By Terran <email@example.com>
Submitted: July 2001
Summary: Another look at the triangle of Lois-Clark-Mayson.
INTRO: If Mayson Drake hadn't died in LUCKY LEON.
Clark contemplated the dark tabletop in the Daily Planet conference room.
"So that's what you've been hiding."
All night Clark Kent hadn't been able to get the refrain from his mind. At turns the tone was accusing, forgiving, even compassionate. But it never went away.
He'd supersped to rescue Mayson from the car bomb.
When he'd been kissing Lois — their first real kiss as Clark and Lois — he'd heard the distinctive, gut-clenching countdown. He'd turned from Lois immediately and reacted instinctively upon recognizing the blonde behind the wheel of her parked car. Regardless of potential witnesses, including Lois Lane — star reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper — he sped to Mayson, removing her from behind the wheel of the vehicle within the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, though Mayson and — it proved — Lois had been suitably distracted from noticing his out-of-the-blue maneuver, the aura which protected his Superman garb didn't stretch to protecting his outer civilian clothing. With the blast of the car upon his return to its contemplation, his shirt had been torn. He first knew of it with a dazed Mayson looking up at him with confusion, touching his chest and parting his shirt. Shocked into numb silence himself, he'd only been more stunned with her whispered comment, "So that's what you've been hiding." He looked down and saw the distinctive blue-yellow-red of his famous uniform.
With Mayson looking at him, Lois came upon them. "Oh, my God. What happened?"
Mayson tore her gaze from Clark's huge eyes to Lois' face and back to see him casually holding his shirtfront closed.
Clark realized she was waiting on him, waiting on any clue. "Car bomb," he explained, with the evidence before them.
"But how'd you know?" asked Lois. One minute she'd been kissing Clark, lost in a daze. Then -
"I heard something — I can't say what it was — and then I just knew."
"He got me out of the car fast," Mayson put in, taking up her cue, "real fast."
Lois commented, "Yeah, wow." Then she remembered she was a reporter, and she was faced with a double scoop: a deputy district attorney of Metropolis nearly murdered, and her own partner having performed the rescue. "Good work, Clark."
"Yes," said Mayson, "thank you, Clark." She looked around. "My purse is in the car."
"I'd stay away from there," Clark said. "I'll call," he said, pulling out his cell phone.
Once the call was in, the Daily Planet's competitors were on the scene as well as local law enforcement, and the district attorney himself.
For the rest of the night, Clark hadn't had any chance to speak privately with either Mayson or Lois.
"What do you think that was about?" asked Lois, now she and Clark were having coffee in the conference room they'd taken over.
Regaining the present, "I have no idea," Clark told her honestly.
"Well, I think after saving her life she owes you the complete story. She has to be working on something important — maybe Intergang?"
"We'd probably already know about it if it were related to Intergang."
A knock on the glass captured their attention.
"Well," stated Lois, "maybe we'll get the answers."
It was Mayson. Clark stood and let her in.
"Clark, Lois," the newcomer greeted the two of them. "I'll need your help," but she assiduously avoided meeting either pair of eyes.
"Coffee?" Clark offered.
While Clark was gone, Lois proposed, "I hope you're here to fill us in."
"I'm here for a few reasons."
Clark was back, Lois noticing he hadn't needed to ask Mayson how she took her coffee. But they'd had lunch together, perhaps had been dating. She didn't know. And Clark was quick; it hadn't taken him long to remember how she took her coffee.
Mayson sipped at the dark brew. "Thanks. I'm sure the attempt on me last night was connected to a case I'm working on. We've code- named it Resurrection, and the implications are more dramatic than you think. There's a drug — and I'm working with the D.E.A. on it — that induces death, or at least the total suggestion of death. Then the supposedly-dead person is revived."
"Why?" asked Lois.
Clark was also puzzled, wondering what the point to such a drug would be.
Witnessing their reactions, Mayson had to stifle a laugh. "Prisoners," she offered the short version.
"Yeah, guys in prison take the drug…"
"And they're buried only to be found walking the streets again."
Clark was amazed. "Think of some of the criminals locked up!"
Mayson commented, "Sort of makes you want to support the death penalty."
Lois traded a glance with Clark. Actually, it did make her want to do exactly that.
Clark recalled he had more than one issue with their guest. "So what do you want us to do?"
"Nothing," Mayson told them. "There's an ongoing investigation involving all levels of government agencies. Naturally, the last thing we want is for the public to know what's going on, or the tool that's been developed to aid criminals. If you undertake any investigation, you might get an article out of it, but you'll probably both be hauled in for impeding a federal investigation."
"So why'd you tell us?"
"Trust," said Mayson, sighing, "and you deserve to know, since Clark here saved my life."
Clark explained, "We were on our way to your office." He alluded to the appointment they had with Mayson. It was unfortunate he and Lois were not only running late but had taken the time to deal with a relationship which had quickly grown personal after years of working closely together. It had been the answer to his dreams, Lois' response to his kisses.
"We'll have to continue that discussion."
As she rose, Clark went to open the door for her. "Mayson," he stopped her.
She turned. "Yes, Clark?"
He was awkward in front of Lois, but he knew that was only an excuse. "I'd like to talk to you further. How about lunch?"
"Today? Fine. Can you stop by my office?"
Lois was frowning as Mayson departed. "What was that about?"
"What do you mean?"
"You need to talk to her?"
"I figure we'll get more background for when we eventually write the story."
"Oh, right." Actually it was very clever; if she wasn't so distracted by her own reactions to Clark and the fact she didn't like the attractive blonde within ten miles of him, she would have come up with the suggestion herself. "Well, it's just lunch. How about dinner tonight?" she asked him.
He offered the first bright smile of the day. "Perfect."
She forgot about Mayson Drake and the possible implications of that lunch.
When Clark arrived at Mayson's office it was just as another man was leaving. He idly noted the man was tall, dark hair, reasonably good-looking. It occurred to him maybe he was a rival for Mayson's affections, if Clark was interested in her himself.
"Clark? Clark Kent, this is Dan Scardino, he's with the Drug Enforcement Agency."
"I never liked the title, always makes it sound like we're promoting narcotics," the agent grinned as he held out his hand. "Hi, I'm familiar with your work and you can chock me up as an admirer. Mayson was just telling me she's briefed you and Lois Lane."
"Well, probably not as much as we'd like," Clark interjected.
Mayson commented, "Clark and I are having lunch, Dan. We're personal acquaintances as well as business."
"I see. Well, nice to meet you, Clark."
As the Federal agent departed, Clark wondered about the reason for Mayson's stressing their relationship as personal. What difference would it make to Scardino? But it didn't seem as if Mayson and Scardino were more than acquaintances. Testing his theory, "How well do you know him?"
"Nothing for you to be jealous about," she told him, leading him into her office as she grabbed her purse. "I barely know him."
"I wasn't thinking about jealousy."
"Good. You don't have competition. You — of all people — know that."
"Mayson," he started.
"Later, when we get outside."
He reluctantly let it go. Actually, the background on Dan Scardino would prove helpful in providing him something to tell Lois.
They were in her car and stopped at an intersection when he asked, "Where are we going?"
"My place." As his head swung to face her, she pointed out, "You don't want to have our conversation in a public place, do you?"
To be overheard? Of course not. "Okay," he said, growing nervous. Already this hadn't gone as he expected, with Mayson taking charge — no surprise under the circumstances, she was literally in the driver's seat — but doing so in such a calm, authoritative manner.
"Don't worry. I don't have an appetite, but I can make you something, if you prefer." As he was shaking his head, "Do you need to eat?"
He figured that was attack number one. "No," he settled this point, at least.
They were at her apartment, him glancing around at the abode appraisingly, caught with the romantic hues of rose and white, the apparent majesty, with Mayson as queen.
"It's not what you expected?"
He confessed, "Not really."
"Well, when I'm at home I don't want to be reminded of the office, but that doesn't mean I don't keep all the technology at hand."
She was alluding to her home office, which he could see with his x-ray vision in the adjoining room.
"Coffee or anything to drink?"
"Anything's fine. Tea, if you have it."
"I'll put the kettle on."
As she was in the kitchen, he glanced again at his surroundings, wondering what he should expect from her.
She must not have put much water on to boil, as she was back almost immediately. "That was fast," he commented, on seeing her with mugs in hand.
"A hot tap," she explained. "A tremendous time saver. It's prefectly healthy, the water at boiling temperature."
He frowned, but he had no need to worry over parasites.
They sat opposite each other.
"I have to admit," she began, "I didn't get much sleep last night. Not that getting nearly blown up doesn't disturb me, but what I learned about you and Superman bothered me a lot more."
"Listen, Mayson — " But he stopped, for he still needed to know what she thought.
"You're a good guy, Clark. Your being Superman — or Superman being you — doesn't change that. I just had to put the pieces together. It's kind of the ultimate in good news, bad news. I mean, at least you didn't intentionally stand me up that weekend you were blinded."
"We spent part of the weekend together, anyway," was his wry observation.
"You even arranged an introduction to your parents. Martha and Jonathan Kent are your parents?"
He nearly sighed; at least she was getting to it. "My adoptive parents."
"Something we have in common."
"Nothing. I ran a check on you. Well, I had a reason to, didn't I?"
"So what's your decision?"
"Clark, I've been trying to tell you I love you. Actually, my finding out you're Superman makes me feel better about all that. I know you're honest and decent. My instincts can't be wrong about that. I knew you were hiding something, remember?"
He'd finished his tea without being aware of it. "So you're not going to tell anyone?"
It was almost anticlimactic. Feeling as if something were missing, he stood up. "Mayson, I have to thank you…"
"Then take me to dinner."
"To thank me. Besides, we don't have secrets anymore, do we?"
Disoriented, he began with, "In that case, when we first met…"
She stood, too. "What is it, Clark?"
"I wasn't dating anyone."
She forestalled him. "But now you are? It's Lois, isn't it?"
"It's always Lois."
Hours later he was still thinking about Mayson, even when he and Lois were getting out of her car and walking into the restaurant.
A patrol car went by and faltered.
"What's that about?" Lois remarked.
"Let's go see."
As they went up to the window, the officer on the passenger side leaned towards them. "Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, keeping an eye on you after that mess last night with Mayson Drake."
"Got you, officer." Lois turned back towards the restaurant with Clark on her heels.
At the table, Clark commented, "Well, I guess that's nice of them."
"I suppose we can't tell them Superman is enough protection for anybody."
"Well, he's always around."
Clark fought against the grimace. It was true his partner had been taking her access to Superman far too much for granted, but at least she wasn't starry-eyed over him anymore.
They were starting on their entrees when Lois looked past Clark's shoulder. "Mayson."
Clark glanced up to see a couple had arrived at their table. "Mayson," he greeted.
"Dan, you've already met Clark. This is his partner, Lois Lane."
"Ah, the other member of the dynamic duo. Hi," he held out his hand to Lois, "Dan Scardino, D.E.A."
"Nice to meet you, Dan." But Lois barely noticed him, more intent on Mayson's being out on a date. She'd thought the blonde totally obsessed with Clark, what with Mayson's seeking him out constantly, and just as often asking him out. Clark must have let her down then, and just in time for this D.E.A. person to pick up the pieces. "Clark has mentioned you. I hope we'll be working the case together. We'd all like to get to the bottom of this Resurrection thing."
"Ordinarily I'd say we can use all the help we can get, but that's me and never official. Sorry, but an exclusive after the case is wrapped is the best we can do. Clark," he nodded. "Lois, nice meeting you. I hope to see you again, soon."
After they'd gone to their own table, Lois commented, "That's odd, their picking the same place to dine. Except for you, I didn't think Mayson and I had the same taste in anything."
"Not a chance." He was wondering what game Mayson was playing, that she'd be here, and hadn't that patrol car tailed them to the door? "I guess we do have something in common — restaurants — after all."
The patrol car wasn't in evidence when they left the restaurant, and Lois' dropping him at his apartment provided them a charming old-fashioned moment at his door. "I like this," he declared after their official kiss goodnight.
"So do I."
"It doesn't have to end here."
She considered it, but "Maybe it does, for now."
"Okay." He knew it wasn't about him, her fear of going too far, too fast. He knew enough of her history, including the fact of their own first date, to understand the hesitancy with which she was proceeding with their relationship. But she was crazy about him, had to drag herself away, that was more than evident, so it was enough.
He'd changed out of his business attire and the Superman suit underneath and was walking around in his typical relaxing-at-home tank top and shorts when the knock came at the door. He wondered if Lois were coming back for some reason and didn't bother to check. Consequently he was surprised to see it was Mayson on the threshold. "Mayson?" Her presence, at this time of night, could only mean something had happened.
"May I come in?"
As her coat came off, it was revealed she was still in evening dress.
"Is Scardino with you?"
He closed the door, frowning now. No wonder what Lois might assume, he wasn't accustomed to seeing Mayson this often. If it wasn't an emergency, the way their relationship was, he'd prefer she leave, but he was a polite host nonetheless. "Can I get you something?"
At the bottom of the stairs, she faced him. "Yes, I want to know if I can count on Superman."
"Of course you can, Mayson."
She proceeded on a rush, "See, I can't turn off my feelings for you just because you're Superman or because of Lois. I'm afraid that's not how it works."
"I don't know what to say."
"Say you'll come to the country with me. You owe me a visit, anyway."
He couldn't believe it. "Mayson, there's Lois — "
She interrupted, complaining, "I know about Lois."
"— and that wouldn't be fair to her or to you."
"Let me handle what's fair as far as I'm concerned."
"No." He was firm.
"Even with what I know?"
"Even with what you know."
She tried a different approach. "But what could be safer than my leaving town with Superman as my bodyguard?"
"Because I have a life, and so does Lois. I offer my protection, Mayson, as I do everyone. But don't make demands I can't deliver on."
"She doesn't know, does she? I knew that this morning, when she didn't say a word to me about it. You didn't tell her what I discovered last night, because she doesn't know."
"Are you threatening to tell her?"
Then he forgot his stiffened posture as she appeared to break in front of him, confessing, "I don't know what I'm doing. Of course I'm not threatening you, it's against everything I believe in. And it's not like I can force you into a relationship, either. Especially you! Like trying to rape Superman, only you are Superman! But I can't stop loving you, either. If you're not completely settled with Lois, I don't see why you can't give us a chance before it's too late." She tried a smile. "It's not like you have any more secrets, do you?"
He considered it briefly, shook his head NO.
"I'll be here, Clark, I'll be here waiting for you."
But at the door, when she leaned forward to give him a small kiss goodnight, he backed away. "I'm sorry, I can't," he told her, not altogether pleased with his own behavior, let alone hers.
It was another deep, long night for him as he thought about Lois and Mayson.
The next day at the Daily Planet, Lois was sipping coffee and peering at the copy on screen — hoping she hadn't goofed up the spelling — when a shadow fell across her desk. She looked up and recognized the D.E.A. agent she'd met last night. "I hope you've come to give us information."
"Not quite. I came to invite you to lunch."
"I thought you were dating Mayson?"
"Business combination meal: No big deal. Confidentially, from what I've seen, she's only got eyes for Clark Kent."
So nothing had changed. "Well, as long as she doesn't mind being hung up on a guy who doesn't have time for her."
"And here I was hoping your date last night was business."
"No chance. Work never even came up." Actually, had it? She couldn't recall. She'd been so hung up on Clark's eyes and voice and attentiveness. He hadn't even left her sight, not once during their whole evening out. No Daily Planet emergencies, nothing. It was a blessed evening. If it continued like this, it wouldn't be much longer before they took that next — vital — step in their relationship.
"So you're a closed subject, you and Kent."
"As closed as it gets." She noted his odd expression. "What is it?"
"I'm just wondering, you and Mayson both hung up on the same guy. What's he got the rest of us haven't?"
"Clark's one-of-a-kind, and Mayson and I both realize that." She could afford to be generous, with her competition out of the way.
Scardino was still confused. "I don't know, he seems kind of boring to me."
"Is there something else you wanted, Agent Scardino?"
"Ah, not really. I'll be back in Washington after we nab the guy responsible for Resurrection."
"Maybe it's a woman."
"Touche. And what are you and Kent working on?"
"Besides the attempted assassination of the deputy district attorney?"
His response was clipped. "You are entitled to write about that."
"You bet. So what can you tell me?"
"Truthfully, you and Kent were the ones on the scene. You probably know more than me." As her lips upturned with both pride and skepticism, he continued, "But I would like to know if Clark was a track star in college."
"You know, fast on his feet."
"Where'd that come from?"
"Well, he got Mayson out of that car on a twenty second timer. I'd say that was pretty remarkable."
"A twenty second timer?"
"Yeah. So that was something you didn't know? I figured to ask you how he'd done it. After all, you were with him."
Distracted, she confessed, "But I didn't really see it."
"No?" He wondered about that; then again, Lois had just confessed she and the guy were dating. Anything could have been going on, even if they were on a public street.
"But Clark was an athlete in college, played football," she explained, a bit preoccupied. "Can I use the information about the timer?"
"I don't think it's a secret. Football, huh?" Maybe he'd better take a guess at the muscles beneath the suit, next time he ran across the guy.
As he turned away from her desk, she was remembering where she and Clark had been standing during that momentous kiss they'd shared. How could he have heard the timer from that distance? The timer would have had to be as resounding as Big Ben in London. And even if he did hear it on the first ring, how could he have reached Mayson in her car, let alone gotten her away from her car, all within twenty seconds?
When Clark returned from the latest — whatever — which had taken him out of the office for ten minutes, she brought him up to speed in the conference room.
"Scardino?" he asked. "What was he doing here?"
"I think to ask me out, but he's just as interested in you."
"What?" he said to both statements.
"Yeah, he told me the timer on the bomb in Mayson's car was only twenty seconds. How did you get to Mayson in time?"
"Ah — "
"Clark, were you, did you take credit for something Superman did?"
"Only Superman could have gotten to Mayson and saved her. Clark, why did you lie?"
He stared sullenly at the tear-stained brown eyes. In a million years he could not have anticipated this question. "Superman doesn't want to be involved."
"What!" Angrily, "You're despicable! That is the lamest excuse for a lie I've ever heard. I don't know about you anymore, Clark Kent." Then she spun on her heel and was out of the room.
He called after her, "Lois!" but what could he say, after all?
The rest of the day she was subjecting him to bitter silences and occasionally scathing stares. Once he brought up their plans for the evening, and she stared at him as if he were the vilest creature.
It occurred to him he'd give her one more chance, and it came to him when he was out of the office on a Superman emergency. Superman was the perfect person to get him out of this Lois Lane-induced hell, and the sooner the better. But as he returned to the Daily Planet offices and flew into the building as Superman he saw Mayson Drake sitting at Clark Kent's desk. Another glance proved Lois Lane pretending to be oblivious as she sat in front of her own terminal.
"Ms. Drake," he greeted her.
"I was looking for Clark." She had a grim smile on her face. "You don't happen to know where he is?"
Lois came over to them. "You've probably come to confront Clark, haven't you, Superman?"
He responded, "Why would I be confronting Clark?"
"You may as well know, Mayson, that is if you haven't figured it out already. It was Superman who rescued you, not Clark Kent, who is supposed to be Superman's best friend, not to mention mine. Unfortunately, the Daily Planet printed incorrect news under a Lane-Kent by-line."
Mayson was musing over the latest information, gazing up into Clark Kent's lens- less features. "That is surprising."
"I guess you didn't notice Superman."
"I only saw Clark."
"Of course," was Lois' snide response.
"Lois," Superman cautioned.
He reconsidered. "Tell Clark I was here to see him. Not about the events of the other evening," he added to Mayson, as if reassuring her. "I'm sure Clark will be here soon." Then he left on his trademark whoosh.
When Clark Kent re-entered the building, he found Mayson waiting for him and Lois having scribbled a note saying SUPERMAN WAS HERE. "Lois, Superman?"
"Was here for you," she declared, not taking her fingers from the keyboard or her eyes off the screen.
"What are you working on?"
"How to correct the misinformation we put before the public. It was my by-line as well as yours," she stated.
Mayson touched his arm, shaking her head. With a sigh, he followed her off the floor and into the elevator.
"I might be furious myself, if I didn't know the truth about you and Superman."
"She should know me better than that."
"Maybe I should take advantage of your mood and take you out to dinner."
"Maybe you should."
After Clark had left with Mayson, Lois was furious enough — and righteous over that fury — to know she'd be better off working at home. It would be a lot easier to think, and fume, over a half-quart of double chocolate chunk ice cream.
A half-hour later, in her workout clothes and with her feet up on the bed, Lois was still fuming over what Clark was doing now — having dinner with Mayson, who'd conveniently arrived just in time to whisk him out of the office. And she was also fuming over what Clark had evidently done two nights ago — claiming a Superman rescue for himself.
Why would Clark do that? Why would Clark Kent do that: To impress her? It was not as if he was jealous of Superman, not anymore. She was dating him — literally dating him — right at the time. In fact, Clark hadn't been envious of Superman in a long time; for many months now the days of adoration seemed long gone. Well, maybe it was hard marveling at a being whose laundry you were responsible for. Even she hadn't realized until the time of Diana Stride's expose just how close Superman was to her partner. For Superman to fly in and confess Clark Kent wasn't his secret identity, but that the reporter handled his laundry for him, was just amazing. There was something bizarre about it, but she hadn't put her finger on it. Could be it was just the idea of Superman, of all people, having laundry to do that put him on the same level as regular human beings. After all, if Superman had laundry concerns, he might have other — normal, human male — concerns as well.
She remembered telling Superman if he were an ordinary guy she'd love him. He hadn't believed her, and maybe he was right, because with Diana Stride and the business of the laundry she knew she wouldn't want Superman to be an ordinary guy, she valued him for the super-being he was. That precluded any romantic interest she could have in him, which ironically paved the way for her being more open with Clark and her feelings for him, feelings she'd realized more than once over the years had lain dormant, only awaiting her acknowledgment.
The appearance of Mayson Drake on the scene had only proved the most recent example, so if not to impress her, had Clark stolen the credit for Mayson's rescue in order to impress Mayson?
Slugging at her pillow in frustration, Lois dislodged the spoon from the carton, grimacing as she realized the stain would be impossible to erase. But she got out of bed, stripping the offending sheet and beginning the traditional scrub and soak.
But to get her mind off Clark's possible attraction to Mayson, she had to think on something else.
There was Superman's visit today, and it was always a pleasure for her to see him, even when the stars in her eyes no longer spoke of romance.
Superman rarely came into the Daily Planet offices, and when he did it was more often than not to seek her out, not Clark. She used to count on those visits, literally put them into her journal. Each and every time Superman sought her out was worthy of intense scrutiny and major consideration on her part.
Of course Superman had said he wasn't confronting Clark, and he didn't seem angry about anything, and she'd seen him in various moods and judged she could determine well enough when he was angry or upset. So that wasn't it, but there was something subdued about him. But he'd left without really talking to her, and he hadn't seemed concerned with Mayson either, not considering he'd just saved her from an assassination attempt a couple of days ago.
She put down the lid on the toilet to take advantage of the seat, thinking this was getting awfully odd, as peculiar as some of those puzzling cases she and Clark worked on for the paper.
She forgot about the retraction the Planet should be printing, let alone the confession to Perry White, its Editor-in-Chief, as she continued to puzzle over Clark's — and Superman's — odd behavior.
Across town at the restaurant with Mayson, Clark's mind was also on Lois, only he was growing angrier with her as he felt betrayed with her attitude toward him. To think she'd think he'd steal the credit for anything was ridiculous. He'd never been that way, to behave thusly was contrary to his principles, and Lois — of all people — should know it.
"It looks like I've lost you again." Mayson brought the snifter to her lips. "Would you rather Lois was here?"
"Well, that's decisive."
He laughed. It was funny how Mayson knew about him, and accepted him, yet Lois was angry with him because she still saw the difference of Superman and Clark Kent. But that meant she still didn't know Clark Kent well enough to take for granted her trust in him.
The check arrived and Clark reached for it. Just then his sensitive hearing picked up an alarm.
"What is it?"
"I have to go."
For a moment, she was puzzled, then realized what he was saying. "You're tuned into something. Guess it's time for the blue and red man. I'll meet you at your place."
Putting some bills on the table, he didn't spare time arguing with her. "Okay."
It took more than an hour, and he was exhausted from a tension-filled day, but he arrived at his apartment and changed into casual dress before going to the front door. Mayson Drake was standing outside. "You're not afraid, standing outside on your own at night?"
"Not at this address," came her pert response as she glided inside.
"Well, I didn't mean to take this long."
"I'm sure you didn't. Besides, I heard the details in the car—" tuned to a police band "— and estimated how many seconds it'd take for you to get home. You probably beat me."
"Under these circumstances, yes."
He considered her, recalling her stance upon the first occasion she'd visited him at his apartment, the speed with which she'd taken off her suit jacket, the fact she'd been impressed with his physique. He'd looked at her and thought her beautiful, but their new acquaintance was strictly professional, though she'd changed that soon enough with a quick invitation to lunch. He'd had no hesitation on accepting, had even been grateful she was making all the moves, especially upon Lois' rejection of him months earlier. On that announcement of love, Lois had been dismissive. Yet Mayson Drake was beautiful, intelligent and so uncomplicated as to be obvious about her attraction to him. As Lois was dark, Mayson was light. She came in time to soothe his bruised ego, an ego perhaps more sensitive than most. For when he was rejected it had been in favor of both a man he termed a monster — Lex Luthor — and a super-being whose character was his own and therefore one he couldn't combat — Superman.
"I still can't get over how you hated Superman and now you're so accepting of me."
"It's easy. I would worry about Superman if he was you, but I can't be worried about him as long as you're him."
She licked her lips. "I know he's the disguise, and therefore your — Clark Kent's — motives are his. Him, I was worried about, you I'm not. Though I worry for him, now."
"What do you mean?" he asked finally, as he was bringing the glasses of wine to the coffee table.
"The same things I told him, about reading a perpetrator his rights, about your — Superman's — culpability if someone you save experiences an injury. I'd say you were pretty lucky so far you haven't been sued."
"People are grateful to me when I save them."
"Sure they are. But what if you do injure someone — it can happen — or what if somebody less scrupulous decides to take Superman to the cleaners, what do you do then?"
"I don't know," he confessed.
"Well, I know a couple of good defense attorneys who can help you out."
"They'd have to be good people, not just good lawyers."
She shook her head. "Wow."
"Is that a good 'wow' or a bad 'wow?'"
"That narrows it down to one — Constance Hunter. She never accepts a client who's guilty."
"Is it? According to our rules, every defendant is entitled to the best defense. She won't win, because she never has found an innocent client. If you do injure someone, you won't be innocent either."
"Guess I'll have to cross that road when Superman comes to it." As she laughed, he asked, "What is it?"
"I never thought I'd be giving legal advice to Superman."
"Especially after a date with Clark Kent?"
"Why did you come out with me?"
"You — saw — Lois and I — had an argument."
"So you're getting back at her?"
"No," he denied.
"So if I extend another invitation to my cabin?"
"I'd still have to say no. That's what I meant to say last time. I appreciate the offer, I did and do, but I don't move that fast."
"So says the 'faster than a speeding bullet' man."
"Not when it comes to friendships, any type of friendship."
"So much for all my fantasies," she made as if she were exasperated.
"You didn't really expect something."
"Clark, most guys would jump at the chance. It should have been my first clue."
He guessed what she was asking about. "I have to be careful, about people getting too close. Even Lois, she believes she's closer to Superman than she is. And I have never known enough about myself, my true heritage, to trust in setting down roots, though recently I have discovered more about myself."
"I see. And now, how do you feel about me, about us, now I know about you?"
Their eyes met and they leaned in one accord, their lips clinging.
For Clark, it wasn't a moment to get lost in, but a kiss of understanding and acceptance. As he felt her fingers grasp his shoulders and reach behind his back, he heard the footfalls as they came up the step. He pulled away, realizing he didn't have to lie to this woman. "Someone's here."
He went to the door as the knock came. "Lois."
Lois walked past him, "Okay, I'm demanding an explanation, Clark. I mean, Superman came over — flying in the window — and how could you? Clark, there's a woman in your living room. Mayson!"
"Mayson and I had dinner and we were talking."
The deadly calm brunette turned to him. "You left rather early. I thought you'd be done by now. Besides, if we're not exclusive, I wish you'd tell me so I could have gone with Dan." Had Dan asked her to lunch or to dinner? Due to her lack of interest, she'd forgotten.
"Dan?" For a moment, he couldn't place him. Absently, he noticed Mayson making the same connection. He accused, "You turned me down for dinner."
Lois faltered, "Well, I…"
He couldn't ask Mayson to leave, and under the circumstances she had more of a right to be here than Lois, so "Lois, would you like some wine?"
"Uh, no. I guess we can talk later," she challenged him, "when I'm more in the mood. Okay?"
This was just a headache on top the other he already had. Emotional headache, since he never caught the real thing. "Okay," he agreed, just to end the negotiations. It really had been a long day.
He glanced at Mayson as Lois left. This was getting complicated. Lois probably thought they — he and Mayson — were really dating, or something. They weren't, were they?
"Mayson, I'm sorry, but…" He gestured.
Fortunately the next day was the weekend, and he had plenty of time to intersect with Lois.
But first thing in the morning Clark flew to Kansas to be with his parents. All his life, they'd been his closest friends and the ones whose counsel he trusted most.
"I don't get it," admitted Jonathan Kent upon his son's recitation.
"Well, now Mayson knows I'm Superman, and it doesn't bother her. In fact, she's fine about it. Still worried about me, as Superman, I mean."
It was Martha's turn to confront the situation. "How worried?"
"Well, that something may happen, that I'll make another mistake like stealing government missiles and delivering them from the right hands into the wrong hands." He shrugged, because the next seemed so strange to him. "And maybe I'll injure someone while I'm saving them." He'd never harmed anyone, he was certain of that; he was so scrupulous even when handing criminals over to the authorities.
"So what bothers you, honey, if you trust Mayson, I mean?"
"Well, she's perfect, perfect for me, but…"
"But she's not Lois?"
"I guess. I mean, I was ready to marry Lois."
Jonathan began looking over the kitchen. He knew Martha had baked a pie and wondered where she had it stashed. If his son's visit lasted long enough, they'd get through it in a conversation.
"Forgetting Lois, how do you feel about Mayson?"
"I like her. I think she's beautiful, and she's a lot more reasonable than I thought, about Superman, I mean. But it's still me, know what I mean? She feels better about Superman, accepts him, because he's me."
"Sounds like you make all the difference to her."
He smiled, for it was flattering, Mayson's current attitude indicating the kind of acceptance from a woman — a mate — he'd always fantasized. "I guess I do."
"Then maybe you have some thinking to do."
"But I know I love Lois." He was remembering the haunting, romantic quality of their first date, his hunger to possess her body and mind, her falling into his will on the occasion of their first — real — kiss. Their only kiss, he mourned. "But Mayson knows who I am, and that puts me in a spot. I can't afford to make her jealous over Lois."
Jonathan put in his own two cents. "Sounds like you've got a problem."
"She calls me the red and blue man."
It was Martha. "Who, dear?"
"Well, that's cute."
"Yeah, I didn't think she'd be so accepting."
"Well, not everyone would be. How do you think Lois would react?"
"I try not to think about it." He still had to connect with Lois today. With their situation so intense, he wasn't looking forward to it. "I don't want to think about it."
Jonathan pondered, "There's a lot of history there."
"Well, I have to get going."
His mother objected, "You're not staying for lunch, dear?"
"No," he just remembered, "I'm meeting Mayson." They'd made the date over dinner the previous night and he hadn't thought to cancel. Looked like — whether there were Superman emergencies or not — he had a full schedule.
But he was back in time to anticipate Mayson's knock on his door. Since it was Saturday she was in relaxed attire of white shorts and peach colored tank top. With her hair around her shoulders, she looked lovely, and he had to stem back a wolf whistle.
"You want to go out?" she said, on seeing him also in casual dress of shorts and T-shirt.
"We can hang around here. It's quiet around here on the weekends. That's one reason I moved here. That, and the secluded entrance and balcony. Lets me come and go as I please."
"Ah, an ulterior motive. How long had you been in Metropolis before Superman came on the scene?"
She settled onto the couch as he busied himself in the kitchen with refreshments. He always had junk food on hand, and he used his heat vision and pots and pans for just about everything else.
"The same day," he recalled. "I got off the bus and immediately was called into service. But that was Clark Kent hoping to be unobtrusive. The suit came later, on a suggestion of Lois'. Not that she knew what she was doing, but that's how Superman came into being."
"I can't figure out how she's never made the connection."
"Neither can I. But no one does."
He handed her a mug of steaming tea, sipping his own. "Takes practice to get the temperature just right. You'll want to wait 'til it cools."
"Gotcha. Housework must be a cinch."
He laughed, glancing around. "Can't trust a service, so I have to do it myself." On superspeed, he did get his entire place cleaned inside of a minute.
Putting the tea down, she strolled around his apartment, stopping to examine objects, the books and especially the photos. "You've been everywhere. I recognize your parents." She'd met them during the time he was blinded. "And that's you. You were wearing your glasses then. Did you ever need them?"
He realized it was explanation time, though oddly he didn't mind, perhaps because it was so rare he provided one. Superman just refused questions and flew off, whereas Clark had always run off before people could start asking questions.
He joined her at the photos. "It started because I needed some assistance — in the early days, when my powers were developing — in controlling my powers." As she frowned in puzzlement, he confessed awkwardly, "I didn't want to x-ray the girls locker room, or burn down a tree. But now I like wearing glasses. It feels comfortable."
Returning to the couch, she said, "It gives you something to hide behind. Girls never make passes at boys who wear glasses. I proved you wrong, didn't I?" She held out her hand to him and he joined her. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but I have been having fantasies about having you since I met you, and don't say you're surprised."
Stunned, he could only enunciate an "Oh."
"I guess there's no good way, is there, to take someone against their will? Handcuffing you wouldn't do any good. I'd even thought of tying you up, but it's the same old thing. There's no way to persuade someone like you. I mean, you know I've wanted you. I've been throwing myself at you, nearly blackmailed you — tried, anyway — into a weekend of illicit anything- goes with me at the cabin. But you've been brushing me off. You're turning down a sure thing, Clark Kent. The rest of humanity wants to know why."
"I guess," he faltered, "I'm feeling my way, taking this — our friendship — one day at a time. It's nice, Mayson, being here with you like this. But I'm afraid of taking it a step further."
"How come? Is it the superpowers thing? Is it that you're incapable…?" She reconsidered the subtle direction of the question. "Without hurting me, I mean."
"No, I've experience enough to know, that, no, I wouldn't hurt you. It is true I have to be considerate of my strength. Even now, because I'm with you, instead of being relaxed, I'm tense, not in a normal state. For me, normal is Superman — the Man of Steel — and that's when I'm relaxed, physically."
She was ahead of him. "If I strike you I'll break my hand."
"So around people, when you're just Clark, you have to be tense."
"It's the only way my flesh, my muscles, give as a normal — human — man's does. When I'm caught by surprise…"
"But that must be exhausting for you."
"Not physically. I can withstand just about anything. But after a few days, there's some sort of pressure build-up, and I end up relaxing around my living room watching a ball game. Like any other guy on a Sunday, except I'm floating."
He was relieved he'd distracted her from the sexual innuendo. It was funny, but his experience with women, they were either ignoring him — like Lois, in the beginning — or throwing themselves at him. He couldn't figure out what it was about him that caused women to act that way, with one extreme or the other. He, himself, was very low key, seldom if ever taking the initiative where women were concerned. The last time had been with Lois, when he'd asked her out. Of course the first time was after they'd met, when he felt his attraction to her as the feeling of coming home. But she hadn't felt that way, and only had stars in her eyes for Superman. It had been a harsh coming down to Earth for him.
"Sounds like a buildup of stress," Mayson diagnosed, subjecting his muscular arms to a harsh stare and a considerate hand: If she was tempting him, so much the better.
"Well, tea and floating, everything helps. Just being able to be Superman is an immense relief. Not only can I use my powers for benefit, but also it allows me — when I put on that suit — to relax in public. Otherwise, as Clark, I'm on guard all the time, except when I'm alone." He reached for his discarded tea, delicately dislodging her hand.
She leaned back. "Even now?"
"To a certain extent. If you wanted to strike me, it wouldn't hurt — me — but you would feel the give of my flesh." He paused to watch her sipping at the tea he'd heated for them earlier. "Of course, if you threw the tea in my face, it wouldn't scald me." He smiled as she did neither of those things. "I can't tell you how much it's meant to me, Mayson, having you for a friend."
"I hoped we were more than friends."
"Friendship, right now, is all I can promise."
"Is it Lois?"
Lois. With a grimace he realized that name was haunting him now. "We've just started seeing each other," he rationalized.
"But she hates you."
"Right now, and maybe in the future. It's hard to tell with Lois." Not to mention he was dealing with his own anger with Lois, for thinking Clark Kent a liar and a braggart or worse, even if she was trying to be loyal to his alternate identity. "But something was started between us and it needs to be finished, no matter what the end result is. I can't ask you to wait."
"So no chance of my blackmailing you into an illicit weekend at the cabin? I'll even take Atlantic City."
He smiled. "I'm afraid anything illicit just isn't in my personal vocabulary."
"I knew that about you. It's such a waste. Here I am, ready, willing, and able. You are attracted to me, aren't you?"
"That's part of what makes this so complicated. If I'm in love with Lois, how can I be attracted to you?"
"Well, I'm reasonably intelligent and not bad-looking."
"Not bad-looking, in fact you're beautiful." And he liked her character; she was probably the most honest person he'd met in Metropolis. There wasn't anything crooked about her, even her joking attempt at blackmailing him, as if she could even get away with it.
"Lois resents me," she declared, "because of you. I wonder how she's feeling about you now?"
"I don't know."
His attention was caught by something outside. A vehicle accident of major proportions.
"You're tuning in again, aren't you?" She smiled. "I'll let myself out."
Once she was out the door, he spun into his Superman garb and was on his way. There were a couple of things he had to take care of.
Arriving back at her apartment, Lois had barely gone inside when there was a knock on the door. She frowned, going over to open it after a careful stare through the spyhole. "Agent Scardino," she greeted her visitor.
He walked past her into the living room, ceremoniously extending an armful of potted flowers.
"I'm not sick," she claimed, warily confronting the flowers with the stick-pin stating GET WELL SOON.
"I know, but anyone can give you flowers when you're ill."
"I see." She took them graciously enough, she figured, considering she didn't want them — or him — here. She left the basket atop the kitchen counter and turned to confront him.
"Nice place, suits you."
"Thanks. Anything breaking on the case?"
"Resurrection? No, but you'll be the first I call with the news."
She hinted, "Why don't Clark and I do our own investigating?"
"That nasty business of obstruction of justice."
She remembered. "Oh, yeah." She was unaccustomed to her hands being tied. "So why are you here?"
"To see you, to ask you out."
"I've told you I'm not available."
"But if we discuss the case?" he prompted.
"If you're trying to dangle bait in front of me, the last man who did that — "
"He's dead." She never liked getting specific regarding her former fiance, the worm Lex Luthor.
"I take it you're still seeing Clark."
"It's only been, what?" She really didn't know the last time she'd seen Scardino. Was it only yesterday? It seemed weeks ago. With Clark's treachery, she'd forgotten about Resurrection and the agencies investigating it.
"I know, I know. But I haven't left town yet. Thought you might provide a reason for my return."
"I told you."
"Oh, yeah, dead guys."
A motion, or sound, caught her attention. It was familiar enough she glanced toward the window she kept open for Superman. There was nothing there, and she would have thought she'd imagined it, but Scardino had taken her glance a step further and gone to investigate.
"A breeze," he decided, as the drape was billowing.
But there hadn't been much wind today.
"Sorry, Dan, but I'm distracted right now, and ordinarily that's a good idea for flattering conversation or chocolate ice cream, and the chocolate ice cream is way out in front."
He came out with his final argument, a reasonable one, he was sure. "How do you know I'm not perfect for you if you don't give us a chance?"
She avoided glancing at the bouquet, but it was in her thoughts as she said, "Maybe some other time, some other identity, but not this one, and not now. Now, if you wouldn't mind, I've got things to do."
He grudgingly conceded defeat, which she found complimentary to her ego.
Actually, if she wasn't so torn up over Clark, a man she'd almost admitted to being in love with — judging by the fantasies she was having — she would have welcomed someone so charming barging into her life. Usually that was the only way to get to know her, anyway. Clark Kent had merely taken a more sly approach, the dog.
But he hadn't called her yet: Not to apologize or lay down the law. Nothing, that's what she and her good opinion were worth to him.
She started. "Superman. I thought it was you."
"You had a guest."
"Not really. I think I got rid of him for good."
An involuntary grin threatened to lighten his features, so he scowled. "Why are you angry with Clark?"
"Clark? Oh, he told you."
"He tells me most everything."
"I guess. One of those brotherhood things, or is burdening you his price for doing your laundry?"
"Friends listen to each other."
"Are you guarding Mayson?"
"No more than usual. She does have deputies accompanying her everywhere."
"That must put a crimp in her love life."
"You shouldn't be angry with Clark. He only has your best interest at heart, and Mayson's."
"You know a lot about it," she commented. "It doesn't bother you, his taking credit for saving her?"
That was odd, as Clark's doing something immoral should ethically bother Superman. But that raised an interesting question, as to whether she should be angry on Superman's behalf when he wasn't bothered at all.
"She's crazy about him."
"So I gathered."
"Men talk, I guess."
"Lois, he'd be seeing less of Mayson if you were more available."
"I guess. All right, I know so. But I called him names. See, I just don't understand."
"Why does it hurt you so much?"
"That he did something underhand? Clark Kent's above such things, or should be. Like you. You're the two people on this planet I totally believe in and he just blew it for me."
"Maybe not. Why don't you give him another chance?"
"So he can let me down again — let you down?"
"He hasn't let me down," he pointed out.
She frowned, for she was even more confused.
"If you want to be with Clark, you have to make allowances. He's accepting you as you are. You have to accept him as he is."
"I ripped off his story when he first started at the Planet, that's what this is all about, isn't it?"
"Not quite, but it's to the point."
"Oh, all right."
"You'll be happier when you see him."
As he departed through the window, she knew he was right: She would be happier seeing Clark.
Forgetting all about chocolate, except for one double crunch bar to go, she left for Clark Kent's apartment. It was within easy walking distance.
Superman was already there, swirling into the clothing he'd been wearing earlier for his parents and Mayson, anticipating Lois' arrival. With just a little more time, they'd work everything out.
Bravado spurred her on, until Lois arrived at Clark's apartment.
Once the door opened, "I was wondering how you are," she said, awkward now they were alone.
"I'm fine." He smiled. "Want some soda?"
She knew he kept her favorite brand stocked. "Great."
She stepped down into the living room, suddenly so hyper she found herself clasping her hands in front of her.
Returning with the soda, he observed, "You came over last night. I'm sorry, I wasn't alone. I know we need to talk."
"Well, you and Mayson were on a date — "
He sat down next to her on the couch.
"Lois, Mayson's a friend. It wasn't so much dinner as grabbing a meal together. We had something to talk about, and there was something to work through."
"But she's attractive, in her own peculiar way."
"Yes, she's attractive, and I like her as a person. She's a very sharp lady, very into right and wrong. But I've always been particular about dating, which means one person at a time, and unless you're calling us quits, you are that person." He smiled. "Mayson isn't someone you need to worry about."
"Oh. Well, I thought so, I just wasn't sure." She sighed, gathering her courage. "Superman came to see me."
"He said I'm being too hard on you, that maybe you're allowed to make mistakes, that God knows I have. Or maybe that was me, putting my two cents in."
"Your brain does take wild leaps. I enjoy it," he admitted with sharp humor, "usually."
She grimaced, but it never bothered her when the teasing came from this man. "I guess I put you up on a pedestal, you know? I should have asked you first."
He began, "Lois, about Superman rescuing Mayson — "
"I don't even want to know."
"Superman was there, Lois, and I was there, too, but you wrote the story, I didn't."
Frowning, she remembered. "You didn't check it either." She'd written it up on her home terminal and sent it in, automatically sharing the by-line with her partner since he'd been on the scene, having rescued Mayson — or so she thought.
"No, it was kind of a long night." He remembered his paranoia over Mayson's discovering his secret. The last thing he'd been thinking about was calling in a story. "A Planet exclusive was the last thing on my mind," he confessed. "I know a good reporter should have realized it was a great story — "
She began stroking his arm. "I guess that puts us both in the dog house."
"Why? I can tell you, Clark Kent doesn't need the credit for saving Mayson."
"A retraction for its own sake?" Obviously Mayson and Superman could care less. But, "It'll be embarrassing."
He considered it. "I think it's already yesterday's news," he judged. "But we can fly it by Perry, see what he wants us to do."
"We've really dug a deep hole for ourselves."
He laughed. "It's not so bad. I don't need to be a hero. But I do want to spend the rest of the day with my girl, if she's okay with that."
She leaned into the cushions. "Said girl is just fine with that."