Okay, ladies and Brian, no witty lead-in this week. Things are too wacky here to make my brain work extra hard. But I do have a massive tome of fic goodness!
“I’m not sure about that new boy I hired,” Ben said, idly rumpling his Beagle’s ears. Barkley sighed and rested his head on his master’s knee, listening to the familiar female voice coming from the telephone.
“Oh, really?” Martha replied. Ben could hear water running in the background; she was probably washing dishes. “What’s bothering you about him?”
“I don’t know,” Ben sighed. Barkley pawed his leg, reminding him to keep up with the petting, and the older man chuckled. “He just seems a little… spacey sometimes. Like his mind’s miles away.”
“Mm-hmm,” Martha said. The running water cut off, and then Ben heard the television in the background. “A lot of kids these days are like that. Scatterbrained. Most of them can’t keep their minds on one thing more than a minute… and almost all of them have driver’s licenses.”
Ben chuckled. “Now that’s a scary thought.” He turned on his own television set, asking, “What are we watching tonight, Martha?”
“Oh, I’m waiting for Jeopardy to come on,” she said. “Still the best game show on television.”
“I’ll agree to that,” Ben said, flipping through channels until he reached the network.
Comfortable silence reigned between them as they waited for the show to start. It wasn’t always possible for them to be together – they each had their own farm to take care of, and Ben rarely stayed later than seven for propriety’s sake. So Martha and Ben had arrived at this solution for their all-too-quiet evenings.
Just as the theme music began to play, the show cut off, replaced by a news broadcast. “Aw, darn,” Ben groused, and then went silent.
Scenes of devastation filled the television. The city of Metropolis was a shambles, struck by fire and earthquake. But that was not the worst of it. “Live video of Superman’s fall…” the announcer began, and then the images on the screen blotted out everything but Martha’s sudden gasp of horror.
In silence they watched the Man of Steel falling from the sky, and then the video switched to another. A shaky hand-held camera panned around the crowds milling in the street outside Centennial Park, then jerked upward to catch the blue and red blur rocketing toward the trees.
The impact shook the cameraman’s hands, shook every tree in the park. A cloud of dust and debris rose, blowing outward, and Ben heard Martha groan as if in mortal agony. “Martha?” he said quickly. “Martha, are you all right?”
“My God,” she whispered. “Oh my dear Lord… Ben, I think you’d better get over here–”
“On my way,” he said, prying Barkley’s head off his knee and grabbing his car keys. Could even a hero like Superman survive a fall like that?
“–and take me to the airport,” Martha finished, stopping Ben in his tracks. “I’m going to Metropolis.”
“Martha?” Ben asked incredulously.
“Ben, my son lives in Metropolis,” she said, her voice dreadfully calm. “And with… with its defender hurt… Clark might need me. There’s… there’s no one to watch over the city now…”
“Martha, you might not even be able to get to Metropolis,” Ben argued. “The city… you saw it. The airport might not even be open.”
“I’ll get there,” she replied. “Don’t you worry about that, Mr. Hubbard. Now are you going to help me or not?”
In the midst of the frenetic activity surrounding Kal-El, a nurse picked up the steel tray holding the crystal fragments and walked out of the room with it, intending to hand the strange green shards over to the lab. Moments after she left, she turned a corner around the x-ray department, and the lead shielding in the walls cut off the kryptonite’s deadly radiation.
Beep. Such an unassuming little sound, but it meant so much. The doctors in the room turned to look at the heart monitor, where a spike appeared on the flat line. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Lois felt hope swell in her heart, and strangely it brought fresh tears. She drew in a shaky breath, watching as the slow beat scrolled across the monitor screen. Kal-El’s pulse was weak, but steady, and it seemed to hypnotize Lois.
No one questioned her presence now, the hospital staff moving around her as she kept her vigil. For several minutes she watched the monitors, watched his still face, as sunlamps were brought in and set up beside him. In the bright light, Kal-El looked almost exalted, his features seeming to glow. You have to live, Lois thought. You have to recover. Not just for me – for Jason and Kala.
She was barely aware of a nurse approaching Lieutenant Sawyer, hearing her own name in their murmured conversation. Then Maggie was gently tugging her sleeve. “C’mon, Lois,” the policewoman said. “Your kids are in the waiting room – they need you, too.”
Jimmy Olsen sat down very slowly, staring at his camera. His stomach felt fluttery, his head so light it seemed as if it might just float away any second.
The photographs he’d taken were good. Pulitzer-good. But the best of them all – the most iconic, the most original, the shot he knew no one else had – was the one that made his throat tighten. Superman, lying unconscious in the dirt at the bottom of the crater his fall had created.
That photo seemed to stare up at Jimmy from his digital camera’s screen. Superman looked so… There wasn’t a word for it. Broken, weak, vulnerable – those kinds of adjectives weren’t meant to apply to the Man of Steel. Jimmy swallowed around the lump in his throat.
“The Chief would never run it,” he murmured to himself. True, but he could have shopped it to other papers. Even magazines. That photo was worth a lot of money. Buy-a-new-car money. Hell, buy-a-new-house money. The Olsens could use it.
Superman’s face in sharp focus, his skin so pale, smudged with dirt from his impact. The way he lay sprawled, one leg twisted under him. Shattered tree trunks at the edge of the shot, and the steep wall of the crater. Worst of all, Superman looking so… lifeless.
Even in black and white shots, he always seemed to explode with color, a personality so vibrant that it made itself felt even in images. But this shot, though it was in color, looked drained. Washed-out. And the hero himself looked almost…
Jimmy shook his head. He wouldn’t even think it. Sighing a little – it could’ve won a Pulitzer, or it could’ve made his bank balance a lot bigger – Jimmy pressed the delete button.
The four adults had just managed to get Kala calmed down a little when she suddenly tensed again. Richard caught her shoulders as her tear-stained eyes lit up, looking toward the door. “Mommy?” she said, a trifle uncertain.
One side of the double doors swung open, and Lois appeared, the hand pressed against her forehead nearly covering her face. She looked weary, almost at the limit of her endurance, but at the sight of the twins, the hand fell away and a smile slowly formed. Kala and Jason, of course, ran to her, and Lois had to kneel down quickly to keep from being knocked over.
For one long moment, Lois merely hugged the twins, fresh tears flowing as she held Jason and Kala tight. They’re here, they’re here. Oh my God, it’s really them. My babies, oh my God… They hugged her back just as tightly, Kala still sniffling. “Is… is Superman gonna be okay?” the little girl asked.
“I hope so. I’m so glad you’re okay. Mommy was so worried,” Lois murmured brokenly, kissing Kala’s forehead, then Jason’s. The last time she had seen them, Luthor and his goons were loading them into the helicopter and it had scared her half to death. Now, reunited, she couldn’t seem to let go of them, nor could they let go of her. Two days apart seemed like eons, and Lois kept stroking their hair and kissing them. Just holding them tightly didn’t seem enough. Finally I have them back. My poor babies – I will never, never let that happen again. I’ll kill Luthor if he touches you ever again… And I won't miss next time.
At last, though, mother and twins were satisfied that this reunion was real, that nothing would separate them again. As soon as Lois stood up, Ella caught her shoulders and pulled her into a hug. “I was worried about you.”
Lois leaned against her mother, letting out a shuddery little sigh of relief. “I’m okay, Momma. Really, I am.”
Ella pulled back and held her by the arms to look at her, love and vexation mingled in her expression. “Lois Joanne Lane, you turned my hair white before I was fifty. I’d be a fool if I thought you’d slow down anytime soon.” She sighed, and smiled as she kissed Lois’ cheek. “I’m just glad you’re all right, sweetheart.”
“Thanks, Momma,” Lois replied. She glanced over Ella’s shoulder at Perry, and gave him a tired grin.
“Glad you’re back, Lane,” he said gruffly. “Hate to have to run your department for you much longer.”
“Love you too, old man,” the reporter shot back. Quickly scanning the group, she asked, “Where’s Jimmy?”
“We didn’t have room for him in Sawyer’s car when we brought the twins here,” Ella told her. “He stayed at Centennial Park.”
“He’ll meet us back at the Planet,” Perry said confidently. “Olsen got some good photos today, I bet. Boy’s head is gonna swell.”
Richard and Lana exchanged a glance, and then he added smoothly, “As for Clark, he sent me a text message. The earthquake left him trapped, but he said he was okay. He even gave Superman his cell phone – that’s how we were able to tell him where we were, and how Jason called you, Elinore.”
Lois blinked. “You’re sure he’s okay?” It hurt her to say it, knowing that Kal-El was still lying unconscious in the treatment room behind her, but she had to protect him. Even if it hard to even keep her mind straight right about now.
“We think we know where he is,” Lana said. “There’s no way to reach him now, but the rescue crews ought to get him free soon, I hope.”
Lois was still nodding, trying to figure out what to say next, when Maggie came through the doors. “Lois, S.T.A.R. Labs finally got here. They’re transferring Superman to their facility – they want you to go, too.”
For a moment, the reporter could only stare at her. Why? The question immediately answered itself. No one knows more about him than I do. Perry pushed her shoulder gently. “Go on, Lane. I guess I can hold down the fort a little longer; you follow the story.”
“Lieutenant Sawyer, Lois needs to see a doctor, too,” Richard said.
“She’s an Army brat, she’ll get seen faster at a military facility,” Maggie replied.
The twins suddenly clutched Lois’ hands. “We’re going, too,” Jason said, doing his best to sound stern. Kala nodded, staring up at her mother. The looks on their little faces were so determined.
All of the adults looked down. Lois didn’t want her children out of her sight, not after finally getting them back. She looked up at Maggie, the question unspoken in her eyes, and the lieutenant nodded. “Bring the kids, too. I know better than to ask you to leave them now, and the guys at S.T.A.R. should know it too.”
“All right,” Lois said with a sigh, nodding. For a moment she looked down at the twins, her heart aching just to be able to look at them up close again. They have a right to see him, especially if there’s a small possibility he might… The reporter cut that thought off cold. We’re just going to have to be very careful what they say and do. He saved them, so their behavior shouldn’t be too suspicious. I’ll just have to warn them at some point. Her decision made, she turned back to her mother and Richard and Perry, shrugging helplessly.
“He needs you,” Ella said, and the secret shared between mother and daughter lay under those words. “I’ll tag along for the twins’ sakes. I believe Joffrey is in command at S.T.A.R. You remember him, Lois – General Unsworth.”
There was no arguing with Ella in full Army-wife mode, so Lois didn’t even bother to say anything. Besides, only her mother knew why the twins would have to be closely watched inside a top-secret military facility – or so Lois thought.
Richard came forward then, hugging her briefly. “Take care,” he said, kissing Lois’ cheek. “If you need me, for anything, you know how to find me.”
She kissed him back, feeling the new distance between them and finding herself unable to say or do anything about it. Or the rush of guilt that accompanied it. She owed him so much for all of this. And Lana, who had had no reason at all to risk her life… “Richard, I…” Later, she thought. “I know,” she replied, giving him a sad smile. “You take care, too. I … I’ll be in touch.”
No more time for goodbyes. Lois took a deep breath and turned to Maggie, the twins on either side of her holding her hands and Ella right behind them. “Let’s go.”
Ben had been right; getting into Metropolis wasn’t easy. She had refused to listen to reason, stubbornly insistent on getting into the city if she had to walk. Martha had to make a fast exchange to catch the right plane, and then they were delayed getting off the tarmac. Flights all across the eastern seaboard were delayed by the earthquakes.
Unfortunately, the airline had chosen to keep the passengers occupied by playing the news on the big screen at the front of the plane. Superman’s fall and his desperate ambulance ride to Metropolis General Hospital were shown again and again. Martha closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the seat. Son… I hope you’re okay. I love you so much.
Her mind traveled back to that fateful afternoon, she and Jonathan riding alongside their own fields just minding their own business. Suddenly, fire rained from the sky; Jonathan had swerved the truck in surprise, blowing out a tire.
Martha remembered the deep sense of disquiet that swept over her at the sight of the scar burned into her cornfield. While Jonathan examined the truck and muttered a few choice words, she had been drawn toward the destruction.
Even now, more than thirty years later, Martha could still feel the sharp sense of wonder and surprise that had swept over her when a child walked out of the smoking wreckage. A little boy, her heart’s desire, the only thing Jonathan had never been able to give her in their marriage. Every other dream she’d had, he had made come true, but that one seemed impossible.
Until the day a miracle fell from the stars and landed beside her. My son, my only son. And what a miracle you turned out to be. Always a sweet child, affectionate and kind – mischievous as all boys were, but never mean-spirited, not for an instant. All of his powers, his noble mission – and the virtues he’d learned from her and Jonathan. She had always been proud of him, every second of his extraordinary life.
His most recent mission flitted across her mind. Lois Lane and her twins … maybe my grandchildren. What’s become of them? Did he find the kids and save them from Luthor? There’s no way to know, yet. I saw him lifting an island into the sky on television before Ben came over. I would’ve never guessed Clark could do something so… impossible.
But the impossible seems to be his specialty. Impossible, for a child who looked so human to have such powers. Impossible, for him to grow to manhood with those powers and never lose his sweet nature, never be corrupted by arrogance or greed. Impossible for him to go on such a long journey, and then return home…
Oh, dear Lord, I only just got him back. Please don’t take him away again so soon. I lost Jonathan; please don’t make me mourn for my son, too. A mother should never see the death of her child. Please… Tears began to slip silently from her closed eyes.
A stranger’s hand covered hers. “Ma’am?” Martha blinked, seeing the young man who’d taken the seat beside her. “Ma’am, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said quietly, wiping away the tears. “It’s just … my son lives in Metropolis.”
“My sister, too,” he replied. “I don’t know… Would you like to pray with me?”
Martha smiled. “I would. Thank you.” This is why my son keeps doing what he’s doing – people who care about each other, who offer whatever comfort they can. Clark believes that people are innately good, and folks like this prove him right.
With Lois and Ella and the twins gone, Lana, Richard, and Perry were left feeling a bit awkward, the secret hovering in the air between them. Fortunately, Perry solved the problem. “Well, boy, are you a newsman or not? Let’s get back to the Planet and see if any of the presses are still working. We can’t really roll the whole story without Lois, but we ought to be able to put out a small evening edition…”
Richard looked at Lana and shrugged. “Sure, Uncle Perry,” he said. “You want to stop by Centennial Park and pick up Jimmy first?”
“Sure,” Perry said, but his eyes had already taken on the glaze that meant he was framing up the front page. He muttered potential headlines all the way to the car, and then absently hung on to the door frame whenever Richard had to weave around stalled cars. “Dammit, what’re we gonna lead?” he said at last, exasperated.
Richard had managed to circle Centennial Park. Crowds were already gathering there – the police were keeping them back from the impact crater, but Richard could see a mound of flowers and cards piling up around the gates to the park. As Jimmy jumped off the low stone wall and jogged toward the familiar car, the perfect front-page headline occurred to Richard, and he grinned at his uncle.
“Call it ‘Lois Lane Rescues Superman,’” he said as he unlocked the doors for Jimmy. “I’ll write up the eyewitness account.”
“Wow,” Jimmy said, having heard the title. “Did she really? I knew Ms. Lane’d turn the tables on Luthor!”
Before the three newspapermen could really get started discussing the technical details of the next issue – presuming the printing presses were even functional – Lana cleared her throat. “Actually, Richard, I think I’ll get out here.”
“Lana…” He turned around to look at her worriedly.
Her eyes met his steadily. The knowledge they shared would be too much of a temptation to discuss, but both of them knew how very important the secret was. It was better that she stay away for a while. “Besides, I can keep an eye out for Clark,” Lana said softly, and Richard nodded, understanding what she meant.
The car pulled away into the horrendous traffic, and Lana headed into the park, keeping away from the yellow police tape that marked off the actual impact site. She didn’t particularly want to see that, anyway. Lana’s mind was made up: he would recover. She wouldn’t allow herself to think of any other outcome, would keep her mind determinedly focused on the positive.
All she really wanted at the moment was someplace she could lose herself in a crowd and think. Clark is Superman. The idea tolled through Lana’s mind, and it made a weird kind of sense. The boy she’d known was one of the few people on earth who could have such immense power, and never once use it for personal gain. Even I would be tempted, now and then. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. I guess that’s why everyone loves him so much. He’s incorruptible. Lana smiled absently. That’s Smallville for you.
General Unsworth met Lois, Ella, and the twins at the entrance to S.T.A.R. Labs. He didn’t even seem surprised by the children’s presence when they got out of Sawyer’s patrol car. “Evening, Elinore, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” he said, then turned to shake Lois’ hand. “Glad to see you made it, Laney.”
Lois remembered him vaguely as a friend and colleague of her father’s, a man who smoked a pipe when he visited and tended to pat her and Lucy on the head. She hadn’t seen him in eight years or so… and no one called her Laney anymore. But there was a family reputation to maintain and Kal-El’s health to secure. Even if her father had been a horse’s-ass. “Thanks, General. Glad to be here, sir,” she replied. Her eyes scanned the unassuming concrete garage, looking for the ambulance that had transported Kal-El.
General Unsworth squeezed her hand lightly. “Superman’s already here. They tell me he’s stable. You and your children should see a medic.”
“I’m fine, sir, at least for now,” Lois said, seeing the twins both watch the older man in his dress uniform. All the medals still seemed terribly impressive when you were that age. “Listen, Superman…”
“We’ve got sunlamps on him,” General Unsworth told her. “You have one heck of a set of bruises on your throat, young lady.”
Now Lois began to frown. She recognized that patronizing tone, one her father took with her quite often. If she didn’t get control of this quickly, they would start to pay more attention to her than what was really important: concentrating all their efforts on him. “I’m fine, sir. And just the sunlamps might not be enough…”
“Lois might be concussed, sir,” Maggie cut in at the same moment that Ella elbowed her lightly. Lois shot them both a poisonous look, which the policewoman and the general’s widow both ignored.
“We’ll take care of her and the kids, Lieutenant,” the general told Maggie. “Thanks for bringing them in. Now, come along, Miss Lane.”
Oh, that’s right. He’s another one of those ‘I’m a four-star general, even civilians should obey me’ types like my father. Now I remember why I never kept in touch with any of his friends… Trying not to grit her teeth in irritation at having been overridden twice, she and Ella followed him to an unmarked door while Maggie got into her cruiser. The twins never relinquished their grips on Lois’ hands.
Elinore added, “My daughter and granddaughter have also been in the water, Joffrey. With the temperatures at sea, I’m concerned about them both.” Lois glared at her as General Unsworth scanned his thumbprint to open the door.
“I’ll let the medics know,” he replied. “You’re not going to give them any trouble, are you, Laney? I remember hearing you were a terror about doctors when you were younger.” That comment raised Lois’ blood pressure several points as they entered a white antechamber, two on-duty soldiers saluting the general. It didn’t help that his remark reminded Lois of her never-fully-exorcised fear of hospitals, which this trip wasn’t helping.
“Mommy,” Kala whispered curiously, “how come he keeps calling you Laney?”
General Unsworth chuckled as they passed through a second set of doors to a long hallway. “Because, princess, when she was about your age, she acted just like a miniature version of your grandfather. Everyone on base called her Little Laney.”
Ella caught Lois’ elbow, seeing the pulse start to throb in her neck. “Yes, well, Little Laney isn’t so little anymore, and she much prefers to be called by her given name.”
“Sorry about that,” General Unsworth said sincerely. He met Lois’ hazel eyes, saw the steel behind them, and lowered his voice a trifle. “You know, he never would’ve said it to you – Sam wasn’t that kind of man – but your father was very proud of you, Lois. Every front-page article you ever published hung in his office.”
Ella winced a little; she had never told Lois. Her husband and her eldest had become so estranged that any mention of the other’s name provoked a fight. She didn’t know now how Lois would take the news.
Lois blinked in surprise. Even all these years after his death, it seemed she hadn’t entirely shaken off his ghost. “Thank you for telling me,” she said at last. “I’m glad to know that, at least.”
General Unsworth nodded, having heard enough of Sam’s griping about his headstrong daughter to understand why she was so guarded. From then on he led them quietly down a seemingly endless maze of all-white corridors, past several security checkpoints.
The twins were staring around them in utter fascination, amazed by the uniforms and the guns. Fortunately that kept their minds off the long walk and their empty stomachs. At last General Unsworth stopped at the open door to an exam room very similar to the one in their pediatrician’s office. “Well, children, this is Doctor Patterson,” he told them as the female medic smiled at them both. In spite of the white coat that the twins always associated with shots, Doctor Patterson looked normal and friendly, the first truly welcoming face in this expanse of somber uniforms. “Be kind to them, Shelby. Seems these two have had quite the past few days.”
“Thank you, Joffrey,” Ella said, taking the twins’ hands. “We’ll be all right. Lois…”
“I want to see him first,” she said sharply, giving her mother a defiant glare as she knelt down to hug Jason and Kala. Lois hated leaving them, but she saw the dark circles of exhaustion under their eyes. “You two, be good for Nana, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jason and Kala chorused, hugging her extra tight. With a long last look back at her, both of them nodded to her as they went into the room and Doctor Patterson closed the door behind them.
Lois heart lurched, her eyes tearing up slightly. Just the thought of letting them leave her side for a moment… Get over yourself, Lane, it’s just a doctor’s visit. They understand what you’re doing and why. And Mom’s with them. No one else is going to take them away. You’ll get them back. Standing back up brought on a wave of dizziness that she fought off, pinching the bridge of her nose.
General Unsworth cleared his throat. “Let’s get you to that medic.”
She turned slowly, her hazel eyes flat with aggravation. Oh, for crying out loud! “For the last time, I’m fine. I want to see Superman. Now.” Mentally, she dug her heels in, the same she had several times in the last few days.
“You’re as far from fine as you can be without a broken bone,” General Unsworth replied. “And as far as I know, you might have one of those. You look like hell, Lois.”
“Either take me to Superman or I’ll find him,” she said stubbornly. This argument was starting to get on her nerves; exhaustion dragged at her, but Lois fought it with the last vestiges of her anger. She would not be barred from seeing him. “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I owe him.”
He nodded slowly. “I see why you never joined the military,” he commented. “You’d have made a good commander, but following orders to get to that point would’ve been a problem. All right, follow me.” The pace he set was brisk, but Lois followed doggedly. She had to keep moving, couldn’t stop now.
After several minutes and two more armed checkpoints, Lois found herself standing in front of another glass observation window. Even more equipment was hooked up to Kal-El, and high-intensity lamps shone down on him. At least she was seeing him, seeing the heart monitor still tracing that steady beat.
Lois stood there watching him carefully, palpable relief washing through her. Maybe, just maybe, it will be enough, she thought, feeling her weariness double now without the anxiety of not knowing where he was. “Sunlamps might not be enough,” she began, and General Unsworth saw her head fighting to sag forward. “He gets his power… from the actual sun…”
“We’re having him moved to a suite with a skylight.” The general’s voice seemed to come from the other end of a long tunnel, and Lois’ vision began to gray. This was the limit of her endurance; she had hung on through terror and panic, but the pure relief of seeing him alive and even slightly stable, after seeing the twins sound, undid her.
“That’s… a good… id-” Lois’ eyes slid closed. Just resting them sounded so good right now. Just for a moment…
General Unsworth caught her as she fainted, collapsing right outside Superman’s hospital room. “Doctor Donner! Got another patient for you!”
Shattered trees lay at odd angles, and the crowds staring past the police line were unusually somber. Dark thoughts troubled Lana for a few seconds – he’d looked so pale, and Lois had been so frantic. Could this momentous day really be the hero’s last? Lana shook her head sharply, warding off that train of thought. She refused to dwell on it, keeping a prayer for him in the back of her mind and the confidence that he would recover firmly in the front.
By avoiding the thick trees where Superman had fallen, Lana had wandered onto familiar ground. Only a few days ago, the grassy meadow before her had been the stage of Metropolis’ fall fashion show, and she had been rubbing elbows with big-name designers. With other big-name designers, she thought. I’m one of them now … last week, I would’ve said that nothing else in my life could be as important as getting that recognition.
The redhead chuckled softly. Now look at me. I’m carrying the biggest, most explosive secret I could ever have imagined, Superman’s secret identity. And it turns out the hero and the boy who had such a crush on me are the same person.
A sudden memory from high school came back, startling laughter from her. Brad had been a jerk to Clark after football practice, like he always was, and had left him at school while Lana and the others drove home. Surprisingly, he’d been leaning against the Kent truck, grinning secretively at them when they drove by. Brad had asked, “How’d you get here so fast?” and Clark had shrugged and replied casually, “I ran.”
He did run! The sneaky devil! I wondered how the heck he managed to pull that off – I would’ve wondered even longer, if it hadn’t been for Mr. Kent’s dying that same day. It wasn’t long after that before Clark left town, and I barely saw him again until this last week.
I never really saw him until I saw him with the love of his life. I just saw a sweet guy I’d been friends with since we were kids. Only when I saw him with Lois did I recognize the man that boy had grown into … and regret having been so short-sighted all those years ago.
But then, I’d already met Richard. She wasn’t proud of the smile that curved her lips at the thought of him; he was still engaged to another woman, even if Lois had ‘Clark’s Soul Mate’ engraved on her heart. That relationship was over – that moment on the seaplane had proven it – but Lana didn’t want to be a thief.
She forced her mind away from the memory of seeing him here, his easy smile, the unexpected attraction between them. She had almost forgotten how that felt, the sudden spark that seemed to brighten the entire world…
Standing on the edge of the meadow, Lana was exposed to the cold breeze that came up as the day ended. The rain had stopped earlier, but the ground was wet, and the designer abruptly realized that Lois still had her coat. She needs it more than I do, she thought, and headed back toward the park entrance, shivering.
Evidently she’d been lost in reminiscence for longer than she’d thought – the sky was rapidly darkening, and the crowds around the impact crater were even thicker. Lana saw that the mound of flowers beside the police tape had risen to several feet high. She briefly wished she had brought something, some offering to make her own prayer part of the collective hope being displayed here.
A sudden gust of wind whipped her hair into her eyes, and Lana hunched her shoulders against it, turning her back. As she did so, she caught sight of a very familiar silver-haired head in the crowd. “It can’t be,” she murmured, weaving through the throng to get closer.
Lana could only see her from the back as the older woman knelt down, gently placing a work-worn hand atop the profusion of flowers. Her shoulders trembled … and Lana touched her arm. “Mrs. Kent?” she asked.
Martha turned quickly, her eyes startled and tear-stained. “Lana,” she said a trifle nervously. “I… I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Sympathy welled up, so strong that it nearly brought tears to Lana’s eyes. “Mrs. Kent… Martha. I know where Clark is. Come on.” The older woman’s eyes widened almost comically, and Lana nodded. “I was with him,” she whispered. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
In the small hours of the morning, Lois’ heavy lids slipped opened slowly, finding herself in a strange bed. And she wasn’t alone. She turned her throbbing head slightly to see Kala nestled against her right shoulder, Jason curled against her left with his arm around her. Seeing them there, so close she could hear their breathing, reassured her – if anything had been wrong, they would’ve been in hospital beds of their own, not sharing hers. She simply lay there for a moment as she tried to get her wits about her, kissing Jason’s hair as she drew his small arm away and slipped out from under Kala’s head.
Sitting up in bed without disturbing either of the twins was a challenge, especially as Lois discovered that she was wearing a hospital gown and had an IV in the back of her right hand. Dammit. How long have I been asleep?
She scanned her surroundings, still a little groggy and confused about exactly where she was. Ella was asleep in a reclining chair at the foot of her bed. Okay, that’s the twins and Mom. Where’s Richard … wait. The last time I saw Richard he was at the hospital…
Memory returned sharply. She was in S.T.A.R. Labs, she’d gone there with Jason and Kala and Ella, and … Kal-El… If we’re all here, then who’s with Kal-El? Lois punched the button at her bedside that called for a nurse, thought better of it, and then started trying to maneuver her way out of bed without waking the twins.
It was Ella who woke up, though. “Lois, you need to rest,” she said immediately, getting out of the chair and going to her child.
“Forget that,” Lois whispered fiercely. She was only too aware of where she was and that they might be heard. “Help me up. Where is he? Who’s keeping watch over him? My God, how long have I been out?”
“A few hours,” Ella replied, helping her to her feet. Jason and Kala started to move in their sleep, and Lois and her mother both froze silently while they waited to see if the kids would wake up. The twins just cuddled against each other, and Lois sighed with relief.
“Make sure this damned thing is tied shut, Momma, please,” she whispered. Her own clothes were probably gone – soaked in seawater, they’d be unwearable anyway. Ditto for the boots; she was stuck with thick beige hospital socks that had rubberized soles. What a great fashion statement, Lois thought to herself as Ella secured her hospital gown.
“Just where do you think you’re going, Lois?” Ella asked, one silver brow raised.
Ah, but they’d left Lana’s coat. Thank God. “Boy, is that a rhetorical question. Where do you think I’m going, Momma? Hand me that coat.”
Ella just crossed her arms and stared. An expression Lois had been familiar with her whole life, only this time it didn’t deter her.
“I’ll do it myself if I have to,” Lois growled under her breath as she rolled her eyes. Her back was stiff from lying down flat in the hospital bed. “I had some rest, and obviously I’m not dying. I’m going to see him.”
Sighing in defeat, Ella brought her the long coat. “Just how do you think you’re going to find his room, anyway?”
“Oh, I’ll find him, even if I have to check the whole building,” Lois muttered. She saw immediately that she wouldn’t be able to get the coat on properly with the IV in. The bag of fluid was almost empty anyway, and the coat was a necessity for coverage and warmth. Why do they keep hospitals so damned cold, anyway? Lois let the thought distract her while she peeled back the tape on her hand, grimacing. “Look in that cabinet, Momma, and find me a bandage, please?”
“Lois, what are you–” Ella began, then winced in sympathy as Lois gritted her teeth and pulled the needle out of her vein. She applied pressure quickly, her lips moving angrily with words she wouldn’t say out loud in front of her mother or her children.
Knowing how much her daughter had hated needles, ever since she was a child, with that act Ella realized that Lois couldn’t be swayed. Since there was no stopping her, she might as well help. Lois’ hand was soon bandaged, and the warm coat secured over the flimsy hospital gown.
Making her way back over to the bed again briefly, Lois watched Jason and Kala curled close in the deep restorative sleep only a child knows. The helpless ache in her chest made her smile. Will you two ever understand just how much I love you, just how much you mean to me? What it felt like to know I might lose you, too? My brave little munchkins. Tenderly, she ran her knuckles over her little boy’s warm cheek before stroking back yet another of Kala’s errant curls. If he has my heart, you two are my soul. My strength. Mommy loves you both so much. Softly, she leaned down and kissed the twins again lightly, her gaze lingering on their faces. Then she turned to Ella and whispered with emotion clear in her voice, “You stay with them, Momma.”
“I’ve never left their side,” Ella reassured her. “I never would.” As much as she loved and trusted the Army, Jason and Kala’s parentage was definitely on a need-to-know basis, and the military didn’t need to know.
Lois went to her mother now, hugging her tightly. Quietly, comforted now by the scent of her mother’s perfume as she always had been as a little girl, she murmured softly, “I know that, Momma, I never doubted it for a moment. But you know why I have to do this. I need to know what’s happening with him. For me and the twins both.”
“I know,” Ella said as they pulled away, touching her daughter’s face. “As well as I know that you won’t rest until you do it. Just come back before they wake up so they don’t worry over you. We both know that they won’t sleep past seven.”
“Agreed,” Lois whispered, turning toward the door. “I love you, Momma. I’ll be back.”
She had almost reached the door when the summoned nurse arrived, doing a quick double take. “Miss Lane, you need to get back in bed,” she began, and Lois walked out the door, herding the woman ahead of her.
“No, I need to make sure you’re taking the best care possible of Superman,” Lois said once she was outside. How the hell did I forget hitting that damn button? Idiot. Now that her voice probably wouldn’t wake the twins, she let her tone become sharp. “I made it clear to General Unsworth, so don’t make me repeat myself. I know more about Superman than anyone else on this planet, so I’ll stay with him.”
“But Miss Lane–”
“No buts,” Lois growled. “If Superman dies, do you really want to see the public reaction to this Pulitzer-winning reporter’s story about how you refused to let the one person who could save him in to see him?”
The blonde nurse gulped, then her face hardened. “Fine, Miss Lane, but I’m telling Doctor Donner where you went.”
“Fine by me,” Lois replied archly. “And you can also tell him to leave that room alone for a little while. My twins need their rest after all they’ve been through. I’ll get back there after while”
The woman huffed, leading the way with her back stiff. Lois just barely managed to hear her muttered comment, “If they need their rest so much, maybe they should be at home with their father…”
Lois thought about that a few seconds, then planted her feet, grabbed the taller woman by the shoulder, and spun her around abruptly. Okay, that’s enough of that, sister. She leaned in close to the nurse’s shocked face and spoke before the younger woman could gather her wits enough to react. “Alright, listen, you arrogant brat. If your children had been kidnapped, held captive by a maniac, possibly drugged and God knows what else, then rescued from certain death by a superhero who happened to be your ex, would you really want them far from your sight? As for myself, I’ve been beaten, almost raped, and had to fight said maniac just for the chance to almost drown saving the man in that room! The man who almost killed himself trying to protect you and every other good-for-nothing ingrate on the East Coast!”
She had to take a breath, and her next words were a snarl. “So do I have to knock you over the head with a wheelchair and stuff your sarcastic ass into a supply closet, or are you going to shut up and lead me to Superman?”
The nurse blinked. She’d been warned, by Mrs. Lane and General Unsworth, that this uppity reporter had an attitude and the determination to carry it through. Not to mention that fact that her father had once been a high-ranking general. She just hadn’t expected this. Military training took over, and she simply said, “Yes, ma’am,” and turned to silently lead the way.
Very soon, Lois came to a door guarded by two uniformed soldiers. They let her pass on General Unsworth’s prior orders. The room beyond was flooded with light from several sunlamps, making it almost as bright as day. Kal-El was still unconscious, but as Lois approached his bedside she noted that his complexion looked better. It might’ve been her imagination, but his pulse on the heart monitor seemed stronger, too.
Sighing, Lois sank down into the chair by his bedside and slipped her hand into his just outside the halo of light. “I’m here, Kal-El,” she whispered softly. “And I’m not leaving you. I meant what I said. I won’t lose you again. And I don’t plan to let you walk out on me again, you got me?”
His skin was warm, and his breathing was deep and regular. His pulse was a little slow, but Lois could feel it in his fingers, and the steady beat reassured her. Her eyes began to slip closed again as sleep stole over her.
He once told me he’s like a solar battery, she thought, twisting around in the chair until she could rest her cheek on his hand. If they can recharge him enough… Not if, Lois, when. When. Come back to me, love. Come back to all of us.