By Gerry Anklewicz <firstname.lastname@example.org> and ML Thompson <email@example.com>
Submitted: July 2002
Summary: In this elseworld tale, Lois and Clark find themselves involved in an investigation of mysterious drugs and kidnapping.
No copyright infringement is intended. We recognize that the characters are not ours. We are just borrowing them for a lot of fun and not for any profit. In other words, please don't sue us. We don't have any money.
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT no dogs, squirrels or other innocent (or not so innocent) animals were harmed in the writing of this story — except perhaps for a particular eagle and neither of the authors make any apology for causing those injuries.
WARNING: This story contains irreverent humor which might unintentionally offend some readers.
WARNING: This story contains adult scenes and situations which might be unsuitable for younger readers.
We'd like to thank our faithful beta-readers Carol Malo (who pointed out that one small section of our story is very similar to Labrat's "If Tomorrow Comes"-this was done unintenionally, but both of us admire Labbie's writing so please take it as a compliment) and Jude Williams who made sure that our t's were dotted and our i's crossed properly. Thanks also to Supermom and Artemis who acted as our Recreational Vehicle consultants who also added to our knowledge. If it wasn't for them, we'd be stranded on the road. Thanks also to the readers on Zoom's boards both gfic and nfic who critiqued our story. Thank you to Jeanne Pare for her work as our GE.
"What!" Lois and Clark exclaimed in unison.
Perry's eyebrows rose at this unusual moment of agreement on the part of his two best reporters.
"You heard me," he responded.
"I've got it covered, Chief," said Clark.
"I don't need help, Perry," said Lois simultaneously.
"And I don't recall this being a democracy," growled Perry in response.
"I work alone," Lois continued. "I don't need a partner."
"And you think I do?" asked Clark.
"You've been working on this for the past month. I've only had the story for a couple of days, and I've already caught up to you. Who would you say needs a partner?" Lois responded.
"A couple of days?" asked Clark in disbelief. "If I recall correctly, you've been working on this story since before I came to work at the Planet. I'd say that…"
"As much fun as this is," interrupted Perry, "I've already made my decision. You leave today." He removed a set of keys from his desk and placed them on top of it.
Lois and Clark both stared at the keys before, almost at the same moment, jumping for them. Perry had placed them closer to Lois, but Clark was fast. Still, Lois managed to get her hands on the keys first, snatching them up and sticking them in her pocket. She looked over at Clark defiantly.
"Fine," said Clark dismissively. "I'll meet you there in an hour. Just… don't try any funny stuff. I've got my reputation to think about."
A hint of a smile touched Clark's lips in response to Lois's scowl. Before she could find an appropriate response, he turned and left the room. Lois immediately turned to Perry.
"Perry…" she began.
"I don't want to hear it, Lois. Work it out yourselves. Just bring back the story."
Lois growled as she stormed from Perry's office, slamming the door behind her for good measure. Perry smiled. He had to admit that this hostility that had existed between Lois and Clark, since Clark had joined the Daily Planet staff a month ago, had brought in great stories as each tried to outdo the other.
Still, there was something there. Something beyond the cutting words and hostile looks. He wondered how long it would take them to realize it. He also wondered which of them would realize it first — if one of them hadn't already. And considering the stories they could bring in competing with one another, he was looking forward to seeing what they could do as a team. This story provided the perfect opportunity to get the answer to that question. It would be interesting to see what happened…well… if they didn't kill each other first.
Lois muttered scathing oaths at Perry for partnering her with that pretentious upstart as she stomped out of her editor's office. "I'll pick you up in an hour, Kent," she ordered as she headed toward the elevator. How dare he think that he could transfer from the New York Times and try to displace her as the Planet's best investigative reporter. The gall! Just because he seemed to get most of the interviews with Superman these days didn't give him the right to horn in on her investigation. Furthermore, he was too nice and too sweet to be able to deal with a biker gang. So now she had to investigate and babysit him. Just because he was good looking didn't make it easier for her to work with a rookie. All right! He wasn't a rookie, but he was new to the Planet. Mr. Greenjeans didn't have what it took to be successful in Metropolis.
Clark watched as Lois entered the elevator. How typical! He'd told her he'd meet her at the RV so, of course, she told him she'd pick him up. He let out a slow breath. He liked the idea of camping at the New Troy State Park and was even looking forward to getting into this investigation, but why did it have to be with Lois? Anyone else… He'd even take Ralph if he had to. So why Lois?
A corner of Clark's mouth quirked up for a moment as he thought about his comment to Lois when he'd left Perry's office. It wasn't often he was able to leave her speechless. If he didn't know better, he'd think he touched a nerve. Fortunately, she seemed to feel about him as he felt about her — barely constrained disdain.
Clark got up from behind his desk. If Lois was picking him up in an hour, he'd better get going now. After all, he wanted to do a patrol of the city before heading out with her. As he exited through the stairway, he thought back to the first time he'd met Lois Lane. Considering everything, the character of their relationship now was somewhat surprising. Of course, she didn't know that was the first time they'd met.
Clark had been working for the New York Times for about a year when the call came from Perry White that had brought him to the Planet. He'd accepted the offer immediately, although he'd decided to give the Times a month's notice. It was time to move on.
He never should have asked Linda King out that first time. Still, it would have seemed odd if he didn't date at all. He figured it was his Kryptonian biology that made him uninterested in women. So he'd asked Linda out. He wasn't quite sure how they'd ended up in a serious relationship. In the weeks preceding Perry's phone call, she'd been pushing to take the physical aspect of their relationship further than he was comfortable with. But he couldn't quite bring himself to disillusion her about their future. It was easier just leaving.
There certainly were times when his Kryptonian heritage had proven to be a problem. Linda, and his reaction to her, was just the latest example. But she was only one in a long line of disappointments. Ever since he was a teenager, watching his friends suddenly become interested in women, he'd known he was different. He'd certainly participated in the conversations. He'd just never seriously thought much about the feelings inspiring them. He knew he was supposed to get all hot and bothered when a beautiful woman looked in his direction. And although he could certainly identify a beautiful woman when one came along, he seemed basically incapable of having the normal human reactions.
His mind drifted back to one time, shortly after he'd begun traveling. He'd been in Viet Nam. He still wasn't sure how his companions had convinced him to go to that bar or why he'd allowed himself to be taken home by a beautiful Vietnamese woman — peer pressure, he suspected. But he wasn't sure who had been more embarrassed when she'd returned, after supposedly going to get him some food, completely naked. Fortunately, he hadn't seen her again. And he changed traveling companions immediately. Still, sometimes it would be so much easier if he were just able to respond like Earth males. He wondered if his reactions would be different if he were confronted by a Kryptonian woman. He suspected they would be — otherwise, what would drive Kryptonians to procreate?
In the month following his resignation, he had the chance to try out an idea he'd been playing with for a while. He figured that he'd been spared from death on Krypton for some purpose. But he couldn't use his powers to help others without jeopardizing his chance at a normal life. He'd wondered if he could come up with an effective disguise that would allow him to use his powers openly? When the offer had come from Perry, he grabbed the opportunity. He could try out the disguise in Metropolis, seeing if it worked before moving there as Clark.
He smiled. He'd first met Lois when he'd saved the Messenger this past May. At the time, he'd been surprised to find a stow-away reporter on the shuttle. Even though he'd just swallowed a bomb and lifted a shuttle into space, she had not been afraid. Knowing her now, it wasn't nearly as difficult to believe. The woman was fearless. In fact, she'd insisted on an interview. He had been impressed by her insightful questions. She didn't pull any punches. Her questions were, at times, hard hitting, but always fair. She had even accepted his boundaries when he'd told her that he wasn't prepared to answer all of her questions then — although she had managed to get a promise out of him to give her his first full interview. He had been looking forward to working with her.
She was even the one who had given him his name. He'd overheard her talking to Perry after he'd given her a lift to the Daily Planet. Perry had asked how strong he was. He could clearly remember Lois's words.
"He's really, really strong, Perry. I saw him lift the Messenger into space. He's super strong… He's a super strong man. He's a superman."
By the end of the day, every news publication in the world had dubbed him 'Superman'. That's what made his relationship with Lois now somewhat odd. Obviously, given his Kryptonian biology, he'd not been interested in a relationship with her, or any woman for that matter. But he had been looking forward to being her friend. He wasn't certain why they'd become so hostile to each other. She'd been difficult, sure. But he'd dealt with difficult people all his life. Yet, she just seemed to bring it out in him. And now… He chuckled. He had to admit, a few days of dueling with Lois did sound sort of fun.
He was somewhat surprised when he suddenly realized how much he actually enjoyed sparring with someone as bright as she was. He almost chuckled when he thought about the time he'd sent her to the sewage reclamation plant. She had retaliated the next day — making sure he received a tip that took him on a wild goose chase, literally. She'd had a source contact him, giving him a tip that took him to the petting farm at Metropolis Zoo. When he arrived, there were geese everywhere. She was the one who'd gotten the story that day.
Lois stepped out of the elevator and headed to the spot where Perry had told her she would find the RV. But there was only a vehicle a little longer than a family van. How could that be? Perry must have made a mistake. She checked the license plate number on the key chain. No, it was the same. She walked closer and looked in the window. The cab looked like Eduardo Friaz's family van that she had borrowed one night for a stake-out. The back wasn't visible because of the darkened windows. Her curiousity piqued, she put the key in the lock. It worked. The door opened. She looked towards the back of the RV. Were she and Clark 'GQ' Kent really going to have to spend time together in that? Lois had never been in a RV before , so she climbed into the living area ready to explore. The back was roomier than she had expected, but it was still small. Behind the driver's and passenger's seats were two other bucket seats. The four seats could swivel to face each other and form a square. There was a heavy plastic square that could be placed between the seats to use as a table. Lois found that she had no problem standing up in the RV, although she doubted it would be as easy for Clark.
Moving two steps toward the back, she entered the tiny galley kitchen containing a fridge, a hotplate with two gas burners, a sink and a microwave. With the way she cooked, she chuckled, she only needed the microwave. On the other side of the galley was what appeared to be a closet. She opened the doors and looked inside. On one side there were drawers, but on the other, was a toilet. She pushed the closet doors further open. It did provide some privacy, but… Lois wondered how much privacy there really was. She hadn't thought about personal needs before.
She walked past the kitchen/bathroom area into what was the sleeping area. Lois stretched her arms out. The width of the RV was not much greater than her own arm span. She shook her head in amazement. How were they ever going to have any privacy? On each side of the RV was a cushioned bench. In between, there was a table with more cushions on it. That was the bed! One narrow bed for the two of them? No way.
As Lois drove the RV to her apartment, she kept on wondering how she would be able to live in such close proximity to Clark for such an extended period of time. She found him extremely attractive. No, she couldn't think that way. They had to work together.
Her mind drifted back to the first time they'd met. She'd certainly noticed the good-looking man who'd come out of Perry's office. No woman with a pulse could not notice such a man. In fact, for the first time in years, the idea of taking a man home for the night had played in her mind. Or at least it had until Jimmy had shown the man to a desk. Suddenly she had visions of a very different kind — babysitting some newbie. She didn't have time for this now. She was up to her eyeballs following up a lead given to her by her narc friend.
She had directed her eyes back to some papers on her desk when he came over, hoping her obvious disinterest would keep him from speaking. Before he'd been able to introduce himself, Perry had called them all in for the morning story meeting. She could still remember that meeting as if it had happened yesterday.
"Boys and girls, I'd like to introduce the newest member of our team, Mr. Clark Kent. We've been lucky enough to steal him away from the New York Times."
Lois's breath had caught in her throat. She'd read this man's work. He was good. She'd glanced over at Perry. Was Perry trying to tell her something? Maybe he'd hired Kent because he didn't think she was pulling her weight. After all, for the last few years, she'd been top dog around here. In Lois's opinion, everyone else was just extra baggage.
She'd looked back at the devastating smile on the face of the obscenely attractive man they'd just been introduced to. God, he was good looking. She'd pulled her mind away from that thought immediately. He was the competition — and Lois did not sleep with the competition. Still…she couldn't help admiring how well put together he was.
"Thank you, Mr. White," he'd said, his voice reverberating inside Lois. "It's a real pleasure to be here. I've wanted to work at the Daily Planet for as long as I can remember so when I got Mr. White's offer…"
He continued on, but Lois evaluated that last piece of information — Kent had been approached by Perry, not the other way around.
"…looking forward to working with all of you." Then he'd turned and looked fully at her for the first time. Lois's heart had almost come to a complete halt when their eyes first met. "Especially you, Ms. Lane. I've been a big fan of yours for a long time."
She couldn't remember how she'd responded. Something appropriate, no doubt. And maybe she could have put her initial impression of him as the competition aside if it hadn't been for what had happened next. She'd told Perry about her idea for a story. She'd received a tip about a new drug on the streets. No one seemed to know quite what it was, but it had become known as jelly-beans because, apparently, the drug was being injected into normal jelly- beans. When she'd mentioned that she'd wanted to follow up on it, Perry had shot her down.
Then, when Perry had asked if there were any other ideas, Clark had spoken up. She'd almost laughed at his idea. Apparently he'd been down at the police station when a hysterical mother of a teenage boy came in. She'd told the police that her son had gone out to a party with some friends and hadn't come home. As if a missing teenager was news! Please! Still, instead of immediately dismissing the idea, Perry had asked Clark where he thought the story was. When Clark had mentioned similar disappearances of a number of other teens in recent days, Perry had told Clark to follow up. But it was Perry's next words that had irked Lois. "A story idea on your first day. That's what I like — initiative," Perry had exclaimed, looking around at the rest of them as if they were some how lacking.
Looking back now, she thought she'd handled the situation rather well — considering. But then he'd done the unforgivable — he'd stolen Superman. Any chance that they could work in a collegial atmosphere was lost when Clark brought in his first story with a direct quote from Superman. And Superman had gone down a notch in her estimation as well. He was her source, after all; she found him first.
She remembered how scared she had been as she stared at the ticking bomb on the Messenger. With, what she realized now was a great deal of audacity, she had tried to cut the wires leading to the bomb. She had known that she didn't have a clue about bombs, but there hadn't seemed to be any other hope. And then, out of the blue, this man had walked in, torn the plastique away from the wires, and, of all things, swallowed it. She had stood facing him with her mouth open. She had never seen anything like him before. It had taken her quite a while before she had returned to reporter mode. By that time, she knew that he was a friend. The answers to her subsequent questions validated her opinion.
And he was a friend who often turned up when she was in trouble, a frequent event. He had given her the first exclusive Superman interview, the one where she and the rest of the world learned that he was from the planet Krypton and that he had come to Earth to help. Other women focused in on his good-looks and fantasized about him, but she saw him as a good friend who treated her professionally and with respect. And then that first day, Clark Kent came with a Superman interview and undermined her position at the Planet. Superman was her source, after all. Clark had stolen him.
Lois had been so incensed at the newbie in the office that she decided to check him out. She called Linda King, a college friend, who worked at the Times' office in New York. Linda wasn't as helpful as she had hoped. She talked about Kent's skill as a reporter, but she also mentioned that she had dated him for a short time. Lois's ears had perked up. Linda mentioned that when they had first begun dating, Clark had been very attentive and very considerate. In the end, he just wasn't her type.
"What do you mean 'he wasn't your type'?" Lois asked. "You can't fool me, Linda. I remember you from college. Anything past puberty is your type." She paused for a moment to let her words sink in. "Come on, the truth."
"All right. When I tried to get things to move beyond the dating and the pristine good-night kiss, he became stand- offish. He was still polite and everything, but he wasn't available as much. Not long afterwards, he handed in his resignation. He said he was going to work at the Daily Planet."
When Lois hung up the phone, she chuckled. She could imagine Linda coming on strong, in a way that only Linda could, and Clark backing off like a scared rabbit.
Still, if the past month had taught her anything, it was that the heart wanted what the heart wanted. And what her heart apparently wanted was Clark Kent. That was why spending time alone with him in this small RV was so terrifying. She was having problems ignoring her attraction to him as it was. How would she survive being cooped up with him in this intimate environment, especially given his obvious disinterest in her? She often found herself wishing she knew how to break the pattern they had fallen into — a pattern of fighting about everything. Maybe if they could just get to know each other, he'd be able to see behind her tough reporter persona. The problem was that he seemed to have no desire to change their pattern of behavior. She pulled the van over into a parking space in front of her apartment building.
After rushing into her apartment, Lois began pulling out items she needed on her assignment: basic clothing, toiletries and make-up, and some trampy looking outfits that she had used for other undercover work. Then she looked at her sleep clothes. She eyed a lace nightdress that she had hanging in her closet. "Don't go there, girl. This is business," she told herself. She threw some t- shirts and sleep shorts into her duffel bag. Within an hour she was in front of Clark's apartment. He really had chosen a poorly kept area of town to live in. She honked her horn, and seconds later, Clark was coming out his front door, dressed in a pair of faded, tight jeans and a t-shirt that accentuated every muscle in his chest. Lois felt her heart rate increase. How was she ever going to survive in the snug little RV with Clark Kent if he was going to dress like that?
"Hey, Lois," he said as he opened the side door to the RV.
"Hi," she answered.
"Wow! This is really terrific," he said looking around. It didn't take him long to start opening up the cupboards to the kitchen. "Look at this! Wow! It's even got dishes and pots and pans… Hey look at this fridge. There's even some food in here. But we'll have to do some shopping, anyway." He kept inspecting, opening cupboards, checking under seats. "I wonder where we hook up the water and the electricity when we stop…Hey, Lois, get a look at this. There's a TV. I won't have to miss the Mets-Bills game. And it's even got a stereo system. Let me go get my CDs."
Before Lois could answer, Clark rushed out of the RV, went back into his apartment, and returned with a stack of CDs. Lois rolled her eyes. He got into the passenger seat beside her.
"Wait 'til I tell my parents about this. They'd love to go traveling around the country, and this would be so terrific. I never thought that an RV could be so well equipped. This is really going to be fun."
"Clark, buckle up. This is work, not the Cleavers meet Wild Kingdom." Lois turned on the ignition and started the four hour drive to New Troy State Park.
"Stop squirming, June," Clark said.
"I'm not," she said as she once again moved her right arm away from her body. He'd been calling her June ever since she'd made that crack about the Cleavers and it was starting to drive her nuts. However, correcting him had just seemed to provoke the matter. Maybe if she ignored it, he'd get tired of this little game and quit.
"It looks like you have a nervous twitch."
"I do not," Lois denied.
"You've been squirming like that since we got on the road," he said glancing away from the road to see her twist her upper body. "You couldn't keep still in the Piggly-Wiggly either."
"That was different, Kent." She surreptitiously twitched her body. "Speaking of the Piggly-Wiggly, that was some shopping spree you went on there," she said changing the subject. "It was as if you were bi- polar or something. One of you buys fruits, vegetables and health foods, while the other buys Twinkies, Ho-Hos, and cupcakes," she pronounced as she shifted her body and tugged at her inner arm. "I don't get it: you eat like an eight year old and you've got the body of a…" She made an erratic gesture with her hand, realizing that she didn't want him to know what she thought of his to-die-for body. "And how dare you take the keys away from me?"
"You were a menace, doing all those contortions while you were driving. What's up with that anyway?"
"Nothing." She used her whole body to shift position and stared at the passing landscape out the window.
He looked at her fidgeting with her shirt and her arm. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. "Dammit," she muttered. She stood up and headed to the benches at the very back of the RV. Still cursing, she rummaged through her duffel bag. "Dammit," she muttered again. She hated it when the underwire of her bra cut through the material and began poking her in the arm. And this was a new bra, too.
Clark chuckled as Lois got up and moved to the back of the RV. He watched her through the rear-view mirror settling down to some extent, although her grumbling continued. He drove on. Her muttering increased. "Darn, I don't have another one," she said as she rummaged through her duffel bag.
Clark observed her. Lois was reaching back, underneath her t-shirt, as if she was undoing her bra. He watched closely, expecting her to take off her t-shirt. But she didn't. Instead, he saw her put her hand into one sleeve and pull out a bra strap. His gaze shifted to the road in front of him. He checked in the side mirror. There were no cars around him. He checked out the back. He swerved a bit, but he was in control.
Lois put her hand up the other sleeve and pulled out the other strap. Either the air conditioning in the RV wasn't working properly or the heater was on. He adjusted the dials and turned up the air conditioning a notch to check it out. She then reached under her shirt and pulled out a white lace and satin bra. He stared at the perfect piece of clothing and exhaled. Embarrassed by looking at her intimate piece of clothing, he tried to concentrate on his driving. He couldn't believe it: the windshield had frost all over the driver's side. He pulled the RV to the shoulder of the road.
"What happened?" Lois asked.
"I've been having some trouble with the air conditioning. A gust of cold air just frosted up the windshield." He leaned forward and started to pull down his glasses in order to melt the frost when he felt Lois come forward.
"Here, let me help." She had a dish cloth in her hand that she must have taken from the kitchen. She leaned across Clark to get at the window. His eyes fastened on the perfect curves lightly covered by her t- shirt. With every move they magically, but subtly changed shape, each new posture calling to him. He'd never seen anything like them before. They were alive, vibrant, compelling. He felt his heart rate increase, but he couldn't get his eyes off the material that protected her breasts. He wanted to touch them, an impulse that had never occurred to him before, even that evening when Linda King had put his hand on her breast.
He felt himself heat up, and he moved his hands under Lois's body to turn up the air conditioning. His arm grazed her breast and he quickly drew it back. He watched in awe as he saw the definition of her nipple against the t-shirt. He felt some heat on his face and wiped the warm moisture away.
"I'm going to check the engine…see if anything is wrong with the air conditioning."
He stepped out of the RV and walked to the hood. He flipped it open and looked down at himself. He had felt his jeans tighten, but he hadn't recognized what it was. Feeling like a fifteen-year-old, he pulled out his t-shirt that had been tucked in and got to work on the motor.
Actually, to say he got to work on the motor would have been an overstatement. After all, there was nothing wrong with the motor. His breath had frosted up the inside of the window. Still, he needed a moment, so he tinkered around under the hood of the RV. He wasn't exactly sure what had happened. One minute everything had been fine and the next he'd been hot, sweaty, not in complete control of his powers and… He glanced down at his body again and let out a breath. What was that all about?
Was it possible that he was experiencing some sort of Kryptonian flu? After all, didn't people with the flu get hot and sweaty? He was almost certain that they did. And didn't they often complain of aches and pains in their body? Yes. And right now, he was certainly experiencing aching in one part of his body. Maybe that was it.
Still, he seemed to be feeling somewhat better. He wasn't nearly as hot as he had been a few minutes ago. And that other problem… Even that was beginning to abate. It was kind of embarrassing. He hoped Lois hadn't noticed. If she had, he'd never hear the end of it.
"So have you figured out what happened?" asked Lois from the open window of the RV.
"Umm… Well, no."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" muttered Lois.
"Listen, June, if you think you can do any better, you're welcome to come out here and try." He let out a breath of relief. It seemed that sparring with Lois was helping to get his mind off his problem and getting his mind off his problem seemed to be helping the problem go away. He'd have to remember to mention this to his parents when he got a chance. Maybe they could tell him if he'd ever had that form of the flu before.
"What? I thought fixin' cars and milkin' cows was the only reason the civilized world kept you farmboys around. If you can't even fix a car, what good are you?" Lois responded.
"Well, at least I know how to open the hood. I've heard you city girls can't even do that," Clark shot back. Yes, he was beginning to feel much better now. He removed the bar that held the hood open and allowed it to fall shut.
"You might be surprised at just what us city girls can do," she responded.
His eyes met hers, not quite sure what she was referring to, and suddenly the heat was back. He quickly broke eye contact and made his way back to the driver's door. He opened it and moved to climb in when suddenly Lois leaped over into the driver's seat, her arm brushing against his chest.
"Sorry, Kent," she said, "But since I know the way, I suggest you just get in the passenger side and be a good little boy."
Clark immediately backed away from the door. When he didn't respond, Lois glanced over at him. He was definitely sweating.
"Are you okay, Kent?" she asked, raising a hand to his face. However, before her hand reached its destination, he had moved back. She shrugged. He looked hot and flushed, but if he didn't want to tell her what was wrong, it really was his business. She just hoped he wasn't getting sick. That was all she needed. After all, she wasn't Florence Nightingale. She didn't do 'sick' well.
She waited until he silently made his way to the passenger's door and climbed inside. As she pulled the RV back onto the road, she glanced over at him again. He still looked somewhat flushed.
"Why don't you go into the back and have a nap while we go…"
"I'm fine," he snapped in return.
She glanced over at him, but he wasn't looking at her. He was staring silently out the window. She shrugged and turned her attention back to the road.
The man rolled the cigar between his fingers as he waited for his visitor. He heard the door open and someone enter before turning around.
"So, what did you find out?" he asked.
"My source confirmed it," the new arrival said.
The man took a drag on his cigar and took a moment to exhale as he considered this information.
"Have they been filing reports?" he finally asked.
"Apparently not. They are deep undercover. That's why we didn't realize who they were before. They aren't to report until they have what they're looking for."
"And what's that?"
The man with the cigar nodded slowly. "Then all we need do is eliminate them and the problem is solved." He took another drag on his cigar. "Call Sean McCarthy. I think this little problem is right up his alley."
"Yes, sir," the other man responded before turning and exiting the room.
Clark closed his eyes. Lois was back in the driver's seat while he was singing along to "Achy Breaky Heart". He was afraid to open his eyes because Lois's unconstrained breasts were like magnets to his eyes.
"We got a three hour ride here, Billy Ray," her voice broke into his off-tune serenade. "Am I going to have to listen to this…junk…all the way or can we talk about the case?"
"Talk about the case," he mumbled still keeping his eyes closed.
"Okay, I'll start because I know why I'm going to this biker hoe-down. My source told me that there is a connection between this drug I've been investigating and a biker gang."
"And, according to Superman…" Clark winced as he referred to himself in the third person, "the bikers were around at the two clubs from where the teens were last seen."
"Okay, that's a start."
"Tell me about the drug."
"It seems rather benign from what I understand. People who've taken it say that it relaxes their inhibitions, makes them mellow."
"How did you find out about it?"
"It's a source, Clark. I don't have to tell."
"No, you don't but we are working together," he argued.
Lois kept her eyes on the road debating for a moment. It made sense that he know her source if they were working together. He was still crossing over her boundaries at the Planet, and she had territory to protect, but she would compromise and tell him on a needs-to-know basis.
"He works at one of the clubs. He knows someone who I know. He tried to sell my friend these jelly beans, told him that he could get quite a buzz from them. My friend's quite straight-laced. He refused and, in the end, persuaded the seller to talk to me."
"You mentioned jelly beans. Do you really mean jelly beans?"
"Yeah, that's what they call them because the drug is injected into jelly beans. They're not expensive so kids can get them easily. Basically, the high from two or three beans is like a shot of whiskey without the bitter taste or whiskey breath for parents to find out or cops to find…"
"What about a breathalyzer?"
"I don't know. Anyway, according to the kids, there's a great buzz. Makes them party better."
"So what's the biker link?"
"According to the guy who works at the club, someone named Stinky comes into the club and sells bags of jelly beans. It's hush-hush but word gets around fast."
"Is the Glee Club that you mentioned to Perry the only place where the jelly beans are sold?"
"No, there are a few other places in town. I found out that a guy named Eagle sells in other places."
"Any relation between Stinky and Eagle?"
"I heard that Stinky alluded to some boss he had to check with. Another time he muttered something like 'Eagle isn't going to like this.'"
"And Stinky is a biker?"
"So it seems." She stared ahead at the road watching the road signs go by. One hundred more miles before they hit the turn off. She relaxed a bit. Talking business with Clark was easy. He asked the right questions and didn't waste time on trivia. She snuck a look at him. He was leaning back on the head rest, looking at ease and handsome. She wanted to run her hand over his face, push that wanton lock of hair back and kiss his soft lips. The thought was irresistible.
"Damn," she said as the bouncing RV jolted her out of her pleasant thoughts.
"The idea, June, is to keep the RV out of the potholes."
"Shut up, Kent. This RV isn't made for easy maneuvering." She drove on in silence, paying attention to the road ahead.
"Okay, tell me what you've got," she finally said.
Without skipping a beat, he began, "Four teens, all fifteen or sixteen, one girl and three boys are missing. They come from a variety of backgrounds and each went missing from a different place. The Glee Club was one of them and so was the Ace-o'-Clubs. The other two came from a pool hall and local donut shop. What these places have in common is…"
"That they're teen hang-outs."
"Right on the money, June. I asked around and found out that each of these kids was eating or drinking, got sick, went to the washroom, and never came back. Their friends went to look for them, one within minutes, but they were gone."
"So what's the Superman link?"
"Superman was in the neighborhood when another one of the kids got caught and heard the kid calling for help. He tried to stop the kidnapper , but the kid seemed to be really sick so he went to help him. By the time he could go after the kidnappers, they had disappeared. By the way, the kid told him that the kidnapper he saw was a woman. She was wearing a Metropolis Devils' jacket. He didn't see her face. When he was sick in the washroom she came to take him out. She wanted to lure him onto her bike, but he started to call for help and Superman appeared."
"So that's the link to the bikers? Pretty skimpy, I'd say."
"Bikers are selling drugs. The kidnapper is wearing a biker's jacket," he mused, wondering how tenuous the link was.
"And as a result, Perry thinks that our two stories are linked." She paused. "I think the chain is pretty weak.
"I'm not so sure about that, Lois. Think about it. One," he raised his pointer finger, "the drugs are sold to teens; two," he raised his middle finger, "teens are missing; and, three, bikers are common to both stories." He raised his third finger. "That's three things that they have in common."
Lois looked at his three fingers and thought about what it would be like to suck them. She shook her head.
"Perry may be right. I guess all we can do is get to the camping spot and hope that my source's eavesdropping abilities are as good as he thinks they are."
Clark hadn't realized that he'd fallen asleep until a sudden silence jolted him awake. He looked around quickly to see that the vehicle wasn't moving.
"Where are we? Why have we stopped?" he asked.
"It seems that Perry didn't make sure this thing had gas before we left," Lois replied.
"Oh," said Clark, wondering exactly where they were. "We're at a gas station!" he exclaimed when it finally sank in that they weren't stranded on the side of the road with an empty gas tank.
"Well, that's where I usually get my gas, Billy Ray," she replied.
"I just meant…never mind," he said, shaking his head slightly, trying to clear the sleep from it. It seemed that whatever was wrong with him was draining his normal energy levels. After the fever had finally subsided, he'd been exhausted. He had heard that people who had the flu slept a lot. He reckoned it was just one more thing to confirm his self-diagnosis. He briefly wondered if this Kryptonian flu was contagious, but then dismissed the idea. It was highly unlikely that Lois would be affected by some Kryptonian flu bug. At least, he hoped that was the case. Maybe he should keep an eye on her just in case — see if she exhibited any of the same symptoms.
"So?" she asked.
"So… What?" he asked in response.
"Well, the gas tank won't fill itself," she informed him.
His eyebrows rose. "Are you suggesting that I should be the one to get out and put gas in the RV?"
"Like, duh," she replied.
"Why should I do it? You're the one driving."
"And you're the one who grew up on a farm," she replied, as if that should explain everything.
"You're a liberated woman. Fill your own gas tank."
"I'm also the senior reporter here," she informed him.
"Give me a break," he muttered in response.
Realizing this tactic wasn't working, she changed approaches. After all, there was more than one way to skin a cat. "Claaarrk," she purred, batting her eyelashes at him. "Would you please fill up the RV? After all, the gas tank is on your side."
Clark rolled his eyes, but proceeded to open the door. "And women wonder why men are so confused," Clark mumbled as he climbed out of the vehicle. "On the one hand, they tell us they can do anything and balk if we try to as much as open a door for them. And on the other…"
His voice was cut off as the door closed behind him. Lois smiled slightly before thinking back and frowning. She'd actually been sitting in front of the gas pumps for about a minute before turning off the engine. It hadn't been a conscious decision, but when she'd looked over and seen that he was sleeping, it had just been too hard not to take advantage of the moment to take a good, long look at her gorgeous partner.
His head was back and his mouth had fallen slightly open. A small smile found its way onto her lips as she thought about how adorable he'd looked at that moment. Her eyes had explored his face before drifting down over his tight- fitting, black t-shirt. His arms, where they appeared below the sleeves of the shirt, were incredibly well-muscled. Her eyes followed the hard lines in his arms down to where his hands rested on his lap.
It suddenly occurred to Lois that his t-shirt wasn't tucked into his jeans. She briefly wondered when he'd pulled it out. After all, when she'd watched him come out of his apartment, she'd definitely noticed the way his t-shirt and jeans fit him. She brushed the stray thought aside as her eyes continued their trip down his body to look at the tight fitting jeans covering his legs that were stretched out in front of him. She had certainly noticed that he had a great body before, but to have this opportunity to drink it in unhindered by a fear of getting caught… Her hand didn't consult her brain before reaching out to run it over the muscles of his nearest leg. She jolted, pulling back her traitorous hand before it reached its destination. Quickly, she turned off the engine. He woke almost immediately.
"Do you have the company credit card?" Clark asked, pulling open the door to the RV.
"Umm…" Pulling open the glove compartment, she rustled around in it for a moment before handing the card to Clark.
"Thanks," said Clark, quickly closing the door, turning to walk into the station.
Lois shook her head. What was she thinking? She had to quit doing this. It was blatantly obvious that Clark Kent was not interested in her. If she kept thinking this way, it was only a matter of time before she would throw herself at him. And she was not about to humiliate herself that way.
The sun was low in the sky when Lois pulled the RV to a stop in front of the small ranger's building at the entrance to New Troy State Park.
"Damn," she said as she turned off the engine.
"What?" asked Clark.
"We should have called ahead and reserved a spot."
"I'm sure they'll have something," Clark responded, opening the door and stepping out. "Coming?" he asked.
Lois let out a breath and opened the door. She hoped he was right. Her cousin who owned an RV had told her it was hard to be spontaneous because the campsites filled up quickly. And since the Metropolis Devils were getting together here this week… She pushed open the door and stepped out of the vehicle as Clark entered the building.
She made her way to the door and opened it just in time to hear Clark say, "You must have something."
"I'm sorry. We've been filled up for the past hour," responded a young man who couldn't have been more than nineteen.
"We'll take anything," Clark tried again.
"I'm sorry mister. I really don't have anything I can give you."
Clark looked back at Lois. His eyes seemed to burn into her for a moment as if he was lost in thought. Then he began walking back to her.
"We'll find some place close by and…"
She listened to only the first part of his statement before pushing past him and walking over to the man behind the counter.
"Hi…" She paused, looking at him for an answer to an unspoken question.
"Bruce," the man responded.
She smiled. "Bruce," she repeated. She met his eyes before shyly looking away. "Are you sure you don't have any more spots?" she asked, reaching out to run her fingers over his tie, straightening it. "Isn't it possible that you missed something or that someone who reserved a spot hasn't shown up?" she asked.
"What's your problem?" asked Lois as she and Clark made their way back to the RV. "I got us a spot didn't I?"
"By throwing yourself at that kid," Clark responded.
"By flirting a little," she responded. "What's your problem, farmboy? You too pure to flirt with a source to get information?"
Clark ignored her to climb into the driver's seat of the RV. The truth was he was suddenly feeling depressed. He just had no idea why.
"You wouldn't be jealous, would you?" she asked as she climbed into the passenger's seat.
"Don't be ridiculous," scoffed Clark. Still, for some unknown reason, her words irked him. He wasn't jealous. He wasn't. After all, why would he be jealous? He just didn't like watching his partner throw herself at some stranger.
"I think you're jealous," said Lois, leaning back in her seat.
"I'm not jealous," responded Clark in a voice that sounded a lot like a pout.
She looked over at him in the half light of the RV, trying to see his expression. Deciding it was impossible, she shrugged and glanced out the window of the vehicle. They drove past a number of well-lit spots. She paid attention, trying to decide where the best places might be to begin the search. After a time, the lights got further and further between, and the darkness grew. Still, Clark drove on.
"Where are you going?" she finally asked.
"To our campsite," Clark said.
"You missed it," she said.
Clark shook his head and pointed to a stake by the side of the road with a number on it. '247'. She reached over and grabbed the paper Clark had laid on the dashboard. She flicked on the overhead light and read it. "Two seventy three," she said, glancing out the window to see another stake by the side of the road. This one read '249.' "We're going to be out in the middle of nowhere," gasped Lois.
Clark just shrugged in response, although he suddenly felt somewhat better.
"He gave us a spot in the middle of nowhere," she said again.
"Seems so," Clark responded, feeling quite a bit better now.
"There must be some mistake," said Lois, looking back at the paper she was holding. She turned it over in her hands.
"Here it is," said Clark, pulling into a deserted spot.
"This can't be it," she muttered.
"This is it," Clark confirmed, thoroughly looking forward to this assignment again. He pulled the RV into the spot and turned off the ignition. Lois continued to sit there as Clark climbed out. A minute or so later, he came back.
"There don't appear to be any utilities here," he said.
"What!" she exclaimed.
Clark shrugged. "I guess you didn't charm that young man as well as you thought you did," he said on a chuckle.
"Knock it off, Kent," Lois responded. "What are we going to do without power?"
"Relax, June. When we were at the Piggly-Wiggly… I always thought that was an odd name for a grocery store, by the way. When did it come to Metropolis? I thought they only had them down south."
"Kent!" Lois interrupted.
"Right," said Clark with a grin. It was just so much fun making her sweat. "When we were at the Piggly- Wiggly, I checked the propane level. So we have propane to cook. And the water tank is full. It isn't very big, but it should last us until morning and there seems to be a hand pump out here. And I even saw some candles when I was looking through cupboards earlier. And, just so you don't think I'm just another pretty face, I brought along a couple of flashlights. What else do we need?"
"Great," muttered Lois. "First, I get stuck out here in the middle of nowhere. Then I have to put up with Billy Ray thinking this is the greatest thing that's happened to him since Ma and Pa took him to the fair."
"Well, Bruce did say this spot was a little rough. What did you expect?"
"I thought he meant I might not like the neighbors," said Lois. "Not that I'd have to fight the bears to get to civilization."
"Where's your sense of adventure, June?" Then, before she could answer, he continued, "Look, I'm going to get some firewood in case we want to have a fire tonight."
"Fine," mumbled Lois, finally getting out of her seat and heading to the back of the RV. She began rustling through drawers until she found candles. A bit more digging revealed the location of the flashlights. She laid the various items on the table at the back of the RV. She then returned to rustle through the drawers again. "No matches," she muttered. "Great! Well, maybe my big strong protector can make fire," she muttered sarcastically. She let out a breath and made her way to the door of the RV.
"Billy Ray?" she asked, stepping outside. There was no answer. "Clark?" she asked again, this time a little bit louder. Still, there was no response.
"Where…" Her voice trailed off when she realized what must have happened. He'd snuck off to get the story himself. "That rat!" she exclaimed. "I should have known better than to trust those puppy dog eyes." Grabbing her jacket and a flashlight, she stormed from the RV.
Space number 273 was indeed in the middle of nowhere. It was located on a small peninsula just north of the main campsite, separated by two hundred yards of brush and trees that encircled the whole area. Using the lights as a beacon, Lois marched toward the road leading to the majority of the RVs. She wasn't sure what she was looking for or what she would find, but she knew that she had to find it before Kent did. She couldn't believe his audacity, just taking off like that.
She slowed down as she approached the outer ring of RVs, keeping the small wood on one side of her. The sun was setting. The orderly formation of RVs reminded her of little boxes on a hillside. Motorized suburbia! People were sitting on lawn chairs outside their RVs having drinks; some were preparing dinners on outdoor barbeques while others were inside their travelling homes. Children and dogs were running around, getting underfoot. Pretty domestic, Lois thought. Yuck!
Lois stuck to the outer path looking for some clue that she was on the right track. She had almost made a complete circle around the campsite when she finally spotted a number of people wearing black leather jackets with the insignia of the Metropolis Devils on them. Well, she'd found them, but which of the various groups contained the people she was looking for?
Deciding she didn't have a better plan, she focused in on one group of men sitting in front of one RV near the edge of the crowd. Two of the men were wearing black leather, Metropolis Devils' jackets, the third wore a black t-shirt and jeans. She stayed close to the woods, moving a little to get a better view of what was going on. She heard ribald laughter, but she couldn't make out any words. She left the shadow of the woods and moved closer to the RV, crouching down, hoping that no one would see her. Just as she got comfortable, black t-shirt and jeans and a petite woman moved away.
"We'll speak to you in the morning. Jessie's gonna go into town to pick up some groceries. I'm gonna tag along and get a case of beer. You guys want anything?"
"Naw, I'm okay, Frankie," said the big guy with the scruffy hair and unkempt beard.
Lois flattened herself against the RV, hoping that they wouldn't see her. After Frankie and Jessie left, a tall, blonde woman approached the men. She had a deep tan and long, French manicured fingernails. Lois wondered how she could keep them looking so great. She probably didn't work for a living. Her jeans hugged her svelte figure and the low-cut t-shirt accentuated her ample bosom. Lois looked down at her own chest and shrugged her shoulders.
"Vinnie, babe, come over here," said the bearded man, "Can you take Cookie out for a walk? She's been cooped up here all day. I gotta talk to Stinky."
Lois pulled in a breath. Stinky was the name of the biker her source had mentioned. Was it possible that she'd stumbled on the right group of scumbags? The next name she heard confirmed her suspicions.
"Sure, Eagle, hon. That's what I been meanin' to do. I need a walk." Vinnie ambled over to the RV and, to Lois'ss surprise, she unleashed a dog. "Come on Cookie, honey," she said massaging the dog's head and neck, "Who's my best pooch?" she asked putting her face close to the dog. "Come on, Cookie, baby. We're going for a walk. Yes, we are, you good doggie, you."
When Vinnie stood up and began walking the dog, Lois was surprised to see the ugliest pit bull she had ever seen in her life. "Cookie?" she whispered, incredulously. Lois, whose thoughts were interrupted by a man's voice, didn't let herself dwell on the dog.
"Stinky, quit cleaning up here. We've got business to deal with."
"Eagle," said the clean-shaven, neatly groomed man, "I'll sit down in a minute. I'm just going to shine my boots and then put these beer bottles away…"
"Sit down, Stinky."
Lois watched Stinky look over to Eagle and then at the beer bottles scattered on the ground.
"Pull up a seat, Stinky."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that. I'm not twelve anymore. I couldn't help it if the skunk sprayed me."
"Yeah, that was pretty funny, wasn't it?" Eagle guffawed.
"Maybe for you. It took days until the smell went away. It took weeks before I could inhale without smelling it."
"That was twenty-five years ago. Get over it." He waited for Stinky to sit down. "Listen, buddy," Eagle leaned closer, "I just got a message from the Boss today. He wants to know if we're ready for the demonstration, if the kids are ready."
"Not yet, Eagle. Hold off a bit. The last batch of jelly beans didn't work as well as the others. We need to check them out. We need some more kids, too. I think I know what's wrong, but I want to test it on someone who doesn't already have a build up of the drug in his system."
Lois held her breath. This is what she wanted to hear. Staying close to the RV, she moved closer to the two men.
"He's getting impatient," Eagle continued.
"So, do we want to show him an imperfect product or one that works? Tell him we need more time, but it'll pay off." Stinky started folding up the extra lawn chairs as the two men spoke.
"I'll hold him off for a while, but who's going to get the kids."
"Vinnie and Jessie can do that."
"Do you think Superman saw Vinnie in Metropolis?" Eagle asked as he reached for another beer from the case. He placed the bottle on the edge of the table beside him and knocked off the cap. Stinky watched the cap fall to the ground and seemed to need to restrain himself from moving to pick it up.
"Nah. We would've heard something in the news. Vinnie said that he was too busy with the kid, and she moved out of there real fast."
"And we better move out of here, too. We're still too close to Metropolis."
"I called the campsite at Siegel," Stinky said. "They've got room for us there."
"Good. We need to get outta this area. How many spots did you get?"
"Then we better tell Frankie and Jessie we're going."
"We need more muscle, too."
"We'll worry about it later," Eagle said taking a chug of beer. He got up and started walking over to the next RV.
In the distance, Lois heard Vinnie talking to Cookie. The dog had started barking wildly. She hoped that she wasn't the cause of the dog's discomfort, but just in case, she headed into the wood and began walking in the direction of Space 273. She heard the barking get closer. She flicked the flashlight on, feeling that she was far enough from Eagle's RV, and walked at a much brisker pace than earlier. As the dog's barking got louder, she broke into a run letting the darkness ahead direct her. As she moved away from the populated area, she lost her sense of direction, but she kept on moving forward. Cookie's bark got louder and, she feared, more ferocious. The darkness enveloped her.
All of a sudden, her foot got caught on a fallen branch, putting her off balance, and she reached out to break the fall with her hands. She landed face first in a puddle of water. Her palms hurt. She was wet. She had scraped her elbows. But worse, she had dropped the flashlight and it had gone out. She felt around for it, but only found what she hoped was leaves, twigs and mud. It was soft and gooey. She didn't want to think what else could be so soft and gooey. Cookie was still barking. She had no way to measure where the dog was in relation to her.
She got up and continued to run. She couldn't be far from the RV. She looked for a light, but she hadn't lit the candles when she left, and Clark probably wasn't back. She wanted to think about where Clark was, but right now she just wanted to get away from Cookie. She felt her t-shirt tear as she brushed against a branch.
Finally, the path cleared. She slowed a little to get her bearings and to catch her breath. All she could see in front of her was the night blackness. There were so many stars above her, but all she wanted was for someone to turn on the light. She felt some fur graze her leg and saw two eyes staring up at her. Then she heard Cookie. Lois started to run again, hoping that she was heading either in the right direction, or at least to civilization.
She placed one foot in front of her, and the ground slipped from under her feet. The world slowed down as she realized that she was falling and there was nothing to stop her or anything for her to grab. Her arms flailed out trying to reach for branches or trees, but she only found air. And so, she did the only thing she knew how to do.
"Help! Help!" she screamed, but she kept tumbling down.
And then she wasn't falling anymore. She was floating…up.
"Glad to be in the area, Lois," he said as he lifted her. "What are you doing here?"
But Lois couldn't answer. Her heart was pounding as if it would burst her chest. If it wasn't for Superman she would probably be lying at the bottom of the cliff if not like bug splat, then definitely badly hurt. She tried to catch her breath, but all it did was make her hyperventilate.
"You're all right now. Breathe slowly. You don't have to talk," Superman said. He placed her down on firm ground and looked around.
"Looks like this cliff is eroding and the ground at the edge isn't very solid. What were you doing?"
"Running away," she gasped, "from a pit bull…It was out to get me… Barking…"
"You mean the one that was after the squirrel?"
"Yes, I managed to save the squirrel before I saved you."
"Thanks," she said, not quite having regained her breath. "I'm glad… to know… I come in second… to a squirrel."
"It's not that. I knew how much time I needed to save you." He shrugged his shoulders." If I had saved you first, the squirrel would have been puppy chow."
Clark finally calmed Lois down enough to get her to tell him where she was staying. He lifted her and flew them straight to the dark RV. He went inside and turned on the cabin lights. With the light, he was able to see Lois. She was shivering. He glanced over her to make sure that she was all right. Her t-shirt was wet and see-through. The damp material was clinging to her breasts. He, on the other hand, was feeling warm again, and the ache that he had felt earlier was coming back. He moved his cape to the front. He didn't understand why, after all these years on Earth, he was getting sick. He wasn't even sure that any earthly medications would work on him. But, he had to make sure she was okay before he took care of himself.
"Your arm. Here."
Lois leaned back and tried to see what Superman was looking at, but she couldn't see.
"Do I need x-ray vision to see it?" she asked.
"No, it's here." Gently, his finger traced the gash on the back of her arm. He took his cape, which he had swung in front of him earlier, and patted the back of her arm. "It was bleeding pretty hard before, but now it looks as if it's slowing down," he said as he let his cape absorb the blood.
"What are you doing now?" Lois asked when she felt a warmth cover her arm.
"Cauterizing the cut with my heat vision. The cut's not too deep. It'll heal without a scar."
"I didn't realize that you knew first aid."
"I had to learn," he answered, looking for another reason to touch the soft silky flesh on her arm. He remembered when he scraped his knee, before he became invulnerable, his mother would kiss his "boo- boo" better. He wanted to kiss Lois's arm better, but somehow the kisses he pictured giving Lois weren't the same as the ones his mother gave him.
"That makes sense." She paused wondering why the superhero was so quiet. "What are you doing here?"
Caught up in thoughts of placing kisses on her arm, Clark barely heard her question. "Sorry, what did you ask?"
"I haven't seen you in a while and I was wondering what you were doing here?"
"Saving you…Oh, you mean what am I doing in the park…I…uh…um…was trying to find the woman who might be kidnapping those kids." In point of fact, he'd decided that getting the firewood was the perfect opportunity for Superman to put in a brief appearance in Metropolis. He'd only been using the disguise for a short time and didn't want anyone connecting Clark's trip out of town with Superman's absence. "I mentioned the attempted kidnapping to Clark and I guess you two are following it up."
"Why did you mention it to Clark and not to me? I thought we were friends…and now he's been getting interviews with you…and you told him your suspicions about this case…Aren't we friends anymore?"
"Lois, it's not that. It's just that…that…he's new. I'd like to give him a break."
"He doesn't need a break. He's a great reporter."
"He's what?" Clark wasn't sure that he heard her right. She didn't act as if he was a great reporter. As a matter of fact, she acted as if he were some hack from Nowheresville, trying to teach him the ropes, trying to be top banana.
"A great reporter. He doesn't need your help."
"I thought all you two ever do is fight."
"Well, of course we fight. How else would he know I was alive?"
"I'm not following this, Lois."
"I'm crazy about him, and he doesn't even know I'm alive." She pouted.
Clark gaped at Lois, not certain of what he heard, not certain of what to say. "I'm sure he knows you're alive, Lois."
"I wish I were so sure," Lois said softly. "I think he's incredible, but he…" Her voice trailed off. She looked into the superhero's eyes before continuing. "I really need some advice, Superman. Do you think I should tell him how I feel?"
"No. Absolutely not," he said without missing a beat.
She narrowed her eyes. That response had been awfully quick. Superman obviously knew something. "Why? Is there something wrong with him? Does he have a wife and family somewhere? Is that why he's not interested in women?"
"No. Absolutely not."
"He even brushed Cat Grant off. No one brushes Cat off. She's so easy, it's like offering a dog a bone and having it refused. Does he have some horrible disease or something?"
"No. No. Absolutely not." Clark needed to get away quickly. Lois was getting too curious and he wasn't sure how long he could put her off. Gathering all his control so that he sounded calm and normal, he said, "Look Lois. Don't worry about this. Clark is fine, I'm sure. Don't let this get to you. Now, I've got to go and finish up my patrol. You're all right, aren't you?"
"Then I'll see you. Just stay out of danger's way." He flew off.
Lois liked him, he thought. No, she was crazy about him. How was he going to deal with that? He almost wished he was like other men. After all, Lois was a beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, exciting woman. Any man would have to be a fool to refuse her advances. If only he were capable of those types of feelings, it would be awfully tempting to consider her as more than a colleague. As it was, he could only hope she'd take Superman's advice and keep her feelings for him to herself.
He shook his head, directing his attention away from Lois and onto his own problem. Right now he needed to find some way to deal with this fever. He even felt a little lightheaded. He was certain that he'd not handled Lois's declaration of her feelings for Clark as well as he could have were he able to think clearly.
Considering that Earth medications were unlikely to work, he had to find an alternate solution. Suddenly, he had an idea. He had heard something about bathing fever patients to lower their temperature. However, it was unlikely that a bath in cool water would even affect him. But maybe… He smiled. A dip in the Arctic Ocean seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
As soon as Superman left, Lois made her way into the trailer. She tried to run her hand through her hair. It was wet, grimy and full of mud. She glanced down at herself and pulled at her shirt. She hoped Superman hadn't noticed exactly how revealing her current attire was. She pushed the thought out of her mind. He'd undoubtedly seen enough during his many rescue attempts not to be shocked by her state of dress. It would be like a doctor being turned on by his patient.
She picked up her duffel bag. Whether or not Superman noticed her appearance, she felt grimy. And it wasn't just the physical filth. Coming that close to dying had left her seriously chilled. She needed the soothing feeling of having warm water running over her body. When she'd been out earlier, she'd noticed a public shower. She rustled through her bag for a moment. Although she'd brought lots of slutty outfits, she'd not brought what she needed now— something big and comfortable and comforting. Glancing at Clark's bag, she nibbled on her lower lip.
"Oh, just do it," she said, before grabbing his bag and opening it up. Finding a flannel shirt near the top, she pulled it out.
Then, throwing the shirt over her arm, she grabbed what she needed and headed for the building housing the showers. Once she arrived, she looked around. She could hardly believe people actually came to places like this for fun. She stepped into the small room adjacent to the showers and sat down on the small bench. She was about to remove her running shoes when she noticed how disgusting the floor was. Sighing, she took them off, removed her socks and then put her runners back on. This might not be the ideal way to do this, but it beat the alternative.
Once she was ready, she stepped into the shower. She sighed for an entirely different reason when the water began to flow. At least the water was hot. As she worked the shampoo into her hair, she thought again about her meeting with Superman.
He had been pretty adamant that she shouldn't tell Clark how she felt. It really seemed as if he knew something. She gave a sad smile. Maybe it was just that Clark had told him that he detested her. How could she feel so strongly about a man who could hardly stand her? Why couldn't she have fallen for someone more accessible to her like… Well, like Superman for example?
She considered that for a moment. Superman was certainly a great man. She had to admit she admired him very much. He gave so much of himself and never asked anything in return. But Clark… She sighed. Clark gave to everyone around him. She had watched him carefully since he joined the Planet, and she had read his articles. He seemed to have a natural compassion which people responded to easily. Superman was certainly strong. He'd proved that many times since he'd come to Earth. But Clark had a quiet strength that was infinitely more attractive to Lois. Superman was certainly good looking. But Lois liked the way Clark looked more. Lois chuckled slightly. Was that a sign that you were falling in love? Thinking that your man was more compassionate, stronger and more attractive than Superman?
She turned her mind back to her comparison of Clark and Superman. Clark's suits hid so much; whereas, Superman's appearance was out there for everyone to see. A small smile crept onto Lois's lips. The way Clark's clothes draped his body left so much more to the imagination. The idea of peeling off those clothes to discover the contours of the muscles that lay beneath for herself was almost irresistible.
She shook her head, trying to clear the images that were suddenly playing in her mind. She shouldn't be thinking this way. Superman had made it very clear that she shouldn't let Clark know how she felt. And, although he hadn't said why, it was obvious that he knew something. She would just have to find a way to get control of these feelings.
Clark noticed the light on when he approached the RV. He stopped and took a deep breath before continuing on his journey.
"Lois," he called as he laid down the firewood that he'd picked up on his way back. After all, that was the reason he'd given for leaving earlier. He wasn't looking forward to explaining why it had taken him so long. "Lois," he called again when no one answered.
Confused, he walked to the door of the RV and knocked. There was no answer. He opened the door and climbed inside. There was no one there. He walked back outside, feeling slightly concerned. What if she'd wandered off again and had gotten herself in trouble? He doubted he'd have heard her scream during his trip to the Arctic. And she had something of a talent for getting herself in trouble. He glanced down the road and felt an undeniable sense of relief when he noticed Lois walking towards him.
He noticed that she'd changed. What was more, she was wearing… Was that his shirt? His heart skipped a beat. In addition to the jeans and oversized shirt, she had no makeup and her hair was still wet. He could smell the lavender of her shampoo from where he stood. How was it he hadn't realized how beautiful she was before now? He glanced down at her runners and smiled. She'd obviously showered in her shoes. Somehow that little fact made her even more endearing. He made a mental note to give them a blast of heat vision after she fell asleep.
"I see you decided to make an appearance, Billy Ray," said Lois as she headed past him and into the RV.
"Umm… yeah," he said.
"I guess we should think about supper," said Lois as she sat down and pulled off her shoes. She gave them a dirty look before placing them outside and grabbing the towel to dry her feet.
"Umm… yeah," he replied.
She stopped what she was doing and looked up at him. "What's up with you?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "So you want to have supper?"
"Of course," he replied.
"Maybe we can even talk while we eat," she said.
"Talk?" he asked nervously, thinking again about what she'd told Superman.
"About the story," Lois clarified. He really was acting strangely.
"Oh, right," he said, suddenly relaxing. Work was good. Work was safe. "So what's for supper?" he asked.
"Don't look at me," she responded. "I had intended to pop a Lean Cuisine…"
"You brought Lean Cuisine to a campground?" Clark asked in disbelief.
"Yeah," Lois responded with a shrug of the shoulders.
"Well, I've got salad in a bag, chicken breasts and pasta. I suppose we could make something up with that. "
"What do you mean 'we', farmboy?" asked Lois.
"I just assumed…"
"You assumed wrong. My skills in the kitchen include frozen dinners, and macaroni and cheese. I don't even know what half the stuff you bought is."
"Lois, you're an adult. You must…"
"I'm a reporter, Billy Ray," said Lois. "You have heard of those, haven't you? I don't do food."
Clark stared at her in disbelief for a moment before saying, "You really aren't June Cleaver, are you?"
"Great deductive reasoning, Sherlock," Lois responded. "What was your first clue?"
Lois could hardly believe how incredible the food was that Clark had managed to whip up for them. The salad was dressed with a light vinaigrette, the pasta was tossed with some fresh herbs, garlic and succulent chicken slices. As she dug into her food, she turned her mind to Clark's earlier disappearance. He claimed that he'd had to go to the other side of the campground to get firewood. She wasn't entirely sure she believed him, but let it go. Right now there were more important things to worry about. She filled Clark in on what she'd overheard Eagle and Stinky talking about.
Clark leaned back in his chair when she finished. "From what you're telling me, I'm getting the impression that they've kidnapped a lot more than just four kids."
"That was my feeling, too."
"And they indicated that they are using the kids for some kind of experiments?" Clark asked.
"That was my distinct impression. They also mentioned the jelly beans. But that doesn't make any sense to me. After all, from what I'd found out previously, the jelly beans were no different than drinking and while that's not ideal, why would someone want to find out what effect drinking would have on teenagers?"
"Unless they inject more than one type of drug into the jelly beans," said Clark.
Lois nodded slowly. "Look, Clark," Lois said, her voice betraying her uncertainty about what she was about to say, "I was sort of thinking that maybe… I mean in the light of the seriousness of this particular story…"
"That we should call a truce?" asked Clark.
"I agree," said Clark. "So any ideas about where we should go from here?" he asked.
"Well, I think we have to follow them to their new campsite. And, given the fact that Stinky said they needed more muscle…"
"We should use that to infiltrate the group," Clark concluded.
They looked at each other and smiled.
"Okay, then I'm going to go back to the ranger's station to make a call to reserve us a spot for tomorrow," said Clark. "What was the name of the park we're going to?"
"Siegel. Hmm. Didn't he write comic books or something?"
Lois shrugged her shoulders. "Do I look like the type who reads comics? Just go do it Clark. I'm going to write up our notes," said Lois, rising from her seat and carrying their dirty dishes into the kitchen.
"Just one more question," said Clark.
"And that would be?"
"Why are you wearing my shirt?"
Lois felt a moment of panic, but that quickly died as a response occurred to her. "I'm sorry," she said casually. "Do you want it back?" With her words, her hand went to the top button on the shirt and she began to undo it.
"No! No, that's okay," gasped Clark, his eyes seeming unable to leave her hands.
Lois shrugged and lowered her hands. She smiled when she realized that her actions had Clark blushing.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," said Clark awkwardly. "I'm going to run up to the ranger's station now."
Clark immediately rose and headed for the door to the RV. Lois was deep in thought as she watched him go. Every action has an equal and, at times, a surprising reaction, she thought. However, it was almost as if she'd known he would respond the way he had. It seemed odd to her that he had stopped her. Most men, at least in her experience, would have let her proceed — to see how far she would have actually gone. She'd had her response ready had he not stopped her prior to undoing the second button. "In your dreams, Kent." But she hadn't had to use it. What was it about Clark Kent anyway?
Clark returned to the RV pleased to tell Lois that he had managed to reserve a fairly good spot at the Siegel campsite for the next day. Instead, he found Lois lying diagonally across the bed. Asleep.
"I get the gas," he muttered to himself. "I cook the dinner, and she gets to sleep in the bed. I can't believe how she always manages to get her way." Clark shook his head while trying to figure out how to set up the bucket seats into some semblance of a bed. He removed the table that they had used for dinner, and played around with two of the seats until he had them facing each other. He glanced back at Lois cuddled on the bed. "I thought women's lib was all about equal treatment of the sexes. Why do I feel like I'm getting the short end of the stick here?" Not that he really minded, but he did wonder what was to happen to the middle of his body as he lay between the two seats. They were supposed to turn into a bed somehow. He'd just have to make do. He took the pillow and blanket that Lois had left for him and lay down.
He looked over at Lois lying snugly on the bed, arms wrapped around her pillow, knees curled up to her chest. She looked peaceful. He tried to find a comfortable position where his bottom didn't sag between the two seats. He rolled over. "I don't get it. How do I let myself be manipulated by her? She got everything she wanted today." He shifted his long legs on the second seat and finally let one drag onto the floor. "That woman is going to drive me nuts. No wonder I like to work alone." He rolled over and tugged the blanket over his shoulder.
He tossed and turned a few more times before he got up and went to the fridge for some milk. If he could float, without worrying about Lois seeing him, then he would get some rest. As long as he worried about being discovered, he couldn't let his guard down. Who knew what Lois would do knowing he was Superman? He could deal with this, he told himself. He got back into his makeshift bed and covered himself.
But his eyes weren't closing. He looked toward the back of the RV. Lois was still lying in the same position. He looked at the outline of her legs curving up her back. Where did her legs end? They seemed so endless, as if some artist took a brush and painted this intriguing line that represented her. Like a Picasso. He heard her soft, rhythmic breathing. He wondered if a composer ever used that sound to create music. Clark threw off his blanket. The night was warmer than he'd expected.
As if they were in sync, Lois moved, throwing off her blanket. Her graceful, long legs stretched out on the bed and she rolled to her other side, facing him now. His eyes strayed down the length of her body to her feet. The circumference around her ankle was so small; he could easily wrap his hand around it. The skin looked so smooth. He looked down at his hand that seemed sandpaper rough in comparison. Her perfume permeated the RV and Clark wondered why he had never noticed how good a woman's shampoo smelled. He wondered if there was a window he could open.
Once again, Lois shifted position. Clark stared at the exquisite movement wondering if she took dance lessons when she was younger. His eyes traveled from her shapely legs and followed the buttons on the shirt to the top button which revealed the soft curve of her breast. Was it as soft as it looked? His finger wanted to trace that line, to feel the softness. He knew he shouldn't be thinking like that, staring at her, but he couldn't stop.
The heat washed over Clark again. He started to feel the walls of the RV closing in. Obviously, he wasn't going to get any sleep. Flying a patrol over Metropolis seemed like a good idea.
The cool night air jolted him back to reality as he headed back to the city. He really needed to find some time to fly to Smallville and speak to his parents about this flu. They probably had a better idea of what was happening to him than he had. Let's face it: he'd never been sick before. Interestingly, the symptoms didn't last long, and the cool dip in the Artic seemed to lower his temperature, at least for a short period of time. Funny, the aching only seemed to occur in one place though. Clark thought that the achy feeling associated with the flu was supposed to be all- over.
Obviously, he should stay away from Lois because there might be a possibility that a human could catch it, and he didn't want Lois to get sick. She looked so beautiful lying there asleep. For the first time, he really understood why artists liked to sketch women. They had such interesting, soft curves. He remembered once again the curve of her breasts that peeked out from beneath the shirt she was wearing. He remembered those breasts under the wet t-shirt. He closed his eyes and retrieved the memory of those images.
"Sorry," he said as he flew into a light beacon on top of the Metropolis Tower, bending it out shape.
Clark looked down into the streets below him. It was fairly quiet except for a group of people hanging around the deserted harbor. He flew in closer.
"Boys," Clark said as he descended to street level, "defacing property is a criminal offence. You should know better than that. You're going to have to…" Clark stared at their graffiti. Curves, like Lois's curves. Curves that represented people, obviously men and women…Clark took a closer look. He tilted his head to the right and then to the left. Having never really studied this kind of graffiti or artwork before, he moved in toward the wall.
Brad Nimmons worried that they were busted. He and his friends had decided to spray paint the Metropolis Customs' Office with some erotica to protest the illegal confiscation of imported erotic artwork. Many art dealers felt that the wanton destruction of the artwork in the latest batch of books was an indication of the custom officials' Puritanism and ignorance. Brad and a group of friends from the Metropolis College of Art had decided to adorn the office building with some examples of the work that was being destroyed. They hoped that a reporter from the Daily Planet, perhaps, would come to see their work. Instead, Superman had arrived. Surprisingly, he did not ask them to remove the artwork, did not take them into custody, did not ask them to clean the wall. Instead, he just stared at the artwork, floating around, trying to understand it.
"Can someone really do that?" the superhero asked.
Brad looked at his friends and shrugged his shoulders. "How would we know?" Not getting an answer that helped him, Superman rose in the air, studying the picture for a moment longer. His fever was rising. He took off again hoping that a higher altitude would cool him off a bit.
Brad and his friends looked at each other in disbelief as Superman took off. Wasn't he supposed to bust them?
Not understanding this unexpected turn of events didn't stop the young men from taking advantage of it.
"Come on guys," said Brad. "Let's finish this off before anyone else comes."
The cool air helped Clark get on track again. He watched the city below him, looking for any oddities that would call for his attention. It was quieter than usual. He liked floating in the clouds. The freshness of the air reminded him of Lois'ss shampoo and the clean, soapy smell that rose from her skin. She had glowed when she came back from her shower. She was brilliant, courageous, beautiful… very beautiful, he admitted to himself. He liked looking at her, watching her move. She reminded him of a fine painting, an exquisite sculpture. She had classic lines. Maybe that was what Earth men found so appealing in their women. Maybe, he thought, he found Lois attractive. No, no, he argued, that's impossible. He was Kryptonian. How could he ever find an Earth woman attractive? Could he be turned on by an Earth woman? It had never happened to him before even when Linda King and Cat Grant had used their seductive charms. No. He was not susceptible to them. He was left cold by it. No. He was just appreciating Lois as an example of perfection…well, except for when she was stubborn and querulous.
Clark looked around. He was no longer in Metropolis. Below him was water, lots of water. He wondered how he'd got over the Atlantic Ocean. It definitely wasn't the direction he'd been heading in. The last place he was aware of was on the outskirts of the city. How did he get over the ocean? The water looked cold. He decided to take a dip before he returned to New Troy State Park.
Lois woke up the next morning feeling uncomfortable. The bed was harder than she'd expected and her bladder was very full. She remembered that she was in an RV, on an assignment with Clark Kent. She looked around for Clark. She called his name, but he didn't answer. Alone in the RV, she decided that she couldn't wait, that she had to risk going to the washroom. She looked at the privacy panels that blocked off the rest of the RV from the toilet. Her bladder told her that she didn't have much of a choice-she had to go. Lois swung out the privacy panels so that one blocked off the midsection of the RV from the back, and the other blocked it off from the front. She sat down on the toilet. Looking around, she was surprised to see Perry reach past the panel to get a glass of water from the sink.
"Excuse me, darlin'. I'm sure you won't mind."
"Perry? What are you…" Before Lois could get the rest of the question out, Cat Grant opened one panel and walked through to the back.
"Now, I could give this mattress a good try out. Lois, what have you done with that Clark of yours? I'd love to have his slippers under my mattress," said Cat, as she casually walked by.
"Are you looking for me, Cat?" asked Clark, following Cat to the back.
"Way to go, CK," Jimmy cheered his friend on.
"Excuse me," intoned Lois. "Excuse me. I'd like some privacy, if you don't mind."
Lois woke up feeling uncomfortable. Her bladder was full and she was in this RV where there was very little privacy. It took her a minute to realize that although the RV was real, what just happened before was a dream. She sighed in relief. But she was still stuck with a full bladder. She didn't really want to walk to the camp washroom. It made the Metropolis Sewage Reclamation Plant look sanitized. She looked around. Clark was not in the RV so she opened up the privacy panel and risked using the toilet. Never had anyone ever gone to the washroom quicker.
Lois took a seat on the edge of the bed and wondered where Clark was. It seemed that every time she turned around, he was gone. She jolted slightly when she heard what sounded like water running. She peeked between the slats covering the window just in time to see Clark walking towards the pump he had mentioned last night, carrying what appeared to be a pot of water. Why would anyone be taking water to a pump? Wasn't the idea to get water from the pump?
Still, as she watched him walk away from the RV, she found herself admiring the way his jeans fit across the muscles of his posterior. She gave a small sigh. She quickly jumped back when he glanced at the RV, almost as if he'd heard her. She laughed at herself for the thought. Besides, the windows were dark and the slats provided further privacy. Even if he had heard her, which was impossible, he couldn't possibly see her watching him.
Still, she waited a moment before crawling across the bed on her hands and knees until she was once again at the window. She moved the slats as little as possible to look out again. His back was towards her, and he was bending over slightly. She watched his t-shirt slip out of his jeans, giving her a glimpse at his lower back. She let out a slow breath, wishing she had x-ray vision.
Watching him raise the pot containing the water, she was fascinated to realize that he was pouring the water into the pump. What an odd thing to do! She continued to observe as he set down the pot and began working the lever. A small smile crept onto her lips as she watched the muscles in his arm move under the tight skin. She seldom got to really appreciate his muscular arms. Why would anyone hide muscles like that under a suit? Soon she could see water coming out of the pump. He bent over to place the pot he'd just emptied into the pump underneath the stream of water.
She jumped back when she saw him get splashed. Although she couldn't hear what he was saying, she could tell that he was probably muttering something as his hands reached over his head to grab the neck of his t-shirt. As he did, she realized that his shirt was wet.
"Yes," she breathed as the t-shirt slowly slipped from his body. She sucked her lower lip into her mouth as her eyes took in every new bit of skin. She watched in transfixed silence as he held the t-shirt out in front of him for a moment as if by looking at it he could make the wetness go away. Then he glanced at the RV, lowered his shirt and wrung out the excess water before turning back to the pump.
As he resumed his task of filling the pot, she watched the hard muscles of his back work. It wasn't long before he stopped, picked up the pot and began carrying it towards the RV. She sank down slightly but couldn't quite stop looking. If she thought his back was fantastic, running her eyes over his hard pecs, still glistening with drops of water from his mishap, and following his chest down to his well-defined abs and then on to the belt holding up his jeans, was incredible.
Her tongue automatically went to the corner of her mouth to catch a bit of drool that was trying to escape in response to the sight before her. There was not a spare ounce of flesh anywhere on his body. He could have been the model for Michelangelo's David.
He disappeared from view momentarily. Frowning, she wondered if that was the end of the show, but she smiled again when he walked back with a towel slung over his shoulder. He soaped his upper body and she watched the lather coat his bronzed skin. She settled down on her knees on the bed, making herself more comfortable as she continued her foray into the world of voyeurism — the very satisfying world of voyeurism, she thought with a grin.
Suddenly, she noticed that the window wasn't nearly as easy to see through as it had been a minute before. She puzzled over the problem for a moment before realizing that she'd been sitting so close that she'd managed to steam it up. Using the sleeve of Clark's shirt, she quickly wiped the area in front of her so that she could continue watching.
In all too short a time, Clark picked up his shirt and headed for the RV. She sighed and then was struck by a different thought. He was coming in here. That hunk of a man was coming in here and… he was shirtless. She ran her tongue over her lower lip and could feel her heart rate increase at the mere thought that she was going to be so much closer to those fabulous muscles.
Her breath caught in her throat as the door opened and Clark climbed aboard.
"Morning," he said when his eyes met hers.
"Morning," she replied. "How long have you been up?" she asked, getting up from the side of the bed.
"A while," he replied vaguely, walking towards her to put the pot back in the cupboard.
Seeing her opportunity, she moved at the same moment.
"Excuse me," she said, pushing herself past him. There was barely enough room for one person in the confined space. She had to push herself through the space between him and the wall. As she did, her hands touched the bare skin of his back.
His warm body felt just as incredible as she had thought it would. The muscles seemed to have a life of their own, twitching under her fingers as if responding to and trying to connect with her on some instinctive level. She almost laughed at her fanciful thoughts.
She tottered slightly, pressing herself up more solidly against him while her free hand landed on his waist. She felt his stomach muscles contract slightly under her touch.
"Sorry," she muttered, trying to sound apologetic. He gave some indistinct reply. Knowing she couldn't linger any longer without making a complete fool of herself, she was soon standing on the other side of Clark. She didn't dare look at him to see how he was reacting to their close encounter, knowing that her own cheeks were now a revealing shade of pink. She spotted her duffel bag, picked it up and began to rustle through it. However, she was unable to concentrate on the items of clothing her hands were currently touching — still being consumed with their last encounter.
"I guess I should give you some privacy to get dressed," said Clark, turning and without looking at her heading back out of the trailer.
"Umm… yeah," said Lois, somewhat confused by how abrupt his exit had seemed. Still, she turned her attention back to her duffel bag, pulling out the clothes she needed to begin the day and wishing, once again, that she had a bra.
"It will just take a minute," said Lois in exasperation.
"Look, why don't we stop somewhere after we get on the road?" replied Clark as he shifted the RV into drive. "Then we can have a proper breakfast."
"Listen, Billy Ray, we don't go anywhere until I've had my coffee. If you had a little more foresight you'd have thought to buy some coffee at the Piggly-Wiggly."
"Me?" asked Clark in disbelief. "Why me? You were there, too."
"You're the chef, not me," Lois replied, looking out the window as the RV made its way through the campground."
"Chef. As in cook," said Clark. "That doesn't…"
"Exactly," interrupted Lois.
Clark let out an exasperated breath. He'd been about to explain that just because he could cook didn't mean that he could anticipate her every whim. Still, he, once again, gave in, pulling the RV up in front of the convenience store located next to the ranger's station. She had the door open before he even got the vehicle in park.
"I'll just be a minute," said Lois, jumping out and heading into the building.
Clark leaned back in his chair and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. Lois Lane was going to drive him absolutely 'round the bend before the day was out. He briefly considered following Lois inside; he'd really like a cup of coffee too, but then rejected the idea. He had the driver's seat. He wasn't about to risk losing it.
He glanced out the window at her disappearing form and smiled. He had to admit, he admired her spunk. She knew she would want coffee in the morning. She should have been the one to think about buying it. And yet… He chuckled.
The chuckle died and a small furrow appeared on Clark's brow as he realized just how much he was enjoying spending time with Lois. What was it about her? At times she drove him absolutely bonkers and other times… It suddenly occurred to him to wonder… Nah. It couldn't be.
His mind drifted back to a conversation he once had with his father.
"Someday, Clark," Jonathan had said, "you'll have a wife and family of your own."
Without missing a beat, Clark answered, "That will never happen."
"Why do you say that?"
Clark answered with absolute conviction, "I'm not made that way."
"But you've got all the parts of a man."
"Yes, but it's not all physical. Dad, a long time ago, I realized that it's not going to happen for me."
He wasn't attracted in that way to Earth women. It just wasn't in him. Or was it?
Lois entered the convenience store and was relieved to see a small coffee table. It appeared to work on the honor system. The sign said fifty cents for a cup of coffee and beside the sign sat a bowl with various coins inside.
She was just about to make her way over when the woman currently getting coffee turned towards her. Lois recognized the very attractive native woman immediately, although it took her a moment to find the right name. Jessie. She was with Frankie outside Eagle's trailer last night. She quickly redirected her course, grabbing a magazine from a nearby rack, and hid her face behind it.
"Ready?" she heard a male voice ask.
She peered around the edge of the magazine to see the man who'd spoken. It was Frankie. Keeping her face obscured by the magazine, she inched slightly closer to the couple.
"Yeah," replied Jessie. "Oh, and thanks for stopping, hon."
"Well, I know you can't start the morning without your coffee," Frankie replied, giving her a brief kiss on the cheek.
Lois fought back a sigh. She'd practically had to pull Clark's teeth out to get him to stop at the store. Why was the bad guy the one who took care of his woman? Not that she was Clark's 'woman,' she thought sadly. Still…
"I really should have thought to pick some up when we went for groceries last night," said Jessie, pouring some milk into her coffee.
Okay, so maybe that was the trick — to apologize even if it isn't your fault. Maybe if she had, Clark would have been easier to persuade to stop. She rejected the idea immediately. She wasn't about to feed his ego just to get him to do things for her. That wasn't her style. Not that she particularly had a style when it came to men. Maybe if she had, she'd have some idea what to do about Clark Kent.
"So, are you ready?" asked Frankie.
Jessie nodded. "Did Eagle say where we were to meet them. After all, it is a big campsite. Much bigger than this one."
"Yeah. He said to meet them at four at Sykes.
"Not that smelly, noisy bar," groaned Jessie. "Please, tell me it isn't."
"'Fraid so," said Frankie. He slipped an arm around her waist as they walked towards the exit. "Look at it this way," he continued. "At least it will be dark enough that no one should notice if we…" He placed his mouth next to her ear and whispered something that made her grin and then slap his chest playfully. Then the door opened and they were gone.
Four o'clock. Sykes. She pulled the magazine away from her face and for the first time noticed what she was holding. Playgirl. She looked at the picture in front of her for a moment before shutting the magazine and quickly sticking it back where she'd found it. She glanced around, hoping no one had noticed what she'd been looking at. She observed an older woman sitting at one of two booths close by, looking at her curiously.
"Always wanted to see what was in those things. It's disgusting," Lois concluded.
"I've always thought they were kind of interesting myself," the woman responded, completely startling Lois. Then the woman looked at her companion, another woman, and added. "Trust me, those men are better looking than my Eddy."
Lois fought back a laugh as she made her way over to the coffee table. As she prepared her coffee, she briefly wondered if she could persuade Clark to pose for Playgirl — or at least long enough for her to take the pictures. She had a sneaking suspicion that the models in that book had nothing on Clark. She finished with her coffee and was about to leave when she hesitated. Setting her cup down and tossing another fifty cents in the bowl, she poured a second cup of coffee, preparing it the way Clark liked it.
Clark glanced in the rearview mirror to see Lois rustling around in the back. He'd tried to tell her that she shouldn't be moving around while the RV was moving, but she had more energy than anyone he'd ever known before. Maybe it would have been better to let her drive. At least in the driver's seat, she was likely to stay seated.
He jerked and looked forward when he hit a pothole. He quickly looked back to be sure that Lois was all right. She was still trying to catch herself. Realizing that she was all right, he was about to look back at the road when he hit another pothole. As the RV bounced, he couldn't help but notice the fascinating movement of her breast under the light t-shirt.
Suddenly, he found that breathing was something of a chore.
"You really don't have to hit every pothole, you know," said Lois sarcastically as she once again steadied herself.
Clark quickly glanced back at the road. "Sorry," he muttered.
He concentrated on his driving for a moment, but his mind was still consumed with what he had seen only a moment before. He wondered briefly if Lois looked anything like the woman in the graffiti he'd seen last night. Suddenly, he had to know. Without thinking about what he was doing, he pulled down his glasses and concentrated his x-ray vision on the image in the rearview mirror. He blinked when the mirror vanished and he was staring, not at the image he'd wanted to see, but out the windshield of the RV.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked himself in absolute horror. What could possibly have possessed him to do such a thing as attempting to invade her privacy that way?
"What?" asked Lois's voice behind him.
"Nothing," muttered Clark, turning his mind back to the road. "I was thinking that maybe we should stop and pick up some more supplies on our way to the campground," he said, trying to redirect his mind to another subject.
Still, try as he might, his mind kept taking him back to what he'd done… or almost done… or tried to do. Attempted voyeurism. How could he have done that? He'd never even been tempted to do something like that before. It must be this flu. What… His thought trailed off as a new thought struck him. The flu. Why had he never made the connection before now? The fever symptoms always started when he was with Lois. Was it possible that she was somehow responsible? But how…
Suddenly he gasped.
"Everything all right?" asked Lois, coming up to take a seat beside him.
"Umm… yeah, fine," Clark replied. 'Liar,' his mind taunted him. He glanced over at her quickly before again looking away. Why hadn't he considered that the heat, the aching and the longing he was experiencing were due to the woman next to him? The answer came to him almost immediately — because he had believed himself incapable of those types of feelings for an Earth woman. He chewed on his lower lip as he considered the possibility. The reactions he'd been having over the past day were certainly consistent with what he knew intellectually about sexual attraction. In fact, they were so consistent that he could hardly believe that the connection hadn't done more than flitted through his mind on a couple of occasions. And when he thought about it now, they were connected with seeing Lois or thinking about Lois. In fact, that was the only thing that the timing of these incidents seemed to have in common. But why Lois?
He certainly admired Lois. And there was no denying the fact that he found her beautiful. Still, it wasn't just the high cheek bones and the legs that seemed to go on forever. It was…he couldn't quite define the quality that Lois had that he found so attractive. It was little things he didn't expect, like bringing him a cup of coffee this morning, that moved him. But did that necessarily mean…? He sighed. He just didn't know. It certainly made sense. But after more than ten years of absolute conviction that he was different, it was still hard accepting the idea that he was like any other man — at least when it came to Lois Lane. Why couldn't he have come with a Kryptonian manual that explained these things to him?
Clark pulled into the parking lot of Shop-and-Save off the I-23 about a hundred miles east of Siegel.
"Let's go into the supermarket and pick up those supplies we need."
Lois sat up and looked around the parking lot. Across from the Shop-and-Save was a Costmart.
"You buy the groceries, Clark. I need to pick something up", she said as she rummaged through the glove compartment. "What did you do with the credit card?"
Clark took out the credit card from his wallet and was about to hand it to her. "Wait a minute. I need it for the groceries. What do you need it for?"
"I just need it, Billy Ray. It's none of your business."
"If it's a business expense, then it is my business, Lois. Remember, we're a team."
"Okay. If you really want to know, I have to buy a bra."
Clark couldn't stop his eyes from moving down to her breasts. He didn't want to see them constrained.
"That's not business," he argued.
"Yes, it is. I have to be dressed appropriately for the part."
"You brought your own toothpaste and toothbrush. You brought your own underwear. Why didn't you bring a bra?" he asked, even though he knew why she didn't have one.
"It was damaged," she said very conscious of where Clark's eyes had settled. Sarcasm was one way she could deflect her discomfort. "Look, Billy Ray, this is a legitimate business expense. I need to be dressed properly, and I need to be wearing a bra under some of the outfits I brought. And I don't need you ogling my breasts, so hand over the credit card and go get the groceries." She grabbed the plastic out of his hands and headed off to Costmart.
"Women," he muttered. "Earth women."
Lois managed to get behind the wheel after they had completed their purchases. The start of this leg of the journey began uncomfortably, and they drove along in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, against a background of music, they heard a voice on the radio.
"How you doin' out there?" the voice asked.
Both Lois and Clark mumbled something incomprehensible.
"You ever seem to have one of those days when it just seems that everyone's getting on your case from your teacher all the way down to your best girlfriend?"
"Yes," both Lois and Clark responded. Then they looked over at each other and grinned.
"Well, you know I used to have them just about all the time. But I found a way to get out of it. Let me tell you about it."
*Then, a song began to play.
Sittin' in the classroom,
thinking it's a drag,
Listenin' to the teacher just ain't my bag,
Noon bells ring,
you know that's my cue,
I'm gonna meet the boys on floor number two.*
"I haven't heard this song in ages," said Lois, almost as if in awe. Then the chorus started and, as if they had somehow been cued, Lois and Clark both started singing with the voice on the radio.
*Smokin' in the boys' room,
Smokin' in the boys' room,
Now teacher don't you fill me up with your rules,
But everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school.*
Lois glanced over at Clark. "Don't give up your day job, farmboy," she said with a giggle.
Clark grinned at her and they both fell silent to listen to the second stanza. Lois's hands began tapping against the steering wheel in time with the music. Clark pretended he had an electric guitar.
*Checkin' out the halls,
Making sure the coast is clear,
Lookin' in the stalls,
No there ain't no body here,
My buddies Sixx,
Mick and Tom To get caught would surely be the death of us all.*
Lois and Clark's voice came in on cue.
*Smokin' in the boys' room,
Smokin' in the boys' room,
Now teacher don't you fill me up with your rules,
But everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school.*
"Hit it, Clark," Lois said and he immediately stepped up his efforts on his imaginary guitar as Lois's hands on the steering wheel acted as the drum accompaniment.
*Put me to work in the school bookstore,
Checkout counter and I got bored,
Teacher was lookin' for me all around,
Two hours later,
You know where I was found.*
When the chorus started this time, Lois and Clark both belted out the song with as much enthusiasm as the singer on the radio.
*Smokin' in the boys' room,
Smokin' in the boys' room,
Now teacher don't you fill me up with your rules,
But everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school.*
*Smokin' in the boys' room,
Smokin' in the boys' room,
Now teacher I ain't fully aware of the rules,
But everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school.*
As the song faded into the background, Lois and Clark began to laugh. When the laughter ended, Lois glanced over at Clark.
"I bet when you were in high school, you were never caught smokin' in the boys' room," she said.
Clark laughed. "No. I just never saw the attraction. Besides, I hate the way smoking makes your breath and clothes smell. I've never smoked. What about you? I bet you were a handful in high school. Were you ever caught 'smokin' in the boys' room?'"
Lois chuckled. "Never! I was a good kid in school." In response to Clark's raised eyebrows, Lois continued, "Okay, I challenged the administration. I wrote stories for the school paper that drove them nuts, but I never understood the attraction with smoking either. Not that the administration wouldn't have been thrilled to catch me smokin' in the boys' room."
"To have a legitimate reason to suspend you?" Clark asked.
"Exactly! I wasn't about to give them that."
"I'd have expected nothing less from Lois Lane."
Lois glanced over at him. He wasn't looking at her. Instead, he suddenly seemed lost in thought. She turned her attention back to the road as they continued along with nothing but the sound of the radio to keep them company.
A half hour later, they pulled into their reserved space at Siegel Trailer Camp.
"At least this place is decent," said Lois as she got out of the RV and checked out the electrical, water and sewage hook-ups.
Clark, leafing through the owner's manual, followed her to the back of the RV. Lois, meanwhile was connecting the hoses.
"How do you know that you're making the right connections there, June?"
"No brainer, Billy Ray, there are symbols to show where each hose goes," she said tapping him on the shoulder. "Run along. I'm going to change into something appropriate, now."
Clark took Lois's advice and walked over a few sections, looking for Stinky and Eagle. Instead, he spotted the couple he'd seen emerging from the convenience store that morning. He thought Lois called them Frankie and Jessie. She had also told him that she'd overheard them mentioning the meeting at Sykes. Knowing that he had to infiltrate the gang, Clark was wondering if he should approach them and on what pretext. He watched the woman, Jessie, move toward the motorcycle behind an RV. She was a petite woman, dark- skinned with dark brown hair tied in a braid. She moved with athletic grace. Clark could imagine her as a gymnast. She hopped on the saddle of the bike and turned on the ignition. Suddenly, Clark heard a familiar clicking. Without thinking, he propelled himself onto Jessie and dragged her away from the bike. Within a nanosecond, the bike exploded in a flash of flame. Clark rolled on the ground with Jessie keeping his body between her and the flames. It wasn't a big explosion, just enough so that if Jessie had been sitting on the bike, she would have been seriously burnt, if not in fact killed.
Frankie came running over with a fire extinguisher. He kept his eye on Jessie while aiming the spray at the bike. Clark got up and took the fire extinguisher. He saw Frankie go over to Jessie so, while aiming the hose at the flames, he also used the opportunity to blow out the fire with his breath.
"Jenn…Jessie…honey. Are you okay?" he asked while holding her in his arms. Jessie was lost in his hug. Frankie's much larger frame encompassed her five foot three body. "Oh sweetie, you could have been seriously hurt! Jess, Jess," he murmured into her ear.
On hearing the explosion, Lois, dressed in a tight pair of faded blue jeans and a very low cut t-shirt that revealed a lot of cleavage and flesh as a result of the new push-up bra she bought, came running out of the RV. She watched the tableau in front of her trying to make sense of it. It wasn't long before others from the immediate vicinity began gathering around as well. Clark, glancing at Frankie and Jessie, realized that neither of them needed the extra attention. He told the crowd that everything was under control, that no one was hurt, and managed to get them to disperse.
Frankie, reassured that Jessie was fine, stepped back and looked at Clark. He extended his hand. "Thanks. I don't know if I could have gotten to her as fast as you did. You saved her life. Thanks."
"I'm just glad I was around to help," Clark said, making a deliberate attempt not to look at Lois's breasts. He remembered only too well how she'd noticed previously.
"I'm Frankie. I don't know how to thank you enough…" He paused waiting.
"Billy Ray," Lois piped up. "He's Billy Ray."
Clark raised his eyebrows at Lois who just shrugged her shoulders.
"And I'm Jessie, Billy Ray. Thank you. How did you know?"
Again, Clark was put on the spot. "Well, I…uh…heard something …and…and this is June," he said looking at Lois. He hoped that by not finishing the sentence and by introducing Lois, they would fill in the blanks for themselves, and he could deflect the question.
"Come on, let me get you a beer or something," Frankie offered. "I know I could use one myself." He went into his RV and brought out a six-pack of Labatt's Blue.
"Canadian, eh?" asked Clark. "Their beer is so much better. Thanks."
The two couples sat down on the lawn chairs that Jessie brought out.
"So does someone want to tell me what that was all about?" Clark asked as he took a swig of beer.
"Nothing," said Jessie.
"Just…a…a…a mechanical problem with the bike," Frankie said, glancing nervously at Jessie.
Lois and Clark shared a look of disbelief.
"But I heard…" Clark said, "I didn't think that a mechanical problem would blow up that way."
"Um, I do my own repairs," Jessie said, "I'll have to get someone else to handle it from now on."
Lois, realizing that they weren't getting anywhere with the conversation changed the subject, making a note at the back of her mind to look into this later.
Jessie and Frankie seemed relieved by the change of topic and soon the two couples were talking comfortably about a variety of subjects. During the course of the conversation, Clark let slip that he was looking for a job and was very worried because he was running low on money, and June was quite a spender.
"What kind of work do you do?" Frankie asked.
"I've been a farm-hand, a bartender and bouncer…"
"In Metropolis. Place called the Metro Club. It's closed down now," Clark volunteered.
Jessie caught Frankie's eye. He nodded in agreement and then said, "Look Billy Ray, these guys that I've been working for will be here in a few hours. They need some more muscle to help them out with a project. I know that you're fast-thinking. You strong?"
"Strong enough," answered Clark.
"You interested in the job?"
"What do I have to do?"
"Basically, what you're told. That's what I've been doing."
"Well, we sure could use some extra money, can't we June, honey?" he asked, looking at Lois who glared at him. He guessed that he was safer calling her June.
"Good. I'll come and get you after Eagle and Stinky get here and set up camp."
A few hours later, Frankie knocked on the door of the RV. "They're here and they'd like to meet you."
Clark made his way out of the RV with Lois on his heels.
"I recommend that June stay here," Frankie stated.
"Why?" she asked.
"Eagle appreciates women," explained Frankie.
"If he sees someone he likes, he makes sure he gets her."
"But I'm with Billy Ray here."
"It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't he have a girlfriend or anything?" Lois asked remembering the ditz with the fingernails.
"His wife, Vinnie, but he doesn't let her stop him from doing what he wants."
"June, stay here. I'll see if I can get this job with Eagle."
"Like hell I will. I'm not staying away from a man just because he doesn't know how to handle a woman. I'm not going to be a victim here." Lois folded her arms across her chest and glared first at Clark and then at Frankie.
Frankie put his arm around Clark. "She sounds just like Jessie. Once she makes up her mind, there's no changing her." He turned around and looked at Lois. "Well, come meet the world's biggest male chauvinist pig then."
Clark carefully scanned the people in the bar as he and Lois accompanied Frankie inside Sykes. As they headed towards a particular table, he evaluated the two men sitting there, drinking beer. Lois had said the men she'd seen were called Eagle and Stinky. He was fairly confident which one was which. The man slouched in his seat was a big, beer-bellied man whose hair looked as if it could stand a good combing, not to mention a trim. He was obviously Stinky. The other was neatly dressed, sitting up properly and scanning the bar like a hawk . He was obviously the boss: Eagle. Clark directed his attention to Eagle as they approached the table.
He was surprised when Frankie introduced the big, shaggy looking man as Eagle. He glanced between the two men at the table before focusing on Eagle. Clark almost offered Eagle his hand before remembering who he was supposed to be.
"Sit down," Eagle directed, stubbing his cigarette out in the ashtray. His eyes roamed to the woman standing slightly behind Clark.
Clark started to pull out a chair for Lois, but a slight shake of her head when their eyes met changed his mind, and he sat down in the chair himself. In the back of his mind, he realized that Lois had chosen to remain standing.
"I heard you might have a job for me," said Clark.
Eagle gestured him off, his eyes firmly focused on Lois.
"Who's the doll?" he asked, as his eyes drifted down to where her breasts were almost popping out of her revealing t-shirt.
"No one important, Eagle," said Frankie, trying to direct Eagle's attention back to Billy Ray. "This is Billy Ray. The one I told you about. He might be able to help us…"
"So what's your name, baby?" asked Eagle, cutting off Frankie.
"June," replied Lois, deliberately keeping her voice level.
"Listen, do you have a job for me or not?" asked Clark, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. It wasn't the fact that another man was interested in Lois. It was the way Eagle was looking her over. It was not a look of admiration or even desire. It was the look of hunger in Eagle's eyes and the cautious tone in Lois's voice. And every bone in Clark's body felt an unfamiliar urge of protectiveness towards the woman standing behind him.
"I assume she's yours," said Eagle, shifting his eyes from Lois to Clark and then back to Lois.
Clark could almost feel Lois tense. He reached behind him and subtly touched Lois's hand, trying to forestall any reaction by Lois.
"Yeah," Clark replied.
"Tell you what," said Eagle, looking at Clark again, "give me half an hour with your woman and you've got the job."
Clark was immediately on his feet. He was about to let into the man seated at the table when he felt Lois's hand on his back. He glanced back at her and immediately understood what she was trying to tell him — he had to keep his cool. The lives of who knew how many kids were at stake. Taking a deep breath, he turned back to Eagle.
"I don't share my woman," said Clark. "Now, do you have a job for me or not?"
"We need the help, Eagle," said Stinky. His comment was met by a scowling look by Eagle.
"I'll tell you what," Eagle said, "I'll arm wrestle you for it. You win, you get the job. You lose, I get a half hour with your woman and you still get the job. I'd call that a win-win proposition."
"Deal," said Clark immediately. He felt Lois grab the back of his shirt, tugging on it. "Just a minute," said Clark, moving away from the company of men.
"What do you think you're doing?" hissed Lois.
"I'm getting us inside," replied Clark. "Don't worry, Lois. I can take him."
Lois bit back the retort that came to mind, glancing over at Eagle. It did get them in, but… She turned her attention back to Clark. "If you lose, you're a dead man."
"Deal," said Clark. He knew he couldn't lose. The trick would be not to win too quickly. He turned back to Eagle.
"So is your woman going to let you wrestle me?" asked Eagle, obviously contemptuous by Clark's apparent need to consult with a woman.
"I said we had a deal, didn't I?" Clark replied, sitting back down at the table.
Both men got comfortable and cleared off the table in front of them before placing their elbows on the table. Their hands locked and Stinky told them to begin. Clark kept himself focused, applying just enough pressure to give Eagle the illusion of a struggle. He crunched up his face slightly, trying to look as if he was putting effort into this contest. Slowly but surely, Eagle's hand began to move backwards, towards the table.
"Come on, Billy Ray," Lois breathed into his ear.
Clark blinked. The feel of her breast lightly brushing against his back. The touch of her hot breath on his ear. The sound of her voice. His concentration shifted to the woman standing behind him, remembering how she looked in that tight, low cut shirt. He wished he could turn around right now. His face would undoubtedly be on level with…
"I win!" exclaimed Eagle triumphantly, snapping Clark out of his reverie.
"What?" Clark gasped. His sentiment was echoed by the woman standing behind him. "Two out of three," said Clark.
"Now why would I do that?" asked Eagle. "I already won."
"Then I'll throw in our RV."
Eagle's eyebrows rose.
"I've seen their RV," said Frankie. "It's a nice one."
"Why are you doing this? I just want half an hour. I'll give her back to you when I'm finished — no worse for wear, I promise. And maybe even a little bit more knowledgeable about pleasuring you."
"I don't like to lose," said Clark, his mind evaluating all the exit routes to this place.
Eagle shrugged. "Well, if you want to lose your RV, too, who am I to object?"
Clark immediately held up his hand again, waiting for Eagle to take it. This time, he didn't fool around and it wasn't long before he had the RV, a job, and Lois.
"You were awfully quiet in there," commented Clark as they left Sykes to go back to their RV for supper. They'd made arrangements to meet up with everyone later, but for now they wanted some time to evaluate their next move. "I would have expected you to jump down Eagle's throat or something."
"And blow our cover?" asked Lois incredulously. "Listen, Billy Ray, I might be playing the role of the 'little woman' for the sake of this assignment, but if you think… What's so funny?" she demanded when Clark burst out laughing.
"Nothing. It's just for a moment there I wondered where Lois Lane, intrepid reporter, went. Glad to have you back."
She shot him a dirty look.
"And thanks for calming me down back there," Clark added. "I was just about to find out how much force it would take to pull Eagle's arms out of their sockets."
She was about to respond with some smart ass remark when she thought better of it. He'd just thanked her , after all. "You're welcome," she said softly. "And thanks for risking the RV — although I was looking forward to planting my knee somewhere that would make Eagle think twice before looking at any other women the way he was looking at me."
Clark chuckled. "I think I'd have paid to see that."
Lois smiled at him. "Well, after saving Eagle from a fate worse than death…and getting us inside…I guess I owe you a supper."
"I thought you couldn't cook."
Her grin widened. "I've got a few tricks up my sleeve," she replied before directing him to get things set up out here while she disappeared inside the RV.
Clark was surprised by the atmosphere around the campfire later that night. He hadn't known what to expect-bikers around a campfire was not a concept that he had bothered to think about before. Contrary to any stereotype he could imagine, a couple of Eagle's men had pulled out some guitars and strummed old favorites while a woman with a raspy folk-singer's voice, joined them. A few of the gang members were sitting around playing cards, their women hanging decorously onto them. Several couples were engrossed with the fire or with each other.
It was pleasant being with Lois like this. She sat beside him staring into the fire. Occasionally, she would hum along with a song that the others were singing. Over dinner, they'd managed to find their groove, an easy calm that they hadn't experienced since they'd left Metropolis.
Their evening meal had actually been quite nice. When Lois had volunteered to prepare dinner, Clark was a bit apprehensive. Lois cooking? From what she had told him, and from what she had bought, he felt that the best he would get was Lean Cuisine or possibly macaroni and cheese. He had hinted that macaroni and cheese was not his idea of eating. At college, he had told her, they affectionately called it 'the yellow death'. Lois had scooted him out of the RV and told him not to worry. He worried. She'd have to warm up four packages of Lean Cuisine to satisfy his appetite, he thought. He used the time tidying up the campsite around the RV. Remarkably, dinner had been ready in minutes. Lois had stood in front of the table looking extremely smug. She had ushered him to his seat and gallantly shown him dinner-warmed up leftovers from the previous night.
Lois realized that she had enjoyed dinner. She could still hear Clark's bubbling laughter when he saw the meal. The discussion that followed suited the mood. Once they understood the parts they were going to play in their investigation and made some tentative plans, Clark told her about some of the characters he had grown up with in Smallville while she told him about their counterparts in Metropolis. He revealed, through his stories, the close relationship he had with his parents. She let him know that her childhood wasn't as idyllic. She was impressed that he sensed her mood and changed the topic to Mrs. Irig's candied apples and the stunts he and his friends played at Halloween. In a way, she was sorry when they decided to clean up and head over to the campfire. For a short time, she had forgotten that they were at work and not on on a date.
Eagle and Stinky were sitting off to the side deep in conversation. Earlier, Lois had managed to find a seat close enough to them to hear what they were saying, without being obvious. Clark sat beside her; Jessie and Frank sat across the fire from them.
"I'm having some trouble with the formula," Stinky whispered to Eagle. "I can't get it thick enough and it spills out of the jelly beans."
Lois stared deeper into the fire, straining to hear what the two men were talking about.
"So put more cornstarch in. That'll thicken it," suggested Eagle.
"That doesn't work, Eagle. I told you, that's why that kid in Metropolis was fighting so much. The cornstarch changes the strength of the solution."
"So, what do you want me to do?"
"We have to get some of the pure stuff from the lab so I can dilute it myself. Then I have to try it out some more."
"No, we don't," said Eagle, looking around the campfire to ensure that no one was listening. "I've got some in my RV. You can have it in the morning and dilute it then."
"I hope it works."
Clark felt Lois nudge him. As her sultry voice joined in an old campfire song that someone strummed on the guitar, he understood that she wanted him to listen in on the conversation. Then Clark noticed that Eagle turned to Lois, undressing her with his eyes. Somehow aware of her discomfort, Clark reached over to put a supportive hand on her shoulder, but drew it back. How well did he know Lois? Well enough to realize that she wouldn't appreciate his protective action. No matter how creepy Eagle was, Lois was not in danger.
Clark thought that Eagle probably didn't realize the effect that he had on Lois because without skipping a beat, he motioned to Stinky to follow him. They moved outside of Lois's hearing. Clark listened intently.
"We need some more kids," Eagle began again.
"I know. How are we going to get them?"
"I've checked out the town. There's a diner where the kids from the district hang-out. We'll go there and get a couple."
"This isn't Metropolis, Eagle. It's not that easy."
"Once they have the drug in them, they'll do whatever we want. By the time their folks know they're missing, we'll be long gone."
"Don't bother, Stinky. My mind's made up. We just need someone to grab them. I don't want Vinnie involved." Eagle moved away from Stinky to the cooler for another beer. Stinky stood on the edge of the circle.
"Come on, Billy Ray," said Lois, "Let's take a walk." She got up and dragged Clark to his feet. Lois hoped that as they walked away from the circle, they'd position themselves to hear Stinky and Eagle's plans better. As they got closer, Lois stopped in her tracks. Barking. She looked around her and saw Cookie running full steam ahead at her. She put Clark between her and the dog.
"Clarkclarkclarkclark," Lois said in rapid succession of his name as the fur ball with teeth rapidly approached. She balled her fists into the back of Clark's shirt, keeping him firmly between her and the terror of last night.
Clark chuckled. "Whodda thought it? You're afraid of dogs. And by the way," he whispered, "my name's Billy Ray". Obviously Lois hadn't been thinking when she'd seen the dog coming. Still, given the way she'd used his name, Clark was certain no one would have realized she was saying the name, 'Clark.'
"That's not a dog, Billy Ray," Lois corrected. "It just masquerades as a dog."
"Relax, June," said Clark, crouching down and stretching out his hand to the approaching animal. Lois reluctantly had to release his shirt, but was still careful to keep Clark between her and the animal. "Hey, boy," said Clark.
Cookie stopped a few feet in front of Clark, sniffed towards the hand, and then bared his teeth and growled.
"See!" exclaimed Lois.
"I thought you were an expert at handling rabid animals."
"Only the two legged variety," Lois quickly corrected.
Clark chuckled. "All it takes is a little patience," said Clark, slowly stretching out his hand again.
Cookie held his ground, eyeing Clark suspiciously. Then he looked at the woman standing behind Clark.
"He's looking at me," said Lois. "He's trying to figure out how to get through you to get at me."
"Don't be ridiculous. He's just…"
Suddenly, the dog, who'd been standing perfectly still, made a dash, circling behind Clark and charging Lois. Lois gave a yelp and took a quick step back, losing her footing and landing on her butt on the ground.
Clark spun around, ready to grab the attacking dog. But it wasn't necessary. Cookie had stopped a couple of feet from Lois, his nose once again sniffing the air. Then his stumpy tail started to go, cutting the air behind him in short, quick strokes. As his wagging became more enthusiastic, his entire rear end got into the action, moving with increasing vigor.
"Billy Ray," said Lois nervously.
Clark smiled. "Hold out your hand to him," Clark said. The wagging tail indicated that the dog wanted to be friends. If he was wrong, he could get to the dog before the dog could sink his teeth into Lois's hand — even if it meant letting Lois in on his secret. But for now, making friends with the dog seemed like the most sensible approach to the situation.
"Are you insane?" gasped Lois.
"Look at his tail. He just wants to smell you."
Lois let out a short breath. "That's what they all say. First they claim they only want to look. Then they want a smell. That leads to a taste and that's when they bite." Then she looked at Clark's raised eyebrows and conceded. "Okay, okay."
Clark watched as Lois slowly stretched a hand towards the dog. He could hear Lois's heart rate speed up considerably, but if he hadn't been able to hear that, he wouldn't know how nervous she was.
"Good, boy," said Lois as her hand slowly approached Cookie. "Or girl," she quickly added, hoping she hadn't unintentionally offended the animal.
"It's a boy, Lois," said Clark.
"How do you… Oh," Lois responded.
She drew in a sharp breath as the dog neared, but she didn't pull back. Cookie moved closer and Lois closed her eyes when…
"Hey, that tickles," Lois exclaimed, drawing her hand back quickly. She looked down at the dog drool on her hand before realizing that Cookie had licked her hand. "Gross." She stretched her hand out again to the dog. Cookie moved closer, tail still swinging back and forth, and began to nuzzle at Lois's hand. "What does he want now?"
"He's trying to get you to pet him," Clark said.
"Oh!" she moved her hand to do as instructed.
"See, he's not so bad," said Clark, stretching his own hand towards the dog. Cookie immediately turned to look at him and growled.
Lois laughed, sitting up so that she could better pet Cookie. "He doesn't like you," she laughed. "That's because you have good taste, isn't it," she said to Cookie.
Clark smiled as he watched the taming of the beast. Although, to be honest he couldn't say for sure who was taming whom. One thing, however, was certain. Woman and beast had reached a mutual understanding and even an admiration society. He left his musings when he saw Eagle in his peripheral vision.
"Cookie, where are you?" said a woman's voice in the distance. Cookie immediately turned and dashed off towards the sound of his mistress's voice.
Clark's ears were once more on Eagle and Stinky who had resumed their conversation.
"So who's going to get the kids?" Stinky asked.
"Jessie's done it before. Let her go, and let Billy Ray's broad help her." He paused and stared at Lois. "He doesn't want to give her up, but it doesn't look as if she's that interested in him."
"Come on, Eagle. Leave her alone. You need them."
"Stinky, that woman's for the taking. Those two act like they're brother and sister. She's not getting any and she's hungry for it," he said.
Clark didn't like the direction Eagle was going. He also didn't like the direction his mind was going. He realized that while Eagle was speaking he had pictured ways in which he'd never used his superpowers before. Emasculation by heat vision. Too bad he didn't work that way.
He helped Lois up and brought her close to him. He nuzzled her ear while he whispered, "Play along here, Junie, because Eagle is ogling you as if you're tonight's dessert."
His breath against her throat felt so good. "Understood," she murmured as a shiver ran up her spine. He was going to kiss her, and even though it was for Eagle's benefit, she was sure, the thought of his lips on hers had been in her mind since the first day he walked into Perry's office. Something told her that this kiss would be more special than anything she'd experienced before. Luckily, it wouldn't be a quick peck. They had to make it look good for Eagle. Her heart raced as she placed her arms around his shoulders, stroking the back of his head and weaving her hands through his hair.
Hesitantly, Clark's eyes moved to look at her face. Her skin was like satin. She smelled like a garden in the summer, clean and sweet. He pictured tasting her lips, full and red. His lips approached hers awkwardly until they touched hers. But for the first time, Clark wanted more. He wanted to taste her, to know her lips, her mouth as intimately as he knew his own. He felt the fever again. For the first time he knew what was happening to him. He was excited by this Earth woman.
He opened his lips slightly and slid his tongue over Lois's lips. They were so smooth. He heard her groan, a deep sensual groan that stirred his very center. He pulled her in closer with his left arm. And his other hand, that was caressing her back, that wanted so badly to know her better, to find out what pleased her, to understand those breasts that had played havoc with his mind, moved, almost on its own to touch her breast. It felt so much better than he had expected.
Wanting to explore every part of her, he kneaded her breast in his hand.
He felt Lois's hand travel down his back and along his arm. She clasped his hand and took a step back.
"It's getting late, sweetie pie," she said in a stage whisper. "Let's go back to the RV where we can be together."
"Are you sure that's what you want?"
"Yes, absolutely." The whisper turned sultry.
Clark let himself be lead by Lois. She turned to anyone watching and mumbled a good-night. Aware of the eyes on them, she led him into the RV. Clark followed her, surprised that she suggested going back. The kiss had been like drinking nectar from the gods. Once inside the RV, he brought his hand, that she was still holding, to his chest. She faced him, looking him straight in the eye, then raised her hand and slapped him.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"Overplaying your part, Kent. There's a line, and you went over it."
"Line? Went over it? What are you talking about?
"Groping, Clark. Groping is not part of the pretence."
"Groping?…Oh, groping…" Touching Lois had felt so good that he didn't want to believe that he did something wrong. " Lois, I'm sorry, I don't know what got into me. I've never done anything like that before. But you did tell Superman that you liked me and I thought that's what you wanted…"
"He told you? Superman told you what I said to him. I can't believe it." She stared at Clark trying to absorb what he had just said, but all she could think about was how wonderful his kisses had been and how clumsily he had touched her. This was too much for her to deal with. "I'm going for a walk. Don't wait up."
"I can't? Are you trying to tell me that I can't?" she challenged him.
"Eagle's out there. It's dangerous."
"Not as dangerous as it is in here," she said as she slammed the door to the RV.
Clark stood in stunned silence for a couple of seconds, trying to make sense of Lois's departing words. 'Not as dangerous as it is in here.' When it finally sunk in what she was saying, he gasped. She thought it was more dangerous being in here with him than facing Eagle alone.
"What have I done?" he whispered. It only took a second to know what he had to do. He opened the door to the RV. Lois could still be seen, storming away from their home away from home. He glanced both ways, making sure the coast was clear, before using a burst of superspeed to catch up to her. When he did, he ran around in front of her — reverting to normal speed at the last minute.
Lois came to an abrupt halt to keep from running into Clark. How had he managed to get in front of her? Then she folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he whispered intently. "I shouldn't have…"
"No, you shouldn't have!" she confirmed.
Clark let out a breath. "But it is dangerous out here. Please. Go back to the RV. I'll stay outside."
She glared at him for a moment before turning around and heading back to the RV. After all, she really hadn't meant her crack about Clark being more dangerous than Eagle. She'd just been so mad. But that didn't mean she was looking forward to being out here tonight while Eagle was still around. There was something about that man that gave her a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. It was just that right now she desperately needed some distance from Clark Kent. But he was right. Why should she be the one inconvenienced when he was the one who had behaved abominably?
Clark watched her return to the RV. He continued to stand there as she climbed the steps and disappeared inside. It was only a moment before the lights came on, giving the place a warm and homey look. An unfamiliar tightening in his chest was suddenly making it difficult to breathe. If he had just considered his actions a little more, he would be inside with her now. He wished with all his heart that he was allowed through that door.
After a moment, he turned around and headed into the woods surrounding the campsite. It was probably best to make sure that Eagle didn't see him out here.
Lois turned on the radio, setting the channel to some soft music, before sinking down into one of the bucket chairs in the front of the RV and thinking about what had transpired this evening. The truce they'd come to last night had finally really taken hold. Eating supper with him had been one of the best 'dates' she'd ever had. It had just been so easy, so pleasant talking to him. Although they obviously saw the world differently, he seeing people as essentially good and she seeing them as essentially evil, they both shared the same dream of making the world a better place. In fact, this evening had been one of the best times she'd ever spent with a man. Even Eagle's presence at the campsite had been bearable because she was with Clark.
She crinkled her eyebrows when she heard an unfamiliar noise outside the RV. She cautiously got up from her seat and made her way to the door. Was it possible that Eagle was sniffing around out there, making sure that she was really with Clark? But then she heard the noise again. It sounded like scratching. But what… She cautiously pushed the curtains slightly to the side and looked out. No one was there. She started back to the seat, but then she heard it again.
She stormed back to the door and threw it open. It took her a moment to realize what the noise was.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, looking down at the dog who stood just outside the door to the RV.
Cookie just put his front paws up on the edge of the RV and wagged his tail. Lois let out a breath. "Okay, you can come in. But only for a few minutes."
As if he actually understood the invitation, Cookie jumped into the RV. Lois closed the door and took a seat again. Her hand absently stroked Cookie's head as she continued with her previous considerations.
The kiss. It had been everything she'd ever thought it could be and more. His arms holding her tight against him, his tongue slowly seeking out the recesses of her mouth. But then his hand had moved. She had to admit that although she'd been startled when his hand had found her breast, his first touch had felt incredible. Then he'd begun kneading her breast and, although it wasn't exactly painful, it wasn't pleasant either. It was almost as if he didn't know how to touch a woman.
Not that it would have made much difference if he had known how to touch her. After all, his actions had been inappropriate under the circumstances. The difference was that she might not have realized how inappropriate it was, becoming too caught up in the moment herself.
Her mind drifted back to his comment just before she'd stormed out of the RV. Superman had told him. She could still hardly believe it. Why would Superman have done that? Maybe it was to warn Clark of the 'impending danger.' All it seemed to have done was given Clark the permission he needed to maul her. She couldn't believe Superman would set her up that way. And then none of that jibed with Superman's warning not to tell Clark how she felt.
She glanced down at the dog sitting beside her.
"You're a male," she said to the animal. "What goes through your mind? What makes you behave the way you do?" She sighed when Cookie didn't answer.
Clark wandered through the woods until the trees before him cleared and he was standing on the shore of a lake. As he looked out at the light from the moon reflecting on the water, he thought about what had happened. What he'd done, he corrected himself. It was just that kissing Lois had stirred up some of the most powerful sensations that he'd ever experienced. Although he was certainly aware how his friends in high school had talked about their 'urges,' it wasn't until that moment he really understood what they were talking about. He could certainly recognize and appreciate a beautiful woman, it was just that until the last few days, he'd never known the power behind those feelings. As a result, he hadn't expected or prepared himself for what had happened when he'd kissed Lois. It was almost as if he had immediately forgotten that they were in public, that they were just playing a role for their audience. Then, when Lois had invited him back to the RV, he'd been more excited than he'd ever been in his life — even as a kid at Christmas.
His hand went to his cheek as he recalled the slap. There was no physical pain, but he felt a different kind of hurt. In fact, he wasn't sure any person had ever hurt him more. Still, it was probably the best thing she could have done to him under the circumstances. It had snapped him out of the false world his mind had insisted on creating. In spite of her comments to Superman, it was obvious, more than just obvious, that she hadn't appreciated his behavior. And looking back now, he could certainly understand. 'Grope.' That was definitely a fitting word to describe what he'd done.
So what was he to do now? He had to apologize, that was clear enough. But she also deserved an explanation — why he'd been so unprepared to deal with the powerful hormonal rush he'd experienced while kissing Lois.
Besides, he had to admit that his feelings for Lois were stronger than just hormonal urges. Although he had always been able to appreciate a beautiful woman the way one appreciates a dazzling sunset or a fine piece of music, Lois meant so much more to him than either of those things. He, quite simply, thought she was the most amazing woman he'd ever known in practically every way. He swallowed hard as it sank in that the feelings she'd told Superman she had for Clark were pale in comparison to the feelings he had for her at this moment. He was falling in love with her. He had to find a way to get her to forgive him, to give him another chance. He doubted that there would ever be another woman who would touch him the way she could. So, no matter what that meant he had to do, he had to find a way to make this up to Lois.
He took a deep breath. In fact, if he wanted her in his life, there was only one thing to do. He briefly wondered if he was making a mistake. After all, he'd never told anyone his secret before. It was just that there was something different about Lois. And for a reason he couldn't quite name, he trusted her to keep this secret — regardless of the relationship they'd had up until now, regardless even of the fact that she was a reporter. And, when it came right down to it, he wanted her to know. Still, he would have to see how it went. Should he tell her now, or wait until they got to know each other better? The logical part of him said that he should take it slow. But his heart… He took a deep breath and made a wish on the stars before heading back to the RV.
Lois heard the tentative knock on the door and for a moment wondered what she was going to say if it was one of the gang looking for Clark. After all, it had been pretty obvious when they'd left the fire what they'd been planning to do when they returned to their RV. How would she explain that Clark wasn't here?
"June, can we talk?" asked a familiar voice outside.
Clark. She let out a breath of relief and made her way to the door.
"About what?" she asked, not opening the door.
"Please," said a regretful sounding voice in response.
She unlocked the door and slid it half way open. "So talk," she said.
"I don't think this is a talk we should have out here," said Clark glancing around to emphasize his point.
She studied him for a moment before sliding the door the rest of the way open. Then she returned to her seat and looked back at him.
'Grrrrr,' came a low growl as Clark started climbing into the RV. He immediately stopped and looked at the dog blocking his way.
"Good, dog," said Lois. Then to Clark's pleading look, she gestured Cookie over to her, allowing Clark to climb inside and shut the door.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he said before he had taken any steps into the RV. "I didn't mean to…I don't know what got into me…You didn't deserve…"
"No, I didn't," she interrupted his litany.
"No, you deserve a lot better treatment. I respect you too much. I don't want this to get in the way. I don't know what got into me…"
"You've said that before." She moved to the kitchen where she filled the kettle with water and put it on to boil. She wanted Clark to grovel, but she wasn't sure what she wanted to accomplish with the discussion.
Clark followed her to the threshold of the kitchen. He looked down at his feet. "I don't know what made me take such liberties." He took a neat pile of tea-towels and began folding them into a second neat pile. "Lois," he said, finally looking at her, "We have to work together, and up to now, it's been okay…no, it's been really good. I don't want to ruin that. I like being your partner."
"I need you to remember that we do work together, and, until Perry says otherwise, we'll have to…at least until we get this story." Realizing that she had been just as guilty as Clark in pushing the limits, Lois tried to restore some professionalism.
"Truce," he said, extending his hand.
"Truce." She let him take her hand and felt a jolt ride up her arm. As hard as she tried, he still affected her. She busied herself getting Cookie a dish of water.
"You deserve an explanation," he began, having made his decision. He would tell her. She deserved the truth from him. Besides, given the liberties he'd taken, he didn't stand a chance with her if she didn't know why. That didn't stop the butterflies that were suddenly flying around in his stomach.
"Just leave it, Clark. I don't need an explanation. You're a typical male, and you don't always think with your brain. Been there, done that, bought all the t-shirts. What do you want in your tea?"
"Just sugar, and trust me, I'm not your typical male. Actually, Lois, I'm…" His voice failed him at the critical moment. Lois glanced over at him before turning her attention back to making the tea.
"Yeah, right. What makes you different?" she asked while she placed mugs, sugar and milk on the counter.
"Well for starters, I'm Kryptonian." He let out a breath of relief. He'd done it. He'd told Lois the truth.
"Give me a break, Kent. You're from Smallville, Kansas. You wouldn't know Superman if he stared you in the face."
His breath caught in his throat. He'd finally worked up the nerve to tell another human being and she didn't believe him. "No, Lois," he began deliberately, "you wouldn't." And in one smooth motion, he lifted one hand to run his fingers through his hair pulling it off his face, while he used his other hand to remove his glasses. At the same time, he stood taller, his shoulders back.
Lois froze, staring at the transformation that was occurring in front of her, trying to comprehend the meaning of what she was seeing. Clark, the man she was having sexual fantasies about, who kissed with a passion that she had always wanted to experience, was really Superman.
The whistling kettle broke the silence. Clark passed by Lois in the narrow kitchen and poured the boiling water into a teapot. He placed it on the tray with the mugs, milk and sugar. "Let's sit in the easy chairs and have our tea." They walked out of the kitchen area.
"Lois, I need to explain what happened tonight," he said.
Lois hadn't said anything, but somehow she had managed to make her way from the kitchen to the seats and sat down. Clark put milk and sugar in her tea.
"It's hot," he said. "Drink slowly and I'll talk."
She sipped her tea, her eyes staring through Clark.
"Something's happened to me in the last few days," he began, "something that has never happened to me before. For the first time, I'm attracted to a woman. That's new for me. As a kid, I saw my friends falling for girls, and I pretended to be interested because I was doing a lot of things in those days to pretend to be normal, but I wasn't a normal fifteen-year-old. By that time I was listening to conversations two rooms away, and I was starting fires with my eyes. I thought I was a late bloomer. But, I never bloomed. So, when I went out into the world, I pretended to be interested in women. I dated, I necked, I did what was expected of me until I broke off the relationship because I was scared the woman was getting too close.
"I wondered about what made Kryptonian physiology different. I looked the same as my Earth counterparts, but I knew I was different. After a while, I decided that because of my special powers, my purpose was to help. I told myself that I didn't need to have a girlfriend, a family, anything like that. I considered myself lucky not having to deal with sexual urges. And then I met you, and everything that I ignored or suppressed came surging to the fore, and everything I thought couldn't happen to me because I was so different, was happening to me."
He looked back over at Lois, who was still sipping her tea as if she was sucking in air. She didn't seem to be making any sense out of what he was saying.
"Lois? Are you listening because I'm talking my heart out here."
She just nodded her head. Clark got up and knelt beside her. He took her hand, which felt cold, hesitated, and then continued, "You're the first woman I've ever felt this way about. You challenge me, delight me, excite me. I like to laugh with you, spar with you, investigate with you,..just be with you. You make me feel complete."
For the first time since he began talking, Lois gazed into Clark's eyes. He felt that she was hunting for his soul, but he knew she wouldn't find it there because he had already given it to her. Understanding slowly washed over her face. He was relieved.
"Lois," he whispered, "Please say something."
"Why? Why what?" he asked.
"Why did you lose the arm wrestling with Eagle? How?"
"Huh?" asked Clark. He'd just told her everything about himself. He was expecting her to ask how he came to be on Earth, or to reveal why he kept his identity a secret, or even to further explain this attraction he felt for her. Instead, she was focusing on how he'd lost the arm wrestling competition with Eagle? "Umm… well… it's this way, you…" he began. "I…"
His voice trailed off when a news bulletin broke into the quiet music coming from the radio.
"We interrupt this program to bring you this breaking story. An emergency radio broadcast has been intercepted between the control tower at Metropolis International Airport and this evening's Concord flight coming in from France. It seems that the landing gear isn't working and…"
Clark glanced at Lois and then back at the radio. Before he could say anything, there was a knock at the door. Since he was closest, he turned towards the door and slid it open only far enough to look out. Stinky was standing outside.
"Yes?" asked Clark.
"June is needed to help with an operation we're conducting tonight," said Stinky.
Clark narrowed his eyes as he considered what the man was saying. Perhaps this was a ploy on Eagle's behalf to get Lois away from his protection.
"Hey, just a second. You hired me. I thought we agreed that my woman was going to be kept out of…"
"I'll be right there," said Lois, looking over Clark's shoulder to interrupt him.
"Fine, just meet Jessie at the black Ford over by their RV as soon as possible. You'll be going with her."
Having finished his mission, Stinky headed away. Clark closed the door and turned back to Lois. "I don't like this, Lois. What if Eagle…"
"We know that they need more kids and that they're planning to get them tonight, Clark. So, what Stinky is asking makes sense."
Clark nodded slowly. "Well, I won't be far away, so if you need me…"
"Clark, the jet," Lois interrupted. "The one we heard about on the radio a minute ago," she clarified when he just looked at her blankly.
"Well…" Clark's voice trailed off. "The man just said that it seems as if the landing gear isn't working. Maybe…"
"No, Clark. Go. Take care of those people. I'll be fine."
Clark hesitated a moment more before nodding and then, before Lois could figure out what was happening, Clark spun and then disappeared as Superman appeared before her.
"Wow!" she gasped.
Superman smiled and then, in a gust of wind, was gone. The only sound left in his wake was the echo of the door opening and closing, although that had happened so quickly that Lois hadn't seen it.
"That could take some getting used to," said Lois once she recovered the power of speech.
Jessie and Frankie were deep in conversation when Lois approached their van.
"We're doing the 279 sub 1 tonight," Jessie said.
'What is that?' Lois asked herself silently.
"Be careful, honey," Frankie responded.
"Don't worry. I know how to take care of myself."
"I know, but after the bike thing…"
"June," Jessie interrupted, finally having spotted Lois. "Glad you're here." She motioned Lois to come closer. "Go on, Frankie, we'll manage all right." She kissed him gently on the lips, but Lois could see him pulling her in tighter and deepening the kiss. After a few seconds, Lois, who was beginning to feel uncomfortable witnessing their passion, cleared her throat. Frankie took that as his cue to go into the RV.
"He likes to have the last word, so to speak," Jessie said after Frankie had left. "Come on. I'll show you the ropes." She led Lois to a black Ford that was parked beside the RV.
"It's simple. We're going into town, to The Big Bopper's Diner," she said as she started up the car. "We bring these jelly beans with us and offer them to a kid, usually a boy around fifteen or so, more or less alone, who has been overindulging in the other jelly beans. He eats a few of ours and gets sick."
"Why is he getting sick?" Lois asked.
"These jelly beans have been drugged. The white, yellow, green and orange ones have something in them that gets the kids high…like being drunk. The kids like them, so they eat them like candy." She snickered at her own joke. "The black and red ones react with the drug that's already in the kid and makes him sick to his stomach. That means a quick trip to the washroom for the kid and a pick up for us."
"Why does Eagle want the kids?"
"That's on a need to know basis. Our job is to get the kids."
"How dangerous is it for us?"
"Not very. They get the kid hidden away at some safehouse before anyone knows he's missing. Eagle and Vinnie have already been in the diner checking out the kids and supplying the jelly beans. They're looking for a kid who is on the periphery of the group."
"So, he won't be missed too early."
"Exactly," she said, impressed how quick Lois was to catch on. "Anyway, there's an exit near the washroom, so taking the boy out won't be a problem. Also, as women, we aren't as threatening, so the boys usually come quite readily. In the car, we give him two or three blue jelly beans which will make him very compliant."
"Isn't this kidnapping?" asked Lois.
"Yeah, but don't worry about it. The cops aren't onto us. And Eagle pays real good. So far he's paid after each job. Me and Frankie are planning to buy new bikes with the money."
Lois watched the road and thought for a few minutes. "Well, Billy Ray and me could really use the money. We're in hock for that RV and Billy Ray lost his job, and all."
"That Billy Ray of yours is something else."
"Yeah, he is," said Lois neutrally, unsure of what Jessie was getting at.
"I really owe him my life. I appreciate what he did for me."
"He's a helpful kind of guy," said Lois realizing that Jessie was referring to the bike explosion. He probably heard the bomb ticking before anyone else did.
"He's incredibly fast and strong. If he didn't have such fast reflexes, I would probably be dead now."
Lois needed to deflect Jessie away from the 'fast and strong'. "He's a bit on the overprotective side. Sometimes I feel like he doesn't let me breathe."
"Frankie gets like that too. He doesn't want to let me out of his sight now. He wants to be my protector."
"Tell me about it. They grow some hair on their chests and they think they have the right to order the little woman around."
"Billy Ray can be like that too. He's trying to keep me away from Eagle. Believe me, I can use my knee in very creative ways. I think Billy Ray can get very jealous."
"I think Frankie's a bit jealous of Billy Ray."
"For goodness sake, why?"
"Because I've been singing Billy Ray's praises for the last twenty-four hours, and Frankie thinks he's a threat."
"Is he?" Lois asked, feeling a surprising surge of jealousy herself. Was Jessie interested in her Clark?
"No. Just right now, he's my own personal Superman."
You should only know, Lois thought. "And Frankie would much prefer to play the role?" she asked instead.
"Typical male behavior, right? They want to act like the big, strong heroes, but if you need to talk to them about something or even confide in them, where are they?"
"Brawn over brain," Lois commiserated.
"More like hormones over brain," Jessie laughed.
"Hormones," Lois wailed, "Don't get me started on those. Do they ever grow up?"
"I haven't met any guys who have."
"Neither have I."
Jessie pulled the car into a dark spot at the back end of The Big Bopper's Diner. The lights inside were blazing and the rock music blasted into the parking lot. The two women in the car could hear the shouting and giggling of its patrons. Before getting out of the car, Jessie gave Lois some last minute instructions. After Jessie entered the front door and sat at a table, she would use her cell phone to signal Lois to go to the back exit to wait for her when the target got up to go to the washroom.
Lois sat in the car waiting. The enormity of what she was about to do suddenly weighed in on her. In an effort to center herself, she let her mind drift to a more pleasant subject-to hormones. She had to admit that hers were still raging, especially when she let herself relive the kiss with Clark and his initial touch of her breast. He had told her that she was the first woman that he had ever been interested in sexually. She sat up straighter. No wonder he had groped her like a teenager. In many ways, he was no different than the kids sitting in the diner, understanding and fighting raging hormones that pop up uninvited at unexpected times. She laughed at her own little pun. No wonder he had been wearing his t-shirt pulled out. Lois tried to remember what it was like to be sixteen. She remembered thinking that she was the only one who felt what she did. The crushes. The infatuations. The unrequited love. It was a lonely time. And what must it be like for Clark? He was the only one. He was, after all, Superman.
The signal. Lois checked the pager that Jessie had given her. She walked to the back of the diner and waited. It didn't take long for Jessie to open the door. She was holding onto a tall, skinny boy whose longish red hair hung damply over his forehead. His naturally pale skin was so ashen that his acne looked inflamed. Jessie had her arm around his shoulder, her five-foot-three frame acting as a crutch for the boy. Lois quickly moved to the other side of the boy and grabbed onto him, leading him to the back seat of the car. Jessie signaled for Lois to get into the back with him.
Jessie slid in behind the wheel and took off. She drove fast, but carefully. Once on the road she handed Lois another baggie with jelly beans. "Try to get those down him, otherwise he'll upchuck again…And if he does, there are a few bags in the corner."
"He doesn't look good to me, Jessie."
"He'll be fine. The kids survive this part of their odyssey."
"How far do we have to go?"
"We have one more stop to make," said Jessie and a few minutes later they were pulling up in behind a video arcade. Lois's heart began pounding. Doing that once had been bad enough, but twice? Still, there was no choice. Fortunately, it wasn't very long before this 'pick-up' was also over and when they continued they had two young men asleep in the back of the Ford.
As they headed out of town, Lois once again tried to find out where they were going.
"We drive about another forty-five minutes, then we meet up with Eagle and Stinky. They'll have a different car for us and we go back to the camp."
"Don't we take care of the kids until they come around?" Lois asked, needing to know that the boys would be all right and needing to know what would happen next.
"No. They're supposed to meet up with this boss guy and show him the goods. But, I'm not too sure what that means," she paused and then added as an afterthought, "not as if I care."
After exchanging cars with Eagle and Stinky, Jessie and Lois returned to the Siegel campsite. Jessie put on the local Country and Western station and hummed along to the music. When the song ended, the newscaster announced that the Concord jet that had landing gear problems had, in the end, landed safely after Superman had flown under the plane and eased it to the ground at Metropolis Airport. The newscaster then went on to enumerate the number of airplanes and lives on them that Superman had saved since he had arrived in Metropolis.
"Pretty incredible, wouldn't you say?" asked Jessie.
"I sure would," said Lois.
"Now there's a man who could hang his cape on my bedpost anytime."
"Uh-huh," agreed Lois, picturing Clark bare-chested as she had seen him at the pump the other morning, hanging his cape on her bedpost. "Uh-huh!" she emphasized both syllables.
Lois sank down into a chair in the darkened RV and thought about what she'd just done. She wasn't sure she'd ever felt quite this sick before. She'd just kidnapped two boys and turned them over to the likes of Eagle. At the time, she'd thought she'd be able to protect the young men while using them to find the rest of the kids. But Eagle had sent Jessie and her back to the campground. She had tried to suggest that she should go along to take care of the kids during the rest of the trip. At first, Eagle had looked receptive to the idea, but Stinky had managed to remind him that they had business to take care of.
Lois had no doubt that she would have been in danger of Eagle's advances if she had gone with the kids, but she'd been willing to risk it. Leaving those kids with Eagle had just felt so wrong. If anything happened to them before she and Clark could get them back… Lois wasn't sure she'd be able to live with herself.
She'd tried to think of a way to follow. But the trade of vehicles had taken place out in the middle of nowhere. And having Jessie there made it impossible for her to do anything but climb in the alternate vehicle and come back to the camp. Knowing there was nothing she could have done, and knowing that stopping these kidnappings would probably have condemned the other children didn't make Lois feel any better. She'd risked the life of two kids in an attempt to save many others — and she felt sick as a result.
She wished Clark were back. She figured this was one of the down sides to having Superman as a partner. She gave a silent chuckle. What would it be like having him as a boyfriend? Probably not much better. "Honey, I have to miss our date tonight to stop a hurricane that's threatening Cuba" or "Hold that thought. I've just got to stop an asteroid that's about to pulverize the Earth." She shook her head. What was she getting herself into?
This was crazy. She just had to give up these thoughts about Clark. She had enough problems handling normal relationships with men. She'd never survive a relationship with someone who was always on stand- by to save the world, not to mention all the complications that were bound to arise with someone who had never even thought about having a normal relationship with a woman.
She jumped slightly when her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.
"Yes," she said cautiously, once again aware that Clark wasn't here.
"It's just me," Clark responded immediately.
She quickly made her way to the door to let him in. Given the attire he'd been wearing when he left, she was almost surprised to see Clark standing outside. In spite of her previous decision to give up the idea of a relationship with Clark, she felt her heart begin to pound as her mind flashed back to the image of him bare-chested, hanging his cape at the end of her bed. She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "Hi," she said, not quite able to meet his eyes, as she stepped back into the RV allowing him to enter.
"How did it go?" he asked.
She squirmed uncomfortably, her thoughts suddenly becoming much more serious. "I helped kidnap two boys, Clark. And then I couldn't stop them from being turned over to Eagle," she began, before telling him the whole story.
Clark listened to her nodding or making the appropriate comforting noises when required. As she finished, he reached up and brushed away the tear that had slipped down her cheek.
"We'll find them, Lois," he said softly. "We'll find all of them."
She gave him a grateful smile that said she wasn't so certain, but that she appreciated his effort to cheer her up. As she looked into his intense eyes, her hand came up of its own volition to run over his face. His expression changed almost immediately. The look of undisguised longing was not lost on Lois, reminding her that the man before her had no experience in hiding this type of feeling. She quickly withdrew her hand and cleared her throat. Her action seemed to have the desired effect.
"Umm… yeah," said Clark, rising from his chair and making his way awkwardly into the kitchen area. "You know," he said after a moment of puttering around, "I think I'll go and see if I can find them."
"Clark, they're probably miles away by now. I don't even know where they were heading."
"Do you know where you changed cars?"
"Yeah," said Lois. Not understanding where he was going with this didn't stop her from going to the glove compartment and pulling out the map. She opened it up and looked at it. A shiver rippled though her body when he came up to look at the map over her shoulder. She could feel him lightly brush against her as he studied the map and suddenly understood why he'd lost the arm-wrestling competition. He'd lost when she had leaned over him to urge him on. That was why he'd started to say 'you' when she asked about it.
"So where did you change cars?" asked Clark.
"Umm… what?" asked Lois, turning her head slightly towards him. He smelt so good, a rugged, musky scent that sent chills down her spine.
"Change cars?" Clark asked again.
"Umm… right," Lois responded, turning her attention back to the map. She pointed to a particular spot. "But they've got to be miles away from…"
"No problem," interrupted Clark, heading toward the door. "So, are you coming?" asked Clark.
Lois didn't understand where Clark was going with this, but she shrugged and nodded, accompanying Clark as he left the RV.
"What are we going to use as transportation?" she asked, looking at the bulky size of the RV.
"I thought we'd fly," Clark said softly, leading Lois into the woods.
"Oh," whispered Lois when it finally sank in what he was suggesting. She shook her head. She should have realized what he was thinking when he'd first suggested looking, but it was still so hard thinking of Clark as Superman. "Wait a minute," she said.
"Well, last time you left the RV to… you know," she said, making a wavy motion with her hand. "You changed into Superman first. Why are we going into the woods to do it this time?"
"When I left as Superman last time, I didn't have a passenger, so I could fly fast enough to be almost invisible to the human eye. But I can't go that fast if you're coming with me. You'd be vaporized and since I don't think it's a good idea for people to see Superman coming and going from our RV…" He shrugged.
"Vaporized," responded Lois. "No, definitely don't want to be vaporized." Then she had to stifle a gasp when the spinning thing started again. When it stopped, Superman stood in front of her.
"Coming?" asked Superman, holding out a hand to her.
Lois looked at the hand and swallowed hard. But then she nodded and took his hand. He pulled her closer, swooped her up in his arms and a moment later, they were airborne.
It was two hours later when two very quiet and very discouraged people made their way back to the RV. They had gone to the place where the car swap had happened, followed the tire tracks for a short time, but then lost them after a few miles. Afterwards, they had been unable to find any clues. They then had spent the rest of their time flying over the countryside, looking for some sign of the black Ford — only to have found nothing.
But the silence was not only the result of their inability to locate Eagle or the kids. The past two hours had been exhausting on both of them in quite a different way.
Lois wasn't entirely sure that her presence on the search had been at all helpful. After she'd shown Clark where the cars had been swapped and searched for clues there, she'd spent most of her time just silently being carried in Superman's arms. After all, her eye sight was nothing like his, especially in the dark.
The problem was that she was fairly certain her presence had been more of a hindrance than a help. After all, given her limitations in assisting in the search, she'd spent a lot of time watching Superman. The level of concentration on his face as he searched for the kids was incredible. But at times she got the impression that half his concentration was taken up by trying not to notice her presence in his arms.
Not that she could blame him. He was pretty distracting himself. She'd certainly flown with Superman before — like when he'd flown her back to the Daily Planet after saving the space program. But things were different now. After all, this wasn't just Superman whose arms she was in. This was Clark.
She opened the door of the RV and climbed inside, followed by Clark. She glanced towards the bed at the back of the RV and swallowed hard.
"Look, Clark," she said softly, not quite looking at him, "I guess it's your turn to use the bed. I'll just…" As she spoke she opened a cupboard and pulled out the pillow and blanket she'd left for him the previous night and made her way to a chair.
"That's not necessary, Lois," he responded.
"Umm… yeah. Yeah, I think it is," Lois said immediately.
Clark smiled. "What I meant was that I'm going to…" He gestured out of the RV again.
"Clark, we aren't going to find the kids that way," Lois argued.
"I know. But… Well, I should do a patrol in Metropolis and…"
"It's almost three in the morning. You've got to be exhausted."
"I don't need much sleep," Clark responded, his eyes involuntarily straying to the back of the RV, before he added, "Besides, I doubt I'll be getting much sleep tonight."
Lois opened her mouth to respond, but then closed it again. She wasn't ready to talk about everything yet and until she was, what was there to say? So instead, she nodded.
"Goodnight, Lois," Clark said before spinning again.
"Goodnight, Clark," Lois responded to the gust of wind left in Superman's wake. "Be careful," she added as an afterthought.
Lois rolled over in bed for what felt like the hundredth time in the past hour, still trying to get comfortable. Glancing over at the chair where Clark should have been, she sighed. If she thought sleeping was difficult now, how much more difficult would it be with his big, gorgeous, scantily clad body only feet away?
Her mind flashed once again to the image of Clark bare- chested, hanging his cape up at the end of her bed. She quickly pushed the thought away. Suddenly, she found herself puzzling over her fear at following that thought through. Until this evening, she would have simply allowed an image like that to take her where it wanted. So what was different now? After all, she was certain that all it would have taken was a word from her to have made that fantasy a reality. She could right now be learning all the contours of his body. So why had she been almost relieved when he'd left?
She smiled slightly. She was the only woman capable of making Clark sweat. She thought back to Cat's efforts and even to Linda's efforts and then to Clark's words. There was something very heady about the idea that she was the only one with this power over him — especially if one considered who he was. Superman, after all, was the fantasy of millions of women all around the world. Even Jessie's comments tonight confirmed that. And Clark himself had obviously been desired by many women over the years. But there was only one woman he desired. Lois suddenly felt more sexy than she ever had before. She stretched out on the mattress and purred contentedly as a small smile played on the corners of her lips.
The smile faded. If that was the case, why was he out flying patrol around the world while she was lying in here? She'd desired him since he'd first come to Metropolis. So what was holding her back? She let out a short breath. The idea that she was the only one he was attracted to was certainly appealing, but it was also terrifying. If he had told her he loved her this evening, that wouldn't be nearly as scary. After all, her own experience told her that love faded. What he was offering her was not love — it was forever. If in his late twenties, after living all over the world, Clark Kent was telling her that she was the only woman capable of provoking a response in him, it was very likely that she always would be the only one. That's why she wasn't immediately jumping into bed with him. After all, making love to Clark couldn't just be a casual encounter. It was a lifetime commitment.
She stuffed the pillow under her head and forced her eyes shut, determined to go to sleep.
Clark really wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now. He'd poured his heart out to Lois tonight, even going so far as to tell her about Superman, and she'd not responded. Well, that wasn't exactly true. They had been interrupted before they could really talk. But there had been several times since when she could have broached the subject.
'Or you could have,' said a little voice in the back of Clark's brain. He quickly squelched the idea. It had taken every bit of courage he had to tell her as much as he did. He had to wait for her to make the next move.
He suddenly understood what his friends in college had been talking about when they discussed how hard it was to ask a girl out. He'd never found it hard. After all, nothing important hinged on her answer: if one girl didn't want to go out with him, he could always find someone else who did.
But then his heart hadn't been exposed the way it was tonight. Yet Lois was acting almost as if they'd never talked. Maybe the fact that he was Superman bothered her. He supposed he could understand that. After all, she had told Superman that she was crazy about Clark.
Well, for now he would just follow her lead. She seemed to have adopted a professional attitude towards him. So he'd do the same. Besides, the kids' lives were on the line here. That's what they had to concentrate on.
As the fog lifted, Lois stretched and purred, her nose picking up a most welcome smell. She opened her eyes and smiled.
"Morning," she said softly, stretching herself on the bed. She sat up and gasped. There at the foot of her bed…the bed…was Superman's cape, neatly spread out.
"Sorry, about that," Clark said nonchalantly, as he glanced over at the cape . I got some dirt on it last night when I was out and I had to wash it before the stain set in. I lay it out on the bed to dry without creasing." He handed her a steaming cup of coffee and moved the cape. "I'll get it out of your way."
Holding the mug with both hands, she moved it under her nose. "Now this is what I call heaven," she said, breathing in the aroma of the life-giving substance. "So, when did you get back?" she asked taking a cautious sip.
"I've been outside talking to Frankie for a couple of hours now," he said casually. But Lois read between the lines. He'd obviously not come back last night. She briefly wondered if he'd gotten any sleep at all. Still, now was not the time to pursue this discussion, not when she was half-naked in bed.
"So what does Frankie have to say?" Lois asked.
"Well, he suggested that we come by for breakfast. Apparently, Jessie is being as neglectful of getting his breakfast this morning as you are of getting mine," he added with a grin.
Lois rolled her eyes. "What does he have to say about the kids?" she clarified. "Were you able to find out exactly what's being planned for them or where they are?"
"No. But he didn't think we'd be doing much today. Apparently it takes at least twenty-four hours after a kidnapping to get the drugs out of their system enough for Stinky to conduct whatever experiments he's doing. That's when I'll apparently be needed."
"So we've got to wait a whole day before we can get those kids back?" Lois moaned.
"At least we know that they aren't going to be hurt in the meantime. After all, they wouldn't be much good for experimentation if they've been hurt."
Lois nodded slowly and took another sip of her coffee. Clark was making sense, but she just wanted to find those kids and get them away from Eagle now. No matter what, Eagle was still experimenting on them and until she knew what that meant, she would be worried.
She eased her legs over the side of the bed. "Maybe since we won't be doing anything today, we should talk…you know…about what happened last night. Let me get dressed first and have that breakfast that you and Frankie planned," she said.
"I'll go out and…whatever," he said, giving her the privacy to get ready for the day. He walked out into the bright morning and scanned the campsite. It was just starting to come to life. As the son of a farmer and then as a reporter, Clark was used to early mornings and had found the pace of the last few days too slow. He saw Frankie, who had also been up early, come back to the RV.
"Billy Ray, Eagle needs us. Let's go," Frankie said waving him over.
"Where?" asked Clark, eager to have some concrete information about where the kids were.
"We'll know when we get there. Eagle has a meeting and he wants us there to back him up."
Knowing that he really didn't have much of a choice, Clark decided he needed to tell Lois what was happening. "I'll catch up to you in a minute. I'm just going to tell June that I'm leaving."
Clark watched Frankie walk toward the black Ford. He opened the RV door and barged in. "Lois," he said, "Oh… I'm sorry… I didn't think…" he babbled as he turned away from Lois who was toweling her naked back. "Ummm, I just wanted you to know that…uh…Frankie and I are going somewhere with Eagle."
"Where?" asked Lois without missing a beat.
"Don't know. I'll let you know as soon as I get back," he said already halfway out the door.
Clark tried to concentrate on where Frankie was driving them and on the conversation between Stinky and Eagle , but his mind kept going back to Lois standing in the RV with no shirt on. It was the most exquisite sight that he had ever seen. He closed his eyes and replayed it over and over. He was glad that his companions in the car weren't saying anything important.
He opened his eyes when he felt the car slow down. He sat up and looked around. They were in a farmer's open field.
"We just wait now," Eagle announced.
"What are we doing here?" Clark asked, still trying to pump Eagle for information.
"We finally get to meet the Boss."
"I thought you were the boss?"
"That's his name. Or at least the name he chooses to go by. We're trying to sell him something."
Just then their conversation was interrupted by the sounds of a helicopter engine blaring above them. Clark looked up and watched the big metal machine hover in the air and then touch down in the middle of the field. The occupants of the car got out and headed toward the helicopter which unloaded three tall, burly men in dark business suits. Their expressionless faces reminded Clark of undertakers. He x- rayed them, not surprised to find weapons under their jackets. At least, they hadn't taken them out.
The three stooped as they escaped the overhead propellers and then righted themselves. The shortest of the three stepped toward Eagle.
"I thought the Boss was coming this time?" Eagle asked.
"Not this time," the man said.
"How can we do business if he sends his henchman all the time? I want to deal with him, not with you," Eagle insisted.
"Look, buddy, this is small time for the Boss." The man took a step towards Eagle. "You deal with me or you deal with no one."
Stinky nodded his head at Eagle. "Come on, Eagle. Let's just do this."
"All right," Eagle said, begrudgingly, "When do we get the money?"
"No more money until you show us that the stuff works. Got it!"
"It'll be ready tomorrow," said Stinky.
"The Boss has invested a lot of money in this already, but he isn't happy that it's taking so long."
"We gotta get it right," Eagle declared. "We need the time."
"Look, Eagle, the Boss doesn't fund losers," the spokesman said.
"I'm not a loser. Don't call me a loser." Eagle shifted his weight and clenched his fist.
"Don't worry," interrupted Stinky, "We'll be ready to show the results tomorrow. Just bring the Boss to the safehouse. We'll have everything ready to show him."
"The Boss won't be there. I will." the man said. "He doesn't know if he can rely on you and your men. He's heard rumors."
"Who's he not to trust me?" Eagle argued. "I'm doing him a favor." Eagle stepped forward, trying to intimidate the man, but he stopped when he faced a gun.
Clark, seeing the gun, quickly stepped between Eagle and the man, grabbed the assailant by the wrist and squeezed it until the gun fell to the ground. Without skipping a beat, Clark bent down, picked up the gun, removed the clip, and emptied the chamber.
"Guns aren't necessary here," he said, staring down the two other men before they could draw their own guns.
"You're right," said the man, who then turned to Eagle. "Just make sure that everything is ready tomorrow. No more screw ups. No more delays." He confidently turned his back on Eagle and returned to the helicopter. Once the spokesman was safe, the two men shifted their eyes from the bikers and headed to the chopper which took off immediately on their return. Clark wanted to follow the helicopter, but there was no way he could get away from Eagle and Stinky whose attention was centered on him.
"Are you crazy, Eagle?" asked Stinky. "Those guys are dangerous. They could have blown us away if it wasn't for Billy Ray. That man's got nerves of steel."
Lois wasn't in the RV when Clark got back. While waiting for her, he poured himself a cup of coffee and took it outside to drink. The campsite was livelier than it had been earlier in the morning. Children, moving in clumps, were scurrying in and out of the various RVs. Dogs were running up and down the pathways, sniffing under vehicles and digging up loose earth. Cookie ambled over to the RV, sniffed, looked around, and eyed Clark. Growling menacingly at Clark, he roamed down the path toward Eagle's RV. The dog doesn't like me, thought Clark. Probably because I saved the squirrel from being his midnight snack.
Clark started to listen for Lois.
"They may be onto us," he heard Frankie say. Normally, Clark would ignore private conversations, but the words and Frankie's agitated tone compelled him to listen.
"Don't be silly, darling, there's no way that they would know," Jessie said.
"What about the bike explosion? I'm sure it was related," Frankie said.
"You can't worry about these things." Jessie paused. Clark heard a sound that he recognized as soft kisses.
"I worry about you," Frankie said. Clark suspected that Frankie was emphasizing his concern with another series of kisses. He then noted their increased heartbeats and louder breathing.
"I don't want anything else to happen to you," Frankie whispered, "I need you."
"I love that you need me," Jessie whispered back, "but I can take care of myself."
The breathing got heavier, turning into panting. The kisses became louder, resonating through Clark's eardrums.
"I want to make love to you," Frankie murmured.
Clark abruptly started humming a tune to close him off from what he was hearing. He felt the blood rush to his face and to other parts as his mind began imagining what it might be like to be making those noises with Lois.
"What's up, Clark?" Lois asked as she tried to get his attention.
Trying to erase the picture forming in his mind, Clark needed a moment to tune into what Lois was saying. She must have arrived while he was listening to Frankie and Jessie…
"You looked like you were on another planet," she observed.
"No…uh…I…" He glanced at the Frankie and Jessie's RV. "I…uh…heard…well, I…"
"You're sputtering like a dying car…" she said, staring at Clark, "and you're as red as a beet." He looked so embarrassed that she had to probe further. "Claa-ark? What's going on?"
"Lois, you don't want to know," he said once again glancing at the RV and turning red.
"Yes, I do," she said, getting a charge out of making her partner uncomfortable.
"I overheard something I didn't want to." He would be fine if he didn't think about what was going on in the other RV.
"Theyweremakinglove," he said, running one word into the next, "but what's really important," he said hoping to deflect Lois's attention from Frankie and Jessie's lovemaking and his discomfort, "is what they said before. Come into the RV. We need to talk. Following her to the RV, he wondered if she enjoyed tormenting him.
Before she could say anything, he began, "Frankie and Jessie aren't what they seem to be."
"What do you mean?" Lois asked, her curiosity alerted.
"I overhead Frankie say to Jessie, 'They may be onto us'."
"Who is 'they'?"
"I don't know. But it's interesting that Mortician Man…"
"Mortician Man . The guy who was the spokesman at the meeting looked like a mortician. That's the only way I can distinguish him from the other two goons."
"You have to tell me about that, too."
"I will, but one thing at a time. Mortician Man told Eagle that the so-called Boss heard rumors that he can't trust Eagle. Then, not an hour later, Frankie tells Jessie, 'They're onto us', and that he's scared for her. What would you think?"
"I would think that you may be right," Lois said. Then her eyes popped open. "Clark, the other day, I overheard Jessie say something about a 279 sub one. Do you think they're police?"
"Possibly," he said. Clark picked up his cellphone and dialed Jimmy at the Planet office.
"The modern joys of roughing it."
While Clark waited for Jimmy to search for legal references and an interpretation of 279 (1), he filled Lois in on what happened earlier that morning.
"What do you mean, you got between them quickly?" asked Lois a little nervously.
"Umm…" Clark began, trying to figure out what she was getting at. "Oh, did I use my powers?" he asked. When she nodded, he continued. "I used human speed, Lois," he assured her. She let out a breath. He was glad to see that she was just as interested as he was in keeping his second identity secret.
It was only a couple of minutes before Jimmy came back on the line. Clark listened for a moment before hanging up the phone.
"So what did he have to say?" Lois asked impatiently.
"Section 279 (1) of the New Troy Criminal Code is for kidnapping."
"Yes! Yes!" she squealed as she jumped on Clark and hugged him.
"I'm not complaining here, Lois, but why are you so delighted?"
"I like Jessie, Clark. And now, she's one of the good guys. To use that kind of terminology, you have to be in law enforcement. They're undercover like us. Let's go tell them."
"No. Think about it. What are we going to say to them? You use 279 (1) in context so we guess you're cops. What if they're not? What if they just have some private code?"
"Clark, that's impossible. Who else would say that? And if you add it all up, it makes sense."
"Yes, it does make sense, and I would be surprised if they weren't police, but sometimes you have to check the water level. This is one of those times."
"If we 'bust' them and we're wrong, we've blown our own covers. We lose the story. We can't help the kids…"
"Okay, I get the point. You win this time." She slapped him on the shoulder affectionately. "But don't get used to it, Kent," she warned.
"So," began Clark, "how do you suggest we find out who they really are?"
Lois thought about that for a moment before steaming out of the RV. Clark followed. Smiling, he watched her sneak to the back of Jessie and Frankie's RV and write down the license plate number along with the vehicle identification number.
"Let's get this to Jimmy," she suggested. "Then he can tell us who the RV really belongs to."
Jimmy quickly got back to them with the registration for the RV. It belonged to a Laurence McMahon, no it hadn't been reported stolen, and Laurence McMahon lived in Maryland, but he worked in Washington, D.C. for the DEA.
"Bingo!" Lois said. "I was right."
"I didn't say you weren't right, I just said that we shouldn't move too quickly," Clark explained.
"Can we move now?"
"I'm following your lead, Ms Lane," he said, trailing a few steps behind her as she barreled out the RV's door. "Lois," he said when he caught up to her, "do you have a plan?"
"A plan? Yeah, I have a plan. I'll play it by ear. Just stay on your toes."
Jessie was on her way back from the community showers when Lois and Clark approached their RV. She welcomed them when they invited themselves inside.
"Frankie said you were really awesome when you stopped the guy with the gun," she said.
"Yeah," interrupted Frankie, "Billy Ray here showed no fear. I'd hate to have to face him in a game of chicken."
"Well," said Lois, "here's your chance, Laurence McMahon."
"Pardon?" Frankie mumbled.
"Laurence McMahon, we know who you are," Lois said.
"I'm definitely not Laurence McMahon," Frankie said.
But Lois caught Clark's nod which told her to continue pushing Frankie. Clark must have picked something up.
"Laurence McMahon owns this RV. What did you do? Steal it?" But before either Frankie or Jessie could answer the questions, she plunged on. "Because this vehicle has never been reported stolen."
"I'm really not Laurence McMahon," Frankie repeated.
"Okay, so you're not Laurence McMahon. Do you think that whoever put the explosives in the motorcycle cares what your names are?" Clark added.
"You could be Frank and Jesse James for all they cared," Lois continued. "They just want one, or both, of you dead. If you come clean, then maybe we can help you."
"You can help us?" Jessie asked, incensed. "Who are you to think that we need your help?"
Lois looked over at Clark who raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders.
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent of the Daily Planet." Lois introduced herself and her partner.
"A couple of reporters want to help us? Excuse me, we're the professionals," Jessie raged on.
"And you are?" Clark asked, stepping forward and offering his hand.
"Dan Scardino, DEA, and this is my partner, Jenna Nodin."
The two couples looked at each other for a few seconds before either said anything. Dan tried to convince Lois and Clark to stay out of the investigation, "You've got to understand that Jenna and I are professionals, trained to do undercover work and to deal with criminals."
"Right!" Lois reminded him, "It was Clark who stopped the meeting in the farmer's field from escalating into the shoot-out at the OK corral."
"I was just about to move in on them. Billy Ray, I mean Clark, just got there first."
"But we're the ones who figured out who you are. You thought we were with them, didn't you?" Lois challenged.
"Hold on. What we've all forgotten here," interrupted Clark, "is that the kidnapped victims are still being held hostage somewhere. Do you know where they are?"
"Yes," said Jenna, "But we can't release them because we don't just want Eagle and Stinky, we also want the Boss. He's responsible for a lot of the drugs that are on the streets today."
"But the kids are in danger," argued Lois.
"The kids'll be fine. Just a bit traumatized from being away from their families. But Vinnie makes sure that they're in good condition. They have to be when the Boss finally sees them," said Dan.
"The kids aren't in mortal danger," Jenna stressed.
Dan glanced at his watch. "Look, in a few hours we're all going to be getting together at Sykes. Then tomorrow we'll be going to the house where the kids are and after we get the boss, we'll work on a plan to free the kids. I need some time alone with Jenna."
Outside the RV, Lois put her arm through Clark's. "How did you know that I should push Frankie…Dan, I mean, on the name issue?"
"I heard the change in his heart rate when you kept calling him Laurence McMahon."
"Good thinking. Is that the way you overheard them talking?"
"So, are they doing it again?" she asked.
Clark's eyes popped open, once again imagining what 'doing it again' would entail. "Lo-is! I think they're going to talk about you and me, and then they're going to figure out their next move, just as we are."
"You're telling me that you're not going to listen?"
"That's right. They are entitled to their privacy. Now, what we have to do at Sykes tonight is find out…"
Lois had to fight back a chuckle as Clark once again tried to lead the conversation in another direction. She had to admit, making him blush had to be one of her all time favorite pastimes.
Sykes Bar and Grill was the social hub of the Siegel campsite. It had a bar where the beer was relatively cheap, a decent restaurant that specialized in ribs and steaks, a few pool tables, and a dance floor that always seemed to be full. The noise level, like the activity level, was high.
Lois and Clark had arrived a half an hour earlier and, after grabbing themselves a quick bite to eat, found a table in the bar area where they sat studying the crowd and nursing their beers. Talking to each other was difficult, so they only made the occasional observation of what someone did or what someone wore. Every so often, when Lois was watching the commotion around them, Clark looked over at her, once again thinking how incredibly good it felt to be sitting with her, and just being with her. It didn't hurt that she looked so good in that short, form-fitting denim skirt. He kept trying to stop himself from imagining what was beneath her very low-cut and form-fitting top.
Sitting beside Clark was driving her crazy, Lois thought while she watched the dancers. He looked really good, no extremely good, in his tight blue jeans, his t-shirt still not tucked in and his flannel shirt hanging open. He fiddled with his shirt a lot, she noticed. It was surprising how well they worked together. Lois had never experienced anything like it before. They were getting to the point where they were thinking like one person. She surprised herself earlier in the day when she took his advice and didn't go barging in on Jenna and Dan. She let Clark convince her to wait until they had more information. It worked.
She turned her head to face Clark whom she found staring at her. Her first impulse was to turn her head away, perhaps to blush coyly, but she didn't allow herself to do that. Instead, she maintained eye contact with him. She studied his eyes, the laugh lines around them deepening as he smiled at her.
It was Stinky. Lois resented the man for his intrusion.
"We need to talk. Let's go where it's a bit quieter," Stinky said then walked across the room.
Clark looked longingly at Lois and then shrugged his shoulders. He followed Stinky, leaving Lois alone at the table with her beer.
"Billy Ray, you were really level-headed out there this morning," said Stinky offering Clark a beer and taking a seat at a secluded table away from the action and the noise. Clark joined him. "I really appreciate what you did."
"Eagle can be pretty unpredictable at times and we need to have the Boss on our side. Thank you."
"No problem," he repeated, not sure what else to say.
"We need people like you, a quick thinker, cool under pressure. I'm surprised you were looking for a job."
"My last boss ended up in jail. Toni Taylor."
"Yeah, she had something to do with the Metro Club in Metropolis."
"That's right. When she went to jail, June and I decided to travel a bit, get out of the city, you know." Clark looked deliberately at Stinky. He took another swig of beer and glanced around the bar. "Who were those guys, this morning?" he asked.
"Just some guys we're doing business with," Stinky answered.
"No, Stinky, that's not good enough." His tone became harsher. "I don't like being put in the middle of something that I don't understand. I might hurt the wrong person… or get hurt myself. When I'm up against guys carrying, I need to know…No matter how dirty it is," he added as an afterthought.
Clark gave Stinky a few minutes to think about his answer. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Eagle approaching Lois. She clenched her hand around the bottle of beer and sat up straighter. Clark strained to hear the conversation.
"You did good last night, sweetheart," Eagle said as he put his arm around Lois. Clark was about to rise from his chair, but stopped when he saw her squirm out of Eagle's grasp.
"Why thank you, Eagle," she said.
Clark watched Eagle put his hand in his pocket and put a wad of money in front of Lois who sat straighter and stared at the bills in front of her. Her one hand never left the bottle of beer while the other rested on the table.
"That's your payment, sweetheart, for the good job you did, but I can give you more than money just because you're a beautiful chick that looks like you could use some lovin' that only I can give." Eagle sat down beside her. Lois appeared reluctant when she took the money. She tapped her skirt, shrugged her shoulders, and placed the money in her bra. Eagle's eyes followed her movements and rested on her cleavage where she had placed the money.
He drew his chair closer, and Clark saw his hand go under the table.
"Billy Ray isn't right for you, sweetheart. He's just a country boy. Let me make you happy."
"He was strong enough to beat you at arm wrestling two out of three times, and to knock the gun out of the guy's hand this morning."
"But does he make you happy the way I can?"
Clark watched Eagle's large, vulgar hand move onto Lois's thigh and stroke it. Before Clark could move in on Eagle, Lois jumped out of her seat and using her thigh, smashed Eagle's hand, wedging it between her thigh and the edge of the table. Eagle gasped in pain.
"He makes me super happy," Lois said and walked towards Clark, leaving Eagle to nurse his hand.
Clark chuckled to himself. Whatever made him think that Lois couldn't take care of herself. She was probably more threatening than he was in full Superman attire.
"So, I believed that since this drug made people compliant…" Stinky was saying. Clark realized that he hadn't been paying full attention to Stinky. "…there must be a buyer out there. So I left the lab where I was working. Eagle and I figured that we could try it out on kids. You might find this hard to believe, but the jelly beans were Eagle's idea." Clark raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Well, we found a buyer, who now wants to see if it works and how far these kids will go to obey. I think he'd like to train these kids into some kind of work force for him."
It didn't take long for Clark to process what he heard and what he missed.
"Who's the buyer," he asked.
"Don't know. We've always dealt with his henchman. He's always referred to as the Boss. No name. No idea who he is."
"Where are the kids?"
"You'll find out tomorrow. We need you to come to the safehouse where we're keeping them, and get them ready for the demonstration tomorrow. Then if the Boss is satisfied, he'll take the kids and work with them, and buy the formula."
Before Clark could ask any more questions, Lois approached, sliding onto his leg and slipping her arm around his shoulders. Having no where else to rest his hand, he cautiously placed it in her lap, palm up. Still, he couldn't help notice the hard ridge of the hem of her short skirt under the back of his hand. Above the hem he could feel the rough brush of denim and below the smooth skin of her bare leg. His breath caught in his throat when she picked up his hand and played with it, before placing it back on her leg, palm down. His hand naturally settled so that his palm rested on her thigh, his fingers brushing the inside of her leg.
Clark tried to ignore how perfect it felt having her soft curves coiled up against him or how her bare leg felt under the palm of his hand. Still, he couldn't block out the intoxicating scent of the light perfume she was wearing or the images that were suddenly playing in his mind, images of her standing before him without her shirt.
He glanced across the room and saw Eagle sitting down at the bar, nursing his injured hand. He reminded himself that Eagle was the reason Lois was sitting on his lap. She was just making it clear to Eagle who she was with. This was just an act. This wasn't real. She seemed to reinforce that thought by removing the money he'd seen her place in her bra earlier and sticking it in the pocket of his shirt.
"So what time are we supposed to leave tomorrow?" asked Clark, fighting like crazy to keep his voice steady.
"Either Frankie or me will be by for you first thing in the morning," replied Stinky.
Clark missed the answer as Lois buried her face in his neck and began to gently nibble at the exposed skin. However, he figured he didn't really need to know the answer to that question. After all, surely either Stinky or Frankie would come by for him when it was time to go.
"Exactly how many kids are we talking about?" asked Clark as Lois's lips began working their way up his neck to gently tug on his earlobe. Clark almost groaned.
"Enough," said Stinky.
"Billy Ray, honey," Lois murmured, stretching each syllable, "I really want to dance to this. It's Uncle Perry's favorite."
Clark swallowed hard. 'This is all an act,' he reminded himself again. Still, the power created by the old Elvis tune 'Fools Rush In' was electric. He cleared his throat and turned his attention back to Stinky.
"Sorry," he said, "but…" He gestured to the woman on his knee, who was currently running her hand down his chest. Knowing he couldn't take much more, Clark's hand came up and covered hers, subtly stopping her downward exploration.
"I understand," Stinky interrupted.
Lois immediately got up and grabbed Clark's hand, pulling him to his feet.
Clark was slightly surprised when Lois placed both arms around his neck and pulled him to her, holding him with an intimacy that caused his blood to boil. Then he noticed the way the couples around them were dancing and realized that she was just imitating the company they were in. The dance floor was dark and crowded, and the people making use of it were doing a lot more than just dancing. He saw one man move his hand down until it was lightly kneading the buttocks of his partner. He quickly looked away, trying not to think about what it might be like to touch Lois that way.
That was when he spotted Eagle on the other side of the dance floor, now holding what seemed to be a cloth filled with ice against his hand. Clark again reminded himself that this was just an act. Eagle had obviously upset Lois more than he had realized. She needed to prove that she was truly unavailable. Reminding himself of that fact, he placed his hands respectfully on her waist as they began to move to the music. No matter what, he wouldn't make the mistake he'd made only one night earlier. He would not allow himself to forget that this was just an act. He closed his eyes and began reciting the periodic tables silently to himself.
It was only a moment later when he felt one of Lois's hands slip down his arm until it came to rest on his hand. Taking it firmly in hers, she pulled it further around her. He immediately understood. Although he had to be careful not to take this too far, she obviously thought he was being too respectful to be believable. He immediately took her hint and slipped his arms fully around her waist, pulling her tighter against him. He pulled in a sharp breath when her body came into full contact with his.
He felt a confusing mixture of relief and disappointment when she pulled back slightly. But then her hand slipped into his hair as she pulled him forward to bring his mouth down to hers. He whispered her name just before their lips met, silently begging her to help him remember that this was an illusion. He doubted, however, that she could hear him over the blast of the music. That left controlling himself up to him.
Still, he couldn't seem to stop from accepting her silent invitation by deepening the kiss. His memory of kissing her the previous night couldn't do justice to the experience itself as he continued to press his lips against hers. He felt her respond and spur him on. As if it had a mind of its own, one of his hands slipped down her back to lightly caress her buttocks before seeming to remember itself and once again move back to her waist.
Almost immediately, a hand left his hair to run down his arm. He cringed, knowing its purpose. Clark held his breath when Lois grabbed his hand. In spite of his best efforts, he'd allowed himself to get caught up in the moment. He had hoped that by moving his hand immediately, she'd realize that it was an unintentional action and not be upset. But that was obviously not the case. Her mouth left his as she brought his hand still higher. Then she leaned closer and placed her lips beside his ear. He prepared himself for the rebuke he knew was coming, the rebuke he knew he deserved.
"Gently," she said, as she placed his hand…
His entire body jerked slightly when he felt the soft curve of her breast under his hand. He couldn't stop the deep groan that grew in his belly before forcing itself past his lips. His hand seemed no longer to be his to control as it responded to her command. 'Gently.' He moved his hand to circle her breast feeling it rise and fall as her breathing became rapid and shallow. And suddenly, every ounce of self-control he'd been fighting so hard to maintain seemed to forsake him. He heard a low growl in his ears and instantly realized he was the one who had made the sound.
The loud music faded into the background. The memory of others on the dance floor vanished. At that moment, he was aware of nothing except the feel, the smell and the sound of the woman in his arms. She raised her head from his neck and half-sang, half-whispered the final words of the song now playing in the distance.
"For I can't help falling in love with you."
With her words, the hand still on her lower back slipped further down her buttocks before gently tracing the curves he found there. He was snapped back to reality when she suddenly stepped away.
He blinked and looked around. It took him a moment to remember where he was. And as he did, he realized that he'd done it again. In spite of his best efforts, he'd forgotten that they were just playing a role. If she hadn't broken contact when she had, who knew how far he would have gone. He was unable to meet her eyes as she took his hand and began to lead him through the crowded dance floor towards the door of the bar.
Clark took a deep breath of the cool night air as soon as they got outside Sykes, trying to get his body temperature back under some semblance of control. He expected her to release his hand immediately; instead, she began walking towards a trail through the woods, taking him with her.
"Where are we going?" he asked, glancing back in the direction of their RV.
"I think we need to talk," said Lois softly.
Clark nodded, knowing full well what she wanted to talk about. If he had crossed the line last night, he'd forgotten there even was a line tonight. She had every right to be furious with him.
"Look, Lois, I'm so sorry…" he began as soon as he was confident that they were far enough away from the stragglers hanging around outside the bar that he wouldn't be heard using her real name.
"Sorry?" she interrupted, stopping to look into his eyes.
"Well, back there… I thought… Aren't you mad?" he asked.
"We really…" she began, emphasizing the word "…need to talk." Turning back towards the path through the woods, she continued walking towards it, taking Clark with her.
Lois led Clark along a well-worn path through the pine forest. The fresh aroma of the trees filled her aroused senses as did the feel of his large hand in hers. They only walked several hundred yards when they exited the woods and faced a small lake that was lit by an oversized full moon hanging over a small, wooded island a mile away. The moon's reflection glossed over the still lake.
"Nice," Clark said as he let her lead him to the shore. He crouched and put his hand in the water. "It's colder than I expected," he said, and then picked at the sand on the shore.
"I found it this morning when you went with Eagle and the boys," she explained.
Clark stood up and skipped a stone across the surface of the lake. He concentrated on counting each time the stone touched the water. "My record as a kid was fourteen," he said. "My best friend Pete got fifteen once, but I think it was a fluke." He threw another pebble. "Only eight this time. I must be out of practice."
She watched the ease with which he aimed the pebble at the water and then released it. She counted with him. Only six. She watched the ever-growing ripples that the pebble made in the water.
"Yes!" he said, "Ten. I'm finding my groove."
"I never thought that I would see Superman doing anything as ordinary as skipping stones."
"You're not. You're seeing Clark. Superman just flies in, helps, and flies out. He doesn't skip stones, Actually, he's pretty boring, doesn't do much of anything."
"Why's he around then?"
"I wanted to help, but I didn't want to be an experiment, you know, put in a lab and dissected like a frog. I also didn't want to be like a movie star whose every breath is watched and recorded. So, I decided to wear a disguise."
"How long have you been super…superpowered…what do you call it?"
"My mom calls it special… but she's my mother," he chuckled. "My dad calls it a gift."
"So, how long?"
"I was strong as a kid and I never got sick when I was little. No chicken pox. My mom kept me home from school for a few days because I cried when half my class missed school and I wasn't getting sick. I think she knew, even when I was six, that I was different. When I started going through puberty, I started doing weird things like seeing through walls, overhearing things that I shouldn't have been able to, running faster than normal."
"What did your friend Pete say when he found out that you could do all of these wonderful things?"
"Pete? I never told him. I never told anyone until yesterday. The only other people who know are my parents."
Lois opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself as she processed what she had just heard. Other than Clark's parents, she was the only person on the planet who knew that Clark Kent was Superman. He looked so casual when he told her, challenging as always, but as if it was a part of their normal banter. Yet, she now knew this incredible secret about Clark that he even admitted would change his life if it were generally known. She gasped. He was putting so much faith and trust in her. Lois sucked in her breath as she accepted the responsibility that he placed on her.
Suddenly, she saw him yawn.
"Tired?" she asked.
"A little," he said casually, tossing another stone across the water.
She thought about that for a moment. Last night he'd been gone when she went to sleep and he'd been up before her. In fact, when she thought about it, she realized the same had been the case the previous night. "How much sleep have you had in the past few days?" she finally asked.
"I don't need much sleep," he responded, tossing another stone across the water.
"Clark," she warned, realizing that he hadn't answered her question.
He studied the pebbles in his hand, taking his time deciding which one to throw next. "Not much," he finally said.
"And how much is that?" she persisted.
He let out a breath, as if realizing that she wasn't going to let this go. "Do you remember when I fell asleep in the RV when you were driving?" he asked.
"Yes, but… Are you saying you haven't slept since?" she gasped. "Clark, that was two days ago."
"Why?" she finally asked.
He turned and looked at her, his eyes running over her body.
"Oh," she responded softly as understanding began to sink in. There was a moment of awkward silence before Clark spoke again.
"More questions?" he asked.
"Lots," she said. "Just not sure where to begin." She stared at him skipping stones.
"Twelve," he said.
"I don't understand how guys can just stand around and throw rocks across a body of water and get kicks out of it."
"Not the kind of question I expected, and I'm not sure I can answer that one," he said with a smile.
He let the remaining pebbles fall from his hand and joined Lois who was sitting down on a nearby boulder staring at the lake.
"Are your parents Kryptonian, too?"
"No. I was three months old when my parents found my spaceship in an abandoned field. They adopted me and raised me. They're not my birth parents, but they are definitely my parents, and definitely grounded on Earth." He turned to face her and rubbed his finger along her cheek. "I'd like you to meet them soon. They're really special people."
"They must have been," Lois said, purposely making her voice sound sarcastic, "to raise a son like you." Meeting his parents was a big step that she didn't want to think about yet. She tried to lighten the mood. "So the girls back at Smallville High must have been knocking down the barn door to get at you?"
"No," he said seriously, "actually, I didn't have any girlfriends. It was only when I was at college and then New York that I went out with different girls, more for show than anything else. When the guys were talking in the locker room about their interest in girls, I listened in and paid attention, waiting for those same feelings to start with me. When nothing happened, even when I went out with some good-looking women, I decided that I couldn't be attracted to an Earth woman." He paused, taking her hand in his, "…And since there weren't any Kryptonian women around, I had to accept that I was different. I decided that having a girlfriend, a wife, a family was something that wasn't going to happen to me. It really didn't seem like a great loss because I didn't know what I was missing…" He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. "…Until I met you." He raised her fingers to his lips.
"But we bickered all the time," Lois remembered. "I've never bickered with anyone. I just tell them, rather emphatically, what my opinion is and what they should be thinking." Their early relationship had been more like being on constant alert for the next attack. "You kept on pulling pranks on me like the search for Superman's spaceship in the sewage reclamation plant and the interviews with Superman…okay, I know it's you now, but then I didn't."
"I know. You got so indignant. I couldn't help it," he admitted, picking at a piece of the boulder. "At first I wanted to give the Superman interviews back to you, but then I liked the way you were angry with me, so I provoked you some more." He tightened his lips worried about what Lois would do to him.
"Oh my goodness. I can't believe it. "Lois roared with laughter. "You were pulling my pigtails."
"I don't see what's so funny here, Lois," Clark said, but there was no way he could be heard over Lois's chortling.
Finally, she calmed down. "When a little boy wants to get a girl's attention, and when he doesn't really know that he likes her, he pulls her pigtails. He gets her attention."
"What does a little girl do to get a little boy's attention?" he asked.
"She tries to seduce him." Lois stopped. All she seemed to do was play with his emotions and drive those newly raging hormones on. She was a tease, and the last thing in the world she wanted to be was a tease. She owed Clark more than that. She had to tell him, now before she missed her chance. After all, that was the reason she brought him here.
"No wait, Lois. Let me explain…"
"Please," he pleaded.
She stopped talking and listened.
"I guess I have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy," he explained.
"I don't understand."
"The reality is that you were putting on a show for Eagle to convince him that we were a couple, that you weren't available. Being that close, I got caught up in my own fantasy. I'm sorry."
"Clark." This time it was Lois's turn to take Clark's hand. "I was trying to tell you, before you interrupted, that it was my fantasy too. June sat on your knee and fawned all over you for Eagle's sake…no, don't interrupt, Clark…Lois asked you to dance. Lois put your hand here." She moved his hand to her breast, once again enjoying the pressure and the warmth that rushed through her body. She eased over to him , letting him put his other arm around her shoulders. "Lois was the one who said, 'I can't help falling in love with you.'"
She tilted her head up to Clark's. He bent forward to kiss her. His lips played with hers, gently nibbling and then he deepened the kiss. "I think I'm falling in love with you, too," he said, reluctantly ending the kiss. Lois stared into his eyes, startled by the amount of electricity that suddenly seemed to be in the air.
Lois broke eye contact, staring out at the moon reflecting off the water.
"Lois?" Clark asked.
She didn't answer for a moment as she tried to get her thoughts in order. Everything just seemed to be happening so fast. She thought back to her concern the other night. Although Clark's attraction to her was more than a little flattering, especially considering the fact that she was the only one who was able to provoke these reactions in him, it was also a huge responsibility. And the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.
"It's just… You know how you mentioned meeting your parents earlier?" she asked, glancing over at him. When he nodded, she continued. "I'm a little scared, Clark. It seems as if you want something that I'm not sure I'm ready to give you."
"Like?" asked Clark, trying to figure out where she was going with this.
She let out a slow breath, keeping her eyes focused on the water. "Clark, I'm not sure I can promise you a future. I just don't know if…"
"A future?" asked Clark. He let out a breath. "Lois, I'm not quite sure what to say here. I mean, I meant every word I said before. I am falling in love with you. But… this is all sort of new to me, too. I know what I feel whenever you kiss me or touch me or let me do this," he said, reaching out to take her hand in his. He gently played with it as he continued speaking. "I know I want these feelings to go on forever. But… I guess what it comes down to is that I don't know if we even have a future." He paused for a moment, considering his words. "I've never considered a future with anyone… I don't even know if I should be considering a future with anyone, even you. Is it right to put you in the position of sharing the man in your life, whatever that might mean, with the rest of the world? What if someone found out? What would being Superman's girlfriend, or even his wife, do to you, to your career, to your safety? Could we have a family? These are all questions I don't have the answers to. I love you. But I don't think either of us is in a position yet to know where this is going."
She closed her eyes and let out a breath of relief. "I'm so glad you said that, Clark," she said, turning towards him and bringing their joined hands into her lap. "I'm just so scared that I'm going to hurt you."
He smiled. "Well, I'm scared that I'm going to hurt you, too," he responded.
She met his smile, before leaning in and softly kissing him. "So what do you say we just take it one day at a time? See where things go?"
"Sounds like a plan," he responded, releasing her hand.
He jumped off the boulder and then lifted her off and into his arms. He gave her a brief kiss.
"Let's go back to the RV, Clark."
"Because my backside is cold," she said as she rubbed it.
She turned away from Clark and headed toward the path. All of a sudden, the cold was replaced by a soothing warmth. "What the…?" she asked turning to face Clark.
He shrugged his shoulders, nonchalantly. "Heat vision."
"Mmmm, that feels good," she said, rubbing her warm backside. "I had never thought of Superman as a potential date, but I can see that it has its advantages," she chuckled.
Arm in arm, they returned to the RV punctuating their conversation with all kinds of kisses. As they neared the RV, Lois felt Clark move closer to her. Enveloping her in his arms, he lifted her chin, and placed a kiss that seemed to hold so much promise.
"No! No! No!" he grumbled, "Get away from here."
Lois snapped her head away from Clark's not understanding his sudden repulsion. Then she saw Clark glaring over her shoulder. She didn't have to turn around to hear Cookie growling at them.
"Come on, Cookie," she said. "Give us a break here. Behave and you can come in the RV."
Clark held back, allowing Lois and then Cookie to enter the RV. After their talk, he wasn't at all certain that he would be getting any sleep tonight either. The idea of being curled up in that chair, watching Lois sleep and not going to her was almost unbearable. At the same time, he wasn't sure he had the strength to leave. Not after their dance, not after their talk, not after the kisses they'd shared.
Clark shook his head when he saw Cookie find a place on the floor and make himself comfortable. It was almost as if that animal had adopted Lois. Clark suspected that the dog tolerated him for Lois's sake alone. And although he couldn't be hurt by Cookie, he suspected that any displeasure with him by Lois would be shared by the animal.
"Excuse me," said Lois the moment the door closed behind them. "I just want to get changed. This is not the most comfortable skirt I own and this…" she continued glancing down at the artificial way her push up bra was maintaining her shape. "Someone should be sent to the electric chair for inventing this."
Clark chuckled, although he had to admit, he was sort of thinking the man deserved the Nobel Prize for that invention. With those final words, Lois headed towards the back of the RV.
"Do you want me to wait outside?" asked Clark, moving his hand to place it on the door.
"No need," said Lois, giving him a smile as she began to move the door beside her. "That's why they call them privacy panels. Just have a seat. I'll only be a couple of minutes."
Clark nodded as the door blocked off his view of what Lois was doing. Still, he couldn't help but hear various items of clothing being removed. He looked around the RV in desperation. He had to find something quick to divert his mind from the thoughts of her naked body behind that panel. His eyes landed on the television, situated on the other side of the vehicle. He got up and turned it on, flipping through the three channels available until he found what he was looking for. The Bills/Mets game was on. Surely that would help.
He turned the volume up and settled back in his chair, focusing all his energy on the game. As he did, he found that the fire inside began to calm until hot embers were all that were left.
The game was almost over. Just enough time remained for one final play. The score was 23 to 18 in favor of the Bills. The Mets had the football at their own 45 yard line. The entire Bills' defensive team seemed determined to stop this final attempt.
The ball was snapped. The Mets' new quarterback, Steve Law, stepped back and threw the ball — a long pass to number sixty-six, Eddy Farrell. The ball seemed to hang in the air for a moment as the crowd held its collective breath. Then the camera followed the ball's descent. Farrell stretched out his hands and the ball touched his fingers, bouncing there for a moment before the hands tightened around the pigskin and pulled it into the curve of the man's body.
"Yes!" exclaimed Clark, jumping to his feet.
"Fifteen yards to the end zone. I think he's going to go all the way!" the announcer exclaimed. "Ten, seven… Just one more Bills' player stands between him and a touchdown. And…"
"Go, go, go, go, go," Clark chanted, mentally pushing Farrell towards the goal line.
"Claaaark," purred a soft female voice.
"Humm?" asked Clark, not taking his eyes off the game.
Suddenly, the television died.
"Hey, I was watching…" Clark began, his voice trailing off as his eyes landed on Lois. He slowly sank back into his chair, the game instantly forgotten.
Never had one of his shirts looked so sexy. The flames immediately reignited as his eyes followed the sliver of skin that ran down the center of her body as a result of the open flannel shirt she was wearing. The soft, pink flesh was unhindered by material from her throat to the edge of her panties. Below his shirt was nothing. No leggings, no stockings, no pants, no skirt. His eyes continued to follow her body down until they reached her bare feet before beginning the return trip. It took him quite some time to meet her eyes again.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Lois when his eyes finally landed on hers. "Were you watching the game?"
"What game?" asked Clark in response, genuinely confused.
Lois smiled, slinking slowly over to him. She reached out, running her hand slowly through his hair.
"Lo-is," groaned Clark.
"Claark," Lois purred back, sinking down onto his leg while her hand continued to play with his hair.
Clark pulled in a sharp breath.
"You like?" asked Lois cheekily.
"Like?" Clark asked in disbelief before letting out a slow breath. "I don't think 'like' even begins to describe it. It's just…"
"What, Clark?" Lois asked, suddenly becoming much more serious. Maybe she was pushing. Maybe he wasn't ready for this. After their talk, she'd just assumed… Maybe she had assumed wrong. After all, Clark Kent was definitely not an ordinary man.
"I haven't exactly done this before," he said in a rush of words.
"There's a first time for everything," she responded on a chuckle as she realized what was bothering him. He was nervous. And she wasn't sure she'd ever seen anything more adorable. She wasn't surprised by his confession. By everything he'd told her so far, she'd suspected that was the case.
She pushed at the shoulders of the shirt he was wearing over his t-shirt. He straightened his arms, allowing it to fall from his body.
"I mean, don't get me wrong," Clark continued. "I know the mechanics of it. It would be impossible to grow up in our society and not know the mechanics of it." Lois reached up and removed his glasses, placing them to the side. "I sometimes think I would have stood out less if I had been born in the Victorian age. I know that history has idealized that age somewhat but…"
Lois's hands slipped under the edge of his t-shirt and began slowly running up the bare skin of his sides, taking the shirt with her, as he continued to speak.
"…at least then, it wouldn't seem strange for a man not to be sexually active. Of course, if we're going back in time, even earlier there was the concept of courtly love, where the love was never actually consummated. That would have been a good society for me to have grown up in. I could have pretended to be passionately in love with one of the ladies of the court, knowing that our love would never…"
Clark raised his arms, allowing Lois to slip the t-shirt off his body. She tossed the t-shirt casually down on the floor before turning her attention back to him.
"…have to be consummated. I've often thought that would have made it easier…" His voice trailed off as Lois leaned back in and began once again nuzzling at his neck. "Maybe it would be a good idea for me to read up on this before actually doing it," continued Clark. "Did you know that I can speed read, so I could read every 'how to' book ever written on the subject before…" His voice trailed off for a moment as her hand began exploring the muscles of his chest. "Of course, I'm not suggesting that you even want to do this. Well, I mean it's obvious that you want to do this. But I'm not trying to suggest that you want to do more than this. I just meant…"
This time his voice died because Lois's hand left his chest to place her fingers across his lips.
"You're babbling, Clark," she said, the amusement dancing in her eyes.
"I don't babble. I was just… You're right. I was babbling," he conceded.
"Look, if you don't want…"
Her finger came back to his lips. "Just hear me out," she requested. When he nodded, she continued. "I want to make love with you. I've been thinking about it from the moment I first laid eyes on you. And since then, I've fallen in love with you, which just makes it… But, Clark, I don't want to push you into something you're not comfortable with. But don't worry about the fact that you've never made love before. We'll figure it out together. On the other hand, if you just want to hold me tonight, I'm okay with…"
Her voice trailed off when his hand slipped into her hair and his mouth sought out hers. She moaned softly, shifting on his leg to press her body more firmly against his. It was only a moment before he had his arm under her legs and was standing up to carry her to the back of the RV. He laid her on the bed, before standing up again to look at her, lying there waiting for him. He kicked off his shoes and was about to crawl on the bed to join her when he felt something grabbing at the bottom of his pant leg.
He glanced down in confusion.
"Cookie!" Lois exclaimed when she saw the dog had seized onto the edge of Clark's jeans and was currently trying to drag Clark away from the bed. Clark shook his foot, but the dog maintained its grip, swinging slightly with the movement.
Lois covered her mouth with a hand and fought back a laugh.
"Would you let me go?" exclaimed Clark when the dog continued to hang on the way only a pit bull could. He grabbed the dog, pulling slightly. However, it soon became obvious that he was not going to be able to pry the dog off his pants without risking serious damage to the dog's teeth. "Lois?" he asked, turning back to look at her. As he met her eyes, she burst out laughing.
"You're a lot of help," mumbled Clark, turning back to the dog problem. "Come on, Cookie," Clark said in exasperation. "I've got a beautiful woman here who wants to make love to me. You must know what that's like. How would you feel…"
Lois was now laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her cheeks as Clark tried to reason with the animal still clinging to his leg.
"Great!" exclaimed Clark, looking between the laughing woman on the bed and the growling dog, clinging to the edge of his jeans. Suddenly he had an idea. "So you want the pants?" he asked. "Fine!" he exclaimed, walking to the door and opening it slightly. Then, using a quick burst of superspeed, he dispensed with both pants and dog, putting both outside the RV and closing the door behind them. "Now, where were we?" asked Clark, turning back to Lois.
The morning light streamed through the slatted blinds onto the bed of the RV. Even before he was completely awake Clark knew that Lois was cuddled beside him, her hand on his abdomen and her head tucked into his side. He could feel the spot of moisture from her lips running down his side. Her scent had comfortably settled inside his nostrils. He could hear her light, even breathing playing in tune with the rhythm of her heart, periodically interspersed with a low murmuring sigh.
He kept his eyes closed wanting to savor the moment before he had to wake up and face the day. He realized that his life had changed drastically in the past two days. Previously, he had forced himself to believe that the life he had been leading both as Superman and Clark Kent was enough for him. He had friends and acquaintances. He could be a social kind of person if he wanted; he really didn't need more. After all, he was Superman, and unlike other people, he knew exactly what his purpose was and why he was on Earth. It was enough that he had been lucky enough to have parents like Martha and Jonathan Kent who had raised him with a strong sense of right and wrong. Because he was different, he hadn't shared most of himself with other people. It had been apparent to him that because he was Kryptonian, he couldn't have a relationship with a woman, and so he decided that a girlfriend, a wife, a family were all out of the question. After all, he hadn't been interested in women physically, so he assumed he didn't need them.
And then Lois had come along and changed everything. She awoke every fiber in his body. And she returned his feelings as well. Because of her, his future had changed. Maybe he could have a relationship with a woman; maybe he could have a girlfriend, a wife, a family. Maybe he wasn't doomed to be alone. He felt that a weight had been lifted off him and the door, he had believed had been bolted shut, had just been opened. The future was suddenly alive with possibilities.
He snuggled closer to Lois. She shifted positions, her legs tangled with his as she cuddled closer. Clark's eyes followed her curves which were intertwined with his body. She looked so beautiful asleep in his arms.
Asleep! He had fallen asleep last night! How was he ever going to face her again? They had begun to make love and he had fallen asleep. Just when he should have been considering her needs, he dozed off like a hibernating bear. She would never talk to him again. He had wanted her so badly, and yet, when he had the chance to make love to her, he fell asleep. He could predict the disdain she felt for him. Well, this was it. Clark lay still for a few more minutes enjoying the opportunity, probably the last, to be so close and intimate with Lois.
He kissed her on the head and reluctantly got out of bed. Frank…Dan would be coming to get him soon, he realized, and he would have to face the wrath of Lois. He got up and watched her gravitate to his side of the bed, grab his pillow and put her arms around it.
In the kitchen, he went through the steps to prepare a fresh pot of coffee, then he stood over the sink and brushed his teeth. Just as he finished rinsing his mouth, he felt a pair of hands slide up his naked back. The arms then encircled his waist as he felt kisses run over his shoulder blades. Clark felt his fever return, but now it had a name: Lois. Just when he was beginning to enjoy the light kisses that she was dotting on his back, she stopped. Her hand darted to the counter and picked up the tube of toothpaste. Lois squeezed a glob of it on her fingertip and put it into her mouth. Clark, whose mouth still tingled with the taste of toothpaste turned to face Lois, wishing that it was his tongue that was spreading the minty paste in her mouth. She ran her hands through his hair and pulled him closer to her, kissing him fully on the lips.
"Mmmm," Clark said.
"Good morning," she whispered, once again kissing him.
"I woulda thought you'd be angry at me," Clark said.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because I fell asleep," he said sheepishly.
"Don't be silly," she smiled, "You hadn't slept much and you were tired. We've got plenty of time. Anyway, I plan to hold this over your head for at least the next fifty years."
Clark pulled her in closer and began to nuzzle her neck when he was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Hey Billy Ray," called Dan, "Did you have trouble keepin' your pants on last night?"
"What?" asked Clark as he mimed putting on his glasses to Lois. She pointed them out to him. Taking his glasses and putting them on, he went to the door.
"Your pants are lying here on the ground. It looked like you were in an awful hurry to get June in that RV, last night," Dan laughed.
Clark came to the door in his glasses and his briefs.
"Just give me my jeans, Frankie," he muttered. "When does Eagle want us?"
"We're meeting at his RV in five minutes. See you there," he said tossing Clark's jeans at him.
"What do you mean, I'm not needed?" demanded Lois, looking between Clark and Dan as she stood with the two men just outside the black Ford that Eagle and Stinky were already sitting in. "What about Vinnie and Jessie?" she demanded.
"Vinnie spent the past couple of days at the safehouse, taking care of the kids," Dan explained. "And Jessie isn't coming either."
Lois turned and stared at Clark. He shrugged slightly, silently begging her not to blow their cover. After all, in this society, women did not challenge their men.
Clark let out a silent breath when Lois's expression changed to one of resignation.
"I'll see you soon, honey," said Clark, allowing himself to use an expression he hadn't used since Lois had glared at him when they'd first met Frankie and Jessie. He moved towards her, hoping he might be allowed a final kiss. Her hand came up to his cheek and she gave him a quick peck before backing away. He looked at her for a moment, trying to read her expression. Being worried that she was angry with him was an unfamiliar feeling. Finally, he turned towards Dan. "Let's go," he said.
Lois watched the car disappear from view before heading towards Jenna and Dan's RV. She knocked on the door. As soon as Jenna opened the door, she began.
"The Boss is supposed to be coming to this meeting, right?" she asked.
"That's what we're hoping," responded Jessie. "Although after the conversation with the Boss's thugs yesterday, it seems that might not be the case."
"And if he does show up?" asked Lois.
"Then Frankie will call in backup."
"And all hell could break loose," Lois said, looking at her hopefully.
Jessie looked at her for a moment before turning around and grabbing a set of keys. "All right," she said resigned, "You can come along. The car we used the other night is still here." She pulled on her shoes before heading out of the RV.
"I knew there was a reason I liked you," Lois said with a grin, following Jenna out of the RV.
It didn't take long before they were on the road. "Do you know the way to this safehouse?" Lois asked, although by the lack of hesitation on Jenna's part as she chose which way to go, the question was almost redundant.
"Yes," Jenna answered anyway.
"How far is it?"
"Not far. Half an hour. Forty-five minutes tops. That's why Stinky was so uncertain that we should be kidnapping boys from the area. So far they've abducted kids from further away — big cities, mostly, since a teenager disappearing in a big city is not an uncommon event even when there's no foul play involved."
Lois nodded slowly. They drove along in silence for a few minutes before Jenna spoke again.
"So what's going on between you and that gorgeous partner of yours?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" asked Lois, trying to sound casual. Still, she wasn't sure she was comfortable with the direction this was taking. Was she really comfortable with people knowing about her and Clark, or was it still too new?
Jenna glanced over at her. "Dan found Clark's jeans outside your RV this morning," Jenna responded, the definite sound of a grin in her voice. "And apparently Clark answered the RV in nothing but his briefs."
Lois could feel the heat rise to her cheeks and she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
Jenna noticed and laughed. "Hey, I'd pay good money to see that man in his briefs," she said.
In spite of her embarrassment, Lois chuckled. "Yeah, and let me tell you it would be worth every penny. However, if you ever try it…" she added the threat playfully.
"So what's going on between you and Frank… Dan?" Lois asked in return.
"Nothing," Jenna responded a little too quickly.
"Don't give me that," Lois said. "I've seen the way the two of you…"
"It's all to maintain our cover," Jenna cut in.
Lois hesitated for a moment. Could that be true? Then she remembered what Clark had accidentally overheard going on in their RV.
"Jenna?" she asked, not understanding why the woman was obviously lying to her.
Jenna let out a breath. "You can't tell anyone," she finally said.
"Why?" Lois asked.
"The D.E.A. has a policy. If they ever found out that Dan and I are… Well, we'd both end up being reassigned."
"Something about being too emotionally attached to your partner to make rational decisions. Besides, I think they might frown on us using stakeouts to make out. And I agree. It's just…"
"That you can't quite seem to keep your hands off him," said Lois, understanding for the first time in her life exactly how that felt.
"You, too?" asked Jenna.
Lois nodded and both women chuckled.
"We're pathetic," Jenna said after a moment. "I mean, really, what's so great about them anyway?"
"Lumps of testosterone trying to 'protect the little woman,'" Lois said.
"Exactly!" exclaimed Jenna. "Me, Tarzan. You, Jane," continued Jenna, lowering her pitch appropriately. "And yet every decision they make is made from below the waist."
"And then they act as if it's our fault. As if we somehow provoked it."
"Right. And if we decide to do the logical thing anyway…"
"They pout." Lois was silent for a moment before adding, "Although they are awfully cute when they pout."
Jenna chuckled, conceding the point.
"But put them together…" Lois continued.
"And they turn into a bunch of little boys. Each trying to outdo the other. I can pee further than you can."
"Or their sports!" exclaimed Lois. "Tell me, how can a guy get so excited about a bunch of other guys carrying a piece of leather down a field?"
"Tell me about it." said Jenna. "Last night when we got back to the RV, there was a football game on. You should have seen Dan. He was glued to that set as if his life depended on the outcome of the game."
Lois pushed a strand of hair behind her ear as she remembered exactly how she'd managed to distract Clark. Then she was struck by a thought. "Who won?" she asked.
"The Mets. On the final play of the game. I must admit, it was a good game. But don't tell Dan I said that."
"My lips are sealed," Lois promised.
"So why do we put up with them?"
"Well, they can be handy to have around," said Lois. "You know, like when you have something on the top shelf that you can't quite reach."
"Or you need the fridge pulled out so you can clean behind it."
"Or you drop a ring down the drain. Although then they spend more time pretending they know what they're doing."
"And afterwards you have to call the plumber anyway. Usually to fix the mess they made of the job."
"Yeah, but seeing them bent over, under the sink…"
Both women sighed.
"On the other hand, some of them are definitely better than others," said Lois.
"Eagle," Jenna groaned.
"I tell you, sometimes don't you just wish men like him could be castrated?"
"No kidding. Although Dan tells me that Eagle was complaining last night about his hand. He didn't know the details, only that Eagle was blaming you."
Lois laughed before proceeding to fill her in on the details of her run in with Eagle the night before.
"I wish I could have seen that," said Jenna.
There were a few minutes of silence before Lois spoke again.
"I really am glad you and Dan ended up being two of the good guys," she said.
Jenna glanced over at her and smiled. "After we found out who you really were, I told Dan that when this is all over we should plan to get together. I think we have a lot in common."
"And what did Dan say?" she asked.
"He rolled his eyes. I think he's sort of afraid of what trouble you and I would get into if we spent time together."
Lois smiled. "He's probably right," she conceded.
"Probably," Jenna agreed. "So? What do you say?"
"I think it's a great idea," said Lois.
Just then Jenna began to slow the car down. She pulled it off the road and turned off the ignition. "It's just up ahead. We should probably walk from here." she explained.
Clark, standing at the foot of the driveway of the safehouse with the other men, sensed Lois and Jenna crouching behind a patch of bushes one hundred yards away. It didn't surprise him that the two women arrived at the house not long after the men did. Now that they were here, he would have liked to have some way to let them know what was going on. Although the teens who were in the house were safe, at the moment, it wouldn't be long before Stinky and Eagle would be able to carry out their plan.
Stinky believed that he had worked out the problem dealing with the formula's potency, and he was ready to try it out on one or more of the kids. Earlier, he had explained to Eagle that what he needed to do was use the full strength formula on one of the heavier boys to prove that, with the potion in him, he would be totally receptive to any suggestions made to him by the Boss. Although he believed in the efficacy of the potion, he had told Eagle, there was a possibility that it was not quite up to standard. It could wear off faster than expected, or even worse, could cause brain damage to the boy. He had then assured Eagle that no one would be the wiser for a few hours, long enough for them to get their money and be far away from the long arm of the Boss.
Eagle had been quite pleased and rather excited by what Stinky had suggested, and he had been prepared to go into the house and give the potion to one of the boys. Clark had tried to object, indicating that the experiment might backfire before it began, but Eagle had not been interested in his comments. He assured Clark that if Stinky said that they had a few hours to get away, then they did. That was all that mattered.
Clark was beginning to squirm. He wanted to get away in order to return as Superman and rescue the kids, but Eagle was keeping him close at hand. Eagle was quite nervous, Clark discerned. Probably, he was worried about another confrontation with Mortician Man and his pals. Clark kept looking around, wishing that he could send his concern to Lois telepathically. Unfortunately, that wasn't one of his powers.
Lois watched the scene in front of her. Eagle and Stinky were deep in discussion. George and Bert, two of Eagle's men, along with Dan, were standing around the perimeter of the house. Clark was at Eagle's side looking up in the sky and fidgeting. Lois wished that she could hear what Eagle and Stinky were saying. She couldn't believe how fidgety Clark was. He kept pushing his glasses back on his face and playing with an imaginary tie. What was wrong with the man? Couldn't he keep still?
"What do you think is going on," whispered Lois.
"I think that they're waiting for the Boss."
"I wish that Clark would stop fidgeting; it makes me nervous," Lois said watching her partner. And then she noticed that he stopped. His hand went into his pockets and he stood absolutely still.
He heard me, she thought. Of course, he had. He was Superman. She'd forgotten for a moment. She thought about his fiddling with the glasses and the imaginary tie. Clark wanted to be Superman. Something was happening and he thought that his other persona was needed. Well, she could take care of that.
She leaned into Jenna and whispered, "I think we need to get the kids away from the house."
"I think the kids are in trouble."
"We need to wait for the Boss to arrive. We have to bring him down."
"No. I think those kids are in trouble. I've got a plan." Lois explained her plan to Jenna who reluctantly agreed. The two women headed off to the wood on their left, moving toward the back of the house where they had seen Dan go a few minutes before.
Lois realized that the house was fairly exposed. There was an open field on the right side of the house, probably where they hoped the chopper would land. The other side of the house was surrounded by a wood that seemed to be about fifty yards deep and swept around to the shrubs behind which the two women were hiding. Lois, leading Jenna through the woods, kept her eye on Clark who, every so often, would look in the direction of the woods showing that he was aware of her movements. She herself was aware of every step she took, trying not to make too much noise as she briskly stepped over twigs and leaves.
The trek to the back of the house, in the end, was uneventful. At the back, they did notice that Dan was on his cell phone. Lois looked at Jenna questioningly.
"He's probably calling for back-up, but they won't be here for a while. He wasn't supposed to call before the Boss showed up. You must be right. The kids are in danger. How did you know?"
"Woman's intuition," she responded. "Clark looked… umm, nervous. I figured he must think the kids are in trouble."
"Well, we've got to get to the kids now," said Jenna.
Lois nodded, understanding that they had to move quickly. What Jenna didn't know was that they had their own backup, Superman, but they had to give Clark an excuse to cut himself away from Eagle.
As they approached Dan, he signaled them that Vinnie was inside with the kids. Jenna mouthed that they understood and shooed him away from the back door. After Dan moved toward the front of the house, Jenna and Lois entered through the kitchen door at the back. Inside, Vinnie was sitting at the table, preparing peanut butter sandwiches. She turned around when she heard the door open.
"June, what are you…? Jessie…?"
"Eagle sent for us to help you," Lois said, thinking quickly. She approached Vinnie. "But, we're not quite sure what he wants us to do." She positioned herself beside Vinnie. Jenna moved behind the two women and looked at the contents of the countertop. Vinnie explained that she was making some breakfast for the boys because they needed to have something solid in their stomachs before Stinky could give them the formula.
Jenna stood back listening to Vinnie and when the opportunity opened up, she stepped up behind Vinnie and, using two fingers, pinched a nerve in Vinnie's neck. Lois watched in fascination as Vinnie collapsed to the floor unconscious.
"You'll have to show me how you did that," Lois whispered.
"She'll be out for a while," Jenna said. "Let's find the kids."
They hustled down the hall of the house toward some closed doors. They were locked. Lois silently growled in frustration, glancing over at Jenna. The kids had to be behind these doors. She tried the door again, hoping to force the locks, but they held.
"I'll be right back," breathed Jenna, returning to the kitchen, and a few minutes later came back with a set of keys.
"Is she moving, yet?" asked Lois, a little worried about Vinnie waking up.
"No, but she will be soon. We need to get these kids out of here."
Jenna opened one door and tossed the keys to Lois who opened the other, revealing a room with six bunkbeds, each one containing a teen-aged boy.
"All right, guys," Lois announced, "Get up and follow me. We've got to get you out of here."
"No," answered the boy from Big Bopper's Diner rather emphatically, causing the other kids who were beginning to move to stop again. "We're not going with you."
"It's all right," Lois encouraged, "We're going to get you home.
"No. She brought me here," he announced to the others.
"Come on, guys, I'm a good guy," said Lois, starting to feel a little anxious. What if she couldn't persuade them to come? "You gotta get out of here."
Two other boys got out of their beds and cautiously made their way over to Lois before bolting past her to get out the door.
"Go out the back door, turn left and run into the woods. Help'll be here soon," she instructed them as they headed past.
The two followed her orders, and she could hear Jenna's charges leaving the house. The other three boys in the room looked at each other, looked at Lois, and quickly followed their comrades. Lois was left alone with the stubborn one.
"I know it doesn't look good, but my friend is with the DEA and I'm Lois Lane, a reporter. Please, get moving before we're caught in here. Then you'll really get hurt."
"You write for the Daily Planet."
"Yeah. Please, let's go," she pleaded looking out the hallway realizing that they were alone in the house.
"Do you know Superman?"
"Yes. Come on, kid…"
"Will you introduce him to me?"
"Yes, yes. Whatever you want, just get moving."
The boy finally made his way out of the bedroom, down the hall and into the kitchen.
He stopped short. Lois, whose eyes were on his back, bumped into him and then looked up.
"You're not getting away from me, kid," he said as he lunged for the boy. Lois pushed the kid out of the way. The boy regained his footing quickly and hurled himself out of the door. Eagle, seeing the last of his guinea pigs run, followed after him.
When Clark saw the boys running out of the house, he realized that Lois had given him the distraction he needed to change into Superman. Once in the woods, he changed into his suit and began rounding up the boys, flying small groups of them back to the concession road where Dan had told him that the DEA agents would be meeting. He then returned for another group.
Lois, who hoped that she had created the diversion Clark needed, ran after Eagle. She didn't want to see him get the boy, especially since she couldn't be sure if Clark had enough time to get away. Besides, she felt a personal responsibility for this boy. She was the one who had gotten him into this after all. When she saw that Eagle was about to grab the boy, she propelled herself from the back stoop and jumped on Eagle's back. He flung her off as if she were a fly. Lois scrambled to her feet and regained her balance. She saw Eagle looking at her, venom coming out of his eyes.
"You've been asking for this for a long time, sweetheart," he said as he approached her. Lois took a step back. She was up against an outer wall of the house. She could smell Eagle's sour breath as he came closer to her. "Now you're going to get it."
Eagle's bulk blocked Lois's view. She didn't know where anyone who could help her was. She could taste the fear in her mouth, but she knew that she had to keep her head clear. She reviewed what she'd learned in tae-kwon-do.
She leaned against the wall, and as Eagle got closer, she put all her strength into her knee as she raised it into Eagle's groin. The big man shrieked in pain and stepped back. Lois moved away from the wall watching Eagle bent over double. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Stinky approach, ready to take a swing at her. But before she could react, Jenna came around the corner and, running at Stinky, kicked his legs out from under him. Stinky landed hard on the ground. Jenna stood over him and as he tried to get up, she kicked him in the back. Moaning, Stinky crumbled to the ground again.
Eagle, watching his partner lying on the ground, managed to get up and go for Lois again. Dan, who was turning the corner saw the big man go after Lois and yelled a warning to her. Lois lifted her leg, turned around and planted it, once again, in Eagle's groin. He doubled over squealing in pain.
"Hey," said Jenna. "How come you get all the fun?"
Lois smiled as she panted for breath. For several minutes, Lois could only hear the loud beating of her heart punctuated by Eagle and Stinky's moaning. And then, Superman landed at the back of the house looking at the scene. Lois was standing off to the side with Jenna who was in Dan's arms. The three of them were looking at Eagle and Stinky.
"I took care of the other guys out front. And the woman inside is tied up," said Superman as he approached the two men on the ground, grabbing each of them by the scruff of their collars. "I guess you don't need me to take care of these two guys," he said.
Just then there was the sound of an approaching chopper. Superman glanced at the sky. "Maybe I'll just find out who else was planning to join the party," he said. He was just about to take off when he felt the same sensation he'd had last night when Cookie had grabbed onto him. He glanced down in confusion. Eagle was clinging to his leg as if his life depended on it.
"Please," whined Eagle, "Don't leave us with these women."
Superman looked at Lois and Jenna who just shrugged.
"You'll be fine," said Superman, who was currently trying to extricate himself from Eagle's grasp. Eagle was hanging on for dear life. The sound of the chopper receded into the background. Obviously the men on board had seen the commotion and realized that the jig was up. "Look I'll be right back," said Superman. "I just need…"
"You can't leave us," said Eagle in desperation, tightening his grip. Eagle was joined by Stinky, who grabbed the other leg, complicating the problem. Realizing the chopper was too far away now for Superman to be able to say for sure that it was the same bird that had been here a minute ago, making it very difficult for the police to connect the occupants with the activities here, he conceded. "You probably will be safer in jail," he laughed, lifting off with the two men in tow.
"Where's Clark," asked Dan.
Lois looked around, not surprised that she didn't see her partner. "He's around somewhere, I'm sure."
The DEA officers entered the house, found another room filled with ten more boys and girls, and found Vinnie just reviving. They also rounded up George and Bert. Lois started interviewing some of the DEA agents.
A short time later, Clark returned to the house.
He watched for a few minutes as the DEA agents cleaned up around the house. He pulled Lois to the side and filled her in.
"The DEA brought some buses to transport the kids to the local hospital to make sure that they are physically fine, and there, they'll have a chance to call their parents. They're looking after psychological testing as well. Another group of DEA agents have gone to the campsite to collect whoever is left of the gang."
"And Dan and Jenna?"
"They've just conveniently disappeared," he said. "Probably hoping that by avoiding arrest, they can still find a way to get to the Boss, whoever he is."
"I think it's time we conveniently disappear," she suggested. "Let's take the RV back to Metropolis."
"Do we take the car?" he asked.
"I think I'd like a ride with Superman," she answered, tracing an 'S' symbol on his chest.
Waiting for them, at the door of their RV, was Cookie. As the two reporters packed up the RV, he followed them around whimpering. Clark came over to the dog and massaged his neck.
"Guess Vinnie and Eagle are off to jail," he said.
"Yeah, what happens to Cookie?"
"I don't know. I think she's adopted you, though."
Lois came over and looked Cookie in the eye. "You understand, Cookie, don't you, that if you come with me, you have to be good to Clark here because he is part of the package."
Cookie growled, then changed his mind and barked, wagging his tail.
"I guess I have a dog then," she said.
Cookie made himself comfortable beside the bucket seat where Lois sat typing up the story, giving Clark the opportunity to drive the RV.
Mortician Man made his way cautiously into the quiet office. There didn't appear to be anyone there. He looked around for a moment before he spotted the man standing on the balcony looking out at the city. The Boss. Taking a deep breath, he made his way over.
"So?" asked the Boss, not turning around.
"Superman was there when we approached," Mortician Man responded.
The Boss didn't say anything for a moment, increasing Mortician Man's level of anxiety.
"Did he see you?" the Boss asked.
"I don't think so. At least, he didn't try to follow."
The Boss nodded. "That will be all," he said dismissively.
Once the man exited, the Boss made his way back into the office and pressed a button. A tall, distinguished looking man entered.
"Did you hear?" the Boss asked.
The man nodded. "Do you want me to take care of it, sir?" the other asked in his proper English accent.
The Boss nodded, not needing to clarify what the other man meant by 'take care of it.' He had no doubt his former employee would be dead by morning. "And see what you can do to get your hands on that formula. Initial reports look very promising."
"Very good, sir," the man said, turning and leaving the room.
The Boss returned to the balcony and looked out over the landscape of Metropolis. Superman was becoming a real problem. Still, if they could retrieve the formula, and surely their source inside the D.E.A. could accomplish that, there was no real damage. After all, even Eagle and Haywood Winslow III, also known as Stinky, didn't know his real name. And once the only real link to him was dead, he'd be secure.
Perry's head rose when he heard the ding of the elevator. He looked up to see Lois and Clark enter the newsroom. He'd received their story a couple of hours ago and had been working busily since to rearrange the front page of the paper. What he'd noticed in particular about their story was that some parts had Clark's gentle touch and others were pure Lois. They were obviously full partners — at least on this story. And he had to admit, the combination was deadly.
The newsroom erupted in cheers as the two entered the bull pen. Perry rose from his desk and made his way to the door of his office. It was only then that he realized that Lois and Clark had not returned alone. Following close behind Lois was the ugliest pit bull Perry had ever seen.
As they approached, Perry's eyes alternated between the reporters and the dog.
"Go lie down, Cookie," he heard Lois say to the dog, pointing in the direction of her desk. Perry's eyebrows rose when the dog actually seemed to understand. It made its way to the desk Lois had pointed to before sniffing around and then lying down beside it. He turned his attention back to Lois and Clark.
"Well done, kids," he said. "That was a story even the King would be proud of."
"Thank you, Perry," said Lois.
"I didn't expect that you'd be coming back today," he said, glancing at the clock. It was almost four o'clock on Friday afternoon. "After all, don't both of you have the weekend off? And I got the story, so…"
"Well, actually, Chief," began Clark, "that's sort of why we're here." He shifted uncomfortably. Perry noticed Lois lightly touch his hand as if trying to give him the courage to continue. Perry narrowed his eyes as they drifted between the two former antagonists in his newsroom.
"Since we have the weekend off anyway…" Clark continued, deliberately keeping his voice low. He hemmed and hawed until his voice finally trailed off.
"Oh for crying out loud," interrupted Lois, although she too was making an effort to keep her voice down. "We want to keep the RV for the weekend, Perry," she said.
Although Lois and Clark were obviously trying not to be overheard by the rest of the newsroom, Perry still heard an audible gasp to his right. He glanced over to see Jimmy standing nearby, his mouth hanging open.
"Oh, really," said Perry. "And why would that be?"
When Lois just glared at him, Perry laughed. "I don't think that will be a problem," he said.
Lois immediately turned towards Jimmy. "You can close your mouth now, Jimmy Olsen," she said, causing Jimmy's mouth to snap shut. "I need you to take care of Cookie for the weekend."
"Cookie?" asked Jimmy.
Lois gestured to the dog. Jimmy looked dubiously at the nasty looking canine.
"I don't know anything about dogs," he finally said.
"And you think I do?" asked Lois. "Cookie, this is my friend, Jimmy," she explained. "He's going to be taking care of you for the weekend."
"Hi, Cookie," said Jimmy, cautiously sticking out his hand to the animal.
Cookie raised his head and sniffed Jimmy's hand before his tail began to wag.
"Hey, you aren't such a bad dog, are you?" said Jimmy, coming closer to pet and then rough up the obviously delighted animal.
"Great," muttered Clark. "It really is just me he hates."
Lois gave Clark a playful swat on the chest before turning back to Perry. "We'll see you on Monday," she said, before heading back to the elevators. Clark dutifully followed, although Perry could see the excitement in his step.
Perry, along with most of the rest of the newsroom, followed their departure. Just as the elevator doors began to slide shut, everyone had a nice view as Lois, apparently unable to maintain her distance any longer, launched herself at Clark. For a moment, the newsroom lay in dead silence until suddenly the air was broken by the sound of Perry's roaring laughter.
IF WE SHADOWS HAVE OFFENDED, THINK BUT THIS, AND ALL IS MENDED, THAT YOU HAVE BUT SLUMBER'D HERE, WHILE THESE VISIONS DID APPEAR, AND THIS WEAK AND IDLE THEME, NO MORE YIELDING BUT A DREAM. (Midsummer Night's Dream)