By the German L&C Fanfiction Team: CKgroupie <CKgroupie@gmx.net>, KiwiPit <firstname.lastname@example.org>, LittleS <Martina.Koerber@t-online.de>
Uploaded February 2000
Summary: In this alternate beginnings story, Lois Lane and Clark Kent meet accidentally as each is playing an undercover role as part of their separate investigations. Can they see through the deception to each other's true feelings?
This is an alternate beginning of Lois & Clark. We took a different angle and a different city. Lois & Clark are already established as well-known investigative reporters at different newspapers, Lois at the Planet in Metropolis, Clark at the Globe in London. On an undercover assignment they meet in London without knowing the true identity of the other.
We want to thank our two editors Georgia and Wendy for helping us with the story. Also we want to announce that for those who don't like "fade outs" there will be a nfic-version of this story available soon.
But now, without further ado: Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm hand for Lisa Lance and Cary Keats!
*Somebody's gonna hurt someone
Before the night is through
Somebody's gonna come undone
There's nothin' we can do*
*Everybody wants to touch somebody
If it takes all night
Everybody wants to take a little chance
And make it come out right*
*There's gonna be a heartache tonight*
Heartache Tonight — The Eagles
It had been raining for hours now. Lois absently watched big raindrops forming into long, asymmetrical lines that searched their way on the cool glass, meeting and crossing other lines, then finally being stopped in their tracks by the white frame of the huge windows and dropping down on the window-sill outside. There the rain had already built a little puddle and it was no wonder, because it had been raining constantly since Lois had landed in London this morning. She grimaced. The weather here really was just as bad as its reputation.
She sighed and looked around in her room. Perry had been generous with her budget this time. The hotel was one of the best she had ever stayed in. She had a big, well lit room with tasteful furniture and a huge white bathroom with a whirlpool inside. She sent a longing glance to the kingsized bed in the middle of her room. The long flight had been tiring and the thought of taking a nap after soaking in a hot bubble bath was all too tempting. But she knew from experience that the time difference was much easier to bear if you tried to accept the other country's hours as soon as possible. The bed and the whirlpool would just have to wait a little while longer. What was she going to do instead? Okay, she could take another look at her notes about Simon, her contact here in London, but to be honest, she didn't really feel like it right now. She already could recite her notes in her dreams, so well did she know them after all the preparations she had done these last weeks.
Suddenly she felt her stomach contract slightly in excitement, as she thought about the reason why she was here. Nothing could go wrong and Lois was determined to make this investigation a success. Anyway, she wasn't going to meet Simon before tomorrow evening and she didn't need to get nervous in advance. The weather was of course horrible, but suddenly she felt the urge to go outside. Otherwise she knew she would give into temptation and go to sleep after all. Maybe there was a nice, warm and dry place somewhere in the neighborhood, in a cafÈ or in a tearoom, where she would be able to get something hot to drink and where she could take in the atmosphere of the city a little bit. Without any more hesitation she took her purse and slid into her coat.
"Clark, I need your story about the Prime Minister's speech in an hour at the latest. Do you think that's possible?"
Clark Kent looked up from his computer when he heard the voice of his editor next to him. "Sure, Chief," he nodded briefly and started to type again.
The story was halfway ready anyway, it only needed a little finishing touch. He didn't like a few phrases he had used and he wasn't satisfied with the final sentence either. Clark loved final sentences that made the reader think, that were suggestive and yet definite and that were supposed to whet the reader's appetite for more. He knew it was a soft spot with him and one his editor thought quite unnecessary and misplaced, but he couldn't help it. He just had fun writing and even when he wrote news he never could completely deny his poetic vein.
Bringing some good style to this story though was much more difficult than he had expected. About half an hour later Clark finally gave up. A Prime Minister's speech was too much of a challenge even for him, he thought with a crooked smile. He sighed when he pressed the "send" button on his computer to transfer the story to the chief. For months there had been no scoop on the London Globe's front pages. He really could use another story that had award potential and his newspaper could as well.
And here I was thinking that there's always something happening in London. Clark sighed silently. Perhaps I'm working for the wrong paper, he thought. Those dirt diggers from the gutter press even make a story and big scandal out of a politician doing something normal like tipping in a restaurant or one of the Royals missing a button on his shirt.
Disgusted, he shook his head. He was more than happy to be able to work as an investigative reporter for the London Globe, one of the world's most respected newspapers. Nothing ever would make him succumb to write for the yellow press. Not even these slow news weeks they'd had lately.
"Speaking of investigative reporter…" Clark murmured to himself and entered the office of Derek Finch, editor-in-chief for the London Globe.
"Mr. Finch, remember I told you about this story I'm currently working on? The new drug ring?"
A few months ago a new designer drug had come up in some clubs throughout the city and ever since had made its way around London and Europe's other big cities.
Like any other drug, Eagle — as it had been named — soon had its first casualties. One of the victims had been the daughter of a good friend of Clark. In his anger and despair Paul had asked Clark to help him.
"If there's someone who can nail those bastards who did this to my little girl, it's you, Clark," he had said.
Even though Clark had told Paul not to expect too much of him — he simply wasn't James Bond and couldn't do miracles either — as a reporter he was very interested in the story and would do anything to bust the drug bosses. Under the cover of a false identity Clark had slipped in the chemical laboratory where Eagle was produced, and worked his way up to the people who were leading the organization.
Derek Finch looked up from his computer screen. "Your undercover story? Yes, you mentioned it. Though I'm still wondering how you managed to pass off as an expert on drugs or something like that."
Clark grinned, satisfied. It always pleased him to be able to surprise his editor. "I check the quality of the produced drugs and give my okay to it. You only need to know some chemistry and people who …"
"… who know people," Finch added, laughing. "I know how our business works, Clark."
Clark nodded and continued. "Anyway, I wanted to ask if I can cut back on my time here in the newsroom over the next three or four days. Word is that a new and very interested customer from the States with a lot of money in his pockets will arrive in London by tomorrow. I thought that perhaps I can make him my ticket to the head of the organization."
"Sounds promising," Finch agreed. "So, you're going to play — what did you call yourself? — Cary Keats once again?"
"Yes, my contact at the lab said I'll be needed during the next days to check the latest production. I suspect that some extra pounds of Eagle have been produced especially for the American customer and now I'm in charge of confirming the genuine quality of the stuff."
"All right, Kent. I give you three days. After that I'll decide whether you'll go on with the story or whether you'll drop it."
Derek Finch actually had little doubt that Clark would get another front page once again. He knew, he could rely on Clark's instincts as a reporter. Nevertheless he would have to kill his best reporter's story if it looked like Clark was at a dead end and very unlikely to get the story. "And remember to report to me and to keep me updated," Finch demanded.
"Okay, chief. Well, then, I'm off for today."
"Good day, my dear! I wasn't expecting you to arrive in London before tomorrow."
Lois looked up from her coffee and gave the man who had addressed her a slightly annoyed glance. He was in his forties, well, almost elegantly, dressed and spoke with a cultivated British accent.
"Stanley, I told you I'd call you," she hissed to the man who sat down at her table, oblivious to her displeasure. "How'd you know I'm here anyway? I'm not being tailed, am I?"
The last thing she needed was all of her moves in London being watched. But how else could Stanley have found her?
"You think I'm following you? Why should I? I'm your informant, not one of them. Believe me, it's pure coincidence that I met you," Stanley reassured her and called for the waitress to order a cup of tea. "I had some errands to do and saw you in here sipping your coffee."
Despite his explanation Lois wasn't quite convinced that her informant had run into her by accident. However, Stanley Kittridge, whom Lois had known for quite a while, had never given her any reason to mistrust him. He was working as a driver for London's underworld and from time to time he sold information or names to people like Lois to help them to find the right persons to talk to and the right places to look for stories.
"Besides, Lois, here at Covent Garden nobody knows me. Your cover is not in danger. You have to admit that it was a brilliant idea to come in and talk to you right now. That way you can save on your phone bill."
Seeing that Lois finally accepted his explanation and relaxed, Stanley asked her about the schedule for the first meeting with the dealer.
"Have you ever heard of a club called 'Just Say So'?" she wanted to know.
"'Just'? Oh yeah. It was famous for its variety of drinks. Well, it still is, the drinks are fabulous, but you know how it is — where there are young, wealthy people, all these designer drugs follow. Of course there is the normal crowd but by now a lot of the people you find at the club either come to buy this stuff, they consume it, or in one way or the other have something to do with it. So be careful when you show up there," he concluded seriously.
"I've known from the start what I'm getting into, Stanley," Lois assured him.
He only shook his head. He wasn't too sure about it, but watching her he realized it would be pointless to say more about this issue. Well, she was a grown-up woman and one would assume she knew what she was doing. If she thought she was capable of handling everything it was her problem. As long as she leaves me out of it, he silently qualified.
Since neither of them had anything to add, Stanley rose. "I'll notify you if anything comes up. Are you staying at the Earl's Inn as you planned?"
Lois confirmed that but cautioned him to use her alias Lisa Lance should he ask for her.
Stanley only rolled his eyes. Did she think he was a novice? Without acknowledging her demand, he left the cafe.
Following his example Lois looked around for the waitress to pay the bill. The headlines of one of the many trashy newspapers caught her eyes.
*I wanna fly like an eagle
The flight that was her last one
Latest victim of new designer drug Eagle a genius
See her grades on page 3!*
How irresponsible, Lois angrily thought. How can they play it down like that! They only make everybody curious about it!
She was doubly glad that a friend of hers, Louie, had come to her after he'd surprised a customer in his club in Metropolis who was about to consume the pills. The stuff wasn't that well-known in Metropolis yet, let alone established, probably due to the price the dealer she was finally able to track down demanded. He had explained it was because of the difficulties he had had bringing it out of England and to Metropolis.
She remembered how difficult it had been to convince her boss that it would be a good idea to get to the bottom of the drug ring, infiltrate and expose them. Perry adamantly had denied her request, he had thought it to be too dangerous but at last she had been successful and he had agreed to her plan.
Without reading the article that was still lying in front of her, she paid her bill. She detested that kind of journalism, if you could even call it that.
Through the rain she finally made her way back to the hotel where she wanted to give in to her tiredness and lie down. Tomorrow was going to be an exiting day, the adventure was about to begin!
Lost in thought Clark made his way to the rest rooms. It seemed as if the new customer hadn't arrived yet, at least nobody in the organization had asked for his assistance so far. He hoped to find out more about the mysterious man from Metropolis tonight. That was why he was in the club. The 'Just Say So' was exactly the right place for information like this.
The gentle breeze he made when walking by one of the more secluded tables in the back of the bar caused a napkin lying there to flutter and then softly float down. Out of the corner of his eye he realized it, turned around, and stooped down to get it. Unfortunately the owner of the napkin had the same idea and bent down at the same moment, causing their heads to connect with a solid whack.
"Ouch," the woman exclaimed and started to rub the sore spot.
Clark rose quickly, the napkin on the floor forgotten. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry. Did I hurt you?" he inquired, concerned.
"I'll live. And how are you?" she wanted to know. She was still holding her hand against her forehead and so succeeded in hiding nearly every inch of her face behind it.
"I've got a thick skull, I'm okay. But let me take a look at you," Clark softly said. He was extremely embarrassed by his mishap and carefully and gently tried to pry her fingers away from her forehead. He immediately noticed the bright red spot that was showing above her brow. "You'll get a bump! My mom used to tell me the only thing to prevent it would be a cold kni…" His gaze shifted from her eyebrow to her eyes and he lost all coherent speech.
In front of him was the most lovely person he had ever seen. Dark, shiny hair framed a beautiful face that was dominated by incredible big, dark brown eyes. She looked him fully into the eyes, her own half shadowed under fascinating long lashes and Clark saw a mixture of amusement, anger and curiosity sparkling in them.
"God, you really have a hard head," he heard her say and he watched her beautiful lips starting to smile hesitantly. "If I'm going to have a bump and start looking like Frankenstein's monster, you'll have to pay, mister."
Clark wanted to tell her that she could never look like a monster. He wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He wanted to ask her out, to marry him and have his children, but no sound came from his lips. Instead he became aware that he was still staring at her. Obviously she noticed it too, because she sent him a speculative glance.
"Are you okay?" she asked alarmed. "Maybe my head was harder than expected?"
Clark awoke from his reverie. "No… I mean, yes, thank you," he answered with an effort and was surprised how strangled his voice sounded to his own ears. "I'm fine."
"Lisa Lance," the woman suddenly said and stretched out her hand. He took it and sensed a tingle start all over his body when he felt her warm skin under his fingers.
"Cl… uh… Cary Keats," he introduced himself. Inwardly he cursed his cover that made it necessary to tell her a wrong name. For some reason the story didn't seem as interesting and important to him as it had only minutes before. Instead he knew that he just had to learn more about this Lisa and it suddenly dawned on him that he had to do something about it. It was now or never.
"Uh, Ms Lance," he therefore hastily asked, "may I get you something to drink maybe? You know, as a reparation for the bump?" Oh man, Kent! he inwardly cursed, did you ever hear a worse pick-up-line in your life? Couldn't you think of something more original?
To his amazement Lisa nodded, though. "Thank you, you may," she answered with a smile.
He let her go first when they went to the bar, trying to use the short time to bring his brain functions back under at least a little control. It wasn't particularly helpful though that his glance caught the breathtaking back-cleavage of that burgundy dress she was wearing. Oh yes, she was gorgeous. All around.
Lois chose a place at the end of the counter, where you had a good view over the whole bar and where you still were able to talk uninterrupted.
If she was honest with herself she really didn't know what she was doing here. Why did you say yes, Lois? she asked herself, astonished. She had no reason at all to have a drink with this stranger. What had happened? She wanted to talk? With this Mr Keats? God, she seldom had heard a cheaper pick-up-line than his 'may I get you something to drink?' before! And she fell for it? That guy most certainly only wanted something for dessert, nothing else!
She sighed and had to admit that her mind probably was right. And yet… When she had heard her own voice almost on its own volition saying yes to his suggestion, he had smiled and… Wow, was that smile great! It took a great deal of control to fight down the butterflies that started to fly in her stomach again, even when she only thought about that smile now and she felt her knees go weak as they had done then, too. Why was she so attracted to that man?
I only want to talk with him. Why not get some entertainment while I'm waiting for Simon? she told herself.
Until now the evening had been boring anyway. Nobody had tried to get in contact with her so far and more and more she was starting to get a little uncomfortable. What if Simon's contacts to this place weren't as good as he had wanted to make her believe? The dealer Simon O'Grady was her only shot at getting into the Eagle scene and she had really counted on it.
The thought of having to explain to Perry that this whole expensive trip to London and her stay in that first-class hotel were for nothing was not something she looked forward to and she really didn't plan on playing out the scene that was forming out in her mind.
Well, it was still early and maybe Simon wasn't even here yet. It didn't do any good to get nervous and the prospect of a talk with Cary Keats got even more promising as a welcomed distraction.
He seemed to be nice and as Lois turned to him now, she also had to admit again that he was really handsome. He was more than a few inches taller than she and as far as she could see in his well-cut suit, his physique was impressive. Lois let her glance trace over his profile while he ordered their drinks. No, definitely not bad, this man. A stubborn lock of black hair fell over his eyes and gave his face a boyish look that got even more pronounced through when the dimples in his cheeks appeared when he was smiling. Speaking of that smile… There it was again and it was really astonishing. Lois felt herself smiling back in return, when he turned around now and handed her a glass.
"Okay, Lisa… May I call you Lisa?" he asked and continued when she nodded, "Good. Then I drink to my head not giving you a bump on your forehead." He winked at her and took a sip.
Lois laughed. "I really hope so. But to be honest, I don't feel anything anymore, so I guess it's not that bad."
She placed her drink on the counter again and didn't know what to say next. Small talk wasn't really her thing and the last time she had talked to a stranger in a bar seemed like an eternity ago. What were you supposed to say in such situations? Oh, yes. Location, job, hobbies.
"So, where do you come from, Cary?" she therefore asked.
She would like nothing more than to ask him how old he was, if he was seeing someone permanently and if he'd like to spent the next few days and the rest of his life with her. She was completely mesmerized and swept off her feet by this man. Never before in her life had Lois met anyone quite like him. She instantly trusted him unconditionally and was even willing to lay her life in his hands. If he'd ask me right now to marry him, I'd say yes. What in the world was happening to her? Lois didn't recognize herself anymore.
"I live here in London," she heard Cary answer her question. "And you? You're American, aren't you?"
"How did you…? Oh, right, it's my accent, isn't it? Well, being British you probably noticed right away."
"British? No. Actually I've been living in London for some years now but I was brought up in the States. In Kansas. My parents have a farm."
Stunned by his own open reply Clark asked himself why he would like nothing more than to tell this woman, who he'd only known for a few minutes, every tiny detail of his life.
"A farm boy from Kansas? You don't look like one," Lois commented with a slight smile. For a mere second she feared that she had insulted Cary with her remark. But seeing the amusement in his eyes she knew that he understood her teasing.
"You should see me wearing my favorite well-worn, plaid cotton shirt, washed-out and torn blue jeans and my straw hat. Not someone a big city girl like you would spend her time with."
Lisa answered with a delighted laugh that was music to Clark's ears and made his knees go weak. This woman was just incredible. He would make sure to ask her out for lunch the next day. If she would agree to it, he would tell her the truth about himself and would explain why he had to lie in the first place.
What am I thinking? Clark asked himself. I don't know a thing about her. Perhaps she's married with three kids or isn't interested in men at all.
Shaking his head he dismissed that thought and returned his attention to Lisa who was still laughing softly and looking straight in his eyes.
"And why not? We big city girls have always been attracted to the extraordinary."
The words had hardly been spoken when Lois realized that they sounded more or less like she was declaring her love to Cary. Looking away she reached for her drink and took a sip to cover her embarrassment. What must he think of me? Probably that I'm some kind of a man-hunting vamp! But as she set her drink back on the table she felt Cary's hand brush against hers almost accidentally.
"And I'm discovering all of a sudden that I'm very attracted to big city girls," he murmured huskily.
Heat rushed through Lois' body, her heart was beating fast and she felt how every fiber of her body was aching for him. She could barely refrain from throwing herself at him and kissing him passionately. Instead she returned his heated look and swallowed hard.
Lois, this is insane! Are you sure this is only flirting? She should direct their conversation to a more neutral and noncommittal subject. "Actually I… I really live in a big city. I'm from Metropolis. Have you ever been there? Maybe on a school trip? I mean in Metropolis. I'd really like to show you around the next time you're there. That is if … you're coming … and if you'd like. Maybe your girl friend … or boy friend? … doesn't like me to … what? What is it?"
Oblivious to the fact that Cary was amused by her babbling Lois only noticed how he was grinning affectionately at her. "Do you always talk this much?" he finally asked.
A little embarrassed, she avoided his eyes and admitted, "Only when I'm nervous."
"Is that a good or a bad kind of nervous?" he wanted to know.
Lois looked at him blankly. "Excuse me?"
Now it was Clark's turn to avoid her stare. "Oh, that was… Forget what I've asked." But Lois wouldn't leave it alone so he had to explain what he had meant. "A good kind of nervous like 'pleasantly surprised' or a bad kind of nervous as in 'anxiously flustered'," he explained without looking at her.
Only now did she understand what he was getting at. The question was, though, should she really skip it like he had suggested she should, or should she answer honestly? A look at him absentmindedly picking apart his napkin — Hm, he isn't wearing a wedding ring! — and the butterflies in her stomach made the decision for her.
"Good," she softly confessed.
Instantly he lifted his head and looked at her hopefully. "Really?"
Yes, there it was again, that smile of his! She nodded and in return gifted him with an equal smile that made him happy he was sitting, otherwise he would have gotten weak in the knees.
For quite some time they didn't speak a word but were absorbed in each other's gaze, until Lois broke their silence. After all, they couldn't sit around the whole evening, looking longingly at each other like teenagers in love. In love? She cleared her throat and hoped Cary couldn't tell what she had just thought.
"So, since you're not working on your parents' farm, what are you doing in London?" she asked brightly.
Clark wasn't even aware of her asking something, lost as he was in her eyes. It was only when she lightly touched his arm and he had the feeling as if sparks flew from the spot where she had brushed against him that he came to. She was looking at him expectantly as if waiting for an answer and he had to admit that he had no idea what she had asked him.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" he asked, embarrassed. Kent, get a grip immediately or she'll be gone faster than you can say 'wow'. She has to think you're a complete idiot if you can't even follow a simple conversation.
Glad that she seemed to have an equally confusing effect on him as he did on her, she repeated her question. "I wanted to know what you're doing here in London, far away from Kansas and farm life in general."
To be honest, that was not a subject he wanted to talk about to her. He couldn't tell her the truth without compromising his incognito here but the thought of lying to her didn't sit too well with him either.
"At the moment I'm working in research," he answered evasively without elaborating. That was even true to a degree. As a journalist he was doing research on the drug ring and chemists did research too, didn't they? "And you, what are you doing in Metropolis?" he asked, to turn the conversation away from him. And without knowing he had asked exactly the one thing that Lois equally was loath to answer.
"Oh, I'm in the entertainment business." She had to smile at the thought of what Perry would say if he ever heard her referring to the Daily Planet as entertainment.
"Aha, so you're here on business? Are you looking for talented up-and-coming actors for your next blockbuster?" he joked and wriggled his eyebrows. "Take me!" As soon as it was out of his mouth, he realized how suggestive it sounded. He really ought to think about what he wanted to say before he opened his mouth and let more remarks like that escape. Lisa thankfully didn't seem to have noticed the double entendre. She just smiled non-committally. Hurriedly he asked, "When did you arrive in London?"
"Yesterday, and I really hope that the weather won't be as bad as now for the rest of the week. If I should manage to have some free time to do a little bit of sightseeing I'd love to do it dry. I don't want to walk around in this drizzle," she lamented, gratified they had found a different subject to talk about.
Clark had to laugh at the miserable face she was making. "Don't worry! The reputation of London's weather is worse than the reality. In autumn it's really as bad as they say but at this time of year it keeps changing in a heartbeat. And believe me, some things are only worth discovering in the mist!"
During the next hour they chatted about sights you won't find in travel guides, life on the island opposed to the States, films they both had seen, travels. In silent agreement they talked about everything except work and so they felt at ease as though they had known each other forever. Lois hadn't felt that good and laughed so much in a long time. And Clark was simply mesmerized by Lisa. They began to flag occasionally when they accidentally touched or their gazes locked but they never felt uncomfortable.
They had long since forgotten why they were at the bar. They weren't aware of their surroundings, only of themselves. Because of this they didn't respond at first when a man appeared next to them, loudly clearing his throat. It was only when he spoke directly to Lisa that they became conscious of him. "Ms Lance?"
Still laughing about the story Cary had been telling her, she turned around. The motion caused her and Cary's hands that had somehow found each other in the last half hour to unclasp, the touch lingering. "Yes?"
"I'm Simon O'Grady. I can see that you've already made each other's acquaintance. You don't waste time, do you?" Seeing Lisa's uncomprehending stare he nodded in Cary's direction. "Cary Keats is the chemist who is responsible for the purity control of the drugs. So if we're doing business and you have complaints about the quality you'll have to work them out with Cary. But I'm sure you'll find ways that," he paused, grinning lewdly, "satisfy you both."
Thunderstruck, Lois sat on her stool. Everything that Simon had mentioned after 'the chemist who is responsible for the purity control of the drugs' was drowned by the roaring in her ears. Cary was one of them? It felt like her world had shattered. Aghast, she looked at him and for a moment his face appeared to show the same expression of desperation, disappointment and pain she knew she must be wearing before Cary once again displayed the same inscrutable mask he had put on since Simon had approached them. She was barely able to regain her composure.
This wonderful man, about whom she had just thought that she had never met anyone as nice before, was a gangster?! How could she have been so wrong about him? Where was her instinct for people?! One second ago she had had feelings for the man that she had never felt before, had thought about how he… how they…
Suddenly she felt sick. "Sorry," she apologized shortly. "I'll be right back."
She stood up and went through the bar towards the restroom. Almost as if in a trance she found the door at the other end of the club and stood in front of the mirror and the sink. Shaking her head she watched her pale face in the mirror and breathed deeply. She needed a moment to regain her composure. Only a few seconds. Then she would be able to look into the eyes of Cary Keats again. Then she would do what she was supposed to do here and that was bringing the drug dealers to jail. God, how she hated that slimy liar! He had wowed her and he was nothing but a common criminal! He wasn't worth her fighting for control of her emotions now and he wasn't worth the heartbroken feeling she got when she thought about sending him to jail.
Lois gritted her teeth and sent a last searching look into the mirror. She was a pro. She was going to investigate this guy and this gang and nobody, absolutely nobody, would know how terribly she was hurting inside.
"Miss Lance is a club-manager from Metropolis," Simon rattled on. "She runs the business in the most exclusive clubs in the city and Eagle will make her clubs even more popular all over the US. We, on the other hand, hope to get an entrance in the American market in return. You know, there's not much going on so far overseas and this Lisa obviously has a lot of great connections."
Clark only heard half of what the dealer was telling him. His face had been stony since Simon had approached them and he was still trying to get over the shock he had felt when he had realized that Lisa was the announced "client from overseas."
The woman of his dreams was a criminal! All his life he had been dreaming of meeting a woman that would 'bowl him over.' That he would see and know that she was 'the right one' and tonight it had happened. He had looked into Lisa's eyes and from that second he had known: this one or none. And now he had to find out that she was a drug pusher! He despised drugs, he despised people that had the lives of countless others on their conscience because of greed and profit. And Lisa was one of them?! How could he have been so wrong!? And why did he feel an almost unbearable pain over the fact that he had to brush her out of his mind *now*! He would have to despise her, too and even worse, he had to bring her to justice.
His smile when she came back to the bar and stood next to him was strained. He could smell her perfume and he imagined he could feel the warmth of her skin where her arm was only an inch from his own. Her physical nearness was as confusing as it had been a few minutes earlier, but now it caused him pain. Interrogate her, Kent, he ordered himself. Don't think about her. Think of the story!
He took a deep breath. "Simon says you're a club-manager in Metropolis?" he asked absently while he looked into his glass with great interest.
"Yes," she answered. "Actually we're trying to build a few more clubs spread over the whole country and I need some kind of attraction."
Clark nodded. "And Eagle certainly is that," he said in a flat voice.
For a moment she looked at him silently. If it hadn't been so absurd, she would have sworn that there was a touch of bitterness in Cary's eyes and in his voice.
"I'm sure I can make it one," she finally replied self-confidently. What did Cary really want from her? Had he known who she was right from the beginning? Had he been instructed to test her genuine intentions?
But now she had other things besides Cary Keats on her mind. The next minutes would show whether she could get a foot into the organization or whether all her work of the last weeks — setting up her cover and contacts — had just been a waste of time. She had to convince Simon that she was a very interested customer who wanted to invest a lot of money in Eagle. If Simon had even the slightest doubt of her intentions, her story would blow up. Not to mention what would happen to her when he realized that she was a nosy reporter snooping around. That was exactly why she couldn't let the emotional roller-coaster ride her feelings for Cary were giving her distract her from doing her job.
Get your act together, Lane! Later you can philosophize on the injustice of life but now go on and play your role. And play it well, Lois told herself.
Simon O'Grady had led them to a table in the back of the club where they were safe from being watched or overheard by the other guests.
"I hope you've already got acclimatized since yesterday, Miss Lance," he began with a smug grin. "But the Earl's Inn is a very good place to feel comfortable, isn't it?"
Giving him a cold glance, Lois ignored his implications that he knew when she had arrived in London and where she was staying. She had expected to be checked on.
"I'm not in the mood for games, O'Grady," she replied impatiently. "You've made me wait for you too long already. What do you have for me?"
Simon shrugged his shoulders indifferently and looked at Lois suspiciously for a moment. "You want to show your guests how to fly with Eagle, Miss Lance? Well, I offer you 6,000 of our little birds by the end of the week. In return I get from you cash — 60,000 pounds sterling or, if you like, 90,000 US dollars on delivery. Small notes, directly from the laundry."
Hearing his proposition Lois could have shouted out for joy. O'Grady had bought her story! But all the two men saw was how she raised her eyebrows in mild surprise and shook her head.
"That's not what I expected," she finally said, obviously dissatisfied. Lois didn't plan to be content with this first small success and to make a deal now. She couldn't get a title story — let alone a Pulitzer Prize — with an article exposing a small time drug dealer. Her goal was to get close enough to the top of the organization to bring down the drug ring, or at least cause some heavy damage to the distribution of Eagle.
"Okay, Lisa. Since my mate Keats here and I think that you're an extremely attractive little woman, I offer you a fair deal — 54,000 pounds." Simon O'Grady seemed to be convinced that Lisa Lance would fall for his generosity act and would accept his deal.
However she only looked at him unimpressed and replied with a touch of arrogance to her voice. "O'Grady, I don't think you understand. I am not interested in a single deal of maybe 60 to 80,000 pounds." Lois ignored the disdainful look he gave her. "I'm not going to buy 6,000 Eagles but 3,000. That seems reasonable to me for the first month with about 10,000 guests at my club. Should Eagle become as popular as I expect it, my second club in Metropolis will also be provided with Eagle and I will need 7,000 pills at least. You can figure what the annual consumption will be with three clubs in Metropolis and one in New York. And don't forget my excellent connections to other clubs all over the country."
Lois leaned back with self-assurance. If she didn't underestimate O'Grady's position within the organization, the deal she was proposing was too big for him. And that would hopefully be her chance to negotiate with the really important people.
But after O'Grady had mulled over her demand for a moment, he only grinned with satisfaction and didn't even suggest transferring Lisa to a more highly placed negotiator.
"That makes approximately 65,000 pounds per month. Sounds very good to me!"
"Not to me," Lois contradicted firmly, though inside her head was spinning. What else could she demand to get Simon to make her talk to his boss? She needed to kick him out of the deal. "That's another misunderstanding, O'Grady. Under no condition will I accept your oh so generous offer of 9 pounds per piece. Your junkies out on the streets may pay that price but not me. Five pounds and we have a deal."
Lois knew she was risking a lot by asking for such a low price. O'Grady could accuse her of not being serious about the deal.
"Wow, lady! Get real," he promptly replied. "We're no discount shop that…"
"Simon," she interrupted impatiently. "If you're not qualified to make the deal, bring me to someone who is. If not, I'm leaving town by tomorrow morning for Miami. I'm invited to the annual Beach Party at the "Sounds" and some of my friends from Bogota will be there as well. And believe me, they'll be more than willing to make the deal with me. My guests don't necessarily need Eagle to be happy."
She was hoping that this comment would cause Simon to give in as she was running out of ideas to push him. If the organization had checked her background, Simon was familiar with Lisa's — forged, of course — resume and had to believe that she had been working at a club called "Sounds" in Miami. The connection to the Colombian drug mafia she had mentioned wasn't far fetched.
O'Grady didn't comment on her demand immediately, so Lois grabbed her purse and prepared to leave. "Well, that's it. I'm out."
"Now wait! Sit down please." Simon sighed. "I'll see what I can do. You'll hear from me tomorrow. But to prove that you're serious about that deal, we want to see money. At least the amount covering the first delivery."
Yes!! Lois congratulated herself. He took the bait. "No problem, but before I pay anything, I want to see a sample."
O'Grady nodded and pointed at Cary Keats who had been persistently silent during their discussion. "That's why Keats is here. Talk to him, it's his department." He gave Lisa an invitation for the opening of a new club the following night. "Come to the party. I'll know more by then."
As soon as O'Grady had left their table an uncomfortable silence settled between Cary and Lisa.
Now that Simon had left her after their half hour conversation Lois became aware of Cary's presence that much more. In view of the strain she would have liked nothing more than to put her head on his shoulder and lose herself in the safety of his arms but she knew that was not an option.
How could a man who was dealing with drugs, whether he was selling or producing them, ever give her security? Still, looking at him he appeared to be able to. She had somehow expected that now she knew about him she'd view him differently but even the knowledge of his criminal activities couldn't change her perception of him. She still saw the friendly, concerned, attentive man she had spent the evening with. Was it possible that she could be so wrong about him?
Meanwhile Clark was going through a similar hell. He couldn't seem to bring the woman he had laughed so lightheartedly with only minutes before in line with the tough drug pusher he had just witnessed. He barely was able to hide his conflicting feelings and keep an indifferent expression. On one side he wanted to grab her shoulders, shake her and yell at her, "How can you do something like that? Don't you know what you're bringing on? The lives of how many families you're destroying only to make a profit?" On the other side he wanted to ignore everything, simply take her in his arms, kiss her senseless and never let go of her again. Why, oh why? Why did he have to fall in love with a criminal of the worst kind? A sigh escaped his lips and resignedly he ran his fingers through his hair.
Lois noticed his gesture and would have liked nothing more than to match it. Instead, she grabbed her glass and squeezed it so hard her knuckles went white. Slowly she felt the adrenaline high she had been on while she was talking to Simon recede.
Surprised, Clark noticed her behavior. Strange. She has absolutely no reason to be so anxious. She has nothing to lose after all. If the deal won't work out here she'll just turn somewhere else. She would make her profit one way or the other. His instinct and experience told him this was his golden opportunity to dig deeper, to find out something about her and her business but he was so overwhelmed by the evening's events that he decided to ignore his inner voice. He only wanted to get the evening over and done with, go home as fast as possible, and wallow in his misery.
"So," he said curtly, "have you figured out how you want to get the sample, Ms Lance? I don't carry any Eagle with me, neither do I sell it or consume it."
"A wise move, only to produce and not to take it," Lois sarcastically remarked before she was able to hold it back. She quickly closed her eyes and inconspicuously tried to inhale deeply, angry at herself for her slip in character. Come on, get yourself under control, she chided. You can't quit now, no matter how lousy you're feeling. You mustn't let him see how much it disgusts you to talk about drugs with him. You mustn't let him know how much you long to touch him and be touched by him…
Desperate with the conflicting emotions he evoked in her she tried to go on with their conversation. "So it's 'Ms Lance' again?" Questioningly she lifted an eyebrow.
Clark didn't want to admit that he wanted to distance himself from this side of her. Lisa was the woman he had spent the evening with. Ms Lance was the woman who sold drugs. He would have given everything if he hadn't had to live through the last half hour. "Lisa. You have been so … demanding of respect that 'Ms' was an automatic response."
Not even knowing why, he grinned at her. Actually he wanted to show her the uncaring coldness she deserved but every time he looked at her he got this warm feeling that made him say and do the exact opposite of what he had intended to.
Seeing his smile, against her better judgment Lois had to laugh. There he was again, Cary, the guy she got on with so well. For a moment there was their earlier connection but much too soon she remembered what he had asked. She straightened up and tried to look as uncompromising as possible to ward off any objections.
"I want to chose a random sample to make sure you're really selling what I'm paying for. And that means I don't want to choose from a mere handful of pills. It would be best if I could choose directly from the source, your production center." She looked at him challengingly.
He hesitated. "Well, that's not the normal course. I'm not too sure about…"
"What do you mean?" Lois interrupted him heatedly. He surely wouldn't cause problems now, would he? "Simon said it would be all right." In fact he had said nothing of the kind but she hoped Cary wouldn't realize if she was convincing enough. "Doesn't the left hand know what the right one is doing in your organization? You were sitting right beside him when we talked about it. You know, if you're having these kinds of coordination problems with all your customers I'm surprised you manage to make money at all."
"I don't have much contact with the buyers. Usually I just supervise the final control or join a meeting if required. The buyers normally test the quality themselves when they hand over the money in exchange for the pills. Anyone who would be satisfied with my say-so would be pretty naive," he replied tersely. "I have no idea why Simon would suggest that you should work out the details of the quality control with me."
Silently he added, Slowly but surely, though, I'm beginning to see why. He must have been relieved to dump her on me. I'm already fed up with her attitude. What had he been thinking, believing with her naturalness and her humor Lisa could be the perfect woman for him? She had to be a gifted actress considering the way she had played her part when they first had met. In every day life she probably ate nails for breakfast. It was time to bring their conversation to an end before he did something stupid. He had to get out of here and fast.
"Okay, let's do it this way. I'm picking you up at the hotel and take you to the lab." She was already starting to protest but he dismissed her objections uncompromisingly. "I don't think it would be a smart move career wise to tell you the lab's location and wait for you to show up in a cab. If you don't agree, complain to Simon tomorrow evening and work out something else with him. As long as I don't hear differently from him it's the only thing I'm willing to do. So, what will it be? Pick you up or discuss it with Simon?"
Lois looked at him pensively, weighing up the possibilities. Cary gave the impression of a resolute man and she didn't think she could change his mind. Additionally, the prospect of seeing the laboratory and finding out its location could prove invaluable and was more than she could ever have hoped for. So she didn't put up too much resistance but acceded to his proposal. They agreed to meet in the lobby of her hotel at noon the following day.
With this out of the way, now seemed to be the right time to say good bye. Searching for her purse, she looked around. Clark was the one to find it under their table where it had fallen down after her encounter with Simon. Giving it to her, their hands brushed up against each other and once again sparks were flying between them and time seemed to stand still. Neither could suppress the shudders that ran through them and only with great effort could Lois break away her gaze from Clark.
"I should be going now," she murmured. She desperately wanted to get to the hotel as fast as possible.
Although he had wanted nothing more than to get away from her just minutes ago, he now couldn't bear to part, so Clark offered without thinking, "Do you want me to accompany you, Lisa?"
She shook her head and rose. "No, thank you. I'll catch a cab. See you tomorrow!"
He stood up as well and couldn't resist laying a hand on her arm again, as if he had to touch her one more time so he could get through the following day. "Tomorrow," he whispered softly.
Though she didn't find it easy, without looking at him or turning around, Lois left the bar.
Clark threw his jacket negligently on his sofa when he entered his dark apartment. Normally he was a neat person, but now he felt exhausted and worn out. The evening which had begun so wonderful and promising had turned out as one of the worst nightmares he had ever had.
Wearily he let himself fall on the sofa, opened the first button of his shirt, and dragged at his tie that had made him feel uncomfortable for hours now. Damn. Where was the delight about finding a hot lead in the story tonight? Where was the excitement, the tingle that he loved so much when he sensed that a story was about to get solved? Nothing. Only resignation and tiredness.
He was aware that he should call Finch and inform him about his new information. After all, his boss expected constant reports about the story. What could he tell him though? Great story, Chief! A genuine scoop! Award material! All that and also the story that will break my heart!
He closed his eyes and caught himself picturing her in his mind again. Oh God, Lisa! How was he supposed to sleep without thinking of her? And that was exactly what he had to do — banish her from his thoughts. A drug dealer from Metropolis simply couldn't be his dream woman. She just couldn't, even if her eyes were so beautiful. Her skin had glowed so softly in the light of the bar tonight, her body had been so exciting, and her perfume that still lingered in his imagination had been so infatuating. That was sexual obsession, hormones or whatever! It certainly was not love. He probably simply was too lonely, or hadn't dated for way too long. Yes, that had to be it. After all he was only human.
The thought evoked a sudden, bitter laugh from him. Human? And where exactly did that conclusion come from? Because from all he knew about himself, he could be anything from mutant, Russian experiment, or alien, to Frankenstein's monster. Humans weren't able to fly and to his knowledge they couldn't see through things either — or start fires with their eyes. Humans also got sick and they couldn't lift cars. For whatever reason, he didn't know, but fact was, he was able to do all that, and had always been. So how did he know if he really was human?
For a short moment tonight, he had thought that he had found the one person he finally would be able to confide in and whom he would be able to tell the truth about himself. When he had looked into Lisa's brown eyes, he had been so sure. Her eyes…
Weird, now that he thought about it, he had felt as if he could read her eyes like a book. But what had he seen? Humor, intelligence and passion next to hurt and uncertainty which he had immediately longed to take away from her… But nowhere a sign of the cynicism that without a doubt she had to possess if she was able to sell drugs. Where in those soft eyes had been the greed, coldness and the evil?
You just aren't as good at second guessing people as you thought, Kent, he scolded himself inwardly. You only see what you want to see and you wanted this woman. Therefore you idealized her and endowed her with everything you ever longed for. You are a dreamer! And an idiot! Grow up!
He shook his head and got up. Sleep was out of the question. He knew exactly what kind of dreams he would have. They would be all about one person and he simply refused to let that happen. Instead he decided that he would look for some diversion. Somewhere in the world somebody with his powers was always needed, so he would probably find something to do that would take his mind off Lisa. Sighing he went to the closet in his bedroom to change to a dark sweater and black jeans. A few minutes later he flew through the starry night towards the sea.
Lois roused with a headache, as the alarm clock next to her bed rang. With a moan she sat up and remained unmoving for a second until the stinging pain in her head lessened a little bit. God, she felt terrible. But was that really surprising after last night? She felt as if she had not slept at all, but apparently she had fallen asleep after all some time in the early morning hours. Her last memory was of her alarm clock showing 5:17 am and now it was after 8. Barely three hours! That really was promising for the upcoming day, wasn't it?
She flung back the coverlet and swung her legs out of the bed. What she really needed now was a hot shower and a big cup of coffee. She had to be fit today and she by all means couldn't allow herself a mistake.
This guy Cary had to be a real pro. With a bitter grimace she remembered how easily he had taken her in and wrapped her around his finger. He certainly had to be aware of his effect on women. But not with her. Now that she knew what was behind the facade, she would be more careful and be better able to handle her emotions. Such things as the goosebumps she had sensed on her skin when he had laid his hand on her arm as he told her goodbye yesterday were out of question now. If he was going to touch her again, she had to remind herself that those were the same hands that examined drugs every day to get their owner an immense profit!
She shivered as she felt an involuntary tingle run down her arm, thinking of his hands on her. So much for theory, she frowned. What am I really going to do?
She would try to find out where exactly the laboratory was located. The police surely would be thankful for such information and it would be a nice bonus to her story when she not only scattered the drug ring and stopped the distribution of the drugs for the time being but also made sure that the lab was closed down and the production of Eagle stopped as well. However, Lois was convinced that Cary wouldn't take the direct route to the lab in order to prevent her from remembering the way and returning later on her own.
On the other hand Cary wasn't aware of her very good sense of direction and her ability to find her way around London. She'd spent enough time in the city not to need a map anymore. Definitely an advantage for her.
But first of all she had to concentrate on her role as Lisa Lance and check the quality of the pills. A scientist at STAR Labs in Metropolis had shown her an easy and efficient method to determine the degree of purity of Eagle. Shortly after Eagle had been introduced to the London club scene, the police had analyzed the new drug and had developed a solution that made it possible to determine the content of those pills. They were able to ascertain within seconds whether it was Eagle or just some ordinary painkiller. Right after Lois had started her investigations for the story, she had asked STAR Labs to develop a similar test for her use.
I just hope this test does really work, Lois thought. She was sitting in a limousine with Cary Keats and was heading for the lab. Instinctively she touched her purse where she had put the little bottle with the liquid earlier that morning. There was no doubt that Keats would get suspicious if she lacked self-confidence performing the quality control and would act like an amateur.
"You're so quiet, Lisa," Cary's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Aren't you enjoying our little sight-seeing tour?"
Lois snorted annoyed. "Very funny, Keats. You think I find it amusing to drive around town in a limousine with blinded windows?"
Her hopes of finding out where the lab was located had been destroyed when Cary had led her to a limo which had dark windows. She couldn't see a thing outside the car. The driver had even closed the barrier glass.
"No, I thought you would understand the necessity of discretion … *Ms Lance*." Clark emphasized the formal address Lisa had chosen first. "And that you wouldn't mind actually seeing me instead of any of Simon's companions."
Defensively he crossed his arms and pointedly looked away If Lisa wanted to give him her arrogant business-woman act, he'd limit their conversation to the bare essentials as well.
How much had he been looking forward to seeing her again only minutes ago. Against his better judgment he had even gone so far as to think about asking her out for lunch just to spend a little more time with her. Maybe yesterday evening it had just been the club's atmosphere and her incredible dress that had literally drawn him to Lisa. Maybe there was nothing more to it. No sparks, no chemistry. Clark now was almost wishing that his feelings for her would dissolve into nothing by the light of day. But the only thing dissolving were his coherent thoughts.
Earlier, in the lobby of the hotel where he had been waiting for Lisa, he had smelled her scent even before she had stepped out of the elevator, and a delighted smile had crept to his lips. His mind had instantly gone into overdrive. The moment he had finally seen her, he had been completely mesmerized by her once again. He was falling for her all over again.
As she walked over to him, Clark noticed how breathtaking she looked this morning. More than he remembered from the previous night. Not even the dark shadows under her eyes and the different make-up she had put on today could change his impression. To him she still was the most beautiful woman in the world. Yeah, the most beautiful woman who is a criminal and determined to treat you like a delivery boy, Clark couldn't suppress a frustrated sigh.
Lois didn't fail to notice Cary's sudden distant behaviour. Already sorry to have been harsh and cold to him she tried to mend the situation. Despite the previous evening's disappointment she had no intention of offending him. At least it could be helpful for her as Lisa Lance to get along well with Cary . Yeah right, Lane, her mind interrupted her musings. Only for the story. That's ridiculous.
"I'm sorry, Cary," she finally apologized to him, ignoring her inner hectoring voice. "I didn't mean it. The jet lag is just worse than I thought. I hardly slept last night and am not quite myself yet."
Surprised and happy about Lisa's words, Clark smiled at her. That sounded more like the woman he had fallen head over heels in love with.
"It's okay, I really understand. But you should rest for a while later on. You wouldn't want to fall asleep at the party tonight, would you?"
All tiredness was forgotten when Lois was looking at thousands of Eagle capsules. The drug squad would have a field day, having the opportunity to take such a load of narcotics off the market. How many people would become drug addicts because of Eagle? How many lives would be destroyed because of Eagle? At this very moment Lois knew once again why she loved her job as a reporter so much. She had it in her hands to expose criminals like these drug dealers and to make the world a better place. Enough motivation to invest all of her energy in this story!
"It's all yours, Lisa!" With an inviting gesture Cary pointed at numerous bags full of Eagle lying on a table in front of them. "Pick some pills and learn to fly. It's on the house. That's why you came here, isn't it?" Clark cursed silently. Why couldn't he hide the biting sarcasm which crept into his voice each time he was talking business with Lisa?
"You don't seriously think I'm stupid enough to take this stuff, do you?" Not waiting for an answer, Lois took the little bottle with the test solution out of her purse and dripped some of it into a small glass tube. Confidently she ripped one of the bags open, picked one pill and threw it into the solution. She finally stoppered the tube with a cork.
While shaking it carefully and waiting for the Eagle to dissolve she shot a quick, searching look at Cary. Why was he looking at her so skeptically? Had he noticed that she had never done this test before? Maybe she should distract him with some technical knowledge.
"Eagle makes the consumer euphoric, enhances the senses, and finally gives the impression of flying, right?"
Clark nodded absentmindedly. Her professional handling of the procedure had hit him like a cold shower and brought him back to reality. "It causes a strong feeling of relaxation," he added, "is pleasure enhancing, and sexually stimulating. Everything your guests desire, isn't it?"
"So Eagle is based on GHB," Lois continued, unmoved.
"Exactly. Gammahydroxybutyrate. It's the stuff that causes such nice depressions if you can't handle the dosage. If you're very lucky, you slip into a coma-like state and you can literally see your brain cells dying."
As soon as Clark saw the mild astonishment on Lisa's face, he grimaced and bit his tongue. What was he doing? He was supposed to sell this stuff, not to knock it.
"You're a strange one, Cary," Lisa promptly replied. "I don't get it. With every word you say I get the impression that you're not very interested in me making the deal with your boss."
She simply didn't understand him. It was his job, for heaven's sake! Why was he always talking so sarcastically about it?
Cary shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not going to spoil your deal. But don't you think it's kind of surreal how we both are talking about this drug as if it was some new sport or something like that? We both know what this is all about. I don't need to rave about Eagle as the ultimate kick."
For a second Lois held his suddenly cold look and wondered about his mood swings before she once again concentrated on the test tube she still held in her hands. The pill had completely been dissolved and the former colorless solution now glistened a deep blue.
"Very good," she stated, satisfied with the result of the test. "Your Eagle really is of high quality. It hardly seems to be diluted." The scientists at STAR Labs had told her that the intensity of the color was related to the purity of the drug. The purer the Eagle, the darker the blue.
"Do you want to take another sample or do you trust me when I tell you that all of the pills are of the same quality?" Clark was hoping that Lisa would be convinced and would end this meeting. All he could think about was leaving the lab as soon as possible and turning his back on all those drugs and on this woman. With every minute he had to spend with the criminal side of her, his despair was growing. Could destiny be to so cruel to send him the woman of his dreams in the shape of a criminal?
To his relief Lisa obviously was content with what she had seen and asked to go back to the hotel.
As she leaned back into the seat, Clark noticed how tired Lisa looked. He didn't want to mention it again so she wouldn't be offended by his hovering but he really hoped she would take a nap in the afternoon.
For a moment Lois closed her eyes before straightening up again. She didn't want to show signs of weakness in front of Cary and let her guard down around him too much. She had to admit though that their meetings wore her out. In his presence she constantly vacillated between enchanted and depressed and that drained her more than she liked to admit.
Surreptitiously she sneaked a glance at him. In a way he was really strange. Considering he was supposedly making a lot of money out of drugs he had a surprisingly negative attitude towards them. He'd almost sounded like he disapproved of somebody taking, or worse, selling them. She wasn't sure what to make of it.
Clark in turn couldn't get his mind off how experienced and professional Lisa had handled the purity control test of the Eagle. He had been able to observe firsthand how much she knew about the drug and that was something that really bothered him. Covertly he risked a look at her face. As much as he intended not to he couldn't help himself. He had to smile a little; he felt like Odysseus trying to resist the sirens' call.
At that moment his eyes met Lisa's. Both were embarrassed at being caught staring at the other but still they weren't able to look away immediately. They were brought out of their preoccupation when the car abruptly stopped at a traffic light.
Something she hadn't thought of in years popped into Lois' mind at the car's stop. To Cary's confusion, she suddenly laughed out loud. If she didn't want him to think she'd gone around the bend, she'd have to explain what had been going through her mind. "Sorry, I was just remembering what I'd wished for as a child when I was in London with my parents."
Seeing her so vibrant, Clark couldn't help but join in her laughter. Every time Lisa was unguarded like now his heart stopped and he forgot the reason for her stay in London. "Out with it! Don't tease me like that. What was it you remembered?"
For the first time since they'd met today she seemed to relax in his presence. "It's nothing special," she told him, without hiding her amusement. "I kept pestering my father to re-cross Tower Bridge — we did it five times. I desperately wanted to be on the bridge when it was raised because I thought it would be fun to slide down with our car. You can't imagine how disappointed I was when that didn't happen!"
There it was again, the animation that drew Clark to Lisa. Not that cultivated, formal expression she put on when she was talking about business, but the happiness that showed him what a sensitive woman she could be. And this transformation made Clark blurt out the question he had wanted to ask the whole time since he had met her at the hotel. "Lisa, would you like to have lunch with me?" He looked at her with those pleading eyes she could barely resist.
Lisa visibly hesitated before she answered, "I would love to, I really would, Cary, but I should lie down a bit. I'm still not used to London time and since tonight is the party…" She trailed off, regretfully.
Clark could tell by the look on her face that she truly felt sorry to not be able to spend more time with him, so he took the rejection in stride. "All right," he said lightly, "but you have to promise me a dance tonight then!"
Slowly the car rolled to a halt in front of the Earl's Inn. On parting she touched Cary's hand. "I will," she promised softly. Their hands stayed entwined a few seconds longer than usual before they softly parted. "I will," she repeated.
Lois bit her bottom lip thoughtfully while loading her e-mail program. She knew she ought to find out as much as possible about Cary Keats, his importance in the organization, his background, contacts. Still, while typing a message for Jimmy to do research on him, she hesitated. He's only one of the small-fry. Jimmy probably won't find anything, anyway. She didn't want to admit to herself that she didn't want him to find something on Cary. Still fighting with herself she reread the e-mail once again before encoding it with the program Jimmy had provided her with.
Cary Keats: who is he, what does he do, what has he ever done, who does he know? Approximately 30 years old, raised in Kansas.
Everything else is for you to find out.
And yes, the girls really are like you've imagined. I still won't bring you one. :-P
She pointed her mouse at the send-button but her finger hovered over the key without pressing it. She was sure she would be able to bring down the gang. But did she really want the police to get Cary? How would it look like if Jimmy did some research now on him and later there wasn't any further mention of him?
Lois knew she should be appalled at herself for seriously considering letting a criminal escape the punishment he deserved, but she didn't care. The only she could think of was Cary's smiling face. Her mind screamed he didn't deserve to be spared, that he wasn't good for her, that he would hurt her. Her heart told her differently, though. Her heart knew that he had touched her like no one else before. And that was the decisive factor. Determinedly she deleted the message without sending it, closed her laptop, and lay down so she didn't have to explain to herself why she had done that.
"Isn't that funny?" The blonde who had attached herself persistently to Clark's arm a few minutes before giggled.
He absently smiled and tried to loosen her grip on him. Until she had made it her task to get his attention he'd successfully listened in on group after group, always hoping for information that might help him with his story.
"I've got to powder my nose now," the girl, Melly, Molly, whatever her name was, declared coyly, batting her eyelashes in a what she considered a seductive manner. Her demand not to move went as unnoticed by him as the rest of her monologue — he was just too glad that she was finally gone.
Over the noise level that had dominated the place for quite some time now, he suddenly picked up soft laughter that made his heart instantly beat faster. Lisa had arrived!
He turned around to watch her. She looked even more breathtaking than the evening before, if that was possible. This time she obviously had dressed to kill. He saw her back first before she turned around and he was able to examine her full on. The dress was cut as high in the front as it was cut low in the back.
She slowly mingled, and as she was walking around, Clark realized that with every step she took nearly the whole length of her leg was showing. Did he imagine it or had it just gotten hotter in here? Lisa seemed to have sensed his eyes on her because she was looking up, meeting his gaze and smiling in greeting at him.
She would have liked nothing better than to walk across the room and talk to him but she had noticed Simon and a rather cheap looking floozy on his arm — She suits him, Lois contemptuously thought — talking to another couple.
He had recognized her as well and obviously wanted to get the conversation with her over and done with as fast as possible because he quickly moved in her direction.
This could prove interesting, Clark thought, and tried to tune out the room's noise in order to listen in on their conversation. It could only be about Lisa getting someone higher up the chain of command for talking business as she had requested.
"Today's not possible. there's too much to look after in the club tonight, as you might understand," Simon explained. "But if you prove your willingness to negotiate by transferring 30,000 US dollars for the first delivery to this account on the Cayman Islands," he slapped a piece of paper into her hand, "you'll get who you want, Ms Lance," Simon promised. "As soon as we have the confirmation of the credit entry to the account, the boss will meet you."
"Why a transfer? Didn't you say you wanted cash?" Lisa wanted to know.
"Well, it was you who wanted a permanent agreement, wasn't it, Ms Lance? Or do you want to come to London every month to pay us?" He couldn't help but smirk smugly when he saw Lisa's dark stare. She obviously couldn't take sarcasm as well as she gave it. "You see," he continued to lecture her, "this way we can check whether the conditions for regular payment do work out. And if we have the proof we need, we can look forward to a long and profitable working relationship."
"When do I get the goods?"
"It'll be arranged that you'll get them the same way as the future monthly orders, so you can confirm that it's a practical method of delivery for you. You'll get them, you can count on that," he assured her. "And you might have noticed we're showing our concession in only charging a grand total of 30,000 dollars for 3,000 pills. That's a better offer than you'll ever get someplace else for something equal."
Lois couldn't put up much of an argument because that was more or less what she had expected. So she agreed wordlessly and watched Simon walk back to his company.
There was something about that couple that nagged at her. She wasn't able to pinpoint exactly what it was but she was convinced that she was looking at 'the boss' even if Simon hadn't said so. It was quite obvious that the couple was guarded. She definitely wouldn't be able to pass the men who were surrounding them.
Thinking about this she became aware that the woman was studying her with an intense look. Did she assume Lois wanted to compete with her or what? Believe me, sister, he holds nothing of interest for me, as far as it doesn't concern the story. Nothing at all, especially when Cary is around.
She watched the mysterious woman more closely now. She had style, that much was obvious. She was dressed strikingly but not tastelessly, and she had a certain air of authority. Compared to her, the 'boss', if he really was — anyway, the man whose arm was around her waist, was dull. Power really seems to be an aphrodisiac, or he would never be able to get a woman like her, was Lois' last thought before a man built like a tower blocked her line of vision.
From the distance Clark had seen how Simon had left Lisa. It took all of his willpower to not immediately hurry to her. I'll stay away from her, she's not good for me. I'll stay away from her. I'll stay away from her. Oh God, if I can't take her in my arms right now I'll explode! He closed his eyes for a moment to regain his composure only to open them to a completely different picture.
"Hey, honey. A hot babe like you deserves to be with the coolest guy in this joint. Whadda ya say?" Neanderthal muscle boy nudged Lisa suggestively.
Gone were all the good intentions that Clark had repeated in his head for several minutes. With a few quick steps he was at Lisa's side and took her hand into his.
"Lisa, you promised me the first dance, remember?" he said before she had a chance to open her mouth and give the man who had hit on her a blistering brush-off.
She sent Cary an astonished glance and realized with perplexity that she was letting herself be pulled towards the dance floor by him. Usually she didn't like to get taken by surprise, and furthermore she was very able to handle guys like that slime ball all by herself, but all anger at Cary's domineering behavior faded to nothing when he laid his arm around her waist and pulled her close.
It was a slow song that was playing, the kind of song that Lois usually avoided at parties like this. However this time she didn't mind her dancing partner being so close to her. It wasn't unpleasant at all, on the contrary. God, he smelled so good! She inwardly fought the urge to snuggle closer to him and she felt the subtle smell of his aftershave beginning to make her head spin like too much good champagne. It was a losing battle.
Involuntarily, without giving her mind a chance to interfere, she closed her eyes and laid her head against his chest. She felt his cheek touch her hair and his lips just over her ear, felt his right thumb stroking slightly over her back where he had placed his hand, and decided to simply enjoy it. It was wrong and stupid and maybe even dangerous, but right now she didn't care. It was wonderful.
Much too soon for Clark's taste the dance was over. When a hard percussion beat announced the next song he reluctantly pulled away from Lisa.
"Thank you," he said softly and looked down on her.
Lisa smiled and nodded. She seemed to be a little bit embarrassed and obviously didn't know what to do next. He had to admit he felt the same. He knew that Lisa wouldn't be able to talk to the boss tonight, because he had listened in on her conversation with Simon earlier and to his knowledge there was nobody at this party who could be of interest to her.
What he really wanted to do was get to know her better, but in this crowded and loud place a real talk seemed pretty impossible. Would she agree to go someplace else with him? Hesitating briefly he finally got up the courage to ask.
"Lisa It's been a horrible day and I'd like to get away from this place as fast as possible. What would you say to going for a drink with me some place not so noisy?"
She glanced around, immensely tempted. She knew she wouldn't be able to get any further along with her investigation tonight anyway and the prospect of spending the evening somewhere alone with him was all too enticing. Furthermore, at the moment Cary was her best source for the story, too. Maybe she could find out a little bit more?
Yeah, the idea wasn't bad. She nodded decidedly and firmly suppressed the remaining bits of resistance that her mind wanted to bring up. "I'd love to," she smiled.
About half an hour later they sat at the bar in the lobby of Lisa's hotel. She had agreed when Cary had suggested going there. He had told her that it was one of the best addresses in London and it would be pretty convenient for her, too, because this way she wouldn't have to drive home alone in a cab late at night.
While they watched the barkeeper mixing their drinks, they didn't talk. Due to the early hour they were almost alone in the bar. Only one other couple was standing at the other end of the counter, and from a dark corner of the room, soft laughter followed by some happy sighing, was heard from time to time, where a young couple was sitting at one of the tables. Obviously somebody was very much in love there. A pianist was playing discreet background music, but otherwise it was very quiet in the bar.
Lois let out a contented sigh and relaxed in her chair. "This is much better," she murmured. "The air in that club was terrible."
"You're right," Cary smiled. "And the music was pretty bad, too. I bet the clubs you're running in Metropolis are much better."
She nodded. "They are indeed. Actually they're first class." She absently stirred her cocktail. "Like everything else about me," she suddenly added, and sent him a provocative glance from under her eyelashes that made his collar suddenly seem very tight around his neck.
She was flirting with him, that much was sure. He had to be reading the signs she was sending very wrong, if she wasn't. The question was, how far did she want the game to go? Or maybe more important, how far did *he* want it to go? He wasn't sure. The only thing he knew with all his heart was that he had never in his life been more tempted to play with fire.
"I bet it is," he said slowly. "You're intelligent, successful and…" he paused and waited until she lifted her eyes and looked directly into his own, "very beautiful," he added without looking away.
Lois felt a blush creeping up her neck. He really was good at that. Maybe he had some expertise as a heartbreaker? The way he looked at her… It made her get warm all over. Obviously he was attracted to her. "Very beautiful" he had said, and going by the heat she saw in his eyes, he really meant it. Suddenly she asked herself nervously where they were heading with this.
She couldn't answer that question because she was distracted by a sight she wasn't at all prepared for. At the door of the bar three familiar faces appeared. Simon, obviously very tipsy, had his arm around two of those blonde dolls that had been crowding the party at the club earlier.
Lois quickly looked around for an escape. She really didn't want to be seen by Simon now. The evening had just begun to be so nice! No, she definitely wasn't in the mood to face a drunken Simon!
Without thinking she whispered a hasty "room 604" to an astonished Cary, who still hadn't seen Simon, and left the bar through the side entrance. It was when she was standing at the elevator that she realized how that must have looked to Cary. Oh my god, did she just invite the man rather explicitly to her room? What was he going to think of her now?
She didn't have to wait for an answer very long, because he was standing next to her before the elevator had even arrived. He said nothing, but sent her a short, speculative glance. As the door opened, he let her enter first.
"Simon…" Lois started to explain as she turned around to him. "I saw Simon. He…" She stopped suddenly when she noticed him staring at her. His eyes were black and there was something deep in his expression that she couldn't immediately describe but that sent a heat wave through her body. For a second their eyes locked then suddenly he was beside her, even before she was able to register that he had moved, and she felt him press his lips hungrily to her own.
The story was forgotten. The drug ring was forgotten. Everything was forgotten. Moaning softly, Lois flung her arms around his neck as he pulled her close to him with one arm, while he burrowed the other in her hair to deepen the kiss.
Her heart was beating staccato in her chest; she was hot and unable to form a single coherent thought. All she felt was her desire for this man, her need to touch him and to be touched by him. His hands were tenderly stroking her bare back and shoulders and made her skin tingle so wonderfully that she wanted him to caress all of her body like that. Impatient not only to feel him but to taste him as well, Lois willingly opened her mouth as his questing tongue gently pressed against her lips.
As their tongues met for the first time, she heard him moan deeply in the back of his throat. At that moment Lois knew that she wanted him with every fiber of her being, even if it was only for one night. Convinced that she would regret it more to stop now than to give herself to this man, to whom she felt inexplicably drawn to, and let him love her for at least this night as she would love him.
Instinctively she pressed her body close to his until their hips met. Cary didn't even try to hide his obvious desire for her.
"You've been affecting me like this from the first moment I saw you, Lisa," he murmured huskily in her ear. The soft and sexy laugh she gave him only fueled his desire.
"Well, we need to do something about that, don't you think?" To emphasize her words she kissed him hard and passionately. There was not the slightest doubt about their mutual intentions.
Later neither of them remembered how they made it out of their clothes and to the bedroom in Lisa's suite. The longing for each other had been too strong to be denied for another minute. Slowly they returned to the reality of the dark hotel room.
Lois couldn't quite believe what just had happened. Their lovemaking had been so burning and passionate that she had lost her control. It was something wonderful she had never experienced before. That was incredible. He was incredible. A sigh escaped her.
"You're okay?" she heard Cary ask softly. With effort she raised her head from his chest and looked at him, smiling contentedly.
"Mmmh … yeah, very okay. That was … incredible," she voiced her thoughts, though she had some doubts whether it was the right thing to say. Could she tell whether he had enjoyed it as much as she had? Would his reply be polite and evasive and hurt her nevertheless?
All her doubts vanished immediately when Cary pulled her into his strong arms and kissed her lovingly. "Yeah, it was, wasn't it?" he answered, grinning.
A sweet shiver ran through her as his hands gently wandered over her body while he showered her face and neck with soft kisses. If only this night would last forever.
She was about to return his kisses when suddenly he was gone and bright lights were blinding her eyes.
"What…?" Lois' eyes widened in panic when she saw how Cary stood up and obviously prepared to leave. He's leaving! He is leaving you alone, her mind was screaming.
Still trying to compose herself, she felt herself being lifted from the bed into his arms.
"I don't want you to get cold," was his murmured explanation, as he held her with one arm and pulled back the covers with the other. Carefully Cary lowered her back on the bed and slipped in beside her before accepting her kisses willingly.
Lois was sure that he felt her relief but she wanted him to know how much this night meant to her. It had to end, but not now and definitely not that abruptly. The world outside of her hotel room didn't exist and she wouldn't mind if it could stay that way for another couple of hours. Sighing contentedly she closed her eyes and snuggled closer to him.
"Hey, you're not falling asleep on me, are you?" Cary asked teasingly. "Or have you already had enough of me?" Without waiting for an answer he once again lowered his lips to hers and kissed her lovingly.
"If you're not already fed up with me," Lois challenged with a teasing gleam in her eyes.
"No way! I can hardly get enough of you. You are so beautiful. I could spend my time just looking at you and touching you." His words were softly spoken and made Lois shiver in response.
Clark felt dizzy, too, almost as if he was in a trance. If he was honest, he'd felt like that since the moment they had entered the elevator and passion had hit him so suddenly. From where he had taken the courage to act so spontaneously and passionate still was a mystery to him, but he didn't intend to solve it tonight. Neither did he want to think about the question of what would be tomorrow. No, he didn't want to think. He only wanted one thing — to feel Lisa in his arms, to see her happy face and hear her ecstatic sighs when they made love. He wanted to soothe his longing for her, to feel her, to love her, to claim her. Yes, to claim her, too. He wanted to become physically and emotionally one with her, to get as close to her as possible. And he knew he wanted that again and again.
Smiling, he looked down on her. "We are not finished yet," he said. "Don't tell me you are tired already, because *I* intend to stay awake a *very* long time."
How often they had made love that night, Lois didn't know anymore. It seemed as if they had both been insatiable. Again and again one or the other had started another 'round', most of the time starting out innocently, with tender caresses, but it had never taken long before this amazing, burning passion had flared again between them. A passion Lois had never experienced before. What had happened?
Lying awake, hearing Cary's peaceful deep breathing next to her, she still couldn't really figure it out. How was it possible that here, at the other end of the world, a man had stepped into her life? A person she had to condemn with all her heart, who, after everything she knew about him, acted against all her ideals, yet he somehow was able to make her happier than any man before him?
Hormones, she would have explained it away only yesterday, and then she would have shrugged it off. But here, in the cold hours of this London morning, she knew that it would have been a lie and that she would not be able to hide behind simple solutions. Not this time. It was no hormonal confusion, it was love. For the first time in her life she had fallen in love. In love with a wonderful and incredible man.
She rolled on her back and stared at the ceiling. Cary was not the usual criminal, that much was sure. She knew that his tenderness and unselfish love-making could not have been faked. It was part of his nature and so was the warmth and understanding in his eyes.
There had to be more to his drifting into criminal life and for a short moment she lost herself in a beautiful vision of redeeming the gangster with true love. But as soon as she thought it, she knew that it was only an illusion. If Cary was capable of selling drugs there had to be at least one side to his character that wasn't acceptable to her and however fantastic the rest of the person was, a relationship with him was impossible.
Somehow this made the night they had shared appear like a cheap and shabby casual one-night-stand. Lois shook her head. Never had she done anything like that. She hadn't even thought it possible that she could ever be tempted! And yet here she was, and even through all the reality checks she did in her mind, she couldn't bring her heart to regret it. It had been wonderful. Not cheap and not shabby. Simply wonderful, and even if her memory of the night probably would be connected with some bitterness in the future, she still was sure that she would never forget him, and that any men who might step into her life someday would still be compared with Cary.
It just wasn't fair to love someone like that, without prospect of fulfillment. She felt her eyes tearing up. Quickly she turned to her side and pressed her face into the pillow to muffle the sobs she couldn't hold back. Behind her she sensed movement and she instinctively held her breath. She didn't want to have to explain to Cary why she was reduced to a crying mess after such a spectacular night with him. Fortunately though, he seemed to sleep the sleep of the dead. He snuggled closer, put his arms around her, and buried his face in her hair. With a last shuddering sob Lois wiped the tears from her cheeks and leaned into the security of Cary's embrace, determined to make the most of tonight. This one night. Tomorrow would be here soon enough.
Why do I have hair in my face? Clark mused dazedly. It was nearly too much of an effort to open his eyes. He was amazed at that because he normally didn't tire so easily. The only thing that eventually woke him was the fact that next to him he felt something warm and soft that didn't seem to be his pillow but a human body. His eyes focused and fell on black hair that shielded the face he had kissed so thoroughly the night before. He couldn't suppress a grin.
Wow, what a night that had been! He couldn't remember ever having felt so intensely. Lovingly he smoothed Lisa's hair back before he carefully traced her cheeks, nose, and mouth. She didn't even stir, but kept on sleeping with her cheek resting on his chest. That was just as well. If even he was worn out she had every right to be. Still, he'd have loved nothing more than to kiss her and explore every inch of her spectacular body that he'd already come to know so well the night before. The mere thought of it was enough to arouse him but sighing he contented himself with gently kissing her on the forehead. Later, he told her sleeping form hopefully.
He checked his watch and realized it was still early. A few more hours of sleep couldn't hurt him either and Lisa might be more susceptible to his attempts at seduction when she was awake. After another whisper of a kiss he closed his eyes and within seconds was in that dozing state between sleep and wakefulness, where he could cherish the hopes he could take Lisa in his arms, fly away with her as far as possible, and start a new life all over with her.
The next time he awoke was when Lisa tried to carefully disentangle herself from his arms.
"Morning," he murmured sleepily, but she only looked at him wordlessly and turned around to walk into the bathroom. "Lisa?" he called after her, irritated, and lifted his hand as if to hold her back, but she didn't react.
As soon as Lois had closed the door she had to lean against it because her legs wouldn't support her any longer. She had lain awake for quite some time already, not being able to bear leaving Cary's arms and losing his touch. She could only just control the overpowering desire to touch him, caress him, arouse their passion again and let him know how much she loved him.
Instead she had watched him and tried to memorize his face the way it was then: open, vulnerable, relaxed, innocent. She had known that she had to think about what she should tell him when he awoke. She didn't have the faintest idea, never having done anything similar before, never having had awkward conversations 'the morning after'.
And that was when she had realized that she had to get up, that she needed the physical distance. In his arms she would never be able to think about letting him go. His waking up when she was about to leave the bed nearly had wreaked havoc with her plans. She was aware that her exit must have looked like an escape, but if there was something she couldn't do right now, it was face him.
Dumbfounded, Clark puzzled over Lisa's reaction. He couldn't imagine what had happened. Had he done something? He sat up, bewildered. Could it be she was having doubts? Did she feel overpowered? He *had* to talk to her, if she ever came back out of the bathroom.
Lois eventually stepped to the washbasin to brush her teeth, and she caught sight of her reflection. Who is this woman? It couldn't possibly be her — the hair tousled, the mascara slightly smudged, the lips red and swollen from Cary's kisses, a small wound where she had bitten herself so she would not cry out in ecstasy. Her gaze wandered lower. Trance-like she touched the mirror on the spot where Cary had put a hickey on her breast, directly over her heart. For a moment she allowed herself to get lost in her memories, the most beautiful of them hearing him say, "Fly with me, Lisa," in a moment of passion.
Thinking of the completeness she had felt then, her tears started to flow again. Stop crying, she resolutely admonished herself, if unsuccessfully. Tears won't help you!
She had to make herself presentable again, prepare and make sure she could enter the bedroom without falling into bed with Cary once more. If she didn't succeed now in telling him that this night was all there could ever be between them, she would never be able to free herself from the bond she had instantly felt with him.
In the still of the night she had given them this one time, but now it was morning, time to face the facts. He was a criminal, there was no denying it. No one she could ever have an 'and they lived happily ever after' with, no matter how much she believed she loved him.
She splashed cold water on her face to erase the trace of tears and to convince herself the burning in her eyes was due to the soap and not to tears. Thinking of him again, her heart beat loudly, rapidly.
"It's wrong." She tried to reason as if she could silence it by saying the words out loud, desperately trying to convince herself. "How could I do that? How could I be so irresponsible and sleep with him? With a man dealing with drugs? With a man I barely know?" she whispered. If she repeated it often enough, she might even believe it some day. "Stupid! Irresponsible," were the words her common sense screamed.
But why didn't it work like it was supposed to? Why did her heart still hurt so much and only remembered the feeling of being loved, desired, and cherished? And why couldn't she stop crying?
Clark's eyes widened in horror when he heard Lisa. He had listened for sounds from the bathroom indicating she would be out soon, but what he had learned now was more than he could bear. Once again his abilities proved to be more curse than blessing. The message Lisa was sending unknowingly to him was loud and clear. She reproached herself for making love with him, well, who was he kidding, for sleeping with him. It had been a mistake?
Bitter, he flinched. Okay, that explains why she didn't want me to touch her earlier. And with that the talk he had wanted to have with her was superfluous, too.
Resigned, he rose from the bed and looked for his clothes that were scattered all over the room. There was no reason to complicate the whole situation by awaiting Lisa's return sitting in bed naked. Why, Clark, you obviously weren't at your best tonight, despite what you've been thinking, he told himself sardonically, while a different voice contradicted, 'But she looked at you so full of love.' 'She's a good actress, that's all!' 'Stupid! Irresponsible!' The voices resounded in his head. He was so depressed by what he had heard that he couldn't even bring himself to look in on Lisa. And then, just as he was about to put on his jacket, the door finally opened.
Thunderstruck, Lois stopped in her tracks. He wants to leave? Just like that? Even though she had wanted to tell him it would be best if they didn't continue to see each other like this, that was something she hadn't expected. She stared at him aghast and noticed how his face hardened. The cold, detached way he looked at her nearly broke her heart.
Clark had studied her expression as well but came to a totally different conclusion. Dear God, Clark, she was expecting you to be gone when she stepped out, that's why she took so long! Okay, pull yourself together, order your heart not to go wild when you look at her, and try to get everything over and done with as decently and fast as possible. Don't let her see how much it hurts you to go and that you'd gladly fall down on your knees in front of her if she'd only love you. She mustn't know how much she means to you. And please, please, please, save yourself the speech she must have prepared to boot you out now. You'll lose it if she tells you that it's been quite nice…
"I'd better go then," he said with an emotionless expression, that didn't reveal the turmoil on the inside, without giving her a chance to say anything more. "I have a lot of errands to run. I'll see you around."
Lois could only stare at him. She made a fist in the pocket of her bathrobe, her fingernails cutting deep into her hand to distract her from the pain that was spreading from her heart. Had she really been such an easy conquest that now after the thrill of the hunt was gone he could shove her aside like that, be so cold? But perhaps that was for the best. With these words she now knew that he didn't feel for her the way she did for him. Maybe now not seeing him anymore wouldn't hurt so much.
It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do to show no emotions now. But she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of breaking down in front of him, letting him see how devastated she was by his words. She cleared her throat and hoped he wouldn't be able to detect the trace of tears in her voice. She had to swallow around the lump they were making and tried again. "I'll see you around," she said hoarsely, repeating his words.
Without saying another word Clark went to the door. Don't turn around, don't turn around, don't turn around, he chanted like a mantra. Convince her you don't love her like you do, that it doesn't tear you apart inside. Go out of her life and whatever you do, don't turn around or you'll make a fool out of yourself!
He could sense her stare on his back and he was relieved that she couldn't see his eyes begin to water suspiciously.
Softly the door closed behind him. On the outside he had to lean against the frame, breathing deeply before he left the hotel as fast as possible, hoping in vain he could leave the pain inside as well.
In her room Lois stood rooted to the spot for quite some time before the numbness gave way to a flood of tears. Sobbing, she collapsed on the bed and cried more desperately than ever in her life. He was a bastard to treat her like that. Obviously he didn't love her. He had made her feel like a slut except he hadn't offered to pay her. With those few words he had managed to turn this night that had seemed like the single most beautiful time of her life, something she had wanted to keep in her heart forever, into a meaningless, hurtful episode. He didn't deserve her tears.
Sure, she had intended to tell him it would be better not to see each other any more but she wouldn't have wanted to hurt him purposely. She wouldn't have been able to stand it, she loved him too much for that. It looked like he didn't have the same reservations. She knew that this kind of separation was better for her. This way she would eventually stop crying over him, thinking about 'what ifs'. But how could something so right hurt so badly?
It took her a long time before she was able to go into the bathroom again and wash the tears from her face. This time she didn't look into the mirror. She knew she looked horrible anyway and she really didn't want to be confronted with the tears and the obvious sadness in her face. Instead she let cold water wash over her face and hands and felt herself calming down a little bit. The pain was still there, but at least it was manageable now.
She would do what she had always done before when she had to face a setback in her personal life. She would plunge into her work. And you have a lot of practice with that, she thought with an ironic smile. After all you really know how to pick them, don't you?
She went back in her room and sat down on the bed. What should she do next? It was really important to find a way to talk to the boss of the drug-ring personally, but she needed 30,000 dollars for that.
Speculatively she glanced at the alarm clock next to her bed. Nine o' clock here- that meant four o'clock in the morning in Metropolis. Usually not the best time to call, but Louie was an exception. Most certainly he would be just about to close his bar, and if she hurried, she could still talk to him before he set home. Perry, on the other hand, would very probably be not too enthusiastic about being called in the middle of the night but his anger was something she decided to risk. She needed his okay for her plan. Sighing, she grabbed her phone and dialed the area code for Metropolis.
Clark had left his apartment again as soon as he could. At the same time as Lois was trying to explain to a very skeptical editor-in-chief that not only was it an absolute necessity to transfer the Daily Planet's 30,000 dollars from Metropolis to an account on the Cayman Islands, but also that the transfer had to be made by some dubious bar owner Perry didn't knew himself, he found himself on the way to the Globe. He wasn't so sure what he actually wanted to do there, but he told himself that it was sensible to show his face there from time to time and to give some report on the Eagle investigation.
Only when he sat in front of his computer he admitted to himself that he had come here for a completely different reason. He typed "Lance, Lisa /Metropolis/USA" in the search machine of his computer and caught himself feeling his heart beat a little bit faster while he waited for the result.
He had to learn more about her. Even if she had brought him back to earth so cruelly this morning, he just wasn't able to banish last night from his head. Somehow everything he knew about her didn't match. Deep in his heart he was afraid that it was only male vanity but the bigger part of him was sure that her feelings hadn't been faked last night.
It had been so wonderful, so incredible and indescribably good, it just couldn't be true that she had only pretended all this! No, the woman he had held in his arms last night and the woman who had pushed him out of her room and life this morning hadn't been the same person. Last night, Lisa's eyes had been full of love, warmth and trust. No sign of that coolness and that cynicism she had tried to convince him of today. She was no icy criminal. Nobody would ever be able to convince him of that! There had to be more behind it!
"Zero matches found for Lance, Lisa / Metropolis, USA" appeared on his screen. What? How was that possible? If she was the manager of the most exclusive string of clubs in Metropolis she had to be a public person. It wasn't possible that there was no mention of her in any American newspaper at all, was it? Not even in one of the tabloids? No picture, no report, no gossip bits, no nothing? But obviously it was. Bewildered Clark stared at his screen.
When Lois put down her phone after half an hour of intense debating, she sighed with relief. As expected Perry had been a difficult negotiator, but in the end he had consented to transfer the 30,000 dollars and now she had the chance to prove the respectability of her offer to the drug gang's boss. Therefore she hopefully would be able to find out soon who was the head of the organization. The remaining question was now what should she do until the money arrived here?
After a few seconds of consideration she grabbed the phone again. "Lucy?" she asked when a sleepy voice answered at the other end of the line. "It's me. Oh, Luce, I really must talk to you!"
"Lois?!? Do you have any idea how late it is? It's nearly 5 a.m. over here and I do the night shift at the restaurant this week and…" Lucy clearly wasn't too thrilled about her sister's call.
"I'm sorry, Lucy," Lois interrupted. "I just… look, I'll call again later."
Hearing Lois' down-hearted voice Lucy was wide-awake at once. That didn't sound like her sister at all. She knew her well enough to sense that something wasn't quite right. Trying to keep a light tone she said innocently, "No, it's okay. What's up? How's the weather in London?"
A deep sigh was Lois' immediate reply. Her words were barely audible when she said, "As bad as I feel."
Lucy frowned. When was the last time she had seen her sister in such a depressed state of mind? Hardly ever. Frustration was no stranger to Lois. More than once — whenever a story came to a dead end — she got frustrated. But depression was very unlike her. "Having problems with your story?"
"No, not really."
Shaking her head Lucy leaned back against her pillow. Being untalkative was even more uncharacteristic for her sister. "What's the matter with you? You're not calling me in the middle of the night to ask whether I remembered to feed your fish. Come on, Lois, talk to me. What happened?"
For a minute Lois was hesitant to tell Lucy what was bothering her. Should she really tell her the reason for her desperation? Tell her about Cary and last night? Could she bear it if Lucy confirmed how stupid she had been by giving in to her feelings? However if she didn't want to go nuts she had to talk to someone about it. Maybe then she wouldn't have to think about him all the time.
"It's because of him," she finally confessed. "Lucy, why in the world did I do that? How could I be so stupid to fall for him? I dropped every guard and hung on every word he said. He buttered me up and I loved it! Tell me, why did I do that? Normally I'm not so impulsive when it comes to men, am I?"
Now that she had decided to confide in Lucy the words poured out of her mouth. Hardly able to understand what her sister was talking about, Lucy interrupted Lois and grinned with amusement.
"Hey sis, slow down! You're babbling. How about you start from the very beginning? Who is 'he'? You've met someone? Great! What's his name? What does he look like? Knowing you, he must be a hunk. You always get the good-looking guys."
Despite her desperation Lois had to grin. How long had it been since she and her sister had talked about men? "Cary. His name is Cary."
Hesitantly at first, then with more assurance she told everything about Cary and the few times they had met. Everything except last night. "And then we left the party and had a drink somewhere else," Lois ended her explanation.
"Well, that sounds very romantic — love at first sight and inexplicable attraction," Lucy finally commented. "But better get away from that guy. Lois, he's a criminal. Who knows what he wants from you? Maybe next time he'll slip some drugs in your drink."
"No, he wouldn't do that. I know, he…"
"He wouldn't? How can you be so sure? What do you know about him? Maybe he's hot for you and only wants to get you in his bed."
Lois swallowed hard at that remark. That was exactly what she had been telling herself for hours, wasn't it? But why did she still have such strong feelings for him despite everything that had happened that morning?
"Lois?" she heard Lucy ask and realized that she hadn't answered yet. However her silence said more than a thousand words. "Don't tell me you slept with him?"
Involuntarily Lois blushed. Her mind was still full of memories of that incredibly sensual and fulfilling night, no wonder she was physically reacting to it. "I … well… Lucy, I… I can't explain. It just happened."
"What?" Lucy squealed. "You slept with him after knowing him for one day? Dear God, Lois, that doesn't sound like you at all. It really must have hit you hard. You've fallen for him big time or you wouldn't have done it, haven't you?"
"I have, Lucy. I have. I've never felt like this before. You know, when I'm not with him, everything is clear. I can tell myself that he's not good for me, that I shouldn't be attracted to someone dealing with drugs. But as soon as my eyes fall on him, reason seems to make an exit and everything that's left is my beating heart, weak knees, and butterflies in my stomach," she confessed, laughing with embarrassment. "Sounds adolescent, doesn't it?"
She could hear the smile in her sister's voice when she answered. "A little, but that's okay. So, shoot, how was he?"
"Lucy!" Lois exclaimed, flabbergasted. "I won't tell you *that*!"
"It wasn't worth it, then, was it?" Lucy knew that with a little bit of digging, prodding and pleading she would make her talk. That was why she had been calling, to pour out her heart to her after all.
"Oh yes, it was," Lois said reverently. "It was simply incredible," she echoed her words to Cary the night before.
Now Lucy was really curious. "Yeah? How so? Does he have a unique technique or what? Is he extremely well … built? Lois, come on, don't tease! I want to know right now. You can't make hints like that and then not tell me more about it!"
Lois was squirming. On the one hand she was dying to tell Lucy how fantastic the night had been, how he had made her feel so special, how his touch had affected her, but on the other hand she had scruples about talking about it. It was her little sister, for Christ's sake! "Oh well," she finally blurted out, "if you really want to know, it lasted all night!"
Lucy didn't understand at first but then realization dawned. "He's a real stud, your Cary, huh?" Her giggles were contagious and unwillingly Lois had to join in the laughter.
"Hmmmm!" she confirmed dreamily when they had finally calmed down a bit. Talking with Lucy really had helped, Lois was already feeling better. That was why her sister's next question hit her that much harder.
"And what's going to happen now with you two?"
For a moment Lois was silent before answering with forced indifference. "Nothing. He … It's no longer an issue."
Lucy wasn't convinced by her apparent casualness though. "How so? Have you really managed to let him go the next morning despite his being so fabulous in bed?"
"Almost, but…" Lois was pausing again, "Oh well, I've told you so much already, I might as well tell you the rest. Anyway, before I could tell him it would be best not to meet in private again, he was out the door telling me 'I'll see you around'. I'm just surprised he hadn't already left while I was still sleeping," she added bitterly. "Probably even he was worn out after the night we shared. I really know how to pick them, don't I?"
"Oh Lois, I'm so sorry," Lucy said compassionately. She could hear in Lois' voice how much she was disheartened by this whole incident. "That's typical male! A wolf in sheep's clothing! I tell you something — he's not worth crying a single tear over him even if he seemed to be so nice in the beginning."
"Well, I have to give him this, he really had me convinced with his Mister-Nice-and-Harmless act. I just want to know how successful he was with other women with it. I really thought he lo… that he cared for me. But you're right," she said determinedly, "he isn't worth a single tear. The best thing I can do is count him as another experience to learn from."
"Exactly!" Lucy agreed. "That's the way to think! And now go, knock them out, and show them not to fool around with you. Let them know what tough stuff Lanes are made of!"
Lois had to laugh at Lucy's encouraging words. "I will, Luce," she promised. "And when I'm back in Metropolis we'll have a nice relaxing weekend bitching about men, okay?"
"All right. Do you want me to ask Mom whether or not she would like to join us?" Lucy couldn't help but ask.
"Not if you value your life!" Without another word both of them ended their conversation laughing.
Something was nagging at Clark while he went over to the laboratory. There would surely be work for him due to Lisa's order. No matter where he had checked, he hadn't been able to come up with a single bit of information about Lisa Lance, neither in Metropolis' newspapers nor on different rave or party sites on the internet. And all that after a whole morning and half an afternoon of searching. True, it was possible she didn't like the limelight and as a manager was only responsible for organization and finances, though with her looks she surely would be successful in public relations. Still, it bothered him that he hadn't found even the slightest mention of her. Something didn't ring right, his instinct told him that. He really should investigate it.
To his surprise, a very hung over, bad-tempered Simon awaited him. "There you are, Keats! It's about time! Where the hell have you been all this time? Do you or don't you work for us?" Clark just lifted an eyebrow and looked at Simon quizzically. He went on mumbling, "All these special favors, no doubt. Those Americans think the world centers around them. Spoiled, arrogant bitch. If it were up to me I wouldn't do business with her."
"Something happened?" Clark was curious. He wasn't able to make sense out of what Simon mumbled. It would have been better, though, if he had just kept quiet for Simon went straight into another tirade.
"I'd tell this *lady*," he spat, "she should keep her money, or better yet stuff it where the sun doesn't shine, and see where she gets her pills from. Does she think she's the queen of China or what? I don't know where she gets the nerve to treat me like a henchman. Am I her errand boy? Ms Lisa Lance, Ms High-and-Mighty, Ms Arrogance herself, comes into town and she really thinks that automatically gives her the right to order me around!"
At the mention of Lisa's name, Clark sat up expectantly. Did this mean the deal was about to happen? Did something finally break? He tried to look as nonchalant as possible. "Have you been in contact with her then?"
Simon snorted, infuriated. "I've called her because we've received the money and I had to arrange for a meeting with her so I can hand over the delivery note. And that's when she started to make demands again. 'I expect the pills to be from the same batch I've tested. I've satisfied myself to their quality and don't even try to foist other pills on me. And I won't tell you again, but I insist on a different negotiator next time. Nobody other than your boss will do. I talk about the main deal, the monthly deliveries, with him or I won't talk at all. Am I making myself clear? Don't think I'll discuss a deal of this magnitude with a puppet like you!'" he mimicked her voice.
"She's so snobby, man! And doesn't even know the boss is a woman and not a man!" Upset, he looked at Clark. "I need a drink. Two. Three. I won't be able to bear this, this, this …" Slowly but surely he was at a loss for swear-words for Lisa. "I just can't stand her sober." Suddenly though, his eyes lit up and he scrutinized Clark from head to toe. "Hey, Keats, you know, you've been getting along with her quite well, haven't you?"
"Why?" Clark asked carefully. He had no idea to what extent Simon had noticed their behavior at the party or in the bar and he wanted to avoid revealing too much of his relationship, or now his non-relationship with Lisa.
"I have got a brilliant idea! How about you go to the meeting with Lance in my stead and explain the whole thing about package and delivery to her?" he asked, clearly enthusiastic about his idea.
Clark instantly was on the defensive. To see Lisa again probably wouldn't be such a great idea, considering the messed-up morning they had had. "I don't think that's a good suggestion. I have absolutely no clue about delivery, so I wouldn't know what to tell her!"
Simon dismissed his objection with a shrug. "Nonsense, that's simple! I can explain it to you right away." He patted Clark's shoulders familiarly and led him in the direction of the office. "You are a bright guy, you'll remember it, don't worry. The whole thing is so foolproof that even my five-year-old nephew would understand it!"
Of course Clark had realized that this could give his investigation a real boost. The most he had found out up to now was how the pills were packaged but he hadn't been able to come up with how they were delivered. Nonetheless he wasn't keen about the prospect of facing Lisa.
"Come on, don't make a fuss. You would really be doing me a big favor. I'd owe you! Perhaps a season ticket for Arsenal. You like football, don't you? Or maybe you have noticed one of my girls? I could arrange something for you!" Disgusted, Clark grimaced. Simon noticed his expression and went on, "Okay, no matter what, you name it and it's yours!"
Solely because of the possibility of learning more about the way the pills were distributed Clark no longer closed his mind to Simon's proposal, even if there was no chance he would tell Simon that. "All right," he finally said with deliberate casualness. "If I can do you a favor. But you really owe me!"
"Sure, sure! Okay, listen. It works like this. Lance has ordered 3,000 pills, simply as a test run to see how well it sells at her clubs. Those pills are wrapped in a nice package with six bottles of 500 pills each. Since we want her to be a permanent customer we have consented not to stick to the agreed on 7 pounds per pill but to make a nice round total of 30,000 dollars which she's happy with. But that's beside the point. I've told her as much yesterday evening already and that's what she has transferred after all. Anyway, we will pack these bottles, supply them with forged papers that will declare them legal narcotics from a pharmaceutical corporation. And that's the delivery note you are to hand over tonight. She'll need them to claim the goods as her own. And that's all you have to tell her. If she's pissing you off as much as she does me, you have your say, slap the paper into her hand, and run for your money. Simple, isn't it?" He looked at Clark expectantly.
Clark was lost in thought, considering everything he had just learned, so he barely noticed that Simon was waiting for a reaction from him. "Yeah, foolproof, you're right. And it's working?"
"Of course! Every single time!" Simon declared proudly. He looked at his watch. "Hey, it's time for you to go! Considering the traffic you'll need a while. It would be best if you'd just leave. Your meeting is in a quarter of an hour at the King's Arms, a pub in the West End. You know it, right?" Clark confirmed it and Simon went on, "Oh, and in case she asks again, we'll contact her about meeting the boss tomorrow. Now go!" he urged Clark to finally leave.
A little after the arranged time, Clark stood outside the pub. He prepared himself for the meeting with Lisa, took a deep breath and decisively stepped into the pub. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the darkness he looked around till he met Lisa's gaze.
For a short moment their eyes locked and Clark couldn't help the involuntary smile emerging on his face. He was happy to see her again. It was certainly dumb and stupid, but, as he approached her now, he realized how much he had missed her the whole day.
Clearly she had expected Simon instead of him; the surprise was evident in her eyes. And for a second there was something else that let Clark's heart thunder rapidly in his chest all of a sudden. Happiness? She was happy to see him, too?
The impression vanished as quickly as it had appeared and her expression became as cool and businesslike again as it had been while she had talked to Simon yesterday. "Oh, it's you," she said shortly when he came closer.
He sat down in the seat across the table. "Simon couldn't come," he explained and waved the waiter to order something to drink for himself.
"I didn't want to talk to Simon anyway," Lisa announced somewhat snappishly. "I think I made that clear enough yesterday. And no offense, but neither do I want to negotiate with you."
"Well, you don't have to," Clark said wearily. "Simon told me he would call you tomorrow about a meeting with headquarters."
Lois nodded briefly. After a pause she sent him a questioning glance. "So why are you here?" The moment the words were out of her mouth, she already regretted them. What did she want to hear? That he had come because he wanted to be with her? That his disappearance this morning hadn't been what it looked like? That he had a genuine interest in her? This is absurd, she scolded herself inwardly. Even if he did say something like that, it wouldn't really change anything! You can not have a relationship with him. No, all right, she couldn't. But somehow maybe it wouldn't hurt as much anymore if she knew that last night had really meant something to him.
Clark was getting more depressed by the minute. How could she be so cold? How could she sit there and talk about that damned business, when here he was, feeling as if his heart had been torn out of his chest? You couldn't just shrug off and forget an experience like they had shared the night before, could you? Even now, as he was sitting across from her, he could smell her perfume, could sense the warmth of her skin. And when she looked at him under those incredible long eyelashes, as she was doing now… He felt a tingle spreading over his whole body. Why was it suddenly so warm in here? He needed some air.
"Here," he said in a tight voice and gave her the folder with the delivery note. "Simon told me you would need that. Will you please excuse me for a moment?" He got up hastily and went in the direction of the rest rooms.
Somewhat perplexed, Lois watched him disappear, but called herself inwardly back to order. For a moment she had actually completely forgotten about the delivery note. Sighing, she took the inconspicuous piece of paper in her hand and looked at it curiously. So simple and yet so effective. A small delivery note, a couple of false bottles was all it took and Eagle was cleared through customs.
"Well isn't that…? But yes, sure! Lois Lane!" a voice suddenly exclaimed next to her. Bewildered she looked up.
Derek Finch, the editor-in-chief of the London Globe, whom she had met at some journalism meetings a few times, was standing in front of her. He grinned broadly and stretched out his hand. "Lois, how nice to see you again. But what are you doing in London?!"
Two tables away a man in a black leather jacket raised his eyebrows in surprise. Lois Lane? he thought in amazement. Didn't they tell him the name of the lady from America was 'Lisa Lance'? Also she didn't seem too happy about this meeting, at least not if he interpreted that frightened look she sent in direction of the restrooms correctly.
"Oh, Mr. Finch," she was stammering now. "This is really a surprise." She took the offered hand and shook it briefly. "I didn't expect to meet anyone I knew."
I bet you didn't, her observer thought. And pretty uncomfortable you seem to be. I would like to know why?
Mr Finch, however, didn't seem to notice her discomfort. Without asking for permission he sat down in the chair which had been occupied by Clark a few minutes before and smiled kindly. "So how are you doing, Lois? Still working for the Daily Planet? You know, if you ever consider working in London, the Globe would offer you a job any time!"
"Whoa," the man in the leather jacket blurted out, then caught himself immediately covering his astonished exclamation with a cough. Well this was news indeed! This American obviously was a reporter!
Hastily he got up and threw a couple of pounds on the table. His order had been to observe her closely, but he knew when it was time to act against orders and this definitely was such a moment. He had to report his discovery immediately!
It took some time until Clark had himself back under control enough to face Lisa again. It couldn't be helped, he told his desperate reflection again and again. He had to get the story and had to push back his feelings. When the drug gang was behind bars, there would be time enough to lick his own wounds. Today definitely wasn't the right time and he would go out again now and he would act as professional and cool as Lisa did. What she could he could, too.
Once more he inhaled deeply, then he turned around and left the rest room. As he approached their table though, he noticed that she obviously had found company. She was talking with a man who sat with his back to Clark. Simon? Had he come here after all?
Clark frowned. "Excuse me …?" he said politely when he was standing next to the table, "… but this was actually my seat."
At the sound of his voice the man turned around in surprise. "Clark? What a surprise to see you! Oh, and you know Lois Lane? Why didn't you tell me she was in town?"
Speechless, Clark stared into the face of his editor-in-chief.
His head was spinning. Why was Derek Finch sitting at Lisa's table? Had she heard Finch calling him "Clark"? He should be able to get out of that with some lame excuse. How could he telegraph his boss that Lisa only knew him as Cary Keats? Clark had to get rid of him before Finch would blow his cover.
"Oh, it's you," he managed to say politely. "What a plea… " Hold it. What had Finch just said? Lois Lane?!?
"Clark? As in Clark Kent?"
As if in slow motion he turned his head towards the strangled voice that had spoken his name. Those eyes that stared at him so incredulously belonged to…
"Lois Lane?? Oh my god!" Clark felt as if someone had cut the ground from under his feet. As in a trance he flopped down on the seat his boss had vacated in the meantime and stared at Lisa — no, Lois! — in the same stunned and speechless way she was staring at him.
Finch, who was mildly confused by the strange reaction of the two young people, cleared his throat and asked somewhat awkwardly, "Did I say something wrong? I blew something, didn't I? I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to… Oh, there's my wife. Margaret, I'll be with you in a second. Unfortunately, I have to leave you. It was a pleasure to see you again, Lois. Make sure you come by my office if your schedule allows. I'd be delighted." Derek Finch said good-bye and left Lois and Clark to themselves.
Embarrassed silence settled between them. No one knew what to say or ask. Both were deliberately avoiding the other's eyes, fearing that they would give away how shocked and dumbfounded this absurd situation had left them. Even without the very personal relationship they had started last night the situation was ridiculous. Two world famous reporters with excellent reputations had failed to recognize each other. What a demonstration of stupidity.
At least it proves how good I was as Lisa Lance. Lois began sorting all the confusing thoughts racing through her mind. No, how good we both were.
To her own surprise the fact that they had only been playing roles caused an inexplicable relief in her. After all — considering the story — there was no reason to be proud of herself so far. She had wasted time by chasing a bad lead. Cary Keats didn't exist and couldn't provide her with information about the drug ring.
That wasn't your intention anyway, Lane. Admit it! You were never interested in him professionally. If she was honest with herself she had to admit that her conscience was right. Even if she had wanted to grill him last night at the hotel bar, it had never been more than a weak excuse to … Well, to what exactly? Only to spend more time with him against her better judgment. Cary was a criminal and thus no good for her. But wasn't that the point and reason for her relief? Cary was Clark and Clark was no criminal she had to avoid. There was nothing that would keep her from moving on with their relationship.
Instinctively she ran her tongue over the small bite mark inside her lip. Memories from the previous night flashed through her mind. Pictures of her hand gliding over his incredible body and his lips kissing…
Remember how he left you, her brain interrupted her delicious thoughts. Unshed tears clouded her eyes as she recalled his 'I'll see you around'. After a night of pure passion and total devotion he had been as cold as a stone to her. The chemist Cary Keats had only been a role for him. Was it the same for the lover Cary Keats? Had everything been a fake? Had every tender and loving word that he had whispered to her over and over again only been part of this role? Lois froze at that thought.
After his sudden departure in the morning, the romantic and powerful feelings of the night had become shallow and meaningless. But now knowing that he had seemed to use her for his story made her feel cheap and dirty. Obviously Clark Kent had no problems using her to serve his purpose. You're stupid if you think he felt something for you.
"The famous Lois Lane," Clark's voice interrupted her musings. "The star reporter of the Daily Planet. I always wanted to meet you."
"Well, now you have. And how do I rate in bed? That's all you were interested in, isn't it? To get me in your bed," Lois shot back, more sharply than she'd intended to.
"Wasn't it rather *you* dragging me into *your* bed?" Clark bitterly replied, hurt by her unjustified attack. As he recalled it had been Lisa who had made the first move. To pretend it had been he who had seduced her was simply self-deception. But if she needed that to justify their night together, it was fine with him. She could think what she damn well pleased.
For some time they looked at each other grimly. It was clear that they'd rather be alone anywhere else than together in this pub. The relief that neither of them was a criminal didn't matter as much as they would have expected. It had quickly given way to the disillusionment that it didn't really make a difference; the outcome was the same. Clark was convinced that Lois had intended to dump him after a fleeting night she definitely considered a mistake, especially in light of her earlier accusation, and for Lois it was a given, because that was exactly what Clark had done to her.
It was moot to dwell on it, though. Clark had intended to banish that night from his memory — hey, at least he could try — even if he knew that now he was deceiving himself. But that was easier said than done with Lois sitting so close by. He couldn't help but ask himself what she was really like. Was she as he had met her that first evening, or was she like the businesswoman, or the lover, or a little bit of all of them?
The overpowering silence between them was unbearable. Trying hard to find a different topic, Clark became all business. "That's a really clever idea to declare the pills for export as medical supplies, isn't it?"
Lois was more grateful for the change of subject than she cared to admit. It wouldn't do any good to fight about their night and talking about work might be a way to get their emotions under control again. So she agreed, "That makes one assume they're expecting big bucks doing business in the States, doesn't it?"
"Seems like it, but I wouldn't know for sure. Simon only told me about the way the deliveries are made today to prepare me for the talk with you. Until now I was only responsible for the quality control of the pills."
Well, great, not only am I willing to fall into bed with him, I'm even helping him to get his story, Lois thought bitterly.
Surprised, Clark saw the shadow passing over her face. Damn, what did I say now? Without being able to make sense of it, he continued, "How did you find out about this story?"
"The stuff turned up at a friend's club in Metropolis and I thought it'd be worth further investigation. You know how it works," she explained off-handedly.
Okay, this topic might not be the right one as well. There was no chance of her talking about the story with him. Not that there was that much to talk about, at least not so much that she was worried he could perhaps lure information out of her. Even in her current mood she had to acknowledge that he probably knew a lot more than she did.
She had to admit that it was rare she was so lacking in concentration at her job and, yes, even if she didn't like it at all, unsuccessful. If she'd been in Metropolis Perry would long since have had her hide because of her inability to make progress. She'd thought once she was in London it would be easier to expose those who were pulling the strings, but instead she'd let herself get distracted by Cary — no, by Clark — and her feelings for him. If it hadn't been for the fact that she would have to confess her failure to Perry she would long since have declared herself defeated and packed up her things here, despite it looking quite promising at the moment. After all, she had good prospects of meeting the boss. That was, if Clark kept his mouth shut and didn't give her away to strengthen his position in the gang.
"You won't tell them who I really am, will you?" she asked suspiciously.
Clark eyed her with dismay. How could she think something like that? "What do you think of me? That's not my style. Apart from that, you'd probably do the same to get even with me. And to be honest, I really don't want to find out what they'd do if they realized one of us is a reporter."
He'd really like to know how she had gotten such a bad opinion of him. That couldn't possibly be because of this morning, could it? She would have dumped him anyway and he had just been saving her the trouble by walking away without her having to say the words. So actually she should be grateful that he had avoided an uncomfortable scene.
He looked at her sharply for a moment and realized that she seemed to be exhausted, quite in contrast to the previous evening when she had been sparkling. "Lisa," he stopped and instantly thought back to the time he had cried out that name in passion. It just couldn't go on like that. "Lois. We should talk," he said resolutely.
But Lois just looked at him resignedly. "I don't know what we should talk about, Clark. You gave me the papers. There's nothing more to say. It's time I got to work." She rose and noticed his hurt expression. What was it he wanted from her? To push the knife in a little more, twist it a little? Hurt her even more? "I'll see you around," she called over her shoulder, not realizing that her exit mirrored both his and her emotions from their parting this morning.
"Lois Lane?!!!" Sheryl Parker jumped up from her chair and rested her hands on the huge desk in front of her. "Are you telling me that it was possible for a reporter from Metropolis to sneak into our organization?!"
The man across the table nodded. "Cole told us that he was able to hear the name very clearly. Furthermore I showed him a picture of Derek Finch, because the man she talked with mentioned the 'Globe' and Cole is pretty sure it was him."
"Incompetence," Sheryl murmured, sat down again and shook her head. "I am surrounded by nothing but incompetence." The man was silent; obviously he didn't know what she expected from him now. He didn't need to wait long. When his boss raised her eyes again her glance was icy. "Get rid of her," she commanded tersely.
"Damn," Clark cursed, hearing the crunching sound under his fingers. Frowning he stared down at the cup in his hand, or rather, what was left of it. He had really liked that cup, but now it was completely crushed and the rest of his tea had spilled over his fingers now and was dripping down on the newspaper he had been reading. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to choose the international edition of the Daily Planet as a distraction from Lois Lane, because even though she didn't have a story in this issue, since she was here in London, he still had to think of her the whole time he was reading the paper she worked for.
Right now he was remembering how much he had admired the story that earned her the last Kerth Award. She was a brilliant reporter and, a bitter smile twitched at the corners of his lips, he had always wanted to meet her. Well he had, hadn't he? At the thought of how well he actually had got to know her, it had happened. Involuntarily he had closed his fingers around the cup more firmly than intended and had destroyed the poor thing.
He sighed. Something like that seldom happened to him. In fact he couldn't even remember the last time he had lost control over his physical strength to this extent. Keeping his powers hidden and under control had been essential to his life since puberty and passing as a normal person was second nature to him. Usually he didn't have to think about it — he did it instinctively. But his meeting with Lois Lane and their short passionate love affair was affecting him emotionally and physically more than anything else before. He was pretty angry that he knew exactly who had managed to throw him so much off balance, but he couldn't help it.
Time is a great healer, he thought bitterly. Who had coined that stupid proverb? Whoever it was, he didn't believe it would be true this time. He would continue to work for the Globe, sure. He would continue to be a reporter and maybe, someday, he would even meet someone he could tell the secret about his special powers, but he knew he would never be able to forget Lois Lane or the pain he had felt when she had turned around today and left the coffee bar. And, he admitted to himself, he didn't want to forget, because even though he was hurting terribly right now, the memory of the happiness he had felt holding her in his arms was worth knowing the wound would never heal.
Still, it was painful. And he still had to work on the story. Tomorrow he would go to the laboratory once again. Maybe he would be able to get some kind of evidence of the packaging and shipment of the drugs as medicine. He really needed some clues, especially now that he knew that Lois was so much further along in the investigation than he was. At least she was going to meet the boss tomorrow. He still wanted the story and wouldn't give up that easily. She was brilliant, sure, but he wasn't a bad reporter himself, and the least he could do was try to get the scoop.
"Where is that damned woman?" Cole asked sullenly. "We've been waiting for hours now!"
His partner Nick shrugged his shoulders and tried to find a more comfortable sitting position on the car seat. "Mr. Lithgow ordered us to shadow her, so we shadow her. It's as simple as that."
"Yeah, but so far we don't even have her in sight," Cole growled. He was silent for a while and stared through the dark window of the car to the entrance of the hotel on the other side of the street. "And what are we supposed to do if she comes?" he finally asked.
"I don't know yet. Mr. Lithgow told me to call him immediately." Nick yawned and tentatively tried to stretch his stiff back a little bit. "Whoa, I'm really getting tired. I think I'll grab a cup of coffee, what about you?"
Cole's face lit up. "That's the best thing I've heard from you tonight. Look over there, that little coffee bar? Let's go in there and get us something to eat, too."
"Don't you think it's too risky?" Nick hesitated. "What if she returns while we're in there?"
Cole shook his head. "Ah, come on! What could she possibly do in fifteen minutes? We won't stay long and as soon as we're back, I'm going into the hotel and try to find out if she's there or not. If she is, we call Lithgow and if not, we're going to wait a little bit longer. At least we won't be starving anymore."
It actually took them more than twenty minutes until they were back in their car, so Cole did as promised and went inside the hotel to check on Lois. When he came back five minutes later, he collapsed into the seat next to Nick.
"She's in her room," he said. "She must have returned while we were eating. I went up to her floor and listened at her door. The room was totally quiet and there wasn't any light in it, either."
Nick nodded and grabbed his cell phone. "Mr. Lithgow?" Cole heard him ask when Sheryl Parker's assistant answered the phone. "She's back now. Obviously she went directly to bed though. There isn't any sound coming out of her room." He listened for a while, then he nodded. "Yes, Sir," Nick said, then switched off the phone.
"And?" Cole asked impatiently.
"We'll wait until tomorrow," Nick answered shortly and started the car. "He said she won't be able to do anything tonight anyway and we want to keep a low profile. Contacting her now would be too obvious."
Cole sighed when the car began moving. "And for this I wasted my whole evening!"
Lois wearily threw her coat over a chair next to her bed. What a dreadful evening. What a dreadful day!
Sighing, Lois slipped out of her clothes and began to think of how she had been trying for hours now to get Cary Keats out of her mind and heart. Cary, who in fact is Clark and is not really a small time criminal but a cold-hearted, devious and shameless reporter. He was smooth-talking me because of the story and to get in my bed.
And in her heart as well. Nothing would ever change that, no matter what his name was, who he was, and how badly he had hurt her with his disappearing act. That was the conclusion Lois had come to, and as painful as it might be, she felt somehow relieved.
After Lois had angrily left the pub and Clark, she had wandered aimlessly through the streets. Deeply caught up in her thoughts she didn't notice the tears of disappointment that ran down her cheeks. Why had he done that to her? Wouldn't it have been enough to pump her for information? But no, he had to play with her heart, feign passion and feelings only to have her for one night. How could she have been so naive to fall for him and give herself to him so recklessly?
Now that he knew who she was he would probably laugh about her and how gullible she had been to hang on every sweet word he had said. Some reporter she was. To think that she nearly had confessed her love for him. He would have had a field day telling each and every male reporter in London that not only had he lured Lois Lane into his bed but on top of that he had gotten a premature declaration of love from me.
Lois had felt like giving in to her anger and shouting out all of the hurt but people were already looking at her tearstained face in bewilderment. Another emotional outburst would attract more unwanted attention.
Unable to return to her hotel room and the memories of the previous night, Lois decided to go to see a movie. She wasn't looking for entertainment and definitely wasn't able to follow the plot for even a minute, but maybe under the cover of darkness she would manage to calm down and analyze her conflicting feelings.
It was hard to admit for Lois but, as much as she detested Clark for discarding her in the morning like an old shirt, at the same time she was filled with joy to have met a man like him. From the first moment on there had been a strong connection between them, as if they were soul mates.
She couldn't believe that intelligent, charming and sympathetic man was nothing but a facade. Could she have been so wrong about him? Her instinct had never been wrong about anyone for a very long time. Why hadn't it kicked in and warned her about his deceit?
Lois sighed. Every little touch had felt so right. With every look in his eyes she had been convinced to find nothing but trust and honesty there. Face it. He fooled you, Lane, her mind objected. He pretended to be the nice guy next door to get to you. He'd do anything for a story!
The story. When they had met in the bar that night, had he known that she was waiting for Simon? Had their 'collision' been orchestrated to start a conversation? No, that was impossible. He had been equally surprised when Simon had introduced her as the American customer. Consequently that would mean that Clark had been himself at least for the first hours, wouldn't it?
But who had asked her out for lunch the following day? Who had danced with her at the party? Cary or Clark? Impatiently Lois shook her head. The whole situation wasn't improved by separating him into two different personalities. It had been he who had taken her to the hotel, who had kissed her in the elevator, and had shared her bed. No matter what name he had been using or role he had been playing, it still had been the same man. The man she had fallen in love with and couldn't forget.
Around midnight she had returned to the Earl's Inn. At least her musings had helped her to accept the hurt and the disappointment. Somehow she would manage to live with the memories of him without constantly asking how much of his true self he had been showing. She would never forget Clark Kent or the feeling of completion she had experienced while lying in his arms.
Right now, nothing is important except the story, Lois admonished herself when she crawled into her bed. All the advantage is on your side. You're the one who has an appointment with the boss, not Clark. And I'll make sure to get enough evidence to get the story for the Daily Planet.
For a moment she wondered how much Clark had for his story. Judging from the comments he had made in the pub, he was doing nicely because of her involuntary help. Maybe her hurried dash away from him had been a mistake. Maybe he had been about to share his information with her? Sharing was nothing an ambitious reporter like her would ever do but what had he said? 'Lois, we should talk.'
Had he wanted to talk about the story? No, something else had been on his mind. Suddenly she remembered the look he had given her. There had been a plea in his eyes, hadn't there? Maybe a touch of desperation, too? How could she not have noticed it earlier? He had not been acting like he wanted to get rid of her. What had he wanted to say to her?
You'll have to ask him that yourself, Lois, she realized, sighing. As soon as the story was done she would have a long talk with Clark Kent.
The next morning Lois awoke from a fitful, short sleep to the incessant ringing of the phone. Still half dozing, she automatically grabbed the receiver.
"'lo? … Mmh. Huh? Who? … Oh Simon, it's you… Does that surprise you at this hour of the day? … Yeah, I can hear you're sorry… Oh, the boss has agreed? It's about time. When? … All right, see you tonight. You could have told me that an hour later by the way."
Sleepily she was just about to put the receiver back on the cradle when she became aware of Simon still speaking, and what he was saying made her sit up in bed, instantly wide-awake. "What? Today in the *morning*? At half past seven? … For *breakfast*? If that's an example of the famous English sense of humor, I have to tell you, it isn't funny to me! … I can imagine! That's only about half an hour! How do you expect me to be ready by then? … What do you mean, that's my problem and I have to hurry a bit then? You know, Simon, I think I'll have to have a serious talk with your boss about your attitude toward business associates… Geez, that sounds like it came right out of a cheap crime novel! I'll be on time, you can count on it, and yes, I believe you're capable of not waiting longer than five minutes for me!"
Angrily she slammed the phone down. "That jumped-up nobody! Who does he think he is!"
At exactly half past eight Lois stood in front of the limo she already knew from her drive to the lab and looked at Simon with eyes blazing with fury. "The deal I'm about to make with your boss better be really good to make up for all this, you know!"
Without acknowledging her words Simon bowed his head and motioned for her to sit down in the back of the car. During the whole drive he persistently kept silent and since Lois didn't feel like chatting she only tried once to start a conversation. When he didn't react she left him alone. That way she had peace and quiet to prepare herself for the talk with the mysterious boss.
In her head she ticked off the things she wanted to find out. What she hoped for most of course was the name of the boss. That would give her a real jump on her investigation. How they managed to export the Eagle to the States was no longer a secret since she had learned about the forged delivery papers but what about the size of the organization? Where else did they deliver their drugs? Was this their only source of income? And what was the most important thing of all: would she be able to find foolproof evidence that would not only convict the henchmen but the people pulling the strings? All this naturally depended on where they were meeting for breakfast. Would it be in a restaurant, which wasn't too likely considering the subject of their conversation, or a building belonging to the organization, where she could possibly snoop around a little bit?
Lois could feel the strain rising the longer the drive took. She was used to working alone and not always under the best or safest of circumstances but she felt a little bit queasy today. This just wasn't her usual neighborhood. She knew Metropolis like the back of her hand but this was a different area, a different country and that was what was worrying her.
Would it have been better to contact Clark? Uninvited, that thought had popped up in her mind. She shook her head. What could Clark possibly do for her? She couldn't have brought him with her without raising suspicion or at least questions, and she didn't know where she was going, so that was something else she wouldn't have been able to tell him. And he already knew that she was meeting the boss today — she, not he! She'd like to see *him* do that! So what was he doing, invading her thoughts like this? He mustn't take up space there at this moment! She had to get him out of her mind right now. He would only distract her in her concentration. If there was something she didn't need in the next hours, it was being distracted.
And yet… 'We should talk' — the thought lingered. Once again she pondered what he could have been referring to. She didn't want to get her hopes up before they talked but could it possibly be that she had misinterpreted him, that his exit yesterday morning wasn't what it had seemed? Perhaps something had happened while she was in the bathroom?
Oh, how she longed to finish this story so they could finally discuss what had happened. That was what she owed herself and what she owed him. Laying all the cards on the table. And if their confrontation didn't turn out as well as she was secretly hoping, she could content herself with the fact that they were living on different continents and probably would never again run into each other.
But first she had to use this pending conversation with the drug ring's boss to reach a conclusion. So she focused once again on what was lying before her the next hour and not a moment too soon because she felt the car roll softly to a stop.
"All right, here we are," Simon said and got out of the car on his side.
Lois followed his example and then looked around curiously. Unfortunately she couldn't make out much. They seemed to be in front of a small factory building and from the looks of it one that hadn't been in use for quite some time. The yard was cluttered with rubble and garbage, the windows had been broken. And this was what they deemed to be a suitable meeting place for a business breakfast? She wasn't picky but it didn't have to be as dilapidated as here.
She looked at Simon questioningly when from the corner of her eye she saw another car come to a stop. Aha. They were getting an addition to their group. Perhaps this was the boss? Lois hadn't seen other cars yet; the boss didn't seem to have arrived so far. To her disappointment only two more men emerged that she vaguely recognized. Oh, right. They were two of the bullies who had guarded the unknown couple at the club opening the other night.
Before she could ask O'Grady when the meeting was about to start, however, he had already roughly grabbed her arm and pulled her in the direction of the building.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Lois asked, outraged and trying to escape his grip. She jerked her arm down but Simon just snorted and held on that much tighter. "I insist you stop this nonsense immediately and let me go at once! You're carrying this too far! Do you think I'm interested in dealing with people who consider these common business practices?" she hissed.
She was getting really frightened now. This was unusual behavior and she glanced around again, this time to look for a chance to get away from Simon. Unfortunately it didn't look good for her at all. The whole area seemed deserted. From the distance she heard noises carried by the wind. It didn't help her at all — she couldn't make out what they were. No help for her from that direction. Except for Simon, the two goons and herself, nobody was around. Her mind was spinning and she was desperately trying to come up with a way to escape this situation. Something had gone terribly wrong, she knew with sudden clarity.
And Simon confirmed that with his next words. "Sit down, Ms Lane." He threw her roughly on a chair at the back of the building.
Shocked, her eyes grew wide. Then she tried to hide her dismay as well as possible. "Ms Lane? I have no idea what you're saying! And I demand to know again what this is all about! I came here to talk about the cost and conditions for delivery of Eagle. If you don't want to do that tell me right away, and I'll no longer be interested in a deal with you. But this whole charade…" She rubbed the arm Simon had grabbed so brutally. The imprint of his fingers was still visible and surely would bruise later.
Simon didn't give her the chance to say more. On his nod both bodyguards stepped forward and painfully yanked at Lois' arms to handcuff her behind her back. She couldn't suppress a cry at their rough handling.
"Charade. Very good of you to mention that, Ms Lane. I'd say it's *you* who's ending this charade. I'm going to ask you a few questions and I want answers from you."
"Oh, this is a game show, then?" Lois couldn't hold back the biting question.
Almost before she had finished her sentence, Simon backhanded her cruelly. The force of the punch threw Lois against the back of the chair and for a moment she literally saw stars. Horrified, she held her breath, waiting for more blows to come.
"Wrong attitude, Ms Lane," Simon informed her coldly. "*I'm* asking and you're answering. And believe me, you don't really want to find out what happens when I'm not satisfied with what you're telling me." Both men drew closer again.
Now Lois really was frightened. She had no idea how far Simon would go to find out what he wanted. And what would happen if she perhaps did tell them something? She hardly believed they were willing to simply let her walk away.
"All right, Ms Lane. Now that you know what is expected of you, I'd say we start with a few simple questions. We know who you are and that you're working for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. What are you doing here in London?"
In spite of her fear Lois had to hold her tongue not to ask whether that wasn't obvious but there was no way she wanted to aggravate Simon as she had before. Who knew what he was capable of doing to her then?
She shot him a look full of contempt and was just about to answer something he wouldn't find offensive, but Simon seemed to feel provoked by that look alone. He gave the man standing beside Lois a sign and now it was his turn to raise his hand and smack her hard. Her head jerked to the side and this time it connected solidly with the back of the chair. Dazed, she tried to stay focused but that proved to be very difficult. Everything was dancing in front of her eyes. Through a haze she recognized Simon's face before her.
"Now, wouldn't you rather talk to me than to my friends? I can't stress enough how much your arrogance pissed me off. There's not too much left of it now, is there, Ms High-and-mighty? You better not tempt me to get back at you for all the times you treated my like an errand boy!" He grabbed her hair and roughly pulled her head up so she had to look at him directly.
The sudden movement, painful as it had been, brought her back to full consciousness. She knew she had nothing left to lose now. Simon would want to know what she knew, whom she had told and what evidence she had to prove any claims that might be made. And he would beat it out of her, she had no doubts about that. She didn't believe that this was a situation she could bluff her way out of. But if Simon thought she would helplessly cower in front of him and beg for mercy, which he would probably love, then he was mistaken.
She stared at him, full of hate. Then she leaned back a little and with all the strength she could muster spit into his face. Only then did she realize that the metallic taste she'd had in her mouth since the last blow must be blood. She seemed to have bitten her tongue or the inside of her cheeks. It gave her great satisfaction to see Simon wipe his face disgustedly and step back a little.
"So, you want it the hard way, Ms Lane? Okay, since we're always at pains to satisfy our customers' wishes you'll get what you've asked for." He reached into his pocket and brought out a small vial with pills in it. "Let me demonstrate the advantages of Eagle so you'll know first hand what kind of experiences your customers will have, Ms Lane!" With a sly grin he took two pills out of the vial.
Terrified, Lois realized what Simon was up to. She began to struggle in her handcuffs and tried to turn away her head when Simon came closer again, but one of the men came up behind her and forcefully grabbed her jaw to make her open her mouth. She desperately tried to escape from the bruising grip but it was futile. Before she could help it both pills were on her tongue. And just as seconds ago they had forced her mouth open, now they forced it shut to make sure that she really swallowed the Eagle. As much as she tried to avoid it, despite her resistance, the pills slowly dissolved and made their way into her stomach and her bloodstream.
"Okay, let's wait a little while for them to have an effect, Ms Lane. You'll feel great soon! Then we'll try to see again whether you're willing to cooperate or not. And if you're not we'll have another nice delicacy for you!" From the pocket of his jacket he produced another vial, this time with a clear fluid. "This is liquid Eagle!" he explained proudly. "If we inject it into you, you can rename it from 'Eagle' to 'Icarus'. You'll be flying so high that you'll be burning your wings on the sun and crash and crash hard, if you know what I mean." He had to laugh at his own joke. "All right, let's leave you in peace for a few minutes till the pills take effect. You can think about what is best for you in the meantime." Smirking, he turned around and began to pace.
Lois' head hurt like hell now. She couldn't tell whether it was from all the blows to it or from the Eagle she had ingested. But that was her least worry. She would soon enough feel a whole lot worse than having a headache, she knew. She was now convinced that this was it. This story would be her last, there was no way around it. She would die in this factory, wouldn't she?
She had never thought much about death — who did, after all? But to die like this, overdosed on drugs and discarded like rubbish, or just left here to be found in a few days, weeks or even months? Would she just be another drug death statistic? Oh no, not that, never that. Too many people knew about her story. Perry, Clark.
Clark … Oh God, Clark. She would die and never know if he really had cared for her, had loved her. But even if he hadn't she could still pretend he had. She could remember what she had felt that night, regardless what happened the next morning. She had found complete love, and for that feeling alone it had been worth coming to London even if she didn't survive today.
A shrill ringing interrupted her thoughts; it was Simon's mobile phone. Impatiently he answered it, "Yes?" He gave one of his henchman a sign. It wouldn't do them any good if Ms Lane started to scream for help now. The bodyguard stepped up behind Lois' chair, and not a second too soon. Just as she was about to open her mouth to alert whoever was calling, a hand clamped down hard on her mouth, muffling the scream that had formed in her throat to a barely audible strangled groan.
Simon listened to the phone for a second then turned his eyes heavenwards. "Keats? What do you want? I don't have much time."
After another sleepless night Clark had decided to go to the laboratory first thing in the morning. Maybe he would be lucky and nobody would be there so that he could snoop around a little bit. Although he was determined to make the story a success, he was very well aware that he had run into a dead end with it. He had no real facts at hand. Simon was the only one whom he could possibly accuse of anything, but it was nothing that went beyond mere dealing. And that was not exactly award material.
As he went up the stairs to the lab he still had no real plan for what he was going to search for, but he hoped that he would find the laboratory empty. Somewhere there had to be some evidence that would finally tell him about the head of the organization.
To his great disappointment, however, he wasn't alone when he opened the door. Stuart and Dan, two other chemists already stood at the table in the middle of the room and greeted him with a nod of their heads.
"Hi Cary," Stuart called. "What brings you here so early today?"
"I could ask you the same," Clark retorted. He approached the desk and noticed with surprise that the two of them weren't working with the usual GHB powder, but with a transparent liquid. He pointed to the bottle Stuart held in his hand. "May I ask what that is?"
"Liquid Eagle," Stuart grinned. "Simon ordered a portion of that this morning."
Clark threw him an astonished glance. "*Liquid* Eagle? What does he need it for?"
Dan shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea." He closed the bottle. "I warned him though," he added. "This stuff is really dangerous. One syringe of it and wham… you'll meet your maker."
Clark nodded. He knew that, too. Simon wouldn't be able to sell liquid Eagle as a drug and he was sure that Simon knew about the stuff's danger. Furthermore Simon was the typical dealer, which meant he wanted to gain as much profit as he could selling drugs, but also that he didn't want to be connected with the death of someone dumb enough to send himself over the Jordan by overdosing himself into oblivion. He would never take the risk and sell liquid Eagle. So what did he want with it, then?
Apparently Stuart and Dan were finished with their order, because they chatted briefly with Clark about the big deal that they expected from Lisa Lance and then they disappeared. That was just the chance Clark had been waiting for. He started immediately to search the laboratory, but only half an hour later he had to admit that he hadn't been able to find anything at all. If there were any papers existing or anything similar that would be able to help him, he knew now that he wouldn't find it here.
Another hour later he sat rather helplessly in front of his computer at the Globe and absently stared at the blank screen. He was stuck. Not one lead in this story had panned out and the only persons he was able to connect with the drug ring so far were an unimportant dealer and a reporter. That was as good as nothing.
He wondered how the meeting between Lois and the boss had gone. Was she closer to the solution than he was? Probably. He tapped restlessly with his pencil on his desk. Somehow the question of why Simon had ordered that liquid Eagle appeared in his head again. It just didn't make sense and he couldn't fight a slightly uneasy feeling that overtook him whenever he thought about it.
His eyes went to his phone. Why not? He could ask Simon in all innocence after all, couldn't he? With decision he picked up the phone and dialed the dealer's number. He could tell immediately that Simon wasn't happy about his call when he answered his greeting with a short "Keats? What do you want? I don't have time."
Unmoved, Clark told him about his meeting with Lisa Lance and that he had handed her the delivery note as requested. "Is her meeting with the boss over yet?" he then asked casually.
He heard the dealer chuckle. "Don't ask," Simon grinned. "I guess I should tell you that your little darling Lisa is not what you think she is. You should forget about her."
That sentence aroused Clark's suspicion. "What do you mean? Is it just because you don't like her or is there something I don't know yet?"
At that moment a loud noise disturbed the connection. It sounded like an electronic feedback and Clark didn't get everything the dealer answered. "What did you just say?" he asked, but Simon obviously wasn't in the mood to talk anymore.
"Nothing," he answered, "just that you should search for a new chick, Keats."
Clark swallowed the caustic remark that was on the tip on his tongue. What good would it do him to argue with Simon? "Look, Simon, what did you mean with 'don't ask' then? Does it mean there was no meeting? But you told me she should expect a call today, didn't you?" He came back to Simon's first sentence.
"One-two-one-two-one-two…" A metallic voice disturbed the connection again, followed by another loud feedback noise, and Clark had to cover his sensitive ears for a moment. Where in hell was Simon? "And here issssss!!!!! One-two-one-two-one-two… icccccecream… one-two-one-two…"
"Look, Keats. It's pretty loud here and I gotta go," Clark heard the dealer's voice say at that moment.
"Wait, Simon," Clark began hastily but suddenly he couldn't continue. Just as he opened his mouth to add something, he had heard a soft sound on the other end of the line. It was almost inaudible, but it clearly came from a direction very near to where Simon was standing, and Clark's heart chilled with a sudden fright at the sound. It was a groan and it was a voice he would have recognized anywhere in the world. Lois!
A cold shiver ran down his spine and in his head alarm bells were ringing. Lois was in trouble. Why else would she moan so painfully? Clark's mind was racing. What if it hadn't been Lois he had heard but someone else who had stepped on the toes of the organization? No, there was no doubt.
"Simon, how did the meeting… " he tried to keep the conversation going. If he could really concentrate perhaps he could hear Lois talking in the background. It would be a sign of what was happening to her and how she was doing.
"I'll see you around, Keats," Simon said at that moment. The next thing Clark heard was the tone of a disconnected phone line.
"Damn, he hung up!" he cursed. What should he do? The anger and disappointment about Lois he had felt only minutes before were suddenly gone. All that remained was his love for that wonderful woman who had taken his heart by storm and with a look from her beautiful eyes had turned his life upside down. No matter what had happened he had to help her as fast as he could.
Simon's biting remarks about Lisa Lance could only mean that Lois' cover had been blown and she was in great danger right now. "They'll make mincemeat of her, Kent," he said aloud. "Do something!" How fast could he be there? In a few seconds by flying? What am I thinking? I have no idea where they hold her captive. And flying? By daylight? I must be crazy. Under no circumstances would he risk exposure by being seen flying. Calm down, Kent. Use your brain. Clark took a deep breath and left the Globe, determined to rescue her.
Since flying was out of the question — no matter how fast he was, someone would see him — he decided to take a taxi to the … Well, where to, exactly? While hailing a cab he tried to remember whether Simon had given any hint of his whereabouts. No, he'd only railed about Lisa Lance.
Quickly he got into the taxi and told the driver to go to the regular club the members of the organization patronized. Chances were good that Lois' meeting with the boss had been scheduled to take place there. On second thought … hadn't there been a noise interrupting the conversation with Simon a few times? What was it? A new DJ presenting his repertoire to the club? No, something else. It was a metallic sound. There had been feedbacks and a voice with a lot of echo to it. That's not very likely in a small club.
His eyes caught sight of a poster on a pillar announcing a pop concert for that very evening. "Of course! A sound check. I heard a sound check," he exclaimed. Ignoring the taxi driver's bewildered look he told him to change direction. "Take me to Wembley Stadium, please. And step on it."
He was aware that a sound check could be held at practically any hall or stadium in the city and not necessarily at Wembley. However he knew that a little warehouse used by the drug ring for storage was near the stadium. There was at least a possibility that Lois was kept there.
I only hope I'm not too late, he prayed silently.
"Don't tell me that Keats had something going with her?" Nick asked with a smug grin after Simon had slipped his cell phone back into his pocket.
O'Grady only shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know. Perhaps. In any case he has to get himself another chick. This one won't return from the trip we're sending her on." Annoyed he looked over to Lois who was crumpled on her chair and then checked his watch. "It's been nearly an hour since she swallowed the pills. She'll be flying by now. Go ahead."
A blow to her shoulder and another slap in the face jerked her out of the drug-induced delirium. She could hardly raise her head or focus her eyes. Everything was spinning and seemed to disappear in a thick fog. The dosage of Eagle they had forced into her mouth was enough to make her lose the control over her body and fall into a coma sooner or later. Her mind had already given up the fight against the effects of the drug and wouldn't start again because of the pains she was experiencing.
A distorted, loud noise reached her ears and threatened to explode her head. Where was she? Were they holding her in an underground train? At least it sounded and felt like that. Her body was vibrating as if she was on a high-speed train ride.
Lois was too dead to the world to notice that the noises were the voices of the men who were trying to interrogate her and the vibrating was her own body shaking convulsively. When she felt a hand on her shoulder — or was it her head? — the shaking suddenly subsided long enough for her to give in to the need to vomit.
"Damn!" Cursing, Simon jumped back. "Now I have her dinner on my trousers. How many more pills did you give her?" Accusingly he looked at Nick who only shrugged and replied, "Three more. You wanted to make her talk. I thought that a few more would help."
"You idiot! That is no truth serum." O'Grady was clearly annoyed. "Now she's so spaced out that we won't get a word from her." Without further ado he reached for the liquid Eagle and filled a syringe with it. "Take that and finish her off." The cold stare he gave Nick left no doubt about what he wanted him to do. "Cole and I are leaving. You don't need us for this job. Wait for half an hour. I should be out of reach be then and nobody will connect this mess to me. And think of being more thorough this time when you dispose of the body."
Simon shot a last disgusted look first at Lois, then at his trousers, and left the building.
A few blocks away from Wembley Stadium Clark had gotten out of the taxi and with the help of a little superspeed had closed the remaining distance. He was about to scan the warehouse when the door opened and Simon came out. Clark barely managed to hide behind a wall. His guess had been correct. But what about Lois? Was she already …? No, he wouldn't think about it. Lois was alive.
As soon as Simon was out of sight Clark went over to the entrance. He stopped for a second to listen for any noise coming from the inside of the building and to scan for more of Simon's friends. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Lois tied to a chair, clearly unconscious. Next to her was a man fumbling with a syringe.
Oh my god, that must be the liquid Eagle, Clark realized in panic. He's going to kill her.
Without hesitating he ripped the door open, ran to the unsuspecting man in superspeed and threw him to the floor before he even noticed Clark at all. A well-aimed blow to the chin knocked the man out and within seconds Clark had untied Lois and cradled her in his arms.
His mind was racing while he checked for life signs. "Lois? Lois, can you hear me?"
Her breathing was shallow, her pulse barely there, and her eyes started to roll back in her head when he opened her lids. "Lois! Wake up! Come on, don't do this to me," he demanded with a shaky voice. She couldn't just die now. There were so many things he had to tell her. "Did they give you Eagle? How many pills? Come on, talk to me."
Clark recognized the signs of drug poisoning and knew that he had to take her to a hospital as fast as possible. Determined, he lifted her in his arms and flew to the nearest hospital. He didn't care anymore if anyone saw him.
The next hour passed for Clark in a flurry of activity. On the one hand he felt as though he was surrounded by cotton and everything was covered by a mist. On the other hand he saw things as clearly as never before. He was totally focused on Lois to the exclusion of everything else.
He had brought her into the emergency room — his calls for a doctor had probably startled half of the hospital. Then he had stayed by her side throughout the examination despite repeated requests to leave the room. Finally the doctors had acquiesced to his stubbornness and just had directed him to stay out of their way. Only when they were ready to pump her stomach did somebody lead him out of the examination room under his loud protest. He had to stay by her side to make sure she was safe! He was glad that his special sight made it possible to see what the doctors were doing even if he couldn't be in there.
He was so concentrated on Lois that he wasn't even aware of a nurse showing him to a chair and putting a cup of hot tea into his hands to calm him down some. It was when she put her hand on his shoulder and consoled him, "Don't worry, your wife will be fine! We're doing everything we can for her!" That he took in his surroundings again. For a moment he looked at her uncomprehendingly as if he hadn't noticed her, which was true.
"We need the particulars of your wife and we have to know what happened to her. It looks like something we have to inform the police about," she said gently.
He nodded absently as he was just listening to the doctor in Lois' examination room say, "What happened to her face? Somebody must have used her as a punching bag. Okay, people, let's move before she slips into a coma. If that happens I don't think she'll make it."
Clark paled and he felt sick at the possibility that Lois might die. It would be his fault because he hadn't been fast enough to come to her! Helplessly he made a fist without thinking about the cup he was still holding in his hand. Only the cry of the nurse and her jump backwards to avoid getting the hot tea on her brought him out of his misery.
He looked at her and while he was trying to dry his hand on his trousers he repeatedly murmured in a distressed voice, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, please forgive me, Lois."
The nurse grabbed a few napkins that were lying on a table nearby and mopped up the spilled tea on the floor. "That's okay, Sir. Nothing has happened that can't be fixed. Could we take your particulars now? Let's go." She wondered if perhaps a doctor should take a look at the young man. He obviously was in shock and she didn't want him to collapse in front of her.
"Can't we stay here?" he pleaded, but the nurse just led him away.
"No, I'm sorry, that's not possible, but here now, the reception is right there so you can see at once when your wife is admitted to her room, Mister…"
"Kent," he replied automatically, still turning around to look at the room so he not only could hear what the doctors were doing to Lois but see for himself how she was. He hardly could bear to see her like this though, one tube in her mouth, and an IV in her hand.
One of the doctors had just decided to take an x-ray of her skull to check for injuries due to the blows she had received. If there was a severe concussion or swelling of the brain it might prove dangerous for her.
"If she really has a brain injury I don't think we can avoid coma," the doctor said seriously. "Let's hope she's lucky."
Clark could only gasp.
"Mr Kent, Mr Kent, come on, your wife will be all right soon!" a voice penetrated his thoughts and he realized that the nurse was talking to him again.
He tried to turn around and at least listen to her. Pitying him, she gave him a handkerchief and he looked at it, unsure why he should need it. What did she want him to do? Only then did he feel the wetness on his cheek from the tears that had spilled over. Embarrassed, he took the handkerchief and at last tried to answer the questions of the nurse. When he had finally explained that Lois wasn't his wife, and what he thought must have happened he was calmed down enough to think somewhat clearly and logically. That was when he remembered that he hadn't called the police. Even if this endangered his investigation to expose the bosses of the drug ring, Simon would pay for what he had done to Lois!
The first thing Lois was aware of was a hand that was holding hers tightly as if it was frightened Lois would slip away if the connection loosened. The next thing was a voice that was repeating the same thing over and over. What was it? "Lowap?" No, that couldn't be it, that didn't make sense, did it? She tried hard to make out the words more clearly. Oh yeah, there it was, "Lois, please wake up, come back to me, please! Please, please wake up!"
Lois, that was her! If she only knew now who was talking to her. Perhaps she should just simply attempt to open her eyes. Yes, that was a brilliant idea even if it wasn't as easy as it sounded. With great difficulty she tried to shake off the daze and opened her eyes. There he was, the man who belonged to the voice! Cary…
She didn't realize that she hadn't only thought it but had whispered it, but she must have, because in response he just gripped her hand a little tighter and leaned closer to her. Though… Something about that was wrong. What was it? She knew it, somewhere in her mind it was floating around, she only had to catch it and let it out. Oh yes, now she had succeeded.
"Clark." She looked at him as if she expected to be praised for the brilliant piece of work she had done and she got it in the form of a relieved smile that was spreading over Clark's whole face.
"Lois! You're back with me again! How are you?" he asked tenderly. Even before he had finished speaking Lois felt herself getting sick and she began to heave. She vomited into the dish Clark had miraculously produced from somewhere and leaned back into the pillow exhaustedly.
"Better," she murmured and as strange as it might sound considering what she had done just now, it was the truth. Gently Clark smoothed back a lock of hair that fell into her face. As intimate as the gesture was, Lois knew that something was wrong about it. Slowly she began to remember the events of the last few hours and as she began to feel stronger, she started to grill Clark.
"What are you doing here in the hospital? Why am I here, anyway? What happened to Simon? And what are you doing with my hand? I thought you…" She trailed off.
Embarrassed, Clark let go of her hand but Lois grabbed it again. "No, I didn't mean it like that!" she hastened to say. "I was just wondering."
Carefully Clark caressed the bandages that were covering her wrists. It was true, he had assumed something he didn't have the right to. How was he to know Lois would want him touching her like that. After all, their last meetings hadn't been a bed of roses. But at least for now she seemed to be fine with it, for now it was she who was holding him like she never wanted to let go. It would probably be safer, though, to concentrate on her other questions first.
He informed the nurse that Lois had woken up and turned to her once more. Just as he was about to start, a doctor entered the room. He was delighted to see her conscious and lucid.
"You were lucky Mr Kent was able to admit you so fast, Ms Lane. You have to have a guardian angel!"
He went into detail about her injuries and assured her that she would be her old healthy self in a few days. Everything had seemed worse than it really was when they had first seen her. She hadn't gotten a concussion from the blows and the effect of the Eagle should be remedied by the pump-out of her stomach and the transfusion she was currently getting.
"What probably will bother you the most for the time being will be the marks on your face and the abrasions on your wrists." He pointed at the bandages. "All things considered, you are lucky, Ms Lane!" He said goodbye and left the room as suddenly as he had come in.
Lois looked at Clark seriously. "You saved my life by being there when I needed you most."
He just shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't have lived with the feeling of guilt and loss if he had been too late. Before he could say anything to that effect though, they once again were interrupted by the opening of the door. Two men introducing themselves as detectives came in to interrogate Lois.
She was able to explain why she had come to London and what little information she had uncovered until now. "And then they must have found out somehow that I'm a reporter. They obviously didn't like that." She looked at Clark and was about to ask him if his cover was blown as well.
But he totally misinterpreted her look. As if burned he dropped her hand and, horrified, asked, "Lois, you don't believe I told them, do you? I never could have done something like that to you! You have to believe me, I could never do anything to harm you!"
Immediately she calmed him down. "No, of course not! I have no idea how they found out. They probably have their ways. I know you didn't do it. You never would do something like that." She turned back to the policemen and went on telling what had happened as far as she remembered. "So what is happening with Simon now?" she finally wanted to know.
One of the detectives looked at his watch. "We are searching for him as we speak. And even if we can't link him with the drug dealing, with your help we can still nail him with the murder attempt on you. We will put him behind bars for a very long time, Ms Lane," he said with satisfaction, and both policemen rose to say goodbye.
After they had left with her statement, Lois leaned back with a pensive look. Apart from the constant headache that she was determined to shove into the back of her mind and a light dizziness she felt surprisingly well. At least well enough that her brain was working overtime.
Determinedly she straightened and carefully, as if not to aggravate her dizziness any more, swung her legs out of the bed.
Clark watched her in irritated fascination and tried to hold her back. "Lois, what are you doing?"
"I've got to get out of here," she explained casually, as if he should have realized it on his own and shouldn't have had to ask. "If they are looking for Simon it's only a matter of time till other reporters catch on to it and I'll be damned if I let another reporter get *my* story first!"
Clark only rolled his eyes. "Lois, I brought you here with severe drug poisoning, not to mention your other injuries! I don't think…"
Putting her hands on her hips, eyes blazing, she turned to face him. "And what do you plan to do to prevent it? Do you want to stop me? I have to get to my laptop and write it down so I can send it to Perry. I didn't invest all my time, money and energy to let the story be snatched away from me now." She looked around questioningly. "Where are my clothes?"
Automatically he pointed at the closet. "But Lois…" Unerringly she floated past him as if he wasn't there. Sighing, he rang for the nurse. If Lois didn't listen to him, hopefully a doctor might convince her to stay.
As predicted the doctor wasn't too keen when he heard her plan. "Ms Lane, I don't think it's wise to leave on your own responsibility. You should at least stay overnight so we can check your responses!"
"I don't have time for that. I have to go," Lois adamantly insisted.
The doctor looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "Do you at least have somebody who can look after you? It would be highly irresponsible to let you go on your own. You can't *be* alone. What would you do if you felt dizzy and fell?"
But Lois didn't budge and just shook her head. "I'm going. You can't force me to stay!"
Clark sighed. He felt uneasy that Lois wanted to check herself out of the hospital but he knew her well enough by now to be convinced that she wouldn't change her mind about it. He had seen her once too often with Simon to kid himself into thinking she would and this situation wasn't any different. She had the same stance and she just wouldn't back off.
And he wouldn't leave her, no matter what she said. No way.
He knew he would regret what he was about to say but if she planned to leave the hospital he wanted to be at her side. "I'll take her with me, doctor. I'll take her home. I can look after her there." He turned to Lois. "Even if I don't agree with you about going now."
She looked at him darkly. "I don't need a babysitter."
"Ms Lane, it really would be for the best!" the doctor intervened. "We don't know what effects the drug might still be causing in your body. You shouldn't stay on your own."
Assessingly she looked at Clark. "Do you have a computer at home?" Seeing him nod, she told the doctor, "I'll go with him. Prepare my discharge papers."
Offended by her ordering him around he left the room but obviously it had worked like a charm because within the hour she had the papers in her hand and was sitting in a cab ready to leave for Clark's apartment.
Looking at her watch she murmured under her breath, "If I hurry up a bit I'll still make the Planet's evening edition."
After he had watched for some time, Clark finally suggested tentatively, "Lois, I have a proposal for you. What do you think about putting together everything we have and writing a joint article for the Globe and the Planet?"
Her first inclination was to reject it right away but then she stopped. Clark's idea wasn't that bad. Together they really had more information. He knew about the production and he definitely knew some of the players in the organization. But she knew firsthand everything about the transfer of money and the story of her kidnapping. Perhaps it could really work and they managed to get an article out of it that was worthy of at least a Kerth.
The rest of the way they argued about how to go about it.
Curious, Lois looked around Clark's flat. The furniture suited him and it was just like she had imagined: warm, comfortable and full of pictures of his parents and knickknacks from home.
"All right, where is your PC?" she finally asked. She was dying to start writing.
Clark smiled in amusement. "Perhaps you'd like something to drink first, Lois?"
He gave her a glass full of juice and led her through the living room into a small den he had set up as his office. She immediately zeroed in on the computer and tried to claim it as her territory but Clark held her back.
"Oh no, you don't! It's my PC, I'm writing."
Lois grimaced, pouting, but acquiesced when Clark brought another chair for her. "Fair enough. All right, how about we start like this…"
Quite some time later, Clark propped his chin in his hand, and left it up to Lois to send their story to Perry White and Derek Finch.
"We did it!" Lois exclaimed joyfully. "And we would have been even faster if you didn't have this irritating habit of editing your article to death! That's what editors are for! You would still be writing if I hadn't urged you to hurry up!"
Looking pleased, she turned around only to face him only inches away, his breath soft on her skin.
For a second the world seemed to hold its breath. "Lois," Clark whispered and without thinking kissed her softly.
It was only a small kiss, barely perceptible, but it went right through her whole body. Lois happily closed her eyes, feeling the tender touch, but when Clark bent down to her again, she put her hand on his chest.
"No," she softly said. "Let's not make the same mistake twice."
He watched her. "Is that all it was for you?" he asked bitterly. "A mistake?"
He leaped up and ran his fingers through his hair. "Can you really forget what has happened between us so easily, Lois? Did it really mean nothing at all to you?" He lifted his hand to stop her from answering when she opened her mouth to respond. "No, listen to me, Lois. I don't know how it happened. Really, I have never felt anything like that…" He shook his head at his inability to put his feelings into words. "When I saw you in that bar… I don't know… I just knew it! I mean, you stood there in front of me and looked at me and in that same instant I knew I had fallen in love with you!" He laughed, embarrassed, and stared down on his hands. "There, I said it. For me it wasn't a mistake, Lois. I have fallen in love with you."
Lois watched him speechlessly, her mind racing. He was in love with her? He didn't just do it because of the story? But why…?
"Why did you leave then?" she finally asked. "You crept from my room as if you couldn't wait to get away!"
"I wanted to save you from the unpleasant task of kicking me out!" Clark replied, dumbfounded. "It was what you wanted to do, wasn't it? The way you looked at me when you got up made it pretty clear that you didn't want me to be there when you returned."
Suddenly tears shot to Lois' eyes. "So you didn't really want to leave?" she asked in a small voice.
"Heck, no!" Clark exclaimed. "If it had been up to me, we would still be in that bed now!"
That made Lois laugh, despite the tears, which were running slowly down her cheeks. "Oh, Clark," she sighed, "if it were up to me we would, too. If only you knew how unhappy I was, when you left so hastily."
He had put his arms around her before she could even finish her sentence. "Then you did feel it, too?" he asked softly.
"Of course I did!" Lois answered and buried her head in his neck. "I had the most awful two days of my life!"
He chuckled. "Tell me about it. I don't think I've ever been so unhappy before." He looked down at her and tenderly stroked the tears from her face. "Or so happy, either," he added softly.
For a moment their eyes locked, then their lips found each other eagerly again and for a long while the world sank into nothingness around them.
It was much later that Lois brought up the question that both of them had avoided up to now. They had sent the story, got Lois' luggage from the hotel and Clark had even cooked something for dinner for them — to Lois' delight he had turned out to be an excellent cook — and now they were snuggling on the sofa. Lois had her legs up and her head on Clark's lap and he was playing with her hair, lost in thought.
"Where do we go from here?" Lois suddenly asked, and looked at him seriously. Clark didn't answer immediately. "I mean, London and Metropolis…" Lois stopped. She didn't need to finish the sentence — it was evident what she meant. After all the two cities were not mere stone's throw away from each other. Wasn't a relationship at that distance just an illusion?
Clark looked down at her thoughtfully. "Maybe I could try to get a job in Metropolis?" he finally asked a bit hesitantly. He was afraid that she might feel pressured somehow, so he added, "The job at the Globe isn't bad, but I would like to do something else for a change and to move to another city."
"Are you serious?" Lois watched him with an astonished expression. "You'd move to another continent, just to be with me?"
Clark nodded and shrugged his shoulders, a little embarrassed. "What do you want me to say? I love you, Lois. Besides, it wouldn't be such a big sacrifice, you know. I mean, I always wanted to work for the Daily Planet. After all, who wouldn't want that?"
Lois nodded. "That's true indeed. And I'm sure Perry would be delighted to have you on his team. Two British Press Awards in five years. Who else has such a resume?"
"Well, I only know one other reporter," Clark laughed. "And if I remember correctly she got *three* Kerth Awards in five years."
"Among other things," Lois grinned but she sobered immediately again. "I love you, too, Clark," she admitted softly. "I don't want to lose you."
"You won't, Lois," Clark answered seriously, "because I won't let it happen. I love you too much."
As their lips parted after long minutes of tenderness. Lois suddenly remembered something she had wanted to ask the whole day. "Clark, when you rescued me today… How did you manage to get into the factory? And how where you able to sneak up on that Nick and knock him out so fast?"
Clark let out an odd sigh. "Don't fall in love with a world famous investigative reporter," he grinned. "You'll find out soon enough that you won't be able to keep any secrets from her." He sat up, facing her, and took one of her hands in his own. "Okay, Lois," he started. "Actually, there's a lot I should tell you about me."
The crowd on the street in front of the Lex Tower raised their heads. None of them who were standing there would have admitted it, but still the excitement about the sensational situation which was taking place right in front of their eyes was clearly noticeable. Lex Luthor, one of the richest men in the world stood on top of the balustrade of his penthouse's balcony, ready to plunge down. For the people here on the pavement, he was only visible as a tiny dark spot, but still the news about who that suicidal man on top of the Lex Tower was had spread among them like a wildfire.
"How horrible, how horrible!" a woman lamented. Alternately she covered her eyes, just to look up at the beautiful, horrifying situation yet again a second later.
Suddenly the figure on the balcony tripped and a cry escaped the crowd as Lex Luthor lost his stance and fell.
"Oh my god!" the woman who had covered her eyes screamed. Horrified the people watched the richest man in Metropolis crash down, tumbling in the air without a single cry, but on the contrary being strangely quiet and somehow lifeless in his passivity.
Later nobody could tell who had seen him first, or when he had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"Like a blur," an eyewitness reported. "Like a flash," another one said. Anyway, the flying stranger caught the falling Lex Luthor in the air, before the crowd could even register what was happening and brought him safely down to the pavement.
For a second nothing happened. In disbelief the people stared at the man in the red and blue suit in front of them. Had they really seen what they thought they had? Did they see it or dream it?
The uneasy quiet was finally interrupted by a police officer, who stepped forward courageously and grabbed Lex Luthor's arm. "Thank you, sir," he said to the stranger. "As to you, Mr. Luthor, I hereby arrest you for deceit and murder in three cases. You have the right to remain silent, everything you say will be…"
"Shut up, idiot!" The billionaire interrupted him with flashing eyes. "I know my rights! For that you will pay! I will…"
The rest of his raging was covered by the sudden murmur of the people who were waking up from their astonished rigidity. "Who are you?" they called. "How can you fly? What's your name? What kind of uniform are you wearing?"
The man in the red cape smiled. "I'm a friend," he answered. "I'm here to help." He looked around and his glance fell on Lois Lane who stood a little apart and waved at him. "And now, will you please excuse me? I've promised Ms Lane an exclusive interview. You'll be able to read everything tomorrow in the Daily Planet."
He turned around and went to her.
"How do you feel?" Lois asked softly, as he stood in front of her.
Clark sighed happily. "Wonderful," he answered. "Liberated."
Lois nodded knowingly and secretly winked at him. In a businesslike manner she brought her notepad out of her purse. "Welcome to Metropolis, unknown hero," she said in a louder voice. "The world has a lot of questions for you."