By Pam Jernigan <ChiefPam@nc.rr.com>
Submitted July 1999
Summary: Superman has been blinded by the bad guys, so he's staying at Lois' place until he recovers. While he sleeps, she's got lots of time to think about her relationships with the two men in her life. And when Superman starts running a fever and talking in his sleep, she gets a lot *more* to think about… This is a B-plot rewrite of the episode "The Eyes Have It."
I would naturally prefer extravagant praise <g> but actually all feedback is welcomed, public or private. Thanks to Chris Mulder and Wendy Richards for proofing/editing for me, and thanks to my IRC buddies for giving me that final push of motivation to *finish* this one :-)
"Uh, Superman?" Lois was in her superhero's arms, where she generally enjoyed being, although of course right now he was flying, so she was in a carry position rather than a hugging position, but the flying tended to make up for that. At the moment, however, she was somewhat concerned. "Why are you flying so slowly?"
He continued staring straight ahead and smiled weakly. "Well … I'm blind."
"What?!?" Lois gave herself high marks in self-control for not freaking out immediately. "Since when? And how are you flying?"
"Since those guys shone that light in my eyes. And I can still hear perfectly well, so I can orient myself by city sounds, although now that you mention it, I could use a little help in navigating. But I'm sure my vision will come back. Sooner or later."
"I see … so to speak." She fell silent, thinking. She felt guilty about the whole incident in the park, and protective of Superman, so she really had no choice. "Well, you're coming to my place until you recover."
"I really shouldn't…"
She overrode his feeble protest. "You will; I got you into this, the least I can do is take care of you for a little bit. Let me think how we can get you there without wrecking anything…" A few moments' cogitation gave her enough confidence to instruct him how and where to land. Superman, with her guidance, managed a gentle touchdown behind her apartment building, and he followed her, one hand on her shoulder, his feet floating an inch or so above the floor, up to her home.
Clark relaxed as he heard her close and lock her door. "Your sofa is just over here, right?" He boldly moved in the right direction, but was stopped by the crash of a lamp, knocked over by his arm. He winced. "Sorry."
Lois took a moment to reply, and when she did her voice had an element of forced calm. "That's okay, don't worry about it. I mean, things are only things, but people are people, right? I can always get a new lamp."
He made a mental note to buy her a new lamp … or three. Unwilling to risk any further damage, he remained awkwardly in place until she crossed the floor to his side. "Here, the sofa's right beside you…" She guided him until he could feel it for himself, and then sat down next to him. "Is there anything I can get for you?"
He shook his head, his eyes wide open and useless. "I'm sure this will be better very soon." He wasn't at all sure, actually, but he wasn't willing to admit that, and he didn't want to unbend too far. He was still kicking himself for dancing with Lois on air, and encouraging her (he feared) to hold out hope for a relationship with Superman. The last thing he, Clark, needed was for him, Superman, to get any closer to Lois.
Lois seemed not to notice his aloofness, she was too busy making plans. "Well, I have some things to do; you sit right there." She then proceeded to putter around the apartment, favoring him with a running commentary as she cleaned up the pieces of her lamp, made them something to eat, and made him wear an herbal eye mask she'd gotten from Molly; it was supposed to relax and refresh your eyes, and since he couldn't see anyway, it couldn't hurt, could it?
Last but not least, she called Clark. She sounded impatient when he didn't answer, and left a message for him to call her, pronto, buster. Clark, on the sofa, grimaced at her tone, and was hit with a new worry: it would be too coincidental for Clark and Superman both to turn up blind at the same time; how was he to manage that? He'd have to think of something, but there was nothing to be done now. And he wasn't going to stay blind, anyway.
Lois had hung up the phone and was pacing, just a little, behind the couch. "Hopefully he'll be in soon, he can help us out. And I suppose we ought to … do you need to rest? The sofa isn't really that comfortable, but I can get you some pillows…" she bustled out of the room before he could decline the courtesy, and on her return he forced himself to accept two feather pillows. "I could get you some blankets, too, although it's not cold out, but then again body temperature drops when a person's asleep, so they need to be kept warm … at least for, well, most of us."
He forced a smile. At least she still babbled when she was nervous, which was reassuring in an inexplicable way, but at the moment he just wanted to be left alone. His eyesight was gone (temporarily!), his head was starting to ache, and he just generally felt lousy. But there was nothing she could do for any of that — he just needed some rest — so she didn't need to know. "I'll be fine, Lois," he reassured her. "There's no reason you should lose any sleep over me."
"Yeah, right," she snorted, then gentled her tone. "Right. Well, then, I'll just be a few steps away. You just call for help if you need me." She laughed nervously. "There's a switch, huh? Usually it's me calling you…"
He grinned in spite of himself. "You've come to my rescue before. Goodnight, Lois."
Lois fled to her bedroom and began preparing for bed. No reason to lose any sleep over him. Hah, that was a line loaded with double meanings, but it was hard to tell what he meant by it. He might not even have been thinking of their personal relationship at all — and that told her something right there, didn't it?
She hoped she hadn't made a fool of herself out there, trying to get him settled. Normally, she considered herself fairly good in dealing with handicapped people, but this was *Superman* for pete's sake, and seeing him helpless was just a bit disconcerting. Not that he really was helpless, she reminded herself; he could still do amazing things, and no doubt he could learn to adjust … but this blindness was only temporary. It had to be. Metropolis needed him.
And so do you, right? asked her pesky inner voice. The question stumped her, and she considered it carefully while brushing her teeth. Not long ago, of course, she would have answered with a big fat yes. No one else but Superman for her. That, however, had been a while ago, and many things had happened since … that whole near-marriage to Lex, for one … and the steadily growing realization of how wonderful Clark Kent was.
She smiled in the mirror, thinking of Clark. He was such a good friend. Sure, he teased her, and sometimes he acted more like a rival than a partner (not that she couldn't handle the competition, oh no! but he wasn't supposed to *win*) but on the whole … well, she was starting to think that he might be … her mind shied away from such terms as "husband material;" the possibility was there, but she wasn't ready to face it. And why did Lois Lane, Successful Career Woman, need a husband at all, anyway? Let's just say he was someone she didn't want to lose.
Watching him get shot by those gangsters, and fall, and be dragged away had been horrible, and the days that followed had been scarcely better. She had realized then that she'd taken him for granted, assumed that he'd always be there, with a mind that stimulated hers and that occasional longing look she'd caught once or twice. She knew he was attracted to her at some level, and the knowledge had comforted her. But he'd seemed content not to act on his feelings; in all fairness she had warned him off more than once. The next step, by rights, ought to be hers. And it was just taking her a while to get comfortable with the idea; with the history she'd had, she had every right to take her time. The thing is, she'd assumed that Clark would wait for her.
Now, however, there was this blond bimbo from the DA's office, Mayson Drake. Okay, so she wasn't really a bimbo, but she wasn't much better. Imagine coming up to Clark and asking him to spend the weekend in the country — as a first date! How desperate and pathetic was that… Suddenly, Lois remembered that Clark hadn't been at his apartment, this late at night. Oh god, he'd actually gone *off* with that woman to her little cabin! She would have *thought* he had better taste, not to mention good sense. Serve him right if she did choose Superman.
Of course, it would help if she knew how Superman felt about her, she admitted, getting into a silky pajama set. She'd fantasized about asking him that very question, actually. Some romantic campfire, on a remote island or something … but that wasn't likely to happen, so she had to go with the clues he'd given her. And those were a very mixed bag. Once or twice, he'd give her *such* a look, like when Lenny Stoke was holding her hostage, and dancing in mid-air had been so romantic, wow … but then later, after they'd taken care of Metallo, he had seemed very distant, and in fact had practically pushed her into Clark's arms.
She sighed, turned off her light, and climbed into bed. She didn't know how she felt anymore, because both of them were giving her mixed signals. Well, she was pretty sure Clark loved her, and that she could love him back (are you going to admit you're in love with him?) (no, so shut up), and have a good life with him. He was kind, and funny, and smart, and would keep her on her toes, as she would him. And with him, she could achieve some semblance of normality, just enough to be comfortable. Life with Superman, on the other hand, would be unpredictable and difficult; so many people needed him, and she could never hold him back. Perhaps it was selfish of her to even think of claiming him for her own, but there was a connection, a bond of some sort between them; she was sure she hadn't imagined it. And that had to mean something, didn't it?
Obviously, this was not a choice she was prepared to make.
Lois adjusted her pillow under her head and tried to settle down for sleep. There would be a lot of things to do tomorrow, and— Was that a sound? She sat up in bed, listening intently. A low groan emanated from her living room, and she climbed out of bed to check it out.
When she flicked on the living room light, she was distressed to see Superman floating above her couch. It might not have bothered her if he'd seemed peaceful about it, but he was twitching and mumbling in his sleep. She approached him cautiously, ready to jump back if he flailed in her direction. He looked a bit flushed, and she reached out to feel his forehead. He was definitely warmer than usual, and she frowned. What did one do for a fever? Especially in an alien? Should she get him to a hospital?
After a moment's indecision, she decided against a hospital. Fever could be a good thing, she thought she remembered, it meant the body's defenses were working … and if word got out that Superman was laid up in a hospital, who knew what might happen. Besides, she'd told him she would take care of him, and she was a woman of her word. She could handle this.
"Mmp…" He groaned suddenly, and she jumped.
She peered at him; he was turning his head restlessly, but his eyes were still shut. "Superman?" she whispered, experimentally.
He turned in her direction for a moment, but didn't open his eyes. "Wah … wat'r…"
"You want water?" He didn't answer, but he did lick his lips, so she felt justified in her assumption. "Wait here." She dashed into her kitchen and filled a plastic cup from the sink. She turned and spent a moment marveling at the sight of a man floating, *sleeping* over her couch, with his cape hanging down to the sofa beneath him. How much weirder could things get?
He made another low noise, and she hurried back to him, then stopped, unsure of how to get the water into him. "Here's the water," she finally said firmly. He tilted a little more upright in response, and reached out with his right hand. She placed the cup in his grip and was relieved to see that he could drink without help. A few long swallows emptied the cup, although his eyes remained tightly shut. He waved the empty cup in the air, and she retrieved it. He mumbled something that might have been "thanks" and she smiled, reluctantly. Even when he was sick, he was polite.
Okay, he was sick, and he seemed fast asleep again. So what did she do? If he were a normal guy, she'd … well, she still wouldn't know what to do; she'd never been much of a nurse. She eyed him speculatively. He seemed to have drifted back to sleep (drifted being an unusually apt word, she realized with a half-smile) so she had some time to plan her next move. Sure, she wasn't a nurse, but she *was* a reporter, and one of the things she did know how to do was research.
An hour later, she stood, stretching. Her laptop and Internet connection had served her well; the consensus of experts seemed to be to let him sleep, give him lots of fluids, and try a fever-reducer such as aspirin or acetaminophen. She was dubious about the efficacy of the medicine on his non-human physiology, but it was worth a shot.
She checked in on him again, and found that while he was still in midair, he was now lower. On the other hand, he was no longer hovering over her sofa; he'd somehow moved to a position a foot above her coffee table. She hated to think what might happen to it if he suddenly crashed down on top of it. Crossing the room, she approached him and gently, tentatively, put her hands to his side and pushed, just a little. He moved with no resistance, coming to rest six inches further towards her sofa's airspace. Otherwise, he didn't stir at all, showing no signs of wakening. With more confidence, she positioned him above the sofa once more.
"There," she whispered, half-fearing and half-hoping that she'd wake him. "That's better."
He stirred slightly, turning his head to the other side, and then seemed to settle peacefully back to sleep. She sat down, watching him thoughtfully.
He so clearly needed her. Well, he needed someone, anyway, and she didn't know of any other candidates for the job. Which, she admitted reluctantly, didn't mean that there weren't any. When you came right down to it, she knew depressingly little about him. They'd never even been on any dates.
Of course, she hadn't been on any dates with Clark, either. But they'd worked together for all this time — good lord, had it really been a year already? — and she thought they'd gotten to know each other pretty well. All those stakeouts and adventures and late night sessions at the Planet had to count for something. She was almost certain that he cared for her; he'd even admitted it once. If he did ever ask her out, she'd say yes. Well, maybe, she backpedaled quickly, panicked by making a commitment, even a mental one. She didn't know what she'd say.
Clark was wonderful, she could admit that freely, but she could tell that he was hiding something from her, something important. He could act so strangely at times. Yet she hadn't used her reporter's instincts and skills to discover his secret; she'd subconsciously resisted the urge to put the clues together. Yes, she supposed he was entitled to privacy, although she didn't grant that right to many people. But in this instance … well, when it came right down to it, she realized, she wanted him to tell her. She didn't want to pry this out of him, whatever it was, she wanted him to trust her enough to share it with her. Being locked out of an important part of his life was somewhat painful, and a definite barrier. It would be hard to have a relationship — a romantic relationship, that is — unless that barrier were removed. It was hard enough for Lois Lane to trust as it was, without also being aware that she was not trusted in return.
A sudden midair movement caught her attention, and she looked up, tucking her reflections back into a corner of her mind. Superman was stirring once more, turning his head restlessly from side to side, his hands twitching spasmodically. His eyes remained tightly shut, and when she felt his forehead again, it was definitely warmer. A higher fever, while still not necessarily dangerous, could mean —
"Nooo … godda get out … hurts…" His mumblings started at a low volume, and grew louder as he increased his jerky movements. He sounded distressed, and she instinctively murmured reassurances. High fever, she had learned, could sometimes put the patient into a delirious state, either reliving previous events — usually high stress moments — or hallucinating new ones. At the sound of her voice, Superman calmed down momentarily, then started again, speaking more clearly now. "No, Trask, I won let you hurt them…"
"It's okay, Superman, Trask is dead, he can't hurt anyone anymore." Lois spoke reflexively, in a low soothing voice. She hadn't realized that Superman had ever faced Trask directly, let alone been distressed about the meeting. But that was the delirium talking. She decided then and there to at least try to get some medicine into him, she didn't think it would be able to hurt him, and it might help. "You just wait right here, big fella, I'll go get the aspirin…"
She made a wide circuit around Superman's floating form and headed for the bathroom. A minute later, she reemerged, and headed for the kitchen. "Rats." Nope, none in the kitchen cabinets, either. She didn't want to leave her patient alone while she went out, and it was late … a glance at the clock let her know that it was just a little past midnight. She smiled grimly to herself. Good thing they were in a big city; she just bet there weren't any 24-hour drugstores in Kansas, let alone the kind that delivered. A quick phone call set things in motion. Within the hour, she'd be the proud but somewhat poorer owner of two bottles of aspirin (extra-strength pills and coated caplets), three bottles of acetaminophen (gelcaps, caplets and coated tablets) and one bottle of children's liquid ibuprofen — he'd have to drink the whole bottle, but if he couldn't swallow any pills, that would be better than nothing.
She hung up the phone, well satisfied. The delivery boy would be here soon, and … he'd see a floating, incoherent superhero in her living room. Not very good for either of their reputations. She chewed on her lip, pondering her options, then remembered her earlier success at repositioning her guest. It was worth a shot.
Slowly, gingerly, she maneuvered Superman out of her living room and into her bedroom. Funny, she'd fantasized a lot of ways to get him into her bedroom, once upon a time, but this particular method had never come up. He was mumbling again, but for the most part his words were too quiet and slurred to understand. She ended up with him over her bed, and, as a finishing touch, she applied a slight downward pressure. He sank unprotestingly down onto the bed, giving the scene a much more normal look. Well, if you could call that outfit normal, which of course you couldn't, but that was the whole point, after all, and—
The doorbell rang. She quickly checked Superman's face to see if the noise had startled him, but he didn't appear to have noticed it. Satisfied, she sprinted out to get the door before the bell could ring again.
Ten minutes later, armed with an array of fever-reducers, a cup of water, and a towel to wipe up spills, she reentered her bedroom and stopped short. Superman had settled into the bed, and was curled up sideways, hugging a pillow, sound asleep. She smiled tenderly and leaned against the doorway, watching him sleep. He looked so cute, so vulnerable … even in that garish, distracting outfit … for a moment, that thought seemed to hold great importance, but then he stirred on the bed, attracting her attention, and the insight fled.
She approached the bed, carefully, holding out a hand towards his forehead. It didn't seem quite as hot, thank goodness. Maybe she wouldn't need the medicines after all. She'd be just as happy to skip them. She stifled a yawn, and realized that it was nearly one in the morning. While he was sleeping, she ought to catch up on her rest. She was mightily tempted to snuggle up to her fantasy man, but this particular fantasy could quite possibly kill someone with just an unruly twitch, so perhaps a retreat to the living room couch would be the better part of valor.
Some indeterminate time later, she was wakened by renewed mumblings issuing from her bedroom. When she looked in on him, clutching an aspirin bottle indecisively, he was shaking his head back and forth in apparent distress, and he'd floated upwards again, hanging roughly six inches above her bedspread. She couldn't really make out what he was saying, but whatever it was, he seemed awfully unhappy about it. Aspirin temporarily forgotten, she approached him, speaking in a reassuring tone. "There there, Superman, everything's okay, I'm here…"
Somewhat to her surprise, he calmed down immediately, half-turning in her direction. Encouraged, she advanced a little closer, and spoke again. "You're a little sick, Superman, but you'll be fine. I'm here, and I'm taking care of you … you just rest. Everything's going to be fine." With renewed confidence, she reached out to stroke one gloriously muscled shoulder, and applied gentle downward pressure. Once again, he sank onto the bed, turning sideways and grabbing onto a pillow when one came within range. He snuggled down enthusiastically, and appeared ready to drift to sleep. Before he did, though, he yawned, and smiled, and quite clearly stated, "I love you, Lois."
Half an hour later, Lois still didn't know what to think. Superman was sleeping peacefully, but she no longer felt tired. She was not prepared to discount the possibility that it had only been the delirium talking. She'd seen that happen on sitcoms, anyway, so she supposed it was possible — or maybe he was only reliving that incident with the pheromones, last year. But the chance remained that he might have meant what he said. And if he did … then what?
She was dismayed to realize that her first instinctive reaction had been negative. Didn't she *want* him to love her? She'd been hoping and conspiring towards this moment ever since she'd first met him … and yet whenever she tried to picture a life with Superman, she saw only a blank, and felt only panic.
Well maybe, she rationalized, it was only a momentary case of jitters, worries of inadequacy. She could get over that, with a little time. Even more than before, Superman *needed* her, and … the pep talk failed. Now that the coin had come up heads, she discovered that she had really been hoping for tails. "Oh, Clark…" she sighed, and rolled her eyes at her own perversity.
Dawn was breaking when Lois woke from a troubled sleep. She looked around her living room, frowning, momentarily at a loss to explain her presence there. A muffled noise from the bedroom brought it all back to her, with sound and technicolor, and she winced. "Right. Superman's blind, he's sleeping over, he's in love with me, and I really would rather have Clark, who, however, is in the mountains with the Assistant DA. Got it. Geez, what a rough night."
The problem at hand, however, was to get Superman back to normal. Once that was accomplished, they could perform whatever emotional gyrations they needed to. That matter settled, Lois shoved her unruly feelings into a back corner of her mind and determined to ignore them. She was good at that.
So, the first thing was to check on her patient. She ran a hand through her hair to try to tame it, tugged her robe tighter, and walked back the hall to her bedroom. Superman was still there, which she supposed was good, but he was restless, twitching a bit in place, and muttering to himself in his sleep. She leaned against the door jamb, frowning, and once again debated the wisdom of trying to medicate him.
As she stood there, some of his mutterings became clearer, and she listened with half an ear until one phrase brought her up short. Did he just say, "Mom, I got the job!"? It had sure sounded like it.
Funny, she'd never given much thought to the possibility of Superman having a mother, although she supposed there was no reason to think that he didn't have one — and she remembered now, the first time she'd seen him, he had mentioned a mother; something to do with his costume. She'd been so much in shock at the time, that it hadn't registered. So that covered the mom part — but a job?
Well, she thought whimsically, maybe he'd been back on Krypton, reading the classifieds, and had come across an ad taken out by the Intergalactic Peace Corps. "Needed: One Superhero for a picturesque, out-of-the-way planet called Earth…"
As she continued to listen, bits and fragments of words and phrases washed past her. Something about Perry, it sounded like, and Dr. Platt? No, surely she was imagining that, Superman hadn't even been around then … the sound of her name caught her attention.
"Lo-Lois in trouble, gotta help … Put down those guns or I'll … Stupid, Clark, stupid!"
He sounded quite vituperative on that last phrase, which startled her. She'd always thought that Superman and Clark were friends … although come to think of it, had she ever seen them together? Well, that didn't prove anything, Clark had never seen *her* with Superman either … hey, wait a minute…
She sank to a chair, her eyes unfocusing, as the pieces of the puzzle began to fit themselves together with startling rapidity. Of course, it all seemed so obvious now. "Stupid, Lois, stupid," she muttered to herself. She gazed ruefully over to where Clark was lying on the bed — lying being the operative word. So handsome, so strong … and with so little time to live. "Hurry up and get better, you," she muttered, "so I can kill you."
But beneath her humiliation and anger she could feel a secret thread of happiness. This *would* solve that pesky "Clark or Superman" problem. Sure, it would also cause some, not least of which was the way she intended to flay him alive for not trusting her earlier, but … at least now she could see a way to start doing things right.
And the first thing to do was to get Clark back to normal, or at least as normal as he ever got, she thought, with a half-hysterical giggle. So, how do I get him back to normal?
As soon as she framed the question, she came up with an answer. Call Martha. She'll know what to do.
Before she could reach the phone, however, it began ringing on its own. She stared at it suspiciously for a moment, then picked it up. "Hello?"
"Lois? I hope I didn't wake you, but—"
"Well, yes," Martha replied hesitantly, unsure what to make of this greeting. "You see, I'm at Metropolis Airport, and Clark was going to pick me up, but—"
"You're in Metropolis? Oh thank god," Lois breathed in relief, sinking to a seat on the sofa. "And I bet you called Clark's apartment, and he's not there, and you don't have any idea when he'll be back, do you?" Must be tough, being Superman's mom; you never know when the boy's going to stand you up, and he's just bound to have a really good excuse, so you can't be mad or anything … it'd be tough to be married to him, too, but maybe from a closer vantage point, one could keep better track of him … not that she was even *thinking* about marriage, of course. It was a purely philosophical observation.
Martha laughed somewhat uneasily. "Well, you know Clark, he probably just got sidetracked, and lost track of time."
Lois glanced at the clock. Uh-huh, she could think of any number of distracting things to do at 6:30am. Nice try, Martha. "You don't have to make excuses for him, I know how he is. Anyway, this time I know *where* he is, too. He's with me."
The line went silent for a longish stretch of time. Lois mentally reviewed her wording and laughed. "Oh, not like that, Martha, really." She grinned and couldn't resist adding, "If it had been *that* I wouldn't have told you."
Martha laughed, then, too, in relief. "So then why is he there, Lois?"
Lois sobered. "He's sick. Sort of. See, there was this really bright light, like a laser, maybe, and it was in his eyes, and he's, ah, blind, although I don't *think* he'll stay that way, and now he's got a fever, and he's kind of mumbling in his sleep, and he hasn't woken up, and I just didn't know what to do…" Lois bit back a sob as the explanation came rushing out a great deal faster than she'd planned.
"I see … have you given him aspirin?"
"No, not yet … I wasn't sure how to get it into him while he was asleep."
"Good point. I'm not sure … he's never really been sick before," Martha replied uncertainly. Then her voice firmed with decision. "You keep watching him. If he gets too hot you can try to get him into a bath or put cool cloths on him to cool him down — not cold, mind you, just barely cool, and take them off as soon as his temperature starts to come down, we don't want him getting chilled — and I'll be there as soon as I can. Give me your address, so I can take a cab."
Lois gratefully dictated the information, and hung up. Help was on the way. And once Clark was feeling better, she realized, she had quite a few things she wanted to talk to Martha about. Of course, she'd have to have a lot of *long* talks with the superhero himself, some of which he would mostly likely not enjoy, but Lois had a feeling that Martha would be very helpful in helping her to deal with things. Lois had become darned good at keeping track of Superman, or so she'd thought, and she wasn't too bad at keeping up with Clark, either (well, okay, mostly she was challenging him to keep up with *her* but that was close enough) but it would take some adjusting to deal with a superpowered partner. Or to knowing that she had one, at any rate.
And that didn't even begin to cover their personal relationship. She wasn't quite sure how that one was going to play out, but she was in too deep now to back out. And that, she realized, was a bit of a relief. No more waffling about whether or not she was ready for something serious. Once she knew about his double life, it had become serious; this was one big secret, and she owed it to him to keep it safe. Their relationship had *already* changed in subtle and profound ways; might as well go for it and explore all potential facets of that relationship, or at least the fun ones.
And she suspected, with a slight sense of shame, that his unexpected vulnerability was making her feel much less vulnerable, herself. Previously, she had been so focused on what *she* stood to lose — her heart, her dignity, her position, her partner — that she hadn't even considered what Clark might be risking. Now, however, she realized that his risk was as great or greater than hers — she had the power to literally destroy his life and family. Not that she ever would, of course, but somehow the balance of risks was steadying her. This was important to *both* of them.
A car rumbled by on the street, breaking Lois' train of thought. With a start, she realized that Martha was due at the door in a few minutes, and here she sat in rumpled pajamas. She dashed to the bedroom to gather some clothes, and locked herself in the bathroom to change. (Sure, Clark was unconscious, and, when awake, he could see through the bathroom door if he so chose, but she wasn't going to give him any freebies, either way. If he wanted to see her naked, she thought with a wicked little smile, he'd have to earn the privilege.)
Martha Kent paid off the cabdriver and hurried inside the modest brownstone. A sense of urgency had been driving her ever since last night, when Clark had failed to arrive for her flight. A search of the news had revealed nothing, even in circumstances where one might expect to find Superman, and phone calls to his apartment had only gotten her his machine. When hours had passed without word from her only son, she had informed Jonathan that she was flying to Metropolis the old-fashioned way. She wished he'd been able to come along, but the farm didn't run itself, and she had no proof that there was any sort of emergency, unlike during that asteroid scare last year.
And she had been right; he was in trouble. Blind, and sick … she hated the thought of him incapacitated in any way. Thank heaven for Lois. With that thought she reached the door and hit the bell.
She heard hurried footsteps from inside, then mechanical clicks, and finally the door opened to reveal a breathless and somewhat disheveled Lois. "Martha, good morning, I am so glad to see you!"
Martha smiled, but the worried look didn't leave her eyes. "Where is he?"
"Right back this way," Lois replied, waving Martha inside and helping her set her bags near the door. "He first started looking ill around midnight, so I put him in my bed for the night — I slept on the sofa, at least for what little sleep I got, because he did keep mumbling, so I kept checking on him, and I even bought medicine, but then I didn't know how to get it into him, and, well—"
Martha got to the door of Lois' bedroom and stopped short at the sight of Superman, almost causing Lois to run into her. There was her boy, and her mother's heart yearned to comfort him, but the necessity of keeping his secret held her in place. What was this? Martha turned, frowning. "I thought you said that Clark was here?"
Lois did a double-take, looking as confused as Martha felt. "Yeah, he's right there, I mean, it's not like you can miss him in that costume… Oh, I see what you mean." She swallowed nervously. "I didn't know it was him at first, actually, I didn't know it was him for over a year — talk about blind — but like I said, he was mumbling, and I finally put it all together…" She waited, tensely, to see what Martha's reaction to all this would be.
Martha's face softened as she took this in. How strange, to have an outsider in on the secret, and yet, Lois was hardly an outsider. Martha had long cherished a secret dream of Lois becoming one of the family, in fact, so this could be all to the good. "So, you know … No one's ever really known, not outside of the family." As she spoke, she moved forward, indulging her need to touch her son, to smooth back his hair and check his temperature. "And you know that really, underneath it all, he's still Clark…?"
Lois nodded slowly, and followed Martha a little way inside the room. "Yeah, I think I do. I mean, I'm still thinking about it all, but he tries so hard to just be Clark, and I guess he wouldn't do that if it weren't important to him … So, are you angry?"
"That you figured him out?" Martha smiled. "No, I'm glad. I always thought you two were well suited." Clark's forehead felt normal to her touch, she was thankful to note, and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
Lois smiled back, a touch wryly. "Well, the jury's still out on that one. But I intend to give it a try. First, though…" she gestured towards the bed. "He's got to get better."
Martha nodded, and stood. "True. We'll get him fixed up, no problem." Impulsively, she reached out and gave Lois a quick hug, which the younger woman gratefully reciprocated. "Now, let's get to work!"
Clark woke up slowly, his mind fuzzy and disjointed. Something had gone wrong … his eyes! With a sudden flash of panic, he opened his eyes and stared around him. Relief flooded him as he realized that he could see again. Last night, before falling asleep, he had tried to imagine a life without sight, but things had seemed bleak. Who needed a blind superhero? He would have done more harm than good, and the prospect had frightened him. Now, however, he could relax, and focus on other matters.
He surveyed the room again, and realized that he was in a bedroom — it must be Lois's room. He smiled, just a little, remembering all the times he'd dreamt of being in this room, in this bed … he shifted under the covers as the memories started affecting him, and only then realized, in some shock, that he wasn't wearing any clothes.
What had happened last night??
He remembered arriving, blind, as Superman. He remembered falling asleep on the couch. He remembered … waking up, and nothing before then. Surely, nothing could have happened? Upon second examination, he found that he did have a pair of underwear on, which only increased his puzzlement.
He heard a gentle knock on the door. "Are you awake?" Lois called softly.
Clark clutched at the comforter, drawing it up further on his chest before replying, "Yeah…"
The door opened, and Lois poked her head in, smiling brightly. "Oh, marvelous. You were asleep for the longest time, but at least the fever had gone away, so I guess you just needed the extra rest."
Clark involuntarily tried to push his glasses up, realizing as he did so that he wasn't wearing them. So Lois probably thought of him as Superman, then. A flash of bitterness surged through him; she'd seen her chance when he was incapacitated, and boy had she taken it.
She came over and sat on the edge of the bed, and he willed himself not to scoot aside like a nervous schoolboy. He was Superman; he could handle one petite brunette.
"Can you see?" she asked briskly, then held up her hand. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Good. Now, I already called Perry and told him we were following a lead, so that's all right. You and I, buddy, need to talk." She stabbed at his chest with her index finger to emphasize the point.
He surveyed her dogged expression and tried desperately to figure out what she meant. If she thought he was Superman, which she must, why mention Perry? He searched her expression for clues. Clearly she was … well, upset, but in a controlled sort of way. Which was more worrisome, actually, than an explosion of temper would have been. He tried for guarded innocence. "Talk about what?"
She glowered. "You know very well—" Her expression cleared, reflecting first surprise, then a sort of malicious amusement. "No, you don't know, do you? Hah, that's ironic. I really ought to leave you like this for, oh, the next year or so, but I think we've got better things to do." She paused again, surveying him for a long moment. "Okay, here's the deal. Clark, I know you're Superman." She held up a hand to forestall his protests. "Don't bother denying it; I know. You were talking in your sleep, and anyway your mother is here — she's the one who got the suit off you, in case you were wondering — and we've been having a nice long chat." She smirked.
Clark grabbed at the only piece of conversational flotsam he could. "My mother?"
Lois nodded. "She wanted to come to town to see the Jackson Pollock exhibition at the museum, remember, and you were supposed to provide transportation. When you didn't show up, or call, or appear on TV in a suitably dramatic fashion, she got worried and arranged more conventional air travel. When she got here, she called me."
"Oh, yeah…" He winced; he'd totally forgotten about that. "But she wouldn't—"
"No, she wouldn't." Lois agreed. "I'd already figured it out. Anyway, like I was saying…" She glared at him for a moment, and he fell obediently silent. On many occasions, he'd contemplated what might happen if Lois were to find out his secret, or if he were to tell her. Never, in his fantasies, had she been this … calm. He only wished he could be sure that this was a *good* thing…
"We've been dancing around each other for a while now, but the games stop here. You'd better start thinking about what we're going to do on our first date, because I expect you to ask me within a week. Lord knows how long it would have taken you if I hadn't taken charge," she added, rolling her eyes. "Oh, and you can tell Ms. District Attorney Drake — excuse me, *Assistant* District Attorney, you have really got to raise your standards there Clark — you tell her that she's history, or else I will. She doesn't even like Superman, so it was never going to work anyway — why in the heck have you led the poor woman on?"
"I didn't," he protested indignantly.
She ignored him. "And don't think this means I'm not mad at you. I am still peeved about the whole secret identity thing — don't you know by now that you can trust me?"
He squirmed. "I knew that, Lois, it was just—"
"Well, you'll have to trust me now, won't you? And if you work it right, I'll forgive you. And then…" she seemed to run out of steam. "We're just going to see what happens."
Clark stared at her, feeling disgruntled. When had he so totally lost control of his life? It wasn't that he minded her knowing about Superman; quite the contrary. But being *told* to ask her out had put his back up. It'd serve her right if he didn't go out with her, just to show her that she couldn't order *him* around…
She surveyed the expression on his face and had the gall to laugh. "Going to sulk now, are you? Fine, get it out of your system, but it's not going to change anything. There's something between us, you *know* there is, and we're going to finally make the time to explore it." She hesitated, her smile fading a bit, then leaned forward. "Let me refresh your memory…"
She kissed him then, and he couldn't help but respond. What the heck, she always had been able to order him around, why should today be any different? Eventually, she drew back, and he reluctantly let her go.
She looked at him fiercely, and seemed to be willing him to understand. "Didn't you feel that? That was something way more than partners. And I'm not letting you go until we work out the possibilities. I'm, I'm … I'm *claiming* you. I've got first refusal on you, and no one else gets a chance unless and until I decide we don't have a future."
He had to smile at her vehemence. "Yeah, I felt it, Lois," he agreed, his voice coming out huskier than he'd expected. It was ironic that she was working so hard to convince him of something he'd wanted for well over a year. Or maybe, he reflected, she was really trying to convince herself. She'd been hurt so many times in the past, and he knew how difficult this had to be for her.
His agreement seemed to take the wind out of her sails, and she flushed. "Well, good then. Um, anyway," she looked away, and found a less emotionally-charged topic. "You've got some clothes over on that chair, for when you're ready — I might as well confess that I broke into your apartment to get them. I'll be out in the living room, talking to Martha … just take your time, okay? You really were sick."
He watched her tenderly as she indicated the clothing and backed towards the door. "Lois?"
"Yes?" She looked at him then, still struggling to overcome her fears.
"How about dinner on Friday? There's this new place, Angelina's — I hear they have the most fabulous desserts…" He favored her with his most charming smile, and watched, gratified, as her face relaxed, and she smiled in relief.
"That sounds great, Clark." She hesitated, smiled a touch more brightly — were those tears forming in her eyes? — and fled the room, muttering "thanks," as she left.
He watched the door close softly behind her, and whispered, "No, Lois — thank you."