By Andrea Lynn Dunham <Andie firstname.lastname@example.org>
Summary: Taking second place to Superman in Lois' affections, Clark subconsciously starts sending out hints about his dual identity.
Hope you like it and as always comments are much appreciated.
Lois cursed the elevator repair man as she and Clark ran down the steep back stairs of the Daily Planet building on their way to a major press conference at city hall.
"Lois, slow down. There'll still be seats when we get there," Clark said from two steps above her.
"Yes, but will they be in the front row? Come on! Keep up!"
The words had just passed between Lois' lips when she felt her heel catch in the rubber safety tread covering the stairs. In a split second she saw the remaining four flights of stairs rushing up to meet her. She tried to reach for the railing but grabbed only air as every muscle in her body tensed for impact. Her eyes involuntarily closed, and then, WHUMP! she felt herself land, but not on the stairs. She opened her eyes and saw Clark looking into them. He was standing in front of her holding her up.
"I told you to slow down," he said as he eased her back onto the stairs. "You could have broken your neck, and all for the sake of better seating Miss I-don't-need-to-be-the- best-it-just-so-happens-that-I-am."
Lois was still a bit dazed.
"How did you catch me? You were behind me!"
"I don't know, Lois. It must have been the adrenaline," Clark said with a shrug.
"Yeah, I guess. Thanks Clark. Now we'd better really get moving."
She tugged on Clark's jacket and began running down the stairs again. Clark gave a little sigh and ran after her.
That night both of them stayed late at the Planet to work on separate stories. During a momentary writer's block Lois found herself looking at Clark over the rim of her coffee mug. She smiled thinking about how he had caught her, rescuing her from injury yet again in his understated way. Her eyes traced the lines of his features, partly obscured by glasses and yet no less handsome. She knew that she felt something for him beyond friendship but she didn't know exactly what it was. It couldn't possibly be love, she rationalized. The only person she loved was Superman, and as wonderful as Clark was to her, he was no Superman. She sighed. She had been over the same scenario a million times and she still couldn't understand how she could have feelings for two such different men. Clark looked up at Lois and she felt herself suddenly blushing. She turned back to her computer and began typing.
"I'm starved, Lois," he said. "You want something to eat?"
Lois had gotten her blushing under control and looked back at Clark.
"Sure, but even Domino's doesn't deliver this late."
"It's OK, I know an all-night place. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Just under fifteen minutes later Clark came back carrying a large pizza box.
"You know the fastest places in town, don't you, Clark," Lois marveled.
"Actually this place is just outside the city.," Clark said as he placed the box on his desk and opened it.
Lois walked over and looked at the box cover.
"Venice Beach California? I guess it's out of town!" Lois exclaimed.
"Oh, they're a chain. The boxes just got switched," Clark explained.
Lois nodded as she took a piece and returned to her desk.
"How have you been doing over there since I left," Clark asked between bites.
"Not bad. Just have to punch up the lead and I should be set. What about you?"
"Couple more paragraphs. You eat, I'll write we'll finish together and I'll walk you home," Clark suggested.
"Sounds good to me. I could use a break to think what I want to do here," Lois said as she nodded to the computer screen.
Clark began typing with one hand while eating with the other and Lois leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. A smile crossed her lips for no reason in particular except that she was basking in the warm and comfortable glow of friendship. Here she and Clark weren't even working on the same story and still they were there for each other. Lois felt more at ease with him than with any other person, male or female she had ever known with the lone exception of her sister. She recognized an unconquerable desire to be the best still dwelt within, but it was rarely directed at Clark, and even when it was it mellowed to a sort of friendly competition. She knew that unlike some people from her past she could trust Clark. He would always be there for her, and he wouldn't stab her in the back.
She opened her eyes and reread the first paragraph of her story. She typed in a few lines, hit 'save' and exited the program. She turned to Clark.
"I'm done," she announced.
"Well, eat, eat. I even made them use lowfat cheese just for you," Clark joked.
Lois stepped up to the edge of his desk and looked down into the pizza box. There were only two pieces left.
"What happened to the rest of it?" she asked as she took one of the remaining slices.
Clark gave a crooked little smile.
"I said I was starved."
Lois looked him up and down.
"I swear, Clark, I don't know where you put it!"
A few minutes later Clark typed in his last word and shut off his computer. The two of them gathered up their coats and briefcases and headed for the door. Outside the fall air was clean and brisk. The street was almost deserted except for a few wandering taxis. They passed a park down the street whose sign was covered with a sheet. A podium draped with ribbon stood next to the sign.
Lois looked up at Clark.
"Are you going to the dedication ceremony tomorrow?" she asked. "Superman will be there."
"I'll be there," Clark said, eyeing the covered sign, "though I don't know why they're naming the park after Superman. He never asked from anything from Metropolis ."
"Well of course he never asked but everyone in the city wants to show how much they appreciate all that he's done for them."
"You'll be going, naturally," Clark said.
Lois nodded. "I haven't seen much of Superman lately. I just hope maybe we can have a minute alone."
"You love him." Clark said matter-of-factly.
Lois looked at him, surprised. He had never said such a thing outright before. In fact, since all the trouble involving her engagement to Lex he hadn't spoken of Superman much at all. It was the one thing that Lois missed in her friendship with him. She couldn't talk with him about the man she loved.
"Yes," she finally answered, "I love him."
"I just wonder about how well you really know him, Lois," Clark said looking straight ahead.
"I know what you're getting at Clark. I thought I knew Lex and look what happened with that, but this is totally different."
Clark nodded but she could tell that he was unconvinced and they walked on in silence. They turned onto a side street and Clark noticed that one of the streetlights had been broken. He was about to suggest to Lois that they take another way to her apartment when a man wearing a ski mask and waving a knife jumped out from behind a dumpster.
Lois instinctively grabbed Clark's arm and was surprised to feel that he didn't even seem to have tensed.
"All right, people, give me your money. Jewelry too."
Clark threw his wallet to the ground.
"Come on, sweetheart, I haven't got all night," the man hissed.
Lois threw down her pocketbook. She had released her grip on Clark's arm and he could see that her eyes were flashing fire. Somehow Clark seemed to know that she was about to do something and reached out to stop her but he was too late. She pivoted on her left foot and aimed a right round-house kick at the thug's knife hand. It was a beautiful kick, but unfortunately Clark's movement had given it away and the man blocked it and sent Lois sprawling onto the ground. Clark quickly went to help her up but was stopped.
"Uh-uh, big boy," the mugger said stepping between the two reporters and pointing his knife at Clark's throat, "you stay right where you are. I think the little lady and I have something to settle now."
He yanked Lois to her feet and she looked into Clark's face with terrified eyes.
"I don't think so," Clark said as he easily broke the low-life's grip on Lois' wrist.
He pushed Lois behind himself.
"Why don't you just take the money and go. Believe me, you'll be better off."
Peering around Clark, Lois could see the thug's eyes narrow and then she saw him lunge at Clark and plunge the knife into his chest. Her hands went to her face and she screamed in a horror. She expected to see her best friend collapse before her eyes, but he stood before her as if nothing had happened. The mugger pulled his knife back and saw that there wasn't even so much as a drop of blood on it. His eyes widened and he turned and ran away from Lois and Clark as quickly as he could.
Lois had stopped screaming when she saw that Clark wasn't hurt, and now she grabbed his arm and spun him around to face her. Something in the way he had stood, slightly straighter, slightly prouder as the man stabbed him had sent a sudden flash of realization to Lois' brain. She looked at him with new eyes, and he gazed back at her with a slightly sad expression in his. Suddenly everything was beginning to make sense to Lois. The way he had caught her, the late night pizza, everything. Suddenly a thousand other odd occurrences made perfect sense.
"You're Superman," she whispered.
"Lois, don't be ridiculous!" Clark said.
"Then how come you're still standing here talking to me? That man just stabbed you!" Lois exclaimed as she pointed down the street.
"The knife must have hit my checkbook," Clark said, patting his breast pocket.
"OK then, let's see it," Lois countered.
Clark reluctantly took it out of his pocket and Lois could immediately see the slit which went completely through it.
"Lois…" Clark began.
He was too late. Lois reached up and grabbed his glasses and as she held them she gasped. How could she have been so blind? Of course he was Superman!
"You've been lying to me all this time," Lois said. "I trusted you and you lied to me."
She was calm. Too calm. Clark could see the tears rising in her eyes and felt ashamed. Here he was causing her pain, the one thing he had never wanted to do.
"Lois," he said as he reached out to take his glasses back, "I didn't want to lie to you. I just wanted to protect you. Don't you think it's been hard for me? I love you, but you only love me for the ten percent of the time that I'm Superman."
"Well maybe if you'd told me then we both would have been on equal footing. You've been my best friend. I thought we knew just about everything about each other. I told you things, admitted things, that I've never admitted to anyone before, not even myself. And now you say that you love me, but you can't even trust me."
"Lois, we can't talk about this here. Let me take you home," Clark said, reaching for her arm.
"No! I don't need your help. I took care of myself before Superman came to Metropolis, and maybe it's time I started doing it again."
She turned and walked away from him and he didn't dare follow.
When Lois arrived at her apartment five minutes later she made a bee-line for the fridge and rocky road ice-cream. She had only eaten two spoonfuls when the tears started flowing down her cheeks. She was mad, but more than that she was hurt. Clark was the one person she had felt totally at ease with. The first person she had been sure of, and now she found out that had been keeping the biggest secret from her. She let herself cry for a few minutes and then the anger began to seep in and take over. She remembered all the nights she had spent tossing and turning, torn between her feelings for Clark and her desire to be loyal to Superman. She had even wondered if she was just some sort of shallow Cat Grant, unable to have true feelings for either of them, incapable of loyalty to one man. She thought of all the time she could have spent with Clark if not for her now pointless loyalty to Superman.
She kicked off her shoes, flopped down on the couch and fell to eating in earnest. A breeze blew through the window and she turned, half expecting to see the familiar flash of blue. She couldn't help but smile at the memory of his night visits to her. He had always come when she needed comforting, and even when she didn't. She suddenly realized how those visits must have affected him. To have her hanging on his every word but thinking that she only loved half of him. He had come to her when she was feeling her worst and had made her feel better without ever asking for anything in return. He could have taken advantage of her at any time and she wouldn't have complained, but he hadn't.
She looked down into the ice-cream container and saw that it was half empty.
"He's not going to want me no matter what name he's going under if I go and get fat," she said as she went to put it back in the fridge.
"I hate to disagree with you, Lois, but I'd love you even if you ate the whole gallon."
Lois spun around to see Clark in the famous blue and red hovering outside her window. As she looked at him she could see all of Clark shining through and wondered how she could have ever been fooled by so flimsy a disguise. "May I come in, Lois," he asked.
She nodded and he floated in and stood before her.
"I hadn't meant for you to find out quite that way," he said.
"Well it was sort of unavoidable. You were saving my life again after all."
"Actually it was very avoidable. There are a dozen things I could have done that would have been a lot easier to explain."
She looked up at him, "Well why didn't you?"
"I think that deep down I wanted you to find out. I realize now that I've been dropping hints for a week. Look at the pizza tonight. It's as if I wanted you to pick up on the clues."
"But why didn't you just tell me? Why didn't you tell me a long time ago?" The tears came to her eyes as she remembered the hurt she had so recently felt.
"I didn't feel safe telling you at first and then you were so totally infatuated with Superman that I just couldn't tell you. You would have been loving me only for the sake of him. It's very confusing, especially standing here in this suit talking to you as Clark, as myself."
Lois was beginning to smile.
"I can see that."
"I guess I wasn't really thinking about what you were going through trying to be faithful to one man when in my heart I wanted you to love another. God, Mom was right, I am starting to talk about myself in the third person!"
Lois laughed through her tears and he pulled her into his strong embrace.
"I'm sorry for everything you've gone through, Lois," he said as he stroked her hair.
"I only wish you'd known what I was really feeling. You must be as blind as me if you didn't know I was falling in love with the real you."
She could feel his arms tighten around her at his declaration of her love and she smiled against his neck, loving the smell of him so close to her. They stood there, just holding each other, becoming accustomed to one another's breathing and heartbeat for several minutes before Lois pulled away.
"You know," she said, "I may have been attracted to Superman first, but he's just a part of you Clark, and you're the man I want to be holding right now. Without any suit to get in our way."
He smiled down at her and knew that he was about to have the best of both worlds, best friend and lover all in one incredible person.
"Well," he said, "as you know, it does come off."
He pulled her close for a deep kiss, wrapping his arms around her back and lifting her right off the ground. Lois closed her eyes and they floated serenely towards the bedroom.