By ML Thompson <email@example.com>
Submitted: November 2001
Summary: When Clark is affected by a powerful, mind-altering drug, Lois has to protect and defend his reputation while trying to come to terms with some startling discoveries herself.
This story takes place after 'Fly Hard.' In other words, Lois is dating Luthor, but he hasn't asked her to marry him yet — although he's getting close to doing so. And Clark is doing what Clark does best — sitting around watching another man make progress with his girl. Come on, Clark! Get off your butt and take a risk! At the very least, ask the woman out!
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit. Special thanks to the writers of 'Fly Hard' for giving me my starting point and some background. And special thanks to the writers of one of the other episodes — you'll know which one — for giving me one of my characters and inspiring the idea for this story.
Thanks to the people who answered my question about various ways to say 'I love you' on Zoomway's message boards. I tried to make good use of the information. My continuing gratitude goes out to Gerry Anklewicz and Carol Malo for their work on this story. As always, their assistance and support were invaluable. And thanks to Erin Klingler for editing this story for the archives.
WARNING: This story deals with adult themes and situations which might be unsuitable for a younger reader.
An attractive blonde walked through the doors and onto the steps outside the Metropolis Insane Asylum. Stopping momentarily, she pushed her hair back over her shoulders and let the wind play with it as the words of the old spiritual ran through her mind.
'Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last.'
It had actually been a brilliant plan. A small demonstration, by accident of course, was all it took to convince the jury that working with the substance day after day had made her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. The fact that no one had been permanently injured had undoubtedly gone a long way to help — not to mention her shameless flirting with juror number four.
Still, it was all behind her now. She had been pronounced healthy and released. And she had used her time inside well. She was sure that a little tinkering was all it would take to change her compound, making it suitable for her new purposes. Lex would certainly have to love her after this.
Perry and Jimmy stood with a crowd of Daily Planet employees in front of the police tape that blocked the way to Perry's office. After the events of the past weekend, Perry's office looked like something of a war zone. Still, the police were going to remove the tape this morning and workmen were scheduled to be here this afternoon. Perry hoped to be back in his office later in the week. After all, in spite of the mess, the only real damage was to the floor.
"Yeah, well," began Perry, looking over at Jimmy, "I guess it needed a lift anyway, huh?"
Jimmy gave his boss a sympathetic smile before both turned back to look at his office.
They didn't notice the delivery boy who was approaching Lois' desk — although, from where he was seated behind his desk, Clark couldn't help but see. The moment Clark realized what was being delivered, he knew who it was from.
"Delivery, Miss Lane," said the young man, setting down a vase containing a dozen long-stemmed roses. Lois noticed an envelope nestled between the flowers. Standing up, she opened the envelope, withdrawing a simple white card with the words, 'Love, Lex,' on it.
At first a small smile played around her mouth, until something in her peripheral vision caught her eye. It was obvious that Clark had seen the flowers, too. Sneaking a quick peek at him, she noticed he was biting his lower lip while concentrating intently on a paper in front of him. She felt a bizarre, completely undeserved stab of guilt. Why should she feel guilty? Clark was her best friend — nothing more. It wasn't even as if Clark had ever given her reason to believe that he wanted to be more than her partner and her friend. He seemed to be attracted to her, but beyond that… Her thoughts were interrupted by an all too familiar voice.
"Send yourself flowers again, Lois?" said Cat coming late, as usual, into the newsroom.
Lois gave her a dirty look before setting down the card from Lex and retaking her seat.
Cat turned around, addressing the people she'd seen here two nights ago. "What a weekend," she said with flourish. "Now, I know he may not look like it, but under that mild- mannered facade, George is a wild man. I spent most of the weekend…" She paused for dramatic effect before saying, "…in handcuffs."
Everyone listening looked at one another in disbelief. They had spent most of the weekend in handcuffs too — although for an entirely different reason.
"So, what did you guys do this weekend?" she asked.
They simply continued staring at her, causing her to add, "Sorry I asked." She turned and walked away, oblivious to the looks that followed her.
Lois turned to look at Clark. He was looking back at a paper on his desk, obviously lost in thought. Once again, Lois felt that confusing stab of guilt. Why on earth was she feeling guilty? She had nothing to feel guilty for!
Her mind flashed back to Clark's warning the previous morning, when they'd finally escaped from the terrorists who had held them hostage at the Planet. 'Be careful of Lex. You don't know him the way I do.' What had that been about?
Lois was disappointed by Clark's comment. It just didn't seem like Clark to make vague comments disparaging someone's reputation. It was petty and beneath the man she'd come to know and respect. If he knew anything solid about Lex, he would certainly tell her. His vague comment had made her feel more let down by Clark than worried about Lex.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a ringing phone.
"Lois Lane," she said, picking it up.
"Lois," came Luthor's smooth voice over the line. "Recover yet from spending the night with me? In handcuffs, too, I might add," he said.
"Well, it was certainly a night to remember," she replied with a laugh.
Luthor's chuckle joined hers before he said, "The reason I'm calling, other than to hear your voice, of course, is that I was thinking that we really didn't have much of a date on Saturday night. Would you consider dining with me this coming weekend? I was thinking of a little Italian restaurant I know about."
"That sounds nice, Lex," Lois replied, forcing herself not to look towards Clark's desk and the eyes she instinctively knew were watching her.
"Good. Saturday then. I'll contact you with an exact time, but I was thinking sometime in the early afternoon. It will take us a little while to get to the place I have in mind."
"I have the weekend off, so that would be fine. And thanks for the flowers. They're beautiful."
"Ahh. They arrived then. Good. I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you."
Lois pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. It was certainly flattering having such a charming, powerful and cultured man interested in her. Before she could respond she heard a woman's voice in the background say, "Someone for the boss on line four."
"Sounds like you're needed," Lois said.
"Uh, yes. That's the down side to being the third richest man in the world. Someone always needs your time. I'd much rather be talking to you."
She smiled. "Go. Take care of business. I have to get back to work, too."
"Very well," he said with an exaggerated sigh. "'Til Saturday then," he concluded.
Lois hung up the phone and glanced around casually. She looked around more thoroughly when she realized Clark wasn't at his desk. Actually, he didn't seem to be anywhere in the newsroom. She was certain he had been there a moment ago.
Before she could follow that thought further, Jack showed up with some research she'd asked for. She thanked him and then watched as he walked off. She and Clark had met Jack after he had robbed Clark's apartment. Instead of pressing charges, Clark got Jack a job at the Daily Planet and found a good foster home for Jack's little brother. But that was Clark. Instead of seeing a criminal, Clark saw a young man who had been forced to the streets to take care of his little brother. She, personally, still doubted that Jack could be trusted. But Clark obviously saw something in the kid.
After saying goodbye to Lois, Luthor immediately pressed another phone line. "Luthor," he said briskly. He listened for a moment before saying, "When can you have it for me?" There was another pause before he concluded, "Very good. Contact me as soon as you return to Metropolis."
Lex Luthor hung up the phone before picking up a velvet- covered box and leaning back in his chair. He smiled as he opened the box revealing a stunning diamond ring. He wasn't happy with the size of the diamond, but the craftsman had assured him that it was the largest diamond ever mounted on an engagement ring.
When he had told Lois 'Italian,' he meant Italy. His private jet. Champagne. Hors d'oeuvres. Perhaps even a violin player. Then, he'd ask her to marry him. And given that he should have the kryptonite later this week, he would soon have everything he wanted — namely, Lois Lane for his wife and a superhero for his victim.
The intercom on his phone buzzed. He pressed the button and responded irritably — he hated being interrupted when he was dreaming about the future.
"What is it, Mrs. Cox?" he asked.
However, before she could respond, a woman burst into his office. Lex was immediately on his feet. He quickly stuck the ring in his desk.
"Miranda," he said in a patronizing voice. "I heard you got out. What can I do for you?" Lex asked, waving off Mrs. Cox who had followed Miranda into his office.
"You've got that backwards, Lex," said Miranda once Mrs. Cox had left, closing the door behind her. "It's what I can do for you."
Luthor sat back in his chair as Miranda continued. "I've recently discovered that you have made arrangements to receive a substance which is alleged to… well, shall we say take care of a mutual enemy of ours."
"You wouldn't be talking about Superman, would you?" asked Luthor. "The last I saw of you, you were telling Superman you loved him."
Miranda turned her back to Luthor, walking to the other side of the room. "He tricked me. He infected me with my own perfume in order to get me to surrender myself to the police." She turned back around and looked at Luthor from the other side of the room. "Let's just say that you and I have a vested interest in dealing with the Man of Steel."
Luthor studied her for a moment before turning his attention to some papers on his desk. "Not interested," he replied dismissively. After all, he had his own plans for Superman's demise. He didn't need Miranda's help.
"Oh, but I think you will be," she said. "If I know you, Lex, you're planning to use your new acquisition to kill Superman. What if I told you that my plan is better? Oh, I'm sure you have something very creative in mind. But tell me, will your way discredit him in the eyes of the world?" When he continued to look bored, she spoke again. "Will it discredit him in the eyes of a certain reporter?"
Suddenly, Luthor was interested. "What did you have in mind?" he asked.
Miranda made her way back to him, taking a seat on the corner of his desk.
"Do you remember my pheromone compound?" she asked.
"Of course," he responded. After all, it would be hard to forget how she'd sprayed the Daily Planet employees with her animal pheromone, making everyone drunk on love. He could clearly remember how foolish Lois looked mooning over Clark Kent. He had never seen anything more ridiculous. After all, Kent was a nobody. There was no way Lois would ever look at someone as insignificant as Kent otherwise.
"How do you think Lois would react if her hero was suddenly propositioning every woman he encounters?"
Luthor smiled. Miranda was right. Having Superman become promiscuous would completely destroy Superman's reputation — particularly in the eyes of Lois Lane. He knew she had feelings for the alien, had even worried that those feelings might cause her to turn down his proposal. This couldn't possibly have come at a better time.
"And you can do that?" Luthor asked, trying not to sound as interested as he suddenly felt.
"I can do that," she responded. "Now, I know he appeared to be affected by my perfume last time, but I suspect it was just an act."
"Why do you think that?" Luthor asked. He'd suspected the same thing at the time. However, he wasn't sure why he'd doubted the performance.
"He inhaled a lot of my full strength compound and yet was still able to think clearly enough to dilute it for use on me. Now, even if he wasn't attracted to me, it's common knowledge that he has a soft spot for Lois Lane." She noticed Lex's eyes narrow. Smiling, she continued, "Yet when he was in her presence, was even kissing her, he still had the presence of mind to answer your question about me. Had he really been affected, he wouldn't have paid any attention to you," she replied. "Now tell me, Lex. Why do you think he pretended to be affected?"
Luthor's eyes narrowed. There was only one possible answer to that question. He'd pretended to be affected by the perfume to manipulate Lois into kissing him — which she had immediately done. The whole incident had made Luthor sick to his stomach.
"So what makes you think it will work on him this time?" he asked, changing the direction of the discussion.
"That's where the kryptonite comes in," she responded. "I think that a little kryptonite added to the formula will make Superman vulnerable enough that the perfume will affect him. I spent my time inside wisely. I figured out the proportions necessary to make my pheromone compound affect Superman. The trick will be to add just enough kryptonite to allow the perfume to affect him without hurting him. But I'm confident I can do that. And think how the world will react when Superman starts hitting on every woman he rescues."
"When the people at the Planet were exposed, they focused all their attention on one person. Why would Superman be any different?" Luthor asked.
"Because my perfume is based on smell. If, for example, a person had no sense of smell, my perfume would have no effect. With humans, a person is only affected to the degree that their sense of smell is developed. Superman, from what I've heard, has a remarkable olfactory sense. As a result, all it will take is the mildest feeling of attraction for him to fall wildly in love — until he finds someone else he's attracted to."
Lex nodded slowly. He had to admit it sounded promising. There was certainly a danger of Superman encountering Lois Lane, but it was an acceptable risk — given the potential benefits.
"How soon could you have it ready?"
"How soon can you get me the kryptonite?" she replied.
He considered the question. If he wanted Lois to see a promiscuous superhero before he proposed, he'd have to move quickly. "I'll have it to you by Thursday morning," he finally said.
"Then I'll make sure Superman is exposed Friday morning at the latest."
"Perfect," said Luthor. After all, that would give Lois plenty of time to hear all about Superman's promiscuity before Luthor proposed on Saturday night.
"So, can I assume that this time we can mix a little pleasure with our business?" she asked, reaching out to run one of her hands down his chest.
"I think not," said Luthor. He stopped as if reconsidering before saying, "Unless…"
"Come back once you've been with Superman," he suggested. "Then we might have something to discuss."
She smiled, removing herself from the corner of his desk. "Count on it," she said before turning and sashaying out of the room.
Luthor settled into his chair as he watched her go. Once the door closed behind her, he picked up the phone. A moment later, Nigel entered the room.
"You wanted to speak to me, sir?" asked the very proper English gentleman.
"Yes, Nigel. Miranda was just here. On Friday, she will be having a… sort of rendezvous with Superman. I want a man there with a video camera. I want every touch, every word recorded."
"Certainly, sir," said Nigel, although he was obviously having serious problems believing what his employer seemed to think would be going on between Superman and Miranda.
"Once it's done, bring the tape to me immediately."
"If I might enquire, sir?" When Luthor gestured for him to continue, Nigel asked his question. "What are you planning to do with the tape?"
"Well, first it will have to be edited."
"It is critical that no one recognize the woman with the Man of Steel. Once that's done, I will provide a copy to LNN, the Playboy channel and Lois Lane — anonymously, of course. It should go a long way to shattering Ms. Lane's image of the superhero."
As Nigel left, Luthor leaned back in his chair and thought about his plan. If anything could change his beloved's view of the superhero, it was this. Of course, he wouldn't send Miranda all the kryptonite. After all, once Superman was thoroughly discredited, he would still have to die.
On Thursday, as promised, a small parcel arrived from Luthor. Miranda opened the box to find a green, glowing rock inside. It only took a short time to grind it into a fine powder. She carefully measured the powder onto the scales until she had the exact amount she required.
Once the powder was ready, she slipped her gas mask over her head and took out her last jar of the full strength pheromone compound. She removed the lid and was about to pour some of it into a beaker when she stopped. If she used a one percent solution, it would only have a temporary effect on Superman. She could always claim that she wanted to be sure it worked correctly before using a permanent dosage. And that would ensure that Luthor would still need her after this was done.
She pushed that thought out of her mind. Luthor would be furious if she did that. After all, it wasn't as if her supply of kryptonite was unlimited. But… She stood, debating the issue in her own mind for quite some time before coming to a decision.
She smiled slightly as she worked on the compound. She might be intent on discrediting the superhero, but that didn't stop her excitement at the idea of having sex with him. She hadn't told Lex this, and never would, but she had planned to be Superman's first 'conquest' after being affected by the pheromone compound, even before Lex had suggested it. After all, she might love Lex, but if he thought any woman would give up a chance to be with Superman, he was crazy.
It was almost noon on Friday. Lois glanced up at the clock again before looking around the newsroom. Where exactly had Clark gone to? He had been gone for a couple of hours now, giving one of his lame excuses before he left. If he wasn't such a great partner when he was around… She growled in frustration.
She turned her attention back to today's story. Since terrorists had held them captive here last weekend, she and Clark had been doing further research. They had found out and written follow-up stories about their captives. It seemed that the people who had been hired were all part of a mercenary group that sold themselves to the highest bidder. They even had advertisements in Soldier of Fortune magazine. Their leader was wanted on a number of charges in the United States.
Then this morning, she and Clark had delved further into the story behind the money that had been hidden in the floor of Perry's office — thirty million dollars. Last night, Lois had actually located the woman who had betrayed Willy. Her name was Lily and she was still alive. After all these years, she was finally willing to talk. This morning, when Lois and Clark interviewed her, she confessed that she had, indeed, wrongfully accused Bill 'Willy' Robinson of murdering Murphy. As Lois typed up the story, she found herself haunted by Lily's words, "I chose exciting over devoted and I've never regretted a decision more."
Lois spent the morning trying to push the woman's words, and the accompanying look on her face, out of her mind. That wasn't what she was doing by dating Lex when she knew Clark was devoted to her. After all, Clark had never even asked her out. Actually, that wasn't exactly true. He had once, when he first started working at the Planet. However, he hadn't again since they'd become friends. No. He obviously realized what she did, that dating would ruin the greatest partnership and friendship she'd ever had.
She looked around again. Where was he anyway? She had no idea how she was going to end this story. She really could use Clark's help.
She was looking forward to tomorrow night. She hated doing these follow-up stories. Now that the big story was out, it was hard not wanting to just get on with the next big story. Besides, Lex had called to say that he would be by for her at one o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Other than telling her to dress for dinner, he'd refused to give her the slightest hint about where they were going. She had to admit that she was curious.
She looked up when she heard Perry growl at a workman who was trying to tell him that repairs to his office were not yet complete. She smiled slightly when Perry, over the workman's objections, walked into his office, removed a sheet covering his desk and chair and settled into his chair. She shook her head and turned her attention back to the story.
Superman landed on the roof of the Daily Planet building. He stood there, trying to stop the world from spinning around him. Once it finally became stable, he turned and headed for the stairway. He was just about to walk through the door when he felt that something wasn't right. He took another look around, but nothing seemed out of whack. Then he glanced down at his spandex-covered legs. This wasn't the way he usually dressed when he entered the Daily Planet. He needed to change.
He tried to spin, but the previous dizziness returned with the movement. He stood still for a moment before retrieving his clothes from where he'd hidden them on the Daily Planet roof when he'd left earlier and, at normal human speed, slipped them on over the Superman suit. Then he turned and entered the Planet. As he did, the dizziness receded — allowing him to descend the stairs at superspeed.
He had just stepped into the newsroom when he heard it — her heartbeat. His eyes instinctively sought out the sound and his heart leapt when they found Lois diligently studying her computer screen. He stood by the banister watching her for a moment, her unique fragrance filling his nostrils, the soft, rhythmic thumping of her heart the only sound he could hear. Suddenly, the urge to close the distance between them was overwhelming. As he walked, he became oblivious to the presence of everyone else in the newsroom.
"Did you get it?" asked Luthor.
Nigel held up the tape. "I should tell you though that the cameraman did say there were a few problems."
"Nothing we can't fix, I'm sure," responded Luthor, coming over and taking the tape from Nigel. He walked over to a video machine and inserted the tape. Nigel and Luthor stood watching. As they did, Luthor's eyes continued to narrow. Once the tape clicked off, both men stood in silence for a minute.
"Might I ask what you're going to do, sir?" asked Nigel.
"Fix it," Luthor responded.
Lois glanced up when she noticed Clark sitting down beside her desk.
"Took you long enough," she said, directing her attention back to her computer screen.
"Miss me?" he asked, placing his elbows on her desk and resting his chin in his hands.
"I sure could have used your help ten minutes ago. Well, as long as you're here, you might as well…" Her voice trailed off when she looked up and saw him staring at her.
"What is it?" she asked, suddenly wondering if she had some food between her teeth. Her hand immediately went to check her hair while her tongue swept her mouth looking for any forgotten food crumbs.
"Nothing," Clark murmured, smiling contentedly.
Lois put the back of her hand against Clark's forehead. There was no temperature as far as she could tell. "You feeling okay?" she asked.
"Never better," Clark's voice said in a husky growl.
Lois turned her attention back to the story for a moment before she couldn't stand it any longer. Something was going on and she was determined to know what it was. "What?" she demanded this time.
"I was just thinking…" Clark whispered, his eyes never leaving hers.
"How beautiful you are," he concluded, reaching up and withdrawing a pen from behind her ear. He then took a moment to tuck her hair back where he had found it.
She quickly looked away. There was an intensity in his words and his eyes that made her breath catch in her throat.
"I've traveled the whole world and I've never seen anyone or anything as beautiful as you," Clark continued. "You don't even have to try," he said, completely in awe.
"Would you quit it, Kent," Lois responded, pretending to ignore him. She typed along for a minute. Or at least she pretended to. She was glad Clark couldn't see her monitor. After all, she was typing nonsense. She just needed something to keep from looking at him while she tried to figure out what he was up to. There was nothing so remarkable about the words. After all, Lois had been hit on more than once — and being told she was beautiful was standard fair. Lex had even told her that on their first date — and much more eloquently, too. But there was an intensity in the way Clark said it, a feeling of reverence in his words that left her mouth dry and her hands sweaty.
He had no right to play with her like this. He was buttering her up for something. That was the only possible explanation, but he had no right to use such tactics — that was her prerogative alone. There had been enough times in the past when she'd flirted with him to get something she wanted. He had never resorted to such tactics. How dare he start now!
In her peripheral vision, she could tell that Clark was still sitting at her desk, watching her. She refused to look at him. But even without looking at him, she knew the look that would be on his face. She'd seen it in the past — until he would realize that she'd noticed him. It was a look of… wonder, was the word that always seemed to come to mind. But until now, she'd never really thought about what it meant. Was it possible that Clark had feelings for her beyond what she'd been prepared to recognize? No. That was ridiculous.
Besides, they had an unspoken understanding. They were partners and best friends. Lois knew both their friendship and their partnership would irreparably change as soon as they stepped over that invisible line. Until now, she thought he understood that, too. Well, there was only one thing to do. She had to put him back in his place. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak as her eyes once again found his.
For a moment, she was lost. The look in his eyes was almost heart stopping. In fact, it was heart stopping. He was looking at her exactly the way she'd imagined the men in her romance novels looking at the women they loved. Her hand went out to touch his cheek. Suddenly, she pulled back. What on earth did she think she was doing?
"Umm… I've got to…" she said, quickly rising from her chair and heading for Perry's office.
She entered Perry's office without knocking, closing the door behind her and leaning her back against the door. Perry looked up from his desk.
"What can I do for you, Lois?" he asked.
"What?" asked Lois.
Perry looked confused. "Well, you come steaming into my office — without knocking I might add — and…"
"Oh, umm… Sorry, Perry. I just… I'll be going now," she said, opening the door and making a quick exit. She started towards her desk, but stopped when Clark looked up. No. She wasn't ready to face him yet. Not when that look was still on his face — that look that seemed to reach inside and touch her soul.
She quickly made her way to the conference room, closed the door and the blinds and sank down into a chair at the table, her hands trembling. 'Calm down,' she told herself firmly. Something was going on. She knew that on two levels. The first question was, what had gotten into Clark? Of course, that question was not the primary one. No matter what had gotten into Clark to make him behave so… un- Clark-like, she could handle him. After all, she'd handled advances from men all her life.
The primary problem was how she seemed to be reacting to this strange behavior. Looking into his eyes sent a flutter down her spine to settle in the pit of her stomach, reminding her of something she thought she was immune to. The urge to touch him at that moment was almost irresistible. How was that possible? How was it possible that he was able to make her legs tremble when men who were so much more debonair, like Lex, were unable to affect her beyond a feeling of admiration and flattery?
She'd always known she was physically attracted to Clark. She'd felt it while investigating their first story. Going to Clark's hotel room, seeing him in nothing but a towel… It was the first time in years that she'd felt that desire — and never before had it been so intense.
'Of course, I'm also attracted to Superman,' she reminded herself. Then she shook her head. Why had she had to remind herself that she was physically attracted to Superman? That was simple. She hadn't immediately thought about how Superman affected her because Superman was different. He was… She shook her head, rejecting the word that immediately came to mind. She tried to find a different word. There had to be a different word. But try as she might, the word that kept coming to mind was 'safe.' She thought about that for a moment. Was it possible that she was using Superman the way many women used movie stars? No! Of course not! Superman was lusted after by millions of women around the world. She pushed away the realization that that was exactly the point. She could openly lust after Superman because, in much the same way as a movie star, he was unattainable — hence, 'safe.'
Clark was different. There was nothing at all safe about him — in fact, he was probably the most dangerous man she'd ever known. If she ever let him, he could break not only her heart but her spirit. And, if her past had taught her anything, it was how temporary men's feelings were. They were driven by one thing — the conquest. Besides, she was dating Lex now. Clark knew that.
And given the fact that she'd kept any indication that she was attracted to Clark well buried, what did Clark think he was doing? There was only one way to find out. Deciding to take the bull by the horns, she got up from the table and, opening the door, looked out into the newsroom. Clark was still sitting at her desk, giving a very good impression of a lost puppy. She pushed aside the feelings that evoked and turned her attention to what needed to be done.
She took a deep breath and walked over to her desk. He looked up as she approached and his face immediately lit up. She paused momentarily, swallowing hard. If she thought that lost puppy look was adorable, this was a hundred times more powerful.
"We need to talk," Lois said, keeping her words as clipped and unfriendly as she could, although even she could tell that her voice trembled slightly. She immediately spun around and headed back to the conference room, telling herself again what a mistake it was to get involved with a co-worker — especially this particular co-worker. As she entered the conference room, she noted that some of their colleagues were watching. She didn't concern herself with their attention. They'd all seen enough fights between her and Clark over the past year.
Once inside, Lois waited until she heard Clark close the door before turning around. She took an immediate step back when she discovered that Clark was standing right in front of her.
"Listen," said Clark, "it's obvious that neither of us are getting any work done. So why don't we take the day off?"
Lois, who was still slightly off balance from finding Clark standing so close, mumbled something which made no sense even to her. How was it possible that she hadn't realized before how incredible Clark smelt?
"We could fly to a small island in the Pacific I know about. You'd love it. I've dreamt about taking you there since the day we met. It's only a few miles across. It's covered with palm trees and has the whitest sand I've ever seen. And there's this waterfall…"
"What are you talking about, Clark?" Lois interrupted — his words finally breaking through her hormone-clouded mind. "Even if I agreed to take the day off, we'd never be able to get there and back." As she spoke, she began backing away from Clark. There was something definitely wrong. She swallowed hard when he followed her. It wasn't long before he had her backed against the wall. He placed an arm on the wall beside her head and, leaning on it, bought his body within inches of hers. However, to his credit, he wasn't touching her. Still, the closeness of his body was making it impossible for her to think clearly.
"Getting there isn't a problem," said Clark dismissively. "Besides, I know you have feelings for me. You're just scared. Don't worry. I'd never hurt you the way the others have. You mean more to me than my life. I'd rather die myself than ever hurt you."
"What are you talking about, Clark?" Lois demanded as briskly as she could — trying unsuccessfully to ignore how close he was coming to the truth about her.
"I love you, Lois," he whispered before taking one of her hands with his free one and raising it. Keeping his eyes firmly on hers, he turned her hand over and gently kissed the inside of her wrist.
Lois immediately felt lightheaded. She wasn't sure if it was the kiss or the look in his eyes. She quickly yanked her hand away from his grasp. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but this is really starting to make me uncomfortable."
Clark immediately took a small step back. "I'd never do anything you didn't want me to," he said, as if horrified that she might think otherwise. "You do know that, don't you?"
She let out a breath. "I know that, Clark," she conceded. "It's just… Well, you are acting a little strange."
"I can't help how I feel. I'm so completely in love with you, baby."
Baby? Lois fell silent. What was going on here? Why was Clark calling her 'baby'? No one called her 'baby' and actually lived to tell the tale. However, before she could respond, Clark's face broke into a smile.
"Let's get out of here," he said.
"What? Clark, it's the middle of a work day. We can't just…" Her voice trailed off when Clark suddenly became a blur. When it finally stopped, Superman was standing in front of her, hand stretched out to her.
"What… How… Omigod!" Lois gasped as the implications of what she had just seen began to sink in.
"Lois!" Clark exclaimed, reaching out and catching her as her legs gave out from under her. He lowered her into a chair before kneeling in front of her.
Lois' hand came up to his face, tracing the lines as she struggled to see her partner in the superhero. "Why did you do that?" she asked after a moment. After all, Clark had obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal his identity — or was it the other way around? Why was he revealing this to her now?
"Do what, baby?" Superman asked, as if completely mystified. One of his hands came up to cover the one of hers that was still resting on his cheek.
"Do…" her voice trailed off as she looked into Superman's bewildered eyes. He didn't seem to realize what he'd just revealed to her. What the heck was going on here?
"I'd really like to kiss you," Superman whispered.
"What?" asked Lois, still completely rattled by what was happening. Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat as the man before her — was it Superman or Clark? — began to lean in. Unable to get her mind to focus on any single thought, she did nothing as he moved closer. Then, instead of touching his lips to hers, his lips began to trail down the outside of her throat. "What the…" Lois said, her mind coming back in full force as his lips burned a path down her neck. She instinctively reached up and pushed him violently away, causing him to crash back onto the floor behind him. She jumped to her feet, fighting the feeling that too much information combined with too many feelings were being flung at her faster than she had the power to handle it.
"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded, glaring down at him and growing angrier when she realized that her voice had taken on a husky texture. "I never…" Her voice trailed off at the confused, hurt and almost mortified look on his face. It suddenly hit her. Whatever was going on here, he had less power to control it than she did. She knelt down beside him, carefully studying his eyes. His pupils were dilated and his skin was flushed. She let out a breath when it hit her. She wasn't sure how it was possible, given who he was, but she was fairly certain Clark had been drugged. It was the only thing that made any sense. However, before she could explore that idea further, the door to the conference room started to open.
Lois' mind made a dozen different leaps of logic in a nanosecond. Suddenly, she was on her feet, rushing to the door to slam it shut again. Everyone had seen Clark come in here. How would they… or actually, she, since Clark was probably not going to be any help …possibly explain Clark disappearing to be replaced by Superman?
"What the Sam Hill is going on in there?" demanded her boss' voice.
Lois cringed. It would have to be Perry. "Just give us a minute, Perry," Lois begged through the door. She then turned her attention back to Superman who was still sitting dejectedly on the floor. "I need you to change back into Clark," she said.
"I thought you liked the suit," said Superman, getting up off the floor and looking much more hopeful now that she was talking to him again.
"I do," said Lois quickly. "It's just… I loved that spin thing and want to know if you can do it backwards."
Superman's face lit up in a smile. He quickly spun. She gasped when a second later, Clark stood in front of her. "That's… Umm… Impressive. Now, I need you to promise me something."
"Like to love, honor and cherish you for as long as we both shall live?" Clark asked, stepping closer.
Lois swallowed hard at the powerful image those words invoked. "No," she said softly, not meeting his eyes. "I need you to promise not to let anyone know you're Superman unless I say it's okay."
He looked slightly confused but gave the promise. Lois let out a breath before turning to open the door to their boss.
Getting Clark out of the newsroom hadn't been hard. It was lunch time, after all. As she climbed behind the wheel of her jeep, she realized that she had no idea where she was taking him. All she did know was that this man… her mild- mannered partner who, as it turned out, was also an invincible superhero, was not in his right mind. She had to get him out of the newsroom before he did something that couldn't be explained away. She might not know the reasons, but she did know that he wouldn't want anyone to know that he was Superman. After all, he wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to create a separate identity if he wanted people to know.
Clark's place? Her place? Somewhere entirely different? It only took her a moment to make the decision. Her place. At least there she'd be in control. And there was no one else around for Clark to reveal his secret to. But there was a problem. There was definitely a problem with being alone with him at her apartment.
She glanced over at him. Clark had turned slightly to watch her. The look on his face made her heart skip a beat. His look was a mixture of what could only be described as adoration and longing. She quickly turned back to peer out the front windshield. Whatever he was on had definitely made him amorous. The problem was that she was quickly discovering that she was no longer immune to him — if she ever really had been. The look in his eyes sent shivers down her spine. Why hadn't she realized before what he could do to her with just a look? Maybe it was because he didn't normally allow himself to look at her that way. Whatever it was, she couldn't react to it. It wouldn't be fair to either of them and it would certainly end the greatest friendship she'd ever had.
"You wanted to see him, sir?" Nigel asked.
"Yes, Nigel. From his picture he looks perfect for the part, but I want to make sure he can stand up to the scrutiny."
Nigel nodded. "Aren't you concerned about him telling someone about this?"
"He won't be alive long enough to tell anyone," Luthor stated. "You'll make sure of that."
Nigel smiled. "Very good, sir. Shall I bring him in?"
"Yes, Nigel," Luthor replied.
It was only a moment more before the man was standing in Luthor's office. They were introduced. After listening to the man for a moment, Luthor was tempted to find someone else. But then he looked the man over carefully. He was perfect for the role.
"You know what you need to do?" asked Luthor.
"Yeah, sure," the man replied, chomping down on the stick of gum in his mouth.
"You'll be well compensated for your efforts," Luthor said, escorting the man to the door of his office. Once he was gone, Luthor turned to Nigel. "Just make sure he gets rid of that gum," he instructed his subordinate. "And whatever you do, make sure he follows the script! That man can't be trusted to make up dialogue."
Lois told Clark to make himself comfortable before making her way to the washroom. She needed a moment to compose herself without Clark's scrutiny. This was the first chance she'd had to do that.
She stared at herself in the mirror while she tried to get her thoughts in order. Within the last half hour, she'd found out that Clark was Superman. She'd concluded that Clark had somehow been drugged, making him unusually amorous. That had led to the painfully obvious realization that she was seriously attracted to Clark, at least on a physical level. Was it because she now knew that he was Superman? No. She'd realized the attraction before he'd revealed the connection.
And, if that wasn't bad enough, she had no idea how she should be reacting to the realization that the two men she respected most in this world were actually the same man. There hadn't been time to even think about that. She figured she should be furious with Clark, but how could she when he seemed oblivious to the fact that she hadn't known? When she thought about it, it really wasn't a stretch believing that Clark and Superman were one in the same. Both men cared — really cared — about others. Both men treated her as if she made the sun rise. Both men cared about truth and both in their own way fought to make the world a better place. It wasn't just a physical resemblance. They both had the same heart. The fact that she hadn't realized the connection… the fact that no one realized the connection was remarkable. It would undoubtedly take her some time to figure out the reasons for that.
And not only was he Superman. He was an unusually amorous Superman. It was almost as if he had lost all of his normal inhibitions. A small smile played around the corners of her mouth for a moment as she considered the implications. After all the fantasies she'd had about Superman since he'd arrived on the scene, it looked as if she finally had her chance. Suddenly, she closed her eyes and had to fight the urge to groan. He might be Superman, but he wasn't just Superman. He was Clark.
If he were only Superman, she'd be tempted to give in to his none-too-subtle advances, but his being Clark, as well, changed everything. It wasn't that she found Clark so undesirable — quite the contrary. The problem was that if she slept with Superman and it didn't work out, life would go on much the same as it had until now, with the exception that she would no doubt be left with an incredible memory. However, to make love with Clark could devastate her. She knew how vital Clark had become to her happiness. She wasn't quite sure how he'd done it, but somehow he'd managed to insinuate himself into her life. She couldn't lose him. Thus, no matter how tempting it might be to find out exactly what Superman was like as a lover, she couldn't let herself give in to Clark. There was just too much at stake.
"Lois, are you okay?" she heard Clark ask through the washroom door. She flushed the toilet before washing her hands. She knew Clark would just have to look through the door to realize that she was using going to the washroom as a cover. However, she also knew that Clark would never do that.
"I'll be right out," she called back.
Suddenly she heard the radio. Clark was obviously flipping through channels, looking for something to listen to. She swallowed hard when he stopped on a channel playing soft, romantic music.
What were they doing here? Focus, girl. They were here so that they would have some place private to talk,so that Clark wouldn't give away his secret and so that Lois could find out what was wrong with Clark. And that was absolutely all that was going to happen!
She made her way out of the washroom and then gave herself more time by heading to the kitchen to make some coffee. Once it was ready, she poured two cups. As she was adding real cream to Clark's coffee, she suddenly chuckled. At least this explained how Clark was able to eat like an eight year old and look like Mr. Hardbody. In fact, a lot of the things about Clark that she had previously found so incomprehensible made sense now. His constant disappearing act. His fading into the background whenever an emergency arose. His handing in his resignation when Superman had been ordered to leave Metropolis during the heat wave last November.
But who was this Clark Kent? He said he was from Kansas, and until today she would have never questioned that fact. She knew his parents and had visited the farm he claimed to have grown up on. She'd even seen his baby pictures, for crying out loud. Besides he was just such a wholesome… She heard another love song come on the radio…hot- blooded, American boy. She steadied herself before picking up the coffee and making her way into the living room.
She stopped in the doorway and watched Clark. He was sitting on the sofa. He had found a picture of her and Lucy and was adoringly running a finger over her image. He must have heard her, because he looked up. His face immediately lit up with one of his patented thousand-watt smiles. She broke eye contact and made her way over, handing him his coffee and then, deliberately, taking a seat in a chair at the far end of the couch.
How to begin the conversation? She stared at her coffee for a moment, contemplating the problem. She had to find out exactly what had happened to him. She glanced up at Clark and immediately looked back at her coffee. That look was back on his face. She was astounded that, with just a look, he could speak volumes. He obviously was not struggling with what to say, as if just looking at her was enough. She cleared her throat. Might as well just take the plunge.
"Clark, I think you've been drugged," she said. Good start, she decided immediately. "Can you tell me when you started to feel this way?"
"What way?" he asked in absolute innocence.
She cleared her throat. "When did you start to feel this way about me?" she asked. If he could remember that, she might be able to work out how, or at least when, he'd been drugged.
"When did I fall in love with you?" he asked for clarification. When she nodded, he continued, "When you walked into Perry's office," he answered.
She thought about that for a moment. That didn't make any sense. He'd been fine when they'd first come into work this morning. And as far as she could remember, she'd only been in Perry's office once today,and that was after Clark had begun acting weird. "When was that?" she asked.
"When I was interviewing," he responded, scooting down the couch to sit closer to her. He picked up her free hand.
Trying to work out what he was talking about, she was distracted enough that she didn't withdraw her hand. "What are you talking about?" she asked.
"When I first interviewed at the Daily Planet, you stormed into my interview and my heart at the same instant. I fell in love with you at first sight," he said, bringing her hand up to his lips to kiss it.
She looked at him in stunned silence. From one revelation to another. He'd fallen in love with her at first sight. She'd barely noticed him. And for the past year, she'd thought he was just interested in being friends. It was almost too much information to process. She pushed the thought from her mind. She should take anything Clark told her right now with a healthy degree of skepticism.
Okay, that tactic was obviously not working. Well, she knew that he had probably been drugged some time this morning. She withdrew one hand from Clark's grasp while using the other to set down her coffee on the coffee table.
"Clark, I need you to help me," she tried again, obviously struggling to be patient. "Can you tell me what might have happened? Is there anything that can drug Superman?"
Clark looked confused for a moment. Suddenly, his expression cleared and he smiled. "You've always been like a drug to me, Lois," he informed her. "I get high when you laugh. I get stoned when I see you walk into a room. The truth is I've been drunk on you all year. The cops should take away my driver's license whenever you're around."
She let out a breath. This was getting her nowhere. Well, if she couldn't get the information from him… She got up out of her chair and made her way to the phone. After punching in a number, she took a seat as she waited for an answer.
"Jimmy, I need you to find out what Superman was doing this morning," she said when Jimmy finally came on the line. "Call me at home when you get the information."
She hung up the phone and turned around. She let out a start of surprise to find that Clark had got up off the couch and was approaching. "Clark, why don't…"
"Do you know how incredible you are?" he interrupted. "I just love to watch you when you get all fired up about something, sort of like you are now."
While she was trying to figure out how to respond, Clark arrived directly in front of where she was seated. She was utterly speechless when he suddenly dropped to one knee in front of her and took her hand in his.
"Will you marry me, Lois?" he asked.
"No!" she gasped instinctively, pulling her hand from his. Then her breath caught in her throat at the look of utter devastation that settled on his face. "I mean…" she stuttered. Her voice trailed off. After all, what was there to say? She couldn't marry him. What did he think he was doing?
'He's not in his right mind,' a little voice in the back of her mind reminded her. 'And you're breaking his heart,' it said again.
"I'm sorry," stuttered Clark, slowly rising to his feet and making his way to the sofa to plop himself down on it in defeat.
She let out a slow breath as she watched him. He really did look heartbroken. And he was the best friend she'd ever had. She had to find a way to get him to quit hurting. Not by marrying him, of course, but there had to be a way.
She made her way to him, taking a seat beside him on the couch. He shifted away from her. She took a deep breath and reached out to take one of his hands in hers. "Clark, look at me," she instructed when he continued to look away. When he still didn't look at her, she reached out her free hand and placed it on the far side of his face in order to turn his face towards her.
It still took him a moment to meet her eyes. She realized that his eyes were moist, as if he were on the verge of tears. Her heart went out to him. Without thinking it through, she did the only thing that came to mind. She leaned over and lightly kissed him.
She pulled back almost immediately, only to find that his hand had slipped from hers so that he could wrap both arms around her. He began pulling her back to him. This time, his lips found hers. Why didn't she push him away? In retrospect, she'd come up with a hundred different reasons, including that she was just so surprised. However, she already knew that Clark was a great kisser. He'd kissed her for the first time just before Trask had thrown her out of an airplane and then during a stakeout at the honeymoon suite at the Lexor hotel. She'd kissed Superman on a couple of occasions as well.
So, when his lips lightly brushed over hers, she found herself involuntarily responding. It was less than a second before his lips once more caressed hers, as gently as the first time. However, this time, he lingered before his lips pushed gently against hers, his tongue lightly touching her lips.
The surrender was almost unconscious when she opened her mouth and found his tongue with hers. She knew his taste from their previous kisses, but never imagined how powerfully it would affect her now. Maybe, without her knowing it, her feelings for Clark had changed over the last few months. Whatever the reason, two kisses turned into three followed by four and five. Each kiss seemed to last longer and be a little more intimate than the one before. Soon both had lost count, becoming completely lost to the activity.
Without abandoning his lips, Lois adjusted her position, slipping her arms around his neck. When he reclined on the couch, she followed him over until she was lying against his chest. Suddenly it occurred to Lois what she was doing. She tried pulling away only to catch sight of his kiss- swollen lips and the dreamy look in his eyes. She groaned. Unable to stop herself, she lowered herself against him to once again find his lips.
"We interrupt this program to inform you of a late breaking story," a voice on the radio said, interrupting the soft playing music. "A fire in suicide slum is threatening to kill a number of people — mostly children. It is believed that there are some children trapped in the building which was being used as a daycare facility. Firefighters have, so far, been unable to reach them…"
Clark's lips gently touched hers.
His hand came up to her cheek, following which he gently ran his fingers down the soft skin.
"…According to firefighters, the only hope the children have now is if Superman…"
"Clark…" Lois repeated a little more forcefully, this time pushing at his chest to raise herself.
"I'm sorry, baby. I thought…"
"Clark, didn't you hear the news report?" Lois asked.
"Umm… yeah. It's too bad about those kids," he said, before once again reaching for her.
She evaded his grasp. He looked confused by her sudden change of attitude.
"Don't you think Superman should help?" she asked.
Clark looked at her for a moment more before he seemed to realize what she was saying. "Omigod," he whispered. "What's happening to me? I've got to…" he said, jumping to his feet.
"Go!" Lois exclaimed.
He stood there for a moment and Lois could swear she saw a battle going on behind his eyes. It was as if he was trying to convince himself that he had to go, but at the same time couldn't quite bring himself to leave her.
"I find it incredibly sexy when you do your Superman thing," she whispered.
Suddenly, his eyes cleared, as if no longer in conflict. He spun into the Superman outfit and disappeared out the window.
Lois collapsed back into the sofa, wondering what on earth had just happened in her apartment — well, other than the obvious. She shook her head slightly, still trying to come to grips with how quickly things had gotten out of control. How quickly she had gotten out of control. Kissing Clark had been… She raised her hands to her cheeks, amazed by the amount of heat.
She turned off the radio in favor of the television, quickly turning the channel to LNN. She was glad to see that LNN was covering the fire. She'd much rather watch Superman in action than listen to the play-by-play. She saw Superman appear on the scene. A small smile crept onto the corners of her lips. It had only been moments before that…
What was she doing? What had been happening moments before couldn't happen again! This time she was not jumping in without checking the water level! Even he seemed to know that he wasn't reacting rationally. He almost hadn't realized that he should be responding to the fire. Then, even when he had, he'd struggled to leave her. It was only when she indicated that she would be impressed if he helped out at the fire that he had gone. And if he wasn't exactly in his right mind, it would be unforgivable for her to let anything happen between them.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She had no doubt that he would be back at her window as soon as the fire was under control. That gave her some time to figure out how to handle the situation.
Her attention was once again directed to the television. Somehow knowing that Clark was the man inside the suit made Superman's feats that much more impressive. He was, after all, just an ordinary guy doing the most extraordinary things. It was at that moment that Lois had an epiphany — the man she was watching was Clark. The suit was just a disguise.
The cameras were focusing their attention on Superman. She watched with a sense of awe as Clark made one trip after another to get the children out of the building.
"That's my partner," she said to her fish, an incredible amount of pride in her voice. She turned her attention back to the television. After the children were all out, Superman went back into the house one more time and reappeared with a young woman — probably the woman in charge of the daycare — in his arms.
Then Lois' shoulders tensed as the look on Superman's face seemed to change. He was looking at that woman the way he had looked at her earlier. She pushed the thought away. She was being paranoid. But then her original diagnosis was confirmed when Superman leaned in and kissed the woman as he floated them slowly to the ground.
Lois didn't remember doing so, but she suddenly found herself on her feet in front of the television. What was he doing? She felt her heart plunge into her stomach. Even though she had known, intellectually, that Clark's actions were motivated by something other than her, it still hurt to watch him kiss another woman. Although the volume was low, she could hear the correspondent saying that obviously even Superman wasn't immune to a beautiful woman and wondering if the Man of Steel had finally succumbed to love.
She watched as the kiss suddenly broke. The look on Clark's face was one of sheer horror. He immediately set the woman down and was gone, leaving putting out the actual fire to the firefighters. Lois was relieved when the correspondent reported that, now that the people were out of the building, the firefighters were confident they could handle the fire. The correspondent, however, found it odd that Superman would disappear before the fire was out.
Lois sank back down onto the couch, a tear slipping slowly down her cheek.
"Well, that was certainly interesting," commented Luthor.
Luthor turned his attention back to the television. He picked up the remote and turned the volume up. Maybe it was worthwhile listening to what the commentators had to say about the kiss.
"This just in," said the anchor, his hand coming up to his ear as he listened to the radio transmitter in it. "Apparently, a flower shop has just contacted the station to report that Superman was just in. And he purchased… a dozen roses. There you have it, folks. It seems that this woman…" The screen behind him again showed the young woman being kissed by Superman. "…has captured Superman's heart."
"Any idea who the flowers are for?" Nigel asked.
"It could be anyone," Luthor replied. "Until he recovers from the effect of Miranda's perfume, he's likely to try to seduce any woman he finds attractive. This time it shook him up enough that he left before the fire was out. Next time, with any luck, he'll get distracted before he's finished what needs to be done."
"Aren't you concerned about Ms. Lane, sir?"
Luthor thought about that for a moment. "Not really, Nigel. I've made studying Ms. Lane an art form. Nothing scares her quite as much as an aggressive male. If Superman comes on too heavy, I think it will scare her off, at least for a time. And before she can change her mind, my work discrediting Superman will be complete. And neither a promiscuous superhero nor a dead man are much of a threat where Lois Lane is concerned."
Lois brushed the back of her hand over her cheek, desperately trying to remove the tears lingering there. She already knew that getting involved with Clark would be a mistake. She already knew that something — she still didn't know what — was making him act this way.
Knowing that it wasn't her was probably a good thing. At least now she would have the strength to avoid his advances. If he even bothered to come back to her. After all, the purchase of roses indicated that he had found someone else after the fire. If it wasn't the woman at the fire, of course. However, Lois didn't think so. She had seen the look of horror on Clark's face after he kissed the woman — it was the same look that had been on his face when he'd realized that he was kissing her instead of going to help at the fire.
She reached over and picked up the phone when it rang.
"Hi, Lois," came Jimmy's voice over the line.
"What have you found, Jimmy?" asked Lois. She knew her voice was abrupt, but it was the only way to keep her emotions under control.
"Apparently, Superman was busy this morning. He cleaned up a thirteen car pile-up on the freeway. Rumors are that he rescued two cats from trees. And there was some incident at the Lex Corp Nuclear Plant that he helped out with. I take it you've seen LNN and the woman Superman's apparently fallen in love with."
"I saw it," she snapped. She closed her eyes, getting control of her emotions before saying, "Thanks, Jimmy."
She hung up the phone. It was going to take a while to find out where whatever had happened to Clark had happened. The most obvious choice was the nuclear facility. However, she'd seen him take on the nuclear reactor once before without any negative consequences.
If only she knew what he'd been exposed to. Was it a temporary thing or was this the new Superman? That could be a disaster. And, no, she wasn't just thinking about herself. Clark was almost acting as if he'd been… Suddenly, she gasped. He was acting exactly the same way she'd acted when she'd been exposed to that horrible pheromone compound. Was it possible…?
She shook her head. Clark hadn't been affected by it. On the other hand, Superman had. Wait a minute! She'd seen Clark sprayed. He had even commented on the smell when they had confronted Miranda, and yet he hadn't been affected. He'd actually withstood two days of advances by her. At the time she'd almost believed that he wasn't attracted to her, and he had encouraged the idea. So then, how was it that a short time later when Superman had been exposed, he'd been affected? That brat! She never would have believed that Superman would deceive her into thinking that he'd been affected just to get her to kiss him, but knowing that he was Clark… That brat! She chuckled slightly. It had been a great kiss — almost as great as their kisses here earlier… 'Don't go there, girl,' she warned herself firmly, pushing her mind back to the problem at hand.
Okay, so the pheromone compound didn't affect Superman. Or at least it hadn't last time. Still, she should check out the possibility given Clark's current behavior. She'd wanted to forget the entire episode, so she hadn't followed up on what had happened to Miranda, but it was time to find out. After all, although she hadn't been able to affect Superman last time, that didn't mean she hadn't found a way. Lois immediately picked up the phone and called Jimmy back.
Once she'd given Jimmy some more instructions and hung up the phone, another problem occurred to her. If Clark was attracted to every woman he came across, he might not even come back to her. And considering how easily he'd let her know his real identity… Maybe she shouldn't have told him to go. No. That hadn't been an option. If he hadn't gone, those children and that young woman would have died.
Tap, tap, tap.
Lois looked up at the sound of tapping at the window. She breathed a sigh of relief. Only one man in the world knocked on the window of her apartment. She walked over and opened the window. Superman was floating on the other side.
"May I come in?" he asked, not quite looking at her.
Lois moved to the side, allowing him to float into the room. He pulled something from behind his back. A dozen roses. He reached out, offering her the flowers.
"What's this?" asked Lois, staring at the flowers.
He shrugged before saying sheepishly, "I imagine you saw what happened at the fire."
Lois nodded, trying once again not to react to the knowledge that he'd kissed another woman. She could hardly believe she was acting like a jealous girlfriend, but couldn't seem to stop herself. She reminded herself once again that he couldn't be held accountable. Still, she suddenly understood Alice's reaction when she'd discovered that, while under the influence of the pheromone compound, Perry had pursued another woman.
"She means nothing to me, baby. I swear. I just… I don't know what I was thinking. Can you ever forgive me?" Clark asked.
Lois was suddenly struck by a thought. Although she'd pursued Clark shamelessly while under the influence of the pheromone compound, she'd ignored all other men — including Lex. She knew why. If she were honest with herself, she'd always known why. There were only two men in the world she had a base animal attraction to — and Clark had wisely kept the superhero out of sight until she recovered.
She felt a flash of anger. Clark was obviously attracted to more women than just her. She forced her anger down. He was a man after all. And men were much more susceptible to sexual temptation than women were, at least in her experience. What was remarkable was that he'd stopped. Regardless of what he'd been infected with, he stopped kissing that woman. She almost smiled when she realized that hadn't been the case with her. With her, he wouldn't have stopped if she hadn't sent him to rescue those children. Besides, it wasn't as if there was anything between them anyway. It would be out of line for her to torment him with this, especially when his emotions were so close to the surface.
She looked at Clark. He was standing in front of her in his Superman outfit, staring intently at his feet. She followed his gaze. With his left foot, he was scuffing at an imaginary spot on the floor. He looked for all the world like a little boy who'd just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and was silently waiting for his mother to pronounce judgment. A small smile began to tug at one corner of her mouth as all traces of anger fled. How on earth was she supposed to stay mad at that?
"It's okay, Clark," she said softly.
His face immediately lit up. He set the flowers on the coffee table, and then, before she could react, he pulled her into his arms, finding her lips with his. Her mind screamed at her. She couldn't let this continue. Summoning every bit of strength she possessed, she broke the kiss. She was about to rebuke him, but suddenly remembered how she'd felt when she was affected by the pheromone compound. The entire episode was fuzzy and there were moments she still couldn't recall, but she could remember feeling pain at every rejection.
"It's not as if this isn't nice," she said quietly, "but we've got work to do." Following the words, she slipped out of his arms.
Clark sighed and let her go. As amorous as he was at the moment, he was also responsive to her commands. That was the good news. All she had to do was remember what her commands should be — that in itself was enough of a challenge. Especially…
"Clark, would you get out of that suit?" she said, convinced that it would be easier dealing with Clark than with Superman.
Clark immediately spun. When he stopped, Lois' mouth dropped open. Clark was now standing before her, wearing nothing but his briefs.
"What about you, baby?" Clark asked.
"Huhh?" asked Lois, her eyes automatically drifting down his body, over his powerful shoulders, across his hard pecs, taking in his washboard stomach. Being unable to stop there, her gaze drifted lower.
"Well, surely you don't expect me to be the only one to get out of my clothes?" he said, stepping closer again.
"What are you…" Her voice trailed off and she forced her eyes to meet his. "…doing?"
"You wanted me to get out of my suit," he said, sounding confused.
"I just meant… Your Clark clothes."
"Oh. Do you want me to…"
She nodded vigorously.
Clark immediately spun again and in a moment Clark was standing in front of her, dressed as Clark.
She sighed — as much in relief as regret. She knew having a scantily clad Clark Kent in her apartment was not a good idea. Still, she had to admit he had a great body. However, seeing that for herself was certainly not good for her own resolve. She needed some distance and she needed it now!
"I'm just going to put these in some water," said Lois, grabbing the flowers and scurrying from the room. "You just wait here," she instructed when she noticed that Clark was starting to follow.
She grabbed a vase and put some water in it. Then, with trembling hands, she opened the little packet that came with the flowers and dumped the contents into the water. She unwrapped the flowers and grabbed a knife and a cutting board to cut the ends off the roses. She knew she needed some time to calm down. Okay, so he had a great body — a remarkable body even. She swallowed hard. The idea of running her hands over that remarkable body was suddenly playing in her mind. He'd not stop her. He'd accept, without question, any… What was she doing?
"Ouch!" she gasped.
"Everything all right?" Clark asked, suddenly appearing in the doorway.
"Yeah," said Lois, staring at her finger. "I just cut myself." Her hand automatically went to her mouth. Before it could reach its destination, Clark had taken her hand in his.
"Allow me," he whispered, and then, before Lois could discern his intention, he took the tip of her finger in his mouth. Their eyes met over her finger and Lois' mouth immediately went dry. She tried to swallow, but didn't even have enough moisture in her mouth to do that.
Her finger slipped slowly from his mouth. Clark opened his mouth to once again close it over her finger. Suddenly, what was happening seeped into her consciousness. She quickly withdrew her hand and diverted her eyes.
"Lois," Clark whispered.
"Look, Clark," she said, ignoring the guttural sound of his voice and putting the flowers in the water. She picked up the vase and headed to the table without looking at Clark. "We've got to figure out what's going on. Do you think you can help me do that?"
"I'd do anything for you, baby," Clark replied.
She glanced over at him. "Just have a seat, Clark," she instructed, setting the vase on the table and working on arranging the flowers. Well, at least she knew what he'd done with the roses he'd purchased. Suddenly, she was struck by a terrifying thought. "Clark, how did you pay for these?" she asked. "I mean, you didn't use a credit card or something. Did you?"
"I paid cash," Clark replied. "Do you want to see a receipt?"
"No, I…" She turned towards him. Whatever was going on here, she had to protect his secret. "Clark, I need you to promise me something."
"Anything," Clark replied, placing his elbows on the table so that he could put his chin in his hands and settle his adoring gaze on Lois.
She tried to ignore the look. "You've got to remember not to let anyone know that Superman is Clark Kent. That means when you're in your Superman suit, you can't do or say things that Clark would do and visa versa."
"Okay," said Clark congenially.
Lois blinked. She had expected to have to try to explain to him why this was important. She wasn't sure what she was going to say. After all, she hadn't had time to figure out why Clark used a disguise, so how could she explain it to him? However, given how carefully he seemed to guard the secret, she had to assume he had his reasons. Until he could explain all this to her himself, she really had no choice but to accept that his reasons were legitimate and help keep his secret.
His simple 'okay' took her by surprise. It was almost as if Clark was so focused on her that any subject not directly related to her held no real interest for him. He'd probably not give away his secret on purpose, but he could very well simply not be aware of what he was doing. That still left protecting his secret up to her. Her introspection was interrupted by Clark's voice.
"You know what I'd really like to do right now?" he asked.
'I think so,' she thought. After all, she was trying not to think about doing the exact same thing.
"I'd like to go dancing," Clark continued.
Lois' mouth dropped open. When she'd been under the influence of the pheromone compound, the only thing she'd wanted to do was to climb into bed with Clark. She'd wanted it to complete and utter distraction, unable to think of anything else. But then that was her and this… This was Clark. And the pheromone compound didn't change a person's personality, it just broke down a person's normal inhibitions. And if she knew anything about Clark, it was that no matter what, he'd never try to force her into something she wasn't comfortable with. She smiled slightly. Maybe that was why she loved… She mentally shook her head…liked him so much.
"Dancing?" she asked. To his enthusiastic nod, she continued, "Clark, that sounds… really nice, but we still have work to do."
"Oh… right," said Clark, making his way to his chair and sinking back into it, a pout on his face.
Lois watched him for a moment. They did have to work, but maybe he had a point. After all, if he was under the influence of the pheromone compound, he would likely be this way for the next couple of days, unless of course… Clark had said something about Miranda having a permanent form of the pheromone compound. She pushed that thought out of her mind. This was temporary. It had to be.
If she was serious about making sure that Superman didn't do anything to ruin his reputation or give away his secret, she would have to stay with him until it wore off. Dancing in public was probably a better idea than spending all their time alone together.
"But we can get some dinner and go dancing later if you want," she added.
"Okay," said Clark, immediately perking up.
After a shower, Lois retreated to her bedroom to get ready for her 'date.' So far, she hadn't gotten very far in the investigation. Clark's ability to concentrate on anything but her was limited to minutes at a time. The longest he'd been able to go without telling her he loved her was probably fifteen minutes. After the first few times, he managed to get creative. She now knew that 'Je t'aime' was 'I love you' in French. 'Ich liebe dich' was German and 'Ya lubiu tebya,' Russian. He'd also acquainted her with 'I love you' in a couple of dozen other languages. At one point, he'd started tapping his fingers on the table. Given the fact that she couldn't make out a pattern, she'd asked what he was doing only to be informed that he was telling her he loved her in Morse Code.
Between Clark's behavior and having to constantly remind herself why she couldn't just go back to what they had been doing on the couch earlier, she'd not been able to concentrate on finding out what was going on. Later in the afternoon, Lois discovered that if she let Clark play with her hand he was content enough. Although, even that slowed her efforts.
She'd managed to get confirmation from Jimmy that Miranda had been released from the asylum after being found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. However, he'd been unable to find an address for the woman. After her release, Miranda had apparently disappeared into thin air. Lois had put in calls to a number of her most reliable sources, including Bobby Bigmouth and Louie. However, so far she hadn't heard back from any of them.
Lois tried searching the internet and read everything she could find there about Superman's activities that morning. There were a few sites where fans would get together to discuss Superman. Lois had spent time on them in the past. Usually, they would discuss every activity the superhero had been involved in. Today, they seemed to be occupied with discussing him kissing that woman, nothing else.
Clark had seen where she was looking and been fascinated — until he got distracted by how her hair had fallen across her face. She could hardly believe he hadn't known that such sites even existed. But then that was Clark.
There was one small incident during the afternoon. Lois left Clark sitting at her laptop in order to get herself another cup of coffee. When she returned, she noticed Clark typing furiously. She gasped and pushed him away from the computer when she realized what was happening. Clark was in an argument with one of the on-line fans who was insisting that Superman was in love with the woman he'd kissed this afternoon. Clark was insisting that Superman loved Lois Lane, a reporter for the Daily Planet. Lois quickly signed off, being grateful that no one on-line knew her real name, especially since Clark was typing under her sign-on name.
During the course of the afternoon, there were a couple of incidents which Superman would normally help out with, but since no lives were in danger, Lois hadn't let Clark go. Unless it couldn't be handled by others, she wasn't about to let him out of her sight long enough to be 'rescuing cats from trees.'
She called Perry to say that she and Clark were involved in an investigation and wouldn't be in for the rest of the day. Since they had the weekend off, at least that wouldn't be a problem. She fudged a little bit on the details of their investigation. She was sure that Perry knew something was going on, but he didn't probe. Lois was surprised, but grateful.
Bringing her mind back to the present, she looked at the red dress she'd put on and immediately changed her mind. She looked great. Too great. After all, she had to be very careful tonight. It would be hard enough fighting off Clark's advances without making him any more amorous. She quickly removed half the make-up she was wearing and then slipped out of the dress. She still wanted to fit in. That meant she couldn't wear an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. She looked through her closet, finally deciding on a short sleeve, black turtleneck and a short, greyish- black skirt. She quickly dressed and adjusted her makeup. She looked for a pair of shoes, before choosing a pair of short, black boots. Taking a last, approving look at herself in the mirror, she opened the door and entered the other room where Clark was waiting for her.
Clark's face lit up. "You look fabulous," he said softly, almost provoking Lois into running back into her room to find that pair of jeans and sweatshirt. "I think I'll change, too." Then, before Lois could object, he flew out the window. Before a full-fledged sense of panic could set in, Clark was once again standing in her apartment.
Without realizing what she was doing, she ran her eyes over him. He had obviously had a shower and changed. He looked great. He looked really great. He'd put on a pair of black dress pants and a white shirt. He was wearing an outlandish tie, one that told the world he was Clark. Over the shirt, he was wearing a tan colored jacket.
"Ready?" he asked, holding an arm out for her.
She swallowed hard before nodding. 'You've spent the evening with Clark before,' she reminded herself. 'In fact, you spent a couple of nights with him at the honeymoon suite at the Lexor hotel. Just think of it as another assignment, one where you're keeping Superman from doing something stupid. Dinner and dancing. It's better than spending the evening alone with him.'
Reaffirming that this was the best way to handle the situation, she slipped her arm through his and accompanied him from her apartment. As they left, she briefly wondered what she'd do if Clark didn't snap out of it soon. Just the idea of two days — the length of time she'd been under the pheromone's influence — of Clark being so uninhibited was driving her nuts. If this went on one minute longer than two days, she wouldn't stand a chance.
Luthor paced in his office. Superman had been conspicuously absent this afternoon. Luthor wanted a few more incidents like this morning. Otherwise, the press was going to be reporting Superman kissing that woman as an isolated incident. If that happened, then people wouldn't see Superman as promiscuous; they were going to conclude that he'd developed feelings for a particular woman, not for women in general.
There was still one bright spot. The tape. The tape by itself might be enough to destroy Lois' admiration of the superhero, giving him the chance he needed to make her his wife, but he was still salivating over the idea of ruining Superman's reputation in the eyes of the world.
So where was the superhero? If Luthor were really lucky, the reason Superman hadn't been around was that he was having sex with some woman — or better yet, several women. Still, unless the woman or women told the press, the only way they were going to have any chance to discredit him was if more incidents happened in the public arena. He'd have to arrange something.
He was brought out of his thoughts by Nigel entering the room.
"Do you have it?" Luthor asked.
Nigel held up a tape.
"Put it in the VCR," Luthor instructed. Nigel did and for a time, Luthor and Nigel watched in silence. "It's perfect," said Luthor. "I must admit, it's more than I hoped for. That was a nice bit of improvising."
"Thank you, sir. What would you have me do now?"
"Make sure copies are delivered to the intended recipients first thing tomorrow morning," Luthor replied.
Lois pulled Clark's jacket tighter around her as the two of them made their way up the stairs to his apartment. The evening had been incredible.
They'd gone to a little out of the way spot with soft lighting and soft music — one of those underrated places Clark always seemed to know about. They'd gotten a secluded booth near the back. Lois realized that Clark hadn't forgotten about her promise to go dancing when she noticed that the place also had a dance floor.
During supper, Clark retold story after story about their activities during the past year, everything from when they'd first met to their being held hostage at the Daily Planet last week. This time each story was told from the perspective of how much he loved her. At first, Lois tried not to listen to the stories, realizing that he'd never be telling her all this if he were in his right mind. But soon she found herself getting caught up in what he was saying, and asking questions and reveling in every detail.
When he told her about his difficulty pulling away from her after their kiss at the Lexor hotel, she realized that this couldn't all be the result of the perfume. He'd obviously been in love with her most of this past year and never had the nerve to tell her. Of course, he'd be mortified when he recovered from the perfume and realized how much he'd revealed. Still… Much to her own surprise, rather than the stories scaring her, Lois found that knowing how long Clark had been in love with her caused her to feel things she hadn't allowed herself to feel for quite some time — safe and protected as well as surprisingly free. Being completely adored was a new experience for Lois. And she found herself not only liking it, but responding as well.
Her thoughts drifted more than once to the sight of Clark standing in the middle of her living room in nothing but his briefs. She'd find her eyes roaming over his shirt, realizing what incredible muscles lay beneath. His entire body seemed to her as if it were a well-oiled machine, hard steel covered by soft, warm, inviting flesh.
She drank nothing but water during supper, afraid of what would happen if she gave in to as much as a single drink. Then the strangest thing happened. It was almost as if Clark had recovered from the effects of the pheromone perfume. She puzzled over it for a moment before the truth sank in. He hadn't changed during the course of their meal, she had. She found herself reaching out to run her fingers over his cheek or touch his hand as much as he was touching her. His smiles were met by hers. She'd find herself pushing a strand of hair behind her ear and glancing at him from under her eyelashes.
When dinner was finally finished, they ordered dessert and, while they waited for it to be served, he asked her to dance. She kept her head down, watching the floor in front of her as he led the way to the dance floor. At first, she was nervous. Without his inhibitions, would she be fighting his hands all night? Not that she couldn't handle it, but she really wasn't looking forward to being groped by a man she liked and respected. By the end of the dance, she relaxed. He was still Clark. He'd managed to propose twice and had told her 'ta gra agam ort' and 'wo ai ni' — which turned out to be 'I love you' in Irish and Chinese — but his hands couldn't have been more respectful. They had stayed passively on the small of her back, or in a more daring moment, had traced light circles.
She rebuked herself for thinking anything else. Occasionally, she would see a heated look in his eyes, leaving her with no doubt that he wanted her. However, if she were honest, he'd done nothing since being affected that he didn't believe she was comfortable with. He'd asked to kiss her before kissing her neck while in the conference room at the Daily Planet. She'd not told him he couldn't. When she'd suddenly pushed him away and yelled at him, he looked abashed. Then when they'd ended up kissing on the couch, she'd kissed him first. If he hadn't been under the influence of the pheromone compound, he'd probably not have kissed her back. But even then, she'd responded. Of course, there was that moment when he'd spun out of the suit. Still, that had been because he thought that was what she wanted.
After the dance, they went back to their table and Lois relaxed in the realization that he wouldn't pressure her. That fear had been playing in the back of her mind all day. Oh, she knew he'd never force her. Nothing could cause him to do that. However, she had worried that he'd keep pushing the limits, trying to get her into bed. And as that fear left, Lois really began enjoying the evening. They laughed as they shared a dessert, taking turns feeding each other. In fact, she suddenly realized that she'd never enjoyed a date more. Being with Clark this way just felt so incredibly right. Every now and then she'd find herself remembering that this wasn't real, but most of the time, she found herself getting as lost in Clark's presence as he obviously was in hers.
Most of the rest of the evening was spent on the dance floor. Each dance was closer than the one before. Resting her arm on his shoulder and running her fingers through the hair on the back of his head was becoming the most natural thing in the world. She reveled in the soft sounds that came from the back of Clark's throat with each new touch of her hands.
The first kiss on the dance floor was Clark's idea. When she first realized he was going to kiss her, she tensed. But then, at the gentle touch of his lips, she relaxed. Almost as quickly as it had begun, it was over. He'd pulled her a little closer and she heard him sigh into her ear. She closed her eyes, laying her head on his shoulder. Never had she felt so much as if she'd come home.
The second kiss had been initiated by her. She hadn't even thought about what she was doing. After that, dancing was interspersed with short kisses, touches became more intimate and looks grew increasingly heated.
As they left the restaurant, Lois shivered. Clark's jacket immediately appeared on her shoulders. She smiled shyly as she pulled it on properly allowing her hands to disappear under the edges of the sleeves. Her heart rate increased when Clark reached out, finding her hand beneath the fabric so that they could hold hands as they walked towards her jeep.
Lois was lost in thought as they made their way towards Clark's place. She knew what she had to do — she just needed to fortify herself to do it. She would put him to bed, give him a kiss on the cheek, make him promise not to leave his apartment before she returned in the morning and go home. If that wasn't possible, maybe she could borrow something to sleep in, send him to bed and sleep on his couch. She'd have to play it by ear. But whichever way this went, absolutely nothing could happen between them.
She said nothing as they ascended the steps to his apartment. She watched silently as he removed his key and opened the door for her to step through. Once inside, she turned towards him, preparing to speak. However, before she could, his arms reached for her. All her resolve suddenly melted away. She felt completely powerless to stop him as he gently pulled her to him, finding her lips with his.
She moaned softly into his mouth before her arms slipped around his neck. Just one kiss. One real, uninhibited kiss. Surely she could have that. She tightened her arms, pulling herself securely into his embrace. It felt so right being held by him this way, so incredible being kissed by him. His taste, his smell, the feel of his body pressed up against hers, the soft noises coming from the back of his throat, all of it combined to feed her senses, pushing her beyond her mind's ability to listen to reason.
She had to stop this. She had to stop this now. Her hands found their way into his hair as he began backing her further into the room. Trusting him completely, she allowed him to guide her backwards down the steps into his apartment. Contact was lost and regained again and again as they dispensed with their footwear, including the short socks Lois had elected to wear instead of nylons, and slowly navigated the course towards the couch. Her hands gently cupped his face as she changed their kissing pattern into a series of kisses.
She felt something hinder her backward movement and was, for a moment, brought back to reality by the realization that they had reached the couch. She pulled back slightly. She had to stop this now. His hands slipped under the edges of his jacket, the one she was still wearing, and slipped it off her shoulders. She straightened her arms, allowing it to fall to the floor. His head descended to her throat and she whimpered as she felt his soft, wet kisses trailing down her neck. She pushed her head back, determined to give him maximum access, suddenly wishing she wasn't wearing a turtleneck. No. He wasn't in his right mind. She couldn't let this go on.
She felt his arms tighten around her and his lips left her neck as he placed a knee on the couch behind her. What the heck did she think she was doing?
She reached up and removed his glasses, tossing them on the coffee table. His lips returned to her neck as they sank into the couch. 'Damn,' thought Lois distractedly. 'I really have to stop… Oh no. Yes.' His hand had found its way under her shirt to stroke the sensitive skin of her stomach. No. Stop now. Can't…
"I love the way your heart races when I do that," Clark breathed into her ear. "I also love the way your heart races when I do this," he continued before nibbling his way down her neck. When he reached the edge of her turtleneck, he pushed it down with his chin, kissing her neck as far down as the material would allow.
Lois groaned. Damn those superpowers. They definitely gave him an advantage over other men. He knew exactly how she was reacting to each kiss, each caress. The implications of that were… Again, she groaned. Why had he had to tell her that? It certainly didn't help her resolve to end this. Why did he have to be so uninhibited? 'Because of the perfume,' a small voice inside reminded her. 'That's why you can't do this. You've got to…' Her thought trailed off when he spoke again.
"Te amo," he whispered. She knew enough Spanish to know that he was once again telling her that he loved her.
His lips found hers. She met his kiss with careless abandon. Her hands slipped between their bodies and she struggled with his tie. Before she managed to get his tie completely undone, she began pulling at the buttons of his shirt. When she finally managed to get it undone to his waist, she slipped her hands beneath the fabric. She was slightly surprised to discover that he didn't have the Superman suit on, but didn't follow through on the thought as her hands ran over the muscles of his chest. What was she doing? She couldn't let this go on. He had no choice in the matter. She did.
Lois closed her eyes tight. She had to stop this. It wasn't fair of her to let this continue. But… She groaned softly. How had she let it get this far in the first place?
"Clark, please," she whispered.
Clark's head came up, his hands stilling on her back, a question on his face. Looking at his flushed face and kiss- swollen lips and listening to his labored breathing, Lois found herself fighting the urge to bring him back down to her, losing herself and her conscience in his arms. She closed her eyes.
"We can't," she forced herself to whisper.
She expected Clark to immediately pull away and possibly even apologize, so she was surprised by his reaction.
"You don't want to do this?" his befuddled voice asked.
She opened her eyes and looked into his. When she thought about his question, it was an honest response. After all, she'd been a full participant in this. He had no idea about the battle that had been going on in her mind. Her hand came up to his cheek and gently stroked it as she considered her answer.
"It's not that," she assured him even as her mind registered just how much of an understatement her response was. "I know you don't understand this, but you aren't… What you're feeling isn't real. You've been drugged. You wouldn't be doing any of this if you hadn't been drugged."
Clark crinkled his eyebrows, obviously struggling to understand what she was saying. He was still doing so as she squirmed to get out from under him. He let her go, sitting back on the couch. "You don't believe I love you?" he asked.
Lois glanced up at him from where she was struggling to straighten her clothes. That was a question she hadn't expected. It took her a moment to formulate her response. Their conversation at dinner had convinced her that he loved her, regardless of whether or not he was drugged. "I do believe you, Clark," she finally said.
"Then what do you mean that my feelings aren't real?"
"Umm…" her voice trailed off. What exactly did she mean? She struggled with it for a moment before giving up. "I just don't think we should do this," she said, gesturing to the couch and indicating what they'd been doing earlier.
Clark nodded slowly, even though the confused look on his face didn't lessen.
Lois got off the couch before looking back at Clark. She let out a breath, sitting back down beside him. She took his hand and lightly played with it. "Are you okay with this?" she asked.
"If you don't want to make love, it's okay," he replied softly, bringing her hand up to his lips and kissing it. "I wish we could keep kissing though."
She almost smiled. There was the Clark she knew, although it was obvious that he hadn't understood a word she'd said to him. But then even she was having problems understanding it at the moment. She really wished they could keep kissing too, but knew how very hard it would be to stop it there. "We can't, Clark," she said softly.
"Are you wanting to wait 'til we get married?" he asked. "Cause I could fly us to Las Vegas tonight so that…"
"No," she interrupted. "It's not that. It's just… Look, we just can't do this right now," she paused. "I need you to do something for me."
"Anything, baby. You know that."
"I'll be back first thing in the morning. I need you to promise not to leave the apartment before I get back."
"Is it important?" he asked, obviously not wanting to agree.
"It's important, Clark," she replied, wondering exactly where he wanted to go. She was looking forward to getting out into the cool night air, hoping it might sooth her rampaging hormones. She briefly wondered what Superman did to alleviate his frustration.
"Okay," he answered after a moment.
She got up off the couch. "I'll see you in the morning," she said, leaning over and giving him a light kiss on the cheek before heading for the door, picking up her socks and boots on the way. She had to get out of here now. She'd put her things on outside.
"Yeah?" asked Lois turning to face him.
Clark got up, but didn't approach. "Will my feelings be real tomorrow?" he asked.
"I hope so, Clark," she said before turning back to the door and grasping the doorknob. However, rather than opening the door, she stood there, thinking about Clark's question. If this was Miranda's perfume, and in Lois' mind that was the most likely possibility, then it should take two days to wear off. But this was Superman. She supposed it could wear off more quickly on him.
So what would happen tomorrow if the perfume's effects were gone? Would that mean everything would go back to normal? After all, Clark's inhibitions might have to do with more than a fear of rejection. He might have never let her know how he felt for a hundred other reasons. Maybe he didn't feel ready for a relationship and didn't want to risk hurting her. Maybe he didn't think it was right, because he was an alien, to get involved with anyone. Maybe he was afraid of what might happen to her if it became known that she was in a relationship with Superman. Maybe he was afraid of the strain Superman's lifestyle might place on a relationship. Maybe he didn't believe he was supposed to have a life here.
And what would that mean for them? What if tonight was all they would ever have? The instant that thought sunk in, she turned around. Dropping her boots and socks on the way, she practically flew down the stairs and back into Clark's arms.
"Lois?" Clark asked, as he stumbled back slightly, instinctively wrapping his arms around her.
"Take me to bed, Clark," she breathed into his ear.
Without a word, one of Clark's arms slipped under her legs and in a flash, he was carrying her into his bedroom. One of her arms encircled his neck as the other hand ran beneath his shirt to trail over his bare chest. She began nuzzling at his neck. Now that the decision had been made, she felt no conflict.
"I love you, Lois," he softly whispered, causing any defenses Lois still had to come crashing down. After hearing that so many times today, it wasn't the words. It was her absolute conviction that he really meant it. It felt as if she'd been fighting a great battle against Clark since the day they'd first met — like Sisyphos of Greek mythology, she had been pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down. Now, finally, the battle was over and it no longer mattered who had won or lost — she was his. She brought his face to hers and kissed him in unconditional surrender.
"Do you want to tell me what went wrong?" Luthor demanded.
"Just because more hasn't been reported doesn't mean that anything went wrong," Miranda responded. "Give it a little time."
Luthor eyed her warily. "Tell me something. You had two strengths of pheromone compound. Which one did you use?"
Miranda squared her shoulders, refusing to be intimidated. "I used the one percent solution."
"What?" Luthor demanded.
"I needed to find out exactly what effect it would have on him before making it permanent. Don't worry. Increasing the percentage won't cause a greater effect — it will just lengthen the time he's affected. No. If he's not properly affected, I will have to tinker with the actual compound. All we need is a little… experiment. Superman will be affected for another day or so, depending on his metabolic rate. That gives us plenty of time."
"What did you have in mind?" Luthor asked, beginning to wonder if it wouldn't be better just to eliminate Superman. Could he really trust Miranda? He wasn't sure. Maybe he already had what he needed, thanks to Nigel's creative thinking.
"You know Samantha O'Neil, I assume," Miranda said.
"Are you talking about Metropolis' most famous madam?"
Miranda smiled. "That's her. When I was working on the compound, I needed a test group. She wanted her girls to be a little more… shall we say, enthusiastic, about their work. So she agreed to let her girls be exposed. Of course, it didn't work as well as she had hoped. After all, the girls fell in love — and not necessarily with their customers. Then, we tried it the other way. The result, although it couldn't be reported, was beyond our wildest expectations. While they were under the influence of the pheromone compound, the men spent a small fortune to be with the object of their affection."
"What does any of that have to do with this?"
"Sam owes me. If we arrange some sort of emergency at Metropolis' version of the Playboy Mansion… Well, you can imagine what will happen when a pheromone-affected Superman comes to the rescue."
Luthor smiled. She did have a point. He, himself, had used Madam Samantha's girls on occasion. She was known for having the most beautiful, not to mention the most sensual, women in the business.
"Swimsuits would be my suggestion for attire. There is a pool at the mansion, is there not?"
"Very good. Then contact Madam Samantha. I'll create the 'emergency' for Superman to respond to. Now, if I recall correctly, Samantha has cameras in all her rooms as well as outside the premises. That should work well for our purposes."
"You seem well acquainted with her place, Lex," said Miranda in amusement.
"Her girls have entertained a number of clients for me," Luthor responded.
Sunlight began seeping through the window to spill across the bed. Clark groaned as his mind registered the presence of soft curves pressed up against him. He didn't open his eyes. He wasn't ready to wake up. An easy smile played on his lips. He knew that shampoo. Instinctively, he pulled her closer. She made a small sound of protest, but then snuggled up more tightly, draping her leg across his. He groaned again. He loved this dream. Wait a minute! This was no dream!
He cautiously opened his eyes, confirming what his other senses were telling him. There was a mat of soft, brown hair covering his chest. He could feel the gentle rise and fall of her chest against him.
He tried to clear his mind. Moving slightly, he felt an unusual stab of pain shoot through his head. He closed his eyes. Maybe when he opened them again, the world would make sense.
Warily, he moved his hand over her back. In spite of closing his eyes, she still seemed to be there.
"Mmmmm," came her sleep filled voice as she turned her head slightly to kiss his chest.
There was an immediate and undeniable rush of blood away from his head. He didn't know what was going on, but he did know that if he didn't get out of this bed right now… He let the thought end there.
Opening his eyes, he cautiously glanced at her. Fortunately, she appeared to be mostly asleep. He held his breath as he attempted to dislodge his arm from where it was wrapped around her. He stopped. It would be almost impossible, given the fact that she was partially lying on top of him, to extract himself from this bed without waking her. Unless… He glanced at her again, satisfying himself that she was still mostly asleep. Floating both of them up, just a fraction of an inch off the bed, he was able to move her slightly to the side so that when he lowered them again, she was resting on the bed. Then, as cautiously and quietly as he could, he slipped out of bed and headed for the washroom.
He glanced around briefly and noticed their clothes scattered around the bed, indicating a lack of care at removing them — or, he thought, that someone wanted it to look that way. He stepped into the washroom and closed the door before beginning to breath again.
'Don't panic,' he told himself severely. 'There's got to be a logical explanation. You've just got to find it.'
He closed his eyes, trying to find his last memory. He could remember getting up on Friday morning — what day was it now, anyway? 'Don't get distracted,' he told himself firmly. 'Focus on figuring out what happened after you got up.' He took a deep breath and once again concentrated on Friday morning's activities. He and Lois had interviewed Lily and then gone back to the Daily Planet. Lois had seemed distracted about something, but she'd had the 'no trespassing' signs out so he hadn't probed.
He took a deep breath and let it out. All right. Where was he? His hand was on the soft flesh of her stomach. In his mind, he could almost hear her moan. Even though he knew it wasn't happening now, he had to steady himself against the sink. As quickly as the memory had come, it faded. He shook his head forcing himself to continue figuring things out.
Almost as soon as they'd arrived back at the Daily Planet after interviewing Lily, he'd heard the awful sound of tires skidding on pavement followed by gnashing metal. He'd left Lois while she was in the middle of a sentence with some excuse about needing real coffee. He hadn't been fast enough and by the time he'd arrived on the scene, thirteen cars had been involved in the accident. Amazingly, no one had been seriously injured. Still, given the fury of some of those involved, he'd stayed until the police arrived, afraid that if he left, the anger would turn into a serious case of road rage.
On his way back, he'd heard a child's terrified cry — the type of sound that always sent a cold chill down his spine. Upon further investigation and much to his relief, he discovered that her kitten had been chased up a tree by a neighborhood dog. He'd returned the dog to its home and given the terrified kitten back to his grateful mistress. He'd just taken off when the scene seemed to repeated itself. He'd been surprised. He could sometimes go weeks without a rescuing a cat caught in a tree. Still, he'd responded.
He was just about to return to the Daily Planet when his hearing had picked up an emergency broadcast saying that there was some sort of leak at the Lex Corp Nuclear Plant. Although the plant had been closed down since he'd stopped the reactor from coming on line back in November, any sort of incident at a nuclear facility was always dangerous. He'd immediately changed directions, heading for the Lex Corp Nuclear Plant.
'You stormed into my interview and my heart at the same instant. I fell in love with you at first sight.' The words seemed to come out of nowhere. Had he really told her that or was it all part of some overly vivid dream? He would have dismissed it as a dream except for one crucial fact. He'd just woken up in bed with Lois Lane. He placed a hand on his pounding head. He didn't get headaches, although given the situation, he supposed it was understandable.
Lois woke the instant Clark left the bed — her hot water bottle having suddenly vanished. She watched through half closed eyes as he made his way to the washroom, thoroughly enjoying the view. She sighed contentedly.
For the next few minutes, she drifted in and out of sleep. Then, rubbing the back of her hand over her eyes, she forced herself to wake. She glanced towards the bathroom door. What was taking Clark so long? She wanted her water bottle back. After all, they had the day off, so why wasn't he here to pick up from where they'd left off last night?
Last night. A small smile found its way onto her lips and she softly purred. After they'd made love, she'd half expected him to withdraw from her. She was surprised when the opposite happened. He'd become gentler, more affectionate. They'd cuddled, whispering sweet nothings and talking nonsense until their passions had once again taken hold.
At times, he'd seemed hesitant. The thought had crossed her mind that he wasn't overly experienced. Of course, she hadn't really expected him to be. Clark might be a seasoned world traveler, but he was also the naive country boy. Although she had no doubt that he could have almost any woman he wanted in either of his guises — Clark or Superman — she suspected that he'd not had a lot of lovers. He just wasn't the type to take making love lightly.
Still, he had been good — really good. But then that wasn't surprising either. After all, Lois knew what every woman has known since the days of Adam and Eve — that how good a man is in the bedroom has as much to do with how he treats a woman before they ever get to bed as anything else. And Clark — Clark knew how to treat a woman, how to make her feel special and cherished and loved.
She stretched her arms over her head and purred again. Loved. She liked the thought of that. Clark Kent was in love with her. 'I could get used to this,' she thought contentedly, glancing around the room.
Her gaze fell on the washroom door. Had he fallen asleep in there?
"Clark," she called towards the door, "did you die in there or something?"
Clark glanced in terror towards the door. She was awake. What was he supposed to do now? She obviously knew he was in here, although she might not realize that they'd been in bed together earlier. He started towards the door before realizing that he couldn't go out there — not without either his glasses or his clothes.
He glanced around the washroom in desperation. There were no windows in here for him to fly out. If there were, he could fly home to Kansas. If he flew full speed, he'd be almost invisible. He could get some clothes and a spare pair of glasses and be back before she even knew he was gone.
Since that wasn't an option, he needed time to figure out what to do. Looking around the washroom, he got an idea. He quickly turned on the shower. He breathed a sigh of relief. That should give him a bit more time.
Lois sighed when she heard the shower start. It was going to be a little while before he came back to her. Suddenly, she smiled. There was nothing to stop her from going to him. Pulling back the covers, she got out of bed and made her way to the door to the washroom. She took a deep breath before turning the handle.
Clark turned towards the door in absolute horror when the doorknob began to turn. He held his breath, unable to remember if he'd locked the door, but then let out a sigh of relief when it turned out that he had. What was she doing?
He listened carefully as she walked away only to come back a moment later. He heard the soft sound of metal on metal and wondered briefly what it meant. When it finally hit him, he pulled in a sharp breath. She was picking the lock!
On discovering that he'd locked the door, she'd almost gone back to bed. But the idea of sneaking into the washroom and climbing in the shower with him was just too much of a temptation for her to let a locked door stop her. She'd quickly found a solution. Her lock-picking equipment was in her purse.
Not knowing what to do, Clark quickly stepped into the shower. If she did, and he had no doubt the lock on his washroom door wouldn't keep her out for long, get in, she'd expect him to be in the shower. Surely she'd stop at the shower door. Or would she? After all, she was right now picking the lock on his washroom door!
He stood there for a moment before deciding he had to take action. He turned the water off, grabbing one towel for his hair while wrapping a second one around his waist. He placed himself in the way of the washroom door just as it began to swing open.
"Umm…" said Clark hesitantly, placing his foot in the door's path. "Do you know where my glasses are?" he asked. "I really do need them. I can't see a thing without them."
"Huh?" asked Lois on the other side of the door.
"Could you see if you can find them?"
"Umm…" Lois said hesitantly. "Sure."
Lois backed away from the door in confusion. It quickly shut. Stepping on something, she looked down and saw Clark's shirt, the one he'd been wearing last night. She bent down and picked it up, slipping it over her shoulders and doing it up as she tried to figure out what he was talking about.
Clark didn't need glasses. He was Superman. His vision was perfect. More than perfect, in fact. And now that she knew he was Superman, he didn't need them as a disguise. So what was he talking about?
She made her way out to the living room as she puzzled over his request. She could remember throwing his glasses on the coffee table. She picked them up and started slowly towards the bathroom again before it hit her. The perfume must have worn off and… How much did he remember? How on earth was she supposed to explain to him what had happened?
Her first thought was to throw on her skirt and boots and, without taking time to change out of his shirt, flee. She stood frozen to her spot before rejecting the idea. He'd woken up in bed with her — it being fairly obvious by even a cursory glance around the room, what had happened. If she fled now, they were finished. And, no matter what happened between them after this, she wasn't prepared to give up their friendship or their partnership without a fight.
She silently cursed herself. She had vowed that this time she wasn't going to jump in without checking the water level first. Yet here she was. In over her head, with the very good possibility that she was about to drown.
'Just take one very careful step at a time,' she told herself. And the first step was… She glanced down at herself. She needed something to wear.
Walking back into Clark's bedroom, she looked around. She rejected the idea of putting on the outfit she'd worn here last night. It wasn't as if she could pretend she'd never been out of it, after all. Unless… No. If his experience with the pheromone compound was anything like hers, he'd remember as time went on. If she wasn't honest now… She opened one of his dresser drawers and saw a pair of sweats. She pulled them out and put them on. She quickly rolled up the pant legs before turning towards the washroom door.
On her way there, another thought occurred to her. Walking over to his closet, she opened it to remove his robe.
It was only a moment more before she was back at the washroom door.
"I have your glasses, Clark," she said softly. When he opened the door far enough to reach out, she handed him his robe first.
"Thanks," she heard him mumble. The sentiment was repeated when she handed him his glasses.
As he closed the door, Lois quickly tidied up the bedroom. It would probably be easier talking if neither were staring at some article of underwear. Then she took a seat on the side of the bed, waiting for Clark to emerge, all the time fighting the urge to run.
It was a couple of minutes before Clark slowly opened the bathroom door and stepped out. He stopped just outside, facing her but at the same time avoiding eye contact. He stood in silence for a moment before saying, "Now, whatever you might think, I didn't take advantage of you. At least, I don't think I did, but…"
"You didn't," she said quietly, interrupting his line of thought.
"I didn't?" he asked.
She shook her head. Now it was her turn to divert her eyes.
He watched her for a moment before asking, "Are you saying you know what happened? Why I woke up in… You know what happened?"
Without looking up, she bit her lower lip and nodded. She tried, without much success, to steady the butterflies that were suddenly flying in mass in her stomach. If he asked what happened, she was certain she would die.
"What happened?" he asked, moving over to sit down on the bench by the window.
Clark opened his mouth to repeat the question, but closed it almost immediately. The image of her sitting on that same bed, pulling her turtleneck over her head was suddenly the only thing he could see. He swallowed hard, diverting his eyes from where they had suddenly focused on her chest.
She glanced over at him, causing him to color. If she asked what he thought had happened, he was certain he would die.
"What do you think happened?" her voice came right on cue.
"What do I… Lois, don't do this to me," he responded, his final words leaving no doubt that he was deadly serious. "What I know…" He emphasized the word. "…is that we interviewed Lily. Then, after we got back to the Daily Planet, I heard… I decided we needed some real coffee and then…" He shrugged.
"Well, it's good to know some things don't change," she muttered.
"What does that mean?" The irritation in Clark's voice had more to do with his frustration at not being able to figure out what was going on than any real anger at Lois.
"Well, Superman, from what I've heard you were out acting as a traffic cop, a fireman — two cats, if I recall correctly — and…" She was already kicking herself for her outburst, but was unable to stop herself. She knew his memory of yesterday had to be anything but perfect — she should be sensitive to that fact. It was just that hearing Clark give another one of his stupid excuses after what had happened between them last night pushed all her buttons. "…dealing with some sort of problem at the Lex Corp Nuclear Plant."
"What are you talking about?" stammered Clark. "I'm not…"
"Superman?" She rolled her eyes.
Clark opened his mouth to reply — his basic instinct for self-preservation kicking in — but then closed it again when his eyes met Lois.' He'd known her for almost a year now, and if there was one thing he knew it was when he'd lost to Lois Lane. This was definitely one of those times. The fire in her eyes practically dared him to deny it again. He dropped his head and stared absently at his hands.
After a moment of awkward silence, Clark spoke again. "Fine. So I guess you know. That still doesn't explain how we ended up…" He gestured towards the bed she was sitting on.
Lois bit her lower lip. Pushing him about the fact that he had lied to her had been cover — even she knew that. Oh, sure. There was still some residual anger there. And she imagined that once she had an opportunity to think about all the lies over the past year, she'd be furious, but even she had to concede that her only reason for pushing it now was to avoid telling him what had happened. But it seemed he was not about to be distracted.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened," she said softly, taking a quick peek at him before once again looking away.
He sat in silence, waiting for her to continue.
"But sometime yesterday morning, when you were out…" She made a wavy motion with her hand. "…you know…"
He looked at her curiously before it sank in what she was indicating. His eyebrows crept up. He'd never heard anyone describe his powers in quite that fashion before — a wave of the hand and a 'you know.' He brushed the surprise off as she continued to talk.
"I think you were somehow affected by Miranda's pheromone compound."
"What? How could…" He suddenly fell silent, deep in thought.
Lois glanced over at him then, waiting for his next question. A question she knew was coming. A question she was dreading.
"Are you saying that we…" He gestured to the bed.
Closing her eyes and biting her lower lip, she nodded.
"But…" There was a long pause. "Were you affected by the perfume, too?" he finally asked.
Without looking at him, she shook her head. He went back to silent contemplation. She glanced over at him. He wasn't looking at her so she continued to watch as a hundred different emotions flitted across his face. It felt as if an eternity passed before he continued.
"How could you?" he finally gasped in disbelief, rising to his feet. She looked down. "I came back from… well, from wherever. You figure out that I've been affected by Miranda's perfume. You knew that I wasn't exactly rational and what? I'm not in my right mind so you decide, 'Hey, let's take Clark for a spin around the block. He'll never know the difference.'"
"I can't believe you'd do that to me. I'm vulnerable and you take advantage of the situation. I really hope it was worth it, Lois. I hope you enjoyed you're little…" His voice trailed off for a moment before he found his next thought. "You raped me!" he exclaimed. "I'm in a…"
He continued on, but Lois' thoughts stopped dead in their tracks at his last statement. 'You raped me.' She stared at him in shock for a moment. She might have let things get carried away. She might have even been guilty of taking advantage of the situation. But rape? It was only a moment more before she was on her feet, her eyes flashing in consort with his.
"Rape?" she demanded, bringing his continuing rampage to a halt.
"Yes, rape," he spat back, knowing even as he said it that he didn't really believe it. But he was in a state of shock, hardly able to comprehend what she was telling him had happened here and wishing desperately that he could remember it.
"I might be guilty of a lot of things here. Bad judgment. Jumping in without checking the water level and maybe even finding you adorable when you were… Clark, I can hardly believe you'd say that."
"If our situations were reversed… If, when you had been under the influence of the pheromone compound, I'd taken advantage of the situation, what would you have called it?" he shot back.
"I'd have said… I mean, you would have… It's not the same," she objected, giving what looked a lot like a childish stamp of her foot. "Besides," she added, suddenly realizing that she had an argument against his accusation, "you weren't quite as innocent as you're making out."
"What are you talking about? I was drugged, you…"
"I'm not talking about yesterday. I'm talking about when I was under the influence of the pheromone compound."
"I was a perfect gentleman," he objected.
"Really," Lois drawled sarcastically. "Then tell me, Clark, what would have happened if I had been affected for… I don't know, maybe a day more? Unless I'm very much mistaken, when I recovered, you said something about not being able to take it anymore. That if I still wanted you, you were mine."
Clark immediately opened his mouth to respond. He closed it again when he realized she was right. Had she been under the influence of the perfume any longer, they'd have ended up in bed. "It's not the same," he responded.
"Really?" she asked in disbelief. "And tell me, Clark. How exactly is it not the same? The only difference between you and me is that I recovered in time to prevent anything from happening."
"But you're not in love with me," Clark responded before he could realize exactly what he was saying.
The conversation came to an abrupt halt. Both stared at each other for a moment before looking away.
"So what?" asked Lois when she finally recovered the power of speech. "Are you saying that loving me would give you the right to…"
"No! Of course not, but having you throw yourself at me for two days…" He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. How had he suddenly been put on the defensive? "You don't even particularly like me," he concluded weakly.
"Don't like…" Lois started, before her voice trailed off. She really didn't want to pursue this line of discussion. She'd been trying to avoid thinking about what her feelings were for Clark. And if she hadn't been prepared to think about it while they were making love last night, she really didn't want to think about it while fighting with him.
"Oh, I get it," said Clark a note of sudden understanding in his voice. "This isn't about me at all, is it. It's about Superman."
"Come on, Lois. You've been throwing yourself at him for the past year. So, suddenly you find out that… You saw your chance, didn't you?" He snorted. "I should have known. I mean, that was the one thing that didn't make any sense. Why would you go to bed with the 'hack from Nowheresville'? But that's not what happened, is it? You didn't go to bed with Clark Kent. No. You went to bed with Superman."
"You are Superman!" she exclaimed.
"No, Lois. I'm Clark. Superman…" He snorted again. "I guess I got you. You went to bed with someone who doesn't even exist. He's a sham, a farce. He's something I invented."
"Clark," Lois begged, unable to stand the venom in his voice, not after the night they'd shared.
"My first time should have been…" His voice trailed off as he suddenly seemed to realize what he was saying.
Lois' mouth dropped open at what he had just said. There was only one way she could possibly interpret his statement except… Omigod. She had recognized that he was inexperienced but it had never crossed her mind to think that he could be… However, before things could get really awkward, she seemed to lose his attention.
A moment later, he said, "I've got to go."
Before Lois could react, Clark became a blur and then Lois saw Superman speed out the window.
Lois sank down onto the bed, her hands trembling and her heart pounding. "Clark," she breathed before letting her head fall into her hands.
Clark wasn't sure whether responding to the radio transmission was a rescue effort or an escape. After all, this wasn't something that couldn't be handled by the police. After all, the M.P.D. had the best bomb squad in the world.
As he made his way to the address given as the target of the bomb threat, he couldn't get his mind off the scene in his apartment. In spite of everything, when he first realized that he and Lois were in bed together, he'd been hopeful that, even if the circumstances might have been anything but perfect, it signaled that Lois felt more towards him than she'd ever let him see. Until, of course, he'd realized the truth. She'd taken Superman to bed.
He knew he'd been harsh. He didn't feel raped. And he was sure, at the time, he'd done everything in his power to get her into bed. He definitely remembered how difficult it had been on him when Lois had been under the influence of the perfume. She was right. Had she not recovered from the perfume when she had, he'd have done the exact same thing she had done. He didn't doubt that. He'd spent that entire night pacing the floor. By the time he heard her moving around in his bedroom, he'd decided that he wasn't going to continue resisting.
He suddenly blinked as his mind flashed back to the night before. Even though he knew it was just a memory, it was the most vivid memory he'd ever had — making love to Lois Lane. His flight came to a complete halt and he simply hovered in the air as short flashes began coming back. Her eyes were what he remembered first. She had looked at him in ways he'd never seen before, in either of his guises — looks that vacillated between tenderness and torridness. Her body was what he remembered next. The way she molded so perfectly against him, as if she'd been destined to be there. She'd been so soft, so responsive, so…
He shook his head. What was he doing? He couldn't shirk his responsibilities just because he wanted to savor these memories. If anything went wrong and someone was killed, he'd never forgive himself. Taking a deep breath, he looked around until he found the address that had been given over the radio.
When Clark first left, Lois curled up on Clark's bed and wept. She knew that she was in the wrong. She had known it last night. But being her, she'd gone ahead anyway. And, although it had not been her intention to do so, she'd hurt Clark, more than she would have believed possible. Then, when he'd reacted in anger — as he had every right to — she'd responded with anger. After only a day of being with a pheromone affected Clark Kent, she'd acted on her hormones. It really was astonishing that Clark had held out for two days. She could hardly imagine it.
When he had alluded to his first time, her heart had almost stood still. Even as she thought about it now, her mind could hardly accept it. There had to be another explanation. Maybe he meant the first time they… No. He had distinctly said, 'my first time.' There was only one possible explanation. Until last night, he had been… She shook her head, unable to even think the word.
His first time. Clark was a sweet, good-looking guy in his late twenties. She couldn't imagine that he hadn't had opportunities. In fact, given the way Cat had been throwing herself at him for the past year, she knew he'd had opportunities. So why? Knowing Clark the way she did, she realized there was only one possible explanation. He thought making love was something too special to squander on just anyone. He was waiting for that special someone. And she'd taken that away from him. He'd never be able to forgive her for that.
Pulling herself off the bed, she realized that she really shouldn't be here when Clark returned. He would undoubtedly be appalled to find her here. How would she feel to return to find her rapist… A sob escaped her throat. It hadn't felt like it at the time, but how was what she had done any different from a man taking advantage of a woman while she was drunk? Sure, he'd been more responsive than a drunk woman would be. But he still didn't have the capacity to consent and wasn't that what rape was — sex without consent? She shook her head slightly. That thought hadn't even occurred to her last night. In fact, it hadn't occurred to her until Clark had used that horrible word. She might consider herself a modern, liberated woman. So why was it that she'd never even considered that a man could be raped?
She stumbled to the door, finding the boots she'd dropped there the night before. Pulling them on, she opened the door and stepped outside. She took one final look back into the apartment where she had known such happiness, not just last night but almost every time she'd ever been here. Clark had held her here when she was sad or scared. Here she'd relaxed in the comforting curl of his arm to watch videos or T.V. Would she ever see this place again? Why hadn't she realized just how much his apartment meant to her until she wondered if she'd ever be welcome here in the future? Sighing, she pulled the door shut, flinching slightly when she heard it click locked behind her.
Clark hovered in the air, looking carefully over the massive landscape. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary, he made his way to the house. There seemed to be a number of people relaxing around a pool. He floated over and slowly landed. He was approached by a beautiful, young woman whose swimsuit was barely big enough to be legal.
"Hi, handsome," an incredibly suggestive voice said. "What can we do for you?" she asked, stepping even closer to him.
Clark folded his arms across his chest and forced himself not to step back. Intimidation was usually a good tactic at keeping women at a distance. Unfortunately, she seemed anything but intimidated. She stepped close enough to lay a hand on his arm. He ignored it.
"I heard that there was a bomb threat here," he said.
"Well, I've been known to be explosive," purred the woman, running her hand down his arm. "If you want to come inside, you could find out for yourself." Her hand drifted over his folded arms and began to trail over his stomach.
Clark couldn't let this continue. He took her hand, removing it from his body. She pouted slightly before stepping back. Clark noticed that others were now joining them. Suddenly, he was surrounded by a group of young women.
"Superman, why don't you join us for a swim?" said one of the young women.
"Don't worry about a swimsuit," said another. "If you're shy, we'll get rid of our swimsuits too," she continued.
"I don't think that's…" Clark began. His voice trailed off as another woman's hand found its way to his body. He jumped back, dislodging her hand.
"I heard there was a bomb threat here," he said, turning his attention to an older, more decently attired, although still extremely attractive woman who was approaching in the midst of these scantily clad younger women. She should be safer.
The older woman gave the younger women a look and they immediately backed off. Clark let out a breath of relief.
"Sorry about that, Superman. But you are quite irresistible. I'm sure you know that by now," the woman said silkily.
"Thanks for the rescue," Clark said, trying to maintain his sense of humor.
The woman laughed. "I'll have to put that in my resume. 'I rescued Superman.' Anyway, I'm Sam. This is my place. So what can I do for you?" Sam asked, placing a hand on Superman's shoulder and turning him away from the younger women.
"I overheard a report that someone called in a bomb threat to the M.P.D.," Clark said as they walked along the side of the pool, putting distance between themselves and those over zealous young women.
Sam laughed again. "It turned out to be nothing. It's one of the risks of doing business. I just called the police a moment ago to tell them their assistance wasn't required."
"Well, I guess that's good. I really should…" Clark's voice came to an abrupt halt and he immediately jumped away when Sam's hand suddenly ran down his back to squeeze his buttocks. He stared in disbelief at Sam for a moment before, without another word, taking to the skies.
"Well, that was a waste of time," said Luthor.
"Given his reaction to women yesterday, I'd say that the perfume has worn off," Miranda responded. "But don't worry. I'm already working on the corrections to the formula. I'm sure next time…"
"Fine," Luthor interrupted, before turning and striding from the room. He was beginning to have serious doubts about Miranda's ability to destroy Superman's moral code. Maybe morals and inhibitions were not the same thing — at least for Superman. Besides, he might already have enough to destroy Superman's reputation in Lois Lane's eyes, perhaps even in the eyes of the world. He wondered if the tape had been delivered yet. Once that was done, the path would be open for him to kill the Man of Steel. And if he no longer had need of Miranda, maybe it was time to dispose of that loose end as well.
Lois' steps as she approached the door to her apartment were excruciatingly slow. It seemed to take an extraordinary amount of effort just to put one foot in front of another, as if all her normal life force had been sucked out of her.
She noticed a bulky brown envelope propped against her door. Taking a deep breath, she unlocked and opened the door to her apartment before bending over to pick it up. She walked in, pushing the door shut behind her. She knew she should take a moment to lock it, but it just seemed too much effort. Holding the envelope in her hand, she walked to the couch and plopped down onto it.
She dropped the envelope on the couch beside her before looking at her window. Perhaps she should open it, just in case Clark… She sighed. There wasn't much chance of that. After sitting there for a moment, she headed for the shower. Once the shower ended, she once again put on Clark's clothes. The shirt smelt of him, giving her a feeling that he was holding her, providing her with some much needed comfort.
She had certainly fought with Clark before. But this time was different. This time Lois seriously doubted their friendship would survive. If she went into the Planet on Monday to find out that Clark had handed in his resignation, she wouldn't be surprised. He shouldn't be the one resigning. If she had any decency at all, she would. After all, she was the one who had used Clark. He shouldn't be forced to leave — she should. She already knew she couldn't do it. She obviously didn't have a decent bone in her body.
Not that she'd necessarily have a choice. If Clark brought a complaint… If he told Perry what had happened… No. She dismissed that thought as quickly as it had come. Clark would never do that. Even if he had every right to accuse her of raping him — and if he did, she wouldn't deny it — she knew he never would. She wasn't sure if it was because admitting to being raped would be too embarrassing for him or if he would be hesitant to do that to her. Probably it would be a mixture of both. He might not be able to forgive her for what she'd done, but she knew Clark. She knew he cared about her. She even knew that he had loved her — before she'd destroyed that love.
Not knowing what else to do, she returned to the couch. In an effort to divert her thoughts, she picked up the envelope she'd dropped there earlier and opened it. Inside was a VCR tape and a note. She slowly pulled the letter from the package and began reading.
'Dear Ms. Lane,
'I have always been a fan of Superman's. As a result, when this tape came into my possession I didn't want to believe it. However, I can assure you that it's quite real. And I'm not the only one who has a copy of this. I have reason to believe that a copy might have already been sent to LNN. I know that you and Superman are friends. After a long and agonizing night, I decided to send this on to you, confident that you will handle it appropriately.'
And it was signed 'A morally concerned citizen.'
A bolt of fear ripped through her. She jumped from the couch, stuck the tape in her player and turned it on. Standing in front of the television, she watched in silence. As she did, her heart plunged into her stomach. Her hand unconsciously came up to cover her mouth when a sob tried to escape her throat. Still, her hand did nothing to stop the tears that were soon coursing down her cheeks.
Clark landed on his balcony. Spinning out of the suit and into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, he stepped into his apartment. He already knew that Lois wasn't here. He'd x- rayed the place before coming in. He'd been both relieved and disappointed to find her gone. He knew he needed time to digest what had happened before facing her. He had almost gone to see his parents. In fact, he'd been half way to Kansas before he realized that he couldn't talk to his parents about this. What had happened was between him and Lois, and no one else.
As he slowly made a path through his bedroom, he spotted a neatly folded pile of clothes — Lois' clothes. He stopped, looking at it for a moment before making his way over. On top of the pile was a black turtleneck — the one he remembered her pulling over her head. He ran a hand across the fabric before picking up the clothes and taking a seat on the side of his unmade bed.
He slowly examined the clothing and as he did, more and more of the memories of last night came back to him. He took his time, savoring each one, before moving on to the next. It was quite some time later — Clark didn't know how long — before he realized what he was doing. He dropped her clothes on the bed and rose to his feet. He shouldn't be doing this, tormenting himself with these memories when he knew it was pointless. He left the room, hoping to leave the memories behind.
He walked into the living room and plopped himself into a chair. He noticed his jacket lying on the floor. When he leaned over to pick it up, he saw one of Lois' socks, lost under a chair. He groaned. No matter where he went, the memories followed.
He blinked. He could remember them kissing on the couch when… 'We can't.' He was certain she'd said those words to him. However, since they obviously had, what had happened? 'I know you can't understand this, but you aren't… Clark, what you're feeling isn't real. You've been drugged. You wouldn't be doing any of this if you hadn't been drugged.' They had talked a bit longer. He couldn't quite recall every word, but the essence was that they couldn't continue what they were doing. Then she started to leave. Suddenly, she'd stopped, run back to him and begged him to take her to bed. He hadn't hesitated. So what had happened? What had brought her back?
Did it matter? Probably not. Still… He growled in frustration as he struggled to understand what he was feeling.
He'd spent most of last night making love to Lois Lane. So, what exactly was he having a problem with? After all, he'd been dreaming about doing exactly that for most of the last year. Okay, so his memory of the event was somewhat blotchy. Still, what he could remember was remarkable. Making love to Lois Lane had been awesome, mind-boggling, breathtaking… and about a hundred other words that he could think of. It was everything he'd ever imagined it would be — and more. So what was the problem?
Was he upset with her for taking advantage of the situation? Not really. After all, she was right. If she had been under the influence of the pheromone compound any longer than she had been, they'd have made love months ago. How could he blame her for something he'd have done himself? He'd told her that his experience was different — after all, he was in love with her. But how was what he felt for her different from what she felt for Superman? And in some corner of his mind, he must have known what it would do to his chances with her to reveal his secret. How could he then despise her just because she'd gone to bed with the man she loved?
But that was just it. That was what was making him so miserable. She'd made love to Superman. He'd give anything if she'd made love to him instead. How was it possible that he could be so jealous of his own creation? But he was. After all, Lois loved Superman. Lois had made love to Superman. Part of Clark almost wished that he'd never invented Superman. Maybe then Lois would have noticed him.
But that wasn't the worst part. Now that Lois knew he was the one behind Superman, how would he know if she ever fell in love with him? The fact was that he never would. He buried his head in his hands as that realization set in. The dream was over, the dream that somehow he might have a future with Lois Lane. Now that she knew, and now that he knew just how much she loved Superman, there'd never be a chance for them. After all, as much as he might wish it, he couldn't pretend to be Superman — not on a long term basis — and she would never be able to love him as anyone but Superman.
Lois clutched the envelope as she approached Clark's apartment. This was the last thing she wanted to do. Why had she been elected to do this? How had she ended up in the middle of this Greek tragedy? She got to the top of the stairs and hesitated.
As Lois had watched the tape, a part of her had died. Mercifully, after the initial feeling of anguish, a kind of numbness set in. Now that numbness was only interrupted by moments of mind-boggling, almost incapacitating stabs of both anger and pain.
Anger. How could one little word be such an understatement? Anger didn't even begin to describe the fury in her soul. Clark had proven himself to be no better than every other man she'd ever known. Seeing that tape… How come she wasn't just walking away, leaving him to stew in his own juices? Why was she bringing him this tape? Shouldn't she just let him find out about this the same way the rest of the world would — when it appeared on LNN? He deserved everything the world would do to him when this became public.
Pain. Pain was such a poor word to describe the anguish that was tearing her heart apart. In some ways, it might have been less grievous if he'd just ripped her open and torn her heart from her chest. She knew where the pain came from. It had become agonizingly obvious as she'd watched the tape. The pain she was feeling now was in direct proportion to the love she had felt for him last night.
Love. She snorted. What a time for her to realize that! If there was one thing she'd always known about Lois Lane it was that she had impeccable timing. It was only when he broke her heart that she was able to admit that the emotions she'd felt in his arms last night were actually love. She didn't know when, she didn't know how, but sometime during the past year, probably months ago, he'd snuck into her heart, totally without her knowledge or approval.
She'd been able to avoid facing her love for him by redirecting her focus, either to Superman or to Lex. And if last night hadn't happened, she'd probably have been able to avoid facing the truth indefinitely. But last night had happened. And having given herself to him so fully, she was unable to get the walls that guarded her heart back up in time to protect her from this. She glanced at the envelope in her hands.
Every word of love that had emerged from his mouth last night had been nothing more than a pheromone-induced myth. None of it had been real. And she had the proof in her hands. She should have known. Still, she'd actually let herself believe every expression of love he'd muttered in her ear.
She wasn't sure she'd ever been this confused. Images of the beauty of last night swirled with the revolting images on that tape. She had known that she couldn't trust her judgment about men. But this? Even in her worst nightmares she wouldn't have imagined this.
The problem wasn't just the intensity of the anger and the pain. It was the fact that she had no idea which one would emerge next. They seemed to swirl together, leaving her not knowing how to handle either of them. She had never felt quite so out of control.
She looked at the door to his apartment. This was the last place she wanted to be right now, not when she had no control over her emotions. Still, he had to see this. She raised her hand and again hesitated. How would she react to seeing him? Would she be able to maintain her dignity? After all, given the fact that she had no idea which emotion would emerge next — anger or pain — she was equally likely to break down and cry or try to strangle him with her bare hands. Maybe she should just leave.
Clark almost ignored the knock on his door. He really didn't want to see anyone right now. He'd much rather sit here and feel sorry for himself. Then the person knocked again and his hospitable Kansas upbringing kicked in. He got up and made his way to the door, grabbing his glasses as he went. He was putting them on his face and reaching for the doorknob when he hesitated. There was no mistaking that heartbeat.
He glanced over his glasses through the door to confirm what he'd heard. Lois was indeed standing on the other side — and she looked every bit as devastated as he felt. In spite of everything, he could barely stand to see her so upset. It took almost everything he had to keep from throwing open the door and pulling her into his arms. But that was something he couldn't do, something he could never do again. It would only encourage her to believe that there was a possible future with Superman.
He took a moment to fortify his resolve before opening the door.
"Hi," Lois said, not meeting his eyes.
"Hi," Clark responded, equally subdued.
They stood there in silence for a moment before Lois asked, "Can I come in?"
Clark didn't respond verbally, but he did step off to the side, allowing her plenty of room to enter without any possible physical contact between them. She stepped inside, also seeming determined to keep any contact from happening. She pushed the door closed before looking down at the envelope in her hands.
"You know," she said softly, almost as if talking to herself, "after all this time, you'd really think I'd know better, but…"
"…I can't believe I actually let you get to me like that."
"Lois…" Clark tried again, almost unable to stand the agony she was obviously in. However, she continued talking, refusing to let him speak, almost as if she didn't want to hear what he had to say.
"…It's just that I somehow managed to convince myself that it was real. I could give a lot of reasons to try to explain what happened, but… I guess what it comes down to is that I just loved the idea that you loved me. Really loved me and…" She gave a small sob. "…I should have known you couldn't." With those words she shoved the envelope into his hands and bolted from his apartment.
Clark stood, staring in stunned silence at Lois' retreating form. What had that been about? He looked down at the envelope in his hands before closing the door and retreating into his apartment. He removed the letter from the envelope and read it as he slowly made his way to a chair. However, before he could get seated, his direction changed. Walking over to the VCR, he inserted the tape and turned the machine on.
He watched curiously. It seemed to be a tape of Superman taken by some amateur cameraman. It shook slightly, making his image a little fuzzy, although it was obviously Superman.
Clark watched Superman land. The background looked vaguely familiar but he couldn't immediately identify it. He walked back to the couch and took a seat. So far it was nothing a hundred amateurs hadn't captured on camera. But given the letter, not to mention the devastation on Lois' face, he knew there had to be more to it than that.
He watched curiously as a woman entered the camera's shot. He couldn't get a clear look at the woman's face, but from the angle, he didn't recognize her. When had it been taken?
"Superman, thank God you got here in time," the woman began. "I don't know what we would have done if…"
Clark's eyebrows shot up when Superman reached for the woman, pulling her into his arms and cutting off her speech with a passionate kiss.
"Superman, what are you…" the woman gasped.
Superman smothered the question with another impassioned kiss. He didn't stop there. One of his hands found its way under her blouse.
"Why don't we go somewhere more private?" the woman interrupted. "Maybe go get a drink or something?"
"I love you, baby," Clark heard Superman respond seductively. "So why don't we just skip the drink and get down to business."
"I just need a little time to…"
"I'm Superman!" Superman interrupted, no longer trying to sound seductive. "Why do you think I do all these good works? If I didn't get payback, do you really think I'd bother?"
Clark's mouth dropped open as he continued to watch. After her initial reluctance, the woman capitulated to Superman's demands, allowing for a brief sexual encounter. But it was about as far from making love as consensual sex could possibly be.
Clark picked up the remote and switched off the tape. He couldn't bear to watch anymore. How could he have done that? It was unforgivable. She had never said no, but still… He had even used his status as Superman to make her feel that he was entitled. No wonder Lois had looked appalled.
He had to find this woman. He had to find a way to make this right — although he had no idea how to do that.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember the incident. It had to have been while he was under the influence of the pheromone compound. However, try as he might, he had no memory of the event.
This time he did need advice. He got up and spun into the suit. He went to take the tape out of his machine before changing his mind. He would tell his parents what was on the tape. He couldn't bear to let them watch it.
Lois stood in the elevator, staring blankly out into the newsroom. After leaving Clark, she'd been unable to stand the idea of going home. She drove around for more than an hour. Since the only place she'd ever been able to forget her personal problems was the Daily Planet, she eventually found herself driving there.
It wasn't until the elevator doors started to close that she stepped out. She was still in a daze as she shuffled towards her desk. As she got near, her gaze fell on Clark's desk. Without making a conscious decision to do so, her destination changed and she found herself standing beside Clark's desk, running her fingers absently across the surface.
"Hey, Lois," said Jack, bringing Lois out of her stupor. "You in because of that guy who turned up dead?" he asked.
"What guy?" asked Lois, trying to focus on what Jack was saying.
"That guy they initially mistook for Superman."
"What are you talking about?" Lois asked.
"Apparently, some guy was pulled out of Hobbs Bay first thing this morning, about six or so, I think. At first they thought it was Superman but it turned out to be some guy. Barry… something or other."
"Umm… No. That's not…"
"Morning, Lois," said Jimmy coming over to join them. "What's the fashion statement?"
"Huh?" asked Lois, trying to shift her mind away from what Jack had been saying to focus on what Jimmy was asking her.
"I'll tell you what the fashion statement is," said Cat, about two steps behind Jimmy. "Man's shirt. Man's sweats, rolled up at the ankles…"
Lois suddenly glanced down at herself in horror. She hadn't even thought about the fact that she was still wearing Clark's clothes.
"…If this was anyone but Lois Lane, I'd say she got lucky last night," Cat concluded.
"Don't be ridiculous," said Jimmy. "This is Lois. She was probably pursuing a story and in the process had to hide in a marsh. Her clothes were ruined so she stole these from a clothes line on her way back from…"
"So what are you doing here?" Lois asked Cat, interrupting this line of discussion. "I thought you never saw daylight on the weekends."
"I got a tip that some big celebrity news would be breaking this morning. And you know me. Can't stand to miss out on getting the latest… Oh, oh, oh. This must be it," she concluded, turning to look at the entertainment correspondent at LNN who had just appeared on the television screen. She rushed over to turn it up, followed by Jack and Jimmy.
As Lois slipped out of the newsroom, she heard. "Well, folks, we have some startling news for you. And, of all people, you'll never guess who is the subject of the latest celebrity scandal. Superman. Yes, that's right folks. The man we never thought could…" Lois tried not to listen. She already knew what this must be about. Someone had sent a copy of that tape to LNN.
Lois let out a sigh of relief when the elevator doors slid closed. Coming to the newsroom today had definitely been a mistake. On the other hand, the grout in her apartment needed cleaning.
Meantime in Kansas, Clark had just finished his story — at least as much as his parents needed to know. He'd deliberately left out any reference to Lois.
"Something doesn't make sense to me," said Martha after a moment.
"I agree," said Jonathan.
"What's that?" asked Clark.
"Well, you said that this Miranda person affected you with some form of this pheromone compound. But if I recall correctly, when it was used last time you discovered that it doesn't create desires, it just breaks down a person's normal inhibitions," said Martha.
"Right," said Clark, not understanding where his mother was going with this.
"So, have you ever wanted to dominate a woman, making her submit to Superman's desires?"
"No! Of course not," Clark exclaimed immediately.
"Then how would breaking down your normal inhibitions cause your personality to change so completely?" Martha concluded.
As Clark was digesting that, his father spoke. "So why do you think it was this pheromone stuff?"
"That was Lois' diagnosis," said Clark.
"Lois, huh?" asked Martha, an almost amused tone in her voice. "So you saw Lois while under the influence of this stuff."
"Well, yeah," said Clark cautiously.
"Then I think you need to talk to Lois," said Jonathan. "After all, she's the only one who can tell you if your personality changed."
"But…" Clark began, before his voice trailed off. He couldn't tell his parents what the problem was with that suggestion.
"So does she think it was Clark who was affected or Superman?" asked Martha. "After all, if there is a tape out there that suggests that Superman was affected, she might…" Her voice trailed off when she noticed Clark's face. She glanced at her husband, concern written all over her face.
"What is it, son?" he asked.
Clark glanced between his mother and father. They really had to be told. He trusted Lois, but his parents were involved, too. "Lois knows," he said simply.
"Knows?" asked Martha.
"That I'm Superman," Clark clarified.
"Since when?" asked Jonathan.
Clark walked over and looked out the window as he thought about how to respond. "Since yesterday," he said. He shrugged. "I guess when I was under the influence of the pheromone compound, I sort of let it slip."
"Did it work?" asked Martha, an unmistakable grin in her voice.
"Excuse me?" asked Clark, turning towards his mother.
"Well, if you were under the influence of the pheromone compound, I assume that it was told in your pursuit of her. So, did it work?"
"Mom!" exclaimed Clark.
"Now, Martha," Jonathan began, the same note of humor in his voice that was in his wife's, "you know that Clark wants Lois to fall in love with him, not Superman."
"Pshaw," responded Martha. "That woman has been in love with my boy for months, in both his guises. I suspect that now that she understands that she doesn't have to choose between them…"
"Mom?" asked Clark, his mind having gotten stuck on her statement that Lois had been in love with him for months.
"I'm not blind, Clark," said Martha. "Although, by the look on your face, I'm beginning to suspect that you are."
"Lois doesn't love me. I mean, she doesn't love Clark," Clark corrected.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that."
Clark let out a breath. His parents obviously didn't understand. "Can we get back to the problem at hand?" he asked.
"Well, I think the first thing you need to do is go make up with Lois," said Martha.
"I didn't say that we'd had a fight," objected Clark.
"Not in words," responded Martha. "But all we have to do is look at your face to know that. But regardless of what happened, you and Lois are a great team. If you want to get to the bottom of this, you need her help."
"I think there is more going on here than just you being affected by this perfume," Jonathan added. "And unless you get to the bottom of it, it won't matter whether it's you or Superman who Lois loves. There won't be any Superman. I'd say it's fairly obvious that someone is trying to destroy Superman. You've got to find out who."
"And to do that, you need Lois' help," Martha insisted again. "She knows how you were acting. She knows if you just became uninhibited or if your personality changed. And it's my guess that she's the only one who does."
Clark glanced between his parents. They were right. Only Lois could answer his questions. The problem was that he wasn't sure he had the nerve to face her after everything he'd said — not after the tape.
Luthor looked at himself in the mirror, adjusting his tie, as two pundits discussed the latest developments in the Superman scandal on the T.V. beside him. He smiled. If Lois hadn't heard about this, he would find a way to slip it into their conversation before he proposed — under the guise of how shocked he was to find out about it. After all, one woman would have been bad enough — but three! Between the three different women on the tape and the incident the other day where Superman had kissed that woman for the cameras, he would have to sadly conclude that Superman wasn't the hero they had all hoped he was. Especially given what had happened with the last woman on the tape. It really was a shame.
He finished with his tie and grabbed his suit jacket, slipping it on. It was just about time to pick Lois up for their date tonight. He didn't want to be late. He smiled at his image. Between Lois being disillusioned over the fall of her hero and how good he looked tonight, there was no way she was going to say no to his proposal.
Lois went to get changed as soon as she got home; after her close call with Cat, she thought it was probably the prudent course of action. Besides, she desperately needed some distance from what had happened last night. The same shirt that had provided her with such comfort earlier seemed almost stifling now.
The tape. She hadn't been able to watch the whole thing. Still, what she'd seen was horrible enough. Hearing him say the same words to that woman that he'd said to her — 'I love you, baby' — had been devastating. He had even used the same term of endearment. And although Lois might not particularly appreciate having anyone call her 'baby,' hearing Clark call another woman by that name was heartbreaking.
She'd watched for a minute or so more, just to be sure that what seemed to be happening actually happened. When it had, her heart broke. What had happened between her and Clark last night was nothing more than a pheromone-induced incident. How could she have been so stupid to actually believe his words of love when she knew he was under the influence of the perfume?
"Damn!" she said when the toothbrush she was using to clean her grout snapped under the pressure she was placing on it.
Hearing someone knock, she laid down the remnants of the toothbrush and made her way to the door. She glanced through the peephole. Her heart almost stood still. Clark was standing on the other side. What nerve! After what he'd done, how could he possibly think that she'd be the least bit interested in hearing anything he had to say? For a moment, she was tempted not to open the door. She was about to return to her dirty grout when she hesitated. She had to admit she was curious — and curiosity had always been Lois' biggest weakness. She undid the locks on her door and, against her better judgment, opened it.
"Clark," she said flatly, not inviting him in.
"Hi," he responded, avoiding eye contact.
Clark pulled something from behind his back. She stared in disbelief at the single yellow rose before looking up into Clark's eyes.
Clark shrugged. "Yellow is for friendship."
She looked back at the flower before returning her gaze to Clark in stunned incredulity. The last thing she wanted right now was anything from Clark! He really had to be an idiot if he thought a rose was going to make everything all right. He seemed to understand because when she didn't take the flower, he lowered his hand.
Realizing she wasn't about to accept his token, Clark decided that maybe he should just get to the point. He cleared his throat and began his prepared speech. "I said some pretty hurtful things this morning," Clark started slowly. "But…" He shook his head. "There's no excuse. I never should have accused you of…"
"No! You shouldn't have," she retorted as her anger burst through. "God, Clark, how could you possibly have tried to make me feel guilty about what happened between us when you… you…" She gestured her arms wildly, making her meaning painfully clear. "So why are you here?" she asked, and then without giving him a chance to respond, she continued. "Did you think that this…" She snatched the flower from him and waved it in front of his face. "…would make me fall into your arms again? What do you want me to say? I love you, baby," she concluded sarcastically.
"No. Lois…" Clark began.
"I thought you were different!" she continued. "I really believed that you were something special. How could I have been so stupid? You're just like the rest of them, aren't you? That woman. Clark, how could you?"
Her final question contained a note of pure anguish, splintering what was left of Clark's heart. "Lois, I…" Clark began.
"Don't, Clark! Just don't. I can't…"
Her voice was cut off by the elevator doors sliding open. Both she and Clark glanced towards the sound. They reverted to silence, not meeting each other's eyes, as Luthor stepped out of the elevator and approached.
"Kent," said Luthor, a formal tone to his voice.
"Luthor," responded Clark, his voice also having a chill to it.
"Umm…" said Lois, trying to pull her mind away from what had just happened with Clark. "What are you doing here, Lex?" she asked.
"Did you forget about our date?" he responded.
"Date?" she asked before it suddenly hit her. She had a date with Lex today. How could she have forgotten? "Oh, right. I guess…" Her voice trailed off. She couldn't very well tell Lex what had distracted her. "I sort of forgot," she concluded.
"Well, it's not a problem. We have some time. I'll wait while you go and change."
"Umm…" Lois said, her eyes shifting from Lex to Clark. She didn't say anything else as she glanced between the two men, feeling as if she was in some bizarre play where someone had forgotten to give her the appropriate lines.
"That's okay," said Clark. "I should probably go anyway," he concluded before turning and walking towards the door to the stairwell. It was probably just as well that Luthor had come when he had. After all, every word she'd said or, more accurately, spat at him had broken his heart. Her final question had been his complete undoing. Not that she was wrong. His behavior had been despicable.
"Clark," Lois breathed as the door closed behind him. She was still staring at the door when she was reminded of Lex's presence by his voice.
"We really should hurry," Luthor said, taking her arm and leading her back into her apartment.
"Umm… yeah," Lois said, her mind still unable to focus on the man in her apartment.
"So what's that?" he asked as he closed the door behind him.
"What?" she asked. He gestured to the rose. "It's from Clark," she said, looking down at the flower. She had forgotten all about it. She glanced back at Lex. His eyebrows had gone up. "It's yellow," she said in defense, although not sure why she felt the need to defend herself. "It stands for friendship."
"Well, I can't say I appreciate your partner giving you roses, regardless of the color," Luthor responded.
Lois' eyes flashed. Her pain concerning the current situation with Clark and her frustration at Lex's untimely arrival immediately turned back to anger. "Who I get roses from is none of your damn business," she snapped.
His eyebrows went up. In all the time they'd dated, she'd never turned her legendary temper on him. She seemed to realize how unusual her behavior was too because, before he responded, she spoke again, this time her voice much more congenial. "Make yourself comfortable. It will take me a few minutes to get changed."
With those words, she turned and made her way into her bedroom, closing the door and leaning up against it, trying desperately to get her bearings back. 'Forget about Clark,' she told herself firmly. 'Just go out and enjoy your date with Lex.' She looked down at the flower still clutched in her hand. Giving a muted version of a primal scream — so that Lex wouldn't hear her — she flung the flower across the room.
She stood, looking at the flower now lying on the floor, unable to tear her gaze away. It looked so pitiful lying there, so lost, so alone. It almost seemed to be empathizing with her agony, as if it too knew what it was to be used in ways it couldn't comprehend. She slowly walked across the room and stared at the flower now lying at her feet before sinking to the floor beside it.
"You understand, don't you," she said quietly to the discarded symbol of affection. It didn't respond. "You know him," she continued. "How could he have done that?"
She pulled in a jagged breath as her mind took her back to an evening months ago. She had been terrified as she'd made her way to Clark's apartment that night. Barbara Trevino was trying to kill her. Lois was so relieved to find Clark at home. He hadn't gloated, even for a minute, over the fact that, in spite of all her previous claims that she could take care of herself, she was seeking his protection. Instead, he'd just held her until she quit trembling.
How could the man she knew have used the woman on the tape that way? How could he have demanded sexual favors in exchange for his assistance? His actions had been a betrayal of everything she thought he stood for. She wished she could just hate him. In fact, at this moment, she'd give almost anything if it were that simple.
She didn't understand. She didn't understand at all. Her experience with Claude had been so different. Although she hadn't seen what Claude was when they'd been involved, when she looked back the signs had all been there that he was a snake. She had simply deceived herself into believing that he was a good man. None of her previous experiences with either Clark or Superman could have led her to believe he was capable of the behavior on that tape. In fact, if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes, she'd have claimed that it was impossible for Clark to treat any woman that way.
Was it the pheromone compound? That was the most obvious answer. But even that made no sense to Lois. When Miranda had previously sprayed the Planet employees, Perry and Jimmy had both pursued women who weren't interested. And although they had made pests of themselves, neither had done anything like what Clark had done. And Perry could have. As Rahalia's boss, he could have demanded sexual favors in exchange for her continued employment. Instead, he'd written her love poems and sung Elvis songs outside her apartment. Superman wasn't this woman's boss, but the principle was the same. How could he?
"Are you almost ready?" asked Luthor through the door, bringing Lois back to the present.
After a flight to the Antarctic to scream out his frustration to the skies, Clark made his way towards his apartment. If he had thought he couldn't feel worse than he had after seeing that tape, he was wrong. Lois hated him. She really hated him. Nothing could possibly be worse than that. Not that she didn't have every right to despise him. After all, he was despicable.
He pushed that thought out of his mind. He needed to figure out what to do about the tape and the woman on it. He couldn't do that if he was obsessing about Lois. It would certainly be harder to do this without her help. After all, not only was she the only one who could tell him how he'd changed, she was also the only one who could tell him what he'd done yesterday. And although he now had a lot of memories, he was still unable to put them all together chronologically. He really could have used her help, but that was obviously not an option. Suddenly, Clark felt very much alone, more alone than he'd ever felt since first meeting Lois.
As he neared his apartment, his enhanced vision spotted a familiar figure. He landed in a nearby alley and spun back into his clothes before approaching his apartment on foot. When he turned the corner to his apartment, he could hardly believe that his eyes hadn't deceived him. Lois was definitely sitting on the steps to his apartment wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. And she looked absolutely incredible. His steps towards his apartment faltered for a moment before he approached.
"I thought you had a date with Luthor," he said softly, walking past her to make his way towards the door to his apartment.
"I cancelled. I thought this was more important," she replied tersely, grabbing her jacket and rising to her feet.
He didn't look up from where he was inserting the key into his door, afraid that if he did, she'd realized how powerfully her gesture was affecting him. She might be furious with him, but at least she was here — whether to talk or to yell, he didn't know. But, in spite of what he'd thought earlier, anything was better than not having her here at all. After all, if she was here there was still hope — however small — that she would find it in her heart to forgive him. He opened the door and then, without meeting her eyes, stood aside to allow her to enter.
Luthor was fuming when he reentered the penthouse. He could hardly believe that Lois had cancelled their date — and without a real explanation. She'd only said that she couldn't make it. Something had come up.
Could it be Superman? It was the only thing that made sense. He hoped Lois was trying to recover from her sudden realization that Superman wasn't the hero she thought he was. However, he expected the tape to drive her into his arms. Instead, she'd pulled away. Not only was there the broken date, but he had felt a difference in her. Maybe he was just reacting to her sudden flare of temper — directed at him — but he sensed it was something deeper. She no longer seemed in awe of his attention.
He sank into the chair behind his desk and thought about the situation. He had done everything right. So what had gone wrong? And more importantly, how could he correct it?
His mind drifted back to the moment he'd first arrived. He'd been surprised to find Kent there. He knew immediately that he'd interrupted something. Not that he particularly cared if Kent was there. After all, Kent was her partner. But to discover that Kent had given Lois a rose had irked him. Lois had assured him that it was just a symbol of friendship, but why was Kent giving her a flower in the first place?
He was fairly certain Kent was in love with Lois. It would be almost impossible not to know that. However, he was equally certain that Lois recognized that Kent was beneath her. As a result, he didn't consider Kent a rival for Lois' affections. He was, however, a man who Lois respected and in that sense, he could still be dangerous. He would have to address his mind to ridding himself of Clark Kent at some point. Probably following his marriage to Lois Lane. That would be soon enough.
His eyes narrowed as another idea occurred to him. While waiting for Lois, he'd spotted a dozen roses sitting on her table. At the time he'd just assumed that they were the ones he'd sent to Lois a few days ago. But what if they weren't? Was if possible that those were the roses Superman had purchased? Probably not. Still, it was always better to be safe than sorry. And since he unexpectedly had the day off, it might be time to deal with his nemesis. Maybe once Superman was out of the way, Lois would give him her attention again.
Clark went to make coffee as Lois wandered nervously around his living room. The tension in the air was almost stifling. More than once, she wondered exactly why she was here. But almost as soon as the thought would come, she'd dismiss it. She knew why she was here. She had to understand. Until she'd seen that tape, she would have sworn she knew both Clark and Superman.
Sure, he'd lied to her about his identity. But when she'd thought about Clark being Superman it had made sense to her. Finding out that Clark was the one inside the Superman outfit was like finding out that… bananas taste good on peanut butter sandwiches. You might not expect it. You might never think of it. But once you put the two together, it just made sense. This… This made no sense whatsoever. It was like finding out that Superman was really Jack the Ripper or Son of Sam.
So here she was and this time she was not going to lose her temper! She was going to hear him out. Then… Well, she didn't know what then. Maybe once she could make some sense out of this she could get some closure. Maybe then she'd be able to put what happened between them behind her and get on with her life. She certainly hoped so.
It was a few minutes before he returned, handing her a cup of coffee and taking a seat on the couch. She took a seat in a chair facing the couch and they sat in silence.
Clark didn't think he'd ever been more nervous in his life. Lois was here — and much to his surprise, she wasn't yelling. He wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not. He knew he owed her an apology, but when he'd tried earlier it had only provoked her. Maybe it would be best to focus on the problem first. Maybe if she realized how determined he was to atone for his behavior, she'd be more receptive to hearing an apology.
"I wanted to talk to you for two reasons," Clark began. "I think we should deal with the biggest problem first." He hesitated before saying, "The tape."
She bit her lower lip.
"I know you're furious with me and I don't blame you, but… I need your help. I know you probably think I have a lot of nerve asking for your help after everything," he rushed to continue when he saw her tense. "I guess the question you need to ask yourself is whether you think there's any point in trying to save Superman. I'm not suggesting trying to cover anything up. I don't think that will solve anything. But… I will understand if you don't want to help…"
"What do you need?" she interrupted slightly more gruffly than she intended. She wasn't certain Superman deserved a second chance, but was at least willing to concede the possibility that he might. After all, he had done a lot of good over the past year. Not that that justified his behavior, but maybe it did at least mean that she should hear what Clark had to say. Besides, wasn't that why she was here? To try to understand?
He got up off the couch and paced the room as he spoke. "Lois, how much of the tape did you see?"
She colored, but responded, "Only enough to be sure that what seemed to be happening was actually… Well, what actually happened."
Clark nodded. "That's about all I could stand to watch, too." There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "I don't remember any of it."
"Nothing?" Lois responded in disbelief. The pheromone compound might make memories fuzzy, but by now he should have some memory of the event.
"Nothing," Clark confirmed. "As far as I know, the only woman I was with yesterday was you." He hesitated. If he wanted her help, he would have to be completely honest. "Actually, that's not exactly true. I mean, I can recall kissing another woman. It was at a fire or something, but… I really don't think it was her."
"It wasn't," Lois said, her mind immediately flashing back to the incident at the fire. Clark had looked horrified when he'd discovered he was kissing the woman he'd rescued. So how was it that he could have done what that tape clearly showed him doing?
He watched her for a moment, seeing the wheels turning in her mind, before retaking his seat on the couch. "I need you to tell me what happened yesterday. I need to know how I could have…" His voice trailed off.
She glanced over at him. He was in obvious distress about this — not quite the callous attitude she would have expected. In fact, he looked completely devastated. Why hadn't she noticed it before? When she'd confronted Claude after he'd stolen her story, he'd smirked, shrugged his shoulders and told her to 'grow up.' "What exactly do you want to know?" she asked, this time not sounding quite so abrupt.
"Well, I guess the first thing I need to know is… Lois, when we were investigating Miranda's perfume, we found out that the compound just broke down a person's normal inhibitions. It didn't change their character. I guess what I need to know first is if… Well, how did I change? I mean, I've never even fantasized about…" His voice trailed off. Being unsure how to continue without sounding as if he was trying to justify himself, he silently stared into the distance, praying she'd comprehend what he was asking and jump in.
Her breath caught in her throat, immediately understanding where he was going with this. The man on that tape had been startlingly different from the Clark who had been in her apartment yesterday afternoon, or who she'd danced with yesterday evening, or even who she'd made love to last night. The pheromone compound hadn't made Clark demanding. If anything it had changed him into an adoring puppy — so loving, so anxious to please.
That was what had been bothering her. That was why she'd been unable to simply walk away from Clark the way she'd done with Paul or Claude or even her father. Although until this moment she hadn't been able to put it into words, what had been bothering her was the astounding difference between the forceful, demanding man on that tape and the gentle, caring man who had made love to her last night.
The man on that tape was so different that he could only be… How could she have been so stupid? The man on that tape was so different that he could only be a different person. Why hadn't she seen it before? The tape was a forgery. It was the only explanation that made any sense.
Her mind immediately began working overtime as, one after another, the pieces fell into place. She glanced up into Clark's nervous face and suddenly realized how long she'd been sitting in silent contemplation. His anxious expression told her that very clearly.
"Clark, earlier today, I went into the Daily Planet," she said, getting off the couch and making her way to the phone, a new — and to Clark, unexpected — excitement in her voice. "Jack told me about a man who was found dead earlier today," she continued, dialing a number. "Apparently, he was…"
She stopped speaking to him to ask the receptionist at the Daily Planet to put her through to Jack. She waited in silence for a moment before saying, "Jack, it's Lois. I need you to find out everything you can about the man who was found dead in Hobbs Bay this morning." There was a pause. "Yeah, it's important. I need it as soon as possible. Call me at Clark's place when you have it."
She hung up the phone and turned back to a confused looking Clark.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
"The guy who was found dead was originally mistaken for Superman," she said. "I don't know why I didn't see it at the time."
"What?" asked Clark, now completely lost.
"The man on that tape… Clark, I'd bet a month's salary that it wasn't you." To his skeptical look, she continued, "I spent most of yesterday with you. The man I saw on that tape… I can't believe I even thought he was the same man I was with last night."
"How can you be sure?" he asked.
She looked at him, her expression immediately softening as all the anger she'd been feeling towards Clark suddenly dissipated. "Clark, the man I was with was the gentlest man I've ever known. When I first discovered that you were… well, not exactly in your right mind, I was afraid that you would try to pressure me into going to bed with you."
"But I didn't?"
She shook her head. "You were…" Her voice trailed off and she let her expression explain her meaning. "There was no pressure. No sense that you thought you were entitled to something. When I told you that we couldn't continue, you said something like…" She struggled for a minute, trying to get the words right. "You didn't mind if we didn't sleep together but you wished we could keep kissing. Clark, you would have been completely content just to spend the night kissing. " She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear as she continued, "I'm the one who took things further."
Lois began pacing as she tried to work her way through the problem. "So if it wasn't you… Clark, someone is trying to discredit Superman. That's the only explanation. And it has to be connected with the pheromone compound. The two things are too similar for it to be a coincidence. And if I'm right… If the person or people trying to discredit Superman are also responsible for exposing you to the pheromone compound, then…"
"Miranda has to be involved," Clark concluded. "But Lois, are you sure it isn't…"
"I'm sure, Clark. The man on that tape is not Superman!"
Clark wasn't quite so certain. He couldn't help but wonder if Lois wasn't engaging in a little bit of wishful thinking. Still, it was the only theory they had — other than admitting that Superman's secret desire was to dominate women. It couldn't hurt to follow through on this theory for a little while at least.
"So, what are we waiting for?" she asked. "We've got a superhero to save."
"There is one other thing that I think we need to discuss first," said Clark softly.
"What?" she asked, wondering what could possibly be more important than finding out who was behind this attempt to discredit Superman.
"I owe you an apology. What I said when you were here this morning…"
"No, Clark," she interrupted, sinking down onto the couch. Now that she knew that Clark wasn't the man on the tape, her own guilt returned in full force. "What I did was unforgivable. You don't owe me…"
"Yes, I do, Lois. You were right. If you hadn't come out from under the influence of the pheromone compound when you did I'd have taken advantage of the situation. I had no right accusing you of rape. I don't feel raped."
"But what I took from you…"
"Gave to me," he corrected. "Lois, what happened between us… I wouldn't trade that memory for anything. I know it was a one time thing, but… it was incredible," he finished on a whisper.
She let out a jagged breath. Not only had he done the impossible — forgiving the unforgivable — but he was admitting that she was not the only one who was left with an phenomenal memory. She refused to think about the other part of what he had said — about it being a one time thing. She'd worry about that later. For now, it was enough that she had her friend back, although it would undoubtedly require a lot of work to get back to where they were before all of this, especially given the things she'd accused him of doing. How could she have doubted this man that way?
She pushed the thought aside and focused on one implication of what he had said. "You remember?" she asked.
"I remember," he whispered, for a moment allowing his eyes to rest on hers.
"Is it done?" Luthor asked, not bothering to turn around to confirm that Nigel had entered the room.
"Yes, sir," Nigel replied.
"And the actor who looked like Superman?"
"Unfortunately, his body was found this morning. I told them to weight him down before dumping him in Hobbs Bay. Obviously, that didn't happen."
Luthor turned and looked at Nigel. One thing he didn't like was incompetence. Nigel seldom made mistakes. He thought about the problem for a moment. "I don't see that it should be a problem. Just as long as no one can trace his death back to us."
"I didn't hire him through the agency, so I can't see how they could," Nigel responded.
Luthor nodded slowly. "What about Miranda?"
"As you instructed, she 'accidently' overdosed on her own perfume, sir."
Luthor smiled. He loved poetic justice.
Lois and Clark had put in phone calls to all their snitches, looking for information about film makers who produced smut or any information about either Superman or Miranda. So far, they had a number of names of smut peddlers but no information on either Superman or Miranda.
When the phone suddenly rang, Lois jumped up and grabbed it. She listened for a minute, before asking a couple of questions of clarification, writing something on a nearby piece of paper and hanging up the phone. She turned and looked at Clark, who was waiting expectantly.
"That was Jimmy. He knew I was looking for information about Miranda."
"Apparently, a call just came in over the police scanner. Miranda was found dead."
"He didn't know. But…" She held up the paper. "I've got an address."
"Let's go," Clark responded, rising to his feet.
Lois pulled the jeep up in front of the unassuming house and turned the ignition off. As expected, a number of police cars were parked outside. The coroner's van was also just pulling up, confirming the presence of a dead body. Henderson was standing outside, talking to a uniformed police officer.
They climbed out of the jeep and made their way over.
"No," said Henderson when he saw them.
"You don't even know what we're going to say," objected Lois. "How can you possibly say no before you know what we're going to say? Maybe we know who did this. Maybe we're here to make your job easier by telling you how to solve this case. Maybe…"
Henderson glanced at Clark, a 'give me patience' look on his face. Clark smiled in response, shrugging his shoulders slightly.
Lois noticed the exchange. "Hey," she objected, giving Clark a wack on the chest.
Clark lightly rubbed the spot on his chest where Lois had hit him and smiled. That one act by Lois told him, louder than any words could, that they were friends again. His only regret was that, because he hadn't expected it, he hadn't softened his body to absorb the hit.
"So what information do you have for me?" asked Henderson.
"We don't have any information," said Lois, shaking the hand that she'd used to hit Clark.
"Figures," mumbled Henderson.
"So what can you tell us?" Lois continued without skipping a beat.
"I don't think there's much here for you," said Henderson, heading towards the house. "From what we can tell, she was working with that pheromone compound of hers and somehow overdosed on it."
"It was an accident?" asked Clark.
"We can't say for certain yet. But that's the way it looks." He handed them both gas masks. "Do you want to take a look? Maybe you'll notice something we've overlooked."
"Are these really necessary?" asked Lois, looking at the mask in her hand.
"Probably not," said Henderson. "But until the air is found to be safe, everyone is taking precautions. After all, even if the perfume has dispersed enough not to be lethal, I doubt you want to spend the next couple days under its influence."
Without another word of protest, both Lois and Clark slipped the gas masks over their heads as did Henderson. Henderson then handed them rubber gloves and waited until they had them on before leading them towards the house. They had just arrived at the door when Clark grabbed Lois' arm. He pulled her back, slipped the gas mask off his face and whispered in her ear.
"I can't go in there, Lois," he said.
She turned towards him and expressed her question through her curious expression.
"I'll explain later," he whispered. "But keep your eye open for a green rock."
She nodded and followed Henderson into the house, her mind occupied with Clark's odd comments. Green rock. What was that about? And why couldn't he come into the house?
She pulled in a sharp breath at the sight of a body bag being moved onto a gurney. She'd seen enough of this sort of thing during her years as a reporter, but she had never quite been able to get used to it. She turned her attention to the beakers on the counter. There was no green rock, but there was a strange, glowing, green powder. She reached into her purse and removed a small plastic bag she kept there. When Henderson wasn't looking, she took a nearby knife and, putting a small quantity of the green powder on the end, slipped it into the bag. She had just stuck it back in her purse when Henderson turned towards her.
"Where's Kent?" Henderson asked through the mask.
"He decided to take a look around outside," Lois said.
She slipped out of the kitchen, which had been converted into a lab, to take a quick look around the rest of the house. It was less than a minute later before she found herself in a study. She began shuffling through some papers lying on the top of a desk. She stopped when she came across a letter. It was addressed to 'Lex.' Lois couldn't be certain if she meant Lex Luthor — although Lex wasn't a particularly common name. She glanced quickly through the half-written letter before deciding it wasn't relevant. It was a love letter, after all. And since Miranda had previously tried to kill Lois because of her jealousy over Lois' relationship with Lex, there was nothing new about Miranda's love for Lex — a love which Lex had assured her he did not return.
Unable to find anything else of significance, she made her way back outside. Slipping the gas mask off her face, she looked around for Clark. He was standing by the jeep, involved in what appeared to be a pleasant discussion with a police officer. She began making her way over.
Clark felt it almost immediately. He broke off his talk with the officer and looked around quickly, trying to discern the source. He saw Lois approaching and, saying a quick good-bye to the officer, headed away from Lois. He ignored the befuddled expressions on the faces of both Lois and the officer. He had no choice. He wasn't sure if she knew it or not, but Lois obviously had some kryptonite on her. It could be on her shoes or clothes, where she wouldn't know it. Or, knowing Lois, it could be deliberate.
He quickly headed to the other side of the street. She started to follow but stopped when she saw the look on Clark's face. He looked around in desperation. There were too many people around for him to explain the problem. And he couldn't let her get close enough to tell her.
Suddenly, he had an idea. Reaching into his jacket, he withdrew his notebook and wrote in it. Then, taking a look around to be sure Lois was the only one paying attention, set it down on the sidewalk and backed away.
She seemed to understand what he was doing. She waited until he stopped before walking across the street and, bending over, picking up his notebook.
She glanced up at him. "It's real?" she whispered, hoping he'd use his superhearing to listen. He obviously did, because he nodded. "And it can hurt you?" she asked. Again, he nodded.
She immediately backed away from him, removing the small packet of green powder from her purse. She looked around for a moment before seeing a drain nearby. She walked over and emptied the contents of the small bag into the drain. After she had, she dropped the bag in after it. Once it was gone, she got up and began slowly approaching Clark. She watched carefully to be sure he had no further reaction to her. He didn't.
"Find anything?" he asked when she finally arrived where he was.
"Other than finding out that she had a substance that can hurt Superman?" she asked. "Are you okay?"
He nodded. "I didn't get enough exposure to do any damage. But it does explain why the perfume affected me. A small amount of kryptonite would have made me vulnerable enough for the perfume to work." He paused for a moment as another memory returned. "When I got back to the Daily Planet, I can remember this strange feeling of dizziness. It disappeared quickly enough, but… Kryptonite exposure. That has to be what initially made me dizzy."
Lois nodded slowly.
"What?" he asked.
"One day, very soon, you and I are going to have to sit down and have a long talk," she informed him.
"What you haven't told me," she said sharply, before turning and walking back to her jeep.
He watched her for a moment before following. She was right. Considering the fact that he'd been lying to her for the past year, she was handling this very well. Of course, knowing Lois that just meant the explosion was being delayed. He knew why she was waiting. Right now there was a superhero to save.
He wasn't sure he'd ever loved her more. Lois didn't control her temper often. It had to be taking an incredible amount of effort to do so now. The knowledge that she was willing to help him so unconditionally, in spite of all his lies, touched his heart.
"So what have you found?" Lois asked Jack, cornering him even before she had a chance to take off her jacket.
"Right," said Jack. "Well, I tried calling you at Clark's but all I got was the answering machine. Apparently, the guy's name is Barry Tyler. He works… sorry, worked as a Superman impersonator."
"Told you," said Lois, looking triumphantly at Clark.
"There's a living in that?" asked Clark.
"Must be," responded Jack. "I got the name of his agent," he continued, holding up a piece of paper.
"Let's go," said Lois, grabbing the paper.
"By the way, there was a message for you from someone named…" Jack searched around on Lois' desk before finding and holding up a pink phone message. "Louie. Isn't that the guy at the billiards room who held me in handcuffs after I ripped off Clark's apartment?"
"Yeah," said Lois. "What about it?"
"Just asking," said Jack, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender.
Lois took the message form from Jack and looked at it for a moment. "Who took the message?" she asked, looking at the chicken scratch on the message form.
"I did," Jack said.
She handed him the paper. "Mind telling me what it says?" she asked in exasperation. "Don't laugh," she immediately rebuked Clark. "You'll just encourage him."
"What does it say, Jack?" Clark asked.
"Well, this Louie guy wasn't sure if this meant anything, but apparently someone known as 'the Boss' made arrangements to buy something known as 'kryptonite.' He said you wrote an article about it once. But he thought you said it didn't really exist."
Lois grabbed the message back. "The Boss?" she asked, looking at Jack for confirmation. "That's all he said?" she asked again.
"That's it," Jack confirmed.
She glanced at Clark, concern written all over her face.
"What's kryptonite?" asked Jack.
"Nothing to worry about," Clark immediately said. "Come on, Lois. We'll check out the agent and then run down to have a chat with Louie."
The trip to see Barry's agent turned out to be a complete waste of time. He knew nothing about any recent jobs Barry had taken, although he made it clear that he was entitled to fifteen percent if he had.
After leaving Barry's agent, Lois expressed her concerns about someone making arrangements to obtain kryptonite. Clark managed to calm her down by pointing out that someone would have had to in order for Miranda to have made the perfume. However, if they could find out who this boss was, they might be able to find out if Miranda had any partners or if she was doing this on her own. With Miranda dead, it was the best lead they currently had.
Their next stop was Louie. He hadn't been able to give them any additional information. He had tried but been unable to find out who 'the Boss' was. Anyone who had an idea seemed too scared to talk.
It was on their way out of Louie's establishment that they got their first real piece of news — although in this, they were behind the rest of the country. Louie had the television turned on to LNN. Clark caught a reference to Superman and immediately began concentrating on the television. Lois bit her lip when she saw what he was looking at. She had hoped to keep him from seeing how the media was portraying the tape. She didn't have to see it herself to know what must be being said. Until they could prove the tape wasn't of him, the last thing he needed was to know how their colleagues were describing this incident.
"Sorry 'bout that," said Louie coming over. "I usually keep the T.V. tuned to sports, but this Superman thing… well, it's really somethin'. They're even playin' all three tapes on the Playboy channel — unedited. Of course, I don't pay for that for the club. But when I go home tonight…"
"What do you mean three?" interrupted Clark.
"Three," repeated Louie. "They have tapes of Superman with three different women."
"How could that be?" asked Clark. "I thought…" His voice trailed off when he glanced over at Lois and saw that she was as surprised as he was.
"Yeah, and they were all captured on tape yesterday. When Superman does somethin', he really does somethin'."
"Thanks, Louie," said Lois, taking Clark's arm and leading him out of the pool hall.
"No!" Lois exclaimed, punctuating the word with a sharp turn of the wheel in order to get by a car that, in Lois' opinion, was driving too slow.
"Just think about it, Lois," said Clark, a definite edge to his voice. "If it wasn't for the contents of the tape, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. That tape is a crucial piece of evidence and we've been ignoring it because we aren't comfortable with it."
"Look, Clark. The only difference is that now we know there is more than one encounter on that tape."
"The difference is that now there are more people who can potentially confirm or deny whether they were actually with Superman," he corrected. "And if we don't watch it…"
"It's not Superman!" she cut in. "And I don't have to see the tape to know that."
"Lois," said Clark softly.
She let out a breath. He did have a point. If it wasn't for the actual contents of the tape, they would have pulled the entire thing apart looking for clues. The problem was, she really didn't want to watch it — especially with Clark. But what was the alternative? It was potentially their best source of information. She supposed she could let him watch it by himself. The problem was that they really did work better together. He might notice things that she wouldn't and visa versa.
"Fine," she finally said resignedly, pulling the jeep into the right hand lane so that she could turn it around to take them back to his apartment.
Lois stood as far away from the television as she could, watching as Clark made his way over to the machine. He was about to press 'play' when he suddenly stopped. He glanced over at Lois before removing the tape.
"I don't know why I didn't think of this," he said, moving his glasses down his nose and staring at the tape.
He was just turning it over to look at the other side when Lois approached.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Fingerprints," he explained. "If we can find out who sent it, we might be able to trace it back to who made it." He stared at the video tape for a moment more before raising his glasses.
"Anything?" she asked hopefully. If he could find prints, maybe they could avoid watching the tape.
"Just yours and mine," he responded with a shake of his head.
"You know my fingerprints?" she asked.
He smiled. "And your heartbeat," he replied.
Before she could respond, he picked up the letter that had come with the tape. After looking at both sides, he looked at Lois and shook his head.
"What about the envelope?" she asked.
"I doubt it will be of much help. After all, it would have been handled by…"
"It was left outside my door, Clark. It didn't come in the mail," Lois interrupted.
He immediately picked up the envelope. "Well, that is strange," he said after a moment.
"Well, even this only has our fingerprints on it."
"So whoever delivered it didn't want us to be able to trace it," Lois concluded. "So much for a morally concerned citizen," she added with a snort.
She cringed when Clark made his way back to the VCR and inserted the tape. She retreated to the far side of the room as Clark pressed 'play.' The tape clicked on at about the same place that she had clicked it off. He had obviously not been able to watch any more than she had.
Clark didn't look at her as he took a seat on the couch. He was probably as uncomfortable with this as she was. She was grateful that, from his position, he couldn't see her. She turned her attention to the television.
It seemed that they had seen basically all there was to see of the first encounter. Except…
"Do you recognize the woman?" she asked.
"No," Clark responded, without looking at her.
"What about the place?"
He hit the pause on the VCR and turned towards her. The screen was blank between the various encounters. At least, that was the case if all three encounters were on this tape.
"There was something about it that looked familiar," he said.
"Does it look like any place you remember going to on Friday morning?"
He hadn't thought about it from that angle. But it did make sense. He directed his mind to the question. "Lex Corp Nuclear Plant," he said. "I remember going there to help out with a leak. Lois, that must be it," he said, now getting excited. "That must have been where I was affected. I can clearly remember everything before that. Everything is fuzzy afterwards. But that means…" He turned back to face the television. "…that could be me on the tape."
"No," Lois responded immediately. "Whoever affected you knew that that was where you were affected, so they had the… they filmed this at the same place."
"Aren't you going to even concede the possibility that…"
"And if it is…"
"What happens if it is?"
"I refuse to do this with you, Clark," she responded irritably. "It isn't you. I don't know why we have to even discuss this."
Clark sighed and looked back at the television. That was his greatest fear — that they would find out that it was him and that Lois wouldn't be able to forgive him. Well, there was nothing to do about it now except… He pressed the play button on the remote control and turned his attention back to the television. It wasn't long before a second scenario came on the screen. It was no better and no worse than the first.
"Press pause," Lois suddenly said.
He didn't understand the reason but did as she instructed.
"Look at the background," she instructed.
"It looks like someone's apartment," he said, not understanding what she hoped to discover from this, especially since the scene in the foreground was not one he particularly wanted to look at any longer than necessary.
"The T.V., Clark," she instructed.
"It looks as if LNN is playing in the background. And see that small red box in the corner?"
"What about it?"
"That's normally a sign that the show is live. Can you use your vision to focus on the television and your hearing to listen to what is being said?"
"What are you looking for?" he asked.
"I want to know when this took place. You were only gone for a couple of hours Friday morning. The rest of the day you spent with me, except for a quick trip to rescue some kids from a fire. I can't believe you had time to have three encounters before…"
"Unless they were all as quick as the first one," he interrupted.
He let out a breath. "Okay, Lois. I'll see what I can do." With that he once again hit the play button and, filtering out the foreground noices, he turned his hearing to the television. "They are reporting a train accident that just happened. No one was hurt, but the train itself was off the tracks."
"That's it!" Lois exclaimed triumphantly.
"The proof. Clark, I didn't let you go to help out at the train wreck because I didn't want to let you out of my sight unless lives were in danger. You were with me when this incident took place," she said jubilantly.
He turned towards her then. "You're sure?"
She looked into his tortured eyes before coming over and taking a seat on the couch beside him. "I'm absolutely positive, Clark," she whispered, her hand coming up to his cheek. "It might not be enough to prove to the world that it wasn't you, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that he…" She gestured towards the T.V. "…is not you. And if that isn't you, then none of these are you. If they had something real, they wouldn't risk discrediting it by putting it with…"
He let out a jagged breath. Her voice trailed off as his face seemed to collapse. Without thinking about it, she pulled him into her arms. He didn't resist. She closed her eyes as she felt his powerful body tremble against her.
"It's not me," he said into her shoulder, his voice thick with emotion.
"It's not you," she responded, running a hand through his hair, trying desperately to comfort him. He had obviously been tormented by the possibility that he could have treated a woman so appallingly. She had realized with absolute conviction that it wasn't him quite some time ago. He was just realizing it now. His reaction only managed to reinforce her conviction that it hadn't been him. No one as terrified as he was that he could have treated women that way could possibly have done so.
At first, he accepted the comfort of her embrace. But it was only a couple of minutes before her smell, the feel of being in her arms, the sound of her breath in his ear took him back once again to the previous night. He pulled back. He didn't trust himself to be this close to her. Before their night together, holding her or being held by her could be platonic. Now… Now he wasn't certain he'd ever be able to hold her that way again. He didn't look at her as he got up off the couch and headed to the kitchen.
"Do you want some coffee?" he asked.
She shook her head. It was obvious that he was making his escape. She guessed she understood, but it still hurt. She jumped when suddenly the VCR clicked off and the TV was sounding full blast into the living room. She grabbed the remote and began turning it down.
"Wait," said Clark, returning to the living room to listen to the commentators on the television.
"…so have we heard whether that third woman is pressing charges?" one man asked.
"Nothing so far. In fact, we have yet to figure out who the woman is."
Lois and Clark looked at each other in disbelief. Just when it looked as if they had turned a corner — that they were finally making progress — more revelations.
"I guess we should watch the rest of the tape," Lois said resignedly, reaching over and picking up the remote control.
The next incident didn't provide any additional information for Lois and Clark to follow up on and it was infinitely harder to watch. This time the woman in question said no — and this 'Superman' didn't listen. Lois glanced over at Clark a few times. His face was tight and his knuckles were white on his balled up fists.
"Lois, Clark, what the Sam Hill are you two doing here this evening?" Perry asked, seeing them intently studying Lois' computer screen. "I thought I gave you the weekend off."
The two people he was addressing looked up. "We're looking into the allegations about Superman," Lois informed him.
Perry immediately began shaking his head. "I've given that assignment to Cat," he informed them. "She's our gossip columnist, after all."
"But we're on to something, Perry. We have reason to believe that it wasn't Superman who…"
"Lois, you're too close to this," Perry responded. "Everyone knows about your friendship with Superman. Give what you have to Cat. She'll follow up on it."
"No," said Lois.
Both Perry and Clark blinked. Both expected her to try to argue Perry out of his position; neither expected an outright refusal.
"What do you mean, no?" Perry responded, his hackles immediately rising. This was his newsroom. He made the decisions.
Lois rose to her feet, refusing to be intimidated. "Look at our clothes, Chief," she said, directing his attention to their blue jeans and t-shirts. "We have the weekend off. What we do with our own time is our own damn business. If you get a story out of it, fine. But I will not hand over information that I — we — have discovered on our own time. If you don't want the story when we're done, I'm sure we can sell it to someone else."
Perry opened his mouth to remind her that they were making use of Daily Planet resources in their investigation, but decided against it. "You've got 'til Monday morning," he stormed, before turning and heading back to his office.
"Lois, you really shouldn't have…"
"Think about it, Clark. What are we going to give Cat? Do you want me telling her that I know Superman wasn't the man in the video because he spent the night with me? I didn't think so. We have information that we can't give Cat. Besides, Cat won't be interested in finding a way to exonerate Superman. After all, exoneration doesn't sell newspapers. If we aren't the ones to follow up, the truth won't come out."
Before Clark could respond, the telephone rang.
"Lois Lane," Lois responded, picking up the phone.
"Uh, good," came Luthor's voice. "I was hoping I'd find you there."
"Look, Lex, I'm sorry about breaking our date, but I really don't have time right now to…"
"I'm calling about Superman. I assume that's why you cancelled our date."
"What about Superman?" Lois asked.
"Well, I was just contacted by one of the producers over at LNN. They know that I have contacts and were hoping that extended to contacting Superman. Of course, I have no way of doing that. I was hoping you did."
"Umm…" She glanced over at Clark who was watching with interest. She was sure he could listen in if he wanted to, but he obviously wasn't. "I'm sorry, Lex," she said. "I really don't have any way of contacting Superman. However, if I see him, do you want me to give him a message?"
She cocked the phone so that it was between her and Clark. She knew with his hearing, he didn't need her to do that, but she wanted him to feel free to listen in on this conversation.
"Yes. Apparently, the producer at LNN was concerned that they were only telling one side of this story. They'd like to tell his side of the story."
"He's got to be kidding," Clark whispered.
Lois shushed him. "If I see him, I'll be sure to let him know," she responded.
As she hung up the phone, she turned to Clark. "I think you should do it, Clark," she said softly. He raised his eyebrows. "If people don't hear a denial from you, they're going to assume you're guilty."
"And what am I going to say?"
"Say that it wasn't you and that you're determined to get to the bottom of it."
"The same way politicians do?" he asked.
"No. In this case, it's true. And it will at least give the public a reason to doubt the accuracy of the tape until we can get them proof."
"I don't know, Lois," he said, not at all convinced that this was a good idea.
"Look, Clark, the longer this goes on without a denial by Superman, the harder it will be when we uncover the proof to convince people that it wasn't you."
"I don't trust Luthor."
"Then don't go to Lex. Go directly to LNN."
He nodded slowly. She did have a point. The longer he left it before making a denial, the more people were likely to believe it was him on the tape even if he and Lois did find the proof they needed to show the world they were wrong. Well, if he was going to do this, he might as well get it over with.
"Do you think you can hold down the fort here for a while?" he asked.
"Go," she said with a smile. "I have my research into smut peddlers to keep me busy."
He nodded and headed for the elevator. He was so engrossed in what he was going to say on the air that he didn't notice the woman disembarking from the elevator in her dark glasses and floppy hat. The doors slid closed, taking Clark out of the newsroom as the woman stopped a young man to ask for directions.
"Are you sure he'll come?" Nigel asked as they took one final look around the room.
Luthor smiled. "He'll come," he responded. "He's going to want to defend his reputation. What better way to do it than to appear on LNN?"
"And you're sure Ms. Lane will tell him about the invitation?" Nigel continued.
"I don't know if Lois has a direct line to Superman. But someone at the Daily Planet does. At least, a message to the Daily Planet always seems to get back to Superman. Now, you're sure you know what to do?"
Nigel smiled and picked up the metal box. "I think I can handle it, sir," he assured his boss.
"I just wanted to tell you that your creative twist with the third woman was brilliant. Well done, Nigel."
'Thank you, sir."
"Well, I better get out of here. If he sees me, he'll know something fishy is up. You'll call as soon as you have him?"
"Ms Lane?" a woman's voice asked, causing Lois to look up.
"Yes?" she asked in return.
The woman glanced around nervously before asking, "Is there somewhere private we can go to talk?"
Lois looked the woman over. She really didn't have time for… Suddenly, she hesitated. There was something about the woman. Something familiar. She gasped. She couldn't be sure, given the glasses, but…
Lois got up and gestured the woman to the conference room. Once inside, Lois gestured the woman to a seat.
"Could we close the blinds?" the woman asked.
Lois immediately began doing so. She had a pretty good idea what was going on here. Once she was finished, she took a seat and turned her attention to the woman.
"You can take off the glasses and hat now," Lois said.
"You know?" the woman asked, complying with the instructions.
Lois nodded and then was proven right as the woman removed the items in question.
"You're the woman who's claiming Superman raped her," Lois said flatly.
"No, Ms. Lane. I can assure you that I'm making no such claim."
"Yesterday, I was hired to star in an adult video. I've never done anything like that before. I'm an actor, but lately money has been a little tight. And the money the director was offering was great. Anyway, when I got there he told me that I was going to be starring with a Superman lookalike. I swear I didn't know he was going to claim it was actually Superman.
"Anyway, the lookalike's name was Barry Tyler. It didn't take more than an hour or two. The director gave me my money and I left. Then last night I lent my car to my best friend. She was killed when the brakes failed. At first, I thought it was an accident — after all, the car was old — but today I found out that Barry had turned up dead and then the tape was released to the press.
"I think I'm safe enough for now. I mean, with Sandra's death, they probably think they managed to kill me. I can't go back to my apartment and I don't know who to trust."
"So why come to me?" asked Lois.
"I need Superman's help. I know you're friends with him. I figure maybe we can work something out. I want to come clean about the tape. But I'm afraid they'll kill me if I try. I'm hoping Superman can help relocate me somewhere safe."
"Yeah, sure," Lois immediately responded. She could hardly believe this had been so easy. "I'm sure Superman would agree to that." She pulled out a tape recorder. "Why don't we start by having you answer a few questions on the record?"
When the woman nodded, Lois began by asking the woman's name and how she'd come to be involved with this. By the time the interview ended, Lois knew only that a single cameraman and a director were involved in production — probably to keep the number of people who knew about this to a minimum. However, the woman didn't know where filming had taken place — she was blindfolded during the trip there — or the name of either the director or the cameraman. She didn't know why they had called her or how they had found her. All she knew was that she had been paid in cash and had, most definitely, not been raped. Oh, and she had overheard the director tell the cameraman that someone he called 'the Boss' would be pleased.
When Superman arrived at LNN, he was amazed by the congenial reception he received. He spoke to the producer who wanted to give him air time and agreed without hesitation to his only condition — that his interview not be edited in any way. However, given the fact that the station hadn't known when or if he was going to show up for an interview, it was going to take them a few minutes to set things up for him. In the meantime, the producer introduced him to a very attractive woman who he referred to as Mrs. Cox and told him that she would take care of him.
Mrs. Cox led him down a long, deserted hall to a dressing room where he could watch LNN while he waited. While making their way to the room, she apologized for the long walk but explained that LNN had had to close a number of their dressing rooms because they were redecorating. Superman assured the woman that it wasn't a problem. Then Mrs. Cox opened a door, gestured Superman inside and told him to make himself comfortable before leaving him alone.
From just inside the door, Clark couldn't see into the main part of the room. He walked further in and found himself in a moderately sized room with a couple of comfortable chairs and a couch. There was a large television set which was quietly playing LNN. On a table in the middle was a bowl with a collection of fruit. On the walls were a number of prints which Clark spent a couple of minutes examining. He had wondered what to expect during the long walk here, but the room itself was certainly luxurious.
In a room off to the side was a panel of mirrors and a counter. On the counter was every conceivable item needed for primping. In front of the counter were some bar stools. He could see that off this room was a washroom.
He shook his head and made his way back into the first room. Grabbing an orange, he took a seat and, while watching the television, began peeling the orange. He set the orange down when he realized what was being discussed on the television. The show was talking about how Superman had demanded sexual favors in return for his help, was explaining that Superman had been indulging his own appetites when his assistance was needed at a train accident and was telling how Superman had actually raped a young woman.
This was the first time that he had heard the way the tape was being portrayed by the media. Why were people always so quick to believe the worst? And what was he doing here at LNN? How could he possibly expect people to believe that wasn't him without any proof? Denial was the automatic reaction of every celebrity caught in a compromising position. How could he possibly convince the world that this was different?
He was so caught up in his thoughts that he never heard the door open. He didn't look up until he felt that all too familiar searing pain that informed him that kryptonite was nearby. His fears were confirmed when he looked up to see Nigel St. John — Luthor's first lieutenant — standing inside the door with a small box containing a glowing, green rock.
"That's incredible," said Perry after Lois filled him in on her interview of the 'rape victim.' "Okay, well, let's get the lawyers to do up a sworn statement for her to sign. Then the Daily Planet will put her up in a hotel where she can hide out until Superman can help her relocate."
"Also," continued Lois, "she said that the work was done for someone known as 'the Boss,' although she has no idea who they were referring to. That nickname showed up earlier in our research. However, it seems that most people don't know who he is and those who do are too terrified to talk."
"Well, keep digging. Although…" He smiled. "I must admit, that was some good work, Lois."
Lois smiled. "Aren't you glad you didn't take Clark and me off this story now?" she asked.
"By the way, where is your partner?" he asked, ignoring her question.
"Umm… he's checking out a source."
Perry nodded as his eyes spotted a young man approaching across the newsroom. "And where the Sam Hill have you been?" he demanded as Jack approached.
"Well, I knew that Lois and Clark were looking for someone called 'the Boss' so I went to talk to some of my old contacts."
"Great shades of Elvis," said Perry. "Was this your idea?" Perry asked Lois.
"No, Chief," Lois replied.
"Son, I've been looking for you for the last half hour. You can't just decide to leave the newsroom whenever you want…"
"Do you want to know what I found or don't you?" interrupted Jack.
"What did you find?" Lois immediately jumped in.
"Well, no one knew for sure, but I did find someone who said that he'd heard Luthor spoken of in those terms."
"That's ridiculous," Lois responded. "You're starting to sound just like Clark. He always assumes that Lex is…"
"What is it, honey?" asked Perry when Lois' voice trailed off.
"When I was on the phone with Lex the other day… Omigod. I sent Clark… umm Superman there," Lois said, getting more and more agitated.
"What are you talking about, Lois?" Perry asked.
"I was on the phone with Lex the other day when a woman told him that someone was wanting to speak to the boss. I thought it was just an expression but now I'm not so sure," she said before falling silent.
Was it possible that Lex was somehow entangled in this plot to discredit Superman? It seemed so far-fetched. Still, even she couldn't dismiss all the coincidences. There was certainly a connection between Lex and Miranda. She knew that Miranda was in love with Lex, but that had predated this incident. As a result, she hadn't thought anything about it. And Clark had been trying to warn her about Lex. He'd been suspicious of Lex for a while now. And Superman had been affected by Miranda's pheromone compound while assisting with a problem at Lex Corp Nuclear Plant. Now, with this new information from Jack and what she'd heard herself while talking to Lex…
She gasped. If Lex was 'the Boss' then he had made arrangements to obtain kryptonite. She hadn't thought much about someone getting kryptonite because they had assumed that the kryptonite had been used to make a perfume that would affect Superman. But what if not all of the kryptonite had been used for that purpose? Her breath caught in her throat. She had sent Clark to LNN at Lex's suggestion. If Lex was 'the Boss,' it had to be a setup.
She quickly picked up her jacket. "I've got to go," she said, heading at full steam towards the elevator.
"What was that all about?" Perry asked.
Lois was approaching the main studio in the LNN building when she spotted Lex entering the building through the front entrance. She had to look twice to be sure it was him. After all, if she knew one thing about Lex it was that he never walked anywhere that he could drive. Being careful not to be seen, she followed.
He passed the main elevators before using a key to summon what was obviously a private elevator. Slipping into the shadows, she continued watching as he boarded. She kept her eyes on the numbers that showed the elevator's rise. She waited until it stopped before turning to the stairway. She wasn't sure Superman could have ascended the stairs much quicker, with the adrenalin pumping through her body. When she arrived on the fifth floor — where the elevator had stopped — she cautiously opened the door and peeked outside. She could see Lex making his way away from the center of activity to head down a long hall. Slipping out, she followed, being sure to keep enough distance that he wouldn't hear her. He turned a corner. She made her way to the corner and cautiously looked around it just in time to see Lex disappear into a room at the end of the hall.
Lex smiled when he saw his nemesis lying on the floor gasping in pain.
"Well," Luthor said, directing Superman's pained expression towards him, "now this is a pleasure — seeing you groveling at my feet."
"You won't get away with this Luthor," Superman gasped.
"No?" Luthor said, stepping up closer to Superman. "And what exactly are you going to do to stop me? I assure you this room is far enough away from anyone that no one will hear you. So you can feel free to yell for help if you'd like. Or is that above the great Superman?" With that he brought his foot back to plow it into Superman's stomach. He heard Superman's attempt to stifle the urge to cry out and smiled.
"Do you have any idea how much trouble you've caused me over the past year?" Luthor said, this time plowing his foot into Superman's face. Blood almost immediately covered Superman's face as his nose began to bleed. Luthor normally didn't do his own dirty work, but this time he planned to make an exception. "If it wasn't for you, I might be the second richest man in the world by now." These words were followed by another kick. He smiled in satisfaction when this time Superman couldn't stifle an agonizing cry.
He stepped back to examine his work. "You don't look like such a hero now," Luthor said, looking at a blood-covered Superman who was curled up on the floor.
Lois cautiously tried turning the doorknob. On discovering the door was locked, she silently cursed. She removed her lock-picking equipment and, as quietly as she could, worked on the door. The click of the door unlocking seemed extraordinarily loud in her own ears. She waited a moment before slowly pushing the door open. Not seeing anyone, but hearing voices, she snuck into the room, almost closing the door behind her. She didn't quite close it in case she needed to make a quick escape.
She snuck closer to what appeared to be the entrance way to a room. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight that greeted her: Superman lying on the floor covered in blood while Lex kicked him.
"You don't look like such a hero now," she heard Luthor say.
"Well, no matter the problems you've caused me in the past," Luthor continued, circling Superman while stepping out of the way on a couple of occasions when Superman reached out in an effort to grasp his leg. "And I assure you, you've cost me millions. But that's over. You were a formidable opponent, but I don't battle ghosts."
Unable to stop her reporter's instincts, Lois reached into her jacket and pressed the record button on her ever- present tape recorder while she considered her options. She could sneak out of here and call the police, but would there be time?
Or maybe she could take on both Lex and Nigel. After all, although she could see a gun sticking out of Nigel's belt, Lex appeared to be unarmed. But, to take on both of them, she'd have to wait for the right moment. She cautiously glanced back into the room, looking for anything she could use to her advantage.
It was then that she spotted it. On the table on the other side of the room was an open box containing a green, glowing rock. That had to be this infamous kryptonite, especially considering Clark's obvious agony. If she could find a way to get the kryptonite away from Clark, maybe he would be able to get away while she distracted the two other men in the room. Of course, that meant she would have to get around to the other side of the room without being spotted. Her thoughts stopped dead in their tracks at Lex's next words.
"I must admit that I had wanted to wait until my marriage to Lois Lane before killing you," Luthor said. "I figured watching me marry the woman you love would be the ultimate pain — well…" He glanced over at Nigel. "…before your death. That would be the ultimate pain, I'm sure."
"She'll never belong to you, Luthor," Superman gasped through his pain.
"Oh?" said Luthor, coming over. "And who's going to stop me when you're dead? I've already destroyed your reputation. Now no one, not even Lois Lane, will grieve your death. That is if I even let people know you're dead. Maybe I'll just let them think that you fled rather than risk standing trial for rape. Your grave will be unmarked and your life unsung."
"Lois will see the truth without me. Clark will never let you marry her."
"Mr. Kent. Uh, yes. Well, I'll have to deal with Mr. Kent, too. He's obviously as in love with her as you are. The difference is that Lois would never consider a wimp like Kent as a potential suitor. Still, she seems to respect him. Don't worry. I'll take care of Kent. Killing him will be like swatting a troublesome fly."
Luthor made his way closer to Superman, picking up Superman's head by his hair to bring him closer. "Do you have any idea how many people had to die just to discredit you?" he asked. "If you had just gone along with the plan in the first place, no one would have had to die."
"What are you talking…?" began Superman before pain cut him off.
"Poor Miranda. She figured that once you were affected by the perfume, you'd be all over her. Instead, all she got was a kiss," Luthor began.
He dropped Superman's head, and Lois cringed at the cracking sound it made as it hit the floor. Clark could barely seem to hold up his own head. She had to think of something quick.
"Do you think that maybe Superman has a little problem with… performance?" Luthor asked Nigel.
"Perhaps, sir," Nigel responded.
"There are ways of treating that, Superman," Luthor responded, sounding both comforting and condescending at the same time.
Lois felt her blood pressure rise and for a moment she was tempted to inform Luthor that Superman had absolutely no problem with performance — after all, she should know. But knowing that she had to hold her tongue, she remained silent.
"If you had gotten some help earlier, maybe poor Miranda wouldn't have been so unsatisfied. But because of your failure to perform, we had to hire a lookalike to play you. Of course, we couldn't let him live afterwards. He might have said something. So you're responsible for his death.
"Then there's the woman you raped — well, we couldn't very well have her step forward to say that she wasn't really raped. Besides, when the press is informed of her death, who do you think the prime suspect will be?
"And because of you, the men who produced the video also had to die. I don't think they've found either body yet. And the two other women…" Luthor looked over at Nigel and shook his head. "It's such a shame. And finally there's poor Miranda. Died while trying to adjust her own perfume so that it would have more of an effect on you. So you see? If you had just been a little bit more… normal, and had sex with Miranda in the first place, none of those people would have had to die."
"You're a monster, Luthor," Superman spat.
Just then Lois heard a familiar sound — the sound of a gun being cocked. And, unless she was very much mistaken, it was right behind her ear. She turned slightly to confirm her worst fears. Mrs. Cox was standing behind her, gun in hand, the barrel of which was only about an inch away from Lois' head.
"Lex, I think you might want to take a look at this," purred Cox.
Luthor stepped around the corner to see Lois crouched there with a gun at her ear.
"My dear, you really chose the wrong time for a visit," he said, his mind obviously working as he evaluated the situation.
"Do you want me to take care of her?" asked Cox.
"I have a better idea," said Luthor slowly. He grabbed Lois' arm and forced her to her feet before propelling her into the room where Superman was lying on the ground. "How long have you been hiding out there?" he demanded.
"Long enough to know that you're responsible for at least seven deaths — and plan on being responsible for at least one more," Lois growled. "Give it up, Lex. It's over."
"Over? I think not. You're the only problem, and as my wife, you'll never testify against me."
"I'll never marry you!"
"No?" he asked. He used a vise-like grip on her arm, forcing her to look at a bloodied Superman lying on the floor. "Now I'm willing to be generous, but I expect you to be generous in return. Just as he could have prevented seven deaths by having sex with Miranda, you can prevent his death. It's up to you. Do you want him to live?"
Lois had a bad feeling about where this was going. But right now, with Mrs. Cox standing in the doorway, gun in hand, there was no way of escape. Oh sure, she might be able to get out. But if she did that, she had no doubt that Lex would immediately kill Superman. "Of course I do," she responded hesitantly, being fairly confident she knew what was coming next.
Lex smiled before dropping to one knee and taking her hand in his. "Then marry me. Marry me today, and for your wedding present, I'll let him live."
Lois wasn't sure what made her more nauseated, his words or his mockery of dropping to one knee as if he was truly beseeching her to be his wife.
"Lois," Superman groaned, closing his eyes briefly. "Don't do it. Get out of here. Please. I'm begging you. Go."
Lois looked longingly towards the kryptonite. If she could get to it, maybe… She rejected the idea. As if he anticipated her plan, Nigel had moved so that he was now standing directly in front of it. Even if she could get by him, any attempt to flee the room afterwards would undoubtedly be unsuccessful. Suddenly, the choice was clear. She pushed away Luthor's hand before scrambling across the room to Clark. She dropped to her knees beside his battered body. "I can't let him kill you," she whispered, running her hand lovingly over his bloodstained face.
"He'll kill me anyway, Lois. Don't…"
"You don't know that!" objected Lois.
"That's right. He doesn't," added Luthor, rising to his feet. "So what is your decision? I can get us to Vegas today. My chopper is on the top of the building. Nigel will stay with Superman until I inform him that the marriage has been consummated…"
Lois' insides revolted at the image that word evoked.
"If that happens," continued Luthor, "he'll let Superman live. If not, Superman dies. So do we have a deal?"
"You have a deal," Lois responded immediately.
"No," gasped Superman. "Don't, Lois. Please. Just get out of here."
"Forgive me, Clark," she whispered into his ear before pulling herself away from him and making her way to Luthor. "I'm ready," she said. A chill swept through her at the evil in Lex's grin. How was it that she'd never noticed it before?
"Where is that boy?" Perry demanded.
"I think I saw him leaving earlier," said Jimmy helpfully.
"Leaving?" Perry responded. "When he gets back here, he's got some serious explaining to do," he concluded before storming back into his office. Jack was never where he was supposed to be.
Superman watched in helpless confusion as Lois left the room, Luthor's hand on her arm. He struggled to roll over, trying to force himself to his feet. He immediately felt a foot on his back.
"I wouldn't try it, Superman," said Nigel as he pulled a gun from his belt. "I could use this on you right now."
Superman looked over his shoulder at the man above him. "You're going to kill me anyway."
Nigel just smiled in response.
Superman made one further effort to get up, but the kryptonite had drained his strength. With Nigel's foot on top of him, he was completely incapable of moving.
Jack crinkled his nose. Why did it have to be so dusty in here? He slowly moved forward, being sure to keep his movements silent.
"Then marry me. Marry me today and for your wedding present I'll let him live," Jack heard Luthor say, informing Jack that he was heading in the right direction.
"Lois, don't do it. Get out of here. Please. I'm begging you. Go," Jack heard Superman respond.
He came to a corner. Which way should he go? In the ventilation system, noise echoed. He stopped and listened carefully, hoping for another hint as to the direction.
When he'd seen Lois leave the Daily Planet, he'd followed. Her comments had informed him of two things. First of all, he'd pieced together that Lois knew that Clark was Superman. Jack had figured it out for himself the previous weekend, when Clark had saved them from the men who were holding them hostage. When Lois started to say 'Clark' instead of 'Superman' he realized she knew as well. Then, given her obvious state of anxiety when she left the Planet, he realized that Clark was in trouble. Clark was the first adult who had ever really cared about him and his brother. Jack wasn't about to let anything happen to Clark — not if he could help it.
"He's going to kill me anyway, Lois. Don't…" Jack heard Superman's voice, telling him where he needed to go.
"You don't know that!" he heard Lois respond. 'Keep talking,' thought Jack.
He'd followed Lois until he saw her enter a room at the end of a deserted hall. He'd been about to follow when he heard a noise behind him. Slipping into a hiding place as a woman rounded the corner, he watched as she entered the room after Lois. He was a gutter rat, so he'd found the ventilation system and was now attempting to make his way into the room by another means.
"That's right. He doesn't," added Luthor. "So what is your decision? I can get us to Vegas today. My chopper is on the top of the building. Nigel will stay with Superman until I inform him that the marriage has been consummated.
"If that happens," continued Luthor, "he'll let Superman live. If not, Superman dies. So do we have a deal?"
He was right. Clark was indeed in trouble. And now, because of Lois' attempt to help, she was in trouble, too. He pushed himself forward on his hands and knees as quickly as he could while being careful not to make any noise.
"You have a deal," he heard Lois respond and cringed. He had been wondering about Lois and Clark's relationship during the course of the week. He knew that Clark was in love with Lois. But it wasn't until this moment that he realized just how much Lois loved Clark, too.
"No," gasped Superman. "Don't, Lois. Please. Just get out of here."
In spite of the situation, Jack almost chuckled. That was so like Clark. He'd give his life in an instant if he thought it would save Lois. Jack understood that type of love — he had it for his little brother.
He saw light at the end of the tunnel and crawled towards it, hoping he'd get there in time. He had just arrived when Lois was escorted out of the room by Luthor. The two of them were followed closely by the woman who had followed Lois into the room.
He turned his attention to the two people left in the room. He worked on the hooks holding the screen in place as a man he knew — the man to whom he'd previously sold Superman's globe — drew a gun from his belt and threatened Superman.
It only took a moment for Jack to undo the hooks. He cautiously removed the screen and set it aside. The man holding Superman at bay had his back to Jack. Jack saw a funny green rock. Not having a weapon, he picked it up and approached the man holding a gun on Superman. He raised the rock over his head. He closed his eyes before bringing the rock down on the man's head. The man crumbled. The rock slipped from Jack's hands, falling on Superman's back.
Clark felt as if burning coal had suddenly been dumped on his back. He let out an agonizing scream before everything went black.
Lois kept looking around as Lex's hand held her arm, propelling her in the direction he wanted her to go. Maybe she could break away and get back to Superman… She let out a breath. That wasn't likely to work. Even if she could get away, Luthor would immediately know where she was headed. A better, if less satisfying, plan was to find a way to get a message to someone. And the best way to do that was to let Luthor take her with him and then, perhaps, he'd relax his guard and give her a chance to make her move.
She suspected he'd keep Superman alive until they were married, in case she demanded proof that Superman was still alive before taking her vows. That gave her some time to work out the details of her plan.
"Don't even think about trying anything," Luthor hissed into her ear, causing her to shudder. There was a note of pure evil in his voice he'd never before let her hear. At this moment, she realized that he was capable of anything.
"Why are you doing this, Lex?" she asked.
"Because I can," he responded, pulling her into a private room. Cox closed the door behind them. "Have a seat, my dear. I have some arrangements to make," he said, pushing Lois towards a chair as he made his way to the phone.
She stumbled backwards into the chair before taking into account her situation. Mrs. Cox was standing in front of the closed door, arms folded across her chest, gun still in her hands.
Lex turned to look at her before turning towards Mrs. Cox. While he waited for someone to answer the phone, he spoke to Cox. "Give that to me," he said. She walked over and handed Luthor the gun. "If she tries anything, she knows that one call is all it will take to condemn her hero. She won't risk it."
Lois bit her lower lip. He was right. Even if it meant marrying this unimaginable monster, she'd not risk Clark's life.
Jack gasped when he heard Superman scream. He pushed Nigel's limp body off the Man of Steel and saw that the green rock had burned a hole on the back of Superman's suit and was now working on his skin. He quickly grabbed the rock and stuffed it back inside the box it had been sitting in. Then he shut the box and moved away. He struggled with what to do with it for a moment before sticking it back in the vent he had come through and putting the screen back in place. He wasn't sure what the rock was, but it was obviously hurting Superman. He hoped that now that the box was closed, Superman would recover. He wasn't sure what he would do if Superman didn't regain consciousness.
Since he didn't know what else to do to help Superman, Jack confiscated the gun that was lying on the ground before turning his attention to the other man. He briefly checked to be sure that the man was still breathing. Then, taking the man's belt off him, he used it to secure the man's hands and then used his own to tie his feet. He heard Superman moan and made his way back to the Man of Steel.
"Lois," Superman gasped. "Jack, you have to get to Lois."
"I'll be fine. Please. Find Lois."
Jack nodded and, taking a final look around, opened the door cautiously before sneaking out.
"Why don't you go check on the chopper?" Luthor asked Cox.
"Lex…" Cox began to object.
"Go," Luthor responded, leaving no room for argument.
Jack jumped back when he saw the woman who'd followed Lois into the room exit another room. He looked around quickly, trying to formulate a plan. He spotted a delivery boy from UPS. He made his way over and spoke to the young man. After a moment, Jack withdrew a twenty dollar bill from his wallet and the young man nodded, an agreement having been reached.
Luthor hung up the phone and turned towards Lois. "We're all set," he said. "A minister will be waiting for us as soon as we arrive in Vegas. There will also be some more appropriate clothes waiting for you," he added, running his eyes disapprovingly over her attire.
"Why would you want me to marry you, Lex? You can't believe I'll ever love you after this," Lois said, trying to appeal to his mind about the stupidity of this.
Luthor closed the distance separating them. He took her chin in his hand. "You don't have to love me. But you will obey me," he told her with cold certainty.
Everything inside Lois rebelled at the words. However, she held her tongue. The important thing right now was Clark. She had to play along with Lex's game until she could find a way to save the man she loved.
"As long as you do as you're told, Superman will live. Of course, I'll have to come up with some sort of cage that will keep him alive but without his powers. But you will learn to do as you're told. Because if you don't, he's the one who'll suffer."
Lois drew in a sharp breath. She had thought Lex was crazy. The truth was, he was brilliant. He was right. If he kept Superman alive but held him captive — especially if Lois didn't know where — he'd be able to hold her as well. He could even let her see him on occasion to assure her cooperation. She felt a moment of cold despair.
He leaned over and, keeping her chin firmly in his hand, kissed her hard. When he pulled back, he spoke again. "Don't worry. I won't hurt you. I wouldn't destroy my treasure like that. But if you ever…" He emphasized the word by squeezing slightly on her chin. "…as much as disagree with me in public or in private, he'll end up taking your beating." He smiled at her and then turned when he heard the door open.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded of the young delivery boy from UPS who had entered the room.
"Delivery," said Jack, using a bored tone of voice. He glanced over his sunglasses and under the UPS viser he'd borrowed from the real delivery boy to meet Lois' eyes.
"You've got the wrong room," Luthor responded. "Get out of here."
"Hey," objected Jack, chomping down on a stick of gum in his mouth. "Someone's gotta sign for this."
"Get out!" Luthor demanded again. "You've got the wrong room."
"This is where I was told to bring it. This is where I brought it. I'm not leaving until you sign for it."
Luthor glared at the young man; he looked vaguely familiar, although at the moment, Luthor couldn't place the face hidden behind the sunglasses. He snorted before grabbing the clipboard the young man was holding to sign his name.
"Aren't you Lois Lane?" the young man asked. "From the Daily Planet."
"Yes," Lois replied as her mind tried to figure out how to tell Jack about Superman without Lex knowing.
"Yeah, I just made a delivery to the Daily Planet. Your partner… what's his name again?"
"Clark Kent," Lois responded, her voice breaking slightly on the name, as Lex thrust the signed clipboard back into Jack's hands.
"Yeah, he's a great tipper. When I was there a few minutes ago, he gave me ten bucks," he said, once again looking over his glasses to meet Lois' eyes.
Lois' heart almost stood still. What was he saying? Clark was okay? It was the only way she could possibly interpret Jack's comments. If Clark somehow got away from Nigel, he might well have changed back into Clark. After all, when she'd last seen him, he'd obviously not had his powers. If that was true, Jack, by telling her he'd just seen Clark, was telling her that Superman had gotten away. That meant… She had to get away from Lex.
"I signed your board. Now get out," Luthor cut in.
"What about my tip?" asked Jack.
"Get out!" Luthor snarled.
Jack handed Luthor an envelope and made his way to the door. Luthor's eyes followed him. He knew that kid from somewhere. But where? Wait a minute! Wasn't he the kid he'd bought Superman's globe from? He was a street kid. What was he doing…
His thoughts were interrupted by a foot hitting him in the back. Luthor flew forward, crashing into the desk, just as Lois dashed for the door. He pulled the gun from where it was tucked into his pants. He fired a shot into the wall in front of Lois who immediately came to an abrupt halt.
"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded. "Don't you know that if I pick up that phone, your hero is dead?"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," said a calm male voice, directing both Luthor and Lois' attention to the door. In the doorway, Superman stood, looking every bit the superhero — posture straight, head raised, arms folded across his chest.
Luthor turned his gun towards Superman. "All I have to do is pull this trigger and you're dead."
Superman raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?" he asked. "When I'm in the presence of that rock, I'll admit I don't have my powers. But I don't see any kryptonite here. Do you really want to make me mad?" He took another step towards Luthor. "Give it up, Luthor. It's over."
Luthor glanced between Superman and Lois, trying to figure out if Superman was telling the truth. He could tell that Lois was struggling with the same question.
Lois was surprised by Superman's entrance. There was still blood on his suit, but he'd obviously cleaned it off his face. Still, she didn't know if Superman was bluffing or if what he was telling Lex was true.
"Get out of here, Lois," Superman said, without taking his eyes off Luthor. "This is between me and Luthor."
It was at that moment that Lois realized Clark was bluffing. If he had his powers, he wouldn't be concerned about getting her out of here. After all, he could disarm Lex before he had a chance to pull the trigger.
When she didn't move, Superman looked towards her. "Go!" he repeated.
"No!" Lois yelled, throwing herself at Luthor when she noticed him taking advantage of Superman's inattention to raise the gun and begin depressing the trigger.
The gun resounded in the quiet of the room and then both Luthor and Superman watched in shocked horror as Lois collapsed to the floor. A rush of adrenalin pulsed through Clark, pushing him on. When he'd walked into the room, he barely had enough strength to stand, but when he saw Lois fall, he threw himself at Luthor, catching the man off guard. Both men collapsed to the floor as the gun went flying. The struggle for the gun was marked by desperation on the part of both men. Luthor managed to get his hands on the gun first. He grabbed it, turning it towards Superman before hearing those dreaded words…
Luthor glanced towards the door to see two police officers standing in the doorway, guns drawn. However, his mind was so focused on killing Superman that he was unable to stop. Turning his attention back to the Man of Steel, he raised the gun. A shot sounded and Luthor fell back onto the floor.
There was a moment of silence before Superman struggled to get back to Lois, his heart in his throat. If she was dead, he'd never forgive himself. He slowly, carefully, rolled her over before placing his fingers on her neck. He closed his eyes in relief at the steady pump of her pulse.
"Cl… Superman," came Lois' soft voice, causing him to open his eyes. "Are we okay?" she asked.
"I am. Are you?" he responded.
Her hand instinctively went to her shoulder. She lightly touched the wound before pulling her hand back to examine the blood on it. "I think so," she said. "But I seem to have been shot."
Clark looked up. Henderson was entering the room. "She needs an ambulance," Clark informed the police inspector.
"One is on its way," Henderson said, coming over to inspect Lois' shoulder. One of the other officers was checking on Luthor.
"He's dead," the officer examining Luthor announced.
Clark glanced back at Lois to see a confusing mixture of relief and pain cross her face. He decided it was best not to follow up on it, at least not at the moment so he turned his attention to Henderson.
"How did you know?" asked Clark.
"Your friend, Jack, called," he said while attending to Lois' shoulder. "But I hope you have a good story for me. Killing the city's biggest benefactor is going to take some serious explaining. Especially to protect a man being accused of rape."
"Inspector, I didn't…"
"I know," Henderson interrupted.
Clark smiled as he approached the door to Lois' hospital room with his laptop slung over his shoulder. Before he'd left, Lois had been told that she needed to have surgery to remove the bullet in her shoulder. She'd refused to let them operate before writing up the story. He'd offered, even promising it would be under their joint by-line, to write the story while she was in surgery. She informed him that there were crucial details that he didn't know about and she wasn't about to have him submit an inferior story, especially with her name on it.
The doctor and nurses had tried to reason with her, but to no avail. Only Clark discerned that the nurses had made a critical error. They'd given Lois a pain killer, making her believe she was able to write up the story before having the bullet removed.
Realizing that this was one fight Lois Lane was not about to lose, he quietly left the hospital to get his laptop and her notes from work as she continued to argue with the doctor. In spite of the time it had taken him to get there and back without his superpowers, he'd obviously not missed much. As he pushed open the door to the hospital room, a nurse stopped him.
"Only family is allowed in," the nurse objected.
"Well, I thought…" Clark began, only to have Lois' voice interrupt.
"He's my husband," Lois said.
"Oh," said the nurse, standing aside to allow a startled looking Clark Kent to enter the room. "I'm sorry, Mr. Lane. I didn't…"
"Just call me 'Clark,'" Clark corrected. He heard Lois snort in the background.
"Will you talk some sense into your wife?" the doctor asked. "We don't schedule operations around your wife's stories."
Clark placed a hand on the doctor's shoulder, turning him away from Lois. "Doctor," he said softly. "I know Lois. She's not going to sign the authorization until the story's written. I brought my laptop and her notes. Won't it take some time to get things ready? I'm sure that if we can have a little privacy here, we can get the story done in half an hour or so."
The doctor looked back at Lois before nodding and leaving the room.
"Are you handling me, Clark Kent?" Lois demanded behind him.
Clark smiled. "No. I was handling him," he responded, before receiving forgiveness when he produced her notes and the laptop. They worked away in familiar partnership for a time, batting ideas back and forth. Clark did the typing since Lois couldn't with her shoulder. After a time, they realized they had a problem.
"Okay, so what do we say about the pheromone compound?" asked Clark. "Or do we just not mention it at all?"
"I think we have to mention it, Clark. But… I know. What if we just say that while under the influence of the perfume, Superman went to help out at the fire. The perfume caused him to kiss that woman. When he realized what he'd done, he decided to stay out of sight until he recovered."
"But that's a lie, Lois."
"How do you figure that?"
"Well, you didn't decide to stay out of sight. I decided that part for you. But other than that…" She shrugged. "I'm sure we can find a way to word it that won't be a lie. Unless of course, you want to tell the world what Superman really spent the night doing. That would be okay, too," she teased.
She chuckled before growing serious. Their gaze met and their eyes locked. Lois' hand came up and lightly touched his cheek. Suddenly, Clark seemed to realize what was happening. He cleared his throat and turned his attention to adding her comments about the pheromone compound to the story. When he pulled away, Lois quickly removed her hand and flipped, as casually as she could, through her notes.
It took a few minutes before the tension in the room began to dissipate. When it did, Lois asked a question that had been playing in the back of her mind. "Does Jack know about Superman, Clark?"
"I think he figured it out the night we were held hostage at the Planet," Clark said. "It's sort of… unspoken between us."
Lois shook her head. "How is it that a kid could figure out something that a whole building full of reporters, including the best reporter who has ever lived…"
"You talking about Perry?" he asked and then laughed at her scorching stare.
"What happened to the kryptonite?" Lois asked.
"While they were loading you onto the ambulance, I spoke to Jack. I asked him to take the rock to his place and put it somewhere safe. Since I'd really prefer to stay as far away from it as I can, I told him that you'd be by for it when you get out of the hospital. I hope that's okay." When she nodded, he continued. "And I had a talk with Henderson. He needed to know why Luthor was trying to shoot me — after all, I'm supposed to be invulnerable. After I explained it, I mentioned the powder at Miranda's place. He promised to dispose of it."
For the next little while they concentrated on the story. She filled him in on the statement she'd been given by the woman who had allegedly been raped. He filled her on Jack's rescue. And almost before they knew it, the story was finished and ready to submit to Perry, which Clark promised to do if she would sign the consent form. This time there was no objection.
"You did good," she said after a moment.
"What are you talking about? You're the one who almost lost everything because of me."
She smiled. "I'm talking about Jack. I thought you were crazy for believing in the kid, but…"
"…if it hadn't been for him…" Clark continued.
"Yeah," she said softly.
"So, are you ready for me to call the doctor?" he asked. He smiled when she nodded. "Has anyone ever told you that you are really high maintenance?"
She met his smile with one of her own. "I think you've mentioned it on occasion."
Clark's smile faded. "Before I get the doctor…"
"What is it, Clark?" she asked, her serious tone matching the expression on his face.
"I don't know how to say this. I mean, 'thank you' seems so inadequate for what you did for me — agreeing to marry Luthor and then taking a bullet for me was…"
"You're welcome, Clark," Lois interrupted.
They held eye contact for a moment, both having so much more they wanted to say. But both were also afraid of the possible consequences of expressing their feelings so they said nothing. Clark cleared his throat, shattering the moment, before saying, "I better get the doctor."
Lois sighed before nodding and then watched in silent contemplation as he left the room. She had her friend back, but… She felt tears pool in her eyes. Why was he insisting on keeping this distance between them? How was it possible that he couldn't see how much more could exist for them?
In spite of his words, did he still blame her for sleeping with him while he was under the influence of the pheromone compound? Or maybe she'd hurt him irreparably by initially thinking he was the man on the tape, especially after discovering that others, like Henderson, had decided he was innocent based on nothing but faith in Superman's inherent goodness. And how was she supposed to get him to love her again when she didn't know why he'd stopped?
Knowing that it was routine surgery and waiting to be told that everything was all right were two entirely different things as Clark was discovering as he paced nervously in the waiting room. He was soon joined by Perry, Jack and Jimmy.
"Have you heard anything yet?" asked Perry.
"She's in surgery," Clark responded. "Were you able to reach her parents?"
Perry shook his head. "I left a message on her mother's answering machine asking her to call me. But since her father went to work for Luthor, I don't even have a number for him."
Clark nodded slowly.
"By the way, that was quite a story you two submitted."
"Thanks, Chief. But I'll tell you the ending would have been very different if it hadn't been for Jack here."
Jack smiled. "All in a day's work," he said, although the pride in his voice undermined the humility of the words.
"Well, Jack, it's not everyone who can say they saved Superman," Clark added.
"Just tell me that the newspaper business isn't always this exciting. After all, last week we were held hostage and this week…"
Perry and Jimmy burst out laughing. Clark smiled but was too concerned about Lois to really be able to laugh. "Well, if you were working with anyone but Lois and Clark I'd say it's mostly routine work," said Perry.
"But you are working with Lois and Clark, so…" added Jimmy.
Jimmy's statement was cut off by the doctor entering the area. Four pairs of expectant eyes turned towards the man in green scrubs.
"Everything went as planned," the doctor said. "But it will be a while before she can have visitors, so I'd advise everyone to go home. Except for you, Mr. Lane. You can sit with her until she wakes up if you want."
"Thank you, sir. I'd like that," Clark replied. Then when the doctor walked away he turned towards his companions. "Don't…" he began to their sudden chuckles, "…even think about it." He looked at Jack. "Thanks," he said softly.
"Hey, no problem," said Jack lightly.
Clark's hand came up to Jack's arm and he looked the younger man directly in his eyes before saying, "I'm serious, Jack. Without you… Thank you."
Jack smiled. "You're welcome, Clark."
Clark held eye contact with Jack for a moment more before turning and heading back to Lois' room.
Clark sat by the side of Lois' bed, watching her sleep. It was amazing to him as he observed her peaceful expression that this was the same woman who could be such a wild cat when she was awake. He shook his head slightly as he thought back to what she'd been prepared to do for him. The idea of her married to that monster had to be as chilling for her as it had been for him. Yet she hadn't even hesitated when she'd thought it was the only way to save his life. Then she'd almost lost her life by taking a bullet meant for him.
He reached up and brushed a strand of hair off her face. He was so completely in love with her. He picked up her hand and, bending over, lightly kissed it.
"I love you so much, Lois Lane," he whispered. "And if there were any way I could give you Superman, I'd do it."
"I don't want, Superman," came Lois' weak voice, causing Clark's head to snap up. "I want Clark," she concluded.
Clark's face broke into a smile. "You okay?" he asked softly.
She nodded before saying, "But I really could use something to drink." The words sent Clark scrambling.
As he got her a small glass of ice chips from a nearby tray, he thought about her words. He really hadn't meant for her to hear him. But now that she had, they really would need to discuss it. Her words gave him hope. Was it possible that Luthor was wrong? Could Lois really see Clark Kent as a potential suitor? But as frustrating as it might be, those questions would have to wait. Right now she needed something to drink. Besides, this was not the right place for this discussion. There were too many people likely to overhear.
Lois watched as Clark scurried to fulfill her request. She had wondered what was troubling Clark. She had thought he didn't love her anymore. After all, given the fact that she'd slept with him, he had to know she was interested. Now she understood. Clark thought that she wanted Superman and since Superman didn't exist… Well, she'd have to see what she could do to correct his impression.
He walked back over to her, handing her a spoon and a small glass full of ice chips. She put a few small pieces of ice in her mouth and let them melt before speaking.
"Could you do something for me?" she asked.
"Anything," Clark responded.
"The yellow rose you gave me. Could you get it for me? I sort of left it on the floor in my bedroom." She diverted her eyes. She didn't want to explain how the rose had ended up on the floor. On the other hand, lying here now, she wanted to be sure the small yellow flower no longer felt alone or abused, just as she no longer felt that way.
"Lois, I could just run down to the flower shop downstairs and get you a new one."
"No," objected Lois. "I want mine."
Clark didn't understand what she was thinking, but if she were to tell him that she wanted a particular flower in the middle of the rain forest, he'd get it for her — with or without his powers. He nodded.
More than a month had passed and Clark was getting frustrated. It seemed as if, between their workload and Superman's activities, they hadn't had time to have a serious talk since Lois had gotten out of the hospital. At times, it almost felt as if nothing had ever happened between them. Almost, but not quite. No matter what he did, he couldn't seem to get the images of his night with Lois out of his mind. They often seemed to come back at the most inconvenient moments. He was fairly certain that on one or two occasions, Lois had noticed. He was grateful that she hadn't said anything. Although, on one occasion, she'd smiled and gently stroked his cheek, thereby increasing the problem.
Well, hopefully tonight they'd finally be able to talk through a few things. He'd asked Lois to have dinner with him and she'd said yes. He'd offered to take her anywhere in the world and had been extremely surprised when she told him she wanted to have pizza at his place. When he'd asked why, she told him that she wanted to have supper with Clark — not Superman. And that she thought they'd have more privacy to talk if they were at his apartment.
He wasn't sure where this talk would go. He knew he loved her and, after her willingness to sacrifice everything for him, he couldn't doubt that she loved him. The problem was that he had to make sure she understood that he was just Clark. He wasn't exactly certain how to do that. What he did know was that if they did start a relationship and she was expecting Superman, she'd be extremely disappointed. Could he really risk the best friendship he'd ever had for something that was a lot less certain?
He had to admit, there were definite advantages to having her know about Superman. No longer did he have to come up with excuses to leave. When he'd return from a rescue, he no longer faced her annoyance. There had even been a couple of occasions when he'd returned from a particularly difficult task to find a receptive ear. It was nice having someone to talk to about a death he couldn't prevent or a problem he couldn't fix. If only he could be sure she wanted him… He sighed. Maybe tonight they'd be able to work through some of these problems.
Lois made her way to the door of Clark's apartment, carrying a pizza. Clark had taken off to attend to some Superman duties about an hour before they were planning to leave to come to his apartment for the long anticipated talk. Previously, they had simply cancelled when something like that happened. However, seeing the pained expression on Clark's face when he'd had to leave, she'd decided to come anyway. She had no idea where he had to go and so had no idea when he'd be back. Still, she'd wait here until he got home, no matter how late.
The thought occurred to her that this could be her life. If she did get involved with Clark there would undoubtedly be many broken dates, many nights spent eating pizza alone. Is that really what she wanted? The answer was a resounding 'yes.' She wanted Clark. If that meant putting up with a few… okay, so maybe a lot of broken dates, she could live with that. What she couldn't live with was losing him.
She took the key Clark kept under a flowerpot outside his apartment and opened the door. Switching on the light, she entered the room. Placing the pizza on the table, she turned on the television and, grabbing a blanket, curled up on the couch to wait for Clark.
"Lois," Clark whispered.
Lois opened sleep filled eyes and softly smiled. "Hi," she said when she saw Clark crouching by the couch beside her.
"Do you want me to take you home?" he asked.
She cleared her throat and shook her head slightly, trying to clear the sleep from it. "What time is it?" she asked.
She spotted the remnants of the pizza. She'd gone ahead and eaten when it was obvious that Clark was going to be late. "Have you eaten yet?" she asked, gesturing towards the pizza. "Sorry. It's cold."
"I'll just give it a blast of heat vision. It'll be fine. Besides, I thought I was supposed to buy you dinner."
"Next time," she said, reaching her arms over her head and stretching her entire body. She noticed Clark's gaze heat with the action.
"Why don't I take you home?" he said.
She shook her head. "I don't want to go home," she replied. "Unless you want…"
"No. I don't need much sleep. I just thought you might want to go to bed."
A small smile played around Lois' mouth while her eyes danced. Her smile widened when Clark seemed to realize what he'd said and turned a very exquisite shade of pink. Her hand came up to his cheek.
"You are so easy," she said on a chuckle.
Clark rose from where he was still crouched beside her. "Why don't I get us some coffee?"
She nodded and then moved into a seated position, running a hand through her hair as he made his way to the kitchen. Her gaze followed him.
"Has anyone ever told you that you've got a great butt?" she couldn't seem to stop herself from asking.
"Lois!" exclaimed Clark, turning back to look at her.
"Sorry," she muttered, although she couldn't say that she felt at all sorry. It was just so much fun teasing Clark and she was feeling down right giddy. Clark was here. They didn't have to work tomorrow and… they were alone — finally.
It was only a minute or so later when Clark returned with coffee and the reheated pizza.
"So, where have you been?" Lois asked, taking a cup of coffee from him.
"Well, baby…" Clark began.
Lois opened her mouth to object. It was one thing for him to call her 'baby' when he was under the influence of the pheromone compound. It was quite another when… She closed her mouth again when she saw the mischief dancing in Clark's eyes.
"Clark!" she exclaimed, reaching out to give him a swat on the leg.
"And you think I'm easy," he said before laughing.
"You call me that again and 'easy' is the last thing you'll think I am," she shot back with a laugh.
When the laughter ended, Clark proceeded to tell her how he'd spent the evening in South America, evacuating villagers who were being threatened by a recently active volcano.
From there the discussion turned, quite naturally, to Superman. He did his best to explain why he used a disguise, why he'd never told her and what he knew about himself. By the time they'd finished their second cup of coffee, they'd talked through everything. After all this time to think about it, Lois was no longer feeling angry or hurt that he hadn't told her or that she hadn't realized the connection.
Then they fell silent, neither quite knowing how to begin the discussion that both knew was critical to their future. After a moment, Lois began to chuckle.
"What?" Clark asked.
"Well, I had this whole seduction scene planned. I figured it would be easier to have this discussion in bed," she admitted without exactly looking at him.
He smiled, realizing that she was only half joking. "You could always tell me how it was going to go," he responded, deliberately keeping his tone light.
"It's not quite the same," Lois responded.
Clark got off his chair and took a seat on the couch beside her. He took his hand in hers before speaking. "Look, Lois, I love you. After… well, after our night together, I think you've got to be aware of that."
She looked down.
"What?" he asked.
"It's just that I haven't had a lot of luck with that expression. 'I love you' was always followed by another word. Even when my parents said it, it was always 'I love you but…" or 'I'll love you if…'"
He put a hand on her cheek, moving her head around to meet his gaze. "I have no 'buts' or 'ifs' to connect to the expression. I love you. That is not something I'm saying to get what I want. I still don't know if we have a future. All I do know for sure is that I love you — will always love you." He paused before a small smile played on his lips as a thought came back. "Maybe you'll believe it if I say it differently." He thought for a moment before saying, "Ti amo."
"Spanish?" she asked.
"Italian," he corrected. "Or I could say, 'Te amo,' which means I love you in both Spanish and Portuguese. Or 'Ik hou van jou.' That's Dutch. Or even 'Kimi o aishiteru' which is Japanese or 'Ik hald fan dy.' That's Frisian. Or perhaps, 'Asheh-ghe toh hast am' which is Farsi. Or…"
"Okay, okay, I get the picture," Lois interrupted on a laugh. "How many languages do you know?"
"Hundreds," he responded. "And I know how to tell you I love you in all of them. Maybe when I finally do, you'll believe me." He let out a breath before saying, "Still…" His voice trailed off as if not sure how to voice his concern.
"You're afraid that I want Superman, not you," Lois said for him.
Clark shrugged. "Lois, I'm afraid that what you're feeling for me is because of my alter ego. And that wouldn't worry me too much. After all, if we were to get involved, it wouldn't take long for you to realize that I'm not the superhero you've put on a pedestal. But we're partners and best friends. I'm not sure I'd survive if you were no longer in my life, and if we get involved and you don't understand that I'm not Superman…"
"Clark, do you know why I fell in love with Superman?"
"Because Superman cares, really cares, about all the things I think are important — truth, justice, people. He's willing to give without any thought of what he is going to get in return. I'd never known that anyone could be like that."
"But I do want things, Lois," Clark objected.
"But, Clark, you don't help because it's going to benefit you. In fact, if you look at the past month, your willingness to help has prevented us from spending time together. For a while now, I've known that the things I loved about Superman were also present in Clark. But Superman had something that you didn't have."
"He was safe."
She let out a breath. "In case you haven't figured it out, I don't have the best of luck with relationships. So I decided, after Claude, not to ever let another man into my heart again. When you arrived on the scene, I knew you were dangerous to that vow. Superman…" She got a dreamy look on her face. "…he was a safe way to redirect that energy. 'Cause I knew he'd never act on it. And he looks great… I mean, really really great in that suit."
She laughed. "The point is, Clark, I'm not here because I want Superman. I know he's not real. I'm here because I'm beginning to think that maybe it's time to risk my heart again." She paused before saying, "Actually, I think I'm a little past making that decision. My heart has already made an emotional investment in us."
Clark nodded slowly. His heart was already committed here, too. Still, it might be wise if they took things slowly. Maybe just try dating — and then take it from there. "Maybe we should just take it slowly," he suggested, afraid that if he met her eyes she'd know just how much he hated the idea.
Lois smiled. Given his reactions to her over the past month, she knew how much he had to hate making that suggestion. "I think we've effectively ruined 'slow,'" she replied. After all, she'd been having much the same problem Clark had — she was just better at hiding it.
He looked up and met her eyes. He made a noise that sounded a lot like a whimper when he saw the heat in her eyes.
"What are you saying?" he asked, a tremble in his voice.
"Didn't you say something earlier about going to bed?" she asked, reaching over to run her hand suggestively up his leg.
The sun was streaming in the window as Clark pulled the blanket tighter around them. He waited happily as Lois found a comfortable position in his arms with her head against his chest. He could hardly believe how wide awake he was considering how little sleep he'd gotten. She'd slept for short spells during the course of the night, but, for the most part, he'd been unable to do so, almost as if he was afraid that if he closed his eyes, this would all turn out to be a dream.
Clark smiled. In his mind, this was one of those few perfect moments in life — lying here with her in his arms after a night of lovemaking. When she'd appeared in the shower with him this morning — thereby attending to some unfinished business from the morning after their first night together — he'd almost been tempted to believe that he'd died and gone to heaven. Never would he have imagined it was possible, but he was certain that he loved her more than ever. He smiled as she stilled in his arms and sighed contentedly.
"A'ni ohev otach," he whispered.
"Afrikaans?" she asked while letting her fingers play lightly on his chest.
"Hebrew," he corrected.
"So if I wanted to tell you I love you in Hebrew I'd say 'A'ni ohev otach?'" Lois asked glancing up at him.
He smiled at her attempt to pronounce the guttural sound on the end of the final word. "No. You'd say, 'A'ni ohevet ot'cha,'" he informed her softly.
'A'ni ohevet ot'cha," she responded.
Clark grinned and nodded, informing her that she'd said the words correctly.
"No, you don't understand. I mean, 'A'ni ohevet ot'cha,' Clark."
The smile disappeared off his face as what she was saying began to sink in. "Are you saying…"
"I love you, Clark," she clarified, only to find her final word lost in his mouth as he kissed her. When the kiss broke, Clark noticed tears beginning to gather in the corners of her eyes.
"Lois?" Clark asked, his hand coming up to her face to gently stroke it.
"I'm just thinking about how much I love you," Lois said, feeling as if she would burst from the power of the emotions surging through her.
"And it scares you," Clark added, his comment both a statement and a question.
She nodded slightly.
"Well," he said, pondering the problem, "maybe it would help if you knew exactly what my intentions are here." He felt her tense and smiled slightly. She was obviously expecting him to propose — as he'd done several times while under the influence of the pheromone compound — and he knew she wasn't ready. "Don't worry. I'm not planning to propose," he said.
"Oh," responded Lois, both relieved, and in some strange way, disappointed.
"No," he said with conviction. "In fact, I'm never planning to propose," he added thoughtfully.
Lois once again tensed. She might not be ready to marry him now but… What were they doing here? Did he not feel the same commitment to her that she felt for him? In a few weeks, would he tire of her too, leaving her nursing another broken heart? Was he, like every other man in her past, just using her to satisfy his own temporary needs?
"No?" she couldn't seem to stop herself from asking, although part of her hated herself for following up on this line of conversation.
He let out a breath, shifting her in his arms so that he could look into her eyes. "Lois, if it were up to me, I'd have you in front of a justice of the peace this morning. In fact, if I recall correctly, I'd have had you in front of a justice of the peace in Las Vegas a month ago."
"But you were under the influence of the perfume," Lois objected.
"The perfume doesn't create desires, it just removes inhibitions."
"But?" she asked, now thoroughly confused by the seemingly contradictory meaning of his statements.
"But I know you aren't ready. So I'm going to wait for you to ask me," he concluded.
He smiled. "I'm going to wait for you to ask me," he repeated. "Whenever you're ready to marry me, all it takes is one little question. Of course, I expect you to make it enticing. Maybe after a romantic dinner at an expensive restaurant you could ask me to go for a walk. And as the sun sets, you could…"
She looked at him in disbelief as he continued drawing a verbal picture of her proposing. He had obviously put some thought into this. It suddenly occurred to her what he'd done. He had found the perfect way to propose without scaring her — by making his intentions perfectly clear and yet leaving the timing of it completely in her hands. And at the same time, he'd managed to alleviate all of her insecurities about how seriously he was taking the relationship.
She pulled herself up and looked into his eyes for a long moment. "And what makes you think I'll ever ask?" she asked playfully. "I'm a lot smarter than to let myself get tied down to some hack from Nowheresville."
"Oh, you'll ask," he corrected. "Because I'm going to make you fall so hopelessly in love with me that you won't be able to think clearly." With those words he pulled her head down to claim her lips.
She moaned softly as she returned his kiss. He was probably right. After all, she was already having problems thinking clearly.
Yes, the outfits they wore on their first date are from the Steam Series. And, yes, I used some of the images from those pictures in the following scene in Clark's apartment. (Come on, it isn't as if they weren't begging for someone to do exactly that ;)
You might also notice that I did some renovations to Clark's bathroom. In 'It's a Small World After All' there appears to be a window and the shower door appears to be clear. I took out the window and tinted the glass in his shower. It was a lot of work, but I thought it was for a good cause :)