Thanks again go to all the wonderful people that left me reviews, with a special thanks to 4ever1 for her quick beta work.
I hope you enjoy this.
Lois needed answers, but she knew that she couldn't ask while someone might be listening.
They stood there without moving for more than a minute until finally Clark said, "Honey?" He cleared his throat nervously. "Let's not fight anymore. I know things have been difficult lately, but you know how I hate it when you make it sound like we need to start all over."
It could work. Lois thought. It was remotely possible that they could make it sound like they were having some sort of altercation, but what about their comments regarding Superman? Lois could do this. After all, she'd had far more experience in undercover investigations than Clark. Lois replied carefully "I'm sorry Clark. Sometimes I don't even understand myself."
She couldn't stand the thought of someone listening, and she didn't care if it added to their suspicions. Lois went to the garage and returned with a hammer. Clark gave her a dubious look, and then put the listening device onto the floor of the entryway.
Clark restrained himself from commenting as she pummeled the device. One of the entry tiles cracked, but Clark could still hear the high frequency whine emitting from the bug. Lois brushed her hair back with her hand and gave him satisfied smile. When she rose to her feet, no longer looking at the device, Clark casually stepped on it pulverizing it beneath his heel.
Clark tensed as he detected someone approaching outside. Lois jumped when the doorbell rang. She dropped the hammer and moved to the peephole. Clark lowered his glasses to peer through the door. Elizabeth waited on the other side, looking chilled in the cooling evening air.
Lois pulled away from the peephole to shoot Clark a look, her eyebrow raised sardonically. "She just never gives up, does she?" She leaned against the door, making no move to open it.
"Aren't you going to see what she wants?" Clark raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, I know full well what that woman wants." Lois said knowingly.
Clark blushed. "Lois." He said almost pleadingly.
Lois sighed heavily, "Alright, but you owe me one." She opened the door.
Elizabeth pushed her way inside. She stopped when she saw the hammer and the dark smear on the tile. "Had a little problem here?"
"No." Lois said with false innocence, "Not at all. Just a bug."
"Oh." The blond woman said like she hadn't a clue what to think about Lois killing an insect with a hammer. "I wonder how it managed to survive with all the chemicals Victor has the maintenance people using; it's amazing that anything's alive in this neighborhood." She looked around the house, and then turned to face them. "I just thought I would stop by to give you a word of warning."
Clark and Lois exchanged a look. Clark said, "It's a beautiful evening. Why don't we take this outside?"
Lois' eyes widened at his suggestion and she nodded her head in understanding.
Clark knew that they were beyond the range of any listening devices, but he couldn't tell them that. Besides, Elizabeth had on so much perfume that it would be a relief to get out into the open. Sometimes, Clark wished that all of his senses weren't so acute.
They stood on the porch. It had grown dark with the coming twilight. Elizabeth smoothed her hand down the sundress that seemed even more out of place away from the barbeque. "I didn't just happen to walk by when you were moving in. Victor sent me to check you out."
"That was pretty open minded of him." Lois commented sarcastically.
She smiled dryly at Lois, and said, "You do have one fine specimen of a man." She raked her gaze over Clark while he shifted uncomfortably.
Lois flushed more from anger then embarrassment. How dare that woman say that about Clark even if it was true.
"It was just a bit of harmless flirting. I told my husband that you weren't a real couple. After he saw you together, he didn't believe me, and well, I saw that kiss and I just wanted to say that I was wrong and I'm sorry." She lowered her gaze. "I never meant to cause you any trouble, and I figured you had enough problems without me adding to them."
Elizabeth stepped away as if she were preparing to leave.
"Wait! What kind of problems are we talking about?" Lois asked sharply, blocking her path.
Elizabeth looked at them sadly, and the pity written in her face filled Lois with anxiety. "You have to leave this place. Soon. Tonight if you can."
"Elizabeth." Clark took her arm, and the deep timber of his voice resonated deep within Lois. Elizabeth was not unaffected, and Lois scowled when the woman swayed against Clark's broad chest.
"Please, tell us what's going on." he entreated.
Lois realized she would have told Clark anything if he ever looked at her like that. She suddenly had a renewed respect for his journalistic skills. Clark had a subtle charm that was effective in its heartfelt earnestly. Of course, she acknowledged, she could be biased in her assessment of Clark Kent.
Elizabeth started to cry quietly. She leaned against Clark, and Lois would have felt her hackles rise if it wasn't for the apologetic grin Clark directed at her above Elizabeth's head.
The woman said, "Victor's always been a bit obsessed with maintaining the standards of the neighborhood. And most everyone has complied with his 'suggestions'. I don't know exactly what Victor has gotten himself into, but I don't think it's a coincidence that just when Victor received a large "grant" people started disappearing. First Clarice's husband, then the Adamson's daughter. There are more." Elizabeth's voice grew ragged. "Victor doesn't seem worried saying that he's sure they'll all come home soon. He's involved somehow."
Clark eased away from the blonde woman to stand next to Lois. "When did the disappearances start?" Clark asked.
"A couple of weeks ago. Victor's been obsessed with keeping up appearances. Make certain all the yards are neat, the recycle bins are out on the right night, the cars freshly washed, that sort of thing, but it doesn't seem to bother him when the neighbor's child disappeared one night last week. And no one will talk. They won't go to the police, or anyone else. I'm not a good person, but I wouldn't do something like this. I couldn't let it happen to anyone else. You seem like such nice people."
"You better go, before anyone sees that you've been here." Clark urged.
"I told Victor that I was stopping by to get that cookie recipe from you. Do you think you could . . .?"
Lois rolled her eyes. That was probably the real reason Elizabeth came by. She went into the other room, and brought back the chocolate chip bag she had rescued out of the garbage.
"Uh, thanks." Elizabeth held the bag at arm's length, and Lois almost laughed out loud when she saw that an entire side of the bag was covered in spaghetti sauce. She walked away leaving a line of tomato red drops to mark her trail.
Clark chuckled, his mouth close to Lois' ear. "I was only teasing about the recipe."
"I' m not giving that woman anything she wants." Lois turned her head. They were so close that she could feel his breath stirring a tendril of hair on her forehead. They stayed that way and the awareness pulsed between them like a physical field of energy.
Lois swayed toward Clark and then retreated one step. She needed to clear her head. "Clark, how did you know that the bug was on the painting?"
Clark wanted to tell her the truth, but a lifetime of hiding could not be dismissed so easily. He was still shaken from the fact that he had almost told Lois everything while they were being overheard. "I found the bug when I knocked the picture off the wall."
"Come on Smallville. I was there, remember? I saw the way you were searching the ground for something."
"I saw it fall out of the corner of my eye. I just was trying to figure out what it was."
Lois looked at him dubiously, and then shrugged. Clark knew that she hadn't believed his explanation, but she was willing to wait for the truth. "It's freezing out here. Let's go inside."
They entered the house. They looked around the place, as if seeing it for the first time. Clark picked up the hammer and said, "I'll just put this away."
He knew that Lois was about to protest, so he disappeared before she could stop him. Once out of sight, he did a sweep of the house, found a surveillance device in the kitchen. He quickly destroyed it, and then heard another one upstairs.
On his way up there, Clark paused to check on Jason. The boy was working on a puzzle in the dark. He wondered if he even realized that the light had faded. Clark doubted that most humans could see anything in such darkness, let alone work on reassembling an image. There was no doubting that Jason was beginning to exhibit signs of his heritage.
Before his son noticed him, Clark left him to seek the last device. He found it under the bed, lying on the middle of the floor. Clark suspected by its orientation that it had been thrown there.
He was just about to crush it with his fingers when he realized he heard a faint subsonic echo in the distance. As he turned, Clark was able to hear the sound grow louder in one direction. He might be able to locate who was receiving the signal.
Clark quickly changed into his Superman outfit and flew from the balcony window following the sound. It led him to Ivan's house. Superman traced the signal to the basement. A computer was at the other end, probably "recording" the signal sent from the surveillance devices.
Ivan was upstairs in bed with his wife, but they weren't sleeping. From the brief glimpse he got when he scanned the house, and the guttural noises they were making, Superman doubted they had been listening to Lois and him talk. He recalled the passion he had shared with Lois. He flushed with a combination of embarrassment at overhearing the other couple making love, and desire as his own thoughts had turned decidedly more heated concerning the woman in his life.
A short burst of heat vision through an open window caused the computer components to smoke. He flew out of there trying to block the sounds of their sexual activity, and comforted with the knowledge that Lois and Jason were relatively safe. Ivan and his wife were too preoccupied in their carnal pursuits to have been listening. It was ironic that he had inadvertently overheard their eavesdroppers in a moment of intimacy. It might be awhile before anyone returned to find the electronic ruin.
Superman was fairly certain that he would have noticed the sound of the surveillance devices if they had been in place when they first moved in to the house. Chances were high that someone had placed them while they were at the barbeque. He would have to remain vigilant against someone replacing the devices.
Lois was in the garage calling for him. Clark spun back into his jeans and flannel shirt. He knew it was safe for them to talk, but there was no way he could tell her that without revealing his other identity. The time for sharing secrets had passed. For now, they needed to deal with the immediately threat.
It might even be good if Lois was spooked by the entire episode. Maybe it would prompt her to be more cautious when dealing with the Valentinos. He came up behind her. She jerked in surprise, and he put his hand on her arm to steady her. He gestured for Lois to follow him to his room. She raised an eyebrow questioningly as they made there way silently up the stairs.
Once they were safely out of "earshot" on the balcony, Lois asked. "Where did you go? I looked everywhere."
"I wanted to check the area, and to make sure there wasn't anyone hiding in the bushes."
"We need to get Jason out of here." Lois insisted.
She had said we, not I. His inclusion gratified him. "I think that's a good idea."
"Normally, I'd say he could stay with my sister Lucy, but she's out of town this week. I guess I could ask Perry, but I don't know how comfortable I am with that." Lois said.
He knew she was thinking of his secret. What would happen if Jason ever did anything extraordinary in front of an Editor-in-Chief of a large metropolitan newspaper? He shuddered to even think about it. Clark pressed his lips together, knowing what he wanted to say, but not certain how to go about doing it.
Finally, he said, "How would you feel about him staying with my mother? She'd love to see him." He felt his face flush, "I mean she loves children, and I know that she would enjoy the company."
"Isn't she on a farm in Kansas?" Lois said dubiously.
He nodded. "I doubt anyone would look for him in Kansas. I'm sure if we explained the situation, Superman would be more than willing to fly him out there tonight."
"I don't exactly have Superman's cell phone number, Clark. Who knows what he's doing right now. I'm not sure that's a great idea." Lois said.
Clark had a pretty good idea that Lois just didn't want to see Superman right now. "I don't think he'd mind." Clark said quietly.
Lois lowered her head and said, "It wouldn't bother you? If we asked for Superman's help?"
"I'll take care of contacting him. Jason's safety is a priority. "
Lois regarded him solemnly. She stood on her toes and pressed a warm kiss on his lips. She pulled back quickly, "Thank you Clark. For everything."
He took her hand, and squeezed it gently, losing himself in her hazel eyes. He blinked to deliberately break the spell. "I'll just go find a payphone to call my mother and let her know that Jason is coming. We don't want to risk anyone overhearing our plans by calling from a landline. Maybe you could get Jason ready to leave?"
Clark turned to go and Lois said quietly, "I can't tell you how much this means to me, Clark."
Clark faced her and gave her a brilliant smile. "My mother's going to be thrilled."
Lois watched him jog away from her, his movements fluid and graceful. She thought that perhaps she was seeing a glimpse of the real Clark Kent.
He crossed the distance quickly. Clark made the call, silently vowing to spend some time with his mother when time permitted. He used what must be the last remaining telephone booth in North America to change into his Superman suit. He flew back in a flash, hovering at Jason's window dressed as Superman.
"He's here." The boy exclaimed over his shoulder, and then he faced him. "Superman." Jason called out, and he scrambling into his arms. Lois' eyes were over bright and she asked him, "Clark told you everything?"
He nodded. "Jason will be safe. Don't worry."
"You know how to get there?" She didn't want to say anything too specific in case they still had listeners.
An uncomfortable look crossed his face, before he answered. "Yes. I've been there before."
"Really?" Lois asked incredulously. "You've been there before? I had no idea." She was quiet for a minute, and then she had to whisper, "Does Clark know about us? About Jason?"
Jason gazed at his mother quizzically. He gave Superman an assessing look. "Daddy?"
He had a spasm of jealousy, and he realized it was because he had grown used to the boy calling Clark that. It was ridiculous. He was jealous . . . of himself.
"Jason!" Lois admonished as quietly as she could. Superman knew she was worried about the audio surveillance. He would have to warn Jason to refrain from calling Superman his daddy. If anyone ever learned the truth, Jason would be in danger.
Superman turned to address the boy in his arms. "You've got everything?"
Jason had a small suitcase clutched in his hands. He nodded eagerly.
"I love you." Lois said.
Superman stilled, shock spreading through him. He turned to face Lois and saw that she was gazing at the little boy in his arms.
Jason replied, "Love you too, mommy."
Superman turned his head aside hoping that Lois didn't notice his expression.
"Hold on tight." Superman said, trying for a light tone. Jason tucked in close, the top of his head pressed against his father's chin. The boy smiled broadly in anticipation.
"Don't worry, Lois. He'll be safe." They rose in the air and disappeared from sight.
The trip took very little time. He didn't meander over the countryside pointing out things to Jason as was his custom, because he was anxious about leaving Lois alone in the house. His mother waited on the porch, dressed in her robe and slippers.
The boy scampered to the ground and looked around the starlit farm with curious eyes. Martha Kent pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, her eyes watering suspiciously. She never once took her gaze away from the little boy.
"Thank you." She said so low that the words had to have been intended for her son.
Jason walked up to Martha, took her hand and led her inside. As Superman hovered over the farm house watching them through the walls, he heard Jason ask, "Am I going to sleep in the barn?"
"It's too cold in there, honey. You'll have your own room in this house."
"Oh. Ok." he paused. "Are you my grandma?"
Martha was quiet for a moment. She finally said, "I would like to be your grandma. Do you think that would be all right with you Jason?"
He seemed to consider that for a moment. "Do you bake cookies?"
"I certainly do."
"I like cookies, especially ones with chocolate chips in them."
Martha chuckled and said, "Well, we'll have to see what we can do about that in the morning then."
Superman started to rise in the air, knowing that Jason was in good hands. He was diverted two times in his return journey. Once, he assisted the police with a hostage situation, and the other was a house fire.
Once back in the neighborhood, he changed into his Clark clothes behind a set of dumpsters. He went inside a store to buy a gallon of milk. He stood assessing the vicinity with the jug in his hand. The streets were empty. Normally he would have waited for a taxi, but he was uneasy about leaving Lois for so long. He dashed the four miles between the store and the house without even bothering to change into the cape. No one was out, and he was confident that he traveled unseen.
When he opened the door he saw that Lois was waiting for him on the couch. She rose to her feet and smiled in approval when she saw the milk in his hands.
"That was fast."
The smile slipped off his face, as Clark tried to determine if he had moved too quickly. How long would it have taken for him to jog to the store, call his mother, notify Superman, and return again? How long had he been gone? In his haste to return, he had forgotten to keep track.
"There was no one around this time of night." He put the milk into the refrigerator, babbling nervously. "I don't know why more people don't work later in the day; it certainly would do a world of good for traffic congestion. They really should consider implementing flex schedules . . ."
He trailed off when he heard Lois' soft chuckle. He wasn't certain he would have been able to hear her without his enhanced senses.
Clark grinned sheepishly.
"Thanks for picking up the milk, Clark." She walked up to him and kissed him quickly on the lips.
Clark froze and she smiled at him and she pointed at her ear as if to say, 'They're listening.'
"Good thing the store was still open." he agreed.
Just then he heard a newscaster on a nearby radio report on a mud slide in Chile. This was going to be messy. "I'm just going to . . . take a quick shower."
He left before Lois could respond, knowing that time was short. Clark jogged up the stairs and out of sight. He locked the bedroom door and turned the shower on. He spun into his Superman outfit, opened the window, and disappeared into the night.
Until they eliminated the surveillance devices, there weren't a lot of places they could talk. Lois could hear the water running in the other room, and realized that it would be the perfect thing to mask their voices. Lois knocked on the bedroom door.
When Clark didn't respond, she tried the handle. It was locked. She ran back to her room to take a piece of bent wire she kept in her wallet for this very purpose.
In minutes, she had unlocked his door. She wouldn't really be invading his privacy right? After all, his modesty was probably safe behind a shower curtain. And they really needed to talk without prying ears.
"Clark." She said as she entered the steam filled bathroom. It only took one glance for her to see she was wrong. There was no concealing shower curtain, but rather a very translucent shower stall. The shower sprayed hot water. Steam billowed into the air from an empty stall.
There was no one in the bathroom. Where was he? Lois began to grow concerned. Had something happened to Clark? She remembered what Elizabeth had said about people disappearing in the neighborhood.
She searched the room frantically, throwing open the closet door. His suitcase was leaning along the side wall. Lois looked around the room for clues. His bed was neat, but the imprint of Clark's head was still in the pillow.
A cool breeze caused goose bumps to spread across her arms. The balcony door was ajar. Lois went out on the landing, but saw no trace of Clark. She peered over the side, but couldn't see through the bushes.
Her heart was pounding in her chest. He had just been here. One minute Clark was walking up the stairs and into his room, the next, he was no where to be seen. Lois went back into the room, and searched all the rooms.
They were empty. Clark was gone.
She dashed downstairs, gasping for air. Lois went out into the front yard, feeling like if she was just fast enough, she might be able to find Clark. She had to calm down. She was Lois Lane; she would be no good to Clark if she lost control now. She scanned the area while her heart rate slowed, actively trying to breathe normally.
A movement in the air caught her eye and she saw the distinctive flutter of a cape. Superman landed neatly on Clark's balcony. What was he doing back here?
Even from this distance, she could see that his outfit was spattered with dark spots. A million questions filled her mind. Was that mud? What had happened to Superman? Was Jason safe? And what about Clark?
Maybe Superman knew that something awful had happened to Clark and was here to help. The thought that Clark was in trouble, made her almost desperate with anxiety.
Lois ran back into the house, upstairs, and into Clark's room. The bedroom was empty, but Lois could hear someone moving about the bathroom. Was Superman in there searching for Clark, or had Clark returned? She opened the door. Steam clung to her hair, and the contrast from the cool night air made her feel wonderfully warm.
There was an incredibly beautiful and very naked man in the shower. His back was facing Lois, so he didn't immediately notice her arrival. The shower had been on long enough that the room was foggy from the steam, but she could see every inch of his glorious body.
The rational part of her brain told her that she should leave before he saw her, but she was captivated by the sight of him. That broad back, those muscular legs, and all that perfect skin gleaming under the downpour made her feel weak.
She swallowed with some difficulty. His dark hair was slicked against his skull. His arm's flexed in muscular perfection as he lathered his torso. Lois couldn't move, she certainly couldn't breathe. He had the chiseled appearance of a body builder, but somehow more natural. It was as if his form was what they aspired to, but never fully achieved.
Something must have alerted him to her presence. He stilled suddenly. He turned his head instantly finding her with his gaze. "Lois?" His tone was too deep for Clark's and too fast for Superman's.
Lois' felt her heart stutter in her chest. With his hair slicked back he looked like Superman, but his expression was one that she recognized as Clark's. Lois realized that she had no idea if the naked man standing before her was Superman or Clark Kent.
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