Prologue: A World Apart
Smallville, Kansas, 2091:
Clark Kent numbly stared at his wife’s tombstone, still unbelieving. Two years, two long years had passed since his beloved wife, Lois, had died in his arms and his heart was still in pieces shattered by his loss. Hot tears streamed down his cheeks and he wondered again if and when they would ever stop. He sighed and roughly dashed them away, looked up at the sky and thought ... I can’t put this off forever. He then twirled into the suit and headed for the Fortress of Solitude.
He had dreaded this moment, but he knew he needed to tell his parents what had happened to this wife; he was not looking forward to it at all. “Mother, father,” he called to them and then they appeared before him and they looked exactly the same. He sighed and admitted that he had actually missed them.
“Kal-El,” Jor-El responded.
“My son,” Lara responded.
Clark braced himself and spoke clearly. “I have news.” He paused. “Lois is gone.”
His parents turned to each other briefly as if they knew this day would come, had rehearsed or planned for it. Clark stiffened and waited.
Lara spoke first. “My son, we.”
Clark interrupted her. “Please don’t say it; I couldn’t bear it,” he begged as he tried to hold it in, his head bowed, and then he burst into tears. He stood there sobbing for a few minutes and wondered why his parents hadn’t said anything, but then he looked up and they were no longer inside the glass crystals, but standing before him arms open wide waiting for him. He blinked not believing his eyes and then his mother finished what she had started before he had interrupted.
“We know what happened Kal-El ... let us help you.”
Clark’s eyes were wide, unbelieving, but his feet slowly moved forward and then he was in their arms and they were holding him close as he buried his face in his mother’s shoulder, holding her, and he could actually feel Lara stroking his hair for the first time. But no sooner had he realized how nice it was to finally hold them, he stumbled forward a bit and realized he was now holding air. He opened his eyes startled for a moment and they were above him inside the crystals again, just like always, and he wondered if had imagined it.
At his questioning look, Jor-El explained. “We can hold you, my son, touch you, and feel you, but only for a few minutes.”
Clark understood as he took a shuddering breath. “I understand, but ... thank you for that.” He paused as he tried to gather his thoughts. “I feel so lost; I don’t know what to do, but ... I do want to continue being Superman; it is all I have now, but ...”
“It will take time Kal-El,” Jor-El told his son.
Clark wiped at his eyes and wondered. “I know, but how long ...?”
They glanced at each other. “Just know that we ... love you, Kal-El.” Lara paused. “Stay with us for a little while, my son, until you decide,” she told him.
He tried to smile through his tears. “I’d like that.”
After living with his parents at the Fortress for several years, he continued being Earth’s savior, he sold his condo, left Metropolis and moved onto the Watchtower space station. Clark had made some hard decisions during that time. He really had no choice in the matter; he had to guard what little heart he had left or he didn’t know what would happen to him. He wondered again at this cold and calculated person he had become as he tried to stay firm in his resolve, but no plan, no best laid plan would prepare him for those few moments out of time that would change his life ... forever.
Clark Kent, aka Jonathan Clark, aka Superman, sat on a park bench across from the Daily Planet building awash with memories of his dead wife, Lois Lane-Kent. Although his beloved wife had been dead for nearly a thousand years, Clark had just seen her not ten minutes ago, held her close in his arms, smelled her perfume, gazed upon her lovely face, kissed her soft cheek and he wanted never to leave her arms again. He took a shuddering breath, held tightly to those images, as he knew they would have to last him for the rest of his life. “Oh Lois,” he whispered, as he closed his eyes and tried to stem the flow of tears.
As he drew in the memories of those few minutes with her, he sealed them away inside his heart, and then played them again in his mind’s eye over and over again.
As I was flying over the city making my rounds, I heard a familiar sound, a sound I had not heard since the night Lois had died in my arms … her heartbeat. And after forever, it seemed, I heard her voice again:
“It’s you, isn’t it?”
When I saw her again after so long a time, I couldn’t stop my tears and the memories that her presence brought. “Yes, Lois, it’s me.” I pulled out a hankie, took off my glasses, wiped at my eyes, and blew my nose loudly. “Sorry.”
“Please don’t apologize. It must be hard seeing me after all this time. It must bring back a lot of memories of happier times in Smallville, right?”
“Yeah, happier times,” I replied and couldn’t help smiling at her.
“Clark, I have so many questions for you.”
“I know you do, but I can’t answer any of them.”
“I don’t understand. It’s just a few questions.”
“Lois, you know as well as I do that you have more than a few questions, and I want to answer them, but it is best you know as little as possible about the future. Tell me you understand why this is so important.”
She sighed. “I suppose you’re right.”
“You know I am. Now, I have one question for you. How did you get here?”
Lois took the ring out of her pocket very slowly, placed it in her palm, and showed it to me. “This ring brought me here totally by accident. How do I use it to get back home? Please tell me you know how it works and how to use it.”
“Yes Lois, I know, and don’t worry, you’ll be home in no time.”
Lois suddenly threw her arms around my neck and held me close for a few moments.
I was startled at first, and then I put my arms around her, closed my eyes for just a moment. I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t dreaming, that Lois was warm and alive and in my arms again.
Lois was the first to pull back. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
I could see how affected she was by our hug, no matter how innocent. Yes, it was time to go. “Are you ready to go home?”
“Yes, Clark, I’m ready.”
“Now before you put the ring on your finger, I want you to think of a date, the day you left Smallville, only deduct one day, so you will arrive before this happened, and you can stop it from happening again.”
“Yes, I understand. I’m thinking of a date.”
“Lois, there’s something else I need to tell you and it’s very important. You can’t tell anyone about coming here, about what you’ve seen or heard, and especially about meeting me. You must also find a way to return the ring without anyone knowing that it was missing, and you must try very hard to forget this ever happened. Do you understand?”
“But how can I forget? I’ll see you everyday.”
“I know it will be hard, but your Clark needs time to accept his destiny, time to find his own way in his own time. Please tell me you understand.”
“Alright, Clark, I understand. I won’t say a word.”
“That’s my girl. I mean ... thank you, Lois. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, I’m ready.”
“It was wonderful seeing you again. I admit I was sad at first, but having you here if only for a little while has brought me so much joy that I’ll never forget it.” I couldn’t stop myself. I kissed her cheek. “Goodbye, Lois. You can put the ring on your finger now.”
“Goodbye, Clark and thank you.” She touched my cheek in a way that only Lois would.
She put the ring on her finger, took one last look at me, and then she was gone.
Clark opened his tear-filled eyes, looked up at the sky, and tried with everything in him to accept the truth, that Lois was gone. But a part of him, a very large part of him, had wanted her to stay with him for just a little while longer. He had wanted so badly to talk to her about her life in the past, about her work, about anything to keep her there with him, just to hear her voice, to see her smile, to see that sparkle in her eyes, to touch her again, just for a few more minutes. Oh, the memories. He could not help remembering the first time Lois had told him that she loved him; he would never forget it.
“Clark, we’ve danced around each other for years, and after everything that happened over the past few days, I just can’t do it anymore.” She squeezed my hand. “I almost died, and I don’t know... I’ve been hurt before, and well, quite a few times, actually. You remember, don’t you?”
“Yes, Lois, I remember.” How could I forget?
“It’s just seeing Chloe and what she’s going through, loosing Jimmy, it’s opened my eyes and I don’t want to waste any more time. Clark, I’d die if anything ever happened to you. That’s how much I love you.”
“Oh, Lois.” That was the last thing I expected her to say, but oh, how it pleased me. My heart felt like it was soaring into the clouds.
“I do; I love you so much that it hurts to look at you sometimes. Please, just tell me I’m not alone here.”
“Of course, you’re not alone. I love you too, Lois. I’ve loved you for such a long time.” There it was, and I couldn’t deny it, not anymore.
“Oh, Clark, I wish I could hold you properly, kiss you and love you.” Lois was beaming and smiling at me.
“Well, I think we can manage a little kiss.” I stood up then, wiped her tears away with the back of my hand. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Clark, I look like crap; just kiss me already.” She smiled at me.
And of course, I kissed her.
Once the memories had faded, Clark sighed heavily as the tears fell freely now. Lois is gone, gone back to her own time, where she belongs with me, my younger self. He shook his head and tried to smile, as he thought of Clark Kent in the past, and all the many, many years he would have with her, but what about him? He felt foolish, but he was envious of his younger self and he also thought why now, why had she come back now, at this particular time?
He stood up then, suddenly very weary of it all, wiped at his eyes with a hankie, and thought about the answer to that question, but just as a possible answer came to him, he heard a plane high in the sky, and it did not sound like a smooth landing to him. He was instantly on alert, as he looked at his surroundings and did not see too many people around, spotted a large hedge, quickly went behind it, took off his glasses, twirled into the suit and streaked into the sky.