A/N: Last chapter, this chapter, and next chapter were all originally supposed to be one chapter but GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY, the intended chapter was much, much longer than it seemed like it would be when it was playing out in my head. (I still have final edits to do on next week's chapter, but it looks like it would have been 47 pages long in total which is, you know, a third of the freakin' story - okay, book - at this point!) Incidentally, I temporarily replaced the pic above with the Lego Brois I made. I went to my local Lego store, and they had just got a shipment in of "girl hair" so I was able to make a Lois! (Girl bodies were still incredibly sparse, meaning that there are some boy Legos with incredibly luscious locks out there!) The Bruce figure has literally the only "guy hair" they had in stock at that point.

Anyway, I'll make another Bruce who's smiling in the picture, but I decided to get handcuffs. Bruce has handcuffed them together and is angry with Lois for once again putting herself in danger. She's smirking because...Lois!

I wish I had more brilliant thoughts to post, but...nothing's coming to mind. So I'll just reiterate a big "thank you!" to everyone who's read and reviewed thus far! You guys are the best!

Chapter 16

Doomsday

As Lois drove down what was charitably considered to be Smallville's main strip, heading towards the Talon, she looked around at the shops around her. Nothing seemed out of place. This might have been any other night in this sleepy little small town.

If the monster was after Chloe, he didn't seem to be in Smallville at the moment, given the lack of devastation. Of course, that didn't mean Lois would be content to leave without warning her cousin about her findings – and ideally take Chloe somewhere safe. But at least she was reassured that she'd gotten to Smallville in time. She'd been terrified the entire drive, since she'd tried several times to get Chloe on the phone but every call had gone directly to voicemail.

Pulling into a parking spot in front of the Talon, she grabbed her purse and hopped out of the car. She'd already jogged halfway up the stairs to the apartment above the coffee shop before she remembered her cousin's intention to have a romantic night at home with her husband.

It was entirely possible that Lois was about to walk into an entirely different ugly scene than she'd expected.

She stopped on the stairs, torn between her need to get her cousin someplace safe and her desperate desire to not see what was likely going on behind closed doors. She vacillated, shifting her weight back and forth as she considered her options. Then she began to trudge slowly up the stairs again, having finally decided that their romantic evening would hardly remain uninterrupted if the beast burst in on the scene – particularly since he'd nearly killed Jimmy the last time he'd interrupted a romantic moment between the Olsons

Outside the apartment door, Lois grimaced and rapped gently on the wood. When she got no response for a couple of minutes, she knocked harder. Still no response. "Please be wearing pants, you guys," she muttered as she used her key and cracked open the door. Squeezing her eyes shut, she poked her head into the room and called out, "Hey, you guys! It's me! I really, really hope you're dressed! I need to talk to Chloe!"

Nobody responded to her call, so she very cautiously cracked open one eye and looked around. The apartment was empty.

Lois breathed a deep sigh of relief, until she realized that this meant she couldn't warn Chloe about the danger she was in. Muttering a curse under her breath, she stepped into the apartment, dropped her purse by the door, and began her search for any indication of where her cousin and Jimmy had gone.

She didn't see anything helpful in the living room, so she grabbed her cell phone and tried once more to call her cousin as she walked very gingerly into the bedroom. The call went straight to voicemail again, so she slipped her phone into her pocket and looked around, trying to simultaneously search for clues while also trying not to see too much. Some things couldn't be unseen – or unimagined.

Not only did she not find any clues, but the bed was still neatly made. It hadn't been slept in (or been the scene of the other obvious activity, for that matter). She hadn't seen any dirty dishes in the sink or evidence of dinner. Where could Chloe and Jimmy be?

When she wandered back into the living room, she saw a man standing by the front door and let out a little yelp of surprise. Then she recognized him, and she breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "Oh, my god, Davis! Where did you come from?" she gasped, pressing a hand against her chest. Davis Bloome worked as a paramedic in Metropolis, and she knew that he and Chloe were friends – though she couldn't even begin to guess what he was doing at the apartment at this time of night. Or why he'd felt free to let himself into the apartment.

He threw her a sheepish look. "I'm looking for Chloe. Have you seen her?"

Frowning in confusion, she answered, "No. I was just looking for her, myself." She considered pressing him for further explanation, but then she decided it didn't matter. What was important was finding Chloe; if they split up to look for her, they would find her faster than if Lois searched alone.

Racing forward, she blurted, "You know, you can help. I need to find Chloe right away. I think the monster – the one that's been attacking Metropolis lately – I think it may be after her. We have to find her, and then I'm going to take her somewhere it won't be able to reach her." Maybe she'd ship her cousin off to Gotham. Alfred could look out for her while Lois did what she could to live up to the promise she'd given Oliver.

His eyes narrowed and he frowned. "Where are you going to take her?"

Lois brushed past him and jogged down the stairs to the bottom floor of the Talon, Davis fast on her heels. "I think I should probably keep that to myself. I mean, the last time someone got between the monster and Chloe…well, I just think it's safer if nobody knows where she is until that monster is stopped. The important thing is to make sure that the creature can't get close to her ever again."

She was almost to the front door when she realized that she'd forgotten her purse with her keys inside in the apartment. "Crap, I need to grab –" she broke off when she saw Davis's expression. His eyes were narrowed in fury, a muscle in his jaw twitching as he grit his teeth. He was enraged, and Lois took a step back, confused at his inexplicable reaction. "Davis?"

"I can't let you do that," he said darkly, stepping towards her. Lois could swear his eyes looked almost red in this light and his skin had taken on a grayish pallor. "I can't let you take Chloe away."

She frowned. "You know, I suspected that maybe you had a little crush on Chloe, but you do realize nothing's ever going to come of that, right? I hate to break it to you, but she's married to someone else. So I suggest you get a firm grip on your puppy love and help me find her. I would think that, if you actually cared about her, you'd be eager to make sure she was somewhere safe."

"I'm not going to let you take her from me," he growled, his voice a deeper rumble than it should have been. She could see a vein throb in his forehead. Several veins, actually. As she watched, more stood out in stark relief, and when she met his eyes again, she could see that it wasn't a trick of the light. His eyes really were glowing red.

Lois didn't know what was going on, but she'd met enough meteor freaks in her life to know that she didn't want any part of it. Davis was blocking her way to the staircase, so she abandoned that option and whirled to the door. She'd figure out how to get her keys later; for now, all she wanted was to put a little distance between herself and Davis.

She hit the front door at a full run, but her exit was temporarily delayed. She'd locked the door to the Talon after coming inside, and she cursed herself for doing so as she struggled to throw the deadbolt. Back when she'd been helping prepare for Chloe's wedding, she'd noticed that the deadbolt had begun to stick in the lock, but with everything that had happened, she hadn't yet had a chance to fix it. She wished now she hadn't left it as just another item on a long "to do" list.

The deadbolt had almost slid open when Davis grabbed her by the arm and yanked hard. He was stronger than she'd expected, sending her reeling. She slammed into a table, knocking down the chairs set on top of the table and following them to the floor.

Lois winced when her hip impacted the tile floor, but she didn't have time to bemoan her injuries. Scrambling to get her legs beneath her, Lois jumped to her feet and darted towards the back door. She'd considered running upstairs to get her keys, but she'd mocked enough horror movie heroines in her day to know that she would be stupid to head that direction, when the apartment had only the one exit. If Davis followed her, she wouldn't have any way to escape.

However, the Talon did have a back entrance – a service entrance that led into the alley. She didn't waste time looking behind her to see what Davis was doing as she darted towards the back door. She didn't make it, however. She had just made it to the door leading down to the basement storage room – curiously, it was standing open – when Davis grabbed her by the shoulder.

Lois turned, her hand clenched into a fist, and used her momentum to her advantage as she decked him as hard as she could. He reeled, but he didn't fall as she had hoped. In fact, he recovered much faster than she'd expected. He turned back towards her, and Lois screamed. This time, she knew her eyes weren't deceiving her. Davis's skin was ashen, and bony protuberances had begun to break through the skin along the ridge of his eyebrows and down the line of his nose.

Lunging forward, he wrapped his hand around her neck and lifted her off her feet. "I'm not going to let anyone take Chloe from me," he snarled, tightening his grip until she could barely breathe. Before her eyes, she could see the bony ridge growing more distinct, and muscles rippled beneath his skin. She could swear he was growing larger, more massive, and she could feel him growing stronger with every passing second.

"What…are….you?" she gasped, bringing one hand to her neck to try to wrench his hand away. He was too strong for her, though, so her effort to escape was futile. She didn't bother to ask who he was; she already knew. She didn't know how it could be true, but it was undeniable: Davis Bloome was the monster.

He ignored her question, and Lois kicked out, trying to hurt him in the hopes he would let her go. She might as well have been swatting him with a newspaper, for all the notice he took of her efforts. She still had her left hand at her neck, trying to claw her way out of his grip, so she used her right hand to hit him. Curling her fingers tightly, she struck him in the nose with the fleshy part of her palm, hoping to break his nose. Instead, when she hit the bones breaking through the skin, they tore into her palm, cutting deep.

Davis smiled when she winced in pain. He was looking at her with such hatred, it would have taken her breath away if he wasn't doing so already. His grip wasn't loosening despite her best efforts. If she had any chance of getting him to release her, it would probably only be by enraging him to the point where he acted without thought and either threw her or released her with the intention of hitting her instead.

"You think…Chloe…would have…anything to do…with you?" she gasped with what little air she could manage. "You're…a freak…of nature." His eyes flashed, and she saw that she was getting to him. She could also feel it, as his fingers convulsed on her neck. She only hoped she got him angry enough to let her go before he grew so strong he snapped her neck. "A…killer," she wheezed. "If she…knew…" she winced as his grew tightened even more. She could barely speak, but she just managed to end her sentence, "Chloe…would…despise…you."

Davis let out a scream of rage and, just as she'd hoped, he threw her. Unfortunately, instead of propelling her towards either exit door, he threw her down the basement stairs. She had just enough time to remember to cover her head protectively when she landed and rolled, tumbling down the steps to the floor below.

Lois landed hard, winded by the impact. She wished she could take a moment to take stock, make sure nothing had been broken in her careening fall down the steps. But she hadn't forgotten about the beast, and she had no doubt that he would come down to finish the job.

Pressing her palms on the cold concrete floor, Lois pushed as hard as she could, levering herself up until she could get her feet beneath her. As soon as she straightened and put weight on her right leg, she let out a sharp cry of pain and almost fell to the ground again. Her knee throbbed; she must have twisted it during her fall.

She heard the creak of a stair above and glanced up to see the monster start making his way down the steps towards her. She really didn't have the time to worry about a twisted knee. Gritting her teeth, she ignored the pain as she pivoted on her good leg, looking for a weapon of some kind to use against the creature.

She didn't find a weapon, but she did notice that the room looked different than it had the last time she'd come down here. Then she realized why: there was a cot pushed up against the wall, rumpled blankets tossed on top. At the foot of the bed, a paramedic's kit was pushed up against the wall. Lois couldn't believe it; had Davis been camping out in the basement of the Talon? But there was no way he could have done so without either Olson's knowledge or permission, since he would need a key to get into the building after hours. (And, realistically, the odds were good that if anyone had given Davis permission to live down here, it hadn't been Jimmy.)

Then again, if Chloe had thought her friend had fallen on hard times and needed a place to stay, why wouldn't she offer to help him out? She obviously had no idea that he was the homicidal monster that had terrorized both her wedding and Metropolis. If she did, Lois couldn't believe she'd ever have agreed to let him stay in the basement of the Talon, located in the heart of Smallville.

But the fact that Davis had taken advantage of Chloe and, in so doing, knowingly and intentionally put her in harm's way made Lois absolutely furious. After all, he could have snapped and hurt her – not to mention Jimmy – and she wouldn't have had any idea of the danger she was in until it was too late.

Of course, Lois knew this was an absurd reaction to the situation. It wasn't just Chloe that Davis was endangering. He was putting the entire town of Smallville at risk – or, at the very least, any poor soul unfortunate enough to be patronizing the Talon the next time he got angry and turned into the beast. Not to mention the innocent victims whose lives he'd already taken.

Still, the thought made her angry, and her anger helped her push past the pain. She heard the creature's heavy footsteps on the stairs, and she darted as fast as her leg would allow to the basement windows. They were high in the wall, and she saw that one was already cracked open, wide enough for her to slip through. She headed for that one, getting a boost from a chair conveniently placed nearby.

Bracing her palms on the windowsill, Lois jumped and pulled her body through the opening. The cut on her hand made it hurt like hell; pebbles and dirt were getting ground into her wound, and she gritted her teeth against the pain. She was almost through the window when she felt something grab her foot, and she looked behind her to see the monster had a hold of her.

He began to slowly pull her back through the window, and Lois cried out, trying to yank her foot out of his grip. He was too strong for her, but she had to do something. She knew if he got her back into the basement, she wouldn't be likely to make it out alive. With a soft sob, she yanked on her foot again and again, but it wasn't doing any good. She was going to have to try something else.

Surprise was her only option. Instead of trying to yank her foot towards her, she kicked out, catching the creature in the face. Her foot ground against the bones protruding through his forehead and nose, but she doubted she did any real damage. However, she had accomplished what she'd hoped, at least to an extent. The monster didn't release her, but he loosened his grip just enough that she was able to twist her ankle and tear her foot free.

Her freedom wasn't without cost. In the struggle, she was pretty sure she twisted her ankle. She also felt the beast's claws cut into her skin; they tore through the hard leather of her boot and scraped against her flesh as she yanked her foot out of his grasp. Still, it was worth a few scrapes if it meant a chance at running away.

Strike that. She might be able to get away, if she was lucky, but it wouldn't be through running away. With her twisted knee and now a wrenched ankle, she wouldn't be running any time soon. Lois didn't delude herself into thinking she was safe, but she had perhaps slowed the beast down from his pursuit. She let out a little sob of frustration as she more hobbled than ran down the alley and into the street.

The beast's roar of anger at losing his prey followed her, echoing between the narrow brick buildings, and she could swear the entire structure trembled at the sound of a heavy blow. It was entirely possible that the monster intended to bring the building down in his determination to come after her. She might not have slowed him down as much as she'd hoped.

Lois pounded her hand against the hood of her car as she passed. She wished she could jump behind the wheel and drive away, but her keys were in the bag, still upstairs in the apartment. Particularly now that the beast seemed determined to bring the building down, it would be suicide to try to go after the keys now. She might have been able to hotwire it if she had a little more time. She was sadly out of practice – a fact she made a mental note to rectify, provided she survived tonight.

There was no point lamenting the things she didn't have, particularly since she didn't have a lot of time. As she ran as best she could down the street, however, she also realized that she didn't have many options. The problem was, the heart of Smallville just wasn't that big. There weren't a lot of places to go.

Storefronts flanked her on either side of the street, and some of them had alleys that were either dead ends or led to the largely residential areas that surrounded the one street that generously could be described as Smallville's business district. Best case scenario, she could find safe haven somewhere among the sleepy small town houses, but that would mean leading the monster who had torn a bloody path through Metropolis there, as well. She could only imagine the devastation he could wreak when let loose in an area full of innocent – and sleeping – civilians.

Of course, the street led directly to the highway… after passing through several miles of empty farmland. Lois worked hard to stay in shape – she worked out on a regular basis, and her exercise regimen usually included a quick run. But that was when she had two limbs that worked properly – not one good leg and one leg with a bad knee and ankle, that felt like it was shooting spikes of fire directly up her spine and into her brain with every step.

So there she was, with a homicidal, enraged beast after her, no real avenue of escape, a car she couldn't use, a bad leg, and…not a lot of other options. Make that no other options, really.

Lois's bad leg gave out beneath her and she fell to the ground, scraping her knees and palms as she landed. She looked over her shoulder towards the Talon, just in time to see the beast step into the street. He was huge, enraged, and even under the dim bulb of the streetlamp, she could tell that he was searching for her.

Staying low to the ground, Lois scampered behind a parked car, her injured leg putting up a hell of a protest at the abuse. She squeezed her eyes shut and said a silent prayer, then peered over the hood at the monster. For once tonight, she had a bit of luck: he didn't seem to have seen her. Still, her luck wouldn't hold out forever. She couldn't just stay here like a sitting duck; she had to find a better place to hide.

There was a dark alley she thought she might be able to reach without stepping into the open, so she darted towards it, hoping her luck held out just a little longer. Behind her, she heard the beast's growl again, but when she pressed her back against the rough brick wall and peered around the corner, she breathed a soft sigh of relief. He was moving towards her, but she was walking slowly, as though he hadn't seen her.

Backing slowly down the alley, Lois scanned the ground, the walls, the rooftops, looking for a means of escape. There was a ladder leading to the roof, but it was up too high. There was no way she'd be able to reach it, even if she climbed on top of something. She tried the heavy metal doors on either side, but they were locked and it wasn't likely she'd be able to break them down. The alley ended in a dead end.

There was nowhere for her to go.

Realistically, it was only a matter of time until the monster – it was hard for her to think of him as Davis, for some reason – found her, and the odds of her getting away another time…well, they weren't great. Given the size of the area and the limited number of places for her to hide, it probably wouldn't take him very long to find her. And it was pretty unlikely Lois would make it out in one piece.

Her breath was coming in tiny sobs of air as she struggled with the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. She had to calm down and focus. So there was a good chance she was not going to survive the night, but she couldn't focus on that. She had to remember that, if she didn't make it out of this alive, nobody would know what she had discovered. Chloe – and every other innocent person in Smallville and Metropolis – would still be in danger.

She had to find a way to warn her cousin. Her hands visibly shaking, she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. Out in the street, she heard the monster growl again. He was getting closer.

Lois scooted behind the alley dumpster and curled her body into a ball, trying to make herself as small as possible. She scrolled through her contacts list, trying to decide who to call.

She couldn't call Chloe; even if her phone hadn't gone immediately to voicemail the last dozen or so times Lois had tried to call, she was afraid her cousin would respond by rushing back to the apartment, which was the absolute last thing she wanted.

She considered calling Clark but dismissed that thought almost immediately. For one thing, if he was at home, he would probably rush into town to help and get himself killed. She was also concerned that he wouldn't be able to get through to Chloe. Lois knew that Chloe would be reluctant to believe that Davis was actually the monster that had been attacking Metropolis – Lois probably wouldn't believe it if she hadn't seen it herself. And since Davis was her friend, she would be even more reluctant to believe it of him. That was only human nature.

Chloe was Lois's cousin; both women could be so stubborn, Lois wondered if the trait ran in the blood. She wouldn't want to believe the truth, and Lois wasn't sure that Clark would be able to get past that initial reaction. He wouldn't want to hurt Chloe by forcing the truth on her. Heck, he may not even want to believe it himself, given that Davis wasn't a complete stranger to him. This wasn't one of those situations where they could afford to lose any time.

There was one other reason why Lois didn't want to call Clark at the moment, but even she realized she was probably being unfair. Unfair or not, she still felt that he wasn't the right person to call.

Then again, there was Oliver. He wasn't so close to either Chloe or Davis that his judgment in this situation would be impaired. That said, she knew how much he cared about her. Ollie, for all of his virtues, was a hothead. The minute he heard that Lois was in danger, and particularly if she didn't make it out alive, he would react. He would probably rush into the path of danger and get himself killed.

While Lois appreciated that he cared so much about her, nothing would be served by his death. She had no illusions that he could really stop this beast; he'd admitted as much to her. She would not allow him to get himself killed in a search for vengeance, when he had no real chance to win that fight.

She needed to call someone who would believe her and would be both willing and able to do something about what she'd discovered, but who wouldn't act on pure emotion, jump heedlessly into the path of danger, and die a senseless death. She knew who to call. His name had been highlighted in her phone for the last several seconds, even as she tried to find a way to justify dialing his number before any other.

While all of her previous sentiments were absolutely true (and admittedly valid concerns), she knew the real reason she'd decided to call Bruce. They might not have known each other very long, but if she was right – if this was the end of the line for her tonight – then she wanted to talk to him one more time. Even as she rejected the thought for being too morbid, she realized that she wanted to say goodbye.

Lois hit the button to turn down the sound on the phone and dialed his number. Hunkering down even further, she peeked around the corner of the dumpster, watching the street for the beast. She could swear she could hear his breathing, though it could have been the harsh rasp of her own breath. "Please," she whispered, clenching her eyes shut for a moment as she murmured her prayer. "Please pick up."

"Lois!" The ringing stopped abruptly, and Lois almost sagged in relief when she heard the warm, familiar voice on the other end of the line. "You know, it's funny you're calling. I was just on my way to – Lois?" He broke off, and she could hear the concern in his voice. She didn't know what had alerted him; perhaps he had heard the raggedness of her breathing through the phone.

"Bruce," she murmured in relief, keeping her voice low in an attempt to avoid being heard by the monster. "Listen, I – I don't have very long to talk." She bit her lower lip; now that she had him on the phone, she didn't really know what to say, how to begin.

"Lois, what's wrong?" he demanded, his voice intent. "Where are you?"

"I'm in Smallville. I…," she heard the soft sob that escaped before she could bite it back. Keeping her voice low, she blurted, "I came to find my cousin, Chloe. Look, there's not really a good way to say this, but I…I need you to do something for me. I need you to deliver a message."

"You sound scared. What's going on?" he demanded. Lois cringed when she heard the monster roar in rage as he searched from her, and she ducked her head back behind the dumpster. Her breath had seized in her throat at the sound, and it took some effort before she could reply.

When she spoke again, her voice was tight, a half octave higher than usual, strained with fear. She was so scared she could barely breathe, but she bit out, "I need you to do this for me, Bruce. I think I'm – I'm – I don't think I'll be able to do it myself." She couldn't bring herself to say the words. "I think I'm going to die tonight."

Pushing past that thought, she charged ahead, desperate to convey her message before the monster found her, as he almost inevitably would. "I found the beast – the monster who's been attacking Metropolis. I don't have time to explain, so you have to just believe me. He's a man; I saw him change into – into – that thing. His name is Davis Bloome. He's a paramedic in Metropolis."

"I understand," Bruce said shortly. She knew he had to be confused, and she had no doubt he wanted to know more. But he still listened to her, and he didn't waste time asking questions she didn't have the luxury of answering at the moment.

"You have to tell Chloe okay? Whatever it takes, you have to get her to believe you. She thinks Davis is a friend, but he's obsessed with her. He's living in the basement, and he's dangerous. When I told him that I was taking her away, he – he got angry. He's after me, and I don't think…there's nowhere I can go. So you have to do this for me, okay? Promise me!"

Now she knew she wasn't just hearing the sound of her own breath. This breathing was too deep, expanding through a chest cavity more massive than any human's. She didn't dare look around the side of the dumpster again, but when she heard the sound of a heavy footstep and felt the ground rumble slightly beneath her feet, she had to fight back a whimper. He had stepped into the alley.

"Oh, my god, I think it's found me," she breathed in a voice barely above a whisper. "You have to do this for me, okay?" she pleaded with him. "Whatever else happens, make sure Chloe is safe. And then you'll have to find the Red-Blue Blur. I don't know how, but you have to try. He's the only one who can stop this thing. Understand?"

She heard Bruce say something softly into her ear, but she didn't really register his words. She was too busy counting the beast's steps as they approached. He was so close, she had only seconds left. Shifting her weight, she braced herself on the balls of her feet and prepared to run.

She might not make it. She probably wouldn't, in fact. But she'd be damned if she would lie down and die. She was Lois Freaking Lane, the oldest daughter of General Sam Lane of the United States Army. He was one of the toughest sonofabitches in the world, and she was one of the few people brave enough to stand up to him. She had seen him make grizzled soldiers shake in their boots, but she regularly told him to go to hell when he crossed the line. She'd probably die tonight, but she'd be damned if she'd be cowering when she did.

She couldn't bear to hang up the phone, needing to feel some connection to another person in the last few moments of her life, so she left the line open as she stuck it back into her coat pocket. Then she breathed shallow breaths from her nose, trying to remain quiet as she prepared to run. The monster was making its way down the alley slowly, which meant it was still searching for her but didn't know for certain that she was there. She might be able to run past it, if she timed it right. The monster was big; she hoped that size came at the expense of speed.

The dumpster rolled slightly, moved by the tremor caused by the monster's footsteps. He was only a few feet away. One more step, and he'd find her. Lois darted forward, scooting close to the wall to squeeze past as she made a beeline for the alley's entrance. Her knee and ankle throbbed in agony, but she ignored it and sprinted as fast as she could, hoping desperately that she'd be fast enough.

She almost was. As she'd hoped, the monster seemed taken by surprise, and she almost made it past. But it recovered quickly and turned, sweeping a massive hand towards her in a backhanded motion. It just grazed her, but that slight impact had enough force to send her flying.

Lois was propelled down the length of the alley and into the street. She careened to a stop with bone jarring force, her head cracking against the pavement; her breath was driven from her body when she landed and rolled to a stop next to a truck parked against the far curb.

She moaned and shifted, struggling to get her feet beneath her, but she couldn't quite get her brain and her body in sync. Her head was throbbing; it felt like she had spikes shoved through her eyes, directly into her skull. She would have thrown up, except she was pretty sure it would hurt worse – if that were possible.

Forcing her eyes open, she tried to focus. Her head was spinning, but even through the double vision, she could see the monster approach. She knew she didn't have the strength to run; she'd been through so much, she just needed a moment to try to recover. She didn't have any weapons; until she could get her brain to suggest a plan without the rest of her body wanting to revolt, she was helpless.

As the monster moved closer, she managed one final push of energy, dragging herself under the truck. She didn't think it would hold the beast off for long, but all she needed was a little time to try to get it together. She sucked in a deep, shaky breath and pressed her forehead against the rough pavement, trying to get herself together for the next push. She was terrified, but fear wouldn't get her anywhere. Anger, however, would – it would give her the adrenaline she needed to ignore the pain and keep fighting.

"I don't want to die," she whispered miserably. Lifting her head, she scanned the street, looking for some kind of miracle. "I don't want to die," she repeated louder, though her voice came out as more of a moan. "I don't want to die," – a bald statement of fact. "I don't. Want. To die!" This time, the words came out as a growl, spit out between gritted teeth, her voice filled with rage. Turning her head, she saw the beast stop right next to the truck. "And you're not getting your hands on Chloe ever again, you son of a bitch," she snarled.

There was a sound of metal being pulled apart, and the monster lifted the truck off of her. She could see his red eyes, filled with hate, as he lifted the truck above his head and then brought it down fast, intending to crush her until a pile of twisted metal. But Lois had anticipated his attack.

Sweeping her leg in a wide arc, she tried to hook her foot behind his knee, intending to bring him down. Her aim was perfect, but it didn't make any difference. He shrugged her off like she was no more significant than an insect buzzing around his head.

"Oh, come on! You have to have a weakness!" she exclaimed, rolling out of the way of the truck being propelled forcibly towards her head. With one last burst of energy, she got to her feet and raced forward, driving her fist into his stomach. Again, her attack seemed to have no impact, but Lois was almost beyond caring that she was putting herself in the monster's reach. Whatever she had left, she was going to use it to try to bring him down.

The beast roared in anger, and she screamed right back into its face, a howl of primal fury. "You don't get to have her, you freak!" she bellowed. She felt tears stream down her cheeks, but she didn't stop fighting. In fact, her tears only made her angrier. "You can kill me, but I swear, she'll hate you for it! So go ahead! She will never –" she punched him in the stomach, "ever –" she aimed a fist at his jaw and though she hit him with enough force to split the skin on her knuckles, he merely shook off the impact, "forgive you!"

With these last words, she aimed a side-kick at his knee, hoping to disable him. Before her foot could make contact, however, he grabbed her around the throat and lifted, slowly tightening his grip to squeeze the life out of her.

Lois felt him lift her off her feet, but she didn't stop her assault. Maybe her attack would have no impact on him, but she was sure as hell not going to stop. Perhaps she'd get lucky and land one solid blow, something that would actually cause him pain. He'd hurt her, and now she wanted to hurt him.

She hit, scratched, and kicked at him; none of it did any good. Attacks that began so fiercely began to lose power as Lois fought for breath. Her effort was in vain. She met the monster's red eyes and realized he was enjoying the sight in front of him. She heard a deep, guttural rumble, and it took a moment to realize what it was.

The beast was laughing as it slowly choked the life out of her.

If she had any oxygen, the realization would have made her renew her fight. But her lungs were burning, her mind was swimming, and she couldn't seem to get her limbs to respond. This was it, the moment she'd known was coming from the second she saw the bony ridges break through the skin of Davis's face.

Lois was going to die.

Her mouth opened and shut helplessly, her arms fell uselessly by her side, and blackness crept along the sides of her vision. Black spots spread in front of her eyes, but she could swear the world around her grew fuzzy before growing dark. And then, as if from a dream, she heard a voice.

It had to be a dream, the last delusion of an oxygen-deprived brain, because the voice was louder than it seemed it should have been – as though the command came through a loudspeaker. "Put her down!" She could swear she recognized that voice, harsh and raspy. It sounded like Batman, though of course it couldn't be, since he was in Gotham. But it was nice, thinking a hero had come to rescue her. It was a nice thought to die to.

Darkness overtook her, and she went limp. She didn't even feel the monster drop her to the ground, where she fell in a heap and lay motionless.