Disclaimer: The rights to the characters used in the story as well as recognizable elements of the plot are the property of DC Comics and Warner Bros. No abuse of intellectual property is intended and no profit will be derived from this story.

Many thanks to Nina, my beta. You really helped me make this story better.

A/N: This is the story I decided to enter the L&C world with. Since from what I observed all the authors sooner or later succumb to the temptation of having their take at TOGOM I decided to consciously choose sooner rather than later and be done with it.

You may note that the date when it comes to finding Clark seems a bit off in the story. I did it in hopes of making certain details more believable. I hope it won't bother you – and if it does – please try to suspend the disbelief enough to assume that the winter of 1966 was a really long one.


No One But The Sky

"From this day forward, this joint is owned by Al Capone."

There it was. Capone had all but admitted that he put Hairdo out of the way so that he could take over. And they couldn't do anything but stand there staring at the armed men.

Clark looked discreetly around but there was no way he could leave to change without drawing the attention of the gangsters. That was when he heard Dillinger speak.

"Hey, Al! Maybe we could make this little cutie our head hostess? I was always partial to a lady in red."

At that point Clark reacted almost without thinking in the only way he imagined possible. He stepped to defend Lois. In this case, that incidentally meant telling one of the most famous gangsters of the Great Depression era to leave his partner alone.

A second later it was clear that that probably wasn't the best course of action. Not if you haven't planned a martyr as a career choice.

"Who are you? Her big brother?" The angry voice of Dillinger sounded in the club and was soon followed by a triple crack of gunshots.

For a fraction of a second, Clark desperately hoped he would be able to pretend the bullets missed him. But no such luck – in the most obvious way possible, they hit his chest. It was clear all three were aimed at his heart. And for someone dead for several decades, Clyde sure had a good eye.

Not seeing any way out, Clark started falling to the floor, hoping nobody would start asking too many questions about the lack of blood. But then again he did have a few layers of clothes for the potential blood to soak through first. It wasn't the most likely option but it was one that could work if no other explanation was given. It was a pity his shirt was white... but it's not like he had planned on getting shot.

"Clark!" That was Lois's voice. A voice he knew so well and yet using a tone he had never heard before. He felt a pang of guilt. If he had only told her the truth when he knew she wasn't marrying Luthor... or when Griffin threatened her and she had come to him for help. If he could give her some discreet sign right now... Anything to take that horror and hopelessness from her voice...

"You moron! What did you do that for? Now we've gotta get out of here. Joey, pick up the stiff. I can't be linked to a murder." Capone's orders echoed over Lois's sobs.

Clark had no other choice but to allow himself to be dragged away to the gangsters' car. Then, doing his best not to seem alive and grateful for the darkness of the night he turned in a way that would make lack of bloodstains in the car explainable. After a twenty minute ride to what he suspected to be either docks or Suicide Slum (although the smells were in favor of the former), he was thrown out.

He rolled a few times for good measure while waiting for them to drive off. Then he stood up and quickly took off.

It was only when he was well above the city that he had a chance, for the first time that evening, to stop and think about what to do. He couldn't say he liked the options he had.

At the moment he was torn between informing his parents and checking on Lois. After a moment of thought he decided on the latter. He doubted his parents would be too worried about him being supposedly shot with a bullet from a seventy-year-old gun.

With a swoosh he flew to the club. He arrived there a moment after the police did.

"Lane? What happened here?" He heard the familiar voice of Inspector Henderson.

"Oh, Bill, they--they just killed him..."

"Lane?"

"They killed Clark... Capone and the others... They came here and they shot him... And he was just trying to defend me... and-- You!" Her voice suddenly rose as she saw Superman. She strode to him. "Where were you? You were supposed to be his friend! So what were you doing when your friend got shot?" Her fists started hitting him furiously.

"I... I was over the docks." He replied in a voice he hardly recognized himself. He hated maintaining the act before Lois now. "I came when I heard the sirens... I don't hear everything. And nobody called for help..." Only when his voice broke at that did he realize how distraught he was by the whole ordeal.

He pulled Lois, still attempting to hit him, into a hug.

"You'll only hurt yourself, Lois," he whispered, not trusting his voice.

"I... just... him..." Lois started to cry.

He stood there for a second, unsure of what to do. Lois Lane crying in his arms added to the surrealism of the situation. After a moment he realized Henderson was still standing there, watching them. He couldn't help but notice sympathy in the eyes of the hardened cop.

"I won't probably be much help here, Inspector." Clark finally managed to go back to his Superman tone, which wasn't easy with Lois crying into his chest. "Perhaps if you have already taken Lois's statement it would be better if I took her home."

"Yes, Superman, do that. I believe that she told us enough for now. We still have all the other witnesses here to question. She can give us any additional information she may have tomorrow. For now, both Wolfe and I have enough on our hands as it is."

With a nod, Clark picked Lois up and flew out of the building. As he rose into the night sky he was hit by a sudden idea.

"You know, Lois, not everything is what it seems to be. It may still be fine."

"Even you can't bring people back to life, Superman."

"No, I can't. But perhaps... we can somehow settle the matter anyway."

And with that, he headed for Kansas.

With some surprise he noticed that Lois seemed unaware of where they were until he lowered his flight enough for her to see the trademark acres of corn fields below them.

"Superman? Why are we here? Weren't you supposed to bring me home?"

"Not just yet. I need to say something first."

"And you brought me all the way here to do so?"

"Yes." They quickly landed on the Kent farm.

"No, Superman, I can't. Not here. Not now," she said when she recognized where they were.

Clark was eternally grateful that his mother chose that exact moment to open the door. No doubt she had heard Lois speaking.

"Lois, Superman, what a surprise." She smiled at them after shooting her son a questioning look. "Please, come in."

"Martha, I... We..." Lois was at loss for words, but Clark quickly led her inside and guided her to the kitchen table.

"Thank you," he said aloud, and after Lois turned her head he mouthed, 'Mom.'

"Martha, we must tell you..." Lois tried again.

"Later, dear. Superman, could you boil some water for tea? I believe Lois could use it."

Clark sent his mother an uneasy smile and he completed the task with a quick blast of heat vision.

"Now, sit down and drink some tea, Lois dear."

"Thank you, Martha, but..."

"Now we should probably talk, Lois," Clark cut in. "God knows I wasted enough time."

Lois gave him a confused look.

"You know what, Lois? Drink your tea and I'll tell you a story." He went silent for a moment, unsure how to start. At the same time he was aware that the confusion in the eyes of his partner was growing.

Clark took a deep breath and started speaking

"It all started many years ago. There were two young people who fell in love and married. They inherited a farm after the father of the young man died and they lived there happily. They were even happier when they found out that the young woman was pregnant. They even made a small party to tell all their friends about it."

"But after two months the young women started not feeling well. She ignored it, thinking that it must be normal during pregnancy and she could never quite find the time to see a doctor. Then one day she felt as if something broke inside her. She started bleeding. An hour later it was obvious that she had lost her child.

"That day the doctor who lived nearby was away so when it happened her husband had to bring her to a doctor in Wichita. But by the time they got there it was too late. All the doctor could do was stop the residual bleeding and announce that nothing more could be done. The doctor also said that there were some complications due to which the woman wouldn't ever be able to have a child."

Clark gently touched his mother's hand. He knew all too well that, despite everything, those memories were still very hard for her.

"The two people came back home very upset. It seemed that life gave them the hardest trial possible. Afterwards they were hardly in the mood to see anyone, especially since it would mean explaining to all their friends that they weren't expecting a child anymore. If they needed anything from the town the young man went to get it, but he always kept to himself and made those visits brief.

"Soon afterwards winter came, and with it the hardest Christmas in their life. I believe they spent it praying for a miracle – to have a child after all. Towards the end of Christmas, a heavy snowstorm started. The snowfall was so heavy that their farm was practically cut off from the world. Only when the spring came could they finally ride to the town, but they never got that far.

"You see, when they were riding there, they saw a meteor hit a nearby field. Curious, they stopped the car and went to see it, only to discover that it wasn't really a meteor – it was a tiny spaceship. Inside it they found a baby boy. As you can imagine, they couldn't just leave the child there.

"After examining the ship they discovered some writing in an alphabet they didn't know but they decided it looked a bit like Russian. You see, it was still in the times when USSR was launching all kinds of space programs. Afraid for the child, the couple decided to take the child as their own and never tell anyone about what happened."

"When they arrived in the town a little later with a baby, everybody just assumed it was born during the heavy snowfall. A few years passed peacefully, and just when the couple had almost forgotten that the boy wasn't born as their own, he started displaying certain quite startling abilities--"

Lois was looking at Superman intently. When he had first promised to take her home, a detour through Smallville was the last thing she had expected. But it probably made sense for Superman to think it would be better if the Kents heard the horrible news from their son's friends rather than from some stranger.

Of course, Superman was unaware of the role Lois played in Clark's death. But all in all it was considerate of Superman.

After all, while they had 'only' lost a good friend, the Kents had lost their only son – who was probably everything that mattered to them in the world.

But when they stood before Martha, as warm and kind as ever, Lois couldn't bring herself to pass on the news. Neither, she suspected, could Superman, since he settled for telling some story first. She figured it was a story that, despite what he said, was probably more for Martha's benefit that her own. Wonderful Martha, who was even at ease when speaking to Superman, and who was about to learn about the loss of her child.

But even knowing all this, Lois couldn't help but listen to the story, wondering what Superman had in mind while telling it. At first she thought it was a story of coping with loss which would make some kind of sense, considering the situation. But as she listened, the story slowly changed towards what seemed to be a lead-in to a story about miracles.

Lois idly wondered if Superman had changed his mind about the story unable to tell Martha what happened. And then, to her even greater surprise, she heard him mention a child with some unusual abilities. At first she didn't notice anything odd about that sentence. But a split second later, the implications hit.

Superman was addressing her even though he should be addressing Martha.

Superman was mentioning a pair of farmers taking in a child with strange abilities.

Martha was ordering Superman around the kitchen as if she's been doing it for years...

The world went black.

After mentioning first displaying his abilities, Clark trailed off, wanting the words to sink in before he told the story any further. But he never got to do that. Soon after he spoke Lois started rising from the chair. As she did, her eyes went wide – and then promptly rolled back into her head as she fell.

Putting his speed to good use, he caught her in time. Then he carried her to his parents' couch, well aware of his mother's disapproving look.

When Lois started coming to, the first thing she heard were voices.

"Clark Jerome Kent! You put the poor girl in shock by handling it like that!"

"But Mom, what was I supposed to do? It was the best idea I had. And I brought her here as soon as I could."

"Well, if you had told her sooner..."

"Mom, you know as well as I do that I couldn't very well stand up in that club and tell her not to worry."

"You managed to gather enough courage to tell her you love her. You obviously trust her. Surely you could have told her about this as well."

"No, Mom, I couldn't. Not then. It would have ruined everything then. And later, she had just needed her friend back, not a man in love with her, and not her partner who turned out to be someone else. Just her friend."

It was then that Lois's mind allowed the recent memories to come back. Clark being shot. Superman taking her to Smallville. Superman strongly hinting that he is not who he seems to be. And finally the very recent memory of Martha Kent addressing Superman as Clark. Which would mean...

Her eyes flew open

"You!" She sat up as she addressed the man in cape. "You are the lowest life form imaginable."

"Lois..."

"Don't you 'Lois' me." She flung herself at him and started punching him in the chest. It hurt, but felt good. "You had me thinking you died on me! You lied to me! And to think I felt bad about you getting killed."

"Lois, if you keep doing that you will hurt yourself eventually."

"I don't care."

"Well, I do."

"You do?" Lois paused for a second, "I mean, do you? You let me think you were killed!"

"I didn't mean to, I swear. And besides, Clark was killed, you know."

Lois looked at him in surprise.

His statement put her off her recently regained balance. Was it possible that she understood wrong, that it was all a misinterpretation on her part caused by her desperate hope to have her partner back? She blinked, hoping that she wouldn't break into tears twice in the same day.

"But didn't you just say...? I mean, I thought you were...?"

"I was Clark, yes," Superman said in solemn voice. "But outside this farm Clark Kent is dead now."

"What do you mean 'outside this farm'? You can either be dead or alive. And you obviously aren't dead."

"I'm not. But Clark is. Think about it. Outside this farm Clark is... was... just like every other human. And humans usually don't survive getting three bullets in the chest. Especially without getting immediate treatment."

Lois felt her head swirl. She went back to the couch and sat heavily.

"But... you can't be dead... or at least stay dead... you've got to do something about it."

Clark laughed despite himself. "That must be the most bizarre thing I've ever heard you say. And it says a lot."

"Oh, shut it. I want my partner back. I don't care if you say Superman flew to heaven and asked God to resurrect you. But don't you dare stay dead!"

"You know, Lois, the sad thing is that's probably the most likely explanation I could offer. I'm afraid that as far as the world is concerned I'm six feet under."

"Well, not exactly. There isn't any body, is there?"

"No. But there are thousands of places to dump a body in Metropolis. And that's not counting the Hudson River."

"There has to be something we can do." A new determination sounded in her voice.

"Like for example?"

"Bulletproof vest! You could have been wearing one, right?"

"Oh, sure. And I pretended to be dead so well that I never even winced when they dragged me off. Or threw me out of a car for that matter. Or maybe I just wore it but still fainted when I realized someone shot at me. After all it's not like I lead a stressful life otherwise. Besides, reporter is a pretty dull job, despite all those articles I wrote earlier in Columbia, Yugoslavia, Somalia... And let's not forget the fact that it slipped my mind to tell you I was wearing one."

"Maybe you didn't want me to feel bad for not having one?"

"Lois, be serious. Do you really think I'd let you go unprotected if I thought I might need the vest? If I had one I'd probably give it to you rather than wear it myself. Besides, where is it?"

"Where is what?"

"Where is the bulletproof vest in question?"

"Even at this hour there are probably a few places in the world where you could buy one."

"Lois, we aren't talking just a bulletproof vest here. What we need is a modern vest with three bullets from the thirties shot at heart. Not to mention it needs to look used, used by me, because if I decided I needed to wear it to an illegal club I'd probably wear it just about every time we work on something."

"Can't you just push the bullets that hit you into the vest?"

"You mean these bullets?" He placed three flat discs on the nearby table.

"I guess it rules out bullets hitting the pager too, huh?" she asked resignedly.

"Lois, even if I HAD the bullets, don't you think it would be slightly suspicious? One bullet hitting a pager is possible even if unlikely. Three bullets – we'd be back at the level of probability of heavenly intervention."

"Okay, what if--" She was interrupted by the telephone ringing.

Martha, who until now had been preparing sandwiches while listening to their brainstorm, went to pick it up.

"Hello? Martha Kent speaking," she said and then listened for a moment. "Oh, good evening, Mr. White. No, I wasn't sleeping anyway yet. How can I help you?" she asked in a friendly voice as Lois and Clark shared a look.

"Yes... Yes... I know, Clark always tells me how much trouble they get into... What? I'm sorry, Mr. White, I believe I misunderstood." Her voice changed to disbelief and from the look on her face Clark could tell how much she hated doing that to Perry. "But... he is in the hospital, isn't he?... No... No, impossible... But Clark is always so careful... Yes, I understand, I guess it hasn't sunk in yet... Thank you... Please give us a word if you find anything... Yes... goodbye."

As she hung up Clark went to her and hugged her.

"Oh, Mom."

"It's not going to get any easier, honey. We both know that."

"I know. It's just... for the first time in a long while, I thought that everything was going well and..."

"And now we'll just need to fix it," Lois said firmly. "We always figure something out. Why would this time be different?"

"To quote a certain brilliant reporter I know – even you can't bring people back to life, Lois."

"I'm not going to let go of a man I love that easily!" she exclaimed and gasped suddenly when she realized what she said.

She blinked a few times and registered that her partner seemed just about as shocked as she was with this exclamation. Her control must have slipped after all the events of the evening. Upon that realization she attempted to force herself to remain calm and confident. Somebody needed to.

Finally it was Clark who first regained the ability to speak.

"What?"

"You heard me. While realizing that while walking down the aisle to marry someone else is a close call even for me it doesn't make it any less true." So much for remaining calm – she was babbling again.

"What?!"

"So now you need to find a way to bring yourself from the dead, because as it is I feel I'm rapidly developing a bad case of necrophilia."

Clark joined Lois on the couch and gave a short laugh.

"Necrophilia, Lois?"

For the first time this evening, the sparkles appeared in his eyes. That, Lois noted, made him look as much 'Clark' as ever despite the cape and lack of glasses.

"Well, I apparently have feelings for a man who was shot some time earlier this evening. What else would you call it?"

He smiled at her but the light slowly faded from his expression. He massaged his temples, which considering his costume looked a bit weird.

"Lois..." he started and broke off.

"If you say you want us just to be friends, I swear I'll strangle you with your own cape."

Clark stared at her. Just as he thought things couldn't get any more complicated, Lois went and declared her feelings to him. Now of all times when he could give her no assurances. On the other hand, given her threats he could at least hope that she came to terms with his double identity. Trust Lois to...

"I don't. I mean not just friends. I... what I said before your wedding..."

"Great. So I hope the offer still stands. Because as soon as you are back, I'm planning to call you on that one and have you take me on a date."

There. Once she spoke her feelings aloud she realized just how strong they were. Well, at least it would provide the extra motivation.

"But Lois, that's the problem. I don't know how I could possibly be back. I was shot dead, at point blank range in a room full of witnesses, remember?"

"Well, yes, but... There wasn't any blood, was there?"

"That's not helping, Lois. Lack of blood would just show anyone who might miss it that something was off. But I'm not too worried about that one, thanks to you."

"Thanks to me? How?"

"The moment I was shot you clung to me. You were wearing this flowing red dress. Witnesses are often confused by what they actually saw but they often try to rationalize the glimpses they remember and come up with all kinds of stories while dismissing anything that seems impossible. Since there wasn't any way there couldn't be blood there I'm sure they saw it. According to them your dress was probably soaked with my blood. It just didn't have time to leak on the floor. The guns were old so the speed of the bullets was slower and they stayed inside the body."

"You really think people will believe that?"

"I'm certain they will. It is the only rational explanation after all. And I've seen enough emergencies to have a bit of experience. If you confirm it nobody will doubt it's true."

"But our goal here is to make sure you're alive, not dead."

"True, but we've got to know where we stand first."

"Maybe you kids should eat something now. It seems that you could use something to clear your mind. And you can discuss the problem while eating just as well," Martha cut in.

"Thanks, Mom. Maybe you could join–"

Clark stopped as he heard his father's steps outside. A moment later the kitchen door opened.

"I'm back, Martha. Turns out that those problems he had with the tractor--" He broke off as he saw Lois and Clark.

"Lois, Superman, what brings you here?"

"Clark got shot." Lois informed without preface. "While we were undercover, working on a story."

Jonathan looked at his son.

"Was he? And how is he?"

Lois growled in frustration.

"Dead. That's the point. Everybody saw him get shot dead." She whirled and faced her partner. "And by the way, what were you thinking standing up to that guy? You know they weren't carrying those guns around for the laughs."

"What did you expect me to do? Stand by as they took you away?"

"At least I might have been able to get some information if they took me with them. And what exactly did I gain from that stunt of yours? More room in the byline?"

"I seriously doubt you would have learned anything," he said with a pointed look.

"I'll have you know that I've done more dangerous things--"

"Oh, I know that. I had to get you out of most of them, remember?"

Jonathan was watching the exchange curiously.

"So I gather Lois knows, son?"

"I had to tell her, Dad. I couldn't have her thinking... Well, I thought it would be better."

"So what exactly happened?"

"Remember those gangsters from the thirties that were causing trouble in Metropolis? Well, this evening we ran into them, John Dillinger among them. Dillinger made some crack about Lois being a 'lady in red' and wanting to take her with him. I tried to stop him, which earned me three bullets in the chest. That's about it."

"Of course if you didn't have to play the knight in shining armor, none of this would have happened."

"Lois, Dillinger called you 'lady in red.'"

"So?"

"'Stranger stop and wish me well, just say a prayer for my soul in hell. I was a good fellow, most people said, betrayed by a woman dressed all in red,'" Jonathan quoted. "Dillinger died when his friend helped set him up. That's actually where the expression 'lady in red' stems from. His calling you that was not good news, trust me, Lois."

"So he... I'd... Oh..." was all Lois managed before pulling closer to Clark. "Sorry for doubting you, partner, I guess."

"You admit you are sorry? Maybe you should lie down for a moment, Lois, you don't seem quite yourself."

She smacked him and regretted it immediately as she felt a sharp pain in her wrist. She hissed and withdrew her hand.

"Let me see." Clark looked genuinely concerned but soon breathed out in relief "It's nothing serious. But do try to be more careful. You nearly injured the joint capsule. I warned you--"

"Weren't we busy with something more important than my well-being at the moment?"

"Ah, but Lois, nothing is more important than your well-being. You know that."

"Very funny, Kent. But now we need to concentrate on what to do to resurrect you, remember?"

"There isn't much that can be done, Lois. Not without me admitting I'm invulnerable."

"I'm not going to give you up just because some gangster who's been dead for years suddenly... Dead for years... Clark! That's it!"

"Lois?"

"The whole thing started with people coming back from the dead. We've spent all this time wondering what to do when the answer was right in front of us!"

Clark frowned.

"It may be an idea, Lois, but..."

"What, don't you think it's a great way out of this? I mean, nobody will question this as everybody knows it can be done."

"Lois, I don't like the situation anymore than you do, but I'm not sure. I mean, when we can't think of anything else I suppose it's an idea but... Well, I'd be posing for a clone of myself while people would still search for my body. And I don't know if they'd treat me the same. I might be just a constant remainder of a friend they lost."

"Oh. Well, we may need to work on some fine details then before we can use that one."

"I'd say. Starting from the fact that the whole process takes time, a lot of equipment--"

"Well, I was thinking more in the lines of what to do to make you the real you and not your clone. Do you think it would be possible to use the whole process on just a part of a body to undo damage?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"You were the one reading about Hamilton's research, weren't you? So would it be possible?"

"It might be but the procedure wasn't described in detail. Though the whole process was concentrated more around speeding development of embryos. But even if it was possible then by the time we have a slightest chance of getting our hands of Hamilton's work the supposed body would be in pretty much unsalvageable state."

"Are you sure? Maybe if we said that Superman found the body and froze it..."

"Why would he do it? And when?"

"After he, well, you learned you were shot? Wait, that didn't sound right..."

"After Superman found out Clark was shot, and, yes, Mom, I know I shouldn't speak of myself in third person, it would be already too late to prevent nerve cells from dying."

Martha smiled for a second and went back to observing the famous duo at work.

"So you saw the gangsters' car and the body thrown out and you froze it immediately."

"That still might be too long, but at least it's closer. But why keep it a secret then?"

"Well, you didn't know if it would work, so you didn't want to give us false hope?"

"Try again, Lois. We both know that if Superman tried to pull something like that on you, before he could blink you would be complaining at the ridiculously high prices kryptonite has on the black market."

"Well, if it means you would be back I'm ready to stage some fury for everybody to see." She paused for a moment. "You think they would sell me kryptonite?"

"Lois."

"No, seriously. I could try and see if anyone would sell it to me. We'd know who has an access to it then."

"No idea, Lois. But can we finish plotting against me now, please?"

"What, don't you tell me you never wondered how one gets their hands on kryptonite."

"I was usually more concentrated on how to avoid it. By the way, when did we go from us planning how to bring me back to life to you planning to kill me?"

"Well, I thought we already knew how to get you resurrected."

"We had just a theory, Lois. And we still lack sufficient information. Which we won't get unless we get hold of Professor Hamilton."

"Ah, but you admit it could work!"

"It could. But it wouldn't hurt to –"

He cut off as Lois yawned.

"Perhaps we should call it a night. You need rest after everything you went through today."

"Are you suggesting I'm weak, Clark? Because if you do--"

"Definitely not weak. Tired on the other hand--absolutely. I'll make you a bed in my room."

With that he become a blur and shot upstairs. Lois looked for a moment at the spot he was a second before.

"Do you want to borrow a nightgown, Lois?"

She snapped out of her thoughts at Martha's voice.

"It would be nice, if it's not too much of a problem."

"Of course it isn't, honey. Come on, we'll find something for you."

She didn't have a chance to even register the words properly when Martha was already guiding her out of the room. Before she knew it she drifted to sleep in Clark's bed.

Lois woke up to the sound of a rooster's crow. It took her a moment to realize that a rooster in the middle of Metropolis isn't what one might expect. She opened her eyes and saw that she was in a farmhouse in Kansas. She groaned.

A second later there was a knock at the door.

"Come in."

"It's nice to see you so chirpy in the morning." Clark entered wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He didn't have glasses on.

Unfortunately his reflexes were too good to be hit by a pillow Lois sent his way.

"I was hoping it was all a bad dream when your rooster had the audacity to make a sound."

"How suicidal of him. Should I warn the poor bird to look out?"

"Don't warn him. Just bring me some chicken soup so I can eat it threateningly in front of him."

"Ah, so you are hungry. You might be happy to hear that the breakfast is ready downstairs. Afterwards we should probably go back to Metropolis before people start wondering where you've gone."

"That's right! I still have to go to the Planet today. Am I already late?"

"We have plenty of time. It's still early. I just came because I heard you wake up."

"You were listening to me as I slept, Kent?"

"I was just listening to see if you woke up already or not."

"Sure you were. So you said something about breakfast? Just let me get dressed--" She growled again.

"What is it?"

"I don't want to see that dress ever again, let alone wear it. If it wasn't for that dress, nothing would have happened. I don't suppose you could burn it?"

"Tempting as it may be I probably shouldn't leave you with nothing but nightclothes to wear."

"Hey, haven't you read 'Peter Pan'? If you want to take me flying later it's the traditional attire."

"Whatever you say. Want me to look for something for you to wear, Wendy?" He sidestepped the pillow again.

"Guess so. I don't suppose your mother would have anything I could wear?"

"I'll go down and ask her. I'll be right back."

With that he disappeared in a blur. The next thing Lois knew she was hearing the voices from downstairs. A few minutes later Clark entered the room again carrying a large box.

"Mom sent me to the attic to look for some of her old dresses. She says that if you find anything there that fits you, you can have it."

"Thanks, Clark." She rummaged through the clothes and finally fished out something she could imagine herself wearing. "I'd ask you to leave the room so I can change, but I suppose I might just ask you to turn around. I mean if you wanted to. It's not like it would be a problem for you to see anyway, so... But of course I trust you not to do anything like that--"

"Lois..."

"I was babbling again, wasn't I?"

"You were. But don't worry. I grew to like your babbling."

"It's just so much to take in at once, Clark." She sat on the bed, hugging the dress. "Everything I knew went out of the window yesterday evening and I'm not sure what to do with myself anymore. I'd like to be able to go to the Planet, see you at the desk, or work on some story together, to get the balance back. And I can't. And if that plan with Hamilton's work goes wrong I might never be able to work with you again..."

"Lois, I'll always be there for you. No matter what happens. If I can't be there as Clark..."

"But it won't be the same. I can't work on the story late in the night with Superman. I can't visit him at some strange hours or call him when I need someone to talk to. I can't take him to play poker with Perry and Jimmy... He can't take me on a date... I know it would still be you, but--"

"We'll see, Lois. You said yourself that we always figure something out. And when it comes to the worst... Well, I'm sure we'd think of something." He sat beside her and embraced her with one arm

"Thanks, Clark. Now turn around. I need to change and this way I can at least keep an eye on you so that you won't accidentally look through the wall." She looked at him as he turned to give her privacy. "What's so funny? You can't accidentally look through walls, right?"

"Not anymore. But that's how I started wearing glasses, you know."

"What? To help you look through the walls?"

"Actually, to help me not look through them. I was just a teenager when I started to do that and couldn't control it at first. I kept tripping on things I didn't know were there because I looked literally through them. Not to mention..."

"Not to mention what? And you can't turn back, by the way."

"Never mind."

"Come on, Clark, spill it."

"Well, this wall over there? It's the wall separating my room from my parents' bedroom. You have no idea how it feels when you wake up one morning, look around only to see the wall vanish before your eyes and..."

Lois gave out a laugh.

"You caught your parents when they were..."

Clark blushed.

"Don't remind me. Let's just say it gave me extra motivation to figure out what to do with the problem. Finally it was Dad who found the answer. He gave me his old glasses to wear to distract my eyes enough not to look through things. After a month or so I managed to get the ability under control but I couldn't very well tell everybody that I didn't need glasses anymore so they stuck."

"So you didn't use them just to make you and Superman look less alike?"

"No. I was wearing glasses a long time before I started being Superman. But the breakfast is waiting for us downstairs so..."

"Sure. But don't think I'll let you get away that easily. I'm sure your Mom has hundreds of stories about you growing up she'd just love to share."

Clark groaned. "Lois..."

"Breakfast, remember? Let's go downstairs."

It was easy to forget what was hanging over their heads as they were enjoying the delicious breakfast in the kitchen. But as soon as Clark stood up to help clean the table, reality hit Lois like a tone of bricks.

"I guess we should go back to Metropolis now?" she asked quietly.

"Yes, we probably should. Just give me a second."

To Lois's amazement he started spinning and a second later he stood before her in full Superman regalia.

"I don't even want to know how you did this."

"It's quite simple once you get used to it, really." He turned to his parents. "Mom, Dad, we'll keep you informed. And whatever happens I'll come in a few days for dinner like I promised."

"That's great, dear. Lois, would you like to come too?"

"Well, I wouldn't want to impose..."

"Nonsense. You're always welcome here, dear. And it won't be a problem. Clark would just bring you with him."

"Well, if you're sure it wouldn't be a problem."

"Good. So we'll be expecting you kids here on Saturday. Good luck with solving the problem."

"Thanks, Mom."

"And be careful, son."

"I will, Dad, don't worry. And I'll make sure Lois is too. Bye."

They went outside.

"Hey! I'm always careful, you know that."

"Of course. You carefully avoid any situation that might be classified as safe."

She made a move to smack him but stopped halfway.

"When I see it coming it's pretty safe to do that, you know."

"You know that's not the point, Clark."

He smiled at her mischievously, scooped her in his arms and took off.

"You know, while I don't mind you knowing, when I'm wearing the costume you should probably call me Superman, at least if there is a chance somebody could hear." He thought for a moment, "Or Kal-El. If you forget yourself and start saying my name it should be easier to switch to than Superman."

"Kal-El?"

"My Kryptonian name. The one my biological parents gave me."

"Kryptonian? Didn't you say last night that...?"

"Oh, yes, sorry. I forgot that you fainted before I could finish the story."

"I didn't faint. I was... I was just very tired, and my blood sugar dropped suddenly, and I might have been a bit lightheaded... Well, all right, I fainted. It's a perfectly natural reaction to shock. Not that it has ever happened to me before..."

She broke off as she realized her partner was laughing.

"Oh you laugh. Why not. You think I'm weak for fainting, don't you? Because--"

"Lois, of all the things you are, weak is certainly not one of them. And given everything you went though yesterday you had every right to be distraught."

"Thanks. So, what was the part I missed?"

"Would you settle for a short version for now?"

"Let's have it. If it's not enough I can always grill you for answers later."

"Now that's a relieving perspective."

"Do you think you can tell me the summary before we get to Metropolis?"

"I can always fly more slowly if it gets too long."

"How about you keep flying as you always do and start talking? Last time you were talking about Russian spaceships and today you tell me Krypton was involved somewhere along the way. I want answers."

"You always do, Lois. All right. Well, when it comes to discovering my origins, the story isn't as fascinating as you may suspect. My folks found a spaceship with a large red 'S' on the front and figured it must stand for 'Soviet' something or another. When a few days later some men supposedly from the space program came to town and started asking questions about a Soviet satellite, it seemed to confirm the theory. Mom and Dad went with it for some time until one day, when I was a few years old my ball fell under our truck."

"So what happened?"

"Oh, nothing. I did the most natural thing--walked to the truck, lifted it, took the ball and put the truck back where it was. And I had no idea why Mom and Dad stared at me so strangely."

"That must have been a shock. Discovering your little kid can lift trucks."

"Between you and me, Lois, I believe I earned Dad a few gray hairs that day. Ever since then, he's been afraid that I'd do something that would expose me and they would take me away from them."

"So what happened after they discovered that you weren't in fact some little science project from USSR?"

"Well, that accident gave them some doubt but they still stuck to the theory as it was the best they had. Later when I started learning languages I discovered that what they thought was confirmation of the theory – the red 'S' didn't fit. In the Cyrillic alphabet, 's' looks like our 'c.' That's why all those rockets had CCCP written on them."

"So what did you do?"

"There wasn't much I could do. We knew then I wasn't some Soviet experiment and as I traveled I never found anything that might match the mysterious symbol. Finally I gave up looking and accepted that I may never get the answers."

"That still doesn't explain how you know about Krypton. Because you haven't made it all up, have you?"

"No, I haven't. Here we come to an interesting part of the story. After I graduated I traveled a bit and then finally came to Metropolis. And after yet another close call, when somebody nearly ID'ed me, my partner suggested that I take a change of clothes to work..."

"But that would mean... No!"

"Oh, yes. I thought about your suggestion and asked my Mom to make me a costume I could wear when I'm helping people. She did and--"

"So you're basically telling me that Superman--"

"Was at least partially your idea. You even invented the name, remember?"

"And at the same time I never noticed a thing. Some investigative journalist I am."

"Don't sell yourself short. You are brilliant investigative journalist. If it wasn't for you, we would've never found the Bureau 39 stuff. And without it I'd have never learned anything about where I'm from."

"Are you telling me that you never knew that until we went there?"

"I didn't. In the warehouse I found my spaceship--which they must have found all those years ago. There was a globe connected to it--I took it. It contained a message from my biological parents as well as the recording of the last moments of Krypton."

"Last moments? So that means..."

"The planet exploded. My parents knew it was coming so they sent me away to give me a chance to live."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"It's all right. It's strange. On the one hand I'm glad to know why they did this and on the other hand, before I knew I never felt the burden of knowing what happened to them... to all of Krypton."

They flew the rest of the way in silence. Lois used the time to study her partner's face when he was concentrating on flying them to the city.

She suddenly realized that she was probably the only person he ever told his story--his parents already knew most of it and he guarded the secret very carefully. She was suddenly very honored and scared at the same time. Because now that she finally knew so much about her partner and she knew that she had his full trust, he could fade from her life if they didn't find any way to set things right.

"We're here." She blinked at hearing her partner's voice and saw they were currently hovering outside her apartment's window. She pushed it open and they sailed through the air inside.

"So what now?" she asked, absently looking around.

"You should probably change and prepare to go to work. I'll give you a lift there and then I'll see if I can help police with catching Capone and the rest."

"Oh no, you won't. If we want to use Hamilton's work to resurrect you, we can't have the police catch them before we can get to the professor. Besides, until they do something you don't know where to look for them and after yesterday they will probably lie low for a while."

"Well, after you went to sleep yesterday I talked it over with Dad. When I mentioned I have Dillinger's ticket stub he told me that it may be a clue. That's how he got caught last time. He loved movies."

"But that just means he's bound to be extra careful this time. And the number of cinemas in Metropolis rose since the thirties, in case you didn't notice."

"He might stick to the old Odeon, like he did before."

"Might. That's a bit too weak for a key lead. Besides even the Odeon is open 24/7 now. You'd have to watch the door the whole time and he might not even go there again."

"So what do you propose?"

"You fly me to the Planet and wait for me while I see if they have found anything. Then we'll work on it together as usual."

"Don't you think us working together would look rather suspicious?"

"Why would it? You don't have to show yourself if I'm questioning anyone. And even if somebody sees us, why wouldn't we work together to catch people who killed our friend? Come to think about it you may even come with me to the newsroom."

"Lois, how would you feel talking to your friends who think you are dead?"

"You want to wait for me on the roof then?"

"I'd rather have something to do."

"I won't be long. And I'd much rather be able to find you without screaming for help."

"We could agree to meet in an hour or so."

"And what would you do in that hour? Fly around in hopes they happen to go for a walk?"

"If they go anywhere I might spot them. Their car doesn't exactly blend in."

"That would be just a shot in the dark. We'd better approach it the usual way. Then at least we'll know what we're doing."

"I would probably be more useful doing just about anything other than standing on the roof."

"How well can you hear?"

"Lois?"

"Would you be able to, say, listen to the police radio while you're on the roof?"

"Probably."

"Great. So while I try to find out if the Planet has something, you can check what the police know. What should I wear?"

"Lois. You don't expect me to tell you what to wear now, do you?"

"I mean, my best friend got murdered yesterday. I'm supposed to look appropriately. What would I wear if I was beyond miserable?"

"Lois."

"I know. I could wear my old grey pants. They will be useful when we go investigating. But..."

"How about what you were wearing when you thought Stewart Hofferman got killed?"

"I almost forgot that. But I guess I still have that sweatshirt somewhere. I'm not wearing my hair up, though. I wouldn't ever let anyone see me like that. I mean you obviously saw me like that but I wasn't expecting you then. Unless you think I should wear it up? Because if you think it would be better..."

"No. Your normal hairstyle is fine. It was just a suggestion."

"All right. I'll go change. Don't go anywhere. I mean if you have to go to an emergency you can; I wouldn't stop you from doing that. But... well, I'll be right back."

"Take your time."

She went to her bedroom, pressing a play button on her answering machine as she went.

"Lois, I just heard what happened. I'm sorry, honey. You can take a few days off if you like. And if you want, you can join Alice and me for a dinner tomorrow. If you need anything or even if you just want to talk just let me know."

"Lane, this is Henderson. I just want to tell you that I wrote down what you told me yesterday. I'll send Detective Wolfe to you tomorrow so you can see if everything is there. If you don't remember anything more, you'll just need to sign it and I'll accept it back as your statement so you won't have to come here and tell it all again. I'll tell you as soon as we know something."

"Hi, Lois, it's Lucy. What are you doing out at this hour? I would hope it's a date but knowing you, you're probably working again. I just wanted to know if you had any idea if I haven't left my certificate in Spanish somewhere in your apartment. I'll need it for my new job and can't find it anywhere so you're my last hope. I'll call again later. Bye!"

The machine went silent.

"At least Lucy's call was normal. I don't know if I could handle it if she, too, tried to comfort me," Lois said as she reentered the room.

"Ready?"

"As ready as I'm going to be. Let's go get those gangsters, partner."

"Just what I was hoping to hear. Although if you don't mind me saying so, you looked better in my Mom's dress."

"Shut it, Smallville. We've got work to do. And while you have an excuse of being currently deceased, I'm already late."

"Look at it this way." He picked her up and flew out. "At least you won't get stuck in any traffic jams today."

"I'm still late. And the sooner we start working the sooner we can bring you back."

"True enough. Do you think Jimmy could trace where the bank statements for Hamilton's accounts were sent? If he invests everything in his research he might as well live next to his laboratory. I know it's a long shot--"

"But it's worth checking. Especially if it's the best we have at the moment."

"Well, we could also print an announcement that we're looking for people who saw the gangsters' car. It's distinctive enough and the more sightings the closer we would be to their hideout."

"But that wouldn't get us any closer until tomorrow at best."

"Still, it's something. Here we are."

"All right. I'll go down and see if they know anything. You wait here for me unless there is some Class 5 disaster you need to help with. Got it?"

"As you wish, Lois."

"I won't be long, promise."

With that she headed downstairs.

As soon as she entered the newsroom she could feel that the atmosphere wasn't what it normally was. The usual activity, often bordering on chaos before deadline, gave way to strange apathy. Nobody smiled and people seemed to be avoiding each others' gazes.

Suddenly she wasn't sure if she could handle it alone. She spent most of the time since yesterday evening with Clark, so while logically she knew she would have to act as if he was dead, she never fully realized what keeping up the act would be like with this audience.

If the plan with Hamilton's method didn't work and she had to go through every day like that... She probably couldn't take it. She looked around on the verge of breaking down, desperately wishing for Clark to be there with her.

She managed to get to her desk and sat heavily. She'd have to ask Jimmy to start searching soon but when she caught a glimpse of the kid with the mock-up edition going to the press room she wasn't sure if he'd be able to do anything that day.

That's when Perry approached her.

"Lois, you didn't have to come in today."

"I had to come. I wouldn't be able to do anything at home. Here at least I can do something. I owe Clark that much. If it wasn't for me..."

"Honey, you can't blame yourself. You had no way of knowing what was going to happen."

"Clark was shot protecting me, you know. And it was my idea to go to that club in the first place."

"Miss Lane?"

Lois turned to see a man who, if she recalled correctly, was one of the policemen present last evening in the club.

"Sorry to bother you. I'm Detective Wolfe, homicide. Henderson might have called you to tell you I was coming. I need your signature on the statement, if you don't recall anything more."

Lois read the statement, which was pretty much the outline of the events of previous evening in the club. She signed it as Perry talked to Wolfe.

"Got any leads on those animals yet?"

"Not yet. But we will."

It was then that Stuart from the Planet staff approached the desk.

"Detective Wolfe? There is a call for you on line two."

"Wolfe. Yeah..." He scribbled something on Lois's telephone pad. "Has it been confirmed? Look, we've got fourteen possibles on Capone's whereabouts. Okay. Add it to the list."

Detective finished the call and ripped his note from the message pad.

"Listen, we're gonna work on this round the clock. I'll keep you posted."

Perry turned back to Lois who was putting all her willpower into not looking on the pad until he left.

"You want to get some coffee, talk about it?"

"No, thanks, Perry. Maybe in a few days."

"If you feel it would be better, honey." He patted her on her shoulder and went back to his office.

As soon as he left Lois took the carbon copy of Wolfe's note and headed to the roof. Halfway there she decided to backup her action in case it was a dead end. She went back and located Jimmy.

"Oh, Lois... I... I still can't believe it about CK. How could they do that...?"

"I know, Jimmy. It's horrible... I can't help but replay the moment in my head thinking what could be done differently."

"Any news on what the police are doing to catch them?"

"Last I checked they had nothing, which is why I was looking for you."

"What do you mean?"

"I talked to... Superman this morning. He still hasn't found them either. But he had an idea I was hoping you could help us with."

"Whatever you need Lois. If it helps to get those bastards who killed CK behind bars..."

Lois swallowed hard, suddenly aware even more clearly how hard everybody in the Planet, especially Clark's friends, were taking his 'murder.' It made everything even more difficult to bear.

"We were hoping you could find out to what address Hamilton had his bank statements sent. It might lead us to him and, by extension, the gangsters."

"Sure, Lois. Do you want me to give them to you or have Perry find someone else...?"

"Give them to me. I won't stand back while they are roaming in the city. And Jimmy?"

"Yeah?"

"Clark wouldn't want us wallowing in grief. He'd want us to honor his memory by actions."

"Thanks, Lois. I'd better get to that bank statement."

Lois nodded and once again made her way towards the roof.

When she got there Clark was nowhere to be seen. A cold shiver run down her spine as a completely irrational thought appeared, that she was in such a state of shock that she only imagined him alive and now as she started coming out of it, he disappeared.

She shook her head trying to get rid of the thought. A second later Superman landed next to her.

"Sorry about leaving but a five-year-old fell out of a window on the sixth floor trying to get a cat inside. Both the child and the cat are all right now."

Lois suddenly embraced him in a hug.

"I just needed to make sure you're real. Down there the atmosphere in the newsroom is so horrible I almost believed myself that I've lost you."

"I'm here, Lois." Clark returned the gesture. "And I have no intention of leaving you. Have you found anything?"

"Oh, yes. I've got something. But the police know it as well so we'd probably better hurry. Can you take us to 1500 Old North Road?"

A moment later they hovered above a building with that address.

"It might be the place. I don't see them here, though. There is a scientist, presumably Hamilton, in what looks like a lab, but apart from him the building is empty."

"Well, we'll just need to talk to the professor and see what he can tell us."

"Provided he can tell us anything. It seems the doors to the lab are locked from the outside."

"So it'll be easier for us to get to him. Now get us down. Do you think I could get in through this window? Then I could open the door for you."

"You probably could. The window isn't big but you are pretty small."

"Great. Thanks. Give me a hand."

A moment later they were both inside.

"Now what?"

"You look around for any clues you can find. With that vision of yours it shouldn't take you long. In the meantime I'll free the professor."

Lois marched to the door of laboratory and unlocked a dead bolt. She walked quietly to the man working on something at the counter.

"Professor Hamilton?" She took his startled movement and dropping the glass for a yes. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet."

"Oh no. Not the press. Are the police with you?"

"No." She glanced at her partner entering the lab. "Not exactly. So it's true? You created Capone and the others?"

"I'm afraid so. But I can't control them anymore. I thought I'd give them another chance. I chose those subject to controversy, thinking that they were fighting the antisocial, aggressive genes already. Capone was buying milk for children at school... Dillinger was forced into crime and wasn't even carrying a gun when the FBI shot him... But they're... it's... I..."

The man was obviously losing contact with reality.

"Professor, why are you locked in here?"

"It's... It's Capone. He's making me regenerate more of his gang." He looked helplessly around finally focusing on Clark. "Superman!"

"Professor Hamilton."

"You must believe me. This wasn't supposed to happen. I just wanted to help mankind."

Lois noted that Clark's face went darker.

"I don't doubt you never planed to be locked in the lab resurrecting gangsters while the ones already alive terrorize the city. But you still planned to experiment on human beings and, as you say, 'control them.' It doesn't sound very ethical to me."

"I was just trying to help people. If it worked it would be a way to short-circuit aggressive behaviors. The criminals subjected to it wouldn't be dangerous to others anymore."

"And how is that different from using lobotomy, like some did in the 19th century? And what do you have in your defense when it comes to using sentient beings for experiments you're not sure the outcome of? Without their consent, as I suspect?"

"I was trying to help mankind..." the professor said in defeated tone.

"I believe Dr. Mengele would have said something similar."

"I never intended for it to go that far... It was supposed to be only theoretical. But when nobody treated me seriously I thought I could show them just one, as an example... And things got terribly out of hand..."

"I'd say," Lois cut in. "Hollywood made a dozen versions of Frankenstein and you still didn't get the point? C'mon, let's get you out of here. You wouldn't happen to know where they are now?"

"They never tell me... But they were talking about... Wait, did you say you were from the Daily Planet?"

"Yes."

"They said something about crashing a party at the Planet... something about how everybody worth owning will be there... And then something about bringing uh... 'three slugs apiece'...?"

Lois gasped and looked at Clark.

"When did they leave?"

"Some time ago."

"Professor, please stay here. I'll be back soon. I need to go now, though," Clark said quickly.

"I'm coming with you. I'm not going to let you go alone. Besides, someone needs to call the police while you are busy catching the bad guys," Lois interjected as they made their way outside.

"Guess the research will have to wait for a moment," he said as he took off. A moment later, Clark realized that Lois was shaking in his arms. "What is it?"

"Clark, it's horrible. First they try to take you away from me, and now if Capone has his way, I'll never see Perry or Jimmy again..."

"He won't. I promise. I'll see to it." They landed before the Planet building. "Call the police. I'll get the gangsters."

As Lois nodded, her partner shot up the stairs.

By the time she got upstairs, the gangsters were already retreating. It seemed that Clark had decided to settle for disarming them and leaving them to the mercy of the Planet staff.

Although 'merciful' probably wasn't a good describing word for the large group of people taking out their grief on the outnumbered gangsters. She had no idea her partner had such a mean streak in him.

Then again he was gone and so was Capone so there was a possibility that he might not have done it on purpose. And there she was thinking that she was actually rubbing off on him.

Her train of thought was broken as Bonnie drifted into view, probably hoping to use the elevator as an escape route.

Lois narrowed her eyes. The fact that this woman was the other half of the infamous gangster duo that caused it all made her pretty angry, but one thing made her angrier. This woman was a walking offense to the modern nineties woman, and Lois felt it was her job to teach her a lesson.

With one, well-practiced throw over the hip, she sent Bonnie flying on a collision course with the anniversary cake. She grinned and heaved a huge sigh. It was a huge waste of cake, but it had been enormously satisfying. Besides, it's not like it was chocolate cake.

She looked around and noticed that Dillinger had broken free of the caterer who tried to detain him. That was an opportunity she couldn't miss. She stepped in front of the man, blocking his way.

"Well, well, if it isn't the little lady in red from the club."

"Oh, so you remember me? Don't get so happy about the reunion, though."

"Or you're gonna do what? Slap me?"

"Don't get your hopes up."

He reached out, presumably to try to push her out of his way. Predicting his movement, she moved to the side and then shoved her heel directly into his 'gangster's paradise.'

"Wanted a piece of a lady in red, did you? You've got it. You think you had issues before? After I'm done with you, no therapy is going to help you."

He straightened himself and tried to fling himself onto her only to have his wrist painfully twisted, forcing him onto the floor.

Lois smirked with satisfaction.

"Get ready for your worst nightmare: a lady that sees red instead," she said through gritted teeth.

Not long afterwards the fight was over and Superman approached Lois.

"Both Dillinger and Bonnie? I must say I'm impressed."

"After everything that happened, I needed to vent. And I don't believe Tae-kwon-do was that popular in the thirties."

"They at least looked surprised."

"Especially Dillinger. I believe he will soon be over that lady-in-red fixation of his at any rate. But now that they are caught we need to get back to Hamilton's lab to..." She stopped dead in her tracks as she saw said professor enter the Planet's lobby.

"Miss Lane, Superman!"

"Professor Hamilton, what happened?"

"I... I... I burned down my lab and destroyed all my research. I understand now that playing around with life and death, those are matters better left to the nature..."

"You destroyed research? Completely?"

"Yes. Too much happened for me to... Excuse me." He went to detective Wolfe who was calling him over.

"Oh, Cl... Kal." Lois sobbed as she buried her face in his chest. "It can't be happening. It's some sort of nightmare."

"Hush, Lois. We knew it might not work out. I admit I never suspected this, but we'll find a way, I'm sure. Please calm down."

"Uh, Superman? Is Lois all right?" they heard Jimmy's voice on the side.

"I believe she is a little upset. She was concentrating all her efforts on catching the gangsters and now..." He tried to sound neutral.

"Actually, I had this idea. I know it was crazy, that if Hamilton brought all those criminals back to life, we could use his research to..." Lois finally found her voice.

"Oh. But do you think CK would have wanted it? Being brought back like that? And would it still be him?"

"Cl... Kal said the same thing earlier. But I don't know. I really don't know. I just want him back so badly."

"I know what you mean." Jimmy's look grew confused "Wait. Who's Kal?"

"You didn't think my parents called me Superman, did you?" If the circumstances were different, Clark would probably enjoy the look he got from the young photographer.

"Oh. Sorry. I guess I never really thought about it."

"It's all right. Lois is one of the very few that even know my name."

Perry approached them. "Jimmy. Come on, son, I'll drive you home. Lois, how are you feeling, honey?"

"I'll be fine, Perry. Do you think I could take a few days off now that we've got Capone? I'll fax the article about it to you, of course, but..."

"Of course, honey. Do you think you can drive? I can always give you a lift as well."

"It's all right, Mr. White. I'll fly her home," Clark quickly interjected.

"Good. Thank you, Superman. I'll see you in a few days, Lois. Take as much time as you need."

"Thanks, Perry." She turned to her partner. "Let's go home."

As Clark obediently lifted her and flew to her apartment, she was silently going over the events of the day and trying to come to terms with the fact that her partner may never be back. She couldn't. She didn't even notice her surroundings until she registered that she was again standing, this time on the floor of her apartment.

"Thanks." She whispered and then furiously hit a pillow on her couch. "Could things go any more wrong?"

"Yes, they could. We saved the Planet, remember?"

"But we lost you in the process. That doesn't qualify as success by my book."

"We may still think of something. Do you want me to make us some coffee?"

"Just because you are much faster than any coffee machine. You can sleep on my couch, if you like."

"Are you sure it wouldn't be a problem?" He was already carrying two steaming mugs. "I was intending to fly to Smallville if we don't manage to bring me back."

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course it's no problem. And if you earn your keep by cooking I may still get the better end of the deal."

"If you're sure."

"I am. But we ought to think about what to do now. I mean, I don't mind you as Superman but I'd much rather have you as Clark. Do you have any ideas now that the one with Hamilton's work didn't pan out?"

"To be honest, not really. Everything I can think of is just too obvious..."

The telephone rang.

"Lois Lane. Oh, hi Lucy. Listen I didn't have time to look for your certificate so... Oh. So you read the article?... Yes, I know... No, you don't need to come, I'll be fine. Thanks. Take care... Yes, I know. Bye."

"Your sister."

"Yes. She just learned about it. I guess I spoke too soon this morning about her not comforting me. Listen, I need to take a shower and change but if you like you can..."

"That's all right. I'll go on a flight around the city. We can talk when I'm back."

"All right. I won't need to get up early tomorrow so we can talk as long as we need later."

"Yes. That one surprised me. Lois Lane willingly taking time off?"

"I wanted to be able to use all the time I can to bring you back. And I told the part of me that was still protesting that when we finally bring you back, it should make a nice story for us to write, so in a way we will be working on a story after all."

"Lois... Thank you."

"Clark, I... Never mind. Call your parents and go do your rounds or whatever it is you do. I need a shower." She promptly turned and marched to the bathroom.

Clark watched as she exited the room and then quickly dialed the number of his parents. After relaying the events of the day to them he finished the call and, hearing that Lois was still taking the bath, flew out of the window.

Only when he was above the city, feeling the evening breeze on his face, did he allow his thoughts to return to the situation he found himself in.

Last evening he was sure that he had no way out of the situation but Lois's determination proved to be contagious, especially since he wished so much for some answers. He realized that when Lois came up with her plan he had made a mistake. Despite his initial skepticism he allowed himself to believe it could... it would work. After all he has never known Lois to fail before. He grew used to following her craziest plans only to have them work out in the end despite the odds. As far as he knew Lois could do just about anything if she put her mind to it.

He was sure, that if Perry one day asked her to prove Elvis was still alive she would come a few days later with an exclusive interview, current address and a few photos, one of them signed with dedication to Perry White. So despite knowing that finding a way to bring him back after what happened bordered impossible, he allowed himself to hope. After all why would this time be different from all the others when they somehow managed the impossible?

While they managed to get the gangsters and save the Planet, their victory for the first time wasn't full. Realizing that the chances for their plan to work, however vague it might have been, had vanished before his eyes was almost as bad as getting 'killed' again.

Almost with relief he noticed two burglars emptying a store. Being Superman offered an escape from his problems, if only for a short while.

Lois left the bathroom and looked around her empty apartment. She had been fine living alone ever since Lucy moved out, but now she felt as if something were missing. It was a brief feeling but it made her think about how easy it would be to get used to living with Clark. And not just for a short while because he couldn't go back to his apartment...

But what if he would never be able to go back to his apartment? She wouldn't mind sharing her apartment with him... She wouldn't have minded sharing her life... She paused, shocked with the thought. But it was true. Somehow Clark was probably the only person she could imagine sharing a life with...

But he wasn't Clark anymore. If she hadn't insisted on going with him today... Heck, if she hadn't insisted on going to the club yesterday... But she had. And she cost her partner his life.

Twice.

Some very optimistic side of her kept insisting that not everything was lost yet. They still had some time to come up with something. His body wasn't found, so he was only considered missing presumed dead. How long did it take for that status to change to 'dead'?

She remembered writing an article about it once, describing a family struggling to get a life insurance payoff after the man, who had supported his unemployed wife and two kids, went missing after a ship disaster some years ago, but for the life of her she couldn't recall the time required.

But they still had some time. Of that she was sure. But was there anything they could do? The best idea they had so far shattered not three hours ago. What if they never found a way?

She shook her head to fend away that thought. They had to think of something. They just had to... But what if...

Would there be any future for her and Clark then?

Would there be any future for Clark at all?

How long would he want to just live in her apartment without his own place to stay?

She used to wonder what a relationship with Superman would be like. It felt like ages ago, true, but she was quite sure she never even imagined these circumstances before. Maybe if she took a loan and bought a house somewhere close to Metropolis so they could live together? But who was she kidding – she would never be able to afford it with just her salary. Well, maybe if the state of the house was poor enough... she didn't doubt Clark would be happy to help renovate it as his share.

But then what sort of life would they lead? Would Clark even want to live like that? Work full time as Superman and come back to the house he theoretically didn't live in to a woman he couldn't marry because he was for all intents and purposes dead?

But it would be probably better than most of the alternatives he would have if... She buried her face in a pillow. It would not come to that. They would think of something. Sooner than they realized they would be writing an article together on Clark's miraculous comeback. She could nearly see the headline now 'Reporter presumed dead lives!' and the Lane and Kent byline below it.

Strange, how she never realized how satisfying it was to see that byline.

She never even noticed when she had started crying. She couldn't stop even by telling herself that it wouldn't help them any and tried to concentrate on some new plan.

When Clark flew in a while later, silent tears were still rolling down her face, wetting the pillow.

"Lois?"

"I'm fine, Clark. I just probably have this little allergy to my new shower gel. That's all."

"Didn't I use that excuse when I encountered kryptonite?"

"It's not an excuse. You wouldn't believe some ingredients in the cosmetics today. Maybe we should run an article about it when we get ourselves out of this mess."

"If you find a way to do that, I'd be happy helping you go after each and every cosmetics company out there."

"Careful. You have no idea what you're going up against."

"So I gather that you won't need these to lift your spirits?" He produced a box of Swiss chocolates

"When did you get those?"

"On the way back here. I thought you might need it. And I got takeout from Shanghai, the kind you like so much."

"From Shanghai? You are telling me that all those time you brought Chinese takeout...?"

"Pretty much. At least I know it's good. I hope you don't mind."

"Don't mind? Are you kidding? If I had any idea I'd always have you order takeout even when I was just ordering for myself at home."

"I'm glad you like it then. Feel any better?"

"Yeah. But we'd probably better get started. Since you managed to get away from cooking today...not that I complain..."

"And did you have any ideas while I was gone?"

"One. Well, two, but the other one is more like a plan B if we don't manage to bring you back. Not that I think we won't, because of course we will, but I wanted to have a backup so we could concentrate completely on bringing you back. So don't think I was going by the darkest scenario, because I wasn't..."

Clark interrupted her babbling. "So what was that idea of yours?"

"Well, I was thinking. What if you survived the shooting, but lost consciousness because of blood loss or shock or pain or whatever? I mean it's possible, isn't it?"

"It might be. As long as none of the gangsters remembers that I wasn't breathing the whole way in the car. It would be slightly too long for humans to hold their breath. And if there weren't any additional injuries from being thrown from a car in motion."

"But it could work, right?"

"Well, yeah. I suppose. But even if all three bullets missed the heart I'd probably bleed out before anyone found me. And if I was found why didn't the hospital inform the police? Not to mention even then my supposed chances would be rather slim."

"About the hospital thing – are you sure they would ID you so fast?"

"I still had my wallet with me."

"The person that found you could have taken it."

"If someone decided to call an ambulance to a shooting victim found in an alley, even if they took the money away they would probably be considerate enough to leave the ID card so my family could be informed."

"Well, someone could have taken it and then someone else might have found you."

"We are cutting the timing thin again, Lois. Besides if that story was to check we would need a confirmation from a hospital. Not to mention they need to inform the police about all shooting victims that come in immediately."

"Well then, maybe you weren't taken to the hospital. Someone could have decided to help you and, not wanting to get you in trouble, they didn't get you to the hospital but treated you at home."

"Wouldn't not providing medical help and equipment necessary to survive qualify as getting me in trouble?"

"True. But what then? We find a doctor who was skilled enough to help you but for some reason didn't want to broadcast it? And you contacted me only after you were well enough to do it yourself?"

For a moment Clark stared at Lois.

"You know, this might actually work. And it would give us some time to work on the fine details."

"Like why you don't have any scars."

"Actually that's not much of a problem. As far as people know I might have them. I don't intend to show them around especially since I usually wear the costume under my clothes. If anyone saw it, it wouldn't matter if I have any scars or not."

Lois laughed.

"True. But then again you could always blame that one on me and say you were only trying to appeal to my kinky side."

"Lois, I don't think I want to know." He laughed as well. "But we still have to think about where to find this doctor. A surgeon good enough to save someone with serious injuries without the backup of a proper facility is hard to come by."

"Well, we have one doctor in our arsenal. He is even eccentric enough that he might convince himself not to contact anyone until he was sure you were going to be all right."

"And who would that be?"

"Sam Lane, who else?"

"Lois, I know that your contact with your parents isn't as good as mine, but don't you think that your father, who, by the way, already knew me, would call his daughter to tell her not to worry about the death of her partner because he happened to save him?"

"Well, maybe he didn't want to give me any false hope in case you didn't survive."

"Not very likely. Your relationship may be...uh, strained but he would know you had to be devastated. If not by anything else than by the fact that you weren't the one who wrote the article about what happened. Besides isn't that a bit too much of a coincidence?"

"What?"

"I'm shot and dumped somewhere in the city and before I bleed out I'm found by none other than the father of my partner. Who, last I checked was more interested with robotics than with helping shooting victims left in dark alleys."

"But maybe he recognized you and decided to help because of that."

"Why not call an ambulance then? I'm sure nobody would oppose him volunteering to operate to save me, given his reputation. And in fact his not calling an ambulance could land him with charges of criminal negligence."

"So somebody else?"

"It would probably be better."

"Any ideas?"

"To be honest? None. What we want is a very good surgeon, military one, perhaps, so dealing with bullets and severe conditions wouldn't be anything new to him, who'd rather not bring attention to himself despite potential risk of charges."

"Perhaps an illegal immigrant?"

"That could work. Do you know anyone that fits?"

She looked deflated.

"No. I was hoping you would."

"Well, I could look for someone like that but I'm not sure if..." He broke off.

For a long moment Clark sat with eyes focused of nothing particular. Lois was about to ask if he was using one of his powers to hear or see something when he blinked and looked at her.

"Perhaps we don't need to know anyone fitting."

"What do you mean?"

"How many times did we protect our sources? If such person existed I'm sure I'd be grateful enough for being alive not to expose their identity and subject them to the threat of deportation. I could simply refuse to give any details about the person out of 'gratitude.'"

"Clark, I'll probably never say it again, so do try to remember this moment, but you are brilliant. But why wouldn't he have contacted anyone? People thought you were dead!"

"Going to the police or the best-selling newspaper with information doesn't exactly qualify as laying low. Besides, why would he know anyone's looking for me? Our running theory is that he's an illegal immigrant. What if he doesn't speak English?"

"But you speak probably every notable language out there. You could ask him to pass the information."

"I'd have to be conscious for that first. And given the provisory conditions, the wounds could have gotten infected, resulting with fever and generally inability of coherent thinking. In a few days, when I'm well enough I will probably ask him to pass you a message. What worries me now is what to do later."

"What do you mean what to do? You come back and we're back to normal."

"Not with injuries like that. Even if I survived I'd probably be unable to do anything for a long time. And then I'd require rehab. And I still wouldn't like my chances of full recovery. Besides, once you found me I'm sure you'd like me to have more professional help."

"Here's where my dad would be useful. With everything he thought up so far getting you back to normal shouldn't be too much of a stretch."

"I know he has many notable achievements, Lois, but we can't expect him to admit doing the impossible. How would it look if he did this for me and then refused help to anyone else in similar state?"

"The Lanes can be very single minded."

Clark laughed.

"Believe me, I know. But I still wouldn't want to put him in such a situation."

"Not to mention we'd have to either tell him about you or think of one hell of a cover story."

"That too. But if you say we could trust him... and with everything at stake here, it might be worth the risk. I trust your judgment."

"You do? Even after the whole story with..."

"It took you a bit longer, true, but you don't seem the type to repeat your mistakes. Besides, I can understand the delay – you were in denial."

She looked around for something to throw at him but found nothing.

"So what do we do?"

"Well, first of all, I will need to avoid being examined by any doctors. Lack of any signs of injury might seem slightly suspicious. So while I'm not sure about giving your father credit for my perfect health, he could help us there."

"But what about your condition then? Do you think there is any chance that you could have been injured less seriously than expected?"

"My living through that shooting would mean my injuries were infinitely less serious than expected. I'm not sure you could make that any better."

Lois exhaled audibly.

"So long as I have you back. Maybe my father will think of something to cover the technicalities--if not now than in some time."

"Maybe."

They went silent for a long moment.

"Clark?"

"Yes?"

"What if that doesn't work, either? I mean, I was sure we had done it before with Hamilton's work and then everything went..."

"Don't worry, Lois. Thanks to you, my chances of coming back are much better than they would be if I worked on it alone. To be completely honest... when I first got shot I didn't imagine ever being able to come back."

"Hey, weren't you supposed to be more optimistic?"

"You wouldn't believe how fast the optimism evaporates when you get shot."

"Never tried that one so I have to give you that."

"And rationally speaking I had practically no chance..."

"Rationally speaking you shouldn't be able to fly."

"Not exactly. All it takes is to tune yourself to Earth magnetism and..."

"If it's so easy why haven't you ever taught me?"

He laughed. "Remember when you chose invisibility over flying once? I decided that since you already got to be invisible you wouldn't be interested."

Lois took a pillow from the couch and hit him with it. He had the decency not to move away.

"So you think it can work? Our plan, I mean."

"I hope it will." He smiled. "And didn't you say you already have a backup plan?"

"Clark..."

"Let's hear it!"

"What? No! No way."

"You don't want to tell me what you have planned for me? I'm deeply hurt."

"Never mind. It was just a stupid idea. You probably wouldn't want to know."

"Oh, but I do. Come on, Lois. What's the worst that can happen?"

"All right. But remember you were the one to ask."

"I will remain aware of that fact. Are you stalling?"

"Stalling? No. Why would you think so?"

"Lois..."

"All right. I thought I could buy some old house near Metropolis, where you could live with me after helping me to renovate it. Of course you wouldn't be able to live there as Clark, but it wouldn't mean we couldn't still live there happily."

"Lois..."

"Well, you asked. And at first I thought we wouldn't be able to be together, I mean formally, but then I thought that, if you wanted to, I mean. It's not like I would force you, but if you wanted I even thought of a way to get us married."

"Married?"

Only then she realized she spoke that aloud. She blushed.

"It was just a thought..."

"And would you want that? Be married to me, I mean?"

"I... I guess so..." She blinked rapidly. "Why, Clark, are you trying to propose?"

"Let's just call it checking the ground for now. When I'm sure I'm alive again then I'll at least know I have something to offer you."

He could hear her breathing shallow and her heart beating much too fast.

"Clark?"

"Yes?"

"When you ask me... My answer will be yes. Just so you know."

"Lois."

"When I realized how much I lost with you being shot... Well, if I have any say in it I won't let you go."

"Your decision is emotional right now, Lois. When things are back to normal..."

"It's a marriage proposal we are talking about, Clark. The decisions are supposed to be emotional. If there aren't any emotions involved there isn't any point in proposing, is there?"

"But are you sure that's what you would want?"

"Definitely."

"So when I'm back alive..."

"As soon as you are back alive..."

"Weren't we supposed to date first?"

"So you don't think out night stakeouts count as original dates?" she asked in mock disappointment.

"Actually, why not? Given everything we went through together it would probably be as close to normal as it can be."

"You said it. Want to hear the rest of my plan?"

"Didn't we end somewhere near our wedding?"

"Uhhuh. I decided that if I can't marry one of you I could always marry the other."

"Lois, you know very well that..."

"I know, but hear me out. I obviously couldn't marry a dead man. But there aren't any laws forbidding me to marry a Kryptonian."

Clark groaned. "You couldn't have been seriously thinking of marrying Superman."

"No. But I was thinking of marrying you. And if we played it right we would be able to marry discreetly."

"Do you really think you would be able to discreetly marry Superman?"

"I told you I had a plan. We would marry on Halloween. I'd wear some costume as well and you'd fly us to Vegas. Given the date Superman's marrying, say, Marie Antoinette wouldn't draw too much attention."

"Possibly. But my inability to produce a valid ID might."

"We'd tell the minister, and only the minister, who you really are. You shouldn't have any problem with proving that. And his job ethics should stop him from telling anyone."

"And if not?"

"Then we wouldn't have to worry anyway. Only Inquisitor would buy such a story and they already have you married to at least three different women, and with several kids, one of which is green and has antennae on the head."

Clark laughed and shook his head.

"You thought of everything, didn't you?"

"If there is something I hate, it's not having a way out. If I wanted to be able to concentrate on getting you back I needed to know that no matter what happens we'll be able to somehow manage."

"Sometimes, Lois, you really scare me."

"Oh, really?" She drew closer to him and rested her head on his arm.

"Definitely. But I wouldn't want you to change one bit."

For a moment they sat in silence.

"I could get used to having you for a pillow," Lois mumbled sleepily after some time.

"Really?"

"Yeah. It's really nice..." With that she fell asleep.

Clark sighed, gently took her up and carried her to her bedroom. Once she was comfortably tucked in bed, he went to prepare himself a couch.

His mind wandered to the image awoken by what Lois said. As bizarre as the idea sounded at first, he could imagine himself living with Lois for good. He could get used to Lois falling asleep of his shoulder as well.

The next morning they were awakened by the sound of the telephone ringing. It seemed that news traveled fast in the Planet staff and the fact that the Lois Lane decided to take a day or two off to mourn a friend made just about everyone feel obligated to call and comfort her.

After the fifth call, Lois was out for blood and after the eighth she decided not to pick up the phone. After the eleventh she decided to record a new message for the answering machine.

"Hi! You've reached Lois Lane. If you are calling to tell me how sorry you are for what happened, please disconnect. I'd like to have some peace to sort things out. If you called for some other reason, please leave a message after a tone."

"Don't you think it's a bit too harsh? People are just concerned for you."

"No they aren't. They want to make themselves feel better for calling. If they had my feelings in mind they would leave me alone. If I wanted to talk to them I wouldn't have taken the time off, right?"

"You do realize that's what made most of them call, right? They were worried."

"No they weren't. They just... What's that smell?"

"I'm not sure which you are referring to but it could be either coffee or fresh croissants."

"Fresh?"

"Straight from Paris. I went to get them for breakfast when you were talking with Ralph."

"Mmmm. You are the best. You do realize I might not let you go now?"

"Well, you fell asleep on me when all we had was the outline of the plan so I don't know..."

"Alright then. We can restart the discussion as we eat."

"No. After we eat. You should have at least one meal you can eat in peace. And breakfast seems like a good choice here."

"If you insist." She sniffed the air for the delicious smell. "But we get to work first thing after breakfast." She sat down to eat. "Can you believe Josh called me as well?"

"Josh? The sports photographer?"

"The one. I might have exchanged five words with him altogether. I don't know what's happening to people. It's some craze that..."

"Lois."

"All right. I know. I was supposed to let it go. I just can't believe how some people seemed to suddenly remember my existence and..."

"It's not like that, Lois. You know that."

"It's not as if I'm unapproachable normally. I mean if they wanted to know me better they had dozens of chances." She started venting her frustration on a croissant. "I know I'm busy most of the time but..."

"Lois, calm down. I believe the poor pastry has had enough. And perhaps it's just that only when something terrible happens people realize how little they sometimes know about their colleagues. And incidentally, when I suggested eating breakfast in peace I had somewhat lighter conversation in mind."

"All right then. How about you tell me another childhood story of yours?"

"Lois."

"Come on, Clark. You didn't think I'd let it go that easily after the last one I heard."

He sighed.

"So what do you want to hear?"

"I don't know... Perhaps... How did you find out you were invulnerable? That one should be good."

"You mean before or after I survived the first week as your partner?"

"Clark."

"To be completely honest, I didn't realize the extent of it for a long time. I mean, despite what you might think it's not very often that someone tries to shoot you on the farm. Sure, I knew I didn't bruise easily, but that was about it."

"But you had to notice. It's not like it's something easy to overlook."

"Do you know anyone sane who would willingly go into harm's way without knowing for sure they're going to be fine?"

"But you did know you were at least more resistant, right?"

"Well, I told you that I tripped over everything before I got x-ray vision under control. And once, well, I was helping my Dad repair the roof and I fell to the ground. None of that ever earned me any bruises. When I helped my Mom in the kitchen I sometimes touched something which, according to my parents should have burned me, and never even noticed. But that's about it."

"Then how...?"

"I didn't find out until after I started to travel. I've been to a few 'hot' areas, even official war zones. I thought that if, allow me to borrow the term, 'a hack from Nowheresville' was to have any chance for a career in journalism he needed some achievements to back him up. I figured war journalism was worth a shot."

"And yet you went to Perry with, what was that? Mating rituals of something or another?"

Clark chuckled.

"Knob-tailed geckos. And I will have you now it was actually an ironic political pastiche. One I'm quite proud of."

"Really?"

"Yes. Though I suspect the name Borneo Gazette put people off."

Lois laughed hard.

"What is it?"

"Sorry. But when you told me about being Superman I was certain that absolutely nothing I learned about you would surprise me anymore. Now not even two days have passed and..." She laughed harder.

"I'm pretty sure there isn't much more I can surprise you with, if it's any consolation."

"We'll see about it, Farmboy. But you still haven't told me the story. If you went to war zones, you had to at least suspect your invulnerability."

"I had to? No, Lois, I didn't know I was invulnerable. Just like all the others who go there aren't. I did know, however, that I had much better reflexes and hence I was considerably safer than others there."

"So when did you find out?"

"I was helping with an evacuation when fighting got closer than anticipated. I heard a series of shots fired in our direction. I felt something hit me lightly but I put it off as dirt and small rocks moved by the force of the bullets. And believe me, it was quite a shock to discover that it was bullets that hit me and that they were much worse off than I was as a result."

"I can imagine..."

"The ironic thing was that when I realized what happened I was shocked, true, but I didn't really think about it. I pocketed the bullets and went to help the wounded. Then in the evening I flew back to Kansas to tell my parents what happened, still upset about civilians being attacked, and only after my Dad asked me to repeat the part about me not being affected by the bullets, the real depth of it all dawned on me."

"A fine pair we make, really. You don't put the fact that bullets bounce off you down as something important, I never notice the fact that my partner moonlights as Superman, and we are the best reporters in the city. Honestly, what is journalism coming to?"

"You know, it's not that bad. You can write that off as our weak points and decide that we are the best because of identifying our weaknesses and concentrating on our strong points."

Lois took the last sip of her coffee.

"Well, if you want us both to still be the best reporters in the city, we'd better get to work."

"True. Anything particular you have in mind?"

"Well, I was thinking, now that you mention it... We need something to lessen the supposed extent of your injuries right?"

"It would be nice as it would allow me to go back to work much sooner but there isn't much to be done, Lois."

"Yes, there is. Call it a sudden epiphany but I think I've got it!"

"You do?"

"Yes. Bulletproof vest."

Clark groaned. "We've been through that already, remember? Nothing much to do there."

"Yes. But we've been thinking about a working bulletproof vest. I have in mind a not working one now."

"Lois, are feeling all right? How is that supposed to help?"

"Hear me out. It just dawned on me as you were telling me this story. Listen, you've been to various wars, right? You could have bought a vest somewhere along the way and brought it with you as a souvenir, couldn't you?"

"I suppose. But I still don't see..."

"Wait for it. When you bought it, it was already worn down and in poor condition. You didn't have that much money and you settled for the best you could afford. Is that probable so far?"

"Possibly."

"Good. Now the good part. On the night we went to the club you weren't happy about my plan as you thought it too risky."

"Now that's something new."

"Hush. Since I insisted, you decided to tease me later about it and put on your old vest that you knew wouldn't be much use besides irritating me when you show me afterwards that you were wearing it."

"Now you are stretching it."

"But not really. Everybody knows how you like to tease me."

"All right. Whatever you say. So what next?"

"We went to the club, things got violent and Clyde shot you. And here we come to the vital part. Ready?"

"I can't wait."

"So here it comes: You were shot, but with only one bullet instead of three. The vest stopped the other two."

"Lois?"

"That way your chances soar up dramatically. Then we go with the story from yesterday. You were found by an illegal immigrant. Didn't we make him a military surgeon?"

"I believe so."

"So our immigrant, let's call him Jose for the sake of argument, found you, bleeding out and unconscious, in some dark alley. He came to examine you and found out you were wearing the vest. But to help you he had to get rid of it as soon as possible and he threw it out while he went to help you."

"I was wondering how you were going to explain lack of the vest."

"I think of everything. Remember that, Kent. So he threw the vest out and took care of you. He removed the bullet but you were running high fever afterwards and there wasn't much contact with you. He doesn't speak English so despite the fact you had your documents he had no idea whom to contact. The only thing he understood was your press pass and, being illegal immigrant he didn't want to take the risk of coming to a den of reporters."

"One question. How long were you planning this?"

"I told you it was an epiphany. And I thought about some details of our plan between the phone calls."

"I see. Please, continue."

"So, it took some time, but once you came back to consciousness, you realized what happened and talked Jose into sending me a message to let me know you're alive. I'm sure that with your language skills you had no problem doing that. Possibly you even told him to call me and dictated what to say on the phone. And when it comes to the vest, we may even write a classified asking if somebody found it, since it's a invaluable token that saved your life more than once. If we put an effort into finding it, nobody will suspect it never existed."

"Did I mention you were brilliant?"

"You might have, but I won't oppose hearing it again."

"So what have you planned after you find me alive?"

"Oh, that's simple. I called for Superman to ask him to help me get you to your apartment, as it seemed you were already in the way to recovery. Of course, to be sure, Superman might have even x-rayed the wound or something. When I got you home I called for my father and had him help me nurse you back to health."

"Are you sure he'll help? We haven't contacted him yet."

"Trust me, he'd jump at the chance to help if it means getting our relationship better. And then of course we call your parents, Henderson and Perry. I even have the title for the article of your coming back."

"You really do think of everything, don't you?"

"Of course. Don't tell me you had any doubt."

"Of course not. I wouldn't dare. Do you have any ideas about the best time for the implementation of the plan?"

"I thought I'd go back to work tomorrow, make sure nobody suspects anything, and then in two days or so you can have Jose contact me."

"Lois?"

"Hmmm?"

"If I wasn't already completely in love with you, I think I would have fallen in love with you right now."

"I'm sure you tell that to every girl that finds a way to bring you back to life."

"Oh, while it's true I never told such a girl anything else, I must say you are pretty special to me. You are the first girl that ever..."

"If you finish that sentence using the word 'interview,' I'm getting kryptonite."

"Actually I was thinking along the lines 'resurrected me' but thank you for the warning. It's good to know that you are so sick of the word 'interview' that you don't even let Superman mention it around you. Given your reputation, it shouldn't be a surprise then that he got scared enough to go only to me with his exclusives."

"One day you are going to pay for that one, Clark Kent. I promise you that much."

"Do you think I could appease you with an offer of a dinner in Rome today?"

"You've got yourself a deal. But you drive a hard bargain."

Going to work on the next day was hard for Lois. She desperately hoped that the atmosphere in the newsroom improved from what it was before but that hope evaporated quickly as soon as the elevator door opened.

"Lois? I thought you were taking a few days off, honey." She heard the voice of the editor-in-chief as soon as she got to her desk.

"I couldn't, Perry. I tried but I was just moping around the apartment. And I realized that it was the last thing Clark would have wanted me to do. So here I am, ready to go back to work." She guiltily made that statement as unconvincing as she could. Not that her lack of makeup wouldn't be a statement for itself.

"Do you, uh, want to talk about it?"

"Thanks, Perry, but no. I need to concentrate on the future now if I want to go on. Do you have anything I could work on?"

"Lois, honey, I'm not sure if it's a good idea. What happened hit us all hard, but you probably the hardest..."

"I'm ready to be back, Perry."

"I know you feel like that right now, honey, and I know you were working alone for a long time but as soon as you get to the point when you'd normally... It may be harder than you expect."

"So you won't give me anything?"

"It's a slow news day anyway, Lois."

"Perry."

"There is a hippotherapy center opening today. I intended to send Ralph there, but you can have it."

"Hippotherapy? You can't be serious."

"Slow news day. That's the best I've got right now."

"I'll take it. But when I'm back I'm calling all my sources and looking for a real story."

"As you wish. Take Jimmy with you. We'll need some photos."

She nodded and waved for the young photographer to follow her. He did so but with considerably less energy than she was used to seeing from him.

"So where are we going?" he asked when they entered the elevator.

"Hippotherapy center. Called," she looked at the materials, "Valley of the Smile. I can't believe Perry even considers this a story let alone that he gave it to me."

"He's afraid, you know. I mean, logically knew that you and CK always took risks to get the story. But what happened... it made it real. Chief took it hard. He tries to look strong but if he gave you a story that got you killed, too... I'm not sure if he'd survive it."

If Jimmy's hoarse voice was any indication, Perry wasn't the only one taking it hard.

Only two days, Lois kept thinking to herself. Only two days and we'll set everything straight again. But until then... she had to cope with it. Somehow.

"Do you think Cl... Superman will be at the opening too?" she asked to change topic and felt a chill at her slip. It was going to be harder than she thought. How did Clark manage to get it straight?

"You can call him Kal if you like, Lois." Jimmy never noticed as she breathed in relief. "Now that I know who you are talking about, I don't mind that you are on first name basis. I mean between all those interviews and rescues, it's no wonder that you got to be friends."

They exited the elevator and went to her jeep.

"Thanks, Jimmy. I try to remember normally but with everything that happened lately..." Seeing the look on his face she hated herself for saying that.

"I know, Lois. I mean, you two were CK's friends, right? You probably spent some time talking lately and..."

"We did, but while it might have done both of us some good, I think he needed it more. I mean I know that you, for example, were Clark's friend as well but, well you had Perry and others to talk to. And you didn't have a feeling, on the top of everything, that if you were only a bit closer or heard some warning sooner you'd actually be able to stop that from happening."

She definitely hated herself now. But at least Jimmy won't feel excluded now from the people she considered Clark's friends.

"You know, I never really thought about it like that. He feels guilty, doesn't he?"

"And he's not the only one. Neither of us did the shooting, true, but I was the reason for it all and Kal wasn't there to stop it from happening."

If Clark ever decided to share his secret with Jimmy, she had no doubt she would go to number one on the young photographer's personal hate list.

Lois welcomed their arrival in the 'Valley' with a relief. And she was even more relieved when, sometime during the ceremony, she saw a familiar figure in the red cape fly in.

She took notes on automaton and when the official part was over she quickly made her way to the 'special guest.'

With some relief she noticed that all the junior reporters that were given the story seemed to find a few quotes he gave satisfying so for once using elbows wasn't necessary to get to him. Only more the proof how much all the others had yet to learn.

"You have no idea how glad I am to see you here." She spoke once she was sure nobody was around to overhear.

"I didn't exactly had time to tell you--I had to leave in the middle of breakfast, remember?" he whispered to her. "I was even worried if I could make it here in time."

"Yes, about that--what happened?"

"A distress call from a tanker approaching the bay."

Almost automatically Lois had her notebook ready. She noticed that Clark had to fight his look of amusement.

"Come on, spill. If this," she gestured around, "is the best story Perry has for me I'm going to howl."

"That bad then?"

"Worse. I'm almost afraid to go back. Now I wouldn't mind getting something that can qualify as news, if you don't mind."

He gave her a quick summary of the event while watching how she furiously covered the pages with her handwriting.

"Thanks," she said when she was finally done. "I don't suppose you'd have a quote for me about this, and I'm using the term event loosely?"

"How about 'It's wonderful to see such initiative from two of Metropolis' biggest stables. Thanks to them many were given hope for a better life'?"

"Will do. I owe you one."

"Consider this self-preservation. I seem to remember you threatening me yesterday. I'd rather not know what you are capable of after being given such a story."

She rolled eyes at him but her mood fell quickly as she saw Jimmy approaching them.

"Back to the act, I guess. I swear, I hate it more every second."

"It won't be long, remember?"

"It hardly makes it better. But I guess you have things to do and we need to go back to the Planet."

"I'll see you later then."

She nodded.

"Yeah. See you." She turned to Jimmy as Clark flew away. "Got everything? Then let's go back. I have a story to write."

That day when Lois was leaving the Planet she was tired. More so than when they broke the story about gunrunning in which Senator Rosenfeld was involved. Or the one about that restaurant, whatever its name was, that was adding drugs to their food... Or any other story she could recall.

And the worst part was, she knew it was maintaining an act that got her that tired, not the stories she had ready in two hours without much effort. Not for the first time she wondered if it would get any better when she wouldn't need to pretend about Clark's death or if it would be always like that, never again being able to be completely honest with anyone.

She entered her apartment and instantly smelled a home-cooked meal. That made her feel a bit better.

"Finally home. I wasn't sure I could take it any longer," she said, entering the kitchen.

"Only a few hours more tomorrow. That's the minimum and you know it. You know it would seem suspicious if I was found alive on the same day you came back to work."

"I know. But I'm still not sure where I'll get enough strength to get through them."

"The thought that you are closer to ending this should help."

"Possibly."

"Don't you think you should call your father, though? It would probably be better if he had some time to prepare as well."

"I thought about it, Clark. But while I know we could trust him I wouldn't say the same about whoever picks up the phone. And I don't really call him just to talk so it would seem odd."

"I'd feel better knowing we have everything covered before we start executing the plan."

"It will be better that way, trust me. If some airhead 'secretary' of his answered she would be bound to start talking about how I called my father and so on and where would we be then?"

"Perhaps you are right. After all, you know the situation better than I do."

"It will work out fine, Clark, you'll see. Now what's for dinner?"

"Just a dish I learned when I was in Indonesia. I hope you'll like it."

"I'm sure I will."

"And we have a cake for dessert. I went to Smallville to tell my folks about our new plan and Mom gave me one of her famous chocolate cakes."

"Chocolate? I suddenly like your Mom even more."

"I'll be sure to tell her that. Now, shall we sit down for a meal before it gets all cold?"

"Why, I'd love to."

The next morning Lois woke up to hear her apartment absolutely quiet. She got up and found a note. 'Fire in apartment building. Back as soon as I can' on the kitchen table. She sighed and went to prepare herself breakfast.

Just as she was finishing her coffee she heard a familiar whoosh and a second later her partner came in. He smelled of smoke.

"How was it?"

"Awful. Nobody died, but a twelve-year-old has third degree burns and there are several others seriously burned. A young woman has her whole face disfigured. She was working as a stewardess and she won't probably be able to go back to work." He sat heavily. "And all that because of a failure of electrical installation."

"I wish there was anything I could do."

"You can write an article. I'll take you there if you like. That won't help the kid but at least maybe the girl won't need to worry about being both homeless and unemployed after she leaves the hospital, when people read about it."

"Wasn't there anyone from the Planet there?"

"Not when I left. Normally I was the one to cover such stories, perhaps people are still used to that and don't respond."

"Then take me there. Someone needs to write the story." She finished the coffee. "Just let me get my bag and I'm ready."

It was a few hours before she arrived at the Planet. Between phoning in the story and going back home to take her Jeep, she almost forgot that they had more planned for the day than breaking the fire story.

She barely even sat down when someone told her about a call for her on line four. She picked up.

"Lois Lane."

"It's me. If you are ready we can begin." She heard Clark's voice.

She took a breath and worked on having properly shocked look.

"What?" she exclaimed, standing up quickly. Her chair apparently had an inclination for dramatic effects as it fell to the floor audibly. Now she had the attention of the whole newsroom. "Could you repeat that? And who is this?" She waited a moment. "Are you sure?" Another pause. "I'll be there. Yes, as soon as possible."

Lois put down the phone, grabbed her bag and strolled out of the room before Perry, who had started approaching her, could ask her anything.

She took some time driving around the city, making sure nobody was watching her and buying some time. Then she went to Clark's apartment.

"How did it go?" Her partner, still clad in his Superman costume, asked instead of greeting her.

"So far? Believable, I hope."

"Good. Now for the next stage of the plan... You should call your father now."

"Yes, I probably should." She reached for the phone. "I hope he'll be alone."

She dialed the number. For a moment nobody answered. Then, finally she heard her father's voice.

"Hi, Daddy. It's Lois. Are you busy?" Clark saw her go pale. "Where? Redirected? Then... when will you be back in Metropolis? I see..."

Her hands trembled for a second then she seemed to collect herself.

"You see, I was hoping you could help me. It's about Clark... Oh, so you heard? But no, it's not like that. He's alive... some doctor, doesn't have license in States but he still is good apparently, saved his life. I brought him home today. He's doing well, but I was hoping you could help me... You know, get some stuff I'll need to take care of him..."

"You would? Thank you. No, Clark is doing fine now, for his state that is. The chest, narrowly missed heart, I always said he was lucky. Even that? Thanks, Daddy."

Lois visibly relaxed.

"Yes, as soon as you come back. No need. That doctor promised to check on him, as long as we keep quiet about it. He doesn't want to get in trouble... and since he was the one to save Clark I guess it would be for the best... Actually, would you mind if we told people that you are taking care of Clark now?... He's an illegal alien and I'd hate to see him deported because he helped us. Yes, definitely, we'll have a lot to tell you about. Bye."

"Let me guess, something went wrong?"

"Like you didn't listen to the entire conversation?"

"Still you have to admit that him working on something in Arizona wasn't an outcome we took under consideration."

"The important thing is, everything worked in the end. Perhaps it's even for the better, with you never needing to tell him your secret."

"Yes, perhaps. But I'm impressed by how you handled the situation. Especially without preparation."

"A good reporter is always prepared for everything, remember? But perhaps we should now inform the world about your grand comeback."

"Would you mind if I called my parents first? Just to tell them it worked so far?"

"Help yourself. It's your phone after all."

Clark dialed the number in blur.

"Hi, Mom. No, just calling to tell you it worked so far. We had a slight change of plans, though. Lois didn't tell her father. He's still helping us, though. He'll even call some friend of his who will bring us here everything she might need to take care of me. We are to expect him in a few hours. Great. We need to call Perry now, I'll give you all the details later. I love you too. Bye."

"So I guess it's Perry now?"

"Yeah. He deserves to know. We can call Henderson afterwards."

"I'm sure he'll love the idea of changing Clyde's charges from murder to an attempted one."

"I believe Clyde was never tried for all he did back in his first lifetime. They might need to resurrect him a few times more to get him serve his due punishment."

"True. And having you alive might be some consolation. Do you think you should get bandaged and lie down in case Perry or Jimmy would like to come here to see you?"

"If they do, I can do that all in a fraction of a second."

"All right. Just so you know, I intend to give you the phone so you should work on having your voice properly weak."

"As long as I don't need to pretend to be a ghost I think I will manage."

"Fine then. Here it goes." A moment later she listened to the signal in the phone. After the second tone the editor-in-chief answered "Hi Perry, it's Lois. I know I left in a hurry but... well allow me to put someone else on the phone. I guess you'd be glad to hear him."

She handed the phone to Clark.

"Uh, hi, Chief," her partner managed weakly.

"Who is this?" Perry's voice was wary, as if he was trying to reason with himself that the connection he made with the voice was surely erroneous.

"It's Clark, Chief. I..."

"Listen. I don't know who you are or what are you playing at, but I'd appreciate if you didn't use this name for whatever game you thought up."

"I'm serious."

"And I'd appreciate if you left Lois out of it. You have no idea what that masquerade of yours could do to her. If it actually was Lois, I was talking to."

"It was. I asked for her to be called as soon as I regained consciousness after being shot. If I was an impostor, would I know about..." Clark thought for a moment. "Paava leaves?" he eventually supplied desperately

"About paava... Great shades of Elvis! Kent! It's really you?"

"Yeah, Chief, it's me. From what Lois tells me I gave you all quite a scare."

"Scare doesn't begin to cover that. What happened? We thought you were killed!"

"It was close. I got shot and was carried away unconscious... People must have thought..." He looked at his partner. "Chief, I'm sorry but talking has gotten me a bit tired. I'll give the phone back to Lois now."

He ignored the glare she shot him.

"Hi. It's me again. No, we're not in hospital. I just called my dad to ask him to do that... You wouldn't believe how lucky Clark got! But I should probably start from the beginning."

Clark listened as Lois gave Perry their story. Luckily it seemed that the editor-in-chief believed it without a problem. Finally she finished with a promise to have a story about his survival written as soon as possible.

The call to Henderson was relatively shorter, as once the cop acknowledged that Clark was alive, he concentrated on the main facts. He complained a bit about their refusal to share the name of 'Doctor Juan' but eventually gave up.

The calls finished, they sat down to drink some coffee.

"So, now that you are officially alive, when are you going to propose?"

"Lois?"

"You haven't changed your mind, have you? Because if you have I don't want to be pushing you towards it if you don't want it. I wouldn't..."

"I haven't changed my mind. But if you feel you need some more time to think or..."

"Clark, I've thought about it. Believe me, I thought about it a lot. And when I saw you dragged lifeless from the club, I thought about what it would be like not to see you anymore, not to talk to you ever again... And I realized I wouldn't be able to stand that. Because I loved you. More than I ever thought I did. And if there was ever anyone I could imagine having future with..." She looked into his eyes. "It's you."

"Do you think we have some time before your father's friend comes?"

"Probably. Why?"

"Because if that's how you feel, I need to take you to South Africa."

"What does one have to do with the other?"

"Well, if you still want me to propose, we seem to be missing a ring. And where better to get a diamond ring than in South Africa?"

"In that case I believe we do have enough time."

Before Lois knew it, Clark was kneeling before her on the sunburned sand. And when a moment later they landed back in his apartment she already had a ring glittering on her finger.

"You know, Clark, I was thinking. I know it's too soon to plan our wedding in detail, but I know one thing for sure."

"And what is it?"

"We'll need to write our own vows. Not even death seems to be able to part us."

THE END


This story first appeared on the lcfanfic site.

Reviews will be appreciated