By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 1998
Summary: In this short continuation of the episode "Sex, Lies and Videotape," Jimmy finds the answer to several questions which have been nagging him for some time.
The characters in this story are the property of DC Comics and Warner Bros; the episode 'Sex, Lies and Videotape' is copyright December 3rd Productions and ABC. No infringement of these rights is intended; this story is written purely for fun and not profit.
Jimmy Olsen lay back on the sofa in his apartment and reflected on the events of the past several days. As usual when around Lois Lane and Clark Kent, he had a sensation of not quite being in possession of all the details; it was as if he had completed a jigsaw puzzle only to find half a dozen missing pieces. Although the mystery of the origins of a certain photograph had now been solved, there was still *something* not quite right. Maybe if he went over everything again in his mind, he might be able to work out just what it was…
It had all started on Monday morning, and Jimmy had been in a quandary. Not his usual Monday morning concerns about what shirt to wear, but a genuine quandary. Jimmy was a photographer: he *knew* about photographs. And the appearance of a certain photograph in one of the more scurrilous tabloids had caused jaws to drop all over Metropolis.
Now Jimmy was well aware of the techniques which could be used to fake photographs. And anyone with his experience was well used, whenever a slightly dubious or — let's say, *surprising* — photograph was printed (especially in a questionable publication), to suspecting that it could be a fake. So when he had seen the picture of Lois Lane, his friend and colleague, in an intimate embrace on a bed with *Superman*, after his initial shock the idea of forgery had occurred to him. But this picture, if it was a fake, was a very good fake. There were none of the usual tell-tale signs associated with photographs which had been manipulated, whether by digital image techniques, cutting and pasting, or whatever. So… he had wondered, *could* it be real?
Jimmy had considered the possibilities. As he, and just about everyone else in the Planet newsroom, was aware, Lois Lane had had a crush on Superman from the time he had first appeared in Metropolis. So, if that picture had appeared any time in the first eighteen months of Superman's stay, Jimmy would have had no difficulty with accepting it as genuine. However… the difference now was that Lois was married. And married to Clark Kent, another colleague at the Planet. Jimmy considered both Clark and Lois to be close friends of his. He had observed their courtship, and frequently given Clark advice when it appeared to Jimmy that the older man was making a mess of things. But Clark had persevered, and in his own way had managed to win the heart, and the hand, of Lois Lane. Jimmy remembered their engagement, the weddings which had gone wrong, and finally their real marriage, which he had been proud to attend. If ever there was a couple crazily in love with each other, it was Lois Lane and her husband, Clark Kent. There was absolutely no doubt about it: it was there in the way they looked at each other, the way their eyes always drifted to the other when they were in the same room, the way they touched even when discussing the most mundane issues. There had been many times, particularly since they had been married, that Jimmy had felt embarrassed enough in their company to make a diplomatic exit. Not that they often noticed that he'd gone, so wrapped up on each other they tended to be…
So Lois was in love with Clark; why would she be indulging in a romantic interlude with Superman?
And Superman was known to be a good friend of both Lois and Clark; the number of exclusive interviews and Superman stories both reporters obtained was itself proof of that. Lois had often, in the very early days, boasted in the office about her friendship with Superman. While Clark, on the other hand, did not often discuss Superman, he had been forced to confess a couple of years ago that he was on close enough terms with the Super-hero to wash his suits. And hadn't Superman not only saved his life, as he had for many other people in Metropolis, but actually brought Clark *back* to life after he had been shot by gangsters? So Clark and Superman must be very close. And Superman would never cuckold his best friend… would he?
There were a number of other things which didn't quite add up. Lois had fallen *out* of love with Superman and *into* love with Clark with seeming ease. Clark, who had been extremely and visibly jealous of Superman before he and Lois had started dating, never appeared at all concerned about the state of his wife's relationship with the Super-hero these days. And, something which had appeared a little odd to Jimmy at the time, Superman had not attended *any* of Lois and Clark's three weddings. There had been speculation that he might, given the known friendship which existed. All right, Jimmy conceded, he could understand Superman staying away from the ceremonies which had been in Metropolis; Lois and Clark would not have wanted their marriage to turn into a media circus. But why had Superman not come to the mountain-top service which had been attended only by the couple's family and closest friends? *That* was a mystery.
And there was another thing… Jimmy's mind drifted back to a day more than six months before, when Superman had chosen the Daily Planet newsroom as the place to bid farewell to Metropolis and the Earth when he had departed with Ching and Zara for New Krypton. Lois had said farewell to the Man of Steel privately, in Perry White's office. She had been visibly distressed, sobbing as he had drifted up and flown out of the window. True, she was losing a very dear friend, and was entitled to be upset. But where was Clark, who should have been comforting her and saying his own farewells? Surely someone else could have covered the reaction story — Perry would not have insisted on sending Clark. And just before he had left, Superman had come to Jimmy, and asked him to "take care of Lois for me." Well, yes, Jimmy had no problem with that, or the idea that Lois needed a friend. But she had had her fiance, didn't she? If anyone should be comforting Lois for the loss of a close friend, it should have been Clark. Jimmy had thought that a little odd at the time. But there was something else… both Lois and Superman that day had been behaving almost as if they were losing more than just a friend.
So *could* Lois be having an affair with Superman? And if so, what did that make Clark? An idiot who hadn't a clue what was going on? Or a man desperately in love with his wife, so much so that he was prepared to share her to keep her? Somehow, Jimmy couldn't quite reconcile either image with the Clark Kent he knew.
So on that Monday morning he had been completely at a loss as to how he should behave when he saw his friends. He wanted desperately to believe that the photograph was a fake, for Clark's sake. If it was, they would need all the help and support they could get while proving that it was faked.
And if it wasn't, if Clark was devastated… Both reporters were his friends, and Jimmy had known Lois even longer than he had Clark. But there was no decision to be made. Clark was one of the most decent people he had ever met, and he did not deserve to be treated in this was. If Lois was being unfaithful to Clark with Superman, Jimmy's loyalties would be with Clark.
But by Tuesday morning Jimmy had been no less confused. Clark and Lois had arrived at the Planet on Monday, looking ever more wrapped up in each other than usual. They had clearly had a great weekend alone together…
Then Jimmy had shown them the tabloids. It was obvious that this was the first time they had seen the photographs, and their shock was apparent. After recognising Lois, they had been speechless, but there had been something odd about their reaction, something Jimmy couldn't quite put his finger on. He had hastened to assure his friends that he didn't believe a word of the story, and that the photo had to be a fake, but their reaction had been — almost relief.
Perry White was remaining very tight-lipped on the subject as well. He had not told Jimmy, or as far as the young photographer could tell, any of the other Planet staffers what had been said during that brief conversation in his office that morning. However, the Planet's editorial line on the story was still sceptical.
And Clark had barely been in the newsroom all day. He had disappeared not long after he and Lois had spoken to Perry, and hadn't been seen since. Had he and Lois had a row? *Was* the photograph genuine after all? Although Jimmy had considered this possibility the previous day, he hadn't really believed it could be true. But now… he hated to accept the possibility, but it was beginning to look very much like it might be. Jimmy had wanted to speak to his friend alone, away from Lois, to check that Clark was all right. Had he slipped away somewhere to lick his wounds in private?
But Clark had accompanied Lois to the newsroom as usual on Tuesday, and had seemed somewhat embarrassed at the consolation gifts and cards on his desk. His behaviour towards Lois had been sympathetic and protective; not the behaviour of an angry, betrayed husband.
As far as Jimmy could tell, Superman was also carrying on as normal; he had not made any comment about the photographs or the rumours. But this morning, on top if the growing anti-Superman feeling in the city, trouble was breaking out in relation to the peace talks. Unusually, when Superman had managed to intercept the short-range nuclear missile before it could do any damage, Jimmy had been the only person cheering in the newsroom.
Later, when he had offered to check out laboratories with the kind of digital equipment and expertise needed to composite manipulated photographs, Lois had not immediately appeared interested, instead asking Jimmy to check out a list of ordinary photographic laboratories first. It was all very odd. Assuming the photograph was faked, no ordinary processing laboratory could have done the work.
But… Jimmy had shrugged. His friends were under considerable strain at the moment; it couldn't be pleasant having the state of your marriage dissected on national TV and in the press. It was perhaps not surprising that Lois was a little distracted. That in itself did not mean that she was having an affair. And while Clark hadn't been much in evidence on Tuesday either, Jimmy had reminded himself that this was not evidence of anything suspicious either.
He had carried on with his investigations, working late that evening in order to check out one or two less salubrious establishments. When he finally got home, having picked up a takeaway and a couple of cans of beer on the way, Jimmy had collapsed on his sofa in front of the TV. Idly channel-surfing a little later, he had hurriedly turned up the sound on his remote control when he recognised Lois Lane.
"..and the state of my relationship with Superman is nobody else's business but my own!" she was stating angrily.
"Well, there it is, confirmation from her own lips. Lois Lane *is* having an affair with Superman," the newsreader had added, in what Jimmy felt was a smarmy, self-satisfied voice, once the clip had finished. Jimmy had been shaken. What was Lois doing? She was an experienced, professional journalist — she was well aware of how the business operated. Yet instead of denying any affair, she had given the interviewer a quote which his editor had been able to twist to suggest the story was true! *Why* had she not simply denied it — unless it *was* true?
The following morning, Jimmy had had a breakthrough. He had discovered that one laboratory which possessed the necessary digital compositing equipment to produce a fake photographic image — one whose reputation was not exactly always on the right side of the law — and who used to do quite a lot of work for the Dirt Digger, one of the tabloids who had printed the picture, had just received a very large payment. Excited, he had hurried to tell Lois the news. Her reaction, however, stunned him.
"You mean, this photo could be a fake?" she had exclaimed, staring at him in disbelief.
Jimmy had stared back at her in surprise. "But you knew that all along!"
Lois had seemed to become very confused; she babbled something about knowing that but not being sure that Jimmy knew it, and had then insisted that they go to check out Hank's Laboratories. Jimmy had agreed to accompany her, but he was left feeling very uneasy about Lois's behaviour. If she and Clark had known it was a fake all along, why had she seemed so amazed and relieved to discover possible proof that it was? He could understand her being relieved to be able to prove to the world that the photo was forged, but her reaction was almost as if… she herself had not believed that it was a fake.
At the laboratory, Jimmy had at first been so excited by the state-of-the-art technology that he had forgotten their purpose in being there; however, Lois had by then recovered her composure, and she had urged him to try to find proof of the photo's origins. It hadn't taken him long. As most people at the Planet were aware, Jimmy's second love was computers, and he could find his way around most systems. Put computers and photography together and he was in heaven. The digital compositing software on these computers was quite user-friendly, and he was soon able to find the relevant files and to trace the steps the compositor had used to manufacture the image of Lois and Superman on the bed. He had assured Lois that he would be able to copy the relevant files onto a disk, so that they could use it as proof. Lois had then hurried off, saying that she needed to speak to Superman before it was too late.
"To late for what?" Jimmy had asked, but to silence. Lois had already left.
It had taken him some time, and in fact he had only just made it to the press conference in time. He had seen Lois conferring with Superman, and had waved the disk at her to show her that he had got the proof they needed. He had then joined Lois to listen to Superman at the press conference. To his relief, the Man of Steel had denied having an illicit affair with Lois Lane. Jimmy had no difficulty believing this denial; Superman had a reputation for honesty which Jimmy would never doubt. It had been, however, the first time any of the parties involved had denied the affair. Why, he had wondered, had Superman not denied it before? It was almost as if he and Lois had needed the proof of the photo's origin before openly denouncing it.
As he lay on his sofa going over these events in his mind, Jimmy then remembered another question at the press conference. One reporter had queried Superman's denial, asking why Clark Kent was not present if there was no affair. Superman's response had surprised Jimmy at first: the Man of Steel had replied that Clark *was* present, beside Lois. Jimmy had known that not to be true; after all, *he* was standing next to Lois. Superman had then pointed out that this was what the wedding ring on Lois's finger meant.
But something about the question now nagged Jimmy. Where *had* Clark been that morning? Come to think of it, where was Clark most of the time when Superman was around? Had he ever seen the two of them together? Jimmy puzzled over this question as he got up to get himself another can of beer. The only time he remembered seeing them together was when Clark and Superman had given a joint press conference to deny the allegation that Clark was Superman in disguise. Jimmy remembered the days immediately after Diana Stride had announced on her TV show, Top Copy, that Clark and Superman were one and the same; the city had been divided on the likelihood of this being true. Jimmy had not believed it; he was pretty confident that Superman was taller and more well-built than Clark. He also vaguely thought that the Super-hero's eyes were blue; although, he realised now, he couldn't swear to it.
So what did Clark's absence from the press conference mean? And what significance did Lois's behaviour on the morning of the press conference have? She had seemed *extremely* relieved to be able to prove that the photo was a fake; and, thinking about it, the serious possibility that it had been faked had been a surprise to her. Her behaviour then had given Jimmy serious pause for thought: anyone else other than a really close friend, he mused, might have taken her behaviour then as an indication of guilt. Then she had needed to speak to Superman before the press conference; why? To prevent him from confessing? And what would he have confessed?
The problem here, Jimmy thought, was that he *believed* Superman when he said he was not having an illicit affair with Lois Lane. So, if Lois had been afraid that the photograph might prove genuine, in what other circumstances might it have been taken? Sure, Lois and Superman — and Clark — were friends; it was perfectly possible for Lois and Superman to embrace, and for it to be entirely platonic. But on a bed, arms wrapped tightly around each other, kissing each other passionately? The only person Lois should be doing that with, Jimmy thought a little angrily, was *Clark*.
But what if…
Jimmy jumped to his feet again. What if Diana Stride had been right all along? What if Clark really was Superman?
But there was the small matter of the press conference attended by both Clark and Superman, to deny Diana Stride's allegations. Here, Jimmy hesitated. How could this be explained? He paced up and down the small room. He had *seen* Superman there, with his own eyes. But… hadn't the Man of Steel seemed rather — far away, a little out of focus, almost?
Jimmy considered. If a photograph could be faked — as he well knew — then could an image be forged? A hallucination… a projection, a hologram, perhaps?
Thinking furiously, Jimmy mentally ticked off all the unanswered questions in his mind. *If* Clark was Superman, that would explain his and Lois's consternation and anxiety about the photograph, the reaction which had seemed odd in the circumstances. It would explain why Lois had seemed to fear that the photo was genuine. It would explain why Clark had seemed as upset as Lois, and why he had not behaved like a husband betrayed - because, of course, he was not! Superman could not betray Clark by sleeping with Lois, because Superman *was* Clark!
And, if Clark was Superman, it would certainly explain all of Clark's sudden disappearances over the years. As Jimmy took in the possibility, his mind went back to the incident in the newsroom the previous morning, when the TV monitors had shown the nuclear missiles being launched. He hadn't noticed Clark leave, but as he reflected on the incident, Jimmy realised that Clark had definitely not been in the newsroom as the missile exploded in mid-air. But this meant that his best friend, *Clark*, could fly, could move at Super-speed, could destroy a lethal weapon with his bare hands… and had saved Jimmy's life on more than one occasion.
Dragging his hands through his hair several times in frustration, Jimmy tried to remember other occasions when Clark had disappeared and when Superman had shown up shortly afterwards, or when Clark had done things which might have suggested, in retrospect, possession of Super-powers.
"Is Clark Superman?" Jimmy asked aloud. He couldn't find a definitive answer there and then; nothing he could piece together from his memory of past events, even this 'affair' scandal, seemed to be more than circumstantial He would have to wait, and see whether he could catch Clark out. Or perhaps he would simply ask him? Jimmy decided to sleep on it, and decide what to do tomorrow.
In the newsroom the following day, Jimmy kept his eyes open for an opportunity to put his resolution into practice, but found himself frustrated. Clark was absent for most of the day covering the peace talks, and Lois was fully occupied with investigating the now disgraced runner-up for Man of the Year. However, Jimmy made good use of what spare time he had by looking through the Planet's Superman file. He paid particular attention to Superman stories written by Clark, or written by Clark and Lois after the pair became engaged: if Clark really was Superman, Jimmy reasoned, Lois would have had to know by then.
Either Clark and Superman were *very* close friends, Jimmy concluded by the end of his researches, or they were indeed one and the same person. Clark had covered far more Superman stories than anyone else at the Planet, even Lois, although in recent years the stories had more often been jointly written. It occurred to Jimmy to wonder why no-one else had noticed this fact.
At home that evening, Jimmy loaded a scanned photograph of Superman into his computer, and played around with the image using his Paint Shop software. He drew on a pair of glasses, altered the hairstyle a little, and erased the Spandex suit, and at the end of his labours sat back and stared at the result.
No doubt about it.
<But if I can do that with a simple home computer and some readily available software, anyone could!> Jimmy mused. He wondered whether Clark was aware of how easily his disguise could be penetrated if someone put their mind to it.
<Maybe I should tell Clark I know> he considered as he prepared for bed. A further thought occurred to him a little later: this would be the scoop of the decade! If — unlike Diana Stride — Jimmy could *prove* that Clark Kent was Superman, he would be sure to win awards for the story.
But as quickly as this idea came into his mind, Jimmy dismissed it. Clark and Lois were his friends, and it was only too easy to imagine what their lives would be like if everyone knew about Clark's other identity. And what real public interest was there in telling the world that Clark Kent moonlighted in blue tights?
<No. This is a secret, and it has to stay that way> Jimmy resolved firmly. <I can't even tell Perry this one. But I *must* tell Clark!>
But that was easier said than done, Jimmy discovered the following day. He had never realised just how little opportunity he got to speak privately to people at the Planet. It was all very well for star reporters like Lane and Kent, who could commandeer the conference room any time they wanted, but relatively junior staff like Jimmy did not have that freedom. He eventually decided that his conversation with Clark would have to wait until some other time, probably away from the Planet.
Later that day, the newsroom monitors suddenly flickered into life, showing the LNN newscaster relating news of severe flooding in upstate New Troy. As the other staff watched the screens, Jimmy's eyes swivelled to Clark. He noticed that his colleague and friend was looking decidedly twitchy. Clark's hand was pulling at his tie, a gesture Jimmy recognised but which he had always thought was a nervous habit. Suddenly Jimmy realised that it was the precursor to changing into Clark's Superman outfit. As he watched, Clark began to ease himself towards the back of the group gathered around the screens, only to be stopped by the Planet's editor.
"Kent! Where are you sneaking off to? I need you and Lois to get me an update on why New Troy's flood defences have failed again," Perry growled.
Clark hesitated, looking around awkwardly. "Err… right now, Chief? I really need to… um, to…"
Jimmy rushed to the rescue. "Chief, there's a new lead on that insider dealing story you had Clark on, isn't there, Clark? You said you had to go and meet a source right about now."
Clark stared at Jimmy in surprise. "Uh… yes, that's it. I gotta go." He ran to the stairwell and left the newsroom.
As Perry directed the staff back to their various duties, Lois came quietly up behind Jimmy. "You know there's no new lead on that story, Jimmy. What's going on?"
Hesitating and glancing around him before speaking, Jimmy replied, "Just looked to me like Clark needed to get away in a hurry, Lois."
"Yes, OK, maybe he did," Lois answered warily. "But I still don't know why it's got anything to do with you," she added in a warning voice.
Jimmy shrugged. Lois glared at him, waiting for an explanation.
"All right, I can tell you why I did it," Jimmy offered at last, outstared by Lois. "But not here. Can I come and see you guys at home tonight?"
Lois frowned, wondering what was going on. "I guess so. Come about seven - we'll be there."
"So come on, Jimmy, exactly what is going on?" Lois demanded as soon as Clark let Jimmy into the house.
"Lo-is!" Clark said quickly. "Take it easy — Jimmy's a friend, remember!" He crossed the room to his wife and caressed her shoulder, at the same time giving their guest an enquiring glance.
Now that the moment of revelation was upon him, Jimmy felt strangely nervous. Awkwardly, he asked if they could use the computer.
"Sure," Clark agreed. "Now, what's going on?"
"Just watch," Jimmy answered, as he brought up the Paint Shop software and loaded the files he had brought with him on disk.
Lois and Clark watched in silence as Jimmy manipulated the picture of Superman in the same way as he had done on his own computer the previous evening. When he had finished, he sat back and turned to his friends. Their faces were thunderstruck.
Clark was the first to recover. "I guessed it was something like this, after your intervention this afternoon."
Lois, on the other hand, was still attempting to bluster her way out of it. "OK, Jimmy, so there is a superficial resemblance between Clark and Superman. I mean, that's nothing new, lots of people have commented on it. But that doesn't mean anything. And you saw yourself only a few days ago how easy it is to manipulate a picture so that it shows something which isn't true."
Jimmy shook his head. "No, Lois…"
But Clark interrupted. "Yes, Jimmy, you're right. I am Superman." He inhaled deeply, drawing himself up to his full height as he did so. Leaning across Jimmy to switch off the computer, he added. "Let's go and have a coffee, and you can tell us how you figured it out. Did I do something careless?"
"Clark!" Lois protested.
As Jimmy got up from the computer, he watched Clark wrap his arms around Lois, and say softly, "Hey honey, it's not a big problem. Jimmy's our friend, and we can trust him." Clark then glanced across at Jimmy. "Right?"
"Sure, CK, Lois!" Jimmy hastened to assure his friends. He had been aware that keeping Clark's secret was important to his friends, but was only now beginning to see just how much it really did matter.
Lois followed Clark into the kitchen, and Jimmy could hear the murmurs of conversation, punctuated by occasional louder interjections in Lois's voice. He began to wonder whether he had done the right thing by coming over. He tried not to listen to his friends' discussion, but it was very apparent that Lois was very worried about the secret identity becoming public knowledge: he heard her exclaim "But if Jimmy can find out, anyone could!"
Jimmy flopped back in his seat at this, feeling a little dejected: was this Lois's real opinion of his intelligence? But his hosts returned at that moment, preventing him from pursuing this line of thought further.
Setting the tray of coffee down, Clark turned to Jimmy and said quietly, "You'll understand that this is something of a shock to us, Jim. And we need to know how you found out, so I can stop anyone else finding out that way."
Lois interjected, before Jimmy could reply, "Why were you playing around with photos of Superman anyway?"
Jimmy shook his head. "Hey guys, it wasn't the photo which gave CK away - I'd already worked it out by then. I only did that with the photo to prove it to myself."
With interruptions from Lois, Jimmy explained how their behaviour over the photograph of Lois with Superman had started him thinking, looking for an alternative explanation, and how, once the solution had occurred to him he had pieced all the evidence together.
"So it was my fault!" Lois exclaimed guiltily, staring at Clark.
Clark instantly put his arm around her shoulders in a reassuring gesture. "Lois, honey, from what Jimmy says we were both acting oddly over that photo, so it was just as much mine."
Jimmy hastened to add, "But I don't think anyone other than me would have seen any of that stuff. I mean, Lois, I was the one talking to you about finding the compositors, and I was with you at Hank's Labs." He drank some of his coffee, then continued, "Anyway, I don't think anyone who didn't know you two really well would notice all the little things — the coincidence of CK's disappearances and Superman's arrival at an emergency…"
"Occasional uses of my super-powers when I don't think anyone's looking," Clark finished drily.
Jimmy stared at Clark. "I hadn't thought of that… but I suppose it does explain a few things, like how you know who's coming before they get there. And I guess you don't really lip-read, huh?"
Clark grinned. "No — I've never needed to."
"Anyway, look, I don't reckon it'd be that easy for anyone else to figure out — except for Perry, I guess — he knows you two pretty well, and he doesn't miss much."
"Actually," Clark interjected casually, "I've suspected for a while that Perry knows."
"What!" exclaimed Lois in horror. "Not Perry too!"
"Yes, I think so," Clark answered. "I don't have any proof, and he's never said anything, but there have been occasions when I expected to be challenged about something — a story I handed in, or a meeting I missed because I was off helping somewhere, something I knew as Superman which only Clark should have known — and he's said nothing."
Jimmy was open-mouthed. He had only just figured this out — and it seemed the Chief had known before him! But something occurred to him. "CK, if Perry knew, why would he have tried to stop you leaving to help with the floods?"
Clark shrugged. "He has to keep tabs on me for the sake of appearances, I guess. He can't let the entire newsroom see that I can come and go as I please." He paused, then continued, "If Perry didn't know, he'd be asking far more questions about where I am — if you think about it, being Superman keeps me away from work an awful lot. And while I do turn in stories about what I do, that's not always possible. Take that earthquake in Sudan last month — how could I have written about what happened there? All I could have done was pretend to give Lane and Kent an interview about it, but Superman's not supposed to be publicity-hungry, so I try not to do too many of these 'exclusive interviews' — apart from anything else, while the Planet has always had more of an association with Superman than any other paper, I don't want to start everyone wondering why Lane and Kent get so many Superman stories."
Jimmy nodded, understanding. Realising what it was that was still bothering Lois, and to a degree Clark, he promised hurriedly, "You guys don't need to worry — I'll never tell anyone what I know. And I won't let it slip accidentally either. I know how important this is to you."
Clark smiled at his young friend. "It's OK; we trust you, Jimmy."
Lois hesitated, then added, "Sure. I know you won't tell anyone." Jimmy thought that she appeared to consider for a moment before continuing. "You see, Jimmy, we've kept this secret for so long — first Clark and his parents, and then me. And believe it or not, Clark and his folks had enough anxious discussions over whether to tell me!"
As Jimmy stared at Lois in disbelief, she added quickly, "That was when we were dating first — when Dan Scardino was still around. Anyway — " she grinned, " — I figured it out for myself."
"Just as I *was* about to tell you myself!" Clark reminded her.
Jimmy laughed with his friends, relieved that they no longer seemed alarmed or annoyed that he had found out. He listened, intrigued, as Lois explained how she had eventually worked out Clark's secret for herself, and saw Clark demonstrate the gentle caress which had given him away. It was a gesture which Jimmy had often seen Clark made towards Lois in the newsroom, at least since the two of them had been openly an item.
After some time, Clark raised the subject of Jimmy's simple photographic manipulation again. "Jimmy, if it's that easy to turn a picture of Superman into me, why hasn't anyone else done it?"
"Probably didn't occur to them," Jimmy replied. "I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't already worked it out for myself. You don't actually *look* all that much like Superman — the glasses help, and your hair's different. And, you know, I always thought Superman was taller than you."
Clark smiled. "I hope more people think that!" He removed his glasses then, and Jimmy marvelled at the difference.
"I can't believe how different you look like that, CK — but you know," he added thoughtfully, "you don't really look much like Superman either."
"That's the hair," Lois interjected, reaching across to smooth her husband's hair flat. "And you don't really expect to see Superman in a T-shirt and jeans either."
"Yeah, where's the Suit?" Jimmy demanded.
"Under my clothes normally; in the hidden compartment right now," Clark explained.
Jimmy sat back in his chair again, feeling stunned. It was one thing to have figured out that Superman was really one of your best friends, quite another to be presented with the physical evidence right before your eyes.
"I guess you've saved my life a few times, CK," he said at last.
Clark replaced his glasses, brushing his hair back in place as he did so. "A few… but that's all part of the service, Jimmy. And remember, you've done me a few favours from time to time as well."
Brightening then as something occurred to him, Jimmy said excitedly, "Hey guys, I reckon I might have a future as an investigative reporter after all — I mean, I worked this out all on my own, didn't I?"
Lois laughed. "Sure, Jimmy — and anyway, you know we always believed you could make it. And so does Perry."
Clark stood up abruptly. "I have to go — fire sirens over by the commercial district." Jimmy watched in amazement as Clark sped over to the hidden compartment, changed at Super-speed, and appeared to run up the stairs without actually touching the floor. A moment later, a sonic boom could be heard over the house.
Lois grinned. "I know — I've had well over a year to get used to it, and it still bowls me over."
Jimmy realised his mouth was still open, and he closed it hurriedly. "I'd better get going, Lois," he said then. "And don't worry — the secret is safe with me."
Lois showed him out, and Jimmy ran down the steps of the townhouse in a cheerful mood.
<For once I'm not out of the loop!> he thought in amusement. <And Superman's really… really a regular guy, a friend of mine. Weird, huh!>
All in all, it had been quite a week, Jimmy mused as he rode home on his motorbike. And all because of a couple of photographs. For once, it was his particular skills which had solved the mystery — both mysteries, he reminded himself. And life could be quite interesting from here on…
He glanced overhead as he slowed at a junction, and noticed Superman flying past. Was it his imagination, or did the Man of Steel give him a brief wave?
Yes, life was *definitely* going to be more interesting from here on…