By Paul-Gabriel Wiener <email@example.com>
Submitted: December 2002
Summary: When Superman asks Lois out on a date, it seems like a dream come true. Over the course of this humorous story, however, she discovers that her dream date may not be the man she thinks…
While I was writing this, I heard on IRC that someone may have come up with a similar idea. One or two FoLCs have mentioned possible titles. I have no memory of reading anything too close to this, but then, there are more fics out there that I've missed than ones I've read. In any case, every author has a new take, right?
Also, readers of Astro City may find some things familiar. There is a scene in one issue (I forget the title) that is similar to one in this story. It's not my intention to plagiarize, but some similarities were inevitable. Incidentally, all of Kurt Busiek's work (especially Astro City) comes highly recommended.
A few lines were taken from the L&C episode "Vat Man," written by Michael Norell, and from the episode "Neverending Battle," written by Dan Levine.
The usual disclaimers about Superman, Metropolis, Lois, Clark, etc. apply.
Whatever is left in the story that I haven't mentioned is original. :)
A huge thank-you to Kathy Brown and Sarah Luddy for beta reading. Thanks also to Kaethel for correcting my French.
Finally, I don't usually do this, but to avoid confusion, thoughts are in <<brackets.>>
The noise prodded at Lois Lane's mind. Said mind, however, was deeply involved in a romance novel, and did not want to be disturbed.
It seemed to be an oddly familiar sound. Lois swatted the thought aside and went back to her book.
Must be the faucet. She'd look into it when she finished the page.
Fine, fine. She'd look into it now. She obviously wasn't going to get any more reading done with this Chinese water torture going on around her. Putting the book down, she headed for the kitchen. The kitchen sink, however, was not dripping.
It was probably the bathroom. Another thought intruded. Something about the window. Something about it being red and blue. Oh well. She'd look into that when she was done with the bathroom faucet.
Heading towards the bathroom, she saw it again in the corner of her eye. Something red and blue in the window.
Wait a second. Red and blue. Window. Tapping. Lois ran to the window. "Superman! I'm sorry. I… I…"
"That's okay, Lois. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
<<Only mentally.>> Lois managed to catch that thought just before it got to her mouth. It had been a close call. That tapping had been driving her nuts, but she did not want to say so to Superman. She really must get more used to censoring herself. "No, not at all," she said hastily. "What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to ask you a question."
"Would you like to have dinner sometime?"
"What?" Lois stood there, stunned. A small, quickly hidden smile might have played across Superman's face, but she was too busy trying to get her eyebrows and jaw back into place to be sure.
"No. I mean- I… That is, I was saying, 'no, I heard you.' It's just… are you asking me out?"
<<Ohmygod. Superman is here, and he's actually asking me out. Superman! And… and I haven't answered him yet!>> Shaking herself, Lois forced her mouth to make sounds. "Uhm, er…" Lois firmly told her mouth to make more intelligible sounds. "Yes. I'd love to!"
"Great. Oh, but there's one problem."
Problem? Superman had just asked her out on a date. What problem could there possibly be? "Oh?"
He shuffled his feet and looked at her with nervous embarrassment. "I, uh, don't have any money."
She blinked, absorbing this. She'd never really thought about it before. "You don't?"
"Well, there's the Superman Foundation, but that all goes to charity. It wouldn't be right to use that for personal reasons."
"No, no. Of course not. Right, okay. Not a problem. I'll pay." Lois felt funny offering to pay for a date. Usually, she only paid the whole check after she'd scared someone off. This was different, though. This was Superman.
His smile of relief and gratitude would probably have brightened the whole room if she'd still been aware of her surroundings. "Thanks. So, where do you want to go?"
What? She had to pick the place, too? "Why don't you choose?"
"I would, but I don't eat out much. I don't really have to eat, and, well, it's kind of hard without money. Besides, if you're paying, it only seems fair that you should choose where to spend your money."
Well, on the bright side, if he didn't have to eat, she wouldn't have to pay as much. Oh, who was she kidding? She'd pay a lot more than any restaurant would charge for a date with Superman. "How about the Lexor?"
Grimacing, he said, "I'd rather not have anything to do with Lex Luthor."
Lois's eyebrows shot up. *That* was interesting. She filed it away for later, however, as there were more important things to take care of first. "Okay, then. We could go to that little place on Third Street, Chez Trois." The "little place" was one of the most famous and exclusive restaurants in town. It was also one of the most expensive, but this *was* Superman. She wanted to do it right. She might not have another chance.
"Fine with me, Lois. If you like it, I'm sure it'll be great."
Fine? She was taking him out to Chez Trois, and all he could say was "fine?" Well, he had said that he didn't eat out much. Maybe he hadn't heard of it. "Great. What day is good for you?"
"Well, let's see… I've got that policemen's ball tomorrow night- they're honoring me, I can't miss that. Thursday is the U.N. security council meeting. You never know how late those things are going to go. Friday, I'm going to a ball game with the kids from that orphanage…"
"Ball game? That's in the afternoon, right?"
"Well, yes, in Australia. It'll be evening here."
"So, where was I? Oh, right… I'm going to have to keep Saturday clear in case that storm brewing in the Caribbean turns into a hurricane… how's Sunday?"
"Sunday? Well, I'm supposed to… oh, never mind. I can cancel that. Sunday is just fine. Eight o'clock good for you?"
"Great! Let me see if I can get reservations." Lois quickly looked up the number for Chez Trois. She'd never actually eaten there before, but she hoped that she'd be able to get a table. "Hello? Yes, I'd like to make a reservation. … Sunday, 8pm? … Yes, this Sunday. … What? You're booked for the next four *months*? You can't fit in two people anytime in the next four months? What kind of-"
"-Excuse me, Lois," Superman said, heading off her rampage. "I think I can help with this one." Then, with a whoosh, he was gone.
Lois turned back to the phone, ready to give the haughty maitre d' a piece of her mind. "You should be grateful that we can accommodate you so early," she heard him say. "This is Chez Trois, madame, not some little- Superman! What can I do for you?"
Lois heard the hero's response through the receiver. "That's my girlfriend you're talking to on the phone there. We'd like a table for two this Sunday."
"Oh, yes. Yes, of course, monsieur. We'll be delighted to have you. Eight, you said?"
"Very well. See you then."
Lois stifled a giggle over the arrogant maitre d's reaction to the arrival of Superman. Her amusement, however, was quickly washed away by the realization that Superman had just called her his girlfriend. If any other man had dared to presume that he had that right before even the first date, she'd have probably ripped his head off. This was Superman, though, and Lois was ready to float to the ceiling unaided.
He returned with a whoosh and a smirk. "Everything taken care of?"
"Sure is! That was great!"
The smirk turned into a large grin. "Thanks. I'll see you on Sunday, then."
"Uh, yeah. Sunday." Saying the words made the situation all the more real to her. She was going out on a date with Superman.
"Good night, Lois."
"Good night, Superman," she replied, vaguely. She was still standing in the same place, half-dazed, when he left.
Clark wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry as he flew away from Lois's apartment. When he'd asked her out as Superman, her jaw had dropped so far he'd half expected her to trip on it. The expression would have been amusing on anyone, but on Lois, it was so unusual, so out of place, that he'd nearly lost it then and there. On the other hand, Lois's worship of the cardboard cut-out hero was painful, particularly since it was keeping her from looking at Clark Kent. It was like she was at an aquarium, but was too blinded by the glare on the shiny glass to see the depths beyond.
Ruefully, he thought back to that night, not so long ago…
They'd been talking in the aftermath of the destruction of his clone. He had been feeling lonely and vulnerable. He'd been given a glimpse of what it might be like to have a brother, and then had been forced to kill that "brother" to keep the world safe from the threat of further clones. Clark, talking about Superman in the third person, had pointed out that loneliness. Lois had been so cheerful, he'd had to ask her if they were even talking about the same thing.
"Sure," she'd said. "Companionship for Superman, right?"
"It's no problem. I'm available."
Something about that comment had really gotten to him. She was always available for Superman, always after the flashy hero, looking right past Clark to see if she could catch a glimpse of red and blue somewhere off behind him.
Thinking about it later that night, he just couldn't get over it. She thought the hero was so pure, so perfect. Little did she realize that Superman was just a role. Take away plain old Clark Kent, and what was left? Some powers and a costume, held up by a lot of attitude. Suddenly, an idea had come to him. Lois was pining for Superman and ignoring Clark Kent. What if she got just what she was asking for? Not Clark, just Superman.
So, Superman had asked Lois out on a date, and that had gone even better than he'd hoped. If everything went well on Sunday, Lois would soon be over her infatuation with the red and blue shell.
Clark flew towards Lois's apartment at super speed. He was late. He hadn't planned that, but he wasn't surprised that something had come up. The same held for the date to come. He hadn't specifically planned anything, but he had some expectations of what might happen.
His partner had been filled with nervous excitement for the whole week. It had been both amusing and disconcerting to see Lois Lane, usually the paragon of no-nonsense professionalism, acting like a besotted schoolgirl. She'd been so preoccupied that it had started to affect her job performance. Knowing that he was somewhat to blame, he'd covered for her as best he could. She'd returned the favor, in a way, by simply failing to notice his disappearing acts. He hadn't had to make a single excuse. He'd actually heard that she'd been making vague excuses for him to cover for the fact that she hadn't seen him leave.
In all, it had been one of the oddest weeks of his life, which, all things considered, was saying quite a lot. With the rescues, Lois's distraction, his hopes, and his fears, the days and hours had gone by in fits and spurts. He'd alternately felt that either time was rushing by far too quickly or that Sunday would never come. He was fairly sure that Lois could say the same. At some point, though, Saturday had come and gone, and Sunday had followed, right on schedule.
Now, as he approached Lois's apartment, he scanned ahead with his x-ray vision. He almost faltered in his flight. Lois was beautiful any day, but she had clearly put in a lot of effort today. She was wearing a low-cut strapless gown that was both elegant and sexy. The low hemline gave the illusion of modesty, but a long slit up one side opened and closed as she walked, providing tantalizing glimpses of her gorgeous legs. Looking back up, he noted that the cut and style of the gown emphasized all the right curves. She was, in a word, stunning. He swallowed nervously. Keeping up the facade of the aloof superhero was not going to be as easy as he'd hoped.
Lois paused in her pacing long enough to glance at the clock. 8:47, the same as the last five times she'd checked. Where *was* he? She'd put in all this effort- bought an entirely new dress, spent hours in the salon, further hours getting dressed and touching up, and now another two hours waiting for him to show up. She'd been preparing for this all day, if not longer, and he was nowhere in sight. Just as that thought crossed her mind for the 523rd time, there was a familiar tapping on the window. She rushed to open it, excitement replacing fear and anger, though the nervousness only grew.
"Hi Lois," he said, as he floated in. "You look great. Sorry I'm late." The lines were delivered flatly, almost as if they'd been scripted. The apologetic and slightly harried tone as he continued was so much like the "rough day at work" excuses she'd heard all too often from previous dates that she almost forgot to listen. "There was a five-car pile-up on the interstate. I had to work slowly and carefully to get everyone out safely. Some people were in really bad shape. I had to fly a couple of them to the hospital. I brought you flowers, but they got blood all over them. I had to open up the candy for this one woman who was going into shock. Once everyone was safe and the cars were off the highway, I took a quick detour to wash the blood out the suit, and then flew straight here."
"Oh. Of course. You have to save lives. That's what you do." She spoke as reassuringly as she could. Inwardly, she was desperately trying to unruffle her feathers. Guiltily, she told herself that it was selfish to be annoyed and impatient because Superman had taken time away to rescue people. She forced herself to put that aside and consider the present. "Right. I just hope we can still get our table. Saving lives comes first, of course, but, well, I was looking forward to going there. Not that it wouldn't be great to go anywhere with you, but this would be more special, and I was just hoping that-" She was almost glad when he cut her off. She'd been switching mental gears so quickly, she was half convinced that his super-hearing had picked up the crunching sounds.
"Lois, don't worry. I'm sure they'll have a table for us whenever we get there. You ready to go?"
Ready? Of course she was ready! She had been ready for over an hour! "Sure," she said cheerfully. "Let me just grab my purse." Striding over to the desk, she picked up the purse, then turned back to the hero. Before she completed the turn, however, she found herself being scooped into his arms. She nestled herself in, enjoying the feel of his firm muscles and warm embrace. Just as she was really getting into it, though, she found herself being gently deposited on the sidewalk. Looking up, she saw the sign. "Chez Trois, 33 3rd Street." Lois checked herself quickly. Her carefully arranged hair was only slightly windblown, and everything else was still in place. She took her date's proffered arm, and the two strode through the door.
"We have reservations for 8:00," Superman said, approaching the maitre d'. "Sorry we're late."
"It is no problem, Superman," the man said, a little more loudly than necessary. "We have your table waiting."
Heads turned at the mention of the hero's name. The people nearest the door saw him and gasped. That drew the attention of the people at the next table, and the cry "Superman!" spread through the restaurant in waves. There was a brief moment of silence as everyone simply stared, shocked to see the superhero on what was clearly a date. Then, as the information was absorbed, clumps of whispered conversation began, growing and merging into a not-quite- intelligible murmur. A few snippets rose up above the general buzz. "He eats?" "He dates?" "I thought he was gay. He turned *me* down." "Who is she?" "Why couldn't that have been me?" "How did she land him?" "It'll never work. He isn't even human, is he?" "Look at that neckline. Floozy." "Is that even still considered a neckline?" "He said they were late, and her hair is out of place. Wonder what kept them…"
"Ignore them, Lois," Superman suggested. "Just pretend you don't hear them."
Lois looked at him, at his apparently unshakable aloofness. "How do you do that?"
"After a while, you get used to it. Particularly if you have super-hearing. People make comments. It's human nature. You can't stop them, but you can control your own reaction. Just don't let them get to you."
Thinking about all the comments that Superman must overhear, it seemed pretty amazing that he could learn to ignore them. Lois's admiration for the hero went up another notch, if that was even possible. At the same time, though, she realized that continuing a relationship with him would mean that she'd have to put up with those comments, too. It would be worth it, to be with him, but it wouldn't be easy.
The comments slowly died down as they walked across to their table. "Does that happen wherever you go?"
"Pretty much, yes."
"How do you get used to that?"
"I tell myself to focus on the more important things," he replied, looking directly at her.
Lois flushed, at a loss for a response. Just then, though, a boy rushed up to the table, shouting, "Superman! Superman!"
"Can I get your autograph?"
"Sure," the hero said, smiling. He signed the proffered slip of paper, and the kid ran off with his prize, ecstatic. Superman turned back to Lois, but she was looking around, trying to discover where the boy had come from. She hadn't really expected children in Chez Trois at this hour. She quickly spotted a family gathering of some sort at one of the larger tables, and turned back, her curiosity satisfied. Before they could continue the conversation, however, a couple more kids rushed over with autograph requests. Seeing that he was actually granting those requests, a few adults began to cautiously approach. He gave each one personal attention, which only encouraged more people to come up and ask. Lois found it simultaneously endearing and frustrating.
A little while later, when Superman had signed autographs for and taken pictures with what seemed to be every single patron, as well as the entire staff, and a few stray people from the street besides, Lois tried to strike up a conversation. She quickly realized, however, that she didn't really know enough about Superman to ask a serious question. It was quite a revelation for her. She decided to start with small talk and see if she could work her way up. "So, Superman, how was your day?"
He seemed to think about this for a little while. "Not bad."
"What did you do?"
"Well, I stopped a couple of attempted muggings, went to a charity lunch in New York, dropped by southern Florida to help out with that storm, picked up the flowers and candy for you, and then there was the accident on the interstate I told you about… You know, this and that."
"Wait a second… flowers and candy- thank you, by the way, even if they didn't arrive intact- where did you get the money?"
"I… uh… borrowed it from Clark," he said, somewhat uncomfortably. "I'll make it up to him somehow or other. Clean his apartment at superspeed or help him rearrange the furniture or something."
"Clark?! What did you tell him? He doesn't know we're here together, does he?"
He composed himself as best he could, and an unreadable expression was rapidly replaced by the hero's traditional poker face. Well, "poker face" wasn't quite the right term, given that he didn't gamble, but something like that. "I didn't say anything to Clark about what I needed the money for, and he didn't ask."
"Oh, okay then."
"I didn't know this was supposed to be a secret."
"No, it… it isn't. It's just that, well… I didn't want Clark to think… I didn't want Clark to… uhm, that is, I wanted to know what you told him, so I wouldn't be surprised if he asked." Lois hoped that sounded convincing. In the meantime, she was wondering what she *had* meant. Why had the thought of Clark knowing that she was going out with Superman bothered her so much?
"Well, like I said," Superman replied, startling her out of her musings, "I didn't tell Clark anything about our plans."
"Good. I mean, thanks. I mean… oh, never mind. So, you rescued people today. What else did you do?"
"What do you mean?"
"What did you do between rescues?"
"I flew from place to place."
"Don't you do anything else? What do you do when you're not rescuing someone?"
"It's a big planet, Lois," he said, evasively. "There's always someone who needs rescuing."
"What about now?"
"I'm sure if I listened hard enough, I could find someone who could use my help. Right now, though, I'm focusing on you. … Not that you need my help- at least, not this time- but you're the priority now."
"So, what you're saying is that every minute I'm with you, I'm keeping you from saving someone?"
"No. Don't think of it that way, Lois. Think of it as- fire!"
"Over by the bay. Sounds like it's getting out of hand. Excuse me."
Lois blinked, digesting this sudden change in the conversation, and when she opened her eyes, he was gone.
Half an hour later, Lois was slowly munching on a salad, firmly reminding herself, yet again, that a date with Superman was more important than a minor story about a warehouse fire that would almost certainly be out by the time she got there. As she lifted her fork, there was a puff of air and a whoosh. When she put the fork down, he was back.
"Sorry that took so long," he said.
"No, I understand. It's what you do."
"Thanks. How's the salad?"
"Pretty good. I haven't ordered anything else yet, but I needed something to keep me occupied. Oh no. That came out wrong. It's not that-"
"Lois, don't worry. I understand."
There was a momentary lull in the conversation, which was thankfully interrupted by the waiter. "Ah, you have returned. I have brought the menus, and- Oh no! There is something burning! I must go to the kitchen!"
"Everything is fine in the kitchen," Superman assured him, looking uncharacteristically embarrassed. "I'm afraid the smoke you smell is coming from me. I just got back from putting out a rather large fire. I tried to clean up before I came back, but I guess I wasn't thorough enough. I didn't want to keep this lovely lady waiting much longer."
"Ah! Yes, of course. You were putting out a fire. Tres bien." He stood there for a second, absorbing this, and then suddenly blinked, remembering himself. "I will give you some time to look over the menu."
Lois gathered her thoughts while pretending to read the menu. She'd already had ample time to read it, get over the shock at seeing the price of a simple salad, recover from the shock of seeing the price of an entree, remind herself yet again that it was well worth it, decide to enjoy herself, select what she wanted, browse the dessert menu, notice that the one she wanted had to be ordered with the meal to give them time to prepare it, and order a salad to stave off boredom and hunger. So now, while Superman perused the menu for the first time, Lois took the opportunity to sort out possible conversational gambits. It wasn't as easy as she'd expected. Superman didn't seem to have much of a life, apparently spending his time flying from rescue to rescue, with little else to do. That didn't leave all that much to talk about, unless she wanted to talk about rescues all night.
She was still musing when the waiter returned. "Are you ready to order?"
She glanced at Superman. He nodded. "Yes, we are."
"Very good. What can I get for you?"
"I'll have the fillet mignon, please, and a chocolate souffle."
"Excellent choice, madame. And for monsieur?"
"Canard a l'orange, s'il vous plait," he said in flawless French.
"Oui, bien sur. And would either of you like something to drink? Wine, perhaps?"
Lois glanced at the wine list. "I'll have a glass of the house cabernet, please."
"Certainly, madame. Et pour monsieur?"
"De l'eau, s'il vous plait."
"Pas de vin?"
"Non, merci," he replied with a vague gesture towards the ceiling. "Je dois la ramener chez elle apres diner."
"Ah, oui. D'accord." The waiter chuckled, but quickly covered it over when he saw that Superman had kept his usual stern expression.
"What was that about?" Lois asked, as the waiter walked away.
"Sorry. I told him I wasn't having wine because I needed to fly you home after dinner."
"Oh, I see. I didn't know you spoke French."
"I have a knack for languages. I've flown around the world quite a bit, and I've learned to speak the local language wherever I've landed."
"Wow. How many languages do you know?"
"I'm fluent in all of the major ones, and I can at least get by in a couple hundred others."
"It helps with the rescues."
"I'm sure it does! So, what else can you do that I don't know about?"
The hero looked strangely uncomfortable for a second before he replied. "Well, you know about the flying, and the super breath, and the vision powers… let's see… strength, invulnerability, speed… you know all that, too… I always know what time it is, even without a watch. Don't think you knew about that one."
"No. Must be handy."
"Yeah, as long as I remember to count the time zones I'm flying through."
Lois laughed, but again, the hero maintained his poker face. Did Superman have any kind of a sense of humor? Setting the issue aside, she thought about his comment again, this time more seriously. "Hmm, right. Actually, how do you count the time zones? Do you have the dividing lines memorized?"
"So, what time is it in Paris right now?"
"3:28 and 14 seconds."
"11:28 and 22 seconds."
"10:28 and 30 seconds."
"Florida or California?"
"California, of course."
"6:28 and 41 seconds."
Lois smiled, but the trick quickly lost its amusement value.
There was an uncomfortable silence for a little while, and then Superman tentatively asked, "So, how was your week?"
"Busy, like always."
"What did you do?"
"Gathered facts, uncovered a massive plot, got kidnapped- thanks for the rescue, by the way, wrote the story… you know, the usual."
"Sounds like a typical week."
The two nodded and smiled at each other, and silence reigned once more. Suddenly, Superman looked away, a distant yet intent expression on his face, an expression that seemed eerily familiar to Lois. Before she could place it, though, he turned back to her. "Hostage situation. I have to go. Sorry. Hopefully, this won't take long." Lois nodded her understanding, but before she even completed the gesture, he was gone.
Her wine came a few minutes later. The waiter poured a little into the glass. Having nothing better to do, she went through the full routine. She swirled it around to admire its legs, wondered about the term and whether or not it was offensive, took in the bouquet, reflected on how it smelled nothing like flowers, and finally tried a sip. Sure enough, it tasted like red wine. She nodded to the waiter, and he filled the glass. She sipped idly, trying to think of things she could discuss with her date. She'd never really thought about it, but they actually had almost nothing in common. Well, they both faced psychotic criminals on a regular basis, but that was not a particularly romantic topic. A familiar whooshing sound interrupted her musings.
"Hi, Lois. Just wanted to let you know I'm here. I'm going to go wash up. They fired off a few rounds before I took their guns away, and now my hands are covered in grease, gunpowder, and tiny shards of crushed bullet casings. I hope they have enough hand soap in the bathroom. Be right back." He floated a few inches off the floor, and slowly rotated himself around, scanning for the restrooms. They were not obviously marked, and he seemed to have trouble finding them at first. Most people would have asked a waiter for directions, but a subtle narrowing of his eyes told Lois that he was apparently using his x-ray vision. The thought occurred to her that he might find the lady's room first, but she trusted him enough to assume that he'd be more careful than that… somehow. An almost imperceptible nod alerted her to the fact that he'd found the correct room. He landed and strode purposefully towards the back of the room, his cape fluttering and billowing behind him.
<<Wow. He even walks like that when he's going to the bathroom.>> An image suddenly came to her of Superman exiting the bathroom with a determined stride and a bit of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his boot. Bubbles of laughter surged up at the irreverent thought. She fought valiantly, holding them back until she could get them properly contained, then faked a small coughing fit to cover the few throaty chuckles that had escaped. She calmly took a sip of wine to restore decorum, and when she looked up from her glass, he was there.
"You okay, Lois?" he asked with steely concern.
"Yeah, fine. Just had something in my throat. I'm okay now, thanks."
"So, what happened?"
"The grease was tenacious in spots, but there was plenty of soap. My hands are all clean now."
"No, I meant with the hostage situation."
"Oh, right. Well, like I said, they took a few shots, but I caught the bullets and grabbed their guns. The police pretty much took care of things from there."
"Where was this? Who were they? Who did they take hostage? What did they want?"
"It was down at the airport. Five men with semi-automatic pistols. I didn't recognize any of them. They wanted clearance to take off. They had a little plane and a suitcase full of money. Not sure what they did, but I guess the police caught up to them too soon. So, they took a couple of baggage handlers hostage, and demanded clearance to take off."
"What do you mean?"
"You come across five guys with guns and a lot of money, you disarm them and turn them over to the police, and then you just fly off without getting any more information about who they are and what they did?"
"Well, yeah. What else did I need to know? I stopped them, and the police obviously knew what to do with them from there. Besides, I wanted to get back to you."
"Bu… y… tha.. ugh…" Lois sputtered, trying to absorb this total lack of curiosity, deal with the loss of a potential page one exclusive, and keep from criticizing the hero who had prevented the situation from becoming a tragedy.
"Are you okay, Lois?"
She shook herself, then cleared her throat. "Yeah, uhm, I'm fine. Good job. Saving lives. That's what you do. Well done."
"Thank you. Oh- about getting back to you… that reminded me- I never finished that sentence."
"What sentence?" she asked, but he was gone again. The sound of applause told her he was still in the room. She turned around to see him floating, a startled waiter in one hand, and a loaded tray in the other.
He set the man down gently, then returned the tray saying, "Here you go, sir. Didn't spill a drop."
"Merci. Merci beaucoup!"
"De rien," the hero responded, smiling. He strode back to the table. "Sorry about that, Lois. I just saw him trip, and, well…"
"Yeah, of course."
"So, you were saying…?"
"Oh, right. You said something about how you thought that my being here with you was keeping me from saving other people, and I just couldn't leave you thinking something so awful. I wanted to clear things up."
"Well, since that was your third- no, fourth- rescue of the evening, I guess we can consider things clear."
"Not entirely. Lois, I wouldn't be in Metropolis if it weren't for you."
"What do you mean? Oh, that thing with the heat wave a couple months ago?"
"Well, yeah. That, too. There's also that time when people were being put in danger because I was being tested. I was getting ready to leave town when I heard you say…" he closed his eyes, remembering. "'What he can't do, it doesn't matter. It's the idea of Superman. Someone to believe in. Someone to build a few hopes around. Whatever he can do, that's enough.' I don't think I ever told you this, but it was your words that made me rethink leaving that day. I never did thank you for it."
Lois sat back, overwhelmed. She was still trying to formulate a response, or at least a coherent thought, when he continued.
"That wasn't what I meant, though. I think you know you're pretty special to me, Lois. Whatever else happens, I just wanted you to know that if it hadn't been for meeting you, I might not have settled in Metropolis."
Lois took a little longer to process this, since she was still in shock from his last statement. Unfortunately, processing it sent her back into shock, leaving Lois Lane uncharacteristically speechless. Superman was in Metropolis because of her…
"It's true! You're here, Superman! Thank the blessed virgin, you're here!"
Startled, Lois looked up to see a strange man running wildly towards their table. <<Who is he? What does he want? And what is he talking about? I'm not a virgin.>> Thankfully, she managed to keep her thoughts to herself until they settled into a sensible pattern. Just as that happened, the man reached their table.
"Superman, I just heard on the news that a mine collapsed in Colorado. There are eight men trapped at the bottom of a shaft, and it looks like they'll run out of air before the rescue team can get to them! You have to save them!"
"Do you know where in Colorado?"
"Not exactly, but LNN does."
"I'll get there as quickly as I can." He was gone before the sound reached their ears. The relieved stranger left before Lois could ask him how he'd known where to find Superman. She considered chasing after him, but then decided against it. Apparently, she and her date had drawn enough attention already. Besides, she didn't feel like running after him in heels.
Conversation buzzed through the room once more. People talking about the mine, pitying her for being abandoned yet again, and speculating about the man who had rushed in with the news. She ignored it all as best she could, and slowly things returned to normal. The waiter returned with their dinners. Not knowing when her date would return, she had them sent back to the kitchen to be kept warm.
Fifteen minutes later, someone approached her with a portable radio in hand. "Miss, I, uh, thought you should know- he won't be back for a while. I was trying to listen to the game when I caught the news. They're saying the shaft is too unstable. He can't get to them quickly without risking another cave-in. Looks like they're going to have to do it the slow way. Right now, he's trying to make some air holes. You can borrow the radio, if you want."
Lois thanked him. He shrugged and gave her a sympathetic smile, then walked back to his own table. She got a few more details from the reports. Superman had located all of the miners with his x-ray vision. They were all alive, for the moment, but some of them were injured. At least one was injured badly enough that he'd need to be flown to a hospital as soon as they could get to him. Superman was apparently using focused bursts of heat vision to vaporize the rock, in an attempt to cut air holes. He was pausing every now and again to let the rock cool and to use his x- ray vision. Soon, there would be two shafts about the diameter of a nickel opening into the chamber where the miners were trapped. A pipe attached to an oxygen tank would be fed in through one of the holes, and the other would act as a vent. It would buy the miners some time while the rescue team, led by Superman, would reinforce the shaft and start clearing the rubble. That was all the information anyone seemed to have for the moment, so Lois put the radio down and called to have her dinner brought back.
She ate slowly, listening to the rescue team's progress with half an ear. The food was excellent, but she hardly noticed. Eventually, her conscious mind caught up to the fact that there was no more food going into her mouth. The lingering taste of chocolate and the small dish in front of her told her that she'd just finished dessert. She called the waiter over, got the check, returned the radio to its rightful owner, and had Superman's duck packed to go.
Leaving the restaurant, she was greeted by a small horde of paparazzi. Evidentially, word of her date had gotten around, and someone had thought to call the tabloids. Fortunately, without Superman standing next to her, they had no way of knowing that she was the woman he'd been out with. She pushed through the mob, and moved down the block to try to hail a cab. She hadn't made it far, though, before she was grabbed from behind. A knife was quickly pressed against her throat.
"So," a sleazy voice whispered in her ear, "Superman has himself a girlfriend, does he? Well, missy, you'll make a good insurance policy for my little scheme."
"Oh, please," she said, annoyed. "Like that hasn't been tried before." With one hand, she pushed the arm holding the knife aside. A split second later, the heel of her shoe was digging into his foot. At the same time, she jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow. When he stumbled back, she spun around and kicked him hard in his stomach. When he started to get up, she kicked him again. After that, he stayed down.
Lois sighed when she noticed that the heel had broken off her right shoe. "Do you know how much these cost?" she demanded of her unconscious assailant. "You're going to pay for that, buster!" Sighing again, she took off her shoes, then pulled out her cell phone and called the police.
Shortly, an officer arrived. "Hi, Lois. What do we have here?"
"Hey, Charlie. Attempted kidnapping. Think he was plotting some kind of heist or something."
"Again? Well, don't worry. We'll take care of it. Someone will drop by your place to take your statement in a couple days. You haven't moved since the last time, have you?"
"Nope. Same place."
"Right, okay. That's his knife over there, I take it?"
"Yep. I haven't touched it, so the fingerprints should all be his."
"Great. Thanks, Lois."
"Thank you, Charlie."
"No problem. You need a lift home? Don't think you'd want to ride with this guy, but I can call someone if you want."
"No, that's okay. I'll just get a cab. Thanks anyway."
He shrugged and turned to handcuff the man, who was just starting to wake up.
"Yeah, I know," the officer responded without looking up. "Don't worry. We'll tell you when we find out who he is and what he was up to. You'll have the exclusive, as usual."
"Hey, it's only fair," he replied as he shoved her attacker into the back of his car. "You flush these guys out for us, you should get something for it. You know, Lois, you give a whole new meaning to the term 'jailbait.'"
"Thanks. I think."
"Any time, Lois. See you 'round."
"See you, Charlie."
He waved and drove off, leaving Lois to make her own way home. When she got there, she put Superman's dinner in the fridge, and then turned on LNN. She watched the coverage of the rescue until she fell into an exhausted slumber.
It was a sunny day in the park. Lois and her hero were strolling through the arboretum. "Superman," she said, "there's something I have to tell you…"
"Excuse me, Lois. There's a mugger attacking someone a few blocks away." He dashed off without waiting for her to acknowledge what he'd said. "Sorry about that," he said when he got back. "You were saying…?"
"Oops. Those kids got their Frisbee stuck in a tree. Be right back."
She watched him fly off, retrieve the Frisbee, chat with the kids for a few minutes, and sign autographs for them. "Superman!"
"Oh, sorry, Lois."
"Superman, I need to tell you that-"
With a look of worry tinged with what appeared to be annoyance, Superman turned to the collie who was running towards him. "What is it, Girl?"
"Little Timmy got sucked into an inter-dimensional time warp and he's about to be devoured by slimy green aliens?"
"You go on ahead and build an inter-dimensional gateway. I'll be right there."
"Hey, I'm talking to my girlfriend. I said I'll be right there, okay?"
Still growling under her breath, the dog trotted off.
"Sorry, Lois, I've got to go. That Timmy. I swear, I've had to rescue him more than, well… you. Be back as soon as I can."
Lois felt a brush of air against her cheek that might have been a kiss, and then he was gone. "… but… I wanted to tell you… aaaaarrrrrRRRRRGGGGHHH!"
Lois woke up, still screaming.
She slept fitfully the rest of the night, checking the news every now and again. Around four in the morning, enough rubble was cleared to get the miners out. Superman flew the most severely injured men directly to the hospital, then headed off to wherever it was he went. Another rescue, perhaps, though he'd looked rather weary when he had left the mine site.
In the morning, she trudged into work, only to be greeted by whistles, catcalls, shouts of congratulations, and speculation about just why she looked so tired and disheveled. Perry put a quick stop to it when he heard the commotion, but she still caught the occasional whispered comment. Although she'd managed to keep her name out of the papers, it seemed that the newsroom's rumor mill had been moving as quickly as ever. Someone in the staff had probably guessed at the identity of the reported "petite brunette," and the rumors had spread from there. She was going to be dealing with the repercussions of the guess all day, and the fact that the unnamed staffer had guessed right didn't help matters.
Her partner, at least, didn't say anything, though a couple of times she did catch him looking at her with a strange and unreadable expression on his face. She wondered what it meant. Had he heard the rumors about her date? Was he judging her, too? That didn't quite sound like Clark, but what else could it be? Seeing that he also looked pretty tired, however, she decided to let it go.
The two sleep-deprived reporters plunged into their work as best they could. There was a lot to cover. The storm, the hostage situation at the airport, the trapped miners, and the attempted kidnapping, among others. They called sources, gathered facts, corroborated evidence, and discussed theories. Just another busy day at the Planet. Lois enjoyed the return to the normal routine, but the aftermath of her so-called date had left her fatigued, frustrated, and disappointed. So, she was not in a particularly good mood when the phone rang that afternoon…
Lex frowned. Lois did not sound suitably pleased to hear from him. "Lois, is something wrong?"
"No. I had a bit of a rough weekend, but I'm fine."
"I know just the thing to cure that. How would you feel about dinner in Paris?"
"No thanks, Lex. I've had enough of the jet-setting celebrity lifestyle." Her wearily resigned tone of voice did not sound promising.
"I see. Well, then, how about a quiet evening at home?"
She sighed, then paused for a moment. The hesitation did not bode well, either. "I was speaking more generally than that. I've been thinking about this a lot lately- the past day or so, anyway. Lex, I'm sorry, but I need someone who works at my pace and moves in my circles, not someone who will constantly be called away by important business. More, I need to be the one writing the news, not the one making it. It was flattering for a while to be pursued by one of the richest men on the planet, but I've moved past being dazzled by fame and glory. I'm sorry, Lex, but it's over."
"What?!" The undignified exclamation tore itself out of his mouth before his brain had had time to catch up. This was intolerable. She was rejecting him? And what had she meant when she'd said that she'd had "enough of the jet-setting celebrity lifestyle" and had moved past wanting "fame and glory"? She certainly hadn't seemed to have been bothered by celebrity when she'd been out with him. Nor had she shown any signs of a developing immunity to awe, and he knew those signs well enough from prior experience. There was only one logical conclusion. Someone else must have ruined his careful campaign. Who else had she been out with? Whoever it was, he would pay. Lex composed himself. Time enough for vengeance later. For now, he'd have to put up a more graceful front. "Very well, then, Lois. If that's how you feel."
She took a deep breath. "It is."
Carefully and deliberately, Lex hung up the phone. Then he checked to make absolutely sure he was alone. Only when he was satisfied that he was unobserved did he unleash his rage, storming around the office. How *dare* she reject him? He was Lex Luthor! No one rejected Lex Luthor! When he felt that he'd vented enough to regain proper control, he settled back into his chair and paged Nigel.
"Yes, sir?" Nigel asked as he stepped into the room a few minutes later.
Lex took a small jeweler's box out of his desk drawer and tossed it to his servant. "Get rid of that worthless rock."
Nigel's expression betrayed nothing as he caught the box, which he knew to contain an almost obscenely expensive diamond ring. "Yes, sir."
"Oh, and Nigel?"
"Put the Daily Planet project on hold. Driving the paper out of business now would serve no useful purpose."
Clark smiled as he watched Lois hang up the phone. It had been a tough weekend, even for Superman, but the date had gone better- or was that worse?- than he'd even hoped. It appeared that not only was Lois completely over her crush on Superman, she was also over her infatuation with Lex Luthor. Now, maybe plain old Clark Kent would actually have a chance. Of course, things would be that much more complicated when he told her that he was Superman, but he could afford to worry about that later. Better not to count his chickens before the eggs were even in the nest.
He watched, hopeful, as she walked up to his desk. "Hey, Clark?" she asked, tentatively.
"You have any plans for tonight?"
"Not really, no. What's up? Got a hot lead?"
"No, nothing like that. I just thought it would be nice if we could take an evening to relax together. Rent a video or something. Maybe order a pizza and make some popcorn."
"Sounds pretty normal, Lois."
"Right now, Clark," she said tiredly, "normal sounds very good."
"Okay, then. Normal it is. Got a preference for a movie?"
"Lethal Weapon II?"
"You got it, partner."
"Thanks, Clark. I think I'm going to call it a day. Meet you back at your place, seven o'clock?"
"It's a date," he said, without thinking.
She gave him a funny look, but, just as he started to worry, she smiled, albeit somewhat enigmatically. "In your dreams, Farmboy," she replied teasingly.
"Every night," he said with a smile that he hoped looked teasing enough.
She grinned. "See you tonight, Clark."
"See you, Lois."
As she walked off towards the elevator, he thought he heard her whisper, but it was so faint that he wasn't sure if it had been super-hearing or wishful thinking. "Sometimes," her voice had said, "dreams come true."