By Mobile Richard <email@example.com>
Submitted October 1999
Summary: After a year of marriage, Lois begins to realise her husband is keeping a huge secret.
All standard disclaimers apply. All characters in this story (except those of my own creation) are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros and December 3rd Productions Ltd; no infringement of any property rights are intended by their use, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted © 1999 to the author — please do not redistribute without my permission.
As always, comments are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lois lay on her side watching the man lying next to her. As she gazed at the unconscious sleeper, noting the rise and fall of that magnificent chest, she wondered how she could have failed to see the resemblance before — how she could have been so blind. Then a wave of anger swept over her as she wondered why it should have been up to her to see it — why she couldn't have been told — why *he* hadn't told her.
She clenched her teeth and the thoughts she directed at the man would have startled him had he been aware of them. Stretching out her hand, she carefully swept the hair off his forehead and studied his features closely. She sucked in her breath and drew her hand back, her brow darkening. The ability to strangle one's husband had never been high on her list of most-coveted talents, but right now it was a capability that she longed for.
As if aware of her gaze, he opened his eyes, and her heart fluttered at the expression in those dark depths when they came to rest on her. Annoyed that he could still have that effect on her when she was so mad at him, she levered herself onto her elbow and said with careful casualness. "So you're finally awake." She schooled her face to show nothing.
"Morning, honey," he said sleepily. He reached for her, but she drew back, nimbly avoiding his outstretched arms.
"I'm going to be late," she told him, lowering her legs to the floor and getting to her feet. "I'm going to interview the mayor this morning." She stretched, aware of her husband's hungry gaze running over her lightly-clad form.
"Aww, you don't have to be there until ten — you can make it," he protested, laughing huskily. That throaty laugh was nearly her undoing, but she steeled herself against it, and ignoring his look of silent entreaty, she retreated into the bathroom. Safely inside, she resisted the urge to lean against the closed bathroom door. He can see you, she reminded herself — even with the door closed. That recollection stiffened her resolve to stay out of the arms of the man she loved.
And she did love him. She knew that now, although there had been some doubt yesterday afternoon and all last night — but she needed time to sort things out, and she didn't want desire to cloud her decision.
The decision on what to do about the fact that her husband was not the man she had thought. That he was not what anyone thought.
Forcing herself to follow her usual routine of showering and dressing, she kept her expression carefully neutral, avoiding the anxious inquiry in his eyes at her coolness. She gathered her notes and laid them carefully in her briefcase. "I'm going directly to the mayor's office," she said. "I'll see you later at the Planet." And she kissed him lightly on the lips.
She didn't see her husband again until almost lunchtime, when he came back from working on an investigation he was pursuing separately. She saw his eyes sweep the room after he stepped out of the elevator, and her heart gave an odd little jump when she realized that he was looking for her — one more sign of how completely he loved her. She wondered how to reconcile that knowledge with what she had learned yesterday. That he had been keeping a secret from her. A *big* secret.
He must think he's protecting me somehow, she thought. It can't be that he doesn't trust me. Not after all this time. Oh, Clark.
Remembering his super hearing, she just managed to restrain herself from saying his name out loud. Then she decided to test it — just how good are those super ears? "Clark …" she whispered — and watched as his head swivelled, his face lighting up when he spied her sitting on the corner of June's desk.
He strode over to her, slowing his pace as he approached, not quite sure of his welcome. "Hi," he said uncertainly.
Shaken by the hopefulness she saw in those dark eyes, she managed a smile. "Look at these," she said brightly, holding out a sheaf of documents. "I asked June to run some comparisons between Jen Industries and Sun Unlimited and she's come up with some interesting coincidences. I don't know where she dug this up, she's on vacation now so I can't ask her, but it looks as if —
"Lois," Clark said quietly. "Do you want to talk about something?"
Lois almost had to bite her tongue to keep from saying it. Do *I* want to talk about something?? What about *you*, buster?
"You're mad at me," Clark continued. "I know that look. Why don't we go someplace quiet where we can talk it over?"
"Uh … I have to go now," said Lois quickly. "Perry's waiting for me in his office." After uttering that lie, she slid off the desk and stepped neatly around Clark, leaving him looking after her in quiet concern.
Lois walked quickly into Perry's office, closing the door with a resounding thud and causing the startled editor to almost jump out of his chair. She began talking quickly, preempting any questions Perry might have about why she had invaded his office.
Afterwards, she again avoided Clark — she needed time to think. She knew that in spite of her anger — Clark was right, of course, she *was* angry — and despite the fact that she had spent much of yesterday *planning* to leave him, she could never leave this man. She loved him too much.
She thought back to yesterday afternoon when she had made her discovery. After one year of marriage, and two years of knowing Clark — or rather, *thinking* that she knew him — she had finally realized that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person. Why had it taken her so long to figure it out? True, she hadn't seen much of Superman during the last year — not up close, anyway — and when she *had* seen him it had been mostly in the impersonal setting of a formal interview, but, still, he was her *husband*!
Yesterday had been the first time she had been alone with Superman, she realized now, since — since he had come to congratulate her on her and Clark's impending wedding. She had thought he was staying away because of the marriage. She had been a little hurt that he hadn't gone to the ceremony, even after Clark had gently reminded her that Superman *never* attended those kinds of things. Still, the hurt had lingered, as had his continued defection from the ranks of her friends.
Clark could have told me, she thought indignantly now. He could have spared me that!
Why, oh why, didn't you tell me, Clark?
She went back further in her reminiscences, back to the night when she and Clark had first made love:
18 months earlier …
Lois stood in the bedroom of the honeymoon suite at the Lexor Hotel, fingering the filmy negligee she had packed that morning. She didn't know why she had brought the delicate garment instead of the sweat suit that she usually wore when she and Clark were on assignment together. If she had paused to examine her motives, she would probably have told herself that she just wanted to wear something halfway decent-looking for a change — there was no crime in that, was there? She had no interest in Clark as more than a friend — she knew that.
At least, she *thought* she knew it, despite that warm tingle she had experienced deep inside when Martha Kent had asked her if she and Clark wanted to share his room. And the heady feeling she got when Clark kissed her the *last* time they had been on assignment at the Lexor Hotel. And the way she missed him when his days off didn't coincide with hers. And the way she found herself wanting to put her hands all over that lean, muscular — okay, okay, that's it! She liked Clark as a friend, she told herself firmly. And there was no earthly reason why she *shouldn't* put on some halfway nice-looking nightclothes when she and Clark were going to be sharing a suite!
(Although, when she thought about it afterwards, when she lay cradled in his arms, which were still trembling from the after effects of their shared passion, she realized in a rare burst of honesty with herself that she loved Clark and this is what she had intended all along — but that was *after*.)
She donned the provocative nightgown after sprinkling her favorite scent on herself, then carefully did her face and hair. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door of the bedroom and walked casually into the living room, where she surprised Clark doing push-ups on the floor. The room was dimly lit, since only the lamp beside the sofa was on, but she could see quite clearly that he was bare-chested, wearing only a pair of gym shorts.
Blushing, she forced her shaking legs to carry her toward him. "Hi, Clark," she said softly, through lips that *would* tremble, in spite of her best efforts to control them.
"Hi, Lo — " He ended his exercising with a thud, collapsing into a semi-sitting position with his weight on one rigid arm. He stared up at her.
Maybe she should have stopped then. Maybe the stunned look on his face, telling her that she looked *more* than halfway decent,' should have caused her to run away, into the other room.
But Lois didn't run away.
She continued to approach him until she was standing directly in front of him, then dropped to her knees and placed her fingertips on his bare shoulders. He gazed up at her open-mouthed.
"Clark …" she whispered. "You don't … mind … do you?"
Clark swallowed visibly. "Mind …?" he said huskily.
"About me getting the bed again." She couldn't help noticing that Clark had stopped breathing. Come to think of it, her own lungs weren't working too well, either. "You never got to use it at all last time."
Clark's eyes widened. "Lois — " he swallowed and tried again. "I-I-I'll be fine on the sofa."
"But Clark — " Lois looked at him, then plunged ahead, seemingly unable to stop herself. "It's not fair. *I'll* sleep on the sofa."
"Why not?" Lois asked, running her nails lightly up and down his arms. She gazed into his eyes, which were dark now with unmistakable passion and suddenly became very still as Clark put up his hands to frame her face. She gave a little moan as he pulled her head down and opened his mouth to capture her lips in a kiss.
At the first touch of mouth on mouth, Lois moaned again, a shiver of excitement running through the middle of her body. Spurred by her response, Clark moaned too, pulling her into his arms with carefully controlled force. Within seconds Lois was lying on her back with Clark half on top of her, his elbows on the floor on either side of her body as he fiercely probed her mouth with his tongue. Lois gasped for breath when he finally released her lips, moving his mouth to her ear to pant half-formed words of endearment. Her eyes glazed, Lois plunged her fingers into his thick, dark hair.
Clark pressed his open mouth to her neck where it joined her shoulder, drawing from her sharp sounds of pleasure. His lips continued to trail across her shoulder as he slowly snaked down the sleeve of her nightgown.
The memory of what happened next still had the power to render Lois weak. She remembered the feel of Clark's big, warm hands on her body, the fumbling as he removed her clothing, then the inexplicable slowing of pace, with his apologetic mumbling that he was afraid of "hurting" her. Despite her repeated assurances that he would *not*, he had refused to go on, and in the end Lois had been forced to take control of the situation in order to bring the whole thing to completion to their mutual satisfaction.
And that was the last time that she had needed to urge Clark Kent to complete the act she had — initially — started.
She had not understood Clark's hesitation then, nor had she ever really believed his somewhat shamefaced confession to her later that it had been his first time, but everything had been made clear to her yesterday.
When she found out that Clark Kent, her husband, the man she had trusted more than anyone else in her whole life, was leading a double life.
She clenched her teeth. She had told him everything that night. She had opened up to him completely, trusting in a way she never had before.
She had told him that she loved him.
And it was true. She knew it was true. She loved Clark. She loved him and wanted him and needed him. And trusted him.
And he had been keeping this secret from her all along.
She had found out yesterday.
She had been seated alone at her table at the Blues Cafe, eating a solitary lunch, when the thickset man with the bandanna tied around his head stalked up to the patio, pulled an assault rifle from under his trench coat and took aim at the diners. Lois threw herself to the floor, pressing into the ground and making herself as inconspicuous as possible.
It was over within minutes, with Superman arriving and swiftly disarming the gunman, then pushing him into the arms of the police with unprecedented force. Without stopping to make sure the police had completely secured the suspect, Superman began striding across the patio, examining each of the victims anxiously. When his eyes met Lois' from across the dining area, he arrived at her side in a blur of motion. "Lois!" he said hoarsely. "Are you all right?"
Lois looked into his anguished face, feeling something long-dormant rise inside of her. He cared about her! After all this time she finally found out — Superman really cared! With a gut-twisting wrench of guilt at the rush of elation she experienced, Lois forced herself to reply casually. Apparently not wishing to betray his emotions in public, Superman had pulled himself together, but with obvious effort.
Lois found that she was trembling. Noticing this, Superman offered to fly her home. Lois refused at first, but he insisted, and she was at a loss to tell him no. How to explain that it wasn't fear that made her tremble so, that it was his nearness — and the corresponding weight of guilt at the thought of her absent husband.
Superman scooped her into his arms and lifted her to the skies. When she wrapped her arms around his neck Lois sucked in her breath at the feeling of familiarity. It had been so long since Superman had carried her, and yet … and yet, it felt so natural, as natural as being in the arms of … of … her husband.
The thrill she had always experienced when she flew with Superman came back, with an added exhilaration, a strange joy that she could not explain. She fought back the rising excitement, frightened by the intensity of her emotions.
This isn't right, I'm a married woman. I love my husband more than anything on this earth, she told herself again and again.
She was relieved when they finally arrived at the brownstone, but to her utter embarrassment, her knees buckled when he set her on her feet, and she collapsed against his chest, forced to clutch at him to keep from falling. With her head momentarily against his chest, she heard the thundering of his heart, and knew that he was as affected by this moment as she. She straightened, inhaling his somehow familiar scent … and stiffened.
It was at that moment that she knew. She didn't know how she knew — whether it was his familiar smell, or seeing him in *their* house, or his well-known voice, breathlessly asking if she was all right — but she knew. In the white-hot rage that flashed through her, she would have said something then, would have told him she knew who he was, but he hastily bade her good-bye — in that so-familiar voice — and took off before she could say anything.
She waited for him, but when he hadn't returned after an hour, she went downtown to continue her investigation of the story she was pursuing, calling first the Planet, and then their house to say that she was working and she'd be home late.
In all that time she hadn't been able to work, though. She had paced restlessly through the streets until the first rush of anger had cooled, leaving behind bitter disappointment and a dull ache. She had returned in the wee hours of the morning, had crept into bed, where she had lain sleepless until dawn, thinking about all those times he had run out on her, all those broken appointments — the only instances that had marred an otherwise wonderful marriage.
And she would have been understanding if he had told her why.
Why hadn't he told her?
Lois sat in the secluded corner of the public library where she had retreated in order to think, trying to figure out why Clark had deceived her so.
It couldn't be because he didn't trust her. She had worked out his reasons for concealing his identity from the world and she agreed with them wholeheartedly. She would have taken care to protect his secret. It was *her* secret now, too, wasn't it?
So no, it wasn't a matter of trust. Unless …
Did he think she would be mad at him? So mad that she would leave him? And then betray his identity to the world?
Surely not! He must know she would *never* do that!
She took a deep breath. This "mad" thing — she was probably on to something there — he was probably afraid she'd be mad. But … what did he think she'd do to him? Push him out a window? Fling him from the top of the Lex Towers? That was ridiculous!
Okay, so yesterday she *had* considered doing something like that. But only very briefly.
What was he afraid of? She couldn't hurt Superman.
Except emotionally, Lois. Maybe he's afraid you'd be so angry that you'd leave him.
Yes, that must be it! Oh, Clark! She felt a rush of tenderness for her absent husband. Poor Clark, hiding this secret from her, afraid to tell her, afraid of losing her.
She had to clear this up right away. Show him that he had nothing to fear in revealing his secret to her.
She rose from her chair, prepared to run to him and confront him with it. Then she paused. Wouldn't it be better if she somehow got Clark to tell her himself?
Yes, that would be better. And then she could show him by her calm and forgiving demeanor that he had been wrong in supposing she would fly into a rage and do something they'd both regret later.
As if she ever did that!
Determined to set things right, Lois sped back to the office, sailing into the newsroom and collaring Clark at his desk. "Hi," she said.
"Hi," returned Clark absently.
"Whatcha doin'?" she asked, seating herself on the edge of his desk and bending her head to look at the papers scattered across it.
"An article on the future of the green leapin' tree toad," Clark replied, leaning back in his chair and looking up at her. He was relieved to see that there was no trace of constraint in her manner. She must have recovered from what had been bothering her earlier. "The new strip mall on the east side of town will ruin the toad's habitat and may lead to its becoming a threatened or endangered species."
"Oh." Lois made a face, then remembering that an understanding person such as herself would probably be concerned for all beings, and especially for the fate of possibly endangered creatures like the green leapin' tree toad, she said encouragingly. "Well … good. That's good! We need to protect all the reptiles … and … and things."
"Amphibian," Clark corrected automatically, looking down at his screen again.
A look of annoyance crossed Lois' face, but she bit back whatever she had been tempted to say and remarked with an enthusiastic, supportive smile, "Yes, of course. That's what I meant. How … clever of you to catch that, Clark."
Clark jerked his head up, his eyes narrowing.
"Well …" Lois said brightly. "Let's go!" she slapped his arm lightly and slid off his desk.
Clark was on his feet and had run lightly around his desk before she had proceeded two steps. "Where?" he asked.
"Lunch," she said succinctly.
"Hey Lois, CK, did you hear about the pileup on I-27?" asked Jimmy, striding past them with an armful of folders. "Slippery chemical spill, cars sliding all over the place, quite a mess. No sign of Superman yet."
Clark reached for his jacket, only to find that Lois had preceded him and was holding it in her hands. She held it out so he could slip his arms into it. "I'm sorry, Lois, I have to go and … uh … see someone," Clark said apologetically, pulling the jacket up over his shoulders. "We'll have lunch as soon as I get back."
"Okay," said his understanding wife.
Clark stared at her. "Honey, are you feeling okay?"
"What?" said Lois.
"Never mind. I'll see you later, hmm?" He leaned forward for a quick kiss, which she returned readily.
Lois watched him race for the elevators, returning thoughtfully to her own desk. She was wondering if Clark would come back with a Superman exclusive and if so, how he would explain having obtained it.
She was called out of the newsroom by a hot tip from one of her sources several minutes later, and came back at shortly after one o' clock to find that Clark had returned from straightening out the pileup on the highway.
She made a beeline for his desk. "Lunch," she said, slipping her hand into his and tugging at it insistently.
Clark looked up and grinned. "I don't know, Lois …" he teased. "I just ate a donut and I'm not really hungry any more …"
"You ate a — ??" Lois dropped his hand, flinging her own hands into the air. Then she remembered what a calm person she was, and dropped her arms to her sides again. "Okay. If you're not hungry any more … then … I understand," she said politely. "I'll just grab something and eat at my desk."
"Lois, I'm kidding," said Clark, laughing up at her. "Just let me finish this paragraph and send it to Perry and then we can go, okay?"
Clark stole a glance at her as they walked to the elevator, trying to read her expression. He was glad that she had recovered from her bad mood, but he wasn't sure he liked it that Lois was acting in this strangely civil manner. He wondered uneasily what she was up to. Trying to involve him in some scheme he wouldn't like, no doubt.
Inside the elevator Lois turned to face him.
Here it comes, he thought.
She slipped her hands under his jacket and hooked her index fingers into his belt loops, tugging at his hips to pull him closer. "Mmm," she said, putting her arms around him and hugging him.
What's that for?
"I'm so glad you're you," she said.
That's good. I think. "I'm glad you're you, too," he said cautiously.
"I mean, I'm glad you care about tree frogs …" Toads. "… and other animals, and helping people and … and … well, that you're so *nice*." She rested her cheek on his chest.
"I'm … glad you feel that way." He hoped Lois wasn't picking up her mother's habit of visiting the liquor cabinet in the morning.
"Really, I *am* glad," Lois insisted, sensing irony in his words. She raised her face for a kiss.
"Um …" he said, bending his head to accommodate her. He tightened his arms around her, murmuring appreciatively as she stroked her hands up his back. He was beginning to wish that Lois hadn't been in such a hurry to leave the house this morning. Not that it would have prevented him from feeling what he was feeling now.
The elevator doors opened and Clark straightened, releasing Lois reluctantly. "Whoa, what's this??" said a voice that Clark found particularly irritating. "Don't you get enough at home, Kent?"
Well, not today … not that it's any of your business. "Hello, Ralph," said Clark stiffly. He kept a tight hold on Lois' hand to prevent her from doing anything that might lead Ralph to press charges. But Lois, it seemed, was not offended.
"Hi, Ralph," she said. Quite civilly. "Good luck with your story on Councilman Rogers."
Clark stared at her. How long was this going to last? Well, the fiery little volcano he had married would be back sooner or later, he was sure, to take her rightful place in the stead of this strangely calm clone. He allowed himself a cautiously optimistic smile as they left the Planet building. "So where are we going for lunch? Fudge castle?" he asked humorously.
"No, I want to go someplace where I can get something more substantial," Lois replied. And somewhere private enough for us to talk, she might have added, but didn't.
When she chose Mike's Cafe, which was known more for its high-backed booths arranged for complete privacy than for its cuisine, though, Clark guessed, without needing to be told, that she wanted to have a serious conversation with him. Especially when she selected a booth in the back of the cafe and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, which Clark knew she loathed.
Clark ordered a Reuben sandwich and tried several mundane topics of conversation without success, finally lapsing into silence. Lois had become very thoughtful, and he decided to let her broach what was on her mind in her own time.
"Clark," she said when they were halfway through the meal, "if you had something to tell me that might upset me, you'd still tell me, wouldn't you?"
Clark stopped chewing and stared at her. Uh-oh, this was it. "Uh …" he said, swallowing with difficulty. "Yeah …" I think.
"Even if you thought it might make me mad?" Lois persisted.
"Sure …" Clark said with more confidence than he felt.
"So …" said Lois, laying her sandwich carefully on her plate and leaning forward to gaze penetratingly into his eyes, "do you have anything you want to tell me?"
What?! "Uh …" Clark racked his brain for something that Lois might think he needed to tell her.
"Anything at all?"
Ah … oh, he had it. Darn. He might have known she'd find out about it before he had a chance to tell her and that she would assume that he was concealing it from her. "Lois, I can explain," he said quickly.
Lois rested her chin on her hand and put on her most understanding smile. She hoped she looked like someone people would feel free to confide in.
Clark took a deep breath. Good, she didn't look like she was mad. "She's only going to be in town for a few days," he began hesitantly.
Lois blinked. She??
"And I was going to tell you, but you were in such a hurry this morning I never got the chance and … well, like I said, she's only here for a few days. I thought I could squeeze it in yesterday on my day off, so I showed her around the Metropolis Museum of Art in the morning, and then we had lunch — "
"Had lunch?" said Lois. "She? Who, Clark? Who did you have lunch with?"
He'd guessed wrong. That wasn't what Lois was mad about. Yet. "Lana Lang," he said, watching her uneasily.
"Lana Lang!" Lois spat, forgetting what a calm and understanding person she was. "She's here? Your old girlfriend? You showed her around the museum' and had lunch with her?" She rose to her feet.
"Lois …" said Clark, casting a quick look around the restaurant. He hated making a scene in public.
Not so Lois. "You weren't going to tell me, were you?" she said angrily. She threw her napkin down on the table and turned to leave.
"Lois …" said Clark, rising and putting out a hand to detain her.
The floor rocked beneath them and Lois clutched at Clark as he put his arm around her to steady her. "Earthquake …?" she faltered.
"Explosion," said Clark grimly. He released Lois carefully after assuring himself that she could stand unaided. "Lois, I have to go. I just remembered … I have to … uh … call a source …" his voice trailed off as he hurried toward the door.
Lois made no move to stop him, but pulled a camera from her bag and prepared to follow him at a discreet distance.
When she saw him next, he was in the guise of Superman, assisting in putting out the fire that had erupted at a warehouse on 54th and Darwin Streets. Fortunately, the warehouse was not in use, and so was empty of human life at the time of the explosion. And since it was in a run-down, supposedly unoccupied section of town, there were no apparent human casualties. Concerned, though, at the possibility that squatters may have taken up residence in the abandoned warehouses, and thus have been caught in the explosion, Superman began grimly scanning the area for signs of them, living or dead.
Fortunately have no luck in his self-appointed task, he was preparing to leave when he heard someone calling him. "Superman," called Lois, breaking free of the crowd of reporters that thronged the scene and running towards him. She was determined to make Clark reveal himself, and a half-hatched scheme had just suggested itself to her.
"Lois," Superman said, inclining his head courteously.
"Have you seen Clark?" she asked, putting on an anxious expression.
"I know," said Clark, wishing that she hadn't placed her hand on his arm. He was finding it difficult to maintain the air of distant formality that he tried to adopt whenever he was wearing the Suit. "I haven't seen him."
"I'm worried about him," said Lois. "He was seen here, and I'm afraid that he may have tried to help someone and got hurt himself," she improvised cleverly. This was a wonderful opening for Clark to tell her about himself — she was proud she'd thought of it.
Clark paused. "… he was seen here?" he said cautiously. "He couldn't have been — " he caught himself quickly. "I mean … I thought I saw him over on 50th Street … and I'm sure he's okay, Lois," he added, attempting to reassure her.
"But …" Lois squeezed his arm gently. "Where is he? Could you help me find him please?"
Come on, Clark, this is your big chance. You can let me know he's — you're — okay, and tell me your secret at the same time!
"I'm sure he's all right, Lois," said Clark firmly. "He'll turn up."
"But … you don't understand," said Lois, with a tremor that wasn't altogether feigned. She was really disappointed that Clark wasn't coming clean with her. "We had a … not a fight, but he was telling me something and I got … not mad, but he might have thought I was mad but I really wasn't, just surprised, and I want to let him know that but he's gone and I'd really like to find him and tell him that I'm not mad …"
"I'm sure he understands, Lois," said Superman, the corners of his mouth quirking up. "He knows you pretty well …"
Noting the expression on his face, Lois warmed to him. She had seen Superman around other women a hundred times, and although he had always been unfailingly polite, even to the women who clutched and grabbed at him — they were pawing *my husband*! she realized indignantly — she had never seen him react to those women with the obvious mixture of pleasure and discomfort he was showing now. His feelings toward her and his attempts to conceal them were so endearingly transparent! She pressed closer to him, watching in tender amusement as his face flushed.
"I'm so worried about him," she persisted, willing him to open up to her. "Something may have happened to him. He might be lying around here hurt, or unconscious and unable to speak — "
Clark fidgeted. "I'll go look for him," he said in sudden inspiration, "and I'll tell him you want to see him."
"No, I have to see him *right now*!" she insisted. "I have to know that he's okay. Please take me with you and we'll look for him together."
Clark squirmed. "I'm sure he's fine, Lois," he said. He squinted up at the sky. "Uh … I have to go now … when I see him I'll tell him you're looking for him." He flew off in a blast of wind.
Lois gritted her teeth in frustration. He didn't tell her! Darn!
"Lois!" called Clark's voice from behind her. Lois turned to see her husband jogging toward her.
Great, maybe *now* he'd tell her that there hadn't ever been any need for her to worry, because he was Superman and therefore invulnerable …
"Superman told me you were looking for me," Clark said. "I'm okay," he added, placing his hands on her shoulders and peering down at her.
"That's good," said Lois brightly, forcing a smile around her teeth.
"What is it?" asked Clark, looking at her closely. Lois looked like she was barely concealing her irritation — despite what she had told Superman, she must really be upset about Lana Lang!
"Nothing," said Lois with determined cheerfulness, resisting the urge to kick him in the shin. Good thing, too. She'd probably have broken her toe. "I'll get us a cab and we can go back to the Planet," she added.
It's too bad she'd never given in to the desire to hit or kick Clark in the past, she reflected as she walked past him and headed toward a street more likely to yield a taxi. If she had, she would have found out his secret then and there …
After her failure to get Clark to confess his secret, Lois decided that forcing the revelation out of him was going to call for more drastic measures, and she made her plans accordingly.
So it was that at five o'clock that evening Ms Lois Lane, star reporter of the Daily Planet, sat alone in the honeymoon suite at the Lexor Hotel, awaiting the arrival of Superman.
He arrived with his usual swoosh, straightening after his landing and folding his arms across his chest in a typical pose. "Am I early?" he asked, looking around the empty room in surprise.
"No, you're not early," said Lois.
"But I thought — where are the others? You said — Clark said you wanted me to speak to your Women in Business networking group."
"I'm afraid you've caught me in a tiny fib," said Lois. "I wanted an exclusive interview with you … so it'll be just the two of us. And Clark."
"Clark …?" faltered Superman. "But … he didn't say anything to me …"
"No, I left a message for him on our answering machine a few minutes ago," said Lois comfortably. "He went to pick up our dry cleaning, but he should be in soon. I hope you don't mind waiting." She crossed the room and seated herself in an easy chair, motioning for him to be seated also.
He ignored her gesture, standing near the window with his arms folded across his chest, trying to regain the impassive expression Superman habitually wore.
Lois leaned forward expectantly in her chair, looking calm and understanding.
Superman swallowed. "I don't know if I can stay, Lois …"
"But Clark will be so disappointed …" She had to keep him here until he saw that he *had* to tell her that he was Clark! She cast about frantically for something to say that would detain him, for politeness' sake, at least. "Thank you for finding Clark for me today," she said finally.
"That's okay," he said uncomfortably.
"I worry so much about him," she continued. "I'm so afraid that he'll step in front of a gangster's bullet, or fall prey to some master criminal trying to get to *you* through him, or hurt himself rescuing me when you're not around …" she paused and waited for Superman to tell her that Clark couldn't get hurt because he was invulnerable — because he was *him*.
"Uh …" said Clark. "I don't think that's very likely, Lois."
Lois bit back her rising irritation, impatient for Clark to tell her his secret so she could show him how sympathetic she was.
"It *might* happen," she argued, her voice on edge, "… if you're not there to protect him. You've rescued *me* so many times, but you never seem to be around when *he* needs help."
"Maybe it's because he doesn't need my help as much as you do!" Clark shot back. "*You're* always throwing yourself in harm's way … *you're* the one who's likely to get in a direct line with a bullet, it's *you* that criminals want to use to get to me … you're *never* careful, you never stop to think, you … you …" He stopped, breathing hard, as he belatedly realized that his outburst wasn't in keeping with Superman's usually stolid manner. "I — Clark worries about *you*, that is … he's told me …" he finished lamely.
"*I'm* always throwing myself in harm's way?? *I* never stop to think …??" said Lois, bristling. She was on her feet now. She started toward him, then paused, a crafty look in her eyes. "That's just what *he* would say," she said more calmly. "It's amazing how much you sound like him."
There was a charged silence. "I …" his voice trailed off. "I think I'd better be going now … it looks like Clark's not going to show …"
"I'm sure he'll be here soon." Lois tried to catch his eye, but he was looking straight ahead of him, indecision on his face. Lois folded her arms across her chest and began tapping the floor with her foot, waiting expectantly. He had to tell her now.
But it seemed he wasn't going to. "I'm sorry, Lois, I have to go," he said, turning toward the window. She was on her feet in a flash, running across the room to him. He felt her touch on his shoulders just as he leaped into the air. Twisting away from her, he flew out the window and escaped into the night breeze, which happily cooled his perspiring brow.
He inhaled deeply. Now he could enter the hotel room as Clark, wait around with Lois for awhile, then make up some excuse to leave. After which Superman would reappear and insist that she go ahead with the interview without Clark. He smiled, pleased that he had worked out how to cover for himself.
There was something different, though, something … he twisted his head to look behind him and saw, too late, why Lois had touched his shoulders just as he was leaving. She had unfastened his cape and pulled it off him.
Less than two minutes later, Clark Kent was knocking at the door of the honeymoon suite, straightening his tie rather apprehensively. "Just a minute …" called Lois. Clark heard a rustle from within the room. Why was she taking so long? The door began to swing open. Oh, yes, she must be stowing the cape, hiding it somewhere — Clark blinked. She was wearing it. And … apparently … nothing else, he realized, his gaze sliding past her to light on a trail of clothes strewn across the floor. Uh … *nothing* else!
He gulped. "Hi," he said, wrenching his gaze back to his wife and keeping his eyes fixed on her face. Maybe if he pretended not to notice the cape … "Sorry I'm late. Is Superman still here?" He craned his neck to look into the room, ostensibly not seeing the discarded clothing.
"Not any more …" said Lois huskily, stepping back to let him enter. She was holding the cape closed with one hand.
"Sorry I missed him," said Clark, wondering why Lois was wearing that cape. She was angry, he could see that.
"That's okay," said Lois coolly. "We … got started without you."
Lois was watching him closely, clearly expecting something from him. Apparently not getting the response she anticipated, she ran one hand down her arm, caressing the cape where it touched her and drawing Clark's eyes.
Clark shifted his weight, wondering what the wisest course would be — should he keep on pretending he didn't see the cape?
Yeah, sure. A guy can't walk into a hotel room to find his wife wrapped up in Superman's cape and not notice, Kent.
Especially when he'd like nothing more than to put his hands on it and open it … slowly. Visions from an old fantasy came back to him and he felt a drop of sweat roll down the back of his neck.
"Well, that's good," he said cheerfully. "I hope you got some questions answered."
"I didn't ask questions," said Lois. "We … didn't get around to that." She wrapped the cape around her more tightly and looked down at herself, clearly waiting for him to notice her apparel.
He searched for something to say about it. "Uh, nice cape, Lois," he said finally.
"It's Superman's," she confessed, meeting his eyes squarely.
"Oh …" he said faintly. "Uh …" recovering, "nice of him to lend it to you."
"I would be cold otherwise," she said, looking pointedly at her clothing on the floor.
Could a guy, assuming that he's *not* really Superman, catch his wife wearing Superman's cape and not get mad?
She must be trying to make him jealous.
Okay, I'll bite. "Come on, Lois, what is it?" Clark sighed. "Is it Lana? Are you still mad at me for taking her to the museum? I was going to tell you about it, but I never got the chance. You were gone all day after I — after that gunman at the restaurant that Superman — anyway, you didn't come back until after I was asleep and you left early for the office this morning and — " He stopped as Lois raised her head to glare at him.
"I know that!" she snapped. "I am *not* mad about Lana Lang!" She flounced into a chair, distracting Clark momentarily as the cape slipped partway off her shoulder. From his position, he could see the bedroom behind Lois' back — with one corner of the bed just barely visible — the bed that had so many provocative memories for him. The cape slipped down a little farther, and Clark swallowed hard.
"Then what is it?" he asked, tearing his eyes away from the fascinating sight and looking into her eyes. "Why are you mad?" He wished Lois would just *say* it — so he could apologize for a few minutes and then sweep her into that oh-so-inviting bed in the next room, where they would re-enact some of the … activities that had kept them occupied for the better part of one unforgettable night eighteen months ago.
"Who says I'm mad?!" asked Lois, getting more and more angry. Why couldn't Clark take the hint that *she knew his secret*? Or did he realize it, but was just stubbornly refusing to admit it?
"Come on, Lois," said Clark. "I can see that you're mad. For one thing, why are you wearing Superman's cape? With … nothing on underneath it?" There. He's said it.
"Do I have to draw you a diagram?" said Lois, struggling with the urge to push him out the window.
Clark let out his breath slowly. "You can't really expect me to believe that anything went on between you and Superman!"
"Why not?" Lois challenged.
Clark studied her face. What did she want from him? What did she expect him to say? Women were so hard to figure sometimes! "Because you're my wife and I love you and I know you'd never … do anything like that," he tried.
Oops, wrong answer. Her face fell and Clark cast about wildly for a clue as to what she wanted to hear. "… because Superman would never do anything like that," he ventured.
"Ha!" she pounced. "How do you know that?" she asked, looking at him closely. "How do you know Superman wouldn't do anything like that?"
"Because …" Clark watched her carefully. "Everyone knows he wouldn't," he finished.
"But how do you *know*?" Lois asked insistently. "Do you know him so well?" She was on her feet again, watching him eagerly.
"Well … yes, Lois. You know we've always been friends."
She was disappointed. "So you think he wouldn't do anything like that, Clark?" She continued without waiting for an answer. "Well, just maybe he would, Clark! Look at me! See how I'm dressed!"
Clark sighed. It had been a long day and he was too tired to figure out what was going on with his wife. Her behavior had been inexplicable all day — from her bad mood in the morning, to her unexpected solicitousness at lunch and after, to her insistence on interviewing Superman, to her bizarre behavior in wrapping herself in Superman's cape. "Honey — " he began.
It was at this inopportune moment that Clark's sensitive hearing picked up a cry for help. Grimacing in frustration, he made his feeble excuses to Lois, who, surprisingly, didn't appear as angry at his disappearance as he would have expected.
After attending to the distress call — and, without his cape, feeling unusually exposed — he had the inspiration to return to the hotel as Superman rather than as Clark — maybe she would confide in Superman as a friend and tell him why she was so annoyed with her husband.
He flew into the honeymoon suite with a swoosh, drawing up short when he saw Lois — he had forgotten how she had been dressed when last he had seen her. She hadn't changed — she was still wrapped up in his cape. He stared at her, unable to think of a single thing to say.
Lois didn't get up from the chair she had sat in when her husband had left her so abruptly. She had been expecting Clark, not Superman — maybe he was intending to reveal himself to her now? She looked at him, not speaking, but waiting expectantly.
Seeing that she wasn't going to say anything, Clark realized it was up to him. Finding his voice, he managed a "Hi, Lois." She waited. "Sorry I had to leave … before …"
Lois continued to look steadily up at him. He said nothing, and her gaze fell. To his knees. She stared absently at his legs, then, her attention caught, her eyes traveled up his body. She had *seen* Superman before, but she had never allowed herself to *look* closely at him. Politeness had dictated that she always keep her eyes on his face (except for that occasional sneak peek at his magnificent physique.) Now that she knew he was her husband, though …
She looked him over thoroughly — the powerful thighs, the narrow waist, that broad expanse of muscular chest. Yes, it was Clark, all right. Her husband.
What was Lois doing?! His face flaming, Clark tried not to squirm under her wandering gaze. He had never had trouble maintaining his poise around other women, but he couldn't keep cool around Lois, never Lois!
He cast about frantically in his mind for a topic of discussion. Remembering that Clark was supposed to be there to interview Superman, he looked vaguely around the room. "Did Clark come yet?"
Interrupted from her pleasant pastime, Lois bit off a sharp retort. She couldn't believe he was planning to continue this charade! Tired of games, she advanced on him rapidly, releasing the cape at the last minute and flinging her arms around her husband. With a sigh of contentment, she laid her head against his chest. "Yes," she said, answering his question simply. She ran her hands over his back. "I love you," she added. Clark stood frozen, unable to believe what his wife was saying. He recoiled in horror as Lois continued, "I realized that yesterday. I know I should be upset, but somehow, when I thought about how much you mean to me, I knew that we would be able to work everything out."
"Lois …" Clark whispered. "What about … Clark …?" He wanted to back away and extricate himself from her grasp, but he was afraid the cape, which was pinned now between their bodies, would fall.
Lois raised her head and gaped up at him as she realized that he didn't know she had guessed his secret. He still didn't get it! Did he think she would be hugging another man like this? Impulsive words born of chagrin sprang to her lips. "Cl…aaaarrrrk?" she drawled, dragging his name out into two syllables. "Clark … is … a … liar."
Clark wanted to groan. Lois still thought he had deliberately concealed Lana's visit from her — and it was driving her straight into another man's arms! "A … liar," he repeated. "What do you mean?" Maybe if she confided in him as Superman, he'd be able to persuade her of Clark's devotion.
"I think that a husband and wife should be completely honest with each other, don't you, Superman?" asked Lois, ignoring his question. Her hands abandoned their exploration of his back and began playing seductively with his hair.
"Lois …" Clark's voice trailed off uncertainly.
"Clark keeps secrets from me. You wouldn't keep secrets from your wife, would you, Superman? You wouldn't lie to her, wouldn't hide part of yourself >from her, run away with weak excuses and never tell her the truth about yourself — "
"Lo-is," said Clark in a very different tone of voice. He placed his arms around her, hugging her tightly. Relief made him weak and he swayed a little, burying his face in her hair. "How long have you known?" he asked.
"Since you rescued me from that gunman yesterday," she replied.
Clark pulled away so he could see her face. "Are you mad?"
"Yes," she admitted. "I am. I was in love with both of you, you know." Still holding onto him with one arm, she ran the fingers of her other hand lightly over the crest on his chest. "I never talked about it because I didn't want to hurt you. I thought you were jealous … of Superman!" She drew back from him, flinging her hands into the air. Clark watched hopefully, but to his disappointment the cape remained in place. Had she pinned it …?
Following the direction of his gaze, Lois looked down at herself. "I taped it," she said smugly. "It's not going to fall off."
"One can only hope …" grinned Clark. Remembering Lois' last comment, he became more serious. "I *was* jealous of Superman. At first. And after we got close, you said how glad you were that you had *me*, that you used to have a crush on Superman, but it was over now — "
"I know." Lois moved closer and stroked her fingers through his hair, combing it into a more Clark-like style. "I thought about all this last night. I had told you that I didn't want to be married to Superman because I wanted to set your mind at ease about him. I didn't want you to be afraid that he would ever come between us. But he did. He came between us every time you ran out on me with some lame excuse … and if I'd only known what you were doing I would never have been mad at all."
She grasped his shoulders firmly and tried to shake him. "When I think about how *good* it felt to fly with you yesterday, and how your *stupidity* has been depriving me of that pleasure for the last year and a half …!"
In a flash Clark lifted her into his arms and flew her into the bedroom, laying her down on the bed. "Like that?" he asked huskily. He began unwrapping the cape.
"Oh, no you don't, buster," she said in her most frigid tones. She pushed him away and propped herself up on one elbow, viewing him with displeasure. "Why do you think I set up our meeting in this hotel?" she asked.
"So you could make love to your husband?" asked Clark hopefully, burying his face in her shoulder.
"So I could push you off the roof!" she said dramatically, if not quite accurately.
He raised his head and looked at her. "Go ahead," he grinned. "I'll take you with me."
"Oh … you're impossible!" said Lois crossly.
"Well, you said you wanted to fly … Um, Lois …?"
"Much as I like this cape *on* you, I think I'd like it better off …" He reached for her.
"Huh-uh …" Lois batted his hands away. Dragging herself to a sitting position, she glared at him balefully. "Keep your hands to yourself," she said haughtily.
Clark grinned. "Okay," he said obligingly. "But I'll bet I can get that cape off you without putting a hand on you."
"You're on!" retorted Lois. "If I win, you do all the cooking and cleaning for a week."
"And if *I* win …?" said Clark. "What's *my* prize?"
"Getting the cape off," replied Lois smugly.
Clark raised his eyebrows. "That's *my* prize??" he said incredulously. "I would call that *your* prize, too! Especially after the way you attacked me in the copy room last week — "
"Okay," Lois interrupted hastily. "If you win, I'll go with you to your boring, sexist Computer Gamers meeting, draping myself decoratively on your arm and saying *nothing* to embarrass you, even when they start discussing Tomb Raider."
Clark laughed. "Fair enough," he said. He grasped her shoulders and gently pulled her out of the bed. "Stand right …" he positioned her, "… here. Arms at your sides — and no fair grabbing the cape when it falls."
"*When* it falls — ?" Lois snorted. "No danger of that!"
"We'll see." Clark grinned confidently. Standing back from her, he looked her up and down.
"What are you doing?" she asked suspiciously.
"That's cheating," she protested.
"Huh-uh," said Clark. "I just want to see where the tape is."
Lois had opened her mouth to ask why when Clark directed a blast of cooling breath at her. "What are you *doing*?" she squealed. "That's cold!"
Clark stepped back, folding his arms across his chest and watching expectantly.
"Brrr!" said Lois. "That's not going to make me take off the cape. Haven't you heard the fable about the sun and the wind?"
Clark said nothing, but stood and continued to watch.
"The sun and the wind were having an argument about who was stronger, and they decided, as a test, to see who could make a man remove his overcoat — " Lois stopped. Was that a breeze she felt on her legs? She looked down, to see that the cape was open around her lower limbs. There was a slight tearing sound, and to Lois' astonishment, the cape began coming apart in other places. Feeling it start to slip from her body and realizing that it was going to fall, she gave a squeal and dived for the bed. She jumped into it and took refuge under the covers, making no complaint when her husband joined her.
"How did you do that?" she whispered, wide-eyed.
Clark smiled down at her, enjoying her wonder. "I froze the tape and it lost its stickiness," he told her. "You should have used freezer tape."
"That's not fair …" said Lois.
"Let's discuss the rules of the contest some other time," said Clark, laughing. He pulled his wife closer and this time he received no protest.