By emilystarr1 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rated PG-13 for some violent content
Submitted June 2000
Summary: After learning Clark's secret identity, Lois begins to wonder just how much she can really trust Clark Kent…
note: <<—->> denotes thoughts
Outside the frost edged window, the snow fell softly. It was a beautiful night, and the faint strains of carolers below made it perfect. Clark Kent sighed softly, his chest rising ever so slightly with the intake of his breath. Lois Lane felt her head rise minutely with his chest, her curls flattened against his shoulder. Suddenly, Christmas didn't seem so bad, after all.
Clark looked down at the figure beside him and could not suppress a grin. He was happy, and relaxed. No calls for help reached his ears, and for the first time in weeks, it seemed, his muscles were not clenched tightly in anticipation for the next emergency.
Lois looked up slightly in time to see his grin. She returned his smile, and laced the fingers of one hand through his for the second time that evening. "What are you grinning about, Kent?" she asked softly, a smile still playing on her lips and her eyes dancing. She had a pretty good idea what he was smiling about though. It was probably that he had the same warm feeling coursing through his body as she had. The feeling of coming home, she thought. A real home that meant warm chocolate chip cookies and someone to hold at night. Lois was surprised at her own mushiness. Was this the same hard-nosed reporter she'd been before Clark Kent waltzed into her life?
Her eyes dropped, but not before Clark saw a range of emotions flash through them. He hoped they meant what he thought they meant — that Lois possibly, finally, reciprocated his feelings for her..
Lois looked up again, waiting for his answer. "Clark?"
He didn't answer, but suddenly lowered his head to hers, lightly touching his lips to hers. She didn't have time to respond before he pulled away, already turning red.
"Lois, I — "
She didn't give him time to take back what he'd done. "Shut up," she commanded fiercely and grabbed both sides of his face, bringing his lips to hers in a harder, more pressing kiss.
It deepened, and Clark lost himself completely. He finally pulled away amazed, realizing Lois would need to take a breath. He couldn't believe that she had responded so passionately! A whole future flashed through his mind — a future complete with Lois.
But when he finally focused, her face mirrored his surprise. She looked shocked, her eyes blank and mouth hanging slightly open.
"Clark?" She said his name tentatively, and he could sense the fear in her. After so many rescues and calls for help, Clark had gotten to know fear too well. He never thought he would cause it; but there it was, in Lois's voice, in her suddenly racing heartbeat, and the way her petite body was shaking slightly. It was her fear that made him finally check himself over mentally, finally made him realize that he had been floating a foot above the apartment's floor.
Lois stalked through the Daily Planet's office two days later in an angry daze. She most definitely did not want to work today, but she'd never called in sick yet, and she wasn't about to now. She had no idea how she would get through the day. Hopefully Perry would give her some dinky piece she would usually rather die than take, so she wouldn't have to actually think about it. And hopefully, she thought, it would be something with a lot of footwork that she could do on her own. She did not want to be in the same world as Clark Kent today, much less the same room. She flopped onto her desk chair and booted up her computer. As she waited for the familiar Daily Planet logo to come up, she opened one of her desk drawers to search for a Milky Way she'd stashed there last week. Breakfast had been a burned piece of toast and coffee with little grainy lumps. "Breakfast" had ended up in the garbage disposal. Emotional distress always added extra strain to her already insufficient cooking ability.
She heard someone clear his throat behind her, and she jerked her head up with murder in her eyes. If that was that lying, no good —
It was Jimmy. He was tense and on edge, but relaxed as he saw the fire in her eyes cool down. He breathed an inward sigh of relief before speaking.
"Morning, Lois," he said. "How was your Christmas?"
"Just great," she responded crisply with the overstretched smile that meant trouble. "Wonderful, in fact. You know, it's funny. Did you notice we're at work? Because *I* just noticed that fact. Funny, some people believe that you should keep personal lives out of the workplace. Funny concept, don't you think? I mean, God forbid anyone actually did their work instead of talk about their lives. What made you ask, anyway? Circles under my eyes? Is one sock black and one white? Just what made you think I had a bad Christmas, anyway?"
Lois began rummaging through her desk with fervor. "And where is my chocolate bar? It was here just the other day. What are you giving me that look for? Doctors are even saying that chocolate is good for you, you know. Besides, have you ever seen one blemish on my face? I have perfect skin, Jimmy. Perfect." Lois stood up and raised her voice, momentarily catching the attention of everyone in the room. "Has anyone seen my chocolate bar?" She paused. Not receiving an answer, she turned back to Jimmy. "Well?"
Jimmy opened his mouth to respond, and then suddenly a knowing grin broke over his face, dimpling his cheeks as he held up his hands and backed away. Lois whirled around just in time to see Clark grimacing and making a thrashing motion at his throat. Lois's eyes narrowed dangerously, and Clark's grimace turned to a weak grin, his hand flapping in a halfhearted wave. Lois blew out an annoyed breath and sat down at her desk. Jimmy continued his departure, finishing what he had come over to say as he walked. "Lois, Chief wants to see you as soon as he can. He's waiting in his office. Morning, CK."
Clark threw him a rueful smile. "Morning, Jimmy." He sighed and stood beside Lois's desk. He bent suddenly, pulling something out of her wastebasket and setting it on her desk. It was the Milky Way wrapper.
Lois glared. "How did that get there?"
She sat back in her chair roughly, crossing her arms and challenging him with a look.
Clark widened his eyes and gestured in a way that said he was surprised she didn't remember.
"It was the other day. When you were …skipping."
He thought it might be a mistake to bring to mind the picture of Lois skipping when she was angry. He turned out to be right. Her expression flashed daggers at him before she turned towards her computer.
"Anyway, you'd better get to work Clark." She turned around quickly and looked at him with feigned surprise on her face. "Oh, I'm sorry. I meant to say Superman, of course."
"Lois," he hissed, instinctively leaning in closer to his partner. "I have trusted you for along time now …"
She snorted. "Evidently, not enough."
He continued more forcibly. "I have trusted you, and I need to trust you now. Lois, this has to be kept a secret. If not for my sake, then for your own. The knowledge you now have makes you a target. If anyone wanted to get at Superman …"
She didn't let him finish. "No. No! That is a load of crap, and you know it! A target! I'm already a target, if you want to look at it that way, since everyone knows I'm one of the two people …" She trailed a little as confusion muddled her mind. She regained her composure in an instant. "Since everyone knows I'm one of two supposed people who are closest to Superman. You had no reason to keep this from me. You were just scared."
He opened his mouth to reply, but she beat him to it.
"No! You were scared, Clark Kent." She laughed harshly. "You know, you're supposed to be the strongest man in the world. Nothing to fear. But you know what? You are a coward, Clark. Now if you don't want to get out of my face, I'll just leave." With that she jumped up and stalked into Perry's office without so much as a backward look. Clark rolled his eyes and lifted his head to the sky. He always had such good intentions — how did he get himself into these situations?
Clark eased himself into his desk chair and inconspicuously heated some coffee that Jimmy had left on his desk. He sipped slowly, savoring the heat slipping down his throat. The warmth began to take effect on Clark's troubled mind and, soothed, he finally relaxed enough to think. He was really in the doghouse now. That night he had revealed himself had been horrible. After he'd plopped back down to the floor, Lois and he had just looked at each other for what seemed like hours. Then tears had filled Lois's eyes as she pointed to her door and whispered, "Get out. Now." Not wanting to argue with her, he left. But he didn't go far. He hovered just outside her window, listening to her sob, and hearing the loud bang as she shut her window with a vengeance.
He hadn't slept at all. Not that it really mattered, if he was in a good mood. But since then, his mind was so tortured he couldn't sleep a wink. He hadn't even told his parents. Talking about it might be a betrayal of Lois, and he couldn't heap another burning coal on his head. Maybe someday … But right now, he couldn't talk to anyone about it, except Lois. And she definitely wasn't talking to him. Clark sighed again and turned on his computer. It was going to be a long day.
Lois had to concentrate on calming herself and listening to Perry. Her anger was a living thing, threatening to jump up and choke her if she didn't constantly keep it in check.
"Morning, Chief. Jimmy said you wanted me?"
"You see the news this morning, Lois?"
No, in fact, she hadn't. She'd tossed and turned and cried so much last night, she could barely remember what she'd planned to do to Clark today. When she last looked at her bedside clock, it had been one hour before she had to wake up. Between hitting the snooze button three times and trying to make her breakfast, Lois had barely gotten to work on time. She hadn't even thought of watching the morning news. She shook her head, suppressing a yawn as she thought of the coffee and chocolate bar she'd been cheated out of.
"Well, there's been another murder. Some kid named Jennifer Loeb. Her neck was broken, and whoever it was left his calling card." He gave a short angry laugh. "Judas Priest, can you imagine? On Christmas … " He trailed off and tossed some glossy black and whites on the desk between them. Lois saw in each picture a fragment of the body; in every shot you could see the girl's abdomen, with a symbol … Lois felt a wave of nausea roll over her body. The symbol was indistinct; but with a definite hexagonal shape.
"They carved that into her?"
"Looks like, doesn't it? Anyway, the thing is, that symbol was carved on another girl, about three months back — Claire Andrews. Jimmy found this out through some Internet friend of his, so it's hush-hush until we break the story. I want you and Clark on this, yesterday. Understand?"
Lois hesitated. "Well, Chief, the thing is … "
Perry glanced up sharply. "What is it?"
"Well, Clark and I … I mean, it's kind of a long story. The point is, I'd rather have this one for myself, if it's all right with you."
"Look Lois, I don't care what goes on in the lives of my reporters, as long as they don't let it affect their work. Whatever problem you and Clark are having, you better work it out fast. I want my best reporters on this. Or would you rather have the Annual Metropolis Cat Show?"
Lois wondered what Perry would say if she accepted the Cat Show story, but then she'd be letting them both down. She would not let Clark keep her from doing good work.
"Don't worry, Chief," she said with renewed energy. "We're on it." She exited the office with a spring in her step, and Perry chuckled to himself. The Cat Show bit got them every time.
The room was dark. They liked it that way. At least, that's what they told him. He was carefully measuring out different chemicals, getting ready to make magic. He had learned from a friend how to do this, make pictures appear on blank paper. He'd developed two other pictures before, and now he was developing two more. This time, the first one materialized into a pretty blonde woman with dark eyes and curly hair. She would be next, then. The pictures told him what to do.
He started developing the next picture, because he didn't like surprises. He wanted to know well in advance what he wanted to do. The colours began to sharpen and intensify, and soon he could see a petite woman with short brown hair and brown eyes quickly stepping down the stairs. Lois Lane leaving her apartment that morning. He smiled. She was just as pretty as the last one had been.
Clark turned in surprise as his name was barked at him. "Clark, we've got a new story. You find out everything you can on Claire Andrews; I'll get the information on Jennifer Loeb. Two girls, murdered." She started to walk away, but Clark jumped up and grabbed her arm, steering her back to his desk.
"Lois, we have to talk."
"I don't want to talk about it, Clark. It's a little late for talking."
He sighed, trying to keep his annoyance in check.
"And quit sighing. You sound like a creaky screen door."
"Lois, I mean we have to *talk*. You know, communicate? Share facts? So we can do our jobs? Like it or not, we have to work together or when we go to write the story we'll both be confused and erratic in our writing."
"I'll take that as a yes," Clark smiled and rolled his chair over to Lois's desk. He gestured to her empty chair beside him. "Care to sit and fill me in?"
"I give up." She walked over and sat down, proceeding to tell Clark what she had just learned from Perry.
"Hmmm … " he mumbled. "So, where do we start?"
"Well, it's a serial killer, and he wants to be caught, so …" Lois trailed as she saw Clark's eyebrows lift. "He carved the same symbol in both bodies." Lois explained. "He wants someone to find the connections. It wasn't impulse; it was planned. So we need to find out what else these girls had in common."
Clark smiled in appreciation. "Good thinking. So where do we go first?"
It was Lois's turn to sigh. "I think we should visit their parents."
The Andrews's home was well lit, with a frost-covered tricycle in the yard, and various covered bushes planted in a haphazard garden. Silently, they ascended the stairs, and silently Clark reached out to ring the doorbell. A smiling woman with a toddler latched onto her leg answered, her smile fading as she realized who they were. Lois was shocked that she herself had not remembered the name; she supposed she'd had too much on her mind. She threw a quick angry look in Clark's direction, bewildering him, before greeting the woman before her.
"Mrs. Andrews, it's good to see you again."
Lois was rewarded with only an icy glare. "I only wish I could say the same. Won't you come in?" Maura Andrews stepped aside, allowing the reporters entry into her home.
Clark shot Lois a quick questioning look, and she minutely shook her head.
"So, Ms. Lane," Maura began. "What would you like of me this time?"
Lois flinched. "We just wanted to ask you some questions about your daughter," Lois continued in a stronger tone. "Another girl was murdered last night."
The woman showed no emotion. "Yes. I saw that on the news."
Clark didn't know what exactly was going on between these two, but he felt he should intervene. "Mrs. Andrews? Could you tell us anything —"
"About what?" the woman replied passionately. "Let's see, yes, my daughter had enemies. No, I don't think they killed her. Do I know if any of her enemies would have that kind of strength? To just snap her neck in two? No. Do I think she killed herself? No. Did I murder my daughter? No. Anything else, Ms. Lane? And can I expect you to drag me through this yet again, or are you finally going to leave me alone?"
Lois's face burned. "No. I think that's all we need." Lois stood up and walked towards the door, with Clark close behind. Before they left, Clark turned and threw in one more question.
"Mrs. Andrews, did your daughter behave in any strange way before she was killed?"
The woman looked at him. "Not really. She joined the Superman fan club, but that wasn't really strange for a teenage girl, was it?"
"No," Clark responded with a smile. "Thank you for your time." He got no response other than a gently closing door. He turned to the car.
Lois was already seated inside, waiting for Clark. She was frowning, and practically speechless. She remembered that interview. She had conducted herself in a completely professional manner, but the woman had blown up at her. Lois had just been asking questions. The woman was *so* defensive and angry; the question of whether Mrs. Andrews had killed her daughter had popped out of Lois's mouth before she thought. Then things had really gotten nasty. Lois had left the house that day with a little nagging doubt that maybe the mother had done it, but with this new murder that was out of the question. Lois was shocked that she herself had not remembered the name; she supposed, what with Clark's little secret coming out, she'd been too preoccupied to pay strict attention to her work.
She threw a quick angry look as she saw Clark approaching the car, then settled into her seat. She might as well be physically comfortable in the long silent car ride ahead.
It only took them ten minutes to drive to the Loebs' home, but both thought the drive seemed unusually long. Only once did Clark attempt to speak; one glance from Lois was enough to make him quiet. They both stepped out of the car with a feeling of relief, and Lois led the way up to the house. She rang the doorbell, and after a moment a red-eyed man answered the door. He attempted to smile, but Lois's stomach heaved with the grief so obviously overcoming him. She had to swallow quickly before she could speak.
"Mr. Loeb?" When he nodded, she stuck out her hand. "I'm Lois Lane, and this is Clark Kent. We're reporters from the Daily Planet."
He nodded again. "Yes, I know … I have the paper delivered here every day." He gestured tiredly. "Please, won't you come in?"
The reporters thanked him and walked into the house. The house was a mess; pictures and various children's toys were scattered all around the floor. Lois and Clark walked over them carefully, eventually sitting down together on a haggard couch, across from a comfortable looking brown chair that Mr. Loeb settled into. They all looked at each other.
Mr. Loeb broke the silence. "I guess you want to ask me some questions?"
Lois looked up. "If you wouldn't mind." He nodded.
"Did your daughter have any enemies, anyone who may have wanted to harm her?"
"No, not that I can think of. She wasn't popular, but that was just because she was quiet. She mostly just went to class, never really socialized."
As Lois wrote, Clark jumped into the conversation. "What were your daughter's interests?"
"Oh, mostly animals. She was … um …" His voice was husky, and he trailed off. "You'll have to excuse me. This is all very …fresh. She was planning on becoming a veterinarian."
"Not really. She painted occasionally, but it was mostly portraits of her mother. She died about five years ago."
Lois looked up from her note taking. "I'm sorry. We only have one other question, for now. Did your daughter behave erratically before her death?"
"Yes. Did she not follow her regular routine, or seem to be more emotional, anything like that?"
"Not really." Lois and Clark looked at each other, and stood up as one. Mr. Loeb stood also, and shook hands with both of them before showing them to the door. They were halfway down the walk when Mr. Loeb called to them.
"Ms. Lane, I just remembered. Jennifer had been very excited — had a meeting with Superman, she said. She'd thought she could interview him and win a spot on her school paper. She'd never really mentioned him before."
Lois and Clark exchanged a look, then Lois turned and smiled. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Loeb."
Clark chimed in, "We're very sorry about your daughter."
Mr. Loeb bit his lip and nodded, disappearing back into his house.
Clark opened Lois's door for her, much to her annoyance, and walked around the car to his side. When he settled in and put the keys into the ignition, Lois turned to face him. They exchanged a look, both realizing that they had found a connection between the girls, then Lois smiled. "You have a lot of explaining to do."
Clark's eyes darted over the road as he tried to convince Lois. "Lois, I'm telling you. I've never seen these girls. Superman had no meetings. Nothing, nada. I don't know what they were talking about." He looked over hopefully, but Lois sat in stony silence.
Clark lost his patience. He knew that he was in the wrong for not telling her his secret sooner, but this was ridiculous! She didn't have to punish him like this. "Lois, *talk* to me. Not monosyllabic necessities, not thinly veiled insults, but talk. What are you thinking? Am I that repulsive to you now? " She didn't answer. "Lois, will you ever talk to me again?"
"Take this left," she replied. They had arrived at Lois's apartment. After stopping at the Planet to get copies of all possible photographs, Lois had taken a sick half day, claiming a headache. Everything was proving to be too much for her. She comforted herself with the thought that she could work from home just as well. When she'd told him she wanted a half day, Perry had stared unabashedly, and after she left he had marked the day on his calendar.
Clark, who had insisted on driving her home, stopped the car and leaned his head on the steering wheel. After a moment he turned to look at Lois. His eyes pleaded with her to speak, to forgive him. For a moment her heart melted, and she realized that she actually —
Her heart hardened and she cut off her thoughts. Her mouth set in a grim line, and Clark sighed for the tenth time since he'd woken up that morning.
"Lois, I refuse to get out of this car until you talk to me."
She shot him a look and reached for her door. "Suit yourself," she spat back and jumped out the door, slamming it behind her. He sped out of the car and was at her apartment door three minutes before she was. It didn't improve her mood.
"Out of my way, Clark," she warned. He felt it wasn't the time to remind her that her Tae Kwon Do was nothing compared to his Superpowers. Of course, when she was this mad …
"Lois, just let me in to talk to you, okay? Give me a chance to say some things."
She looked at him, then broke the glance and flopped onto her couch. "Fine. Talk."
He sat beside her, clasping his hands together and trying to phrase what he wanted to say properly. "Lois, for a long time, I've loved you." She started, and he looked up and held up a restraining hand. "I lied that day, at the Planet. I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable around me. I wanted us to at least stay friends."
Lois thought a moment. "Superman doesn't have to sleep."
Clark shook his head, as if shaking out this confusing comment that had come out of nowhere. "Well, not a lot, but I do —"
"So you were awake," she interrupted.
"That night, I told you that I thought I was feeling more for you, and you pretended to be *sleeping*? And you thought Luthor was a slimeball!" She jumped up and started pacing.
"Lois, what are you talking about? You told me you had feelings…"
"Yes. And you pretended to be asleep! After all I had gone through that week, and you couldn't even give me the courtesy to listen to something important I had to say, and—"
"Lois, *what * are you talking about?"
"When you died, Clark? Remember? Club — gun — you got shot—" She stopped mid rant.
"Wait a minute. How can you be Superman? Superman wouldn't be hurt by a bullet. Clark?"
Silence filled the room to the point that Clark couldn't breathe. He could hear the hope in her voice.
"Lois, think back to that night. Did you see any blood?"
Lois's mind wrenched her back to that horrible moment — Clark stepping in front of her, getting shot, falling, and then her horror as she tried to find the wound to apply pressure, to stop the bleeding… But there was no blood.
Clark hadn't died.
It had all been a joke. A huge, stupid joke. Lois took three steps back, eventually pressing herself against the wall. She didn't trust her legs to keep her upright. Tears sprang into her eyes.
"You didn't die."
"That was a lie, too."
Lois struggled to catch her breath. "How could you put me through that, Clark? How could you?" Her voice rose unbelievingly. "I thought you were dead! I thought you were *dead*."
Clark's own voice rose in response to hers; and he felt himself losing control. "Lois, I *never* wanted to put you through that! Never! But I had to. All those people were around, and—"
"And you could have told me the very next hour. You could have told me then! Instead of putting me through that Hell." She started to weep, breath coming in ragged gasps, as the horror of that night came back full force, made all the worse by the fact that it hadn't really happened at all. Lois's needless suffering overwhelmed her. How could Clark care at all if he'd lied like that?
Clark could not stand it, and he felt the tears rolling down his cheeks, felt his jaw clenching in an attempt to control himself.
"Lois, I never wanted to! I wanted to tell you from the beginning! I — I'll never lie to you again. Never!"
Lois regained some of her control. "You know, Mother always told me, once a liar, always a liar. But —" Her voice caught, and she swallowed. "But I never thought I would have to learn that lesson from you, Clark. I thought you were different."
He laughed, disbelievingly, through his tears. "I am! I am different. Those were the only times I lied."
Lois shook her head. "I can't trust you anymore. You've ruined that."
Clark looked at her, and then suddenly spun crazily. When he was done, Superman stood before her. He gave a bitter smile when he saw her shocked look, and said with an ironic tone, "I always wanted to do that in front of you." He gave her one last look, then opened her window and launched himself into the sky.
Lois gulped and lay back down on the couch. She didn't even want chocolate. This, she reflected miserably, transcended chocolate.
He was watching the news. They had the girl from last night on. But he didn't care. What he cared about was getting the next one — Lois Lane, he had discovered. It worked so well.
He could get close to her and be Superman. Fate had brought him to her door when he'd taken the picture. He was getting closer and closer to becoming like his hero. Soon he would be able to fly. He laughed, surrounded by pictures of Superman, and picked up the phone. It was time.
Lois was blearily working at her desk at the Planet three days after the big blowup with Clark. It had been a hard couple of days, trying to work through her feelings about Clark, train herself to not wait for Superman to come to her window, and deal with the phone calls. Not to mention working on the story. She never looked over at Clark, even when another prank call came through.
The calls had started the day after Clark had flown out her window. Lois laughed. The idea of Clark, *flying*…
Not long after, her desk phone rang and the smile left her face. She picked up, already knowing what she would hear. A faint hiss, and then nothing.
But this time, that wasn't what she heard.
"Jimmy!" Clark flagged his friend down, who was obviously scurrying from task to task.
"Yeah, CK?" Jimmy was slightly out of breath.
"Have you seen Lois?"
Jimmy was relieved to be able finally to do something successfully. It had been a busy day, and it seemed like everyone had been yelling at him. Jimmy, get those photos, pronto! Jimmy, coffee! Jimmy, get me information on this symbol! Jimmy, pull up everything we've got on Superman!
"Yeah, Lois? She left about half an hour ago. After she heard about that other girl getting killed last night, she wanted me to pull up everything on symbols and Superman. When she left she told Chief she had an exclusive with Superman—"
Clark grabbed Jimmy's shoulder. "Did she say where?"
"No, but you can tell her—"
"Thanks, Jimmy!" Clark took off running towards the elevator, careful to keep himself at a human pace when all he wanted to do was fly harder and faster than he ever had before.
Had he not been so concerned about Lois, he might have paid more attention to what Jimmy had said.
"Tell her that the symbol has nothing to do with Superman."
Lois silently crept up the stairs of LexCorp's main tower. The whole time, she was mentally yelling at herself. If she was right, and she was about to meet the killer, who was obviously strong, what defense would she have? For a moment she concentrated on all she'd learned in her self-defense classes, but then her mind wandered as she waited for whoever it was to show.
Earlier, before the phone had rung, she'd been looking at the photos of the symbol that had been carved into the victim's bodies. But, Lois had suddenly thought, what if it hadn't been carved? What if it had been *burned*? With heat ray vision. Also, she already knew that Superman had a thing for strange symbols — perhaps this was a Kryptonian symbol no one else had seen?
But there was one major problem with her theory. Clark wouldn't hurt a fly. He couldn't! She'd seen how gentle he was as both personalities, and couldn't fathom him hurting anyone.
<<That's what they all say, Lane,>> she noted wryly to herself. On every news report about a serial killer, there was always a close friend saying how shocked he was. But something deep down told her that Clark was just incapable of anything so violent. For a while there, she had enjoyed suspecting him. She had been angry, and he had shattered the trust between them that had taken so long to build. <<But that doesn't mean your best friend is capable of murder,>> she thought. <<Just of keeping a big secret to preserve a private life.>>
But Lois *knew*, just from knowing Clark, that he would never knowingly hurt anything. Just from the few times he had held her, Lois had noticed the gentleness of his arms. With a start, she realized that Clark was more careful than she could ever imagine. He was Superman! He could easily crush someone like a bug with the lightest, for him, of touches. The control Clark exerted amazed Lois. It was now so painfully obvious — Clark would never, *could* never, hurt anything. Lois was suddenly ashamed of herself; ashamed of suspecting Clark and of the way she'd reacted to his news.
She could understand, but it still hurt. And she would never be able to completely forgive him for letting her think he was dead. He hadn't known, though, how much she cared for him. Perhaps he'd thought it wouldn't hurt her as much as it did. And that was partly her fault. She could have been more understanding, more compassionate — Lois wanted to run to Clark and apologize right then and there. She decided to find Clark and apologize. Maybe they could build something out of this wreck they'd created through secrets and mistrust.
But then the phone had rung, and the voice on the other end that claimed to be Superman was nothing like Clark's. The voice had told her to meet it at the bottom of the stairwell of LexCorp's tower. Lois thought it wouldn't hurt to get a leg up on the guy, literally, so she'd climbed up a couple flights of stairs.
And now it was too late to find Clark and apologize — a shuffling noise alerted her to the presence of someone and now the killer who had claimed to be Superman was a few steps below her, almost completely hidden in shadow. Lois held her breath, and hoped she was invisible.
Lois groaned at the voice greeting her from the darkness. No such luck. She stood. "Who are you?"
He came into a better-lit spot, and began slowly climbing up stairs. He was large, Clark's size, really, and he even —
Lois gasped. It couldn't be. He looked almost exactly like—
The man stopped, and a confused look came over his face. Then he smiled, and Lois wondered where the fleeting resemblance to Clark had come from. This man with the wild eyes looked nothing like her partner. Her eyes had played a frightening and disorienting trick on her.
"I'm Superman," he replied, grinning, and advanced on her. Lois froze, and wondered if she should attack, or run for it. At the last second, she decided to attack, almost leveling him with a few well-placed moves. Her attacker looked shocked; obviously, the other girls he'd gone after weren't brown belts.
She took her opportunity to scream, "Superman, help!"
Knowing even through his madness that when Lois Lane called, Superman came, the man scrambled to his feet and leapt over Lois, running eagerly for the roof. Lois was not about to let him get away that easily. She followed — and he knew it.
He ran up five more flights of stairs and exploded out onto the roof. Lois got to the door just in time to see him disappearing over the edge of the building, climbing down the fire escape ladder. Lois continued her run in hot pursuit of the killer.
But Lois had forgotten what time of year it was, and how cold it had been lately. There was a film of ice covering the whole roof, and as Lois ran her feet flew out from under her. She fell hard, knocking the wind out of her. She realized with horror that she was sliding forward, and that there was no kind of ledge to stop her from falling ten stories. And no breath meant no calling for Clark.
Clark was frantically zipping over Metropolis when he heard Lois's cry for help. His superhearing sharpened and he was able to zero in on her location. He zoomed downwards, desperately hoping against hope that he wasn't too late. So many times he'd heard calls that he hadn't been able to get to in time. It ate him up inside sometimes, but if he ever lost Lois, everything would be over. His heart pounded as he flew, and it seemed he was flying through a thick soup. He knew, in his heart, that Lois might never forgive him. But he didn't care. Even if she never spoke to him again, he needed to know she was safe. He needed to save her, and he'd never forgive himself if he didn't. Suddenly he took a deep dive, realizing with panic that Lois was very quickly falling off a roof to the hard pavement of the streets below.
Lois began her long fall slowly, seeing the man she had been following standing on the fire escape, grinning. It hadn't happened the way he wanted, of course, but the result was the same. She saw the clouds rushing away from her, and felt gravity pulling heavily on her. Then suddenly her body was jolted painfully and she began to rise. She wondered dreamily if she was dead …hitting the ground hadn't been that painful, and now she was being lifted up …
Lois shook herself back into reality. Clark had caught her! Tears flooded her eyes and her heart swelled. She wanted to thank him, she wanted to apologize, she wanted to tell him she loved him, she wanted to tell him he didn't repulse her, she wanted —
He set her down on the roof, by the door.
"Clark, the — he — The killer's on the fire escape!" He looked at her seriously.
"Stay right here." He disappeared down the side of the building, and then showed up again, for a moment, to let Lois see that he'd gotten the bad guy. Lois smiled in relief, and Clark flew off. Lois turned to go back into the building, and get to the Planet. She smiled as she walked, feeling content and calmer that she had in ages. She was safe — Clark had saved her again. And he had saved her in another way that had nothing to do with his superpowers. She wasn't angry anymore. After all, she thought to herself with a grin, no matter what happened to her, and no matter what curveballs life threw at her, there was always one constant. She always had a story to write.
So it ended in a way many tragedies have ended since Superman came to Metropolis — in the nick of time. Superman apprehended Michael Lyons, and saved the next victim in line, myself. We can only wish it could have ended sooner, and without the heartache it caused so many families."
The reporters were back at the Planet for the office's New Years Eve party, and Clark had just finished reading aloud with relish. Lois looked up at him from her desk. "You don't mind that I wrote it?"
"Not at all. You're the one who almost got killed. You deserve the credit. I can't get over that this guy thought he was *me*."
"I know," Lois replied. "He was mentally ill, and he'd stopped taking his medication. But Perry told me he was under strict supervision now, and on a higher doe of his pills."
"And the symbol?"
"According to Jimmy, it was close to a symbol used in ancient Greece to symbolize godliness. I guess he saw Superman as a god, and then thought he was that god …"
"So the symbol did have *something* to do with Superman."
"In a roundabout way. The symbol represented godliness, and since Lyons looked at Superman — and himself — as a god, I guess to him it worked as a link. I'm still shocked at how much he looked like you in that lighting, Clark! My heart almost stopped. I couldn't believe that …" Lois flushed slightly and wouldn't meet his eyes. They hadn't talked since her frightened outburst telling him that the killer was on the stairs. Lois hadn't apologized, and she hadn't told him about her suspicions. "Clark, I have a confession to make."
He grinned. "Sounds sinister."
She didn't smile back. "Oh, Clark, it is. I actually did think it was you for a while, but then I realized it was just because I was angry, and then I really didn't trust you after … you know. And then I thought you would have used your heat-vision, but you would never hurt anyone, and I'm so sorry, I feel terrible, but you still shouldn't have let me think …" She lowered her voice. "Let me think you were dead. But you couldn't have known …I guess I'm trying to say I forgive you." She paused. "And I'm sorry."
"I'm not," Clark responded. "I am just so relieved that you know. I wanted to tell you for so long, and now …" It was Clark's turn to turn a pinkish red, and they smiled awkwardly at each other. Both were relieved when Jimmy interrupted them. He handed them each a champagne glass.
"So, are you guys ready to celebrate?"
They exchanged an amused glance. "Just about, Jim," Clark answered, smiling. He lowered his voice as Jimmy headed over to Perry and his wife, Alice. "I just hope this holiday doesn't end the way the last one did."
The smile left Lois's face. "I'm sorry, Clark. But it was such a shock, and right after—" She looked around furtively. "Right after I thought you had died, too, and then our… Well." She blushed again. "It was just too much." Sitting at her desk, she placed one hand over his. She sensed something he had said half jokingly really did bother him, and she wanted to set him straight. "And, Clark, you don't repulse me." She saw him duck his head and swallow. "I — I really care about you, otherwise I wouldn't have …"
She trailed off, and Clark hurriedly pulled over a chair so he was on eye level with her. "Lois, please do *not* apologize. You were right. I should have told you everything sooner, but I was scared." He looked at her frankly, and grinned. "After all, Mad Dog Lane isn't someone you want to mess with, under any circumstances."
She grinned back, and was about to say something when Perry yelled out to the room,
The whole staff continued with him, but Lois and Clark just smiled.
"FOUR!! THREE!! TWO!! ONE!! Happy New Year!!!"
The whole room exploded in cheering and hugs and clinking glasses. Lois looked at Clark in his chair and leaned over, kissing him gently. She pulled back just enough to look into his eyes.
"Happy New Year, Clark," she said softly.
Clark grinned as catcalls broke out around them. They both laughed, embarrassed, and then Clark decided to ignore everyone else and kiss his partner again. He smiled against her lips.
"It is now," he said.