It had worked better than he’d dreamed, and Kal-El listened raptly as Lois’ voice delved into the years he’d missed. He could almost see it: Jason methodically working the puzzle, Kala perched in the tree like a queen on her throne… The image that branded itself on his mind, however, was Lois turning her face to the sky and drowning in loneliness. How he wished he could have been there for her, in either guise … or as his true self, if he had been a little wiser, a little less eager to spare her pain.
His heart aching from those thoughts, Kal-El wasn’t prepared for Lois’ next words. 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. The realization – she’d spoken of missing the twins’ father only a moment before – struck sharply enough that he momentarily forgot to keep them aloft. Quickly correcting their flight, he turned to her, his voice choked. “Lois?” The sound of her name embodied everything he’d hoped and feared, prayed for and dreaded, since the moment he’d seen her again.
Lois smiled even though her eyes brimmed with tears, and nodded slightly as she whispered back, “Yes, Kal-El. You. Jason and Kala are yours.” And the look of absolute relief on her face surprised him as much as her words. As if she hadn’t expected his reaction.
His heart seemed to swell in his chest. Suspicion, even being so nearly certain as he’d been for the past few days, was nothing compared to absolute confirmation. Kal-El found it hard to breathe, a shiver of finality running through him. Mine. Lois’ kids are mine … ours. Our twins. My God. I’m not alone – and a part of her will always be mine. Her words to him from so long ago, her voice full of wonder even as the gunshot echoed around the room – I must have known that for the longest time.
“Lois, I…” All of a sudden, Kal-El remembered the times he’d seen her before leaving this planet for good, or so he thought. She was pregnant then. If I had just looked… The thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind. But oh, if I had just glanced at her lungs and seen a bit more, I could’ve known then. I could’ve stopped all this…
“Kal-El?” Lois’ voice trembled, too, and he realized how distraught he must look, thinking on the past. It was clear that she was as shaken by the confession she had made as he was to hear it. Please, please, God. Please let him say something, anything, good.
Squeezing her hand gently, he sought for words that would explain. “I had hoped… Lois, I’ve wanted them to be mine so badly for so long. That was one of my first thoughts on seeing you with them. But I couldn’t imagine, couldn’t let myself hope… You don’t … well, I guess you do know how much this means to me.”
Lois bit her lip, looking startled and unable to meet his eyes for a moment. For a moment, that beloved face worked with emotion before she stopped. Tentatively, she asked in a near-whisper, “Kal-El, you’re not … angry, are you? I … I thought it was best … if…”
She glanced back up in time to catch his puzzled look. “Angry? Because you kept them a secret? No – but I wish I knew why you did that.”
“I was afraid,” and her voice was tiny, those three words he’d never expected to her from the lips of Fearless Reporter Lois Lane. “I thought … you’d see them as a mistake. The way you saw our time in the Fortress as a mistake.”
“Lois, no,” Kal-El said with quiet urgency. “Trying to give up my duty for my own desires: that was a mistake. I should’ve found a way to balance both … a career and my life with you. But loving you never was anything but a blessing. And our children…” The simple little phrase stopped him in mid-sentence, and then Lois saw him grin broadly with delight. “Our children. It’s not just that I’m a father, not just that I’m not the last son of Krypton any more. It’s that I’m the father of Lois Lane’s twins.”
Thank God. The weight of the secret, the fear of his rejection, fell away, and Lois started to blush as she heard the reverent tone he gave her name. That and the slightly goofy smile echoed her own reactions to him so long ago; as silly and romantic as she had been over Superman, he felt the same about her.
The full realization of how very groundless her fears had been made her drop her head against his shoulder, a sob caught in her throat. She’d been so frightened over this for so long, so alone with this knowledge. “I’m so sorry,” Lois murmured brokenly. “I was scared … I was scared you’d be so ashamed of them that … after everything Jor-El said…”
“Lois … as far as I’m concerned, it’s a miracle,” he told her gently. “I could never be ashamed of Jason and Kala. I’m too busy being amazed by them.”
Lois had no immediate reply to that, other than to press her cheek against his shoulder. Now they were over Metropolis, Kal-El increasing his altitude slightly to avoid undue attention, and in a few moments he set her down gently a block from the Audi dealership. “I’ll meet you in a minute,” he said, letting the tenderness in his expression speak for all the things they’d left unsaid.
Nodding, still not trusting herself to speak, Lois headed for the dealership’s service entrance. Clark arrived in time to open the door for her, and in a few moments Lois was back in the driver’s seat of her beloved Audi. The mechanic had confirmed her suspicions: someone had deliberately tampered with the engine. But now the powerful little car ran smoothly again, and Lois rubbed her thumb over the leather-covered steering wheel with a smile. At last, she finally had control over one aspect of her life.
“So, we’re headed to the docks?” Clark asked, buckling his seatbelt and casually bracing his arm on the windowsill.
“Precisely,” Lois said, revving the engine slightly. Ah, she’d missed that purr. Being on her own turf again made her bold enough to look him in the eye and grin. “Let’s go get our kids back.”
The life raft was better designed than Stanford had ever dreamed. Even now, it still bobbed at the surface, though it was mostly deflated. The metal canister with the kryptonite inside rolled near the edge as a wave tossed the tiny craft around.
The outcome was inevitable. As more air leaked from the raft, water slipped in, splashing around the outside of the metal. Some of it gradually worked its way through the cracks in the metal.
At last, when Grant was docking the yacht just outside of Metropolis, the first drop of seawater touched the clear Kryptonian crystal within…
…and the silent pulse of electromagnetic energy swept outward in an invisible ring, growing ever larger. Heading toward Metropolis…
Richard banked the plane over Hob’s Bay, most of his mind focused on the tasks ahead. When Lois got to the city, she would be picking up her Audi and heading for the docks on the eastern side of the river. He and Lana would be picking his Saab from the airport parking lot and checking in with Perry at the Planet first, then taking over the search of the western side. If they were very lucky, they’d find Luthor’s yacht docked somewhere. Barring that, perhaps they’d find someone who’d seen it…
The cabin suddenly fell quiet, and Richard had a horrified moment of total recall. The jet’s engines cutting out, coasting barely a hundred feet off the ground… But this was different. He hadn’t just lost the engines, Richard realized with a cold cramp of fear. The instrument panel had gone haywire, too. Every light was off, and his compass currently claimed he was heading south by southeast, when he was actually flying northwest. “Oh, shit,” he muttered, thankful for one other difference: he had several thousand feet of altitude under him at the moment.
Lana took her headset off, able to hear better without them now. “Richard, what just happened?” she asked worriedly.
“Buckle up and pray,” he replied shortly, working the ailerons gently to bring them back to level flight. Their altitude was dropping steadily, but for the moment they had more than enough forward thrust left.
The redhead had been buckled in the entire flight, but she checked anyway. Her voice took on a fretful sharpness as she asked, “What’s going on?”
“Lost all the power,” Richard retorted. “This is a glider, now.” He looked out the window at the bay below; the water was choppy, but not too choppy. I hope. God, I really hope it’s just smooth enough. Not like I have much choice at the moment.
Lana paused for a moment, just staring at him, and he honestly expected her to panic. But she said very levelly, “What are you going to do?”
“Land without power,” Richard said, giving her a brief appreciative glance. Few people could be that calm in such unexpected circumstances. “I’ve done it before, and water landings in a seaplane are a little more forgiving, but it could get a bit bumpy.”
She nodded, and touched the back of his hand briefly. “You handle the landing, I’ll handle the praying.”
It was enough to make Richard chuckle, when he desperately needed something positive.
Lois had nearly reached the docks, Clark flinching at the way she wove through traffic, when the engine suddenly sputtered and died. Fortunately they were the only ones on the road at the moment, so the car could coast to a stop. Lois slammed her palm against the steering wheel and swore comprehensively. “Luthor! I’ll wring his goddamn neck when I get hold of him! Those bastards at the service center said she was frikkin’ fixed! Sorry sons of…”
Clark caught her hand and squeezed gently until she stopped and looked at him. A chill swept through her at the expression on his face, and it was only intensified by his low voice. “It’s not the car … it’s everything. The whole city… It’s another blackout, Lois. Worse, this time.”
“My God…” Thanks to Superman’s miraculous reappearance, the aftereffects of the first blackout had not been too severe. But now… “Do you think it’s Luthor?”
“Has to be,” he replied grimly. “Lois, I have to go.”
“Then go,” she said, trying to keep the quaver out of her voice. With their current situation still unsettle, it was all she could do to say those words. To not plead, Don’t go. Not being understanding of his mission is what doomed them the first time. “Be careful. And come back to me in one piece.”
He smiled, stroking her cheek softly. “I will… Wait for me right here, Lois. And you be careful.”
Lois put her hand atop his and leaned her cheek against his hand fondly. In spite of everything, a small mischievous smile started to curl her lips. “Aren’t I always?”
Unbuckling his seatbelt, Kal-El laughed softly at her. “More like never. Don’t do anything rash – I mean it. We have too much to talk about when I get back.”
“Isn’t talking what got us into trouble in the first place?”
That little self-deprecating chuckle she knew so well, that warm delighted smile she so loved to see… There was so much else to say, and no time in which to say it. Kal-El leaned in to kiss her once, gently, but a lovers’ kiss nonetheless. Lois slipped her hand around the back of his neck, holding him for one heartbeat longer. Then they both pulled back, the inside of the car thrumming with words unsaid. “Wait for me, Lois. Be safe,” Kal-El murmured.
“I love you,” Lois said simply, her voice low.
“I love you, too.” And then he was gone, so fast that he was only a speck in the sky as Lois got out of the car and looked after him.
“You swoony romantic moron,” Lois sighed, shaking her head at her own actions, but unable to stop smiling. Knowing that he still loved her, that he loved their children – their children, what a phrase – couldn’t make everything better like the wave of a magic wand, but it came pretty damn close.
The car started beeping to let her know she’d opened the door with the keys in the ignition, and at the same moment her cell phone began to ring. Apparently the EMP had passed – Lois got back in the Audi and pulled her phone out of her purse. It was about time Richard or Perry called…
This electromagnetic pulse lasted longer than the previous one, but fortunately, most devices started working again as soon as the pulse passed. Superman flew around the city, rapidly taking care of those that didn’t. A metro train’s brakes failed, leaving it coasting toward the end of the track. He stopped it, and moved on to help another jumbo jet stay aloft until its engines powered back up. Faster than any human eye could follow, Superman found each problem, fixed it, and moved on to the next. The entire time, in the back of his mind lurked the thought of Lois.
We really do have so much to talk about… First we have to get the twins back. Our twins. God, the mere thought is still too much to process.
He rose above the city, taking a final glance around… Out on Hob’s Bay, was that…? Superman felt his stomach lurch at the thought of Lana and Richard crashing, but he soon realized that the plane’s engines had fired back up, and Richard was pulling it out of the glide even as he watched. They’re safe. I’d better get back to Lois.
Lex hung up the phone, smiling lazily, and gazed with sleepy satisfaction at the sophisticated recording equipment in front of him. He didn’t even notice Stanford taking another swig of warm Mylanta.
The bald man leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. The monitors before him presently showed only stillness and silence in the stateroom where moments ago there had been screams.
“D’ya think she’ll come?” Grant asked from the doorway.
Lex rolled his eyes toward the shorter man. “Of course she will. Lois Lane will come running – and so will he.”
The warm, chalky liquid made Stanford cough, and he turned a tortured look on Lex. “Was that really necessary? We already knew it affected them. Did you have to expose them to the stuff until it knocked them out?”
Cold eyes narrowed, and Stanford knew he was treading awfully close to the fine line between useful and dead. At this point, he didn’t care. Hearing Kala scream for her mother was like a knife between his ribs. Maybe Kitty was right, maybe all of this was just too wrong for words…
“Relax, Stanford,” Lex said levelly. “Their powers of recuperation will astound you, I’m sure. Especially since we removed the sample from the air vent. But to answer your question, yes, it was necessary. Every hunter knows the best lure is the distress call of the young.”
Just when he thought the city was safe, for the time being, Superman heard a greedy roar. An abandoned warehouse – the very one that Lois had searched only two days ago – had gone up in sudden flames. He put it out with his freezing breath, using precious time, and discovering in the process the body of a man surrounded by ten remote ignition devices similar to those he’d found at other arson sites. So this was the arsonist, slain by his own works; evidently the timers had all reset unexpectedly when the electromagnetic pulse passed by. But his relief that there would be no more fires couldn’t compete with his growing feeling of unease.
Hurrying, not sure why, Kal-El headed back toward the docks. His intuition proved correct. Lois wasn’t where he’d left her, where she’d promised to stay. And he wasn’t entirely surprised by that.
She also wasn’t anywhere along the riverside where they were supposed to be checking the docks. No. Oh, God, no. Lois, where the hell are you? On the verge of panic, he forced himself to stop and listen for her heartbeat…
There. South of the city. He rocketed toward the sound, passing out of Metropolis proper and down the coast, along the waterfront industrial complexes… Lois’ heartbeat cut off suddenly, but not as though something had happened to her. It sounded more like she’d been forced into a soundproof room… Kal-El’s own heart raced in terror. No. Lex can’t have her, she wouldn’t walk into a trap, it must be something else, it has to be…
He checked his hasty flight. Her car was below, parked alongside an alley. This was barely a twenty-minute drive from where she’d been, though it hadn’t been on their route. No one was nearby, and Kal-El landed beside it.
The driver’s side door was unlocked. Looking within, frantic now, he saw her cell phone on the floorboards, her purse upended in the passenger’s seat. Of its contents, only the gun was unaccounted for, so this was no mere robbery. The jacket she’d left in the back seat was also gone, and Kal-El had a sinking feeling he knew what had happened.
She took the gun and her shoulder holster, took the jacket to hide the gun, and she left. But where? Kal-El stood up, looking around, but this area was full of factories and shipyards, endless confusing tangles of metal and concrete to his x-ray vision. Perhaps he’d get a better idea from her cell phone…
He flipped it open, and after looking over the series of buttons, found the one marked Voicemail. Fortunately, Lois didn’t keep a password on her voicemail, so playback started immediately.
A digitized voice said, “Good evening, Ms. Lane. Since you seem to be having some trouble, I’ll tell you precisely how to locate me. But first, a little musical interlude…”
The voice faded, and Kal-El’s keen hearing detected the faint crackle of static. He was playing something back on a hi-fi stereo system…
Kal-El’s eyes went wide with horror, his facing paling. He heard Jason crying weakly, heard Kala whimpering, “Leave us alone!” A moment later, one of the kids retched, and then Kala’s voice, breaking with terror, “No! No! Get away! Mommmeeeee!”
Before he could stop himself, his hand on the phone clenched reflexively, and the sounds mercifully cut off as plastic and silicon chips ground to dust.