Stalked

By IRC Round Robin

Rated PG

Submitted July 1998

Summary: Lois and Clark are up against a mysterious foe who is intent upon uncovering Clark's secret identity.

An IRC Roundrobin by Zoomway (zoomway@aol.com); Eraygun (Eraygun@aol.com); CrystalW (JCWimmer@aol.com); DorDor (dorisschmill@gmx.net); Lansbury (Lansbury1@aol.com); chrispat (cp13607@aol.com); and Mackteach (Mackteach@aol.com)

***

<zoomway>

The wind was howling as the waves broke against the shore of the bleak little island off the coast of Metropolis. Stryker's Island, or Alcatraz East as it was sometimes called. Rolf wrapped a drab gray blanket around his shoulders. Though the prison facility was heated, the sound of the wind gave him a chill.

"I hate this place," he said as the sound of The Joker laughing maniacally down the hall overrode the forlorn wind.

His cellmate, Bobby Justice, a man with a young punk rap sheet and an ironic last name, looked up from his game of solitaire. "You're kind of prissy to be in a place like this, Frenchie."

"Rolf, not 'Frenchie'."

Bobby threw the cards in Rolf's face. "If I want your name to be Frenchie, it's Frenchie."

Rolf seemed to brighten. "Are you going to..punish me?"

Bobby demurred. "Skip it," he said, sitting down on his bunk and moving to its extreme limit. "How'd you end up here anyway? Puke on the warden's poodle?"

Rolf began fastidiously picking up the playing cards. "I was the cameraman for Diana Stride."

Bobby now showed interest. "The 'Top Copy' babe? Oh man, was she really that hot in person?"

"I suppose," Rolf shrugged. "She was more 'lethal' than hot, mon ami."

"So you got busted with her when she screwed up and said Clark Kent was Superman?"

Rolf sighed loudly. "She was 'busted' for trying to assassinate a state's witness, you execrable toad, and she did not 'screw up'. Clark Kent *is* Superman."

"Shyeah, right, and I'm President Garner."

Rolf looked up. "Enchante, Mr. President."

Bobby's eyes narrowed. "You're serious? You really saw this? For real?"

Rolf tidied the cards. "Yes, I *saw* Clark Kent open his suit. A gauche, off-the-rack, 'country boy makes good in the city' Sears version of GQ suit," Rolf sniffed. "But, oh, what that man hid underneath. I still don't know how he didn't chafe."

Bobby leaned back, placing his hands behind his head. "I get out in two days, Fr .. er … Rolf. I'll find out for myself, and when I do, I'll be rich."

"*We'll* be rich, mon ami, or I'll make sure Intergang makes your freedom … unpleasant … you understand, n' est-ce pas?"

***

<Eraygun>

Lois checked the mirror again as she impatiently waited for Clark to arrive at her apartment. She sighed. It wouldn't be the first time they were late for an important event, and even though she knew Clark probably had a good excuse for being late she really wanted to be on time for the Newspaper Guild's Annual Banquet.

Suddenly there was a ==whoosh== as her window blew open and in flew Clark.

"Honey, I'm sorry, there was a fire down in Suicide …" Clark began.

"That's all right, I understand," Lois interrupted. "Just change. We're going to be late."

"I thought you disliked these dinners."

"I do, but tonight is special," Lois replied.

"Why?"

"I just got a call from my friend Sara who works for the Metropolis Star and you'll never guess who's in town and coming to the dinner."

"The Pope?"

"Clark…"

"Okay, I give up. Who's coming?"

"Linda King. And I can't wait to see her."

"But I thought you hated Linda."

"Hate is too strong a word, Clark." Clark raised one eyebrow. "All right, maybe it isn't too strong a word. Anyway, it's been a long time since I've seen her and I want to catch her up on things."

Clark chuckled and spun into his tuxedo.

"I get it now," he said with a sly smile.

"Get what?" Lois asked innocently.

<CrystalW>

"You want to show off a little bit," he replied.

Lois gazed at him for a moment, then smiled. She raised her hand to look at the diamond that Clark had placed there, and then met Clark's eyes. "Maybe just a little," she told him.

Clark shook his head with a smile. Lois was so supremely confident that it still shocked him to see her needing to prove herself. He felt that she should know how wonderful she was, and proving it to someone that she rarely saw seemed silly. Still, she was his Lois and he would do anything to please her.

"So, are you ready?" he asked her, taking her hand in his and also looking closely at the ring he had given her.

"Yes," she smiled.

As they approached the door, Lois' telephone rang. She glared at the device before crossing the room to pick up the receiver. "Hello?" she growled. She was greeted only by silence. She repeated her query a couple more times before she heard the line go dead. She replaced the receiver with an irritated glance, wishing that she had let the answering machine take the call. Then she dismissed the entire incident and took Clark's arm as he escorted her from the apartment.

***

The Guild's banquet room was as plush as it had ever been. Reporters and editors from around the country mingled together wearing their best and sounding their brightest.

Lois and Clark blended well into the group of people, even as they stood out. They were a stunning couple, recognized for both their writing and their association with Superman.

Lois kept an eye out for her rival as she accepted a glass of champagne that Clark snagged from one of the circulating waiters. She recognized most of the people in the room, but did not see that one face that she was searching for. Despite her watchfulness, Linda approached when Lois' back was turned. She had left Clark's side for a moment to answer a question posed by another reporter while Clark was speaking with someone else. Just as soon as she left Linda saw her opening and slid in.

"Clark, it's so wonderful to see you," she said as she offered him her hand.

Clark politely took her hand, pointedly ignoring the low neck of Linda's gown. Lois had a much better gown, and besides, he had no desire to look at another woman regardless of her attire.

Linda may have noticed his uninterested though polite acknowledgment as he searched the crowd for Lois, but if she did she didn't allow it to bother her. She launched into a conversation about how well her movie was doing and how difficult it was to manage so many roles at one time.

Just as Clark was wondering how to end the conversation without being rude, Lois returned and insinuated herself between Linda and her fiancÚ.

<DorDor>

Putting an arm around Clark, she pulled his head down for a demonstrative kiss. "Oh, *here* you are. You've got to try that punch. It's *so* good." She accented each sentence, completely ignoring Linda.

Then she remembered that she was wearing shoes with narrow pointed heels. She had to be careful where she stepped with those. She had more comfortable shoes outside in the car. These were really just party wear … and excellent defense weapons if need be.

She turned her head very slightly, gauging the distance to Linda out of the corner of her eye. Then she took one, two carefully measured steps backwards.

"Ouch!

Biting the inside of her cheek to keep her expression even, she turned around then. "Linda!" she exclaimed. "I'm *so* sorry. I didn't see you there. I see you found my fiancÚ."

Looking at Clark, Lois knew that he was slightly embarrassed but at the same time the sparkle in his eyes told her that he had also enjoyed her little stunt. She winked at him before turning back to Linda.

"Really, it's been quite a while, Linda. *So* much has happened that I'm sure we could talk for hours. Unfortunately …"

A waiter approached them and whispered in Clark's ear. Clark nodded, then shrugged. Turning to Lois he said, "I have a phone call in the lobby. I'll be right back."

With Clark gone, Linda's interest in reminiscing about the past and talking about her movie dropped noticeably. She quickly excused herself, heading towards the powder room with a pronounced limp, as Lois noticed not without a trace of satisfaction.

After Linda had gone, Lois was left by herself for a moment. She idly wondered who the caller was. Except for the people at the Planet, nobody knew they were here tonight. At least that's what she thought. She hoped they weren't needed at the office. With Linda gone, she was determined to enjoy the rest of the evening.

When Clark returned, he answered her questioning look with a shrug, but before he could speak, a voice behind them exclaimed, "Mr. Kent, Ms. Lane, you're just the ones I was looking for!"

It was Nunk of The National Whisper.

<Lansbury

Lois and Clark turned. "What can we do for you, Nunk?"

Lois looked at Clark, amazed at the calm way he was dealing with that piece of slime.

Nunk looked at both of them with a smile playing at his lips. "I hear you two are going to tie the knot. How about some quotes about your engagement for my newspaper?"

Lois took a step forward. "First, Mr. Nunk, I wouldn't call what you write for a newspaper. Next there is no way in h…"

Sensing Lois was about to do battle, Clark jumped in. "She means to say there is no way in the whole world we would give you any details on our relationship."

"Come on, kids, let's be friendly about this. You either tell my readers your version or I will have to tell them mine." Both of them heard the silent threat.

Clark, who many saw as a mild-mannered man, instantly became angry at the prospect of someone inventing a story about them. "Nunk, we have no comment for you now, nor will we tomorrow or anytime in the future."

Lois placed her hand on Clark's arm and gently pulled him towards her. "That goes for me too, Nunk. Clark, Perry is all ready and everyone is going to their tables. I suggest we leave Mr. Nunk to wade through the gutters to find copy for his next edition."

They both turned to walk to their table without a look back at the man seething in anger at their remarks. As they approached their table, Lois asked, "Who was on the phone? Is anything up?"

"By the time I got there, the line was dead. I figure if it's important they'll call back."

"That's odd. Did the waiter say anything to you on the way to the phone?"

"All he said was the man asked if Clark Kent was at the banquet and then asked to speak to me. Let's not worry about it and just enjoy the rest of the evening," Clark told her as he held out her chair.

"Yes, that sounds like a good plan to me."

Clark walked around to his chair when suddenly he heard a call for Superman. Lois glanced at him and knew what was about to happen.

<zoomway>

Lois loosened his tie and kissed him briefly. "Go," she whispered. Clark made a hasty retreat.

Lois sighed as she sat down. She made the mistake of saying "The evening can't get worse" just as Linda hobbled over with her arm laced through Nunk's.

"Lo-is," Nunk hissed with a smile. "Have you met Ms. King? She seems to know an awful lot about you and Cla-ark."

Lois put a napkin in her lap. "Nunk, Clark's name is one syllable, and yes, Ms. King and I have met … several times."

"May we," Linda didn't ask as she seated herself and Nunk pulled up a chair.

"It seems you and Ms. King were rivals at one time," Nunk said, patting at his pockets.

Lois brought a notebook out of her purse. "Wonder how that got there," she laughed uncomfortably.

Nunk grabbed it quickly. "I wonder, too. Sort of like I wonder why all of Lamar's photos of you two don't come out."

Lois shrugged. "Maybe you need a new photographer."

Linda interlaced her fingers and placed them under her chin. "I can't believe a photo of Clark wouldn't come out wonderfully well, regardless of the photographic conditions."

Lois smiled. "No one is denying that Clark is well-developed; it was the *film* we were discussing, Linda."

Nunk opened the notebook in his lap, and began taking notes as the women spoke.

"I can't imagine," Linda began as she arranged her silverware, "how you two got engaged. I mean you were so … different. So … night and day, Lois."

Lois arranged *her* silverware (not a pretty sight) as if she were making cannon placements on a war board. "They say opposites attract, Linda. That's why I'm surprised you're here with Nunk."

Nunk smiled, oblivious, and kept scribbling away.

"Don't you ever wonder what Clark said to me when he escorted me to the train station, leaving you stranded in that restaurant?" Linda said and then glanced around in an exaggerated manner. "Sort of like now. Where *is* Clark?"

Lois shrugged. "Well, since you're the only helpless blonde here, Linda, we can rule out an escort to the Greyhound station, but if you really must know, he had a call to make."

Nunk laughed, but stopped quickly as Linda's eyes caught his. He knew directions to the handbasket when he saw them. "So," he interrupted. "You and Clark dated, Linda?"

"As a matter of fact," Linda said, "if I told you what Clark told me when we were alone together…"

"Yes," Clark said as he re-entered. "Tell them, Linda."

<Eraygun>

Lois smiled up at him and then turned back to face Linda. "Please do. I can hardly wait."

Linda flushed. "I … er, well … er… he said that.." she began haltingly.

Clark took Lois' hand in his. "I'm sure you remember me telling you that she was the best reporter in the world as well as an incredibly beautiful woman."

"Ah… er, well…"

"And that I was the luckiest man in the world to be her partner."

"Of course … but…"

"And that — "

"Enough with the lovefest already, this is getting us *nowhere*!" Nunk suddenly interrupted. Grabbing Linda by the arm he stood up from the table. "Look, you two, I intend to get the real story on this engagement and your relationship. The public has the right to the truth!"

"You wouldn't know the truth if you tripped over it," Lois snapped.

"Are you attacking my integrity?"

"I would if you had any."

Realizing he had no response to that, Nunk turned and left the table with Linda in tow.

"Welcome back," Lois whispered as Clark sat down next to her at the table. "You look a little worried. What was the emergency?"

"It was a burglary."

"Well, that must have been simple enough. Did you catch the thief?"

Clark sighed. "No, I didn't, and this particular burglary was a little too close to home."

"What do you mean?"

"It was in my apartment building."

"Clark, not your place again?!"

<chrispat>

"No. Oddly enough, it was my next door neighbor. They tore the place apart as if they were looking for a secret hiding place or something."

"Oh, Clark, you don't think they thought it was your apartment, do you?"

"I don't know. Who would know enough to even want to search my apartment?"

Lois thought about it for a moment, then suddenly had an idea. "Remember Diana Stride and that video they took? Everyone thought it was a fake, but we both know better, don't we? You sure had me and the rest of the world fooled." Lois grimaced as she remembered how she had fallen for that hologram press conference. "You know, I'm still mad about that. You could have told me… and don't give me that bull about you wanting me to love you as Clark. I already did by that time even if I hadn't told you."

Clark had the sense to look guilty. "I'm sorry, Lois. I should have told you sooner, but it's water under the bridge now."

Their whole conversation had been taking place in whispers, and they suddenly realized that the rest of their table companions were looking at them oddly.

Clark spoke up. "Um, Perry, it looks like we're going to have to leave. An emergency with one of my neighbors has come up, and Lois wants to come with me. Is that okay?"

Perry waved them off with a grin.

Lois gave him her best smile. "Thanks, Perry. See you later." She grabbed Clark's arm and hauled him out of the banquet room.

When they reached the car, Lois turned to Clark. "What are you going to do?"

"Well, the first thing I'm going to do is get all my Superman stuff out of my apartment. Then I'm going to call Bobby and see if he knows anything." He pulled Lois into his arms for a kiss. "Do you know how much I appreciate having you on my side?"

<CrystalW>

When Clark and Lois arrived at his apartment building, Lois was momentarily stunned to see the number of police officers milling about. It was difficult to convince them that Clark indeed lived there, but once they located Inspector Henderson they were allowed past the 'crime scene' tape, and up to Clark's floor.

Lois turned to the police officer that Henderson had insisted follow them up. "Isn't this a lot of attention for a simple robbery?" she asked him in exasperation.

The young officer blushed slightly as he explained that Superman had requested the special attention that the building was being given. Clark rolled his eyes, regretting now his impulsive request that would make investigating the scene so much more difficult for him.

Once they arrived at Clark's apartment, the officer left them alone, although he assured them that he would be nearby. Clark closed the door behind him, and quickly removed his glasses. He had examined the scene quite thoroughly when he had been there, but he searched through the wall to ensure that he had missed nothing.

After several minutes, time that had Lois pacing by the time he was done, Clark finally resigned himself to finding no more clues as to who had ransacked the apartment.

It wasn't merely a matter of clothes being tossed about or valuables being taken that worried him. The walls had been beaten with a hammer in several places, as though someone wanted to know what was behind them. Every closet had been emptied, and the inner walls dismantled. The "thief" had been looking for something… and it wasn't money.

With a sigh, Clark turned to Lois. "They haven't found anything I missed," he told her. "I think you may be right. It may have something to do with me." He sat wearily on the sofa, placing his head in his hands.

Lois sat beside him, and put her arm around him. She remembered how she had wanted to comfort him when his own apartment had been robbed, and how inept she had felt at doing so. For a moment she just held him and was thankful that now she had that privilege.

Several minutes later, Clark regained some of his composure. "What I don't understand," he told her, "is that if anyone knew enough to look for the suits, they should be smart enough to get the right apartment. It doesn't make any sense."

Lois nodded, allowing her mind to sort quickly thorough the possibilities. "You need to move them, anyway. Maybe you should put them at my apartment."

"Absolutely not!" he replied fervently. "If they know *I'm* connected with Superman, they most certainly know that I'm connected with *you*. That would be the next logical place to look."

Lois nodded silently. He was right.

"You're right that I need to move them. I'll take them back to Smallville for the time being. They can stay in the treehouse with my other things."

Lois looked up in surprise. He wasn't willing to put her in danger, but he was willing to risk his parents? "Are you sure that's a good idea, Clark?"

He sighed in reply, "I doubt they'll be in two places at one time. Whoever it is, is here. They won't be there."

Lois smiled at his logic, wondering if her tendency to babble had rubbed off a little on him. She nodded, and watched him move the wine rack and reach inside for his suits. He did a quick spin, and was out the window with them before she knew what was happening. She smiled again, knowing that he had moved too quickly for anyone watching to detect, and relaxed to wait for his return.

She wasn't aware of the video camera in a building across the street that was focused on Clark's living room. Clark had not been either.

***

<Lansbury>

Superman was flying in the direction of middle America. He came to a sudden stop just inches away from the Kent farm. Not bothering to change he approached the house with the bundle of clothes under one arm.

"Mom… Dad.." he called as he entered the house through the kitchen. He was surprised to find no one home. He placed a message on the kitchen table telling his parents he'd left some laundry for his mother to do. Remembering what he wrote made him chuckle to himself. He had written that washing colors, especially reds, made him nervous and he would be back in a couple of days to pick them up. He knew his parents would know what he meant.

***

Back in the apartment Clark glanced at Lois as she fixed them a cup of coffee. "Now, what's the plan?"

"I think our best bet is to see what the next move is from the person or persons who's doing these things. Right now we have very little to go on." Lois handed him a cup as she sat down at the table. "Why don't we try and see if there's anyone out there that has anything against you."

Shaking his head in agreement he said, "Maybe we need to talk to Bobby Bigmouth. Let's see what he's heard."

Lois got up and went to the phone. She got Bobby on the first ring of the telephone. She set up a time and place while Clark sat quietly and listened. Next she placed a call to the local deli and ordered two of Bobby's favorites.

"We had better go," she said. "By the time we pick up the order and head over to the park Bobby should be there."

<zoomway>

Clark had to admonish Lois twice against eating one of the eclairs. "You know he counts them, Lois."

"I'm starving, Clark. We left the banquet. You don't need food. You don't know how cranky a person can get." Clark raised his eyebrows, opened his mouth, but obeyed Lois' raised hand. "I mean cranky from hunger."

"Oh," he smiled.

"There he is," Lois said, spotting Bobby drinking from a brown paper bag. "Bobby," Lois frowned, "I never figured you for the liquid lunch type."

"Give me a break, huh, Lois. I have a Yoo-Hoo in the bag. It's bad for image."

Clark laughed and handed Bobby the large white deli sack. "Maybe this is better for image."

Bobby smiled. "You've always been the nicer of the two, Clark. You know Lois only had ice in her apartment one time?"

"Look, Bobby …"

"A guy could waste away to nothing living with her … oops, sorry. I guess you two are … uh …"

"No," Clark smiled. "We're not living together."

Bobby shook his head and looked at Lois. "Seems like a waste."

Lois folded her arms as Bobby stuffed half a salami sandwich in his mouth. "Give, Bobby."

"What am I, a slot machine?" he said through the salami. "Don't you believe in finesse?"

"Only when it comes to hair spray, Bobby. Now give. What do you know about the burglary at Clark's apartment building?"

Bobby wiped mustard from the corner of his lip. "It was somebody trying to look like an amateur, but they were looking for something specific. Rifled the place."

"We know that much, Bobby," Lois said as she extracted an eclair.

"Hey!"

"You give us something we *don't* know, and I'll give it back."

"You'd hold a man's eclair hostage? I can see love has mellowed you right out, Lois."

Clark covered his mouth and lowered his gaze. Lois threatened to take a bite.

"All right! Word came down from Stryker's Island that a cellmate of a certain Rolf 'punish me' LeBlanc set off for Metropolis the minute he got sprung. A grifter punk named Bobby Justice," Bobby said. "It pains me we share the same first name."

Clark took the eclair from a rather deflated Lois and handed it back to Bobby. He patted his shoulder. "Thanks, Bobby. That helps."

Bobby shrugged and split the eclair in half and handed half to Lois. "Consider it an engagement present."

She smiled. "Thanks."

He stood up with his deli sack and started to walk away, then looked back. "Congratulations. If any two people can make it work, it's you two."

<Eraygun>

Lois munched on the eclair as they walked back to Clark's apartment. "Gee, whoever would have thought Bobby was such a sentimental softie," she said in between bites.

Clark laughed. "True. I didn't think he had it in him."

They walked along in silence for a few moments and then Lois stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face Clark.

"What's the matter, Lois?" Clark asked.

"Clark, I want to apologize for the way I spoke to you earlier this evening."

"Lois, you don't have to do that — "

"Yes I do. I was angry at you, but to be perfectly honest I was even angrier at myself for what happened with Diana Stride. I call myself an investigative journalist but it never once occurred to me that you might have a secret identity. I must have been galactically stupid."

"Lois, you're being too hard on yourself."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are," Clark said determinedly. Taking her into his arms he hugged her close to his chest. "No one else suspected either," he whispered into her hair.

"But, Clark…"

"You set impossible standards for yourself. It's one of the things I love about you," he interjected.

"I know, but…"

"Besides, you finally did figure it out, and it was the best day of my life when you did."

Lois gave Clark a crooked smile. "I know, but sometimes I wonder if it took me so long to figure it out because I really didn't want to know the truth."

<chrispat>

Clark pulled away so he could look into her eyes. "Why didn't you want to know?" he asked.

Lois reached out and caressed his cheek. "Oh… maybe I didn't want to see that Superman wasn't perfect… that he could have feelings and flaws. I felt safe loving him. He wouldn't expect anything from me, but you… you had all kinds of expectations and needs. I didn't think I could live up to that, so I kept you both separated in my mind. Now I realize how foolish that was. You are what had been missing from my life." She brushed his lips with hers. "I love you, Clark. All of you."

Clark pulled her into a passionate embrace, neither of them aware of the camera that was recording every move they made.

Bobby Justice grinned to himself. Those idiots he had hired to search Kent's apartment had bungled the job in a big way — first by getting the wrong address and then drawing so much attention that the police were now all over the place. But the tape of Kent taking the suits from a secret closet plus whatever he could get from their conversations on the video would be a start. He frowned. Maybe he if tried lip reading…

***

<CrystalW>

"You have got to be kidding!" Nunk said with the biggest smile of his life.

Bobby relaxed back onto the fluorescent orange sofa that graced the trashy motel room. In a few days he would be able to afford any accommodations he wanted. He would probably keep the vibrating bed, though. That was a lot of fun.

In truth, Nunk hadn't felt very confident in meeting the recent prison resident, but he had received tips from less reliable sources than this, and the videotape spoke for itself. At least it would after Bobby had provided a "transcription" of what was being said. Bobby had possibilities.

"I'll get my men on it right away. I have snitches and sneaks all over, and now that we know what we're looking for we won't have any trouble getting enough shots to make the public sit up and take notice." Nunk was nearly salivating at the ease of this story. He had come hoping to get some smut for his wedding piece, but this was so much better.

The next few days would be the hardest, he decided, as he paid Bobby and left the sleazy room. Once he had the documentation, he would blow the lid off the Daily Planet's top reporting team. They would see who the *real* reporter was.

*** Clark walked toward Lois adjusting his tie. He glanced to both sides with a rare feeling of unease. Something was out of place. He felt like he was being watched. He slid his glasses down a bit and quickly scanned the room. There was no one here that shouldn't be. The people surrounding him were the same coworkers that he had seen every day for the last three years. Nothing was amiss.

He was so intent in his study of the room that he didn't notice Lois' absence from her desk. She had just been there, he was sure of it. With the strangest feeling he scanned the room once more and nearly levitated when he felt small soft hands wrap around his face. As it was, he jumped several inches and whispered an expletive that was totally unlike him.

"Well, good morning to you, too," Lois told him as she stepped back.

Clark reached out and captured her hands, whispering his apology into her palms. "You caught me off-guard. I'm sorry."

Lois accepted his apology with a smile and a less than restrained kiss. "Just don't let it happen again, farmboy, or I'll have your mother wash your mouth out with soap."

Clark smiled, but his heart wasn't in it. He still had the strangest feeling that something was wrong, and he couldn't shake it. "Lois, have you noticed something different the last few days?"

Lois shook her head, and turned to walk to the coffee maker. She poured them both a cup, and turned to hand one to Clark. She caught him staring, not at her, but at the room as a whole. He swept the room, clearly using his enhanced "vision gizmo", and did not appear pleased at what he saw. He had been antsy for the last few days, and she wondered if the robbery had affected him more than he let on.

She had been feeling a little uncomfortable herself, although she couldn't put her finger on the reason. With a shrug, she walked back to Clark and handed him his coffee. He drank it without looking up, and without thanks. That alone told her how upset he was. Manners were as much a part of him as his brown eyes or ability to fly. He never went without them.

<DorDor>

"Clark …" Lois put a hand on Clark's back. If those steel muscles could have been any harder with tension, they would have been. She was sure of it. He only responded when she spoke his name a second time loudly, almost into his ear. "C'mon, let's talk." Lois took the cup from his hand and put it on the table. "The conference room is available."

Clark followed her to the conference room. When the door closed behind them, Lois breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back against the door. Clark looked at her. "Getting to you too, huh?"

He perched on the edge of the table. She walked up to him and put an arm around him, resting her forehead against his chest for a moment. He responded, placing his chin upon her head as he so often did. They were silent for a moment, reveling in their togetherness and drawing strength >from one another. Some of the tension passed.

They didn't hear the knock on the door at first. Only the second — or was it the third — more insistent one registered with Clark. It was followed by Jimmy's head peeking through the half-open door before Clark had a chance to answer.

Being used to the two "love birds" becoming oblivious to their environment on occasion, he had decided to open the door on his own accord. "Sorry, guys," he said, looking really apologetic this time. "But you have a visitor." The look on Jimmy's face told them that this was not going to be a pleasant one. And then Jimmy stepped back to admit their visitor.

"Don't try to evade me this time," he said. "This you can't talk your way out of …"

<Lansbury>

Lois and Clark looked at Nunk. He was waving the tape in the air like the winning banner at a ballgame. "I have the proof to unmask you for the person you are. Or should I say the alien you are."

Lois decided to take the plunge. "What exactly do you think you have to prove Clark wasn't born in this country?" She snickered at her own question but couldn't help herself. She loved the look it brought on both Nunk's and Clark's faces.

Nunk was in shock at the question but Clark looked at her with eyes of love.

"Lane, if I were you, I would watch that mouth of yours. It's going to get you into big trouble one…"

Before he could finish, Clark placed his hand on his shoulder and gave a slight push downward. "Sit down, Nunk, before *your* mouth gets you into more trouble than you know what to do with."

Nunk sat and looked into the steely brown eyes of a man who had lost all his patience.

"Now is the time I show what I know. Before I came in here I asked Olsen to get Perry White pronto."

<Mackteach>

Lois and Clark exchanged glances before turning toward the conference room door. Through the glass, they saw Perry heading toward them, followed by Jimmy and another man that neither of them could identify. Lois turned back to Nunk and caught the smug look of satisfaction on his face.

"So that's Bobby Justice?"

Nunk's smile wavered slightly. He looked at Lois suspiciously. "Yeah. You know him?"

Lois shrugged. "Only what I've found out."

"Yeah? What's that?"

Clark picked up on what Lois was trying to do. "Nuh uh uh. You've got your information, we have ours."

Lois and Clark both watched as Nunk placed the videotape on the conference table, lightly tapping it with his fingers. "This is gonna blow anything you have out of the water. Thanks to Bobby, I've got proof … *super* proof."

Lois and Clark again exchanged looks. Keeping her eyes squarely on Clark, she sighed. "Well, Clark. Looks like he's got you dead to rights." She winked.

Clark's shoulders slumped. "I suppose he does, Lois. But, Perry's gonna want to see the tape for himself."

"I suppose so. Let me set up the VCR …" Lois walked toward the machine behind Nunk. And promptly tripped over some previously unseen obstacle right into Nunk's surprised arms.

"Hey!"

"Oh gee, I'm sorry … let me …"

"Lady! Watch it! This suit is a C&R special! You're getting lipstick all over it …"

While Lois had Nunk distracted, Clark quickly lowered his glasses and focused on the videotape. As soon as he had finished, he re-adjusted his glasses and walked toward Lois.

"Here, Lois. Let me help you." He helped Lois straighten, quickly catching her eye and nodding imperceptibly.

Nunk smoothed the front of his suit and adjusted his tie. He looked at the two reporters before grabbing the videotape from the table.

Clark ignored Nunk's actions. "We'd better remind Maintenance about that bump in the floor."

Lois smiled at Clark. "Yeah. I always seem to trip over that same spot."

Nunk was about to make some snide remark when Perry opened the door and marched straight up to him.

"I don't know what you're trying to pull here, Nunk. But if you think I'm going let a sleazeball rag of a paper print lies about two respected members of the community, you've got another think coming."

"Sticks and stones, White. Sticks and stones. This time I have proof." He waved the videotape in Perry's face, smirking at everyone in the room. He gave a "thumbs up" to Bobby Justice who just smiled. As Nunk placed the videotape in the VCR and pushed PLAY, he continued to gloat. "It's amazing what a little investigative research will produce … along with a little discreet surveillance."

"You mean spying, don't you?" Lois stood there with her arms crossed and Clark's around her.

"Yeah, that too." As the tape began, Nunk turned to Perry. "Wait until you see this."

Perry watched the tape for a moment before grinning and turning back to Nunk. "I'm waiting."

Nunk looked back to the monitor and saw nothing on the screen except 'snow.' He pushed FAST FORWARD and saw that the rest of the tape was the same. Blank. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

He glared at Bobby. "What did you do?!"

Bobby stammered. "It … it … wasn't me!" He pointed to Clark. "He did it! He's Superman!"

Jimmy started to laugh. "CK? Superman? Man, you're way off!"

Clark breathed a silent sigh of relief. He hadn't been completely sure if his quick zap of x-ray vision had erased the tape. He was now. He tightened his hold on Lois' shoulder slightly. She turned to look at him, a wide smile on her face.

She interrupted the staring contest between Nunk and Bobby. "Why don't you tell all of us what you were in prison for, Bobby?"

Nunk squinted his eyes at Bobby. "Yeah, dirtball. What were you in for?"

Lois answered for Bobby. "He's a scam artist, Nunk. He's got a rap sheet a mile long. You can check it out with Inspector Henderson."

Clark directed his question at the tabloid writer. "Isn't it ironic, Nunk? You being scammed and outwitted at your own sleazy game. Now that's justice.

Lois chuckled. "And this time, justice's first name is Bobby."

Nunk winced at the play on words before he headed for the door. He turned to glare at Clark. "This ain't over, Kent. I'll be watching you." His gaze took in Lois. "Both of you."

He opened the door and stormed out of the newsroom, Bobby Justice following him. Lois and Clark stood in the conference room doorway and watched Nunk jab at the elevator call button, his hands over his ears to avoid listening to Bobby's pleas to believe him.

They turned back as they heard Perry clear his throat. Perry handed Clark the videotape that Nunk had left behind. "I don't know what 'proof' Nunk had, Clark, but I can tell you that he was way off base." He chuckled as he left the conference room. "Clark is Superman … can you imagine …"

Clark grinned sheepishly and closed his hand over the videotape, crushing it. For extra measure, he again focused his x-ray vision on it, making completely sure that anything that had been recorded was now erased.

Lois came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him from behind. Clark smiled and turned in her arms, embracing her.

"Well, we dodged another bullet."

He kissed the top of her head. "Yeah, we did." An idea came to him. "And I think I know how to avoid anything like this in the future."

Lois leaned back in his arms and looked at him. "How?"

"Magnets."

"Magnets?"

"Yeah. If a magnet is placed near a videotape, the tape will be erased. I'll put magnets all over my apartment."

"That's sounds pretty far-fetched to me, Clark."

"I think it'll work, Lois. I saw it done in a plot for a police show on TV."

"You're getting ideas from television? Next thing you'll tell me, you've been offered a one-hour action adventure series."

"Lois! I told you before … Superman on television? … not likely."

"OK. So … how big do these magnets have to be? Kitchen magnet size?"

"No. Bigger. In this case, size does matter."

Lois grinned and headed toward her desk. "Don't get me started …"

Clark chuckled. "I'll catch up with you. I'm gonna get rid of this tape. Permanently." His head turned at a distant cry for help. "On second thought, maybe you'd better hold on to this for now." He gave her a quick kiss and rushed off, undoing his tie as he left.

Lois sighed. Putting the videotape in her bag, she murmured, "Just another day in the life of Lois and Clark," and focused her attention on the article on her monitor.

THE END