By M.L. Thompson <email@example.com>
Submitted June 2000
Summary: This story takes a decidedly different turn in the aftermath of the episode "The House of Luthor." Intergang, Mayson Drake, a lover from Lois's past, and a bad case of miscommunication combine to wreak havoc on the lives of our favourite duo. Will the truth come out before it's too late, or will Lois and Clark be lost to each other forever?
This is a revelation story. It picks up at the end of the first season and goes its own way from there. I start with some of the final scenes from the episode, 'The House of Luthor.' However, I add to those scenes. So then, we pick things up during the wedding ceremony of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit. Special thanks to the writers of 'The House of Luthor,' in particular.
There is some French used in this story — not much, but a little. If you need help understanding it, please look at the vocabulary provided at the end of the story.
"Do you, Lex, take this woman to be your wedded bride, from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?" asked the Archbishop.
Luthor met Lois' eyes for a moment, before saying confidently, "I do."
The Archbishop turned toward Lois. "And do you, Lois, take this man to be your wedded husband, from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until death do you part?"
"I…" Lois started. Her voice failed her as she thought back to the images of Clark that had come unwillingly to her as she had walked down the aisle. She pushed the thoughts aside and tried again. "I…" Suddenly, in a moment of absolute clarity, a realization hit her with a power that was frightening. Whether she wanted to be or not, she was in love with Clark Kent.
Luthor looked over at her in concern. "Lois?" he asked.
Lois met his eyes, her mind now certain about what she had to do. "I can't," she said, her eyes silently begging Lex to understand.
Luthor looked at her in disbelief, but before he could respond, there was the sound of doors opening. Someone said Lois' name, directing her attention toward the back of the room.
Lois saw Perry enter, followed by Jimmy and Jack and other people that Lois didn't immediately identify. Instead, she looked back at Lex and, in her excitement over the arrival of her friends, pushed her veil off her face.
"Lex," she said, leaning forward to give him a quick kiss. "They came."
"Stop the wedding. You can't marry this man," Perry said authoritatively.
"What is there an echo in here? I just said that," answered Lois, a smile lighting up her face as she realized that her friends hadn't abandoned her.
"What's the meaning of this?" Luthor demanded.
"The meaning of this is, Luthor, you're through. We have all the evidence against you we need," Perry replied.
"Evidence? Evidence for what?" asked Lois, her expression changing from joy to confusion. What were they talking about? Her question was answered as Inspector Henderson stepped forward to address Luthor.
"This is a warrant for your arrest for arson, and other crimes to numerous to mention," Henderson said, showing Luthor a piece of paper.
"You're out of your minds, both of you," replied Luthor.
Henderson began reading Luthor his rights. When he informed Luthor that if he could not afford an attorney, one would be provided for him, Luthor spoke. "Would you shut up? I can afford a thousand attorneys. I'll have your badge… I'll have your head for this." Luthor's voice got louder with every new statement. He turned toward one of his minions. "Get me the Governor on the phone," he directed, correcting himself to say, "Get me the President. Get him… on the phone."
Just then more police officers arrived, bringing Mrs. Cox, Luthor's personal assistant, into the room in handcuffs. As Luthor looked at her expression, the situation suddenly became clear.
"Et tu, Mrs. Cox?" he asked. She chuckled in response, confirming his worst fears.
"Lois, I'm sorry," Luthor said, kissing her hand. "We'll take a rain check. Something's come up."
"Let's go, pal," Henderson said, reaching for Luthor.
Suddenly the whole room erupted as Lex Luthor took on one police officer after another to make his escape. He made it out a nearby exit.
"Don't worry. We'll get him. I've had the building sealed off," Henderson informed them, before instructing his men to pursue Luthor.
Lois' mom made her way through the crowd, who were still staring after Luthor. Lois' eyes were quickly filling up with tears.
"Oh, Honey, I know things haven't worked out the way you planned, but…" Mrs. Lane began.
"Why? Isn't this the way every girl dreams her wedding's going to be?" Lois asked in a broken voice.
Lois was completely numb. It would have been traumatic enough to have to face all these people after having told Luthor at the alter that she couldn't marry him. But that had been overshadowed by the arrival of Perry, Jimmy and Jack with the police.
She walked dejectedly away from her mother and headed for the door. Perry caught up with her, putting an arm protectively around her as he led her out of the building. She had never felt so lost in her life. Perry explained to her why the police were there and why they were arresting Lex. It was almost too much to believe. Clark had been right. She had almost married a monster. How could she have been so wrong?
"I've always been such a good judge of character," Lois said dejectedly, after Perry finished his explanation.
"Don't blame yourself. He fooled all of us," Perry said in comfort.
"Not me," responded Jack.
"I never trusted him," said Jimmy.
Clark! Lois suddenly realized that she hadn't seen Clark. She was confused. She needed Clark. Why wasn't he here?
"Where's Clark?" Lois asked. She didn't care if he said, 'I told you so.' All she knew was that she needed the comfort and safety of his arms.
"Right here," came a somber voice from behind. She turned around. The heartbreak she was feeling was reflected in his eyes. There was no hint of arrogance at being right. She almost smiled at the sight. She walked quickly toward him, silently begging him to take her in his arms. He didn't disappoint her.
When Clark wrapped his arms around Lois, he could feel her body tremble. He would give anything to make the pain go away. If she needed his arms, then they were hers. He closed his eyes and bent his head slightly to feel her hair against his cheek. He silently willed her to let him take away the pain.
Lois looked up as someone yelled, "Look." Her eyes quickly found what everyone was looking at. Lex Luthor was standing on the concrete wall, which surrounded his balcony, on the top floor of Lex Towers. He was waving his arms in the air, although Lois couldn't tell whether it was to keep his balance or emphasize something he was saying. Suddenly, he spun around and dove off the balcony.
Clark took a couple of small jumps, as if wishing he could fly to catch Lex. Then, as Lex was about to hit the ground, Lois buried her head against Clark's shoulder. He put his hand on the back of her head, preventing her from seeing Lex's death. But that didn't stop her from hearing it. It was a sound that she not only heard, but felt down to the core of her being. She shuttered and felt Clark's arms tighten around her.
"I'm sorry, Lois. I'm so sorry," she heard Clark whisper in her ear.
Sorry? What did he have to feel sorry about? He had tried to warn her. She was the one who failed to listen. She tried to tell him that it wasn't his fault, but found that her voice failed her. Instead she just tightened her arms around him. It felt so right, so safe, in his arms.
"Let me take you home," Clark said softly.
Lois nodded. Clark wrapped an arm around her and was beginning to lead her out when they were stopped by Henderson.
"Lois, can I speak to you for a minute?"
"Inspector, can this wait?" asked Clark. "I think she's been through enough today. I want to get her home."
"Sorry, Kent, but I really do need to ask her this now."
"It's okay, Clark," Lois said quietly. "What do you want, Henderson?"
"When we were looking for Luthor, we found a cage in the cellar. Do you know what it's for?"
Lois felt Clark tense beside her. She instantly suspected he knew something about the cage. But when he didn't speak, she figured that, for some reason, he didn't want Henderson to know that.
"I don't know anything about it," Lois responded. They were about to continue, when Henderson stopped them again.
"Could I get you to take a look at it? Maybe something will come to you."
"It can wait till tomorrow, Henderson," Clark said firmly, leading Lois away. He needed to follow up on the cage too. But right now, Lois needed to get home. And her needs would always come first to Clark. Besides, if she went to that room, he wouldn't be able to accompany her and he didn't intend to leave her side until he knew that she would be okay.
They again attempted to make their escape, when Lois' mother approached.
"I'll take you home, Lois," Ellen Lane said firmly.
Lois looked at Clark, her eyes pleading with him.
"I'll take her, Mrs. Lane," Clark said, in a voice that left no room for argument.
It was a voice that Lois had never heard from Clark before. Yet, somehow, the voice seemed familiar. She expected her mother to argue, and was amazed when her pushy mother backed down.
"I'll call later," her mother said.
Mrs. Lane watched the departing couple closely. Now, why had she agreed? She didn't even know the identity of the man now leading Lois out of there. Although she suspected that it was her former partner, Clark Kent. Part of her was grateful not to have to deal with her daughter in such emotional circumstances — Lanes didn't do emotional well. But part of her knew that, as Lois' mother, she should be doing something — for appearances sake, if nothing else.
"Mrs. Lane," said a man's voice behind her. She turned around.
"Mr. White," she responded.
"Clark'll make sure she's all right," Perry informed her, nodding toward the departing couple.
"Turn on your T.V., sir," a man said, rushing into the office of Bill Church. Bill Church Sr. was the C.E.O. of an international chain of stores known as Cost Mart as well as having a number of other business interests. But, what was much less known was that he was also the head of an international crime syndicate known as Intergang.
"What is it?" Church asked, annoyed by the interruption.
"It's on T.V. Lex Luthor, sir. He just committed suicide."
Church looked at the man in shock for a moment, before reaching for the remote control.
Nigel St. John watched the activities around Lex Tower from a distance. He knew that once the police began going through Luthor's files, they would find more than enough evidence to convict him as well. He had to make his escape. But before he did, he wanted one item from that building — a green rock.
Nigel doubted the police would understand what they had. As long as that was the case, he had a chance. But after overhearing Henderson's comments to Lois Lane, he knew he would have to hurry. After all, considering her previous involvement with Jason Trask, she may put things together. So if he was going to do this, it would have to be before she had a chance to examine the cage.
After his talk with Luthor last night, Nigel was very encouraged about the effects of the green rock. It was his ticket out of this. It was the means to his revenge. And, ultimately, it was his guarantee of wealth. He had no intention of leaving without it.
"Why don't you get changed out of that dress?" Clark suggested, when they arrived at Lois' apartment. "I'll make some tea."
Lois nodded numbly, as she made her way to her room.
Clark had just finished making the tea, when he heard Lois softly pad into the kitchen. He turned around. She was standing quietly in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe, wearing a pair of sweats and a sweat shirt. She had removed the tear-stained make-up from her face.
"You were right, Clark," Lois said softly, not quite meeting his eyes. Under any other circumstances, he would have been asking her to put that in writing. Under these circumstances, he saw her admission as a sign of how devastated she was.
"I wish I hadn't been," he replied.
Lois met his eyes. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry. I should have listened to you. Instead, I just wrote off everything you said to jealousy. I don't know why I did that. I know that you wouldn't make up things about someone just to get what you want. I never should have doubted you."
Clark could hardly stand this. This wasn't Lois. She never admitted that she was wrong. "Lois, don't."
"I should have believed you, Clark."
"Lois, I didn't know anything for certain. I just had my suspicions. If I had been able to prove something, you would have listened." He walked over to her. "Don't do this to yourself. Luthor is… was a master of deception. He fooled the people of Metropolis for years. You couldn't be expected to see through it."
Lois didn't respond. Clark worried about that. However, not knowing what else to say, he took the moment to get her a cup of tea, before leading her back into the living room.
She carefully examined her tea for a long time. Clark knew she needed to talk, but was at a loss about how to get her to open up to him.
"Just hold me, Clark," she finally whispered.
She didn't have to ask twice. Clark took her in his arms and held her against his chest. Lois grabbed on to the front of his shirt, as if trying to assure herself that he wasn't going to vanish. After a few minutes, he felt her begin to softly cry against him. He closed his eyes and tightened his arms around her.
They sat there for a couple of hours, moving only when it became necessary to keep the circulation going in their bodies, but never letting go of each other completely. This was a new sensation for Clark. He had never before had to worry about little things like circulation — just another one of the fun aftereffects of kryptonite exposure. Soon, Lois was lying on Clark's chest, between his legs, with his arms wrapped around her. When her emotional exhaustion finally overwhelmed her, she fell asleep. Clark just lay there, continuing to hold her.
Clark was grateful as he heard her breathing deepen and felt her body relax against him. He wished she had talked to him. But then that was Lois. She could go on and on about something trivial. But she always had problems opening up about things that really touched her heart. He knew that and was loath to force her.
Clark didn't think he had ever before felt this much anger. He hated how much Luthor had hurt this woman. Yet he buried those feelings. What Lois needed right now was his comfort, not his anger. He lightly kissed her hair as she lay against him. He was glad to be able to be here for her. Even if she didn't love him, he felt enormously honored that she had turned to him.
Once she was well asleep, he gently slipped out from under her. He hesitated for a moment, afraid to wake her. But finally he slipped his arms around her, picked her up, carried her into her bedroom and tucked her into bed. She stirred only slightly. He sat on the side of her bed, gently pushing her hair off her face. He smiled as she turned onto her side, subconsciously reaching for a small black and white teddy bear. She wrapped her arms around the small animal and fell back to sleep.
Clark tucked the blanket further around her and tried to remember where he had seen that stuffed animal before. He felt his breath catch in his throat as he recalled the last time he had been without his powers. He had won that toy for her in a contest of strength. He had been amazed at the time when she had chosen the bear over a Superman doll.
When it was time for supper, Clark made his way into the kitchen to see what he could whip up. He looked in the fridge. There was ketchup and some pickles. He looked in the freezer. There wasn't even any ice cream. He suddenly realized that she had emptied out her fridge since she was planning to get married.
He closed his eyes and steadied himself against the fridge. Lois' heart wasn't the only one in little pieces tonight. He had needed the comfort of having her in his arms as much as she had needed him. Yet holding her had, in some ways, just increased the pain in his heart. It was so hard to just be here for her as a friend. Yet that was all she wanted from him and, if it was, he was determined to give it to her. But, that didn't make it any easier. She would have married another man today if Perry, Jack and Jimmy hadn't stopped the wedding. From what he had heard, they had interrupted the wedding in the middle of her wedding vows. If they had been only moments later, it would have been too late. She would have actually married another man.
Sure, she would be a widow tonight. But she had obviously loved Luthor enough to be willing to marry him. It was only by a miracle that she hadn't. Why did she love Luthor instead of him? He knew it was pointless to ask himself that question. She didn't love him. That was all he needed to know. He smiled grimly at the irony of his situation. Before accepting Luthor's proposal, she had actually told Superman that she loved him. It had been so hard to turn her down. But he knew that the man she loved wasn't real. It all had the makings of a Greek tragedy. If the whole thing wasn't so incredibly painful, Clark would have been tempted to laugh.
Clark pulled his mind back to the task at hand. Supper. He doubted that Lois had eaten today. He knew that when she was nervous she tended to miss meals. So he didn't think she would have been able to eat breakfast. Since the wedding had started at eleven, she certainly hadn't had anything since then. He picked up the phone and ordered Chinese. She may not feel like eating, but she did need something. Since he didn't want to leave her alone long enough to go shopping, ordering in was the best he could do.
About twenty minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Expecting the Chinese food, he opened it.
"Mrs. Lane," Clark gasped in surprise.
"Clark, isn't it?"
"Where's Lois?" Ellen Lane asked, walking into the apartment and looking around.
"She's sleeping." Then to Ellen's raised eyebrows, he continued. "She was worn out after everything, so she decided to take a nap." It wasn't exactly true, but it seemed to be enough to satisfy Lois' mother.
"Well, thank you for staying with her, Clark. But I think I can take it from here."
Clark's heart stood still. He couldn't… wouldn't leave her now. He needed to be here, to know that she was okay, as much as she needed him.
"Mrs. Lane, I really do want…"
Lois awoke to the sound of voices in the next room. She immediately recognized the voices as belonging to her mother and Clark. She heard her mother's polite dismissal of Clark and tensed. Would he leave her? She didn't think she could stand being left alone with her mother. Unlike Clark, she knew that her mother would insist on talking. Right now, all she wanted to do was forget. Clark wouldn't demand anything she wasn't able to give.
She pulled back the covers and made her way to the door of her bedroom. She listened in silence to the exchange.
"…to stay here, at least till Lois is awake," Clark was saying.
"I do appreciate your concern, but I think what a girl needs at a time like this is family."
"Mrs. Lane, Lois is family to me."
"What's that suppose to mean, Clark? Are you implying that her family isn't good enough? We may not be the perfect family, but we are family. You're just a co-worker." The final phrase was said as a complete dismissal of Clark's role in Lois' life. Clark flinched more in fear that the statement was true, than from her callous words.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Lane. I didn't mean to imply…" Clark began.
"Clark is family, Mother," Lois said, coming in to the room. "And if he's willing to stay, I want him here."
"Lois, don't make the mistake your sister's always making," Ellen insisted.
"You mean getting involved with one man to forget about another?" Lois asked.
Clark felt his stomach turn over. Was that what he was doing? Hoping that she would turn to him in her pain. He looked down. Maybe he should go.
Lois caught the look in his eyes, just before he looked down. "Don't go, Clark. Please," she said softly.
He let out a short breath. How could he even think of leaving if she was asking him to stay? "If you want me to stay, I will," he responded.
Ellen Lane continued to try to persuade both of them that Clark should leave, but to no avail. Now that Clark knew Lois wanted him here, he could not be budged. Finally, Mrs. Lane gave up. She informed Lois that she had a prescription to help her relax. Lois refused to take it. This lead to another argument which Ellen Lane also lost. Then supper arrived. Clark had ordered extra food and he asked Ellen to join them. She was too annoyed by this time to agree. She left, making it clear how put out she was about the whole situation.
After Ellen left, they ate the Chinese food. Then they watched an old movie on television. Lois curled up next to Clark and he didn't noticed much of the movie. When she finally went to bed, he stretched out on the sofa.
Four well-dressed businessmen stood around Bill Church's desk.
"I suppose you've heard the news."
They all nodded.
"With the death of Lex Luthor, there's an opening for leadership in Metropolis' underworld. I'm thinking that Intergang might be able to fill that hole."
His suggestion was met with a less than enthusiastic response.
"What?" Church demanded.
"Well, it's just…" began one of the men nervously, "…well, Superman lives in Metropolis."
Church looked at his men. "So you think we should let this chance for expansion go by?"
The men all nodded their agreement.
Bill Church smiled. "I've been talking to someone who disagrees." He walked over to the telephone. "Send in Dave Shannon."
The men waited in silence until the door opened. A large man in his early thirties, with a shaved head, entered. His means of transportation was a wheelchair.
"Dave," said Bill Church. "Thanks for coming. My men seem to think we shouldn't expand into Metropolis because of Superman. What do you think?"
"I think Superman can be controlled," Shannon replied evenly.
"Oh," said Church, looking around at his men.
"No one can control Superman," objected the eldest man in the company, a Joshua Stevens. "People have tried to kill him, unsuccessfully, and he's above blackmail or bribery. And no one has found a way to intimidate him."
Shannon looked unperturbed. "That's because they're trying to control his behavior. I propose controlling the information available to him."
"What are you talking about?" asked Stevens.
Shannon looked around at the men in disgust. They truly did lack imagination. "Superman has certainly managed to stop his share of burglaries and other obvious crimes — the types of crimes where alarms are sounded or someone screams. Now I can't do anything about those…"
"Big surprise there," muttered Stevens.
"But Intergang is too subtle to be holding up banks. The types of things that Intergang is involved in require investigation for Superman to be a threat."
"He's stopped his share of white collar and more complex crimes too," Stevens added.
"But only after he has received the information elsewhere. You see, I have been studying Superman since he showed up last year. I don't think it would be too arrogant for me to consider myself the foremost specialists on the Man of Steel."
Stevens snorted. "You aren't buying this blow hard's drivel, are you, sir?"
Church smiled. "So, what are you suggesting?" he asked Shannon.
"There's a news team that investigates crime in Metropolis. In every case where Superman has uncovered a criminal conspiracy, they have been responsible for assembling the necessary evidence. Superman merely comes in at the last minute to clean up. All we have to do is destroy this news team and, voila, Superman's no threat to any of Intergang's covert criminal activities."
"What are you suggesting? That we kill them?" asked Stevens.
"Can't you even try to be original?" snorted Shannon. "No. Absolutely not. If we try to kill them and fail, or even if we succeed, we put Superman on notice that a crime has been committed. No, we have to be more imaginative than that. I say that we find a way to drive a wedge between them and, if we get lucky, get one or both of them to leave Metropolis."
"And how do you proposed to do that?" asked Stevens.
"Research," Shannon replied.
"Very well," replied Church. "I want detailed research done on this news team… What are their names?"
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent."
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent, immediately."
It was a beautiful day. Lois stepped out into the luscious garden. She inhaled deeply. It was all so fresh and fragrant. She smiled as she heard him land behind her — Kal, the son of Zeus. It was the fourth time he had visited her.
She turned to look at him. He was so handsome, standing in his white toga with a small red 'S' insignia standing out against the white.
"My love," she breathed, allowing him to take her in his arms.
"But why do you love me?" he asked. "Is it just your enchantment with the gods?"
"Never," she exclaimed. "I would love you if you were a mortal."
Kal, however, remained unconvinced. He returned to the heavens troubled. There he met Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
"How do I know if she really loves me?" he asked.
"Go to her as a man. Keep your identity from her and you will know whether she loves you for your divinity or yourself."
It was a few days later and Lois was once again in the garden. She was thinking about her lover, hoping that he would come to her again, when she heard a tapping on the front gate. Disappointed that her lover had not come, she answered it to find a man whom she didn't know on the other side.
"May I speak to you?" the man asked. "I have seen you around the countryside and have fallen hopelessly in love with you. I'm just asking that you give me a chance to make you fall in love with me too."
Lois looked at him with disdain. "Why would I love you?" she asked. "I have a god in love with me."
A look of unbearable pain crossed the stranger's face. She paid it little mind. When he departed, she returned to watching the skies for her young god.
Kal returned to the heavens and once again sought out Aphrodite. He told her what had happened and asked for her help in making his love suffer as she had him.
"I will have Eros strike her with one of his arrows," Aphrodite told him. "It will cause her to fall in love with the most hideous monster in the land. She will not recognize him for who he is until it is too late."
Pleased with the suggestion, Kal instructed Aphrodite to carry out her plan.
When struck by Eros' arrow, Lois was unable to do other than fall in love with the monster that Eros had found for her. She agreed to marry him only to have him reveal himself to her on their wedding night. She also realized that the young god, Kal, had done this to her because she had rejected his human form. In despair, she took her own life.
Realizing what he had done, Kal approached the god of gods, Zeus. He received a special dispensation from Zeus to take his own life.
Lois struggled to wake herself. She realized she was dreaming, but was unable to stop the images as they unfolded. "Superman, help," she tried calling, but had no voice. "Clark," she suddenly managed to gasp.
Clark was only asleep for what seemed like a few minutes, when he woke up to the sound of Lois gasping his name. It was immediately obvious to him that she was having a bad dream. He rushed into her room. She was tossing and turning, groaning softly.
"Lois," he said, coming to sit on the side of her bed.
When she didn't wake up, he gently stroked her cheek. "Lois," he repeated, somewhat louder.
"Clark," she gasped, suddenly coming awake. It took her a moment to orient herself. Her breathing was heavy and her body was soaked in sweat. The t-shirt in which she was sleeping was clinging to her body. She was completely unaware of the effect that was having on Clark. When she got her breathing under in control, she reached up and ran her hand over his face. "You're alive," she said softly.
"It was just a dream, Lois," he gently assured her.
She calmed significantly and nodded. It was just a dream.
"Why don't you try to go back to sleep?" Clark said, rising from the side of her bed.
Lois' hand on his arm stopped him. "Please, Clark," she said. "Don't leave."
He looked back at her. She didn't meet his eyes as she added, "Would you hold me tonight?" She moved over in the bed to make it clear what she was asking.
Clark hesitated for a moment. His body demanded that he leave now. But how could he turn down her request when she so obviously needed him? Finally, he let out a short breath and nodded.
Lois smiled and moved further over. He climbed into bed beside her. She snuggled up in his arms and was asleep almost immediately.
Clark lay awake most of the night, trying to tell his traitorous body to behave itself.
Nigel waited patiently in the shadows of an alley near Lex Towers. As it grew constantly darker, more and more of the police officers around Lex Towers left. Soon there was only a skeleton staff, whose job it was to seal off sections of the building for the police to examine in the morning. One such area was the cellar.
Nigel was a former agent of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service. He had encountered Lex Luthor years ago. Luthor had admired Nigel's complete lack of conscience and had managed to persuade Nigel that there was money available to a man of his talents. Nigel had risen, with Luthor, through the ranks until the two of them stood, side by side, on the very pinnacle of the world. But he had never forgotten his training.
He quietly slipped around to the side of the building. When the police were distracted, he made his way inside. Security around the cellar was tighter. He couldn't get by the officer, so he snuck up behind him. The man was unconscious without making a sound.
Nigel opened the door of the cellar. He figured he only had a few minutes, but that was all he needed. He spotted the cage. The cage itself was not what interested Nigel. He quickly looked for the wires that were attached to it. He followed those wires back to the source. They were connected to a green rock. Using gloved hands, he disconnected the wires and pocketed the rock before making his way back out of the room, out of the building and being swallowed by the black of night.
"Good morning," Clark said, when Lois joined him in the kitchen the next morning. "I've got toast and coffee ready. You don't have a lot of food in your kitchen." Her cupboards had been almost as devoid of food as her fridge was. However, he had managed to find some bread and peanut butter.
Lois gave a sad smile. "I didn't expect to need any."
Clark gave her a quick look of apology. He really hadn't meant to remind her about yesterday. "What do you say that after breakfast, we go rectify your food shortage?"
"I can't, Clark. I need to go to Lex Towers this morning."
"Henderson… The cage… Remember?"
Clark nodded slowly.
Lois sat down at the table and picked up a slice of toast. She took a bite before discarding it in favor of coffee. "Look, Clark, about last night…"
Clark looked at her and nodded.
"It's just… Can we just forget about that?"
"What do you mean?" Clark asked.
"It's just… well, I sort of lost it."
"Lois, what you went through yesterday… I mean with your wedding to Luthor…"
"I don't want to talk about it anymore, Clark," Lois interrupted. "I just want to forget."
Clark let out a short breath. He nodded. If she didn't want to talk about it, there wasn't much he could do. Still, after the intimacy between them yesterday, it was hard to know that he was now expected to back away.
"Good morning, Henderson," said Lois as she arrived at a very busy Lex Towers. She looked around at the frantic activity. "What's going on?"
"Someone broke in last night. An officer was injured, but he'll be okay."
"Who broke in?"
"If we knew that, it wouldn't be so crazy here, would it?"
"Okay then, what did they take?"
"That's the problem. We don't exactly know?"
"What do you mean, you don't EXACTLY know?"
Henderson let out a short breath. "Come with me."
Lois had never been in the wine cellar at Lex Towers. The room was more reflective of a wine cellar in a British castle instead of modern building in the heart of Metropolis. However, what drew Lois' attention was not the room itself, but the structure in the center of the room. It was a metal cage.
"Do you have any idea what this was for?" she asked Henderson.
"That's why you're here. However, we should tell you that yesterday, it had a green glow."
Henderson led her over to the cage. "If you look here, there are wires attached to the cage. We think that it had some sort of electric current running through it. But it wasn't your normal electric current." He took her over to a small box. "When we came in yesterday, the electrical current ran through a green glowing rock. The result seemed to be that the entire cage glowed green. It was the only thing taken last night. While we were investigating the break-in, one of the officers came up with the idea of bringing in a geiger counter."
"A geiger counter? Did you find radioactivity?"
"Yes. Now it's not a type that's dangerous to humans. A human could touch the cage and be fine. So why would anyone create a cage that pumped a radioactive substance through it that wouldn't hurt people?"
Lois shook her head. "I'm sorry, Henderson. I don't know."
Suddenly Lois flashed back to an incident the previous fall — an incident involving a 'mystical rock' that could allegedly hurt Superman. A rock that she… Okay, technically Clark, had named, kryptonite. She smiled slightly, remembering how annoyed she'd been when Clark had rejected her name of kryptonium in favor of calling it kryptonite. She then thought back to yesterday. Clark had tensed at the mention of the cage. But if he knew something, why hadn't he volunteered it?
Henderson noticed her thoughtful expression. "What is it, Lane? Do you know something?"
"No, Inspector, I'm afraid I can't help you," Lois responded.
As Lois left Henderson, she thought about Clark. She was fairly certain he knew something about all of this. But they weren't partners anymore. She couldn't use the tried and true method of referring to their partnership to get the information from him. She would have to come up with another method.
Clark stretched his tired muscles, while relaxing in the lawn chair he had set up on the balcony of his apartment. Being trapped in that kryptonite cage in the basement of Lex Towers two nights ago had taken his powers and left him feeling drained. On top of that, he hadn't slept much last night. Then there was the high level of emotion he was experiencing. His body greedily soaked up the sun. He closed his eyes and attempted to levitate slightly. No luck.
He had wanted to go to Lex Towers with Lois. But he knew that if he did that, she would find a way to drag him into that room. She would know his secret instantly. So when she told him that she wanted to go alone and that she would come by his apartment later, he had agreed.
Clark moved his head in a circle in an effort to remove the crick in his neck. He really didn't like the after effects of kryptonite exposure.
"Would you like a back massage?" came Lois' voice behind him.
Clark jumped. He hadn't heard her approach, another indication that he didn't have his powers.
"Sorry," said Lois.
Clark smiled. "It's okay. And yes, I'd love a back massage."
She touched his shoulder and then turned around, making her way into his apartment. He rose and followed her inside.
"Take off your shirt," Lois instructed. "And lie down on the couch."
He did as commanded.
Lois swallowed hard at the sight of the hard muscles of his chest and back. She sat down on the side of the couch and gently ran a hand over his back. She fought off the feelings that cascaded through her system and turned her attention to giving him a back massage. Right now she had some questions for him and she refused to be distracted from her mission.
Clark closed his eyes as her hands and fingers ran over his back, finding the knotted muscles and working them out. There were certainly some good things about not having his powers. He was lost to the feel of her hands, when her voice brought him abruptly back to the present.
"Do you think the cage was meant for Superman?" she asked. She felt him immediately tense. In response, she moved her hands over to a particularly tense spot and concentrated her efforts there.
"What cage?" he tried.
Clark sighed. The contrast between the soothing work of her hands and the tension of her questions was making it hard to think clearly.
"Why do you think it was meant for Superman?" he finally asked.
She sighed. Why was he being so evasive? She found a particularly sensitive spot and began kneading it with the palms of her hands.
"Do you remember the story on Jason Trask?"
"Well, apparently the cage in the cellar was wired up to transmit radioactivity from a green rock through it. The rock was stolen last night, but they discovered radioactivity through the use of a geiger counter."
"What?" Clark exclaimed.
"Yeah. Apparently, the radioactivity is not a type harmful to humans. That, plus the information we got while tracking down the story about Jason Trask, makes me wonder if it was meant for Superman."
"No, Lois. I meant, what did you mean about it being stolen?" Clark said, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.
"Oh. Well, apparently someone broke in last night and stole the rock. Anyway, I was thinking…" Lois voice trailed off at the unbelievable tension that had invaded Clark's body. "Do you want to tell me what's going on?" she asked.
Clark was silent for a moment, trying to decide what to do. He had to concentrate. Her hands moved further down his back. He fought back a groan.
Lois smiled as she heard the strangled sound that came from the back of his throat. "Good?" she asked, leaning down to whisper in his ear. She knew that he was holding back and she was determined to get the information out of him. It did briefly occur to Lois to question the morality of her interrogation technique. But she dismissed that thought almost immediately. It wasn't exactly like she was pulling out his fingernails. Besides, he could stop this any time he wanted to. And if she could fight the distraction of running her hands over his bare back, then certainly he could too. She smiled slightly. Finally, it wasn't like he wasn't going to know soon enough how she felt about him. She just wanted to wait till the right time and now, when she was searching for information, wasn't it.
Clark's hazy mind tried to focus on the word Lois had spoken. It was only a single word, a question. But there was something about the way she had asked it, about the tone in her voice, that made him feel lightheaded. There was an almost guttural sound to it. He had heard the sound before, from Cat for example. But it had never evoked the feelings in him that her use of it had. He cleared his throat and forced his mind to focus. "You have no idea how much I needed this today," Clark responded as casually as he could.
"Tell me what you know about the cage, Clark."
Her question reminded Clark that he had to get away from what her hands were doing to him if he was going to be able to think clearly - decide how much to tell her. However, he couldn't seem to do it. Finally, he just surrendered to what she wanted. She was going to get it eventually anyway and with what her hands were doing… He didn't want her to stop her sweet torture.
"Umm… Luthor trapped Superman in the cage the day before your wedding. He would have killed him, but Superman managed to escape about the same time Perry, Jimmy and Jack stopped your wedding."
"What? Are you sure?" Lois gasped.
"How do you know?"
"Umm… Superman told me before I came to find you."
Lois felt confused. "But if he was there, why didn't he stop Lex's suicide? I mean, maybe Lex didn't deserve it, but it doesn't seem like Superman to just let him die."
"The kryptonite robed him of his powers. He couldn't do anything."
"Are you saying that Superman doesn't have his powers?"
"Not at the moment."
"Not at the moment?"
"He'll get them back, Lois. It just takes time."
Lois concentrated on the back massage for a moment. "Do you think he had the kryptonite stolen?" Lois finally asked.
"Then someone out there has a rock that can kill Superman."
"It would appear that way."
"Clark, we've got to find that rock."
Now it was Clark's turn to be silent. He did need to find that rock, but this could be dangerous.
"I thought you were working for LNN."
"I'm on my honeymoon," Lois replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Why didn't you tell this to Henderson yesterday?"
"Umm…" Clark paused. He hadn't told Henderson because he didn't want people to know that there was a substance out there that could kill Superman. But what should he tell Lois. "Superman doesn't want anyone to know."
Lois nodded thoughtfully. "We have to find that rock, Clark. We have to, before it's used to kill Superman."
Clark took a deep breath and let it out. The truth was that he did need her help with this. He would need someone to dispose of the rock when they found it. "You're right, Lois. We should see what we can do about finding it."
Dave Shannon rolled his wheelchair into Bill Church's office.
"Did you get the information?" Church asked.
Shannon nodded. "I got a lot. Did you know that Lois Lane is the woman who was suppose to marry Lex Luthor?"
Church was fascinated. "Really?"
"Yes. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's start with what I was able to find out about Clark Kent."
Church leaned back in his chair and waited for Shannon to begin.
"Kent went to journalism school at the University of Kansas after high school. Apparently, he got top marks… Actually, the university professor I spoke to told me that he still remembered Kent because no student ever got marks that good before. Anyway, after university, he spent the next few years traveling around the world. It wasn't until a year ago that Kent came to work for the Daily Planet, at about the same time Superman showed up. He was partnered with Lois Lane until the Daily Planet failed… Actually, according to police reports, Luthor blew up the Planet."
"Was that to destroy the news team?"
"Well, with the destruction of the Daily Planet, is this news team a threat anymore?"
"I don't think we can count on the destruction of the Planet. Perry White, the editor of the Planet, is looking for someone willing to rebuild. Besides, with the death of Luthor, I imagine it's only a matter of time before the team is together again."
Church looked thoughtful for a moment. "So what were you able to find out about Lois Lane?"
"She went to journalism school at Metropolis U. During the summer before her last year, she worked for the Daily Planet. She was hired full time immediately after she finished."
"What can you tell me about their families, friends, personal life?"
"Lois Lane isn't close to her family. Her parents are divorced and she has one sister who is currently living in California."
"He's closer, emotionally, to his parents. He has no siblings. His parents have a farm in Kansas."
"As the only child, didn't his parents expect him to take over the farm?"
"I couldn't find that out. But it seems that after his traveling, he never had any intention of returning to the farm."
"Ahh… How does the song go? 'How do you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris?'" Church asked.
Shannon smiled. "I think that's it. Well, except that Paris is said with a french accent."
Church laughed. "So what about relationships?"
"As far as we can tell, Kent has never had any serious relationships."
"Do you think he's gay?"
"It doesn't seem so. Just hasn't found the right woman, I'd guess. Lois Lane is a different story."
"Lane apparently dated a lot in university."
"Well, university is dating heaven. What does that prove?"
"Shortly after she started working at the Daily Planet she got involved with a guy…" Shannon paused as he flipped through his notes. "…named, Claude Benoit. He was more than ten years her senior. The relationship lasted about six months. From all accounts, she was completely star struck."
"With a reporter?" Church asked in disbelief.
Shannon shrugged. "Benoit had earned quite a reputation as a war correspondent. I guess she had a thing for successful reporters. Anyway, he left the Daily Planet. She didn't date seriously again until Luthor."
Now Church looked impressed. "So you think that this guy broke her heart?"
Shannon just raised an eyebrow.
"And you think she never really got over him."
"I think it's possible. Anyway, apparently Benoit was married. They were separated at the time. But when he left Metropolis, he went back with his wife."
"And where is Benoit now?"
"He's working as a war correspondent for the International."
"My paper," Church responded smugly.
"And…" Shannon continued, "…he's recently divorced."
Church was thoughtful for a moment. "What's the relationship between Lane and Kent? Anything going on there?"
"Not as far as I was able to tell. But it seems that might not be an entirely mutual decision."
"Who's the hold out?"
"Lane. Apparently Kent really freaked when she decided to marry Luthor."
Church smiled. "So, while she's suffering from her heartache over losing the man she was going to marry, we bring back the love of her life. If Kent freaked out about Luthor, maybe we can drive the final wedge between them with Benoit."
"I'm already researching Claude Benoit. I'm hoping to find the right hook to get him on board. I mean, it's not like we're asking him to break rocks. I've seen pictures of Lois Lane."
"Good. Keep me informed."
The alarm went off. Clark reached out and hit the clock. The clock shattered into a thousand pieces. He glanced over at the clock in disgust. He let out a frustrated breath. This replacing clocks was getting expensive. Suddenly, he was wide awake. The clock!! His powers. Were they back?
He levitated slightly while looking through the wall. Yes!! His powers were indeed back. He leaned back, floating above the bed. Now, this was living. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation.
Lois was up early this morning. After getting Clark's 'confession', they had spent the rest of the day trying to figure out who was behind the theft. They decided that the thief had to have two pieces of information. First, it had to be someone who could have known what the kryptonite was for. Second, it had to be someone who knew that Lex had it. Lois and Clark had combined their knowledge of Lex Luthor to come up with a list of people that Lex may have told.
Of course, they decided that it could have also been someone hired by Lex to find the kryptonite. Somehow, Clark was aware that Bureau 39 knew about the kryptonite Wayne Irig had found because of a piece that had been sent in for testing. They would have to see what they could do to follow up on that.
Lois had already attempted to call Bobby Bigmouth. However, apparently he had taken an all-you-can-eat cruise. No one knew exactly when he would be back.
She smiled shyly as she thought back to yesterday. The way Clark had visibly melted under the her hands had left her with a feeling of power. Although, had their positions been reversed, she wasn't sure that she would have had more luck than he did. It did bother her that he hadn't told her about the kryptonite in the first place. However, Superman had obviously not wanted anyone to know. Besides, it wasn't like they had talked that first night.
She thought back to that first night. In particular, the dream. Was her subconscious blaming Superman because she had almost married Lex Luthor? Was Superman in love with her? Was that just her imagination? When she had told Superman that she would love him if he were just an ordinary man, he had made it clear that he didn't believe her. Maybe the dream was just a reflection of that, along with how close she had come to marrying Lex.
Besides, when it came down to a choice, she had chosen Clark. She figured she would always have a physical reaction when Superman entered the room, but Clark was the one who was always there for her. When they had been estranged, during her engagement to Lex, she had come to realize just how much a part of her life he had managed to become. She knew that it would be a long slow process to get past what she had done to their friendship. But once she finally told him that she was in love with him too, maybe they would be able to start building back their relationship and even take it beyond where they had been before.
She was amazed at how much that thought excited her. She felt a little like a teenager experiencing her first crush. Except that there was one vital difference. The possibilities with this relationship were boundless. She could hardly believe how lucky she was to have someone like Clark in love with her. What had she ever done to deserve his love? He was the only man who had ever really supported her. Not that he didn't argue with her about her decisions. But when she did make a decision, he was always there for her. That was why, when the wedding had fallen through, she had turned to him. He hadn't gloated about being right. Instead, he had just held her. She loved him even more because of it.
A ringing phone interrupted her musings. When she answered it, Perry was on the other end.
"Lois, I'm wondering if you can meet me at the coffee shop across from the Daily Planet in about an hour."
"Sure, Perry. What's going on?"
"I'll tell you when we meet."
Lois looked at the phone for a moment after hanging up. She knew that Perry had been trying to find someone to reopen the Daily Planet. He must have some news. She got dressed and headed out for the meeting.
When she arrived, Jack, Jimmy and Clark were already there.
"Do you know why Perry called us?" Lois asked them.
All three shook their heads.
"Ahh, good. You're all here," said Perry from behind her.
Lois lowered herself into a chair as she asked, "So, what's going on, Perry?"
Perry sat down. "Right. Well, as you all know, I've been trying to find someone to get the Daily Planet going again."
Suddenly all four of the other occupants of the table were all asking the identical question, albeit in different ways. Perry waited for them to quiet down before continuing.
"Now, I used every means I could think of. I appealed to the city's need to have a voice for truth. I appealed to their need to make money. I even tried to appeal to their dislike of Luthor. But, I couldn't find anyone willing to take the risk. I'm afraid that the Daily Planet is indeed finished."
"Surely there's something…" started Jimmy.
"Jimmy, I'm sure Perry did everything he could," said Clark. "Thank you, Perry."
"Sure, Son. Listen, I just thought you should know about this, since you were the ones who knew that I was trying to revive it."
There was a moment of silence before Perry continued. "Anyway, I thought we'd meet here so that we could walk over and say good-bye to the Planet."
Everyone agreed and a very somber party made their way down the street to the Daily Planet.
"I wish they'd just get it over with and tear this place down," Jimmy said as they arrived at the boarded up building.
"Yep," said Perry. "Too many memories."
"Most of them good," Lois added.
"Well, you know, there's a lesson to be learned in all of this," Perry added.
"Why am I not surprised?" said Jack.
"We should appreciate what we've got when we've got it," Perry concluded.
At those pearls of wisdom, Lois immediately looked over at Clark. He was looking completely dejected. Perry was right. Why had she taken so long to appreciate Clark? Well, she would rectify that. She had planned to wait for the right moment to tell him how she felt. But seeing the look on his face changed that. She would tell him today - at her first opportunity.
Clark heard Perry's words too. He had appreciated what he had. Now, realization began to set in. Lois might not be marrying Luthor, but he had still lost her. Oh, they might be able to remain friends, but he wouldn't be able to see her every day, to work with her. And since she had made it clear that there was nothing beyond that…
"I know I've said this before," Perry continued. "But I just hate it that Luthor got his way in this one thing."
"He didn't. Look," said a deep voice. Everyone turned and looked as a flat bed truck pulled up in front of the building with a large load which looked like a UFO The truck stopped and the tarp covering the item was removed, revealing a new large globe, like the one which had been at the front of the Planet before the explosion.
The looks of despair on the group outside the Daily Planet turned to joy at the sight.
"Great shades of Elvis," Perry exclaimed.
"We'll start on the building next week," Franklin Stern informed them. "But first, I thought we'd announce to the world we're back in business. I uhh… reconsidered your proposal. And I agree with you, Mr. White, Metropolis does need the Daily Planet. Besides, one more nail in Lex Luthor's coffin would suit me fine. I do have some ideas about modernization…"
"Modernization?" Perry asked, concern evident in his voice.
"Yes. Improvements. Expansions. Wanna see the plans?" Stern started walking away.
"Mr. Stern, just a doggone minute here. I uhh… Sir, what do you mean by modernizations?"
Lois and Clark watched in amusement as Perry followed Franklin Stern across the street. They were standing some distance apart, but both were acutely aware of the other's presence.
Suddenly, Lois felt very nervous. She wanted to tell Clark. She wanted to tell him now. But she was suddenly, inexplicably, at a lose for how to even begin a conversation with him.
Clark looked over at Lois. "I've never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life," Clark commented.
Lois turned toward him, unable to tell exactly what he was referring to — the symbol of the Planet's return or her. She smiled and made her way over to him.
"You never gave up," Lois began. "On the Planet. On your friends. On me."
"I couldn't. You've just named probably everything in this world that's precious to me."
Lois let out a short breath in response. "I don't think I have ever… Will ever meet anyone quite like you," Lois continued, stepping up closer to him. There was a moment of silence between them.
Lois gathered her courage for what she had to tell him. When she finally had, her heart began to race. She spoke.
Clark had spoken at the same time.
"No, let me go first," said Lois, feeling almost giddy.
"No, no, no," said Clark. "Not this time." Then, before she could object, he plunged ahead. He had to find a way to save their friendship, their partnership. He was determined to do that. "Lois, I'm sorry. About a lot of things. I wanted to bring Luthor down. But I never wanted to hurt you."
Lois smiled slightly at his apology. It was so like Clark to be worried about hurting her when he had only been trying to save her from herself.
"I shouldn't have said anything about the way I felt toward you. It put you in an incredibly awkward position."
"No, Clark, I really…" Lois began.
Clark cut her off. "No. The truth of the matter is, Lois. It wasn't true. I'm not in love with you. I…"
Suddenly, Lois felt like she could hardly breath. "You're not?" she asked quietly, fighting to keep her voice steady.
"I would have said anything to stop you from marrying Luthor," Clark continued, crossing his fingers behind his back.
"Oh," said Lois, trying to keep her voice from shaking. "Well, if that's how you feel…"
"I want the same thing that you want. For us to be friends, partners… Forever."
"Forever," Lois repeated. They continued to look at each other for a moment before Lois looked down. This pain was worse than what had happened a couple of days ago at her wedding.
"What did you want to say?" Clark finally asked.
"Oh…" said Lois, trying to find something to say. "Nothing. Yeah, what you said… Just that… sort of."
Clark continued to look into her eyes for a long moment after that, wishing that he hadn't had to lie to her, wishing that she could somehow see into his soul and respond to all the love there. However, an awkward pause was avoided when Clark heard a cry for help.
"Uhh… could you excuse me for a second, Lois. We can continue this later. I have to go… quickly," Clark said.
Lois watched as Clark suddenly ran off. "Sure. Why not? Go," she said resignedly, to the empty air. "Run off and disappear, like you always do when we're having a discussion. Well, I guess everything's back to normal."
What had she been thinking anyway? How could he possibly love her when she hurt him over and over again? Maybe he had had some feelings for her when he told her that he loved her. But she had obviously killed those with her acceptance of Lex's proposal. She had known that there would be some work to restore their friendship. But she hadn't counted on this. Partners and friends forever. It was the word 'forever' that bothered Lois the most. He was obviously trying to tell her that they would never be more than that. She suddenly felt quite lost.
Just then she heard a sonic boom. She looked into the sky to get a glimpse of red and blue. Well, Clark was gone. Maybe she could redirect her feelings back to the man in tights. "I'm not done with you either, Big Fella," she said into the sky. She knew he would never be hers, but pursuing him might let her forget the pain of losing Clark — well, if she'd ever had him in the first place.
"Listen, General, I won't…" began a dark muscular man in fatigues.
"I'm not listening to you any more, Benoit," replied the general. "Because of your irresponsible reporting, the entire mission was compromised. We have given you the liberty of traveling with the troops. That ends now."
"Face it, Benoit, you might as well find another job. From this moment on, any soldier under my command who gives you information will be busted."
"Are you Claude Benoit?" asked Shannon. Shannon had used Church's ownership of the International to ensure that some information that Claude hadn't been submitting for publication got published. He then sat back and waited for the fireworks. His informants told him that had taken place with the General today. So he approached Claude Benoit, assuming that Mr. Benoit, with his career in tatters, would be open to his proposition. After all, his research had indicated that Benoit was somewhat flexible in his ethics — especially when it came to women.
"Oui. Who are you?" asked Claude without really taking note of the man in the wheelchair. The general was right. Without his cooperation, Claude was not going to have any luck getting the inside story on this military operation. And considering all the difficulties he'd had in the past year, he doubted that his paper would be sympathetic.
"I work for someone who might have a job offer for you."
That got Claude's attention.
"Is it in reporting, Monsieur…"
"Shannon. Can we go somewhere to talk?"
Claude looked at him for a moment before saying, "We can talk in my suite."
It was six weeks later — their last week of freedom. In a few days, they would return to work at the newly refurbished Daily Planet.
"Come on, Clark. It'll be fun," Lois said, pulling at his arm as he lay in the lawn chair.
"I'm having fun, Lois," Clark replied. "All I want to do is lie out here, in my comfy chair, and soak up the sun." Although he had recovered his powers fairly quickly after his latest encounter with kryptonite, the prolonged exposure had left him needing greater quantities of sun between rescues. So when Lois had suggested that they come to the beach today, he had been happy to comply. And he was enjoying the lazy comfort.
Lois let out a short breath. "But I'll have more fun playing."
Clark glanced at her over the top of his sunglasses. "So, play," he suggested.
She gave him a disgusted look, before turning around and going over to join the people who were playing frisbee.
Clark watched her go. He was concerned about Lois, much more so than he was willing to admit to her. Since crying in his arms the night after her near-wedding, she had refused to talk about what had happened. There had been daily headlines as more and more was discovered about Luthor's criminal empire. Lois had dealt with it by refusing to read the paper or listen to the news.
Since she had had two weeks booked off at LNN for her honeymoon, that had solved the immediate problem of work. After that, with the announcement that Franklin Stern was rebuilding the Daily Planet, Lois had handed in her resignation in anticipation of returning to work later in the summer. At first, Clark had taken this as a good sign. Instead of retreating into her work, she was actually taking some time off, Clark hoped, to deal with everything that had happened.
But a Lois Lane who was not working actually managed to keep as busy as a Lois Lane who was working. And it wasn't even as if they had gotten any further in finding out about the kryptonite. Lois had been too preoccupied to concentrate on the task. After her insistence that they had to find it, it was confusing. It was as if, the next day, her heart had been too broken to continue the investigation.
Since then, she had managed to keep both of them completely occupied. Today was a good example. She had come by his place early this morning to suggest that they spend the day at the beach. Clark had agreed. It seemed like a nice, relaxing way to spend the day. But since they had been here, they had gone swimming, looked for sea shells, gone for a walk and now, Lois wanted to play frisbee.
Everytime Clark tried to broach the subject of what had happened at her wedding, Lois changed the subject. He knew she was hurting, another betrayal by another man, but she simply did what Lois Lane always did with emotional trauma, she internalized it.
Clark smiled as he watched Lois play. She played frisbee the way she did everything else, to be the best. But lying here, watching her dive for the frisbee, Clark felt that familiar pain in his chest. She was not the only one who had been hurt by her near marriage to that monster. He was so completely in love with her. It had cost him dearly to recant his declaration of love. She was so smart, so graceful — he watched as she landed face first in the sand — so Lois.
"Wipe that smirk off your face, Kent," she yelled over at him, when she looked up from the spot where she had landed.
"Smirk?" asked Clark innocently.
Lois ignored him to go back to playing.
There was another problem. Although Clark wasn't sure that it wasn't just in his imagination. Although they were spending almost every day together, there seemed to be a tension between them. He thought, at times, that it was just that Lois was still in so much pain. But there were other times… It was something in the way she looked at him. She wouldn't tell him what it was any more than she would talk about Luthor. But there was something else going on with her that he couldn't quite place
It was some time later. Lois pulled herself up on to a small raft. She dangled her legs in the water as she looked toward the shore at her sleeping partner. After playing frisbee, she had been sweaty and covered with sand, so she had stripped off her shorts and t-shirt to take a quick swim and cool off. Clark had been asleep so she had come alone.
She was glad she had suggested coming to the beach today. It gave her a chance to see Clark in his swim trunks. She sometimes forgot that under those suits was an incredible body. Today, however, she had the right to see it again without letting him know how he effected her.
She knew that Clark wanted her to talk about what had happened with Lex. But how could she? After all, he was part of the problem. His recantation of his declaration of love had left her trying to deal with all these unleashed emotions for her partner that had little to do with either friendship or partnership. The only saving grace was that she hadn't had a chance to tell him how she felt.
In spite of her hopes about redirecting her feelings back to Superman, she had been unable to do so. No. The man lying on the beach now held sway over her feelings. She kept hoping that they would just go away. But so far, it wasn't anything more than a hope. In fact, during the past six weeks the only thing she had accomplished was to find that her feelings had become more intense. How could she love someone so much without it being reciprocated?
Then there was the dream. She had been having that same dream almost every night. Maybe that was why she hadn't been able to redirect her feelings back to Superman. Maybe somewhere deep inside she blamed him for what had happened. She knew that was ridiculous, but what other interpretation could there be for the dream?
On the beach, Clark looked cautiously over his sunglasses to watch the woman sitting on the raft. He started by using his enhanced vision to watch her toes run carelessly through the water. He then watched in fascination as she used the toes of one foot to scratch the back of the calf of her other leg, before allowing them to resume their play in the water. Once her feet were both back in the water, his eyes began to slowly move up her body. Laying here, with her thinking he was asleep, allowed him the perfect cover to enjoy seeing her in a swimsuit. His breathing deepened at the sight. If only… He sighed.
Nigel entered the lavishly decorated office. "Mr. Church, It's nice to finally meet you," Nigel said, in his charming English accent.
"Of course, I know who you are, Mr. St. John. What I don't know is what you think I can do for you?"
"No, sir. It's what I can do for you."
"Hi, Son," said Jonathan as Clark landed outside the old farmhouse.
"Hi, Dad," Clark replied.
Jonathan looked up from his job of weaving some ropes together when he heard the tone of his son's voice.
"What's wrong, Son? Did something happen to Lois?"
"No. Well, not really," he said.
Martha, hearing Clark's voice, had joined the men.
"What is it then?" she asked.
"It's just… I'm really worried about her. I know that what happened with Luthor really hurt her, but I can't seem to get her to talk about it. But… I don't know, it's like, even when she smiles, it never seems to reach her eyes anymore. I don't know what to do."
Clark sat down dejectedly on the steps.
"I think the only thing you can do is be there for her," Jonathan said quietly. "When she's ready, she'll talk."
"It's just so hard, seeing her in so much pain and not being able to help. I really don't think I understood how much she loved Luthor. But if she hadn't, I don't think she would be grieving so deeply. I'm glad now that I told her I just wanted to be friends. Otherwise, she might not let me be there for her as much as she is."
"I don't think you're giving Lois enough credit, Clark," said Martha.
"Mom, I just don't think Lois needs to deal with my feelings on top of everything else. And if all she wants is to be friends… I just don't think I could stand not having her in my life."
They talked for the next hour. When Clark left, he felt somewhat better. But he still didn't know what he was going to do about Lois.
Martha walked into the farmhouse. Since Jonathan noticed a familiar determination on her face, he lay down his work and followed her.
Martha picked up the phone book, found the number she was looking for, and dialed.
"Yes. I'd like a ticket to Metropolis… As soon as possible."
"Martha, what are you up to?" Jonathan asked.
She waved him off, as she gave the person on the end of the line all the necessary information. She hung up the phone and opened their personal phone book. She dialed a second number.
Lois was wandering around the apartment. She had tried calling Clark, but he hadn't been home, so she had left a message on his machine. Now she was waiting for the phone to ring. She could hardly believe what she had been reduced to. She had never hung around her apartment hoping a man would call.
The phone rang. Lois' hand was immediately on it. She hesitated. She didn't want to seem too eager. She shook her head. What was she doing? She was planning her moves. She snatched up the phone.
"What?" she asked, her frustration with herself clearly reflected in her voice.
"Hi, Lois. Did I call at a bad time?"
Lois struggled to put a name to the voice. Suddenly it came to her. "Martha?"
"I'm sorry. I was just… having a bad day, I guess. No, this isn't a bad time. What can I do for you?"
"Well, I'm going to be in Metropolis tomorrow. I was wondering if you would let me take you to lunch."
"Umm… Sure. I'd like that."
"Good. Why don't I pick you up at noon?"
"That sounds fine."
"One other thing…" Martha hesitated. "Don't tell Clark about this. He doesn't know I'm coming in to town."
"Okay," said Lois. This was definitely intriguing. She determined she would get the full story tomorrow.
"What are you doing, Martha?" Jonathan asked when she got off the phone.
"I'm going to see my future daughter-in-law."
"You heard Clark. They're further away from that happening than they ever were before."
"Only because Clark lied to her about his feelings. Look, Jonathan, Lois is going to be part of this family some day. And right now, I think she needs another woman to talk to."
Jonathan sighed. He knew his wife. Once she got an idea into her head, he would never be able to talk her out of it. But there was one thing he wanted to know.
"Why are you so sure that she's going to be part of our family some day?"
Martha smiled. "I spent two years running from you, didn't I? Trust me, I know the signs."
"Ahh… Mr. Benoit, if you're here, I would assume it's to accept my proposal," said Dave Shannon.
"Oui, Monsieur," said Claude. "But I do not understand the purpose in this."
"You don't need to understand, Mr. Benoit. All you need to know is what to do. You have to make Lois Lane fall in love with you and go with you to Paramador to cover the war there. You will be well compensated and you will have an in with the Paramador military. Can you do it?"
"Oui," Claude replied.
"Fine. I would suggest that you apply for a job at the Daily Planet to provide you with cover in the mean time. They lost a number of their people when they were closed, so that shouldn't be a problem."
"You can count on me, Monsieur."
With that Claude Benoit was shown out.
Once he left, Bill Church entered the office. He had observed the whole conversation from behind a two way mirror. "What do you think?" Church asked, turning to Shannon.
"Well, if his arrogance isn't misplaced, I say we stand a chance of making this work."
"I have some security if it doesn't," Church informed Shannon.
"Security?" Shannon asked.
"Are you aware of a substance called kryptonite?"
"It seems to me that I read about it in a story done by Lois Lane last year. But I thought she called it a mystical rock."
"It's not mystical. I have just obtained some. If we can't destroy the team, I want to kill Superman."
Shannon swallowed hard. "And who do you propose do this?"
"This is your project. I would assume you would want to. Oh, and there is one condition to our using the rock. Lois Lane has to be killed too. My source says that the woman has been a thorn in his side for the past year. In exchange for giving us Superman, he wants us to take care of Lois Lane. I told him we would. I would suggest that you put together a plan."
Lois was almost beside herself with curiosity by the time Martha arrived the next day. Why wouldn't Martha want Clark to know that she was in Metropolis? Maybe there was something wrong with Clark that he didn't want her to know. She tried to reject that thought as too horrible to contemplate, but her mind kept coming back to it. So when she heard a knock at the door and threw it open to reveal Martha, the first words out of her mouth were, "Is Clark all right?"
"What?" Martha stammered. Whatever greeting she'd been expecting, this was not it.
"Are you here to tell me there's something wrong with Clark?" Lois repeated. "Is he sick or something?"
"Umm… No. Clark's fine."
Lois let out a breath and stumbled slightly.
"Oh, Honey, I'm sorry," said Martha. "I hope you haven't been worrying about that since I called yesterday."
"No. Of course not," Lois lied, regaining her equilibrium. She found a smile and added, "So, where do you want to go for lunch?"
Martha held up a picnic basket. "I was hoping you might enjoy a picnic down at Centennial Park. It's such a lovely day."
"Sounds great," Lois said, picking up her jacket and following the older woman out of her apartment.
Lois moaned appreciatively as she took the first bite of her sandwich. "Oh, Martha. This is great. How do you do it? Whenever I make egg salad sandwiches they taste like I put an egg and some mayonnaise on bread. These are delicious."
Martha laughed. "Actually, I didn't make them. I got them from a deli near your apartment. I thought about bringing some from home, but didn't think that was such a good idea. So I went by the deli. It was very nice. I got into a discussion with the owner and she uses much the same recipe I do. So when I told her that I was from out of town and what I had in mind, she suggested that I borrow her picnic basket and her thermos."
Lois shook her head. "I guess that explains where Clark gets it from."
"Get's what from?"
"Well, Martha, this is Metropolis. Proprietors of stores don't loan picnic baskets or thermoses to customers. At least that was what I would have said before meeting Clark. He seems to have a way of getting people to do the most unusual things. I guess it's just a Kansas trait."
"I imagine Kansas has something to do with it. Of course, that smile and dimple don't hurt. Clark just seems to have a knack for making people want to do things for him. He has since he was a kid," responded Martha.
"I've noticed. It is especially obvious with women," Lois added as an afterthought. There was a moment of silence while both women enjoyed their sandwiches. "So, Martha, what's the big mystery? Why don't you want Clark to know you're in town?"
"I just don't want him pressuring me to tell him what we talked about."
Lois was particularly intrigued now. "Why? What are we going to talk about?"
Martha put down her sandwich and looked at Lois before responding. "Now, don't get mad, but Clark told us what happened with Lex Luthor. And I know that you don't get along well with your parents, so I figured you might need someone to talk to. I know you can talk to Clark. I just thought it might be easier talking about things with another woman."
"You came all the way to Metropolis just to talk to me?" Lois asked, in a small voice.
"I do it to talk to Clark. I know we don't know each other very well, but I think of you as family too."
Lois eyes filled up with unshed tears. Never had anyone done anything like this for her before. After all, even her own father hadn't bothered to fly in for her wedding.
"So, do you want to talk about it?" Martha asked. "Don't feel like you have to. I can always enjoy a nice lunch and maybe do a little shopping if you're uncomfortable with this."
Lois was silent for a long moment. She really did need to talk about everything that had happened and she couldn't do so with Clark. There was no one else she would trust with this.
"So, you won't tell Clark what we discuss?" she asked, not quite looking at Martha.
"That's why I didn't tell him I was coming."
Lois met the older woman's gaze for a moment. Maybe it was just knowing that she had raised Clark, but for some reason she felt like she could trust this woman. She slowly nodded.
"I don't know where to start," Lois said softly.
"Well, I've got all day. Start wherever you want. If you forget something, you can always go back to it."
Lois chuckled. "I guess that's true. I keep having a dream, Martha. Well, a nightmare actually. It started after Lex committed suicide. I've been having it on a fairly regular basis since then. I can't figure out what it means. I know, I know… it's only a dream. But I keep thinking that my subconscious is trying to tell me something."
"Tell me about it."
"I'm in ancient Greece. I'm in love with a god. I know the god represents Superman. Anyway, for some reason his name is Kal."
Martha gasped. She was certain Lois had never been told Clark's Kryptonian name.
"What?" Lois asked.
"Nothing. I just breathed in my coffee."
"Oh. Anyway, Kal asks me whether I'd love him if he wasn't a god. Now, I know where that comes from. Before I accepted Lex's proposal, I told Superman that I loved him and that I'd love him as an ordinary man."
"Really?" asked Martha. She knew that Clark had told Lois that he loved her. But this was the first time she had heard about Lois telling Superman that.
"Yeah. Anyway, he wasn't able to believe that. So, that part of the dream isn't a mystery." Lois was silent for a moment.
"Then what makes this dream a nightmare?" Martha asked.
Lois let out a short breath. She had come this far, so the only realistic option was to continue. "Well, apparently Kal decides to conduct a test to see if I really love him. He comes to me as an ordinary man and I reject him. As punishment, he causes me to fall in love with a monster." Lois' voice was shaky. "I don't know, Martha. Do you think that some part of me blames Superman for letting me marry Lex?"
Martha was silent. She could hardly believe how close Lois' dream had come to the truth. Not about Superman wanting her to fall in love with a monster, of course, but about him wanting her to love him as an ordinary man. "Umm…" Martha began, trying to bring her mind back to the question at hand. "What do you think? Do you blame Superman?"
"No, I don't. I mean, it's not his fault that I decided to marry Lex."
"That's something I've never understood. Why did you decide to marry Lex? From what I've been able to tell, you two weren't even dating very long."
"You know, I've asked myself that same question a thousand times since then. I didn't love him, Martha. In some ways that makes the whole thing even more baffling. I accepted Lex's proposal just after Superman made it clear to me that we didn't have a future together. So I think some of it was just a knee-jerk reaction to that.
"Then… Well, Lex was very charming. I mean, for years he's been made out to be one of the biggest philanthropists in the world. I think part of me was attracted to his reputation." Lois snorted. "Of course, we all know what a lie that turned out to be."
Lois was silent for a moment before continuing. "And I think part of me wanted to really belong for a change. I guess I thought marriage to Lex would make that happen. After all, as the wife of the third richest man in the world, every door in the world would be open to me. I've felt like an outsider all my life. I think I thought that Lex could change that." Lois fell silent for a minute. "There's something else I've realized too. In some ways, Lex was safe."
"I know it sounds crazy now, but… I don't know if Clark has told you, but my track record in the relationship department hasn't been much of a success. Everytime I've ever let myself love, I've had my heart broken. I never worried about that with Lex."
"Why?" Martha asked, before answering the question herself. "Because you knew that you could never really love Lex."
"Sounds crazy, doesn't it."
"Not really. I understand that better than you might think. And after more than thirty years of marriage, I can tell you unequivocally that if you love, you're going to get hurt."
Lois was confused. "I thought… I mean, from everything Clark has told me, I thought…"
"You thought?" Martha prompted.
Lois shifted uncomfortably. "That you still loved Jonathan," she said awkwardly.
Martha laughed, confusing Lois even more, before saying, "Oh, I do. I love him more now than I did on our wedding day. But that doesn't mean that he never hurts me. Or I him, for that matter."
"Then you understand."
"I understand. But, Lois, even though love hurts sometimes, without it, the world's a pretty lonely place."
"I guess," Lois replied dejectedly.
"What is it, Honey?"
"It's just… why can't I seem to attract a decent guy? Maybe I don't deserve better than Lex. I mean, even Superman made it clear that he doesn't see a future between us. I guess that's understandable, given the fact that he could have any woman he wants. And then there's Clark."
"What about Clark?" Martha asked.
"Well," Lois hesitated. This was Clark's mother, after all. "Clark's probably the most decent guy I've ever known. He knows me better than anyone in the world. You know that probably explains it. I don't know why I believed him in the first place when he told me he loved me. He knows me too well to really love me."
"Don't run yourself down, Lois. You deserve better than what Lex Luthor gave you." Martha silently rebuked her son for his deception, if for no other reason than that it was obviously contributing to the insecurity Lois was feeling.
"Do I?" Lois asked. No matter what Martha might think, Lois didn't agree. She knew herself. After all these years, she knew the type of men she attracted. Maybe such men were her destiny. "It doesn't particularly matter anyway, Martha. I know I'll never have what I really want."
"And what's that?"
Lois just shook her head. She figured that Martha would assume that she was referring to Superman.
Martha looked for a moment at the young woman. She knew that Lois was trying to convey the idea that she knew she could never have Superman. However, Martha wasn't fooled. She didn't know how much Lois was admitting to herself. Still, she was certain that Lois' feelings for Clark were stronger than she was willing to acknowledge. However, Lois' cryptic answer told Martha that she wasn't prepared to talk about it.
Claude looked around as he stepped out of the Metropolis airport. He hadn't been back here since he had worked at the Daily Planet. He was really looking forward to renewing some old acquaintances. He smiled. He was really looking forward to renewing his relationship with Lois. He had no doubt about his ability to make her fall in love with him again. After all, she had fallen hard enough the first time and he had been the one to end the relationship.
There was, of course, the little detail about steeling her story. But he had been justified in that, he assured himself. He had been on to the story himself. She had just given him the final proof he needed to confirm his suspicions. Besides, she knew the rules. And from what he had heard, she was not above steeling a story herself.
Besides, if there was one thing Claude had no doubts about, it was that he was irresistible to women. There was the odd one that could resist. But Lois hadn't been in that group. And he had no complaints about her desirability. He was looking forward to experiencing her again.
He handed his bags to the cabby and climbed into the car. "Daily Planet," Claude instructed him.
"Morning," said Clark, walking into the newsroom and seeing Jimmy.
"Hey, C.K., looks good, doesn't it?" Jimmy said, gesturing around the newsroom.
"Yeah, Jimmy. It looks good. I take it that Perry came to some sort of acceptable agreement with Mr. Stern."
"Yeah," Jimmy laughed. "It was touch and go there for awhile though. There were times when I thought Perry was going to have a heart attack. But they managed to find compromises."
Clark was only half listening, his eyes were already searching the newsroom. He didn't see Lois. He sighed and directed his attention back to Jimmy.
Suddenly, Clark heard the door to Perry's office open and saw Lois walk out followed by a man who appeared to be in his early forties. Once they got outside, Clark noticed the man take Lois' arm, in a distinctly possessive way that made Clark bristle. He lead her over to a more secluded spot where they engaged in an intense conversation. It was obvious to Clark that the man felt some sort of intimacy with Lois. His hand was resting on the wall beside her and we was leaning slightly in, toward Lois. What made it worse was that Clark, grudgingly, had to admit that the man was good looking.
Clark instinctively stretched out with his enhanced hearing to try to find out what was being said. But before he could hear anything, Jimmy seemed to take notice of where he was looking.
"Hey, C.K." said Jimmy. "Have you heard?"
"What Jimmy?" asked Clark distractedly.
"The guy talking to Lois…" Jimmy began, suddenly garnering Clark's full attention. "…he's been reporting oversees. He was in Iraq during the gulf war and everything. I showed him some of my photographs and he was impressed. I heard that he may even be coming back to work here."
"Back?" asked Clark.
"Yeah. Perry said something about him having worked here years ago. It was before my time though."
Clark looked over at the man talking to Lois again. He felt a pit growing in his stomach. It couldn't be. He couldn't go through this again. He looked back at Jimmy.
"What's this guy's name?" he asked nervously.
"Right… umm… it's Benoit, umm… Claude Benoit, I think."
"Claude," Clark echoed softly, his eyes once again finding their way back over to the man moving in on Lois. What he found even more disturbing was that Lois didn't seem to be moving away. He felt his heart drop into his stomach. After all, when Lois had told him about Claude, her comment had been that she had loved him or at least thought she had. Claude had hurt Lois terribly, but did that necessarily mean that she wouldn't give him another chance? After all, even women who are beaten by their boyfriends, often go back to them. And considering Lois' mood these days…
Clark's fists clenched and unclenched at his sides. He could hardly count the number of times he'd quietly cursed Claude this past year. Part of it had been anger that he had hurt Lois. Part of it had been anger at how that hurt had kept Lois from letting him get close. Now… Now what? Judging by Lois' body language, Claude's behavior was not exactly unwelcome.
When Jimmy moved on, Clark concentrated his superhearing. He knew he shouldn't. He knew it was none of his business. But he couldn't seem not to do it.
"C'est beau, Ma Petite Choute d'Amour. I will come by tonight at seven. We'll have dinner and get reacquainted," Claude was saying. Clark cringed. No one who knew Lois would even consider calling her their little cabbage of love. He waited for an explosion that never came. Claude then leaned in and whispered, "Wear black. I've always loved you in black. Your dress, of course, can be the color you choose."
With that, Claude walked away. It was only then that Lois, seeming to sense Clark's eyes on her, looked up. Clark's heart almost stopped when she immediately looked away. He watched her turn around and head back to her desk.
Lois walked back to her desk in a haze. The arrival of Claude had knocked her completely off balance. When she had walked into Perry's office this morning to challenge him about today's assignment and seen Claude there, she had been completely speechless. It was a new sensation for Lois Lane. She had imagined so many times what she would say to him if she ever saw it again. But when it had actually happened, she couldn't remember a single thing.
"You were here when Claude worked here, weren't you?" Perry had asked her.
"Umm… yeah… umm…" Lois had stammered in return.
"Uh, Lois," Claude had said, in his most charmingly seductive voice. He had reached over, taken her hand, and kissed it. His eyes had never left hers. "I have missed you, Ma Cherie."
"Well, Claude here is thinking of coming back to work with us," Perry had informed her. "Anyway, I'll talk to you more about this later, Claude. And, Lois, don't you have some work to do?"
Lois had nodded numbly. Claude had opened the door to Perry's office to let Lois out, before following her. He had taken her arm, leading her over to a place where they could talk privately.
"We need to talk," Claude had told her.
"Yeah," Lois had said, still trying to gain her footing.
"C'est beau, Ma Petite Choute d'Amour. I will come by tonight at seven. We'll have dinner and get reacquainted," Claude had said before leaning in and whispering, "Wear black. I've always loved you in black. Your dress, of course, can be the color you choose."
When Claude had walked away, Lois immediately looked up. She met Clark's eyes for a moment and then quickly looked away. She saw his disapproval in them. He obviously knew who Claude was. He was obviously wondering what she was doing. She wondered the same thing. Had she actually just made a date with Claude? It certainly seemed that way.
"So," began Clark, as he casually approached her desk. "Who was that?"
"Claude. He use to work here," Lois said, studiously avoiding Clark's eyes. She clearly recalled telling Clark about Claude early in their acquaintance. He had never mentioned it again, although she doubted he would have forgotten.
Clark merely nodded. After what had happened with Luthor, he didn't dare say a word about Claude. He cleared his throat, trying to keep his voice level, "So what does Perry want us to do?"
Lois looked at him for a moment. She had expected a lecture or some sort of angry reaction. His lack of either merely confirmed his comments that he wasn't in love with her. So she answered his question with the same lack of emotion.
"Perry told us to cover some speech down at city hall."
"Well then, let's get going."
"I don't think it's a good use of our time."
Clark rolled his eyes. This was how it always started. "What would be a better use of our time?"
"I think we need to follow up on the kryptonite that was stolen from Lex Towers."
"What did Perry say when you told him?"
This time it was Lois' turn to roll her eyes. "I can't tell Perry about this. After all, Superman doesn't want anyone to know. But I still think we should follow up on it." Lois rose from her chair and grabbed her jacket.
"Where are we going?"
"To talk to Henderson."
Henderson looked up from behind his desk. He almost smiled at the sight. "Well, this is an honor. The first day the Daily Planet is back in business and I get a visit from their number one news team."
"What's happening with the theft at Lex Towers after Lex's suicide?" Lois asked.
"What, no chit chat?" asked Henderson.
"Can it, Henderson. Do you know yet who stole the rock?"
Henderson gestured to the numerous files on his desk. "I have a few things that are a little more important at the moment. Why is it so important to you?"
"So, I take it you don't have anything," Lois said, ignoring the question.
"We asked around. We questioned the officer who was knocked out. He didn't see anything. With all the other things we were finding after Luthor's death, it didn't seem like a high priority."
Just then an attractive blond in a business suit entered the room.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were busy," said the woman.
"No. It's fine," said Henderson. "Actually, I was just about to call you. This is Lois Lane and Clark Kent from the Daily Planet."
"Clark Kent?" asked the woman, addressing Clark. "I've read your work. It's quite good."
"Thank you," said Clark, giving the woman a charming smile.
"And you are?" Lois asked, directing the woman's attention away from Clark.
"Mayson Drake," the woman answered, acknowledging Lois' presence. She then turned her attention back to Clark. "I've been meaning to get in touch with you. As you know, thanks to you, we have found a lot of evidence of Mr. Luthor's criminal activities in the city. I have been assigned the task of seeing that those crimes don't go unpunished."
"But Lex is dead," Lois said, once again trying to direct Mayson's attention away from Clark.
"Well, yes. But there were a lot of other people involved in his activities. Anyway, I've already spoken to Mr. White and Mr. Olsen. And… Oh, what's the kid's name?"
"Yeah, Jack. I was wondering if we could meet?"
"Certainly, Ms. Drake."
"Please, call me Mayson."
Clark smiled. "Sure, Mayson. When do you want to do this?"
"How about tonight? Maybe we could discuss it over supper."
Clark was about to turn her down when he remembered that Lois had made plans to get together with Claude tonight. It might distract him to have supper with Mayson Drake.
"Sure. What time?"
"How about seven?"
"I don't trust her," Lois said, as they were leaving the police station.
"Mayson?" Clark asked. "I thought she was very nice."
"You would," Lois responded sarcastically.
"What's that suppose to mean?" asked Clark, the frustration he felt at Lois' acceptance of Claude's invitation finally coming through.
"A woman bats her eyelashes at you, and you turn to jelly," snapped Lois.
"That's not true, Lois. Besides, I'm not the one accepting dates with someone who betrayed me once," Clark said, returning the jab.
"Let's get something straight here. Who I see is my business." It didn't even occur to Lois to question how Clark knew about her date with Claude tonight — she was too angry.
"Did I say otherwise? And you obviously think that who I see is your business too."
"I'm just trying to stop you from making a mistake," Lois growled.
"I'm not the one who almost married Luthor," Clark shot back. He regretted the words almost the moment they left his mouth. "I'm sorry, Lois. I don't know why I said that."
"Look, Clark. You were right about Luthor. I've already admitted that," Lois said, barely controlling her voice. "But why don't you just stay the hell out of my personal life?" With that, she spun around and strode away.
Clark watched her go. Why had he done that? He blamed himself for Luthor, more than he blamed her. But the words had been said and, as much as he might wish it, he couldn't take them back. He figured she needed some time alone. Come to think of it, so did he. He waited till Lois was out of sight before slipping into a nearby ally, spinning into the suit and leaping into the sky.
Lois heard a familiar sonic boom and looked up. "So what do I do now?" she asked rhetorically of the retreating superhero.
"I have some news from the tail we have on Lane and Kent," said Shannon.
"So?" asked Church.
"It seems that Clark was asked out by a woman by the name of… Mayson Drake."
"An assistant D.A.?"
"Yeah. Why? Do you know her?"
Church smiled. "She used to work for me."
"So she's one of ours?"
"Not exactly. She knows nothing about my criminal activities. But she seems to think of me as some kind of father figure. It might be worth encouraging. If we can get her and Kent involved and then make her a job offer that's too good to resist in another city, maybe we can get Kent out of Metropolis too. I think I might make a little trip to Metropolis myself. Do you have anything else?"
"Yes. It seems that just after Kent accepted Drake's invitation, he and Lane had a huge fight."
Church smiled. "That's encouraging. Have we heard from Benoit yet?"
"Yes. He has a date with Lane tonight."
"So far, so good."
When Lois got back to the Planet, there was a message waiting for her from Bobby Bigmouth. So she returned the call, making arrangements to meet him at the Deli near the Daily Planet. When she got there, Bobby was already stuffing food into his mouth.
"So where have you been?" asked Lois. "Surely you couldn't have been on a cruise all this time."
"No. I met the most incredible woman."
"Yeah. She was a better cook than my mother."
Lois actually managed to laugh at this. "So what happened? It sounds to me like a match made in heaven."
"That's what I thought too. She was from Malta, so I stayed there for a while. But she finally got tired of me and sent me packing."
"She seemed to think that I was only using her as my own private chef. She said something about me not appreciating all her talents. Talk about ridiculous. As if a woman can have other talents."
Lois, as one who couldn't cook, bristled at this.
"Anyway, I guess you want to know about Intergang," said Bobby.
"Intergang? What's that?"
"Don't you know? I figured that's why you wanted to meet."
"Bobby, what's Intergang?"
Bobby sighed and then nodded. "It's a shadowy criminal organization. Interpol has been trying to get a fix on it for years. Anyway, with the death of your fiance, they are looking in to starting things up in Metropolis."
"Really?" asked Lois thoughtfully.
"Yeah. Anyway, if you aren't interested in Intergang, why where you looking for me?"
"I want to know if you have heard anything about a theft that took place at Lex Towers just after Lex's suicide."
"You mean the one where the rock was taken?"
"Yeah. That's the one. What can you tell me?"
"Not much. But I can tell you that some of the street people in the area saw Luthor's second in command…"
"Nigel St. John?"
"Yeah, that's him. He was apparently hanging around the area that evening."
"Thanks, Bobby," said Lois rising.
"Hey, what about the bill?" Bobby asked, gesturing toward the counter.
Lois sighed, dug into her purse and headed for the counter to pay for Bobby's lunch.
Lois went home as soon as she could reasonably justify it. She hadn't seen Clark since their fight. She knew she had overreacted to Mayson, but he hadn't helped the situation any. Part of the problem was that he hadn't said anything that wasn't true. She did have what could be construed as a date tonight with a man who had seriously betrayed her trust. She didn't have a clue why she had agreed to this.
Still, she found herself dressing up. She kept telling herself that she was just doing this to show him what he had lost in betraying her. Tonight she was just going out with him to give him a piece of her mind. When he had stolen her story, she had not had the ability to tell him what she really thought of him. She had grown up since then and no one hurt Lois Lane. No one.
But there was something else happening here that Lois refused to admit. In the back recesses of her mind was the belief that she didn't deserve better than Claude. That was combined with the knowledge that Clark was going out with another woman tonight. Although it was ostensibly a business dinner, Lois had noticed the way Mayson Drake looked at Clark. And worst of all, Lois was completely incapable of stopping it.
Lois opened the door to admit her dinner companion.
Claude smiled. "You look beautiful," Claude said, running his eyes lustfully over her body. "Perhaps you would like to order in?"
Lois ignored the question, picking up her jacket.
"Very well," said Claude, helping her with her coat. He held on to it for a moment when she had it on, leaning over and kissing her cheek. Lois closed her eyes as a powerful sense of deja vu took her back. Suddenly, she was that insecure twenty-one year old again. She shook her head to bring herself back to reality.
"So, where would you like to go?" Claude asked.
Lois sighed. It didn't really matter. "The Jade," she replied flatly.
"Ahh… Ma Petite Choute doesn't change much. That was one of your favorites when I was here. It comforts me to know you are still my Lois."
Lois bristled at this but held her tongue. She decided to wait till the right moment to let him know exactly what she thought of him.
"Where did you find this place?" Mayson asked as the hostess seated them. "It's absolutely charming."
Clark cleared his throat. Lois loved this place. That was why he had come here. He wanted some sort of reminder of her. He was fairly certain that Mayson was interested in him for more than business reasons. He wanted the security of Lois' presence.
"A friend told me about it," Clark answered, pulling out Mayson's chair.
"You know, Clark," Mayson said when they were seated. "When I asked you out to discuss the case tonight, I wasn't entirely honest."
Clark's defenses kicked into high gear. He had been avoiding the advances of women for years. "Oh?"
"Well, I do need to discuss the case with you. But, I've always admired your work and when I saw you today… I just wanted a chance to get to know you. I hope you don't mind."
"Actually, Mayson…" Clark began. He had intended finding a way to let her down easily when he noticed who had entered the restaurant. His voice trailed off.
Mayson looked around to see what had distracted Clark. "Isn't that your partner, Lois Lane?" she asked.
Lois' mouth dropped marginally when her eyes met Clark's. They immediately softened at the sight. However, the thrill of seeing him quickly turned to pain upon realizing he was with another woman. She looked down.
"What is it, Cherie?" Claude asked.
"Nothing," Lois said, trying not to look at Clark. She failed and for a moment their eyes made contact again.
"Isn't that your partner?" Claude asked, noticing where she was looking. "Ahh… And he's with a beautiful woman, I see."
Lois bristled at Claude's description of Mayson.
"Why don't we go and say bonsoir?"
"No," said Lois, somewhat too vehemently. Then in a much more measured tone, added, "I have to work with him everyday as it is."
Claude liked the answer. Just then, the hostess came and showed them to their table.
Clark felt sick to his stomach. Lois was beautiful… Forget that, she was absolutely breathtaking. But, what made him ill was the knowledge that she had made herself that way for another man. And not just any man, a former lover. He knew this was Lois' favorite restaurant but he never dreamed… Okay, so maybe he had wondered, even hoped, that she would come here, but it was just to catch sight of her. How was he ever going to survive her involvement with someone else?
"Clark?" Mayson asked.
"Oh…" Clark said, dragging his mind back to Mayson. "I'm sorry. I was just thinking. What were you saying?"
Lois kept trying not to look in Clark's direction. Why was he here? He knew this was her favorite place to eat. Surely he could have taken that woman someplace more appropriate — a barn dance, for example. How dare he flaunt his relationship with another woman? How would she ever be able to confront Claude about his past transgressions now? After all, she needed Clark to see that she could get along just fine without him.
"Why don't we dance, Claude?" Lois suggested as they finished dinner.
Claude's face transformed itself into it's most seductive smile. Lois felt sick at the sight. She was having problems remembering why she found that smile attractive. Now, all she saw was a middle-aged womanizer. Why, oh why, didn't Clark love her?
"Bien sur," Claude replied, rising from his chair and offering her his hand. He was pleased by how well this was going. He had expected some flack for his theft of her story. But so far, she hadn't as much as mentioned it. He hoped this dance was a sign that he wasn't going to be spending the night alone in his hotel room.
Clark saw Claude take Lois in his arms. It was all he could do to stop himself from going over and claiming what was rightfully his - or at least, what should be his. Instead, he asked Mayson if she would like to dance. She was only too happy to agree.
Clark was quiet as he walked Mayson to the door of her apartment.
"Would you like to come in, Clark?" Mayson asked shyly.
"That's nice, Mayson," Clark replied. "But I have to be at work early tomorrow."
Mayson looked crushed but recovered quickly, stepping up to Clark and kissing him. Clark suddenly felt inexplicably guilty.
"What's wrong?" Mayson asked, sensing the sudden change in Clark.
"I…" Clark let out a short breath. "I'm sorry, Mayson. This really wasn't fair to you."
"What do you mean? Are you involved with someone else?"
"It's just… I'm in love with someone else. She doesn't feel the same way — probably never will. But, I agreed to go out with you tonight, I think, in an effort to make her jealous. Not that it worked, but… I'm sorry, Mayson."
"Is it Lois Lane?"
Clark looked at her in shock.
"I noticed the way you kept looking across at her, Clark. And, I was surprised when she showed up at the restaurant. I assume you knew that's where she was going."
"No. I swear, Mayson. I knew it was one of her favorite restaurants. But I didn't know she would be there tonight."
"It's okay, Clark."
Clark gave her a sad smile. "Anyway, I'm sorry about everything. I really do like you and if the circumstances were different… Well, who knows?"
"If it helps any, I had a really nice evening," Mayson replied.
"Thanks, Mayson. I mean, thanks for understanding." Clark leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, before saying good-night and leaving.
Lois was still lost in her thoughts of Clark as she reached into her purse and fumbled around for the keys to her apartment. She kept thinking about seeing Clark leave with Mayson. He had his hand on the small of her back. It had been the final blow for Lois. She felt totally drained. All she would ever have in her life was men like the man now escorting her home. She removed her keys.
"Here, Ma Cherie," said Claude, reaching for the keys. Lois handed them to him. He opened the door to her apartment and then, without asking, followed her in. He closed the door and immediately reached for Lois, pulling her into his arms and kissing her.
Lois let him. After everything that had happened, she didn't have the will left to fight him. Besides, at least he wanted her. Then the image of Clark kissing Mayson good-night filled her mind. She responded to that image by kissing Claude. Her arms made their way around his neck and she was the one who deepened the kiss.
Claude was pleased. This was turning out to be easier than he thought it would be. He drew her closer to him, running his hands down her back.
Wait a minute. What was she doing? This man had betrayed her. Regardless of the pain she was in over Clark, she couldn't do this. She didn't want to do this. She pushed herself out of Claude's arms.
"Cherie?" Claude asked.
"Look, Claude, I think we need to talk," Lois said. She gestured Claude to have a seat.
"Wouldn't you rather talk later?" Claude asked, reaching for her again.
"No," said Lois, evading his touch. "I think we should talk now."
"But it has been so long and I have missed you so much."
Lois snorted. "And exactly who's fault is that anyway? By the way, how's your wife?" When Lois had originally got involved with Claude, he had neglected to mention that he had a wife. By the time she found out, she had been in too deep to get out. Especially given Claude's assurances at the time that it was just that the paperwork wasn't complete. It had been just one more thing to keep her from trusting men.
"Maria and I got a divorce over a year ago."
That took the winds momentarily out of Lois sails. "Then why don't we talk about the story you stole from me," Lois countered, when she got her wits back.
"That was so long ago," Claude said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Besides, from what I've heard, you aren't above stealing a story yourself."
"What are you talking about?" Lois demanded.
"Lois, I may not have been in Metropolis, but I still have friends at the Planet. I heard how you stole a story about Superman from your partner," Claude responded, a smug look on his face.
Lois' mouth fell open. How had he known about that? It was one memory that she was thoroughly ashamed of. Clark had forgiven her for that - well, after he got his revenge. But, Claude was right. She was no better than he was. She hadn't even waited to do it on a story that had won her an award.
"So you see, Cherie," Claude was saying. "We really aren't all that different. In fact, that was one of the reasons I returned to Metropolis. I figured I owed you for taking that information. I've got an inside source in the Paramador military. Come with me to Paramador, Lois. We can chase stories by day and make passionate love at night."
"Do you really think that I…" Lois gasped.
"Don't make a decision now," Claude interrupted. "My source has given me a lead on a story and it won't wait forever. I can't give you the details till you're in, but I think this could win us a Pulitzer." He smiled slightly at the look of curiosity that suddenly crossed Lois' features. "So what do you think about having me demonstrate what the lovemaking would be like?"
"I think it's getting late," said Lois. She walked over to the door and opened it. "Good-night, Claude."
Lois sat down heavily on the couch after Claude left. A Pulitzer. In spite of all the reasons she could think of not to go with Claude, not to trust Claude, she actually found herself tempted by Claude's proposal. Not the 'making love,' of course. But the leaving the country in search of a Pulitzer. Paramador was in the middle of the bloodiest civil war of the century — and that was saying something. Lois was certain that there were probably a hundred stories there that could earn her a Pulitzer. And maybe some time away from Metropolis would do her some good. Besides, Claude was right. She really was no more trustworthy than Claude. She had done the same thing to Clark that Claude had done to her. Clark! He had been out with that Mayson woman tonight. Lois buried her head in her hands and had a good cry.
Clark lay awake in bed most of the night. He had watched Claude's hands as they moved over Lois' back tonight. There was something in it that told Clark exactly what Claude wanted, even expected, after supper. It had taken every bit of will power Clark possessed not to peak in at Lois' place when he was out on patrols tonight. The only thing that had stopped him was the idea of seeing Lois in bed with another man. He just wasn't sure if he would be able to live with that image.
However, as he lay here now, in the dark, his mind was working out a hundred different scenarios where that was the final result. He closed his eyes and forced his mind off of it's dark voyage. He did this by concentrating on Lois. The look in her eyes when she finally broke a story. The way she would run her hand lightly down his chest when she enjoyed one of his comments. The way her voice seemed just a little bit softer when she answered the phone to find him on the other end. The way she felt in his arms. The way she looked dancing with Claude. AAAGGGHHH!! Clark spun into the suit and headed into the skies. Maybe some laps at full speed around the earth would tire him out enough to sleep.
Lois awoke with a start. She looked around. It was still dark. She was, as usual, drenched in sweat. That damn dream. Why did she keep having it? She struggled to get her breathing under control.
There had been a difference to the dream this time. This time she had recognized the man who had come begging for her love. The mortal was… or had been, Clark. She shook her head slightly. She was in a really bad state if she was seeing Clark as a mortal version of Superman. But then was that really any different than when she woke up the first time and had been relieved that Clark was alive.
She got up and made her way into the kitchen for a glass of water. It was five o'clock. She was never going to get back to sleep now.
Mayson got up at her usual six o'clock and prepared for another day of work. She found that thoughts of Clark kept interrupting her morning ritual. When she was ready, she headed in to the office. Since Clark's place was on her way, she decided to swing by. If he was up, maybe she would stop by. After their conversation at the door of her apartment last night, she had something she wanted to discuss with him.
She pulled up in front of Clark's apartment. The lights were on. He was obviously awake. She turned off her car and climbed out. It took her a moment to steady her nerves before she walked to the door and knocked.
Clark answered the door, wearing a pair of dress pants. He was just pulling on his shirt. Mayson stared for a moment at the solid muscles of his chest until he began buttoning it up.
"Mayson?" asked Clark.
"Umm… yeah. I'm sorry for stopping by so early, but I kept thinking about our conversation last night. Do you mind if I come in for a moment?"
Clark stepped aside, allowing her to enter.
"Anyway, I know how you feel about Lois Lane. But from what you told me, there's not much chance of anything happening between the two of you. Could I get a glass of water?" Mayson asked, as her mouth suddenly felt very dry.
"Sure," said Clark, heading for the kitchen. He came back a minute later with the requested beverage.
Mayson took a long drink before continuing. "Anyway, it's not like I'm looking for a life time commitment or anything. I was just thinking that it might be nice to try going on a few dates. Who knows what might happen?"
"I don't think so, Mayson," Clark said softly.
"You can't spend your life sitting around waiting, Clark."
Clark let out a short breath. "I just don't think it's fair to you. My feelings aren't going to change."
"How do you know?"
"I just do."
Lois walked slowly toward her destination. They had to have this out, once and for all. She couldn't continue to go on like this. Something had to change. Perhaps if she told Clark how she really felt about him — that she didn't want to just be friends and partners anymore - they could find a way to work through this together. He was her best friend after all and she needed help. This entire situation was slowly driving her insane. He was the only one she could trust enough to help. And maybe, if he would just give her a chance, he might find that his feelings toward her would change.
She took a deep breath and turned on to Clark's block. She stopped dead in her tracks, like a deer in the headlights, before making a quick dash to the darkness of a nearby ally. Her heart plunged into her stomach as she watched Mayson make her way out of Clark's apartment. It wasn't even seven in the morning!!!
Well, so much for that. None of her feelings were obviously reciprocated if he were willing to spend the night with a woman he had just met. She waited until Mayson's car was out of sight, before turning around and heading back to her apartment.
Lois was flipping absently through her phone messages when Clark arrived at the Daily Planet. "So did you have a nice date last night?" Lois asked, fighting to keep the resentment out of her voice.
"Yes. Mayson is very nice. You?" Clark asked, although he really didn't want to know.
"Yes. Claude and I managed to actually talk a few things out. In fact, he suggested…"
Lois' voice was interrupted by a familiar bellow.
"Lane, Kent. My office. Now!!!" demanded Perry.
Lois and Clark avoided making eye contact as they made their way to their boss' office. It was obvious from the sound in Perry's voice that they were in trouble.
When they arrived, Perry was looking at a paper. He set it down to pick up another one. It was the morning copy of the Daily Planet.
"Exhibit one," Perry began. "Now, you'll notice here that our leading story is about a study into the drop in the crime rate in the city. Our front page picture is of a little boy who was helped by the sick kid program instituted by the city last year."
"Oh, yeah," said Clark. "I heard about that. They are actually hopeful that the new treatment he was able to receive thanks to the program…"
"Kent!" Perry said, causing Clark to fall silent.
Perry laid down the first paper and picked up a second. It was the morning edition of the Metropolis Star. Lois and Clark looked at the picture. It showed police officers having some sort of confrontation with civilians. The headline read, 'Riot Follows Mayor's Speech.'
"Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you two suppose to be covering that speech down at city hall."
"Perry, we can explain…" Lois began.
"I don't want to hear it, Lois. When I assign you something, that is what I expect you to be doing. Great Shades of Elvis. Do you think anyone is going to buy the Daily Planet today when the biggest story in the city isn't even in it? As of this moment, and until further notice, the news team of Lane and Kent is dissolved. Now if you two weren't the best reporters I've ever seen, you would be spending today down at the unemployment office. Is that clear?"
Lois and Clark nodded.
"Furthermore, Clark, today I want you covering the dog show taking place at the auditorium. And Lois, I want you to conduct the interview with Sam Borrow."
"The counselor who has been looking into ways to promote tourism in Metropolis?" Lois stammered.
"That's the one. He'll give you the scoop on the proposals the city will be considering for the promotion of tourism."
"No, buts. Those are your assignments. And this time I want them done."
Lois looked at him. She was fuming. "Fine," said Lois. "If that's what you want, I quit." With that Lois stormed out of Perry's office and headed for the elevators. She ignored Perry when he demanded that she get back into his office.
Lois knew the moment she stepped off the elevator that she had jumped into the pool without checking the water level — again. If she could have taken back her words, she would have. However, it was done now. And pride prevented her from going back.
So what was she going to do now? There was really only one option. Maybe it would be good for her to get out of the city for a while. But she did want to set some ground rules. She found the nearest pay phone and dug a quarter out of her pocket. In the process, the phone messages she had stuffed in there, fell onto the ground.
"Cherie, have you thought anymore about running away with me?"
"I'm not going to sleep with you, you know," Lois said bluntly. "If I do this it will be to get the story NOT to be with you. I want separate rooms and unless you keep your hands to yourself, you'll find them broken. Is that understood?"
Although Lois had not been able to see it, a slow smile had spread across Claude's face as she spoke. He didn't believe her. Not for a moment. It was only a matter of time before she would be back in his bed.
"Certainement," Claude said.
"So then, why would you want to take me along?" Lois asked suspiciously. "Why would you be willing to share a Pulitzer?"
"I need a female partner to get the story," Claude lied easily.
Lois thought for a moment. It was possible besides… She thought about her current situation. Clark was sleeping with Mayson and, believe it or not, she was unemployed. "Okay, I'll go," she finally said.
"Why don't we leave tomorrow? I'll come by later to discuss the details with you," Claude said.
"Fine," said Lois, slamming down the receiver and bending to retrieve the small pink pieces of paper. She was about to put them back in her pocket when one caught her eye. It was from Bobby. She picked the phone back up and made arrangements to meet with her best source.
"Hey, you don't look so good," said Bobby when they finally met.
"What do you have for me, Bobby?" she asked, ignoring the comment.
"I just thought you might want to know that rumor has it that Nigel St. John had a meeting with the head of Intergang."
"Are you saying that Intergang might have the… item that was stolen from Lex Towers?"
Bobby shrugged and went back to eating his pizza.
"Bill!! What are you doing here?" Mayson gasped when Bill Church glanced around the door to her office.
"Well, I just happened to be in town and I thought I'd drop by to see my favorite lawyer," Bill Church replied in his best grandfather voice.
"I'm glad you did," Mayson replied, getting up and coming over to give him a hug. "This is the best thing that has happened to me today."
"That doesn't sound too good," Church responded.
Mayson just raised her eyebrows in reply.
Bill came into her office. She gestured him to a chair before taking her own again.
"What's wrong?" Church asked.
"It's a guy," Mayson said. "But you know my track record with men."
Church chuckled softly. "So did this guy break your heart?"
"Not exactly. We had a date last night. It was really nice. But when we got back to my apartment, he told me that he can't see me anymore."
"Why? You're certainly charming enough. If I were twenty years younger…"
"That's sweet. No, he said he's in love with someone else."
Inwardly Church smiled. Shannon's research was obviously correct.
"So why did he go out with you?"
"Apparently, she's dating someone else."
"Then don't give up on him. There's nothing as attractive to a man as a woman who's attracted to him."
After Church left, Mayson thought about what he had said for a long time. She knew that unless Lois let Clark go, she would never stand a chance with him. Finally, she came to a decision. There was definitely a risk to this decision. But if Lois loved Clark too, surely they would be together. Tonight. She would do it tonight.
Claude arrived at the door to Lois' apartment in the early evening. He was carrying a red rose and a bottle of wine. Lois immediately recognized it as her favorite back when they'd been dating. Of course, her taste had matured since then. But it was still impressive that he remembered.
"You remembered," she said, looking at the bottle.
"I remember everything about you," Claude replied. What he didn't tell Lois was that he always kept notes on the woman he was involved with. That way, he was able to remember things like the way a woman liked her coffee. In his experience, remembering things like that seemed to make women feel special. It definitely gave him an advantage in the seduction department.
"Look, Claude, I've been thinking…" Lois began, gesturing him into the room. "I can't leave tomorrow."
"But why, Cherie?"
"Look at this apartment. I could never get everything packed up and the apartment sublet in time."
Claude smiled. "But I have taken care of that."
"I have a friend in Metropolis who said he'd take care of it for you. He'll even feed your fish."
"But I don't even know him."
"But I do. Trust me, Cherie, this story won't wait. So, what do you say?" asked Claude.
Lois let out a short breath before nodding. After all, what else did she have to do at the moment.
After Claude left, Lois picked up the phone. She really did need to tell Clark she was leaving. She had dialed six numbers when she stopped. She hung up the phone. No. She had to be upbeat about her decision. Otherwise, he would try to stop her and her reasons for leaving would come flooding out. And since he was really the only reason, she couldn't do that.
Getting out of Metropolis was what she needed. She couldn't stay here and watch Clark get involved with someone else. The time away would allow her to regain her equilibrium. She had to get past these feelings for Clark. After yesterday's fight, she knew that if she didn't she was going to sabotage their friendship. No. It was best if she left.
She pulled out a pad of paper and sat down to write Clark a note. If she left him a note, he wouldn't be able to see the tears. Still, it took several drafts to come up with one that was appropriately up-beat — and one that didn't have any tear stains on it. After all, Clark was quite observant about these things. Once she was satisfied, the next hassle was figuring out how to get it to him.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She needed to talk to Superman before she left, to tell him what she had found out about the kryptonite. She would give the note to Superman. But then there was the problem of how to contact Superman. She would have to call Clark. She couldn't call Clark. She would give away her feelings the moment she heard his voice.
Well, this was an emergency — in a way. "Superman," she yelled out the window. Maybe that was all that Clark did to contact the superhero anyway.
It was only a moment or two before the red and blue superhero floated through her window.
"Lois, what's wrong?" Superman asked.
"Nothing. Well, there is but… Have you talked to Clark today?"
Superman cleared his throat. "Yes. He said that you quit your job. Is everything all right?"
"Fine. Look, I really don't want to get into details, but I'm leaving Metropolis tomorrow."
"What?" gasped Superman. It took everything Clark had to regain his Superman persona. After all, she might have just decided to take a vacation. "He didn't say anything about that. How long will you be gone?"
"I don't know if I'm coming back," Lois said quietly. After all, if she couldn't get over this crush, she wasn't sure returning would be a viable option.
"Have you talked to Clark about this?" Clark was fighting to keep his voice steady. He felt like his whole world had just disintegrated around him.
"Well, no. Actually, that's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you." Lois walked over to the table and picked up the letter. "Could you give him this tomorrow?" she asked. "I really don't want to talk to him. But I didn't want to leave without saying good-bye."
Superman cleared his throat. "Lois, I think you should be the one to…"
Clark looked at her for a long moment. The determination in her eyes made it clear that she had no intention of calling him and he would rather have her good-bye note than nothing. He nodded and took the letter from her.
"You said this was one of the reasons you wanted to talk to me. What was the other one?"
"Right. I have some information for you about the missing kryptonite," said Lois before proceeding to fill him in.
Clark floated above the city of Metropolis for a long time. He had probably just had seen Lois for the last time, and she hadn't even known who she was talking to. He wanted so badly to spin into Clark and go back to her apartment. But how would he justify Superman telling him? He supposed he could pretend he didn't know. He snorted. Yeah, right. She'd know that Superman had told him the moment she saw him. So, instead of going to her, he continued to float, staring absently at the letter.
He didn't open it. He had told her that he would give it to Clark in the morning. He couldn't violate that. His hands ran lovingly over the envelope. He brought it up to his nose in an effort to see if he could smell her on it. He couldn't.
She hadn't said why or where she was going, only that she wasn't coming back. At least that's what he had heard. Claude. It had to be that she was going somewhere with Claude. His heart broke at the thought. Well, he might not be able to talk to Lois, but there was something that he intended to do. He returned to his apartment and began to call motels and hotels. He finally found out where Claude was staying.
Claude opened the door to his hotel room to see Clark standing on the other side of the door.
"Monsieur Kent, isn't it?" Claude said, extending his hand. Clark, uncharacteristically, ignored it.
"Listen, I don't know how you talked her into this," Clark said.
"Ahh… I take it Lois told you."
"I'm just here to tell you that if you ever hurt her again, you'll answer to me."
Claude raised his eyebrows. "One would almost think you considered yourself more than her partner, Monsieur Kent. What exactly is Lois to you?"
"That is none of your business. All you need to know is that if you hurt her, I'll track you down to the ends of the earth." With that, Clark turned around and walked away.
"Just remember, Monsieur Kent, I'm the one she's running off with," Claude called after him.
"Well done," said Shannon into the phone. "That was quick work."
"I told you, she finds me irresistible. We're leaving tomorrow morning. Oh, by the way, I received a visit from Mr. Kent this evening. He's not very happy," Claude informed him.
"Okay. Well, unless anything else comes up, call me when you are about to leave Metropolis. And you know what to do if she changes her mind. One way or another, this will end tomorrow."
"Oui. I know what is to be done."
"I've been thinking about what we talked about," said Church.
"You mean about killing Lane?" asked Shannon.
"Yes. I think we should have her killed as soon as possible after she lands in Paramador. Otherwise, we run the risk that she will eventually decide to return."
"I agree," said Shannon. "Do we tell Benoit?"
"No. As far as he's concerned, if she goes with him to Paramador, she'll live. Besides, I think we should arrange for Benoit's death too."
"All searches will begin with him. People disappear in Paramador all the time. In Metropolis, her disappearance would start an investigation. In Paramador, she will be just one more unfortunate casualty of the civil war. Just make sure their bodies are never found.
Shannon smiled. "I told him to call as they were leaving Metropolis. I'll be able to have someone pick them up when they leave the airplane."
Lois rushed to the door at the knock. Inspite of everything, what she wanted, more than anything, was for Clark to be standing on the other side. She looked through the peep hole and her heart dropped. She opened the door.
"Ms. Drake," she said, unenthusiastically.
"Ms. Lane," Mayson responded, using much the same tone of voice.
There was a moment of hostile silence before Mayson spoke again. "I need to speak to you and, if you don't mind, this is one conversation I'd rather not have in the hall."
Lois stepped aside to allow her to enter.
"So what's so important?" Lois said, seeing no point in making small talk.
"I want to talk to you about Clark."
"Look, don't take offense, but you're the last person in the world I would talk to about Clark," Lois replied in an voice which was deliberately calculated to give offense.
"Well, I'm not leaving until you hear me out."
Lois narrowed her eyes and then, curiosity getting the best of her, gestured Mayson to a chair. She then raised an eyebrow in silent invitation for Mayson to continue.
"Do you love Clark?" Mayson asked, being as direct as Lois had been only moments before.
"I have no intentions of discussing my feelings for Clark with you."
"Fine. Then let me just say this, if you don't love Clark, let him know. Don't keep him hoping."
"What are you talking about?" Lois demanded. She knew that Clark didn't love her. What was he hoping for?
"That's all I had to say," Mayson said. She immediately rose and was out the door before Lois could stop her.
Once Mayson was back in her car, she took a moment to catch her breath. She knew this was risky. After all, if Clark was wrong and Lois did feel the same way about him that he did about her, this could result in her permanently losing Clark. But then, it wasn't like she had him now. No, this was the only realistic option. Maybe this would motivate Lois to tell Clark to get on with his life. Only then would she stand a chance with Clark.
Lois sat on the couch for a long time after Mayson left. What was that all about? What was clear was that Mayson saw her as a threat. Maybe she'd been wrong about what she'd seen outside Clark's apartment the other morning. Surely if they were sleeping together, Mayson would know she wasn't a threat. But what if Mayson was right? Was it possible that Clark had lied to her when he told her he didn't love her?
Clark sat in the middle of his darkened living room. He had gone to bed, but the bleakness of his situation overwhelmed him. He got up and threw on the first thing he could find — a pare of denim cutoffs and a t-shirt. He wandered into the living room. When he got there, he didn't have the heart to do anything but sink down into the couch and stare absently at the lights from the cars passing playing across the wall of his apartment.
He thought back to the first time he had seen Lois in an evening gown. He had actually floated off the floor. Fortunately, Jimmy had been looking at Lois too. Otherwise, the kid would have known his secret. He had danced with her that night. She had been annoyed by his interruption of her dance with Lex Luthor. But if he closed his eyes, he could still feel her in his arms.
That brought up memories of another dance. They were in Smallville checking out what was purported to be an EPA clean up. It was a very different type of dance — line dancing. But this time had meant more. She had actually asked him to dance. He had been skeptical at first. But she was great at it. He had enjoyed watching her make those moves and turns flawlessly.
He thought about the times they had kissed and the times she had been in his arms, both as Clark and Superman. He relived every one in excruciating detail. If he concentrated, he could feel her body in his arms, feel her lips under his. He thought about the back massage she had given him the day after her non-marriage. He knew it had just been a tactic to get information out of him, but he could still feel the trails her hands had seared into his back and hear the throaty sound in her voice.
He thought about the two days that Lois had been under the influence of the pheromone compound. When they found out that the spray didn't create feelings but just cut down a person's normal inhibitions, he had been thrilled. Of course, Lois had tried to justify it in a way that indicated that she wasn't interested in him. But there had been a small sense of satisfaction that she had pursued him. Of course, looking at it now, he realized it was nothing more than hormones.
Clark's trip down memory lane was interrupted by a knock on the door. He checked the clock. It was shortly after three a.m. He grabbed his glasses and headed for the door.
"Lois," he breathed, when he opened it to find her standing on the other side.
"May I come in?" asked Lois, noting how well his present attire showed off his body.
Clark stepped aside. The apartment was still dark, except for the lights coming from outside.
"I hope I didn't wake you," she said as she entered. "I know it's late, but I couldn't sleep. So I thought that maybe I'd just come by and see if you were up. I know you don't have any lights on, but I thought if I knocked softly enough I wouldn't wake you. It seems you must have been awake. I mean you couldn't have got up and dressed in the time it took you to get to the door." Lois knew she was rambling, but couldn't seem to stop. Suddenly she noticed an envelope sitting on the kitchen table. She walked over and picked it up. "I take it Superman told you?" It was as much a statement as a question.
"Yes," Clark said softly.
She turned and regarded him for a moment. She then looked back at the envelope in her hand.
"You haven't opened it," she remarked.
"He said I couldn't open it till tomorrow."
She nodded slightly before folding the envelope in half and starting to stick it in her pocket. That pushed Clark into action.
"Lois, that's mine," he exclaimed, coming over.
"I don't want you to read it, Clark," Lois explained.
But that letter represented all he would have of her when she left in the morning. He approached her quickly in an effort to get it back. When she moved to protect it, he wrapped his arms around her in his effort to grab it. The struggle ended abruptly as both partners realized how close they were standing.
Lois had been struggling with what she was going to say. Suddenly, she knew exactly how to express her feelings. She took advantage of their situation and seized his lips with hers. Clark responded immediately, returning her kiss with all the passion and longing she was demonstrating. Her arms made their way around his neck to pull herself firmly against him. She buried her hands in his thick brown hair, as her tongue slipped between his lips. It was the first time that a kiss between them had resulted in this level of intimacy. Even as Superman, Lois' tongue had never entered his mouth. He followed her lead, responding in kind. At first, the touch of tongue to tongue was tentative, questioning. But as each began to realize they weren't going to be rejected, the kiss intensified. They stood there, exploring each other's mouth, for what seemed like forever.
Clark began backing up, pulling her with him, completely unwilling to relinquish her mouth. When he felt the couch against the back of his legs, he lowered himself on to it. She followed. It took both of them a moment to get comfortable, but they managed to do so without completely breaking the kiss — or what had actually turned into multiple kisses. They were now on the couch with Clark lying on his back, Lois having found her way between his legs.
It was then that Lois broke the kiss, only to trail her lips and tongue down the side of his throat. When she reached the edge of his shirt, she growled in frustration. Clark sensed what she wanted as her hands began struggling to get the edge of his shirt out of his pants. He sat up slightly so that he could reach behind his back and pull the shirt over his head. Happy now, Lois went back to her task, exploring the newly exposed skin with both hands and mouth.
Clark's head was spinning. He wasn't certain this wasn't a dream. After all, he'd had this particular dream often enough. But he wasn't prepared to let it end. Lois had become interested in a particular spot at the base of his neck and was concentrating her efforts there, as her hands continued taking liberties exploring the muscles of his chest.
Clark's hands seemed to gain a mind of their own. At first, they ran through her hair and over her arms. Then he wrapped his arms around her, exploring her back through her sweat shirt. However, during one of their trips, his hands inadvertently made their way under the edge of her shirt.
When Lois felt his hands on the bare skin of her lower back, she pulled back until she was kneeling between his legs. At first, Clark thought he must have stepped over an invisible line that Lois had obviously drawn. But that ended when she did with her shirt what he had done with his earlier. Clark had seen Lois in less clothes at the beach but this was far more erotic — because this time she was inviting him to look. He reached up and placed a hand on either side of her waist as his eyes ran down her body. She waited till his eyes once again met hers, before lowering herself back into his arms. Once there, they again found each other's mouth. There was now only one small piece of material separating their upper bodies.
Suddenly, Lois found herself lying under Clark. Before her mind could register the oddity, Clark's lips were on the sensitive skin of her throat. She moaned softly, breathing Clark's name. The sensations Lois was experiencing at this moment were like none she had ever known. She had never really wanted a man before — not like this. It was getting hard to think. The only thing she knew was how it felt - and it felt… incredible, astonishing, phenomenal, wonderful, electrifying. Her mind was abruptly unable to think of more adjectives, as Clark found a particularly sensitive spot on her neck.
Finally, Clark pulled back. "Lois," he breathed. "What's happening here?"
Lois looked at Clark, running a hand gently over his face. His breathing was as labored and uneven as hers. The passion she was feeling was clearly reflected in his eyes. She had no doubt that he wanted her as much as she wanted him. But he was right. They did need to talk.
"Maybe we should turn this down a few degrees," Lois suggested, the desire in her voice undermining her words.
"I think that might be a good idea," Clark said, his voice carrying much the same tone as hers. They looked at each other a moment more. Unable to resist, Clark lowered himself back into her arms, finding her lips again. It was a few more minutes before Clark broke the kiss. They stared into each other's eyes, as if they could find the truth there — to prevent either of them from having to say something that would make them vulnerable. It was Clark that interrupted the sound of their jagged breathing.
"Maybe… I mean, if we're going to talk… I just think I need a minute," Clark said.
Lois bit back a smile, before nodding. Clark looked at her for a moment more before moving himself gently off her to head for the washroom. Lois lay on the couch watching him go, her eyes moving freely over his body. If his responses to her were any indication, Mayson had been right. And Clark had lied to her. But that could wait. Right now, they were finally going to have an honest talk.
"Do you know what time it is?" Shannon said as he rolled over and picked up the phone.
"Yes, sir," said the voice on the other end. "I just thought you should know that Lane is at Kent's place right now."
Shannon took a moment to look at the clock. "At this time of night." Suddenly, he was wide awake. This wasn't a good sign. "Okay. Well, I'll get things set up in case she's changed her mind about leaving Metropolis."
Clark stood in the washroom leaning against the sink. He could hardly believe the change of events. He suddenly wondered if he had fallen asleep and what had happened in his living room only moments ago was all a dream. He lowered his glasses. He smiled. Lois was in the next room, pulling her sweatshirt back over her head.
She was here. Why was she here? Was this just her way of telling him that she was leaving? Maybe she had recognized his lie about his feelings for what it was and was just giving him a memory. Maybe that's why she felt she had to leave Metropolis. Maybe she was leaving to give him a chance to get over his feelings for her.
Well, there was only one way to find out. He collected himself and headed back into the living room. There was now a single light on beside the couch. Lois looked over at him as he entered. He felt his heart immediately turn to mush. He steadied himself against the wall.
Lois watched him standing by the wall. She could see from his eyes that he was completely overwhelmed. She suddenly felt a tremendous sense of power. She had done that. It was as she was observing him silently, that she suddenly noticed something else. She bit her lip and looked down.
"What?" Clark asked.
"Nothing," Lois responded, shaking her head violently.
"It's just… that is going to be one incredible hickey."
"What?" Clark gasped, immediately reaching for his neck. He glanced around the apartment before turning back into the washroom. He flicked on the light and looked at his reflection in the mirror. She was right. Just at the base of his neck, he was now definitely sporting a hickey.
"What's wrong? Never had a hickey before?" Lois asked, now standing in the doorway to his bathroom.
"Not that I can recall," responded Clark. How had she done that? She had actually managed to leave marks on his body.
"What's wrong?" Lois asked.
"I'm sorry. Are you upset about the hickey? I suppose I should have thought about that before giving it to you. But it's low enough that if you wear a shirt with a collar…" Her voice trailed off at the look on his face.
A shirt with a collar!! The suit!! The suit didn't have a collar. What was he going to do when he was in the suit? How was he going to explain Superman having a hickey? Since he hadn't even known he could get a hickey, he had no idea how long it would take to heal. Would it clear up quicker than with an ordinary person?
"What?" Lois asked, growing more and more concerned by his reaction. Maybe he was sleeping with Mayson after all and was concerned that she would see it.
"It's just…" Clark's voice trailed off. After all, what could he say? Hey, Lois, I'm just a little shocked that you managed to give the Man of Steel a hickey. Or, hey, Lois, how would you suggest Superman explain having a hickey? Not having anything feasible to say, he just shook his head.
"Look, Clark…" Lois began. She stopped as a far off look crossed Clark's face — a look with which Lois was not unfamiliar. It was a look that for some unexplained reason was always accompanied by something that Clark had forgotten to do. And for some reason, that was beyond Lois' comprehension, had to be attended to immediately.
"Clark, don't you dare," Lois said cutting him off. It was the middle of the night. What could he possibly have to do now that was more important than talking to her about what had just transpired between them?
"I'm sorry, Lois. I have to…" He started making his way toward the door. "We'll talk in the morning."
"I'm leaving in the morning, Clark."
Clark stopped for a second at the sound of indifference her voice had taken on. A look of unbearable pain crossed his face. But he got that under control quickly, turning back toward her. This had obviously just been a good-bye for her — a final au revoir. Even after what had happened here tonight, she was still leaving — had always planned to leave by the sounds of it.
"Well, be sure to write," he responded, fighting to keep any expression of emotion out of his voice.
Lois just raised an eyebrow. She didn't dare open her mouth. She knew that she would break down if she tried to speak. She wouldn't give him that satisfaction. He was obviously just your typical male after all. She had thrown herself at him and he had responded with classic male lust. It was nothing more than that. That must be why he had stopped them. After all, he was Clark. The whole situation had just gotten away from him for a moment.
Clark paused. Then, realizing that a woman was in imminent danger of being gang raped, turned and rushed out the door.
Lois stared at the door for a long time after Clark left. She had never before thrown herself at a man — well, except perhaps Superman, but that was different because it wasn't really real. And she hadn't intended to throw herself at Clark tonight. She had meant to tell him simply that she was beginning to think that maybe, there was a small chance, that her feelings toward him might be something a little more than just friendship. If he had given her any indication that that might be the case for him too, she would have told Claude she couldn't go. But then she had kissed Clark… She didn't know what had happened to her. She had never lost control like that before. No wonder he had run. He obviously didn't feel the same way she did, but didn't know how to tell her that. Well, now she had no choice. She had just made a complete fool of herself. She had to leave Metropolis.
"What took you so long?" Lois asked when Claude arrived the next morning.
"Am I late?" Claude asked, checking his watch. "Two minutes? What's your rush, Cherie?"
"I just want to get out of here," Lois informed him, throwing her bags in his rental car.
Clark arrived at Lois' apartment. He knocked on the door. When she didn't answer, he peeked through the door. She wasn't there. He was too late. He sank down against the door. He had at least wanted to say good-bye.
He had meant to come back as soon as he stopped the rape. But it had been one of those nights. He had gone from one emergency to another. He had gotten here as fast as he could. But he was too late. Now she was gone from his life for good. A solitary tear made it's way down his cheek.
"It's all going as planned," Claude said into the phone. "I'll have her on the plane and out of Metropolis within the hour."
"Good work," replied Shannon. "I had my doubts about your ability to pull this off. If there are any complications, let me know. Plan B is all set up and ready to go."
"Oui, Monsieur," replied Claude before hanging up the phone.
"Who were you talking to?" asked Lois.
Claude spun around. He hadn't known she was there. "No one… Umm… A contact, that's all."
It was as much his awkward denial, as what he had said into the phone, that put all of Lois' senses on alert.
"What's going on, Claude? Why were you assuring someone that you would have me out of Metropolis within the hour?"
"You must have misunderstood, Cherie," Claude assured her, stepping closer.
Lois took an instinctive step back.
"Oh, Cherie, why do you have to be difficult?" Claude said. Realizing immediately that he would never be able to get her on that plane now, Claude produced a small revolver. "And before you think of yelling for Superman, you might be interested to see this." He pulled a small green rock from his pocket. "I assume you know what this is."
"Kryptonite," Lois whispered.
"Oui. Now I guess I will have to give my friend a call and then we will be leaving."
Clark was back in his apartment. He knew he should be getting ready for work. But for some reason, work didn't seem very important right now. Maybe it would be best just to make Perry fire him. He didn't know if he would be able to stand the inevitable progression of events. For the next couple of weeks, he would sit and stare across at Lois' empty desk. Then, Perry would hire someone new and her desk would be taken over by someone else. He didn't think he would be able to stand that.
"So I take it you're working for Intergang," Lois said. She was now firmly strapped into a chair in the back room of an old warehouse in Metropolis.
"Intergang?" asked Claude.
"Then, who are you working for?" Maybe Bobby's information had been wrong.
"I'll let him introduce himself," said Claude opening a door. Shannon wheeled himself into the room.
"So you're Ms. Lane. Well, this is an honor. You know I've been reading your articles on a fairly regular basis since Superman showed up on the scene. Did you know that you have gotten more Superman exclusives than every other reporter in the world put together?"
"Who are you?" Lois asked.
"Names. What's in a name? I would think you'd be wondering what you're doing here."
"I've already figured that out."
Shannon raised an eyebrow. "So what do you think you've figured out?"
"I'm here as bate for Superman. But you can't make me yell. And if I don't yell, he won't come."
Shannon smiled. "I don't need you to yell, Ms. Lane. In fact…" With that he gestured to Claude who immediately affixed a gag around her mouth. "…I don't want you to yell. After all, you might decide to do something brave — like warning Superman about the kryptonite. Now, if you had just left with Claude here, neither you nor Superman would need to be killed. After all, you and Clark Kent are the ones who provide him with his information on criminal activities in the city. I wouldn't imagine Kent will be much of a problem without you. From what I've heard, he's too heartbroken to be much of a threat. I wouldn't expect him to last much longer at the Daily Planet without you. Too many memories and all that.
"Now… Well, the condition for using the kryptonite was that we kill you too. If only you'd gone along with Claude. It's sad when you think how easy it could have been." Of course, he didn't tell her that a hired killer would have met her plane in Paramador. It was much more fun letting her think that she could have saved her life. He looked at Claude. "Watch her. I have a phone call to make."
Clark wandered around his apartment. He noticed a paper on the floor. He bent down and picked it up. It was an envelope that had been folded in half. The letter. Lois must have dropped it when they were kissing last night. He stared at it for a long time. She hadn't wanted him to read it, although she never said why.
Finally, he tore it open. He pulled out the single page. He took a moment before slowly reading it. Clark's first impression was that it was carefully written — as if she were measuring every word. She had obviously taken a long time to write it. She wrote how great an opportunity this was and how she thought that some time away from Metropolis would be good for her — give her a new perspective. She ended it by telling him not to go winning any Kerths while she was away.
It was what it didn't say that hurt Clark. It didn't say that she would miss him. It didn't explain why she hadn't wanted to tell him in person. It didn't say anything personal. It was very much the type of letter she might give to her mother.
He had just sunk down into the couch when the phone began to ring. Clark didn't bother to answer it until it had rung half a dozen times. All it required was to reach out his hand, but he didn't have the energy. But finally, in order to stop the noise, he picked it up.
"Hello," he said flatly into the phone.
"Mr. Kent?" the voice asked. "I'm glad I found you."
"Who is this?"
"I'm calling because Lois Lane is in trouble. Can you find Superman?"
"Lois. What about Lois?" Clark asked. His attention was now fully focused on the caller.
"She's being held in a warehouse down on Delaware Street. I think they're going to kill her. You have to find Superman."
"Maybe I should call the police."
"No, Mr. Kent!!! I tell you, these guys are crazy. If they hear the police, they'll just kill her."
"Don't worry. I'll find a way to contact Superman. Thanks, Mr…"
"You're welcome," the man replied, ignoring the obvious question. "The address is…"
Clark was unable to do a recognizance of the warehouse using his x-ray vision. The builders had used lead based paint. Clark could hardly wait till the day when everyone came to understand the dangers of lead based paint. However, he was looking forward to it for different reasons. Well, even if he couldn't see what he was going into, there was really no choice but to go in. If Lois really was in danger, he couldn't do otherwise — even though his mind told him this was likely a trap. And with kryptonite out there…
He landed outside the building. Since the door was unlocked, he made his way inside. There was no one around although he noticed security cameras capturing his movements. There was but one door on the far end of the room. He headed for it. When he arrived, he turned the handle. The door opened and he stepped into a smaller room. Lois was tied to a metal chair which was bolted to the floor. He glanced quickly around. No one else was in the room.
He started toward her, but stopped at the sound of two people entering the room behind him. He turned around and folded his arms across his chest.
"Gentlemen, I suppose you have a good explanation for this," Superman said, in his most Superman like voice.
"Well, I thought meeting Ms. Lane was an honor. But this… This is truly marvelous. I'm a big fan, Superman. Probably your biggest. That's what makes this so difficult."
Superman tilted his head slightly. "Mr… Whoever you are, if I were you I would be more concerned for myself at the moment. I would suggest that you release Ms. Lane immediately." Clark sensed a danger, but neither his eyes nor his other senses were able to locate the reason for his concern.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Superman," Shannon replied, pushing a button on a small remote control. Superman glanced around as a number of small panels, strategically situated around the room, opened.
Clark felt the pain in an instant. Behind each of the lead lined panels was a small piece of kryptonite. Clark collapsed onto the floor.
"Drag him over there," Shannon immediately instructed Claude.
"Bien Sur," Claude replied, rushing over to the fallen superhero.
Claude dragged him into a small square that had been outlined with chalk on the floor. Once inside, Superman quickly revived. He immediately made a move toward the men. He collapsed once again on to the floor. He was again dragged back into the square. When he regained his balance this time, Shannon spoke.
"Now, we can continue to do this. I must admit there is something quite amusing about it. But it might be wise for you to stay put. The square you are standing in is far enough away from each piece of kryptonite that you can live inside the square. I would think that there are some effects to your power at that distance, but you may still be strong enough to survive." Although Shannon seriously doubted that Superman would survive the explosion without his powers. And he was certain Superman would not survive the fire that the explosion was set to trigger. "If you try to leave that square, either by going in a horizontal or a vertical direction, you will be exposed to the kryptonite."
Superman looked around at his invisible prison. He glanced over at Lois to be sure that she was all right. It only took him a moment to realize that her attention was not focused on his face.
Lois had watched in horror as Superman collapsed. She had heard Shannon's comments and suddenly realized the precariousness of their position. But then something else caught her attention. Just above the neckline of Superman's suit was a mark that was familiar to her - it was a mark that she had specifically given him. Her eyes focused on it for a moment as realization flooded her consciousness. Of course, the dream. His constant running off. His shock over her giving him a hickey. Her eyes left his neck and went back up to his face.
When she met his eyes, instead of the calm controlled eyes that she was use to seeing on Superman's face, what she saw was Clark's eyes. Half apology. Half fear — at her discovery, she instantly realized.
Clark knew the second he saw where Lois was looking, and the expression on her face, that she had figured things out. This was not how he wanted her to find out. Right now she needed to believe in Superman's ability to be something beyond a mere mortal. He had managed to take that away from her. He had forgotten about the hickey. Not that there was much he could have done about it anyway. Before this exposure to kryptonite, it had been healing quickly. However, her recognition of it told him that it was still obvious enough.
As soon as Lois made the connection, and once the shock had warn off, she was furious. How dare he keep this from her? Weren't they best friends? If he didn't love her, how dare he let her throw herself at Superman that way? He had owed her the truth. He wasn't so different from the other men in her life after all. It was just one more betrayal by one more man.
But then there were those eyes. Clark's eyes — eyes with the power to melt her soul. She could see the distress, the pleading, in them, as he silently begged for her understanding and forgiveness. It evoked a similar reaction of agony in her. The anguish was almost unbearable. All those stupid excuses. It hurt more than she could say to realize what he'd been keeping from her. Didn't he trust her?
Clark saw the emotions running through Lois' eyes. The shock was almost instantly replaced by anger. That was overcome quickly by pain. Finally, she broke eye contact.
Claude was watching the exchange taking place between the Man of Steel and Lois with interest.
"I think I finally know how you got all those exclusives, Cherie," Claude said. "He's in love with you, isn't he?"
Lois and Clark's eyes met for one final instant.
"Oui, I think so," Claude said, coming up behind Lois and running his hands roughly over her body, while keeping his eyes on Superman. Clark lurched forward and then fell back, his eyes communicating a quiet apology to Lois. Claude chuckled. "She's a great in bed though, isn't she," he said conspiratorially to Clark, who narrowed his eyes in response. "You know, I think you're right, Monsieur," Claude continued, turning his attention to Shannon. "I think if it wasn't for his powers, he wouldn't be a hero."
"I know I'm right," replied Shannon. "Like I said, I know everything there is to know about Superman. He's only been without his powers twice. Once he just lay in a cage in Lex Towers, like a trapped animal. The other time… Well, I'm afraid I don't know the details about it. But I do know that he lost his powers on another occasion. After all, for a few days after Trask arrived on the scene, Superman was no where to be seen."
After learning that the 'mystical rock', of which Lois Lane had written, did exist, Shannon had gone back to research that period of time. Superman had disappeared from Metropolis for a few days around the same time. Shannon assumed a connection. With that and the information about its use by Lex Luthor, Shannon had come to the conclusion that, at heart, Superman was a coward. His bravery stemmed only from the fact that he couldn't be hurt. On that basis, he had come up with this experiment. An experiment that he had no doubt would end in the deaths of both Lois Lane and Superman.
Lois looked over at Clark. Trask!! He must be referring to the incident with Jason Trask. That was the only other time she had heard about kryptonite either. She knew Clark didn't suffer from allergies!!
"Anyway, would the two of you like to know the plan? As you can see, there are video cameras around the room. We intend to record this to show society how the mighty fall. It should make them a little less inclined to become heros themselves. Of course, they will only record up until the moment of the blast."
"What blast?" demanded Clark.
Shannon hit another button on his remote control. A small explosive devise appeared near the base of Lois Lane's chair.
"Now, of course, you could try to disarm the bomb, Superman. But it would almost certainly kill you. If you stay where you are, you may survive. Of course, Lois Lane won't survive. So then, how much of a hero are you really?
"By the way, Claude, remove Lois Lane's gag. We want to record any last words they might say to each other. For posterity, of course."
"Certainement, Monsieur," Claude replied, going over and taking off Lois' gag. "Good-bye, Cherie. We could have had such fun." He then kissed her. When he backed off, Lois' only answer was to spit in his face. Claude slowly wiped at the spittle with his hand before winding up and giving her a back hand across the face.
Clark jumped forward, but once again caught himself in time. He breathed a sigh of relief when Lois was okay, although he suspected she would have a wicked bruise tomorrow. But right now, living till tomorrow was the objective. In spite of his desire to make Claude pay for what he had done, he knew that he would have to be patient. He had to get Lois out of here alive. He needed all his remaining strength to do that, not go off like a crazed teenager.
Shannon pushed a final button on the remote control and the bomb began ticking. "Enjoy your remaining minutes. Mr. Benoit and I will be saying good-bye now." With that Shannon and Benoit left through a door on the other side of the room.
"Are we alone?" Lois asked, being unable to get her head around enough to see the door behind her.
"Except for the cameras and the microphones," Clark reminded her. She nodded her acknowledgment of the warning. Whatever she might have to say to Clark would have to wait. Except…
"You're a bastard, you know," she whispered. Although whispering the words was not exactly how she wanted to say them.
"I know," he whispered back.
There was a moment of silence before Clark spoke again. "I don't know how they did it, but they've judged things well. As long as I stay in this square, I am not completely vulnerable. But my powers are seriously weakened."
"For the sake of our friends, I'd prefer not to say." They were both speaking in exaggeratedly low tones, in an effort to keep anyone from overhearing the conversation.
"So how do we get out of here?" Lois asked.
"What are they saying?" asked Church.
"I don't know," responded Nigel. "I think they said something about a judge. Will this go any louder?"
"We can turn it louder, but it won't help us hear them any better. We'll just get more static. The problem is that the mikes are on the cameras and the cameras were placed on the far walls so that we could see the whole thing."
"Uhh… well, I guess watching their deaths will have to suffice."
"Can you get out of the ropes?" Clark asked.
Lois struggled for a minute and then looked at him helplessly. "What about using your laser vision to disarm the bomb?"
"I've already tried x-raying the box. It's lined with lead."
"Lead?" Lois asked in confusion.
"I can't see through lead, Lois. If I can't see the bomb, anything I might do to try to disarm it could backfire. So I can't try to melt it or freeze it or even blow it away."
"I didn't know you couldn't see through lead. How did he? Come to think of it how did he know about kryptonite? Even I just found out a couple months ago."
"I would imagine this has something to do with the theft at Lex Towers and that would mean that Nigel St. John may be involved. Lois, we don't have time to figure this all out right now. How much time before the bomb goes off?"
Lois looked down at the device. "Two minutes."
Clark looked around in desperation. Suddenly, he was struck with an inspiration.
"Lois, hold still." He directed his laser vision at the ropes on her hands. He concentrated and the ropes smoked a bit but didn't break.
"Come on, Cl… Superman. You can do it," Lois encouraged.
Clark took a deep breath and tried again, but without any more success.
"Okay, what if you got out of here and got help?" Lois asked.
"I've already considered that. I can't move out of this invisible box. He has placed the kryptonite too well. How much time?"
Lois looked down at the box. "Less than a minute."
Clark started toward her. The kryptonite hit him immediately. Still he tried to come. He collapsed to the floor.
"I have a chance of surviving the bomb blast, Lois. You don't."
"But you won't survive the kryptonite."
Clark moaned in pain as he continued to force himself across the floor, on his hands and knees, toward the bomb.
"You can't do this. The world needs Superman."
"Well, I need you," Clark said, continuing on his mission.
Lois felt a surge of both pleasure and pain. He needed her. Then why, oh why, hadn't he told her the truth.
When Clark reached the bomb, there were only a matter of seconds left. He searched for a way into the bomb casing, but couldn't find one and he didn't dare just rip it open in case that would just set it off sooner. He quickly untied one of Lois' hands. She moved to undo the remainder of her bonds, while he continued to crawl away from her with the box.
"Get out of here, Lois," he pleaded. "This thing will go off any second."
Lois got free of the bonds and was just starting toward Clark, when Clark threw himself on the bomb. It exploded. Lois was thrown to the far side of the room. "Clark," she gasped, before losing consciousness.
"Wasn't that touching," Church remarked. "She even gasped out the name of the lovesick Clark Kent as her final word."
"Yes, very touching," replied Nigel. "I haven't enjoyed a performance more in years."
"Me neither. That rock really did its job. I must admit, I had my doubts after Luthor's failure with it. Anyway, I'm hoping you will accept my offer to join Intergang."
"Not at the moment. With your generous payment for the kryptonite, I figure I'll relax for awhile."
"Just let me know when you want to return," said Church.
"Thank you, sir. I will."
Smoke. That was Lois' first conscious thought. There was smoke in here. She opened her eyes. She was in a room that was on fire. She coughed, her lungs desperately trying to get rid of the gases being forced into them. Suddenly, she saw him. Just a glimpse through the black smoke — red and blue. She struggled toward him on her hands and knees trying to find the purest source of oxygen.
He was laying on his stomach, not moving. She struggled to role him over. "Don't die on me. Don't you dare die on me," she muttered as she struggled with his limp body. She gasped when she finally got him over, the suit, and the chest under it, were covered in blood. She couldn't tell what type of damage had been done.
Lois felt the heat of the fire. At least when the explosion had started the fire, it hadn't burned Superman. She hoped that was a sign that his powers had managed to protect him. Suddenly, she remembered the kryptonite. She had to get him out of here. She moved around until she could get her arms under his armpits. She struggled furiously to drag him out of the room. When she finally made it into the main part of the warehouse, the fire not having started there yet, she collapsed for a moment on the floor, coughing furiously.
She struggled to get herself under control and then grabbed Superman again and, using every last ounce of strength she had, pulled him from the warehouse and into the relative safety of a nearby ally. She did this for several reasons. First, she wanted to get him far enough away from the kryptonite that he wouldn't be affected. But she also knew that it wouldn't likely take very long for fire trucks to arrive. She couldn't have them know that Superman was injured or how it happened. Finally, it was only a matter of time before the fire spread here too.
Lois bent over Superman. She put her cheek next to his mouth. She felt a soft touch of air on her cheek. She sighed in relief. He was breathing. But his breathing seemed to be shallow. She wasn't sure what to do. Logic dictated that she get him to a hospital. But that battled in her mind with the fact that she knew Clark wouldn't want people knowing that Superman had been hurt. Clark had made it very clear that he didn't want anyone to know about kryptonite. But if his life was in danger, Lois knew that she would shout the news to the world to save him. The problem was determining if his life was in danger. She needed help. That much was certain. But who? Of course, who else. Jimmy. He had a car. Jimmy could take them to either the hospital or Clark's, depending on what was necessary.
Lois spotted a telephone booth nearby. She dashed over to it and called the Daily Planet. "Jimmy Olsen, please," she said impatiently into the mouthpiece when the Daily Planet operator answered. Lois glanced over to where Superman was laying, anxious to return to him.
"Jimmy Olsen," said a familiar voice.
"Jimmy, I need you to get down to the corner of Delaware and Champion Avenue now."
"Uhh… Lois, Perry has me…"
"Now, Jimmy!! Bring your camera. I can guarantee that Perry won't mind. And Jimmy, hurry." She figured that if Jimmy brought his camera and got some pictures of the fire, it would cover him with Perry.
With that, Lois hung up the phone, certain that Jimmy would get here as soon as humanly possible. She dashed back across the street, to Superman's side. He moaned. The sound almost made her smile. He was alive — and he was somewhat conscious.
"Clark?" she asked softly.
He opened his eyes only far enough to see her face. "Lois," he whispered, before grimacing from the effort. "I'm sorry…" he began. She placed a finger across his lips. He fell silent. She removed her finger from his lips and took a moment to gently run it over his face. His eyes closed in response.
Then, realizing how badly he was bleeding, she pulled his cape from under him, figuring out how to unhook it. She used it to staunch the bleeding. Due to the amount of blood, she was unable to determine how badly he might be hurt. She could tell that the skin on his chest was badly torn up. But she couldn't tell how deep the cuts might go. But the amount of blood terrified her. She put pressure on her make shift bandage. He suddenly flinched.
"Lois, no. There are pieces of something stuck in me. Don't push," Clark gasped.
"Sorry," Lois exclaimed, taking her hands immediately off the cape. She took his hands and placed them on it. "Clark, you're still bleeding. Since you can feel what you can bear, I need you to be the one to keep pressure on the cuts. Can you do that?"
Clark nodded weakly.
"I've called Jimmy. He's on his way. Do you want us to take you to the hospital?"
"Lois, no!!" said Clark firmly.
"Clark, I'm not prepared to let you die just because you don't want anyone to know about kryptonite."
"I'm… I don't think that's going to happen. Please, Lois," Clark moaned.
Just then Jimmy drove up. Lois ran over to him. He was already snapping pictures of the burning warehouse. He ignored Lois until he had several shots. "Great tip. Thanks, Lois."
"I need your help, Jimmy," Lois said, pulling at the sleeve of his coat.
"What is…" Jimmy's voice trailed off as he noticed where Lois was taking him. When he arrived to see Superman laying on the ground, covered in blood and holding his cape, he instinctively raised his camera.
Lois saw what he was doing, and her hand was in front of the lense when the shutter snapped. She dragged Jimmy a little ways away.
"No, Jimmy. Please. You've got your pictures of the fire. Don't do this. In fact, if you value our friendship, you won't tell anyone about this."
"But, Lois, everyone is going to know when we take him to the hospital. Besides, this is news."
Lois snorted. "You think I don't know that? I invented the definition of 'news.' But, this time Jimmy, we're not telling it. You can take pictures of the fire and tell about it. But Superman's off limits. Got it," she said, looking Jimmy dead in the eyes.
Jimmy knew that 'don't mess with me' look very well. He swallowed hard and nodded.
"And we're not going to the hospital," Lois informed him, looking back at Clark. "At least not yet. That's why I called you. I need your help."
"Where are we taking him?"
"To Clark's." Then to Jimmy's questioning look, she added, "I can't get him up all the steps to my apartment. And I'm sure Clark won't mind. Come on, help me get him into your car."
Jimmy sprang into action, assisting Lois with getting Superman into his car. Then, he jumped into the driver's seat and took off for Clark's apartment. Just as they were heading away, they heard the sound of fire trucks.
When they arrived at the apartment, Lois found Clark's hidden key. She opened the door and both she and Jimmy managed to get Superman onto Clark's bed.
"How did you know Clark wouldn't be home?" Jimmy asked.
"What do you mean?"
"It's just… Well, you didn't even knock first."
"Oh," said Lois, searching for an excuse. "Clark told me that he was going to be out today."
"Really? I figured he was sick since he didn't come in to work."
Lois immediately busied herself with getting some towels.
"What do you want me to do?" Jimmy asked.
Lois stopped and looked at him for a moment. There was still the matter of the kryptonite and there was no way she was leaving Clark. She would have to trust someone.
"What I'm about to tell you can't go beyond this room," she began. When Jimmy nodded, she continued. "I need you to go back to the fire. As soon as it's out, try to get past the firemen. There's a back room in the warehouse. If you can get in there, try to gather up all the green stones you can find. Then take them to your apartment. I'll come for them later. And, Jimmy, don't tell anyone about this."
"Why? What's so important about a bunch of stones?"
Lois didn't answer. Instead, she just glanced over at the man lying on the bed.
"Got ya," said Jimmy, heading for the door.
"Are you sure they're dead?" asked Shannon.
"We saw Superman throw himself on the bomb before it exploded. Without his powers, he must be mincemeat. We also saw Lois fly across the room before falling unconscious. Then the fire started and the room was too smoky to see clearly. But trust me, they're dead," replied Church.
"Okay then. I guess that means the way is now clear for Intergang to move into Metropolis."
"That's already underway. Cost Mart just purchased sites for half a dozen stores. We are 'negotiating' with city counsel members as we speak. We have found the price of enough of them to get the re-zoning passed, so I would imagine approval will come quickly."
"So what about my promotion to be the head of Intergang in Metropolis?" asked Shannon.
"That's conditional on one final task."
"You need to kill Claude Benoit. He's the only one who can link things back to us. After all, as far as everyone's concerned, Lane left Metropolis with Benoit. When her body's found, they're going to be looking to question him."
Shannon smiled. "He's meeting with me later. I'll do it then."
Once Jimmy left, Lois turned her attention to Clark. She knew little about medicine. Her father had wanted her to be a doctor. As a result, she had steered clear of anything medical. She had come across it occasionally in her job. In those cases, she had learned only what she needed for the sake of the story. A story. That was the answer.
She walked over and sat down on the edge of Clark's bed. His eyes were closed and he was in visible pain. She gently ran her hand through his hair. He half opened his eyes.
"Clark, you need help and I don't know enough about medical matters to do that. But I have an idea." She paused. "I know a doctor who… well, he sort of operates outside the law. You know, not reporting bullet wounds and such."
"How'd you meet him?" Clark's words were slow and labored.
"I was covering a story. He lost his medical license."
Clark just grunted.
"He lost it because he removed a bullet without reporting it to the police. Apparently, the reason he didn't report it was because the man was allegedly on the run from some big crime boss," Lois continued.
"Which one?" Clark asked, informing Lois that he was actually listening and trying to determine if they could trust this doctor.
"That's just it. He didn't know. He claimed it was someone called 'the boss.' Since there isn't a crime boss who goes by the nickname 'the boss,' the medical board didn't believe him and he lost his license. I've heard that since then, he's been doing the same thing for others — giving medical help to people who need it done quietly. It's not exactly… What?" Her last word was a question in response to a look on Clark's face.
"Lex Luthor… 'the boss'"
They looked at each other for a moment before Clark said, "Call him."
Lois nodded and was just about to get up when she stopped. "Who do I say he's treating? I mean do I tell him he's helping Clark or do I tell him that he's helping Superman."
Clark was thoughtful for a moment as he tried to think clearly through the pain. "Lois… don't tell him… who. Body works different… don't know how… if he finds… unusual, then tell him Superman. Otherwise, don't give name." By the time he got to the end, his voice was barely audible. He closed his eyes. It had taken so much for him to have this conversation in his current condition. Now that it was over, he just wanted time to regain some strength.
Lois nodded and went to the phone.
After she had made the call, she came back and sat beside Clark. His eyes were closed. She knew that he didn't have the energy for her to confront him with his lie. But she was being tormented by it. She used her hand to gently push some strands of hair off his face. Although his eyes didn't open, his hand came up and grasped hers, holding it against him for a moment.
"Oh, Clark," she whispered softly.
His eyes opened at the pain in her voice. "I'm sorry, Lois," he said softly.
Lois didn't respond. Now was not the time for this discussion. "Clark, we need to get you out of the suit, or what's left of it, before Dr. Potestio arrives."
Clark looked at her through half closed eyes. Not comprehending the reason for her suggestion, he shook his head slightly.
"Clark, if he sees the suit, he's going to know you're Superman."
Clark now understood. He struggled for a moment with sitting to remove the suit, but to no avail. Lois shook her head.
"Well," she said, "I've always wanted to take the suit off you."
"Lo-is," Clark growled softly.
Lois actually managed a smile, recognizing Clark's attempt to lighten the atmosphere by returning her one-liner. She then pulled herself together to help him with the suit.
Shannon smiled when Benoit arrived at their meeting place.
"So, Monsieur Shannon, you said you'd have my payment," Claude said when he arrived. "Now if you would just provide it to me, I'll get back to the war."
"Don't worry, Benoit, I've got your payment." With that Shannon pulled out a gun and raised it.
Benoit saw the gun and, after the years of working as a war correspondent, reacted immediately. Several bullets left Shannon's gun, but none found their mark.
Dr. Potestio was young and good looking, but in a quiet and unassuming way. His eyebrows went up as he recognized the woman answering the door.
"Ms. Lane," he said, beginning to turn around and walk away.
"No, Doctor, please. I swear, this isn't a story. I'm not even working at the Daily Planet at the moment. Please, I need your help. A friend of mine needs your help. Just take a look at him. Please."
"Ms. Lane, thanks to you, I lost my license to practice medicine. It was your story that brought my actions to the attention of the medical board."
"Okay, I may have made a slight error in judgement," replied Lois. Then when the doctor turned and made to leave, she, in desperation, corrected herself to say, "Okay, a big error in judgement. But I couldn't find any crime figure called 'the boss.' I now have reason to believe that the boss may have been Lex Luthor. If you do this for me, I'll do everything I can to help you get your license back."
Potestio stopped. After a moment, he spoke. "Where's your friend?"
Lois let out a short breath. "Do I have your word that you won't tell anyone about this?"
Potestio didn't respond. Instead, he just raised his eyebrows. After all, that was why he had lost his license in the first place. Did she really think he would compromise doctor patient privilege now?
"Okay," said Lois. "Dumb question. He's in here."
Dr. Potestio got to work immediately. He didn't say anything to Lois about Clark's condition. He just looked Clark over, gave her some instructions, and began working — ignoring her questions. He carefully removed the pieces of shrapnel and sutured wounds. It was taking him a long time.
While he was working, Lois alternated between standing in the doorway of the bedroom and wandering impatiently around the rest of the apartment. Her emotions were in a complete mess. There was the trauma of the experience they had just gone through. But added to that was fear she still felt for Clark. Then there was the anger and sense of betrayal she felt over discovering Clark's secret.
There was also the memory of helping him out of the suit shortly before. She was so physically attracted to Clark. Given her anger with him, it had been difficult to see more of him than she had ever seen before. She had tried not to look, but without much luck. But he had a power that no man ever had had before. The power to excite her just by looking at him.
It was during one of her trips into the kitchen that Lois spotted an envelope sitting on the kitchen table. It was addressed to her. But it was the words written beneath her name that left her feeling cold. In Clark's crisp printing were the words, 'To Be Delivered On My Death.'
She picked it up and turned it over. It wasn't sealed. She set it back on the table. It appeared to be some sort of final message from Clark to her. But Clark wasn't dead. Did she have any right to read it? She walked back into the bedroom and watched Dr. Potestio for a few minutes. Then, when that got to be too much for her to take, she wandered back into the kitchen. She looked at the envelope for a minute. Then she picked it up again, holding it by one end, and flicked her wrist. The letter inside didn't fall out. She tried again. Still the letter didn't fall out
"Oh for crying out loud," she said, reaching into the envelope and removing the letter. "Well, it wasn't sealed. If he's going to leave an envelope addressed to me, he must know that I'm going to read the letter." Besides, she justified, it might contain information that she needed to know given the fact that Clark had been hurt. She opened the letter and began to read.
'Dear Lois. If you're reading this, it is because the call saying you were in trouble was a trap and I'm dead. The caller wouldn't give his name and he was a little too insistent that Superman be contacted instead of the police.'
She stopped reading and set the letter down. She really shouldn't be reading this. It was obviously only meant to be read by her in the event of Clark's death. She walked over to the fridge and opened it. She poured herself a glass of juice and took a drink. She glanced back over at the letter. 'NO!!' she told herself firmly. She raised the glass to her lips again. She lowered it. She set down the glass and walked by the table. She didn't touch the letter which was now lying open. She casually glanced over at it, re-reading the first two sentences. She let out a frustrated breath and, without touching the letter, began to read. It was lying open after all.
'I am writing this at superspeed so please forgive the lack of coherence or grammar in this letter. In case you don't know already, I'm Superman. It will be difficult to cover up the disappearance of Clark taking place at the same time as Superman's death. That's, in part, the reason I'm writing this letter. I need you to take care of my folks. They will need help with a cover story. I wouldn't ask this of you, except that, with all the enemies Superman has made this past year, I'm afraid someone will seek their revenge by killing them. Please do what you can to help.
'The second reason I'm writing this letter is that I owe you an explanation. I know I should have told you the truth months ago. And I don't want you to think that it's because I don't trust you. I do. I'd trust you with my life. But I kept hoping that someday you might come to love me for who I really am. I know it wasn't fair to keep this information from you just because I wanted something you weren't able to give. I'm sorry.
'I guess you know by now that I lied to you when I told you I didn't love you. I owe you an apology for that too. I was just so desperate…
Lois growled in frustration. She had come to the end of the page. She tried coughing to see it the air would move the top page. But both pages moved. Finally, she reached over and just moved the top page to begin reading the second.
"…to have you in my life. I was afraid that you would withdraw from me if you knew how I really felt about you. I just didn't want to lose your friendship.
'I guess that doesn't matter now. So I want, just once, to let you know that I have been in love with you since the day we were introduced in Perry's office. I think you are the most incredible woman I have ever met. All my love, always. Clark.
Lois sat silently and thought about what she had just read. He had come to that warehouse, even though he thought it was probably a trap, even though he knew that there was kryptonite out there. He had come for her. She wiped at a tear that had inadvertently slipped down her cheek. He loved her. But that didn't change the fact that he had been lying to her for the past year.
Suddenly, she gasped as she realized what must have happened last night. He must have heard a cry for help. She had been so sure, when he ran out of the apartment, that he was telling her that he didn't want her. Because of that, she had left with Claude. But that was part of the problem. If he had just told her the truth, all of this could have been avoided. Okay, so maybe not. After all, Claude would undoubtedly have found another way.
But if he was Superman, she shouldn't have been able to give him a hickey. But she had. No wonder he had been so shocked. Suddenly, she giggled. It was actually kind of funny. What a way to discover that Clark was Superman? She could imagine the reaction that others would have if she was ever able to tell them. What would his parents reaction be? His parents. She had to call his parents.
She walked over to the phone. She picked it up and then set it back down. No, she couldn't call them while the doctor was here.
She went back to the bedroom. She stood in the doorway and watched the doctor at work. She could hear the strangled groans coming from the bed. She could hardly stand seeing him in so much pain. She gently ran a hand over her chest. She flinched. She was going to have some bruises herself from Claude's rough handling of her body. She would survive them. She wasn't sure she would survive if Clark didn't make it. Yeah, they had some things to work through, but she already knew that there was no way she could walk away — not if he loved her too.
Jimmy got lots of pictures while waiting for his opportunity. He even interviewed some of the fire fighters. He called Perry to tell him where he was.
At first, Perry was annoyed that, when Jimmy got the tip, he hadn't turned it over to one of the seasoned reporters. But then he listened to the kid's story. Jimmy made no mention of Superman, only that the fire had been started by what was believed to be a deliberate explosion. Perry was impressed. He gave Jimmy permission to stay at the fire and see what else he could find out.
Finally, the fire was out. Jimmy quietly made his way around back. There was a door. It was locked. Jimmy removed some tools from his pocket and quickly jimmied the lock. "It was a bum rap," he said softly, as he looked quickly around before entering the building. He was in a small room, probably an office at one time.
His first thought was that this was crazy. The building, although still standing, had serious fire damage. How was he ever going to know what stones he was looking for? Suddenly, he was not worried about being able to recognize the rocks. There were a number of small green glowing rocks. That had to be them. He quickly began pushing aside the ashes and timbers and other unrecognizable items in search of more.
He was about to decide that he had them all when he heard voices. He quickly stuffed the rocks into his pocket and made his way out - avoiding the firemen who were coming to inspect the damage.
"So, how is he doctor?" Lois asked, as Dr. Potestio began to clean up.
Potestio didn't respond. He just lead her into the next room.
"Your friend has lost a lot of blood. He really should go to the hospital where they could possibly give him a transfusion."
Lois thought about that for a moment. She doubted that Clark's blood would be compatible anyway.
"That's not an option, Doctor."
"Okay. Well, I did the best I could at removing the shrapnel. I think I got all of it, but that could be another problem. The only way to ensure that all of it has been removed is to give him a general anaesthetic. I can't do that here."
"I understand. What should I do?"
"I've given him something for the pain. He will be out of it for a little while. Just keep an eye on his temperature. Other than the things I've mentioned, the biggest threat now is that he will get an infection. If he has any problems, you know how to reach me. I'll do whatever I can. Also," Dr. Potestio handed her some medication and a few syringes. "This is for pain. Have you ever given anyone a needle?"
When she indicated that she had not, he provided her with the necessary instructions. He also told her how often to give the medication. Or, more appropriately, how little. The medication was not to be given more than every four hours. But it didn't need to be given that often if he wasn't in pain. Then he explained about the need to change his bandages and how to do that.
"Thanks, Doctor. What do I owe you?" Lois asked.
"Just do what you can to get me back my license."
Lois smiled. "Deal."
"Besides, I'm a Superman fan too."
Lois' mouth fell open. The doctor looked at her smugly before getting his jacket and heading for the door.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. After all, the crime rate will probably rise if people find out that Superman's been hurt."
Lois looked at the door for a long time after the doctor left. He really was a good man. Just another example of how bad she could be at judging a person's character. She shook her head. He hadn't even asked how Superman could have been hurt.
She looked into Clark's room. He seemed to be sleeping. She walked over and touched his face. He seemed to be resting comfortably, at least as much as was possible, and his temperature seemed normal.
She went into the living room and picked up the phone. Martha and Jonathan needed to know.
Claude looked around the cheesy hotel. He figured he would be safe here, under an assumed name, for a while. At least long enough to work out a plan. He knew Shannon was not in this by himself. He figured whoever was behind it had a lot of money and some very impressive connections. The very fact that they had found a rock that could kill Superman was evidence of that.
So now, with Lois and Superman dead, he would be the first place the police would look. He knew of at least one person who had known that he was leaving with Lois — Clark Kent. But who knew how many other people had she told. No wonder Shannon wanted him dead. With his death, no one would know where to look.
He needed a plan. He didn't know who was after him. He just knew that he was in more trouble than he had ever been in his life.
It was four in the morning. Lois had stretched out on the couch and was getting a little sleep. She had stolen one of Clark's t-shirts to sleep in, her own clothes being covered in Clark's blood. It had been twelve hours now since Dr. Potestio had left. She had given Clark the pain killer once. But she suspected he hadn't asked for it until the pain got unbearable.
She woke up and decided to check on Clark. It was about an hour since she had last gone in. He had been asleep then. She wrapped Clark's robe around her and walked into his room, trying to finger comb her hair into some sort of logical pattern.
"You look pretty decent first thing in the morning," said Clark softly.
She smiled as she thought about the last time he had told her that. "You're awake. Do you need another injection?"
He shook his head. "I'd rather talk to you. I can't do that if I'm drugged up."
"Clark, we can talk about everything when you're feeling better."
He patted the side of his bed. She sighed, walked over and sat down beside him.
"My body heals quicker than most people and I wasn't exposed to the kryptonite very long, thanks to you," Clark said softly.
"So you're okay?" Lois asked.
"I'm still in pain and I'm still really weak. But it's not unmanageable. What I need right now is to talk to you." He paused. "I know I hurt you. I know you must be angry I didn't tell you that I'm Superman," Clark said. "Do you want to talk about it?"
She let out a short breath. "I was angry that you didn't tell me about Superman. You have no idea how angry."
"I think I can imagine," Clark replied softly.
"And part of me still is angry about that." She sighed. "But, you know, that's not what I want to talk to you about right now. I mean, I think I understand why you did that especially after…"
"Especially after?" Clark asked.
She shook her head. "Clark, you told me another lie. And you know, of the two, the other one hurt more."
"What lie are you talking about, Lois?" asked Clark, thoroughly confused. He had lied to her — often — but it was always about Superman.
Lois looked down. "I read the letter, Clark."
"The one you left for me in case you died."
"Oh," said Clark. There was an awkward pause. "I suppose it wouldn't do any good to say that I just wrote that I love you to make you feel special."
"I didn't think so. Look, Lois, I know you don't feel the same way about me…"
"And I understand that. I lied to you about my feelings to try to save our friendship. Whatever happens, I don't think I could stand to lose that. Maybe it was wrong. But I figured that you needed me to be there for you. I wasn't sure you'd feel free to turn to me if you knew how I felt."
"Clark, I think we need to talk about Lex," Lois said. When Clark flinched, Lois reached over and took his hand. "Do you know why I told Lex I couldn't marry him?"
"Lois, you didn't tell Lex you couldn't marry him. You didn't marry him because Jimmy, Jack and Perry stopped the wedding."
"Oh!! That's right!! You weren't there, were you? You were trapped in that cage. That's why I didn't see you until I got outside. Clark, before Perry and the others arrived, I told Lex that I couldn't marry him."
"Because of you."
"You mean because of Superman."
Lois smiled slightly. "No. I mean because of you — Clark Kent. The farm boy from Kansas who came into my life a year ago and turned it completely upside down." She paused for a moment to let that sink in. "When I was walking down the aisle, all I could think about was you. When the Arch Bishop asked me if I would take Lex to be my husband, I told him that I couldn't. Clark, I didn't marry Lex because I realized that I was in love with you."
Clark had a stunned, not quite believing, look on his face. She shook her head slightly and then reaching up, gently stroked his face with the back of her fingers. "I'm in love with you, Clark. When you told me that you didn't love me, I thought my heart would break. That's why I couldn't talk to you about what was bothering me. I mean, I felt like a fool over almost marrying Lex. But my heart was broken because of you."
"Oh, Lois. I'm so sorry," said Clark. "I didn't… I didn't know. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought…"
"Shhh… Clark, I've had most of the past twelve hours to think about this. Please let me finish. I could have told you the truth too. Instead, I just avoided talking to you. Then I tried running away from you. It's not your fault — well, maybe a big part of it is. The biggest part. But it's not ALL your fault." Lois let out a short breath. "We sure made a mess of things, didn't we?"
Clark reached up and stroked her cheek. She leaned into his hand, closing her eyes. He moved his hand around to the back of her head, pulling her gently toward him. Their lips met in the softest of caresses. However, when neither pulled back, the kiss intensified. It was then that Lois ended the kiss and pulled back.
When she refused to make eye contact after the kiss, Clark said, "Lois?" When she didn't respond, he asked, "Am I misunderstanding things here? I sort of assumed that you wanted some sort of relationship with me."
"I do, Clark," Lois responded immediately. "It's just…"
When she didn't continue, he asked, "It's just?"
"About last night, or the night before… or whatever… You know when we… Well, you know."
"When you gave me the hickey?" asked Clark.
Lois nodded. "Well, what happened… It's just…" She let out a frustrated breath.
"You can tell me anything, Lois," he said softly. "I promise, I'll understand. What is it?"
"Well, It's just… I mean, I don't regret what happened. I really don't, but… Well, when you kissed me back…" She paused, struggling for words. "Maybe I should back up a little bit. Clark, I haven't been with a man since Claude. That was when I was twenty-one." She looked into Clark's eyes, making sure he understood what she was saying.
It seemed to take him a moment. When it sank in, he was struck by a thought. "What about Luthor?"
She shook her head. "I never slept with Lex." She paused. "I realized after Claude that sex complicates a relationship. And with you… Clark you're my best friend and my partner. If we rush into something here and it doesn't work out… I just don't think I could stand to lose my partner, best friend and lover all on the same day. Does that make any sense?"
"Lois, you're not going to lose…"
"Clark, I know you mean that. But you don't know what will happen. With my past experiences with men… I know it isn't fair to make you pay for what they did. But… Anyway, when I came over here… Well, I didn't exactly plan to… you know…"
"Jump me?" Clark asked.
Lois looked up immediately. Then she relaxed as she saw the twinkle in his eyes. She went to give him a playful slap, but stopped as she remembered that he was seriously wounded. "Okay, so maybe I got a little carried away. But I don't recall you objecting too much."
Clark laughed, before turning serious. "Are you trying to tell me that you aren't ready for us to make love?"
She didn't look at him as she nodded. "But it's more than that, Clark. I realized last night that I wanted… I mean, I realized how easy it would be for that to happen. I guess what I'm saying is that I need to take this slowly. And I'm going to need your help to do that."
Clark reached over and placed a hand under Lois' chin, raising her head to look into her eyes.
"Are you asking me not to push?" he asked softly. When she didn't speak, he continued. "You're afraid that if I do, you won't be able to say no?" he asked softly. When she gave a slight nod, he spoke again. "I don't want you unable to say 'no.' I want you saying 'yes.' I promise, I won't push." She looked unconvinced, so he continued. "Lois, I've waited for you for almost thirty years. I think I can wait till you're ready."
Her thoughts changed from fear that he wouldn't understand to confusion. "Are you telling me… Are you saying…"
"Lois, I've never really been sure that I was suppose to have a life here — not until I met you. I didn't think it was fair to get into something that I wasn't sure I could follow through on. Besides, I think making love should be just that and… until I met you, I'd never been in love before. So if you're not ready, then neither am I. I'll wait as long as you want. If you decide that you want to wait till we get married… umm… of course, assuming that we get married… well, that's fine with me."
Her eyes suddenly became very moist.
"Come here," he said softly. Lois leaned back in and her lips once again found his. When they broke the kiss, Clark said, "You know, I think it will take me some time to get used to being allowed to do that anyway."
Lois smiled in response. "You are a remarkable man, Clark Kent," she said softly.
"I am, aren't I," Clark responded, giving her his best boyish grin. That almost earned him another slap.
"Clark, tell me something," Lois said suddenly. "How was I able to give you a hickey?"
Clark shook his head. "I don't know. I have been asking myself that question since last night." He paused for a moment. "There's an aura that surrounds my body. That's why the suit doesn't burn when I'm in a fire and doesn't get holes when I'm shot at. The only thing that seems to make sense is that somehow, you managed to get inside my aura."
"Are you saying that if we were… That if someone shot me when we… That I wouldn't be hurt?"
"I don't know and, to tell you the truth, I'd prefer not to find out."
Lois laughed. "I take it that you didn't know you could get a hickey until last night?"
"Well, getting to know the real you could be interesting," Lois said. She leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss.
Clark let out a short breath when she pulled back. "I'm not dreaming, am I?" he asked.
"I sure hope not," she responded.
Clark continued, "I mean, yesterday I thought I'd never see you again. I figured you were still in love with…" His sentence ended when Lois placed her fingers over his mouth.
"When I first told you about Claude, I think I told you that I loved him." When his nod confirmed her statement, Lois continued. "Clark, I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. I never knew what love was. I never knew what it was until I met you. And I don't just mean feeling a certain way. Clark, for the past year, you have always been there for me — no matter what crazy stunt I decided to pull. For the first time in my life, I know what it is to love and be loved." She looked deeply into his eyes before saying, "I've never loved anyone the way I love you. I absolutely adore you, Clark Kent."
Just then there was a knock at the door. Lois was just getting up to answer it when Clark's hand stopped her.
"I love you too, Lois." He pushed his head back into the pillow and let out a short breath. "You have no idea how good it feels to FINALLY be able to tell you that."
Lois looked like she was about to respond when the knock on the door was repeated. Her eyes communicated a quiet apology before she left him to answer the door.
"Claude," Lois gasped as she opened the door.
Claude just stood there, staring at her in shock. "You're dead," he finally said.
Suddenly, Lois sprang into action. It only took a couple of well landed karate chops before Claude was lying on the step outside Clark's apartment in visible agony. She grabbed a tie that Clark had left slung over the banister and used it to tie Claude's hands behind his back before dragging him into the apartment and closing the door. She found an extension cord and firmly bound his feet before going to the phone. She had just started calling the police, when Claude spoke.
"Please, don't. They're trying to kill me. If you call the cops, they'll succeed."
"Give me one good reason why I should care. You tried to kill Superman. You tried to kill me!!"
"Because you're a better person then I am, Ma Petite Choute," replied Claude.
She set down the phone and looked at Claude for a moment. "If you call me Ma Petite Choute or Cherie one more time, I'm calling the police. I haven't been your darling for a long time. And I've NEVER been your little cabbage. So, why are you here?"
"I wanted to talk to Monsieur Kent."
"What about?" said a voice from the doorway of the bedroom. Lois spun around and saw Clark standing there in sweats and a shirt. He was leaning against the doorframe. Although Lois knew he had to be in an incredible amount of pain, you couldn't tell it from looking at him. "Is everything under control out here?" he asked Lois.
"Fine. Why don't you go back to bed?"
"And miss finding out to what I owe the pleasure of Monsieur Benoit's company? I don't think so."
"Clark!" Lois said, but then stopped at the look in his eyes. It was imperative that Claude not know that Clark had been hurt. He could make the connection between Clark and Superman. "Fine," she said. "So, Claude, we don't have all night. What brings you here in the middle of the night?" She didn't bother explaining why SHE was at Clark's, wearing his robe, at four in the morning — let Claude draw any conclusion he wanted.
"I was going to ask for his help in finding out who had killed you," Claude said.
"What do you mean, who…" started Lois.
"I get it," said Clark, cutting her off. "You were going to tell me that you and Lois were what? Jumped at the airport? That you escaped and are now trying to find out who did it."
Lois' eyes took on a look that was close to murder. "That's it, isn't it?" she said.
"Well… I was going to tell him… I was as much a victim as you were, Che… Umm… Lois," replied Claude.
Lois rolled her eyes.
"Who were you working for?" asked Lois.
Claude knew he didn't have much choice now. His intention had been to make Clark believe that Lois was kidnaped and thus, remove himself from the suspect list. But with Lois alive… "I was recruited by Dave Shannon to get you out of Metropolis, Lois. I was to convince you to come with me. He didn't tell me about his intention to kill you."
"Of course not. You just took me to a warehouse at gun point for the fun of it." She snorted. "So, who's behind it."
"I don't know. But I'll tell you everything I know about Monsieur Shannon."
"Go on," said Clark.
At that Claude gave them all the information he had. Other than Shannon's name and a possible place to locate him, he didn't have much they didn't already know. He had never met the people Shannon worked for.
"Is there an Intergang connection?" Lois asked.
"I've never heard of this Intergang," Claude said. Lois narrowed her eyes in an attempt to determine if he could be believed. She decided that she did believe him. After all, even when she was being held captive, he had denied knowledge of Intergang. If Intergang was behind it, he didn't know. "But I'm sure Monsieur Shannon could tell you everything you need to know," he added.
"Are we finished here?" Lois asked Clark.
"I'd say so," Clark responded.
With that, Lois gave a small smile, and walked over to the phone.
"Who are you calling?" Claude demanded.
"The police," Lois said calmly.
"But you promised…"
"Did I? I don't recall that." She then called the police and told them that she had detained an intruder. After she got off the phone, she turned to Clark. "Why don't you go back to bed? Claude's my problem. If he gives me any trouble, I'll yell." When Clark hesitated, she walked over to him. "Go back to bed, Clark," she said softly. "He's not going anywhere."
Clark looked in her eyes for a moment. "Lo-is."
"If I have any problems, I'll yell — just like I always have." She then leaned in and whispered into his ear, "Besides, Clark, you're starting to bleed again. If Claude sees that…" She paused. "Please, you've already lost so much blood. I couldn't stand it if… I have things under control out here." She turned and looked at Claude, "Besides, Claude and I need to say au revoir."
Clark knew that he was in imminent danger of collapsing and that wouldn't help either of them. So, as much as he hated it, he nodded and turned around and went back to bed.
After he had left, Lois turned back to Claude. "Could I give you a friendly tip? You know, sort of a final au revoir?" she asked innocently. When he didn't respond, she continued. It was a rhetorical question anyway. "I mean, I know you think of yourself as quite a ladies' man. I was just thinking that maybe it would be helpful to know that you aren't that good in bed. I mean, take someone like… oh, I don't know, Clark for example. He can do more to turn a woman on just by kissing her, than you ever could in the bedroom."
Claude wasn't about to let her get away with that — although he probably would have been well-advised to do just that. "I was there, Cherie," he responded. "I know you enjoyed it."
"Men!" Lois snorted. "Haven't you ever seen the movie, 'When Harry Met Sally'?" she asked.
Claude went pale. He had seen the movie.
In his room, Clark smiled. He was enjoying the way Lois was getting her revenge. By the time the police arrived, Clark was certain that Claude would never recover from Lois' verbal castration of him.
The police took Claude into custody on charges of breaking and entering. Lois would call Henderson in the morning and give him the full story — or as much of it as she and Clark decided he needed to know. In the mean time, the breaking and entering charge would keep Claude incarcerated without notifying anyone that someone had been arrested in connection with the fire. Lois figured that would protect Claude until she could tell Henderson about his concerns for his safety.
The next step was tracking down this David Shannon. If Clark were okay, they could do that together. But in the current circumstances, that wasn't a viable option. She would do it herself, but she had no intention of leaving Clark. They would have to discuss it in the morning. Right now, she needed to check on Clark. She had seen a small spot of blood on his shirt. They needed to deal with that before it got out of control.
When she entered the room, Clark said softly, "Remind me never to make you mad. You're dangerous when you're mad."
Lois looked confused for a moment. Then, remembering her comments to Claude, she laughed. "You better keep that in mind, Kent," she responded.
Clark smiled. "Well, I guess your revenge was a little less drastic than what I've been fantasizing about doing to him for the past year."
Lois cocked her head to the side. "And that is?"
"Dropping him off the top of the Eiffel Tower."
The next morning, Lois called Henderson. She told him what had happened at the warehouse. She only left out one small detail — that Superman was there. She doubted that the defendants would admit to two attempted murders when they were only being charged with one - and hopefully one attempted murder, kidnapping and an arson charge would be enough to put them away for a while. Henderson's men soon had Shannon in custody.
Jimmy had his first front page story — which was also his first story. It was below the fold, but it was on the front page. The headline read, 'Fire At Warehouse.' Jimmy was ecstatic. There was no information about motive — only that the fire was believed to have been set deliberately.
Soon after the charges were laid, Shannon committed suicide. Although no one seemed able to adequately explain to Lois and Clark how he managed to hang himself from a beam that ran across the ceiling of his cell.
Lois collected the kryptonite Jimmy had found and disposed of it. She enjoyed the idea that in the future, she would always know where the kryptonite was buried.
It was only a day later when Superman was back in the skies. That same day a meeting took place at the headquarters of Intergang. Church informed his men that, since they had already bought land in Metropolis, they were expanding there. He gave them the task of finding a new way to neutralize Superman.
The day after Superman returned, Lois and Clark walked into the newsroom of the Daily Planet.
"Lois, Clark, my office now!!" bellowed the editor-in-chief.
Lois and Clark scampered to obey.
"I thought you weren't working here anymore, Lois," Perry said.
"Look, Perry, I…" Lois began.
"Well, Honey, if this is how you don't work, I guess I should continue to pay you," Perry continued.
"What are you talking about?" asked Lois.
Perry held up the morning copy of the Daily Planet. The headline read, 'Fire Cover For Murder Attempt.' Lois took the paper. The by-line read 'by Lois Lane and Clark Kent.' She turned around and looked at Clark. He gave her a quick smile before shrugging.
Lois shook her head slightly. There was the difference between Clark and Claude in a nutshell. Whereas Claude had stolen a story from her, Clark had just written a story and put their names on it together when, by all rights, he could have claimed it as his own. After all, they weren't partners. She didn't even work at the Planet anymore - or hadn't, at least. But then, it suddenly struck her. He'd been doing that all year. After all, she had gotten more Superman exclusives than all other reporters in the world put together - including him.
"Good work, Kids," said Perry. "And you know, I've been thinking. Maybe I was a little hasty in dissolving my best news team. In the future, however, may I suggest that you run your story ideas by me BEFORE ignoring my instructions."
"Yes, Perry," said Lois, glad not to have to even ask for her job back.
"Yes, Chief," replied Clark.
"Well, then… What are you hanging around here for? Get back to work."
Perry watched them go. Something had changed between those two. If his suspicions were right, his best news team would soon be looking to start a different type of partnership. And he wasn't editor-in-chief because he could yodel.
The movie "When Harry Met Sally" has one scene in it that probably should go down in movie history. Don't worry, you'll know which one. It's followed by someone saying, "I'll have what she's having." If you've seen this movie, you know what I'm talking about. Otherwise, you'll have to rent it because I wouldn't dare to even try to describe the scene.
I would like to apologize for my demolition of the French language. I imagine the story contains mistakes as to uses or gender. My terms of endearment are based on Quebec french, even though Claude was probably from France.
I would like to thank my friend and colleague, David Shannon, for agreeing when I told him that I was going to cast him in the role of a bad guy. He had just shaved his head in a fund raising campaign for Cancer and he looked like such a great bad guy that I couldn't resist. Also, my thanks to Carol for her input and giving me the courage to submit this story. Finally, thanks to Karen Ward for tackling the challenge of editing the story.
The idea of Superman being given a hickey is not mine. I did read a story where that idea was explored. I liked the idea so much, that it stayed with me. Unfortunately, I don't recall which story it was. I would like to thank whoever it was that first came up with that idea. I don't think, however, that I have ever seen a hickey being used to blow Superman's cover. So, in that sense, I hope the idea's original.
French vocabulary used in this story:
Au Revoir — Good-bye
Bien Sur — Certainly
Bonsoir — Good Evening
Certainement — Certainly
C'est beau — It is Good (or, as I use it: good)
Cherie — Darling (feminine)
Ma Cherie — My Darling (feminine)
Ma Petite Choute — My Little Cabbage (a term of endearment)
Ma Petite Choute d'Amour — My Little Cabbage of Love (even more sickening)
Monsieur — Mister
Oui — Yes