"I don't want to be in the way, they came to see you..." Lois said entering the elevator as they were leaving the Daily Planet for the evening.
"Lois, part of the reason they came is because they want to spend some time with you. You know my parents, don't be nervous."
"Why'd you have to tell them? I'm not telling my parents, and we agreed that we wouldn't tell anyone until we knew something!"
Clark turned and rubbed her arms. He knew she was just feeling nervous, and didn't mean anything against his folks. "They knew before we even decided to try this. You know that. Relax. They just want to see you, that's all. And, yes, we agreed not to tell anyone, but you should think about telling your parents. The baby would be a part of them too."
"Clark, we talked about my parents. I don't want them ruining this. We'll tell them if it works."
The elevator opened and he released her.
"Well, let's go. Dad said they'd meet us at the restaurant."
When they arrived at Marcel's, Clark held the door open for Lois to enter ahead of him.
"I'm underdressed," she said, stepping past him.
"You look fine. This is a casual restaurant." He crossed in front of her to speak to the hostess, who in turn smiled and gestured for them to follow her.
At the table, Clark bent to kiss his Mother on the cheek in greeting.
"Son, where's Lois?" Jonathan asked.
Surprised, he turned around to the spot where she should have been standing. He noticed her walking toward the restroom. "She's a little nervous. She'll be back in a minute."
"Nervous?" Martha asked. "But whatever for? We've all had dinner together before."
"I guess she feels unsure since things have changed. Y'know, now that she knows about," Clark made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "And she knows that you don't approve with the, uh, donor thing."
"Who said we didn't approve?" Martha asked. Clark looked helplessly at his father, who looked back expectantly.
"You... do approve?" He asked bewildered.
"Your Mother and I want the best for you. Somehow we just felt that you'd have a family the old fashioned way. We can see how you feel about Lois. I just don't want you hanging on if she can't return it."
"There are lots of things that are important when you want to have a child. You have to be stable yourself because a new baby added to any relationship knocks things off-balance," Martha added.
"Mom, we are just gonna try. It could be nothing, but I feel like I can help her here, where no one else can..."
"Sweetie, you need to be honest with her and let her know how you really feel, and you need to be honest with yourself. Now, here comes Lois. Let's make her feel welcome boys," Martha finished, standing to give Lois a hug when she arrived at the table.
Once they'd made the decision to proceed with their 'project', they had to go through the details. Not ready to expose themselves to anyone yet, they'd gone to consult Dr. Klein on the ability of Superman to impregnate a woman, using the cover that they were doing a story on a woman who claimed to have had Superman's love child.
Dr. Klein was suspicious at first, thinking that a story like that would be an item of a lower rate paper, but dropped it when he figured that these two were involved because the subject was their good friend.
"This is not my area of expertise, but I have done some venturing into gene splicing technology. That doesn't help you much, because it really comes into play after knowing that fertilization can take place and by then taking into account the match of DNA and RNA in the two gametes. Normally we look to do that when we are treating some type of deficiency. This involves using Restriction Enzymes to select the specific piece of the DNA helix strand and... oh, sorry. I tend to get excited. Anyway, you'll want to know what I've found out, yes?"
Lois shot an amused look at Clark, who just shrugged and nodded in Dr. Klein's direction.
"Well, from the tests that Superman allowed us to take on his sperm cells," Lois raised her eyebrows at Clark, whose ears seemed to be turning red.
Not noticing the exchange, the doctor continued, "...And from what he's told me about his development, we really wouldn't be able to see any true manifestation of ultra human properties for years. Probably not even making an appearance until the point of full maturity, but we can't be sure. Basically, a child fathered by the hero would be no different than any other baby, and its birth would be handled in the same manner as any other human child. If these genes prove to be recessive, which is likely, its possible that the powers and extra abilities would never surface."
Scratching some notes onto her notepad, Lois asked, "Is it possible that a birth could take place in a hospital facility and not be recognized as having a non-human genetic makeup?"
"Well, yes, that is entirely possible. In fact the child could be serviced by a regular pediatrician, and probably would only have an increased healthy disposition. If anything were to cause any special attention, it would just be the general lack of disease and infection. Although, at that age the child would have normal vulnerabilities, its immune system would probably be better equipped."
Their conversation with Dr. Klein had left them optimistic, so they'd taken the next step, and went to the reproductive medicine clinic. They'd spent weeks pouring over colorful tri-fold brochures, trying to finalize a plan of attack. They found themselves spending even more time together, each reassuring the other at times.
Because they would meet in the mornings before work, Clark started coming over earlier to cook breakfast while Lois showered and dressed. After a while, she gave him her spare key, so she wouldn't have to let him in. When they had time, they did lunch together, and after work, they had dinner at one of their apartments.
Along with the help of Lois's physician at the clinic, they'd decided to go ahead with the GIFT method. The GIFT (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer) was thought to be their best chance, as it basically replicated the natural fertilization process. Both donors had gamete samples removed, and then pairs were inserted into the Mother's fallopian tubes, where the sperm would then fertilize the egg. Since there were no detected issues with their health or ability to reproduce, this seemed to have great possibilities, and it was the method that had the highest percentage of success.
Perry watched the duo walk into the newsroom. Things between them had gotten better, and everything was coming back together like he liked it. He sighed in relief and turned to go back to his desk. He was glad that he wouldn't have to have another talk with Lois. The last one had been hard enough. His heart had wanted to pull her in for a bear hug, but he knew that the situation called for a sterner approach. He was happy it hadn't backfired.
"Lois, we knew this might happen," Clark said as she sat down at her desk.
She could see in his eyes that he was feeling as bad as she was. "Let's not talk about it right now, okay?"
Unfortunately, they had just returned from the clinic with bad news. The egg hadn't been fertilized. This was actually the third time in as many months that they'd tried this method, and had grown weary.
It was late in the afternoon, but the newsroom was still bustling with activity. Clark pulled a chair next to Lois's and sat down. Locking onto her gaze, he whispered, "I'm sorry."
Lois was too tired to argue with him, knowing that he was trying to take the blame for the procedure not working. She was tired of the sterile white rooms. She was tired of the poking and prodding. And she was tired of spreading her legs to cold hands.
"Maybe we should stop," he said quietly, and she could hear in his voice that he was tired too.
They had decided that they would not take the risk of letting the clinic harvest any extra samples of their cells. It was too risky. There were far too many expose's surfacing about fertilization clinics using spare gametes for other purposes. The downside of it was that they had to go through the entire process from the beginning each time they tried.
Lois felt defeat seep into her shoulders and couldn't stop the sole silent tear that trailed from her eye. "Yeah. I hate to give up, but I think you're right."
"Maybe we just need to give it some time." Clark said sadly, as he watched her wipe the tear and close her eyes briefly to regain her composure. He leaned in slowly and they pressed their foreheads together in a moment of shared grief.
"Here, let me hurry and type up our notes so we can go."
She nodded and said, "I'm going to go get some water. You want anything?"
He shook his head and headed to his desk where he signed on to his computer and began typing.
"Oh, Honey. We're so sorry," Martha said sympathetically, after listening to Clark's recount of the day's events. "Do you and Lois want to come here for the weekend?"
Clark was sitting in the window seat at Lois's apartment, talking on his cell phone to his parents. As soon as they walked in the door, Lois had excused herself to the bathroom. She'd been silent on the drive back to her place, and Clark knew she was near the edge both physically and mentally. The warmth of the sunlight coming through the window was helping to ease the tension in his shoulders.
"No, I think it would be best if we just stay put for a while, but I'll see if she wants to take some time in a couple of weeks."
"How are you holding up?" Jonathan asked from the other extension.
"It's rough," his voice trailed off and his parents could hear him talking to someone in the room.
"Clark, give the phone to Lois. I want to talk to her," his mother interjected.
"Hi Martha," a soft voice said after a few seconds.
Clark moved over to give her room to sit down.
"Hi Sweetie, Jonathan's here too."
"You're gonna be okay, kiddo," Jonathan said. "I just wanted to let you know that I've been thinking about you. Don't let this take you under. You're a fighter. You have a vibrant sprit and you just have to know that while things don't always happen like you want them to, somehow it all turns out better than you expected. Martha and I know what it's like."
Lois was a bit taken aback from the small speech coming from a man who usually said very little. Feeling a complexity of emotions, she could only utter a small "Thank you, Jonathan."
"All right. That said, I'm going to hang up now and let you two women talk. Besides, Martha is waving her hand at me, and I am guessing that's my cue. I love you, Lois."
Her eyebrows shot up in further surprise. She couldn't remember the last time she had heard anyone say those words to her meaningfully. Okay, well she and her sister exchanged it when they were talking on the phone, but she would have never expected it from Clark's parents. She glanced at Clark, who was watching her face quizzically, not knowing what was being said on the phone.
"Lois, what he said goes for the both of us, and I hope you know that. Now I know that you're probably feeling overwhelmed, and knowing you, you are trying not to confront your feelings, but you're going to have to let yourself grieve. You both do."
"I'm ok Martha, really. We knew that we might have trouble before we even started. I mean, today was a little worse, because it was the third time and all, but that was hours ago. If it was meant to be..."
"Lois, stop. You don't have to convince me, and telling yourself this is not going to convince you. I know how excited you were about this. I know about the courage it took for you to go back a second, and then a third time."
Lois choked back a sob and didn't reply. Clark, seeing her face wrench, lifted a hand helplessly in her direction, not knowing what to do, and finally just started stroking her hair softly.
"It's ok to feel what you are feeling. No matter what, the worst thing you can do is to isolate yourself. You are not alone in this. I know my boy is doing his best to hide what he is feeling too. The two of you are alike in so many ways, you know. Don't sit there and try to figure out what you did wrong. There is no answer there. It wasn't anything that you did or did not do. Just give it time."
"I don't think there is another time," Lois mumbled.
"Lois, I have been sitting back all this time, watching the two of you, and I have kept my peace, because a mother has to let her children take their steps. But I can't sit back and let you suffer when you don't have to. Let me tell you what I see. You're very protective of your heart, and that's a good way to be, but if you overdo it, the walls you build start to imprison you as much as they protect you. This was a step for you in trying to break free. To love someone else, and to be loved in return."
Lois stood and began to walk to the other side of the room, leaving Clark's comforting touches behind. "That wasn't my reason for wanting a baby," she said with a hint of defiance.
"That's not what I meant, and that's not who I meant, either."
"But it's not like that! He... we..." Lois pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear and turned her back to where Clark was sitting.
"I know all about the Superman thing. I'm also pretty sure that you were confused about some feelings before that." Martha urged, quietly.
"How?" Lois was shocked that this woman could pick up on something that she had just begun to admit to herself.
"The way you two have been looking at each other when you didn't think the other one would see. Every time we are all together, it's obvious."
"But, he said..."
"Did he? Are you sure? Look in his eyes Lois."
In fact, she couldn't remember if he'd said anything. She remembered what she'd said; about knowing why Superman didn't respond to her. It was because she was his best friend... like his sister, right? She turned to glance at Clark, who was watching her with a distressed look. Meaning to just look briefly, Lois was caught in the vigor of feeling that he was unconsciously showing.
Choking back another sob, she turned away quickly, feeling her heart constrict with profound emotion. "But why now? Why not then?"
Martha sighed, feeling slightly relieved that they would have to face up to this now. "I told you that you both were alike, and like you, he's scared. He's still my little boy inside. All his life he's lived with a secret, and now he doesn't know how to live without it. His father and I are the only people who he knows love him for who he truly is... Okay, now Jonathan's waving at me, and that's my signal. You'll both be fine. Take care, and tell Clark to bring you to see us soon."
Lois stared at the silent phone in her hand, unwilling to turn around and face her partner. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, the tears spilled out of her eyes and she slowly sank to the floor. Clark was at her side instantly, aching to see her on her knees looking so devastated. He moved to help her up, but she showed no interest in moving. Her tears were silent, but the ragged breaths she was taking hinted that she wasn't going to be able to control it much longer.
Sitting on the floor himself, with his back against the wall, he pulled her into his arms as if she were a small child. With her head against his shoulder, she whimpered and held on to his waist, shuddering with sobs. Hot tears began running down his face as well, and there was nothing he could do to stop them.
A while later, Lois's breathing got deeper as she calmed, and Clark moved to get up. Lois shook her head and said, "No. Not yet."
Clark looked down into her red eyes, and sighed. "If we could go back..."
"No," she repeated. "Don't say it. I'm glad we took the risk."
"But if I wasn't... All my life, I've just wanted to be normal, to be able to have a family, friends, and even kids. Instead, I have these powers, these great powers that allow me to do great things, except I have no power to do anything to control my own life. It's like the choice was made for me- and I can't stop being who I am, even for what I love."
"That's just it, Clark." Lois shifted her position so she could look at him directly. "None of us can control what happens in our lives. There are always some things that we can't do, or that circumstances don't allow, but our desire and strength to keep living is what makes us... survivors. I wouldn't change you for anything. The way you help and care for other people. The way you love your parents. The way you make me feel. If this is something less than an ordinary life, I don't mind. I don't want it any other way."
"Lois, there is something I need to tell you, and I don't know how you're going to feel after that, but..."
He continued, knowing she couldn't possibly know what he was going to say. "I feel I owe it to you to give you the truth. Since the first day we met, my heart has been drawn to you, even though I tried to convince myself otherwise. As we've gotten to know each other better, it skips a beat every time you walk into a room. To hold you like this overwhelms me: I feel so complete, but I know that I'll have to let you go."
Lois covered her mouth with her hand. She had guessed his feelings when she saw him looking at her, but the depth of emotion that he was expressing, touched her.
"The way you treated Superman made me crazy," he continued. "Knowing that I really wanted to grab you and respond, but knowing how you really felt about the true me stopped me. I was supposed to be your best friend, your brother, but there was no way I could love you freely as one person and remain hidden as another. I was jealous of myself; if that is even possible. I guess, if we could go back to start this again, I'd have to do what my parents said. I would tell you then, how much I loved you. How much I love you now."
"Lois, it's ok. I mean... I don't expect anything. I just needed to tell you."
Lois sat silently looking at her hands. Finally she looked up with one brow slightly raised. Clark didn't know what to make of the expression on her face.
"Are you done?" she asked.
"Are you finished? Because, I want to say something now, and I don't want you to interrupt me. It's hard enough as it is."
At his nod, she continued, with a small smile, "What I was going to say was that I think I feel the same way."
Clark started to open his mouth, but she put a hand on is chest and shook her head. "I think that I am starting to understand... through all of this," she waved her hand in a circle in the air. "And for some time before that. I think I was beginning to realize how much you meant to me. The way I can't wait to see you again when we're apart."
She picked up his hand and interlaced her fingers with his. "The time we have spent together through this has made me see that I can't let you go. It scares me how much I love you."
He couldn't believe what he was hearing, and to reassure himself that it was real, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. Inhaling in her scent, he felt tears filling his eyes again. This time they weren't from grief, but from the promise that he was seeing replace his gloomy vision of a future of solitude.
Leaning into him, Lois drew from his strength, courage, and love. Breathlessly breaking the embrace, she put both hands on the sides of his face, using her thumbs to wipe away the threatening tears. Without a word, she tipped her head as he gently pulled her closer for a tender kiss.
Lois and Clark agreed to explore the experience of being in love. They started scheduling real dates, and Lois was always pleased to find a different flower on her nightstand each morning. The surprise of their colleagues at work eventually wore off, and a certain editor indulged himself in a small two-step dance behind his closed office door. Clark's parents remained the only other people to know about the attempt at having a child. Although they never mentioned trying it again during the few times they talked about it, Martha didn't stop sewing little outfits in the evenings. With a wink and smile in Jonathan's direction, she merely said, "There's one more method they have left to try... and I think it'll work!"