Can I just say that this chapter is one of my personal favorites and was the entire time it was being written? *hugs chappie* I hope this week's installment takes you on the same rollercoaster of emotion that it did me. And, BTW, I do know that I spelled the chapter title the wrong way. Traditionally it's spelled 'Lacrimosa' and I believe it's one of the movements in Mozart's 'Requiem for the Fallen' funeral mass, but in this case we were channeling Evanescence. ;) In either case it fits.
Love you guys and read on!
The air up on the roof was bitingly cold, and Lois pulled her jacket collar up, her breath frosting on the wind. Her mind was still spinning from all that had occurred in the past hour. Had it really been an hour? Amazing how your entire world could change in so short a time. If she thought about it much longer, she’d go insane just from being so helpless. Again, she raged at having been held back. She had to go to them…
Dammit. Why does everyone think I have some special way to contact Superman? I don’t. I never did, not even before. It’s not like we had some kind of signal. He’s just always there when I needed him– half the time because
Rubbing her tense forehead, she closed her eyes and sighed heavily. At least I managed to convince Richard not to come with me, which was a minor miracle. That hadn’t been easy – he didn’t want her out of his sight. But she’d told him she would probably have to fly to the Vanderworth estate with Superman, maybe further afield, and it was difficult to carry more than one safely at his speed. Richard had reluctantly backed down. That’s one confrontation I really can’t handle right now. I’ll deal with everything, every last lie and misdirection, every mixed emotion – but once we have the twins home. There are more important things now than this little love triangle.
Now Lois shivered, eyeing the cloudy horizon balefully, and waited on Kal-El to arrive. There were excuses to be made, an alibi to set up on his part. It would take a few minutes, she knew. He knows something. The look on his face when I said that about the crystal… She bit her lower lip in concentration, trying to puzzle this out. He definitely knows something, and I’m going to get it from him. I know it has something to do with us, with the past. Luthor has to know about the twins, he was gloating too much for him not to. I’ve seen that kind of crystal before. And at this point, we need to be through with hiding from each other…
“Lois.” That one word nearly froze her heart. She whirled, biting back sharp words. Talk about a heart attack. He’s always so bloody quiet… Kal-El landed and walked toward her, the brightest object in that gray November day. Why was it that she had always seen him as ‘hope’ on days like this? Silly, girlish, but undeniably true. “Let me see that crystal, please. I have a very bad feeling about this.”
“You’re not the only one,” Lois muttered, bringing the envelope out of her purse. Her hands felt almost numb with cold, having left her gloves in the car, and she fumbled it. The eager wind nearly snatched it away…
Kal-El caught the light envelope, and Lois’ hands, cupping them between his. The warmth of his skin flooded into her, and she closed her eyes briefly. It was only a moment, but one she needed badly. It seemed to soothe her again, in a way little else had.
Too soon, he had to let her go, examining the envelope carefully. The slight frown of concentration told Lois that he was seeing its contents as well. “Oh, no,” Kal-El said softly. “Just what I was worried about.”
“What is it?” Lois asked him, one brow arched, her curiosity clear. “What are you seeing?”
“I need to go,” he said, his voice distracted, but she caught his arm before he even turned to leave.
“No way, you’re not leaving me out of this,” Lois said sharply, squeezing his forearm. Her gaze nearly nailed him in place. “This involves Kala and Jason. Wherever you’re going, whatever it is, I’m going with you.”
“If it has to do with the twins or Luthor or both, and I can see in your face that it does, you’re taking me. Or I’ll try to find out for myself.” Her tone brooked no opposition, eyes stormy as the cold front closing in on them.
Kal-El stalled for a moment longer, then sighed. “Okay, fine. Come here.”
Now it was Lois’ turn to hesitate. God, what have you done now? Idiot, there’s a reason you didn’t fly with him last time. This was a brilliant idea, Lane. But she wanted to know, had to know, so she stepped forward, letting him take hold of her waist gingerly. To cover her nervousness, she asked even though she had a sneaking suspicion, “Where exactly are we going?”
“The Fortress,” he said, and his voice was a tiny bit strained. Having her in his arms again was no easier for him than for her. Kal-El rose into the air gently, and hid his own discomfort with words as well. “That crystal … it’s of Kryptonian origin,” he said, not meeting her eyes. “I thought the damage to the Vanderworth basement looked familiar somehow, but I just couldn’t place the resemblance. It wasn’t an explosion; it was a crystal expansion like the one that created the Fortress.”
She frowned at that. “I knew the shard looked familiar, but I just couldn’t place it.” Well, that somewhat explained the huge amount of damage at Vanderworth, although it did beg a question. “But if that’s the case, it’s not as if you left them lying around. Where the hell did Luthor get one?”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Kal-El replied. “He does know where the Fortress is.” They were moving north now, the deceptively smooth motion belying their speed.
“But the last time he was there, both us were,” she argued, trying not to think too hard on the occasion. There was a reason that event was burned into her mind. And they weren’t happy memories. “He never had the chance to gain access to them, remember? You had gotten there before Luthor and the Zod Squad touched down with me. And then you were the one to take him back … after we…” Lois felt silent then, having trapped her thoughts despite her deliberate avoidance. We can still see each other. All the time. But it…just can’t be… Trying to ignore the pain that knifed through her, she cleared her throat and tried to pretend that there wasn’t a catch in her throat when she continued, “Anyway, you would have known if he had had them on him. So the question is, how did he get them?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “After I used my heat vision on the Fortress, only the rooms below ground were still anything approaching intact, and I had to move a lot of rubble to get in there when I … well, when I built the ship.”
Yes, you left me. I remember, okay? Could we drop it? Please, Kal-El, just rip my heart out all over again. Lois scowled at yet another reminder, and turned her face away from him. Someone remind me how I keep getting myself into this mess? They passed through a large cloud, and only then did Lois realize how fast they were going, and she instinctively flinched toward him, throwing her arms around his neck.
Kal-El stared at her in surprise, his hands on her waist pulling her closer almost unconsciously. Lois’ wide hazel eyes looked up at him from only inches away, and the forbidden thought ran through both their minds at the same instant.
But after a moment, both of them turned away with an effort, Lois biting her lip. Oh, yeah, that’s how. Oh God, we’d better get there soon, she thought, loosening her grip on his neck. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
Everything was progressing as planned, from the moment the hidden interior cameras had captured
The sharp rapping of Kitty’s heels down the spiral staircase, then onto the hardwood floor interrupted the flow of the music and his thoughts. Scowling, Lex stood up, wondering what was wrong with her now.
Kitty didn’t give him the chance to ask. She simply stormed up to him and slapped him as hard as she could, her open palm cracking across his cheek loud as a gunshot. “How dare you bring kids into this? They haven’t done anything to deserve this, Lex! What could you possibly accomplish by kidnapping kids?!”
“Bait,” he replied shortly. “For their mother and their father.”
“Their father? But she didn’t…” Kitty’s eyes suddenly widened. “Oh, my God. Lex … those are Superman’s children. That’s why she left the blank line for the…” Her voice dropped to a horrified whisper. “Oh, my God…
He just nodded, watching the realization hit her. “Besides, Kitty,” Lex said matter-of-factly, “it’s not as if they’re human. Their father is an alien, which everyone on this planet seems to forget just because he’s got blue eyes and a dimpled chin.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Kitty hissed. “They’re children. They’re just sweet, scared kids!”
“So? Even if they were human, there are six billion more where they came from. The world can stand to lose a few,” he said coldly, catching her hand as she swung a second time. “Ah-ah-ah, enough of that.”
“You bastard,” she hissed at him, struggling in his grip. Lex only pulled her closer and grinned. Too late, Kitty remembered that he loved a woman who hated him…
Kal-El was a little disturbed by the sight of it. It had been in a shambles when he last saw it; after losing his powers in the crystal chamber, the console had been damaged and the entire edifice subtly compromised. As he and Lois left, he’d destroyed the surface structure, knowing that the underground holding cells were secure. Zod and his cohorts had been confined there after falling from the upper levels, and Kal-El had locked Luthor in one of them before taking Lois home. He’d returned to carry the villains to the proper authorities, taking two trips to do it, and at that time the only intact section of the Fortress was the sublevel in which he’d later built the ship that carried him to Krypton.
The Fortress now looked more … complete … than he remembered. Unless his eyes deceived him, it had been totally rebuilt. But by whom? It was also utterly dark, and above the
Lois’ eyebrows lifted as well. She stared up at the massive structure before her. The sheer size of it had dazzled her at first sight, the impression one of both palace and the Fortress that it was called. It had seemed quite surreal, impossibly beautiful that night. A place of warmth and light at the icy top of the world. A place perfectly fitting of her impression of him. A place where a miracle had occurred, an utterly impossible miracle. And now those miracles were lost to them. It only seemed right that they would be forced to come back here now, back to the beginning of where the twins had come from.
She’d expected a ruin, her last sight of this place being a mist of ice and crystal shards rising from the leveled ground. Now, it was whole again, though ominous and black. Lois had never seen the Fortress darkened before. The memory of its destruction was clear in her mind. “At least you didn’t leave the lights on,” she joked weakly.
Kal-El guided her inside carefully, the déjà vu not lost on his companion. “They used to come on when I crossed the threshold… I don’t like this. Lois, I didn’t rebuild all this.”
“You’re not alone,” she quipped uneasily as she started looked around, and then the end of his remark penetrated her uneasiness. “Then how…?”
Both of them fell silent, the oppressive atmosphere of the place choking them. To think that they had last stood here embracing defiantly before Luthor after the battle was over … just over there was the spot where Lois had whirled on the de-powered Ursa and decked her, after that horrible moment when she had thought they had both been doomed … the table at which they’d had dinner was through that archway … and up there, beyond that ledge…
Lois felt her cheeks begin to burn even in the cold, remembering, and noticed that his eyes skipped away from the hall leading to that particular room as well. At least she wasn’t the only one uncomfortable here. But when Kal-El deliberately looked away from places so fraught with memory, his eyes landed on the central section, and he gasped.
Hazel eyes widening, Lois’ brow furrowed as she followed him into the central room. The last time she’d seen the console here, it had been blackened and broken by the power flux when Kal-El exposed himself to the red sun’s rays. For love of her and in defiance of his father. Now it was whole again and glittering … but the slots that had held crystals full of encoded information were empty.
Kal-El touched the surface as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. Lois was watching his face, and she stepped back at the expression of wrath that crossed his handsome features. For a long moment, it seemed as if he couldn’t process it, couldn’t cope with the anger more than simply feeling it. Then something in him seemed to break loose. “Luthor, you thieving bastard,” he muttered in a low voice, and brought his fist down sharply on the console.
Lois instinctively jumped back as the blow resounded through the crystal structure, making it chime oddly. Kal-El looked up then, and seemed to remember that he wasn’t alone. “I’m sorry, Lois,” he said, but that slow-burning anger still lurked at the backs of his blue eyes.
Seeing that, how furious he could actually get, made Lois suddenly wonder if keeping the twins’ parentage a secret wasn’t a very unwise decision. Right now, if Luthor was in this room, she wouldn’t bet a nickel on his survival. All it would take would be one blast of laser-like heat from those eyes … those eyes that were now trained on her… Get over it, Lane, he just essentially had his parents stolen from him. And if he suspects as much as I think, he knows we’ve lost more than that. Tell me you wouldn’t do the same. “For what? Kal-El, stop,” Lois said, trying to soothe, “we’ll get them back, right? I mean, we know who has them…” For the first time since that dreadful call, she was entirely focused on something other than her children, and she didn’t realize how closely her words echoed his back at the Planet.
Only Lois could truly understand what he had lost. And in spite of what she had lost, which was so much greater, she was trying to comfort him. Is it any wonder I love this woman so much? There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side on a search like this. But he didn’t voice any of that, only shook his head. “It isn’t just that. To think the Fortress rebuilt itself just in time for a maniac like Luthor to rob it… The knowledge encoded on those crystal is extremely dangerous, Lois. It’s like … imagine if someone had given Genghis Khan nuclear weapons.”
“That’s one hell of an image,” she muttered. “Scary thing is, it doesn’t seem far off.”
“I don’t know, Khan was said to recognize the worth of his followers,” Kal-El said absently, and his gaze at the plundered console was more sorrowful than savage now. Luthor only wants the knowledge, but he has everything that’s left of my birthplace, my parents, my childhood … and he may very well have my children, as well. But this is not the time to ask her…
Lois narrowed her eyes. Oh yes, compare Luthor to Genghis Khan while he has our kids – unfavorably at that. Great. What a way to reassure me. Aloud, she merely said, “Thanks, that’s really what I need to hear right now.”
Chagrined, he stepped away from the console and came to her. “I’m sorry, Lois. There’s this – using the crystals apparently triggers an EMP. That must’ve been what caused the Genesis plane to almost crash. I never knew that because there’s no electrical equipment for miles up here, but it means that wherever Luthor tries to use the crystals, we can find him. And the twins will probably be nearby – he won’t want them out of his sight.” Kal-El took hold of her shoulders gently, his eyes on hers serious. “We will find them, Lois. And this time, Luthor’s not getting out of prison on a technicality.”
“I know,” she sighed, dropping her eyes, her hair falling forward to shield the worried expression on her face. But my faulty memory was what got him out last time. And it’s my fault he has them in the first place. Me and my stupid ‘need to know’. God, they’re just tiny babies yet. Please let Kala not smart off to him. Please don’t let either of them have a panic attack. Please don’t leave them in the dark. She had to fight back tears. “It’s only a matter of time.”
Please be right, Kal-El, please be right.