"There is only one reason why CSD would be interested in him at this moment. Someone wants to know his paternity. All they will be able to prove at this point is that he is Clark Kent's son. They'll find nothing unusual."

"Nothing unusual? How can you say that, Clark?" Lois asked.

"Trust me," was all he said.

"Trust you? I do trust you, Clark," Lois replied. "I just don't trust them." Lois started to shiver; she noticed that it was starting to get cold inside the fortress.

"It'll be okay, Lois. But we need to go. I've powered everything down here. Mom and Jason are waiting for us."

"Go? Go where?" Lois asked.

"I need to put the crystals someplace safe, and then we are going back to the farm. Mom thinks it is still safe, and I would have to agree. Richard will meet us there," Clark explained.

"Wait, I thought your mom was in Metropolis." Lois was puzzled. Things were happening way too fast for her at the moment.

"I brought her here while you were speaking with Lara. It's her first trip here and even though she finds it fascinating, she's ready to go home."

"I bet," Lois said.

Clark led Lois out to the main chamber, and then walked over to the controls. After moving the last crystal in the panel, he joined the others. They were enveloped within a bright light. Blinking, Lois realized that they were no longer in the fortress, but where they were was a mystery.

As Clark placed his hand on one of the walls, a small opening appeared. He placed the crystals from the fortress in the opening then allowed it to close. Lois noticed that he had kept one crystal out. That crystal he placed in a miniature version of the console that controlled the fortress. The same light that engulfed them at the fortress now surrounded Jason and Martha, and then disappeared along with them. Lois gave Clark a confused look, "Where did they go?"

"I sent them ahead to the farm. We really need to talk, Lois, and I don't know when we'll get another chance."

Lois nodded her head in agreement, and then sat down on what appeared to be a cot. She took in her surroundings noting the starkness. The crystalline structure was similar to that of the fortress, but the walls were smooth, almost polished-looking. It almost felt like they were inside of some sort of crystal sphere.

"Where are we, Clark?" she asked, bewilderment in her voice.

Clark looked at her proudly. She was always the reporter, always looking for the next story.

"This is the ship I built for my journey to Krypton. Where you are sitting is where I slept in stasis. I dreamt about you the entire trip, Lois. I dreamt about us. When I got to Krypton, learned that it's destruction was complete, that it was littered with Kryptonite, all I could think to do was to return to the only home I knew, and hope that it, that you, would still be there.

"After Zod, when I took, or should I say tried to take, your memories, I felt more alone than I had ever felt before. When I heard reports of the sighting of Krypton I decided I had to go. I wanted to go someplace that I belonged."

Lois stood up and walked over to Clark. Tenderly she placed her hand on his cheek, and drew his eyes to hers. "You silly man, you belong here, on Earth, with me, with your son. How could you ever doubt that?"

Clark broke out in a huge smile, as he gathered Lois in his arms. Tenderly, he kissed her, as if it were the first time. When he ended the kiss, he looked at the woman in his arms, the love he felt for her once again flooded his being.

"I love you, Lois. I want to spend the rest of our lives loving you, being with you. That has never changed, never will change," Clark declared, as he rested his forehead against hers.

"I never stopped loving you either, Clark."

"What about Richard?" Clark asked, releasing Lois from his embrace.

Lois took a deep breath and turned away from Clark. How she ended up in such complicated relationships was a mystery to her. What had gone on between her and Richard was by no means the stuff romance novels were written of, but it still happened.

"Jason needed a father, and Richard was available. He had been assigned to be my 'babysitter' after you left. Perry was worried that I would end up doing something stupid and get in over my head, so he called in the big guns and got his nephew assigned to me.

"I resented it at first, but Richard really is a good man. He is very much like you, without the superpowers, of course. It was easy to convince myself, and everyone else, that I was in love with him. I guess, in a way, I do love him, but not enough to marry him, why else would we have been engaged for so long? I never could bring myself to set a date. I told myself that living with him, being engaged to him was enough, had to be enough. Marrying anyone other than you just felt wrong."

Clark smiled, and wrapped his arms around her again. "Are you sure?"

She snuggled against his chest and nodded "Uh huh."

"You aren't angry with me for leaving you alone and pregnant?" Clark asked, still not sure if she was raging against him inside. She looked up at him and gave him a devious smile.

"Oh, I was furious with you. I would have come after you with a Kryptonite shiv myself, if Luthor hadn't done it first. Five years, Clark. Five long years! I grew up, changed. Becoming a mother does that to a woman. I still have a temper, and a very long memory. But I also have learned that the world doesn't revolve around Lois Lane, and neither do you, no matter how much I would like it.

"Part of loving someone is letting them be who they are, who they were created to be. You are Clark Kent, my partner, my best friend. You are also Superman, the unattainable hero. But you are also the man I love, the father of my child, the one who gave up everything he is to be with me. You have almost died protecting this world, when all we have ever done is expect you to clean up our messes and then berate you when you fail. We don't even show you any gratitude for what you have done, what you do every day. I can't stay angry with you, I never could," she snuggled into his arms enjoying the warmth and safety she felt there.

Backing away, she almost regretted having to move on with their discussion, but she knew they had to finish it.

"Back at the fortress you said something about doing what had to be done, you also mentioned that there wouldn't be anything abnormal about Jason's DNA. What do you mean? And how will it help us against Zod?"

Clark couldn't help but smile as Lois once again switched back to reporter mode. She was nothing if not tenacious. He just didn't want to broach the subject of Zod and his plottings at the moment; he was enjoying holding her too much to stir that hornet's nest. But they really needed to get their facts together if they were going to defeat Zod.

Kal El had learned about Kryptonian history, his heritage, from the vast library that his father had sent with him. The first time he had gone up against Zod he had the benefit of the knowledge of both Earth and Krypton, along with a rudimentary knowledge of Zod's character. This time it was going to be a more intellectual battle. Zod was more than a warrior: he was a tactician. He studied his enemies, learned of their strengths and weaknesses. He looked beyond the physical boundaries, and at the sociological areas. Divide and conquer was his method. He did it on Krypton; he'll do it again on Earth.

Clark knew what he was about to tell Lois had the possibility of infuriating her past anything he had experienced before. She was a fiercely independent woman who despised the idea of any form of subjugation. But she had to understand their opponent. They had to stand together, no matter what befell them; otherwise Zod will have already won.

"Kryptonian society was very traditional. Marriage was for life. When a man chose a woman for his wife, his family would give her gifts, usually something of great value to the family. When I gave up my powers and brought you to my bed, you became my wife. I gave up myself to be part of you. You accepted my gift and gave me a son."

Lois looked at Clark puzzled. "We're married?"

"In the eyes of Jor El and Lara, and Kryptonian tradition, we are joined, though Zod doesn't know that. He thinks that you are my – uh, concubine." Kal El blushed as he admitted this fact to Lois.

"CONCUBINE? What kind of planet are you from? I thought Krypton was an advanced society! They actually had concubines there? What, were the women to stay at home barefoot and pregnant?"

"Um, actually, Lois, on Krypton the women didn't even carry their babies. They were grown, in a birthing matrix," Clark explained nervously, reaching to adjust his non-existent glasses.

"So I'm married, to a test tube baby. So tell me, Kal El, are Jor El and Lara really even your parents, or were you just a bunch of goo they joined together?" Lois started pacing around the capsule like a caged animal.

"I know that this is a lot for you to deal with at the moment, but we have a lot to contend with, and you have to understand where Zod is coming from," Clark said, trying to calm her down.

"I am calm, Clark. This is me – calm. See," Lois said with the biggest, fakest grin she could muster plastered on her face. Slumping down on the cot, she looked up at Clark while trying to hold back tears. "Okay, so I'm not calm. Explain to me just what is going on? Why does Zod think I'm your concubine? What does that have to do with Jason's paternity? And why does any of this matter?"

Clark smirked at Lois, "Are you sure you are ready for this?" Lois nodded her head.

"Okay, why does Zod think of you…how he does?" Clark hesitated, not wanting to say the word again. "Because there is no evidence to the contrary, Lois. There is no marriage contract between our houses, no marriage license on file. We've never even publicly acknowledged our relationship, either between Lois and Superman or Lois and Clark. So what else would he think? He knows that Jason is my son; that is obvious by some of his comments. He knows that after I left you hooked up with Richard and are engaged to him, but haven't married him either."

"Gah, I must look like a first class harlot to him." Lois interjected.

"In Zod's mind you and Jason are nothing more than refuse, just like the rest of humanity. But, unfortunately for him, Jason is my son, my heir; and you, Lois, are my wife. He is to respect both of you.

"But to his thinking, Jason can be taken from us and raised as his own. If I don't publicly claim Jason as my son and you as my wife, he will try to prove that Jason is Superman's illegitimate son and that you are unfit to raise him. Then he'll claim some obscure Kryptonian tradition to take Jason and train him for his own purposes. He'll use whatever means necessary to meet his ultimate goal, the total humiliation of the House of El. And then the total domination of Earth, as well," Clark finished.

"So I guess you are saying that the only way to protect us from Zod is to prove once and for all that Clark Kent is Jason's biological father, and that you and I are legally wed," Lois added, not quite sure how they were going to pull it all off.

"You know, Kent, I'm not going to play the sweet little housewife, letting her big strong husband fight the battles, while sitting at home popping out babies and weaving tapestries," Lois said coyly.

"I wouldn't expect it." Clark answered lovingly.

It was late afternoon when Lois and Clark finally entered the Kent home. The aroma of Martha's cooking filled the air, fresh herbs peppered the countertop as Martha prepared them for drying, preferring to grow her own over purchasing dried from the grocer.

While Martha was in the kitchen, Richard was busy keeping Jason occupied, neither adult wanting to turn on the TV and expose the boy to the media circus that was currently in play. Perry had called Richard frequently to give updates on the current situation in Metropolis, as concern mounted as to Superman's silence on Zod's allegations, as well as his absence from the public eye. Rumor had it that he had not been seen since Zod was released from prison.

The publisher was also on the rampage over the whole Lois, Clark, and Richard fiasco, and was demanding that they be put on suspension, not quite wanting to break up the paper's most famous writing team again. Richard had argued that his primary job was not that of the editor of the International section, but was in fact protecting one Lois Lane. And that was a job he took very seriously, considering the person he would have had to answer to if anything had happened to her in his absence.


General Zod strolled through the private garden that was adjacent to his luxury penthouse in the Hotel Metropolitan. His body thrummed as it absorbed energy from the yellow sun. He had missed the feeling of power he got from this sun. It was like a drug, taking control of his very thoughts. Walking about, breathing the air of freedom was exhilarating. From this lofty height he could look down at the piddling humans that would become his slaves.

Ah, the human mind, so easily manipulated. All one had to do was present it with an agenda, get it so focused on one item no other facts can get through. So simple, a plan, even the great Superman fell for it. Who else, but Zod could have led astronomers to turn their telescopes to the place in space that was once occupied by Krypton. He ordered the scan during his short regime. Once it was located, an astronomer who was sympathetic to him wrote up the article that was published and ultimately led Kal El to leave in search of his home world.

Ursa's voice saying, "He cares," rang through his ears even to this day. Once Zod realized that he had been tricked, he started planning his revenge. If Kal El cared for these weak, ignorant humans, how much more would he care for his own people. Would he leave this world to try and help the survivors of his own? And if he left, would he protect the fortress, and the knowledge it held, or would he take the crystals with him, thinking he might never return. His questions were answered the day the world's media started asking the question "Where Is He?"

It didn't take much to get that simpering Luthor to start grasping for the 'hidden knowledge' of the fortress. All he had to do was convince him that the mysteries of the universe were locked in the simple science of crystals, and he had to only unlock them to have all that he looked for.

The politicians were the easiest to manipulate of them all. And now that he was once again free, he can begin the next stage of his siege against the House of El; he would force Kal El to reveal himself, and his illegitimate son to the world, and bring them both under his subjugation. Zod smiled to himself as he thought about the final defeat of Jor El and his heirs.