Lois awoke in the barn alone. Clark's button-down plaid shirt was draped over her shoulders, a solitary yellow daffodil lay resting near her head. She picked it up and smelled it, recalling last night's events.
Like a schoolgirl, she giggled. She clenched her fists together and pounded the hay, letting out a sultry, high-pitched laugh. It occurred to her that most women would be upset that the man they just spent the night with would be MIA in the morning. But she wasn't any woman, and he wasn't just any man. Throwing on the rest of her clothes, she twirled the flower in her hand and walked back to the house.
In the kitchen, Jason was helping Martha clean dishes in the sink. She caught sight of her reflection in the window and was pained to see how wrinkled her clothes had become. Strands of hay were protruding from her hair. Hell, she looked terrible.
"Good morning, mommy. Where were you last night? I waited up for you!" Jason asked as he pulled his fingers out of the soapy water. White bubbles dotted his hands.
"Can we go to the zoo today?" For once she was grateful for a 5-year-old's attention span.
Martha towel-dried a breakfast plate and placed it on the counter. "Here, Lois. Let me get you a bathrobe so that we can wash your clothes."
Turning towards her son she replied, "No, sweetie. We have to go home. Mommy has to go back to work."
"Surely you can't stay a little while longer." Martha asked, draping her spare robe over the chair.
"I really need to get back. My editor will be wondering what I've been up to."
"Mr. White, isn't it?"
"Yes. Martha, just how much does Clark tell you?"
"Just about everything, dear."
"I see," her mind reeling with the implications of her answer. She was going to have to have a conversation with Clark.
Clark returned a short time later. He landed just outside the kitchen window, quickly changed into jeans and a t-shirt and stood watching Jason play in the rows of corn. He rested his arms against the fence, remarking at that moment how his son reminded him so much of himself.
"Good morning, Clark!" Jason yelled in the distance. Clark gave him a huge hello wave and laughed.
From behind, Lois wrapped her arms around his chest and pulled herself towards him, absorbing his body heat. She rested her cheek on his back.
"Good morning, Lois."
"How are you feeling?"
"It looks good on you," he said, playfully pulling on the sleeve of the plaid shirt she wore.
"I look horrendous. I need to take a shower," she said, her voice cracking as her mind wandered, considering the possibilities.
Her meaning wasn't lost on him. He pulled her around and planted a warm kiss on her mouth, caressing her shoulder with his thumb. Martha, still cleaning dishes in the sink, watched them through the kitchen window. Clark said, "Maybe later when we don't have an audience…"
Moments later, Martha walked through the front door, its hinges squealing as it swung shut. "If you two will excuse me, I need to run into town. I'll be back in a few minutes." Martha looked briefly at her son and then called out, "Jason! Come here, dear. I want you to come with me to the market."
As Jason happily climbed into the truck with Martha, Lois smiled and said, "What audience?" Clark picked her up in his arms and carried her inside.
Around noon, Lois, Clark and Jason said goodbye to Martha. As the two women hugged, Martha slipped a piece of paper into her hand. "Call me, for anything," she whispered.
Then, more loudly, "I want to see all of you again, and soon!"
Clark drew his mother into a warm embrace, then swooped his family up in his arms and flew off towards Metropolis. Jason could barely contain his excitement at once again being airborne. Lois listened intently to the two most important men in her life talk, and as they drew closer to Metropolis, she became completely silent.
They landed behind Lois' house.
"Thanks for the lift. I, uh, have to get ready for work. I'll see you there later?" Lois asked, her voice suddenly filled with trepidation.
"I'll be there. Goodbye Jason!"
"Goodbye Superman!" As he flew away, Clark was grateful for the boy's instincts on calling him Superman only when he was in costume. He was a smart kid, he thought with pride.
When he was gone, Lois looked out towards the water. How she had loved that view. She spent many nights watching boats traverse it, listening to the faint hum of distant foghorns. But most striking to her now was the vacant dock where Richard's plane was once stowed. It left a gaping hole in the landscape.
Upon entering the house, she stepped into an empty living room. Most of the furniture, being Richard's, was gone. A sleek Persian rug he'd given her as a gift was the only object in the room, aside from a phone that lay on the floor beside the door. She picked up the receiver, and as expected, no dial tone. As she walked from room to room, she felt the echoes of his presence. Conversations and emotions that were tied to certain rooms, missing objects, were as vacant as her home.
"Come on, honey." She picked Jason up and climbed the stairs, leading him to his room. Thankfully, it was untouched. Upon the bed she found a large photograph of Richard and Jason, and scrawled on the back in Richard's handwriting a short message and a phone number. She handed it to her son.
She left her son alone and went to her bedroom. In there only a king size bed remained. As she perused through her closet, the left side was crammed with heavy wooden hangers, all devoid of garments. As she was looking for what to wear to work, she heard voices and footsteps downstairs.
As she walked back down the steps, her high heels clanged through the air, the wooden floors carrying the echo throughout the house.
"As you can see the view out the back is world class," a woman's voice spoke, "and of course the house has its own private dock. The previous owner stored a seaplane here."
"Can I help you?" Lois asked the intruder, a woman dressed in a navy blue business suit and wearing pink, plastic framed glasses.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Madeline Murray." She shook Lois' hand. "I'm the realtor helping you sell your house. I spoke with your husband."
"Oh, I'm sorry, that's right. He told me the two of you weren't married. My apologies." Her demeanor indicated she couldn't care less.
"He's selling the house?" Lois knew she shouldn't be surprised. It was technically Richard's, and he had the right to sell it if he chose.
"Yes, dear. Lois, isn't it? Richard told me all about you. Let me just fill you in on the plan. He said you're welcome to stay as long as you need. He won't close on the home until you've found a place of your own. Are you okay with that dear?"
"Uh, yeah." She sounded unconvinced even to her own ears.
"Good. We won't take up too much of your time, then," Madeline concluded. Then, as if she had suddenly become invisible, the woman shuffled the prospective buyers into the kitchen, explaining the virtues of granite countertops. She went back to her bedroom and changed into a business suit and blouse, and walked out to the garage.
There was no car.
She sighed, dialing the number for a taxi on her cell phone.
"Come on, Jason, we're going to be late!" She called out.
Holding Jason in her arms, Lois stepped out of the elevator into the busy bullpen of the Daily Planet. She walked confidently to her desk, relieved to be back at work. Even though she had been gone only a few days, a stack of files was piled neatly on the corner of her desk. She sat down and came face to face with a copy of her infamous article, with Superman's face plastered right in the middle of it. Sighing, she folded it up and placed it in the trash.
Looking to her left, she saw the cracked frame that held a picture of her, Richard and Jason from a happier time. She placed it facedown in the drawer, right next to her Pulitzer plaque, and allowed her fingers to glide over her name etched in the metal. She abruptly shut the drawer with brute force, causing her co-worker at an adjacent desk to mouth an obscenity in her direction. She reached for the top folder in the pile and began to peruse its contents when Perry called her into his office.
"Thanks, Chief, for giving me a few days off with such short notice," Lois said, pulling the office door closed behind her.
"How's Superman?" Perry asked, his hands on his hips.
"Lois…" He said, slightly annoyed.
"He's doing better. He's pretty upset about what happened."
"The lab called. Apparently they're calling that substance he was exposed to red kryptonite. Damn fascinating, isn't it? That a man so powerful can be taken out by a rock? Oh well, everyone has their weakness." He said it so nonchalantly that Lois was taken aback.
"How are you holding up?" Perry added.
"I'm doing okay. It's been a busy couple of days. It's going to take some getting used to all the changes." She glanced over at Richard's office, which was empty.
Catching her glance, Perry said, "He left for London yesterday."
"Did he say when he was coming back?"
"How's he doing?"
"Lois." His tone told her to stop, but her guilt wouldn't allow her to forget.
Just then there was a loud crash as something large and heavy hit the floor. A lone, high-pitched "Sorry!" called out. Lois smiled and rolled her eyes.
"Unbelievable, that kid!" Perry mumbled. Then, with more force, he threw open the door and yelled, "Kent! Get in here!"
"Uh, yes sir? Good morning, sir! Good morning, Lois!"
"Nice of you to join us," Perry said.
"Uh, sorry about being out the last couple of days. I came down with the flu. Was running a high fever and…"
"Whatever," Perry said, waving his hand in the air. "Now that both of you are back, I thought it would be a good idea to get you working as a team again. You have any problem with that Lois?" His statement ended with an inflection, but the tone was anything but a question. Lois shook her head.
"Good. There's a case that needs cracking and I want you two to put your heads together and see what you can come up with."
"Hold on a second, Chief. I'm not going to have to share a byline, am I?" Lois asked.
Clark rolled his eyes, some things never changed. He stole a glance at Lois, which made her momentarily self-conscious.
Ignoring Lois' protests, Perry continued talking, seemingly unaware of the dynamic floating between two of his best reporters. As they left his office, Lois said, "I really wish you'd stop doing that. It's not fair."
"What's not fair?"
"You looking at me like that."
"Looking at you how?"
"Like you're undressing me in your mind. It's bad enough when some lowlife on the street does it but Clark, those guys just imagine it. You can actually do so. So please stop it. It makes me uncomfortable."
"Gee, Lois, I would never invade your privacy like that. Besides," he added quietly, "it takes some of the fun out of the anticipation, you know?" He winked.
Lois rolled her eyes. "Oh, I don't doubt that you would never scan some poor unsuspecting woman off the street. I just don't want you to think that your rules 'fly out the window,' so to speak when it comes to me."
"You never have to worry about that, Lois. And frankly, I'm a little upset that you would think me capable of such behavior."
"I'm sorry, Clark."
As she walked away he smirked; sometimes, he just couldn't help himself. This woman made him think and feel things that he never thought himself capable. What was a broken rule or two in the face of such emotion? He muttered under his breath, just loud enough for her to hear, "Have I ever told you how much I love pink?"