Kal-El saw the sudden worry in Wanda's face.
"We need to leave," he said.
Wanda stood up, giving Martha and Lois hugs. "Thank you for everything," she said.
"Good luck," Lois said. "Remember, be gentle with each other."
Kal-El went to the living room and grabbed the case with the Kryptonian baby. Wanda opened the doors to the deck, and then allowed Kal-El to take her in his arms. They floated up, away from the house, then headed for the storm.
'Lois?' Kal-El thought at her.
'Clark?' she responded. 'This telepathy thing is going to take some getting used to.'
'The AI in the new Fortress of Solitude said we needed a beacon from our home time-frame to guide us back.'
'How are we supposed to do that?'
'If we're lucky, we'll be able to find our Jason, Richard, and Perry. I'm hoping we can identify a time-frame with the proper ones, then we can home in on them.' He knew he didn't have to tell her how unlikely it would be for them to find exactly the right combination. "Praying might help, too," he added aloud.
They could see the black clouds in the distance, coming at them. Again, the gale winds whipped at them. Again, the piercing wail, the sound driving through their skulls.
'Think about Jason, Lois, think! Find Jason! Find Richard!' Kal-El thought at her above the storm.
He cast his mind out into the vastness of universes, searching for a mental signature he recognized, a mind that knew him and Lois. He saw Jason and Richard through Lois's mind as well. A Jason and Richard who were worried that their Lois hadn't come home last night. He had a path through the storm and dove for the center, following the traces of mental energy that would lead them home. They had their beacon.
The storm vanished as suddenly as it had before. Lois Lane and Superman found themselves in Metropolis, in Centennial Park, beside the crater Superman had created when he fell to Earth only days before. The sun was already high in the sky.
"Are we back?" Lois asked.
Superman looked around. "Looks like it. We should check in with Perry. He's probably worried."
She put out a hand, placing it on his chest. "We're going to have to come up with some excuse for showing up with a newborn. Something convincing."
"I know," he admitted. "But I'm all out of ideas right now. And I'm not sure why you agreed to take this on."
"Do you trust me?" Lois asked.
Superman considered the question for a long moment. "Do I have a choice?"
She didn't answer his question. "I'm going to the Planet, give Perry some sort of excuse for you and me being gone. We need to find a village in South America that was destroyed or evacuated in the past week or so. Considering the drug wars happening down there, you should be able to find someplace like that."
"Why South America?"
"Because that's where Clark was for the past six years, isn't it? Give me about an hour. Then, assuming the baby's okay, bring her in, as Superman. Then follow my lead."
"I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Probably not. But I can't think of anything else, can you? By the way, what's your blood type?"
Lois Lane-Kent walked through the front doors of Metropolis General Hospital. She'd managed a few hours' sleep.
She made her way to the tenth floor, to the ICU, to the isolation room where Superman was. Bernie wasn't there, but one of the ICU nurses recognized her and instructed her on what she needed to do before entering the hospital room. Thorough hand washing, a surgeon's cap for her hair, a long-sleeved gown over her clothes.
Clark looked like he was asleep, but Lois suspected he was still unconscious; whether from his ordeal or from the sedation she knew Klein had ordered, she wasn't sure. She took one limp hand into her own, taking care not to dislodge any of the myriad tubes and wires that were attached to his body. He was off the respirator and Lois assumed that was a good sign.
"Clark, I don't know if you can hear me, but I miss you, and I want you back." She kissed him on the forehead. He was warm, a little too warm, maybe. His body temperature was normally a little higher than Earth normal, but kryptonite exposure gave him a fever.
'Lois,' Zara's mental voice sounded in her brain. 'I can't find Clark; is he all right?'
'He was injured by the assassin, but we're hoping he'll be okay,' Lois responded. 'You might want to let Xon know that his assassin and his spy lasted about ten minutes on Earth.' She sent a brief mental image of Clark's battle with the assassin, and Richard's help in defeating him, then her own actions in taking out the New Kryptonian invader.
Lois felt a stab of astonishment from Zara. 'That was Xon himself. He must have wanted to watch Clark die, to make sure the job was done right. Lois, with Xon dead at the hands of Kal-El's consort, an Earther no less, I doubt we'll have any more problems with his people. And I can almost guarantee no other New Kryptonian will ever visit Earth without the express permission of you and Clark.
'You did very well, sister,' Zara thought at her. Lois could feel the pride in Zara's thoughts.
"Lois?" Lois heard Clark's voice. He sounded weak and hoarse, but she'd never heard anything more beautiful. "What did Zara want?"
"She wanted to be sure you were okay," Lois told him. "Now, you just relax and let us take care of you. I love you, you know."
"Love you," Clark replied with a faint smile. "When can we go home?"
Lois considered her plan. First, a quick stop at an engraving shop, then to the Planet.
"And where have you been?" Perry demanded, catching sight of her as she walked into the bullpen. "And where's Kent?"
"I left him at the INS office," Lois told him. "But I have a feeling it's not going to pan out. They're just not budging."
"Budging on what?" Richard asked, stepping over to her. He gave her a quick hug, then stepped back as she stiffened in his arms. It's over. It's really over.
"I promised Clark not to say anything until we knew for sure how they were going to jump," Lois said.
"How who were going to jump?" Perry asked. He guided her to his office, Richard following them.
"The INS and Homeland Security," she said. "You know that story Clark was working on, about immigration problems? Well, it's personal, too. And before you say anything, Perry, that's why we started working on it together. It was too personal for him."
There was a commotion outside the office and Lois looked out to see Superman walking through the newsroom carrying a tiny bundle wrapped in a blanket. He looked like he was ready to bolt and was forcing himself to stay firmly on the floor. She hurried out of the office, knowing Perry was on her heels. As she went, she pulled a dirty med-alert necklace from her pocket, palming it. The dirt came from a flowerpot outside the engravers.
"Did you find the village?" she asked him.
Superman took a deep breath. "They were all dead. Less than twenty-four hours." He swallowed hard. "I don't understand how..."
"There's nothing you could have done. You can't be in more than one place at a time," she told him. His expression cleared a little, but the wariness remained. She reached out and took the bundle from his arms, uncovering it. It was the baby girl. The baby fussed a little, hands flailing, looking for her mother. "And is this...?" Lois asked.
"Yes," Superman answered.
Lois opened her hand to reveal the necklace, making it look as though she'd found it in the blanket. She dropped it into Perry's hand. His eyes widened as he read the engraving. Lois knew what it read: Clark J. Kent, blood type O negative, allergic to penicillin. Jason's allergic. It stands to reason his father is too.
"Superman, who are this child's parents?" Perry asked.
Lois held her breath as she waited for his answer.
Superman considered his answer for a long moment, as if reluctant to admit the truth. Finally: "Conza Nor-Et and Clark Kent."
"That's what you and Clark were working on?" Richard asked Lois.
Lois nodded. "He got married while he was down there. But then he found out he couldn't get her into the U.S. That's one of the reasons it took him so long to come back to the States. I asked Superman to help. I figured maybe if she was already here, it might help, only..."
"Only she's dead?" Perry completed for her.
Lois nodded. They're buying it.
"Does Clark know?" Parry asked, looking to Superman.
"I haven't seen him," Superman said. "I have to go."
"Superman, thank you," Lois said as he headed for the nearest window. He looked back at her and nodded once before disappearing.
"He's scared to death of you," Perry observed.
"He's just a little off-kilter," Lois explained. "This whole thing with Clark and the INS has been hard on him, too. They've always been pretty close, you know."
The elevator doors opened and Clark Kent stepped into the elevator lobby, crossing the floor to the newsroom. He noted the sympathetic looks he was getting, especially from Perry and Richard.
"No luck?" Lois asked as he came closer.
Clark shrugged and shook his head.
"I'm so sorry, Clark, but Conza's dead," Lois continued. "I asked Superman to go down to find her for you, but everyone was dead, except..." She handed him the bundle. "Conza's baby." The baby started to fuss a little more. No doubt she was finally hungry.
Polly stepped forward. "How about I run downstairs and get some formula and stuff?"
Clark tried to shift the baby onto one arm so he could get out his wallet. Polly shook her head. "Don't worry about it, Clark," she said, taking off toward the elevators.
"Let's go to the conference room," Lois suggested, taking Clark's elbow. He allowed himself to be led away. "What's her name?"
Clark paused, thinking. "Esperanza Ester," he finally said. "Esperanza Ester Kent."
Richard watched them go. "She's decided," he told his uncle. "Is that post in Paris still open?"
"I can choose my own assistant, right?"
"I'm thinking of asking Penny Landis. I think she'd do a good job for me and she speaks French better than I do. Plus, we've hit it off the last couple days."
"If that's what you want, son."
"I think that's what's best, right now," Richard said, watching Lois and Clark through the windows of the conference room. Lois was hovering over Clark like a mother hen. "We'll work something out concerning Jason. I know they'll both be fair about it."
"What have I gotten myself into?" Clark asked aloud as he sat down on one of the chairs in the conference room. The baby started to wail and he held her to his shoulder. "What have I done?"
"What you always do," Lois answered, noting how natural he seemed with a baby in his arms. "What you're best at. Rescuing people. And I can't think of anyone who needed rescuing more than this little one."
"I can't do this by myself," he protested. It finally sank in as to what was happening. What Lois had planned for him.
"You won't have to," she assured him. "We'll all be here to help."
"I don't know if I can do this."
"Nobody ever said being a parent was easy. But welcome to the human race, Clark Kent. This is what being human is all about. From today on, every action you take, every decision you make, will take into account the needs of another person. She will never be far from your thoughts," Lois looked out at the newsroom, to the audience outside the conference room. "Besides, your marriageability quotient just went up about a thousandfold. A widower with a baby."
"And what about him? What about...?" He made the slightest upward motion with one hand.
"Clark, I promise you, we'll make this work; after all, they did. And besides, despite the fact that I would like nothing more than to knock your block off for lying to me, erasing my memory, and running off for six years, I'm in love with you. All of you."
"And I've loved you since the first time I saw you. Will it help if I promise never to do those things again?"
"It won't hurt."
"It's so nice to be home," Clark Kent told his wife of ten years.
"It's good to have you home," Lois Lane-Kent told him, giving him a kiss.
He looked around the house. "Have they gone home?"
Lois nodded. "Not long after he donated the blood that probably saved your life."
"I didn't get a chance to thank him," Clark said. "Do you they'll make it?"
Lois nodded. "I think they have a chance, once he gets over the shock of becoming a daddy. Once they figure out that with love, anything is possible."
"Even the impossible?" he asked with a grin.
"Especially the impossible."