By Betsy R.
Submitted: March 2002
Summary: A mysterious source wreaks havoc by creating interactive dreams among the people in Metropolis. But what will a dream shared between Lois and Clark reveal to each of them?
This story takes place in early-second season, somewhere around The Prankster. There's no real villain, no huge a- plot. Mostly fluff surrounding *yet another revelation story*. Hope you enjoy! Comments (even flames) are welcome.
SC: Saint Clark Warning (or so I've been led to believe)
TS: Terrible Science Warning — it's just a plot device, friends. Not meant to be at all plausible.
ST: Lois and Clark and Jimmy and Perry and all the rest are owned by other great beings, and no infringement is intended.
<thoughts are in carrots> *asterisks are used for emphasis*
Thanks to both beta readers Liz and Ursula. You guys rock! Sorry to both of you about my fragmented sentences and mixed cases and thoroughly misplaced punctuation… oh, and the run-on sentences, too <bg>. If there are remnants, it's not the proofers' faults!
Lois clung to him as he kissed her neck. His dark hair was as thick as it looked, but was much softer than she had imagined. She'd never thought that she would get the chance to find out just what it felt like. She had never dreamed she'd be here with him, like this.
Must be a dream…
"Clark…" she breathlessly whispered as his lips trailed their way up to her earlobe.
The way she whispered his name drove him crazy. The smell of her. The taste of her. She was acting like she had when she had been affected by the pheromone perfume, but not. The desire was there, but the obsession wasn't. They had come to this point by mutual agreement. Hadn't they? Clark tried to think what they had been doing that might have lead to this wonderful interlude, then realized he couldn't remember. He pulled back a bit from her and rested his forehead against hers, sighing slightly and smiling.
Must be a dream…
Lois ran her hands up his arms, feeling the muscle definition beneath the soft cotton of his shirt. She remembered seeing him in a towel, not long after they had met. She remembered that physique. But if this were her dream, then maybe… She straightened with a twinkle in her eye.
Suddenly, Clark was wearing nothing but a towel. Lois grinned wickedly as she reached for where the towel was knotted at his hip. "Why, Clark, you're so over-dressed."
Definitely a dream. Not quite as bad as showing up at school in his underwear, but close. "Lo-is, behave," Clark admonished as he pulled her hands away from the barely- secured towel. He picked her up in his arms, trusting the dream-towel would hold. As he carried her to the couch, she began kissing him — his neck, his face, his mouth. He sat on the couch with her in his arms and returned the kisses enthusiastically.
Still, Clark felt guilty that he was letting himself do these wonderful things with Lois with the Big Lie still between them. <Heck,> he thought, <what better place to practice telling her the truth than in a dream?>
He reluctantly pulled back from her.
"Lois, we need to talk. There's something you need to know…"
They both spoke at once: "Cla-ark, no excuses. This is *my* dream, and you're not going anywhere." "I'm just gonna say this, since this is *only* a dream. I'm Superman."
Lois pulled back and looked at him — at first, curiously, and then, as she realized what he said, with dawning shock. "Superman?!" she asked.
"Wait a second, Lois. What do you mean — *your* dream?"
"What do I mean? This is my dream! I'm sleeping!"
"No, Lois, this is *my* dream. *I'm* sleeping!"
"Whose dream is this, anyway?"
Clark jolted awake, the sheet pooling at his waist as he sat up in his bed. Running a hand through his hair, he looked at the alarm clock. He had slept through his alarm. Not surprising, given that he had been out late patrolling and had then dealt with a terrible accident involving a fuel truck, a passenger bus, several cars, and hurricane- like weather in South Carolina.
Then there was that dream…
What a dream! Nightmare? No, definitely a dream. Most of it was quite good, too. Clark smiled, then realized that thinking those thoughts were going to make facing Lois at the office today rather tough. He shook his head and headed to the bathroom for a cold shower. Too bad he didn't have time for a dip in the Arctic. Not that it would help all that much.
Clark walked to work in a fog. He knew he was in love with Lois. He also knew that over the last few months they had become pretty good friends. *Very* good friends. The one sticking point seemed to be Lois's crush on Superman. Still, Clark had to admit to himself that he was mostly at fault there. Maybe it was time to let Lois see that he and the Man of Steel were one and the same. Maybe, if he did it right, she would even forgive him and understand why he had held it from her for so long.
Maybe pigs might fly.
As Clark reasoned with himself, he didn't really notice that all the people around him seemed to be just as preoccupied. The citizens of Metropolis, usually people of action, not thought, were having a very introspective morning. Coffee cooled while people stared into space. There were many close calls as more drivers than usual failed to pay attention to their surroundings — although there were few aggressive drivers on the road. It was as though everyone was lost in his own thoughts.
Lois Lane was definitely one of that crowd.
<How can I face him today?> Lois thought. <What a dream! I mean, I know I'm attracted to him. But, he's my best friend! And he told me he doesn't think of me like that!>
Lois shook her head in self-derision. <And the whole 'I am Superman' thing. Well, it doesn't take a psychology degree to figure out that my subconscious wants both of the men I love to be the same man.>
Gripping her briefcase tightly, she stepped onto the elevator. <Both of the men I love? What does that say about me? Jeez…>
Lois stabbed the button in the elevator and glared at the man next to her. She was waiting for him to say something to her. Anything. She was in a rare mood and needed to take it out on someone else.
When the elevator doors opened, she stepped out onto the floor of the newsroom. Clark was at his desk, writing something quickly on his computer. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she walked to her own desk.
"Mornin', Lois." Clark looked up and smiled. As he spoke to her, Clark noticed that her heart rate increased, but he supposed that was because he startled her.
"What? Oh, good morning. No. Not good morning. Terrible morning. Darn it!" Lois said as she caught the velcro of her computer bag against her leg, "That's the second pair of nylons today!"
"Someone get up on the wrong side of the bed today?" Clark asked. He didn't know why he was baiting her. Half of his brain was yelling at him to stop before she tested his invulnerability with her wit.
Lois glared at him, then stopped. "Yeah, I guess," she said with a sigh. Sitting down, she booted her computer, and began to work.
As the morning progressed, it was obvious that Lois was avoiding him. When he brought her a cup of coffee, she blushed as she looked up at him, then quickly went back to her work. The blush got him thinking. <What if …?> Nah, he wasn't going to get his hopes up. He wasn't going to try to figure out Lois's feelings from her actions. He had learned *some* things working with her!
Clark looked at his monitor and realized that his editor hadn't given him the revisions on his story that was supposed to go in the early evening edition. Walking up to Perry White's office, he knocked on the door.
"Come in," Perry answered without looking up. He sat, studying a picture on his desk, elbows resting on his chair arms, tented fingers thoughtfully tapping his mouth.
"Is this a bad time, Chief?" Clark asked.
Perry visibly shook himself and inhaled sharply. "Nope, son. Just got some things on my mind. Hard time concentrating. I haven't had a chance to look at your piece yet, if that's what you're here for."
"Oh, OK. That is what I stopped by about. I'll just go start working on the bio on Senator Wood." Clark looked at his boss expectantly. "Unless you have something else you wanted me on?"
"What?" Perry asked, distracted. "No, no. That's fine."
Clark turned to leave, then stopped. Turning back, he noticed his boss was looking at the picture again, a sad look on his face.
"Chief, is everything all right?" Clark asked with concern, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Perry sighed. "No, son. Everything's fine. I just got to thinking…" He paused, then proceeded, almost as though he were making a confession. "Lately, Alice and I seem to be drifting further apart. I hadn't really thought about it much, but I had this dream last night. We were talking, just like we used to. I shared ideas with her, she shared thoughts with me. I miss that." Shaking his head, he looked up at Clark.
"Clark, I'm gonna give you a piece of advice. If you ever find the woman of your dreams, don't ever forget how lucky you are to have her. Remind yourself every day." Giving the younger man that sage piece of wisdom, Perry dismissed Clark. "Now, scoot. I have a phone call to make."
Perry grinned. "That's as good a place as any to start."
As Clark was walking back to his desk, he saw Jimmy heading to the copy room with a confused look on his face. Concerned for his friend, Clark followed him in.
"What's up, Jimmy?"
"Oh, hey, CK."
"You look… upset about something?" Clark asked.
"Oh, yeah, well… it's just… you know Marianne, down in supply? Well, I just went down to get some toner cartridges, and I was just saying hi and the normal stuff. She started blushing like crazy and could barely talk to me! And you know, usually when I'm down there talking to her…"
"Flirting with her?" Clark interrupted, smiling and raising his brows.
Jimmy chuckled. "Yeah, flirting with her. Well, usually, she just blows me off. You know, humoring the gopher boy. But today, it was almost like… well… like something had happened between us. You know, like when you make out with a friend at a party and then you can never really straight up talk to her again? It was like that." Jimmy shook his head, confused. "But we never got the make out part. You know?"
"Say no more, Jimmy," Clark held up his hand and shook his head. "I've got the picture. Maybe she had a dream about you or something, and that's making her feel weird."
"That would be a heck of a coincidence, CK. I had this dream last night, with her and me and… well, if we both had a dream like that…"
Clark nodded his head and agreed, "Yeah, Jim, that would be very strange. Maybe you should just give it some time. She might have been thinking about something completely different, and you just happened in on her."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Jimmy agreed. "Anyway, it was just weird."
Clark chuckled to himself as he walked back to his desk and sat down. Looking up, he noticed Lois watching him, but she ducked her head as soon as he glanced in her direction.
<There is something very strange going on today,> Clark thought.
His dream the previous night had been beyond strange. Perry had a dream that had him in la-la land. Jimmy's dream…
Thinking about it, Clark realized that, apart from one accident he had seen on the television, Superman hadn't been called out at all today. People just were not themselves.
Clark wanted to share his hunch with his partner, but she was pointedly not talking to him. If his suspicions were well founded… then the dream was her dream, too. And if it were her dream, she would know about…
What would she do? How would she act? Since last year, she had been friendly with Superman, but last night's dream, if it was really shared with her, meant that she was just as attracted to Clark as she was to Superman. Maybe more so. And the crack she made about the disappearances… maybe she was watching him — *Clark* — more than he thought. It was just a matter of time before she figured it out. In fact, Clark was genuinely surprised she hadn't figured it out months ago.
And just how mad would she be when she figured it out — and figured out that he never told her that he was Superman? How angry would she be when she figured out that he never trusted her with the truth?
<Of course I trust her. I love her.>
Clark thought for a minute. Maybe it *was* time. All the scenarios he had gone over in his head faded away. All the speeches and pleas disappeared. Ignoring the small but increasingly insistent voice that warned him against it, he rose slowly and he walked to Lois's desk.
"Lois, we need to talk."
"Clark, I really, *really* don't want to talk. Right now. To you," Lois stammered, trying to hide that she had been working on her novel. "I have work to do."
"What work? Perry's too preoccupied to even edit our stories today, let alone assign new ones, and I know you don't have any new leads."
"Yeah, smart boy? How do you know that?"
"Lois, you haven't left the newsroom, talked on the phone, or yelled at Jimmy for research at all today. You *definitely* don't have a lead."
She dropped her hostile posture and she nodded.
"All right, Clark. What do you want to talk about?"
"Let's grab the conference room. This might get involved."
Her brows arched with curiosity, but Lois locked her computer and allowed Clark to steer her toward the nearest conference room. Sitting in a chair, she watched as he shut the door and slowly turned toward her. He seemed to be trying to figure out the best way to tell her something. Her instincts told her it was something she wasn't going to like.
"Lois," Clark asked, finally, "did you have a dream last night? A dream that I was in?"
Lois flashed a look at him and stood up, meaning to leave the room. Clark blocked her exit.
"You wish, farmboy," she accused. "Thinking I'd dream of you. Right." She tried, without success, to move around him.
"Lois, I'm serious." She angrily averted her eyes. "Lois, look at me." Clark slowly removed his glasses and pulled back his hair.
Lois's eyes widened.
"You're… he's… the dream…?"
"Was no dream," he answered. "Or, rather, was both of our dreams."
"You're…?" Lois sat back down, filled with disbelief and confusion. She didn't know whether to be angry, happy, relieved, or embarrassed.
Crouching in front of her, Clark put his glasses back on.
"Lois," he said quietly, "I'm not going to pretend that I know what you're feeling, or even ask what you feel. I know you need time to think about this. But Lois, I do need my partner," he pleaded. "There's something really strange going on. I don't believe we were the only people to share a dream last night. I think that somehow, someone is making people's dreams reality."
Lois forced herself to process what Clark had said. Yes, she could work and postpone thinking about this Clark/Superman thing. It occurred to her that he was giving her every reason to put what she knew in the back of her mind, to mull it over before confronting him about it. He knew her so well. Coming to a decision, she nodded.
"All right, *partner*," she asked, "what have you got?"
Clark inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. She was still talking to him. That was definitely a plus. He stood and leaned on the conference table. "Just now, all I have is supposition. Perry, Jimmy, you, and I seem to have had some pretty powerful dreams. Jimmy's dream — like our dream — may have pulled the other person into the dream: Marianne down in supply was the object of Jimmy's… desire last night, and she may have had the same dream he had." Clark paused and shook his head. "In fact, people all over Metropolis seem to be acting strangely — or more strangely than usual, anyway."
"All right," Lois nodded, "we need to do some research on dreams — what they are, how they work." She thought for a moment, then continued, "We should research researchers — university departments and private companies like Star Labs and maybe even psychics — see if anyone has the desire or power to influence others' dreams." Lois began to speak more quickly as she thought about the problem. "What else, what else? We need to see if there's a radius of people affected…"
Clark smiled as he watched Lois go into full research mode. He loved it when she was on the scent of a story.
They walked back to their desks together, discussing the different angles they could approach.
"Lois, I'm going to go to the library, get us some good research books on dream theory. Is there anything you want while I'm out?" Clark gave her a teasing smile. "Like Belgian chocolates?"
"Belgian…" she paused, as if just realizing something. < He really *can* go to Belgium and get chocolates. This is Superman. But how would he pay for them? Maybe if I were to look through Clark's wallet, I'd find all sorts of currency? Or maybe people give him what he wants, free! He is Superman, after all. Superman. >
<Clark… Is… Superman. >
It was really starting to sink in, and she wasn't at all comfortable with the fact that the 'hack from nowhere' was also a 'god in tights.'
"Do you think," she asked, finally, "you could, maybe, interview some people around town and see if their dreams are affecting their behavior today?"
It was a reasonable suggestion, but the manner in which she made it made Clark pause. She was being very polite — and that in itself was enough to send off warning bells — but she also sounded almost… unsure. As though she was unsure of him and his reaction to her, now that she *knew*.
"Of course, Lois," Clark smiled reassuringly. "That's a good idea. I'll be back in a bit."
"OK." She looked back to her computer. As soon as she heard the elevator doors close, Lois got up and walked to the window. She saw nothing as she looked out, though. It was as though she had been struck, out of the blue, by lightning.
Clark was Superman.
Superman was Clark.
In so many ways it made sense and explained so much. All the flimsy excuses. All the disappearances. Those wonderful pecs.
But who was he, really? Lois thought back over the time they'd spent together. She had gone from barely tolerating Clark to thinking of him as her best friend and possible lover. Somewhere along the line she had stopped adoring Superman and had begun to see that he was not someone who could ever belong with her — or anyone, for that matter. Superman belonged to the world. To try to make it any other way was the height of selfishness and conceit.
Did Clark belong to the world?
Her partner, the mild-mannered reporter who would rather write about nursing homes than drug cartels, was a man who, less than a year ago, had blown an asteroid out of the sky. With his bare hands.
How on earth could he ever want to be with someone like Lois Lane — neurotic, competitive, obsessive-compulsive, self-centered Lois Lane?
Although Lois looked out the window onto the city, she saw only inside herself. All of the doubts that she had after the whole fiasco with Lex Luthor came back to her. Looking back on her own behavior — not just concerning Clark, but concerning everyone and everything — she cringed. She had been so cold to everyone, not listening to anyone else — ever. Lois Lane was always right.
Through her whole life, she had lived for herself. Sure, she had exposed corruption and had tried to right wrongs, but a part of her wondered if she hadn't done so just to get notoriety. Did the Kerths mean more to her than the good she might have brought about?
And Clark — did she even know him at all? He was an *alien*. He ate bombs! Sure, he seemed to want to be with her, but how could he *really* want her? He had seen the worst of her actions. He had been on the receiving end of the nastiest of her tirades. Was she just another challenge to him? Was he just humoring her?
She didn't know what to do or what to think. So, she decided she would do what she always did when she was confused. Walking back to her desk, she broke out a double- fudge crunch bar and got back to work.
When Lois looked up an hour later, Clark still hadn't returned. <Probably out returning a video — or saving the world,> she thought to herself. She had promised herself that she wasn't going to think about it, but there it was again. Was he Clark, or was he Superman? The two images were so different. Or were they?
Her mind railed at her. Why hadn't she put two and two together before? She looked around the newsroom, wondering which of her astute colleagues had noticed what she had not. She figured Perry probably knew. Jimmy? Probably not. She wondered briefly if Perry thought worse of her because she hadn't figured it out.
But who would expect Clark — *Clark* — of being such a… being?
What she didn't understand about Clark would, apparently, fill an encyclopedia set. And she thought she knew him.
As Lois returned to her desk with yet another cup of bitter coffee, the object of her thoughts walked back into the newsroom. It was late afternoon, and people were starting to act more like themselves. After putting a stack of books down on his own desk, Clark walked to where Lois was busily typing at her computer. She looked up at him.
"Sorry that took so long," he apologized. "There was a fire in an apartment complex in Philadelphia, so I went there first. By the way, no one in Philly seems to have been affected by this dream thing, but people all over Metropolis seem to have been. It took me six different branches before I found all the books I wanted," Clark gestured to the small pile on his desk. "It seems books on dreams and dream interpretation were very popular today."
It amazed Lois that he treated the 'jaunt' to Philadelphia so lightly. Yesterday, it would have been something like a broken filling. Today, without missing a beat, he was telling her all about what he was really doing. In fact, he seemed more comfortable mentioning real events than excuses. The trademark 'Superman Honesty' coming through? Or the 'Clark Kent Integrity' finally being allowed free reign? Unable to come up with an answer, Lois put the thought aside and brought Clark up to date on what she had found.
"I'm getting a few hits on local scientists that are interested in dream theory, but nothing solid yet. Why don't you ask around some more, confirm with Perry what we're working on. I want to do some more checks on a few of these quacks."
"Doctors, Lois. The PhD means Doctor."
"Yeah, well, look at some of the stuff they pass off as science, and you'll be wondering if they got those PhD's out of Cracker Jack boxes." Lois looked back to her keyboard, summed up some of the bios she was looking into, and began another search.
Clark watched her for a minute. It was obvious that she wasn't completely comfortable with him, but, in all, her reaction was so much better than he ever could have expected. She was at least trying to act like her normal self — even if she did look oddly at him once in a while. Like when he mentioned going to Philadelphia. But it was so refreshing to be able to tell the truth. All of the truth.
Smiling, Clark walked to Perry's office and knocked on the door. Given the editor's earlier mood, Clark was surprised to see Perry smiling and chuckling into the phone. Waving Clark to come in, Perry ended his phone call.
"Yes, honey, I promise I'll be home just as soon as the paper is put to bed. Say, why don't you come over here, and we can go to dinner from here? That way, I'll have no excuse… Great. I can't wait to see you. And Alice? I love you, honey."
Perry gently cradled the phone receiver with a smile on his face. He looked up at Clark. "What can I do for you?"
"Chief, I want to ask you a personal question. And please don't take offense."
"Go ahead, son." Perry looked at him expectantly.
"That dream that you had last night, did Alice have one similar to it?"
Perry stopped smiling. He looked sharply at Clark, then slowly nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, she did. We were just talking about what a strange coincidence it was… Does this have something to do with what Lois has been researching this afternoon?"
"Yep. We have a feeling something or someone in Metropolis is affecting people's dreams. But it's kind of hard to get raw data, if you know what I mean."
Perry chuckled. "Yeah, people aren't very likely to want to open up to reporters about highly personal things like dreams. Why don't you start with the rest of the staff here, Clark. If you find a high percentage are saying the same thing, then go along with it. Lord knows, people have been so distracted today that I won't have any trouble making room if you get me a headline story before midnight!"
"Thanks, Perry. But we'll try to make sure we don't interrupt your dinner plans." Clark smiled and left the office.
His first stop was Marianne in supply. He had a good rapport with her, and she seemed to have a lot of respect for the investigative journalists on staff.
"Hey, Mr. Kent, what can I get for you today?" she asked politely.
"Please, Marianne, Mr. Kent is my father. I'm Clark. And I actually want to ask you a question. It's a very personal question, but it's for a story that Lois and I are working on. Would you mind?"
Marianne hesitated, then nodded. "Go ahead."
"Let me start off by saying that this goes no farther than you and me. I won't tell a soul anything that you might tell me, OK?" Clark sought to reassure her.
"Oh, I know you won't, Mr. … Clark. But all these caveats are making me nervous!" She smiled as she answered his question.
"Well, you see, Lois and I think that there is something — or someone — in Metropolis that may have been… influencing people's dreams last night." Marianne looked shocked, and then she blushed. Clark continued, "I was wondering if you may have had a dream last night that involved another member of the Daily Planet staff?"
Embarrassed, Marianne looked down. "Yes, Jimmy. You know, the kid that does errands for Mr. White? He's always flirting with me, but it doesn't mean anything. I swear, I would never, *ever* have unfaithful thoughts about Joey — he's my fiance and I love him — but last night, I found myself in this dream with *Jimmy* of all people! It was… very…" She stopped, unable to finish. Clark nodded in sympathy. "Yes, I can imagine. But just keep telling yourself that it probably wasn't *you*. It wasn't your subconscious or your thoughts or anything. OK?"
She nodded. "You know, Clark, this is the best I've felt all day. You have no idea how guilty I've felt! I really hope that you're right and that you find whoever did this!"
As Clark made his way around the building, he pulled different people aside, trying in various ways to politely ask the same probing question. The answers he got simply confirmed that something did seem to have affected the people of Metropolis as they slept, and dreamed, the previous evening.
At one point, he found himself alone next to the coffee maker with Cat.
"Cat, would you mind if I asked you a somewhat personal question?" Clark asked tentatively.
"Whacha' need, big fella?" Cat purred, running her eyes up and down Clark in a hungry way.
"I was wondering if you had any strange dreams last night?"
Cat looked thoughtful for a moment.
"No, I just dreamed that I was alone, in the forest, in a hot spring. Resting. Relaxing. It was… wonderful." She stopped and shook her head. "I must have woken up before the man in my dream got back with the champagne! Now, I've shared. You tell me *your* dreams, Clarkie. I'm sure they're… interesting."
"Not really," Clark smiled. Cat always seemed to need some kind of flirtatious front, but he knew that underneath all that varnish was an intelligent, caring person. He didn't even let her act phase him anymore. "In fact, I don't even remember my dreams from last night, so they couldn't have been that great."
Lois watched Clark interacting with Cat. As usual, he politely put space between himself and the vamp. But he didn't look angry, insulted, or even embarrassed. He just knew Cat and that her come-ons didn't really mean anything. He treated them as a regular part of conversation.
She watched as he casually went to other workers around the room. He had a way about him. He seemed to get along with everyone, with the noted exception of Ralph. Thinking about it, she couldn't imagine Superman interacting with other people so easily. In fact, Superman seemed to rarely converse with others. Generally, he issued statements, or asked questions (mostly, "Are you all right?"). But he rarely shared more than two sentences with anyone. Superman was aloof. Not cold — it was obvious he cared for the general human condition — but with few exceptions, he seemed almost like a cardboard cutout.
The few times that she could remember anything different were when she was alone with him. Was it that aspects of Clark came through the Superman act? Was that all it was? An act?
As Lois looked on, Clark sat down at his desk and started reading through the books he had brought back with him. After glancing around the room, he started to skim more quickly. Lois was sure he wasn't skimming. He was reading. He was reading really, really quickly. He made speed reading look slow.
Logging on to his computer, he began to work there. He didn't work any more quickly than anyone else. <It must be frustrating,> she thought, <to have to harness in all those powers. All the time.>
The phone rang. She answered it distractedly, but once the conversation began, she rapidly became alert.
"Really? You're right, Sally, that is pretty weird. Yes, any information you have would be great. Thanks!"
Hanging up the phone, Lois quickly dialed a number she knew by heart. As she waited for the call to be answered, she paged through some notes she had on file in her computer.
"I'd like to speak with Inspector Dallas, please. This is Lois Lane. I'm from the Daily Planet. Yes, I'll hold." Tapping her fingers on the desk, she waited for the inspector to pick up. "Yes, Inspector, this is Lois Lane, Daily Planet. I've heard that you have a suspect in custody in the assault of Alexa Bacon. Is that true?… Yes, yes. I know." Lois waved her free hand dismissively. "Off the record though, can you tell me: the injuries the man suffered, could they be a result of something he… thought happened? You know, psychosomatic or something?… It may fit in with something else I'm working on. … Of course, of course. You'll get all the details in tomorrow's morning edition. … Well, tit for tat, Inspector. … No, I don't think so. But if you come over here, I will show you what I have. It's kind of… unbelievable, but we're working hard to get it substantiated. … Yes, that's fine. We'll be here late. Thanks for the information. … Of course. … Thanks." She hung up with a satisfied smirk.
Lois looked over at Clark who was speaking into his own phone. When he had finished, he walked to her desk. Seeing that she had something she was obviously bursting to tell him, he politely indicated that she should go first.
"I just got a call from a contact that I have at James Madison hospital. Seems that there was an admittance this morning that she thinks we should look at. This guy showed all the internal signs of assault and battery, but no outward manifestations. It's almost like he was attacked in his mind… or in his dreams…" Clark nodded, seeing where she was going.
Lois continued, "While the police were looking into it and trying to find out the man's identity, they came across something startling. It turns out that he's a perfect match for the assailant of Alexa Bacon, the athlete. You remember that story, about two months ago? She was at a bachelorette party, someone drugged her — probably put some GHB in her drink — followed her home, and raped her. She could describe the guy, but they didn't find anyone. What if she dreamed of beating the crap out of him, and got him in her dream…?"
Clark's eyes widened as he considered what Lois said. He nodded. "That makes too much scary sense. You know, the more I ask around, the spookier it is. All over town people seem to have been pulling other people into their dreams. And strangely, those that weren't pulled — well — their dreams were different than normal dreams." Clark pulled Lois's extra chair closer to her chair and sat down. "It's like they're being forced to face their deepest desires. If that desire involves someone else, and if that person also happens to be sleeping or unconscious somewhere in Metropolis, that person is… pulled along." Sitting back more comfortably in the chair, Clark shook his head.
"I've been trying to find out how this could possibly be done. I read through most of those books, but they're a dead end. It's all dream theory." Clark waved aside the haphazard pile of books.
"Did you find anything at all that might be of use?" Lois asked, frustrated. Her own search had given some names, but if they wanted to stop this from happening again tonight… the clock was ticking.
"The only information I could find on influencing dreams physically were some journal articles." Walking to his desk, Clark picked up a pile of photocopies and computer printouts. "Most were on psychotropic drugs, so I thought we should get a sample of the city's water and air supplies analyzed for that. I contacted some friends over at Star Labs while you were on the phone, and they assured me that they have constant monitors on air and water quality." Gesturing with his free hand, Clark continued his explanation. "It's part of a government grant they have, keeping statistics on quality and providing a warning system if there is something amiss. Air and water last night were clean. So it probably wasn't drugs." Taking a large part of the papers he had just picked up, he discarded them on the pile of books.
The sly smile on Clark's face let Lois know he had something else. "But…" she encouraged.
"But, there was one other article." Waving the remaining papers in his hand, he walked back to her desk and dropped it in front of her. "It was written by a group of physicists at Stanford. They have a machine that emits sound waves outside human hearing range, but that actually seems to influence brain activity. Particularly the activity that occurs during REM sleep — when you dream. There wasn't any obvious link to dream influences in that article, but that doesn't mean someone else couldn't have read it, as I did, and put two and two together."
Lois nodded and chewed on the end of a pen she had picked up. Most of the rest of the staff were going home, but it looked like another late night for Lane and Kent.
"We should get hold of the authors of that article." Lois picked up the article and leafed through it. "Let's see if anyone else has contacted them for information. If someone else is using this research to build a machine that influences dreams, maybe they asked for some help with the blueprints." Lois pulled up yet another search screen. As she typed in the authors' names, Lois had a feeling of deja vu. When the information came up, she knew why.
"Clark, Kelly Sonador, the second author on this article, is on the staff of Met U — psychology department. I guess she got a PhD in both physics and psychology. She was one of the people I actually put on my list of 'suspects.'"
"I'd say she just went to the top of the list. Let's see if we can contact her." Clark grabbed a phone book and started searching for the general numbers for the university. As he looked up at the clock, Clark noticed how late it had gotten. "Where on earth are we going to get the number for her lab?!" Clark groaned. "College offices are worse than government offices when it comes to getting information after closing time!"
It was Lois's turn to grin. "Not to fear. I went to Met U, remember? I'll just bug Manny — I think he lives at the library there — and he'll get the number for me."
Five minutes later — and after a promise for a dinner at the local pub — Lois had the number. She called it immediately, using speaker phone and recording the conversation. After several rings, the phone was answered by a harried voice.
"Dr. Sonador's lab."
"This is Lois Lane from the Daily Planet. I would like to speak with a Dr. Kelly Sonador, if she's there. This is very urgent."
"Uhh, yeah. Hold on a sec. I'll get the doc."
There was a pause, then another voice answered the phone. "This is Dr. Sonador. How can I help you?"
"Hello, my name is Lois Lane, I'm here with Clark Kent. We're from the Daily Planet. We're working on a story that involves something you have expertise in, and we'd like to ask you some questions. Will you help us, and if you do, can we quote you?"
The scientist answered without hesitation. "Yes, I've read some of your Superman articles. I think I'm safe if I say you can use any information that I could possibly give you. Now, you've got me curious. What can I do for you?"
"We're working on a very important piece concerning dreams and the possibility of influencing them. I understand that you've made a machine that can possibly do this?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I have worked on just such a machine. We call it the Dreamweaver — I picked the name, by the way. I've always loved that song." Dr. Sonador sighed, and continued. "But I digress. I assume you read the publication we had in the Journal of Medical Sciences a few years ago? We've made many advancements and enhancements since then, and are, coincidentally, proceeding at this point in time with some basic studies using the Dreamweaver."
"At this point in time?" Lois interrupted. "Do you mean now?"
"Our testing just began last night and is scheduled to take place for two weeks," Dr. Sonador began to explain. "We have a group of twenty volunteers who allow us to monitor their brain patterns while they sleep, and we have the neuro-transmitter turned on during the allotted eight hour period each night. We also collect dream journals from each of the subjects. By mixing the waves that affect the cerebral cortex with those that affect the left hemisphere, and tuning those waves, we hope to be able to get people to face their inner selves in their own dreams." The doctor's voice was full of enthusiasm. "It could be a break-through in Jungian therapy — in fact, in all therapy. You wouldn't need to go to a doctor to find out what you want. Imagine the possibilities!"
Lois looked at Clark with raised eyebrows. Scientists tended to be overwhelming when they got excited about things.
"Dr. Sonador, I think that there are some possibilities that you might not have considered," Clark said. "Have you been out in the city today?"
"Oh, no, of course not. I had all the data from last night to look over, several setups to re-check, and I had to get some sleep myself, you know," Dr. Sonador laughed, then stopped. "Why do you ask?"
"Is it possible," Lois asked, "that your Dreamweaver machine could be affecting others outside your research group?"
The doctor paused before answering.
"Well, the actual output of the machine would need to be transmitted out of the building somehow. These are transverse waves, you understand, and though they have a medium to travel through, they'd need some kind of amplification, most likely. Much like radio waves need amplification. But, I suppose it's possible…" There was a pause. "Wait. Are you saying that other people are exhibiting response to my experiment?"
"We're not positive, ma'am, but it looks like that is the likely case. Could this machine allow people to interact with each other through their dreams?" Clark asked.
Again, there was a brief silence before the doctor answered.
"Telepathy was not something that we had mentioned to any of the subjects. But yes, it does seem to be the case that the Dreamweaver allows some amount of telepathy to occur. It requires, of course, that both participants are in REM at the time. We only had one overlap last night in our study group, and they did not have any reason to contact each other. We were going to proceed with those studies next week."
"I'd say that you've had plenty of overlap last night, just from the people we've talked to," Lois stated wryly.
"Oh, my goodness. That was not expected and certainly not intended. Oh, my! I… I'm so sorry!" The doctor seemed flummoxed.
"Can we quote you on that?" Clark asked, with humor in his voice.
"Yes, yes! Goodness!" The doctor sounded distressed. "I'll cancel my experiment for the evening and look into the possibility of amplification right away. Oh, isn't the school radio station housed in this building? Oh…"
Lois interrupted, "Doctor, we're going to proceed with our article. Could you be available for comments and questions in, say, two hours?"
"Ms. Lane, I can safely say that I won't be leaving this building tonight. I'll probably have to talk to my administrators about this… but in all, it's a very successful demonstration of the Dreamweaver. Don't you think?"
"Sure," Clark agreed as he looked at Lois with a wry grin on his face.
"OK, then, I look forward to hearing from you later!" The doctor hung up the phone.
Lois sighed, shaking her head.
Clark placed his hand on the desk, getting Lois's attention. "She sounded like a nice woman, Lois. It's too bad that her experiment went awry. Isn't it refreshing, though, not having a villain of the week to deal with?"
Lois laughed. Sometimes their lives did seem like that. "I am glad that there wasn't anything sinister behind this. You could probably drive people mad with that machine! But boy, did she sound like Dr. Klein, or what?!"
Smiling, Clark nodded, "Maybe we should introduce them!"
They looked at each other for a moment, before both smiling and saying, "Nah!"
They had written a good part of the story together, working in the habits that had developed over the last year. It struck Lois how easy it was, working with him. Still, she could look more closely and see Superman there, inside him. A part of him. Was that all Superman was, in the end? Just a small part of Clark Kent? As the day had progressed, it had seemed more and more likely that was the case.
As Lois was revising the final draft of the story, Clark looked up with a now-familiar far-away glance in his eye. "Train wreck. London," he stated. She looked to the television monitors, whose sound was turned off.
"Go," she said. "I'll finish here."
He looked at her with an apology in his eye, then ran to the steps.
She watched the monitors, and sure enough, within a few moments, Superman was on the scene. Walking closer to the screens, she tried to study him as the cameras zoomed in. Standing in his patented hero pose, he answered no questions, but merely listened to what rescue workers on the scene wanted from him.
No emotion came through, except in his eyes. <And, let's face it,> Lois wryly thought, <with that outfit, who really looks at his eyes? I certainly didn't!>
She wished him luck in her mind, worrying now that she knew it was Clark dealing with that twisted metal; Clark dealing with the reporters' constant questions and pictures. It was Clark. Superman was only an image — a way for him to do what he needed to do. And from the way things had gone this afternoon, it seemed that he *needed* to be Clark, mild- mannered reporter, as much as he needed to be Superman. He was much more natural as Clark, and he looked more and more like an actor to her as she watched him in the Suit.
But understanding that duality and the reason for it didn't explain one critical thing. What did Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman want from her? Where did Lois Lane fit in?
Knowing she wasn't going to get an answer, she sighed and sat back down to work. There would be plenty of time to think later. Now, she had a deadline to meet.
Many of the reporters gathered in the bullpen the next morning, discussing the story Lois and Clark had produced for the morning edition. The Dreamweaver was on everyone's mind. There were many embarrassed laughs and looks as co- workers realized that sometimes, they were considered more than co-workers by others.
Cat walked over to Lois. "So, Lois, did you have any good dreams the last few nights? Maybe starring another member of the Planet staff?"
"I'm surprised you could bother to drag yourself out of bed, Cat," Lois retorted. "Your dreams have probably kept you pretty busy."
"Oh, Lois, I've been busy in my bed, but not *dreaming*. That I can tell you," Cat grinned and Lois rolled her eyes.
Perry walked over to the group of people, smiling after a pleasing discussion on the phone with sales.
"Looks like the people of Metropolis can sleep easy tonight, now that Lane and Kent have shown Dr. Sonador the error of her ways." Perry chuckled.
"I don't know if they'll sleep easier, chief," Clark replied. "A lot of people have been faced with what it is that they want and what others want in them. It's gonna cause a few more sleepless nights, I'll bet, now that people know they weren't just dreams."
Perry nodded knowingly. "Well, even if it sounded more like a story the Star should cover, you kids certainly keep plugging our sales numbers. And you've given a lot of people some food for thought. Not bad for a day's work." Perry slapped Clark on the back and walked to his office, and the group broke up.
Lois studied Clark as he chatted with Mitch about the upcoming Kansas State game. Try as she could, she simply couldn't see anyone but good-natured, honest, hard-working, compassionate Clark. He hid the superhero well.
A gasp came from someone as the elevator doors opened. Jimmy stepped out with a sheepish look on his face. He had a black eye forming. As Clark looked at him quizzically, Jimmy shrugged.
"Marianne's boyfriend met up with me this morning."
Clark flinched and shook his head.
Just as Jimmy approached Clark, Patricia from advertising stepped between them.
"You are such a pig!" she spat, and slapped Jimmy across the face.
Lois's jaw dropped, and she heard Cat chuckle.
"Two girls? Jeez, Jimmy!" Lois admonished.
"Not just two, Lois. CK, if you see Angela coming around here, give me a heads up, OK?" Jimmy glanced around furtively.
Clark laughed openly.
"Jimmy," Mitch chimed in, "couldn't you have reigned yourself in? Patricia and Marianne are two of the hottest girls working here, and they're both *very* taken!"
"Hey, I can dream, can't I?" Jimmy said as he looked at the astonished faces around him.
"Apparently not, Jimmy!" Clark joked. "But, seriously, how can each woman be the object of your desire?"
Blushing, Jimmy answered, "CK, what can I say, I'm young, I'm free, and there are so many beautiful girls!"
While the men were teasing Jimmy, Cat took the opportunity to taunt Lois some more. "So spill it, Lois. You and Clark seem thick as thieves lately. What happened? Did someone finally sledge-hammer some sense into you? You finally going to make a move on the Quarterback? Don't be surprised if someone else moves in for the *sack*."
Just then, Clark turned toward them. It was obvious to all that he saw no one but Lois. He grinned at her and winked. His response was so familiar, so warm. Her best friend. He was Clark — her Clark — no one else. Lois smiled and ignored Cat's barb. Cat shrugged mentally. It looked as though someone had finally answered the clue phone. But was it worthy of Cat's Corner? Nah…
Approaching them, Clark politely greeted Cat before turning to Lois.
"Well, partner, looks like we got the scoop again. Want to celebrate with a little brunch?"
"Celebrate, Kent? Hah! You should know that a reporter is no better than her next story. Celebratory meals are for hacks!" she teased with a twinkle in her eye. They both turned and walked toward the elevator. For each of them, there was no one else in the room. They waited for the elevator in a companionable silence.
Clark couldn't help but notice how comfortable Lois seemed with him today. She had accepted the truth so much better than he could have ever hoped for, but a nice, leisurely brunch would give her plenty of time to ask all the questions he knew she had been forming over the last twenty-four hours.
"So," Lois gave Clark a sly look as the doors closed on the newsroom, "I thought you said that the pheromone perfume last year proved you weren't attracted to me at all. But this dream showed *that* wasn't the truth! Did it finally prove that… *being* with me is your deepest desire?" Lois teased as she wrapped her arm through his.
Clark looked down into her eyes. "No, having you know the truth — about me, and how I feel for you — *that* was — is — my deepest desire. It always will be. It never seemed fair, you not knowing."
"Truth, justice, and the American way, huh? I don't think you're such a tough guy after all, Mr. Man of Steel. I do, however, think you're pretty Super." Lois smiled and, rising to her tip-toes, brushed her lips against his. The elevator doors opened onto the lobby, and they walked through them, together.
begun 14 January 2002
ended 26 February 2002