By Wendy Richards <email@example.com> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Submitted: November 2003
Summary: Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet fresh off a visit to an alternate universe, and therefore armed with the knowledge that Lois Lane is his soul mate. Imagine his surprise when he is finally introduced to his new partner … Luc Lane. Just how far does the whole soul mates idea go? A Wendy and Tank Challenge.
Wendy: Lately, Tank has taken to claiming that he's retired as a writer. Despite producing the occasional evil vignette and even a sequel to his alt-universe series, he still pretends that he's no longer a participant in this wonderful world of fanfic-writing. Well, as great a fan of his writing as I am, I couldn't possibly let that pass unchallenged. And so the time appeared to be ripe for another little challenge. Just something short, I thought; something which wouldn't occupy too much of his time or strain his injured shoulder too much. A little bit of fun which he could polish off in a few pages - just to keep himself in practice. Well, for some reason this time he decided to change the rules of the challenges, and his part 2 ended with a 'Back to you, Wendy… <g>'. Not to mention the planned evil haircut he snuck in along the way! Well, I couldn't stand for that, and so part 3 was designed to undo all the evil he had wrought. I even ended it with an emphatic 'The End'. But no. That wasn't acceptable. Along came an epilogue! And so I think Tank's shown pretty comprehensively that he is definitely NOT retired as a writer - so we can all look forward to plenty more from his keyboard in the months and years to come. A terrific outcome!
Tank: Actually, this just shows you that Wendy truly is the evil one in this partnership. I had abandoned my contention of retirement, when I was cruelly struck down by a by product of my advancing years. The pinched nerve in my neck which caused the shoulder and arm problems effectively forced my retirement for a good three months. My 'condition' was getting better and I thought I might be able to try a few short things when Wendy sprung this latest challenge on me. Of course, it was then that my ancient body decided to betray me. I suffered a short relapse which made it difficult to write again. Needless to say, I got better and did write a response to Wendy's challenge. But I had to find some way to 'punish' her for putting an old man through that. I'm sure the gentle readers would agree that I was justified in my little 'turn around' which threw the story back at Wendy. Besides, it wouldn't have been as much fun to just have Clark find Lois and let them live happily ever after… would it? As for the 'evil haircut' (her words, not mine). As anyone can see, I was the gracious one here. I let Wendy win this one, and Lois got to keep her long hair (though why anyone would want to keep Lois from getting her much deserved 'proper' haircut is beyond me). I guess I'm just a darned nice guy.
Wendy and Tank would like to thank their Archive GE, CC Aiken, for her very careful and good-humoured approach to preparing this story for upload, and we look forward to joining battle- uh, *working with* her again soon. Thanks, CC!
Disclaimer: All rights to the copyrighted characters in this story belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Luc belongs to us. ;)
Clark Kent stood on the sidewalk, staring up at the tall building looming in front of him. This was it. This was the place he'd dreamed of working ever since he'd realised that he wanted to be a journalist.
The Daily Planet. In Metropolis.
He had an interview with the editor-in-chief in fifteen minutes, so he had a little time just to stand here and soak up the atmosphere. He was nervous, of course - a lot was hanging on this - but, thanks to the last couple of weeks, he was calmer than he might otherwise have been.
Because he now knew that working at the Daily Planet was what he was meant to do. And that inside that building lay… his destiny.
Clark caught his breath, thinking that soon - very soon, he hoped - he would get to meet her. Lois Lane. The woman whose writing he had admired for the last few years, but whom he'd never thought would be special to him, except as a colleague he'd be honoured to work with, if he got the chance.
That was… until the strangest thing of his life had happened. Even weirder than discovering all those powers he possessed, and learning that he could fly.
An odd little man wearing old-fashioned clothes and a bowler hat had appeared on his Smallville doorstep one evening. And he'd been dumbfounded by the tale the man had told.
Of alternate universes. And other men who, just like him, could fly. And were also called Clark Kent - and who were from a planet called Krypton.
One of those Clark Kents, the man named Wells had said, needed his help.
And so he'd allowed himself to be persuaded to accompany Wells, via what the man had called a 'dimensional transport mechanism', to another universe. There, he'd met a man who looked almost exactly like himself, except a few years older.
And he'd met a woman who'd made his heart stop beating the instant he'd laid eyes on her.
Her name was Lois Lane, he'd discovered. And she worked at the Daily Planet along with this world's Clark Kent. And… they were married.
His initial sense of crushing disappointment on realising that this woman was off-limits had quickly been replaced by elation. In his own world, there was also a Lois Lane - he'd been reading her stories in the Daily Planet for long enough to be aware of that.
And she was still turning them out, every bit as good. Take that morning's edition - interrupting his reminiscences of his universe-hopping, he smoothed out the paper he'd carried tucked under his arm and studied the front-page headline once more.
Three more corpses found in Hobb's Bay by L. Lane.
If his world was as similar to the one he'd visited as his had hosts assured him, then his world's Lois Lane would be the woman he would fall in love with. And, if he was very lucky, he'd get to marry her.
The other world's Lois had been pretty confident of that. She'd told him that she knew of at least one other world with a Clark Kent, and that that Clark had found his own Lois a year or so ago — apparently, she'd been lost in the Congo while investigating a gun-running story. But with Wells' help Clark had found out where she'd gone missing and had finally found her, suffering from amnesia and living as an adopted member of a remote tribe.
They were married too now.
Clark had spent close to two weeks in that other universe. At first, Lois Lane had been impatient; she'd said something very puzzling to Mr Wells once she'd noticed how young he was. "You couldn't possibly have managed to find someone a bit more experienced, I suppose?" she'd asked sarcastically. "Twice isn't enough for me to have to create Superman?"
"But you are so good at it, honey," Clark's counterpart had interjected, causing his wife to thwap him lightly.
Wells had muttered some excuse and left, and then Clark had been blown away by the series of explanations which had followed - the biggest of which had been Superman.
Superman. His counterpart actually dressed up in red and blue Spandex and flew around openly, helping people.
It would have sounded crazy, if it hadn't at the same time sounded so utterly… tempting.
*He* could do that. *He* could use his powers to help people, the way he'd always wanted to, but had never thought he could dare to do.
And he would, too; when Wells had reappeared to take him home again, Lois had presented him with a bag containing one of her husband's Suits. "Use it well," she'd told him. "You'll make a terrific Superman, I'm sure of it. You've done great while you were here."
The reason for his presence in that universe had soon become clear during that initial conversation: Clark Kent, alias Kal-El, had to make a trip to a planet called New Krypton - which had required several further explanations - to lend his support to its rulers, the Lady Zara and her consort, Ching. Because he and Lois hadn't wanted to advertise Superman's absence, they'd asked Wells to see whether a Superman from another universe would be prepared to lend his presence for a week or so. Clark Kent, they'd decided, would be visiting his folks in Smallville, so Clark wouldn't be needed to pretend to be his counterpart in his normal identity.
It had been a fascinating two weeks, playing the part of a superhero and learning about the lives of another Clark Kent and Lois Lane. And, he remembered, learning from Lois how *not* to behave with his world's Lois Lane, once he met her. The lesson which had stuck in his mind most firmly was Lois's advice not to give her counterpart the chance to fall in love with Superman.
"I understand why he did it, but Clark really shot himself in the foot," Lois had explained. "Every time I started to feel close to Clark, he'd visit me as Superman and make me all confused again. Even worse, a couple of times he kissed me as Superman. It was no wonder I couldn't choose between them!"
That made a lot of sense, Clark thought as he studied the famous globe attached to the front of the Planet building. He certainly wouldn't make that mistake.
And there was another mistake he wasn't making. His counterpart, once he'd returned from New Krypton, had asked him about his preparation for the upcoming interview with Perry White. And, as a result of the other Clark's advice, nowhere in Clark's portfolio was a certain story about the mating habits of knob-tailed geckos. Instead, he had a collection of articles concerning both hard news and human interest stories. Most were relatively low-key compared to the kind of articles the Planet ran every day, but they were well-written, Clark thought, and they showed his ability and potential.
With luck, he wouldn't have to jump through the kind of hoops his counterpart had in order to get the job.
Realising that time was moving on, Clark entered the building, giving his name to the security guard in the foyer. Within seconds, he was being directed to the elevator, the guard saying that he would call ahead to the newsroom floor.
And then the elevator doors opened, and Clark was actually in the newsroom of the Daily Planet.
It looked, sounded and even smelt like a newsroom - a very busy one, at that. Clark felt a sense of excitement as he glanced around, seeing busy reporters at work, typing into computers, talking on phones or yelling at gophers or copy- boys.
He couldn't, hard as he looked, see Lois Lane anywhere. But then, she was probably out chasing down leads or interviewing someone. Never mind, he told himself. He'd get to meet her some other time - he just hoped that it would be soon.
This was it. This was the place where he wanted to work.
All he had to do was impress Perry White sufficiently so that the editor would offer him a job.
He almost held his breath as the editor invited him into the corner office. But ten minutes later he was grinning from sheer delight.
He had a job. He was a reporter for the Daily Planet, effective immediately.
"I can't tell you how much this means to me, Mr White," he said emphatically.
The editor offered his hand. "Welcome to the Daily Planet, Kent. And rest assured, I'll be expecting you to show me just how much it means to you! I expect hard work and lots of it from my reporters."
"And you'll get it," Clark promised. "By the way, will I get a chance to work with any other reporters?"
"If the occasion demands it," the editor said. "Got anyone in mind?"
"Well, I'm a huge fan of Lo -" About to say Lois Lane, Clark broke off. Lois's columns always had the byline L. Lane, and he didn't want to invite any comment - and especially not from Lois - about how he knew her first name. "L. Lane," he finished.
"Aw, yeah," the editor drawled, a distant smile on his face. "L—"
Just then the door opened abruptly, and out of the corner of his eye Clark could see a slight figure enter. Perry White turned to see who the intruder was, just as the young man said excitedly, "Chief!"
Clark glanced over, pleased to see that someone else clearly enjoyed working at the Planet just as much as he was going to. The newcomer was around his own age, he guessed, smartly dressed in a dark suit and pale shirt, and with hair in a neat, short style. Dark hair framed an almost boyish face, and eyes almost as dark as his own looked curiously over at him.
"Just the person," Perry White said enthusiastically. "Kent, I'd like you to meet our star reporter. Lucas Lane, meet Clark Kent."
Clark stared, shocked into speechlessness, as the young man came forward and extended his hand toward the Planet's newest reporter. This couldn't be happening! Lois Lane, the woman who he had been led to believe was going to be his one true love. The woman who would complete him, be able to share his great secret, and end the loneliness that came from his being different. The woman who would eventually become his wife… was a man!
"Good to meet you. Ah, Kent isn't it?"
Clark's gaze moved from the bemused expression on the handsome young man's face to the hand being held out in front of him. "Ah, that's right, Clark Kent. Nice to meet you, Mr. Lane." Clark spoke haltingly as he belatedly clasped Lucas' hand. He pulled away quickly as it seemed like an electric spark passed between the two men.
Lucas Lane glanced at his hand and then up at Clark, a slightly confused look on his face. "That's quite the handshake you have there, Kent. And, please, call me Luc. We aren't that formal around here."
Perry stepped in and clapped the two men on the shoulder. "Luc, Kent here is a new hire who I think I want to pair up with you for a time. He's a good writer and seems to have some good instincts. I think a little time with you will whip him into shape fairly quickly."
Lane frowned at his editor-in-chief. "I don't know, Perry. You know I work best alone." He nodded in Clark's direction. "I'm sure Kent is a good guy, but I can't have a rookie slowing me down when I'm on the trail of a hot lead."
Perry fixed his star reporter with a stern look. "I don't remember asking your permission on this. Last time I looked, I occupied the big office, and that means I make the assignments around here." Perry gave Lucas a rather insincere smile. "And that means, for now, you have a partner."
Lane held his hands up before him in a gesture of defeat. "Hey, okay, I give. Don't ever say I'm not a team player." He glanced at his watch, then gave Clark a tight smile. "I'll be back in about an hour." He turned his attention to Perry. "I've got to meet Lucy. Something about her tuition not being received."
Perry shook his head. "I thought she was about to graduate?"
Lucas laughed. "She is. Her final exam is next week. Go figure. Only Lucy could get things this messed up." Lane raised his hand as if to slap Clark on the shoulder, but then pulled it back, having changed his mind about initiating more physical contact with him. "I'll bring you up to speed when I get back, Kent." Lucas turned and quickly made his way to the bank of elevators.
Perry chuckled, then noticed Clark's look of bewilderment. "Lucy is Lucas' sister. Nice kid but kind of scatterbrained."
Clark nodded. "She's in college?"
Perry rolled his eyes. "Beauty school." He looked around. "Jimmy!"
Suddenly a short, freckle faced, young man came bursting into view. "You bellowed, my liege."
Perry cocked a brow at the grinning young fellow. "Don't push your luck, Olsen." He placed his hand on Clark's arm. "This is Clark Kent. He's new. Show him around the newsroom and get him a desk near Lane."
"You got it." The young man smiled up at Clark. "Come on, I'll get you set up." Jimmy leaned in close and conspiratorially whispered. "Wait till you get a load of the gals in typing."
Clark sat at his desk, the Daily Planet's employee handbook lay open in front of him. He wasn't seeing the words on the page, his mind was too preoccupied with his current situation.
Lois Lane, star reporter for the Daily Planet, and future companion of Clark Kent and… Superman, didn't exist on this world. Instead, in her place, was Lucas Lane, star reporter for the Daily Planet, and… what? Clark was confused. Had Wells known that there was no Lois on his world? Of course he hadn't. Otherwise why would he have let that other world Lois and Clark fill his head with all the stories of love at first sight and soul mates? What ever that was supposed to mean.
The other world Clark had described what it had been like for him when he first saw his Lois come charging into Perry's office during his job interview. He explained how he'd known from the moment he saw her that she was the woman he'd been looking for his whole life. He hadn't even known he'd been looking, but once he'd met her he knew. There was an immediate connection which he could feel. A special spark that existed between them, that told him that she was the one. And that scared Clark.
The booklet in his hands was slowly being crushed as he stared, unseeing, at the handbook. There had been no Lois, yet he had felt something. He couldn't deny that. When he'd first sighted him, there had been a feeling akin to excitement in meeting the young man, until the shock of his name had stunned Clark. Then there was the handshake. There had definitely been something there, something almost like an electric shock. But how could that be?
How could Clark be having this kind of reaction to Lucas Lane? Did it mean that he was… attracted to Lucas… in that way? He had never considered the possibility that he might be gay. He might not have dated a much as some of his friends had in high school and during college, but he hadn't been a monk either. He had frequently enjoyed the company of attractive young women. He had never crossed the line to full intimacy with any woman, but that had been because of his upbringing and the fact that he was 'different' from everyone else, not that he might be gay… wasn't it?
Clark couldn't help but admit that when Lucas left a while ago that he felt a vague sense of loss. And every time the elevator bell signaled a stop on the newsroom floor he found himself looking over in expectation. Could it be? Could this 'thing' that Wells and the other Lois and Clark kept telling him about be true for him, even if Lois wasn't a Lois, but a Lucas?
"Well, hello there, handsome."
Clark suddenly found himself being accosted by a tall, auburn-haired beauty. She was over made-up and under dressed, but still quite a striking woman. Her mouth was curved into a predatory smile. Clark couldn't help but feel like a mouse staring up into the gaze of a particularly hungry cat. "Um, hello?"
She extended her hand in a provocative bent wrist manner, like she expected him to bring it to his lips. "Catherine, 'Cat', Grant. I write Cat's Corner. I take it you're the new guy I heard about?"
Clark reached out, grabbed her hand and shook it in the normal manner. "Yep, that's me. Clark Kent, nice to meet you, Ms. Grant."
"Cat." She drew out the name, putting a seductive emphasis on the 't'.
"Right, Cat." Clark mimicked back at her. She smiled and patted him on the cheek. "So, Ms. Gran - er, Cat. What can I do for you?" he asked.
Her smile became positively carnivorous. "Oh, I think it's more what I can do for you?" She slid her tongue slowly across her lips. "Have you had lunch yet?"
Clark was beginning to sweat. "Ah, no. But I think it would be best if I stayed here for a while. I'm waiting for my partner to get back."
"Yes, Mr. White paired me up with Lucas Lane."
Her face suddenly fell. "No, don't tell me you're one of them."
"One of them?" Clark was confused. "I hope to be as good a reporter as he is some day, if that's what you mean."
"No, I mean you're not a waste of perfectly prime man flesh, are you?" she asked as she ran her hand up and down his chest. Seeing that Clark wasn't catching on, she sighed. "When it comes to things involving men and women, Lucas Lane bats for the wrong team. If you catch my drift?"
Clark's lips formed a silent 'oh' as he realized what Cat was implying. So Lucas Lane was gay. Did that have a bearing on his own inexplicable feelings? Did Wells know this when he sent Clark to help out the other Clark? Was meeting that Clark's Lois, and finding out about the whole soul mates mumbo-jumbo, supposed to help him accept things when he finally met his own L. Lane? If so, it didn't. It just made things more confusing for Clark.
Just then the ring of the elevator caused Clark to turn his attention to the doors as they slid open. Before he knew what he was doing, his lips stretched into a wide smile as he saw the attractive young man step out of the car. Their gazes met and Lucas gave him a wink and a nod as he moved toward the befuddled, yet inexplicably excited, rookie reporter.
Cat too had looked toward the elevator when its arrival had sounded. She saw Lucas step out and glanced at Clark for his reaction. A frown pulled her lips down and furrowed her brow. "Crap, I give up." She turned and stormed off.
Lucas came over and sat on the edge of Clark's new desk. "Well, I see they've at least given you a desk and a computer." He raised a brow as he glanced at the retreating form of Cat Grant. "And I see you've met some more of the staff. But now we need to see about getting you into some real investigative reporting."
"Great." Clark felt a strange tingle when Lucas patted him on the shoulder.
"Okay, but before we get started we need to get one thing straight. I like you Kent, you seem like a nice guy, but I'm the senior partner, you are the junior. You aren't working with me, you are working for me. If you are going to learn from me, you'll have to listen. That means that I'll be doing all the talking in our interviews. In this little partnership, I'm the top banana, got it."
Clark opened his mouth to respond, but then closed it. He just couldn't say it.
The next week went by rapidly and Clark had to admit that it was quite a heady experience. Even with his 'special gifts' he was hard pressed to keep up with the award winning reporter. Lucas Lane had been amazing in his drive and his passion for his work. The two of them had managed to deliver two page one stories and three lesser, but still solid, pieces in just their first week together. Perry had been impressed.
During that time Clark also found himself being drawn more and more to the charismatic young man. It had only been a week, but he could swear that they were well on the way to developing a real friendship. The thing that Clark still couldn't come to terms with was… was there supposed to be something more? Would their becoming good friends be enough to satisfy whatever 'was meant to be' between them? Did Lucas' sexual orientation have any bearing on it?
Clark never considered himself a bigot when it came to a person's sexual preferences. A person's romantic partner made no difference to him. It was just the thought that he might be put in that position that made Clark uncomfortable. So far, he'd been able to avoid any awkward situations or conversations. But as time went by, as they became closer, even as friends, the subject was inevitably going to come up. Then what?
The thing was, Clark really liked Lucas. He was bright, funny, and when he got excited he tended to babble. He could be stubborn at times, but his dedication and passion for his job was extraordinary. No one would call him ruggedly handsome but there was no denying that Lucas Lane was a good looking man, though in a softer, more cultured, almost feminine way. If he'd let himself admit it, Clark would have to say that he found Lucas pleasant to look at, but then having met a Lois Lane it was probably just the obvious family resemblance that he found attractive.
"Say, C.K., you doing anything tonight?" Lucas had come over to Clark's desk and sat on the edge as he had gotten into the habit of.
Clark leaned back into his chair and ran a quick hand through his hair. "Nothing too exciting. Just some laundry and bad television." Clark smiled at Lucas' raised brow. "No cable."
"Ah, well, no problem. I was wondering if you'd like to come over to my place for dinner tonight. Perry has intimated that he likes this partnership and I have to admit that I've enjoyed it so far myself." Clark noticed just the slightest hesitation in Lucas' speech. "I thought we could celebrate the Planet's newest dynamic duo." He chuckled. "I'm a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself. And I have over a hundred channels on my cable box." He put his hands up in the classic gesture of surrender. "But don't ask me what they all are. I rarely have time to watch it." He suddenly seemed almost shy. "So, what do you say?"
Clark hesitated. He felt guilty for feeling it, but he couldn't help but wonder what Lucas' motives were. Was this just a simple dinner, as he said? An informal get together to salute their work partnership. Or was there something more to it? Was Lucas going to 'make a move' on him?
Clark was instantly ashamed of that thought. Lucas was his partner, and becoming his friend. At no time in the last week had the young man acted in a way that Clark could construe as inappropriate. He noticed that Lucas was waiting for an answer. It didn't matter what his own paranoid fears might be, there was no reason for Clark to be hesitating over an honest invitation from his partner.
"Sounds great. What time?"
Lucas smiled. "Seven o'clock." He scribbled something on a scrap of paper. "Here's the address. Should be able to find parking on the street in front."
"I don't have a car." Clark glanced at the address. "But you don't live too far from my place. If it's nice, I'll just walk."
"Great." Lucas hopped off Clark's desk. "Well, I'd best be off to the grocery store if we're going to want something besides last night's take out and flat cream soda for dinner."
Clark watched Lucas move purposely up the ramp toward the elevators. In another minute the elevator came and, with a final smile and wave, he was gone.
It was just dinner. Sure it was. Clark couldn't explain how he knew, but there was no doubt in his mind that before tonight was through the furthest thing from his mind was going to be the meal.
Clark hesitated for a moment before knocking on the heavy wooden door leading to Lucas Lane's apartment. What was he getting himself into here? As ridiculous as Clark tried to tell himself his fear was he couldn't help but wonder if this wasn't going to be a seduction dinner. He shook his head at the thought. It was unworthy… wasn't it?
The past week Lucas hadn't been sending out any signals that he was interested in Clark in any way beyond friendship. And, for his part, Clark hadn't been giving him any reason to think that he was interested in anything more than that either, had he? Certainly, Clark had found himself enjoying his new partner's company, but that was a perfectly normal consequence of normal male bonding. Sure, that was it. Nothing romantic there. Clark took a deep breath and knocked.
Almost immediately the door opened and Clark was greeted by a slender young woman, probably in her early twenties. She was cute and had short brown hair which looked like it wanted to curl even if she didn't want it too. Her coloring wasn't quite as dark as Lucas' but the family resemblance was clear.
"Hi," she said with a smile. "You must be Clark. I'm Luc's little sister, Lucy."
Clark returned the young woman's smile. "Guilty as charged. Hello, Lucy, it's nice to finally meet you. I've heard quite a bit about you."
Lucy pouted momentarily. "Don't believe a word he says about me. He doesn't think I can do anything right. He's such a… a… big brother."
Clark laughed. "No, it was all complimentary, really."
"Yeah right." Lucy didn't look convinced. "Come on in. Luc's in the kitchen. I swear he got all the cooking talent in this family." She waved him toward another part of the apartment as she breezed off in the other direction.
Just then Lucas came out of the kitchen, wiping his hand on a towel as he approached. Lucas was wearing a simple black pullover shirt with a pair of dark slacks. He looked quite handsome.
"Dinner should be ready in about ten minutes." He gestured over at the table which was set for four. "I hope you don't mind, but I invited my sisters over for this dinner. I wanted my family to meet my new partner."
"Sisters?" Clark's voice betrayed a faint hope.
"Yeah. They couldn't believe I'd actually found a partner that I could stand to be with." Lucas clapped Clark on the back.
A sharp knock on the door drew everyone's attention to the front foyer. The door began to open. "Everyone better be decent because I'm coming in."
The voice was strangely familiar. Clark's eyes widened as they took in the young woman pushing the door back and entering the room.
"Lois! I'm so glad you were able to come." Lucas hurried over and threw his arms around the dark-haired woman. Keeping his arm around her, Lucas turned, and with a big smile, nodded toward Clark. "Honey, I want you to meet my new partner, Clark Kent. Clark, this is my twin sister, Lois."
She stepped forward, her hand extended. "Hi."
His twin sister! Clark was frozen, his heart beat painfully in his chest. He had trouble catching his breath. Moving toward him was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen. Her simple outfit, burgundy slacks and a cream-colored blouse, did nothing to hide the curvy, yet athletic, build of the woman. Her glossy hair hung sleekly to her shoulders in a classic bob, a longer style than the woman he'd met in the other world. The smile she had on her face seemed to light up the room, and it suffused Clark with a warmth he'd never felt before. It was Lois Lane - *his* Lois Lane.
It took some effort for Clark to find his voice. "Ah, hi. It's so good to meet you."
Their hands touched and both people stood stock still, their faces betraying a confusing sense of wonder. Neither spoke as they looked into each other's eyes for several heartbeats.
"Lois!" Lucy came rushing in from the other room. "I'm so glad you're here."
Seemingly with reluctance, Lois tore her gaze away from Clark's eyes and turned to her exuberant sister. "Lucy, how are you?" She reached out and stroked her sister's short hair. "My goodness, what did you do? Your hair looks cute, but it's so short."
Lucy rolled her eyes. "Lois, I'm in beauty school. Who do you think we practice on?" Lucy chuckled. "Not too many long-haired gals stay that way by the time they graduate."
Lois returned Lucy's laugh. "No, I suppose not."
Lucy's features suddenly changed from animated to pensive. "Ah, Lois, I was wondering if I could ask you a huge favor?"
Lois stepped back from her sister and eyed her with a wary look. "What now?"
Lucy bit her lip. "Well, tomorrow is my final exam… and we need to bring in our own model for the cut."
Lois' hand went instinctively to her hair. "What kind of cut?"
Lucy couldn't meet Lois' eyes. "We don't know until we get there. The instructor chooses the style and we don't have any idea what it will be until we're ready to go."
Lois frowned. "I don't know."
Lucy grabbed Lois' arm. "Come on, Lois. Mom was going to be my model but she called me just last night. She's come down with one of her imaginary illnesses and can't make it. None of my girlfriends are available tomorrow. You're my last hope. Please!"
Clark was mildly amused with the byplay between the sisters. He cleared his throat, getting the attention of the two women. "I, ah, know it's really none of my business, but I've recently met a woman who bears a resemblance to you, Lois. She wore her hair in a short, layered style, and I have to say it looked quite good on her."
Lois turned her frown toward Clark while Lucy got more animated again. "See, it'll be great. You'll look great. I'm really pretty good, and the teacher is right there and won't let us screw things up too much."
Lois raised a brow at her sister. "You're not inspiring a lot of confidence." Lucy just bowed her head, her lower lip protruding in a pronounced pout. Lois shook her head and sighed. "Oh, all right. I'll do it."
Lucy jumped up and down. "Good! Thanks."
Lois continued to shake her head. "If I come home with all my hair chopped off, Lex is going to kill me."
A chill ran down Clark's back. "Lex?"
"Yeah," Lucas interjected, a definite note of disapproval in his voice. "Lex Luthor, her husband."
Clark was stunned. "Luthor! But he's a criminal."
A shocked silence descended on the room.
Clark bit his lip, wishing that he could sink through the floor. How could he have been so indiscreet? So *stupid*? Just because he'd met the *real* love of his life - the woman he was sure, thanks to his trip to the other universe, was his soulmate - only to find that she was married to another man, a man he'd been assured was a master criminal, he had to act like the biggest idiot since the dawn of time?
And anyway, what if this world's Lex Luthor *wasn't* a criminal? After all, in the other Lois and Clark's universe Lois wasn't a twin.
Lois and Luc were looking at each other with what Clark suddenly realised were awkward glances.
Awkward. Not outraged. Not angry. Not disbelieving. So what…?
The only person in the room who seemed completely at a loss was Lucy, who was looking from her siblings to Clark with a completely baffled expression on her face.
"What gave you that idea?" Lois demanded bluntly, finally, glaring at Clark.
But he wasn't fooled. She'd delayed too long in answering him; too long for him to let her get away with assuming that expression of injured innocence.
To Clark, the implication was clear: this world's Lex Luthor was up to shady dealings, at the very least, and his wife knew all about it. And so too, judging by the looks they'd been giving each other, and Luc Lane's increased heart-rate, did her twin brother.
Were they all in cahoots? Was this world's Lois dirty too? And Luc? Luc, his colleague, who'd fast been becoming his friend?
He had to answer Lois's question. And he was going to call her bluff.
Giving her a cool look in response to her angry challenge, he said casually, "I have my sources. And they've been pretty reliable so far."
Lois and Luc exchanged another glance. Lucy shook her head, frowning again. "Lois? What's going on? Lex isn't…?"
Lois and Luc spoke simultaneously. "Lucy, stay out of this!"
"Come on! You two can't pull that one on me now!" Lucy retorted, furious. "What's going on?"
"Maybe Mr Kent here would like to explain that," Lois countered, giving Clark a challenging look.
Clark shrugged. "Like I said, I have my sources. Where would you like me to start? Fraud? Bribery? Graft? Corruption? Blackmail? Sabotage? Or should I skip all the trivial stuff and go straight to murder?"
"Luc!" Lois exclaimed. "What's going on here?"
"I have no idea, Lois!" Luc said, clearly frustrated. "Look, Clark," he began, his tone impatient and irritated. "I don't know where you've got any of this stuff from, but this is *our* story, so butt out! If you're looking for a front-page byline, there's plenty of other stuff going on. Luthor's ours!"
So his hunch had been right, Clark thought triumphantly - and with some measure of relief, too. Lois and Luc knew the truth about Luthor. Lois wasn't blissfully in love with the man.
But she was still married to him…
Why? He simply couldn't understand that. Had she been in love with him in the beginning? Had she married him and only then found out the truth about him? At what point had she gone to her reporter brother and asked him to investigate her husband?
She was Lex Luthor's *wife*. Whether or not she believed that he was a criminal, she was still married to him.
Trying desperately to squash the depression which had resurfaced at that realisation, Clark focused on Luc. "You said… 'our' story. Just who would that 'our' be?"
Watching Lois and Luc then was like looking at a person's reflection in a mirror. Luc bit his lip and, a second later, Lois imitated him. Then Luc sighed.
"Ours, as in mine and… Lois Lane, the other half of L. Lane, award-winning investigative reporter," he explained.
At the same moment, Lucy demanded, "Just what's going on here? Lois, are you saying that Lex…?"
It was Lois's turn to sigh. "Like he said, Luce, Luthor's dirty. And Luc and I are investigating him. I'm undercover, and Luc's on the outside."
"You're… undercover?" Clark echoed. "As… Luthor's *wife*?"
"What?" Lois exclaimed. "I'm not *married* to him! No way!"
"But…" Clark gaped, swallowed, looked from Lois to Luc and back again. "But Luc called him your… your husband!"
"Oh, he always does that!" Lucy said. "It's because Lex is so… well, I guess domineering. He always knows what he wants and what he prefers, and he likes to get his own way. So Luc complains that Lois jumps to do his bidding too much - when he wants to make a point, he calls Lex Lois's husband instead of her boyfriend."
"You're not married!" Clark gasped. "Oh, thank god!"
Lois groped for a nearby chair, sinking into it gratefully. Just what was going on here? And who was this Clark Kent, anyway?
Oh, she knew that he was Luc's new partner at the Planet; Luc had talked about little else for the past week. How cute he was. How intelligent, but also fun to be with. How he had a terrific smile - well, that was certainly right, as was the cute part.
Luc was on the verge of falling in a big way. And, Lois already knew, one thing about herself and her twin hadn't changed. They still had the same taste in men.
But Kent wasn't just a cute guy, she reminded herself firmly. He was a rival - a threat. And that was a problem which had to be dealt with.
"So… Clark, is it?" she said sweetly, giving him a bright smile. "How did you manage to find out all this stuff about Lex Luthor?"
He reacted exactly as if he'd spotted a piranha in his path. He stilled, and his expression grew wary and very intent. Then he smiled back, but carefully. "I don't think so, Lois. At least, not yet."
She rolled her eyes. "Okay, what do you want?"
"For starters?" Kent began. "We work as a team to bring Luthor down. We pool all our information. We keep nothing from each other. And we all get the byline."
"You don't want much, do you?" Lois commented sourly. "And you think we'll go for it? How do we even know that you have anything worth using?"
"How do I know that you two've got anything?" Kent retorted. "After all, if your posing as Luthor's girlfriend had got you any decent results, you wouldn't still be worrying about what your *boyfriend* thinks of your appearance!"
"How dare you -!" Lois began.
Luc cut across her. "Clark, cut that out. You don't know the first thing about my sister, so don't judge her, okay? Now, your deal sounds as though it might have potential, but I want to know more about your sources before I'm even going to be willing to consider it."
That was what she should have said, Lois told herself, instead of letting her temper get the better of her at Kent's accusation. Yes, Luc was right. She wanted to know about these so-called 'sources' of Kent's.
Kent was looking thoughtful, she noticed. But not worried in any way. He must be pretty confident about his information, she concluded.
"Yes," he said finally. "Agreed. Can we talk after dinner? Just the three of us," he added, gesturing from Luc to Lois. "I don't mean to be rude by excluding you, Lucy," he continued. "It's just that… well, this is sort of confidential work-related stuff…"
Now he seemed less sure of himself. Lois let him flounder on for a few seconds before she decided to rescue him. "Luce, you know what it's like when Luc and I are working on a big story. There are times we just can't tell you what's going on."
Lucy pouted. "Okay, okay. But I want you to tell me everything you can later. Like just what the deal is with Lex! And I can't say I'm sorry that you're not really dating him. I never liked him - I don't care that Mom thinks the sun shines out of his —"
"Lucy!" Luc interrupted. "Come and help me serve dinner."
As the apartment door closed behind Lucy later that evening, Clark took a very deep breath, trying to calm himself down. This was it: he was taking a huge leap of faith here. He was about to do something he'd never done with anyone before. He was actually going to trust someone - two someones - with his secret.
But it was his experiences in the other universe which had told him, before dinner when Luc had asked about his sources, that this was the right thing to do.
"So," Lois said, turning to face him with a challenging look on her face. "What have you got? And who are your sources?"
If he let her steamroller him now, Clark realised, he'd never have a chance. She would walk all over him if he showed a sign of weakness - and he suddenly remembered that the Lois from the other world had hinted at exactly the same thing.
"Who said I get to go first?" he retorted. "Why don't you spill what you've got?"
"No way!" she countered. "Look, you're the one who wanted this —"
"And you're the one who's worried about what I know and what it'll do to your chances of an exclusive," Clark pointed out.
"He's right, Lois," Luc said, moving over to stand close to his sister. "We have to share what we've got too. That's what we agreed." Turning to Clark, he added, "The problem is that at the moment we don't have much that's concrete. A lot of suspicions, sure. Some circumstantial evidence. Sources who only talked to us on condition that we never name them or reveal anything which could identify them. Nothing at all which even approaches the concept of proof," he concluded wryly.
"I don't have any hard proof either," Clark said. "But I think I know how to find it."
"And that's *it*?" Lois demanded incredulously. "You *think* you know how to find proof. You don't have anything? Heck, I have hunches - dozens of 'em! And if I could only get the combination to Luthor's safe I'd have all the proof I need for some of the stuff we want to nail him with!" She pulled a face. "Night after night I have to spend time with him, smile at him, pretend I'm enjoying myself. I have to let him paw me and kiss me - and let me tell you, he may have been with some of the most beautiful women around, but they sure weren't with him for his technique! And I still can't get close enough to find what I need."
"Lois, I can help," Clark said firmly. "If you need a combination to a safe, I'm your man."
She threw him a sceptical glance. "Look, Kent, I've broken into some of the toughest locks around. If I can't get into Luthor's safe, then I doubt very much if you can."
Clark bit back a laugh, contenting himself with giving her an enigmatic smile. "Let's just say, Lois, that there's a lot about me that you don't know - yet. And until you do, you might want to hold off on deciding what you think I'm not capable of doing." "Okay, so why don't you tell me?" she challenged, calling his bluff.
He shrugged. "I intend to. But first I need to warn you that what I'm about to tell you will sound… well, pretty weird. In fact, I already know that you're not going to believe me - heck, I wouldn't have believed me if someone had told me this before it actually happened to me. But, please, hear me out."
Luc made an expansive gesture. "Go right ahead."
"I've just come back from spending two weeks in an alternate universe," Clark began.
Before he could continue, Lois had interrupted with a loud "What? You actually expect us to believe that?"
Luc, speaking almost at the same time, was just as sceptical. "Come on, Kent - what is this? Taking your Star Trek fantasies a bit too far, aren't you?"
Clark held up his hand; they subsided. "I know. You probably don't believe that there are any such things as aliens from other planets, either. And yet I'm telling you that I'm from another planet."
"You're… WHAT?" Luc almost yelled. "Look, this is rid -"
"Who is this lunatic you brought home?" Lois demanded, cutting across her brother. "I'm out of here. This is a complete waste of my time!"
"Wait, Lois," Clark commanded, in what he'd come to think of as his Superman voice. And then he allowed himself to drift several feet off the floor.
It felt as if her entire world had shifted on its axis. Since that evening, two days ago, nothing had been the same. Clark Kent, the amazingly good-looking guy her brother had brought home from work - the amazingly good- looking guy Luc was attracted to - was really from another planet. Or, at least, so he assured them. And since he was able to bench-press practically all the furniture in her apartment - at once - she kind of believed him.
He could fly too, and his demonstration of that ability had been… cool. Very cool.
But his tale of having been to another universe, where he'd met another Lois Lane and a Clark Kent, had been the most amazing of all. She hadn't wanted to believe him, but the things he'd told her had been just too convincing. He'd known things about her - her childhood, her career, her ambitions - that he simply couldn't have known without actually having spied on her for years, and she was sure he hadn't done that. He couldn't have without her knowing.
So he really had been to another universe. And his hosts had told him enough about Lex Luthor's criminal activities to give them enough leads to nail him. Which was what they'd been working on the past couple of days. While she was still playing the role of Lex Luthor's dutiful girlfriend, of course. She was *really* looking forward to relinquishing that role!
Clark had been very puzzled about her role in relation to the Daily Planet, and they'd finally managed to explain much later that night. It was a jobshare arrangement which she and Luc had come up with a long time ago, when they'd first graduated, both with degrees in journalism and both desperate to work for one of the best newspapers in America. But each of them had also wanted to travel the world, something they'd never managed when in full-time education - Sam Lane's early death from a rare blood disorder, and associated medical expenses, had left the Lane family with insufficient money for college funds and Lois and Luc had needed to work their way through university to pay for whatever scholarships hadn't covered.
So they'd proposed an arrangement to Perry White whereby he got two reporters for the price of one. The Lane siblings wrote under the byline of L. Lane, but most of the time only one of them was actually in residence at the Daily Planet. That had been a very useful cover, too, once Lois had decided to investigate Lex Luthor: Luthor had no idea that the Lois Lane who'd approached him at a charity benefit, pretending to work for a glamour magazine, was actually L. Lane, the reporter whose work he loathed. And Luc had arrived back in time to become the Planet reporter again. He and Luthor had treated each other with a stiff politeness, and Lois had simply pretended that she and Luc didn't get along very well.
She couldn't wait to see Lex's smarmy face turn purple when he learned who Lois Lane really was!
Getting the evidence together to expose Lex was just one great thing about the last couple of days. And a tangential benefit, Lois thought with a mild twinge of guilt, was that she'd just been too busy to be Lucy's model after all. Her mind boggled at the thought of what bizarre style Lucy might have thought was appropriate for her! No doubt something so short her neck would've been completely bare - a style which definitely wasn't for her. She'd had a moment's pause at the reminder that Clark had said a shorter style would suit her - he'd had to have been talking about the other Lois, she'd realised. And suddenly she'd wanted very much to reinforce in his mind that she was *not* that Lois. She was her own person, and she wanted him to know that.
She'd almost managed to persuade Luc to take her place, but he'd pleaded equal pressure of work, and in the end Lucy had dragged their mother along.
Clark's powers had been incredibly useful in enabling them to find some of the proof they needed - and he'd proven to her that he could break into Luthor's safe, much to her mingled chagrin and delight.
Thinking about him suddenly, Lois stilled her attempt to search through the bundle of financial records Luc and Clark had left with her - though Clark had promised to go through them himself later if she didn't have time. He'd be able to analyse them in a couple of minutes, he'd assured her.
Clark Kent. The most attractive man she'd ever met. And the most intriguing - and that was even before she took his amazing powers into account. Or the fact that, as he'd told her, he wanted to become Superman in this world too. He'd already, it seemed, got his costume.
He was thoughtful - very, very considerate. He had an utterly gorgeous smile. He had a great sense of humour; sometimes corny, but never cruel. He had beautiful hands. And a body to die for. He was intelligent and very, very quick on the uptake. One look from his brown eyes made her feel as if she was drowning. And sometimes when he said her name she just wanted to melt.
She was falling in love with Clark Kent.
But Luc was interested too - and Luc had seen him first.
But was Clark interested in Luc?
That was the great imponderable. Lois had been watching the two of them over the past couple of days - in her position as Luthor's fake girlfriend, she hadn't been able to do much of the legwork for fear it would blow her cover, and so Clark and Luc had been spending a lot of time alone together. So far, she had no idea whether Clark was in any way attracted to her brother, or whether he just saw Luc as a friend.
But then, she had no idea either whether he was attracted to her…
Okay, he'd stared at her in a very particular way when they'd met - but was that just because he hadn't expected to meet a Lois Lane in this universe? He'd told them both, after all, that when he'd been introduced to Luc at the Planet he'd come to the conclusion that this universe's Lois must be male. Or maybe it had been that he was surprised because she looked so much like Luc.
Was he interested in Luc… or her? Or maybe neither of them?
It was driving her to distraction, this need to find out how Clark felt about her; whether there was any possibility that he might be… well, interested.
He had seemed to be very pleased to discover that she wasn't married, of course… but that could just have been relief that she wasn't married to Luthor, as Luc had led him to believe.
She hadn't talked to Luc about it, but she knew that he was aware of her feelings, just as she was of his. It was just one of the minor downsides of being a twin, this awareness of each other's emotions. And, of course, Luc being gay, the fact that they were forever finding themselves interested in the same men.
In the past, it had never mattered all that much; neither of them had been all that serious about any of the men they'd dated. So if one had been inclined to swing Luc's way, Lois had just given him a wry smile and a thumbs-up. Where it was clear that the guy in question preferred women, Luc had given Lois a shrug and blown her a good luck kiss.
Only this time, she had a sneaking suspicion that Clark Kent was special. Would be special to whichever of them he showed an interest in - assuming, of course, that he liked either of them romantically.
Lois sighed again, then laid the bundle of documents back on the table. She was getting nowhere fast, and the men were due back soon.
And, right on cue, she heard a key in the apartment door. Oh god… Clark was back. And she wasn't ready to let him see her like this - he was bound to know that she'd been distracted. With his special powers, too, she wouldn't put it past him to figure out why…
"Hey, sis!" Luc's voice preceded her twin into the room. He sounded cheerful, but Lois knew her brother too well to be deceived. He was putting on a good act, but there was something wrong.
She gave him a loving smile. "Hey, yourself."
"Not getting anywhere?" He nodded at the pile on the table.
He snagged a chair and sat beside her. "Got some news for you."
"Yeah." He picked up her pen and began to fiddle with it. "Once this story's broken, I'm going to go back to London. Remember I told you that when I was freelancing there, one of the papers I wrote for offered me a job? I've decided to take it. I think it's about time that L. Lane became Lois Lane, anyway."
Luc was running away - that was the only conclusion Lois could come to. And, for once, she had absolutely no idea what was bothering her twin. Why was he leaving? Had Clark said something to him? Rebuffed him?
If Kent had hurt her twin, she'd tear him limb from limb. Somehow. There had to be a way, even if he was invulnerable.
She said nothing, knowing that he'd tell her more if he wanted to. And, after several moments, he did.
In apparently idle tones, Luc observed, "Did you know that, in the other universe Clark went to, the other Clark Kent was married to that world's Lois Lane?"
"What?" Lois exclaimed. "You're kidding… he is?"
"Yep." Luc nodded, emphasising his answer.
So that was why Clark had said very little about their other-universe counterparts, Lois realised. It would have been a pretty embarrassing addition to their conversation about his visit there - "Hey, do you know that in that other world you and I are married?" - yeah, that would have been a fun conversation, all right!
"And that's why you're going," Lois concluded. "You're… leaving the field clear for me?"
Luc shrugged. "It makes sense. And anyway, I always planned to go back to England. I told you that, didn't I?"
"Yes, but… Luc, how do you know that this world will be the same? That Clark -"
"He told me, sis," Luc said quietly. At Lois's puzzled look, he continued. "The thing about the other Lois and Clark being married - well, that just sort of slipped out. I could see by his reaction afterwards that he'd never meant to say it. And then - well, a while after that, he asked me if you were seeing anyone. Well, apart from Luthor, that is. And when I said you weren't… well, he was pretty darned happy."
"He asked you?" Shocked, Lois reached out to grab Luc's hand, holding it tightly between both of hers. "How insensitive can he get? He must have realised…?"
Luc shrugged again. "Why should he? Though you're right. He did know. I mean, he was aware that I'm gay - the Planet grapevine filled him in on that one soon enough. And I'm pretty sure that he figured out I was… interested. Anyway, that's the only explanation I have for the apologetic look he gave me when he asked about you."
"Lois, Clark is attracted to you. He wants to date you," Luc pointed out. "And I know you want him too. So go for it. Anyway, I can tell you that even if you weren't on the scene there'd be nothing between him and me - he just doesn't swing that way."
"You weren't sure of that before," Lois pointed out.
He lifted one shoulder. "Oh, I knew it - I was just… well, hoping, I guess. Or maybe it was just that until I'd actually heard him say it, it was as if it wasn't true."
Lois could understand that. "Luc, are you sure about this? You don't have to go away -"
He gave her a crooked smile. "Oh yes, I do. But it won't be for ever, I promise." He squeezed her hand. "Just give me a couple of years. I couldn't stay away permanently, you know that."
He stood then, bending to drop a kiss on her head. "Just do me a favour, Lois?"
"Go for it with Clark. Don't hide what you feel for him, or keep him at a distance the way you usually do with men you like."
He knew her too well. But he was right, too. It would be a pretty poor return for Luc's gift to her if she didn't act on her feelings this time.
So she nodded. "Okay. I promise."
Waiting outside the apartment, Clark battled to resist the urge to listen in on Luc and Lois's conversation. He didn't know why Luc had asked him to wait outside, but he had his suspicions based on their conversation earlier.
Luc was probably telling Lois that he - Clark - had been asking about her. About whether she was available. And maybe, Clark thought, assuring his sister that he wouldn't get in the way. The unspoken exchange he'd had with Luc earlier had made that clear; they knew where they stood with each other. He regretted causing Luc pain, but Clark knew where his true feelings lay.
He was in love with Lois Lane.
Just then, Luc came out. Giving Clark a friendly clap on the shoulder, he said, "I think she could use your help, pal. Those financial papers defeated her."
"Sure, that's no problem," Clark agreed.
"Right. I'll see you later, then."
"You're going somewhere?" Surprised, because they'd originally agreed to spend the rest of the afternoon going over what they had so far, before Lois had to go out for a date with her 'boyfriend', Clark frowned at his partner.
Luc shrugged lightly. "You two don't need me. I've got some stuff to sort out." He gave Clark a friendly, yet wistful, smile. "She's all yours, pal."
About to go inside, Clark hesitated. Something was telling him that there was more to Luc's actions than he was letting on. He wasn't just talking about this afternoon, of that Clark was sure.
"What are you talking about, Luc?" he asked sharply.
Luc hesitated, then said wryly, "There's no fooling you, is there? Look, we both know the score. And - like I've just told Lois - I'm overdue for another trip abroad. I'm going to get a job in London for a while."
Of course, Clark understood why. "I'm sorry," he said softly.
"Just be good to my sister," Luc warned him. "Because if you're not, then invulnerable or not I'm coming after you."
Clark smiled. "I hate fighting with family - and since I want to be your brother-in-law, I promise that's not going to happen."
"See that it doesn't, *brother*," Luc said, then tugged Clark to him for a quick hug before walking away.
Lois looked up again as Clark came into the room, and her heart immediately did flip-flops at the warm smile he gave her. "Luc says you could use my help?"
She pushed the pile of paperwork towards him. "Be my guest. Want a coffee?"
She was treated to another brilliant smile. "Sure."
He worked beside her in silence for a couple of minutes, speeding through the papers at a rate which seemed, to her, to break all laws of physics… but then, of course, he was the man known in other universes as Superman. Most documents remained in the main pile, but a smaller, growing bundle appeared beside her. Evidence. A step closer to sending Lex Luthor to jail.
"Luc tells me he's going back to London."
Lois almost dropped her coffee. She hadn't been expecting Clark to speak; he'd seemed engrossed in his work.
"Yes," was all she could find to say.
"I'll miss him," Clark told her. "I hope he doesn't stay away too long."
Clark would miss Luc? What did that mean?
About to find a way to change the subject, Lois remembered her promise to Luc. And the longer she left it, the harder it would be.
"Why will you miss him?" she asked abruptly.
Clark looked across at her, frowning slightly. "Because I like him. It's been great working with him for the past week or so. He's a nice guy, and someone I'd like to consider a good friend."
"But… no more than that?"
He shook his head. "I like him, but… no. Not *that* way. Uh, Lois…" Now he was looking awkward and avoiding her gaze.
She took a deep breath. "Clark, is there a possibility that…"
"Lois, would you go out with me some time? When all this is over, I mean, and you're not pretending to be Luthor's girlfriend any more?" he asked, the words coming out in a rush.
Lois's breath caught. "I'd love to!"
Another blinding smile took her breath away completely. And then, slowly, they leaned across the table towards each other, and their lips met. And the world melted away.
"What'cha reading, honey?"
Lois looked away from her monitor to smile at her boyfriend of exactly one month. Clark perched on the edge of her desk, a position he was adopting as his own, and caught her hand in his.
"Email from Luc," she explained. "He sends his congratulations to us on the Luthor series."
"Took long enough for it all to get into print," Clark grumbled good-naturedly. They both knew why it had taken so long; in order not to prejudice the trial and so enable Luthor to get off, they'd had to agree to sit on most of what they knew until the police told them it was safe to print. Just in the past week, the DA's office had negotiated a series of plea bargains with close aides of Luthor, to the point where the man himself was trapped with no escape. And one night, alone in his cell, he'd committed suicide.
They'd been able to go to print the following day. And already the industry was talking in terms of award-winning potential. If they didn't get it for the Luthor material, Lois thought with a satisfied smile, then they were sure to for the story which had launched Superman into the public gaze.
"So how is he?" Clark added, bringing her attention back to her twin.
"Claims he's having a great time," she said, scanning Luc's email again. "Course, we've seen some of his work in print - he might not be getting the sort of exposure we are here, but he's had some pretty great stories lately."
"Yeah." Clark smiled, clearly pleased. "If you think he'd like it, I could always arrange for him to have a Superman exclusive," he added with a grin.
"That's sweet of you." Lois leaned across and kissed him; even one month on, that was still an incredibly distracting activity, so it was several minutes before she could tell him the rest of her news.
"I don't think you'll need to," she said at last. "Arrange that exclusive, I mean."
"Well, this is going to sound very weird, but Luc says he's met this guy -"
"Didn't take him long," Clark interjected, raising an eyebrow.
"Clark! Not like that! Well…" She hesitated. There'd been something about Luc's comment… "He didn't say, but reading between the lines, I'm wondering whether… Anyway, he says he thinks this guy can do some pretty strange things. Not like y- well, Superman, but not normal human stuff, all the same."
"Oh?" Now she really seemed to have piqued Clark's curiosity. "Who is this guy?"
Lois shrugged. "Means nothing much to me, but Luc says he's a wealthy businessman based in London. Name of Bruce Wayne…"
~ Epilogue - Lunch with the Lane Sisters ~
Lois brushed her dark hair out of her face as the wind playfully pushed it in front of her eyes one last time before she entered the building. Some quick finger combing put the shoulder length tresses back into some semblance of order before she had gone more than a few feet into the restaurant. She let her gaze sweep the cozy eatery until she spied what she was looking for. She waved, and was answered in kind by a young woman who, not surprisingly, bore a more than passing resemblance to herself.
"Lucy," she cried out as she approached the young woman's table. "I'm so glad we were able to find time for this lunch date. I'm really curious as to this 'big' news you've got to tell me."
Lucy Lane smiled up at her big sister as Lois sat in the only other chair at the small corner table. A waiter zoomed in and took their drink orders.
"So," Lois began. "What's this all about?" She could see that Lucy was nearly bursting.
"Well, you know that I've been working for Cindy, at her shop, since graduation."
Cindy had been a childhood friend of Lois' who owned a beauty shop on the other side of town. Both the Lane sisters had been going to Cindy for a number of years.
Lois nodded. "Yeah, and Cindy told me you've been doing a great job too." She paused as the waiter returned and placed their drinks on the table. "Look, Luce, you know I would have been there for you at your final exam cut if it weren't for the story Clark, Luc and I were working on. I just didn't dare take the time."
Lucy shrugged. "I admit I was pretty ticked off at first, but I guess things worked out for the best. No hard feelings."
"That's sweet of you, but I can't help but feel guilty about it, especially after what happened."
Lucy rolled her eyes and snorted in a very unladylike fashion. "Yeah, well who could have foreseen that mom would freak out like that. I no sooner had the cape fastened about her neck when she jumped up in a panic." She took a sip from her water glass. "I can still hear her… 'I'm sorry, sweetie, but I can't go through with this', and she bolted out the door."
Lois took her own sip of water. "You were lucky that the instructor was sympathetic to your plight."
"I'm not so sure he was all that sympathetic," Lucy said, shaking her head. "I think he was enjoying my humiliation. I don't think he ever really liked me."
"He let you do a make-up, didn't he?"
Lucy nodded. "Oh yeah, he gave me one whole day to find another model. I was beyond desperate. I tried calling you back, you know."
Lois looked surprised. "No, I didn't know. There was no message on my machine."
"That's because I didn't leave one. I knew that, if you weren't home, I wasn't going to be able to get in touch with you in time for a session the next morning."
"I'm sorry, but if I remember correctly, didn't someone tell me that you had been at the Planet that day?"
Lucy's smile was self-conscious. "That just shows you how desperate I was. I hoped to catch you at work. I thought I'd at least have a chance to find you there and guilt you into being my model."
Lois chuckled softly. "If I'd have been there it probably would have worked. But, I was out with Clark tracking down some leads on Luthor that he had." Lois leaned back in her chair. "So, what finally did happen? How did you find the guinea pig you needed?"
"Well, while I was there I happened to be talking to Jimmy and bemoaning my misfortune and saying some not too nice things about mom - and you."
Lois grinned. "I can only imagine."
Lucy grinned back. "Anyway, Jimmy volunteered, which was sweet of him, but I told him I had to have a woman. Just then that new intern from France came by."
Lois frowned, as she seemed to search her memory. "You mean that one with the unusual name… Kae - something?"
"Kaethel, yes, she's the one. So, she had apparently overheard part of what Jimmy and I had been talking about and asked what the problem was. Once I explained my situation, she volunteered to be my model."
Lois' eyes suddenly got wide. "You were the one who did that to her!"
Lucy's look was one of guarded hurt. "What do you mean - 'did that to her'? I gave her a haircut, and did a darn good job too, if I do say so myself."
Lois was shaking her head back and forth, a smile slowly spreading across her lips. "Wow, am I glad now that I couldn't be your model." She looked up at her sister, whose lower lip was thrust out in a definite pout. Lois held her hand up in front of her. "No, I don't mean it was a bad haircut. But it was so short… and so red."
Lucy blushed. "Yeah, I feel a little guilty about that. I didn't know my instructor was going to spring a color job on me, and top it off with a pixie cut. I thought the poor woman was going to faint when he read off what I was supposed to do." Lucy smiled at the memory. "But Kaethel was a trooper. She didn't say a word as I cut off most of her hair, and then made her look like a lost child of Bozo the Clown."
Lois was laughing softly. "Oh well, it'll grow back… eventually. Now I understand why she's been so hostile to me these past several weeks." Lois reached and took another sip of her water. "So, what's the big news?"
Lucy took a deep breath, as the excitement she showed earlier came back. "Well, Cindy has decided to open another shop, one on this side of town." Lucy's smile was beaming. "And guess who's going to manage it?"
Lois grabbed her sister's hands and gave them a big squeeze. "Oh, Lucy, that's wonderful. I know Lucas will be so proud of you also."
Lucy nodded. "Yeah, I know he will be. I just wish he weren't so far away. I miss him."
"So do I," Lois added. "But not for long. I guess he and this Bruce Wayne fellow are getting along quite well and they'll be back in the States soon. Apparently this Wayne has a big estate outside of Gotham, and they'll be moving in together there."
"Wow, that's really cool. I hope this one works out for Luc, since obviously the one he had his eye on previously didn't." She gave her sister a calculating stare.
Lois blushed under the scrutiny of her Lucy's stare. "Well, since you brought him up. I have a little news of my own to share." Lois glanced around, making sure no one was listening in on their conversation. She reached over and grabbed Lucy's hands again. "You have to promise me that you'll tell no one. I haven't given him my answer yet."
Lucy looked confused. "Given who? What answer?"
Lois bit her lower lip, then let a smile turn up the corners of her mouth. "Clark asked me to marry him."
Lucy squealed in delight as she came out of her chair to hug her big sister. "That's great!" She pulled back. "Wait, you haven't answered him yet? I thought you were head over heels for this guy?"
Lois tried to shrug nonchalantly, but failed. "Well, I can't let him know that, can I? Not yet anyway. A girl has to keep her guy guessing for a little while."
"Uh huh," Lucy said, nodding. "When did he ask you?"
"And when are you going to say yes?"
Lucy patted her sister's hand. "Way to hold out." Lucy joined Lois in laughter. As the laughter died down, a coy look came over Lucy's face. "This is perfect. The new shop will be up and running soon, and that gives me the means to give you a most excellent wedding present."
Lois' look was guarded. "What?"
Lucy reached over and gave Lois' long dark locks a tug. "A good haircut."
Lois gave her sister a bright smile. "That's a great idea, Lucy! I guess I could use a trim - but nothing shorter. Clark really, really prefers my hair down around my shoulders. I'll bring a photo with me to show you what I want. But what would be really terrific would be if you could take Luc in hand - his hair's a mess!"
Lucy nodded. "Yeah, I've been itching to get my scissors at him for weeks!"
"Great!" Lois raised her glass in Lucy's direction. "But you know what? Now that Luc and I are… well, paired off, we need to find someone for you. And I know just the person! We'll invite Jimmy to the wedding!"
Lucy considered for a moment, then grinned impishly. "Only if I can give him a haircut first!"
(c) Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> 2003