An excited yip, the clatter of claws on tile, and Talia caught up her new toy, bringing it back with her chest fur fluffed out proudly. Kitty whispered, “Good girl,” as she threw it again, and the tiny Pomeranian raced to fetch it back.
Is it possible to go completely out of your mind with boredom? Kitty smiled bitterly as Talia pattered after what now looked like a disheveled mop, getting both drool and shed fur on it along with the dust from being thrown to the floor. But the woman and her dog were both amused by their sport, which was more than anyone else here was doing for them.
Lex had spent most of the last three days in the testing chamber with the new crystal console. The few times Kitty had wandered by, she’d heard Jor-El’s voice droning on and on about something technical. It was creepy, listening to a dead guy – a dead alien guy – all day. That left Kitty with absolutely nothing to do.
Even if Lex would’ve let her leave the compound, she knew all too well what was above them. Miles and miles of desert, baking sand relieved only by a few puny bushes. Somewhere nearby were canyons with their own sources of water; the occasional hermit lived in them. Of course, none of them had running water or electricity, and they never noticed the partially-shielded EMP’s created by Lex’s experiments. But they were no more interesting to Kitty than the recording of Jor-El and his endless lectures.
She was bored, lonely, and beginning to be a little frightened, since Lex refused to tell her anything about his ultimate plans. Using his favorite toupee to play fetch with the dog seemed fitting payback to Kitty.
Lois drove through the city, content with life – for the moment. Her working schedule meant that she normally left about an hour after the kids’ school day ended, but luckily she’d found someone who would pick up the children and watch them until she or Richard could get off work. What would I do without Barbara? Lois mused as she headed uptown to the Thomas’ house. All she originally signed up for was giving piano lessons, and she’s become the only person outside my immediate family I trust with those two. Thank God for Barbara’s generous heart.
The Audi seemed to skip through traffic, expertly driven as it was, and Lois was soon at Barbara’s door. The woman who answered her knock was a pretty brunette of about Lois’ own age, with an easy smile and the endless patience common only to saints and teachers. “Well, hello, Lois,” Mrs. Thomas said. “I wasn’t really expecting you this early, with what was on the news.”
“It was the consulate this time, Barbara. We think it’s the firebug again. Damage was bad, but thankfully not as bad as the last one. But Richard’s department’s handling this one, so…” Lois replied with a shrug as she walked in. Kala immediately ran toward the sound of her mother’s voice, trailed by Barbara’s daughter Ashlyn. The dark-haired little girl did her best to tackle her mom, while Ashlyn hung back a bit, smiling shyly. Lois laughed, picking Kala up, “Hello, munchkin. Mommy missed you.”
Kala hugged her neck fiercely, whispering, “Missed you, too.”
Lois took a moment to just hold her daughter close, sighing with relief. There were no words for just how much the twins’ mere presence calmed her. Then she turned back to Barbara and the little girl half-hiding behind her. Tilting her head to the side, Lois grinned and waved at the child, “Hi, Ashlyn darling.”
The blonde smiled adorably, but quickly ducked her head, making Barbara chuckle. “Still shy. Jason’s practicing; he probably hasn’t heard you yet.” The two women and their girls headed for the music room, but Lois froze in the hallway when she heard what Jason was practicing. Her eyes widened as her skin paled, making Barbara ask, “Lois? What’s wrong?” But the reporter couldn’t answer, swept up in a flashback.
“Heart and soul, I begged to be adored; lost control, and tumbled overboard.” Ella Fitzgerald’s voice echoed in her mind, Kal-El’s arms around her, that fateful night … the notes Jason was picking out on the piano with increasing confidence brought it all back. The memories overwhelming her, and almost kissing Clark in front of a thousand journalists. That terrifying, longing moment when she knew their feelings hadn’t died, not completely. That song…
“Lois, are you all right?” The concern in Barbara’s tone brought Lois back to the present.
She tried unsuccessfully to laugh it off, ignoring the way the hair at the nape of her neck prickled to still hear him playing it. Shaking her head comfortingly, Lois shrugged. “It’s nothing, it’s just … I don’t have the best associations with that song. It’s silly that I reacted that way, honestly. I didn’t even realize Jason knew it.”
At that, her friend looked upset. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. He heard Ashlyn learning it and he wanted to play it with her. If I’d realized…”
“It’s okay, really,” Lois reassured her. “It’s nothing terrible, just … a reminder I hadn’t quite expected right now. Don’t worry. Knowing Jason, once he has it down pat he’ll play it until all I can associate with it is him.” And boy, am I looking forward to that.
As soon as the thought entered her head, Jason finally noticed his mother and looked up at her with his cerulean eyes as he grinned proudly.
Lois could only smile back, even as her heart ached while recognizing it.
"That little kiss you stole, held all my heart and soul."
“Son! There you are. How are things in Metropolis?”
Clark had to close his eyes for a second. Just her voice, so warm and always welcoming, soothed his heart tremendously. “Hi, Ma,” he replied, smiling. “Busy, that’s how things are. What about you?”
“Oh, the usual,” she replied. “Nancy got loose this morning and ate a pair of Ben’s boots that he left on the porch. We had lunch with the new family staying at the pioneer center; they’ve got three children. The oldest is a very sweet, shy girl, and the two little boys, well, they’re a handful.”
“Ah, yeah. Speaking of children…” Clark fell silent for a long moment. How on earth did you tell your mother something like this?
“Clark? Are you there?”
“Yes, Ma,” he replied, and sighed heavily. “Listen, I found something out last night, and I … I don’t know what to think now. I need to talk to you.”
“Do you want to come over, Clark?”
This was hard enough on the phone; he doubted he could find the words face to face. “No. Not right now, anyway. Things could get busy again soon. It’s just, well … kinda hard to talk about.”
“So, start at the beginning and tell me what’s happened. You know I love you, son, and nothing could ever change that.”
He took a deep breath, and slowly told her about dinner with Lucy and Ron, and the revelation of Kala’s name. “All of a sudden, Ma, I’m not sure. I mean, I confronted Lois about it – she was so angry with me for leaving, and then she has this fling in Paris less than a month after I’m gone? She didn’t argue with me saying that; she’s the one who told everyone that story. But now I realize that she probably named Kala after me, and it makes me wonder. I never thought … I’m not even…”
“You think they might be yours?” Martha asked, so gently.
“You did say ‘speaking of children.’ And if Kala is named for you – for your other name – that’s a pretty strong hint.”
“But Ma … it shouldn’t be possible. It just … I’m not human,” his voice dropping to a whisper on the last word. “And the twins were born ten months after, you know. Shorter than nine months is common, longer is very rare. Most doctors would’ve induced labor well before the ten-month mark.”
“Clark,” Martha said, and he could almost see her rubbing her temples. “You have no idea how long a normal Kryptonian pregnancy is.”
“Yes, but why would she let me say that about her affair in Paris? If it wasn’t true, Lois would’ve corrected me. We had talked about everything else, practically.”
“Is there a reason she would want to hide it from you, if they really are yours?”
“I don’t know,” Clark groaned. “I can’t imagine why she would. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Martha’s voice was clearly reluctant as she brought up the other possibility. “Do think she might’ve had an affair – since she didn’t correct you on it – and maybe she’s not entirely sure whether they’re yours or not?”
Silence. “It could be,” Clark admitted at last. “She’s … Lois has a quick temper. It’s something she might’ve done in revenge. I just … I don’t want to think she’d do that.”
“Does it change how you feel about her if she did?”
Another long pause. “No. No, it doesn’t. Ma, I love her, but I know her too. Lois is fully capable of being that vindictive – just like I was fully capable of being that blind. I should’ve known stealing the memories would infuriate her.”
“Well, I just hope she realizes how lucky she is. Most men would be angry with her for that, whether they were the ones to leave or not,” Martha opined. “But we’re left without a clear answer. The twins might be yours, they might not.”
“How am I going to find out?” he asked in frustration. “I can’t just walk up to Lois and say, ‘By the way, are those my kids?’ Especially not at work.”
“Clark … have you thought about what you’re going to do after you get an answer?”
He frowned. “What do you mean, Ma?”
“Well, what if the twins are yours? Have you thought about what that means?”
“It means I’m not alone,” Clark replied, and his voice held a depth of longing that Martha had long suspected but never heard expressed. “It means Kala and Jason are probably going to need me. If they take after me at all, their lives are going to be very confusing, very difficult. They’ll need my help to come to terms with whatever … powers … they may have.”
“But what about their mother?” Martha asked gently. “Even if they are yours, she may still decide to stay with Richard. She’s been with him for three years, she’s wearing his ring. And it’s her choice to make, Clark.”
“I know, Ma,” he replied wearily. “As long as she’s happy… I want to be with her whether the twins are mine or not, but I know that may not happen. But if they are mine, I have a duty to them. It’s … it could get very hard, especially now that I know … she still cares… I have to do what’s right for Jason and Kala. And that might mean standing by and pretending to smile while Lois marries Richard. I’d do it for them.” He ignored the way his throat seemed to swell at those words, the picture of that future all too clear: Richard kissing Lois before an altar, while Clark forced a faked smile and offered to watch the kids during the honeymoon. That would be the hardest thing I could ever do … but it may be what’s best for everyone, especially the twins.
Martha was quiet for a long while, knowing the sound of grief in his voice, and then she said decisively, “That’s it, I’m coming up there.”
That startled Clark out of his contemplation. “What? No, Ma, you don’t know Lois…”
“Relax, son, I’m not going to walk up to the woman and demand to see my grandkids. But it sounds like everything is getting to you. Clark, you need someone sane around to keep you company.”
At that, he smiled. “Ma, I love you dearly. But you’d hate it here in the city. Besides,” and the words burned his throat slightly, “Ben would miss you.”
“My son, always thinking of everyone else before himself,” Martha sighed. “Well, if you’re absolutely certain…”
“I’ll be okay. I’ve just got to find my way through this on my own. But talking to you helps a lot.”
“I love you, son,” Martha said, “and I wish I could help you more.”
“I love you, too, Ma,” Clark replied. “I need to go somewhere and think. I’ll call you back later on, though, if I get a chance to talk to Lois.”
“You do that, Clark. Until then, take care of yourself.”
“Yes, Ma,” he replied, laughing slightly, and hung up the phone.
As he did so, he noticed the little icon on the screen that meant he had a voicemail message. “Now if I can just figure out how to listen to my messages,” Clark muttered as he started scrolling through the phone’s menus.
Normally, Lois would pick up the twins on Wednesdays when school let out early, and then bring them back to the office. The rest of the week, Richard got them when he left work, or Barbara got them and Richard or Lois picked them up as they left for the day. Since Clark’s return, however, Lois hadn’t wanted them around him, in case he figured out that they were his. Maybe Barbara had simply gotten used to having the twins over every Wednesday afternoon, and didn’t think of it as a burden.
“Mommy, I’m hungry,” Kala groaned pathetically in the back seat, trying to act as if she hadn’t had a snack at Barbara’s house. Jason chimed in, too, and the pair of them managed to distract Lois fairly efficiently.
Up ahead, she saw a sign that read “Mr. Dragon,” a popular chain of Chinese food take-out restaurants. “How about Chinese?” Lois asked Jason and Kala.
The response was unanimous and vociferous. Next to Mexican, Chinese was the twins’ favorite food. Jason suddenly decided to change his mind, however, declaring, “I want Japanese, Mommy.”
Kala glared at him. “Eatin’ Japanese won’t turn you into a big dumb ol’ ugly radioactive lizard!”
“Kala! Stop pickin’ on me!”
“Stop bein’ such a dweeb, then!”
“Enough!” Lois said loudly. “Stop that, right now, or we’ll go straight home and you can have chicken soup with no noodles.”
The silence was, for the moment, golden, though punctuated by Kala’s icy glare and Jason’s furious scowl. Lois managed to park the Audi before the twins started mouthing names at each other, and as she got them out of their seatbelts she carefully kept one twin on each side of her. This is why the Middle East peace talks never amount to anything, she thought, holding Kala’s right hand and Jason’s left. If they ever want to make some progress, they need to send a mother of twins up to Camp David. I spend every day trying to negotiate an end to hostilities between two rival powers, I’ve got to be better at it than a president.
With the way the twins were glaring at each other hatefully, and the short line at the counter, Lois paused just inside the door to catch their attention. “You will both behave while we’re waiting, is that understood? One whine, one name called, and we’re leaving. I don’t care who started it, it stops now.”
Kala and Jason both nodded, trying to look as cute and innocent as possible. They knew from experience that Mommy meant it. She’d only once had to walk them out of a restaurant and make the unruly pair wait while Richard finished his meal and boxed hers up. Made to sit in their car seats for fifteen minutes (or forever, to three-year-olds) and then sent directly to bed with no supper, the twins had learned their lesson forever.
Lois sighed. “You’re both good kids when you wanna be, you know it? Mommy loves you.” After a pause, she added under her breath, “Even if you make her crazy.”
“We love you, too, Mommy,” they chorused. Jason tried his best to give her a winning smile, but it looked more like a shark on Prozac.
Kala suddenly tilted her head and turned around, her hand slipping from Lois’ loosened grasp easily as in a nightmare. As her daughter ran to the front of the line, the dark-haired reporter had only a moment in which to gasp before Kala called out, “Mr. Clark!”
The man at the front of the line turned in surprise just in time to catch the little girl who leaped at him, trusting him to catch her. Clark's surprised but very friendly chuckle sent ice down Lois’ spine, and she barely registered Jason pulling away to run to him as well.
Oh, my dear God, Lois thought as she watched with disbelief. This has got to be a nightmare. He’s only met them twice! When the hell did he get so familiar with my kids?!
To Be Continued Tuesday!