And Clois and Richana fans? You can pull out the champagne now, but make sure not to start celebrating until next week.
The time of change is upon us, ladies and Brian! :D And it make me a very happy girl!
Lois clawed her way up from sleep stubbornly, ignoring the heaviness in her limbs and the gentle insistence in the back of her mind that it would be so much easier just to lie here… The reporter forced her eyes open and tried to sit up, but her head felt fuzzy. She yawned, and immediately shuddered; her mouth was dry and tasted awful. What the hell was I doing last night? Lois wondered, but her mind was blank. Thinking felt weird … furry somehow. Like her tongue.
Gagging at the thought, she quickly climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Lois splashed her face with cold water, rinsed her mouth, even drank straight from the tap. She took twice as long to brush her teeth, even scrubbing her tongue to get rid of the last foul taste of whatever she’d been drinking. Now she felt somewhat refreshed, and took a shower, letting the hot water pound on her skin and restore her a little more. It had been years since she had been able to imbibe the way she had in the old days, but those were instincts you never forgot, especially for a military brat.
Her mind was still rather hazy, but at least she felt better. As soon as I find out what I was drinking last night, I’m swearing it off forever. That would have to wait for her thought processes to start functioning a little better, though. As it was, Lois couldn’t seem to remember much of anything.
Force of habit took her downstairs and past the study to the kitchen. She could hear Richard talking on the phone, his voice muffled by the closed door. Odd, for him to be up and on the phone this early on a Saturday … was it Saturday? Usually the kids were up by now, concocting some culinary horror for breakfast. Maybe they were already watching cartoons. Lois went into the living room, but they weren’t there, either. Strange.
Slowly, she turned around. The house was awfully quiet. A deep sense of unease was working its way past her hangover. Lois methodically went through each room downstairs, excepting only Richard’s study. He was still on the phone, and they couldn’t be in there with him – Jason and Kala just couldn’t keep quiet while a phone call was in progress.
Upstairs, the eerie silence continued. She stopped outside the twins’ bedroom, locked in place by a disquieting feeling of loss. It was as if, by opening the door, she would cause something irrevocable to happen. Lois felt certain the kids were just sleeping in, but the gooseflesh prickling along her arms seemed to tell her that if she opened the door to check, they would somehow vanish.
That was absurd. Lois shook herself and turned the doorknob stepping in. Her gaze landed on Jason’s empty bed.
The memory of sitting there last night, tears running down her cheeks as she fed the godforsaken lizard, returned with all the force of a hurricane. Lois staggered, her hand flailing to catch the edge of the bed, and she fell against it instead of to the floor.
Sudden remembrance blew apart the haze in her mind, letting in all the terrible details of yesterday. The Vanderworth estate, her car, Luthor, the twins … the twins. He had them. Realization dawned horribly bright on her.
In the conference room at the Daily Planet, the rest of the team listened carefully as Richard murmured into the phone, “No, she’s still out, I think I’ll let her sleep as long as she can.”
“Sound decision,” Perry replied. Lana, Clark, and Jimmy all nodded; Lois had been running on nerves and rage. Best to let her get what rest she could. “You sure she’s okay, though?”
Richard laughed ironically. “Oh, yeah. Our friend in the cape dropped by last night. Apparently he can hear her heartbeat from anywhere and wondered why it was so slow. He said she was all right, I didn’t… Oh, shit.”
They were left listening to the phone thump against the desk, and in the background, a rising howl of anguish, terror, and rage.
Lana’s hand covered her mouth, and tears glistened in her eyes. That didn’t sound like a woman, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist. It sounded like a wounded bear, like a wolf whose pups were taken from her… My God. Oh, my God, how can such a thing happen?
Jimmy looked away while the scream rose, wavered, and broke off. Presumably Richard had gone to her, but there would be no comforting Lois, not until they had the twins safely back. The best he could hope for was her fighting spirit to rise, the anger to overcome the despair. In the meantime, his chest felt tight with sympathetic pain.
Even Perry had to blink rapidly, forcing back tears. He more than anyone else knew how strong Lois was, how terrible this must be to make her cry out like that. A sound like that shouldn’t come from any living creature – it seemed a portent of death. Only a handful of times in all the years he’d known her had Lois even wept – to hear that long, agonized wail rising from her throat made him wish he could bear this and not her. Even if it killed him.
Brutus brought the twins’ breakfast and let Tala out. Jason and Kala looked up at him blearily, their necks still stiff from sleeping on the floor. “Hi, kids,” he said warmly, setting down the tray. “Did you see any big fish last night?”
Kala met his eyes, her hazel gaze sharp. “You came in while we were sleeping,” she said.
“Yup,” Brutus replied affably. On the inside, he applauded her. This one had rare maturity and insight. “I let Tala in for ya. She needed the company.”
“How come she doesn’t sleep in Miss Katherine’s room?” Jason said with a frown. “Tala’s her dog, right?”
“I wouldn’t want Captain Jack to sleep anywhere but in my room,” Kala added.
“Yeah, Tala belongs to Katherine,” Brutus told them. Then he let his mouth droop into a slight frown. “She can’t stay with her at nights, though.”
“Why not?” both twins asked in unison.
Brutus sighed, looking down as if embarrassed. “Well … Luthor doesn’t like her much. He’s mean to the little dog – it’s best if Tala sleeps somewhere else.”
Both twins were scowling now. “Why’d Mr. Luthor be goin’ in Miss Katherine’s room, anyway?” Jason asked.
“She didn’t say?” Brutus asked. When they shook their heads, he pursed his mouth, pausing for a long moment. The kids waited for him to decide to tell them whatever it was, both of them antsy at the thought of a secret. Finally, the big man gave another heavy sigh. “Well, I don’t know if you guys will really understand, but Katherine is Mr. Luthor’s girlfriend.”
Cocking her head to the side, Kala figured it out first. Her face showed shock and disgust as she said, “You mean … Miss Katherine is Mr. Luthor’s girlfriend? Like grown-up girlfriend?”
“Like Mommy and Daddy?” Jason’s nose wrinkled in horror, his expression mimicking Kala’s.
“That’s gross,” Kala added. “Ewww!”
“But he’s the bad guy!” Jason complained. “Nobody ever wants t’ be the bad guy’s girlfriend!”
“Miss Katherine can’t be his girlfriend,” Kala added. “She’s nice, and he’s mean.”
Brutus merely shrugged. “I don’t understand it either. But that’s the way it is.”
The twins just shook their heads, still in denial. Jason voiced both of their opinions when he said, “But we like Miss Katherine.”
“Kinda.” Kala’s sharp eyes were on Brutus again, and he forced himself to look merely puzzled.
Lois hated being merely a passenger. Especially now. With her breakdown firmly behind her – never mind the tremor in her hands or the shiver in her soul – she wanted to be doing something. Sitting here while Richard drove them both to the office, where the others were already assembled and gathering more information, was nearly unbearable.
She darted a look at him, caught by conflicting emotions. On the one hand, Lois wanted to knock him senseless for daring to drug her – that was the only explanation for how quickly she fell asleep last night, and how groggy she’d been this morning. On the other hand, she would never have gotten any rest if he hadn’t done it, and Lois knew that Richard had her best interests at heart. What a Hallmark moment. ‘A man who cares enough to slip you a Mickey.’ My God.
Richard sensed the look, and glanced at her. “You okay, Lois?”
“Fine,” she replied, deciding not to call him on the doctored drink. However, that didn’t prevent her from poking at him about it. Yawning theatrically, she added, “Still a little hazy. You must’ve put the good Scotch in my drink last night.”
He avoided her eyes then. “You needed the sleep. I didn’t want you up all night, pacing and worrying. We’ve got a lot to do today.”
“Mm-hmm,” Lois replied, stifling another yawn, this one genuine. “Did you get any sleep?”
Just an instant’s hesitation, then Richard said, “Only after I borrowed one of your sleeping pills. You’re almost out of them, just so you know.”
Lois made a noncommittal noise, staring out the window, and thought, They aren’t as good or as fast, but I can always use Tylenol PM. Those usually help me fall asleep.
By then they were approaching the office, and Lois steeled herself. She couldn’t let her demeanor show the others how close she’d come to utterly breaking down this morning. She had no idea that they had heard that awful cry, and no one would let her find out, either.
Although the way they all looked up concernedly when she stepped into the conference room was a little suspicious. It might’ve just been the fact that she was dressed casually – jeans and a blouse instead of her usual suits. Perry was the first to speak, and his gruff tone sounded like everything was normal. “Well, now that you’ve had your beauty rest, Lane, we can get to work.”
Lois just rolled her eyes as she dropped into a chair, stifling a yawn along with the urge to flip him off. “So bring me up to date, old man.”
Perry glared, but she saw a hint of a relieved smile on his face. “All right, this is what’s happened so far. First of all, your mother called yesterday, and I told her what’s going on. She and Ron are keeping it a secret from Lucy – she’s too far along to upset with news like this. But your sister’s pretty pissed at you for missing Nora’s birthday party.”
“Let her be mad,” Lois said. “It’s better than telling her what happened. Okay, what else?”
“Well, it turns out we’ve got two things for you to check out. First, that Karla Smith-Bennett is in private practice, but she does a helluva lot of work pro-bono. Usually on behalf of kids.” Perry raised a grizzled brow.
“Sounds like someone’s got a guilty conscience,” Lois said, her hazel eyes glittering. “One of us should drop by her office in person and see what she knows.”
Perry nodded agreement. “Next up is the phone company. That one has to be in person, too. Lois, I think you ought to go with
Lois agreed. “So that leaves Richard and Lana to talk to Ms. Bennett. What about you, Perry? Find anything else in the archives?”
Now the editor-in-chief looked disgruntled. “Olsen’s run up a couple possibilities, but nothing concrete. I got a call from that girl at the Daily Star, Raines. Apparently Sawyer tipped off the competition, and Raines is going over their background information to see if they have anything we don’t. It’s gonna take longer because she has to do it herself – obviously we don’t trust just anyone over there. Not even sure if I trust Raines, but the lieutenant does, so I have to bow to her judgment.”
“All right,” Lois said. “Let’s get going.”
“Be careful,” Lex said unnecessarily, and Stanford bit his lip yet again. As if I didn’t know that one drop of seawater on this thing will start it growing. He carefully fitted the kryptonite cylinder, with one of the large crystals from the Fortress inside, into a steel sleeve. Trying to ignore Riley filming and Lex looming, the mineralogist screwed the sleeve together tightly. It was almost watertight – simulations showed that it would take about half an hour for enough seawater to reach the main crystal to make it expand and burst the sleeve. That gave them time to get away.
Not enough time, in Lex’s opinion. The resulting EMP would knock out every electrical system on the yacht, and Lex would take no chances of their computer simulations being wrong about the speed of crystal growth. He insisted on being well out of range, so Stanford had chosen the simplest delay method possible.
A life raft, spray-painted dark blue just in case someone happened to see it, was lying on the deck nearby. At first Lex wanted to fire the crystal with a missile launcher, but the stress of hitting the water at such speeds might have caused the seams to widen, letting in water faster and causing the crystal to expand prematurely. Stanford punched a few tiny holes in the life raft, enough to let the air out very slowly, and placed the canister inside. Grant and Brutus lowered it – “Gently!” Lex cautioned – and they watched the unassuming device bob away on the waves.
“Not exactly the historic moment I envisioned,” Luthor muttered. “It lacks the panache of a missile launch.”
Only Stanford dared contradict him. “Safety or panache, Mr. Luthor? I’ll admit, the missile launch might’ve gone fine. But if one seam of that sleeve cracked early, we might’ve foundered this ship.”
Lex’s dark eyes cut to him, and the boss gave one of his rare smiles. “True. Not that I don’t intend to spend a lot of time on my island, but I’d prefer to keep this mobile base as long as I can. Gentlemen, you’re dismissed. Grant, bring us around south by southwest.”
The others looked bored as they headed downstairs. Only Kitty, clutching her dog, remained on deck with Lex and Stanford. She looked troubled, and Stanford spared her a pitying look as he passed her. Poor girl had no idea what she was getting into on this ride, he thought. But considering the fates of others was counterproductive on this trip. All Stanford wanted to do was get back to the desert lab and his experiments there.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, I really can’t…” The customer service representative trailed off as Lois pulled out her wallet and held it open so the photos were right in her face.
“Now look at this picture.” Lois held up the cell phone with that damned text message on the screen, and saw the woman’s eyes widen. The wallet photo was recent, and the grainy phone picture was obviously of the same two kids. “Pay particular attention to the end of the message,” Lois added dryly, controlling her temper.
Ms. MacKenzie’s mouth slowly opened in dawning horror. “But … no one would…”
“Ma’am, we’re reporters,”
Lois swallowed hard. That wasn’t a reminder she needed at the moment. All she said was, “You can see why I won’t involve the police or the military in this, then.”
Ms. MacKenzie nodded. “I’ll run that trace for you now,
“Thank you,” Lois said with sincere relief. “We’ll wait.”
“Son? I haven’t heard from you in a few days, other than the news. Is everything okay?”
“What?” Martha exclaimed. “That lowdown, no-good cowardly son of a… Oh,
“He nabbed them after school. Lois and I – and Richard and Perry and Jimmy and Lana, of all people – are trying to track him down. We can’t let the police or the military in on it.” He didn’t have to tell her why, and lowered his voice even further to add, “Lois isn’t taking it very well. I really hope I find him before she does – Ma, she’d shoot him. In a heartbeat.”
Martha huffed. “That’s normal,
“Has she said anything about what we talked about last time?”
“No,” he replied. “But, well, I’m starting to think it’s a strong possibility.”
“Hmm,” Martha mused. “And you said you’re all working on it? Even Lana?”
“Because of you?”
Now that was a question he really couldn’t answer with Lois anywhere nearby. “No … it’s complicated. But it’s not about me.”
Martha heard the hesitation, and sighed. “Son, I know you have to be busy. And she must be listening to you, too. Call me when you can, please. I’ll be praying for you.”
“I love you, too. Please take care of yourself, Clark. I know you’ll find them.”
He had no reply to that, and hung up with a soft “Goodbye.”
Lois was still waiting for Ms. MacKenzie, and she pounced on
“My mother’s praying for us,” he replied.
Lois started to say something sarcastic, then halted. “Tell her I said thank you next time you talk to her. We need all the help we can get, including divine.”