By Shawn V. <Kirshnera@aol.com>
Submitted November 1998
Summary: Clark says in "Honeymoon in Metropolis" that if something were to happen between him and Lois, it wouldn't be impulsive. What if it was?
First of all, let me say that my author's note is a novelette in itself, but I would appreciate if you read my ramblings. But, if you don't want to hear about the story ideas, MAJOR plot clues, and stuff like that, just read the last paragraph and you'll be fine.
This story is my second attempt at a really long story. (The first one was "Purple Haze.") It was inspired mostly by "Great Expectations"— the book, not the movie, and by songs on Fiona Apple's CD "Tidal." As you can probably guess from my sources of inspiration, it's not quite a cheerful romp with Lois and Clark. I had just finished reading GE in my English class, and I was supposed to write a parody of it for a project. Naturally, I wanted to do L&C, but I eventually decided not to, since a) if I did it for English class, I would have to watch my grammar, my language, and the length of the story, as well as… shall we say subject material, and b) a parody is supposed to be funny. So I wrote a funny little parody, but my L&C ideas just wouldn't quit. For those of you familiar with the book (and you all should be— it's a classic! And it's really good too! yeah, right<g>) Clark is cast as Pip, but quite a bit less clueless, less stupid, and obviously he's not trying to marry up a class or two. Lois is Estella, but only in the way she treats "Pip" and then not quite like that. Lex Luthor is Bentley Drummle. (Yes, "the spider" <g>) I guess Jimmy would be Herbert, but he doesn't play much of a role in the story.
Pet peeves that forced me to write this were as follows: Lois being a bitch and Clark just taking it and taking it. Clark being nice forever and ever, although he has a perfect right to be furious. Cotton candy fluff fic in which Lois and Clark go from "friends" to "in love" for no apparent reason. All of these things have their places, and I will even admit to having written such things myself, but they do not work in full length dramas.
The Fiona Apple song that inspired me was "Shadow Boxer," especially the lyrics "So darling I just want to say/just in case I don't come through/I was on to every play/I just wanted you" and "Oh you creep up like the clouds/and you set my soul at ease/then you let your love abound/and you bring me to my knees"
You'll probably (probably?!!) be happy to know that I rejected the idea of ending the story by having Lois suicide, or have Lex's baby, or have Clark's baby and die in childbirth, or live the rest of her life in misery. I considered all of those as possible endings, but I realized that I could not end the story with Clark happy if Lois was not with him. So, although by the middle of the story, Lois DEFINITELY does not deserve happiness, she will earn it in the end. Clark will also be happy. Everybody will be happy. Except for Lex and Mrs. Cox, who will definitely not be happy, which makes everybody else even happier. There you have my promise of a happy ending. I just hope that un-scares whoever was scared away from reading my story.
All of the songs were written by yours truly for the sole purpose of enriching my fanfic. If you must sing, go ahead and sing 'em to whatever tune you want. :) Clark's cats are reincarnations of old pets of mine, my parents', and my mom's while she was growing up. (Not included are our new kittens, Merlin and Clarkie, who encouraged me to use feline cast members. Guess which kitten is mine and which is my mom's! <g>) Super thanks to my sisters, Rachel(the Beatle-freak) and Laura(Monkee-maniac and aka WaFFle!), especially Rachel, both of whom helped me with plot lines. The time frame is late first season. I took a few liberties with the show— I command you to forget the name Ariana Carlin and to forget any knowledge of a certain treehouse in Kansas. Enjoy!
DISQUIET NIGHTS (LIKE DREAMERS DO)
By Shawn V. (Kirshnera@aol.com Kirshnera on the IRC)
"Oh, come on, Clark. I need somebody to go with me."
"Why don't you just ask Lex?" he said, a little bit testily. Lois had been getting quite tight with Lex recently, and it was really starting to worry him.
"I don't think Lex would make a real great drinking buddy, Clark. He doesn't go in much for *party* parties. He's more of a black tie gala affair guy."
"Oh, and I'm the kind who hangs out in bars?"
"No, I didn't say that, it's just, you're… more flexible. Please?"
Clark sighed. This was what he hated. She was going out with Lex, but she was going out with *him* as a friend. She had no idea how hard it was to go out with her just to be her pal. No idea at all. Yet he knew he'd agree. Despite the pain, he had to get close to her. "I guess, Lois."
She smiled. "Great! I'll pick you up at 7, okay?"
"Sure." He even managed to smile while saying it.
"Okay, I'm going home now, but I'll see you in a few hours."
"Okay. Goodbye, Lois."
"Bye!" She picked her coat up off the rack and put it on. She stacked all her papers up and clicked the light off on her desk. The computer was already off. With a wave of her hand, she left the building.
Clark sighed again. How could she not know how he felt about her? And all she could see was Lex, not him, not what Lex had done, really not very much at all. And there was nothing he could do about it. Well, almost nothing. He supposed he could always go the route of coming to her as Superman. She'd forget about Lex then. But if he did that, she'd forget about Clark, too, and he *was* Clark.
Drinking buddy. Great. Her drinking buddy, her pal, her best friend, her confidant. That was a lot, especially from Lois. She didn't let people get close to her, and this was pretty close. And, as for Lex, well, he supposed that Lex was close to her in a different way. He probably didn't know her very well, and she didn't know him very well. Sometimes it seemed like that was as well as Lois wanted to know the man she was dating. Why? Was she afraid that if she got to know him too deeply she wouldn't like him any more? It was true, but did she subconsciously realize it?
He shook his head to clear it of depressing thoughts, and turned his mind instead to the party in front of them. One of Lois' friends from college was having a big party celebrating an acting job she had gotten. The party was over in Tyra's Pub, a smoky, sleazy bar that was usually filled with drunks. It occasionally got dangerous, when some smashed guy would start trying to show his superior strength by beating up on the rest of the people there. There were usually some sort of illegal drugs there, and if there weren't, there were drug pushers. It was a big place, very popular. Not somewhere either of the two would normally go, but oh, well. They'd probably have a good time.
Clark opened the door to Lois, who, like him, was dressed in a t- shirt and jeans. "You ready?" she asked.
"Yup," he replied. "Let's go."
They got into Lois' car and drove off, toward the bar. As Lois drove, she was thinking about a lot of things. Clark, mostly. It had occurred to her that she didn't want to go to this party with Lex. It wasn't really that he didn't like this kind of thing, that he would be out of place, although he surely would; there was something else. She didn't really want Lex to come with her, to be with her when she was drunk, if she got drunk. She didn't really trust him all that much. It was fine if she was in control of her actions, but there was no way she was going to go somewhere with him where there was a chance that she would not be. Besides, she didn't want Lex to see her like that. It was more than an issue of trusting him; it was an issue of trusting herself. Alcohol dulled inhibitions, worsened judgment. Lex had never seen her when she completely let go, and she had no intention of ever letting him see her that way.
But with Clark, it was different. He could be trusted, completely. Getting smashed with him would be nothing to be afraid of. They were close enough that she wouldn't be embarrassed if she totally lost control and acted stupid. Lord knew she'd done that enough times that he was used to it by now. He knew her that well. He knew all of the sides to her personality, and none of them disgusted or alarmed him. And she didn't have to worry about him getting drunk; the man seemed to have an immense capacity to drink safely. All the times they'd gone undercover together at bars, or gone drinking with a person they wanted to interview, all those times, she had never once seen him go over his limit, although she had seen him drink quite a bit. She had asked him about it once.
"Clark? How do you do that?"
"Do what?" he had responded.
"*That*!" she had replied, pointing at the shotglass. "You can drink more than anyone I've ever met, and you're never drunk!"
"Oh, I don't know. Alcohol just… never seems to affect me."
It was strange, she'd admitted to herself at the time, and it was still strange now, but it was a good thing. So by going to the bar with Clark, she had someone who would keep her from making a fool of herself, get her safely home, and not… take advantage of her or anything. Besides, she would have a better time with Clark than she would with Lex. He was so… stuffy sometimes. Such a high- society snob. Even with her creative imagination, she couldn't picture him partying in a bar. He'd sit there with the most expensive drink he could find and look down his nose at all the beer-chugging people dancing their hearts out, talking loudly, and having fun. No, there was no way she could bring him to a party like this.
And she couldn't say she was disappointed to have Clark instead. Clark was a lot of fun, he'd blend right in, he wouldn't embarrass her by being weird, and, well, she had to admit he *was* pretty gorgeous.
She glanced surreptitiously at Clark now. The t-shirt he was wearing stretched across his broad shoulders, straining to cover his muscular form. He certainly was well-defined!
Just then, Tyra's came into sight. It was more like a nightclub than a bar, but it had started as a bar and retained that name and reputation. Lois parked in the parking lot, which was fairly full, even for a Friday night. They got out of the car and walked into the bar. They were immediately greeted by pulsing lights, loud music, almost as loud voices, and the sickly sweet aroma of cigarette smoke.
A woman who was dancing not too far away spotted them as they walked in. "Lois!" She mouthed, and ran over to her. Actually, she had probably screamed the name, but the decibels exploding across the room drowned out the sound. They could hear her when she came over to them. She ran up and hugged Lois tightly.
"Angie!" Lois exclaimed. "It's so great to see you! How have you been?"
"Oh, just fine, Lolo." She pulled back and looked at Clark for the first time. "Whoa! I guess you've been doing pretty good for yourself! *Who* is *this*?"
Lois smiled a little. "This is Clark Kent. We work together at the Daily Planet."
"Well, well, well. Aren't you the lucky one! But don't bring him over to the old marrieds over there," she said pointing to a group of couples. "It'll start fights." She laughed and spotted another old friend, this one a good-looking guy. "Excuse me," she said. "Destiny awaits!" She ran off to talk to the guy.
"Lolo?" Clark asked.
"Old nickname," Lois responded. "Come on, I want to find Jenny."
"Yeah. If I know her, she's over by the bar. Let's go."
Clark allowed himself to be dragged by the arm over to the bar, where Lois found her old college buddy, Jenny. "Hey, Jenny!" Lois exclaimed.
"Hey, girl! It's so great to see you! I heard you were going with Lex Luthor!"
"Yeah…" Lois said.
"But, hey, who's this?" she said, gesturing to Clark. "He's not Lex."
"No, this is my friend Clark. Lex… doesn't do well with this type of crowd."
"You want my advice, honey?" Jenny took Lois aside and whispered. "Stick with Clark. Lex is… nice, I'm sure, but this guy is… whoa."
Lois grinned as they rejoined Clark. "Thanks, Jenny."
"No problemo, Lolo. What are friends for?"
The bartender came up to them. "What'll you guys have?" he asked. They all ordered drinks and sat by the bar, talking for about half an hour. Then Jenny wandered off to say hi to some of her other invitees, leaving Lois and Clark to their own devices.
"You wanna dance?" Clark asked.
"Um, sure." She hopped off the stool she was sitting on and went with Clark onto the dance floor. They made an adorable couple, and both of them were good dancers, so quite a few of the people around them were unobtrusively watching them. By the end of the second song, there was actually a semblance of a circle forming around the two. The third song was a slow ballad, and Lois moved silently into Clark's arms for it.
He pulled her close, his hands gently stroking her back, wishing that he could hold her like this all the time, wishing that she was enjoying it as much as he was. Lois snuggled close in Clark's embrace, comfortable and secure. She listened to the words of the song only minimally, but Clark heard them painfully clearly.
If I could only tell you I could only find the words To express what's contained here Which through my heart burns
When I see you every morning And I long to pull you near And tell you everything I know My dreams, my hopes, my fears.
My pleasant little daydreams of things we never said Things we've never done before Only in my head And I'd whisper that I love you And I know you'd understand But until then, I'll just be your friend.
It's so hard sometimes to know you But to stay arm's length away Makes it harder still to love you But I know there is a way
Someday I know I'll tell you Like I'm always wishing to And then, wrapped up together We're forever— me and you.
Like my pleasant little daydreams of things we never said Things we've never done before Only in my head And I'd whisper that I love you And I know you'd understand But until then, I'll just be your friend.
Until that day 'Til there's a way To say the words I'm longing to I'll keep my dreams My plans and schemes Keep holding on There to protect me are
My pleasant little daydreams of things we never said Things we've never done before Only in my head And I'd whisper that I love you And I know you'd understand But until then, I'll just be your friend.
Until then, I'll just be your friend. Then the song was over, and Lois found herself very close to Clark, dancing cheek to cheek with him. She pulled back a little, embarrassed. It was too bad, though. She really loved the feel of his body against hers. She really loved… no, she didn't. She did *not*. No way. Impossible. What was she thinking?
"Clark, excuse me for a minute," she said, then ran off to the ladies' room. It was empty, except for one woman who was washing her hands and would be gone in ten seconds. Lois went over and sat down in a folding chair that was in the room. She put her head in her hands, thinking to herself. "Oh, what am I doing? What's going on? I probably shouldn't have come here, not with Clark." She stood up and went over to the mirror, looking at herself in it. She looked kind of pale, and she supposed it was from being surprised.
Looking at her face, she set her expression to a determined smile. She didn't feel anything for Clark. He was just her friend. The attraction was just the magic of the slow dance combined with the fact that Clark really was quite handsome. No more slow dances, and everything would be fine, right? Right. Now, she'd better get back out there before he wondered if something was wrong.
Clark sat on a stool at the bar, wondering what had happened. Lois had seemed to be so nice and all soft and melty in his arms. It was so sweet. But then after the dance was over, she had looked like a startled doe and had run off. What was that all about? She had actually looked quite scared. What could she be scared of?
But his thoughts were cut off by her arrival. She sat on the stool next to him and ordered a drink. They sat and talked and drank, and drank and talked, and talked and drank, for at least two hours, even though Clark warned her not to drink so much. By then, Clark's figure seemed to be a bit blurred to Lois' eyes, even though she wasn't squinting.
Lois blinked a couple of times at her partner. He really *was* very, very attractive. "Hey, Clark, let's dance again," she suggested.
"Okay, Lois," he replied. "You've had a little too much to drink already." They hopped off the stools and went back onto the dance floor. Once they were there, he realized just how close Lois was to him. Not as close as she had been during that slow dance, but still… close. And she seemed to be enjoying it. Well, great! Except, she looked a little hazy. He frowned slightly. That must be it; she was just a bit smashed.
A bit? Not likely. Clark quickly figured in his head how many drinks she'd had, how long it had been, and her body weight… Her blood-alcohol concentration was well over the legal limit, he was sure.
Lois, for her part, was having a great time. She inched forward to Clark every opportunity she got. He was a good dancer, she reflected. She put one hand on his shoulder and smiled up at him. Much to her excitement, he smiled back, with that 100-watt zinger she knew so well. Oooh, that always made her feel warm all over.
This was a wonderful evening. The only thing that would make it better would be… "Clark? Are you almost ready to leave?"
"What? Oh, yeah, if you want to," he answered, raising his voice to compete with the level of the music.
"I do. Let's get another drink and then leave."
"Okay, but I think you've had quite a bit already."
Lois shrugged her shoulders loosely. "It's a party, Clark. Party a little. There are at least ten different drinks I haven't tried yet…"
"Kidding! Come on." She had this silly grin stuck on her face. "Loosen *up*, babe." She giggled a little bit and led him over to the bar for another round of drinks.
"I'm really glad I'm driving," said Clark.
"I said I'm really glad I'm driving instead of you. You'd get us both killed."
"Paranoid," she told him.
Clark rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right."
In a few minutes, they were ready to leave. Lois said a rather slurred goodbye to all of her friends and they went out the door. The sky was black and a chilly breeze was blowing. Lois' hair whipped around her head, getting in her mouth. She spit it out and shivered. "It's so cold!" she exclaimed. No sooner were the words out of her mouth than it began to rain. It was sprinkling at first, for all of about seven seconds. Then it really began to come down. Lois and Clark ran for the car and got in quickly. They pulled out of the parking lot and were soon out on the street.
Lois had flipped on the radio and cranked up the volume. She was singing along, albeit rather off-key, to the words she apparently didn't know as well as she seemed to think she did. The rain beat heavily on the windshield, and it was all the windshield wipers could do to keep the view clear enough to see through. The headlights illuminated thousands of drops of rain as well as the road ahead of them. The gentle swish-swish of the windshield wipers could not be heard over the music. Neither could the raindrops hitting the car.
"Come on, Lois," Clark shouted over the radio. "Maybe we should turn the music down, just a little?"
"It's more fun this way!" Lois exclaimed in return. But then she thought better of it. Maybe Clark was right. He had an annoying habit of doing that sometimes. She reached out and switched the radio to a station that was playing classical music and turned the volume down low. The change in background noise totally altered the atmosphere of the car. Now it was close and romantic. Lois moved over next to Clark and snuggled up to him. "How's this?" she murmured, running her hand up and down his deliciously muscular thigh.
"Lois, please." Clark took her hand and moved it away, although he *really* didn't want to. "I don't envy you the hangover you're going to have tomorrow.
She put one arm around him, and the other hand on his chest, mumbling something about alcoholic beverages.
"Too much. Way over your limit," Clark responded.
She let her hand slowly wander down to his stomach, but then, as she tried to move further downward, Clark took her hand, once again foiling her plans. So she just let her fingers trace abstract designs on Clark's thigh. He let that go. He had more important things to worry about. Like driving. "Lois? Why don't you give it a rest?" he suggested. "You're ripped."
"I know, but it's kinda nice," she giggled. Clark sighed. "Besides, the whole point of getting drunk is to say and do things you wouldn't."
"Lois, there are *reasons* people don't do things when they don't do them."
"Don't be silly." It was useless to try to reason with her. She was too smashed to understand anything but her own strange logic.
Clark tried to, anyway. "Why don't you take a nap or something? There's still a half hour before we get you home."
"Oh-kay." She put her head down on Clark's lap.
"Fine, Lois. Go to sleep." Then he stiffened suddenly. "No, no, not fine. Get up. Stop." He pulled her back to a sitting position. This was going to be a loooong drive. "Make up your mind, Clark. Up or down or up or down…" she said, a giggly grin on her face.
"I *said* go to *sleep,**not*…" he broke off with a sigh.
"Not what?" She asked innocently.
Clark just shook his head. "Please, go to sleep."
"Kay." Her head once more headed for his lap, but this time he intercepted it.
"No, no, *no*!" he exclaimed, exasperated.
"I was just going to take a nap, like you *told* me," she said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Sheesh. Who can fathom the male mind?" Clark rolled his eyes as she put her head in his lap.
"I know a lot about you," she said, a few minutes later.
"Yes, you do."
"I don't know some important things, though."
"Oh? Like what?"
"How come you're never drunk? Or high?"
"I'm not into drugs, and I don't drink as much as some people in this car."
"Liar. You drank just as much as me."
"Fine. I hold my alcohol better."
"Okay. What's up those stairs at your house?"
"What's in the attic?"
"What kind of stuff?"
"Books. Old articles I've written. Souvenirs from around the world."
"Oh. I want to go see it some time."
"Okay. I'll take you up there if I remember."
"Okay. Can you speak Japanese? You look sorta Japanese."
"Do you like sushi?"
"*I* like sushi, too. See? That's important."
"Very important," he agreed. If agreeing with her worked, who cared what he said? All he had to do was get her home, and so he needed to play along for a while.
"Have you ever had a car?"
"No, but I had a motorcycle in college."
"Boxers or briefs?"
"Let's go back to the motorcycle."
"Fine," she sighed. "What made you get rid of it?"
"I didn't use it much any more. I might get another one someday, just for fun."
"You should. You'd look really hot on a motorcycle. *I* want a motorcycle."
"No, really. It'd be fun."
"Do you know how to drive one?"
"Sure. Anybody can. Would you pose on it for me?"
"Of course I would."
"Thanks. That's a good thing."
"Yeah. I guess."
Lois yawned a little. "Finally!" thought Clark.
She giggled softly, then went to sleep. Twenty-five minutes later, Clark parked Lois' car and woke her up to get her out.
"Are we home?" she asked.
"Yup. Can you walk inside, or do you need me to carry you?" In retrospect, it was probably a stupid question.
"Carry me? Please?"
"Okay." He scooped her up into his arms. She snuggled up to him, nuzzling his neck. He carried her up the stairs to the third floor, grateful that the rain had stopped. He used his key to open the door to 501. He carried her into the bedroom and set her down on the bed. "Think you can handle it from here?"
She nodded and he turned to leave.
"You're welcome, Lois."
"No, I have to go home."
"Come on, have a little fun. Want a drink?"
"No, and neither do you. Go to bed."
"I'll go to bed with *you,*" she offered.
"Uh-uh. I'm leaving."
"You don't *have* to leave. You could stay for a coupla hours."
"Not really." No way could he stay there with her like this. Despite his knowledge of her drunken state, she could be very… persuasive. And he most definitely did not want to be persuaded. "Goodbye, Lois."
"Bye." Her voice sounded small and defeated.
He turned to leave again, but she called him back. "No goodnight kiss?"
Clark sighed. "Fine." He came over and kissed her lightly on the cheek. She attempted to pull him onto the bed with her but he backed off.
"Damn boy scout," she complained.
"You'll thank me in the morning," he laughed. "Goodnight, Lois."
"*I* can make it a *better* night."
So he tried again. "Good*bye,* Lois."
"Fine, just leave me like this."
"Well, what do you want me to do?" he asked, and immediately regretted the question, as the answer revealed itself as obvious.
"I want you to strip, strip *me,* and then…"
"Nevermind, forget I asked," Clark interrupted. "Goodbye." And this time, when he turned to leave, he left.
It was the next day, at the Daily Planet. The smell of coffee lingered in the air, and the sounds of people busy working filled the reporters' ears. Lois walked in slightly late, and Clark looked up as she passed his desk. "Morning, Lois. How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess, considering."
"Good. I told you not to drink so much."
"Sorry. I should've listened. Maybe I should listen to you more often."
"What? Lois? Are you sure you're feeling better?"
"Can it, Kent."
"A little cranky, are we?"
"Better stop now, before I kill you. I'm not in the mood for this."
"Oh? What are you in the mood for?" He batted his eyelashes dramatically at her.
Lois rolled her eyes. She had left herself wide open for that one. She had no good remark, so she just shot back a threat. "Clark, if you don't shut up, I'm going to have to throttle you."
"No, I know you wouldn't hurt me." His voice dropped to a stage whisper. "Not after last night." Clark was well aware that there were many people who had begun to listen in on their conversation, and that was why he was enjoying it so much.
"Clark, you idiot, I was drunk!" Reflecting upon her words after they had left her mouth, she realized that that was probably an interesting comment for their audience to hear.
"Oh, I remember." He winked conspiratorially.
Lois decided to surrender. Even if she won, it would definitely be a Pyrrhic victory— hardly worth it. "Clark, let's get to work."
"Fine," he agreed, and they did.
Lois went to her desk and flipped on her computer. She was rather distracted by memories, however. She had quite shamelessly pursued Clark, hadn't she? And he had resisted all her plays. She didn't remember exactly what she had said to him, but little scenes were coming back to her. It was actually kind of funny, everything that had happened. Clark was quite a gentleman, despite his teasing this morning.
That was as far as his un-gentlemanly behavior went, in fact. Teasing. Other than that, he always treated everyone with respect. Even her. Lord knew she didn't deserve it after the way she'd treated him! It had taken quite a while for her to acknowledge the fact that Clark Kent was not, in fact, dirt, or something less pleasant, but a living, breathing person. A living, breathing person with manners!
She only had a short time to think about the events of the night before, because a story was brought to their attention almost immediately. They left the Planet and went down to the New Troy Bank to write about the robbery that had just occurred. It seemed that nobody in the bank could remember any details during or immediately before the robbery, but that might just have been Lois' take on it. They did eventually get all the information that they could, but it took a lot of patient questioning, mostly done by Clark, as Lois was not the patient kind.
After that, there was a murder on Carlon Avenue and a suicide on Lyndale Drive. Lois and Clark were extremely busy, running around the entire day. By the time they got to go home, they were both beat. Lois was especially worn out because she had not been feeling all that well this morning.
Lois and Clark were driving down the road in Lois' jeep. Lois, for the second time recently, was in the passenger seat, being a good deal more exhausted than Clark was after all the events of today. Clark looked over at her and sighed. She looked so weary, and like she needed quite a bit of special care to make her feel better. So when he said to her, "Come on, Lois. You look like you need some pampering. Let's go over to my place, watch a movie or two, and just let me take care of you. Okay?" he meant it as one friend to the other, nothing more.
"Well…" Lois wasn't sure what to say. The idea of having Clark "pampering" her *was* pretty appealing, and she bet he could make her feel really good, but there was a nagging voice in her head telling her that she should be doing this with Lex. She opted to ignore it. "Okay." She smiled a little, trying not to hear the guilty little voices, the one telling her it was not nice to Lex to feel so good being with Clark and the other telling her it was not nice to Clark to like him so much but stay with Lex. She was just going to have a nice evening. An evening with Clark. Perhaps an intimate dinner and relaxing conversation. Perhaps more.
When they got to Clark's house, Clark parked the jeep and they both got out. Clark would have opened Lois' door for her, but she was too quick and was on the curb before he even shut his door. He did, however, get to open his apartment door for her.
"Sit down, take off your shoes, get comfortable," Clark invited. "I'll cook something for us. Any preferences?"
"Mmm. Surprise me." A smile tugged at her lips at the thought of Clark cooking for her. Of course, it wouldn't be a surprise, as she fully intended to go into the kitchen and watch him cook.
"Okay. But first, I'm going to change. You're welcome to borrow anything in my closet or dresser, if you want to change, too."
Clark went into his bedroom and quickly changed into a t-shirt and jeans, not at super-speed, but at the speed of a human male. And, as everyone knows, the human male can change clothes at approximately .0000125 the speed of light.* He came back into the living room, where Lois was sitting on the couch. "Go ahead. I'll be in the kitchen, deciding what to make."
[*the speed of light is roughly 3.00 x 10^8 m/s, or for the less scientifically inclined, 300,000,000 m/s. A closer measure, which can be used if more accuracy is desired, is 299,792,458 m/s. Clark changing clothes at any fraction of the speed of light is merely a figure of speech, and cannot be figured directly, because Clark does not change clothes in the same units that light travels in, namely meters per second.]
Lois walked into Clark's bedroom with a little grin on her face. She opened the closet, but found nothing but suits and ties there. Nothing she could change into to be more comfortable. She walked over to his dresser and pulled the top drawer open. There were some t-shirts and sweatshirts there. She grabbed a dark blue sweatshirt that said "We're on a mission from God," and had a picture of the Blues Brothers on it. She shut the drawer. The second drawer had more sweatshirts and t-shirts. The third had jeans, sweatpants, and shorts. She grabbed a pair of black shorts that had elastic at the top and would probably fit her. It was a good thing that Clark had a pretty lean waist. What size would he wear in women's clothing? Ten? Fourteen? Twelve? Lois giggled a little at the bizarre thought.
She took off her dress suit and stockings and put on the shorts and sweatshirt. Then she folded her outfit carefully so that it didn't wrinkle. She looked at herself in Clark's full length mirror and smiled. The clothes were a little baggy, and she looked kind of childish and cute, if she did say so herself. She was comfortable, anyway, in Clark's clothes.
She wandered barefoot into the kitchen, creeping up behind Clark, putting her hands on his arms and her chin on his shoulder. "What're we cooking?" she asked softly into his ear.
Clark smiled at the feeling. "Nothing yet. And anyway, you aren't cooking. I am. So you can watch or go watch TV or whatever."
"I wanna watch," Lois said. She jumped up onto the counter and crossed her legs, smiling sweetly at Clark.
Clark grinned back. She looked so cute, sitting there in his clothes, on his kitchen counter… He was glad he'd suggested it. He started to get the stuff out he'd need for a simple pasta dish, and then realized that the pot he normally used to boil the water was in the cabinet above Lois' head. He walked over to her and leaned forward.
Lois was surprised by his actions, and was confused. She suffered a moment of panic, not knowing what he was doing, and not knowing what she was supposed to do. Clark rescued her unknowingly by asking her to move forward a little so that he didn't hit her on the head with the cupboard door. Relieved, she did as he asked. Clark reached over and up, moving other pans out of the way to get the one he wanted. This action placed their faces very close together.
Lois could feel his hot breath on her lips, and the heat of his body seemed to surround her. It felt… cozy, but with a certain amount of tension, just enough to be thrilling. All too soon, Clark pulled away with the dish he'd wanted. Lois bit her lip in embarrassment at what she'd been feeling. Okay, so he was really sexy and really sweet, and really close to her. Was that any reason to get all hot? Well… maybe. And she had to admit, she *was* sexually attracted to Clark. There was no denying that. Who wouldn't be?
As she was thinking these things, she was watching Clark measure water into the pan he had just gotten. The way his muscles rippled under the tight t-shirt gave her goosebumps. At first, she tried to stop herself from thinking this way, but then she just let it go. He had to know she was attracted to him, and she was almost positive he felt the same way. And since they were best friends, why not… indulge each other by being the object of and maybe satisfying a little bit of lust? It was one of the perks of having a best friend of the opposite sex. She was tired of fighting her attraction to him. She knew she'd eventually give in sometime, and now was as good as any.
Clark put the pot of water on to boil and moved over to Lois. "Now we've got a few minutes," he said. He walked fairly close to her, and she put her hands on his shoulders. "What do you want to do?"
Lois gulped, suddenly feeling the full effect of the extremely suggestive position they were in. She was sitting on the counter, arms on Clark's shoulders. He was leaning against the counter between her legs, hands on her waist. If she moved forward just a couple of inches… It would be so easy. She wondered if Clark could hear her heart racing.
Clark felt the sudden urge to blush furiously at how close he had placed himself to Lois. He backed up, looking at the floor. He'd had no business doing that, moving up to her like that or putting his hands on her waist. Of course, she *had* put her hands on his shoulders and uncrossed her legs to allow him to move closer. It had certainly seemed like an invitation. Had it been one?
Lois felt embarrassed because she had obviously embarrassed Clark. She jumped off of the counter, which placed her, once again, close to Clark, their bodies almost touching. Clark quickly stepped backward, startled. He wasn't sure what she was thinking, but *his* thoughts were entirely too clear.
"Let's, ah, start a movie," Lois suggested.
"Sure," said Clark. They walked into the living room. "What do you want to see?"
"How about 'The Breakfast Club'?"
"Ah, a cult hit of the '80s. Great." Lois allowed herself a delighted grin as she watched Clark move over to the videos and bend to look for the one he wanted. 'Damn,' she thought, 'I'm gonna like this!' She smothered her countenance back to a friendly smile as Clark turned around, the lustful gleam in her eyes diminishing enough to be undetectable. Well, almost undetectable. It didn't matter, she concluded, because Clark would figure it out soon enough.
Clark sat on the couch after putting the movie in the VCR and turning it on. It was rewound from the last time he had watched it. Lois had figured him for that type of person. His apartment was incredibly neat for a bachelor pad— it only seemed natural that all his videos would be rewound.
Lois moved closer to Clark, resting her head on his shoulder. She shifted a couple of times to get comfortable. Clark put his arm around her and she smiled, leaning into him contentedly. Despite nagging doubts about Lex, Lois was enjoying herself. She'd never promised Lex that she'd date only him, or that she would stay away from other men.
Clark felt confused. Lois seemed like she liked him… really *liked* him, all of a sudden. She was snuggling up against him, and then there was that incident in the kitchen. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that stuff like that didn't just accidentally happen. *Had* it been an invitation? What was she trying to do here? Whatever it was, it was great. He felt almost overwhelmed by her, but thrilled at the same time. Maybe after all this time of one-sided love, she was finally coming to love him.
Glancing at him sideways, Lois realized that Clark wasn't paying much attention to the movie. She grinned, attempting to guess what he was thinking. She cuddled up a bit closer to him, placing her hand on his thigh. Pretty comfortable.
They sat that way for a little while. Then, Clark excused himself to go check to see if the water was boiling. He didn't really need to check; he knew it was boiling. He just had to put the pasta in. Lois followed him into the kitchen, watching as he poured spiral macaroni into the boiling water and put another pot on the stove. He didn't put anything in it yet, and did not turn on the flame under it. He went to the refrigerator and took out a plastic container of homemade sauce. He poured it into the other pot. He added some frozen stir-fry vegetables to it and turned on the flame underneath.
As he stirred the macaroni and the sauce, Lois went behind him and leaned against his back. She put her arms around his waist and rested her head on the back of his neck. In a low voice, she asked, "Did you make the sauce yourself?"
"Yeah," he replied, slightly distracted from her words by her voice. "My mom showed me how a while ago."
"That's nice." Clark could feel Lois' words vibrate in her chest and throat. Lois closed her eyes and just leaned against him comfortably. Clark continued to stir the contents of the two pots, his thoughts whirring around wildly in his head much as the macaroni beginning to float swirled around in its confined space as he stirred it.
Behind his head, Lois smiled as she sensed his confused thoughts. She wasn't the only one who was fighting desire here. Clark wasn't going to be difficult, she knew that. It was strange. He wasn't an easy person, typically. She'd seen other women go after him, women who really knew how to play the game, and he'd always resisted. But with *her*… Had it always been like this and she was just seeing it now? Or had something just snapped with both of them?
All too soon, the cooking was done, and it was time to eat. He reluctantly broke from Lois' embrace, and got two bowls from the cabinet. He set them on the table while he drained the pasta. He filled the dishes, pouring the sauce and vegetables over the pasta, and got drinks for them both. They went back into the living room to finish the movie while they ate.
Leaning forward to set her empty bowl on the table, Lois groaned at a pain in her back. "I must've hurt it doing something," she said.
"Here," said Clark, "let me help."
"Oh, that's okay…" she began.
"Come on, Lois."
"Well… okay." She smiled.
"Lie down, face down, on the couch."
Lois did as he directed, and shuddered deliciously as his hands touched her back, massaging all the tension and pain out of them. She moaned as his fingers hit upon a particularly tender spot.
Clark leaned down, his mouth next to her ear. "Good?" he asked.
"Mmmmmm…" she replied, as his hands set her skin on fire. Good didn't even begin to describe it! Lois was sure she'd never felt this much desire before. This was ten times as intense as what she'd felt during that kiss in the honeymoon suite of the Lexor hotel. And, as his large warm hands traveled over her back, she decided to do something about it. She turned over, pushing his hands off, and kissed him. Hard.
Clark was surprised by her actions, but he was not displeased. He responded to her enthusiastically, reveling in her questing hands, her demanding lips.
"Clark…" she whispered.
Clark's brain faintly recognized that she was not merely saying his name, that she was trying to say something to him. "Hmmmm?"
"Let's do it. Let's make love." Her statement was punctuated with kisses. "Please." It was only a whisper.
The request burned itself into Clark's mind. The meaning hit him in an admirably short amount of time, even for Superman. "Lois…" he began, but trailed off. He needed to ask if she was sure, if this was right. But it certainly *felt* right. This was, after all, *Lois* begging him with her words and actions, Lois pressing into his hands, into his body.
Lois felt his hesitation, and somehow misinterpreted it. "Clark, this *is* okay, right? You want this just as much as I do?"
*She* was asking *him* if he was okay with this! If the situation hadn't been quite so intense, he would have laughed. Of *course* he wanted this. It was what he'd dreamed about since he met her! He lifted her off the couch and carried her into the bedroom. Just before he laid her down on the bed, he looked into her eyes. "Are *you* sure?" he asked. "Are you sure this is what you want?" That she wanted a real, serious relationship with him? That she was ready to take all of him, his secret included? That she loved him?
"Yes. Oh, yes."
It was, perhaps, wrong of him to assume that she heard and understood the unvoiced questions he had attached to the one that was voiced. It was, perhaps, wrong of her to assume that he had only the lowest and most instinctive of expectations from this situation. Clark's overestimation of Lois and her underestimation of him would have complicated this beyond belief if they had only been revealed. But, the thing about private assumptions is that they *are* private, and, in this case, very, very dangerous.
Lois and Clark lay cuddled up on the bed, exhausted and sweaty. Clark nuzzled Lois' neck. "I love you, Lois," he murmured. "I have loved you ever since I met you." He brushed a strand of hair out of her face. "I must be the happiest man in the world."
Lois smiled back at him, but she didn't feel like smiling. In fact, she felt close to sick inside. He… he *loved* her? This couldn't be happening. That meant that he thought this was out of love. He thought that she loved him. All she had wanted was a sort of one-night thing that didn't mean very much. It had been a spur- of-the-moment thing. She thought he'd understood that and felt the same, but she had been wrong.
She felt the chill of panic race down her spine and shoot icicles along her bloodstream. Goosebumps appeared on her arms, and her breathing was shallow and quick. Her heart rate raced to another spectacular height, but this time it wasn't a pleasant feeling.
She looked at him. He was asleep now, handsome and happy. "What have I done?" she asked herself. "How could I have misread him so badly?" More importantly, "What am I going to do?" She didn't love him. No matter what happened now, she'd hurt him. Unless she played along, pretended to love him… no, that would hurt worse when he found out that she was pretending. She couldn't fake a relationship with Clark. But then, that only left… telling him now how she felt.
"I can't do that. I can't face him. Not like this." She couldn't wake up naked next to him and say that she didn't love him. No way in hell. She just couldn't face this situation. She had to escape, and she had to do it now.
Slowly, she moved away from him. He moaned in protest, and she froze, afraid that he'd wake up, but he remained asleep. She got out of bed, hating herself the whole time, and dressed quickly. The chill of the night air matched the feeling that she had inside her as it rushed to greet her skin. She left the apartment and got into her car.
It was two o'clock in the morning, and the darkness outside seemed to accuse her. It pressed around the car, trying to get in. Lois tried her hardest to ignore it as she drove to her apartment. She let herself in, her hands shaking so badly she could hardly fit the key into its keyhole. She shut the door behind her, and leaned against it.
She didn't want to sleep. She didn't think she could. Just to have something to do, she pulled out her tax files and began to sort through them. Math would keep her from thinking about Clark, now wouldn't it? It was the kind of thing that wouldn't allow your mind to wander, right? Wrong. No matter what she did, her mind kept drifting back to what had happened such a short time ago.
Maybe she shouldn't have run away. Maybe he would have understood. Somehow she doubted that he would have felt anything but hurt at the unfair way she had treated him. And he deserved to feel hurt. She would have felt hurt if the same thing had happened to her. She had in the past. Claude. A name she'd rather forget. Was that how she'd be to Clark in the future: Lois, the woman who had hurt him so badly, scaring him away from all other relationships? She remembered the feeling she'd had when she'd woken up without Claude beside her. And now, because of her, Clark would experience that.
There was no way for her to act that was fair to him. No way for her to cushion the blow. And the end result was that she'd lost her best friend, probably forever. So why had she run? She was scared of a relationship with Clark? Why was she so scared of that? Lois wasn't sure, but it was too late to have one now, wasn't it? She'd made her move in a panic, and even now that she'd had time to take a few deep breaths, it was too late to take it back. Even so, she still wondered… had her instinct been right?
At 6:30 in the morning, Clark's alarm clock went off, waking him out of a deep sleep. He shut it off and turned to face Lois. He reached for her with his eyes shut, but opened them when his hands didn't touch her. She wasn't there. His blood suddenly turned ice- cold. He used his x-ray vision to make a sweep of the apartment. "Please, no…" he whispered, but his worst nightmare had come true. She wasn't there. She had left while he was asleep. He clenched his fists tightly. "Lois, why?" he asked the empty air. "Why?"
He had to get out of there. He felt sick. He flew out of his apartment and up, up, higher and faster than normal. His anger fueled him, spurring him on to fly faster than he had ever gone before, flying into the sun. He gave no thought to the danger of this. If he suffocated or burned up, he wouldn't have to face Lois when he went to work. If he was blinded by the glare, he wouldn't have to see her.
But nothing like that happened, and he flew on, stopping on Mercury, as the churning, searing hot planet matched his mood. He screamed, causing a large disruption on the planet's surface, avalanches that disfigured previously untouched cliffs. Then, he flew back to Earth, knowing he had to go to work. He hadn't died, hadn't run out of oxygen. It was almost too bad.
He landed in his apartment, after taking a detour to the most desolate places on Earth and deciding that he liked Mercury better even if he couldn't stay there for very long due to the hostile atmosphere. He dressed for work and was there at 7:30, only an hour after his world had been turned into a living hell.
The elevator doors opened onto a battlefield as he entered the newsroom. It was deceptively calm, and would remain so, as the fight would be mental. It would be a nonphysical struggle for sanity, one which both combatants were slated to lose as the day wore on.
Clark glanced around, almost fearfully, until he saw her. The one woman who had ever really meant anything to him. The only one that he loved. The woman he hated most in the entire world. Ironic, that these two emotions, most extreme and most opposite of all, should be merged to create his feeling for her. Ironic, and a heavy psychological burden to place on a man, even a superman.
She hadn't looked up, hadn't seen him yet. Once she did, this tentative peace would be over. He didn't want to move, didn't want to draw her attention away from her computer screen. He didn't want to leave the relative safety of the area around the elevators. Here was the high ground, where he was in control because he was above the situation and could see any approaching threats. But he had to enter the low area, where dangerous things awaited.
Lois knew he was there, could sense his presence as soon as the elevator doors opened. She didn't dare look up. What he must think of her! She couldn't face him. In a way, it would be worse than it would have been to talk in his bed with no armor on. Here, they had to maintain a pretense of civility. They had to get their job done.
Finally, Clark forced himself to walk down that ramp into the sea of reporters and desks. He carefully circumnavigated Lois' desk, giving it a wide berth. He sat at his own desk, wishing it weren't so near hers. There was only silence and tension now. No "Clark, do you want any coffee?" No talk about a story. Nothing.
Nothing, that was, until Jimmy came up to Clark's desk. "Hey, CK! The Chief wants to see you and Lois."
"Both of us?"
"Yeah, of course. You're a *team,* remember?"
A team. Right. Great team, just like gasoline and matches, nitroglycerin and an earthquake, a nuclear bomb and Hiroshima, Sigourney Weaver and extra-terrestrials. In any situation, key ingredients for disaster. "Fine. Jimmy, would you tell Lois?"
"Can't you just…" he trailed off as he caught the full force of Clark's expression. "Okay," he said meekly. He turned around, wondering when Clark had learned to communicate telepathically. "Lois? Perry wants you in his office." He didn't mention Clark. Judging from *his* reaction, hers would not be pretty.
"Fine," she replied. She got up and walked into the editor-in- chief's office. Her body tensed as her eyes involuntarily focused on Clark. She wrenched her gaze away as Perry began telling them about a story he wanted them on.
He was speaking slowly, Clark realized. It was a sure sign that he knew something had happened, but had no idea in Graceland what it was. He finished his instructions and looked at the pair. It was a difficult feat, as they were not next to each other as normal, but as far apart as they could justify being. "Okay?" he asked them.
"Good. Now scram." Perry sat down at his desk, terrified. Lois and Clark, it seemed, had had some sort of a fight. Not a normal fight, but something had happened. Something bad. Had it been a fight, they would both have been irate, with Clark controlling it a good deal better than Lois. But Clark had been the only one to seem even minimally angry. He also looked extremely hurt. Lois was apparently afraid to have any sort of contact with her partner, as if she were ashamed. Both seemed truly afraid of the other. What horror had befallen his two top reporters? Perry didn't know, but he swore to resolve it before it ruined him.
Lois and Clark walked to the elevator. They spoke not a word, by mutual consent. Both were praying that someone would get in the elevator with them. Thankfully, someone did. It was Cat. She only rode down to the lobby, not the parking lot, though. Lois and Clark had to spend the last ten seconds of the elevator ride painfully alone together. It seemed like ten hours. Finally the doors opened, and they sprinted out, eager for a breath of fresh air, eager to escape the claustrophobic area.
But now they faced a new problem: Lois' car. They would have to both be in it at the same time. It couldn't be helped. Lois got in on the driver's side, and Clark on the passenger side. She stared stonily out the windshield, and he out the window, which he opened as soon as the car was started. He didn't want to breathe the car air, scented lightly by Lois' perfume.
They made it to the interview without killing each other or themselves. They spoke not one word to each other, just to the interviewee, who assumed that they thought alike so much that there was no need for verbal communication between the reporters. They let her think that, not wanting to get into the real reason.
After they returned to the Planet, they had to deal with the difficult part: writing the story. They'd need to ask each other's opinions, and write it together. They didn't feel like doing anything as a team. They managed the task, by Lois writing and Clark agreeing to just about everything. When he did point something out, she did not argue with him. Lois sent the story over the LAN to Perry.
The Chief read the story, and was appalled. It was good work, but one of the worst stories he had ever seen with the byline "Lane & Kent." Jimmy could almost have written it. He was going to have to do something. But not yet. Everything might be better by tomorrow.
That night, Lois went home exhausted. The difficulty of keeping away from Clark had totally drained her. That, combined with the zero sleep she had gotten last night, caused her to collapse on her bed without even having anything for dinner or getting undressed.
One of the downsides to going to bed so early is that one always wakes before one wants to, and has far too much time on one's hands. Lois was put in this position the next morning. She got up with cotton mouth and a stiff neck. She took off her dress suit and set it aside to be dry-cleaned. She removed underwear and pantyhose, and walked into the bathroom for a shower.
In passing, she caught a glimpse of her own naked body in the mirror. She shuddered, disgusted at the sight of the traitorous piece of flesh that had caused all this to happen. Why had she given in to the sexual temptation? Had she but known the consequences… She stepped into the bathroom and then into the shower, trying to prepare herself for another day like yesterday.
Clark, also, was exhausted, and that was a rare thing for him to feel. His other main emotion, which was perhaps not quite as rare, was anger. Anger at himself for not understanding what Lois had obviously intended. Anger at Lois for knowing his feelings and taking advantage of that. She had *known!* She had understood how he felt about her, and she had led him on. She had let him feel how it could be, how he had dreamed that it could be, given him a taste of ambrosia, and then denied him a hope of ever having it again.
She was like cocaine to him. Every time he saw her, touched her, talked to her, it went right to the pleasure centers of his brain. But now she was gone, and he was suffering withdrawal as no one but an ex-addict could even imagine. The stimulant was gone, and his brain was no longer able to be happy without her. He had forgotten how.
And what he wouldn't give for just one more fix.
But that was it, exactly. He still wanted her. He still needed her. He *couldn't* hate her. He could only hate himself for not being strong enough to live without her, not being strong enough to drop her the way she had dropped him. And there was sadness. Lots of sadness, lots of regret. Sunt lacrimae rerum. Indeed, there were many tears for things, as Virgil had once said. Tears for things that he couldn't change and, in a way, didn't want to. He didn't want to give up his memories of Lois.
When Lois and Clark walked in, separately, Perry knew that they had not resolved the problem by themselves. Most likely, they badly needed to talk to each other, and they were too upset to let that happen. Neither wanted to be the one to start the conversation. Perry could easily remedy that situation by being the one to start it. "LOIS!!! CLARK!!!" he bellowed. "In my office, on the double!!"
The reporters rushed in. Everyone at the Planet knew better than to go at less than top speed into the Chief's office when he used that tone and volume of voice. Perry led the reporters into the conference room, where no one could hear what they were saying.
"Now," he said, "I know you two have been having some major troubles, personally,"
"Chief…" Lois protested, but trailed off at his glare.
"And I have given you time to work it out alone, but I can see that you aren't going to do that without a little push. Do you want to talk to me about it?"
Lois and Clark looked away.
"Okay. Then talk to each other."
"Now?" Lois asked.
"Yes, now. This little feud is ruining my newsroom and my best reporting team. Not to mention two of the people I care most about in the world. I want you to discuss whatever it is, and when you're done, you can come out. But until then…" Perry left, locking the door behind him.
"He locked us in!" Lois exclaimed indignantly.
"He wants us to talk. No distractions."
"Fine," she sighed. "I think we need to talk, anyway."
"So do I." Clark ran a hand through his hair and paced a little, sure signs that he was frustrated. "Lois, I just have to know. What was it? What happened that made you… leave?"
"Lois, please. Tell me. I think I deserve to know. Was it that bad?" he asked, only half-joking.
"Clark, no. It was… incredible."
"But?" he prompted.
"I got scared, I ran. I'm sorry."
"Lois, you don't have to be scared of this. I'm not going to hurt you."
"It's not that. I was scared because I didn't know what to do, what to say to you. That night… I don't know what I was thinking. But whatever it was, I was wrong. We can't ever have a… a sexual relationship, Clark. That's not right for us." She hated doing this to him. His face, his eyes… she could see his heart breaking in them. But she had to do this. "We're friends, you know? We're friends, Clark, and that's all we were destined to be. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. It was wrong of me to… to take advantage of your feelings when all I wanted was…" She sighed.
"Lois, are you trying to tell me that you didn't feel anything? Nothing at all?" He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had felt something incredible, something so *right.*
"Clark, I felt a lot of things. But they were all physical. And I just…" She broke off and paused for a minute. "It shouldn't have happened. None of it should have happened. I want us to be friends. If I could take back that night, I would, but I can't. I just wish we could go back to the way it was. If we could just forget that night…" Lois trailed off, knowing how terrible that sounded, how much she was asking him for.
"Do *you* think you could ever forget it?" Clark asked quietly.
Lois looked down. "No."
"And neither will I. But, if that's what you really want, for us to put it behind us, I'll try to give you that. But if you ever change your mind, you know how I feel. That will never change. I'm not locking any doors, not burning any bridges, and you shouldn't, either. If you ever want to go back… just say the word."
"I know. I know. But please, remember that. I'll always be yours, Lois. I'm not going to say it again, after we leave this room. I'll keep my promise to put all this behind me." He put a gentle hand to her cheek. "But for now, while we're being honest about our feelings, let me say it just one more time." He looked deep, deep into her teary eyes, and she could see the pain in his own. "I love you, Lois, and I always will." He bent to kiss her, a short kiss that was their final taste of each other. As it ended, so ended the affair that had wreaked havoc on their lives.
Clark straightened up, took his hand from her face, and backed away. He handed Lois a tissue to wipe her tears with. Then he walked over to the door and knocked to get Jimmy's attention. Jimmy got Perry, who unlocked the door. Lois and Clark went silently back to their desks.
Lois sat down, thinking about what had just happened. Clark had given her more than she could have possibly hoped for, and been more understanding than anyone else in the world would have been in the same situation. Still, it hurt so much to be the cause of such terrible pain to her best friend. And it hurt not to be able to love him the way he deserved her to love him. Whoever said love is hell was a smart man.
"Come on, Lois," said Clark's voice from behind her. "We've got a story to do."
She turned to face him, seeing right through his attempt at a pleasant business-like smile. "I'm right behind you," she replied.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Lois was finishing her dinner with Lex in his penthouse in the sky. She sat back and sipped her champagne as she talked with Lex.
"Lois," he said, "you have no idea how much you mean to me, your being here with me. I feel like the luckiest man on Earth. Ever since I made my fortune, I've felt… alone, somehow. Thousands of people know me, but no one bothers to *really* know me. No one, that is, except you."
"Well, Lex, I…"
"Wait. Let me speak. You are the most important thing in my world, and that's why I want to say, 'Omnia vincit amor, et nos credamus amori.' Love overcomes all things, let us, too, yield to love." He pulled out a small box and proffered it to her. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh! Oh, Lex, I don't know what to say."
"Well, there's only a few things you could say. Yes? No? Maybe?"
"Maybe… I need time to think about this. I mean, it's a really big decision, and…"
"Take your time, darling. You have all the time in the world. But in the meanwhile, shall we dance?" He swirled her up into his arms and they swayed to soft classical music.
That night, Lois lay in bed, confused. She didn't really know what to do about this. Lex wanted her to marry him. Lex Luthor wanted *her* to marry him! She should be thrilled, she should say yes immediately! Why was she stopping? Well, there were three reasons: Superman, Clark, and herself.
She wasn't sure if *she* wanted a lifetime commitment to anyone. Lex's offer was attractive, sure enough, but it was a little overwhelming. To spend the rest of her life with Lex… was that what she wanted? She'd have power, prestige, money, not to mention a really good way to get valuable information for her job. What people wouldn't do for Lois Lane, they certainly would do for Mrs. Lex Luthor. The very name had power.
But then there was Clark. If she married Lex, she couldn't do so with a clean conscience— she would be effectively burning the bridge he had wanted her to fireproof. Clark loved her, and if she married Lex, he would be terribly hurt. Hadn't she hurt him enough already? He would be especially hurt since he offered her the same thing that Lex offered: a lifetime commitment and love. Why accept Lex's offer rather than Clark's? Did she love Lex? She might. She wasn't sure.
And then there was Superman. She loved Superman; she knew that. But did he return her feelings? She wasn't going to wait around forever for a ship that might never come in. She had to find out. If he loved her, then she would refuse Lex's proposal. If he said that he did not return her feelings, she'd say yes to Lex.
She told Clark the next day that she needed to speak to Superman. He could always find the super hero for some reason. She didn't tell Clark about Lex's proposal. She just couldn't do it. Maybe she'd ask Superman's advice on how to break it to him. He was a guy, and apparently as close to Clark as a brother— he'd probably know.
That night, she sat in her living room, looking at a magazine. She wasn't exactly reading it. Well, she was reading it, but she had no idea what it said. She had read the same page three times, and still hadn't actually seen any of the sentences, only jumbled words.
Suddenly, there was a familiar sound at the window. The man in blue appeared, pushing open the panes of glass that were always unlocked. "Lois?" he asked. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes. Yes, I did. I have something really important to say. Last night, I was having dinner with Lex, and he said, well, he asked me to marry him."
Superman's face betrayed his shock. "What did you say?" he asked, almost fearfully.
"I told him I didn't know, that I had to think about it." He looked relieved. "Superman, I actually want to ask you two things. First, I don't really know how to tell Clark. I'm afraid he'll be… upset by the news."
"I wouldn't blame him."
"Yeah, neither would I. You're his friend, do you know how I should go about telling him?"
"I don't think there is a best way to tell him, just do it soon. Don't wait."
"That's what I figured you'd say. But this other thing… I just need to know how you feel. Because I guess it's no secret that I love you. And this kind of forced my hand. So, I just really need to know."
Superman looked down, his stomach churning. He'd never felt this sick in his whole life. Kryptonite would almost have been better. "Lois, you don't know enough about me to understand what you're asking."
"I want to know." She said the words softly, begging him to be hers.
He nodded grimly. "All right. I wasn't raised on Krypton like everyone thinks. I was born there, but sent to Earth as a baby. So, although I didn't become Superman until just recently, I've been here almost my whole life. I was raised as a human."
"Are you saying that you have some sort of other life? A… a secret identity?"
"Sort of. I'm saying that *this* is a disguise to protect my real life. My normal, human life. 'Superman' isn't real, it's a job. A job can't love. I can't ever give you Superman's love— it's not mine to give. Superman belongs to all of Metropolis."
"But what about you? The real person?"
"The real person. The real person had never been in love, never even been with a woman before you. You are the only one that I could ever love. I told you that I'd always love you, that I was yours forever, and you wouldn't have me."
"Oh, my…" Her voice caught in her throat. "Clark?" she whispered hoarsely.
"Superman, Clark, Kal-El… they're all me," he said. "Oh, Lois. If you only had loved me, the real me, I could have given you everything, shown you the world like you've never seen it before. We could've had it all." His voice was full of pain. "Why, Lois? Why Superman?"
"Oh, Clark, I…" She hung her head in defeat.
"So now we both know the whole story. You can't have Superman and won't have Clark. That leaves me pretty well out of the picture. I wish things were different, Lois, but they aren't, and here we are in the middle of them, like it or not. I suppose I can't give you any reason not to marry Lex. None that you'd accept, anyway. I can just ask you, please, don't. You don't know Lex like I do. He's not a good man. But I can't control your life, and even if I could, I'd rather see you married to Lex and happy than single and miserable, but if you think that… that there's any chance for… oh, I don't know how to say this. I don't want you to burn any bridges, but if that's what you need to do…" He didn't finish. "Goodbye, Lois. I'll see you at the Planet tomorrow." "Goodbye, Clark. I'm sorry," she whispered.
He smiled ruefully at her. "It's okay. You do what you need to be happy. It'll be best for both of us in the long run." With that, he flew out her window.
Lois stared into space long after she could no longer see him. Then she put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth. Her mind functioned best when she was in bed late at night, and she had a lot of thinking to do. She got under the covers and let her brain try to sort out what she was feeling. Clark didn't want her to act out of pity toward him; if she didn't love him, then she should marry Lex. Superman wasn't in the picture any more— he didn't exist. It felt foolish to have fallen in love with someone who wasn't real. And Clark— she had hurt him more than she had ever imagined. Having to see her be enraptured by Superman while ignoring Clark must've been so difficult, since he knew that Clark was the only real person.
And after she'd caused him all this pain, he was expecting what? Nothing other than more of the same heartbreak. Even if she did love him, she wouldn't deserve him. Who was she, Estella? Giving nothing but pain to the one who loved her more than anything?
Lois did not like the comparison. It was too close to the truth. Estella had been cold, heartless, cruel. Lois was not like that; she at least had feelings. Or was she more similar to the character than she thought? That Charles Dickens was a menace, Lois decided, and left it at that.
This whole thing, Clark, Superman… it just was too much. She *didn't* love Clark, *couldn't* love Superman, and Lex… well, that was a tough one. She wasn't sure about Lex. She might love him. She *could* love him. Ah, that was the key. There were possibilities with Lex, promise. And what did Lois Lane want? Clark, who would provide safety, security, and unconditional love? Lex, who would provide a challenge, mystery, power, and the possibility of mutual love?
She knew, ultimately, who she would choose. Lois Lane never accepted a passive, no frills life. She needed the danger, the excitement. Strange that she didn't think of Superman as exciting and dangerous, but he had revealed himself to be Clark, plain old mild-mannered Clark. Not that he wouldn't probably have a few tricks up his blue spandex sleeves, but Superman was an acting job; Clark wasn't really like that. He was the safe side. And Lois felt that she belonged in the fast lane.
She thought she had made her decision, but one thought still plagued her. "Are you sure this is what you want?" Clark's words to her just before they had made love. Her answer was less sure this time.
EIGHT DAYS LATER
Lois sat on her couch, looking at the rock on her hand. She sighed. Her choice had been made, and now she would just have to wait to see if it had been the right one or not. Clark had been so sad when she'd told him. He'd known it was going to happen— he'd realized it before she had— but, it still came as a shock, to actually see the ring on her finger. Maybe he had secretly hoped that she'd change her mind, come running up to him, saying that she loved him… Maybe she should have. Could she have learned to love Clark?
"No!" she reprimanded herself. She couldn't allow herself to think like this! It was too close to the way the little voices had convinced her it was okay to sleep with Clark. She had already committed to a course of action, and she couldn't back down now. But still, the look on Clark's face would have been enough to make Godzilla stop and ponder the consequences of his actions.
He'd been rather cold to her today. In fact, he'd been cold since she'd told him of her engagement. It wasn't an icy, stony, angry feeling, but a air of distance that came from not wanting to be around her. If she hadn't lost her best friend already, she'd done it now. Maybe he did have a bit of anger towards her. She deserved it. Lord knew she deserved it! She turned her thoughts to her upcoming wedding. They had decided on a short engagement. Practically as short as an elopement. It gave the media less time to spread rumors, to find out what was happening. It was only three weeks long, and the first week was already over. But there were so many people working on the wedding that everything could have been done by today if they had wanted that. She was glad the wedding was so soon. As long as she was unmarried, she kept wanting to change her mind. It was wrong of her to think that way, but she knew the daydreams and fantasies wouldn't go away until she was married. Then there was no way to turn back, even if she convinced herself that she should.
The wedding itself was horribly expensive, not unlike the ring she wore on her left hand. They had decided to have it in a huge ornate cathedral, specially selected for its long aisle. Her gown was fantastic, all white silk and lace, with white and rose pearls dancing across it. She almost didn't want to touch it, for fear that she would degrade it somehow.
Lois knew almost nothing about the reception. It had been planned to suit whatever Lex had in mind. She had not chosen the bridesmaids' dresses, although she *was* permitted to choose the bridesmaids. What an honor, she thought sarcastically. She didn't pick the chef to make the wedding cake, or what it would look like. The gown hadn't even been her choice. The whole time it was being designed, it was "Oh, Lois, this will look fabulous," and, "No, we wouldn't want to do that," and, "I think we should put some more pearls *here*." Nobody let her say that she wanted it to be simpler. ("If you wanted a simple wedding, you should've married a simple man!") Nobody let her have any say in the details of anything. ("Now, you leave that to me, dearie. I'm a professional!") So Lois for once allowed herself to be pushed out of the way. Maybe she'd be lucky and there would be some party crashers to liven things up. Now there was a funny thought. Lex would be horrified, of course.
Overall, she hated this. It was like she was losing control, and had been since she'd agreed to marry Lex. He'd seen her answer as some sort of submission, allowing him to do what he wanted because he *knew* she'd agree with it if he asked her. So, why even bother asking her? But maybe he would change once they were married.
Maybe he wouldn't. Maybe she should break off the engagement and run to Clark. Maybe no one would even miss her— she didn't have much to do with the wedding anyway. She hated doubting her own decision just as much as she hated not being involved in her wedding. She'd chosen the path that made the most sense, right? Why did she keep leaning toward the other way? What was wrong with her? This must be those pre-wedding jitters you always hear so much about.
There was good reason to be afraid. She was shutting all the doors, locking herself in a cage, abandoning her freedom. Why was she doing this? Suddenly, she felt like a caged bird, panicking and desperate to fly away. She tried to shake off the frightening feeling. She couldn't bolt, not now.
But adrenaline had her blood pumping, and she just had to *do* something. She left her apartment and drove until she came to the high school. She parked the car and jogged over to the deserted track. She could see enough by street lights and moonlight that she could run. She needed to be here instead of on the streets, here where she could run blindly and safely. She forced herself to stretch, and then took off.
Wind tugged at her hair and at her clothes. She was going as fast as she could, but still wanted to be going faster. She wished that she could fly, the way Clark could. How many times had he vented his frustration by flying somewhere? Would the entire world be enough of a track for him?
She pushed herself harder and harder, her feet pounding away the miles. Finally the lactic acid building up in her muscles forced her to stop, and she immediately dropped to the ground with a cry of frustration. She took a few deep, ragged breaths, and managed to stand shakily. How far had she run? How many miles? Her legs felt like jelly, and she could barely walk. She managed to get back to her car, but she didn't immediately drive away.
If this was the kind of feeling that being engaged to Lex brought, then should she go through with the wedding? She didn't know if she should, but she knew that she would. It was the old Lane determination. Once she started something, she would finish it. Or was it the old Lane stupidity?
She drove home and immediately went to bed, falling asleep almost as soon has her head hit the pillow.
Lois woke, and was surprised to realize that it had all been a dream. At first, she wasn't sure, but then she looked at her hand. No ring. It was gone! No, it had never been there. She was slightly disoriented, but a drink of water soon cleared her thoughts. Clark had just flown away. Lex was still waiting for an answer.
She glanced at the clock. The number 2:34 glowed back at her. She had made her decision, but somehow, in the early morning hours, her brain was clearer and she began to re-think it. She was troubled by her dream of what an engagement to Lex would be like. She wanted to tell herself that it was just a dream, that it wouldn't really be like that, but she knew better. That was exactly the way it would be.
She had thought that she could learn to love Lex. Could she really? If she could, why couldn't she learn to love Clark? He loved her, she knew that. Both men loved her, but Clark's love was so much more unselfish than Lex's. Lex was controlling and dominant. He wanted her with a possessiveness that scared her. She was afraid of losing herself to him. Once she was Lex's, she feared that she couldn't be her own.
But Clark was different. His love was open. He did not pick up the reins as Lex would, but let her have her head. She could go where she wanted, do what she chose, and all his love meant was that his arms would always be open to her. Instead of taking her, he gave himself.
And she *did* love Clark. Try as she might to fool herself into thinking otherwise, she loved him. His gentle touch, his tender words, the way he treated her. He was much more than she deserved, so why would she refuse that for something she *did* deserve? A love like that, like every woman dreams of, and she was considering refusing it? Temporary insanity. It could have been nothing else.
Then she thought of Clark, who was probably not sleeping very well. With her and Lex, it was always she who was powerless, she who wondered if she was in over her head. But with Clark, she was behind the steering wheel. He had given her that, and she had driven him directly into hell for it. Now, the road had suddenly forked, and she wasn't going to wait any longer to take the path she should have been on all along.
She dressed quickly, but was still frustrated at how long it took. She ran out to her car and drove to Clark's apartment. Even with the minimal traffic on the road at 2:45 in the morning, it was a small miracle that she didn't kill herself, driving as she did.
After what seemed like forever, but was really about five minutes, she was at his doorstep, knocking frantically on the piece of wood that barred her from what she was here to do. "Come on, Clark, answer your damn door!" she muttered.
Clark, startled by the knocking that woke him out of a troubled sleep, took a second to put on his glasses and get to the door. Ten seconds after the knocking started, he opened it. It was a pretty good speed, considering that it *was* almost three in the morning, but it seemed like an hour to the person on the other side of the door.
Lois watched, her heart pounding in her throat as he opened the door. And there he was, in boxers and glasses, in all his masculine three a.m. glory. She flew into his arms, the strong arms that were ready and willing to hold her. She clung to him like she would never let go. "Oh, Clark, Clark, I was such an idiot," she cried, tears streaming down the sides of her face. "Can you ever forgive me?"
"Of course, Lois," he murmured, holding her tightly, almost overwhelmed. Lois had made her decision, and she had chosen him! He had expected her to go with Lex, but here she was, in his arms at three in the morning. He stroked her hair, not quite believing that she was there.
Lois buried her face in his muscular shoulder. "I love you, Clark. I love you so much." How had she ever thought otherwise? How had she ever wanted to be anywhere but here, with anyone but Clark?
He pulled back slightly, to look into her eyes. "Do you mean that, Lois? Are you sure?"
"Yes! Yes, this time I'm absolutely sure. *This* is what I want. Real, solid love." She pushed forward slightly, meeting his lips with her own. He tasted so good, even better than she remembered. She'd never felt so absolutely euphoric. She leaned heavily into him, devouring him, taking the kiss deeper every second. She almost didn't notice that they were floating, drifting toward the bedroom until they were there.
They tumbled onto the bed, and for the second time in their lives, they made love. This time, there were no illusions, no questioning of motives. Both were in love, and there were no longer any doubts or fears.
A long time later, Lois lay next to Clark, exhausted, but happier than she could ever remember being. She no longer had to deal with her decision, or with wondering if she had made the right one. She *knew* with a fierce certainty that this was right. This was what she was meant to do. She sighed, and snuggled close to her lover. In a few warm and fuzzy minutes, she was asleep.
When Lois awoke, something was terribly wrong. She reached out to touch Clark, but he was gone. The other side of the bed was empty. And, it was not Clark's bed; it was hers. She was in her apartment, wearing the nightclothes she had put on after her late night run. This had not been a dream, but last night with Clark had been. She knew that now, and the reality hit her like a falling safe in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
She was engaged to Lex.
They were still going to have the wedding in two weeks. And Clark was not speaking to her, much less spending the night with her. That part had all been a dream. It had seemed so *real* to her, but it wasn't.
Where had the dream come from? Now that was the real question. She supposed it was her nervousness about the wedding combined with sexual desire for Clark and how she missed her partner. Maybe part of it was born of wondering if she had made the right decision.
Right now it was all too much to deal with. Lois needed to take a shower and then to go to work. She was still exhausted (from the running, not from being with Clark, she reminded herself), but that was no cause to neglect her duty as a reporter.
She wasn't even sure that she wanted to see Clark right now. Last night's dream had been all too vivid, resurrecting memories of a night that was not a dream, memories that could only make her unhappy in her new life. She knew she'd eventually start comparing Clark to Lex, which would most likely lead to a dissatisfaction with Lex. That brought up the question again: if she would be satisfied with Clark, and unsatisfied with Lex, then why was she marrying Lex?
"Because I don't love Clark!" she exclaimed aloud to herself, hoping that hearing a voice saying it would make it so. She did not love Clark, and changing her mind now would only result in confusion and probably humiliation.
A little while later, she was walking in the doors to the Planet newsroom. It was the place she loved, yet it had somehow changed. It was the tension that now existed between her and Clark. It was getting to the point where it was almost unbearable. She knew he was there, and spotted him in a second. He wasn't looking at her, but at his computer screen. He looked so handsome. Those eyes, those lips, that body…
She was going insane. She was going insane, and she knew it. Maybe she should consider what Lex had advised, and take a break from the Daily Planet, just for the two remaining weeks of their engagement and then a while longer for the honeymoon. It's not like she and Clark were getting much work done together anyway, she reasoned. She deserved a vacation.
That wasn't true. Well, it was true, but those weren't her reasons for wanting a vacation. She just wanted to get away from Clark, and she knew it. What better way to quash wedding jitters than by removing the source?
She went to talk to Perry. He was surprised, to say the least, but he agreed to give her the time. Clark was downright shocked, and upset. Even though he could hardly stand the sight of her, after everything she'd done, he still loved her. And after she was gone, both Clark Kent and Superman seemed a little more downtrodden than usual to the people they interacted with.
That night, Lois went home, feeling defeated and small. She knew the decision she had made had been right, but it still hurt to leave the Planet, to leave Clark. At least her wedding would be soon. Although then she'd have to wait until the honeymoon was over before she could *finally* go back. And she didn't think Lex would cut the honeymoon time short so she could go back to work. It was just something that was not done. Of course, most people would prefer to be on their honeymoon than at work.
"Oh, what am I thinking?" Lois said to herself. This was simply downgrading her honeymoon. She was sure she'd have a great time. She was just confused right now, and she needed sleep. She closed her eyes and deadened her mind to the world.
She awoke in the position she had expected to be in yesterday morning. She was in Clark's bed, snuggled up next to him while he slept. She sat up abruptly, shocked. But this was a dream! Or had it been? Was the engagement to Lex a dream? A recurring dream? It certainly seemed like it from here.
"Lois?" Clark was awake, and confused by the look on her face. "What's the matter?"
She looked at her hand. Her ring! It was gone! "I just…" she began, "had the strangest dream…"
"What was it about? You're as white as a ghost! Are you okay?"
"I was engaged to Lex, and I fell asleep and realized it was a dream, that I wasn't engaged and you had just flown out of my window. Then I came here and fell asleep—"
"Not right away," Clark interjected.
Lois grinned a little at that. "No, not right away," she agreed. "But I woke up back in my apartment, thinking that last night was a dream, and I was really engaged to Lex. But now, I'm here, and… it seems like my engagement was a dream. Am I dreaming now?"
"No way," said Clark. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly on her bare shoulder. "This is no dream."
Lois shuddered as he ran his hands over her naked skin. "Mmmmmm… definitely not a dream…" she murmured as she leaned into an open-mouthed passionate kiss.
Clark cradled Lois easily in his arms. She sighed, resting against him. She was happy now, but she could still remember the hopelessness of her dream. And the worst part had been waking up and thinking that having Clark was a dream.
Having Clark. The words sent a delicious shiver down her spine. He noticed her happy smile and murmured into her ear, "What'cha grinning about?"
His low, throaty voice widened her smile. "About… taking," she said, deliberating salaciously over that word, "the hottest, most gorgeous, most… talented guy in the world."
"Mmmmm…" He nuzzled her neck, brushing it with her lips. She tilted her head to the side, allowing him better access.
"Oh, Clark, I love you," she sighed. "I don't want this to ever end."
"What do you want to do today?"
"Um. This is nice… Let's go out for breakfast. We've never actually had a date, and maybe we should."
"Breakfast? Too late for breakfast. How about brunch? We can have our first date over brunch."
"Having a first date after the second night with someone seems out of order."
"Nahhh. Hey, there aren't any rules." He nipped the skin under her ear.
"All's fair in love and war," Lois replied, pushing back against him.
They didn't spend that night together. Clark had a crisis on his hands, well, Superman's hands, and had to go off to Brazil. But that fact did little to dampen Lois' state of mind. She was practically floating, the way she had been all day.
But as she climbed into bed, a sort of fear overtook her. The last time she had fallen asleep, her dream had been of an engagement to Lex, and she'd had the same dream the night before that. Would it recur tonight as well? Why was this plaguing her?
The thoughts threatened to keep her awake, despite her exhaustion. She lay in bed, trying to banish them from her mind, but didn't succeed. It was almost two hours before she finally slept.
She awoke to the sound of her sister's voice. Lucy? What was she doing here?
"Lois! Lois! You have to get up, or you'll be late for the wedding!"
The wedding? Oh, the wedding! Right! Today was her wedding day to Lex. But then, Clark was…? A dream, her consciousness told her.
Wait a minute. She remembered thinking that *this* was a dream. It was all so confusing. And she knew that a person who was dreaming always thought they were awake. "So am I awake or asleep?" she asked herself. Typically, dreamers didn't ask if they were dreaming, so she must be awake. But, she had asked if she was dreaming in the… dream? It had seemed just as real as this!
It was as if every time she fell asleep, she crossed over into a different world. She kept switching back and forth between them, unable to figure out where she belonged. "Oh, this is ridiculous!" she told herself. A couple of disturbing dreams was nothing to be concerned about. Today was her *wedding day*, and she had more important things to do. Like get ready and get to the church! Yikes! She was going to be late!
It seemed like no time had passed at all and she was standing at the end of the long aisle. She wore the gaudy white gown, her hair and nails were perfectly done, and her smile shone like, well, not quite like the sun, but at least like the moon on steroids.
The music began, the grandiose organ sounding those famous notes, and she stepped forward once, then again. She walked slowly, feeling almost frustrated by the drawn-out feeling of it all. She distracted herself by looking around to see the guests. Her relatives, friends, people she didn't know but Lex did, so many people…
A movement by the side wall of the church caught her eye. She gasped. *He* was here! Her throat, heart, and stomach decided to play ring-around-the-rosy, and she considered turning and running to the ladies' room. Her wedding jitters had returned full-force. His presence had brought them all back. Amazingly, despite her scattered thoughts and displaced internal organs, she kept walking, maintaining the pace, if not the smile. She couldn't take her eyes off Clark. He looked directly at her with an unwavering gaze. If she hadn't been able to keep moving, she'd have sworn he was burning her through with his heat vision.
"Goodbye, Lois," he mouthed.
Lois was at the end of her journey, and she forced herself to look up at Lex. He was wearing his charming Cheshire cat smile and a handsome tuxedo. The room was quiet but for the usual crowd noises; sneezing, sniffles, rustling, and for the clicking of cameras. There were many members of the press at this notable event.
But for all Lois cared, there could have been a thousand seven- year-olds practicing newly acquired brass instruments, all attempting to play louder than the rest. As she heard the words of the Archbishop, something inside her that was already strained to the breaking point began to tear. She had to concentrate to keep from falling.
And then she was not hearing precisely what the words of the vows were. They were somehow skewed in the translation. When the Archbishop asked her if she would love, honor, and cherish Clark Kent, she automatically answered, "I do." She turned to smile at Clark; he would be so happy.
He wasn't there. The smile belonged to Lex, not Clark. She froze for a second, confused, but soon came back into herself. She was marrying Lex. Not Clark. Lex.
"What am I doing? I can't do this!" she thought, but the time for protests was gone. It was too late. The organ had started up, obscenely loud, and they were walking down the aisle, man and wife.
They walked down the steps, pelted by rice. It seemed to Lois that every single person there was happier than she was. She couldn't love Lex. She knew that now. "Fine time for that realization!" she thought angrily. It seemed like she was destined to do stupid things for the rest of her life. If she only could have made the realization even ten minutes earlier, she could have stopped herself.
Could she have, really? Didn't she always go through with things, even when she knew they were wrong? Hadn't she always known that she didn't love Lex? Sitting in a limousine, looking out the windows at the well-wishers, she realized that the answer to the last question was yes. She had known. She had just been fooling herself. She was so gullible, even to her own stupid tricks.
That night was her wedding night. She stood in the large bathroom of Lex's penthouse, looking into a mirror. She wore a red lace teddy. It went well with her hair, and was really very beautiful. It made her want to puke. She was choking, hardly able to breathe, hardly able to walk. Once she stepped out of this room, she was Lex's. And she couldn't stay in here for much longer.
She took a deep breath, summoning all her courage, and walked out the door. Lex was waiting for her, with a bottle of champagne. He sipped the champagne, watching her, waiting. He offered her a glass, but she brushed it aside, knowing it wouldn't stay down. Gravity had nothing on the gag impulse.
He took her hand and kissed it. "You look absolutely incredible, my darling. But why so nervous? There's nothing to be nervous about." He pulled her toward him, kissing her, his hands moving over her body.
If that night, he was surprised at her passiveness or her silence in bed, he did not let her know. It hadn't been sex with Lois which had interested him; rather, he had wanted to fully possess her. He could have great sex with whoever he wanted, but they weren't important to him. It was Lois who mattered, and now she was his.
Although it had been a long day for Lois, it seemed like a longer night. It felt like there would never be an end to the dark hours she faced. When she was finally able to fall asleep, she did not dream. She wasn't even relieved by the dreams of Clark that would have eased her mind.
The next morning, Lex was called away on urgent business. He had been angry with the people who had caused this on the first day of his marriage, and Lois had been afraid of him, really afraid, for the first time. He swore to her that he would be back before night, and she had been kind and understanding, although disappointed that he would be gone on the first day of their honeymoon.
But when he was gone, she breathed a sigh of relief, and walked to the phone. She had a call she needed to make. She dialed the numbers that would bring her to the person she needed to talk to right now. The phone rang once, twice, three times. Lois was gripped by a fear that the person wouldn't be home. But, on the fifth ring, the phone was picked up.
"Hello?" asked a female voice.
"Hey, Luce," Lois said rather despondently.
"Lois? What's wrong?" Lucy was immediately worried about her big sister. "It's the morning after your wedding night! You're supposed to be thrilled out of your mind!" She thought a little humor might help.
"No, Lucy, that's the problem."
Lucy knew Lois better than to make a funny remark now. She just let Lois continue.
"I mean, I know I *should* be happy, but I'm not. I'm married to Lex now, but all I can think about is Clark."
"Oh," said Lucy sympathetically. "Do you love him?"
"I don't know. I think so. But then, there's Lex… I'm not sure of anything any more."
"Well, let's find out. All we need to do is compare Lex and Clark. When you hear it out loud, you'll figure out who you love."
"Compare them? How do you mean?"
"Well, how about this? I'll ask you a question, and you answer it about Lex, then about Clark. Okay?"
"Would you feel comfortable going to a bar with him and getting ripped, unable to control your own actions?"
That one she didn't even need to think about. She had just made that decision a short time ago. "Lex, no. Clark, yes."
"Okay, that's one for Clark, O for Lex. I'm keeping score. Okay, now. How about crashing on a sofa in your sweats, watching movies?"
"Well, Lex, maybe. Clark, definitely."
"Lex, 1/2, Clark, 2. How do they compare physically?"
"Lucy!" Already she felt better. Only her sister could be so… comfortingly juvenile.
"Okay, fine, I can't believe I'm doing this. Lex is really handsome. He has nice, thick hair, he's pretty muscular, lean, great eyes."
"And Clark?" Lucy prompted.
"Clark is… gorgeous. His hair is really sexy, the way it sometimes falls over onto his forehead, and his eyes are adorable. His body is, well, absolutely amazing. He's just as… well- defined as Superman."
"Oh, really?" Lucy asked, interested.
"Yeah…" Lois replied wistfully.
"Wow. Well, how about sexually? How do they compare there? Because sometimes it's not what you've got but how you use it that counts, if you know what I mean."
"Um. Lex is great, but then why wouldn't he be? He's been with, like, five hundred women. He never lacked… practice. Clark, on the other hand, didn't have anywhere near that number. In fact, he lost his virginity only very recently."
"You're kidding! A babe like that?"
"It's true. He lost it last month. With me."
"He did? I thought…"
"No, I just learned a few weeks ago that it had been his first time."
"Oh, that is so… wow. Was he good?" she asked, already guessing the answer by the smug satisfaction in Lois' voice. This was a new perspective of Lois and Clark's night together. When Lois had told her about it earlier, she had stressed the confusion and the problems that had resulted, not the actual night.
"Oh, Luce, you have *no* idea! I thought I was going to die of pleasure, and it would have been worth it if I had. I can't even *imagine* how he'd be if he had practice. My feeble human brain can't bear the speculation."
"Wow. The perfect lover?"
"Wow," she said again. It seemed to be the vocabulary word for the night. "No wonder you're thinking about him on your honeymoon…" Then she got back on track. "Okay, so far Clark has four, and Lex has got half a point for maybe watching movies in ratty old clothes. I want you to think back before you got engaged to Lex, and before you slept with Clark. Had you ever given them an opportunity to take advantage of you and they didn't?"
"Well, not really with Lex. I always watched myself around him. Of course, I've spent a lot less time with him than with Clark."
"And what about with Clark?"
"Hmmm. There was the time we were staying in the honeymoon suite of the Lexor hotel for a couple of days. We were undercover on a story. And he didn't take advantage of the situation. Then there was the time I was hit by this pheromone compound that made me madly desire Clark for about forty-eight hours. Even after *two days* of seduction attempts, he didn't crack, because he knew my feelings weren't real."
"He's got incredible self-control. If the situation had been reversed and *he* was the one affected and out of control, I'd probably have been in his bed in an hour or so. Anyway, then there was this time somebody was trying to kill me, so I asked him if I could spend the night at his place. Then there was the time Perry locked us in the supply closet until we were 'ready to be civil to the new photographer' even though the new photographer was a total… never mind. But we were in this teeny tiny closet for two hours. *Then* there was the time we went to my friend's party and I got ripped and started making not-too-subtle passes at him. The incredible self-control made a cameo again. And then there was the time I stayed at his house for a night, after someone had attempted to rape me."
"What?!" Lucy was shocked. "You never told me about that!"
"I never told anyone. Clark was the only one who knew. I remember going to his house, and taking a really hot shower. I just crumpled up on his bathroom floor, and eventually he came in. He was so worried about me…"
Lois hadn't wanted to go home alone, so she had accepted with gratitude Clark's offer to come to his place. She felt so dirty from what had almost happened, from that guy… touching her. It had been mortifying. She had needed to rinse the memory of it from her. "Clark, do you mind if I use your shower?" she asked in a small voice.
"Go ahead, Lois." He didn't quite understand what she was feeling- - he expected that no one could unless they went through the same thing, but he had a pretty good idea. And that hurt him, too. He felt so much pain, so much embarrassment for her.
Lois walked into Clark's bathroom and shut the door. She stripped off her clothes, leaving them on the floor. She turned on the hot water and stepped in. The scalding, cleansing flow beat down on her, burning away the terrible sensations she had felt that night. She scrubbed her body, which was already tender from the hot water, mercilessly, trying desperately to rid herself of all the memories.
Soon, she realized that if she didn't turn off the hot water, she was going to burn herself. So she did, and stepped out of the shower. She grabbed a towel that Clark had given her and wrapped herself in it. She sat down on the bath mat and leaned her head against the shower. The towel draped around her shoulders and her new perspective of the room gave her a feeling of smallness. She felt so tiny, so unimportant, so miserable. A tear trickled down her cheek.
Fifteen minutes passed as she sat there, crying, trembling. Then it was twenty. There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Lois? Are you okay?" It was Clark. She wanted to answer, she really did, but she couldn't find her voice.
Clark, disturbed by her lack of response, opened the door slowly, so that she would have time to react if she wasn't decent. "Lois?" he asked again, finally sticking his head in the steam-filled bathroom. What he saw almost made him cry. Lois was crumbled up on the floor, a towel around her shoulders, and her knees up to her chest. She was crying.
"Oh, Lois," he said. He sat down next to her and took her into his arms, an embrace which she welcomed. She snuggled up to him, clutching him as though he were a life preserver and she was in a stormy sea.
"Clark, it was so awful," she whispered.
"I know, I know. I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault," she said. She laid her head against his strong chest. "You saved me."
"I'd never do any less." He longed to tell her that he loved her, but now was not the time. It could startle her, frighten her, and then she would be denied the support she was taking from him. Above all else, he did not want to do that. She needed him there to keep her steady.
Lois pushed close to him, needing to feel the strength, the power in him. She felt safe with him, in his embrace. When Clark held her, the world was unable to harm her. Even when she was almost naked, as she was now, she felt no threat from him. She'd never let herself do this with Lex.
"Come on, Lois, why don't you get dressed…"
"No," she replied. "I… I can't. My clothes are… dirty." It was a feeble attempt at explanation, but Clark quickly picked up what she meant.
"It's okay. You can borrow some of my stuff." He stood up and offered his hands to her. She took only one, the other keeping the towel mostly in place. It wasn't quite the same, and he undoubtedly saw parts of her body that he shouldn't have, but she didn't care. She didn't feel self-conscious with him. After what had happened, she wasn't ready to deal with little niceties such as modesty.
Clark put an arm around her shoulder and led her into his bedroom. He took a t-shirt out of a drawer and a pair of boxers out of the other. "Is this okay?" he asked Lois.
She nodded and took the clothes from him. Clark turned away when she dropped the towel and started to get dressed. In a few seconds, she was decent. She walked up to Clark and hugged him. "Thank you," she said.
He hugged her back. Then he looked at her. Her eyelids were droopy and she was yawning. "Tired?"
"I'll assume you're staying here tonight." He sat her down on his bed, pulled the covers back, and helped her ease under them. He had started to leave but she grabbed his hand.
"Clark, please stay," she asked in a soft voice. She moved over so that he could get in. Never one to refuse a lady, especially Lois, when she was in need, he got in bed next to her, taking her in his arms. She sighed and rested her head on his strong chest. She was soon asleep, feeling safe and warm.
"Lois? Lois? Are you still there?" It was Lucy's voice, calling her back to the present.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. I was just… thinking. Oh, Luce. I *do* love Clark. I love him so much," she whispered. "And he loved me. Lex was charming, sure. Lex could charm the country's population into voting for a tax on neon paint. He charmed me into falling in love with him. But it was never true. I *don't* love him. It was never real, and Clark… Clark was real. I'm such an idiot. I ruined my own life."
"Lois, everything will be okay. Trust me. Didn't Clark tell you that he'd always be yours?"
"That was before. I don't think he can ever forgive me for marrying Lex. I wouldn't, if I was in his position. I can't ever go back now."
"You have to try. It's your only hope."
Lex was back shortly after midnight. He'd had an exhausting day, and was rather tired. Of course, that didn't stop him from wanting to sleep with Lois, but at least he fell asleep relatively quickly instead of occupying her until the morning.
Lois lay awake in the pitch black room. The moon was blocked by a heavy curtain covering the window. The person next to her turned in his sleep. Lois frowned in his general direction. She didn't want to be here. Not at all. She had to get up, and she had to get up now.
She sat up and got out of bed, the cold night air hitting her naked body and making her shiver. But she walked away from Lex's warmth despite the cold. She felt so dirty, so uncleansably filthy. She walked into the huge bathroom and turned on the shower. She stepped in and let scalding water pour over her skin, trying to burn away the sickening feeling, trying to scrub it away with soap. Finally, she turned off the water. Her skin was a bright red from the heat, but she didn't let it bother her. She dried off quickly, frustrated that the feeling of guilt was not gone and feeling quite miserable.
She went back into her and Lex's bedroom, trying to be as quiet as she could so as not to wake her husband. Her husband. The words set her teeth on edge. She drew back the curtain that kept the moonlight out and the sinister darkness in. Lex liked to sleep with the window closed. Lois' window had always been open. Her door may have been locked, but there was always a path for the moonlight to take to visit her. The opening of this window comforted her now, made her feel that maybe everything wasn't quite so dim.
She smiled at her old friend, the one whose steady silver light had comforted her through her parents' problems, had reassured her of things she'd prayed for. The moon was her only ally now, her only friend.
Lois pulled open a drawer and grabbed some underwear and a t- shirt. She put the underwear on and glanced at the t-shirt. It was oversized, just like she wanted. She pulled it on, not wanting to be naked near Lex. It went halfway down to her knees, and she suddenly realized what shirt it was. It was Clark's. Or rather, it had been Clark's. It must have ended up at her apartment and been packed along with her stuff. She smiled sadly. She picked up a small bear that she had put in her underwear drawer and hugged it close to her.
She moved to the open window. It was large, reaching from the floor almost to the ceiling, and it was inset just a bit. She sat on the carpeted floor, leaning against the wall, and gazed outside, over the rooftops of Metropolis.
It brought back memories of another night, in somebody else's window. Clark's. She sighed, remembering the way the soft moonlight had bathed them. Clark's window had been open the whole night. It had been open ever since she knew him. Clark had never covered that one large window.
But now she sat in Lex's window, holding the bear. It was the bear Clark had won for her in Smallville. It seemed like everything was destined to remind her of Clark tonight.
Sitting there in the moonlight, she felt so small, so afraid. The world had decided that she wasn't worth pleasing after what she had done, and so she was miserable. Now, all she could think about was how she had thrown away what could have made her the happiest woman on Earth. Thrown it away because she had been scared, scared to be more than friends. She could have had Clark's love. Instead, she only had her love for Clark, a sad, hopeless longing. And her hatred of herself, for doing what she'd done. Her lower body ached, a lonely, throbbing ache that wanted Clark, needed Clark, and could never be assuaged by another.
He could never love her now, not in a million years. She wouldn't love Claude if he came back to her now. And she had hurt Clark just as deeply, if not more deeply. She had been so stupid…
"Oh, Clark," she whispered into the night. "I love you." She shut her eyes tightly, but that didn't stop a solitary tear from escaping. Drawing herself into a curled-up position, she hugged the bear a little tighter. "I love you." The words were almost inaudible.
Lois opened her eyes. The nightmare was back, and even worse than it had been before. She had actually *married* Lex! She shuddered as the details washed over her, emerging from her obviously troubled psyche to annoy her. She turned, and realized that Clark was there. He must have returned from Brazil sometime during the night.
Her movement woke him, and he looked sleepily up at her. "Morning, Lois."
"Morning, Clark. You have no idea what a relief it is to find you here, after last night."
"I had that dream again, about Lex. Every time I have it, it's farther along. This time, it was my wedding and the day after." She closed her eyes. "It was so terrible."
"What happened? Tell me about it."
"Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"Of course. Do you think I just want to share the good things in your life? I love you, and I want to help you."
She touched his face tenderly. "I love you, too, Clark. And I know that this is going to upset you."
"Tell me anyway. It's already upsetting you, and maybe I can help with that."
She sighed, and moved close to him, resting her head on his chest. With that, she told him almost every detail of her dreams to date, leaving out only the details that would unnecessarily pain him.
He held her tight as she poured out the story. It was hard for him to listen to, and he knew it was hard for her to tell, but they had to do this. He winced as he heard the sorrow in her voice when she described realizing that she was in love with him, but knowing that they had no chance any more. He stroked her back soothingly as she struggled with the words.
"Oh, Lois," he said when she was done, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea…"
"It's okay, Clark." She sniffed a little. "Thanks for listening. I feel so much better now." She kissed him gently. "We should probably get to work now."
"Okay. We can talk more later."
She smiled in reply.
As they entered the Daily Planet, hand in hand, they were aware of a myriad of eyes focused on them. The last time any of these people had seen the reporting team, they had been very uncomfortable together, and were barely civil to each other. Everyone knew them well enough to know that this attitude was more serious than shouts and slammed doors. Therefore, they were shocked to see them together and obviously happy about being that way.
"Lois? CK?" Jimmy asked, making his way up to them. "You look like somebody just told you you'd won the lotto jackpot! Care to share the good news with an old pal?"
Lois and Clark grinned at each other. "Jimmy," Lois explained, "we're in love." They beamed.
"*Ohhh*! No wonder I couldn't get ahold of you last night, CK!" He winked conspiratorially. "Well, congratulations. It was about time!" He gave them both a hug at the same time. "I'm glad you finally worked out whatever was bugging you. That musta been some night!"
Lois had the decency to turn slightly pink at that, but she didn't have the decency to refrain from saying, "Oh, it was, Jimmy. It was."
"Well, I'd better get my rear in gear if I wanna keep my job. See you around. And, hey, I get to take pictures at the wedding!" he exclaimed, then left.
Later that day, as Lois and Clark were driving away from the Planet, Lois brought up the subject of her dreams again. "Clark, I don't know what to do about these dreams. Every time I go to sleep, Lex is waiting for me. It's getting so that I'm afraid to go to bed, like a little kid terrified of the monsters in the closet."
"Much as I'd like to keep you awake all night— to prevent the dreams, of course—"
"Of course," Lois interrupted, grinning.
"I doubt that's the solution," Clark finished. He paused for a minute to think. "You said that every time you have the dream, it's farther along."
"Well, what if you resolve whatever's bothering you? If you fix the problem, it won't come back to haunt you."
"The problem is that I married Lex but loved you. So I'd have to find some way to reverse that."
"There you go. It'll be easy."
"No. No, I'm afraid it won't. Leaving Lex will. That won't be too much of a problem, even if he puts up a resistance. He can't really stop me. But after all I've done to you, you're not going to accept me back."
"Lois, I…" Clark began to defend himself.
"Oh, Clark, don't. I understand. You'd have every right never to speak to me again. Loving somebody is one thing, but liking them is another. You might still have feelings for me, but they would be overcome by shame and hatred. Am I hitting close to home?"
"Yeah," Clark reluctantly answered. "I guess even I have to lose my patience and temper sometime. I really can't say I'd handle that situation all too gracefully."
"I know exactly what you mean. I never wondered about how I'd feel if Claude came back into my life. I *knew*. I still had those old feelings, but I hated him more than anything. Then I realized that I never had loved him, not really. All that was left was the hate, the humiliation." She paused. "I can't believe that I caused that to happen to someone else," she added quietly. "Not after knowing what it felt like."
"Oh, Lois, it's okay. Everything's better now. It happened, but it's a part of our past. We moved on. We recovered."
"But it's still there. It'll always be a part of us. Our first night, the first time you said you loved me… It should have been the most special time of our lives, but it will always be associated with that pain."
"Lois, I know you feel guilty about it, but please, don't. Everybody's entitled to make mistakes. We're only people. And think about it this way— after something like that, we're entitled to a long, smooth run of bliss. Think about that."
Lois smiled a little. "Bliss, huh? I guess I'll buy that."
"Good. Because I intend to give it to you. And get some in return."
"Sounds great. Let's start tonight."
"I know this great little island in the Atlantic. Totally uninhabited tropical paradise. We can fly down onto the beach, with the warm breeze kissing the trees, the water lapping gently on the sand. Out in the open, with the setting sun reflecting off our naked entwined bodies…" He had been leaning closer and closer to her as he spoke, and was now only inches away.
She closed her eyes at the mental imagery and sighed. "Oh… It sounds incredible…"
Clark chose that moment to grab the steering wheel. "Eyes on the road, Lois," he reminded with a grin.
Her eyes shot open and she shoved his hand off the wheel. "Bastard." She wrinkled her nose at him.
He just grinned back.
The sun had long since sunk beneath the line that was the horizon. A myriad of stars, few of which were visible from the city hung quietly in the sky, displaying their twinkling silver beauty for any who cared to gaze upon them. The sound of the sea was mixed with the call of birds that were using the dim light to hunt prey and with a rustling of tree leaves.
Lois shivered a little as a cool breeze ruffled her hair. She cuddled closer to Clark, who was sleeping peacefully on the fine sand. His arm automatically went around her, and the slight chill that characterized the night on this island was banished by his touch. She looked at his handsome features, bathed in the soft glow of moonbeams, and was once again amazed that he, this magnificent creature, could love her. She would never deserve his love, not even if she worked for a thousand years at it. And yet it was hers for the taking.
Suddenly, the chill was back. But this was an inner chill, leaving her exposed skin untouched, but disturbing her inside. She had almost thrown this away. What kind of life would hers have been if he wasn't in it? Would it be like her dream? Perhaps. For the first few months, anyway. An almost physically painful severance of an emotion that she hadn't yet discovered.
But after that, what would happen? Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year… Would she soon become dull to the pain, or would it get worse with time? Would the old wound heal, or would it be constantly worried, constantly reopened? Surely the latter. How much time would pass before it hurt too much to go on?
In an instant, Lois knew that she wouldn't have lived a very long life. She wouldn't have allowed herself to remain on the planet. That which appeared to be a choice between two paths in her life was in actuality a choice between life and death. Her life and death.
Clark had saved her life so many times as Superman, and even some times as Clark, but she resolved that she would never tell him of this more long-reaching rescue. It would hurt him to learn that she would even consider suicide, much less be positive that she would carry it out. She was the only one who would know of the reaches that her self-hatred would have taken her, had he not interfered.
She sighed at the morbid line of thought that had plagued her. It seemed she wasn't to be rid of these disturbing ideas. The guilt of marring her and Clark's first night, the guilt of hurting the man she loved, the pain of almost losing him, and those damn dreams. If, as Clark had suggested, she needed to resolve her dream problem to be rid of those demons forever, she would have to fall asleep.
And yet she was frightened of doing so. Every time she dropped into the nightmare, there was more pain for her to deal with, more guilt and self-hatred. She supposed what really frightened her was the thought that these emotions would overcome her before she could overcome them, and she would be trapped. If she failed to do this, she knew that she would be haunted forever.
"Just once," she thought, "just once, I'd like to lie here, next to Clark, and not be worried about falling asleep. Just to snuggle up and succumb to the warm glow he seems to give off. That would be worth this all."
She woke up in the window of Lex's… no, her and Lex's penthouse. She had woken up because Lex was gently shaking her shoulder. She jumped and pulled away from his touch.
"It's okay, darling. It's me," Lex said.
Yeah, that's the problem, Lois wanted to say. She didn't want him to touch her while she wore this shirt. It might have been unreasonable, but there it was. She forced a smile. "Morning, Lex."
"What are you doing all the way over here?"
"I… couldn't sleep, and I came to look out the window. I guess I must have just dozed off right here." She looked down at the teddy bear in her arms. She stood and moved to replace the bear in her underwear drawer.
The motion reminded Lex of the bear's presence. "What's this?" he asked.
"It's just a bear," she replied. "Liar!" she thought to herself.
"Why do you keep it?"
"There must be some reason."
What was with this? Why did Lex care about the bear? "A friend gave it to me."
"Lois. Tell me. Who gave you the bear?"
"Why are you being so strange, Lex? It's just a bear!" she protested.
"Who gave you the bear?" he repeated.
She sighed. There was no help for it. "Clark did."
Lex frowned. "Why do you still have it?"
"It's just a sentimental thing, okay? This bear brings back some good memories."
"Yes, of Clark."
"Why not? I'm allowed to have memories. What is going on with you?"
"Lois, darling, we're going to make new memories. Better than any old ones. Why don't you throw the bear out as a tribute to our new life together?" The words were cool, casual, flowing, but they scared Lois. The bear was one of her most prized possessions, especially now that she had realized she loved Clark.
"No," she said.
"What?" Lex couldn't believe that she would refuse him anything he asked.
"You heard me. I want to keep it."
Lex's eyes glinted coldly. "Give it to me and *I'll* throw it out."
"No! Will you forget about the stupid bear?"
Lex was seized by a powerful urge to rid himself of the bear. It represented a challenge. As long as Lois held on to it, she obviously still cared about her old life, about Clark. He had seen the way she slept with the bear in her arms, holding on to it as if it were the last thing in the world that she cared for. *He* was supposed to be the most important thing in the world to her.
He was still for a few seconds, and then, all of a sudden, he seemed to pounce. He ripped the bear from Lois' grasp. She cried out, but before she could stop him, he raced to the window and threw it into the street below.
"No!" she screamed, racing to the window. She watched as the poor bear plummeted to its death, falling from the top of the highest building in Metropolis. Lex glided up next to her.
"You'll thank me later, my dear."
"Never! Lex, how could you?" she cried.
"Lois, the bear doesn't matter," he told her, putting an arm around her shoulder.
She shrugged the arm off violently. "Don't touch me," she hissed. She stormed to her dresser, pulled out jeans and a t-shirt, and promptly locked herself in the bathroom. In a few minutes, she emerged, fully dressed. She grabbed her purse and headed for the door. "Don't wait up," she told her husband, and left. The door slammed behind her.
Clark was walking along the street to get to an interview. He hadn't felt like hailing a cab. He passed the Luthor residence and looked up, glaring at the place in general even though he was unable to see the man he hated. As his eyes were turned upward, he did not notice where his feet were heading. So, it came as a surprise to him when he kicked something.
He looked down. Sitting in a mud puddle and looking pathetically sad was a small teddy bear. It looked familiar. He picked it up and tried to get some of the mud off of it. It looked like it had been run over as well as dropped. He couldn't quite place the feeling of familiarity that it was causing him. Then he realized what the bear looked like. It was almost identical to the bear he had won for Lois at the Smallville Corn Festival.
He wondered if she still had that bear. Ironic that he'd find this one so close to her new home. He sighed, remembering what a great time they'd had in Smallville. Unconsciously, he cradled the bear gently in his arms. A small smile played across his lips. Maybe he'd take a detour on the way to the interview so that he could bring the bear home.
Lois walked out the door and stopped. Her gaze roamed the streets, searching for a small object. The cars rushing by obscured her view, but she did her best to locate the memento. It wasn't in the road. That, at least, was a relief. Maybe it would come out of this unscathed.
She then searched the sidewalks, the small areas of grass, the alleys between nearby buildings. She looked up into the few trees to see if it had possibly been caught in one of the mayor's attempts to beautify Metropolis. It hadn't. It wasn't anywhere. She searched the small area that it could have traveled in for over half an hour, but nothing turned up. A tear trickled down her cheek, leaving a glossy streak on her skin.
The bear was gone.
Lois didn't go home that day. She knew Lex expected her to give up and come back soon, and that was exactly why she didn't. After searching unproductively for the bear, she found herself walking toward the Daily Planet. She didn't realize where she was headed until she was almost there.
She needed to go in there, to remind herself that there really were things going on other than her marriage to Lex. Most of all she needed to see her friends. She needed to see Clark. More than anything else, she needed to see him.
She pushed her way through the rotating doors that were so familiar. It seemed as though she had been away from her job for centuries. A few weeks had never seemed so long. She rode up the elevator and got off on the newsroom floor. She stood there for a minute, breathing it in. It felt really great to be there.
But there was something wrong…
"Lois!" Perry exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be on your honeymoon?"
"Ah. Have a fight?"
"Sort of. Where's Clark?"
"He's out on an interview." Perry watched as Lois' face fell. "I can beep him for you if it's important."
"No thanks. He probably wouldn't talk to me anyway."
Perry understood why she thought that. She was undoubtedly right. Clark had been heartbroken when Lois married Lex. Perry had never seen such hurt on a man's face before. For the first time in his life, he'd been mad at Lois. Lois, his star reporter, his pseudo- daughter. But it seemed that Lois was sorry now. He just hoped it wasn't too late.
Perry left to go back to his office, and Jimmy came up to Lois. "Hi, Jimmy," she said to the cub reporter.
"Hi, Lois," he replied, with a poorly hidden emotion seething under the surface of his words.
"Can we talk somewhere?" he responded.
"Sure," she replied guardedly. They walked into the conference room, which was currently unoccupied. When they were alone there, Lois once again asked Jimmy what was bothering him.
Jimmy sighed, apparently troubled. "Lois, Clark told me what happened."
"And I can't believe that you would come back here looking for him. You unfeeling bitch! How do you sleep at night?"
Lois cringed from the uncharacteristic remark, which stung even more because she knew that she deserved it.
"After all you've done to him, you have the gall to come back here and attempt to see him again? Do you have any idea how he felt after you left him? Any idea at all? I've seen people contemplating suicide who were happier than Clark. Yet he recovered. It was almost a miracle. That's the kind of thing that scars people for life. And *right away* you married Luthor. You slapped Clark right in the face with that one, Lois.
"That's what broke him. That's right," he said to the look on her face, "he's *broken.* How does it feel to have ruined one of the nicest, most wonderful people alive? Does it feel real good? Are you real proud of yourself? You should be! It was a top-rate job! I have never seen someone whose soul had been so completely and utterly trampled, whose heart had been cut with such precision, whose most sacred feelings were desecrated with such style.
"I've seen him, Lois. Every day he's been getting worse and worse. I try to talk to him, but he doesn't hear me. Nothing can get through to him. All he ever does is his work. Just like a machine. No emotions, just work. His pain is so evident to anyone who looks at him. It's like watching a man die slowly, tortured to death by an expert. Every day, he suffers from another hideous wound, but somehow he stays alive and conscious to suffer every excruciating second, all the while wishing that he could die and be rid of it.
"You've always been like a sister to me, Lois, but Clark is my best friend. And right now, I'm ashamed to know you." With that final cutting statement, Jimmy left the conference room. He knew that his words had been harsh and painful, but he had meant every one. Clark didn't deserve the pain Lois had put him through.
Lois sat down at the table, stunned. Jimmy had just voiced what Clark must be feeling, she realized. And if what he said about Clark were true… "He's never going to take me back," she whispered.
Even if he did, she wouldn't deserve it. He deserved to have that pain gone, to finally get what he wanted, but she surely didn't. But the only way she would experience the suffering she deserved was by causing more for him. And she couldn't do that.
She had to find him. She had to let him know where he stood. Even if his pride refused to allow him to take her back, it might help him to know that she was pining after him. If she begged him to take her, it might make him feel better.
But finding him came first. He was on an interview. So he'd be gone for a long time. She didn't want to speak to him during work hours, anyway. They needed someplace private, where they wouldn't be rushed. Then, Lois had an idea.
Clark walked home from work. He didn't fly, didn't take a cab. He walked. He didn't really care how long it took him to go home. He had nothing to do there. So he might as well take his time. When he reached his door, he was surprised to find it unlocked. Had his apartment been robbed? Did it matter?
He pushed open the door. There, sitting on his sofa, was the person who had been in his thoughts all day. He almost flew out of the room. With truly Supermanly control, he overruled the portion of his brain that commanded him to fight or flee. He could handle this; he knew it.
But she looked so gorgeous that he had to want her. And she was Lois, so he had to love her. Only she could confuse his feelings this much. How could he feel such a thrill at her presence and yet wish to high heaven that she would disappear?
Lois paused, waiting. Clark hadn't jumped, hadn't run or flown away, hadn't screamed at her to get out. Apparently, he was waiting for her to make her move. She swallowed hard. This was it; this was her chance to right a small part of the wrongs she had perpetrated. She took a deep breath and prayed that she wouldn't blow it.
"Clark," she began, "I know how you must feel, seeing me here. At least, I'm pretty sure I do. And I'm sorry that it had to be this way. But I *have* to say this, just as much as you need to hear it."
"Lois, nothing you could say could possibly—"
"Please," she cut him off, "for anything you've ever felt for me, listen now."
He was silent. Of all the things for her to invoke the name of…
"Thank you. Clark, there have been a lot of crazy things in my life recently. Being married to Lex is nothing like I'd ever expected or hoped it would be. And, to be honest, I'm miserable. Because I can't get you out of my mind. I know it's too little, too late, but… Oh, Clark," she sighed. "I love you."
Clark's lovely face was turned downward, and Lois could not see the expression that lie thereon. Slowly, he lifted his head and, despite Lois' entreaties to any nearby deities, there was a chilling look on his face. It was a combination of pain and barely controlled anger. "Lois," he hissed in a low voice, "get out of here."
"Damn it, Lois! Leave!" Then, he added in a choked voice, "Please."
"Clark, I love—"
He refused to let her finish. "Don't say it. Don't *ever* say it again. I can never believe it, not after everything. I will work with you, I will save your life if you need it, but stop lying to me. Give me that. No more lies. You don't have any cause to torture me like that."
Now it was Lois' turn to examine the floor. "I'm sorry," she whispered. Clark didn't respond, so she bade him farewell and removed herself from his presence.
Once she was gone, Clark collapsed on the sofa. The very spot she had been sitting when he had returned home. It was still warm with her body heat. He sighed deeply. What had she been trying to do? Had she actually expected him to fall for that? To believe her?
But those whispered words, "I'm sorry," echoed in his memory. They had been more sincere than any words he had ever heard from her before, even including their discussion in the conference room so long ago. She was truly sorry to have hurt him.
She missed him.
She missed him!
And he had thrown her out. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly. "What have I done?" he asked the air around him. There was no answer. He didn't need one. He knew he had been too harsh on her. And hadn't he been angry long enough? Grudges were ugly things, all too willing to ruin anyone's life who was blind enough to carry them. He couldn't stay mad at her. She had made the first move, she had apologized. And now it was his turn. All he had to do was to accept the apology, to forgive her.
Was it so hard to forgive her? He loved her, and his love moved him to rush to her window and tell her immediately that he forgave her. He could tell that she hated herself for past actions. He no longer wanted his own hate to add to the pile.
It would just take the magic words to repair their relationship. Undoubtedly, it could never be restored to its original form, but if he said this, it might recover some of its beauty. And, truth to be told, he missed his best friend something awful. Even if there could be nothing else, he needed her as a friend.
But he wasn't ready to say anything yet. Lois wasn't ready to hear it, so near to this episode. He had thrown a few metaphorical stones at her, and she needed recovery time. Tomorrow would be a better day for this.
But then there was a new problem. Lex Luthor. It *was* his and Lois' penthouse, now. How could he talk to Lois while avoiding Lex? It was their honeymoon. He couldn't exactly burst in at any time.
Of course, Lois had come here today, so they must be spending some time apart. Perhaps the honeymoon wasn't as sweetly uninterrupted as it could have been. He had to count on that, and watch carefully so that he could find the right time to talk to her.
Lex was in his office, doing work. Lois wished he would leave the building. With this, she was always worried that he would pop in on her, and disturb her. And she didn't want him observing her meditations. Mostly, they were about Clark. She sighed, wandering the halls of the gaudy penthouse in the sky. She stepped carelessly on the white fluffy carpet that lined the sitting room. She looked up and saw a grand piano sitting in the corner. Only the best, of course, for Lex Luthor.
It had been a while since she'd had a chance to play. Not long enough that she'd forgotten, but long enough that she missed it. There was no music by the piano. Lois didn't know where it was, or if Lex even had any. It was possible that he'd bought the piano as a sort of decoration.
She was suddenly filled with the impulse to do a bit of songwriting. Not even nervousness at being found out by her husband would quash the urge. She went into the bedroom to grab a piece of paper and a pen. With that, she went back into the sitting room and sat at the terribly expensive piano. She played a short piece that she knew by heart to see if the piano was tuned. It was; Lex would never tolerate the deterioration of anything in his home. The piano keys seemed stiff, and the music stand was too far away from the keyboard to be convenient, but those were problems with all grand pianos. It was still a piano.
Lois flexed her fingers a few times and played a basic backup tune. The words were typically the hardest part for her to create, but today they flowed like water from her brain onto the paper. Or, as John Lennon would say, like endless rain into a paper cup. She decided not to stick to a basic melody line, but to create an improvised effect. That was basically because she hated writing the actual notes. This way, she could have the words, but play and sing it to an improvised tune. It sounded nice, and it was a good deal of fun.
Her source of inspiration was the only thing that had been on her mind since she'd spent the night with Clark. The blank piece of paper was soon filled with words and cross-outs. Once she was finished, she copied the lines she was keeping onto a different sheet of paper. She placed this on the music stand and poised her fingers over the keys. She did a small introduction and then began to sing.
It was very late at night But the moon hung over the city Illuminating you and I I didn't know how far you were willing to take this with me But I just had to try
Oh for such a long time I battled with my inner mind Deliberating what I should do I knew distinctly right from wrong But I could not convince myself Because I wanted you
I was the one who was out of control I was the one who pushed toward my goal I was the one who took advantage of you Now I am the one who doesn't know what to do Because I've lost my best friend Somewhere between the sheets
Based on a misconception I had my night of glory with you As you touched me intimately Whispered 'I love you's in my ear I let you go on thinking that my feelings were real as you made love to me
I was such a fool such a short time ago Baby, I've been sorry since then To hit you with such a coup And I've realized now That despite my word and deeds back then, I'm honestly in love with you
Lois paused for a second, as her feelings welled up inside her throat, choking her. Her hands left the keys and she took a few deep breaths before continuing with the lyrics that she had written.
I was the one who was out of control I was the one who pushed toward my goal I was the one who took advantage of you Now I am the one who doesn't know what to do Because I've lost my best friend Somewhere between the sheets
I hurt you deeply, darling A hurt so deep it's unforgivable I can't talk to you All I have left in my memory is the love I feel and the pain I caused Experiencing the taboo
I've lost my best friend And the man who holds my heart There's an unhappy end A lonely life apart
Since I lost my best friend Somewhere between the sheets Oh, I lost you my darling Somewhere between the sheets The closing melody was a sad, slow echo of the last line. She sighed. It had hurt to sing that, but it had been a kind of a release. Her feelings were so plain, once they had been put on paper.
The sky was pitch black, except for the occasional interruptions of electricity jolting through the ominous clouds. The wind violently abused treetops and any flimsy structures. The torrential rain was bound and determined to soak any soul who ventured out into the storm. Lex, fortunately, had been elsewhere when the rain began, and was disinclined to be one of those unfortunate souls. So he remained elsewhere, and intended to continue to do so until after the rain ceased.
This provided the perfect opportunity for Clark. The weather conditions weren't ideal— without the help of x-ray vision, he would have been blinded by the rain— but, he could only take what he was given. He couldn't wait for a better day, as one might never come.
Although no one would be looking up, and, even if they did, they would be unable to see him, Clark wore the Superman suit. It was a habit, and a precaution, just in case someone else in the Luthor tower saw him. He took off, and soared, almost underwater, through the blackness.
Lois was standing on her balcony, captivated by the storm's power. Even as a little girl, she had loved thunderstorms. There was something so wonderful about being brave and facing up to that electrical show. It made her feel strong not to yield to the power. Now, as she was soaked to the bone, she felt defiant. She could handle anything.
And then Clark appeared, in the Suit, on her balcony.
"Lois," he said to her, "there's something I have to say."
She didn't know what she expected him to say, but it certainly wasn't what he said.
"I forgive you, Lois. For everything. And I'm sorry for losing my temper a couple nights ago in my apartment. I want us to be friends again."
The wind whipped around her so loudly that she almost thought that she was hearing things, that he hadn't said what she thought he said. But he had. "Clark," she asked, "really?"
"Yes, really. I can't stand this block between us. I miss you."
"I miss you, too. Oh…" she said, and hugged him. The tempest whirled around their embrace, but that was not what caused the slight awkwardness. A tentative friendship may have been restored, but the physical aspect that had always been a part of their relationship was understandably slightly strained. The sexual attraction that had begun this whole disaster still remained, and both knew it. But it felt oh, so good to touch each other again, after the tense separation they had endured.
Their friendship *was* different. There was nothing hidden, nothing blurred. They both knew exactly where they stood with each other. At least, they thought they did. Lois knew that, even after forgiving her, Clark could never accept that she loved him. But at least they had their friendship. The pain that had been caused was in the past.
The electricity in the air crackled around them and condensed. Perhaps it was bad luck for it to land on that one spot, perhaps it was good. It hit Clark's back, as he was bending slightly to hug Lois. He felt the jolt that was lightning, and tried to quickly pull away from Lois, so that his body wouldn't conduct enough electricity to fry her. But it was too late.
"Lois!" he screamed as she slumped in his arms. He put his hand on her wrist, feeling desperately for a pulse. There was one, but so faint that had he not had superpowers, he would not have felt it. She was not breathing.
There was no time to waste. Clark practically tore his cape off, and wrapped her in it. It would protect her while he flew. She needed to be protected, as he was going to fly fast. Faster than he had ever needed to go before. He could only think of one thing that could save her, and he hoped he wouldn't be too late.
He soared across the sky with his red bundle in his arms. He flew north. Faster, faster, faster. He was well beyond the speed of sound, and catching up with light. In mere seconds, he was at the North Pole. He dashed inside a huge ice building. The Fortress of Solitude.
Frantically, he tore her clothing off her body. "Sorry, Lois," he thought, "but it's an emergency." He placed her lifeless form inside a small chamber. He shut the door.
The Kryptonian Regeneration Matrix turned on by itself. The cloudy glass-like walls were suddenly infused with a red light. This was his only hope. He stood and watched. And waited.
Hours later, Clark was still concentrating intensely on the dim red glow that was repairing Lois' body. As he watched, it grew fainter and fainter. In another half hour, it was completely gone.
Clark could see movement from inside. He practically threw open the entrance to the chamber. "Lois?" He almost didn't dare to say the word.
"Clark?" came her weak voice. She stumbled out of the chamber, now clothed in the traditional Kryptonian bodysuit. It was several sizes too big because it had been meant, as the chamber had been, for Clark's use. "I… what happened?"
"The lightning. It hit us, and you were… almost killed. I brought you here, and put you in the… matrix thing there. Are you okay?"
He hugged her tightly. "Oh, Lois, I thought I'd lost you!"
"Never," she said softly. "Where are we?"
"Um… the Fortress of Solitude."
"Yeah, it's where I keep stuff. Kryptonian stuff, mostly. And science. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine. I feel better every second. What on Earth am I wearing?"
"Actually, it's a Kryptonian suit. Looks like it's in my size."
"Yeah. Where are my normal clothes?"
"Over here," Clark replied, and picked them up off the floor. They were neatly folded. He had done so while waiting. He turned around while she changed out of the suit.
"Okay," she said when she was done changing. "How long have we been gone?"
"I don't know. I lost track of the time. I was so worried!"
She smiled at him. "You saved my life. Again."
"Always," he promised. "Up for the trip back? It's probably almost morning."
Clark picked her up in his arms, and they made the long journey back to Metropolis. Even though the dash to the North Pole had been shorter, it had seemed so much longer than this. In no time at all, they were back at the Luthor penthouse in the sky. He set Lois down on the balcony. Scanning the suite quickly, Clark discovered that Lex was still not there. It was 4:15 in the morning.
"Lois, I have to go now. Lex could be back any second. I don't want him finding me here."
"Can you come back later?"
"I'm not welcome in this window. You know that. Besides, you'll be starting work again soon."
She looked a little disappointed. She held onto his arm as they walked toward the edge of the balcony. But Clark didn't leave. And he had a strange, confused expression on his face.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Let go of my arm," he told her. She did, and he flew up a little way. Then he came back. "Lois, something very strange is happening here. I *couldn't* fly off."
"What do you mean, you couldn't?"
"You were holding on to me. As soon as you let go, I could fly away. But it would have taken force to break away from you."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm not really sure, but I think something happened, something strange. Try pushing me over the balcony."
"Lois! You know I can't fall. Just try, to see if you can." He stood by the railing.
She moved over to him. With all her strength, she gave a mighty shove, and sent the Man of Steel tumbling into the black night. He popped back up in a second. Neither of the two knew what to say. Clark said something first. "Lois, I was *trying* not to let you knock me over. I'm not sure what just happened here, but…"
"I've got superpowers, too?"
"It appears that way."
"This is incredible. How is it possible?"
"I bet it has something to do with the Kryptonian Regeneration Matrix. It's meant to restore me if I'm ever mortally injured or something like that. It obviously thought you were me, and must've 'replaced' the lost powers. Wow… I, uh, I think you'd better learn to understand these powers, to control them. Otherwise, they can be very dangerous. Can you come with me now and leave a message for Lex that you went somewhere?"
"I guess." She went inside, and spoke to Mrs. Cox. She told her that she was going walking, and if Lex wanted to know, that was where she was.
"At this time of the morning?" Mrs. Cox asked, doubtfully.
"Yes, at this time of the morning. I *like* mornings."
Clark met her at the front door. He picked her up, and in a few minutes, they were on an island in the Atlantic. It was tropically warm. It was also devoid of people. It had been one of Clark's hideouts for a long time, and he had always dreamed of taking Lois there. Not for this, though. Today, the island just served as a good backdrop. They couldn't hurt anybody or destroy property. Clark had learned the hard way how much destruction someone who was new to a superpower could cause. And he had only gotten one at a time. Of course, Lois was a mature adult, and that evened things out.
"Okay, Lois, let's talk about this. We should deal with the most… destructive powers first. Strength, we saw a little of. But you have to learn to hold it back. It's not hard; you do it all the time, like when you crack an egg, or hold a baby. But now, it's like you can push harder. You can always push harder when you're doing something."
"I get it. So it's like I have all the levels of force that I use on normal things, but then I can just keep going up?"
"Yeah. The easiest way to control it is, when you're doing something big, keep increasing the force until it's enough. Eventually, you'll be able to judge how much force to use, but it's good to start this way. Push this tree halfway to the ground," he told her.
Instead of giving the tree a good shove, she started with a feather-light touch and pushed harder and harder against it. It moved until it was at a forty-five degree angle with the ground.
"Perfect!" Clark praised. "Try pulling it back upright." She did this, also.
"Piece of cake," she boasted.
He smiled. "Let's work on heat vision."
When she awoke, she was on the very same island. Clark was already awake, and watching her. When he saw her open her eyes, he leaned down and kissed her lightly. "Good morning," he said.
"Morning, Clark." It was so wonderful to wake up next to him.
"Did you have the dream again?"
"Yes, but it's getting better now!" She described the latest portion of her dream, ending with the superpower-practice on this very island.
Clark listened to all of it, and was thrilled to hear that they had made up and were friends again. But he was upset that he hadn't believed her when she said she loved him. "I'm sorry, Lois," he said to her.
"It's okay. *You* didn't do it. It came out of *my* psyche, remember? Besides, things are getting so much better. It's so wonderful!"
Clark stood up and picked up the bundle of his clothes. He handed Lois' to her. "We'd better get going. We have to get to work."
"Oh, no! Are we going to be late?"
"Naah. The time difference gives us a lot of leeway. But we've used most of it up, so get dressed, and I'll fly us back to Metropolis."
Lois had a big day today. She had to tell Lex that she didn't want to marry him. She had conveniently forgotten for the last few days, but he wouldn't let her ignore him any longer, she knew. It was time to face the music.
She did not even have to come to him. He invited her for dinner that night. She accepted, nervously. Only Clark's presence kept her sane during work hours. Then, she had to go home and get ready to meet Lex for dinner.
Lois looked at herself in the mirror. She was dressed nicely, though not overly sexy. This promised to be quite an evening; Lex was not the kind of man who was easy to break up with. Of course, no one was. But Lex had always been unpredictable, to say the least.
About forty-five minutes later, she was sitting at a dinner table with Lex. There was soft music playing in the background. Lois was not eating very much. Lex noticed, and decided it would be a good time for a distraction. "Would you like to dance, my dear?" he asked her.
Lois looked up at him. "Sure," she agreed. She wasn't very hungry. She rose from her seat and moved to where Lex was standing. He took her into his arms and they danced around the floor.
"Lois, is there something bothering you?" Lex finally asked.
"What? No. Well… That is…" She was startled, and had no idea what to say to him.
"You've come to a decision? Is that it?"
"Yeah," she said, softly.
He smiled gently, and guided her to a chair. He bade her sit down, and sat on a chair near her. He reached into his jacket and removed a ring box. He opened it, and proffered it to her. "What's it to be, Lois? Will you marry me?"
"Oh, Lex, I'm sorry. I can't."
Lois took a deep, calming breath. "You've been really great to me, and I like you a lot, but there's just… It's just that I don't *love* you, and there's… someone else… someone I do love…"
Lex stood up and was backed away from her. "I… see." Of course, he didn't. He didn't know what had happened, unless… "It's Superman, isn't it." It was not a question.
"Actually, no," she said. "It's a normal person." She dared not invoke Clark's name, knowing Lex's enmity toward the man.
Lex couldn't totally conceal his dismay at her statement. Lois had chosen a normal man over him, Lex Luthor? The only comfort was that she had chosen this man over Superman as well. "Well, then," he said, trying to control his voice, "I guess that leaves nothing here for us now, does it?"
"Lex, I'm sorry…" Lois began.
"No, it's all right. I understand," he said.
There was silence for a moment. Then, Lois whispered, "Thank you," and left the room. As she was walking down the hall, she heard the sound of wood splintering from the room she had just vacated, as if Lex had smashed a chair against the wall. She quickened her pace and was soon driving to Clark's apartment to tell him what happened.
Lex stood still in the middle of the room, ignoring the pieces of wood on the ground. He had thrown a chair in a surge of anger and jealousy. She had another man, did she? He didn't fool himself by wondering who it was. There could be no doubt that it was Clark Kent, her partner. So many times, he had wondered if she felt anything for the reporter. He had never been able to figure it out.
When his sources had reported that something terrible had apparently happened between Lois and Clark and they were barely even friends anymore, he had been enthralled. He had figured that it was the perfect time to propose to Lois. So he had. But now…
"Sir?" came a voice from the doorway, "Is something wrong?"
"Ah, Nigel. I will be taking a trip."
"Where to, sir?"
"I don't know yet. Somewhere I can do a little hunting. Pack my things."
"Very good, sir."
It was six in the morning when Lois returned to her home. She glanced into the building with her newly acquired x-ray vision to determine that Lex was, indeed, home. She couldn't use the window. She went in the door and up the elevator to her and Lex's private quarters. When she walked in the door, Lex exploded at her.
"Where the hell have you been?" he demanded.
"Walking… as if it's any of your business."
"Of course it's my business! I'm your husband!"
"Not my master. Get over it." Her confidence in herself had been doubled after this session with Clark on the island. Now she truly could handle anything. She had nothing to fear from Lex.
For his part, Lex was learning that he could not control her. Part of what had attracted him to her was the challenge, it was true. The challenge of two strong-willed people each going their own way. The challenge he was certain he could win. But now his victory was slipping out from under him. Lex Luthor did not like to be undermined.
"Where did you walk?" he asked her.
"China," she replied.
Lex grumbled. "Some honeymoon this is turning out to be."
"Honeymoon? What honeymoon? I don't remember us ever going on a honeymoon."
"Lois, is that what this is all about? You know I have important things to do here," he said soothingly. She was just sore because their honeymoon had been delayed.
"No, that has nothing to do with anything. It was just an observation. In fact, I don't *want* to go anywhere on a honeymoon. I wish you would work all day! Then, I'd only have to see you at night. God knows that's enough torture."
"Lois! I know and you know that you don't mean those words."
"Maybe you know that, but I know that I *do* mean them. Marrying you has been the biggest mistake of my life."
"How dare you say that!" he exclaimed, shocked.
"What do you want me to do, simper and lie through my teeth? If you want that, you should have married Mrs. Cox. Or Miranda, remember her? Not me. I don't love you, Lex. I never have and I never will. I feel nothing for you. 'Nec cupias, nec metuas.' Neither desire, nor fear. I want a divorce."
"Give me one good reason to stay married to you."
"You'll come around eventually. And when you do, you'll regret this conversation. We don't need a divorce. And we won't get one. Now, not another word." He attempted to put a hand on her shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" she exclaimed, pulling away.
He slapped her in the face. She didn't even bother to pretend that it hurt, although she probably should have. "You'll break, Lois. Someday you'll break, and you'll be irrevocably mine."
"Yeah, well, until then, I'm sleeping on the couch," she replied.
Furious, Lex stormed into the bedroom and slammed the door. Sinking down on the couch, Lois felt gloriously elated, yet hopelessly depressed. Elated that she had finally had a good fight with Lex— that bear incident had been nice, but she hadn't gotten to say as many good things. Depressed because he was apparently going to stay married to her no matter what. He was going to punish her for not submitting to him, not letting him win. And, in this way, he would win.
She couldn't let him win. Not now. Maybe they could be on the balcony, and he could "accidentally" fall… Nahh. Much as she hated Lex, she couldn't actually murder anybody, even him. That wasn't the answer. Maybe she should just contemplate it and eventually come up with something. Maybe she should be such a bitch that Lex would *want* to divorce her.
A WEEK LATER:
Lois and Lex were still not on pleasant terms. It only bothered Lex, so Lois didn't bother to be amiable about a reconciliation. She was pleased to hear about a new story, one which would involve an overnight stakeout with Clark. Three good things combined into one: time with Clark, time without Lex, and an interesting story. What luck! Okay, maybe the lead wasn't too likely to pan out, but two out of three good things wasn't bad.
There was some kind of illegal drugs action going down, or supposedly going down, in an office-for-rent building. What drug- pushers would be doing renting an office, Lois didn't know, but it was good story material. Lois and Clark were to go to the hotel that was across the street from the building. They reserved a room on the fifteenth floor because from the window, they could look slightly down, but almost directly across to the office that the dealers had rented.
Now, they had to go home and pack before heading over to the hotel and beginning their surveillance. Clark went to his apartment and grabbed an overnight bag, packing all the essentials. He had plenty of time to spin into the super suit and make his rounds. Nothing much was happening that night; he probably wouldn't have to leave Lois. It was so nice to see her, to talk to her again. He was really looking forward to this stakeout.
Soon, Lois came by to pick him up. He loaded his bag and one carrying surveillance equipment into the back seat of her car, and climbed into the front seat. They arrived at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in about twenty minutes. They carried their bags into the classy lobby and went to the front desk to get their keys. Their reservations were for the fifteenth floor, room 1540. They took a huge escalator to the first floor and then an elevator up thirteen floors to the fifteenth floor. They walked down the hall to their room, and went in. It was pretty small, but clean. There were two double beds, an armchair, a table and a few chairs, and two dressers with a television on one of them. The bathroom was pretty large, considering the size of the room.
The first thing they did was to unpack their bags into the dressers directly across from the beds. That took up a whole ten minutes. After that, they set up the equipment to tape the goings- on across the street. Then, they were at a loss for something to do.
"What do you want to do?" asked Lois.
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. Is there anything good on TV?"
Clark flipped on the TV and surfed through the channels. Nothing captured either of their interests.
"Why don't we take a walk, look around the hotel, you know," suggested Lois
Lois turned the TV off and grabbed her room key off the table it had been resting on. She and Clark walked out the door, making sure it was locked behind them. They turned right, and went down the hall to the elevators. They had to wait for quite a long time to actually catch one; it appeared that there was some sort of competition going on in the convention center that was attached to the hotel, and there were a lot of high-school kids there. Finally, they managed to squeeze into an elevator with a bunch of kids wearing matching blazers emblazoned with the logo of an organization called DECA. Clark asked one of the students what DECA was, and he replied proudly that it stood for "Distributive Education Clubs of America," and was an "Association of Marketing Students." This was the site of state level competition. The entire hotel was full of high-schoolers.
They got off on the second floor and looked into a room that was full of exercise equipment. Beyond that, behind a glass door, was a pool. It was, of course, outdoors. The weather being typical for early March, it was also empty. The cold wouldn't have bothered them if they wanted to go swimming, but the other guests might find it strange, so they opted not to.
They left the exercise room and continued their walk around the hotel. There wasn't much else of interest besides the huge chandelier that graced the ceiling above the escalator and a passage from the hotel to the convention center. They soon started to go back to their room.
This time, they bypassed the elevators in favor of the stairs. They had to go up twelve flights of stairs, but it was worth it to avoid the crowded elevators.
Neither tired of the walking up stairs, as both were endowed with powers beyond those of mortal men, but it did take time, and they couldn't risk flying up, as someone else might be using the stairs. After what seemed like forever, Lois and Clark reached the fifteenth floor. The staircase exit was near the elevators, and they walked down the hall to their room. At least, they attempted to. Four high-school kids were running down the hall, pillows in hand, bashing each other. They were followed by five others, also wielding feather weapons. Lois and Clark were almost trampled by the pillow-fighters, two of whom attempted an in-flight apology.
The reporters watched as the kids knocked on the door to 1517. It was opened by a young Italian man of about twenty-two or twenty- three, who immediately yelled at the kids for pillow fighting in the halls. Subdued, the nine walked back to a room which was across from where Lois and Clark were. They could be heard mumbling about student teachers who suddenly turn on you.
Lois giggled a little. "At least they were polite. It looks like they're staying in the room across from us, and the one next to us. This promises to be a fun evening."
"I bet. Ah, youth!"
She walked across the room to the equipment they had set up. It was nine o'clock, and nothing was happening yet. She picked up the remote and flipped the TV on. "Anything good on now?" she asked Clark, when he sat down on the bed across from the one she was sitting on. He replied that he didn't know, so she channel surfed until she came to HBO, where the image of a familiar actor, Michael Keaton, stopped her. The movie was "Multiplicity," and they decided to watch what was left of it. It had started a half- hour before, but they knew enough of the simple plot to understand the movie.
Lois opened her bag and pulled out a package of Twizzlers. She opened it and offered it to Clark. "Want some?"
"Sure," said Clark, and moved over to the bed Lois was sitting on. She smiled at his nearness.
Suddenly, they heard shouts coming from the hall. They got up to investigate. Clark stuck his head out of the door only to be hit by a small stream of water. Behind him, Lois laughed.
The young blond girl whose water gun had fired the offending shot clapped her hand over her mouth. "I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed, mortified. Her friends were laughing hysterically at her.
"It's okay," said Clark. The girl's eyes were wide with surprise and admiration. She might be only sixteen or so, but that was one impressive-looking guy!
One of the guys came up and took the water gun out of her hand. "I'm afraid I'll have to confiscate this gat," he said in a mock- serious tone of voice.
"I'm really sorry," she apologized again to Clark.
"It's okay," he said, and ducked back into the room, slightly damp, but none the worse for wear. "At least somebody's having fun," he said to Lois, who was still laughing.
"The look on that poor girl's face!" Lois exclaimed. "She looked like she'd just shot Brad Pitt!"
Clark wrinkled his nose distastefully. "Come on, let's watch this movie." They sat together on the bed, not really paying too much attention, both absorbed in their own thoughts. Soon, the movie was over. Lois, bored, got up and started walking around the room, poking into things.
She saw a little bucket that was obviously for ice. "Hey, Clark, is there an ice machine here?"
"Probably. At least, there should be. Wanna go look?" he asked.
"Yeah." They got up and went out the door and down the hall. They found it obstructed by the same nine students they kept running into. A few were playing cards, a few were still carrying water guns, and a few were gossiping to the card players. Lois and Clark carefully stepped over the card players, who apologized for being in their way.
As they left, they could hear the topic of conversation change to them.
"We really have to stop bugging them," said one girl.
"I know," replied a guy. "They're only going to put up with it for so long."
"But they've been really nice about it so far. *I* probably wouldn't be as nice as they are," said another girl.
Lois grinned at Clark. "Nice kids," she commented.
"Mature. Well, in a way," Clark amended, recalling the pillow and water gun fights.
"Oh, come on. Wouldn't you do stuff like that in high school if you were away from your parents? It's like a big party."
"I guess." They went into a little room beside the elevators. It contained a soda machine, an ice machine, and a snack vendor. Clark filled the ice bucket with ice, and the two made their way back to the room. It was about eleven o'clock, so they both decided to turn in.
Lois changed clothes in the bathroom, and Clark changed in the main room. Clark availed himself of the ever-popular spin change, but Lois, being as of yet unused to the trick, did not.
When Lois came out of the bathroom, Clark was lying on the bed, reading a book. He looked up and smiled at her as she walked into the room. She got into the bed nearest her and lay back. A few minutes later, after brushing his teeth, Clark got back into the other bed.
Lois turned over and tried to go to sleep. It was beyond difficult and bordering on impossible, due to her problems with Lex and Clark, which were still plaguing her. She looked in the direction of the man she loved. It was so hard to see him every day, when she knew what every inch of his body looked like, so hard to touch him when she knew how it felt to have his naked skin against her own, so hard to work next to him and breathe in his cologne when she knew how exquisite he tasted, so hard to talk to him when her mind and body remembered secret, sacred words he had whispered, and every sound he made in the most intimate of moments.
She must somehow have fallen asleep, because at about two-thirty in the morning, she was woken by voices in the next room.
"I know that's not what it's supposed to look like! Coffee is dark brown, not light tan!"
"Well, do you want any or not? It's this stupid coffee machine's fault. I can't work it!"
"It might be better as iced coffee. Do we have any ice left?"
"I don't know." There was a pause. "It melted."
"I'm going to get the soda from the guys' room."
"Isn't anybody going to drink this?"
Clark, who had been woken up as well, said to Lois, "Should we call them?"
"And do what?" Lois replied.
Clark turned on one of the lights. "Grab the other phone," he told Lois. She moved over to the table and picked up the phone, putting it to her ear. Clark dialed the room-to-room number and then punched in 1538.
"Hello?" said a young girl's voice.
"Is this room 1538?" Clark asked.
"I'm Clark, from 1540."
He paused, as he and Lois heard a rustling, and a muffled, "It's that gorgeous guy from the other room!" and "Shhhhh!" The other phone was picked up.
As Lois tried to stifle her laughter about the girl's remark, Clark continued. "Would you like to know how to work the coffee machine?"
Lois couldn't contain her giggles any longer, but she kept the phone. "Oh!" exclaimed the girl who had picked up the phone. "Did we wake you up? We're so sorry!"
"No, that's okay, we didn't really want to sleep anyway. This is Lois, also in 1540."
"Hi," said Lois.
"Hi," said the girls.
Clark told them how to work the coffee machine, and they thanked him, both for the information and for putting up with them. "We'll try to be quieter, we promise," said one of the girls.
"Oh, it's okay. We were in high school once, too," said Lois. They soon hung up. Lois, smiling, turned to Clark, who was grinning back at her.
They both lay awake, trying to sleep, listening minimally to the voices coming from the next room. Lois thought she was going nuts. Just to be able to say something to Clark, she said, "Clark, it's 4:30 a.m.! Don't these kids ever go to sleep?"
"They will," he said. "I hope."
It was 5:45, and Clark heard only silence coming from room 1538. Fifteen minutes ago, the five girls had just… stopped talking. He assumed they had just crashed. He had heard them talking about getting up at 6:30 for a breakfast function; maybe they wanted to get in a little sleep.
But then, a sound made its way to Clark's ultra-sensitive ear. It was Lois, who had been asleep for nearly an hour. She was tossing, turning, and groaning as if in distress It was undoubtedly a nightmare, maybe brought on by being away from her husband. She'd be fine. But even Clark's dark thoughts couldn't keep him from worrying. He got up and walked one step over to her bed, perching on the end of it. After all, she *was* asleep— it's not like she'd notice, he reasoned.
He reached out a slightly hesitant hand and rubbed her back in slow, steady circles. It felt so good to touch her. He hadn't allowed himself to freely do so in a very long time. Not since their hug on Lex's balcony. He had been almost afraid of where it would lead. His other hand joined the first, and for a second he flashed back to a similar situation in his apartment what seemed like ages ago.
Lois immediately calmed. Whatever dream had been troubling her was not doing so now. She moved a little, sighing in response to his touch. "Mmmmmmm…" she moaned. "Oh, Clark, that feels so good…"
Clark paused as he realized she was awake, or half-awake. But before he did anything, Lois suddenly tensed under his hands. Her eyes snapped open. "Lex! I mean Lex! Oh, Lex, I'm so sor—" But she broke off as she turned and saw Clark's surprised face instead of the shocked and upset visage of Lex. Lex would have reacted furiously to the situation. There were only so many times a man could tolerate being called "Clark," and Lois was way over the limit already. However, Clark's reaction was mostly surprise.
"Clark?" Lois asked, "why are you… how is this possible?" The mixture of sleep, pleasure, and wonder then faded off her face as she remembered why Clark was there. "Oh yeah…" she mumbled and turned her face away.
"Lois?" Clark's voice filled her with tentative hope.
"Did you think that you had just called Lex by my name?" he asked incredulously.
"Does that mean you… Were you… Do you…?" He was stunned.
"Clark," she said with a smile, "I *love* you." She lifted her hand to rest at the base of his neck. "I said it before, but you didn't— couldn't— believe me. And it was my fault that you couldn't. But believe me now, I really do love you."
Clark leaned down and gently touched his lips to hers. She returned the kiss passionately, hungrily, opening her mouth to devour him. He ran his hands over the sides of her body and down to her waist. "Oh, Clark," she sighed. "I've wanted you, needed you for so long…" As his fingers slid under the waistband of her shorts, her face and body tensed with expectancy.
But when his knuckles were at her waist, he paused and did not go any further down. Confused, Lois opened her eyes and looked at him. "Clark?" The word was both a question and an entreaty.
Clark retrieved his hand from its potentially dangerous position. Keeping his face turned away from Lois', he said, "I'm sorry, Lois. I just… can't. It wouldn't be right."
"It's because I'm married."
"Yes. I do love you, but this isn't… You and me together isn't an option any more."
Lois had to bite her lip to keep a tight rein on her emotions. "I understand," she whispered, almost on the verge of tears. "It's all my fault. I ruined our chances."
Clark drew her once again into his arms. "Shhhh. It's okay, Lois. We've both done some pretty stupid things, but what's done is done, and we can't take back our actions."
She clung to him, needing to feel his body against hers, even if they couldn't be together. "I'm so sorry, Clark…"
"I'm sorry, too, Lois," he said softly, stroking her hair. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Clark, so much. I've been trying to get a divorce from Lex."
"He'd never let you do that."
"No, he isn't letting me but I have to keep trying. But it's going to be so hard."
"I know. I know." He hugged her a little tighter. "You know what Virgil said? 'Forsam et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.' Perhaps someday we shall like to remember even these things."
Virgil. Lex had quoted Virgil to Lois once. When he asked her to marry him. It was strange that both of the men in her life could be so different and yet so alike as to choose the same ancient Roman poet to quote. "I hope so. I hope we're happy enough in the future to look back on our lives without pain."
"We will be. I know it."
She drifted off into a warm, untroubled sleep in Clark's arms. Clark slept, too, holding her tight the way he'd wanted to for so long.
Clark awoke to the sound of his telephone loudly insisting that he answer it. His mind slightly dulled by sleep, he automatically reached over to press the 'snooze' button on his alarm clock. When that didn't work, he picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Clark, the best things are happening in my dream! You believed me when I said that I love you! Lex and I are in the middle of a major fight! And some of the dream was really funny." She went on to relay astounding tales of DECA students, water guns, pillow fights, and coffee machines.
"Wow, sounds like you may have this dream thing licked soon!" Clark exclaimed.
"Not quite. Lex is refusing to let me have a divorce. I think it's because he wants to punish me for not loving him, or something like that. But I doubt he really loves me, anyway. Maybe he thought he did, and is just now realizing that he doesn't. I know he didn't expect me to act the way I did toward him, insisting on getting my own way, blah, blah, blah…"
Clark just smiled sleepily as he listened to the voice of the woman he loved. He glanced at the clock to discover that it was time to get up to get ready for work, anyway. The conversation drifted for a while, and soon Lois excused herself. "Some of us can get all ready for work in ten seconds, but *I* am not that lucky," she offered as means of an explanation.
"Okay. 'Bye, Lois."
"'Bye." She almost replaced the phone in its cradle, but was stopped by Clark.
"Hey…" came his still sleepy voice.
"I love you."
She smiled. "I love you, too, Clark. See you in a bit." This time she did hang up, and did so with a rather goofy grin on her face. It would be a good day.
Lois had just walked with Clark home from the Planet, and was sitting with him in his apartment, drinking coffee. This had become their daily ritual. She would park the car at his place in the morning, and they'd walk down together. Sometimes, but not today, if they thought they'd need the car, they'd drive. Despite the fact that she could have any car she pleased, she still drove her vanity-plated Jeep Cherokee. One reason was that she didn't want to get things from Lex. She didn't like to be dependent on him. Everything she bought, she bought with her own money, not Lex's. She was thrilled to be back on the job again after that hell that was supposed to be a honeymoon. It had been cut short due to a few untimely incidents, beginning with the bear episode. That suited Lois just fine. This way, she could enjoy her life somewhat.
As they walked, Lois decided to speak to Clark about something that had been on her mind for a while. "Clark?"
"Now that I've got full use of my powers, do you think that maybe I could… I mean… you know… help?"
"Lois, I'm sure you've got what it takes, but do you realize what goes with the job? Do you know what you're asking? What kind of life you'd be living?"
"I know that. I've seen you deal with the job. But I can't sit around and do nothing, any more than you could. Besides, you have to miss cries for help; *I* could answer them." She gently put her hand on the side of Clark's face. They stopped walking. "You have an impossible job, and I know how frustrating that can be. But I can shoulder some of that."
Clark's face melted into a gentle smile. "Lois, you've been my partner at my normal job for a year now, and we've made a great team. There's nothing I'd like more than to have you be my partner in my other job. Are you sure?"
"Oh yeah, I'm sure." She dropped her hand from his face and into his hand. "Partners?"
"Partners," he agreed, as he shook her hand. "Now, you need a costume. How long can you spare to come to Smallville?"
"Yeah, my mom'll design you a great costume. She did mine."
"Oh, of course! How long would it take?"
"Well, we could do a rush job in a day, but a few days would be optimal."
"That'll be fine. Lex is at work, so I'll just go pack, leave him a note, and we can be on our way."
"Great! I'll call mom and tell her we're coming, and tell Perry he'll have to do without us for a few days."
"Okay. Bye!" She leaned forward as if to kiss him goodbye. She stopped stiffened, and pulled back when she realized what she had been doing. "Um… bye," she repeated.
"Bye," he echoed ruefully.
She flew off with a sonic boom that Clark was used to creating instead of hearing.
Lois was home in a manner of seconds. This time, there was nobody in the private quarters, so she felt free to enter via the window. She went over to her drawers and pulled out a couple of pairs of jeans, some t-shirts, and all the other necessities for four days. She figured that was the maximum amount of time she'd be spending there. She threw everything into a large duffel bag and zipped it shut.
She then went to a desk drawer and removed a piece of Lex's stationery and a pen, to write a note to Lex.
I'm going to Kansas for a little while. I'll
probably be back in a couple of days. See
While taping the note to her pillow, she couldn't help but smile as she imagined his face as he read it. She loved the fact that he hated the fact that he was losing control of her. And, she loved the fact that she was going to Kansas to become a superhero. Now there was a strange thought. Right up with all those ambitious classmates:
"I'm going to LA to become an actress."
"Yeah, well *I'm* going to learn history in New Jersey!"
"*I'm* going to Nashville to become a country singer!"
And Lois' response would be, "I'm going to Kansas to become a superhero!" You'd think hero training would be in New York City or somewhere, but nope. A tiny town in Kansas.
Picking up her bag, she flew away, toward 344 Clinton. As she flew, she thought about the as-of-yet unborn superhero who would soon debut. What kind of name did she want? Superwoman, to match Clark? Maybe. What about the costume? She didn't want to clash with Clark's outfit, but with his colors, that would be hard to manage. Earthtones? Yeah, there's a great superhero— the Brown Girl. Besides, it would look weird next to Mr. Primary Colors.
Maybe she could go with the complements of Clark's colors… no way. That would leave her with an orange suit and a green cape. She could always match Clark's costume, but feminize it. A red skirt, maybe, instead of the briefs and tights. With red underwear to match, since people would be looking up.
Or maybe she should be the inverse of Clark. Blue cape, red suit, blue boots. Yeah, that would look good. And a blue skirt to break the harshness of the red. A short skirt, like a skating outfit, with red tights under it.
She landed on Clark's balcony, where he stood, waiting for her. "Everything all set?" he asked.
"Yup," she replied.
"Let's go." With that, they flew off.
As they traveled, Lois told Clark about the ideas she'd had.
"Superwoman," he said. "I like it. A lot."
She smiled. "Me too."
"Now, about this costume. It sounds great, but what about your face?" "My face?"
"Yeah, you know, the thing on the front of your head. People *will* recognize you. At least the Planet people."
"I never even thought of that! Geez, it's a good thing you're here. I don't know what I could do. A cape and cowl, like Batman?"
"Lois, that works great for the 'striking terror into the hearts of evildoers' thing, but it's not quite a 'Super' image."
"Odd makeup? A hood that shades my face?"
"Maybe a mask. Just a little one, over the eyes. Blue, I think. And if you slick your hair back, it'll look black. And you should try to change your voice a little, if you can."
"Like how Superman's voice is kinda deeper and more intimidating than Clark Kent's?"
"How do you think Superwoman should sound? High and bubbly? Low and dusky?" She changed her voice to match the proposed adjectives.
'Low and dusky' certainly made an impression on Clark. That was definitely the one to use. He told her as much.
"Oh, he likes the deep, sexy one, does he? Okay, it's settled."
He smiled at her and shrugged. "What can I say? Anyway, there's a few other ways to add to the disguise. Posture, although that automatically changes when you're in a spandex suit, at least it does for me, not laughing or making many jokes, getting used to referring to yourself in the third person, the list goes on and on."
"Wow. I never realized just how much trouble you go to for that secret identity thing you've got going. I hope I can manage all that."
"Well, I'll teach you some things while we're on the farm. And I can help cover for you while we're together. You're going to have to be really careful. It'll be specially hard to hide it from… ah… Lex." Clark was uncomfortable even saying the man's name.
"No, Lex is a busy man. Besides, he's already getting used to the fact that I come and go as I please. I mean, just now, I wrote him a note saying I was going to Kansas and I'd probably be back in a couple of days or so. That's all it said. I'm breaking him in to the idea that he's married to someone who's just as headstrong as he is."
"Well… you'll forgive me if I hope he never gets used to the idea."
"Yeah. There's always the hope that I'll be too much for him to handle."
"And, knowing you, that's quite possible."
Lois grinned and gave him a playful shove. It knocked him a few feet away from the path he was flying on, much the way a human man would've been pushed by another human. This only served to increase her grin. She was on a par with Superman. She was Superwoman!
Soon, they were in Smallville, in the front yard of a white farmhouse. They walked up to the door and knocked. In a flash, Martha was at the door. She hugged first her son, then Lois. Jonathan took a second longer to make an appearance, and he hugged both of them, too.
Lois and Clark were escorted to the sitting room, where they proceeded to tell the whole strange story. Then they explained that Lois needed a costume.
"Oh!" exclaimed Martha, "I'd be happy to make one for you, dear! Any ideas on how it should look? You should've seen the costumes I made for Clark before he found one he liked…"
In the master bedroom, Lois stood still in the center of piles of fabric while Martha took her measurements. As they went through the motions of tailoring, they talked as if they were old friends. Indeed, it seemed as though they were, even though they hadn't known each other for very long. It was an instant bond.
"…I just didn't know what was going on. I mean, I was standing there at the altar, and I could have sworn that it was Clark there with me… even then, I knew I loved him and not Lex… and I said 'I do,' but I realized it was Lex, and I felt so terrible, so sick inside. It was too late. I should have backed out before then, but I had been trying to convince myself that it *was* right, but it wasn't. I could have killed myself when I realized what I had done. And I missed Clark so much because I *love* him. But I knew he'd never even *like* me again, after everything. But somehow, a miracle happened, and he still loves me. And I'm certain it's not too late. I'm trying to get a divorce. Already, Lex is getting annoyed with me. This unplanned, unannounced except for a little note, trip will be another major battle with him. Thing is, I prefer fighting with him to the alternative." She shuddered, cutting off her own babbling.
She was silent for a minute. When she spoke again, her voice was lower and sadder. "Oh, Martha, what am I saying? It *is* too late. I was an idiot, and I ruined my life and Clark's, too." She sniffed a little.
Martha took Lois into her arms. "Oh, honey, everything *will* be all right. Trust me. From what I've heard of Lex Luthor, you'll have a good cause to divorce him soon enough. As if not loving him was a *bad* reason for divorce… sheesh. Now, let's get to work on this costume."
Lois was happy enough to accept Martha's assurances and her fussing. The older woman pulled out huge amounts of different fabrics for Lois to look at and pick out the ones she'd need. Then, the actual designing began.
They started with a red sleeveless bodysuit. Over that, they intended to put a short, loose skirt. Lois wasn't sure at first whether she wanted to have a blue skirt, red tights, and blue boots, or a blue skirt, no tights, and blue boots, or a blue skirt, no tights, and red boots. She knew she didn't want a red skirt. That would not look as good as a blue one would.
Martha helped by drawing sketches of the way each proposed outfit would look. With the help of these, Lois realized that no tights and red boots would probably look the best.
The final ensemble consisted of a blue mask that covered a large area around her eyes, a dark blue cape that was slightly shorter than Clark's, diamond-shaped symbols on her shoulders, the right bearing an 'S' and the left bearing a 'W', both blue letters on a yellow background, a red v-necked, sleeveless bodysuit, a yellow belt that came to a 'v' in the front, and from which hung a very short skirt that was loose, pleated, and made of the same heavy material as the cape, no tights, and medium-heeled red boots that came up to mid-calf.
"Well," said Martha when everything was finished, "let's see how it looks."
Martha went out into the hallway while Lois put on the unfamiliar outfit. First the bodysuit, then the skirt, then the boots, then cape, and finally, the mask. She glanced in the mirror and smiled. "Martha!" she called.
Martha walked into the room. "It looks gorgeous! Let me go get Jonathan and Clark." She walked back out and called downstairs to the men, "Jonathan! Clark! We're done!"
Lois was already on her way out to meet them. She stopped at the top of the stairs. "What do you think?" she asked, a little nervously.
"Beautiful!" exclaimed Clark.
"It looks wonderful, Lois," said Jonathan. "Martha, you did a great job."
"Clark," said Martha, "put on your suit so we can see what you look like together."
Clark obligingly spin-changed into Superman and went to stand by Lois.
His parents smiled. "Perfect," said Jonathan. "A true crime- fighting team."
Martha just nodded.
Clark looked at his partner. "Well, let's get started on what you need to know. Grab your regular clothes and meet me out back."
She went back up to the room. "Starting with the spin-change?" Martha asked.
"It's one of the most useful things in the business," Clark replied, then excused himself to fly off toward the field in back of the farmhouse.
"Chalk up another success for the Kent Superhero Farm," said Jonathan.
"Okay, Clark, I think I'm going to get it right this time," said Lois. She spun into a red, yellow, and blue blur. When she stopped, Superwoman was standing there, with her eyes shut. "Did I get everything?"
"You look like you're all there," Clark replied cautiously. "Turn around." She did so, and he declared it a perfect spin-change. "Okay, go back to Lois now."
She grinned and crossed her fingers before spinning again. She glanced down, to find that she was fully 'Lois' again. "I did it!"
"All right!" Clark said, giving her a high-five. "Now you have to learn the variations."
"Variations?" she asked warily.
"Yeah, changing while flying straight, while wearing different clothes, that sort of thing."
They did about an hour more of spin-change practice, during which Lois changed in and out of her clothes hundreds of times, and also in and out of different pieces of clothing, such as a blouse, Clark's jacket and tie, Martha's skirt, a sundress she had brought, and each time got it perfect. Well, not quite each time. But by the end of the session, she could change almost as well as Clark.
Then, they began doing simulations of crimes so that Lois would know what to do. Throughout this whole training time, Clark encouraged Lois to use her 'Superwoman' voice.
"Okay, Lois, turn around for a second." He was off and back in a second. "Okay, now I'm a criminal. *This*," he said, indicating a scarecrow he had swiped, "is my hostage." He pulled out a tree branch and pointed it at the cranium of the poor scarecrow he held. "Hold it right there, Superwoman," he sneered. "One more step, and the kid gets it." He jabbed the "gun" toward the "kid's" head to emphasize his point.
Lois had seen how he had dealt with this before. She used her heat vision to heat up the "gun." "Ow!" Clark exclaimed, dropping the gun, which had a little flame on the end. Superwoman blew it out, not wanting to start a fire. "Tricky! But I've got a backup plan!" He pulled a rock out of his pocket. "This remote triggers five different bombs. All of them are under large buildings. We wouldn't want to be responsible for all those deaths, now would we, Superwoman?"
Lois pondered this for a half a second, then, with a quick spurt of superbreath, knocked the remote out of Clark's hand, flew over and pinned his hands behind his back. "Gotcha," she whispered, then let go of him.
"Ha ha! You think you're so smart, Superwoman, but when the remote hit the ground, the button was depressed, and all five bombs went off!"
She frowned. "Really?"
"Probably not, but before you do that, you should check to see if the button sticks out and could be pressed accidentally. Most remotes wouldn't be that way, but you never know. You have to learn to analyze any possible responses you would have."
"I think I've got a lot of learning to do."
"Don't worry. It'll come fast."
The training session went on for hours and hours. It was pitch black when they re-entered the farmhouse. There was a note on the kitchen table. Martha and Jonathan had gotten tired and gone to bed, but they had left dinner for Lois and Clark. It was in the refrigerator and needed only to be heated up.
"Let's take this stuff out to the barn," Clark said. "We can warm it up with heat vision, and we can talk there without worrying about waking anybody up. The mortals have to sleep so they can get up early," he said with a grin.
Lois grinned back. "Okay. Besides, this would be a good thing to learn. It might help my cooking skills."
Clark winced. "Don't overrate it!" He took the food out to the barn and Lois came with him.
"Hey, Clark," Lois said once they were there, "I know Martha's a good cook, so what's with the cat food?"
"It's just some cat treats," he said. He set down all the food, holding the small can of treats. He started to shake it, calling to unseen entities, "Bobby! Gabriel! Muki! Kabudul!"
Instantly, four cats materialized. One was grey on top, with a white chin, neck, belly, and paws. The second was grey striped. The third was tortoise-shell. The fourth was also tortoise-shell, but slightly darker colored. "Hey, guys!" said Clark, dishing out the treats to the purring felines. "How's it been?"
Lois sat down beside Clark and picked up the white and grey cat once he was done eating. Clark told her that that cat was Bobby, and liked to be scratched on the side of the face and on the neck. Lois obliged, and instantly had a friend for life. Clark introduced the other three. Muki was the lighter cat, and Kabudul was darker. Gabriel was grey striped. They all competed for the attention of the two humans.
"Sorry," said Clark. "This is going to make it tough to eat."
"Oh, that's okay," said Lois. "We can always float away from them."
He grinned. "I almost forgot. It's so weird, having another person who can do everything I can do. It's like you're the playmate I never got as a kid."
"Playmate, huh?" For some reason the term appealed to her.
"Yeah. Hey, it's important to have a playmate, even when you're an adult."
She smiled at him. "I guess so." She paused for a second. "Well, let's eat." She floated up into a cross-legged position three feet above the barn floor. Clark followed suit.
After Clark showed Lois how to use her heat vision to heat food, they ate. "So," Clark said, "how are you enjoying your superheroing?"
"It's great. I can't wait until I can do some real rescues." She paused for a second, hearing something in the distance. "Maybe I'll get my chance."
"It's a hostage situation, Lois. Those are tough, even for me sometimes. Why don't you watch from above and I'll take this one? Besides, we're not really ready to introduce Superwoman yet. She can't be seen in public."
"Okay, okay," Lois said. "I'll hover high above your head and use x-ray vision and superhearing to spy on you."
"But you're not keeping me out of the action for long."
"I don't intend to. Let's go." In seconds, they were off.
"Don't come any closer, or I'll shoot!" the man with the gun exclaimed. His voice was high and panicked as he addressed the policemen. "I'll kill them! I will!" His eye twitched away from the window of the convenience store and toward the four hostages. A cashier, a stock clerk, and two customers. They were huddled in a corner, cowed by the gun.
The police ceased their forward movement. They didn't want to do anything that could get those people killed. "What do you want?" came the voice over the megaphone. "What are your demands?"
He heard their question, but didn't answer, as he saw a blue streak rocket down by the policemen. Superman. The Man of Steel himself had come to help the police. Frank felt a surge of almost pride that it took Superman to deal with him. But then he realized that this would truly complicate things. Superman could dart in here and snatch the hostages away. Then, he would have no leverage and would certainly go to jail after Superman disarmed him.
Thinking fast, he grabbed a hostage and pushed the gun to her head. "Please don't kill me," she begged. "Don't shoot! I'm just the cashier!"
"Shut up," he told her. She did, terrified. That was brilliant, Frank told himself. Now, Superman couldn't get all the hostages before this one was killed.
Superman and the policemen turned to consult about this new development. Frank saw his chance. "If you make a sound or drag your feet, I'll kill you," he whispered to the hostage. "Say nothing and try nothing, you'll live to see tomorrow. Understand?"
She nodded mutely. Gun and hostage in hand, Frank silently crept away from the store, out the back entrance that he forced the girl to show him.
Lois saw what was happening. None of the police could see into the store far enough to know that he was gone, and Superman's back was turned. "Clark, he's getting away!" she thought. She wanted to scream it, but it would reveal her presence.
Miraculously, Clark turned and x-rayed the store. Seeing what was going on, he flew silently over the store until he could see Frank and his hostage creeping away. With a well-aimed burst of super- breath (not cold, as he didn't want to freeze the people), he knocked the gun out of Frank's hand. He flew down, and in less than a second, had apprehended the man.
Frank was released into the custody of the police, and Superman flew upward to meet his feminine counterpart. "Good job," she congratulated him.
"I couldn't have done it without you. Thanks for that warning."
"You told me he was getting away."
"I never said that. I just thought it, wishing I could say it out loud, and… oh, my… Clark, does this mean what I think it means?"
"I don't know," he replied cautiously. "If it is…"
"Try it. Try to say something telepathically to me."
"Okay," he said. Then he concentrated. He tried to project a thought to Lois. "Did you hear it?" he asked.
"No," she replied.
He frowned. "Too bad. That could have been interesting."
"Try it again."
^Lois, do you hear me?^
"I heard it!" she exclaimed. "It worked! How did you do it?"
^I just formed the words in my head and pictured you hearing them. It's really easy once you start.^
There was a pause, as Lois attempted it a few times, then Clark "heard" her reply. ^You're right. It is easy. I wonder what kind of range it has. Do we have to be near each other?^
^I don't know. Hang on a sec.^ Clark flew away. About ten seconds passed. ^Can you hear me?^
^Perfectly. Where are you?^
^Canada.^ Another twenty seconds ticked by. ^How about now?^
^Clear as a bell. Where are you now?^
^Tokyo. Just two more things, okay?^ He flew out into the very edges of Earth's atmosphere. ^Can you hear me now?^
^Barely,^ came Lois' faint voice.
^How about now?^ Clark asked from outer space. He waited. ^Lois?^ No answer. ^LOIS!^ he mentally shouted. No answer. He flew back into the atmosphere. ^Lois?^
^It didn't work from outside Earth's atmosphere. I wonder… if we were both in space, would it work? Fly out into space and see if you can hear me.^
^Okay.^ There was a pause of a few seconds. ^Can you hear me?^ she asked from outer space.
^Yes!^ he exclaimed triumphantly. ^So we can communicate as long as we're both either in the atmosphere or out of it. This is incredible!^
^Clark? Can we go back to Kansas now?^
^Sure. Race you!^
Lois got back to the barn first, as she was above the same continent as it and Clark was halfway around the world, but it didn't matter. They were both elated.
"Oh, this is so incredible!" Clark exclaimed. "Do you realize just how much easier this will make everything? And it's really, really cool!"
Lois laughed. She had to agree with that! She scratched Muki's chin as she asked Clark if he thought they could not only send thoughts, but read minds.
"I don't know. Go ahead and try."
Lois sat for a minute, concentrating on what was in Clark's brain. She was certain that she could do this, she just had to find out how. And then, all of a sudden, she was in. There was no other way to describe it— she was in Clark's brain. Billions of thoughts were flooding her mind— Clark's thoughts. There were so many of them, she couldn't identify any. They seemed to be coming at her, overflowing… it was too much. She shut her eyes, trying to get away from them. It was too busy— she couldn't get out! So many thoughts…
Her breathing was shallow, and her fists were clenched. Her face was twisted into a grimace as if she were in physical pain. Finally, with a terrified scream, she broke free.
"Lois? Lois? Are you okay?"
"Are you okay?"
"It was too much… too many thoughts. I couldn't stop! I'll never try that again! The brain is just too complicated."
"Okay. I'll take your word for it. Are you better now?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. So we can go back to the superhero lessons."
"Sure you don't want to call it a night?"
"Nahh. I don't need as much sleep any more, and we need to make the most out of this time as we can."
They had been practicing rescues for hours on end. The sun was just beginning to rise, not yet high enough to peek through the trees. Lois and Clark were sitting on the roof of the farmhouse to watch the sun rise and to take a breather.
"Wow, this is so different from the last time I was here," Lois sighed.
"I had a good time then, believe it or not." She took his hand and inched a little closer to him, resting her head on his shoulders.
"So did I. What I remember most is that when I won that strength thing, with my super powers gone, no less, you picked a teddy bear instead of a Superman doll. I was so amazed."
"I loved that teddy bear." Her voice dropped lower and seemed sad. "I don't have it any more."
"Why? What happened to it?"
"It was the second night of my marriage to Lex, and I was sitting awake by the window, holding it. I guess I fell asleep, because Lex woke me up. I got up to put the bear in my drawer, and he gave me the third degree about it. He found out it was from you, and he didn't like that very much. He threw it out the window onto the street. I went to look for it, but I couldn't find it. I was so furious with him for doing that…"
"Lois, you're never going to believe this. I was walking by your penthouse that day, and I saw a bear. I thought it was just coincidence that it looked so familiar, but… I picked it up and brought it home with me."
"No! It's a little the worse for wear, but I cleaned it up and kept it."
"That's amazing." There was silence for a while, as they just watched the twilight change into dawn, in one of nature's most magnificent displays. "It's so beautiful," Lois sighed.
"When we get a chance, let's go to up north to see the Aurora Borealis. You'd like that. Mother Nature's own pyrotechnics show. I've always wanted to take you to see it, but you'd have been so cold you wouldn't have appreciated it."
"Sounds great." Listening to his voice, she realized just how much it meant to him to have another person he could share these things with. They had always been his duties, his abilities, his retreats from life… his lonely places. And now, it *was* like he suddenly had a playmate who could keep up with him. He didn't have to hide, didn't have to pretend, didn't have to consciously hold himself back to keep to her level.
As the sun rose on the Kansas farm, Lois' only regret was that they couldn't share themselves fully as long as she was married to Lex. And yet, this level of intimacy that she had with Clark right here, right now, was deeper than any physical contact could have been, more complete, and ultimately more satisfying. Still, it could become so much more if only she could find a way to rid herself of her commitment to Lex.
The next day, the two superpeople flew back to Metropolis. Superwoman was fully ready to face whatever challenges the day would hold, be they rescues, criminals, or her husband. When she reached her home, she changed back into Lois and entered through the door. Mrs. Cox raised an eyebrow at her, but said nothing.
Lois went up the elevator and got off on the top floor. She went into the private rooms. She unpacked her bag, then collapsed into a chair. The little vacation had been emotionally exhausting. It was like she was a whole new person.
Her suits were not here. They were hanging in Clark's closet along with his. She couldn't risk Lex seeing them. Having them at Clark's was slightly inconvenient, but the best plan at the moment. She always had one suit with her, ready to change into at all times. Clark had shown her how to keep the suit there with her, but not actually there. It was all very confusing, really, and was like a complex magic trick. It was really interesting, and bordering on mind-boggling, but it went with the territory.
Suddenly, her superhearing kicked in. There was a fire at a school, and some kids were trapped. ^Clark!^ she projected, ^Did you hear that?^
^I heard it,^ he replied from his apartment. ^Let's go.^ It was time for Superwoman's debut.
The two brightly-cloaked heroes appeared on the scene. The crowd of mostly teachers and children gasped at the sight. Without wasting any time, they both flew up to the classroom and started taking kids, two at a time, through the window and down to the street below.
"Superman, I hear some coughing from another room. I'm going to go check it out," Superwoman said, and dashed into the girls' room. Sure enough, there were three very scared seventh-graders there. "Come on, ladies," she said. She took two of them, telling the other she'd be right back. She flew down, setting the two girls on the street and then dashed up again to get the third girl. She picked her up and brought her to safety.
"Did you see anyone else?" she asked her partner.
"No. We've got them all. Let's put out the fire." With both of them using their super-breath to quell the flames, the job was done in no time at all. The school was safe, and so were all the kids.
A teacher rushed over to them. "Thank you so much, Superman, and…?"
"Superwoman," Superman said with a smile.
"Thank you, Superwoman," the teacher finished.
Lois smiled at her. "I'm glad to help. We both are." Then, she noticed the three girls she had flown out of the bathroom. They were still coughing a little, and looked very shaken. She walked over to them. "Are you three okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, we'll be fine. Thank you so much."
"Who are you?" asked one girl. "I've never seen you before."
"I'm Superwoman. Are you sure you're okay?" The question was directed at the third girl, the one who had been in the smoke the longest.
"I'm…" She was interrupted by a coughing fit. "I just got a lot of smoke… that's all."
"Maybe I should ask Superman to x-ray your lungs. I'd do it, but I'm not sure what to look for. Superman!"
Clark excused himself from the people he was talking with to go over to Lois. "Yes, Superwoman?"
"I think she inhaled a lot of smoke, but I'm not sure. Could you check to see if she's okay?"
Clark listened to her breathing for a second, then x-rayed her lungs. "She's fine." He then turned to Lois. "The news teams are going to be here any second. Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," she replied. "Let's go introduce the world to the Metropolis Duo."
^Look out, Earth. Now there's two of us!^ Clark added mentally. She grinned at him.
In a minute, reporters for TV and newspapers were on the scene. ^Damn, I wish we could cover this,^ Lois projected wistfully.
^I know,^ Clark began, but was cut off by the appearance of a familiar face. ^Hey, it's Jimmy!^
^Let's go give him some good pictures.^
"Superman!" a reporter cried. "Who is this?"
"This is Superwoman," he said to the crowd.
"Where are you from?"
"How did you come here?"
"Are you any relation to Superman?"
Lois held up a hand to stop the questions. "Please, all your questions will be answered later. Right now, I'm just going to say that I'm here to help. Metropolis is a big city, and Earth is a big world. Superman can't do everything by himself. Even both of us can't do *everything.* But together, we can do a lot more than he can alone. So, to the criminal element in general, look out, here come the Metropolis Marvels!"
"Superman!" Jimmy called.
"Yes, Jimmy?" Clark replied.
"Can I get a picture of you two for the front page of the Planet?"
"Sure." Superman and Superwoman walked over to the photographer/cub reporter. "Jimmy, this is Superwoman. Superwoman, this is Jimmy Olsen, of the Daily Planet."
"Pleased to meet you," said Lois, shaking his hand.
"Oh, it's an honor to meet you!" Jimmy replied with a stunned look on his face.
Superman moved over to a portion of the front of the school that was uncluttered by people. He stood sideways, with his arms crossed. Superwoman came over, crossed her arms and stood back-to- back with him. Both looked at the camera and Jimmy let the shutter fly. "Thanks a lot," he said. "Perry's gonna be thrilled."
"Perry?" Superwoman asked.
"The editor of the Planet," explained Superman, "Perry White."
"Right. Well, now that everything's okay, we'll be leaving. Goodbye, Jimmy."
"Bye, Jimmy," said Superman.
With that, Superman and Superwoman took off into the sky. "Well," said Lois as they flew, "that went pretty well."
"It went great! We got all those kids out without one of them inhaling too much smoke. I couldn't have done that alone. I'd have gotten them all out alive, but some of them would have to avail themselves of oxygen tanks for a few minutes."
"I wonder if Lex is home yet. He's going to be upset with me for the Kansas trip."
"I know. But hey, you can handle him. Especially now."
"And by the way, I liked the 'Metropolis Marvels' thing."
"Oh, thank you. I figured they'd tag me with some of those nicknames like they've got for you, so I figured 'why not?'."
"Yeah, at least most of the names they use on me are okay. I'm not overly fond of 'Man of Tomorrow,' but what can you do? It's too bad 'The Dynamic Duo' is taken already, though. I like that a lot."
"Yeah, me too. Anyway, we'd better be getting our spandex butts to the Planet so we can write up this story."
"It's easier when you can make up your own quotes."
"I bet." She grinned.
They spun into their reporter alter-egos in an alley, and walked into the Daily Planet. The newsroom was abuzz with the astonishing story. "Lois! Clark!" Perry exclaimed upon seeing them. "Have you heard about this Superwoman?"
"Yes Chief," Lois said. "And we're writing the story for you now. We've got some exclusive stuff."
"Great! Get to work! I want it in the afternoon edition!"
"Let's get cracking," Clark said. They went over to Clark's computer and began the story. It was easy to write, since they had only to tell about the fire that they had witnessed and to make up stuff about Superwoman. They didn't write too much, as it would indicate that Lois and Clark had known her before her debut. Besides, the public would ask more questions no matter how much information they received, so it would be best to leave some answerable questions to still be asked.
The story was done in a short time and they sent it to Perry. Jimmy was busy developing the photos he had taken. The one of the heroes back-to-back he proudly showed to Lois and Clark. It was a good picture, and would look great with their article.
[note: to see the picture that Jimmy took, go to http://www.angelfire.com/ny/loisclark/images/superw.jpg]
After they had LAN'd the story, Lois said she was going to go home and face the music. ^Contact me this way if you need to change something and need my opinion, okay?^
"Okay. Bye, Lois."
"Bye." Then, she added telepathically, ^Kal.^
"What? What did you just call me?"
"Well, I remembered you saying it was your name, and I figured it was probably your," her voice dropped to a whisper, "Kryptonian name."
"It is. Kal-El." The name was so quietly said that no one without superhearing could hear it.
"You don't like it?"
"It's not that. It just took me by surprise. I haven't heard that name since I saw the message from my father. I've never heard it from a live person. I do like it, a lot. It's special to me— the name I was given at birth." He smiled. "It feels good to hear you say it."
She patted him on the shoulder. "Well, good. I like saying it. But I'd better be going. See you around."
"Oh, and hey, if you have a marital spat," he added, grinning, "my door's always open."
"Where were you this time?" Lex demanded.
"Kansas," Lois replied.
"Kansas?! What were you doing there?"
"Why should I tell you? It's none of your business?"
Lex was about to say something, but then his irate expression dropped off his face. "What's happening to us, Lois?" he asked hoarsely. "Everything was so right, and since we've been married, everything's changed." He had been worried about this for some time. Lois didn't seem to be the same woman he had courted centuries ago.
"Lex, nothing was right about our relationship before we were married. Nothing was real. That wasn't me. You never knew me. The only times we ever really saw each other were at fancy restaurants, balls, private jets over Europe… I wasn't myself. It was just some fantasy I was living. It was such a romantic idea, but that's all it was. It won't work in real life. I want reality. Can't you see that we're not right for each other?"
"No. Lois, we are right for each other. I know that, above all else. I love you, and that is what makes it right." That statement was a load of bull and Lex knew it. He wasn't sure that they *were* right for each other at all. And did he really love her? Hadn't that love began when he was sprayed by the pheromone compound of Miranda's making? Was it love at all? But he had put so much into this relationship that he could not back out now. It would be crazy. It would be shameful. It would be a failure. "With love, we can get past our differences."
"Haven't you listened to me at all? I don't love you. I never did. Don't my feelings matter in this relationship? This life, this situation… it isn't something that I can live. It's not me! We can't make this work— it's impossible! It never can work. And that's why we shouldn't try. I don't want to do this."
"Lois, my darling, you'll come around."
He was back to the "patient seduction" routine. It was almost sickening. In fact, it *was* sickening. "Lex, don't say it. You've said it before, and it's not true. You know it's not true. We *can't* work it out. We have no future together. Can't you understand that?"
"Lois…" Lex began, then sighed. It was no use arguing with her now. One of the traits that he had fallen in love with her for, her bullheadedness, was now definitely not lovable. "I have to go out again tonight. I'll see you later." With that, he left the room.
As the door shut behind her husband, Lois smiled just a little. It was getting to him. He couldn't handle the real her, and it was wearing him down. Perhaps she'd get her divorce after all.
Lex Luthor, the proud richest man in Metropolis, was wandering the streets, wondering what had happened. Lois, his Lois, wasn't his Lois any more. She had changed, undergone a severe metamorphosis. Who was this woman he was living with?
She claimed that she had never been the woman he fell in love with. Was that true? Had it all been some kind of act? Why would she do that?
"It was just some fantasy I was living," Lex echoed out loud. He supposed that he could see that. Lois was a reporter, no illusions of grandeur there. But with him, she was rich, powerful, famous. The eyes of the world were on her. Was that all it had been? That she had been attracted to "the good life" as moths are attracted to bright light, as bees are attracted to flowers, as octopi are attracted to shiny things?
"I don't love you. I never did." A voice from his mind taunted him. That, ultimately, was why it would never work between him and Lois. She did not love him, and he, well, he just wasn't sure anymore.
If he really loved her, would he feel so much anger and hatred toward her?
She had said it was just a romantic idea. Certainly it was romantic. The stuff of cheap paperbacks. A hard, tough, working woman with nothing but work ahead of her is surprised to have Prince Charming fall in love with her and whisk her away to his castle where she'll be treasured and loved and live a life of ease. Isn't that what every girl dreams of?
And that's just what it was. A dream. Lois didn't understand that this was one dream that she *could* make come true. She was so obsessed with reality that she didn't know that sometimes fairy tales are true. She *could* have that life in the castle in the clouds.
But wasn't her point that she didn't want to live a fairy tale? Could she actually prefer a normal, mundane life over wealth and power? Of all the women Lex Luthor had known, this was the one who confused him the most. It was that mystery which had partially attracted him to her. Now it was just serving to annoy him.
He had always been able to weave an almost magical spell over any woman. His charm had gotten him this far with Lois. Perhaps the problem was that it is impossible to build a real relationship on a foundation of seductive charm.
But the bottom line was that he had thought there was love between them, and now he was not so sure that there was even friendship on either side.
It was a momentous occasion. Lex Luthor, for what was probably the first time in his life, admitted that he had been wrong about something big, albeit only to himself.
Unfortunately for Lois, however, he dealt with his large mistake in the same way that he dealt with small ones. He hid it. No one would ever see Lex Luthor get divorced! He had made his decision, and he would stick by it.
Lois sat on the bed, a little bored. She'd had a great couple of days with Clark, a good time as Metropolis' newest superhero, and a wonderful fight with Lex. Now she was suffering from a letdown, like most kids feel a couple of days after Christmas, when the novelty of their presents has worn off.
^Hey, Lois,^ came Clark's voice.
^Wandering the streets of Metropolis, if I'm not mistaken. He was pretty upset. He's starting to realize that our marriage would never work.^
^Great! Well, I have a presentation to go to. They're opening a new orphans' home in place of that old cathouse down on Erickson Drive…^
^Good for them,^ Lois interrupted.
^Anyway, I'm doing the ribbon cutting, and I thought you might want to come.^
^Sure, that'd be great. Are you still at the Planet?^
^Would you mind grabbing the folder that's on my desk? It's stuff I don't need at work, but I want to keep.^
^Sure. I'll have it there in a jiffy.^
^Thanks. See you in a minute.^
^Seven seconds,^ he amended.
Lois walked to the window and opened it, all the while counting under her breath. "Five, four, three, two, one!" Clark was there, in the suit. "Good. You're right on time."
"Shall we go?" he asked, grinning.
"Sure." She took the folder, set it on the bed, and linked arms with him. They both jumped out of the window. With a single SWOOSH, they disappeared.
Mrs. Cox's eyebrows raised. She had watched the whole scene from the other room. She had been going in to find Lex, but instead had seen Lois apparently meditating. She had gotten up, walked to the window, thrown it open… and in flew Superman. They had left together. Lex would not be pleased. Not at all.
Lois was frustrated. She hadn't spent last night with Clark, and she hadn't been alone with him for even a minute today. It was a situation that she hoped soon to rectify. She strode purposefully into the storage closet, leaving the door slightly open. Anyone who bothered to look would see her straining to reach the inconveniently-placed staplers on the top of the shelf. Apparently annoyed with her slightly-too-short reach, she stuck her head out of the closet. "Clark, could you help me here? Somebody swiped the step again." Nobody had. The little tan stool was right where it usually was.
"Sure, Lois," he replied. He got up and walked into the supply closet.
"Shut the door," whispered Lois as he moved into the confined space. Clark did as he was told. Lois threw herself at him, and he responded with equal eagerness. She wrapped her arms around him, her tongue forcing its way into his mouth. "Remind me," she gasped, "why we didn't spend last night together…"
"I… mmmm… think we were working late and were tired…"
"I've been… paying for it today…"
"Me too…" He pushed her back, ignoring the rattle as their entwined bodies hit the shelves. Her hands moved between them, untucking his shirt. Startled at the motion, he pulled back slightly. "Lois, we can't… not here," he whispered huskily.
She squeezed her eyes shut. "I know." Her voice was strained. "I just *need* you so much…"
"I need you, too… believe me, I do, and there's nothing I'd like more than to take you, right here, right now, but we just *can't*!" He kept his voice low to avoid prying ears that might pick up conversations held in the storage closet, but its tense quality revealed his emotions as surely as his body and words did.
"You're right. You're always right," she sighed, backing away from him. She moved over to sit on the windowsill. "But watch out tonight," she warned, her smile reappearing. "Come on," she said, standing up. "We might as well go before we're missed."
"Ah, Lois, I need a minute here."
"Oh." She grinned. "Okay." Actually, she could do with a little cool-down time herself. "So, you wanna hear about what's been happening in that recurring dream of mine?"
Lex was furious when he heard the story from his personal assistant. Lois was undoubtedly having an affair with Superman! No wonder she wanted a divorce! It would free her to be openly with the freak in primary colors! That was it. Superman had ruined his plans, threatened him, annoyed him, but this time he had gone too far. He had taken Lois.
In another way, Lex was glad that it had happened. It gave him the excuse he'd been looking for. Now was the perfect time to make use of a beautiful little rock he'd discovered. Time to give Superman a blast from the past. A little souvenir from home.
The plan was to be put into action tonight, when Lois returned home from the Planet.
Lois walked into the penthouse that evening with no idea what was about to happen. If she had known, she would have availed herself of Clark's open door. As soon as she set foot on that plush carpeting, her husband was there to greet her, along with a friend of his. The friend was small, silver, and not too friendly- looking.
Lex gestured with the gun, indicating that she walk with him to the bedroom. "Why darling, you're just in time," he cooed in that silky voice of his. "Please, have a seat." He pushed her into a chair by their bed. "Ah, ah, ah," he reprimanded as she tried to move, "stay still."
He took some rope and tied it securely around her. Each of her wrists was bound to the arm of the chair, each of her ankles to the legs. There were also coils of rope around her waist and torso and the back of the chair. "There now. Comfortable, darling? Wonderful. I suppose you're wondering what's going on. I don't blame you. I know how much you love to be in on things, so I'll be your informant today.
"I have in my pocket something that's going to be very, very useful in a few minutes. You see, there's only one substance on Earth that can kill Superman. A little green, glowing rock."
"Kryptonite," Lois said, her eyes wide.
"Yes, Kryptonite. And I just happen to have some right here!" He moved his hand into his pocket and removed a rock the size of a baseball.
Lois gasped, waiting for the searing pain Clark had told her about, the agony of Kryptonite. But it never came. The rock was only a few feet away from her, yet she felt nothing from it. Just to be certain, she tested her x-ray vision. It worked. Either that wasn't real Kryptonite, or… she was immune. Why would she be immune to Kryptonite?
The answer came to her quickly. Clark had powers because he was Kryptonian. He had lived on Krypton, therefore he was vulnerable to a piece of Krypton. But Lois had never been on the planet. She hadn't gotten her powers through exposure to a yellow sun after being used to a red one. Kryptonite was nothing to her. It was merely a piece of a distant planet, something she'd had no contact with.
Lex's voice snapped her back to reality. He was still talking of Superman's impending demise. "Watch this video camera, Lois. It's trained on this lovely alley in which I will wait for Superman. When he hears Mrs. Cox's screams for help and comes to save the poor damsel in distress, I'll have him."
"Lex, why are you doing this?"
"Do you think I'm stupid, Lois? Do you think I'm blind? I know you've been flying off with Superman when I'm not around. You can't expect me to believe that you spent all that time in *Kansas* with friends! And I have eyes all over. They saw you flying off with Superman last night."
"That was business," she protested.
"I'm sure," he replied dryly. "But, business or not, he's dead. He's had this coming for a very long time."
Lois was quick to point out the potential flaw in his plan. "What if Super*woman* comes instead of Super*man*?"
"I'll simply threaten to kill her with the Kryptonite unless he shows. I've thought of everything. You know how well I plan for things. And then, with Superman out of the way, we can go on with our lives. No distractions. You'll learn to love me, Lois."
"Never!" she spat.
"Be that as it may, I have a hero to kill!" With that, he raced out the door, leaving Lois alone, tied to a chair in front of a television set, with a picture of an alley on it.
^Clark!^ she mentally shouted.
^Lex thinks that I'm having an affair with Superman. He brought me in here at gunpoint and tied me to a chair. He's going to have Mrs. Cox yell for help, and when you come, he'll nail you with Kryptonite!^
^Yes, he has it! I saw it! And, Clark, I think I'm immune to it. There was no pain at all when he whipped it out a foot in front of me. I didn't lose my powers, either!^
^I know! I'm going to break out now, and I'll meet you above the alley when Mrs. Cox calls for help, okay? It should only be a minute or so.^
^Okay. We'll decide what to do from there.^
Lois snapped her bonds without a second thought and spun-changed into her alter-ego. She made a mental note to disguise her voice well. It wouldn't do at all for Lex to recognize her. Not at all. She dashed out the window into the cold night air.
The wind tugged at her cape as she hovered over Metropolis. She hated waiting. She really did. She liked to be the one to act, not to react. Acting put one in control; reacting turned the control over to someone else. And Lois Lane was never one to give up control. That was why she hated being forced into situations such as this one.
This was the final showdown. It was her and Clark versus Lex. And the odds were not looking too good for Metropolis' richest former bachelor. Especially now that Superman had a secret weapon: the Kryptonite-immune Mrs. Luthor!
Suddenly, out of the black night, she heard the distinct voice of Mrs. Cox. "Help, Superman! Help! He's got a gun!"
Lois oriented on the direction of the cry and moved to its location. Five thousand feet above its location. Here, she intercepted Superman. "Okay, Clark, what are we going to do?"
"I think the best thing is for me to show up, alone. When he takes out the Kryptonite, you come in and take it from him. Throw it into orbit. Okay? Then we can cart him off to jail, where he belongs, for attempted murder."
"Got it. I'm right behind you. Well, above you."
He grinned. "Good. Don't waste any time with the Kryptonite, okay?"
"I'm going in."
Superman flew down to where Lex Luthor was holding Mrs. Cox at gunpoint. "Let her go," he demanded.
"Why, Superman. What a pleasure it is to see you. Of course I'll let her go." He released his grip on Mrs. Cox, who ran off into the darkness. She got into the driver's seat of a black car and started the engine, ready to race away as soon as Lex joined her.
After watching Mrs. Cox leave the alley, Lex turned back to his arch-nemesis. "Superman I have to say it's been nice knowing you. You've been a wonderful challenge for me. Almost, but not quite unbeatable. It's been a thrilling fight, but I'm sad to say it's about to end." With that, Lex pulled out the piece of Kryptonite. "Goodbye, Superman." He walked toward the Man of Steel, hand outstretched.
Clark's face contorted in pain, and he crumpled to the ground. ^Now, Lois…^ he managed to project to his partner.
In a red, yellow, and blue streak, the Kryptonite was snatched from Lex's open palm. Shocked, he looked around him to see what had happened. There was no one there.
Lois looked distastefully at the green rock that had caused Clark so much trouble in the past. She hurled it as far as she could. Hopefully, it would keep going until it was drawn into the orbit of another plant. Pluto, preferably. After the deed was done, she returned to the alley, expecting to see Lex tied up and ready for delivery to Metropolis State Penitentiary.
She wasn't prepared for what she did see. Lex had actually pulled a gun on Superman! What kind of crazy stunt was this? And why wasn't Clark moving? She didn't bother to think— she just came up behind Lex and grabbed his shoulders, ready to bring him to the police. But as she touched him, the gun discharged, sending a lone green bullet whipping through the air, toward Clark.
Lois knew instinctively what it was. A Kryptonite bullet. Dropping Lex, she was in front of Clark in a blur. But she had been too late in recognizing the situation for what it was. He had been shot. "No…" She choked on the word. She crumpled to the ground with him, holding his body close to her. "Oh, no… Kal…" she sobbed, using the name only she had ever called him.
With a smile on his face and a song in his heart, Lex turned and ran down the street toward the car containing Mrs. Cox. As he got in, he said only two words. "It's done."
Lois took two deep breaths. He was unconscious, not dead, she told herself. Lex had missed because she had grabbed his shoulder. She forced herself to pull away from him, to examine where the bullet had hit. "Lois…?" he groaned.
"Clark? Clark, I'm right here."
"There was Kryptonite in that bullet."
"I know. I have to get you to a hospital."
"It won't help… they can't do anything… you have to…"
"I have to what?"
"Take the bullet out. Now."
"Clark, I don't know if I can."
"You have to."
She swallowed. Hard. The bullet had lodged in his right shoulder. She had to use x-ray vision to see it beyond all the blood. She nerved herself for the action, and then plunged her fingers into his shoulder. He groaned with the intense pain of someone worrying a terrible wound, and Lois almost couldn't stand the thought that she was the one causing that pain.
Her fingers pushed aside blood and muscle, digging down deeper into his shoulder, causing more pain with every second. "Why can't I reach the bullet?" she asked herself. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she touched the hot metal. She grabbed it and pulled it out, careful not to tear any muscle that was still intact. Her entire hand was coated with thick red blood. More blood covered her body where she had held him close. She had to stifle the urge to puke. She was soaked in the lifeblood of the man she loved. She threw the Kryptonite bullet after the other rock, and immediately turned her attention back to Clark.
"Clark? Are you okay?" There was nothing but silence. "Damn it, answer me! Please," she begged.
She was rewarded by a weak moan. "Lois…"
"Are you okay?"
"I… will be…" His voice was getting stronger by the second.
"I'm sorry I hurt you."
"You had to… to get the bullet out…"
As Lois watched, the gaping tear in his shoulder slowly healed. Clark drew a shuddering breath as the last of his skin and muscle knitted together. Cautiously, he sat up.
"Is everything okay?" Lois asked him anxiously.
"Yeah. I'm a little shaky, but whole. Where's Lex?"
"He and Mrs. Cox got away. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. You only let them get away because you were busy saving my life!"
She smiled at him. "Are you up for a flight home?"
"Yeah. I really need a shower. And I think this suit is totally shot."
"I want to go see if Lex returned to the penthouse. I have a feeling he will. He did leave me there, after all."
"Hurry. If he sees you're gone, he'll think you went to the police and he'll be gone."
"I know. Are you sure you'll be okay?"
Lois flew off into the night sky. She approached her penthouse to find Lex just walking into the bedroom to look for Lois. Instead of her, he found Superwoman, intimidating, angry, and covered in dry blood. He swallowed his revulsion at the sight.
"Lex Luthor," her artificially low voice said, "you're under arrest."
He pulled the silver gun out, the same one he had trained on Lois not that long ago. "I don't think so, Superwoman. I still have another Kryptonite bullet. You try anything, and it won't just be Superman's blood you're covered in."
"Go ahead. Shoot. Makes no difference to me."
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Lex pulled the trigger. The green bullet bounced harmlessly off Superwoman's chest. Lex's jaw dropped. "That can't be!" he exclaimed.
"Yes it can, and it is." Lois grabbed the gun from his hand, picked up some of the rope he had used on her, and tied him up. She dashed out into the outer offices and snagged Mrs. Cox, who she tied in the same way. She then picked up the phone and dialed 911.
In a short time, the police came and arrested Luthor and his partner in crime for the attempted murders of Superman and Superwoman. The judge was sure to take the heroes' advice and not allow parole. As for evidence, Lex himself had provided that by taping the whole scene for Lois to watch.
After Lex and Mrs. Cox were gone, Superwoman snuck into Clark's apartment to grab a spare suit. He didn't notice— he was still in the shower, washing the blood off. She went back to Lex's penthouse, showered at super-speed, changed into the new suit and took a special trip to Europe.
Clark stepped out of the shower feeling good. There was never quite such a wonderful feeling as when a great amount of pain is completely gone. He was clean, Lex was undoubtedly in jail by now, and he was feeling great. He wrapped a towel around his waist and stepped into his bedroom to change into night clothes.
He stopped in the bedroom doorway and could go no farther. There, lying in his bed, apparently wearing nothing under the thin sheets, was the woman of his dreams. "Lois," he tried to say, but the word was inaudible, even to her super-hearing. He tried again. "Lois…"
Lois held out one hand to him. In it there was a piece of paper. Somehow, he managed to move forward and take the paper from her. He stared at it for a minute before understanding. "You… you…"
"The Pope did Superwoman a favor. He's really a great guy."
"You got an *annulment*?"
"I preferred it to divorce. This way, the marriage 'never happened.' Besides, we were married by the archbishop, so I figured I'd go the Catholic way."
"That means you're…"
"Free. Single." Her eyes traveled over his masculine body, the moonlight glimmering off of his wet muscles. No scars, no imperfections. Just beauty as far as the eye could see. "And I'm yours. Finally." She drew back the sheets, exposing her naked body. Clark gasped. It was only the second time he'd seen her like this, and the sight threatened to blow his mind.
He dropped the towel to the ground. He neither wanted nor needed it; it would just get in the way. Now it was Lois' turn to gasp. He set the paper on the night stand and slowly eased into bed next to her. He bent and kissed her gently, tenderly, as if for the first time.
And in a way, it was the first time. There were no secrets, no illusions, no barriers. For now, for ever, they were one.
"Oh, Clark!" Lois exclaimed. "Everything's right! Lex and my marriage was annulled, and you and I are together at last… Everything's just so…" She blinked. "Everything's…" she tried again, but there was no one to hear her.
It's a dream, Lois! It's all in your mind!
No, the dream was of Lex and Superwoman and…
No, *this* was the dream! You don't need it anymore!
And suddenly, she fell off the face of the Earth.
When she woke up, she was cradled against Clark's chest. "What a strange dream," she thought. She glanced at the night stand to reassure herself of the annulment. The paper was still there, where Clark had left it. Clark… She smiled at the thought. She rubbed her hand across his powerful chest and snuggled up closer.
The movement woke him. "Good morning, *Miss* Lane," he said, grinning.
"It's only four o'clock, but it's *definitely* good," she replied, nibbling a little kiss onto his lips.
He reacted instantly, rolling her over and pressing her into the mattress. He trailed little kisses across her jawline and down her neck. She giggled and ran her hands over his body as his lips caressed her shoulder. "Oh, Clark," she sighed. She just wanted to touch him forever. And now she could.
There would be no more disquiet nights.
(finally) THE END!!!!!
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