By Margaret Brignell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 1999
Summary: Part 4 of the author's wonderful ongoing Only You series. While Lois is attempting to regain her life (and her memory) due to her time in the Congo, a vengeful Lana Lang slanders Superman and his "relationship" with Lois. But can a relationship between the two actually begin??
This is the fourth in a series of fanfics that came out of an idea by Laurie F. She liked my Pre-Metropolis Clark stories (The Rules, The Long Road, and The One) and thought this set would also make a good story.
In order to fully understand this story, you need to read "Only You: If Only", "Only You: Promise" and "Only You: Recall" if you have not already done so:) It might also help to have seen the episode "Tempus, Anyone?"
I acknowledge that I am just borrowing the characters created for the television show "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." However, the story and additional characters came from the brain of myself and the people who are kind enough to proof my work:) It should be noted that in this story too, the British spelling prevails:)
I would like to thank my proofers Laurie F., Peace, Debby S., Lynda L., Lauren W., APP, and Hazel for their input and support. A special thanks to Debby S. for providing me with copies of scripts I needed to make the story believable:)
Words surrounded by *asterisks* are emphasized.
Previously in "Only You" Clark lost his parents at age ten and bounced around a variety of foster homes. Lana Lang is not the only one who knows the secret of his origins. When we last saw Clark he had just found Lois Lane, who is now wondering why he had never mentioned Lana Lang.
The saga continues.
Metropolis, New Troy — May, 1997
"I'm sorry, Superman, but you *cannot* see Ms. Lane. Visiting hours are *over*!"
Clark had to mentally bite his tongue, in order to not blurt out his desperate need to see Lois to this nurse. He'd hurried back from the fire as fast as he could, so he could see Lois again, he was on her floor and almost within reach of her, only to be frustrated by this officious nurse. He took a deep breath.
"I realize that, Ms …" He quickly glanced at her name tag, "Delaney. However, I was here less than an hour ago seeing Ms. Lane through the check-in process. I had to leave for an emergency. I just want to know that she's all right."
The phone rang, Ms. Delaney answered with "4 West" and listened to the voice at the other end. "Ten a.m. That's right. In front of the main doors." Another pause and then, "You're welcome."
While the nurse was on the phone, Clark had tried to see the patient list on the computer monitor, to determine which room Lois was in. He had pretty much established that Lois' name must be on the previous screen, and was considering other options for communicating with Lois, just as Ms. Delaney hung up the phone.
"Now, Superman, Ms. Lane is in her room. She's fine, resting comfortably and cannot be disturbed, even by anxious friends." Ms. Delaney smiled at him reassuringly. "She'll be seeing Dr. Friskin first thing in the morning to make sure she's fit to be released. You can see her when she leaves the hospital, at the press conference."
"Yes, press conference, in front of the main doors downstairs at ten a.m. Mr. Olsen arranged it with hospital security less than half an hour ago. The phone has been ringing off the hook ever since."
"But … but … Ms. Lane may not be well enough for a press conference."
"Well, that's between her and her doctor. In the meantime, she needs her rest. You cannot visit her now. It will be time for lights out in less than half an hour."
Clark was going to protest again, but seeing the expression on Ms. Delaney's face, he recognized an immovable object when he saw one. Besides, he needed to have a "chat" with Mr. Olsen about forcing Lois into a press conference in her current state of fragility. So, instead of pushing for visiting rights, he thanked the nurse for her help, and as soon as he had gone through the revolving doors of the hospital entrance, took off for Mr. Olsen's penthouse.
Mr. Olsen's doorman had informed Clark that James Olsen was out at a fund-raiser for orphaned children. He wouldn't be home for another hour or so. Mr. Kent could call him on his cell phone if it was an urgent Daily Planet concern. He'd be sure to let Mr. Olsen know that Clark had called.
Clark spent most of the flight home, kicking himself for not leaving at least a note for Lois. He'd been so anxious to set Mr. Olsen straight it had completely left his mind.
Frustrated, Clark arrived home, washed his uniform, fixed himself a snack, poured a glass of milk and flipped on the TV. It was tuned to the Larry Kidsign Show. He had been about to flip onto something else when he heard Lana's voice.
"It was *her*! He was obsessed with *her*. I'm sure of it. I don't know what she did to him, but overnight she had him under her spell. He had *me* and yet he refused to follow through with the wedding after he had met *her*. Now he's brought her back from her European hideaway. He's bewitched. What else could it be?"
Clark gritted his teeth to prevent himself from uselessly screaming at the television set. Lana looked her usual smug, supercilious self. She was wearing her hair in that blond, "perfect" television colour and style that he'd always hated. She was being as vindictive and bitter as he'd ever known her to be. Thank goodness Lois was in the hospital and not listening to this venom from Lana. Lois didn't need to hear *any* of this.
Larry nodded sympathetically. "So now that she's once again back in Metropolis, what do you plan to do?"
"Fight. I plan to fight. I have no intention of letting her get away with this a second time." Lana crossed her arms and set her chin in the familiar stance that meant she wasn't going to budge on this issue. "And all that talk about amnesia and her being lost in the Congo is just a smoke-screen for what *really* happened. Really! What kind of story is *that*?"
Clark rolled his eyes. This was just the kind of trite thinking he'd come to expect from Lana. What was she going to do? "Fight for her man?" Clark shuddered at some of the possibilities that came to mind. Lois didn't deserve this kind of lunacy. He *had* to do something to stop Lana now, but what?
The channel broke for commercial, the voice-over saying "Stay tuned, there's more with Larry Kidsign and his guest, after these few words from our sponsors."
Clark was tempted to phone the station and tell Lana to stop lying and to get a life. However, he knew that the station would be only too happy to broadcast his antagonism to the world at large, so he restrained himself. Besides, his lawyer had warned him about making public statements that could be misinterpreted.
He paced, fuming, wondering what other lies and malicious gossip Lana was going to spread when the program resumed. Clark flopped back on the sofa and picked up his snack and glass of milk as the commercial faded to the Larry Kidsign emblem.
"Well, folks, you've heard the story. Superman isn't quite the clean, wholesome superhero we've all been led to believe. I'm interviewing the young lady who can tell you exactly what kind of man he is." The camera panned back to Lana, who smiled modestly. "So folks, if you want to ask Ms. Lang any questions, just call the toll free number running across the bottom of the screen and she'll be happy to answer you."
Larry hit a button on the console in front of him. "You're on the air. State your name and where you're from."
"Hi, Larry. I just want to say how much I really love your show. I'm Cheryl, in Nashville. I wanted to ask Ms. Lang if Superman likes country music."
Clark nearly choked on his milk. He'd been preparing himself for questions about the intimate details of his and Lana's relationship — not this!
Lana said, "Yes," quickly, "he likes all kinds of music," and Larry thanked the caller. To anyone else it would appear that Lana knew his taste in music, when in reality she'd dismissed his music collection as irrelevant and always brought her own CDs whenever she had come over to his place for dinner. She hadn't lied, exactly, he *did* like all kinds of music, but Lana would have no more idea about whether he liked country music than she would know how to fly.
There were two more callers, asking about Clark's colour preferences and if he drank beer and if so, what brand. Lana said his favourite colour was "green" when it was actually blue, and said he never drank beer, which wasn't true, either. She was probably trying to dodge answering the question about the brand, since she had never paid any attention to Clark's likes and dislikes and wouldn't know what brand he preferred to drink.
The next caller said she was "Laurie from Joyceville."
"I'd like to ask Ms. Lang whether she has Mr. Kent's permission to give out personal information about his life?"
Lana looked bewildered. "Permission?"
"Yes, Ms. Lang, you are giving out details on Superman's life. I want to know if you have his written permission to do that?"
Larry Kidsign spoke up, "This is a free country, Laurie. Ms. Lang has the right to speak."
"She can speak about her own life. I got in *big* trouble for saying less about my ex than she's saying about Superman. I want to know if she's aware of the legal implications."
Larry Kidsign rolled his eyes and smiled. "Why don't we move on to our next caller?"
Clark felt frustrated. Any caller that seemed to have any sympathy for *him* was cut off short, while the frivolous calls were aired. Sighing, he got up and took his empty glass and plate into the kitchen. He washed the few dishes he'd used, all the while listening to Lana tell the world that his hat size was 8 3/4 (Clark never wore hats so he had no idea what size he wore), his shoe size was 12 (it was actually 11) and he loved pizza. (Well, she was bound to get one right, eventually).
He heard a scream for help, did the quick change into one of his spare costumes and flew towards the sound. It was fortunate that he now had more than one costume, since the costume he had been wearing earlier this evening was still in the washer. He had never liked flying in a wet costume. He could never be sure it would be dry by the time he got to the scene of the crisis. Having spare costumes made his life much easier now. A famous couturier had requested exclusive rights to duplicate his costume. He'd agreed on the understanding that only he, Superman, would get the result and any promotion on their part would include the name of a charity of Clark Kent's choosing. They had agreed and as a result were now creating the costumes for Superman. They had suggested various "improvements" but Clark had been adamant that they stick to Lois' design. Somehow silver hadn't seemed like the right colour for a superhero, and he kind of liked the cape. Besides the red, blue and yellow costume assisted him in remembering how to *be* Superman.
In a matter of seconds he'd separated the rapist from his victim, and by that time the police had arrived. Clark handed the felon over to the police and returned to his apartment.
While he was changing, Lana told the world that he wore Calvin Klein underwear (he didn't), used Brut after-shave (negative again) and used a Gillette shaver. This last bit of information had Clark rolling his eyes, since Lana knew perfectly well he couldn't use any kind of shaver. He figured the fact that these companies sponsored the Larry Kidsign show might have had something to do with the answers. He hoped that the public was smart enough to figure this out too.
By the time Clark got back in front of the TV screen a more serious question was being asked.
"Ms. Lang, Superman is doing wonderful things for Metropolis. Why are you defaming his name? What's your agenda?"
Lana got that superior expression on her face that Clark was all too familiar with. "He promised to marry me. He *jilted* me for Lois Lane. I'm not going to let the world forget that."
The caller interrupted. "So your agenda is revenge? He found someone he liked better, so you have a smear campaign against him. Is that it?"
Clark wished he'd been paying closer attention when this man phoned in, so he would know his name. He would have liked to thank this man for saying the things to Lana that he himself wasn't able to.
Lana's face was flushed. "He's been sneaking off to be with his lover and now he's brought her back to Metropolis so she'll be handy. He can't do that to me! I'm going to make sure the world knows the kind of two-faced, lying alien he really is!"
Larry Kidsign interrupted. "So, folks, you can judge for yourself. When you see Superman in the company of Lois Lane, we'll all know the truth." He smiled smugly. "So, Mr. Kent, if you're watching this, remember, we're watching what you do!"
Clark's heart sank. If this man and his camera crew were watching every move he made, how could he ever see Lois again? Should he just tough it out, or would it be better to just stay away from Lois so she wouldn't suffer at Larry Kidsign's hand? He was still pondering this problem when the phone rang.
"Clark … where's that story on Lois Lane? I expected you to have the outline into the news desk as soon as she'd entered the hospital."
"Er … Mr. Olsen … I don't think …"
"No, Clark, *I* do the thinking, that's why I'm the owner and you're the reporter. Now, where's that outline?"
"I … I'm not writing a story on Lois Lane. I can't."
"Can't! What do you mean 'can't'? What am I paying you for?"
"Superman exclusives!" Clark took a deep breath. "I rescued several tourists from a burning hotel tonight. I'll have the story into the Copy Desk in the next half hour."
"Tourists! I'm not interested in tourists! I want the low-down on Lois Lane. Now where's that story?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Olsen, I just can't give you that story. Lois is vulnerable and under attack — I don't want to add to her problems."
"Oh, that's okay." Mr. Olsen's tone of voice changed to reassuring. "There's no problem. I talked to her father. We've got an exclusive, and he's approved the news conference with her tomorrow morning."
"But, Mr. Olsen …"
"But me no buts, Kent. I have that press conference in the bag! If you can't deal with the story on Lois Lane, I suggest you just let Harris take the exclusive and you just show up at the press conference tomorrow morning and stay quiet. I don't want you interfering with Planet exclusives, at least not in public."
"You heard me, Kent! Be at that press conference. I want to tell the world what a hero you are."
Clark wiped his hand across his forehead. Kidsign had warned him that they would publicize Clark/Superman's every encounter with Lois to prove he was a cad. Mr. Olsen was now telling him that he *had* to show up at the news conference to demonstrate what a hero he was. Clark felt beleaguered from all sides.
It seemed like *anything* he did would only rebound on himself and ultimately hurt Lois. On the other hand, what could Lana really do? Maybe he was just being paranoid. He should follow Mr. Olsen's advice and attend that press conference. James Olsen was overly enthusiastic, and favoured flash and pizzazz over substance, but he did generally get things right. Look at Mayor White: if Mr. Olsen hadn't pressed Perry White to run for office Tempus would now be mayor by default! Clark shuddered at the very thought.
Clark realized Mr. Olsen was waiting for an answer. "Yes, Mr. Olsen, I'll be there."
After submitting his story, Clark spent the next few hours patrolling Metropolis. It was almost dawn the next morning when Clark found himself floating outside of the fourth floor window of Lois' hospital room. Using his special vision, he watched her toss and turn in her sleep. He thought he saw tears on her cheeks. His heart tightened. He needed to be near her, to touch her in order to know that she was really okay. Would alarms go off if he tried to enter through the window?
Just as he determined that the window wasn't linked to the hospital security system, he heard a van door slam. He'd been paying such close attention to Lois he hadn't even heard it stop right underneath where he was floating. He backed against the wall, wishing that he had worn a black turtleneck and pants for this expedition, rather than his flamboyant costume. If they looked up, the men from the van would have no trouble seeing him against the brownish brick of the hospital wall.
The truck had the CBA Studio NewsLive logo splashed along the side panel. Both the driver and the passenger left the van and started setting up the antenna for transmission.
"So what's this news conference about?" The driver grunted as he pulled the antenna dish around to face away from the building.
"Something to do with that reporter who disappeared four years ago, Joe."
"I thought they found her last year?"
"Nope, different woman, apparently. At least Superman says she's not the same one."
"And you believe that?" Joe sounded sceptical.
"Well …" The other man struggled with a tripod, manoeuvring it through the van's side door. "Superman seems like a straight up guy. I don't think he'd lie."
"Maybe so. But, you know Maureen?"
The man finished struggling with the tripod, and nodded. "The redhead in Sports?"
"Yeah, that's her. Well, Lucy over at Larry Kidsign's show was on the same flight from London last night as Lois Lane. She told Maureen that she saw Clark Kent and Lois Lane holding hands. She said they didn't look like a couple who had never met before — like Superman claims."
"Well, maybe so, but I wouldn't exactly bet the farm on anything Maureen told me."
"You don't have a farm."
"Doesn't matter, the principle's the same."
"Fred, you are *so* naive. Next thing you'll be telling me you believe everything that you see on television!"
Fred grunted and pushed his head inside the truck. "Will you stop chattering and just help me get this stuff set up? The boss expects everything to be a go at least two hours ahead of time. If you keep chattering, we're not going to have everything set up the way he likes and still have time for breakfast!"
Joe muttered something about people who took their job too seriously and took the other end of another tripod that Fred was manoeuvring out of the van.
Clark floated up and over the hospital, grateful that these two men were too pre-occupied with their work to look up. He wished he had been able to make sure Lois was really all right. He was worried about her.
After daybreak, Clark landed in an alley near the Daily Planet, did a quick change from Superman to his everyday suit and strolled into the Planet through the side entrance, to avoid the usual crowd of gawkers waiting for Superman at the front entrance.
His story on the hotel fire was on page 3 of the early edition. The upcoming press conference with Lois Lane was being ballyhooed on the front page above the Daily Planet banner. Clark was once again having second thoughts about going to that news conference.
Clark was hoping that Dr. Friskin would determine that Lois wasn't up to participating in the event. However, if Lois didn't appear at the conference after all this promotion, the rumour mill would go into high gear. If she did, and he was there too, Kidsign and Lana would go full steam ahead with their whispers and innuendo. On the other hand, if he did *not* show up, they would probably draw some dire conclusion from that too.
Clark felt trapped. He was damned if he went and damned if he didn't. At least if he was there, maybe, just maybe, he could help Lois in some way. It was in this frame of mind that he joined Mr. Olsen in the limousine departing for Metropolis General Hospital.
Outside the front entrance of the hospital, Clark joined the crowd of people with cameras and microphones jostling for prime views of Lois Lane leaving Metropolis General. He stood at the rear of the crowd, to remain as inconspicuous as possible under the circumstances. A microphone and lectern were set up a few feet in front of the main door. The CBA NewsLive equipment was in prime locations for coverage of the event. Mr. Olsen walked up to the microphone and introduced himself to the assembled journalists and the television audience.
At the stroke of ten, Lois walked to the microphone podium. She looked so fragile! She was pale, but not quite as pale as yesterday when she had suffered that reflex pain, from remembering her past, on their aeroplane trip from London. He imagined she must have suffered another bout of pain while trying to remember, during her interview with Dr. Friskin. He wondered why the doctor was even allowing this to continue.
Clark wished he could be right there at the podium to support her. But after Kidsign's warning, Clark knew that any photo opportunities with him at her side would only make Lois' life unbearable.
Mr. Olsen finally finished his saga of how the Daily Planet had found the long-lost Lois Lane. "Well, now ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, Clark Kent has done a marvellous job of research and has brought Lois Lane back to Metropolis where she belongs." James Olsen stood quietly basking in the applause. "As owner of the Daily Planet, I am proud to have two such outstanding people in my employ. Now, enough about me, here's the young woman you've all been wanting to meet. Ms. Lois Lane."
His nerves taut, Clark watched as Lois moved to stand in front of the microphone. Tentatively, she said, "Hi, everyone. I'm Lois Lane. I'm not sure what you all want to know about me, but if I can I'll try to answer."
Moe Kellerman held up his hand. "Ms. Lane. What do you remember about your life in Metropolis?"
"Not a lot. I sort of remember things in bits and pieces. I'm not always s-sure if what I remember is …" Clark's heart lurched as Lois stopped talking. She had gone so pale, he wanted to rush to her side and help her. This was too much for her, in her brittle state of health. He should have gone to be with her — and to hell with Lana's insinuations, Larry Kidsign's threats, and Mr. Olsen's orders. However, before Clark could put his thought into action, Lois rallied and ended her sentence, " … t-t-true."
Lois had even more difficulty dealing with the next question on where she was going to spend the rest of the day. She looked away from the audience, appeared disoriented and whispered, "I-I …" before swaying against the distinguished gentlemen with grey hair standing just behind her. The man supported Lois by the shoulders. Clark assumed the man was her father.
Mr. Olsen stepped up to the microphone, his face showing concern, and said, "As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Lane is still not fully recovered from her ordeal over the last four years. I think we should finish this interview now. We'll arrange another press conference later, when Ms. Lane is feeling a little stronger."
Clark watched helplessly as Lois was being guided into a nearby car by her father.
After the car had pulled away from the front of the hospital, Clark turned to leave and saw Lana talking to Larry Kidsign between the dispersing crowd of journalists. He hadn't noticed
anything at the time, but he was pretty sure she and Kidsign had done something to break Lois' fragile concentration, preventing her from making a good impression. They couldn't get away with this kind of intimidation!
Clark walked purposely up to Lana to tell her just what he thought of her actions, when she did one of her usual tricks of turning on him.
"Well, if it isn't 'Mr. Superman Hero' in the flesh!" Lana stood in front of him, feet firmly on the ground, her arms akimbo. "I thought you would be right beside your little woman. What's the matter, Clark? Not in the mood today? The little lady have a headache?" The sneer in her voice exactly matched the expression on her face.
Much to Clark's chagrin people were stopping to listen to Lana's invective. Clark gritted his teeth and then, forcing himself to relax, said, "Lana, I know you don't believe any of this, but it just happens to be the truth. If you can't handle the truth, that's your problem, not mine."
Her voice pitched to make sure that the people around them would hear her, Lana said, "Well, lover-boy, if I actually ever hear the truth I'll be sure to believe it."
Clark flinched at the sarcastic tone in her voice and took a deep breath. "Lana, I *am* telling the truth. I don't know what I can do to make you believe that."
"Liar! I *know* the truth about you, and I intend to tell the whole world *exactly* what kind of being you *really* are." Before he could respond, she turned on her heel, as if to stalk away. However, almost immediately she turned back to face Clark. "And, another thing, Clark Kent, I have every intention of making *that* woman just as miserable as I have been, because of you. You can tell her that from me, the next time you're together."
Lana whirled on her heel again and stalked off towards the parking lot.
The people that had stopped to listen to the argument slowly began to drift away. Clark sensed their embarrassment. He wasn't sure if they were embarrassed for him or about him.
Larry Kidsign sidled up to Clark, a smirk on his face. "Must be nice to have the women fighting over you, like that. Why don't you come on my show, and we'll talk? It'll give you a chance to tell *your* side of the story."
Clark shook his head. "Sorry, Mr. Kidsign, I have no comment for you."
"Manifesting that Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes act right to the end, huh? Well, Ms. Lang tells me different, and to be honest, Mr. Kent, I'd believe her over you any day. *Nobody* is as good as you pretend to be. We know what's really going on with you and Lois Lane, and one day we'll have the evidence to show the world."
"That won't happen, there is no evidence."
"Well, Mr. Kent, I wouldn't be so sure about that. If I were you I wouldn't get too close to Ms. Lane. We at the Larry Kidsign Show have cameras everywhere. And, you know what they say, Superman, *pictures* don't lie." He winked at Clark, turned and also headed for the parking lot of the hospital.
Clark felt cold. He *never* felt cold. But, Larry Kidsign's parting words had made Clark realize just what kind of hostility he was up against.
Any picture of himself and Lois together could be used to manufacture "truth" that didn't exist. In reality, they didn't even need pictures of himself and Lois together, to "show" the world "the truth". Today's technology could manufacture any combination of compromising photos from two separate pictures. However, if Clark had understood what Larry Kidsign was really saying, then Kidsign was just waiting for Lois and Clark to be in the same photo frame so he could legitimately claim that the published photo was actually of Lois *and* Clark. What they did with that photo, before publicizing it, Clark shuddered to think.
"How do I feel? I don't know. I wish I could remember more, and … " Lois sat up on the couch and faced Dr. Friskin. "I just feel so … so *helpless*!"
Dr. Friskin made some notes and then asked, "Is there anything that you remember that makes you feel less helpless?"
"My bedroom at my parent's home. It's not exactly a memory. But I feel safe there. It seems like a safe haven against the upheaval and chaos going on around me."
Dr. Friskin nodded sympathetically and jotted down some more notes. "And, how are things between you and your family?"
Lois shrugged. "Okay, I guess. It's almost like I never knew them before. I can't sense any kind of bond between us."
"Well, it has only been two days. These things take time. What are you doing to get acquainted again?"
Lois stood up and paced back and forth. She found herself staring at Dr. Friskin's bookshelves. With her back to Dr. Friskin she said, "Not very much. Mother seems so shallow. She's more concerned with appearances than in trying to help me regain my memory." She turned to face Dr. Friskin. "You know she actually told me not to say anything when her friends came over to play bridge, yesterday afternoon, so I wouldn't embarrass her!"
"And, how did that make you feel?"
"Incensed. It made me feel so angry I could spit!"
"And what did you do about that feeling?"
Lois walked back to the couch and sat down. "Nothing. I just kept my mouth shut like she asked."
"Because it wouldn't have been any use. She never did love me or care about me. It's better to just do what she asks and …" Lois stopped talking. "Was that a memory?"
"I don't know. Was it?"
In a small voice, Lois replied, "I think so." She felt tears rolling down her cheeks. "Oh, god, how *depressing*! My first real memory is that my mother never loved me!"
Dr. Friskin handed her a box of tissues and Lois wiped away the tears and blew her nose.
"What about your father? Did he love you?"
"I don't remember one way or the other. Now, he seems so *remote*. When I can get his attention, he seems willing to help me. But he's really busy with his job and he's kind of distracted most of the time … so I guess he didn't love me much either." Lois screwed up the used tissue into a ball and pitched it at the trash can. "No wonder I didn't remember them!"
"What about your sister?"
Lois plucked another tissue from the box and started to shred it into strips. "She phoned from California last night. She seems okay. I don't remember her, or anything, so it probably means we weren't close either."
"Do you *know* that or just *think* that?"
Lois shrugged. "Think, I guess. I don't feel any real urge to fly out to California to meet her."
Dr. Friskin nodded and wrote down some more notes.
"Is there anyone you remember that you would like to meet again?"
Lois swallowed. "I know this sounds crazy. I've only met him twice. But I wish Clark Kent would come and see me. I don't know why he hasn't. He seemed to care about me on the plane, but I haven't seen or heard from him since he dropped me off at the hospital!"
"And, that bothers you?"
"Yes. I mean it's crazy, right? I wouldn't go out of my way to visit my family, but I have this insane urge to be with someone who brought me back to Metropolis because it was his job."
"Is that why he did it?"
"Well, of course! He was in London on assignment at the right time …" Lois paused momentarily. "At least, I assumed he was in London on assignment. But, he's Superman! He must have flown to England to get me and bring me back by plane!" Lois stopped shredding the latest tissue and looked up at Dr. Friskin. "He went out of his way to come and get me! Why?"
"Why do *you* think he did that?"
"I … I think it was because of the other Lois Lane. She taught him to be Superman and I guess he wanted to meet her counterpart in this world."
"And, how does that make you feel?"
"Bewildered … and disappointed. I would like to think he came for me because of *me*, not as a substitute for that other Lois. I mean, he must have really loved that other Lois to break his engagement over her."
"Did he say that?"
Lois shook her head. "No. He didn't mention his engagement at all."
"And that bothers you?"
"Yes." Lois faced Dr. Friskin defiantly. "Well, why not? Don't you think he should have at least *mentioned* it? His ex-fiancee hates me and I had to find out about it from a TV talk show! And that makes me mad!" Lois stood up and clenched her fists. "Really, mad!"
"His ex-fiancee makes you feel angry?"
"No, not exactly. She scares me! I saw her Friday morning, when I got out of the hospital." Lois shuddered. "She was standing right there in front of me. When she glared at me, it made me feel … I don't know … so lost and afraid. I felt so disoriented. It brought on one of those memory-triggered pain attacks. I can *still* see the hatred in that woman's eyes!
"So, it's Clark Kent who makes you feel angry?"
"No. That's the crazy part. I keep wishing he would phone or come and see me, or *something* to let me know he cares. I'm upset that he didn't tell me about this particular detail of his life, and it makes me wonder what else he didn't bother to tell me about, but what I'm mostly mad about is that I care for someone who obviously doesn't feel the same way about me."
"And what do you plan to do about that?"
"I don't know." Lois sat down again. "He works at the Daily Planet. If and when I go back to work, I'll have to deal with it then."
"So, Clark, how's my Lois, huh?" Perry White asked, almost the instant Clark answered his desk phone at the Daily Planet.
Clark fiddled with the phone cord. "Fine, I guess. But, to be honest, Mr. White, I don't really know."
"Don't know?" Perry White's voice bellowed so loud that Clark had to pull the receiver away from his ear. "Judas Priest, Clark, why ever not? You *have* been keeping in touch with her, haven't you?"
Clark swallowed. "I'm afraid to go anywhere near her, Mr. White. Larry Kidsign …"
"That scoundrel! What's *he* got to do with it?"
"He threatened to use any photos of Lois and me, together, to …"
"Why that no good, son-of-a-b … Well, I won't burn up the airwaves with what I think." There was a brief pause, then Perry White continued, "So, you figure any contact with Lois is bound to end up on Kidsign's show, distorted beyond belief like all the rest of his so-called true stories?"
Clark sighed. "Yes! I don't even dare call to find out how she is."
"You're right, son. Kidsign is just the kind of low-life to be tapping her calls."
"With today's technology, they don't even have to bug her line." Clark sighed. "All I can do is stay away from her."
"Well, son, it can't be forever." Perry's voice sounded reassuring, suggesting that Clark shouldn't give up hope because nothing lasted forever. "Look, I'll talk to her and let you know how she is. How's that?"
"Thank you, Mr. White. Thank you!"
"Son, I keep telling you — call me Perry."
"Yes, sir! But please, don't mention my name when you're talking to Lois. You never know …"
"I know, son. Don't worry. Larry Kidsign will not know that you were trying to get in touch with Lois."
"Thank you … Perry. I can't tell you what this means to me." Clark smiled as he hung up the phone.
The next afternoon, Lois slowly walked downstairs from the haven of her bedroom in her parent's home. Her mother had called her down to the living room to meet someone she had once known.
As she entered the room, a large, elegant man dressed in a charcoal grey business suit stood up.
"Lois, honey. Do you remember me?"
She blinked. In her mind she saw this same man, in shirt sleeves, coming out of an office door and bellowing, "Copy!"
"Perry? Perry White?"
Perry strode forward and gathered her into a huge bear hug. "Lois, honey, is that you?"
"Well, I'll be. Last year, I thought you were back, only to find out different. Now, you *are* back. I don't know how this can be 'n I don't care — I'm happier 'n a preacher in a month of Sundays!"
Hugging him back, Lois laughed as she said, "Perry, you don't change a bit." When they'd disentangled themselves from the bear hug, she asked, "How's the Planet?"
"Don't know. I'm so busy now, I haven't the time to keep my hand on the pulse of the Planet."
"You're not at the Daily Planet anymore?"
"No. Why, honey, last year when you … no that other you … came to us, I was elected Mayor of Metropolis."
"Yep." He grinned at her obvious surprise. "Mr. Olsen insisted that I throw my hat in the ring. I'm glad he did. As mayor, I can do a heck of a lot of good for the city, more than I could as editor at the Planet."
Lois walked over to the sofa and sat down. "Mayor. It's going to take some getting used to." She smiled as he came over and sat beside her. "But I know you're a great mayor. You couldn't be anything less."
"That memory of yours might be a little wonky, but you seem to have some sense still." He grinned at her, and winked.
Lois grinned back. "I guess you were right, back when I called you for authorization to go to the Congo, I should have listened to you — I should have been more careful."
"You remember that?" Perry sounded surprised.
Surprised herself, Lois nodded. "Yes. It's like that sometimes. A memory just appears. Anyway, you *were* right. I should have been more careful."
"Lois, you were *never* careful. It's part of what makes you a good reporter."
"I was a good reporter, wasn't I?" Lois felt a need for reassurance.
"Good? You were great! Still are, I'm sure."
"I don't know, Perry. It's been four years. Four *years*! Can you believe it?"
"Yep, it's been a long time. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since we both worked at the Planet." Perry sighed. "Who'd have thought there'd be a man who could fly? He defeated Tempus, you know, barely in the nick of time. With Tempus and his gun- boosting ways gone, the people are coming around to a sane way of life. That gun-promoting President Heston is gone because it was the end of his second term. The people had more sense than to elect *his* preferred candidate …"
"Who *is* President, now?"
"Why, of course, being shut up in that institution over there in Britain, you wouldn't know, would you? It's President Jackson … Jesse Jackson … in the White House. He's moving things in a more sane direction. People are starting to get their lives back. There's less bickering and fighting. Things just seem more clean and light now, not so dark and dirty as they were even this time last year." Perry smiled. "I credit Superman with a lot of that change."
Lois' heart beat faster. "Superman?"
"Yep! Best thing that ever happened to Metropolis. But you know there are some people that can't see a good thing when they find it! I see the media ballyhooing the worst in people like it was a *good* thing. I don't know what the world is coming to. The news media can't seem to publish the good, it's always got to be the bad."
"Well, Perry, you always said that 'nice isn't news.'" Lois blinked. She could visualize several occasions when Perry had made that statement, or ones that meant the same thing. She should have felt great pain at this memory flash, but for once the pain lasted only an instant and then was completely gone. She was truly grateful for this turn of events.
The fleeting pain mustn't have even registered on her face because Perry didn't appear to notice anything unusual. He simply responded, "Yes, but *we* never went looking to find the nasty side, or making it up if we couldn't find it. That's the way it seems to be nowadays."
"Even at the Daily Planet?"
"No, the Planet still has its integrity intact. But people don't seem to want integrity in news, they seem to want the gossip … that's what sells, anyway." Perry sighed. "I guess it's going to take a lot longer for the media to follow the trend away from the dark and dirty."
"So, people will vote for the clean, but when it comes to the news they still want to read about the dark side?"
"Yeah, I guess that'd be just about right. Just don't you believe everything you hear."
"I never do, Perry." Lois grinned at him.
"Yep, you always did have a nose for the truth. If you had been here when Tempus reared his ugly head you would have known he was a con artist. Instead it was up to your double from the other dimension to show Superman what to do." Perry paused for a second. "You know, that whole experience reminded me of when Elvis got drafted into the army and then laid eyes on Priscilla. She was only a girl, but whoa Nellie … He knew they were meant for each other." Perry stopped abruptly, as if he had seen her eyes glazing over and realized he'd gone off on a wild tangent. Suddenly changing topics again he said, "I know it's only been a couple of days since you've been back, but do you think you'll be going back to your job at the Planet? I know it's waiting for you."
"I'm still not sure. Dr. Friskin says to wait until I stop having these memory-triggered pain attacks on a daily basis."
"Yes. Tempus put this mind control device in my back tooth. It prevented me from remembering *anything* about my past life by causing me to feel pain whenever I tried to remember. The device isn't there anymore, but I now have this Pavlovian response to feel pain whenever I have a memory flash. The doctors think I'll eventually stop reacting that way, but in the meantime it's a real pain." She grinned lopsidedly up at him.
Perry put his arm around her shoulder and hugged her. "How long do they think it will be before you're back to normal?"
Lois shrugged. "They don't know. Only a few weeks for me to stop having the pain attacks, they think. They have no idea when, or if, I'll fully recover my memory. I just have to try to do things and be with people who are familiar."
"Then getting back to work at the Planet should do you a world of good. I hope that can be soon, for your sake." Perry hugged her again, and then stood up. "I've got to get going now. I've got a ribbon-cutting ceremony in half an hour."
Lois stood up. "I'm glad you came by, Perry. It's been good to see you."
Perry leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "Now, you listen to old Perry and get well as fast as you can. The Planet needs you! You hear?"
"Yes, Perry. I hear." She gave him one last hug and escorted him to the front door, waving good-bye as he fended off the reporters standing at the end of the Lane driveway on his way to his limousine.
Lois stood in front of the bathroom mirror adjoining her childhood bedroom, trying to get that last strand of hair to stay put. It was early Monday morning, ten days after her release from the hospital and she was preparing for her first day back at the Daily Planet.
Dr. Friskin had encouraged her to get back on the job, and she had been eager to follow this advice. This would give her the independence she craved. She'd spent the last four years in a mental institution and staying with her parents seemed almost as restrictive … perhaps more so. Getting back into the real world would be good for her.
Perry White's opinion had gone a long way towards persuading her mother ("After all, he *is* the mayor!") that this was the right thing for Lois to do.
That was all very well and good. However, right now, staring at herself in the mirror, Lois wasn't so sure about working again. She was once again feeling lost and afraid. After four years, did she still have what it took to be a Kerth-winning reporter? Would Clark Kent continue to avoid her? Would she ever fully regain her memory? To counteract her nervousness, she started the mental positive strokes Dr. Friskin had encouraged her to practice. She was Lois Lane, awarding-winning reporter. She was a fighter. She had done this before, she could do it again.
Lois took a deep breath. Well, here went nothing. She gave her hair a final brush stroke, put the brush back on the counter beside the sink and left the bathroom. She would be fine, if only she could stop trembling.
Her father drove her to the nearest subway station. Strangely, there were almost no reporters parked at the end of the driveway to her parents' house. There had been a small contingent there every day since she had arrived home from the hospital. She hoped they had finally given up on finding a story in her return to Metropolis.
After saying goodbye to her father and thanking him for the lift, Lois used some of the advance she'd been given by personnel at the Planet to buy her ticket for the subway. She took the Metro line in to the station just outside the main entrance to the Daily Planet. As the train got closer and closer to her destination, her stomach tightened at the thought of starting work again.
The anticipation of getting right back in to the job she had once apparently done without a second thought a few years ago was rapidly evaporating. Now, she was terrified. She wanted desperately to turn around and go back home, but she didn't want to admit defeat. She couldn't live with herself if she didn't follow through and put in a day's work today. Tomorrow would have to take care of itself.
As the train drew into the station, she was mentally talking herself through her nervousness. Everything would be fine. She had done this before. The people she worked with were nice and would help her over the rough first few days. She was Lois Lane, award-winning reporter. She just had to think positive.
Breathing deeply, she stood up, exited the train and followed the crowds from the station platform up the escalator and stairs to the street.
It seemed like the second she stood on the street itself, she was surrounded by people with microphones, cameras and notepads. They all seemed to be talking at once, demanding she answer their questions, yet not giving her a chance to do so.
"Ms. Lane. How does it feel to be back at the Planet?"
"What's it like coming back after all this time?"
"How are you going to do your job without your memory?"
"Hey, Lois, nice to see you back!"
"How do you feel about working with Clark Kent?"
"Yeah, what's it like … flying with Superman?"
Lois' anxiety skyrocketed. She had no idea who these people were or why they wanted to know these things. Who was Clark Kent? Who was Superman? Who was Lois?
She could feel the air pressing on her lungs, the faces surrounding her were moving their lips … demanding … insisting. She had no idea what they wanted. She could feel a sob rising in her throat. She *had* to get away. She wanted to be back home, safe, in her bedroom, and *away* from all of this.
Then suddenly they all stopped. Almost as one body, they turned and looked up. Lois looked up too — and gasped. What she saw took her breath away.
Superman was descending feet first, one arm raised above his head, his cape fluttering up and behind him. She had never seen anything like it! His arrivals on the evening news had given her *no* idea of the absolute wonder of his presence. When he landed in front of her she had to consciously remember to close her mouth.
He quietly asked, "Are you all right?"
She nodded, too much in awe to reply. She had sat on a plane for seven hours with this … being? It was incomprehensible!
He turned around and faced the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen. I thought Mr. Olsen made it *quite* clear that he would be arranging a press conference with Ms. Lane when she was well enough to participate. Your behaviour today is not going to assist towards that end."
There was a general sound of grumbling among the crowd. The man Lois had seen ten days earlier, on the TV talk show with Lana Lang and then in front of the hospital when she had been released, jeered, "What's the matter, Kent? Don't you want us to find out the details of your relationship?"
"Mr. Kidsign, I know you support Ms. Lang's contention that Ms. Lane and I have some kind of longstanding relationship. I can tell you that is *not* true. Ms. Lane is a co-worker … or will be if you'll let her pass."
He turned and faced Lois again. She could see the muscle in his cheek fluttering, as if he were restraining his anger. "Come, Ms. Lane, Mr. Olsen doesn't like his staff to be late." He indicated she should head in the direction of the entrance and, once the crowd had parted to let them pass, he followed her through the revolving doors of the Daily Planet.
Once they were inside, the outside noise was abated and Lois' anxiety was reduced. She looked around herself in amazement. She *remembered* this place!
The few people in the lobby scurried onto the first available elevator. She wondered why they were in such a rush to get away from her until she turned around and saw the irate expression on Superman's face.
"What's the matter? Why did they leave?"
In a severe tone of voice, he said, "They were rubber-necking. Mr. Olsen specifically told everyone to give you some space and to *not* do anything to make you feel like you didn't belong."
"Oh!" Lois wanted desperately to stroke the frown from his face, and reassure him she wasn't upset by their curiosity. "Well, that's okay. I guess it's only natural that they'd be curious. I mean, as far as they're concerned, I rose from the dead."
He pressed his lips together, then opened them again to say, "Yes, but they shouldn't have been hanging around the lobby waiting for you."
Another elevator arrived, and Superman followed her into the empty car and stood slightly behind her. She turned to face the front and watched the floors light up as the elevator rose to the fourth floor.
She heard a sound like a distant wind and when she turned to look in the direction of the noise, she saw that the man beside her was dressed in a grey slacks, navy blazer, white shirt and a burgundy tie. Lois felt her jaw drop.
"How do you *do* that?"
Clark blushed. "I just move really, really fast."
Lois raised her eyebrows.
"I used to find a closet or someplace to change, but the other Clark does it this way — and it seemed more practical."
Oh, right, the other Clark, who matched the other Lois. She didn't want to face that issue right now. But, on looking at him from head to foot, there was one thing she *did* want to know. "Where do you keep the cape and the boots?"
Before he could answer, the elevator pinged and the doors slid open onto the noise and insanity of the newsroom she remembered.
"Lois Lane! Welcome!" Mr. Olsen greeted her like she was a long- lost friend, although they had only met that one time in front of Metropolis General, that she remembered. "Come on into the newsroom. People are anxious to get reacquainted."
Clark Kent moved away from her side and led the way down the ramp into the newsroom.
A tall, elegant woman in a navy business suit stood at the bottom of the ramp. Mr. Olsen guided Lois towards her.
"Lois Lane. Carolyn DeVries, Editor-In-Chief."
They shook hands.
"Pleased to meet you, Lois. Perry has told me a lot about you. If you're even half as good as he claims, we'll get along just fine."
Lois was then introduced to a series of other people she vaguely remembered working with four years ago.
At the end of the introductions, Mrs. DeVries said, "Lois, I'll have Mr. Kent give you an orientation tour of the building. I'm sure a lot has changed since you were last here."
"Thank you. That will help a lot."
Mrs. DeVries was commandeered by one of the copy editors Lois had been introduced to earlier, and she and Clark Kent were left standing alone.
Lois felt a little nervous. She was standing next to someone who she found only too attractive. Furthermore, she now had to work, to produce, to show that she could be the reporter she had once been. She took a deep breath to calm herself. Here at the Daily Planet, she was remembering more of her past life than at any other time since she'd left Sutcliffe, but she knew she had huge gaps that might be crucial for her to actually do the work.
Clark Kent coughed politely and gestured in the general direction of the elevators. "Why don't we start with the presses. They haven't changed much since you worked here before."
Clark Kent gave her the tour of the Daily Planet floor-by-floor, pointing out the location of personnel, the lunch room, the executive floor, and the state-of-the-art computer centre installed since Mr. Olsen had bought the Daily Planet. She wondered about his impersonal approach to the tour. On the trip over from England he had not been hesitant to hold her hand. Now he seemed to avoid touching her.
At the end of the building tour, he gave Lois the tour of the newsroom itself. This included various meeting rooms surrounding the newsroom, which now all contained computers for group research; a stop in front of the wall of awards — some of which had the name Lois Lane on them, although she didn't remember getting any of them; then on to the photocopy room, the scanner and the fax machine. The tour ended in front of a desk that seemed familiar to Lois.
"Mrs. DeVries has arranged for you to have your old desk back. She thought that the familiarity of the desk you had always used would help your recall of past events."
Lois wondered who had given it up for her. Whoever it was, she was grateful. "Yes, that will be a big help. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Mrs. DeVries would like to meet with you in half an hour to discuss your work assignments, so I'll leave you to get re-acquainted with your desk."
Lois smiled her thanks, and she watched him go towards a nearby desk which had his name on one corner. As she sat down at the desk she once again wondered about why he was now treating her differently than he had on the flight from England.
Mrs. DeVries assigned her to work on a problem with water contamination in the Hobb's Bay area. It seemed an old nuclear facility was leaking into the bay and there was now the potential for a major catastrophe.
Lois found that investigating a news story was like riding a bicycle. In no time she was on top of the story and loving it. Dr. Friskin had been right, working would help her tremendously.
Clark Kent's desk was just across the aisle and two forward. While she was on the phone contacting various people about the old nuclear facility, she could see the back of his head as he worked at his computer. Every once in a while he would cock his head to one side, as if he could hear something inaudible to her, and then he'd rise and leave the office for a short while.
She knew in her mind that this meant he was off being Superman, but somehow she could not really make the mental connection between the two sides of this man. It was as if he were two people. On the one hand he was a detached, mild-mannered, overly serious young man in conservative clothes; and, on the other, a strong, considerate, almost god-like creature in the most flamboyant outfit Lois could have ever imagined. How could she have had the temerity to expect someone like him to keep in touch with her? He must help hundreds of people every day. He couldn't possibly keep in touch with them all!
Lois, besides working on her story, filled her first day back in the office making appointments with contacts, learning the new computer system they'd installed during her absence, doing paperwork and paying a visit to personnel to discuss the issue of her back pay.
She spent most of the afternoon with the company lawyer regarding the Planet's liability in her kidnapping and subsequent injury. The fact that Perry White had authorized her trip to the Congo on an approved assignment, and was willing to provide evidence to that effect, boded well for Lois receiving compensation for her on-the-job injury. She also filled in the forms to make a claim against her medical benefits to cover the huge bill from the Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress for services rendered for the past four years. The hospital had apparently footed the bill until they could identify someone to make restitution.
It seemed strange not having Perry White as the Editor-In-Chief, but the woman replacing him, Carolyn DeVries, seemed competent and a similar no-nonsense type.
Despite doing the work she loved, by the end of her first day of working Lois was feeling totally wiped. It had been four years after all since she had put in these kind of hours. The work was great, she loved being back in the newsroom, and she was glad that she had come back full time, really she was, but her body just wasn't coping all that well with putting in a full day of work. Now she had to face getting home to her parent's house in Harmony Heights. Well, she couldn't sleep *here*, so she'd just have to tap into what little energy she still had left and make the trip out to her parents' house.
She took her purse out of the bottom drawer of her desk, slowly stood up, and walked to the coat rack. Clark Kent was there ahead of her, taking her coat off the rack and obviously ready to help her into it.
"You don't have to do that. I can put it on myself." Lois knew she sounded grumpy, but she couldn't help it … she was just so *tired*.
Sounding apologetic, he said, "I know, but I can see you're fading fast, and I just thought I'd help get you home as quickly and painlessly as possible."
"Quickly?" Was he saying he was going to fly her home? "Won't the media be all over you if you take me to my parents' house?"
"No, I didn't mean *that* quickly. I'll call you a cab and make sure you get home without having to face the incessant microphones and cameras of our 'colleagues' downstairs." He shook her coat out, indicating she should put her arms in the sleeves. Slowly, she turned around and did that. He gently lifted the coat on to her shoulders and let go, without actually touching her.
She felt a tinge of disappointment as he walked over to his desk and picked up the phone. Was he afraid to touch her? It seemed as if he was. Why? She watched him speak quickly and briefly into the mouthpiece and then looked down as he turned around, so he wouldn't see she'd been watching him. He was so fascinating to look at, but she felt embarrassed adding to the number of people watching his every move. She saw his shoes come into view and looked up again.
He smiled and said, "The cab will meet you at the service entrance in five minutes. Do you remember how to get there?" She nodded and he continued, "Just tell the driver your home address. He'll make sure that you get there okay."
Lois walked to the elevators and pushed the button. He was standing in the pit of the newsroom watching her leave and she felt self-conscious. The elevator pinged, he waved a small good- bye, she waggled her fingers back, and the elevator doors closed.
Lois leaned against the side of the elevator and closed her eyes. This man was incredible! She didn't remember ever finding a man so utterly attractive before. Not that she remembered any men in her life, but that was another issue. Notwithstanding, she had to get a grip if she was going to be working with Clark Kent every day. She couldn't spend her days drooling over a man who seemed to find her less than interesting.
Clark peered over his glasses into the elevator and his heart lurched as he saw Lois lean against the elevator wall and close her eyes. He fought a desperate urge to rip open the elevator doors, take her in his arms, and comfort her.
He swallowed. He really had to get a grip. He couldn't go near Lois, except on a professional level, unless he wanted to give Larry Kidsign and his ilk food for their gossip mill. He really needed to stay focussed. If there had been more people in the newsroom right now he couldn't have even done this much for her. At least now she'd get home without running the gauntlet of that mob out front.
Slowly he turned from the elevators and walked through the mostly darkened newsroom to his desk and sat down. He switched on his desk light and sat staring at his blank computer screen.
He wasn't sure he could deal with Lois working at the Planet, now that it was reality. The very idea that the Lois of this dimension was alive and working at the Daily Planet *should* have been heaven. But, with all the controversy created by Lana and her cohorts over Lois being here at all, it was hell!
He scrubbed his face with his hands, trying to rub the tension away. As he combed his hair away from his eyes with his fingers, the memory of coming into work this morning ran through his head, and he smiled.
He'd originally been going to do his normal routine of landing in a nearby alley, changing into his Clark Kent clothes and coming to work as usual. However, seeing Lois surrounded by those goons and obviously in need of help had changed his mind. Despite the possible risk of being photographed by Larry Kidsign's staff, he'd dropped down to give her whatever help he could. The look of admiration on her face had been more than enough reward.
He was glad their first reunion had been when he was dressed as Superman. Somehow, being Superman helped him cope. When he was dressed as Clark Kent she had this disturbing quality of making him feel weak at the knees and of getting past his defences.
Maybe he should quit being a reporter and become Superman full time? It would probably be better for Lois if he did. She didn't need all this furor by the tabloids in addition to her other problems. But, he couldn't. The last ten days of not seeing her, or hearing her voice, had been agony. He couldn't not ever see or hear her again, except when he was Superman, he just couldn't!
His original decision had been the right one. He would continue to work at the Planet and moonlight as Superman. He just had to maintain his control and not let his guard down when he was near Lois. That was all.
At the basement level, Lois stepped out of the elevator and took the wide hall towards the service entrance of the Daily Planet. Six of the bays were actively in use — young men flinging bundles of newspapers into the backs of trucks. The bay on the far right was empty, except for the Metro cab that had just pulled into it. She stepped carefully down the metal stairs to the street level and got into the back of the cab.
"Okay, lady. Where to?" The cab driver pulled down his flag and put the car into reverse. He didn't wait for her to answer as he backed out, but paused once the cab was facing the street.
Lois barely got out, "Three-four-one-two South Forest Street, Harmony Heights," before the cab took off at breakneck speed. She'd forgotten that Metro cabbies couldn't drive … and Clark Kent thought *this* was going to get her home painlessly? Oh, right, what did *he* know — *he* was invulnerable.
She finally stopped clinging to the strap of her seat belt to make sure she stayed on the seat when the cab finally slowed to a reasonable pace, going in exactly the wrong direction to get to her parents' place.
"Er, Harmony Heights is the other way."
The cabbie swerved, barely missing an ice-cream truck in his sudden insane desire to cut it off. "I know. Mr. Kent said I was to lose those clowns who wuz following you."
"Following me? Who's following me?"
"You didn't see 'em?" The cab made a sudden turn down a one-way street. "Back near the Planet. At least one news crew and three tabloids. I don't mind the news guys, but those sleezebuckets at the tabloids, them I'd be *glad* to drive off a short pier."
"Why are you still making these sudden moves?" Lois gasped as the cabbie made yet another lurching turn — this time onto the freeway. "They all know where I live."
"Well, who sez you wuz going home? You *could* be goin' on a story. And, one of them sleezebuckets is still on our tail." He revved his engine, and crossing four lanes in about as many seconds, took the next ramp off at Wane Boulevard and did a sharp right turn into a quiet residential neighbourhood. He slowed to a crawl and pulled over to the side of the street, cutting his headlights, but not the engine — which was quietly idling, pending another hasty retreat, she supposed.
Lois heard the scream of tires as a van sped off the end of the ramp two blocks behind them and roared up Wane Blvd, perpendicular to the end of the street they were on. "Was that them?"
"Uh, huh. Now we just wait a few minutes to see if they come back." He picked up his cab radio and connected to his dispatcher. "George? Henry, here. I gotta CJK passenger. You wanna get someone to run scared off Wane towards the south luring a dark blue van, with sleezebuckets on board? Thanks."
Lois heard the dispatcher's "Roger" as she looked over her shoulder in time to see another Metro cab speed up the ramp onto the freeway in the general direction of Harmony Heights — with a dark blue van almost right up against its rear bumper.
"Geezus, if Fred don't pick up speed they're gonna catch on." He flicked the button on his radio again. "George, will ya tell Fred to get a *move* on, they're right up his … " Lois saw him glance in the rearview mirror, " … tail!"
Lois grinned at his obvious switch in vocabulary. He didn't know female reporters very well if he thought her ears were *that* tender!
The dispatcher made soothing noises to Henry and then told Fred to "Juice it, like you was fresh squeezed."
Lois giggled. Less than an hour ago, she'd been tired and frazzled and worn right out, but *this* was getting her blood flowing again. She loved this kind of life. How could she possibly have forgotten it for four years?
Henry looked at her in his rearview mirror. "You okay, Miss?"
"I'm fine. Just fine. And, please … call me Lois."
He shut off the engine. "Okay, Lois. Now we just set here for a few more minutes, just to be sure them sleezebuckets don't come back, and then we'll be on our way. I'll have you home in a jiff."
"Thanks, Henry." Lois smiled. "Do you do this sort of thing often?"
"Not any more. When Mr. Kent was first doing his Superman thing, I wuz *always* doing this. Me and my brother-in-law, Joe. We'd take turns ferrying Mr. Kent where he needed to go — when he wasn't flying, that is. It's hard to be a reporter if you're wearing blue tights, and reporters have to get around town, but them ambulance chasers was always following him wherever he went, so Mr. Kent used us. Anyways, it turns out his landlord and the owner of Metro Cab is golf buddies, and they made this pact to protect Mr. Kent against all them nuts and fruitcakes he has to deal with now he's Superman. Now we're all of us CJK drivers - but usually Mr. Kent asks for me, or Joe."
"Them's Mr. Kent's initials."
Lois could figure out two of the three but wanted to know, "What's the J stand for?"
Henry shrugged. "I dunno. It's just the code we use, soze we know what action to take." He peered into his rearview mirror, again. "It looks like they ain't coming back. Let's go." He started the car and slowly drove towards the freeway ramp, carefully avoiding any indication of hurry or urgency.
In what seemed like no time at all, Lois was stepping out of the cab in front of her parent's house. There was only one rather tired-looking man dozing over his steering wheel in a blue Chevy parked on the street in front of the neighbour's house. He perked up when he saw her, but looked disappointed to see her alone. Lois guessed he must be the lookout man for one of the tabloids.
Henry leaned over and opened the front passenger window. "You want I should have Joe pick you up tomorrow morning? He works the day shift and you might need special help getting past them sleezebuckets for a few days."
She was about to protest that she didn't need to avoid the sleazebuckets, they knew where she lived and worked, so what was the point? Then she realized that being followed everywhere she went would put a definite crimp in her reporting style. She should keep them guessing, even on such a simple thing as getting to and from work. Besides, she didn't *really* want to have to face that mob in front of the Planet every morning and evening and Henry was waiting for her answer.
"Yes, that would be great. Would 7 a.m. be okay?" She saw him note this on a time sheet.
She opened her purse, pulled out her wallet to pay Henry and stopped open-mouthed when he told her to hold on to her money. A CJK didn't cost *nothing*.
"But, why not? You did all that extra work to get me here without the 'sleazebuckets' — I *owe* you."
"No ma'am. Mr. Kent only calls a CJK in a real emergency. It's the least I can do for him."
Lois looked at Henry's face. He was sincere. "What did Clark Kent *do*, that makes you want to risk your health and income this way?"
For the first time since Lois had seen him, Henry looked embarrassed. "Mr. Kent, he done saved my little grand-daughter from being killed by a falling building … and my niece, Joe's oldest daughter, too. Some sadist put a bomb in the daycare centre where my little Janie was … a *daycare* centre! Can you believe it? Joe's daughter teaches there. If it hadn't been for Superman, they'd be dead! I … *we* can't never do enough that will pay him back for that. Never!"
Lois put her hand through the cab window and squeezed his hand in an awkward handshake. "Thank you. Thanks for everything."
"You're more than welcome … Lois. Now you git into that house while I make sure no-one's going to get after you." He glared at the man in the blue Chevy and made shooing motions. "Have a nice evening."
"You, too." Lois walked up to the house and let herself in. Through the window beside the front door, she watched Henry drive off. What a really nice man. His devotion to Clark Kent was amazing. She wondered how many other supporters Superman had like Henry.
The next couple of weeks seemed to fly right by for Lois. Each morning Joe would pick her up in a cab and deposit her at the rear entrance of the Daily Planet, and each evening Henry would take her on the return trip.
She found out a lot about both Joe and Henry's families, but rarely got to say more than two words to Clark Kent, himself. He seemed to be completely involved in either following news stories, or in making them. She wished he would just hold an ordinary conversation with her.
Late in her first week at work, Mr. Olsen arranged for another news conference. This time she was able to remain calm and answered most of the questions. She simply ignored the ones about her supposed relationship with Clark Kent/Superman, and when pressed just stated the truth, "I don't know anything about that."
Her memory was still not there for many of the areas of her life. However, the recall she needed to do her job seemed to be working just fine. She took Dr. Friskin's advice and tried to not worry about the parts that she couldn't remember and concentrate on the parts she could. Eventually, she hoped, the missing pieces would reappear and fall into place.
Clark had tried to stay away from Lois as much as he could. He knew if he hovered around her that Larry Kidsign or his cohorts would get wind of it and make her life miserable. On the other hand, he desperately wanted to be with her.
He had tried to spend as much time as possible at the Planet during the last couple of weeks, just so he could be close to Lois. Fortunately, emergencies requiring Superman's help during daylight hours were down from last year. He still had to occasionally leave for a rescue or to stop a crime, but for the most part he was able to be in the Planet working on his usual stories for the first two weeks she was back at work.
After Clark's dual life had been exposed last year, Mr. Olsen had insisted that Clark keep his job at the Planet even if it was only to give firsthand accounts of his experiences as Superman. It hadn't taken any great intellect to realize that he would no longer be able to do undercover investigative journalism. Besides, his writing style was more suited to background pieces than it was to exposes. So his new assignments fitted both his writing style and his personality.
He was happy to be writing up pieces on topics like the reason city hall needed more resources; or how the elderly were being treated at one of the local nursing homes; why young offenders repeated their crimes despite, or because of, the current legal system; and so on. Other reporters might find them dull, but he had more than enough excitement in his other life. He liked the contrast, it gave a balance to his life.
He had only taken one day off during the last few weeks. On the anniversary of his landing on Earth, May 17, he had gone to Washington to donate his first costume to The Smithsonian. Now that he had many costumes, he felt that the safest place for Lois Lane's original was at this national institution of preservation. It felt good to know that people would see what the other Lois Lane had done for him.
Now, if he could only figure out a way to ask *this* Lois Lane for a date, without the entire world breathing down their necks everything would be perfect.
Lois decided she wanted to let Clark Kent know how grateful she was for his help in making her trips back and forth to work less stressful. She wasn't exactly sure how to handle it, but on the Friday of the second week after she had first met Henry she decided to invite Clark to lunch as a thank-you gesture. She waited until the immediate area around their desks was clear of prying ears and asked him. To her dismay, he declined.
He must have seen the disappointment in her face because he said that he rarely left the building during the day, except for business reasons.
She raised her eyebrows in query.
He shrugged one shoulder. "There's a group of people, mostly women, who follow me around wherever I go. I try to avoid them whenever possible."
"Superman groupies?" Lois wanted to laugh, but she could see that this was a serious problem for him, and restrained herself.
He nodded. "Clark Kent gets his share too." He gave her a crooked smile.
"Clark Kent, are you telling me that wherever you go — whether you're dressed as Superman or not — you have hordes of women *following* you? That's nuts. Why don't you just tell them to get lost?"
"I've tried, but they just keep coming back." He sounded resigned.
"If you say so, Clark, but I think you need to *do* something about this. They're making you a prisoner inside this building." Then another thought occurred to her. "What about your home? Are they there too?"
"Not any more. My landlord took care of that."
"How did he do that?"
"Well, he hired a company of security specialists to prevent anyone from entering my apartment. So far it's working. I don't get people trying to break in, anymore. Although, at the moment the National Whisper has a 24/7 watch on people coming and going from my place."
"Seven days a week! Twenty-four hours a day! Whatever for?"
Clark coloured again. "They want to prove that you and I are having a hot relationship. That's the other reason we can't go out to lunch together."
Lois narrowed her eyes. "Okay, that does it! I want to know *exactly* what's going on here. I'm tired of all this talk about us having some supposed relationship. I have seen you — what? — twice, three times in my life … outside of work. Why do people think we're in a relationship?"
Clark looked down at his hands and picked invisible lint off his sleeve. "It's kind of complicated."
"Okay. So why don't I go out, pick us up some lunch and we can talk about this in one of the conference rooms?"
"I wouldn't recommend you going out, either. You'll just get surrounded and questioned by what Henry calls the 'sleazebuckets.'"
Lois realized, for the first time, that all of her trips from the Planet had always been by Joe's or Henry's cab. She'd always either brought her lunch or eaten at whatever location she was investigating. She hadn't gone out the front entrance of the Planet since she had returned to work the beginning of last week.
"So, what *do* you recommend? I *have* to eat."
Clark raised his eyebrows, as if he'd just realized she was only human. "Yes, I guess that *would* be a drawback."
Lois blinked. Was he joking? "You *do* eat, don't you?"
"Well, I *like* to eat, but I don't *have* to."
She turned on her heel, grabbed a notepad from her desk, noted down two ham-and-cheese-on-kaisers and two large Pepsis, took some money out of her purse, snagged the first assistant who walked past her desk and demanded he pick up the order at Gabby's Deli, or whatever deli was nearby nowadays, and deliver it to her and Mr. Kent in the back conference room where they would be working on a story.
The youth stuttered a "Yes, ma'am!" and hurried off to do her bidding.
When Lois turned around, Clark was staring at her in awe.
"Well, don't just sit there gawking, let's get this story clarified." She stomped off in the direction of the conference room.
By the time she entered the room, Clark Kent was right behind her with a number of files in hand.
Lois pointed at the files and gave him a querying look.
He said, "If we're supposed to be working on a story, I thought we should have some files to support that impression."
"Oh, right. I forgot that part. Good thing you're on your toes." She flushed with embarrassment. She was pretty sure she would *not* have failed to arrange that kind of cover in her old life.
Clark laid out the files artistically on the table, some opened at charts and pictures, to give the impression they were being discussed. "I have years of practice covering the truth with other truths."
"So what is the truth? I mean there was that woman on TV the first night I arrived in Metropolis. The one who says she was your fiancee, and keeps popping up on every talk show around. She and that man who was interviewing her were at the hospital the next morning, too. And, he was here again, that first morning I came to work. So, first question, who was that woman on TV the first night I was in Metropolis, and why was she talking about me?"
Clark closed his eyes and ran his hand through his hair. "That's Lana Lang. We were engaged to be married until I became Superman. It's not *you* she's talking about … it's the *other* Lois Lane."
"The Lois Lane that came from the other dimension? The one that showed you how your Special skills could be used?"
"She did more than that, she gave me the confidence to *be* Superman. She even created my first costume. I had all these skills, but I was afraid to use them. She showed me how. Lana and I broke off right after that."
Lois swallowed. The woman had said he was obsessed with Lois Lane, but as she had supposed, it wasn't *her* … it was that *other* Lois Lane. She had so hoped that he would like *her*. She needed to know how much that other Lois meant to Clark now. Trying not to let her voice indicate her distress, Lois said, "Did you love her very much?"
"Lana? I thought I did. For years she was the one person in my life who knew about me … all of me. When she said she would marry me, I thought she truly loved me — I was wrong."
Lois felt herself flinch at the bleak expression in Clark's face.
"No … I meant the other Lois Lane."
"I don't *think* so. I felt drawn to her. It was as if I'd met another part of *me*. I needed her. She freed me from the narrow life that Lana had planned for me and I had accepted as the only life possible for someone like me. I'll always be grateful to her for that." His expression had changed to something that Lois wasn't able to read … unless it was reverence.
"Is that … is that why you came for me? Because I remind you of her?"
He looked startled by her words. "No! Never! I saw the other Lois Lane and felt some kind of weird compulsion whenever I was with her. I came to realize that what I was feeling was an echo of my need for *you*. Only you were *dead*!"
Lois was reassured. He *did* care about her, but before she could find the words to express how she felt, she saw his pain. She desperately wanted to wipe the anguished expression from his face and the sadness from his eyes but had no idea *how*.
He continued, "I looked for you … but I couldn't find you, and then … " He breathed a shuddering sob. She saw him manfully gain control over his emotions. "I am so grateful that you aren't dead and I finally got to meet you. I never thought I would."
A fragment of a memory of the madman in a tent crossed her mind. "Clark?" His head lifted and he looked into her eyes. "That's what *he* said. He said he couldn't let Superman … you … meet his true love in Metropolis! He said that's why I was there in the Congo … to stop you from meeting your true love!"
"I kn-know, and he almost k-k-killed you … because of *me*! I can never forgive myself for that." He was raking his fingers through his hair, the only sign, other than his stutter, that his emotions were deeper than they appeared on the surface.
Lois walked around the table and brushed his hair from his eyes with her fingers. "It's okay, Clark. It wasn't your fault. He tried everything to prevent you from becoming the Superman you were meant to be … but he *failed*! You *are* the Superman you were intended to be. I've seen how much people revere you, and respect what you do … even the groupies are a kind of warped sign that you're making this world a better place. Tempus' plot to stop us from meeting did not prevent the other Lois and you from fulfilling your true destiny! Any little bit of danger I was in is *nothing* compared to that!"
He stood up, stepped back, and stared at her. "Little! Little!! You call being maimed and at death's door, *little*?!"
"Well, it's not the only time I almost died. Did I ever tell you about the time I was kidnapped by a murderer and left to die in the wilds of Ohio? No? Really? Oh, right … so far we've only talked for any length of time on the plane from England and *then*, we only talked about *your* life story." She grinned up at him, hoping to erase the solemn expression from his face.
"You're making that up … right? Please tell me you're making that up."
Lois was distressed by his reaction. He was really hurting … she wasn't sure why that was so, but he was and she needed to reassure him.
"Clark, I don't remember all the details, but I *do* know I've been putting myself in danger since I was in high school. Whatever you did or didn't do would not change that. You seem to have some universal connection with me … even Tempus said that … however, that doesn't mean that I'll not keep getting into trouble in the process. You're going to have to get used to that, I think. I don't remember exactly what kinds of danger I've put myself into, but I'm pretty sure that any one of them would probably give you heart failure."
He turned away from her, muttering something that sounded a whole lot like, "Oh, great … just what I need … more stress in my life."
"Well, Clark, I never promised you a rose garden." She grinned at him.
Before he could respond, the assistant arrived with the sandwiches and drinks. Lois thanked him and closed the door on his departure. She walked over to the table, sat down facing Clark across the table and began opening her sandwich and can of soda.
Turning back to face her, he said, "Did anyone ever tell you you're insane?"
"Oh, yes, Perry White was always telling me I was crazy." She giggled. "But, he always let me go ahead with whatever I was doing, anyway."
Clark clutched his temples dramatically and groaned. "And, I thought everything would be great once I found you."
"Hey, it *will* be, you just have to be patient."
"Can I get that in writing?"
Lois wasn't entirely sure if he was serious. He always *looked* so serious it was hard to tell.
"Clark, there are no guarantees in life. Look at me: against all the odds I'm back here working at the Planet when I could just as easily have been rotting under a mound of leaves in the jungle of the Congo."
Clark's expression became even more serious. "I think you were. I mean, I'm not really sure, but I think Mr. Wells found the time that you actually died and took me there to rescue you. He didn't exactly say, but I think before that you really *were* dead."
"But that's *impossible*! I was in Sutcliffe for four *years*. They have the records, not to mention the medical bills, to prove it!"
"I know. But, I think that's only one version of reality … the one from *your* point of view. From *my* point of view, you died in 1993. Mr. Wells decided to find you in 1996 and it took him until my April of 1997 to do that. He took me to the right place and time in 1993 to find you, rescue you before you could be killed, and put you in the Sutcliffe. The next morning, in this 1997, I phoned the Sutcliffe. You had been there four years, but I had only left you there twelve hours earlier, my time. Do you see what I'm saying?"
"Yes, that reality isn't everything it's cracked up to be." Lois felt a little disoriented for a few seconds. She breathed deeply to help calm herself. "Clark, this means that I really do have a second chance at life. I can't just let my life not mean *anything*. I have to make it mean *something*. I just have to figure out what."
"Do you have any ideas?"
Lois shook her head. "Not at the moment." She could see that Clark cared for her. She thought he cared quite a lot. But, ever since he'd left her at the hospital he seemed to be avoiding her. Maybe now was the time to ask for an explanation.
"Clark, what did you mean when you said that you thought everything would be great once you found me? You seem to have been avoiding me. Does the idea that people think we're having a torrid romance bother you that much?"
She saw him swallow and make a couple of attempts to answer. "Lois, I'm sorry. It's not that I wanted to avoid you, it's just that I was trying to stop your name from being dragged through the gutter press. Not that it's made that much difference, but I thought that if they didn't actually catch us together, then you would be spared."
"So, you were avoiding me for my own good?"
Lois sighed. "Clark, has anyone ever informed you that you are a complete idiot?"
She saw his jaw drop open, and it took all her willpower to prevent herself from laughing.
"Oh, I see, no-one tells the great and powerful Superman that his brain cells have atrophied?" She threw up her hands in mock horror. "What is the world coming to?"
"Er … "
"Never mind, I understand. You have this need to protect, and I was the latest target." She took a calming breath. "Clark, people need to be in charge of their own lives, you can't do it all for them."
She got up again and started to pace. "You know, the one thing that I really hate the most about coming back is that I don't have any control over my life. I'm back living with my parents. I can't do my job without an audience half the time, and I can't even invite you out for lunch to thank you for everything you've done for me. And to top it all off, you're avoiding me for my own good. What kind of life is that?"
"You didn't have any control at Sutcliffe, either."
"Well, at least at Sutcliffe I couldn't remember having any other kind of life. This is so *frustrating* because I *know* this isn't the kind of life I want … but I don't seem to be able to *change* anything." She slammed her fist down on the table, then nursed her hand where it had made contact.
"What can you do … that's the way life is."
"No, Clark, that's *not* the way life is — not for Lois Lane! And, it shouldn't be for Clark Kent, either!"
She continued pacing, trying to think of a way to make her life more bearable. Why was Clark so calm? He ought to be even more frustrated by this whole thing than she was. She at least was a supposed "invalid" and was under medical supervision, he was as close to a god as anyone could get. He should be able to do *anything*, but couldn't … or, wouldn't.
She stopped and waving her hands in frustration, said, "Clark, why do you put up with this …?"
"Bull? Stupidity? Insanity?" Clark quietly waited for her clarification.
Lois stopped waving her hands and glared at him. Placing her hands on her hips, she said facetiously, "All of the above!"
Clark shrugged. "What choice do I have? People are interested in me and everything I do. I can't stop that."
"No, you can't … but you could *manage* it. I mean how do the movie stars and royalty deal with all the media attention *they* get?"
"Often, they don't. The paparazzi are everywhere … sometimes with deadly results."
"Yes, but the legitimate media toe the line. They're willing to forego the candid shot in hopes of getting an 'official' communique … something they can legitimately present to their manager or editor."
"What are you suggesting?"
"Well … I'm not really sure, but like you said that first morning I came in to the Planet, the press has to perform as promised if they want the guaranteed interview. Decide on when and where you'll be available to meet the press and ignore anyone who doesn't toe the line, and only the honest press will get the straight story."
"Is that what you plan to do?"
"Me? Why me? I'm only Lois Lane, reporter."
"Reputed to be the 'secret' love interest of the above-named Superman."
She stood with her hands on her hips, trying to exude displeasure with him, without a great deal of success. "Has anyone ever told you you're *really* annoying?"
"Not lately." Clark grinned at her.
Her heart flipped over. His smile had that kind of effect on her. She had to stay focussed.
"Well, I *still* think we need to come up with a plan of action. I'm tired of everyone else but me controlling my life."
"Do you have anything specific in mind?"
"Not yet. But, I will."
Clark felt overwhelmed. Just looking at Lois Lane made him lightheaded. The realization that she was *alive* and might actually even like him was enough to make him weak at the knees. He was terrified of blowing this relationship, but found himself acting stilted and serious whenever he was with her.
Clark knew he wasn't handling this budding relationship very well, but then again he only had his experience with Lana to fall back on. At the time he had thought he and Lana had a good relationship, but now he knew that his bond with Lana had been distorted — ruled by his need for secrecy and love. He had briefly dated other girls in high school and college, but that hadn't given him *any* idea about what he should do now.
Could he even ask Lois for a date? With all the media attention they were both getting he didn't see how he could. It was so *frustrating*. He had finally found the one person he felt sure was the one for him and he couldn't even ask her out for coffee without it becoming front-page news world-wide!
Lois, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing. She somehow made their impossible situation sound manageable and seemed really confident that a solution could be found. So in answer to her assertion that she would, eventually, have a solution, he responded, "I hope so."
"So now what do we do?" asked Clark.
She looked up, and his heart stood still. He couldn't breathe — only gaze into her eyes. He desperately wanted to kiss her, to hold her close, to tell her how much he loved her. And, he *did* love her. He *knew* that, had known it from the second he first set eyes on her. It was like the day he had learned to fly and he *knew* that he *had* to fly. He *had* to be with Lois, it was like they were two sides of the same coin.
He had no idea how long they stood there like that, their love for each other travelling back and forth at light speed across the conference room table until Lois' gaze broke away and she looked at the table.
"How long can you hold your breath?"
Clark suddenly realized that he ought to breathe again.
Taking a deep breath he said, "A very long time."
"Oh." Lois seemed at a loss for words, which Clark was beginning to realize was an unusual occurrence for her.
She stood on the far side of the table for a few minutes, not looking at him. Then she said, "You know, Clark, you are the strongest man in the world, but you don't seem to believe you have any power. I don't understand. Why *is* that?"
"My room-mate at college asked me that same question. I couldn't explain to him that I had these other skills that I constantly had to hide. I guess that's why I don't feel like I have any power, because for so long I haven't been able to express it … first because I had to hide my skills … now because everyone knows who I am and I'm under public scrutiny practically wherever I go."
She still looked puzzled. "But, why are you so concerned about what everybody thinks? I mean, you could go wherever you like, make a home in the Antarctic if you wanted, and commute to Metropolis — but you don't. Instead, you live right here where everyone can get at you easily — and restrict your actions to what is acceptable to others."
Clark was startled. It had never really occurred to him to move out of Metropolis. Living here felt "right."
"Well, I like *being* in Metropolis. It seems like home. I like being near people and I don't want to hurt them, or their feelings."
"Why not? They don't hesitate to hurt yours."
"My Mom and Dad taught me to be concerned about others. I guess it kind of stuck, especially after they died. I've always wanted to do whatever they would have thought was right."
"So I guess this is still Tempus' plan working against you. He killed your parents, just like he did the President and Vice President, to prevent you from being the Superman you were meant to be — and here you are restricted from being everything you should be."
"What! What did you say?" Clark was astounded. Could it be true?
"He killed your …" Lois sat down suddenly. "I remember! He said he popped through a time window and scared the truck driver into the next world and 'the little tyke didn't even notice I was there, he was too busy waving to his parents as they drove towards him.' He k-k-killed your parents, Clark. I don't know *how*, but I know he did!"
Clark slowly sat down. "I know how." He felt numb. "He used the time portal to appear in the truck cab, if *that* didn't scare the truck driver into a heart attack, I'm sure he had a lethal injection of something untraceable to use as back-up"
"Time portal?" Lois was looking rather pale. Clark poured Pepsi into a glass and handed it to her.
"Tempus used a time portal to escape from prison the last time I went to the other dimension … the one where he used mind control to become President of the United States."
Lois lowered her drink to the table. "That's the other thing. I remember! He said he killed the President and Vice President to make everyone believe *you* were the enemy! I *know* he was telling the truth! This is the biggest story …" Lois looked suddenly elated. "I … we, could win the Pulitzer for this!"
Clark moved his chair closer to hers and took her waving hand in his. "He *did* try to make people believe I was the 'enemy' that time the other Lois made my costume." He was trying valiantly to stay focussed, but touching her was making this very difficult. He let go of her hand. "But, before it becomes a story, we have to find corroborative evidence. We can't just go on your recollection of a conversation four years ago along with everything that happened when Tempus tried to steal the mayoral race."
"How can we do that? I'm sure he didn't run around telling anyone else this. Hasn't he spent most of the last four years in jail in one time period, and dimension, or another?"
Clark shrugged. He had no idea. Besides, they'd been in the room long enough. They'd better get out onto the floor and down to work. He started to tidy up the files they had been using as camouflage for this meeting. He stopped when Lois put her hand over his.
"Clark! Don't do that right now. We have to figure out our strategy if we're going to solve this. Look, partner, why don't you go get the right set of files, and I'll start searching the data banks."
"Partner?" She'd said "partner"; this was just like the other Lois and Clark. His heart soared!
"Sure, Clark. This story is too big for just one person. We'll need to work as partners if it's ever going to be resolved."
He got up, picked up the files they'd been using as cover, and went to the morgue to check-out the assassination story files.
When he got back to the conference room, Lois was already deep into research on the computer in the back right corner of the room.
He sat at the table and within moments had read the dozen or so files he'd brought back with him. He waited for Lois to finish her own research before filling her in.
Lois picked up her printouts from the laser printer just outside the conference room and sat down next to Clark at the table.
"You know, Clark, if we're going to be working as partners you're going to have to learn to share what you've read at super speed so I'm at least at the same place as you."
Clark was about to apologize and then saw the teasing look on her face. "Okay."
She'd said "partners" again. He couldn't believe how *happy* this made him. Such a simple thing, but it meant *so* much!
"Clark, you look much nicer when you smile. You should do it more often."
Clark felt his smile broadening into a grin. Being with Lois was the most incredible experience. He wanted more of this, and it looked like, with this story and their budding partnership, he would.
After her talk with Clark in the conference room about how she didn't have any control over her own life, Lois decided that one of her main peeves about her current reality was having to live with her parents.
She talked it over with Dr. Friskin, and then over the weekend began looking for a home of her own. She looked at different places, but everywhere she went the tabloids followed her. One reporter even had the nerve to ask if she were looking for a love nest for herself and Clark. She just rolled her eyes and kept on walking. If she was the paranoid type, she would have thought they were tapping her phone calls. This must be what Clark went through on a daily basis. No wonder he seemed anxious all the time. This kind of harassment was enough to drive anyone nuts.
When she told Clark about this latest encounter, during their Monday morning briefing session about the assassination story, he was appalled.
"Lois, I am *really* sorry you have to go through this. I wish I could do something about it."
"Don't worry, Clark. I can handle them, I just don't want them on my doorstep every night when I get home."
"Then, I'd suggest you look at apartments with high security features. Not every landlord is willing to do what mine did for me." He paused, thinking for a few seconds. "There's one tower that was built by a billionaire entrepreneur who committed suicide about four years ago. The penthouse suite in particular is secure against any type of illegal access."
"Good idea, Clark. The penthouse sounds like it's out of my snack bracket, but I'll take a look at the building."
"Snack bracket?" Clark had a puzzled expression on his face.
Lois patted him on the chest. "Never mind, Clark, I'll just see if they have something in my price range."
That same evening, in her room at her parent's place, Lois was watching television. She was changing channels to watch her favourite night-time soap opera, when she happened on the Larry Kidsign Show being its usual outrageous self. The show broke for commercial, saying to stay tuned for Larry's exclusive interview with Ms. Lana Lang, former fiancee of Superman.
Lois was in two minds whether to continue watching. If she watched, she knew she'd be infuriated. If she didn't, she'd be wondering what spew Lana Lang was dramatizing now. She decided it was better to know than to not know, and waited for the commercial to end.
Larry ran a tape showing Clark, dressed as Superman, defending her from that mob in front of the Daily Planet her first morning at work. However, the voice over said "For all of you that thought Ms. Lang was overstating her complaint against Mr. Kent — here you can see for yourself: Superman brazenly greeting his lover in front of a crowd of witnesses, and she blatantly agreeing to his proposal. I'm sure only our cameras prevented them from caressing each other."
Lois' jaw dropped. The video showed Clark landing in front of her, she knew he had simply asked if she were alright, but the implication of the voice-over made his concerned expression, and her own affirmative nod, seem like much more.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Lana Lang." The studio audience applauded and Lana sashayed towards Kidsign and sat demurely on the chair he indicated.
Lois ground her teeth. This woman's whole body language exuded self-confidence and false modesty.
"Now, Lana. You've seen the tapes. How does that make you feel?"
"Hurt. I feel hurt and humiliated. I knew he had brought her back because he was tired of flying back and forth, but I never thought they'd be so *blatant* about it. The Clark I knew would never have expressed his emotions in public, like that. It's so sad to see the depths that woman has driven him to."
Lois grabbed the phone. She was darn well going to give them a piece of her mind! Then, she paused. No, she couldn't make the call. It would only hurt Clark. If she called, the conversation would more than likely be recorded and broadcast, with a similarly slanted interpretation.
Appalled at the very idea, slowly, Lois hung up the phone. She was starting to understand why Clark might not be as carefree as she would like him to be. Living with this kind of thing, day in and day out, must be hell. She had not realized before what exactly he was going through.
On the television, Lana Lang was continuing to bemoan the fact that Clark had deserted her, that because of him her parents couldn't live in Smallville anymore, and she wasn't going to take it anymore. All this was said in between promotional forays into selling her book. She would point out that he'd been her first lover, he'd promised to marry her and then, after all his promises and her sacrifices for him, he'd abandoned her for that … that … Lois Lane. All the details were in chapter 12 of her book "Super is, as Super does."
Lois felt her gag reflex set in and switched the television off. She didn't feel much like watching a soap opera anymore, real life was starting to feel too much like one.
The next afternoon, Lois entered the apartment building Clark had recommended. The building had a secluded feeling even though it was right on a major street in Metropolis. An arch over the driveway provided access to both the courtyard front entrance and the building's underground garage. She walked through the arch and to the right, where the entrance to the building was landscaped with a small rocky fountain making a soothing noise as she entered the lobby of the building. The security station was impressive, allowing every foot of the public spaces in the building to be visible to the security team. A friendly guard asked who she was visiting and contacted the rental office representative to sign her in.
She toured the building with the representative, who showed off the amenities available to tenants. They took the private elevator to the penthouse which was doubly secure, with ground floor security plus its own entrance security. Nonetheless, the cost of the penthouse was well above her means, even with the back pay she had coming to her from the Daily Planet.
However, there were two vacant one-bedroom apartments lower in the building that *would* fit her budget. She rejected the first one she looked at because it faced in the direction of the LNN tower. All the LNN staff would have to do was set up a camera on a tripod and her whole life would be up for public view. The other apartment had a balcony with a nice view of Oceanside Park and the water lapping up on the park's beach, about a quarter of a mile away. There were no other buildings with a direct line of sight to this apartment. With the ground floor security station, she could feel safe here. Her incoming phone calls could be monitored through the security station if she wanted it that way, but best of all, any incoming visitors entering from the street would be screened. She signed a lease to move in at the beginning of June.
Washington, DC — June, 1997
Over the preceding couple of weeks, Lois had moved into her new apartment, bought some new pieces of furniture and begun her life as an independent woman again.
Over this same period, she had continued working with Clark as they investigated the assassination story. They covered a lot of ground for this story on their own; but, they ran out of leads eventually, and figured they'd have to call in the law enforcement authorities to do any further investigation.
Clark called one of his contacts at the FBI and asked for a meeting, telling Special Agent Tilberry that he had someone who might have a lead on the people who had assassinated Reagan and Bush. The next day they flew the shuttle to Washington to meet with the three agents of the FBI who were still working on the Operation Saboteur case. Lois wondered if they were flying commercial airline so that Clark could avoid physical contact with her. He still seemed to be hesitant to touch her, despite her reassurances that only people they could trust at the Daily Planet had any way of seeing them. They were becoming true friends, but Clark was still extremely nervous about their public image.
They took a taxi to FBI Headquarters and walked along the entrance hall to the main doors. Entry into the building itself was through an air-lock beside the main security desk. They had to stand inside a short corridor until the door they entered by was closed and locked and only then was the opposite door released to be opened. Meanwhile their assigned escort swiped a card and entered a passcode to get through the main revolving doors. Once Lois and Clark had exited into a broad interior corridor, they met up with their escort who explained he was there to accompany them to an interview room.
At every door and elevator, their escort had to use an electronic card to swipe the door open. This, he explained, was to ensure that the security desk knew their whereabouts at all times, any deviation from the designated route would be instantly recognized and acted upon.
Lois looked at Clark and rolled her eyes. She whispered so only he could hear, "Seems like overkill for two lowly reporters."
"Did you say something, ma'am?" Their escort looked at Lois.
"Er, no." In order to avoid direct eye contact which would let the man see she was lying, Lois stared intently at the slow-moving mail robot as it slid past them, along its track in the centre of the corridor.
They continued walking through a maze of corridors until they came to a halt in front of yet another door with a card lock. Their escort swiped his card through the slot and motioned for them to enter. Inside the room was a table, five chairs and nothing else. One wall was mirrored with what Lois assumed was one way glass.
Their escort indicated they should sit in the two seats facing the mirror and then left.
Before either of them had a chance to think of something to say, three men in conservative business suits entered the room and sat in the three chairs on the opposite side of the table.
"Welcome, Mr. Kent. I'm Special Agent Smith and these are Special Agents Brown and Jones. You told Special Agent Tilberry that you had some information about the assassination of the President and Vice President in the summer of 1982. What information would that be?"
Clark swallowed nervously. These were exactly the kind of people that had constituted a large part of his childhood nightmares. It took a couple of seconds for him to counter his nervousness. His apprehension was irrational. Whatever they had been wanting from him before, now they were trusting him to provide the information *they* needed.
"In 1993, Miss Lane was kidnapped in the Congo by the man calling himself Tempus, the same man who, this time last year, tried to kill a television audience with a bomb, in Metropolis. Tempus told Miss Lane that he had assassinated the President and Vice President."
The three men changed the focus of their attention to Lois. "And, why has it taken you so long to bring this to our attention?"
"She was … "
"I was …"
They both stopped talking. "Let me tell this, Clark." She paused and Clark nodded. "I was hit over the head, then shot and left for dead. I was in the Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress near London, England until two months ago. I had amnesia. I only remembered Tempus telling me about this a few weeks ago."
"Why didn't you contact us then?"
"I wasn't sure anyone would believe me. I had to get some corroborative evidence first."
The three men looked at each other. Then Special Agent Smith asked, "And, you now have this corroborative evidence?"
Lois nodded. "We think so. Clark, you tell them about the 'time window.'"
"Time window?" The man on the right asked, as he looked from Lois to Clark.
"Yes, sir. This same Tempus has used a form of time machine called a 'time window' to move between dimensions and different points in history. He used this same machine in another dimension to escape from prison and, through mind control of the general population, become President of the United States. We think he used it to kill the President and Vice President."
"And that's your evidence?" The spokesman looked disappointed.
"No, sir. We haven't been able to access the right evidence to prove our theory. I was hoping to look at the hotel security videos of the assassination, using my special vision."
"We've looked at computer enhanced versions of those videos numerous times and found nothing. We've even blown up frames 1458 to 2178 as being the most relevant for seeing who committed the crime, without any success."
"Can I look at those pictures?"
The three men looked at each other.
The spokesman commented, "The pictures *are* open source information now. Some have even been in Time magazine. It isn't a security issue. Okay."
Lois hadn't seen any kind of signal, but it was obvious they were being watched because almost immediately someone came to the door with the photographs in question.
Lois was positive the photos would provide the evidence they needed.
Clark took his time looking at the more than 700 pictures of the relevant moments while the special agents fidgeted in their chairs. He pulled eight of the pictures to one side. "I would suggest you increase the magnification on the upper right quadrant of these another 25 times. These are the ones where Tempus steps out of the window and shoots the President."
The agent nearest the door grabbed the eight photos and was at the door just as the messenger came to the door and took them away.
"But, if it's there, why don't we see it at normal magnification?"
"Tempus only appeared for fractions of a second at a time. He was several hundred feet from the Presidential party and moving in and out of the time window too quickly for the normal eye to see. Even the camera only picked up every thirtieth motion. The only way you can see it is by magnifying the upper right portion of those eight frames. You'll see him appear and disappear in front of that mirrored column. With all the people around, it's easy to miss him, especially since he only appears in one frame in thirty."
Special Agent Brown asked if he could get anyone coffee — enhancing the frames was going to take a little time.
Lois asked to visit the ladies room and was assigned a female escort to go with her. The only place Lois was alone was in the stall itself. Lois decided it must take a special kind of mind to actually accept having to escort people all the way into the rest room.
When she got back to the interview room, Special Agent Brown had brought the coffee as well as some cookies.
"I'm sorry it can't be anything better, but they cut our entertainment budget down to nothing last year. These were made by my wife."
Lois made polite noises until she saw they were chocolate chip. Lois told the Special Agent to thank Mrs. Brown for her wonderful cookies.
They had almost finished the plate of cookies by the time the magnified photos came back. Everyone except Clark leaned over the table and stared at the evidence in front of them.
In these eight pictures was the sequence of events that had happened fifteen years earlier. In the first photograph was the faint, shining outline of a picture frame in front of the mirrored pillar; the next showed the still picture of a man in the process of stepping out of the frame; the next was the man with a gun raised part way; the next was of the man aiming the gun; the next looked pretty much the same — the man could have been squeezing the trigger; the next was the same but with a puff of smoke in front of the man; the next was of the President falling and the man lowering his gun; and the final frame was of a much smaller picture frame, apparently in the process of vanishing, and the President almost on the floor.
Special Agent Brown turned to Clark in awe, "Can you pull out the sequence for the Vice President as well? It would save us so much time."
Clark shrugged, "Sure." He stepped over to the file containing the smaller magnified pictures and pulled out four photographs. "These are the first four. You'll need every thirtieth frame after this last one to get the rest of the sequence. Those ones aren't here."
Special Agent Smith was staring at the enlarged pictures with an unsettled expression on his face. "To think, that for the last fifteen years we've had the evidence right here and didn't even know it! How could we have *missed* it?"
Lois decided it was time to get her exclusive. "Can I quote you on that?"
He hesitated for a fraction of a second, grinned and said, "Sure. Just make sure you spell my name right."
Lois grinned and said, "Of course," and pulling out her notepad began her interview. In time, she beamed at Clark. "So partner, can we go write this up now?"
"Of course." He turned to the three men. "Do you have any restrictions on what we print?"
"Well, try not to say 'idiot government agents are blind' or words to that effect." Special Agent Brown shook his head at the pictures as he said this.
Lois said, "No, I think you were on the right track, you just needed my renewed memory, and some Super help, to fit it all together."
Special Agent Jones grimaced. "I just wish we could reward you for all your help."
"We-e-ll, " Lois said. "We could both use someone with expertise in security and crowd control. Do you know anyone who might be willing to help?"
The three men said, in unison, "Yes!"
Metropolis, New Troy — June, 1997
"Reagan/Bush Assassination Mystery Solved!"
by Lois Lane and Clark Kent
Lois gazed at the headline with satisfaction.
Carolyn DeVries and the rest of the Planet crew had been toasting the success of Lane and Kent in uncovering this exclusive and were now exiting the conference room.
Using the hubbub of everyone's departure as cover, Lois asked, "So, Clark, what do you want to do next?"
Clark sat down at the edge of the conference table and picked up the newspaper. "I was thinking of calling in that offer by the FBI to help us get out and about in public, without being mobbed."
She looked up at him, noting peripherally that they were alone now, and tilting her head to one side, asked, "And why would that be next?"
To her surprise, he blushed. "Well, I kind of want to ask you out for a date, and I think I'm going to need their help to pull it off."
"I'd prefer just you and me on the date, if that's okay with you."
"Me too, but, if we're going to go someplace without being mobbed we're going to need some kind of security."
Lois decided to take the plunge. "What about coming to my place? It's quiet, and loaded with security — thanks to your advice."
When she saw him hesitate, she reassured him, "I know it's not the kind of date you wanted to have for our first date, but maybe we could skip thinking about this as a real date … let's just say this is a celebration of our first story together — an almost date. You can take me on a 'real' date some other time when things are less crazy. What do you say?"
"Okay." Clark's expression relaxed. "I'll bring dinner, so you don't have to do any work. I should arrive on your balcony around 7:30, assuming I don't run into any crises."
"That would be perfect." She smiled radiantly up at him.
Lois was standing on her balcony waiting for Clark to arrive. She had been out here for a few minutes before his expected time, to be sure of not missing his arrival.
Since getting home from work, she had cleaned her entire apartment, chosen at least three outfits, tried them on and then finally gone with an entirely different outfit which she hoped he would like.
She now stood looking up into the sky, her arms crossed and her back to the wind that was coming off the water to her left. Her apartment was on the 25th floor of a thirty storey building and the wind was strong at this level. Lois was wearing a simple knee-length navy dress, pearl necklace, and matching earrings. She was beginning to wish she'd also put on a sweater, but didn't want to go back inside, just in case he came while she was gone. She wanted to be there to welcome him.
He appeared out of the sky, dressed in dark grey slacks, navy shirt and a maroon pullover sweater, and landed feet first in front of her, several bamboo containers balanced on one hand.
Shyly, she said, "Hi."
"Have you been waiting long? I'm sorry if I'm late. You look a little cold."
"Oh … er … no. I was just thinking of getting a sweater. Please, come in." Lois mentally kicked herself for being inept at hiding the anxiety she felt while waiting for him, and led the way into her apartment.
"Please, sit down on the love seat. I'm sorry there isn't much furniture. I've only had time to buy a few things, I've got other things on back order, but it still seems kind of empty. Maybe a carpet would help tie things together." Lois paused to take a deep breath. She was into babble mode and needed to extricate herself.
"It looks fine, Lois." He smiled at her. "I'm not here to judge your choice in furniture."
Lois smiled in return. "I know. It's just that I'm nervous and I guess I tend to talk about inconsequential things when I'm nervous."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'm a little nervous too." He smiled at her.
"Oh, I'm *so* glad you said that. I wanted you to like my place and I guess I …" She saw the tenderness in his eyes and swallowed, unable to finish her sentence.
"Where should I put these?" He lifted the hand holding the food containers made of bamboo and smelling of exotic, faraway places.
"Right … the food. Uh, the kitchen is over here." Lois felt herself blushing as she led him towards her barely-used kitchen. She really needed to stay focussed if she was going to get through this evening without sounding like a total idiot.
"This is a nice apartment. Did you have any problem renting?" Clark placed the containers on the counter and lifted the lid off the top one.
Lois picked up one of the small steamed balls from the top bamboo container. "Not at all. I looked at the penthouse you spoke of, but it was *way* too big and cost most of a month's salary, so I looked at this one. It seemed perfect." She popped the steamed ball into her mouth and forgot what she was going to say next. The flavour of this morsel was incredible! "My god, this is *fantastic*. Where did you get it?"
Clark looked abashed. "Shanghai. There's this little stall off the beaten track in the old quarter that sells this incredible food and I wanted to share it with you."
Lois grinned, feeling less nervous than she had been because of Clark's confession. "You were showing off?"
Clark winced slightly and said, "Yeah, I guess so."
She reached over and touched his arm. "It's okay, Clark, I like it that you want to impress me. It's sweet."
"Sweet?" He raised his eyebrows at her.
"Sure, I mean, you're the eighth wonder of the world and yet you think you need to make an impression. I think that's cute."
"Cute!" He wrinkled his eyebrows, she wasn't sure if he was perplexed or surprised. "I guess I can accept 'cute'. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but it's a start."
"So what did you want me to say? Strong? Sexy?" She saw the affirmative answer in his eyes. "Clark! That goes without saying! You're the strongest man in the world! And if all those groupies following you around haven't convinced you that you're sexy, I have no idea how *I'm* going to do it."
"No? I can think of several ways."
Lois guessed that Clark's sense of humour had kicked back in. She rolled her eyes and reached for another steamed ball. "Well, if we're going to eat this before it gets cold, I guess I should get out some plates."
"Let me." Clark gazed around the kitchen and then went straight to the cupboard holding the plates. Then, moving so fast she could barely see him, he served the food onto the plates, set the table and lit some candles. Eventually he slowed down and she remembered to close her mouth.
"Sorry, I guess I was showing off again." He looked like a little boy waiting for someone to reprimand him.
"No, that's fine. I like it. Where on earth did you dig up the candles? I've been looking everywhere for them."
"In one of the boxes you haven't unpacked yet in the front hall closet."
"Oh." She walked over to the table and sat in the chair he held for her. She wasn't sure if she liked the idea that he could see everything she owned whether she intended him to, or not. "I keep meaning to get around to them, but I just haven't."
"After we finish eating, I'll help. If you just say where you want things, I'll have them unpacked in a jiff."
"It's okay, Clark, you don't have to. I can do it myself when I get around to it."
He looked solemn. "I guess I went over the line, huh? I'm sorry. It's just that I want to help … and I guess I forgot to consider that you might want some privacy. Please, accept my apologies, I won't do it again."
"Clark! Stop *apologizing* all the time. You wanted to help. I just said I didn't want the help. You don't have to keep apologizing for being who you are." She winced at the expression on his face. "God, Clark, what on earth did that woman *do* to you that makes you react this way?"
"She didn't do anything to me. For a long time she was the only person who I could talk to about who I am."
"And made you apologize every time you tried to do what came naturally, I'm sure." Lois glared at her plate and stabbed a harmless piece of chicken with her fork.
There was silence in the room. Lois could hear the faint traffic sounds far below, but not much else. It was as if she were here alone.
She finally heard him take a breath and she looked up. His face was neutral, almost mask-like.
"Look, Clark, I'm sorry. Your relationship with her is none of my business. It just drives me crazy when you apologize for trying to help … okay?"
"How did you know?" She could see the mask crumbling and she wasn't sure she liked the agonized expression that appeared from behind it.
"I don't know. She just strikes me as the type who likes to control and manipulate. With those kind of people, I usually find myself apologizing for doing something to them, whether I did it or not."
He gave her a crooked smile. "I can't see you ever apologizing for something you didn't do."
Lois snorted and attacked the food on her plate again.
Clark reached over and touched her hand. "You seem to understand exactly what's going on with Lana and me. I'm only just figuring that out myself. So I was wondering … Are you jealous?"
Lois' head snapped up and she stared at him. "What a question! Of *course* I'm jealous! What do you think?"
"Well, for one, she got to be with you, without the entire world trying to videotape the event, and for another … " Lois looked down at her plate again. She didn't want him to see the aching desire she was feeling right now. " … she got to be *with* you."
"How do you know that?"
Lois lifted her head and gave him her best give-me-a-break look. "In case you haven't noticed, Ms. Lang is on pretty well every channel and in every tabloid providing the world with the intimate details of your relationship. I'd have to be blind and deaf not to know about it."
Clark made a face. "I've generally been avoiding that kind of thing ever since the first week after I became Superman. Although I thought they might be covering the intimate details of our lives, the ones I've seen are mostly about my shoe size or my favourite brand of beer. I guess I should have paid closer attention."
"So, you really have no idea what she's saying?"
Clark shook his head, "Only that, despite a lifetime of being 'close', she has no clue about my taste in music, what brand of beer I like, or my shoe size," and tossed another steamed ball in his mouth.
"Doesn't it bother you that she's spreading these stories about you?"
Clark swallowed. "Yes, but what can I do about it? If I go on those shows to refute what she's saying, I'm lowering myself to her level. There is no recourse to that kind of muckraking."
"Since you don't know what she's saying, I guess I can't ask you how much of it is true?"
He shrugged. "Lana and I had an intimate relationship, off and on, for over ten years. The facts are probably right; however, her take on them is probably skewed in her favour."
"She says you took her virginity."
"Yes, and she took mine." Clark paused for a few seconds. "However, she had other relationships, I only ever knew her." He concentrated on the plate in front of him.
"What!" Lois was dumbfounded. "She *never* tells that. I've watched those shows. She has never *once* mentioned going with anyone else but you. That's why she claims you've ruined her life. She claims you took the best years of her life and then abandoned her."
"Well, she did go with other men. The first was that rapist you exposed … "
"Rapist?" Lois wasn't sure if she understood what Clark was telling her. She had some bizarre memory of a guy trying to keep his hand over her mouth and saying, 'I like my girls to be willing — eager in fact,' and feeling very, very scared. "Oh, right, the Joan Dough story. I remember now. That's the name I used all those years at Sutcliffe. You'd think I'd have remembered sooner, huh? Never mind me and my memory, finish what you were saying."
Clark nodded. "First was that rapist you exposed in the Joan Dough story, she was one of his early victims, and then there were a couple of guys while I was exploring the world. Those are the ones I know about, anyway."
"And the part about you abandoning her?"
"She told me it was *her* — or Superman. I chose Superman."
Clark gave her a crooked smile. "I still feel guilty. If it wasn't for me she might not be like this now. We were pretty young when I let her in on my secret. I think it warped her. I wish I hadn't forced that burden on her."
Lois had a sudden desperate urge to throw something sharp and pointed at the absent Lana, but restrained herself.
"It is *not* your fault!" Infuriated by his bewildered expression, she said. "Boy, she *really* did a number on you, didn't she? Clark! You needed to be loved for who you *are*. She wasn't capable of that. Tempus set up your childhood so that you had no choices. You confided in the wrong person, that's all. Can't you *see* that?"
"I've known Lana since we were in kindergarten together. She wasn't like this before I told her about me. She used to be a caring, compassionate person. All those years of fearing that the authorities would come and take me away destroyed that part of her. She wasn't being malicious, I'm sure, she was just scared that I'd be taken away."
"Well, she may not have been malicious *then*, but she sure is *now*. She's still controlling your life, and you're not even in a relationship any more!"
"But, there's nothing I can do about it!"
Lois played with her food for a few seconds, she had an idea, but she wasn't sure how Clark would feel about it. She took a deep breath.
"I was thinking that we could use the help the FBI offered."
"You said you didn't want to do that. That you wanted us to be alone."
"Not that kind of help. I mean investigative help. They have resources we can't get anywhere near."
"And … ?"
"They could investigate Lana's life. You need facts to fight her with."
"I don't want to expose her to ridicule and humiliation. I'm not like that."
"Well, *I* am." Lois glared at him. "She's exposed *you* to enough ridicule and humiliation, why not return the favour?"
"I don't know, Lois. I really don't feel comfortable with this kind of strategy."
"Oh, so you'd rather *never* have another relationship because Ms. Lang is still pissed off with you?" She glared at him. "You know, Clark, I *really* want to get to know you better, but this woman is standing in my way. I'll do whatever it takes to free up the path to you; but to do it, I'm going to need *your* support."
"I'm not sure what kind of support you'd need from me."
Lois stood up and began to pace. She finally stopped in front of the balcony window and stared out towards the ocean. She could hear the waves muted by distance and the intervening panes of glass.
"Clark, you mentioned once that when you were a child you saw a therapist."
"Yes. I couldn't be totally honest, so the sessions weren't as productive as the therapist hoped."
"Have you been to one since you became Superman?"
There was no answer, so she turned to look at him. He was staring at her open-mouthed. "No! Are you saying I need therapy?"
"Are you still emotionally attached to Lana Lang?" She continued when he shook his head. "Then why do you still do her bidding? She has some kind of hold over you, which you don't seem to understand. I think you need to find out what it is."
"That's all very nice, in theory, but how do I see a therapist without the entire world knowing that Superman's emotionally unstable." Clark grimaced. "That's going to really rock the news wires."
"I can think of a couple of ways. Dr. Friskin has offered to hold my sessions here in this apartment, so that I can avoid the hordes of paparazzi outside her office hoping for a juicy piece of gossip about us. You could come here too."
"I don't think it's a good idea for me to be seen constantly visiting your apartment. If the media can make a two second conversation seem like an x-rated film, I shudder to think what they'd do with that. What's your other idea?"
"I got a call from Timmy Neer on my answering machine, asking me to call him. I did. He's invited me out to Kansas City for a vacation with him and his wife. He's a psychotherapist, and I've known him since grade one. I think we can trust him to keep any sessions confidential."
"You know, in all the times I've gone to see Tim and Lori, it never occurred to me to see him professionally."
Startled, Lois asked, "You know Timmy? How?"
"We roomed together in college. He needed someone to make sure he didn't get lost getting to classes, and I needed someone who couldn't see me float in my sleep, or how I shaved. It worked out really well."
"You don't shave?"
Clark shook his head. "I use a mirror to burn the stubble off."
"And, you float in your sleep?"
Clark nodded. "Sometimes. It depends on how stressed my life is getting. I think the floating counterbalances the stress."
"You know when I wrote to Timmy, while he was in college, he told me he had a great room-mate. I don't remember if he ever told me your name."
"Hey, I remember, now! He had me read one of your letters to him. He said you were in grade one together … and he had had the biggest crush on you. Maybe, *I* should be jealous?" Clark grinned at her. "But, no, I don't have to be, he's married now."
Lois grinned. "When was the wedding? I remember at the time that he wrote me all about his girlfriend Lori. I figured I'd get an invitation to the wedding. I'm sorry I missed it."
"September 1993, about six months after you disappeared."
"Shoot! So close and yet so far!" Lois fumed for a few seconds and then, sighing, said. "Well there's no point in you trying to see him, since he was your room-mate, he's probably watched night and day for your visits."
Clark grinned, "Not any more. The tabloids gave up on him as a witness when they discovered he's blind."
"All right!" Lois rubbed her hands together. "Now we're cooking!
"What if Tim can't fit me into his caseload?"
"Don't be such a party pooper. Of course he'll fit you in. He's your friend, isn't he?"
Clark gave a dramatic sigh. "One of my first questions for him is going to be why I always seem to link up with *really* pushy women."
Lois made a raspberry sound and returned to the table. "Watch it, mister, I know where you work."
"Darn, I was hoping you'd say you knew where I live."
Lois grinned wickedly. "Who says I don't?"
"Oh." He looked a little embarrassed. "I guess that *is* common knowledge, isn't it?"
"Uh, huh. Now finish your plate, or you won't get dessert."
"I didn't bring dessert."
Lois jumped in, before he could start yet another apology. "No, I did."
"You are a woman of many talents."
"I know." She grinned at him impishly.
She stood up and started to clear the table. Clark followed her into the kitchen with the rest of the plates and cutlery. She rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, threw the napkins into the laundry hamper in the bathroom, and started the coffee maker.
"Can I do anything to help?" Clark looked a little hesitant.
She decided to give him a break after her previous outburst. "I've changed my mind. You can help empty those boxes in the front hall closet. From what I've seen, you can probably do them all in the time it will take to brew the coffee."
He smiled and in no time the half-a-dozen boxes were in the middle of her living room floor.
He pointed to the first box. "That one holds office supplies and paper. Do you want them in your desk?" She nodded and almost instantly, the box was empty and neatly folded. She walked over to her desk and found the supplies neatly organized in all the right places.
"You are *good*." She grinned at him.
He went through the next four boxes in the same way, then stopped at the final box. "I think you might want to open this one yourself. It seems to be mostly photographs and toys and things."
She sat on the floor and opened the box. On top was a black-and- white teddy bear.
She lifted him out and gazed at him in wonder. "You know, I got this bear from my Uncle Phil when I was three years old. I had completely forgotten all about him." She hugged the bear and then sat him in the corner of the love seat. "Uncle Phil was great. I was really sad when he died. I guess it'd be about ten years ago, now."
She heard the coffee maker stop. "I should get that …"
"No, continue with what you're doing. I'll fix the coffee. I know how you like it."
Lois nodded and pulled out a photograph album. She flipped through the pages, but didn't recognize very many people. She put it to one side, to look at later when she was alone.
Next came a small cardboard box filled with dried flower petals. She wondered why she'd kept them. They must have meant something at one time, but the memory was gone. She put the box on the coffee table and lifted out the next item. Then was a letter sweater, folded carefully and smelling of after shave. She had no idea who had given her this. She put it with the photograph album.
At the bottom of the box were some papers and a small plywood box. She pulled out the papers. They were typewritten stories signed Lois Lane, but she had no recollection of writing them. Some of them had marks in the upper right-hand corner, so those must have been school assignments. The marks were all either A, or A+.
Clark put a cup of coffee on the table beside her. "Find anything interesting?"
She shook her head, "Not so far. I remember the bear, but the rest of this could belong to a complete stranger."
She took a sip of coffee, put the cup down and reached for the last item. "When I've looked at this I'll get the dessert out."
The small box was about the size and shape of a shoe box, but made out of thin cedar plywood. The top slid out like an old-fashioned pencil box. She sniffed at the cedar wood and gasped as the memories formed in her head.
The box had originally contained the black-and-white teddy bear her Uncle Phil had sent to her for her third birthday while he was away on one of his trips in foreign lands. It was her 'memory' box!
"Lois, are you all right?" Clark peered at her anxiously.
She nodded, unable to speak. She slid the lid from the box and, with trembling fingers, pulled out the contents of the box. Each piece she handled brought back another memory — the day she had won the Kerth scholarship, the tooth for which the tooth fairy had given her a whole fifty cents, her first nomination for a Kerth award, her second nomination, the notebook she had used to "write" stories in when she was in grade 2, her high school commencement speech as valedictorian, her Journalism School ring, her job offer at the Daily Planet, and finally, the green stone that Timmy Neer had brought her from Florida.
Clark had slid down to the floor beside her, and put his arm around her shoulder. "What is it, Lois?"
"I *remember*! I remember them *all*." She leaned forward, and pulled the lettered sweater towards her. "I got this from Steve — only my mother would think of preserving it. It means nothing to me." She picked up the photo album and flipped through the pages. She recognized all of the people now. Some were friends, some were teachers and some were people she barely knew, but she *remembered*. She looked at the box of dried flower petals and knew it was the collection of all the corsages and bouquets she had ever received.
She brushed the tears from her cheeks. Oh, god, it felt so *good* to be able to remember.
"Who was Steve?" Clark asked.
"A guy I dated in high school. My mother was impressed because his parents were wealthy. I broke up with him the night he tried to rape me."
She felt Clark's hold intensify. His expression belying his words, he said, in a poor imitation of a mafia accent, "You want I should do something to scare Steve?"
She giggled through her tears. "Clark! Of course not. You're not *like* that, remember? … and besides, the last I heard Steve was married with two point four children. I guess by now it's three, or even more."
She leaned back against his shoulder. "It feels so *good* to remember … to not have those holes in my mind." She felt the tears flowing down her cheeks. "Thanks for making me look through these boxes." She snuffled the tears back. "I'm sorry I got mad at you earlier."
He cradled her face with his hand. "Now who's apologizing too much, uh?"
Lois looked into his face and felt herself falling into his eyes. She shook herself and said, "I guess I should get that dessert now."
Clark looked crestfallen, but loosened his hold on her and assisted her to her feet.
"I'll reheat the coffee. What are we having for dessert?"
"Thanks, Clark." She grinned over her shoulder at him. "Chocolate ice cream. Even with my bad memory I remembered I *love* chocolate."
The expression on his face, as he looked into her eyes, took her breath away. She saw the longing in his eyes, and felt the desire pulsing through the air between them. Somehow, she had no idea how, he kept that intense emotion hidden beneath a quiet demeanor. Earlier she'd been afraid of him seeing her own longing, but now she saw his yearning — raw and aching — and regretted her decision to hide her own feelings.
She blinked and the quiet, unassuming man was back in place. She was sure she hadn't imagined his intense emotions. Had she?
She took two goblets from the refrigerator, where she'd put them so they wouldn't immediately melt the ice cream, and scooped ice cream into each of them. She selected two spoons and carried the ice cream into the living room. Clark was still standing, watching her approach.
"Clark, did you reheat the coffee?"
"Er, no. Just a sec." He turned, took off his glasses and stared at the coffee cups. To her amazement, steam rose from each cup.
"How did you *do* that?"
He shrugged. "I just kind of use my eyes to heat things up. I've been able to do that since I was little. My Mom and Dad had me wear glasses to teach me to know when to use and not use my Special skills."
"Okay, you told me you could make fire with your eyes. I just didn't realize you had that degree of control. I looked Superman up in the morgue at the Planet, but the back issues didn't tell me what I wanted to know. So, Clark, just to fill in the gaps in my knowledge: besides seeing microscopic details, hearing from afar, and flying, what else can you do? Or, is the list so long, you can't finish it during the course of one evening?"
She saw mischief flicker across his face. "Well, you could say that I'm a man of many talents."
Lois put one hand on her hip and gave him an exasperated look. "Clark Jerome Kent, just who do you think you're trying to fool?"
"Oh, no! Not the middle name. Please, I'll do anything, just *not* the middle name!" He stopped hamming it up and changed his tone. " … by the way, how did you find out?"
"I have my ways." She put the goblets of ice cream on the coffee table and sat down. At his quizzical look she continued, "Henry said your code for him and Joe was CJK, he said they were your initials. I just did some research … it's in my job description." She grinned up at him.
"Okay." He sat down beside her and ticked each item off on his fingers as he said it. "I can see through things, move so fast I appear to be invisible, catch speeding bullets, and lift virtually anything — it's almost like it becomes a part of me. I think those things, plus the stuff you already know about, cover the high points." He stopped his list. "Oh, and anything that's really close, like my costume, is protected by this kind of aura … it stops the material from getting ripped, and I think it's what makes me invulnerable."
Lois gazed at him in awe. "Is there anything you *can't* do?"
"I can't see through lead and there's a green stone called Kryptonite that can apparently kill me if I'm exposed to it long enough. I haven't come across anything else, so far … except the part about not being able to date my favourite girl in public, that is."
"Okay, check. Memo to self. Buy lead-lined underwear."
"Lois! I would never … my parents taught me not to … "
"I was *kidding*, Clark." She reached up and stroked his hair and repeated, softly, "I was just kidding."
"Oh, kidding. That requires at least three days advance notice and an application in triplicate before I could even consider …"
She placed her finger on his lips to silence him. "Now you're starting to sound silly."
He gently pulled her finger away from his lips and whispered, "You have that effect on me."
Lois suddenly found herself in his arms, kissing and being kissed by him. His kiss was exquisite, soft and gentle, yet somehow powerful. She was completely absorbed in the kiss, oblivious to the world around her. There was no past, no future — only *now*. She couldn't remember *ever* being this elated by a kiss. It almost felt like their souls were combining and floating like gossamer. Then there was a tiny bump and she withdrew from his kiss in time to see them bump into the ceiling for a second time.
"Oh, my god! That was … that was *wonderful*!"
Clark looked dazed. "That's never happened before! I had no idea … I'm sorry."
"Clark Kent, don't you *dare* apologize! That was the most incredible kiss I have ever experienced! So don't you *dare* spoil it by apologizing!"
He was gently sinking back to the floor. She could see confusion in his eyes.
"Clark, you mean to tell me that you never did this before … ?" She raised her eyebrows.
He shook his head. "Lana always wanted us to be 'normal' together."
Lois gaped at him. Did the woman have absolutely *no* clue at all? "But, you're so *special*! How could she *not* want you that way?"
Just then they reached the floor and Clark picked up his glasses and put them on nervously. He avoided answering her question, simply saying, "I'm obviously not in as much control as I thought I was. I … I think I'd better leave now."
Lois stood with her arms still wrapped around his neck. "Don't go, Clark. I like you when you're not so in control. It's nice … especially the kissing part."
He looked at her solemnly, "I'm not sure you understand, Lois. I am completely different. It's only by maintaining control that I can be sure not to hurt you."
"Clark, I don't think you *can* hurt me."
"That's because I keep myself under control." He took her hands and tried to gently pull them from around his neck.
"No, Clark, I think even if you weren't 'in control' you wouldn't be able to hurt me. You said your aura protects you, and that things seem to become part of you when you lift them?"
"Uh, huh." Clark was looking puzzled but expectant, as if he were hoping she had the answer to a dilemma he'd had for some time.
"Then, why wouldn't your aura protect *me* just as well as it protects your clothes? You said your Special nature isn't something you control … it's sort of like breathing for me … it just works, unless you consciously tell it not to."
Clark stopped trying to lift her hands from his neck. She saw his expression dissolve into one of absolute adoration, that took her breath away. Tugging her slightly closer, he whispered, "So, you would be willing to take that chance with me?"
Lois looked up at him and then, suddenly realizing the implications, became embarrassed and looked down. "I … I … Not just yet. I'm not ready. I've n …"
Her voice trailed off and she looked up at him again. She was dismayed to see his face frozen in the mask she was now starting to recognize as his defence against being hurt at the core of his being.
"Clark! Don't look like that, please! It's not *you* that's the problem, it's *me*. I … I …" The words stuck in her mouth. She swallowed, "Clark it's *not* because you're different, honestly. It's … I … me … I'm a … " She swallowed again. "I'm just … not very experienced."
He gently lifted her chin with his finger, until she was looking at his face. She was grateful to see the mask had melted away and he now only had a perplexed look on his face. She found herself shaking with relief.
"Lois, what are you trying to tell me?"
"Clark, I was seventeen when Steve tried to rape me. Up until then, I'd kind of assumed I'd lose my virginity with someone I was dating, then I'd eventually find the right guy for a long term relationship. After my experience with Steve, I knew I didn't *want* to do it with just anybody. I wanted my first time to be special, not just the result of some m-meaningless groping in a car. So I decided to w-w-wait." Lois was trembling and blushing furiously. "Clark, I'm a v-v-virgin!" She had never told this to anyone before.
Clark took her by the elbow, guided her over to the love seat and sat down beside her. He stroked her hair until she stopped shaking. When she drew in a final shuddering breath to gain back her composure he took her hand in his.
"Lois, I'm sorry, I didn't think of how it was for you. I guess I was *expecting* you to reject me for being who I am. I had no idea you hadn't been with anyone before." He stroked her hand.
She took a deep breath. "I wanted to wait until I found the right person."
"And, you never found the right person?"
"Not until now." She raised her head and looked into his eyes. She saw hope and apprehension intertwined there. He was so damn insecure, and she had caused him so much pain. She *had* to let him know how she felt. "You're the most right, special person I could have ever hoped for."
The look on his face in answer to her declaration, made her feel radiantly happy. She leaned against his chest and let the feelings of happiness and anticipation flow over her. Then looking up into his face again, Lois said, "Thank you, Clark, for being so understanding. I'm sorry I made you feel so bad. I didn't mean to, it's just that there's been so much happening tonight, I didn't think about what you might think until after I'd said it." Oh, god, she was babbling again. "I want you to know that I do want to have a relationship with you, but I guess I'm afraid. I've never done it and … and, I don't want to disappoint you."
He stroked her hair, "Lois, I don't think you could *ever* disappoint me. I can wait for you to be ready. Waiting is something I have a lot of practice with." He grinned at her lopsidedly.
Lois giggled at her sudden mental image of Clark waiting outside a castle wall with a bouquet of flowers, calling for the fair princess to grant him the privilege of taking a lock of her hair. "So, does this mean, fair knight, that you will slave for mine father for seven years to win my troth?"
Clark looked amused. "I didn't know you were into fairy tales."
"There's a lot you don't know about me." Lois smiled up at him coquettishly.
He took a deep intake of breath. "Now, I *know* I have to leave, or I'll break my promise two minutes after making it." He stood up and walked towards the balcony door with Lois right behind him. He turned as he reached the door and gently kissed the corner of her mouth. His hand stroked the side of her cheek, his fingers combing back through her hair as if reluctant to let her go. His hands finally dropped away from her.
"Goodnight, Lois." She heard the quiver in his voice.
She stroked his cheek and slowly stepped back away from him. "Goodnight, Clark."
She watched him step off the balcony and then stood on the balcony watching him soar up and out over the ocean until he disappeared from view.
Clark drifted slowly backwards, at least slowly for him, until Lois' apartment was out of view and he could no longer see her standing on the balcony watching his departure.
She *loved* him! He had hoped for it, but hadn't dared to believe it was possible. The look on her face when they said their goodbyes had said it all. She did love *him*, all of him, just the way he was … Super powers and insecurities … and everything. It seemed impossible, but it was true! He could hardly contain his joy.
He swooped and swirled and tumbled through the dark, starlit sky. He felt giddy at the very idea that Lois had waited for *him*. She thought he was special and right for her … it was almost incomprehensible. Both Tempus and Mr. Wells had said that he and Lois were meant for each other. Now he was beginning to believe it might actually be true!
And, their kiss! He had been totally absorbed by their kiss, to the point that he'd floated them up to the ceiling. He hadn't even been aware the ceiling was there until they'd bumped into it. He had never, ever lost all track of reality like that before. And despite the fact that she'd gone through so much this evening, Lois had calmed *his* fears. She was incredible!
He flew higher and higher, punching his way into the vacuum of space, knowing that this would put a damper on his overactive daydreams. Lois had said she wasn't ready, just yet. He understood that. She had gone through a lot lately, and it wasn't as if they'd had much opportunity to talk or be together. What they needed was time to get to know each other.
Maybe her idea of seeing Tim for therapy wasn't so bizarre after all. He did *need* to have closure on his relationship with Lana. He'd call Tim and set up an appointment, right after he had completed his meeting with Dr. Daitch at EPRAD first thing in the morning.
Clark drifted back towards Metropolis and floated onto the balcony of his own apartment. He hoped there wouldn't be too much criminal activity tonight — he was hoping to relive his evening with Lois in his dreams.
Last updated: August 21, 1999 … to be continued.