All right, I've replaced the message with the new chapter. All is getting back to normal over here finally, although the odd sad moment strikes hard and quickly. But we're marching on. New chapter and we're back to the usual schedule, except for the occasional vacation. The brother-in-law will be down the last week of October and we may have to break then, but yeah. Back to the usual.

THANK YOU to all of you for all of the love and messages and good wishes. There were days that these messages were all that got us through, believe me. It was very rough at times. To know that you guys were here for us is a huge blessings and we love all of you for it.

That said, AT LONG LAST, one of the scenes you were waiting for!


"Get me a description on this Sarah Blodgett immediately," Sam growled. He'd read enough. Perry White had broken a story on Congressional misappropriation of funds a couple years ago, never naming his source. And Pete Ross was known to be an absolutely scrupulous senator, never taking a bribe, pouring part of his salary back into charities and community programs in DC as well as back home in Kansas. Just the kind of squeaky-clean do-gooder who'd bring a scandal to the attention of a newsman like Perry White, who had his own reputation for uncompromising honestly.

The description wasn't easy to find, and they were on final approach before it came in. They had to rely on secondhand accounts, as none of the ground troops had set eyes on the girl. And wasn't that telling, in a town this size, suggesting that she had deliberately avoided them?

A teenage girl, dark-haired, light-eyed … heavily pregnant. "Gotcha," Sam muttered, and grinned fiercely. The moment they landed, he called together his strike team. "Quick, clean, precise," he barked. "These are civilians, and I don't want a damn senator nipping at my heels for the rest of his term. They know damn well who they're hiding, so they probably won't make much fuss. We go in, take what's ours, and get back out. Not a single weapon lowered, not even a voice raised—you're just there to look impressive, you understand?"

"Sir, yes sir!" came the prompt response.

"Good. Now, the target's apt to put up a fight, but you leave her to me. I've got prior knowledge of the situation." And on that note, they moved out into one of General Lane's typical strategically-planned and surgically-executed strike maneuvers.

He was furious to find the Rosses and their fugitive weren't at home.

This was the best of all possible surprises. Lois' heart leapt at the sight of Kal-El, and it was no wonder that they were lip-locked moments later. When they finally came up for air, she gave Kal-El's hair an emphatic yank. "Now answer me, dammit. How the hell did you get here?"

He laughed indulgently, nuzzling his nose against hers for a second. God, how she'd missed that laugh! "The Consulars were getting too close; we were on the brink of being discovered. I had built a ship, just in case, and I brought the last of the humans home from New Krypton. Lois, there are no more hostages—all of your people are back on Earth where they belong. I detached the passenger module of the ship in Huang's country before trying to fly a survey of your planet, and crash-landing near here."

"Holy shit," she muttered, stunned.

Lana and Martha both cleared their throats at the same time in response to that blasphemy, and the happy couple finally remembered they were not alone. The other four were staring at them with varying degrees of patience. Kal-El turned toward the Kents, his arm sliding around Lois' shoulders automatically. "I remember, now. Ma, Pa, I am Kal-El, of Krypton, scion of the House of El."

"Of … Krypton," Martha said faintly, her eyes wide. Apparently she hadn't known before now, and there was more to tell her.

"He's on our side," Lois added quickly. "He's part of the Rebellion against Supreme Chancellor Zod. And my name's not Sarah. It's Lois Lane. I was one of the hostages on New Krypton and part of the human Resistance." She could feel sorry for the Kents; this was a whole lot to digest.

"And this story about an escaped prisoner from Leavenworth is just a smokescreen," Pete supplied. "It's you they're hunting, Kal-El."

"I know," he said. All the pieces were coming together now, he and Lois filling things in for everyone. "I didn't know why, though. Until I saw Lois, I didn't know who I was or remember anything from before the crash. I must've sustained a head injury on impact."

By then, Jonathan was looking across at the two newcomers, still stunned. "We wanted to see if we could talk someone into realizing he wasn't some kind of dangerous criminal. I figured if anyone from town knew about not judging at book by its cover, it'd be you two."

Kal-El glanced at the Rosses, who looked slightly less shocked than the Kents, and raised an eyebrow at Lois. She caught on—he wouldn't know them. "Kal-El, this is Pete and Lana Ross. He's a Senator. My dad wanted to keep me under lock and key, so I ran away and made it to Metropolis. I told the whole story to a newspaper editor there, Perry White, and he hid me with the Rosses. I've been here in Smallville for the last seven months."

"And you might want to tell him why," Lana said, with a little smile.

Lois actually blushed, which earned her a look of plain surprise from Kal-El. "Um, yeah, about that," she mumbled, raking a hand through her hair. "So, uh, my dad was really pissed at me when I got home…."

This right here? This was the most awkward moment of her life.

That made no sense to Kal-El. "Why? Lois, you're a founding member of the Resistance. I don't even know how much information you passed on to him. How could he be angry at you?" Kal-El scowled; he truly did not understand Lois' father.

"I kinda brought home a souvenir," she said, wincing, and glanced toward the couch where Pete and Lana were sitting. At some sort of carrying basket, to which Kal-El had paid no attention. Now he looked more closely.

There was a small human infant asleep in it, wrapped in pale blue blankets, one tiny thumb held loosely between perfectly-shaped lips. Kal-El cocked his head, still not understanding, until Lois managed to whisper, "He's your son, Kal-El. I … I named him Connor."

His son.

His son.

Their secret union had borne fruit; Kal-El and Lois had a child together, this perfect little boy slumbering on unawares of the fact that his existence was turning his father's world upside more effectively than the tornado that had made his ship crash. His son, his son out of Lois Lane, a child of the mingled blood of Krypton and Earth. Connor … it would be Kon-El, in Kryptonian nomenclature, a new entry in the legacy of the House of El.

Eyes fixed on the baby, Kal-El reached for Lois and tugged her close against his side. "We have a son," he said, in shocked tones.

"Yes," she murmured, tucking her face against his shoulder.

"I'm a father." No matter how many ways he tried to fit that knowledge into his brain, it kept stunning him anew.

"Yes, you are."

"You … you gave birth to my child."

"In a basement during a tornado, yeah."

He blinked at that. She had to mean the big storm that everyone had been talking about ever since it happened. And that meant…. "Lois, I crashed the ship during that tornado. Not far from here. I walked to where the Kents found me, just a few miles outside town."

She pulled back, staring at him. "You … I wanted you there with me so much, and you were almost here. Almost."

He tore his eyes away from the baby to look down into her hazel ones. "It must have been fate," Kal-El said. "To bring me so close to you, when you needed me most. And fated again that the two of us from different worlds could even be compatible enough to produce a child."

"Never doubt the power of love," Lana said quietly.

At that moment, Pa cleared his throat. "So the boy I've been calling 'son' these last couple weeks is from Krypton, he's a freedom fighter, his girlfriend is a spy, and he's a father, too. Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, Clark, you sure give new meaning to hidden depths!" Somehow his tone was more disbelievingly amused than scolding, though Kal-El winced anyway.

"I'm sorry, Pa," he said. "I would've told you if I remembered … if I'd known! Lois, if I had even guessed you were pregnant, I never would've let you leave New Krypton without me." He turned worried eyes on her.

Lois just grinned. "Hey, I didn't know either. Not like either of us thought it was a possibility. And can I just say how weird it is to hear you using so many contractions?"

He shrugged one shoulder with a chuckle. "Oh, you have no idea. I've been going by Clark for these last few weeks. No one ever guessed I was anything but human. Not only did I talk the talk, I've walked the walk. Feeding chickens and chopping firewood…"

"…and wearing plaid," she laughed, tugging his shirt. "The lumberjack look is good to you, Kal-El. But I bet it's a far cry from Kryptonian biologist."

And that was a reminder of just how strange all of this should've felt. Yet oddly, it hadn't. He had done things as a matter of course that would horrify any Kryptonian; mucking out the chicken coop would've thrown most of his kind into convulsions. Considering that his people on this planet kept themselves sequestered from any form of potential contamination with mechanized suits and hermetically-sealed buildings … and somewhere in that contrast was probably the reason for these strange quirks he'd been developing.

"This calls for a drink," Jonathan announced, getting up.

Ma normally tsked at any alcohol being consumed before sundown, but she didn't even look at Jonathan askance when he returned with a bottle of bourbon and several ancient shot glasses. In fact, she took one herself, still staring at Lois and the baby. And at Kal-El himself. He didn't like the look in her eyes, as if she'd never seen him before, when she'd kissed his cheek and hugged him every day.

"Are you all right, Ma?" he asked.

She laughed, the sound almost rusty. "It's a lot to get my mind around, Clark. A lot. I knew you were special, but … this is more than even I imagined."

He couldn't help laughing softly. Tipping his head toward Connor, Kal-El said, "This is more than I ever would've dreamed, Ma. But it's the best kind of surprise."

"So are you, son," Pa said then, and a flush of pride warmed his heart. On those words, everyone except Lois drank a quick toast to the happy couple's reunion.

Lois' head was still spinning. She'd never, ever expected to find Kal-El here in the Kents' house. Martha and Jonathan seemed like your typical friendly small-town couple, not the sort of folks you'd expect to be hiding a rebellious son of Krypton in their attic. And when she realized the 'dangerous prisoner' the Army was hunting was actually Kal-El … if her father had been standing in front of her right then, she might've throttled him.

Luckily there were sweeter things to contemplate. Such as the Rosses and Kents filling each other in, and Martha and Jonathan being properly impressed by the determination and luck that got Lois here. Of course, Lana and Pete were equally delighted by how Kal-El had assimilated to human culture. Lois eyed the redhead, wondering what she'd expected. The average person on the street probably knew very little about Kryptonians and the vast differences between their cultures. Lana had been told that the two of them becoming lovers would be a glaring aberration, but she couldn't have guessed how surreal it was to see him cradling Connor as if he'd been holding babies all his life.

Any fears Lois might have had—that Kal-El would be horrified at their unplanned offspring, or God forbid that he might've doubted Connor's parentage given the odds on interspecies breeding—had dissolved instantly. He had taken the big leap and plainly adored their son.

Their son. It was still almost as much of a head-trip for her as it had been for him, and she'd given birth to Connor.

The day's revelations weren't done yet, though. "Clark … I mean, Kal-El," Martha said, stumbling over the unfamiliar name.

The new father had been seated in the chair and was holding Connor, still absolutely rapt. The look of wonder on his face touched Lois' heart in a thousand ways. He did manage to drag his attention away from the baby to beam at Martha. "Either one works, Ma. You were saying?"

"Do you think … maybe being from Krypton has something to do with your little, um, quirks?" She spoke delicately and cautiously, which of course piqued Lois' interest. Quirks, huh? So maybe they had noticed the cultural disconnect.

"Probably," Kal-El said. Conner had woken up, and waved a baby fist at his father, immediately securing his concentration again. Lois sat on the edge of the chair and stroked the back of his neck, where his hair was growing out. Kal-El grinned up at her, his eyes agleam. "I can't quite believe it. Lois, I never dreamed … wow. He's just … he's perfect."

"Yeah, yeah he is," she chuckled. She turned to Martha with narrowed eyes, wanting to ask about those quirks; clearly Kal-El wasn't going to be useful for anything that required more than a few seconds of his time.

Except he butted into the conversation then, catching Lois' knee with what looked like alarm. "Great Rao, Lois, we're not married!"

She couldn't help dissolving into giggles, thoroughly distracted. "You hadn't noticed before now?"

"No, I mean … we have a child but we're not married yet. Connor cannot be confirmed as an heir to the House of El until we are. We need to get that taken care of, right away."

Lana cleared her throat delicately. "Not for a couple more months." All of them turned to look at her; Lois was still boggled by that matter-of-fact proposal. From Scotty Bracewell's car to spy games to motherhood to interplanetary marriage in just over a year … damn, no wonder I keep feeling like I'm three steps behind and running to catch up!

Meanwhile Kal-El was just confused. "Why not?" he asked.

"Because Lois is seventeen years old, and in Kansas, you can't marry under the age of eighteen without parental consent—and I doubt General Lane is going to agree," Pete said, giving his wife an affectionate glance. Lois got the feeling they had trod this same path in their own history. Pete looked at Kal-El then, quirking up an eyebrow. "Not to mention, you not having a legal identity on this planet might present some difficulties in getting a marriage license."

"Oh," Kal-El said, regretfully. For a moment, he'd forgotten that this wasn't Krypton, where his identity could be instantly established by retinal scan. Earth required documents, documents that he didn't possess and had no means of acquiring.

Lois' age was another issue. Marriages on Krypton were planned out long in advance, sometimes years before the ceremony finally took place. There was no stigma in waiting five years or more to be wedded; better to be sure of compatibility than to have to go through all the unpleasant legal maneuvering to dissolve the union. By the time everything was settled, age generally wasn't an issue—and his people had generally treated Lois a legal adult even if the conversion of Old Krypton to New Krypton to Earth years might leave her falling a bit short of that. She was old enough to be a founding member of the Resistance and a mother, therefore she ought to be responsible and wise enough to be a wife.

He hadn't really thought about all the ramifications of it, and looked guiltily at Lois. She just rolled her eyes. "By the way, real romantic proposal there, Romeo."

"I'm sorry," he said, looking downcast. He met Connor's gaze, bright blue eyes full of amazement. That gave him the strength to speak again. "I just … Lois, I love you, and I want to be with you for the rest of my life, and raise our son together. Whether it's on your planet or mine doesn't matter, because my home is where our family is. And where I come from, marriage is an expected part of that. In some cases, it's as much contract negotiation as romance."

"I love you, too," Lois said, kissing his temple. "Red's right, though, most places you can't get married until you're eighteen. And we've still got a few months 'til October. Besides, there's a few more pressing matters to talk about besides marriage."

"Like General Lane," said Pete.

"And the Resistance and Rebellion," Kal-El sighed. He glanced down at Connor again, and jostled him lightly. "I'd rather be planning a wedding than a war. It'd be much better, don't you think, son?"

Jonathan and Pete both chuckled, which Kal-El found odd … until he was distracting by Connor, who responded to the gentle swaying with a gurgling sound. Not the same baby noises he'd been making, and Kal-El frowned, looking at him.

Lois, however, swooped in, grabbing the infant out of his hands a scant second before Connor burped up a messy string of saliva and milk. She had a soft cloth in one hand, the function of which Kal-El hadn't guessed at, and now wiped the baby's mouth with it. "Look out, Kal-El, babies leak from both ends," she quipped. And then seeing the look on his face, Lois laughed. "This is just a little spit-up, relax."

Connor chose that moment to burble again, bringing up more of his most recent meal, and Lois' twisted in wry amusement. "You're gonna need the baby wipes," Lana said, reaching into the bag beside her. Whatever she was looking for wasn't there, and the redhead stood up. "I must've left them in the car. Two minutes."

Meanwhile Lois dabbed at Connor's chin, and spoke soothingly to him. "Who's got a fussy tummy? You do, baby boy, but it's gonna be all right. Yeah, it's gonna be fine." Connor grinned; babies his age weren't supposed to be able to smile, that expression was supposedly just gas, but Lois didn't believe it.

A thought occurred to her, and she turned to Kal-El. "What was that about quirks?" she asked, expecting that it was some odd Kryptonian habit of his.

Just at that moment, Lana burst back in the front door, slamming it behind her and throwing the chain. Her green eyes were wild, a look of stark panic in them. "They're here!"

Everyone lunged to their feet. They could only be the soldiers, and the hammering at the front door backed that up. Cold terror slithered in Lois' belly; those men thought Kal-El was an escaped prisoner. They had guns. They'd turn on him … he had started for Lana, and she yelled at him to follow her.

"The truck's out back," Jonathan barked, and Lois instinctively turned toward the kitchen, meaning to flee to it with Connor in her arms. And any soldiers between her and that potential route to safety, well, just because both arms were holding her baby didn't mean she'd forgotten how to snap-kick a man in the teeth.

No chance, no time, because Daddy was there, filling up the kitchen doorway, two soldiers coming in behind him with rifles pointed at the ceiling. His hard blue eyes flicked over her, and then over Connor, and Lois saw the rage and disgust there. It stiffened her spine, and she felt her lips curling back like an angry dog's. "How dare you…!" was all she managed to spit at him.

"You're coming with me," General Lane thundered, and reached for her shoulder.

Suddenly Kal-El was between them, brushing her father's wrist out of the way with a casual flick of his own hand. How the hell had he done that, gotten there so fast? "No sir, she will not," he declared, drawing himself up to his full height.

Sam Lane bristled too, and Lois saw him sneer, knew that whatever he was about to say, it would set a new record for condescending … and it would probably start with son. Sure enough, he barked, "Son, you're coming with us too…."

Kal-El cut him off, taking another step into his personal space. "We will do no such thing," he insisted, and the slang was gone. That was the formal diction of New Krypton, with a trace of their accent, and he looked and sounded like what he was: a noble son of an alien race, proud and unbowed before someone who had no authority to deny him. Lois felt her heart swell.

And then she saw the two soldiers behind her father react to the evident threat by leveling their weapons at Kal-El. "HOLD!" the general roared, real fear in his eyes.

Lois had time to wonder if he was afraid they'd shoot Kal-El—that would wreck their chances of peace with the Kryptonians—or just afraid that the civilians in the room behind him would get caught in the crossfire, Lois included. She was already turning, shielding Connor with her own body, and Martha Kent's startled cry sounded like a bird rising in frightened flight.

Kal-El simply grasped one rifle barrel in each hand, and calmly turned them upward as if they were made of modeling clay, the heavy steel groaning in protest. The two soldiers goggled at him, completely at a loss, and Sam's eyes jittered as he tried to track both barrels.

Everyone fell silent at that, and Lois saw her father's face go chalk-white. She could feel her eyes bugging out. How the actual fuck had he done that?!

Into the stunned silence, Kal-El spoke with calm, measured tones. "We need to talk, General Lane. About your daughter, and our son, and the fact that I intend to marry her. But we also need to talk about the effects of Earth's undiluted atmosphere on Kryptonians." He smiled, and it was not a friendly smile, more wintry than any expression Lois had ever seen on his face. "It wouldn't do for the rest of my kind to realize just what kinds of quirks we develop on your planet."