By Kendra Prince (KPrince697@aol.com)
Summary: Lois is forced by a seemingly harmless bet to confront her growing feelings for her partner as she and Clark work to save the Beckworth School (featured in the episode "Smart Kids") from closing. Meanwhile, Perry sends them on an A&E assignment to interview singer Kathy Troccoli — whose video director wants to cast them in a video for the song "If I'm Not in Love…"
Author's note: In this story, Lois is forced by a seemingly harmless bet to confront her growing feelings for her partner as she and Clark work to save the Beckworth School (featured in the "Smart Kids" episode from season one) from closing. You're bound to notice how much music I use in conjunction with my stories. I'm a strong believer in adding music to give the story "texture" and heighten the emotion of the scene. We got a hint of how well Teri and Dean could perform in a music video in "Whine, Whine, Whine" with the wonderfully melancholy music compliments of Eric Clapton. Being true to my creative self, music inspired the following story. The song, "If I'm Not In Love…", written by Dawn Thomas and sung by Kathy Troccoli, sums up the struggle I see Lois going through at this point in her relationship with the Clarkster. Because I like Kathy's music so much, I'm giving her a guest starring role in this story. There is probably already a video for this song, but in a perfect world, Clark and Lois would star in my version. I'll put Clark and Lois' actions in parentheses along with the lyrics when the video is shown in the story. My thanks to Leigh, Evelyn and Amy for their input on this story. I hope you enjoy "May The Best (Super) Man Win". (kp)
If only she could catch up with him! Try as she might, Lois could not reach the ever-elusive man in the red cape as she followed him through darkened halls. Even though she called out to him, he wouldn't stop. Where was he leading her? And why? Didn't he know how much she wanted to be with him?
At last, Lois saw him round a corner. She turned and found him standing with his back to her on a moonlit balcony, his cape flowing in the evening breeze. Lois breathed a sigh of relief. So *this* is where he wanted her to come. What a romantic place to finally be with her superhero.
Silently, she walked up behind him and gently placed her hand on his strong shoulder. "Superman," she whispered. When he turned to face Lois, her eyes trailed slowly from the "S" emblem on his chest to his finely chiseled face. Looking into his eyes, Lois stepped back in shock.
"Clark?" Lois sat straight up in bed just as the clock/radio by her bed clicked on playing, "I'm Holding Out For A Hero". Gathering her wits about her, she glanced at a framed picture of Superman by her bed and said, "No way."
As the elevator doors opened on The Daily Planet newsroom, the first person Lois spotted was her partner, Clark Kent, enjoying his usual morning donut by the coffeemaker. Clark could feel her silent stares as she passed him to pour herself a cup of coffee. "Uh, morning, Lois."
"Hm-mmm," she mumbled as she tried to imagine Clark without his glasses. She circled around him, sizing him up before she shot furtive looks at the blowup of Superman's picture on the wall nearby.
By this time, Clark was more than self-conscious, wondering if he had crumbs on his mouth or worse yet, on his eggplant tie. "What?" he asked desperately.
"Oh, nothing," Lois sniffed as she strode back to her desk.
Clark wasn't going to let this drop as he followed in hot pursuit. "Something's on your mind. Let's hear it."
Lois hesitated for a moment, debating whether she should tell him the truth. "Well, I was just thinking about this dream I had last night."
"Oh really." Intrigued, Clark straightened his tie and took a seat by Lois' desk. "And who was in this dream?"
"Well, it started with me chasing Superman…"
Clark had heard enough. "Say no more."
Standing to his feet, Clark said, "You know, Lois, I'm getting a little tired of hearing about your fixation on Superman."
Lois rose to stare Clark in the eye. "I do not have a fixation!"
"Oh yes, you do. You can't see the forest for the trees. There are a lot of 'average' guys out there who don't stand a chance with you up next to him."
"Yeah? Like who for instance?" Lois demanded.
Clark paused for a moment. "Like *me*."
"Oh." Rendered speechless for one of the few times in her life, Lois Lane sought the solace of her chair.
Sensing opportunity knocking, Clark leaned over Lois' desk and made her an offer he knew she couldn't refuse. "I'll make you a bet, Lois. Give me a week and if you don't feel like going out with me by Saturday night, I'll personally arrange a date for you with Superman."
Lois' eyes widened at the prospect. "A *date* date?"
"Flowers, candy, dinner and dancing. The works. On me, of course," said Clark, sizing up her reaction.
There's got to be a catch here somewhere, she thought. "I don't know…"
"What have you got to lose? Either way, you've got plans for Saturday night."
She shrugged. "Okay, you've got a deal."
Jimmy walked by just as they were sealing the wager with a handshake. "What's going on here?"
Before Lois could stop him, Clark said, "I just made a bet with Lois that I could get her to go out with me Saturday night."
"Way to go, C. K.! What does she get if you lose?"
"A date with Superman," Lois interjected.
Jimmy viewed Clark with pity. "C. K., somebody needs to talk to you about gambling, especially with Lois. Don't you remember what happened the last time you played poker with her?"
Lois smiled slyly as she nodded behind Clark's back, then feigned innocence when Clark shot her a look over his shoulder.
Thankfully, at that time, Perry beckoned the reporting duo to his office. "Lois! Clark! I need you, pronto!"
"Looks like duty calls, you guys," Jimmy said.
"You wanted to see us, Chief?" Clark asked.
"Yes. I guess I don't have to tell you we're short- staffed due to a poor scheduling of vacations this week. Who approves those things, anyway?"
"You do," Lois answered.
"Hey! Hey! Don't you know a rhetorical question when you hear it?"
"Now, there's a couple of things I need you two to cover. First of all, word has it that the Beckworth School will be closing it's doors by the end of the month due to federal cuts," Perry advised.
"What's going to happen to the kids?" Clark asked.
"Unless they are adopted or go back to their families by the deadline, they'll be farmed out to various agencies around town."
The very thought broke Lois' heart. "Oh, Clark. When I think about Amy and Inez and the others … We *have* to do something."
Clark wasn't prepared for the pleading look that crossed Lois' face. "Yeah, but what? Neither of us have that kind of money."
"We'll think of something," Lois vowed. " What's the other assignment, Perry?"
"I need you two to interview a singer by the name of Kathy Troccoli, who's in town to film a video for her new single."
"But that's Arts and Entertainment!" Lois objected.
"I know that, but Thea's on one of those vacations I approved and since this is a slow news week, I need you two to pitch in. Comprende?"
"Couldn't you send Jimmy?"
"Perhaps I failed to make myself clear. This assignment is not a request. It's an *order*." Perry raised his eyebrows in a silent warning to Lois not to challenge him further.
"Yes, sir." Clark's eyes widened when Lois actually saluted.
Perry didn't notice, at least he didn't acknowledge it if he did. "Good. You've got an interview at two o'clock."
"Terrific. I love Kathy Troccoli's music," Clark said.
"You would." Lois rolled her eyes.
At the Beckworth School, Lois and Clark were greeted by a somber Sara Chastain, the school's director. "Thank you for coming," she said. "Right now, any publicity would be appreciated. If we can't gather the funds in time, perhaps someone looking to adopt an older child will come forward."
"These are great kids you have here. Why wouldn't someone want to adopt them?" Clark inquired.
"There's no question these children have a lot of love to give, but several of them also have emotional scars from less than ideal family situations. That aside, most couples looking to adopt want a baby. The older a child becomes, the harder it is to place them with a family."
"But aren't some of the children just here temporarily, until their family situations improve?" Lois asked. "Like Amy and Inez, for instance."
"Sadly, the girls have still not been able to be reunited with their mother. She's had difficulty sustaining a job, and until her finances become more stable, Amy and Inez will have to stay with us, or whichever agency takes over their case."
This was quickly becoming personal to Lois. "There's no chance of them being separated is there? I mean, Inez depends on Amy so much."
"Unfortunately, that is a possibility, Miss Lane. Whenever you have this many children that need relocation, the primary focus is to place them with an agency best suited to meet their needs. Of course, I'll do everything possible to prevent them from being apart," Miss Chastain promised.
In the hallway outside the director's office, Lois felt something hit her from behind. She found a doll on the floor and looked up to see a familiar face peering around a corner. "Inez?"
The child slowly moved toward Lois, who knelt down to her level. Inez had changed little in the months since Lois had last seen her. She was much like a little doll herself, with her large blue eyes searching Lois' face for reassurance. "Lois," she sniffed. "Please, don't let them take me away from Amy!"
The usually cynical reporter felt her heart melt at Inez' plea. She took Inez into her arms, stroked her hair and said, "Clark and I are going to do our best, honey." As Inez squeezed her around the neck, Lois looked up at Clark in desperation.
Clark bent down to retrieve Inez' doll and couldn't help thinking of his own adoption. What would have happened if Jonathan and Martha Kent had not been there for him that spring night in 1966?
As they left the Beckworth School, Lois seemed distracted. Clark could tell seeing Inez had shaken Lois. He patted her shoulder and asked, "Are you okay?"
"I was just thinking. Maybe I should try to adopt Amy and Inez, or at least check into being a foster parent."
"Come on, Lois. Do you really think you're ready for motherhood?" Clark teased.
"I just can't sit by and do nothing, Clark."
"Even if you did take in the girls, that doesn't help the other children who need homes."
"I know. I feel so helpless."
Clark smiled reassuringly. "Like you said, we'll think of something. We'd better hurry or we'll be late for our interview with Kathy."
"Just call me Mary Hart," Lois said dryly.
"Well, you've certainly got the legs for it!" Clark smiled at Lois' reaction. "Hey, I'm trying to win a bet here."
While staying in Metropolis, Kathy Troccoli was a guest at the Metropolis Grande, formerly known as the Lexor Hotel. Clark and Lois couldn't help remembering how they posed as honeymooners there while undercover in their investigation of Congressman Ian Herrington.
In her suite, Kathy met with the video director, Peter Brooks, to review possible concepts for the video. As she looked over the various storyboards, Peter could tell by her hesitation she wasn't one hundred percent sold. "Let me guess. You're not crazy about the concepts."
She shrugged her shoulders. "These are great, Peter, but none of them is exactly what I'm looking for."
Peter smiled wryly, "To think I gave up directing educational films for this!"
"I'm sorry. I guess it's the perfectionist in me. I keep seeing a woman struggling with feelings she has for a friend, a coworker, maybe. He reciprocates her feelings, but only in her dreams and fantasies … Do you see what I'm getting at?" Kathy asked.
"I think so, but I need a little time to work it out in my head."
"No problem! We don't shoot until tomorrow," Kathy teased.
With a decided smirk, Peter gathered up his rejected storyboards and tucked them away in his portfolio. "You're a funny one, you are."
Kathy smiled and glanced at her watch. "Look, I've got a two o'clock interview. Why don't you work up another concept while I'm talking to the reporters and then we'll discuss the details?"
In the midst of Kathy's interview with Clark and Lois, Peter suddenly burst out of the bedroom. "Kathy, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just had a flash of brilliance—" He stopped short when he caught a glimpse of the reporting team from The Planet. In his quick estimation, if these two weren't involved with each other, they *should* be.
Sensing the pregnant pause in the conversation, Kathy chose to deliver the introductions. "Clark, Lois, this is Peter Brooks, our director for the music video. Peter, this is Lois Lane and Clark Kent, from The Daily Planet."
Peter was intrigued. "Kathy, could I talk to you for a moment?"
"Can't it wait? I'm right in the middle of an interview."
When Peter assured her that it couldn't wait, she reluctantly left Clark and Lois to follow him into the bedroom.
"I just had another flash of brilliance!" Peter bragged.
"I haven't heard the first one yet."
"Never mind that. I think we should get those two to star in your video."
Kathy looked at Peter as if he'd lost his mind. "Why? What makes you think they'll even consider it?"
"Are you kidding? They'll jump at the chance!" Peter cracked the bedroom door open enough for Kathy to see the duo talking on the couch. "Look at them, Kathy. They're positively telegenic."
"No! They look great together. I'm telling you, if they had been cast as leads in a television series, they couldn't have done a better job of matching Lois and Clark. Trust me."
Kathy shot Peter a skeptical look. "That's what you said on the last five concepts!"
Peter rushed out of the bedroom, gazing at Clark and Lois through the frame created by his hands at the end of his outstretched arms.
Lois shifted uncomfortably. "Can I help you with something?"
"You'll have to excuse Peter, Lois. As you know, we're filming my video tomorrow and at this point, we're still kicking ideas around," Kathy explained.
"But you two can put an end to all of that, if you'll just say, 'yes'!" Peter's zeal was overwhelming.
Clark and Lois exchanged glances before Clark asked, "Say yes to what?"
"Peter would like you both to be in my video. He thinks you're telekinetic."
Peter frowned, albeit briefly. "That's *telegenic*!"
"You mean psychic?" Lois asked.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Where is Daniel Webster when I need him?"
"Look, Mr. Brooks—" Lois started.
"Call me Peter, darling."
"Look, Peter … darling," Lois started once more, "I'm no actress. I'm an award-winning journalist—"
"Don't forget who won the Kerth award *this* year," Clark interjected.
Lois was losing her patience. She shot Clark an "if- looks-could-kill" glance. "The point is, we're reporters, not actors, so there's no way we can do this."
"Lois, we haven't heard exactly what *this* is," Clark reminded her.
Excitedly, Peter clapped his hands and looked directly at Lois. "That's the beauty of it, darling. You don't have to do anything but be yourselves! We'll shoot some scenes at The Daily Planet and everything."
Clark looked over at Kathy, who seemed to be enjoying this exchange, and asked, "We haven't heard from you. What do you think about all this?"
"I have to admit, the idea interests me. Actually, this concept is the closest we've come to seeing what I felt the first time I heard the song. You and Lois would definitely present fresh faces onscreen. But, we don't want to push you into anything."
Peter broke in. "Oh yes, we do!" He quickly scribbled a figure on a slip of paper and placed it in front of Clark and Lois. "This is what we're prepared to offer you for your time."
Clark and Lois were shocked by the generous sum. "Just how badly do you want us to be in this video, anyway?" Lois asked.
Peter, misunderstanding Lois' reluctance for negotiation, whipped up the piece of paper and scribbled a new, even more generous figure. "Okay, okay. This is as high as I go!"
"I appreciate the offer, but I have a reputation to maintain," Lois said.
"Lois, maybe we should consider it," Clark said. "How else are we going to get the money for the Beckworth School?"
"It's a drop in the bucket compared to what they need," Lois whispered.
"Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear. Are you planning on using this money for a charity?" Kathy asked.
"Actually, yes. The Beckworth School, which is home to several displaced children, is having to close its doors at the end of the month due to financial problems," Clark explained.
"Oh, how awful," Kathy sympathized. Suddenly, she had a "flash of brilliance" as Peter would put it. "I don't have to be in Nashville until Sunday. What if I did a benefit concert here Saturday afternoon, with the proceeds going to help the school?"
"You'd do that?" Clark was amazed.
"One of my closest friends grew up in a place like that. I'd like to believe someone would have helped her school, if needed."
The wheels were turning in Lois' mind. "Maybe we can talk The Planet into sponsoring the concert, with lots of advertising, the works. I think we can do this."
Once again, Peter clapped his hands. "Excellent! I love it when a plan comes together!"
"Judas Priest! Who died?" Perry bellowed as he exited the elevator onto the newsroom floor. Lois' desk was literally covered with arrangements of every kind imaginable, with every kind of flower. From asters to zinnias, they were there.
Perry approached the desk cautiously. "Lois? You in there?"
A lone balloon waved up and down. Perry peered through a basket of gladioli to see a pair of watery brown eyes staring back at him. He gingerly separated the stems to expose Lois' face just in time for her to lobby a big sneeze his way. "I didn't know you were allergic to flowers."
She sniffed. "I didn't either, but there are so many here, I'm bound to be ah-ah-ah—" she quickly put her finger under her nose, "ah-lergic to something." Just as she relaxed, another sneeze hit. "Ah-choo!"
Lois' sounded as if she were drowning. "I sent him on an antihistamine run. It's the least he can do after starting all of *this*!" She waved her arm over the arrangements dramatically.
Sensing another sneeze coming on, Perry guided Lois' finger just below her nose once more, then steered her toward his office to talk things over.
"It all started because Clark is jealous of my feelings for Superman. He made a bet that I would want to go out with him by Saturday night or he would arrange a date for me with Superman."
"Ah." Perry was starting to get the picture.
"Anyway, word got out that we had this 'friendly wager' going on and now, everybody wants a piece of the action! We've even got 'Jimmy the Geek' out there running odds on who I'm going to pick!"
"Really? Who's ahead?"
Lois was incredulous. "Perry!"
"Aw, honey. They don't mean anything by it. It's just harmless fun."
"Yeah, right. It's so 'harmless', I'm wheezing more than a thirty-year-old Hoover!"
Perry had to stifle a smile at the thought. He knew that deep inside, Lois was upset about more than some jokers in the office trying to sway her in the direction of their pick for Saturday night. "Okay, I'll talk to Jimmy. Now, tell me about your interviews today."
Lois proceeded to fill Perry in on the predicament of the Beckworth School and her suggestions to enlist advertising from the paper as well as backing for Kathy's concert. He offered to talk to Franklin Stern, the publisher of The Planet, and see what he could do. Then she told him about the music video she would be filming with Clark, albeit reluctantly.
Perry was thrilled at the idea of "free advertising" for the paper. He told her Stern's backing would probably present no problem once he heard about the video. "What are you two going to be doing, exactly?"
"Well, the director told us just to be ourselves, whatever that means."
Clark knocked on Perry's door. "Lois, I've got your antihistamine here."
She snatched the box out of his hand. "Thanks."
Jimmy suddenly burst in. "Hey guys, there's a man named Peter Brooks waiting for you in the conference room. He's got some contracts for you to sign."
Perry exclaimed, "What does my office look like? Grand Central Station?"
Clark and Lois exchanged knowing glances and took their leave. Jimmy started to follow until Perry shouted, "Jimmy!"
"What's this I hear about you being the newsroom bookie all of a sudden?"
Jimmy's face went ashen. "Chief, I can explain—"
"Jimmy, this is a newsroom, not some sleazy pool hall!"
Jimmy turned to leave. "Jimmy!"
Perry whipped out a bill and handed it to Jimmy. He smiled and winked as he said, "Give me ten on Kent."
Jimmy flashed a smile of relief. "Yes, Chief."
Clark and Lois wasted no time in signing the contracts for their work in Kathy's video. Peter's eyes were still dancing at the thought of his newfound stars. As they followed Peter out of the conference room, Clark asked, "I know you said we'd basically be playing ourselves in the video. What's the concept exactly?"
Peter's eyes grew dreamy at the thought. "Unrequited love, Clark."
"Uh-oh." Clark could feel Lois staring at him.
"You mean you have us doing a video for a *love* song?" Lois was incredulous.
"I thought you knew the name of the song was 'If I'm Not In Love … '"
"Nobody ever told us that! All you said was we'd be playing ourselves."
"And you will be playing yourselves, darling … in a love story." Staffers throughout the newsroom were scrambling for their purses and wallets as the odds started to tip in Clark's favor. "Isn't it obvious," he continued, "the two of you have chemistry."
"And a contract," Clark whispered over Lois' shoulder.
"And magnetism," Peter continued.
"And a contract," Clark interjected.
"And irresistibility!" Peter exclaimed.
"And a signed, dated contract," Clark reminded.
That was the last straw. Lois' eyes narrowed as she turned and glared at Clark. "I am well aware we have a contract! But contracts were made to be broken!"
"Only by lawyers who are guaranteed to charge far more than you stand to make for this video," Peter warned as he waved the contracts for emphasis.
Clark took a different tactic. "Lois," he whispered. "What about the kids? We have no other way to help them right now. "
Staffers through the newsroom waited with baited breath for Lois' decision. She hesitated for a moment, then softened. "Okay, I'll do it."
"Excellent!" Peter stuffed the contracts into his jacket and gave them directions to the video shoot.
Staffers were gathered around Jimmy, placing their bets, when Clark leaned over and smiled, "When it comes to the love scenes, don't worry, I'll be gentle."
"Augh!" Lois squealed and tore after Clark. They ran past Jimmy, who suddenly started getting a lot of bets on Superman again.
The next morning, Clark managed to do some quick footwork on his makeup. He asked the makeup artist for something to drink and by the time she'd returned, he'd already finished the job, so she wouldn't have to see him without his glasses.
Lois had had time to calm down from the day before, or so it seemed. Clark was laughing and talking with Kathy when she walked in for makeup, wearing huge pink rollers. When Kathy and Clark stopped and stared at her hair, Lois looked at them impatiently and said, "What?"
When Clark gestured at the rollers, Lois grimaced, yanking the offending curlers out of her hair.
As Clark started to leave, Lois looked up at the makeup artist and asked, "Is there a reason why Clark can't do this video without his glasses?"
"I rather like his glasses," Kathy volunteered.
"Hear that, Lois? Kathy rather likes my glasses," Clark teased.
"She would," Lois grumbled. Lois vowed then she would have her day and she did.
Later, as she was going over wardrobe with the assistant, she told her, "I want to wear something that will make Clark's eyes pop out and roll around on the floor!"
The assistant smiled and said, "Oh, I've got just the thing."
When Lois was called to the set, she commanded attention of every male within a hundred yards. The wardrobe assistant had certainly delivered when she offered Lois a short, fitted, black-beaded dress with multi-colored accents across the short sleeves and bodice. The dress couldn't have been more perfect for Lois if it had been made specifically for her. Although Lois really wasn't into jewelry, ruby and diamond earrings completed the look and were accentuated by her porcelain complexion and silky dark brown hair.
Clark, in his tux, was going to be the perfect video compliment to Lois.
As she strolled up to Clark, she leaned over seductively. "Remember how you promised to be gentle?"
A wary Clark's eyes widened. "Uh-huh."
"Well, I didn't."
"Uh-oh." Clark swallowed hard. Lois couldn't help but notice this was one of the few times she'd actually seen Clark break a sweat. She blew a soft kiss his way and grabbed him by the tie.
As she sashayed by with Clark in tow, two crew members watched in amazement. "Poor guy. He's a goner," remarked one of them.
The other whistled and said, "Yeah, but what a way to go!"
Peter and Kathy showed up at The Planet a couple of days later to present Clark and Lois with a check for the school and to talk over plans for the benefit concert. At the end of their visit, Peter said he had a surprise for them. He had a rough cut of the music video, which still had to go through a final edit.
Lois, Clark, Perry and Jimmy, along with a myriad of staffers piled into the conference room to view the video. Clark worried that Lois hadn't said much since the filming of the video and she didn't really look excited now.
Kathy stood up and introduced herself to the crowd. She took time to express appreciation to Clark and Lois for their part in her video and allowing her to take part in assisting the Beckworth School. She smiled and said, "If Lois and Clark ever get tired of the news business, I think they will do great in entertainment. I guess we're ready to show you the video now."
The lights were dimmed and everyone craned their necks to see the television. (Lois and Clark walking together in the lobby of The Daily Planet, slipping trenchcoats on over office attire.)
Lois: Got big plans for tonight?
Clark: I'm meeting a friend for dinner. You?
Lois: (covering) Oh, you know me. I've always got something to do.
Clark: Okay, then. I guess I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good evening.
Lois: You too.
(As she watches him walk down the street, the music begins. When Lois walks away in the opposite direction, Kathy, who is standing close by, begins to sing. Throughout the video, she appears in the background in various scenes.)
"If I'm not in love with you What is this I'm going through tonight And if this heart is lying then What should I believe in"
(Various scenes of Lois alone and noticing happy couples around her: video store where she looks over longingly from the comedy aisle to the romance aisle, picking up take-out at a restaurant, out on the street by her apartment)
"Why do I go crazy Every time I think about you baby Why else do I want you like I do If I'm not in love with you"
(Lois on the couch in her apartment, wearing sweats and eating rocky road ice cream as she watches a romantic video, with tears in her eyes.)
"And if I don't need your touch Why do I miss you so much tonight If it's just infatuation Then why is my heart achin' To hold you forever"
(Lois looks over a picture she has of herself at work with Clark.)
"Give a part of me I thought I'd never Give again to someone I could love If I'm not in love with you"
(Lois walks by Clark's apartment to see him walking up the steps with a beautiful woman on his arm.)
(Lois in "the dress", looking out over the city lights as Clark walks up behind her and wraps his arms around her. He kisses her on the neck and she turns in his arms to kiss him passionately.)
Lois was grateful to be at the back of the room as she shrunk from the image on the television screen. She couldn't help but remember filming that scene…
Peter Brooks was losing his patience as he yelled "Cut!" for the seventh time. "Lois, darling, what is the problem now?"
"I'm sorry. I can't help it if this feels awkward to me."
"Why don't you give us a minute?", Clark asked.
"Everybody take five!" Peter bellowed as he strode off the set.
Lois was beginning to regret her vow to be anything but gentle when it came to the love scenes they would be filming. "Clark, I'm sorry. It's not you. It's me. Kissing you, here, like this, feels strange."
Clark tried levity. "It's not like we haven't kissed before. Remember our assignment in the honeymoon suite at the Lexor?" He secretly smiled at the thought.
"Yes and the time you left town during the heatwave. But those weren't romantic times. One time, we were undercover and the other, we were saying 'good-bye'."
"Lois, I'll be the first to admit this isn't an ideal romantic setting. Let's take it for what it is—fantasy. Forget the cameras and the lights." He guided her back to her mark. Standing behind Lois, Clark whispered in her ear. "Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a balcony overlooking the Metropolis skyline. A soft evening breeze crosses your face." Without Lois knowing, Clark gently blew at a fan across from them, causing a light breeze to whisk across the set.
Lois sighed at the feeling.
"Suddenly, he's there—the man of your dreams. He slips his arms around you." Tentatively, Clark did just that. For the first time since they started working on this scene, Lois didn't seem tense. In fact, she appeared quite relaxed. This gave Clark the courage to go on. "He starts to kiss you here…"
Lois was beginning to get the hang of this fantasy idea. Without a second thought, she tilted her head to allow Clark to kiss her neck. She smiled blissfully. "Hmm … And then?"
"And then, you turn to face the man of your dreams and he tells you just how much he cherishes you. In fact, you're his greatest treasure. There's nothing he wouldn't do for you."
"Wow," Lois whispered.
As Clark leaned in close to kiss her, Lois stopped him with a half-smile. "Are you sure you're not just trying to win the bet?"
"Forget the bet," Clark said as he kissed her at last.
So if this is fantasy, Lois wondered, what's reality like? Funny, she started fantasizing about Superman, but now, in Clark's arms, the image of her superhero was starting to fade.
"Oh why in every fantasy Do I feel your arms embracing me Like lovers lost in sweet desire"
"Lois?" Perry exclaimed.
"C. K.?" Jimmy said with his mouth open.
Clark stole a quick look at Lois who seemed embarrassed. The way Lois had finally responded to his kisses had raised his hopes that her feelings for him had started to change. But since the video shoot, she'd been different. He gladly would have taken Lois' sarcastic barbs over the silent treatment she had been giving him lately.
"And why in dreams do I surrender Like a little baby"
(Lois and Clark share a romantic kiss as he lowers her to the floor before a roaring fire.)
Amidst the oohs and ahs from the audience in the conference room, Clark enjoyed the memory of that scene before the fire. They filmed it later in the day after the balcony scene. That time, Lois didn't need any coaching. For the moment, Lois was his, even if they were surrounded by lights, cameras and a film crew. He could have cared less if the whole world watched. If only she could be that responsive without the benefit of a script …
"How do I explain this feeling Someone tell me"
(Lois sits up in bed. She's been dreaming. She looks over at the same picture she looked at earlier, which now rests on her nightstand.)
(The elevator doors to the newsroom open and Lois steps out. It is late and the newsroom is empty. She looks over at Clark's desk and makes her way to the double doors overlooking the globe on the front of the building. She steps out onto the balcony and looks wistfully on the streets below.)
"If I'm not in love with you What is this I'm going through tonight And if this heart is lying then What should I believe in"
(Clark steps out of the elevators and makes his way to his desk to retrieve a file. That's when he notices Lois on the balcony. He walks up to her and turning her to him, sees she's been crying. He reaches to dry her tears and something magical happens between them.)
"Why do I go crazy Everytime I think about you baby Why else do I want you like I do If I'm not in love with"
(Clark leans in to kiss Lois.)
"If I'm not in love with If I'm not in love with you"**
(As the last chord plays, Kathy smiles up at the duo from the street below and strolls away from the camera.)
When the lights came up, the staffers were swamping Jimmy with renewed bets on Clark. Clark looked over just in time to see Lois rushing out of the conference room toward the elevators. He called out to her, but by the time he reached the elevators, the doors were closing and Lois refused to look his way.
Later that evening, Lois heard a tapping at her window, the one she usually kept open in case she had company of the Kryptonian kind. It was Superman. The irony was she wasn't even glad to see him. He caught her wearing sweats and eating rocky road. Boy, talk about art imitating life.
"Clark was worried about you. You haven't been answering your phone."
"I'm sorry, Superman. I guess I didn't feel like talking to anyone."
"I hear you had kind of a rough day at work."
"I've had better."
"Lois, why don't you have Clark call off the bet? I'm sure he didn't mean for it to get this crazy."
"Don't you dare! Lois Lane *never* welches on a bet."
As she watched Superman soar into the night sky, Clark's words echoed in Lois' ears … "you turn to face the man of your dreams and he tells you just how much he cherishes you. In fact, you're his greatest treasure. There's nothing he wouldn't do for you." Lois found herself wondering if Superman was still the man of her dreams. Her heart was becoming so … conflicted.
Clark needed to talk to someone. And he knew just who to go to. Martha and Jonathan, his parents and confidants on matters of the heart.
"Oh, Clark! I really love this one!" Martha raved as she flipped through stills from the video shoot while they sat around the Kents' kitchen table. Her favorite was from Lois' fantasy on the balcony, when she was in Clark's arms.
"Yeah, Mom. That's my favorite too. Lois looked so beautiful. The photo doesn't begin to do her justice. But it wasn't worth it if I've lost her friendship over this stupid bet."
Martha patted Clark's arm. "Don't be so sure it's just friendship Lois feels for you. The eyes don't lie." She pointed to the warm look Lois was giving Clark in the picture.
Clark smiled wanly. "This whole thing started out so innocently. All I wanted to do was make a point about her infatuation with Superman."
"Son, what's the problem? Either way, you get the girl. It sounds like a win-win situation to me," Jonathan offered.
"Not really, Dad. It doesn't mean a thing if she doesn't love Clark Kent, because that's who I really am beneath the cape."
Later that evening, as Clark was flying back to Metropolis, he couldn't help reliving the scene he filmed with Lois before the roaring fire …
In the afterglow of the finally successful balcony scene, Clark and Lois were oblivious to Peter and the crew as they set up around them. When she settled into his arms, it felt so right, as if she had always belonged there. Reflecting the firelight, Lois' eyes seemed so warm, so inviting. Clark had no problem in buying into the "fantasy". Apparently, neither did Lois, because Peter said they nailed the shot the first time through. Clark almost wished he'd flubbed something so they could shoot the scene again and again and again.
Clark snapped to attention when he realized he failed to hang a right at Cleveland. While thinking of Lois, he had managed to absently fly straight to the North Pole. Chiding himself for getting distracted, Clark charted a southeastern course for Metropolis, where he could fantasize all he wanted about Lois in the privacy of his own apartment. Reluctantly, he realized fantasy was his only recourse if his friendship with Lois was going to survive.
Clark was waiting for Lois the next morning at the newsroom. As soon as she stepped off the elevator, he made his way up the stairs and said, "Can I have everybody's attention, please?"
The staffers quieted long enough to listen. "I've decided to call off my bet with Lois." The newsroom broke out in spontaneous boos and hisses. "Wait! This started out as a private wager between friends", he cast a glance at Lois, who was standing beside him, "and it has gotten way out of hand. For her sake, I'm calling it quits."
"Oh no, you don't. Like I told Superman last night, Lois Lane never welches on a bet. And if I were you, I'd make sure Superman gets his cape pressed before tomorrow night. As for the video, it turns out I *can* act after all." Immediately, the odds went up on Clark, who stood there dejectedly watching Lois saunter over to her desk.
The benefit concert went so well, Kathy and her managers were happy to present the school with a donation generous enough to handle the budget deficit. Lois even introduced Kathy to Socrates the pig.
Back at the Planet, Clark ran into Lois just as he stepped off the elevator into the newsroom.
"Hi," she murmured self-consciously.
"Hi." Noticing Lois' coat draped over her arm, Clark said, "Heading out?"
"Yeah. Got to get ready for the big date." Lois shrugged.
"I guess I don't have to ask if it's with me or Superman."
Lois turned to press the down button on the elevator. "Clark, it's not like I'm going to marry him or anything. It's just a date. Who knows, I may have a perfectly rotten time."
"Or not," Clark mumbled.
"It's one evening. Monday morning, I'll be back here working with my partner." She touched his arm. "Who hopefully is still my friend."
Clark nodded glumly. "Superman said to tell you he'll pick you up at your place about 6:30."
"Thanks … for everything." The elevator doors opened and Lois reached to kiss Clark on the cheek before she rushed off.
As Clark watched the elevator doors close, Jimmy walked up beside him. "You okay, C. K.?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Look, I'm sorry about the odds with Lois. I guess you were the dark horse this time around."
"That's okay, Jimmy. I'm getting kind of used to being the long shot."
At 6:25, Lois was a bundle of nerves. She stood before her full-length mirror looking like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine. She wore a floor length emerald green moiré gown. It was strapless, with a matching cropped jacket. The A-line skirt opened from the waist to the floor to reveal a straight skirt beneath it. "Well, Superman, here's hoping I'm the woman of *your* dreams."
Just then, she thought she heard something at her front door. "Oh God, he's here." She swallowed hard and rushed to the door. "Superman!" Only he wasn't there. She looked down to see a rose in a vase and a small package waiting for her.
Opening the package, she found Clark's favorite picture from the balcony scene in the music video, placed inside an exquisite antique frame. Enclosed in the box was a note which simply said, "You win." Lois found herself running her fingers over the picture and whispering, "The man of my dreams…"
Suddenly, she felt a soft rush of wind behind her and turned to see Superman, ready to whisk her off to an unforgettable evening. "Hi there."
He smiled warmly. "You look beautiful." And she did.
"Oh, this old thing?" she joked.
"Are you ready to go?"
Something made Lois turn back to look at the picture on her table. Then, Lois Lane did something she didn't believe was possible. She asked Superman for a raincheck. "There is someone I have to see tonight," she explained.
"Another time then."
She smiled gratefully and rushed out of the apartment.
Watching her leave, a knowing smile crossed Superman's face before he dashed out the window.
Having made it home in plenty of time to change from his tights and cape into some comfortable jeans and a denim shirt, Clark was working in his kitchen when he heard a familiar knock at his front door.
He opened the door to find Lois waiting for him. "Hi, Clark."
He viewed her appreciatively. "Hi. I thought you'd be out with Superman by now."
"I asked him for a raincheck. May I come in?"
When she walked in, she saw Clark's table set for dinner. "Were you expecting someone?"
Clark raised his eyebrows at Lois.
"Me? But you thought I was going out with Superman."
"Hope springs eternal, Lois."
She smiled tentatively. "Well, if it's any consolation, I *am* starving."
Clark remedied that quickly. They dined by candlelight, feasting on Roasted Cornish Hens, Potatoes Anna and steamed asparagus.
And then there was dessert. "Clark, this chocolate mousse is to die for! How'd you know I like chocolate so much?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe all those secret runs you make to The Fudge Castle or the secret stash of Double Fudge Crunch Bars you keep in your desk," Clark teased.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were the one with x-ray vision! Seriously, dinner was wonderful. I wish I could cook like this."
"You can, Lois. All it takes is a little practice. I'd be glad to teach you."
She viewed him thoughtfully. "I believe you've taught me a lot already." She placed her napkin on the table and moved out onto Clark's balcony.
Clark followed silently. She seemed lost in her own thoughts as he joined her. "Lois, what made you come here tonight?"
"I was determined to have my date with Superman, or so I thought. And then, I found the picture you left for me. Suddenly, I couldn't go through with it."
The truth, which had always been a powerful ally for Lois, until now, was proving hard to face. "Because, while I was with Superman, I would have been thinking of you."
Clark thought his heart would burst at Lois' admission. He wanted to speak, but he thought better of it. Instead, he let her go on.
"This week has not been an easy one for me."
"I know. Things got way out of hand at the office. I'm sorry for all the teasing and harassment you took at work."
"That's par for the course as far as the staffers are concerned. What I'm talking about is facing up to some feelings I've been trying to deny. Feelings for you."
Clark reached for her hand. "I've had some of those same feelings, Lois. For a very, very long time."
"This is all so new to me. I've always seen you as my friend and my partner. I didn't want to believe there could be anything more, because of my feelings for Superman. And then we worked on the video and suddenly, I'm looking at you in a whole different way. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not *that* good of an actress. I didn't know what to think after all that happened with Lex last year and you saying you weren't in love with me…"
"I'm sorry, Lois. I lied. I thought that was the only way I could keep your friendship."
Lois looked up into the starry night. "That's what worries me, Clark. I don't want to lose your friendship. I don't want to lose my partner."
"That's not going to happen, Lois."
"Oh no? We almost didn't make it through this week."
"My parents have been married for over thirty years and they're still best friends."
Lois moved away from him. "Well, maybe it works in Kansas, but this is Metropolis. My parents couldn't handle being friends *or* lovers, much less both. If we don't make it romantically, I'm not so sure the friendship will survive either. Then, I will have ended up losing you twice and I don't think I can handle that."
Clark knew Lois was throwing walls up because she was scared of being hurt. Of being alone. "I'm not going to push you," he replied gently.
Lois steeled herself for what she was about to say. "Clark?"
This time, he was the one lost in thought. "Hmm?"
"Push me." She looked at him hopefully. "Help me know I made the right choice tonight."
Clark moved closer. "Lois, are you sure?"
She nodded and slowly slipped her arms around his waist. "Kiss me."
Clark studied her face for a moment. Martha had been right. The warmth was back in Lois' eyes, this time without the benefit of a script. The woman of his dreams was there with him of her own volition. He stroked her cheek and ran his finger to just below her chin, which he tilted up as he pressed his lips to her own. At first, his kiss was gentle and tentative, but quickly grew passionate and demanding. Clark could hear the rapid beating of Lois' heart and it pleased him to see her passion match his own.
In that moment Lois Lane knew how much Clark treasured and cherished her, but more than anything, she knew that she had made the right choice.
It felt so right, her being in his arms like this. This is the way Clark had hoped it would be. This is what he wanted to happen.
Clark didn't want to break their embrace when the phone rang, but Lois told him it might be important. He walked back out onto the balcony with the cordless phone in hand. "It's Kathy. She says the video went over so well with the record company executives, they want us to do a sequel."
"Let me talk to her." Clark handed the phone to Lois. "Kathy? It's Lois. Can we get back to you on the sequel? We're researching that possibility right now." She hung up and eased back into Clark's arms.
"So, does this mean I won the bet?" Clark teased.
"I think both of us are winners tonight," Lois said as she kissed him once more.
"If I'm Not In Love", Dawn Thomas