Summary: Claude, the louse, returns to Metropolis and wangles a dinner date with a stunned Lois.
"What if" Claude, the French journalist who stole Lois's heart and her story at the beginning of her illustrious career once again intruded in her life?
PART I … Lois had just filed her story for the weekend edition. Thank God it was Friday—she was really looking forward to a couple of days off with nothing to do but sleep and catch up on her housework.
She propped her feet up on her desk—something she rarely did, but she was tired, and there wasn't anyone around who would object.
"Must be nice to have nothing to do." Jimmy was loaded down with file folders, photographs and video tapes. He was heading toward Perry's office, when he tripped over a loose computer cable.
"Jimmy, look out!" Too late.
"Nooooo … " Everything went flying—Jimmy, the tapes, the photos—everything!
"Jimmy—are you okay? Here, let me help." Lois was amazed at the mess he had made. Poor guy. Perry would be furious. Down on her hands and knees, she failed to notice Mr. White and a visitor entering the newsroom. Scooping up piles of documents, she stood up and dumped everything on her desk, and started sorting out the stuff for Jimmy. He was mortified.
"Oh, no. I'm in for it now." He tried to hide behind Lois when he saw Perry White heading in their direction.
"Ahem", Perry cleared his throat. "I see we're doing our work on the floor these days."
"Uh, sorry Chief. We had a minor accident, and …" as Lois turned toward her boss, her heart nearly stopped. Of all the people in the world she never wanted to see again, or ever thought would darken the Planet's newsroom, it would have to be—HIM.
Perry looked a little uncomfortable, but he tried to act with the utmost civility. "Lois, you remember Claude St. Jean."
"Claude." Lois extended her hand to shake his, but he unexpectedly slid his hand so that he was grasping her fingertips, and slightly turned her hand palm down as his cool lips met her quickly warming skin.
"Lois. This is quite a surprise, and a real pleasure." Claude hadn't changed much. A little older, hair a little longer—but still the slick, smooth Frenchman. Still as suave and debonair as the day he walked out her door. She trembled, though she didn't know why. Lois still harbored ill feelings—but he made her heart beat faster in spite of them. She thought she'd gotten over the guy, especially when Superman came into her life. It was practically a school-girl crush she once had on this man who looked like he stepped out of GQ. Sometimes even Superman reminded her of her first love—this man who ultimately destroyed her confidence and her trust. They both were so good looking. But where Superman was dark-haired and well-built, Claude was fair and lean. They both had a certain charisma, a certain savoir faire—they both could dance her shoes off, and their kisses made her toes curl. Damn, she thought she had gotten over him a long time ago, and it made her angry to think he still affected her that way.
She realized her hand was still in his. She quickly pulled it back, blushing as she did.
"Lois," Perry said in a fatherly tone of voice. "Claude is here at the request of a good friend of mine at the London Times. They're investigating the drug cartel we ran that series of articles on—you know, the story that got you the nomination for the Kerth award?" Deep inside Lois winced. How much more gratifying it would be at this very moment if she had won that award.
Claude smiled and said, "How wonderful! I always knew you'd make it to the top!"
Yeah, Lois thought—you ought to—that story you stole from me got you that job with the Times. God, was it five years ago? But she smiled sweetly, and just said, "thank you," as Perry gave her a side-long glance warning her to behave.
The elevator door to the newsroom suddenly opened. Making his grand entrance was her partner—but instead of rejoicing in his appearance, her heart sank, right into the pit of her stomach. The handsome man she admired, the hunk she secretly enjoyed ogling from a safe distance, now looked like something even the Metropolis police wouldn't haul in for vagrancy. He had to be the rattiest looking derelict she had ever seen. Of all times for Clark to be working undercover—and as a homeless person, no less.
Perry wanted to laugh, but he politely said, "Uh, Claude, I'd like for you to meet Lois's partner—Clark Kent. Clark, this is Claude St. Jean—he interned with us about five years ago. He's now with the London Times." Perry raised his eyebrows, but Clark failed to notice.
Clark extended his rather grimy hand. Claude graciously shook it. Lois detected a strange odor—what was that smell? Oh, God, he must have been down in Suicide Slum again with the winos. Lois was mortified. If ever she needed to make an impression on someone—and Clark had to ruin it. Why? she thought. Why does this happen to me? But she forced herself to remain calm, and even tried to make a joke out of the situation.
"Hmm, Clark, I don't think your own mother would know you!" Everyone laughed, including Claude.
"Quite a disguise. I congratulate you, monsieur!"
"Merci. I'm afraid the 'gendarmes' chased us away from the flophouse I've been trying to get into, so I had to give up—for now, anyway. Boy, I'm looking forward to a shower and a shave. A week of living like that sure makes you appreciate the finer things in life." Clark started scratching his face where he was sporting a two-week old beard. He also glanced over at Lois and gave her a wink. She gave him a sour look in return. He chuckled. Good old Lois, always thinking of herself and how embarrassed … he stopped in mid-thought. Claude? Claude! Wait a minute, I wonder if that's the SAME guy … "Uh, Perry, can I see you—I need to go over a few things for my story."
"Sure, Clark. Claude, it's good to see you again." Perry shook his hand, and took off for his office with Clark in tow.
Lois just stared. She couldn't believe her eyes. Perry actually had the nerve to leave her standing here with Claude, of all people. What in the world was she supposed to do now? Her only saving grace was that Cat wasn't there to rip her to shreds. But Jimmy just stared.
"Uh, Jimmy, you still have this mess to clean up."
"Sure, Lois, whatever you say." Jimmy was confused. He knew who Claude was, and he knew that Claude and Lois had been an item. His confusion arose from the fact that Lois seemed as calm as a cucumber. The Lois he thought he knew should have gone ballistic. Jimmy tried to straighten up the pile of papers and tapes on Lois's desk, but he kept getting in her way. She covered her eyes with one hand. Uh, oh, she was getting that "big sister" look on her face. Jimmy Olsen, you're in BIG trouble.
Claude managed to save Jimmy's hide. "Look, Lois, since this young man has quite a job ahead of him, let me take you away from all this—would you like to have dinner with me? I found a delightful French restaurant, about five kilometers from here—"
Lois interrupted him. "Oh, Claude, I don't know if that's such a good idea … "
"Lois, for old time's sake? I want to make it up to you." He gazed into her eyes, his look telling her he still had feelings for her, and that he was sorry, and … she felt very strange, a floodgate of memories opened … the first time he kissed her, the first time they made love … "What, what is it? Please tell me you'll say yes. I couldn't leave again knowing you hated me."
"Oh, Claude. I don't hate you … " Lois suddenly looked around. People had been staring, but they quickly walked away, or busied themselves at their computer terminals. "Okay, but why don't you pick me up at my place—say 7:00? Will you be able to make reservations?" Lois couldn't believe she was actually agreeing to have dinner with him, and that she even felt excited about the whole thing.
"It should not be a problem, cherie. I have a standing reservation at the restaurant. Seven o'clock it is." He took her hand again, and raised it to meet his lips. Still cool, but her hand was burning in his.
When the elevator door closed behind him, she finally sat down at her desk.
"Man, you're amazing. I don't think … " Lois interrupted Jimmy.
"No, you DON'T think … especially about MY affairs … uh, I mean, my business!" She blushed profusely. Jimmy knew it was time to split. Gathering up the last of the mess, he headed for Perry's office. Clark was making his way toward her desk.
Waving her hand in disgust, she shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Clark, how do you manage to get yourself into these situations?" She was trying not to gag. The smell of cheap wine combined with bad tobacco made her ill.
"I'm sorry, Lois. Just lucky I guess. I really had no intention of coming back here first, but something came up, and I had to see Perry as soon as possible. Look, I think I'm onto something really big here, and I need your help." He seemed sincere enough, but he looked and smelled like a bad joke.
"Could we please talk about this later? I'm sorry, Clark, but if you stay any longer, I'm going to be ill."
"Okay. Look, how about discussing this over dinner? That new French restaurant just outside of town would be a good place." But the look on her face told him what her answer would be.
"Now, it's my turn to be sorry. Claude asked me out, and I have a feeling that's the restaurant where we're going to have dinner. Look, why don't you call me later this evening—okay?" Clark had a very disappointed look on his face.
"Claude, huh? So, that's the guy?" His questioning look received a slight nod from Lois. "Okay. I just … never mind. I'll talk to you later." He headed toward the elevator, not looking back. Why, she couldn't say, but at that moment her heart was filled with real regret.
Mmmm … maybe I'd better check with Perry to see what's going on before I leave, she thought.
"Come on in, Lois. I figured you'd be hounding me sooner or later. Sit down." Perry was grinning. So many things he wanted to say, but he didn't want her to start a riot.
"Well, what's up? My curiosity is getting the best of me." She assumed he wanted to talk about Clark's story and the help he needed.
"I thought Elvis would roll over in his grave when Claude walked into the building today. Man, the last guy I EVER thought would have the nerve to show up here!" Perry shook his head. "What audacity! But what gets me is how calm you are about all this!"
Lois's internal alarm suddenly went off. "Wait a minute, do you mean to tell me EVERYONE is getting a big yuck out of this? Here I am, trying to be civilized about the whole thing, and suddenly I've become the punch line to some very sick joke?" Her face was turning red, and Perry could see she was close to tears.
"No, kiddo, don't ever think that. I think you're being a real trooper under the circumstances. I guess I just can't believe Claude would try to put the moves on you again, but it's so obvious it's painful." Suddenly Perry realized Lois hadn't seen through the Frenchman's facade. She had no idea what he was talking about. Claude had done it again. He had sucked her in, and was going to hurt her again, big time!
He tried to smooth things over. "Look, just be careful—okay? None of us wants to see you get hurt. He's just a gigolo … "
"Sure, I know that. He doesn't fool me for a minute." Lois was starting to get angry. How could I be that stupid—again? "Now, what's his REAL reason for being here in Metropolis, Perry? I can't believe he's involved in an investigation … he'd rather let someone else do his dirty work!"
"Well, so far his story checks out. The Times did send him here to get more info on the drug cartel. He's supposedly working with the police, so he won't be bothering us very much. But I dunno … I think they just wanted to get him out of their hair. He's such a playboy, he's embarrassing. Even some of the royals have been taken in by him." Perry just shook his head.
"Well, I guess I should be flattered … to be in the same company as the aristocracy … wow." Lois was dripping with sarcasm. Looking at her watch, she said, "Gotta run. If nothing else, I'm going to have the best dinner of my life on Monsieur St. Jean!" Lois got up and headed for the door. Perry just stared at her. As soon as she was out of sight, he picked up the phone. He hoped he was doing the right thing.
PART II … ***
Lois was putting the finishing touches to her makeup when the doorbell rang. A final check in the mirror, and she headed for the door.
She knew she had him when she saw his face.
"Cherie … incredible!" Claude looked her up and down, nodding his approval.
Lois was wearing the black dress she had worn at Christmas— low cut, spaghetti straps, bare back. She handed him her fringed shawl, which he wrapped around her shoulders. Hmmm … I wish it was a red cape … oh, well, she mused.
His arms entwined her body. "Are you sure you really want to go to dinner?" His voice was a whisper, caressing her ear.
Lois, don't listen to him—that's the same crap he pulled on you before. Her inner voice refused to let her fall under his spell. Slipping from his embrace as if they were involved in some sort of ritual dance, she smiled and grabbed his hand, heading for the door. "I'm famished! I've been dying to try that new restaurant. Besides, I'd love to show you off!" Lois sounded so sincere, she had him convinced.
"All right, dinner it is!"
They arrived promptly at 7:30. When Claude gave his name to the maitre d', he was told there would be a forty-five minute wait. Claude looked embarrassed. He couldn't understand it. He'd been having dinner there for the last five days, and he knew the waiters by their first names. He had yet to wait more than five minutes for a decent table.
"Oh, don't worry, Claude. It happens. Look, why don't we wait at the bar?" He agreed.
As they entered the bar, Lois couldn't help but notice how elegant, how classy the place looked. God, dinner's going to cost a fortune—I love it! She smiled to herself. But her smile turned to a look of shock as they seated themselves at a small corner table for two. There, not 10 feet away was Clark. His back was to them, but she knew every inch of that profile, and she panicked knowing he was going to see them. Sure enough, no sooner had they sat down, then he turned around, acting as if he were searching for someone. As soon as he spotted them, he smiled, waved, and dragged a chair over to their table. Lois wanted to smack him. She wasn't out to make a fool of Claude in public, she just wanted her own private revenge, and now Clark was going to ruin everything.
"Clark, how nice to see you. What brings you here?" As if she didn't know.
"Well, I was supposed to meet someone for dinner, but it looks as if I've been stood up. But, hey the food's good, and the music is great, so I think I'll just lone-wolf it tonight!" She knew he was lying, but he did it so well. As she calmed down, she began to really look at Clark. He was wearing a black blazer, dark gray slacks, a white shirt, and her favorite tie—the wild black, yellow and gray abstract one. She smiled, shook her head (as if to say, I can't believe you're doing this to me), and rolled her eyes. All that did was encourage him to move his chair closer to her. Claude noticed, too, and he followed suite. What in the Sam Hill was going on? Lois wanted an answer—but, not until after she'd had her dinner AND dessert! If these two boys wanted to make fools of themselves—fine. Lois just wanted to enjoy herself. A waiter came over to take their orders.
"Champagne," Lois said. Claude nearly choked. Clark exerted every ounce of strength to keep from laughing.
"And, you sir?" the waiter asked Claude.
"Martini, shaken not stirred," he said seriously. Clark nearly had a choking fit.
"Monsieur Kent—your usual?" The look on Lois's face would have brought the house down.
"Yes, thank you." Lois gave him a questioning look. His "usual" as far as she knew, was a can of inexpensive beer—any brand of beer.
The waiter returned to the bar to place their orders.
Lois turned to Clark, and under her breath she whispered, "What are you doing? I can handle Claude myself. This is pay back time, and you have no business being here!"
"Oh, yes I do," he whispered back. Her shawl had fallen to the floor. Clark leaned over and picked it up, brushing her leg in the process. Lois just glared at him. As he placed the shawl over her shoulders, he accidentally touched her breast. That time she nearly lost it.
"Clark," she whispered, "one more time, and I'm going to deck you! Do you understand me?" He smiled apologetically, but there was a devilish look in his eye.
The waiter returned shortly with their drinks. Lois's champagne was a very good vintage, Claude's martini was declared perfect, and Clark's drink—well Lois thought she would faint. A very, very expensive scotch. Straight up. He held his glass as if to toast them, then took a long sip. The look on his face was one of complete and utter satisfaction.
"Fantastic," he said. Lois was speechless.
Lois quickly took another sip of her champagne. A bit too dry for her but it was the expense that mattered this evening, not the taste. Anyway, the bubbles tickled her nose, bringing back memories of past New Year's Eves, wedding receptions, celebrations at the office … The waiter returned to their table, and speaking to Clark informed him his table was ready. Claude interrupted, and demanded to know when their table would be available. The waiter just shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
"Look," Clark said, "I don't mind sharing. It's tough to get a good table on a Friday night in this place. Why don't you both join me for dinner?" He was being very affable, and it was killing Lois. Claude however, had plans for AFTER dinner, so he willingly accepted for the both of them.
As they left the bar, Lois saw Clark surreptitiously slip the waiter a twenty-dollar bill. The waiter smiled and nodded to him. The maitre d' met them at the entrance to the dining room, and led them to an intimate corner booth, surrounded by potted plants, and well away from the kitchen. Lois was overwhelmed. How does he do it, she wondered. He can't afford decent food for himself, yet he's spending money like there's no tomorrow. I'll get to the bottom of this if it's the last thing I do, she thought.
Claude, meanwhile, acted very blase', as if he was used to this kind of service. Clark looked self-satisfied, but secretive, like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary.
The maitre d' returned with their waiter. "Messieurs, mademoiselle, this is Francois—he will assist you this evening. If there is anything you need, please let him know. If I can be of further service—Non? Tres bien. Enjoy your evening!"
Francois handed a menu to Clark. The waiter immediately started to recite the entrees for the evening meal. Lois's French was limited, so she felt lost, and hoped Claude would order something for her that didn't stare back. They patiently waited until he was finished. Claude said nothing, contemplating their choices, but Clark turned to Lois, and said, "The salmon with dill sauce is one of their specialties. I highly recommend it." Lois nodded, appreciating the fact Clark knew her well enough to suggest something she would enjoy, and still leave room for dessert—an indulgence she savored only on rare occasions. Clark chose the same dish.
The waiter seemed pleased with their choices. Claude however looked condescendingly at Clark, and ordered a veal dish. The waiter nodded curtly, turned on his heel and headed for the kitchen.
The wine steward soon made his appearance. "Bonsoir, Monsieur Kent. May I suggest a delightful Fume' Blanc with your entree? Oui? Tres bien." And turning to Claude, he suggested a pinot noir—a vintage that was sure to complement his dinner—and make a huge dent in his wallet. Claude just nodded, and proceeded to ignore the wine steward as if he were just another potted plant.
Lois began to notice how truly intimate their surroundings were. She couldn't see the next table, and the sounds from the main dining room and kitchen area were muffled. It was a small booth, more suitable for a couple, than a trio. Lois was sitting between the two of them, Claude on her left, Clark on her right. Her two companions had managed to sit very, very close to her. For some reason, Clark's nearness didn't bother her at all. Claude, on the other hand—well, he had assumed his "continental" attitude—one she was very familiar with, but one she hated. She inched just a little closer to Clark. He noticed, but said nothing. He was too busy keeping track of Claude's moves, and the little passes he was throwing Lois's way.
For the first time that evening, Lois was awfully glad Clark was there. She had decided that even if he planned the whole thing, she couldn't be angry with him. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable with Claude sitting next to her, and was amazed at his boldness. He slid his right arm behind her, along the top of the seat. His left hand automatically reached for her left hand, holding it conspicuously on the tabletop. Lois was more than a little surprised. Definitely not the proper behavior of someone who should be more than a little ashamed for walking out on her like he did. Clark pretended not to notice.
"Ah—our dinner is here!" she exclaimed, as the waiter brought the first of several courses.
PART III … Conclusion
A light cream of broccoli soup was placed in front of each of them. Lois was glad for the diversion. Quarters were just a little too cramped, and this forced both men to retreat to their corners. Lois had never eaten in an elegant restaurant with Clark, and she had always assumed he was a beer and pizza kind of guy. But his manners were impeccable, and he was as familiar with the formal place setting as he was with a basketball. Claude, of course, was Claude.
As dinner progressed, and each course served, Claude became more and more possessive of Lois. At first she was flattered, but became alarmed as he became bolder. While waiting for their entrees, Claude placed his right hand on Lois' knee. She gently pushed it away, smiling sweetly. But seconds later, he tried again, this time sliding his hand slowly along her thigh, under her dress. She inhaled rather sharply (though she hoped Clark hadn't heard), grabbed his wrist between her thumb and middle finger, and applied pressure at a vulnerable point. She gave him a dirty look, and placed his hand back on his own lap. He just glanced at her and shrugged, as if to say, "you can't blame me for trying." Clark let his glasses slide down his nose just a fraction, and he appeared to be engrossed with the wine list. While the action was playing out under the table, Clark was discreetly observing, ready to jump in if things got a little too uncomfortable. He was impressed with Lois' ability to handle the jerk, but knew things might get out of control if he left them alone.
When the entrees arrived, Lois seemed relieved. The salmon melted in her mouth, and the new potatoes and baby vegetables that accompanied the fish were heavenly. She hadn't enjoyed such a meal in ages. While relishing her own food, she noticed that Claude was much more interested in his wine. Clark, well Clark just seemed to inhale his meals, no matter what. But he sat back and relaxed after he was finished, nursing the glass of wine in front of him. He still kept an eye on Claude, just in case. Lois leaned back from the table when she was done, groaning from the amount of food she had eaten. Her right hand accidentally touched Clark's left hand, but instead of feeling awkward, she squeezed his hand briefly and gave him a little smile. Claude saw the look, but did not see her touch Clark's hand.
Francois appeared once again, this time with the dessert cart and coffee. The moment Lois had been waiting for! She decided on a white and dark chocolate mousse—a specialty of the house. Clark selected carrot cake, and Claude just ignored the waiter. How rude! Lois thought. Well, after tonight she'd hopefully never see him again, so if he wanted to embarrass himself, she could care less. They both decided on coffee, while Claude just continued drinking his wine.
Lois felt extremely sluggish. Too much food, too much wine—but oh, what an evening! She glanced at her watch and did a double-take. "My goodness, can you believe it's almost 10:00?"
"I guess time does fly when you're having fun," Clark joked.
Claude spoke up. "Perhaps we should be going, cherie. I have some work to finish at police headquarters tomorrow before my flight leaves for London." Lois looked disappointed over the prospect of having to leave the restaurant. Clark gestured to the waiter, and he appeared at the table with their checks. Clark signed for his without hesitation, but Claude nearly choked when he saw their bill. While Lois and Clark made small talk, he double-checked the slip to make sure the restaurant hadn't gouged him. No, as a matter of fact, Lois' dessert was not included on his bill. It was the damn bar tab that killed him. He paid the bill grudgingly. Claude rose from the table, extending his hand to Lois. She would have ignored it, except she needed a hand in order to slide out from behind the table—and Clark wouldn't budge. As she slid away from him, he leaned over and whispered, "be careful, Lois." She gave him a smile, and slightly nodded her head. He kept his eyes on Claude as they left the dining room. Claude cornered the maitre d' on the way out, and Clark could see Lois' face turning red. He continued to watch as they exited the building. As he got up to leave, he noticed Lois' shawl. He wondered if she left it there on purpose, or if she really did forget it. No matter, he thought. That will give me an excuse to stop at her place on the way home.
Lois was irritated by the time their taxi arrived. She couldn't believe Claude would complain to the maitre d' about their waiter. She thought Francois was perfectly charming, and he certainly deserved a much bigger tip than the one he had been given by Claude. She managed to slip an extra ten to the maitre d' for him. Claude was not amused, but Lois didn't care.
On the way home in the cab, Lois was silent. Claude did most of the talking, which turned out to be complaining. Oh, what did I EVER see in him, she thought. I think I'm finally over him for good. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. And to think I could even begin to compare him to Superman …or Clark. Now there was a strange one. Just happened to be there—at the right place, at the right time. I'll bet Perry had something to do with that, she thought. How else could Clark have been able to pay for his share of the evening—it was a terribly expensive place.
All too soon they arrived at Lois' apartment. She was downright sleepy from all the calories she consumed that evening. Hoping to make their 'good night' as short and sweet as possible, she tried to leave him in the cab, but he wouldn't hear of it. Claude walked her to her apartment, and before she could stop him, grabbed her keys and proceeded to unlock her door.
"Uh, thank you, Claude. It is getting late you know … I have several early morning appointments, and I need my sleep." But no amount of hinting seemed to make a difference. He opened her door and made his way inside.
"How about a nightcap, cherie?" He went to her kitchen, and as if it were only yesterday, made a bee-line for the cupboard which served as her liquor cabinet.
Lois was starting to get nervous. "Claude, don't you ever listen? I told you I have an early day tomorrow, and I need my sleep!"
"But the night is young, Lois—and I hoped we could forgive and forget the past!" His words sounded great, but his actions put Lois on her guard. She had made the mistake of trying to block the refrigerator from his snooping, and found Claude's arms prevented her escape. He bent forward to kiss her, and at the last second she managed to duck under his arms and make it back to the living room. If she sat down she was as good as dead. But there weren't too many places to go—and she didn't want to get trapped in the bedroom.
"Claude, the past is over and done with. There is no us, and there never will be. After tonight, I wonder how in God's name I ever fell for you to begin with? I think you'd better leave." Lois felt disgusted with herself. Disgusted because she hadn't realized how obnoxious he truly was, and disgusted because she had nearly fallen under his spell.
This enraged Claude. A side of him Lois had never seen emerged as if a switch had been thrown. Lois wasn't just nervous, she was scared. He came at her, blinded by passion and anger—and undoubtedly too much alcohol. She ran, heading for the door, but he was too quick for her. Grabbing her arm, he dragged her to the couch, and threw her down.
"Claude, for heaven's sakes, stop it!" She was yelling, but he wasn't hearing a word she said. He tried to push her skirt above her hips, but she managed to knee him. Rolling off the couch, she put herself between the furniture and the window.
"CLAUDE! Please leave while you have the chance—before I have to call the police!" She was desperate, but she had to try something. He made one final lunge at her, grabbing one of her dress straps, pulling and ripping it at the same time, dragging her to the floor.
"Oh, no … " The realization that she could be raped in her own apartment finally hit her. Just as Claude started to undress, a sudden noise made him look up.
"MON DIEU!" he swore. He rose to his feet as if in shock. Lois managed a gasp as she saw what had startled him. There, framed within her window, and standing on the ledge, was Superman! His face was grim and his arms were crossed over his chest. He certainly looked formidable.
The Man of Steel towered over them. He slowly stepped down from the window, his eyes never moving from Claude. He gallantly helped Lois to her feet.
"Lois—are you all right?" His voice was even, but his eyes flashed anger and disgust for the Frenchman.
"Yes, thank you, Superman—I am now." She was still shaky, but so relieved he was there.
"You … you know him?" Claude was incredulous.
"You'd be surprised. Ms. Lane knows a lot of people in 'high' places. And, if I were you, I'd apologize right now. And while you're at it, you can also apologize for what you did to her five years ago!" Superman had managed to position himself close to the Frenchman so he couldn't bolt from the apartment. Lois was stunned. How did he know? Of course—Clark! She didn't know whether to be angry with him for sharing this secret, or to hug him for being so protective. She'd deal with that problem when the time came.
Claude hesitated. Before he realized what was happening he found himself dangling in the air! Superman had grabbed the front of his unbuttoned shirt and had lifted him above the floor.
"Now—apologize!" He had fire in his eyes and his voice. Lois couldn't believe it.
Speaking barely above a whisper, Claude mumbled something which Lois couldn't hear.
"Louder—Ms. Lane can't hear you!"
"I, uh … you're choking me," Claude whined.
"I'll do more than choke you—I'll drop you out of that window if you don't talk—so make it fast!"
Funny how you'll do things when your life is threatened, Lois mused. Claude quickly apologized—for taking her story, for using her, for walking out on her, for his behavior at dinner, and for other things she wasn't aware he had done to sabotage her career.
When Superman finally decided Claude had suffered enough humiliation, he set the man down, but wouldn't let go of his shirt. He held his hand out, and Lois—barely able to hold her dress up—picked up Claude's jacket and tie, and gave them to Superman.
He shoved the clothing at Claude's chest, and without taking his eyes off the man, said, "Lois, would you please open the door so I can throw out this trash!" Lois complied, a grin starting to form at the corners of her mouth.
"Oh, and one more thing—when you leave town, don't look back. Don't ever return to Metropolis. And don't ever contact Ms. Lane again—do you understand me? I'll be keeping tabs on you—and don't worry, if you think I won't be watching, just look up!" With that, Superman backed the man out of Lois' apartment, pushed him toward the far wall in the hallway, and slammed the door in his face. Lois quickly threw the locks, and sank to the floor, her knees weak from the whole experience.
He knelt down on one knee and offered her his hand. Helping her up, he wrapped his cape around her. Her shawl— strange, earlier this evening she had wished that her wrap was his cape. She only just realized she had left her shawl at the restaurant.
"What is it, Lois, are you all right?" She nodded, as he held her close. She was still trembling.
"I think I'll be okay now. Thank you—again—for rescuing me from a bad situation. I don't know how you manage to show up at the right moment, but I am so grateful you do!" She lifted her head to kiss him, and she wasn't disappointed. It seemed like ages since they had been this close. Somehow, his kiss this time seemed different—deeper, more meaningful. His strong, warm hands offered her security. She didn't want to let go.
"Lois, I don't want to leave you, but I think you'll be in good hands. Thank Clark, too, when he gets here—for his part in all of this." Lois blushed.
"I will. I know things could have turned out much worse if he hadn't been there tonight." Lois had a lot to say to her partner, and she had a lot to thank him for.
With that, he removed his cape from her shoulders, helped her straighten her dress, and with a meaningful look took off through the open window.
Lois sighed, looked down at her torn dress, and walked slowly back to her bedroom. She undressed and slipped into a nightgown and her robe. What she wouldn't give for some of that chocolate mousse … ***
Several minutes later, she heard a knock at her door.
"Wh..who's there?" She had positioned herself on one side of the door, cast-iron skillet in hand. She wasn't taking any chances.
"Lois, it's me—and you can put down … uh, whatever it is you've got as a weapon—I promise I'll be good." Another almost- slip-up. One of these days … "Now, how did you …" She opened the door, hiding the skillet behind her back. He walked in, holding out her shawl in one hand … and a styrofoam package in the other.
"Uh, you forgot your shawl at the restaurant, and I also brought a peace offering."
"Oh, Clark … I should be so angry with you. But I'm not. If it weren't for you and … " At that point she dropped the skillet and threw her arms around him. He tried to hug her, but the shawl and the package got in the way. Instead, he backed up a little, looked her in the eye, and thought, "it's now or never." He leaned in for a kiss, and for once she didn't resist—as a matter of fact, this kiss was almost as long and meaningful as the earlier one. Twice in one night—he was batting a thousand.
Lois reluctantly pulled away, quite breathless, her eyes a little glassy. "Uh … wow …I … I'm speechless." She just stared at him, at arm's length. "Not to change the subject, but what in the world do you have there?" He handed her the shawl, and the container.
"A doggy bag? For me? Now what can this be?" She laughed as she opened the styrofoam box. It was the wonderful mousse from the restaurant—with two spoons! She took his arm and led him to the table. She folded her shawl, shook her head, and set it on the couch.
"You know, Lois, I thought you looked great this evening. I really like that dress." Don't blow it now, Clark, he thought.
"Yeah, I did, too … " She looked rather depressed.
"Why the sad face?"
"It's a long story, Clark … I hope you have time."
"Sure, go ahead—it's the weekend, remember?"
She poured two glasses of milk, and set them on the table. She handed him one of the spoons, sat down on the other side, and proceeded to tell him everything. From the moment in Perry's office when she realized how close she had come to being duped again by Claude, right up to the end of the evening, when Superman threw him out of her apartment. The only detail she omitted was the memorable kiss between her and his alter-ego. It wasn't any of Clark's business anyway, but he thought, if she only knew.
Clark let her babble on. She needed to get it out of her system. He leaned his chin on his fist and just watched her. Stopping in mid-sentence, she asked, "Wha …is something wrong?"
"No, I just realized how animated you get when you're involved in telling a story." He grinned at her.
"Oh. Well, I figured you needed to hear the whole sorry tale. After all, if it weren't for you, I think I would have carried that baggage around forever. I actually feel relieved, you know, that tonight happened the way it did. You were so different this evening—annoying in a very sweet way, but protective—and it flattered me to think that you would go to all that trouble … let alone expense." She'd thank Perry on Monday—oh, he'd huff and puff and deny everything, but she knew better.
"And Superman?" Clark wanted to find out how HE stood.
"Oh, Superman was Superman. He was there when I needed him, just like you. But let's not talk about him. I do too much of that already."
Clark was surprised. Maybe things were finally going to turn around for him. "Well, what DO you want to talk about?"
"Hmm … that restaurant—wasn't it a great place? Have you really been there before? And YOU drinking that Scotch—I thought I would faint! …"
They talked into the wee hours of the morning. When Clark finally left, he felt contented—yes, almost happy. Lois had much to think about. A door to her past had closed, and a new one had opened. She now knew she truly loved two men. She would enjoy them both to the fullest, and if she ever had to chose between them, she hoped that time, and her heart would help her make the right decision.
THE END … EPILOGUE: "Menage a Trois" (A Lois & Clark Story - by Vixen - 12/19/94)
It was several days after HIS visit to Metropolis, and life had resumed a sort of normalcy—at least as normal as could be expected for Lois Lane. On the outside, Lois seemed to be her old self, biting, witty, with a can-do attitude. Inside she was in turmoil. At times it was hard to concentrate; she was still trying to sort out her emotions. She wondered if anyone could tell she had changed. Her experience with HIM had made her a little stronger in some ways. But she also felt more vulnerable—because she owed so much to the two men who had saved her from a near-disastrous evening. She knew she was dwelling too much on the whole episode. After all, everything had turned out all right. But she was still angry, still hurt that Claude had tried to sabotage her career, that stealing her heart and her story hadn't been enough. And, she still hadn't quite recovered from the fact that the man had turned on her—thank God that Clark and Superman had been there. She was also trying to juggle her feelings for the two most important men in her life.
It didn't happen often (and she knew it was just a reaction to everything that had occurred) but sometimes she'd feel a little low, and when the slightest hint of depression threatened to creep up on her, she went searching for Clark (somehow the chocolate bars weren't working) … either with her eyes (just the sight of him made her feel better) … or an e-mail message (when she knew he was working on the computer, but not at his desk) … or even getting up and looking for him when it hit her the hardest. (She really had no one else to talk to … Clark was her safety net). It was one of those rare times when she went looking for him that she nearly panicked. He was nowhere to be found. He wasn't at the coffee machine, or in the lunchroom, or even the store-room. She made a mad dash to the stairwell, sat on the top step of the stairs leading down to the next floor, and started breathing deeply, trying to calm herself. She had nearly succeeded, when she heard a noise behind her. Her fear returned two-fold.
She gasped, grabbing the railing, hugging the wall.
"Lois, for heaven's sake—what's the matter?" It was Clark—his voice full of concern.
"Oh, Clark, you scared the heck out of me." Her voice cracked, though she tried to pretend nothing was wrong.
He sat down beside her. He had a rather large looking box with him. "Why are you sitting here, all alone? I've been looking all over the place for you!" In the end he had resorted to x-ray vision to find her.
"I, uh, it's nothing, really … " She was lying—he could tell from her pulse rate.
Putting his arm around her, he said, "Talk to me, Lois. Something's really bothering you. I'll listen, no matter what it is."
All she wanted to do was just enjoy his warmth, his kindness. But for some reason, anytime he said "talk to me" she did. So she talked about THAT evening, about how frightened she was, and how she still felt. By the time she was done, she felt tired, but a whole lot better.
"Lois, I can't imagine how you feel. Anytime you want to talk—about anything—just tell me, okay?" She nodded her head and smiled her thanks. "You know you don't have anything to fear—not from HIM—do you understand? And, in spite of what HE did to you, your career hasn't suffered—I don't know of any other journalist in Metropolis who's won as many awards as you have in such a short time." She nodded again. "Besides, you know I have it on good authority HE will never bother you again—that's what you have to keep telling yourself. You're a strong person—I know it'll take time, but you'll get over this. Besides, I'm worried that I'm losing the Lois I care about … "
"Has it been that obvious, Clark?"
"Well, only to me. No one's said anything—not even Perry." He wanted to tell her that he knew when she needed him, that he purposely stayed close to the office, and rarely left unless she accompanied him, or at the very least told her exactly where he'd be. But he knew he couldn't—she had to find her own inner strength to regain her confidence. She'd lose respect for herself—and him—if she found herself becoming too dependent on him, or anyone else for that matter.
But today he had an errand, and he didn't want her to know where he was going. It figured she'd pick that time to have a panic attack. But maybe it would work out okay. He didn't want to do this in front of anyone else in the office. So, checking to make sure no one was coming, he handed her the box.
"Clark, what is this?" She saw immediately that it came from her favorite boutique. "I hope you didn't do something crazy. I can't let you … " As she opened the package, she nearly cried. It was the same dress Claude had ruined. The same dress Clark had liked so much. But it was a beautiful deep purple … the same dress, yet different.
"Now before you say anything more, this isn't a gift … Claude owed you … and I'm sure he had a LOT of explaining to do when he got back to London … I'm just the messenger … be gracious and take it, okay?" He gave her a stern look.
"Yes. But I'd feel awful taking something like this without thanking whoever was responsible. I'd feel terribly guilty wearing it."
"You can thank me, and I'll pass it along. And, you can stop feeling guilty by agreeing to go out with me Saturday, and wearing that dress … that's all I ask. Okay?"
Lois was stunned. "Oh, yes … oh, Clark … you ARE the best!"
TO BE CONTINUED as a NEW Lois & Clark Story …