1

"You know, Smallville," Lois said, pulling him into the coat room. "We really have to stop meeting this way?"

Clark smiled and leaned down to kiss his fiancé. He enjoyed the moments they snuck in at the halls of the Daily Planet. She worked on the top floor as Perry White's right hand and he was perpetually stuck below the twentieth floor in the municipal section. His writing was fantastic, the grammar and spelling naturally better than hers, as was his ironic talent to put a human voice and spin on his stories. Lois, however, had the advantage of amazing connections through her father who was now a four-star, a pipeline to the Superman coverage, and no other "outside" obligations. The truth was, if Perry White didn't owe Clark his life,

Clark would have been fired ten times over by now.

He blew deadlines.

Of course, when he blew his deadlines it was because Superman was in Guatemala stopping mudslides or in the Sahara desert helping bring in UNICEF famine relief. They were, to be fair, legitimate excuses if he could use them.

But he was okay with that, really he was. He was doing the important thing, being the hero that Brainiac 5 had long ago shown him he would be. If that meant the "Clark Kent" everyone knew was little more than a mask and the Planet joke, then so be it. If it meant that he played into the fiction that a woman as beautiful as Lois and as amazingly successful would never give him the time of day in public and all they had were stolen moments in coat closets and copy rooms, then that was okay too.

He was doing what he'd been told was right and he'd helped a lot of people in the seven years since he'd first flown in the suit.

Besides, he was happy, really he was. Of course, he'd be happier if he could ever make his engagement to Lois an actual marriage, even if it were to stay hidden at work. Seven years of hits and misses since everything had unfurled with Darkseid (four attempts total if one counted the first massive wedding) and they'd not yet tied the knot.

The last time, just two weeks ago, had been his fault. He'd rushed off for an emergency nuclear plant meltdown in Idaho, but they could have made it work earlier. Clark had offered a million times to do something small and fast. Not Vegas of course, but something simple for them with a Justice of the Peace and a few friends. He'd even offered more than once to fly Oliver in from Star City and Chloe from Singapore.

She always begged off.

Hence, they were trapped in a perpetual state of being engaged, one which Bart and Wally had snarked on more than once. Clark was ready to commit, and, yet, some days he felt like something was holding Lois back. He just couldn't figure out what.

"Lois," he said, pulling away albeit it reluctantly. "You know, you have a long weekend off with Labor Day and it's not that far...well to anywhere with me, but-"

She sighed and patted his cheek. "Marriage again? Look, I'm getting everything reorganized but it takes planning."

"We could do it downtown Metropolis even, right now. You landed that interview with the president not three days ago. If you missed a deadline, especially for this, you know Perry would forgive you."

Lois sighed and twisted the engagement ring on her finger. "Let's talk about this later. Also, you need to slouch more, honey. You're falling out of posture lately. It's not smart." This time she said it, patting his shoulder, and Clark had a brief flash of feeling like he was four or had the IQ of a cow.

"I...okay, Lois. I was only offering. Whenever you, Miss Lane, would like to get married, I'm at your disposal."

"Then we'll shoot for June. It is traditional after all," she said, straightening her blouse.

"Nine whole months of yet more waiting as well."

"Don't pout, sweetie, it's not cute," she said, her tone clipped. "Besides you do have a deadline about the sewer expansion running late and McConnell doesn't like you."

Clark sighed and picked his briefcase back up and started to the door. "Wouldn't make him unique."

With that he stepped out and back to his cubicle.

Clark was finishing up his article, double checking his quotes, when the news came on. They all always had CNN up on the TVs scattered throughout the office in addition to the direct line to the AP Wire. No place in the world was as plugged into the world than the Daily Planet and that, of course, was where Superman had to be.

He wasn't even paying attention at first, still trying to figure out the best way to integrate the city inspector's quote when Johnson started shaking his shoulder. Clark faked a wince as if the other man had bruised him a little with the force of his grip.

"What? I'm almost done."

"Kent? Have you even paid attention?" he asked, gesturing to the rest of the office. Clark blinked and looked past his computer screen. The whole room was silent and staring en rapt at the news crawl. There had been a fatal bombing at the American Embassy in Singapore. Fifty people, including the ambassador and his wife were dead.

In most emergencies, Clark was quicker than anyone save Wally, but right now he couldn't think. Couldn't get his feet to move even. All he had to do was get to the coat closet from which he'd come and blur out of there, be at the damage in seconds. Clark rushed as fast as a human could, his only thoughts those about Chloe.

Her husband, George Dean, was a high ranking security official for the embassy and sometimes, she and her son would visit George at his office before school started. Clark checked his watch. It was still only eight a.m. in Singapore, no reason that they'd have been there that day. None at all.

Gulping, Clark made some half-assed excuse about bad tuna for dinner and rushed to the closet. He'd just check. Surely Chloe and her family hadn't been there.

They just hadn't been.

"No you can't!" Chloe said, struggling against the grip of the police officer holding her. "I have to leave. I have to leave now."

The officer shook her head and pushed on her shoulders gently until Chloe took her seat back on the stretcher. "Ma'am, you have to be checked out by our doctors. You clearly broke your wrist. I can tell by the angle it's at. You have to stay seated."

Chloe glared at her. "My son's in the next room."

"I was aware. We separated the injured into men and women so that some could beexamined in more private areas. When you're approved, you can go get him."

"I have to see him now. I...we're Christian Scientists and we don't believe in doctors."

The guard laughed. "This isn't the United States, Mrs. Dean, and he'll get treatment as will you. We don't let people refuse it on religious grounds here."

"I know. I've been here almost a decade. I just meant that...oh god, you have to let me get to him."

"Ma'am, really, if you just let the paramedics come and set it-"

She was rusty, but she'd learned from Oliver and then from Bruce, her left cross struck the guard in the chin, knocking her off her feet. Chloe was running then, weaving through the other officers on her way down the hall, cursing herself for letting civilian life make her out of shape and slow. Sliding baseball style under the legs of the two men at the other paramedic station's entrance, Chloe turned and rolled onto her feet, rushing toward the corner where Christopher was sitting waiting his turn for the doctors.

"Mommy!" her son called, standing up and hesitating just a minute before rushing into her open left arm. "Mommy! They took daddy already! He had to go in an ambulance and everything!" He sniffled when he said it. "Daddy was talking and everything but the doctors said he had a kincussion and that they needed to take him. Mommy, I want to go see him."

Chloe pulled away and stared down at him. "Christopher, baby, did the doctor's look at you?"

He frowned, "Why?"

She felt her heart speed up but forced herself to keep a level voice. No need to scare her son even more in the middle of this chaos. "Did they look at you?"

"I feel fine."

"That's not the question, Christopher Colin. Did they look at you?"

"They tried," he said, starting to tear up.

Before she could ask him what he meant by "try," three of the remaining embassy guards approached her. They all towered over her and would have put Clark or Bruce to shame in the broad shoulder department. "Ma'am, we'd like you and your son to come with us."

She rolled her eyes. First the city officials and now the embassy soldiers. Saying "ma'am" didn't make being manhandled after the introduction any better. "Why? He saw the doctor and he apparently got a clean bill of health."

The lead guard sighed. George was head of security detail and she usually met his closest coworkers, the men and women who masterminded the security for the ambassador. She didn't keep track of the grunts but, after a few moments of concentration, recalled the most decorated officer's name. Bruno sighed again and reached for Christoper. "Chloe, I'm sorry, it's orders."

"Says who? The ambassador's hurt."

"He's dead," Bruno continued, unfazed when she slapped his hand. "These orders are-"

"You say 'classified' and I swear I'll call down a wrath on you like you've never seen," she hissed, struggling when the other two guards grabbed her and pulled her arms behind her. Chloe howled in pain over the hand straining her right wrist and cursed when Bruno picked up her screaming son. "Let him go."

"Chloe, really, I like you. I like George and I hope he improves, but I have to do this," Bruno said, not making eye contact with her and turning to take Christopher to God knew where.

"If someone touches him, I swear to God, they'll be sorry!" she shouted, fighting for all she was worth but they had the size and leverage on her. Suddenly, she wasn't struggling against anything anymore. Looking behind her, Chloe noticed that the guards were passed out in a heap on the floor. "Oh thank God," she said, turning around and flinging herself into Clark's arms. "You didn't have to wait to the last minute, you know."

Clark didn't acknowledge that old callback. He really couldn't. Instead, he turned to Bruno and shook his head. "I believe she wants her son back."

"I-"

"Bruno is it?"

"Yes...yes sir," he said, gulping at Clark. Polite or not, Chloe was glad that Bruno was nervous staring up at Superman. "I had orders."

"But you don't want to do them. Give me the boy, please. I understand you're just trying to do your job. Tell them I overpowered you. Obviously they'll believe it."

Bruno looked back at Chloe and down at Christopher who was still shrieking. "Alright, you have ten seconds before I call back up." With that he released her son.

Clark nodded and swept them both up in his grasp. "You can do it in five."
With that they were gone.

When Chloe could process her surroundings again, she was standing in Christopher's room, staring up at the assorted nebulae on his ceiling. Her son was sitting in his rocking chair, his arms wrapped around the bows and arrows Uncle Oliver had given him for his birthday and that he tended to cling to as a talisman when upset.

Letting out a deep breath, Chloe turned and hugged Clark once again. "Thank you." She tried to ignore the feelings being in his arms brought up and the memories. She'd never been on his radar and, the one time she had truly been, it was only an aspect of Clark and Lois having been torn asunder by a fight. Once they'd reconciled, she'd been demoted back to best buddy Chloe.

Clark nodded and sat down next to her on the bed, his cape spreading out on the comforter behind them though, oddly, not looking out of place in a room that was half decorated with vintage Warrior Angel paraphernalia and the other with with the merchandise bearing Clark's own emblem. (It wasn't officially endorsed, but it also wasn't like Clark could sue for the rights either.) "No problem," he said, and then looked at Christopher. "Are you alright, buddy?"

Her son sniffled and clutched his bow even more tightly. "Uh-huh. I want to go see daddy now."

Clark nodded. "I need to talk to your mom first. Can you stay here? We'll be in her office, and if anything makes you scared, just yell for me, okay?"

Christopher nodded. "Okay, thank you."

Clark smiled and Chloe remembered how good he'd always been with children, all the way back with Ryan. "Great. Mrs. Dean, if you could?"

She assented, stood, and kissed her son's forehead. "Mommy will be right back okay? Don't worry Superman won't let anything happen to us." She was already following Clark up the hallway to her office before her son could answer. Shutting the door behind her, Chloe leaned against her desk, being careful not to lean on the Pulitzer she'd won three years prior for coverage of a devastating typhoon that hit Hong Kong. There were some advantages to being the top Southeast Asian correspondent for the DP. The chief among them had been separation from Clark.

Yet, here he was.

Clark didn't wait long before he started talking, and, it surprised her only mildly that he'd dropped the Superman voice with her. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine back to their college days. He sounded no different.

"Are you both alright?"

She sighed and held up her right arm. "I will need a doctor for that, yeah, but it's not in bad stead."

Clark squinted and nodded. "Not even compound. I'm relieved. I...do you know what happened?"

She shook her head. "We were having breakfast in the dining room and there was a concussion and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on a stretcher. Whatever it was had to have taken out half the building. George has a concussion and they took him for imaging already. My wrist is broken. Christopher-"

Clark frowned. "He doesn't have a scratch on him. Resilient little fella. Big too. I don't think I've seen him in person in three years."

"He'll be six in October," she said. "It's hard to get from Singapore to Kansas, you know that. It's impossible to have you just randomly show up because I can't explain why Aunt Lois and Uncle Clark have so many frequent flier miles."

"That's not exactly...I was being polite. I just forget how fast kids grow."

She nodded. "He liked the Legos you all sent last Christmas, the Harry Potter themed ones."

"Likes Oliver's stuff more."

"He was in a Robin Hood phase for a while, now it's all Superman and Warrior Angel, obviously."

"Irony," Clark said. "Chloe?"

"Yes?"

"Why were the remaining embassy soldiers taking him?"

"I don't know."

Clark shook his head. "I'm not twenty four anymore. I keep my ears perked. You're good but you're not that good. I can hear your heart perk up. Why did they want him?"

"I...the doctors had already looked him over before I was able to get to him."

Clark frowned. "He can't heal, can he? I know you haven't even had that ability since Brainiac. I...he didn't inherit it, did he?"

She shook her head. "I have no idea what my DNA looks like but I don't think so, no. I still can't heal, in point of fact. That's not it."

"Is George metahuman?"

Chloe blushed and looked away, wishing to God that she'd studied meditation with Bruce for longer. He could control his heartbeat, the bastard. "No, George is 100% normal, guaranteed."

"I'm running out of answers on why in the middle of a security DefCon 1, the embassy wanted a five year old."

"I-"

"Chloe, what's going on?"

She sighed and kept looking behind her shoulder, at the bookshelf and the assorted journals and diaries she kept there. "I assume either they found something interesting in a blood draw or couldn't take blood at all. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet they couldn't get the needle to pierce."

Clark furrowed his brows at her. "You said George was normal. Obviously mortal if he has a concussion and the last thing you are is invulnerable."

"Clark, George isn't his father."