Lois woke up to Perry White shaking her shoulder. “C’mon, kid. Get up and get yourself outside of some breakfast. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
For a moment she could only glare at him blearily. She had never been much of a morning person, and for the last week she hadn’t had to get up early. Lois had been sleeping in Perry’s spare bedroom, and the editor was kind enough to make her breakfast and set it on her bedside table before leaving for work each morning. Sometimes Lois didn’t wake up until the coffee was cold. Sleep was a welcome relief and retreat from everything in her life, and in the absence of the intense pressure she’d been under on New Krypton, it seemed like all she wanted to do was sleep.
Perry jerked the pillow out from under her head and thwapped her shoulder with it. “Up and at ‘em, Lane. My friend from Congress got back to me. He wants to meet in person. You’ve got half an hour to get ready.”
That woke her up. “Holy shit! I need more than half an hour to get ready for that! Jeez, what’s wrong with you?” Without waiting for an answer, she bolted for the bathroom.
Twenty-five minutes later, Lois jumped out of the shower and scrambled to get dressed. Perry had managed to get some clothes for her, just the basic necessities—sweaters and jeans and underthings—so it wasn’t as if she had to choose an outfit. And her story was going to be more important than her appearance. Still, it wouldn’t do to go meet a senator without at least brushing her teeth first and trying to tame her hair.
She dove out of the bedroom and Perry met her with a bagel and a travel mug of coffee. “Fastest I’ve ever seen a woman get ready,” he remarked with a smile as Lois grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder.
Lois just glared, sipping the coffee and taking a bite from the bagel. “So what’s this guy like, anyway?” she asked as they headed out. Perry locked up his apartment and they headed down to the garage.
Perry looked thoughtful as the elevator took its sweet time. “Senator Pete Ross is one of those Midwestern originals. Has integrity and character and all that good stuff. His family’s been in Kansas since the Freedmen Exodusters in the late 1870s, and his wife’s family goes back to the 1850s when the state was first opened to settlement. He’s conservative enough for the old boys, and progressive enough for the college kids. Sensible guy, and smart enough to be suspicious of the rest of Capitol Hill.”
“Hmph,” Lois replied, her mouth full.
The editor just shot her a look. In the garage, he walked over to his parking space, where a white ’73 Impala gleamed in the dimness. Lois perked up at that. “Holy shit, that thing is a boat,” she marveled.
“She’s a beauty,” Perry said, patting the car’s fender as another man might’ve patted his wife’s hip. He opened the passenger door for her. “Hop in. It’s a long ride to Baltimore, but at least we travel in style.”
At that, Lois hesitated. “Baltimore? Not Washington?”
“Fewer people would recognize him in Baltimore. Plus it’s an hour off our drive. Get in, Lane, time’s wasting.” Perry scowled at her gruffly. Lois might almost have believed he was as impatient and irascible as he seemed, but this was the man who made her breakfast every morning. And that wasn’t even taking into consideration the nightmare she’d had the first night she stayed at his apartment, the one that was growing familiar, where she woke up back on Krypton the morning before she was scheduled to leave. Perry had brought Lois an extra pillow and then sat up watching—and mocking—late-night talk shows with her until she fell back asleep.
The drive to Baltimore should’ve been relaxing, the big classic car eating up the miles smoothly, but Lois’ head buzzed with tension. She’d been safe enough staying with Perry. What if this Congressman agreed with her father? What if he turned her back over to the Army? Legally, she was still a minor, and General Lane had to be at his wits’ end trying to find her. It would be so easy for this man to just turn her in.
By the time they arrived at a quiet little restaurant, her stomach was in knots. Lois walked in stiffly, scanning the patrons at each both, wondering which one was the senator. Nobody looked that much like a politician….
The man who looked least like a politician was the one who stood up and offered his hand. Dark-skinned and baby-faced, he had a brilliant smile that seemed far more genuine than anything Lois had seen from a career politician. She started to feel better about this meeting already. “Good to see you,” he said to Perry, and then shook Lois’ hand too. “Pleased to meet you, miss.”
“Thanks,” she said, and took her seat. A waiter arrived immediately to take their orders; this was a simple Italian restaurant, with pizza and pasta dishes and complimentary garlic bread knots at every table. Lois picked something light, just fettuccine alfredo, while the two men had calzones.
“So, I hope you don’t mind if I just call you Lois, considering the situation,” Pete said.
“Not at all, Mr. Ross,” Lois replied. The last thing she needed was for someone to hear her called Miss Lane. For the same reason, she didn’t call him Senator even though that was his proper title.
“Please, it’s just Pete,” he insisted. “Now, Perry outlined the story for me, but I’m sure you know an old newspaperman like him doesn’t give away everything. I’d like you to give me the rundown in your own words, if you don’t mind.”
Lois grinned. “I can go one better.” With that, she took out the composition book Perry had given her, which had never left her side. The first few pages were a rambling mess, but she flipped to where she’d set things down in chronological order. She’d done it mostly to keep her own mind straight, but it was useful here.
Pete took it and started reading. Gradually his amiable expression faded into something more serious and thoughtful, and when his food came he pushed it aside. Lois picked at her fettuccine, wondering if she’d put in too many details. The account was almost ten pages long, both sides.
Beside her Perry attacked his lunch, saying nothing. At one point Pete stopped and looked up at Lois somberly. “Has anyone told you that you are an incredibly brave young woman?”
“Well, um, Mr. White did,” she said, caught off guard.
Pete shook his head. “Ridiculous. They should’ve given you a medal instead of locking you up.”
“Keep reading,” Perry advised.
A few minutes later Pete’s eyes went wide. “You’re pregnant?” he whispered.
Lois could only nod. The churning in her stomach was back. “About two months, I think, but who knows how long it’ll be, considering the father.”
Pete leaned back, staring at her. Not in a judgmental way, Lois thought. More like open amazement. “Does he know?”
“I didn’t know before I left, and there’s no secure way to reach him. Given his culture, if his people found out he’d be labeled a deviant, so I can’t risk telling him. Right now he needs the support of the Benevolent Society to get things done, and he can’t accomplish that if he’s the scandal of the year.” Lois shrugged; she’d been over it in her head a dozen times, trying to figure out how to let Kal-El know he was going to be a father.
“Damn,” Pete muttered. He stared off into the middle distance for a few moments with a thoughtful expression, then seemed to shake himself. He handed the notebook back to Lois. “I’ve got some ideas, but let me eat this while it’s still warm, and then we’ll get to it, okay?”
“Sure,” she said, tucking it into her shoulder bag.
The three of them finished the food accompanied only by small talk about the weather and sports teams. Finally, Pete set his elbows on the table and laced his fingers together, looking steadily at Lois. “So this is the way I see it. Perry can’t break this story until the humans are all back on Earth, because if he does Zod’s regime will definitely be alerted. But the military obviously knows you’re missing, and considering your critical role in all of this, and the fact that your father is the Vice Chief of Staff, they’re going to be diverting all the resources they can to finding you. What you need most right now is someplace to hide, at least until we can go public with the story.”
“Right,” Lois agreed.
“It’s not safe with Perry. You went to his office in broad daylight. Sooner or later the MPs are going to track you to the Daily Planet and start leaning on him, wanting to know where you went. You’re going to need to go somewhere they won’t look for you, someplace where they wouldn’t expect. DC’s out, there are too many people there who do nothing but watch what Congressmen do. All it would take is one bored reporter, one observant intern, heck, one maid to notice you. An attractive teenage girl hanging around a squeaky-clean family-values Senator? That’d be all over Twitter too fast for us to contain it. It’d be worse if we kept it under wraps for a while, because you’re going to start showing soon.”
Lois blinked. She hadn’t thought of that angle; she’d been thinking Pete was leading her toward the idea of staying with him, and it did make sense. Staying with Perry might’ve felt like an escape from real life, but it was only temporary, and every day that she stayed in Metropolis was just asking for the MPs to find her. If the story had been published, they’d have already had her. Apparently no one had thought of her going to a newspaper and the editor-in-chief having sense enough to sit on the story.
“You’re right,” she finally said. “So what are we gonna do?”
Pete smiled. “I’ve got an idea, but it’s gonna be tough. You have to trust me, because I can’t say anything in front of Perry. When—not if, when the Army gets around to questioning him, he has to be able to honestly say he has no clue where you are. And that means you have to decide if you trust me enough to walk out of here with me without knowing where you’re going. I promise you this, the Army won’t have a clue where you are, and it’ll be safe.”
Lois gnawed on her lip. Pete certainly seemed okay; she couldn’t sense any threat from him, and her skills at people-reading had gotten much better during her time on New Krypton. Also, Perry trusted him, and Lois had the idea that Perry didn’t trust many people.
She found herself looking to the editor, who had finished his meal and was leaned back in his seat. He glanced over at her, and to Lois’ surprise the older man actually seemed regretful. “Well, I guess that’s the way it has to be, kid. Tough break, but you’re tougher. You can trust Pete. And I’ll look forward to meeting your daddy and telling him his baby girl has more balls than he does.” With that, he grinned fiercely and reached out to rumple her hair.
The gesture startled a laugh from her. In just a few days Lois had grown to like the curmudgeonly editor; he’d become a sort of honorary uncle. There weren’t many people, at least so far as she knew, who would drop everything and open their home to shelter a fugitive from the military. Especially not one whose story couldn’t even be published for weeks, maybe months.
“All right,” Lois finally said. She’d been trusting to instinct and intuition for so long that this wasn’t as big of a leap as it would’ve been a year ago.
The two men settled up the bill, and then all of them headed out to the cars. Perry mused aloud, “I’ve got a cousin in Overlea. I’ll drop by and visit, shoot the breeze for a while. If anyone asks, that’s where I went today.”
“Good deal,” Pete said, and shook his hand. “Thanks, old man.”
“Yeah, yeah, I only went to you ‘cause you’re secretly a softhearted liberal,” Perry teased.
“My constituents prefer ‘compassionate conservative’,” Pete corrected with a grin.
Perry put a hand on Lois’ shoulder, and his expression softened. “Take care, kid. And come back to Metropolis when you can. I wanna hear the rest of the story.”
“I will,” Lois said, and impulsively hugged him. Perry made a scoffing noise, but patted her hair gently.
She did not cry. Lois Lane wasn’t a crier, no way. The wind just got in her eyes a little bit as she got into Pete’s car, a late-model Hyundai Genesis. “Hand me my phone, would you?” Pete asked gently. “It’s in the glove box.”
“Sure,” Lois said, and passed it over.
He fired up the ignition and let the car warm up while his phone dialed. Pete left it on speaker, so Lois heard the woman’s voice when she answered. “Hello, honey. How was your meeting?”
“Good, very good,” Pete replied. “Lana, love, I’ve got a situation here. Can you meet me at the Hillandale exit off the beltway? And pack for a trip?”
“Sure. Where are we going?”
“I’m not. You’re going to go home. I can’t talk about it on the phone, but this is about that business we talked about last night.”
A pause, and then, “Oh. All right, I’ll be there in about an hour. Think you can hold out ‘til then?”
“I’ll survive,” he chuckled. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” With that he hung up the phone.
Lois had watched curiously throughout the call. “So you’re sending me off with your wife. Where’s home?”
“Smallville, Kansas,” Pete said. “The Lang family home out there is sitting empty right now. You’ll have space enough, and no one will guess you’re there. Plus no one in town will know who you are. We’ll pass you off as a friend of the family or something. We sure can’t pretend you’re a relative. Not too much of a family resemblance, and genealogy’s a major hobby in a small town.” Pete grinned at her, and Lois grinned back.
“Sounds like a plan,” she said.
“You’ll love Lana,” Pete said confidently. “Everyone does. She’s a peach.”
About an hour later, Pete’s car turned off the beltway and pulled into a strip mall parking lot. By then, Lois had found time to get nervous about this meeting. She was about to get into a car with a complete stranger for an eighteen-hour trip. What the hell had her life come to, anyway?
Not only that, she had another stranger to worry about—the little stranger in her belly, the one she was risking everything for. Lois found her hand resting on her stomach more and more often lately, tracing the slightest curve beginning there.
Pete parked next to a dark green Mercedes S350. The driver’s door opened, and the woman who got out was a sharp contrast to Pete. Slender, red-haired, and extremely fair, she smiled at the sight of her husband. “Hey, sweetheart,” Pete said, coming around the car and opening his arms. She hugged and kissed him before turning to look at his passenger.
Lois had been sizing her up the whole time, wondering what this woman’s deal was—and not getting a clear reading. If she could drop everything and drive to Kansas, she probably didn’t have too important a job. And the redhead was beautiful enough to be just a political trophy wife. But the way Pete held her suggested theirs was a love match.
When they broke apart, the redhead turned to Lois and held out her hand. “Hi, I’m Lana, Pete’s wife,” she said. “I guess he told you we’re going on a road trip?”
“Lois Lane,” she replied, shaking the proffered hand. “And yeah, he briefed me.”
“Well, good. At least one of us knows what to expect. All I know about you is your name, where you just got back from, and that you need our help hiding out.” At least she’s honest, Lois thought. Lana smiled, though, and it was one Lois couldn’t help returning. “Although, it’s an eighteen-hour ride back home, so we’ll have plenty of time to catch me up.”
“Hon, as much as I wish I could stay—” Pete began.
“I know. We’re too close to the Capitol to hang out in the open. Lois, hop in. Do you need anything before we get rolling? I want to try to make Dayton tonight, if we can, and it’s a long ride.”
“Nope,” Lois said, taking a deep breath. Here we go, she thought. Her world was about to change yet again.
Pete kissed his wife and squeezed her tight, and then they were sliding into their respective cars. Lois reclined her seat a bit, and as Lana turned the ignition on, Garth Brooks came from the speakers beside her.
Lana caught the fleeting frown that crossed her lips, and chuckled. “Not a fan of country?” she asked.
“Not really,” Lois said. Great way to start off, insulting the woman’s taste in music. Then again, she was from Kansas, so it was expected.
“Well, if you want to change the channel, be my guest,” Lana said easily.
Lois reached for the tuning dial and hesitated. Back in the before, she had usually listened to whatever irritated her father the most; acid metal, sometimes. She couldn’t see this woman putting up with that—or rather she could, Lana suffering womanfully the whole time. “Honestly I haven’t really had time to listen to music in a long time. It’s different on New Krypton.”
The redhead pressed a button and silenced the radio. “Then I suppose it’s just as well we have a lot to talk about. I’d really like to hear the whole story from the beginning. Assuming you’re comfortable with that, of course.”
“I might as well,” Lois said with a shrug. She had to tell the tale so as not to blow anyone’s cover, but she was beginning to wonder just how many times she’d have to tell and retell it. At least Pete had been able to read it, but Lana couldn’t read and drive at the same time.
Lana glanced over at her, and Lois took a deep breath. Just thinking about how different her world had been a year ago was mind-blowing. “It all started on the day the Kryptonian ships came. I was in school, just bored in class thinking about Scotty Bracewell and his sweet car, and then the fire alarm went off….”