By Tank Wilson <email@example.com> and Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2002
Summary: In this rewrite of Trask's entrance in the episode "Strange Visitor," something very unexpected happens, and Clark is exposed to the greatest threat he's ever faced. A Tank and Wendy (sort of) Challenge Vignette.
Tank: First, let me say up front that this vignette was never intended to be a challenge story. But it does illustrate exactly how the challenges got started. Once again I decided to favor Zoomway's message boards with a 'cute', little evil vignette; a short, short story with a humorous twist ending. Do you think the gentle readers appreciated that? Oh no, they had to complain because everything didn't end up happily ever after. I guess they just don't understand humor. So, once again, Wendy rides to their rescue and slaps an artificially waffy ending onto the 'cute' ending I had provided. I don't know why Wendy thinks she has to do that with my stories; it's not like I would ever do that to one of hers… (Oh, wait, there was that TE for Carbon Copy wasn't there… [it's here: http://www.zoomway.net/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=1 0;t=000855 — W. <g>] never mind). Anyway, the gentle readers will have to judge for themselves if Wendy's 'meddling' was for the best. It is interesting to note that there is a rumored sequel to this planned which is why, I suppose, Wendy felt it necessary to tweak the ending of the original to allow for such a thing. As I said, it is only a rumor, but with Wendy, who knows? the woman is insatiable.
Wendy: Well, as has happened before, Tank took us all by surprise by posting what really lives up to its name as an evil vignette. It's fair to say that readers were weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth once they'd read it. In fact, I felt that I was doing FoLCdom a favour by writing what I knew should be the second half — the second half that Tank's conscience would have made him write in due course, I know. <g> He's not really *that* evil, is he? So, gentle readers, what would be your preference? The first half on its own, or the story in its entirety? ;)
Disclaimer: We do not hold the rights to any of the characters in this story; they properly belong to Warner Brothers, DC Comics and anyone else with legal claim on them. We've only borrowed them temporarily for our own amusement.
Comments, yells and encouragement warmly welcomed at the email addresses below.
Lois Lane just shook her head in wonderment as Jimmy walked away, muttering, from her desk. Lois had a soft spot for Jimmy, but knew that he had absolutely no shot with her sister. Lucy dated a lot of guys, but Jimmy just wasn't her type. Jimmy was too much of a… well, a loser.
Lois had only just gotten her computer booted up when there was a commotion up by the elevators. Several men, similarly dressed in gray flannel suits, came off the elevator like storm troopers. One of them stepped out front and waved a piece of paper in the air.
"I have a warrant issued by a federal court," he said. "Please step away from your desks."
Lois rose from her chair as people all about her began to murmur in surprise and confusion. Lois couldn't hold back the half smile when she saw Perry come barreling out of his office.
"Nobody comes bursting into my newsroom like this!" he growled.
The 'leader' of the group waved the paper in Perry's face. "Take it up with Washington."
Perry snatched the document out of the fellow's hand and began to read it, some of it aloud. "… ordered to produce evidence… compel testimony… Lois Lane, Clark Kent?"
Lois' attention was quickly shifted from Perry to herself as several of the men came over and began to pull her away from her desk. "Wait a minute! Get your hands off me!" She was indignant that they felt they could manhandle her in such a manner.
Suddenly Clark came over and interposed himself between her and the offending men. Lois watched in growing horror as one of the younger men pulled a gun on Clark. She was amazed at Clark's seeming unconcern over the weapon. He reached out to thrust the gun aside.
The sound of the gunshot rang loudly within the confines of the newsroom's bullpen. "Clark!" Lois screamed in shock.
His gaze followed hers down to see the burn mark and neat hole left in the front of his bright, white shirt. She pulled away from the guy who was trying to hold her. She placed her hand gingerly on his shirt. There was no blood. There should have been blood.
Her eyes strayed up to lock with his. "Clark?"
The leader of the group came over and confronted Clark. "Well isn't that interesting… Mr. Kent?" Clark stared back at the man but didn't speak. A smile spread across the fellow's face. "I've come with a warrant to procure information which will lead me to Superman. It seems I've done much better than that." His hand reached out and ripped open Clark's damaged shirt, revealing the familiar red and yellow shield on a bright blue tunic.
Perry joined Lois. "Great shades of Elvis… Kent?"
Lois could only stare at Clark in total befuddlement. Her mind was trying to wrap itself around what had just been revealed. Her sometime partner, Clark Kent, the hack from Nowheresville, was really… no, it couldn't be true. But she'd seen it with her own eyes. Clark had been shot point blank and he wasn't hurt… and he was wearing the suit. As unbelievable as it seemed, Clark — was — Superman.
Finally Clark decided to speak. "So, what is it you want…?" He left his question unfinished.
The man smiled. "Trask… Special Agent Jason Trask, and the answer to your question is simple. The government would like you to accompany us."
"Just what is it you want with Superman?" Lois chimed in.
Trask favored her with only a momentary glance then turned his attention back to Clark. "Let's say the United States Government is… curious. They have a few questions they'd like to ask you." Trask noticed the frown on Clark's face. "Come now, Mr. Kent — or should I say, Superman. You have to admit that a man of your 'unique' abilities suddenly shows up, performing feats that are impossible for any normal man. No one knows who he is? No one knows where he's from, or what his intentions are?" Trask's smile was less than friendly. "Is it so hard to imagine that Uncle Sam might be interested in talking to you?"
Lois thrust herself into the mix. "Don't go, Cla — er, Superman. You haven't done anything wrong. They can't make you go."
Trask grabbed Lois by the arm. "Oh, but that's where you're wrong, Ms. Lane." Trask produced another piece of paper from his pocket. "This warrant says that I have the right to bring Superman in for questioning, by any means necessary." He gave Clark a sidelong look. "Now I'm not stupid enough to think that I can directly force Superman to come with me if he chooses not to come."
Trask shoved Lois into the hands of one of his men, who quickly pulled his gun and pointed it at Lois. "But I have other ways to compel compliance with my wishes."
"Ow! Hey watch where you stick that thing!" Lois struggled briefly with the fellow holding on to her, but quickly gave up when she realized that she couldn't break free. "What kind of government agent threatens innocent civilians?" Lois glared at Trask.
Trask shrugged. "Desperate circumstances require desperate measures. I have no desire to hurt Ms. Lane, or anyone else here." Trask reached out and forcefully swept Lois' computer off her desk and watched, unconcerned as it crashed to the floor. "Nor do I have any real desire to trash this office." He grinned at Clark. "But I'll do what I have to do to accomplish my mission. It's up to you, Superman."
Clark let his head droop. "Leave her alone. I'll come with you."
Lois became animated again, struggling against the man holding her. "Don't do it, Superman!"
Clark shook his head. "I have to. I can't let them hurt you, Lois. I can't let them hurt anyone, not for me."
Trask held up his 'warrant'. "Do I have your word that you'll come with me? No funny business? No flying off once we leave here?"
Clark glared at Trask, then pursed his lips in anger. "You have my word."
Lois could only stare in mute dismay as she and everyone else watched the so-called government agents escort their fellow Daily Planet co-worker to the elevators.
As the doors closed on the small group, Lois was able to shake off her amazement long enough to yell after them. "Wait! Where are you taking him?" There was no answer.
Lois turned to Perry, fear and concern clearly etched on her face. "Oh, chief, what are we going to do? We can't just let them take Clark, I mean, Superman away like that?"
Perry patted Lois on the shoulder. "Don't you worry, Lois. We'll get to the bottom of this. I don't care if he is Superman. Kent is one of my reporters and I don't cotton to these Gestapo-type tactics."
Perry stalked back to his office, ostensibly to make some crucial phone calls. Lois' legs suddenly felt very shaky so she made her way back to her desk and flopped down into her chair.
She still couldn't believe it. Clark was… Superman.
Lois slammed the phone down in frustration. It had been ten days and Clark hadn't returned to the Planet, he hadn't answered any of her phone calls, and Superman hadn't been seen anywhere in the skies of Metropolis. Lois was worried. The strange thing was, for all that she worried and missed Superman, she found that she seemed to miss Clark even more. They had only known each other a very short time, but in that time she had come to enjoy their friendly sparring. The thought that she might never see him again bothered her… a lot.
Since the raid, she'd managed to find out a few things. First, Perry had found out that the 'warrant's Trask had waved about were fakes. She had then uncovered the fact that up until 1969 Jason Trask had been in the United States Air Force. He'd been a Colonel, and had been assigned to Project Blue Book, which had been the government's program to study U.F.O.s. When Project Blue Book had been scrapped, Trask had disappeared. Since then no government agency claimed any knowledge of Trask and his actions.
A few days ago Lois had had a run-in with a George Thompson. He'd alleged that he was some sort of government ombudsman sent out to investigate the raid at the Daily Planet. After spending a couple of minutes with him, Lois had left in a huff. The man didn't know anything. He'd been there to try and find out what Lois knew.
Lois picked up the scrap of paper that lay on her desk. It was her last hope. She had traced Trask's past in the Air Force to a superior. A General Burton Newcombe, retired, and he lived in Metropolis. She had called the general up earlier that morning and he had agreed to see her. Picking up her bag, Lois left for her appointment.
"Thank you for seeing me, General." Lois entered the general's den and sat in the chair he indicated.
The grizzled military man just grunted and frowned as he stared at the pretty young reporter. "Let's get one thing straight, Ms. Lane. The only reason I agreed to talk to you is because I find Jason Trask, and his methods, so repugnant that it sickens me to think that he is still able to function, though, sadly, it doesn't surprise me."
"General?" Lois' pulse quickened as she sensed some important information coming.
"Jason Trask heads up a rogue government agency called Bureau 39. The original purpose of Bureau 39 was to compile data and evaluate whether U.F.O.s and possible extra- terrestrial phenomena constituted a threat to national security." The general sighed. "Unfortunately, Trask is a fanatic, and he has twisted his mandate to satisfy his own definition of threat, and how to deal with it."
Lois nodded. "So, he wanted to talk to Superman to assess if he constituted any threat? Doesn't he know how much good Superman has done?"
Newcombe's laugh was unnerving. "You think Trask wanted to talk to Superman?" Newcomb just shook his head sadly. "No, I'm afraid Trask doesn't look at what Superman has done, only what he could possibly do with those strange powers of his. From what I was able to gather, Trask is convinced that Superman is an alien. Most likely an advanced agent of a future invasion force."
"That's ridiculous." Lois couldn't help but think of Clark. Superman had wondrous, even intimidating, powers, but she thought she knew Clark fairly well. He was just too good hearted to be any sort of threat, whether he was an alien or not. Superman told her himself that he was there to help, and she believed him.
"Tell me, Ms. Lane, do you know of any thing that Superman is vulnerable to, any way that he can be hurt?"
Lois felt a chill run through her entire body. "Not that I'm aware of, but I don't know him all that well… yet." She took a deep breath. "Why?"
Newcombe stared at Lois for a long time. His eyes betrayed a sadness that caused Lois' stomach to clench. "I told you that Trask had no interest in 'talking' to Superman. They brought him in for study."
Lois' voice dropped to a whisper. "What do you mean… study?"
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lane, but Superman won't be coming back." Newcombe looked away for a moment, and when he turned back to Lois there was a tear in his eye. "They dissected him… like a frog."
Superman was dead. *Clark* was dead.
Lois stumbled out of Newcombe's office, tears flowing down her cheeks. How could this Jason Trask do that? How could he *murder* the best thing to happen to Metropolis — to the entire *world* — this century, if not ever? Superman was a good and decent man, who had only wanted to help. But because he was different, because some lunatics with a crazy notion of alien conspiracies had decided that he was a threat, he was dead.
They'd killed him — even worse, they'd cut him up and done experiments on him.
Well, she hoped that they hadn't learned anything. It would serve them right! And after all, what could they possibly learn from sticking probes into Superman and analysing his cells? They wouldn't discover what had made him the strong, courageous and heroic man he was. They wouldn't find out what made him so possessed of the desire to help people; what gave him the willingness to save lives and somehow compensate for all the horrible things human beings did to one another day after day. They wouldn't learn anything at all that really *mattered* about Superman.
And they would pay for what they'd done, she resolved furiously through bitter tears as she flung herself into the privacy of her Jeep. Once she got back to the Daily Planet, she was going to write an expose of this dirty business. She was going to nail the bastards who murdered Superman. Americans — and the world — were going to know that a secret, government-funded agency had slaughtered Metropolis's Superhero. The government would be forced to answer for Bureau 39's sick, criminal behaviour, and the murder of Superman — of Clark Kent, though she would never reveal that information — would be properly avenged.
Later that afternoon, Lois had submitted her article — and had it toned down several notches by Perry, who, frustratingly, was insisting on things like corroboration and evidence before the Planet would print an allegation that Superman had been murdered by government agents. It didn't matter that Gen. Newcombe had told her that. She didn't have any proof, he'd told her. She'd tried to contact Gen. Newcombe again to persuade him to make a statement, but she hadn't been able to get hold of him. And then she'd found out that a body answering Newcombe's description had been found floating in Hobb's Bay a short time ago.
Well, if Perry wanted proof, then she would find it for him.
But first… Her hand hovered over the telephone, still as reluctant to dial the number as she had been when Clark had failed to reappear, ten days ago. After all, she didn't know his parents… if they were his parents. Did she have the right to call them up out of the blue and ask if they knew where their son was? Did she, now, have the right to tell them that she believed their son was dead?
What if they didn't know that he was Superman?
But what if they didn't know what had happened to him? What if they were sitting at home frantic with worry because they didn't know where he was and were unable to contact him? What if Trask and his band of crazies came after them next?
She took a deep breath and dialled.
There was no answer. Lois hesitated, trying to remember what she knew about Clark's parents. They were farmers, she was aware, so it was entirely possible that they were working out of doors. But all the same, farmers still needed to keep in touch with the outside world. They would surely have some kind of outside ringer for their phone? She'd try again later, she decided. In the meantime, she was going to find out everything she possibly could about Bureau 39, in particular where exactly they hid themselves.
She was going to *nail* Clark's killers, if it was the last thing she did.
A couple of hours later, there was still no response from the Kent farm. Lois hesitated, biting her lip, then called Information and got the number for the Smallville sheriff's office. It took Lois several minutes to convince the hick woman who took the call that she was on the level, but eventually the sheriff agreed to send a car out to the farmhouse. The sheriff also admitted that no-one in town had seen the Kents for at least a week.
The return phone call, when it came, sent Lois's heart into her mouth. The farmhouse had been trashed, there was blood on the floor in several places, and there was no sign of the Kents anywhere. Sheriff Harris assured Lois that the blood would be tested and that a forensic team was already out combing the house and land for clues.
"There's no point," Lois said flatly. "Bureau 39 have them."
Ignoring the sheriff's confusion, she hung up. Yet more crimes to lay at Trask's door, she thought: the murder of Clark Kent's parents, too.
Jimmy had come up trumps. Somehow, and he'd refused to tell her just what he'd had to do, he'd managed to identify a couple of locations for Bureau 39. The one she was headed for now was the most likely, she thought: it was large enough, not too remote and sufficiently anonymous-looking to hide a laboratory or two. It was also slightly set apart from any nearby buildings, so any cries for help wouldn't be heard, she thought cynically.
She was going to find proof that Bureau 39 had murdered Superman. Just what proof she expected to get, she had no idea: a piece of his uniform? A — she cringed — a body part? Research notes? She didn't care; she was going to get it.
And she'd come prepared. She didn't have dodgy connections for nothing, after all. A small, but very effective, handgun was tucked into one pocket, and she had a switchblade knife in another. Those, together with her knowledge of martial arts, should be enough to get her out of trouble, or so she hoped. Her clothes were dark and unremarkable and she wore a reinforced vest underneath; a cap was pulled down low over her face.
Finding a way into the building wasn't easy, but she was determined, and lock-breaking was a skill she'd mastered years ago. Lois crept in through the rear entrance she'd managed to prise open, and made her way silently along the darkened corridor towards a room which had a light shining over its door. Voices were audible as she approached, and she crouched down to peer through the keyhole.
The room was definitely a laboratory; that much was apparent from the surgical equipment, test-tubes and other paraphernalia which was in her limited line of vision. If there was any proof that these people had butchered Superman, it would be in this room.
So she had to get in there. But she wasn't going to be able to do that while those thugs were there.
Thinking quickly, she pulled a quarter from her pocket and flung it down towards the far end of the corridor, aiming it at the emergency exit door which was made of metal. As she'd hoped, the resulting noise was loud enough to attract attention.
"What was that?"
"No idea. You two better go and see. I'll keep watch in here."
Keep watch? Lois wondered. Watch over what?
The door was wrenched open and a man dressed in fatigues emerged; Lois immediately kneed him in the back, sending him flying face-down onto the floor. Another man, this time dressed in surgical scrubs, followed; she rammed the barrel of her hand-gun into his side and hissed at him to stay quiet. In a couple of seconds, she'd forced him along the corridor and into a small store-room, which she promptly locked.
The man on the floor was just beginning to struggle to his feet; Lois hit him on the side of his head with her hand- gun and he collapsed again. She dragged him to another room, which turned out to be an office, and likewise locked him in.
"Briggs? Alonso? What the hell's going on?" a voice called from inside the lab. "You know I can't leave here! Get the *&%*$ back in here!"
She recognised that voice. With a chill which ran right through her, Lois knew that Jason Trask himself was in that laboratory. Well, he was on his own, and she was armed and dangerous. She was going in.
Keeping a careful watch in case there was anyone else in the building, Lois rushed into the lab, her gun ready to aim at Trask as soon as she saw him. But what she did see in the lab shocked her to the core.
An elderly couple sat strapped to chairs, untidy and haggard, their clothes torn and bloodstained. There were signs that they'd been beaten badly, and the drawn look on the man's face told Lois that he, at least, was injured and in pain. Trask stood beside them, a gun pointing at the woman's head.
And a man lay on an operating table, stark naked, straps tying him down in a position with his legs apart and hands to the side. It took no more than an instant for Lois to recognise Superman — no, *Clark*.
Was he alive or dead?
But there was no time to wonder… Trask had whirled around and was glaring at her, a fiercely demonic expression on his eyes. "Ms Lane!" he sneered. "So how did you manage to get in here, I wonder? Not that it matters, since you'll be dead any second now!" He aimed his gun at her, apparently not at all concerned that she was pointing one at him simultaneously.
"No!" a harsh, angry voice yelled. "Leave her alone, Trask! Haven't you done enough?"
Clark was *alive*! Lois's heart leapt, before she wondered just how it was that he was alive and yet a prisoner. He was *Superman*! How had Trask managed to keep him restrained, to make him do nothing while terrible things were done to his parents?
"You'd plead for this woman's life too, alien?" Trask demanded harshly. "Maybe she'll be a better hostage, then! Tell me what I want to know, or she'll suffer! You know," he added with another sneer, "she's passably attractive. I could make you watch my men rape her, if that's what it takes."
"Don't you…!" There was a cracking sound from behind Lois, but she ignored it. She had to concentrate on Trask.
"Put down your weapon, or I'll shoot!" she told him coldly.
"Put yours down, or I'll shoot," he retorted sarcastically.
It was a stand-off, but one she was determined to win. She made her stance more determined, and cocked her gun. Trask imitated her, giving her a mocking smile.
Then, suddenly, something launched itself from behind her, springing at Trask so fast that Lois could barely see what was happening, and knocking him over. A shot rang out, and a shower of falling plaster rained down on the room.
Then things slowed down, and she could see Clark pinning Trask to the floor. He'd grabbed the rogue agent's gun and crumpled it into a useless lump of misshapen metal.
"Untie my parents," he said, glancing very briefly at Lois before turning his attention back to Trask, trussing the man up with his own uniform jacket.
Lois shoved her gun in her pocket and grabbed the switchblade; within seconds, the elder Kents were free. They were evidently stiff and in pain, but Clark's father struggled with difficulty to his feet, tugging off his jacket. "Here, son," he said shakily.
Lois took the jacket and brought it over to Clark, looking away as his nakedness impinged itself on her consciousness. She spotted a closet in the corner and, as she suspected, there were some scrubs on a shelf. Clark nodded gratefully as she handed him a set, and she stood guard over Trask as he dressed.
"I'm so glad you're alive," she exclaimed softly at last, turning back to her colleague and Superhero once he was decent.
He flashed a very brief, tired grin at her, squeezing her shoulder for an instant. "They haven't found anything that can kill me yet. They tried just about everything they could think of… but it seems I'm pretty much indestructible."
Lois drove the Kent family to Clark's apartment, learning the details of the story along the way. Lois had wanted the elder Kents to get checked out at the emergency room, but they had refused, and Clark, X-raying both of them, had said that since neither had broken bones he could look after them at home.
She'd been right: Bureau 39 operatives had gone to Smallville immediately Trask had identified Clark as Superman, and Jonathan and Martha had been kidnapped and taken to Metropolis. Their purpose had been to act as hostages: Trask was aware that Superman was too powerful and invulnerable to be hurt, so he had relied on the elder Kents' presence to guarantee Clark's good behaviour.
"He kept asking me if there was anything that could hurt me," Clark explained. "And his surgeon tried one thing after another — knives, guns, machine-guns, drills, electric shocks, you name it — nothing had any effect. Then they tried a couple of things on my parents, just in case they were aliens too," he added, his voice almost breaking with emotion. Lois, behind the wheel of the car, wanted to hug him.
"And Trask insisted that I had to be some sort of advance guard for an alien invasion," Clark continued after a moment. "He refused to believe me when I told him that I have no idea where I come from or why I'm on Earth. And every time I said I didn't know, he hit Mom."
"Bastard," Lois ejaculated fiercely, wishing now that she'd killed Trask when she had the chance.
They'd had to leave Trask and his operatives where they were; Lois had contemplated calling the police, but since Bureau 39 was linked to the government, she had no faith that there wouldn't be a massive cover-up. Instead, she and Clark had gone through the building and removed all keys, then when they'd left they had ensured that all the doors were locked. It would take Trask and his thugs some time to find their way out of there.
A news report on the car radio seemed to catch Clark's attention suddenly. He turned up the volume, and Lois heard the reporter saying, "…a massive explosion, which destroyed the building. Fire crews are now attending. Police say that if the building, ownership of which has not yet been established, was occupied, then there is no chance that anyone will get out alive. I repeat, there has been an explosion at a building on Drake and Tenth…"
"That's where we were, isn't it?" Jonathan Kent said.
"I should go," Clark interrupted, reaching for the door- handle.
"Don't you dare!" Lois told him firmly. "You heard the guy: they're probably dead already. And, remember, Trask would have killed you, if he could. He'd have killed your parents!"
"There's nothing you can do, Clark," Martha Kent said calmly. "What do you think caused the explosion? There wasn't anything flammable lying around that I saw."
Lois frowned. "My guess would be that it's the FBI. Bureau 39 may be a branch of the Feds, but the Feds don't like them. I'd hazard a guess that they had me followed — they knew I was asking questions about Trask. I think they just cleaned up some of their own murk tonight."
"I'm just glad they waited until we got out of there!" Clark muttered.
Lois shrugged. "From what I could gather, the Feds would prefer Superman alive rather than dead. If they'd known you were still alive, they'd probably have rescued you themselves, but they believed their informant, whoever it was, who told them you were dead."
"Thank god you didn't, Lois," Clark said heavily, laying a hand briefly on her arm. She didn't think it was worth telling him that she *had* thought he was dead and that the only reason she'd gone to that building was to get proof that Trask had killed him.
He was alive; she had him back. That was all that mattered.
Later, Clark's parents were asleep in his bedroom, while Lois and Clark sat on his sofa, talking quietly. "It must have been horrible for you, just watching Trask beat up your folks like that."
He nodded, his expression grim. "I couldn't do anything. One of the thugs had a gun to Mom's head the whole time; I was told that if I moved so much as a finger, he'd shoot her. I… I couldn't let that happen."
Lois touched his hand tentatively. "Of course you couldn't."
He curled his fingers around hers and gave her a grateful smile. "I can't thank you enough for rescuing us. But you took one heck of a risk, Lois! I wish you hadn't put yourself in danger like that."
"I'm glad I did," she told him softly. "You're alive." Embarrassed suddenly at what she might have given away, she added, "The city needs you, Clark. We all need you."
"Superman," he said quietly. "I don't know if I can do that any more, Lois. It worked while no-one knew that he was really Clark Kent. Now they do know… Lois, Trask won't be the only weirdo who wants to cut me up and use my family and friends against me."
"Who does know?" Lois said rhetorically. "Me. Perry. A couple of others at the Planet overheard what Trask said, but as soon as you'd gone, Perry told them that it was crazy, that Trask had made a mistake. When you didn't come back, they believed him — after all who could hurt Superman? They think Trask killed you when he found out that you weren't who he thought you were. And Trask and his men are dead. The FBI, from what I could tell, never knew that Superman was Clark Kent. Your secret's safe. You have to know that Perry and I would never tell anyone."
"Thanks." He smiled at her, clearly relieved, then leaned his head back against the sofa cushion. "I guess I've got my life back. I can't tell you how grateful I am, Lois."
She shrugged, embarrassed. "You've saved my life a couple of times already, Superman. I'm kind of hoping you'll keep doing it."
Clark turned his head and gave her another warm, but tired, smile. "Any time. But, please, call me Clark. That's who I am. Superman's… well, I'll tell you some other time, if you want."
"You really sound exhausted," she said sympathetically. "I didn't think you'd get…"
"Tired?" he completed for her. "If I've been on the go for a long time… The thing is, I haven't had any sunlight for more than ten days, Lois. I don't exactly know how it works, but the sun seems to recharge my energy. I know I'm invulnerable, but I'm not sure how much longer I'd have lasted in that lab."
Lois swallowed, realising that she'd probably got him out in the nick of time. She should have started looking sooner…
"Hey." Clark's soft voice made her look over at him; he was giving her a concerned look. "You got us out. That's all that matters. And I'll never be able to thank you enough for that."
She felt herself blushing. "That's okay. Just take me flying some time?"
"You bet," he promised her.
"Hey," she added awkwardly. "I know I haven't exactly been… well, very nice to you since you started at the Planet…"
Clark shook his head. "That's okay. I think I understand why. I'm probably too much competition for you." She was about to protest, but he grinned and she realised that he was teasing. "How about we start again?" he offered.
Gratefully, she took the suggestion. "Hi — I'm Lois Lane, and it's great to meet you."
He squeezed the hand she hadn't realised that he was still holding. "Hi, Lois. I'm Clark Kent, sometimes Superman, and I'm honoured to meet you."
His brown-eyed gaze held hers. "Friends?" he asked softly.
(or is it?)
(c) Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> and Wendy Richards <email@example.com>