Lois’ hands clenched on the wheel as she drove back to the airport. She and Richard had wisely decided to part ways after their fantastic argument – he and Lana were taking a cab to the airport and would fly the seaplane back to Metropolis.
Clark and Lois were planning to drop the rented car off, then fly back to Metropolis themselves. During breakfast – most uncomfortable meal ever, Lois thought, remembering the pained silence that had made her stuffed French toast taste like ash – her phone had rung. Ms. Mackenzie had come through for them, in spite of having to dodge her boss repeatedly. And as it turned out, Luthor’s threat had been sent from Metropolis. The docks, to be specific.
That bastard lead us all on a wild goose chase, Lois had snarled after thanking Ms. Mackenzie and hanging up. The island was a false lead.
Either that or he’s talking about the yacht, Lana had replied. It’s big enough to be an island. With that thought, the four had finished up the meal quickly and left the restaurant. Lois smiled a bit at the recollection of Richard’s guilty glance at Lana; her question had rocked him, and though he couldn’t reply coherently, she didn’t need him to. The answer was obvious.
The four of them in a car together was a very bad idea at that point, so Lois had left first and let them wait for a cab. Now Richard and Lana were somewhere behind them, and Lois and Clark would soon be in the air – or more correctly, Lois and Superman. And the silence in the car was almost as tense as the silence at the table had been.
Lois felt her stomach churning, breakfast unsettled by her nerves. Seeking for something, anything, to say to the man beside her, the raven-haired reporter muttered, “Right about now I really wish you could home in on their heartbeats like you can mine.”
Kal-El smiled sadly. “I wish I could, too. But Lois … I worked with you every day for a couple of years. I got to know the rhythm of your heart very well. The twins… I’ve only known them a few months. And I don’t see them as often. I tried, that first day, but I just can’t. I haven’t even managed to lock on to their voices.”
“Luthor probably has them in a sound-proofed room somewhere,” Lois growled, adding a few choices phrases about Lex’s ancestry.
“We’ll find them,” he replied, touching her wrist lightly. Lois glanced at him, and for a moment both of them remembered that he’d accidentally called her honey, remembered why she had allowed it and why she had done as he asked her. Then Lois resolutely turned her eyes back to the road.
Clark sighed. He still couldn’t believe he’d slipped into pet names; it had been his delight, those few hours in the Fortress, to lavish all the endearments he could imagine upon this woman who was his darling, his beloved, his dearest heart. She tended to draw the line at anything resembling sugar or sweetheart – honey was as close as he could get, and he cherished that forbearance.
Jason and Kala weren’t feeling too well. They both had headaches; in fact, everything ached, like that time they had the flu. Kala’s ears were ringing, and Jason was seeing spots in front of his eyes. They both felt simply miserable, and had stayed in bed, not even wanting breakfast.
The door to their stateroom opened stealthily. In the control room, Stanford bit his already ragged cuticles as he watched Lex ease into the room. The bald man moved with exaggerated caution, one hand never leaving his right coat pocket.
Kala lifted her head to look toward the door, and then her bleary eyes suddenly cleared. “Jason,” she hissed urgently, shaking her brother’s shoulder. “Jason, wake up! It’s him.”
Jason’s head felt like it weighed more than the piano – more than ten pianos. He blinked and raised his hand slowly to block out the brighter light from the hall, a low grinding pain suffusing every muscle and joint of his small body. “Go ‘way,” he muttered, but his voice was fretful, not defiant.
Kala’s breath started to whistle in her throat as she realized that whatever illness was overtaking them had affected Jason worse than herself. As terrified as she was – as scared as she had been ever since Brutus covered her mouth with his big hand – she knew that it was her turn to protect her brother now. She wasn’t as strong, but maybe the creepy bald bad guy didn’t know that…
“Leave us alone!” the girl cried out defiantly, but Lex just smiled, trying to be as charming as possible as he sauntered closer.
“Hey, relax,” he said quietly. “I’m not going to hurt you – what would be the point of that, hmm?”
Both twins sat up, watching him warily. “What d’you want?” Kala demanded, her gaze flickering around the room, seeking something to throw.
“I just want to ask you some questions,” Lex replied. His unblinking stare was nearly mesmerizing, his low voice hypnotic. Oh, the little girl looked so much like Lois, that distrustful sullen look he knew so well… “Do you know who I am?”
“You’re a bad man,” Kala replied spitefully. Those hazel eyes watched him with an almost hawk-like intensity unusual for one so young. “And my Mommy doesn’t like you at all.”
Lex chuckled. “Oh, it’s not like that at all. True, she wrote a lot of very mean things about me, back in the day. She made up for that by writing my favorite article ever, ‘Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman’. I really need to thank her for it – that editorial brightened many a dark day.”
The twins looked at him skeptically. They both felt miserable, and this scary man was only making it worse. Even when he tried to be charming, he seemed dangerous. “Liar,” Jason rasped.
“Oh, no,” Lex replied. “Your Mom and I have more in common than she thinks. We just need to talk about some things, like your father. She’s going to be here today, I hope. And then we can all set sail together, like good friends.”
His cheerful tone was utterly wasted on the twins. Kala gave him her best Lane frosty glare, and said threateningly, “If you hurt us or Mommy, my daddy will kick your butt.”
Lex came closer to the bed, and in spite of her bravado, Kala shrunk back as he leaned toward her. Now he chose to drop the act, and his eyes were cold and merciless on those hazel ones so like her mother’s. “He’ll try … I’m counting on it. But I have a surprise for him if he does, little girl. Want to see the present I’m going to give Superman?”
She would’ve said No, if she could’ve spoken, but Kala’s voice had dried up in horror. She shook her head sharply instead, curls flying.
Lex took his hand out of his pocket anyway. The kryptonite shiv glittered prettily as he reached toward Kala with it…
If the drive to the airport had been uncomfortable, the flight from there, his arm around her waist as they skimmed above the waves, was intolerable. They had never been so quiet for so long, at least not this tense and prickly silence. On other flights long ago their stillness had been filled with echoes of warm words of love and adoration. Unspoken for so long, but the weight of them filled those hours in the air nonetheless…
To be silent now seemed cold, especially since last night. The curve of her waist under his hand… Trying to draw her out again, and hoping to think of something other than what might have been, Kal-El said quietly, “I barely know Jason and Kala…”
“You know them well enough to order their dinner,” Lois replied swiftly, eyes firmly on the skyline, knowing he could see her face clearly with her hair tied back.
“Well, Lois, that’s the first thing anybody learns about the twins,” he soothed. “The first thing anyone who meets them hears is what not to let them eat. Sure, I know that, and I know Kala likes to call that lizard Gazeera just to irritate Jason. I know a few things, but I don’t know them.” And given the parts of your argument with Richard that I couldn’t help overhearing, he thought painfully, I feel like I should know them better than I do.
Lois sighed sharply, sliding back an errant curl that had slipped loose behind her ear. This was not easy … she’d meant last night to tell him the full truth today, but after that fight with Richard… God, he’d had to have heard that. She snuck a glance at him, wondering what he thought of everything they had said. Wondering and dreading.
But Kal-El was looking away, perhaps scanning the coast, perhaps too shy to catch her gaze, and Lois was left to wonder. Slowly, she began to speak, working her way backward through the twins’ lives. “Jason loves science,” Lois said softly, with more than a touch of motherly pride. “He’s always asking ‘Why?’ Their teacher gives him extra projects sometimes… Kala could be doing better. They’re only in kindergarten, and she gets bored easily. And when she’s bored she acts up. Loves attention. They can both read already – not War and Peace, but you know, they read better than most kids their age.”
Sighing, Lois closed her eyes. That made it easier to lose herself in memories. Kal-El kept quiet, his silence a well into which her recollections could pour. “When Jason’s interested in something, he has to learn everything about it. He won’t quit until he knows more than most adults. And you can’t fob him off with ‘because I said so’ or ‘that’s the way it is’. He has to know. And with games – Jason won’t stop until he figures out how to play them. Same thing with puzzles. Once he starts one, he’ll finish it, even if it’s one of Richard’s thousand-piece brain-busters. One that was just a picture of a bunch of different beads, it took him three months to get that puzzle done. But he just doesn’t know the meaning of ‘quit’.”
“He’s your son,” Kal-El whispered. His eyes meeting hers were as warm as his body beside her, and for a heartbeat she couldn’t speak. What she wouldn’t give to have had him beside her when these memories were made…
If she started thinking like that, she’d never get around to saying what she’d meant to tell him since last night. Lois bit her lip and glanced down, feeling the wind against her hair as much as she felt the long-harbored secret in her heart. “Yes, well, Kala’s got a lot of me in her, too. Has to be the center of attention, has to stand out from the crowd. One time she climbed an old oak tree behind the school during recess. The fire department had to get her down – she was fifty feet in the air. All because some dumb boy said girls weren’t as good at climbing as boys.” She couldn’t help chuckling. “Scared the hell out of me. One of those ‘Mommy moments’ I never expected to have.”
“You’re an incredible mother,” he told her. The sincerity in his voice made her look up again, and at her surprised expression, he tightened his arm around her slightly. “You are, Lois. Look at all the challenges you’ve had raising the twins. You’ve overcome every one. Not to mention you managed to keep up your career and raise two children.”
“I never expected to be a mom, had never really even considered it at all,” she replied, her voice growing softer as the past seemed to rise up around her. “I’d been in Paris for a while. I was having … flashbacks, I don’t know. Little bits of memories, of Non and Ursa trying to tear me in half. Luthor pointing me out to Zod. Seeing the Fortress collapse. That kind of stuff. I’d been treated in the ‘states, diagnosed with amnesia due to post traumatic stress disorder. I went to this specialist in France…”
Dr. Arnaud seen her in his office, Lois sitting on an overstuffed chair while the doctor took her vital signs and asked about her symptoms. None of the sterile white treatment rooms she was used to in America, just shelves full of books and a discreet cabinet of medical instruments and supplies. This doctor – even in memory Lois loathed to call him a psychiatrist, thanks to Elliot – had wanted to start her on some medication, but first he wanted to do some bloodwork…
“I came back a week later, and the results were in. He told me he was putting me on a couple of things and some vitamin supplements, and I thought that was kind of odd, and then he says, ‘But I cannot start with the major course of medication, Ms. Lane, until after your delivery.’ And I was just nodding along, and then it hit me what he’d said, and like a moron I go, ‘Delivery?’ Of course he looks at me like he’s thinking Stupid American, and he says, ‘Yes, Ms. Lane, these drugs are not safe for the unborn child. We must wait until after you deliver.’ So I stared at him like he’d grown another head.”
In spite of the fear she’d felt then, she chuckled now, and got a smile from Kal-El as well. “So that’s how I found out I was two months pregnant. I’d never guessed – I was always religious about the pill. And I was utterly shocked by the news. I think I used some creative language to express my feelings… Anyway, I figured out who the father was pretty quickly. Didn’t help much, though. I was still alone, in what was pretty much a strange city, and though a part of me was terrified of having these kids – eventually I found out it was twins, which just made me all the more thrilled – anyway, I was scared of becoming a mom, but the biggest part of me wouldn’t let me … do anything … about it. I had a strong feeling that the twins were precious, that I had to protect them and cherish them. It was really weird, because I also felt like I shouldn’t talk about them to anyone…”
For a long moment she fell silent, and Kal-El picked up speed as they passed a busy port, wanting to remain unseen. He was still tuned to her, waiting patiently for her to resume the story, lightly squeezing her side again to let her know he was still listening intently. Lois’ voice was too low for any ears but his when she continued, “I used to stand on the roof and wonder why all of this was happening to me, wonder what the fragments of memories I was getting back meant. Hate myself for ruining my career and my nicely-ordered life with this crazy decision to keep the twins, even though their father was out of my life. I lived across an alley from this club, and they’d play a lot of American music. 70’s and 80’s stuff, mostly, and one night when I was standing there staring up at the sky, they played this old Moody Blues song, In Your Wildest Dreams. And it just seemed to sum up all the sentimental memories, and all the wild hopes I had, and the sadness too. Everything I felt about the whole situation, missing the twins’ father, being alone in Paris, all of it.”
“I started singing it, to myself, to the twins. They loved it; the fact of being pregnant just didn’t feel real somehow, until I started singing it to them one night and they … I guess they were making an attempt at dancing in there, they kicked like I was going to have mules instead of a pair of babies. They still love it – it’s their favorite lullaby. And every time I sing it to them I can’t help remembering how I felt then, how badly I wished you were there, in spite of myself.”
They slipped sideways in the air for a moment, then Kal-El corrected them back to level flight and turned to look at her, those amazing eyes so wide. “Lois?” he asked in a strengthless, pleading voice.
Oh, please, God, Lois thought, but she’d come too far to turn back. Hope flared brightly in her at the sound of his voice, almost as if he really… She’d been alternately hoping for and dreading this moment since he had torn the door off that 777 jet and looked right into her again. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes as she whispered with a small nod, “Yes, Kal-El. You. Jason and Kala are yours.”
Lana wasn’t even sure why they’d bothered putting headsets on if they weren’t going to speak. All four of them had felt the strain of old ties breaking and new ones being made that morning, especially after the apocalyptic argument outside IHOP, which had fortunately broken up without her intervention. And what would I have said, anyway? ‘As the dubious occupant of the moral high ground, I demand that you two act your age!’
The redhead shook her head slightly in bewilderment. How on earth had they gotten themselves mixed up like this? No matter what she did or said, it seemed wrong. If she tried to mediate between Lois and Richard, not only would she be highly unwelcome, but she’d also be prolonging what looked like an inevitable breakup and thus increasing their turmoil. On the other hand, it was never right to pursue someone else’s fiancé. And it didn’t help at all that she could still taste Richard’s mouth on hers…
“Do you regret it?” Her own voice startled her; Lana hadn’t meant to speak aloud.
Richard glanced at her thoughtfully. “No,” his voice crackled in her earphones. “Do you?”
“No, I don’t,” Lana sighed. “I regret that I don’t regret it, God help me.”
He looked a little puzzled by that, or perhaps he was just focusing on flying the seaplane. After a few moments, though, Richard asked cautiously, “You wish you did regret it?”
“Yes,” Lana replied. “Because then I could still tell myself I’m a good Midwestern girl, and not a potential home-wrecker.”
His laugh was brief and mirthless. “Trust me, at this point our home couldn’t be any more wrecked if a herd of wild horses stampeded through it. And not because of you – because of us. Lois and I were doomed from word one.”
Continued next post...