By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 2000
Summary: After Lois and Clark finally admit their feelings for each other, enemies old and new put not only the existence of Clark Kent in jeopardy, but any chance of a relationship between Lois and Clark as well.
This story takes place after 'Whine, Whine, Whine.' In other words, Lois and Clark have started dating. However, because Clark keeps running off without a good explanation, and usually at the most inopportune moments, Lois also began dating a D.E.A. agent named, Dan Scardino. The tension between Lois and Clark has continued to escalate until it looks as if their relationship is about to end. Realizing that what she really wants is to be with Clark, Lois breaks things off with Dan and tells Superman she only wanted to be friends before coming to see Clark. It doesn't take long before they find themselves in each other's arms. This story begins later that same night.
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit.
It all seemed to take place in slow motion. His hand came up to her cheek. She raised her head slightly as he stepped closer. She moistened her lips in anticipation of what would come next. Her heart began to race. He lowered his mouth to hers, barely touching her lips with his. Feeling the back of her knees go weak, she steadied herself by placing her hands on his chest. They seemed to linger that way for a moment before he stepped back.
"Good night," he said softly.
"Good night," she replied, turning to step through the already open door of her apartment.
He waited until she closed the door and he heard her turn the locks before walking — he had to remind himself not to float — back down the stairs of her apartment building and out onto the street. He turned and glanced back at her window. A smile lit up his features when he saw her standing there, watching him go. He paused for a moment before turning around and walking away. He turned the corner and, slipping into an alley, spun into the superman suit and sprinted into the sky — reminding himself that airborne cartwheels were not permitted until he was sure he would not be seen.
A man with straggly dark hair, wearing a toque, watched in disbelief as Clark Kent disappeared around the corner and, only a moment later, Superman reappeared.
He waited until Superman was gone before making his way into the alley. There was no exit and no Clark Kent. He smiled. It couldn't be that easy.
Lois tried to wipe the silly grin off her face as she sat down on the couch. Wow! Only a couple of hours had passed since she had nervously stepped into Clark's apartment to tell him she wouldn't be seeing Dan Scardino anymore. This time Clark hadn't run away from her. Although by looking around his apartment, it was obvious he had been about to do just that. Clark had told her he was thinking of moving because he couldn't stand to see her get involved with Dan. But why hadn't he just talked to her?
She pushed that question to the back of her mind as she thought about standing in his livingroom, kissing him. It had taken the ultimate act of courage for her to do that, but he had responded, promising he wasn't going to run anymore. He had even said he was ready to take the next step if she was. Of course, they had gone back to kissing, distracting her from discovering what he meant.
She wasn't sure what he was referring to. It seemed obvious he wanted to take things beyond casual dating, but how far beyond… he hadn't said. Was he talking about sleeping together? That had been her first thought. She wasn't quite sure she was ready for that. Oh, the desire was there all right. It was the fear of what seemed to accompany that type of intimacy that bothered Lois. But then, he had been the one to stop their kissing. They had talked and laughed and then gone back to kissing for a while before Clark offered to walk her home. So what was he saying? He definitely wanted more from this relationship, but he hadn't said exactly what he wanted. Was he talking about moving in together or even marriage? She didn't know. And if truth be known, at the moment she really didn't care. She just wanted to continue to float on this cloud of ecstacy.
She was in love. She had fought so desperately to keep from loving Clark. It had been a bloody battle — they both had the battle scars to prove it, but she had lost. There was no denying it any longer. She was completely, amazingly, head-over-heals in love with Clark Kent. Now she found herself wondering why she'd ever fought it in the first place. Defeat had never before felt this good.
Clark loved her too. Even though he hadn't told her, she had no doubt he did. She could see it in the way he looked at her, feel it in the way he treated her, hear it in the way he said her name and taste it in the way he kissed her. It was terrifying and it was intoxicating. She finally understood that she had never really loved Claude or Lex or even Superman. She knew with absolute certainty that here and now, with Clark, she was experiencing the real thing.
That stupid grin. She was going to have to find a way to control that unless she wanted the whole world to know how hopelessly — she corrected herself — hopefully in love she was with her partner. But then, did she even care? The grin stayed firmly planted on her face as she sunk down into the couch to daydream about Clark.
Clark floated on his back, high above the city. Only a few hours ago, he had been about to pack up everything and leave Metropolis. He had been willing to bet everything on the belief that Lois had chosen Dan Scardino instead of him. He knew he wouldn't be able to stand by and watch her with another man. Not when only weeks ago, it seemed as if she was beginning to see Clark Kent as more than a friend.
He had been so scared he had lost her for good. When she had come to him while he was Superman earlier today to tell him there was someone else, he had almost broken down and told her he needed her. He was relieved now he hadn't done so. She wanted to be with him — not Superman and not Dan Scardino. It was almost too good to believe.
She was falling in love with him. That much was obvious. He didn't know if she was quite there yet, but there was time. Besides, until he took that next step, they really couldn't go forward.
The next step was to tell her he was Superman. He knew she would be angry. However, until he did that, they couldn't go further with their relationship and he definitely wanted that. Besides, it would be so good not to have to lie to her anymore when he had to take off to effect a rescue. If he didn't tell her, she would continue to be hurt by his behavior. He had to tell her. There was no other option. He would do it as soon as possible.
"What's the meaning of this?" Bill Church Jr. demanded of the man in front of him. He knew what it meant, but there was still the illogical hope that if he put enough pressure on this cowering lawyer, the meaning of the court order in his hands would change.
Evan Rutherford swallowed hard. His wire rim glasses encircled eyes filled with fear. He was the most junior lawyer in the firm that represented Church in this matter and for that reason he had been elected to bring the order to Church. He ran his hand nervously over his dark goatee before reaching up and brushing back dark hair that, despite his youth, was already thinning. He figured if he was given a few more assignments like this, his hair would all be gone.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Church, but the court ruled against us." He paused, gathering his courage, before once again plowing ahead. "The insecticide you have been producing — Right-Kil — has been banned for use in the United States. The order you hold in your hands is an injunction against its sale."
"To anyone? Even foreign companies?" Church demanded.
"I'm afraid so, Sir. It also orders you to properly dispose of it immediately."
"Can we appeal this? Bribe a judge? Or file a writ or what ever it is you lawyers do?"
"No, Sir. That was our final appeal."
Church glared at the young man. "So what do you propose I do with all the insecticide?"
Evan shrugged helplessly.
"Do you have any idea how much this will cost me?" Church demanded. The anger in his voice was evident when he continued, "Lane and Kent!! They're to blame for this, you know. Yet again, their stories have cost me. They're becoming a real problem. Maybe even a bigger problem than the freak in tights."
Rutherford listened in silence to Church's rant. He was relieved. At least Church wasn't taking out his anger on him. Rutherford was well aware just how deadly Church's anger could be.
Dan Scardino threw his things into his bags. His flight left for Washington first thing in the morning. Normally, that meant he would pack in the morning, but tonight he was looking for anything to distract him from what had transpired at Lois' apartment earlier this evening.
Kent! How could she choose Kent over him? It made no rational sense to Dan. Kent was like… the world's oldest living boy scout. Lois was a spirited, vivacious woman. They were all wrong for each other. He was a much better match for Lois. What he couldn't figure out was what Lois even saw in that stuffed-shirt with such a bizarre taste in ties.
Dan smiled. There was one bright spot. At least Kent couldn't seem to make a commitment to Lois. Dan hoped that Clark's inability to make a commitment would last long enough for Lois to reconsider her decision. Dan didn't plan to be too far away when she did.
He violently stuffed the final shirt in his bag and did up the zipper. He would be back in Metropolis soon — he would make sure of that. He would check in to see how the new couple was doing then.
The next morning, Lois Lane stepped off the elevator into the familiar newsroom and suddenly realized that, although it still looked the same, it felt different this morning. She took a deep breath as both excitement and nerves encased her. She looked around. As usual, she had arrived before Clark. She shook her head slightly. These feelings were crazy and she knew it. She had been coming into the same newsroom for two years since Clark had begun working here, but this morning she was actually nervous. She just hoped the words 'I'm madly in love with Clark Kent' were not tattooed on her forehead because it certainly felt as if they were. She made her way over to her desk.
"Morning, Lois," came Jimmy's cheerful voice.
"Morning, Jimmy. Has Clark been in yet?" she asked. She immediately blushed and looked down. It was an innocent enough question. He was her partner after all. The problem was that her voice had trembled slightly as she asked it.
Jimmy looked at her curiously for a moment. "Umm… No, I haven't seen him yet this morning," he replied a little nervously. Jimmy knew Lois and Clark had started dating, but it was always hard to know whether they liked or hated each other at any particular moment. At least Lois' feelings seemed to go from adoration to fury in an instant. Clark's feelings seemed more stable. What Jimmy didn't realize was that Lois would never get so angry at Clark if she didn't feel at least as much for him as he felt for her. "If I see him, I'll tell him you're looking for him."
"No," Lois replied, somewhat too vehemently. "I mean, that's okay. I'll talk to him when I see him."
"Uhh… Okay. Oh, I almost forgot. I thought you might want to see this," Jimmy said, putting a fax in her hand and walking away.
Lois studied the fax for a moment as a slow smile lit up her face. She heard the elevator doors open and looked up. Her eyes immediately met Clark's. A silent message seemed to pass from one to the other and Lois relaxed. What had happened between them last night had not been her imagination. He still felt the same way. She wouldn't have even known that was her concern until she saw the love in his eyes.
Clark got a couple cups of coffee before going down into the bullpen to join Lois.
"Morning," said Clark, a twinkle in his eye and a tone of familiarity in his voice. He handed her a cup.
"Morning," responded Lois, meeting his eyes for a second. "Umm… you might want to take a look at this," she said, pulling her mind away from the sensations his mere presence were causing. This was a work place and she was determined to keep things professional. She knew it was a losing battle, but one Lois Lane had to fight anyway. She handed Clark the fax.
He smiled. "So it looks like the courts finally did it," he remarked.
"Yeah, after all of our stories linking Right-Kil to cancer I would hope so," said Lois a little smugly.
"I just hope Farm-aid Inc. follows the order," said Clark. "After all, it is owned by the Churches."
"It will. We'll make sure, Partner," she said.
Clark smiled at the way she said Partner. It was what she often called him, but now there was a new note to it — a hidden and quite welcome secondary meaning.
"Listen, Lois," said Clark quietly. "What would you say to coming…"
A familiar voice sounded in the newsroom as Perry White 'invited' them into his office. It was obvious he already had another story for them.
"Coming, Perry," Lois said, before turning back to Clark. "You were saying?"
"Do you want to come over for supper tonight?" Clark asked. He wanted to be some place private when he told her about Superman — after all, he knew she would lose her temper. She wouldn't be Lois Lane if she didn't.
"I can't, Clark. I've got a Tae Kwan Do class tonight."
"Then how about…" Clark began.
"Lois, Clark. Now." Perry bellowed. They hurried to comply.
Elise Carr was getting ready for work when the pounding on the door started. She sighed. She'd know that insistent knocking anywhere. Calvin. She made her way to the door. She opened it to reveal a young man with straggly, dark hair, wearing a toque.
"Elise," began Calvin in his English accent. "I 'ad to see you."
"I stand by what I said yesterday, Calvin," Elise told him. "I'm going to set up an appointment with a lawyer today. I want a divorce."
"Elise, you don't mean that. You were just upset about everything. But I've got our money problems solved now. You won't 'ave to work another day in your life. You can spend all day, every day with me."
Elise knew what that would mean — she would become his full time servant. "You always have some scheme or other to make a quick buck. There's no such thing, Calvin."
"But this time, there's no mistake. I know precisely 'ow to make it rich this time."
"Another lawsuit?" Elise asked. His last 'get rich quick' scheme had been to sue Superman. The case had been thrown out of court.
"No. This is better."
"I have to get to work, Calvin," she said, not having time to listen to yet another harebrained scheme.
"But what about me?" whined Calvin.
"You'll have to go. You'll be hearing from my lawyer soon," she responded, pushing him out the door.
Calvin sat in the outer office of the Dirt Digger, waiting impatiently. If only they knew what he had, they wouldn't be making him wait. Well, they would pay for this and pay big. He would make sure this time he didn't make any mistakes. He would get at least a hundred thousand dollars up front.
"Mr. Dregg, would you please come with me?" asked a trim attractive woman with short blond hair and a small mole on her upper lip. Her office name tag identified her as Maria Smyth. Calvin followed her into an office.
"Mr. Turner, this is Mr. Dregg," Maria informed the man in the office.
A small wiry man with a bad toupee' rose from his desk. He held a hand out to the man entering.
"I'm Fred Turner."
"I'm Calvin Dregg," Calvin said, ignoring the hand and plopping himself into the chair in front of Turner's desk. "Listen, Turner, I'm not some dupe you can take advantage of. I want money. I want a lot of money."
"Well, that depends on what you have," Turner replied, lowering himself back into his chair.
"I know Superman's secret identity."
Turner leaned forward in his chair. If this guy wasn't just blowing smoke, this could be huge, but there had been a similar claim not too long ago, so Turner was skeptical. "What makes you think he has a secret identity? I mean, he doesn't wear a mask so I would think everyone would recognize him if he tried to use another identity."
"I don't know why no one recognizes 'im. But I know what I saw."
"And that is?"
Calvin shook his head. "Not until I get my money. Not all of it — but until we come to terms, and that includes a 'undred thousand up front, I'm not telling you anything."
"That's not how we work. I'm not giving you a hundred thousand dollars without even knowing what you've got."
"Well then, I guess I'll just 'ave to go to your competition."
Turner watched Calvin get up and storm out of the office. He shook his head. There were so many of them these days — so many con-artists.
It was just by chance that Evan Rutherford happened to overhear the conversation in Fred Turner's office that day. He was there to deliver some legal papers to the Dirt Digger. Once again the rag was being sued. Rutherford's firm was representing them against the 'unfounded allegations' of slander. Rutherford thought back to his visit to Bill Church. Maybe there was a way to get the firm back in Church's good books. And maybe he could come out of this looking like the hero. After all, he knew how much Church hated Superman. Surely this type of information would be useful to Church.
"Mr. Dregg," said Rutherford. "I have a client that might be interested in your offer."
"Well, let me meet 'im," Calvin responded. "But I'm telling you the same thing I told 'im," Calvin said, gesturing toward the office he had just left, "I don't talk until I get a 'undred thousand."
"So, I understand you might be able to tell me something about Superman," Church said. "Something about him having a secret identity?"
"I don't say anything without a 'undred thousand. I'm sure Rutherford told you," Calvin added, glaring at Evan. "Then, once I get you the proof, I expect a million more." Had he been smart, he would have gotten the proof first, but Calvin was never one to think very far ahead and hind sight is always twenty/twenty.
Church put a briefcase on the table and opened it. It was filled with money. Calvin's eyes sparkled as his hands ran lovingly over the bills.
"Right then," Calvin said, closing the briefcase. "Superman is really Clark Kent — a reporter for the Daily Planet."
Church looked at the man in disbelief. "Diana Stride made that claim a few months ago. Superman and Kent showed up at a press conference together to refute the claim. Clark Kent is not Superman."
"But I saw 'im change into Superman," Calvin objected. It wasn't exactly true, but it was close enough.
Church glared at the man. "What is this, Dregg? No one plays me for a fool."
"I'm not trying to do that, Mr. Church," said Calvin, noticing for the first time the precariousness of his situation. These were serious men. If only he had known that this had already been disproved, he wouldn't be in this position now. But he had been so sure about what he had seen.
"Take care of him," Church instructed one of his men, taking back the money.
Calvin struggled and complained and whined as he was dragged out. He had no doubt about his fate.
Once he was gone, Church looked over at Evan. Evan held his breath, hoping that bringing this man to see Bill Church had not been a fatal mistake for him too.
"Check out Clark Kent," Church instructed him.
"You believe him?" Evan asked in disbelief.
"No," said Church. "But I still want it checked out." After all, if it was true, it could potentially solve a lot of Church's current difficulties — at least on a short term basis.
Evan managed to find a hiding place just outside the big windows in Clark Kent's apartment. No one was home. Well then, he would just have to wait — very, very quietly. If this guy really was Superman, the smallest noise could alert him to Rutherford's presence.
That fact made the whole project more exciting. Evan didn't have any real fear. After all, if Superman found him spying, the worst that would probably happen would be trespassing charges. His real fear was going back to Church without a definitive answer one way or another. That meant he either had to get pictures of this Kent guy becoming Superman or of the two of them together. He hoped this wouldn't take long. He checked the video camera. Everything was ready to go. Now all he needed was Kent's cooperation.
Clark opened the door to his apartment and stood aside to allow Lois to enter as he always did. She walked in but stopped on the landing. Clark closed the door and started down the stairs into his apartment.
As Clark passed her, Lois reached forward, under Clark's suit jacket, and grabbed the belt on the back of Clark's pants. Clark's forward motion was brought to an abrupt halt. He turned around and Lois was immediately in his arms, her lips seeking out his. He wrapped one arm firmly around her body and the other hand he buried in her hair, deepening the kiss. They finally broke, both breathing heavily.
"Wow," gasped Clark. "Where did that come from?"
"I've been wanting to do that all day," Lois replied with a grin. She could tell from the look in his eyes that he was completely overwhelmed. She lightly ran her hand over his chest before pushing past him to enter the apartment.
Clark continued to stand there, breathlessly watching her go. He had not expected her surprise attack. It had knocked him completely off balance, but then everything this woman did seemed to leave him reeling. It took him a moment to regain his footing. "Are you sure you can't stay for supper?" he asked when he finally recovered his equilibrium.
"I'm sorry, Clark. I'd love to, but I've only got a few minutes before my Tae Kwan Do class. I really need to run."
"Okay, what about tomorrow?"
Lois thought for a moment. "Okay, tomorrow," she said, somewhat shyly.
"How about I make supper here?" he asked.
"Are you cooking?"
"I knew there was a reason I love you," she replied casually. "Now, where's that book you're going to lend me?"
"What did you say?" asked Clark, not sure he had heard her right but seriously hoping he had.
"Where's the book," Lois replied.
"No, before that," Clark asked.
Lois looked thoughtful as she considered what she had said. Suddenly she blushed. She did love him, but she hadn't meant to tell him like that. It had just sort of slipped out. She could claim it was a figure of speech, but she really didn't want to do that.
A slow smile spread across Clark's face. Her sudden blush answered his question about what he had heard. It could have been just a figure of speech, but for some reason, Clark didn't believe that. "You love me." It was more a statement than a question. Lois didn't respond. Clark stepped up closer to her. "Admit it. You love me," he repeated, standing now only inches away.
She looked at the twinkle in his eyes. That combined with the deep sound in his voice and the nearness of his body sent a rush of emotion through her. "I love you," she whispered. There were no further words as Clark's lips once again found hers. Her arms went around his neck.
When the kiss broke, Clark responded. "I love you too, Lois," he breathed. "I have for such a long time."
Lois could hardly believe how much hearing him say he loved her meant to her. She had heard that from men before, but this time there was a difference — this time, she believed it. She needed another kiss which she immediately took, but she quickly pulled back.
"The book?" she asked.
Clark looked confused.
"You were going to lend me a book," she reminded him. "And then, as much as I hate to do this, I really do have to get going."
Clark let out a short breath before going and getting the book. He handed it to her but didn't release it until she met his eyes. "Tomorrow," he reminded her.
She smiled. "Tomorrow," she confirmed, before turning and heading out the door.
Clark watched through the door for a moment as Lois got in her jeep and drove away. Suddenly he heard a cry for help. He spun into the suit. He thought he heard a gasp, but there wasn't time to investigate. He disappeared out the door to attend to Superman business.
When Kent and a woman entered the apartment, Evan had been disappointed. Still, he started to record given what appeared to be happening. When the woman left, he had been about to lower the camera. He would start taping again if Kent started doing something suspicious. Then, before he could stop recording, Kent suddenly spun into Superman and headed out the door. He gasped. He was glad now that he was still recording. He wouldn't have had time to start taping again otherwise.
Evan took a moment to compose himself before sneaking away. He wanted to leave before Superman could return. He had his answer — and the evidence he needed to prove it. Church would be pleased.
"Lois, is Clark in yet?" asked Perry, stepping up beside her desk as soon as she arrived the next morning.
"I haven't seen him, Perry. Why?"
"I take it you didn't see the Dirt Digger last night?"
Lois was indignant. She never watched the television rendition of the Dirt Digger any more than she read the rag.
"The Dirt Digger. That's the trash show that comes on after the evening news. Right?"
"Entertainment show," Perry corrected.
"Trash show," Lois reaffirmed. "No. Of course, I didn't watch the Dirt Digger last night. I was asleep. Why?"
"I think you better come with me," Perry responded, turning and heading into the conference room.
Lois gave him a curious look before following. This was obviously something more than just a big story. She watched in silence as he closed the conference room blinds, before putting a tape into the VCR and turning it on.
Clark straightened his tie before entering the newsroom. He was late — again. But a fire down by the docks had diverted him. Since the fire hadn't claimed any lives, it hadn't put a damper on his good mood. Lois had finally admitted she was in love with him. Him! He could hardly believe what those three simple words were able to do to his heart.
When he stepped off the elevator, he hesitated at the sudden hush that came over the newsroom. He looked at himself for a moment. Yes, he had remembered to get dressed this morning. He glanced over at Lois' desk. She wasn't there. He sighed and made his way towards his desk. Tonight was the big night. He would have her over to dinner tonight. He would tell her everything — that he was Superman — why he hadn't told her until now. He would tell her anything and everything she wanted to know. She would be mad at first, but they would talk it through. He was confident of that. And then… A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Suddenly his superhearing picked up a small gasp coming from the conference room. He recognized Lois' voice. Something was wrong. He quickly made his way over.
When Clark opened the door and stepped inside, Perry said, "Clark. Good. You should see this too. Now, I've been on the phone to Franklin Stern. He wants a response from you in the evening edition."
"A response to what?" Clark asked. He looked at Lois who was not meeting his eyes. It looked as if all of the blood had been drained from her face.
Perry handed him the remote control. "I think I'll let you two look at this together. I have other work to do." He had seen Lois' stricken reaction to this information and figured it might be best just to leave them to deal with this by themselves.
Clark watched as Perry left the room, closing the door behind him.
"What was that all about?" Clark asked, his voice a mixture of curiosity and amusement. Perry had seemed almost as uncomfortable around him as everyone else in the newsroom this morning. He looked at Lois, but she had turned her back to him and was now looking absently out the window at the street below. When she didn't answer, he pressed the play button on the remote.
The T.V. sprung to life. After the Dirt Digger's opening credits finished, a woman appeared on the screen. "Tonight, we have an exclusive for you. We have the inside story on everybody's favorite superhero — Superman. Stay with us and you will be amazed. You will never look at the superhero quite the same way again."
Clark turned toward Lois. "Who are they claiming he's sleeping with now?" he asked.
Lois turned toward him then. Clark was brought up short by the anger in her eyes. She turned back to the window. Clark was about to comment when the voice on the television directed his attention back to it.
"We have come by an exclusive video tape that proves conclusively that Superman has a secret identity. He has been masquerading among us for years under this identity. First, we will show you the tape, then we will give you the name and what we know about this man."
Clark's heart almost stopped beating. There was a picture on the television screen of Lois kissing him in his apartment. His mind skipped ahead. He knew what was coming next before he saw it. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. He didn't watch the rest. He switched off the television and turned toward Lois. One day. He had planned to tell her tonight. He had waited one day too long.
"Lois," Clark said softly.
"Don't, Clark. Don't deny it. Not to me. Not again."
"Oh," Clark said, pulling in a sharp breath. The last time someone had figured out his secret, he had managed to convince everyone, including Lois, that Diana Stride had made the whole thing up. He could still remember the guilt he felt looking into her eyes as he finished his press conference. "Lois, I'm not going to deny it. Not to you."
That got Lois' attention. She spun around and glared at him. There was no mistaking the intense anger in her eyes. In fact, had she been blessed with heat vision, Clark had no doubt that he would now be a pile of ashes on the floor.
"Why not, Clark?" she asked, the sarcasm dripping from her voice. "I might just believe you again."
"I want you to know, Lois. I swear, that's why I wanted to have supper with you at my place tonight. I was going to tell you. I knew our relationship couldn't go forward until you knew."
"What relationship, Clark?" Lois responded, causing Clark's blood to go cold. "We don't have a relationship. As far as I can see, we don't even have a friendship." With that she strode past him toward the door. He instinctively stuck out his hand and took hold of her arm. She spun toward him, glaring at his hand. He immediately released her.
"Please, let me explain," Clark begged.
"Explain? You've had two years to 'explain'." Lois hissed before turning around and walking out of the conference room. He watched as she went to her desk, picked up her purse and headed for the elevators.
He took a deep breath and was starting to follow when Jimmy's voice, somewhat hesitantly, said, "C.K., phone call. Line two."
"Thank's, Jimmy," Clark replied before letting out a sigh and walking back into the conference room to pick up the phone.
"Hi, Son," said Jonathan's voice over the phone.
"I take it you heard?" Clark asked.
"Yes. We went to bed before the news last night, so we didn't find out until today. How are you holding up?" Martha asked.
Clark reached over and closed the conference room door. "Lois is furious," he told his folks.
"Oh, Sweetie, I'm so sorry," said Martha. "But, don't give up on her, Clark. She'll come around."
"I'm not so sure, Mom. Lois has a real problem with trust and I'm afraid the fact that I didn't tell her myself isn't going to be easy for her to get over. Anyway, I was thinking I'd come out there and maybe we could figure a way out of this mess."
"Actually, Clark," said Jonathan. "That's one of the reasons we're calling. We wanted to warn you not to come home."
"This place is crawling with reporters. If either you or Superman show up here right now, it will confirm everything," Jonathan said.
"Are you guys okay?" Clark asked.
"We're fine, Honey. Are you planning to use the hologram again?"
"I don't think that's going to work this time, Mom. This time the tape is going to be a little more difficult to explain. Last time, all they had was a tape of Superman's suits in my closet. This time they have a tape of me spinning into Superman. And considering the problems we had with the hologram last time… I just think the reporters will need something a little more… I don't know, substantial I guess."
"Then what are you going to do?"
"I haven't got a clue."
Lois walked into her apartment and slammed the door. She had left the Planet immediately after her confrontation with Clark. She was afraid if she didn't, she would fall apart in public. So she had grabbed her purse and taken off.
Getting out of the Daily Planet had been a challenge. The paparazzi had gathered in force since she had arrived at the Planet. She was amazed that none had been here when she first arrived — on the other hand, she had arrived quite early. The press corps must have been a little late jumping on this — but then she was in the press corp and she hadn't found out until this morning.
Security was managing to keep the paparazzi out of the building, but when Lois had gone down to the parking garage to get her jeep, reporters had been as thick as fleas on a dog's back. At least that was probably how Perry would have described it. They peppered her with questions — not even giving her time to answer had she been inclined to do so.
"Lois, did you know your partner was the Man of Steel?"
"Lois, how does it feel to be scooped by the Dirt Digger on a story about your own partner?"
"Lois, that tape showed you two exchanging some pretty hot kisses. I guess you really are Superman's girlfriend. So does he live up to the title 'Man of Steel' in bed?" The final question had been put to her by John Thorne, who Lois recognized as a reporter for the Dirt Digger. She glared at him for a moment. She actually managed to taste blood she had to bite so hard on her lower lip to keep from responding.
Uncharacteristically, throughout the interrogation Lois said nothing. She had no intention of confirming Clark's secret identity. However, given her anger at Clark, she was, at this moment, seriously tempted to do so. So she decided to say nothing. Let the reporters interpret that any way they wanted. She pushed past them on the way to the jeep. Then she gunned the jeep, causing reporters to scramble.
Arriving at her apartment building hadn't been much better. The fact that she was seen on that tape kissing Clark before he spun into Superman had put her in the middle of the fireworks. However, once she got inside her apartment, she was confident no one had been in there. She had too much security. She was glad now for her paranoia. She closed her door and, as usual, made her way over to the window to unlock it just like she had for the last two years when she was at home. She stopped. No. The window would stay locked!
She walked over to check the answering machine. There were six messages. She pressed the play button. Her mother's voice came over the line.
"Lois, are you there? I tried calling you at work, but they said you had left. What's this I hear about you having an affair with Superman? Do you really think that's wise? All my friends are telling me that they think it's wrong for a human to have sex with an alien. Don't you ever think about how your actions will affect me? Call me back as soon as possible."
Lois let out a short breath. She had just found out the man she loved had been lying to her for two years and yet her mother was focusing on the idea that she was sexually involved with Superman — and how that would affect her. The next four messages were from television crews requesting interviews. She was about to turn it off when a hesitant voice began to speak — a voice she knew so well — Clark's voice.
"Lois… I know you're mad. And you have every right to be. I'm just asking that you talk to me. If you're there, please pick up." Then Clark cleared his throat. "Umm… I'm hoping that… Please call me." There was another pause before the phone line went dead.
"Damn you, Clark Kent," Lois yelled at the answering machine. She threw her purse across the room in the general direction of a picture of the two of them at the Kerth Awards, before sinking to the couch and bursting into tears.
Church smiled as he watched news reports showing shots of first Lois Lane and then Clark Kent leaving the Daily Planet building. It was a feeding frenzy. This was even better than he could have hoped for. Not only had he managed to get at Superman. He had also managed to distract the news team of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. He was sure that by the time they were able to be effective at work again, he would have succeeded in recovering his losses on the insecticide, Right-Kil.
"Good work, Evan," Church said. "Now, there's something else I need you to do. I'll make arrangements with your firm to keep you around for a little while. Don't worry, when this is all over, there'll be a nice bonus in it for you."
Evan swallowed hard. Working for Church would certainly be good for the pocket book, but Church never took failure well. He would have to be very, very careful.
Lois picked herself up off the sofa and angrily wiped the tears from her face. She wouldn't do this. She wouldn't let herself cry over Clark. After all, he'd never let her know who he really was, and she knew from bitter experience what that meant. Claude hadn't allowed her to see the real man either before it was too late. Neither had Lex. She had believed that Clark was different, but that was just an illusion. Like all men, he only let her see those parts of himself he wanted her to see. She ignored the nagging little voice in the back of her mind that told her that while Claude and Lex had hidden their dark side, Clark had only hidden the fact that he spent his spare time helping people.
She could hardly believe what a fool she'd been for the past two years. How could she call herself an investigative reporter when she couldn't see what was under her own nose? A pair of glasses. All it took was a pair of glasses and she hadn't been able to see the truth.
What she should do now was write a story about the real Superman. After all, she could confirm for the world who Superman really was. And they would believe her, considering the fact that she really was 'Superman's girlfriend' — or had been until now, even though she herself hadn't known it. She couldn't do that to Clark. She should. She pushed that thought aside. It didn't really matter what she thought she should do, she already knew she wouldn't.
But why hadn't he told her? They had been partners for almost two years. They had been best friends for almost a year and a half. They had been dating, albeit on and off, for the last couple of months. She had fallen in love with him and she thought he had fallen in love with her too, but he never told her the truth. How could he have let — no, scrap that — encouraged her to fall in love with him when he wasn't being honest with her. Men! She let out a short sharp breath.
The problem was that all of this contrasted sharply with what she believed and loved about Clark. She had considered him basically incapable of lying. Until today she would have considered him the last honest man, but he had been lying to her daily since they first met. 'Cheese of the Month Club!' Please! Have to return a video, fill a prescription, return a library book, go to a dentist's appointment… She thought back to a time, not long ago, when he had left her in the middle of a date. She had been the one to invent an excuse for him on that occasion. When she saw him the next day, she had said, "No, don't say a word. Allow me. Lois, I can explain. I suddenly remembered that I had to get my mother's sister's poodle's hair cut, and so you can see why I had to leave you in the middle of our date with your thumb in your ear. But I'm sure you'll understand."
He should have just told her the truth, but instead, he deliberately chose to hurt her over and over again. She would never allow him to do it again. Never! She would go in to work tomorrow and demand a new partner and that would be that. She would put him behind her just as she had put Claude, Lex Luthor, and even her father behind her. And next time… There would never be a next time, she vowed.
THREE WEEKS LATER
Clark straightened his suit and combed his hair with his fingers as he stepped through the door into the Daily Planet. This had been the worst three weeks of his life — except perhaps for the time Lois was engaged to Luthor. He was constantly being hounded by paparazzi and fans and promoters and people wanting help. He had been hounded and manhandled all the way to the Daily Planet this morning — and every morning for the past three weeks.
Clark had never submitted a response to the tape. He told Perry that he didn't intend to dignify that trash with a response. However, his real reason for not responding was that he felt uncomfortable lying about it. Perry claimed to understand. In the end, Perry wrote an editorial denying the allegation. He included in it Clark's statement that he wouldn't dignify the tape with a response. Since then, both Clark and Superman had refused to answer any questions about the tape.
Franklin Stern had hired extra security and no one was now being allowed through the doors without the appropriate identification. That usually allowed Clark to work in peace at the Planet, although sometimes people still got through. The added security precautions had caused a number of incidents that Clark would probably have considered humorous under other circumstances. For example, one morning last week, Lois forgot her identification. Some over-zealous, poorly informed security guard almost lost his life in his attempt to keep her out of the building. She glared across at Clark the remainder of the day, letting him know that it was entirely his fault.
Superman had cancelled all of his charity appearances, claiming his attendance would distract from the purpose of the functions rather than drawing attention to it. The reporters were there, not to shed light on whatever need was being presented, but to question him about his other identity. However, his main reason for not attending had more to do with the difficulties of attending to his Superman duties given the media attention he was receiving. He could often get away without notice from the Daily Planet building, but it was much more difficult any and everywhere else. So he spent long hours at the Daily Planet in case there was an urgent call for Superman. Of course, he was worried about what would happen the next time some really big emergency came up requiring him to disappear for a couple of days or at an inopportune moment. But he knew that, no matter the cost to him personally, he would go.
Then there was Lois. She had told Perry in no uncertain terms the next day that she would not work with him. Perry had called him into his office.
"I'm sorry, Son," Perry had said to the look of heartbreak on Clark's face. "Even Elvis had problems with Priscilla sometimes."
"Umm… Chief, didn't Priscilla divorce Elvis?" Clark had responded. Clark still wasn't sure what Perry had muttered in response.
Of course, Lois hadn't said a word to him since — well, unless you counted "Move!" which she had said to him on a few occasions when he had attempted to block her way in an effort to talk to her. For the first week, he had done that numerous times. Since then, he had just respected her unspoken request to be left alone. It was probably for the best anyway considering the mess his life had become.
Then there was everyone else. He couldn't have a life outside the Planet because of the media attention. Inside the Planet, everyone was treating him differently — awe or fear, Clark couldn't decide. Even Jimmy wouldn't quite look him in the eye when they spoke. No one else, other than Perry, even gave him the time of day unless they had to. It was as if they didn't know what to say or how to behave around him anymore and so they just kept their distance.
He was glad the paparazzi had lost some interest in his parents. There was always the obligatory one or two camped out in the ditch across from the farm. However, they no longer seemed to be coming on to the property or generally making pests of themselves. The reason for this was that Superman had not been seen anywhere near the Kents. So, he still couldn't risk going home.
He had spoken to his parents a few times since this had happened, but they didn't discuss things openly for fear of being recorded. Clark had found surveillance devises in his place on a number of occasions. The problem was that although he could spot such devises easily enough with his enhanced senses, it would seem suspicious for Clark to be able to find them. So he had hired an agency to come in and sweep his place every couple of days. However, he couldn't check his parents' place the same way. They seemed to realize the potential problem on their own and so were careful as well. Of course, without Lois to bounce things off of, in or out of the suit, and without his parents, Clark felt more alone than he had ever felt in his entire life.
Clark was also relieved that the paparazzi were now leaving Lois alone. Some of it probably had to do with the various injuries many of them had suffered at her hands when they had gotten too close — self defense, Lois had claimed. And given her size compared to the size of the men who had been attacked, no one questioned her explanation. Of course, the other reason she was being left alone was that Lois and Clark were not giving them anything to talk about. Without a little bit of fire, it was difficult to fan the flames.
Clark made it into the newsroom and flopped down into his chair. Then there was his job. He couldn't do any real investigation with the scrutiny he himself was under. So far, Perry had been able to assign him other tasks, mostly editing other people's articles or doing research. It kept him in the newsroom and gave him something to do, but Clark knew it wasn't much more than make work projects Perry was finding for him. He didn't even dare file any Superman exclusives. He hated that. He was a reporter and he felt an obligation to the paper, but he couldn't risk reporting the story so when no one was there for the Daily Planet, the story would go unreported — mostly. There had been a couple of occasions when the story had been too important to ignore. So he had written down the basics of the story and e-mailed it to Lois. She had picked up the hint and filed the stories under her name. He would have given her all of them, but he didn't for fear that the paparazzi would once again focus their attention on Lois.
There was only one bright spot. For some reason, the tape had not been taken as definitive proof that he was Superman. He suspected the press conference he and Superman had given together a few months ago — with the help of a hologram of Superman — had gone a long way toward making the world skeptical of this latest claim. On the other hand, that made his life at the moment a living hell. Every reporter, certified and freelance, was desperate to be the one to get the final verification. The frantic activity to prove he was Superman was making things more and more difficult for Clark.
Clark had spent every spare moment he had during the past three weeks trying to come up with a plan that would save Clark. He had thought up and then discarded hundreds of ideas. At least, that was certainly how it felt. He couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation for the tape and without that, he knew the public would not let it go. He had finally accepted the fact that it was just a matter of time before Clark would be gone for good.
He looked over at Lois. She was studying her computer screen intently. That was the hardest part of this. Everything had been going so well between them. She had finally told him she loved him. He was beginning to see real possibilities for the future. Now that was gone. Even if she did forgive him, how could he offer her anything now? He sighed and turned his attention to the work Perry had left on his desk.
Lois cautiously glanced across at Clark. The morning after this had happened, she stormed into Perry's office to demand a new partner. He had asked if this had anything to do with the Superman thing. It had brought her up short. She was suddenly very conscious that she had to be careful not to legitimize the claim that Clark was Superman.
"Of course it has to do with the Superman thing," she had finally responded. "How am I going to get any work done with Clark as long as he has this long line of people following him around?" At least that was one way of dealing with it.
"Is that all?" Perry had asked.
Lois had glared at him for a moment. "All right. If you must know, we had a fight. He's a scum ball, just like every other man in the world. Satisfied?" 'Well,' she thought, 'Considering the number of fights we seem to have, that shouldn't cause too much alarm.'
Perry had looked at her. "Is he Superman?" he finally asked.
She had snorted. "Get serious, Perry. Clark can't even open a peanut butter jar by himself. If he were Superman, don't you think I'd know?" Well, she should have known. And he should have told her!
Perry had agreed to separate them — at least for the time being. He had never mentioned it again, although she could tell that at first, he would watch their interaction, but as Clark had backed off, Perry seemed to realize that whatever had been happening between them was indeed over. Lois suspected that Perry didn't dare push for fear that he could lose both of his star reporters if he did.
Lois sighed. The problem was that after three weeks, she was having difficulty remaining angry at Clark. At first, it had been easy, but as time passed the anger faded and with that the pain became more acute. There was the pain of what he had done. However, the longer they were estranged, there was also the pain of separation. They hadn't spoken to each other in three weeks. Not even during her engagement to Lex had they gone this long without speaking. Her heart ached at the loss of her best friend and partner and the man she… — she shook her head violently to divert her train of thought — …had interviewed.
Other than the first day, when she had refused to comment to the press, she had told any reporters who asked that there was no way Clark Kent was Superman. She did wonder why she should even care enough to lie for him, but she couldn't betray him — she loved… No!!! She firmly rebuked herself for not catching that thought in time. Anyway, she was relieved when the paparazzi had moved on.
Lois had been watching Clark for the past few days — she was just very careful to make sure he couldn't tell. In spite of her own pain, she couldn't help but ache for him. Ever since the story had come out, no one at the Planet was treating him the same. It was as if they were all intimidated by him. She watched as he got himself a bottle of orange juice from the vending machine. He made an effort to open it. When he couldn't, he absentmindedly tapped it against the edge of his desk and tried again. When it still didn't open, he set it down on his desk and went back to work. She glanced around to see if anyone was watching. No one was. He was trying so hard to just seem normal.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice yelling, "Lane, line two." She reached for the phone.
"Lois Lane," she said into it.
"Hey, Kid. Long time, no see," came the voice on the other end of the line.
"Louie, is that you?"
"In the flesh… umm… so to speak. Listen there's something funny going on down on the docks that I thought might be of interest to you."
"What's going on?"
"How about you meet me at my place tomorrow morning? I'll have some guys here that want to talk to you."
Clark walked into his apartment. He took a quick look at the mess. Once again, someone had broken into his apartment and trashed it. This was getting to be almost a daily occurrence. He shook his head slowly and made his way in the dark toward his room. He didn't have the energy to clean it up again. It was too late. And since he didn't dare do it at superspeed since he could tell another small listening devise had been planted amongst the rubble of his belongings, it would take a long time to clean up. And who knew what type of advanced surveillance equipment might be set up outside.
He walked in the dark toward his bedroom, stopping only to pick up a picture of him and Lois at the Kerth awards last year. He sighed as he brushed the broken glass off the cherished picture. Once that was done, he gently ran a finger over Lois' image before setting it back in its spot.
"Clark," came a soft voice in the darkness. Lois had followed Clark quietly into his apartment. She had watched in fascination as he stopped to pick up the picture of them and then, lovingly, fixed it the best he could before setting it back in its place. She had come by to confront him with his lies and to demand that he give her an explanation, but that one act pushed all those thoughts to the back of her mind.
Clark spun around and looked at Lois who was standing just inside the door to his apartment.
"Lois," Clark responded in surprise. He was so used to the paparazzi milling around his place he hadn't even heard her enter. He had trained himself not to hear or react to them since that would just help to confirm that he was Superman.
There was a moment of silence before Lois asked, "Redecorating?"
Clark snorted. "They break in for souvenirs and such." He shrugged. "I guess that's to be expected."
A tear slipped quietly down Lois' cheek, her heart breaking for him. "I think we need to talk," she said softly, closing the door to his apartment.
Clark raised a finger to his lips. He pulled his notebook from his pocket. He wrote a quick note and passed it to Lois. She held it up to see it in the light from outside.
'Not here. They're bugging my place.'
She indicated she wanted the pen while saying, "When you left today, you forgot to give me your notes on the Bedford story." There was no 'Bedford story.'
Clark handed her the pen and as she wrote, he responded. "Sorry about that. They're in the top drawer of my desk. I'll get them for you in the morning."
Lois handed him the notepad while saying, "I really do need them tonight, Clark. And I checked your desk. They're not there."
Clark glanced down at the note. 'The paparazzi aren't hanging out at my place.'
"How about we go over to the Planet now and I'll get them for you?" Clark responded.
"That would be perfect."
With that, Lois and Clark headed out of his apartment. Lois tried to ignore the people who followed them to the Daily Planet building. Once there, Lois headed for the elevator, but Clark took her arm and directed her to the stairwell. Once inside, Clark spun into Superman and picked Lois up in his arms.
"There are no cameras in here," he informed her before saying, "Hold on tight. I need to go fast to avoid being spotted."
"Won't the paparazzi notice if we don't come out again?" Lois asked.
"I'll come back here later tonight. Since I don't think they're following you anymore…"
"…the fact that you don't come out shouldn't be noticed. I just don't want to talk here."
Lois nodded before doing as instructed. She buried her head in his shoulder, relishing in the feeling of being back in his arms. In that one moment, everything became clear to her. In spite of what he had done, she loved him. Did he love her? Yes. She knew that with absolute certainty. The fact that he had hid this one detail from her did not change either of those realities. And suddenly those realities were the only ones that mattered to her. After all, it wasn't as if he was hiding the fact that he was a sociopathic murderer or something — unlike Lex Luthor.
Clark slowed down when they got beyond what a casual observer could see in the darkness — just to keep her in his arms for a moment longer than necessary.
When Lois noticed their slow movement, she opened her eyes and looked at Clark. She couldn't stop herself. She didn't want to stop herself. She leaned forward and softly kissed his neck. She heard a strangled groan escape the back of his throat. He looked over at her, whispering her name. What she saw in his eyes almost caused her heart to stop. The intensity of desire and love in his eyes was breathtaking. Yet they were tinged with such sadness. She raised a hand to his face and then leaned in to brush her lips softly across his.
When she pulled back, a look of incredible pain crossed through Clark's eyes. "What?" she asked in response.
"We should talk," Clark said softly, breaking eye contact. "Is your window unlocked?"
Lois had left her window unlocked most nights since meeting Superman. She had, however, left it locked the day she found out that Clark was Superman. The next day, however, she found herself unlocking it again. "Yes," she responded.
Clark climbed high in the sky and carefully examined the area around Lois' apartment. Deciding that they could make it inside without being seen, Clark had them in her apartment seconds later. He spun and was suddenly standing before her again dressed as Clark.
"Wow," she gasped. "That could take some getting used to."
Clark looked down in response to her remark.
"Look, Clark, I know I didn't take the whole Superman thing too well, but I've had a chance to think. It might take me some time, but I think we can work through the fact that you lied to me."
They were the words Clark had been dying to hear, but now he almost wished she was still furious with him. At least that might protect her from the additional pain he was about to cause her.
"What is it, Clark?" Lois asked when he still didn't speak. "Or don't you love me anymore?" Her voice trembled in sudden fear that her behavior toward him over the past three weeks had destroyed his feelings for her.
"What?" gasped Clark. "Of course, I love you. I'll love you forever." Whatever happened, he would not let her blame herself for this. He refused to do anything to add to that deep seated root of insecurity he knew lay beneath that tough exterior.
Lois felt a warmth invade her system in response to Clark's words. She moved toward him, but stopped as he took a step back. She gave him a confused look. "Clark?"
"It's just… I don't see how we can have a future together now."
"What are you talking about?"
Clark let out a long breath and then took her hand, leading her over to the couch. Once they were seated, he turned towards her. He refused to relinquish her hand, instead pulling it into his lap to play with her fingers.
"Lois, I can't think of any way to protect my identity now. I've been over the possibilities more times than I can count. It's all over but the shouting. The tape is genuine. I don't see how I can dispute it. It's only a matter of time before they catch me doing something that will give them all the proof they need that I'm Superman. When that happens, Clark Kent won't exist anymore. There will only be Superman."
"What does that have to do with us?" Lois interrupted, anxious to get to the point.
"Lois, if you were involved with me now, you'd become a target for every bad guy trying to neutralize Superman."
"Clark, if you're saying we can't see each other because it might put me in danger, you don't know me very well."
Clark met and held her eyes as he said, "Then try this out. Do you really think you'd be able to continue being an investigative reporter if you're constantly being chased by paparazzi?"
Lois pulled in a sharp breath. She hadn't thought of that. But it was true. She knew Clark couldn't properly do his job anymore. And he was right, it would be the same for her. Could she really walk away from everything she had worked for her whole life to be with Clark? She didn't have an answer to that question.
"So you see, I can't get involved with you because I'm scared for your safety. You can't get involved with me because it would kill something inside you not to be able to do the thing you love."
"So what do we do?" Lois asked, as tears began making their way down her cheeks.
Clark reached over and gently brushed them off. "I think we say good-bye," he said softly, his voice cracked slightly on the words.
She looked down. "I don't know if I can do that. You see I love you too, Clark."
Clark let out a short breath before saying, "I thought I'd never hear you say that again." Instinctively he leaned forward, capturing her lips with his. She let a small sob escape before pulling her hand from his to wrap both arms around his neck. She leaned back into the couch pulling him with her. They lay there, kissing for a few minutes before Clark pulled back.
They sat in silence for a moment. Both knew nothing had been solved.
"You know, Dan Scardino really is a good man," Clark said softly. "I don't like him, but that's for the obvious reasons. But I did some research, Lois. He's no Lex Luthor. And he really is crazy about you — he'd have to be a fool not to be."
"Clark, don't," Lois sobbed.
"I'm sorry, Lois, about everything. I really thought I could have a normal life. I know now how selfish that was — how totally unfair to you. I never should have let you get involved with me. I just wanted…" His voice trailed off. It didn't matter what he wanted. He knew he could never have it.
Lois ignored the comment about 'letting' her get involved with him, focusing instead on what she really wanted to know. "You wanted?" she prompted.
Clark looked at her for a long time, debating whether or not to tell her. Finally, he shrugged. She might as well know everything. He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a small velvet-covered box. Lois pulled in a sharp breath. Clark ran his fingers over the box before speaking. "I didn't dare leave it in my apartment after the first break in." He handed it to Lois. "I just wish… I mean, when I asked you to my apartment for dinner, I intended to tell you about Superman and then see if you'd accept this."
She looked at the box in her hand for a moment before opening it with trembling fingers. Inside was a diamond ring. "It's beautiful," Lois whispered.
Their eyes locked for a moment, each seeing the pain and longing in the other. Clark rose from the couch. She went to hand the ring back to him. He just shook his head and walked silently toward the door. When he got there, he turned around. "If the paparazzi don't back off soon, I intend to give Perry my resignation. It's not fair to keep drawing a pay cheque when I can't do my job."
"Probably find some remote place to live, retire Clark Kent and just continue to work as Superman. If I get really lucky, maybe the fervor will die down enough at some point for me to find some place to live where no one recognizes me."
"But how will you live in the meantime?"
"I was thinking of writing a book. I wouldn't need to be Clark Kent to do that."
"Will I ever see you?" Lois' voice broke on the question.
Clark gave her a sad smile. "I imagine you'll need Superman's assistance on occasion. If you ever need to contact me, call my folks. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do to protect them, but I'll make sure they keep in touch with you."
With that Clark started to turn toward the door. It only took Lois a moment to be off the couch and in his arms. Each found the other's mouth and sought to memorize this last contact. Finally, Lois released him. Clark stepped through the door and was gone.
Lois sank down onto the couch, placed her head in her hands and wept.
In the hall, Clark hesitated. He could hear Lois crying and his immediate instinct was to go back and comfort her. However, he didn't. He knew she needed to come to terms with the end of their relationship and she wouldn't be able to do so if he stayed. So, as much as it hurt him to leave her like this, he forced himself to put one foot in front of the other until he was finally out of earshot.
Church looked at the documents Evan Rutherford handed him. He smiled slightly. This would more than compensate for not being able to sell the insecticide here in America. It was a contract to sell the poisonous substance to El Salvadorian farmers. The fact that it was a carcinogenic did not bother Bill Church Jr. in the least. He scribbled his signature on the contract.
So far, neither Lois Lane nor Clark Kent had asked a single question about what was being done to dispose of the insecticide. The tape had certainly done its job. And he had made an extra million by selling the tape to the Dirt Digger. One of the conditions had been anonymity. The only problem was that with no one stepping forward to certify that the tape was genuine, the world was still not certain that Clark Kent was indeed Superman. However, Church was sure it was just a matter of time before Kent gave the reporters following him all the proof they needed.
Church thought about the tape for a moment — that was assuming that it was genuine. But even if it wasn't, it was certainly solving his immediate problems. If Evan had manufactured the tape — and Church considered that a very real possibility — he had certainly done a fantastic job. Church reminded himself to increase Evan's bonus.
When Lois finally got herself under control, she spotted the small velvet box now sitting on the coffee table. She gently picked it up and slowly opened it again. With a finger she traced the solitary stone. It was so simple. It was so beautiful. It was so Clark.
She slipped it out of the box and on to her finger. It suited her hand perfectly. As she slipped it back off, she noticed some printing inside. She turned the ring to read the writing. 'Forever Yours.' Her breath caught in her throat. She didn't doubt the words at all. However, she did wonder briefly how he could be so certain. The level of his commitment to her was astounding. All the things that could have been began to run through her mind.
She knew Clark would never ask her to marry him now. He would never ask her to give up her life to be with him. And that is exactly what would be required of her. He was right. There was no way for 'Superman's wife' to be an investigative journalist. Her face would become far too famous. She would constantly be hounded by paparazzi. Suddenly, she had images of Princess Diana trying to be an investigative reporter. She snorted. It would never work. Yet a reporter was all Lois had ever wanted to be.
But could she lose Clark? She wasn't sure she wanted to go on without him. He had become such an essential part of her life. Until he came along, she would have said she didn't need anyone. That wasn't true any longer. She needed him.
She grabbed a chocolate bar from her emergency supply and ripped the wrapping off. She was just taking her first bite when there was a knock at the door. She sprang to her feet, hoping Clark had returned. When she looked through the peep hole, she was confused. Suddenly she realized how she knew the woman on the other side — Superman's trial. She opened the door.
"Elise?" she asked.
"I'm sorry about coming by so late, but I really do need your help," Elise said.
Lois gestured her into the apartment and to a seat before speaking. "What can I do for you?" she asked.
"I'm not really sure where to start, Ms. Lane."
"Please, call me Lois."
Elise nodded. "Well, I guess I should tell you first that Calvin's missing."
'That's no big loss,' Lois thought to herself.
"At first I thought he was avoiding me to keep me from serving him with divorce papers, but now… I know something has happened to him, Lois. Otherwise, he would have come back by now."
"But if you're divorcing him…"
"Why should I care?"
"I know what kind of person Calvin is, but I still love him. I know that's probably crazy, but… Anyway, I need your help. I think all of this is tied to you."
"I don't know what you think I can do. And what do you mean, it's tied to me?"
Elise let out a short breath. "After Calvin's case against Superman was dismissed — later that same day in fact — I had the locks on my apartment changed. Calvin arrived later that night. He kept pounding on the door, yelling my name. Finally, the neighbors started to complain, so I opened the door. That's what started everything."
She sighed. "I told him that I hadn't changed my mind — that I still intended to get a divorce. He had the audacity to suggest that the only reason I wanted one was because I thought he would be mad at me for betraying him. He then told me that he was hurt that I would do that. I lost my temper. I told him how you helped me to see that he didn't love me. When he left he was railing about how he was going to get even with you and Superman for ruining his life."
"The next day, Calvin came by to say that he had solved our money problems. I never really thought much about it, but he disappeared about the same time the tape came out showing that Clark Kent was Superman."
Lois didn't respond to this. She was too anxious to have Elise get to the point.
"I know you're close to Mr. Kent." Elise paused. "I don't know if there's a connection, but… Well, it just seemed to me like the type of thing Calvin would do and since no one has ever stepped forward to take credit for the tape… I just think it's a little odd."
Lois looked at the other woman in disbelief. How could she not have noticed that no one had taken credit for the tape? 'You were too busy feeling sorry for yourself,' a little voice informed her. But from what Elise was saying, this could be part of some plot against her or Clark or Superman.
"I'll look into it," Lois promised. She wasn't sure it would change anything, but it would feel good to have someone to blame. Besides, if there was more to this than some money making scheme, it had to be followed up on.
The next morning, Lois pushed open the doors to Louie's club. It was in one of the seedier parts of town and a glimpse inside showed the reason why this was the perfect location. It was run down and still stank from last night's beer. The owner, a man with a large beer belly and a seriously receding hairline, was shooting pool when Lois entered.
"Hey, Kid," yelled Louie, waving her over to the table. "I'm glad you could make it."
Lois looked around at the big gruff-looking men in the club, before turning her attention to Louie. "Hi, Louie," she said, smiling at him. "So, what do you have for me?"
"This is Rick. He works for the Docker's Guild. He told me something the other day I thought you might be able to help with."
Lois nodded and looked toward the man Louie indicated.
"Look, I'm an executive in the union. A couple days ago, something odd happened. Now I don't know if there's anything to it, but…"
"Just tell her, Rick," another one of the men interrupted.
Rick nodded before continuing. "Some of the men were working Pier 17. They were loading some big drums off a truck and into a warehouse when one of the drums fell off the crane. When it hit the ground, it started leaking. Now things like that happen all the time. But this time, the men in charge seemed to panic. They gave orders to clean it up and then got the hell out of there. There was no reason for that. The drums were not marked as toxic."
"So what do you think it was?" asked Lois.
"We don't know. And no one in the management of the company will give us an answer. They keep ignoring the union's questions. That's why we're coming to you. You've got a reputation for getting to the truth."
"It's not much," Lois said, feeling somewhat disappointed. She seriously doubted there was anything here, but for Louie's sake… "What's the name of the company?"
Lois gasped. "Are you sure?"
"Do you know what the company was planning to do with the barrels?"
Rick shrugged. "They have a big ship coming in in a few days. I don't know where it's headed. Do you know something about it?"
"Not for sure. But Farm-aid Inc. produced an insecticide called Right-Kil. Studies show that it's extremely toxic to humans — causes cancer among other things. They were ordered to properly dispose of it. I wonder where they're sending it? Assuming, of course, it's Right-Kil in the barrels."
"So what do you plan to do now?" Louie asked.
"Can you get me into that warehouse?" Lois asked Rick.
"Yeah, sure. I assume you want to do this without proper authorization."
Lois smiled. "Naturally," she replied. "By the way, if it is Right-Kil in the barrels, I may need to bring in the authorities. If I do, do you mind if I give them your name?"
"Not at all," replied Rick.
Lois scanned the newsroom as soon as she entered. Clark wasn't here. That wasn't normal these days. The paparazzi were keeping him pretty much tied to the place. Maybe he had to slip out to attend to Superman business, but that meant she couldn't ask. She didn't want to draw attention to the fact that he wasn't here. Besides, it wouldn't be normal for her to ask about Clark anymore. They needed to at least keep up the illusion they weren't getting along — although, under the circumstances, that wasn't exactly going to be easy. She sighed and walked over to her desk.
She picked up the phone. She hesitated for a moment before coming to a decision. She wasn't sure whether she should be contacting the D.E.A. or the F.D.A or some other agency about what she had learned — or at least suspected — this morning. Either way, there was only one person to call — a D.E.A. agent with contacts in the F.D.A. One Dan Scardino. She dialed.
Clark entered the newsroom while Lois was on the phone. He only heard her final words.
"Okay, Dan, I'll see you tomorrow."
His heart dropped. He had told her last night they didn't have a future. He had even told her Scardino was a good man. It still hurt to realize she was getting on with her life, but he buried those feelings. It was none of his business, he told himself firmly. He grabbed a cup of coffee and started making his way into the bullpen when he was stopped by Lois' voice.
"Where's my cup of coffee?" she asked under her breath.
Lois watched in amusement as Clark looked at her in shock. She had whispered the words, knowing only he would hear her. A smile tugged at her lips. She bit her lip and then whispered, "This could be really useful." Suddenly, Clark was having the same problem with his lips she was having with hers. He turned and obediently went to get a second cup of coffee.
At first, Clark had been amazed at the Lois' casual use of his powers, but then, knowing Lois, he probably shouldn't have been. He suddenly realized how much he liked her easy acceptance of that side of him. It hurt to think of her going out with Dan. On the other hand, it was good to have his best friend back. However, as he was fixing her coffee the way she liked it, he suddenly wondered if this was such a good idea. After last night, he realized he had to keep his distance from Lois — for her sake as well as his own. She needed to heal so she could get on with her life. His continued presence would only make it that much more difficult for her. So he hesitated. Finally, he just picked up the coffee and headed for her desk. It was just a cup of coffee after all. What could it hurt?
"So, where were you?" Lois asked quietly when he arrived at her desk. "Super business?"
He shook his head. "Nothing that exciting," he replied, carefully looking around to be sure no one was watching or listening. "I was down in the archives doing research."
Lois gave him an apologetic look. That was no job for an ace reporter.
"Listen, I could use your help on a story," Lois informed him.
Clark suddenly perked up. Lois giggled at his sudden interest. She hadn't seen a look like that on his face for three weeks now. Suddenly the look changed.
"What?" Lois asked.
"Well, it's just… I can't help you investigate. I'm sort of trapped in this building. Besides…" He looked around briefly to make sure they still weren't being watched. "We need to keep people thinking we aren't getting along. Otherwise…" His voice trailed off and he looked down.
"Clark, you don't need to be out pounding the pavement to help me with an investigation — and no one needs to know. I could still use your input. Well, and maybe a little…" Her voice dropped to below average range. "…super help."
Clark looked at her suspiciously. "What are you up to, Lois?"
"Up to?" Lois asked in complete innocence.
"Come on, Lois. I know that look."
She looked around briefly — no one was watching. "Conference room. Five minutes," she whispered before getting up and walking away.
Once Lois arrived in the conference room, she closed the blinds and waited. A minute or two later, Clark slipped in as well.
"I think Farm-aid Inc. may be shipping Right-Kil for sale somewhere — possibly overseas," Lois informed him.
"Why do you think that?"
"I got some information from a friend of Louie's."
Clark rolled his eyes.
"Look, I know he's not your favorite person, but…"
"I just think he has some awfully shady connections."
"But that's what makes him such a great source. Besides, he likes me."
"Okay, so what do you want from me?"
"I know where the warehouse is located, but I can't prove that what they're shipping out is Right-Kil unless I open one of the barrels."
"Lois, that stuff is deadly!"
"That's where you come in."
Clark began to shake his head.
"Well, if you won't do it…"
"No, Lois. You can't…"
His voice trailed off as she raised her eyebrows at his last word. He knew full well there was only one way to stop her from doing this and forbidding her was not it. He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. Her eyes lit up as she realized she had won.
"Okay, I guess I could take a quick trip to the docks," he said, rising to his feet.
"Thanks, Clark," she said quietly.
Once she provided him with the necessary directions, he headed off for the stairs. Lois smiled as she watched him go. She really could get used to this. Suddenly she was brought back to reality. He probably wasn't even going to be working here for long. She pulled in a jagged breath.
Clark returned a little while later. Lois was still working in the conference room. He glanced around and when he was confident no one was looking, he slipped inside. Lois' face lit up at his appearance. For a moment, both were lost in the other's eyes. Clark, realizing how unfair this was to Lois, pulled his eyes away.
He cleared his throat before explaining that he had taken a sample to Star Labs for analysis and that she should expect a call when they had it done. She was also advised that he had gone to Star Labs as Clark, in case it came up. But before they could discuss things further, both Lois and Clark were distracted by the television that was quietly playing in the conference room. They got up and made there way over.
"A powerful earthquake has just struck Beijing, China. It measured 8.7 on the Richter scale. It has leveled large portions of the city…"
"I have to go, Lois," Clark said softly.
She reached over and gently ran a hand over his face. "I know."
He let out a short breath. "I don't think you understand. If Clark disappears for a few days at the same time Superman is in Beijing, everyone's going to make the connection. I don't think…" He paused. "I think this is probably the last time the public will have any doubts that I'm Superman."
Lois' mind began to work furiously. She had an idea. She took a quick look out the conference room door. So far the earthquake hadn't caught the attention of anyone else in the newsroom. "Clark, go talk to Perry. Tell him you need some personal time to try to figure things out. I mean, with the paparazzi following you and the problems we've been having, I think he'll understand. I'll make a big deal out of the fact that you're taking personal time."
A smile lit up Clark's face. "I knew there was a reason I love you. Do you really think we can pull this off?"
She smiled at his use of the word 'we.' "I think it's worth a shot," she replied. He was about to leave when she stopped him by placing a hand on his arm. "Be careful," she whispered.
He moved to kiss her, but pulled away at the last moment. Under the circumstances, kissing her would be unforgivable.
Lois watched Clark head out. She had seen him lean in and felt her heart skip a beat. Then she had seen the conflict in his eyes as he pulled away at the last moment. She shuddered. She wasn't sure when the time came, she would be able to let him go. She still didn't know what that meant for her, but since last night, she had spent a lot of time trying to decide if she would risk, or even give up, her career to keep him. There was also the issue of whether or not he would even allow her to. For her part, she still wasn't sure.
She thought about that damn tape. Suddenly, she remembered the conversation she had had with Elise last night. She got on the phone and began calling hospitals and police stations to see if Calvin Dregg had been admitted or arrested. He hadn't been, so she decided to take a trip down to the morgue.
When she arrived, Henderson was there. When he found out she was looking for a missing person, he decided to stay around. If she could identify anyone, it might help with one of a dozen murder cases.
At first, Lois looked at the John Does in the morgue. Calvin wasn't there. However, it had been three weeks since Calvin's disappearance so she also examined pictures of men who had already been buried. Lois looked at pictures of three men before she found Calvin.
"This is him," Lois informed Henderson, indicating Calvin's picture.
"What's his name?" Henderson asked, pulling out his notebook.
"Isn't he the guy who sued Kent?"
Lois snorted. "Not you too, Henderson. Calvin sued Superman. Superman! Come on, Henderson. Do you really think Clark is Superman?" The tone in her voice was one of disbelief.
Henderson was silent for a moment. He had asked the question that way in an effort to get her reaction. Well, he had got that. With anyone else, he might have thought they were protesting too much, but Lois was usually over the top. Maybe Kent wasn't Superman.
"So," said Henderson, ignoring Lois' question. "Why did you think you might find this guy here?"
"I received a visit from his wife, Elise, last night. She was concerned that something had happened to him. It appears she was right."
With that, she gave Henderson Elise's address and phone number. He told her he would contact Calvin's wife.
"Do you know who killed him?" Lois asked.
"It was a professional job," Henderson responded. "Other than that, we don't know much yet. Of course, having his name will help. Why did his wife come to you?"
"She thought his disappearance might have something to do with that phony tape that portrays Clark as Superman," Lois told him, knowing he would get that information when he contacted Elise anyway. "She said Calvin wanted to get back at me and Superman for the failure of his lawsuit. And she thought he might have had something to do with that tape."
"So you think the tape is some sort of revenge tactic?" Henderson asked.
"Elise seems to think so," Lois responded.
Clark arrived in Beijing. The destruction was worse than he expected. He took a deep breath and, pushing his personal problems to the back of his mind, focused in on the area of greatest devastation. He saw rescue workers moving some rubble to reach people trapped beneath it. He briefly spoke to them. They directed him toward their makeshift headquarters.
Clark made his way to the ones in charge of the rescue operation. His instinct dictated that he immediately begin helping rescue workers move rubble, but he didn't. He had learned over the past couple of years to leave jobs rescue workers could do to them while he took the more difficult, and more dangerous assignments. In a situation like this, even a superman couldn't do everything himself.
He spoke in Chinese to the man in charge. They asked him to rescue people trapped in the nearby nuclear power plant. He attached a patch to the suit that would tell how much radiation he was exposed to during the mission. This was not for his protection. It was to assist emergency workers in knowing how much damage had been done to the facility. Clark immediately made his way to the plant and began his work.
However, in spite of all his efforts not to, he kept thinking about Lois. After this morning, he knew it would be impossible for them to continue working together without getting involved. Yet his heart broke at the idea of not being part of her life. Intellectually he knew it would be better for Lois if he just disappeared. She would never be able to get on with her life if he didn't. The only thing that made sense was for him to hand in his resignation. If only there were some way to disprove the tape, but there wasn't. As many times as he'd been over it, he knew there was no way to save Clark Kent — not in the long run.
Lois returned to the Daily Planet. If the tape was made by Calvin, maybe there was a way to get people believing it had been forged as a revenge tactic against Superman. Of course, it had done more to hurt Clark than Superman — except of course, unless Superman was Clark. Lois' problem was that if she were the one to suggest that possibility, no one would believe her because of her relationship to Superman. If only someone else were to make that connection on their own, but who? She had no idea.
She thought about her conversation with Clark last night. There had to be some way to get the world to give up on the idea that Clark was Superman. There just had to be, but how? She wondered for a moment why he didn't just give a press conference as Superman and at least try denying the allegations. The only thing she could think of was that he didn't want to lie. She snorted. Considering the number of times he had lied to her over the past two years, that was ironic. However, even she had to admit there was a difference this time — this time it would be Superman lying to the world and although Lois could think of one occasion when Superman had misled her, even she would be disappointed if Superman lied. On the other hand, Clark could deny it to the world, but who would believe Clark? Then, if the truth came out anyway, Superman's credibility would definitely be destroyed. Maybe they could… No, that wouldn't work. What about… She let out a frustrated breath. The problem for Lois was that, although she was an expert in uncovering the truth, she had never before had to find a way to disprove the truth. She now understood why he was so convinced Clark Kent was a thing of the past.
She turned her chair toward a television on the wall of the newsroom. It was showing pictures of the earthquake. She watched for a moment. Superman was being featured heavily. She had often watched news reports about Superman, but this time was different. This time, she knew the man under the suit. For some reason, she had never thought about how such work affected Superman. He seemed so… invulnerable. However, Lois knew Clark. Knowing he was the one dealing with all that pain and heartbreak caused her unfamiliar concern for the Man of Steel. She couldn't quite put a finger on the reason for her concern. She took a deep breath and returned to her work.
Lois picked up the phone and called Star Labs. After her call, she slammed the phone down in frustration. She needed to know if Right-Kil was in those barrels. If it was, she may be able to stop the shipment. Once the barrels were on a ship in international waters, it would be too late, but Star Labs still didn't have that information for her.
"The insecticide will be ready for shipment the day after tomorrow," Evan informed Church.
"Good," replied Church. "What about the Docker's Guild?"
"They don't know anything. All they have is some suspicions the barrels might contain something dangerous. But, so far we've been able to stall them."
"Do you think you can hold them off until the ship leaves?"
"Positive. They haven't even tried to follow up on it today. I doubt they're taking the incident seriously enough to dedicate any real time to it."
"Good. Keep an eye on that. Also, from now on, make sure it's only our people handling the shipment."
"What about the union? They aren't going to be very happy about having our people working the docks."
"I'll take care of the union," Church replied.
"By the way, Evan. I've been thinking you might have a real future with Intergang."
"Thank you, Sir," Evan replied, stroking his goatee. Working for Church would be quite a step up for a man working as a gopher for a large law firm and in spite of his earlier fears, he really enjoyed working for Church. Maybe being sent to deliver that order hadn't been such a bad thing after all.
"Once this whole insecticide mess is over, I want to talk to you about coming to work with me full time. The job would entail a substantial pay raise if you're interested."
"Oh, I'm definitely interested, Sir."
Maggie Sawyer walked into the cop's coffee room and headed for the coffee machine.
"Hi, Bill," she said, noticing Inspector Henderson sitting at the table in the center of the room. She looked at him curiously when he didn't answer. He was holding a cup of coffee that was still full, focusing absently on the far wall. Maggie looked where he was staring. "Either you've suddenly acquired x-ray vision, or there is something fascinating about that wall that I'm just not seeing."
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Maggie. I didn't see you come in."
Maggie smiled. "That's fairly obvious. So what has you so preoccupied?" Maggie asked, pouring herself a cup of Java.
"I saw Lois Lane today."
Maggie's eyebrows went up. "So how does Ms. Lane like being the news instead of reporting it?"
Henderson laughed. "Well, she didn't seem to have any reporters trailing along behind. So who knows?"
"Then what were you thinking about?"
Maggie sat down across from Henderson.
"It's just…" Henderson began. "Superman has saved the lives of a lot of officers over the past two years. He has also been a god-send in helping out with disasters that would otherwise have claimed a lot of civilian lives."
"I just hate what this must be doing to him. I hear he cancelled all his charitable appearances because of the problems he's having with the press."
"Yeah, it's too bad."
"Well, what if there was some way to prove the tape was a forgery?"
"Where is this coming from?" asked Sawyer.
"Lane was able to identify one of my John Does. According to Lane, the man's wife told her that her husband may have made the tape in an effort to exact revenge on Superman."
"So are you going to follow up on it?" Maggie asked.
"The John Doe was murdered. I do need to try to find out who did it. This could be a lead. But what if, during the course of the investigation, I could also prove the tape was just part of an elaborate revenge scheme?"
"And what if the tape is genuine?"
"Even if it is, if I could show the man who made it had an ulterior motive, the world may doubt its authenticity."
Maggie smiled. "So, you don't care whether the tape is genuine or not? You still intend to prove it's false?"
Bill caught her eye. "By George, I think you've got it. After all, we owe Superman for everything he has done for us." Henderson paused. "Think about it, Maggie. Let's assume for the moment the tape is genuine and Clark Kent really is Superman."
"Well, it's fairly obvious Kent is in love with Lane — has been for quite a while from what I've been able to see."
"So then, if you're a bad guy trying to intimidate Superman… And Superman is Clark Kent, how do you do it?"
"By going after Lane," Maggie said, beginning to see where he was going with this.
"Think of what might happen if Superman was able to be compromised like that. We would be powerless to stop him. And knowing Kent, he would see the dangers too. He would never allow himself to be compromised like that or Lois to be endangered like that. Of course, the only way to prevent it would be to walk away from the woman he loves. After everything he's done for us, I think he deserves to have a little happiness in his life." He paused. "Besides, I like Kent. I even like Lane — although if you breathe a word of that to her, I'll deny it."
Sawyer laughed. "Yeah. She can be a real pain in the butt at times. But she's always fair to the police in print and she has given us a lot of assistance over the years in uncovering criminal conspiracies."
"I think we need to help out here — if we can."
"I agree. What can I do?"
Bill chuckled. "Well, tomorrow I'm going to talk to the widow."
"Then why don't I take a trip down to the Dirt Digger? Do you have a picture of this John Doe?"
"Yeah. And his name was Calvin Dregg."
Lois entered her apartment. Before even taking off her coat, she made her way over to the T.V. and switched on LNN. She shrugged out of her coat and threw it over the end of the couch, sitting down in front of the T.V. The top story was still the earthquake in Beijing. She hoped to get a look at Clark. She didn't have to wait long. Superman's efforts were getting a lot of attention.
Clark spotted LNN's television camera. He landed beside the reporter.
"Superman," gasped the reporter. "Can we have a brief word?"
Clark smiled. "Actually, I was hoping to say something."
"Certainly, Superman," stammered the surprised reporter. This was the first time Superman had voluntarily spoken to the press since the tape had come out.
"The rescue workers are doing a great job. They were very well prepared for this type of emergency situation. However, what they didn't count on was some of their warehouses collapsing in the earthquake. They need a number of things to be brought in as quickly as possible." Clark handed the man a list. "These emergency items are desperately needed. This is an opportunity for the people of the world to show that they're the heroes I've always known them to be."
"I would like to ask you about…" began the reporter, determined not to miss this opportunity to question Superman about the tape.
"I'm sorry," interrupted Superman. "I don't have time for questions now." With that, Superman was gone.
When Clark landed, Lois moved close to the television, looking at Clark. There was nothing there that anyone else would notice, but now that she knew who he was, she could see the stress on his face. She reached over and ran a hand over Clark's image on the screen as if she could thus impart some comfort to him.
When Superman took off again to rejoin the rescue efforts, Lois sighed. He had been going at this for nine hours now. She grabbed the pizza she had picked up on the way home and a blanket off the bed and curled up on the couch in front of the television.
She thought about that tape again. She would have to wait until it was late enough, but then she planned to make a little trip to the Dirt Digger. Maybe she could find out who had made that tape.
She woke on the couch, where she had finally fallen asleep, in the early hours of the morning. She checked again. Superman was still going strong. Sixteen hours and counting. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and headed to the bedroom to put on something dark. She had work to do.
Lois slid up to the back door of the Dirt Digger. She glanced around again. She was alone. She pulled her lock picking equipment out of her purse and within moments was inside the building. She wasn't sure where to start. She figured information this sensitive would not be accessible to the normal employee so when she found a locked room marked 'files' she used her lock picking equipment to get in.
She was surprised at the similarities between the filing system of the Dirt Digger and the Daily Planet. Soon she was holding the Superman file in her hands. She let out a frustrated breath. There was no indication here of who had provided the Dirt Digger with the tape.
She looked around again and found the Dirt Digger's financial records. She looked at the date when the tape first came out. She smiled. There was a million dollar payout that day. It had to be for the tape. She looked at who had received the money. It was a company Lois had never heard off.
She frowned. It was unlikely that Calvin Dregg would have set up a company to get paid. In spite of what Elise seemed to think, it was doubtful that Calvin was involved. Still, she wrote down the name of the company. Even if Calvin Dregg wasn't responsible for the tape, the company might lead to someone as disreputable as Dregg. She would have Jimmy see what he could find out about the company tomorrow.
She made her way, quickly and without incident, out of the Dirt Digger, before returning to her apartment.
As she drove back to her apartment, she once again considered her situation. If she didn't find a way to discredit the tape, what was she going to do about Clark? Could she let go of her career to be with him? Could she let go of him? She still didn't know. She had heard that love conquered all, but could it really conquer this or, in time, would she come to resent him for ending her career?
Inspector Henderson caught up with Elise Carr at her home the next day. He had sent an officer to tell Elise about her husband yesterday and have her identify him. Henderson hadn't had a chance to talk to her himself at the time. So he was here now.
"Yes," said Elise, opening the door to a man holding a police badge.
"I'm Inspector Henderson, Ms. Carr. Do you think you're up to answering a few questions?" Even though the hit appeared to be professional, he had to rule her out as a suspect. After all, she was the estranged wife.
Elise nodded. "I have some questions of my own, Inspector."
"I'm sure you do."
"How did he die?"
"It looks like a professional job. Lois Lane identified Dregg's picture. That's how we knew to contact you."
The interrogation was mercifully short. It was obvious to Henderson, almost immediately, that this woman wasn't involved. He was disappointed, however, that Elise couldn't provide a more substantial connection between Dregg and the tape. She also had no information about anyone that Dregg may have been working with. She didn't even know where he had stayed after she had thrown him out.
Lois was bent over her computer when a familiar voice interrupted her line of thought.
"Hi," said Dan in his most charming voice.
Lois looked up into his smiling face. She made herself smile back — although today she didn't feel much like smiling. "You're here early," she remarked.
"Well, when you called…" he shrugged, taking a seat on the corner of her desk. This matter was really outside the D.E.A.'s jurisdiction, but the D.E.A.'s jurisdiction would just have to be stretched if it gave Dan the chance to spend time with Lois again.
Lois felt an unreasonable resentment toward Dan when he sat on her desk. That was Clark's spot. "As I told you on the phone, I suspect Farm-aid Inc. is about to ship its insecticide, Right-Kil, out of the country. I broke into their warehouse…"
Lois continued as if he hadn't spoken. "…and got a sample of the stuff that's being shipped out." It wasn't exactly true, but she didn't want to implicate Superman. "It was taken to Star Labs for analysis. I called them this morning and they said they won't have results for a couple of days yet. Apparently they're really backed up. But without that analysis, I won't be able to prove Farm-aid Inc. is doing anything wrong. And in two days, Church could have all of that stuff out of the country."
"I'll have the sample taken to the D.E.A. labs today. I know someone in the lab. I think I can get a rush on it."
"Great," exclaimed Lois, giving him her first genuine smile.
He met her eyes, his eyes twinkling in response to her smile. She looked down.
"Do you have any connections on the docks? I'd like to do a little digging of my own," Dan asked.
"If you want my source, I get whatever you find. Deal?"
Dan smiled. "Deal."
"Okay, his name is Rick Mendowagen. He's an executive in the Docker's Guild."
There was a moment of awkward silence before Dan said, "Well, I guess now we know why Kent is always running off."
Lois immediately looked up. She had to do something about this. She was the one who had griped to Dan about Clark's continual disappearing act. He would never have known about it if not for her big mouth. Of course, she hadn't known she shouldn't be saying anything at the time, but that was no comfort to her now.
"What are you taking about?" Lois demanded.
"Superman," Dan responded, the confusion in his voice obvious.
"Not you too," Lois groaned. "How can anyone who knows Clark actually believe that rubbish?"
Dan stammered for a moment. He had simply assumed the tape was true. It explained so many things. On the other hand, could a wimp like Kent really be a superhero? Mild mannered reporter by day; Superhero by night. The idea was laughable really.
"Dan, do you really think I wouldn't have known if Clark was Superman? I know both men better than anyone else. And if I had known, do you really think I would have been complaining about his disappearing act?"
"Well, I guess not."
"You better believe I wouldn't. Clark has a problem with intimacy. I've always known that. So when things get too close, he finds a reason to disappear. It has nothing to do with Superman."
"Umm… okay." Then after a pause, he cleared his throat and tried to sound casual as he asked, "So, how are things going between you and Kent?"
A look of pain passed over Lois' face. "We broke up," she informed him, looking down. She knew that had to be the official line, but it broke her heart to say it.
Dan managed not to smile. She was obviously in pain over this, but he was thrilled. He had figured, when he saw the tape, that there was no way he would ever be able to pry Lois away from Kent now. After all, he was well aware of the rumors about Lois' past with the superhero.
Dan looked around the newsroom. "So where is Kent anyway? He usually appears out of nowhere whenever I'm around."
"He's taking some personal time," Lois informed him.
"So he's left you holding the bag again."
Lois fought not to respond. She knew that was what Dan would think, but she couldn't help resent hearing him say it. Clark was still working hour after hour in Beijing. Yet Dan was using his absence to run Clark down again — and she couldn't correct him. She shrugged.
"So, now that you've given Kent his walking papers, how about having dinner with me tonight?"
For a moment, Clark's words about Dan came back to her. 'You know, Dan Scardino really is a good man.' Lois sighed. 'I don't like him, but that's for the obvious reasons. But I did some research, Lois. He's no Lex Luthor. And he really is crazy about you — he'd have to be a fool not to be.' Clark had given her permission to date Dan. Not that she would have needed it if she had wanted to date Dan, but she had understood what he was doing — he wanted her to find happiness. But how was that possible without him?
"I don't think so, Dan," Lois replied.
Lois looked at Dan for a moment before coming to a decision. She got up and led Dan to the conference room. Once there, she closed the door.
"Dan, I think there's something you need to understand. Like I told you the last time we talked, I think you're a really great guy, but there is never going to be anything between us. Maybe I didn't make it clear to you, but I'm in love with Clark. Whether he and I will end up together, I don't know. What I do know is that I love him. I love him with my whole heart. I'm sorry, Dan, if this hurts you, but there will never be anyone for me but Clark."
"Even if he doesn't want a future with you?"
"Even then," Lois confirmed, suddenly struck by the truth of that statement. "Now, I need your help with this story. I'm not about to let Farm-aid Inc. get away with shipping their insecticide out of the country, but that's where it ends." She looked Dan dead in the eye. "There will never be anything between us, Dan. So, please, just let it go."
"Come on, Lois. You can't really expect me to believe that you intend to become a nun or something just because Kent's a jerk."
Lois looked at him for a moment before saying, "Dan, the only reason I went out with you in the first place was to try to make Clark jealous. I know that wasn't fair to you, but you never stood a chance then and you don't stand a chance now. Clark will always be the only man for me." She had never intended to tell him that. She knew it would hurt his feelings, but it seemed to be the only way she was going to get through to him.
Dan was baffled at the loyalty a nerd like Clark could inspire. He let out a short breath, before nodding. "Okay, well let me see what I can do to get that sample from Star Labs analyzed. I'll let you know what I find."
Lois smiled. "Thanks, Dan."
Dan was just on his way out of the newsroom when Jimmy approached Lois' desk.
"What was Scardino doing here?" he asked.
Lois looked at the young man by her desk for a moment. He was obviously trying to protect what he thought was Dan's intrusion on Clark's territory. Although part of her was annoyed that she could be considered anyone's 'territory', she did respect Jimmy's loyalty to his friend.
"He's helping me with a story," Lois responded. "What did you find out about EAS Incorporated?"
"Not much," Jimmy responded. "It's obviously a shell company but there is no way to find out who owns it. It is hidden behind too many impenetrable privately held shell companies."
"So it's a dead end?" Lois asked.
"'Fraid so. What did you need it for anyway?" Jimmy asked.
"Just a story, Jimmy. Just a story."
"Oh," said Jimmy. It felt like more than a story to him and he couldn't help but be a little hurt that Lois wouldn't trust him with whatever it was. However, since he couldn't do anything about it, he let it go and walked away.
Lois watched Jimmy for a moment. What should she do now? She had no idea. She supposed she could go over to the Dirt Digger and start asking questions, but that wouldn't do anything but notify the Dirt Digger that she was looking into this. It wouldn't give her any answers. If it did anything, it would only focus the attention of the paparazzi on her again. No. Going to the Dirt Digger would be counter-productive. She let out a heavy breath. She had never felt quite this powerless before.
Sawyer sauntered into the outer offices of the Dirt Digger. She had just finished her shift, but she agreed with Henderson. Whether that tape was genuine or not was not the issue. It was critical Superman not be compromised, and if people knew he was Clark Kent, he would be vulnerable. Not only would Lois Lane become a target — if he actually allowed himself to continue to be seen with her and the news reports indicated that was not the case — but everyone else close to Clark Kent would be in danger of being used to control the Man of Steel. They couldn't let that happen.
"Who would someone see if they had a tip they thought the Dirt Digger might be willing to buy?" Maggie Sawyer asked.
"That would be Mr. Turner," the young, attractive, short-haired blond at the front desk answered.
"Then I need to speak to Mr. Turner," Sawyer replied.
"I'm afraid Mr. Turner is in a meeting at the moment," was the response.
"Maria," Sawyer said, reading the girl's business name tag. "It is really important that I speak to Mr. Turner immediately."
"I'm sorry, but…" Maria's voice trailed off when Maggie Sawyer pulled out her police badge. "Of course, Officer," Maria corrected, picking up the phone. After a few moments, she hung up and said, "Mr. Turner will be here shortly. Why don't you have a seat?"
Maggie smiled. "I'll just stand," she informed the young woman.
It was only a moment more before Fred Turner entered the outer office. Maggie didn't miss the fact that she had not been taken into Turner's office. She wasn't sure if it was that or the bad toupee that made her immediately suspicious of the man.
Turner held out his hand. "What can I do for you, Officer?"
"Inspector," Maggie corrected. "I need to know how you came by that tape of Superman."
Turner smiled. "I don't know if you're familiar with the first amendment — freedom of the press?"
"Yes I am. But this is a murder investigation."
"Inspector, I don't betray my sources," Turner stated. "Now, if there's nothing else…"
"Actually, there is something else," Maggie said, handing Turner a picture of Calvin Dregg.
Maria had been listening intently to the exchange. She glanced over at the picture Turner now held. She gave a small gasp. When both Sawyer and Turner looked over at her, she immediately buried her head back in her work.
"Do you know this man?" Maggie asked.
"Can't say that I do," Turner responded. He handed the picture back to Maggie. "Now, I really do need to get back to work."
"Before you go, here's my card. If you think of anything, call me. This is a murder investigation and I'd really hate to see you dealing with obstruction charges."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Of course not. But as an officer of the law I think it's my duty to point out to you the possible consequences of your actions."
"If you plan on charging me, do it! If not, get out!" Turner growled.
Maggie left the Dirt Digger. She counted to a hundred before turning around and going back. Turner had gone back to his office. She made her way over to the counter again. She pulled a card from her pocket and handed it to Maria. "Call me," she said quietly before leaving. That woman knew something. Maggie was certain of that. And if she was any judge of character, Maria was the type to talk.
Once again, when Lois arrived at her apartment that evening, she turned on LNN. The earthquake was still the lead story, but as was the way with news, now that the initial shock of the disaster was over, other stories were also being given a good amount of time. So tonight, she had to wait for a while before being able to get the latest information on Clark.
She glanced over at the clock. It had now been thirty-two hours. And according to the newscaster, Superman hadn't taken any breaks since this whole thing had begun. Superman was keeping his distance from the press, so Lois was unable to get any idea of how he was really doing. Although, she could imagine how she would be doing in those circumstances.
Lois suddenly shook her head. Her concern for Clark was ridiculous. He was Superman! Nothing could hurt him. She paused. Was that really true? She let out a short breath. No, it wasn't true. She thought back to the heat wave when Superman had agreed to leave Metropolis because of the belief that he was causing the unreasonable heat. She remembered, in particular, an article Clark had written at the time. He had specifically written that whereas people believed the Man of Steel was invulnerable, he didn't. She now knew that Clark didn't believe it because he was Superman and he knew that Superman could be hurt. Maybe not physically, unless one used kryptonite, but he could be hurt emotionally.
She thought back to the sadness in his eyes when he, both as Clark and Superman, had told her he had to leave Metropolis. No, the Man of Steel definitely had a human heart — and one that could be broken. She just hadn't realized it until she knew that Clark was Superman.
She thought about her conversation with Dan today. She still didn't know if she could walk away from her life to be with Clark. What she did know was that in the future, she would compare any man she met to Clark — and they would always come up wanting. How could they not? No, she wasn't going to get past Clark.
She reached over and picked up the phone. She knew he was still in China but from the reports, things were starting to calm down. It would be months and even years before things would be normal in Beijing, but the work being done now had more to do with finding dead bodies than rescuing trapped or injured survivors. She closed her eyes as she thought about Clark carrying out dead body after dead body. Her heart ached for him.
There had been hundreds of thousands of injuries — many of them serious. In the aftermath of the earthquake, there had been a number of serious aftershocks. One of them was over seven on the Richter scale. The reports were now claiming deaths in the tens of thousands. How was Clark holding up under all that grief and pain? She had to know.
She dialed Clark's number and then hung up. She knew he wouldn't be there, but she wanted to leave a message telling him to contact her as soon as he got home — that is if he went home. Even if he didn't, he would probably check for messages. At least, she hoped he would. She considered things for a moment. He had told her that people were bugging his place. She would have to be careful if she was going to leave a message. Clark would have to understand it without alerting anyone else to what she was saying. She smiled. She had an idea. She picked the phone back up.
"Hi. Is this Charlie? Charlie King? This is Lola from the Metro Club," she said, remembering the undercover names they had used when they investigated a story at the Metro club. "I really would like to see you as soon as possible. Come on by when you get in. It doesn't matter what time it is." With that she hung up the phone, satisfied that she had communicated her message to Clark while letting anyone listening in think it was a wrong number.
She sat there for a moment more. Suddenly, she had a thought. But if she was going to do this, there was one more thing she had to do. Given his comments about people breaking into his place for souvenirs, she figured she could do this if she had an effective disguise. She smiled. She still had the outfit she had used to get into the Metropolis Men's Club. With a few alterations, it would be perfect.
Clark had finally reached his limit. He knew if he kept going, he was going to start making mistakes. He couldn't afford that. More importantly, the people he was trying to help couldn't afford that. Besides, the rescue workers now had things under control. So he stopped by the headquarters for the rescue operation to tell them he had to be going. They thanked him for his help and assured him they had things well in hand.
Clark made his way back to the States. When he arrived, he headed for Kansas. He hung high in the air over his parent's farm checking things out. The lights were out. His parents were obviously already asleep. He had hoped it would be safe to go in. However, the reporters were still camped out across the road. So he hung in the sky for a while, wishing he could go inside. Eventually, realizing he couldn't risk it, he headed toward Metropolis.
Clark was on his way to his apartment when he hesitated. He suddenly realized he couldn't go there either. Showing up at the same time Superman returned from Beijing would connect Clark with Superman. He flew high over his apartment and x-rayed it. It had been trashed again. He noticed a flashing light on his answering machine. He landed in an alley nearby and went to a pay phone to call in for messages. It was only a moment more before he was hovering high above Lois' apartment.
From his position, Clark looked into her apartment. There was a single light on in the livingroom, yet she was tucked in bed. Concentrating, he could hear the slow and steady beat of her heart. She was obviously asleep. She had told him to stop by no matter the time, but she was sleeping. On the other hand, she had left the light on — he assumed for him. And the window was not only unlocked, it was open! The message was clear — she wanted him to come in. He didn't know why, but it could be important. Clark flew fast enough to be almost invisible as he entered her apartment. Between his speed and the darkness, he was confident he would not be seen.
Clark stood in the doorway to Lois' bedroom for a long time, watching her sleep. He smiled as he realized she was wearing her superman shirt. He had been frustrated when he first discovered she owned one. Now that she knew who he was, there was something flattering about her choice of nighttime attire.
It was amazing to Clark how innocent she could look in sleep. He knew from personal experience just how much of a handful she could be when she was awake. Shortly after Clark had first met her, Jimmy had actually referred to her as 'Mad Dog Lane.' He himself had witnessed men twice her size cower when she went after them. Yet she looked so angelic when she was sleeping. The picture was further enhanced by the teddy bear sleeping in her arms. The image made him smile. It was just another one of the contradictions about the woman he loved. His heart was so full, just standing here watching her.
Lois woke, sensing a presence in the room with her. At first she tensed, then turning she saw the outline of the familiar figure. She smiled before getting out of bed. She walked slowly toward him as he stood in the doorway in the red and blue suit. It wasn't until she got close that she could see him clearly. He was unshaven. He was completely filthy — mud, muck and blood were caked on his suit and his hair was in disarray. But she ignored all this to search his eyes. She let out a short breath when she noticed the haunted expression in them.
"It was bad, wasn't it?" Lois said more than asked.
Clark nodded, his mind for a moment remembering one particularly heartbreaking incident. Clark had arrived only a moment too late to find a young mother in the midst of the rubble. She had died in his arms, leaving behind a young child. He wasn't sure why that particular incident stood out in his mind. He figured it was because if he had been only seconds sooner, he may have been able to save her.
Lois watched the ghosts pass through his eyes. She stepped up and wrapped her arms around him. He closed his eyes and concentrated on how good it felt to hold her. He had handled disasters like this before and the loss of life always affected him, but he was determined not to dump his problems on Lois. So, after a moment, he pulled back.
"Was there something in particular you needed to see me about?" Clark asked.
"I just wanted to be sure you were all right," she answered.
Clark smiled, touched by her obvious concern. "I'm fine, Lois," he said softly.
"Are you?" Lois asked, not believing him.
He nodded and they were silent for a moment before he said, "I probably should get going."
He hesitated. "To my place," he lied. "I need some sleep."
"Have you gone home yet?" she asked, although from his appearance, she seriously doubted he had.
"Not yet," he said softly.
"You can't go home, Clark," Lois responded. "If you turn up at the same time Superman disappears from Beijing…" Her voice trailed off at the look on Clark's face. "But you already realized that didn't you. Why'd you lie, Clark?"
He let out a short breath. He really couldn't keep anything from this woman. How was it possible she hadn't figured out he was Superman? In anything else, she had this uncanny ability to see through him. "I just think it might be better for you if I left. I'll find a hotel or something for the night." Although he suspected he would spend the night on a rooftop or an iceberg somewhere. And maybe wash in the ocean. It was not a very enticing prospect, but… "It's just…"
"Lois, I want to stay, but since we don't have a future, I just don't think it's fair to you… to either of us, for me to be here."
Lois reached up and placed a hand on either side of his face. "You listen to me, Clark Jerome Kent. Right now, you're going to go have a shower."
"A shower?" Clark asked, not sure where she was going with this.
Clark laughed, but it was a thoroughly exhausted laugh. "Well, I have been working in some pretty dirty places for the past day and a half."
"Exactly. So go have a shower. I snuck into your apartment this evening — don't worry, no one knows it was me — and I got some of your things. They're on the counter in the bathroom. Once you're cleaned up, come back out here and we'll decide what to do."
Clark smiled. "Why do I think you've already worked that out too?"
Lois cocked her head to the side, but instead of answering his question, she took his arm and turned him toward the bathroom. "Go!" she instructed, giving him a small push in the appropriate direction.
Clark recanted, making his way toward the bathroom. It would be good to wash away the smell of death that was clinging to him and filling his nostrils. He just wanted to stand under the hot water and feel it wash away the human agony he had been exposed to for the last day and a half. It was so much more appealing a prospect than washing in the ocean.
Lois wandered nervously around the apartment as she waited for Clark. He was right. She had a plan. She just wasn't sure if he would go along with it — or if he would get the wrong idea. She knew he couldn't go home. She also needed to know he was all right. She didn't know what tomorrow would bring, but for tonight… She didn't intend to let him go.
Still, that didn't stop her from wondering about the wisdom of this. Then, Clark walked into the room and she looked into his still haunted eyes, and all her doubts vanished. He needed her and suddenly, nothing else mattered.
It hadn't taken more than a few minutes for Clark to reemerge from the washroom. Considering how quickly he could have a shower, it had been a leisurely one. He still hadn't shaved. It just seemed like too much effort in his current state. He had, however, taken the time to wash the Superman suit before hanging it to dry over the tub. Until he could get back into his apartment, it was the only suit he had — and it was thoroughly filthy. If he had to, he could always dry it with his heat vision, but for now, he would just let it dry naturally.
Lois smiled at the clean, but unshaven man in front of her. He was wearing a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He looked kind of sexy with a couple days worth of stubble on his face. She stepped up close to him. She took in a deep breath through her nose. He smelled great. "Better," she confirmed.
Clark laughed through his fatigue. "Okay, so why don't you just tell me what this plan of yours is?"
Lois smiled at him. "In a minute. Why don't you have a seat, I just need to…" She gestured toward the washroom before heading there. When she closed the door she noticed the wet red and blue suit hanging in her shower. She drew in a sharp breath before shaking her head. She was still trying to get used to all of this. Suddenly she smiled. Well, at least that proved that the suit really did come off.
When she returned, Clark looked up sleepily. "So what's your plan?" he asked softly.
She smiled, took his hand, pulled him to his feet and began leading him back to her bedroom. When they got to the door, he stopped her.
"Lois, I'm not sure this is a good…"
"All I'm offering you, Clark, is a place to sleep."
He cocked his head to the side and studied her for a moment through half-closed eyes.
"Look, Clark, I don't think you're much of a threat in your current condition. I know you're far too tired to do anything but sleep," she informed him. Clark snorted. She grinned before turning serious. "Clark, I've been worried about you since you went to Beijing. I need to know that you're okay."
"Not much can hurt me, Lois."
She turned until she was facing him. "I'm not talking about whether you're okay physically. I need to know that you're okay in here," she said, laying her hand on his chest. "I want to hold you tonight. I think you want me to as well."
He wanted that more than he could possibly say, but… "Lois, we can't…" he started, but his voice trailed off when her fingers found his lips.
"Come to bed, Clark," she whispered, before once again taking his hand and leading him into the bedroom. His mind was becoming too fuzzy to fight with her. Besides, he really didn't want to leave her either. So he allowed her to take him to bed.
Lois lay awake for a long time after Clark had fallen asleep. When they had crawled into bed, she had asked if he wanted to talk. He said no, that he just wanted to sleep. Then he had shuddered. She wrapped her arms around him, laying her head on his chest. Then, in spite of his comment he began to talk, slowly at first. She lightly stroked his chest and soon, he was telling her about the horrors of the past two days. Lois suspected that as he realized she was not going to reject him for what he perceived to be his own weakness, he opened up to her in a way he never had before. Soon, he fell silent and she could feel his breathing deepen. She lay contentedly with her head on his chest, listening to the regular beat of his heart under her ear.
But soon she was confronted by the enormity of what had happened here tonight. He had opened himself up to her in a way no other man ever had before — sharing his fears and his pain. She realized for the first time what it meant to be 'Superman's girlfriend.' This man she had always believed invulnerable was not. She knew unquestionably that he needed her.He needed to have somewhere safe to let go of his pain. She was honored he had chosen her. She also understood the significance of the responsibility and it terrified her.
But then there was the man on whose chest her head was now resting. She loved him. The more she learned about him the more that love grew. He had always been there for her without ever expecting or asking anything in return. Tonight, she felt as if she had been able to do the same for him. What was surprising to her was that she knew that she wanted to continue to do that. She finally understood what love was all about — giving without considering what you were going to get in return.
She sighed. If not for that tape, she would probably be contemplating her wedding to this remarkable man. After Lex, she didn't think she would ever consider marriage again, but now… If only that tape had never come out.
On that thought, she finally drifted off to sleep.
Lois woke to the soft sound of groaning. At first she was disoriented. Why was there groaning? Why was the surface on which her head was resting moving up and down? But it didn't take her long to remember where she was and what had transpired only a few short hours before.
Once that came back to her, she realized Clark was having a nightmare. She sleepily stroked Clark's chest through his shirt.
"Clark," she said softly. He jerked awake. At that moment, Lois noticed they were no longer lying on the bed. They were floating about three feet above it. In her immediate panic, she pushed herself away from Clark and fell three feet back onto her bed. The action caught Clark off guard and he fell next to her.
Clark often floated when he dreamt — particularly when he was having a nightmare. But he couldn't be hurt. Lois didn't have that advantage.
"Lois, are you all right?"
Lois had her head buried in a pillow and her whole body was shaking. It took her a moment to get herself under control. When she finally looked up, Clark's heart almost stopped. Her face was covered with tears.
"I'm sorry, Lois. I should have thought…" His voice trailed off when Lois suddenly erupted in laughter. "You were laughing?" he asked in disbelief.
She tried to answer, but was unable to do so. The laughter was choking off any attempt to speak. Unable to resist her contagious laughter, Clark soon joined her. She threw herself back in his arms and chuckled against him for a long time.
"Well, that was certainly a first," Lois finally said, before she was once again overcome by laughter.
"So you find my method of sleeping funny?" Clark asked, although the laughter in his voice undermined the words.
Lois just nodded, burying her head against his chest as laughter continued to rack her body.
"How do you know you weren't floating?" he asked. When the comment just increased her laughter, he continued. "That's never happened to me before. I think it was you." Her laughter was quickly chasing away the horror of his nightmare.
"Oh really?" Lois responded, getting her laughter somewhat under control.
"I'm hurt that you would blame me for this," Clark said, a smile threatening to overtake his face. Lois was fighting, not very successfully, to keep from laughing again. "Well if that's how you feel about it," Clark said. "I'll just have to give you something to laugh about." With that, he pinned her on the bed and began tickling her.
She struggled. He might be a lot stronger, but she was much more inventive — besides, he had to temper his strength whereas, she did not. Soon she was the one who had him pinned down and was tickling him. She was amazed at her power over him — a man who let bullets bounce off his chest, squirmed under her tickling. She was straddling him and had his hands pinned at the sides of his face, when suddenly the laughter died for both of them. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment before Lois leaned over and lightly brushed her lips against his.
"Lo-is," Clark growled. "We can't…"
Lois leaned back over and again found his lips. This time her tongue sought entrance to his mouth — entrance which he felt powerless to stop. She continued to hold his hands by the side of his head as she ravaged his mouth. Once he was fully participating, she abandoned his lips to investigate his throat, working her way to his ear.
As she explored Clark's ear, Lois considered what she was doing. She was in her bed, half clothed, kissing and touching Clark. Was she really ready for where this seemed to be going — where she was taking this? She had vowed, after Claude, not to make love again until she knew it was forever. It was just far too dangerous. But Clark was not Claude. And the current choice seemed to be between this and nothing — and nothing was simply too horrible to contemplate.
She was well aware that when they got up tomorrow, they may well be saying good-bye forever. She didn't want that to happen without, just once, being lost in Clark. Suddenly, everything seemed so clear to her. There was no hedging, no uncertainty. She knew what she wanted — even if only for tonight.
"Make love to me, Clark," she breathed into his ear. It was the first time in her life she had ever made such a request of a man. In fact, until this moment, she wouldn't have believed herself capable of such a request. In the past, sex had always seemed like an obligatory next step in a relationship. This time, she felt no obligation, only a desire to get as close as possible to the man she loved. She felt no pressure from him to do this — in fact, she wasn't even sure he would agree, so his next words came as no surprise.
"Lois, we can't. You know we can't."
"Clark, I don't care if all we have is tonight. I want to make love to you and I want you to make love to me." Lois told him. Then, before he could object, she lowered her mouth back to his.
Clark was in turmoil. On the one hand, the woman he loved was kissing him and asking him to make love to her. On the other was his knowledge that he had the power to devastate her — like men had before. But then there was the feel of her mouth and the smell of her hair as it fell against his face. He broke her hold on him in order to wrap her in his arms, pulling her body against him.
They continued that way for a long moment. Clark, knowing he was quickly losing what little control he still had left, pulled back. He wanted this one night, but he had to make sure it was what she really wanted — that she fully appreciated their situation. He forced himself to move out from under her. Once that was accomplished, he pulled himself into a sitting position.
"Clark?" Lois asked.
"It's just… Lois, are you really sure about this?"
"I'm sure," she said, moving closer in an attempt to once again drown out his protests with her kisses. But this time, he evaded her. Realizing that he did not want to do this without talking, she spoke. "Clark, I know the obstacles to our being together. I know this might be all we have." She looked into his eyes. "Do you want to make love to me?" she asked softly.
His eyes seemed to melt. "Of course I do, Lois. But what happens tomorrow? I mean, if we do this… I just don't want to hurt you."
"Losing you won't be any easier just because we don't make love," Lois informed him with absolute conviction. "It's still going to hurt like hell." She reached over and drew a hand over his cheek. "Clark, maybe we can't be together. But I realized something when you were in China. I realized that whether or not we can ever be together, you're the only man I will ever love. I never thought I'd say that to anyone — I never thought I'd have anyone to say that to. But, Clark, it's true." She paused for a moment. "That isn't going to change whether we're together or not, whether we make love or not."
Clark let out a short breath. This wasn't what he wanted for her. On the other hand, it was certainly what he wanted from her. "You're the only one I'll ever love too, Lois," he whispered in response. "I've always known that."
Lois gathered courage from his last admission. "Clark, after everything I've gone through in the past, I don't jump into bed easily."
"I never meant to imply that you…"
"I know. It's just… Clark, this is right. You and I. I want to know, even if it's just once, what it's like to really make love. I want to make you part of me and I want to be part of you. If this is all we ever have, then so be it. But I still want this one moment with you. I want it more than I would have believed possible."
Clark looked at her for a moment. It was getting harder and harder to resist her request. Especially given the fact that he didn't want to resist. Suddenly he was struck by a thought. "Lois, I don't have any protection."
She smiled, knowing that his comment meant he was coming around to her way of thinking. She pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear, unable to quite meet his eyes as she said, "I went on the pill after our almost first date." Although not until this moment had she been ready for them to make love, she had recognized how easily it could happen after their almost first date and had taken the necessary precautions. "And since you're Superman, I assume we don't have to worry about diseases."
"No, we don't," he said, reaching over and raising her chin to look in her eyes. It was her eyes that finally decided the issue for Clark. She wanted this, needed this, as much as he did. Even if this was all they would ever have — especially, if this was all they would ever have. He moved back to her, and soon they were once again lost in each other's arms — each finding in the other, at long last, the home they had been searching for.
Clark lay awake looking at the woman sleeping in his arms. While gently stroking her hair, he listened to the slow beating of her heart. She had been right — their making love felt so right. But lying here now, he knew that, although he wouldn't change a moment of it, he had just dragged her into the abyss with him.
They had made love and it had been more incredible than anything he possibly could have imagined. Lois made love the way she did everything else — heart and soul. By turns, it had been intense and passionate and light and playful, but more than that, as they had made love, Clark saw the remaining barriers she had erected around her heart collapse. After two years of hoping he could get behind those barriers, it had been astonishing to see it finally happen. She had given him a glimpse into her soul and he was completely captivated.
But it wasn't just their lovemaking that had been incredible. Pouring his heart out to her earlier had also been miraculous. For the first time in his life, Clark had let his own walls crumble and, instead of the rejection he feared, had found unconditional acceptance. Never before, not even to his parents, had he shared his pain and fears to that extent.
In spite of working in Beijing for a day and a half, followed by only a few hours of sleep, he was amazed at how wide awake he really was. In fact, he felt as if he had only been sleepwalking through his life until this moment. Now, finally, he was awake.
Suddenly, reality came crashing down around him. Clark could see no way to change their ultimate fate. They had no future. And although he knew he would cherish this night for the rest of his life, he could already feel the increased heart break they were both going to go through because of it. He had to make a clean break with her. He had to do it now — before things got even more complicated.
"I tell you, Bill, I'm sure Dregg was at the Dirt Digger," said Maggie Sawyer as they shared a morning cup of coffee.
"That may be the case, but how do we go about proving it?" asked Henderson.
"I think the receptionist is the key. If I'm any judge of character, she's the one to break."
"Does she have anything we can use? Any sort of a record?"
"No. I checked. She's clean. I think that's what we use. I think she really wants to do the right thing."
Lois woke to the ringing of the phone. She sleepily stretched across the bed to grab it.
"Hello," she said into the receiver. As she came awake, she remembered last night. She looked around the room. Clark wasn't here. He must have gotten up early. She hoped he had coffee ready.
"Hi, Lois," came Dan's voice.
"Hi, Dan. Why are you calling so early?"
"What do you mean, early?"
Suddenly, Lois was wide awake. She glanced over at the clock. It was past ten o'clock! She was late for work. She must have forgotten to set her alarm clock last night. How could Clark have let her sleep in?
"I guess I slept in," Lois finally said in confusion.
"Well, I'm glad that's all it is. When I called today and was told you hadn't come in yet, I got worried."
"What do you want, Dan?" Lois said as she balanced the phone on her shoulder. She got out of bed and stretched the cord as far as it would go to rustle through her drawers in an effort to get her clothes out while she talked. She wanted to call for Clark's help, but she couldn't very well do that while she was on the phone with Dan.
"I got the analysis back on the stuff in the barrels. It's definitely Right-Kil. I'm going to head down to the docks to see what I can find out about its destination. I thought you might want to come."
"Definitely!!" exclaimed Lois. "How about I meet you at Pier 17 in about an hour?"
"I have a few things I need to do first. We better make that two hours."
"Fine. I'll see you there at noon," Lois replied, hanging up the phone. "Clark," Lois called, while continuing to rustle through her drawers. When he didn't answer, she slipped into her robe, calling out his name again. Still, there was no answer. Suddenly, she felt a chill. She reminded herself not to panic. He was Superman after all. He may just have gone to rescue someone.
She wrapped her robe tighter around her and headed into the livingroom. It confirmed her suspicions. Clark was definitely not here. She looked for a note, hoping that before going to attend to some super business, he would have thought about allaying the fears he must know she would have when she woke this morning to find him gone.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted a note on the kitchen table, being held down by a single rose. She picked up the rose and raised it to her nose for a moment. She noticed the remote control for her C.D. player as she picked up the note.
'My love,' the note began. Lois smiled. 'I can't even begin to express what last night meant to me. It was even more incredible than my wildest fantasies — and trust me, that's saying something.'
"For me too, Clark," Lois said quietly before continuing to read.
'After you fell asleep, I lay there watching you. I knew at that moment that I had never wanted anything as much as I want a life with you, but you and I both know that isn't possible.'
"Don't do it, Clark," Lois said as she sped up her reading.
'So, before I hurt you anymore, I need to say good-bye. I love you, Lois. There will never be anyone for me but you. I knew that the first moment I laid eyes on you. My only regret is that I managed to drag you into my fantasy. That is the one and only thing I'll always regret. Be happy, Lois. Because only if you can find happiness will I find peace.
'I still need to wait a couple of days before coming back to work. However, it will only be to give Perry my resignation. It's not fair to you for me to continue to work at the Planet when we both know it can never be.
'I put a C.D. in your player. Listen to the fourth song.
'All my love, always. Clark.'
The tears were already streaming freely down Lois' face. She took a moment to compose herself before picking up the remote control — hoping against hope that somehow the song he had left for her would give her some reason to hope. She turned on the power and pressed the appropriate number and play. In a moment, the room was filled with music.
Lois recognized the song immediately. It was from the movie, 'The Bodyguard.' She and Clark had watched that movie on video last year. She had cried at the end. Clark had teased her, but she secretly didn't mind — although she would never tell him that, but now, as the music filled the air, she sunk to the floor, burying her head in her hands.
*'If I should stay,
'I would only be in your way.
'So I go but I know,
'I'll think of you each step of the way.*
*'And I will always love you.
'I will always love you.*
*'Bitter sweet memories,
'That is all I am taking with me.
'Good-bye. Please, don't cry,
'Cause we both know I'm not what you need.*
*'But I will always love you.
'I will always love you.*
*'I hope life treats you kind.
'And I hope you have all you dream of.
'I wish you joy and happiness.
'But above all this I wish you love.*
*'And I will always love you.
'I will always love you.
'Yes, I will always love you.
'I will always love you.'*
There was no way for Lois to interpret the song as anything but a good-bye. Although part of her understood his reasons for going, another part of her was furious. How could he have slipped out of here in the middle of the night — making it clear that there would be nothing else between them?
She thought back to last night. It had been obvious at first that Clark wasn't exactly experienced. When that revelation had first hit her, Lois had been surprised. Since Lois had known Clark, she had watched women throw themselves at him — from Cat to Mayson. Then there was Superman — well, enough said. The idea that this was all new to him was astounding.
But Lois had no complaints about his lack of experience. In fact, she cherished it. Lois had always believed men were really only interested in one thing — sleeping with as many different women as possible. Clark's lack of experience told her, far more than any words could have, that he was different — that he could be trusted.
It had been his inexperience, more than anything, that had allowed her, for the first time in her life, to let down her guard. She had given herself to him fully and freely — not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. He had responded in kind.
But that made the heartbreak worse today. Last night had been incredible. Making love with Clark was so much more than just sex. She had had sex before so she knew the difference. And she had never experienced anything like what had happened between them. No man had ever really made love to her before — and that was exactly what Clark had done. Before the act had always been isolating. But not this time. It had been very much an act of union. The problem was that now that he was a part of her, his disappearance made her feel as if a part of herself was missing. In spite of what she had told Clark, making love had increased the pain of losing him — not that she would take back one minute of it if she could.
Lois was experiencing a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions — in a way far more common to the female of the species and usually leaving a trail of confused men in its wake. She desperately wanted to talk to Clark, and she, just as desperately, didn't. It was clear he never intended to have contact with her again, but if she ever did see him again, she wasn't sure whether she'd hold on to him for dear life or skin him alive — or both.
She now knew that their souls were somehow joined — that neither, although quite spectacular in their own right, was quite complete without the other. And she knew now, with absolute certainty, that if she had to give up everything else in her life to be with him, she would do it without as much as a backward glance. But he hadn't given her that option. He was gone and by the sounds of it, he intended to stay gone. She struggled to control her involuntary shaking as she brought her knees up under her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs.
Lois pulled up near Pier 17 and stopped the jeep. She was glad now that Dan had suggested they meet in two hours instead of one. She would never have been able to pull herself together in time otherwise. She was sure her eyes were still red, but by throwing herself into her work, she hoped to keep the aching hole in her heart from overwhelming her. She spotted Dan and got out of the vehicle to join him.
"Are you okay?" Dan asked when she reached him.
"Fine. Have you found out anything else?" Lois asked.
Dan looked at her for a moment. It was obvious something was dreadfully wrong. However, it was equally clear that she was not about to discuss it with him. "Yeah. I talked to your friend, Rick. A ship has arrived to transport the barrels. He said that Farm-aid Inc. has brought in its own people to work the ship."
"Isn't that against union rules?"
"Yes, it is. Normally, they would be out picketing, basically bringing work to a halt."
"I take it there's a reason they're not."
Dan nodded. "Rick said that the president of the Docker's Guild has forbidden any protests. Rick doesn't know why, but he did say that the president appears to be terrified of something."
"Then he's probably being threatened by Church."
"I agree. Getting him to admit it though is another matter. So, why don't we see what we can do about finding out where the ship is bound? I need you to show me where the warehouse is located."
Lois nodded and led him to the warehouse. She slipped behind some crates when she rounded the corner to the warehouse. The place was the sight of frantic activity. She grabbed Dan's arm and pulled him into her hiding space as well.
"It looks like this is going down now," Lois commented.
Dan began making his way toward the ship. Lois grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Where do you think you're going?" she asked.
"To get on that ship. We've got to find out where they're taking that stuff."
Lois wasn't used to working with someone even more reckless than she was. At first, she followed him, but then she had an idea. "Wait," she said, dragging him to the back of the warehouse.
"What are you doing?" he whispered when she started to climb through a window.
"If we can get… Just follow me," she said, pushing herself through the window. Dan sighed and followed.
Lois looked around, making it obvious she was searching for something in particular.
"What are you looking for?"
"When I was here the other day, I saw… There!" she exclaimed, making her way over to the other side of the warehouse.
Dan couldn't help but admire her ingenuity as she put on a pair of overalls that had been hanging on the far wall. He grabbed a pair as well and began pulling them on. Then they both grabbed hard hats and casually made their way amongst the other workers. They found a load of barrels that were about to be loaded on the ship. Lois jumped in amongst them. Dan followed. They hid amongst the barrels as they were raised into the ship. Once it was lowered, they managed to sneak away before anyone saw them.
Now that they were on board, the next question was where to go. Their best bet was the bridge. They boldly walked toward it, going under the assumption that the more they looked as if they were supposed to be here, the less likely anyone would be to question their actions.
Dan was amazed by the woman walking beside him. He loved her nerve. Unlike most of the women he had known over the years, she could walk into the middle of a volcano and never break a sweat. In fact, he had only known one woman like her — his former partner, Jena. A woman he had loved dearly.
It was that that had initially attracted him to Lois, but Lois was far too much her own person for him to make that comparison for long. Now it was the woman beside him that he was quickly falling in love with. If only he could find a way to get her to see Kent for who he really was. Where was he now anyway? Off finding himself, no doubt. Of course, that meant that he wasn't here and Dan was. She had told him he didn't have a chance with her, but then… where there's a will…
Once they arrived on the bridge, both began looking for documentation. It was only a few minutes before Lois found what they were looking for.
"Dan, look at this," Lois said, the excitement obvious from her voice.
"What is it?"
"It's a copy of a contract selling the insecticide, Right-Kil, to a company in El Salvador."
Dan came over and looked at it. "This is what we need," Dan exclaimed. "Let's go."
Lois folded the contract and stuck it inside the pocket of her overalls. They were just turning to exit through the single door when the door swung open and two men entered.
"What are you doing here?" a big burley man asked.
"We were just looking for the head," Lois exclaimed. "Since this is obviously not it…" She tried, unsuccessfully to push past the men.
"You're not going anywhere. Not until we find out who you are and why you're here."
Tae Kwan Do had never come in any more handy than it did right now. Lois' first kick managed to knock the man who was asking the questions into the man behind him. Dan finished the job, knocking both men down on the floor. Then he and Lois made a dash through the door and headed for the gang plank to get off the ship.
They could hear men running behind them — shouting for assistance. In a moment more, the way before them was blocked with other men. They stopped and spun back around. There were a half dozen men now behind them. They looked to the sides but they were hemmed in on one side by a structure and on the other side by barrels. There was no way out, except through the men in front of or behind them. Things were further complicated when men with guns showed up.
"Hey, I know her. She's a reporter," said one of the men.
"A reporter, huh," said a man with a gun, as the men continued to close in. "Well, I guess that means we gotta make sure she can't report anything else."
Lois and Dan looked around. There was no way of escape and there were now too many men and too many guns to fight their way out. And it was obvious from the last comment just how serious these men were. Lois' mind was racing. She had to find her own way out of this. She really didn't want to see HIM right now — not until she had worked out in her own mind exactly how to deal with the encounter, and especially not in public. No matter what happened, she would not yell for him.
Clark was sitting above the church bells on the highest steeple in Metropolis. His chin was resting on his knees and his cape was wrapped firmly around him, as if to protect him from the cool winds, but the cold which he was trying to keep out was not from the winds. He was not affected by external temperatures. The cold was inside him. Getting out of Lois' bed had probably been the hardest thing he had ever done. It had left him feeling so incredibly cold. He wondered if he would ever feel warm again.
Since he had nowhere to go, he found this perch high above the city. He knew he had effectively ended his relationship with Lois. He could never go back. He had to let her go — had to let her forget about what they had shared. He prayed she could get over him and find some happiness. He knew he never would. His only hope now was for her.
Clark knew only one thing for certain — whatever happened he had to keep as much distance between himself and Lois as possible. If last night had proven anything, it had proven that he had absolutely no will-power where Lois was concerned. He had made love to her even though he knew it would break her heart when he had to leave. He had so desperately wanted to believe her arguments that it would still be worth it, but was it? Was it worth this pain now? For him the answer was an unequivocal yes, but Lois… How could he have hurt Lois like that?
Clark would descend from his lofty perch to answer cries for help before once again retreating here. He wondered if this was what the rest of his life would consist of. Without Clark, he would never again be able to enjoy a movie with a friend or go to a party. And as much as he hated that, what he really couldn't stand was never again hearing Lois' voice, never again feeling her touch. He lowered his head to his chest.
It was then that Clark heard it. A cry for help. A man's voice. But a voice that was somehow familiar — although at the moment, he couldn't place it. He jumped off the tower. Another rescue would give him a few minutes of reprieve from his tortured thoughts.
"Ain't Superman in China with that earthquake thing?" asked one of the thugs, after Dan, not knowing what was going through Lois' mind, had yelled, 'Help. Superman.'
"Yeah," replied another man. "Too bad, though. This is definitely a situation that requires help from Superman."
The men continued to tighten the circle around their captives. Lois and Dan turned, pressing their backs together. Lois faced toward the gangplank, Dan toward the bridge. That would allow each to watch the other's back.
"What did you yell for him for?" Lois hissed over her shoulder. "We're doing just fine without him."
Dan glanced in disbelief over his shoulder at the woman behind him and then back at the men in front. He could hardly believe what he had just heard. Superman wasn't his favorite person, mainly because of his obvious interest in Lois. However, even he recognized that they weren't going to get out of this particular situation without a little superhelp.
"Where's your gun?" asked Lois in a whisper. Maybe they could still get out of this before Superman arrived.
"Under my overalls," Dan whispered back.
"Can't you get it?"
"I'd be dead before I ever got my hands on it."
The men continued to close the distance. When they got close enough, Dan yelled 'now' and both Lois and Dan plunged into their prospective captors, legs and fists flying. It was obviously a losing battle, particularly since the men with guns were standing back watching the action. Then suddenly, Lois and Dan found themselves fighting air as all the men were suddenly disarmed and tied up. In front of them was the red and blue superhero.
"Are you two all right?" Superman asked, addressing the question to Lois who was refusing to meet his eyes.
When she didn't answer, Dan spoke. "Yeah, thanks Superman. We're fine. Although, if you'd have been a couple minutes later…" His voice trailed off as Lois began to hobble away.
"You're hurt," said Superman, pursuing Lois. He went to touch her and she jerked away.
"I'm fine," she announced.
"Let me take a look at your ankle," said Superman.
Lois was about to object when she caught Dan eyeing the exchange curiously. This was not how Lois normally behaved around Superman. Realizing they had an audience and one who would want to know what was going on, she relented. She allowed Superman to pick her up and carry her to a nearby bench. Once there, Superman picked up her ankle and x-rayed it.
"It's not broken," Superman informed her. "But you should put some ice on it right away or it's going to swell up."
"Why don't you take her home?" Dan suggested. "I'll call for back-up."
"I'm fine," Lois announced, starting to rise. Her ankle gave out under her. Dan and Superman each caught an arm, lowering her back to the bench. Lois let out a frustrated breath. "It's my story," she finally said, in a last ditch effort to decline a ride home from Superman.
"You've got the story, Lois. If anything else happens, I'll call," Dan informed her. "But Superman's right. You do need to get some ice on that."
Knowing there was no way she could decline now without raising Scardino's curiosity, she nodded her head, still not making eye contact with Superman. Superman picked her up in his arms. Then, before he took off, he looked back at Scardino.
"Are you sure you have everything under control?" Superman asked.
"I'm sure," replied Dan. "I have my cell phone. So I'll call for back-up. In the mean time…" Dan picked up one of the guns that Superman had pilled up during his disarmament campaign. He raised his eyebrows.
Clark nodded and took off with Lois.
"I think I should take you to a hospital," Clark said when they were out of ear shot.
"You x-rayed it. It's not broken. Just take me home," Lois replied flatly.
"Lo-is," Clark growled.
"Fine! If you won't take me home, I'll find my own way there."
Then, without warning, she pushed against Clark's chest. Unprepared for the sudden movement, Clark was unable to stop her from succeeding in her effort to be free of him. She fell. It only took a moment for Superman to overcome his shock. He dived after her, catching her within feet of the ground. Then, afraid that she would try that stunt again, he headed, as fast as was safe, toward Lois' apartment. She made no further efforts to escape and said nothing else to him during the flight. Instead, she expressed her displeasure by keeping her arms folded firmly across her chest.
He flew her through the window, depositing her gently on the sofa. "Do you want to tell me…" he began.
"Ice," Lois demanded, cocking her head to the side, in a gesture of defiance.
Clark stood there for a moment before turning toward her kitchen and getting an ice pack from her freezer. He then took a t-towel and wrapped the ice pack inside it. She took the opportunity to struggle out of the overalls. She had them off by the time he returned. When he went to put the ice on her ankle, she snatched it from him to do it herself.
"Umm… Well, maybe I should go," Clark said. Although it broke his heart, it was obvious she didn't want him here.
"Don't you dare leave, Mister," came Lois response. This may not have been her choice of time to have this out, but since he was here now, she wasn't about to let him leave until she said her piece.
Clark, not having a clue what to do, just stood there, looking helplessly toward the window, as if he were the unwilling captive of this woman. He knew that she was mad at him, but he had no idea what he had done wrong. Hadn't they agreed that even if last night was all they had, they still wanted it?
"And wipe that hunted look off your face," Lois spat. "You're nothing but a coward — sneaking out of here in the middle of the night. Leaving behind nothing but a Dear John letter."
"I just thought it would be easier for both of us…" he began.
"Since when did you start making my decisions for me, Clark? And would you get out of that suit. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to yell at Superman?"
Clark hesitated. If her yelling was going to be worse as Clark, did he really want to be Clark right now? When Clark noticed that Lois was getting even more upset by his hesitation, he relented. It was probably just as well if he obeyed. He spun and was soon standing before her in the sweats he had been wearing last night."
When he was done, Lois began. "What do you think happened here last night? A romp in the hay? A one night stand?" Lois spat. "I really thought that it meant as much to you as it did to me. Obviously I was wrong." Lois knew she wasn't being fair to Clark, but at the moment, she was too angry to care.
"You weren't. I…"
Lois ignored him to continue on her tantrum. "Your sleeping with me does not give you the right to make my decisions for me. I've been making my own decisions for as long as I can remember and I've been doing just fine. And I don't need your protection. Just because you decided that it might be easier for me if you just left, didn't give you the right to go ahead and do it. I'm perfectly capable of making tough decisions."
"I thought last night meant something! Idiot that I am. I realize we decided that if last night was all we had, we still wanted it. But that didn't give you a right to decide the issue unilaterally. I'm involved here too."
"I know that, it's just…"
"I really believed that something had happened between us — I mean something beyond mere sex. But obviously that's all it was to you."
"That's not true, Lois. Last night meant everything to me," Clark said, reaching out to touch her.
Without thinking, and even from a seated position, Lois grabbed the arm Clark had outstretched and, twisting it, flipped him. Clark landed on his back. Lois and Clark looked at each other in shock for a moment. She had just managed to flip Superman. Suddenly, Lois burst out laughing. Although whether it was just the nerves of the past few hours or the improbability of the situation, she didn't know. Clark watched her laughter in disbelief. She laughed until tears were running down her cheeks. Then just a suddenly, she was crying.
Clark let go of all his own pain when he realized she was crying. He didn't know if it was because of him leaving or the way he did it,but he did know it was his fault. He got up off the floor and sat beside her on the couch. Letting out a short breath, he tentatively reached for her — half afraid he was going to be rejected again, but when Lois didn't resist, he pulled her into his arms.
When Lois felt Clark's arms go around her, she felt conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he was her best friend and the only one she could talk to honestly about this whole situation. On the other hand, he was the one who had hurt her. Still, she so desperately needed the comfort of his arms. So she twisted one hand in his shirt, holding on to him, while hitting his chest with the other — lightly enough to keep from hurting herself, but hard enough to give her some relief from her anger and pain. Clark waited until she calmed before speaking.
"I love you, Lois. It's just this damn situation," Clark said.
Lois was stunned. She had never heard Clark mutter anything close to a swear word before. And although 'damn' was admittedly a mild swear word, it was still in that group.
"I'm so sorry. I really thought I was doing the right thing." Clark continued, "I thought it would be easier if I was just gone. I didn't intend to make you feel as if last night meant nothing to me."
Lois let out a short breath. Clark was known for doing some really stupid things, but he always did them for the right reasons. And if she was honest with herself, she knew how much last night had meant to him too. She drew away from him to look into his eyes. "Clark, you've got to quit doing that. We're in this together. I realized that last night." She fell silent for a moment before saying the last thing Clark expected. "Marry me, Clark," she whispered.
"What?" Clark gasped.
"Marry me," she repeated.
"I can't. We can't. I want you to be my wife. I want to be your husband. But this is crazy. How can I offer you anything now? I don't have a life anymore."
"Clark, let's say your only option is to become Superman on a full time basis." When Clark lowered his eyes, she reached over and raised his chin to look into them before continuing, "You're still going to have a life. Maybe not the life you want, but it's still a life. I say we do the best we can with that life." She took a deep breath before continuing, "We don't have to tell anyone we're married. That should protect me." Lois was making up her arguments as she went along. She had known since they made love that she was meant to be with Clark, regardless of what that did to her career. Maybe she could still have both, but even if she couldn't… "Even if it means the end of my career, I still want to marry you. I assume, since you actually bought a ring, that you want to marry me too."
Clark looked at her in disbelief. He knew what she was offering him — she was willing to give up everything, if necessary, just to be with him. "Of course, I want to marry you. I can't remember ever wanting anything more." Suddenly he got a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't resist. "Unless you count that fishing rod on my eighth birthday." Lois rolled her eyes. Clark then returned to the discussion. "But, Lois, what kind of life would that be for you?"
"What kind of life will I have if you fly out that window for good. Nothing about my life has ever been 'normal' — whatever that means. Maybe in order to keep our relationship secret, I'll only get to see you sporadically, but at least I'll get to see you. I want to be committed to you and I want the same thing from you. Besides, even if you find a way to get your life back, do you really expect me to believe that life with you could ever be normal. After all, considering how you spend your spare time, I suspect that I would just have to learn to live with your constant disappearing act — having you run off, probably at the most inopportune moments. Dinner parties. Family gatherings. Even when we're making love."
Clark cleared his throat.
"What?" asked Lois.
"Well, it's just… I'm just not sure we'd have to be worried about being interrupted when making love."
"What are you talking about, Clark? I'm sure people won't stop yelling for Superman just because we're making love."
"Well, no, but…" Clark started, then stopped.
"Spit it out, Kent!"
"I just don't think I'll hear them."
"I don't understand," Lois informed him.
Clark let out a short breath. "Well, last night… I didn't hear anything but you."
A slow smile lit up Lois' face. "It's good to know I can keep your attention. So, you see, we need to get married. You need times where you don't have to worry about the rest of the world."
"No, Lois, we can't get married. You need to find someone who can love you — who can give you a home and a family."
"I found someone who loves me," she said softly. "I've even found my home and my family."
Clark gave her a tender look. "And if someone finds out?"
"I won't live my life in fear of what might happen. We deal with that if it happens. Besides, haven't you heard what the Dalai Lama says?" When he shook his head, she continued, "He said, 'Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.'"
Clark knew he should say no — but how could he walk away from the woman who had held his heart in the palm of her hand since the moment they had first met?
Lois could tell she was winning. She reached over and lay her hand on his chest. "Clark, you could take us anywhere in the world to get married. There wouldn't need to be documentation of our marriage anywhere in America. We wouldn't have to tell anyone — except your parents. I could get a different place — one where your comings and goings wouldn't be noticed. You need a place to live. Why not live with me instead of some remote place? If you lived somewhere remote, you wouldn't be able to hear cries for help. Since the place would be in my name, no one would even need to know you're living in Metropolis."
"But we wouldn't have to get married for me to do that," Clark said, suddenly wondering if maybe it would be fairer to Lois for them to just live together. That way, if their relationship did become public, she could just walk away. It would still be difficult for her but at least there wouldn't be the legal tangles.
Lois stroked his cheek, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. "I'm not just offering you my bed, Clark. I'm offering you my life. I don't want to just live together. I want to be your wife."
"I would never be able to take you out for supper or go out to a movie with you."
"Sure you would. I'm sure if we were to go to a restaurant somewhere overseas, no one would recognize us. And we can always rent movies. Clark, isn't what I'm suggesting better than nothing?"
It was. It was far better than the life he'd been picturing for himself all morning. Clark just wasn't sure if it was fair to Lois. What type of life was that for her?
Lois seemed to read Clark's mind. "Clark, after the fiasco with Lex I decided I would never marry. If you leave, there won't be anyone else — ever. I don't know how I know that, I just do. Sort of the same way you know that you'll love me forever — if you really meant it when you told me that."
"Of course, I did."
"I know you're wondering if this is fair to me, but think of the alternative. Clark, losing you would break my heart."
He looked at her for a moment. "Are you sure, Lois?"
"I've never been more certain of anything in my entire life."
He wasn't sure if it was her arguments or his desire to believe her arguments, but it was only a moment more before he was on his knee in front of her.
"Will you marry me, Lois Lane?" he asked.
"Definitely," she replied, throwing herself into his arms.
The next several minutes were spent getting reacquainted with each other's mouths. Finally, Lois pulled back. "Let's do it tonight, Clark."
"Are you serious?"
"Yes. I don't want to wait and we don't need to plan since this is going to have to be done very quietly. So let's just do it."
Clark thought for a moment. "I know a monk on a small mission in the Caribbean. I met him during my travels."
"But then, he knows who you are."
"He also caught me floating in my sleep one night — before Superman ever came on the scene. He never told anyone about that. I think we can trust him to keep this a secret too."
"Are we really doing this?" Lois asked, the excitement obvious from her voice.
"I think so," Clark replied, finding her excitement contagious.
"Well then, I guess it's a good thing I have the weekend off. But before we go…"
"You have to write the story about Farm-aid Inc.," Clark concluded for her.
Lois laughed and nodded. "You see, your job isn't the only one that's bound to come between us."
"Okay, well then, while you write up your story, I'm going to go pick up some wedding rings. We might never be able to wear them, but I still want us to exchange them."
Lois raised a hand to Clark's cheek before leaning in and kissing him, but when he attempted to deepen the kiss, she pulled back.
"What do you think this is? We're not married yet, Mr. Kent."
Clark laughed, nodded, spun into Superman and was gone.
Henderson was just finishing up for the day when he walked into the front room of the police station. As he was approaching the counter, an attractive blond walked into the station.
"I'm looking for Inspector Sawyer," he heard her say to the officer on the desk.
"I'm afraid Inspector Sawyer is not here at the moment. If you want to leave a message, I can…"
"No, that's okay," said the woman, turning to leave.
Henderson was suddenly struck by a thought. He took off after the woman. "Excuse me, Miss," he said to the retreating woman.
She stopped and turned towards him.
"I'm Inspector Henderson. Is there something I can help you with?"
"I don't think so. I'm looking for Inspector Sawyer."
"You wouldn't happen to work for the Dirt Digger?" Henderson asked.
Henderson smiled. His hunch had been right. "I assume you're Maria Smyth?" When Smyth nodded, Henderson continued, "Would you come into my office?"
Smyth nodded and followed Henderson inside. Henderson seated Maria before going to get coffee for her. As he was returning, he spotted Maggie. He gestured her to follow him. "It looks like you were right," he said before entering his office.
"Ms. Smyth," said Maggie upon entering the office. "What can we do for you?"
"I'll probably lose my job if Mr. Turner finds out I came here."
"Listen, I understand why you might be reluctant to talk, but the man whose picture you saw the other day was murdered. It is critical that we find out what happened to him. We have information that he may have been at the Dirt Digger the very day he was murdered."
"What day was that?"
"The day the tape came out about Superman."
"He was there that day," Maggie confirmed softly.
Henderson and Sawyer exchanged glances.
"Do you know why?" asked Henderson.
Maggie nodded. "I overheard him talking to Mr. Turner. He told Mr. Turner that he knew Superman's secret identity. Mr. Turner threw him out of the office."
"So then he didn't have the tape?"
"I don't know. But when he left, he went with one of the lawyers for the Dirt Digger. Later, the lawyer came back again with the tape."
"Do you know the name of the lawyer?"
"Umm… He works for Abbott Kuss and Steele. His name… Oh what is his name?" She silently thought for a moment. "Rutherby or Rutherford or something like that."
"What does he look like?"
"Sort of slimy. He has dark hair and a goatee. Oh yeah, he wears glasses."
"Will you sign a statement about what you just told us?"
"Will Mr. Turner find out about it?"
"I don't know. He might. But we won't use it unless it's absolutely necessary."
Maria hesitated for a moment. "I guess so," she finally said.
"So how do we handle it from here?" Sawyer asked when Smyth was gone.
"Well, I'm just going off duty for the weekend."
"I figure the next step is to catch up with that lawyer. With the information we now have, I don't think that should be too difficult. You got anything going on Monday morning?" asked Henderson.
"I think I can fit in a visit to a slime ball lawyer."
Clark landed them amongst the exotic trees on a tropical island in the Caribbean. He spun back into Clark and then he and Lois emerged onto the well-groomed grounds of the monastery. Clark picked up the suitcases that he had brought out here before bringing Lois and the two of them made their way toward a building whose walls were almost completely obstructed by the thick foliage.
"It's beautiful here, Clark," Lois whispered.
"Why are you whispering?" Clark asked.
"I don't know. It just seems a shame to disturb the silence."
Clark smiled at her. He figured he could know this woman all his life and still be amazed by how her mind worked. She was still favoring her right ankle.
"Are you okay to be walking? 'Cause I could carry you," Clark suggested.
"My ankle's still a little sore. But I must not have sprained it too bad."
"Do you want me to carry you?"
Lois smiled. "Later. Right now I'm enjoying the walk."
It was only a few moments before they were at the doors of the grand old building. Clark set down the bags and pulled on a long cord that hung down beside the door. Then he turned to Lois.
"There's still time to back out, you know."
Lois ran a hand down his chest. "You're not getting away that easy, Mister."
Clark smiled. "Trust me on this, I couldn't get out if I wanted to."
"Do you want to?"
Clark's smile died. "No," he said simply, looking deeply into her eyes. He got lost for a moment in those dark pools. He started to lean in, but the impending kiss was interrupted by the door opening.
"Brother Richards, I'm not sure if you remember me…" Clark began.
"Of course I remember you," said Richards and suddenly Clark was lost in a bear hug by a big burly man with white hair and a gentle face. However, Lois noticed he had eyes like a hawk — the eyes of one who could look past all your barriers into your heart. "And this is?" he asked, releasing Clark.
"Lois Lane," Clark informed him. "She's my partner and… Well, actually, that's the reason we're here. Is there someplace private where we can talk?"
"Of course, of course, how rude of me. Please…" With that he gestured them into the building.
"Do you live here alone?" Lois asked as they made their way through the house.
"Not usually, but this weekend is different. This weekend I've been left behind to watch the monastery while everyone else is on the north side of the island. Father Cupello came in from Rome. So everyone is up there to see him. Anyway, enough about that, why are you two here?" He asked gesturing them to chairs.
"When I was here, something happened that causes me to believe you can be trusted," Clark said carefully.
Richards smiled. "I must admit that for years I wondered if I was dreaming. But… umm… I've been following your career for the past couple of years…" He looked briefly at Lois, not wanting to say something that might be a betrayal of the young man in front of him.
"It's all right," Clark assured him. "She knows."
Richards nodded. "You've been doing a great thing for this world. Not just by the help you give to people but by giving this generation an ideal to live up to. Today, so many of our leaders feel no need to be role models. You've shown them that having moral standards is not something that only simpletons cling to."
"Thank you," said Clark shifting uncomfortably, suddenly remembering how he'd treated Lois this morning. Lois seemed to read his mind and reached over, gently running her hand over his leg, telling him that it was okay.
"So, why are you here?" asked Richards.
"Have you heard what's happening in Metropolis?"
"I heard that people are claiming that you're Superman."
"That's gotta make things tough. Have you figured out how to deal with it yet?"
Clark shrugged. "Not really. The problem is…" He glanced over at Lois. "It's not exactly making it easy to have a life with the attention I'm getting. Anyway, that's why we're here. We want to get married."
Richards smiled. "Congratulations."
"But, if the world knows Clark Kent is Superman, it's important they not find out he's married. Otherwise, Lois will become a target for everyone who wants to stop Superman."
Richards nodded his understanding.
"So what we were wondering…" began Lois.
"Was if I could quietly marry you and not tell anyone?" When they both nodded, he continued, "I would assume that you would rather not have the paperwork filed. Perhaps I could keep it safe here and then, only file it if it becomes safe at some point in the future. Sure I can do that. And fortunately for you, the laws on marriage for foreigners here are pretty lax. When do you want to do this?"
"Tonight?" Lois asked.
Richards smiled. "Well, it's been a while since I've performed a wedding. But if you don't mind my fumbling, I think I can do that. Do you have anyone in mind for witnesses or should I make arrangements?"
"Are they people we can trust?"
"They're people who have never seen a television. So they won't have any idea what they're witnessing — except that it's a wedding."
With that decided, Richards went off to make the necessary arrangements while Lois and Clark were directed to separate rooms in order to get changed.
Lois had recently purchased a new dress that was perfect for the occasion. It wasn't a wedding dress, of course, but it was white. She also removed a small velvet box from her suitcase. She wouldn't be able to wear it in Metropolis but she could here, today. She removed the engagement ring Clark had left at her place — it was hers after all, even if he hadn't given it to her in the traditional way — and slipped it on her finger. A tear slipped down her cheek as she looked at it on her hand. She could hardly believe this was happening, but more than that, she was amazed by how right this felt. In spite of all the difficulties they would certainly face, she had no doubts that, for her, this was the right choice. Whatever happened in the future, they would face it together.
By the time she was ready, she could hear voices in the main part of the building. She made her way back there. She stood in the doorway, admiring Clark in his black pants and white shirt. He was so gorgeous, but that wasn't what she loved about him. It was the way he loved her that left her feeling weak inside. She could hardly believe how lucky she was. They might not have a traditional marriage — but she still felt blessed to be marrying a man who loved her the way Clark did.
Clark looked toward the doorway where Lois was standing and felt his heart skip a beat. She had swept her hair up, leaving a few tangles to hang down by her face. The soft white dress she was wearing, showed just the right amount of cleavage — tantalizing without being revealing. The skirt softly caressed her legs. Clark felt as if his heart was about to burst with love for this woman.
"I see that everyone's here," said Brother Richards, entering the room past Lois. "Are you two ready to do this?" When both Lois and Clark nodded, he directed everyone to their appropriate places.
"It's obvious by seeing the way you two look at each other that you're in love," Richards began. "But love is not something to be taken for granted. It's a daily conscious choice. It is choosing, every day, to love each other — no matter the obstacles. And it is on that basis, that you will have to build a life together — one day at a time." There was a pause before he asked, "Do you two want to say your own vows or do you want me to do them?"
They looked at each other for a moment, silently communicating, before Lois spoke for both of them. "We'll say our own."
Lois and Clark turned toward each other and Clark took Lois' hands. His fingers brushed over the rock on her left hand. He looked down at their clasped hands for a moment, as his thumb lightly played with the stone, before looking back into her eyes. "Wow," he said softly. "I know the circumstances of our wedding are not ideal. There are so many people that should be here that aren't. But in spite of all that, I have never felt luckier than I do at this moment.
"Since the moment I first laid eyes on you, I have known that, whether or not we ended up together, my last thought on this earth would be of you. You are my past and you are my future. Today I want to make you a promise. Whatever happens, from this day forward, no matter what demands are made on my time, you will always be my priority. And so I take you to be my wife, my permanent partner and my lifelong companion."
Lois reached over and gently ran a hand over his cheek. Tears were running freely down her face. When she spoke, her voice trembled with emotion. "Clark, I never really believed in love before. I always thought it was just something people said in order to get something they wanted. Then I heard you say it, and suddenly I was a believer. You have loved me in a way I never dreamed possible — a love that has always put me first. Even thought at times you have done some stupid things to prove that love.
"So today, before these witnesses, I want to promise you that type of love in return. No matter what our future may or may not hold, I promise to always be there for you. I take you to be my husband, my permanent partner and my lifelong companion."
This was followed by an exchange of rings, before Brother Richards said, "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
With that, Clark's hand came up to Lois' cheek. He gently stroked it before leaning in and lightly kissing her. When he tried to pull back, Lois' arms encircled his neck and she pulled him in for a much more passionate kiss.
Bill Church stared angrily at the morning edition of the Daily Planet. In particular, the front page article by Lois Lane. Of course, he already knew what had happened to his ship. All the Right-Kil had been confiscated. However, since Scardino had been in on the search, the documents Lois had found proving the cargo's destination would be tossed out of court because the presence of a federal agent made the search illegal So Bill Church wasn't particularly worried about charges. However, the reason he was furious was that, thanks to Lois Lane, the Right-Kil would never reach the overseas market and he would be held liable for the costs of disposing of the insecticide.
He had lawyers working right now on preparing phoney documents showing the cargo's destination as a disposal company in the southern United States. Of course, everyone would doubt the authenticity of the documents since the cost of disposing of it in this manner was greater, but since they had no admissible proof to the contrary, they wouldn't be able to prove it.
The article in the Daily Planet, on the other hand, was a different story. Although the document, due to an improper search and seizure, would not be admissible in a criminal trial, that did not prevent it from being used in a civil trial if he tried to sue the Planet. So the Daily Planet had clearly spelled out the whole plan and there was nothing Church could do about it. Except… The sweetest of activities — revenge.
"Rutherford, I'm glad you could make it," said Church, as Evan Rutherford entered the room. "I take it you heard."
Evan swallowed hard. "Yes, sir."
"I think it's time to cut to the chase. Is that tape genuine?"
"Yes, of course, Sir."
Church looked at him long and hard. He still wasn't convinced, but if he put Rutherford on this assignment, at least he was the one who would go down if it wasn't.
"Then I think it's time we upped the ante. I want you to work out a plan that will expose Kent once and for all."
"I want it done today."
"That might not be possible, Sir. I've been keeping an eye on Kent's activities. It seems, as was to be expected, he disappeared from Metropolis when Superman went to Beijing to help out with the earthquake."
"But that was days ago. News reports said he returned from Beijing. He even helped stop the shipment of the insecticide. So where is Kent?"
"My guess is that he decided that Clark Kent couldn't return at the same time as Superman."
"What do our sources at the Daily Planet say?"
"That he took some personal time off. Apparently, Lois Lane was quite annoyed with him for it."
"When's he supposed to be coming back?"
"Well then, Rutherford, I guess that gives you two days to come up with a plan."
Lois rolled over sleepily. Her arm hit against something solid, yet soft. Suddenly, the events of the past few hours came flooding back. Her hand lazily explored the surface under it. She opened her eyes and realized that her exploration had the man lying next to her awake as well. Although his eyes weren't open, the smile on his face told her that.
"So it wasn't a dream?" she asked quietly.
Clark opened his eyes. "If it was, don't wake me up," he smiled, before pulling her into his arms to give her a kiss.
"Now that's what I call a proper way to wake up," Lois said when he pulled back. "Certainly, better than yesterday morning."
"Lois, I'm so…" His apology was interrupted by her kiss.
"It's over, Clark. Just never do something like that to me again."
Clark smiled. "I won't," he promised.
There was a moment of silence before Lois spoke again. "I can't believe we're really married," she said softly. She looked around at the austere walls. "Although, in my wildest imaginations, I never imagined my wedding night would be spent in a monastery."
Clark laughed before turning serious. "Are you sorry it was?"
Lois shook her head. "I got what I wanted," she said, leaning over to kiss his chest.
"But do you regret not having a big wedding and going to some exclusive honeymoon resort?"
"Clark, I admit that when I was a little girl, I used to dream about those sorts of things. But I had the big wedding with Lex and look how that turned out. Besides, if we had gone to some exclusive honeymoon resort — well, I don't think last night could have been any more incredible than it was. And this is certainly cheaper."
"That brings up a point. Do you want to take a honeymoon?" Clark asked.
"I don't know, Clark. I mean, we can't tell Perry that we need time off to go on a honeymoon. I do have some vacation time coming. But if we take time off together, he might make a connection. And if he doesn't someone else might."
"I don't think that'll be a problem, Lois. I plan to give Perry my resignation on Monday, so as soon as you get some time off, we can get away. Where do you want to go? We can go anywhere in the world."
"So that we can see the inside of a motel room?"
Clark laughed. "Well, when you put it that way, it does sound a little crazy doesn't it."
They fell silent for a few moments before Lois spoke again. "Do you really have to give Perry your resignation?"
"I don't see any other option, Lois."
"You know, Clark, I've been thinking about how to refute the tape."
"And have you come up with any answers?" Clark asked hopefully.
"But, Clark, we've been working together for almost two years now. Right?"
"Well, since we've started working together, my stories have improved."
Suddenly, Clark sat up and looked around.
"What?" asked Lois.
"Darn," said Clark, snapping his fingers. "No witnesses. Why are there never any witnesses around when you need them?"
Lois rolled her eyes and lightly hit him on the chest. Clark chuckled, relaxing back into the bed.
"What I was trying to say is… Well, we've both been working on this problem alone. Maybe it's time that we recognized that together we do better than either of us does alone and try working together to find a way out of this mess."
Clark looked at her for a moment, a smile beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth. "So, where do you want to start, Partner?" he asked.
"Elise Carr came to see me the other day…" Lois began, before proceeding to fill him in on her efforts to get behind the tape.
"So it's a dead end?" Clark asked.
"Unless you can see something I didn't."
"No. And I think you're right about not asking around at the Dirt Digger — especially now. I suppose we could always get Jimmy to do it. No one there would know who he is."
"But then he would have to be brought in on your secret."
Clark nodded. "On the other hand, having Jimmy know the truth is better than having the whole world know. Still, if there's a way to keep him from finding out too…"
"Okay. So we put that idea on the back burner for now."
They were silent for a moment as both considered their options.
"Why haven't you denied it, Clark?" Lois asked, although she thought she knew the answer.
Clark hesitated. "I'm just not really comfortable with lying, Lois."
"But, Clark, you've been lying to me about it almost daily since we first met?"
"I know. And you know, better than anyone, just how bad I am at it."
Lois snorted. "Yeah. Some of those excuses were pretty lame. I guess that just shows how stupid I was for not realizing that you were Superman."
"Never! Lois, you couldn't be stupid if you tried. You just didn't expect to see Superman when you looked at me — so you didn't. I don't have that advantage now."
"So you don't want to lie because you're no good at it?"
"No. Well, not exactly. I've always had a problem with lies. I guess if I thought it would do any good to deny it, I probably would. After all, keeping my identity a secret is not just for my protection. This affects you and my folks and all of my friends. Having people know puts all of you in danger."
"Okay. So you'd prefer not to have to deny it, but you will if necessary?"
"I guess that sums it up. Except, if I have to lie, I think I'd rather do it as Clark than Superman."
"Superman's above that sort of thing?" Lois asked.
"I think he should try to be."
Lois nodded. "Clark, how did you manage to give a press conference where you and Superman both appeared to refute Diana Stride's claim that you were Superman?"
"My folks operated a hologram. I was real. Superman was an illusion."
"I assume you've considered that possibility again."
"Yes, but what would Superman say? He can't claim that Clark washes his suits for him to explain away this tape. Besides, would you be satisfied with a hovering Superman this time or would you insist on meeting with both men?"
"I guess I'd be more skeptical this time."
There was silence again.
"If only there were some way to prove to the world that you're vulnerable."
"But I'm not vulnerable, Lois."
Lois smiled. "I think you proved that last night." She leaned over and kissed him, emphasizing what she was saying. Once the kiss broke, she continued. "No, I mean to make them think you're vulnerable."
"Paper cut!!" Lois exclaimed.
"Excuse me?" Clark asked, thoroughly confused.
"Clark, when we were in Smallville the first time — it must have been a year and a half ago now — you got a paper cut. How'd that happen?"
"Why would you remember that I got a paper cut that long ago?"
"Your reaction to it always stayed with me. So how did you get it?"
"Wayne Irig found a piece of kryptonite. When Trask and his men showed up, Wayne brought it to my father for safe keeping. He figured he had stumbled across something valuable. The night we showed up, Dad took me out to the barn to have a look at it. It was in a lead lined box. When he opened the box, I collapsed. I had never been exposed to kryptonite before so he didn't know it could hurt me."
"So that's when you got the paper cut?"
"Yes. Exposure to kryptonite usually takes away my powers for a few days."
"But what about the time you were shot with the kryptonite bullet. You used your powers immediately afterwards."
"I wasn't exposed long enough for them to be completely gone — thanks to you. But they were affected. I had a hard time stopping the truck Carlin and your double were in. But what does this have to do with… I've got it! Lois, what did you do with that kryptonite bullet? Did you drop it into the middle of the Bermuda Triangle?"
"I assumed you were just being metaphorical when you asked me to do that."
"Then, where is it?"
"I have it in a safety deposit box at Metropolis Memorial Bank. What are you… No, Clark, you can't do that. I know what you're thinking and it's too dangerous."
Clark propped himself up on his elbows, his mind working overtime now. "Lois, I've been exposed to kryptonite a number of times now. None of them have been very pleasant, but I've always survived. This time, maybe we can use kryptonite to our advantage."
"Clark, I don't like where this is going."
"Lois, please. All I want is a chance for a normal life with you. I want to be able to be your partner at the Planet. To be able to have friends over and go out to movies together. If this gives us that chance, I want to take it."
"I want that too, Clark. But this… Isn't this a little drastic?"
"I don't think so. You'll be there to make sure I don't get too much exposure and, once my powers are gone, I arrange for Clark to have a little accident. Nothing major. But it might prove once and for all that Clark Kent is not Superman."
"But what about the tape?"
"If this works, maybe we won't have to explain the tape. People will just think it's a hoax."
Lois thought long and hard about what he was saying. She didn't like the idea of having kryptonite anywhere near him, but if he was determined to do this, she was determined to make it work. "If you do do this — and I'm not saying I agree — we would have to make sure your 'accident' took place some place public. Like… A press conference. We could set up a press conference for you outside the Daily Planet so that you could address the Superman question. We could even have Superman make a cameo appearance."
"But what would he say?"
"He doesn't say anything. He just shows up, asks if you have everything under control and leaves. Then you, as Clark, make a public statement denying that you're Superman."
"And as I'm leaving the podium, I do something like… trip down the stares and skin my hands and knees."
"Exactly. You know, Clark, I think this could work."
"So do I. I have the hologram at my place. My Mom left it there in case it was ever needed again. I take it you'll be operating it?"
"Of course. I'll do it from the roof of the Daily Planet. And we'll hold the press conference right in front of the building."
Clark was excited. For the first time he had a plan that just might be workable. There were certainly some risks to the plan, but at least it was better than just giving up and handing in his resignation without a fight. He did, however, have one concern.
"Lois, when you married me, you assumed a certain kind of life. Are you sure you want to be married to Clark Kent instead of Superman?"
Lois snorted. "Clark, if none of this had happened and you had asked me to marry you at your place the night I was supposed to come over for supper, I'd have said yes. I want to be your wife — whether it's public or private, whether it's with Clark Kent or Superman. But of the two, I'd rather have a life with Clark Kent."
They shared a leisurely kiss. When it broke, Lois spoke. "So, what are we waiting for? Let's get back to Metropolis and get things rolling." She crawled out of bed, but before she could get far, a hand on her wrist stopped her. She turned back toward the man propped up on the bed. "Clark?" she asked.
"Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but there's no reason I need to give the press conference before Monday."
"Well, no, but…"
"And we did just get married yesterday."
Lois suddenly understood where he was going with this. "Well, yes," she confirmed coyly.
"And the bed is still warm…" He raised his eyebrows. She turned back to the bed and crawled in beside him.
"Are you trying to distract me?" Lois said, a laugh in her voice and a slow smile lighting up her face.
Clark leaned over and began nuzzling her neck. "Is this distracting enough?" he asked hoarsely when he reached her ear.
"Humm?" asked Lois, already thoroughly distracted.
Lois and Clark arrived back in Metropolis in the mid-afternoon of the next day. Although it was Sunday, Lois was able to make arrangements with the bank manager to get into her safety deposit box. She knew him and so, in typical Lois fashion, had persuaded him to let her into the bank. Clark had found a lead lined box at a little store in India and so she put the dangerous substance in it.
Lois was still not sure about this plan. It did briefly occur to her to take the kryptonite to Hobbs Bay and throw it in. She couldn't bear the thought of Clark in pain and she certainly could not bear the possibility of Clark dying, but he had been so insistent. If this had happened before they'd made love, it would have been hard enough, but now… Intellectually, she could agree this was the best strategy, but her heart was being torn apart with fear — an emotion with which Lois Lane was not well acquainted.
Still, she carried the box back to her apartment where she knew Clark was waiting for her — praying furiously to any deities that might be listening to help her find another way to save 'Clark.'
"Hi, Perry," Clark said into the phone. "Listen, I need your help."
"What can I do for you, Son?" asked Perry.
"This nonsense about me being Superman is making it impossible for me to do my job. I think maybe it's time for me to do something about it. I hoped the rumors would just go away, but it doesn't seem as if that's going to happen."
"Now listen, Son, I'm not going to accept your resignation. So just forget it."
"Actually, I was thinking that maybe if I held a press conference outside the Daily Planet building tomorrow, I could convince people they're wrong about me."
"Great," said Perry. He wasn't sure this would work, but at least it might delay Clark's resignation — which he had been expecting for some time — until they could find a way to make this go away. He would have to think about that. "I'll put Jimmy right on it."
Lois walked in just as Clark was hanging up.
"Is Perry going to get things going for us?" she asked.
"Yeah, he said he'd put Jimmy on it."
"Okay, well I guess step one is complete. Did you get the hologram thing-a-ma-jig?"
"Yes. I figured that Clark coming home now wouldn't be too much of a coincidence. Especially since I'm expected back at the Planet tomorrow. It was nice to get some clean clothes."
"Did you get it?" Clark asked.
Lois sighed and nodded, pulling the lead lined box out of her bag. She was relieved when Clark had no reaction.
"Well, I guess there's no time like the present," said Clark.
"Clark, I…" Her objection ended as Clark brought a finger up to her lips.
"Okay. You know what to do? You need to keep it open until either I pass out or I tell you to stop."
"I don't know if I can do this."
Clark kissed her before saying confidently, "You can do this."
She took a deep breath and nodded. Clark noticed the look of determination on her face.
"It'll be okay, Lois."
She nodded. "Are you ready?" she asked nervously.
"I'm ready," Clark confirmed.
When she opened the box, Clark doubled over in pain. She reflexively closed the box. "No, Lois," panted Clark. Lois looked at him for a moment before reopening it. When he finally collapsed to the floor, Lois set down the box. She went to Clark and held him in her arms as he softy groaned.
"Let me close it, Clark," Lois begged after a few minutes.
"Just a little bit longer," Clark heaved.
After another few minutes, Lois repeated the request to the same answer. When she asked it a third time, there was no answer. She quickly released Clark and scampered to the box. She closed it up and quickly took it as far away from Clark as possible — just in case. When she returned, he was still lying unconscious on the floor.
"Clark," said Lois. She put a hand on his neck and breathed a sigh of relief when she felt a pulse. She pulled his head over into her lap and stroked his hair, praying for him to wake up and having no idea what she would do if he didn't.
"Lois," a weak voice finally said.
Lois let out a gasp of relief. In a moment, Clark opened his eyes and looked into her worried face. "Let's not do that again," Lois finally said.
Clark chuckled softly. "I sure hope we don't have to."
"Do you have your powers?"
Clark concentrated for a moment. "No," he finally informed her.
"Then I guess we're ready."
"There's one more thing."
"What's that?" Lois asked cautiously.
"Well, I've never skinned a knee before. How exactly do I go about doing that?"
Lois laughed, relieving some of the tension of the past few minutes. "Well now, it's a good thing you have me. I'm somewhat of an expert in the area."
"So what's the plan?" asked Church.
"Kent is giving a press conference today. I've hired a sharp shooter," Evan replied.
"What good will that do?"
"I intend to have the shooter shoot people in the crowd. It will force Kent to react, giving away his secret. With all those reporters around, he won't be able to deny who he is anymore. And when the world knows he's been lying to them, it may even destroy Superman."
"Why not just shoot Kent?" Church asked.
"Because it would be difficult for the cameras to pick up a bullet bouncing off his chest. No, I think shooting people in the crowd is better."
"How did you convince a sharpshooter to go along with this knowing that, with Superman there, he's bound to get caught?"
Evan smiled. "I told him that Kent wasn't Superman and that I knew this because I had created the tape."
"Then what reason did you give him for wanting to do this?"
"I told him that when Kent let people die, the press would think it was to protect his secret. That would certainly turn world opinion against Superman. He had his own grudge against Superman, so he loved it."
Church smiled. Rutherford was good. There was even a back-up plan if Kent did nothing. No wonder he didn't want to shoot Kent directly. After all, if Kent wasn't Superman, getting shot would prove that he wasn't. Church was more suspicious than ever about the authenticity of the tape.
"Where do you intend to be?" Church asked.
"With the shooter to make sure everything goes right."
"But what if Superman shows up?"
"I've secured an apartment in a building across from the Daily Planet. Once the shooting starts, I'll open the apartment door. If Superman does come to save the day, I'll claim I was nearby when the shooting started and rushed for the room."
"Won't the shooter talk?"
"Only if I don't manage to kill him first. I have a license to carry a gun. So I'll claim that when I rushed into the room, I saw the man about to take another shot and fired. Given what will be going on, I doubt anyone will question my actions."
"Who do you plan on getting the sharpshooter to kill?" Church asked. He was liking this plan more and more.
Church was thoughtful for a moment. "I would suggest that if Perry White is there, you go for him first and then, once he goes down, go for Lois Lane."
"Why Perry White first?"
"Because shooting White will get Kent's attention. Then when you go for Lois Lane, he'll have no choice but to react — especially given the way he feels about her. Besides, I gave Perry White a choice not too long ago to either join Intergang or die. He didn't join Intergang."
"And if either of them aren't there?"
"Substitute Jimmy Olsen. I understand they're close. Besides, shooting the people Kent is closest to will make it even harder for the world to accept his lack of action." Church cleared his throat. "That is assuming that he doesn't react."
Henderson and Sawyer entered the law offices of Abbott Kuss and Steele first thing Monday morning. They asked for Mr. Abbott and were immediately escorted into a large corner office with a spectacular view of Metropolis Harbor.
"Mr. Abbot," began Henderson. "We are conducting a murder investigation and we need to talk to one of your lawyers."
"Is he or she involved?"
"We don't know at this juncture. All we know was that he was seen with the victim on the day of his death."
"What's this lawyer's name?"
"We're not exactly sure. It's Rutherby or Rutherford or something like that."
"An Evan Rutherford works for us."
"Can we talk to him?"
"He's not here. We made arrangements to have him do some private legal work for Bill Church Jr. about a month ago. He's been working there since."
Sawyer and Henderson looked at each other. Things were definitely beginning to get interesting. It was well known to them that Church had recently kidnaped Perry White and used some sort of substance on Superman to make him apathetic. The charges had eventually been dismissed, but both officers were well aware that Superman had foiled Church's plan. It made sense that Church would be involved in a revenge plot against Superman. The tape was beginning to look more and more suspect.
"Inspector Henderson, Inspector Sawyer. Now this is a pleasant surprise. What can I do for Metropolis' finest today?" Church asked when Henderson and Sawyer were escorted into his office.
"We're looking for Evan Rutherford," Sawyer said. "We understand he's working for you."
"Yes. I needed some specialized legal work done. I made arrangements with his firm to have him come work for me for a while. Why are you looking for him?"
"Do you know a man named Calvin Dregg?" asked Henderson.
Church tried to hide his shock behind thoughtfulness. He knew Calvin Dregg was dead. If the police had managed to link him to Rutherford, they were getting too close. Well, so much for Evan becoming a full time employee of Intergang. "No. Who's he?" Church responded.
"Someone we need to talk to Rutherford about," Maggie answered. "Can you tell us where to find him?"
"Sorry. He called in sick this morning."
Once they left, Maggie looked at Henderson. "Why did you mention Dregg?"
"I wanted to see his reaction."
"Well, we certainly saw that. It seems obvious Church is involved here. The only problem is proving it. I guess we might need to make a deal with Rutherford."
"I agree. If we can bring Church down for this, I think he has to be our primary target."
Henderson and Sawyer weren't the only ones to discuss strategy once they left Church. Church immediately called a police officer who was on his payroll.
"I have a bit of a problem that requires your unique skills," Church informed him. He then explained what Rutherford was currently doing. "Once the whole Superman press conference goes down, I want you to bust into the room and kill both Rutherford and the shooter. Considering what they will have done, I doubt anyone will question your actions." Church enjoyed the irony of the situation. After all, it was the same plan that Rutherford had created, only with different results. In this one, Rutherford wound up dead too.
"Yes, Sir," Officer Roger Town replied.
Lois quietly slipped away from the crowds heading outside to observe the press conference. If someone noticed her absence she would just tell them afterwards that she had already talked to Clark and he had told her what he planned to say — that is if everything went well. If it didn't, she would say she didn't want to hear anything Clark had to say. She really wanted everything to go well.
Once in the stairwell, she made her way up to the roof of the Planet to get the hologram transmitter set up. She had practiced using it last night. Well, at least when Clark hadn't been distracting her. She smiled as she thought about it. It was going to be much more difficult to concentrate on work in the future — that is if Clark was still working here.
They had agreed that if this didn't work, Clark would hand in his resignation. This had to work. Lois wouldn't accept any other possibility.
She settled herself on the edge of the roof and got the hologram transmitter set up. She looked over the edge. A platform had been set up for Clark's performance. She could hardly believe what she was doing. She had always prided herself on getting the truth out to the world. Now she was about to help perpetrate a hoax, but she would do anything to protect him — the man she loved. Her husband. She smiled at the thought.
She turned on the machine. She was ready to go. She just needed to wait now for the press conference to get underway. It should be simpler this time. Superman would simply show up, ask if Clark needed any help. Then, when Clark indicated that he was fine, Superman would hear a call for help and head out. After that, it was all up to Clark.
Officer Town briefly scanned the crowd assembling in front of the Daily Planet. From Church's information, he knew exactly where the gunman would be located. His eyes quickly found the appropriate window in a building overlooking the temporary podium. He saw the window open and then saw the glint of sunlight on metal. He smiled. He situated himself in front of the building. Once the first shot was fired, he would enter the building and head for the room. He wasn't to enter the room until the second shot. Then he would bust in. Once they were dead, he would call for back-up. The only trick was to be sure his shots were true. He couldn't very well plug a second shot into them after they were down, but he was a good shot so was confident he could do it.
He was relying on the element of surprise. His first target would be Rutherford, since he would be in a better position to shoot back. Then he would go for the shooter before he could get turned around.
Town didn't know all the reasons Church wanted Rutherford dead, but then, he didn't need to know. All he cared about was the payment he would be receiving from Church for this job.
Henderson and Sawyer had obtained an address for Rutherford. However, when they went to the address, no one was home. So they returned to the police station.
"Hey, have you two heard?" an officer asked as Henderson and Sawyer entered the police station.
"Heard what?" Sawyer asked.
"Apparently Kent is about to give a press conference in front of the Daily Planet."
"What about?" asked Henderson.
"He didn't say. But I bet it has something to do with the tape. I imagine every T.V. set in Metropolis will be tuned in."
"We've got to go," said Henderson.
"I agree. If he's about to throw in the towel, he needs to know what we've found. If he is about to deny it, what we've found can only help. After all, we now have at least circumstantial evidence that the tape may have been created as some sort of revenge tactic."
With that Sawyer and Henderson took off, sirens blaring, at full speed toward the Daily Planet.
Dan Scardino headed toward the Daily Planet. He had tried to contact Lois to be sure she was all right after hurting her ankle on Friday. However, he hadn't been able to get a hold of her. Of course, he didn't know that Lois had been overseas on Friday and Saturday night or that she had unplugged her phone last night for the obvious reasons. So he figured he'd drop by the Planet to check up on her and maybe try, once more, to get her to go out with him. He spotted the crowd and hesitated. He saw Clark Kent making his way onto the podium and joined the crowd, scanning it for Lois. Surely, she would be here.
Lois watched Clark step up to the microphones. When he did, she turned back to the hologram transmitter. She had to start the image of Superman high in the air and have him descend. She turned on the transmitter's power. She glanced down at the podium again. Clark was waiting for everyone to quiet down. It was time for Superman to make his appearance. Lois punched the appropriate buttons.
She looked up into the sky waiting for Superman to appear. Nothing happened. "No, not now," she exclaimed, pushing the buttons again. Still, there was no Superman. She began fumbling with the devise. She had to get it working.
In an apartment across from the Daily Planet, the gunman found his first target. There was still no sign of Lois Lane, but both Perry White and Jimmy Olsen were clearly visible. He checked his gun one more time before training it on Perry White.
Evan Rutherford looked out over the shooter's shoulder. He watched the red spot from the shooter's gun land on Perry White. Once it was on the appropriate target, Evan backed up, quietly opening the door, just a crack, and removing his own gun.
Clark was standing in front of the microphones. Reporters were all yelling questions at him. He was glad they were making so much noise. It gave Lois time to have Superman put in his appearance. He didn't dare look up in the sky. He didn't doubt the tapes of this press conference would be played over and over again for any sign it was a hoax. If it showed him looking into the sky, it would seem like a set up. So he kept his eyes firmly on the crowd in front of him. He had to wait until one of them spotted the superhero before looking up.
Clark spotted Dan Scardino in the crowd. He wondered briefly why he was here but then dismissed the question. It didn't particularly matter anymore. Lois was his wife and he had no doubt that she would take that as seriously as he did. She loved him, and even if they could never tell anyone they were married, Clark no longer felt jealous of Scardino. In fact, part of him actually felt sorry for the man.
Reporters started to quiet down. 'Come on, Lois,' Clark thought. They had agreed Superman would make his appearance before Clark spoke. After all, Clark didn't have much to say. Just that the tape was phoney, that he wasn't Superman and that they were wasting their time following him around. He would use a few more words, of course, but that was the gist of it. He and Lois had worked on his statement last night.
After his statement, he would take questions. That would take up a bit more time. He and Lois had rehearsed possible questions last night — considering everything from what to say about their relationship to how this was affecting his work. The only question he didn't have a satisfactory answer for was the tape. They had decided he would say it was someone's creation — he just didn't know who had made it or how.
Then he would trip on his way down from the podium. He only hoped it worked and that he would skin his hands, or knees or something. If that didn't persuade them — well, he might have another day or so before his powers were back, so they might be able to try something a bit more drastic — a car accident perhaps. So far, he hadn't suggested this to Lois. He already knew what her reaction would be. It was for that reason, more than anything, that he wanted this to work. But as the noise died down, there was still no Superman.
Clark still didn't like the idea of lying to all these people. At least he was doing it as Clark, not as Superman. If only there were another way, but so many people would be hurt if he didn't. Still, his conscience was driving him crazy.
He had read an autobiography years ago about a woman whose family had assisted Jews trying to escape the Nazis during World War II. The family strongly believed in telling the truth. In fact the issue of whether or not it was acceptable to lie to save lives had provoked a serious family argument. Half the members of the household believed that lying in such circumstances was acceptable. The other half disagreed. The author, if he recalled correctly, thought that lying in an effort to save lives was acceptable. However, she did acknowledge that those who refused to lie weren't believed when they told the truth — so both methods seemed to work. Clark had never been a big fan of situational ethics, but now… He took a deep breath. There were so many lives at stake if he didn't do this.
He shook his head, trying to clear the doubts from his mind. He spotted Perry in the crowd and focused in on him for a moment. It was then that he noticed a red dot on his boss. He instantly knew Perry was in someone's gun sights. Without thinking about the consequences, he dove off the platform. He slammed into Perry White at the same moment a gunshot rang out above the crowd.
Henderson and Sawyer were just pulling up in front of the Daily Planet when they heard a gunshot. They were out of the car and running toward the action almost immediately, fumbling to remove their own guns.
Lois looked up from the transmitter when a gunshot sounded. From her position on top of the Daily Planet, she couldn't tell what had happened, but when she saw that Clark was no longer standing on the podium, she immediately abandoned the holograph transmitter and took off at full speed toward the stairs. She didn't even notice the lingering soreness in her ankle. All she knew was that Clark was down there — and he didn't have his powers.
Officer Town heard the gunshot and began running up the stairs to the apartment. Just as he reached the landing to the fifth floor a second gunshot rang out. He pushed open the apartment door and rushed in.
Rutherford stood, pointing his gun at the sharpshooter when Town dashed into the room. Caught completely off guard, he didn't stand a chance when Town turned the gun in his direction.
"Damn," said the sharp shooter, as he raised the gun for a third shot. He never had a chance to take it. A gunshot sounded behind him. He spun around, but, before he could bring the gun around, Officer Town fired a second shot. The shooter collapsed to the floor.
Lois was running on pure adrenalin by the time she burst through the doors of the Daily Planet. She doubted Clark's superspeed could have got her down any faster. She had never known fear like this. What if someone had shot Clark in an effort to prove he was Superman?
The street was in mayhem. People were scrambling over each other in an effort to get away from the center of activity. That made Lois' task more difficult. She kept tripping over people running in the opposite direction.
The second shot rang out as she was fighting her way through the crowd. She stopped for a moment. She had heard Jimmy yelp. She took a quick look toward the sound. Jimmy was still standing, although he looked a little stunned. She heard two additional shots, but they were more muffled and from what Lois could see no one had been hurt by them.
As the people began to clear, Lois could make out a crowd of people near the podium. She spotted Inspector Maggie Sawyer first. She was down on one knee, gun raised, searching windows above them. On the other side of the crowd, Dan Scardino was in a similar position, doing something similar.
Lois pushed her way toward the crowd, anxiously searching faces on her way — hoping to spot Clark. However, when she didn't see him, her fear increased. She turned her attention to the small crowd. Once she reached it, she pushed her way through. Henderson was bending over someone on the ground. She recognized Clark's shoes and pants.
"Lois, I don't think…" Dan began as he spotted her approaching. She pushed her way past him in an effort to get to her destination.
"Clark," she gasped, when she saw him lying on the ground, his shoulder covered in blood. She was on her knees beside him in an instant. She let out a short breath. "You're alive," she breathed in relief.
"If this is alive, I think dead might be better," Clark gasped, reaching up with his good arm and, using his hand, he brush the tears off her cheeks — tears she didn't even know where there until that moment.
"Don't even joke like that," Lois warned him, her breathing finally approaching normal.
As Henderson tended to Clark's shoulder, Lois knelt beside him, brushing at the hair that was clinging to his forehead.
"Has an ambulance been called?" she asked.
"Yes, Honey," Perry answered.
"Somehow he knew I was about to be shot. He jumped off the podium, pushing me out of the way, just as the gun fired. I guess in doing that, he got in the way of the bullet."
"Was anyone else hit?" Lois asked.
"Not as far as we've been able to tell," said Perry.
"Yeah, well I think the second shot was meant for me," said Jimmy coming over. "At least I felt a bullet whizz past my ear."
"Do we know who did this?" Lois asked, just as Sawyer's radio sprung to life informing them that two shooters outside the Daily Planet were down and stating that an officer was requesting back-up.
"Well, I guess we'll know soon," said Maggie. "Do you have things under control here?" she asked Henderson.
"Yeah," Henderson replied. "Go, see if the officer needs assistance." And with that Sawyer was on her feet, heading toward the building the officer had indicated.
"Where's the ambulance?" Lois demanded.
"I'm sure they're coming as quickly as they can," Clark assured her.
"Well, if they don't hurry, I'm doing a story about the failure of emergency services to…" Her voice trailed off at the sound of sirens.
It didn't take long before the paramedics were there. They bandaged up Clark's shoulder and carefully loaded him onto a stretcher. As they pulled it toward the ambulance, Lois never left Clark's side or released his good hand. Finally, they arrived at the ambulance and loaded Clark into it.
When Lois went to get in, she was stopped by the paramedics. "Sorry ma'am, only family can ride in the ambulance."
"It's okay, Honey, I'll take you to the hospital," Perry assured her.
"I'm his wife," Lois told the paramedic.
The paramedic looked at her for a moment before saying, "Get in."
She jumped in and the doors were closed behind her. Perry, Jimmy and Dan stood outside the ambulance with their mouths hanging open.
"Did she say…" Jimmy began.
"That's what I heard too," Perry said.
"Are they married?" Dan asked. "Or did she just say that to be allowed into the ambulance?"
"I have no idea. But knowing those two, I suppose anything is possible."
"You're not going to believe what I found," Maggie said when she returned to Henderson.
"What?" Henderson asked.
"Well, I found Rutherford."
"He was with the shooter."
"Is he in custody? Can we question him?"
"Afraid not. He's dead, Bill."
"He was killed when one of our men stormed the room after the shooting. The shooter is dead too."
"What do you think Rutherford was hoping to accomplish?"
"It's hard to say. My guess is that this has something to do with the 'Kent is Superman' tape."
"Well, I guess we no longer need to prove the tape is a forgery. Kent took that gun shot like any other man."
Just then, Henderson and Sawyer were approached by a camera crew from LNN. "Excuse me, Inspector Sawyer," said the woman. "Can we have a statement?"
Sawyer looked at Henderson for a moment. There would be hell to pay if she made a statement before getting the okay from the police press department. She turned toward the reporter.
"As you all saw, Clark Kent was injured by a gun shot when he saved Perry White's life."
"Where did he get hit?"
"It was a shoulder wound. Kent was conscious when he was taken in the ambulance."
"Do you know who did this?"
"We have the identity of one of the men. His name was Evan Rutherford. He was a lawyer presently working for Bill Church Jr. We don't know the name of the other man involved. Both men were killed when an officer attempted to detain them."
"Any idea why he may have done this?"
"We don't know. However, we can tell you that Rutherford's name recently came up in connection with a murder investigation. There's also reason to suspect that he's responsible for the phoney tape which portrayed Clark Kent as Superman. We also believe that Rutherford was working with Calvin Dregg, the young man who sued Superman a month ago. It is our belief that the tape was created in an effort to cause problems for Superman."
"Are you saying that Clark Kent isn't Superman?"
"I don't think there's any doubt about that. I saw the bullet wound and the blood — and I'm sure your cameras did as well. I have seen a lot of people shot in my time, and I can assure you that the wound was real. Since Superman isn't hurt by bullets, there's no doubt that Clark Kent isn't Superman."
The ambulance pulled into the hospital. The paramedics came around and removed the stretcher, taking Clark into the emergency room. When they took him in for treatment, a nurse stopped Lois.
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait out here," she told Lois.
The look Lois gave her in response caused the nurse to instinctively move aside. Lois pushed past to enter after Clark. Rules may dictate that she wait outside, but Lois was afraid Clark wouldn't be in any shape to protect his secret and she was determined no one find out — not after what they had gone through to prove he wasn't Superman.
In a few minutes, the doctor arrived with security in his wake. "You'll have to wait outside," the doctor told her.
"I'm staying with my husband," Lois said in her patented, no holes barred, Mad Dog Lane voice.
"You can't stay here while I'm treating him," the doctor explained.
"Then you aren't treating him," Lois responded.
"Ms. Lane, I know how you feel, but it really isn't your decision. I know who you are and you and Mr. Kent aren't married. Please leave now."
With that security stepped forward. Lois immediately moved into a defensive stance.
"She is my wife, Doctor. And she's right," Clark began. "…if she goes, I'm not going to let you treat me." Clark was fairly certain he understood what Lois was scared of. Combined with that was the knowledge that unless he stepped in, there was going to be a violent confrontation. And he was concerned about the safety of the security officers.
The doctor looked at Clark for a moment before relenting. "All right. If she stays out of the way, she can stay."
Lois looked triumphant.
Clark's wound was examined and attended to before he was taken for x-rays. While they were waiting for the x-rays to come back, they had a few minutes alone. It was then than Lois expressed her fear.
"Are you sure they won't see anything on the x-rays that will let them know who you really are?"
Clark let out a short breath. "I don't know, Lois. I've never had x-rays before. All I do know is that my shoulder seems to be the same as anyone else."
"I suppose I can vouch for that," Lois said, relaxing somewhat.
"Lois, I'm fine. I mean, getting shot wasn't any more fun this time than it was when Arianna Carlin did it, but I'm going to be fine. And they aren't going to find anything that will identify me as Superman."
Lois let go of the remaining tension. She knew Clark couldn't say that for sure, but she still allowed herself to be comforted by his assurances. She made her way to the side of his bed and, leaning over, kissed him.
"Do you really think we should be telling people we're married? I mean, what if people figure out what we've done?"
"Clark, how will anyone put this one together?"
Clark let out a short breath. "I suppose you're right." There was a moment's silence before Clark started to chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Lois asked.
"Did you see the look on Perry's face when you told the paramedic you were my wife?"
"Was he there?" Lois asked. She hadn't seen anything but Clark and someone trying to keep her away from him.
Clark nodded. "So were Jimmy and Dan."
Lois cringed. "Dan?" she asked.
Clark cocked his head to the side. "What? You trying to lead the poor guy on or something. Don't want him to know we're married?" But there was underlying humor in his voice.
"No! But I would have chosen a bit easier way to tell him," Lois responded, not catching on to the fact that Clark was teasing her.
"Lois, Honey, I was just teasing you," Clark quickly assured her. "I realized today that I'm no longer jealous of Scardino."
Lois' face broke into a huge smile. "Oh, and why's that, Kent? Feeling pretty confident of yourselves these days or something?"
When Clark just smiled, Lois leaned over and found Clark's mouth. She took ownership of it in a way that took his breath away — as if she knew it belonged to her.
Just then the doctor entered. Lois jumped back. A hospital bed was probably not the most appropriate place for this. The doctor didn't comment. Instead, he turned on a light on the far wall and put the x-rays up. Clark looked at them carefully. He had x-rayed enough shoulder injuries himself to know what was and wasn't normal. He let out a breath. These looked like your typical shoulder x-rays. Lois heard the sound and understood the meaning. She reached over and lightly ran a hand down his good arm.
"As you can see," the doctor began. "…the bullet made a clean exit. So you're not going to need surgery. You were very lucky. The bullet went through without doing any real damage. You're going to have to keep your arm immobile for a while. But other than that, I don't anticipate any serious problems. I would like to keep you here over night though."
Lois and Clark looked at each other for a moment before Clark spoke. "I don't think that's necessary, Doctor."
"I just think I'll do better at home," Clark said. He wanted to be out of here before his powers started coming back. He had no idea how long it would take for that to happen. The recovery time for kryptonite exposure seemed to vary so much.
The doctor let out a short breath. "That really isn't a good idea. But if you insist on it, there's not much I can do to prevent it."
"Good," said Clark. "Then, I'll be going home."
"There is one more thing. The press outside are asking that I give a statement."
"Well, people have been thinking you're Superman. I think they would like to know if this is all some press stunt."
"Go ahead, Doctor," Clark told him. "I'd really appreciate anything you could do to stop this silliness. It's starting to get really tiring."
The doctor smiled. "I bet." The doctor was absolutely certain the man he was treating wasn't Superman. After all, he'd treated the wound. "Do you mind if I show them the x-rays?"
Clark looked quickly back at the x-rays before saying, "Not at all, Doctor."
Once the doctor left, Lois reached under the neckline of her shirt. Clark smiled as he watched her pull a chain out. On it were two rings. She unhooked the clasp, removing the rings. She watched the play of emotions on Clark's face as she slipped them onto her left hand.
Lois and Clark mounted the steps to his apartment. They intended to go back to Lois' place for the night, given the state of Clark's apartment — he hoped this was the final time he would have to worry about his apartment being ransacked, but Clark needed some things. Lois offered to go alone, but Clark could be as stubborn as she was. They were glad to note that the paparazzi were no longer camped out around his apartment.
They were gathering some of his things, when there was a knock at the door.
Lois walked over and opened it. "Honey, we've got company," said Lois, in her most playful voice, gesturing the men outside into the room.
Perry, Jimmy and Dan entered, looking curiously at Lois. She couldn't seem to keep the smile off her face, although she was making a valiant effort to do so. Once inside, they looked around the room. Clark always kept his apartment immaculate, but tonight it was a mess.
"What happened here?" Perry asked.
"Clark has been having some problems with people breaking in lately," Lois explained.
"Speaking of C.K., where is he?" asked Jimmy.
"Right here," responded Clark, entering the room. He had on a clean shirt, although the arm that had been immobilized by the doctor was inside it. Since he'd had nothing else, he'd come home wearing the one he'd been shot in. "Sorry. I wanted to put on a shirt that didn't have blood on it," Clark explained. "Please, just push the stuff out of the way and have a seat. Would anyone like some tea?"
At that, Lois took over. "Clark, they wanted you to stay in the hospital. You wanted to come home — I understand that. But, I want you to be careful…"
Lois walked up to him and placed a hand on his chest. "For me, Clark. You really scared me today."
Clark let out a short breath before nodding and sitting down. Lois then went to make tea. As she was doing so, Perry entered the room behind her.
"So, are you going to tell me what's going on?"
Lois, with her back to him, smiled. "What do you mean, Perry?"
"Well, let's see. For the past few weeks, you and Clark haven't even been speaking. Then you get into the ambulance with him and you say you're his wife. Was that just to be allowed into the ambulance?"
Lois thought for a moment before coming to a decision. Perry was the closest thing to a father she had. She knew she and Clark should be telling him together, but she could tell from the sound in Perry's voice that he was seriously concerned that they had rushed into something they weren't ready for.
"Sit down, Perry," Lois said softly, mindful of the people in the next room. However, they seemed to be talking about the events of the morning. When Perry was seated, she showed him her left hand. "I know what you're thinking. You're wondering if Clark and I know what we're doing."
"Well, the thought has crossed my mind, Lois. After all, you two… Well, you've had more problems getting together than a one armed man has hanging wall paper."
"I know it must seem that way. But Perry, I've loved Clark for a long time. He's loved me for a long time too. A lot of the difficulty we've had getting together was because I was afraid. I'm not afraid anymore. This is the right thing, Perry. It's right for me and it's right for Clark."
Perry smiled. "Then, I'm really happy for you, Honey. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Perry," Lois said.
Perry started to chuckle.
"What?" Lois asked suspiciously.
"It's just… Well, I originally hooked you two up as partners, in part because I knew you'd make a great reporting team. But the other part of my reason was that I knew immediately that Clark was smitten with you."
"Perry!" Lois exclaimed.
"And I knew that he'd be great for you — that is if he could ever reel you in." Perry paused. "Of course, there were times when I wondered if he'd ever get up the nerve to even try."
Lois was about to respond when the kettle started to boil in the background. Lois shook her head and got up. She wasn't mad. She was too in love with Clark to care if Perry had done what he could to engineer their relationship. So Lois made tea and the two of them made their way into the livingroom.
"So what's going on between you and C.K.?" Jimmy asked, when Lois entered the room. "He wouldn't tell us anything."
Lois smiled over at Clark. He shrugged, but couldn't help but smile back.
"Well, Jimmy, we eloped," Lois informed him, as she handed him a cup of tea.
Dan, who already had a cup and was taking a sip, began to choke on it. "You did what?" Dan gasped the moment he could talk.
Lois walked over to where Clark was seated on the couch and sat down next to him, curling up her legs and leaning into his good side. Clark's arm was immediately around her. "We eloped," she repeated, the smile now impossible to control.
"That's great!!" exclaimed Jimmy. "Way to go, C.K."
"Thanks, Jimmy," Clark responded.
"Umm… yeah, congratulations," said Dan, trying to sound pleasant.
"Thanks, Dan," Lois said, a sympathetic note in her voice.
"So why didn't you tell us?" Jimmy asked.
"Once we decided to get married, we didn't want to wait," Clark said softly. "Our parents don't even know yet."
"We would have told them first if it hadn't been for the ambulance," Lois added.
"So, when did this happen?" asked Jimmy.
"And you didn't tell us before now?" Jimmy said somewhat hurt.
"Well, we've been a little busy," Lois said, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "But don't worry, Jimmy. We'll have a reception when things calm down a bit."
"Well, at least that crazy tape has been disproved," Jimmy said.
"And it's about time," sighed Lois, giving Clark's leg a squeeze.
Oh, I don't know. It was sort of flattering having people think that I could be Superman," Clark responded. Lois gave him a dirty look in response before turning back to the other men.
"So, what happened after we left for the hospital?" Lois asked.
"Well, apparently Inspector Sawyer gave a statement to the police. They had managed to link the tape to a lawyer who worked for Bill Church Jr.," Perry informed them. "It seems he may have been working with that young guy that sued Superman a while back to create the tape."
"Really!!" said Lois, ecstatic that someone had found a way to discredit the tape. "Do you think Church may have been involved in an effort to keep us from finding out about him selling Right-Kil to El Salvador?"
"That's certainly a possibility," Perry informed her.
"So who shot Clark?"
"The lawyer and some professional marksman. Unfortunately, we'll probably never know the full story since both of them are dead."
"So we won't get Church again?" Clark asked.
"It doesn't look like it."
"I don't care," Lois said. "I'm just glad we don't have to worry about paparazzi anymore." To emphasize her point, she turned and gave Clark a quick kiss. She knew only he would understand what that meant to them.
"By the way, Son," Perry said, addressing Clark. "I want to thank you for saving my life."
"It was self interest, Chief," Clark replied.
"How so?" asked Perry.
"Well, I didn't want my wife grieving on our honeymoon."
Perry roared with laughter. Lois lightly slapped Clark's chest, being careful to avoid his bandaged shoulder.
As they finished up their conversation, and that included convincing Perry to give them time off for a honeymoon, the three men went to leave.
Lois leaned over and whispered to Clark, "I need to speak to Dan."
"Go," he replied, giving her a soft smile. He understood her need to talk to Dan privately and, now that he knew, without any doubt, that she loved him, he didn't feel threatened. Besides, at this moment, he would much rather be himself than Dan.
"Dan," Lois said, when they got outside. "Can I speak to you for a moment?"
"We'll wait in the car," Perry said, dragging Jimmy toward the car with him.
Lois waited until the other two were out of ear shot before turning toward Dan. "Look, Dan, I just wanted to say that I'm really sorry for everything."
Dan gave her a sad smile. "Just make sure Kent treats you right," he replied.
Lois smiled a smile that lit up her whole face. "Don't worry, he will."
Dan couldn't help but smile back. Looking at that smile and her sparkling eyes, Dan understood for the first time that he had never really had a chance with Lois. The depth of her love for Kent was written clearly on her face.
"So what's happening with you now?" Lois asked.
"I think it's time I was going back to Washington," Dan replied.
They finally had everything packed and were heading out when the phone rang. Lois ran back into the apartment and answered it.
"Hello," she said.
"Lois, is that you?" came Martha's voice.
"Yeah, Martha. And before you ask, Clark's fine. Just give him a minute to get here."
Clark took the phone and sank down into a chair. "Hi, Mom," he said into the phone. "I assume you saw me on T.V. I'm sorry I haven't called yet, but it's been a little crazy here. I'll tell you all about it some other time," Clark said, hoping his parents would understand that he still wasn't sure his phone wasn't bugged.
"Well, we just wanted to make sure you were okay. The television focused more on the fact that you were hurt than it did on you being okay. So, Lois is there?"
Clark smiled into the phone, his eyes meeting Lois'. "Yes, Mom. And we sort of have some news for you. Is Dad on the extension?"
"I'm right here, Son."
"Well, we sort of eloped."
There was dead silence on the other end of the line before Jonathan said, "I'm sorry, Clark. We must have misunderstood. It almost sounded like you said you eloped."
"That's what I said, Dad," Clark laughed.
"Son, do you think that's…"
"Congratulations, Clark," Martha interrupted. "I told you she'd forgive you."
"I know you did, Mom. I should listen to you more often."
"Well, we'd like you two to come out for supper soon so we can celebrate with you."
"We'd like that, Mom."
"Congratulations, Clark," Jonathan finally said. "I know how long you've wanted this. I guess I was just a little surprised."
"Well, once we decided we wanted to get married, we really didn't want to wait. And with everything that was going on, we didn't want the media making a big deal out of it," Clark said, knowing his folks would pick up on the implications.
"We understand, Son," said Jonathan.
"Can we speak to Lois?" Martha asked.
"Sure, Mom," Clark said, handing the phone to the woman who had now planted herself on his knee.
"Hi, Martha," Lois said into the phone.
"We're so happy for both of you, Lois. Welcome to the family."
"Thanks. I'm sorry you couldn't be there, but with everything that was going on… Well, we didn't think it was a good idea for us to…"
"We understand, Honey." Martha quickly assured her.
"But we are planning to have a reception when everything calms down. I hope you'll come."
"We wouldn't be anywhere else." After that, Martha told Jonathan that she wanted to talk to Lois alone. Jonathan said his good-byes and hung up.
Clark tried to hear what was being said, but he still didn't have his powers. His eavesdropping was further frustrated when Lois got off his knee and put some distance between them. He watched in curiosity as Lois laughed before saying good-bye to his mother.
"What was that all about?" Clark asked when Lois hung up the phone.
Lois smiled and looked at him for a moment. "She just wanted to thank me for putting you out of your misery."
"She didn't," Clark said, horrified.
Lois laughed and nodded. "She seems to think that you've been pining away for me or something. You know… I've been hearing that a lot today."
Clark groaned. "Who else?"
"Perry told me something similar. Is that true, Clark?" Lois asked, clearly amused.
Clark couldn't help but smile. "Well, I make it a habit to never argue with my mom or my boss."
Church watched the television in silence. It was obvious that Kent wasn't Superman. And in spite of all his efforts, Lois Lane had still found out about his shipment to El Salvador. Even his plan for revenge had fallen through. At the very least, Kent could have died. He was not in very good humor. The only good news was that none of it could be traced back to him.
Lois and Clark walked, hand in hand, into Lois' apartment. It was now late afternoon.
"Well, it looks like you didn't have to lie after all," said Lois.
Clark smiled. "I'm really glad about that. But more than that, I am so glad that I don't have to lie to you anymore."
Lois smiled at him before making a suggestion. "Maybe you should go have a nap, Clark."
"It sounds to me as if you're just trying to get me into your bed, Mrs. Kent. If I didn't know better, I might think you were trying to seduce me," Clark responded.
She turned toward him, a slow smile spreading across her face. Although she intended to keep her own name, she liked hearing him call her 'Mrs. Kent.' "Who said I'm not?" she responded.
"Lois, I'm an injured man," said Clark, trying to sound shocked.
"I'm sure we can work around that," she said, before leaning in and kissing her husband.
The song is 'I Will Always Love You' — from which I also took the name for this story. The song was written by Dolly Parton and I have heard various artists sing it. My thanks to Ms. Parton for her great song writing. She owns the song, not me. I'm just borrowing it for the purpose of adding color to this story — for which I am not deriving any profit.
My thanks to Judith Jacob, Carol Malo and Gerry Anklewicz for all of their excellent suggestions in regards to this story. Their assistance wed me to catch many of the mistakes I overlooked in writing this story. I'd also like to thank Cerise for her assistance in editing this story.