By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> and Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2000
Summary: Despite the title, this is *not* a deathfic! This third joint effort from the keyboards of Tank and Wendy takes a humorous look at how the curse in SoulMates might have come true.
Tank: It seems that after Wendy had answered my informal challenge to finish one of her stories, she felt that she hadn't been tortured enough. So what did she do? She threw the challenge back at me. It was my turn to provide the set up scenario again and she would take up the task of finishing (or 'fixing' as the gentle readers are inclined to say) the scenario I initialized. So the challenge for me was to come up with something that might throw Wendy a little. Something she wouldn't be able to come up with an ending to too easily (fat chance). I decided to attack one of Wendy's favorite areas; the physical romance. So I just wrote a little set up that left our duo with a small problem to solve, and then handed it over to Wendy.
Wendy: A small problem, he says?! Actually, the angst of the situation was no problem at all to me; what really caused me a few headaches was the fact that this scenario involved *science*! Now, whether it's good science or not, I have no idea; but several people familiar with my work could testify that if someone wanted to dumbfound me, all they'd need to do is blind me with science. So my first thought, as readers of the Message Boards will be aware, was to produce a short (ten- line) conclusion. Strangely, it seemed that readers weren't too happy with that. <g> And so my ten lines became ten pages, and another Tank-and-Wendy story is born.
Hope you enjoy it! And do remember to blame Tank! <g>
Comments more than welcome at either or both of the addresses below! All characters are copyright their respective rights- holders, and no infringement is intended by their use in this story.
Minor editorial comment: for any eagle-eyed readers who notice spelling differences between Tank's part and Wendy's, that's because he writes in US English and she writes in UK English. And since there was (intentionally) no collaboration in the writing of this story, we have decided not to harmonise our spellings. ***
Lois Lane rolled over and stared into the sleeping face of her new husband. Suddenly his eyes opened and stared back into her own. It was as if he had instinctively known she was awake. Lois marveled at all those little things that continually showed how in sync they were with each other. Even though she found the concept rather far fetched, she guessed if any two people were actually soul mates it was her and Clark.
"Morning, wife," he said in a quiet throaty whisper.
"Morning, husband." Lois found she couldn't help but giggle. "God, who would have thought that Lois Lane would be lying in a bed, with a fabulous guy, a happily married woman."
"It had always been my hope, ever since I met you."
The earnestness in Clark's eyes nearly caused Lois to tear up. Instead she snuggled a little closer and captured his lips in hers. The passion that flowed through the bodily contact threatened to ignite into another full blown session of love making, and probably would have if Lois' stomach hadn't chosen that moment to growl complainingly of neglect.
They both fell back laughing. After a few moments to compose themselves they both sat up and swung their feet over the side of the bed.
"I suppose I'd better see about feeding my wife some breakfast before she collapses from hunger." Clark's grin showed teeth.
Lois sat admiring the glistening, naked body of her partner, best friend, husband, and now lover. It took a moment to register but suddenly she was puzzled by what she saw.
"Clark," she said tracing a finger track in the tiny beads of moisture that covered his body and shown in the early morning light. "I've seen you literally lift buildings from their foundations without breaking a sweat, yet this morning you are positively… what did they used to call it — glowing."
Clark glanced down at himself as if noticing it for the first time. His grin got bigger. "I guess that just proves that being with you takes more out of me than lifting a shuttle into space." He leaned over and gave her another quick, sweet, kiss. "Together we may be able to topple empires, but you are also my greatest weakness. Kryptonite has nothing on Lois Lane."
She slapped at him playfully, and continued to trace little finger tracks around his chest. He grabbed her hands, holding them together and sucked on her fingers for a few moments before he finally broke away and set them on her lap.
"I guess I better shower up before breakfast, huh?"
"I don't know, I think you smell quite sexy." Lois began to climb into Clark's lap forcing him back onto his back on the bed. "You smell kind of musky, animal like. It puts me in the mood for…" She attacked him. ***
After a couple more sessions of love making, newlyweds Lois and Clark, finally found themselves at the breakfast table. Of course, it was nearly noon. Clark busied himself with the kitchen duties while Lois seemed to just stare off into space. When his attention was brought back to the table, Clark noticed his obviously pre-occupied wife.
"What are you thinking about? You're not already sorry you married me, are you?" Clark's grinning face showed that he was just teasing her.
Lois gave Clark a mock glare of her own, then became contemplative. "Clark, you remember that paper that H.G. Wells had?" Lois bit her fingernail. "You know the one he used to convince us not to consummate our marriage, but instead go with him to dispel that silly curse thing."
Nodding, Clark came over and sat down at the table. "Yes, what about it? We were able to defeat Tempus, so the curse is gone."
"Yeah, but do you remember that headline? The one that said I died of a mysterious illness." She looked into Clark's face and saw she had his attention. "I never got a chance to read the copy, but was there any mention of what they thought the illness was?"
Clark shook his head. "I didn't get a chance to read the article either, the headline was enough for me." Clark had an uneasy feeling; he didn't know why Lois was bringing this up now. "Why are you wondering about that now? The headline disappeared when we beat Tempus." Clark took a breath as an unwelcome thought entered his mind. "Are you having second thoughts about making love with me?"
Lois was momentarily stunned by the insecure stupidity of Clark's question. "What? Are you insane!" Lois shook her head vehemently. "If you allow yourself to think back a few hours you'll remember that I was a more than willing partner in our mutual exploration of each others bodies. Why would you even think such a thing?"
Clark sheepishly shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I was just trying to figure out why you are suddenly obsessing about that phantom newspaper headline."
"I'm not obsessing, not really. It's just that… I was just curious if you had noticed what they thought it was, that's all."
"Curiosity, that was all?"
"Well, all right. I'm not feeling too well right now, and since it is happening right after we've made love, my mind just seemed to focus on that silly headline." She stood and began to make her way back to the couch.
"Lois, are you all right? What's wrong? Can you describe it? Is it flu like, or are you… Lois!"
Lois had abruptly turned very pale and collapsed onto the floor in the living room. ***
Clark found himself nearly pacing a hole in the already threadbare carpeting that covered the floor of the waiting room at Metropolis General Hospital. He had rushed Lois over here as soon as he had spun into the suit. As Superman, he had delivered Lois to the emergency room staff, not unlike he had done countless times before with many others. But this time it was very different. If the hospital staff noticed the difference in his behavior, and commented on it, he didn't know because he didn't stick around to answer any questions.
He had returned almost immediately as Clark and began to answer the doctor's questions as best he could. Lois hadn't responded at all. No moans or groans, no movement, she had been like a mannequin in his hands and it scared him.
He had been in the waiting room several hours, and each minute was a panic-filled torture for Clark. All that kept running through his mind was that somehow H.G. Wells was wrong, and that the curse somehow hadn't been lifted. That this was that mysterious illness that was to strike down his beautiful wife before they even had a chance to really enjoy the exploration of a life together.
The tired, defeated look on the doctor's face caused Clark's heart to stop beating for a few moments. Clark had to force his legs to move him toward the doctor. The look on Clark's face was enough, the doctor didn't have to wait for the obvious question.
"She's stable for the moment, and we believe she will recover." The doctor had placed a compassionate hand on Clark's arm.
"What do you mean, you *believe* she will recover!" Clark's flint hard gaze trapped the doctor and didn't allow him to look away.
"By all appearances, it looks as if your wife was poisoned." The doctor didn't let Clark's quickly indrawn breath slow him down. "We've done everything we can for her including pumping her full of antibiotics, but we can't be sure yet if she will recover." The doctor ran a hand through his short gray hair. "We have discovered some sort of foreign substance in her bloodstream which is apparently quite toxic, but we have no idea what it is. We put her on dialysis and it appears that we've been able to filter most if not all of the toxin out of her body, but we have no idea what damage might already be done, or if her natural defenses can deal with the trace elements which might be left." The doctor led the stunned Clark over to a seat. "The only thing we can do now is wait and see. In the meantime I need you to tell me everything your wife has ingested or unusual thing your wife has come into contact with over that last 24 to 48 hours." ***
Clark hadn't been able to be of much help to the doctor. Lois hadn't eaten anything unusual, nor had she been in contact with anything out of the ordinary. At least not anything that he could tell the doctor. It kept going around and around in his mind. The only thing unusual Lois had been in contact with had been him. She had been intimate with an alien.
Clark and Lois had been close many times. They had even kissed, and acted like kids at a drive-in on more than one occasion. Lois had never shown any ill effects from that. It had to be the intimacy. The actual lovemaking was the only thing that was new.
Clark continued to pace as his mind flashed back on the things that Dr. Klein had told him. Dr. Klein had pointed out that Clark's sperm was missing some necessary proteins and amino acids to facilitate procreation but he'd never said anything about it being dangerous, or toxic to human females. Clark scrubbed his hands through his hair. It didn't make any sense. He had been wearing protection anyway. It couldn't have been the lovemaking, could it?
Clark couldn't wait around any longer, something had to be done. Answers had to be found and he knew of only one man with the necessary expertise to do it. His secret wasn't important enough to risk Lois' life to protect. Clark resolutely went out to the hallway and picked up the receiver to the pay phone provided.
It took only a couple of minutes for Superman to get past the officious receptionist and be forwarded through to Bernie Klein's lab. "Dr. Klein, this is Superman… yes I'm fine, no nothing wrong with me, but I do need your help… well, I'd rather not get into it over the phone, could you meet me out in front of Metropolis General as soon as possible? It's a matter of life and death… no not, mine, please just get here as soon as you can. Thank you."
Clark ran out of the waiting room, told the nurse at the front desk that he'd be back soon, and went outside and waited for Dr. Klein to show up. ***
He had been waiting about twenty minutes when Clark spied Dr. Klein approaching on his small motorcycle. Clark quickly spun into Superman and met Dr. Klein in the parking lot.
"Dr. Klein, I'm glad you could make it."
"I'm happy to help. What's wrong, you said it was a matter of life and death?"
"Yes, Lois is very ill. The doctor says she's been poisoned by something he's never seen before. I think she's been poisoned by me."
Dr. Klein's initial look of confusion quickly turned to bewilderment as he tried to make sense out of what had been said to him. "How could you have poisoned Ms Lane?"
Clark fought to keep his voice even. "It's the only thing that makes sense. Lois hasn't been in contact with anything out of the ordinary except me."
Klein was really confused now. "What do you mean? Coming in contact with you has never had any adverse effect on anyone… except for maybe some criminals." Dr. Klein gave a weak smile to let Clark know it was a joke.
Clark paced a bit. "Dr. Klein, when you ran those tests on me, did you ever find any evidence that I, er… I mean that an earth woman would be in any danger if she and I were to, well… you know."
Bernie Klein stared at Superman for several moments as the stumbling words finally began to register in his brain. A look of realization came slowly over Klein's face. "Oh, you mean… no, no, I never found anything that would indicate that your ah — interactions would harm an earth woman, just that you couldn't have children together." Klein gave Superman a serious look. "What does this have to do with Ms Lane? I thought you said she was ill, that she had been poisoned, that you thought that you… oh my goodness!" Klein saw Clark blush. "Are you telling me that you and Ms Lane… oh my! Aren't she and Clark Kent just recently married?" Dr. Klein's tone suddenly went from credulous to accusatory. "I know I'm not the most with-it guy around, and no one denies the wonderful things you've done for this city and the whole world, but Superman, Lois is someone's wife!"
Clark nodded slowly. "Yes, Dr. Klein, she is." Clark took a careful look around before he spun into his Clark Kent clothes. "She's my wife."
"Wow!" Dr. Klein had to hang onto his bike to keep from falling over. "Clark Kent is Superman? I guess it does make sense. All the times I've seen him and Lois together. All the times… " Dr. Klein had begun to talk to himself as he let his mind cope with the revelation he'd just witnessed.
"Dr. Klein, please we have no time for this. Lois' life is at stake."
Clark ushered Dr. Klein toward the front doors of Met. General as he filled Klein in on all that had happened, and the diagnosis of the hospital doctor and what they had done.
Once inside, Clark introduced Klein as Lois' personal physician and asked if he could see the patient and consult. The hospital doctor was quite impressed that Lois would have the renowned Dr. Bernard Klein from Star Labs as a personal doctor. Clark explained it off as Klein being a long time family friend. The two doctors immediately began discussing the case in terms that Clark didn't understand, as they strolled off leaving the apprehensive husband behind to spend more time pacing in the uncomfortable waiting room. ***
Clark was actually seated when Klein found him again. Clark instantly was on his feet.
"How is she? Will she be all right?"
Bernie indicated that Clark should sit. Klein looked around to make sure no one else was within earshot of them. "Okay, she is going to be fine. She will be sick for a few more days, but she will recover. Dr. Atkins and his staff got most of the toxins out of her system, and her own body will be able to deal with anything that might still be left over." Klein took another look around. "I saw the samples of the toxins they flushed out of Lois' body and they have definite Kryptonian origins. I recognized some of the more unusual protein strings."
Clark dropped his head in his hands. "Oh my god, I almost killed the only woman I could ever love." He raised his head to look Klein in the face, tears began to stream down his face. "What am I supposed to do? Do I stay away from her forever?"
Klein grabbed Clark's hand and gave it a fatherly squeeze. "What you are going to do is call your friends and family and tell them Lois contracted a severe case of food poisoning, and that she will be in the hospital for a few days." Klein took an extra deep breath. "Then you are going to come over to the lab for some extensive, and probably some pretty embarrassing tests." Dr. Klein couldn't keep himself from blushing.
Clark dropped his head again. "What's the point? If I'm a danger to Lois, I only have one recourse open to me."
Klein frowned sympathetically at the vulnerable super hero. "We *will* find out what happened. I'll do everything I can to help you, please believe me."
Clark forced himself to look at Bernie again. He knew he was lucky to be able to count on him as a friend. And if anyone could find out what happened it would be Bernard Klein. "I know, Bernie, I do." ***
It was a very subdued Clark Kent who led a still somewhat shaky Lois Lane into Dr. Klein's office four days later. Clark had wanted to come alone but Lois wouldn't hear of it. She argued that since this problem affected both of them equally she had every right to be there.
It was a function of how weak Lois still was that she didn't argue with Clark about her staying at the hospital once she was well enough to have visitors and found out what had really happened. She had been shocked and understandably frightened, but she refused to believe that Clark had poisoned her.
It hurt her that Clark refused to even touch her. She knew he was suffering from a paranoid guilt that wouldn't be allayed by just her say-so. She needed Dr. Klein to tell Clark how foolish he was being. She didn't know what had happened, but she knew that Clark just couldn't be to blame, and she knew that Dr. Klein would be able to clear this all up.
They were ushered into Dr. Klein's office and both stood uneasily as they waited for him. Within a minute Klein bustled into his office.
"Good, you're both here." Dr. Klein dropped some folders on a table and leaned against it as he faced the pair. "I've good news and bad news. The good news is that I've figured out what it was that poisoned Lois."
"What was it?" Lois quickly piped up anxious to get Clark off the hook and her newly married life back on track.
Being a true scientist, Dr. Klein couldn't get to the point immediately. "Are you two familiar at all with pheromones?"
Both Lois and Clark groaned at Dr. Klein's question. At his puzzled look, Clark decided to enlighten him. "A while back we had the unfortunate pleasure to experience them first hand. A vengeful perfume chemist used animal pheromones in her perfume to make people lose their inhibitions romantically and fall madly in love with each other." Clark shot Lois a look. "It affected some more than others." Clark couldn't help but grin a bit at Lois' daggered glare.
Dr. Klein nodded. "Ah, yes, I think I remember that. Well, good, that means you have a frame of reference for what I'm about to tell you."
"So tell us already," an impatient Lois chimed in.
"Okaaay, well after much testing," Klein didn't notice Clark's embarrassed blush but Lois did, "I've discovered that Kryptonians, at least the males, have a sort of pheromone reaction in their lovemaking." Klein held up his hand to forestall any questions. "Let me explain."
Dr. Klein began to pace. "Many animals secret a pheromone to aid them in their search for a mate, as it where. It seems, in nature, to be used mostly in the attraction of a willing partner." Klein paused as if trying to find a suitable way to say what he was going to say next. "It seems that in male Kryptonians at the point of, ah… climax, they secret a pheromone in the form of a very fine coating of moisture. Sort of like a very fine perspiration."
Lois and Clark looked at each other then at Dr. Klein. Klein nodded his head as the looks on their faces told him that they were familiar with this phenomenon. He stopped his pacing.
"It is a very intrusive substance, seems to be able to permeate nearly anything. I'm sure it is absorbed through skin to skin contact, and I think it might also have an airborne component to it."
"That musky smell I mentioned, you remember, Clark." Clark nodded at Lois' addition.
"Makes sense," Klein nodded. "I can only speculate, but maybe Kryptonians had difficulty conceiving and through a natural selection they evolved this pheromone like substance to extend and increase the duration and the intensity of the — er, process."
Thoughts of the ferocity and the continued passion of their lovemaking passed through the minds of the newlyweds. Clark was a bit depressed to think that Lois' feelings during their lovemaking might be chemically enhanced. Lois was a bit angry that something else might be, at least partially, affecting how she would act in bed with Clark. Lois never liked it when she wasn't in total control of her actions. Even if the decision was to abandon rational control to passionate emotions, she wanted to be the one making the choice. It was Clark who brought them both back to the real point.
"You said you also had bad news, Dr. Klein. I assume then, that this substance I secrete, this pheromone like stuff, is toxic to humans?"
Dr. Klein had to duck his head and stare at the floor for a few moments before he could face the apprehensive couple. "I'm afraid it is. It's quite toxic in fact. You were very lucky to survive that first encounter, Lois."
Lois' voice was soft and fearful. "So what are you telling us Dr. Klein, what's the bottom line here?"
Klein bit his lip. "It's my considered opinion, that if you two ever make love again, Lois will die." ***
Her expression strained, Lois exclaimed, "This can't be happening! I don't believe it's happening to us. Why do these things *always* have to happen to us?!" Beginning to pace around the living area of Clark's — now their — apartment, she gritted out, ""We have got to figure out a way around this, Clark — and fast!"
Shutting the door firmly behind him, Clark sighed heavily. He felt as if he'd aged thirty years in the last week, and Bernie Klein's pronouncement had almost finished him off. *He* was a lethal threat as far as Lois was concerned. If he ever made love with her again, she would die. He didn't even need to penetrate her; if he climaxed and she was anywhere close to him, that would be enough.
It was enough to make him swear off sex for life.
And he'd do it in a heartbeat, for Lois's sake. It would be very, very hard, especially with the memory of that one perfect night together — somehow, celibacy was easier when you had no idea what you were missing — but he would do it. He suspected, however, that Lois wouldn't be happy with living together in a platonic marriage. And anyway, it would be completely unfair to her to tie her to him when he couldn't give her a full marriage.
He crossed the room to stand beside her, wanting to touch her but, for the first time since their very early acquaintance, feeling unable to risk it. Oh, *she* wouldn't reject him, he knew her well enough to understand that. But he couldn't do it. Even though his logical mind knew that he was only a danger to her when he secreted this pheromone, his instincts were to protect the woman he loved with every breath in his body. And if that meant not touching her, then he would never lay another finger on her.
"Lois, we have to talk about this," he told her quietly, though inside his heart was breaking. "This… I can't…" He broke off suddenly, unable to speak; ducking his head, he ran his hands agitatedly through his hair. "Lois, I always used to worry about protecting you, keeping you safe — I wanted to be there when you needed me. I used to get frantic — still do — when you risk your life over some story! But I never believed, could never have imagined — " his voice fell to a whisper " — that I'd come close to killing you."
"It's not your fault, Clark!" she cried, shocked. "How could you have known?"
But he shook his head, rejecting her words. "Lois, I'm alien. I come from another planet. I should have known that I couldn't just pretend to be a normal guy, and have a normal life, and get away with it!"
She glared at him. "Clark, you *are* normal. Oh, sure, you fly and you can do other Super things, but in every respect you are very, very normal. And…" She swallowed, then raised her face to his, her eyes speaking volumes about her love for him. "And you make love better than any other guy ever could. No-one has ever made me feel the way you do, Clark. I refuse to believe that you weren't destined to be with me."
"Oh, Lois…" he sighed, then reached for her hand, this time dismissing his fears as extravagant. After all, if he couldn't let himself touch Lois, how was he ever going to rescue her, or anyone else, ever again?
"Come and sit down," he invited, tugging her gently towards the sofa. "We need to talk."
"That's what I said already!" she pointed out, sliding over to sit on his lap; he almost lifted her off, because having her so close to him was doing nothing for his resolve. But if he did so, he would hurt her, and he had no intention of doing that any more than was necessary.
"Lois, you heard what Dr Klein said," he reminded her, his voice heavy. "If I make love to you again, I'll kill you."
But she reached up and caught his face between her hands. "I don't like your choice of words, Clark," she told him, her soft tone and compassionate expression not matching her harsh words. "It's not *you.* You're the most kind, gentle, caring man I have ever known, and I know you would never willingly hurt anyone. This… this is something completely beyond your control. And we're going to find a way around it. I know we are."
Normally, Lois's incurable optimism was one of the things he loved about her. Now, however, it just made him more depressed. Couldn't she see that this wasn't some mystery they had to solve, or some minor threat they needed to overcome? Okay, perhaps it wasn't as bad as the time he'd had to leave her to go with the New Kryptonians, since there'd been a possibility that they would never see each other again. But knowing that she would die if they ever loved each other physically again… it was tearing his heart in two.
"Lois, you heard Dr Klein. He can't do anything to help us. We have to decide what we're going to do about this situation," he told her, his voice a little sharper than he'd intended.
That made her look at him a little differently. Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "And what do you think we should do about it, then?"
"Well, obviously it makes our…" he had to pause, to swallow, "our marriage a little… awkward, if we can never make love — "
"Awkward!" Lois echoed incredulously. "Clark, that's one heck of an understatement!"
"Okay, I know," he acknowledged. "Look, I… I realise I can't expect you to stay with someone who can't give you what you need… I mean, I know you wouldn't be happy with a marriage where all we can do is kiss and touch, and maybe cuddle in bed…" Although even that might not be safe, he realised gloomily, aware of his body's potential involuntary reaction to Lois's closeness.
She stared at him again. "I'm not even going to ask where you're going with this. But tell me this, Clark — would you be happy with it either?"
He sighed again, running a hand through his already-rumpled hair. "Lois, you know I don't want that. But what choice do we have? No, don't," he added, forestalling her as she was about to jump in. "We do have choices, I know that. And I'm about to suggest one."
"I'm all ears," she murmured dryly, and a brief smile involuntarily altered the shape of his mouth at this so-typical Lois response. She already knew she wouldn't like his proposal, and she was letting him know it.
But he had no intention of letting her put him off. His way out was the only manageable solution, and it would be the best for both of them.
Reaching out to stroke her hair with shaking fingers, he dropped his gaze from hers. "Lois… there's only one fair thing for me to do. I'll… we should get divorced. There's nothing wrong with you, and it's not right that you should have to stay married to me when I can't…" He trailed off, his emotions getting the better of him.
His eyes began to water when she seized his hair and pulled sharply. "Clark Kent, how dare you suggest such a thing? I don't believe you said that!" Behind the raw fury on her face, he could see pain; tears threatened to obscure the beauty of her brown eyes.
Blinking, he stared back at her. "Lois, it's the only sensible thing! You could meet someone else, have a proper relationship with him without the risk of *dying* any time you want to make — "
She stopped him by the very effective means of slapping her hand over his mouth. "Clark Kent, how dare you?" she repeated.
"Wha…?" he mumbled against her hand.
"Suggest that the only thing I want from our relationship — the only reason I want to be with you — is sex!" She almost shouted the words, her slim body shaking in what he assumed was reaction and fury.
He inhaled deeply as she removed her hand from his mouth. "Lois, of course I don't think that. But sex — lovemaking — is very important in a relationship. And I couldn't blame you at all if you decided you couldn't stay in a relationship where it was completely out of the question. Besides," he added, his mouth turning down at the corners, "now you know that something about me — something I can do nothing about — can kill you, I completely understand that you'd want out."
She seemed to calm a little, relaxing into his body. "Clark, I need to explain something to you," she told him quietly. "You know I'd been with other men before you — not many, but I wasn't a virgin."
"Yeah, I know," he confirmed. "It's not a problem for me — I love you as you are, Lois. Your past isn't important, except where you've been hurt by it — then I want to help you."
"That's not what I meant, Clark." She shook her head, reinforcing the point. "Until you came along and I allowed myself to see you for the truly wonderful guy you are, I never really believed in love. I wanted to be loved, but I think I saw love as something different to the way I see it now — I don't know what I wanted from men other than to have their attention. I was never in love before I learned to love you. And I slept with a couple of guys, yes, but, like I told you before, there was nothing great about it. For a long time after, I wondered what all the fuss was about."
She paused, took a breath, and traced the outline of Clark's jaw with her finger. Watching her, he felt that her words confirmed his own view that their marriage just didn't have a future. Their one night together, making love, had been so wonderful; it had shown both of them just how special lovemaking could be. Now that her bad experiences had been overwritten by a great one, wouldn't Lois want the opportunity to have other good experiences? With someone else?
The direction of his thoughts must have been evident from his expression, for Lois shook her head again, this time more firmly. "Clark, no! That's not what I mean!" She took his left hand in hers and gazed down at their twin wedding rings. "Being with you is the best thing that ever happened to me. Do you understand that? Can you understand that I would rather be with you, even if we can never make love again for the rest of our lives, than be with anyone else, no matter how good a lover he is?"
Clark gazed down at their joined hands, and tightened his free arm around her waist. Her words had deeply moved him, but he couldn't let her sacrifice herself like this. "Lois, that's… that's very generous of you, but — "
"But nothing, Clark!" she interrupted him fiercely. "Why won't you believe me? I meant every word of that. Okay, I won't say that not being able to make love with you wouldn't bother me. I'd miss it, sure I would. And so would you. But it's *you* I love, not sex." She tilted her head to gaze challengingly at him. "Isn't it the same for you?"
"Of course," he replied instantly, his voice husky. "Lois, I love you more than I ever believed it was possible to love anyone. And although it'd be very tough, I could manage to keep my hands off you for the next forty, fifty years — " he pulled a face. "Your life is more important to me than anything. You have no idea how scared I was when you were in the hospital and I thought you might die. And then when I realised that it was all my fault, that by making love to you I'd almost killed you — "
"Hush, Clark," she interrupted. "It's over and I'm okay. Now we have to focus on what we're going to do about it."
He sighed. "Lois, I've offered…"
"No! Clark, I promised 'for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,' and I meant it!"
"Yeah, and 'till death us do part,' too," he added with grim humour. "That almost came sooner than we imagined."
"Well, we are staying together," Lois announced. "You don't get rid of me that easily, Clark Kent!"
Enormously relieved despite the nagging guilt which told him he should have done what he knew to be the right thing anyway, he wrapped his arms tightly around Lois. "We need to work out how we're going to do this, honey. It's not going to be easy — it's been hell the past week. I wanted you so much, yet I was afraid that what happened to you had something to do with our lovemaking, so I knew I couldn't let myself touch you." He grimaced. "I… I think we better not sleep together. I'll take the couch, for now. Once we get a bigger place -" he shrugged " — we can have separate rooms." ***
Although she'd meant exactly what she'd said about being able to accept a platonic marriage should it be necessary, the bleak picture Clark was painting sounded downright miserable for both of them. Lois was nowhere near ready to condemn the two of them to separate beds just yet, though.
She jumped to her feet and faced Clark from a few feet away. "Come on, Clark, don't be so defeatist! We should be discussing how to overcome this thing, not accepting that it has to destroy our love-life!"
His returning glance was wryly sympathetic. "Lois, you know I don't want that either. But Dr Klein told us before we left that he wasn't sure he could come up with an inoculation for you, remember? He said he'd try, but the combination of my Kryptonian pheromones and your human DNA would make it extremely difficult to get it right — and, Lois, I'm not prepared to use you as a human guinea pig if he needs to test it."
She wasn't too keen on that idea either, Lois thought. But she still wasn't prepared to accept this lying down… or not lying down, as the case might be. Another thought occurred to her then; waving her arms around excitedly, she voiced it. "Clark, HG Wells told us that the curse had been defeated. And he's been to Utopia — he's met our descendants! There has to be a way around this! I mean, how can we have kids if…?"
He pulled a face. "There are accepted artificial mechanisms, which shouldn't be affected by my problem." His voice was dry, his expression weary.
"Well, I still don't believe this was meant to happen, Clark. We'll find a way around it, I'm determined about that. There's got to be a way, either a vaccination for me, or something to stop you sweating…" Her voice trailed off, and a strange expression came over her face.
"That's it!" she exclaimed suddenly. "How could we not have thought of it before?!"
"What?" Clark asked, confused; Lois mused that he shouldn't look so surprised. He had to be used to her flashes of inspiration by now.
"I'll tell you in a second. Get on the phone to Dr Klein and tell him you're flying us over now to talk to him…" ***
"An anti-perspirant?" Bernie Klein echoed weakly, his gaze switching from Lois to Clark in bemusement.
"Of course!" Lois insisted impatiently. "It's obvious! Clark's producing this sweat-like stuff, so he needs something to stop him doing it. Just like I use anti-perspirant to stop me sweating. That's all there is to it!"
Clark, trying to hide his secret amusement at Lois's conviction that it really *was* that simple, touched her arm lightly. "Come on, honey, it's not like a can of Right Guard is exactly going to do the job."
"But Dr Klein can formulate something that will — can't you, Dr Klein?" she challenged the scientist.
Klein was now looking intrigued rather than doubtful. "It has potential… and it would certainly be safer to test than a vaccination for you, Lois. I mean… um, that is… ah, Clark can test the effect on his own, without you around…"
"I understand what you're saying," Clark interrupted quickly, before this conversation got even more embarrassing. "And yes, I can do that." And would do so, several times, before he trusted himself anywhere near Lois.
"So you can come up with a formula?" Lois demanded.
"Umm… well, ah… it'll take time, but I'm certainly willing to try."
"We'd be extremely grateful if you could, Dr Klein," Clark interjected, thinking that their scientist friend deserved something rather better than Lois's insistence.
"Well… the first thing I'll need is a sample," Klein pointed out, reddening a little.
Clark groaned silently. He'd become very tired of that little room with its supply of girlie magazines — in which he had no interest whatsoever — over the past few months. But on the other hand, this was vitally important. He'd do what he had to do, for Lois and for their future love life. "Okay," he sighed. "When do you want me to start? — and, you know, if you gave me some of the bottles, I could do it at home. You know I can have it here in seconds."
Klein's blush spread to his neck. "Ah… not *that* kind of sample, Clark."
"Well, what?" Clark asked, frowning in puzzlement.
"A sample of the secretion," Klein explained.
That didn't seem so bad, Clark thought… until he realised how the secretion would have to be obtained. It seemed as if he wasn't finished with that little room yet after all. He sighed inwardly, but then another thought struck him. "How are we going to collect the sample, Dr Klein?"
Lois giggled. "I'll do it!"
He glared at her. "You will not!" he insisted, in his trademark Superman-being-forceful tone. On seeing her shocked expression, he shook his head apologetically. "Sorry, honey, I know you were just kidding, but… well, Dr Klein said this toxin can be airborne too, so even if you were thinking of wearing gloves you'd still be at risk. I don't want you anywhere near me when…" He shrugged. "You know."
Klein, blushing again, interjected. "I guess I could do it — I mean, I have an isolation suit for use in possibly contaminated areas…"
Clark squirmed inwardly, his embarrassment threshold having just been exceeded by a massive amount. The thought of having to do… what he had to do while being watched by *Bernard Klein* appalled him beyond belief.
Trying not to show how much the idea repulsed him, he said, "I'm sure I can do it myself." He was trying to sound confident, but he had a horrible feeling that his voice had simply come out as reedy and high-pitched; Lois's attempt to stifle a giggle, which was clearly audible to *him,* made that clear.
He glared at her, somewhat hurt by her failure to appreciate how embarrassing this was for him, but she redeemed herself immediately while Dr Klein was protesting that Clark might not be able to do what was required. "Dr Klein, if you have an isolation suit, can't I wear it?" she suggested.
Klein looked very relieved. "Yes, that would work," he gasped.
Clark, while he was far happier at the thought of 'performing' in front of Lois, was still a little anxious. "How safe is this suit?"
"Oh, very safe," Klein assured him. "I promise you, Clark, nothing can get through that."
"Yeah, that's what they claim about Trojan," Lois murmured impishly, earning herself another frown from Clark. ***
- Two weeks later -
Dressed in the burgundy nightgown which was Clark's favourite, Lois reclined on the big bed in their apartment as she watched her husband carry two glasses of champagne over to the nightstand. She trailed a hand down his thigh, inadequately covered as it was by his brief robe.
"I can't wait any longer, sweetheart. I know we said we'd take this slowly, but…" Smiling up at him in a sultry manner, Lois moved her hand further north.
Clark laughed, pulling away from her. "Okay, honey, I get the hint! Just give me a second…"
With a whoosh, he disappeared into the bathroom closing the door behind him; sitting on the windowsill was a spray can, one of several which Bernie Klein had given him just that afternoon. It even looked like normal anti-perspirant, Clark mused; Bernie — as the scientist had asked them to call him — had tried very hard to create something which would raise no suspicions if anyone else should see it.
Best of all, Bernie seemed to think that prolonged use should help to build up a resistance to the secretion, in that over time it was possible that Clark might simply stop producing it. Even if that didn't happen, Bernie was now working on a modification of the formula which would be in tablet form, and which, the scientist hoped, would prevent production of the secretion altogether. So he probably wouldn't have to use the spray on a permanent basis.
And neither of them had any remaining fears about any chemical enhancement of their lovemaking. They had discussed that possibility a lot over the past couple of weeks, despite the frustrating nature of their conversation; Clark had seen beyond any doubt that Lois wanted him sexually, and he was sure that her reaction to him when they were finally able to make love again would be every bit as passionate as before.
A few quick sprays later, Clark was out of the bathroom and on his way to join his very impatient wife. Lowering himself beside her on the bed, he trailed a finger lasciviously down her gorgeous body. "So tell me, wife, where were we before we were interrupted?"
Lois laughed sexily and rolled over to lie half on top of him, nibbling at his jawline. "Right about here, I think, husband."
"Seems familiar," Clark murmured, then prevented any further speech by simply covering her lips with his.