By Irene Dutch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2000
Summary: In this story set immediately following the episode "Wall of Sound," Clark Kent learns that a mix of Lois Lane and high-tech espionage garners interesting results.
This episode takes place directly after 'Wall of Sound' and before 'The Source'. Clark has not yet started using his Superman persona to direct Lois's attention to Clark, and Lois has not yet completely given up her crush on Superman.
Many thanks to Wendy Richards for her incredibly valuable constructive criticism. This story would be much poorer without her help. Also, many thanks to the readers at Zoom's message boards. As always, you've all been wonderfully helpful and encouraging. Thanks to Julie, my archive editor, for the fantastic job. Finally, thank you as always to Laurie, my faithful beta- reader. You are appreciated, Laurie.
The letter at the end of this story was taken from the authorized biography of the late Gerald Durrell, a wonderful writer and naturalist. It was written to his second wife just prior to their marriage. It was so beautiful that I knew I had to use it in a story.
All standard disclaimers apply.
"Anytime!" The Man of Steel launched himself into the sky and disappeared before the interested eyes of the construction workers. As he flew off, he smiled as he heard the buzz of conversation from the buddies of the man he had rescued. The worker had been pretty lucky. He would have been squashed like a bug if he had landed on the pavement thirty storeys below. Thank goodness he had screamed loud enough to catch the attention of Metropolis's resident superhero.
Clark soared through the air happily. He was so glad that this was his day off. It meant he had more time to fly. Flying was the one thing about being a superhero that he enjoyed the most — the freedom and joy of slicing across the sky, the wind whipping his cape out taut behind him. He grinned. His mom had been right. His cape did look pretty snazzy while flying.
Oh, yeah! That reminded him. He had promised his mom and dad that he'd call sometime today. For a second, he thought about quickly zipping home to his apartment, but it was so beautiful out that he decided not to.
He pulled to a stop, hovered in mid-air and took his cell phone out from where he had tucked it in the back of his briefs. Then, assessing the altitude, he dropped down below the clouds before dialling. He knew from experience that the phone wouldn't work well if he were too high.
"Hey, sweetie. How are you?"
The sound was pretty crackly, but he could hear his mother okay.
"Pretty good. How about you and Dad?"
"We're fine, but honey, I can barely hear you. Where are you?"
Clark grinned. "Hovering above Metropolis, about 5,000 feet in the air." He heard his mother laugh on the other end.
"That explains it. We'll just have to keep this short. Are you still planning on coming for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Depends what you're making, Mom."
"Don't get cheeky with me, Mr. 'oh so mighty' Superman. You might be the Man of Steel but you still have to answer to your mother."
"Yes, ma'am," Clark said, mock-apologetically.
"For your information, I thought I'd make meatloaf and mashed potatoes. How's that sound?"
"Great, Mom. I love your meatloaf."
"So, how's Lois? Been thrown out of any windows recently?"
"Not recently, Mom. She's as exasperating as always." Clark chuckled. "Entrancing as always, too."
"You really like her, don't you?" his mom asked, slyly.
"You know I do, Mom. I'm crazy about her. I've been thinking it's finally time to ask her out."
"What? I can't hear you," his mother shouted into the phone.
"I'm crazy about her!" Clark yelled back.
"Mom, can you hear me? Hello?"
Only static answered his efforts. Clark shrugged, folded his cell- phone back up and tucked it back into its hiding place. His arms snapped out as his legs extended back, and, on the spur of the moment, he headed for Smallville so that he could personally finish the conversation with his mother.
Lois Lane was enjoying a very different day off than the superhero. While he occupied himself with soaring through the air, she had been busy setting up her newest purchase.
After the embarrassment she had suffered going after Stokes with a radio-pen that hadn't worked properly for her, she had prevailed upon Jimmy to take her to his favourite high-tech spy shop. She shook her head. Who knew that 'Spies R Us' would ever be a fixture at the local mall?
They had spent a couple of very enjoyable hours browsing there. Lois had been tempted by a couple of things. The phone in a shoe had been fun, reminding her of one of her favourite TV shows when she had been growing up, but they had only stocked the masculine version of it. She really couldn't see herself wearing it with any of her skirts. The radio-pen had been appealing but Lois hadn't had much luck with it the first time she used it. Some of the books looked very interesting like 'How to Run an Interrogation' but when Lois checked it out, she had found that it had no information in it that she didn't already know. Then she'd seen it, the Olympus SVR1710, Deluxe Model. It wasn't strictly… legal, but it could be a lot of fun.
She looked down at the instruction manual once again: Chapter Two — Easy Set-Up Instructions. It didn't look too hard. This was going to be good!
What a fantastic day! Sunny and warm, it was an even better day than yesterday, Clark decided. He had enjoyed a perfect day off. Other than rescuing the construction worker who had fallen off the top floor of the high-rise building, Superman hadn't been needed for any rescues so Clark had spent the whole day flying. It had been too long since he'd had the time to do that, he thought. And then he'd had a great visit with his parents. Now he felt rejuvenated and ready to deal with whatever life had in store for him today.
No sooner had he emerged from the elevator than Lois pounced on him.
"Come with me. Now!" she ordered curtly as she dragged him into the conference room. Lois firmly shut the door and turned to face him. Her excitement was barely repressed, little sparks of electricity zinging from her eyes.
"What is it?" Clark asked, puzzled.
"Oooh, Clark, it's big. It's really big. But it's complicated. And big. Kerth material. Pulitzer even. But I don't know what to do."
"What is it?" Clark repeated.
"I'm not sure if I should tell you or not, but I have to tell someone, and you are my partner and my best friend, but you're a friend of his so I don't know if you're the best person to tell or not, but what else can I do?"
"Lois," Clark said, a little exasperated. "Just calm down, and tell me, okay?"
Lois smiled sheepishly. "Okay. Well, it's kind of complicated but… Remember Jimmy and his spy-pen?"
"Yeah," Clark answered, wishing Lois would just get to the point.
Unfortunately, it took Lois a few minutes to get to the point. After treating Clark to an extended monologue about the pros and cons of various pieces of highly illegal and unethical pieces of high-tech equipment, Lois finally told Clark what she had purchased for herself.
"You bought what?" he asked incredulously.
"An Olympus SVR1710, Deluxe Model."
"What in the world is an Olympus SVR1710?"
"Deluxe Model!" Lois pointed out.
"Lois!" Clark exclaimed, his patience nearing an end.
"Well…" Lois looked a little embarrassed. "It's for eavesdropping on other people's cell phone conversations."
"But, but, that's not very…"
"Ethical? I know." Lois grimaced briefly before continuing. "But everyone knows that cell phones aren't very secure. If someone has something to hide, he should know better and use a more secure phone line. Don't you agree?"
Lois flashed him a brilliant grin. "You are such a boy-scout! Listen, Clark, everyone knows not to use them. Ever since that right-wing politician got caught whispering sweet nothings to Mistress Cecile, the Leather Queen, no one says anything on a cell phone that they wouldn't want others to hear. Anyway, Clark, I got us a fantastic story except I don't know what to do with it. It's kind of personal, too."
Clark sighed. "You're telling me that you spied on someone and got something really juicy on tape, but you don't know how to use it yet, aren't you?"
"Well… It's not on tape; I hadn't set up the recorder yet. I wish it was so I could listen to it over and over again, but it is juicy and… well… You're right. I really don't know what to do about it."
To Clark's surprise, Lois blushed a deep pink. He grinned at her. "Well, are you going to share this great story with me or not?"
Lois smiled up at him sheepishly. "I guess so. It's just so, so confusing and exciting and…"
"Lois! You're driving me crazy here. Just spit it out," Clark told her forcefully.
"Okay, here goes." Lois ducked her head for a second and then looked Clark directly in the eyes. "I overheard a phone conversation and, well, you're not going to believe it, but it was between Superman and his mother!"
"What?" Clark gasped.
"It's big news that Superman has a mother here on earth. Of course he has a mother — I knew that, but I really thought she was still on Krypton or something. I mean, no one knows anything about his personal life, but that's not all." Lois looked around the conference room. Even though it was empty, she lowered her voice anyway. "I also heard him tell his mother that he's crazy about me!"
Clark's mouth fell open. Lois danced back from him and threw herself down into a chair. A big, goofy grin spread across her face, and she hugged herself ecstatically.
"Did you hear what I said, Clark? The man's in love with me. He wants to ask me out."
Clark shook his head. "That's… that's…"
A giant burst of laughter erupted from Lois's mouth. "I know. It's… it's fantastic. It's wonderful. It's…" She jumped out of her chair and left the conference room, still talking excitedly to herself.
"Unbelievable," Clark muttered quietly as he followed, shaking his head. It wasn't such a great day after all. He winced as Lois started humming 'Someday My Prince Will Come.'
"What did you say then, honey?" Martha topped up Clark's cup of tea.
"What was there left to say, Mom? Not a lot." Clark ran his hands through his hair. "Lois wouldn't have heard me anyway. She mooned all over the office for the rest of the day — didn't do any work… At least I talked her out of writing it up."
"How'd you do that, son?" Jonathan asked.
"Well, thankfully she hadn't got to chapter three of her instruction manual so she hadn't set things up to tape or to trap phone numbers. I just pointed out that she didn't have a hard copy of any of it, and therefore she had no proof."
"That worked?" Martha shook her head.
Clark smiled ruefully. "I don't think it would have if she hadn't been so completely… completely…"
"Completely what, son?"
"Completely swept away, Dad. She was acting like she was in the middle of one of those trashy romance novels that she likes to read sometimes."
Jonathan smiled. "So, tell me again, Clark. Why is this a bad thing? You love her. She loves you. Everything's great, isn't it?"
"Oh, Jonathan," Martha snapped. "You know that Clark wants to be loved for himself and not for Superman!"
"Exactly, Mom. And I have no idea how I'll ever get her to forget about Superman now." He stared gloomily at the dregs of his tea. "I guess I'm just going to have to completely ignore her when I'm in the suit."
"What, Mom?" Clark looked over to see his mother completely lost in thought.
Martha stared into space for a moment before looking at her son with a wide grin. "Unless you give her exactly what she thinks she wants."
"What do you mean, Martha?" Jonathan asked, puzzled.
Martha started to giggle. "Well, she worships Superman. She looks up to Superman. You could say she adores Superman. But what does she really know about Superman?"
Clark scratched his head. "I'm not sure I understand where you're going with this, Mom."
"Think about it, Clark. She knows that Superman's got some pretty unique abilities. She knows that he's drop-dead gorgeous."
"Well, Clark, you are. No point denying it. I might be your mother, but I can be objective. But what else does anyone really know about Superman? What stands out?"
Clark thought hard for a minute. "Well, he's ethical."
"Perhaps even… overly ethical," Martha pointed out.
"He doesn't have much of a sense of humour," Jonathan said.
"Or read many books or go to movies," Clark added, starting to smile. "He's probably a pretty boring conversationalist."
Jonathan started to chuckle in the background.
Martha grinned. "In fact, the one thing that's said the most about Superman is he's…"
"Too good to be true!" Clark and Jonathan shouted out, in unison before breaking into laughter.
As Clark strode into the newsroom, he felt a little bit better about life than he had the day before. He and his parents had brainstormed into the wee small hours of the Kansas night, and they had come up with a tentative plan. Now all that remained was the opportunity to put it into practice.
Lois was still acting pretty giddy. She jumped every time something came over the newswire only to be disappointed when the news inevitably turned out to be about something or someone other than Superman.
Clark, however, was a little relieved that it was a slow day for his alter ego. He was quite nervous about putting his plan into action.
A few minutes after lunch, however, and both Clark and Lois were able to hear the disturbing sound of sirens filling the air. Lois ran to the window and peered out. "Clark, it's a fire. Over on the next block." She turned back to him with a dreamy smile on her face. "What do you bet he'll show up?"
"No bet," Clark said calmly, trying to hide his nervousness from her. "Why don't you go ahead and take this story? I know you want to see Superman. I'll just finish transcribing a few notes."
Lois beamed at him. "Thanks, Clark. You're a great partner!" She grabbed her purse and ducked into the elevator. As soon as the doors closed behind her, Clark was gone — up the stairs and off the roof, arriving at the fire before she had even made it out of the Planet building.
It was an easily controlled blaze, Clark thought gratefully a few minutes later. Thankfully, there was no loss of life and only minor damage to the building. As he finished making his report to the fire chief, Clark glanced surreptitiously at the assembled reporters on the sidewalk just outside the door. There she was, Lois Lane, intrepid reporter, right in the middle of them. His attention was drawn back to the fire chief when the man thanked him, however.
"You're welcome. I was just glad to be of assistance," Clark said, stiffly. "And now, if there's nothing more that you need me to do, I guess it's time for you to go and issue a brief statement to the press."
The other man nodded in agreement. Clark took a deep breath and then, trailing the fire chief, strode over to the small knot of reporters. A bevy of questions were shouted at him, but he held his hand up requesting silence so that the chief could speak.
"We're not sure what the cause of the fire was," the other man said. "It doesn't look suspicious. There were no signs of any incendiary devices or of any catalyst materials. There was no loss of life, and property damage is minimal. Any questions?"
Thankfully there were none. Clark didn't like it when there were, as the reporters always addressed their questions to Superman, completely ignoring the professionals at the scene. He didn't like how that reflected on the fire fighters or the police, but unfortunately, Superman was big news, and others more worthy got ignored when he was around. He did his best to stay in the background, but it didn't work too well. Mom had made his suit pretty visible, after all.
The reporters grumbled as they left, a couple of them mumbling 'thank you', obviously disappointed by the sheer mundane nature of the fire. The fire chief thanked Clark for his assistance, shook his hand and went back to join his people as they packed their equipment back up. It only took a moment before Lois was the only person left standing in front of him.
Clark took a deep breath as he looked into her hopeful eyes. Show time! "Uh, Lois? Hi. I'm glad to see you. Um, there's something that I wanted to ask you…" He let his voice trail off.
"Yes?" Lois said, eagerly. Colour flooded her cheeks.
Clark smiled tightly. "I would be honoured if you would go out with me on a date."
Lois's breath caught in her throat, but she recovered quickly. "I… Uh, that would be great, Superman!" she answered enthusiastically.
"Good! Would tonight be too soon? If so, next week might be better…"
"No," Lois interrupted, quickly. "Tonight's fine. What time?"
"Eight?" Clark asked.
"Great. I'll, uh, leave a window open for you, if that's okay."
"Good. I'll see you tonight." Clark smiled warmly at Lois. He lifted his head and cocked it sideways. "Um, I'd offer you a lift back to work but someone's calling for help. See you tonight." And he launched himself into the air without further ado. He snuck a peak at Lois before soaring out of sight and groaned when he saw the adoring expression on her face. Well, hopefully tonight's date would put paid to her crush on Superman.
"So what happened on your 'date', honey?" Martha asked Clark eagerly as she poured him a cup of coffee.
Clark smiled. "Well, I showed up right on time — eight o'clock on the dot. I took her a huge, out of control bouquet of flowers that I had picked myself. They were pretty, I'll admit, but there were a heck of a lot of them. I apologized for them, saying that I wished I actually had an income so I could have paid for nicer ones. Of course, Lois made light of that. She told me she loved them. I don't think she appreciated getting pricked by the thorns as she cut them to size to fit in a vase, but, other than a few, very muffled curses, she didn't say." Clark helped himself to a muffin, and Jonathan passed him the butter.
"And then what?"
"And then we talked — or at least she talked and I listened. She was so nervous it was pretty painful to listen to her with a straight face, but I managed it. She talked about a few books that she'd read — of course, Superman doesn't get much free time to read so I couldn't discuss them with her — and she talked about a show that had been on TV — and of course, Superman doesn't own a TV so those conversations kind of fizzled out pretty quickly. She told me a few jokes. Unfortunately, most of them involved people being placed in situations that were slightly ridiculous. She didn't like it when I analysed each joke to show why we really shouldn't laugh at other people's misfortunes."
Martha giggled as she passed Clark the bowl of scrambled eggs. He helped himself to a heaping spoonful as he continued.
"I asked her about her day, nodded politely and acted like I had no clue what she was talking about. Then she asked me about mine and I recited a list of major and minor assorted good deeds from all over the world. By the time I got to the twentieth rescue of cats from trees — in glowing detail, I might add — her eyes were glazing over, and she was struggling not to yawn."
Jonathan laughed. "So was that it for your date?"
"Oh, no," Clark answered. "I asked her if she'd like to go for a walk. She jumped for her jacket pretty quickly. I think she'd have done anything to escape our conversation."
Martha chuckled. "I recognise that glint in your eye. What did you do to the poor girl?"
"I took her for a walk," Clark said innocently. "Of course, it really wouldn't have been a good idea for people to see us together — Lois had to agree after I pointed out all the problems inherent in it…" He paused, smiled and chuckled.
"All the problems?" Martha asked, quick to pick up on the implications.
"Well, maybe not all of them," Clark answered, his eyes twinkling. "I think she cut me off when I got to the twenty-third reason why it would really not be a good thing for people to know we were on a date. Anyway, I warned her that we wouldn't be going for a walk in Metropolis, and she should wear proper walking shoes. It wasn't my fault that she didn't listen."
"Where'd you take her, son?" Jonathan leaned forward and fixed Clark with a steely gaze.
"Don't look at me like that, Dad. I did warn her."
"Where'd you take her?" Jonathan repeated, the corners of his mouth twitching.
"To the Sahara. Lois's heels were pretty useless on the sand. We, uh, tottered around in the middle of nowhere for about ten minutes, I flew her home with a whole bunch of apologies, fervently shook her hand, and our date was over. I was home in time to catch the end of the ball game!"
"Oh, that poor girl!" Martha exclaimed.
Clark chuckled. "I know."
Martha eyed him for a long moment as he scraped his plate clean. "Just don't get to enjoy this too much, Clark. You're trying to discourage her attentions to Superman, not torment her."
Clark nodded. "I know, Mom. Don't worry." He stood up and grabbed his suit jacket from the back of the kitchen chair. "Anyway, thanks for breakfast. I've got to run if I want to get to work on time."
"Anytime, sweetie." Martha tipped her face up to Clark's as he kissed her. Then he clapped Jonathan on the back and was gone in a whoosh.
Martha picked up her cup and delicately sipped her coffee. She eyed her husband solemnly over the edge of the cup. "Jonathan?"
"Why do I have a horrible feeling that we're overlooking something really obvious?"
"How was your date last night?"
Lois looked up with a scowl to see Clark holding out a full mug of coffee for her to take. "Fine," was all that she managed to say as she looked up into his smiling face. Was he smirking, Lois wondered? He almost looked as though he was.
"So, did he sweep you off your feet?"
Lois grimaced, thinking of how Superman had had to scoop her up in his arms after she had stumbled yet again on the hot desert sands. "Yeah, you could say that," she answered, sourly.
"Great!" Clark exclaimed, grinning broadly. "Are you two going out again?"
"I'm not sure, but I hope so," Lois replied sincerely. "I'd really like to." And she did want to give it another try. Superman was so wonderful that it was hard for her to believe that he had been such a, such a… dud as a date. It must have been a really off night or something. There was no way that it could be that bad two dates in a row. Could it?
Clark's face fell at her words. It was almost as if he were disappointed by her answer. But why would he be disappointed? Superman was a really wonderful person. Why would Clark not want his best friend to date a great guy and be happy? It wasn't as if Clark were harbouring romantic feelings for her. He had recanted his earlier declaration of love as soon as he could.
As the day wore on, Clark continued to act somewhat out of character. His reactions were just… off, somehow. It was hard to pinpoint, but there was definitely something different about him. And the night before, there had been something different about Superman and how he reacted, too. Was this whole weird behaviour thing catching?
Superman had been gallant per usual, but he hadn't been himself. He hadn't acted nervous, Lois didn't think that was the problem, but she couldn't pinpoint what was. It was as if he had closed himself off from reacting to her, which was very odd for someone on a date. And the man had acted as if he had no sense of humour, and that just wasn't right. Lois had always seen signs of a fairly well developed funny bone in him before, but it had certainly been missing last night. Hmmm, Lois was suddenly filled with a burning desire to try it again and maybe get to the root of why Superman had acted so strangely.
"Clark," Lois said.
"Yes, Lois." He looked up from his work.
"Do you think you could contact Superman for me? I have something I want to ask him."
Clark stared at her for a long moment, his expression completely blank. "I think so, Lois. Do you want him to meet you somewhere or come here or what?"
"Um, I think I'll go to Centennial Park on my way home. Maybe he could meet me there around five."
"I'll ask him, Lois." Clark pushed himself up from his desk and stiff legged, strode from the newsroom. Off to use whatever mysterious means was at his disposal for contacting the big guy, Lois guessed. Hmmm, as soon as she'd figured out what was going on with Superman, she was going to work on what was wrong with Clark. With a sigh, she bent her head back over her work.
"It didn't work!" Clark exclaimed as he paced back and forth in the small farmhouse kitchen. Out of character for him, he had flown home in a panic in the middle of his workday so that he could consult with his mother. His father was absent, working in the fields.
"These things take time," Martha said, soothingly.
"But I don't want it to take time," Clark answered, a little petulantly. "I want Lois to fall for 'me', not 'him'."
"I know you do, honey, but you can't force her."
Clark sighed. "You're right, I know. It's just that I've been in love with her for so long, it's hard to not be completely frustrated."
"So, are you going to meet her after work?"
"What choice do I have, Mom? All I know is if Lois were to say 'jump', I'd probably ask 'how high'. I love her. Of course I'm going to meet her."
"You don't know what she wants to tell you. Don't obsess. Just go and listen, and don't worry."
Clark smiled ruefully. "I'll try not to, Mom. Thanks."
"Anytime, sweetheart. Now get. You better scoot back to work before you're missed."
As Martha watched her son disappear in a colourful blur, she shook her head. She still had the feeling that they were all missing something really, really obvious. What was it? Oh, well, she was sure that it would come to her in time.
Lois looked up into the blue of the sky to see Superman gliding down to meet her. She smiled warmly at him. "Hi," was all she said.
"Clark said you wanted to see me…" Superman's voice trailed off.
"Yes, I did. I was hoping that you might be free for dinner tonight. At my place."
As Lois watched, the expression on Superman's face didn't just freeze, it congealed. A moment later, he smiled with his mouth, but the expression didn't touch his eyes.
"I'd like that. Thank you, Lois. What time?"
"Seven if that's okay," she said as she tried to figure out what Superman was thinking to react the way that he had. It made no sense. Why would he look upset to be asked out if he wanted to be with her? Had he changed his mind? Did he not find her attractive anymore? She didn't know what to think.
"That's fine. Thanks. So, can I give you a lift home?" Superman asked.
Lois looked up at him with an absentminded smile, her mind working a mile a minute. "No, that's okay. Thanks. I'll see you later."
He smiled and was gone.
Lois looked at her watch. She'd better hustle. She had to buy a new dress, and then she wanted to shower, change and order the best take-out possible. She didn't want tonight to turn into another fiasco like last night.
It was another morning and again, time for breakfast in Smallville, Kansas.
Martha brought the platter of waffles to the table, sat down and fixed her son with a steely gaze. "So? Spill it!"
Clark quickly speared half a dozen of the lightly browned waffles onto his plate and saturated them with syrup before looking at his mom and sheepishly smiling. "Well, she went all out," Clark said. "She ordered dinner from Luigi's — Pasta Primavera. And there were candles on the table. She dressed up, too. She looked fantastic!" Clark looked off into space as he remembered exactly how fantastic she had looked.
"Earth to Clark! Come in, Clark!"
Jonathan laughed. "Just wanted to get your attention again, son. So then what?"
"Well, I ended up relaxing a bit. I had no choice. She tried so hard. She had obviously put a lot of thought into what we could talk about that didn't relate to rescues, TV or books. She asked me a lot of questions about my travels around the world, and what did I like here or there? I couldn't not answer without being rude. I tried not to go into too many details, though."
"Did you take her for any more walks?" Martha asked.
"No. I didn't have to. There wasn't time." Clark smiled.
Martha knew that look. "What did you do? I can tell you did something."
"Well… I did have to leave — repeatedly — all through dinner and dessert. I must have had to reheat my coffee four times before I could drink it all."
Jonathan stopped eating and put down his knife and fork. "So, what happened?"
"Not really all that much," Clark answered innocently. "Just a bunch of fender-benders. I put out a fire in a vacant field. And I replaced a chain on a bike. Oh, yeah, I helped umpire a kids' baseball game in Connecticut. Little things. You know."
Her expression troubled, Martha admonished her son. "Just don't start enjoying this too much."
Lois Lane slumped down in her chair and sighed. This was just so not fair. There had always been such a spark between Superman and her, a sense of a strong connection, and yet their dates were such complete duds. The crazy thing was that Lois could still feel the connection between them, but it was almost as though Superman were intentionally ignoring it. But why? He'd seemed to be having fun last night. It had been better than the previous night anyway although that wasn't saying a lot. But Superman had been more relaxed and had talked more. Lois had enjoyed his company — when he had actually been there, that is.
As if this whole Superman thing wasn't bad enough, she also had to worry about Clark Kent. He just wasn't acting right. He was being really weird. He had asked her about her date again just like he had yesterday, but then he had reacted as if he already knew how it went. But how could that be? Unless… Lois flushed, a rush of heat going through her whole system. Unless Superman had told Clark everything. He wouldn't have, would he? That wasn't Superman's style. Was it?
Lois lifted her head to look around the newsroom. Where was Clark anyway? He'd been working diligently at his desk, his cell phone had rung, and boom! He'd dashed out like his house was on fire. Lois's eyes narrowed as she lost herself in thought. Who had called Clark on his cell phone? Could it possibly have been Superman? With a breaking news story? That he was passing on to Clark and not to Lois, his new girlfriend? If Clark came back with another Superman scoop, he better watch out, Lois thought angrily. Yes, he'd better watch his step!
Hey! If Superman did call Clark from time to time, then didn't it make sense that Clark must call Superman from time to time? Which meant… Clark Kent had Superman's cell phone number. That rat — he'd better give it up or else!
Having successfully quelled an out of state prison riot, Clark made his way back to work. He congratulated himself that he had only been absent for an hour and a half, and that his absence had luckily fallen near the lunch hour. After he sat down at his desk, he quickly typed up the prison riot story to LAN to Perry. As he worked, an uneasy, 'prickling at the back of his neck' type feeling grew slowly until it forced him to look up and look around for its source. He surveyed the bustling newsroom before turning and looking at Lois. As soon as he saw her, he knew that she was the source of his uneasiness. She looked at him as if she wanted to bore holes in him and examine what was inside.
"Uh, Lois? Is something wrong?"
"Nope. Not at all, Clark. Why do you ask?"
Even though her words were innocuous enough, her expression didn't change at all as she said them.
"Uh, no reason. You just don't look very happy…" his voice trailed off as her glare intensified.
"I'm fine. Really," she said insincerely before getting up and moving to the edge of his desk. "Hot story?" she asked, peering at his computer screen.
"Yeah," Clark answered. "I had to go out to, uh, meet a source, and while I was out, I ran into Superman who told me about a prison riot. Got a great interview from him about it."
"That's good, Clark," Lois said, patting his shoulder. "Great!" She spat the last word out venomously.
"But?" Clark looked at Lois in concern.
"Who was on the phone, Clark?"
"Before you ran out of here? Who called?"
Clark had to concentrate, consciously thinking back to earlier in the day. Who had called? Oh, yeah, it had been…
"A wrong number," he answered, honestly.
"Uh huh," was all that Lois said in response. She jumped down from the corner of his desk, fixed him with her most scathing look and stalked back to her desk.
What was her problem, he wondered. However, as the day wore on, she did respond to his comments and questions and seemed like her old self once more. Clark put her earlier behaviour out of his mind and didn't obsess about it. He was able to say goodnight to her without worrying. It was a relief that they didn't have a date tonight, though. Maintaining this pretence was very wearing. He needed a break from it.
Lois watched the elevator doors close behind her partner. Good thing, too. It had been pretty hard maintaining this cool and calm exterior. She was so angry she wouldn't have been surprised in the slightest to have smoke emerge from her ears!
A wrong number! Yeah, right! What a stupid lie. How gullible did he really think she was? Did he think she was galactically stupid? Well, Mr. Clark 'Keep Superman all to himself' Kent had another think coming! She'd get proof of his perfidy, and then she'd grind his nose in it. She wasn't going to let him get away with any of this!
She grabbed her jacket and her purse and sprang to her feet. She had some heavy duty shopping to do!
Later that evening, Lois surveyed her newest purchase with a great deal of satisfaction. She had put a lot of thought into what she needed before she bought it. A teeny, tiny little radio transmitter and receiver called 'The Bug' had been very tempting, but its range was too limited. She had been lucky once when she had picked up the cell phone conversation at the very limit of its range. She didn't want to count on luck again.
Also, it was entirely possible that Superman visited Clark at his apartment from time to time, and Lois had no idea whether or not he might be able to hear the radio waves that the transmitter would broadcast. No, in the end, Lois had decided to go for 'The Card'. It was a mini voice-activated tape recorder about the shape of a credit card. Now she just needed an opportunity to place it. She sat back and thought for a minute before picking up the phone and dialling.
"Hi, Clark? I was wondering if you'd like to have breakfast with me tomorrow… I thought we could try that new place, Callards… I'll pick you up about eight… Great! See you then."
Lois hung up the phone and grinned, ear to ear, as she thought about how she was going to teach Clark Kent a lesson.
Two things happened simultaneously in Clark Kent's apartment the next morning. His alarm went off and there was a loud, cheery rat- a-tat-tat at his door. He quickly grabbed his glasses and stumbled to the door, opening it to discover the smiling face of his partner.
"Jeez, Lois, it's 7:30. You said 8."
"Yeah, I know, but, uh, I woke up early and felt so good…" Lois's voice trailed off.
Clark yawned mightily, stretched and stepped back from the door, gesturing vaguely at his couch. "Well, you're going to have to wait. I have to shower and shave still."
"No problem, Clark. I don't mind waiting."
Lois sat in a stunned silence on Clark's couch. Wow! What a great way to start the day — being greeted by Clark who was only wearing a pair of sleep shorts! And when he had stretched, Lois could swear her pulse rate had actually gone up. Luckily he had been pretty oblivious to the effect he'd had on his partner. And he shouldn't have that effect on her she admonished herself. She was involved with another man. Reluctantly, Lois forced herself not to dwell on Clark's wonderfully attractive physical attributes.
Lois could hear the water start up in the shower. Good. She pulled 'The Card' out of her purse and looked around the apartment. Where was the best place to hide it? It had to be out in the middle of things and someplace where she'd have no trouble retrieving it. She thought for a moment and then smiled before inserting her hand — tape recorder tucked inside — between two of the cushions on Clark's couch. Great! A perfect hiding place.
And now, Lois planned on thoroughly enjoying herself this morning thereby giving her an excuse to suggest that they go for breakfast again tomorrow. She'd plan on being early again so she could retrieve her newest toy with Clark safely out of the way.
As he bustled around his apartment, Clark reflected on the mercurial being that was his partner. He never knew what mood she'd be in but he found her entrancing in any mood. Even when she was angry he was delighted by her. Well, delighted and irritated all at once. Today, she'd been great company. Funny and lively, she'd made the day an absolute joy. When Lois had suggested having breakfast with him again tomorrow, he'd been quick to offer to make it for her instead. He had been pleased by the speed with which she'd accepted his offer.
Thank goodness she hadn't asked him to contact Superman. He didn't know how much longer he could keep up this pretence. But it was necessary, he reflected. He wanted to be with Lois as himself. He wanted her to appreciate Clark Kent and not Superman. He wanted to share his life with her. He wanted… He wanted to tell her the truth about himself.
And then he groaned as reality crashed in on him, and he realised exactly what was wrong with his big plan. How in the world would he ever be able to tell Lois the truth about himself when he'd been putting so much energy into this stupid play-acting? How would she ever believe that it hadn't been his intention to make a fool out of her? Because that was what she was going to think. He knew Lois, and he knew how her mind worked. She was going to feel humiliated. She was going to feel rejected. And she was going to feel hurt, really, really hurt. Oh, man, he had to do some major thinking about this! He wanted to call his mom and get her input, too. He needed a woman's perspective on this.
But that was going to have to wait. His sensitive ears picked up the sound of a bank alarm. With a spin and a whoosh, he was gone.
The next night, Lois sat down and carefully rewound the tape from 'The Card' and prepared to listen to it. Retrieving it hadn't been hard; waiting to have the privacy to listen to it had been.
Clark had cooked a wonderful breakfast for her. She had really enjoyed it. But Clark had looked really upset and worried about something, although he had denied it when she'd asked him what was wrong. A couple of times he'd seemed to be on the verge of saying something, but he hadn't followed through. If Lois weren't still pretty incensed about Clark keeping his Superman contact information pretty close to his chest, she'd have been a bit more worried about him and would have pushed him a bit harder to tell her what was wrong. As it stood, she was feeling more than a little bit guilty about spying on her best friend. But it was his own fault, she told herself, working hard to be convincing. He should know better than to try and hide things from her!
Lois took a deep breath and pushed 'play'.
The first thing she heard was a deep, masculine, worried groan followed by the click of the voice-activated tape recorder turning itself back off. Ha! She'd known that Clark was upset about something. Nice to be right, she thought smugly.
The second thing she heard was a bit puzzling. It sounded like… What did it sound like? Lois rewound it and played it back again. It sounded like… a tornado? A vacuum cleaner? She couldn't tell. It was followed by a great whooshing sound, short in duration. What was Clark Kent doing in the privacy of his home? Some weird Kansas thing?
She heard the click of the recorder once more and then the whoosh once again. Then she heard the sound of a pair of feet running quickly on the hardwood floor, followed by the muffled sound of running water. It didn't sound like a toilet flushing, Lois thought, feeling very puzzled. It sounded like a shower, but it was so short. What was Clark doing — checking the water pressure or something? There was that mini-tornado sound once again, and then Lois could hear the sound of his footsteps once more.
Lois was able to interpret the muffled slamming sounds as that of the fridge and cupboards being opened and closed. Clark was obviously about to cook himself supper. She heard the 'thwack, thwack' of a knife on a cutting board but scratched her head in bemusement as the sound of it got faster and faster until it sounded almost continuous. Strange, really strange.
'The Card' was really awesome. It even picked up the sounds of whatever Clark had chopped up, hitting a hot pan and sizzling. Maybe a stir-fry, Lois thought. She heard the scrape of a chair against the floor and then the unmistakable sounds of the rattle of cutlery followed by water running into a sink and the vigorous sound of a person washing dishes. But everything was happening so fast! Clark didn't normally eat that fast. Did he just put on his gentlemanly manners in public? Was he really a pig in the privacy of his home?
Lois waited patiently while she listened to Clark moving around his apartment. He switched on the TV for a moment, but switched it off again almost immediately. He sighed a couple of times, and she heard him walking back and forth on the hard floor. It was getting really monotonous to listen to. Finally, thankfully, she heard his phone ring.
"Hello… Oh, hi, Mom."
Lois jumped guiltily at the sound of his voice. He sounded so sad, so depressed. What was wrong? Why hadn't he told her his problems? That was what friends were for, wasn't it?
"Not good, Mom. I was doing some thinking, and I think I've screwed up big time… I don't think the plan we came up with was a good one… It's not fair to Lois… Oh, you'd figured that out, too… Yeah, you're right. When we think things through, it's pretty obvious."
Lois hit the 'pause' button. Huh? What's not fair to Lois? What plan? Feeling very worried all of a sudden, Lois firmly pressed the 'play' button once more.
"I know, Mom. I thought it was a good plan, too, but I forgot one thing… How am I ever going to be able to tell Lois the truth now? She'll hate me!"
I'll hate him if he doesn't hurry up and tell me exactly what he's talking about, Lois thought angrily as she kept listening.
"You know, I had it all worked out before. It would have been so much better. Superman was going to gradually lose interest in Lois — you know, distance himself — and I was going to slowly show her how much I really do care for her. You know I've wanted to ask her out for a while. I told you the other day. I would have courted her. And then, as we started to get closer, and if she felt about me, the real me, the way I feel about her, well, then, I would have told her everything."
Lois hit 'pause' once again. Superman was going to gradually distance himself? How did Clark know that? Had Superman told him that, she wondered indignantly. But Superman had expressed interest in her just the other day when he had talked on the phone with his mom. And he had asked her out.
And what did Clark mean when he said 'the real me'? He was her best friend. She knew the real Clark Kent already! And what would he have told her, and why couldn't he tell her now? Oooh, this was all so confusing!
Then the real shock to her system hit. Clark had said he had been going to court her. He had said 'the way I feel about her'. Did he mean… Could it be… Was Clark in love with her? It sure sounded like it. And if his mom knew, then this wasn't a recent development. Had Clark been in love with her for a long time? Lois shook her head, puzzled and unsettled. She pressed the 'play' button once more.
"Sometimes I hate Superman, you know. I hate the whole idea of him! If it hadn't been for him, it wouldn't have taken me so long to become Lois's friend. If it hadn't been for him, she might have given me a chance! We might be together, you know, dating, or maybe even married."
"I love her so much, Mom, and it's killing me that I can't be with her the way I want to be."
Tears rolled down Lois's cheeks as she listened to Clark share his feelings with his mother. His voice was so anguished, naked and vulnerable, and his feelings so passionate and freely expressed. She was in shock. It tore at her heart to know that she had hurt him so badly. She ached knowing that her best friend was in such pain.
"I don't know what to do now, Mom. I've made Lois look like a fool and when she finds out, she'll never forgive me. She'll never believe that I screwed up this badly because I love her, and I'm jealous of myself."
Huh? Lois rewound the tape a bit to listen to this part of the conversation again. What did he mean, jealous of himself? And how had he made her look like a fool?
"I don't know, Mom. You don't know Lois like I do. I don't know how in the world I could ever tell her now. I should never have done it. She was just supposed to lose interest in Superman, but I didn't mean to make an idiot out of her. Oh, God, I wish I'd never invented Superman!"
What? He wished he'd never what?? He didn't invent Superman. He couldn't invent Superman. Superman was a person. Superman was… Superman was… a disguise. Superman was a man with insecurities. Superman was … Clark Kent. Lois sat frozen as the tape played on.
"I'm sorry to dump all this on you, Mom. Thanks for listening. I'm really glad you called… No, I don't know what I'm going to do now… I want Lois to know the truth more than anything in the world, and I just don't see how that will ever happen now… Superman hasn't asked her out again, and she hasn't asked him either… I don't know exactly how I'd act if we did. Not like an idiot like I did before, that's for sure. I can't believe I was so stupid, so condescending, so… Oops, got to go, Mom. Sounds like an accident on the freeway… I love you, too. Say 'hi' to Dad for me."
Lois heard the click of the phone being hung up and then she heard the mini-tornado again followed by the whoosh. Clark had changed into his Superman outfit and taken off in a flash, she realised, her new knowledge helping her to interpret the sounds correctly. Lois turned off the tape recorder and sat quietly, listening to her heart speaking to her in the silence of her apartment.
She should be angry, but she couldn't bring herself to it. The pain in his voice, the despair, it tore at her. What had she done to Clark? How could she have been so shallow? She had rejected Clark only to embrace Superman. Now she understood his anger. Now she understood why he had lashed out at her.
But now that she understood, what was she going to do to resolve this? What could she do? She blanched as she realised what a totally unforgivable thing she had done. She had spied on her best friend — twice! She had betrayed him. He didn't think she could forgive him? How was he ever going to be able to forgive her?
She dashed the tears away from her eyes and picked up her phone. She had to call… She needed to talk to him.
Clark got home around 11:30 after a rescue in Hob's Bay to find a message waiting for him on his answering machine.
"Hi, Clark, it's me. If you get home before 10, would you mind coming over? I have to talk to you. Thanks, I appreciate it. Oh, if you get home later, maybe instead, you could meet me at my place around 8 tomorrow morning. I hope that's okay."
She sounded so subdued, Clark thought. He wondered what was wrong. He checked his watch and sighed. Looked like it would have to wait until tomorrow.
Lois couldn't help it. She'd tried, repeatedly, but she just couldn't sit still. Her couch had never seemed more uncomfortable than it did this morning. She paced back and forth, trying once more to organize her thoughts for her coming talk with Clark.
If Clark had come over last night like she had hoped, this would have been easier to do, but he hadn't. Not being able to get to sleep last night, Lois had had lots and lots of time to work herself up. She'd had time to squirm in embarrassment for all the times that she'd thrown herself at Superman, while simultaneously putting down Clark Kent. She'd had time to think about all the times Superman had been there for her, and how many times she'd had Clark's unequivocal support.
But then she'd also had time to think about how he had deceived her. Oh, she couldn't be mad that he had hidden his nature from her. She understood that. Really. Well, mostly. But there had been so many times that he'd used his knowledge to tease her — like when he had dropped in after the Kerth awards and caught her gloating over her own trophies after she'd told Clark that she kept them in a closet. It wasn't that big a deal, but even so, she couldn't help feeling as though she'd been the butt of a joke. Of course, on the other hand, if she were going to lose a Kerth award to someone, well, who better to lose to than Superman? Except he really wasn't — Superman, that is. Except he was. No, wasn't.
And another thing — those jokes she'd told 'Superman' the other day — she'd got those jokes from Clark! And those dates! He'd obviously gone out of his way to make her uncomfortable. How mean could you get? How insensitive? How demeaning? How…
And yet, he hadn't meant to make her miserable. He just wanted her to appreciate him for who he was, but he seemed to not know exactly who that might be. One thing she had learned from those tiny snippets of conversation between Clark and his mother was that he was really confused about his own identity. And if he was confused, she thought, a bit angrily, how the heck did he expect her to not be confused also? But maybe, just maybe, the two of them could get things straight as to who he actually was if they worked together. Together. The word made her feel excited and queasy and happy and angry all at once.
What was the real source of her anger, she wondered. Her thoughts went to, then shied away from her wedding fiasco, but she forced herself to think about it even though the memory of that time made her feel sick to her stomach.
Clark had told her how much he loved her, she had rejected him, she had thrown herself at Superman, but then he had rejected her. Was she angry about that? No. Not at all. She was angry with herself but not with him. She'd hurt Clark so badly, and the worst thing about it had been that it was done completely unconsciously on her part. If she'd known… But she hadn't known, and wishing things were different was never going to change the past.
Was she angry with him for not stopping the wedding? She was angry about the whole situation so it was hard to tell if she were angry just with him or with the whole world for that. He had warned her, after all. She'd been too stubborn to listen, and too convinced that she knew everything. But, even so, she'd almost married a criminal. Of course, if he had stopped the wedding — either as Superman or as Clark — she'd never have spoken to him again in this lifetime so maybe it was a good thing that he hadn't acted. After all, no one makes decisions for Lois Lane except Lois Lane. But, she thought wistfully, maybe he could have tried just a little harder.
This new knowledge was strangely liberating, though. She didn't have to choose one man over the other. It felt so good to not have to deny that Clark was incredibly attractive. It felt wonderful knowing that he felt the same way about her. She didn't have to censor her thoughts anymore. She didn't have to push feelings, those feelings, away. She could allow herself to react to him now. She could…
She stopped pacing abruptly as outside she heard the familiar whooshing sound of Superman coming in for a landing outside her building. Clark must be here. But even knowing that he was here wasn't enough to prevent her from jumping when she heard his distinctive knock at the door. She slowly made her way over to answer it.
"Hi. I didn't get home till late last night. I'm sorry. Are you okay?" he asked.
Lois gazed at him, seeing love and concern for her shining out of his eyes. How could she not have noticed? How could she have been so blind? With newly minted vision, she searched his features seeing a curious amalgam of two men blending into one before her eyes.
"Lois, are you okay? You're just staring at me."
She didn't blame herself for not seeing the truth about Superman so much as not seeing the truth as to what he felt for her… and what she felt for him.
"Come on, Lois. You're scaring me. Talk to me. And stop staring. Did I grow a second head or something?"
Lois grinned. "In a manner of speaking."
She couldn't help giggling at the perplexed look on his face. "Come on in, Clark." She turned and led him over to the couch. "Why don't you sit down?"
He did and then looked up at her. "What about you?"
"Aren't you going to sit down, too?" he asked, gesturing to the empty space beside him.
"Um, no. I think I want to pace. Okay?"
Clark grinned. "I'll try not to get dizzy while I watch you."
He had such a devastating grin. Why had she never allowed herself to notice that open, warm grin? And his eyes. She could drown in those eyes. Were a pair of glasses really enough to blind her?
She tore her eyes away from his, feeling the breath catch in her throat. Wow! She was just going to have to avoid looking at him because if she kept this up, any minute now she'd be throwing herself at him and asking him to take her now. Which really didn't sound like such a bad idea when she allowed herself to think about it. So she'd better stop. Thinking about it, that is.
"Uh, Lois? You said you had something you needed to talk to me about," Clark prompted, looking up at her with those deep, brown, puppy-dog, plaintive, loving, warm… Oh, stop it, Lane! So the man has two eyes. Big deal! Most people do!
Lois blinked, purposely looked away from Clark and shook her head. "Yes, I do, Clark, but I don't know how to tell you this."
Clark got up and moved in front of her, catching her hands in his. "It's okay, Lois. You can tell me anything."
He was standing so close to her that she could feel the warmth radiating from his body. And he smelled so good, soapy-clean with just a dash of aftershave. It would be so easy to just lean into him… To lay her head on his broad chest and…
Lois pushed herself away from him in a panic. "No, I don't think I can, Clark. Maybe we should just go to work and forget all about this." She spun on her heel to go get her purse when his hands came down onto her shoulders and twisted her around to face him once more.
Oh, no! There was that warm, concerned and loving look again. She didn't know how much more of this she could take. Being on the receiving end of that look felt as though someone were heaping glowing coals of fire on her head. Speaking of which, it was getting pretty warm in here, wasn't it?
"It's okay, Lois, whatever it is. Just look me in the eyes, and tell me. It'll be okay."
Not the eyes. He was being very unfair asking her to look him in those devastatingly gorgeous pools of warm molasses…
Lois's eyes locked on his. "I just wanted to tell you…"
Her eyes dropped down to his mouth as he spoke, to his lips, to that tiny kissable mole over his upper lip. Why had she never noticed it before?
"I forgive you," she whispered.
"Huh? For what?" Clark asked sounding very puzzled.
"What do you forgive me for?"
"What?" Lois pulled away from Clark. "Did I say that out loud? I didn't mean to say that."
"What did you mean to say?" Clark asked patiently.
"I don't know!" Lois exclaimed, walking away from him and staring out the window. She turned around to face him once more. "No, I do know." She gestured to Clark to sit down once more and stood waiting, fidgeting with her hair as he complied.
"Clark, I did something really awful, and I don't know if you can forgive me, but you have to forgive me because you did something that you feel bad about, too, and I know that you want me to forgive you."
"But you did the thing that you feel bad about first, and for longer than I did the thing that I feel bad about, so maybe you should feel worse than I do, but you don't have to, because I forgive you, and I understand why you did the thing that you did. I just hope you can understand why I did the thing that I did. But I don't know if you will because even I don't understand the thing that I did. Do you understand?"
Clark ran his hands through his hair. What would it feel like for him to run his fingers through her hair, too, Lois wondered.
"Lois, would you talk in English, please?"
Lois reluctantly pulled her thoughts away from fingers and hair and sat down beside Clark.
"Oh, Clark," Lois exclaimed, sadly. "I did something awful to you, and I'm really sorry. I don't know if you'll ever be able to forgive me."
"Hey! You sound like you just lost your best friend."
"I'm afraid that I might," Lois confessed, glancing up at Clark shyly.
"I don't understand."
Lois sighed. "I know. Oh, Clark, I'm afraid if I tell you what I did, you're going to hate me."
Clark smiled, wryly. "Don't be too sure of that, Lois. I don't think I could ever hate you."
When she remained silent, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. "Come on. Tell me. Whatever it is, I'm sure we can work through it."
Lois looked away from him. "I'm glad that you're sure, Clark. I'm not."
"Come on. Give."
"Okay." Lois took a deep breath. "I did something really horrible. Completely out of bounds. Totally despicable and unethical…"
"Lois," Clark growled in her ear.
"I spied on you, Clark."
"I spied on you. Remember the other day when you got that great prison riot story…"
"Well, I thought that Superman had called you on your cell phone to tell you about the story which meant that not only did he have your phone number, but you must have his, too."
"Lois, I don't have Superman's phone number," Clark said, sounding amused.
"I know you don't," she replied, softly. "And the reason I know is…" She fell silent. She couldn't say the words. What she could do was pull 'The Card' out of her pocket and hand it to him.
"It's a voice-activated tape recorder. I planted it in your apartment two days ago before we went out to breakfast, and I picked it back up yesterday morning."
"I'm so sorry, Clark. I was out of control. It's no excuse, I know, but…"
"Was it on?"
He looked off into space for a long moment. Lois watched him as he tried to process this information. She could tell by the sudden colour in his face exactly when the penny dropped.
"But that means that you heard…"
"Yes. I heard you talking to your mother. I heard everything."
Clark stared at Lois. "Then you know?"
Lois nodded. She could feel the heat of her own blush creeping up into her cheeks. "Yes. I know that Superman's really you."
"And you know that those dates were all a trick. That I intended you to have a really bad time. That I planned it."
"Yes. And you did a really, thorough job, by the way!" Lois exclaimed, acerbically.
"You said that you forgive me."
"Yes. But I don't know if you can forgive me." Lois got up from the couch wanting to escape from the weight of his gaze. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry. I never meant to make you feel so alone. I never meant to hurt you. And I should have never spied on you. It was unethical and insensitive and… Do you think you could ever forgive me?"
Clark got up and moved in front of her. "You really forgive me? For everything, not just those stupid dates?"
"But I didn't tell you… I deceived you."
"You didn't have a choice. You had to. And I know that you wanted to tell me. You said that you wanted to tell me more than anything in the world."
"I wasn't very nice to you on those dates."
Lois shrugged. "I've done worse things to you than making you stumble around the desert in a pair of heels. I mean, think about it, Clark. I spied on you. And, there are… other things that make me ashamed. Um, you still haven't said whether you can forgive me or not," she pointed out, doggedly, bracing herself for his reaction.
"There's nothing to forgive," he said, softly.
Nothing to forgive? Huh? Lois looked at him as if he had sprouted green fur. "What do you mean, there's nothing to forgive? I did an awful thing. It was horrible, despicable…"
Clark's eyes glistened with emotion. "It was wonderful. I'm so grateful to you, Lois. You have no idea."
"I've wanted to tell you for so long, and now… Do you know what this means?" Clark grabbed Lois by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.
"What? No. I'm not sure."
Clark picked Lois up and swung her in a circle. "It means no more secrets. It means I don't have to hide anything from you ever again. It means I can finally be myself!" he exclaimed, brightly, his eyes shining with joy. "All those dumb excuses… All those petty lies… You've freed me from them. I'm so glad. Thank you, Lois. Thank you for finding out. I'm so happy I could kiss you." He gently set her on her feet once more.
What a good idea! "Why don't you?" Lois asked, softly, feeling a little dizzy.
Clark froze. He gazed deep into her eyes for a moment before slowly lowering his mouth to hers, almost as though he were giving her time to pull away from him. She didn't. She moved into him, and as they kissed, her arms reached up to encircle his neck. After, he pulled back to look her in the eyes once again. "So, what now?" he asked. "You know that I love you."
"I think I need time," Lois said, feeling even dizzier after the kiss. "I need time to get to know you for who you really are. I know Clark, and I know Superman, but now I need to know the real you, the person who is a blend of both my friends. I do love you, Clark. You know that. But in a way, I don't know you. Oh, you're still my best friend, and I trust you more than anyone else in the world. But the idea of Superman swept me away from myself, and I need time to find my way back."
"I'll wait, Lois," Clark said, intensely. "I'll wait for as long as you need. I love you."
"I know," Lois said, tears springing into her eyes at the sincerity of his words.
Clark pulled her into his arms once more. Lois was content to snuggle in close and listen to the steady beat of his heart. "I will say one thing, though."
"What's that?" Clark asked.
"I have to admit breakfast with you was a heck of a lot more fun than those two dates with Superman!"
Clark clutched Lois tighter as she started to giggle. A second later, his laughter joined with hers.
Much later that morning, Lois made her way back to her desk after going out to see a source. She automatically looked around the newsroom for Clark, but didn't see him anywhere. There was a still steaming mug of coffee on his desk, though, so he couldn't be too far. Well, actually, he could be, she reminded herself. But he had been here not that long ago.
She sat down and discovered a plain, white envelope lying on her keyboard. It had her name scrawled across it in Clark's distinctive handwriting.
She opened the envelope, unfolded the letter and read.
I have seen a thousand sunsets and sunrises, on land where it floods forest and mountains with honey coloured light, at sea where it rises and sets like a blood orange in a multicoloured nest of cloud, slipping in and out of the vast ocean. I have seen a thousand moons: harvest moons like gold coins, winter moons as white as ice chips, new moons like baby swans' feathers.
I have seen seas as smooth as if painted, coloured like shot silk or blue as a kingfisher or transparent as glass or black and crumpled with foam, moving ponderously and murderously.
I have felt winds straight from the South Pole, bleak and wailing like a lost child; winds as tender and warm as a lover's breath; winds that carried the astringent smell of salt and the death of seaweeds; winds that carried the moist rich smell of a forest floor, the smell of a million flowers. Fierce winds that churned and moved the sea like yeast, or winds that made the waters lap at the shore like a kitten.
I have known silence: the cold, earthy silence at the bottom of a newly dug well; the implacable stony silence of a deep cave; the hot, drugged midday silence when everything is hypnotized and stilled into silence by the eye of the sun; the silence when great music ends.
I have heard summer cicadas cry so that the sound seems stitched into your bones. I have heard tree frogs in an orchestration as complicated as Bach singing in a forest lit by a million emerald fireflies. I have heard the Keas calling over grey glaciers that groaned to themselves like old people as they inched their way to the sea. I have heard the hoarse street vendor cries of the mating Fur seals as they sang to their sleek golden wives, the crisp staccato admonishment of the Rattlesnake, the cobweb squeak of the Bat and the belling roar of the Red deer knee-deep in purple heather. I have heard Wolves baying at a winter's moon, Red Howlers making the forest vibrate with their roaring cries. I have heard the squeak, purr and grunt of a hundred multi-coloured reef fishes.
I have seen hummingbirds flashing like opals round a tree of scarlet blooms, humming like a top. I have seen flying fish, skittering like quicksilver across the blue waves, drawing silver lines on the surface with their tails. I have seen Spoonbills flying home to roost like a scarlet banner across the sky. I have seen Whales, black as tar, cushioned on a cornflower blue sea, creating a Versailles of fountain with their breath. I have watched butterflies emerge and sit, trembling, while the sun irons their wings smooth. I have watched Tigers, like flames, mating in the long grass. I have been dive-bombed by an angry Raven, black and glossy as the Devil's hoof. I have lain in water warm as milk, soft as silk, while around me played a host of Dolphins. I have met a thousand animals and seen a thousand wonderful things… but -
All this I did without you. This was my loss.
All this I want to do with you. This will be my gain.
All this I would gladly have forgone for the sake of one minute of your company, for your laugh, your voice, your eyes, hair, lips, body, and above all for your sweet, ever surprising mind which is an enchanting quarry in which it is my privilege to delve.
Lois sat quietly for a long moment before folding the letter up and slipping it into its envelope once again. She carefully tucked it inside her purse.
Lois looked up to see the smiling face of her partner. "Oh, Clark," was all that she could manage to say.
"I see you got my note," he said softly.
"Yes." Lois pushed herself up from her chair to stand in front of him. "I have to tell you something."
"Clark Kent just did a better job of sweeping me off my feet than Superman ever could," she whispered into his ear. She pulled back and smiled lovingly at him. "You know, when I told you I needed time…"
"I don't think I'm going to need all that much. In fact…" She took a half step forward and was enfolded in his arms.
Her lips met his, tenderly. As his arms tightened around her, and a wave of heat flooded through her system, she thought, 'In fact, I'm not going to need any time at all.'