This story seems to get too complicated even for me. So, I'm going to do a listing of the characters involved, just for my own sanity. tongue

But since I don't want to bore people, I'm putting it in the TOC .

Thanks for bearing with me thus far.

Lote
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Part 22.

The phone rang, making Hawk jump. He had been staring at the wall for hours. Earlier, he had received a call from a friend in FBI who confirmed that someone from the FBI created Lykos’s cover and that there were hints about an FBI investigation into the doings of the syndicate. It seemed that it predated Lykos’s involvement, though. He wondered who else the mole could be, or if there was someone from the FBI working undercover. The whole thing seemed out of control.

He stared at the phone, debating whether to pick it up. Even though there was no number on the caller ID, he knew who it was. He really had no wish to talk to her. What he’d like to do was to take his share of the money and get the hell out of Metropolis. Why couldn’t he? He had access to the Swiss Bank account, and he hadn’t had all that many ties in Metropolis. After all, he and his wife were estranged and going through the divorce proceedings at the moment. No children and no relatives. Since he had become involved in the ring, his friendship ties had also started declining. Probably the only thing he’d miss would be his beautiful study. ‘Yes, I should bail out before I become her scapegoat. Perhaps, I might even help the FBI on this,’ he thought, his mouth curving into an evil smile. He let the phone rang as he left his study to start packing.

On the other end of the phone, the lady was furiously tapping her feet while she waited for the phone to be answered. ‘No doubt, Hawk is too chicken to face me,’ she fumed. ‘That’s probably why I had to find out from Andy about Lykos and Sims. I knew Sims wasn’t the right candidate for the syndicate. But Hawk insisted. Now look what happened. It’s probably not easy to get rid of her, now. Damage control. That’s what’s needed now.’

She slammed down the phone when the operator’s voice came on. Hawk wasn’t answering his phone. Was he thinking of bailing out? The thought crossed her mind and she became alarmed. He knew too much about her and the syndicate. No, he couldn’t be allowed to leave. Taking her purse, she went out of the apartment and drove over to his place. He might not know it but he wouldn’t escape her clutches so easily.

____________

“Wake up, Sidney,” John gently spoke into her ears. Sidney had fallen asleep during the drive back to her place and John loathed to wake her up. He liked the way she had curled up against the door, breathing softly. He’d like to imagine it wasn’t a snore, but a quiet sound of contentment. He also liked the way her face softened in her sleep; with her guard down in her sleep, she looked much younger and more innocent. The hard-edged, sharp-witted FBI agent gave way to the gentle woman he knew had to be behind the FBI mask she wore so well.

She stirred awake, confused as to where she was. “Where are we?” she asked.

“Your place,” John answered.

“My place? This doesn’t look like mine.”

“It is. I’ve just taken the precaution to park a block away from your place, in case they might have surveillance on you.”

“Right. I guess you’re not coming with me then?” she asked, half wishing that he would.

He shook his head sheepishly. “I don’t want to put you in anymore danger. By now, they’ll probably suspect you. Our plans would be jeopardized if they saw us together.”

The investigator in her agreed with him. “Well then, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, opening the car door. She was stopped from going out by his hand on her arm.

“Sidney, wait.”

She turned to find out what was wrong, only to find herself being kissed gently by John. Surprised by it, she didn’t resist but just went with the feelings it invoked. It was a soft, tentative kiss, as if neither was sure about the other’s feelings. Indeed, they didn’t know the other’s feelings. Just their own. And for that particular moment, it was enough.

After what seemed like an eternity, they broke apart. John looked at her guiltily. “I’m so…”

“Don’t. Don’t say you’re sorry, please,” she pleaded, her voice hoarse. She didn’t want to find out that whatever she felt was a mistake on his part.

He gazed into her eyes, seeing the plead in there. On reflex, his right hand came up to caress her left cheek. Whispering softly, he said with a tender smile, “No, I’m not sorry for kissing you, just sorry that I didn’t warn you about it. Sidney, I know we’ve only known each other for a short time but I believe we do have feelings for each other. Do you?”

She nodded, unable to speak.

“If you want, only if you want, maybe once this is over, we can explore these feelings?” he asked tentatively, feeling a little shy all of a sudden.

She nodded again, feeling just as shy. “I’d like that,” she agreed, blushing a little. Not really knowing how to end it, she changed topics and said gruffly, “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you.”

“All right. Be careful,” John advised. Both of them suddenly realized that his hand was still cradling her cheek. Sheepishly, he let it fall but not before she caught it to press a small kiss into his palm. He raised his eyes to hers to find her winking at him mischievously.

“Bye,” she said and left.

He waited until she disappeared from sight before turning on the engine and driving off. Without realizing it, he whistled a merry little tune all the way home.

_____________


Clark listened as Lois recapped that last scene. She hadn’t been very forward in talking about the investigation besides the article she had written. He never knew how close he was to losing her that night. ‘Well,’ he amended to himself. ‘That’s not true. I didn’t know that I could have lost her before I had even known how close I was to losing her. What would have happened if she had died while I was on Superman duty?’ He found himself wondering if he would have been able to go on if that had happened. Already, seeing her almost dying had him shaken right to his core.

“Lois, I wish…” he began, and then stopped. He didn’t really know what to say in response to what she was saying.

Lois ignored him, gripped by a puzzling thought. Instead she asked him, “Clark, how did you know where I was? Or that I was in trouble at all? I never really realized how strange it was until now that you were able to know I was in trouble.”

Clark frowned, trying to remember what caused him to search for her and to come to her rescue almost too late. “Hmmm…”

**********

“Perry, are you sure she said that she just wanted to stay at home. She didn’t mention any plans about going elsewhere?” Clark asked worriedly into the phone, as he searched Lois’s empty apartment once more with his ‘gizmo vision’.

“I’m sure, Clark. What’s wrong? Lois isn’t around, is she?”

Clark could hear the rising alarm in Perry’s voice. “No, the place is empty.”

“Could she have just gone out for a while?”

“I doubt it, Perry. The place hasn’t seemed to have been inhabited for a few days. Are you sure she wasn’t working on anything before she took her leave?”

“As far as I know. But perhaps you should check with some of her sources. And Clark, let me know if you find out anything.”

“Will do, Perry. Goodnight,” Clark replied.

“Goodnight.” A click ended the call.

Clark looked around once again. “Where are you, Lois?” he asked the empty apartment. He had this nagging feeling that she was in trouble. It was frustrating and worrying not knowing where she was or what she was into. ‘Yes, perhaps Bobby know something,’ he thought as he punched in Bobby’s number.

Bobby told him about the syndicate which was harvesting the organs of homeless people, and Lois was undercover. Clark was livid that Lois went undercover without notifying anyone. ‘How could she do this? Didn’t she think about the risks involved? What if she got into trouble? If no one knew about it, she’d be on her own. In fact, she is on her own.’

He was glad that at least Bobby gave him a place to start looking for her. Checking her computer diary entries, he managed to locate her notes on the investigation. She never knew that he knew about the fake diary entries. If she did, she’d have ranted at him for invading her privacy, if not worse. He had always felt bad about the knowledge. But in this case, he was glad that he knew. He called Perry to let him know what had happened. Perry was furious. He ranted at the stupidity of some reporters. Clark let him rant, knowing that being furious was Perry’s way of coping with worry. He knew that Perry was very worried, perhaps as much as he was. After all, Perry considered Lois as a daughter.

After managing to reassure Perry that he’d find her, Clark hit the pavement in search for Lois. However, he was unable to locate Lois in the places she indicated that she’d be looking into. None of the few homeless who were around would talk to him. He decided to search for Lois in the shelters since most of the homeless seemed to have taken shelter this cold night. Unfortunately none of the shelters he went to knew anything about Lois.

He was getting desperate, the feeling of dread mounting. The inexplicable connection between Lois and him was sending signals that she was in grave danger. He felt like tearing apart the whole of Metropolis, turning it upside down to look for her but knew that it’d do no good. A calm, rational mind was needed in these kind of situations, one which he was losing every passing minute. Unable to stand it much longer, he shot up into the air and started scanning every alley that could possibly shelter some of the homeless.

He was about to quit when he heard a gun being fired nearby. Driven by instincts, he was unable to ignore the gunshot and immediately flew towards the vicinity. Once there, he saw the bullet flying across the short distance towards Lois. He dived and screamed, “Noooo….”

**********

“Oh, Clark. I’m sorry. I should not have gone without informing anyone,” Lois cried out, feeling ashamed for what she put the ones closest to her through with her unthinking actions.

“Yes, you shouldn’t have,” Clark admonished gently. “But some good came out of it, I believe. Just don’t do it again.”

“Cross my heart and hope to…” Lois said with a small grin, resorting to a childish phrase in order to alleviate the mood a little.

Clark immediately put his finger on her lips. “Don’t joke about it, Lois,” he scolded. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Her expression softened, and she kissed the finger. “Nothing will happen to me. Well, nothing except for more classes, that is,” she sighed. Then she brightened up considerably.

Clark looked at her suspiciously. “What?” he asked, almost dreading the answer.

“Nothing,” she said innocently.

“Come on, Lois. You don’t get that look unless you’ve something up your sleeve,” Clark cajoled.

She pretended to think about it for a while before dissolving into laughter. Clark rolled his eyes which made her laugh even more.

“Well…” Clark demanded after she had mastered her laughter.

“O.K., O.K., don’t get your nose out of joint. I was just thinking how much fun it’ll be tomorrow in history class,” she clarified with a mischievous grin.

“Uh oh,” was Clark’s only response as he grinned back at her. “Behave yourself, Ms. Thompkins.”

“No can do, Prof. Kelton,” she replied, her grin widening. “After all, this is the one opportunity for me to disturb you.”

“Lois…”

“Yeah?”

“If you do anything funny, be sure that there’ll be payback,” Clark warned, an evil grin appearing on his face.

Lois drew herself up haughtily. “Funny? What do you mean ‘funny’? I do happen to have better taste.”

“Just warning you,” Clark reiterated, getting up from the couch. “We should turn in now, if we want to get a head start tomorrow.”

Lois got up as well and took his outstretched hand. She wrapped his arms around her, snuggling against him as they made their way up the stairs.

__________

“Deb, Camille is sure to ask where we were.”

The ebony haired girl, Deborah, turned to the person addressing her. Her tall companion looked rather worried.

“Easy, Helen,” she replied. “What we do in our free time is our own business.”

The tall girl, Helen, frowned. “While that’s true, she’d likely ask and we do have to tell her something.”

“Tell her the truth.”

“What!”

Deborah held up her hand, stalling Helen’s outburst. “There’s nothing wrong with telling her that we went to Kaylie’s funeral. After all, Kaylie was our friend.”

“She’s not going to like that.”

“She doesn’t have to like it.”

“But that doesn’t explain the rest of the evening. She would have known that the funeral was in the day,” Helen insisted.

“I’ll handle it, Helen. Just agree with me, when she asks.” Deborah assured her friend.

“All right. Just don’t make her suspicious, if we do all our plans will go down the drain,” Helen reminded Deborah.

Deborah just grinned confidently as they made their way up to their apartment. Upon entering the apartment, they found Camille pacing the living room. “Where have the two of you been?” Camille immediately asked.

“Worried about us?” asked Deborah tauntingly.

Camille glared at her. “You never go out on Sundays. Why the change?”

“Kaylie’s funeral was today. While you probably don’t have a heart to care enough, we do,” Deborah retorted.

“ ‘Don’t have a heart!’ Deb, if you weren’t my friend, I’d have…”

“You’d have what?” Deborah taunted, “I’m not your friend. Camille, you don’t have any friends. You only use us when it’s good for you. Otherwise, you cast us aside.”

Camille looked like she would burst as she turned redder and redder. “I took you guys in, didn’t I? When you needed the money, I lent it to you. How ungrateful can you get?” she hissed at them.

Helen groaned inwardly, wondering if she should interfere. But she had agreed to let Deborah handle it, even if she disagreed with the way she was managing it.

Deborah, on the other hand, was enjoying the confrontation. “Grateful to be a prostitute? You’ve got a weird sense of what to be grateful for and what not to be. I’m tired. Goodnight.” She walked away, leaving Camille sputtering.

Helen decided that it was best to just follow Deborah, though she couldn’t resist a glance at the furious Camille. Camille turned around and marched straight to her room, banging her door closed. Deborah flashed a smug grin at Helen before going into her own room too. Helen sighed before switching off the living room’s lights and heading to her room.

________________
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There are men who hate me;
Let me love them.
There are men I have wronged;
Let them forgive me.

- Saying of the Dinka Tribe