By Jill <DrMcCoY97@aol.com>
Submitted: October 2001
Summary: What would happen if Dr. Klein got a little carried away with some of his Biochemical tests? A revelation story with a touch of techno-babble.
Firstly, an explanation is in order! Trust me! This story was written over the weekend following my first round of exams in Medical School, in particular the Biochemistry exam from !@#&. So, I was going on very little sleep and a complete overload of Biochemistry. This was my therapy, much cheaper than a psychiatrist, and much more fun.
The idea for this story came from Marns, so you can blame her if this is way off the deep end. I was complaining about studying Biochem on IRC a couple weeks ago and I said that I had writer's block because I couldn't think of anything else, so she suggested I write a story a LnC story about Biochem and proceeded to give me a suggestion for this story.
Now, the fact that I actually wrote it, you can blame that on my Biochemistry professor and my lack of sleep. ;)
I also want to thank Artemis for graciously agreeing to beta-read this for me. She's always great at catching my grammar mistakes and those pesky words that I forget to put in. <g> Thanks Artemis, you're the best!
Oh, yeah, disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. They belong to DC Comics, Warner Brothers, whoever. I just borrowed them for a little while. <g>
Dr. Bernard Klein was a bit uncomfortable about the discussion that he was about to have with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. For one thing, he would never normally discuss information about a patient with an outside party, but in order for him to do the experiments that he wanted, he would need to. Besides, Superman had always included both Lois and Clark in discussions about his health and unique physiology before. And since this experiment wasn't truly related to Superman's health, he had convinced himself that he wasn't really breaking patient confidentiality. The second issue that was causing him some discomfort was the request that he needed to make of Clark. He knew that Clark was a fairly private type of person and he didn't know how Clark would react to his request or if he would agree.
The subject that he wanted to discuss with Lois and Clark had arisen during the fertility tests that he had performed for Superman about eleven months previously. Those tests had been fairly upsetting for both Superman and Dr. Klein. Superman had appeared devastated when Bernie had told him that the final test had shown that he was incompatible for reproduction with a human female, and Bernie had been quite upset himself about having to tell the superhero the results.
Fortunately for both of them, Bernie had re-run the test several times to be certain of the results. After the third repeat of the test, he had discovered that one of the reagents that he had been using was past its expiration date. The reagent had denatured and had been causing a false negative result on the test. He had immediately repeated the test with a new batch of the reagent to discover that Superman was, in fact, compatible. The look on Superman's face when Bernie had told him the new results of the tests had been one of the highlights of Bernie's professional relationship with the Man of Steel.
However, in the midst of the fertility testing, Bernie had taken the liberty of running a few extra tests on the samples that he had gotten from Superman… for the sake of science… and curiosity. He had requested a sample of some of Superman's other bodily fluids as well. Those samples really had nothing to do with the fertility tests, and Superman had looked at him rather strangely when Dr. Klein asked for them, but he had complied.
Several of the tests that he had run had been biochemical analyses of Superman's bodily secretions. He had discovered that, for the most part, Superman's body produced and secreted extremely similar substances to humans. His saliva contained the same digestive enzymes as humans, his semen had comparable protein and carbohydrate contents compared to human males, and while it had been difficult to get a sweat sample from him, that too had shown a very similar salt content.
In fact, there had only been one component of the samples that had shown a significant variance from the contents of a normal human's body secretions. In each of the samples that Dr. Klein had taken from Superman, there was a large amount of a very interesting protein compound, similar to some of the pheromone compounds secreted by animals.
The presence of the compound itself wasn't really the interesting part of the discovery; it was the composition of the pheromone-like substance. All of the other proteins that Dr. Klein had found in Superman's samples had exhibited normal characteristics of proteins found on earth, similar structure, same 20 amino acids, etc.
However, this pheromone had been a problem to analyze. Dr. Klein had first seen the strange characteristics of this protein when he had attempted to isolate it by molecular weight on an SDS polyacrylamide gel. The protein had barely moved into the gel, suggesting either that the protein was exceptionally large, or it was reacting strangely with the acrylamide in the gel.
Once he had isolated the protein, he had attempted to analyze its primary structure (its amino acid composition). The simplest and quickest way to determine amino acid composition would be through computer analysis, so Dr. Klein initially tried to run a proteometric analysis program on the protein. The attempted analysis of the protein crashed the computer system. Apparently a significant amount of amino acids present were unidentifiable by the computer.
So, Bernie was forced to use the old-fashioned methods of protein analysis. Hydrolysis of the peptide bonds allowed him to determine the amino acid content of the protein. Some of the amino acids present were indeed the same ones found in all human proteins, with a high content of phenylalanine, cysteine, serine and tryptophan. But after what had happened with the computer system, he was not surprised to discover that there were 5 amino acids in the protein with which he was unfamiliar.
Extensive chemical analysis of the amino acids showed that 4 of the unique amino acids were high molecular weight compounds containing aromatic side chains, some with a silicon component included in the aromatic rings. The fifth amino acid contained a long carbon chain with several hydroxyl and sulfhydryl groups branching from the chain.
It took him another eight months of overtime work in his lab, but using several variations on Frederick Sanger's methods, he was able to determine the amino acid sequence of the "super-pheromone". Using X-ray crystallography and several computer visualization programs, he was also able to establish the protein's three-dimensional structure.
His analysis of the protein was complete, and the information that he had obtained would result in an extraordinary paper on Kryptonian biochemistry. However, there was one more element of the protein that he wanted to research… its significance. What was the purpose of this compound?
He exposed some of his lab animals to the substance to see if there was any reaction to the pheromone, but there was no response from any of the animals. But when he started covertly exposing some of the female lab workers to the pheromone, he started to see some varied response to the substance. Some of the women showed a slight increase in body temperature, seen as a flushing of the skin, and an increased respiration rate when exposed to the pheromone compound.
The most interesting response to the substance was demonstrated about a week ago, and was the inspiration for Bernie's meeting with the Kents. Lois had been come to his lab to ask him a question for a story that she and Clark were investigating. Dr. Klein had been working with the pheromone just prior to her arrival, and a concentrated sample of the substance was still sitting out on his bench.
Within minutes of her arrival, Lois had begun to have an intense reaction to the presence of the pheromone compound. Her heart rate and breathing become much faster, while her skin became extremely flushed and warm. She had had to sit down to catch her breath, and while his assistant was fetching her a glass of water, Dr. Klein had re-covered the tube containing the pheromone and replaced it in the lab's refrigerator. As soon as the concentrated pheromone was removed from the room, Lois recovered quickly. She left a short time later, still puzzled by her strange reactions.
Lois' reaction to the super-pheromone was intriguing, especially in light of the strong bond she had always seemed to share with Superman. While there had always been speculation about Lois' relationship with the superhero, there had never been a confirmed romance between the two, and once Lois and Clark had gotten married some of the speculation had died down. Although, Bernie had witnessed some interesting interactions between Lois and Superman, even after Lois and Clark had become a couple, that suggested that there was still a very strong attraction present.
Lois had obviously had a very strong attraction for Superman, and her reaction to the pheromone showed that there was some biological basis for that attraction. And yet she had given up Superman to pursue a relationship with Clark Kent.
This had caused Dr. Klein to wonder if, perhaps, Clark had a similar pheromone-like compound that had played a role in the development of his relationship with Lois. The only way he would be able to determine if that were true would be to get some type of sample from Clark for analysis, so he had set up a meeting with both of the reporters.
The expressions on both Lois and Clark's faces were puzzled as they entered Dr. Klein's lab, and they became even more confused when he ushered them into his office, instead of talking in the lab. He didn't want to risk having their conversation overheard.
Dr. Klein motioned both of them to sit in seats on one side of his desk while he nervously bustled around his office, moving papers and cases of beakers out of the way. Lois and Clark sat, watching silently, until he finally seemed to wind down and take his seat behind the desk.
When he still didn't start talking, Lois looked questioningly at Clark, who shrugged his shoulders uncertainly. She looked back at Dr. Klein, "Alright, Dr. Klein, what did you want to see us about?" she asked bluntly.
Dr. Klein looked anxiously at both of the people sitting across the desk from him and took a deep breath before beginning. "Ok, the reason that I asked to see you both was because I want to ask a favor of you. Well, really, I want to ask a favor of Clark." Clark raised his eyebrows as the doctor shifted his gaze to focus on him.
"Let me explain everything before you ask any questions," Dr. Klein requested, seeing that Lois was about to start speaking. They both nodded their assent, and he began to explain about the super-pheromone.
"About a year ago, Superman came to see me to ask me to run some tests for him," Dr. Klein began.
"The fertility tests?" Lois asked. Dr. Klein looked at her with a slightly stunned expression; he hadn't thought that Superman would have told anyone else about the tests, not even his closest friends. He missed the stern look that Clark shot at Lois.
"Uh, yes, well then, the fertility tests," Dr. Klein stammered. "About a year ago I started running some fertility tests for Superman, and during the course of those tests I ran some extra analyses on some of the samples that I took from him and discovered something rather interesting." Lois and Clark looked worriedly at each other but didn't interrupt.
"It seems that Superman has a very unique chemical compound in all of his body secretions that acts as a potent pheromone." He looked curiously at both of the reporters. "Do you know what a pheromone is?"
Clark choked back a laugh while Lois glared at him. "Yes, Dr. Klein, we know what a pheromone is," she assured him.
He nodded before continuing, "Alright, well, the pheromone compound that I isolated from Superman had some very unique chemical properties. It took me quite a while to determine its structure. After I crashed the Proteomics computer trying to analyze it, I had to use proteolytic cleavage techniques to break the protein into smaller fragments for analysis. And then I had to use dansyl chloride and dabsyl chloride labeling to determine the amino acid sequence. All of that was after I used the NMR and mass spectrometry analysis techniques to determine the structure of the unknown amino acids."
"Dr. Klein!" Lois stopped him before he could continue on with his scientific babble.
"Oh, sorry. As I was saying, this pheromone compound was very unique chemically; it also had some very interesting clinical effects," Dr. Klein continued.
"But what does this have to do with us?" Lois asked curiously.
"That's what I was getting to. Do you remember last week, when you came to visit me about nuclear power plant story, Lois? And do you remember the strange symptoms that you had while you were here?" She nodded in acknowledgement while Clark looked at her in concern; she hadn't mentioned anything about this to him.
"Well, that was a reaction to the pheromone."
Lois blinked, "What do you mean that was a reaction to the pheromone? Are you telling me that you used me as a guinea pig?" She looked hostilely at Dr. Klein, but he hastened to reassure her.
"No, no, nothing like that. I had been working on it at my bench when you got here; I didn't have time to put it away before we started talking. I really had no intention of exposing you to it."
"You mean I had that strong of a reaction to Superman's pheromones just from being in the same room?" she asked incredulously, glancing at Clark and seeing a similarly shocked expression on his face.
"Well, the substance in the lab was fairly concentrated, but, yes, you did."
Lois paused for a moment, absorbing the information and contemplating the meaning of her reaction to the pheromone. Then she looked accusingly at Dr. Klein, "Superman doesn't know you're doing these tests, does he?"
Bernie blushed slightly, looking mildly ashamed, "Well, no, not beyond the fertility tests he doesn't," he admitted. "But I wouldn't publish anything without his permission."
"Publish?" Clark asked, distressed. "What do you mean, publish?"
"Oh, didn't I mention? I'm writing a paper on this. Just the discovery of the alien amino acids is enough to get it published, but I want all of the research to be complete before I write the paper." Clark paled dramatically while Dr. Klein explained about his paper. "That's really the reason that I asked you here," Bernie continued. "In order to finish the research that I want to do on this compound, I wanted to ask Clark if he would be willing to supply a sample for me to compare with Superman's."
Clark made a strangled choking noise as Dr. Klein finished making his request, and Dr. Klein looked at him anxiously, finally realizing the effect that this conversation was having on him. "Clark? Are you okay?" he asked. "Can I get you a glass of water?" Clark managed to nod his head and Dr. Klein reached for a glass and pitcher he had sitting on a table behind his desk. He filled a glass quickly and handed it to Clark.
Clark sipped at the water, trying to calm himself and control his reaction to everything that Dr. Klein had said. He couldn't believe this was happening. Not only had he just discovered that he produced a pheromone that Lois apparently reacted very strongly to, but he had just been asked to provide a sample to compare with his own sample. He glanced at Lois only to see that her face had lost most of its color as well, and she had a distinctly frightened look in her eyes.
He took a deep breath and looked back to Dr. Klein. "I'm sorry doctor, did you just ask me to give you a body fluid sample to compare with Superman's?"
Dr. Klein blushed again, "Um, yes, I did. It's just that, well, Lois had the strongest reaction I'd seen to the pheromone, and since she's had similar relationships with both you and Superman. I mean, since she's been attracted to both of you… I just thought," Bernie stuttered, trying to explain why he wanted a sample from Clark. "I wanted to analyze a sample from you to see if you, maybe, had a similar, human equivalent of the pheromone."
Clark looked at Lois, meeting her gaze for a moment before responding to Dr. Klein again. "I'm sorry doctor, I just don't think I can do that. I appreciate scientific research as much as anyone, but I'm just not willing to give a sample of any of my body fluids for comparison with Superman's. And I don't think he'd be too thrilled to be having his secretions compared with mine either."
Dr. Klein's blush deepened, "Alright, Clark, I understand. I'm sorry for taking up your time." He stood to lead the two reporters out of his office. "If you see Superman, could you ask him to come see me, I'd like to talk to him about the research before I do anything with the paper." Clark nodded as he and Lois both left the office.
Dr. Klein closed the door behind them as they continued on their way out of the lab. He sighed heavily and leaned back against the door for a moment before walking back over to his desk and picking up the glass of water that he'd handed to Clark. He picked up the glass and looked closely at the rim, noting the place where Clark had placed his mouth while he drank. He didn't know how much saliva he'd be able to recover from the glass, but it should be enough to do a fairly adequate analysis. If there were any kind of pheromone compound in Clark's saliva that was similar to Superman's, he'd be able to find it.
Out in the S.T.A.R. Labs parking lot, Lois and Clark climbed into their Jeep and just sat in silence for a moment before saying anything.
"I can't believe that just happened," Clark remarked.
Lois remained quiet, not saying anything, and Clark looked at her in concern. "Honey, are you alright?"
She turned in the driver's seat to face him, a dazed look on her face. "A pheromone? You have a pheromone that I react to?" He shrugged, not knowing what to say. "You don't understand Clark. My reaction was so strong that I couldn't breathe; my heart was racing." She paused, searching his face for some kind of response. "That can't be what drives our relationship, can it?" she asked worriedly. "My reaction to your pheromones?"
Clark looked surprised at her suggestion, shaking his head and reaching towards her to pull her close to him in a hug. "No, Lois. Our relationship is so much stronger than simple biology. You know there's more than a physical attraction in our marriage. I've found more love with you than I ever thought was possible, that can't be the result of a chemical compound."
She wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly in return, and he dropped a kiss on the top of her head before releasing her and sitting back in his own seat.
"Although, the pheromone can't hurt. I kind of like the idea that you're irresistibly attracted to me." He grinned at her, waggling his eyebrows up and down. She laughed and smacked him lightly on the arm, grinning back.
"And I think that Superman will go talk to Dr. Klein tomorrow and suggest that he forget about the paper. There are just some things that the scientific community doesn't need to know."
Lois nodded her head in agreement before starting the Jeep and pulling out of the parking lot.
Dr. Klein sat at his lab bench the next morning with a slightly stunned expression on his face. He'd worked all day yesterday and through the night analyzing the saliva that he'd gotten from Clark's water glass.
When he first started having problems isolating the protein from Clark's saliva, he'd assumed that he'd done something wrong in the procedure. But after the second attempt, he'd realized that the problems he was experiencing had been the same ones that he'd had with Superman's samples. He immediately changed his approach, and extracted a chemical compound identical to the super-pheromone. The amino acid sequence was identical, including the unique Kryptonian amino acids.
The implications of this discovery were profound, and he couldn't believe that he hadn't figured it out before now. He'd interacted with both men for years and never known that they were the same person. He was stunned.
"Dr. Klein?" Bernie jumped and turned around quickly on his bench stool, almost falling off. Superman was standing in the open doorway of his lab, arms folded across his chest in his superhero stance.
Dr. Klein simply gaped for a moment, his mouth opening and closing, but no sound coming out, before recovering his wits.
"Superman, uh, hi. I'm glad you came."
"Dr. Klein, Lois and Clark told me about the tests that you'd been running, and about the pheromone compound you'd discovered. I understand that this is a pretty big discovery for you and that it could be quite interesting to the scientific community, but I'd like to ask you to refrain from publishing your paper."
At this point, Bernie had expected this request. Clark could hardly risk any connection being made between him and the superhero. He was now also beginning to understand why Superman wouldn't want aspects of his public life or his biology to become public knowledge.
Dr. Klein met Superman's gaze and held it for a moment before nodding his head in agreement. "I understand Superman, you need to have your privacy and while this would have made a wonderful paper, I respect your rights and your decision. I apologize for running these tests without your knowledge."
Superman sighed in relief. "Thank you, Dr. Klein. I really appreciate everything you've done for me, and your understanding in this matter." He smiled briefly at the doctor before turning and leaving the lab. The scientist turned towards his office, moving to sit behind his computer.
Bernie Klein smiled wryly to himself as he deleted all of the files pertaining to the tests he had run on the super- pheromone compound. He wouldn't get to publish his paper, but he could keep a secret, too.