Summary: Following the fanfic "Menage a Trois," Lois and Clark go out for a tentative date of dinner and dancing, unaware they are being watched.
Perry noticed it right away. Something was up.
"Say, Clark, can you come in here a minute?" Perry called from the doorway to his office.
"Sure, Chief." He shrugged and gave Lois an I-have-no-idea- what-he-wants look. She smiled at him, and continued working at her computer.
"Son, close the door. I don't want Lois to hear."
"What is it, Perry? Is something wrong? Is it Lois's mom…?"
"No, no, no," he started chuckling. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause a panic. I'm just wondering how things are going with Lois. I mean…well, you know…she's been rather edgy lately…and today, well she seems more herself…in a better mood, if you know what I mean." He didn't want to push it, but he couldn't stand not knowing if these two were making progress in their relationship.
"Well, I'll tell you, Chief. This is just between the two of us. I figure you have a right to know. Apparently Claude upset Lois more than we thought, but I think she's going to be fine. Thanks to…uh, someone who shall remain anonymous, she, uh—we—had a great time at that restaurant last week—in spite of Claude. Things seem to be going much better between the two of us. Now that's ALL I'm going to say—okay? You know if you act any different around her she'll get suspicious. Besides, she doesn't need any more office gossip right now."
Perry nodded. Then he laughed. "Okay, I got it. The 'partnership' is better than ever…well, then, I expect Pulitzer-prize work from you two!!!" But Perry suddenly became serious. "I had another reason for wanting to talk to you. Have you been reading any of the tabloids? No? Well maybe you'd better. Now, don't look at me like that. What I tell Jimmy and what I do are two different things—I just happen to think I'm a better judge of truth in journalism than he is…"
"Chief, what is it?" Clark noticed a copy of the "Whisper" hiding underneath a stack of papers on his desk.
"Well, Clark. I must confess I never thought I'd put much stock in anything I read in these rags. But this one got to me—don't ask me why. Here, take a look for yourself." With that, he handed Clark a copy of the "Whisper" that was several days old. Buried in the classifieds was an ad that read:
N: meet me **/**/** —at the usual time and place. I have returned. - LL
"You even read their want ads?" Clark was amazed.
"Well, you'd be surprised at the leads we've gotten from stuff like this. Lois does it all the time—especially when she thinks I'm not looking. How do you think she finds some of her sources? The stories may be half-baked…but, look at that ad again. Doesn't it seem odd? Who do you know with the initials of LL—besides Lois? What about…
"Luthor? You've got to be kidding. The man is dead!" Clark couldn't understand the Chief's logic in this one.
"Are you sure? Just in case, keep your eyes open for anything unusual in these rags—okay? I got a bad feeling about this one—but, I hope I'm wrong. Now, go on! I have work to do!" Clark just shook his head, smiled to himself, and returned to his desk.
"What was that all about?" Lois shot him a side-long glance.
He sauntered over to her desk. He didn't want to share their conversation with the whole office. "Oh, you know, he's being the surrogate father—just wanted to make sure you're doing okay. I told him you're fine, I'm fine, we're all fine!"
"Don't laugh, now he expects award-winning articles to spew forth from our computers. Talk about pressure!" He grinned at her.
"Well, partner, let me show you what I've been working on, and tell me what you think." With that she turned the monitor toward him. Clark pulled up a chair, and they immersed themselves in the story.
She thought Saturday would never arrive. It was hard to remain calm at work, and act as if her relationship with Clark was still the same as before. She tried to act blase' about the whole thing, but she was excited. A date—a real date with Clark! A year ago she wouldn't have felt this way. Then, office romances were verboten as far as she was concerned. She would have been wishing for an evening with Superman instead. Now, while she still yearned for a chance to be alone with the superhero, she wasn't going to sit around moping, waiting for him to show up at her window. She knew he cared, and that was fine for now.
Clark even let her pick the restaurant. She chose a familiar, comfortable place—where the food was great, the music sweet, and the atmosphere cozy. She selected a restaurant close to The Planet where one could dress up, or dress down—it didn't matter. She just wanted to have fun.
She started getting ready hours before he arrived. She felt like a teenager again, going out on her first date. She spent the morning shopping, wanting everything to be perfect. Her sister would have enjoyed this, kidding her and teasing her about a new man in her life. Too bad she was in California—Lucy's opinions would have meant a great deal to her.
He flew home three times. His mother thought he was crazy, but she didn't say a word. She just offered her opinion on what he planned to wear, and if it would clash with her dress. His dad, well, he just put his arm around his shoulder and whispered, "Son, I think you've got it bad!" He chuckled, and went back to his chores.
"Dear, let us know how it goes…uh, okay? We want you to have a great time!"
"Thanks, mom. And, thanks for not laughing—I can't believe I'm this nervous!" With that he took off in a red blur and headed back to the city. His dad returned to the house in time to see him leave.
"Jonathan, our son is in love. I don't know if I can stand it." They laughed, collapsed into each others arms, and acted as if they'd discovered each other for the first time.
It was almost time for him to arrive. She was as nervous as a cat. She was so wired, she started talking to and feeding her fish. She didn't hear the knock at her door.
The second knock was rather loud, and seemed almost impatient. She jumped, nearly sending the box of fish food into the tank.
"Just a minute!" After washing her hands (she couldn't believe she was playing with the fish food at a time like this), she headed for the door—took a deep breath…and…
"Hi, Clark. You're right on time. Come on in." She looked appreciatively at her date. He looked great. Navy blue jacket, grey slacks, white shirt, a tie that had a Frank Lloyd Wright design on it. Her heart skipped a beat.
He stared at her. She looked just as beautiful as she did Christmas Eve. Maybe even more so. He found he was holding his breath. "You look…you look…" he was tongue-tied.
"Uh, do I look okay?" She sounded a little concerned.
"…gorgeous…" There, he said it.
"Oh." She blushed.
"Uh, here—for you." He held out one perfect pink rose, almost mauve in color.
"Oh, Clark, it's beautiful. Thank you." She set it carefully on her purse. "Why don't you sit down for a moment. Almost had an accident with the fish tank—don't want to go to the restaurant smelling like fish food." She returned shortly from the bedroom, carrying her wrap, and smelling wonderful.
"No, definitely not fish food." He detected the fragrance before she entered the room, closing his eyes and enjoying the perfume.
"Well, thank you for noticing!" she cracked. Handing him her new shawl, he placed it around her shoulders. Deja vu…except, she was thinking only of him, and while his hands lingered on her shoulders, he was ever the gentleman—and it actually felt…nice.
It took him a few moments to return to reality. Her perfume was evoking fantasies…
"Shall we?" he asked. Regretfully, Lois agreed.
As they left the building, Lois asked if he'd like to take her car.
"Not this time. We'll take a cab, the restaurant isn't far." She smiled, thinking, how sweet.
The ride was uneventful. They barely talked, just looked at each other and occasionally smiled. They were both nervous, but neither wanted to admit it. They sat at a respectable distance from one another, but not so far away that the occasional imperfection in the road wouldn't conveniently make Lois bump into Clark's shoulder. When Lois wasn't pre-occupied with looking at her date, she spent time enjoying the fragrance of the rose. Clark, well, his fantasies just wouldn't quit. He caught himself smiling at her, taking in every inch of her profile, thinking how very lucky he was to be with her at that very moment. Not as his alter-ego, not on a business date, not being thrown together by Perry with free tickets to something or another. No, just the two of them together because they wanted to be.
They both took a deep breath before entering the restaurant. It had crossed their minds that they might run into someone they knew. But that was the chance they would have to take. If somebody saw them together and wanted to gossip, well so be it. The hostess led them to a quiet booth away from the busiest part of the dining room. There was a small dance floor; a jazz group was setting up for their evening performance.
As they settled in, Clark removed her shawl, folded it and set it beside him on the cushioned seat. "Just so you won't forget it again."
"Oh, I won't—this time," she smiled sweetly.
Clark ordered a bottle of white wine, and after sampling it and declaring it a nice vintage, asked the waiter to given them ample time to decide on dinner.
"I hope you don't mind if we wait a bit to eat, Lois. We rarely get an opportunity to talk outside of work anymore. I just want to thank you for letting me take you to dinner. I've wanted to do this for a long time, and I was beginning to think I'd never get the chance."
"Thank you for asking me, Clark," she said. Lois suddenly felt very shy. Incredible how this guy makes me feel, she thought. She wanted to think of something witty to say, but she was at a loss for words. Silver-tongued Lane, speechless. Amazing. Instead, she reached for her wine glass. Something, anything to hold onto. Clark reached for her hand. Suddenly she giggled.
"Oh, Clark. I feel like I'm on my very first date, and I don't have any idea what to say to you."
He laughed. "I know exactly what you mean. Maybe we should have gone bowling or something. The noise would at least give us an excuse for not talking!" They laughed, holding hands—as if each were a life preserver for the other. They both felt comfortable again.
Their waiter interrupted them. Clark asked for a few more minutes, since they hadn't even looked at the menu, or heard what the specials were for dinner. He stood there, impatiently waiting, reciting the specials when they were ready. Lois finally decided on angel hair pasta with a light seafood sauce. Clark chose the fettucini. When the waiter asked if there was anything else, they said in unison, "No garlic," looked at each other, and started laughing. The waiter walked away, shaking his head, muttering something about garlic, Italian food, customers…
"I guess it shouldn't matter if there's garlic or not, huh?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, we're friends—we should be able to stand anything." The laughter continued. Lois looked down. They were still holding hands.
"Uh, you know we'll never be able to eat our dinner this way." She blushed.
"Well, I don't mind if you don't," he said.
Another interruption. This time, a booming voice greeted them. "Hi, kids! Enjoying yourselves? Nice place, huh?" Perry White!
They quickly disengaged their hands, albeit reluctantly. "Hi, Perry. What brings you here?" Clark sounded a bit disconcerted.
"Why, Alice and I come here quite often. We like to dance, and this place never lets us down!" He was being extremely jovial this evening, Lois thought. "If you stick around, I'll even give you a spin on the floor." he said winking at Lois.
Lois didn't know what to say. "Uh, I…" Clark quickly spoke up.
"Chief, that's really nice, but if anyone's going to do any uh, hem…dancing around here, it's going to be the two of 'us', okay?" Clark gave him a you-wouldn't-dare-ruin-my-evening look.
Perry chuckled, slapped Clark on the back, and said, "No problem, son. But the next time—look out!" He winked at Lois, and made his way back to his table.
Just in time. The waiter returned with their dinners, setting the steamy food in front of them. He also brought another bottle of wine.
"Hmmmmmm…this smells wonderful," Lois said, "and I'm starved!"
"Yeah, I think I actually feel hungry, too." Pouring more wine for the both of them, Clark made a toast. "To a new beginning."
"Yes," Lois agreed, "to us." Clark barely hid his surprise at her remark.
"Now, before this food gets cold…" He attacked the fettucini with a vengeance.
"Come on, slow down. I don't want to be sitting here with half a plate of food, stuffing my face silly trying to keep up with you! It's not a pretty sight, Clark." He chuckled, thinking about the many times his mom said pretty much the same thing.
"Okay, I guess I'm just wound up. This is turning out to be a great evening. And, I'm looking forward to dancing with you—without any interruptions!" Now it was her turn to look surprised.
"Really, you are? You mean you won't let Perry cut in?"
"That's right—and I don't think he will!" He smiled at her.
"Uh, huh. Now what if some sweet young thing wanted to dance with you?" Even though she was teasing, he knew she was serious.
"Well…" He hesitated just long enough to watch her eyes widen and her face fall just a tiny bit. "Nah, even if Alice wanted to cut in, I'd have to deprive her of that privilege."
She laughed, and continued eating with a new fervor.
They both decided against dessert. The jazz group was on break, and would return later in the evening for a jam session. A dance band had been playing for a while, and the music was inviting. They caught a glimpse of the Whites on the floor, commenting on how well they danced together.
"Well, shall we give it a try?" Clark asked.
"Sure, I'm game." Lois answered.
Leading her out to the floor, Clark felt he was the luckiest man in the world. When they had danced before, at the charity ball, they maneuvered around their emotions, playing it light-hearted and fun. Tonight felt so different. Tonight they were testing the waters. The band's repertoire ranged from big band tunes to contemporary hits, all easy to dance to. One of the first songs they danced to, of all things, was "Fly Me to the Moon". She felt his arm tighten around her as they slowly moved across the floor. While she loved the music, the song reminded her of another partner, and she thought for a moment he could sense it. He relaxed a bit, giving her some room. Clark had nearly forgotten himself; he noticed that she tensed up while the music was playing. You dummy, he thought—that's not "our" song. Better watch it.
"Sorry," he whispered, "got carried away."
She looked up at him and smiled, "that's okay."
He wanted to hold her tighter, but not unless she made the next move. When the band played "Misty" she moved closer and put her head on his shoulder. He was warm, and felt so safe and strong. Her perfume was driving him crazy. His hand was caressing the small of her back. He could feel her pulse rate quicken, her breathing becoming a little more rapid…
"Mind if I cut in?" Clark suddenly stiffened. Lois gripped his shoulder tightly, looking up at him, pleading with her eyes. What the hell was she doing here?
"Yes, I do mind," Lois said, still looking at her partner.
"Not this time," Clark added rather tersely, dancing away from…Mayson Drake! Thinking she could still make a serious play for Clark (or at the very least, distract him), and embarrass Lois in the process, Mayson stood there, mouth open, gaping like a fish, stunned at the rebuff.
More than just a few patrons noticed the little drama playing out on the dance floor, among them Perry White. Good for you, son, he thought. It's about time!
Mayson returned to her table, and her companion. "It didn't work," she whispered. Her companion turned his head and replied, "I'm not surprised. But I am surprised you thought it would. Losing your touch, Mayson? I didn't bring you here to have you fail. I don't give second chances." She left the table, stung by his verbal slap. She quickly left the restaurant, failing to notice she was being followed.
Lois was still gripping his shoulder. "Hey, are you trying to break something?" he teased.
"Oh, Clark…I'm sorry. Thank you for not letting her cut in."
"I told you it was just the two of us tonight—right?"
"Right. But, she was the last person I thought we'd ever see." Clark wondered about that, too, but didn't say anything.
Before she could say anything more, the band immediately swung into another tune, one that she loved. As the melody of "Take My Breath Away" filled the room, she visibly relaxed in Clark's arms. "I love this song," she whispered. Hmm, I'll have to remember that, he thought. They continued dancing, Clark maneuvering to stay in a darker corner of the dance floor. She lifted her head, he lowered his—they were dancing cheek to cheek. Her left hand brushed his neck, then tickled his ear. He gently kissed her cheek, and nuzzled her ear. He felt her weaken at the knees. Hmmm, I'll have to remember that, too, he thought. The piece ended too soon. Or maybe it was fortuitous it ended when it did. The band announced a break, and the floor slowly cleared.
"Clark, can we leave? I don't think I could stand another interruption like the last one." He agreed. They headed back toward their table. He picked up her shawl, wrapping it around her shoulders once again, handed Lois her purse, and as they headed toward the cashier's station, Lois noticed something was missing. "My rose, Clark—it's gone!" She sounded distressed.
"Are you sure? Let me check." Sure enough, the table had been cleared and they had left nothing behind. "I'm truly sorry, Lois. It's not there. I'll get you another one—the florist is open 24 hours and it's on the way home." She smiled sadly, and waited for him to pay their bill. Clark quietly asked the hostess on duty if she remembered seeing the rose. What she told him was puzzling—a man in a tuxedo had walked past their table before leaving the restaurant. She thought she saw him reach for something, but couldn't be sure. Clark didn't know if it was something to be worried about, or if the hostess had seen some cheapskate gigolo in action. He chose not to say anything to Lois, for fear she would get upset and let her imagination run wild.
She took his arm as they left the building. Next door to the restaurant was a news stand. A shipment of papers and magazines had just been delivered, and the vendor was sorting and stacking everything. They decided to check out the competition while waiting for their cab.
Among the usual national and international Sunday papers were several weekly tabloids, including the "National Whisper". Clark was peering over the top of his glasses, perusing the news- papers, hoping to quickly spot anything that might unwittingly upset Lois and ruin their evening. Too late, she saw it almost at the same time he did.
"What's this? Do you see this headline?" She tried to pull a copy of the "Whisper" from the pile, without much luck.
"Hey, lady! You can't do that. You want the paper it'll cost you seventy-five cents." Lois ignored him; she was too busy trying to read the accompanying article. The headline read:
'Lex Luthor Sighted! Death a Hoax?'
"Lois, don't…you can't believe what those papers print. Please, don't do this to yourself." But his pleading fell on deaf ears. Curse that man, he can ruin things even when he's supposed to be dead. Clark was angry—with himself, with Luthor, with the "Whisper". She fumbled with her purse, trying to find change in order to buy a copy. Clark intervened and slipped the vendor the correct amount of money. "I know I'll regret doing this," he said to no one in particular.
"Thanks, Clark." Lois immediately switched to reporter mode. She quickly scanned the article, frowning as she made her way to the end of the column. "Well, this really doesn't say much, other than a skycap at the D.C. airport allegedly saw Luthor arriving on a plane from the Caribbean. The man swore on his grandmother's grave it was him. Said he'd carried baggage for him before. Hmmm.."
Clark gently took the paper from her hands, folded it, and tucked it under his arm. "Our cab's here, how about if we forget Luthor for now?" She ruefully smiled.
"I'm sorry. I forget myself sometimes. This has been a wonderful evening—I certainly don't want to play reporter tonight. Come on." She led him to the cab, waited for him to open the door, and slid over giving him only just enough room to squeeze in. Clark asked the cab driver to stop at the all-night florist shop, which was about a block from Lois's apartment.
"Are you going to move over?" he asked, with a grin on his face.
"No." She replied coyly.
So he slid his arm around her, his hand brushing her arm. She snuggled closer, taking his free hand in both of hers. They rode the rest of the way in silence.
When they arrived at their destination, Clark paid the fare, and sent the cab on its way. Lois frequented this particular floral shop, so she was on a first name basis with the owner.
"Ms. Lane, how nice to see you. Ah, you're the gentleman who stopped by earlier this evening, no?" Clark nodded. "And what can I do for you tonight?"
"Well, Joe, the beautiful rose Mr. Kent gave me was apparently admired by someone else at the restaurant tonight and it disappeared."
The florist nodded his head and said, "Say no more. You're very lucky, I only have a couple left. Here, sir, for Ms. Lane—no, no, put your money away. This lady is one of my favorite customers, and it saddens me to think someone would steal another's token of affection." The florist pressed the flower into Clark's hand, and wished them a pleasant evening.
Lois was full of surprises, he thought, as she took his arm and the rose. They slowly walked the rest of the way to her building. When they reached her apartment, she handed him her keys. Not like the last time, she thought. I can trust Clark.
"Would you like to come in?" she asked.
"Uh, sure, if you want me to," he said, unlocking her door.
"I do. I hate to see this evening end." Her voice was sincere and the regret in her voice was genuine.
"Coffee?" she asked. "I only have instant, if that's okay?"
He nodded. He sat on the loveseat while she busied herself in the kitchen, watching her every move.
"Here, hope it's okay," she said, setting the cups on the coffee table.
She sat beside him, closer than he expected. She reached for her coffee, but he stopped her in mid-air.
"Lois…" She stared at him. He leaned toward her, and she met him half way. As their lips met, he gently placed his hand behind her head, stroking her hair. He slid his other arm around her waist while she slipped her arms around his shoulders. She slowly pulled him toward her, feeling his strong arms supporting her, his kisses melting away her remaining inhibitions. She felt as if she were somewhere else, suspended in that lovely dream-world between sleep and consciousness…when the sensation of his hand, caressing her thigh, brought her back to reality.
"Clark," she whispered, quite out of breath. "I don't know if I can…" She placed her hand on his, stopping him before he went any farther.
He blinked, looking dazed and a little confused. "Lois, I'm sorry, I don't know…"
"Shh," she said placing a finger on his lips. "It's okay. I wish I could go on, but…I'm…not ready…we're not ready for this. It's too soon. Please forgive me." Her eyes searched his. He was leaning over her on one arm. His free hand brushed her cheek, touched her hair, and then caressed her arm. He pushed himself away from her and stood up. He gave her his hand and helped her to her feet.
"I guess I'd better go before I do something we'll both regret," he smiled ruefully.
As they walked to her door, she said, "I am sorry, Clark…I can't tell you how much I wanted…" Before she could finish, he turned and taking her in his arms held her so tightly she thought she would faint. The passion she felt overwhelmed her, but as quickly as he gave her that final hug, he was gone.
She was stunned. Not even a goodbye. Not even a promise to see her again. She was so confused she couldn't figure out what happened. She must have either embarrassed him completely, or made him hate her for leading him on.
She wanted to die. It had been such a beautiful evening, and she felt she had ruined everything. How could she face him on Monday? She picked up the rose and held it to her cheek. As she made her way to her bedroom, the tears started to fall, and she couldn't stop. Somehow, she managed to undress and wrapped herself in a warm robe. She threw herself on the bed, and cried until she felt empty inside.
She was exhausted. As she reached to turn out her light, the phone rang. Who in the world…she picked up the receiver, and barely managed to whisper "hello."
"Lois, are you all right?" It was Clark.
"I think so…are you?" She was on the verge of tears again.
"Yeah, but I was really worried about you. I'm sorry for leaving so abruptly, but I was afraid of doing something to hurt you, and I didn't want you to hate me…"
"Hate you? Oh, Clark, I was afraid you hated me." This time she couldn't stop crying.
"Hey, please don't cry. I care too much about you. As much as I wanted…more…tonight, I won't ask you to do something you're not ready to do."
"Really? Thank you for understanding. This was the best night of my life, and I was so upset thinking I ruined everything. Clark?"
"Yes, Lois." His voice was tender.
"I…uh…I..lo..lov..loved everything tonight—it was perfect." She wanted to say it, but couldn't.
"I know…I loved everything about tonight, too. Now get some sleep. I'll call you tomorrow."
She could almost see the smile on his face. "Good night, Clark, and thank you for everything."
"Good night, Lois. Sweet dreams." He hung up.
She turned out the light. She would dream sweetly tonight.
He cursed and crushed the rose in his hand. They'll pay for this, he promised. They'll pay dearly. He paused at the door leading to the balcony, the ashes from his cigar falling to the floor. He stood in silence, watching the city lights winking off and on, taunting him with their inhuman, rhythmic beauty. Enraged, he threw the remains of the rose into the night, as far away from the edge of the balcony as he could. No one crossed him and lived to tell about it. The enemy had seen through his strategy, and defeated him—once. But he knew his enemy's weakness, and his vulnerability. He would bring the enemy to the field of battle. He would overwhelm him and destroy the one thing he held dear. He would bring the enemy to his knees…
THE BEGINNING OF THE END…