By Shawn V. <Kirshnera@aol.com>
Submitted November 1999
Summary: A trip to Italy for Supergirl's twenty-first birthday party turns Lois and Clark's world completely upside-down, as they're "forced" to share a hotel room, some intimate moments, and one or two secrets…
Author's note: This is a request piece that I wrote based on an idea from Jeffrey Ayers. I doubt it's exactly what he had in mind when he asked me to write it, but I just can't seem to keep my mind on a leash! It doesn't listen to me very much. I hope he likes it anyway. :)
The idea of Supergirl was used with quite a bit of creative license. First of all, this is not necessarily *my* opinion of the hero— she is being seen through Lois-and-Clark-tinted-glasses. Also, I used the "Kara Zor-El from Argo City, Krypton" basis, and changed everything that I wanted changed. (I do that, you may have noticed, if you've read my other works. <g>) I figured that if the show can take elements from the comics and change them around to fit their evil purposes, so can I. :) This story is set in early second season, after both Lois and Clark know that they're in love with each other, but neither knows that the other one is in love with them, and both are willing to accept friendship as sort of a lovely consolation prize, all the while wishing that they'd won the trip to Hawaii, if you get my drift. :) But Rome is a nice second choice.
And this story would never have been finished (or at least it wouldn't have been *nearly* as interesting) without the help of my dear friend Rachel. Thanks for your support, your ideas, your help, and your editing. And your nagging, although I may not have appreciated that fully at the time. :)
Also, thanks go out to Helene for her encouragement, Sarah McLachlan for her song title which I swiped, Laura for her explanation of a real life Brady Bunch episode, the old Italian man who made the hot chocolate in Orvieto, Chiara for her help with the Italian, and a few tour guides who in no way are the basis for any characters.
I'd also like to thank the hot Italian guy who followed me around the Colosseum, just because. :)
I do have one more thing to say, which all readers *must* know: IMPORTANT NOTE: Supergirl is Superman's cousin.
And so I bring you…
FUMBLING TOWARDS ECSTASY by Shawn V. (Kirshnera@aol.com, Kirshnera on the IRC)
"Here's your mail, Mr. Kent," said the young boy, walking past and dumping envelopes onto Clark's desk.
"Thanks, Marc," he said absently to the boy, who was already gone. "So, I was thinking," he said, resuming his conversation with Lois, "that if we order from Tina's, it'll actually take less time to get here than if we order from January Deli."
"How do you figure?"
"Well, January's right down the street, and it takes less time for the actual delivery. But it's been pretty busy lately. A lot of the time, the delivery person has to take an indirect route to get here. Plus, it takes a while to make everything, and they tend to put the orders of the customers who are actually there over the phoned or faxed in orders."
"And Tina's doesn't?"
"Not as much, because they're not as busy."
"But what if we actually walked to January?"
"Well…" That one stumped him. "I guess that works if it's a nice day or we're not too busy…"
"Hey, what's this?"
"This," she replied, gesturing to an envelope that was resting next to the spot on his desk where she was sitting. "It looks like an invitation. Mind if I open it?"
It was a little card inviting Clark to Supergirl's twenty-first birthday bash. Dick Grayson, a special friend of Supergirl's, had borrowed money from *his* friend, Bruce Wayne, and was throwing the week long party for her. It was going to be in Italy, with a hotel in Rome and "excursions to many outlying places of interest."
Clark, although he could use the excuse that he was busy, would be expected to make at least a few appearances as Superman. But he'd prefer to go on the trip as Clark. Kara, as he liked to call his cousin, knew this and therefore had extended the invitation to him in that persona. Besides, it gave Clark an excuse to Perry about why he would be gone for so long.
Lois was examining the invitation, and flipped it over. There was a handwritten note on the back. "Clark," she read, accentuating the words ridiculously, "you simply *must* come! This is going to be the most incredible thing in the world! I know you've probably seen Rome already, but this is with a tour guide and all. I'll just *die* if you're not there! And I'll *never* forgive you. So you *have* to show up. I can't *wait* to see you! *Love,* Kara."
Lois looked at Clark, her eyebrows raised. She crossed her legs and leaned in a little. "Kara?" She knew when she assumed that position and that tone of voice that she could make her partner squirm.
It never failed. "It's… It's her Kryptonian name," he said defensively.
He shrugged helplessly.
Lois sighed and left. She went to her own desk and sat down, looking through *her* mail. She, of course, had no invitation to Supergirl's little get-together. Just Clark. Good old Clark, Supergirl's favorite reporter. Actually, Lois didn't really expect an invitation— she'd hardly even interacted with the superhero.
It was really mostly Lois' fault, she knew. She knew, but she didn't care. She did *not* like that girl. First of all, she had the gall to come to Metropolis wearing *his* crest, *his* colors, and copping off of *his* good name. And When Lois had asked her about her costume (actually about how revealing it was and what message she was trying to send), she had laughed and replied, "Oh, Miss Lane, it's just a female thing." As if Lois didn't know about what females liked to wear! And right in front of Clark! Lois had seen in that instant from the way she was grinning at Clark that she was trying to impress him. And then, at the end of the interview, she'd looked directly at him and said, "If there's anything else at all, you know where to reach me." Just like that. Totally ignoring Lois, of course.
And Clark had looked at Lois when Supergirl had flown away and said, "Isn't she great?" Lois hadn't been able to reply.
Since then, Lois had wondered whether she had misunderstood what Supergirl had meant, or maybe that Supergirl had simply misspoken or hadn't thought it out before saying it. But Lois' opinion of Supergirl had been tainted with it, and she treated her as someone she didn't know and didn't care to know.
And it irked her that Clark was so close to Supergirl. It irked her that Superman was so close to Supergirl. Last night, she had been talking to Superman when he'd said that he had to leave. She'd asked him if it was an emergency. He'd said no, that he was meeting Supergirl for dinner.
That in itself wasn't so terrible. Lois could deal with Superman and Supergirl having dinner together. After all, even if she *was* almost ten years younger than him, they were from the same planet. They were the only two of their kind, and so they had a special relationship. Except, it was eroding Lois and Superman's special friendship. And that stung, just a bit, like a speck of dust in the eye.
Still, it was Clark that upset her. Clark was… well, he was *hers.* End of story. She *loved* Clark, more than anything else, even if he didn't know. Plus, he was her partner. And her best friend. As such, he was absolutely, one hundred percent *verboten* to any other woman. Hands-off. Superman, she could share. She had to share him with the entire world, anyway. But not Clark. Never Clark. And especially not with that twenty-year-old *slut*!
Lois closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to calm her mental tempest. What was her problem here? Oh, yes, that Clark had been personally invited to a week long party by Supergirl. A party during which he had nothing better to do than to hang out with who was probably the only person there he would know except for Superman. And Lois was getting the impression that although invited, Superman was not going to be able to attend— he would be too noble to stop his services to the world for an entire week.
Yes, that was a problem. But, how to resolve it? Simple. Lois would just have to accompany him to the party. She'd have to convince him somehow to let her come with him, even paying her own way if she had to, convince him to let her share his invitation and his hotel room.
And his hotel room…
Now *there* was an interesting thought. She closed her eyes and pondered it for a minute. Warm shivers ran down her spine. The two of them, alone together, in close quarters, away from the important news of the city… it usually meant romance. Nothing very explicit. But still romance. Inadvertent touches which made her skin tingle. Deep, intimate conversations, late at night when all the lights were off. Getting ready for bed together. Clark, dressed way, way down. That in itself was enough to make her blood boil and her heart try to pound its way out of the constraints of her chest. But, her sexual interest in the situation aside, she *had* to get to that party with him.
Later that day, as Lois and Clark were readying themselves to leave, she walked over to his desk. "Hey, Clark."
"Wanna come over tonight? Pizza, beer, and movies for some nice down time?"
"Sure, sounds like fun. Oh, wait, you know what? My mom just emailed me this new recipe I wanted to try. So why don't you come over to my place, and we can have that instead of pizza?"
"Okay." She couldn't keep a little part of a silly smile from her face. It was that easy. He had no clue. "So, you, um, ready to leave?"
"Yeah, just a sec." He shut his computer down and clicked off the desk lamp. "All set."
"All right, let's go then." They pulled on their coats as they headed out the door.
"What movies do you want?" Lois asked Clark as they both stood in front of a rack of videos at Chandler's Video.
"It doesn't really matter," he replied. "Is there anything new that's any good?"
"Not really. Here's an old favorite, though."
"Yeah, you know, the Beatles' movie. 'Help!' Ever seen it?"
"No, I haven't."
"Oh, we have to get this, then." She reached out and picked up the video. "Now, what else?"
Clark shrugged. "Whatever you want, Lois."
"Okay, how about this? 'The Court Jester.'"
"With Danny Kaye?"
"Yeah. I love this movie."
"All right, let's check these out."
It was pitch black outside. It was also seven degrees and snowing. Clark's apartment was dark except for the glow of the television and one candle on the coffee table. Its scent, "Hazelnut Cappuccino," permeated the air around the friends, scenting it pleasantly. The two were two-thirds of the way though "The Court Jester" and had long since finished their dinner and "Help!"
They were both wearing casual clothes, Lois having changed into the spare outfit she kept at Clark's house. Clark's arm was around her, holding her pleasantly close. She sighed and snuggled closer to him, his body warm and comfortable. Clark smiled to himself as she did so. They might be just best friends, but it still *felt* good.
"Clark?" she asked.
"You're going to that Rome thing, aren't you?"
"Supergirl's party? Yeah."
"Well, she wanted me to come. We're good friends."
"Are you going to write a story on it?"
"Yeah. Just a little Entertainment bit. But really, it's a vacation, not an assignment."
"What about me?"
"What *about* you?"
"I'm your partner, remember? What if I want to help with the story?"
"Lois, we don't partner up for every little thing. You know that. Besides, this isn't your style. Nothing exciting's probably even going to happen."
"Well, sure, but I… well, I'd like to see Rome. And what if something *does* happen? You wouldn't want to be partnerless."
"What could possibly happen? It's a party!" he protested.
She looked at him as if wondering how he could be so naive. "A party full of superheroes and other important people. Even if no normal crooks would be dumb enough to attempt a crime while they're there, there might be some criminals arrogant enough to try to prove themselves by getting away with something."
"Well, Lois, that might be true, but it's certainly not my place to invite someone else to such an expensive party!"
"If it comes to that, I'll pay my own way."
"Lois…" He trailed off, trying to come up with another good argument. There was a *very* good reason why she couldn't come with him. It would blow his disguise. If she came with him, she'd have to stay in the same hotel room as him— there'd be absolutely no way they could get another one now. And he had to make multiple appearances as Superman. He couldn't exactly say, "Excuse me, Lois, I have to use the rest room for the next hour and a half while Superman visits Supergirl." He'd be dodging her all week, something he absolutely hated to do. "Just forget it, okay? We need at least half of Lane and Kent here in Metropolis, or it'd fall apart."
"Metropolis would be just fine *without* Lane and Kent for a week. Hell, it's lived through more than that before."
"Lois, forget it," he repeated. "I'm going alone."
Lois' eyes narrowed as the tone of his words was apparent to her. She stood and walked into the bedroom, retrieving her work clothes. She grabbed her coat on the way out and pulled it on, silent all the while. Just before she opened the door to leave, she turned to her partner. "This isn't over, Clark." Not even close to over. And he *would* give in. With that, she left.
The next day dawned cold and snowy. It was three degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind-chill of negative sixteen. Driving was difficult, even though the snowplows had already been through the streets of Metropolis, pushing most of the dirty, gritty, not-quite-white powder to the side of the road, where it lay to annoy pedestrians by forcing them to walk in the streets.
Lois left her house a few minutes early so that she would have time to brush off the snow and scrape off the ice that had accumulated on her car. She started the car first, hoping to warm it slightly before she got in, then did the dirty task of snow removal before driving to work through the slushy roads.
The first thing she saw when she got to work was, naturally, her partner. The most stubborn (okay, well, *second* most stubborn) reporter in the news business. After her first glimpse of him, however, she did not pay him any further attention. She wasn't yet sure what she wanted to say or do about the situation.
If she knew how he felt, everything would be oh, so much simpler. But of course that was impossible. And it was, well… embarrassing. She'd asked, he'd said no. She'd pushed, and he'd still said no. That in itself wasn't so awful. But it was the way he'd said it. She'd given him so many opportunities to tell her yes, and his rejection of her proposal could easily be interpreted as a rejection of *her.*
It wasn't like she'd been completely honest about her reasons to come, but still… And if he had a reason not to invite her, what was it? Why wouldn't he tell her? Did he just want to get away from her for a while?
Or was it something else? It couldn't possibly be…
She *had* personally invited him. And he had been talking a lot about her lately. Not in a sense that many people would notice. But his speech was garnished with the occasional "Supergirl said that…" followed by some piece of information, usually something trivial and pointless. Could *she* be the reason Clark wanted to go off alone?
And, if she was, how much harder would it be for Lois to convince him to let her come? What could she do? What could she say?
But she had to use whatever she could to get in to that party. It wasn't that she wanted the story. It wasn't even that she wanted what Clark didn't want to let her have. If she couldn't manage to get in with him, what chance did *they* have in the future? It was a challenge. She was suddenly consumed with the desire for a definition. A definition of their relationship. She didn't want ambiguity any longer. And this party could prove to be a dictionary. Well, that was melodramatic. But, unfortunately, it was also true.
It had to start with an apology. She'd have to apologize for being so rude to him last night. And then she'd take it from there.
She had decided to walk over to Clark's apartment that evening to catch him at home, where he would be comfortable, and probably slightly more approachable than he would have been at work that day, after having been run out on. Lois ran the entire scene through her head. She knew exactly how she was going to play it.
As she got up to his door, she slowed her pace, mentally calming herself for the task she was about to undertake. As she did so, however, she saw Clark's door open. Did he have company? She stood near his door, hidden enough by the shadows that it wouldn't look like she was hiding from him if he saw her, but masked enough that he probably wouldn't.
The light from Clark's apartment came pouring out onto the sidewalk of Clinton Street, throwing a bright light on the shadow that was nighttime in the Upper East Side. In the light, Lois could see two silhouettes outlined. One was tall and muscular—obviously Clark. The other was unmistakably female. Flowing hair that was slightly longer than shoulder-length, a short skirt, shapely legs, and clothing tight enough to outline her breasts almost grotesquely.
Lois held her breath and listened, attempting to sink more fully into the shadows.
"Clark, I had a great time. We should do this more often," came a dulcet feminine voice.
"Yeah," came the sound of her partner's voice, agreeing. "Well, you take care of yourself."
A tinkling laugh sounded at his statement. "When have I not?"
"Goodbye, Clark." Then, to Lois' horror, Supergirl, for that was the identity of the shapely silhouette, leaned over and kissed Clark on the lips. It was neither long nor passionate. In fact, it seemed rather platonic. But it was a goodbye kiss, something that you gave someone when you already kissed them all the time. Friends did not kiss each other goodbye.
Salt was added to the wound when Supergirl said to him, "Love you!"
He replied with the same, and she flew off.
That was the killer. Lois' heart sank into her stomach. Tears formed in her eyes. She felt like she was going to be sick. All she wanted to do was get out of here. It was cold out.
Funny, she hadn't really noticed it before.
As she walked back through the streets of the Upper East Side, she shuddered. It had been one thing to walk toward Clark's house, certain of the welcome she'd get there. It was almost like she was walking *with* Clark, in his own neighborhood. But now, alone, she was going through one of the not-so-nice parts of Metropolis, in the middle of the night, and it all seemed that much more dangerous.
She couldn't wait to get back into Chelsea, a far more upscale and safe district. Her own neighborhood, where the people were polite if slightly cold, and where evildoers had long since learned not to go due to the myriad of alarm systems, the rapidity of police responses, and the usually armed and ready-to-fight denizens of any place they could think to rob.
The wind had picked up, and Lois was chilled to the bone by the time she got onto Carter Avenue. She jogged the rest of the way to her apartment building and raced inside and up the stairs. She was going to explode, and she wanted to be alone in her apartment when she did it.
She slammed the door and vowed never to go near the Upper East Side again, never walk down Clinton Street again, and definitely *never* step up to the door of number 344. Not if her life depended on it. Damn Clark Kent! Damn him to hell! How could he?
She threw herself on the bed and slammed a fist into the pillow. It didn't respond well enough, and her next target was the slightly resilient mattress. Much better. Much more like human flesh. Much more satisfying.
Her anger was far from spent, but destruction gave way to a more powerful urge, and Lois collapsed, burying her face in her pillow. Hot, angry, betrayed, and crushed tears poured out, creating two damp spots on the cotton.
Clark smiled as he watched his cousin disappear into the night sky. It was so nice to have an actual relative around. Martha and Jonathan were, of course, the best parents he could possibly imagine, but there was still the lack of blood between them and him. Kara was the only other one of his species and of his family on the planet Earth, and that lent a certain special tint to their relationship. She was closer to him than a sister would have been.
And he felt relieved by their conversation. As it turned out, Kara and Dick had planned for a possible extra person or two, and Lois would not throw the entire equation off-balance. Clark had explained his predicament to Kara, and she had told him that if he wanted to bring her along, it would be fine with her. They had bought a few extra plane tickets, just in case, and there were a few people who did not have roommates. They were going two to three in a room, but had left three people with their own rooms. Clark, due to the needs of his secret identity, had one of those rooms. The other two people either had no secret identity or had no need to use it. And so Lois would either be rooming with a stranger, or… him.
When Kara had said that, Clark could tell exactly what she was thinking. She knew that Clark would love to have Lois share his hotel room for a week, even if it meant dealing with the difficulty of his secret.
And it was true. Clark wanted Lois to come with him, to be near him for the entire week. But at what expense? It might not turn out so well if he were to invite her only to have her find out his secret and hate him for the duration of the trip and possibly for the rest of his life.
It was a hard decision to make, no doubt. And pondering it didn't have the desired effect of making it easier. His heart said there was only one answer that was worth anything. His head said the same. Unfortunately, they didn't agree which answer it was. It made him think of a line from a song in "Grease," "My head is saying, 'Fool! Forget him!' My heart is saying, 'Don't let go!'" Great, now not only did he have a problem to solve, he also had Olivia Newton-John's voice in his head. An quick trip to his CD player and a John Lennon album solved the lesser of the two problems, but the greater still frustrated him.
He decided to look at it practically. What did Lois want? To go to the party. What did he want? For Lois to go to the party. What did Kara say? That it was fine if Lois wanted to come. And, most importantly, what problems would it cause? His secret identity was the only potential problem— it would be put in jeopardy. It might be difficult to get around Lois to be Superman. So the real question was how much of a risk was it?
Well, getting around Lois. That was nothing new. He always got around her, so to speak, with excuses for everything. Not good excuses, usually, but excuses nonetheless. And whether or not she actually believed them, she didn't usually question them. This would be nothing new to her. So how much trouble was his secret actually in? Not that much more than it was every day, really.
So that was settled. But, would the pleasure of having Lois there be worth the pain of having to leave her to be Superman? Would the comfort of not having to hide be worth her anger at being left in Metropolis without him? Which held more benefit, which more danger?
And at that, he paused. What right had he to decide this? What right had he to base the decision on *his* pleasure, when it wasn't all about him, but about him and Lois? *She* wanted it. And he… well, he wasn't exactly against spending a week with her. He *knew* it would cause problems. But if you wanted to go that route, leaving her here would cause problems, too.
So he ended the circling that his mind was doing with a firm decision. Yes.
She was asleep. Until, that was, the knocking woke her. Her mind and body reviled at whoever was at the door, whoever was making her get up. She'd been crying, she'd been sleeping, and she probably looked like Hell or Death, or both, and now she had to act pleasant or polite, or both. And there was absolutely nothing she could do about her puffy-eyed appearance because they were at the door *now.* She could only run a brush through her hair and glare into the mirror. She knew it was unreasonable to be mad at a person—she didn't even know who it was—when it couldn't possibly be their fault, but she was.
Well, maybe she didn't have to be pleasant or polite. It depended on who it was.
The knocking continued. "I'm coming!" she yelled. It stopped. Finally.
She walked to the door and undid the several locks. With each twist and turn, she got more annoyed with whoever was behind the door. Finally, she flung it open violently. Standing there with an idiotic smile on his face was her partner.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
"Lois… I… is something the matter?" He obviously had no idea what was going on. Not that he ever did.
"No! Nothing's the matter! What do you want?"
"I… I just want to talk to you."
The hurt, confused look on his face just served to further annoy her. She couldn't tell him what was wrong, and that was even more annoying. And she knew it wasn't that much—he could probably have thousands of explanations for what she had seen if she asked him, but she couldn't. So she knew she was blowing it way out of proportion, but she just couldn't shake the anger, illogical as it was. She turned away.
As she was standing, her back to him, she felt Clark's hand on her shoulder, his fingers brushing her neck. It felt… good, but it wasn't enough, and became frustrating. Didn't he *know*? Didn't he even know how to touch her? This simple, endearing brush of skin that gave her goosebumps but nothing else… it wasn't right. Couldn't he tell? She shrugged his hand off. It had to be bigger than that.
"Lois…" Clark was beginning to realize that there was nothing he could do, nothing that he could say to fix Lois' problem. If he was soft-spoken and gentle, she'd get annoyed and introspective. If he was rough or angry, she'd get even more riled up. What was a guy to do?
With every passing second, Lois was getting more upset. Why couldn't he just do something? Why did he always have to be so naive? She breathed deeply. It was only a matter of time before this was going to be over. If he didn't know now, he wouldn't, no matter how long he thought it over. It was either intrinsic, or it wasn't. And if it wasn't…
One try. He was going to give it one try. The worst that could happen was that he'd fall prey to the anger her mysterious problem had caused. She was still facing the wall, her back to him. Her arms were crossed in front of her, in a defiant pose. She wasn't looking at him. Only her deliberate unmoving stance acknowledged his presence. She was waiting…
Lois was on the verge of tears, again. But then she felt warm, strong arms encircle her, pulling her tightly against Clark. Her breath came out hard. This was what her body had wanted from him, almost. Almost… She gripped his forearms, her eyes closed.
"Lois," he murmured in her ear, not quite a whisper, "I talked to Kara."
She stiffened. He held her a little tighter in response, not leaving her the freedom of escape. "If you want to come, come."
This wasn't the invitation she'd wanted. Grudgingly given, it meant less than nothing. He had to say…
"Come with me, Lois."
"Of course," she whispered back. Then, the moment became awkward. In her mind, she would turn and kiss him. In her dreams, she would… But in her reality, she remembered his words to Kara such a short time ago. Harsh, cold, but true. Clark was in love with Kara.
But if he loved Kara, what was he doing here, his arms around her?
The persistent hope stuck by Lois, but it wasn't enough to allow her to finish this the way she wanted. Gently, gently, she pulled away and turned to face him. He was smiling softly. It sent a shiver up and down her spine and she wondered if he knew what kind of effect he had on her.
"We leave Friday," he said, his voice still low. "I'll pick you up at one-thirty in the afternoon. The plane takes off at three. We have a layover in Philadelphia which should give the whole group enough time to get ready and to go through customs. Then, it's a nine hour flight to Italy. We land in the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino on Saturday at about noon. We check into the Hotel Portamaggiore in Rome as soon as we've all got our luggage and are on a bus that will be waiting for us."
With each word of the plans, Lois' grin grew wider. It had happened. Not the way she had wanted it to, but it had happened.
"The main thing that we have to decide is accommodations. Kara told me that she had left three people without room mates just in case other people came. There's one female that you could room with— Diana Prince."
"Oh, boy." Wonder Woman was not Lois' first choice in room mates. Not even close. Great. Now that she'd gone to all the trouble to get in here, she wouldn't even be able to room with who she wanted to room with. Maybe it had been naive of her to actually think that she and Clark would…
"Well, you have another option. I'm one of the two guys without roommates."
"Oh!" It was really amazing the way things worked out, Lois mused. After striking out earlier, her game certainly seemed to be taking a new path. "There's really no choice, then, is there?"
"It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"No. I mean, it's great…" Great. Absolutely, fantastically great. Stunning, shocking, breathtaking…
"Okay. Um, I guess… How cold does it get over there?"
"Not too bad. About forty. It's just a little bit south of here when you're talking latitude."
"That's good…" Now that Lois was in on the trip, she suddenly realized all that went into it. Things that Clark had known for a while, but she hadn't even thought about. Things like what to bring, what they were doing, what sites they were going to…
"I've made you a copy of the itinerary," Clark said, handing her a sheet of paper. "And if you have any questions or anything, just call me."
"Thank you, and I will. I guess I'll start packing."
"Good idea. See you tomorrow."
"Ciao ciao," he said with a grin.
"Ciao ciao, Clark," she returned.
Clark walked out and shut the door behind him. He ran his hand through his hair and smiled.
Lois leaned against the closed door and smiled. It was done. It was done, she had succeeded, and all she had left to do was pack, plan, and worry. The latter came easiest.
What *had* she just done? She was going to Rome, with only a tenuous grasp on Italian, a city where she'd never been before, for an entire WEEK, and she was rooming in a hotel she'd heard nothing about before (although if half of what she'd heard about Roman buildings was true, it wasn't going to be a nice place) with Clark! She glanced at the itinerary to see that it was a three star hotel. Three stars? That was on a par with Howard Johnson. Not exactly the honeymoon suite. Not even a suite. Probably one room and a bathroom. Might be interesting…
She figured she didn't need much more time, if she started packing now. One week in Rome… She went to her closet and unburied her trusty old luggage on wheels. A smaller suitcase was tucked inside a larger one, and she tugged it roughly out. The larger one was dusty, and the smaller one still had a baggage claim ticket attached to the handle. Luckily, the keys were still attached to the zipper of the larger one, so it was possible to open them both.
She started making a list of what she was going to bring to Rome, in order to facilitate packing. Two sweaters, four t-shirts, four blouses, a dress in case they had to go somewhere nice, a skirt in case they had to go somewhere else nice, shoes to match the dress, two pairs of stockings in case one ran, clear nail polish in case one ran while she was out somewhere, socks, several pairs of jeans and pants, underwear… Lois began to wonder if all of her stuff would fit into the two suitcases. At least she'd have her carryon as backup. Nail file and clippers, hand/body lotion, perfume, hat, sunglasses, anti-static spray, hairspray, hairbrush, makeup, moisturizer, soap… The list was getting long.
Friday afternoon, 12:30 p.m.
Lois' bags were packed and lying on the sofa. Her carry-on, packed completely full, was next to them. A friend of hers had agreed to come over and feed her fish while she was gone, promising not to kill them. At least not on purpose. She had an hour to kill before Clark was going to pick her up in a taxi and they would drive over to the airport. She was spending it double and triple checking her luggage. After all, it wasn't as if she could just drive home and get something she'd forgotten, now was it? And who knew how difficult it could be to buy things in Rome?
Her luggage was complete, though. It had to be. It had half of her wardrobe in it, and all of her cosmetics, some of which she used an average of once a month, but she'd packed them all just in case she wanted them. She had on jeans and a t-shirt, comfortable clothes because she knew she'd be "sleeping" on the plane. Well, not bloody likely, but she'd try, anyway.
The plane. Ugh. Lois hated planes. It was okay when you were flying for two hours in first class. But nine hours in coach was bound to be awful. She could only pray that she was sitting next to decent, clean, quiet people. Maybe she'd get a window seat. That would be nice.
She sat down in a chair and flipped on the TV, trying to calm her nerves before the trip. It wasn't her first time out of the country, but it was a big deal, and she was always jittery before big trips. Hmmm… it was a choice between a rerun of "The Brady Bunch" in which Greg and Marsha were campaigning against each other for Student Council president or the famous Vitameatavegamin episode of "I Love Lucy." There was a no-brainer for you. She settled back, watched Lucy Ricardo get drunk, and waited for Clark.
Clark knocked on her door and she quickly opened it. She greeted him, pulled on her coat, and picked up the carry-on. Clark picked up her suitcases, one with each hand, and started to walk out. "You have everything?" he asked her.
"I sure hope so! I've checked my luggage enough times that you'd think I was obsessive-compulsive!"
He grinned. "Okay. Well, let's get going."
She followed him out the door, locking all of its locks on the way out. She paused for a minute at the closed door—it was her last chance to remember anything forgotten. Nope. She went over to the elevator, which Clark was holding for her.
The airport was nearly empty. At least the area they were in was. Practically the only people Lois could see there were people in her group. Bruce Wayne—wow. Diana Prince. Aquaman, wearing an orange t-shirt and green pants, Other than those two superheroes, most of the people were normal. Well, if you could consider billionaire philanthropists, actors, and a lot of high-profile citizens normal.
There was a handsome young tour guide there, Jerry Mapp (odd name, thought Lois, but quite fitting for his profession), who was handing out the tickets. Lois and Clark walked up to him to get their tickets in order to stand in a line for half an hour, waiting to check their baggage.
A little while later, they walked through gate five and onto a tiny plane. Lois did not like the look of it. Not at all. There were three seats on the right, two on the left. The walls were covered with a brown splotchy "pattern" that looked completely disgusting. The only redeeming factor was that Lois had managed to trade seats with other people in the group so that she could sit next to Clark.
She found her seat quickly—a window seat—and sat down. Then, of course, she had to wrangle with her carryon, trying to put it on the floor in front of her because the stewardess *insisted* with a dirty look that Lois do just that. The seats were just too close together, though, and she almost wasn't able to get the bag on the floor.
"Clark?" she asked.
"I hate this plane already."
"I wish we could've flown first-class."
"Hey, don't complain, Lois. It's not like—"
"I know, I know, I know. It's not like I'm paying for it. Yeah, sure, whatever, but I *still* hate this plane. Things this small shouldn't even be allowed to fly. And things this *color* shouldn't even be allowed to exist!" she added, gesturing to the olive-greenish/brownish walls.
Fifteen minutes passed. Then twenty. Then twenty-five. People were still walking in, sitting down, getting up, stowing things in overhead compartments, trading seats, and making noise.
After over half an hour had passed, the plane finally began to take off, after the obligatory seatbelts/flotation devices/exit locations speech had been given. Lois, annoyed into a stony silence, glared out the window.
But it was hard to stay mad like that. She watched as the ground fell away silently and smoothly. The houses, cars, and people got tinier and tinier. As they moved farther up, she could see how the city had been planned out in squares—something she never could quite believe unless she was looking at it from an aerial viewpoint. Then the view turned white, completely, purely, bright white. That went on for some time, but eventually the plane broke through the layer of clouds into a clear space.
This was the part she always loved. No matter how much noise the plane was making, no matter how often the little girl behind her kicked her seat, no matter what was coming out of the earphones of the kid in front of her, she always felt so peaceful looking out over the wide expanse of clouds. It looked so solid that it was hard to believe that the plane had actually passed through, but of course it had. It seemed like snowdrifts, far below, or perhaps like those cotton bases for little porcelain villages that people displayed during the holidays. And there were wispy phantom clouds that gracefully floated through the empty space.
Maybe this was where Superman spent his down time.
All too soon, the plane was landing. Now it was time for customs, for waiting to board the plane, and then waiting for it to take off. And waiting. And waiting. Due to a nasty cold front, the plane's takeoff was delayed for a grand total of an hour and forty minutes, during which all of the passengers sat in the plane, looking out the windows at the deepening darkness of the Pennsylvanian sky. That was not a good way to start a nine hour flight.
At least it wouldn't have been if Lois hadn't had Clark to talk to. Again, she had traded seats to be next to him. This plane was a lot larger and more comfortable, and she was in the very middle seat. Clark was to her left. There had been a man to her right at one point, but apparently his wife or whatever had an empty seat next to her, so he was soon gone.
"Clark, I need to ask you something," Lois said to the man next to her. She was quiet enough that the few people who were sleeping already could stay that way.
"What is it?"
"When you talked to Supergirl, you know, about me coming along with the party, how did she sound?"
"I mean, did she sound annoyed, or just barely tolerant of it?"
Oh. "No, she was fine with it. Actually, she and Dick had planned on an extra person or two to bring along."
Lois' eyes narrowed as she debated whether or not to consider being called an "extra person"—one step short of "extra baggage"—an insult. She decided to let it drop in favor of a more pressing question. "Dick?"
"Dick Grayson—Bruce Wayne's… well, I guess he's sort of adopted, but not exactly… he's a guy who lives in Wayne Manor."
She arched one eyebrow. "*He's* throwing the party?" The name Dick Grayson still meant nothing to her, but the name Bruce Wayne certainly did.
"Well, they're good friends, and so he was doing it as a sort of birthday present. Of course, all the actual money's coming from Bruce, so it's more like Bruce is throwing the party, but yes. Supergirl couldn't afford something like this herself!"
Lois felt two opposing emotions at that—on the one hand, Supergirl could possibly be involved with this Dick guy, and Clark didn't seem to mind that, but on the other hand, Clark obviously knew enough about Supergirl to know what she could and couldn't afford. It seemed like such a simple thing, and Lois would've brushed it off if she hadn't realized that she didn't even know that about Superman, and she would've jumped right into bed with him anyway, not caring. Well, probably not now, she amended, but she *would* have if the opportunity had ever presented itself.
But the point was—and there was a point, she reminded herself—that she didn't know whether to be less or more… annoyed. Not jealous, certainly. Never… well, maybe. Just a little. And the fact remained that he *had* been invited, although that could certainly be taken several different ways—after all, she had invited so many other people, and it just wasn't possible that she was sleeping with all of them. Why should Clark be any different?
Because he's sweet, because he's nice, because he's brilliant, because he can melt people with his smile, because he's got a killer body, and because he's wearing a tight black t-shirt and looks like any female of the species' hormone-induced fantasy man. And those were all good reasons.
But her mental mess was quickly swept under the rug when Supergirl walked up.
"Hi!" she said brightly.
"Hi, Kara," Clark said, standing up.
Lois stood as well, but only because she felt uncomfortable being at eye level with Clark and Supergirl's waists.
"How's the trip going?"
"Well, okay, for a plane ride this long."
She grinned at his comment. "I know. I'd much rather fly. I mean *fly* fly. But hey, it's not so bad if you move around a little. I'm going stir crazy back there," she said and gestured toward the back of the plane.
"Well, just another—" Clark checked his watch "seven and a half hours until we land. Maybe I'll try and sleep a little."
"Good luck." Supergirl then turned to Lois. "And how're you holding up?"
"Oh, fine. Actually, I'd like to *try* and sleep a little, too. After all, it'll be morning and time for a long day when we land in Rome." Okay, so Supergirl was being nice to her. What did that mean? Did it mean that she knew Lois was no competition for her with Clark? Or that she thought Lois and Clark were just friends? Or that she had no interest in Clark, and therefore harbored no ugly feelings toward Lois?
"Yeah. Well, I hope you can get comfortable—God knows it's not easy in a plane, but nobody ever died of wishful thinking. At least, nobody that I know of. So I'll leave you two to your nap." And with that, she left to return to her seat.
Lois relaxed and settled back down. That hadn't been so bad. Not bad at all. Supergirl was either going out of her way to be nice to Clark's friend, or she really had no idea about all the things Lois thought of her. Perhaps the latter was more likely.
Lois was *not* comfortable. The plane was almost completely dark—everyone had turned out their lights and was trying to sleep. The kid across the aisle from her had pulled down his tray table and had folded his body double to rest his head on it. That did not look pleasant, but he was apparently fast asleep, so maybe it worked for him.
Clark was reading a book, but not with the overhead light. He was using a small penlight, probably out of consideration for those who were sleeping, or trying to sleep. He looked up when he saw Lois shift positions again. "Can't sleep?"
"I'm trying. This is the most uncomfortable plane I've ever been on. I mean, if I had a window seat, it would be a little better because I could rest my head against that—of course, it would be louder, too. I can't wait until the US discovers the secret to teleportation."
He grinned at that and then moved his seat back so that it was on a level with Lois'. He pulled up the arm rest that separated their seats, put an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her close to him. "Maybe this would be a little more comfortable." He paused, as Lois looked slightly surprised. "It's okay, isn't it?" he asked.
"Yeah…" she said in a small voice. It was a surprise, but not even close to an unpleasant one. She rested her head on Clark's shoulder—*cuddled* up to him, her mind said—and the cramped, uncomfortable space was forgotten.
Clark's head rested on top of hers, not heavily enough to be uncomfortable, but solidly. His arm around her was comforting and intimate, and she could feel the heat of his body radiating through the thin material of his t-shirt, which was definitely nice. Over it all, she could smell his faint cologne, all but gone as the night wore on, but still slightly present.
Maybe planes *weren't* so bad, after all.
For his part, Clark was absolutely thrilled with the position. Lois' small, warm body was right next to him, snuggled up to him, in his arms. She had a faint scent about her, of… lavender, perhaps, or something else that smelled very relaxing and pleasantly female. His face was touching her soft hair, a situation that he had always liked, although the side of her head would've been nicer than the top.
Maybe planes *weren't* so bad, after all.
Lois was awake when she realized that someone had sat down in the empty seat to her right. She didn't move, though, guessing as who it could be. She was right, of course, which she realized when she heard a familiar voice say, "How adorable." The tone of Supergirl's voice sounded… pleasant, like she really *did* think it was adorable, not like she was being sarcastic. Maybe.
"Shhh," came Clark's voice. "Lois is asleep."
"Well, good for her. How about you?"
"You know me—I never sleep very much." Lois didn't like the sound of that. What did it mean?
"You couldn't *possibly* be uncomfortable," Supergirl said in a teasing tone.
Clark shifted a little. "No…" Lois realized that he sounded embarrassed, admitting to Supergirl that he *liked* holding Lois like this. *That* was a good sign, she thought.
"You're pathetic," she told him sweetly.
"You might as well install a neon sign—it's that obvious." She didn't think to say *what* was obvious—she knew Clark would understand that she meant how he was in love with Lois.
"I guess I'll leave you two alone. Maybe you *should* try and get some sleep, though."
"Okay. Bye, Kara."
"Bye, Clark, Lois."
Supergirl got up and walked away. Lois was lost. What did *that* conversation mean? What was obvious? She had said "I'll leave you two alone," which probably meant that she felt she was intruding on something—and she didn't sound upset, just slightly… bemused. And what was pathetic? What was going on? Had it all been a tease, that she was making fun of her… boyfriend… for holding another woman in his arms? That she didn't feel at all jealous because she knew he was that faithful to her, that Lois would never mean anything to him? Or did it mean something else entirely? Something more pleasant for Lois?
Lois would've given her life's savings to have been able to look at Supergirl's face when she'd said the words—perhaps it would've given her a clue. Everything in her wanted to lean toward the opinion that Supergirl had seen them, and thought that they were cute, and wasn't jealous because Clark wasn't *hers,* but she couldn't be sure of that definition.
But no matter what Supergirl had meant, no matter what Clark was thinking, Lois was still warm, and she was still comfortable, and so she decided to go to sleep.
Waking up in Clark's arms was nice, but waking up with bad breath was definitely not. She was able to reach her bag and pull it onto her lap without moving from Clark's embrace—he was asleep. She rummaged through it until she found some chewing gum, and popped that into her mouth. It was no substitute for a toothbrush, but as she didn't want to get up and definitely did not want to have to go into the cramped, uncomfortable bathroom on the plane, it would have to do until they got to the airport, which would have sinks larger than a baseball and normal water pressure.
Breakfast on the plane was something short of a great meal, but it wasn't half bad, either. Airline food was one of the things the world stereotyped the most, but it really didn't deserve its reputation.
As Lois tore a bit of foil off an orange juice container, she asked Clark how he'd slept.
"Oh, as well as possible, I guess," he replied. "It's not something I'd want to do every night…" He paused when he realized that his statement could be taken two different ways, and one of them not very complimentary to Lois. "Well, I mean… sleeping on a plane, that is… it's just not…"
Lois grinned. "I know what you mean."
He tried to continue anyway. "I mean, actually, it was good for a plane, but what made it better was that, well, that you…"
"Men!" a voice interrupted.
"Oh. Hi, Kara. Good morning."
"You can never say what you're thinking! And you complain that *women* are ambiguous!"
"You heard all that?"
"I always keep an ear out for someone making an idiot of themselves. You know, Lois?"
Lois actually *smiled* at Supergirl. It had been a nice night, even if you counted in the lost sleep. "Yeah, Supergirl."
"Oh, please call me Kara. I already feel silly enough being the loudest-dressed person here, without an egotistical name attached to me."
"Okay, Kara," said Lois, politely choosing to ignore the fact that, unlike Superman, Kara had chosen her name. Superman had rather gotten saddled—by Lois herself—with the title he used, but Kara had decided to play copy-cat, probably since they *were* from the same planet. Also, Kara had chosen to wear her suit on the plane.
"Oooh, I can't wait to get off this plane!"
"I know," replied Clark. He seemed about to say more, but was interrupted by an announcement that they were currently showing a "movie" about the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Fiumicino.
They were almost there.
"I'd almost rather walk to Rome than sit down any more," complained Lois as she took her seat on the bus that would take them to their hotel.
"Cheer up. It's just a short ride, and it'll give us a chance to really see the city. Look at those trees—nothing like that in Metropolis, you know?"
"True." But she was still more in the mood for a shower and a nap than for a bus ride. The good mood she'd woken up with was no match for almost losing her luggage. She'd seen the larger of her two suitcases right away on the carousel. A minute later, her smaller one came into view. But as she reached for it, she realized that it was stuffed too full to be hers.
Uneasy, she checked the tag on the bag she was holding. It had someone else's name on it. She put it back on the carousel and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, she saw *her* small bag and retrieved it. But her larger bag did not show up. That was definitely not good. Not at all. After she realized that she was seeing luggage she'd seen before, her stomach lurched. What if the person whose suitcase she'd taken earlier had taken hers even before that? And then left with it…?
Clark had suggested they look around to see if some one *had* taken it accidentally. Luckily, as they walked toward Carousel #3, Lois saw that it had fallen off and was on the inside of the circle. Clark stepped over the carousel quickly and picked up the bag. And so, disaster had been averted. But it had not been a pleasant five minutes.
And then they'd had to load all of their luggage onto the bus, which took a while, but wasn't too bad, since it was a beautiful day.
And now, at least, they were going to be able to shower and change, something Lois would be very happy to do. She hoped that everything she'd heard about Italian bathrooms wasn't true.
"Attention, please!" It was the voice of their Italian travel guide, Daniela. "Now, every one and everything is on the bus, hm? There is a slight change of plans. The hotel rooms are not quite ready for you all, and so we are going to go see the Basilica of Saint Paul. It is a lovely, lovely place, and you will all enjoy it. After that, we will go to the Portamaggiore and see if your rooms are ready for you. If yes, then you will take a short rest, time to wash your faces, and then go on a tour at two o'clock to the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona with our guide Carlo. If they are not quite ready, you can leave your luggage there, at the Portamaggiore, and we can start our tour. Yes? Let us go, then."
And so, they were off to St. Paul's Basilica. It was a truly remarkable place, full of ancient statues and ornate decorations. One of the doors was wooden, and it was only opened once every twenty five years. It wasn't open then, but Lois spent at least five minutes studying the carvings that stretched across the monstrous piece of wood. Most of them had been worn away by time, but enough remained that the scenes were apparent.
Lois turned to observe the mass going on behind her over what was supposedly the Apostle Paul's grave. "Clark?"
"Do you think he's really buried there?"
"I don't know, Lois. It's… well, I suppose it's possible."
She nodded. "Pretty impressive."
"But I still want a shower."
"Me, too. Maybe the rooms will be ready after this."
They got back on the bus after touring the Basilica for a while, and went to the Hotel Portamaggiore, with the intent to drop off their luggage. Fortunately, perhaps the hotel staff had rushed to make room for all of these people (the place probably didn't normally see so many or so important customers), and the rooms were all ready.
Lois and Clark were put in room 127. After retrieving their luggage from the lobby, which was entirely constructed of mirrors, they went up one flight of stairs and down a hall. And then down another hall. Then down another. And another. After what seemed like forever, they got to their room.
"Wow," remarked Lois. "That's a long way to come every time we want to go to our room!"
"I know. You'd think they could have just made this place higher instead of longer."
"Well, I guess the Romans were never as civilized as the people of Metropolis. Of course, we're probably lucky if this place was built in the twentieth century. Modern just isn't modern here!"
Clark fumbled with the key for a second, then managed to get into the room.
"Oh, my God. Clark, this place is… awful!"
He couldn't deny it. The walls were a hideous faded pinkish color. The floor was hardwood—scuffed, stained, and gnarled. The light above them was full of dark spots that were most likely dead bugs. There was a dresser and a small shelf, but those were the only furniture in the room, save one double bed. *One.*
Lois opened the door to the bathroom and was relieved to find it sanitary and white. It was large in proportion to the rest of the room, and it had a huge bathtub in it. No shower, of course, but there was a sort of hose attached to the bathtub faucet that she supposed guests had to hold over their own heads. There were no cockroaches. Interestingly enough, the bathroom was built using an old Roman idea— the floor slanted slightly toward the center, where there was a drain.
"All right, well…" Lois began. "I'm taking a shower, okay?"
"Yeah, go ahead."
"What time do we need to be back at the bus?"
"Two o'clock. We've got a little over an hour."
"Okay. I won't be long."
Lois grabbed a change of clothes and some toiletries from her suitcase and went into the bathroom. She breathed deeply as she looked at herself in the mirror. "What have I gotten myself into?" she asked her image.
She stripped quickly and got into the tub to wash her hair and body. All the while, her mind was going full-speed. She had thought it was going to be fun and a little sexy to share a room with Clark, but she had assumed that they'd at least be sleeping in separate beds, even if right next to each other in them. She had assumed that because even in the cheaper hotels she'd been in, there were always two beds. Sometimes nothing else, but always two beds. But here…
Maybe it had been stupid to think that what was normal for the US was normal for anywhere else in the world. She'd never been to Rome before. How was she supposed to know? But even though it wasn't her fault, the problem remained.
And the problem was that, although the bed was actually two single-size mattresses connected by a footboard and headboard, it was effectually one because it couldn't be separated. There was no couch, or even a comfortable chair. There wasn't even a rug on the floor! There was nowhere else to sleep, save the bathtub. And that didn't look much more comfortable than the floor would be.
And that meant that she and Clark were going to have to…
There was no way of avoiding it. The only solution was to share. Like the mature adults they were.
And, truth to be told, Lois wasn't actually upset by the prospect. She'd pretend to be, of course, but she wouldn't complain so much that Clark would offer to go to the front desk and ask for a cot or something. Not quite so much. She wouldn't admit it, but the whole idea was exciting. It was like something out of one of her novels.
"Hmmm…" she sighed. Maybe this whole thing wasn't so bad, after all.
Clark sighed as he lay back on the bed. This was completely, absolutely, utterly insane. How had this happened? If he found out that Supergirl had arranged this, so help him… But that was probably not fair. Kara was mature enough not to pull a prank like that. It was probably because the hotel reservation had been for one person, him, that there was only one bed.
But that didn't solve the problem. There was nowhere else he could sleep, short of floating. And *that* wasn't going to be a good solution! There was no way, however, that he was going to share a bed with Lois. He just couldn't *do* that to her! She'd find the entire thing disgusting.
Not that there would be anything particularly distasteful to *him* about it. No, he was perfectly willing to share with Lois. In fact… he rather liked the idea, he realized, smiling to himself. Sleeping next to Lois… A dream come true. Well, as close to it as he was like to get, at least. Maybe, if he got lucky, she'd just go along with it. After all, she'd slept in his arms on the plane. Maybe that was different, but maybe not.
His thoughts were interrupted as he heard the water in the bathroom shut off. Lois would be done in a few minutes, and then he could go take a shower. He opened his suitcase to get a change of clothes.
"I can't wear this," Lois thought to herself, regarding the silk blouse she had gotten from her suitcase. "It's way too dressy for the Roman Forum. I need a sweater." She tied the towel around herself tightly and opened the door.
Clark looked up at the noise, and suddenly discovered he couldn't breathe.
"Um, excuse me, I have to get a… different shirt," she mumbled, moving quickly toward where her suitcase was lying on the bed.
Clark nodded, even though she wasn't looking in his direction and couldn't possibly have seen him. It was beyond his power to talk. The towel, while tied as high as possible on her body, still revealed an overwhelming amount of lightly tanned throat and shoulder, glistening with moisture. And a long, long expanse of slender leg. He couldn't tear his eyes off her.
She knew he was staring. She could almost feel his gaze burning into her. It suddenly occurred to her that she could have put on the clothes she had picked out, and then changed into a sweater while *he* was in the shower, but it was too late now. Besides… it was nice to know that she was making an impression on him. He'd done the same to her on more than one occasion. On the other hand, though, it *was* a little embarrassing, that stare of his.
"Got it," she said sheepishly, holding up the sweater.
Clark smiled slightly, still mostly frozen.
She ducked back into the bathroom quickly. Her speed might have been because she wanted to escape the embarrassing situation. Or it might have been to hide the wicked gleam in her eyes from Clark…
Clark slowly let out a breath and ran his hand through his hair. Yikes. "Sorry, Lois," he whispered to nobody, "I'll behave." It was a good thing he'd be able to get in the shower in a few minutes, because he definitely needed a cold one.
Maybe sharing a bed with Lois would not be as good an idea as he'd thought.
A little less than an hour later, they were on the bus, heading toward the Forum Romanum. Lois and Clark sat together in the middle, with Kara (who hadn't changed out of her suit, but *had* removed the cape) and Dick in front of them. Kara turned around in her seat to talk to them.
"So, what do you guys think of Rome so far?"
"It's nice," Clark replied. "I haven't seen enough yet… of Rome… to, uh, tell." He glanced at Lois. She didn't seem to notice.
"It's certainly unique," Lois said. "I can't believe how *dirty* it is! I mean, there's not as much graffiti in all of Metropolis that there is in a couple blocks of Rome! And what's with the drivers and those tiny cars?"
"Oh, I was talking to Carlo— he's the tour guide up there now," she added, motioning to the front of the bus, "and he was telling me how the drivers in Rome view traffic lights and signs as 'pretty decorations for the roads, and possible suggestions of where they *might* want to stop or slow down.' I have no idea why the cars here are so small—maybe they have to squeeze them into smaller parking places. But then there are the motorcycles. They seem to be really popular."
"No kidding," remarked Lois. "I guess pedestrians don't have the right of way. I'll tell you one thing, though, Metro cabbies aren't looking too bad right about now."
"I'll second that," said Dick Grayson, turning to join the conversation. "At least this bus driver appears sane. What's his name… Amerigo?"
"I don't remember," said Kara. "I think that's it. He doesn't speak English."
"Well, I no speaka Italiana," Dick returned with a grin. "Howsabout youse?"
Kara gave a tolerant smile. "Some."
"Very little," Lois said. "Pasta names, 'ciao,' that sort of thing."
"Of course *you* do, Clark."
"Bruce offered to teach me some, but I was like 'No, thanks, they can speak English if they want my attention.' And so far, everybody I've needed to talk to has spoken English."
"Ah," said Bruce from a nearby seat, "you'll regret that when you can't buy that perfect souvenir because you couldn't communicate with the vendor. Or when you get lost and can't find the group again."
"Naah, buddy. I'll just stick by the nice Italian speakers like you. I have no need to actually learn it myself."
"It might come in handy sometime to know another language," Clark suggested.
"Yeah, well, I took Spanish in high school. I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. And there was a guy I knew in college who spoke Klingon…"
"That hardly counts," Kara protested.
"He spoke it very well. The guy was a total nutcase, but he was kind of fun to be around."
"Hey, Clark," said Bruce, "I don't think you've introduced me to your friend here."
Lois raised one eyebrow at the sentence—Clark knew Bruce Wayne from before?
"Oh, I'm sorry. Lois Lane, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson," he said, gesturing to each person as he spoke.
"It's nice to meet you, Lois," Bruce said. "Finally," he added under his breath, just loud enough for Clark to hear. The two men exchanged a secret glance. Bruce had been curious about the woman Clark was in love with for quite some time. And, truth to be told, he was somewhat jealous that despite his odd profession, Clark had found someone to love, whereas Bruce alienated himself from everyone. Once in a while, someone learned of his Batman alias, and it always drove them away. He hoped that the same wouldn't happen to Clark and Lois once she discovered who Clark *really* was.
He knew that Clark was hoping to tell Lois his secret during this trip. It was a good idea, telling her in a neutral place, where they were both far away from work, and could not escape each other. That last made it slightly risky, but it would also force them to face any problems that ensued.
Still, he admired Clark's courage. From what he'd heard of Lois, Clark was taking an awful chance.
The rest of the ride to the forum was passed in companionable chat.
A while later, Lois and Clark were standing on top of a hill that overlooked a huge portion of the forum. The view spread out beneath them like a postcard, or like something from a travel book. As they looked up between the trees, they could see birds flying past. It was from this same hill that, centuries ago, the Romans used to foretell the future by studying the flight of the ancestors of these birds.
"Wow," said Clark quietly, putting down his camera after capturing the beautiful shot. He put one arm around Lois' shoulders. "Now this is something to tell our kids about."
Lois looked up at him quickly. "What?" The word came in a gasp.
Clark suddenly realized what he'd said. "I mean…"
He never got to explain what he meant by that, because he was interrupted by Dick's voice. "Hey, Clark, would you take a picture of me and Kara over here?"
"Yeah, sure…" he said weakly, with an apologetic look toward Lois.
She faced out, over the forum. *Our* kids. God. He'd actually said *our* kids. As in Clark's and hers… Was it a slip of the tongue? Just something he'd said that didn't mean much? Or was it something more than that? Did Clark see her as a big part of his future? Could he, as she did, see the two of them, together, as the only possibility for the future?
Clark rejoined her a moment later, but offered no explanation for his comment. Lois didn't press. She wasn't sure she wanted an answer. Too much was on the line. Because if she called him on it, and he *didn't* feel that way…
A queasy feeling settled into her stomach, and didn't start to fade until they were nearly out of the forum, heading for the Piazza Navone.
The bus ride was silent. Clark cursed himself for his earlier statement. He'd undoubtedly scared her. What on Earth had possessed him to say it? How could he do that to her? To himself? He hadn't even really meant it… Not completely, anyway. He might like kids… someday… but he certainly wasn't filled with a burning desire to immediately impregnate Lois.
He knew he should apologize for that comment, but he didn't have the courage. Besides… what if she liked the idea? If she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, and hoped someday to have his baby? Babies?
He toyed with the idea for a moment. Domestic bliss, hm? Well… maybe when they were older. Certainly not right now. But Lois and he… buying a house in the suburbs, raising a family… The idea was a pleasant one.
Another idea intruded on his conscience. What if Lois *did* want children… and he couldn't give them to her? They weren't the same species. Simple genetics suggested that they wouldn't be able to have babies. Not completely healthy ones, at any rate…
What a nightmare. All this from one simple comment.
In the Piazza Navone, Clark decided to get things back on track with Lois. To get his remark out of both of their heads. And he knew just how to do it—stopping at a little gelato shop and treating her to some gorgeous-looking chocolate gelato.
"Mmmm… Clark this is heavenly," she enthused as the two sat on the edge of a fountain. Indeed, it was. The dessert was smooth and rich, more chocolatey than anything had a right to be, and tasted so good it was almost sensual. She rolled her eyes back blissfully as she put the spoon in her mouth. She knew she was putting on a bit of a show for Clark, but didn't care. Chocolate this way, in the form of gelato sprinkled with shavings of dark chocolate, was debatably better than sex, and damn it, she was enjoying it.
Well, maybe not *better* than sex, she amended, eyeing her handsome partner lazily. Even chocolate couldn't compete with some things. He glanced up to see her eyes on him, and she looked away quickly. It wasn't his fault that chocolate… loosened her mind slightly. Although he *was* responsible for the pleasant spreading warmth in her lower body.
A few minutes later, the group began to congregate around a statue that was the agreed upon meeting place. "Come on, Clark," Lois said, hopping down from the side of the fountain and intentionally brushing Clark's leg in the process. "It's about time to go."
Standing back in the group, Lois positioned herself to the side of and slightly behind Clark. She was seriously invading his personal space, she knew. But she couldn't bring herself to move away. And if he just shifted slightly, his muscular bicep would brush her breast. Lois bit her lip. All he had to do was shift position. Just an inch or so. 'Come on, Clark. Move!' He stood as still as a stone.
It wasn't going to happen, she thought with a sigh. It was too pathetic, anyway, and inexcusable, even if she *was* inebriated by the chocolate. Still, she sighed disappointedly. Her heart leapt, however, when Clark moved his head. Would his body follow suit? Would he turn… ever… so… slightly…?
She sucked in a gasp of air between her teeth.
"Oh… I'm sorry, Lois," Clark apologized.
"That's okay," she graciously forgave him, trying to keep the grin off her face. Now she had to move, but it was worth it. "God, I'm awful," she thought, smiling ruefully.
It was nearly midnight by the time they arrived back at the Portamaggiore, and the duo were worn out as they bid their friends farewell as each reached their rooms. Lois and Clark, of course, had to keep going far beyond where any of their co-travelers were staying, down the long hall, and finally to the old powder blue door that opened onto their room.
"Oh, I'm exhausted!" Lois exclaimed.
"I know what you mean… it's a lot to take in for one day!"
"What're we up to tomorrow?"
"Well… let's see…" Clark walked over to the tiny bedside table and picked up a sheet of paper. "Looks like Ostia and the Etruscan tombs."
"What's at Ostia?"
"Excavations, apparently. That could be interesting."
"Yeah. The tombs, too. I don't want you to think I'm morbid or anything, but I think stuff like that is fascinating. I was big into Egypt when I was a kid."
"I guess I should've figured you for the archaeology type—uncovering all the hidden mysteries of the world."
"Hmm… yeah." There was a long pause. "So… um… I'm going to… wash up and get changed." Lois went to her suitcase and took out her pajamas, then walked into the bathroom.
While she was in the bathroom, Clark changed into his pajamas—boxers and a t-shirt. Normally, he would've foregone the t-shirt, but since Lois was there… Not that she hadn't seen his bare chest before, a few times, but it was just… different.
He wondered what she was going to be wearing. The few times he'd visited her at night, she'd put on a robe. One time, it fell open, and he saw a Superman nightshirt under it. But he doubted it was her usual wear. At least, it wasn't anymore. He knew that much.
He knew it because one night, about a month and a half ago, they'd been hurrying on their way to begin a stakeout. Lois went on ahead to set up the equipment and start watching so that they wouldn't miss anything. Clark had been sent to pack overnight bags for each of them. Lois had given him a detailed list of what items of clothing she wanted and which drawer each piece was in, ostensibly to keep him from pawing through her things and making a mess.
The only thing on her list that wasn't specified was underwear. She was probably too embarrassed to pick something out. She had just told him to grab something plain. The order made him wonder… what else was there?
Her underwear and nightclothes were in the same drawer, top right. He'd been a little embarrassed to open it, to see her underwear… the pieces of material that touched her under her clothes, everywhere that was private, places he'd never seen. But his nervousness at invading something so personal was far outweighed by his curiosity.
When he opened the drawer, at first he only saw a few folded up nightshirts, the really long kind, with cartoon characters on the front. One of those was the one she wanted—Bugs Bunny. Exciting. *Yawn.* But when he lifted that one out to put it in her bag, the light caught on another nightgown. Ice blue silk.
Unable to resist, he picked it up and let the garment slide through his hands. It was so amazingly soft and smooth. It had thin straps to hold it up, and was low cut enough for Clark to wonder if it even covered what needed to be covered. He laid it carefully on the bed and turned back to the drawer. After all, he still had to get underwear for her.
His breath caught as he examined the rest of the drawer's contents. He saw a few plain cotton panties, but other than that, the selection was made up of tiny scraps of lace, flowing silk, and soft satin. She had an electric blue teddy. A burgundy negligee. Now *that* was a picture he was never going to be able to get out of his mind.
Forcing his mind back on track, he'd picked up a pair of cotton panties, replacing everything else in more or less the condition he'd found it in. But how was he supposed to pick out a *bra* for her? She didn't even *have* anything plain. Not what *he'd* consider plain, anyway.
He glanced over his choices. His eye immediately went to a black, silky-looking bra. Besides being shiny, there didn't seem to be anything particularly special about it. That could be considered plain. But he picked it up, and realized there was a stiff wire running along the sides and bottom of the cup. Underwire, undoubtedly. He'd heard those weren't comfortable. She probably wouldn't appreciate it. He should pick out something soft and comfortable.
She didn't own anything cotton, of course. That would be too easy. And while silk was a relatively comfortable solid material, the silk bras looked… painful, mostly. His best bet, he decided, was probably one navy blue bra that he picked up. It didn't have any wiring or padding anywhere in it, it didn't hold its shape while off the human body, and it looked comfortable enough. The only problem was that the cups were made entirely of lace.
Maybe she'd forgive him for that.
He took it out and put it with her other clothes. He refolded the silk nightgown carefully, putting it back into the drawer, bidding it a fond farewell. He sighed, realizing the Lois of his fantasies was undoubtedly going to go through a severe wardrobe upgrade. More dream fodder. Not that he didn't have enough already. And this was stuff she actually *wore*!
She hadn't commented when she saw what was in the bag. Apparently it was acceptable. But it had been a rough stakeout for Clark, knowing exactly what she was wearing under her clothes. Knowing that he'd *touched* it before her body did.
And, ever since then, he'd come to her apartment late at night more often, hoping against hope to see what she was wearing to bed. The blue silk nightgown, perhaps? But she'd always, *always* had a robe on, knotted too tightly to slip. The inner Lois Lane, the sensual woman, never slipped through the knot. Never made it past to him. But, whether he saw or not, he *knew.*
Clark was jolted out of his fond reverie by the sound of the bathroom door opening. Lois stepped out, clad in a t-shirt and boxers, an uncanny mirror of her partner. Clark exhaled, though whether in relief or disappointment, he wasn't sure. He went into the bathroom to wash up, a process that took only a minute, then returned to the room.
Lois was perched on the edge of the bed, looking rather nervous. She nearly jumped when she saw Clark remerge. "Clark!"
He smiled tensely at her. "Hi."
"Ready for, uh, bed?"
"All set." She laughed softly, the sound ringing hollow.
"So… uh… what side do you want?"
"Doesn't matter. You pick."
"It doesn't matter to me, really. Go ahead, do whatever you want."
"No, I'm not fussy. You just sleep on whatever side you normally sleep on."
"Lois… I want you to be comfortable. It doesn't make a difference to me."
"Clark, I'm fine with whatever… ohhhh… I'll just take the left side."
They got in bed and turned out the light. Lois lay completely still, trying not to make any noise, trying not to breathe too heavily, and trying not to focus on the fact that Clark Kent was in bed next to her. Her success was sufficient in the first two, but she failed miserably in trying to ignore the man to her right. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness, and she was able to make out his form, silhouetted against the soft moonlight coming in from the window.
He was facing her. She closed her eyes for a minute, and succeeded in calming herself down somewhat. It helped that she was exhausted and in a prone position. It also helped that she couldn't see him clearly. But she could accept the fact that he was there, under the same blanket as her, in the same bed as her. She could sleep this way. But maybe they could talk a little, first.
"Is this as weird for you as it is for me?" she asked him.
"Weirder," he replied.
"It's just been a while since I've shared a bed with somebody. You know?"
"A while. Yeah, I know. Me too." Longer than a while, actually, but he wasn't going to admit that to Lois.
"And anyway, this is…"
"Yeah. Different." It wasn't completely platonic. Well, it was, but the way her heart was racing, it certainly didn't *feel* like it! There was silence for a minute.
"Is that light bothering you, or what?" Clark asked.
"Yeah. It is. What do you suppose is wrong with it?" The light above them was glowing. It had been off for five minutes, but it was giving off a green phosphorescence.
"I'm not sure. Maybe it's supposed to be a nightlight?"
"Creepy." Another minute of silence passed. "Well, I'm beat. Let's get some sleep."
"Yeah," Clark agreed. He shifted his position, and his leg accidentally brushed hers. "Sorry," he murmured.
"That's okay. It's not exactly the biggest invasion of my personal space you've ever committed." On second thought, Lois realized that had probably not been the smartest thing she could have said, as it immediately brought to mind memories of what *had* been bigger invasions of her personal space. The kiss on Trask's plane. The time he'd grabbed her and pulled her to him, finally giving in to her drug-induced wiles. Not to mention the time he'd roughly thrown her onto the bed of the honeymoon suite in the Lexor hotel, pushing his mouth against hers, his fingers splayed across her cheek.
He had been so passionate, so tender. In a sudden surge, Lois felt how it was to be kissed by someone who really cared, by someone who really knew how to touch a woman. Maybe the kiss had originally been meant to distract the maid from the surveillance equipment. Maybe it wasn't exactly born of sudden, insistent lust. Even so, there had been nothing fake about it. A kiss was a kiss, no matter what started it. And that had been a *kiss* that was almost more.
She'd said something after he pulled away. She couldn't remember what it was, but it had undoubtedly been a sample of her usual flippant humor. It was meaningless, anyway. She'd been focused on his lips, his eyes, as he drew away from her. Her brain had suddenly shut down the way only a beautiful male body pressing her into a mattress could get it to do.
And there was nothing she wouldn't have given for a repeat performance.
Her heart leapt when she heard his voice. "Goodnight, Lois."
"Goodnight, Clark," she replied, thankful that he couldn't see her red face. Harmless fantasies were one thing. Fantasies about a guy you were in bed with were something else altogether. Lois reined her mind in, and told herself to go to sleep.
It was still more or less dark when Lois woke up, and so it was neither the hour nor the small amount of light entering the hotel room that disturbed her sleep. It was none other than Clark Kent.
He'd moved in his sleep. Moved a *lot.* Moved enough to press her against him, enough to have his hand up her shirt, resting on her bare breast. Moved enough to have his lips against her throat, his pelvis against her hip. And three things were emphasized in her startled mind. One, Clark was noticeably aroused. Two, he was still moving. And three, he was apparently still asleep.
"Lois…" he whispered against her neck.
That was sufficient to startle her into action, only seconds after she'd realized what was going on, a fairly good response time, considering that she'd just woken up. She jumped away from his touch, shoving him roughly away from her with a gasp. "Clark! Clark, wake up!"
His eyes snapped open. "Lois! Oh my God…"
"Clark, what the…?"
"I'm so sorry! Lois, I swear… I didn't… I mean, I wouldn't… Oh, God."
She took several deep breaths, but when she spoke, her voice was still an octave higher and quite a bit faster than it normally was. "Okay. Okay. Just… calm down." She wasn't sure which of them she was talking to—her heart was probably racing as fast as his. She sat on the bed opposite him. Both were tangled up in the sheets, and looking somewhat disheveled. "It's okay. You okay?"
He nodded tightly.
"Okay. I'm okay. We're okay. Everything's just… okay." She realized at that point that she'd been holding her hands up in front of her, a barrier. She slowly let them down to rest at her sides. She attempted a smile at Clark, to prove that no damage had been done. He returned it as a grimace.
"I'm sorry," he tried again.
She held up her hand again. "It's okay. Do you want to uh…" she glanced toward the bathroom.
"I'm going to take a shower."
"Okay. We'd have to get up in a half hour anyway." As if this was something as unimportant as waking up a little early.
"Yeah… uh…" Clark hurriedly excused himself into the bathroom.
Lois was left sitting on the bed in shock. He'd whispered her *name.* Lois. Not Kara. In the middle of an erotic dream. He'd been dreaming about *her.* Well, she'd wanted to know how he felt about her. This was probably a pretty good indication.
What a way to find out.
It all seemed so suddenly hilarious, so amazingly wonderful, so beautifully sexy, that Lois flopped onto her back and started laughing softly. It wasn't a giggle or a belly laugh. It was the kind of laugh you usually only hear late at night in asylums for the mentally ill. It was the kind of laugh that is unstoppable and unexplainable. It was the kind of laugh that signified a life-altering catastrophe that… wasn't. It was a delicious, lusty, happy laugh.
Clark didn't hear it, which was probably a good thing. He would undoubtedly have either been even more embarrassed or very, very scared.
And he would have had a right to either emotion, although scared would have undoubtedly been more appropriate, considering the situation.
Because Lois' fantasies were suddenly reciprocated. She didn't have to waste the time wondering whether it was her or Supergirl who Clark dreamed about at night. She didn't have to look sideways at Clark and Kara as they talked, wondering if there was anything between them other than friendship. She didn't have to superanalyze everything Kara or Clark said, to see if there was any hidden meaning to it.
For example, Kara's statement on the plane— when she'd implied that Clark was enjoying holding Lois in his arms, how he was being obvious about *it*…
*This* was the it! Had she known that before… Well…
And that meant that Kara knew. All of a sudden, every statement and action Kara had said or done made complete sense, down to letting Lois come on the trip. She knew, and she was encouraging them as a couple. And now, thanks mostly to Clark's hormones, Lois knew, too.
Lois stretched out, putting her hands behind her head, and sighed contentedly. Things were looking bright.
Lois was just putting the finishing touches on her makeup when there was a knock on the room door. Clark opened it, and in walked Kara.
"Good morning," she said to the two. "Sleep well?"
"Yeah," said Lois without missing a beat. "We slept great. You?"
"Uh huh. So, are you guys ready for breakfast?"
"Well, *I* am," Lois responded. "I'm starving. Clark?"
"Actually, there was something I wanted to do. I'll meet you down there in a bit. Okay?"
"Sure," replied Kara. "Come on, Lois."
The two women walked down the long hall together. Kara was wearing a Superman t-shirt and a pair of jeans. It wasn't her costume, not by far. Unlike Superman, who couldn't dress down at *all* for fear of his identity being uncovered, she could still be Supergirl in normal clothes. It was mostly the hair, really. Supergirl was blonde, but Linda Lee was brunette. Not to mention that Kara and Linda didn't hang out with the same crowd—that helped a *lot.* She'd learned a lot from Clark's secret identity problems, and it had taught her how to better manage her own. She'd learned from his mistakes, and so nobody had to cover for *her* this morning while she slipped out to patrol Metropolis. If she wanted to leave, she could leave. Whereas Clark had to make an excuse, get Lois out of the way, and move quickly.
"So, Lois, how's it going?"
"Oh, pretty good." 'Had some fun this morning…' "You enjoying yourself?"
"Oh yeah. This is the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. Dick is really great."
"What's the deal with you two? Are you…?"
"Hm. Yeah. We are." She smiled. "Yeeeeaaaah, we are."
Lois looked up in slight surprise at that. "I thought… I mean, isn't Superman…?"
"What?!" Kara looked genuinely shocked. "God, no!"
Lois was embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I just…"
"No, I'm sorry—a lot of people think that, I shouldn't have been so surprised. It's just that… I thought you knew that Superman's my *cousin.* I see those tabloids every now and then, and it just disgusts me. I mean, *really*!"
"I know what you mean. I've been in a couple myself."
"Oh, hey, I've seen a couple with articles on you *and* me. Real catfight stuff, sometimes. Once it was our kinky sex trio with Superman. How does *that* grab you?"
"Lovely. I don't think I read that one."
"I saved it—I always keep the interesting ones. I'll show it to you some time."
"Hey, remember that time you disappeared for a week in June?"
"Yeah… I was visiting friends in Hong Kong."
"Oh, is *that* where you were? Everyone thought I killed you with Kryptonite, out of jealousy over Superman."
"That was… let's see… about a week after you dumped him for a lesbian affair with me."
"Was it? I'm not good with dates." Lois paused. "I didn't realize the three of us had such interesting sex lives."
"Not just the three of us, either… I've seen Clark in one or two. And Lex Luthor."
"Lois, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up…"
"That's okay. It's not… I've dealt with it. It was embarrassing that he managed to make me believe that he was this wonderful, kind man… while he was destroying everything I cared about behind my back. At least I didn't go through with it—at least I refused to marry him, even if it was at the last minute. At least I got to keep *some* of my dignity. And all the tabloids screamed 'Luthor's bride dumps him, only seconds before his arrest and suicide!' It wasn't the best time of my life."
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I don't want to bring back unpleasant memories. Come on, let's go get some breakfast."
Later that day, Lois and Clark were walking with the group around the Etruscan tombs. They hadn't spoken much since the incident this morning, but had gradually warmed up to each other as the day wore on, and were now sufficiently companionable.
But they were unaware that they had more problems than simply working on their relationship. A man had followed the reporters to Italy. He figured it presented an easy way of getting them out of the way. Kill them here, then escape back to the United States. No one would be the wiser, and he'd be perfectly safe. And he had his plan, which was to be put into action here in the tombs, an appropriate setting.
He watched happily as the tour group went, couple by couple, into one of the tombs. It was small enough that only a few people went down at a time, then came back up so that others could visit. It was a small stone structure underground, partitioned into a main room and three smaller ones, each with a stone bed for a corpse. The structure was covered by a large mound of earth. A stone stairway led down into the tomb, and was walled by dirt. Engineering a collapse of that dirt, blocking the entrance way, would be simple.
And the tomb would not hold enough air to last them until they were dug out.
Lois and Clark were waiting to go inside, waiting for two people to come out. Before they arrived, he had placed a certain chemically altered substance around the entrance of the tomb. After they were inside, he could apply a chemical that was extremely reactive to the substance, leave it there, wait forty-five seconds, and WHAM!
The walls would come tumbling down.
His heart beat faster as he saw the couple leave the tomb. Lois and Clark started down the short flight of stairs. As soon as they were out of his sight, he applied the chemical, and left nonchalantly to watch from a distance.
30… 29… 28…
He wondered briefly whether he should leave so that he wasn't there when the collapse occurred, but he thought better of it. If he left abruptly, they might suspect he had engineered it. If he acted as shocked and alarmed as all the other tourists, they'd still believe it was a natural collapse, even if such a thing seemed impossible. He could escape after the incident—a normal "frightened tourist" thing to do.
15… 14… 13…
Besides, he had to follow it through. This wasn't a cartoon, where the villain set up an elaborate plan and immediately left so that his victims could escape. He had to at least see the results. If they left before the collapse, he had to know.
4… 3… 2… 1…
He faded into the alarmed group of tourists that surrounded him, hiding his satisfaction. The door was completely blocked. The air supply was completely cut off. His job was done.
After looking around the dark tomb, Lois and Clark turned to leave. As Clark's foot touched the first step, however, he realized that something was wrong. Something was extremely wrong. And in a flash, he realized what it was. The entranceway, made entirely of dirt, was collapsing onto the stairs.
Unthinkingly, he grabbed Lois and flew with her into the back of the tomb. The dim lights had been extinguished completely, and the air was thick with dust. Clark held his breath, but Lois was coughing uncontrollably. He brought her over to the small vent, glad that he knew of its existence. The Etruscans had buried their dead in ventilated tombs, so they would decompose. The bones were moved to a well in the center of the tomb, to make room for other bodies. But a vent was a vent, whether to aid in life or in death, and right now it was very useful.
As soon as Lois was able to safely draw a breath without choking, she turned to Clark. "My God! Clark! How did you…?"
This wasn't the time. This wasn't the place. This wasn't even a good situation. But disguises could only go so far, and this one had to stop. "Lois, I'm…"
"Superman?" she whispered.
Outside, tourists were screaming and breaking down into hysterics. How could a structure that had withstood *centuries* just collapse? The management was befuddled, but significantly more organized, asking each tour group to take a quick head count so they could determine if anyone was trapped in the tomb. It didn't take them long to determine that Lois and Clark were missing.
Assuring Kara's group that the tomb was ventilated, and the reporters wouldn't suffocate, maintenance workers quickly got the necessary tools to dig the entrance open. That was the first priority. The second was finding out what had happened.
It was suspicious, that was for sure. Things like this didn't happen without help. If they were dealing with some sort of vandal…
And then one group mentioned seeing someone suspicious. They had been right in front of the tomb as it had collapsed, the guide explaining to them how the Etruscans had used it. Only a few seconds before the disaster, a man had joined their group. Normally, that wasn't too odd. A lone traveler might tag onto a tour group to learn something about what he was seeing. But this lone traveler was American, and the tour group was Japanese.
He had joined the group just for a minute, watching the tomb carefully. Then, when it had collapsed, he disappeared, heading for the door.
They were able to give a good description of the man, as most of the people in the group had seen him. The police were alerted, and in minutes, as Lois and Clark were being dug out, the area was being searched for a man fitting the description the tour group had given.
He was found a half mile away from the site and searched. He had the remnants of some suspicious chemicals in two small vials in his pocket, and was held by the police until the dirt could be tested for those chemicals. He only had to wait for the inevitable positive test results to come back before he would be in deep trouble.
For vandalism, that was. Not manslaughter. At least if he was being accused of manslaughter, he would have known that he had achieved his goal of getting rid of Lane and Kent. But he did not even have that comfort.
He wondered what the penalty was for destroying a national historical monument was.
"They're digging us out," Clark informed Lois.
"Good," she said shortly. "Clark…"
"Lois, I'm sorry. I should've told you. I was *planning* to tell you."
"This week. I thought… getting away from work, being on neutral territory, being relaxed… I figured it would be a good time. I… I didn't mean to do it like this. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. You saved my life. Again."
"You're not mad?"
"I'm… surprised. If you have any more curve balls to throw, Clark, please just give me a while to recover, okay?"
"Did you think you couldn't trust me?"
"Lois… I'd never think that. I trust you more than anyone I know. It's just… hard to tell someone. All my life, it's been drilled into me—keep the secret, or risk destroying my life and the lives of everyone around me. It was my decision, of course, but I wanted so much to have a normal life… Somewhere I'd fit in, even though I was really the only one left of my people.
"And then Kara came. My *cousin.* My actual blood relative. I can't tell you how amazing it was to be able to talk to her, to share things with her…"
"Things you couldn't share with me?" she asked hoarsely.
"I wanted to. Believe me, Lois, I'd always wanted to. And, even when you didn't know it, you were a comfort to me, both as Clark and as Superman. I longed to talk to you… to really *talk,* but I was afraid… Afraid you wouldn't understand. Afraid you'd hate me. Afraid I'd lose you. Lois, I need you so much… I couldn't risk it."
"Clark…" she said softly, raising a hand to his face. "You're not going to lose me. If you were, I'd be gone a thousand times already. You can't scare me off. I think this morning should've proved that."
He placed his hand over hers, then slowly moved down to brush his lips against her own. "I love you, Lois."
"I love you," she replied. Finally. Finally, it was all coming together, and it was wonderful. After everything they'd been through, everything they'd hoped, dreamed, fantasized… It was out. It was all clear, and the truth was more beautiful than either could have imagined, simply because it was just that—the truth.
Now, after all of those things had been said, Clark could hear the diggers breaking through the last of the dirt. They were able to leave, once they climbed up those stone steps. He took her hand, and they walked out. Together.
Kara was thrilled. She hadn't missed the significance of the fact that, as they left the tomb, they were holding hands. She hadn't missed their dreamy expressions, their lovestruck gazes. And that night, when she was able to speak to Clark alone for a moment, she asked him.
"You told Lois, didn't you? Everything?"
"Everything," he repeated. "She knows everything. Kara, she *loves* me."
She laughed at his dazed, incredulous look. "Oh, Clark." She hugged him tightly, surprised that tears were coming to her eyes. It was just so romantic.
"Hey, should I be jealous?" came another voice.
"Lois!" Kara broke away from Clark and threw her arms around the other woman. "Oh, Lois! I'm so happy for you!"
"What's all this?" asked Bruce, as he walked up. "Hey, you finally confessed?" he asked Clark.
Clark just grinned.
"Good for you. I hope everything works out."
"Oh it will," said Clark. "It will." Then he walked over to Lois.
She smiled happily at him, and he said, "Come with me, Lois. There's a little place I wanted to show you ever since I discovered it a year ago."
Kara waved them away, smiling knowingly.
They walked into a quiet alley, where no one would see them, and Clark took off, Lois in his arms.
"Where are we going?" Lois asked through the thin air.
"It's a little shop in a mountain village called Orvieto. I was there once, talking to the owner about his travels. I think you'll like it."
"Why? What's there?"
"I thought you trusted me."
"I thought you weren't going to keep any more secrets," she countered.
"You'll love it, I promise. It's just another minute."
A short time later, Clark landed in another alley. They walked out, hand in hand, and up a small street. "How far is it?" Lois asked as they moved up the steep hill.
"Near the top. Just a little further." They turned a corner and walked up about a hundred feet before entering a small shop. It had only a few tables, and one man behind the counter. Clark said something to him in Italian, and the man set to work. Lois and Clark sat down at the table.
"So what is this big surprise?"
"Just a second… Ah, here we go," he said as the man set two steaming mugs of hot chocolate before them.
"Try it," advised Clark.
She lifted the mug to her mouth and took a cautious sip of the hot liquid. "Whoa! This stuff is incredible! This is *serious* chocolate…" She tasted it again, heedless of the temperature.
"Isn't it nice?"
"Very nice. All is forgiven for keeping it a secret."
"I suspected you might not mind once you tasted this stuff. Nothing like this back in the states, huh?"
"Hmm… nothing remotely this wonderful. And all this time I've been lusting after *Swiss* chocolate!"
Clark laughed. "Lois… this has been the most amazing week of my life."
She reached across the small table to touch his hand. "Mine too, Clark. I never expected any of it, but it was all so perfect… And the week's not even over yet!"
"Hmmm… I know. Tomorrow, we're going to Florence. I've always wanted to go there with you. It's one of the most beautiful cities in the world, possibly *the* most beautiful. You'd fit right in."
She smiled. "Oh, Clark."
"There's so much I have to show you, so many things I have to say."
"We've got forever, Clark. Take your time." She had much to show him, as well. She wondered how he felt about ice blue silk…
final notes: My February 1999 trip to Rome became a fanfic after this scene with my friend Catherine. C: But, Susan, you have to come! [to a statue gallery] Don't you want to see the Dean Cain statue? S: (laughing) The Dean statue? C: Yeah! They say it's better than the David! S: (still laughing) Okay, okay, I'm coming!
Later, in the gallery: C: Hey, there it is! The Dean! S: Where? C: Right there! (Gestures to a *nice* looking naked statue) S: Hey, that is better than the David! At this point, the tour guide stopped to talk about the statue we were closely examining. It was of Apollo, as the embodiment of a perfect balance between strength and beauty. Better than the David, indeed. ;-)
Also, if you're ever in Orvieto, try the hot chocolate. Trust me.
feedback gratefully appreciated at Kirshnera@aol.com
Visit DESTINATION: METROPOLIS www.angelfire.com/ny/loisclark Check out my fanfic at www.angelfire.com/ny/loisclark/fanfic.html