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<GRAMS: "Journey of the Sorcerer">

"In the beginning, Lois & Clark was created. This has made a lot of people very happy and has been widely regarded as a Good Move..."
--
Not the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

(Well, what were you expecting as an intro to part 42? biggrin )

Meanwhile, back in Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha wink , Lois and Clark are sharing a moment of closeness (and a night flight) after Clark revealed to Lois some of the possible futures of her counterparts in other universes -- which rather shook her up, as well they might. I mean, what a choice: world-wide historical fame or an unpleasant death in a Congolese jungle...!

But, as Lois was there to help Clark deal with the shock of meeting the Kents, so he is there to help her cope with this distressing revelation...


*****

Now read on:

Clark "dawdled" in the air, more floating than flying over the fields as he waited for Lois to regain her composure; if it came to that, he was feeling a little fragile emotionally himself, and to just be able to hold Lois close... well, he couldn't think of a better way to cope with everything. He wished he could tell her that, but she still wasn't ready to hear it... though some of what she'd said and done today gave him hope.

Patience, Kent, patience... he thought. You've just told her that, in one possible future, she'll be one of the founders of a future utopia; and in another, she'll "help" save the world from a nuclear holocaust by being messily killed; and that her future might be something else entirely... Now is not the time for romantic declarations.

Shortly thereafter, Lois turned her head to look at him. She didn't say anything, though, and the silence stretched for an uncomfortable time until Clark broke it with, "You okay?"

"Yeah..." Lois murmured softly, almost dreamily. There was another silence, but a shorter, more comfortable one, ending when she asked, her voice now stronger and more like its usual self, "Where to now?"

"Hadn't really thought about it," Clark admitted. "I guess we'd better look for somewhere to stay the night. I wonder if Red Harris still has the Smallville Motel -- if he ever did, here..."

Lois grimaced at the thought of a small-town motel. Maybe she'd seen too many re-runs of Psycho, but spending a night in a Kansas flea-trap was not an attractive prospect. But there wasn't really an alternative -- or was there?

"Clark..." she said hesitantly, "what do you think about going back to the farm?"

"Uh..." he said, taken off-guard, "I hadn't thought about it. I... we... I don't want to impose on them..."

His nervous reluctance was almost palpable, but Lois pressed her point. "We don't have to impose on them, but I think they'd like to know how we got on. You wouldn't want to worry them, would you? Especially Jonathan; I think he's one of those long-term ulcer candidates who could worry for Kansas, given a reason -- like, say, his long-lost 'son' turning up out of nowhere to warn him about insane phoney Federal agents, and then flying off to look for a weird rock that could kill him..."

"Okay, okay," Clark muttered, knowing perfectly well what she was doing and realising that he might as well go along with it, because he wasn't going to win the argument anyway. So, faced with what amounted to a fait accompli, he headed for the nearby farmhouse, but not too fast. He was in no hurry to end the present closeness between them, and he didn't think Lois was, either -- which was something to marvel at, and be very glad of, under the circumstances. Yes, patience was the key; eventually, she would be ready to hear what he wanted to say to her. Until then, he would wait, and protect her, and give her the support that no-one else would.

Back at the farmyard, albeit several hundred feet above it, he hovered for a moment, searching the surrounding area for unwelcome eyes and ears, human or mechanical. He found none, and gently descended to land by the kitchen door. He ought to have set her on her feet once he'd touched down, but he didn't immediately, nor did she make any attempt to move out of his arms; instead, they remained motionless, content to stay as they were at that moment.

They stayed that way for some time, until a noise from inside distracted them from the peaceful near-trance that they had fallen into. They both cast quick looks in the direction of the light from the kitchen window, then glanced at one another, equally rueful half-smiles on their faces.

Clark somewhat reluctantly put Lois down and let her regain her balance before whispering, "Back in a flash!" and disappearing in a rush of wind. His words turned out to be a good estimate because Lois barely had time to blink before he reappeared, their luggage in hand. "We left these back at the grove," he explained.

"Yeah, and you flew us here as Clark," Lois responded, having only just managed to realise it.

"I know..." But you needed me and I didn't want to waste the time to change. "...but I checked and no-one was watching, so I think we got away with it this time."

"Oh, okay..." she said, obviously deep in thought. Her abstraction didn't last long, and she knocked on the kitchen door.

There had been sounds of life from inside, but they stopped abruptly. "Who's there?" called a wary but strong voice -- Jonathan.

"Lois and Clark," Lois replied. Almost before she'd finished saying it, the door was yanked open and a pair of joyful Kansas farmers came rushing out.

"Oh, thank God!" Martha cried softly. "We were worried--!" She came to a sudden halt, both in motion and in voice. "Uh... I guess that sounds kind of crazy," she went on self-consciously.

"No," Clark said softly. "It's what I would have expected of you."

Martha's face lit up, and even Jonathan smiled slightly, but the older couple was still obviously embarrassed and made no further move towards their visitors. Instead, they stepped back and indicated the doorway into the kitchen. "Uh... would you like some coffee, or maybe something to eat, and you could tell us what happened after you left..."

"Sure," said Clark. "We thought you'd want to know; that's why we came back."

Martha immediately darted inside to put the coffee on, and Lois followed. There was a little awkwardness behind them as Jonathan and Clark both tried to be polite and let the other man go first, but they sorted it out eventually and joined the women at the big kitchen table.

*****

Clark stretched and leaned back in his chair, letting a peace that he hadn't known for so long, or ever thought that he'd know again, seep into his soul. This was home... Okay, so it wasn't his home, but it was so like what he remembered before the accident that he couldn't help but find it familiar. There were a few differences -- more modern kitchen appliances, for instance -- but the rest was identical to the place where he'd spent so much time as a boy, and the feelings that being here brought were quite incredible; the only thing that even rivalled them in his experience was... was being with Lois.

Big surprise there, Kent, he thought. Almost everything you've ever wanted is in this room, around this table. So don't blow this, because these are the people you need. Do not let Trask and his goons hurt them!

Unconsciously, one fist clenched under the table, but almost at once he was distracted by Martha passing around the coffee -- and by Lois' reaction to her first sip. "Hey, this is good, Martha. Now I know where Clark learned to make coffee--!"

She came to a crashing halt as she realised what she was saying and looked at her hostess in horrified embarrassment. Both Clark and Jonathan also darted worried looks at the older woman, but the object of all this scrutiny seemed unfazed. She finished giving her husband his coffee and sat down with her own, a small smile dancing about her lips. "It's all right, dear," she said serenely. "Now you know how I felt a few minutes ago. I'll just have to take it as a compliment; if I had ever had the chance to teach my son how to make coffee, I'd have done a good job."

She sipped at her own coffee thoughtfully, before continuing, "It's a little un-nerving, isn't it? We only met a couple of hours ago, and I know that Clark is not my son, and I'm not his mother, and yet... I almost feel as though he's come home. And you, Lois, you feel like an old friend that I haven't seen for a long time. It would be a very weird feeling if it wasn't so... comfortable."

"Maybe we should stop worrying about it," Clark said quietly, but oh, so clearly, "and just accept it. We're all feeling this... whatever it is, so maybe we shouldn't fight it. We seem to be instinctively reacting to each other as though we were close acquaintances who hadn't seen one another for a long while, so let's... catch up on everybody's news."

Now Martha was wide-eyed. "Oh, Jonathan," she half-gasped, "that is so like you..."

Her husband didn't quite agree. "Well, I won't pretend to understand why we're all feeling like this, but Clark makes good sense. But all that 'stop worrying and accept things' stuff is you, Martha, not me."

It was Lois, naturally, who settled the matter. "Or maybe he's combining the two of you -- his father's good sense with his mother's ability to accept and cope with some pretty weird happenings."

There was nothing that could be said in reply to that. Clark raised his coffee cup in salute to Lois, and then to the Kents. They responded in kind, and a comfortable silence fell across the table. It was eventually broken by Martha asking how the Kryptonite hunt had gone, and the foursome began what was to become several hours of thoroughly enjoyable conversation over more of Martha's excellent coffee -- not to mention the apple-and-blackcurrant pie and home-made ice cream.

They talked about finding and disposing of the Kryptonite, about Clark learning to make coffee (Lois' opinion that his hot chocolate was even better brought a smile to Martha's lips and an answering grin to Clark's -- "Jade and Obsidian?" "What else?"), about Metropolis and Smallville, about the farm and the newsroom, about people and places and events, old and new... in short, about almost anything and everything that four people might consider "news" to be caught up on across a kitchen table, or that intelligent minds might consider worth discussing in the light of what they'd been talking about earlier.

Even, eventually, about Jason Trask and the events of the last couple of days and of thirty-odd years ago.

At one point, Clark mentioned that the Bureau 39 photos of the spaceship were pretty blurred and had obviously been taken from a long way away, whereupon Jonathan, who, though an attentive listener, had had least to say of any of them, burst out laughing. "I'll bet they were!" he guffawed. "After we brought the baby home, I went back to the field to look at the ship. I didn't know quite what to do with it -- not then -- but I figured I couldn't just leave it there. But I didn't want anyone poking their noses in, not with the baby to think of, so when I decided to go and get Wayne Irig to help me move it, I provided a little... cover, you might say. Old Man Shuster's prize bull was in the next field, so I opened the gate and let him in."

Now it was Clark's turn to laugh. "Oh, man! That explains everything! That must have been Cassius."

"Yep. Grand Champion Jubilation Abraxis Cassius, the orneriest bull I've ever known -- unless he liked you, but there was no way to tell that short of getting in a field with him, and you better be ready to leave if he decided that he didn't like you! See, I knew he liked me, and Wayne was a sort of borderline case -- he'd be fine as long as he was with me -- but I couldn't imagine Cassius letting anyone else in that field while I was gone."

"I'll bet! That bull was the meanest animal I ever met. No wonder those photos were so blurred -- the poor guy taking them was probably scared stiff that Cassius was gonna charge over and trample him!"

Jonathan went on to explain what had happened to the ship. Lois and Clark applauded his cleverness in burying it in a patch of ground that he normally used for working on farm machinery. The soil there was known to have a high metal content anyway, and Jonathan had added to it by burying the ship deeply, covering it over with a layer of soil and then throwing some old rusted, worn-out bits of a long-retired tractor and plough on top before filling the hole in. "I thought someone might try to use a metal detector or something to find it, so I figured that the soil would mess that up, and if that wasn't enough, the scrap ought to convince 'em that there was nothing there."

Clark lowered his glasses slightly and looked through the wall. If Jonathan used the same place to work on the tractor that his dad had, then the ship, if it was still there, ought to be... Yep. There it was, in as pristine condition as the day it had arrived. He pushed his glasses back up and returned his attention to the chat at the table, only to find Lois appraising him. "Well, is it still there?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

The Kents looked surprised, and she explained smugly, "When he pulls down his glasses like that, it means he's using his super-vision. I'll bet that he was looking to see if the ship is still where you buried it." She looked back at him. "Is it?"

Clark laughed. "Yes, Lois, it's still there."

"That's a relief. Trask can't have any idea that it's here, then, which means that we'll have a chance to find him and stop him first." She fell silent, thinking hard, and seemingly oblivious to the now-intent gazes of the others -- Clark watching her expectantly, and the Kents staring at both of them, fascinated by their by-play and wondering what could possibly be going to come next. Eventually, she tilted her head to meet her partner's eyes and asked almost nonchalantly, "Has the ship out there got its Globe?"

Clark looked startled for a second, then repeated his x-ray scan of the farmyard. "Yes, it does," he said solemnly after a moment. "I guess that's no surprise; it wouldn't have any purpose with its Kal-El dead..."

He could tell that Jonathan and Martha were brimming with unspoken questions, so he got up and went over to his rucksack, rummaging in it for a second before producing the small wooden chest, which he placed on the table. As he unlocked it, Lois leaned over to whisper to Martha, "Get ready to be stunned..."

As in the hotel room only hours before, Clark unlocked the chest and opened it, and the Globe rose into the air, glowing brightly. "This is my version of the Globe that Lois and I were talking about," he said quietly. "It's apparently the navigation system of the ship, or something like that. It also has some messages stored in it -- messages from my Kryptonian father. I think you should see them; if nothing else, it may finally answer the question of how you came to find a baby in a spaceship..."

The Globe's glow dimmed to reveal its map of Earth. "I think you recognise this world," Clark said, just a hint of a chuckle in his voice, before reaching out to touch the floating sphere. The red-and-yellow continents appeared, and he went on, "But you won't know this one. This is Krypton, where I was born."

He said no more, content to let the Globe -- or, perhaps, Jor-El -- tell the tale. The map of Krypton faded and the hologram of his father appeared with the usual flash of light, and Clark settled back to watch, yet again, the explanation of why he was what and where he was. For once, though, he wished that the messages from his father didn't invade his mind quite so thoroughly. The images engaged his senses, and those of anyone who was watching, to the exclusion of everything else and, this time, he would have preferred to watch Jonathan and Martha; their reaction to what they were about to see was more important.

Jor-El began to speak...

*****

<GRAMS: "Journey of the Sorcerer">

I used the "We've seen that before" line a few parts back -- but it's still true. wink Join us next time for not-even-remotely-scandalous goings-on in a barn... and Lois' ruminations on Life, the Universe and Clark Kent.
wink

Phil, who has wished for a Babel Fish on occasion goofy

PS. Happy holidays to everyone, and who knows? There might even be an extra part put up for Christmas. No promises, but... wink
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"Ping! Ping! Ping!" -- Mother Box