No. This can’t be happening. Lois’ mind refused to accept the obvious, her hands still reaching for the lip of the window as she spun away from it, the thug’s cruel grin mocking her. Shattered glass caught the fading sunlight around her as she fell, her mind stubbornly insisting that this couldn’t be possible, no way, the fearless reporter (and mother, which had even more bearing) was not going to die so simply. She didn’t even know the man who had pushed her; the interview that had brought her here had seemed totally legit, but an empty office and a nameless hitman had met her. It had been so easy for him; she hadn’t even had time to get worried, just “Good evening, Miss Lane,” and wham, through the window she went. There had hardly been enough time to react.
The speed of her fall made the wind whip her hair into her eyes. No, no, this can’t be. I will not die like this! It’s humiliating! I survived plane crashes, the shuttle launch fiasco, alien invaders, to die like THIS?! No! I refuse!
But what, exactly, could she do about it? Lois closed her eyes, trying futilely to brace her body against the impact that she knew would be fatal. Images of Jason flashed through her mind, the last she’d likely see of him…
Damn, I could really use some help –
The decorative elms along Coates Avenue swayed abruptly, and pedestrians looked up amazed as the blue and red streak passed above them. Glass windows shuddered at the force of his passing, but he sought still more speed. These days, his hearing was always tuned to her voice; no matter where he was, he could hear her if she simply spoke up. And the brief cry of surprised anger was enough to send him rocketing toward its source.
There; Lois was tumbling out of control straight toward the pavement. One extra burst of speed, and he caught her. Thank God.
Lois gasped with surprise, her deadly fall suddenly became a heavenward soar. Her hazel eyes opened wide, looking into that face she knew so well, her arms immediately locking around his neck. The blue gaze that haunted her dreams was concerned as he carried her above the clouds. “Are you okay, Lois?”
“Y-yes,” she stammered, still in utter disbelief, and then got hold of herself. It wouldn’t do to let him see, even now, how much he affected her. “Yeah, sure, I’m fine. Just testing your reaction time.”
He glanced at her ironically, but didn’t take his eyes off the sky for more than an instant. One near-miss with an owl had been enough for them. “Right. What is it with you and falling from things?”
“Well, they don’t call it the LAW of gravity for nothing. Besides, everyone needs a hobby.”
“Who or what were you investigating this time, and how did it get you thrown off a roof?”
“Out a window, actually. Perfectly nice, perfectly normal interview with Mr. Jamesworth; he’s building a new park downtown specifically for underprivileged kids. I’ve covered him before, and I thought I’d take a vacation from trespassing on career criminals’ yachts.” She paused for a moment, frowning to herself before adding, “It might not even have been his receptionist who called me. She sounded professional, but…”
“Wonderful, so someone’s trying to kill you,” he commented. This was precisely why they had broken it off before – people always tried to get to him through her.
He didn’t even have to say it, she sensed his train of thought. “In case you missed it, people are ALWAYS trying to kill me. I’m an investigative reporter, it’s part of the job. I was getting death threats long before you showed up, so don’t get that ‘woe is me, I’ve ruined her perfect life’ look, you hear me? Not everything is about you.”
Superman couldn’t help but chuckle. Oh, how could he not love this woman?
“Besides, I managed to save my own skin plenty of times,” she continued, and he burst into amused laughter.
“Just how were you going to escape that one, Miss Lane?” he asked, cradling her a little closer as he slowed his flight. They were well above the reach of any weapon likely to be possessed by an assassin, and out of the flight paths around Metropolis International Airport.
A trace of worry flickered across her features then. She had been avoiding him as much as she could bear ever since that moment at the hospital, since Richard’s walking-away. And this was the kind of temptation she didn’t need. “I know a wonderful escape strategy involving dental floss and some chewing gum, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time… Well, okay, so you have your uses.”
She was standing, encircled in his arms, miles above the ground, and he looked into her eyes, worry and love and admiration blending in his countenance. “Is my favorite intrepid reporter admitting that she does need a savior – every now and then?”
“Favorite? Really?” Despite the way her heart was tripping, how hard it suddenly felt to breathe, she forced herself to keep her tone light, faintly mocking. It was complete idiocy to start this up again, especially with Richard’s words echoing in her mind. Especially with Jason to consider. If only he hadn’t been right… “Are you admitting you might actually feel something for me?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
Those hazel eyes were pained then, and she was unable to help her reaction to these words. This was when everything fell apart, even in her foolish dreams. The reality of the things that had come before. Trying once again for her usual acerbic tone, she managed, “I don’t know for sure anymore. It was at one time. It was good thing it came back to me, huh? How could it have meant so much if you could just erase it?”
“Lois … I’m sorry. I thought I was doing what was best for you – I couldn’t stand to see you crying. I thought … I thought we could never be together, and the memory was only hurting you. It doesn’t matter if I’m the one hurting; I knew almost all my life that I was different, that my life would be different. I thought I could spare you the pain … and I thought I could learn to live without you.” They were still spiraling slowly upward, only inches apart, their arms around each other in spite of the painful words they had to say. He looked down, turning his head away slightly. “I was wrong, Lois.”
Even with that slightest flame of anger and hurt still bright, the uncertainty as close as the clouds, his expression was breaking down the last walls between them. Lois remembered now her guilt and longing, both poisoning the happiness that had been so strong in her in that fleeting time. He had been right; it had been so hard to deal with all of the fallout. The realization of being in the way of his mission, of the petty jealousies that came with sharing him at any hour of the day, of their goodbye the night before that spoke of such finality, of knowing she had to keep his secrets just that, had been too much for her.
She had cried that morning, had told him all of her little insecurities before she had even really looked at them herself in the strong light of day. What he presumed had been a plea for blissful ignorance had been only a desperate cry for confirmation, to know that it had all been real, that he had truly loved her. That it hadn’t been a mistake. That his father’s words hadn’t haunted him enough to make him abandon her. Could he really have not known better?
The way he couldn’t look at her tore at her heart, the tone of his voice nearly driving her to tears. Although Lois was very nearly frightened of what she may see in them, one slim hand reached out to catch his chin and lock eyes with him once again. Softly, her mixed emotions clear in her husky voice, she murmured in nearly a whisper, “Wrong about what? Erasing the memories or living without me? And what makes things so different now? Why now, after your father’s pronouncement? Does it even matter how we feel?”
“My father wanted me to be a savior,” he said quietly. “I was raised just to be a man – a good man, one with a duty to help people, but just a man with some special skills after all. I wasn’t raised on Krypton, I was raised by humans, I think like a human, I want what every man wants. For you, I wanted to be simply human. But that isn’t fair to either of us.” Now Superman met her eyes earnestly, trying to find the perfect words to explain. “If this is going to work – if we’re going to try to be together – I can’t give up my job any more than you can yours. I’m so frightened for you, Lois, when you go running after terrorists or rattling Luthor’s chain, but I can’t ask you to stop, to be something you’re not.” He even laughed a little. “The woman I love is the brightest, boldest woman on Earth, and I love you just the way you are, even when you drive me crazy. I think it’s the same for you – I think I overreacted all those years ago. It won’t be easy, for either of us, but I can’t live without you, Lois. I only hope you still feel the same.”
She could only gaze up at him in surprise, not really knowing what she had expected yet amazed by his words. It was the most sincere she could ever remember him being. The ache in her chest grew all the stronger now; her eyes closed then as if to hold them to her as she leaned her temple against his then. Her eyes stung with tears behind the closed lids. It couldn’t be real. None of this could be real. Yet she had felt this overwhelmed with emotion only once when it had not been with him. And that was when she had first known of Jason growing inside her. That thought made Lois clutch him tightly then. Making her mind up in that moment, that dark head came up again then, pale face tear-streaked and her expression hauntingly familiar as she leaned in close. “Would serve you right if I didn’t,” she tried to taunt, then turned sincere. “I’ve never had another choice, you know that. I wanted to love Richard, tried to love him as much as I loved you. Told myself that I did. But … I never realized how much I was hurting him with far-away looks, how I had liked most the parts of him that reminded me of you. And to look at Jason … to look in his eyes and know to the bottom of my heart who they belonged to…” They were only inches apart now, those hazel eyes stormy with emotion as they had been several years before. “And how he came about… Remember, I was the one who told you I was in love with you. Why did you ever doubt?”
“After what I did to you, leaving you here… I didn’t even know about Jason, didn’t know it was even possible. When you realized … I wouldn’t be surprised if you hated me. Lois, part of the reason I left was that I couldn’t bear to be around you and not be with you. I thought it would destroy us both if we tried to be together.” He smiled, a hint of humor in it at last. “After the last few months, though… If I can pick up a continent, I should be able to hold up my half of a relationship, right?”
Lois’ heart felt as though it would sweetly break then, a smile of her own forming. Again, there was that frightening and fleeting thought that she was asleep and dreaming this. He had come back to her, had honestly worried that she had wouldn’t want him. She had done her job a bit too well, it seemed. Leaning closer even then, her head tilted slightly to look him right in the eyes, knowing what she was about to do when she murmured, “Only if you realize that me and Jason are a package deal. You can’t have the one without keeping the other. After eight hours of labor on my part, he’s most definitely a keeper.”
In spite of the teasing tone, he looked affronted. “He is our son, Lois! I’d never dream of…”
His words were stopped by her lips, quickly lifted to his own. Superman pulled her even closer, the softness of her skin was heaven, and kissed her back with equal passion. Time seemed to stop for them, lost in each other once more.
Until Superman suddenly pulled away and dropped Lois.
Too surprised to scream, she stared up at the DC-9 soaring through the space she had occupied moments ago even as she began to plummet. Oh, wonderful, I almost got creamed by a jet! And now I’m falling again. How many times has this been now? At this rate, I should just get used to freefall. Where the hell IS he?
Superman, buffeted by the jet’s slipstream, got his flight under control and zoomed down toward Lois. He caught her again just as she drew in a deep breath to scream, and it came out in an undignified startled sound. “We have got to stop meeting like this,” he joked.
For a moment, her hazel eyes were impossible to read. Memories of times past made her tighten her arms around his neck to near-stranglehold, while the sheer indignation of having been dropped made her want to scream at him. Lois stared at him with an undecipherable expression, then sighed in aggravation. “Pull a stunt like that again, and we may not! Sometimes, I wish I could just hit you without breaking my hand.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle at her. “Sorry, Miss Lane. I hope you don’t decide to stop flying with me.”
She was speechless for the moment, eyes narrowed. As much as she enjoyed amusing him with her rapid-fire retorts at times, this was beginning to get out of hand. It was about time to remind this man that witty repartee wasn’t the only reason they had come together in the first place. Tossing her dark head back rather haughtily as she leaned into him again, Lois again eyed him archly before replying, “With your flight record, I’d be safer on that 777. I mean, it only managed to nearly lose me once. You, on the other hand, seem to have a problem securing my safety. In the air and otherwise. Maybe I’d be safer on another form for air travel … maybe even another hero to help me with that… I do seem to attract the type.”