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Innocence Lost
By Laura Davies AKA Bratling AKA BrightFeather

Rated: PG-13

Finished: July 2005

Disclaimer: If you think I own Lois, Clark, Jimmy, ect, you're sadly mistaken.  I stole them, hugged them, squeezed them, called them George and gave them back like a good girl.  All Lois and Clark related characters are owned by the WB and DC comics.  <g> All other characters not seen in the series are a figment of my chocolate and PEZ high imagination and belong to me. ;) In other words, Rachel, Jamie, and all other new people are *mine*! All *mine*! Mwahahahaha!  Other bouts of weirdness can be attributed to sleep-deprivation.  Any resemblance to any other work of fiction is strictly coincidental and probably due to Pixie Stix induced sugar-highs.

Author's Note: This is the sequel to Little Girl Lost, but can stand on its own.  For those coming in late, Rachel Kent is Lois and Clark's adopted daughter.  She was severely abused by her stepfather, whom she calls 'Papa Gary' before our favorite couple got her.  At this point in the timeline, Rachel is six years old, and Matthew James, or 'Jamie'--Lois and Clark's biological son--is a month old.  (Born July 20, 1999, 4:45 PM, 9 lbs. 7 oz. ;) And yes, I've been living in their heads for too long!)

As with Little Girl Lost, this piece is somewhat dark, and may be offensive to some readers.  Again, I'm tackling serious subject matter--readers beware.  Violence by and against children is on the rise, and I believe that Rachel is probably the best Kent child to deal with this subject because she already knows that the world isn't all sweetness and light, and can sometimes be a dark and scary place.  I promise an interesting read with a happy ending--I've always hated stories than end unhappily.  This story is dedicated to all those who asked for "more about Rachel" as well as the survivors of child abuse. 

My thanks go to all the beta readers who worked with me on this project, Jenni, Pat, Cindy, she who wishes not to be named, Nan, and Robin, the readers on both message boards, and to the #lanekent crew.  This story was almost two years in the telling, so my thanks to all the readers who stuck it out and kept asking for more.  Thanks especially goes to Nan and Jenni, both of whom refused to let me quit.

"There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid."

    -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


~*~*~*~


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 1:
     Witness
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

August 21, 1999 4:30 PM
Centennial Park, Metropolis

Rachel walked quickly into the woods, glancing back to where her mother was pacing with her baby brother next to the playground.  Her momma had given permission for her to go play, so she wouldn't be looking for her for a few minutes.  It was late afternoon, and Jamie was crying *again*.  It seemed as if he never stopped!  She knew that they had to take care of him, but it seemed as if her momma and daddy were paying more attention to the baby than they paid to her.  They were so worried about him.  Sometimes she wondered if they remembered she existed.

"Take *that*." She heard a voice say somewhere in front of her.  Curious, Rachel snuck quietly up to a thicket of bushes and peeked cautiously through the green leaves.  She shivered as she saw the gloved figure hit a smaller form with a rock over and over, muttering under its breath.  Quietly, she wormed her way into the bushes and watched in horrified fascination as the person stopped its actions and began to arrange the still body.  Rachel's eyes widened as she noticed the condition of the body.  She could see blood--lots of blood--all around the silent form.  'Maybe they're playing and its just ketchup,' she thought.  The person turned toward her, still holding the blood-spattered rock, so she froze lest she be discovered.

Rachel curled herself into a tight ball, being careful not to disturb the greenery around her as the horrifying events played out in front of her.  She desperately wanted to call for her daddy, but knew that the attacker would probably reach her to shut her up before her calls of, "Help, Superman" could reach his ears. She bit her lip; desperately holding back tears as the person finished, dug a hole, buried the rock, covered up the disturbed spot with leaves and other debris, and left the scene of the crime.  She looked at the body of a small boy, and yanked on a strand of hair.  She didn't know if he was dead or alive, but something about his silent form reminded her of the way her first mommy had looked at the funeral.

"He's dead," she whispered, terrified by what she had just seen.  Rachel waited for a few minutes before crawling out of her hiding place and making her way back to the bench were her momma was sitting with the now sleeping Jamie.  “Can we go home now, Momma?” she asked, tugging on Lois's shirt.

Lois examined Rachel closely, concerned.  “What's the matter, peanut?” she asked, freeing one hand to brush a lock of tangled hair away from Rachel's face.

Rachel smiled brightly, refusing to show the terror she felt when thinking about what she had just witnessed.  “Nothing, Momma--I just wanna go home.  It's *hot* out here.”

Lois studied Rachel intently before finally nodding.  She laid Jamie in the stroller and gathered up his things before standing up and holding her hand out to Rachel.  “Hold my hand, Rachel,” she ordered.

“Momma--”

“Rachel, you have two choices: you can either hold my hand, or you can hold on to the stroller.”

Rachel grimaced, reached for her mother's hand, and walked silently beside Lois to the car.  The images of what she had seen kept replaying themselves in her mind--and at that moment, she didn't want to be touched.  She knew that her momma and daddy would never hurt her, but what she had seen brought back memories that she'd rather forget.

Rachel reached back and ran a finger over circular scars just above her hairline, remembering how she had received them.  True, Papa Gary hadn't ever hit her with a rock--he preferred his fists, his belt.  And the person who had hurt the boy was considerably smaller than Papa Gary.  She climbed into the Jeep and shut her eyes tightly as Lois unfastened the car seat from the stroller and belted it and Jamie into the car. Rachel fastened her seatbelt and waited as her mother folded the remains of the baby's stroller and loaded it into the car.

Rachel's mind shied away from the memory of what had just happened as well as the remembrance of how Papa Gary had occasionally put out his cigarettes.  Lois got into the Jeep and looked back at her daughter.  “Baby, are you all right?” she asked, concerned by the expression on the child's face.

"I'm just tired, Momma," Rachel said listlessly.  She couldn't talk about what she'd seen.  Momma had enough to deal with because of Jamie's colic and she'd been doing some editing work from home when he was sleeping.  She leaned over and kissed her brother on the cheek.  She had to protect him, and that meant protecting her parents as well.  Silently, she vowed not to say anything about the little boy she'd seen killed.  It would worry them, and she didn't want to give them any reason to give her back.

Rachel frowned slightly as she remembered rumors she'd heard in the orphanage about kids being given back even after they were adopted.  It wouldn't happen to her.  "I'm okay," she whispered, curling up in the seat as much as she could manage while still being buckled in.

Rachel closed her eyes and tried to forget what she'd seen by remembering the last time she'd convinced her Daddy to take her flying.  She loved the way the wind felt in her hair and the feel of his strong arms around her, holding her as if she were the most precious thing in the world.  She let her mind drift to her momma holding her and singing as she rocked her to sleep.    With sudden clarity, she knew that they'd never give her back, but the irrational fear was still there.  She really missed having more of their attention.

Rachel considered telling what she'd seen, but it would only hurt and worry her parents.  She refused to do that--she'd never even told them about how Papa Gary'd liked to put out his cigarettes when he was angry for that very reason.  She sighed and snuggled back into the seat, letting her eyes drift shut.  Rachel smiled as she let the happy memories she'd made with her family drift through her mind.  Her thumb slowly made its way into her mouth as she fell asleep.

~*~*~*~

August 21, 1999, 5:30 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Lois unbuckled Jamie's car seat and glanced over at Rachel.  She frowned in worry as she noticed the thumb stuck in Rachel's mouth.  It was becoming a common occurrence to find her daughter curled up in strange places, cuddling her bear, and sucking her thumb.  More often than not, Rachel was sound asleep when they found her.  Why, just last week, they'd found her in the hidden closet where Clark kept the Suits.

Rachel's therapist had claimed that Rachel was just feeling a little insecure, and that it would pass as she adjusted to having a new baby in the house, but Lois just couldn't help but feel concerned.  She pulled the baby carrier out of the car and set it in the stroller, making sure that the brake was on, before reaching over to unbuckle Rachel's seatbelt.  "Wake up, peanut," she said quietly.

Rachel stirred against the seat, then cracked open her large, dark blue eyes.  "Momma?" she asked around her thumb.

"We're home, sweetheart," Lois said.

"Okay," Rachel answered, climbing out of the car.  She followed Lois up to the door and inside just as Jamie started crying again.  Lois unbuckled the baby carrier and took Jamie out, expertly cradling him in her arms.  She walked back and forth, shushing him softly.  Rachel shivered.  When her other brother had cried, Papa Gary had punished her.  She tiptoed past them and hurried up to her room.

Lois watched her go, worried by her little girl's behavior.  She determined to ask the therapist about it at the next appointment and started singing softly to Jamie.  Fervently, she hoped that he'd grow out of the colic quickly.  She was starting to lose patience with the constant crying, not to mention losing way too much sleep over it.

She put her son up on her shoulder and began rubbing his back.  “Shh, sweetie, it's okay.”  Lois walked over to the rocking chair, sat down, and began to rock.  Deftly, she unfastened her blouse and nursing bra and offered her breast to Jamie.  He turned his head away and kept crying.  She sighed and fixed her clothes.  It had been worth a try.  He wasn't hungry, wet, or cold--it was just colic again.

Lois turned as she heard the soft thump of Clark landing outside.  He hurried over to her and held out his arms.  “I think it's my turn,” he murmured, taking the baby from her.

Lois rubbed her eyes tiredly.  “Thanks,” she said, standing up to plant a kiss on Jamie's forehead.  “It's a good thing I love you so much, kiddo, or I'd be tempted to try for a trade-in.”  Clark chuckled and leaned over the crying baby to kiss her gently. 

Lois broke off the kiss quickly and smiled.  “I'm going to check on Rachel,” she said as she started walking toward the stairs.

Clark watched her go until Jamie upped the volume.  He made soothing noises and rubbed the baby's tummy gently.  He took off and flew around the room, humming a lullaby in a slightly off-key voice.  Jamie started to quiet down.   "Shh," he whispered.  "It's okay, buddy."

The baby continued to whimper, and then started to scream yet again.  Clark stopped rubbing Jamie's tummy and started patting his back instead.  "Shhh," he murmured again.  He looked at his wailing son and grimaced.  He was glad that he could be there, but he wasn't sure how to help his little boy.  Dr. Klein and their pediatrician, Dr. Lindsey, said that the colic would pass, but sometimes he doubted it.  He'd cut back considerably on Superman calls since they had gotten Rachel, and had cut back again with Jamie's birth.  Sometimes he just felt... torn.  He *had* to take care of his family, but the world needed him, too.  At that moment, however, he couldn't think of anyone who needed him more than the helpless, colicky baby in his arms. 

Clark flew back and forth, hoping that the motion would soothe his son.  The baby continued to cry.  He sped up, praying that it would work--it always did, eventually.  Unfortunately, Superman burdened with a howling infant wasn't exactly something that the general public could see--otherwise, he might have been tempted to try flying to Smallville and back.  Jamie's crying wasn't exactly inconspicuous. 

Clark rocked his son back and forth as he flew and was gratified when the baby finally settled down.  He continued flying until Jamie yawned and fell asleep.  He flew slowly upstairs and settled the infant in the bassinet before tiptoeing out the door and shutting it gently.  He spun back into his street clothes and went downstairs.  He was sure that Lois and Rachel were hungry, and it was his turn to cook.

~*~*~*~

August 21, 1999 5:45 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Rachel huddled in the linen closet and pulled a blanket over her head.  Closets were good for hiding.  She hadn't liked them before, when she was still living with Papa Gary, but the closets in the Kent household were different.  Papa Gary had always put her in the 'punishment closet'--it still scared her to think about it.  He had boarded up the cracks, so that light couldn't get in, and she had felt as if she were suffocating once locked inside.

She could still hear Jamie crying, and the sound made her nervous.  She hadn't heard noises that loud for a long time--the Kents weren't a yelling kind of family.  Papa Gary had been, but he'd been in jail for *months*.  He deserved it, too, Rachel thought rebelliously as she pulled up her shirt to look at one of the old scars on her belly.

She smoothed the shirt down and pulled the blanket closer.  Rachel grimaced in distaste at the thought of her former stepfather.  He wasn't going to hurt her again, nobody would--her daddy had *promised*, and Superman always kept his promises.  She shivered; at least her parents hadn't seen her scars.  She'd been living with them for almost a year, and she still hadn't let them near when she was missing clothes where her scars would show.  She figured that it would only hurt them to see exactly what he'd done to her, and she couldn't let that happen; she *wouldn't* let that happen.  Rachel sighed.  Momma always got a sad look whenever she saw one of the few *visible* scars, so seeing more of them wasn't a good idea.

Her Momma and Daddy had *never* liked it that she wanted to take a bath on her own, but they accepted it.  They always seemed careful not to push her about stuff like that--they even seemed to understand when she didn't want to be touched.  She knew that they waited right outside the bathroom door for her; just in case she needed their help.

Rachel leaned back against some throw pillows in the corner of the closet and sighed.  Sometimes she wished that she could tell everything, but the very thought of it made her tummy feel funny.  Not even the doctor-lady who had her draw pictures every week knew.  The thought of how she had let him hurt her made her feel... ashamed.  Daddy kept telling her that none of it was her fault, but a small, insidious whisper inside her head said differently.  Part of her thought that she didn't deserve her new family--that Papa Gary was right and that she *was* bad.

Sometimes, for brief periods of time, she forgot, but it didn't take much to remind her.  Sometimes she still expected swift reprisals when she spilled her milk, dropped a toy, came back from playing minus a hair ribbon, or when they were just plain upset about something.  Her Momma and Daddy hadn't ever hit her, but a small part of her was still waiting for it.  Rachel reached for Aimee and cuddled her before putting her thumb back in her mouth.  She had heard momma asking the doctor-lady about her thumb-sucking, but she didn't know why it was a problem.

It was... comforting.  Her world had always been uncertain--at least until the adoption papers had been finalized--and it was one of her few constants.  Sure, she hadn't done it after her momma and daddy had gotten her, and she had stopped doing it in front of Papa Gary after he'd beaten her for it, but it just felt natural.  It was also an effective barrier--as long as she had her Aimee, CJ, and her thumb, the world would be stable around her for a brief time.

Rachel settled back into her nest of extra blankets, towels, and throw pillows with a sigh.  It had been a long day and she was tired.  Her stomach cramped, forcibly reminding her that it had been a long time since lunch.  She pushed the hunger away with the ease of long practice and closed her eyes.  She yawned and began to picture herself with the family she loved.  It wasn't all that hard to banish her bad memories if she tried, she decided.  All she had to do was to replace them with good ones--and the Kents were good for that.  She drifted in between being asleep and being awake, content despite the muffled, yet still angry howls of her baby brother.

Rachel cracked open her eyes as the door opened.  "Peanut?" Lois called softly.

"G'way," she replied.  "Am *sleepy*."

Lois crouched down on the floor and pulled the blanket off of Rachel's head.  "Wouldn't you be more comfortable in bed?" she asked, smiling.

Rachel frowned.  "Nuh, uh.  I like it here," she said.

Lois sighed and shook her head. "Baby, it'll be time for supper," she murmured.  "C'mon, Rachel, honey.  I know you must be hungry--lunch was a long time ago."

Rachel simply snuggled back into her pillows defiantly.  "What's the matter, sweetheart?" Lois asked.

Rachel buried her face in one of the pillows, not wanting to answer.  Lois reached out to stroke the child's hair.  "Is it the noise, peanut?" she murmured.

Rachel nodded hesitantly, her face still buried in the pillow.  Lois reached out and pulled the unresisting child to her, hugging her gently.  "Rachel, it's *okay*.  Nothing bad is going to happen because Jamie cries," she promised.  "He's a baby with colic; and he'll grow out of it." She kissed Rachel on the forehead. 

Rachel wound her arms around Lois's neck and hid her face again. "Promise?" she whispered, still scared.

Lois continued to stroke the child's hair.  "Yes," she said simply.  Rachel sighed and laid her head on Lois's shoulder.  "Let's go downstairs, peanut.  Daddy might need some help with supper."

Rachel simply cuddled closer to Lois.  "Carry me, Momma?" she asked, her voice tremulous.

Lois sighed and kissed Rachel again.  "Baby, you're *really* getting too big for me to do that," she said.

Rachel looked at her pleadingly.  "Please?" she pleaded.

Lois gathered the little girl close, stood up, and slung Rachel over her hip.  "Thank you," Rachel murmured, once again burying her face in her momma's neck.  When her parents were holding her, all doubt faded about what might happen and was replaced with feelings of love, comfort, and safety.  Nothing could hurt her when they held her, and it was then that she allowed herself to believe that nothing ever would again.  She found security when they hugged her, and a peace that she had yet to find anywhere else in her world.  Rachel tightened her grip on her momma's neck as they started down the staircase for supper.

Somehow, as Lois held her, the fear and horror brought on by witnessing the murder earlier that day lessened.  The killer couldn't get her, and she knew her parents would always keep her safe.  Her stomach knotted again and let loose an audible growl.  In the meantime, it was suppertime, and she was hungry.  Rachel smiled and laid her head on Lois's shoulder.  Food was starting to sound really good--even if her momma *did* manage to burn it again.

~*~*~*~

August 23, 1999 4:00 PM
Daily Planet, Metropolis

Clark flipped through his notes, stopped, and started typing furiously into his computer.  His latest story would barely make the deadline for the morning edition--if he hurried.  He glanced around furtively; no one was watching.  He began typing at superspeed, finished his story quickly, and LANed it to Perry.

He grabbed his notepad and leaned back in his chair to think.  He missed Lois.  It just wasn't the same at the Planet without her.  Her maternity leave would be up in a little while, and lately she'd been talking about taking a leave of absence--or just coming back part-time.  If they were careful, their finances *could* work out on his salary alone, but he missed having her with him.  They'd been partners for a long time, after all.

Clark understood that she didn't want strangers raising Rachel and Jamie, but they *would* be within reach--Jamie downstairs in the Planet daycare center, and Rachel would be there after school.  He sighed and looked down at his notes for the next story again.  He was doing everything he could, but sometimes it just didn't seem like enough--he'd need to split himself in two to do everything that needed to be done!

He supposed he was lucky that no twisted, maniacal, evil, megalomaniac geniuses had shown up lately.  After all, taking the time to catch one wouldn't be good for his family; Lois, Rachel, and Jamie needed him more than the world ever could.  Some criminals had noticed his distraction, and had tried to take advantage of it, but he'd worked things out with Henderson and Zymeck so that the police and emergency services were taking up the slack.

He hadn't told them much, but they had agreed with him that even Superman deserved a private life.  He'd just said that he'd found someone and that they wanted to give a deeper relationship a chance.  He hadn't given any other details; hadn't told them that he'd already been married for two years.   Clark wished that he could have told them the whole truth--the two men had been his friends for years--but he'd reconciled with the fact that he couldn't tell the whole truth if he was to keep Superman's image years ago.

"Kent!"

Clark swiveled his chair in the direction of Perry's office.  "Yes, Chief?" he said.

"A body's just been discovered in Centennial Park--get over there and cover it." Perry ordered.

Clark stood up and grabbed his jacket, notebook, and pen.  "I'm on it, Chief," he answered as he hurried toward the stairwell.  He went up to the roof, looked around, and spun into the Suit.  He flew as close to the crime scene as he dared and touched down in a tangled thicket.  Quickly, he spun back into his street clothes and hiked the short distance to the crime scene.

He watched as the coroner bagged the victim's hands and examined the body before placing it in a body bag.  He looked around, furtively using some of his superpowers, but found nothing.  Clark frowned and tightened his lips--he *hated* it when a child was murdered.  Now that he had Rachel and Jamie, he couldn't help but to see them in the same position.  He hurried over to Henderson and smiled.  "Henderson, is there anything you can tell me about this one?" he asked.

"Not much of a story here, Kent," Henderson said, shrugging.  "Kid probably took candy from the wrong person--we don't even have an ID on the body or time of death yet.  We’ve had some kids the vic’s age reported missing, but it’ll take time to sort through the reports to get a positive ID.  Hell, for all we know, the boy was killed elsewhere and dumped here; it rained yesterday, so forensics doesn’t have much."

"C'mon, Henderson--what can I print about this?" Clark said.

Henderson thought about it for a moment.  "We've got a seven year old Caucasian boy, light brown hair, gray eyes, nice clothes.  The cause of death isn't official yet, but you couldn't print that, anyway... at least until we catch the perp." Henderson rubbed his hand over his eyes.  "The crime may have been sexually motivated; we don't know for sure, but that's off the record, too."

He leaned back against a nearby tree.  "Every day I pray that for just *once*, we'd have a few days without crime.  I wish people would put me out of business," he muttered.

Clark gripped Henderson's shoulder sympathetically.  He definitely knew the feeling; he'd like a few days off for Superman, too, without having to leave town to get it.

Henderson continued, not really paying attention.  "I especially hate it when the vic is a *kid*.  I just don't understand how someone could kill a child," he ended with a sigh.

"I don't either," Clark offered quietly.  "I know I'd probably go nuts if something happened to Rachel or Jamie."

Henderson smiled tightly.  "Yeah--every time we get a kid as a vic, I see Charlie or Anna in their place."  The two men were silent for a few minutes, thinking of their respective families.

Clark broke out of the reverie first.  "Thanks for the information, Bill," he said.  "You'll keep me informed?"

Henderson nodded.  "Yeah," he said with a sigh.

Clark clapped the detective on the back.  "Tell Lucille and the kids that I said hi," he requested.

Henderson nodded.  "Tell Lois we miss her--and give Rachel a hug for me." He smiled faintly.  "That kid's got guts."

Clark chuckled.  “I will," he promised before leaving.  There was just enough time to call Perry before heading home early.  Henderson was right--there really wasn't much of a story.  It was tragic, but until the police got some leads, it was just another unsolved murder case to go on the books.  If he hurried, he could get dinner ready before Lois got back from taking Rachel to see Dr. Summers.   He quickened his pace and hurried out of the woods.  Lois and Rachel were always tired after coming home from one of these visits, and with Jamie's colic, Lois was bound to be exhausted.  He knew he’d also have to tell Lois about the murder.  After all, it would probably make the news—the untimely death of a child always did—and she’d be editing some of the articles.  Now if only there were no calls for his alter-ego...

~*~*~*~

August 23, 1999, 4:30 PM
Metropolis Children's Medical Center

Rachel walked quietly beside Lois on her way to Dr. Summers's office.  Every week it was the same--go to the doctor and draw pictures.  She'd been careful lately to only draw happy stuff.  Her Momma didn't need to worry, and if she drew other stuff, she knew that Dr. Summers would tell Momma, and then Momma would worry.

Rachel dragged her feet as they reached the door.  Going there every week wasn't really all that fun.  Sure, it was great that she got her Momma all to herself, because Grandma Lane was babysitting Jamie, but she didn't really like going.  They walked into the waiting room and she sat down on one of the chairs while her momma went to sign them in.

Rachel looked around the room, hoping that they'd added different toys since the last time she'd been there.  She smiled at her momma when Lois came back and leaned into her.  She closed her eyes and felt Lois begin to caress her hair.  She frowned and opened her eyes when she heard a ruckus coming from the front desk.  A big girl was yelling at an older woman, and the woman, ignoring the girl, was giving the lady at the front desk a hard time. 

Finally, the noise ended and a woman marched over to a couple of chairs, the girl in tow.  She sat down on one of the chairs and picked up a magazine.  The lady flipped through it, tossed it down, and smiled at Lois.  "Hello," she said in a cultured voice.  "I'm Emily Barnett." She held out her hand.

Lois stopped stroking Rachel hair and grasped the outstretched hand.  "Lois Lane," she said.

Ms. Barnett brightened.  "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lane--I've read your work, and it's always wonderful to meet somebody famous like yourself."  She motioned to the little girl sitting beside her.  "This is my daughter, Megan."

Lois smiled and hugged Rachel.  "And this is my daughter, Rachel," she said. 

Rachel took one look at Megan and stiffened before hiding her face back in Lois's side.  "She's just a little shy," Lois explained as she resumed stroking Rachel's hair.

Rachel snuck another peek at the other girl before hiding her face again.  She shivered--the bigger girl was scary.  Big kids usually didn't bother her, but this one did.  Her momma and Ms. Barnett continued to talk, exchanging pleasantries until their names were called. 

Lois stood up and offered Rachel her hand.  She took it and walked silently towards the door, shooting scared looks back at Megan over her shoulder.  Rachel reached up and tugged on Lois's shirt.  "Momma?" she whispered.

Lois crouched down.  "What, peanut?" she asked.

Rachel used one finger to trace the circles under her momma's eyes.  "Momma," she began hesitantly.  "I don't wanna come here no more."

"*Any* more," Lois corrected.  "Why, Sweetie?"

"I don't like it here," Rachel answered, semi-truthfully.  She refused to think about the exact reason *why* she didn't want to come back, because thinking about it would make it real. Her face took on a stubborn look that meant she would not be moved.

"Peanut, how about we go see Dr. Summers today, and we'll figure out something else, okay?"

Rachel nodded reluctantly.  "Okay," she agreed.

They went inside the office and Rachel sat down at the table with a box of crayons.  Listlessly, she began to draw as her momma pulled Dr. Summers aside and started to talk.

Rachel listened intently, wanting to know what was going to happen.  "Dr. Summers, I'm worried about Rachel," Lois said.  "She's been hiding in closets lately, and I think it's because of Jamie's colic.  She's still taking baths by herself." Lois bit her lip in worry.  "Now she says that she doesn't want to come here anymore," she said.  “I think that Rachel's hiding things from us--it's like she doesn't really trust us.”

Rachel played with a crayon.  Maybe her momma was mad at her--maybe she didn't really want her around anymore.  She looked down at the table, allowing her hair to hide her face.  Maybe her momma didn't love her anymore.  It was a constant, irrational fear--if she wasn't good enough, her parents would stop loving her.

"Ms. Lane, if Rachel doesn't want to come here, don't force it--we haven't been making much progress, and it's possible that we've gone as far as she'll let us with art therapy."  Dr. Summers walked over to her desk and pulled out a business card.  "I don't like to give up on my patients, Ms. Lane, but I can't help Rachel if she refuses to let me; and she hasn't been trying.  Perhaps Dr. Jenkins can help her--he's the best child psychologist in Metropolis.  I'll forward her case file to him tomorrow."

Lois took the card reluctantly.  "Are you sure?" she asked.

Dr. Summers nodded.  "I'll write out a referral and get it to you by the end of the week."

Lois took a deep breath.  "Thank you, Doctor," she said.  Lois turned around and came over to Rachel.  "Peanut, it's time to go," she said quietly.

Rachel took one look at her momma's face, jumped up, and slipped her hand in Lois's.  "Okay, Momma," she said.

They hurried out of the office, and to the Jeep.  Rachel climbed into the back and buckled her seatbelt.  Her momma was upset, very upset.  She just hoped that her daddy would be home soon, because Momma always felt better after Daddy held and kissed her.  She grinned as she thought about the last time somebody had made her Momma mad--first she started babbling to daddy, then she had gone somewhere, come back, and then she and Daddy started *kissing*. 

Rachel covered her mouth with her hands to keep a giggle from escaping.  She'd heard noises coming from their room that meant that Daddy was making Momma feel *really* good.  They'd had to explain it to her after she'd walked in when she had just had a nightmare one night.  And it *had* tied in with the explanation about how babies were made, too.

Rachel smiled and snuggled back into the seat.  She'd *never* have to go back to that stupid doctor again.

~*~*~*~






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 2:
  Sound and Fury
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

August 23, 1999, 5:45 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Lois paced back and forth in the living room, the therapist's words echoing in her ears.  Dr. Summers's words had made her angry--no, more than angry, furious!  How could anyone just give up on a child who'd been through so much?  The thought of Rachel's abuser still made her want to hit something or someone, and now that her baby had been abandoned yet again by an adult made her want to deck the therapist.

Lois took a deep breath and flopped down on the couch.  She'd been reading books on dealing with the aftermath of abuse, and they all had one thing in common--it was absolutely necessary to forgive in order to move past the abuse.  Part of her knew that she had to forgive Rachel's ex-stepfather, as well as Dr. Summers--she didn't want to be a hypocrite by *not* doing it--but sometimes when the hurt was as grievous as what had been inflicted on her daughter, forgiveness came hard.  How could she teach Rachel to forgive when she was having problems with it herself?

It had taken years for Lois to finally forgive her parents for the unintentional damage they had inflicted during her childhood, and her experiences had definitely colored how she behaved.  She didn't want that for Rachel.  Lois wanted her little girl to find healing, to be able to just be a happy child--and until she found a way to forgive Papa Gary, that just couldn't happen.  She'd seen far too many people throughout her life that, because they refused to forgive people who hurt them, became consumed by anger and bitterness.  That wouldn't happen to Rachel.

Lois sat up and rested her face in her hands.  She was tired, and she just hoped that Jamie would sleep a while longer.  She needed to edit a story for Perry, but Jamie's constant crying was wearing her down.  She ran her hands through her hair and got up to go check on the baby.

Lois peeked into the crib, and was relieved to find Jamie sleeping soundly.  She tiptoed out of the room and started looking for her daughter.  She checked the linen closet, and, finding it empty, headed down the hall to Rachel's room.

"Peanut?" she called softly, as she stuck her head through the door.

"Yes, Momma?"  Rachel's blonde head looked up from a Superman coloring book.  She smiled charmingly and held out her box of crayons.  "Color with me, please?"

Lois dropped to her knees beside her daughter.  "I'd love to, baby, but Grandpa Perry sent me stories that I need to edit--how would you like to help me?"

Rachel put her crayons back in their box and stood up.  "Does this mean that I get to help read?" she asked eagerly.

Lois nodded.  "Of course, baby."

Rachel's face split into a wide grin and she clapped her hands.  "Goody."  She threw herself at Lois, and gave her a hug.  "Don't send me away, Momma."

Lois returned the hug before looking at her daughter, startled.  "Why would I do that, peanut?  You're my little girl, and I love you."

Rachel pulled back.  "Sometimes," she whispered, scuffing the toe of her sneaker against the carpeted floor.  "Mommies and Daddies say that, and they lie.  Sometimes, they say that and then hurt kids."

Lois tipped up her daughter's face and found that the haunted look had returned to her eyes.  It was the exact same expression that was often there after a particularly bad nightmare.  "And sometimes," she said gently, "they tell the truth, because they really *do* love their babies, and would never hurt them."  She kissed her daughter on the cheek.  "Your Daddy and I love you, Rachel Kent--and that will never change."

"Really-truly?" Rachel asked, meeting Lois's eyes.

"Really-truly," Lois said, pulling her baby in for a hug.  "Now, how about we go look at the stories that Grandpa Perry sent me, and then we can start dinner?  I think your Daddy left something that we can throw in the oven."

Rachel simply clung more tightly to Lois.  She kissed the top of the child's head and, with a bit of difficulty, stood and walked toward the door.  Lois knew that it wouldn't be the last time her little girl needed reassurance--the books all agreed with that--but she and Clark would be there to give it.  Adopting Rachel hadn't been easy, but it had been one of the best decisions they'd ever made.

~*~*~*~

August 23, 1999, 6:30 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Clark hoisted the bags of groceries higher in his arms and opened the door.  He went inside, kicking the door closed behind him and headed for the kitchen.  Something was starting to smell good, and he grinned when he found Lois and Rachel in front of the laptop editing stories.  At least, *Lois* was editing, while Rachel 'helped'.  "How are my two favorite girls today?"  He put the bags on the counter and turned around.

Rachel threw herself out of Lois's lap, ran across the room, and wrapped her little body around his legs.  Clark disentangled her gently, then swung her up into a big hug.  Rachel's arms came up around his neck, and she clung to him tightly, burying her face in the join between his neck and shoulder.

"Daddy," she said, her voice muffled, "you're not ever gonna leave like my first mommy did, are you?"

Clark looked at Lois, not quite sure where Rachel's question was coming from.  Lois motioned that she'd tell him later before turning her attention back towards the article for the morning edition that she was editing.  Clark rubbed Rachel's back soothingly.  "Sprite, I'm not planning on *ever* leaving you--I always come back."

Rachel's grip tightened on him.  "Even if the bad men have kryptonite?" she asked.

Clark kissed Rachel's forehead.  "Sprite, not all the kryptonite in the world could keep me away."  He shot Lois a look of apology and headed for the living room.  He sat down on the couch and rearranged Rachel so that she was cradled in his lap.  "What's the matter, peanut?"

Rachel cuddled closer to him.  "Nuthin'," she said.  "I *missed* you, Daddy."

Clark hugged her tightly.  "Sprite, that's really sweet, but *something* is bugging my little girl."  He started caressing her hair.  "Rachel, what' the matter? You can tell me and your Momma anything." He hugged her again.  "I won't get mad, sprite, I promise."

Rachel simply laid her head on his shoulder and sighed.  "I can't say," she whispered.  It was safe in Daddy's arms, and she couldn't worry him.  Daddy wouldn't let the bad person who had hurt the little boy hurt her.  And Daddy couldn't do anything about the bad dreams and memories that wouldn't go away.  

Clark's head shot up as he heard the baby start crying.  "Want to help me feed Jamie?" he asked, getting up from the couch.

Rachel looked at him and nodded slowly.  "Ok," she agreed. 

Clark walked toward the kitchen, and grabbed a bottle of breastmilk out of the fridge.  He shot Lois a grin.  "Rachel and I will get him," he said, stopping her from getting up.

Lois simply nodded, settled back in her chair, and continued editing the article.  Clark zapped the bottle, tested it, and then turned to leave the kitchen, still holding Rachel.  She held on tightly as he took the stairs two at a time and hurried to the baby's room.  He put her down, then lifted Jamie out of the crib and took him to the changing table.

Rachel watched as Clark changed the baby's diaper. He balled it up and threw it in the diaper bin before picking Jamie up and settling him in his arms.  "Would *you* like to feed Jamie?" Clark asked.

Rachel's face lit up.  She'd watched her momma feed him, and her daddy a few times, too, but she'd never been asked to do it before.  "Can I?" Rachel smiled.  If she could make Jamie stop crying, then nothing bad would happen.

Clark smiled, sat down in the rocking chair, and patted his lap.  Rachel climbed up into it, and he put Jamie in her arms, keeping one arm underneath to make sure that he was properly supported.  He handed Rachel the bottle and showed her how to hold it before wrapping his other arm around her and the baby.

Rachel put the bottle in his mouth and smiled as he began to suck on it.  She giggled when he blinked at her.  "Hello, Jamie," she said.  "You're sure noisy for somebody as little as you are."

Jamie blinked again and opened and closed his hands.  "I'll make you a deal," she said.  "You stop screaming all the time, and I'll teach you how to ride a bike when you get bigger."

Clark's mouth twitched up into a smile.  "Rachel, sweetheart--"

"Shhh," she said, glancing back at him.  "I'm talking to my brother."  Clark hugged her, trying to suppress the chuckles that were trying to come out.

"I'll teach you how to spot the bad peoples and how to read, too," Rachel promised.  "No more yelling, ok?"

Jamie spit his bottle out, and Rachel laughed, taking that for assent.  She put the bottle back in his mouth and watched as he drank the milk.  "Y'know," she said, "you're kinda cute--for a boy.  I bet you're the only boy in the world that doesn't have cooties."

"Hey," Clark objected.  "*I'm* a boy."

"No you're not," Rachel said.  "You're *Daddy*, and that's *different*."

Clark rolled his eyes.  "What about Perry, Jimmy, Grandpa Kent, and Grandpa Lane?"

"*They* don't have cooties."  Rachel looked at Jamie again, and smiled as he spit out his bottle.  "See?  Jamie agrees with me.  They're not boys, either.  They're grandpas, and Jimmy's an uncle.  Those aren't boys." 

Clark suppressed a chuckle and hugged the kids.  Rachel leaned down and kissed the squirming baby on the forehead.  "Sarah says that she's got a new baby at her house, but I bet that you're cuter."  She watched as he finished the bottle, then started to fuss. 

"I'll burp him," Clark said, throwing a cloth diaper over his shoulder.  He picked up Jamie, put him against the diaper-covered shoulder, and rubbed the baby's back gently.

Rachel leaned back against Clark and sighed contently as she reached to scratch a scar on the underside of her arm.  She giggled when Jamie burped and held out her arms to cuddle him again.  She had a family.  It wasn't perfect, but if she was lucky, she'd get to keep it. 

Clark carefully put Jamie back in Rachel's arms and put his arms underneath to support the baby.  He dropped a kiss in Rachel's hair.  "Thanks for helping, sprite," he said.

Rachel leaned down, pulled up Jamie's shirt, and blew a raspberry on his tummy the way she'd seen her daddy do it.  She pulled the tiny shirt down and looked up at Clark.  "He's *my* brother," she said fiercely.  "And as long as I'm here, *nobody* is *ever* gonna hurt him."  She turned her attention back to the baby, not noticing the worried look on Clark's face at her comment.

~*~*~*~

August 25, 1999, 1:23 pm
Metropolis County Morgue

Henderson knocked, then entered the chief coroner's office.  "Beth--Dr. Forrest?" he called.

"Just a second," came a voice from the direction of the cold room.  A few minutes later, a petite blonde wheeled a metal table out into the area.  She parked it next to the dissecting table and nodded in his direction.  "Henderson."

Henderson shoved his hands in his pockets.  "Do you have the results on Little Boy Doe yet?"

Dr. Elizabeth Forrest covered the face of the cadaver, wiped off her hands, then walked over to her desk.  "I ran his finger prints through the database, and came up with an ID."  She picked up a file folder and handed it over.

"Thank goodness for school fingerprinting programs," he muttered.

"According to the computer, his mother reported him missing four days ago."  She blew her bangs out of her eyes with a puff of air before reaching for her case notes.

"So it was Joey Anderson?" he asked.

"Yeah. I'd say from the state of decomposition that he died approximately four days ago, between three-thirty to five pm--the parents have yet to be notified."

"Guess that leaves it up to me, huh?" Henderson asked.

"Better you than me--my job is to figure out how and when they died--you get to lovely job of finding out why and who did it," she smiled crookedly.

"Thanks, Liz," he said absently.  "So what was cause of death?"

"Just what it looked like at the crime scene--blunt force trauma to the head.  Bill, the kid was healthy.  No signs of abuse, no other signs of trauma that can't be accounted for by the usual climbing and falling out of trees."  She picked up a pencil and started tapping it on the desk. 

Henderson walked over and gently took the pencil from her.  "Is there any chance that it could have been an accident?"

Beth shook her head.  "The trauma is pretty centralized, and the fractures show repeated blows to the same place--probably with a rock, or some other jagged object.  I found some splinters of it in the wound as well--you find me the rock, and I can match it up."  She turned to flip through papers on her desk.  "I hate autopsying kids, but at least he wasn't a floater."

Henderson leaned against the desk.  "I'd almost forgotten your... legendary hatred of floaters."

"Well, there's a reason for that," she said brusquely, pulling out her chair and slumping down into it.

"Care to let me in?" Henderson asked, curious.

"Trust me, you don't want to know."  Beth smiled humorlessly.  "Don't you have some parents to tell?"

Henderson sighed.  "Yes.  The boy's mother is still waiting at home for him to call, and his father has been working from home since Joey disappeared."

"Tell Zymeck I said hello," she said, pushing away from the desk and walking over to the autopsy table. 

"Will do."  Henderson headed towards the door, and held it open for the young assistant who was on his way in.  Zymeck's youngest kid had been rushed into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, so he'd been unable to come along to pick up the autopsy report.

Henderson left the morgue, wandered out to his car, got in, and started it.  He radioed in to the station, got the Anderson's address, and headed toward the more upscale neighborhoods where they lived.  "I hate this part," he muttered.  It was bad enough that a little kid was found dead, but they the fact that they didn't have any leads didn't help any.  It was set to be a long day.

~*~*~*~

September 5, 1999, 11:30 pm
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Clark slipped into bed and held his arms out to Lois.  Wordlessly, she scooted over and laid her head on his chest.  He leaned down and kissed the top of her head.  "Rachel's asleep again, and her nightmare didn't wake Jamie up," he said quietly.

Lois sighed and began to stroke his chest absently.  "I'm hoping that the new shrink can help with those."

"Maybe he can," Clark said as he ran his long fingers through her hair.  "Her nightmares aren't as frequent as they used to be, though.  She'll be all right, honey."

"I know... I just worry." 

Clark caressed her back gently.  "I can't believe that we've had her for close to a year," he said finally.

"If anyone told us that we'd have two kids this time last year, I would have had them committed."  Lois planted a kiss on his chest, then laid her cheek back against it.

He chuckled.  "But Jamie *could* have been twins."

Lois grabbed her pillow and smacked him upside the head.  "Cla--aarrk," she groaned. "One at a time is *enough*."

Clark laughed, then leaned in for a kiss. He kissed her gently, loving the way her soft lips clung to his.  He broke off the kiss with a groan as he heard the cry for help.  "A cattle car just jackknifed and turned over on the freeway," he said with a sigh.

Lois kissed him softly.  "Go," she said.

Clark sighed, pushed himself out of bed, then spun into the Suit.  Sometimes being Superman wasn't a lot of fun--the cattle were probably spooked, and it would take quite some time to clean up the mess.  "I'll try and be back before Jamie wakes up," he promised.

"I'll be waiting," she said before grabbing his pillow.

Superman gave his wife one final glance before leaving through the window and heading towards the scene of the accident.  He grimaced as the slow drizzle soaked into his cape, making it cling to him.  A few minutes later, he landed next to the overturned trailer.  The cattle were milling about, evading every attempt to recapture them, while cars slowly attempted to pass without hitting the animals.

Superman wiped water out of his eyes and looked around for the person in charge of the scene.  The Emergency personnel hadn't showed up yet, but the trucker was watching the cattle with a puzzled look on his face.  It was obvious that the man had no idea of how to recapture his cargo.  He walked up to the trucker and tapped him on the shoulder.  "What happened, sir?" he asked.

The man sighed and shook his head.  "I guess my tires have gone bad.  I thought they'd last one more trip.  The streets are pretty wet tonight and well, I started hydroplaning, and then before I knew it, I'd turned over and the cattle got out."  He looked at Superman worshipfully.  "I don't know how we're going to round them up--Superman, can you help?"

Superman nodded, then carefully lifted the trailer and set it upright.  He soldered the broken latch back in place with heat vision, then began to carefully catch the cattle, one at a time, and put them back in the trailer.  He'd heard about something like this happening a few years ago in Texas, but he hadn't had to help with it.  The corners of his mouth twitched as he remembered watching the news report; the cowboys from the local rodeo had ridden out and taken care of the problem.

Superman stopped after his tenth steer and glared at the rest of the cattle.  He couldn't do it at superspeed, because that would spook the rest of the animals.  The *last* thing he needed was to rescue people from cars that the cattle had managed to stampede over.  It was bad enough that some of them had minor injuries due to some cars not having stopped in time.  He knew that they were probably destined for someone's dinner table, but it didn't make it any easier to listen to their sounds of pain.

Superman approached the nearest one, talking to it in a soft voice.  He picked it up, then walked back to the truck.  Despite the fact that it was starting to rain harder again, traffic had ground to a halt, and a crowd of curious onlookers, or rubber-neckers as they were called, had gotten out of their cars to watch him work.

It was over an hour later when he caught the last animal and put it back in the trailer.  He wiped the water out of his eyes again, then tossed his now sodden cape back before walking over to the trucker. 

"Bless you, Superman," the man said gratefully.

"Please try to be more careful," he requested.  The man nodded.  Superman took off and headed towards home.  The thought of a nice, warm bed with Lois in it was sounding better and better.

It was times like this, he thought grumpily as he fought with his cape, that he wished that he'd managed to talk his mother out of putting the blasted thing on his uniform. It was horrible to deal with when it was wet--it clung in spots, got tangled around his legs, and was generally a nuisance.

Superman landed on the patio quietly, then soundlessly went upstairs.  He hung his wet, bedraggled suit on the towel rack and dried off before going back to bed.  He slipped under the covers and smiled as Lois snuggled back up to him.  He hugged her close to him and glanced at the clock.  It was past one-thirty, which meant that Jamie would be waking soon for something to eat.  He sighed and settled back into the pillows, happy to at least be at home.

Clark's eyes began to close, and he drifted off, only to wake a short time later to the cries of a hungry baby.  Lois stirred beside him, and he kissed her on the forehead before slipping out of bed.  "I'll get him, honey," he whispered.  He hurried downstairs, pulled a bottle out of the fridge, and went to Jamie's room.

Clark picked his son up out of the crib and held him close as he walked over to the rocking chair and dropped down into it.  He warmed the bottle, tested it, then stuck it into the baby's mouth.  He kissed Jamie's forehead and started to rock.  How would he manage it, he wondered, not for the first time.  He'd already cut back on Superman's activities, but there never seemed to be enough time. 

How could he manage two busy careers and still be there for his family?  He didn't want Rachel and Jamie to grow up without him; he couldn't let that happen.  He wasn't sure how he would manage, but he would, somehow.  He didn't want to screw up the most important job he'd ever had--being Rachel and Jamie's daddy.

Clark smiled as the baby slowly stopped sucking and his eyes closed.  He kissed his son again, then stood and put him back in the crib.  He tiptoed out of the room and back downstairs to put the remaining milk in the fridge before returning to his and Lois's room. 

Clark got into bed and sighed.  It would be a long time before anything was solved, and for the moment, he was tired.  He gathered Lois in his arms and closed his eyes.  He hoped that they could work everything out, but he knew it would be a hard balancing act.  A wave of tiredness swept over him and he slowly drifted off to sleep. 

~*~*~*~

September 10, 1999, 12:00 pm
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Outside, thunder rumbled and lightening flashed as yet another early September thunderstorm unleashed its fury over the city. Inside the house, another kind of storm raged as Rachel thrashed around, the nightlight in between her bed and the nightstand bathing the small child in an eerie light punctuated by the flashes of light from the storm outside.  Mumbles of "no, no, please," came from the child's mouth as she was gripped in yet another nightmare.

Rachel cowered in the corner, hiding from who she knew was coming. Papa Gary had a new friend again, and together they would take away the only people that she could ever remember loving her.

"Hello, Rachel."  The familiar voice said.

Rachel shivered and hid her face before a rough hand forced her to look at him.  "Look at me, brat." Papa Gary stood in front of her with darkness at his back.  He reached in and snatched Aimee from her, then dangled the toy from two fingers as if it were filthy.  "So, you *do* like this dolly after all."

He released her face, then reached in his pocket for his lighter.  Rachel backed further in the corner, not daring to cry out.  She watched as he ripped the doll limb-from-limb, then lit it on fire.  He dropped the toy in a metal wastebasket before walking over to Jamie's crib and pulling the baby out of it.  "Do you like this toy, too?" he inquired, laying the baby on the bed before reaching in his pocket for a cigarette.  She shook her head frantically as he lit up.

He smoked in silence for a few minutes, then flicked some hot ash on the baby, making him squall.  Finding some courage that she didn't know she had, Rachel ran over to protect her brother from her personal monster. 

"So you *do* care about him," he said with a smirk.  Papa Gary stubbed his cigarette out on her arm.  Rachel suppressed a cry of pain as he motioned to someone that she couldn't see, and the person who hurt the little boy came in and smiled at Rachel.

"What have you got there?" the person asked.

Rachel hid Jamie behind her and shook her head, refusing to answer.  Papa Gary grabbed her arms and threw her towards the wall.  His new friend came up to the bed and smiled.  "A little boy... just what I was looking for."

Rachel sat up in bed, breathing heavily.  She got up and hurried down the hallway to Jamie's room.  She smiled in relief and wiped the tears out of her eyes when she saw that he was sleeping in his crib.

Rachel pulled herself over the bars and settled carefully next to him, curling her legs up in order to fit.  She kissed him on the cheek before putting her arm around him.  "I'll never let them get you Jamie," she promised.

"I can't tell Momma and Daddy what I saw," she whispered.  "I can't tell what *he* did to me, either, because it would make Momma upset."

Rachel pulled an extra baby blanket over herself and cuddled closer to her brother.  "I saw her hurt that boy," she said softly.  "She *killed* him."  Slow tears ran down Rachel's face.  "Papa Gary would have done that to me, too.  If he comes back, he could hurt you and Momma."

She kissed the baby again.  "I won't let them hurt you, Jamie; if she finds out that I saw, she'd come and hurt us like she did the boy because she's a *bad* person."  Jamie stirred in his sleep, his tiny lips smacking as if he were drinking.

"I'm scared," Rachel said in a small voice.  "The bad dreams won't go away." 
 
Jamie started to snore softly. 

Rachel scrubbed the tears from her eyes.  "If I tell, Momma'll cry," she said softly.  "And Daddy will be sad, too."  She buried her face in the blanket and smelled Jamie's clean baby-smell.

"I don't want to make them sad," she whispered.

Rachel sniffled, then relaxed next to the baby.  "I'll protect you," she promised.  "I keep *everybody* safe.  If you an' me are the only ones who know that I saw, then the bad person won't come and hurt us.  If you an' me are the only ones who know how Papa Gary hurt me, then it won't make Momma and Daddy sad."

She showed the sleeping baby a small, puckered, round scar.  "He burned me there," she said softly.  "He was burning my teddy bear and decided that it didn't hurt me enough."

Rachel pulled the hem of her nightgown up and showed Jamie a long, thin scar on her stomach.  "Papa Gary was playing with his pocket knife, and he was mad one night," she informed him. 

"There are lots of bad peoples, Jamie," she said, kissing her brother on the cheek.  "You can't trust nobody but Momma, Daddy, our Grandpas, and Uncle Jimmy."

Rachel tugged her nightgown back into place and sighed.  "Peoples are *mean*," she said.  "They'll hurt us if we let them, but we can't act like we know that.  If they know that we know, the hurting will get worse."

"I know," she whispered, "because Papa Gary got meaner when I cried.  Other peoples will, too, because they're like *him*."

"You and me, Jamie.  We'll take care of each other.  And if Momma and Daddy have another baby, we'll take care of her, too."  Rachel snuggled down into the mattress and smiled as Jamie moved slightly.  She was beginning to get sleepy again, and she knew that with her beside him, nobody could hurt her baby brother.

Rachel closed her eyes and began to remember the story that Daddy had read her, just like the girl in the book; she'd protect her brother from the trolls.

~*~*~*~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 3:
    Light of Day
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

September 14, 1999, 9:00 AM
Little Creek Park, Metropolis

Henderson rubbed his nose as Beth carefully brushed the dirt away from the bones.  "What can you tell me, Beth?" he asked.

"Well, I can't determine age or sex yet, but this was definitely a child."  She grimaced and looked up at him.  "The body has been here for six to eight months, and it was buried under a thin layer of dirt."  Beth brushed more dirt away from the skull with a soft brush.  "See the skull fracture?"  she pointed at an indentation on the bones.

"Yeah," Henderson nodded, then squatted down to get a better look. 

"Blunt force trauma.  Henderson, this looks remarkably similar to the Joey Anderson case, but I won't know until after I spend some time examining the body."  Beth frowned and continued to brush the dirt gently away from the bones.

Henderson knuckled his eyes, trying to forestall the coming headache.  "It looks like we may have a serial," he muttered. 

Beth cocked an eyebrow.  "Well, this is just the second body; if it's even the same killer," she pointed out.  "Right now, we have what might be a double murder case, but until we've got three or more, this isn't a serial, and the FBI doesn't need to be involved yet."

Henderson watched as she started gathering the bones up and placed them in boxes for transport.  "I'll call David Carson and get him to come in," he offered.

"I thought he'd retired," she said, frowning as she concentrated on a tricky part of the extraction.

"He has... mostly.  But he's still willing to do a job like this when we need him; he says that it keeps his skills sharp for his shows."  Henderson stood and stuffed his hands in his pockets.  "Forensic sculptors are hard to come by."

"God willing, we'll get an ID on this kid," Beth murmured.

"I want to catch this guy," Henderson said.  "Preferably before he kills again."

"Yeah.  And we'd all like to be put out of business one of these days.  I bet even Superman'd like to have a few days off."

"Probably.  Do me a favor and send me the autopsy report as soon as you can?" 

"Always.  We're being leaned on as much as you are to figure this out."  Beth sat back on her heels and grinned.  "Maybe you should talk to Lane and Kent; they seem to solve a lot of the weirder cases for you, after all."

"Smartass.  I'm going to check with Zymeck and see if he's got anything."

Beth flipped her hand at him, shooing him away.  "Happy hunting--bring me back a killer so that I don't have to do this again."

Something about Beth's words gave him pause.  As much as he hated to admit it, many of Metropolis's trickiest and strangest cases had been solved by Lane and Kent.  It was true that Lane wasn't really investigating cases much these days, but he was sure that she'd want to help with something this important… for an exclusive, of course.  Henderson sighed.  He'd have to get permission from the Captain, but he was pretty sure that a trip to the Daily Planet was in order.

~*~*~*~

September 15, 1999 9am
124 Hospital Drive, Metropolis

"Momma, do I *have* to go?" Rachel whined, dragging her feet.

Lois turned around to face her daughter.  "Yes, you do," she said, putting her hands on her hips. 

Rachel pouted.  "But Lindsey says that he shrinks heads, and I don't want my head shrunk, because I like it the way it is."

"Rachel Elizabeth Kent, we're going inside, you *will* talk to the doctor, and your head will be the exact same size when we come out."  Lois said, exasperated by Rachel's behavior.  Rachel had been whining ever since she'd been told about her new doctor.  Dr. Jenkins wouldn't hurt her, and a phone call to his office had assured Lois that she'd be able to watch through a two-way mirror.  It had taken a while to get an appointment--because he was the best child psychiatrist in Metropolis, his schedule was pretty full.

Rachel stuck her tongue out at Lois.  "You're *mean*, Momma," she said.

Lois put her hand on Rachel's shoulder and ushered her forward into the medical center's elevator.  "Yup.  I'm the meanest mommy in Metropolis."

Rachel turned around and threw herself at Lois. She buried her face in Lois's stomach under Jamie's baby sling, allowed some warm, salty tears to escape, and wrapped her arms around her mother's legs.  "No, you're *not!  You’re the bestest mommy in the whole *universe*."

Lois disentangled Rachel, and gave her slightly tearful daughter a hug.  "Sweetie, I was just kidding.  Now, are you going to cooperate with the doctor for me?"

Rachel stuck her lip out in a pout and stopped crying.  "Don't *wanna*."

"I didn't ask if you *want* to, I'm asking if you're *going* to."

Rachel wiped her arm across her face, scrubbing at her recent tears.  "Okay, but only 'cause *you* want me to, Momma."

Lois pulled a tissue out of the diaper bag and wiped Rachel's nose.  "Good girl."  The elevator dinged, and the doors opened, so Lois held out her hand to her daughter.

Rachel took her mom's hand meekly, and they walked down the corridor and went into the doctor's office.  Lois signed in, and it wasn't long before they were admitted. 

"Hello, Mrs. Kent," Doctor Jenkins said in a loud, booming voice.  He glanced at Rachel and smiled.  "And you must be Rachel."

Rachel ran behind Lois and hid.  Lois shook the doctor's hand, then turned her attention to the little girl clinging to her legs.  "It's okay, peanut," she murmured.  "Dr. Jenkins is a nice man."

"Un uh," was Rachel's response.  "He's *scary*."

"I'll try not to be scary," the doctor responded, gentling his voice.  "I just thought you'd like to play in my playroom for a little while, and maybe talk a little.  I've got lots of neat toys in there."

"No.  Momma told me I shouldn't go with strangers, and you're *strange*."

"How about if your mom and your baby sister come with you to my playroom.  Will that be okay?"

"Jamie's my *brother* an' it's my job to protect him," Rachel said fiercely.

"He won't be out of your sight, sweetheart," Lois promised.

"Promise you won't leave?" Rachel asked.

Lois nodded.  "I'll be right there if you need me; now would you like to go play in the doctor's playroom?"

Rachel bit her lip.  "Okay," she agreed finally.  They walked into the doctor's playroom and her face lit up when she saw the dollhouse.  "Can I play with that?" she asked.

Doctor Jenkins nodded.  "You can play with anything you want."  He showed her the box of dolls that went with it.

Rachel opened the front of the dollhouse and sat down, examining the rooms.  She picked up a blonde little girl doll, and put her in one of the rooms.  When she was satisfied that the tiny figure was in the right place, she quickly grabbed two dark-haired grown-up dolls and put them in other places in the house.  While watching Rachel pick up a doll for the nursery, Lois placed her purse and diaper bag on the sofa and sat down next to them, relieved that her daughter seemed to be relaxing.  Even she had been a bit apprehensive about this change of doctor, though she couldn't admit that to Rachel.  

Dr. Jenkins watched Rachel play for a few minutes, then started asking questions.  "Can you tell me about the people in the house?" he asked gently.

Rachel shook her head and kept playing.  She made the little girl doll hide behind the daddy doll, then had the daddy doll pick the little girl up.  Carefully, she steadied the little girl and moved the daddy into the little girl's room and had him tuck her in.

Dr. Jenkins pointed at the little girl doll.  "Does she like it there?"

Rachel nodded slowly, then picked up the little girl and moved her to the nursery.  She put the little girl in the crib with the baby and had her kiss it, then moved it out of the room, down the hall, and downstairs.

"Rachel," he said, keeping his voice soft and gentle, "please tell me about the family in the dollhouse?"

Rachel looked back at Lois.  When her momma nodded, she started speaking. "That's Beth," she whispered, pointing at the little girl doll.  "She's going to hide, because the baby is crying again."

"Why's the baby crying?" he asked.

"Because he's got colic," was the answer as Rachel continued playing with the dolls.

"Then why is Beth going to hide?"

"Because the baby is loud, and loud is bad.  Loud means that somebody hurts you."

"Does the daddy hurt Beth?" he asked, motioning towards the man doll.

"No," Rachel said moving that doll up to where the little girl was.  She put the little girl in the man doll's arms.  "The new daddy loves the little girl."

"New daddy?"

"She's 'dopted, like me," Rachel explained.  "Her old daddy was *mean*, and he hurt Beth."

"Was your old daddy mean?"

Lois's eyes widened in shock.  She'd suspected something like that had happened; it was fairly common in severe abuse cases for the child to be punished for things it couldn't help, but she hadn't been expecting that it would come out so quickly. 

Rachel looked at the doctor, then ran to Lois, climbed on her lap, and buried her face in her mom's shoulder.  Lois rubbed Rachel's back as the child started to cry.  "Shhh, it's okay, sweetheart," she murmured.

Jamie chose that moment to start crying.  Rachel stiffened, then pulled away.  Before Lois could react, Rachel had pulled the top of the sling away from the baby and given him her finger.  “It's okay, Jamie.  We're safe, and nobody's gonna never hurt us.” 

Rachel leaned down and kissed Jamie's forehead.  To Lois's surprise, the baby seemed to settle down.  His cries became whimpers, and even those stopped as Rachel stroked his face.  “See, Jamie?  All better,” she murmured.

“Sweetie, what was the matter with the baby?” Lois asked, astonished.

“He was scared, a'cause he don't know where we are,” she explained.

“Thank you, peanut.”  Lois kissed Rachel's cheek.

Rachel smiled and leaned back against Lois.  “Rachel?”  Dr. Jenkins said.

“Yessir?” she answered cautiously. 

“Would you like to play some more?  I promise not to ask about the mean old daddy.”

Rachel nodded, then got up to walk over to the dollhouse.  She picked up the little girl doll and put it in the baby's room.  “Beth likes it there,” she said.  “She loves Mattie.”

Lois watched the scene unfold, hoping that her little girl had finally found someone who had the knowledge to help her deal with what *that* man had done to her.  She checked her watch and grimaced as she noticed that the session was almost over.  Rachel's books were in the car with her briefcase, and Perry was expecting her back at work.  He'd been amazingly generous in letting her work from home well past her maternity leave, but it was time to get completely back into the swing of things.   She hadn't really been working on any cases, but that time was almost over.  She and Clark had found some leads, and would be starting on a new investigation that day that required her to be at the Planet.

~*~*~*~

September 15, 1999, 11:20am
Daily Planet, Metropolis


Clark finished typing the story into his word processor and hit the spell check button. He ran through the document quickly, then LAN'd it to Lois.  "Honey, could you look over my story, please?"

Lois looked up from her terminal and smiled.  "Sure," she said.  "Just a minute; I'm almost finished."

Clark leaned back in his chair and picked up his picture of Rachel and Jamie together.  He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket, wiped off a bit of dust, then set it back on his desk.  With the discovery of the second body earlier in the week, he'd been having second thoughts about going out for his nightly patrols.  His family needed him to protect them more than the world did.

He knew it would devastate him if Rachel became one of the victims.  Sure both the victims had been little boys so far, but with a predator roaming the streets of Metropolis, you could never tell.  The first victim, while he'd been found in the park, had been nowhere near there when he disappeared.  It was possible that the kids had been kidnapped before they were killed.

The thought of leaving his family alone in the house just made Clark feel uneasy.  He worried that something might happen if he weren't around.  He knew it was irrational and that nothing might happen, but at the same time, he wanted to protect them.  Rachel and Jamie were so little, and Rachel had been through so much all ready.

Lost in his reverie, he almost didn't hear Perry call.  "Lois, Clark, in my office, now!"

Clark grabbed his notebook, stood up, and headed towards Perry's office.  "I wonder what Perry's got," Lois commented.

Clark grinned.  "Maybe somebody found Elvis in their blender."

Lois pretended to take him seriously for a moment.  "Nah.  Maybe they found him at the Tasty Freeze."

Clark's grin got wider.  "Tasty Freeze?  Are you sure they didn't catch him washing those sequined suits of his at the Laundromat?"

Lois bumped his hip playfully with her own.  "Nope.  Those suits would disintegrate in the wash."
"And how would you know that, Ms. Lane?"
"Um... Let's just say that when I was twelve, I tried to wash one of Mother's sequined evening gowns after Lucy got it dirty."
Clark opened the door and held it for her as she went inside.  "Let me guess, Ellen got mad?"

"She was furious," Lois agreed.  "At least, when she was sober enough to care."

"What do you need, Chief?" Clark asked, turning his attention to Perry.

Perry nodded to Henderson.  "Inspector Henderson has something for us, but he'll only let us have it if the two of you investigate.  Since you've got my granddaughter and grandson to worry about, I'm giving you the choice, but it'd make a hell of a story.  It's about the child murder from a month or so ago; they've found another body that they think might be connected."

"Perry," Lois objected.  "We've always been professionals--"

"I know, darlin'."  Perry said softly.  "But with two kids of your own, and with Rachel suffering as she has..." he trailed off. 

"If we can catch the killer before another child dies, it's enough," Clark said firmly.  At least if they were investigating, he'd be doing something without taking time away from his family.

"Good.  Henderson," Perry began as he gestured towards the man who was sitting in the chair in front of his desk. "Why don't you tell Lois and Clark what they need to know?"

Henderson fidgeted uncomfortably.  "There isn't much more than what's been in the papers; that's the problem.  We haven't found a murder weapon, and we don't even have an ID on the last body that was discovered.  Our pathologist determined the cause of death to be the same, but that's not conclusive as to who killed them."

"So what you need are connections?" Lois asked.

Henderson nodded.  "You two are the best at finding that sort of thing.  I was hoping that you could keep your eyes and ears open--maybe see what you can find out about the victims?"

"What's being done to ID the skeleton?" Clark asked.

"We sent the skull to David Carson," Henderson said.  "He's the only forensic sculptor within 200 miles."

"Isn't there computer equipment for that kind of thing?" Lois asked.  "I remember Jimmy talking about it."

Henderson shrugged.  "Yes, but with more budget cutbacks, the department can't afford it.  They'd rather pay David to reconstruct a few faces a year than spring for all of that fancy technology."

"Can we meet him?" Clark asked.  "It might make an interesting sidebar about how these things are done."

Henderson stilled for few minutes, apparently lost in thought.  "Sure.  I'll email you directions; I was going down there around eleven tomorrow, anyway."

"Thank you," Clark said with a smile.

"If you find out anything, please let me know," Henderson requested.

"I'll go call Bobby," Lois said, heading out of the room.  "He might know something."

Clark simply nodded to Perry and Henderson before heading out the door.  It was nice to have an excuse to work the case during office hours; it meant that he'd have more time to stay home and protect his own family.  Sometimes he felt as if time was continually running away from him.  Before he knew it, Rachel would be getting ready for college if he wasn't careful.  Occasionally, he'd wondered if shooting around the sun at high velocity would really send him back in time; it had worked in Star Trek...  He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and walked back to his desk.

Just as Clark was about to sit down, the phone rang.  He picked it up and was surprised to hear Samantha Parker's voice.  "Sam?" he asked worriedly.  "Is something wrong with Rachel's adoption?"

"No, no, Mr. Kent.  Rachel's adoption is fine.  I'm calling on another matter, but I need to speak to both you and your wife." Sam sounded breathless, as if she had been running.

"Sam, hold on.  I'm transferring you to the conference room; the newsroom is too noisy for this." Clark quickly transferred the call and hurried to Lois's desk.

Lois took one look at his face, hung up her phone, and stood up.  "What's the matter, sweetheart?" she asked.

"You didn't have to hang up on Bobby," Clark protested.  "This could have waited for a minute or two."

Lois shrugged.  "He must be out, because he's not answering.  Tell me what's going on, Clark."

"Samantha Parker wants to talk to us," he said.  "She's on hold right now; I transferred the call to the conference room."

Lois bit her lip.  "Is it Rachel?" she asked.

"I don't know," he answered honestly.  "She said it wasn't about Rachel's adoption, but that she needed to talk to both of us."

Lois nodded slowly and drew in a deep breath.  "Okay, let's find out what she wants."

Together, they hurried into the conference room.  Clark closed the door while Lois answered the phone and put it on speaker.  "Ms. Parker?" Clark said.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kent," Sam's voice answered.  "This isn't about Rachel at all; this is about her half-brother, Timmy."

"Ms. Parker," Lois said.  "Timmy is with the rest of the kids from the Juliet Illegal Adoption Ring.  I don't see what this has to do with us."  She pulled out a chair and sat down.

Clark came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.  "I'm afraid I agree with my wife," he said quietly.  "It's a shame that he and the other kids ended up back in the system, but they're being taken care of, aren't they?"  He knew that he probably sounded callous, but Rachel and Jamie kept them busy, especially now that Lois was working full time again.  He didn't *want* to sound callous, but he had his own family to worry about, and he didn't have enough time for them as it was.

"Timmy *was* in foster care," Sam corrected.  "His foster parents had to move out of state, and they obviously can't take him with them."

"I see," Clark said.  "And why are you calling us?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Kent, your license is still good and you're rated for one foster child.  We like to keep biological families together, and I was hoping that you could find it in your hearts to take Timmy Russell in, too."

"I don't know," Lois said hesitantly.  "Rachel's been having problems adjusting to the new baby, and I don't know how throwing another child into the mix will affect her."

"She just started seeing a new therapist, too," Clark said.  "He seems to be doing her some good, and giving her someone else to adapt to might not be a good idea."

"I understand your concerns, but Timmy is only four; he fills in the age gap between Rachel and Jamie nicely.  And it's not like he's a stranger to her--he's her brother."

"We'll have to talk about this, Sam," Lois said finally.

"I'm afraid there's not much time for that," Sam said.  "I have to find a placement for him by the end of the day; I can only keep him hanging around the office for so long."

"We'll call you back," Clark promised. "We just have to figure out if this will work."

"Thank you both," Sam said, then hung up. 

Clark turned to Lois.  "What do you think?" he asked.

"Rachel's just starting to open up about her old life to someone," Lois murmured.  "I'm not sure if this will do her more harm than good." She pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and looked up as he moved around the table to drop heavily in one of the other chairs.

"She's had so much trouble lately," Clark said slowly.  "Since Jamie developed his colic, the happy little girl we had a few months ago seems to have disappeared.  I'm loathe to give her someone else to deal with."

"But at the same time, Timmy *is* her brother," Lois pointed out.  "Maybe we'll find out that we need to adopt him, too."

"He lived in the same house Rachel did," Clark said.  "Maybe having him around would be good for her."

Lois leaned forward.  "Tell you what.  Since we can't seem to decide, we can flip a coin," she offered.  "Heads, we take him, tales, DFCS can find another family for him."

"Lo-is," Clark protested.

A nervous grin spread over her face.  "I was kidding, Clark," she said.  "It'd take a pretty cruel person to decide a child's fate with the flip of a coin."  She bit her lip again, picked up a kleenex, and started shredding it absently. 

"Seriously, honey, do you think we should?" Clark asked.  "I'm not sure about this whole idea."

Lois sucked in a deep breath.  "Yes.  I think we should at least take him provisionally.  If it doesn't work out, I'm all for telling Sam to find another family for him, but it'd be nice for Rachel to have another kid to play with."

Clark considered it for a few minutes.  "Maybe you're right."  He stood up and paced restlessly for a few minutes.  "Maybe having someone closer to her own age to play with would bring back the real Rachel."  He looked over at her and smiled.  "I'll call Sam if you talk to the daycare and see if they can handle another four-year old."

"It'll only be after school," Lois said as she picked up the phone.  "Rachel's school has four-year-old kindergarten, so we'll have to enroll him."

"I'll go call Sam back," Clark said, and headed towards the door.  He still wasn't sure of this, but they had to at least try.  Rachel could get to know her half-brother again.  He grimaced as he thought of another problem: Superman.  If Timmy was half as smart as his big sister, hiding his alter ego would be a huge challenge.

~*~*~*~

September 20, 1999, 5:02 PM
Centennial Park, Metropolis

Melissa took one backwards look at the playground and started jogging away.  Her brother was playing happily in the sand box, and he wouldn't miss her while she ran to the restrooms down the trail.  She smiled as she passed under the green, leafy trees, happy that the path was shaded for once.  It wasn't often that they came to the north side of the park, but the city was replacing some of the old, battered equipment on the south side, so they'd ended up coming there.

She glanced back one more time at her little brother, who was barely in sight, before she turned back towards her goal.  She hated babysitting, but if she wanted a new CD player, she didn't have much of a choice.  Her parents had made it clear that they wouldn't replace it again if she broke it.  It wasn't *her* fault that it had fallen out of her locker and her English Literature book had fallen on top of it!

Her kid brother, Mikey, was pretty good for a five-year-old, but he *loved* to follow her around, and he was *annoying* about it.  So intent she was upon her own thoughts that she didn't notice the blockage in the path until it was too late; she tripped and went sprawling headfirst into the dirt.

She got up, brushed herself off, and turned around to find out what had tripped her up.  Her eyes widened in surprise and shock as she saw the inert body of a three-year-old boy.  His pants were down around his ankles, exposing gray underwear, and blood was seeping slowly from his forehead.  Melissa dropped to her knees beside the child and put her head on his chest.  She breathed a sigh of relief when she found a slight heartbeat, then checked to see if he was still breathing.

She bit the inside of her lip when he wasn't.  Before she could think of what to do, the emergency training she'd received for years in Girl Scouts kicked in, and she started performing rescue breathing. After five minutes without a response, she pulled out the cell phone that her mom insisted she carry when she was babysitting and took Mikey to the park, and called the cops.

"I'm in the north side of Centennial Park on the path between the restrooms and the playground," she began.  A sob escaped from her throat.  "My name is Melissa Anderson, I'm here babysitting my brother, and I just found a little boy on the path.  He's not breathing, and I've tried CPR.  I don't know what to do!"

"Calm down, honey," the warm voice of the operator said.  "Keep trying, hang tight, and we'll have somebody over there.  Where's your brother?"

"He's still at the playground!" Her voice rose in decibel and pitch until it sounded almost as hysterical as she felt.  "I left him there for just a minute, I swear I was going to go back!"

"It's okay, Melissa.  Listen to me.  Check the child's heartbeat."

Without thinking, Melissa obeyed, but this time, couldn't find a pulse.  "He doesn't have one," she said as another sob escaped.

"Take a deep breath, honey.  There's nothing you can do for him; you've done everything you can.  Keep me on the line, go back to the playground, get your brother, and then come back and wait for the police, ok?"

"But my brother's only five," she objected through her tears.  "He shouldn't see this."

"Nobody should, Melissa.  But you need to get your brother to keep him safe, all right?"

"Okay," she agreed in a shaky voice, then got up and started back towards the playground.  Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed.

~*~*~*~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter 4:
   Shifting Sands
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

September 20, 1999 5:05 PM
Daily Planet Daycare Center, Metropolis

Lois and Clark walked hand-in-hand into the daycare center, intent on picking up Rachel and Jamie.  Clark smiled at the attendant behind the desk, and they hurried back towards the rooms where the children were.  As usual, they split up, Lois going to get Jamie while Clark went to the back to pick up Rachel.  He opened the door, but before he could go inside, a small, brown-haired whirlwind attached herself to his leg. 

"Daddy!" she called.  "I *missed* you."

Clark laughed and swung her into his arms.  "I missed you too, Sprite.  How would you like to go home and have dinner?  Your mom and I have something we'd like to tell you."

A slightly suspicious look stole over Rachel's small face.  "Is Mommy having another baby?" she asked.

Clark smiled.  "Not yet, Sprite.  But we do have a surprise for you."

Rachel wound her arms around his neck, hugged him tightly, then laid her head on his shoulder. "Please tell me, Daddy?" she murmured.

Clark rubbed his hand up and down her back gently.  He could tell that the thought of something else changing in his daughter's small world was upsetting her, and since he and Lois would be telling her in a few minutes anyway, he supposed it didn't really make sense to wait.

"Baby, how would you like for your half brother to come and live with us?  Samantha called today and asked if he could, and your Mommy and I said yes."

Rachel buried her face in his neck.  "Is he gonna stay with us forever?"

"I don't know, Sprite," Clark answered honestly.  "We don't know how Timmy will fit in our family."

"And you and Momma will love me just the same?" she asked.

"Always, baby," he answered.

"Good."  She answered, her voice muffled.  "Then I guess it's okay, but I don't like Timmy much."

"He's been bounced around for a while, Sprite.  Would you be nice to him for me and your Momma?"  Clark asked.

Rachel pulled back and looked at him.  "But what if he's mean to me, Daddy?" she asked.

Clark kissed her on the cheek.  "Sprite, if Timmy decides to be ugly, you can come and tell me or Mommy, but don't be mean back, okay?"

Rachel bit her lip, sighed, and nodded.  "I guess." She tightened her hold on him and once again buried her face in his neck.

Clark hugged his daughter tightly, then grabbed her full backpack from the rack.  He smiled at the daycare worker and headed out the door, shutting it tightly behind him.  Lois was waiting for them at the front desk. 

"Clark," she began hurriedly, "Perry just called down from the newsroom.  There's been another one, and he wants one of us to cover it."

Clark reached over and took the baby carrier.  "You go," he said with a smile.  "I can handle these two for a while, but I'll need the car."

Lois nodded and put Jamie's diaper bag down next to Clark.  "Henderson is on his way down to the lobby; he was talking to Perry, and he said that he'll give me a lift to the crime scene and then back to the house."

"Momma?" Rachel said.

Lois leaned over and kissed her daughter.  "I'll be back for dinner, Peanut, ok?"

Rachel sighed and nodded.  "Okay."

With a final wave, Lois left.  Clark carefully put Rachel down and gathered up his children's possessions. "C'mon, Sprite.  Let's go home," he said with a smile.

Rachel kept close by his side as they left the daycare center and headed down to the underground parking garage.  They'd have to wait to start dinner until after Timmy arrived; the child was sure to be hungry.  He frowned slightly as they stepped out of the elevator and walked to the jeep.  He wasn't sure what the boy would eat; some kids were very picky when it came to food. 

Clark thought about it for a few minutes, then decided to stick to stuff that most kids would eat.  "How would you like hot dogs and fries for dinner, Rachel?" he asked.

Rachel climbed into her car seat before answering.  "Can we have potato salad, too?"

Clark smiled.  "Not with french fries, kiddo."  He leaned over and strapped her in before lifting Jamie's carrier into the car and buckling it in as well.

Rachel pouted for a few minutes.  "Ok-a-a-y," she said with a sigh. 

Clark shut the door and got in the car.  Timmy would have to sleep in the guest room for now; lucky for them that their house had four bedrooms.  He started the car and pulled out of the parking space.  They'd have to stop by the grocery store on the way home for the ingredients for dinner.

~*~*~*~

September 20, 1999, 6:20 PM
Office of Social Services, Metropolis

Samantha Parker sat at her desk and flipped through a case file.  She glanced over where little Timmy Russell was looking through a picture-book and sighed.  He'd been being unbelievably good since they'd had to retrieve him from his last foster home, but she knew it wouldn't last.  Children his age usually weren't as still and quiet as he was being.  She knew his background; it included the abuse of his half-sister, but from all accounts he had been treated well.  Timmy was in foster care because not only had his father's parental rights been terminated when Rachel's condition had come to light, but also there was a dearth of blood relatives willing and able to care for him. 

Samantha closed the file with a sigh, got up, and walked over to where the child was sitting.  "Timmy," she began gently.  "How would you like to go live with the people that adopted Rachel?"

Timmy seemed to consider the question for a few minutes.  "Are they nice, Ms. Parker?  Do you think that they'll adopt me, too?" 

Samantha smiled.  "I don't know, kiddo.  The Kents are really nice people.  Besides Rachel, they also have a baby boy named Jamie."

Timmy's eyes lit up and a smile spread over his chubby face.  "Really?  So I'd get a baby brother?"

"For now, yes," Samantha said.  She knew better than to lie to any of her charges.  She reached down and picked up his suitcase.  "Are you ready to go meet them?" she asked with a smile.

Timmy nodded, his smile growing bigger.  "I haven't seen Rachel for a long time," he said.  "What does she look like?  I don't remember."

Sam reached for his hand.  It really wasn't surprising that he didn't really remember his sister much.  He was only four years old, after all, and he hadn't seen her for almost a year.  "She's pretty," Sam answered finally.  "Her hair's gotten darker; it's almost light brown now, and it gets darker every time I see her.  She's got dark blue eyes--like yours, and she's very shy."

"What about the baby?" Timmy asked.

"I haven't seen him," Samantha answered.  "He was born after Rachel was adopted, so I haven't been over there lately."

"Okay," Timmy said.  "Does Rachel like it there?"

"Very much," Samantha confirmed.  "She loves the Kents."  She ushered him outside and to her car.  She dumped his suitcase in the back, helped him into a car seat, and fastened it securely.  She hurried back around the car, slid in and started it.  It wouldn't be long before they got to the Kent's house, and in a way, she was glad; one more child would be in a safe home.

~*~*~*~

September 20, 1999 6:30 pm
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Rachel sat quietly in the corner of the room, playing with Aimee and Aimee's new friend, Monika, that Grandma Kent had made.  She wasn't so sure about Timmy coming to stay with them--after all, he'd always been pretty mean to her when she'd had to live with Papa Gary.  Maybe he'd be nice now.  Maybe he wouldn't hit her or call her ugly names.

She cuddled Aimee close, then sat her in one of the chairs and pretended to pour tea in the small china teacup.  "Drink up for Mommy," she said softly.    Rachel frowned slightly, then got up to wander towards the kitchen.  Playing tea party wasn't as fun without her grandpas to play with her.  A smile replaced the frown as she thought of Grandpa Perry trying to sit on one of her small chairs.  He'd looked so silly trying to sit at her table!

Rachel pushed open the kitchen door, went in, and climbed up on one of the stools.  "Daddy, when will Momma be home?" she asked quietly. 

Clark opened the bag of frozen French fries and dumped them on a cookie sheet before answering.  “Soon, Sprite.  Inspector Henderson won’t keep her any longer than he has to.”  He reached over and tugged Rachel’s ponytail gently.  “He knows we need her home, kiddo.”

“Good.  I want Momma home.”  Rachel slid down from the stool, walked over, and hugged Clark tightly.  “I’m scared, Daddy,” she said in a little voice.

Clark picked her up and kissed her forehead gently.  “There’s nothing to be scared of, sweetheart,” he murmured.  “I promise that everything’ll be okay.”

Rachel sighed and laid her head on his shoulder.  “Can we go flying soon, Daddy?”

Clark rubbed her back gently.  “We’ll see, Rach,” he promised.  “Timmy can’t find out about my other job.”

“Cause he might tell?” Rachel asked.

“Yes.  We don’t know Timmy yet.  Maybe we’ll adopt him, too, and then we’ll tell him.”

Rachel wrapped her arms around his neck.  “Okay.  I won’t tell Timmy even if he’s real nice now.”

“Was he mean before, sprite?” Clark asked.

Rachel didn’t answer; she just laid her head on his shoulder again.  Clark kissed her on the cheek. “Kiddo, I need to check the fries.  Would you please do me a favor and go make sure Jamie’s okay?” he asked.

A big smile spread over Rachel’s face.  “Sure!” she said.  “I need to tell him about Timmy, anyway.”

Clark put her down and turned to stick the fries in the oven.  “He’s in the playpen in the living room,” he called as she hurried out of the room.

“I know, Daddy!” Rachel pushed through the kitchen door and ran over to the playpen.  She smiled as she watched Jamie stick his fist in his mouth.  "Hey, Jaimers," she said. 

Rachel carefully climbed into the playpen and sat next to the sleeping baby.  "My old half-brother is coming to stay with us," she informed him softly.  "I'll keep him away from you; I promise.  He's mean; least he was before."

Jamie's fist left his mouth and he let out a quiet snore.

"I'll protect you, 'cause you're *my* brother," she said, then kissed him on the cheek and climbed out of the playpen.  Rachel looked at Jamie, a smile on her face. She was sure that he was the cutest baby in the universe, and he was *her* brother.  Nobody would ever be allowed to lay a finger on him if she had her way.  Things would be different for him, because he would *always* have somebody to love him.

Rachel looked up, startled when the doorbell rang.  It had to be *him*.  "Daddy!" she called.

Clark came out, wiping his hands on his jeans.  "I'm coming, Sprite," he said with a smile.

Rachel held her arms out to him.  "Please, Daddy?" she asked.

Clark reached down, swung her into his arms, and settled her on his hip. "What's the matter?" he asked.

Rachel didn't answer; she just buried her face in his neck.  She felt the kiss he placed on her forehead as he started moving towards the door.

Clark opened the door, revealing Samantha and Timmy.  He flashed them a quick smile and motioned them inside. "Come on in," he said.  He looked at the little boy.

Timmy didn't return the look. His sullen dark blue eyes were fixed on the floor as the ambient light shone on his sandy-brown hair.  His hands were shoved in the pockets of his blue jeans, and he occupied himself with scuffing the toe of his ragged sneaker against the wooden floor.  "Is that Rachel?" he asked finally, pointing at her.

Sam stepped a little closer to Rachel and Clark, then smoothed back a strand of Rachel's light brown hair.  "Yes, it is," she answered.

"She's feeling just a little shy today," Clark said with a smile.  "Give me just a minute, and I'll help you take your stuff upstairs."

"Is my room up there?" Timmy asked.  At Clark's distracted nod, he took off and hurried up the stairs.

Clark sat down on the couch and settled Rachel in his lap.  "Sprite, will you be okay down here with Jamie?" he asked.  "I need to go upstairs and get Timmy settled in."

"Okay, Daddy," she whispered, sliding off his lap.  Rachel walked over to the playpen and pulled a blanket over Jamie as she listened to the grown-ups. 

Clark stood and watched Timmy gain the landing.  "Thank you for bringing him, Sam."

"I'm just happy you could take him, Mr. Kent," Sam offered with a smile.  "I'll be back in a few weeks to see how he's settling in."

Clark offered her his hand, and they shook before he walked her to the door.  Sam left and Clark looked back at Rachel before heading upstairs.  "I'm going to show Timmy where he's sleeping; I'll be right back, Sprite."

"Okay, Daddy," Rachel said softly as she watched Clark pick up a small bag and head upstairs.  She turned back to the playpen.  "I'll protect us, Jamie.  I promise," she murmured.

~*~*~*~

Timmy walked into the closest bedroom.  It was *girly*, so he decided that it must be Rachel's room.  And that meant that it was now his.  His last set of foster parents had tried to teach him that girls were to be treated nicely, but he knew that Rachel was the exception.  He was better than she was; he belonged and she didn't.  Daddy had said so, and Daddy was always right. 

Besides, it was all her dumb fault that Daddy had to go away and he had to live with strangers.  She *owed* him.  What was hers in this nice place was his now.  It was only fair.  He ran over and jumped on the bed, bouncing up and down.  It wasn't long before Mr. Kent came in.

"I see you've found Rachel's room," he said pleasantly.

"'S mine, now," Timmy answered.

"Nope," Clark said.  "You'll be sleeping down the hall, Tim."

"But I like it here," Timmy whined.

"Tough, kiddo," Clark said.  "This room belongs to Rachel."  He held out his hand.  "Come on, and I'll show you what'll be your room while you're here."

Timmy stuck his lip out in a pout, then came over and took Clark's hand.  It wasn't *fair*.  It was obvious that Mr. Kent wasn't about to let him have his own way.  Looked like he liked Rachel better than him.  Didn't matter.  She would never, ever, belong more than him.  He was special.  Daddy said so.  Rachel was trash.  She was an accident.  *He* wasn't.

He followed Mr. Kent down the hall to a bland guest room.  "You'll be sleeping here," Clark said, offering him a grin.  "We just found out about you today, so we're putting you in the guest room for now, and we'll see about getting some of your stuff later."

Timmy didn't say anything.  He could always take Rachel's toys, after all.  He'd even seen a cool teddy bear that he liked sitting on her bed.

~*~*~*~

September 20, 1999, 6:50 pm
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Lois unlocked the front door and walked inside.  "I'm home," she called. 

A small, light brown-haired whirlwind barreled into her, tiny arms wrapped around her, and a face burrowed its way into her stomach.  "Timmy's here," said a muffled voice.

Lois smiled.  "Hello to you, too, Peanut." she said. 

"Momma, will you still love me now that he's here?" she asked in a small voice.

Lois hugged Rachel tightly.  "I'll *always* love you, baby," she promised.  "Nothing could ever make me stop."

Rachel rubbed her face against Lois’s stomach.  “Good.  I’m hungry.”

Lois smiled.  "I think we can fix that--I smell hot dogs."

"Daddy's cooking, but Timmy is in there too," Rachel explained.

"Well, kiddo, why don't we go in and see if dinner's ready?" Lois asked as she stood up and took Rachel's hand.

"Okay," Rachel said with a worried smile.  She followed Lois into the kitchen and sat down at the already-set table next to Timmy.  She didn't really want to sit there, but there wasn't much choice in the matter.

Clark walked by, mussed her hair affectionately, and set some hot dogs on the table. 

Lois walked out of the room and came back with Jamie, whom she put into his bouncy chair.  Jamie grinned at Rachel and stuffed his fist into his mouth.

Rachel smiled at her baby brother, then looked down at her plate.  Her hot dog was missing!  She looked suspiciously at Timmy who was happily chomping one down and there was another on his plate.  He stopped to smirk at her, then pinched her arm, hard.  She started to pinch him back, but didn’t--her Daddy had asked her to be nice to him, and she’d do it if it killed her.

She reached for a French fry, only to have Timmy steal a handful of them and put them on his own plate.  Rachel glared at him, then took one, dipped it in ketchup, and ate it.  It was obvious to her that Timmy hadn’t changed much.  He’d always been encouraged by Papa Gary to take anything she really wanted.

Timmy helped himself to more of her fries, so she scowled at him, picked up her fork, and started to eat her beans.  She’d make sure that she got to set the table from now on so that she could make sure to be out of Timmy’s reach.  “Daddy, may I please have a hot dog?” she asked softly.

Clark fixed her another one.  "Of course you can, Sprite," he said, handing it over, then turning back to his conversation with her Momma about work.

Rachel took it from him and took a large bite.  Timmy wasn't going to get this one.  She smiled at Jamie again as he gurgled at her, spitting up some of the baby cereal that Momma was feeding him.

She chewed and swallowed her hot dog and was about to take another bite when Timmy knocked it out of her hand and pinched her again.  "Hey!" she protested, "you did that on *purpose*!"

Clark stopped talking to Lois and looked at them.  Timmy had a huge grin on his face, as if he were vastly amused at his half-sister's complaint.  "Timothy Raymond Russell, *did* you do that on purpose?" he asked. 

One look at Clark must've let Timmy know that he meant business.  "Yes." He answered.  "She's good-for-nothing- trash.  She's a *bastard*; an *accident*.  She doesn't deserve to sit with me.  Daddy said so, and Daddy's *right*."

"No, he's *not*." Rachel broke in.  "*Your* daddy's in *jail* cause he's a *bad* man."

"Rachel!" Lois said sharply.

"Sorry, Momma," Rachel muttered, staring down at her plate.

"Rachel, come here," Clark said softly. 

Rachel slid down from her chair and went around the table.  Clark picked her up and set her in his lap before turning to Timmy.  "Timmy, go wash up and then go to *your* room, NOW."

"I don't see why," he sneered.  "*Rachel* was the one who was bad, *not* me."

Rachel hid her face in Clark's chest and refused to move. 

"NOW, Timothy," Lois ordered, her eyes snapping dangerously.  "We'll be up later to talk about how we treat other people."

Jamie picked that moment to start crying.  Lois turned away from Timmy, put a cloth over her shoulder, picked Jamie up, and laid him on her shoulder.

Timmy slid out of his chair, shot a murderous look at Rachel, then stomped out of the room.

Clark hugged Rachel and she scooted back slightly to look at her daddy.  "I'm sorry," she said softly.

"I know you are, Sprite," he said with a gentle smile.  "Just don't--"

"Call him names again and be nice to him?" Rachel asked.

"That's right," Lois said.  "We need to prove to him that there are better ways than being ugly to people to get along." She smiled at Clark and he grinned back.

"Are you still hungry, Rach?" Clark asked.

Rachel nodded.  "Uh huh."

Clark stood up, and started to put her down, but she clung to him tightly.  "Don't let go, Daddy," she begged. 

Clark sighed, slung her over his hip, refilled her plate, and put her back in her chair, then leaned down and cleaned up the mess from her ruined hot dog.  "There you go, Rachel," he said with a smile. 

Rachel kept one hand wound in his shirt, and let go reluctantly.  Daddy's arms were *safe* the way the rest of the world wasn't.  At least Timmy had been sent upstairs.  She looked at Jamie and made silly faces at him until he stopped crying.  "Jamie doesn't like Timmy," she announced.  "I don't, either."

"Peanut," Lois began.  "I don't think you know the real Timmy--there could be a very nice little boy in there.  Promise me that you'll be nice to him or at least try?"
   
Rachel nodded.  "Okay, Momma." She was willing to do almost anything for her parents, and she didn't want to be like Timmy, either.  She picked up her hot dog and started eating.  It was much different being a Kent than living with Timmy and Papa Gary--there Timmy was allowed to do whatever he wanted to her.  Here, it didn't look like he would be allowed to hurt her.  She smiled.  Here, she belonged, and Timmy was only temporary.

~*~*~*~

September 20, 1999, 8:00 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Clark peeked into Rachel's room, where Lois was engaged in reading his little girl a story.  Rachel had her thumb in her mouth and her head was leaning against Lois's shoulder.  Aimee was tucked under one arm, while Clarkie-Bear occupied the other.  He grinned as she looked up at him, removed her thumb from her mouth, and smiled, then stuck her thumb back in her mouth and looked at the pictures in the book Lois was reading. 

Rachel's room hadn't changed much in the past year.  It still had scenes from fairy tales painstakingly painted on the walls by himself and his mom, with an important addition. Ever since Rachel had learned about the secret, she insisted that princesses had to be rescued by Superman, so they'd put decals of Superman flying to the rescue into every scene.

He turned and walked quietly down the hall to check on Jamie.  He tiptoed into the room and peeked into Jamie's crib.  His baby was fast asleep, with dark eyelashes curling on his chubby cheeks.  Clark tugged the blanket up and glanced around the Winnie-the-Pooh decorated nursery.  Rachel had wanted Superman in there, too, so they'd let her pick out a soft Superman toy for the baby's crib.  It just wouldn't do to have people identify the Kent children with Superman, after all.

Clark kissed his son on the cheek, then silently left the room and headed to where Timmy was staying.  He entered the room to find Timmy sitting on the bed with his bottom lip sticking out and his arms crossed stubbornly over his chest.

He looked up and glared at Clark, then turned to face the wall.  "I hate you," he announced.  "You're *mean*.  Rachel's *always* wrong."

"No, she's not," Clark corrected gently.  "Hate isn't a nice feeling to have and it twists you up inside."  He sat down on the bed next to Timmy in the sparse room.  "You'll find that life is a lot easier if you're not insulting people all the time.  This time, Timothy, *you're* wrong." 

"Am *not*," the boy retorted.

"Timothy, we *never* call names and we don't use bad words, either," Clark said insistently.  "You *never* take things that don't belong to you.  Rachel's had a hard time, and her mother and I won't tolerate you being ugly to her.  Just treat her the way you want to be treated, and we'll be okay.  Do you *understand*?"

"Yes, sir," Timmy said sulkily.

"Bath time, and then get ready for bed.  Do you need any help?" Clark asked.  "I ran you a bath before I came in here."

Timmy shook his head.  "I can do it," he said.
   
"Bathroom's third door on the right." Clark directed.  "I'll be in to check on you in a few minutes." 

He watched as Timmy trudged out of the room and sighed.  Intellectually, he knew that Timmy was just parroting what he'd been taught, but that didn't mean that he had to like it.  It was his job as Rachel's dad to protect her, and he hated the fact that Timmy seemed intent on hurting his baby girl.  Timmy's attitude would change.  It had to.

He got up and followed Timmy into the bathroom to make sure he didn't drown in the bath.  Despite the child's insistence that he could do it himself, Clark wasn't about to leave him alone in the tub.  Things would work out; somehow they always did.

~*~*~*~

September 30, 1999, 1:30 PM
David Carson's Studio, Metropolis

Henderson escorted Lois and Clark inside the large, cluttered, well-lit building.  Clay dust lay thick and heavy near the door, and every surface was littered with projects in various stages of completion.  Some were swathed in many layers of plastic, while others lay open to the air and ready for inspection.

A clay-spattered potters' wheel stood in one corner, surrounded by tall, free-standing shelving units that were covered with plastic-swathed shapes that had boards under them.  An easel stood in another corner, and stacks of half-used tubes of paint, unused canvasses, and finished canvases occupied another corner.

A rail thin, balding, gray-haired old man came out from behind a stack of wood lugging two medium-sized blocks of clay and dumped them on a table, then walked over to greet them.  "Bill," he said with a half-smile that was mostly obscured by his bushy mustache.  He wiped his hands on his paint and clay spattered jeans and held out his hand.  "Nice to meet you two," he said with a bigger smile.

"I'm Lois Lane and this is my partner, Clark Kent," Lois said with a smile.

"We're from the Daily Planet," Clark finished.

"So you're here to find out about the process and check my progress on the little boy's face?" Carson asked.
 
"Yes, sir," Clark said.

"If you'll just follow me," he said.  "I teach a figure sculpture class at the Metropolis School of Art and Design--I teach them how to construct faces from the inside out."

Carson walked over to the table he'd dumped the clay on and pulled a piece of plastic off a wire stand that supported the skull.  "Yes, it's real," he said, interpreting their looks.  "The different eraser lengths represent different tissue depths, but since they were determined over a hundred years ago, I tend to add a bit of extra flesh.  People are more well-nourished now than they were then."

"So what are all the bands of clay around the skull for?" Lois asked.

"They connect the different depths and provide a base to build on," he explained.  "I'll be adding the eyes in next.  Bill, did the pathologist determine the race of the child?"

"Caucasian," was Henderson's answer.  "So far, all the victims have had blue or green eyes and light brown hair."

"Makes my job easier," Carson commented.  He grabbed a small box and extracted a pair of blue eyes, which he then stuck to the clay supports inside the eyesockets of the skull.  Carefully, he filled in the space around them, making adjustments until the skull stared straight ahead of himself.  With a set of small tools and more clay, he created the upper and lower eyelids, then started adding flesh to the skull.

"How long will this process take?" Lois asked.

"Usually a week, give or take a day or two," Carson said.  "A lot of this is done by feel--if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.  Thirty years of doing this let me know when something is right."

"What about hair?" Clark asked curiously. 

"We'll take pictures of it with different hair styles and colors and circulate them," Henderson explained.  "I've worked with Dave before."

Carson turned around from his work and smiled.  "We use a different kind of clay for this than for regular figure sculpture--it's called plasticene and it doesn't dry out like normal clay.  After we're done here, I'll cut it open to get to the skull, clean it off, and the morgue will get it back."

"Call me as soon as it's finished?" Bill asked.  "We need to get this boy identified."

"Of course." Carson said absently as he warmed up a piece of plasticene and added it to the skull.

Henderson gestured towards the door, and they headed out of the studio.

"So how effective is this process?" Lois asked finally.

"About 98%.  Most people use computers to do the same thing because it's faster," Henderson explained.

"How can you tell what race a person is from their bones?" Clark asked curiously.

Henderson shrugged.  "I'm not sure.  It has something to do with different bone structure for different races.  You'd have to ask Dr. Elizabeth Forrest--she's the coroner on this case."

"Thanks, Detective," Lois said with a smile.

"We'll call if we find anything," Clark added.

"You do that." Henderson waved as they climbed into the Jeep and drove away. 

~*~*~*~







~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 5:
  Broken Blossoms
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

October 3, 1999 4:00 PM
Daily Planet Daycare Center, Metropolis

Rachel stood on her tiptoes to peer in the window of the baby room.  She wasn't supposed to be out of the older kids' room, but she'd snuck out to check on Jamie.  The teachers would know where to find her, anyway.  They always did when she went to visit her brother.

She dropped back down to the floor, opened the door silently, and tiptoed into the nursery.    She glanced around, then hurried to Jamie's crib when she saw that the teachers were busy changing diapers.  Quickly, she pulled herself into the crib.  Jamie gave her a smile, then stuffed his fist in his mouth.  "Hey Jaimers," she whispered, giving him a kiss.

Jamie blinked at her sleepily.

"I had to get 'way from Timmy," she explained, carefully picking the baby up and settling him in her lap.  "I don't like him; he's still mean."  Rachel cuddled him closer, taking comfort in the clean baby smell of her brother.

Jamie pulled his fist out of his mouth and stuck his foot in, looking enormously pleased with his accomplishment.

"Wow!  I can't put my foot in my mouth!" Rachel hugged him gently.  "I won't let Timmy touch you," she promised again.  "He pinches, *hard*."

Jamie closed his eyes and sucked on his toes.

Rachel shifted his warm weight into a more comfortable position and kissed the top of his mostly-bald head.  "*You're* my brother, Jamie, not *Timmy*." She said the last word with disgust, as if to let the baby know how much she detested the interloper.

Jamie's foot popped out of his mouth and he stuck his fist back in.

Rachel yawned.  Jamie followed her example.  "It's not safe to take naps there," she confided.  "Timmy pulls my hair and then tells Teacher that I'm lying when I tell.  He never does it when she can see, either."

Jamie's eyes started to slide shut.

Rachel put him down on the mattress, then curled herself around him.  "I'll protect you, Jamie," she whispered as her own eyes began to close.  "I love *you,* not *him.*

Catherine Roberts, the teacher in the Infant Room, found the two of them a few minutes later.  "Jess, come see who showed up here again," she said with a half-smile.

Jess put the child she was holding into the playpen and walked over.  "Rachel Kent again?" she asked.  Her expression was torn between amusement and irritation.

"Yeah," she said.  Catherine picked up a blanket and spread it over the two children.

"Cate, you know that she's not supposed to stay here!" Jess said.

Catherine shrugged.  "I'll take responsibility; five-year-olds are heavy and she obviously feels safe here with her baby brother. Besides, she's asleep and I don't want to wake her up."

"You'll get your head handed to you on a platter," Jess warned.

Catherine shot her a grin.  "I doubt it.  The Kents are Joyce's favorite parents."

Jess shrugged and turned back towards the rest of the children.  Catherine lingered for a few minutes, fussing with how the blanket lay, before she left to join Jess.

Rachel and Jamie slept, cuddled together, for a while, with Rachel dreaming of teaching her brother how to walk and run away from bad people.  Her little arm tightened around him as if to protect him from anyone who would offer him harm.

~*~*~*~

October 3, 1999, 5:30 PM
Daily Planet

Lois saved the file she'd been working on, told the computer to shut down, and began clearing off her desk.  Clark had been called away at the last moment by a call for help, so it was up to her to get the children and take them home that night.  She sighed and reached for her purse and briefcase.

Some days it seemed like a never-ending cycle.  Go to work, drop off the kids, work, get the kids, take care of them, try and get Jamie to stop crying, feed them dinner, make sure they all get baths, get them to bed.  Then, the next day, it started all over again.  She sighed again.

She loved Rachel and Jamie.  She was still getting used to Timmy.  But there were some days, when things had been especially tough, when she wished she could just run away for a few days and not have to take care of them.  Her parents had been helping out, and before they got Timmy, Clark's parents had been perfectly willing to be brought up to babysit for the weekend.  That relief, however, would be put on hold until they decided if Timmy would be staying with them.

It would be too hard to explain how Clark's parents had gotten to Metropolis from Smallville just to babysit for a night or two.  It was early yet to know how things would work out; Timmy had only been with them for a day.  Lois stood up, pushed her chair in and headed towards the elevator.

It didn't take long to get downstairs and into the daycare center.  "Hi," she said, smiling at Amy, who was sitting behind the desk.

Amy looked up from her papers and smiled.  "Off early tonight, Ms. Lane?  You know the way back."

"Thanks, Amy," she said.  Lois headed back to the rooms, stopping in the infant room first.  She peeked in the window and frowned when she noticed Rachel sitting on the floor with Jamie.  She loved it that she was adjusting to having a baby brother so well, but wasn't Rachel supposed to be on the playground?  She knocked on the door, then entered. 

Rachel jumped up, ran over to Lois and buried her face in her stomach. "Momma!" she said.

Lois disentangled herself and crouched down to Rachel's level.  "Why are you in here, Peanut?" she asked as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind Rachel's ear.

Rachel looked down at the ground as if she were ashamed.  "Timmy was pinching me, so I runned away.  *Jamie* loves me, even if Timmy doesn't."

Lois gave Rachel a gentle hug.  "I think we're going to have to have a talk with Timmy about pinching," she said.

Rachel bit her lip.  "He'll be meaner if you do," she whispered.  "He was always meaner if Kirsten said anything."

Lois kissed Rachel on the forehead.  "Who's Kirsten, baby?"

"The nanny that Papa Gary fired because she was gonna tell."  Rachel looked like she might cry.  "She hadda go back to Denmark after."

Lois hugged her daughter again, mentally cursing the man who'd hurt her baby.  "Sweetie, your Daddy and I will deal with Timmy--he can't go around pinching you and thinking that it's okay.  Did you do anything to make him mad?" she asked.

"Uh uh," Rachel said.  "He was trying to take Clarkie Bear away and I didn't wanna let 'em.  He tore off Clarkie Bear's arm, too."  Her lower lip started to wobble.  "Teacher took him 'way and his arm hurts."

Lois dug in her purse, pulled out a tissue and wiped the tears away.  She held it up to Rachel's nose.  "Blow," she ordered. 

Obediently, Rachel blew her nose into the tissue, but kept sniffing.  "We'll fix Clarkie," Lois promised.  "I can sew his arm back on and set it so he'll heal.  He may have to wear a sling for a few days, but he'll be good as new."

Lois's sewing skills were on par with her cooking skills, but even she knew enough to sew a toy's arm back on.  And she could always ask Martha for advice.

"Really?" Rachel asked.

"What are Mommies for?" Lois asked with a smile.  "Now, let's get your brother, and then go down the hall to get Timmy, okay?"

"Okay.  Momma, can I sit next to Jamie?  Timmy might hurt him."  Rachel gave her a pleading look that Lois knew she must have picked up from Clark.

"We'll see."  Lois stood up and held out her hand for Rachel to take.  She smiled when she felt the small hand slip into hers and together they walked over to where the Infant Room teachers were sitting.  "How was Jamie today?" she asked as Jess settled him in his carrier.

"He cried a lot, as usual," Catherine said with a resigned sigh.  "He's growing out of it--he doesn't cry as much as ye used to and he also seems better when Rachel's here with him."

Lois favored her daughter with a proud smile.  "I know.  Do Rachel's teachers know where she is?"

Catherine nodded.  "When our little Houdini turned up here again, I let them know."

Lois thanked the women, picked up Jamie's baby carrier, and left the room, making sure that the door was shut tightly behind her.  They had some babies in that room that were just beginning to walk well, and she didn't want them to escape.

She kept her stride short enough that Rachel would have no problems keeping up and hurried to the after-school rooms.  It was a matter of minutes, to pick up Rachel's things, including the damaged toy, and call for Timmy.

The moment Timmy appeared, Rachel hid behind Lois and refused to come out.  Timmy bounced up to them and gave Lois a wide grin.  "Hihi, Ms., Lane!" he said cheerfully before spotting Rachel.  His face darkened.  "Why does *she* have to be here?" he demanded.

Lois's lips tightened.  "Timmy, Rachel is my little girl.  I'm here to pick all three of you up and take you home.  Now, I've heard that you haven't been very nice today.  Can you tell me what happened?"

Another smile blossomed on Timmy's face.  "Rachel wouldn't let me have her stupid bear, so I took him from her," he frowned.  "It broke." He stuck his lip out in a pout.  "Wasn't supposed to.  Was *mine.*  So I pinched her good.  She deserved it.  Daddy says she's a filthy little bitch.  He's right."

Lois frowned.  It was… disturbing to hear such language from a four-year-old.  She reminded herself that he was just repeating what he'd heard.  She felt Rachel pressing herself closer to her legs and reached back to put a hand on Rachel's hair.  "No, he's not," she said. 

Lois suppressed her natural inclination to swat Timmy on the butt.  She wasn't allowed to do that, as much as she might want to.  "Timmy, we don't say things like that.  Ever.  It's not nice.  Taking Rachel's toy and ripping it was ugly, too.  And we never, *ever* hurt people because they don't do what we say.  Is that clear?"

"Yes ma'am," he said sullenly.  "But she's still a filthy little bastard *and* a bitch," he muttered.

Anger tore through Lois.  She would *not* allow this child to trample over her daughter.  "We'll discuss this more when we get home," she said, her voice deadly soft.  "Get your stuff."

Lois watched as Timmy gathered his belongings.  She pointed him towards the door.  "Now *march*." She shot an apologetic look at the teacher and hurried out the door.  She was angrier than she could ever remember being at a child.  She took some deep breaths, willing herself to calm down.

She needed to talk to Clark about this.  True, it was early days, but behavior like this could not be allowed to continue.  Lois tightened her grip on the carrier and offered her free hand to Rachel.  She was grateful when Rachel took it.

As she watched Timmy walk in front of them, Lois decided that perhaps it was past time that he had a date with a bar of Ivory soap.  It was nontoxic, so it wouldn't hurt him, but it tasted bad enough that he might think twice before using that kind of language.

Fervently, she hoped he'd stop picking on Rachel.  She didn't want to send him back.  But if he continued to behave as he had, they'd have no choice but to ask Samantha to find another home for him.  Lois knew they couldn't allow him to terrorize Rachel and call her names.  It just wouldn't do.

She could hear Timmy muttering something under his breath as she found the Jeep in the parking garage and unlocked it.  Lois silenced him with a look, then buckled him into his car seat before fastening the baby carrier in beside him.  She put Rachel on the other side, hoping that the slight distance would make Timmy keep his hands off.  She kissed Rachel on the cheek and gave her a small hug before going around the car.

"What would you like for dinner, Peanut?" she asked as she started the Jeep.

Rachel seemed to consider the question for a minute.  "Psghetti," she said decidedly.  "With meatballs?"

Lois did a mental inventory of the freezer.  "We're all out of that--how about we swing by Cugino's on the way home?" she asked.

Rachel smiled for the first time since Lois had picked her up.  "Goody," she said.  "I like Mister Mario."

"Who's that?" Timmy asked, his lip still stuck out in a pout. 

"You'd better be careful, Timmy," Lois advised.  "My dad always told me that if I stuck my lip out like that, a little birdie would come and poop on your teeth."

She knew that she probably shouldn't have said that, but his reaction was enough to make her suppress a laugh.  He withdrew his lip hastily.  "Who's Mario?" he asked again.

"That's *Mister* Mario," Rachel informed him. 

"Right, Peanut," Lois said.  "He works at Cugino's and he's a really nice man."

"Uh huh," Rachel said.  "An' he always tells me how pretty I am an' gives me candy, too."  She paused for a few minutes.  "I'm just not allowed to eat it until after dinner."

Lois glanced back at Timmy.  She could tell that he wanted to say something nasty.  She was pleased when he didn't say anything at all.  She pulled up in front of the restaurant, parked, and got the kids out of the car.  Together, they went inside and stood in the take out line to order.

"Ms. Lane!"

Lois turned and smiled as Mario waved from behind the counter.  The only word to describe Mario was... average.  He was shorter than Clark, and balding, with mousy-brown hair and a hook nose.  His saving grace was the large, crooked smile that always seemed to be spreading across his face.

Before Lois could say anything, Rachel spoke up.  "Mister Mario!" she called.

That crooked grin of his made an appearance.  "Why hello, little miss Rachel." He reached in his pocket and handed her some tootsie rolls.  "Why, you get prettier and look more like your Momma every time I see you."  He winked, then gave Lois a suspicious glance.  "Are you sure this one is adopted?" he asked with a grin.

Rachel accepted the tootsie rolls.  "Thank you, Mister Mario!  Yes I am.  Momma and Daddy sawed me and loved me so much that they made me their little girl," she informed him.

"They're lucky then," he said solemnly.  "Because if they hadn't got you first, I might want you to be *my* little girl.  My wife would love you, too."

Lois smiled.  "Good thing we found her first," she said.

Mario laughed.  "Well, Ms. Lane, what will it be?"

Lois hoisted Jamie's baby carrier a bit higher and wished she'd thought to bring the baby sling.  "Two orders of fettuccini and two child orders of spaghetti and meatballs," she said.

She glanced at Timmy, who was shooting evil glares at Rachel, then reached for purse to pay for the meal.  "How come Rachel gets candy and I don't?" Timmy whined.
 
Mario looked over the counter at Timmy.  "And who might you be, young man?" he asked.

"Timmy," the boy answered, as if Mario should know exactly who that was.

"This is Rachel's biological half-brother," Lois explained.  "Social Services asked if we could keep him for a while."

"Ah," Mario nodded wisely.  He reached in his pocket, pulled out a couple more tootsie rolls, and gave them to Timmy.

Timmy looked at the candy and scowled.  "Rachel got more than me," he complained.

Lois could see that Mario was repressing the urge to roll his eyes.  "She's older and bigger than you are." He said.

Lois handed him the money, and with a thank you, ushered the children over to a bench to wait for their orders to be ready. She sighed as she stopped Timmy from pulling Rachel's hair in retaliation for getting more tootsie rolls than he had.  She could tell that if they kept him, Timmy's integration with their family would be a lot harder than Rachel's had been.

~*~*~*~

October 3, 1999 5:25 PM
Skies of Metropolis

Superman flew quickly towards the scream for help.  He hadn't been able to make out much, but it sounded like a child.  His mouth tightened almost imperceptibly as he raced towards the source.  It wouldn't be the first time he'd been called by an abused child.  At least, that's who he was assuming the cries were coming from.

Rachel had been an exception; her stepfather had instilled a fear of him into her.  It was likely that if she hadn't been found, his baby daughter would've ended up as a statistic. With the child killer loose, it was still a possibility.  He still didn't know how he could protect his own children when the world looked to him to help protect theirs.

Superman angled towards a small clearing in the park.  The screaming had stopped, and he was worried about whoever had been doing the screaming. It was something that, with Lois's help, he'd long learned to accept.  No matter how fast or strong he was, sometimes it wasn't enough and people died.  That what he could do, and the lives he could save, were enough.

It didn't stop the hurt from the times that he wasn't good enough to save people, however.  He'd just learned to accept that even with being Superman, he couldn't save everyone.  Superman took a deep breath and landed.  He scanned the leaf-strewn ground until he saw it--a small body was crumpled on the ground underneath a nearby tree.

He hurried to the child's side and carefully felt for a pulse.  It was too late.  Superman reached into a pocket that he'd gotten his mom to sew into his capes and pulled out his cellphone.  It was a matter of minutes to call 911 and inform them of the latest murder.

Carefully, Superman stepped back from the rapidly cooling body so as not to disturb the crime scene.  There were times when he wished he could be faster.  There were times when what he wanted most was to save just one child from the kind of predator who was stalking Metropolis's streets.

And he was still struggling with balancing his two jobs and being there for his kids.  How could he really keep Jamie and Rachel safe if he couldn't stop the murderer from killing somebody else's child?

~*~*~*~

October 3, 1999, 8:30 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue Metropolis

Lois grabbed her sewing kit and the pieces of Clarkie bear, then sat down, cross-legged on the bed. Carefully, she pinned the bear's arm in place.  "I guess that Home Ec class they made me take in high school will finally come in handy," she muttered.  She hadn't ever had to do much in the way of sewing--an occasional button here and fixing a hem there, but that was about it.

She wasn't that good of a seamstress, but even she should be able to sew an arm back on a teddy bear.  Lois threaded a needle, knotted the end of the thread, and carefully started stitching.  After a few minutes, she finished sewing up the seam, knotted the end, and snipped off the thread.

Pushing herself off the bed, she crossed the room to root around in the dresser for one of Clark's handkerchiefs.  She grabbed one out of the drawer and went back over to the bed.  She fashioned it into a sling and put Clarkie-Bear's arm into it.  Just as Lois was finishing, Clark walked into their bedroom.  His shoulders were slumped, and he had his hands stuffed into his pockets.

"Clark?  Sweetheart, what's wrong?" Lois asked.

Clark shuffled over to the bed and dropped down beside her.  "I'm not sure if I can do this," he mumbled.

Lois put her arm around him to give him some comfort.  "Do what?" she asked.

For the first time since he'd gotten home, he looked at her, *really* looked at her.  "I found the next victim," he said softly.  "I heard him screaming, and I didn't make it in time.  If I couldn't stop his murder, how the hell can I protect you and the kids?"  He moved closer to her.  "If anything happened to you or our children, it would destroy me," he whispered.

Lois put her other arm around him and gave him a tight hug.  "Sweetheart, I know you want to protect us, and it's sweet.  But we can't live and be afraid every minute that something bad will happen."  She brushed a kiss across his lips.  "You can't wrap us in cotton wool to keep us safe."

"But there are so many criminals out there who'd like nothing better than to come after us," he pointed out.  "Jefferson Cole did it, Luthor did it, Tempus *keeps* doing it--what's to stop people like them from coming after Rachel and Jamie?  Even Timmy?" Clark straightened slightly and wrapped his arms around her to hold her close.

Lois kissed the underside of his jaw.  "You told me once that it's not the years that count; it's the moments," she pointed out.  "Clark, together we've beat every crook, supervillian, and criminal that's come our way.  I know you're worried, but we'll make sure that our kids have a safe, normal childhood."

Clark hugged her tight and kissed her gently.  "Together," he whispered.  He looked and the mended bear in her lap and smiled.  "I thought your sewing skills were on par with your cooking skills."

Lois batted him on the chest.  "Hey!  I *did* make your alternate self his first Suit!"  She linked her fingers with his.  "Seriously, we do have a problem, though.  Timmy."

Clark nodded.  "I caught him pulling Rachel's hair tonight."

Lois sighed.  "He's been picking on her all day.  I gave him a time out."  She grimaced.  "I *wanted* to wash his mouth out with soap; the names he was calling her!  But, well, I couldn't do it."

"I'm not sure if I could, either," he admitted. "Mom washed my mouth out about once--that was all it took."

Lois took a deep breath.  "If he keeps on doing this--"

"We'll have to ask Sam to place him with another family," Clark finished the thought.  "We can try to teach him better, but sometimes--"

"You can't save a person who doesn't want to be saved," Lois said.  "And the more he picks on Rachel, the angrier I get."  She bit her lips.  "I've been having problems dealing with him as it is, because he looks like Gary Russell."

Clark pulled her close to him, and she rested her head on his shoulder.  "I know you've been trying to forgive him and get past what he did to Rachel," he said quietly.

"I don't want her to have problems trusting people; I want my baby to have a happy life." Lois whispered.

Clark hugged her again and brushed another soft kiss against her lips.  Together, they sat and comforted each other for a while, letting their physical closeness bring brief solace.  While they couldn't fix everything, together they could overcome it.

~*~*~*~

October 6, 1999, 9:30 AM
124 Hospital Drive, Metropolis

Lois sat quietly in the waiting room with Rachel tucked under her arm.  Their appointment had been supposed to start five minutes ago, but the doctor was running late.  They'd dropped Timmy off at kindergarten, and she had Jamie in his sling across her chest.  Rachel hadn't really wanted to come--again, which had almost made them late for the appointment as it was.

"Momma?"  Rachel said, looking up at her.

"What is it, baby?" she asked.

"Do we *hafta* go in?"

"Afraid so." Lois said.

"But Mo-o-mmaa," Rachel whined.

"Rachel, we're going in, and you're going to play in Dr. Jenkins's playroom, just like you do every week." Lois said firmly.

"Okay," Rachel said with a sigh.  "I still don't wanna."

"But you need to," Lois said gently.  "Don't you like Dr. Jenkins better than Dr. Summers?" she asked.

"Uh huh," Rachel said with a cautious nod.  "He's nice."

"Then why don't you want to see him, baby?" Lois asked.

"Because he shrinks heads," Rachel said firmly.  "He hasn't shrunk mine yet, but he *will*."

Lois suppressed the urge to laugh, then almost jumped when the receptionist called their names.  "Rachel Kent."

Lois stood up, picked up her purse, and held her hand out to her daughter.  Rachel took it reluctantly, and they went up to the window. "Mrs. Kent, there's a problem with Rachel's records," the receptionist said.  "They were supposed to arrive a while ago, but they haven't.  We need them as soon as possible.  It's in Rachel's best interest that Dr. Jenkins see them."

Lois worried the inside of her lip with her teeth.  "I'll do my best to get them to you by Wednesday.  Is that okay?"

"That's fine.  You can go in now."

Lois opened the door and walked in with Rachel.  She crouched down briefly.  "Rachel, do you need me to go in today?"

Rachel scuffed the toe of her sandal against the floor.  "Yes," she said softly.  "Don't leave me alone in there, Momma."

Lois kissed Rachel's forehead.  "I won't," she promised.  "Not until you're ready."

They walked down the hallway and into Dr. Jenkins' playroom.  Dr. Jenkins was inside writing something on a notepad.  He looked up and smiled.  "Hello there, Rachel."

Rachel hid behind Lois's leg.  "She's been being shyer than usual," Lois explained.

He put his hand on his knees and leaned over so his face was closer to Rachel's level.  "It's okay, kiddo.  We're just going to play some more today.  Your Mommy and baby brother can sit right here on the couch.  Is that all right with you?"

Rachel nodded hesitantly.  "I guess so--can I play with the doll house again?"

"Sure you can!" Dr. Jenkins gave her a large smile.

Lois let go of Rachel's hand, sat down on the couch, and pulled out some research that Jimmy had given her about a story she'd been working on.  Rachel started towards the doll house, then glanced back at Lois, who gave her an encouraging smile.  "It's okay, peanut.  I'm right here if you need me."

Rachel nodded, walked over to the doll house, and pulled out the same dolls she'd played with the last time.  This time, however, she picked out a little boy doll with brown hair.  She placed them around the house.

"And who is the new little boy?" Dr. Jenkins asked.

Rachel bit her lip.  "He's Justin.  He's from Before. He used to live with Beth and her old daddy, but now he lives with her new family."

She picked up Justin and made him hit Beth.  "Justin doesn't like Beth.  The old Daddy used to laugh when Justin hurt her, so he told him to do it," she whispered.  "Justin calls Beth mean names."

Dr. Jenkins pulled over a small chair and sat down nearby.  "What do the new Daddy and Mommy say?"

Rachel hesitated before answering.  She picked up the daddy doll and made it pick up Justin and deposit him in another room.  "They tell Justin to stop and put him in time out.  But Beth doesn't like Justin.  She's scared of him."

"So what does Beth do to feel less scared?" he asked.

"She hides," Rachel whispered.  She put Beth in a little closet and shut the door.  "Justin can't get her there.  And Mattie's crying doesn't hurt, neither."

Rachel moved the dolls around some more.  "Beth feels safe when her Mommy and Daddy hold her, too." She volunteered.  "Her Daddy is special.  He keeps the bad people away from her.  And Mommy drives the Monsters away."

"Who are the Monsters, Rachel?" he asked softly.

"Bad dreams," was her response.  "Her Daddy keeps bad people like the OldDaddy and the FakeDaddy from getting her."

"Who is the FakeDaddy?" he asked.

"He took Beth away." Rachel said.  "He took her from her new daddy and new mommy and she didn't want to go."  She smiled.  "Beth caused trouble until he let her go home."

"Where is the OldDaddy now?"

Rachel hesitated, then looked up.  "Jail," she said softly.  "Beth told a judge that he hurt her, and the judge put him in jail."  She got up, ran across the room, climbed up on the couch next to Lois, and buried her face in Lois's shoulder.

Lois kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back.  "It's okay, peanut," she said.  "He's not here, and if you want to tell Dr. Jenkins what happened, nobody will be mad."  She felt her blouse getting damp as Rachel started to cry.  She pulled Rachel into her lap.  It was a bit awkward with the baby sling, but she managed it and wrapped her arms around her daughter.

"Shhh," she said softly.  "I'm here, sweetie.  It's okay to be scared sometimes."

Rachel snuffled a little and pulled back.  Lois pulled some tissues out of her purse, and wiped away her tears.  By now, Rachel's nose was starting to run so she wiped that, too.  "Blow," she said, holding it up to her nose.

Rachel obeyed.  "I love you, Momma," she said, her eyes still wet with tears.

"I know, baby." Lois put the used tissue in her purse for later disposal and kissed Rachel on the forehead.  "I love you, too.  Now, would you go play with Dr. Jenkins for a little while longer?"

Rachel bit her lip, then nodded slowly. "Okay."

Lois watched as Rachel slid off the couch and walked back to the doll house, and sat down.  She needed to get the records; it was obvious to her that Dr. Jenkins was getting further with Rachel than Dr. Summers ever did.  The hope in her heart that her little girl would get better grew brighter as she surreptitiously watched Rachel play and listened to the dialogue between her daughter and the doctor.  She turned back to her file.  Everything would, eventually, be okay.

~*~*~*~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 6:
  Hidden Monsters
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

October 7, 1999 9:00 AM
Metropolis County Morgue, Metropolis

Dr. Elizabeth Forrest turned away from the latest body and gave Lois and Clark a half-smile.  "With the ten-car pile up on the freeway and the apartment fire the day after, we've had a backlog of cases in the past few days, so that's why it's taken so long to get to this."

Henderson leaned against the wall.  "What can you tell us, Beth?"

Beth uncovered the small body before answering. "The killer is getting sloppy," she said.  "There was a bloody fingerprint on the last body, and I recovered some DNA from under this one's fingernails."  She motioned for them to come forward. 

"That means that you can find the killer, right?" Lois asked.

"Not really," Beth answered.  "Yes, we have DNA and fingerprints, but until we have something to compare it to...  We have to have a suspect before we can come up with anything definite.  So far, we don't have one."

"Ma'am, is there anything else you can tell us?" Clark asked.

Beth shot him a smile.  "Call me Beth.  And yes, there is.  The fingerprints were too small for the killer to be an average, adult person.  Also, the angle of the wound suggests that our perp is short--there are bruises on our victims that suggest that the murderer was restraining them somehow before they died."

Lois bit her lip and walked slowly around the body, examining it.  "So, you're saying that the killer tied them up or something?"

Beth simply nodded.  "In a way.  Our perp knelt on his victims to tie hold them down."

Henderson pushed off from the wall.  "So, what you're telling us is that our killer is either a midget, or another child?"

"That's a high probability, yes."  Beth covered the body back up.  "We have IDs on all the bodies except for the skeleton and this latest victim."

"So is Mr. Carson finished with the bust yet?" Lois asked.

Henderson answered this time.  "I called him yesterday--he'll be done later on this week."

Lois jotted down some quick notes in her notepad.  "They get younger and younger," she muttered.

Beth sighed, shook her head, and started wheeling the corpse towards the cooler.  "They *all* do.  Both the victims *and* the killers."

Lois exchanged a glance with Clark.  "Any luck on matching the fingerprints?" she asked Henderson.

He shook his head.  "They're not in AVIS," he replied.  "So whoever is doing this doesn't have a record."

"Have you called the FBI in on this to get a profile or something?" Clark asked.

Henderson grimaced.  "They closed the local office--budget cuts, and we'll be getting someone later this week."

Lois frowned and tapped her pen against her notepad.  "Not many leads," she muttered.

"Let's go see what we can scare up," Clark said with a shrug.  "We've got to find the killer."

"Before they strike again," Lois said.

~*~*~*~

October 7, 1999 12 AM
Daily Planet, Metropolis

Lois walked up behind Clark and laid her hand on his shoulder.  "Clark?" she said softly.

"Hmm?" Clark was busily typing up a story and not paying much attention to what was going on around him. 

Lois wrapped an arm around his neck and kissed his ear.  "Sweetheart?"

"What is it, honey?" Clark said absently as he typed the last word.

Lois let go, turned, and leaned against the corner of his desk.  The revelation that the killer was another child was probably the most frightening thing she'd heard since they'd gotten Rachel.  What if Rachel were next?  For that matter, with all the hate and just plain meanness Timmy had been showing, what if *he* were the killer?  More than anything, she needed to talk to her husband.  He'd always been able to talk her through things when she was scared.  "Clark," she bit her lip.

Clark reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.  "Honey, I won't let anyone get Rachel or Jamie or even Timmy."  His eyes hardened with steely determination.

"I know," she said softly.  "But--what if *Timmy* is the killer?  I know he's young, but he just *hates* so much--"

Clark stood up, pulled her into his arms, and gave her a gentle hug.  "He can't be; he was with you during the last murder."

Lois relaxed with Clark's familiar touch.  "He's too little, anyway," she said.  "I mean, some of the victims are bigger than he is.  It's just that he's *so* ugly to Rachel, and uses such bad language, and I really don't know if we can keep him the way he behaves.  Nothing we do seems to have any effect on him, and Rachel's been withdrawing more since we got him, and I don't *want* my baby girl to do that.  All I really want for her is that she grows up happy and safe and learns how to trust us again and…" Lois stopped to breathe.

Clark waited patiently for Lois to stop.  "She already *does* trust us, honey." He gave her a 100 mega-watt smile.  "It's so hard for me to say no to her when she really wants something.  I mean, she looks at me and I swear that she thinks that I can do anything and fix anything because I'm her daddy."

"And then there are other times, when I can see so much pain in her eyes," Lois said softly.  "And she won't tell me what the matter is."

"She'll tell us when she's ready," Clark said.  "I know that she loves us and she trusts us; she's just not ready yet to tell us what happened before we got her." He held Lois close to him.

"I hate to do this, but we need to tell the kids not to play with any strange children until we find the killer," Lois said.

"Yes." Clark affirmed.  "At least it's only until this is over." He paused for a moment.  "Honey, we have to consider calling Sam and asking that Timmy be put somewhere else.  He's getting worse, and I really don't want him to hurt Rachel anymore."

"I hate to admit it, but you're right.  Can we give it another few days?" she asked. 

"Of course," he said.  "I really don't want to give up on him, either."  He leaned down to steal a kiss, but was interrupted.

"Hey, hey, hey!  This is a newsroom, not Elvis's Honeymoon Hideaway!"  Perry's voice boomed out.

Lois looked up.  "Perry, we promise we'll stop--for now," she said with a smile.

"It's just, with the killer--" Clark began.

"Say no more," Perry said gruffly.  "Tell that granddaughter of mine that I want to come and visit sometime next week."

"We'd be glad to have you, Chief," Clark said.  "I think Rachel misses you."

Perry smiled broadly.  "Nice to know that I'm appreciated."  He walked back towards his office.

Lois sighed and rested her forehead on Clark's shoulder.  She'd never understood the kind of fear she had now until she had kids.  Before, she'd always known that Clark would rescue her.  But it was a dangerous world, and she knew full well that sometimes, despite everything, rotten things could still happen.  She felt Clark's lips on her cheek and smiled.  She wasn't in it alone.

~*~*~*~

October 7, 1999, 11:35 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Rachel sat up with a start and rubbed her arm across her eyes.  The Monsters were coming more and more since Timmy had come.  Her bad dreams had been getting worse.  She shivered and slid out of bed.  The safest place in the world was in her Momma's and Daddy's bed with them.  *They* couldn't get her there.

Rachel bit her lip.  Maybe if she told what Papa Gary had done, some of the monsters would forget how to find her.  She pulled at the side of her pink, ruffled nightgown.  Maybe it wouldn't make them sad.  Maybe they'd give her hugs and kisses instead of being sad. 

Rachel wanted those hugs and kisses.  She wanted her parents to kiss her hurts and make them better.  She was sure that her Daddy could fix anything.  And that her Momma could make anything be better than it was.  It wasn't because her Daddy was Superman--it was because he was Daddy.

She grabbed Aimee and Clarkie off her bed and headed towards her parents' room.  Rachel slipped inside, walked over, and stood beside the bed.  "Daddy?" she said, her voice high with fear.

Clark rolled over, sat up, and yawned.  "What is it, Sprite?"

"I hadda bad dream.  Can I sleep with you and Mommy?"  She didn't call Lois 'Mommy' often.  More common was 'Momma' but slowly and surely Lois was replacing the mother she barely remembered except for a vague sense of anger for leaving her with Papa Gary.  As her first mother faded from memory, Lois was becoming, in her mind at least, the only Mommy she'd ever had.

Clark simply picked her up and put her on the bed in between himself and Lois.  "Of course you can."  He kissed her on the cheek.

"Mommy?" Rachel said.

Lois pushed herself up and gave Rachel a hug.  "Tell me about the dream, baby?"

Rachel bit her lip again.  "Papa Gary was hurting me like he used to," she said finally.

Clark pulled her into his lap and put his arms around her.  "It's okay to tell us what really happened, Sprite," he said quietly.

Lois moved closer and reached out to caress her hair.  "We won't ever be mad at you for that," she promised.

Rachel relaxed into the broad expanse of her Daddy's chest and closed her eyes.  It was safe here.  She took a deep breath.  "Papa Gary used to use me instead of an ashtray," she whispered finally.  "He laughed when I cried."  She wiggled out of her nightgown, leaving her undershirt and panties on and showed them the round, puckered scars on her upper arms.  She'd tried telling a teacher once, but the teacher hadn't believed her.  Her Daddy's arms tightened around her.

Lois kissed her fingertips and pressed them to the scars.  Clark shifted so that he was facing Lois, so her Momma wrapped her arms around them both, making a Rachel sandwich.  Tears began to roll down Rachel's cheeks at their silent acceptance.  "He broked my arm and made other bones hurt," she said with a sob.  "An' he used to hit me with his belt buckle all the time." 

Rachel pulled off her undershirt and wiggled until they could see the scars from the buckle on her back.  "He played with his pocket knife on my tummy, too," she whispered.  "Said that he wanted to see how hard he had to press to cut.  Said he'd wanted to be a doctor once and he needed to find out."

Lois let go a little so that she could press kiss-laden fingers to the scars.  "He was wrong, peanut," she whispered.  "So wrong!"

Rachel continued as if she hadn't heard.  "He burnded me with hot water, too.  Told the doctors that I pulled it on me from the stove." She started shaking.  "He said that I was too little, but when I got bigger, I was gonna take my old Mommy's place."  She looked up at Clark trustingly.  "What did he mean, Daddy?"

Clark kissed the top of her head.  "Rachel, sweetheart, he meant that he's a bad man and that when you got bigger, he was planning on touching you in places that he shouldn't."

Rachel thought about it for a minute.  "Bad touching?"  She made the connection to the talk they'd had in school about good touches and bad touches.  She thought for a minute about the explanation she'd gotten when she'd accidentally walked in on her parents trying to make a baby.  "So he was gonna do to me what you and Mommy do together to make me a new brother or sister?"

Lois nodded.  "It's very, very wrong when somebody does that, peanut.  *You* get to decide if somebody touches you there when you're old enough.  And hopefully, you'll wait until you find somebody who loves you like your Daddy loves me and marry him."

Rachel started to cry harder.  "He called me bad names like Timmy does."  She started hiccupping.  "I don't want him to hurt me when I'm bigger."  She stood up slightly in Clark's embrace and threw her arms around his neck, still sobbing.

Clark returned the hug and rubbed her back gently with a large, warm hand.  "Shh," he murmured.  "It's okay, Rachel.  We won't let him hurt you ever again."

Rachel hiccupped again.  "Promise?"

"Yes."  He hugged her tight and as she relaxed her grip, he settled her back in his lap.  "I will *never* let anyone hurt you, kiddo.  You're my baby girl."

Rachel snuffled a little, hiccupped, and settled back into his lap.  "Even if they have Kryptonite and guns?"

"Even then." Lois wiped her tears away, then playfully touched Rachel's nose.  "That's what I'm here for, Rachel.  I can throw the kryptonite away so your Daddy can break the bad guy's guns, put them in jail, and keep you and me and your brother safe."

Clark hugged her again and kissed her forehead.  "Let's get you dressed again so you don't get cold, sweetheart."  He reached for her undershirt and helped her pull it on, then did the same with her nightgown before tickling her tummy gently.

Rachel let loose a watery giggle.  It had been all right.  She was tired, though.  Her thumb crept up to her mouth and her eyes started to drift closed.  She felt her daddy cuddle her close.  Safety.  Peace.  Love.  The bad men would never get her.  Especially Papa Gary.  Daddy and Mommy would keep her safe just because they were Momma and Daddy and they loved her.

She slipped closer and closer towards sleep, secure in the love and support of her Mommy and Daddy.  Unconsciously, she snuggled further into Clark and fell fast asleep.

Clark picked up his daughter and carefully laid her on the bed between them.  His mouth was tight with suppressed anger.  "They'd better make sure I never get my hands on that man," he said tightly.

Lois reached over and grabbed his hand.  "Stand in line," she said tersely.  She took a deep breath and released it.  "I keep telling myself that she's safe with us now and that I need to let go."

Clark gave her a twisted smile.  "When you figure out how, let me know.  If anyone ever hurt her--or you--or Jamie."

Lois squeezed his hand.  "I know."

Clark reached out, cupped her cheek in his hand, and wiped away the single tear that was rolling down her cheek.  He took a deep, slightly shaky breath.  "We know what we're dealing with, now," he offered.  "And we're a family."

Lois leaned forward and kissed him gently.  "She's ours now," she said slowly.  "And we can help her overcome what *he* did to her."

Clark reached for her hand and laced his fingers through hers. Together, without letting go, they laid down with Rachel sandwiched in between them.  Even with their daughter right there and safe, it was a long time before they slept.

~*~*~*~

 
October 8, 1999, 9:45 AM
Metropolis Children's Medical Center

Lois paced back in forth in the therapist's office, impatiently waiting for her to show up.  She needed those records!  The receptionist had insisted that she needed to talk to Dr. Summers before she could have them.  Clark had offered to pick them up, but then he'd had a Superman call at the last minute, so it was up to her to get them.  She didn't mind... much.  They'd been sharing the child-rearing duties pretty equally since they'd gotten Rachel.

Theirs was a partnership in every way.  It was just so frustrating when emergencies made their previous plans moot!  Rachel had needed comforting again when they'd gotten up, and Timmy had started pulling her hair again at breakfast. 

They'd ended up leaving a message on Sam's voicemail, so it was uncertain when she'd manage to get back to them about Timmy.  They weren't giving up--yet--but they wanted her to know the kind of problems they'd been facing with him.  That way, if they did ask her to find him another family, it wouldn't be a complete shock.

Bored, Lois started looking at the drawings on the walls.  Lots of hearts, flowers, and rainbows.  Smiling faces.  One particular grouping caught her eye.  She frowned as she saw the red drops that seemed to be coming from the flowers.  The drops almost looked like… blood.  It was a series of drawings--each drawing had another flower.  The girl in the pictures was smiling, but the flowers were all crying.  The last picture, dated the week before, had what looked like a screaming flower on it.

Lois was no expert, but she thought that the drawings must be the work of a very disturbed mind.  She looked at the dates on the bottom of the drawings.  Strange.  All the dates were almost right after the murders.  And the drawings were obviously the work of a child.

Lois eyed the drawings suspiciously.  Art therapy was a popular way for children who had problems to receive some form of treatment for them.  She'd looked into it before deciding to allow Rachel to continue to see Dr. Summers.  The biggest problem with the field was that it was still relatively new, and there simply weren't doctorate programs in it yet.  While Dr. Summers also had a PhD in psychology, to go with her bachelors and masters in art therapy, she wasn't actually a real MD doctor. 

Looking at the pictures, Lois decided that if the child who had drawn the pictures was under *her* care, she'd see to it that they were medicated.  Heavily.  She wasn't a psychiatrist, but the drawings were... disturbing.  At least, they were if you knew anything about the murders.  The drawings were signed, too.  It seemed like the artist had been proud of her work.

Lois turned around as she heard the door open.  "Dr. Summers," she said with a nod. 

"Mrs. Kent," Dr. Summers said.  "I was told that you needed Rachel's records."

"Yes, I do.  But there is something I'd like to ask you." Lois motioned towards the drawings.  "I need to know who drew these."

Dr. Summers walked over and glanced at the drawings.  "Charming, aren't they?  One of my patients drew them.  The flowers are crying as an outlet for the pain that she can't articulate because of her stepfather's death.  I think we're making real progress."

"What about the unusual colors that she used?" Lois resisted the urge to take out a notepad and take notes.  Her memory was good enough to remember at least the child's name until she got out the door.

"Children often use different colors when they draw," Dr. Summers explained.  "It doesn't mean anything."

"So there isn't a deeper meaning?" Lois asked.

Dr. Summers shook her head.  "I'm afraid not.  In some of these there are," she motioned towards the walls.  "Rainbows are one of the hallmarks of a sexually abused child if other markers are there.  Megan Barnett has made some progress since her mother first brought her here--she's been bringing me these pictures at least once a month."

"I see."  Lois said, not really understanding at all.  "Is there anything you can tell me about Megan and her case?"

Dr. Summers turned to face her.  "I'm afraid not," she said.  "I'm still bound by doctor-patient confidentiality."

"Of course not, thank you anyway," Lois said.  "Now, about my daughter's records?"

Dr. Summers walked around her desk, picked up a file, and handed it to Lois.  "I'm sorry I couldn't help Rachel," she said.  "Sometimes, no matter how much I want to, I just can't help... disturbed children."

Lois snatched the file, and shoved it into her briefcase, repressing the urge to hit the doctor in the solar plexus.  Her mouth tightened and her eyes flashed.  "My daughter is *not* disturbed.  Perhaps you ought to reexamine how you treat your patients, *Doctor*!  Perhaps you ought to go back to school, because your professors obviously failed to teach you well enough the first time!  *You* would be 'disturbed' if you'd gone through half of what Rachel has; it's amazing that she's as normal as she is!"

Lois whirled around and stormed out of the office, down the hall and out of the building.  She hurried to the jeep, slammed the door and leaned her forehead against the steering wheel, breathing hard. 

It had taken almost all of her concentration not to hit the therapist.  Yes, Rachel had problems.  Understandably so.  But she *wasn't* deranged.  Lois closed her eyes for a few minutes, and took some deep breaths.  After regaining her composure, she started the car and headed back to the Planet.  She'd take the records to Dr. Jacobs' office during her lunch hour.  And she had a feeling that Clark wouldn't be all that happy when he heard about Dr. Summer's comments.  And she also had to tell Henderson about the drawings.

~*~*~*~

October 8, 1999 6:05 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Timmy glared across the dinner table at Rachel.  Nothing had worked.  *He* was the one who got punished *all* the *time.*  Mr. and Mrs. Kent didn't seem to realize what a *bad* girl Rachel was; instead they thought that *he* was bad.  It just wasn’t fair.  He slid down in his chair a little and kicked her under the table.

He almost smiled when he saw her flinch, but when she didn't react otherwise, his mood plummeted.  He wanted to stick his lip out, but he didn't want a birdie to fly in and poop on his teeth.  He moved his fork through the mashed potatoes, making a road for the gravy to run down.

Mrs. Kent was mean and Mr. Kent wasn't much better.  They wouldn't let him have stuff from Rachel's room.  They liked her better.  Sulkily, he played with his dinner, then decided he'd had enough.  "Can I be excused... please?" he asked as he'd been taught to do.

Mr. Kent nodded.  "Wash your hands, please," he requested.

Coming from him, Timmy knew it wasn't a request.  He glared at Mr. Kent and stomped to the bathroom to comply with the order.  A little smile spread over his face.  He didn't *have* to wash.  Mr. Kent wouldn't be there to *make* him.  He turned on the water in the bathroom and started splashing it all over the room.

After a few minutes, he decided he was done and wiped his hands on the only dry towel that was left in the room.  He stomped out, still angry, but happy that he'd been able to get *back* at the mean people he was living with.

He climbed the stairs, stopping to rest when the long flight made his short legs ache.    He wandered down the hall and peeked into the baby's room.  He'd never been in there.  Ever.  Rachel always showed up and kept him from going in.  Boldly, he walked inside and began to poke around.

He had just found a cool Superman doll when he heard the door open.  He turned around and was shocked to see Rachel standing nearby, her fists balled up and her eyes flashing.  "This is *my* brother's room, and you're not allowed in here," she said.  He was even more shocked when she took the doll away and started pulling him out the door.  "Stay away from Jamie and his room," she ordered, a scowl on her face. 

"I don't have to," he said.  "The Kents are gonna send you back, and then he'll be *my* brother."

"No he won't.  He's my brother, and you can't change it.  You don't belong here and Jamie and me *do.*  So *there!*"  Rachel stuck her tongue out at him.

Timmy glared at her, but a small idea began to form in his mind.  Maybe he was going about this wrong.  No matter what he did to Rachel, she wasn't really reacting.  But if he pinched *Jamie,* he had a feeling that she'd be more fun.  "Bastardbitch," he said, then turned around and walked to his room.  This required further thought.

~*~*~*~

October 10, 1999, 8:00 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Clark flipped through the file again.  It *looked* good, but until they got the DNA evidence, it was impossible to tell if Megan Barnett had really killed the boys.  She was only twelve years old!  He'd heard of children killing other children, but it was the first time that, aside from a gang war, he'd ever heard of it happening in Metropolis.

"Daddy?"

Clark looked up and smiled when he heard Rachel's voice.  He closed the file--she didn't need to see that, and put it on the coffee table.  "What is it, Sprite?"

Rachel ran over and climbed into his lap.  "Timmy said that you were gonna give me back and keep him.  Is that true?"

Clark hugged her close.  "No, it's not."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "Baby, we adopted you, remember?  That means that we want to keep you forever. And that you're staying with us no matter what."

Rachel snuggled into him, and he kissed her on top of her head.  "Daddy, I saw sumpin'," she whispered.

If it weren't for his superhearing, he wasn't sure that he could've heard her at all.  "What did you see?" he asked with a smile.  He figured that she'd seen something good, but her body language said otherwise.

"I saw a big kid," Rachel began.  "She was hittin' a little boy with a rock."  Tears began to roll down her face.  "She buried the rock next to the boy and left."

Clark rubbed his hand up and down her back, offering her physical comfort.  "How was the boy when she left?" he asked gently.

"He-he-he looked *dead,* Daddy," she started to cry harder.  "And then when Mommy took me to Dr. Summers' office, the girl who hurt the boy was there, too!"

Clark gathered her close. "Shh.  Sweetheart, it's all right," he murmured. 

"What if she comes to get me and Jamie?" Rachel sobbed.

"I won't let her, Rachel," Clark promised.  "She won't be able to get you two because your Momma and I will keep her away."

Rachel's sobs started to slow, and only showed by the occasional hitch in her breathing.  "Good.  She's scary."

"Sprite, could you help me with something?" Clark asked.

Rachel bit her lip.  "Okay," she said.

"Would you come with me to the police station tomorrow to tell Inspector Henderson and Lieutenant Zymeck what you told me?" Clark asked.

Slowly, Rachel nodded.  "Will they put the big kid where she can't hurt nobody?"

"Anybody," Clark corrected absently.  "They're going to try--Rachel, they might ask you to show them her picture with different ones around it.  Do you think you can do that?"

"Yes!" Rachel nodded vigorously.  "It'll make it so she won't hurt Jamie.  Ever."

Clark hugged her again.  "You're the best little girl in Metropolis," he said with a grin.

"You're the best Daddy in the universe," she informed him.

"C'mon, kiddo, it's almost your bedtime."

Rachel seemed to hesitate for a moment.  "Can you give me a bath, Daddy?"

Clark stood up and tossed her gently into the air with a laugh.  Rachel giggled as he caught her.  "Of course.  How about bubbles for my favorite little girl?"

"Okay," she agreed.  "Can I have my boats, and my plane, and my rubber duck?" she asked.

"Sure you can," he said with a grin.  Clark started upstairs, Rachel still in his arms. 

She threw her little arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.  "I wanna marry you when I grow up," she said solemnly.  "That way, I can fly forever."

Clark laughed and tickled her tummy.  "Sprite, I'm already married to your Momma."

She considered this for a minute.  "Then I wanna marry somebody who can fly like you," she whispered in his ear.

Clark settled Rachel on his hip.  "I'm afraid that won't work, either," he said solemnly.  "The only other people here who might be able to fly someday are going to be any brothers and sisters that your Mommy and I make."

"No fair," Rachel pouted.  "Guess I won't get married then, because boys that can't fly are dumb."

Clark repressed a chuckle and carried her upstairs.  He was sure that Lois would agree with Rachel--she'd married *him* after all.  He mussed Rachel's hair and headed towards the bathroom.  "C'mon, Sprite, let's get you clean."

~*~*~*~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 7:
    Resolutions.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


October 10, 1999, 11:00 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Lois leaned back against her pillows and scribbled in her notebook.  She'd gotten down just about everything from earlier that day, but she was trying to remember where she'd heard the name before.  She knew that it wasn't the first time she'd heard the name, 'Megan Barnett.'  It was familiar, but she just couldn't remember.

Lois chewed on her bottom lip, trying to convince her recalcitrant memory to cooperate with her.  It wasn't working.  She looked up as she heard Clark's light footstep outside the door.  "Is Rachel okay?" she asked softly.

Clark nodded.  "I have to admit that I was surprised when she wanted me to tuck her back in after her nightmare," he said.  "She usually wants you."  He walked over and sat on the bed beside her.

Lois reached over and took his hand.  "I know," she said.  "I think she's trying to let you know how much she trusts you, sweetheart."

Clark pulled her into his arms and laid his cheek on the top of her head.  "She proved that," he whispered.  "Rachel witnessed one of the murders.  She can identify the killer."

"What?" Lois sat up, dropping the notepad and pencil which she still held.

"Yeah," he said, grimacing.  "It knocked me for a loop, too."

Lois wrapped her arms around Clark.  "Which one?" she asked.  She was trying to remember if there'd been changes in her daughter's behavior that she could have spotted.  She'd known that something had been bothering Rachel, but not what.

"The first one--not the skeleton, but the one that we all *thought* was first," he said.

Lois sighed and leaned into him.  "Is Rachel all right?  Every time we think things are going to get better, we get thrown another curve ball." 

"I think so.  She seemed relieved after she told me."  Clark tightened his grip slightly. "I know.  At least she told one of us," he reminded her.  "I'm taking her with us to talk to Henderson tomorrow.  As soon as we have a suspect--"

"We do," Lois interrupted.  "Her name is Megan Barnett, she's twelve, and from the drawings that were hanging on that quack of an art therapist's wall, she's a *real* wacko."

"They have DNA," Clark reminded her.  "If she did it, they'll get her help and make sure that she can't hurt anybody else."

Lois burrowed into him.  "It's bad enough that every once in a while, yet another megalomaniac tries to take over the world--why do we have children killing other children?" she muttered. "And why did *our* daughter have to see that?"

Clark hugged her gently.  "I don't know," He paused for a few minutes.  "As long as we make sure our kids know better, and teach them better, I'm not sure what else we can do," he said honestly. 

"I know."  Lois shivered a bit.  The thought of a child serial killer was frightening.  She'd taught Rachel not to talk to strange adults--not that she'd taken much convincing--but strange children?  How else would she ever have friends or a normal childhood?

Clark rubbed his hands up and down her arms.  "Makes you realize that they're not safe, doesn't it?" he asked.

Lois nodded against his chest.  "But we never really are, are we?  Well, except when you're with us."  She pulled back slightly and kissed him.  After the kiss ended, they held each other tightly, comforted by simply being together.

~*~*~*~

September 11, 1999 7:00 AM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Rachel skipped downstairs and turned on the television.  It was cartoon day!  Her favorite show would be on any minute, and she wanted to watch it.  She turned the television to the right channel, then went to the kitchen for breakfast. 

She scooted the step-stool over to the countertop, climbed on it, and got the Superman bowl that Grandpa Perry had given her out of the cabinet.  Getting down off the stool, she grabbed a spoon out of the drawer, then laid the bowl and spoon on the table.  Rachel bit her lip and moved the stool in front of where the cereal was kept.  She climbed on it, then on to the counter.  She opened the cabinet, grabbed a box of Life, and, clutching it to her chest, got down.

She walked over to the table, opened the box, poured some cereal in the bowl, then, using the step-stool again, got some milk out of the fridge.  Carefully, using both hands, she poured some milk on her cereal.  She left the milk and cereal on the table, picked up the bowl, and carried it into the living room.  She set it on the coffee table and sat down on the couch.

Rachel started eating her breakfast, stopping to laugh occasionally at the cartoon characters on the screen.  "Rachel?"  She looked up to see her Momma walking down the stairs.

"Hi, Mommy," she said cheerfully.  "I got my own breakfast," she added proudly.  She'd never managed to do it all herself before.

"Morning, Rachel," Lois said with a yawn.  "Wow."  She walked over, sat on the couch, and gave Rachel a hug. 

Rachel nestled comfortably in Lois's embrace.  "Momma, I don't wanna go to the police station," she said.  "Policemen are scary."

She felt her Mommy kiss the top of her head.  "Why are they so scary, honey?  I've got some friends who are policemen, and they'd never hurt you."

Rachel bit her lip.  "Papa Gary said they'd put me in jail," she whispered.

"Peanut, you haven't done *anything* wrong--they only put bad people in jail." Lois pulled Rachel into her lap.

Rachel sighed softly, leaned back against her Mommy, and put her thumb into her mouth.  She sucked on it for a few minutes.  "Do I have to go in by myself?" she asked finally, pulling it out of her mouth.

Her mother's arms tightened around her. "Of course not!"  She looked up to see Lois smiling.  "You get to pick if Daddy or me goes with you, baby.  One of us has to stay home with Jamie and Timmy."

Rachel laid her head on Lois's shoulder.  "Can Daddy take me?" she asked.

Clark came downstairs, carrying Jamie, who was crying, and yawning.  "Honey, I think he wants something I can't give him.  Will you take him?"

Lois laughed.  "Of course."

Rachel slid off her Mommy's lap and ran to her Daddy.  "Daddy, will you take me?" she asked.  "I don't wanna go in that place by myself."

Clark handed Jamie to Lois, who rearranged her clothes to feed the baby, and knelt down to Rachel's level.  "I'll be with you the entire time," he promised.  "Let's get you cleaned up from breakfast and out of your pajamas, ok?"

Rachel nodded.  "Do we have to get dressed up like we're going to visit Grandpa Perry at the Planet?" she asked.

"Yep," was Clark's answer.  "So Mommy will tie ribbons in your hair that match your dress," he said with a wink.

"Good," Rachel said.  "Those are the prettiest ones."

Clark picked her up and settled her on his hip before reaching for the dishes on the coffee table.  "Let's go put these in the sink and get you dressed," he suggested.

Rachel nodded as her thumb crept back toward her mouth.  As long as she was with her Daddy, the policemen would never take her away.

~*~*~*~

September 11, 1999, 9:35 AM
12th Precinct, Metro Police Department, Metropolis

Clark gave Rachel's hand a squeeze as they walked into the police department and up to the front desk.  "Hey Jake," he greeted the desk sergeant.  "Is Henderson or Zymeck around?"

"Henderson is.  It's Zymeck's day off," Jake replied.  "You can go right back."  He peered nearsightedly over the desk.  "And who is this pretty little girl?" he asked.

Clark gave him a smile as Rachel shrank into his leg.  "My daughter, Rachel."  Rachel hid her face.  "She's just a little shy," he explained.

Jake nodded.  "Mine's the same way.  I'll tell Henderson that you're on the way."  He picked up the phone as Clark and Rachel started making their way through the precinct.

"I'm scared, Daddy," Rachel said in a small voice.

Clark stopped, crouched down and gave her a hug. "I know you are, sweetheart." He said.  "I'll be here the whole time, okay?"

Rachel nodded.  Clark stood up, took her hand again, and started walking towards Henderson's desk.  Rachel lagged behind, obviously reluctant to talk to the detective.  He sighed, picked Rachel up, and swung her into his arms.  She hid her face in his neck.

Clark rubbed her back gently.  "It's okay, Rachel," he murmured.  "Inspector Henderson is a friend of mine--he's got a little girl at home who's only a few years older than you."

Rachel pulled back a little and grabbed a fistful of his dress shirt.  "Does he hit her like Papa Gary hit me, Daddy?" she asked, her big blue eyes filling with tears.

Clark brushed her sugar-brown bangs out of her eyes.  "No, baby," he said softly.  "Henderson would never hit little girls."  He pulled a handkerchief out of his suit jacket pocket and gently wiped away her tears.    "You're safe, Rachel.  I promise."

Rachel threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.  Clark figured if he'd been human instead of Kryptonian, he'd be having problems breathing because her hold was so tight.  "Is it okay if we go talk to my friend?" he asked.

Her eyes wide with fright, Rachel nodded.  Her thumb crept up into her mouth.  Clark pulled it out and wiped it off with his handkerchief, but she simply gave him a reproachful look and stuck it back in.

Mentally, Clark shrugged.  Lois had talked to Dr. Jenkins about it and was told that she'd probably stop when she felt more secure.  He smiled, shifted Rachel to one arm, and held out his hand.  "Henderson," he said.

"Hi, Clark." Henderson took the proffered hand and shook it.

"You remember my daughter, Rachel?" Clark asked.

"Of course I do," Henderson said with a smile.  He stood up and came a little closer.  "Hi, Rachel," he said.  "My, that's a pretty dress."

Rachel turned her head to get a look at him.  Clark stayed silent, hoping that Henderson's gentle behavior would make Rachel change her mind. 

"It matches its owner," he commented with another smile.

"What do we say, Rachel?" Clark asked softly.

Rachel pulled her thumb out of her mouth.  "Thank you," she said.  "Grandma Lane gave it to me."

While it *was* a pretty dress that his daughter was wearing, Clark had wondered when Ellen had brought it home from a shopping trip what would posses someone to spend three hundred dollars on a dress for a six-year-old.  It was great that Ellen had accepted Rachel, but sometimes he worried that she was spoiling Rachel *too* much.  Sure, the dress, all the dresses that Ellen had purchased, actually, were classically designed and well-made, but Rachel would outgrow it before she managed to wear it for very long.  It also didn't help that she'd bought several outfits for Jamie from the same upscale boutique.

"Have a seat, Clark." Henderson gestured towards the chair beside his desk. His eyes flicked towards Rachel.  "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Did Lois call you with what she found out?" he asked.

Henderson nodded.  "Zymeck went to go pick up our suspect yesterday, but the family's out of town for the weekend.  We'll bring her in on Monday."

Clark sat down and settled Rachel in his lap.  "Rachel has something to tell you.  Don't you sweetheart?" he gave her a gentle hug.

"Daddy, he's *scary,*" she said, shrinking back into him.

"Clark, do you remember Carmen Johnson?" Henderson asked.

Clark nodded.  She'd been the detective who'd interviewed Rachel about Gary Russell.  "Yeah.  Is she working this case?"

"No, but I'm sure it can be arranged."  Henderson turned and beckoned to a young, black woman.  "Hey Carmen!" he called.

Carmen came over.  "What is it, Bill?" she asked.

Henderson nodded towards Clark and Rachel.  "Clark here says that his daughter has something to tell us about the serial."

Carmen dropped to her knees.  "Hey Rachel," she said with a smile.  "Remember me?"

Rachel nodded shyly.  "Uh huh.  You're pretty.  An' you helped put Papa Gary in jail."

"That's right, honey."  Carmen smiled and took Rachel's hand gently, and gave it a squeeze.  "Now, your new Daddy said that you know something about the little boys' murders?"

Hesitantly Rachel nodded again, and leaned back into Clark.  "I saw a big girl hurt one of them," she said.  "She hit him with a rock, and I think she made him dead."  She bit her lip.  "She buried the rock by the little boy after he stopped moving."

Carmen gave her hand another squeeze.  "Good girl.  Now, did you see what the big girl looked like?"

Rachel nodded.  "Yes, ma'am," she answered.  "I saw her at Dr. Summers' office, too."  She shivered.  "She's scary."

Clark dropped a kiss on the top of her head.  "You're safe, sweetheart," he said softly.

Rachel scooted closer to his chest.

"Miss Rachel?" Carmen gave her a smile.  "Would you please look at some pictures and see if you recognize the big kid?"

Rachel bit her lip.  "Can Daddy come, too?" she asked.

Carmen nodded.  "Sure.  But he doesn't have to go anywhere--Henderson can get them."

Rachel's thumb crept into her mouth as Henderson fetched the pictures.  Clark figured that they'd had a line-up made, just in case a witness could be located. 

Carmen let go of Rachel's hand and smiled.  "Does chocolate milk come out of that thumb, sweetie?  It came out of mine when I was your age."

Clark suppressed a laugh as Rachel looked insulted.  He cuddled her close instead.  Henderson handed Clark a card.  "Would you look at that for us, Miss Kent?" he winked at Clark.

Rachel nodded and looked at the card in Clark's hand.  She pointed at a picture without hesitation.  "That's the big girl," she said around her thumb.

Carmen smiled.  "Good job!" she said.  "How would you like some ice cream?"

Rachel pulled her thumb out of her mouth, grinned, and looked up at Clark.  "Please, Daddy?"

Clark chuckled and kissed her on the cheek.  "Will you be okay with Carmen?" he asked.  "I need to talk to Inspector Henderson for a minute."

Rachel hesitated for a few minutes, then nodded.  "You'll be right here?" she asked.

"I won't leave this spot," he promised.

"Okay.  Carmen's nice."  Rachel slid off his lap and held her hand out to Carmen.  Clark watched Carmen lead Rachel towards the break room.

"She'll be okay," Henderson said.  "Kids are resilient--and she's gotten ice cream with Carmen before."

Clark looked at him in surprise.  "What do you mean?"

"Carmen keeps some in the freezer for the cases involving children," he explained.  "So when Rachel came in to tell us about her stepfather, Carmen gave her some."

Clark nodded.  "So, what next?  I mean, will Rachel have to testify?"

Henderson grimaced.  "Probably.  I'd like to minimize the trauma to Rachel, but we're going to need her ID to explain the warrant to get the perp's DNA."

"So it *is* Megan Barnett?" Clark asked.

"Until we get the DNA comparison done, we can't be a hundred percent sure, but yes, we think so," Henderson said.  "As soon as we have her in custody, we can decide what can be published."

Clark nodded, then waved as Rachel skipped back to him, carrying an ice cream cone.  "Will you let us know when you have her?" he asked.  "Lois and I would like to watch when you do the questioning."

"All right," Henderson agreed.  "But before you publish anything, the lieutenant needs to see it."

"Fine with me," Clark said as he reached down to pick Rachel up.  "I guess we'll see you Monday."  He waved to Henderson as he and Rachel left the precinct. 

"That wasn't so bad, was it, Sprite?" he asked.

Rachel shrugged, concentrating on her treat.  "Maybe policemen aren't that scary," she said, giving the ice cream another lick.

Clark chuckled and pulled the keys to the Jeep out of his pocket.  He hurried toward it, opened the door, and buckled Rachel in the back seat.  Silently, he hoped that with their help, his baby girl would overcome what her stepfather had done to her. 

Clark pulled his handkerchief out and rubbed at some of the chocolate smears on Rachel's face, trying for damage control, before he closed the door and went around the car.  He climbed in, started the ignition, and started toward home.  He was sure that as long as they stuck together, their family would be okay.  There was more than enough love to go around.

~*~*~*~ 

September 11, 1999 1:45 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Timmy glared across the living room at Rachel.  She was sprawled out next to the playpen, coloring in a coloring book, and she was stopping every once in a while to show it to the baby.  It wasn't fair!  She'd gone out with Mr. Kent before he'd woken up, and come back eating ice cream!  And he didn't get any.

He'd been trying to provoke a reaction from her, but no matter what he did, she rarely did anything in return.  Timmy pushed the truck he'd been playing with away, stood up, and crossed the room.  He balled his fists up and without saying a word, hit his half-sister.  Rachel bit her lip, and simply glared at him.  "Meanie poo-poo head," she muttered.

How dare she?!  Timmy scowled and walked over to the playpen.  He'd get her! 

Rachel, seeming to read his intentions, scrambled to her feet, climbed into the playpen, and picked up Jamie.  She hugged him to her, his head on her shoulder and one arm slung across the baby's small body.  Carefully, keeping an eye on Timmy, she grabbed the blanket that was in the playpen and climbed out of it.  "Leave my brother alone!" she ordered.

Timmy smirked.  Now the stupid baby was easier to get to!  Rachel sat down on the floor, put Jamie in her lap and wrapped her arms around him protectively.   Without a word, Timmy went around the playpen, grabbed Jamie's arm, and bit it. 

The baby started to scream, and Rachel's face darkened.  "It's ok, Jamie.  Mommy will be here in a minute."  Carefully, she laid the baby gently on the ground, and stood up.  "I *told* you to leave my brother alone!" she yelled.

Timmy didn't see it coming.  Rachel balled up her fist and punched him, hard in the stomach.  She followed that with a punch to the face.  Timmy sat down on the floor and started to cry.  Rachel kicked his leg.  "Don't ever touch my brother again!" she yelled.

Timmy cried louder.  He heard the adults coming downstairs and redoubled his efforts to cry harder.  The moment he saw Mr. and Mrs. Kent he pointed at Rachel.  "She hit me an' kicked me," he screeched.

Lois strode over and picked up Jamie.  "What happened, Rachel?" she asked, her voice soft with steel underneath.

Rachel looked at the floor and scuffed her toes on it.  "Timmy hit me, and then he bit Jamie, so I made him stop.  He's *never* gonna hurt Jamie again; he'll be *sorry* if he does."

Mr. Kent dropped to his knees in front of her.  Timmy scowled and sobbed even more noisily.  They were ignoring him in favor of the bastard.  "Did you hit Timmy, Rachel?"

Rachel nodded.  "He *deserved* it.  If he hurts Jamie, I'll do it again!"

Lois and Clark exchanged a glance.  "I'm calling Sam," they said together. 

Lois handed Jamie to Clark.  "I'll do it," she said.  "He's leaving *tonight.*" She picked up Timmy and headed towards the phone on the desk.  "Stop it, Timmy," she ordered.  "Rachel shouldn't have hit you, but frankly, I'm surprised it took her as long as it did."

"What you gonna do?" Timmy sniveled.

"I'm calling Sam.  We were willing to give you one more chance, buster, but that little display was the *last* straw."  She put him down on the floor and picked up the phone.  "Don't move from that spot until I tell you to."

Timmy scrubbed his arm across his face.  That hadn't worked out the way it was supposed to--Rachel wasn't supposed to fight back.  And now he was getting sent away.  It just wasn't fair.

~*~*~*~

Clark sighed, stood up, and held out his hand, juggling a screaming baby in the other arm.  "Come on, Rachel," he said.  "Let's take a look at where Timmy bit your brother, then we have to have a talk."

Rachel crossed her arms over her chest and followed him to the bathroom, defiance and anger on her face.  Clark rubbed the baby's back and glanced back at her.  Part of him agreed with what she'd done, but she should have known better than resort to violence.  He strode over to the bathroom, and examined the bite mark on Jamie's arm.  Thankfully, the skin hadn't been broken.

Clark washed it off anyway and slathered on some antibiotic cream.  Without speaking, he put his hand on Rachel's shoulder and guided her out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.  He pointed towards a chair and rocked Jamie back and forth until he settled down.  He put the baby in his bouncy chair and sat down beside Rachel.

"Rachel, you know better," he said softly.  His heart ached as he noticed the tears running down her face.  "We don't hit people unless there's no other choice.  It's mean and ugly."

Rachel caught her breath in a sob.  "Are you gonna give me back, too?" she asked.  "Are you and Mommy gonna stop loving me?"

Clark pulled her into his lap.  "Never," he said.  "You're our baby girl, sweetheart.  You'll *still* be our baby girl when you're married and have babies of your own." 

Rachel grabbed his shirt and twisted her fist in it.  She buried her face in his chest.  "Cindy won't be coming over next week," he said softly.  "I'll call her parents and cancel.  That's going to be your punishment for hitting Timmy."

Rachel nodded against his chest.  "I'm not sorry," she said, her voice muffled.  "He deserved it.  He shouldn't have bit Jamie."

"Rachel," Clark said warningly.  "I want you to tell me what else you could have done instead of hit him."

Rachel sniffed.  "Could've gotten you an' Mommy," she answered finally.

"It's great that you defended Jamie; he's little and helpless, but you still should have done something different, Sprite."  Clark wiped some tears off her cheeks. 

"Do I gotta say I'm sorry?" she asked.

"I think that would be a good idea," Clark answered solemnly.

Rachel slumped and studied her blue jeans.  "Ok," she said.  Her voice was so soft that Clark was sure that if he wasn't Kryptonian, he would never have been able to hear it.

"Is Sam gonna come and get Timmy?" she asked.

Clark nodded.  "Your Momma is calling her right now," he said.  "We were giving him one more chance, but we can't let him hurt you and Jamie."

Rachel leaned back against him and put her thumb into her mouth.  Clark kissed her forehead and gave her a hug. While they'd initially hoped that Timmy would fit in their family, they'd since learned that Gary Russell's parental rights hadn't actually been terminated, anyway.  Timmy was only in temporary foster care until his father got out of jail.


"Rachel, I've got to go get Timmy packed.  Do you want to stay with me, or do you want to stay here?" Clark asked.

"Can Jamie and me go back in the living room?" she asked.

Clark nodded.  She slid off his lap, he stood up, and picked up the baby.  "Are you okay, Jaimers?" he said.

Jamie turned his head at the sound of Clark's voice and smiled.  He reached for his daddy.  "Ah ah," he said.

Clark kissed Jamie's forehead and reached for Rachel's hand.  Together, they walked back into the living room.  Clark put the baby in the toy-strewn playpen, and spread the blanket out on the floor.  He picked Jamie up and laid him on it, then put some toys within reach.

Lois was still on the phone, talking to Sam.  "Honey, I'm going to pack up Timmy's things, ok?" 

Lois nodded and kept talking.  If he'd wanted to listen in, he could have, but he didn't want to.  Lois could handle it; if Timmy's stuff was packed up, Sam could pick him up as soon as she got over to their house.  As far as he was concerned, the sooner she came to get him, the better.  Much of Rachel's fire had been hiding since Timmy had gotten there.  He wanted it back.

~*~*~*~

September 11, 1999, 4:00 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

"Peek-a-boo!"  Rachel hid her face, then uncovered it. 

Jamie laughed and slapped his hands on the floor.   

Rachel grabbed a rattle and shook it.  Jamie reached towards the sound, but his arms were too short.  He got another toy that was in easy reach and, with both hands, pulled it towards him and stuck it in his mouth.

Rachel glanced back to where Timmy was sitting and frowned.  She got up off the floor, ignoring Jamie's whimper of protest that she'd stopped playing with him, and went to stand in front of Timmy.  "I'm sorry I hit you," she said.  "Daddy said I should say sorry."

Timmy stuck his lip out in a pout.  "They're sending me back," he said.  "Wouldn't be if you hadn't hit me."

Rachel rolled her eyes and went back to keep playing with her brother--her *real* brother.  As far as she was concerned, Timmy wasn't.  He was mean.  *That's* why they weren't keeping him.

She sat down on the blanket, then glanced over at her Mommy.  Lois was working on her laptop--Rachel figured she was writing a story for Grandpa Perry.  Timmy's suitcases were by the door, and she knew that somebody must've called for Superman, because Daddy had gotten the *look* that meant that somebody needed him.

Carefully, she picked Jamie up and put him on her lap.  Rachel grabbed the rattle again, shook it, and helped her brother stick it in his mouth.  She kissed the top of his head, then looked up when the doorbell rang.  She hugged Jamie tight and watched as her Momma opened the door to let Sam in. 

"Sam, I'm sorry--" Lois began.

Sam smiled.  "It happens, I'm afraid."  She motioned to Timmy.  "You're coming with me, Timothy," she said.

Timmy slowly got out of the chair and walked as slowly as he could to Sam.  "I'm sorry," Lois said.  "We just can't keep him if he's going to attack Rachel and Jamie."

Sam sighed and shook her head.  "There were some reports of him being a little hard to handle in his first foster home, but nothing like this.  I'll see if we can get him in to see a therapist."

"Don't send him to Dr. Summers," Lois said dryly.  "She's a quack."

Sam laughed and picked up Timmy's suitcases.  "There are others that work for the county," she said with a smile.  "Thanks for trying, anyway."

She started out the door, then turned to look at Timmy, who was simply staring at Lois.  "Timmy," she said softly.  "Come on, it's time to go."

Timmy followed her, his lip stuck out in a pout.  Rachel watched him go, still not quite ready to believe that he wouldn't be coming back.  She watched her Momma shut the door behind them.  "Mommy?"

Lois locked the door, came over, and dropped to her knees on the blanket.  "Yes, Peanut?" she answered.

"Is Timmy gonna come back?"  Rachel looked down at Jamie and gave him her finger to hold.  He, of course, stuck it in his mouth.

Lois reached over and brushed a wayward strand of hair out of Rachel's face.  "No he's not," she said.  "I'm sorry, baby, but we couldn't keep him; he was hurting you and Jamie."

"I love you, Mommy," Rachel said.

"I love you, too," Lois said in return.

Rachel kissed the top of Jamie's head and smiled.  The police would get that bad big girl, her parents knew what Papa Gary had done and they loved her anyway, and Timmy was gone for good.  Maybe she was safe now.  Maybe it was safe now to believe that she had a family forever.  Maybe it was safe to believe that she'd never be given back.

Sure, the judge had told them that they were a family, but in her experience, good things didn't last.  She'd lived with the Kents for almost a year, but it was still hard to believe that they loved her.  Her new daddy was Superman, and people said that Superman couldn't lie.  *He* said that she was his little girl, so maybe it was actually true.  She wanted her new family to be a forever family.  It was just that she didn't feel like she deserved it.

~*~*~*~

September 12, 1999, 10:30 AM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis

Lois smiled as she watched Rachel play with Jamie.  He'd been trying to roll over lately, but he hadn't quite managed to do it.  Rachel was currently trying to teach him how, and had spent a little while showing him how to crawl and turn somersaults.  She wasn't really sure if Rachel thought that she could actually teach an almost four-month-old baby to turn somersaults, but it was kind of fun to watch her try.

Lois smiled as she felt lips touch the back of her neck.  "That had better be my husband kissing me," she said teasingly.

"Oh, it is," Clark said. 

Lois turned around, kneeling on the couch.  "Don’t you think you'd better kiss me properly, then?" she asked.

Clark smiled, then leaned in and kissed her gently.

"Nice start," Lois said breathily.

"Only a start?" Clark kissed her again, this time dipping his tongue in her mouth for a taste.

Lois sighed and melted into the kiss.  Clark's hand came up to cup her cheek, his thumb caressing her cheekbone.  The kiss ended slowly, and Lois rested her forehead against Clark's.  "Did Perry say when he'd be here?" she asked finally.

"No," Clark began, just as the doorbell rang.  He kissed her again, briefly, before going to answer it.

"Mommy?" Rachel tugged at her shirt.

Lois turned around and sat down on the couch.  "What is it, Peanut?"

"Since Timmy isn't here no more, can we go see Grandma and Grandpa Kent?" Rachel asked.

Lois's eyes darted to the door, just in time to see Clark let Perry in.  "*Any* more. And we'll see, sweetheart."

Rachel smiled, climbed up on the couch next to her, and gave her a hug.  "Okay."

"Where's my favorite granddaughter?" Perry called. 

Rachel started to giggle and shrunk down behind her.  "I haven't seen her anywhere," Lois said with a wink.  They'd started playing this game when he came to visit a few months ago, and Rachel had yet to get tired of it.

"Well, let's see," Perry pretended to examine the room.  He walked over to the curtains and peeked behind them.  "She's not behind the curtains."

Rachel giggled again and Lois suppressed a smile. 

Perry looked inside the fireplace.  "She's not pretending to be Santa Claus."  He looked in the fish tank.  "And I don't see any Rachel Fish."

Rachel started to laugh harder.

Perry smiled.  "I don't see her anywhere!"  He held out his hands.  "Rachel!  Where are you?"

Rachel slid off the couch, walked over, and tugged on his pant leg.  "Grandpa Perry, I'm right here!"

Perry looked down with a fond smile.  "Why so you are, Darlin'."

"Can we play tea party?" Rachel asked,  "and will you fly me?"

Perry laughed.  "Or I could just catch you now," he said, and began to growl.  "Because I'm the big, bad wolf, and I'm gonna eat you up!"

Rachel shrieked and started running.  Clark walked over to the couch and sat down beside Lois.  "Be careful," he said.

Perry gave them a wink as he gave chase.  "Big, bad wolf can't eat me!" Rachel taunted with a grin.  She slowed down to pick her way around the baby's blanket.

Perry prowled closer to her, and reached out to snatch her up.  Rachel evaded him and ran to the other side of the room.  He followed, his longer legs eating up the distance.  Rachel ran into the corner, and he trapped her there.  With a growl and a laugh, Perry grabbed her and began to tickle her.

Rachel started laughing.  "Help, DADDY! Save me!" she called.

Lois smiled and kissed Clark on the cheek.  "Go ahead," she said.  She stood up, keeping an eye on them as she scooped up Jamie.

Clark hurried over and snatched Rachel.  "You do realize that now that I've rescued you, Princess, I get to carry you away!"

Rachel kept laughing as Clark swung her over his shoulder and carried her to the other side of the room.  "Let's fly, Daddy!" she said.

Breathing heavily, Perry flopped down on the couch.  Lois and Jamie joined him.  Perry offered his finger to the baby.  "Grandchildren... are the best," he said between pants.

Lois laughed as they watched Clark spin Rachel around.  "I think kids are pretty good, too," she said.

Perry turned and eyed her suspiciously.  "Are you *sure* that you're Lois Lane?"

Lois laughed.  "No pod people here," she said with a grin. "I admit that I wasn't sure I wanted them for a long time, but I think I'll keep them," she said with a wink.

Perry watched Clark spin Rachel some more.  "Y'all don't need to pretend with me," he said suddenly.  "Just because I don't know officially --doesn't mean that I don't *know*."

Lois assumed her most innocent expression.  "I'm not sure what you mean, Chief," she said.

"I've been in the business since before you were born," was his quiet answer.  "I wouldn't be a man in my position without being... observant.  I've known for years about Clark. He's from Kansas, sure, but for my money he was born on Krypton," he said softly.

Rachel started to wiggle.  "Put me down, Daddy, please."  Clark complied and followed her as she ran over to the couch.

"Grandpa Perry, you know that Daddy pretends to be Superman?" she asked.

Perry nodded, extracted his finger from Jamie's grip, and pulled Rachel into his lap.  "I sure do, Darlin'," he said.  "I thought your Daddy might want to know."

Clark sat down on the other side of Lois.  "How long have you known, Chief?" he asked.

"I suspected from the beginning," was the answer, "But I didn't know for sure until those New Kryptonians showed up."

"You waited so long to say anything, why now, Perry?" Lois asked.

Perry smiled.  "Well, you two lovebirds have these two little munchkins now, and I figure if Luthor manages to come back from the dead again or something, you'll need me and Alice to help out."  He paused and gave Rachel a hug.  "Alice... doesn't know," he finished.

Rachel got out of Perry's arms.  "Grandpa, can we have a tea party now?"

Perry smiled.  "Why, we sure can, Miss Rachel.  I'd never turn down an offer to have tea with a beautiful girl."  He stood up and started walking towards the small table that her tea set was set up on. 

Clark wrapped his arm around Lois and she leaned against his chest.  It really wasn't that surprising that Perry knew.  He'd been their boss for years, and with the way Clark had to leave for emergencies, well, many bosses might have fired him by now.  It wasn't like he'd publish it or tell anyone, either.

Lois tipped up her face and kissed the underside of Clark's jaw.  Four years ago, she would've told people they were crazy if they'd suggested that she'd be content sitting with her husband and baby watching their daughter play with their boss.  Much had changed in four years.

~*~*~*~

September 13, 1999, 9:00 AM
12th Precinct, Metro Police Department, Metropolis

Lois and Clark sat behind the one-way mirror and watched as Henderson and Dr. Shafer, the police psychiatrist, questioned Megan Barnett.  Clark knew that they'd already gotten DNA from the girl, because he'd heard Henderson tell Zymeck that Forensics was testing it.

"We don't *need* a lawyer," an older woman protested.  "My daughter didn't do *anything*!"

Clark rolled his eyes.  "Riight," Lois muttered.

"Mrs. Barnett," Henderson began.  He pushed a piece of paper across the table.  "If you'll just sign this waiver, we can get started."

She took the paper and signed it.  "Now *what* could this possibly be about.  My daughter can't have done anything wrong!"

"Shut up, Mom!" Megan snapped.  She leaned back in her chair and smiled.  "They brought us here to talk to me."

"Yes, we did, Megan," Dr. Shafer said. 

Henderson pressed the record button.  "We need to tape this for our records," he said softly.

"We'd like to know how you feel about little boys," Dr. Shafer said.

Megan shrugged.  "They all try to leave in the end.  My stepfather did it."  She smiled.  Clark shivered.  The smile wasn't a pleasant sight; it reminded him of a snake, of Luthor.

"What do you mean that they leave?" Henderson asked.

"They *leave,*" Megan said impatiently.  "My stepfather died.  He was going to leave us, but before he could, he tripped over me and fell down a cliff."  She shrugged again.  "Mom put me in therapy after that."

"Megan, we have an eyewitness that puts you at the scene of one of the child-murders that have been happening over the last few months," Henderson said.

Megan's lips turned upwards into a smirk.  "I made sure they wouldn't leave me," she said.  "I can go back to play whenever I want, and they're waiting for me."

"We found out who they are and sent them home, Megan," Dr. Shafer said.  "Their families have them."

Megan leaned forward and slapped her hands on the table.  "You had no RIGHT!" she yelled.  "They're *mine*!"

"Their families missed them," Henderson said.  "They wanted them back."

"They're *mine,*" she insisted.  "They came with me to play!"

"Why did you pull their pants down?" Dr. Shafer asked.

Megan shrugged.  "Because it made them look stupid.  Because that's what my stepfather, Chris, did to me to punish me.  He pulled *mine* down and gave me a spanking at school.  Why shouldn't I?  They were being punished for leaving."

"So they're your toys?" Dr. Shafer asked.

Megan shrugged again.  "Why not?  They're much better than dolls."

Henderson stood up and leaned forward on the table.  "What you did was *wrong,* Megan," he said.  "I'm very angry at you for hurting those little boys!"

"So?" Megan said.  She smirked at him and clasped her hands neatly in front of her.  "Chris was mad when he saw me beat up a little boy.  I knew he'd fall when I tripped him."  She gave Henderson a once over.  "He made a 'thunk' when his head hit the rocks.  It was fun."

"How many were there?" Dr. Shafer asked.

A wide, happy grin spread over Megan's face.  "Five, with Chris.  Five that can never, ever leave me again."

Lois moved closer to Clark.  He took her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.  She gave him a brief smile of gratitude before turning her attention back towards the interview.

"But don't you feel bad that you killed those little boys?" Dr. Shafer asked.

Megan tilted her chair back, balancing it on its back legs.  "Why should I?  They shouldn't have tried to leave."

Henderson exchanged a glance with Dr. Shafer.  "I think we're done here," he said quietly.  He stood up and walked around the table.  "Mrs. Barnett, I'm sorry, but I'm placing your daughter under arrest for the murder of Chris Barnett, Joey Anderson, Benjamin Smith, Lamar Rogers, and Alexander Epps.  Stand up, please, Megan."

Megan stood up, but immediately punched him where it hurt.  He gasped, grabbed her, and handcuffed her hands behind her back.  Mrs. Barnett glared at Henderson.  "Is that really necessary?" she asked.

"Yes," he said, then finished reading Megan her rights.

"Your daughter's a sociopath, Mrs. Barnett," Dr. Shafer said.

"Are you saying she's psychotic?  That she's crazy?" Mrs. Barnett demanded.

Dr. Shafer shook his head.  "She's not psychotic.  She's sociopathic--psychotics aren't responsible for their actions because they can't tell the difference between right and wrong."  He stood up and leaned casually against the wall.  "Sociopaths know the difference; they just don't care.  Eating ice cream or killing someone; it's all the same to them."

Lois shivered.  Clark put his arm around her waist, hoping to lend some support.  It had been their good fortune or misfortune, depending on the way you looked at it, to run across more than their share of sociopaths as reporters.  As Superman, he'd had personal dealings with most of them.  He watched as Henderson took possession of Megan's elbow and started pulling her towards the door.

"You are *not* putting my baby in a holding cell!" Mr. Barnett said stridently.

Henderson turned slightly.  "No, ma'am.  We'll be sending her to Juvenile Hall until her trial.  I suggest you get a lawyer."  He left the room, pulling a struggling Megan with him. 

Clark gave Lois a one-armed squeeze.  "C'mon, Honey.  Let's find out what we can print and get out of here," he said.

Together, Lois and Clark walked out of the room and headed to Henderson's desk to wait for him to finish talking to the uniformed cops who he assumed would be taking Megan to Juvie.  It was a relief that Megan would be off the streets, but he still wondered how he could manage to do what was needed as Superman and still handle everything else in his life.  Sometimes, he thought that their family motto should be, 'No easy answers," because there never were any.

He supposed it would be an ongoing battle to keep his priorities straight; if his family came first, he was sure that things would work out.  If the past half-dozen years had taught him anything, it was that sometimes thinking in shades of gray was necessary to accomplish everything he needed to do and survive.  He and Lois and Rachel and Jamie were a family, and it had to be enough.

~*~*~*~

October 1, 1999, 4:00 PM
348 Hyperion Avenue, Metropolis.

Clark zipped the last duffel bag closed and carried it downstairs.  While Megan Barnett's trial was ongoing, Rachel's part in it was over, so they were heading to Smallville for some much-needed decompression time.  It wasn't the first time they'd spent the weekend at the farm with his parents, and it probably wouldn't be the last.

Even before the trial had begun, thanks to his contact in the DA's office, he had known that the girl was being tried as an adult.  The DNA tests had come back positive, and with the other evidence and her confession, there was no question that the verdict would be guilty.  With four counts of first degree murder, it was unlikely that the twelve-year-old would ever be released into society.

Perry had been happy with their articles covering the investigation and the trial, so he'd been more than happy to give them the afternoon off to get Rachel out of town.  His parents were expecting them, and he had plans to show Rachel the tree house and perhaps take her fishing. 

Clark set the duffel bag on the floor.  "Is everybody ready?" he called.

"Yes!" Rachel skipped out of the kitchen and hurled herself at him.

Clark swept her up into a hug, then set her down.  "I'm going to take the luggage first, Sprite," he reminded her.

Lois followed Rachel, albeit at a more sedate pace.  Jamie was cradled in his baby sling across her chest.  "Rachel, how about Daddy takes you next, and then comes and gets me?"

"Okay."  Rachel bounced around a bit.  "Daddy, when I get big, I wanna fly like you do."

Clark swallowed, hard.  How could he explain to his baby without making her feel like she didn't belong that she would never be able to fly?  He dropped to his knees and gave her a gentle hug.  "Sprite, you're more like your Mommy than me," he said finally.  "Mommy isn't Kryptonian and neither are you, so I'm afraid that you can't fly like I can."

Rachel seemed to consider this for a few minutes.  "Then I'll fly really, really, really fast planes," she said with a grin.  "Then I can go as fast as you can, too!"  She bounced up and down a little.  "Susie says that her brother flies planes for the Navy and he can fly as fast as *you,* Daddy.  Maybe I'll do that."

"If you want to, baby, you can," Lois said.  She sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to her.  "C'mon, sweetie.  It won't take Daddy long to fly our stuff to Grandma's and Grandpa's house."

Obediently, Rachel walked over and climbed on the couch.  Clark stood up, brushed off the knees of his jeans, and spun into the Suit.  He picked up the baggage, and, as fast as he could without disintegrating his cargo, left and flew to Smallville.  It figured, he reflected, that his most vulnerable child would decide that she wanted to choose one of the most dangerous professions when she grew up.

Then again, last week she'd wanted to be a doctor.  He landed in the farm yard, put the bags on the porch, and started to fly back to Metropolis for his family.  Things changed constantly.  He was hoping for a small period of peace to finish the process of integrating his family and to allow Rachel some space to heal.

He was lucky.  He had Lois.  He had their children.  Together, he was sure that there was no way that any of Metropolis's criminal element could overcome them.

The End.  (For Now)