Smallville Virtual (TC) Season Episode 19 – Foundation

Part One - Leaving Home

"I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if each step was the end…"

"Time Stand Still" - Rush

Lex Luthor looked up at the fractured shell of his former mansion, trying to remember if he had ever really thought of it as home. He was alone, and the day was rainy and gray around him. The fire had been over two weeks ago, and Lex had recovered enough to personally inspect what was left. Whatever had been able to be salvaged had been, and the rest was just gone, Lex thought, as he kicked a nugget of grey stone from the destroyed facade. There would be no more fitting tribute to the memory of Lionel Luthor than the wreckage of this place, Lex thought, crunching a piece of the ancient stained glass under his heel. The police hadn't narrowed down what had caused the explosion and fire, but Lex was fairly sure they'd determine it was a loose wire, or a gas leak. It didn't matter. A new day was about to dawn for the Luthor family, one that had less to do with supposed ancestral homes being reconstructed brick by brick than Lionel would have planned. Although he hadn't actually planned this, the destruction of the mansion was very much a welcome thing, Lex mused as a nondescript yet expensive charcoal grey car drove up the driveway and came to a halt. Lauren Trevor picked her way through the wreckage, not being dainty as much as simply trying to not fall. She reached Lex in three steps and then regarded him silently with her impenetrable blue stare. She had silently followed Lex's cues, and Lauren's suits were more flatteringly tailored, the grey and white of her wardrobe relieved by shades of eggplant, forest green and burgundy that Lex wholeheartedly approved of.

"The insurance adjuster stopped by the office this morning." Lauren handed him an envelope. "More than enough to rebuild, if you wanted."

"I don't think so." Lex put the envelope in his jacket pocket. "What did you find out about that vault key?"

"Your father had several vaults and only in the last month before he died began consolidating the contents. The last one was in the Caribbean." Lauren raised her eyebrows. "It was cleared two weeks ago."

Lex laughed bitterly. "Why am I not surprised? Did you get a handle on what the contents were?"

"No. Mr. Whitcomb only arranged the vaults for your father. Our firm was never privy to what Lionel kept in them." Lauren answered. "The other matter is the one I wanted to talk to you about."

"The Talon? What about it?" Lex looked at his attorney. "When do we close on it?" It had begun to rain, but Lex ignored the drops even as Lauren Trevor opened her black umbrella.

"You don't. It was purchased by Martha Kent, they closed the deal a week ago." She told him as they walked toward their cars. "I hope you don't mind some free advice."

"Free advice? From a lawyer? I'm not sure that's possible." Lex laughed. "Go ahead."

"The sooner you put Smallville and everything in it behind you, the better off you'll be. The Luthorcorp Towers penthouse is ready, and you have your company to get back. Forget this place and move on." Lauren frowned slightly as she looked around. "There really isn't anything here to hold you, after all. Just corn."

"That's the free advice?" Lex asked with a mocking grin, and Lauren rolled her eyes, not smiling at all. Her dour mood suited the day, and Lex actually found Lauren's slightly grim presence amusing. It was a change after Lana's sweet helplessness and Callista's more aggressive style.

"Yes. And the last you'll get from me." She said tersely, her face perfectly straight. "If you need me, call the office." Lauren got into her car and drove off, leaving Lex alone in his driveway beside his own car, looking up at the remains of his former home as the rain began to fall harder as if to wash away any last trace of the Luthors in the small farm community of Smallville forever.

Ever since the day Clark had watched the Fortress emerge from the Arctic ice, he was stricken with awe at the majestic place, even during the times that he despised being there. Today was no exception. The days were growing shorter up at the Fortress, and the rich light of the late day struck rainbows from every crystalline pillar, and Clark could not help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of this structure. He had unpacked all of Lionel's crystals, and spread them out on the floor, admiring their color and clarity. Each one seemed to resonate at a different frequency when touched, and glow slightly brighter as well. Clark picked up a blue one, and went to the console. He carefully slid the crystal in the tube and waited. He looked around, and tapped the crystal lightly, sending a bell-like chime ringing through the vaulted Fortress.

"The Archive cannot be accessed that way, Kal-El." Jor-El's voice was slightly amused. You must assemble it." The hologram of Jor-El manifested beside Clark at the console. "I am glad to see that all of the crystals are here."

"Lionel wasn't one to give up very easily." Clark remarked, removing the crystal from the tube. "So what do I do now?"

"Each crystal resonates at a frequency of it's own, generating a resonance field. You should be able to sense these fields. They will guide you through the assembly process. When the fields are compatible, the crystals will fuse together."

Clark nodded, and began the process of matching the resonance fields. One by one, the crystals melded together to form the most perfect sphere Clark had ever seen. Completed, it hovered in the air, spinning, sending off waves of light that began to further refine the Fortress until it was less inhospitable and resembled an actual building. Not that Clark was affected either way by temperature, but it seemed to him that the Fortress had also become warmer. One crystal remained, a glowing, opalescent stone the size of Clark's palm. It lay on the now smooth white floor, the light from the Archive at war with the light that eminated from the crystal itself. Frowning, Clark picked it up and studied it, turning it over and over in his hands.

"There's one missing." Clark said looking at the hologram of his father questioningly. "What do I do with this one?"

"You hold in your hand the heart of the Archive." Jor-El said, "It must be thrust into the center of the sphere."

Clark looked down at the stone in his hand, and he could feel it beating, as if it were alive. He looked back up at Jor-El. "The Archive is a living thing?"

"Not in the same way as you are a living creature, my son. But the Archive is sentient. It will learn and continue to gather knowledge. You are it's protector as well as it's student, Kal-El." The hologram of Jor-El grew more vivid and detailed, the Archive already fleshing out details that were not included in the holograms design. Clark could see the exact shade of his fathers eyes now, the same green-blue as Clark's own, and his dark hair was shot through with white. The hologram bowed formally, touching his hands to his forehead. Clark imitated the gesture, and Jor-El smiled. "You have done well, my son. Go. The task for today is complete."

Clark nodded, and then turned to the hologram. "Was my mother's image recorded as yours was, Jor-El?"

Jor-El paused slightly, as if surprised by Clark's question. "It will be a simple matter for the Archive to reconstruct Lara and apply the holographic image program to the archival data. When you return, Kal-El, your mother will be waiting with me to greet you."

Chloe stood at the nurse's station, tapping her fingers on the desk while she waited. Wanting to have her mother transferred was her father's idea. Oliver had found a top notch hospital just outside of Seattle that Chloe had felt comfortable with as soon as she'd seen it. She hadn't been able to find out a whole lot about her mother since she'd gone to see her that first time after the whole Gretchen business, and Chloe hoped that by moving her mother, they could continue to build their relationship, such as it was. A nurse in soft green scrubs appeared around the corner. She smiled at Chloe and waved her over. "I think you'll find your mother very alert today, Chloe. It's a good day."

"Thanks." Chloe took a deep breath and pushed her hair behind her ears before going into the sun drenched day room. Her mother was sitting there alone, sketching on a big pad of blank newspaper stock. The older woman didn't look up when Chloe walked in, but continued drawing. 'Hi, Mom."

"I'm drawing my daughter." Sarah Sullivan said, shading a section of the face she had drawn expertly. "She's five."

Chloe smiled. "Oh? What is she like?"

"Very smart." Sarah told her matter of factly. "She can read better than I can, and makes up stories about all kinds of things. My sister in law Ella has two girls, close to my baby's age. They play together and it's so wonderful to see." Sarah looked up and smiled at Chloe, handing her the sketch. "This is my girl."

Chloe took it and looked down at the picture. The sketch was nearly photographic in it's resemblance to Chloe as a child. A sunny smile lit the little girl's face, and her hands were raised over her head, begging to be picked up. Tears welled in Chloe's eyes as she took in the image, and then looked over at her mother. Sarah had risen, and was looking into Chloe's face as innocently as a kindergartener.

"You can have that, if you want." Sarah said, setting her pencil down. "I have her face right here." She covered her heart with her hand. "Are you here to visit someone?"

"Yes, to visit you." Chloe replied, and Sarah smiled happily. "To talk to you a little."

"Me?" Sarah blushed. "My sister in law comes to see me, and sometimes my husband. My daughter is too little." She looked up at Chloe again. "You look familiar. Do I know you?"

"I was here before. I'm a friend." Chloe said, against the lump in her throat. "I wanted to know if you wanted to change hospitals, to a very pretty one by the ocean."

"Oh, I don't know..." Sarah replied, hugging herself. "Gabe promised that he'd bring my Chloe to me when she was old enough. I don't want to be far from her when that happens." Her eyes glimmered as she took in Chloe's anguished expression. "You are my friend...and I hope you understand. I can't be far away."

"Okay." Chloe nodded, wiping away a tear. "I do understand."

Sarah nodded, and walked away, talking to herself about her future visit with her daughter. Chloe looked down at the picture in her hand and sighed. She turned, hearing a gentle knock on the door, and smiled to see Oliver standing there. Like Clark, Oliver seemed most at home in jeans, but in his business attire, Oliver could easily give Lex a run for his money, Chloe thought as Oliver waved at her hesitantly.

"Hey." Chloe smiled, holding out a hand. "I thought you were going to wait outside." Oliver moved to her, and Chloe thrilled a little as Oliver's hand covered hers protectively.

"Yeah." He looked around, and then his sharp green eyes landed on Sarah. "Thought you might want the company after all. You act so big and tough, but this has to be killing you."

"Oliver, how can I tell her? She doesn't even know me." Chloe asked, running her hand on the lapel of Oliver's jacket. "She thinks Lois is my aunt."

Oliver rolled his eyes goodnaturedly at the mention of Lois. "I can go get her doctor, if you think that will help." He looked down at Chloe and smiled. "I could always finesse her with the old Queen family charm, too."

"Right." Chloe laughed, pushing Oliver gently. "A lethal weapon."

"Yes. Illegal for use outside of Seattle, I know." Oliver nodded, teasing. Sarah was watching them, a look of soft bemusement on her face. Oliver looked back at her and Sarah's face lit up with a smile. She shyly approached them, smiling.

"Hello." Sarah said, her forehead creased in a small frown. "I feel as though I should know you, since you are such good friends with my friend."

"I'm actually a friend of," Oliver looked down at her face. "Gabes."

"You know my husband!" Sarah squealed, taking his hand. Oliver winked at Chloe, who nodded encouragingly.

"Yes, I'm his boss." Oliver told her seriously. "And I have a really big problem that you can help me with."

"Anything to help Gabe's career." Sarah replied, seeming more lucid than she had in quite awhile. "Just ask."

"I have to transfer Gabe to Seattle. I've sent him out there already, to find a house and check out the schools. But he told me that the only reason he couldn't accept this transfer is because you love it here so much." Oliver took Sarah's hand and gently led her to a seat. "You'd be doing me a huge favor if you'd consider moving to Seattle, Mrs. Sullivan. I really need Gabe out there."

Sarah considered this as carefully as if Oliver had proposed marriage. "Are the schools good?"

"Top flight." Oliver nodded somberly. "Colleges are awesome."

"College." Sarah pondered this, and eyes wide looked up at Chloe. "Do you want to move, sweetheart?"

Chloe gasped. "Mom?"

"I think so." Sarah said wonderingly. "The doctor said these moments of clarity won't last long, so I have to talk fast. Do you want to move?"

"Yes. I have some great opportunities and so does Dad. All we need out there is you." Chloe explained, and Sarah nodded, looking up at Oliver.

"Well, if all the opportunities are like this guy..." Sarah patted Oliver's cheek. "I approve."

"Approve?" Oliver asked, "So you'll transfer?"

"Of course." Sarah smiled again. "And I'll be at your wedding, too." She stood and kissed Chloe, her eyes full of tears. "I'm going to my room now, before I start to slip back. I love you, honey. Come visit me in the new hospital all the time, okay?"

"I will." Chloe hugged her mother tightly, reveling in the contact as Sarah's arms closed around her fiercely. "I love you too, Mom." The embrace broke gently, and Sarah looked at the picture of Chloe that she had sketched earlier critically.

"Not a bad likeness. Next time I'll draw one of you now. So beautiful." Sarah kissed her daughter's cheeks before she shuffled away, carrying her pad and pencils. "So beautiful."

Chloe stood there as the door closed behind her mother, staring at Oliver in shock. "You are magic."

"No, Goldilocks. It's you who are magic." Oliver said, closing his arms around her. "All kinds of good things have happened to me since I met you. It's just time for a little of it to come back your way."

Lana had packed everything she owned and everything she wanted to take with her to Gotham City. The rest Mrs. Kent had agreed to store in the Talon's basement, for when Lana was ready to retrieve it. With the money from the sale of the Talon, she had more than enough for school, and had even rented a very nice apartment near campus in the Gotham Village section, a funky, bohemian neighborhood that seemed to attract the artsy, creative people. Now, she was going over the arrangements for the bon voyage party she was giving. Lionel's scholarship had been deposited in the bank, and Lana suddenly felt very grown up. It hardly seemed possible that she was leaving Smallville, probably for good. But it was time. The party was to celebrate several things: the sale of the Talon to Mrs. Kent, Chloe's relocation to Seattle, Lois' new career and Lana's own departure. The bells over the door rang, and Lana turned, as she had a thousand times before and found herself face to face with Clark.

"I came to help." Clark said, a smile playing around his mouth. "There's still time to help, right?"

"There's always time to help." Lana smiled brightly, glad to see even a flicker of happiness in Clark's eyes again. Losing Lori had nearly destroyed him, and Lana had discouraged Lois' from fixing him up with anyone, understanding that of all things, Clark did everything in his own time. "I have some boxes I need to bring down to the basement."

"No problem." Clark shrugged. "Point me in the right direction."

Lana grinned, and walked to the swinging doors and pushed one open. "After you."

"I still can't believe you're leaving." Clark said as he followed Lana down the basement steps, carrying a very large box. "It's not going to be Smallville without you."

Lana took a deep breath in, and nodded. "It feels good to be moving. What about you, Clark?" She pushed a heavy lock of dark hair behind her ear and looked up at him. "You're the only one staying behind."

"Lois is here." Clark replied. "And believe me, that's not much of an argument for staying. I've actually been thinking about traveling. I can take next semesters courses online, so I could do it. And I've already talked to Perry about writing about my trip, so I can still have the paycheck and I'll get school credit too."

"Traveling? You?" Lana's face broke into a huge smile. "You get carsick..."She put her hand to where her meteor rock necklace used to be. "My necklace made you sick. You wanted to sit next to me on the bus to Metropolis..."

Clark shrugged, grinning good naturedly. "You caught me. It was worth it. Lana, I know you found out about my secret in the worst possible way, but I want you to know, I never kept it from you to hurt you."

"I know." Lana nodded. "It's taken me a long time to understand it, but I realize that now." She reached out and hesitantly touched his hand. "I'm going to miss you."

"Yeah." Clark closed his hand around Lana's. "I'm going to miss you too. I have a surprise for you. Come on, the surprise is waiting for you upstairs." He said, a grin lighting up his face in the way that always made Lana's heart flip. They were friends, after everything, Lana smiled as Clark towed her back up the steps, but that didn't change the fact that Clark Kent was easily the best looking man Lana had ever seen. She followed him out into the Talon, and stopped, surprised. A tall young black man was standing by himself looking around the Talon as if he were memorizing it forever. And then, Pete Ross grinned at both of them, from just inside the doors. Lana felt her stomach fill with tiny butterflies, all fluttering madly. Something about Pete had changed, Lana realized. He seemed older, more confident and Lana felt her cheeks flush at the realization that she liked that new confidence on him. Pete set his bag down and laughed at Lana's expression as Clark came forward to shake his hand.

. "Where's Chloe? What kind of reunion is this without her?" Pete's voice had matured as well, and he took Lana by the hands to study her as intently as he had the Talon just moments before. "It's great to see you, Lana. You look, amazing."

Lana laughed, dropping her gaze. "I'm a mess. Are you here for the party?"

"Actually, no. I mean, I'm here and I'll be at the party tonight for sure. But I was driving to school. I transferred to Georgetown." Pete told her, looking back at Clark. "One of us had to go Ivy League."

"Georgetown? Pete, that's wonderful." Lana said, and Clark nodded, folding his arms over his chest as he always seemed to do when he didn't know what to do with his long arms. "Driving?"

"Yeah, my brother fixed up this sweet car for me. I had to come out from Wichita to get it." Pete frowned at Clark. "I was going to ask CK here if he wanted to drive east with me, but he's got plans. You're going to school in Gotham City, and that's only eight hours from Georgetown. I could drop you off, Lana." Pete said this as easily as if he were dropping her off at Smallville High, but Lana felt herself smiling widely at the idea.

"That would be such fun. I really wasn't looking forward to flying anyway."She said, and Pete nodded. "I'd love to."

Anyone passing the Talon that night would have seen the windows blazing with light, the cafe full of friends and family all there to share their well wishes. Anyone passing the Talon that night would have no idea at all of the future that lie ahead for the young people that were heading out on their separate roads. What the casual observer would have seen was that two girls in the room were enchanted. The petite blonde had nothing but smiles for the tall man with her, whose quick smile and wit kept her in giggles and whose protective embrace made her feel like she could go anywhere, do anything. A delicate brunette was engrossed in an intense conversation with an animated young man whose Georgetown sweatshirt was as proudly worn as any uniform, neither of them interested in the rest of the party. Lois thought about these things, watching the festivities from the stairs to her apartment. Her date, the cute EMT she'd met the day of the fire, Patrick, wound up being on duty, so she had gone to the party alone. It was just as well, really, Lois thought, sipping her soda thoughtfully. She had some research she wanted to read over on Lionel Luthor. The date of his death was curious, as it happened his parents had died on that same day nearly forty years earlier.It seemed too strange to be a coincidence, but as Chloe had often told her, life in Smallville was 99 about strange coincidences. Standing, Lois looked over the crowd again. Lana and Pete were indeed very much involved in a lengthy and intense conversation, and Chloe was dancing with Oliver. Martha and Perry White were watching the fun too, Perry leaning over every so often to say something to Martha, his quick eyes watching for her reaction. Now he was taking her to dance, and Lois felt slightly giddy. She had thought of Jonathan Kent as something of a father figure, and loved Martha as if she were her own mother. Seeing Martha smile at a new man, even if only in friendly way, made Lois want to cry. Taking a deep breath in, Lois began to climb up the steps, when she saw Clark, standing by himself near the counter, a bemused expression on his face. From Lois' angle, she couldn't tell which couple had caught his attention. Intrigued, she went back down the steps and leaned against the counter beside Clark. Reaching into her pocket, Lois pulled out a quarter, and slapped it on the counter. Clark turned to look at her, surprised by her presence, and Lois found herself wondering how it was she'd never noticed how cute Clark Kent actually was. She tossed her head a little, and pointed to the coin.

"Inflation dictates that thoughts now go for twenty five cents." Lois announced, and Clark nodded. "What's on your mind, Smallville?"

"I was just thinking about how much I'm going to miss everything and everyone." Clark said candidly, pushing Lois' quarter toward her gently. "Your turn."

Lois looked down at the quarter. "You want to know what I'm thinking? Really?"

"Forget it." Clark smiled his usual one where Lois was concerned and she put her hand on his arm. Both surprised at the contact, Lois snatched her hand away and wiped it on her jeans, and Clark looked away, over at his mother, who was still dancing with Perry White.

"You gave me the quarter, so I owe you." Lois nodded resolutely. "I was just wondering what is going to happen to all of us."

Clark turned back, interested. "Lois. You and Chloe will always be close. Distance won't get in the way."

"I know that." Lois rolled her eyes. "I just meant in ten years, will we all still be friends? I've moved around alot, and Smallville is the first place that felt like home in a long time that wasn't painted olive green."

Clark looked out at the party and nodded, smiling. "I think we'll all stay friends.." He looked around. "Where's the famous Patrick?"

"There was an emergency." The music had slowed, and Lois sighed a little. "Come on, Smallville. May as well dance with me. It is a party."

"Don't step on my feet." Clark said, grinning, and Lois eyed him curiously. She took his his hand, and then looked up at him.

"Why doesn't it ever hurt you when I punch you in the arm?" Lois asked, and Clark guided her out to the dance floor.

"You don't hit that hard, you know." Clark replied, passing Lois under his arm before they actually started to dance. Her eyes sparkled, registering his teasing tone, and she grinned.

"I'll hit harder next time." Lois said, relaxing into the music and allowing him to guide her. "Your dancing has improved since that birthday party we had for Chloe. You were all goofy and stupid that night..."

"Lois?" Clark grinned at her and she looked up at him. There was something pretty special about this farmer, Lois thought to herself, if only he wasn't so, well, Clarkish. Some girl would actually be pretty lucky to have him someday.

"What?" She asked, fighting the urge to rest her head on his shoulder. Clark's shoulders were pretty wide, and strong.

"Shut up. I can't hear the song." Clark said quietly, his grin mocking her. Lois grinned back at him, and jabbed him in the shoulder.

"I like this song, too."Lois said and did let herself rest her head on his shoulder.

"...There's four roads to anywhere
Four ways to everything
We were unbreakable
We spoke our destiny
Let's take a moment out
Go were we never go
Let's make a new world now

Where we can wear each other for awhile
I'll lend you my tears if I could borrow your smile
We'll get through tomorrow somehow today
Happy After...

Once upon these days..."

from "These Days" - Chantal Kreviazuk

Part II - Decade

"Even Heroes have the right to bleed

I may be disturbed...but won't you concede

Even Heroes have the right to dream It's not easy to be me.

Up, up and away...away from me

It's all right...You can all sleep sound tonight …"

Five for Fighting – Superman

The day Clark Kent moved into his new apartment was also the first day that Superman was spotted, a red and blue blur, in the skies over Metropolis. The only thing that outwardly connected the two events was a similar color palette in Clark Kent's belongings, red and blue always being favorites of his. Otherwise, nothing could possibly be similar between the bespectacled young reporter who unloaded boxes gracelessly from his dilapidated pickup truck and the mysterious do-gooder who already had women straining their eyes for a glimpse at him. The new apartment was perfect, not too small, definitely not big though, in the still affordable loft district, well in walking distance to The Daily Planet. Most people like to have company when they get settled in a new place, but Clark preferred to be alone. He had friends, of course, but all of them were involved in their own lives. The plan had always been to come back to Metropolis, and Clark spotted the familiar white stationery of The Daily Planet in the stack of mail. Perry White had taken over for Pauline Kahn four years ago, and had kept his promise to Clark, carrying over the column Clark had started for the Smallville Ledger about his travels, college experiences and so on. First in the red leather journal he'd gotten from Lois, and then into the laptop computer from his mother and Chloe Sullivan that had found him in a small fishing village in Newfoundland for his 21st birthday. Clark had faithfully recorded the details of his life, editing the memories into articles Perry would publish in the Smallville Ledger and now the Daily Planet. It had kept him in boots and jeans until school finished, then through his first jobs in journalism. He'd worked hard and almost anonymously to move up the ladder, rejecting offers of help and jobs from his more successful friends, Peter R. Ross, Esq., political analyst and Chloe Sullivan-Queen, Emmy award winning broadcast journalist. Pete had connections with up and coming politicians, men who wanted press secretaries and speechwriters. Finding Clark a spot with one of them was like picking corn back in Smallville. You simply had to open your hand close enough to a cornfield and breathe. Chloe, on the other hand, offered jobs in investigative journalism, first with the station she worked for, and then for the network she was the figurehead symbol for, often reminding him of their days together on their high school newspaper and the power in the press to do good. Also weighing in was Chloe's husband, Oliver, billionaire and mayor of Seattle, whose advice about things like jobs and such was usually funny and wise, but whose counsel about things more secret and noble Clark valued beyond words. Letters from around the world came from Lana Lang, soon to be Lana Ross, as well. The postmarks were always a surprise to Clark, London, New York, Milan, Paris. Lana's letters did not offer job advice, or witty remarks on the benefits of joblessness when one decided on a career in crime fighting. Lana's letters were simple, thoughtful and sometimes humorous accounts of her adventures in fashion and offers of matchmaking on Clark's behalf. His mother also wrote, her letters more detailed and loving counterpoints to the dashed off notes from Perry White that accompanied the checks sent in exchange for Clark's articles. Of Lex Luthor, Clark heard nothing other than what the world heard, young state senator, young US senator, favorite for Kansas governor. Serially married and recently divorced (again), Lex Luthor cut a wide path through the society, financial and political pages, and Clark couldn't help but to pay attention. And Lois Lane had become a passing mention in a quick phone call with Chloe, or a casual mention in one of his mother's chatty letters. Dropping the mail on the counter, Clark walked to the kitchen window and opened it wide. The city sounds made their way up to him from the street, and Clark nodded. He'd missed Kansas, missed Metropolis and it was good to be home. The phone rang and Clark picked up on the first ring.

"Hi, Mom." He said, smiling into the phone.

"Hardly, well not yet and not yours.." Chloe's voice replied, full of it's familiar snark and charm. "Heard you took a flying tour of the city. Did you settled yet?"

"Hardly." Clark answered honestly, looking around at his collection of unpacked boxes. "Hear from Pete?"

"No." Chloe answered, looking over her shoulder at the view of the city from the suite she had at the Metropolis Grand. "But his flight doesn't get in until six. Lana and I just had lunch, though." She ran a hand over her swelling belly. "I know they say 'eating for two', but I think I really did today."

"Nice." Clark smiled, thinking of his empty refrigerator. "Keep the leftovers for me. I'm poor, remember. I haven't started working yet."

"Awww." Chloe laughed. "Come up, Oliver is just getting in and could use the company. He'll feed you. I have to go the studio and do a voice over for my piece on advances in medical technology. Wayne Enterprises has come up with this really amazing thing…." She trailed off, sensing his disinterest. "Just come up to the suite when you are ready. I want you to tell me what color to paint the nursery when I get home."

"Very funny." Clark's smile widened. "I already told you. Blue."

"Okay." Chloe's giggle hadn't changed at all. "See you later." She hung up, and just as Clark set the phone down, it rang again.

"What kind of ice cream this time, and I'm not going to…" Clark said, and his mother's throaty laugh startled him. "Oh, Mom…Chloe just called."

Martha Kent nodded, watching the activity in her restaurant, The Talon Metropolis. "Stop by and I'll give you some cookies to take her. How is she feeling?"

"She sounds good. Like Chloe, just pregnant." Clark told his mother, as he opened a box. "I'm going up there to see Oliver for a little while."

"Well, when you get those cookies, I have some apple turnovers for you and the new baker sent over some date nut muffins. I know Oliver will like those." Martha reviewed the pastry case. The urge to feed her son and his friends had not disappeared at all. "I wonder if Pete still likes almond crescents."

"I'll stop to see you first." Clark reached into the box, and pulled out pictures, framed photos that had been in his dorm and then in the small efficiencies he'd rented after college. Shelby, his golden coat gleaming in the sun, and Jonathan Kent looking up from his work to smile at the camera. Clark looked at the pictures for a minute, smiling back at his father and then touching the face of the dog sadly. He'd been in the Pacific Islands helping after a tsunami when his loyal dog had quietly died in his sleep. "I'm thinking of getting a dog."

"Right, Clark. That's the last thing you need." Martha said, dismissing her son's whim with maternal practicality. "Get fish or a cat if you have to have a pet. Okay, honey, I have to go…don't forget to call Perry. He's chomping at the bit to get you started at the Planet ."

"I won't." Clark said, nodding. He hung up again and picked up a box, carrying it into the living room. Clark set the box down, looked at his watch and called Perry White. In less than ten seconds, Clark was changed into a sedate blue suit and out the door. He strolled down the street, enjoying the early autumn weather and the sounds of the city. He'd been all over the world, and Clark had noticed that each city had a music of it's own, and his favorite was Metropolis. Pleasantly distracted, Clark walked right into a tall, dark haired woman who grabbed on to his jacket to keep from falling. Her full cup of coffee hit the sidewalk with a splat and she turned to look at him accusingly, her hazel eyes shining with annoyance. There was something familiar about her face, but Clark could not place it, it seemed the face belonged to someone else who was not quite as well dressed, someone whose hair was lighter and streaked from the sun.

"Hey, why don't you look where you're going, you big klutz!" She spat, looking down at the legs of her pants to inspect them for coffee damage. "I swear, you tourists..." Her voice again was familiar, but Clark couldn't quite place it, as she turned back to him expectantly,hands on her hips.

"I'm so sorry, really. I just moved to town and I was taking it all in. Let me buy you a new coffee." Clark offered, and the woman looked at him again, her face resolving into a resigned good humor. One perfect eyebrow arched over her eyes, and she grinned. Then he recognized her and couldn't believe he'd not done so before. Lois. "Lois! I didn't even recognize you."

"Smallville. I should have known." Lois shook her head. "Your mother said you were coming back." She pointed toward the coffee shop and they walked there together, falling into step with each other easily. "I like your glasses."

"Uh, yeah." Clark adjusted them with a shy smile as he held the coffee shop door open for her. "I was in London, and I realized that I was getting headaches without..." Lois held up a hand and made her way to the counter, to order her coffee again. Clark followed dutifully behind, and waited while she spoke to the kid behind the counter.

"Yeah, seen everything, been everywhere." Lois singsonged, after ordering her drink, picking up the conversation again. "Chloe and your mom kept me up to date. I know we were never really close, Clark, but a post card might have been nice. 'Hi, Lois, how are you? Were you ever in Prague? Where's the best place for goulash?' " She rolled her eyes. "Not that I'd have written back anyway."

"That's what I thought." Clark replied, genuinely taken aback by her statement. "So, I'm on my way to the Daily Planet? You? Still working at the Metropolis Journal?"

"The Journal?" Lois shook her head. A mischevious grin lit up her face. "That was just for my internship during school. Come on, I'll walk with you to the Planet and make sure you don't knock anyone else over."

They walked to the Daily Planet, chatting companionably about Lana's upcoming wedding, (they were both going), Chloe's baby, (they disagreed about what it was going to be, which made Clark laugh), and Martha's new cafe, (which was Lois' favorite place in all of Metropolis) and before long they were standing at the Art Deco entrance to the Planet.

"Well, here's your stop." Lois nodded toward the revolving doors with a reassuring smile. "Knock 'em dead."

"Yeah." Clark looked at her. "So, you work nearby?"

"Uh-huh." Lois smiled, looking at Clark over her coffee cup.

"Well, I'd better go. It's been great seeing you, Lois." Clark smiled and turned toward the doors. "See you at the wedding this weekend."

"Oh, not if I see you first." Lois said, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. When Clark disappeared into the building, Lois turned and walked quickly around to the service entrance. The three maintenance men that were lounging at the door snapped to attention, and Lois grinned. She loved having that effect on people, and often used it to get what she wanted. Today was no exception.

"Hey, Miss Lane. Help you with something?" One of them said, and Lois nodded.

"I need an express trip up to my floor, Tommy. Think the service elevator can handle that?" Lois asked, dropping her empty cup in the garbage can.

"You better believe it. Hop in." Tommy said, and in seconds, it seemed, Lois was at her desk, head down, as Clark got off the elevator from the lobby. He looked around, and found his way to Perry's office. She sat back and counted to three. Perry's door opened, and the editor stuck his head out of his office and bellowed.

"LANE, OLSEN! Get in here! The new guy is here and I want you two to show him the ropes! " Perry pulled his door shut with a crash and Lois smiled. Smallville wasn't even going to know what hit him. She rose from her desk and sauntered into Perry's office.

"What is it, Chief?" Lois asked, trying to look casual, although she so desperately wanted to see Clark's face as he got her joke on him.

"You will be working with Clark here. Just like the good old days at the Smallville Ledger I want you to show Clark around, help him get adjusted to life here at the Planet." Perry said, sitting down at his desk. Before Lois could reply, Perry thumped his fist on his desk and groaned. "And where is that kid? Where the hell is Olsen?"

Perry's door swung open, and Jimmy Olsen burst in. "Chief, Miss Lane, there's a hostage situation going on at City Hall! I just heard about it on the police scanner. " Clark smiled to himself, wondering if it was the same one Perry had given him to use at the Ledger.

"Let's go, Jimmy." Lois turned to leave. "Sorry, Clark. The tour of the Daily Planet will have to happen tomorrow."

"I think I'll come with you." Clark replied, standing. "Might as well jump right in."

"Good, good." Perry waved them out. "Bring me back a front page story, kids. Oh, and welcome to the bigs, Clark."

The crowd outside City Hall was easy enough for Clark to lose Lois and Jimmy in, and he did, backtracking until he found a safe place to change. In a flash, Clark sped up into the sky and down into City Hall. He could see the hostages, a woman and two children, and their captor, a desperate looking man with a gun in his hand and explosives strapped to his body, just inside the domed rotunda of the building. Two police officers were lying on the marble floor, and Clark scanned them quickly. Relieved that they were still alive, Clark dropped from the balcony, floating to the floor silently. The man jumped, startled, and the gun rose shaking to Clark's heart level. The children gasped, and the boy pointed at the "S" on Clark's chest, whispering to his sister cautiously. Both children were terrified.

"Who the hell are you?" The man said, his voice quavering. "Cops don't wear red capes."

"No, they don't." Clark said, raising his hands. "I'm just a friend. I'd like to try and help you if I can. Why don't you let these nice people go, and you and I can talk. What's your name, sir?"

" I'm Ed. These are my kids." The man said, pointing to the children with his other hand. "That," He pointed the gun at the woman, who was hovering as protectively as she could over the children. "Is the reason why I'm here today like this. She's the one who took my kids from me."

Clark looked over at the woman. She was afraid, but her main concern was the children. "Who are you, ma'am?"

"Marian Fitzsimmons, Department of Children and Family Services." She answered Clark without taking her eyes off of her captor. "I was taking the children to their grandmother in Lowell County. She was granted custody of them after their mother died this year. This man has been on the run with them. He's out on bail himself for kidnapping."

"They're my kids..." Ed argued, looking back at Clark pleadingly. "Their mother and I didn't see eye to eye, and when I left that was it. She never told me she was dying. I came back when I heard, and took them with me. I'm their father. How is that kidnapping?"

"This isn't the way to handle it," Clark said, thinking about Jonathan Kent and how protectively he'd guarded him and his secret all those years. "Look at your children. They are afraid of you. They don't understand what you are trying to do here. Why don't you put the gun down, and hand over those explosives and let's talk this out?"

Ed looked at his children and his shoulders began to shake. He put the gun down and kicked it toward Clark. "I can't help my kids this way, you're right."

Clark nodded, and pushed the gun away. "Now the explosives." The man nodded, and fumbled with the braces and clips that fastened the harness to his body. There was a click and a small whine and Ed looked up in panic. "What is it?"

"I accidentally activated the controls." He told Clark. "You have to get my kids out of here."

"No, I have to get that bomb out of here." Clark grabbed the harness, ripping it free from Ed's body and soaring through the air. "Give yourself up, Ed. Do it now.." Clark flew from the City Hall building carrying the bomb and tossed it up into the air, where it exploded in a blaze of yellow light, but otherwise harmlessly. As he dropped back to the ground, Ed was being led out of the building in handcuffs, sobbing. His children followed, holding the hands of the social worker, both of them crying as well.

"Wait," Clark stopped police officers. "Let him say goodbye to his children. Give him a minute to explain."

Listen, hero..."The first officer began, but the second officer nodded and let Ed turn to kneel before his children.

"I'm sorry. I hope you both know that. I love you more than anything in the whole world, but it looks like Daddy screwed up. Again. Your mother was right. Be good for your grandma, and I promise I'll see you when I can." The children broke away from the social worker and hugged their father, wailing. "Hey, hey...Lowell County is nice. Your mom loved living there as a kid, and you will too. It's going to be okay."

Clark smiled. "I'll leave the rest to you all." He nodded at the officers and the social worker.

"Thank you for your help." The social worker said told him and the children looked up from their father and nodded.

"Glad I could help." Clark said, and he flew off. Lois and Jimmy, along with the rest of the press were buzzing with the story of the mysterious Good Samaritan in blue and red that appeared out of nowhere and resolved the situation. By the time Clark changed and got back to Lois, she was already dictating her story to herself while Jimmy snapped pictures of the little family being led in seperate directions. Lois looked up at him and sighed.

"Where were you? That was a story and a half right there." Lois snapped, and Clark shrugged uncomfortably.

"I'm going to go to the jail and interview the father later. Get his side of the story, you know?" Clark said, and Lois shook her head.

"Still gotta get the soft angle of the piece, huh? Okay, do whatever you want, Clark." She looked at her watch. "We'd better go. Chloe wanted all of us to meet for dinner." Lois waved at Jimmy. "Get those pictures in and tell the Chief I'll have my story in his e-mail tonight."

"You got it, Miss Lane. Nice to meet you, Mr. Kent." Jimmy replied, waving back before he went back to the Daily Planet.

Lois and Clark walked to the Metropolis Grand in silence. Every so often, Lois would look up into the sky and then shake her head.

"What's wrong, Lois?" Clark asked, and Lois looked up at him, frowning.

"Where did he go?" She wondered aloud, looking up at the sky again. "And where did he come from?"

"Who?" Clark's question was tentative. "That poor guy who kidnapped his kids?"

"No, the other guy...the one in the red and blue suit. You know," She waved her hand as she searched for the word. "Superman." Lois paused and then turned around. "Clark, tell Chloe I'm going to be late. I have to go back to The Planet for awhile."

"Oh, okay." Clark waved, hiding his laugh until she'd gone. Lois hadn't recognized him. Clark grinned and went inside the hotel, anxious to see his other friends.

The wedding of Pete and Lana was an understated affair, because neither of them wanted anything big, and the fact that Lana was hip deep in getting her new solo fashion show ready to hit the runway. The ceremony had been short, and the reception was in full swing. Lana looked lovely, her long dark hair piled into a flowing cascade at the back of her head, and her dress a shining swath of pearly silk, with no extra embellishments. Her only jewelry consisted of her wedding and engagement ring and an elegant pair of pearl earrings she had found in a Milanese flea market. Chloe, the matron of honor and ready to deliver her baby, also was radiant in a scarlet gown that nearly was the same shade of the roses Lana had chosen for her bouquet. The off the shoulder neckline only enhanced Chloe's satisfied glow, and she wore heirloom rubies from Oliver's grandmother's collection, and the sweeping skirt did a very nice job of minimizng the soft curve of her pregnant belly. Pete, of course, seemed to be ready to burst from excitement. Clark smiled as he watched Pete swirl Lana around the dance floor, both of them happily in love and perfectly contented. Chloe was talking with Lois about the latest Superman sighting on the west side of town, and Clark noticed the imperceptible wink as Chloe's eyelashes quickly dusted her cheek. Once again, Clark's accomplice network had picked up their banner, because Pete had almost had Lana convinced until she'd seen the paper. Jimmy Olsen's off handed shot of Clark standing on the steps of City Hall watching the little family embrace before being parted had undone all of Pete's careful protection of Clark.. Lana had looked at the paper, and then at Clark, a slow smile curving her face before she kissed Clark on the cheek. Now, though, Lois was the only one with Superman on the brain.

"Go save my wife, Superman." Oliver said, his voice a teasing drawl. "I'd shoot Lois, but people would talk."

Clark laughed, setting down his glass. "The brave Green Arrow is off duty, huh?"

"Nope, nope." Oliver shook his head. "I just think you're the man for the job."

"Gotcha." Clark nodded and walked over to where Chloe and Lois were talking. Lois was gorgeous in deep blue, the gown perfectly tailored and yet not so tight as she might have made it in the past. A wide band of navy beads marked the neckline, and Clark had to admit, no one carried off strapless gowns like Lois did. "You two look like you're plotting something."

"Plotting?" Lois asked, poking Clark sharply. "I never plot."

"We were talking about Superman. But, I'm going to take advantage and go dance with my husband." Chloe patted Lois on the arm. "See you, cousin."

Clark reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. He dropped it into Lois' hand. "I don't know if inflation has raised the price of thoughts, but between friends, a quarter should do it, don't you think?"

Lois looked down at the quarter in her hand and smiled. "You remembered that? I was so miserable at that party."

"I know. You look fantastic at this one." Clark told her, and Lois smiled, looking more like the girl Clark remembered.

"So do you, Smallville. I see you learned how to tie your ties, too." She nodded approvingly. "I was thinking about Superman."

Clark took her hand. "Want to dance? You can tell me your thoughts while we dance. Kill two birds with one stone."

"Yeah.." Lois grinned and let Clark lead her to the dance floor. The music had changed and the song was one Lois had come to associate with her time in Smallville. Clark held her hand very gently and Lois let him take her in his arms to dance. It was kind of like coming home a little, and Lois looked up at Clark, studying his face. Something about it made her think of the mysterious man in blue and red the other day, but Lois couldn't place it. Instead, she put the Superman out of her mind completely and smiled up at Clark.

"I'm glad we're going to be working together, Lois." Clark said, and Lois tapped him on the shoulder lightly. He looked down, as if surprised by the noise her hand made on his jacket rather than the impact of the slap. He looked at Lois questioningly and she smiled again, dropping her head to his shoulder.

"Shh. I can't hear the song.." It was good to have Clark back in Metropolis, Lois thought to herself. It felt right. Besides, she still needed the spell check help and Clark was a spelling whiz.

"Tonight's the night we'll make history, honey, you and I
And I'll take any risk to tie back the hands of time
And stay with you here tonight
I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it's true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it it's the end of Paradise
But I know, if the world just passed us by
Baby I know, you wouldn't have to cry

The best of times are when I'm alone with you
Some rain some shine, we'll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We'll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we'll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times

The headlines read 'these are the worst of times'
I do believe it's true
I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish this summer wind could bring back Paradise
But I know, if the world turned upside down
Baby, I know you'd always be around

The best of times are when I'm alone with you
Some rain some shine, we'll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We'll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we'll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times"

"Best of Times" by Styx