the same spot. “Would that work? If he’s made up of millions of tiny machines, wouldn’t an EMP pulse take them all out?”

“I don’t think that a pulse on its own will do the trick, but it might be able to distract it long enough to give Superman a small advantage over the beast.”

Kara spent the next half hour wading through the rest of the files and then provided Lex with a final list of weapons that she would like to be made for her use. Lex wanted to argue stating that there was no way that he could allow military level weapons to be handed over to civilians. After arguing out several points, they finally agreed on a split of the weapons and came up with a drop point for the weapons that Superman would directly require access to. Shaking hands, Kara quickly left the Senator’s office, finalizing her battle plan in her head.

Lex sniffed the air and could still smell the lingering spicy aroma of Claire’s perfume. He was intrigued and decided that after this crisis, one way or another he would get to the bottom of the riddle surrounding mysterious woman’s identity.

*****************************

Clark arrived at Watchtower after giving Lois the slip at work. The rounded room bustled with activity. Kara had just returned from her rendezvous with her military liaison and had finished unloading her weaponry in the tower.

Chloe looked like she wanted to be sick as she stared at the locked cases & coolers that were covered in bio hazard labels. A short bespeckled man with peppered gray hair wearing a lab coat & gloves circled the bio hazard boxes.

Oliver introduced him. “This is Dr. Emil Hamilton. He’s the best research, medical doctor that I know.”

Arching a brow inquisitively, Clark asked, “And he…?”

“He’s 100% trust worthy,” Oliver stated with conviction.

Emil absently shook Clark’s hand and muttered to himself about trying to figure out safe delivery vessels for the hazardous pathogens.

Kara pulled Clark away from the doctor and stood him in front of a large map of Metropolis. Clark noticed that they had focused on the sections of the city that he had suggested per Lois’s strategic planning.

Crossing his arms over his broad chest, Clark asked, “So what are we going to do with all of this stuff?”

“Doomsday’s natural body armor is impenetrable to human weapon fire. However, he’s not going to enjoy it. We’re going to have full military escorts surrounding the city. They will all be armed with machine guns and will be lining these streets…” Kara pointed to the main drags of Metropolis that led through the sections of the city that they wanted to draw Doomsday away from. “Their purpose will be to drive the creature towards our section of the city. A few well placed small scuds that they can use on him should propel him in the right direction if necessary.”

Clark arched his brows and shoved his glasses up his nose. His eyes then moved to a corner of the room where Victor, J’onn, and Oliver were working on a large platform that had several large rockets attached to its bottom. “What’s that for?”

“That’s our endgame.”

“Endgame?”

“Clark we’re only two Kryptonians, we can’t defeat Doomsday,” Kara realistically stated.

Understanding dawned on Clark. “You want us to send it back into space?”

“Yes. It can’t stay here on Earth. Even if we tried to bury it into the Earth’s molten core, one day it’ll figure out how to get out of there,” Kara replied. She bore her blue eyes in Clark’s direction. “We’ll need to disable it long enough to get it strapped onto that platform and send it out into the atmosphere.”

“I will be assisting you with that task, Kal-El,” J’onn stated, dropping a mask over his face and activated a blow torch.

“How exactly are we going to disable it?”

“Oliver is going to have to prove what a great archer he really is. He’s going to shoot specially designed arrows directly into the beast’s eye, mouth, or ear. The arrow’s head will then burst internally and release one of your country’s top bio-weapons inside of the creature’s head. ”

Clark stared dubiously in Oliver’s direction. Oliver’s usually happy go lucky smirk dropped into a frown. “What, don’t think that I can make the shot?”

“It’s not that – I have full faith in your skills. Just tell me that we have a backup plan in case we can’t get the creature in position for this to happen?”

“I have a woman who’s coming in tonight who creates sonic blasts out of her throat, she should be able to disorient the creature if for some reason I don’t get the arrow placed correctly,” Oliver replied.

“If that fails cousin, we’ll have the military use this,” Kara stated and pointed to the monitors. Clark saw a large electronic box. “It’s an EMP device. Hopefully it’ll take out the nanites that are in the creature’s body and weaken them long enough so that we can get it strapped up and thrown out into the universe.”

Clark’s stomach ached as though he’d eaten a pound of pancakes in under a minute. A wave of nausea rolled over his senses as he examined the piles of weapons that littered the Watchtower.

“If they use the EMP, we’ll be blind here,” Chloe said. “And you’ll be entirely on your own to track the creature.”

“Senator Luther has already alerted all of the financial institutions in the city and alerted them to the possible use of an EMP device. Their tech guys are working overdrive to back up all of their data,” Kara absently reported as she continued analyzing the city grid.

Mustering the strength to smile, Clark sighed. “Alright, well it’s better than nothing. We’ll make it work. Good job, Kara.”

“Save the thanks for after we’ve taken care of Doomsday,” Kara ordered. With hesitation, she tapped in a series of code and brought up three large satellite images. “These were taken two hours ago in Richmond. It hit an Air force training facility and took out several platoons of airmen.”

Horrified by the sight of the bodies strewn all over the base, Clark was overcome by a feeling of hopelessness. In the middle of the carnage was a giant smoking hole where the servicemen had obviously tried and failed to take the beast out with a missile of some sort. Kara appeared at his side and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Doomsday will be here tomorrow, Kal-El. Go. We’ll take care of everything. You need your rest. You’ll need every ounce of your strength tomorrow.”

The lump ached in his throat. Clark wrapped his arm around his cousin’s waist and trapped her in a big bear hug. Both sets of their eyes lingered on the carnage on the screen. The full reality of what tomorrow would bring came over them both.

Over his cousin’s head, Clark asked, “Can you get all of this done by tomorrow without her help?”

“We sure can, big guy,” Oliver stated. “You can count on us.”

Clark met his cousin’s eyes. “You need to go get rest yourself…you’ve done your part. Let the rest of the team here get things together for us.”

Hugging Chloe and giving handshakes to the men in the room, Kara and Clark left Watchtower. Both of them felt like they had ticking time bombs strapped to their chests…and they had no idea what time the devices were going to go off or how large the explosion would be. They only knew one thing, if they failed in disarming it; everything that Clark loved would perish.

They had the flimsiest plan in the world; secretly they both knew that success based on Kara’s planning wasn’t overly realistic. Yet no matter how slim the chance of success was, failure was not an option.

And for the first time, Clark realized that he might have to do anything in order to make sure that they defeated Doomsday. With the lump still sitting in his throat, he headed home for what might be his last night with his beloved. He decided to make every moment count – because he no longer believed that he could guarantee what tomorrow would bring. If he had to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that life on Earth would be preserved, Clark vowed to himself that he would make that choice without hesitation. He turned towards his apartment and planned to make every moment with Lois special. If nothing else, he would make sure that at least towards the end, she’d know how much he loved her. He only hoped that that would be enough to comfort her in case…He closed his eyes and sighed.

His hand subconsciously landed on his chest over his family crest and pulled strength from it to banish all defeatist thoughts from his mind. He did it not only for his own sanity but for her. If she could find faith and hope in his hero side, that was what he would showcase to her tonight and let his actions fall where they may tomorrow. He only hoped that he would live up to the expectations that he had for him and if the outcome was not the one that he desired that she would understand and find the strength to go on without him.

**************************

 


 


To Be Continued


   

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