Lois looked at the first page in the folder her cousin handed her and snapped it shut. "No, absolutely not. I'm not doing it."
Chloe perched on the edge of her desk, reached over and opened the folder again. "Lois, wait. Let's talk about this."
Lois shook her head. "What is there to talk about? There's no story here. No one is interested in reading about this guy."
"If that were true, Perry wouldn't have assigned it to you," Chloe returned with a shrug.
"I don't have time for this."
Chloe tilted her head sympathetically. "Time, Lois? You haven't written anything substantial in months. For most people that's a guaranteed pink slip. Perry's been in your corner through all of this, but I think that on this occasion, you're going to have to make the time."
"I know, honey, I know. I will support you if you want to look forever, you know that, but you can't hide from your life in the process. There's only so many times you can go back to the Harris House; only so many times you can canvass the streets of Metropolis at night… he's not there, and if he is, we're not going about searching for him in the right way."
Lois ran a hand through her hair. "Is there a right way?" she asked, a hint of hysterics on the edge of her tone. It still troubled her greatly that the Boy's Home had managed to misplace a boy with a broken leg. "He's just a little boy and he's out there alone."
Chloe nodded in agreement, but didn't respond to her cousin's comment. She didn't want to bring up the concerns about a little boy out in the streets who might not be alone after all this time. Those thoughts were darker… She didn't have to report the real news to know the statistics regarding what happened to endangered runaways.
She carefully thought about what she was going to say next. "Lois… I really think you should take the assignment. You could use the break… and I'll still be here."
Lois looked at her with wide eyes. The underlying message was not lost on her cousin.
"You can leave, Lo. You can keep living. It's just one story. It keeps you in the game and takes the pressure off of Perry to keep you employed." It was only slightly a guilt trip. "The trip would be good for you – refresh your mind."
Lois's expression was doubtful.
"Do you trust me?" the blonde asked.
There was no hesitation in the response. "Of course I do."
"Then let me take over the search for a few days while you go get this story. I wouldn't let you down."
"I know you wouldn't, Chloe," Lois replied. She lifted a hand to massage the back of her neck and glanced down at the folder again. Sighing, she relented a little. "I honestly don't think there's a story here to get. This guy is an illusionist…"
"Magician," Chloe inserted.
Lois frowned and glanced up at her. "What's the difference?"
The younger woman shrugged. "I don't know, but he's really adamant about it."
Lois shook her head dismissively and returned to her previous thought. "People don't care about magicians once they're off the stage. The truth is that they just aren't interesting without the half-naked assistants, the cheesy dance moves, or the smoke, mirrors, and lighting tricks. When the audience steps outside the theatre, they remember that it's not real."
"Well that's the thing," Chloe began, reaching out and flipping a page in the folder, "he claims that it is real, and no one can seem to figure out how he does it."
"So Perry wants me to go to the other side of the country to out a magician?" the brunette asked incredulously. It might not have been much considering the venue she worked in, but Lois's reputation was built upon the fact that she only penned true hard-hitting stories. It was one of the reasons Scoop had become such a hit. With her around, they always got it right.
"No," Chloe assured, "that just explains why he's such a hit. He doesn't use the obnoxious music and lights and still his shows sell out every night. This guy's big – that's a given – but what Perry wants you to investigate are the reports that the Fed's have taken interest."
Lois frowned in confusion. "The government is looking into a Vegas magician? For what? Tax evasion?"
Chloe shook her head and shrugged. "I have no idea – but that's what Perry wants you to sniff out."
"Magicians and conspiracy theories," Lois muttered, sliding the plane ticket out from under the papers in the file. "What am I getting myself into?"
"So you understand that it's the same type of deal, right? We cover lodging, food, and basic expenses while you're there, but you have to cover transportation. I'm really sorry about the short notice, but our regular guy canceled at the last minute…"
"I understand," Clark answered, jotting down notes on the small notepad he kept near the phone. "It's not a problem."
"Great to hear that – if you could go ahead and make your arrangements, that would be best. I have you scheduled to attend a few different stage events as well as to dine at a few restaurants. Right now, we just want you to write-up the major stuff. The place is just too big and has too many coinciding engagements for you to get everything in. That said, if you find that this is an assignment you enjoy, we can talk about extending it later."
Clark made a few more notes. "Thank you. I appreciate the work."
After getting more details of the assignment, Clark hung up the phone and sighed, feeling torn. Part of him really was happy about the work – any freelance writer would be – but another part of him felt guilty about accepting it.
It had been seven months since he'd had his conversation with Lana about not hiding away from life, and still he hadn't made use of her advice. He was still working the farm while doing side work for travel publications. It was relatively easy work – the transportation issue was often a deal-breaker for most writers but it was something he had no problem covering.
He massaged his creative and logistic skills a bit in writing his stories up, but for the most part the work was mindless. It was just an excuse really – an excuse to hold on to the faintest remnants of the woman he'd loved so long ago and for so long since.
He was traveling around the world – just like she'd said he would... but he wasn't making a difference.
Dropping his chin, he reached up and massaged the back of his neck dejectedly while thinking over the words Lana had said to him. He realized that if her were going to move on… he first needed to let go.
Sadly, he decided that this would be his last story for the travel industry. He'd go to Vegas, complete the assignment, and then start a new life.
Eleven and a half years was a long time to hold onto a ghost… And a ghost was what she was. She'd never attended Metropolis University – he'd checked. She'd never become a reporter for the Daily Planet – he'd checked that too.
He didn't even have a last name. All he had to prove the veracity of that night… was his heart.
And it was time to let that go.
Lucas looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and wondered if the eyes looking back at him were more like hers or more like his… if his nose was more like hers; if his chin was more like his. It was a familiar game – guessing how his combination of looks split into two people he could only imagine – but it was a game he played less and less.
Life outside in the real world had begun to take its effect on him, and he had begun to lose some of that bright-eyed faith he'd been able to build while living in a world centered around children. Out in the world, he'd learned that monsters were real and that fairy godmothers were not.
Things over the last seven months hadn't quite gone like the fairy tale his imagination had created. Lucas hadn't found his huge stage where he could stand in front of a crowd and have his parents magically step out from the shadows. Instead, Cowboy was the one on the stage, the one in the center of all the lights… and that actually was a relief to the young boy.
Cowboy had taught him about the people out there who wouldn't understand the things he could do. He'd showed him the stories about the way people with different abilities had been treated throughout history. Some were burned, some were stoned, some were drowned, and others were nailed onto trees. Lucas had come to realize that only people who did 'tricks' were accepted. The public didn't mind being tricked as long as they knew it was a trick. For them, believing that someone really had powers was threatening.
That was why Cowboy was taking them through this process – he was slowly blurring the lines between trickery, illusion, magic, and reality. He'd told Lucas that he was taking the stage so that when it was time for Lucas to debut, they would be ready to accept him.
It was a relief to Lucas that Cowboy was the one in the lights because he wasn't so sure he wanted to be there anymore – but he was afraid to admit that to Cowboy. He didn't want to seem ungrateful.
Cowboy was the one that had helped him learn to control the unsettling feelings and the abilities that the feelings led into. He now knew how to turn his ear and eye powers on whenever he wanted to. And then there were nights when Cowboy would drive him out to the desert so he could practice his running unseen. This was the most liberated the young boy had ever been in his life. An adult was taking care of him, he was safe, his strangeness wasn't held against him, and – other than Cowboy not willing for him to be seen in public – he was free to do as he pleased.
Then why did he feel as if his world was ending?
As he became more and more aware of the ugly truths behind the magic mirrors, Lucas was starting to realize that he really was alone.
There was a knock on the bathroom door right before it opened. "You ready kid? It's show time," Cowboy announced, walking into the room decked out in his stage costume – still the familiar hat, but everything else adorned with rhinestones and tassels.
Lucas looked at his reflection and hurriedly wiped his face with a wash cloth. "Yeah, I'm ready."
Cowboy frowned. "Captain, you have to stop doing this to yourself," he said, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I told you. You don't have to worry about them. I'm with you, Lucas. I always will be."
Lucas nodded into the towel, still not showing his face. He hated the small scary feeling in his stomach that was starting to come up every time Cowboy hinted about his parents. He was already having his own doubts; he didn't need Cowboy's added on top.
"You want to leave me, Cap?"
Lucas looked up at the hard edge that was suddenly evident in Cowboy's voice and noticed the same edge in his expression. "N..no… I… was just thinking about the show."
Cowboy's eyes narrowed slightly as he bent to be at Lucas's eye-level. "I'm the only one who can do right by you. You know that, right?"
Lucas couldn't help but shift his eyes away from the intensity of Cowboy's stare. He swallowed and nodded. "I know," he replied softly.
"Let's go, kid. The curtain calls."
Musical Interlude 3.4:
www. youtube com / watch? vFrrSAN-UFrk
Clark realized that he was leaning forward in his seat and glanced around – everyone else was doing the same. He looked back toward the stage and narrowed his eyes. There was something different about this show… sure the man who called himself 'Cowboy' was a unique character, but there was something else… something more than just the man's charisma.
Unlike other illusionist shows he'd attended, Clark found the stage design of Cowboy's show to be deceptively simple. Other shows wanted your eyes to be drawn to other things; flashing lights, smoke bombs, loud noises – all integrated to make your mind forget to focus on the fact that magic was supposedly going on.
No, this show was different. The Cowboy didn't have dancers and clowns running through his act. Sure, there were a few of the regular stand-bys in the illusion industry – the chopped up assistants, the disappearing and reappearing through trap doors, the ever growing handkerchiefs, the card tricks – all well done and skillful, but the real draw of the show were the interspersed acts that engaged the audience. The way they were mixed in with the other tricks made them that more engaging. The expected mixed with the unexpected; the known with the unknown.
The Cowboy knew – down to the tiniest details – what people had in their pockets and what they whispered into their neighbor's ears. He floated items over the audience's heads using his breath, and to end the show, he made it snow… inside.
Clark didn't normally get this drawn into illusionist performances – having learned the reveals behind most tricks long ago – but something about the feats of this magician gave him a strange feeling of deja-vu. It wasn't until the house lights came up that he realized what it was.
Clark could do all of those things too.
With wide eyes, Clark pushed through the exiting crowd in an attempt to reach the stage. His mind was brimming with questions – Who was this man really? Was he like him? Did he know more about where he came from?
While it struck Clark as pretty ridiculous to think of using his abilities as a magic act, he didn't think that his freelance travel writing gig was all that more elegant. Regardless of what he did with the powers, Clark needed to talk about them with Cowboy.
His frustration grew when his press pass wouldn't allow him access to the backstage area. Clark left the building and snuck around to the rear where he knew the limos were supposed to wait in order to transport the performers to their next locations. Remaining in the shadows, he watched as the Cowboy exited the theater and stopped short. Two rather imposing looking men in black suits were waiting for the magician at the open door of the limo.
Frowning at the reaction, Clark narrowed his eyes and focused in on the scene.
One of the men in black flashed a badge. "We'd appreciate a moment of your time."
Clark knew that the Cowboy comprehended the man's request the same way Clark did – it wasn't an option. Holding up a finger, Cowboy turned his head to the side in Clark's direction and coughed into his fist. Then he nodded and slid into the waiting limo.
Clark's eyes widened in shock. During what had appeared to be a cough, the Cowboy had actually delivered a message. "Don't let them see you. Meet me later."
Clark had picked up on the words only because of his special hearing… even the agents standing right next to him wouldn't have heard it, and he knew that Cowboy didn't have any listening devices or transmitters on him because he'd checked. That meant that Cowboy had been talking to him.
Clark heard something behind him and turned just in time to see a boy disappear into the night. Clark blinked as he tried to process the thought… the boy had disappeared.
A second later, Clark followed.
When he stopped, the boy crashed into his chest. Clark wrapped his arms around the boy and held him still. "It was you," he said, realization dawning on him. "Not the magician… wasn't it?"
The boy was trembling and looking up at him with wide eyes. "Are you going to take to the bad people now?"
"The bad people?" Clark asked, looking down at the boy.
The boy swallowed. "The ones who will cut me up," he explained.
"Cut you u…" Clark halted, straightening and looking around at the bustling Las Vegas Strip around them. He pulled the boy into the hotel they were outside of and led him to the elevator bay. Children were not normally allowed in casinos, but this hotel had an amusement park on the roof. No one would think it strange to see him there.
He felt guilty as he held tighter to the terrified boy's hand when he tried to pull away. He was essentially kidnapping him, but there was something not right about the situation and he felt the need to get to the bottom of it. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said gently, trying to assuage the child's fears.
It didn't work.
By the time they made it to the amusement park level, the boy was in tears and people were beginning to take notice. Clark picked the child up, not wanting to drag him, and carried him over to the far side of the roof's observatory – away from the crowds and rides.
Clark set him down on his feet next to the ledge. "Is the Cowboy your father?" he asked.
The boy didn't respond but Clark could tell by the look in the boy's eye and by the pace of his heartbeat what the answer was.
"Are you in trouble? How did you get involved with him? Where are your parents?"
The boy's trembling only increased.
"Look, I just want to help you."
The boy backed away from him, inching toward the ledge. "You can't," he whispered, and within the blink of an eye, he was on the other side of the railing, standing on the narrow ridge that lined the roof.
Clark raised both of his hands placatingly. "Hey… hold on. You shouldn't be over there."
The boy shook his head and tears began to stream again. "I don't want to be cut up."
"No one is going to cut you up," Clark soothed, silently cursing when the child jerked back at his small step forward. "Let me help you."
The boy looked at him warily for a moment, and then moved another inch away. Unfortunately, it was an inch further than the ledge extended. Clark's swiping reach missed when the child's hands flew over his head in lost balance as he fell.
In the next instant, both Clark and the boy were back on the right side of the ledge, solidly on the ground. Clark set him down and stepped back, eyeing him carefully. If the boy had been scared of him before, he was petrified now.
Clark watched as both the boy's eyes and mouth widened in delayed panic. "Don't scream," he cautioned.
The knife in his heart turned as he noticed the darkening stain appear on the inside of the boy's pant legs. He hadn't meant to scare him; he had just wanted to help him. Whatever the relationship was between the boy and the magician, it wasn't a good environment for a child with special abilities. Clark had a pretty good idea that the boy wasn't in school like a child of his age should be.
The man was using the boy to further his career. Yes, the tricks that Clark had seen during the show were all things that he could do, but the use of the powers wasn't nearly as advanced as they could be. At first he'd thought that it was because the magician hadn't wanted to show all of what he could do… but now it made sense that the tricks were the extent of the young boy's skill.
Clark hadn't had that much control of his abilities at that age – in fact, he hadn't even started realizing that he had them until later. He had learned that the powers usually appeared during a stressful or physical change in his life. His parents had sheltered him… he sadly wondered what the small child could have gone through to hasten his development.
Clark lifted a hand, but the boy stepped back.
"Listen, I just…" Clark started, but before he could get any other words out, the boy turned and ran away from him. Sighing, he completed his sentence to the boy's retreating figure, "…wanted to know your name."
The rescue had happened too high in the sky for people on the street-level to have seen it, but it had just so happened that the amusement park's rollercoaster had rounded the building just at the point when he'd caught the child and flown him back to the roof. The people from the rollercoaster were just getting off of the ride and he could see them rushing to disembark while fiddling with camera phones. He couldn't chase after the boy without drawing more unwanted attention.
Hoping to leave the camera wielding spectators with empty frames, he launched into the sky as fast as he could safely manage.
For the second night in a row, Lois followed the man to the alcove hideaway behind the Venetian Hotel. It amazed her that there was a place this close to the Strip that was completely devoid of people. To some extent, she supposed she should have been worried.
"Looking for some action?" she asked, alerting the man to her presence.
He turned around; dropping the cigarette he had been smoking and stepped on it. "Excuse me?"
Lois stepped out of the shadows and further into the light cascading down from the area's lone streetlamp. "I figured that a guy like you out here all alone night after night was looking for something."
The man gave her a slow interested smile before shaking his head. "Sorry. Not looking for company tonight."
"You sure about that?" she asked, crossing her arms against her chest. "Or is it that I'm just not your type? You like little boys, right?"
The man's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Who the hell are you?"
"Lois Lane, investigative reporter," she answered with an arched brow. "Care to give a statement?"
"A reporter?" he asked in confusion. "All of my statements are given through the show's PR handlers."
"Ah. Well, I'm guessing that the reason you're out here tonight is because your PR handlers don't set up your dates."
The man sniffed. "I don't know what you're talking about… What paper are you from?"
Lois hesitated, preparing for the standard reaction. "Scoop."
The man laughed sharply. "A tabloid?" Then he laughed again. "Suddenly the creative theories make sense."
Lois set her jaw. "Yours is a common misconception about my magazine, but we only print the truth – as unbelievable as that truth may seem. When we write, people take notice."
The man turned to walk away. "I think we're done here."
"That's funny because I was just getting started, Mr. Thorul." She smiled when the man stopped walking. "Or can I call you Alonius? Better yet, let's just cut through all of the fake name changes and use the one that you were given at birth: Alexei Luthor, of the famous Scandinavian performing group."
The newly revealed Luthor's eyes narrowed. "What is it that you want?"
"Want? I want to put you down. People like you who prey on children make me sick."
Luthor shook his head. "You've got it all wrong."
Lois was unfazed. "Is that the line you gave to the federal agents that you were with last night?"
"If you know about the Feds then you know that they had let me go. They didn't have a leg to stand on."
"Just because the Feds weren't able to find something that sticks doesn't mean the proof's not out there. I asked around. There are some hotel personnel that say you've been seen with a child on occasion – yet you have none of your own."
Luthor chuckled. "I don't owe you anything, but I'm going to throw you a bone. Children love magicians, and I love children. Unlike adults, they haven't yet learned to disbelieve in magic. They come to me for autographs and magical coins pulled from their ears. That doesn't make me a pedophile - just as making up facts to support a false claim doesn't make you an investigative reporter."
Lois narrowed her own eyes, matching his stare. "There's a secret here, Al, and I'm going to find it."
Luthor lifted his cowboy hat from his head in mock salute. "You're chasing ghosts, Mrs. Lane. Good luck with that." He stuffed his hands into his pockets and began walking away. "Don't follow me again."
Lois watched as he disappeared into the night, leaving only the sound of his carefree whistling to mark his departure. This 'Cowboy,' as he called himself now, was hiding something. Taken together with the lack of FBI conviction, his easy denial of her claims left her beginning to doubt that pedophilia was in fact his crime… but there was something.
She heard a rustling behind her and turned around abruptly, searching the trees that bordered the alcove. The sounds stopped immediately. "Is someone there?" she called out.
Having followed Luthor to the site two nights in a row, Lois had been convinced that he had been waiting for someone to join him. Now she was sure of it – her presence had interrupted a meeting.
She moved closer to the place she had heard the movement. "Hello?"
When she arrived at the trees, something jumped into the path. When she realized that the 'something' was in fact a person – a small person – her heart stopped and she froze in paralyzed shock.
She knew that face. She looked at a picture of it every night before going to sleep.
The boy met her stare briefly before turning to run away.
Finally she found her voice. "Lucas?" she croaked, but he was too far away to hear her.
She forced her legs to move and stumbled to a nearby park bench, falling onto it heavily and unable to stop the tears that began pouring from her eyes. Suddenly she was unsure of what she'd seen. Maybe it was the stress of the entire ordeal that was causing her to project her lost child's face on that of other children she came across.
The more she thought about it, the less that face looked like the one in the picture – granted the photo Harold Tillman had given her from the Boy's Home's files hadn't been a particularity recent one - but how would he be here? She was on the other side of the country… it didn't make sense.
Lois dropped her face into her hands. She didn't want to convince herself anymore. She didn't want to write this story anymore. She didn't want any of it anymore.
A hand on her shoulder caused her breath to hitch.
"Why are you crying?" a small voice asked.
Lois wiped at her eyes in an attempt to see clearly but the tears kept coming. She reached out and framed the boy's face with her hands. "I thought I had lost you."
The boy glanced toward the direction he had run in before. "I don't understand."
Lois sniffed, wanting to regain her composure and not frighten the child into running away again. "What is your name?" she asked; her voice quiet under the weight of emotion.
He glanced away again. "…Captain."
Lois frowned. With him standing this close… with her touching him… she knew the resemblance was pure.
"No its not," she countered, shaking her head and sliding her hands down to his shoulders. It was as much to keep him there as it was to remind herself that he was real. "My father named you."
She almost cracked at the revelation. When she had first learned the boy's name she had once again been torn between love and hate for the man who'd raised her. He had named the child and then sent him away.
"He named you after my sister, Lucy," she continued. "I'm so sorry I couldn't find you for so long."
She felt him begin to tremble under her hands and he hesitantly lifted a hand to her face, his eyes widening as his fingers crept closer to her skin. "I dreamed about you," he whispered.
Lois felt as if her heart was straining to break free of her chest. "Me too."
Lucas had never felt so happy in his life. Just when he'd been ready to give up on the possibility of ever finding his parents, his mother showed up. His mother! She wasn't really like what he had imagined… She was better – She was real. He didn't know how he knew she was telling the truth… he just did.
The boy flinched at the sound of the voice. He had almost forgotten why he had been waiting in the trees in the first place. Cowboy had always told him that if they ever had an emergency separation, they would meet at the alcove. Cowboy hadn't been alone the night before, so he'd stayed hidden and returned the next night.
"Step away from her, Boy!"
His mom rose to her feet at the sound of the voice, holding tightly on to Lucas's hand. Cowboy was standing 20 feet away from them, looking really angry.
His mom shook her head slowly, and he could tell that she was getting angry too. "You stay away from us," she warned in a low tone.
Lucas looked between the two adults with wide scared eyes and swallowed. He had never seen Cowboy look so mean – not even that first day they had met on the train. "It's okay, Cowboy," he offered tentatively. "I found her. She's my mo…"
"She's not your family, Cap," Cowboy interrupted. "I am." He took a step forward.
"I said stay back," his mother shouted. "You're done corrupting him."
Cowboy looked at her fiercely. "I found him first," he said. "He's mine now and I won't let you take him away."
Lucas felt his mother's grip tighten on his hand as she started to move him behind her. "He's not yours," she argued. "You can't use him to replace the family you ran away from."
Lucas didn't understand what the words meant, but he knew that he didn't like the strange tension that was in the air. He peeked out from behind his mother and gasped. Cowboy was sliding a hand inside his coat – a move that Lucas knew as a precursor to a knife throw.
"Noooo!" he screamed, and suddenly he felt the strange sensations start to build inside him for the first time in a long time.
Clark had spent the 24 hours since he'd gotten separated from the child searching the Las Vegas Strip for him. It was a harder task than he would have liked, but he was willing to be tireless about it. It had worried him that the Cowboy had cancelled his show that night, and he hoped that the boy hadn't run back to the man with news of their encounter. If he had, it was possible that the man and the boy had left town.
With renewed intent, Clark began scanning the crowds of people walking up and down the street around him. Where would a child be in all of this?
The sound of panicked screams picked up by his special hearing made his entire psyche come to attention. Glancing around, he darted into a dark alleyway and moments later landed in the midst of a horrific scene. The child he was searching for was standing with his eyes tightly closed about ten feet away from a man who was engulfed in flames.
Clark quickly blew cooling breath on the man to douse the fire and realized who he was looking at… although now sans hair. The magician was still alive though unconscious. Clark knew he needed to get him to a hospital right away, but hearing the child's continued screams made him aware that he needed to attend to the child first. Cowboy would remain stable for the few minutes it took to calm him down.
Clark quickly moved to the child's side and put his hands on his shoulders. "Hey... hey, listen to me."
The boy stopped screaming hysterically at the sound of his voice but continued to keep his eyes closed. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do it! I didn't know!" he babbled in a stream of frantic words. "I didn't mean to hurt him, I just wanted him to stop and then it happened…"
"What's your name?" Clark asked gently, trying to soothe the boy's panic.
"Lu…Lucas," the child sobbed.
"Lucas," Clark repeated, "I need you to open your eyes for me."
"I can't! I can't do it!" Even though his eyes were closed, fat tears escaped the lids and rolled freely down his cheeks.
"Yes you can. Now try it for me."
"I can't! I'll hurt you! I don't want to hurt anybody!"
Clark felt bad for the confusion the boy was experiencing. "Hey, do you recognize my voice?"
Lucas shook his head wildly.
"We met last night, remember. I caught you when you fell."
Lucas swallowed and sniffed, trying to calm himself enough to speak. "Th… the flying man?"
Clark let out a small relieved breath that was half chuckle. "Yes. Remember?"
Lucas nodded, his chest still hitching from sobs. "Y..yes."
"The things that make it so I can fly, make it so I can't be hurt like other people. You won't hurt me, Lucas… I need you to open your eyes for me though."
Lucas sniffed a few more times before lifting to grab hold of Clark's sleeves for support. He slowly pried his eyes open and fearfully met Clark's gaze. Clark couldn't help but think that they were beautiful eyes… and somehow familiar. "See. I told you that you wouldn't hurt me."
The boy kept looking at him and clutching onto his arms tightly. "I didn't mean to hurt him."
"I know, Lucas. I know you didn't."
"Is he dead?"
Clark shook his head. "No. That's why I wanted you to open your eyes." He shifted slightly so his body was no longer blocking the child's vision of the man lying on the ground. Lucas still hadn't taken his eyes from his though.
"Look," Clark urged gently.
Lucas blinked and slowly disengaged his locked stare from Clark's eyes, as if afraid something else would spontaneously combust if he looked away. "He looks dead," the boy said softly.
"He's not dead," Clark assured. "He just needs to go to a hospital." He ran a hand over the boy's hair. "It was just an accident. He'll be okay, and so will you. You want to tell me what happened?"
Lucas looked at him again, the hysterical tears starting anew. "He killed my mom."
Clark's brow furrowed at the words. "Wh… he what?"
The boy's sobs started interlacing with hiccups. Unable to speak, the child turned and pointed to the trees behind where Clark had found him. Clark took a closer look and for the first time he noticed that someone was lying among the roots and high grass.
In the span of a blink he had moved both he and the child to the woman's side. She was lying on her side facing away from the path and there was a considerable amount of blood seeping into the ground underneath her.
"What happened?" he asked, reaching out to carefully roll her onto her back.
"H…he threw a knife," the boy managed, crying even more.
As the woman's face was revealed, Clark felt his entire chest cave in. "This is your mom?" he asked, looking at the boy with renewed wonder.
Lucas nodded and Clark fought off his own batch of tears. On the ground in front of him was Lois – which meant that standing before him was Lois's son… And the powers only left one other explanation… he was his son. Clark's brain wanted him to freeze and take a moment to synthesize everything, but there was no time for sentiment right now.
He released a short breath and turned back to Lois. Just as Lucas had insinuated, a knife was lodged deep in her gut. "She's not dead, Lucas."
The boy grabbed onto the back of Clark's shirt as he ventured a glance. "Are you sure?"
Clark nodded. "Yes, but she's lost a lot of blood and the wound is still bleeding." He looked at the child and figured that he didn't need to inform him what that would mean if it wasn't attended to soon. "I need to stop the bleeding, okay?"
Lucas met his eyes with such a look of trust that Clark found himself swallowing to remove the lump from his throat. "I need you to watch what I do closely, okay?"
He didn't want to traumatize the young boy any more than he'd already been that night, but Clark needed him to see that the fire that came from their eyes could do more than hurt people… it could also help them. After getting a confirmation nod from Lucas, Clark x-rayed Lois's wound and carefully withdrew the small knife from her gut. The retraction released a whole new gush of blood, and Clark pressed his hand firmly over the area, feeling Lucas's grip tighten on his shirt.
"It's okay, keep watching," he soothed, narrowing his eyes to engage his vision in a little advanced laser surgery. When he finished, the wound was no longer bleeding and her pulse was less erratic.
"She's better now?"
"Yes, but there's still more we need to do," he told the boy. "I need you to stay with her while I take Cowboy to the hospital."
"You're leaving?" The wide-eyed panic was back.
"Only for a few seconds." With Cowboy being unconscious, he wouldn't have to be nearly as careful and slow as he would if he were trying to avoid causing pain. Even though ever fiber in his being wanted to bring the man pain for the damage the man had done – he wouldn't.
Once everyone was safe, though, he'd make sure the man went to jail.
Lucas kneeled on the ground next to Lois. "Why isn't she talking?" he asked worriedly, reaching out to touch her face.
Clark gazed down at the two of them sadly. "Sometimes when the body has a shock like that, it can't take the pain all at once, so the brain tells the body to go to sleep," he explained.
"So, she's going to wake up?"
Clark nodded confidently for the boy's sake, but in truth all he could do was hope.
When he returned from dropping the magician off at the nearest hospital, he found Lucas still next to his mother, except now lying on the ground beside her. Clark picked up on the last few words the boy was whispering softly to her. "I really, really want you to wake up. It took so long to find you."
Clark frowned, wondering what it all meant. "Lucas, it's time to go." He reached out and helped the boy get up. "We're going to all go together, but for me to carry your mom the way I need to, you're going to have to ride on my back, okay?"
Lucas bravely nodded and stepped back to give Clark room to maneuver.
Clark gathered Lois into his arms, careful to not jostle her too much and then moved over to the bench that the boy had gone to stand on. Lucas wrapped his arms around Clark's neck and held on tight.
"Here we go," Clark said, beginning to lift from the ground. As they were about mid-ascent, he felt Lois stir, her pulse finally having stabilized. She gasped and moaned, turning her head as if reliving the attack.
"Shhh," he soothed, aware that Lucas's hold had tightened upon her movement.
Lois's expression smoothed and her eyes slowly cracked open. Tears immediately sprang to her eyes as he saw the recognition set in, and he grimaced with her as the sob she released incurred obvious pain. Still, she smiled at the boy whose chin was hanging over his shoulder.
"Lucas... Clark?" she asked, in a strained voice, turning her focus back to him. Her glazed eyes gave the impression that she probably thought she was dreaming. She frowned at what little she could ascertain of their surroundings. "Are we… flying?"
He nodded curtly. "It's okay," he answered. "I've got you."
She blinked lazily and tried to focus her dilated pupils on his face. "Yeah, but who's got you?"
"I think we've all got each other now," Lucas answered timidly, and Clark smiled, happily realizing that the boy had put the puzzle together.
Clark met Lois's gaze as her eyes cleared and they shared a look that crossed years, past hurts, and unspoken words.
Then she looked up at Lucas, her eyes brimming with love and discovery. "You know, sweetie, I think you're right."
And so they lived…
... Happily Ever After.