ETA: We forgot something in the last scene - it was in our notes for this chapter but just got overlooked. Ooops!
ETA: We forgot something in the last scene - it was in our notes for this chapter but just got overlooked. Ooops!
Lana was out of surgery and awake, so Clark left Richard with her. Richard was still too shell-shocked to think any further than simply being grateful that he and Lana were both alive, so Clark decided to update everyone for them.
He got a nasty surprise when he searched for Lois’ heartbeat, intending to fly by and give her the good news. She was talking to Maggie- … and their apartment was full of police officers. Clark was there in seconds, cape rippling at his super-sonic speed, but while surveying the penthouse he realized that there was no good way to explain his sudden arrival to the cops. Whatever had just happened, they all seemed to have it under control.
I still should have been here, he told himself angrily. Yet another failure to guard his family… Quickly, Clark searched out all of the extended family, every one of their friends and coworkers, flying at top speed to do it. So far, everyone was all right, under police protection and forewarned against the threat. “At least someone’s doing their job, even if I’m not,” Clark muttered.
Last, he flew to Smallville, hovering over the Kent farmhouse. Ma was in the kitchen washing dishes, and Ben was watching the nightly news. Clark sighed, wishing for the days when he could just fly into the house whenever he needed to talk to his mother. Since Ben still wasn’t in on the family secret, though, a certain amount of subterfuge was necessary.
Clark sent Martha a brief text message asking her to meet him in the barn. He didn’t have to worry about Ben seeing the message; ever since she broke her hip, Ma kept the phone in her pocket all the time. Ben had found her within a few minutes of her injury, but she was still haunted by the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to even stand up.
He saw her look at her phone, and then she called to Ben that she was going out for a minute. That apparently wasn’t unusual, and Clark flew silently over to the barn. A moment later, Martha joined him. “Son?” she called into the darkness.
“Here.” Clark stepped out of the shadows. “Ma… I’ve got bad news.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her faded blue eyes searching his keenly. Martha looked all of her years when she added with clear dread, “Oh, Clark, it’s not Kala, is it?”
“Yes,” Clark replied with a heavy sigh, “but not just Kala.” He quickly summarized the day, and the proof of Luthor’s involvement in Kala’s kidnapping was just as bitter now as it had been when he first realized he’d flown right into a trap. And then he had to tell Martha about the attempt on Lana’s life.
The older woman gasped, her complexion going chalky. Clark hastened to tell her that Lana was all right, but she needed a moment to compose herself. He knew just how she felt – when he’d arrived at the Whites’ penthouse, his heart had plummeted. Not just because of the amount of blood; Clark had seen blood before, including his own, and a brief look revealed that none of Lana’s injuries were life-threatening. It was a very rare thing to see Lana so confused and disheartened, though, and that wounded him. Under normal circumstances, she was optimistic and organized and reliable, so consistently positive that Lois claimed there must be something wrong with her. To see her in the grip of shock and trauma… And to have Kala still out there, lost and alone, just compounded the feelings.
“What else?” Martha asked, and Clark smiled. Ma was another strong woman in his life, one who could take a nasty shock like that and come back determined.
“From what I’ve gathered, Luthor tried something at home, but the situation’s under control now,” Clark said. “Inspector Sawyer has police protection on all of our family and friends in Metropolis. You should be careful out here, too.”
“It’ll be hard for that snake-in-the-grass to get at us,” Martha said defiantly. “You can’t put a stranger into Smallville without them sticking out like a sore thumb. But I’ll keep watch anyway. And you should get home, son.”
“I will. I just need one more favor, Ma.”
“Anything,” she replied easily.
“I hate to ask it, but could you go see Martin and Annette? I’d rather they hear it from you in person than me on the phone. And I can’t very well explain how I got here so fast.”
It hurt to see how worn she looked, nodding at him with shared sympathy. He hated bringing her news like this. He hated even more than she was going to have to hide some of this news from Ben. “Of course,” she said as always, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I love you, son. If you need anything, anything at all…”
“I know who to call. I love you, too, Ma,” Clark said, and hugged her gently. With that gesture, he flew back toward the apartment, dreading what he would learn.
After giving her version of events to three different police officers, and finally writing it down, Elise was more than ready to go home. It was one thing to meet Jason’s Aunt Maggie in a casual setting, completely another to be surrounded by policemen in uniforms and detectives in suits, feeling like she was under constant scrutiny. Besides, in another two hours it would be January third, and Elise hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep at all this New Year. She wanted the peace and quiet of her parents’ apartment, but she knew that just waltzing out the door was probably a bad idea. She didn’t want to do anything that would make her a suspect again.
After a full ten minutes of deciding the best way to go about asking with ending up in handcuffs, Elise found Inspector Sawyer talking on the phone in the hallway outside the apartment. Seeing the severe look on the cop’s face, she waited politely for her to end the call. “Um, if we’re all finished here, can I go home?” she asked with the calmest voice she could muster.
Maggie considered for a moment before giving a brisk nod. “Sure. We have all we need for now. I don’t want you walking around, though. There’s no telling who they’ll go after next. Call your parents and tell them you’re coming home in a squad car.”
Damn, I thought that was going to happen. Maybe I can play it off… Biting her lip, Elise got her phone out, then hesitated when she felt Sawyer’s eyes on her. Now, that she thought about it, she was Jason’s ex-girlfriend and if this Luthor guy knew enough about Jason to set up all of this, maybe home wasn’t the best idea. “There might be a problem,” she finally said, wincing.
Sawyer raised her eyebrows. “What’s that?”
“It’s my parents,” Elise began, and then sighed in defeat. Better to just get the truth out there, especially with the way the cop was looking at her. “My parents are in Switzerland. They won’t be back for a week.”
“So you’re home alone?” Sawyer questioned.
The inspector sighed and rubbed her temples in frustration. “Kid, this isn’t just Jason’s girlfriend having a psychotic break. Someone out there kidnapped Kala, and he’s not above killing off her family and friends to try and stop them from coming after her. If I send you home alone, even with cops at the door, you might be the next target.”
Elise tried to swallow around the lump in her throat. She hadn’t forgotten the gun in Giselle’s hand, the sound of the gunshot. Somehow she’d always known this family would drag her into some kind of madness, but it was hard to believe that her life might actually be in danger. “So what am I going to do?” she asked. Oh, Mom and Dad were just gonna love this explanation…
“Come with me,” Sawyer said, and tracked Lois down. She was in the living room with Jason, the pair of them having finished with their own statements. “Lane, can you put Ms. Thorne up for the night? I don’t want her going home to an empty house, considering the situation.”
“Your parents aren’t home?” Jason exclaimed, looking at her in disbelief. “Jeez, Elise, don’t you know how dangerous that is?”
Elise bristled at that. “Yeah, well, now I do.”
“Shut it, kids,” Sawyer snapped, stopping the fight before it was fully-formed. “Lois?”
The reporter’s reply was instant. It hadn’t been so long ago that Elise had been considered a member of the family and it showed now. “It’s a given. There’s no way I’m sending her home tonight. Elise, call your parents and let them know you’re staying here tonight, okay? You can have the couch, I’ll find some sheets and a nightgown…”
Jason scowled. “Mom, Bagel sleeps on the couch,” he said. “Elise, um, you can sleep in Kala’s room. She wouldn’t mind…”
All of them paused, feeling the empty space in their lives that Kala usually filled, and then Elise said, “Okay. I’d better go call Mom and Dad, then.” Actually, she had no intention of doing so, knowing how her parents felt about her relationship with Jason, but as long as she was home by tomorrow afternoon, it wouldn’t matter. Less to worry them with. God knows the truth about today would have them on a red-eye flight home.
As she turned to leave the room, she heard Sawyer say to Lois, “We’re gonna be leaving in a few minutes here. Better call Clark and let him know what’s up so he’s not surprised by the cops in the lobby.”
Elise sighed; she had stayed in Kala’s room quite often for sleepovers and such, but it seemed distinctly weird now. Without Kala in it, the room already had that melancholy air that disused rooms get after a while. Elise sat down on the bed and looked at the table where the ferret’s cage had been. “We’d better find you, Kala,” the teenager whispered to the empty room.
Lana lay awake, the fingers of her good hand laced through Richard’s. She was safe, Kristin was safe, their friends and family were safe, and she wanted very much to slide into sleep again. She’d just said goodbye to Clark and then called Kay, who had been frantically trying to get information ever since the first news bulletins had gone out. Reassuring her assistant was more difficult than she expected; she and Kay had worked together for a long time, becoming friends in the process, and the younger woman had been too busy trying to keep the business in line to let herself absorb the fact that her boss had almost died. She’d actually broken down crying on the phone, and Lana had gently soothed her.
Now the redhead was exhausted, but sleep was held at bay by the throbbing ache in her hand. The surgeon told her that he’d repaired her severed tendons, and that she could expect to regain full use of her hand with physical therapy. That was a blessing, at least, but the pain while it healed was keeping her awake.
She must’ve glanced at the morphine pump, because Richard murmured, “Does it bother you?”
Lana chuckled. “I don’t like the whole idea of morphine. Especially how doped-up I felt coming out of surgery. But I doubt I can avoid pain meds entirely.”
“Stick with the morphine for now,” Richard advised. “It’ll help you sleep. Tomorrow they can switch you to something a little less potent. But for tonight, I just want to see this go away.” He ran his thumb gently over the worry-line between her eyebrows, and Lana smiled. “There, just like that.”
“You’re a better pain reliever than any drug,” she told him, and Richard gave her a ghost of his usual insouciant grin.
But she decided to take his advice, for the moment. One hesitant press of the button beside her bed, and oblivion started to flow into her veins. Lana closed her eyes and felt the pain recede – it still hurt, but it seemed to be happening to someone else far away. That was much more manageable, and she still felt fairly clearheaded.
“We’re not giving up,” Lana said after a few minutes. Richard, who had been beginning to doze, sat up to look at her. “I won’t let him scare me away. This,” she explained, raising her bandaged hand for emphasis, “just means we have to stop Luthor before he can go after anyone else.”
“You amaze me,” Richard said softly. “When I first saw you ten years ago, you were the nicest person I’d ever met. The best person, in a lot of ways. And then you turned around and threw yourself into the search for someone else’s kids.”
“It was the right thing to do,” Lana replied.
“Yeah, but most people wouldn’t have had the guts to do it,” Richard said. “Now here you are, the same crazy bastard tried to kill you this time, and all you can think about is stopping him from hurting anyone else. Anyone else would either be scared to death or out for personal revenge. Are you secretly some kind of saint or something?”
Lana smiled and stroked his cheek. “Oh, I’m scared, all right,” she responded. “But I can’t let that stop me. You need me, Lois and Clark need us, and Kala needs all of us. Luthor can’t win this time. Not if there’s anything we can do to stop him.”
“I love you so much,” Richard sighed, and kissed her knuckles. “Sleep now. Tomorrow we’ll get started on bringing the fight to Luthor.”
As it turned out, Clark walked into his own apartment just after the police walked out, causing more than a little worry. “Lois?” he called softly as he shut the door behind him. “What did I miss?”
“Shhh,” Lois whispered immediately, appearing by his side with a finger to her lips. “Elise is here – she’s home alone, so I let her stay. Safety in numbers.” Stepping into the circle of his arms, she leaned up to place her lips against his ear and barely breathed the words, “Maggie thinks the apartment is bugged, so watch what you say. Her men are going to take care of it in the morning, but there wasn’t time tonight.”
Blue eyes stormy, Clark tensed in anger, but forced himself to relax. If Luthor was listening to everything they said, he couldn’t let the megalomaniac know that they knew about the bugs. “That’s just what we need,” he growled, thinking, Luthor, I was raised not to hate my fellow man, but you are seriously pushing the limits of my tolerance. This was not something he could deal with at the moment, so he sighed against Lois’ hair and asked again, “So what happened?”
“Long story short, our son was dating the enemy,” Lois said dryly. Clark couldn’t hold back a gasp, and she continued just as grimly, “Giselle was a spy, planted by Luthor, and she was sent here today to kill Jason. Probably Kristin, too.” The bitterness in her voice made Clark hold her tighter, even as he felt acid rise in the back of his throat. How many times had Giselle been in the house? How many times had she been left alone with the twins?
Clark knew he couldn’t cry out, couldn’t let Luthor’s listening devices know just how much that rocked him. To have had one of his greatest enemies’ tools under this roof, pretending to be his son’s girlfriend, galled him. Thank God he could at least trust Lois … and perhaps Jason had learned a valuable lesson in all of this. That was the only way he could think about it without wanting to scream and tear his hair out in complete frustration.
Finally, Clark murmured, “I never liked her, but I wouldn’t have guessed she was working for Luthor. How did you find out?”
“I recognized the woman who tried to kill Lana as someone who’d dropped Giselle off a couple times,” Lois replied with a deadly-calm air. “Maggie and I raced over here, but Jason had the situation under control.” She paused before adding, “He’s kind of worried about it, actually. You should talk to him. He thinks he didn’t do well, but the simple fact is, he took her down without anyone getting hurt.”
“That’s all that matters,” Clark replied before veering off into a guilt trip. “I can’t believe I missed that. I should’ve been listening more closely. I was so busy making sure Lana was okay, when the real threat was here…”
Stop it right now, hero. I see what you’re doing and we’re not doing this tonight.” Lois’ voice was sharp now, her gaze stony, and she caught his chin. “Everyone’s okay. Lana’s in the hospital and safe, Giselle didn’t manage to hurt anyone, Jason didn’t really hurt her, Kristin’s only a little shaken up, and Maggie and I didn’t shoot the little bitch and cause more paperwork.”
“I still should have been here,” Clark insisted. “And Kala…”
The mention of their still-missing daughter only seemed to make Lois angrier. It took of all the strength in that small body not to yell. “Goddammit, Kal-El, you’re not God. I’ve been telling you this for years. You can’t watch all of us all the time. The important thing is, we’re all alive and relatively whole. And we will find Kala and we’re going to do it soon. He wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t on the right trail. And this is exactly what he wants you to do. So stop it.”
Without another word, Clark was hugging her close. He still felt responsible – he could’ve stopped Giselle so easily, if only he’d been listening – but Lois was right. For the moment, everyone was okay.
Except Kala. They had no way of knowing if she was all right.
That thought drained his last reserves of optimism and perseverance. Dropping his head onto Lois’ shoulder, he murmured, “I just want to go to sleep.”
“Sounds like a plan to me, hero,” Lois replied softly, stroking his hair. “Just don’t roll over and squash the Dormouse, okay?”
“I think I can manage that,” Clark told her, and they both headed for the bedroom. Jason was already in bed, Bagel snuggled up beside him, and a quick check of Kala’s room revealed Elise still awake but drifting off. Kristin was still zonked out in their bed, so there would be no comforting tonight, other than the simple comfort of having Lois in his arms. Clark was too exhausted to do more than hold her, anyway, and judging by the look of her, Lois felt the same. This had certainly been the longest two days of his life.
The lights off, both of them under the covers, Kristin burrowed between them, and Lois whispered against his shoulder, “I’m too tired now, but there’s something I need to talk to you about in the morning.”
“In the morning,” Clark repeated gratefully, glad he wouldn’t have to worry about anything else tonight.
But to Clark’s dismay, sleep wasn’t forthcoming. He lay exhausted but awake, staring through the ceiling at the sky as the stars slowly wheeled through their ageless dance. After an hour, he gently stroked Lois’ shoulder, but the rhythm of her breathing didn’t change. Even when Clark nuzzled her cheek, she stayed fast asleep, curled against his shoulder, her arm around Kristin. Her eyes were tightly closed, and this was not the relaxed sleep of contentment. Instead, Lois slept as if she were trying to escape the waking world. Which Clark supposed was reasonable.
Now if only he could find the same respite. But if sleep had deserted him for the evening, there was no point in lying here. Clark got up, careful not to disturb Lois or Kristin even though he suspected nothing short of explosives could wake them. Getting dressed in his uniform, Clark slipped out of the apartment and took to skies.
If he could find no rest this night, at least he could soak up some sunlight to recharge himself, and continue the search. After all, he could do without sleep, but Lois had to rest.