By Mobile Richard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2000
Summary: Just who is the fugitive living in the cave… and why? A gripping elseworld story.
All standard disclaimers apply. All characters in this story (except those of my own creation) are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros and December 3rd Productions Ltd; no infringement of any property rights is intended by their use.
The Fugitive … an elseworld story.
Stepping out of the shower, the young man toweled off and shaved in record time. Dressing with unusual care in spite of his haste, he chose and discarded several shirts before he was satisfied with the result.
Tonight was special; the night he had been waiting for, the night that would end the lying, the hiding, the months and years of secrecy.
Tonight he would tell her … everything.
Drawing a short breath, he ran a comb through his hair for the third time since exiting the shower, then strode briskly into the main room, where he took a last look around the apartment to make sure everything was perfect. It was all in place: the lights had been dimmed and a fresh bouquet of flowers (her favorites) graced the table. The glasses and bottle (*her* drink) were set out, ready for her enjoyment, the hors d'oeuvres (again, her favorites) were sitting next to the little plates — bought today in Japan especially for this occasion. The perfect setting for this much-anticipated and longed-for occasion.
He knew she would be pleased with his efforts. And that was a good way to start the evening; she was going to be in for a shock when she learned the truth about him.
First he would tell her how much he cared for her (she knew that already, of course, but he would tell her again, assure her of his devotion before telling her his secret), then he would at long last share with someone who — and what — he was. She would be surprised, shocked even, but they would get through this together. They were young, in love, and could handle anything.
The expected knock sounded and he rushed up the stairs. Opening the door, he took a startled breath. He had known she was beautiful, yet he was unprepared for the sight of her dressed so formally. She, too, had taken special care with her toilet tonight, that was obvious. She wore a short, black dress that accentuated the delicious curves of her figure. Her hair was pinned up elegantly with one graceful strand falling over her forehead.
But it was not her figure or her hair that captured his attention — it was the eyes fastening on his in a gaze at once so warm, so loving and so passionate, that he found himself without breath to speak. Tongue-tied, he was unable to do more than stand and stare.
She was the first to break the silence. "Hello," she said. Her voice was low, sultry. "Aren't you going to ask me in?"
"Y-yes, of c-course," he stammered, stepping back so she could enter. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not." She entered, her gaze scanning the dimly lit room appreciatively. "My grandfather likes you," she informed him, her eyes returning to his face.
His face brightened; that had been a crucial test. And he had passed it.
She shrugged off the light shawl draped around her shoulders, and, too impatient for any more small talk, she reached for him, pulling him closer and drawing his head down for a passionate kiss. She wrapped both arms around his neck and began frenziedly entwining her fingers in his hair.
Staggered by the intensity of her passion, he lost his balance momentarily. He regained his equilibrium, however, and returned the kiss with an ardor that matched hers.
"I love you," she gasped, her voice so slurred as to be almost unrecognizable.
He moaned, too overcome by emotion to speak.
"R-RI-ING!" Her cell phone, in the handbag slung over her shoulder, interrupted their passionate interlude with a strident jangle. They jumped, springing apart and looking at each other in embarrassment. He laughed rather sheepishly.
"Sorry," she said, pulling the telephone out of her handbag. "Could you …?" She gestured towards the balcony and nodding understandingly, he watched as she stepped outside to get some privacy. She frequently received phone calls dealing with sensitive issues, issues which he understandably should not overhear. She was conscientious about guarding the privacy of these calls, one of the many traits he so admired in her.
He knelt beside the CD player and began fiddling with the controls, trying not to eavesdrop on her conversation. But his hearing did not shut off completely, and he couldn't help hearing the words that would alter his existence forever. "… Clark Kent …" she said, and he knew that life would never be the same.
He rose slowly to his feet and turned to face her as she reentered the room. A glance at the expression on those lovely features and he knew that the game was up indeed.
Or … not. After all, he was going to tell her anyway. He had been preempted, but maybe it wasn't so bad …
But the fear in her face told him otherwise. She was sidling toward the door as if trying to escape unnoticed.
"Don't go …" he said quickly. "Wait …"
He sprang in front of her, blocking her exit. She reacted predicably. Never lacking in courage, she drew herself to her full height and looked into his eyes. "I know who you are," she said with an attempt at composure. But she could not hide the fear …
"I know what you did," she added.
"No …" he said. "Wait. I didn't do it! Let me explain. Please, I wasn't even there!"
"Don't tell me that!" Her voice lashed like a whip, and he winced. She had always had that ability to turn cold as ice and devastate her hapless victims with a word or a look, but she had never before unleashed that crushing power on him. "I know *all* the facts. The police are on their way and you … *you* will stand … over there … and wait." Even in the midst of his suffering he could not stop the spark of admiration at her courage.
But he couldn't let the police take him … not before he had convinced her of his innocence.
"I didn't do it," he continued, more calmly now. "Please, you've got to believe me …" His voice trailed off, helpless before the determination in her eyes.
"Stand *there*!" Resolutely, she faced him, her right hand hovering over her handbag, which he knew contained a gun.
He didn't want her to shoot at him, but he couldn't stay there while the police came to lock him up. "Mayson …" he said, his voice a whisper. But her face was cold and hard.
He backed away, stricken by the loathing in her eyes.
With a low moan, he strode swiftly to the door and exited, his shoulders shrinking together in anticipation of the shot … but she made no move to stop him. He stumbled outside, listening to the sirens that drew nearer, then flung himself upward, into the night sky, hurtling towards a new city, a new identity …
Five years later …
Lying alone in the king-sized bed, Clark rolled over fitfully, unable to turn off that super-sensitive hearing even in sleep. The sound of a vehicle crashing through a guide rail, mingled with the shrill voices of many screaming children, woke him completely, causing him to sit bolt upright in the bed. Quicker than thought, he threw on his clothes and flew from the cave, remembering just in time to snatch up the winter coat that he kept as a concession to human notions of comfort. He managed to shrug it on just before alighting unnoticed in the snowbank behind the bushes that lined SR29.
Having scanned the scenario below before he landed, he knew exactly what to do first. Dashing to the rear of the wrecked bus, he pulled on the emergency door, yanking it from its hinges — this was no time for finesse. He tossed the door to the ground and leaped inside, seizing the children one by one and swinging them to the ground at just under super speed, surreptitiously blowing on the flames that had begun to lick at the bus's interior, keeping the fire at bay long enough to make sure each and every child reached safety.
When no one was left inside to witness his actions, he took the opportunity to send a shot of cooling breath at the fire, dousing the last of the flames. Then he pulled the driver from his seat, and slinging the unconscious man over his shoulder, he raced to the rear of the bus.
Hopping to the ground and landing lightly on his feet, his heart sank when he observed that his rescue efforts had not been unwitnessed after all. A car had pulled up behind the school bus, and a young man had jumped out and was busily snapping photographs of the derelict.
Flinching away from the camera, the rescuer carried his burden to the side of the road and laid him gently on the shoulder, wishing he dared to melt the snow and warm the ground first. "What happened?" said a voice behind him. Turning, he saw a petite, dark-haired woman pinning him with her intense gaze. Feeling dangerously exposed before those sharp eyes, he mumbled something about the bus skidding from the icy road and he was glad he was here to help and now he really had to get going …
"Wait! I need to ask you —!"
He didn't wait to hear what she needed to ask, but hurried away, wishing he could take the risk of flying. The snow was beginning to fall again, but it was not yet heavy enough to hide an aerial departure, so he had to be content with escaping on foot, wading through the deep snow at the fastest pace he dared.
"Jimmy, did you see that?" said the young woman excitedly. "The way that man tried to turn away from the camera? He's hiding something … I'm sure of it! I'm going to go get him. You stay here with the bus driver and the children until the police come, then take the pictures of him into town and run them through the computer. See what you can come up with."
"But, Lois —" said Jimmy.
"I'm going after him! I'll catch a ride back into town with the police." She waved a vague hand at him and plunged into the snow, following the tracks left by the man she hunted.
Having heard the exchange between Lois and Jimmy, the rescuer inwardly recited all the curse words he had learned in The School, then continued to push his way through the deep drifts, despite the fact that the now-thickly falling snow would have adequately shielded him from any curious gaze had he decided to fly. It wouldn't do to have his tracks suddenly disappear in front of this persistent little woman — he couldn't afford to give himself away like that. He was sure that she would give up soon anyway — the snow had drifted to above his knees, so it would be especially heavy going for a little thing like her, even with him breaking the trail for her. He wondered briefly if he should cheat by floating a little, not sinking all the way to the ground, so as to make it harder for her and make her tire sooner, but he dismissed the idea as unnecessary. She'd tire soon enough.
Fifteen minutes later, he was listening to her increasingly labored breathing with considerable irritation. Didn't she know when to give up?? She had been out of her mind anyway to think that she could possibly overtake a man six inches taller and seventy pounds (? — how could he tell with that coat on?) heavier, a man who, moreover, had a head start of at least half a minute. Surely she should have recognized that fact by now! Without thinking, he lightened his step, unconsciously putting into effect his plan of making it harder for her to force her way through the snow. Any minute now, she would give up, turn around and go back …
Finally he stopped. There seemed to be no shaking this bloodhound of a woman, doggedly pursuing him in spite of the fact that she must have realized long since that it was hopeless. He listened to her struggling through the snow, wincing when she fell. Again. The third time now, and each time she was slower to rise. Why didn't she just give up and go back?
And then he realized with a sinking feeling, as he tuned into her thudding heartbeat, heard her ragged sobs of breath, that she would never make it back now anyway. She was almost finished. The crazy woman! Why hadn't she given up? She hadn't appeared to be lacking in intelligence, or drunk, or otherwise so lost to good judgement that she would desperately pursue what was obviously a hopeless cause …
He paused. "Lost to good judgement." Of course — she was probably suffering from hypothermia. Unable to think clearly, she was blindly following his tracks … To her death, he reminded himself … if he didn't do something about it soon.
He would carry her back to the scene of the accident so she could ride home with the emergency vehicles that … the emergency … the …
He stopped as he noticed for the first time how still everything had become. If he disregarded the breathing and heartbeat of that harebrained woman, there was not a sound to be heard beyond the whisper of the ever-increasing wind. True, snow tended to muffle noise, but with the aid of his super-hearing, he should be able to tune in to the voices of the rescue squads at the accident site. He had heard the sirens quite some time ago.
With a sinking heart he rose silently into the air, flying quickly to the site of the accident. It was deserted; the rescue crews had come and gone.
Clark hovered over the wrecked bus, thinking furiously. The crazy woman clearly could not go on much longer; he had to do something for her soon. Briefly he considered the options. He could fly her ten miles into the nearest town and thereby give away that he had some rather extraordinary abilities, or … he could take her to his cave, more than *twenty* miles away, concealing from her just how far away it was.
He sighed. It would have to be the cave. No one knew about it, and if he did the thing right, he could fool her into thinking it was nearby. When the weather cleared, he could return her to I-29 and flag down a ride so she could get back to town. She need never know how far his cave was from the accident site.
Satisfied that he had a workable plan, he flew back to where he had taken off, stopping and waiting for the woman to catch up to him. She was barely moving now, stumbling and falling frequently. After listening to her painful progress for several minutes, Clark turned and retraced his steps, hesitating when he came upon the woman on her hands and knees, almost engulfed by the drifted snow as she struggled to rise.
His suddenly looming form startling her, Lois fell back again, staring up at him in surprise. She tried to get to her feet, but collapsed again immediately.
The poor woman was just about exhausted, clearly in need of rescue. Bending, he scooped her into his arms. "It's okay," he reassured her. "I have —" he reeled back in astonishment as her fist collided sharply with his jaw. Fortunately, she wasn't in a position to swing very hard; otherwise she would have broken her knuckles. As it was, she gaped up at him, her thickly-lashed dark eyes wide with shock and pain. "What was that for?" Clark said quickly, to turn her attention from his implacable jaw.
She didn't answer the question. "Put me down!" she snapped, squirming and wriggling so energetically that he almost dropped her.
"I thought … I thought," Clark stammered, "you're just about done in, so I was … just trying to help you."
"I can walk! Put me down!" She twisted so violently that Clark deposited her on the ground with more haste than grace. He grabbed her quickly as she stumbled and almost fell. He tried to steady her but she jerked away so fiercely that she came close to losing her balance again. She straightened with difficulty, breathing hard after her exertions. "I can walk," she said with dignity.
Shrugging, Clark moved around in front of her and continued on his way.
"Wait!" called Lois. "I have some questions: what's your name? Where do you live …? Are you going to stop, or not?"
Not answering, Clark continued to plough through the snow, leading the way so he could continue to forge a path for her, ever on the alert to snatch her up again when exhaustion and the cold should overcome her.
He didn't have long to wait. Her brief attempts at conversation had evidently drained the last of her energy reserves and she stumbled and fell several times. When at last she failed to rise, he turned and scooped her gently into his arms, meeting with no resistance this time. Feeling safe to continue at a faster-than- human pace, he pushed her head into his shoulder to prevent her from seeing how quickly they were moving, then began to run. She seemed to lose consciousness along the way, and the last eighteen miles of the journey were covered within a matter of seconds, when he was free to take to the air at last.
In the cave, Clark deposited her unconscious form on his bed, rapidly stripping her of her wet clothing. His fingers hesitated at her lingerie, and he decided to leave it on her — she was going to feel violated enough as it was, at him removing the rest of her clothes. He'd dry her undergarments with his heat vision, taking the chance that she wouldn't realize that she had been soaked to the skin. He focused on her head, drying her damp hair first, then continued to run his heat vision over her, trying to force saliva into his suddenly-dry mouth as he desperately tried not to react to the soft feminine curves of that recumbent body. This was no time to let his brain get scrambled by the image of the most beautiful woman he had seen in … well … a long time.
Finished with his task, he wrapped her in the blanket, briefly considering, then as quickly discarding, the notion of clothing her in one of his sweatshirts. He had the feeling that this feisty little woman wouldn't take kindly to the realization that she had been dressed like a child.
Grateful that her too-temptingly lovely body was safely out of his sight, he applied himself to the task of making his dwelling habitable for her. He had fireplaces in every room, but they were for light rather than heat, since he didn't mind the cold. He quickly enlarged every fireplace, and making a few trips outside to gather dead wood at super speed, replenished the fires, rekindling them to a roar with his heat vision. Because it was cold in the cave and it would take a long time for the fires to heat it to a temperature comfortable for humans, he focused his vision onto the stone walls until they radiated a gentle heat.
He drew a sigh of relief that he had managed to accomplish all this before she woke up, then snapped his fingers in dismay when he realized that she would need heated water, too. He dashed into his bathroom and quickly enlarged the fireplace. Tunneling through the rock to widen the chimney, he carefully removed all the debris from his recent construction efforts. Checking to make sure Lois was still soundly asleep, he made a flying trip to a scrap yard he knew, and retrieved plumbing fixtures and a tank to use as water heater.
He placed the water tank next to the fireplace, then ran the pipes into the tank from the natural spring that ran through his cave. Absent-mindedly peeling off his shirt, he stepped into the reservoir to place the pipes properly.
It was there that Lois found him, up to his thighs in water and stripped to the waist, the firelight casting dancing shadows on his bare torso as he twisted and turned in his task. She caught her breath as she watched his rippling muscles. He could have stepped right out of the pages of her art history text, a model for Polykleitos or Michelangelo, or —
And probably dumb as a post, too, she ruthlessly interrupted her wandering thoughts. These muscle-bound types always are. He's good- looking, sure, if you care about that sort of thing.
Which she didn't.
Besides, she had work to do. Investigative work. She was positive that this man was hiding something, and she was going to discover his secret!
Clearing her throat firmly, she stepped forward into his line of sight. He looked up, and for one long, electric moment, they gazed into each other's eyes.
Lois recovered first, wrenching her gaze away with difficulty while she inwardly berated herself for this weakness. Clutching the blanket about her more closely, she spoke clearly and loudly. "Where am I?"
The man stared at her, seemingly at a loss. Lois looked at him, her eyes narrowing. Surely he could answer *that* question!
Dumb as a post, what'd I tell ya?
"Uh … you're at my place," the man said at last. He forged ahead, seeking to distract her. "I've had a little … trouble with the pipes, but … the water should be hot soon," as soon as I warm it with my heat vision — that fire's never gonna do the job, "if you want to take a … bath or something." His eyes fell to the blanket draped about her and he averted his gaze quickly, reminding Lois of the state of undress she was in underneath her covering, and how she had reached it. He must have been thinking of it, too, for his face had become slightly flushed. He turned his head away, busying himself with retrieving his glasses and setting them back on his face.
Amused by his apparent embarrassment, and in some inexplicable way relieved, Lois said, "My clothes are still wet. Do you have anything …?"
"I can get you some things …" Glad to have something else to think about, he led the way back to his bedchamber with alacrity, where he pulled some sweats off the shelves and handed them to her.
"You have clothes to change into yourself, don't you?" she asked, indicating his dripping wet jeans.
"Wha-?" He looked down at himself in surprise. He had forgotten about the state of his own clothing. "Yes." He snatched a pair of dry jeans and a denim shirt and retreated from the bedroom, leaving her to change in privacy.
When she hadn't reappeared fifteen minutes later, he cautiously x-rayed through the bedroom wall. At the sight that met his eyes, he sprang into the room and scooped her into his arms, depositing her gently on the bed after giving it a surreptitious blast with his heat vision. She opened her eyes and gazed dazedly up at him. "I'm … so … cold …"
Clark drew the blankets up to her chin. "I'm afraid you're sick," he said, laying a gentle hand on her forehead.
"Probably. I have the flu. Had it." Her teeth chattered. "I thought I was over it … Stupid of me to come out again … when I wasn't well yet." With that admission which she would never have made if she hadn't been feeling so ill, she closed her eyes again and gave herself up to the discomfort of her condition.
Clark watched over Lois for the rest of the night, alert for any sign that she would need a doctor's care. Her condition stabilized, however, and when she fell into a peaceful sleep towards morning, Clark retreated into his library to snatch a few hours rest on the sofa.
Lois awoke in the morning and stretched cautiously. She still felt a bit achy, but satisfied that the worst was over, she arose and made use of his bathroom to take a quick, steamy bath. Not having forgotten her reasons for tracking him through the snow, she was eager to begin investigating her host.
Under ordinary circumstances she would have been frightened at being so completely in the power of a man whom she believed to be in hiding, perhaps from the police, but his gentle ministrations to her throughout the night had mitigated her fears. She smiled as she drew on the sweat suit he had given her; her investigation notwithstanding, she was looking forward to becoming better acquainted with this kind and considerate man. His presence next to her bed last night had been comforting; even the room had somehow seemed warmer when he was with her.
Padding quietly about the dwelling, she found him in the kitchen, brewing tea. He looked up from his task and smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she said, dismissing her illness with a summary wave of her hand. She had an investigation to pursue and she didn't want to waste time talking about her health. "Nice place you have here. It's primitive, but cozy somehow. I like it. You live here alone?"
"Yes, I do."
"Do you have a long commute to work?"
"Not too long," said Clark warily. About eight hundred kilometers. He watched uneasily as Lois walked around the room, examining its contents closely. "Tea?" he handed her a cup while she seated herself at his makeshift table.
"So …" she said, blowing on the brew to cool it, "You're a traveler?"
"A traveler?" he said cautiously.
"Yes. Your food …" she waved her hand vaguely at the kitchen, "and drink …" she indicated the tea. "Lee Valley doesn't look like the kind of town that would boast a Chinese grocery. Or Japanese. Or a French —"
"I've been around," said Clark in tacit acknowledgment that some of his groceries hadn't been obtained locally. "Cream and sugar?" he asked, trying to change the subject. He had guessed from her conversation and association with the photographer, "Jimmy," that she was some kind of journalist, and he knew that he would have to be on guard. Except for the fact that she didn't have sense enough to know when to quit, his guest appeared to be quite intelligent, and he didn't want her stumbling onto his secret.
Or … maybe "stumbling" wasn't the right word. She had been looking around her ever since she had begun to recover, and he had the uneasy feeling that she hadn't missed a thing. She was going to have a great career as a reporter. "You're a journalist, aren't you?" he said.
"How did you figure that out?" she asked.
"Oh … the photographer who was with you …" He continued, as she was silent, "You don't work for the Weehauken Gazette, do you?"
"The Wee-! No, of course not!" Lois snapped. "I'm from Metropolis."
Metropolis! Clark's heart sank. If she worked for one of the big dailies … "The Star?" he asked, crossing his fingers in hope.
"Daily Planet!" said Lois curtly, still stung by his insinuation that she was a second-stringer.
"Daily Planet …" said Clark slowly. And "Jimmy" had called her "Lois …" No, it couldn't be! "You're not Lois Lane, are you?" he asked, hoping that his guess was wrong, silently pleading that she was anyone *but* Lois Lane, any person on earth *except* the Pulitzer prize-winning star reporter of one of the best newspapers in the world. Relentless bulldog of an investigative journalist, renowned and feared, known as someone who would never stop digging until she uncovered the truth, the whole truth, no matter how deeply buried …
"Yes," Lois admitted. "That's my name. But you haven't told me yours …?"
"C-Ken—" Clark stuttered. "Ken," he said again, firmly. How had she managed to get him that close to telling her his real name — the name he hadn't admitted to in over ten years? He was going to have to be really, really careful around her.
Lois was watching his face, already regretting that she had been forthright about her identity. Ken was clearly unhappy at the news, and now he was going to be doubly on guard against her questioning. As she studied his expression, she began to wonder if he had deliberately pried that personal information from her. He had cannily struck at her weakness — her pride — by hinting that she worked for a third-rate, small town newspaper, and had nettled her into telling a truth about herself, a truth that she should have concealed in the interests of ferreting more information out of *him*.
Still think he's dumb as a post, Lois?
Clark raised his gaze from the teacup that he had been contemplating soberly, and Lois was immediately struck by the guilelessness in those eyes.
No, Lois, he didn't do it deliberately. He was just lucky.
Her eyes wandered from his face to the strong neck emerging from the unbuttoned collar of the denim shirt he was wearing, then traveled down the length of his arms. He had rolled up his sleeves and was resting his elbows casually on the table. He looked so innocent and … and … *bovine* that Lois had to restrain herself from shaking her head. He had a great bod, but … he didn't look like anyone who would be capable of hiding a big secret. She was beginning to think she had imagined his shrinking away from the cameras.
"What *is* this place?" she asked, looking around her. "It looks like a cave … too bad there aren't any windows —"
"It *is* a cave," said Clark, smiling at her. He had dug it out of the mountain with his own hands, and had built the stone walls that partitioned it into rooms. "And there's one window over there — with the curtain drawn across it, and two windows in my study."
"Your study? May I see?" Lois rose.
"Uh … sure." Clark got reluctantly to his feet. He didn't know why her request made him so uneasy; she wasn't going to find anything that would reveal his secret, and yet …
"No telephone or electricity, I'm afraid," he told her on the way to the study, "and it's a dead zone for mobile phones, so we can't let anyone know where you are." He led her into his study, watching nervously when she reacted to the room.
"So many books!" Lois said, staring at the shelves that lined the walls.
"Yeah, well, I like to read …"
Lois walked up to them and examined some of the titles. "The Universe Next Door," "The French Lieutenant's Woman, "One Dimensional Man," "Le Remarche de Temps" … Hmmm, Marcuse and Proust. With the latter in French yet.
Yeah, dumb as a post, Lois.
Unless … these aren't *his* books. He's vacationing here, borrowing the place from a friend. If that's the case, he probably won't have read any of them …
"Have you ever had madeleines?" she asked with careful casualness, not letting him see the importance of his answer to her question.
"Not for a long time," he said. "I had them a couple of times in France. Of course, I had to dip them in lime tea to see what Proust was talking about …" His voice trailed off when he caught a glimpse of the satisfaction that flickered across her face momentarily. He had the uneasy feeling that he had just fallen into a trap of some kind, but he couldn't quite figure out what he had done wrong — or why.
"So these are the windows," said Lois, pressing her nose against one of them to give herself time to think about what she had just learned about Ken.
He *was* well-read. And intelligent. And kind, considerate, well- mannered, and utterly charming. In fact, Lois was strangely drawn to her host, felt an attraction that tugged at her insistently in spite of all her efforts to squelch it. Funny, too, because Ken wasn't anything like the dazzling men she used to fall for.
Here it occurred to Lois that this *might* be a good thing — before she had given up on them, she had had a lousy track record with men. She quickly smothered the thought; she was *through* with men, and besides, she hadn't come here to fall for a man who was so obviously hiding something. He might have a deadly secret … and it was her job to find it out. She was going to be pleasant and nonchalant and uncover ever so quietly whatever it was he was hiding. "It's still snowing," she remarked, carefully casual.
"It's supposed to snow for the next three days," said Clark. "You may not be able to leave for awhile …" In spite of her assurances that she was feeling well, Lois was still quite pale and Clark didn't want to risk taking her out in such bad weather while she was recovering from the flu.
Lois silently began to plan her next assault. "So …" she said, smiling artlessly as she turned to face him, "tell me about yourself, Ken."
Several hours later, Clark stood alone in the den, resting his forehead against the window in hopes that the frigid glass would cool his perspiring brow. Three hours of being grilled by the relentless Lois Lane had taken its toll on him and he was ready for a break. He wanted nothing so much as to fly into the air so thick with snow and find his way to sunlight, but he couldn't risk it … not yet, anyway. Lois had retired to the bedroom for a nap, and he wanted to make sure she was asleep before he left … he couldn't afford to do *anything* that would arouse her suspicions.
He had successfully parried each question she had thrust at him — he thought — but he had the uneasy feeling that she was going to regroup over the next few hours and that he would be facing a renewed battery of questions after lunch.
And he just couldn't give himself away. Not in anything. He had already almost let slip that he had spent two years in the "Home for Wayward Boys," the reform school where his last set of foster parents had dumped him five years after the Kents had lost custody of him. No one else he had known had ever come this close to finding him out. But Lois had almost caught him. And she had only been conscious for a few hours.
If she was this inexorable when sick, what was she like when she was well?
The way the blizzard was raging outside, it looked like she would be marooned here for awhile and he would have ample opportunity of finding out.
And Heaven help him.
Afternoon found Clark with renewed determination to avoid answering Lois's questions, and Lois equally determined to wring answers from him. Her suspicions aroused by the sudden appearance of cartons of juice on the kitchen shelves (she was sure they hadn't been there earlier, and she was right — Clark had picked them up in Denver while she was sleeping), she plied Clark with artfully worded questions, nearly driving him frantic as he attempted to give evasive replies without appearing to be deliberately doing so.
Lois's skillful battery continued all that day and into the next.
Having no practical escape from it due to the continuing winter storm raging outside, Clark began to tire of her barrage toward evening.
"You know, Lois, it really isn't too smart for you to be questioning me like this," he said, in a last-ditch attempt to still her, "… if I'm really the suspicious character you seem to think I am."
"What is that supposed to mean?" she asked, hands on hips.
"Well … you don't know anything about me … What if I'm someone like … the Collector, or Raging Jack … or … the Boston Butcher? What happens if you press me too closely … hit too close to home? What if I react … badly?"
"You're not anything like Raging Jack!" Lois scoffed, barely able to restrain herself from laughing out loud at her gentle host's likening himself to that violent murderer. "And you're not going to harm me!"
"How do you know that?" Clark persisted. He didn't want to scare her, but he needed to stop her questions, and … yes, he *did* want to scare her! It was okay for her to ask questions *now*, it was safe since it was just himself that she was dealing with, but what if he really *were* a dangerous character?
The way she had taken off after him when he had left the scene of the accident, too! That showed that she was totally without regard for her own safety. And when he considered his secret —- what she would believe him to be if she knew his history (and she would be wrong in that belief … but that was beside the point) — she really should be more careful! He thought it would be a good idea if he *did* scare her; he'd be doing her a favor if he made her stop and think before trying this on someone else!
But Lois wasn't buying it. She rolled her eyes at his last question. "Really," she said drily. "First you rescued a bus full of children. *And* the driver." Holding up a hand, she began ticking off her points with the index finger of her other hand. "Then you pulled me out of the snow when I followed you here —"
"*Tried* to follow me," Clark corrected. "You didn't make it. Not by a long shot. If I hadn't picked you up and carried you the rest of the way —"
"Exactly!" Lois pounced. "If you had wanted to kill me, you'd have done it then!" She tossed her head. "And I don't need a lecture from you on how to interview people! I've interviewed *many* dangerous men and *none* of them have reacted 'badly'!" she lied.
"Maybe they just hadn't been driven crazy enough yet," Clark muttered.
"What?" said Lois, not quite hearing him. "You are *not* a killer!" she added when he didn't reply. Clark shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at the floor, not arguing. "Well??" Lois continued to press him as she sensed victory. "Are you?" Something passed across his face, a shadow that Lois didn't understand. Before she could fathom its meaning, it was gone, replaced by resignation as he acknowledged a hit.
"No," he admitted grudgingly. "I'm not a killer … but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful."
Ignoring his stricture on her behavior, Lois smiled triumphantly, pleased that she had wrung from him one more small detail of what his history was … or wasn't. Not that she needed (or indeed, trusted) Ken's testimony about himself. She had already made up her own mind that whatever had sent Ken into hiding, it wasn't murder.
So … what, then? She remembered his gentle ministrations when she had been sick. Was he a physician, perhaps? A doctor who had made a mistake and was now fleeing manslaughter charges? No, that wasn't right. This man wouldn't run from his mistakes; he would face up to them. Maybe he had been unjustly accused of a crime, then. No, unlikely. Was he a white collar criminal? An embezzler, maybe? No, even worse. This man wouldn't do anything dishonest; and besides, what would be the point of embezzling and then taking residence in a humble cave lacking even electricity and telephone?
She pondered the riddle. Ken's conversation over the last two days had revealed a thoughtful, conscientious man, one who would likely suffer any fate in order to remain true to his principles …
Lois drew in her breath sharply, realizing that she may have hit on his secret. Her host was probably a dissident, hiding from some political entity! Well, he had nothing to fear from her! She had guarded the secrets of dissidents in the past, and she would do the same for Ken's … as soon as she discovered it.
But that would come later. Right now it was obvious that she had ruffled his feathers; she would talk to him on indifferent subjects for awhile, and wrest his secret from him when he let his guard down again.
She would never have believed it if someone had told her at that point that it would be *she* who would let down her guard, not him; that it would be *she* who would reveal *her* secrets …
The blizzard continued all the next day, but Lois, who would ordinarily have been chafing at the enforced idleness, was in a glow of contentment that she would have found astonishing if she had taken the time to think about it. She was too preoccupied to analyze her feelings, however, being entirely caught up in enjoying the company of the most restful companion she had ever encountered. There was a peacefulness about him that stilled the maelstrom that continually swirled at the center of her being. When she was with him, she didn't feel that ever-driving compulsion to work and think and do; she was content to just *be*. The thought entered her head at more than one point how delightful it would be to come home to this man in the evenings. How his quiet strength would offer the restful haven she needed.
Funny, when she considered how she had always been attracted to the powerful, the controlling, the exciting. She had thought at first that Ken would be too boring to interest her, and yet his quiet strength soothed and reassured.
And he seemed to invite her confidences. She had followed him with the intention of learning *his* secrets, yet she had been the one to bare her soul. Once she had stopped questioning *him*, she had found herself talking to him … telling him things that she had never revealed to another living person. And he had listened. *Really* listened. Sympathetically and non-judgmentally. Even when she had told him about the time she had stolen another man's story — she placed hands against her hot cheeks when she remembered *that* incident — he had said quietly that the story must have been very important to her and that since she had subsequently given one of her own stories to the man to make up for it, he was sure she had learned from her mistake and now realized that *that* wasn't how she wanted to achieve her success.
She tried to caution herself against becoming too attached to this man before learning the circumstances of his isolation, tried to tell herself that intense infatuations, attractions that burned out as quickly as they had sprung up, were common when two people were thrown together into situations of forced intimacy such as this, but her internal arguments were in vain: she *liked* Ken; she was attracted to him; she … well, the thought of parting from him (and she had the uneasy feeling that parting was inevitable) was becoming quite painful to her.
As for Clark, he had been lost almost from the very beginning. Her courage and tenacity had excited his admiration, her brilliance had earned his appreciation, and her stubbornness and determination, while exasperating at times, were at least worthy of respect. Add to that her physical charms, charms which the baggy sweats she had borrowed from him failed utterly to conceal, and he was completely bowled over. Dazzled, in fact. And while he, even more than Lois, recognized the danger of becoming emotionally attached, he felt powerless to stop himself.
He tried *not* to imagine how it would feel to have Lois with him always, tried not to picture how her presence would assuage the loneliness that had been his lot in life for more years than he cared to remember, reminding himself that as soon as the blizzard was over she would leave and he would be alone again. Forever.
On the evening of their third day together, they retired to Clark's study after dinner and sat on the floor in front of the fire. "Snow should stop tomorrow," remarked Clark, trying not to show how much it hurt to think of Lois leaving. "I'll be able to take you to the lodge I told you about. It has a telephone so you can call someone to pick you up."
"Well … good," said Lois, surprised at the sudden pang she felt. This could be her last night with Ken, and somehow, she hadn't spent nearly enough time with him. She wanted to learn everything there was to know about this elusive man … and not because she was trying to uncover his secret. Curiously, she had forgotten her resolve to find a story; her only thought now was that a lifetime would be too short for getting to know him. Struck by a sense of impending loss, she shivered.
"Cold?" asked Clark.
"A little," she said, and tried to control the quickening of her heart when he put his arm around her. She moved involuntarily closer, drawing in her breath as a sudden wave of desire swept over her.
Clark knew right away that he had made a mistake. This was the first time he had touched Lois since he had attended to her while she lay ill, and the powerful surge of feeling he experienced was almost overwhelming. To add to his difficulties, as soon as Lois snuggled up next to him, her body seemed to lose its properties as a solid, and the sensation of having her graceful, womanly figure become soft and yielding against his was almost his undoing. His mind told him to say something that would get them out of this position, but his body, glorying in Lois's closeness, refused to allow his speech centers to function.
Making a valiant effort, Clark swallowed hard. "Lo-is," he managed, and was appalled at the feeble croak that was all he was able to achieve.
Lois half turned, and sprawled across his broad expanse of chest, looked up into his face, a mute inquiry in her eyes. Seeing his own desire mirrored there, a groan escaped Clark's lips. This was all wrong, they couldn't do this, he shouldn't let her do this …
His hand reached up to cup her cheek and he bent his head and kissed her. A quick, warm pressure of mouth on mouth, that was all, and then he released her.
"Oh-h-h …" Lois's gasp of pleasure was the straw that broke his self-control, and putting both arms around her, he drew her into his lap, kissing her again, deepening the kiss and gently pushing her mouth open with his lips.
Lois pressed closer. Her arms were around his neck now, her hands running through his hair in wild abandon. She felt reckless and out of control, deliciously so, with none of the premonitions of danger that usually reared up to stop her when she felt an attraction. This man was different; he was *safe* …
"Lois …" Clark whispered. He offered no resistance when she tugged at him, pulling him down to the floor to lie next to her. In vain did he tell himself to stop now, that it wasn't fair to either of them to start something they could never finish; in vain did he remind himself that after tomorrow she would be gone, and his loss would be that much greater for having experienced the sweetness of this magic interlude. He felt as if he had been seized by a madness that chased away all remnants of good sense. Throwing away the ruins of his self-control, he pulled Lois even closer and began a thorough exploration of her lips with his mouth …
There was something different about this day; Lois knew it before she opened her eyes. She could feel the pleasurable knot of excitement that chased away sleep and woke her to full alertness. Glancing at her watch, she saw that she had only had a few hours sleep, but she didn't feel tired; she was buoyed by the exhilaration of those sweet hours of lying at Ken's side, lost in exploration of his body, as he was in hers. She was glad now that he had put the brakes on their intimacy, stopping before they had reached the point when further control would have been impossible.
By that time she had unbuttoned his shirt and managed to rip it from his body, and as he had lain half on top of her while her hands wildly explored his back, he had pushed himself up onto his elbows. "Lois … maybe we should wait," he had said, his voice husky. He had reminded her that they hardly knew each other, that she might not feel the same once she had returned to her own environment.
He didn't want her; he was refusing intimacy with her! "Okay," she said, her lips stiff with hurt. The look of disappointment that swept over his face was almost tangible, and she found herself letting her breath out with relief. He *did* want her; he was just being gentlemanly in giving her the chance to back out. He *wanted* her to override his objections! For a moment she was tempted to do so, but the reason in what he'd said mirrored her own thoughts, now that she took a breath to think. Taking a regretful look at the half-naked body poised above hers, she had acquiesced, agreeing that there was plenty of time for all this later.
She had reached a tender hand up and run it gently through his hair, though, and as he had started to push himself off her, she had suddenly reached for him and pulled him down again, shocking herself by gasping out the words, "I love you!"
And he, deeply moved, had whispered, "I l-love you t-too …" and had choked, unable to go on.
Smiling now with anticipation at seeing her new love, Lois stretched and got out of bed, heading for the bathroom for a leisurely soak in the tub. Afterward, she wandered through the dwelling in search of her companion and was disappointed that he was nowhere to be found. Glancing out the kitchen window, she saw that he was outside cutting wood. The weather had cleared up as he had predicted, and the sun filtered through the canopy of trees overhead to shine on a wonderland of glistening snow. He must have been at work for hours already, for a stack of wood almost as tall as he had appeared.
Thinking how delightful it would be to go out and greet him with a good-morning kiss, she ran into the study to retrieve her coat. The sight of the books on the shelves gave her pause as she remembered her attempts of two days ago to gauge his intelligence. It reminded her of how little she really knew about this man.
She put her coat back on the rack and walked slowly over to the shelves, reading the titles over slowly to herself. Books in languages that she didn't begin to know. Did he really *understand* all those languages? She continued down the line. "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat" and "A Brief History of Time" were sticking out a little … she pushed them. Then pushed again, but they wouldn't go back into place; something must have fallen behind them. She pulled one of them out, her heart lurching when she saw what was concealed behind it: a laptop computer.
A laptop. Well, that was okay, wasn't it? Nothing unusual in that … but … *hidden*. Why did he think concealment was necessary?
And then her heart lurched again when she saw the mobile phone. *Her* phone. The phone she assumed she had left behind in the car when she hadn't found it in her coat pocket.
Her heart pounding, she pulled it out, and glancing out the window to make sure that he wasn't looking her way, she seated herself on the floor in front of the sofa, where she would be hidden from view if he chanced to look inside.
Her phone didn't work! Her first feeling was a rush of relief that Ken hadn't lied to her about not being able to use a telephone, that this cave was in a dead zone for mobile phones … and then she realized that the reason the phone wasn't working was because the battery was dead.
She drew a breath that was like a sob. Why had Ken concealed her telephone from her? Would it have worked if the battery was good?
But — the thought struck her — maybe this wasn't her phone. Maybe Ken owned the same kind she did. Maybe she had left hers in the car like she originally thought.
Drawing a relieved breath, she turned her attention to the laptop, opening it and booting it up. She noticed immediately that he was set up for Internet access … which meant that he must go somewhere with telephone service in order to connect.
Peeking into the "My Documents" folder, she found several articles, apparently from some newspaper. All with the byline "Dan Celtic." Okay, so Ken's a fan of Dan Celtic, whoever *he* is … and … hmmm … Dan Celtic writes well. Make that *very* well. Not as good as I am, of course … and a different writing style … seems to be more into the human interest stuff — but *good* …
Let's see … as long as I'm snooping, why not take a look at his Temporary Internet files … see what he likes to look at on the Internet. Banners … gifs, all created on February 21st … cookie … wait. February 21st. That can't be right; today is the 21st. The date on his computer must be wrong …and … no … it isn't.
Her heart hammering painfully against her ribs, Lois opened up his Internet browser, watching in disbelief as the notebook began making a connection to the Internet.
How does he …? Satellite … but … but … if he can connect to the Internet, if he's been able to contact the outside world all along … *why didn't he tell me*??
Oh. That's right; he'd be able to download, but without a telephone connection, he can't upload.
Unless he has a transmitter. Which, of course, he doesn't.
How to test? Send an email.
Lois typed an email and sent it to a financial service that generated automatic responses to stock price inquiries … watching with a sick feeling as the response to her query entered Ken's inbox. She stared in horror, the implications of Ken's deception leaving her mind reeling. Noting that Ken had an instant messaging service, Lois added Jimmy's screen name to the list, then watched in painful anticipation to see if her friend was currently logged on. Yes!! Quickly she sent him a message, "Jimmy, it's Lois. Are you there??"
Come on, Jimmy, come back to your desk; what's the point of logging on to the messaging service and then going away?
The minutes dragged by painfully and still no answer. Her heart in her mouth, Lois began writing a message to Jimmy telling him everything that had happened; that way they would have a start on finding her murderer if Ken … no! Ken wasn't going to murder her … she would stake her life on that!
And then she realized, with a catch in her throat, that she had done just that.
"Lois??? Wher r u??"
Jimmy had returned to his desk and sent her a message. Almost sobbing with relief, Lois wrote back: "In a cave with the man who rescued the kids. Did you find out anything about him?"
"get out of ther now!!!!"
"What did u find out??"
"he's a murderr. killed his roommmate at reform schl."
"no! must be mistake!"
"no nistake. Ran his pic thru the computers. Name Clark Kent. Locked in a 9th sotry room in dermirtory at night. Authrities opneed door becuz of screming & found boy dead in bed and kent wth blood on hands. stabbed 27 x. Kent says he ddint do it, that he snuck out and came back to find roomie dead, but no way he could have snuck out of lociked 9th story room."
"R u sure it's him?"
"Lois, thiss is Perry. Dont you woory, honey. We're going t get you out of ther. Hellicopters out looking for yo now but we havnt publicized the info that kent is your kidnaper — we don't want hm to panic. Stay calm n whatver yo do,, don't let kent know u kno. If he threatens u, tell hem we know who and hwere he is and if he harrms a hair on yur head the Dailiey plant will not rest until he is brougth to jsutice."
"He says he wasn't there?He sneaked out?"
"Lois!!! He was there!!!!! unlesss he can fly!!! be carefull"
"Have to go. He may come back any minntue" Lois logged off and with shaking hands put the laptop back on its shelf. Amazing that her uppermost thought was not the danger she could be in, but the collapse of all her dreams concerning Ken — Kent. A murderer! Not a dissident … or a doctor barred from medicine … or an embezzler … no, a murderer.
I might have known, she thought bitterly. I've always had the most rotten luck with men.
What should I do now?
She stared blindly out the window, vaguely remembering Perry's edict to remain calm.
Feeling as if she were suffocating, she suddenly knew that she couldn't stay in the cave one minute longer. Not even pausing to pick up her coat, she dashed for the front door and ran outside to be met by the sight of Ken — Clark Kent — with his back to her, chopping wood. She put her hand to her mouth and raced for the cover of nearby undergrowth. Dropping to the ground, she peered through the bushes to see if Kent had seen her. Apparently not.
Still with his back to her, he gave a mighty swing with the axe, and Lois gasped as the blade sliced the log, cutting through it completely. She had never seen anyone chop wood before — besides in the movies, anyway — but surely it took tremendous strength to drive an axe through a tree trunk like that! She looked at him, taking note of his physique with nervous eyes. He had discarded his coat, and his shirt pulled taut across the muscles in his back when he bent to pick up sections of the tree. He handled the pieces of wood easily, tossing them lightly onto a pile of similarly cut wood. Lois watched the play of muscles as he worked; he was strong, that was evident. His back … She swallowed, remembering that she had touched that back last night, had run her fingers over it, caressed it … It was a muscular back, a strong back.
A murderer's back.
She sobbed, then put her hand over her mouth, afraid that Kent would hear her. But the ring of the axe must have covered any inadvertent sound she had made, for he continued with his task without pausing.
A creeping, insidious cold made Lois aware that she was crouching in a snow drift without her coat and she shivered, trying to decide on her course of action. Before she had made up her mind, she saw Kent pause in his work, pull down his glasses, and look intently at the walls of the cave carved into the hillside. Apparently satisfied with what he had seen, he pushed his glasses back up and … disappeared.
Lois gasped. There was a discordant cacophony of sound and suddenly Kent was there again, standing in the middle of the clearing and surveying the neatly sawed, chopped, and split stacks of wood that had appeared at the same time he did. He glanced at his watch, pulled down his glasses and stared at the cave again, then leaped into the air. And hovered.
Lois's hand covered her mouth to prevent any involuntary sound from escaping. Wide-eyed, she watched as Kent hung suspended in mid-air for several seconds, then, raising one arm above his head, ascended rapidly, disappearing within seconds.
Left alone momentarily, Lois made an effort to pull herself together. Uncontrollable shivering reminded her once again of her exposed state and she scrambled to her feet and ran quickly into the cave.
Clark dropped to the ground and carefully felt the paper sack filled with fresh croissants. If they had cooled off during flight, he could heat them again …
They were fine; still smoking. Clutching the bag, he strode to the cave, his heart beating fast in anticipation. He had decided to tell Lois everything. Everything. She had said that she loved him, and she deserved to know the truth about why he could never have a relationship with her, why after today he could never, never see her again.
(And after he told her, she would say that she loved him anyway and insist that they go to some South American country to live together in bliss forever … No, he *couldn't* expect that of her.)
He found Lois in his den, sitting on the sofa reading "The Collector." "Morning, sleepyhead," he said tautly, forcing a grin. "Breakfast?" He held up the bag of croissants.
Lois looked at the paper sack, avoiding his eyes. <<Stay calm n whatver yo do,, don't let kent know u kno>> "What is it?" she asked, reaching for the sack with hands that trembled in spite of her best efforts to keep them steady. "Croissants?? Where did you -? You had these in the storeroom, too?" she asked, ignoring the fact that the pastries were piping hot. For the past two days Clark had kept popping in with foods Lois had expressed a wish for, claiming that he had "found" them in his "storeroom;" a storage area that he said was outside the cave. Lois had been astounded at the wealth of goodies that he claimed to have accumulated, but having no reason to suspect the truth, she had accepted the coincidence that "Ken" had happened to lay up a store of her preferred foods.
"What other goodies do you have hidden in your storeroom?" Lois asked, chattering about anything … *anything* … to keep him from seeing that she knew about him. <<Stay calm n whatver yo do,, don't let kent know u kno>>
Clark hesitated. He had come into the room with the intention of telling Lois everything and putting his life in her hands, but her demeanor was not encouraging. Last night she had told him she loved him, that she even wanted to become intimate with him, but this morning she seemed to have withdrawn from him somehow. She wouldn't look at him and her voice was cold and distant.
Maybe this wasn't the best time to reveal himself. And maybe it wasn't necessary to offer her an explanation of why they couldn't see each other again; she didn't seem to care anyway.
He stood in front of her, the light dying from his eyes, and dropped his hands awkwardly to his sides. "There's coffee in the kitchen," he said in a subdued voice.
"I know; I had some earlier," she said, rising to follow him into the kitchen.
She was finding it more and more difficult to maintain her air of distance. Her fear had begun to drain away the instant Kent walked into the room. With the big, hulking form of a vicious murderer looming over her, she should have been in mortal fear for her life, but the truth was that as a terrorist, Kent was a dismal failure. The man just didn't have it in him to inspire fear.
Confronted by his solid, reassuring bulk, Lois was struck again, as she had been so many times in the past few days, with how caring and sweet he appeared. The man exuded gentleness and engendered trust.
She tried to imagine him angry, wielding a knife, stabbing viciously …
No, it was all wrong. Kent couldn't do something like that.
She remembered his reaction to her probing questions in the last few days. She had lied to Kent when she had told him that no one had ever reacted badly to her questioning; many of her interviewees had, in fact, ordered her out of their offices, off their premises, out of their lives. Some had been almost foaming at the mouth; heck, one of them had jumped over his desk and grabbed her by the throat.
And she had never been tougher on anyone than on Kent. Tougher because *he* was tougher. No matter how she had pricked and probed, looking for the secret that had driven him into hiding, his humor had been as impervious to upset as his defense had been impermeable to penetration. Throughout all her questioning, questioning that would have driven, *had* driven other men to ungovernable rage, Clark had expressed nothing more than mild irritation. And had maintained an air of quiet dignity that showed that although he was difficult to provoke to anger, he was not weak-willed or someone to be bullied.
Sweet, quiet, patient, mild, caring … yet strong and solid. A man to be respected, admired … loved.
No, Lois, the facts are inescapable; the man is a murderer. He was locked in a room on the ninth floor; he *couldn't* have sneaked away …!
She drew in her breath sharply at the memory of Jimmy's words, "… unless he can fly …"
… and … *he can fly* …
Her knees buckling, she hastily seated herself across from Clark at the kitchen table, bending her head over her coffee to conceal her expression as her spirits lifted.
Wait, Lois. Think! Even if it's possible that Clark *wasn't* in the room, that doesn't explain how his roommate got murdered!
But the seeds of hope had been sown, and her optimism refused to die. Every instinct she had was screaming at her that Clark Kent was as incapable of murder as *she* — oops, bad example — well, as incapable of murder as *any* good, kind, gentle, decent person could be.
But … she had that bad track record with men.
Better reserve judgment until she had more facts.
Yes, get the facts, Lois. Investigate. Find out what really went on that night and if he's innocent, clear his name.
And if he's guilty …
If he's guilty, thought Lois grimly, if this man really is a murderer and a deceitful, treacherous liar who made me fall in love with him, then he broke my heart and I am going to nail his hide to the wall and send him to prison for the rest of his life.
And hope that the prison allows conjugal visits.
No! No, no, no, Lois!
Snatching up one of the croissants, she bit into it deeply and savagely.
"Well …" said Clark after Lois had finished her coffee. "The weather's cleared up and I guess … you want to get back …?" He ended the sentence with a lilt in his voice denoting a question, still with some hope that he was mistaken about her changed manner. His hopes faded when she nodded, and without another word he left the room to fetch her coat and a blanket.
Yes, thought Lois, I have to get back. The most important thing is to continue my investigation from a position of safety.
No point in trying to get Kent to open up to me. I already know the futility of asking him questions he doesn't want to answer; the guy is a clam.
Clark returned to the room. "It's cold out," he said. "I'll have to wrap you up in the blanket."
And cover your face so you don't notice that we're flying.
Lois let him help her into her coat. "It'll probably be better if I carry you," said Clark. She made no demur.
The important thing is to get away safely.
She stood quietly while he tenderly wrapped her up, his large hands gentle. He scooped her into his arms, covering her head with the blanket.
She buried her face in his shoulder, loving the feel of his strong arms cradling her, wishing the ride would never end; that they could fly away and live alone together for the rest of their lives …
She would probably not have guessed that they were flying if she hadn't *known*.
The flight ended too soon, with Clark setting her on her feet and carefully unwrapping the blanket. "Here's the lodge I was telling you about," he said. "There's a telephone inside so you can call to have someone from town pick you up. Sorry I can't stay with you, but I have to … uh … I forgot to bank the fires in my cave and I should get back and make sure everything's okay."
Lois looked into his face for the first time that morning. He looked so unhappy standing there. Whoever he was, whatever he had done, he loved her; he had told her that last night, and she was breaking his heart by leaving him like this.
He's not going to ask to see me again, she thought, noticing the sad determination in his eyes. He's going to go back to his cave, go into hiding again, and whatever I find out about him — guilty or innocent — I'll have no way of contacting him to bring him to justice … or set him free.
Well, if he wasn't going to ask to see *her*, she would have to *tell* him that they'd be seeing each other again.
She put her arms around him, assuring herself that it was necessary to do so in order to belay any suspicions he might have that she knew his secret. "When are you going to come to Metropolis and see me?" she asked, unable to stop herself from pressing closer.
His face lit up. "You mean you still want to …? I didn't think … You w-want to s-see me again?"
"I want to … if you do," she said grimly, hating herself for the hope in his eyes, hating the thought that she might be responsible for extinguishing that light forever. She looked away, unable to meet his eyes any longer.
Clark gazed at her suddenly-downcast face, struggling with his conscience. He should tell her now, tell her why he could never see her again, why they had to part forever …
"I want to," he said. His hand came up to cup her cheek, and he bent his head.
Seeing his intent, she closed her eyes. She didn't want to kiss him … she couldn't kiss him … she *wouldn't* kiss him … after all, the man might be a murderer …
She turned her head away swiftly. "Let's wait," she murmured, trying not to notice his disappointment. "You were right … what you said last night … our feelings might change when we're away from each other for a few days. We should wait. Why don't you meet me … in Evergreen Park in Metropolis on Saturday evening at eight o' clock?"
"Evergreen Park," he said, memorizing it.
"Until then …" said Lois. She walked slowly towards the lodge, aware that his eyes were upon her. She managed to maintain her composure until she was safely inside, where she shut the door and leaned against it, drawing in great gulps of air while hot tears flowed silently down her cheeks.
Four days. I have four days to investigate his background and decide on his guilt or innocence. Four days to *prove* his innocence — to myself, at least.
And please, please, please, let him be innocent! *One* time, just this *one* time, please let me have found someone to love who is decent, and kind!
She drew in her breath on a sob, then pushed herself away from the door. Resolutely squaring her shoulders, she marched over to the telephone and began dialing.
Outside the lodge, Clark watched Lois until she disappeared within the building. He wanted to use his special vision to continue watching her after she had gone inside, but his stern conscience would not let him spy on her like that. He couldn't stop his sensitive hearing, however, and her sobs and quickly-drawn breaths told him of her anguish.
His hands clenched themselves into fists and he resolved that before four days had passed, somehow — he didn't know how — he would find a way to alleviate that suffering.
And anyone watching the glint of steel in the young man's eye, and the determined set of the jaw of the woman inside, would have had no doubt that this remarkable twosome would indeed find their answer.
This story has been languishing on my hard drive for more than six months, and after writing three unsatisfactory endings for it, I finally decided to send it in as is. (I didn't want all that hard work to go for nothing <g>).
For those of you who worry about such things, Lois and Clark *do* resolve their problems and get together in the end …