By Marilyn Puett — AKA Supermom <email@example.com>
Submitted August 2000
Summary: During the episode "Whine, Whine, Whine," Lois reflects on the events of the last few days — only this time, she has a piece of information which sheds new light on everything.
All disclaimers apply, et cetera.
My first thanks go to the faithful readers of Zoom's message boards. What started as a silly revelation quickly took a turn that I didn't expect. I rewrote it with a silly ending, but posted both versions. After many responses on the boards and a lot of nagging on IRC, I decided to give it a go and see what I could do. Many thanks to Kath Roden, Ann McBride, and Doc Klein's LabRat for their editing, and to Kath, Ann, LabRat, and Wendy Richards for their valuable, and oft heeded, advice.
From her position across the street from the park, Lois could see Superman slumped dejectedly on a park bench. She crossed Main Street and walked toward the Man of Steel, pausing when she noticed a little girl in a blue-striped jumper and pink shirt walk up to him.
"You look sad, Superman," the little girl commented.
"I'm okay," he assured her, though not convincingly enough for Lois.
"Want a hug?" asked the child.
"Sure," he answered, smiling broadly at her.
The small girl moved to Superman, threw her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug, followed by a peck on the cheek. Lois noticed a look of sheer joy and contentment on Superman's face while the innocent child hugged him. And she also noticed him gently return the hug.
"Don't be Mr. Gloomy Pants," the girl admonished him.
"Okay," Superman said, as the little girl skipped away.
"Careful — I might get jealous!" Superman turned to his left to see Lois Lane approaching the bench where he sat.
"Lois. What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I've been finding out about the bum who's suing you," Lois answered as she sat beside him. "He has quite a track record in England. Seems he likes suing people, loves getting sued so he can counter-sue. Establishes a real pattern."
"It would be if it were admissible," he replied.
"But, isn't it? He's clearly vindictively litigious," Lois argued.
"Sorry, Lois. But thanks for trying."
"Well, tell me what I can do to help. Please!" Lois begged.
"I'm afraid this is one battle I'm going to have to fight on my own." With that statement, Superman stood up.
"But…" Lois started as he flew quickly away. "No…I had nothing else to say. I was finished. Thanks," she said to thin air.
A wadded piece of paper fluttered to the ground in the wake of Superman's departure, and Lois bent to pick it up. Her reporter's instincts were in overdrive and this might be something she could use to help Superman. Undoing the paper, she noted that it looked like a sheet from a waiter's order pad. Turning it over, she gasped as she saw the words "Forget It!" written on the paper — words written in her own hand. And then she noticed what appeared to be wet spots on the paper.
"How did he get this? Why would Clark…?" And in a rush of thoughts and emotions, it all began to make sense. Lois's legs felt weak beneath her and she collapsed back onto the park bench. She took several deep breaths, tested her shaky legs, and collected herself mentally. She knew she needed to get back to her apartment and think this through. If what she suspected was true, her relationships with three men were going to take a drastic turn.
Lois walked back to Main Street and hailed a cab, crawling into the back seat and giving the driver her address. As the cab pulled away from the curb, Lois leaned back into the seat, closed her eyes, and began to think over the events of the past few days.
— Metropolis Street Carnival —
She and Clark stood outside a brightly decorated tent occupied by one Madame Bilofski, who was currently beckoning Lois inside to help with a customer. "Where did Perry get that ridiculous wig?" Lois laughed to herself as she headed into the tent. Then remembering she was on a date with Clark, she turned to him.
"You're going to be here when I get back, right? You're not gonna have some sudden urge to buy a video or put money in the parking meter or get yourself new shoelaces?" she asked, almost pleading.
Clark had smiled and shook his head. But when she emerged from the tent, there was no Clark. Frantically looking around for him, she spied Dan Scardino, who leaned to her and said, "So now you know."
"Know what?" she asked.
"Just about how much you mean to Clark Kent," he replied sarcastically.
Lois started walking aimlessly, with Dan at her side. She paused at an arcade booth and plunked a dollar on the counter, receiving several baseballs in return. As she threw the first ball at its target, she explained to Dan, "He probably had a good reason."
"Yeah, sure he did. He probably had to go buy some ties," he taunted. Realizing he'd probably gone too far, Dan said, "I'm sorry, Lois. The guy just brings it out in me. I don't understand what you see in him."
"He's nice, and he's kind, and he's patient," Lois countered, punctuating each adjective with a thrown baseball, and then turning to walk further down the midway.
"Hmmmm. I thought you were mad at him," Scardino commented. He started after Lois but was called back by the arcade worker who thrust Lois's prize — a bright red stuffed crab — into his hands.
"I'm mad at both of you!"
"Me? Why me?" asked Scardino, handing Lois the prize.
"Because you deliberately horned in on my date with Clark and you tried to make him look bad," Lois said.
"I didn't have to try very hard," he began.
"And because you think gifts solve everything and because you won't talk to me about your work," Lois continued, waving the stuffed animal at him.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Lois. You know that's not personal," Dan explained. "But I'm here. I'm here because I want to be with you whenever I can. Now can you say that about Clark Kent? He's the one you had a date with. Where's he?"
Glancing at the toy animal in her hands, she remembered throwing the baseballs, not sure if she had envisioned the target as Clark or Dan. At that point it didn't matter because she was equally mad at both of them. Clark kept disappearing and Dan wouldn't talk to her about his work. And then there was Superman.
"It's not just some dumb guy thing, Lois," Dan continued. "I'm a federal agent; you're a reporter. Our professional loyalties conflict. Not to mention the fact that if you know too much about what I'm doing you could be in danger."
"Oh, so that's what this is," Lois scoffed. "This is you protecting the little woman?"
Turning to face Dan, Lois stared at him and said boldly, "I don't need protecting."
"What do you need?" Scardino asked her. "What do you want, Lois?"
"Hey! Lady! You awake back there?" Lois was jarred from her reverie by the cab driver's loud voice. "That'll be six bucks."
Delving into her purse, she grabbed a handful of bills, shoved them at the driver, got out of the cab, and headed to her apartment. Dumping her purse and keys on the coffee table, Lois headed immediately for the freezer and the resident gallon of chocolate ice cream. She took the tub to her favorite chair and sat, licking a large spoonful of the chocolate treat.
"What *do* you want, Lois?" she thought.
Professionally, Lois was far more successful than she could have ever imagined. She had won numerous awards for her investigative journalism. The only prize that she had not snagged was the Pulitzer. Well, not yet. She had a great apartment, was healthy, and her finances were reasonably sound.
Her thoughts turned to her relationships. Ok, so she wasn't emotionally close to her parents. But she couldn't take the blame for her mother's alcoholism and her father's infidelity. It hurt that her father was never satisfied with her performance and that her mother constantly criticized her appearance. She and Clark had talked about that on their first date. He was so understanding and sympathetic, so easy to talk to. He had even shared a little about his life growing up on a farm in Kansas. What had happened?
Oh, yes, she remembered painfully, she'd got cold feet. She had slammed the door in his face after telling him it was the best date she had ever been on. But he was the one who kept disappearing.
Lois sighed. Dan *had* asked a good question. It was a perfectly logical question — one that she kept asking herself over and over. Only now, instead of three possible choices of men, there were only two — IF what she suspected was true. It would also explain those disappearances.
— Dr. Friskin's Office —
"I just want one man — one whole man, " Lois stated to Dr. Friskin. "Is that too much to ask for?"
Lois wrung her hands as she paced around the doctor's office, straightening lampshades and pictures and grooming the plants sitting on the bookshelves. "And what do I have to choose from? I've got one guy who's REALLY wonderful only he disappears every time I try and talk to him. And one guy who's really exciting to be with only he won't talk to me about his work. And what do people talk about if they don't talk about what they did all day?" she continued. "And one guy who's out of this world — literally."
"I thought you'd given up the Superman fantasy, " Dr. Friskin remarked.
"Well, my head has, but you know, my heart is just — conflicted!" Lois wrung her hands once more, sitting on the leather couch in Dr. Friskin's office.
"So it would seem," the doctor commented as she wrote in her notebook.
Lying back and taking a deep breath, Lois looked at the therapist and asked, "Could we just go over my options?"
Dr. Friskin began, "Well, your current options are: one wonderful guy who is apparently afraid of commitment, one exciting guy who, uh, wants to control the conversation, and one superhero who is apparently unattainable." Looking Lois squarely in the eye, the doctor continued, "Or — it could be that none of them's right for you."
"You know, " squirmed Lois, "You just seem to have this annoying little habit of repeating back to me everything I've just said."
Holding her open palms in front of her, facing them toward Lois, Dr. Friskin explained, "Sometimes we can't hear what we're saying unless somebody reflects it back."
Mirroring the doctor's action, Lois turned her palms toward Dr. Friskin and said, "They make me really mad!"
"And what do you think you might want to do about that?" inquired the doctor.
The remembrance of that scream brought Lois back to the present and a spoonful of chocolate ice cream dripping into her lap. Jumping up, she dumped the mess in the sink and moved to her bathroom to clean up and change clothes. Eyeing the bathtub, she decided a nice, long, hot soak was in order, and as the tub filled, she added some relaxing bath salts. Shedding first her chocolate-stained suit and then her underclothes, Lois slipped into the steamy water, leaning her head back against the rim of the tub and closing her eyes.
Just two days ago she'd thought her options included three men. Now the field seemed to have narrowed. And given some of her recent behavior, it looked quite likely that the field might narrow even further.
— The Bullpen at the Daily Planet —
Lois caught sight of Clark out of the corner of her eye as she sat in front of her computer monitor, trying to work on her story.
"Lois…" Clark started, walking toward her desk with a coffee mug in each hand.
"Jimmy?" Lois called to the passing young man. "Did you hear something?"
"Like what?" Jimmy asked, confused by Lois's question.
"Sounded a little like my name," she said. "You didn't say my name did you?"
"No, uhm, Clark did."
"Clark who?" she asked sarcastically.
"Lois…" Clark interrupted.
"There it is again," Lois remarked, looking around dramatically.
Shaking his head and groaning, Jimmy walked away.
Clark walked around Lois and stood in front of her, still holding the two cups of coffee. "Lois…" he began for a third time.
"What — no, don't say a word. Allow me," she began her tirade. "Lois, I can explain. I suddenly remembered that I had to get my mother's sister's poodle's hair cut and so you can see why I had to leave you in the middle of our date with your thumb in your ear, but I'm sure you'll understand."
Pausing to catch her breath, Lois smiled and asked, "How am I doing so far?" And before a very surprised Clark Kent could answer, she turned and picked up the phone.
Of course, now Lois knew why Clark had run off. He'd saved the life of that ingrate Calvin Dregg, and look what that had gotten him: Instead of being thankful for still being alive, Dregg was suing Superman.
She thought back to all the times Clark had disappeared over the past two years. Every time he was helping someone, saving someone, preventing a disaster. Sometimes he was saving HER. She knew that Superman wasn't risking his life; he was invulnerable. But now she realized that he was risking something far more valuable — his heart.
Lois knew how much it meant to him to be able to help people; she suspected that he thrived on it. And now this Calvin person was actually suing Superman. No wonder he'd looked so dejected in the park that afternoon; that — and the fact that Lois had told him to forget their relationship because he'd run off again. Only now she knew that he wasn't running away as an excuse to get away from her and discussing their relationship; he was leaving because he was needed as Superman.
Lois felt the bath water chilling slightly and added a little hot water to the tub to warm up her surroundings. She leaned back to her resting position and thought back to another recent event.
— On the phone with Bobby Bigmouth —
"Are you sure your boyfriend Scardino is with the DEA?" Bobby asked with a mouthful of shrimp.
"He's not my boyfriend."
"All right, all right. It's a figure of speech," he recanted. "But from what I'm hearing on the street, he's not DEA. He's FDA."
"What?" Lois demand
"Food and Drug Administration, Lois. He's one of those guys who can say yes and no to companies that want to market new drugs."
"You must have the wrong Scardino," she told Bobby, not really believing herself.
"All right, all right. If you say so."
After telling her that Dan was working on something called Project Nirvana, and that Intergang was involved, Bobby hung up. A sharp rap at the door drew Lois's attention from the notes she was making. Walking to the door, she asked, "Who is it?"
"It's me, Sugar Blossom!" Dan quipped, using a cartoon character voice.
Lois opened the door to the sight of Dan, holding a pen and pad in hand. "Hello, I'm doing a survey of women who resent having gifts sent to them. Please answer true or false. Wrapping paper offends me? Mmm, hmm. I am psychologically unable to accept gifts? Mmm, hmm. Gifts are okay, I just can't stand the guy who sent them?"
"It's not about the gifts, Dan," Lois tried to explain. "It's about trust." And while she had been trying to explain to Dan about that trust, Superman had appeared at her window.
"Oh, super," complained Dan.
"Hi," Lois greeted him.
"Can I talk to you?"
"Take a number, pal," Scardino grumbled.
Superman had come to seek Lois's advice about the lawsuit. Did she know any attorneys that could handle the case? He wanted someone he could trust, someone who would help him win, but who would not pull any dirty tricks. Surprisingly, it was Dan who was able to provide the name of an honest lawyer.
Lois was once again brought back to reality by the chilling bath water. She decided against adding more hot water when she noticed the prune-like appearance of her skin. Stepping out of the tub, she dried herself with a fluffy towel and slipped into an old comfortable sleep shirt. The rumble of her stomach reminded her that she hadn't eaten anything but a spoonful of ice cream, and she padded to the kitchen to prepare herself something to eat. Ten minutes later, Lois headed back to her bedroom, carrying a plate loaded with a sandwich, pickles, potato chips, and cookies in one hand, and a large glass of milk in the other. She propped herself up against a mound of pillows and began eating, once again slipping back to her memories of the past few days.
— Outdoor Café in Metropolis —
After witnessing a rather ugly scene between Calvin and his "secret" wife, Elise, Lois looked at Clark with a gaze that could have melted steel.
"What?" Clark asked, a puzzled look on his face.
"Well…" Lois stated.
"Well, what?" Clark asked again, still puzzled.
"Time to talk!" Lois demanded. "Clark, we were on a date and you just disappeared and never came back."
Dropping his gaze to the table, Clark replied, "Look, Lois, I'm not exactly sure what to say."
"The truth! Look, I've come to the point with this — with us — that whatever the truth is, I need to hear it."
At that moment, Clark got that familiar far-away look in his eye, fidgeted with his necktie, and scooted his chair out from the table. "Lois, I'm really sorry. I'm *really* sorry."
Recognizing the all too familiar signs of retreat, Lois gritted her teeth and commanded, "Clark, don't you do it." As she watched the back of his sport coat disappear from her field of vision, Lois wiped away a tear and turned to the waitress, asking for a piece of paper and a pen. She wrote the words "Forget It" boldly on the paper and gave it to the waitress.
"If my, uh, friend comes back, could you give him this for me please?"
Finishing the last of her meal, Lois carried the plate and glass back to the kitchen, rinsed them off and left them in the sink to dry. Wandering aimlessly to the living room window, Lois gazed at the first star in the sky.
*Star light, star bright First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might Have the wish I wish tonight.*
Dan had asked Lois what she wanted. And so had Dr. Friskin. Now that she had a star to wish upon, what would she wish for? There was Dan with the wild bouquets and crazy sculptures, who liked her rumaki, and flattered her with comments about her looks. And there was Clark, with eyes a woman could drown in and gentleness she'd never known in a man before. He'd saved her life when Barbara Trevino had tried to have her killed and he took a bullet for her when Dr. Hamilton cloned those gangsters. Their first date had been great. And their first real kiss was… "Wow!" was the only word that came to mind.
And of course there was Superman. He had saved her life too many times to count. And he admired her work. That was important to Lois. And he was her hero — her superhero. But of course he was everyone's superhero. Only now she knew that Superman was Clark. Or was it the other way around? Was Clark Superman? Was he really a mild-mannered reporter, posing as a superhero? Or was he a superhero posing as Clark Kent? All these questions left Lois's brain spinning.
Retrieving the note from her purse, Lois looked again at the words she had written in anger. Why hadn't Clark told her he was Superman? Why had he let her believe he was two different people? She remembered how sad he had looked this afternoon on the park bench. Were the wet spots she had seen this afternoon from tears? Superman didn't cry. Or did he?
"A hack from Smallville," she had called Clark. "Don't fall for me, Farmboy," she had advised, all the while swooning over the man in blue tights like a giggling schoolgirl. Now she knew that the two men were one. There were two very different public personas with one very tender heart underneath. And from the looks of things, she may have broken that heart beyond repair.
"Is there any chance for us, Superman?" she'd almost begged. "If you had NO powers, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I'd love you just the same." Oh how that must have hurt him. Lois cringed even now as she remembered that comment. No wonder he had seemed so cold that night …and so distant. She'd turned down Clark's declaration of love only to tell Superman later that she'd love him if he had no powers. How fickle she must have seemed to him — and how cruel. If he had ever entertained any thoughts of sharing his dual identity with her, her actions that night most likely stopped him from doing so.
And of course, why should Superman believe she wanted to help him fight this lawsuit when just the day before she had told his alter ego to forget it? Still holding the offending note in her hand, she felt the tears well up in her eyes and made no effort to stop their path down her cheeks. "Well, Lane, you've certainly made a mess of this one, haven't you?" she berated herself. She caught her breath on a sob. "But more importantly, what are you going to do to make it right?"
Knowing that Superman's trial was scheduled to begin the next day and that she also had another appointment with Dr. Friskin before that, Lois decided to try and get some sleep. But she doubted very much whether her tortured conscience would allow sleep to overtake her.
After a night of tossing and turning, dotted with dreams of every rude comment and action she had ever made to Clark, Lois was jarred from her restless sleep by the blaring of her alarm clock. She showered and dressed quickly, grabbing a muffin and cup of coffee from a street vendor on her way to Dr. Friskin's office. She'd made some decisions about what she was going to do with her recent discovery and hoped that her session with the doctor reinforced them.
"So basically what you're saying is that all my life I've attracted men that are controlling or incomplete or downright liars because, because…" Lois stumbled over her words.
"Keep going," urged Dr. Friskin.
"Because I like being treated that way?" Lois couldn't believe her admission. "But if I like that kind of men and I get that kind of men, why am I not happy?" she asked.
"You like chocolate, right?" Dr. Friskin began.
"How come everybody knows that?" Lois whined.
"But you know it's not good for you. And the older and wiser we get, the less tolerance we have for something that's not good for us," the doctor explained. "You're not a victim, Lois. So stop acting like one! You know who you want to be with. You've known all along. The problem is he's just as scared as you are. So, who's gonna be the one to step up and say the scary words?"
"How come you never ask the simple questions?" Lois beseeched.
"I would," answered Dr. Friskin, "if I knew the easy answers."
But of course Lois had the answer she'd been looking for. In fact, it was a conclusion she had reached in the early hours of the morning. She knew which man she wanted and which ones she didn't. Finding the answer had been simple compared to the upcoming task of telling each man what her decision was. But right now she had a trial to attend.
After the first round of witnesses, the judge called for a recess, and Lois found her chance to speak with Elise.
"Can I ask you a question?" Lois probed. "How can you lie on the stand like that for a man who won't even admit he's married to you?
Elise looked at Lois, a look of shock and embarrassment on her face. "How… how did you…?
Lois continued with her comments, "The kind of degradation you'll tolerate in your personal life is your business — but you're ruining an innocent man and I'm not going to stand here…"
Elise moved away in hopes of escaping what she knew to be the truth, but Lois followed her.
"He doesn't love you, Elise. You can tell when a man loves you by the way he treats you, by the way he looks at you, by the way …"
Turning to confront Lois, Elise said, "Look, Miss Lane, if you've found the perfect man, I'm happy for you…"
Lois interrupted her. "He's about as far from perfect as you get. But I'll tell you the difference between him and Calvin: I know that he wants my happiness more than his own."
With a look of both astonishment and sadness, Elise walked away, heading toward the prosecution's table where Calvin and his attorney sat waiting for the proceedings to resume.
The pounding of the judge's gavel signaled that court was back in session and Superman's lawyer, Constance Hunter, called him to the stand to testify on his own behalf.
"Sitting here, listening to all this damning testimony, I'd like to know, " inquired Ms. Hunter, "why do you want to BE Superman? It seems to me it's never offered you much but exposure to danger and ridicule."
"No, that's not true," Superman stated.
"Explain," Ms. Hunter requested.
"All the things I can do… the powers I have — I've asked myself a thousand times, why? And the only answer I could come up with is: to help as quickly and decisively as possible. And maybe because of that, I've been a target." As he spoke these words, Superman looked directly at Lois. Continuing, he said, "And maybe there are some things I'll never have. But when I can save a life — well, in that instant, I know two things most people never figure out: why I'm here and how I can make a difference."
At that moment Lois knew exactly what she had to do — what she had to say to Superman. The events of the past few days had suddenly fallen into place and proper perspective, and Lois knew she had to say the scary words. In fact, she WANTED to say the scary words to the one man she'd wanted all along. But she wanted him to know that HE was the man she wanted and not his counterpart who moonlighted in tights.
The next moments were a blur as Superman suddenly stopped the proceedings by smelling and disposing of a bomb in the courtroom. As if on cue, Calvin began to feign blindness supposedly caused by the dust created when Superman exited the courtroom through the ceiling. And also, as if on cue, Elise *finally* stood up to him and declared before the court that nothing was wrong with Calvin's hand, and that he had made her lie just to get money.
As the judge's gavel sounded, all charges against Superman were dropped and the courtroom began clearing. Lois nodded and smiled at Elise, indicating that she had done the right thing. Then she hurried after Superman and called to him. "Congratulations!"
"What?" he asked.
"Oh, I just think I understand something that I didn't before: why I don't really know you; why no one does," she explained. "You live above us; and when we try and bring you down here, we just end up showing the worst sides of ourselves."
Her voice softening, Lois continued, "I tried to love you. I realize that was selfish because you're not just here for me; you're here for all of us. I'll always need you, and I'll always be your friend. But there's someone here who needs me, and I just need to figure out how to get him to see that."
"Lois, I need…" Superman began, but realized he needed to be careful of his words. "…to say to you, ah, thank you for being such a good friend." And with that statement, Superman turned and marched out of the courtroom, his cape swirling behind him majestically.
Exhaling the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding, Lois thought to herself, "One down and one to go."
Lois dialed Dan's number, wanting desperately to talk with him and get everything out in the open. She had told Superman that she just wanted to be friends and now she needed to tell Dan that she had an answer to his question. She knew now what she wanted. And she felt she owed it to Dan to let him know that it wasn't him.
The phone rang and rang until she was finally connected to his hotel's voice messaging system. She started to leave a message but was interrupted by a knock at the door. Opening it, she found Dan, holding up a copy of the Daily Planet. The headline proclaimed "OMNICORP'S KNOX ARRESTED." Underneath the headline were the words "Exclusive by Lois Lane."
"Congrats," said Dan, beaming at Lois.
"Dan," she replied, subdued. "Come on in."
As he walked through the doorway, Dan produced a large bouquet of fresh, cut flowers. "Sorry," he said apologetically, though grinning. "Couldn't help myself."
"Oh, Dan, I wish you hadn't…" began Lois.
"I know, I know. I try to buy your affection with gifts, and I promised to stop," he started. "But I've been a jerk and I just wanted to let you know that, first, I'm sorry for being such a jerk, and second, I'm very grateful for your help in cracking this Omnicorp thing." With that, Dan leaned forward to plant a kiss on Lois's cheek.
"Now, that being said, what say we go out and celebrate with a nice Mexican dinner?"
Lois looked at Dan, who was grinning like a little boy who'd just caught his first fish, and then gazed at the beautiful bouquet in her arms. At that instant, she felt the tears begin to well up in her eyes. Trying to blink them back, she stepped back and sat on the sofa, smiled half-heartedly at Dan and explained, "Sorry, it's my allergies. Must be some kind of flower in here that I'm allergic to."
Dan, however, could see the look in her eyes and knew that there were no allergies — except maybe an allergy to him.
Lois saw the smile disappear from his face and his shoulders droop. "Can I just ask one question, Lois?" Dan almost pleaded.
Lois nodded silently and Dan continued. "How did you decide what you wanted?"
Through her tears, Lois watched Dan shift from foot to foot. She indicated to him with one hand that he should sit, and he took a seat on the sofa opposite Lois.
"I'm sorry, Dan…" she began, only to be interrupted by him.
"I know," he said softly. "Despite what everyone thinks about "Mad Dog Lane," you really do have a heart. You really do care about people."
Seeing the look of total shock on her face, Dan chuckled and continued, "Yeah, I've heard all about "Mad Dog." At first I thought they had you confused with someone else. Then later I wasn't so sure!" Dan stood and walked to the desk to get a box of tissues for Lois.
As she wiped her eyes, Lois thought about her answer to Dan's question — that perfectly logical question he had asked her days before.
She exhaled a long, shuddering breath as she began. "I think my heart knew all along what I wanted. And probably my head did too. But reconciling the facts that I had with the baggage I've carried around for so long has taken a while. Then you came along, and I dragged you into the equation. I really am sorry that I pulled you into this, Dan," Lois sniffled.
"Don't apologize, Lois. I let myself get dragged in. Actually, in case you didn't notice, I threw myself at you, " he joked. "Seriously, you were right there at a point in my life when I was still reeling from the loss of my partner. I told you that I'd already lost someone special to Sean McCarthy and I meant it when I said I didn't want to see you die that way too."
"True confessions time, huh?" Lois laughed softly.
"Exactly. And while I'm confessing, I'll tell you now that you're the most incredible woman I've ever met. And were it not for the look I just saw in your eyes a few minutes ago, I'd fight like crazy to keep myself dragged into this relationship with you," Dan declared earnestly. Looking down at the toe of his shoe, Dan continued, "But I know that I'd just be kidding myself if I thought I had any chance of taking you away from Clark."
Hesitating a moment, Dan looked at Lois and asked, "You really love him, don't you?"
"I love him *so* much — more than I've allowed myself to admit. But now I just have to make him see that. You know, he believes that I'm in love with you."
"Really?" Dan's chest puffed out a little. However, seeing the look on Lois's face that said 'Don't go there buddy', he backed off. "Well, I guess I'd better get going. I have to finish my reports on the Knox arrest, and I'm scheduled on an early flight back to D.C. tomorrow."
He rose and moved across the room. Lois followed and they stopped at the doorway. Taking her hands in his, Dan brought them to his lips and kissed them tenderly. "It's too bad we didn't meet a couple years ago. I think we could have made a great team: Scardino and Lane."
"Lane and Scardino," she corrected him gingerly.
"One more question before I walk out of your life?" Dan begged.
"Can I kiss you? Just to see what I missed — what I'll be missing for the rest of my life — what Clark will be enjoying for the rest of his?"
Lois hesitated, unsure of whether her still shaky emotions could handle such a request.
Seeing the uncertainty on her face, Dan backed away and said, "Dumb question. Sorry."
As he grabbed for the doorknob, Lois reached out and put her hand on the side of his face. "No, it's not a dumb question at all. I think we'll always wonder if we don't."
Awkwardly, Dan took her in his arms, pulled her close, and touched his lips softly to hers. The initial kiss was delicate and brief. Then he tightened his embrace and parted his lips, his tongue seeking entrance to her mouth. Lois complied with the request and felt Dan's tongue touch hers and then make a quick sweep around her mouth.
As she stood in Dan's embrace, Lois's mind was racing. *Funny — his aftershave is more musky than Clark's.*
And as he was tangling tongues with Lois, Dan's thoughts wandered to the aftertaste of chocolate ice cream in her mouth. *Wonder if she ever eats vanilla?*
The kiss ended as quickly as it began and the pair stood face- to-face, unsure what to say next.
Dan was first to break the silence. "Now we know."
"Uh huh," was all that Lois could muster.
Dan opened the door and stepped into the hall. "If you and Clark are ever in D.C. and need a good guide, just call. I do a great tour of all the presidential monuments," he quipped.
"I'll remember that," Lois laughed. "Who could turn down the Lincoln Memorial Scardino style?"
Taking one long last look at Lois's face, Dan took a deep breath and squeezed her hand one last time. "Does Kent have any idea what a lucky man he is?"
"I think he has some real doubts right about now, but I hope to change that soon."
"Good girl," he chortled. "Take care, Lois. I hope you find all the love and happiness you deserve. And I mean that honestly. Clark's a good guy."
"Thank you," Lois said graciously. "And yeah — he is."
"Good bye, Scardino," Lois responded.
Shaking his head and chuckling, he said, "Please, call me…"
"…Daniel," Lois finished.
Dan walked down the hall, turned the corner, and disappeared from Lois's life. She closed her front door, fastened all the bolts and chains and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Leaning weakly against the door, she thought to herself, "Two down — now comes the hard part."
Clark sat in his apartment, surrounded by boxes containing his belongings, half watching the program on the television in front of him and going over and over in his mind the events of the past few days. "I love her so much, but she told me today that she just wants to be friends with Superman. And there's someone else who needs her. She's in love with Scardino," he thought torturously.
"I can't go on being two people," he continued thinking painfully. "I want to tell Lois about Superman. But if she's involved with Dan, it's better to leave. I honestly don't think I can see her everyday at the Planet, knowing she's with someone else, and not go crazy."
Turning his attention back to the television set, Clark listened as the announcer continued. "And so what are we to learn from the mating habits of insects, reptiles, and mammals," asked the television announcer. "What does it teach us about ourselves? That we're not the only creatures on the planet capable of caring, betrayal, sorrow, forgiveness, and faith. That the forces which drive us to the heights of passion and depths of despair, are indeed felt by all creatures, great and small."
At that moment, Clark's viewing was interrupted by a knock on the door. He moved away from the drone of the television, walked to the door, and opened it to find Lois standing there.
"Hi," Lois said shyly.
Lois peered around Clark and noticed the boxes. "You planning a yard sale?" she asked. "Wait, wait. That's a form of distancing. My therapist — I know, I have a therapist, can you believe it? — she says I say things like that to distance, so we don't really have to deal with anything and it's very complicated and linked to a lot of boring childhood trauma and…can I come in?"
Clark opened the door wider and motioned her in. As she walked down the steps to the living room area, Lois continued, "I told Superman I just want to be friends — that there's someone else. And Dan and I…"
"Look, Lois, if you came here to tell me that you and Dan are…" Clark began heatedly.
"We're not going to see each other any more."
Looking more closely at the boxes surrounding her, Lois began to panic. "This isn't just vacation packing, is it? This is forever packing."
"I was thinking of moving, but…" he said, noticing the look on Lois's face and letting the reality of her statement about Dan sink in, "…now I'm not so sure."
"What, you were just going to slip out of town, not even tell me? Maybe send me a post card from…" Lois stopped in mid- sentence, wringing her hands as she paced. "Distancing. I'm distancing. Sorry. But this is…I mean *leaving*. I didn't expect this."
"Lois, we haven't been getting along with each other lately. And it's my fault and I think I should…"
"Yes, it's your fault — and my fault," Lois interrupted. "We let ourselves get distracted and we work too much and we argue over stupid things — all so we can hide from each other and I'm sick of it, Clark. Because the only reason we hide is, we're scared."
"Of what?" Clark asked.
"The fact that we're partners," she replied, moving closer to him. "Best friends — and this."
Lois pulled Clark into a long, passionate kiss. Unsure for a moment, Clark returned the kiss hesitantly, but then gave himself to it, returning passion for passion.
When Lois broke from the kiss, she spoke softly, "If you want to run away from this, tell me now."
"I won't run, Lois. I'm ready for the next step, if you are," Clark promised.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Lois took Clark by the hand and walked to the sofa. As they sat side by side, she said, "Good, because we need to talk about something I said the other day. Or rather, something I wrote." And with that Lois produced the note from the restaurant.
Fear showing in his eyes, Clark asked her, "Where did you get this?"
"Superman dropped it in the park when I was talking to him before the trial."
"Uhmm…he and I were talking," Clark explained, nervously, trying desperately to make up a story that Lois would believe. "I was really upset after you wrote that and Superman found me moping on the park bench and asked me what was wrong. So I told him about our lunch and showed him the note and I guess I forgot to get it back from him." Clark had launched into a babble that could rival Lois's.
"Nice try, Kent," Lois declared.
"I said, nice try," she answered.
"Are you saying you don't believe me?" Clark asked incredulously.
Reasoning that the situation was rapidly spiraling out of control, Lois leaned forward to kiss Clark again. After a few passionate moments, she pulled back, took a deep breath, and said the scary words.
"I know, Clark."
"You know what, Lois?" Clark asked apprehensively.
"I know that you're Superman. Or that Superman is you. Or that both of you are the same person. And most importantly, I know that I love you — YOU — Clark."
Taking the note from Clark's hands, she tore it into tiny pieces and dropped them on the floor. "I know I hurt you. I'm sorry. I wrote that because you were always disappearing — you wouldn't talk to me. But now I understand why."
"But what about that little speech at the courthouse this afternoon? The 'I'll always be your friend' one?" Clark questioned.
"I had to let you know — had to be absolutely sure — that you understood that Clark is who I love and who I want — and who I need. I don't love the man in tights, Clark. I love YOU. And that was the only way I knew to do it. It was the only way I could tell you and expect you to believe me."
Clark rose from the sofa and began pacing, running his hands through his hair, pushing it back and giving himself his Superman look.
"How did you figure it out?" he asked calmly.
"It was the note for the most part," Lois responded. "But that was just the catalyst. When I really started thinking, it all fell into place: the disappearing, the crazy excuses. It all made sense.
"And how mad are you?" was his next question.
"Plenty." And at that word, Clark cringed visibly.
"Or I was mad," she proceeded. "But not at you. I think I understand why you kept the secret. I'm mad at myself for not seeing it sooner. I'm an investigative reporter for heaven's sake!" Lois was quickly working herself into a frenzy.
"And now that I know I'm also embarrassed at how I've treated you," she admitted. "I just hope you can forgive me, Clark."
"Forgive *you*?" he exclaimed. "There's nothing to forgive, Lois. I should have told you long ago — when we first became involved — romantically. I've rehearsed the speech over and over in my mind — how I was going to tell you, where I was going to tell you, what I would say in response to your questions. I must have done it a hundred times."
"Clark, we can both stand here and beat ourselves up over what we should have done, but I think there are more important things we need to do."
"Such as?" he asked.
"Well, for one, I'd like to do our first date all over again. But this time there will be a different ending. I promise not to slam the door in your face," Lois giggled.
"Oh, I think that can be arranged, Miss Lane," he laughed back as he pulled her into a tight embrace. "How about tomorrow night? I'll wear the charcoal suit and…"
Lois snuggled comfortably into his arms and put her lips next to his. "…and I'll be dressed in deep, dark burgundy."
Fade to black.