Beginnings

By Barbara (Bml44@aol.com)

Summary: A charity auction and a visit from the Waynes of Gotham City prove only slight distractions for Lois and Clark as each tries to find the perfect gift for their paper anniversary.

This is one of two very old stories that merged and got out of control. It was written before the whole trip to New Krypton and I just decided to leave it that way. It's another alternate Lois and Clark universe, right? I couldn't, however, help myself with a few additions along the way… Let's just say the devil made me do it…or was it LCWS???

***

Clark arrived at the Planet that morning after Lois. He had to leave her in their apartment just before breakfast to help with an oil spill in Iceland. It was something they had gotten used to in the past year. 'A year,' he thought. Could it really be only a week until their first anniversary? He wanted to make their anniversary special and time was running out. As he came down the ramp into the bullpen, he went over his mental list of things to do before the big day. He spotted his bride furiously typing away at her keyboard and decided to stop and see what Perry's latest assignment had been. Placing his hands on Lois' shoulders, he leaned in close to read what was on her screen.

"Hmm…philanthropist makes donation to insure renovations to the Metropolis Museum of Art. Bruce Wayne…isn't he that guy from Gotham City?"

"Yeah. Perry assigned this to us this morning. Millionaire donates a bunch of money and some stuff to be auctioned off to fix up the museum, blah…blah…blah. No big story." She turned in her chair and pulled him to her for a quick kiss. "So how did it go in Iceland? I hate it when I have to make breakfast."

"Pretty messy, but I managed. So, let me guess…it was doughnuts and coffee in the lobby for breakfast?"

"Well…" Lois hated that he knew her so well.

Clark sat down on the edge of her desk. "So what's this about an auction?"

"Bruce Wayne and other well-to-do's are donating items to be auctioned off for the museum. Perry's on the auction committee. He said they had some pretty nice stuff…jewelry…rare works of art."

"Sounds interesting. I'll let you finish up. There's something I want to run by the chief." Clark got up and started to head towards Perry's office, but Lois stopped him.

"Uh, Clark…"

"Yes, Lois."

"Is this about a story?"

"Well, it's just an idea I had that I want to run by Perry. I'm not sure it will amount to anything."

"Okay, so run it by me. I'm your partner, remember," she said, crossing her arms for emphasis.

"Yeah, you reminded me of that last night…thanks!"

"Clark…" she said, spinning around to see if anyone overheard the comment. She felt her cheeks begin to flush. How he could do that? She could interview the President of the United States and remain completely calm, but one comment from Clark could reduce her to a giddy schoolgirl.

He walked over to her and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "Sorry…didn't mean to embarrass you. Yes, you are my partner and it's just a stupid idea I want to run by Perry…no big deal." He got up and was about to walk to Perry's office, but instead, leaned down and whispered, "But I like the way you reminded me last night much better!" Before she could respond, he had made his way to Perry's office.

***

Clark walked through the open door of Perry White's office and respectfully knocked. "Chief,

you got a minute?"

Perry looked up from his papers and motioned him in. "What's on your mind, Clark?"

"Well, Chief, it's Lois."

"Good Lord, son…did you two have another fight? You are always on each other about something…"

Clark interrupted him. "No, Chief, it's nothing like that. Actually, it's about our anniversary. It's a week away and I was hoping you could help me out with a gift idea. It's supposed to be something paper…what do you give that's paper?"

"Oh…well…let me see…" Perry leaned back in his chair and got a faraway look in his eyes. "For our first anniversary, I took Alice to Graceland. We stayed in the honeymoon suite at the King and Queen motel. Ah…but…well…that was before this paper thing."

Clark smiled as he got a mental picture of Lois at Graceland. "Yeah, Chief. This paper thing has got me stumped. The only thing I can come up with is a ticket to something or maybe a gift certificate?"

"Well…yeah…they both sound good. You're creative, son. Whatever you come up with, I'm sure she'll like it."

"I guess you're right. Oh…any chance we could have next Friday off. Whatever I decide on, I thought I'd surprise Lois with a long weekend…"

Perry stopped him in mid-sentence. "Uh…sure…you two take the day off to celebrate. And Clark…do me a favor…don't tell me what you have planned. I don't want her hounding me for clues again. That woman nearly drove me crazy on her birthday."

"Sure, Chief. Sorry…" Clark turned and was starting to walk towards the door when Perry stopped him.

"Oh, Clark, one more thing. I'm in charge of the benefit auction at the museum and I need someone to MC. I can't think of anyone better than you and Lois. It's for a good cause and there's nothing to it. What do say…can I put you two down?"

"When is it, Chief?"

"Next Wednesday night at the museum."

"I don't know…I'll check with Lois."

"Oh…of course…you let me know then. By the way…I have a little exclusive for the two of you. Bruce Wayne is coming to town for the auction. He is very hesitant to grant interviews, but I managed to get him to meet with you guys for dinner next week."

"That's great, Chief. I'll let Lois know."

"And let me know something about the auction soon. I need to find someone else if you two can't make it."

"Will do."

***

While Clark was in talking to Perry, Lois was frantically calling around trying to figure out what to get Clark for their anniversary. She tried her mother, but she was no help. Lucy's suggestions were way over the top and completely X-rated. She did, however, make a mental note for future reference…you never know. Finally, she decided to try the most reliable source she could think of…Martha. She had hesitated calling her because she knew Clark probably would, but she was getting desperate.

"Oh, Martha…I'm no good at this. What do you give someone who…can…well…you know.. and *paper* even. I mean really…who comes up with these things, anyway. It's just another one of Hallmark's feeble attempts to sell more cards, just like all of those stupid holidays they create that I can never keep up with."

Martha couldn't help but laugh. "Lois, calm down. It's the anniversary that's important, not the gift. You are remembering the most special day you've shared together and all of the ones since. It doesn't matter what you give each other and it certainly doesn't have to be paper. Really, Lois…since when has anything you and Clark ever done been traditional?"

"You're right…as usual. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you to talk to. I'd go crazy if there wasn't someone else who knew."

"It means so much to me, too. It's nice to finally have a daughter."

"So…Mom…what is Clark getting me for our anniversary? I'm sure he's talked it over with you."

"Actually, Lois, he hasn't mentioned it to me. I guess he's keeping it a secret. Maybe he's afraid I'd let it slip."

"Yeah, he's been pretty mysterious lately, even for him. I know he's plotting something, but I can't figure out what."

"Well, Lois, why don't you just sit back and enjoy the surprise."

"Because trying to figure it out is half the fun."

"Always the reporter…"

"Sorry…I just can't help it." Lois looked up and saw Clark coming out of Perry's office. "Oops, Martha, Clark is headed this way. I gotta go. Thanks for the advise. I'll see what I can come up with."

"Good-bye Lois…Good luck."

Lois hung up and tried to pretend she was still working on the story. Clark saw her hang up the phone quickly and could tell she was up to something.

"Who was on the phone, Lois?"

She scrambled for a second. "Uh…oh…it was a wrong number." She decided changing the subject was her best escape route. "So, did Perry like your idea?"

Clark smiled, realizing what she was doing but decided to play along. "Oh…no. We agreed there wasn't anything there. How's the story coming?"

"Almost finished. Just wading through some background material on Mr. Wayne. This man is into everything, but somehow manages to avoid publicity." She picked up a computer printout and began reading. "He supplied a huge chunk of money to China after the earthquake, more money to India after the typhoon and he even helped some of the families from that mudslide in Chile. How does he do that and not have his name plastered all over the papers?"

"Well, I guess for that kind of money, people are pretty accommodating. Sounds like Mr. Wayne is a pretty interesting guy. I'm glad now that Perry worked it out so that we can meet him."

"What?"

"Perry lined up an exclusive interview for us with him next week. Maybe we can ask him his secret." Clark lowered his voice. "I'd like a little less media attention myself."

"I'm sorry, Clark. As long as you are in those tights," she whispered, "you're going to attract attention."

"Why, Mrs. Kent, you make me blush."

"Right…the only time I can make you blush is when you are out of those tights."

Attempting a modest blush, he leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. "Before this goes where I think it's going, I'd better tell you about Perry's other bit of news." Clark sat back down on the edge of her desk. "He's in charge of the benefit auction and is in need of a couple of MCs."

"Let me guess…"

"Bingo! Are you interested? He says there's nothing to it and it's for a good cause."

"When is it again?"

"Next Wednesday."

She looked up at him inquisitively. "Hmm…Lois and Clark Kent…MCs at a charity event for Metropolis' finest. What do you think, is that us?"

"It could be the start of a whole new career for us, Lois…just think…next we could be hosting awards shows or maybe even have our own talk show."

"I think participants on the 'Gong Show' is more like it."

"Unfortunately, I think you're right. Let's do it anyway."

"Why not, Clark…it's for a good cause and it'll make Perry happy. So…what was it you asked Perry about?"

"Lois…"

***

Perry had arranged for Lois and Clark to meet Bruce Wayne's private jet at the airport Monday afternoon and escort him and his wife to their hotel. They were going to meet later that evening for dinner and the interview. Lois spent the weekend digging up as much information as she could on the Wayne's. Clark had his hands full with a derailed train and a hurricane in the Caribbean, so Lois was filling him in on some of her findings while they waited for the plane to arrive.

"Mr. Wayne has an incredible story. He witnessed his parents' murder when he was only eight years old and was practically raised by their butler. He did a remarkable job of investing and expanding the family's assets. He sits on the board of eight major corporations, has one of the most envied art and antiquities collections in the world, but is rarely seen in public. He was married several years ago to Vickie Vale, a reporter for the Gotham Globe…I guess she keeps his name out of that paper, anyway. They don't have any kids and they live on his family's estate outside of the city."

"So, is there anything left for us to find out tonight?"

"Well…what makes a high-profile reporter marry someone who leads such a private life?"

Clark had just taken a sip of his coffee and just about sprayed the windshield with it. "Well Lois, are you asking me or is this a question for the Waynes?"

Lois had been thinking out loud and hadn't realized what she said. "I guess it does sound a little familiar," she said sheepishly.

"A little?" He raised his eye brows in jest, but then softened. "I guess it would be interesting to know what her answer is…but I'm more interested in yours."

"Oh, that's easy. I don't like housework."

"Love had nothing to do with it?"

"No…purely mercenary reasons."

"I see. Maybe I better rethink your anniversary gift then."

"Well, Clark…why don't you just tell me what it is and I'll let you know."

"Nice try…but, sorry…here they come."

The plane pulled in and came to a stop. Soon, they were busy introducing themselves and loading suitcases for the trip to the hotel. Lois and Clark delivered the Waynes to their hotel suite and agreed to meet later that evening for dinner.

***

Lois had chosen their favorite restaurant for the interview. They had shared many quiet evenings in the comforting surroundings over the past year, reminiscing about their *official* first date. The maitre d' had become a friend and would always save them their best table. When the two couples arrived, he ushered them in and had a bottle of their favorite wine waiting.

"I see you come here a lot," Bruce commented with a smile.

"Well, Clark and I helped out the maitre d' with a little problem he was having and he goes out of his way to thank us," Lois said, a bit embarrassed. "It's a special place for us and the food is excellent."

"That's the best way to do business," Bruce explained, "friends helping friends."

"Lois, I spent all afternoon trying to figure out where I'd met you before and it finally dawned on me…it was years ago. We were both working on a gun running story in the Congo. I was pretty new and didn't know a soul. I even caught some horrible virus and spent most of the time in a hospital." Vickie winced at the memory. "I've read a lot of your work…the two of you…and I admire what you've done. Your series on the NIA was outstanding."

"Thanks," Lois said modestly. "Clark and I saw your series on the IRA. I was an exchange student in Ireland and I know how dedicated they are to their cause. It must have taken a long time to get inside an operation like that."

"I have to admit, I spent a lot of sleepless nights on that one…and a lot of work on an Irish accent. I've tried to stick to *tamer* stories lately. I don't like to be around when the bullets start flying…well, that far away from home, anyway." Vickie paused, but pushed on. "Even more intriguing than the NIA are your articles on Superman…word has it that you two are good friends of his."

"Well," Lois added, "he's been a good friend to both of us…and has gotten us out of a few close calls."

"Any chance I could get an interview with him while I'm here?" Vickie pleaded.

"He stays pretty busy, " Clark said hesitantly, "but we'll see what we can do." He looked at Lois for help.

"So, Mr. Wayne, tell me how you two met," Lois stammered, trying to change the subject.

"Please, call me Bruce."

Lois nodded politely.

"Vickie and I met at a charity function at my house. She was trying to get an interview with me and I found her roaming around the house. I've come to realize in the past few years that there is no way to get a reporter to stop investigating."

"Tell me about it," Clark said jokingly.

"I guess you and I have a lot in common, Clark. We'll have to compare notes later."

"I wouldn't know where to begin…" Clark laughed.

"Okay, you two…it's been ten minutes and you're already teaming up." Lois grinned and looked over at Vickie, "I think we better keep an eye on them."

"I think you're right, Lois."

Clark heard an alarm coming from Metro National Bank. He looked over at Lois and winked. She recognized the *signal*. He pushed back his chair and smiled politely. "Would you excuse me for a second, I'll be right back."

They had been partners for years, but not until Lois discovered his secret were they partners in the true sense of the word. He was no longer running off and leaving her wondering why he'd gone or if he would return. Instead, Lois would cover for him and carry on with their work. Although they would never admit it to each other, they both enjoyed the thrill of keeping the secret. His role as Superman pulled him away from her at usually the most inopportune moments, but they loved coming back together to exchange stories. He said a silent prayer each time he watched her hang on every word as he recanted another adventure and marveled at her resilience to go get the story without him. This was just another one of those inopportune moments.

While Clark dashed off to change, Lois did her best to carry on the conversation. "So, Bruce, Perry tells us you've made a considerable donation to help renovate the museum, in addition to the items donated for the auction…"

Clark made his way out of the restaurant and flew to the bank. X-raying the area, he discovered two men in a tunnel below the bank. They had just set off an explosive device to access the vault from underneath. He flew down behind the two, tied them up and delivered them to the police. When he arrived back at the table a few minutes later, the conversation had moved on to a piece of art Bruce Wayne was donating to the gallery.

"…and we acquired the firm and all of its assets. The painting had been in the lobby for years. It seemed only proper to return it to Metropolis."

"That's quite generous. Most people wouldn't be able to part with a Monet," Lois added.

"Well, as much as I like to collect, true works of art shouldn't be kept in private collections. They should be available for all to enjoy. I have been very fortunate and I can't keep a piece like that for long in good conscience."

This was intriguing to Lois. "So, why collect at all, if you are just going to donate them eventually anyway?"

"I guess the thrill is in the hunt…and I only collect pieces that I especially enjoy."

"So you donate your acquisitions often?" Lois asked.

"Well, a considerable number in my collection are now in public galleries."

Lois looked over at Clark when he returned. A simple pat on the knee under the table was enough to let her know all was well. She smiled back and motioned for him to join in the conversation.

Clark turned to Bruce. "I was reading a list of the businesses you are involved in…plastics, toys, fabrics, computers, advanced robotics…that's quite a diversity. How did you become involved in so many different types of industries?"

"Well, Clark, an investment is an investment. Running a business is the same whether you produce laptops or toothbrushes. The important thing is to have the best people in that field working for you."

"So you are not directly involved in the businesses you own?" Lois asked curiously.

"No…I get the best people I can and get out of their way. There's no way I could be involved in all of them." Bruce paused and looked at Vickie to rescue him.

"I just have to know, Lois." Vickie turned to Lois. "What's Superman like? Is he really as incredible as he appears on TV?"

Clark turned to Lois with a sly grin, interested to hear her response. Lois looked at him a bit uneasy. Even after all this time, it was still difficult to talk about her husband and try to distance yourself from her descriptions. She was always afraid someone would see through to her real emotions. She was married to Clark…she wasn't supposed to have feelings for Superman.

"He's a bit…larger-than-life," she grinned. "But then I guess anyone in a costume like that would be," she laughed, kicking Clark under the table. She attempted to change the subject again. "Speaking of costumes, what can you tell us about Batman? I read your expose on him…what an interesting guy…all of those gadgets. Were you ever able to find out where he gets them?"

Vickie looked at Bruce a bit uncomfortably. She turned back to Lois trying to act nonchalant. "Well, he's an elusive figure. I never could get him to open up much…"

Bruce stepped in to save her. "I was thrilled when Perry told me you two were going to MC the auction. It should be a wonderful evening…"

***

The evening continued with the usual polite exchange between strangers. Lois and Clark discussed their findings, or lack thereof, in the car on the way home from the restaurant, but it was still on Lois' mind that night as they prepared for bed. "Did you notice how he always tried to change the subject whenever we asked anything personal?" Lois called out to Clark from the bathroom.

Clark had already gotten in bed and was reading through some of the background information Lois had Jimmy dig up on the Waynes. "Yes…and did you notice that he seemed really uncomfortable when you mentioned Batman? His heart was racing…"

She poked her head out of the door. "Did you notice that too? I thought it was just me."

"No, he definitely was uneasy about it."

Lois turned off the light in the bathroom and joined Clark in bed. "Think maybe this might be a *touchy* subject between them?" She leaned over and mockingly swooned over Clark. "I mean…superheroes are hard to resist. Could he be a bit jealous of her friendship with the man with pointy ears?"

Clark laughed at her acting abilities. "You could be right…it *does* get tough having to fight off all of those women throwing themselves at my feet…" He assumed his Superman pose, folding his arms and looking gallant.

"Oh right…Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter by day…superhero desperately running from groupies by night."

He leaned his head back and sighed. "Well, we all have our crosses to bear…"

She pushed him playfully, unfolding his arms. "Just so long as none of them catch you."

"What's this? Don't tell me that even the mighty Lois Lane-Kent isn't immune from the *green-eyed monster*?"

She looked a bit embarrassed. "Well, I have to admit, it does make me a little uncomfortable knowing that there are all of those women out there swooning over my husband and downloading pictures of him on the internet."

He realized joking might not be the best way to handle this situation. This was obviously bothering her. "Lois, we've talked about that. They just identify with the *superhero figure*. It's not *me* they want."

"I know…but it's still a weird feeling."

He turned to her and pulled her into his arms. "Lois…they can fantasize all they want to about the suit and the powers. That's all they see. They don't see…me. You are the only one that does…and ever will." He leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss. He decided it was time to change the subject to something a little less emotional. He didn't want Lois to know it, but he was just as uncomfortable with being *adored* as she was. He thought he'd retreat before she pressed the matter any further. "You know, I met him once."

Lois looked up at him a bit puzzled. She hadn't quite followed the change of topic. "Who?"

"Batman."

"Really…when?"

"It was in Gotham City. There was a helicopter accident downtown and he came to help."

"You never told me that…" She sat up, giving him that *here's the next Kerth award* look. "So, who is he?"

"What?"

"Who is he? Surely you used your vision gizmo to find out."

"Lois…vision gizmo? And no, I didn't. He obviously wants to keep his identity a secret. I, of all people, can respect that."

"You are *such* a boy scout…or is this a rule of the superhero's league?"

"Boy scout…I am not a boy scout…well, I was…but I was ten…and no…there are no rules of the superhero's league, other than we all respect one another. Don't you think they deserve to have lives?"

"Wouldn't it be easier if you knew who all of them were…you could all work together…"

"So, you want me to tell them who *I* am?"

"Well…no, Clark…they don't need to know that…"

He looked at her with that *you've gone of the deep- end* look. "Uhh…"

"Okay…so I guess you're not…all together wrong."

"Then you're saying I'm right?"

"Well…"

"Come on, Lois…" He reached up and put his hand on her mouth. Moving her lips up and down, he said, ď 'You're right, Clark.' See…I knew you could do it!"

She pushed his hand away and laughed. "I hate it when you're…not all together wrong." She pulled him down to her and kissed him. After a few minutes he pulled away and just held her, lost in her eyes, still astonished by the depths of his feelings for her.

"You know…it's amazing. I worried for over two years how you would react when you found out I was Superman. Would it change the way you saw me? Would you ever speak to me again?" She grinned at his admission. He leaned over and brushed his finger along her cheek. "When it brought us even closer…" He smiled and gave her a quick *thank you* kiss. "Then I wondered how marriage would change our relationship. It's incredible that even after a year, nothing has changed."

Lois leaned over and whispered. "Well…I can think of a few things that have changed…"

"Well, I didn't say they hadn't… improved…considerably. You are still my best friend and the only person I enjoy fighting with…among other things…"

"Oh, Clark…" She reached up and pulled him back to her, mingling her fingers in his hair. "So, what is that boy scout pledge?"

"On my honor, I promise to do my *very* best…" He paused, reaching over to turn off the light. "Wait, let me try that again…I forgot the hand motions…"

"Clark…"

***

The next morning Lois and Clark were in the conference room with Jimmy going over what they had uncovered about the Waynes.

"So what we have so far is…zip. A journalist marries a millionaire who owns most of Gotham City." Lois threw her arms up in the air in disgust. "Where's the story." She turned to Clark. "After our dinner conversation, I can see why he doesn't grant many interviews."

"He's not much of a talker, is he?" Clark agreed.

"Well, CK," Jimmy said, looking at Clark with devilish grin. "With his money, who needs to talk?"

"Is that all you ever think about, Jimmy?" Lois chided indignantly.

Jimmy looked at her like a scolded puppy. "Uh…sorry, Lois…do you want me run anything else on them?"

"Just one thing. See what you can find on Batman," Lois added.

Jimmy did a double-take. "Did you say…Batman, Lois?"

"Yes…Batman…you know…black cape, bat ears, spiffy car."

"Okay…" Jimmy laughed. "Anything in particular?"

"Yes. Find out what Vickie Vale has reported on him and any stories with the Waynes and Batman."

"Okay, Lois. Anything else?"

"No, Jimmy. Thanks," Clark said.

Jimmy got up to leave. "All right, guys. I'll see what I can find." He left the couple to go over their notes.

Clark turned to Lois with a skeptical look, remembering their conversation the night before. Even without super-hearing, he could hear the wheels spinning in Lois' mind. "Uh, Lois…Batman?"

"Don't give me that look…" Clark shrugged, his expression one of complete innocence. Lois couldn't help but laugh. "Look, Clark. I started thinking…she's one of the only reporters to get an interview with Batman. He got really nervous when we mentioned him…maybe there's something there. What else do we have?"

Clark nodded in agreement. He learned a long time ago not to question her hunches. They had been right on so many occasions. Could there really be something to women's intuition? Then again, there were all of those wild goose chases she had sent them on over the years…guess nothing's perfect. He couldn't explain his existence in the world. How could he discount something like this?

Still, he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't let her curiosity about Batman just rest. Not after it occurred to her that he was in a unique position to reveal his true identity. 'Nope,' he thought…'this definitely isn't over…' He'd better start preparing his defense. In the meantime, maybe he could divert her attention. "Lois, maybe we could just do a *happy* piece on what a good thing this auction is…you know, how much it will help the museum and Metropolis? We could talk about the items being put up for auction…generate a lot of interest."

"I guess that's all we can do for now." She turned and pulled out a stack of blue index cards paper-clipped together from one the many stacks in front of her. "Perry gave me our notes for the auction. Each card describes the item, it's estimated value and where to start the bidding." She took off the paper clip and handed some of the cards to Clark. They silently read through the cards, each a little awed by what had been donated. Each new card seemed to be even more incredible than the one before.

"Wow…this is a bracelet that Edward gave to Mrs. Simpson when they were dating." She looked over at Clark, who was peering at her over his glasses. "Now *that* would be an anniversary gift to remember…"

Clark reached over and took the card from Lois' hand. As he read the card aloud, he shook his head in disbelief. "Emerald and gold bracelet, inscribed with their special insignia. Estimated value $150,000." He looked up at Lois. "Right…are you planning on robbing a bank, Lois?"

"I'm worth it, aren't I?"

"Yes, darling, you are…" he said, patting her arm. "But *I'm* not."

Lois laughed and reached over to put her arm around his shoulder. "You are to me," she whispered, as she gave him a peck on the cheek.

"If only that would draw interest at Metro National Bank," Clark sighed.

Lois couldn't help but grin. As she turned to look over the rest of the cards, he saw that all too familiar *I've got it* look. Clark lowered his head to brace himself. "What?" he said hesitantly. Had she figured out how to talk the bank into giving her the money or the auction committee into giving her the bracelet. He didn't doubt she could pull off either scheme.

"Relax, Clark." She could tell from his expression that he had assumed the worst. "I just have an idea of how we can approach this story."

"Oh…for a minute there, I was seeing headlines…'Daily Planet Reporter in Jail, Wife Turns State's Evidence'…"

"Thanks a lot, Clark…" She grinned and punched him in the arm. "I didn't turn you in the *last* time you went *jewelry shopping*."

He nodded in agreement. "True, but that was before you could collect on my insurance policy."

"Ooh…good point…thanks for the tip." She raised her eyebrows and gave him another peck on the cheek. She'd won again and she knew it. "Now…about the story…why not write the story from our point of view…you know…the outsider looking in. We can tell what it's like behind the scenes…as MCs…and interview some of the people who buy the items…why they bought it…what they are going to do with it…"

"Good idea. You work up a background on the committee and I'll take the items that have been donated."

"Okay." She swirled in her chair and began organizing the stacks of files before her. She found the one she was looking for and opened it. Without looking up, she said softly, "So my gift is even better than that bracelet, right?" A small wad of paper bouncing off her shoulder was all the answer she needed.

Perry was in his office talking to himself. At least, that's how it appeared to Jimmy as he approached his office. He walked up to the door cautiously and knocked. "Here are the pictures you wanted, Chief."

Perry looked up a bit agitated. "Uh…oh…thanks, Jimmy."

When Jimmy entered the room to hand him the photos, he noticed the beautiful blond woman sitting in the chair in front of Perry's desk. He smiled and thought, 'Way to go, Perr…'

"Uh, Jimmy. This is Vickie Vale. She is a reporter for…"

"The Gotham Globe…yeah…I know." Jimmy stopped and stared.

Perry rescued him. "Vickie, this is Jimmy Olsen, one of our former photographers." Jimmy was pulled out of his trance by the word *former*. He smiled and turned a pale shade of red.

"Nice to meet you, Jimmy." She turned and smiled at Perry. "Don't worry, Perry, I have one of these back in Gotham City. I'm used to it."

Jimmy decided retreat was his best option. "Uh…it was nice meeting you…Ms. Vale." He backed out of the office, pausing only to replace the books he knocked off the table in the process.

Perry and Vickie watched him leave and then broke out laughing. As she was watching Jimmy's graceful exit, Vickie noticed Lois and Clark in the conference room. She watched their playful banter back and forth. Perry looked out at the newsroom and finally realized what she was watching. "Oh. I guess I've gotten so used to seeing those two together, I don't even notice them anymore. To watch the two of them in action, you'd never know they were the best in the business…uh…present company excluded, of course."

Vickie grinned and nodded at his addition. "So they've always been like that?"

"Yeap. I guess that edge they are always balancing on is what keeps them sharp. I teamed Clark with Lois when he first started. Clark was green and naÔve and Lois was a bull in a china shop. I thought they would bring out the best in each other…" They had both been watching Lois and Clark's antics while they were talking. When the wad of paper hit Lois' shoulder, Perry added, "…or kill each other." Vickie turned and looked at Perry and they broke out laughing again.

***

After the incident with the wad of paper, Lois and Clark had finally gotten down to concentrating on the story. They were reading and making notes when they heard a tap on the door. They both looked up to see Perry standing there with Vickie Vale in tow.

"Hope we're not interrupting something," Perry said mockingly.

"Come on in, Chief," Clark said, getting up to shake Vickie's hand. "It's good to see you again, Vickie."

"Good morning, Clark, Lois. Thank you for dinner last night. Bruce and I had a lovely time."

"Good morning." Lois got up and stood beside Clark. "It was our pleasure."

"I was just giving Vickie a tour of the newsroom. I thought I would show her our brightest team in action." Perry turned to Vickie and grinned. "See, they do actually work…occasionally…"

Lois paused for a second, but realized they must have been watching them through the window. She looked at Clark and his flushed cheeks told her he caught Perry's meaning as well. There wasn't much to be said on that topic, so she decided to move on. "Yes, Perry, we were working on an article about the museum. We were going over the list of items to be auctioned. There are some really incredible things that have been donated. I was just trying to talk Clark here into buying the Duchess of Windsor's bracelet for me for our anniversary."

"Oh, your anniversary is coming up? How long have you been married?" Vickie inquired.

Clark's embarrassment had subsided a bit. Reaching over, he put his arm around Lois and said proudly, "One year on Friday."

"Well then, I think the bracelet is an excellent idea. I never could figure out that paper thing. I wrapped Bruce's gift *in* paper…I thought that was close enough."

"I like the way you think," Lois agreed. Turning to Clark, she added, "That work's for me."

"Okay, you two, it's been ten minutes and you're already teaming up…" The three reporters laughed, remembering Lois' words from the night before. Perry just shook his head and grinned.

"Actually, I was hoping I could follow you on an assignment. Bruce will be tied up with business all day and I cannot stand being cooped up in a hotel room. Maybe Superman might drop in…"

Lois wasn't sure about this. What if Clark had to leave? They were lucky last night, but it would be harder when they were out for the day. She looked at Clark who apparently had already worked it out in his mind.

"Well…" Clark offered, "we were about to head over to the museum and then get some lunch. It will be pretty boring, but you're welcomed to join us."

"Thanks. I promise I won't get in the way."

"Well, okay then," Perry said. "Vickie, letís finish the tour and let Lois and Clark clean up this mess."

"We'll meet you in about ten minutes, Vickie," Lois added.

Vickie nodded. With that, Vickie and Perry left. Lois and Clark looked at each other. She was still concerned. "Clark…what if…"

Clark finished her sentence. "…I get a call and have to leave."

"Yes, Clark. How are we going to explain it."

"Just like we always do, Lois." They picked up their papers and headed to their desks. "Just like we always do."

***

The reporters arrived at the museum around 10:30am. The museum director, John Parks, was so grateful to the Waynes for their contributions that he took the reporters on a personal tour of the upcoming Impressionist exhibit. The Monet the Waynes were donating was now the signature piece of the exhibit. He ended the tour by taking them to the museum vault and showing them the items donated for the auction. Lois was mesmerized by the Duchess' bracelet. Once Mr. Parks brought it out, Lois didn't notice anything else. Clark glanced over at her as she tried it on her wrist. She saw him watching and raised her eyebrows, pretending to beg one last time. He just shook his head and smiled.

Vickie had to laugh watching Lois and Clark joke with one another. There was something contagious about watching newlyweds. Even though she and Bruce had been married for a few years, she saw so much of their relationship in Lois and Clark. There was something so familiar about the way they teased one another and how the whole world would melt away with one glance. She envied the time Lois and Clark had to spend together. Bruce's dedication to his work and Gotham City's protection kept him running off at all hours of the day and night. How she envied Lois, always knowing where she could find her husband.

With the visit to the museum concluded, the trio headed back to the car. "Well Vickie, I hope you're not sorry you asked to come along. Not as exciting as going undercover, but you sure made Mr. Parks' day," Lois joked.

"It was fun. Thanks for letting me tag along. What's on for the rest of the day?"

"Well, we thought we'd go get some lunch and then I have to go find a dress for tomorrow night. Things have been so busy, I haven't had a chance to pick one up. I could sure use a second opinion. Clark is no help…"

"Can I help it if I think you look good in anything," Clark said with a grin.

Lois smiled at Clark and patted him on the arm. "You know, it must be nice just pulling out the same suit for every occasion."

"I know what you mean, Lois…men have it so easy. One tux and a pair of shoes and they are set for life."

"Okay, ladies…" Clark sputtered, trying to get out of the fray. "Before this gets out of hand…I apologize for the entire human race…the male population, anyway."

Lois gave him a knowing glance. "The whole human male population, huh? Nice try."

That tactic not working, Clark tried another. "So, Vickie…care to join us for lunch?"

Vickie laughed. "You know, I think I'll see if I can steal my husband away for a nice lunch. If you'll drop me by the hotel, I'll meet up with you later for a little shopping therapy, Lois."

***

Bruce heard a knock on the door and assumed Vickie had forgotten her key. He opened the door expecting to see his wife, but there was no one there. He looked out into the hallway, but found it empty. Finally, he noticed a small white envelope lying in front of the doorway. It was addressed simply, 'BW'. He picked up the envelope and opened it. Inside, he found a piece of paper with letters cut out of a magazine pasted to it. His heart sank as he read it.

I HAVE YOUR WIFE.

DO NOT CALL THE POLICE.

I WILL CONACT YOU.

Lois and Clark had agreed to pick up Vickie after lunch. They pulled into the hotel and made their way to the penthouse floor. Bruce opened the door almost immediately upon their knock, looking like he had just seen a ghost. He showed them the letter and Lois and Clark quickly began going over the events of the day and who might have a motive to kidnap his wife.

"Bruce, sit down over here. They can't have gotten far. It's only been an hour since we dropped Vickie off. We need to wait and see what it is they want. Are you sure you can't think of anyone who would want to kidnap Vickie…an enemy in business or maybe a story she was working on?"

"No…I can't think of anyone. And the last story she covered was about the recent election. Just who won…no scandals." He sat down on the couch and dropped his head into his hands. While he wasn't looking, Clark motioned to Lois that he wanted to see if he could spot Vickie.

"Bruce, I'm going to go see if I can contact Superman to find her," Clark said, heading for the door.

"But they said no police…"

"They'll never know he's there."

***

Clark found his way to the roof and began a scan of the building. He saw many things he wished he hadn't…a few people who would rather not have anyone know they were there…but no sign of Vickie. He began a search of the roads leading out of the city, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. After turning up nothing from the air, Clark headed back to the hotel to see if Bruce had been contacted.

Lois came over to Clark when he returned. "Anything?"

"Well, I saw some things Top Copy would die to get their hands on, but no sign of Vickie. Any word from the kidnappers?"

"No."

Just then, the phone rang. Lois and Clark got on the extension and listened. The kidnapper's voice was muffled and hardly audible. "Did you follow my instructions?"

"Yes…I haven't called the police. Is Vickie okay?"

"She'll be fine as long as you cooperate. You have something I want. Give it to me and I'll give you your wife back."

"What do you want…you can have anything."

"I want a million dollars cash…unmarked…and the Monet painting. By 6:00pm tonight."

"Okay. Where?"

"You'll get instructions." The line went dead. They looked at one another.

"Bruce…the painting. It must mean something. Where did you get it?" Clark asked.

"It was in the building of a company I bought years ago…ChemCorp. It was one of my first acquisitions."

"Well, someone must be attached to it." Lois looked at Clark. "I'll call Jimmy and have him dig up whatever he can on that company." She turned to Bruce. "Can you get the painting and the money together? We may have to use it to find the kidnapper."

"Uh…yeah. I'll call Alfred and have him get the money. The painting is at the museum. I'll have them send it over."

Lois walked over to Clark and whispered, "What did you hear?"

"It was muffled, but somehow it was…familiar. It's coming from close by…sounded like a cell phone. I'll check the buildings close by. You see what you can find on ChemCorp."

***

Clark turned and made his way back to the roof and again began x-raying the buildings surrounding the hotel. Several blocks away from the hotel, he discovered a man pacing around a room in a building that was still under construction. Taking a closer look, he saw Vickie lying on the floor, her hands bound behind her back. The man was talking on the phone, so he focused to hear the conversation.

"…and the briefcase with the money to Pier 12 at 10:00pm tonight. Come alone or the deal's off. If I see even a hint that you called the police, you'll never see her again. I'll call you when I have them and tell you where to find your wife."

Clark evaluated his options. He didn't see a gun and Vickie seemed to be the sleeping. He decided that he better do something now, before they left the building.

***

"Okay, Jimmy…what do you have so far?"

"Well, Lois, ChemCorp was sold to Wayne almost twenty years ago," Jimmy read from his notes. "The company was in financial difficulty and the owner…a Terrence Maxwell…sold it to Wayne."

"Jimmy, what happened to him?"

"I thought you'd want to know. I ran a check on him and he died of a heart attack a few months after the company was sold."

"Well, that answers that. Is there anything else?"

"No, Lois."

"Thanks, Jimmy. See what else you can find."

"Will do."

***

Clark decided the best way to handle the situation was to rush through the window and tie up the kidnapper. Before the man could even turn to hear the glass breaking, Superman had the kidnapper tied up and was gingerly picking up Vickie. She had obviously been drugged and was sleeping soundly. He gently cradled her in his arms and turned to look at the kidnapper. As he reached down to pick him up, he noticed for the first time why the voice was so familiar.

***

Waiting for Alfred to call, Bruce stared blankly onto the balcony. He had never felt so helpless. He created Batman so he could save the people of Gotham City from the evil and demented element that killed his parents. So no one, including himself, would ever have to endure that pain again. And now, the one time his wife needed him, the most precious thing in the world to him, he was helpless. None of his weapons or electronic devices would do him any good now. Glancing over at Lois, he noticed how calm she was, simply talking to a colleague at the paper. Did he dare risk revealing his identity? Would Lois keep his identity out of the paper? Would any of it even help?

***

Superman arrived at the Wayne's hotel suite moments later and slowly glided down to the land on the balcony. He deposited the kidnapper in a chair and knocked on the window. Both Lois and Bruce turned with a start to see Superman enter and gently lay Vickie down on the couch. Turning to a stunned Bruce, he tried to reassure him. "She'll be fine. She was given a sedative, but she should be awake in a couple of hours."

"Thank you, Superman. I can never repay you for what you've done."

Superman winked at him. "There's no need." He turned and walked over to Lois, who was standing in a trance- like state, staring at the kidnapper. "Lois, are you okay?" he asked, turning her to face him.

"I…I can't believe it."

"I know…" He struggled, wanting so desperately to reach out and console her, but was unable to in the suit. "Stay here, Lois…you don't have to…"

She cut him off, gathering her courage and determination. "No, I want to." They walked out to the balcony and faced the kidnapper, who turned and looked coldly at them.

"Hi, Lois."

"Max…how could you do this? Why?" Superman put a comforting hand on Lois' shoulder, careful to show only the concern of a friend.

"Touching. I see your fiance still has the superhero here fighting his battles," Max said, looking through Lois. Realizing they were waiting for his answer, he continued. "I've waited twenty years to get even with the benevolent Mr. Wayne for my father's death. He stole his company and it killed him…and drove my mother insane. I wanted him to know what it felt like. I would have had one of the patients in the hospital do it for me…" His voice dropped off and he sat staring at the floor. Lois and Superman looked at each other, the magnitude of what he had said sinking in. Lois was the first to be able to speak.

"So, it wasn't Dr. Mendenhall…it was you."

"Do you really think that idiot Mendenhall could pull it off? I read in a journal what type of research he was involved in and realized the possibilities. He was so dense. He never knew I was the one who was really calling the shots. When you entered the picture and caught on to Mendenhall, I decided I could still use your memory loss…"

"So you never cared for me…you just wanted to use me as an assassin." Lois was steaming now.

"Don't flatter yourself…you were easy…"

Clark broke him off. He had heard enough. Any more and he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. "Okay, Deter…true confession time is over. You can tell your sob story to the police." With that, he picked Max up and flew off.

***

The night of the auction finally arrived and it was a resounding success, far exceeding the committee's expectations. Lois and Clark were naturals as MCs, using their usual quick wit to keep a running joke and goading the bidders to continue raising their bids for a good cause. Despite the events of the previous day, Vickie and Bruce were relaxed and enjoying themselves, grateful to be together again. Lois and Clark even managed to get them into the act on several occasions. Perry was beside himself and was, as he put it, 'about to bust his buttons' with pride for his surrogate children. All in all, Lois and Clark had a wonderful time, staying late into the evening laughing with Vickie and Bruce. They had such a good time with the Waynes that they even accepted an invitation to join them for a visit to Gotham City.

***

Despite getting home late, Lois and Clark were up and ready early Thursday morning. They needed to finish the auction follow-up story and both secretly needed to take care of some last minute anniversary details. As a result, they were both a bit preoccupied as they walked hand-in-hand down the ramp to their desks. They were quickly pulled from their thoughts when they spotted a small package sitting in the middle of Lois' desk. It was addressed simply, The Kents, c/o The Daily Planet. Clark eyed the package suspiciously and decided to x-ray it, just in case. Lois watched his expression change from one of concern to shock.

"What is it, Clark?" Lois whispered. "Is it a bomb?"

"No. No, open it." Lois looked at him curiously, but began to open the package. Inside, she found a small box and a gift card. She opened the card and read it.

Words cannot express our appreciation for your help and encouragement. Please accept this as our way of saying 'thanks.' Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Vickie & Bruce

Lois handed the card to Clark and opened the box. Sitting inside the box on a satin pillow was the Duchess' emerald bracelet. She picked it up and noticed another card attached to the clasp. She read it aloud to Clark. 'There will be no excuses for not accepting this!' Lois looked at Clark, her eyes wide with shock. "We can't…"

Clark grabbed Lois' arm and led her to the conference room. Closing the door, he turned to her. "Lois…I didn't tell you this before…I didn't think it was appropriate…"

"What?"

"When I x-rayed their hotel suite, there was something hidden in a trunk in the next room."

"What?"

"Well, Lois…he's…Batman."

"What?"

"Lois…"

"Sorry." Lois let what he had said sink in. "You know, when you were off trying to find Vickie, I saw this look in his eyes. It was the same look I saw in your eyes when your parents were kidnapped. It wasn't just fear, it was…guilt. I didn't really understand it then, but he had all of those gadgets to help people, but was helpless to use them to save someone he loved." She paused, her words striking a chord deep within her. "Do you think he knows about you?"

"I'm not sure. He's aware that Superman knows he's Batman. I don't know if this gift means he's figured out the rest."

"Would it bother you if they knew?"

"Well, they do have the same concerns we do. I don't think they would expose me. Since they invited us down for a visit, I guess we'll have to do some…investigating."

"I guess you're right. In the meantime, what do we do with this?" Lois held up her arm and admired the bracelet. "We can't accept it, even though it does look wonderful with my engagement ring…"

"Well, Lois. They said we can't return it, but they didn't say we couldn't donate it. Letís give it to the museum. It is a piece of history."

"I guess so…but can I wear it for one day?"

"Yes…but only at home. I don't want anyone seeing that thing and throwing me in jail…"

"I'd bail you out, Clark."

"Right…"

***

Despite his best intentions, it was after 7:00pm before Clark finally made it home that night. He had to leave the office that afternoon to deal with a hostage situation in the Philippines. Lois left right after him to rush home to prepare a special anniversary dinner for the two of them. She had been planning the menu for three days and wanted everything to be just right. When Clark flew in from the balcony, he couldn't believe his eyes or his nose.

Lois had the table set with their fine china and crystal. The only light in the room was emanating from two tapered candles on either side of a fresh arrangement of flowers. The stereo was on low, mingling the soft sounds of Kenny G with the wonderful smells from the oven. Lois, dressed in a familiar short black dress, was fussing over something on the stove.

"What's all this?" Clark asked as he looked around the apartment. "And what is it that smells so good?"

Lois walked over and put her arms around him. "Welcome home," she said, placing slow, soft kisses on his lips. "I thought I would treat *you* to dinner for a change." She was about to break away but he pulled her back and into a deep kiss. "You look beautiful," he whispered. "I should change." Giving her one last kiss on the forehead, he headed for the bedroom. She took a quick glance at her masterpiece in the oven and rushed to the stereo to change the CD. She had just pushed play when Clark entered, dressed in her favorite shirt and tie.

"Do you remember this song?" Lois asked, moving towards him.

He listened as the song began…'Are the stars out tonight…' Clark smiled. "Ah…our *almost* first date."

Lois met him in the middle of the living room. "Well, it's *almost* our first anniversary…and I thought, what better way to celebrate than remembering our *almost* first date. Even though…that night didn't go the way I'd hoped…"

"Oh? You had other plans for the evening?"

She grinned at the expression on his face, knowing full well where his thoughts had traveled. She intentionally took another path. "Well, yes. Remember dinner…that disgusting Chinese take-out…"

"Yeah, you did turn a little green. I guess it was a waste of a good bottle of champagne."

"You were so sweet…taking care of me…giving me the bedroom…again. You were always such a gentleman. And I was so…so…"

"So what?"

She blushed slightly. "Well…I guess I have a bit of a confession to make. You know that champagne I spilled on the floor…"

"Uh huh…" He had begun playing with a curl falling just below her ear, but still staring at her with an amused grin.

"Well, I was refilling our glasses while you changed and I could see your silhouette through the door. I guess I got a bit…distracted. I was so embarrassed when you came out and saw me."

"I am shocked," he said, dropping his hands and placing them on his hips. "Who would have thought it…Lois Lane…a peeping Tom."

Lois hung her head in mock shame and laughed. "I know. I was a little shocked myself. I had been denying my feelings for you for so long, I guess when you were there and so…accessible…I got a little carried away."

"Well, Lois. I have a little confession of my own. When I was opening the champagne bottle, I could see you through the door too. When you came out and found me staring at the door…"

"Hey! I thought you said you never used your vision gizmo on me like that…before we were married."

"I didn't. Though I was tempted…about 30 or 40 times a day. That Dance of the Seven Veils just about did me in. And, for the record, I do not use it now because my resolve isn't what it used to be. It's better if I wait for the right time…" He heard the chorus of their special song and sung along to her…"and I only have eyes…for you…" He inched towards her and took her into his arms. "May I have this dance?" She pushed her arms up around his neck as he lifted her off the floor.

"Ooh…I love it when you do this…" she said, almost breathless.

"I know." He tightened the embrace and kissed her. They floated in synch with the music for several minutes. When the song ended, she realized they had drifted into the bedroom.

"Clark…you better dance us back to the living room. I worked hard on that dinner. I better check on it or it will burn."

"You better check on me first. I think I've developed a bit of a fever…"

Lois smiled and placed her hand on his forehead. "You do feel a little warm. Now what was it Dad always said? Starve a cold and feed a fever or was it feed a cold and starve a fever?"

"It's definitely feed a fever," he said, nuzzling the side of her neck.

"I think your right…let's eat."

He looked up at her and grinned. "Walked right into that one, didn't I." With that, he floated them back into the kitchen to sample the latest 'Adventures in Cooking' creation by Lois.

Lois really had worked hard to make it a perfect evening. She knew she wanted to make something special, but her usual creations left a lot to be desired. She decided that this would be one meal that didn't end with a visit from the fire department or was announced by what Clark had begun to call 'Lois' kitchen timer'…the smoke alarm. She finally swallowed her pride and sought out the assistance of the ladies at Clark's favorite gourmet shop. They all loved Clark because of his skill and daring in the kitchen and often swapped recipes with him of dishes he had discovered in his travels. She had gone with him to the shop on several occasions and he had let her abilities in the kitchen *slip*. They had taken her on as a special project to surprise Clark. She had wanted to make a special Chinese dish, but they all agreed that that might be a bit too much to tackle. After many discussions of possible menus, they finally decided on Cornish game hens…simple, but delicious. They even managed to find a wonderful cookbook for her with lots of pictures.

Lois was watching Clark finish up his second helping of potatoes when he put down his fork and announced, "I am stuffed. Lois, that was wonderful."

"Thank you for not acting surprised this time." Lois got up, walked over to the couch and pulled out a present from beneath it. Walking back over to the table, she handed it to Clark. "Now I know it's not officially our anniversary, but I wanted to give you this tonight."

"Oh…Lois, I won't have your gift until tomorrow."

"That's okay. You can tell me what it is now if you want."

"No way."

"Okay, okay…well, go ahead…open it." Clark began opening the package very carefully, trying to preserve the bow. He saw Lois beginning to fidget. He knew she couldn't even stand the anxiety of waiting for others to open gifts. The anticipation drove her crazy.

"Clark…just open it…I hate it when you do that…"

He laughed at her impatience. 'I know,' he thought and tore into the package to end her suspense. Inside the box, he found a white striped dress shirt.

"It's to replace the one I ruined with the champagne."

He laughed and looked up at her. "Thanks! And thanks for dinner. It was incredible. Maybe Mom will make a world class chef out of you yet."

She smiled at him. He was amazing. He would actually be happy with dinner and the shirt. He *was* a boy scout…but, thank God, he was *her* boy scout. "Look in the pocket."

"What?"

"In the pocket of the shirt, lunkhead."

He pulled back the tissue paper in the box and looked in the breast pocket of the shirt. He pulled out two tickets and looked up at her. "Pearl Jam, Lois…front row?".

"I have a few connections. And this time, you and I are going and not Jimmy."

"You're on!"

Lois reached down and placed her hand on his forehead. "Now, about that fever…"

"Oh, it's gotten much worse."

"We better get you straight to bed…"

***

Clark lay perfectly still, just holding Lois and watching her sleep. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine it could be like this. Could other people feel this way? He had watched his parents over the years, noticing the simple gestures and looks they shared. The evening walks they would take, hand-in-hand, when they thought he was asleep. He suddenly understood them completely. He had found with Lois what they had always shared. The unconditional love they had given him growing up, and gave to one another, he now shared with Lois. He treasured every second of their time alone together. Even after spending all day working side-by-side, he counted the minutes until they were back at home alone, together.

He said a silent *thank you* prayer and watched as the numbers on the clock finally displayed 12:00am. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Lois, are you ready for your gift? It's officially our anniversary."

Her eyes opened, but were still heavy with sleep. Finally, what he said registered. "Yes…" He couldn't help but laugh at her enthusiasm. She looked like a little kid at Christmas who's just seen what Santa brought. She inched her way up in his arms. "Where is it?" she asked, curiosity starting to get the best of her.

"Where is right."

"What?"

"We have to go to your gift."

"Clark, is this that Abbott and Costello routine? I'm lost…"

Clark laughed and leaned down to kiss her. "No. We have to *go* to your gift. So, get up, get dressed and pack."

"Pack…oh boy…where are we going?"

"Well, I could *tell* you but that would ruin the *surpriiiise*…"

"Well, how will I know what to pack?"

"Letís just say…clothing is optional…anything else you want to take is up to you."

"Have I ever been there before?"

"Maybe…"

"A year ago…"

"Possibly…and that's all of the hints you get."

"Oh, Clark…" She reached up and began showering him with kisses. "You are the greatest," she said as she jumped out of bed and began furiously throwing things into a suitcase. Clark just laid there and watched. After a few minutes, she turned to him and declared, "I'm ready."

"Uh, Lois…" he said, smiling at her. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

She looked down at the suitcase and suddenly realized that she had forgotten the *get dressed* portion of his instructions. She blushed, but recovered quickly. "You said clothing was optional."

He got up and kissed her, still laughing. "I meant once we *got* there." He spun around and pulled on the suit.

"That is so unfair…" she said, as she turned and walked towards the bathroom. He heard her mutter under her breath, "God must be a man. It only takes him minutes to get dressed anyway…I should be the one who can do that…"

***

"Clark, can I open them now?"

"Okay…" Clark answered.

She looked around and realized they were in the villa on the private island where they spent their honeymoon. "Oh, Clark. I can't believe you did this."

"Superman worked it out so we could come here for all of our anniversaries."

"This place still feels like a fairy tale. It's so hard to believe it's real…and it was just a year ago."

They just stood there, silently locked in an embrace, staring into each others' eyes. Memories of their honeymoon came flooding back. Those same emotions they felt that first time…fear, exhilaration, passion, love…were washing over them again. Clark gently bent down and scooped Lois up into his arms, their lips joining as he slowly carried her to the bedroom.

"Do you want your gift now or later, Lois?" he whispered into her lips.

"Ooh…that depends on what it is…" she whispered, nuzzling his neck.

He gently set her down in the doorway. "Maybe we better save that gift for later. Come with me." He took her hand and led her into the room. Laying in the center of the bed was a huge white box with a big red bow.

Lois screamed out like a little girl, "My gift!" She climbed up on the bed and crawled over to the box. "Can I open it now?"

Clark just laughed and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yes, you may."

She began to pull off the bow, but saw the card underneath it. Clark was really good at picking out cards. He always managed to find one that made her heart skip a beat. She tore into the envelope and read the card. There was a simple bouquet of red roses on the front and a touching poem about marriage inside. He had added his own sentiment at the bottom: 'Lois, before I met you, I wondered if I would ever fit in anywhere in this world. From the first moment I saw you, I knew where I belonged. Thank you for the best year of my life…Love, Clark.' As she read his words, tears began to well up in her eyes. She leaned over to him and gave him a kiss.

"Thank *you*," she said breathlessly. She tried to regain her composure while she focused on unwrapping her gift. She struggled for several minutes with trying to untie the bow. It was tied tightly around the box and all attempts to remove it so far had failed. She looked over at Clark who was sitting back with a huge grin. "You are enjoying this entirely too much. Is this all part of your plan?"

"No, but it's quite entertaining. Would you like some help?"

"No…I can do it." She turned and returned to her work. She gave up trying to untie the ribbon and began trying to pull it off at the sides. After a few more minutes, she finally managed to remove it. "Success!" she screamed, and tore into the package, wrapping paper falling all about the room. She opened the box and pulled out the tissue paper covering the gift. When she saw what was inside, she stood still in utter amazement. Staring back at her from the box was a framed watercolor print of the view from where she was standing.

She had taken a picture of the view just before they left from their honeymoon. She told Clark she wanted to remember the closest place to heaven on earth she could imagine. She framed it and placed it on the headboard of their bed, next to their wedding portrait. It was her daily reminder of their special time together.

"Oh, Clark…it's…it's incredible!" She looked back and forth between the print and the view from the window. "How?"

"Well, I told you Superman made arrangements with the man who owns this island for his good friends Lois and Clark to spend their honeymoon here. He offered it to me any time I wanted after I saved his daughter from a typhoon. I realized it was the perfect place for our honeymoon. He told Superman to tell his friends to come back for their anniversaries. I planned on bringing you back then. When you explained to me what the picture meant to you, I knew the painting was the perfect gift for our anniversary. I had the picture enlarged and found an artist to paint it for you. You know, she actually managed to capture the beauty of this place."

"How long have you had it?"

"Well, I found an artist and had her start on it eight or nine months ago. When she finished it, I hid it in Mom and Dad's attic. It was the only place I could think of where you wouldn't find it."

"But Perry…and your Mom?"

"I knew you would get the truth out of Perry, so I decided to tell him something that would throw you off track. I hid the print at Mom and Dad's, but didn't tell them. Thank God they don't go up in the attic very often."

"You are such a sneak!"

He moved over to her and looked over her shoulder. "Do you like it?"

"Are you kidding?" She placed the print on the bed and turned around in his arms. "I love you. It's… It's…"

'Finally!' Clark thought, as he drew her into his arms once again. 'Lois is speechless.'

Lois had tried to explain to Clark why this place, the picture, meant so much to her. It had struck her one morning as she lay in Clarks arms, watching him sleep, feeling his heartbeat against hers. The island would always be special because of what they shared that first night, but it meant so much more than that.

It was a private island. That was the best description she could think of for the two of them. They had both spent their whole lives building walls to protect themselves; Lois, to avoid the pain she felt as a child and Clark to keep his secret safe. They had both done such a good job of building walls that they almost missed each other in the process. But now, together, they had become an island unto themselves, protecting one another. By his gift, she knew he understood.

She pulled back and gazed into his eyes. "I have one more gift for you." Moving over to her suitcase, she pulled out a small package. It was wrapped very simply, with a card on top that was almost larger than the gift. She climbed back onto the bed and handed it to him.

Clark took the package and tried to guess what was inside. It was obvious by the size and feel that it was a book. He opened the card first and read it. Lois usually chose one of the sarcastic 'Shoebox' cards, but this was one of the cards that could be personalized. The cover said simply: 'A year ago today you gave me the most precious gift of my life.' He opened the card and continued reading: 'Today, I return the favor…Love, Lois.' He closed the card and looked inquisitively at her. He picked up the package and shook it. "Hmm…a book. Now what book would you give me? 'Men are from Krypton and Women are from Venus', 'The Kryptonian Prophecy' or maybe 'A Fish Called Wanda'?" Lois punched him in the arm as he opened the package. Seeing the title of the book, he turned and looked at her. "Lois…are you… are we…are…"

"Yes, Clark. There's only one thing that only *I* can give you. I'm pregnant."

"But…how?"

"Now, Clark…you've had a whole year to figure that out…"

"I know…*how*…but when? We were…you were…"

"Remember when you surprised me with a trip to Venice? I wasn't exactly…"

Lois had managed to return the favor…now he was speechless. It was something he had always dreamed of, but he never knew was possible. A million thoughts were flooding his brain. All he could do was look at Lois in astonishment. Incredibly, Lois understood.

"Clark, I know you've always wondered if you belonged…if you were supposed to have a life here. I hope the last year, the last four years, have proven that you do. But now, our child truly links you to Earth."

"No, Lois, you do that. Your love is what makes me human. Our child links us to each other and the future." He was still dumbfounded and trying to make sense of it all. "How long have you known?"

"I suspected it for a week or so. I couldn't believe it. I took about three of those home tests and they all came out positive. I had it confirmed earlier this week. It almost killed me trying to wait until tonight to tell you.

"Lois, are you happy about this? I mean, I know we hadn't planned on having kids so soon…"

"Well, I'll admit I was…shocked…at first. Until I met you, I never dreamed that marriage could be like this. Kids were the last thing in the world I could picture in my life. Getting to know you, being loved by you, seeing you with your parents, being welcomed into your family, I finally realized what being part of family was truly like. I found myself wanting that for us…that it wasn't just a fairy tale. I'm thrilled to be having your child." She leaned over and put her hand on his cheek. "What have you done to me?"

Once again she left him speechless. When he first met Lois that fateful day in Perry's office, he never could have dreamed that the driven career women he fell instantly in love with would one day open up her heart so freely to him. Or that he could with her. She somehow expressed all he was feeling and more. "Lois, I…I…"

"Clark…I know…" She wiped away a tear that had begun falling down his cheek. "Your eyes say it all." She moved her arms up around his shoulders and kissed him. As their lips parted, she looked up at him with a huge grin. "I can't wait to tell your parents. I can just see Martha's face… There's just one problem though, Clark. Where do we find a crib with safety straps? Do your parents have one we can borrow?"

He shook his head and grinned. "Lois, you're amazing!"

"I just hope I can be as good a parent as you will…and the poor child doesn't starve on my cooking."

Clark laughed, an image of Lois burning bottles and *feeding* the baby popping into his head. "Oh, Lois, I think the baby will be fine for a while. Their food doesn't have to be *cooked* for some time."

His meaning finally registered with Lois. "Oh…Clark…I don't know if I can do…*that*…I mean I've seen other woman do it…but…"

He gave her a gentle hug and grinned to himself. "I'm sure we'll work it all out. Looks like we better find that application for the Winkie Tink School." He hesitated for a second and then added, "Who's going to tell Perry?"

They looked at each other and then said simultaneously, "You can…" They laughed and Lois added, "*WE* will."

Smiling down at her, Clark drew Lois back in to his embrace. Overcome with joy, Clark placed his hand on Lois' stomach and whispered into her lips, "Thank you…"

The book Lois had given Clark fell from his lap onto the floor. He knew the title wasn't accurate in their case. Somehow, they both knew that no book would be able to tell them what to expect.

***

This story sets up the friendship between the Kents and the Waynes. That relationship is explored in "Something in Common," which will be coming soon to a computer near you.

All rights to these characters belong to WB, ABC, etc, etc. They were just borrowed for a bit of fun and then neatly placed back in the toy chest.

THE END

(b-gin.txt)