Operation Save Clark Kent Superverses Superman Fans for Lois Lane

 



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Superman: Destiny Embraced

Story Parameters Superman: Destiny Embraced
Author: RedKryptonClark aka RKC_EB Story Details

Author: RedKryptonClark aka RKC_EB aka Erika
Timeframe: Post Smallville
Story Type: Action, Angst, Drama, Tension
Characters: The usual suspects: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olson, Chloe, Martha Kent, Oliver Queen, JLA, and Lex Luther.
Rating: PG-13
Previous Story: REDLUST Could be considered a Prequel of sorts
Length:  Novel - Complete

Summary: Clark Kent has returned from his training and begins his duel life as mild mannered reporter and superhero.

Story is loosely based on the script of the original Superman: The Movie script, however it will contain cast and characters created from SMALLVILLE in the leads with situations that are based off of SMALLVILLE as the origins. Characters will be vastly different in their portrayals than in the film, however, you will see some similarities. And knowing me I'll probably completely steer off of the course of the original story.

 


Superman: Destiny Embraced

Prologue


Go now son and make me proud.

There was nothing left to say, after years of fighting against beginning his training with his biological father and refusing to face his destiny, the son finally relented, studied hard, and had now reached the end of his lessons. He had no diploma to show for his education, for what he learned would never be taught in classrooms. Try as they might, humans could never fully comprehend the wonders of the cosmos. Kal-El had learned everything important that Jor-El had thought to store in the stone that helped to create his Fortress of Solitude. The knowledge contained in the arctic ice structure held a universe of knowledge acquired by the brightest historians from his family’s now dead home world of Krypton.

As he stepped out of the structure, Kal-El, the true son and heir to the legacy of Krypton turned his face skyward and gazed at the stars that twinkled like a billion shimmering bulbs overhead. Scanning them with his bare blue eyes, he knew which ones contained intelligent life and which ones did not. This knowledge had been part of his training. But it was not aliens from far distant planets that consumed his first thoughts as a free man, he could only think of one thing…going home.

The Arctic air was cold and frigid, but it felt amazingly refreshing against his skin. The cold wind restored him awakening all of his senses. He felt more alive than he had his entire life...he was whole. The air was fresh and clean. The arctic was one of the last natural refuges on this planet not corrupted by pollution. The sky was endless and snow pure white.

Deep down he knew that Jor-El had hoped to rid him of his humanity during his training, for much of that time was spent focusing on the frailties and flaws of the human race. These particular lessons were ones that Kal-El listened to but did not take to heart. Kal-El associated himself more with his fellow humans than with his Kryptonian side. He was, in essence, more human than alien. That viewpoint could be seen from a certain point of view, there aren’t too many humans out there who possess super heightened strength, speed, hearing, vision, or were bullet and fireproof, had super breath, heat and x-ray vision, nor could any of them fly. Kal-El could do all of these things..and more. Early on in his life these gifts separated him from his human friends and even caused irreparable rifts between he and his childhood friend Pete. Pete was forever jealous of his amazing skills and moved away to get out from under his shadow. At times he worried that he would be alone forever. He now understood that it was possible that was a price he would have to face for being allowed to live when the rest of his people had perished. Kal-El would go on because so many were gone forever.

Yes, humans were flawed, but he loved them…all of them. He loved this planet. Unlike the icy cold and stark Krypton where he was born, Earth was warm, green, and full of life and the gloriously golden sun that illuminated the planet nourished his soul and was the source of all of his superpowers. The human race had problems but Kal-El had learned over the course of his youth that they could learn from their mistakes as well and could be made to walk the path of righteousness…they just needed guidance to do so.

Kal-El observed that the moon was set at the seven o’clock hour, he still had plenty of time to catch his friends at their work before heading home to his mother. With a grin on his face that made his eyes sparkle, Clark Kent bent his body at his knees, pushed off of the earth, soared skywards, and headed home.


Chapter 1

Lightly Clark stepped down in an alley two streets away from The Daily Planet in the Kansas city of Metropolis. A stray cat yowled in surprise and ran off. The alley smelled of garbage, human urine, exhaust fumes, and freshly baked bread from a bakery around the corner. Clark quickly looked around and was pleased to see that no one had witnessed his miraculous appearance. Clark was able to tell by the location of the moon what time it was in the evening, but not the date. Quickly he opened a dumpster and extracted a newspaper that appeared freshly thrown out. The date on it was five years past when he had entered the Fortress of Solitude. He would be considered twenty-four human years now along with all of his friends. His brows furrowed together and he felt a pang of regret that he’d somehow missed five years of watching everyone that he cared about grow older. Would they even recognize him now?

Feeling slightly melancholy, he walked out of the alley and spied a twenty-four hour convenience store. Briskly he jogged across the street and entered the quickie mart. He waved to the Pakistani clerk at the front desk and walked around the store not entirely positive what he was looking for. Mostly he was just delighted to be seeing the world again after being cooped up in the Fortress for five years. Clark found himself intrigued by the smallest things including new logo designs that were on popular soda cans. He picked up a late night edition of The Daily Planet and tucked it under his arm. As he walked down the makeup aisle he spied his reflection gazing back at him from a large mirror that hung overhead. Clark gawked at his mirrored image with extreme fascination. Five years had passed and other than his skin having completely lost all traces of suntan, he looked nearly identical to the day that he’d disappeared from the world’s radar. His shaggy brown bangs covered his forehead and underneath a pair of inquisitive bright blue eyes studied his reflection. He massaged his jaw and noted that his features were slightly more chiseled than before and accentuated the cleft in his chin, but beyond that he looked exactly the same. He even wore his same red jacket, blue t-shirt, and jeans that he used to wear like a uniform.

This isn’t good, he thought to himself. He knew that his friends would all look different and he needed to appear like he’d aged five years. With a new quest in mind, Clark walked down the aisles and spied a rack of reading glasses. Most of them were very old fashioned and styled for elderly people. He spun the rack around and finally located one pair that he thought might be passable for stylish. Clark looked around to make sure that nobody was watching him and verified with his x-ray vision that there weren’t any cameras pointed in his direction. He then wrapped his large hand around the lenses on the glasses. Activating his heat vision he melted the glass in the frames thereby removing their factory distortion. He gently blew on the lenses to cool them down. When he put them onto his face the glass was clear and did not affect his vision in the slightest. Quickly looking himself over in the mirror he decided that did the trick and he appeared older. Then he proceeded down the hair care aisle and found a large tube of styling gel. He smirked at its claim for “super hold” and decided to purchase it as well. Clark began to thumb through some hair care magazines to get ideas on how he could style his hair to make him appear older when he heard a commotion at the front of the store.

Still holding the magazine he saw two armed men pointing guns at the clerk and heard them demanding money. In the past Clark might have privately used one of his super abilities to disarm the men, but that was not why he was sent to this planet, at least not anymore. It wasn’t his destiny to hide in the shadows and save lives, he had been sent here to inspire the most common of people. Boldly he stepped forward and with a smile on his face he asked, “Is there a problem, gentlemen?”

One of the armed men turned and pointed his weapon at Clark’s chest and demanded, “Put your hands in the air pinhead and give me your wallet!”

Momentarily confused by the rude name that the man called him, Clark realized he was still wearing the reading glasses. He smiled and complied to the man’s wishes. He was holding his hair gel and magazine in the air, newspaper still tucked under his arm. Having been out of the world for so long, “Now is there any reason to be rude? You can politely ask for my wallet, you know?” As expected, his armed robber got very angry.

The man growled behind his mask, quickly spun Clark around, and threw him against a candy rack. Candy bars and Clark's intended purchases flew around the store, freeing Clark’s hands. In the ensuing confusion Clark snatched the man’s right wrist and twisted it behind the criminal’s back causing him to drop his weapon. Clark then threw the man directly against his baffled partner in crime. As the two men fell into a pile of arms and legs on the floor, Clark picked up a new extension cord, quickly unwrapped it, and descended upon the men hogtying their hands and feet together.

“Call the police please, I think you’ll want to report a citizen’s arrest,” Clark said, happily to the stunned clerk behind the counter.

Looking around, Clark picked up his paper, magazine, and hair gel and put them along w/ the glasses onto the counter. He asked, “How much for these items?” He then reached down and picked up one of the candy bars that had fallen out of the display case. “I’ll take one of these too.”

“No payment,” the clerk said, voice full of wonder.

“You're kidding right? You’ll be fired if you let me have this stuff. Do you really want to get fired over, what? Twelve dollars?” Clark put a $20 bill on the counter and watched the speechless clerk ring in the items and made him change.

Clark took his change and his purchases, smiled, patted the struggling thieves on their struggling shoulders, unwrapped his candy bar, took a bite, saluted the men inside, and exited the store. With joy in his heart and lightness of feet, Clark Kent turned down the street and stopped into a department store. Twenty minutes later he emerged wearing a new outfit of khaki pants, shiny brown leather loafers, a small checkered button up blue shirt, and a navy blue sports coat. He had also spent a few minutes styling his bangs off of his forehead and slicking his hair back and out of his face.

Clark examined his reflection in the shop’s window and now barely recognized himself. Any and all traces of the former farm boy that he used to be had been eradicated from his appearance. As if to further bring that point home, he spied a homeless man sitting on the street and handed the man his bag that contained his old outfit. Entirely free of his former self, he headed towards The Daily Planet looking to surprise his good friend Chloe Sullivan.

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

Clark’s new shoes squeaked and echoed as he walked across the marble floor in the entry hall of The Daily Planet, Metropolis’s most respected newspaper. He approached an information computer terminal and typed in Chloe’s name, knowing that his bright and ambitious friend would no longer be working in the basement. The terminal beeped at him and gave him a zero match result back. Clark frowned at the machine and turned to face the bored looking receptionist who sat at a large desk across the hall.

“Excuse me, I’m trying to look for someone who used to work here. I’m positive that she’s still here but I wasn’t able to pull her name up. Can you help me?” Clark politely asked.

The girl had earrings sticking out of every inch of bare skin. She stopped staring vacantly at a spot on the wall in front of her and arched her brows as the only sign of recognizing Clark’s query. Still obviously bored, she activated her computer screen.

“Who’re you looking for?”

Clark smiled. “Chloe Sullivan.”

The girl speedily typed in Chloe’s name. “Zippo.”

He furrowed his brows and then an idea came to him. “Can you try searching just by her first name?”

She typed in Chloe. “Four hits man. None are Sullivan.”

“May I?” he asked and peered at the names on her screen. They stopped on the third name. A slightly shocked and then happy grin came over his face. “Can you please look at that one?”

“Dude, why didn’t you say Chloe Olson? She’s like a huge columnist here. She’s got a corner office on the seventeenth floor,” the girl said.

“Thank you!” Clark happily said and dashed towards the elevators and took them to the seventeenth floor.

When he reached his destination he wandered around until he found a corner office with Chloe’s name on it. He peered inside but found the office dark. The door was unlocked. He opened it and walked inside. He could smell the light fragrance of Chloe’s favorite hand lotion in the room. A large smile of recognition hit Clark hard and he felt slightly giddy, even though his friend was gone for the day, the scent reminded him of happier times.

He walked over to her desk and turned on her desk lamp. Chloe's desk was meticulously clean. Next to her computer he spied a row of photographs. One was a wedding photo of her and her photographer Jimmy Olson. Clark’s heart tugged in happiness, Chloe looked so delighted in her wedding photo. He then spied another pair with the happy couple holding a couple of small children.

“Wow, has that much time really passed?” he asked. He then spied another picture that made his heart flop anxiously in his chest. A woman with long light brown hair held one of the Chloe’s children in her lap. The baby had its finger stuffed up her nose and she was howling with laughter.

“Lois,” he moaned, his voice thick with emotion. He picked up the picture frame and brought it closer to his face. He touched the picture frame and traced the outline of her face as if by doing so he'd be able to actually feel her silky skin. Clark didn’t know how it was possible but she looked more beautiful than ever than when he left her five years ago. Reluctantly he put the frame down and looked around the office and found a sticky note. A sly grin came over his face and wrote on it “I’m back.” He chuckled at his own cleverness – he wrote it in Kryptonian. Clark knew that Chloe wouldn’t be able to read it but the message would be clear, she'd know where it came from. Carefully he stuck the note onto her keyboard, was about to turn off the light when his eyes fell onto Chloe’s phone. The speed-dial buttons all had extensions written on them, but his eyes fell upon the top left name: Lois EXT 1977.

“Lois works here?” he asked and suddenly felt very nervous. His hand involuntarily flinched and knocked over Chloe’s cup filled with pens scattering them all over her tidy desk. Embarrassed he picked them all up and put the cup back in place.

He saw that Chloe’s extension was 1776, he assumed that Lois must be on the nineteenth floor. Clark took a deep breath to control his emotions, turned off Chloe’s light, and left her office to seek out the woman who drove him positively crazy from the first moment that they met nearly ten years ago.

Lois Lane was anything but your average woman, she was bossy, opinionated, bold, and completely the opposite of mild mannered Clark. They spent many years ruffling each others feathers before coming to understandings of sorts. Somehow in the middle of their strange, twisted friendship, Clark developed feelings for her that ran deeper than anything he’d ever experienced in his life…even deeper than for his first love Lana Lang. The thought of seeing Lois after all of these years filled him with conflicting emotions of dread and joy at the same time.

He coughed out a small laugh and took two flights of stairs up to the nineteenth floor. Clark Kent had always been somewhat nervous and confused around women, but after figuring out that he had feelings for Lois he had suddenly turned into a walking disaster around her. He couldn’t think straight and always managed to knock over anything that was within arm’s distance. Chloe had found this sudden change from charming farm boy to super klutz to be highly amusing, he however, did not. His alarming change in personality had somewhat affected his decision to go off and study with Jor-El, he figured learning everything about the world would certainly cause him to stop bumbling around Lois Lane. Judging by his reaction to seeing her name on Chloe’s phone, Clark knew that was a big fat lie, he may now possess the knowledge of the universe, but he was still a fool.

Maybe she’ll find it endearing now instead of annoying, Clark hopefully thought and immediately grimaced knowing that wouldn’t be the case.

Clark stepped out of the stairwell and listened around the newsroom. There was a bustle of people still working at the nine o’clock hour but not many. Clark used his 6’4” frame to crane his neck over the miles of cubicles searching for where Lois might be hiding. As he wandered aimlessly around the room before he finally found a woman typing and tapped on her outside cubical wall seeking assistance.

“Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell me where Lois Lane sits?” Clark asked.

The woman appraised the man scanning him from toe to head. Tall, gorgeous she thought the man must have a rock hard body hiding under very boring clothes. She suddenly felt very hot. “Four rows over, side office.”

“Thank you,” Clark gushed and beamed at her.

The woman melted into her chair.

Clark approached the office and immediately tried to straighten his tie, only to foolishly realize too late that he wasn’t wearing one. He rubbed his large hands together that were both slick with perspiration and he couldn’t breathe. When he rounded the corner he saw her name on the door…her office was dark. Clark felt deflated, she was gone also. He opened her door and walked inside. Immediately he recognized the smell of her fruity shampoo, but it was mixed with the unpleasant smells of stale coffee, dead greasy fast food wrappers, and cigarettes?

A large disapproving frown spread over Clark’s face as his x-ray vision revealed a large carton of cigarettes buried in one of her drawers. Unlike Chloe’s nice tidy office, Lois’s space looked like a bomb went off in it. Reams of notes were scattered all over the place, her file cabinet doors were bursting with papers, she had pens thrown all over her desk – it was a pigsty in here.

“Lois,” he said disapprovingly. He shook his head, not overly surprised at the mess, Lois was always a slob. He noticed that there was an empty desk sitting opposite of hers and realized that she shared the office with someone or had done so at some point anyways.

Clark didn’t bother leaving her a note since he had a feeling that she would never find it in her mess. Just as he was about to leave his eyes fell upon a picture frame buried under a stack of papers. He picked it up and felt his heart flop…the photo contained a picture of Lois posing with Clark’s family on the Kent farm. He remembered the day that Chloe snapped that Kent family photo and had insisted that her cousin get into the picture. Lois stood in front of him with Clark’s parents next to them. Jonathan Kent had his arms wrapped around Martha and in a strange fit of wanting to imitate his father Clark did the same thing to Lois. The alarmed expression on Lois’s face that Chloe caught on film was highly comical. It caused Clark to burst out laughing.

“What do you think you’re doing in here?” A male voice boomed from the doorway.

Startled, Clark nearly dropped the photo and turned towards the door. His eyes immediately narrowed in recognition of the man standing in the doorway.

“Mr. White?”

Perry White stared quizzically at the well dressed man clutching one of Lois’s photographs. The middle aged, balding, slightly plump man examined the intruder and realized that he looked vaguely familiar. “Do I know you?” Perry White asked in a slightly nasally voice.

“Well I wouldn't say know, but we met several years ago,” Clark said, putting down the photo, he walked towards the infamous reporter.

A flash of recognition sparked over Perry White's face. “Clark Kent! My god! What happened to you? Last I heard of you, you were the State Champion Quarterback, then nothing...it's like you dropped off of the face of the planet...well wait now actually I guess there was that thing in the gossip column about you coming between one of Lex Luther's lady loves?”

Clark frowned and blushed at the same time. He then put on a broad smile. “You have quite a memory Mr. White. I worked my father's farm for a while after he died and recently I've been overseas studying.”

“Tired of being a farmer, Kent?” Perry asked, grabbing the much taller man by the arm, he directed Clark towards his own office, and shut Lois's door behind them.

“Well let's just say that I don't think I'm meant to be a farmer,” Clark offered. “I believe that I'm meant to do more in my life than muck stalls all day long.”

White laughed and clapped a hand onto Clark's back. He shoved the tall young man into his office and slammed the door shut behind them. Perry pointed to a chair and Clark sat down, smiling. “So you're back at the Planet, looks like you managed to redeem yourself after your time in tabloid television.”

“Yes my X-Styles days are long gone. Did you know that thanks to you I'm still sober, Kent?”

“That's fantastic, Mr. White, I'm glad to hear it,” Clark replied and was impressed.

“Yeah well, I couldn't exactly have made editor if I was tanked all of the time,” Perry said, eyebrows arched and grinning broadly from ear to ear.

“Wow! Congratulations!” Clark said and offered the editor his hand again.

“So kid, what were you doing here and why were you snooping in Mad Dog's office?”

“Mad Dog?” Clark asked, with confusion. Then he laughed incredulously. “Is that what you call Lois?”

“She's insane, Clark. That woman terrorizes everyone that she knows just to get the lead on a story. People steer clear of her,” Perry reported, his eyes glowed with obvious pride over his star reporter.

“Humm...sounds like Lois Lane, she's scary,” Clark confirmed, trying desperately not to smirk.

Perry stared at the young man who once risked his own neck to save his own after he stupidly jumped off of a bridge trying to prove that Clark had special abilities. Clark Kent wasn't super-powered, but he was something even more amazing, he was a person with a great big heart. Even more important than that, Clark Kent was the most honorable and honest person that he knew.

“Oh yes, now I recall, she used to work for your mother, didn't she? How is the Senator by the way?”

Clark opened his mouth to speak but failed to find any words.

“She's making quite a rep for herself in Washington, people are terrified to face her down on the Senate floor I'll tell you that!” Perry laughed.

Pride filled Clark's heart. His mother had made it to Washington and was a national Senator. He was so pleased for her. “She's quite amazing.”

“Alright, well enough small-talk, you said you've been away for a while. Did you do any writing when you were gone?” Perry asked, leaning over on his desk he knitted his fingers together and examined Clark like a bug under glass.

“Well I did a lot of studying,” Clark replied, deflecting the question.

“I'm assuming you wrote a lot of papers then?”

“Well I did have to prove that I understood what I read,” Clark answered, recalling Jor-El constantly badgering him to repeat his lessons word by word back to him upon completing each one.

“Good, then why don't we start you at grade 9,” Perry said, beaming.

“Excuse me?” Clark asked, completely confused.

“Pay scale...grade 9...level 9 reporter. You'll be working under me, although I have to tell you that you'll actually be working with your good friend Lois Lane,” Perry said, suddenly hiding his mouth behind his hands.

Understanding dawned on Clark. “Are you offering me a job, sir?”

“Sir? Damn you are the politest person that I know, kid. I like you Kent! Ok, fine grade 10.”

“I don't need more money...whatever is fine,” Clark stammered. Did he want this? For years he scoffed at Chloe about working as a reporter, but he suddenly realized that he had enjoyed his years in high school working on The Torch. A broad grin plastered over Clark's face and he announced, “I'm happy to take the job Mr. White, I won't disappoint you!”

“Great! I'll see you back here at eight AM sharp so that you can fill out your new hire paperwork,” Perry announced and stood up. “Welcome to The Daily Planet Clark Kent.” Clark vigorously shook his hand and exited the office suddenly elated.

As Perry watched the delighted young man nearly bound away with joy from his office, he shook his head. He muttered, “Poor bastard, he has no idea what he's just gotten himself into. Mad Dog is going to eat him for breakfast.”

With a small high pitched chuckle, Perry White retreated back into his office to finish some final editing before going home for the night. He knew that he wanted to be well rested for tomorrow, if nothing else there should be plenty of entertainment provided by Lois Lane to keep the day from being dull.


Chapter 2

Martha Kent woke up with the rooster crowing and yawning made her way downstairs towards her kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. As she rounded the first wave of steps she suddenly was very confused as her nostrils detected fresh brewed coffee on the air. Martha came down the stairs and gasped. A man stood in front of the kitchen sink and was gazing out the window towards the rising sun. The beams showered him with light making it hard to clearly see the details of his profile.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she demanded, and fumbled for Jonathan's grandfather's rifle that hung on the wall.

“Mom, relax, it's me,” a voice answered out of the light.

Martha's heart nearly stopped as the man exited the light and stood before her. “Clark!” she shouted with joy. A smile ten stories wide covered Clark's face as he quickly snatched his mother up in his arms and squeezed her tighter than he'd ever held another person.

“When did you get back?” Martha asked and pulled away to look at her son's face. His skin was pale and slightly more refined, but otherwise he looked almost exactly the same as the day he left the farm to complete his training. She noticed a couple of other things too, he was dressed like he was going to a party or something, and he had a pair of eyeglasses resting on the top of his head. “Clark, why do you need glasses?”

“Oh I don't,” he said, laughing. “I just thought that after being gone for five years that I could use looking like I'd aged some.” Clark pulled them down off of his head and put them on. “What do you think?”

His mother let out a small laugh. “Wow, I didn't think it was possible that you could be any more handsome than you already are.”

“Stop it, Mom,” Clark said, extracted himself from her arms and poured her a cup of coffee. He dumped in a large spoonful of rich cream into it and a package of artificial sweetener. Clark handed his mother her coffee and realized that she had slightly changed over the past five years. Her hair coloring didn't manage to hide all of her gray hairs anymore and she had a few more lines around her eyes and mouth. She was still ravishingly beautiful though.

Martha smiled warmly at her son realizing he remembered exactly how she liked her coffee. He then pulled a giant pot of oatmeal off of the stove and scooped them each out a bowl, covered them with freshly cut strawberries, poured sugar over both bowls, and layered them in milk.

“Sorry, I don't have time for making anything more substantial, otherwise I would have, Mom,” he said, stuffing a mouthful of hot cereal in his mouth. He particularly enjoyed the sweetness of the strawberries. He groaned in pleasure.

“Why are you all dressed up Clark? Where are you off to?” Martha asked, suddenly sad that her son would be leaving so soon after he just got back.

“I got a job,” he answered and laughed at the shocked expression on her face.

“I know, what can I say, I'm fast huh? I flew into Metropolis looking for Chloe at The Daily Planet and I ran into Perry White and he offered me a job,” Clark explained.

“You're going to be a reporter?” Martha exclaimed, beaming with pride.

“Oh it's even better than that, Mom. I get to work with Lois!”

Martha stared at her son and didn't quite know what to say. Her smile fell to a look of pity.

“What's wrong?” Clark asked, holding his spoon mid lift towards his mouth.

“Oh honey, I don't know what kind of a reception you'll get from Lois.”

“Why?” Clark asked, now suddenly very afraid.

“Lois visits me at least two or three times a month, she always asks about you and where you are and how you're doing...but she's very, very frustrated with you,” Martha responded, averting her eyes.

“Why?”

“Well, you know we worked things out so that you gave me all of those pre-written letters that I could pull out and show to people if they asked where you were and how you were doing?”

“Yeah?” Clark said eyebrow lifted in puzzlement.

“She's upset that you never wrote her...not even once. She knows your handwriting so it's not like I could just create something and pass it off to her,” Martha said. “I’d thought of writing her a couple of emails for you, but…that didn’t seem right either.”

“Didn't I usually add to say hello to Lois and Chloe in each of those letters to you?” Clark asked.

“Yes, but that's not exactly the same as you putting pen to paper and writing specifically to either of them,” Martha replied.

“Really? And how many letters exactly did she write to me?” Clark spat back. “I’m sure zero, right?”

To his confusion, Martha stood up and walked over to a chest that sat in the front hallway and opened it. She pulled out a stack of envelopes and came back to the table and delivered them to their intended party. Clark rifled through them and counted at least thirty letters that were all addressed to him with Lois’s address in the top left corner. Wracked with guilt he stared at his mother with large sad eyes.

“Oh god, she's going to hate me, isn't she?”

“No, she could never hate you, Clark. But I just wanted to let you know so that you’re not blindsided,” Martha explained.

“Thanks,” he said, and looked at the letters.

“Why don’t I get dressed and drive you to Metropolis? That will give you time that you can read them in the car. That way you can at least show her that you know what she wrote to you,” Martha offered.

“It’s a three hour drive to Metropolis, Mom. I need to be in the office at eight,” Clark replied, opening the first of the letters.

“Well, you can stay in the car for an hour of the ride or so and then run to Metropolis if you need to,” Martha offered.

“I think my running days are over, Mom,” Clark said, scanning Lois’s economical penmanship. “God she really is a terrible speller.”

“What do you mean your running days are over? Are your powers gone?” Martha asked, fearfully.

Clark glanced up from the letter and grinned at his mother. “No, quite the opposite, in fact. Mom, I’ve fully embraced my Kryptonian heritage.”

Martha narrowed her eyes in confusion and then they flew open wide in understanding. “Oh, oh, OH! You can fly now?”

A sly grin spread over Clark’s face and he nodded his head.

“How does that feel?” Martha asked, sipping her coffee.

“Amazing and freeing. I’ll have to take you for a flight sometime Mom, you’ll love it,” he offered, beaming.

Martha laughed out loud. “Oh I don’t think so, Clark. I think I’m past my thrill days. As much as I trust you, I think I’ll stick to airplanes for assisting me with my air mobility needs.”

Clark laughed heartily. He grabbed her hand and said, “I’d be happy to have you drive me part way to Metropolis, Mom.”

Blushing happily, Martha hopped off of her chair and headed upstairs. “I’ll be ten minutes.”

Clark smiled and began devouring Lois’s letter again in anticipation for her assault on its content.

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

Thirty minutes later Clark and his mother were on the highway heading towards Metropolis.

While reading endless pages of Lois’s ramblings about her work and Chloe’s children, Clark shook his head. “I can’t believe her.”

“Who? Lois?”

“No, Chloe!”

“What about Chloe?”

“Mom, do you know what she named her children?”

“Lara and Jordon, right?”

Clark’s brow arched skywards. “You don’t find anything weird about that? What is Jordon’s middle name?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember, Clark,” Martha answered from behind the wheel.

“Well according to Lois, Jimmy’s a big Lord of the Rings fan…his middle name is Elrond…Mom, she named her kids after my biological parents!” Clark exclaimed. “Jordon Elrond…Jor-El, Lara…”

Realizing what her son had said, Martha was overcome by a fit of raging giggles. “Oh dear…well I guess she really does miss you, Clark.”

Laughing himself, Clark further pointed out, “Lara’s middle name is Arwen – these poor kids, they’re part elf and part Kryptonians.”

In their merriment, Martha and Clark barely noticed the logger truck that barreled past them on the highway. Martha then happened to glance at the truck and let out a shout. “Clark!”

Throwing his letters in the backseat, Clark stared at the truck in alarm. It was swerving erratically all over the road and was heading straight towards the back side of a school bus. Martha saw Clark’s face change from merriment to extreme determination.

“Excuse me, Mom,” he said. In a blink of an eye, the door on the car flew open and Clark was gone. Martha slammed on her brakes and drove off of the side of the road and watched as the restraints holding the logs on the back of the truck snapped. Everything happened in slow motion…the truck jackknifed and began barreling towards the bus and four other cars on the highway. Suddenly a flash of blue and red appeared out of the sky and a man dropped down in front of the fast moving truck. Powering his arms into the side of fast moving vehicle, the truck screeched and buckled as it crashed against the man. Martha’s mouth gaped open as the man grabbed hold of the truck’s undercarriage, lifted it off of the ground and quickly relocated it into the highway’s medium where its cargo tumbled into the ditch missing all oncoming traffic.

Blinking rapidly and heart pounding in her chest, Martha glanced at the cars around her that had all stopped on the highway. She spied an older woman in the car next to her holding up a cell phone. Martha realized the woman had just captured the amazing feat on her video phone.

Martha glanced back over at the truck and saw that the flying man had pulled the driver out and was applying CPR to his chest. The driver suddenly woke up and appeared quite confused over what had just happened. The hero flashed him a grin, said something encouraging and saluted him. The man glanced towards Martha’s car and smiled broadly. Martha spied the Kryptonian S on the dark blue suit and everything immediately clicked into place. The man stood up and was enshrouded by a long flowing red cape. He waved to everyone on the highway and then shot up into the sky and vanished out of sight.

After the initial shock wave had washed over her regarding what had happened, Martha Kent fully realized what she had just witnessed. She picked up her cell phone and called for an ambulance to help the driver. She was then overtaken by the most desperate longing to be able to talk to her deceased husband, she had never been so proud in her entire life of their son and wished nothing more than to be able to tell him how Clark had finally embraced his destiny. Although he was Jor-El’s son, Clark’s heroic act came entirely from his human father’s upbringing…their son had fully become the man that Jonathan Kent had imagined. Clark Kent would become a god amongst men – but instead of ruling them with strength, he would rule them with the conviction and strength of Jonathan’s love and morals.

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

The city streets of Metropolis buzzed with the early morning crowds of folks racing towards their jobs. Cell phones blared, people screamed into their phones oblivious of anyone around them, horns honked from stalled traffic, and the air was heavily scented with exhaust fumes and coffee. Lois Lane gulped back her last swig of coffee and slammed her shoulder into the door of the nearest STARBUCKS. The place was jammed full of caffeine deprived customers. Upon spying the tall woman, one clerk held out two venti sized cups, and quickly took Lois’s change. They had learned the hard way that keeping Lois waiting was NOT good for business.

Slamming down half of her second coffee, Lois’s cell phone blared in her pocket. She fumbled with her two cups and pulled it out and shouted over the din of traffic, “Lane here.”

“Lois, what are you going to tell, White?”

Immediately recognizing Jimmy Olson’s voice, she barked back, “That I think he’s a bottom feeding scum sucker for forcing me come in for an eight AM meeting after staying out until four AM on a stakeout?”

“You know that wasn’t what I meant,” Jimmy responded. “We got nothing!”

“Yeah well, I guess that’s the last time I trust that particular source again. Unfortunately, all tips don’t always pan out, Jimmy,” Lois replied and chugged the second half of her coffee.

She then threw out the cup leaving only one more manageable cup to deal with. To further complicate things, she dug into her purse and extracted a cigarette, lit it, and took a deep drag off of it.

“Well just make sure you let him know that I wasn’t the one who got the tip,” Jimmy pleaded.

“You’re such a wuss,” Lois replied, grinning. “I’ll catch you later.”

Lois crushed out her cigarette and barreled into the doors of The Daily Planet. With the fresh buzz from the caffeine and nicotine in her system, Lois almost felt human enough to face what would most assuredly be another screaming batch with White. Lois waited with a group of reporters to get into the elevators. She thought she heard someone calling her name but was so engrossed in trying to figure out what to say to Perry White that she didn’t register who was trying to get her attention. Lois jumped into the closest elevator and watched as the door slammed shut in front of the face of a tall dark haired man wearing glasses. She pounded on the nineteenth floor button and enduring several minutes of various stops as the elevator climbed up to her floor.

When her elevator finally stopped on the nineteenth she burst past everyone and marched purposefully towards her office. Chugging the last of her third coffee for the day, Lois finally felt human as the cobwebs from the lack of sleep finally burned off. She walked into her office to find someone sitting in her chair.

Normally an impromptu meeting with her cousin would be a highlight of Lois’s day, but today she was on edge. “Chloe, what’s up?”

Her very pregnant cousin stared at her with large round eyes. “You didn’t get a note did you?”

“A note? About what?” Lois asked, opening her mini-fridge she pulled out a Mountain Dew and cracked it open.

“From whom actually,” Chloe corrected.

“I just got here, Chlo, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lois said. She pressed her fingers against her temple and groaned. “Crap I have a headache coming on. Did Jimmy tell you about our charming failed stakeout last night?”

“Yeah, he did,” Chloe answered, her eyes full of concern.

“White’s going to rip me a new one. I went on and on about how hot this story was and I’ve got nothing,” Lois growled and wrapped her arms around her chest.

Chloe examined her cousin who was wearing a beige business suit with a red silk shell under it. Lois Lane had spent the last five years fighting her way out of the basement of The Daily Planet after one too many times of having her stories turned into tabloid trash at The Inquisitor. When Clark had left town unexpectedly Lois had become somewhat despondent and threw herself entirely into her work to compensate for being left in the lurch. In five years she went from writing obituaries to being one of the paper’s top investigative reporters. Chloe knew that whenever a story fell through for her cousin that Lois had a way of beating herself senseless and continually worried about being demoted.

“I’m sure that Mr. White will understand. I mean it’s not like every story he ever chased down always amounted to something,” Chloe consoled.

“Maybe, but I’ve been on a bad streak lately, Chloe. I need a big story, otherwise, I expect that my front page days are numbered,” Lois said, her hazel eyes filled with worry. Lois then glanced at the clock on her way and swore under her breath, “I gotta go, White’s expecting me. Talk later?”

“Sure, Lois,” Chloe said to her retreating back. When the door closed to the office, Chloe glanced at the sticky note that she hadn’t let go of from the moment she had discovered it on her desk when she came in this morning. She whispered, “Where are you, Clark?”


Chapter 3

Lois shook her ponytail and marched straight into Perry White’s office, guns blazing. “Alright I know you’re going to give me crap about the man hours that went into this and I probably deserve the ribbing, but I can’t help it if things don’t always work out the way that we had hoped.”

Perry White sat at his desk, eyebrows arched skyward. “What the hell are you talking about, Lois?”

“Oh, you didn’t read my email, I see. Nice to know I’m such a high priority on your list of morning duties considering you forced me to get in here so early today,” she growled.

“I’ve been a little busy this morning, hon. Why don’t you give me the headline?” White asked, smiling.

Damn, why did he have to be in such a good mood? Lois thought. “My source didn’t pan out. The lead was crap, Jimmy and I got nothing on our stakeout.”

White’s smile fell. “That’s not the headline I was looking for. Come on Lane, where’s that edge that I’m so used to?”

An annoyed snarl flattened Lois’s lips. “Look, I know that I haven’t exactly been top form lately, but it seems like I’m in a rut ok? I keep getting one bad lead after another! It’s not my fault that decent stories aren’t simply falling from the sky and into my lap!”

Perry White’s phone rang. “Hold that thought…” White said, taking the call.

Lois’s phone rang as well and she quietly talked into it, causing Clark to clamp his mouth shut. He had been in the middle of finishing his paperwork when Lois stormed into the office and had her back to him the entire time. Sitting at the small table in White’s office, Clark enjoyed his view of Lois’s calves. Seeing her actually wearing a skirt was a novel concept. He noticed that her calves were as shapely and firm as they had been when he first met her nine years ago. Clark gulped and inadvertently snapped his pencil in half. White had been in the middle of writing a note down noticed Clark’s awkwardness. He beamed with fiendish delight.

He slammed down his phone and shouted, “Lane!”

“I gotta go,” Lois muttered into her phone and hung it up. She licked her lips and said, “Yeah?”

“You just said stories don’t fall out of the sky? Well, guess what? Today’s your lucky day one just did...literally! Get to Lou’s Coffee Shop on Tenth and High Street – there’s a woman there with a story that should knock your socks off. She asked for you specifically,” White informed his reporter and held out a note. He flicked it just out of her reach as she grabbed for it and then pointed to Clark. “Take your new partner with you.”

“Partner?” Lois asked, her nose wrinkled in disgust. She turned around and recognized the man from the elevator. He stared at her with a huge goofy grin on his face. She blinked at him.

The grin faded and Clark rolled his eyes. “You know it’s only been five years, Lois, it’s not like it’s been a decade since we last saw each other.”

Recognizing the voice and the eye roll, Lois’s eyes grew wide. “CLARK?”

Arching his brows, Clark grinned at her. “Well glad to see that you haven’t completely fried your memory. Although I did read recently that over usage of cell phones can cause brain cancer, you should watch yourself.”

Anger flared in Lois’s eyes. She quickly spun and attacked her boss. “Is this some sort of a JOKE? What the hell is he doing here? He doesn’t have any experience in journalism!”

“Excuse me? Lois I worked on The Torch for four years, if you recall…”

Lois howled a laugh. “Four years of reporting changes in the lunch menus does NOT make one a reporter, Clark!”

Thoroughly enjoying seeing his favorite reporter all riled up, Perry leaned back in his chair and knitted his hands together in his lap. “I disagree, Lois. Clark’s a bit raw, but he’s got good instincts. I think you two will make a great team. Clark I’ll get a computer set up for you and it’ll be ready in your office later today.”

“Thank you, Mr. White,” Clark gushed, grinning.

A look of utter annoyance spread over Lois’s face. In disbelief she asked, “He gets his own office?”

“Oh no, Lois. He’s going to be sharing an office…with you,” White replied. Seeing Lois's mouth drop to the floor was so comical that he was unable to contain his laughter any longer.

“Isn’t that great, Lois?” Clark asked, launching to his feet. As he did so, his foot caught on one of the table’s legs and knocked it over, scattering his new hire papers everywhere.

Lois’s heart sank. She plastered White’s note against her forehead and groaned. “God…help me.”

“Don’t worry, Clark I’ll get your stuff in order. You two, go…now!” Perry said shooing his reporters out of his office. Lois’s cheeks burned as she could hear White howling with laughter behind his closed door.

“He’s great, isn’t he?” Clark asked, smiling.

Lois turned her head towards Clark and stared at him like he had suddenly sprouted six extra heads. She started a sentence and stopped, then started again, and stopped again.

“Wow, I didn’t think it was possible. I actually succeeded in making Lois Lane speechless,” Clark gloated.

“Clark Kent…Reporter. What are you thinking, Smallville? You're a FARMER! What the hell are you doing in the city? Did you get lost or something? You know, you’re not going to have Chloe at your beck and call if you can’t figure out how to use your computer, she’s got a life of her own now,” Lois seethed as she pounded the down button for the elevator.

Rolling his shoulders and head, Clark arched a brow at her and said, “You know I know that this may shock you, but I do know how to use a computer.”

“Congratulations,” she spat.

“Come on, what’s wrong, Lois?” Clark asked, suddenly realizing that was probably the wrong door to leave open for their conversation.

He peered around the office and saw his new fellow coworkers poking their heads over their cubes spying in their direction. Clark recalled Perry mentioning something about Lois being notorious for taking people’s heads off. Apparently, he just allowed offered himself up to be her next victim and prepared himself to be led to the chopping block. His coworkers watched on with morbid curiosity.

When he turned back towards Lois he found her expression to be unreadable. Fury? Pain? Hate? Longing?

“You up and disappeared on me…on all of us for FIVE years, you then magically show up at my work and are assigned as my partner and what? What Clark? Are you expecting me to throw you a welcome home parade?” Lois demanded. Suddenly her voice grew very loud, “Woohoo! Clark Kent is home from god only knows where! Everyone let’s have a party and celebrate his victorious return!”

“Lois!” Clark said, ears burning and thoroughly embarrassed. Before she could make another public outburst the elevator opened and he threw her inside. He waved sheepishly to the now dozens of heads that poked over the cubes. “Look I’m sor…”

“OH NO YOU DON’T!” Lois shouted, shoving her finger onto his nose as the doors slammed shut behind them. “You do NOT get to worm your way out of this one with a simple Kent apology. Your days of winning me over with your boyish charm are gone, pal. This is the real world and you just landed right in the middle of a hurricane. I hope you’ve developed much thicker skin than you used to have because otherwise, you’re gonna get blown off board real fast!”

Clark narrowed his eyes trying to make sense of her analogy. “Look, I know I left at a bad time…”

“Bad time?” Disbelief filled Lois’s wide open eyes. She slammed her fist against the stop button and the elevator lurched to a halt. Clark looked around in confusion. Arms crossed, Lois walked right up to Clark and glared into his eyes. Clark nervously pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Bad time?” Lois repeated in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “You told me that you loved me. I needed some time to digest this startling new little factoid that my best friend seemed to have completely lost his mind and when I came back the next day to tell you how I felt, you were GONE!”

Feeling very small, Clark gulped, and forced a hopeful smile. “How did you feel?”

“The exact opposite of what I feel for you right now,” she seethed and slammed the emergency button again.

“Oh come on Lois, you don’t mean that. Look, life was crazy after the trial and everything, I mean come on, how many times did you tell me that I should get out there and see the world instead of hiding in Smallville,” Clark stammered.

Lois rolled her eyes towards the ceiling and replied, “You’re unbelievable.”

Clark then slammed the same emergency button. Lois glared at him. He had no idea how it was that Lois Lane always managed to do it, but even when she was furious at him, she caused Clark Kent’s engines to rev at maximum capacity. In a strange and twisted way he thought that he preferred her furious to content. Her anger made her even more beautiful than ever. A pissed off Lois Lane kept him guessing and his heart hammering in his chest...she made him feel alive.

Turning the tables on Lois, Clark stepped towards her and cornered her in the elevator. He planted a hand on the lacquered wood wall over her head and then gently lifted her chin so that she was looking right into his eyes. His body completely blocked any chance she might have of escaping.

“What are you doing, Clark?” she asked, suddenly aware of his overwhelming masculine presence. She inhaled his spicy aftershave it sent shock waves of memories through her mind…Clark.

“Things will be a lot easier for us if you let this go and forgive me. I was a bastard, I admit it. You have to know that I had a valid reason for leaving when I did. I would never just up and leave you like that for no reason,” Clark said, giving her the biggest puppy dog eyes that he could muster.

Lois desperately tried to avert her eyes but was unable to stop staring into Clark’s face. Damn, I hate those eyes of his, they see right through me, she thought. Why’d he have to start wearing glasses?

“I thought of you every single day that I was gone. I didn’t think I was a man worthy of whatever answer you wanted to give me. I got scared, can you blame me? You terrify fully trained armed men much less a simple farm boy from Kansas. I couldn’t face you or your answer until I felt that I was worthy to hear it,” he whispered. Clark then lightly kissed her on the forehead. Any and all traces of fury that had been boiling in Lois’s heart evaporated. She desperately wanted to hug him but knew she couldn't let him off of the hook that easy. She punched him in the chest instead.

In a thickly emotional voice, she ordered, “Start the elevator. We’ve got a source to meet up with, Smallville.”

“Are we ok?” he asked, refusing to move away from Lois.

She nodded her head.

Clark beamed a goofy smile and released his prisoner. Lois punched stop button and the doors opened.

“Come on Smallville, follow my lead,” she said, putting her game face back on she took completely control of the situation again. “This is the big league now not some silly little high school rag. Things to remember: people lie, people forget details of situations, its your job as a reporter to get them to remember the smallest of details because details sell papers, not generic descriptions. The better the details the bigger the headlines.”

“Who are we going to see?” Clark asked.

Lois stared at her note. “Someone named Clara Bender. Apparently she saw something amazing on highway 41 today and is giving us an exclusive.”

Digging into her purse, Lois extracted her cigarettes once they got outside. The second the stem hit her mouth, it was yanked away, and snapped in half.

“What the HELL is wrong with you?” Clark demanded, snatching the pack out of her hand. He glared in her direction and stated, “Do you really want to end up like your mother? Would you do that to your father? He lost his wife because of these things, do you want him to lose his oldest daughter too? Cancer runs in families Lois, do you want to play up those odds?”

For the first time in ages, Lois was overcome by the worst feeling of guilt over restarting her ugly habit. She glared at him and thew it right back. “I started when you left.”

“Yeah, well I'm back, you can stop now. I'm not sharing an office with someone who reeks like an ashtray!” Clark stopped at a newspaper stand, quickly purchased something, and slapped it into her hand as they raced down the street to meet their appointment.

Lois looked down and saw an extra thick package of mint gum. Clark ordered, “Chew on that when you've got an urge to smoke. Not only is it better for your teeth but it'll cover your nasty coffee breath.”

Mouth open wide, Lois stared at Clark with disbelief. Same old Clark Kent – gentleman one moment, bumbling idiot the next, and moralizing pain in the ass the next. She did admit though showing up to greet a source with coffee breath was bad. Lois bust open the package and chomped down two pieces.

“You're throwing away the stash that's in your office when we get back and I'm coming by your place tonight to make sure you don't have any hiding in your apartment.”

“Geez , who turned you into the cigarette police?” Lois asked. “Besides, why should I stop, I might already have cancer.”

Clark suddenly stepped behind her and stared at her back and then walked in front of her and studied her chest intently. “Watch where you're looking, pervert!” Lois shouted at him, crossing her arms over her chest.

Clark pushed his glasses back up on his nose and said, “You're clean, but don't let that fool you – cancer can sneak up on you at any time.”

“What? Are you a walking x-ray machine or something?”

“Call it a hunch,” Clark countered.

“Well stop staring at my chest, Smallville, unless you'd like for me to kick your pearly white teeth out,” Lois boomed. She slammed her hand against his chest, grabbed his shirt and threw him across the pavement towards a store front door. “We're here.”

Together they entered a coffee shop and Clark scanned the room. In the far back corner he saw a woman who he vaguely recognized from traffic this morning. The woman had gray hair and was rather frail. He pointed her out to Lois and they approached her.

“Are you Clara Bender?”

“Miss Lane?”

The woman was probably in her late seventies. “Dear, I don't know how to tell you this, but I saw a miracle today and I wanted to tell you all about it!”

Lois and Clark sat down at the table. Clara looked suspiciously at Clark. “He's my partner, Clark Kent.” Clark flashed Lois an annoyed expression as she spat out emphasis on the word partner. “What exactly did you see?”

“Well, it was incredible! My grandkids got me one of these gadgets, I didn't think I would ever need to use it, but it came in handy today, let me tell you,” she said, beaming. “Here.”

She handed a super deluxe email cell phone over to Lois. Clark peered over her shoulder and Lois clicked on the camera portion. She flicked through some family snapshots and then stopped at what looked like a traffic accident.

Clark coughed and stared at the image of the jackknifed truck that he'd stopped this morning.

“I'm afraid I don't understand Mrs. Bender, what's so earth-shattering about a truck accident?” Lois asked.

With his pinky finger, Clark pointed to the spot where he knew he had been standing. “What is that blurry blue and red thing?”

Clara beamed. “That's him.”

“Him?” Lois asked.

“Yes, the amazing man who stopped that truck. Miss Lane he flew in from out of nowhere, stopped in front of that truck as it was about to crash into a school bus, stopped it, picked it up, and placed it safely onto the side of the road,” Clara exclaimed.

A look of unimpressed disbelief crossed over Lois's face. Clark whistled. “He sounds pretty amazing.” Lois rolled her eyes.

“I'd say so,” Clara agreed, grinning.

Lois examined a couple more blurry pictures and asked, “Are you sure you saw what you say you did? Maybe he jumped out of the passenger seat or something?”

“No Miss Lane what I said happened. He flew in. He was wearing a blue outfit and a red cape,” Clara stated.

“Red cape, huh?” Clark asked, hoping it would jog an old memory in Lois's noggin.

It seemed to work. She stared at Clara and asked, “Did you say a red cape?”

“Yes I did. And when he saw that the driver and everyone was ok, he just up and flew away.”

“Like he had a jet pack on or something?”

“No. He flew, all on his own.” Clara's dark eyes stared deeply into Lois's.

Suddenly Clark's cell phone rang. He stepped aside and answered it, “Hello?”

“Clark? Can you talk?”

“Mom?” Clark said, rather loudly. “Did you say that you just saw something amazing today on the road?”

“Clark, what's going on?”

“Can you tell this to Lois? She seems rather doubtful of the events this morning that happened on the highway.” Clark didn't wait to hear his mother's confused reply but shoved his phone into Lois's hand. “Here, talk to my mother, Lois, she'll confirm Mrs. Bender's story...apparently she was a witness to this miraculous event also!”

“Your mother saw it?” Lois asked, incredulously. She snatched aside the phone and dashed out of range to speak to Senator Kent.

“You believe me, don't you?” Clara asked, hopefully.

“Why yes I do, Mrs. Bender.”

“Why?”

“Well, things are changing in this world and not always for the better. I think we need heroes more than ever. It sounds like there's someone out there who's taking up the challenge,” Clark replied. “Good for him.”

“No, good for US young man. You are right, we need more people like him. He's not just a man, he's an amazing man!”

Lois returned just in time to hear Clara's last comment. “Amazingman...humm sounds a little too circus folk for my taste. Are you willing to go on record with your recount of what happened Mrs. Bender?”

“You believe me?”

“Our state's Senator witnessed this event also. If Martha Kent says it happened, then I most certainly believe you,” Lois replied. She gathered the woman's information, used her phone and emailed the photo to hers and Clark's email accounts, paid for her coffee, and dragged Clark out of the coffee shop. “This is something else, let me tell you. We haven't had a guy in a costume running around Metropolis since the Green Arrow. I wonder what this guy's story is?”

Clark detected the sound of wonder in Lois's voice. He buried a smug smile under his hand that he masked by readjusting his glasses. “I don't know Lois, but I'm sure you'll be the first to find out.”

“Darned right I will. Clark, I promise you, if this guy is legit and real - I will be the first one to interview this hero. Mark my words.” Lois then sped ahead of him to get back to the office to start her story.

Watching Lois Lane from behind, Clark enjoyed the view, and tried to decide exactly how long he should wait to make all of her dreams come true.


Chapter 4

Clark and Lois entered their office just in time to find the IT guy finishing setting up Clark's computer. Before Lois could do anything, Clark pushed her away from her own desk, opened her drawer, and squeezed her box of cigarettes until they were ground into tobacco dust. He then threw the carton into the trash.

“Lucky for you I have the story of a lifetime, otherwise I'd be pissed as hell that you somehow knew where to find my cigarettes,” Lois said, pushing Clark aside she sat down. Unlocking her computer she logged into her email and pulled up Mrs. Bender's photo of this Amazing Man.

Even super enlarged on her screen the blue and red figure was hard to decipher. Lois snatched up her phone and punched one of her speed-dials. “Yeah, it's me. Can you get up here for a second? I've got a photo that I'd like for you to see if you can clean it up for me or not. Thanks.”

Clark got all of his passwords from the IT tech and sat down at his desk. He turned on his computer and logged into his new email and found the same photos waiting for him. Clark stared at his blurry image and was suddenly upset that he wasn't clear enough to see. He wanted Lois to have a huge front page cover story.

The office door swung open and Clark glanced up to see who had just wandered in.

He launched to his feet with a huge grin on his face. He extended his hand, and said, “Jimmy Olson! It's great to see you! Congratulations on your kids and Chloe!”

Jimmy stared at Clark, his eyes registered zero recognition and then they flashed into focus. “CK? Holy Cow! Does Chloe know that you're back? She's going to FREAK OUT!” Jimmy pumped Clark's hand and smiled broadly. He noticed Clark's new setup and said, “Whoa, you're a reporter? And are working with Lois?”

“Yep, it appears so,” Clark replied, grinning. Lois frowned, causing him to laugh.

“Well then I guess I'll be assigned to you also. I'm a full time photographer here and usually follow Lois around hoping to catch that Pulitzer Prize winning photo someday,” Jimmy explained.

“Yeah, yeah, come here,” Lois ordered.

Jimmy came to her desk and peered at the cell phone photo. “Want me to clean that up?”

“If you can that would be great,” Lois replied, pushing away from her desk to give Jimmy room to do his magic.

Quickly he saved the file and then opened Photoshop. He increased the pixel ratio of the image and super-sized the image.

“Still blurry,” Lois said, chewing on her fingernail.

Sighing, Jimmy rolled his eyes and then grinned. “Give me time, I just started.”

Clark walked behind them and watched as Jimmy expertly whipped through a series of different filters and changes to the picture. Finally after five minutes he stepped back. “It started as a very poor quality photo, Lois. That's the best I can do,” he said, moving out of her way.

Lois moved towards the computer screen and stared at the cleaned up image. She felt goose-bumps erupt over her flesh as she studied the image of a slightly blurred man wearing a blue and red costume, his hands were under the truck's flatbed and she could clearly see that the truck was several inches off of the ground.

Clark covered his mouth to hide a grin as he watched her jaw go slack and fall towards the floor. “This guy is amazing,” she whispered. To Jimmy she asked, “Is there any way that this could've been doctored?”

“It came from a cell phone camera, right? You can tell because of those tiny marks on the side. You can't doctor cell phone photos, this thing is legit. I'm so glad these things take crappy photos, otherwise, I'd be out of a job,” Jimmy replied. “Who is that?”

“It appears that there's a new superhero in town,” Clark offered.

“Superhero...” Lois muttered. She kicked back and let Jimmy goto work on trying to clean up the other three photos that Clara took of the mysterious hero. One was completely hopeless, the second one was missing the mysterious savior, and the last photo had the man saluting the crowd. Jimmy zeroed in on the figure and worked his magic. Lois's eyes grew huge as the shield on the front of the man's costume snapped into focus. She suddenly found it difficult to breathe as flashes of phantom memories surged to her conscious mind...images from her dreams of a man wearing a red cape. “He's got an S on his chest,” she whispered.

The grin on Clark's face expanded into a bright, beaming smile. He then coughed and said, “Looks like the hero from your dreams has finally made his first appearance.”

Shock, disbelief, and wonder crossed over Lois's face. She whispered in awe, “My god it wasn't just in my head - he’s real.”

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

The day wore on Clark uncovered four more sources to add interview to add to their story. He also produced for Lois his mother’s cell phone records that validated her 911 call from the scene of the accident.

Throughout the day Lois barked orders to Clark and he responded without complaint. She found herself constantly amazed when he not only came back with answers for her demands, but with more information than she was expecting. Each follow-up interviews that he provided only helped to strengthen her story and she was impressed by the quality of the questions that he asked of the witnesses.

As she finished her last revision she sighed and added Clark Kent’s byline to the article below her name. For all that she hated sharing credit for stories Clark deserved the credit, her story would not have been nearly as robust without his contributions. She silently cursed him for his luck in falling into the biggest story of the year on his first day on the job. Lois peered across her monitor and saw Clark leaning back in his desk chair, his tie was loose, and the top button of his shirt was undone. He was twiddling a pen between fingers. As if some radar just went off, he turned and spied her watching him. The pen flew out of his hand and he nearly fell over in his chair. Clark's face burned red as he coughed and picked up his pen.

Lois shook her head, picked up her coat, and put it on. “Can I ask you a favor Smallville? I just emailed our story to you, can you proof it one last time since I know that you’re a better speller than me and then can you email it down to press before 5 so it can make it in the late night and morning editions?”

“Sure,” Clark agreed. He then noticed her coat and asked, “Where are you going?”

“Topeka. The Governor’s giving a speech that I get to cover,” Lois explained and looked at her watch. “I gotta go helicopter will be here soon.” She dashed towards the door and paused a moment before opening it. Lois turned around and looked at Clark. She could tell he was disappointed, but he smiled encouraging in her direction. “It’s nice having you here to watch my back, Clark. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The office suddenly felt very quiet when she vacated it. Clark could still detect the whiffs of her perfume on the air. Clark heard a commotion outside but ignored it and opened Lois’s email. A knock at the door diverted his attention. When he looked up he saw the beaming face of Chloe Olson peering into the office.

“OH MY GOD! I knew that note was from YOU!” she shouted and dashed into the room. Clark was on his feet and snatched his friend up and in his arms. He held back the strength of his hug realizing that she was pregnant again.

“Chloe! Wow! Look at you, you look amazing!” Clark said, acknowledging the healthy happy glow in her skin.

“I was stuck in meetings all day otherwise I would’ve been here sooner. I couldn’t believe it when Jimmy texted me and told me that you were working with Lois!” Chloe said. Her eyes grew large, she asked, “How’d she take it?”

Clark laughed and sat down. “Well how do you expect? Lois is Lois. Even five years later, she’s still a burning firecracker that’s impossible to put out. Hold on a second I have a couple of things to do really quick...” He multi-tasked while talking to Chloe by opening Lois’s article; he activated spell-check. It immediately caught ten spelling errors. Shaking his head he accepted the correct changes. As he watched the screen navigate through the errors he triple checked for grammatical flaws and catching two altered them as well.

Chloe sat down in a chair and stared at he MIA best friend. He'd changed quite a bit in the last five years. His muscles which had always been quite large from his constant hard work on the farm had grown lean. He was still as broad as before just not quite as bulky. She noticed that even though he wore glasses, he didn't look like he had aged much. She missed his suntan.

“So? Are you done with training? What are you doing at the Planet? Why are you a journalist, doesn’t your mom need you on the farm?” Chloe asked, firing question after question like bullets.

A broad grin spread over Clark’s face. “Yes, I’m done with training, I’ve fully accepted who I am and am ready to apply what I learned to the greater good in the world. I came here looking for you to say hello and ended up getting offered a job...oh and my Mom has hired help on the farm, she doesn’t need me there,” Clark said, answering her questions.

Chloe’s eyes grew large. “What do you mean by accepted who you are?”

Clark's blue eyes flickered towards the office door and verified it was closed. He then said, “I'm Kryptonian, Chloe. I'm different. I've learned a lot about myself and the universe that we live in. I have so much to tell you but I don't know where to begin.”

“Have you developed any new powers?” Chloe whispered.

Leaning back in his chair, Clark laced his fingers together and smirked. “Well it's not exactly new, but I've now accepted the fact that I can fly. It doesn't freak me out like it used to.”

Barking out a laugh, Chloe's eyebrows shot straight up. “You FLY?”

“Um hum,” Clark said, grinning. The computer beeped and he finished off a few more changes to the article. His eyes scanned the document and then fell on the names below the headline. His heart skipped a beat. “Wow.”

“What?”

A large, loopy grin plastered itself over Clark's face. “She actually did it.”

“What?” Chloe asked, leaning forward.

“She gave me a byline on a story we worked on all day together,” Clark said. He felt elated.

Shocked, Chloe said, “Wow is right! What's the article about?”

Clark started at her sheepishly. “A mysterious hero who flew in and helped prevent a traffic accident on highway 41 this morning.”

Chloe's eyebrows arched into the air with merriment. She asked, “Exactly how ethical is it to create your own news?”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “What can I say? A man's gotta eat.” Clark emailed the story and pictures to the presses and Perry White. He then asked Chloe if he needed to copy anyone else and she said no.

Clark opened his mouth to ask Chloe a question when something didn't quite sound right. He put his finger up and asked, “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Chloe asked.

He activated his superhearing and detected a metallic high pitched squealing sound. Clark then looked upwards and activated his x-ray vision straight through forty floors towards The Daily Planet's] rooftop. There, he saw something that made his heart pound in fear. At that moment a woman's shoe flew past their office window.

Eyes open wide, Clark shouted, “LOIS!”

In a flash, Chloe watched as he flung open one of his office's windows and jumped.

Faster than a speeding bullet, he changed out of his business clothes and stored them into a microscopic storage area in his cape. Arms forward and air stinging against his face he sped up the side of the building towards a helicopter that was dangling precariously off of the roof's edge.

The left side passenger door swung wide open and Lois Lane clung to the door handle for dear life. Clark watched her as she kicked and tried to pull herself inside the cabin but was unable to get the correct leverage. Suddenly he helicopter shifted and she fell.

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

Flashes blazed through Lois's eyes as gravity took hold. She saw her sister, her father, Chloe, her prom date, Shelby, Clark Kent, the Kents, Lucy, Clark, her Smallville apartment, Clark Kent...one all consuming thought filled her mind, I'm about to die.

Then she crashed against something hard and warm...it took her a second to realize it wasn't her head cracking against something splattering brain matter everywhere. She was nestled into the crook of an arm of a man wearing a blue and red costume. He had a red cape and a red and yellow S shield on the front of his broad chest.

He smiled as she threw her arms securely around his neck. “Don't worry, Miss, I've got you.”

“You've got me? Who's got you?”

He laughed and looked upwards just in time to see the helicopter completely loose it's hold and fall off of the side of the building. Lois screamed, knowing that the pilot was still inside.

“No need to panic,” the man said, removed one arm from her waist and snatched the falling helicopter out of the air like it was a Frisbee. The pilot inside was unconscious after passing out for some inexplicable reason which caused the mishap in the first place.

The man shot his cargo towards the rooftop, safely put down the helicopter and Lois Lane at the same time. He noticed that Lois was staring in his direction. He grinned and then shot straight up in the air to distance himself from her perfect vision, waved, and shot off across town. Seconds later, he flew back into his office window, spied Chloe and said, “I gotta go, talk to you later? Just shut the window after me.”

“O...kay,” she stammered and watched her best friend disappear into the night. Chloe sunk down into a chair full of shock. Clark, in costume? What in the world did he do to Lois? What was the matter with her?

Not three minutes later a very frazzled, dirty, disheveled, one shoe wearing Lois Lane raced back into her office.

“Lois? What happened to you?” Chloe demanded.

Shocked and feeling more alive than she's ever been in her entire life, Lois turned towards her cousin and flashed her the biggest, most turned on grin that she's ever flashed in her life. “I just got snatched out of death's hands and was saved by a man...no not just a man...a Superman! That's it! That's his name!” Not even seeing her cousin any longer she pounded on her phone and called to the presses. “Hold the line, I've got a story that will make that stuff from this morning look like a nursery rhyme...How long do I have and how much room on the front page?”

Jimmy then burst through the office door. “LOIS! Guess what I got?”

Euphoric hope covered over Lois's face. “Tell me you got the money shot.”

Quickly Chloe's husband removed his data card and plugged it into Lois's computer. Up on the screen flashed six amazing photos of a man flying on his own up the side of The Daily Planet's building's side. Jimmy caught him catching Lois and the helicopter. The last image was that you could see the damaged helicopter sitting safely on the roof.

Still holding her phone, Lois said, “I need the whole front half of the page. Story will be ready in twenty minutes...headline to read... The Daily Planet EXCLUSIVE: Superman Saves Star Reporter.

Lois kissed Jimmy on the cheek and pounded on her keyboard. “Where's Kent?”

“He left just before you came in,” Chloe answered.

“Damn, he picked one hell of a time to leave early for the day,” Lois muttered.

Suddenly her phone rang, Chloe grabbed the receiver. “Lois Lane's office.” Chloe listened as a frantic caller reported a man in blue and red with a giant S on his chest just saved a woman's life when a giant crane nearly landed on her head. He grabbed the crane right out of the sky and put it safely on the ground. No sooner had Chloe took down the information when the phone rang again, a car hit a traffic divider and was about to lift off and fly into oncoming traffic when a man snatched the car out of the air, flew it a quarter of a mile down the road and rested it into an empty parking space.

The phone rang non-stop as these kinds of reports kept coming in fast and furious.

Lois worked on her article and as the phone rang again, rattling her nerves, she shouted, “Where in the hell is Smallville when I need him?”

Knowing full well where he was, Chloe said, “I'll stay and help you Lois. Can you call to Dad Jimmy and have him watch the kids? I have a feeling this is going to be a very, very long night.”

Jimmy nodded and ran out of the room. The phone rang again and Chloe jotted down another amazing miracle. Beaming she took down the information and found herself excited to be back in real reporter mode again. Thanks to her best friend being back in town, Chloe's mundane life was about to take a much needed change for the better.

“What do you think?” Lois asked, pointing to the title of her article. The Daily Planet EXCLUSIVE: Superman Saves Star Reporter and Goes on Heroic Lifesavving Spree.

Chloe beamed. “I think it's perfect Lois. And Lois, spell check is your friend.”

Lois nodded and activated the spell check, deleting wrong words, she growled again, “Where's Clark???”

“I don't know where he is, Lois,” Chloe replied, realizing for once she wasn't lying – she had no idea WHERE Clark was, but she'd certainly be tracking his progress throughout the night.

After seeing her pregnant cousin push up her sleeves and dig in to help her out, grinning like a madwoman Lois shoved Clark Kent out of her mind and got to work on tomorrow's headlines. No one was going to share her bylines for tomorrow's front page headlines..no one.


Chapter 5

With two large coffees in one hand and a morning copy of The Daily Planet in the other, Clark exited the elevator and headed towards his office. He detected a heightened buzz of activity in cubes and conversations from his coworkers. Over and over again since arriving in Metropolis this morning all he heard were people talking about “Superman.” Most people spoke the name with reverence and awe, a few spat it out like it was nonsense. Clark didn’t mind, he knew that as time passed and his list of accomplishments grew critics would eventually be won over. When he first saw the name that Lois had dubbed his secret identity he grinned immediately liking it. By calling him Superman his Kryptonian S shield served a duel purpose. He was delighted at Lois’s cleverness.

He opened his office door and discovered Lois sitting at her desk wearing the same clothes from the previous day. She was even more bedraggled in appearance than when he left her on top of the roof.

“Lois! Didn’t you go home last night?” Clark asked, delivering the extra large coffee that he’d purchased for her into her greedily accepting hands.

“Smallville, what the hell happened to you last night? All hell broke loose here, I could’ve really used your help,” Lois scolded, stuck her finger up in the air to hold off his reply and closed her eyes. She tipped back her cup and guzzled her entire coffee in one long swallow. Lois’s eyes then turned towards the second cup Clark still had in his tray. He offered it to her without a second thought. She took a long swallow of it and stared at Clark with red lined eyes.

Clark threw the tray out, put down his newspaper, and knelt beside her chair. He brushed his hand through her hair, pushing her messy bangs out of her face and suggested, “You need some sleep Lois. You can’t go without it. If this guy comes back tonight what are you going to do? Are you going to go forty-eight hours without sleeping?”

“I might need to, Clark. Those are the sacrifices that we big time reporters have to make in order to stay on the front page,” Lois replied. She briefly closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of Clark’s large fingers lightly brushing against her face. When she opened them again, she focused on his face. His wire rimmed glasses hid his bright blue eyes, but she could see that they were filled with the usual Kent concern. She reached up and caught his fingers and wrapped them in her own. “I’ll take a long nap today. Why do you think I’ve got a couch in here? I’ve slept on that thing more times than I can count.”

Clark suddenly was very self conscious of Lois holding his hand. He took his thumb and gently massaged her palm with it and then let go. He stood up and moved to his desk and turned on his computer.

Lois’s hand still tingled from Clark’s massage. She tried to digest what just happened but her mind was too filled with sleep deprived cotton candy to put any thoughts together. She leaned forward on her desk and gulped down her second coffee. It lacked any sweetener she realized that it must’ve been Clark’s coffee.

“I owe you, Smallville,” she said, hoisting the cup. “By the way, I’m sorry to report, but you managed to miss your front page story. Our first article on Superman ended up on page three.”

Clark snapped open his paper and buried his face inside of it to find where their story had vanished to. He smirked at the irony, if only Lois knew the truth that his human name might be in print on page three, but thanks to her late night efforts, Clark Kent’s superhero deeds were plastered all over the front page.

He shrugged. “I guess I can’t complain too much. Page three is pretty good for my first day on the job,” Clark offered, smiling. He looked up to see Lois’s response. She had nosedived onto her keyboard and was fast asleep. Clark jumped to his feet walked around the desk, rolled her chair out, and gently carried her over to the couch. When he laid her down he removed his jacket and put it around her upper torso. He noticed that Lois wasn’t a delicate sleeper, her mouth hung wide open and she snored. Smirking, he returned to his chair and began sifting through unanswered witness statements and began organizing them. Lois’s phone rang.

Clark snatched it up. “The Daily Planet, how can I help you?”

“Kent, this is Perry White, I want you and Lois in my office NOW!”

The phone went dead. Clark glanced apologetically at Lois as he put down her receiver. He moved to the couch and shook her shoulder.

“Lois? Perry White wants to see us,” he said, shaking her.

From her slumber, Lois grinned. “Superman…” she murmured dreamily.

Clark rolled his eyes. “Not exactly…Lois!”

Lois bolted upright when Clark shouted her name. Her hand flew up and knocked Clark’s glasses right off of his face. He fell over from his crouch and was on the ground. Quickly he fumbled for his glasses, but not before Lois stared at his face without them on. She’d forgotten how handsome he looked without his glasses. Damn, he looked good both ways, she thought.

“God, why did you wake me up Smallville?” she asked.

“Perry wants to see us,” Clark explained shoving his glasses back onto his face.

“Great,” Lois said, removing Clark’s jacket. She gave Clark a hand and helped him to his feet and then moved to her desk where she opened a drawer. “Can you turn around?”

“Why?” Clark asked.

“Because I asked, OK?”

He complied and realized that he could see the room in the window’s reflections. Lois pulled a fresh, clean shirt out of her drawer and quickly removed her shirt from yesterday. Clark’s eyes grew wide as he examined the reflection of her wearing only a white lacy sheer bra. She then yanked out some deodorant, applied it, and then put on her fresh shirt. Tucking it into her skirt, she said, “You can turn around now.”

Clark blinked several times, turned, and flashed a lovesick smile.

Lois noticed his odd expression and stared at the window and realized that she could see herself there. She sighed. “Oh great, lucky for you I’m too tired to care that you managed to catch a peep show.” She stepped into a pair of flats that she also kept in her drawer. “Come on, Smallville.”

They rushed around the office floor towards their editor’s office. They heard Perry yelling into his phone behind his closed door.

“Great. We got the biggest news story of the year and he’s pissed off,” Lois groaned and knocked.

“GET IN HERE, LANE!”

Lois rolled her eyes, opened the door, and barged into the office with Clark taking up the rear. He closed the door behind them and they sat down in two of Perry’s chairs. Lois crossed her legs and Clark noticed that she’d removed her pantyhose. He quickly blocked his view of her alluring leg with his arm and planted his fingers on his forehead. Try as he might, he couldn't stop himself from peering through the gaps of his fingers. God he loved her legs.

White slammed down the phone and stared at his two reporters. Clark snapped to attention.

“Well I see you’ve both had an interesting first day together. Lois, you look like hell,” White said.

“Thanks,” she growled.

Perry moved around his desk and showed them the paper. “Olson got great photos of our new caped wonder. Of course it would be nice to get some face shots, but I suppose action shots sell papers just as well.” He coughed and continued, “I’m particularly fond of your story on page three where you obviously collaborated together. I think it was the first time that I didn't have to put on my Lois decoder to decipher it. Not only did it have zero grammatical errors or god help us, basic spelling errors, but it was flawless…so would you care to explain to me why the rest of the articles that you submitted read like crap?”

Immediately, Clark jumped to Lois’s defense. “It was my fault, Mr. White. I left for home right when the excitement began and missed all of it. I do believe that you’re being unfair, though, I found her articles to be very informative…”

White waved him off. “Stop defending her, Kent.”

Lois thought of a million excuses and briefly tugged on playing the “I nearly died” card but knew that self pity was ugly and not her style. Instead she chose the direct path which usually scored her points in Perry’s eyes.

“I was up all night working, White. I guess there were so many stories coming in so fast that I just lost my focus. It won’t happen again,” she replied.

“Darn right it won’t! Kent, I expect you to help her out.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Go home Lane and get some sleep. I don’t want to see you in this office again until well after lunch. Now move it!” White ordered. “Kent, hold on a second. I need you to sign a couple of your new hire papers still.”

Bleary eyed, Lois peered over Clark’s shoulder and accidentally spied his salary. Anger burned all traces of sleep from her system. “What the hell?? Why is he making MORE money than me?”

All color drained from Clark’s face. Feeling the heat radiating from Lois’s boiling anger, he squeaked. “I am?”

White dropped all of his usual flippant mannerisms and replied, “You’re losing your edge, Lane. You’ve needed a swift kick in the rear to get you back in the saddle. I figured what better way than to bring Mr. Kent on here at higher pay than you. I knew it would inspire you to get your career back on track.”

Clark saw Lois clench her jaw tightly and her fists were balled on her hips. “Unbelievable.”

Clark jumped in and said, “Sir, I don’t much appreciate being used in this matter. If it’s unusual for a starting reporter to get paid so high, I would happily take several pay grades down…”

White stared at Clark with disbelief. A sly grin formed over his lips. “You’re amazing Kent. I’ve never known of anyone who willingly offers to take a salary cut. Give me your paperwork.” He snatched the clipboard out of Clark’s hand. Clark smiled encouragingly at Lois and pushed his glasses back up his nose. White returned the paperwork to Clark. “Here you go.”

A bolt of fear traveled through Clark’s body. “Sir, there’s a mistake, you put me at level eleven.”

Lois emitted a low angry animal noise and groaned, “Just sign your papers Smallville before he decides to up and make you a junior editor just to spite me.”

Perry grinned. “Lane, show me that you can be a team player…give me more articles like the first one that you produced with Kent or better yet get me the story of the year and I’ll shoot you five places up the salary scale.”

Her eyebrows shot straight upwards in surprise. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” White leaned back in his chair and took the paperwork from Clark. “Now go, get your rest and go find for me that Pulitzer article.”

Clark spun Lois around and chased her out of the office before Perry could lose his good mood.

“I think he’s lost his mind, Smallville,” Lois said conspiratorially once they were outside of earshot range.

“I believe that he just wants you to be the best that you can be. You’re very talented Lois. He admires you, a lot,” Clark said, encouragingly.

“Whatever,” Lois muttered. She stopped into the office picked up her purse and personal items and said, “I’ll be back in a few hours. You’ve already found those leads, right? I want to do an updated article on some of the folks that Superman saved. Can you follow up with the victims and see how they’re doing today?”

“Sure, Lois,” Clark agreed, sitting down. He picked up a pen and put it to paper. He flashed a wide toothy smile and asked, “And how are you doing today, Miss Lane?”

For a brief moment she forgot that she had made the front page herself. Lois grinned. “Ask me in a few hours, ok? I’ll be happy to give you the exclusive interview.”

Clark felt warm and fuzzy after she left the office savoring her parting promise. He began the long process of calling people back and taking statements. His heart warmed as each person who he saved the previous night gushed on and on their appreciation of that caped man and his heroic acts. He grinned wondering how they’d felt if they knew that they’d just spoken to their savior. Lunchtime rolled around and he heard a knock at the door. Chloe popped her head into the room and asked, “Want to get something to eat?”

“Sure,” Clark replied, jotting down some last notes. He locked his computer, smoothed his tie, stood up, and left the office. Chloe had the world’s biggest, proudest grin on her face. Clark shrugged his shoulders in an aw-shucks manner, knowing why she was beaming at him.

They made small talk and walked to a small out of the way Chinese restaurant two blocks away. They climbed into a booth in the far back and after ordering their lunches Chloe leaned across the table and said, “Barely anyone in here speaks English, so we can talk freely.”

The waitress delivered them a pot of hot tea and two bowls of soup; for Chloe egg drop, for Clark hot and sour.

“So what does it feel like?” Chloe asked.

“Saving people?” Clark asked. She nodded taking a large spoonful of soup. “Incredible…and it feels natural, you know? It’s what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, so it feels great.”

“How many people did you save last night alone?”

“I don’t know I didn’t count. I did rescue a girl’s cat that had gotten treed, so I guess you can add a terrified tabby to the list,” Clark responded, grinning and dug into his soup, savoring the bitter bite of its broth.

“OK, how about the suit? Where in the world did it come from and who designed it?” she asked.

“I started getting ideas for it after I tried on Oliver’s Green Arrow costume. I knew that I needed something different. As you probably know blue and red are my favorite colors…”

“Yes, Clark, I’m painfully aware of that,” Chloe responded, grinning as she continued eating.

“Anyways, I wanted a body suit that would fit me well but not be overly tight. It needed to be aerodynamic, flame resistant, and tear resistant. The cape is the same. It’s got some special pouches in it for storing stuff. It’ll serve a couple of purposes. One it helps me to fly and two if I need to protect someone from fire, it’ll help act as a broader shield than just using my body,” Clark quietly explained and dug out a large mushroom and devoured it.

“And I know the S is Kryptonian,” Chloe added. “So that’s a no brainer.”

“It’s actually my family crest,” Clark offered.

“Ok, where did you get it?”

“Oliver,” Clark answered. He shrugged off her surprise. “He offered to help me out and I accepted. Speaking of whom I need to contact him about something else he was having made for me. Maybe I’ll visit him tonight. Do you know where he is?”

“Last I heard he was back in Star City,” Chloe offered. Their lunch plates of chicken and rice arrived. She moved her soup bowl aside.

“You don’t keep in touch with him?” Clark asked, diving into his lunch plate.

“No. In fact, I’m completely out of the superfriends loop,” Chloe responded.

“Because I left?”

Chloe looked at her friend and chewed on her lower lip. “A lot changed over the last five years, Clark. I had to make some tough choices. Well, frankly I was forced into making those choices.”

Concern filled Clark’s eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Lex threatened me, Clark. He not only threatened me but my baby and my family,” Chloe answered. “I ran a story outlining the history of corruption in the Luther family after the trial and…he got to me. Clark he knew I was pregnant even before I told anyone except Jimmy. He scared me. I believed him, Clark. Even institutionalized and having all of his company assets frozen, I learned from my past to never underestimate a Luther’s influence. He’s turned into a very sinister monster. So I backed off of high powered journalism and am now the star columnist for the Women’s section on The Daily Planet.

Sensing a large hint of regret in her voice, he asked, “What do you do?”

“I report on local PTA stuff, cover home and garden shows, talk to chefs – light fluffy stuff.” Chloe smiled brightly. “It's ok, really! I get to see my name in the paper every week, I get paid a HUGE salary, and I get to be home by dinnertime.”

“So your hacker days are over?”

“Afraid so,” Chloe replied. “I can't run the risk of getting caught doing something illegal and go to jail, I have a family now.”

Clark smiled. “Your kids are cute.” She beamed. Clark arched a brow in her direction. “They have rather interesting names.”

Chloe chewed on her lower lip. “Oh god, you figured it out.”

Laughing, Clark said, “Well it wasn’t that hard to decipher.”

“Are you mad?”

Clark stopped a mouthful of rice that was heading to his mouth and he asked, “Why would I be mad?”

“Well, you might’ve wanted to name your children something similar,” Chloe answered, looking down.

He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “Hey I’m glad that my parents are being remembered. Besides, who knows if I can even have kids.”

Chloe’s brows knitted together in confusion. “Why not?”

Feeling a little uncomfortable, Clark explained, “Well I know that biologically I look and am compatible with humans…but I don’t know if our genetic make ups are compatible or not.”

Chloe softly smiled at him. “I’m sure that things will work out for you. Why would your father send you here if he knew that you’d be completely alone forever? I can’t think that he’d do that to you.”

Her friend shrugged his shoulders.

“Are you sure you’re not mad about the names?” she asked again.

“No, I’m not. Besides I always thought that if we had kids that they’d probably be named Ellen and Sam or Jonathan,” Clark explained. His cheeks suddenly turned bright red.

Chloe’s face lit up like a sunrise, realizing that he just rattled off Lois’s parents names. “Does Lois know this?”

Burying his face in his hands, Clark looked away unable to answer her question.

Seeing her friend’s discomfort, Chloe changed the subject. “There’s something else that you should know, Clark. There’s a reason that Lois’s career seems to be stagnating. She’s been trying to track down leads on a story that could potentially be huge.”

“What’s that?”

“Lex escaped from Belle Reve a year ago,” Chloe said, waiting for Clark’s reaction.

As expected, he was shocked. “How? I thought he was broke.”

“You know that there’s no way he wouldn’t have off shore, untraceable accounts Clark. I’m sure he’s had plenty of capital hidden away to buy his escape,” Chloe replied.

“So that’s why you’ve been continuing to lay low,” Clark responded, pushing his plate aside, suddenly no longer hungry. “Lois is trying to find out where he is?”

Chloe nodded.

His blue eyes were filled with concern. “Is she aware of how dangerous that is?”

“You know Lois…”

“…Pit bull on a pants leg,” Clark said, finishing Chloe’s thought. He put a wad of money on the table and said, “I have to go somewhere, can you make it back to the office by yourself?”

“I think I can manage,” Chloe responded. “Where are you going?”

Standing up from the table, Clark looked at her and said, “Time to visit an old friend.”

Leaving her with an encouraging smile he vanished in a flash. Chloe’s heart fluttered in her chest, it felt like old times again, but even better because Clark was no longer that unsure teenager that she befriended long ago but had grown into a confident man. She firmly believed that if anyone could save the world, Clark Kent was the man for the job.


Chapter 6

The sound of tropical rainforests echoed into the walls of the upscale apartment located on the Upper East Side of Star City’s high rent district. Exotic birds called to each other, trees rustled in the wind and rain, and monkey calls hooted in the distance creating a cacophony of blissfully tranquil white noise that covered the sounds of the traffic outside. Oliver Queen stood on his hands in quiet repose listening to the sounds concentrating on keeping his body in balance and his mind clear of all distractions. The scent of clean rainforest incense permeated the air to help clear out all impurities in the air.

Suddenly he felt a strong wind brush against his bare chest. He opened his eyes and from his handstand position saw a stranger materialize out of thin air and appear in the middle of his apartment. Squinting his brown eyes recognition dawned on him.

“Clark?” Oliver tumbled onto his feet and stood up smiling. He threw out his hand towards his wayward friend and happily pumped it. “What’s with the glasses man, they make you look like a geek.”

“Thanks, Oliver,” Clark replied, sarcastically. Oliver, he noted, looked pretty much the same as he had five years ago. His intense yoga and combat training obviously helped to keep him fit and youthful in appearance. The only real difference was that Oliver now sported a perfectly clipped goatee on his face. His fancy apartment in Star City was every bit as impressive as his Metropolis loft. The décor was highly modern and the place was peppered with intricate and thought provoking artwork.

Oliver threw a green t-shirt on over his bare chest and picked up his copy of the local Star City newspaper. Throwing it in Clark’s direction he stated, “Somehow I knew you were going to show up to see me. I had quite a surprise this morning when I opened the paper and saw the front page. I like the costume.”

Clark grinned at Oliver’s knowing smile. “It does look alright, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, it suits you. It looks like after your five year absence you’re making up for lost time. I believe that saving forty people’s lives in one evening has to be an all time high for a Superhero,” Oliver replied, shaking his head in awe.

“That many huh? I wasn’t keeping track,” Clark said, shrugging.

“Of course you didn’t Clark, you’re too modest to ever keep score like that,” Oliver answered. He shifted on his feet and then ruffled a hand through his blond hair. “Did she recognize you?” Oliver asked, looking away.

His guest recognized Oliver's discomfort and immediately Clark knew that he was referring to Lois. “She didn’t get a good look at my face. I flew away before she could get a good look at me after I left her on the roof.”

“You know it still gets to me that you can fly. Seriously man, is there nothing you can't do?”

“I've been told I have zero sense of rhythm,” Clark deadpanned.

“Funny. Well knowing how determined Lois is to track down costumed superheroes, we’d better do something about at least trying to keep your identity protected,” Oliver stated.

Oliver opened a secret compartment in his wall and bright green light flooded the apartment. He padded into the room past all of his high tech Green Arrow gadgets and unlocked a sealed compartment from it he extracted a box and handed it to Clark.

“These should help to conceal your identity,” he offered.

Clark gratefully took the box and opened it. Inside he found a pair of very slick high tech sunglasses. A large smile spread across his face as he flicked out the ear pieces and brought them closer to his face for further scrutiny. “Alright, lay it down for me, Oliver.”

“These things are one of a kind. The frame is made of durable, ultra light-weight titanium steel alloy, you can try to crush them, sit on them, whatever, they won’t break. Lenses are designed to read increasing heat temperatures. When you use your heat vision the lenses will pop out of the way so that you don’t accidentally melt them. Then when the air cools they’ll pop back down. The lenses also react to light sensitivity. On the outside they’ll remain pitch black in appearance, but from the inside, if you’re in a dark ally or somewhere pitch black they’ll provide you with extra night vision. Of course they also act as killer sunglasses. Finally, at the side there’s a tiny camera, click on the left ear nub and it will activate and record all visual and audio that is available in your immediate area. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve got the signal set to transmit the images back to my headquarters here? My satellites are set to receive signals and transmit them to me from anywhere in the world,” Oliver stated.

“That's incredible,” Clark said, awestruck. He threw out his hand again and pumped Oliver’s hand. “These are amazing, Oliver. I don’t know how I can repay you.” Clark removed his regular glasses and modeled his new pair. “How do they look?”

Oliver examined Clark from all angles and smirked. “You look great. They hide a lot of your upper face. So long as you don’t flash that goofy grin of yours, people should have a hard time recognizing you.”

Clark glared at his friend through the dark lenses then smirked. He took them off and put them safely back into their case and put his regular glasses back on.

“How’re things going with the JLA? I heard about Lex. Have you guys found out anything about him?” Clark asked.

“You mean his disappearance?” Oliver asked. “Unfortunately, no. It’s like he's vanished off of the face of the planet…rather like you actually.”

“Trust me, he’s not hiding where I’ve been,” Clark responded.

“We’ve got nothing. If he’s moving currency he’s doing it with untraceable funds. All of his family and company properties have been sold off and are no longer under Luther control,” Oliver said, staring at an electronic screen, he clicked to a world map that highlighted all of the locations worldwide where Lex’s family used to own property.

“He’s too smart to return to one of those places,” Clark offered. “If anything, he’s probably where we least expect it, Lex is predicable in his unpredictability.”

“What do you mean?”

Clark stood with his legs apart and his arms crossed over his chest. “Well I’m pretty sure that he’s not too far away, Lex likes being in the middle of everything and doesn’t like to be in places he’s not 100% comfortable with. He might have moved a lot of money off shore but I bet he’s still close to Metropolis or Smallville. He wouldn’t stay too far away from the world’s largest concentration of meteor rock on the planet.”

Oliver stared dubiously at Clark. “Well there’s been no signs of him, but if you find out anything, let me know. You know the team will be more than happy to assist in returning him to the authorities so that he can finish out his life sentence.”

“Will do,” Clark said. “Hey I’ve got to get back to work. How can I ever repay you for what you did for me?”

“Keep doing what you’ve started doing, Clark. Using your powers to protect those who can't help themselves is payment enough for me,” Oliver said, grinning.

They shook hands once more and Clark left his friend’s apartment to return to The Daily Planet.

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

Suicide Slums had not improved in the past five years, if anything they had deteriorated further into becoming the main hovel for crime and the haven for the underbelly of Metropolis’s seedy masses.

A large empty Luther Corp. office building loomed over the miles of graffiti covered abandoned strip malls and low rent motels. Two blocks from the structure sat a derelict light rail station that the city had abandoned years ago after too many of Metropolis’s citizens complained about the criminals who lurked at the depot. Homeless families had set up large camps with the structure and it reeked of human waste, cheap booze, and unwashed body odors. Unbeknownst to those who inhabited the train station, the depot was only the topmost edifice that sat atop a much grander structure.

Two miles down the main tracks there sat a large rusted steel door. It looked like any other portal opening that broke up the monotony of boring black walls. One might think it led to an old control room; in reality the rust was a cover for what really existed on the other side of the panel. Armed with highly advanced and expensive locks, the door opened into a long corridor that wove its way purposefully under the city back towards the abandoned Luther building. At the end of the hallway existed four more doors that could only be accessed by the most advanced security measures, iris matching, fingerprint matching, voice recognition software were all utilized along with requiring a key card. If one was able to pass all of these hurdles one would enter another maze of hallways. If one took the path towards the left the destination led to a highly secure clean room that opened into a highly advanced laboratory filled with the most modern medical and genetic mapping equipment available. Three levels below the large lab were catacombs filled with tiny cells that contained lab subjects – most of whom were humans with strange and unusual abilities.

In the exact opposite direction of the laboratory three miles away was a giant underground home that was a near exact replica of the Luther Manor that now sat vacant in Smallville.

Sitting in his marble filled office, Lex Luther sat at his desk with a current copy of The Daily Planet displayed on his retractable plasma 33” computer monitor. His grey blue eyes fixated on the super sized photos of the man caught on film holding loud mouth reporter Lois Lane in one arm and a helicopter in the other as he flew up the side of the Planet’s building.

After enduring years of shock therapy during his incarceration at Belle Reve, Lex’s mind was a bit Swiss cheesed with large gaping holes in his memory. One image kept re-surfacing and consuming his waking thoughts, it was that of a primitive two headed monster cave painting. He tapped into his large archives and brought up information about an extraordinary set of Native American caves located just outside of his former home of Smallville. He read through the Kawatche legend that he had once entered into the database himself. It revealed the name of a mythical man who would fall from the sky in a rain of fire, have the strength of ten men, and be able to produce fire from his eyes. The hero’s name would be Naman. There was a second part of the tale that spoke of Naman having a bitter enemy who used to be as close to him as a brother, his name was Sageeth.

Even with his memory fractured, Lex still recalled pieces this obscure legend. He recalled that he had once been completely obsessed with the legend and trying to understand its secrets. As he stared at the picture of Superman holding the helicopter like it was a beach ball he somehow knew that Naman had finally arrived to Earth…and that he, Lex Luther, was Sageeth. Lex had witnessed first hand the power that this alien race possessed, they truly were terrifying creatures. He was Earth’s last chance to defeat this man from the stars and save mankind from certain doom.

Lex didn’t quite understand how he could be considered a brother to Naman, but he believed that perhaps that was a part of the overall metaphor of the legend. Lex was of this earth – its protectorate. He hated being forced into hiding but his exile had given him time to recover from his time of imprisonment. Being unnaturally pale to begin with, he didn’t miss sunlight. He didn’t even miss people all that much. Everyone he thought that he believed in ultimately had betrayed him. His father ratted his plans for his 33.1 laboratory out to the Feds. He paid the ultimate price for his betrayal. Lex considered Lionel’s death to be a casualty of war. Why couldn’t the jury see that he was simply eliminating an obstacle that was preventing him from trying to help protect the world against an imminent threat and possible extinction?

Lana Lang…Lana betrayed him. She ferreted information out of the manor right under his nose and further helped the Feds to build their case against him and his company. He had no idea where she vanished to. He could only assume that Clark Kent had some hand in assisting in her secretive relocation.

Clark Kent.

The farm boy who had once been his best friend…a man with such high morals and apparent integrity, yet he continually lied to everyone. He lied protecting god only knew what. Lex’s broken memories still retained the sting of betrayal from his friend, remembering Clark’s detailed testimony regarding the horrors that went on in Lex’s 33.1 project. Clark Kent’s striking good looks, mild mannered presence, and moral conviction helped seal the fate on Docket case 1978257702 United States Vs. Lex Luthor and Luther Corp Holdings.

Clark would one day pay for his deception. During his years in Belle Reve Lex had attempted to keep an eye on Clark but found it to be surprisingly difficult. He seemed to have dropped off of the face of the planet, only to have emerged yesterday boldly declaring his return amongst mankind as a new reporter at The Daily Planet.

Lex scrolled to page three and focused on his article that he wrote with Lois Lane about the first appearance of Superman. He thought it interesting that Senator Martha Kent, Clark’s mother was present at the miraculous event.

“How convenient,” he muttered, chewing on a pen cap. His eyes read over her comments about the mysterious caped man, That man is a true hero, he embodies everything that is good in our country. He put his personal strengths to good use and used them to help others. He is the epitome of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Lex wanted to gag. To further increase the nauseating factor, the Metropolis Mayor gave a speech that reeked with desire to grab a ride on Superman’s coattails and find himself a spot on front page of the Planet. In his speech he must’ve gone through a hundred different thesauruses looking for alternate words to describe selfless heroic acts of bravery.

Anger flared through Lex’s soul. This flying blueberry was out and about saving sniveling and worthless common folk and he got nothing but praise, but when Lex tries to create the perfect soldier to help defeat evil forces unknown, he’s seen as a criminal.

Lips curled into a snarl, he closed the newspaper and opened his email. In it he found three messages confirming the approval of land purchases in the Nevadan desert.

At least some good news had arrived to brighten his otherwise darkening day. One day they will all understand, he thought. I’m not the villain of this story, but it’s savior. And now I know who my enemy is...and I know his greatest weakness.


 

Chapter 7

Lois returned to the office refreshed after a nap and a long hot shower. She barged into her office with a tray of coffees and immediately tried to hand one off to Clark. She waited while he scribbled something down on a pad of paper. Her eyes traveled over his long body as he sat back in his chair chatting on the phone, he seemed to have made himself comfortably at home in their office already. His jacket was off and his blue oxford shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows showing off his muscular forearms. Lois’s eyebrows shot up admiring the view.

“Yes, Mrs. Staddler, he truly is an amazing person. I’m grateful that you are alright,” Clark said into the phone.

Lois gave up trying to hand him the coffee and sat down at her desk. Turning her computer on, she gulped down her coffee and breezed through her email. It was filled with messages from Clark outlining his conversations with the witnesses that he’d already called back. As she read through them she was again impressed by his follow through and ability to ask the correct probing questions to extract interesting quotes and observations from the witnesses. As much as she hated to admit it, perhaps Perry wasn’t off of his rocker in hiring on Clark.

She covertly peered past her monitor and spied him leaning over his notepad. He had a smile on his face as he chatted to Mrs. Staddler – an elderly woman Superman had swept out of the middle of a crosswalk moments before a speeding ambulance would’ve run her over. Clark’s Lois radar went off again and suddenly their eyes met. He smiled at her, causing his eyes to light up like it was the Fourth of July. Not knowing why, Lois blushed. Clark noticed her reaction and smiled even brighter, phone forgotten in his hand.

“I’m sorry what was that, Mrs. Staddler?” Clark asked, as he nearly tipped over in his chair. “Oh yes, well keep you eyes on the paper, I’m sure that he’ll be back to help more people. Thank you again your comments are most appreciated.”

He hung up the phone and coughed hiding his embarrassed grin. Lois handed him the coffee. “To replace the one that I drank this morning.”

Clark giddy expression made her think he looked like she’d just given him keys to a new Porsche. “It’s just coffee, Clark.”

“You didn’t need to do that, Lois.”

“Yes I did,” Lois answered, tearing her eyes away from her uncomfortably cheerful partner. “I got a chance to look through your interviews…where did you get this knack for talking to people?”

“Comes from years of actually listening to people when you’re talking to them and not at them,” Clark responded.

Lois licked the inside of her mouth and growled, “And what…is that what I do?”

“I didn’t mean that…I was generalizing….” Clark back peddled.

“God you’re impossible, Smallville. One minute you’re all doe-eyed at me the next you’re sucker punching me in the gut,” Lois spat. “Sometimes I think you’ve got a duel personality problem. How can someone who’s usually so nice be so nasty at the same time?”

She didn’t need to look up to know that his puppy dog eyes were about to make another appearance. Putting her hands up to shield herself from his hurt expression, she said, “Just forget about it and keep working.”

Before she could say anything Clark was on his feet and standing behind her chair. His huge hands suddenly came to rest on her shoulders and his thumbs started massaging the base of her neck. Even through the back of her chair she could feel his body heat radiating in close proximity to herself. Her brows arched skyward as the corner of her mouth lifted in pleasure.

Lois felt building tension suddenly melt away as he worked his magic. She melted in her chair. “Why can’t I ever stay mad at you?” she muttered.

“Because even though I’m a pain in the ass, I’m a charming pain in the ass,” Clark replied, smirking behind her back. He choked back what he really wanted to say, Because you really do love me, Lois Lane.

Kicking her chair around, Lois crossed her arms over her chest. Clark snapped his hands off of her shoulders and stood to attention. Lois smirked at him. “For a bumbling fool, you’re amazingly self-assured Clark Kent.”

As expected he shrugged his shoulders and looked sheepishly down at her. “I can’t help who I am Lois. I’m good around people, but tend to turn into a blithering idiot around…” his voice faltered.

“Me?” Lois said, finishing his sentence. She arched her brow and laughed.
“Why? It’s not like we have anything to hide from each other, right?”

Any and all confidence that Clark might have been briefly feeling evaporated. His vision blurred and palms began to sweat at the thought of actually saying what his heart wanted him to shout.

Lois noticed his inner struggle and rolled her eyes. Clark shoved his glasses up his nose and retreated to his desk. He sat down and smacked his forehead with his pad of paper. His eyes then peered around his monitor and gazed in Lois’s direction. She had changed into a smartly tailored charcoal gray pantsuit with sensible chunky heeled boots. Her hair fell in loose curls around her face.

“You’re staring at me, Smallville,” she barked as she tapped onto her computer.

“I know,” he answered and nervously scratched at his side-burn.

Realizing that he was not going to stop until she acknowledged what he wanted, Lois peeked around her monitor and met his eyes. “We do have work to do, you know. Deadline for this evening’s paper is in two hours.”

“I’ve got about ninety percent of the copy written already,” Clark said.

Her brows shot straight up. “What? But you sent me all of your interviews…when did you have time…”

“I’m a fast typist. Lois?”

“Yes?”

Clark tapped a pen against his desk in a nervous rhythm. “When White said you needed a Pulitzer type article in order to get you that raise, what kind of a story did he mean, exactly? I would’ve thought being the headliner for the leading story on yesterday’s paper would do it.”

“Being the news and uncovering the news are two different things, Clark. Any good reporter will know that,” she replied. “Now if Superman had stayed around after my rescue and we had a little chat and I found out more about him – that would’ve impressed White a lot more than me falling off of a building and needing to be rescued by our new hero.”

“Interesting,” Clark muttered.

“Why is that interesting?” Lois asked, drinking more of her coffee.

Clark’s blue eyes met hers and he replied, “Well, if Superman hadn’t been there to save you…”

“Well now THAT would’ve been newsworthy and my splattered brains on the pavement would’ve probably earned someone big recognition and a big headline,” Lois replied, smiling sarcastically. “Hey it could’ve been your big story! Sorry to disappoint you though, Clark. Thanks to Superman we’ll be sharing an office for quite a long time.”

“I’m grateful for that Lois. I prefer your brains being inside your skull,” Clark answered and smiled back at her. Then he backed off and returned to finishing his article. An hour later he sent it over to her to proofread.

Lois had little to correct on it and said, “Send it down to the presses.”

Clark opened the article again and saw that she had removed her name off of the byline. When he opened his mouth to comment, Lois stopped him. “You did all of the work, it’s all your work. Congrats Smallville! Welcome to becoming a true reporter and your first byline. Since its follow-up to yesterday’s news it will probably get buried a few pages back from the front, but it’s a good read.”

Grinning and very proud of himself, Clark mailed it off to the publishers, stood up, and stretched. “Are you hungry? I bet you didn’t eat earlier,” Clark said.

“Eat? Oh I thought I’d grab something from the vending machine,” she said, finishing off her own story.

“Yuck, I don’t think so Miss Lane. You need to keep your strength up. Come on, let’s go get some dinner. You can then come back and wait for any news on Superman,” Clark replied, offering a hand in her direction.

“Clark I really shouldn’t…”

“That’s why you have a cell phone Lois. If he’s out and about you’ll be the first one to be notified,” Clark responded. “Besides, who knows, even superheroes need to eat, maybe it’s his dinner time too.”

Lois slumped her shoulders in defeat, sent off her article, and then shut her computer down. “No longer than an hour though, ok?”

Clark grinned and helped her into her jacket and they left their office to head to dinner.

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

“Where do you recommend we go to eat, Lois?” Clark asked as they hit the pavement.

“Man you’re like a bottomless pit aren’t you? Same old farm boy can't stop thinking with his stomach. I bet Mrs. Kent is excited to be rid of you, I’m surprised you didn’t eat the Kent’s out of their house,” Lois joked.

“Ha ha. Can I help it if I require a lot of nutrients to keep me going? So where are we going anyways? We’re not going to some fancy girly place where they serve you a sliver of chicken and three peas and consider that a meal are we?”

“Yeah right like I’d ever eat at a place like that. Just follow me, Smallville. I know a place that you’ll like.”

Clark grinned at Lois’s response. He realized that they were so alike it was almost scary. They wove their way through the busy and thick pedestrian traffic. Lois huffed in annoyance and said, “Come on, this way.”

She tugged on Clark’s arm and dragged him into an alley.

“This doesn’t seem very safe, Lois,” Clark said, on alert.

“Give me a break, Smallville. What’s going to happen to us? Are you worried that you’re going to be attacked by a vicious alley cat?” Lois scoffed as she marched ahead of him.

Clark scowled at her back. Suddenly three armed thugs jumped out from behind a dumpster.

“You know what to do lady,” the one closest to her demanded, hand extended.

Lois responded as Lois always does…she made like she was going to remove her bag then threw her weight behind it and twacked it against his head. The thug fell to the ground. His two buddies sprang into action. One grabbed Lois and the other nervously fired his gun…at Clark.

A loud unintelligible scream erupted out of Lois as she watched Clark get thrown off of his feet and crash against the alley wall. The three would be robbers raced away as Lois dashed to Clark’s side.

She threw open his jacket and began feeling for a bullet hole. “Clark? Come on, wake up!” she hysterically cried out. Not seeing any blood she slapped his face. “Damn you, you’re not leaving me again,” she cursed.

Clark’s eyes narrowly opened as he briefly studied Lois’s facial expression – she was nearing a full blown panic attack. Quickly he fluttered his eyes open and faked a groan. He shoved his akimbo glasses back into place and asked, “What happened?”

“You were shot! At least I thought you were…turn around!” Lois demanded. She then felt his back and didn’t discover any blood.

Knowing he was about to lose face completely, he had no other option but to say, “Great, I must’ve fainted.”

The look of terror on Lois’s face froze and morphed into an expression of mortified disbelief. She stood up and offered Clark her hand and helped him to his feet. Still not believing that he wasn’t hurt she stripped off his jacket and examined him all over. Finally satisfied that didn’t have any extra holes in him, she forcibly returned his jacket.

Her hazel eyes looked around the wall near where he had collapsed. “I don’t get it where’s the bullet hole then?”

“Maybe he had blanks loaded in his gun?”

“Then why did you fly backwards across crash into the wall?” Lois demanded, fists on hips.

“Because the sound scared me,” he replied, giving her a skeptical, small smile.

Lois rolled her eyes and said, “Come on, follow me, wuss.”

“Just a second,” Clark said. Waiting until her back was facing in his direction he activated his superhearing and heard her muttering something about being friends with the wimpiest man in the universe. He chuckled mischievously under his breath and opened the closest dumpster. Clark then threw away the crushed bullet that he’d snatched in his hand right before it would’ve bounced off of his chest.

Knowing his secret remained safe for one more day Clark raced to catch up with Lois and escorted her to the restaurant.


Chapter 8


Lois stood staring out the window of her office after dinner. Her eyes repeatedly scanned the Metropolis skyline as darkness enshrouded the city. She felt slightly ridiculous thinking that she could will Superman into her line of sight. However, there was something about him…some intangible connection that she felt for her savior that she couldn’t articulate or put into words. Her heart longed for the man to appear and it was pounding in overdrive.

From his desk, Clark lounged and spun a pencil around in his fingers. He studied Lois’s profile as she splayed her fingers over the glass and nearly pressed her nose against the pane. She looked like a kid gazing longingly into a toy store window. He thought she looked adorable.

Show time.

Clark uncrossed his legs and stretched. “Well Lois, I think I’m going out for a walk. I’ll check back later to see if Superman shows up, ok?”

Lois slowly turned and watched Clark as he grabbed his coat and saw an expensive looking eyeglasses case peeking out of his inside pocket.

“What are those, Clark?” she asked.

“What?”

“The glasses case,” Lois asked, curious. “I know that's not for your cheap frames.”

“Oh, I ah…I picked up some glasses for my Mom today,” he stated and snapped his jacket closed. “I’ll be back later, Lois.”

She frowned as Clark made a speedy exit from the office. Lois realized that he didn’t even turn back to wave goodbye. She thought that was a little weird but shook it off and returned to her window watching. Absently she blew onto the window pane and created a large circle of fog. Her finger squeaked as she drew a large S through the condensation and suddenly she jumped in surprise. She rubbed off the fog and saw Superman hovering in front of her window. He had his arms crossed over his chest and was smiling at her under a pair of slick new sunglasses. Lois noticed that his hair was all teased out.

He then blew on the window and created a large fog print on his side of the pane. In it he wrote, “How are you?”

She quickly moved aside and did the same thing. “Good thanks to you.”

“I’m glad.”

Quickly Lois moved to her window and opened it. The sounds of distant traffic suddenly invaded the quiet office environment and a strong cool breeze suddenly invigorated her senses. She was surprised to see that Superman hadn’t flown off.

“Hello?”

The man zipped slightly out of the way, just outside of her clear line of sight. “Why are you so nervous?” she asked. “I won’t hurt you.” She wanted to smack her forehead, she sounded like she was talking to the superhero like he was a stray dog.

“I’m not nervous,” Superman responded in a deep rumbling voice and flashed her a smile. “I’m glad to see you’re in one piece, Miss Lane.”

“Have you…have you visited all of the people who you saved yesterday?” Lois asked, her hand unconsciously fluttered up to her hair and patted it into place.

“No, I just wanted to check on you since fell quite far before I caught you,” Superman replied. His head tilted slightly to the left and in the distance sirens began to blare. “I believe that’s my cue! I’ll talk to you later, Miss Lane.”

“Wait!” Lois shouted, reaching her hand out the window, but he was gone.

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

Superman sped towards the increasingly frantic siren calls. Wind blasted against his cape and it fluttered around his body. He deciphered the sounds and determined that the different sirens came from nine fire trucks and two dozen police cars. As he flew towards the scene he came to the Five Mile McCarthy Bridge and found traffic snarled in the city for miles due to the bridge being blocked off. The new glasses from Oliver lit up the ground with their night-vision. A kernel of an idea formed in his mind on how to help Lois. He tapped on the nub and started recording what he witnessed.

On the bridge he saw that a school bus had precariously crashed through a guardrail and was dangling dangerously over the water’s edge. His super hearing detected the urgent cries and screams from dozens of terrified children trapped inside. The large vehicle began to sway and fell off of the bridge and plummeted towards the icy river water below. Throwing his arms to his sides to make his body more aerodynamic he zoomed towards the bus and soared in an elegant arc towards the water and positioned himself under the vehicle effortlessly catching the bus on its grill. He peered up the buses engine block and saw the African American bus driver’s eyes bulging in his head with terror. Several children had flown into the window – the glass was the only thing preventing them from falling into the icy river below. Quickly, using his powers he gathered up the air molecules around him and pushed himself upwards…up…up…up…up until the he was at the far end of the bridge safely far away from the broken railings, then he moved his right hand under the bus and adjusted it so that it was perpendicular to the ground and gently set it on its wheels.

His goggles registered the happy squeals and smiles of relief from the kids and driver inside the bus. Satisfied that everyone seemed to be in one piece he grinned at them, waved, and he shot up in to the air. He then flew over the contingency of police cars, gave them a thumbs up, and disappeared into the night. The sounds of motorists honking their horns in approval of his rescue made his smile broaden.

Quickly he landed on a rooftop two miles away, pulled his cellphone out of his cape, and dialed Oliver.

Impressive bit of rescuing, Boyscout, Oliver’s said, voice full of awe.

“Do you mind if I send you videos like that every now and again?” Clark asked, ignoring Oliver's annoying call name for him. He looked around the rooftop to verify no one was there.

Why? Want me to keep a chronicle of your greatest saves? Come on Clark, where’s that modesty that I commended you on earlier?

“It’s not for me…it’s for…well…”

The phone went dead silent. Oliver chimed in finally, What’s Lois’s email address?

“You don’t mind?”

Lois and I are ancient history, Clark. I’m not quite sure what you expect to accomplish with this, but I’m happy to get the videos to her, Oliver stated.

“Don’t worry, I won’t send these over to you very often,” Clark replied, avoiding Oliver’s point. He then gave Oliver Lois’s email address.

I’ll send the video to her through an untraceable mail account, Oliver said.

“Thanks,” Clark said. Suddenly his ears detected new sirens coming from the south of the city. “Oliver? I have to go.”

Later, Oliver said and signed off.

Putting away his phone, Superman headed off for his next rescue.

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

The phone was again ringing off of the hook in Lois’s office. She had just returned for the kitchenette with a huge mug of fresh coffee when the reports of the miraculous bus save started pouring in.

Again, Chloe had appeared to help her cousin out. She settled herself into Clark’s desk to type up her notes from the witnesses from the scene.

“Crap!” Lois shouted.

“What’s wrong?” Chloe asked.

“Something just clogged up my email and I can’t access anything because the file is so huge. Can I send it off to Smallville’s mail and you can open it for me?” Lois asked.

“Sure,” Chloe said, feeling slightly guilty that she as about to enter Clark’s private email without his permission.

She then opened his mail and saw that the file was a huge streaming video link.

“Lois? You might want to come here,” she said, waving her cousin over.

“This had better be good,” Lois said, shoving a piece of gum in her mouth. She muttered, “I can’t believe I chose now to stop smoking.” She leaned over her cousin’s back and waited while the file downloaded into Clark’s video program.

Unanimously their eyes grew to the size of saucers as the video tilted towards the bridge and hovered above it for a moment. Then at roller-coaster descending speed the video zoomed over the water and under the rapidly falling bus. They could see a pair of strong hands grab tightly onto the grill of the bus but mostly saw the looks of terror on the faces of the individuals inside the bus. Then moments later when the bus was placed safely down they saw Superman’s hand wave at the happy folks inside and fly off. The video cut off after he waved to the police barricades below.

Lois lost all feeling in her legs and she collapsed next to Chloe. “Holy crap.”

Excitement surged through Chloe's veins at watching the footage. “Remember at the meeting today that the Chief Editor wanted to boost our paper's online presence? I think this video could be just the ticket for it! The Daily Planet could have the number one newspaper website in the world if we can keep getting this sort of footage from Superman! Jimmy can capture some great stills from this for the front page of the late night edition and I bet he can get this video spliced so that we can put it up on The Planet's website,” Chloe offered, her arms tingling with excitement. She studied the video with confusion. “I wonder how he got video of his save.”

“He had on these fancy sunglasses,” Lois murmured. “I bet they have video capture capacity. Any way to track who sent that email?”

Old skills die hard. With the excitement of possibly working on revamping the paper's website and being asked to use her hacker skills, Chloe started to feel like her old self again. Chloe tapped into her old spy networks and began traces on the incoming email address. She slumped in her chair and placed her hands on her protruding stomach and waited. The screen came back with negative results.

“Interesting. How did Superman obtain a non-traceable email account?” Lois asked.

Chloe had a pretty good idea where he acquired assistance but kept her mouth shut. She simply stated, “Well, he is Superman.”

Lois rolled her eyes and grabbed some paper and watched the video over and over marking down details. Jimmy excitedly entered the room and made a copy of the footage and raced back to his office to enhance some of the photos and get the video ready for posting on the website.

Suddenly the door opened and Clark entered the office. “What’s going on?” he asked.

Chloe noticed that he was flushed and his cheeks looked a little wind burned. “We just received the most amazing video footage!” Chloe said, arching her brows upwards. “Guess who from?”

“Who?”

“Superman!”

Clark laughed. “Right, Superman.”

Lois flashed him one of her world famous, AS-IF expressions and threw down the challenge, “See for yourself, hayseed.”

He glared at his office mate and then leaned over Chloe and watched the video. He could feel her smirking even though he couldn’t see her face. “That’s pretty amazing, Lois,” he agreed, pushing his glasses up his nose. “Looks like you have an admirer.”

“Puleeze! I think he just feels sorry for me…or maybe wants to impress me with his prowess?” she said.

“Oh I don’t think that Superman would do that just to impress you, Lois. I doubt he's that full of himself,” Clark said, avoiding looking at Chloe's wide spreading grin. “I’m sure he just wanted you to have the full details so you could write a really great article.”

“You know, he wasn’t wearing glasses last night,” Lois stated, planting her hands on her hips. “I wonder why he's wearing them now?”

It took every ounce of Clark’s willpower to not subconsciously pat his jacket to verify that his glasses case was still there. He knew that if he did Lois would connect the dots. “Well maybe he just forgot them last night,” Clark said. He squinted his eyes and asked, “Do you have some copy ready for me to proof?”

“Sure Smallville. Let me send it to you,” Lois said.

“Here let me get up,” Chloe said, making to push herself out of Clark’s chair. He stilled her hands and grinned.

“Trust me, I’m tall enough that I can do this on my knees,” he said.

Chloe watched as he opened Lois’s copy and immediately spell checked it and then proofed it for grammatical inconsistencies. He then read the content and expertly clipped out clumps of Lois's awkward wording and made the passages more reader friendly. Clark's former high school editor arched her brows in amazed surprise.

Lois exited the office to go to the bathroom. Chloe leaned over and mouthed, “Oliver?”

“Yeah. He’s doing good,” Clark whispered back.

“How’d you learn to edit article so well?” Chloe asked.

“Well,” Clark replied, smirking. “I did learn from the master.”

Chloe rolled her eyes and then beamed happily. “So what's next? Shouldn't you be out saving the world?”

“I already stopped four armed robberies, prevented three car accidents, and saved a child from getting run over by his mother driving out of her driveway,” Clark answered. Pointing at the monitor he added, “Oh yeah, and that.”

“Well crimes don't stop just because you have a deadline to meet,” Chloe replied.

“I'm taking a break is all. Perry reamed Lois out because I didn't help with the stories last night,” he replied and offered his blond friend a small smile. “Besides, the night's not over yet. I want Lois to go home. I have something planned for her.”

Chloe's eyebrows arched with piqued interest. “Really?”

“Just see what you can do about getting her home at a reasonable hour, ok?” Clark asked. He put the finishing touches on their big story and mailed it back to Lois for final approval. Clark gave Chloe a peck on the cheek and said, “I'm off, see you tomorrow.”

She leaned in her chair and watched Clark leave the office. Several minutes later Lois returned. “Perry loves your idea of getting that video on the website, when Jimmy gets it all set, he'll work with you two to get everything set up,” Lois reported, grinning.

Opening her mail she saw her revised copy from Clark. She thoroughly scanned it and admitted that his changes enhanced the overall read of the article.

“Where did Clark go?” she asked, realizing that he was gone.

“He went home for the evening,” Chloe answered. “Which is what I need to do, my kids are waiting. Don't stay here too late, Lois. Get a good night sleep tonight.”

“Sure Chlo, I already plan to, I'm beat,” Lois answered and waved her goodbye. She called to Jimmy and let him know what Perry said. Then yawning, she submitted her copy to the presses, turned off her computer, and headed home desperate to lay her head on her pillow and sleep like the dead.


Chapter 9

Lois returned to her Metropolis apartment exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sink into a hot bath. She flicked on the lights and sorted through her uninspiring mail. She dumped the junk mail into the trash, removed her jacket, and threw it over a chair. Not in the mood to do anything she headed to her bedroom and sighed as she turned on the lights. She has recently redecorated the room with clean Scandinavian style furniture and blue and yellow fabrics. It was her oasis from the craziness of her work life. She opened her dresser and extracted a favorite pair of pajamas and shucked off her clothes, mentally preparing herself for a long bath.

As she exited her bedroom she happened to glance through her living room and saw a man standing out on her balcony. Shock and momentary terror coursed through her body. She darted back into her bedroom to avoid detection. Peering around the door she noticed what the man was wearing and her heart seized in panic. It was Superman. Luckily he had his back turned to her and didn’t get an eyeful of her nakedness. She shut her door and reached into her closet grabbing the first thing in arm’s reach and put it on. It was a long white cotton summer halter dress.

Lois did a one over of herself in the mirror and put on a pair of flats. She then opened her door and headed into her living room. Grabbing her purse she quickly extracted her trusty digital audio recorder and examined the man standing on her balcony. A large sense of déjà vu hit her as she examined the way that Superman was standing. With his back to her, he was leaning slightly to the right, his long red cape flowing down his back. He had his right hand out and was delicately studying one of Lois’s ferns.

As quietly as possible she slid open her porch door and stepped behind the superhero. The early summer evening was warm and Lois felt comfortable in her dress. The slightest breeze swirled the long skirt around her legs. The wind also picked up the delicately sweet smell of the large white moonflowers that had begun to bloom. They filled her patio with their heady aroma.

“I didn’t know you gardened, Miss Lane,” Superman said, in a deep rumbling masculine voice. “Your plants are lovely.”

So much for stealth, she thought. “I spent several years living in the country and miss seeing green. I find that my plants relax me,” she explained. She nervously added, “I’m surprised I don’t have black thumb considering I usually kill anything that I put into my oven. You like plants?”

“Plants are amazing things, not only are they functional and they allow all of the creatures on this earth to thrive but they’re beautiful,” Superman replied and then turned around to face Lois. Her brows furrowed together as she immediately picked up his strange detachment in describing life on their planet. Behind his sunglasses, Clark’s eyes softened as he gazed at his longtime friend. She rarely wore dresses, especially ones that were as feminine as the white dress that she wore this evening. His heart melted, he didn’t think he could possibly love her more than he already did but he was wrong. There was something positively enchanting about seeing Lois in a way other than her usual bossy and self assured self. It was strange and exciting at the same time.

Lois’s eyes traveled up Superman's tight leather costume, over his broad chest where the S shield stood out like an SOS signal in a sea of blue. She then examined the outline of his face: strong jaw with a cleft in his chin, and a broad nose. The side of his large and supple mouth curled up in an amused smirk as he watched her sizing him up. “See anything that interests you?”

She shook her head and blushed realizing that she had been caught ogling her unexpected guest. She crossed her arms over her chest, hiding her recorder.

“It’s OK Miss Lane, you may record our conversation,” Superman said, taking a step closer to her.

“How did you know…?”

“I saw it in your hand…and you’re a reporter it’s only natural that you’d want to record our conversation,” he answered, smiling.

Taking his acceptance to heart, Lois turned on her machine. “What are you doing here?”

“I enjoyed your articles that you wrote about me but was a little concerned because of their lack of personal details,” he responded, gazing down at her through his dark sunglasses. Lois’s light brown hair framed her face beautifully this evening it was slightly tangled and wild…just like Lois.

“So, um, you wanted to give me an exclusive interview? Why me? Wouldn’t being on TV be more appealing?” she asked.

“I prefer anonymity. Television is too high profile,” he explained. “I like that you work for a newspaper. No cameras.

Lois let out a small laugh. “Ok, well do you mind if I start asking you questions?”

“Certainly, go ahead,” Superman agreed.

“Why do you do what you do?”

“You mean save people? Because I can,” Superman simply answered. Lois noted that he said it without a hint of arrogance in his voice. “I believe that if people are born with gifts that they should use them to help better their own lives and the lives of the people around them.”

“Why help strangers?”

“A wise woman once told me that the world needs heroes, they inspire folks to be better than they are,” Superman said, wistfully.

“She sounds wise, who was she?”

“My mother.”

Lois’s eyebrows arched upwards. “So you have parents…”

A grin spread over Superman’s face. “Adopted parents, you see Miss Lane, my biological parents are dead. I was raised by the most wonderful loving couple in the Galaxy. They taught me to be everything that I am today. They taught me that my gifts were a blessing and not a curse. They inspired me and raised me to embrace my abilities and showed me the path to take for helping those who could not help themselves.”

Lois looked at the man with slight confusion. Again she detected that he phrased things oddly. “What happened to your real parents?”

“They were killed, along with the rest of my civilization,” he replied and studied her face as she digested that answer.

“Civilization? So you’re not…”

“Human? No, I’m not human. I’m not even from this Galaxy,” Superman said, his stomach churned as he waited to see her reaction to the biggest of his secrets – the secret he spent his entire life hiding from everyone and denying of himself.

Eyebrow arching upwards she inquired, “So you’re an alien?”

“I prefer the term Intergalactic Traveler, alien brings to mind images of little green men, which clearly I am not. I’m a person,” he replied.

Unable to stop herself, Lois once again examined him from head to toe, her eyes briefly stopping on his impressively large cod piece in his leather pants. Feeling heat rise in her cheeks again and her palms beginning to sweat she breathily asked, “Do you do human things?”

Superman’s eyebrow arched amusingly over the rim of his sunglasses. “What do you mean?”

She kept thinking about what might be under that large codpiece, but quickly asked, “Do you eat?”

Beaming from ear to ear, Superman said, “Yes, I eat. Biologically speaking I’m just like you or the next person. Well like the next male I should say.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear,” she replied, ridiculously grinning as she nodded her head. Realizing she was getting a flustered she threw another question at him, “So if you’re like humans why are you able to fly and why are you so strong?”

“My powers come from your planet’s sun. The sun’s nourishing rays nurture my abilities. They allow me to fly. They also give me super strength, super speed, super hearing, x-ray vision, super breath, micro-vision, and heat vision.” Superman mentally ticked off his abilities and then added, “Oh and I’m bullet and fireproof.”

Lois’s eyes grew wide with wonder. “Wow you’re a walking Swiss Army Knife. Are you indestructible?”

“No, I have my weaknesses also,” he countered.

“What are those?”

Clark couldn’t help himself, he replied, “I get weak in the presence of beautiful women.”

As he expected, Lois rolled her eyes. Inwardly she felt giddy by his ridiculously obvious flirting. “So why don’t you show me some of these other abilities. Like…x-ray vision.”

“Ok,” he answered. “How would you like for me to prove that to you?”

“What color of underwear am I wearing?” Lois asked without thinking.

Superman seemed slightly flustered by the request but complied. He stared at her lower body and then suddenly all color drained from his face and returned beet red. “Miss Lane!” he spun around hiding his embarrassment.

“What?” Lois asked, and then understanding dawned on her. When she threw on her dress she’d forgotten to put any on. She covered her lower body with her hand and also felt her face burn with embarrassment. “Oh CRAP!” She laughed at herself. “Something tells me I’ll be leaving that out of the interview.”

Superman chuckled nervously and turned around. He cleared his throat and tried to put the last image he had of Lois out of his mind. He then pointed to a citronella candle that she had sitting on her patio table. Clark hadn’t experimented with the glasses heat vision capacity but he expected since the video worked that the heat sensors would be working as well.

“Watch the candle,” he ordered. Activating his heat vision the glasses detected the rise in temperature and their lenses vanished. He shot a ray of heat vision to the candle and it ignited. As soon as the heat stopped the lenses popped back down into place. Clark was excited with the successful test.

“Cool!” Lois said.

Grinning, Superman snapped his fingers so that she was looking at him. He then drew in his super breath and from seven feet away he blew out the candle. Lois stared in wonder as he showcased his magical abilities. She suddenly found herself thinking about his family and asked, “What happened to your parents?”

Not expecting the shift in conversation, Superman looked a little startled. He then replied, “They were destroyed along with my home planet of Krypton.”

“Krypton? That’s the name of your planet?” Superman nodded. Lois asked, “What happened?”

“I don’t know exactly because I was just a baby when it happened. From what I’ve been led to understand it was destroyed by war. My parents saw me as the planet’s last hope and put me in a lifeboat and sent me across the stars to Earth. My father told me that he feared Earth was on the brink of a similar catastrophe. He sent me here to protect humanity from destruction.” He placed his hand on his family crest. “This in fact means Hope in Kryptonian.”

Lois didn’t know what to say, how does a mere mortal react when in the presence of a god-like being?

Gently Superman reached out and plucked the recorder out of Lois’s hand and deactivated it. He put it on the table and asked, “Are you ready to feel what it’s like to be immortal?”

Confusion gripped her, how did he know she was just thinking something similar? She thought, Can you read my mind?

Clark noticed her strange and startled expression. He slightly grinned and wondered if perhaps she had been thinking something like that. Ever since they first met, he and Lois finished each other’s sentences and thoughts. They had a special psychic connection that he could never explain before when they were younger. He had spent so many years pining for a dream that he was blinded by the reality of what it meant to really be in love. Beautiful Lois, if you only knew.

Lightly he swept his large strong arms under her body and lifted her off of her feet.

“Wrap your arms around my neck, Miss Lane,” he ordered. She complied and before she could ask what he was doing, Superman’s body tensed like a spring being pushed down upon by a heavy weight. Then the burden released and they shot up into the air.

The rush of unexpected flight caused Lois’s heart to race with excitement. She grinned like a madwoman as Superman beamed back at his charge. His smile took on a slightly devilish look and he corkscrewed them through the air, twirling. Lois squealed in delightful fright and laughed as he dropped them unexpected lower. Her stomach flip flopped as they sped and twirled over the city. She felt like she was riding her own private rollercoaster.

Suddenly Superman dropped the arm that was supporting her legs. Looking down at the tiny city lights below Lois threw her legs tightly around Superman’s waist. He laughed aloud and said in her ear, “Trust me, let go with your legs.”

She stared at him suspiciously and agreed to his request. She cursed as she watched her right shoe fall off of her foot and plummeted towards earth.

“Oops,” Superman said, grabbed Lois around the waist and dove after it. She shrieked in delight as he caught it and put it back on her foot. Keeping his arm around her waist he flew perpendicular over the city with Lois floating at his side.

Gently he took her hand and extended her out at his side so that she could float at his side. Lois felt the rush of wind blowing freely over her entire body and found the experience to be both exhilarating and tantalizingly erotic at the same time. Her sense of déjà vu hit her again and she realized that this was what she had dreamed so long ago. However, something nagged in her mind. Back then when she experienced her dreams she had been convinced that Superman was her soulmate, now years later she wasn’t so certain. The actual experience of flight seemed strangely familiar and she couldn’t understand why. Maybe she’d grown out of youthful fantasies or being a reporter had jaded her but she just couldn’t believe that a superhero would be interested in her…unless he already knew her.

Superman looked at his partner and noticed her puzzled expression. Clark knew that look on her face, she was stewing over something in her mind. He gulped worrying that she was connecting dots. He reached across and wrapped his arm around her waist again and bulleted them over the city towards a predetermined destination.

Lois watched as they landed on a rooftop of a skyscraper in the high rent district of Metropolis. Knees quaking as she regained her footing the wind was stronger from the roof and blew her skirt loudly around her legs. She shoved a clump of hair out of her eyes and when her view cleared she exclaimed, “Wow!”

From their vantage point they could see the entire city stretched out before them. The Five Mile McCarthy Bridge was a lit with its bright orange night lights. Traffic sparkled like strings of red and white fairy lights. Above it all the spinning golden globe on top of The Daily Planet building glittered like a giant Christmas ornament. She never realized that Metropolis could be so beautiful.

Superman walked behind Lois and gently put an arm around her waist and turned her body to face the southern part of the city located directly behind The Daily Planet. Pointing towards the darker section of the town he said, “What do you see over there?”

“Billboards and low rent housing,” she replied, fully conscious of every spot on her body that was in direct contact with the superhero’s rock hard body.

“Those are the people I am here to help. Of course I will help everyone, but the common people are the backbone of this city. They pick up the trash, paint the lines on the streets, clean our toilets, and they get no respect or recognition. Just think of what this world would be like if all of those people were suddenly empowered? Look at where they’re located, they’re directly behind The Daily Planet – you have the same power that I do, Miss Lane. With your words you will inspire the common people of Metropolis with my feats of heroism. Perhaps you might even inspire a few to want to learn to read in order to learn for themselves what all of the hoopla is about.”

A huge grin spread over Lois’s face. “Who’re you the literacy champion?”

He smiled brightly and shrugged. “Reading opens up whole new worlds for the human mind to explore it awakens our fantasies and expands our knowledge of the universe. What better cause is there out there to support?”

Lois turned around in his arms and stared up at Superman’s face. She couldn’t help but feel…no, her gut knew that there was something alarmingly familiar about Superman. She lightly inhaled his masculine scent. She mostly smelled the rich leather of his costume but it was mixed with a hint of indistinguishable scented aftershave.

She whispered, “Who are you? Off the record.”

Clark ripped his eyes away from her penetrating gaze. He simply answered, “A friend.” With that said he snatched her back up in his arms and flew her back to her apartment balcony.

Lightly he dropped Lois down onto her balcony and hopped up and onto her porch railing. “I look forward to reading your interview, Miss Lane. Have a good night,” Superman said, beamed and flew off.

Lois ran to the edge to say goodnight but he was gone.


Chapter 10


Lois closed her patio door behind her and stared at her digital recorder like it was a precious piece of lost treasure. When she got back to the office tomorrow she would hook it up into her text conversion program to get the interview dictated word by word. Her heart raced with excitement for she knew that she had just received the story of a lifetime. Lois stashed her recorder into her purse and rubbed her hands together to create friction; although the evening started warm the few minutes on the rooftop overlooking the city had cooled her body temperature down.

She moved into her kitchen and put on a tea kettle of water to make a mug of jasmine tea to warm her up. As she dug through her cabinet to find her tea pot and teabags she heard a knock at the door that interrupted her quest. Curious over who would be stopping by her place at ten o’clock she peered through her peephole and made a confused face. She opened the door a crack.

“Smallville, what are you doing here? I thought you went home?”

He shrugged slightly. “I followed up with a couple of witnesses to the bridge incident and got some quotes from them. Before I knew what happened, it was nine-thirty. Since I was in the area I decided to stop at Fung Wu’s and get us some late night dinner, interested?”

Lois cast him a slightly suspicious expression in his direction as she examined the bulging bag in his hand. “Mongolian beef?”

“Extra spicy, just how you like it,” Clark replied.

Lois pushed the door open and allowed her friend inside. She noticed that Clark had untied his necktie and had the top two buttons of his shirt undone. He draped his jacket over hers on her chair and she grabbed the heavy bag out of his hand.

“Geez, planning on feeding an army?”

“Can’t help it I’m always starving,” he replied and pushed up his glasses.

Clark followed her into her small kitchen and started hunting for plates and utensils. Lois and he danced a silent duet moving around each other in sync around the kitchen, Lois would point to drawers without Clark needing to ask for what he was looking for. As she started dishing food out into her bowl, Lois suddenly realized that they had done this and snuck a glance at Clark as he slurped up a forkful of noodles. The dork never could figure out how to use chopsticks.

Misinterpreting her strange and curious expression, he apologized, “Sorry, I guess I couldn’t wait to get it into the bowl.”

Lois rolled her eyes at him and headed towards her small kitchen table. The tea kettle whistled and Clark pulled it off of the heat. He extracted her tea pot from the shelf and sifted through her teabags until he found some Jasmine. He brought his bowl to the table and returned with 2 mugs of steaming, floral scented tea.

His dinner companion furrowed her brows further as she sniffed the liquid. “How did you know I wanted Jasmine Tea, Clark?”

“Because you love the stuff,” he replied, stuffing his face with spicy orange chicken.

She stared at her heaping bowl of Mongolian beef and helped herself to a large mouthful. Clark became aware that Lois was closely scrutinizing him from across the table. He swallowed deeply, and nervously asked, “What?”

“How is it that you took off for five years and when you returned you can remember every detail about me like my favorite tea and types of Chinese food?” Lois inquired.

He shrugged. “Well you know we did live under the same roof for basically a year and a half, you learn a lot about a person when you’re forced into that kind of a situation. Why, does it bother you?”

She let out a small laugh. “No, actually, it’s just that…I guess it’s weird you know? I don’t think there’s another person on this planet who can read me the way that you do…it’s unsettling...” And nice she quietly added to herself.

Instead of replying, Clark shoveled more food into his mouth.

Lois stared at him with narrowed eyes. “You know, there is someone else out there that I seem to have a similar connection with.”

Trying to act casual, Clark asked, “Who’s that?”

“Superman.”

Clark’s eyes widened and he put on one of his best incredulous expressions. “Superman?”

“Yeah, he came by tonight and I swear he could read my mind or something,” Lois replied, grabbing an eggroll she dunked it into spicy mustard and took a bite.

“Superman came by tonight and you’re just telling me this NOW? Come on Lois, spill, what happened?” Clark asked, excitement played over his handsome features.

Lois studied him closely. A gnawing feeling had been burning in her gut the entire time that she had been with Superman but seeing Clark’s reactions to her hints suddenly made her rethink her earlier suspicion. She could read Smallville as easily as a second grade level book…if he was currently hiding something then he deserved an Oscar for the performance that he was giving her right now. She highly doubted that he was capable of such levels of subterfuge.

She gave him a play by play of the evening and accidentally walked right into the x-ray portion of the story. Clark’s face turned bright red at the mention of the exchange. Lois gave him credit that he refrained from saying anything, although she was slightly uncomfortable by his strangely smitten smirk. While Lois rambled about the flight they finished their dinners.

When she completed her review of the evening Lois asked, “So what do you think?”

“I think he’s sweet on you,” Clark replied, studying her closely.

She rolled her eyes. “Maybe, but what good would that do anyone? It’s not like one could ever be in a relationship with someone like that.”

“Why not?” Clark asked, privately chastising himself for asking such obvious self-serving line of questions.

Lois shrugged. “I mean he’s a great guy, but he seemed rather…I don’t know…aloof maybe.”

Clark cleared off their table and they moved into the livingroom with the teapot and their teacups. Lois kicked off her shoes, got under a blanket, and curled up into the corner of her couch with Clark on the opposite end.

“So you don’t think that it’s possible to have a normal life with a superhero,” Clark stated.

Again, Lois eyeballed him suspiciously. He shrugged his shoulders. “Just asking.”

“Well you’d have to keep a lot of secrets, I’d assume. I mean what the hell does he do all day? Does he have a regular job and live a double life or does he hide in limbo and wake up whenever he detects trouble?” Lois wondered.

“I think he sounds lonely,” Clark offered. “I mean he’s the only one left from his planet and there’s no one here who’s like him. According to what you said, he loves humanity, but he’s not human. You’ve gotta feel for the guy. If he does have a regular job that he performs during the day think of the burden he must have to carry around each day keeping his alternate reality a secret from everyone that he cares most about.”

Taking a last swallow of her tea, Lois looked at Clark closely. This wasn’t the first time that he talked to her about keeping secrets and how much of a burden they were to bury. “That was strangely poetic for a farm boy Clark, mind if I add that tidbit into the article?”

“Sure, why not.” Clark ran his fingers through his dark hair and glanced around her apartment. He cracked one of his famous ice meltingly adorable smiles in her direction and changed the subject. “So how many rooms does this place have? It looks like a great apartment.”

“Four, I happened to step in and took over a sublease and got it for a steal,” Lois answered. “Course it does have one drawback, it only has one tiny bathroom.”

“What do you need four rooms for? Oh wait, let me guess, one as a bedroom, one to house your entire wardrobe, one for your shoes and luggage, and the last as an office?” Clark jibbed.

Lois had been in the middle of refilling her cup and instinctively threw out her hand to smack him. Instead, she dumped tea all over the middle cushion of her couch.

“Oh good one, Lois,” she grumbled and shot up to go grab a towel out of the bathroom. Clark followed her and poked his head down the hall peering into the different rooms. Unlike his earlier assessment, he found one room to be her bedroom, one an office, one filled with boxes in various states of being opened, and one to be completely empty.

He turned on the light and walked inside the empty room. There were two windows in the room that faced south and east. The room wasn’t huge but it was nice sized.

Clark heard Lois walk in behind him. “What are you planning on doing with this room?” he asked, a kernel of an idea forming in his head.

“I was going to turn it into a guest room but never got around to doing anything with it,” she replied. She then happened to glance at her watch. “Oh god, look at the time Clark.”

Clark noticed the time as well and saw it was after midnight. “I should be heading back home.” He made to leave and Lois put out her hands and stilled him from moving.

“Smallville it’s a three hour drive, you’ll get home and what? Sleep for two hours and come back? You’ll be no good to anyone with that kind of lack of sleep. You can stay here tonight,” she offered.

Dubious, Clark lifted a brow. “Well gee thanks Lois, I suppose your cushioned carpet in here would be a might bit more comfortable than a box in an alley but…”

Lois punched him in the shoulder. “You can take the couch.”

“The same one that you just dumped an entire pot of tea all over?”

Remembering the towel in her hand, Lois cursed under her breath. She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a long, probing look over. Clark could tell she was mulling something over in her mind, he waited for her to speak.

Finally she asked, “Are you really interested in helping me with the Superman stories? If you are, there’s no way you can go back to Smallville each night not if he’s going to continue to with his nocturnal superhero activities. You'll need to stay here in Metropolis. You can have this room, Clark...if you want it.”

Although the thought had briefly passed through his head, Clark never thought she would actually offer it to him, he had thought he might have to somehow masterfully nurture the idea into her mind. He flashed a goofy smile and in a small voice asked, “Really?”

She coughed a laugh. “How many times did I crash at your home and take over your bedroom, Smallville? It’s the least I can do to make up for the past.”

“You know that was never a problem, Lois,” Clark replied, staring deeply into her hazel eyes.

Lois suddenly felt naked like she did so often when Clark gazed at her with one of his intense stares. To further knock her off balance, he then said, “I like your dress, Lois, you look like an angel.”

Slowly her eyes traveled from his big baby blues that were buried under his sexy glasses to his large luscious lips. Realizing what she was doing she shot her eyes upwards again. Snap out of it, Lois. She cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest. “Look, unfortunately there’s only one solution for this evening, you move one inch during the night and I’ll clobber you,” she ordered.

Confused, Clark asked, “What?”

“Well I’m not going to throw you on the floor and I know you’re too big to sleep in the bathtub, no matter how amusing that might be to see…”

“Lois,” he said, his voice deepening slightly turned on as understanding dawned on him.

She rolled her eyes. “Follow me.”

Barefoot she padded down her hall towards her room. Clark watched her from behind, enjoying the view of her swaying hips. He heard her mutter, “Why do I think this is going to backfire on me somehow?”

Clark smirked.

She snapped open a drawer and extracted a pair of giant male flannel pajamas and handed them to Clark.

He arched a brow inquisitively in her direction. “You always keep a spare set of men’s pajamas in your drawer?”

Nervously she cleared her throat and lifted a corner of her mouth. “Take a good look at them, Smallville.”

Clark struggled with the request and ripped his eyes off of the object of his adoration. He looked that the blue and red checkered pajamas and exclaimed, “Hey these are mine!”

“I know. They must’ve accidentally gotten into one of my boxes when I moved out of your place and I just never got around to returning them to you,” she said.

“You could’ve brought them to work,” he replied.

“Oh yeah, that would’ve looked great wouldn’t it? Hey hon, you left these at my place last night, be more careful the next time ok?” she chattered sarcastically.

Clark flushed and shrugged his shoulders shyly. “Right, that could look bad I suppose.” He continued to stand in the middle of her room staring at his pajamas.

Lois rolled her eyes and shoved him out of her door. “Go change in the bathroom and no coming in here unless I’ve opened the door.”

Stumbling into the hallway, Lois slammed the door directly into Clark’s nose. He looked down and saw that the leg on his pajamas got caught in the door. He knocked. “Lois? Can you um open up a second?”

The door flashed open and his pajamas got thrown into his face and the door slammed close again.

Pushing his glasses up his nose, Clark beamed devilishly and retreated into the bathroom to change. He had gotten on his bottoms when Lois barged into the room on him wearing her own pink flannel pajamas. Clark jumped out of the way and ended up straddling the toilet in the cramped bathroom. Making zero notice that she’d bothered her new roommate, Lois grabbed a hair clip, shoved her hair out of her face, and began to wash it.

“Lois!”

“What?”

“I wasn’t done in here!”

“Give me a break,” she muttered under her soap. “You should’ve locked the door.”

Clark huffed, remembering all of the times she used to pull this crap on him back on the farm. Somehow their usual synergy didn’t ever translate whenever they were in the bathroom together. Clark could only assume his usual prudish tendencies blocked those out.

Lois reached into the cabinet behind her, extracted a new toothbrush, and handed it to Clark.

“I'd prefer not to have someone breathing onion breath in my face all night,” she quipped, flashing him a sickeningly sweet smile.

Clark smirked back at her and moved towards the sink. He opened the package, located her toothpaste on the counter, and filled his brush. Swishing the mint flavored toothpaste around in his mouth and violently brushing his teeth he watched Lois as she pulled her own brush out.

She squeezed the tube and nothing came out. “Great, you used the rest of the toothpaste!” He looked over at her cupboard. “I don’t have any more.” Lois’s eyes bore into Clark’s face defiantly.

With his full mouth, he said, “Sowwy.”

“Well don’t just apologize, share, Smallville,” Lois demanded, icily.

Clark felt his stomach drop down to his feet. “Whad?”

Lois forcibly reached upwards, yanked the toothbrush out of his mouth and planted her lips onto his. Clark’s eyes grew wide with surprise as she forced her tongue into his mouth to retrieve some toothpaste. Before she could react, Clark wrapped his arms around her back, threw her up and onto the counter, and leaned her backwards into his arms. Whether she meant to or not, her free hand clung to his hard bare shoulder. Clark widened his lips up to the kiss to allow her more access. As their tongues friskily battled the toothpaste got frothier creating a tickling sensation. Lois ripped herself away, shoved her toothbrush into her mouth, and beamed at Clark with marked amusement. Her eyes grew wide as she drank in the sight of Clark's broad chest that filled her entire view.

Slightly frowning, he threw his own brush back into his own mouth and they stared at each other while they brushed. Clark wiggled his eyebrows at her over his glasses. She began giggling in earnest.

“What?” he asked, smirking.

Lois spit out her toothpaste and gazed happily into his eyes. “You know if toothpaste was delivered to everyone in that matter I believe that dentists would be out of business. You get to buy a new tube tomorrow.”

Clark spit out the last of the toothpaste and cursed, “I got the last of the tube, why do I have to buy it?”

“Because I said so and a kiss like that from me, they're not free.”

“You're selling your kisses pretty cheap you know. A tube of toothpaste is what three dollars?” he chided. He leaned forward, planting both of his hands on either side of his body. His nose was inches away from hers and added, “I'd be willing to go up to at least ten for another one.”

“Sorry, the store's closed.” Lois poked Clark on his rock hard bare chest. “Get out of my way, Smallville. And put your shirt on.” Clark watched Lois saunter out of the bathroom her eyes briefly flickered again over his chest enjoying the view. Clark shook his head in amusement wondering what in the world he had gotten himself into, worse yet after that moment, how was he going to keep his hands to himself tonight?

Clark finished in the bathroom and walked throughout the apartment checking all of the windows and doors to make sure they were locked. He then turned off all of the lights and came into Lois's bedroom and stood in her doorway. She had climbed into the left side of the bed furthest from the door leaving him the side closest to the room's exit.

Lois was under her covers and was casting Clark a slightly worried expression. She said, “You do know that meant nothing, right?”

“Right,” he flatly repeated. He felt his breathing tighten and become more audible. Clark then removed his glasses and padded towards the bed. Gingerly turned back the covers and stared at Lois.

“I won't bite. Thank god I got a King sized bed, I think there's even enough room in here that I won't have to worry about you invading my side,” Lois stated.

Clark detected a small look of fear on her face. He threw the covers back and said, “I'll get a blanket and sleep on the floor.”

He grabbed a pillow off of the bed and made to leave the room.

“WAIT! Smallville,” Lois shouted. Clark turned around and arched a brow in her direction. “You're the most honorable guy I know, and I know you won't pull anything. Now get in here.”

He stood swaying on his feet gripped with indecision.

“Do I have to clobber you to get you into bed?” Lois asked.

The mere thought of Lois going cavewoman on him caused Clark to flash her a giant smile. He placed the pillow back on the bed, put his glasses on her nightstand, and climbed under the covers with his back facing his bed partner. Lois reached over her side and turned off her light. Clark did the same with his light. Careful to stay as far over on his side of the bed as possible, Clark quietly said, “Goodnight, Lois.”

“Goodnight, Clark.”

Sleep eluded Clark for a long time. Eventually Lois drifted off to sleep her deep controlled breathing filled the room. Gently he turned onto his side and gazed at Lois. She had turned over and was facing his direction as well. Streaks of moonlight filtered into the room through her mini-blinds casting parts of her face in a lovely alabaster glow. Clark reached across the bed and brushed a clump of hair away from her mouth. As he did so, she mumbled something incoherent in her sleep. Clark threw up his arm and hovered it in the air hoping he hadn't awakened his sleeping beloved. Lois sleepily reached a hand out and rolled her way across the bed, eventually landing right against Clark's body. Lois hooked her arm around his waist and dug her leg between his. She again made a noise that sounded a lot like “smavile.” She then fell into a deep sleep and began to snore.

Softly Clark lowered his arm, wondering how she could rest with what had to be the ear shattering sound of his heart pounding wilding in his chest right by her beautiful face.

Tenderly he snuggled his arm around her body and drifted off to a place where his subconscious could act upon things that he would never dream of doing in reality with Lois...at least not yet.


Chapter 11

*Blleeep Blleep Blleep Blleep* TWACK! Lois groaned and swatted off her alarm clock. As consciousness seeped back into mind she moaned, “Time to get up Smallville.”

She cracked open her eyes and peered across the bed expecting to catch a peek at her new roommate sound asleep only to find Clark’s side of the bed was made and empty. She glanced at his pillow and saw a small note that was neatly folded up into the shape of a football. She smirked and opened it up.

Lois,

Figured you wouldn’t want us to be seen getting into the office together, especially with me wearing day old clothes. Will see you at the office. There’s fresh coffee waiting for you.

Clark

PS: Sorry about the hot water.


Lois groaned, crumpled up the note and chucked it across the room.

“Damn that farm boy, I’m never going to get a hot shower again, am I?” she muttered.

Plopping her feet over the side of her bed she looked down at the floor in confusion and found her bunny slippers waiting for her to stick her feet into. I didn’t leave them there did I? Sleep still invading her senses she shrugged her shoulders, climbed into her bunnies, and headed to the bathroom. When she got in there she found that Clark had already hit a store and there was a full tube of toothpaste waiting for her on the counter. She also saw a can of shaving lotion, a razor, and a bottle of his aftershave sitting on the counter. Seeing some of Clark’s personal effects sitting neatly on her counter suddenly made her offer from last night real – Clark was moving into her apartment. She took a deep breath, not quite sure what to make of this new development, she supposed that she didn’t mind much. Clark certainly was handy to have around. Looking at the new toothpaste which was the same exact brand that she had from the last tube, she also added courteous to his growing list of attributes.

Lois opened the cap to his aftershave, closed her eyes and lightly inhaled the fragrance. Strange mingled feelings emerged as the musky aroma hit her nostrils and filtered through her senses. The scent was familiar, comforting, alluring, and strangely thrilling. She slammed the cap back onto the bottle and rolled her eyes. “God you must be crazy inviting him to live with you,” she said critically still enjoying the lingering scent of his aftershave.

After taking a very short cold shower and dressing Lois walked into the kitchen and found a brand new super sized insulated travel mug waiting for her on the counter next to her coffee pot. Clark had put a sticky note on it “Fill up – thousands of times cheaper than Starbucks.” Lois grinned and poured herself coffee into her new mug and with a smile on her face headed to work.

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

Lois entered her office and briefly felt disappointed to discover it empty. She moved aside a pile of papers and plunked down her new mug and then turned on her computer.

Engrossed in her email, Lois suddenly jumped out of her skin.

“You’re late, Lois. Perry’s waiting for us,” Clark announced from behind her.

“What the hell Smallville? You scared the living daylights out…”

Lois turned around and saw Clark leaning in the doorway. Her eyes grew wide as they attempted to make sense the sight that greeted them. Her usually boring khaki clad friend now sported a stylish grey pinstripe wool crepe suit with a matching grey shirt underneath…no tie, unbuttoned at the top of the collar.

A look of amusement crossed over Clark’s face as he watched Lois’s jaw go slack. He nodded his head towards her purse. “Don’t forget your interview.”

Shaking her head, Lois snapped out of her ogling and grabbed her purse. She pursed her lips together. “Pfft, like I’d forget that.” She quickly shoved Clark aside and exited the office under his arm. Clark followed after her as she chattered, “With the story of the century in my fingertips do you really I’d forget that?”

“Well you did just seem a little preoccupied right now,” Clark teased.

Lois looked over her shoulder at him and detected a smug smile on Clark’s face. “Get over yourself. You just caught me off guard is all. Where did you get a suit like that anyways? It’s eight o’clock in the morning, nothing’s open this early.”

Clark recalled his quick flight this morning to New York City where he’d purchased the suit and the return flight and calmly replied with his cover story, “It was at Chloe’s. She took it to the drycleaners for me.”

“You’re making Chloe do your dry-cleaning for you? That’s pathetic Clark. She’s got two kids to worry about,” Lois snarled back at him.

“She did it a long time ago,” Clark replied back.

Lois stopped and turned on her heel causing Clark to nearly barrel straight into her.

“What?” he asked pushing his glasses back up his nose.

“Clark that’s a suit from this season – pinstripes are back in for this year,” she answered, planting her fists on her hips.

Jumping to the defensive, Clark narrowed his eyes and shook his head slightly. “And why does this matter?”

“Come on,” Lois said and began marching back towards Perry’s office.

Behind her Clark gulped and cursed himself for not buying a suit off of the sales rack from last season, he should’ve held back and not purchased something as stylish. He couldn’t help it, he wanted to see how Lois would react to seeing him in something fashionable – he wanted her to see him differently. His thoughts were broken as Lois barged into Perry’s office and they found him yakking on the phone. Perry waved them to their seats and they sat back down. Lois was wearing a pantsuit today, Clark noticed, much to his disappointment – he liked her skirt suit from yesterday better.

Lois spied Clark examining her ankles from the corner of her eye. She smirked and crossed her legs moving them out of his line of sight. Immediately, his arched brow plummeted down and he shifted with annoyance in his chair.

Both glanced up as Perry cleared his throat and had finished his phone call.

“So what do you have for me today?” He asked, glancing back and forth between his two reporters.

“How about the story of a lifetime?” Lois asked with a large proud grin spread over her face.

Perry cast a dubious expression her way and scribbled something onto a notepad. “Let’s hear it.”

“How about a one on one interview with Superman? And a first hand account of what it feels like to fly?” Lois asked.
Eyebrows shooting straight up, Perry glanced at Clark for confirmation. Clark shrugged his shoulders and smiled proudly at his partner.

“When exactly did this happen?” Perry inquired, leaning forward onto his elbows. His phone rang. He ignored it.

“Last night when I went home, Superman was on my porch. He specifically picked me to interview him,” Lois answered. “I asked him a series of questions and then he took me along for a flight.”

“Did you get anything on this? Audio? Video?”

Lois dug into her purse and held up her digital recorder.

Perry rubbed his hands together delightfully. “Fabulous! Write it up and we’ll upload the audio onto the website to go along with it.”

The proud smile that had been plastered over Lois’s face fell into a determined frown. “I can’t allow that.”

A look of disbelief flashed over Perry’s face. “What do you mean, Lane?”

“Superman doesn’t want his voice out there so people can analyze it. He picked to speak to a newspaper reporter because he likes the anonymity that goes along with having his information passed around in written form,” Lois stated.

Perry leaned back in his chair and groused, “Why the hell is he sending you videos then of his saves?”

“If I may sir I might have an answer for that. You’ll note that his voice isn’t usually captured on those feed, Mr. White. Also you never see Superman’s face in those direct feeds that he’s sending to Lois,” Clark interrupted. “They’re still anonymous and protects his identity.”

“Protects his identity?” White cried, incredulously. “We’re a NEWSPAPER, we’re here to uncover the truth! A part of doing that is to expose to the world who this Superman really is! People like heroes, but they like them much better if they know every minute detail about them. Why do you think Hollywood dirt is such a big business? Details sell papers! You know that Lane! What’s the matter with you?”

Lois shook her head and set her jaw. “I won’t do it, sir.”

Perry startled at being shown the slightest bit of respect from his star reporter. He never recalled her once referring to him as “sir.”

Sensing the tension rising between Lois and Perry, Clark stood up and approached his editor. “Mr. White do you really want to force Lois into do this situation? It’s too early. Right now Superman is a fresh mystery and his mystique is selling papers. I saw our circulation sales for the week and they skyrocketed with the arrival of Superman on the scene. Also our website subscriptions have gone through the roof because of the exclusive feed that Superman provided to Lois. If you force Lois into doing this – something Superman specifically asked of her NOT to do – he will likely cut off all ties to her. What will happen then? Lois won’t receive any more feeds, sales will plummet, and you will likely lose your job.”

White’s blue eyes grew wide as he scrutinized Clark closely. “How in the hell do you do that Kent?”

“Do what?”

“Always make me feel like a schmuck and empowered at the same time?” Perry growled. He sighed deeply. “Sit down, Clark, you’re going to give me a crick in the neck.”

Clark folded himself back down into his chair and waited for Perry’s answer. Lois never took her eyes off of their boss.

White picked up a pen and twirled it around in his fingers. “Clark’s right I suppose. We should milk this whole mystique thing for as long as we can. But no more making promises to our superhero, missy.”

“I can’t promise that, Perry. I have to listen to my conscious,” Lois simply replied. “If I believe that my story will somehow hurt or put someone in peril, I won’t send it to print. Those who do not abide by the strict codes of journalistic integrity work at inferior papers…I did that once and didn’t like the stink of it. I highly doubt that The Daily Planet would want it’s reputation tainted by smear tactics and turned into a tabloid rag whose only desire is to print sensational news instead of news that is truly sensational.”

A sly grin spread across Clark’s face that he covered with his hands as he watched Perry turn beet red with irritation. He’d never felt more proud of Lois in his life. White ripped his eyes off of Lois’s face and typed something in on his computer. Ignoring Lois entirely, he printed something off and handed it to Clark. “Here Kent, got your first story for you to pursue.”

“Me? Don’t you want Lois to help me out?”

“You’re perfectly capable, Clark. Besides, she’s got the sensational story of a lifetime to write, remember?”

“Sure, no problem,” Clark replied and took the paper from his editor.

“Alright, I expect your write-up for review before it goes to press, Lane. Keep me posted on your progress on that Kent,” White ordered and shooed them out of the office.

Lois and Clark exited their editor’s office and walked down the hall in silence for a few moments before Lois’s face burst wide open with a smile that would’ve let the sunshine in on a cloudy day. Lois tugged on Clark’s arm and quickly dragged him into their office and slammed the door shut behind them. She then threw her arms around him in a tight hug. Into his chest she squealed, “My god I think that’s the first time I ever had a real victory over White.” She glanced up at Clark, her hazel eyes danced with delight. “I couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you, Clark.”

Clark felt his heart melt in his chest and he smiled down at Lois. The sudden overwhelming desire to kiss her turned his senses to mush.

“You know…this actually would be an appropriate moment to take advantage of me, Clark,” Lois whispered.

“What?” he asked, eyes opening wide open.

Lois rolled her eyes, placed her hands on either side of his head and crashed his lips onto hers. In a second all of Clark’s flustered thoughts and desired burned together as he understood that they had become reality. Tightening his hold on Lois he plundered her lips like a pirate digging for precious treasure. Somehow his jacket ended up on the floor, the door of the office got locked, his glasses were flung onto his desk, and they were lying on top of each other on their office couch drowning under a rising wave of deepening passionate kisses.

Clark gazed upon Lois through a foggy haze. Her eyes were bright and inviting. Gulping hard, Clark muttered, “God woman you’re going to drive me crazy.”

He then realized he still held Perry’s note in his hand and had mercilessly crushed it. He worried that it would be illegible. Gently extracting himself from Lois’s arms he sat up and concentrated on the note. In a fluid movement, Lois sat up and wrapped her arms around his upper body and rested her head on his back. As Clark forced himself to read the paper…something about some new legislation that the mayor of Metropolis was thinking about regarding Suicide Slums…Lois scooted off of the couch, straightened her clothes, and walked to her desk.

Slowly, he glanced in her direction and saw that she had retreated behind her computer.

“Lois?” he asked, knowing that he was treading into murky waters.

“Yes, Smallville?”

“Are we going to talk about this?”

He heard Lois tapping away at her computer. “Nope.”

Deflated, he asked, “Why not? Obviously we’ve got some things to talk about.”

“I’ve got an interview to write, Clark,” Lois replied, icily.

Noting her tone, Clark looked down. “I see.” A sudden flash of anger surged through him and he launched to his feet. He dropped Perry’s note off on his desk, walked over to Lois’s chair and spun her around, and forced her to look right at him. Flashes from a passionate filled Red Kryptonite induced night between them resurfaced in Clark’s mind as his body still tingled from the sensation of their kisses. His entire body and soul ached for her. “Lois, we have to deal with this…especially if I’m going to move in with you.”

“Deal with what? You’re the one who pulled away from me,” she snapped at him.

She saw Clark’s big blue eyes stare deeply into her own. Damn, she thought, she’d forgotten how gorgeous he was even without his glasses.

Clark lightly caressed the side of her face with his large hand. His fingers brushed against her hair and released a light fruity fragrance into the room. Finding ever ounce of courage he could muster, he softly said, “My feelings for you haven’t changed, Lois. In fact I’d say they’re even more magnified than they were five years ago.”

“Five years ago…right when you told me you loved me and then ran away,” she calmly stated, her teeth grinding together. “I was really hurt by that Clark. You abandoned me right when I thought we were about to start something truly amazing.” Her eyes grew wet as she fought back a rising swell of tears. She whispered, “You never even responded to one of my letters that I sent to you.”

“Lois, I didn’t get them until I came home. My Mom tried sending them to me but they got returned to her. The mail service where I went to wasn’t entirely reliable. From what I understand only about half of my letters ever reached her,” he explained. “The second I came home and Mom handed them over I read them all cover to cover. Had I gotten any of them I would’ve replied to you and I would have cherished every word you had written to me.” Clark took her hands in his own and smiled. “How could I not with passages like this? We had the most amazing sunset today here in Smallville. Sometimes I think that this little hick town is the epicenter of beauty in this world. The sky burst to life in a brilliant hue of peaches and pinks – it made the fields of grain and corn that stretch for miles around here look like patchwork quilts made of luminously spun gold and green threads. And you say you’re not very good with words.”

Hearing her own words that she’d written nearly three years ago being recited back to her caused Lois’s heart to ache. “What am I going to do with you?” she asked responding to the love in his eyes. Every nerve in her entire body felt like they were being smashed into a box far too small to contain them. “I’m not denying anything Clark…but I need time. I’m not a very forgiving person. You left me once, what’s not to stop you from up and abandoning me again?”

“I’m not leaving again, Lois. It would take the destruction of this planet to rip me away from your side,” he explained.

“Well, let’s certainly hope that little scenario never rears its ugly head, shall we?” she kidded, flashing him a smirk. “Although if we don’t get to work on our stories our lives might end with Perry calling for our heads...we can talk about this when we get home Clark.”

A look of defeat came over Clark’s face as he nodded his head, stood up. Still holding her hands, he brought one up to his lips and lightly kissed it. He then let go and went to his desk to get to work.

Lois spied him picking up his jacket, slapping out the wrinkles, and put it on the back of his chair. He then put his glasses back on and focused on the information that Perry had given to him to work on.

Tingles of guilt raged through her system. Lois knew that she was being unfair to him by constantly toying with his feelings. A part of her wanted him to suffer and experience an iota of the pain that she was subjected to after being ripped apart from him. She knew his feelings for her even before he had just reaffirmed them. Lois knew the best way to get to Clark was by messing with his emotions. The problem was that the more she tormented him with these tactics the more that she felt her own resolve wavering. She was thrilled that Clark had returned. Even more than that, five years apart didn’t lessen his love for her it had increased a hundred fold.

It positively terrified her that her own feelings mirrored his. She heard Clark rapidly tapping away at his computer working on his meticulous pre-interview stage research. Shaking her head she uploaded her interview with Superman into her computer and waited for her dictation software to convert the words to text so that she could pick and find the best quotes. As the file finished loading she stared at the software and focused in on the voice modulation correction function.

Just because she wasn’t going to expose Superman’s identity to the entire world didn’t mean that she couldn’t try to determine who he was to appease her own curiosity. Suddenly Clark stood up and announced, “I gotta go out for a bit, back in a while.”

Her brows furrowed together as he bolted out of the office with a large bang of the door. He forgot to put his jacket on. She stared at the gaping empty door and realized he had yanked open the door without bothering to unlock it. The lock was now hopelessly broken. Confused she turned back to her computer but felt her eyes gravitate back to the door. It would take a lot of brute strength to be able to rip a door open like that…or super strength.

A strange thrill caused her heart to hammer and race in her chest. She excitedly activated the voice modulation software and put on a large pair of headphones. She pushed the audio file forward to the section where Superman was discussing his adopted parents. She raised the octaves of the vocal modulations some…but not too much. She saved the file and waited anxiously for the file to convert and update. As she did so her email flashed. Palms sweating she tapped on the new message – it was another video feed from Superman. Just as she opened it up and watched the video show Superman racing towards a train that was heading towards a broken track the voice track activated and seh heard Superman’s words speaking to her through the headphones,

Adopted parents, you see Miss Lane, my biological parents are dead. I was raised by the most wonderful loving couple in the Galaxy.

Chills raced through her system as Superman grabbed a hold of the broken rails, lay between them and the train barreled right over his body.

They taught me to be everything that I am today.

The video ended with Superman glancing up and watching as the train had successfully made it over the tracks, and verified that it was correctly reaching its intended destination. He then moved over to the track controls and deactivated the broken section of the track to avoid any future accidents.

They taught me to be everything that I am today. They taught me that my gifts were a blessing and not a curse.

The video ended with Superman glancing up and watching as the train had successfully made it over the tracks, and verified that it was correctly reaching its intended destination. He then moved over to the track controls and deactivated the broken section of the track to avoid any future accidents.

Lois felt her mind freeze as the words continued…

They inspired me and raised me to embrace my abilities and showed me the path to take for helping those who could not help themselves.

Her entire body tingled and throbbed with the sting of millions of goose bumps. The voice that had just spoken those words was not Superman…but her best friend Clark Kent.


Chapter 12

Lex scowled at the headline story on The Daily Planet’s website of Superman’s victorious last minute save of the bus of children from the bridge. He had lost count of how many times he’d watched the spectacular footage from Superman’s rescue. Each time he viewed it his feelings see-sawed from being extremely envious to being angry at the superhero’s heavily lauded feat.

Pages and pages of the main news section of the paper’s site were devoted to eyewitness accounts of the flying man’s spectacular saves. Lex noted with extreme annoyance that Clark Kent’s name appeared on more than one of the articles. He also noticed that Lois Lane, a woman who had always been such a judgmental pain in his ass, had somehow found herself to be Superman’s personal mouthpiece and champion. Growling he realized that he was obsessing again. He locked his computer, stormed away from his desk, and left his mansion into the myriads of underground tunnels towards the laboratory.

When he entered the lab he immediately detected the usual smells that he had come to associate with scientific discovery – formaldehyde, alcohol, cleaning solutions, and human sweat. Lex walked past a row of large glass door covered refrigerators that were filled with vials of blood and live cultures. He wove his way towards a large office and barged into it unannounced. Inside he found his lead scientist Dr. Donald Wong hunched over his laptop feverishly pounding away on the keyboard. The petite Asian man appeared to have completely ceased sleeping, his hair stuck out in all directions, dark bags drooped under his eyes, and the whites of his eyes appeared pink from the large numbers red streaks that covered them. His messy office reeked of stale coffee.

“Mr. Luthor, I’m glad you are here,” the doctor said, and activated his printer. “We have completed the fourth phase of the trial and are ready to being phase five.”

Lex’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “That sounds like good news…what’s the catch?”

The small man glowered. “You know me too well.”

“There’s always a hitch with your progress, Dr. Wong and usually that catch ends up hitting me in the wallet,” Lex replied.

The Doctor printed something off and handed it over to Lex. “Unfortunately our genetic splicing equipment is sorely outdated. Genosatix has created this amazing new machine that would help us yield our results a thousand times faster.”

One quick glance at the product Lex coughed out a laugh at the price tag located at the bottom of the page. He threw the paper back into the scientist’s face. “You’ve already got equipment here that would make any University researcher pea green with envy. Make due with what you’ve got.” He made to leave the office.

“Sir, this new machine will mean that we can achieve our results within months not years.”

Lex turned around. “Years?” he cried. “Exactly what AM I paying you for, Dr. Wong? You and your team are in a lap of luxury here. You can’t tell me that there is another laboratory out there where you can have the freedom that you do here…you’re free to use whatever methods needed to achieve your results without worry about government officials breathing down your neck to verify that you’re complying to arbitrary and archaic laws and moral codes that strangle normal scientific progress and discovery.” Lex’s pale blue eyes bore down upon the cowering man. “I’m sure that there is another scientist out there who would kill to be in your position right now…I’ve heard a lot of good things about a Dr. Raj Maharajaba’s work…”

The small man’s lips pursed together into a thin annoyed line against the threat. He warned, “Trust me you do not want him working for you. He is a barbarian and a butcher. You do not need to threaten my job I was simply giving you a possibility that would help to move the project along at a pace that would be more likely to please you. I am grateful with the equipment that you have provided for me. We have already begun the next phase.”

“Good,” Lex replied. He turned to leave the office and said, “If things go as planned I might have the capital to get you that piece of equipment.”

The doctor nodded his head and watched his benefactor leave the office.

Lex exited the lab feeling empty. He massaged his aching forehead as he wandered out of the 33.1 lab and retreated back down the long, dully lit corridors that lead back to his home. After nearly ten years he felt like he was back at square one. The threat to Earth’s existence was here…NOW and he had no viable weapon to defeat this great enemy. He stopped in his tracks as an idea entered his mind and then returned to Dr. Wong’s office.

“Dr. Wong, how quickly could this research progress if you had the actual subject in hand?”

The doctor chewed on the end of a pencil and wondered, “If you got the subject in hand why would we even need to continue our research?”

“Because there’s no apparent way to kill it. If you had the actual subject in hand, just think of the discoveries that you could make with a specimen like that at your fingertips,” Lex gushed.

Dr. Wong noticed a slightly deranged smile spread over Mr. Luthor’s face and smiled, pretending that he did not detect the disturbing madness that shined in Lex’s eyes. “That would be fantastic, Sir.”

“Great, it shall be done then,” Lex promised and crashed the door shut behind him.

Dr. Wong shook his head, if it wasn’t for the fascinating subjects who were all locked in the vaults below and the amazingly unique research that he was conducting at this lab, he would’ve left long ago. It is one thing to actually BE a mad scientist it’s another thing to work for a madman and be at the mercy of his crazed musings and ideas.

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

Chloe sat at her computer typing up her article on the Home Expo that was underway at the Metropolis dome. She was sucking on a sweet cherry RedVine and inhaling the scent of a bouquet of fresh wildflowers that Jimmy had just purchased for her at lunchtime. Sounds of soothing ocean waves crashed around her office as she entered into a Zen-like calming place. Breathing deeply she concentrated on the baby in her belly and knew that it enjoyed the soothing sounds also.

Her bliss burst like a thunderclap as her door flung open and Lois stormed into her office. Lois’s face was beet red. She tightly closed the door behind her and then locked it. She asked, “Do you need to pee?”

“What?”

“Pregnant ladies need to pee like every ten minutes, right? I need you urine free for at least that amount of time,” she stated.

Chloe’s brows furrowed together and her face screwed into one of her famous “are you nuts?” expressions. “I’ll survive. What’s going on, Lois?”

Lois rapidly tapped her digital recorder against her palm and paced Chloe’s office like a caged tiger.

“You’re freaking me out, Lois, what’s wrong?”

Chloe’s cousin turned and faced her. All traces of merriment left Chloe’s face as she registered the anger that spread over Lois’s attractive features. Her cousin demanded, “You knew, didn’t you? All of this time…and you said NOTHING to me! WHY?”

A kernel of panic began to writhe in Chloe’s gut. Not wanting to jump to conclusions she asked, “What are you talking about?”

Lois gently moved Chloe’s chair back and uploaded her recorded file. She slapped a pair of earmuffs onto Chloe and cranked the volume up.

Chloe listened and her eyes grew wide as Clark’s voice filled her head. Parked on the edge of Chloe’s desk with her arms crossed over her chest, Lois’s eyebrows were permanently arched skywards.

Gently, Chloe removed the earphones and gulped. “Your interview with Superman?”

Lois nodded her head.

Sucking on her candy Chloe threw up her hands up in defeat. “What can I say? It’s not easy being an official secret keeper to a Superhero, something I may add that you have now become.”

Chloe held her cousin’s intense stare. Arms still folded, Lois seemed at a loss for words. She began a sentence, stopped, and then started another one.

A grin spread over Chloe’s face. She stood up, took her cousin by the arm and led her over to her couch. They sat down and she said, “I’ll explain. Remember in High School it was my mission to sniff out meteor freaks?”

“Vividly.”

“Ok, well I began to wonder if Clark might’ve been one of them…he always seemed to be Johnny on the spot whenever someone needed help, he would speed away and miraculously appear across town moments later, and always seemed to have no logical answers for getting out of impossible situations. One night I was working at the Talon and Alicia Baker came to visit me…do you remember Alicia?”

“Clark’s teleporting stalker who he stupidly married in Vegas? Yes.”

Chloe grinned and continued, “Well she teleported me into a car, called Clark with some bogus story about being trouble. She then teleported us out of the car so that we could watch whatever was going to happen. Clark appeared out of nowhere and caught the car as it was about to flip into the air. Lois, he put it down as if it was as lightweight as one of his bales of hay.”

“You do know that bales of hay weigh a lot, right?”

“Not exactly the point right now, Lo,” Chloe grumbled. “Anyway during the meteor storm after graduation I followed him to the Kawatche Caves and somehow got sucked away with him to the Arctic Circle and got to see his Fortress of Solitude. When there I nearly froze to death from frostbite, Clark heard me, and sped me to a hospital, and ended up revealing himself to me.”

Lois rolled her eyes and pressed her palm against her head to try to stop a painful pounding that beat a rapping tune in her skull. “I’m not going to even pretend to know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m sure he’ll show you some time,” Chloe replied. “It’s a beautiful place. Apparently Krypton was an ice planet and the Fortress was a replica of the structures located on Krypton.”

A look of clarity spread over Lois’s face as understanding dawned on her. “My god, I’ve been there.”

“What? When?”

“Remember when Mrs. Kent and I had that plane crash? I vividly remember seeing some beautiful palace of ice but woke up in the Smallville Hospital so I never thought twice about it. I thought I’d had a near death experience,” Lois stated. Her face then suddenly screwed up into an angry glare. “Dammit! Smallville did his usual crap and deflected what I saw trying to make me believe it was all a delusion. He knew damned well where I was, didn’t he?”

“Very likely.” Chloe looked at her cousin with pity. “Look, you could probably drive yourself crazy if you sat down and thought of every single time Clark gave you evasive answers about things that happened, or what he was doing, or where he went so quickly, but do you really want to do that? All that kind of thinking will do is build up resentment towards him. You have to understand how lonely his life is…he’s the only person left of his entire race. He’s different from everyone on this planet and he spends all of his time worrying about exposure. If he exposes who he is…well you know how humans are…they’d take him away and experiment on him like he was a lab rat! Clark’s not an alien, Lois, he’s actually more human than anyone on this planet. I’ve never known anyone who’s more compassionate or loves humanity more than he does.”

Lois stared evenly at her cousin. “Did you take a suit of his to get dry cleaned?”

Thrown by that wild curve ball, Chloe asked, “Huh?”

“Clark was wearing this stylish new suit today and said you had it pressed for him,” Lois said.

A small smile spread over Chloe’s face. “Wow I’m so out of it that I’ve forgotten how to cover for his small fibs. If he got a new suit in a short period of time he probably flew to New York or London or somewhere to get it before the day started.”

Lois’s mouth dropped open and felt her entire body erupt in gooseflesh. She whispered, “My god, he’s really Superman, isn’t he?”

Chloe flashed a giant smile at the look of wonder that spread over Lois’s face. “Oh hon, why else would Superman single YOU out as being his oracle?”

“What?”

Rolling her eyes at her dense cousin, Chloe grabbed Lois’s arm and squeezed it tightly. “Clark loves you, Lois. He’d do anything for you. All he wants is for you to be happy and successful. I think Clark has worshipped the ground that you walk on from practically the first moment he laid eyes on you.”

Lois snorted. “Hardly. We couldn’t stand each other when we first met.”

“That’s not how I saw it. Lois you constantly had him guessing whenever you were around him. And he could never take his eyes off of you.”

“Sure he was probably examining me like I was some sort of a strange bug,” Lois retorted.

“Or a rare piece of art that he couldn’t decide why it was calling to him…it just took him a bit longer than usual to realize that he thought it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes upon.”

Lois flashed her cousin a dubious frown.

“Sorry, pregnancy hormones make me sappy and poetic,” Chloe stated and wiped tears out of her eyes. She laughed at herself. “Please Lois, don’t be mad at him. He’s the most wonderful person in the world and you have received the greatest gift he could possibly bestow onto anyone - his heart.”

Swiftly Lois got to her feet and walked over to Chloe’s window and gazed down at the traffic below.

“Do you love him?”

Lois thought about the question. She closed her eyes tightly and thought about her best friend. She was still working out his five year absence, this new information only further complicated her mixed and confused feelings for him. “Where did he go for the past five years?”

“He was up at his Fortress completing his training…learning what he needed to in order to embrace his destiny and become Superman,” Chloe answered.

Head swimming with that news, Lois recalled Clark’s words in the elevator when he returned home, I didn’t think I was a man worthy of whatever answer you wanted to give me. “My god,” she whispered. “Did he do all of this for me?”

“I think he partly did. He spent all of his youth trying to escape from his destiny. He only wanted to be a normal human. However, for some reason he always wanted to prove to you that he was more than a simple farmer. It used to bother him that you saw him only as a farm boy. You were the only friend of his who wasn’t a card carrying member of the Clark Kent fan club. I think you succeeded in frustrating him enough that he ran away in order to reach his full potential because he thought you’d never love him otherwise.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“You don’t spend your entire life closely examining someone’s love life and not pick up on a thing or two,” Chloe replied. “After Lana married Lex I noticed a marked change in his feelings towards you. You’re good for him Lois, you keep him grounded.”

“I keep a Superhero grounded?” Lois whispered in disbelief.

Chloe saw Lois’s shoulders cave inwards and she brought her hand up towards her face. Her shoulders began to shudder under the weight of this sudden and unexpected wealth of information. Getting to her feet, Chloe wrapped her arms around her cousin and allowed her to cry into her shoulder.

When she pulled away Lois shook her head, wiped her nose unladylike across the back of her hand and said, “I’ve always loved him, Chloe, even when I thought he was a ridiculously boring farm boy. How couldn’t I? He’s just like me. We’re both stubborn in our beliefs and views on right and wrong, he drives me absolutely crazy with his staunch morality and modesty, and he yet he never lectures me whenever I do something stupid. I was going to tell him that when I came back the next day, but he left me instead.”

Chloe grabbed a tissue and wiped off Lois’s face. She stared into Lois’s eyes and said, “Don’t tell me this - Lois, tell him. Don’t let him slip away again. He may be made of steel but his biggest weakness is his heart. If you don’t tell him how you feel – you could crush him.”

Lois nodded her head and saw her cousin shifting uncomfortably on her feet. Chloe shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry ever since you mentioned it I now really need to pee.”

Grinning, Lois laughed and said, “Go ahead. Thank you cuz.”

“I love you,” Chloe said hugging Lois.

“I love you, too.” Lois watched Chloe unlock the door and make a speedy bee-line towards the bathroom. Lois pumped some hand sanitizer onto her hands to wash them, grabbed her digital recorder, and erased the sound file off of Chloe’s computer. She wove her way up the stairs to her floor and went to Perry White’s office. Her boss was yakking on the phone as usual. She stuck her head inside and said, “I’m going to work from home. I’ll email my interview to you on time.”

White waved her off.

Lois cracked her office door open and was relieved to find it empty. She quickly copied all of her needed files onto a jump drive, grabbed her stuff, and made a speedy exit for the day. When she was a safe distance from The Daily Planet she ceased to worry that she would run into Clark and her heart stopped throbbing at a dangerously high pace in her chest. She needed time to think out her next move. She supposed she could just keep it a secret, but she knew herself, she would fail miserably at doing that. One of her biggest flaws was always blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong time and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to keep it from him. Clark didn’t need X-ray vision to be able to see through her – he’d know the second he laid eyes on her that something was wrong.

No, she’d have to let him know tonight and that thought terrified the daylights out of her.


Chapter 13

Clark knocked on Perry White’s office door and waited to be called inside. After saving the train Clark spent an hour stopping four traffic accidents from happening, pulled a child out of a burning dumpster, and caught a man mid-jump off of the bridge when trying to commit suicide. He noted with annoyance that all four of the near car accidents involved people talking on their cell phones. He was going to have to do some research into vehicular fatalities caused by cell phone usage and pitch the article to Perry.

Clark had then put aside his Superman duties and headed to the Mayor’s office and tracked down a few interviews for his assigned article. He was starving, exhausted, and confused over where Lois had run off to.

Perry called him into his office. Clark smoothed his jacket and handed his boss a hardcopy of his interview with the mayor and his supporting staff.

“You’re pretty amazing, Clark, how did you manage to get an interview with the Mayor without an appointment?” Perry asked, arching his eyebrows and offered Clark a chair.

Clark folded himself into the chair and shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve recently discovered that being the son of our State’s Senator is a good thing; it opens doors for me.”

A large grin spread over Perry’s face. “Boy you surprise me. Somehow I always got the impression that name dropping would be beneath you, looks like my instincts were right about you, you do have the killer reporter instinct and do anything to get a story.”

“Well not anything, sir. I won’t do anything dishonest,” Clark answered. “No story is worth losing your integrity.”

“Integrity and honor mean a lot to you don’t they Kent?”

“Yes,” he replied, lacing his fingers together as he planted his elbows onto either arm of his chair. “If you don’t respect yourself and show that to the rest of the world, they cannot respect you. By doing the right thing you inspire others to chose the harder path and make the right decisions.”

Clark’s boss stared evenly at his new reporter. He picked up a large manila envelope and dropped some photographs into his hand. Perry sifted through them, then stood up, rounded his desk, and stood in front of Clark. “You know, I realize that you’ve gotten a few articles in the front sections of the paper already, but I’d hardly say that you inspire people yet, Clark.”

“I meant in general, Mr. White.”

“Huh make this a daily practice do you?” Perry asked, arching a brow.

Slightly suspicious Clark narrowed his eyes and stared in Perry’s direction. “I try to.”

White licked the inside of his mouth and let out a small laugh. “You know, you really had me convinced all of those years ago, Clark. Just when I thought I’d come across the story of the century you proved me wrong. I was one hundred percent certain that you were telling me the truth – that there was nothing special about you other than you were the kindest, most genuine person I'd ever met...I mean how many people actually help others without expecting anything in return these days? Very few.”

Clark’s nerves suddenly pinched together and he felt like he was about to get shot out of a loaded canon. Nerves on fire, he asked, “Why are you bringing up the past, sir?”

Perry’s gray eyes bore into Clark’s face. “Look, kid, I’m not going to bust your chops. In hindsight I can now see why you acted like you did – and why you continue to do so now but you need to be straight with me no more lies.”

Clark released a small uncomfortable laugh and he forced himself not to shift in his seat. “What are you talking about?”

White handed Clark the stack of photos that he held in his hand. “I gave Jimmy an advance the other day and he bought himself a super hi-res new macro-lens for his camera. He was caught in traffic when that bus was caught on the bridge the other night and just got these developed.”

Clark shifted through the photographs and stopped on one that showed Superman waving to the police officers before speeding away. He narrowed his eyes and examined this face in the photo. The glasses did obscure a large portion of his face but his jaw and smile were unmistakable.

“What am I looking for, sir?”

Perry folded his arms across his chest and glared at Clark. “I’m not stupid or blind, Clark. I Photoshopped your press pass picture over that last photo and unless you have a twin out there that you don’t know about, that is YOU.”

Clark coughed and tried to bark out a disbelieving laugh. “Mr. White…”

“Hey, I’m not about to turn you in, Clark. In fact, now that I know this, I’m more likely than not to do anything and everything to protect your identity,” Perry whispered.

A look of confusion played over Clark’s face. “You would? Why?”

“Because you were right the other day, Superman is selling papers. Recent numbers show that our subscriptions both to our online paper and printed have tripled this past week. Superman is good for business…and because I still owe you one.”

Clearing his throat, Clark asked, “Did you figure this out by the photo?”

Perry laughed. “Not a chance, son, you’re completely transparent. It wasn’t that difficult to figure out, trust me.” Clark stared dubiously at his boss. Perry continued, “Well let’s see Mad Dog has suddenly become the personal contact for Superman…the same woman that you are constantly mooning over…” Clark’s eyes grew wide with embarrassment. Perry laughed harder. “You then go to the wall and fight to protect Superman’s identity instead of using what should be that killer reporter instinct to want to uncover the truth.”

Clark sat in stunned silence. Perry took pity on the distressed young man. “Look, to my knowledge no one else knows your secret. Jimmy was completely oblivious and spent his time cursing those glasses that you wear. I think you could fly ten feet in front of him and he’d never guess it was you. It’s a good thing Jimmy’s a great photographer, he’d make a lousy reporter.”

Meeting Perry's eyes, Clark cleared his throat again. “What about Lois?”

“I don’t know Clark.”

“Where did she go? Did she head out to cover one of Superman’s saves from this afternoon?” Clark asked.

Perry shook his head. “No I’ve got those new stories piling up here, actually. She came by a few hours ago and said she was going to work from home. It was strange actually, she’s never worked from home a single day since working here. She looked rather pale.”

“Pale? Is she sick?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Clark. But she finished her interview with Superman and sent me two follow-up stories including the train save - but something is just not right with her,” Perry answered, concern written over his face.

“She wouldn’t just run away when there are big stories breaking out all over the place. Lois doesn’t share bylines,” Clark stated.

“Exactly.” Perry stared at his reporter. “Why don’t you finish things and go check on her, alright?”

“Well I’m going to be heading that way anyways,” Clark answered.

“Oh?”

Suddenly realizing how it must sound, Clark coughed. “I’m moving into Lois’s place.”

“Oh really??? You sly dog!” Perry wiggled his eyebrows.

Clark rolled his eyes. “She’s got a spare room, that’s it.”

“Uh huh. Well anyways, tell her to get her butt back in here, these articles won’t write themselves.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you,” Clark replied.

“Thank me, for what?”

“For giving me your word and understanding why I need to keep things as they are,” he evasively replied.

“Don’t worry, Clark, your secret will go with me to the grave,” Perry promised and then shooed Clark out of his office.

Clark entered the hallway and felt rather odd. When he first met Perry White all of those years ago he had zero confidence that the man could keep a secret and now he suddenly believed in him completely. He supposed that change in perception came with maturity. He only hoped that his own unwavering faith in people wouldn’t get shattered in this case and end up biting him in ass.

After spending another hour finishing up a couple of follow-up Superman articles, Clark left the office to go check on Lois.

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

Clark approached the door to Lois’s apartment and realized he didn’t have a key. His hands were full of takeout and his briefcase. He juggled them around and knocked on the door.

“It’s open,” Lois’s voice called from inside the apartment.

With a smile on his face, Clark walked inside, and discovered that Lois was curled up under a blanket on her couch. Her eyes were wide open and she appeared uncharacteristically pale. He put his stuff down on the kitchen counter and quickly walked over to the couch and sat next to her.

“Hey, I heard you weren’t feeling well. How are you doing?” Clark asked and immediately put his hand up to her forehead. It felt slightly clammy but not hot.

“Lois?” he asked, when she remained uncharacteristically quiet and unmoving in her spot.

Her hazel eyes scrutinized Clark trying to see how she could’ve been so stupid as to not immediately know that he was Superman. Glasses were a lame disguise and she hated herself for falling so easily for them.

Clark saw her examining him and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. “What’s going on, Lois? You’re scaring me with your silence.”

“I guess you now understand why I hate uncomfortable silences,” she replied, flatly.

“What..?” Before Clark could ask his question, Lois shot a hand out and put her fingers on his lips to silence him. She then quickly dug into his jacket pocket and extracted his sunglasses case.

“Lois!”

Before he could snatch it out of her hand she picked up the remote for her stereo and turned it on. Clark froze in terror as he heard his own voice calling out over the apartment’s surround sound speakers: They inspired me and raised me to embrace my abilities and showed me the path to take for helping those who could not help themselves.

Lois snapped open his glasses case and showed Clark his hi-tec Superman glasses. Fingers itching, she put the case down, reached forward, ripped open the top five buttons of Clark’s shirt, and discovered his gold and red family crest and top portion of his blue Superman costume to be hiding under his shirt.

“Oh no,” he whispered as he saw tears forming in Lois’s eyes as she let out a strangled small laugh of disbelief. Understanding dawned on him. “I should’ve remembered to unlock the office door before leaving the office today, shouldn’t I?”

“Uh huh.”

Clark stared evenly into her eyes and replied, “Maybe I wanted to do that though.”

“What?”

“Maybe I wanted you to figure it out,” he said, lifting his brows encouragingly.

Lois let out a long confused breath. “Why would you do that and not just tell me?”

“Because I know how much you like tracking down stories. Because I know that you are a bright, intelligent woman, and that if anyone would be able to unravel the secret of Clark Kent - it would be you.” Clark reached across the couch and gently tucked a clump of loose hair out of Lois’s hair behind her ear. “And because I knew that if I just told you the truth you wouldn’t have believed me.”

“One blast of heat-vision or floating yourself off of the ground would’ve convinced me, Clark.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose you're right. Look I’m sorry, Lois. I think deep down I’ve always known you could handle the truth but I’m always wary about who I can trust. It’s why I gave you the exclusive interview I wanted to gage how you’d react to finding out I wasn’t from Earth.” Clark got up from the couch, removed his jacket, and rolled up the sleeves on his gray shirt. He then buttoned up his shirt. “I trust people too easily and at the same time I’m too overly cautious. There have only been a handful of people who were outside of my immediate family who knew my secret. A couple of those who knew – well things didn’t go so well so I'm always on guard over who I can trust and who I can't.”

Lois watched him pace the room and then come back over to the couch and crouched down beside her so that his face was lower than her own. He brushed her hair off of her forehead again. Clark continued, “Once upon a time, many years ago, I did tell you…well sort of. And you didn’t make a big deal out it. I’ve always clung to the hope that you’d still react the same way when you learned the truth for real.”

“What do you mean you told me? Was this some obscure hint that you dropped my way that I obviously didn’t register?” Lois asked, brows furrowed together in confusion.

Clark gulped. “Ah, no. Remember that Valentine’s Day after you broke up with Oliver Queen and you were drugged during it?”

“The year I got a tattoo on my chest that read Lois and Clark Forever? Yeah I remember the humiliating aftermath of that night. Wait a minute…did you remembered everything that we did that night? Why didn’t you tell me that you remembered? You rat!”

He couldn’t help himself, Clark’s face burst into a wide grin as Lois punched his arm. “Well let’s just say if I told you then I would’ve had to tell you my secret. We weren’t at a place then when I felt it was right for you to know. You were still getting over Oliver and we were friends but not as close as we eventually became.”

“You’re being evasive again. What the hell did we do, Smallville?”

Clark realized by her using her favorite knick name for him that her anger was evaporating and maybe he was climbing his way out of the eight hundred foot hole that he’d managed to drop himself into. “Well you came onto me, planted a huge kiss on me, and we had a very interesting evening. You see the lipstick you used was laced with Red Kryptonite meteor rock. Red Kryptonite loosens all of my inhibitions. It allows me to do what I really want to do without worrying about the consequences.”

“Kryptonite? Krypton – your home planet, right?” Clark nodded his head. She narrowed her eyes and got back to Clark's recollections and asked, “And what was it that you wanted to do?”

Clark bore his blue eyes deeply into hers and then stared longingly at her lips. “I wanted to kiss you…over and over, again.”

Lois narrowed her eyes and stared at Clark with disbelief. “Why? Weren’t you still in love with Lana Lang at the time?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Well I knew that we had were good together as kissing partners and had been agonizing for weeks to find an opportunity to kiss you again. Obviously something deep down was telling me that it was time to move on from Lana, but as you know I was an idiot back then. Besides, I didn’t realize it until that evening but I was insanely jealous that you had been dating Oliver. How could he possibly be a friend to me when he was keeping me apart from such an amazing woman?”

If she was confused before she was now confounded. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“I spent the evening trying to one up myself over Oliver in your eyes. I kept trying to prove to you that I was better than he was,” Clark admitted, his cheeks slightly burned with embarrassment.

“Exactly how did you do that?”

He shrugged his shoulders and itched at a phantom scratch located at the base of his neck. “I super leaped you over Metropolis. We soared from The Daily Planet building and landed on Oliver’s patio.”

She found herself desperately wishing she could remember that. “Okay…and then?”

“We did some stuff inside his apartment,” Clark said, evasively. “But I got distracted by seeing the Lex and Lana party invitation so we didn’t…you know…”

Lois found herself to be completely amused by Clark’s prudishly modest recounting of what was obviously a highly memorable evening for him. She narrowed her eyes at him and asked, “Exactly how did you know on the onset that we were…how did you put it, good kissing partners?”

Clark barked a laugh. “Sorry, not this time Lois. I’m more than willing to spill all of my own beans for you but I’m not about to let anyone else’s cats out of the bag too.”

Unable to control herself Lois burst out laughing. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”

He arched his brows skywards and shook his head in annoyance.

“What’s in the bag over there that smells so good?” Lois asked.

“Dinner. I stopped at Harlow’s and got some chicken soup and a rotisserie chicken dinner for us since I thought you were sick.”

Suddenly Lois fully realized how deeply Clark cared for her and the lengths that he would go to in order to ensure her wellbeing. She realized that keeping his alter ego from her didn’t matter nor did knowing his secret change how she felt about him. Clark Kent had always been her Superman she had been just too big of a moron to realize it.

Deftly she flung the blanket off of her lap, threw her arms around his shoulders, and launched herself against him. Caught off guard, Clark fell backwards, and Lois crashed her lips onto his in a passionate kiss. Briefly his eyes widened in surprise, then he slammed them shut, threw his arms tightly around her, and pulled her as close to him as earthly possible. Gently he rolled her onto her back and took control of things, but not before Lois ripped his fogged up glasses off of his face. Clark ran his hand down Lois's left side, then moved it up and under her shirt feeling her stomach’s hard muscles and silky smooth skin. He lightly took her lower lip within his lips and gently massaged it. Lois gasped and he moved over her entire mouth, exploring every inch of her silky lips with his own. Her hands dug into his back as she arched herself as close to his body as possible. She wrapped her leg tightly around his massive, strong thigh.

In all of her life Lois never thought she could lose herself so completely in a single kiss. Her body shuddered with pleasure as Clark’s large hand continued to stroke her body while she felt her lungs straining for air. He then gently extracted his lips from hers, pulled his face away from hers, and watched her face contort into a pout wondering why he had stopped.

Her eyes flew open and she saw Clark’s bright blue eyes smiling down upon her. She moved a hand to his face and traced his chiseled jaw with her fingers and then ended back up on his full, lusciously soft lips.

Clark’s eyes twinkled and he asked, “I take it that you aren’t going to kick me out of your place?”

“Not a chance,” she said, grinning back at him. “What should we do with that spare room?”

“Who cares?” Clark replied and descended upon her lips again.

Lois giggled and caused small explosions of air to erupt in their mouths. Clark pulled away grinning. She pushed him backwards and planted her elbow on his chest stared deeply into his eyes.

“I have a question for you, Clark.”

“Yeah?”

“Now I know that I have a unique, inside view of the real Clark Kent…remember how we first met?”

“Vividly,” he answered, remembering their first meeting in a cornfield after he’d been reborn and wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing.

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “All of your..ah…equipment works properly and is compatible with human physiology, right?”

A ridiculously broad grin spread over Clark’s face. He asked, “What exactly are you asking, Miss Lane?”

She pounded his chest with her fist. “You know what I’m asking. I mean I guess that is a dumb question because you and Lana…”

All merriment left Clark’s face and he slammed his head against the floor.

Realizing her mistake Lois said, “Sorry, I mentioned the L word, again.”

“It’s alright. You’ve got to know I’m long over her, right?”

Lois shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head.

Clark gently stroked her soft cheek and said, “It’s complicated. I did…with her…but I wasn’t myself. I’ve actually never done anything as I am now.”

Her eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. “Huh?”

“My biological father put me through these series of tests when I was younger and when I rebelled he took away my powers for a while. When I was with Lana, I was by all accounts human. Once I got my powers back, we never were together like that again,” he explained.

“Why not?”

“Because I worried I would hurt her,” Clark offered. “She was so small and fragile…I worried I’d crush or break her or something.”

Strange visions filled Lois’s head and she burst out laughing. “I’m guessing you’re not overly worried about me?”

“Hell no I know what a badass tough chick you are. I’m worried for my own safety, not yours,” Clark replied and howled out in laughter as she pounded him hard on his chest. He grabbed her hand before she could pummel him again, turned it around, and kissed the back of her hand.

Lois felt a giant rumble beneath her body. She saw Clark’s face contort into an embarrassed smirk. Laughing she rolled off of him and offered a hand to help him to his feet. “Come on Superman, let’s get some food into you…you’re going to need tons of energy for what I’ve got planned for you later.”

A large goofy smile spread over Clark’s face at the thought. He leaned in to kiss Lois again. She deflected it with the palm of her hand. “I said later, lover boy.”

Clark snatched her hips and pulled her close to his body, he nuzzled her neck and whispered, “I love you, Lois Lane.”

Leaning back against his hard chest, Lois covered her hands over his and replied, “I love you too, Clark Kent. Now stop distracting me and let’s eat dinner before it gets cold.”

“Yes, M’me,” Clark replied and enjoyed the view as Lois sauntered towards the kitchen. He was on cloud nine. Clark dreamily watched her investigate the food cartons and wondered to himself why in the hell he didn’t tell his secret to her sooner.

Lois looked up and smirked. “Because you’re an idiot, that’s why.”

His goofy grin faded into a confused expression. Lois laughed. “Now stop ogling me and get us some plates.”

Shaking his head, Clark pushed aside the delicious thoughts of what the later evening would hold for them and did as ordered…knowing he could and never would deny Lois anything.


Chapter 14

After clearing off their dinner debris Lois took a steaming mug of hot tea and walked out onto her balcony to enjoy the evening breeze. The moonflowers began to unfurl their silky white petals and released a sweet floral scent into the warm spring air. She filled a watering jug and begun watering all of her plants. From inside the apartment, Clark watched Lois as she dipped the jug from one container to the next. Her hair was pulled back into a long ponytail, her feet were bare, and as she leaned forward in inhaled the floral scent of her flowers Clark’s body tingled with desire to move onto their dessert. Unable to restrain himself any longer, Clark moved outside, and sidled up behind her body. He moved her ponytail over her shoulder, dipped down, and kissed her exposed neck.

Momentarily forgetting that she held stuff in both hands, Lois leaned back into his soft lips and felt shivers run through her body as he explored her delicate and ticklish skin with his lips and teasing tongue. Clark then moved upwards to her ear and lightly nibbled on it. The water from the forgotten jug pooled into her petunias, over-saturating them. Clark reached forward and moved it before she completely drowned the poor things. He then removed her teacup from her hand and put it onto the closest planter, accidentally dousing a fern with steaming hot tea. Hands now free Lois spun around and grabbed Clark by either side of the face and kissed him hard against the mouth. Lois’s mind clouded as her entire state of consciousness focused on the soft velvety feel of Clark’s lips against her own. She whimpered and lightly stroked her tongue against his lips, begging for them to part. She felt his giant hands press against the small of her back and at the base of her neck, leaning her closer towards his body. She felt Clark’s fingers work their way up and under her shirt towards her bra’s hooks as they deepened their kiss, exploring each other’s mouths with their sensitive tongues – teasing and tasting. Lois heard Clark moan in frustration. She grinned against his mouth as he struggled unaided at attempting to unclasp her bra. Clark’s left eye popped open as he stared down her back, using his X-ray vision he looked through her shirt to see what was catching and thwarting his progress.

Lois took pity on the man, reached behind her body, and snatched away his hand preventing him from further mangling her bra. He groaned as she took his hand, directed it under the front of her shirt, and planted it between her breasts. She grinned and whispered, “It clasps in the front, silly.”

Clark’s face burned bright red. His usual modesty returned in full force and he snapped his hand out from under her shirt, let out an exasperated sharp giggle, and stared at her with a large goofy grin.

He then saw that Lois was earnestly examining his face. “What is it?” he asked, forcing his smirk into a serious expression.

“Is this really happening?” Her hazel eyes probed into his searching for validation that she wasn’t asleep.

Lightly he placed his forehead on the top of her soft, fruity scented hair and replied, “I hope so. If not it’s the best damned dream I think that I’ve ever had.”

Lois wrapped her arms around Clark’s waist and rested her head against his hard chest. She felt his body heat emanating through his clothes as he hugged her tightly against himself. Even though her body burned for Clark’s caresses and kisses, she wanted to make these feelings last forever.

Safe.

Loved.

Worshiped.

Adored.

Whole.

They’d been friends for so long and it wasn’t until Clark had returned from his training that Lois had realized how much she truly missed having him around. She missed his comforting manly smell, his adorably dorky grins, his big penetrating blue eyes, his shaggy dark brown hair, his sarcastic sense of humor, and that special look he reserved only for her…that look that made her believe that she actually mattered.

Clark gently took her face between his large hands and examined her hazel eyes. Lois Lane...he loved her slightly crooked nose, her full lips, her light brown hair.

Lovely.

Brave.

Strong.

Fiercely independent.

Vulnerable.

Earnest.

He pressed his lips against her forehead before gently allowing her to snuggle back into his chest. He wondered briefly if her head hurt...it must from the rapid thundering of his heart that pounded so close to her face.

The onyx sky above them was punctured by a million twinkling spots of light. Above their heads a shooting star raced towards the southern horizon leaving a long trail of sparkling stardust in its wake. Distant sounds of traffic lingered on the air and were suddenly punctured by the frantic calls of emergency vehicles being called into action.

Feeling Clark's body tighten with heightened alertness at the sound, Lois’s hands moved from behind Clark’s back to his chest. She suddenly felt a lump form in her throat as she began to unbutton his shirt. They moved indoors to avoid any prying eyes that might happen to glance their way from surrounding buildings.

This is going to be our reality, isn’t it?” Lois asked.

Blue eyes filled with regret gazed down at her. “Part of me will always belong to the people in this city and this world – but my heart belongs only to you, Lois. You are my home and keep me sane from the horrors that I see out there each day.”

Lois smirked in disbelief. “I guess it’s a good thing that you’re from another planet because no man on Earth would ever find me as a keeper of someone’s sanity.”

Clark shrugged off his shirt and pants and made a quick motion and was suddenly wearing his entire Superman costume.

“Where did the boots come from?” Lois wondered.

“Don’t ask,” Clark responded with a sly grin and put his glasses on. He put a hand on her cheek and brushed her silky soft skin. “I’ll be back later.”

“I’m going to go to the Planet to finish some work. I’ll meet you there?”

“Sounds good,” Clark replied and gave her a long soft kiss before bulleting out onto the porch and flying away into the night to save lives.

On somewhat shaking legs, Lois finished watering her plants and picked up her now empty tea cup. She noticed Clark had taken his clothes with him. She shook her head in wonder and returned inside her apartment…no their apartment. Although the place felt empty without him there, she would never ask him to give up his destiny for her own sake. She would take whatever part of him that he was able to share and then she would happily release him to inspire the rest of the world. He had unique gifts that should be shared with everyone, she had no right to expect him to use them only for protecting her.

She was proud of the man Clark Kent had become.

For so many years she had seen Clark as being a simple, sweet, honorable guy who was always trying to do the right thing, but usually failed miserably. She never suspected that he was actually the most heroic and amazing person on this planet and was probably performing jaw dropping feats right in front of her. Chloe had mentioned to her on several occasions that she thought Clark’s destiny was greater than Lois had ever given her credit for. She now understood what her cousin had meant by that. His selflessness and his generosity were attributes that she had always admired about Clark, but now that she knew that he extends those traits out to strangers in need, her heart only swelled more with love for the man.

Lois gathered her stuff for the office and headed to work. She knew that the sooner she got there and finished her work, the sooner Clark would return to her and they could pick up where they ended things. Her body shuddered in pleasure at the thought.

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

Back at The Daily Planet Lois made it into her office two seconds before Perry burst into her door with his hands full of papers.

“About time you came back, Lane. Here’s all of the leads you need to follow-up on for today’s Superman’s saves.” He then pulled a large wad of notes from out of his back pants pocket and said, “And here are the calls that have started coming in about the fire this evening and Superman’s other adventures. You most certainly aren’t allowed to go home again in the middle of the day – I’m not your god-damned secretary!”

“Oh come on, I bet you’d look great in a skirt, White.” Lois smirked and asked, “Fire?”

“Yeah, Superman arrived at a five alarm fire at an abandoned warehouse in the old meat packing district and pulled a homeless family of four out of the building before it collapsed,” Perry informed her. “Jimmy somehow managed to get there on time and called me all excited that he got a front page worthy shot of the family being rescued by Superman.”

Lois shook her head in amazement and realized that if she’d stilled Clark on the porch for even an extra minute he probably wouldn’t have gotten there in time to rescue those people. “That’s great, White.”

Perry closed Lois’s office door and dropped himself into Clark’s chair and closely scrutinized his hardest working reporter.

“So what’s up with you, Lane? You had the story of a lifetime dropped into your lap and you’re acting like someone killed your dog,” Perry asked, picking up one of Clark’s pencils and flicked it rapidly between his fingers.

“Not true, I got my interview into you with plenty of time to spare. I guess I’m just a little tired. Ever since Superman showed up on the scene I haven’t gotten a lot of rest. He’s an exhausting story to keep following,” she answered. Seeing Perry’s brows lifting, she added, “Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather be feasting on good stories than languishing in boring drivel.”

Perry nodded his head absently and asked, “So how’s your new partner working out for you?”

“Clark? He’s…actually very helpful and annoyingly thorough,” she answered, and began writing her story on the fire while she talked to her boss.

“Not too worried about the competition?”

Lois realized that over the past couple of days when Clark had edited her articles, he had corrected a few of the facts based on his own personal knowledge of what really transpired making them factually 100% accurate. She shook her head. “No. He seems to be more interested in the fact checking angle of the job than having the killer need for racking up bylines. We make a great team, actually.”

“He told me that he’s moving in with you,” Perry mentioned and waited for her reaction.

Feeling all of the blood in her body travel to her face, she snuck a glance at her smirking boss.

He waved at her. “Oh don’t worry he explained that he was moving into a spare room of yours. That damned Kent is the most honorable person I know. Even if you two were more than just roommates he probably wouldn’t brag about it.”

Lois felt slightly stunned and uncomfortable; the last person she wanted to talk about her personal life to was her hard-nosed boss.

“I have to tell you, Lane, I wish you’d find yourself a guy to settle down with,” he said and immediately put his hand up to abort her ready to fire out bust of indignation. “Look you’re the best reporter that I’ve got, but I have to tell you, I’ve been where you are before. You’re teetering on the ledge, Lane.”

“What ledge?”

“You’re about to see your breaking point. You work so damned hard that you’re almost forgetting the most important thing in the world.”

“What’s that?”

Perry gave her a small smile. “That you’re a human being first and foremost.” He rolled his chair over to her desk. “I’ve been where you are before, one misstep and you might find yourself sliding down a slope that you can’t crawl back up from…at least not easily.”

“I don’t think I’m at that point,” she said.

“Because of Clark?”

She screwed her brows together in annoyance. “Why are you hounding me on Clark? He’s a friend of mine we’ve known each other forever, that's why we're getting along well. You actually did something right with putting us together - we have a good working relationship together.”

Perry noticed the abundant number of times Lois used the word “we” to describe her and Clark and grinned privately to himself. Damn, he thought. Kent’s good. I never thought I’d see Mad Dog fall for someone like him. Clearing his throat he said, “Well I’m not going to let you burn out. I don’t want to see you in this office before noon each day unless I specifically ask you to come in. You’re no longer working fifteen hour days seven days a week. I expect you to take your weekends off unless there’s a red alert weekend story that comes along. You can still get that Pulitzer someday by working less. In fact, I’d go as far as saying you might be more likely to get it by being able to really concentrate during the fewer hours that you’re here.”

She stared at him like he had six heads. “What about the morning hours? Who’ll cover that shift?”

Perry stood up. “Kent will. Besides I have a feeling he’s going to need his evenings free…if you get my drift.”

Lois stared at Perry, her eyes falling into slim slits. Her heart raced in her chest wondering did he know Clark was Superman? How in the hell did he know that or figure it out?

White saw Lois mulling over his last comment in her head. He snorted, waved her off, and exited her office. As the door flung open, Chloe quickly walked into the office and closed the door behind her.

“That must’ve gone alright, I didn’t hear any of the usual screaming that usually accompanies closed door Lois/Perry conversations,” Chloe said, grinning.

Leaning back in her chair, Lois had a confused expression on her face. She pointed to the door. “I think he knows, Chloe.”

“Perry?” Chloe cried in a small strangled voice.

“He’s protecting him too,” Lois added and shook her head. “Wonders will never cease. I’ll have to ask Clark about it later tonight.”

Chloe’s eyebrows arched up skywards and sat down in Clark vacated chair. She put her tip-toes on ground and spun the chair gently from side to side. “So I take it you two are on talking terms?”

A sly grin spread over Lois’s face as she got back to working on her current article. “You can say that.”

“Oh really?” Chloe asked, her eyebrows shot straight up, her face full of merry interest.

Lois rolled her shoulders and beamed happily. “I’m telling you Chlo, I’m going to make Superman not just the front news story – but he’s going to be THE story of the year.”

“That sounds like quite a challenge, why?”

“Because he deserves it. You know, I’ve had blinders on for so many years that now that they’re off, I want the whole world to know and be able to appreciate this amazing gift that we’ve been given,” Lois stated, working on her article.

“Superman, right?”

“Yes, Superman.” She met Chloe’s eyes and slightly shook her head.

Chloe looked suspiciously around and mouthed, “Walls have ears?”

Lois shrugged again and slightly nodded. Chloe made a “my lips are sealed” motion and asked, “So what’s our flying hero been doing this evening?”

Taking a quick glance through her notes, Lois rattled off, “Saved a homeless family from a five alarm fire, stopped an ATM robbery, interrupted a gangland shoot out down in Suicide Slums, and rescued a little girl’s puppy when it ran out into traffic.” Lois’s heart melted at the last report. One of the messages White had handed to her had a call from the little girl’s mother and got a quote from the girl. She quoted her, “Superman rescued Snuggles. I love him! He’s the bestest man in the world!”

Chloe grinned at the cute quote. “Oh he’s going mainstream if kids are starting to fawn over him.”

“Yeah,” Lois said proudly.

“Want me to help with some of your fact checking?” Chloe offered.

“Don't you need to get home to Lara and Jordan?” Lois asked typing away.

“They're with Jimmy's parents. They understand that work's been crazy since Superman came to town,” Chloe answered.

Lois stared at her cousin and folded her arms across her chest. “You miss it don't you? The rush?”

Chloe frowned slightly. “Yeah, I do. But you know I had to let go of everything. I knew that Lex wouldn't completely cut off his projects and with my ability being what it is...I couldn't keep risking my life and putting myself out there, not with kids.” She smiled. “But fact checking doesn't require any hacking skills.”

Grinning, Lois handed her a stack of Perry's notes and Chloe dove into making phone calls again. The cousins worked through the night until Jimmy arrived and took Chloe home. All evening calls kept pouring in from witnesses to Clark's adventures and as each would describe the details of his heroic feats, Lois's heart would grow wider with love and pride.

Finally, as her digital clock snapped to the eleven o'clock hour, a tall shadow filled the doorway and the overpowering smell of cheeseburgers filled the room.

“Hungry, Beautiful?”

Lois smiled, turned, and spied Clark leaning in the doorway sipping down on one of two large drinks that he held precariously in his huge hand.

She got up and took the large food bag from his hands, yanked him into the office, and slammed the door behind them.

Clark looked down and observed, “They haven't fixed the door yet, Lois.”

“Well if you stand in front of it, no one will get in, now will they?” she asked and planted a large kiss on his lips.

Clark grinned and pulled his much taller head away from her and sucked down on his soda again.

Lois growled.

“Sorry, hon, I'm dying here. It was almost as if there were pyromaniacs out on the loose in the city tonight, I had to put out three fires and rescue ten people out of burning buildings including a fireman,” Clark stated, staring at her apologetically. “I'm from an ice world – heat does get to me.”

Suddenly feeling very selfish, Lois took the extra drink from his hand and directed him to the sofa. There she divided out the food in the bag and they ate a late night dinner together. Lois realized partway through her hamburger that Clark was still heavily perspiring.

She ran her hand across his forehead and asked, “Hey, what's wrong?”

Clark's eyes fell upon her shirt opening and examined the swell between her breasts. He felt his temperature climb up another notch and gulped.

A broad grin spread over Lois's face as understanding dawned on her. “Oh I see there’s a different kind of fire that's been bothering you all evening.”

Grinning sheepisly and nodding his head, Clark wolfed down his burger never taking his eyes off of Lois. After swallowing and stuffing fries into his mouth he said, “Need energy...you...eat up!”

Lois laughed, punched him in the arm, and did as he commanded. When they finished eating, Clark huskily asked her, “How much work have you got left?”

“My articles could use a once over by you before going to press. After that I'm done,” Lois answered, putting her hand on Clark's thigh and gently began stroking it. Her hand moved towards his inseam and she leaned close towards him, her lips hovering close to his. Clark began to sweat again. He moaned, shot up from the couch, and raced to her computer. He cursed the computer for not being able to compute his changes fast enough. All of the while Lois stood behind him and massaged his shoulders, digging her thumbs sensually into his strong neck muscles and hairline.

“You're going to drive me mad woman,” Clark growled as he made some fact corrections to one of Lois's fire stories.

She leaned towards his ear, her hot breath plumed a pleasurable puff of air at the side of Clark's face and she whispered, “Well they don't call me Mad Dog for nothing.”

After twenty excruciating minutes of Lois’s tantalizing touches and teasing and the computer slowly chugging away, Clark finished the last article, zipped them up, and sent them all to press. In a blink of an eye he had Lois in his arms, was out the door, through the stairway, and onto the roof. Beaming like a crazed woman, Lois giggled and wrapped her arms tightly around Clark's neck. Her body tingled at every point in anticipation for what she knew was coming next for them.

Clark stared deeply into Lois's eyes, realizing that they'd stood in this same spot before, but the circumstances couldn't have been more different. The first time they were young and under the influence of inhibition lifting drugs, this time they were adults and deeply committed to each other and in love.

“What are you waiting for?” Lois asked and then whispered into his ear. “Take me home and make love to me, Superman.”

With a broad grin spread across his face, Clark said, “As you wish, Miss Lane.” Gathering the air molecules around him, Clark shot straight up into the air and flew them heavenwards, away from their past, and towards what promised to be a very exciting future.


Chapter 15


“God I need a cigarette,” Lois said, her chest heaving from exertion.

“Get one of those things stinking things out and I promise you that will be the last time that we do that,” Clark shot back.

Lois’s entire body still burned and glowed from their passionate love making. Glancing across her bed at Clark’s prone, sweating, and exhausted form she growled, “God, Smallville no need to threaten me, I was kidding.”

In the dark, Clark reached across the bed and grabbed Lois’s hand, brought it to his lips, and lightly kissed it. “I was too, Lois.”

The bright flash of anger that surged through her evaporated and Lois grinned. She had never felt so euphoric in her life, even Clark’s sarcasm couldn’t erase the smile that seemed to be permanently plastered to her face. “You know, I’m not a prude Clark, but seriously, what the hell? Where did you learn your moves? I swear, for a second there I think I passed out.”

Gently Clark wove his fingers between hers, turned onto his side and stared at Lois’s curvaceous profile as she rested under the top sheet. He resisted temptation to use his x-ray vision to re-admire her nude form that he now had burned into his memory. “Well I did spend a lot of time alone in the barn…there’s all sorts of interesting stuff on the internet if you know where to look.”

“Ewww, thanks Clark. Nice to know I benefited from hours of watching porn.”

Clark laughed. “Not the kind of web surfing that I meant.”

“Good to hear. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised then by your skills at the office,” Lois teased. “You obviously take your research very seriously.”

She saw a strange expression cross over his face and asked, “What?”

He puckered his lips out slightly and looked at her as if struggling to find his words. “Ok well not everything that I learned was from the internet.”

She watched his large index finger slowly trace a line of blue checks on her sheet.

Her smile fell. “Oh right, Lana.”

“Lana?” Clark barked. He then burst out laughing. “I don’t think so. I probably would’ve frightened the poor girl off if I tried even half of that stuff with her.”

Feeling very special that Clark didn’t waste his moves on his first love, Lois asked, “So was there…”

“Someone else? No.” Clark rolled his eyes and sheepishly admitted, “I learned it from my father.”

Lois propped herself up on her elbows and stared at Clark with disbelief. “Jonathan KENT taught you all of that????”

Confusion raced over Clark’s face and then he howled out in laughter. Lois whacked his hand against the bed to get his attention as he continued to roll back and forth with merriment. He gasped aloud as he tried to catch his breath from laughing so hard.

“You’re pissing me off, Smallville! Cough it up!”

“Dear lord no. My Dad nearly had a heart attack whenever I even caught him kissing my Mom. Trying to help me get past my heat vision was bad enough when it came to approaching anything dealing with sexual situations. Dad and I barely even had ‘the talk’ much less detailed lessons on how to please a woman or understanding where to locate a woman’s erogenous zones.”

A sharp pain announced itself in Lois’s skull. She arched her brows at him and wasn’t the slightest bit amused by his evasiveness.

Seeing that he was rapidly digging himself into a hole, Clark sobered himself and explained, “It was my biological father, Jor-El. He stored the universe’s greatest wealth of information for me to study when I was away at his Fortress of Solitude. He...ah…not only provided me with knowledge about the cosmos and how it works, but there were Kryptonian sex manuals in there also.”

Eyebrows shooting straight up, Lois coughed. “So we had kinky alien sex?”

“Well, I am an alien. What can I say, you bring the kink out of me,” Clark replied and waggled his brows in her direction.

Groaning, Lois moved across the bed and snuggled up next to Clark. His smile softened into a goofy grin as they tangled their bodies together. His fingers trailed up and down the side of her body lightly tracing her curves.

“So what else did you learn up in that ice palace of yours?” Lois asked, her own fingers dancing over Clark’s broad chest.

“A lot of stuff, stuff about how the universe works, a lot of scientific information, and history,” Clark replied. Lois watched his brows knit together. “There was something interesting that I recall being blown away by when I was in training…Kryptonians have been visiting earth since the beginning of Man.”

“Really? Why?”

“Curiosity. The Kryptonians were the leading race amongst twenty eight known galaxies, they craved knowledge above all else. They spent a lot of time studying humans and were always distressed to see that no matter where they traveled in the universe some things seemed to remain constant between all humanoid races.”

“Let me guess, greed, lust, jealousy…your basic seven deadly sins?” Lois offered.

Clark hugged her tighter against him and confirmed, “Right.”

Lois scrutinized Clark’s face; he was obviously thinking of something and trying to figure out how to broach the subject. “What is it?”

“My race was one of very arrogant people, Lois. They were the wisest of all species in the known Universe and knowing this they forced their will upon others. It ultimately led to their doom when those that they considered to be lower in intellect retaliated and destroyed them. They spent many years coming here and attempted to mold humanity into what they considered to be a utopian society. Every time they interfered though great tragedy seemed to follow.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know how historians are always confounded about the great leaps that mankind made over the years in the terms of scientific, mathematical, and analytical thought processes? Like take the Mayans, or the Egyptians, or Greeks for example. How was it that these races who would otherwise seem primitive suddenly go from being simple folk to being civilizations who miraculously advanced, seemingly overnight?”

“Kryptonians interfered?”

Clark nodded his head. “Apparently they’ve been doing it for a long time too.”

A sly grin came over Lois’s face as she snuggled closer to Clark’s body. “Well you know if they taught humans the lessons you just taught me tonight there would never be any war.”

She expected Clark to laugh, instead he frowned deeper. “That was a joke, Clark.”

“Problem is they did try that approach and that usually brought on more destruction than when they just left humanity alone in the first place,” Clark growled.

Lois propped herself up on her elbow and stared at Clark. “Explain?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Well think back in history. Name me times when mad wild love affairs turned the world upside down.”

“Cleopatra and Marc Antony…” Clark nodded his head. Lois’s eyebrows shot straight up. “Uh…Helen of Troy…” He smirked.

“There were a lot of instances…and Kryptonians found themselves incorporated into human mythology too.”

“Let me guess, all of the Greek Gods were Kryptonians?”

He nodded his head. “Who else could have the strength of 100 men?”

“Wow, how come your brain hasn’t exploded after learning all of this?”

“Remember, I have you to keep me sane,” Clark answered and kissed her nose.

She playfully punched him.

He furrowed his brows deeply in concentration. “My father sent me here because he believes that humanity is on the brink of self destruction. All I can do is try to correct the wrongs that my people put on this race one save at a time and hope that I can make the crucial choices at the right times to prevent certain disaster from occurring…and hope that the earlier machinations of my people haven’t managed to permanently scar humanity.”

“We’re a flawed race, there’s nothing you can do about that. Nobody made us as we are. Nothing’s certain and you’re not all powerful, Clark. There are some things you can’t do, you need to remember that. You can’t save everyone all of the time,” she replied.

“I know,” he agreed and hugged her tightly. Thinking about something Chloe said long ago, he voiced her words, “But that won’t stop me from trying.”

Lois heard sadness in his voice and waited for him to continue.

“Lois? I think I really screwed up,” Clark said, hugging her closely to his body.

“How?”

“With Lex.”

“Lex?”

His expressive blue eyes filled with longing. “When we first met, Lex and I were best friends – closer than brothers, actually. There wasn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for me and vice versa. We fell apart after Lex started revealing his dishonest side to me.”

“Well that’s Lex for you,” Lois said, not understanding why Clark was so filled with regret over the long broken friendship.

“It’s not that simple, Lois. He once told me that he could feel the darkness seeping into the corners of his life but that his friendship with me was the only thing that kept it at bay,” Clark said. “I wonder if I’d told him about who I really was from the outset how things would be now.”

“Clark, there’s no way you could’ve trusted Lex. He’s psychotic and a murderer,” Lois replied.

“He wasn’t always that way though. I think my severing our ties led him down this road,” Clark admitted.

“But your instincts always told you that he wasn’t worthy of knowing your secret, right? Somehow you knew that if he was armed with that knowledge that he couldn’t be trusted with it,” Lois argued. “Obviously you had your reasons for telling some people and not others.”

Clark noted the slightly icy edge to her tone and groaned. “Lois I didn’t tell you, not because I didn’t trust you, but to protect you.”

“Protect me from what?”

He rolled his eyes. “What else? I mean tell me do you think you really would’ve wanted to be armed with all of this knowledge about me while you were building a career at the Planet.

“Oh no you don’t, you don’t get to turn this around on me like it was some noble act on your side to protect me. You did it because you didn’t know if you trusted me or not,” Lois sternly replied.

“I trusted you, Lois. I knew out of everyone that I had ever met you could handle the truth. The truth is I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to become one of them.

Lois arched her brow. “One of whom?”

“The card carrying female Clark Kent fan club members – you know Chloe…Lana…They went from adoring me to worshipping me after they learned of my secret,” Clark said. He gently stroked Lois’s cheek. “I always loved that you never saw me as anything special…I was normal in your eyes. It was weird you know, I spent my entire life wanting to be viewed as normal but everyone around me kept insisting that I was something extraordinary. Chloe and Lana went out of their way to investigate me to learn my secret identity. You never did that. All you ever saw was Clark Kent. That, by the way, frustrated me to the point of going nearly driving me mad…go figure, the one thing I adored most about you drove me absolutely nuts! But I still loved that you never relied on me to protect you, that you always thought for yourself, and that you could get yourself out of most any situations you got yourself into with little or no assistance from me to get you out of them. I worried that if you learned I was Superhuman that you’d suddenly start relying on me…not that I won’t go to the ends of the Universe in a heartbeat to protect you, but it’s nice knowing I don’t have to do it because you can take care of yourself.”

A giddy feeling writhed in Lois’s belly at Clark’s praise and she gripped him tightly. “Well that’s just dumb, Clark. I would never have worshipped you. Remember, I lived with you, I know all of your bad habits. What woman could worship a man who leaves his filthy stinky socks all over the place including under his sheets?”

Clark shook his head with a soft glowing smirk on his face, one that Lois immediately recognized as an expression he reserved only for her. A strange look then crossed his face. “God I was blind for so many years, do you know that?”

“Regarding?”

He let out a chuckle of disbelief. “I just remembered something. Do you know I used to think about you when I was with Lana?”

Lois frowned. “Define with Lana.

“NOT that way. We used to study together up in the loft sometimes and I’d find myself thinking about you. Lana would ask me what I was thinking about because I was usually smiling. I lied and said it was about her.” He massaged his forehead. “God I totally forgot I used to do that all of the time. Is it any wonder we were doomed to fail as a couple? I was an idiot. Why would I do that to myself?”

“Humm…and further proof that you are most definitely not worth worshipping,” Lois retorted and punched him again.

“You remember my Senior prom?”

“Vaguely, remember I was possessed for half of it.”

“Yeah well, you weren’t possessed at the end of it. Remember I asked you to dance?”

“And I threw you into Lana’s arms? Yeah I remember that,” she replied, looking away.

Clark gently lifted her chin and stared into her eyes. “I really wanted to dance with you. You were the best thing in my life, Lois. You came along and helped me to get my mind off of her. I think I was ready to move on at that point…”

“Old regrets bore me, Smallville. Look, we weren’t ready to be more than friends at that point and I knew that you would never be able to move on if you didn’t at least try to make things work with Lana. Besides I prefer how things ended up. Give me the man that Clark Kent has become over the boy who molded him any day.”

“Really?”

“Hell yeah, you’re a thousand times hotter now,” Lois kidded.

Clark laughed. “Back at you, Lois.”

“I love you, Clark,” Lois said, hugging him tightly.

“I love you too, Lois.”

After a few moments of contented and comfortable silence, Lois asked, “You know what today was?”

“What?”

“Friday. White doesn’t want to see our faces in the office again until Monday. Know what that means?”

“We’re not getting any sleep anytime soon?” Clark suggested and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Precisely!” Lois then jumped him and planted a long, hot kiss on lips. All worries about the world ending and past regrets disappeared from Clark’s mind as he focused entirely on the present and the love of his life.

His life’s journey so far had been long and winding. Back when he first met Lois all of those years ago in that cornfield he never would’ve imagined the utter joy and bliss that she would eventually bring to his life.

Lois was his life.
His energy.
His Joy.
His soul.

She helped to shape him into not only the extraordinary man that he was today, but he knew that with her tough love, she would help guide him into becoming a legend.

He could only dare to imagine the excruciating levels of pain that would rip his heart apart if she was ever taken away from him.


Chapter 16


The weekend passed by in a passionate blur for Clark and Lois. They never left the apartment except for the times of the day when Clark's super hearing would detect trouble that needed tending to in the real world.

As ordered by their boss, Clark left for the office early in the morning on Monday, leaving Lois alone to lounge away her morning and contemplate life. The apartment felt empty without Clark but at the same time he had infused himself in the place. Nearly everywhere her eyes flickered in the apartment she could remember a stolen kiss, a tender caress, and everywhere she could still smell lingering traces of Clark's aftershave. As she hugged her arms around her body and sipped on her morning coffee she realized she'd never been this happy in all of her life. She had thought she had been in love with Oliver all of those years ago, but she was wrong. That was just puppy love. This was what true love felt like, her heart ached being separated from the man she loved, and yet thrilled at knowing they would be together again in a few hours at work.

She walked out onto her patio and the morning sun bathed the edges of her balcony in light. A cool breeze caressed her skin through her long satin nightgown and robe, she didn't care. All she had to do was remember the feel of Clark's large, protective, and soft hands against her skin and her entire body tingled with warmth.

After finishing her coffee she took a long shower and got dressed for work. When she arrived at the Planet she pushed the button to the seventeenth floor and wove her way towards Chloe's office. People passing the notoriously crabby top reporter cast strange looks her way as they detected an unsettling bright and cheery smile on her face.

She knocked on Chloe's office door and happily entered when her cousin called her inside.

Chloe's eyebrows immediately shot upwards upon seeing the look on her cousin's face. “Damn girl you are glowing. Either you've just discovered a new nightly facial treatment that you had better share with me or...” she left off her sentence letting her flushed cousin fill in the blank.

Lois locked her cousin’s door and dropped into a chair. She scooted next to her cousin who cast an inquiring look her way.

“Chloe, it’s amazing that I can walk,” Lois said. Her cheeks blushed deeply.

“I see, so you had quite the weekend, huh? Well don't leave me is suspense, I want details,” Chloe asked. Lois cast an uncertain expression in her cousin’s direction. “Come on pregnant woman here – next time anything thrilling is going to happen in my nether regions it will involve something coming out not going in.”

Lois bit the inside of her mouth and she arched her brow and nodded. “You know I wasn't surprised by anything physical regarding Clark, I mean come on the first time I saw him he was stark naked and I got my eyeful of Clark Junior at that time which by all accounts would be considered otherworldly in and of itself...but my GOD Chloe...”

“What?”

“Let's just say it's a very good thing that I'm in really good shape, very open-minded, and VERY flexible. He not only has super abilities but that man's got endurance...and skills like you wouldn't believe,” Lois stated. Lowering her voice she added, “I lost count of exactly how many multiples there were to my multiple orgasms.”

Chloe's face screwed into one of intense envy. She snatched up a donut and shoved it sadly into her mouth.

Lois stood up and walked over to the window watching the traffic crawl by below. “I never knew what I was missing by not really being in love, Chloe. I can't imagine my life now without Clark in it. It's like I was walking around as only half a person and then when we finally connected...I became complete. I don't just mean the lovemaking, but we spent hours and hours just talking. It was amazing you know? I've known him forever and suddenly there's this whole other side to him that I never knew existed. It's like I'm getting to know him all over again and every new thing that I learn only causes me to fall deeper in love with him.”

Chloe crossed her arms over her large stomach and gave her cousin a smug grin. “I told you there was more to Clark Kent than you saw. Guess you should've believed me, huh?”

Lois smiled. “You know what's funny. He says he loves me because I never saw him as being anything special. Funny thing is I know he's the most amazing person in the world, but he's still just Clark Kent to me.”

Chloe gazed dubiously her way. “Really?”

“Yeah, I mean he still leaves the toilet sea up and hogs all of the blankets, he’s not exactly prince charming,” Lois retorted with a grin.

“He’s pretty darned close though,” Chloe replied, eyebrows arched.

Lois just beamed and shuddered happily. “Well I should get up to my office and get to work; I have a pile of Superman stories to write.”

“I’m happy for you two, Lois. I mean it,” Chloe said.

“Thanks, that means a lot to me,” Lois said, leaning over she hugged her pregnant cousin. “I’ll catch you later.”

Lois left Chloe’s office and raced up two flights of stairs and headed to her office. She smoothed her hair and walked inside. Clark sat behind his desk typing away at the computer.

“Excited to see me?” he asked, never taking his eyes off of his monitor.

“Why would that be, Smallville?” Lois asked, closing the door behind her and then snuck up behind his chair.

“Well it has been what four whole hours since we’ve seen each other, I thought maybe you forgot what I looked like,” Clark replied, flashing a lopsided smile at his computer.

“Humm…you know you’re right! Let me take a good look and refresh my memory,” Lois said and put her hands on either side of his head and gently tipped it back so that he was looking directly up into her own face. She snatched off his glasses and lightly pressed her lips against his bottom lip. Clark reached behind his beloved and pressed on her back bringing her closer to his face. He opened his mouth allowing her tongue access. As they briefly teased each other’s tongues but Lois pushed against Clark and pulled away. “You know I think everyone should have their own boy toy in their offices – it definitely makes the day go by faster.”

Clark chuckled and grabbed her hand, squeezed it, and let it go as she moved to her desk to get to work. They worked for a couple of hours belting out their stories and making follow-up calls on the many of Superman’s saves from the weekend. Lois was elbow deep into a story about Superman pulling a baby out of a burning car when her phone rang.

“Lois Lane,” she stated, as she smashed the receiver between her ear and shoulder and continued to type away. Clark watched her face contort into a pained and annoyed expression. “What do you want?...Look you sent me on a wild goose chase last time…no look I nearly lost my job thanks to that bogus lead…” Clark watched on with interest. He flicked her an IM and asked, “Your Luthor source?”

She nodded her head and then huffed into the phone. “Look, that sounds like another false lead to me, I’m sorry I don’t have the time…well do you have a number for him, I could just call to…what do you mean he won’t take phone calls? He doesn’t HAVE a phone??? How can anyone in this day and age not have a phone? How did YOU get in contact with him then?....A friend of a friend, oh yeah, I’m going to fly to Nevada based on THAT info…sorry…What? Hold on…”

Clark was on his feet and looking over her shoulder as her email alerted her to an incoming message. Absently massaging out the mounting tension in Lois’s shoulders, Clark saw that the email contained the titles of several land deeds. He activated his super hearing to catch the rest of the conversation.

“I’m telling you, he’s behind it,” the source said.

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” Lois asked.

“Fine don’t trust me…it’s your career lady,” her source said and slammed down the phone.

Clark dug his large thumbs into the base of her neck and worked out a large knot that had just formed. He pointed his chin to the documents and asked, “Can you print those off, Lois?”

“I think it’s a bunch of crap,” Lois muttered and printed two copies of the documents. Clark exited the office and walked down the hall to retrieve the copies, oblivious to the four women who popped their heads over their cubicles and watched dreamily as he passed by.

He gathered his papers and smiled at a pair of assistants who walked past him and returned to his office, not noticing their twittering laughter in the background.

Handing a set of the papers over to Lois, he sat down in his chair and began examining them closely. Lois threw her set of the papers on a mountain of unread and discarded leads.

Clark arched his brows and got to work. “Hey, Lois can you print me off a map of Nevada?”

Knee deep in writing her article, she flashed him an annoyed face.

“I’m so sorry to disturb you, would you prefer to do your own work instead?”

Lois rolled her eyes, surfed the we, pulled up a giant detailed map of the state of Nevada, and printed it off.

“I’ll get it, I need to go to the ladies anyways,” Lois said, stilling him in his chair with a simple commanding hand motion.

“Thanks,” Clark replied and flashed a lopsided grin.

Melting inside, Lois left the office.

Clark knew if her source gave these land deeds to Lois there must be something to them. He scooched over to his computer and began entering searches in the Nevada state records files. After forking over $50 for unlimited access to state and county records, Clark entered the land deed numbers into the system and waited while the computer hunted for his records.

Lois closed the door behind her, handed over the map to Clark and pecked him on the cheek. “Whatcha doing?”

He explained to her and she groaned and returned to her desk. “Glad you’re doing that instead of me, I hate the grunt work of investigating.”

“Prefer the glory to grunting, eh?” Clark quipped. “Grunting does become you, you know?”

She peered around her computer appalled. “CLARK!”

Chuckling over Lois’s embarrassment, his eyes lit up as the files returned the information to him. On the first page he noted the land area and began to highlight it on the map. He did the same for the next five records. Then on the fifth record he dug deeper into the holdings history and finally came up with the information on the latest bill of sale.

He stared at the name of the company who had purchased the land with wide eyes. “Oh god.”

“What is it?” Lois asked, bolting out of her chair. She flipped her sandy brown hair out of her face and followed where Clark’s finger was pointing on the screen. “What’s Sageeth Enterprises?”

“Lex.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely and look at this Lois – all of this land he purchased it runs straight up the center of the state, just east of Las Vegas. Why in the world would he want that property? It’s nothing but desert out there,” Clark explained showing her the map.

“I wouldn’t know, Clark. Looks like I’m going to Nevada after all,” Lois said. Clark saw a gleam flare in her eyes.

Quickly he grabbed her hand and turned her to face him. “You’re not going by yourself, I’m coming with you.”

“Sorry, but you’re needed here. Besides White would never allow both of us to go off on such a small fact finding expedition, it would be too expensive,” Lois reasoned. She shrugged her shoulders at him. “Don’t feel bad, a trip like this won’t even warrant me taking Jimmy along.”

Something just didn’t add up for Clark and he felt a giant knot twist in his stomach. “I don’t like it, Lois. It feels like a set up.”

Rolling her eyes, Lois plopped herself down in Clark’s lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Are you sure you’re just not sad that you’ll have to sleep alone for one night?”

“Well I could always fly out there to meet up with you, you know,” he replied, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Ugh, I’ll probably be staying at a flea infested roach motel not exactly my idea of a romantic getaway,” she scoffed. She lightly kissed Clark on the nose. “I’ll be fine; you worry about the rest of the world and let me worry about confronting one lone rancher who’s terrified of the telephone.”

Clark wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and pulled Lois close to his body. “I still don’t like it. I wish I could put a Tripstar system on you.”

“Clark, the guy might not have a phone, but I will,” she offered.

“But there probably won’t be any towers out that way,” Clark countered, his blue eyes swam with worry.

“You’re sweet for being so concerned, but trust me Lex won’t be there waiting to swipe me up in a butterfly net, ok?” She rolled her eyes at his unconvinced expression. “Need I remind you that I got along fine for five years without my own indestructible bodyguard at my beck and call?”

Admitting defeat, Clark nodded his head. “You’re right.” She smiled and kissed him on the forehead and hopped off of his lap.

“I’ve got to get to the travel department and make arrangements.”

Before Clark could change his mind or make any further objections she breezed out of their office. His eyes fell back on the deeds and Sageeth’s name. He couldn’t help but worry that somehow Lex was going to use Lois as bait for Superman. Crazy or not, he knew that Lex would be smart enough to connect the dots over who Naman was from the Kawatche tale. Whether Lois wanted it or not, he planned to be ready if that was the case.

Lois might be able to take on the US Army single handed, but Clark knew better than to let Lex get the upper hand in any situation, especially if Lex planned on putting the woman he loved right in danger’s path.

If he knew one thing from his past – it was to NEVER underestimate an obsessed Luthor.


Chapter 17

Clark spent the afternoon finishing up his callbacks and completing his articles while watching Lois prepare for her trip.

“Looks like I’m going to be staying at some place called the Mustang Dude’s Hotel – tell me doesn’t THAT sound like a winner of a place? I just hope they don’t expect me to work to pay for my room there,” Lois sarcastically said.

“Huh?” Clark asked.

“God you are an Eagle Scout aren’t you? You’ve never heard of the Mustang Ranch in Nevada?”

Clark’s brows shot straight up and then he grinned. “Oh, right. Yeah I doubt it’s the same thing. Although you know you are pretty good at lap dances, Lois.”

Lois chucked a pen across the room at Clark. He snatched it out of the air and flashed her a lopsided grin.

Launching to her feet, Lois gathered her stuff, and moved to Clark’s side. She dropped into his lap and wrapped an arm around his neck. Into his ear, she warned, “Please don’t do anything while I’m gone that could be Pulitzer worthy, otherwise you’ll have a hell of a lot to answer for when I get back.”

Clark grinned and replied, “I don’t know, I might want to find out how you plan to punish me.”

Lois punched him in the shoulder, threw her purse and jacket on the floor, and removed Clark’s glasses. She then grabbed his lips with her own. Both widened their mouths and deepened the kiss. Clark broke them apart and looked longing into her eyes with a pained expression on his face.

“Really, Clark, it’s only one day,” Lois reminded him.

“I have a really bad feeling about this, Lois.”

“Bad feeling? It’s a fact gathering trip, nothing more, Clark. I’ll be back by this time tomorrow, you’ll hardly have time to miss me.” Lois traced a finger over Clark’s full, lusciously pink lips.

“I already miss you and you’re here sitting on my lap,” he said.

A small grin spread over Lois’s face. She dropped her head against his forehead. “I gotta go or I’ll miss my plane.”

“I could just fly you over there myself in the morning, you know,” Clark offered.

She rolled her eyes. “Right, I’d like to explain how I got to Nevada on my travel expenses if there’s no receipt for a plane ticket. Flight leaves in three hours, I gotta go home, pack, and get to the airport.” Reluctantly, she wiggled her way out of Clark’s arms, gathered her junk, pecked him on the lips, and whispered, “I love you.”

“I love you too, Lois.”

Clark watched Lois open the door and exit the office. His smile plummeted off of his face into a frown. He didn’t understand why for the life of him that he was anxious about Lois leaving. His heart seized with panic at the thought of her being gone, he still couldn't shake that Lex was somehow behind this. He twirled the pen that Lois had thrown at him between his fingers and contemplated his feelings. Clark was sure that he was just being irrational. Lois was right, she survived five years without his being around to save her, why should this trip be any different?

Clark worked for for three more hours and talked to Lois before she got onto her plane. His uneasy feeling only further increased once he knew she was in the air. Shaking his head, he stood up and decided to go talk to Chloe – she’d be able to calm down his nerves with her usual rational way of seeing things.

Exiting his office, Clark turned, and ran right into Jimmy.

Immediately, he sensed that something was wrong. Jimmy’s eyes were wide and panic filled.

“What’s the matter?” Clark asked.

“Have you seen Chloe?”

“No, I was actually just going down to her office to see her - why she’s not there?” Clark asked, opening his office door again. Jimmy poured into the room after him.

The curly haired man ran his fingers nervously through his light brown locks and said, “She’s not there, Clark. I tried her cell and she’s not picking up.”

“Maybe she’s in a meeting?”

“No, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is she always calls me if a sudden meeting comes up. She was supposed to pick up our kids at daycare today and she never showed up,” Jimmy explained, his voice slightly rising. “I had to call my parents out of their golf game to go pick up Jordan and Lara.”

“She must be here somewhere,” Clark said, trying not to let Jimmy’s growing frantic nervous energy wash over him. The last thing
Clark needed was to further fry his nerves over his worries for Lois by adding real concern for Chloe's well being on top of them. “Maybe she went out to get some ice cream or something.”

“No Clark, any cravings she has she asks me to fill them for her,” Jimmy stated. He grabbed his cellphone, punched in a speed dial and tried to reach Chloe again. The phone rang, and rang, and rang. “Clark, I even checked all of the bathrooms and offices on the last four stories in case she was in any of them. She’s not picking up…she’s missing.”

“How far along is she?” Clark asked, feeling that panic that he’d been trying to contain rise within himself. His palms began to sweat.

“Six and a half months,” Jimmy said.

Clark put his hands on Jimmy’s shoulders and reassuringly said, “We’ll find her, Jimmy – stop panicking!”

“Ok, so what do we do first? I've already called her Dad and my parents and they haven't heard from her.”

“Any other friends that she might call? How about her doctor? Maybe she felt something going on with the baby and didn't want to upset you and went to see her physician,” Clark offered.

Jimmy nodded his head, mentally checking all of the suggestions.

“You call those and I'll call to all of the local hospitals.”

Jimmy made to leave the office and Clark said, “Use Lois's phone, she's on a business trip.”

“Thanks, CK,” Jimmy said and jumped onto the phone to start calling around. Clark pulled up the numbers for the local hospitals and began his search as well. He felt a nagging sensation in his gut that their efforts would all lead to nowhere, but until they tried the last thing he was going to do was say anything to upset Jimmy any further.

*********

Chloe felt as though her head was going to explode as she attempted to open her eyes. Through blinding flashes of pain that pummeled her head she attempted to remember what the hell happened to her. One minute she was walking towards the ladies room, desperately needing to pee, when someone crashed into her shoulder as they passed her in the hallway. She felt a slight sting in her left arm, turned to say something to the individual, and then the world went black.

Slowly she propped herself up onto her elbows and looked around. She found herself in a white room laying on a bed that was covered in soft bedding and her back was supported by a large mass of pillows. Wherever she was being held her captors were considerate of her condition.

Nursing the pounding in her head, Chloe got off of the bed and approached the solid door. She jiggled the handle and wasn't surprised to find it locked. Quickly she used the toilet and then splashed some water on her face to try to clear her mind. She then went back to the door and began pounding her fists against it and shouted at the top of her lungs, “HEY! LET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Chloe pounded for a good two minutes and finally gave up. She climbed back onto the bed and placed her hands protectively over her stomach. When no one arrived Chloe nodded off for awhile only to be awakened by the door opening.

A knot of fear formed in her stomach as she recognized the face of the person who entered her prison.

“I should've guessed, only Lex Luthor would be low enough to kidnap a pregnant woman,” Chloe seethed.

Shrugging his shoulders, Lex looked around the room. “Aren't you comfortable, Chloe? I made sure that you had a private bathroom and enough pillows and cushions so that you wouldn't over stress the baby.”

“How considerate of you,” Chloe spat back, pushing a clump of blond hair out of her blue eyes. “What do you want Lex?”

Lex sauntered up to her side and stared down into his captor's face. “What do you think I want?”

“How the hell would I know you psychopath!”

A small grin spread over his face. “Psychopath. Oh Chloe, and I thought maybe all of those years writing Mommy dribble for the Planet would've at least sharpened your wit, instead it's made you predicable and dull.”

Chloe began tapping her foot impatiently.

“I have a job for you, Chloe. Do me this one teeny, tiny favor and you'll be free to go.”

Chloe barked out a laugh. “Right, like I'm supposed to believe that.”

“Believe what you want. But I'm really not that interested in you. Give me what I want and I'll let bygones be bygones with me. You'll never have to worry about me threatening your family again. You do this one...tiny thing and we're square.”

Lex's pale blue eyes gazed in her direction and were filled with sincerity. Not believing that sincerity for one moment, Chloe asked, “What do you want?”

“Follow me,” Lex said and marched out the door.

Reluctantly, Chloe got up and followed him. He led her down a long corridor filled with cells. As they walked past hands shot out from them and voices moaned and screamed from inside the rooms. Behind her two of Lex's goons held military sized stunners directly at her back to prevent her from thinking about escaping.

“I see 33.1 is still in full effect,” Chloe said.

Lex said nothing but continued to walk her towards an elevator. The four walked inside and Lex punched in to raise them eight levels up towards the labs.

He marched them past the scientific labs towards a large locked door. “You two stay out here and guard the door.” He entered his code into the lock and opened the door. “Ladies first.”

Chloe scowled and walked into the room. She found herself in a giant room filled with computers and huge monitor screens filling every square wall space. The screens contained images of detailed maps of the United States. She walked closer to them and saw one of them marked out every fault line across the US with the San Andreas highlighted in red.

“Since when have you been interested in Geology?” she nervously asked.

“Geology is a fascinating subject, Chloe. To think that for all that mankind can reshape the landscape that's on top of the globe, from carving faces into mountainside, blasting apart hills, to damming rivers, we are still at the mercy of Earth itself. We never know when an earthquake might hit or volcano will erupt and forever change the course of human existence. Mother nature can bring mankind more horror and sadness than anything that any man can do.”

As she stared at the screens Chloe still had no idea what was going on. “What does this have to do with 33.1 and meteor freaks?”

Lex snorted. “Directly, nothing. But in the end it will help me immensely with my research. Please sit down and I'll fill you in.”

Chloe stared at the armchair he pointed towards that sat in front of a computer keyboard. She sat down and immediately regretted it as two large mechanical arms popped out of the chair and locked her legs into place as well as one around her middle. She was trapped.

“Bastard!”

Lex just grinned. “Oh come on Chloe, I know you, you're never going to just do things the easy way. Besides I need to know that I've got your full attention.” He leaned over and started a computer generated video. “See before I was tried I sensed something was going down and managed to liquidate about half of Luthor Corps assets overseas into untraceable accounts. However, even that amount of money isn't enough to sustain my projects. In short, I'm going broke. Since I'm viewed to the world at large – thanks to you – as an escaped mental patient, I can't exactly go out and publicly make business deals so I have to make do with planning things from my hiding place.”

“And where are we exactly?”

Ignoring her question, he continued, “So I thought about things and who were the biggest billionaires in the days of old? Why the land barons of course! Real Estate is where the money is today.” The video zeroed in on California and the beach front properly. “Think of how much money the coastline in California is worth...think of how rich the people became when they sold off their land that they purchased there in the early settlement days for mere pennies.”

Chloe arched an eyebrow. “Ok, so what does this have to do with anything?”

“What's the biggest threat to California and the wonderful beach bunny lifestyle that those plastic people have learned to enjoy and take for granted?”

“Earthquakes?”

“Ahhh so you ARE still as sharp as always. Yes, earthquakes.”

A dubious expression crossed over Chloe's face. “You think you can cause an earthquake? That seems a little far fetched Lex, even for you.”

“Actually it's quite easy, I just need your help.”

“My help?” Chloe asked, not liking the crazed euphoric look in Lex's eyes.

“I need you to hack into the US Missile Defense Mainframe and get me the access codes for three nuclear weapons.”

All breath escaped from Chloe's lungs. “What?”

“I only need three. I think that will be enough to set off the San Andreas and plunge California right into the ocean,” Lex replied, beaming.

Chloe looked up on the screen and saw a simulation play out w/ California crashing into the ocean and the remaining land mass of the United States started past the Sierra Nevadas in Nevada. The picture zoomed in on new city regions: Sageeth City, Luthorwood, and Lexicana.

She sat speechless as Lex continued to extrapolate on his grand plan. “See I've been quietly buying up useless desert land in Nevada since I released myself from Belle Rieve. I own nearly all of the state of Nevada – with the exception of Vegas and Reno of course. But once California and the West Coast are gone, I will own nearly all of the west coast beach front property for the US. I will have more money than god.”

“You'll never get away with this,” Chloe stammered.

“Of course I will,” he said, producing a large stun gun that he'd hidden in the room and waved it back and forth between his hands. “You see, if you don't do what I ask, I will use this on your baby, four rounds of volts will be enough to kill your child – I can promise you that. If the loss of your unborn child isn't enough to get you to do what I ask, then next...” he pointed to the screen. Chloe's eyes widened in fear as the image zeroed in on her two small children being held captive in a cell like the one she had just been taken out of. “I will kill each of your children. Then I will kill Jimmy, your cousin Lois, Jimmy's parents, your father, and Clark Kent. Are you willing to lose everyone who you love just to save some unsuspecting strangers?”

Chloe felt hot tears rise from her eyes as she stared into the eyes of madness. He flicked on the stun gun and asked, “So what's it going to be Chloe?”


Chapter 18

Clark and Jimmy spent the next half an hour frantically calling to anyone or anywhere that they dreamed up that Chloe might have disappeared to. Not wanting to further panic Jimmy, Clark called to the local morgues keeping his voice very low while giving them Chloe's description and asked them if they'd received any bodies matching her physical appearance. Happily, none had.

Jimmy put the phone down and immediately picked up his cell phone as it rang.

Clark watched as fear filled his friends eyes. On hold with Smallville Emergency's emergency room, Clark covered the receiver and asked, “What's wrong?”

“Mom and Dad went to the daycare center and Jordan and Lara are missing,” Jimmy stammered.

Knowing now for certain that something nefarious was afoot, Clark hung up the phone and asked, “Who did they say picked up the kids?”

“They swear they don't know. One minute they were both there and the next they were gone,” Jimmy said, raking his hands helplessly through his hair.

Clark got up and grabbed his friend by the shoulders and lightly shook him. “Have they called the police?”

Jimmy nodded his head, his eyes were glossy and unfocused. “CK? Why is this happening to me and my family?”

“I don't know, but I promise you, I'll find out for you. Right now you have to get to the police and let them know that Chloe is missing. Normally you need to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing, but in this case with your children also being abducted, they'll want to know your wife is missing as well,” Clark reasoned. “Do they have cameras at the daycare center?”

“Yeah, I asked about that. They said they don't know what happened but they all went dark. You can't see anything.”

“Well maybe THEY can't, but remember, they're not crack photographers like you are, right? I bet you can work with the police and clean up the footage to find out if there's anything on that video,” Clark offered.

A glimmer of a smile spread over Jimmy's face. Clark pulled out his cell phone and called a cab for Jimmy.

“What are you going to do, CK?” Jimmy asked as Clark walked his friend towards the elevator. The doors opened and Clark gently led him inside and pushed the lobby button.

He stepped out and said, “What I do best.”

The doors closed leading a puzzled looking Jimmy Olson down to the lower levels of the building.

In a split second Clark was on the roof of The Daily Planet and fully dressed into his Superman costume. Lifting into the air he activated his glasses and loudly said, “Gather the team, Oliver. I've got an emergency situation that we need to work on.”

He heard a voice reply near his ear, “Head to my Metropolis apartment, we moved operations here last night.”

As Oliver turned around in the Clock Tower loft, Clark appeared behind him, his friend's cape swirled around his body afterabruptly stopping from it's forward flight momentum.

Clark looked around the room and saw Victor Stone, Bart Allen, and Arthur Curry sitting around Oliver's plush clock tower apartment hunkered over different computers. Clark turned his head to the right and spied a tall, svelte woman with dark brown hair and blue eyes.

“Who's that?”

The woman approached him and smirked, “That would be Diana Prince, codename Wonder Woman.”

She threw out her hand and grasped Clark's in an impressively tight shake. “You must be Superman.”

“I still think you should be called Boyscout,” Arthur crowed from his place. “What's up with the leather CK? I would've thought tights would be more your thing.”

Clark rolled his eyes and smiled at the statuesque woman. “Nice to meet you. Call me Clark.”

“What's the emergency Clark?” Oliver asked, coming out of his secret chamber.

“Chloe and her children have been kidnapped. It looks like Chloe was at The Daily Planet when she disappeared but no one saw her leave,” Clark said and explained about her children's mysterious vanishing act.

Oliver gripped the back of his chair and said, “Sounds like something that Lex would be behind.”

Diana looked around the room and asked, “Who's Chloe?”

“One of the good guys,” Clark gruffly stated. “She's also six and a half months pregnant.”

Victor aka Cyborg approached Clark and motioned him over to a large computer terminal. The shorter ebony skin toned man logged into the system, visually interfaced with the site's coding, and pulled up the security records for The Daily Planet.

“What floor is her office located on?”

“Seventeenth,” Clark said. Clark began to pace as Victor began scouring the video files looking for any clues on Chloe's disappearance.

“And you're sure that she didn't just pick up her kids without telling anyone?” Diana warily asked.

Clark flashed her an annoyed glare. “Seriously Oliver where did you find this woman?”

“I didn't, she found us,” Oliver stated. “Trust me Diana, it would take the world falling down around Clark's head to get him to actually come to us for help. If he says Chloe and her kids are missing he's already exhausted all of his means for locating them.” Oliver walked to Clark's side and pounded him on the shoulder. “That's why you're SUPERMAN, right Clark? You prefer to save the world all on your own.”

Rolling his eyes, Clark shifted his icy glare in Oliver's direction. “So what have you all found out about Lex?”

“He's close by. Bart tracked down one of his known henchmen the other evening but lost him in Suicide Slums,” Oliver stated.

“How could you possibly lose someone, Bart?” Clark asked, incredulously.

The small, lean, and amazingly fast young man stared meekly at the floor. He stuffed a bagel loaded with cream cheese and peanut butter into his mouth and muttered something.

“What did he say?”

AC grinned and explained, “Our fast friend was so intently watching his tail that he failed to see an open man hole cover and fell into it.”

Bart swallowed and groaned. “By the time I got out of the sewers he was long gone.”

Clark threw his hand up over his mouth to hide a smirk that had formed.

“Come here, Clark. I think I found something,” Victor said.

Clark and the rest of the League crowded around the monitor and watched as Victor pointed at Chloe waddling down the hall towards the ladies.

They saw her suddenly grab her arm, turn around, and vanished.

“Was the tape looped?” Oliver asked.

“I thought that too – but watch – that man was right in front of Chloe and he doesn't blip or suddenly change positions. She was simply there one moment and was gone the next,” Victor explained. His fingers danced over the computers controls and he uploaded the video feed into the terminals editing software. He zeroed in on her movements and cropped out the rest of the pane.

“Keep that footage available,” Clark said.

“It hasn't gone anywhere,” Victor assured.

He then ran the feed through super slow motion. Clark activated his super micro-vision and watched Chloe's arm. Through the heavy pixelation he thought he saw her pale forearm suddenly move inwards as if it was punctured by something. He then saw it, the faintest traces of a foreign object entering her skin. As the needle punctured her body, she faded out of sight.

“She was drugged,” he stated. “Whatever she was given made her invisible.”

From behind everyone, Bart whistled. “Freaky, dude.”

Clark folded his arms over his broad chest, and in a low, menacing voice, stated, “Lex has her.”

“Why would he want Chloe?” Bart asked, with a hint of fear in his voice.

A small grin spread on Clark's face seeing that his fast friend still had traces of a crush on Chloe. “I don't know Bart. I think that scares me more than anything.” He then went on to tell them about the land deal that Lois went off to investigate.

Diana furrowed her brows. “What would he want with land that's out in the middle of nowhere?”

“Do you have a map?” Oliver pulled up a map of the United States and Clark highlighted the areas that he had discovered that Lex had purchased land from.

“Why on earth would a sane person want to purchase the middle of Nevada?” Diana wondered.

“Well there's your answer to your own question, Lex isn't sane,” Victor answered.

“We're missing something,” Clark said, grinding his teeth.

“What?” AC asked.

“I don't know. And I'm worried that we won't find that last piece of the puzzle until it's too late.”

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

Lois stepped off of her tiny plane and examined her surroundings. The Lone Cactus Airport consisted of one tiny metal shed and three bi-wing airplanes that delivered unsuspecting folks into the middle of nowhere.

She purposefully marched towards the building and asked a half-asleep overly tanned woman behind the small desk, “Where can I get my rental car?”

“We don't rent cars here, Miss.”

Lois planted her fists onto her sides and demanded, “Why in the hell would you offer flight service here if there was no way to leave this god forsaken airport?”

“I never said there was no way out of here,” the woman said.

“What do I need to do? Rent a horse and buggy?” Lois quipped.

“I can call you a cab,” she replied.

“Great and how long will that take to get here?” Lois asked, looking out the door and seeing nothing but desert for as far as the eye could see.

“Takes about twenty minutes from Gaddyup to get here,” the woman said.

“Fine, call it, please.”

Lois plopped herself into a metal chair to wait. When she was assured that the woman was indeed calling her a cab, Lois pulled out her cell phone to let Clark know that she had arrived. She flipped it on and punched her speed-dial for his office and groaned as the phone read “no service.”

She looked around the room and couldn't locate a public phone. “Wonderful.” She stood up and smiled at the woman. “Can I borrow your phone? I need to let my boyfriend know I arrived safe and sound.” Lois suddenly realized what term she had just used for Clark and found it odd that it didn't sound strange or unnatural coming off of her tongue. She smiled.

“I take it it would be long distance?”

“Of course.”

“Sorry, no long distance here,” the woman stated.

Lois growled and sat back down again. She immediately picked up a local paper and scoured the headlines for any info that might hint to any other land deals that have recently been made. Seeing nothing more exciting than stories about bar brawls and one horse theft she rolled her eyes and put the paper aside.

She decided to make the best of her situation and chatted up the woman. “So this place doesn't seem overly busy, how do you stay in business?”

The woman scrutinized Lois like she was a squashed bug on her car's windshield. “Why do you ask?”

“Well since I can't call my boyfriend, I figured I'd just make smalltalk with you,” she replied.

“We do alright. We get enough special charters that come through that keep us in business,” the woman offered.

“Special charters?” Lois asked, interest peaking. “Like what? Politicians? Mobsters?”

“Folks who wouldn't much appreciate having their business talked about to strangers,” the woman said defensively.

Realizing she was about to get shut down entirely, Lois jumped onto the offense. “Oh I'm sorry you misunderstand me, I don't want you spilling anything about your clients...it's just...”

After a few minutes of silence, the woman asked, “What?”

“Well you see my uncle came through these parts a few days ago, he came to buy some land and we haven't heard from his since. I'm here to see if I can find out what happened to him. It was all rather hush hush so the family's a little nervous. I was wondering if maybe you knew anything about where he might've gone to?”

“What's his name?”

Lois flashed the woman a confused smile. “I'm pretty sure he didn't travel using his proper name...can you try Jonathan Kent?”

The woman searched her flight manifests and shook her head. “No Jonathan Kent.”

“How about company names, do you keep track of those? He works for Sageeth Enterprises,” Lois asked.

“Two days ago we had a Lawrence Irkleson come in with Sageeth Enterprises...is that him?”

Lois's eyes lit up. “I should've known – Lawrence was his high school buddy.” She heard a door slam outside and gathered her bag. “Thank you for the information! I'll be back tomorrow.”

“Hope you find your Uncle.”

A large smile spread over Lois's face. “I think with your help, it should be a lot easier now. Thanks!”

She threw herself into the cab and gave the name of the hotel she was staying at and quickly typed the name into her Blackberry. Fueled with the name of the man who came out to make the land deal there was no way her contact wouldn't at least give her a few minutes of his time. Lois smiled brightly and enjoyed watching the desert landscape pass her by. She thought to herself, Maybe this trip won't be a complete waste of my time after all.

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

Chloe sat at the terminal and began pounding away at keyboard and made one bogus attempt after another to enter into the United States Defense Mainframe. She wondered if she would be able to insert any coding in there that would allow them to trace the source back to her location and send out the forces out to rescue her...and arrest Lex.

When Lex had given her the ultimatum she agreed to goto work, knowing that she had to stall him from hurting her baby or her children.

He left her under guard and told her she had one hour to show real progress.

Chloe realized her hour was coming up so she hacked her way into a sub system and reached a dead end. The door to the room opened and Lex announced his presence. “I don't see any launch codes there Chloe.”

“Give me a break Lex, I haven't done this sort of hacking in years, I'm not only rusty but they've seriously jacked up their security over there. It could take me hours to crack my way in here.”

Lex's bald head came into view and he activated the stunner. “Well that's too bad, Chloe. You see for every hour that you spend trying to get in there, you're going to be hit by this.”

Before Chloe could react, Lex shoved the large stunner directly against her pregnant stomach. She bellowed out in pain as the electrical shocks pulsated through her entire body. She felt her baby jump and squirm in a panicking rhythm inside her stomach.

“DAMN YOU!” she shouted before she lost consciousness.


Chapter 19

Lois rolled her eyes at the sight of the Mustang Dude Hotel. Like many over commercialized theme style hotels, this one saw the line for tastefulness and blew right past it. She groaned as she took in the twenty foot tall statues of cowboys and prancing mustangs that lined the long driveway that lead up to the overtly western styled hotel.

“God, looks like Liberace mated with Roy Rogers,” Lois muttered under her breath.

“Huh?” the driver asked.

“Nothing,” she groaned and handed over her cab fare. After gathering her bags she walked into the front desk and found herself gawking at a woman who she hoped, was trying to impersonate Dolly Parton. Otherwise, “Pam” must’ve gone for the five for one special at her local boob job factory. She tried not to stare, but Lois felt fairly certain that the woman could smother small children if they got caught between her giant breasts.

“Haven’t lost anyone in there yet, hon. Although I swear if my husband doesn’t stop leaving the toilet seat up I might just have to help him get lost in Pamela’s Caverns,” the woman said, eyes twinkling. She leaned in towards Lois whose mouth quirked up in a smirk. “He does have a mighty large life insurance policy…do you think an unfortunate smothering event would fall under the accidental death clause?”

Lois just stared at the woman as she readjusted her blond wig and smacked her gum. Lois put her purse on the counter and pulled out her reservation and smiled. “Oh, I think all you’d need is a Judge to take one look at that cavern and they would gladly dismiss it as an accident.” The woman squinted her nose happily and took Lois’s papers. Her long acrylic nails clattered onto her keyboard as she confirmed Lois’s reservation.

Leaning against the counter, Lois turned around and tried to hide her disgust at the tacky cowboy artwork and giant fake cactus’s that filled the lobby. “Interesting decor you have going on here.”

“Oh that was my first husband’s doing, doesn’t it look great?”

“First husband? What happened to him?”

“Got lost in the desert and was discovered a month later having been eaten by wild coyotes,” Pam answered.

Lois spun around and arched a brow at the woman. “That kind of thing really happens out here?”

The woman shrugged her shoulders and gave Lois a super sweet smile. “Sure they do.” She then handed over a large key to Lois that had a handle on it shaped like a mustang. “You’re in room 253. Take the elevator up one floor and go right.”

“Thank you. Hey is there anywhere I can rent a car around here?” Lois asked.

“How long do you need it for?” Pam asked, smacking her gum.

“Just tomorrow, I can take a cab back to the airport,” Lois explained.

“We’ve got a car here you can use,” Pam offered.

Lois’s eyebrow shot up. “It’s not shaped like a giant cowboy hat is it?”

The woman giggled. “It’s an Impala.”

“Sounds great. Can you just add the use of it to my bill?”

“Sure can, honey. Here you go. It’s the white one parked on the north side in slot 93. Dinner is served at five,” Pam said.

“Great, thanks again!” Lois said, gathered her bags and keys and headed to what she could only assume would be the world’s tackiest hotel room in the history of decorating. When she slid her key in the door she wasn’t surprised to see the room was stuck in the 80’s and decorated to the hilt with pastel southwestern themed lamps, artwork, bedding, and coverlets. She put her bags down and walked to her window and scanned her view. Below she saw a giant swimming pool shaped like a giant kidney bean, a firepit that was spewing wood smoke, and then the desert opened up and seemed to stretch for miles with nothing between the hotel and the horizon.

She tapped on the glass and knit her brows together and wondered, “Lex Luthor, why do you want all of this?”

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

Clark felt his cellphone buzz in his cape. He pulled it out and smiled at the name that popped up on the screen. Quickly he moved out of earshot from the other Justice League members and answered it.

“Hey Lois. You make it alright?”

“Yeah, I safely arrived in the land that good taste forgot,” Lois replied.

Clark tried to smile. Lois heard his silence and asked, “What’s wrong, Clark?”

He scratched his forehead not sure he wanted to burden Lois with the knowledge of her missing cousin, but he also knew that she would never forgive him if he didn’t tell her. “Chloe and her children are missing. We think Lex has them.”

“Oh god. Clark she’s…”

“I know, I’ve got some friends helping me. We’re feverishly working to try to figure out where she might be,” Clark replied reassuringly.

“What friends?”

Clark glanced over at AC and Victor as they studied local maps. “Trustworthy ones who’re on our side. I’ll find her Lois, I promise.”

“I should be there with you,” Lois said, her voice small.

“Actually I’m beginning to think you’re right where you should be and are about to uncover the final piece that we need to figure out Lex’s plan,” Clark offered. “When are you going to go see your source?”

“Tomorrow morning. I don’t want to get lost in the desert at night,” she replied, now thinking about those coyotes.

“Good plan.”

“There’s nothing out here, Smallville. I don’t know what Lex would possibly want with this land unless he’s going to open the world’s largest tumbleweed shop,” Lois quipped.

Clark walked up to the large US map and stared intently at the line of land that Lex had purchased. “You know it looks like a demarcation line, doesn’t it?”

Oliver looked up from his research. “What do you mean?”

“Is that Oliver?” Lois asked.

“Yes,” Clark said into the phone. “Look at how it runs straight up the state just outside California’s border and in front of Las Vegas…”

“What are you thinking, Clark?” Oliver asked.

“Any ideas babe?” he asked into the phone.

He could hear Lois pacing in her room. “What would a crazy person do? We need to think like an insane man.”

“Not just an insane man, but a power hungry madman,” Clark stated.

Bart raced to Victor’s side and said, “Man, check and see where else Sageeth Enterprises has been buying land…outside of Nevada.” Victor quickly hacked into several state systems.

“This is going to cost you a fortune, want me to call you back?” Clark asked into the phone.

“Not a chance, Smallville.”

Victor started logged onto the electronic map and started marking off places through Oregon that were sparsely populated.

A shiver ran through Clark’s body as he felt the same thought suddenly crystallized in the entire Justice League’s minds.

Yet, it was intuitive Lois who asked, “He’s going to do something to California, isn’t he?”

“How would that be possible?” Clark asked, eyes wide he stared at Oliver for help. “And why would he need Chloe?”

“My Dad? Maybe he thinks he could strong arm her into getting the General to help him with something?” Lois offered.

“No, I don’t think that’s it, it’s not like he hasn’t worked with your father before,” Clark answered.

“What could take out California?” Bart asked.

“A tsunami?” AC offered.

“But that wouldn’t suddenly make the desert in Nevada worth owning. Lex Luthor wants to do something to make the land in California worthless,” Diana replied. She stared intently at the map. “What is California’s biggest weakness?”

“Its fault lines,” Oliver said.

“Set off the fault lines and California would plunge into the Pacific Ocean,” Clark said, his entire body suddenly crackled with nerves. “How can he manage that?”

“Nukes,” Lois said. “He somehow wants to use Chloe to get his hands on launch codes.”

Everyone in the room stared at Clark with startled expressions as they saw all color drain from his face. Before he could say anything, he suddenly felt as though his head was about to explode. From nowhere an eardrum bursting noise triggered an immediate response and Clark squeezed tightly onto his cellphone shattering it into a million pieces. Clark screamed in agony as a high pitched squeal sounded in his head.

“Clark! What’s going on?”

Staggering and gasping, Clark made his way towards Oliver’s balcony. He gasped and shouted over the noise, “Can’t you all hear that?”

“Hear what, Clark?” AC demanded.

Through his pain, Clark recognized the sound and he knew where it was coming from. Before anyone could stop him, Clark threw open the balcony door and flew away.

Diana raced out onto the patio and watched as he vanished towards the southern horizon. “Where is he going?”

“Damn you Kent!” Oliver groaned, activating the channel to receive data transmitted from his glasses. When nothing came on, he ordered, “Victor we need a location on Clark ASAP!”

“I’m on it,” Victor replied, hacking into Oliver’s own secured network and attempted to put a trace on Clark’s glasses even though they weren’t in use.

“Does he do this very often?” Diana asked.

“What think he can save the world on his own?” Oliver asked. He nodded his head. “All of the time…and it never fails to piss me off.”


Chapter 20


“Clark? Clark?” Lois stared at the hotel phone and banged down on the receiver buttons but her signal was gone. She attempted to callback to Clark’s number but only got his voicemail. Lois flipped open her phone and scrolled through her database and pulled up a number that she hadn’t looked at in over seven years. Taking a deep breath she punched in the number on her hotel room and waited to see if the number was still connected.

“Oliver Queen.”

“Hey Oliver…its Lois. Is Clark there? We just got disconnected,” Lois said, fighting past the awkwardness of the call.

“He just left,” Oliver said, guardedly.

“Look I know about Clark so you don’t have to cover anything – where did he go?”

“I don’t know, he was here one minute, said he heard some noise in his head and flew away,” Oliver stated.

“Noise in his head?”

“I didn’t hear it,” Oliver said.

Lois blinked a few times. “Alright, well can you have him call me when he comes back?”

“Sure, Lois. Bye.” Oliver abruptly ended the call.

Shaking her head, Lois attempted to figure out what Clark could be doing but came up empty. Her thoughts traveled back to her cousin and dread filled her heart. Only she and Clark knew what Chloe’s real super freak powers were, Lex might be incorrectly using her believing that she was a super enhanced hacker. She could only hope that Chloe could keep her wits to her long enough to hang on until Clark could get there to help her out.

Lois paced in her room and caught her reflection in the room’s vanity mirror; she looked like a restless caged animal. Lois glanced at her carryon bag and pulled out the directions for her source’s address and the directions from the hotel. She figured she could probably get there in under an hour and then drive for another four hours to Las Vegas where she was certain she could catch a flight home she couldn’t wait until tomorrow to catch her flight.

Her family needed her at home.

Decision made, she gathered her stuff and raced down to the car outside and sped out of the long driveway to interview her source, hoping upon all hope that Clark and Chloe would be fine until she got home.

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

The noise in Clark’s head magnified as he flew closer to its source. The pain was so intense his vision started to blur as bursts of bright white invaded his line of sight. He reached into his cape and extracted Oliver’s glasses and put them on to try to block out any bright lights that he passed. He flew toward the southern portion of Metropolis into Suicide Slums.

As he dropped down onto the ground he rubbed his temples and unknowingly activated the homing beacon and recorder on his glasses. He visually scanned the area looking for the source of the noise. He then closed his eyes and realized that the sound was pulsing from somewhere deep below the earth. Clark activated his x-ray vision and started examining the ground below. Underneath the miles of ancient pipes, fiber-optic cabling, and water mains that serviced the city’s utilities, Clark detected a larger underground structure. From what he could tell the materials used were of new construction that was completely out of balance with the crumbling older structures on the city’s surface. His head still pounding he made for the nearest manhole and jumped down into the sewer. From there he traveled along until he located a space where he had a clear shot of the roof of the underground structure. Activating his heat vision, Clark burned a hole into the ground, melting layers of concrete and unused pipes. Finally he hit the ceiling of the structure below and burned a hole through it. Activating his x-ray vision he searched the area for any indication of where the sound might be originating but all he discovered were long empty corridors.

Clark jumped through the hole and landed gracefully on his feet below. His cape swirled around him as he supersped down the hallway and ended at a high security clearance door. Quickly, he examined it and punched right through the bulletproof glass, shattering it into a million tiny shards. Deftly he stepped over the debris and entered another series of tunnels. The chiming in his head had reached a near shrilling level, he blinked rapidly trying to concentrate on where he was going, when he suddenly felt as though a large vice had reached down, seized control of his entire body and left him paralyzed. Not understanding why, Clark fell in a helpless heap onto the floor.

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

“Oliver!”

Quickly, Oliver raced over to Victor’s computer as the images from Clark’s glasses started coming in. The vision blurred and Victor asked, “Are they malfunctioning?”

“I think he’s using his heat vision,” Queen replied. Sure enough a few moments later they watched as Clark jumped into a hole. “Idiot! Why didn’t he call for backup?”

AC glanced up from his terminal. “I think I’ve figured out where he is, or at least an approximation.”

Bart popped up next to him and examined the map. “He’s down in Slums right in the area where I had been trailing that guy the other night.”

Diana saw a deep frown cross Bart’s face. “It’s alright Bart no one blames you for losing him. At least you’re familiar with the area.”

“I’m on my way, I’ll scope things out, boss,” Bart stated, and in a red flash he was gone.

Diana moved to Oliver’s side and they watched Clark bash open the safety doors.

“Subtle, Kent,” Oliver said sarcastically.

They then watched as his vision grew erratic and he fell onto the floor.

“What happened? I didn’t think anyone could get a jump on Superman?” Diana asked.

Victor groaned as the bright green lights suddenly flared in the glasses viewing field.

“Damn it, he needs our help, NOW,” Oliver stated. “Gear up everyone, I want us out of here in five minutes. Bring every weapon that you’ve got…looks like Clark found Luthor for us.”

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

Grunting with exertion, the repeating family El signal suddenly stopped leaving a deafening silence in its place. Clark looked around and realized that the hallway he had just stepped into was lined with glowing green Kryptonite rocks. As this dawned on him, he heard the cock of the safety being turned off of an assault rifle that was placed next to his ear.

Five of Lex’s men shackled Superman and carried him into a special chamber lined on all walls with Kryptonite. Over the years Clark had built up a tolerance to the hateful stuff that drained him of his powers, however if he was exposed to it for too long it could cause his death. He couldn’t remember ever being around so much concentrated meteor rock in his life. Gasping for air, he had no strength to fight as the men shackled him against a wall and left him alone.

Clark hated himself, how could he fall for a trap this easily?

“You must be getting rusty there to fall for something simple like a homing beacon to make you come hither,” an old familiar voice taunted from the door. “What does that sound do, call you home for dinner?”

“Lex,” Clark spat with exertion.

Holding a long white crystal, Lex waved it in front of Clark’s face. “I guess my scientists were right, hook this thing up with enough juice and it would act like the world’s biggest dog whistle – but instead of herds of poodles invading my structure, look what it brought the big man himself – Superman!”

“Where…did you…”

“Get this?” Lex said, finishing Clark’s sentence. He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, actually. See I had this little problem of being incarcerated in a mental facility where they took turns giving me monthly rounds of electroshock therapy – my memory is a bit jumbled as a result. When I got out my scientists had this and all they could tell me was that I’d brought it to them at some point,” Lex explained. He stood in front of the splayed superhero and examined his catch closely. “We discovered that this crystal wasn’t composed of any minerals known here on earth…when Miss Lane so wonderfully pointed out that our heroic Superman wasn’t of this Earth, everything just fell into place.”

“What do you want with me?”

Lex’s big blue eyes widened. “To study you of course. Don’t you know, Superman? You’re FASCINATING! For all that people are marveled by your acts of bravery and heroism, they’ll be even more delighted to learn about how you tick from the inside and out…literally.”

Clark sneered at his one time friend. “I’m no lab rat.”

“Oh really? Well you’re free to break out of your restraints and leave any time that you want…be my guest,” Lex offered with a smile.

Clark’s chest heaved in exertion. “Where’s Miss Olson and her children?”

“Awww I see Lois got you that news already, huh? She’s nearby, helping me out on a little project I need assistance with,” Lex stated.

“And her children?”

“They’re insurance, of course,” Lex admitted. Lex then reached up to remove Clark’s glasses.

Quickly Clark jerked his head out of Lex’s reach and snapped at Lex’s fingers with his teeth.

Laughing, Lex said, “Looks like I was wrong, I DID get a poodle…a nasty biting one too. It’s alright, I’ll know your true identity soon enough, Superman, you can count on that.” Lex made to leave the room.

“Your plan will never work,” Clark growled, causing Lex to halt in his tracks.

He turned around and sighed. “What plan?”

“To sink California,” Clark spat.

Lex’s eyes grew dark and his brows furrowed in confusion. “How do you know about that?”

Finding the last bit of strength he could muster, Clark curled his lower lip and snarled, “I am Superman.”

“Not super enough, apparently,” Lex replied. Turning his back he exited the room leaving Clark alone in a room ablaze with Kryptonite. He exhaled deeply and attempted to conserve any remaining strength. He could only hope that somehow the team would find him in time. The last thing he needed was for Chloe to suffer because of his own stupidity.


Chapter 21

Chloe gasped for breath as her vision swam through the blinding round of fresh pain that was administered to her gut by Lex’s stungun.

“Seriously, Chloe, I’m beginning to think that you don’t love your children,” Lex taunted her.

Chest heaving with exertion, Chloe spat, “You’re a MONSTER!”

“And you’re obviously a fraud. You don’t know how to get into the defense mainframe, do you?” Lex demanded.

Eyes burning with hatred, Chloe shouted back, “I told you that from the beginning LEX! Now let me go, there’s still a chance that I can save my baby!”

Lex crossed his arms over his chest and stared evenly in her direction. “Humm well you did fulfill one part of my plan and helped me to take out of large obstacle for making my plan a success…”

“What in the hell are you talking about?” Chloe asked.

Leaning over and placing his face mere inches away from his captive’s sweating brow, Lex stared into Chloe’s eyes and inquired, “Were you hoping that if you stalled long enough that Superman would come and save you? I mean, he is a friend to your cousin Lois Lane – I suppose that if he got word of your abduction he’d probably just come racing to your rescue, wouldn’t you think? He’s such a do gooder.”

Chloe caught the arrogant smirk that passed over Lex’s mouth and felt her heart seize with panic in her chest. “What did you do to him?” she whispered.

“Oh he’s here, hanging around…” Lex extracted a remote control from his pocket and pointed towards one of the monitors. He entered a code into the remote and the screen depicting the map of California shifted to Clark’s chamber.

Chloe cried out loud at the sight of her friend chained to the green glowing wall. She stared hard at the screen and couldn’t tell if Clark was breathing or not. “What have you done, Lex?”

“Just evened the odds of my success.”

“You can’t kill him, Lex! The world needs Superman!” Chloe cried frantically out.

“And I need to sink California into the ocean.” Lex glared at his emotionally distraught prisoner and activated another monitor with the remote. “You’ve got twenty minutes to make it happen. If not, at the end of that twenty minutes you can say goodbye to your children. The air is already being sucked out of their room right now.” Chloe’s eyes grew wide as she stared at her kids who were both yawning and obviously suffering from oxygen loss. “Lara and Jordan don’t need to suffer because of your stubborn refusal to help me. Just do this one thing for me and I’ll fill that room with air and they won’t die gasping.”

Standing upright, Lex buried his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “The choice is yours.”

Abruptly, he turned around and exited the room.

She stared painfully at the two screens. Four people she loved deeply were in trouble. She had a decision to make. After many failed attempts to access any of Lex’s internal security systems or databases that would sync her to any external law enforcement agency that would be able to assist her or locate Lex, Chloe knew that she was nearly out of options. Chloe examined Clark’s unmoving form and saw that he wore his sunglasses. She could only hope that he had been smart enough to alert the JLA on where he was headed before he got caught. If he had the sense to do that, perhaps hope wasn’t entirely lost. At the same time she couldn’t be certain of that. She knew one thing, if she helped Lex millions of families would lose their children and lives would be forever ruined and lost. If she learned anything by being Clark Kent’s friend growing up, you couldn’t chose who to save and that sometimes you had to make the hard sacrifices in order for others to live.

Chloe waited until she heard the door lock and she mentally connected with her writhing baby. Finding the core of her parental love she began to cry and positioned her face over her stomach, four tears made their way through her clothing and bathed her belly in a radiant white glow. She sighed as she felt her child stop squirming from pain as her bloodflow returned to normal and the effects of the electrical shock. As she felt her child’s vitals return to normal she began to slip out of consciousness. She welcomed it’s intoxicatingly blissful embrace – for she knew when she woke up her older children would be dead.

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

Bart materialized next to Victor as the Justice League entered the backstreets of Suicide Slums ready to help Clark take down Lex.

Diana stared at Arthur. He wore a new costume, one that was specifically designed to absorb his body sweat, contain it, circulate it through its microfibers, and mist it back onto his body when there was an absence of water to keep him supercharged. She marvelled at Oliver’s ingenuity sometimes in coming up with devices to help give his different team members the ultimate advantage over their enemies.

Fully dressed in his Green Arrow disguise Oliver asked, “Where’s the entrance, Impulse?”

“Dude this sucks, I was RIGHT here last night. It’s over here,” Bart explained and hopped into the same manhole that he’d fallen into the night before. Oliver, Victor, Diana, and AC jumped in after him. “Of course this hole wasn’t here last night though, looks like here’s where Bro did his heat vision thing.”

Without being asked, AC hopped down in the lower level and prepped his super strength to battle anyone who might be waiting below. Pushing a clump of sandy blond hair out of his eyes, AC looked down the tunnels and signaled to the team above that the coast was clear.

When they all regrouped in the lower level tunnel system Victor approached an electrical box and hardwired himself into it and downloaded the grid of the underground hideaway’s electrical connectivity. He explained, “There appears to be a high concentration of electicity needed sub section twelve B.” He pointed down the hall towards the south. “If Lex has his 33.1 laboratory down here, it’s in that direction.”

“What’s down the hall to the North?” Oliver asked.

“Nothing.”

“Ok we go in groups, Impulse scout ahead and try to find Superman – report back to me when you find him. Aquaman and Wonder Woman go after him and clear out any guards who might be loitering in the halls, Victor and I will see about finding a way to access the mainframe and disable the lab and see about freeing anyone who might be held captive,” Oliver ordered and watched Bart vanish in a blink of an eye with AC and Diana charging down the hall to locate any targets.

“Any signs of a mainframe close by that you can access?” Oliver asked Victor.

“Negative. There is something you should know though, Arrow,” Victor said.

“What?”

“When I hooked up into the electrical system, I found that this entire underground structure is feeding off of the main conduits that light up all of Metropolis,” Victor explained.

“Yeah, so?”

Victor didn’t much like the flippant tone in Oliver’s voice, his dark brown eyes stared hard at their team leader. “If this place blows, it’ll cause a chain reaction and all of Metropolis will lose power.”

“That would be bad,” Oliver said, deadpanned.

“Very.”

“Well let’s make sure that doesn’t happen then, alright? Come on let’s go see if Aquaman and Wonder Woman have cleared our path,” the Green Arrow advised as his ears picked up the sounds of a fight coming from around the bend. He grinned from ear to ear, it had been a long time since he’d come face to face with his old childhood nemesis and he couldn’t wait to take out the final of Lex’s freakshow factories once and for all.

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

The sun dipped over the horizon, shooting obnoxiously bright sunrays over the endlesssly dull Nevada landscape. Lois squinted and thrust the windshield visor over her window in the hopes of blocking out the blinding sun. For the past ten miles she had spied only two other homes – both of which were vacant having recently sold. She wondered why her source was so reluctant to leave – she probably would’ve slit her own wrists if she had been forced to live out here in the middle of nowhere. She pulled off the highway and traveled down a dusty road that ended after four miles at a large, unfriendly bar wire covered gate. All over the gate were signs stating that tresspassers would be shot or eaten by attack dogs.

Stepping out of her car to examine the gate, the hungry dogs in question materialized. She jumped as five loud, snarling, and barking rotweillers and fierce looking mutts aggressively paced back and forth on the other side of the gate. She put her hands out and said, “Whoa boys, calm down, I’m not going to hurt you!”

Lois’s eyes widened as one of the rotweillers threw himself against the gate with bared teeth, drool flew in every direction. Quickly Lois darted back into her car and slammed the door shut. She suspected that if she didn’t leave the dogs would alert the ranch owner that there was someone out here. He’d need to eventually come out to investigate. Just to make sure that happened before she was ready for social security, Lois blasted her rental car’s horn and was dismayed when it let out the world’s wimpiest bleating sound. She pounded on it for a good ten minutes. In the sun’s dying light she finally saw a plume of dust approaching the gate from what she could only assume was the direction of the house. Her car was suddenly bathed in a bright spotlight and through her windows she heard the familiar sound of a shotgun being cocked.

“What do you want?”

Poking her head out of her window and shielding her eyes from the spotlight, Lois asked, “Are you Bob Winton?”

“Who the hell’s asking?”

The dogs howling and barking had reached a high crescendo. Lois thought her ears were going to explode from their noise. “Please sir, can you call off your dogs? I’m unarmed and won’t hurt you. I can give you my business card, but I’m not getting near that gate with those dogs there!”

“Lady, whatever you’re selling I don’t need!”

“I’m not in sales! Please?”

She squinted her eyes and finally saw a figure of short stature stand in front of his huge pickup truck’s lights. He whistled two sharp bursts and the dogs went running.

Blinking rapidly after precious silence returned, Lois stepped out of her car and pushed her card through the gate.

The man studied it and snorted. “What the hell does a reporter want with me? Where the hell is Metropolis?”

“Kansas.”

“Kansas? You must be hard up for news if you’re here talking to me, sweetcheeks,” Winton said, flashing her a toothy grin.

Lois examined her source, the man’s skin was weathered from too many years out in the desert’s unforgiving sun. His eyes were lined with wrinkles that dug deeply into his face. She was shocked to realize that he probably wasn’t much older than herself. The sun and hard living had considerably aged the man.

“I came here following up on a case that I’m working on. Do you know a Lawrence Irkleson, sir?”

“Who that pinhead that bought my land? Yeah I know him,” Winton remarked. “Why?”

“I believe that he’s been around these parts buying land from all of your neighbors,” Lois replied.

“Lady, that ain’t news. He’s been here for months buying everyone out.”

“Why’d you finally cave?”

“I figured what the hell? The man has little in the brains department, he finally came back here and offered me six times what my land is worth. I can buy me a nice little beachfront bungelow in San Diego for what he paid for this worthless patch of dirt,” the man explained, his fingers massaging his rifle.

“Sir, can you please uncock that?”

“What? Oh sorry.” Winton put the safety back on the rifle and squinted at Lois.

“What do you think he wants with all of this land?” Lois asked.

“I think he’s got some big money guys backing him up, probably want to start their own Las Vegas. They’ve got the land for it. No water though, I’m constantly drilling for new wells – the last one nearly bankrupted me…it was actually the last straw that made me decide to sell.”

Lois yelped and scratched her arm where a huge black fly had just bitten her. “Can you tell me anything about the company that the man worked for?”

“Nope, all he did was flash me a huge check and gave me 30 days to vacate the land,” Winton said.

“When are you supposed to be gone?”

“Tomorrow, which reminds me, I gotta get back to packing.”

“Why were you so reluctant to talk to me over the phone sir?”

“Not reluctant, don’t got one. You see any telephone lines out this way?”

Lois stared at him like he was nuts. “How can you live without a phone?”

“Blissfully,” he replied. “Anything else, Miss Lane?”

She gave him a smile. “No, I think I’ve gotten all that I need. Thank you for your time Mr. Winton.”

Lois waved goodbye and returned to her car pouting. She’d wasted a trip coming out here. He didn’t tell her anything that she didn’t already know and she wasn’t any closer to helping either Clark or Chloe.

She backed her car up and returned towards the highway. Lois stopped the car before getting onto the road and examined her directions for getting to Las Vegas. She figured she could make two hundred miles in about three hours if she hauled ass. Swinging her car westwards, Lois followed the highway and grinned as she came across a sign for Las Vegas that read 230 miles to go.

“Hang on Clark and Chloe, I’ll be home soon.”


Chapter 22

The Green Arrow and Cyborg rounded the corner and found Aquaman and Wonder Woman battling a small battalion of Lex’s goons. Oliver quickly yanked an arrow from his quiver, laced it into his crossbow, and aimed at the shoulder of the thug who Wonder Woman in a half-nelson neck lock. The man screamed in agony and let go of his victim. Wonder Woman immediately swung about and kicked him in the groin. Crossing her wrists she then cracked her bracelets against the skull of the next closest target and immediately sent him sprawling to the floor.

Aquaman’s massive strength allowed him to bodily pick up the nearest attacker and throw him against five invading thugs. The six men’s bodies soared off of the ground and crashed into the southern wall. Immediately the crowded hallway filled with debris and dust as the bodies crashed through the plaster walls.

Cyborg charged full speed ahead into the battle, his dense body charged through the attacking men like a tank and sent them flying. Green Arrow sent his weapons soaring from a distance, singling out the men in the back who had firearms at the ready. Expertly he disabled their firing arms.

Wonder Woman looked up and saw three men attempting to flee. From her belt she yanked her lasso, whipped it around her head and captured the 3 men and slammed them against the ever growing pile of unconscious henchmen. With an expert flick of her wrist she released her weapon and snatched up another man before he could reach for the alarm button on the watch that he wore. Her lasso picked him up by the ankle, flung him fifteen feet in the air and crashed him down on top of the pile.

The intense noise in the hallway suddenly ceased as the team realized that they had successfully taken down thirty of Lex’s men.

“Great job, team. Let’s go find Impulse, Chloe, and Superman!” Green Arrow said pushing the team forward. Into his watch he asked, “Impulse, you find him?”

Inside the corridors of 33.1 Bart darted his way undetected past the scientists who milled through the inner hallways of the facility. His speed helped him to remain undetected, however, it also caused him to sometimes miss details. He heard his commlink chirp and Green Arrow’s question but at the moment he had nothing to report so he ignored it, not wanting to give away his position. He didn’t know where Superman was being held.

Suddenly he ran through a hallway lined with Green Kryptonite and knew that he must be close. Seeing that the hall was clear of traffic he slowed to normal speed and quickly examined the doors of the rooms around him. Instinct lead him towards the closest door, he figured that if they were going to move Superman to a room they’d want to keep him disabled for as long as possible. Quickly he attached a code breaker device to the lock and waited anxiously for it to crack the password to get him into the chamber. After what seemed like an eternity the red light on the door’s lock snapped green. He burst his way inside and was rewarded with the sight of seeing Clark hanging from the wall.

“Hey Amigo, this is no time for taking a nap!” he joked as he made his way over to his massive friend’s unmoving body. “Come on man, give me a sign that you’re still amongst the living.” Bart extracted a lock pick set from his utility belt and immediately began fiddling with the locks on Clark’s feet.

Clark groaned.

“Well I guess that works as a sign,” Bart said. He tipped on his commlink and gave his location to Green Arrow.

Eyes bleary, Clark looked down at his friend and croaked out, “Must…find…Chloe…”

“We’re on it, man. The rest of the team is here and not far behind me, they know to look for her.”

Clark swung his heavy head towards the monitors and suddenly felt his heart pound to a stop in his chest. His eyes widened in fear. “Oh no!”

“What?” Bart asked, momentarily looking away from his chore at hand towards the monitors. The large map of the US suddenly flashed three bright shining lights that originated from three different points in the US and started rapidly moving across the country towards the West Coast.

Bart gulped.

“Work…faster…” Clark demanded.

Bart shouted into his comm., “Green Arrow three birds are away, BoyScout has been found and I’m working to release him. Watchtower is our top priority…”

“We’ll get Chloe - find her children…” Superman gasped.

“And Watchtower’s tollbooths…”

Clark arched a brow at Bart questioning his odd code sign for Lara and Jordan. Bart shrugged, freed Clark’s left leg after freeing his right. Two minutes later Clark was released from the wall and he immediately fell like a wall of bricks onto the floor. Bart groaned and helped Clark to his feet. “Come on buddy, let’s get you out of here.”

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


Chloe woke up bleary eyed and stared in confusion at the map in front of her. Her heart seized in her chest with panic. She didn’t unleash those things in her sleep did she? Suddenly she realized that she wasn’t alone in the room and found Lex staring at her with his hands shoved deeply into his pockets.

“Wondering how that happened? You see when I realized that you had decided to take path of the high and mighty I did what any person with any lick of common sense would do…I fell onto my backup plan,” Lex advised. “You see there’s a man down in the basement who can read into computers, but he’s not always accurate with his skills and usually triggers internal security alarms on websites. I gave him a deal that he couldn’t refuse and he got past his usual failures and happily got into the systems that I needed in order to let those nukes fly.”

Chloe stared at the man with horror and she saw the rapidly devouring time clock of twenty minutes counting down.

“Even if Superman got free right now, there’s no way he could stop all three nukes from hitting their targets. So you see, I win, Chloe,” Lex stated, grinning from ear to ear.

Unable to come up with a comeback because she was too stunned to think straight, Chloe’s eyes turned to monitor with her children’s room. Both Jordan and Lara appeared to be fast asleep but Chloe knew better, neither of their chests were moving. Tears streaked down her face as she realized that her children were gone.

“What I find fascinating is the fact that you don’t appear to be hurt at all, particularly after getting repeatedly stunned right to your abdomen. Why is that Chloe?”

She sealed her lips tight as tears continued to streak down her face. Unleashing her fury, she screamed, “You’re the most loathsome excuse of humanity on this planet! Those freaks that you have locked up in this building are a thousand times more human than YOU ARE!”

He clucked his tongue. “Chloe, you’re changing the subject…I asked you…”

“Go to HELL!”

“Perhaps he needs directions first,” a voice said from behind her chair.

Chloe watched as Lex turned his head and scowled at the door. “YOU! How did you get loose?”

Suddenly a blue flash had Lex by the collar and smashed him three feet above the floor against the wall.

“It’s nice having friends, something you wouldn’t know anything about, would you Lex?” Superman sneered and glared at his prey and waited while Bart began working the locks that were restraining Chloe.

Lex’s eyes bulged as he struggled to fight against the vice grip that Clark had around his neck. Seeing that the giant superhero wasn’t going to budge his hold, Lex reached into his pocket and extracted a small remote. Just as he attempted to turn it around in his hand for better access to the buttons the room’s door burst open and the Justice League poured inside.

“Let him go, Superman,” Green Arrow suggested, crossbow aimed directly at Lex’s head. He smirked. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Clark unceremoniously dumped Lex into a heap on the floor and turned and studied the monitors. He carefully examined the trajectory of the missiles that originated from Kansas, Texas, and North Carolina. He then found his sight move towards the camera in Chloe’s children’s room.

“What did you do?” he whispered in horror to Lex.

Massaging his neck, Lex fondled his remote and croaked, “What was necessary.”

“Murdering children…that’s low, Lex, even for you,” Green Arrow snarled.

“Superman,” Chloe meekly said.

“Yes,” Clark replied crouching near her.

“Go. A lot more families will lose their children if you don’t stop those bombs,” Chloe urged. Her large red streaked blue eyes pleaded with him. “Don’t let Jordan and Lara’s deaths be in vain.”

Clark’s eyebrows knitted together and he gently placed a hand on her cheek. “I’m sorry, Chloe.”

“It was my choice, Superman. Now go!”

Taking a big gulp, Clark quickly stared at the ceiling and activated his x-ray vision, seeing a clear path through the myriad of pipes and wires that wove between the real world and Lex’s underground lair Clark threw his arm upwards, formed a fist, shot straight up into the air and burst his way out of the room, leaving the JLA, Lex, and Chloe bathed in a shower of dust and falling debris. Lex took the moment of distraction and activated his remote. The entire room was suddenly bathed in swirling red lights and alarm klaxon blared throughout the underground facility. As the team tried to assess what was going on, Lex scrambled towards a hidden door, and escaped out of the room.

The warning siren suddenly announced, Ten minutes until self destruction sequence is complete. Evacuate…Evacuate…you have ten minutes to reach safety.

“CRAP! Damn you Lex!” Oliver screamed. “This whole place is going to blow. When it does Lex is going to take down the entire infrastructure of Metropolis: electricity, water, phones, fiber optics…Metropolis will be left in the dark just like Dark Thursday. Cyborg, you’ve got to find the kill switch and disable this countdown!”

Not needing instructions, Cyborg immediately ripped open an access portal to one of the consoles closest to him and connected to the security mainframe.

“Green Arrow, there are whole catacombs filled with people being held prisoner in the lower levels in this place. They need to be released otherwise they’ll get crushed,” Chloe advised.

“Aquaman, you and Wonder Woman know what to do,” Green Arrow stated. Cyborg signaled them over and pulled up a map showing them the fastest way to access the underground chambers. The 2 then bolted out of the room in hot pursuit of their mission.

Bart finally released Chloe. He sped to Cyborg’s side and asked, “Where are they?”

Victor activated the upper level security level schematics and located the room where Jordan and Lara were being held. Bart’s large brown eyes held Chloe’s for two moments and then he was gone.

Oliver helped Chloe to her feet. “Go after him, otherwise he’ll get away and all of this will have been for nothing,” Chloe advised.

Nodding his head, Oliver turned to Victor. “You alright there?”

“Working on it boss,” Cyborg replied, his red eye scanning a rapidly pulsing screen of data, trying to locate the kill switch in Lex’s software.

“Keep me updated on your progress. If you can’t get it done in five minutes, we’re out of here…got it?”

“Got it,” Cyborg replied.

Chloe waited anxiously and climbed to her feet out of her chair and wiggled circulation back into her legs. Suddenly, Bart reappeared holding either of her children on each arm. He gulped and laid them down on the ground.

Both children were gray and not breathing. Chloe looked into Bart’s face. “I need them close to each other…touching…when I’m done I’m going be out…”

“Don’t worry, Chloe, I’ll make sure you all get out of here safely.”

She struggled with a small smile and then gripped her children’s cold hands, waited while Bart moved their heads next to each other. Without any assistance needed in helping to find the core of her maternal love, Chloe began to cry and hoped that she wasn’t too late.


Chapter 23


The freezing cold wind from a thunderstorm that hugged the magestic snow covered Colorado Rockies ripped across Clark’s body threatening to toss him off course like a piece of debris that was caught in the center of a cyclone. He narrowed his eyes behind his glasses and forced his way through the high velocity wind and altered his trajectory towards the southeast. Utilizing his superhearing through the gale force winds he zeroed in on the sound of the whining propulsion systems of the first Nuke that had been activated from the silo in Kansas. Gritting his teeth and narrowing his eyes, he jerked his body aside as a violent lightning bolt cracked directly to his left. Clark groaned as the heat from the blinding heavenly fire narrowly missed the outside edges of his cape. The last challenge he needed right now, he miserably thought, was for Mother Nature to declare war on him and fry the clothing right off of his back.

Clark squeezed his body tightly together into a bullet shape to help increase his flight speed. As his speed plastered his hair flat against his head, he detected a flicker of red light ahead of him through the heavy cloud layer. Clark sighed as he spied the engine fire of the first nuke. Pursing his lips together in determination, he further increased his speed and soared towards the Nuke. The wind whipped his cape around his body and his normally perfectly coiffed bangs fluttered into his eyes. He threw out his hands as he came alongside the rocket and clamped down on the frigid ice covered casing like magnets onto steel. Powering all of his strength into his upper biceps and shoulders he climbed his way up the rocket and heaved with all of his might to alter the rocket’s trajectory skywards. For a moment his heart nearly seized in his chest as the intense smell of ozone filled his nostrils and was immeidately followed by a giant crack of lightning that exploded right above his head. Clark flattened himself against the rocket and clung on for dear life as the crackling bolt sizzled near the nuke. A loud electronic screech exploded near Clark’s ears. He screamed in pain, realizing that the lightning had fried the circuits of Oliver’s goggles. Panting, palms sweating, and heart wildly palpitating in his chest, Clark’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down in relief as he happily realized he was still alive and the nuke was undamaged. He quickly removed the damaged glasses and shoved them into one of his cape’s pockets.

He noted that the nuke’s velocity had increased as it headed skywards. Icy rain abrasively grated against his chin and body as they climbed through the stormclouds. As the nuke punched its way out of the storm, Clark stared with relief at the bright stars, and waited for the nuke to clear the Earth’s stratosphere before making his final ascension towards the main controls of the rocket. He ripped the protective casing off of plutonium core, removed the charged and ready to explode heart of the weapon from its center, and threw it far way from the Earth’s rotational path.

Knowing he didn’t have time for self-congratulations, Clark leapt off of the rocket, and bulleted back towards Earth, knowing that the nuke that was launched from Texas would be racing rapidly towards its Southern California mark and it was next in line for him to disarm.

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

Wonder Woman and Aquaman raced their way uncontested through myriad of tunnels and hallways of Lex’s underground structure. The self destruct sequence helped shield them from being on the radar of any security team members who might still be interested in fulfilling their actual duties of protecting the facility. Once the klaxons for the self destruct sequence began every man and woman left standing cared only about saving their own lives.

“This way!” Diana shouted, grabbed AC’s arm and directed him down a long and winding stairwell. They emerged at a secured door that Aquaman ripped right off of its hinges. The hallway below was filled with a gaseous substance in the air. Diana immediately began to choke. “What is that?”

“I’m guessing a poison gas of some sort,” AC advised, covering his mouth. “They must’ve triggered some sort of trip wire when the alarm went off.”

“That bastard! He couldn’t wait to release that toxin until the actual countdown had finished?” Diana shouted as the vents wailed out a fresh blast of the deadly gas.

Arthur coughed. “They must’ve wanted to make sure that they were all incapacitated before the alarm triggered.”

Diana squinted at the control box located on the wall that kept the doors locked. AC glanced down the hall and heard angry and feeble cries from the people trapped in the cells. He shouted, “We’re trying to get you out! Hang on!”

“I could rip it off of the wall,” AC suggested.

“That might activate some sort of an override failsafe and permanently lock them in there,” Diana replied, her eyes began to water from the fumes. She tapped on her comm. “Cyborg, any way you can unlock the cells down here from where you are?”

“Give me a minute, Wonder Woman,” Victor’s voice replied.

“Hurry up, they’re gassing everyone out down here,” Diana warned.

Suddenly she heard a noise from the stairwell and an armed security guard appeared. Startled by the sight of the intruders, the man shot them a wide eyed grin. Before either could react a flash sizzled by the door. AC raced towards their exit and was immediately thrown backwards.

Diana’s eyes grew wide. She squatted beside him. “What happened?”

“That dude just put up some sort of invisible shield,” AC groaned. He looked down and saw that his suit had sprung a leak from the blast. “Oh no.”

Quickly, Diana tapped on her comm. link. “Wonder Woman to Cyborg, come in please.”

She heard nothing but static. She changed out the channels and tired again.

“I think the shield is blocking your signal,” AC said, moaned and smacked the back of his head against the cold concrete floor and began coughing.

Diana coughed as the fumes swelled in intensity around them. “At least he knows where we are,” she said, running a hand through her thick black hair. “Once he opens the cells he’ll realize that the shield is activated too, right?”

“I’m sure he will, Diana,” AC replied.

Suddenly they heard the sound of the cell doors unlocking and coughing weary prisoners began emerging. Wonder Woman cracked her whip towards the shield and it sparked, still erected.

AC and Wonder Woman stared at each other as a crowd of angry, coughing, prisoners circled them.

“Crap,” they stated, unanimously.

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

Bart paced in the room, waiting for Chloe to wake up. He anxiously noticed that her daughter Lara had begun to stir, but Jordan had not. The young man felt horrible for Chloe, he knew that by the time she woke up there probably would be zero chance of saving her son.

He happened to glance up at the monitor that showed the United States to check the status of the missiles and felt a cheer rise in his lungs as one of the three rapidly moving targets disappeared off of the map. His celebration was short lived as a brand new blip suddenly appeared on the map originating from the same cluster of silos in Kansas where the first nuke was launched from.

“Oh no! No! No! NO!” Bart exclaimed.

Victor glanced up from his work and his non-cybernetic eye widened in horror at the latest development. “Can you reach Superman over the comm. to let him know about that new nuke?”

Rapidly Bart fiddled with the different channels on his comm. and attempted to make contact with Superman, each effort failed. His eyes filled with horror as he told Cyborg, “I can’t reach him. Superman might be able to disable the three nukes, but there’s no way to tell him about the fourth one.”

“Can’t you run and inform him? When she wakes up, I’ll have Watchtower keep an eye on things and she can give you her best guesstimate on where Superman might land so that you can tell him,” Cyborg suggested. He noticed Bart’s conflicted hesitation. “Go man, trust me, Arrow will approve of you leaving, I’ll make sure to get them all out of here!”

Not needing any further provocation, Bart left the room in a flash.

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

Oliver followed the secret passage in eerie silence. He found himself appreciating the level of financial resources that Lex must’ve dumped into his facility to create a complete sound barrier around it’s walls that smothered all sounds of any impending doom from the rest of the world.

This was an advantage for him as he jogged though a series of catacomb passageways that were filled with corroding an leaking sewage pipes. The wet ground constantly gave away Lex’s position as the eccentric billionaire raced though the tunnels. Oliver cocked his ear and detected Lex’s voice calling for a helicopter.

Oliver quickened his pace and soon spied Lex’s hunkered and frantic body racing ahead of him. Expertly Oliver grabbed an arrow out of his quiver and sent an arrow flying towards the retreating man. From ahead The Green Arrow heard a blood curdling scream as his arrow found its mark through the back of Lex’s left calf.

Quickly, Oliver was upon the hobbling bald man and threw him against the wall.

“Where’s the remote?” Green Arrow shouted into Lex’s face.

Lex’s blue eyes bugged with pain and fright. “Like I’m going to tell you!”

Green Arrow turned, shoved his forearm into Lex’s throat and pushed. With his right hand he reached inside Lex’s pocket and extracted the remote.

“What’s the combo to deactivate the self destruct sequence?”

“Guess it yourself, robin hood!” Lex sneered. Oliver studied the control and when he looked up saw that Lex’s face was turning bright purple. He released his prisoner and dropped him unceremoniously onto the floor.

Lex grabbed at his neck. He attempted to get up and Oliver smashed his foot against the arrow that was sticking out through Lex’s leg. He screamed in pain.

“Get up! We’ve got to stop this thing,” The Green Arrow ordered his prisoner.

“What’re you going to do? I’m wounded now thanks to YOU! You’re going to have to be back in the facility to get that remote to work, it won’t work from this distance. If you try taking me with you, you’ll never make it in time,” Lex snarled and gave Oliver a smirk.

Green Arrow smirked right back at him and extracted a pair of handcuffs from his pants pockets. “Guess it’s a good thing I always carry these around with me.”

Oliver picked Lex up and dragged him twelve feet back towards the tunnel to lead him back to 33.1 and located a tightly secure pipe, snapped one cuff onto Lex’s wrist, wove the cuffs around the pipe and clamped the second cuff to Lex’s second cuff.

Happy that Lex wasn’t going anywhere, Oliver bolted back towards 33.1.

“What if the facilty blows? You’re going to be responsible for my death if you just leave me here!” Lex screamed at the retreating green clad figure.

Oliver grinned and shouted back, “I guess you had better hope I can figure this out then! Don’t worry Lex, at least your death will be quick!”

Lex’s eyes widened as the Green Arrow shot him an offensive hand signal and disappeared out of sight.


Chapter 24

Claire Anders stared up at the sky from the hood of her beat up 1988 Honda Civic watching the stars in the pitch blackness of the Arizona desert. Taking any opportunity to get away from her battling parents, she often got away to stare at the night sky and dream, wondering if life existed on other planets and if there were aliens would they accept a lonely teenager into their fold? What would they look like? Would they look human or would they be all gross and slimy? Suddenly a very bright shooting star raced across the sky at a speed that was slower than usual falling stars. She pulled out her binoculars and focused them onto the object. The girl bolted upright as she realized that the object was sending off a vapor trail of exhaust fumes. It didn’t look like an airplane.

A sonic boom reverberated across the desert and suddenly a second object appeared in Claire’s binoculars extended vision. She was confused, the object should’ve been surrounded by fire but it wasn’t. Suddenly, its speed slowed and the object moved to match the velocity of the first object.

The teen slid off of her car and strained her binoculars towards the strange sight and attempted to figure out what was going on. She cursed her binoculars for not being powerful enough to get a better view of the strange objects. She then cursed her parents for refusing to buy her the telescope that she desperately wanted.

The second object seemed to momentarily merge with the first one. Claire had no idea what happened but thirty seconds later her eyes grew wide with shock. She ripped the binoculars from her eyes as a blinding flash of light exploded across the night sky. For the briefest of moments the desert floor was flooded with light bright enough to rival that of the sun. Then it was gone. Heart beating wildly in her chest, and seeing spots, she turned her binoculars back up towards the sky and saw a large object falling rapidly…straight towards her car.

Claire screamed and dove under her car for safety. She fully expected to be pancaked under car and saw her brief and boring life flash before her eyes. Covering the back of her neck and gritting her teeth, she was shocked to see a pair of red boots slam down onto the ground in front of her, creating two large impact craters on the highway. She then heard a huge crash as if something very heavy had landed not far away from her vehicle.

The teenager’s heart raced in her chest as she realized that something was lifting her car up revealing her hiding place. She squinted her eyes shut together in fear. And then, curiosity won out and she peeked in front of her. She saw a man wearing a blue leather suit with a red cape and a giant S emblazoned on his chest.

“Are you alright, Miss?” Claire just stared at the huge and stunningly handsome man who held her car up by one hand. He reached forward and offered her his hand. “Come on out of there, you’re safe now.”

Her eyes nervously darted around but she took the offered hand and climbed out from under her car.

“W…who are you?” she asked.

The gorgeous man put the car back down and smiled. “I’m Superman. You’re safe now that the rocket has been fully disabled. Sorry if I gave you a fright there, I didn’t realize there was anyone out here. Good thing I saw you.”

Clark smiled at the gawking teenager and said, “I have to go, glad to see that you’re alright, goodbye!”

Claire’s jaw dropped as she watched the man wave goodbye and then fly away. Dreaming about aliens was one thing but it was another to come face to face with one.

As if her evening wasn’t weird enough, she suddenly heard a breathless voice ask next to her. “Is he still here?”

Claire turned around and saw a young curly haired man wearing a red jumpsuit appear next to her car. The man’s face was contorted in an expression of deep worry.

“Who? Superman?”

“Yeah, god I need to talk to him,” Bart said. “Was he wearing glasses?”

“Glasses?”

Bart’s eyebrows arched upwards realizing that the girl appeared to be in shock. He glanced over into the desert and saw the smoking debris of the casing from the second missile and realized he was too late Clark was long gone and probably heading to go after the third rocket. He quickly tapped into his long distance comm. “Cyborg, this is Flash – second nuke’s been disabled but I missed Superman. Any idea on where he might be located?”

Claire watched the young man pace along the road, his legs quivering with anxiety. “You think it’s closing in on Nevada? Thanks man.”

She didn’t understand what happened, Claire blinked her eyes and suddenly the young man was gone. Her quaking knees collapsed and the girl passed out.

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

Diana and AC climbed to their feet and immediately began coughing as the toxic fumes began to fill the entire chamber. AC glanced at his watch – they had one minute left, if Victor couldn’t stop the self destruct they only had five minutes to get out of there.

“We’re trying to get you all out of here, but they erected a force-field over the door here. Any of you have any abilities that might allow you to disrupt it and bring it down?” Diana asked to the crowd of inmates.

“If I wasn’t drugged everyday so that my abilities were suppressed I could do it,” a man said from the background.

Diana groaned. “All of you can’t tap into your abilities?”

One voice in the background piped up, “I can, but I doubt causing my skin to turn blue will help us out.”

“Can any of you hotwire this switch box so that we can get a message out to a friend of ours?” AC asked.

“I can try,” a female prisoner said. “I used to be an electrician, of course doing it without tools will be a challenge.”

Diana handed over her lock pick kit. “Maybe something in there will help?”

“Better than nothing,” she replied and got to work on removing the outside cover.

AC heard the voice outside announce that they had five minutes to reach safety. He gulped. The girl at the control box must’ve heard it too because she quickened her pace.

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

Oliver burst into the room as the klaxons declared the five minute warning.

“No luck?” he barked to Cyborg.

Victor groaned, “I don’t know how he did it but there’s so damned much encryption in the self destruct sequence that every time I think I’ve found the path to disable it, I get veered elsewhere.”

“Any way you can crack the code on this?” Oliver asked, handing over the remote.

Victor hooked the thing up to his cybernetic implants and read the data files. He shook his head. “All I can find is the code he used to activate it, there’s nothing here that points me to what the deactivation code might be.”

“Time to leave then,” Oliver replied. He looked around the room and frowned. “Where is everyone?”

“I don’t know where Wonder Woman and Aquaman are, they should’ve been here already. They needed help with the locks down there and I opened the prisoner’s cells.”

“And Flash?”

Cyborg pointed to the screen.

Oliver scowled at it. “Superman’s only deactivated one nuke?”

“No, man. He’s taken out two of them – a fourth one launched once the first one was deactivated. Flash ran off to inform him since his comm. was off,” Cyborg explained.

“Good decision, Cyborg. Thanks for sending him,” Oliver replied, scratching his head he realized that they had no option left but to retreat. “There’s an exit tunnel this way, get Chloe and her kids out of here, I’ll go get the others.”

“I can still get that code man…”

“NO!” Oliver glared at Cyborg. “It’s too late. Get her to safety.”

Victor nodded and ran to Chloe’s side and tried to figure out how he was going to carry her and her children at the same time.

Green Arrow darted into the halls and hurried as quickly as he could to the cells underground. As he ran the klaxons blared a four minute warning. He gulped, if Diana and AC were in trouble he had to at least try to give them a fighting chance to make it out of this place, the last thing he was going to do was leave his people behind and live with the guilt of knowing he didn’t do everything that he could to save their lives.

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

Lois stared out the window of her car at black starlit sky overhead. She tapped her fingers against the car’s steering wheel as her earbuds blared Whitesnake from her iPod into her ears to keep her awake and alert. Under normal circumstances she never would’ve driven wearing it, but as she asked herself, “Who’s going to arrest me the coyotes and armadillos?”

She looked ahead of the road and saw a neon sign of a gas station ahead. Her heart soared. She desperately needed a caffeine boost and a trip to the ladies, as well as filling up her tank. She pulled in next to the pump and dug out her credit card. Throwing her iPod back into her bag she realized that its charge was almost empty. She growled and hunted in her bag for her charger and realized that she’d left it at home. She groaned. She had been using her iPod because she’d gotten nothing but static on her car’s radio out in the desert.

“They sooo had better have nodos or something in there,” she mumbled. Lois got out of the car and noticed that the pumps were old fashion and didn’t take credit cards. She then happened to glance at the prices per gallon and nearly had a heart attack.

Grumbling to herself about dirty rotten scalpers she barged into the convenience store and began hunting for caffeinated beverages and snacks to keep her awake. After grabbing a six pack of Mountain Dew, a giant bag of peanut M&M’s, and an industrial sized bag of Cheetos she approached the counter and asked, “Are you serious about charging $5 a gallon for regular?”

The sleepy clerk just stared at her and shrugged his shoulders. “We have to pay extra to the delivery guys to get the gas way out here. Next gas station is seventy-five miles – if you can make it that far feel free to fill up there. Word of warning though, they’re even MORE expensive.”

Lois groaned, pulled out her credit card and handed it over to him. “I’ll fill it up. I don’t suppose you have any iPod chargers here do you?”

The overly tanned young man squinted at her in confusion. “What’s an iPod?”

She just smiled and rolled her eyes. “Why am I not surprised?” She took her card back and asked, “Just fill up, right?”

“Yeah,” the clerk replied and promptly fell asleep onto his hands.

“Hey, do I need a key for the restroom?” Lois asked, juggling her purchases.

“No, just go around back.”

“Thanks,” she replied. Lois backed out of the store’s door, opened the passenger door to her car, and dumped her purchases inside. She then began pumping her gas, jumping from foot to foot still needing to pee. Even though there wasn’t a soul for miles, the city girl in her wouldn’t leave her car unattended while she ran off to the restroom. When the handle jumped and the tank was full, she locked her car and bolted to the restroom. The small one stall hole in the wall was dusty but at least it was clean. After finishing her business she washed her face off to wake up and glanced at her reflection. As she hunted for blemishes on her face she noticed that the mirror had begun to rattle and shake.

Lois scowled and felt the ground reverberate under her feet.

“Earthquake?” she wondered and dashed out of the bathroom.

Suddenly everything was moving around her, racks full of tires began violently jerking, the neon sign for the gas station began to sway, and Lois’s ears were suddenly filled with an intensely high pitched engine roar. She glanced up in the sky and gasped. Flying at about the level of a small commuter jet, she spied the vapor trail of a missile that burst over the horizon and roared towards the western skyline.

“Oh CRAP!” She screamed. Her hands flew up to her face as she realized that somehow Lex must have succeeded in getting his nukes released. Her eyes opened wide with horror as she saw that the nuke was descending towards the horizon. A loud buzzing noise soon reverberated though the sky and her heart soared in happy relief as Clark flew after the nuke in hot pursuit.

She ran towards the road and watched his tiny form merge with the rocket. The now wide awake clerk appeared at her side. “What’s going on?”

Lois saw the nuke alter course and yelled as the bright light from the nuclear core ignited in the heavens.

She smiled proudly into the night sky when the burst cleared. When she looked around she didn’t see Clark anywhere and assumed that he was probably off to disarm the other nukes.

“You just witnessed history,” Lois replied, smiled and left the stupefied clerk alone as she raced towards her car and hopped inside. Grinning madly she said, “Thanks for giving me a first hand eyewitness account for my next front page story, Clark. HA! Guess this trip wasn’t a complete waste of time after all!”

As she popped a Dew and got onto the road she couldn’t help but think that there were definite benefits to dating Superman. Even without music to listen to, after witnessing that explosion, she knew that she’d now be wide awake for the rest of her trip. Who needed drugs when there was Clark Kent to jolt your soul awake?

Tapping her fingers in a phantom rhythm against her steering wheel she happily hummed out the chords from the last Whitesnake song that she’d listened to before exiting her car.

Lois just couldn’t stop grinning as she began plotting out her story in her head, humming her favorite song helped her to plan out the execution of the article. She thanked her fabulous boyfriend for giving her the much needed distraction that she needed to keep her alert until she arrived in Vegas.

Euphorically she sang at the top of her lungs…


Who loves you, who needs you,
Who'll do his best to please you,
I love you, I need you
I'll get down on my knees

We walk toward desire,
Hand and hand
Through fields of fire
With only love to light the way
On the road to Judgment Day …


Chapter 25


Victor raced down the passageway holding Chloe and her children piled in his arms. He had the worst feeling that Jordan didn’t make it, but at least he’d give the League’s friend a body to bury.

As he raced down the passageways he came upon Lex chained to the wall. Lex screamed at him as he ran past him, he had no time for stopping to save the man responsible for this mess that the team was involved in.

Three more turns and twists and Victor found the tunnel rising on at inclination and he knew that he was on the right path to escape. Finally he came upon a large steel gate that he burst right through, sending it flying off of its hinges. Still careful of his charges, he ran several blocks before finding a bench to lay Chloe and her children onto. As he checked Chloe’s pulse a shadow fell over him.

“Is she alright?”

Victor spun around and was at once surprised and fearful on seeing the visitor. “Superman? What are you doing here?”

“I took care of the nukes. Where’s everyone else?”

“You got all of them?”

Clark looked confused. “Yeah, I disarmed the three nukes.”

Victor’s eyes grew wide. “Bart didn’t find you?”

A flash of concern clouded Clark’s green eyes. “No. Why was he looking for me?”

Bolting to his feet, Victor’s brown eyes grew wide with panic. “Man, when you disabled the first nuke, somehow that activated another one.”

“There’s a fourth nuke on the loose?” Clark asked, panic rising in his voice. “Where was it released from?”

“Same silos as the one in Kansas so it should be somewhere along on the same trajectory path as the first one,” Victor explained.

As much as Clark wanted to find out where the rest of the team was there was only one all consuming thought that invaded his senses…Lois. She was still out there near where the bomb would go off.

In a split second Superman powered himself up into the atmosphere and rapidly flew in hot pursuit of the nuke, hoping against all hope that he wouldn’t be too late.

Cyborg watched as Clark sped out of sight. He kept glancing towards the tunnel exit, waiting for Oliver, Diana, and AC to emerge. His watch suddenly chirped as the self destruct sequence reached its end. Victor threw his body protectively over Chloe and her children as the ground quaked, debris, smoke, fire, and ear shattering noise suddenly disrupted the quiet calm of the early morning streets of Suicide Slums.

Heart racing in his chest, Victor peered back towards the exit and expected to see three figures emerge out of the smoke and flames.

They never came.

Covered in dust, soot, and debris, Victor watched as the flames from the explosion began to devour the old abandoned buildings around him. The realization that Oliver, Diana, and AC didn’t make it out of the compound finally sunk in.

Suddenly Victor felt a burst of wind at his side and Bart appeared. Bart’s brown eyes filled with sorrow as he watched the flames rise over the city and stood next to Victor and Chloe with his mouth wide open.

“Oh no,” he whispered. “Where are the others?”

Victor couldn’t meet his eyes.

Deep heartfelt pain rocked Bart’s body. “You can’t tell me that they didn’t make it Victor! I FAILED! I didn’t find Superman!”

“He was just here, Flash. I told him about the fourth nuke,” Victor said, his voice distant and hollow sounding. “I’m sure he’ll get there in time Bart, he always does.”

“I could go in there and try to find them, I’m faster than flames,” Bart stated, determination forming on his face.

Quickly Victor grabbed his arm. “Maybe but you’re not fireproof. Come on we have to get out of here before we can’t. I’ll get Chloe if you can get her kids and we’ll get them to the nearest hospital.”

The mention of Chloe’s name burst through Bart’s revere. He nodded his head and gathered Jordan’s limp body and Lara’s unconscious one into his arms.

Choking back a sob and numb with shock, Victor cradled Chloe in his arms and together Bart and Victor did the only thing that they could do to salvage any good from this day and raced their charges towards safety.

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

Clark sped at a velocity that left sonic booms in his wake as he devoured the landscape between Kansas and the western coast in a matter of seconds. A heavy weight pressed against his heart somehow he had the worst feeling that no matter how fast he flew, he would be too late.

He flew over the Rockies and began scanning the Nevada skyline for any traces of either the rocket’s exhaust trail or afterburner lights. Heart thundering in his chest, Clark saw nothing. He glanced towards the Sierras and realized that the nuke must be close to its target point of the San Andres Fault line. He soared at an even faster rate and burst through heavy cloud layers that blanketed the snow covered peaks and finally spied the nuke as it devoured the flats of the central valley and suddenly vanished from view.

The nuke went deep underground into the San Andres fault line and exploded. Shielding his eyes, Clark turned mid flight away from the blinding light.

The nuke sent up a mushroom cloud that erupted through the earth’s surface and plumed hundreds of kilometers into the atmosphere. The storm and fire circle that followed it rapidly devoured the middle coastline of California right at the core where the two faultlines met and were their most vulnerable.

Even through the intense heat of the blast Clark still felt the bitter stinging burn of tears that trailed down his face as the magnitude of his failure hit him full force. From his vantage point high above California he saw the beginnings of cracks and fissures in the overall landscape. Like a rock thrown at a windshield, the cracks were small at the epicenter and then began fracturing out larger and larger. Even from hundreds of miles above the ground he could hear the earth splitting wide open.

He withstood the heat blasts that pummeled his body and suddenly inhaled a huge lung and chest full of air. He blew at the mushroom with all of his might, hoping that he could displace enough of the radiation and send it into the upper atmosphere instead of raining down upon the citizens of California and her neighboring states. Clark knew enough about nuclear bombs to know that even with all of his power he wouldn’t be able to stop the entire blast from wrecking devastation and ending millions of lives. A small amount of satisfaction came over him as the top of the cloud vaporized into the stratosphere. He could only find some comfort in knowing that he’d probably reduced the blast by half.

The lower section of the cloud flattened and triggered radiation shock waves in all directions. Clark knew of no way to stop the radiation, but he could try to reduce the heat damage from spreading. Inhaling again he flew in closer to the superheated core of the blast and began dousing it with ice breath. After a minute of blasting frigid wind and ice at the smoldering core of the nuke’s blast, he felt pretty confident that the fire was neutralized. He waited a split second for the remaining section of the cloud to dissipate so that he could get a clear view of the ground below before he jumped into action.

Flying at full speed, Clark dove through the radiation clouds that reverberated through the atmosphere and then wove his way eleven and a half miles deep under the earth’s crust to where the Pacific Coast Plate and the North American plates met and created the San Andreas Fault. Deep under the earth’s surface Clark swam into the molten core and examined the upper Pacific plate as it quaked and crashed against the North American plate. It was the most unstable of the two plates and was the root cause of the cracks that were forming on the surface above. The plate began to rock off of its axis. Locating a giant 3 kilometer solid mass of earth, Clark lodged it under the plate and pushed with all of his might, adding extra support to the plate at its key pressure point. Impervious to the fire and heat, Clark concentrated all of his energy on pushing and rolling the rocky mass against the plate. The fire eventually molded the mass with the plate, creating an earthen band-aid of sorts.

Quickly Clark dashed about and located another large mass of rubble that had slipped in through the fault line and repeated the process over and over until the core point where the fault line had begun to splinter and fracture was mended. Gasping for air, Clark placed a hand against the earthen plate and realized with a degree of satisfaction that the quakes had ceased. Rapidly spinning, he punched his way up and out from underground, mentally preparing himself for the carnage and destruction that was left above ground.

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

Lois saw the glow of the lights of Vegas appear on the horizon. Joy filled her heart knowing that she was close to getting to an airport and would be on her way home soon.

Suddenly, the horizon exploded in a bright light that dwarfed the lights of Vegas. She narrowed her eyes. The light was distant but whatever had caused it was bright enough to give off the strange illusion that the sun was rising from the West.

Lois pulled off of the road and got out of her car to get a better look at the strange phenomenon. The sky over the distant Sierra Nevadas began to change color from white to red and orange.

“Oh god,” Lois whispered as a strange blast of heat suddenly ripped across the desert landscape. She flung herself against her car for support as the violent winds screamed across the flat desert floor and raced away into the night.

She suddenly felt as though she’d just spent a day too long out in the sun. Gingerly she stared at her hands and saw even in the black of the desert that her skin had a reddish hue to them.

“Oh no,” she muttered as tears leapt to her eyes. She stepped away from her car and watched as the sky continued to glow in the far off distance.

Lois gave herself a once over and wondered how much radiation a person could withstand and still be alright without suffering from radiation poisoning. She had a feeling that even if she had been inside her car when the blast came, she wouldn’t have been that much better off.

Lois realized then that she was completely alone in the pitch black desert without a sound to be heard for miles. She stared at her car the radiation wind had killed her engine. Tears of pain and frustration overcame her senses. She knew that Clark had to be somewhere near the epicenter of that explosion. Could he survive that kind of radiation or was he resistant to radiation burns? She had no idea. The pain of not knowing caused her entire body to shake with fear. Lois yelped as she tried to open her car door and the handle burned her hand. Her eyes grew wide with fright, if the heat of the blast was this intense hundreds of miles away from the epicenter she hated to think how bad it would be on the west coast.

Knowing that there wouldn’t be a car coming for hours, Lois shakily walked into the center of the road, gingerly touched the highway to make sure it wasn’t scorching hot and sat down. She pulled her knees up towards her chest and slowly rocked herself as the grief of not knowing what happened filled her senses. Thinking of all of the families who most likely were gone in a heartbeat and the mess that would be left behind all because of Lex’s greed, Lois began to weep feeling very small and insignificant. There was nothing that she could do to fix anything that had just happened. She hoped that Clark could do something to help spare some people pain, if he was destined to die, she took small comfort in knowing he would’ve perished trying to protect as many people as he could.


Chapter 26

As the sun rose over the devastation that was left of the West Coast, Superman spent hours flying over the entire landscape of the impact zone putting out fires and assisting the wounded who were trapped under rubble, lost, or could not be moved easily by humans. All electricity had been wiped out with the blast leaving folks stranded all over the place with no means to reach a hospital. The bomb aftermath was like living in the dark ages.

By mid morning after flying a large family to the hospital, Clark found himself a tree to sit down for a few minutes and breathe. From his heightened vantage point his green eyes gazed over the once shimmering suburban landscape and saw nothing but plumes of dark smoke that obscured the sun from above.

Silently he wiped a stream of tears from his eyes that came from a combination of witnessing too much human suffering in a short period of time and smoke. He’d read about the bombs that were activated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how humans who were too close to the blast center of a bomb were disintegrated leaving behind only their shadows after the weapon had discharged. He never thought that he’d ever personally witness such a strange phenomenon but the cities all around the blast radius were deathly silent with frozen black shadowed forms as the only remaining evidence that the empty homes had once been inhabited by families. Those who were not disintegrated were wounded beyond help or immediately killed from radiation burns.

Clark wove his fingers together into a single fist and pressed it against his lips trying to contain an unintelligible cry that escaped from his lips. He could spend a year here and still wouldn’t be able to help all of these people, he might be Superman, but he couldn’t help everyone. Clark was happy to see that with his efforts to assist people, those who were not as severely wounded immediately sprung into action to aid their fellow neighbors; if his efforts managed to inspire people to discover the best of themselves in the face of tragedy to lend a hand to those who cannot help themselves, then he had accomplished his mission.

He hung his head and as he realized he couldn’t really help much more here allowed his heart to nudge at his conscious.

“Lois,” he whispered and in a flash flew off towards Nevada.

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


Clark landed in the driveway of the Mustang Dude Hotel behind a giant cactus, supersped changed his clothes, straightened his tie, and entered the doors of the establishment.

Immediately heat blasted him from inside the building and Clark realized that the power was out in the place. The large breasted receptionist Pam sat behind the counter fanning her barely covered body furiously fanning herself with an old dinner menu.

“Oh sugar, we’re closed,” she gasped. “No way to take your money – unless you’ve got cash on you.”

Clark arched a brow and shook his head. “Uh I’m afraid I don’t have any cash on me. But that shouldn’t matter – a friend of mine checked in here yesterday. Do you happen to know what room Lois Lane is checked into?”

Suddenly the woman’s eyes narrowed with anger. Clark took a step back as he saw her face turn beet red. “That woman skipped out of here and stole my car! I told her she could borrow it – not TAKE IT! Before the power outage I tried charging her credit card for the car but of course got denied.”

Looking around the room, Clark asked, “When did this outage occur?”

“Last night – where the hell have you been? How did you get here?”

“I walked…” Clark replied, quickly, employing his years of lying to his advantage.

“How in the hell did you barely crack a sweat then?” Pam asked, glancing him up and down.

Quickly, Clark cleared his throat. “What time?”

“Early this morning – 1:05AM, sugar,” she said, holding her dead watch up in front of Clark’s face.

“At the time of the blast,” he muttered, his eyes widening.

“What blast?”

“Is Vegas the largest city near here with an airport?” Clark demanded.

“You see any others around here?”

“What color was your car?”

“White, why?”

Suddenly fear gripped Clark’s heart, Lois must’ve tried driving towards an airport to go home. That meant she was stuck out somewhere in the sweltering heat if she didn’t make it to Las Vegas.

In a flash he was gone leaving a bewildered Pam momentarily cooled by the air of him speeding away.

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

Clark shot straight up into the sky and closed his eyes. Come on, come on, call me home, baby, he thought as he focused all of his concentration on his superhearing. Sounds of human suffering reached his ears and although the cries pained him, he pushed them aside, they weren’t his target. He soared towards Las Vegas in a straight line from the hotel keeping his hearing charged to full maximum.

He felt his own heart begin to thunder in his chest as panic began to control his senses. His palms began to sweat and his tongue went dry. “Where are you, baby?” Images of the victims from earlier in the day kept invading his consciousness, nagging him with reminders of the worst possibilities on why he couldn’t locate his beloved.

“NO!” he screamed as he shoved the images aside, wiped tears from his eyes, and continued to scan the desolate and empty highways for a white car. Suddenly a faint noise began to pound in his ears. A relieved smile that would’ve lit up Las Vegas burst over Clark’s face and he barreled towards it like a bullet aimed towards its target.

The abandoned Impala sat at the side of the road and was empty. Clark quickly whipped his head around in all directions. There was nothing anywhere for miles that Lois could’ve walked towards to take shelter from the heat.

“LOIS????” he shouted, his desperate cry echoed across the barren landscape. He heard her heartbeat but couldn’t quite figure out its location.

Suddenly, he heard a small cough that came from under the car. Without thinking twice Clark flipped the car over and across the desert revealing Lois lying on the ground, shielding her eyes with her hand from the sun. All around her sat survival debris: her near empty Cheetos bag, empty Mountain Dew cans, and two jugs of hot water.

“I found those in the trunk – thank god for them, I was worried I was going to have to save my pee and drink it. I swear, Smallville, that’s one taste I can happily go my whole life without experiencing,” Lois weakly said, trying to crack a smile. She winced in pain at the effort.

Clark knelt at her side using his body as a shield against the unrelenting, radiating mid-day sun rays. He examined her face it was bright red and covered with blisters. His eyes grew wide as he saw her hands were in the same condition. With the way she groaned at his gentle touch to her arm he could only assume her whole body was in the same condition.

“Guess I forgot my school lessons to duck and cover when you suspect a blast of radiation is heading your way,” Lois croaked, banging her head against the pavement.

“Oh god,” Clark whispered, trying to fight back tears as his fingers lightly touched her very brittle hair. He knew that he needed to put up a strong front to help keep her strength up. Quickly he grabbed one of the jugs of water, unscrewed the top, blew on it, and felt the hot water cool down in his hands. “Do you think you can carry this, honey?”

“Cool breeze will feel great now,” she muttered. Clark’s eyes widened in alarm, seeing she was fading fast. Quickly he scooped her up in his arms, grabbed the jug, snuggled it between Lois and his body and shot up into the sky and aimed them towards home.

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

Clark landed outside the Smallville Medical Center after breaking the speed of sound to get Lois safely across the country. He burst into the doors immediately he began screaming for help. He gently laid Lois on a gurney and helplessly watched as she was hauled away towards the emergency room.

The nurse stared quizzically at him when he explained where she had come from. He just replied, “Superman brought her here from the West Coast.”

Not needing any further explanation the nurse ran the information into the room and everyone immediately conditioned themselves against high radiation levels.

Walking in a fog, Clark allowed himself to be dragged into a clean room after radiation tests showed up as off of the Geiger reader went off of the charts when they tested Clark’s skin. He knew that they wanted him to completely undress so that they could get rid of his clothing and realized that he was still wearing his costume. He studied the eyes of the nurse inside the radiation suit and nodded taking the bag from her that she wanted him to put the clothes into. Clark hung his head in shame, he didn’t feel fit to wear the costume anymore, anyways. What did it matter if it was destroyed?

Clark shucked off his clothes, tightened the full bag, and walked into the decontamination room. There his body was immediately pounded with super high pressure water. He couldn’t imagine that they were putting Lois through this, with her open sores she’d be screaming in agony if they tried anything similar on her damaged frame.

Hidden under the veil of the searing water, Clark allowed all of the horrors from the day wash over him and he wept. He was completely unaware of the radiation team who arrived and began scrubbing him down from toe to head as they tried to clear all ambient traces of radiation from his body.

Finally after walking through four more showers he was tested and came back negative for radiation exposure. The team handed him some hospital scrubs and apologized that they thought the top might be snug.

Clark dressed, asked about Lois and found her to still be in the emergency room care unit. Taking advantage of a few moments Clark ran home and changed into some of his older clothes and returned to maintain a vigil in the waiting room.

His mind was numb with shock, so much so that he barely heard someone repeatedly calling out his name. Clark turned his head and saw Bart at his elbow.

“Hey Bart, what are you doing here?” Clark asked, shaking the cobwebs of worry from his mind.

In a low voice, Bart said accusingly, “Dude, did you forget about Chloe and the rest of the team?”

Clark’s eyes widened and he gulped. Quickly he scanned the waiting room and saw Victor seated across the room with a vacant look on his face. Terror immediately caused his blood to race. Clark cocked his head and they were outside in the far corner of the parking lot in a flash.

“How is everyone?” Clark ventured. “Why are you guys here and not at Metropolis Hospital?”

Bart crossed his arms over his chest and his red streaked brown eyes suddenly became watery. “Man, we tried, we really did, but Lex outsmarted us with that code of his.”

Furrowing his brows together, Clark asked, “What do you mean?”

“Dude the place exploded. Why do you think Victor’s all comatose in there, he wasn’t able to stop the facility from self-destructing.”

Eyes widening as comprehension dawned on Clark, he gulped. ‘What about the team?”

Bart shifted his eyes away and stared at a spot on the ground. “They didn’t make it.”

Pain filled Clark’s chest as he felt a heavy pressure grip and seize his heart. “What do you mean?”

Flickering a glance at Clark, Bart shoved his hands through his long hair and tugged. Tears streaked down his face. “Clark, Oliver went in to go find AC and Diana – they didn’t come out.”

“Are you sure they didn’t just find another exit?”

“They didn’t come out, Clark.”

“Lex? And the people downstairs?”

“Doubtful any of them escaped either. Lex was chained up inside an underground tunnel – fire came out of there. Only people we got out where Victor and I who carried Chloe and her kids to safety. When 33.1 exploded it took out all of the power, gas, water, and phones in Metropolis. Victor and I had no choice but to bring Chloe and her kids here,” Bart explained. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten any treatment at all.”

Clark just stared at Bart and put a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. It’s not Victor’s fault, I’ll have to talk to him.”

“Don’t know what a difference it will make, but he’s not listening to me so maybe you can get through to him,” Bart replied. He shoved his hands into his front jeans pockets and tentatively asked, “What about you? Save the world like always?”

Turning his own green eyes skyward, Clark gulped down the lump that had been living in his throat ever since he failed his last mission. “Ever seen a nuclear missile go off, Bart? I don’t recommend it if you don’t have to.”

“You didn’t get it?” Bart wailed and immediately began slamming his hands hard against his own forehead.

“BART!” Clark grabbed Bart’s wrists and stopped him from further beating himself up. “It’s not your fault. You did everything that you could to try to get me the information.”

All strength left Bart’s legs and he collapsed onto the gravel into an Indian squat. He snorted, “With heroes like us, who needs villains, huh?”

“None of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for Lex,” Clark replied, dropping down next to Bart. He ran his own fingers through his hair and fought back tears as images of Lois’s blistered face again surfaced in his mind. “At least he didn’t get out, right?”

“I doubt it, we ran right past him and then the blast happened seconds after we exited the building,” Bart replied.

They sat in miserable silence for a few minutes and Clark finally asked, “How are Chloe and her kids?”

“Her daughter will be fine, she’s up and talking and asking for her parents. Her son, he didn’t make it,” Bart stated.

Clark saw Bart’s hands were shaking as he conveyed the news.

“What about Chloe?” Bart said nothing. “Bart?”

Bart stared at his taller friend, tears now streamed down his face. “Man, she’s in a coma. The doctors don’t think she’ll ever come out of it.”

“But she’s gone through this before with using her powers, right? Bart? She probably just needs time to regenerate after over using them,” Clark stated.

“I don’t think so, she used her powers too much to save herself and her kids,” Bart replied.

A nauseating pain ripped through Clark’s gut as a new thought occurred to him. “She lost the baby, didn’t she?”

“Baby’s still alive, the doctors are trying to find Jimmy to ask him what they want him to do,” Bart said, sniffling. When Clark looked confused he added, “Chloe’s on life support – they don’t think she’s going to hold on much longer. If they want to save the baby it’ll probably kill Chloe, but at least the baby will survive.”

Tears streaking down his face, Clark stood up on shaky legs and absently paced in circles. “Nothing is as it should be, Bart. None of this should’ve happened.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, Clark. Why are you here if you didn’t know about Chloe and her kids?”

Staring off into the distance, Clark replied, “It’s Lois; she’s being treated for massive radiation burns.”

Understanding dawned on Bart and his dark eyes filled with compassionate concern for his friend. “I’m sorry, man.”

The smaller man studied Clark and could tell that he was using one of his superpowers.

“I have to go inside, Bart. Now.”

In a flash, Clark was inside the hospital and tracked down Lois’s doctor. “How is she?”

“Resting. She’s heavily sedated for the pain. I’m sorry son, but there’s really nothing we can do for her beyond try to make her comfortable,” the doctor explained. “She received too heavy a dosage of radiation poisoning, we barely stopped her from hemorrhaging to death in the ER.”

Clark gulped, not seeing anything but experiencing excruciating chest pains. “How long?”

“We’d give her a few days at most, more likely less,” the doctor replied, squeezed Clark’s shoulder and walked away leaving the tall man alone in the hallway.

His feet felt like lead as they walked into Lois’s quarantined room. He had donned a mask and had been needlessly covered in protective gear. The nurses explained that due to her condition they couldn’t fully remove the radiation off of Lois’s body and had to employ these extreme methods to ensure the safety of the staff.

Gingerly he sat in a chair next to Lois’s bed. She was covered nearly from head to toe in bandages that were administering soothing medication into her skin. He could see her closed eyelids through the mask of bandages that surrounded her head. All of this felt unreal, Lois was the bravest, strongest person that he knew there was no way that she could be dy…

He pushed the thought from his mind and tried to go over how she could possibly have been affected like this. The blast took place hundreds of miles away, at the most she might’ve been exposed to some fallout, but full blown radiation poisoning? That didn’t seem possible. Then he remembered when the bomb exploded and he attempted to blow out the blast, in his mind he saw the lower levels of radiation and they had reverberated like huge shockwaves over the state’s floor.

As comprehension dawned on him and he stared at Lois’s sleeping destroyed body and a feeling of self loathing unlike anything that he’d ever experienced before in his life overcame him. HE was the reason that Lois was here today, it was his mismanagement of taking care of the bomb that allowed the blast to superspeed farther than its original target zone. He might as well have helped Lex to take out California. He didn’t help anyone by being there, he further increased the suffering of the innocent people that he had been raised to defend and fight to save. And Lois got caught in the crossfire.

He didn’t realize that he had ripped his mask off and shoved his fist into his mouth to prevent himself from screaming.

Suddenly a noise filled the room that filled his heart with dread; the heart monitor next to Lois’s bed slowed its beating.

“No, NO! Come back to me, baby. I need you,” Clark pleaded. His own superhearing attached itself to her heartbeat hoping that somehow he could will it to beat faster and stronger. Lois’s heart, however, had decided that it was tired of fighting and much to his horror it slowed, heaved one last thump and then stopped beating altogether.

The sound of the heart monitor flatlining echoed in Clark’s head…Lois was dead.


Chapter 27

Shock completely clouded all of Clark’s emotions smothering him in a blanket that drowned out all sounds, feelings, and thoughts. The only thing that Clark felt was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair. His heart constricted as though an iron grip fist had clamped itself around it and was squeezing tigher and tighter. He felt as if someone had severed a part of his very soul from him and he was left as only half a person. The pain was nearly unbearable.

The hospital staff raced into the room and attempted to revive Lois, but they were unsuccessful in their efforts. He didn’t register the condolences spoken from the doctor and nurses as they left; all that Clark saw was Lois’s empty shell of a body.

He kept supercharging his superhearing, hoping beyond hope that somehow her heart would begin beating again, but it didn’t happen.

Unable to come to grips with her mortality, Clark sat down at Lois’s side and gently held her bandaged hand. Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder. He glanced up and saw Victor standing beside him.

“I’m sorry, Clark,” Victor said, his dark eyes reflected his own personal demons that he was chasing in his guilt over losing most of his team.

“We’re really crappy at our jobs, aren’t we?” Clark stated, flatly.

Victor didn’t reply. “Don’t know if I should tell you this, but Jimmy arrived, he’s trying to decide what to do about Chloe. Man is he a mess.”

“I’m not exactly in the right frame of mind to offer advice to him,” Clark sharply replied.

Nodding, Victor took a chair near Clark and stared out the window of Lois’s room. “I wish we could turn back time – even a few hours, we could’ve gotten the team out of there sooner…you could’ve stopped that bomb…don’t suppose you’ve got that super ability hiding up your sleeve do you?”

The fog that had been engulfing Clark’s senses had barely registered the words that Victor had been saying, but that last question made it through. His brain immediately went into overdrive.

Turn back time…turn back time…turn back time…

A flicker of a memory surfaced…his father’s crystal…no he couldn’t use that, he’d used that to save Lana all of those years ago. He could fly faster than a speeding bullet, but not faster than the speed of light.

Clark pressed Lois’s hand against his forehead and he leaned against her bed’s rails…think...think…think…

Years of lessons that he had learned during his time up in the Fortress returned to him in blinding, crashing succession. Suddenly one lesson burst into crystal clear focus, using every bit of his concentration he thought back to the conversation that he had with Jor-El regarding the crystal and time reversal from four years ago.

“Are we able to turn back time, father?” Kal-El asked his disembodied teacher.

“It is not one of your abilities to do so. Changing time is a dangerous process, son. The consequences of it, as you so painfully learned, always end up backfiring and bring about reprecussions that you would never have imagined or expected,” Jor-El warned. “Order must be restored to time and oftentimes that means that people other than those who you are trying to save will suffer as a result.”

“Yes, I learned that with Lana. Had I let her die, Lex would’ve been tried for her murder and he would never have created his super-army and my Dad wouldn’t have died instead,” Clark replied, experiencing a pang of guilt and feeling of loss at the memory of his departed adopted father.

“You would’ve experienced a lot less pain had you simply accepted her death and moved on,” Jor-El replied.

Clark frowned. “But there has to be a way to do it though, you were able to cause it to happen by using that crystal. Time can be reversed right? I mean what happens if somehow in the future something catastrophic happens and I’m not able to stop it? I might need to be able to reset time again like you did.”

Clark was greeted with silence that he had learned to interpret as contemplation.

“Reversing time is a very dangerous thing, Kal-El, it never goes as you plan. And there’s no certainty that if you do reverse time that things will turn out the way that you want them to. It is, inadvisable to do so unless the need is absolutely dire…”

“Like the destruction of your home planet? Why didn’t you do it, father? Why didn’t you stop the destruction of Krypton? The consequences be damned…if you know how to turn back time, why didn’t you do it to save your home planet?”

“Who said that I didn’t try?”

That answer startled Clark, it had never occurred to him that Jor-El might have tried to stop his planet from exploding by means other than negotiation. He sat down on an icy bench, readying himself for a long winding and complicated story; for all that Jonathan Kent used to turn his tales into moralistic sermonizing life stories, Jor-El always sent him through mind bending, exhausting scientific lessons that left his brain Swiss cheesed and oversaturated with information that he could never expect to have to actually use again in his lifetime. Cautiously, he asked, “What happened?”

“I saw that things were going poorly with Zod’s rise in power, I tried to repeatedly warn The Consortium of Zod’s overwhelming hatred and my fears that before we had imprisoned him to the Phantom Zone that he’d managed to do something to our planet’s orbit and that we were doomed to perish. But no one listened to me and I was labeled a troublemaker. I calculated that our time was limited before we would melt and burn up into the sun’s atmosphere but my cries were ignored. So I began doing everything that I could to try to save the planet.

“I began with reversing time by a day only to start with. Sometimes, you will find, one day is not enough time. I lost track of how many times I reversed time just so that I could have the same arguments with the other fools in The Consortium but I never could change their minds to evacuate the planet. Finally, I had no choice but had to employ a time reversal method that is most frowned upon, for it is highly dangerous, but what choice did they leave me?”

“What did you do?” Clark asked.

“What do you know about the theory of parallel universes?”

Confused by the question, Clark stated, “Something about alternate realities possibly existing beside each other?”

“That’s a very basic view on it. Your scientists, as I understand came up with the theory when studying light. They realized that the light could be seen as a particle and a wave at the same time. They would shine light though a screen and then a second screen that would have two slits in it, when they were both open, it seemed as though an electron would pass through them at the same rate and in the same speed and time, yet if one slit was open and the others closed, light screen that the light was hitting would receive more of the particles than would travel through the slit…”

“Father, I never took physics and don’t understand what that….”

“I’m getting there…you see if THIS was the only reality that there was then in theory all light and particles should hit the same location every time at the same speed at the same second, however, physics proved that that is not always the case. Where do those particles go that are traveling at a different speed?”

Clark rubbed his forehead and felt the corner of his mouth inch upwards into a confused smirk. “Sorry, I don’t…”

“Every decision that you make in life has brought you to this very moment that you’re experiencing right now. Think of how different your life would be if you had allowed Lana to die in that car accident…just like you said before your father might still be alive, Lex would’ve been imprisoned, Zod wouldn’t have been unleashed on Earth, and you would’ve come to your training sooner.”

Tightly, Clark bit his tongue from lashing out against Jor-El’s constant need to badger him about taking his time to complete his training whenever he could, he never did seem to let the subject of Zod’s ill-timed arrival to earth drop much to Clark’s annoyance.

“What I am trying to say son, is that somewhere out there, you made that decision and life evolved from that moment. That world exists.”

“It exists,” Clark repeated and chortled down a disbelieving laugh. “Then were exactly is my Dad?”

“In this reality, Jonathan Kent died of a heart attack, in another reality he is most likely alive and working on the farm right now and wondering how he is going to pay this month’s electric bill,” Jor-El said.

Clark didn’t respond.

“What do you know about black holes?”

“Black holes?” Clark asked, now completely confused not seeing to connection. “They’re big masses of negative energy in the universe – or something like that.”

“Humanity’s esteemed scientist, Alfred Einstein predicted the existence of Black holes as being stars that have died, collapsed upon themselves and became a super charged conduit for massively fluctuating gravity – it’s rotational pull is so intense in speed that even light cannot exist in it…hence why they are called black holes.”

“Uh huh,” Clark mumbled, scratching his ear.

“There are some humans who believe that you can travel through a black hole to reach the opposite side which would be a white hole and that would take you to a parallel universe…this is not the case.”

Clark feared that he was about to start zoning out but forced himself to continue listening to his father as he rambled onwards.

“Do you know why your galaxy spins like it does?”

Helplessly, Clark answered, “No.”

“Think Kal-El.”

“Gravity?”

Jor-El’s disapproving silence was deafening. He sighed. “What has the largest gravitational pull in the Galaxy?”

“A black hole?” Clark ventured.

“Yes! And guess what is located at the center of every Galaxy?”

Clark’s brows furrowed together, he then saw where his father was going and jumped on board that train of thought. “Really?”

“Galaxies are created when a star dies. It is the gravitational pull of the collapsed star that draws surrounding matter towards it. Eventually matter that is trapped outside of the black hole’s event horizon will simply get pulled into its gravitational spin and will develop into its own solar systems, star clusters, and whatnot.” Clark opened his mouth slightly to ask a question but Jor-El marched onwards. “Black holes and parallel universes collide at the event horizon of black holes. They all meet at the space/time/continuum marker. Basically if we recall back to the idea that light can sometimes take longer to reach particular places when being shined through a hole, then it’s possible for time itself to take its own time – if you will – in reaching its destination.”

Clark laughed out loud and massaged his aching head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I’m sure that you have read that everything travels at the speed of light. If you stood on the opposite end of the galaxy and were able to see your earth, to those people viewing it on the opposite end of the galaxy they would likely see events that took place millions of years ago since light would have to travel across millions of miles to even reach their view.”

“Ok,” Clark said, absently massaging an ice crystal trying to see how long it would take to melt it.

“So think about it, the space time continuum shows that all events that happen exist on other planes, time and space travel at different paces. If you reached the center of your galaxy, right before they reached the event horizon, you would find yourself assaulted by many, many, MANY parallel universes that would vanish in a blink of an eye if they got trapped into the event horizon.”

“The crystal that I gave you was a device that I created for you to trap one of those parallel slipstreams and it allowed for time to get reversed for you here on earth. Unfortunately I only made you one. However, I did so knowing that one day we would have this little chat and I would teach you how to construct one of your own, or if you didn’t do that, how to access the parallel universes on your own.”

Clark perked up. “So you can show me how to say go back twenty four hours and fix something?”

“In theory, however, depending on how large the problem is, you may need to go back further in time. Unfortunately by doing that the Chaos Theory of your people comes into play. One small change could alter the reality of that parallel universe to the point where events that would’ve never occurred there in the first place happen simply because you changed time itself.”

Clark looked upwards and said, “You couldn’t stop Krypton from exploding could you?”

“No. No matter how many times I tried, I was unsuccessful because sometimes, no matter how hard you try to stop it, death will always eventually win out. We may be more powerful than mere mortals but we are not gods, Kal-El.”

Clark sat in silence absorbing that bit of knowledge and wisdom.

“There was one silver lining that came out from my constant playing with time – one thing that I will always be proud of myself for.”

“What’s that?”

“In the first reality had it gone through its course and I had not changed time, my wife and I would have perished when she was six months pregnant.”

Eyes growing wide, Clark gulped.

“The one change I was able to make was that I was able to give us four extra months of life. Lara was able to give birth to you and we were able to create a ship for you so that you could safely be delivered to earth. I made several other small time jumps and left you the clues you needed here on earth in order to learn about your destiny.”

Clark didn’t know what to say. “I had no idea.”

“Of course you didn’t, why would you have known? Altering time is a dangerous thing Clark, particularly if it’s a full blown time reversal that you’re going for. If you select a parallel universe time stream that is too close to the time that you currently lived, you won’t remember what happened the first time around and will very likely relive it over and over. This, I must tell you from personal experience, is highly frustrating and gets you nowhere. I’m sure you have experienced Déjà vu in your lifetime? Déjà vu is your mind trying to come to terms with altered states of reality when a parallel universe has been implemented over your own.

“If the event that you wish to correct or reverse was horrible enough, say a planet exploding, mass murder, whatever, you would be better off selecting to trigger a parallel universe that is quite a bit farther removed from the one that you have currently lived. By doing so you will likely pick a verse where a decision that you made many years ago was changed and the world you step into will look nothing like the one that you just vacated. Once that happens and you decide to pick that moment to go back to reality as you know it will completely change. If you pick an event stream that is far enough removed when you return to reality you will remember both verses. Word of warning, greater men than ourselves have gone mad from doing this. Oftentimes it is very difficult to juggle the memories of two completely different lifetimes and will drive you to madness. Even worse you will probably find that in the human population there will be an increase in people who will be accused of having mental illness because they too will remember both realities.

“The reality that you select quite possibly will never achieve the outcome that you were trying to reverse, however, the reality that you select could end up with an outcome that is far worse than what you started with and were trying to correct in the first place,” Jor-El explained.

Clark didn’t much like his father’s warnings, time reversal certainly didn’t sound very appealing, however seeing that he didn’t have much of a choice he asked,  “Tell me what I would need to do.”

Snapping his head upwards, Clark stared at Victor and realized that perhaps two seconds had passed between when he channeled his lesson from his memory and when he had put his head down.

A hard determined look crossed over Clark’s face. Victor looked at him slightly alarmed. “What’s wrong, Clark?”

Clark stared at Lois’s body and clenched his jaw tight. Righteous anger swelled through his soul. “Lex isn’t going to win, Victor, not this round.”

Confused over this change in his friend, Victor watched as Clark leaned over, kissed Lois’s closed eyelids, and gently put her hand back onto her stomach.

Choking on his words, he whispered into her bandages. “We’ll be together again, baby. Hang on for me. I love you, Lois.”

Victor burst out of his chair as Clark turned and stared at his friend. “Have faith, Victor, things will be different.”

“What?” Before Victor could say anything all that remained of Clark being in the room was a cool breeze.


Chapter 28

Clark dashed out of the emergency center before he could see the anguish on Jimmy’s face with the heart wrenching decision he was being forced to make concerning the future of his family. Even as he sped through the building, Clark could hear his friend wailing in misery, the sound only further strengthened Clark’s resolved that he had to fix what had gone wrong, even if it meant sacrificing everything that he knew and loved in this lifetime.

When Clark made it outdoors, he sped into an open field and examined the path of the sun that had dipped towards the horizon. Without a second thought, he gathered the air molecules around him, burst off of the ground, and shot up into the Earth’s outer atmosphere. Jaw clenched tightly against the massive g-forces that rippled across his body as he gathered speed, Clark kept envisioning Lois’s happy and laughing face in his memory, the feel of her silky lips against his, and her lilting voice as it teasingly called him “Smallville.” Tears froze on his face as he exited the Earth’s orbit and he soared directly towards the sun. More memories crashed through his mind, Oliver’s nagging, When are you going to get off of your ASS and do something to help people? His father’s words, You can be anything you want to be son, this world’s most mild mannered citizen or it’s greatest hero, the choice is up to you.

Everything that happened up to this moment happened because of one choice he made years ago. Things had snowballed to a point where his closest friends and beloved were ultimately sacrificed and had paid the ultimate price for his selfishness. He wouldn’t allow that happen again.

Clark passed by Venus and began to notice two things happening – one the atmosphere was getting increasingly warmer as he approached the sun and two he immediately detected a change occurring in his molecular structure. As he soared by Mercury’s orbital path he blasted forward heading right outside of the sun’s stratosphere. Arms spread out wide to both sides Clark closed his eyes against the brilliance of the fire giant’s glow. He breathed deeply as the smoldering sun cast off powerful waves of energy in his direction, bathing his body with its crackling energy.

As the radiation washed over Clark’s body he felt his molecular makeup becoming denser. His muscles constricted and expanded, nearly popping the seams on his clothing. But more importantly than his muscles increasing in size, Clark felt his strength increase by a thousand fold or more, the power rush was almost intoxicating. He felt like a god. If Superman had the strength to move mountains on Earth, he fully believed that he was now strong enough to move planets out of their orbits. Finally satisfied that he had supercharged enough power to accomplish his goal, Clark examined his surroundings, gathered his bearings and shot off towards the center of the galaxy.

Time ceased to matter as Clark soared past star clusters and brilliant uninhabitable planets and moons. The beauty of the stellar clouds and star formations that he passed by meant nothing to him; Clark was on a mission.

Even out in the middle of nowhere millions of miles away from Earth, Clark could still smell Lois’s perfume and her fruity shampoo. Phantom memories reminded him of the feel of her hands as they traveled up and down his arms exploring his muscles, and the tender tickle of her foot as it gently stroked his leg while they snuggled together in their bed. Clark’s heart felt like it was going to explode from misery.

He thought of his other friends too. Oliver had been a man of great integrity and strength of character. He taught Clark to always be true to the best part of himself and helped him to realize that his powers were a blessing and not a curse. AC had helped him to cherish the beauty of the world around him and to constantly honor the gifts that Mother Nature had bestowed upon the planet that they lived on. Even Chloe had risked her own life and possibly the life of her baby in order to give Clark more time to save the world showing him the true meaning of real friendship and self sacrifice.

Full of shame and self loathing, Clark couldn’t stop himself from beating himself up that he not only had failed his friends but for everything that they had stood for.

Lois…Lois was the only woman on Earth who accepted him completely both for his humanity and alien heritage. She forgave his shortcomings and always encouraged him to live up to his fullest potential. She accepted nothing of Clark bur for him to give 100% of himself at every moment of every day to helping people. He was doing this for her because he knew that she expected nothing less of him than to do everything in his power to restore balance in the world around him and to not allow evil to triumph.

Suddenly Clark felt a subtle change in the void of space and sensed a shift in his surroundings; they seemed like that they were gathering inertia. He activated his macro vision and ahead spied his target goal; the black hole that was the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. He was rapidly approaching the Black Hole’s Event Horizon. Clark also experienced a strange rippling sensation in his mind as his memories suddenly felt slightly jumbled and earlier, almost forgotten, memories from his youth seemed to be rapidly resurfacing. He realized that he had inadvertently slipped into the very thing that he had hoped to find the exact location of where his current lifetime’s space time continuum slipstream met at the Black Hole’s Event Horizon and was converging into a single slipstream with multiple alternate realties.

Without a moment’s hesitation Clark sprang into action. Clark activated his freezing breath and blew all around him, freezing the time stream that he currently existed in. He closed his eyes and like Jor-El had taught him to do and triggered a normally unused section of his cerebrum and concentrated with all of his might on his surrounding location inside the space time continuum. Tightening all of his muscles he pounded onto the walls of his current slipstream causing the invisible walls that surrounded him to shudder and ripple. His mind’s eyes suddenly connected with those ripples and memories began to flash through his vision – he was sitting under a tree with Lana Lang enjoying a warm afternoon.

Clark turned his face to the left and saw thousands of similar looking images suddenly replicate in alternate universe slipstreams that surrounded his own. Activating his freezing breath again, Clark completely froze time in his slipstream realizing he needed to be three years in farther into the future. Gathering his speed, Clark started moving farther away from the Black Hole’s Event Horizon and threw his hands out in front of him to help increase his speed. He warded off the painful onslaught of memories that crashed through his mind as he rapidly watched three years of his life replay in his mind in seconds.

Abruptly he stopped. His year after graduation sprang into focus and he channeled all of his energy on locating that one fateful night…the night he failed both of his fathers. Clark zeroed in on the day and watched from afar as he proposed to Lana in the Fortress of Solitude. They were both so young and naïve he couldn’t help but think as he watched a younger timid version of himself hold a ring out towards Lana. What a fool he had been for gripping onto fear instead of letting go, he thought, so much pain could have been avoided.

He then saw something interesting as time shifted forwards, Lana appeared at Lois’s Talon apartment and put her hand on Lois’s back steadying her from falling off of a footstool. Clark furrowed his brows in confusion and realized that when time had been reset from using Jor-El’s crystal Lois had apparently fallen off of the footstool and would’ve died from electrocution had he not rescued her in the nick of time. Had he let Lana go in the first timeline, she would’ve saved Lois’s life. He shook his head at the irony of it all.

She is your past; I am your future.

He realized with shocking alarm that Lois had been the original target of Jor-El’s twisted game of which loved person would Clark lose in exchange for being brought back to life. At the time he had been confused over why Lois would’ve been in danger, but in hindsight he knew that he had been in love with Lois since he first laid eyes on her. At this moment, he didn’t dare wonder what life would’ve been like had she died that night.

Lana had saved Lois’s life the first time around. Knowing that fact made what he was about to do suddenly even harder. Clark super froze his slipstream again and used every ounce of his supercharged strength to burst a hole out of his own time line. Clark knew he only had moments…moments to chose wisely and make a decision that would forever alter the lives of everyone who he loved and the lives of the millions of people who had suffered because he didn’t have the foresight to outthink Lex’s mastermind nuclear plot.

Rapidly he soared over the slipstreams seeing slight differences in each one – Lana steadied Lois because she was standing right behind her, she barely stopped her because she was a couple of steps farther away, she ran across the room and helped to cushion Lois’s fall, she ran across the room and woke Lois up after she hit her head on the hard kitchen floor.

Clark then started to focus on the evening hours of that Election Day and finally located the slipstream that he’d been both dreading to find and the one he had prayed would exist. Using every bit of his energy, Clark gripped tightly to his target and began flying it towards his own still frozen slipstream. Once the two giant bodies were close enough, Clark bore a huge burning hole into the new slipstream with his heat vision and jumped inside. He screamed as his mind suddenly became jumbled with new memories as he entered the unfamiliar universe. With all of his might he crashed it against his own known universe. An eardrum shattering screech echoed over the nothingness of space and bright sparking lights created a giant explosion that caused shockwaves to fly outwards across the stars.
The holes that he had formed in each one of the slipstreams immediately fused together, and like Jor-El had warned him, the two bodies began jerking and rapidly twisting like live cut wires as they competed for dominance. Clark’s body was thrown around like a leaf caught in a tornado; his mind throbbed and pulsated as memories from both verses struggled to gain dominance.

Clark screamed in agony and pressed his hands tightly against his temple as he attempted to gain control over the battle. Panting, Clark divided the memories that flooded his brain into two sections. Thinking only of Lois, he pushed aside the painful memories from the last couple of days and embraced the path that he had not taken eight years prior.

As he did this he felt the strangest sensation of time pausing and swelling as the tunnel solidified accepting the new change to its reality. The slipstream’s walls expanded the space time continuum began aligning up the destinies of the billions of other people on Earth who were affected by this change. The magnitude of what he had done fell over Clark’s conscious as he suddenly felt the crashing weight of billions of people’s memories flooded the newly formed slipstream.

The sheer volume crushed him and Clark began to spiral away from his current location, he felt like he was riding the galaxies most powerful white water rapids without a boat or a paddle or any means of escape.

His vision suddenly burned with a blinding white light, Clark screamed from the painful vision and fell out of consciousness.

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

Clark’s cheek was numb from being pressed against an icy surface. He groaned and blearily opened an eye to examine his surroundings. His eyebrow shot up in curiosity, he was back in the Fortress of Solitude.

Sitting up, Clark massaged his throbbing temple from the after effects of too much data being crammed into his skull. He supposed that he must’ve felt rather like a person feels at the end of a hang over; he felt somewhat weakened, nauseated, and disoriented. Clark noticed that his muscles were back to normal size, he no longer felt like he could move planets.

He covered his eyes with his hands and experienced the strange sensation that he had all of those years ago; one where two realities co-existed in his brain. In this newly formed timeline Clark had grieved deeply for Lana’s passing, accepted his fault in her death, and moved on.

His parents had been at his side at Lana’s funeral and it was through the strength and love of his family and of his close friends that he got through the worst of his misery.

Lex had been arrested for drunken reckless driving and manslaughter charges for chasing Lana off of the road and was convicted to spend a twenty year prison sentence in Belle Rieve. Clark consulted with Jor-El and learned the best way to take out the Brainiac before it managed to prepare a body for Zod to inhabit. When that threat had been eliminated, Clark spent the next five years traveling the world getting to know his home planet of Earth. Jonathan had won his Senate race and seat but had stepped aside and let Martha take his place when he had a mild heart episode after a particularly stressful day at the Topeka state capital. Jonathan accepted his life as a farmer and couldn’t have been more proud of his wife when she had embraced a career that far better suited her than it ever would have done so for Jonathan.

After his travels Clark returned to the Fortress and began his training. He realized now that he had been returned to the last day of his lessons. It was about time to leave the Fortress for good.

Clark’s thoughts drifted back to Lex and vividly recalled why Lex was sent to Belle Rieve instead of prison. When the cops arrived at the scene he was shouting gibberish about how Lana wasn’t supposed to die like this that they were supposed to get married one day. At the time Clark had written the rantings off as those of a drunken madman, now in hindsight he wondered if Lex could’ve been one of those people who was rather like himself and was able to remember both realities. Clark’s hands began to sweat at the possibility, if that was the case, then Lex might remember blowing up California…Chloe’s powers…a feeling of intense hopelessness passed over Clark, a sliver of doubt crossed in his mind and he began to worry that what he just did was all for nothing.

Getting to his feet, Clark then thought of Lois. During his travels he had occasionally gone online and followed her stories that were published at The Daily Planet but had lost touch with his friends. Before leaving Clark had admitted to himself that he’d had feelings for Lois ever since he had first met her, however, Lois was so hell bent on starting a career in journalism that it just didn’t seem like the right time for him to broach trying to get anything started between them. Besides Lois had still thought of him as dork, without his training, Clark didn’t see how her opinion would change. He suspected that in time they’d all be together again and when that happened if he and Lois were meant to be a couple, they’d be together. He knew that he needed the time away and by himself in order to sort out his priorities in life and to see suffering of others first hand so that he could realize his own problems were trivial in comparison to the real suffering experienced by other people around the world from war, famine, and poverty.

“It is time now, my son,” Jor-El’s voice called out across the fortress.

Clark looked uneasily around. “Father? Did I go far enough away from my past slipstream to change anything?”

A pause impregnated every corner of the Fortress. “You recall what you just did?”

“Yes,” Clark replied, nodding his head. He got up and began to pace. “Father I think I may still have a problem though – I think Lex remembers everything.”

He heard mild chuckling. “Humm well I suppose you will have to just keep your eye closely on him. At least, it appears, that you finally paid attention to my lessons. You should be safe with this universe.”

“Finally?” Clark spat out, not understanding why Jor-El found this to be the slightest bit funny.

“Yes my son, I lost count of how many times you reset your history. It appears that you never went very far beyond your known verse, because you always failed to remember that you had just reset time. It appears that you desperately wanted it all – to get back the known love that you had for Lois and still save the world, but you always failed.”

Clark gulped. “What will happen now?”

“That my son depends entirely on you. This is the world that YOU created for the betterment of mankind. Make it count,” Jor-El advised.

Nodding, Clark already knew that much had been changed by his decision to merge this known alternate universe with his past. Lex was safely in jail, Zod was never unleashed to wreck havoc on the world, Clark was never sent to the Phantom Zone and unleashed its prisoners, and Lex’s project 33.1 never fully flourished. He also realized that Lionel Luthor was still alive and running Luthor Corp. He could only hope that Lex didn’t remember anything. He sighed, knowing that by sacrificing Lana’s life, thousands, if not millions of people’s lives were saved from pain and death. Her death made her an unsung hero.

“This feels weird father,” Clark admitted, shaking the last of the cobwebs out of his mind. “Weird - but in a good way.”

“It is time for you to go, Kal-El. Go now son and make me proud.”

Clark smiled and thanked his father for all of his training. If he had managed to save all of his friends this time around, he couldn’t imagine that there were any words that would be able to express to his father his gratitude for the lessons that he had provided to him on how to change fate and rewind time. He supposed the best way to thank him was by living by Jor-El’s example of always putting everyone else’s personal safety above his own. And to employ the true meaning of compassion of putting other people’s needs above his own.

Walking out of the ice structure, Clark thought of his Dad’s face and the strength of his hug on the day that he dropped Clark off at the airport before he began his journey around the world.

Realizing how long it had been since he’d spoken to his Dad, and after enduring years of having his biological father filling his head with facts and knowledge, Clark desperately wanted to experience one of Jonathan Kent’s moralizing sermons on how to act like a man. With a megawatt smile plastered on his face, the dutiful son gathered the molecules around him, shot up into the atmosphere, and headed home.




Here ends Part I of Superman: Destiny Embraced

Story Continued in Part II: Superman: Fractured Reality



   

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