Nancy V. Sont firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted November 2004
Summary: Lois enlists Clark's help in investigating incognito rescues in Metropolis, shortly before Superman donned the red-yellow-and-blue, thanks to a woman who wants some publicity for her group.
Your comments are appreciated
This is a complete rewrite of the story on the archives until now. I'd never written a fiction story before this one. I had been reading from the archive for months and finally wondered why nobody had written about Lois investigating the rescues in Pilot. Of course I hadn't read the whole archive, and I didn't know so many had, but anyway I wrote this story to fill that gap.
I was quite encouraged when people on the message board praised it. I submitted it to the archives in April, not realizing the wonders a beta reader can do to a piece of raw work! I was new to the group, after all. Gerry offered to BR it, and I soon realized that having it beta read was really smartening it up. I'm so glad I turned to those who had made comments about it on the boards. My heartfelt thanks go out to Gerry, Hazel, Marns, Chiam and Tank for all their helpful suggestions as BR's and also to all who gave me feedback on the boards. I think it's a much better story now. I hope you enjoy it.
The familiar characters and settings of this story are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions, et al. but the story is mine.
The Daily Planet was buzzing with activity. Lois sat at her desk, sipping coffee and reading over the story she was about to send to Perry, her editor.
The phone rang and she turned slightly to pick it up, her mind still on the phrasing of a sentence.
"Lois Lane," she said in the professional tone that was as much a part of her as the desk she sat at.
"Hello, Ms. Lane. My name is Polly Plume. I was just calling because I know you've written a lot of stories about Superman. I was wondering if you would like to write an article about our group, SAVED."
Lois hadn't heard of it before, "SAVED?"
"Yes, there are a few of us who get together to discuss how Superman saved us and the way it has changed our lives. It's a sort of support group. We wanted to get the word out that there is a place that people can come to share their stories."
"I see. Yes, that might make an interesting story. Could you tell me a bit more about your group?"
"Well, most of us were saved by Superman…that is the Superman we've all grown to love. Several of us were saved by a man we think was Superman, but it was before the real Superman appeared in the news."
"There are?" Lois' interest was suddenly piqued. Superman before the costume? "How do you know it was Superman if he wasn't wearing his costume?"
"Well, he looked about the same. But what he did was miraculous."
"What was that?"
"In my case, he stopped a bus with his hand."
Lois tried to recall any stories about such an incident. She couldn't remember anything."
"The bus was out of control?"
"Yes, Ms. Lane. He stopped it with one hand. I wonder sometimes if the handprint is still on the front of the bus. Where would I find that out?"
Lois' eyebrows went up. "A handprint?" Her mind was racing: Superman before the suit with a handprint to prove it.
"Well, yes. A few days before Superman came to Metropolis, a bus was out of control in front of the Daily Planet where you work. I was walking across the road down the hill, with the light, of course. There were a whole lot of us in the crosswalk when this bus came right at us. A man ran out in front of the bus and stopped it with one hand. I tried to tell everyone, but the man ran off before anyone would listen to me."
"This was *before* Superman came to Metropolis?" Lois asked, trying to grasp the enormity of this new knowledge…Superman had another life. He'd not arrived on earth in the suit. He'd not arrived at that moment from Krypton. This was hot information!
"Well, it was before he started wearing the suit, as I said before. I remember his face. He looked right at me when I
shouted. He seemed to be afraid someone would recognize him and he ran off. It was soon after that when the pictures of Superman were everywhere, after that bomb on the shuttle.
"I have a picture of Superman in front of me now. It was him, Ms. Lane. Except he had on black-rimmed glasses and he was wearing a trench coat."
Lois was stunned. "Could my partner and I come over to visit this afternoon, say 1:00?"
"That would be fine. I'm so glad you're going to get the word out about our group."
"What's your address, Mrs. Plume?"
"It's 459 Mercury Blvd."
"Okay, we'll be there at one."
"See you then. Goodbye for now."
Lois, still stunned, sat back in her chair, holding her pencil from both ends and looking beyond it into the distance. When she'd first met him, Superman had flown her home from the shuttle. She'd clung to his neck and been completely swept away by his abilities, his muscles, his handsome face. She'd thought about him, dreamed about him, and swooned over him to her new, and somewhat na´ve partner, Clark Kent.
Why hadn't she ever wondered about Superman's other identity? Because he was so honest and hadn't mentioned it, she had assumed he didn't have one? Had he led her astray by saying he was from Krypton? He hadn't actually said he'd just arrived. That had been her assumption.
The investigative flame had been ignited. Lois Lane would get to the bottom of this. Who was this man? When did he come to earth? Where did he go when he wasn't saving the day? He must live some place. Did he live in the clouds? Did he fly back to his planet? Probably not, not if he also had regular street clothes.
She had to come up with a plan. Attending that meeting would be interesting. She could interview those who'd been saved by the pre-Superman identity. He must have a name. She'd never had any trouble tracking down a name from a face before.
She was a bit annoyed with herself that she'd not bothered to look into this before. Had she been out to lunch or what?
She looked down at her desk. Papers from the last story still littered it. She dropped the pencil into the container and started straightening up the mess.
Her thoughts about investigating Superman changed into thoughts *of* him: his eyes, his sincere smile, the gentle way he'd held her as they had flown together. She'd even had her arms around his strong, bare neck…close enough to clearly smell his aftershave.
She started. He wore aftershave. Kryptonians without paying jobs didn't have aftershave. He had to work somewhere to come up with money to buy it. He had to be somewhere when he shaved. Well, he could keep it on a mountain, or in a cave. Maybe he'd built a place for himself in a remote place. He obviously kept it somewhere. It wouldn't just sit on a cloud. No, he had to have a home.
What else did she know about him? What other leads did she have? His hair. He hadn't just pushed his hand through it; it was too orderly, too neat for that. He had to own a comb and hair gel. He had to keep that stuff somewhere, too.
What else? Well, his boots. Those boots were regular boots, only red. Were they bought that way? Did he arrive on this planet with them? Where were they made? Could there be a brand name on them somewhere? She'd never seen that style of boot in red, but then what did she know about boot manufacturers. Perhaps they'd been specially made.
She'd investigated many people. Hundreds were behind bars because of her undercover work. She could do this. It might take more work than other cases she'd worked on, but she'd do it. She had to find out who he was.
Her mind flashed on the Lone Ranger. He'd worn a disguise. But Superman didn't wear a mask. That was his real face. So if he were living somewhere among them and hadn't shown up out of nowhere at the space station, then he must have a disguise too. If his face as Superman wasn't concealed, then his disguise would have to be worn when he wasn't *being* Superman. It was only logical. Movie stars put on sunglasses and hats to be left alone in public. Superman must do the same sort of thing in order to have times alone. Polly had said he'd worn glasses. Of course, if he wore glasses, nobody would ever think he was Superman. Superman had perfect eyesight, better than perfect!
Why hadn't she thought about these things before? Superheroes didn't just disappear into nothingness.
She opened a new document on her computer and began to list the things she knew about him, from the top of his head to the bottom of his boots. Granted, there wasn't much to go on, but she had to start somewhere.
Fingerprints. Would they help her? Perhaps. Getting them wouldn't be hard. She could go to that bus, lift the prints, and then compare them to something Superman had touched. That wouldn't be hard.
Clark returned to his desk near Lois'. He sat down and looked through his email, then turned to look over at her desk. She was busy working on something. He leaned back in his chair, watching her. Her face had a determined look on it as she worked. She was into something full strength. He loved watching her. The corners of his mouth turned up as he thought about her and the last story they'd investigated together.
They'd worked together for a while now. She wasn't treating him as badly as she had when she'd first met him. She was content to be partners with him, to tell him how wonderful Superman was and to divulge all her secrets when they were trapped in the jaws of death together.
She was arrogant, proud, pigheaded, and selfish, but she was also self-reflective and smart. She would admit she was wrong; not at first, and not too willingly, but she would. If she somehow realized she was being childish or mean, she'd eventually feel badly about it and wail over her behavior and her actions. He loved to be with her at those times, to hear her acknowledge her failings. She was a totally different person when she did that. The harsh exterior was gone, the sarcasm was stilled, if only momentarily.
What was she up to now? Clark wondered as he watched her pause to take a sip of coffee and then pour the rest into the new plant on her desk that replaced the last one she'd killed.
He stood up and asked, "Want another cup?" She looked up at him, smiled, and handed the empty cup to him.
He returned with two fresh cups. Seating himself on the edge of her desk, he asked, "What are we working on next?"
She turned her chair away from the screen and looked up at him. He was wearing a suit as usual. Today it was dark grey. His tie was light green with dark green triangles on it. They each had designs in the middle of them, none of them the same.
"Well, I've got a plan. Let's find out who Superman is," she announced resolutely.
Clark choked on his coffee. He accepted the tissue Lois handed him and wiped off his tie, then with raised eyebrows he met her gaze, pushing his glasses farther up his nose. "Superman?" he stalled until he could regroup.
"Yes," Lois replied, looking up at him. "I'm an investigative reporter, but as much as I wished I knew more about Superman, I've never done a darn thing to find out more about him! I can't believe I let this slip through my fingers. What was I thinking? Anyway, I figure he lives somewhere. We know what he looks like." She pulled a picture of him out of her drawer.
Clark knew what she'd been thinking all right. Superman had flown into her life and swept her off her feet. Her brain had shutdown almost completely where he had been concerned. She'd swooned over and revered…the man in the cape, his other ego.
He raised his eyebrows as she pulled a large 10X14 photograph out of the top drawer of her desk. "You keep his picture in your drawer?" Clark asked, unsure where this latest investigation was going to lead them but trying to sound interested. Inside, he was mortified. 'Great,' he thought, 'now I've got the best reporter in Metropolis on my tail.' He breathed deeply trying to remain in control and telling himself, 'Let's look at this optimistically. At least she's involving me in what she's up to. She won't be able to sneak anything past me. I hope.'
"Yes," she responded, grinning. "Now, the way I figure it, since he doesn't wear any kind of a mask when he's Superman, he must wear some kind of a mask or something when he's 'going incognito.' I don't know; glasses, beard, or moustache? I'm leaning towards glasses, I'll tell you why in a minute. But the beard and moustache are unlikely because they'd have to be a fake and they could…well, it's likely he wears glasses.
Clark was stunned. What was he doing sitting here on the edge of her desk, listening to his imminent exposure? All she had to do was look at him funny and pull off his glasses.
How could this be happening? He wanted to flash to the window and fly home to Kansas. Perhaps he should go get donuts. No, he had to keep right up with her on this, every step of the way. A million thoughts went through his mind. He breathed deeply again, trying to have faith in his abilities to keep the trail cold for her. But she was good. He'd seen her put people away that were a lot harder to find.
So she was going to find out where Superman lived. She was going to find out what mask he wore to hide his face.
He was glad that beads of sweat didn't form when he was nervous. However, he couldn't feel the desk under himself quite as well. Was he floating? He tuned in and sank all his weight back onto the hard surface.
"Lois, don't you think we should be working on something more important than this?"
Lois eyed him, "What's wrong with you, Clark? This is important! Oh yeah, you're friends with him, aren't you! I forgot." Her eyes lit up. Yes, Clark knew about Superman. She'd just have to get him to want to help her. She'd have to come up with an angle to convince him that it was best to find out who Superman really was. Maybe, though, she wasn't going to get much help from him, not if he thought it was his duty to protect Superman. After all, Clark was such a boy scout. Boy scouts didn't rat on their friends. She sighed. Well, she really didn't need his help, but she'd see what information he could give her.
She remembered the day when the Bureau 39 men had stormed the newsroom and given them a lie detector test when they were looking to find out more about Superman. She wished she could give one to Clark. He probably knew more about her hero than he was letting on. He had been very nervous that day. He did know more than he had ever let on, didn't he.
Clark was at a loss for words. If he gave her too much opposition, she'd just do it anyway, only she'd do it behind his back. He didn't dare let her do that. What if she came up with something he hadn't thought of? No, he'd have to go along with her on this one.
"Does Superman have another life?" Lois asked him directly. He shifted uncomfortably, seeing how difficult this was going to be.
"Lois, how should I know?" he offered pathetically.
"Clark, you know Superman, he's your friend. Tell me about your relationship. What sort of things do you do together? Do you just talk when he's at the scene of a crime, or does he come over and visit with you? Do you go out together and play ball?" Her mind was racing as she saw the possible leads she could get from Clark.
"Well, we are often at crime scenes together," he said lamely.
"What do you talk about?"
He didn't like this. This wasn't working very well. He wished Perry would come out and get them onto a different story. He looked up, and tuned in to Perry's southern drawl on the phone in his office across the newsroom. "…Elvis wouldn't have done it that way and I'm not going to either!"
'Pull yourself together, Clark,' he said to himself. 'His mind flashed to the Nigerian princess he'd met a few years earlier.
They'd been dancing when the faint sound of war drums had alerted him. A group of painted savages had rushed through the door and thrown their spears toward the King and Queen, who'd been dancing nearby. He'd rushed to deflect the spears, and then returned to the princess's side before anyone could see him. She'd not been so easily duped, however. After all, she'd been holding him in her arms and gazing into his face when he had suddenly disappeared and reappeared in a gust of wind. The look in her eyes had been enough. She had seen him do something impossible.
The next day he'd left the village before she'd had time to ask questions. His traveling days had always been like that. He'd stayed in one place until someone figured it out, then he'd moved on, yet again. But this was Metropolis. He had the job he'd always wanted. He had his sights on the perfect woman. He was tired of running.
"What do we talk about?" Clark responded, determined to thwart her investigation. "Well, mostly we just talk about crimes and about investigations. He often drops in to give me a story after he's made a rescue. He's really interested in bringing criminals to justice. He likes to help out. Sometimes he flies over the city and looks at things for me, you know, with his super vision, to get information."
Lois made a few notes.
"Sometimes we talk about you," he added offhandedly.
She bit the bait, "Really? What does he say about me? I mean…well…what does he say?"
Clark sighed. Maybe promoting Superman's relationship with her beat letting her try to uncover his disguise. "Yeah, he talks about you."
"Well, what does he say?" she pleaded with him, that look of hopeless love returning to her brown eyes, as she put her hands on Clark's knees.
Clark looked up at the ceiling for a moment. "Well," he said, stalling for time to think up a good story. "He appreciates the way you handle coverage of interviews with him."
Clark couldn't help but smile at her. How he wished she felt that way about him. It was funny, really; she barely knew anything about Superman, but she idolized him with an intensity he'd rarely seen outside of the world of movies and fairy tales. On the other hand, she knew practically everything about Clark Kent—well, except for one thing. She was friends with him. She appreciated him. She came running to him to hide from real dangers. She depended on him to be with her through thick and thin. If only he could expose Superman with her, then maybe she could just settle for him, instead. He snapped out of it. What was he thinking? He wasn't two people. He watched Lois as she drifted in loving thoughts of Superman. How he loved her. How would Superman fare if she ever found out that he, good ole Clark was the caped superhero?
"Listen, Clark, we've got a lead."
"A lead?" Clark said, hoping he didn't look like he'd just been hit with a two by four.
"Yes, a woman just called," Lois ripped the paper off the notepad, "Polly Plume. She says she saw a man stop a bus just out in front of the Planet before Superman came to Metropolis. I want to check this out. It looks as if it was Superman wearing his disguise. She can meet with us this afternoon. Let's go have a look at that bus before lunch and then head on over there."
Clark remembered that bus. He remembered the lady in a brown plaid coat seeing him and yelling, trying to get people's attention to see the man who had stopped the bus. That was one of the major reasons he'd asked his mom to help sew him a disguise costume. With all that had happened when he'd gotten the job at the Daily Planet, he'd forgotten about that incident back on the first day when he'd come to Metropolis. He felt a wave of despair, as if a tidal wave was about to wash over him and drag him to the bottom of the sea.
"What's wrong, Clark? You look awful. Are you sick?" Lois stood up and put the back of her hand on his forehead, jerking him back to the present.
"Oh, I'm fine, Lois. Listen, I'll go to the restroom first and then we can get going."
Clark headed to the restroom where he closed himself in the last stall, opened the window on the wall, and flew off to the bus transit station as Superman. Sure enough, one bus still had a handprint on it. He melted the metal with his vision, smoothed it out with his hand, and then smiled at his handiwork. In a moment he was walking back to Lois' desk.
"Well, come on then, Partner," she said, gently whacking his stomach with the back of her hand before she poured the rest of her coffee in the plant. "Let's go!"
Satisfied with his smooth getaway and fix-it job, he took a last glance at the television that was always on in the background, informing the newsroom of any breaking stories. Lois grabbed her large brown satchel and headed Clark toward the ramp.
"Where in the Sam Hill are you two off to now?" Perry bellowed, as he came out of his office.
"We're following a lead on another story," Lois responded.
"Aren't you supposed to clear stories with me before you head off on something?" He had that look on his face again.
"I got a call about a group of people who Superman has rescued. They want to go public with their group, SAVED, so more people can join to talk about their experiences."
Clark hadn't heard that part of the story yet. A group of people he'd saved. He'd have to drop in sometime and visit them as Superman.
"Humph. That doesn't sound like investigative journalism to me. Maybe Cat should do this one."
"No, Chief, it's about Superman. I do all the Superman stories!" Lois countered.
"Lois, I'd hardly call a Superman fan club meeting an important story.
"Perry! We're not working on anything else yet." Lois countered.
"Well, you should be. Okay. Keep your beepers on. If anything important breaks, I'm moving you over to it. I've got a paper to get out here. We're not some Metroville gossip rag! Got that?"
"Right, Chief," they both said, glancing back at him.
Perry nodded and walked away as Lois and Clark headed up the ramp to the elevator. Clark looked at his shoes. He'd gotten rid of the bus handprint, but what was he going to do about this woman they'd be meeting after lunch? He could just imagine it now. There they'd be, sitting in Polly Plume's living room, listening to her describe this man that looked just like Superman, only wearing glasses and a dark trench coat. She'd probably point to him and say, "He looked just like him. You're Superman, aren't you!"
A wave of despair hovered above him as he imagined his cover being blown. Lois would know. She'd probably hate him for pretending to be two people, one of whom was the partner she now considered a friend and more than a hack. There wasn't much he could do about things now. Soon it would all be over. The woman he loved would discard him like an apple core. Would she go public with his identity? Maybe not, not if he let her know that his parents' lives depended on it.
Surely, there must be something he could do. Well, for one thing, he couldn't sit in that woman's living room.
But then, lots of people look alike. He'd seen people all his life that looked like other people he'd known elsewhere. How well had she seen him, anyway? No, it was no good. No matter what, his cover was about to be blown.
Lois drove her silver jeep Cherokee to the bus terminal. He was surprised to find how good it felt to see Lois despair when she couldn't find a handprint on any of the busses. She might try again to get more information about it later, but so far so good. Clark smiled to himself.
They headed to a restaurant for lunch. Tall, leafy oak trees lined the road. He thought about Polly's information and the despair returned. A few children played catch in a playground were shouting nearby. Happiness. He felt it fleeing from him like the string of a kite when the wind catches it too hard, slipping through his hands.
"Clark?" Lois asked, putting her hand on his arm. He turned to look at her. "Clark, what's wrong? You haven't said a word since we left the office."
"Humm?" he responded, trying to hold his emotions in check as he looked at her, feeling betrayed. Would she unsuspectingly force him to leave and go start a new life in some other city? Why does she have to be so good at her job?
"Clark, what's wrong? You look like I just ran over your dog."
He had to shake himself out of it. He needed to go flying. He needed to do something. An idea came to him with a flash of hope. "Lois?" He paused. "Lois, why do you really want to do this?"
She finished parking the jeep, turned off the motor, and opened the door.
"Clark," she said as she came around to the sidewalk where he was now standing. "I've always wanted to know this. I just have to find out." She knew she hadn't really answered his question, but it wasn't any of his business anyway!
"Why, Lois?" He put his hand on her arm and looked at her. "How will it change things? Have you thought about that?"
"Of course, I've thought about this, Clark!" Memories of Superman daydreams flitted through her mind.
He raised his eyebrows at her.
"Well, no, not really," she admitted, walking toward the entrance and putting her hand on the door handle.
"Let's talk about this, okay Lois?" Clark regained his full stature and composure as he opened the door for her.
They entered the restaurant and stood waiting to be seated.
"Two," Lois said to the hostess when she arrived to seat them.
"This way please," the hostess replied, leading them through the busy restaurant. Dishes clattering and conversations set the tone. Good smells filled the air.
Sunlight streamed through onto one side of the table where the hostess seated them and removed the two extra settings of silverware from the table. Clark chose to sit in the sunlight. It always made him feel better, since the sun recharged his powers.
"Would you like anything to drink?" the waitress asked, coming over to the table.
"I'd like a cream soda, with a bit of whipped cream and a cherry on top," Lois responded, quite accustomed to changing the familiar menu to suit her taste.
"I'll just have lemonade," Clark said.
They looked at their menus for a moment before Lois laid hers aside. "What are you having, Clark?"
"Umm, the hot roast beef sandwich with a salad."
"That sounds good."
"Lois, back to our conversation. Let's talk about why you want to do this. Expose Superman, I mean."
"Clark, I don't want to *expose* him. It sounds so bad when you say it like that. I just want to find out who he is."
She looked out the window, thinking about why she wanted to know who Superman really was. Well, because he had a secret identity. It was a secret. Lois didn't like secrets. Well, she didn't mind secrets, really, as long as they weren't kept from her. That's what her job was all about, finding out the secrets. Sure it was for research, but this was different. This was the man she loved. He'd been keeping a secret from her. From everyone. She wanted in on it.
"Okay, Lois. Let's say you find out something major about him. Then what do you do? Do you think the way he feels about you will change? I mean, he likes you right now; you're friends. That's pretty obvious. You want him to keep liking you, right? What if you barge in and expose him. Do you think he's going to say, thank you? I know you're happy to be good friends with Superman, but before you go ferreting out his potential secrets, why don't you take a moment to stop and think what it's going to do to your friendship with him?"
Lois studied Clark. What had Superman told him about their friendship? What had he said about her? Did Superman tell Clark everything? He must know tons about what Superman thought of her.
"Well?" Clark waited for an answer.
Lois squirmed a bit. "I don't know. No. I guess not. I mean, Clark I want to get to know him…much better."
Clark raised his eyebrows again. "Do you think he wants to be close to someone? What if he's worried about criminals trying to use his friends in order to control him? What if people started using you to get to him? Do you think he could ever live with himself if you got hurt because someone thought you could tell them something about him? Do you know how hard it would be to protect you?"
"Well, first of all, Mr. Greenjeans, I don't need protecting. And secondly, if I did, are you saying I'm hard to protect, and you're not? Why, because I'm a woman?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "No, Lois." He fiddled with the napkin on his placemat.
"Clark," Lois wailed, "I just want to know. I'm a reporter. My mind just works like that. He could be someone right under our noses, and how would it be if I didn't bother finding out? Leave no stone unturned—that's me, Clark. Are you saying that I should stop being who I am, stop asking questions? Stop following leads?" She felt her anger rising. "Clark, I didn't get to be where I am by turning away from my questions."
Clark watched her as her guard came back up. "Okay, Lois, let's say your sister Lucy buys something at the store. She comes home with a package under her arm and goes into her room. She comes out and doesn't mention it. When you ask about it, she changes the subject and distracts you. Then she leaves. You want to know what she's got. Do you go in and look, or do you respect her privacy?"
"Well, that's easy. I go in and look," Lois said, grinning. "I pick the lock on the door, pick the lock on the box and I find out what she's got."
Clark sighed. "Right. You would. I forgot I was talking to Lois Lane, intrepid reporter."
"Well, wouldn't you, Clark? We've both broken into a heck of a lot of places to find out less interesting stuff!"
"I'd never do something that could hurt someone." Clark retorted.
Humph," Lois snorted. "How could finding out who Superman is when he's not rescuing someone hurt him? He's invulnerable!" she exclaimed, just as the waitress arrived beside their table with their drinks.
"Lois, I can't believe you said that. You're not stupid! He might be invulnerable, but his friends aren't…ever heard of taking hostages to get what you want? Not to mention, it could certainly hurt you, Lois!" Clark responded.
Lois knew it could hurt Superman if she revealed his identity to the world. She just wasn't about to let Clark win the conversation. She had made up her mind to find out who he was. There was nothing wrong with that. So what was the big deal. Okay, she didn't have to publish it for a Pulitzer. She really didn't want to do that, anyway. But maybe, just maybe…
"May I take your order?" the waitress interrupted her thoughts, flipping the top of her pad open.
Clark nodded to Lois to go first.
"I'll have the roast beef sandwich with a salad. Could you make that rye bread? And I'd like oil and vinegar dressing."
The waitress nodded and wrote it down, then turned to Clark.
"I'll have the same."
"Do you want rye bread as well?" she asked.
"Yes, please," he nodded with a smile.
"And what kind of dressing do you want on the salad?" "French, please."
The waitress gathered up the menus and said, "It will be just a few minutes. We're rather short-staffed here today." She turned and left.
Clark noticed Lois scribbling in her notebook. He touched his glasses, about to pull them down to see what she was writing. He felt like a jerk and looked back up before actually reading her notes. He wondered if she were coming up with some new ploy to uncover Superman's secret.
Lois decided she'd have to ask Jimmy to run a check on all unexplained rescues on file. If his pre-Superman rescues had been momentous, they'd have been reported in the news; well, most of them at least.
But she'd learn more about his other personality if she could trace him and see where he lived.
'Tracking device', Lois wrote down, then looked off across the dining room, trying to figure out what sort of a device she could use. When Superman came up to her at the scene of a crime, as he always did, she'd somehow plant it on him. Depending on what it looked like, maybe she'd be able to slip it behind his belt if she could hug him beneath his cape, or down the back of his suit at the neck. What if he found out what she was doing? He did have amazing senses.
'Okay,' she thought, broadening her scope. When he leaves the scene of a crime, he usually flies up into the sky. It's impossible to follow him. He was also always in a hurry. Well, most of the time. He didn't stick around after he'd saved the day. Sometimes he'd talk for just a minute and then shoot off into the sky, often before responding to questions. Did Superman go away so nobody would get to know him too well, be able to identify him by his gestures and body language? After all, most people did little things repeatedly, whether they were being themselves or *going incognito*.
She thought about his gestures. He stood with arms crossed most of the time, looking rather formal and forbidding. What if that was all an act? It was probably just the way he was, but maybe not.
She thought about his voice. Did he have an accent? His voice sounded normal to her, nothing unusual about it. But he didn't have a real New Troy accent like some people did. So maybe he wasn't from the northeast. She'd have to listen to his voice carefully the next time she saw him.
She thought about his appearance again. Superman's hair was always slicked back. What would he look like with glasses on? She opened her big brown bag and pulled out the large picture of Superman that she had taken out of her desk drawer earlier that day and studied it for a moment. Black rimmed glasses, Polly had said. She took her pen and drew a pair of glasses around Superman's eyes, leaned back and looked at it, then burst out laughing.
"What is it?" Clark's voice startled her.
"Oh, I was just thinking about what Superman would look like with glasses on." She pulled the picture up and turned it around so he could see it. Without watching Clark's reaction, she turned it back around and looked at it again. "I wonder what shape the glasses are, or were a few years ago when that lady saw him." She had drawn big squarish frames. "Perhaps they were smaller than that." She said, and drew some smaller frames inside of the larger ones. The double frames were wrecking the picture. Luckily for Clark, Lois had been too busy admiring her own drawing skills to watch Clark's horrified reaction. He had almost gasped before catching himself. He felt uncovered. He wanted to leave, to hear some cry for help somewhere in the distance. My, it was a slow week.
'People are going to see what they want to see,' he said to himself, trying to maintain his cool. Nobody had spotted the similarity yet, maybe he could slip by Lois. He certainly had made sure his Superman persona was different from his Clark one.
Maybe the clumsiness, the inability to see far without binoculars, the way he faked pain, his casual slouching posture and all the other small imperfections he'd accentuated since he'd come to the Daily Planet…maybe all that was enough to convince Lois that her very own Mr. Greenjeans was nothing more than that. Country bumpkin.
He was amazed she hadn't seen that the photo looked exactly like him. How could she have missed it? Was she really so blind to Clark Kent's features? Her opinion of Clark went a long way to separate the two men in her mind.
He wanted to talk to her, to distract her from what she was doing. But, he was at a loss for words. He was completely out of ideas. He picked up his spoon and began to twirl it between his fingers. Surely, she wouldn't find out. She was smart, but she was too sure of herself. She would never imagine that Clark could be playing such an elaborate deception right under her nose.
Lois pulled the picture back up, held it at arm's length, and looked at it. Across the table, Clark's face appeared beside the photo. His heart rate was 150, he figured, as it thumped loudly in his ears. "You know Clark, if you weren't such a Kansas Farmboy, you could almost pass for Superman," she said idly, barely looking at him.
The words only stung a little bit, just as they always had when she'd compared him to Superman, but this time they seemed to also lift a heavy weight off his shoulders. Holding himself so upright and crossing his arms in a big macho way when he was Superman was certainly more than just a coincidence. He had calculated the effect it would have on his appearance as he'd stood in front of the mirror many times. He was just a regular guy when he was in his business suit and tie, or his t-shirt and shorts. But when he was in the red and blue suit, he purposely acted as if he were in total control of the situation, undefeatable, proud, but still just and true. It did make him look different. Not only that, Superman was saving the day. Clark never did that. Superman was also filled with words of wisdom. Clark wasn't.
He liked being Clark better. If he could have had his way, there wouldn't have ever been a Superman. But it had been necessary to allow him to lead a double life, a separation between the life of the normal guy and the one with the super powers.
He wished the food would come to distract Lois. But he also didn't want it to. He knew that after the meal, he was going to have to face the music, meet that woman, Polly what was it, Pen?
Shouldn't he find a simple excuse to dash away or zap her lights so she couldn't see him, perhaps? Temporarily disrupt the electricity at the pole outside the house? Should he even be there? What if the woman told or showed Lois something he needed to know that she knew?
The sun streaming in the windows of the restaurant felt good on his shoulders, head, and face. He focused on it, having given up talking to Lois until she came out of her reverie. If only the sun could infuse his brain with knowledge and understanding, the way it nourished and heightened his powers.
"I could plant a bug on him," Lois finally stated, looking at Clark with a smile.
"What?" Clark pulled himself away from the sunshine. "Who?"
"Superman, of course, you dimwit!" She slapped the picture on the table and planted her elbows on it as she leaned toward Clark.
"What do you think we could use?"
'We?' he nearly said before remembering he was going to be in this with her so she didn't trap him. "What do you suggest? That brilliant mind of yours has probably been cooking up quite a scheme over there."
Lois practically glowed with excitement. "Well," she began, "you know those things they put on pets so you can find your lost cat or dog?"
Clark tightened his teeth together, his lips parting as she continued, "Well, if I can get one of those…somehow put it on him…I don't know…maybe slip it under the edge of his suit when I give him a hug…if it comes off his body…or maybe stick it to his cape? Help me out here."
Clark's eyebrows went up. "Yeah, Lois, that's a good idea!"
"Clark, isn't this exciting! Just think of it. What if I can find out who he is? I wouldn't have to let him know that I know. Let's say I find out he's…well…say the guy at the cleaners. He wouldn't be because that guy's a real idiot and doesn't have any looks or muscles or anything…"
"Lois, you're babbling."
"I am not! Okay, maybe a little." She stopped. "Clark, I know you think this is really selfish and all, but I really like this guy. I may even love him. Superman, I mean, not the guy at the cleaners. But I don't know, because I've never loved anybody before. I don't like men much. They're not trustworthy. I don't mean you, Clark. You're okay, but I don't trust men in general.
She felt lame, as if she didn't know where she was going with all that babbling. She took a deep breath and tried to figure out what she had been about to say.
"Oh yes, let's say I find out who he is. What if I strike up some sort of a friendship with his alternate self? I've done lots of undercover stuff, Clark. It's not hard to do stuff like that.
But I could really become his friend." She sighed and looked far away again.
Clark raised one eyebrow at her. "Should he trust you? Lois, you've just gone on about how trust is so important, but then you're going to try to lure this guy into falling in love with you by deceit. He already knows Lois Lane, you know, unless you're going to disguise yourself. Plus, he'll recognize your heartbeat and your smell.
"He will?" she paused momentarily letting Clark's information sink in. "Okay, I could just let him know that I know his other identity, and then he could feel more comfortable with me. He wouldn't have to hide his secret from me. I'd be his close friend, the person that knows his secret. You can't tell me that he doesn't need to talk about some of this stuff he goes through, sometimes. I could be there for him. Maybe he'd grow to love me like I love him.
The waitress arrived and set their plates in front of them. Finally, Clark thought. Lois was right about him having to bottle everything up inside. It would be nice to be able to confide in her about things. What was he thinking? She'd kill him if she ever found out this lie he was living. However, was a good thing Superman was him and not the guy at the cleaners, whoever that was.
They ate in silence. Lois wondered if the paper had a tracking device of some sort.
"I wish that bus had been there. The one with the handprint on it that Polly talked about. I wanted to lift the prints and then compare them to Superman's. He's touched all sorts of things. We lift his prints like anybody else's, that is if he has any.
"Hey, I wonder if we could get him to write something and then try matching his handwriting," she brainstormed.
"To what? Are you going to gather handwriting from everyone in Metropolis and see if they match Superman's?"
"Not everyone, Clark. We don't need the women's," she retorted haughtily before the absurdity of it made them both laugh. Lois looked at her watch. "It's nearly one; we'd better get out of here."
Clark looked up and raised his hand to catch the waitress' attention. "Check, please?" he smiled at her.
Lois took Clark's arm when they were outside the restaurant. He patted her hand absently, before she let go and headed around to the driver's side of her vehicle.
Clark watched out the window as they drove passed the schoolyard nearby. Noisy children were climbing on the play structure. Others were racing around the yard. He noted a teacher scolding a group of boys. He sighed. If he didn't know better, all was right with the world.
"400, 402…410. It'll be on your side. These are the even numbers." Clark read the house numbers aloud as they drove down Mercury Blvd. "Here it is, 459," he said. Lois pulled over to the side of the road.
He glanced up at the transformer box high on the telephone pole. No, he couldn't zap her power. It wasn't right. She'd probably seen Clark Kent's photo in the paper a million times, anyway.
'Here goes nothing,' he thought as he pushed his door open and climbed out. "Nice parking job, Lois." He flashed her a grin as she came over to his side. "You only hit the curb with one tire!"
She scowled at him. They headed up the front walkway side by side, looking quite professional in their business attire. The small white house looked like it had been painted recently. They climbed front porch steps. Lois extended her hand and rang the doorbell. Then she turned to Clark and said, "This is so exciting! I don't know when I've researched a more fascinating story!"
Clark dipped his head slightly and raised one eyebrow at her.
"Okay, you don't have to like it!" Lois smiled, patting his chest playfully. "But I do!"
Clark heard footsteps inside. A moment later the knob turned and the door opened.
"Hello. You must be Ms. Lane."
"Ms. Plume? I'm Lois Lane, and this is my partner, Clark Kent." Lois said to the middle aged woman who held the door open.
"Call me Polly. Please come in." She opened the door wider and stepped out of the way. A wall covered with Superman posters, photos and clippings greeted them as they entered the living room.
"You can call me, Lois." She said as she stood looking around the room. "My, you certainly are interested in Superman!" Lois recognized many photos that had run with her articles and articles in the Star and several other local papers.
"Here, have a seat." She showed them to the pastel couch, then sat down in an overstuffed, matching chair.
When they were settled, Lois began, "Polly, can you tell us about your experience again? My partner, Clark hasn't heard your story yet." Clark nodded politely to her. He was holding his chin in one hand, his fingers obscuring his mouth. He had noted where the light was coming from and was careful to keep his face in as much of a shadow as he could.
"Oh, of course," Polly said as Clark looked in her direction.
"Well, I was crossing the road near where you work at the Daily Planet, when a bus coming down the hill didn't stop for the light. It was just racing at us in the crosswalk. Its brakes must have given out. Just when I heard it and turned to see this massive bus almost running us down, I saw a young man rush out in front of the bus and stop it. He put his hand out and the bus hit him, but he didn't fall or anything. The bus just stopped. I yelled. He looked right at me, then turned and ran back to the sidewalk, where he picked up his suitcase and ran away. I remember seeing the deep handprint on the front of the bus where he'd stopped it. The bus just sat there at the light for awhile even after it had changed, so I had time to get a good look at the bus. There was no blood on it or anything. The driver was really shook up, too. He comes to our meetings, as well as a few people that were on the bus. That was before Superman was on TV and everywhere."
"Polly, can you describe the man to us, please?" Lois asked patiently, ready to pick up on the tiniest detail.
"Well, he had dark brown hair. He was wearing business clothes with a trench coat. He was young. I'd say he was in his twenties. Oh, and he had on black rimmed glasses." She had closed her eyes as if looking at a photograph and describing what she had seen.
"You said he looked a lot like Superman?" Lois asked.
"Yes." Polly went over to an end table and pulled out a picture of Superman. She'd drawn the glasses on the face just as Lois had, except it looked better. It still resembled Clark, her bumbling but nice partner. Lois studied the photo for a moment, holding it so Clark could see it at the same time. Polly had also covered the red suit with a long dark overcoat he'd been wearing, and lengthened the hair slightly at the nape of his neck.
"So this is what he looked like when you saw him?"
"Yes, Ms. Lane. I have a very good memory. Some people say it's a photographic memory.
"Did he say anything?" Lois continued.
"No, he just looked at me with fear, like he didn't want anyone to know what he'd done. But I think it would be wonderful if we all knew who he really is. I think knowing that he also leads a regular life like the rest of us, would help the world to try to follow his example, that although he's amazing, he's also a regular person.
Clark wondered at her logic, but Lois didn't seem to notice.
"So did you talk to the other people on the crosswalk with you? Had they seen what had happened?"
"Well, actually, most of them were so busy getting out of the way of the bus that they never noticed."
"Did you follow him?"
"Oh, yes, I went after him, Lois."
Clark stiffened slightly, not having realized that she'd followed him. He remembered trying to blend into the crowd.
"He went back to the sidewalk and picked up his suitcase. There were two large gold letters on the side of it. CK. I remember the letters because the sunlight kept flashing on them. They must have been gold lettering or something reflective."
"You saw some letters on the side of the suitcase?"
"Yes, you know the kind you often see."
It was a good thing he was Superman, Clark thought painfully. It was taking super self-control not to react to this new information. It wouldn't take Lois long now. Looks like Clark Kent, initials are CK like Clark Kent. It happened near the Daily Planet where Clark Kent just 'happens' to work. Maybe she'd seen him with that trench coat, too. No, that was the one from the farm. He'd bought a nicer one since he'd started at the Planet. She didn't seem to be putting two and two together yet. But then, Lois usually went back to the office and sat and thought about things, or came up with ideas when she was driving. She usually needed some time to sift through information for the solutions.
"Polly, what happened when you followed him?"
"Well, he was fast. I was pretty shaken up you know, what with almost meeting my Maker. I really wanted to go thank him, offer to feed him or something…anything to repay him for saving our lives, but he was too quick. I saw him run into the crowd on the sidewalk and disappear."
"What day did this happen?" Lois forged ahead.
"Oh, I have it written down here. It was the day before they demolished the old theatre. I remember because I'd been on my way to a doctor's appointment and had thought about how many times I've been to plays there. I'm going to miss the old place. I'm really not much on modern renovations and such."
"You told me a bit about your group. Could you tell us about the members? They're all Superman fans, you said."
"Yes, they are. Most of them have been saved by Superman, but some of them have been saved by someone not wearing a costume. There's one man I know who had an experience just like mine, Michael. He said he'd been working in a manhole when a man with glasses rescued him. Superman must have been pretty scared of being found out. I mean, I don't know why, but he sure didn't want anyone to know it had been him that time either, almost like he'd done something wrong. He's a very modest man, I guess."
Lois was writing in her notebook. Clark picked up the picture of himself with glasses on again. The picture did look like him. Why didn't Lois see it? Why didn't Polly see it? He rubbed his chin and mouth, trying to keep as much of it hidden by the picture and his hand as he could.
Polly rubbed her eyes, then noticed Clark turn his head to look at her above the poster. "My eyes are so sore. I can't find my glasses. I've searched everywhere. I can barely see anything without them."
At that, Clark nodded and put the poster and his hand down. He hoped the breath he let out hadn't been noticed by either of the women. When Polly looked back toward Lois, he leaned his head slightly and looked over his glasses to scan her house. He noticed her glasses pushed down beside the cushion on the overstuffed chair she was sitting on. Maybe he'd suggest where she might look as they were leaving, when she wouldn't have an opportunity to put them on and look at him carefully.
Lois was talking again. "What's your friend Michael's last name? Do you know how we could get in touch with him?"
"Yes, Michael Goodman. He's in the phonebook. He comes to our meetings. You could come if you'd like, Lois. We meet on the first of every month at 7 p.m. in the conference room at the courthouse. They let us use it. We've been meeting there for a long time now."
"Tell me more about your meetings, Polly. What does SAVED stand for?"
"Superman is Always Victorious, Even over Death."
"Who started the group?" Lois ran through the usual questions until she felt she had all the information she'd need for the story on the group. She wouldn't mention the man behind the disguise, however.
Polly was still talking. "We love to get together and talk about him, all the things that he has done for us. He's changed most of our lives. Having been so close to death has really made us stop and think about what's really important. Most of us have dedicated ourselves to helping others."
"If Superman saved me and Michael when he wasn't wearing the suit, we thought that maybe there were other people he had saved like that, too. We thought that maybe they'd like to know about our group, and maybe they'd like to know who it was that saved them. We sure do see him as an angel sent from God."
Clark squirmed a bit, knowing that quite a few people had attributed his rescues to angels throughout his life. He certainly wasn't angelic.
Lois stood up. "Thank you for all your information. May I borrow this picture you've drawn of him?" She picked it up from the coffee table in front of her.
Clark wanted to steer Lois away from the picture. "Lois, you really shouldn't take Polly's picture, we have other ones." He nodded at her purse where the ruined picture of him was. She acquiesced. They said their thank you's and goodbyes. As they stepped out onto the porch, Clark turned back to Polly.
"Polly, you said you'd lost your glasses. Sometimes my father loses his. He usually finds them hidden in the cushions of the furniture. You probably already checked there, but you never know."
"Thank you, Mr. Kent, I didn't think of looking in such an obvious place. I'll go have a look."
"You're welcome. Goodbye.
Outside, the sun was shining brightly through the leaves in the tall tree overhead. The sound of the wind was rustling them.
Clark paused on the porch to look out over the scenery. He could hear a bird dragging a twig around in its nest overhead, and then saw a robin fly away. Children were playing in a schoolyard somewhere in the neighborhood; their happy shouts a dull roar in the background.
He could hear a woman digging in her flower garden a few blocks down the street. The sound of heavy traffic on the distant freeway sounded like it was right beside him. Suddenly, the sound of crunching metal, followed by horns, screams, screeching tires and more metal on metal jarred him. He froze. He had to go. What would he tell Lois now? He didn't have time to think of an excuse. Oh, he was going to walk and get some fresh air. That was it. He didn't dare leave her though. No telling what she'd uncover. He was torn again, like usual, but he had to go.
"Lois, I think I'm going to walk," he said, catching up to her as she opened the door to her jeep.
"Clark, are you nuts? We're all the way across town."
"I know, but I think I could use a bit of exercise." He patted his stomach. "I think I'll just walk for a while, then take a taxi. I'll meet you back at the Planet," he said, turning down the street and heading around the corner and quickly out of sight.
She thought he was crazy. She wanted to talk to him about what they'd just seen and heard. "I'll come with you Clark," she was saying, closing the door. "I could use a bit of fresh air myself. It sure is a nice day." When she stepped up onto the sidewalk, she looked around. But, he was gone. "Clark?" She stood there with a puzzled look on her face. "He sure is a strange one, that Clark Kent." She opened her purse again and pulled out Polly's picture of Superman. If he were in disguise, wasn't this what Superman would do, dash away when he had to be somewhere to save the day? She looked at the picture, held it away from herself, and shook her head. Boy, it looked like Clark. She looked up the street and down, then dashed to get into her jeep, and sped down the long straight residential street to find Clark. He couldn't be far. After going about a mile, she pulled into a driveway and turned around, then headed back up the street, at least another couple of miles, then took every side road, searching the neighborhood for him. He wasn't there. She picked the picture back up and looked at it again, her brain churning.
She knew that Clark wasn't Superman. It was ridiculous. He was just a country farm boy, nice, upstanding, honest, and friends with a Superhero she loved. It was no wonder they were such good friends, they were very much alike, he and Superman.
She looked down the road. Where the heck was her partner? A phone booth caught her attention, and she drove down the road and parked in front of it.
"Michael Goodman," she mumbled, flipping through the pages until she found the name. She ripped out the page and ran back to her jeep. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number as she started to drive towards the address. Lot's of people with glasses look alike, she thought to herself, dismissing any notion that Clark had any connection to Superman. But he was the only one who could contact him without jumping off a building.
"Hi. This is Lois Lane. May I speak with Michael Goodman?"
"Yes, that's me."
"Hi, I'm from the Daily Planet. I got your name from Polly Plume."
"Oh yes, Polly from SAVED."
"Yes, Mr. Goodman. I wondered if I could ask you some questions about the time you were in an accident in a manhole.
"Of course. I refer to that day as the beginning of my life, the day I was saved!"
"Could you tell me about that incident?"
"Well, we were working down in the sewer, near the Daily Planet. We were replacing some gas lines. I'm not sure what happened, only that something exploded. It hit me pretty hard and knocked me off my feet. I got a bad bump on my head and some burns. But just about as soon as it happened, a man appeared in the explosion beside me. He lifted me up and out of the manhole. Before I'd had a chance to thank him, I was on the pavement. But then there he was, right on the other side of the barrier we'd put up while we were working in the hole. I thought I must have been dreaming, I mean, people don't climb down manholes and back up again as fast as that. I thought for sure he was an angel. That's why I probably have such a good memory of it and all, coming so close to death."
"Can you tell me anything more about the man that saved you?"
"Well, he was standing right beside you. You were there weren't you? Didn't you see him? You were the reporter writing in a notebook, I'd know your face anywhere from your picture being in the paper all the time. He looked pretty dirty, I guess from being down there in the sewer. When I pointed to him and said he'd saved me, he said I was delirious!" I was really shocked by the way he said it, as if I were some sort of a lunatic. Later on when Superman appeared, I figured he'd saved me but hadn't wanted his civilian identity to be revealed.
"I remember," Lois muttered in amazement and disbelief, the road ahead starting to spin. She pulled off the road quickly. The gears in Lois' head were turning, finally. She recalled that day. Clark had been following her outside the Daily Planet. They'd heard the explosion and seen the smoke coming up from the manhole. She'd grabbed her notebook out of her bag and rushed to get the story first. She hadn't noticed where Clark was, just that when the man pointed to him, she'd seen the dirty smears on Clark's face and his suit. Why hadn't she wondered why Clark was suddenly so dirty? She'd told him to bring a change of clothes to work.
Lois thought she might pass out. "Thank you very much for your time, Michael. Goodbye." Lois shakily turned off her cell phone. She sat in her jeep. Her breathing was erratic. Her heart was pounding uncontrollably. She leaned her head on the steering wheel to keep from passing out. Darkness was overwhelming her. Her head was swimming. Her feeble excuses towards denial had evaporated from underneath her and she was falling into the unknown.
She was dumbfounded, unaware of the increasing traffic in the neighborhood, of the sun getting lower in the sky. She finally pulled her notebook out and made a list of similarities between Clark and Superman.
1. Polly's picture with glasses
2. Suitcase initials CK
3. Bus near daily planet
4. Michael's manhole story
5. Manhole near daily planet
6. Standing beside me
7. Dirty face and jacket
8. Being gone right now
9. Always disappearing
10. Friends with Superman
11. Being able to contact Superman
12. Gold CK letters on suitcase, maybe?
13. Ultimate boy scout
14. Great build
15. Never gets fat from junk food.
16. Never gets cold
17. Doesn't sweat
18. Lousy excuses for absences
19. Looks like Superman
How was it possible, though? Why wouldn't he have told her? He didn't act anything like Superman. He really didn't look that much like him either. Well, a resemblance, but he wore his hair differently.
Trying to see if she was alert enough to function, she read the list over. The street lights were coming on when she finally felt in control enough to drive. Could she remain conscious long enough to search Clark's apartment for that suitcase and perhaps Superman's belongings, like his suits?
She ripped the paper off and stuffed it into her suit jacket pocket from Polly, with the pen, in case she had any more things to add to the list as she searched his apartment. Hopefully he wasn't home.
She no longer doubted that Clark was probably Superman, but she had to see that suitcase. She had to really find out for sure. She had to find the suits, the boots, smell his aftershave, the whole nine yards. Although all the evidence pointed at Clark leading a double life, he was just so…Clark, who was so…not Superman. He was too short, too.
She barely noticed the traffic as she drove to Clark's apartment. There were no lights on. He probably wasn't home. Good. After knocking and waiting an appropriate amount of time, she pulled out her lock pick. She wiggled it in the lock, then turned the handle and opened the door.
She went to the closet first and looked inside. She pulled out the small flashlight she kept in the bottom of her big brown leather bag, dropping the satchel on the floor, and shone the light into the top of the closet. Shoes. Dress shoes. Running shoes. The ones she'd seen him wear at work.
She felt strange invading Clark's privacy like this. Not bad really…just…well…okay… maybe bad. On the floor the flashlight scanned over a few boxes, a tennis racket, a basketball, a bat, ball, and glove lying on the floor. She fumbled through the clothes on the rack, stopping at a long trench coat she'd not seen Clark wear in a long time. It had the same rounded collar on it as Polly had drawn on her picture, not the normal v-shaped lapels like most trench coats had. Oops. Getting closer to being Clark.
She breathed deeply, thinking about the dirty suit, and the lame excuses every time he disappeared. Was he ever pulling a good cover, acting dumb, pretending he had bad eyesight! He was a good liar; she had to hand it to him! A lying boy scout!
A weak smile pulled at her lips. He was practically as good as she was! She shone her flashlight further inside. A glint of gold lettering caught her eye. She reached into the darker part of the closet and pulled out an old, battered, light brown, leather suitcase. The letters CK were engraved on the side of it. Clark had traveled a lot before he'd come to the Planet. Well, this was it, wasn't it? Strike two. How could she have been so blind?
She still hadn't found where he kept the suits. Wondering about a secret compartment, she knocked on the back of his closet wall. It sounded hollow. She felt around for something that might move to open the wall, feeling and pulling on everything. Finally, the tie hook responded to her touch, lifting upward. While she stood, pleased with her discovery, the back wall of the closet suddenly slid sideways, exposing several Superman suits. Strike three, Clark's dead.
Beneath the suits stood three pairs of boots. She pulled one suit out and smelled it, then another, then another. They were all clean. No sign of chemicals, grease, or smoke. They didn't smell like Clark, but they didn't smell like Superman either. She picked up a boot and sniffed inside, then picked up a running shoe. Definitely the same smell! Yuck.
She felt a bit of awe sweep over her as she touched the suits. These were the suits of the man who rescued millions. The man who always said the right thing, who always stood for truth and right.
She'd never compared how Superman and Clark smelled before. That was one thing you couldn't really fake. What about the aftershave? She went to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet over the sink. A few bottles stood on the shelves. One at a time, she smelled the bottles. This was the one Clark had worn to the White Orchid Ball. She remembered that smell. This was the one he always wore. She couldn't remember what Superman's was like. She tried to picture being in his arms in the air, closed her eyes, and smelled each bottle again. This one, she decided, opening her eyes. It was the one Clark wore all the time. She grinned from ear to ear, triumphantly. "Gotcha!" she muttered.
She stood there smiling to herself, not wanting to hurry to leave, but knew that having broken and entered, she'd better get moving before Clark came home.
Suddenly, she heard a key in the lock of the door. A swear word escaped her lips as she remembered she'd left her purse on the floor while she'd searched the closet for the suitcase. Plus, she'd left the suitcase out. Now she was going to be discovered! No she wouldn't. She'd escaped from more dangerous places unseen before!
She ran for her purse, shoved the suitcase back in the closet and closed it, then dashed to the fire escape, opening and closing the door behind herself.
Clark stood on the top of the steps with his key in the lock, hearing noise inside his apartment. He looked through the door and walls and saw the intruder, Lois. She was darting around the apartment, then left through the balcony door. As she ran down the stairs of the fire escape, she realized she'd left her jeep in front where Clark would undoubtedly have seen it. Shoot!
Without opening his front door, Clark turned and headed down his steps just as she was getting into her Jeep. Smiling with satisfaction at having caught her, but also feeling a bit weak- kneed at what she might have found, he called to her then spoke to her at her jeep.
"Hi Lois. Sorry I didn't make it back to the Planet before you left. I just got home, come on in." He pretended nothing had happened. She looked up at him, a look of panic in her face. He smiled weakly as he stood by her door. She just sat there in the driver's seat, her palms sweating, her heart racing.
She was still breathing hard from her quick dash down the fire escape, then out of the alley to where her jeep was parked on Clinton Avenue alongside his apartment building.
Her emotions were a mess. Fear, anger, embarrassment, pain. She tried to put a smile on her face. "Hi, Clark. Where did you run off to?" she decided to put him in the hot seat. No sense keeping it all for herself.
"I um, I walked for awhile then caught a cab the rest of the way. It was such a nice day, don't you think?" He listened as her heartbeat began to slow back down and her breathing returned to normal.
She nodded. "You walked. Clark by the time I came around to talk to you, you weren't anywhere on the street. I know because I searched."
He shrugged. "Oh. Well, I do walk pretty fast." He wasn't lying now, he did walk fast. Of course, he hadn't been walking. He'd dipped around a tree and taken flight through its branches.
"Humph. Well, we didn't get a chance to talk, so I just came over to see if you wanted to go get something to eat, or maybe order a pizza. Isn't there a game on tonight?"
She was such a lousy liar, but she was definitely the Lois that he loved. Had she found out his secret? He would know in a few moments. One thing Lois Lane didn't have, was patience. If she had something to say, it was out almost as soon as she thought it.
He sized up her body language. She'd be madder than a caged cougar if she had found out he was Superman. She was just looking rather annoyed and guilty at the moment. Should he just watch her squirm? Guilt was better than anger any day!
Lois followed him up the stairs and waited for him to open the door. Had he seen her in his apartment? Of course he had. He was Superman. He would have heard her in there. How long had he been at the door watching her through the walls? Did he know she knew?
Was he just playing Farmboy Clark, just glad to see her and sorry he'd missed her at the office? It was so hard to tell. He didn't look like he was mad at her for breaking into his apartment. She followed him to the door and stepped through it as he stood aside for her. Forever the gentleman.
She glanced around, glad she'd closed secret wall and the closet door to hide the Superman suits. Frantically she tried to remember if she had put all the bottles of aftershave away.
Better to be safe than sorry, she thought as she said with forced casualness, "I need to use your bathroom. You don't mind do you?" She disappeared into the apartment toward the bathroom while Clark opened the fridge and took out some juice.
She'd not left any signs of her intrusion, she realized with relief. She came back out in a reasonable amount of time and sat down on his couch. Clark brought over two glasses of juice and handed one to her before sitting down on the other end of the couch. He picked up the remote and turned on the television, curious if there was anymore to learn about the accident he'd just helped clean up.
"So where did you go?" Lois began, looking at him, her partner, and most tolerable co-worker. Of course he was the Superhero she loved, too. But he didn't look or act like that right now.
Clark looked at her. "I walked for a long time. I had a lot on my mind, I guess," he lied innocently, remembering the laps he'd done around the earth after he'd left the accident. "How about you?"
I should think he had a lot on his mind! Lois agreed silently. He knew he was going to get found out. What he'd said in the restaurant came back to her. He'd been trying pretty hard to protect himself from her investigation. He must have really felt awful about her looking into this. She sure hadn't had any clue that this is where her investigation would take her!
Clark picked up the remote from the coffee table as he put the glasses of juice down on the coffee table. The news came on with pictures of a 25 car pileup on the beltway. Superman was there, dashing from one car to the next, blowing out fires, and carrying people to ambulances. Her hero. She looked at him, wondering how he did it all so fast.
Clark was watching intently. It had been a bad accident. He'd done what he could and left the rest to the authorities to handle.
Lois looked over at him. Of course Clark was watching! She'd forgotten already what she'd spent the whole day finding out. She didn't want to think about it right now, though. She didn't want him to be Superman. She really didn't want to lose her hero to her partner. She also didn't want to lose her partner to the Superhero. She just liked being here with Clark. She needed to recover before she could deal with her discoveries.
"Should we order a pizza?" Lois asked, realizing for the first time how hungry she was.
Clark wanted to ask her what she'd found out about Superman. He didn't dare, though. Maybe he'd better wait until she brought it up. What had she been looking for in his apartment? The suitcase?
Had she figured out the CK connection? Recognized him from the redrawn photo? She'd been so convinced he wasn't Superman, he'd felt almost safe being with her.
He really just wanted to scoot over by her and watch the game together. He didn't want to have to face what she'd found out yet. She picked up the remote and scanned for the game. She handed him her empty glass with a hopeful look. He got up to refill them both.
She liked watching games with Clark; he was such a hopeless sports fan. She felt drained from all the emotions of the day, how her life had turned upside down. She hadn't had time to put it all back together in her head yet. That would come soon enough, the end of her world, as she knew it.
It had been a hard day for Clark. Moving the cars around hadn't been a problem; it was all the tension he'd felt from what Lois had been up to. He thought again about what she'd been looking for in his apartment. He could just ask or scan his apartment for fresh fingerprints. He wasn't sure he wanted to know though. It was such an emotionally charged situation to think about.
He could hear Lois' heartbeat. She was content. She wasn't up to anything, not right now anyway. Maybe he anger would come when she'd had a bit more time.
"I'll order the pizza," he heard himself saying as the pre-game announcements and introductions got underway. He picked up the phone, dialed the familiar number, and ordered their usual fare.
They had often spent evenings here with folders and laptops spread about on the couch, the coffee table, and the floor, hashing over the 'whodunits' of a case. It would be nice to do that now. Except…
He set the phone back in its cradle just as he heard a bank alarm and a cry for help. He had to go. He hated having to make up another excuse for dashing out.
"Lois, I think I'll go down and pick it up. It'll be faster that way," he said, getting up and heading for the door.
"Sure, Clark, I'll let you know what happens while you're gone." Lois replied, her eyes on the set. She settled herself back on the pillow under her arm at the end of the couch and pulled her legs up under her.
The door closed behind Clark. She yawned. Here she was in Clark's apartment again. She'd been here so often, she could probably find her way around in the dark; yet the things she'd discovered in this apartment today had been uncanny, things she'd never imagined. Surely he'd seen her in the apartment, if he could see through the walls. Why hadn't he said anything? She flashed back on what both Polly and Michael had said about the man they'd seen. He'd been afraid of them seeing him, finding out who he was. Imagine, Superman being afraid of something. Was Clark afraid of her now? Was that why he hadn't asked her about being in his apartment? He certainly knew. He must know. Didn't he? She hadn't been at her vehicle when he'd gotten home, although he must have seen it.
How did Clark feel about her breaking into his place? He was likely angry. He did have a strong personality, even though he often came across as a purring kitten. Well, he certainly hadn't wanted to be found out.
He'd been helping her. 'Sheesh,' she thought as her face reddened in embarrassment. He knew she wanted to become close friends with Superman's alternate self. She'd told him that. Was he just playing along with her? Was he humoring her by letting her become close to him? Was he going to drop her when she was entwined in his arms, let her know what an untrustworthy jerk she was for breaking into his apartment? What was he up to? She got up and went to the fridge, opened the freezer and looked in. Yes!
He had chocolate ice cream. She took it out, tossing the lid on the counter as she reached for a spoon in the drawer and headed back to the couch. The fans screamed as the game progressed.
She sat cross-legged, holding the cold container close to her chest and poking the ice cream with her spoon. Taking a spoonful, she stuck it into her mouth. The taste of the ice cream broke her train of thought. She looked at the game, picked up the remote on the couch beside her and changed to the breaking LNN news. Superman was on again. He was in the First National Bank of Metropolis. There had been a hostage taking. The police had been negotiating with the criminals, but they were now being taken into custody.
The newscaster was rattling on and on, "Bank officials said they will be upgrading the aging security system as soon as possible. Until then, security guards will be on patrol around the clock."
Superman nodded to one of the officials in the bank and then disappeared in a trail of red and blue. "Thanks to Superman, only one hostage had been shot. He is in stable condition at Metropolis General."
Lois breathed deeply and took another spoonful of ice cream, letting the spoon hang from her mouth as she changed the channel back to the game again. She was a mess, wasn't she? That was her hero. He'd probably come in the door soon, never speaking a word about what he'd just done, just bringing along a box of pizza.
'Okay,' she said to herself, bringing herself back to her original train of thought. Why didn't he demand to know what she'd been up to in his apartment? Her anger was dissipating as she sucked ice-cream off the spoon.
Just then, the door opened and Clark came back inside. She turned, looked at him, and smiled. He was still wearing his grey suit with that nice tie. A lock of hair was hanging down on one side of his forehead. It was puffed up on top. What did he do to slick it back when he was Superman? Did he wet it? Why didn't it start to puff up when he was on an accident scene for a long time? Surely it must have dried. She tried to remember what she'd seen in his medicine cabinet. Had there been hair gel? She couldn't remember.
She grinned at him, taking the spoon from her mouth. "Hi," she said. Then noticing his empty hands, added, "Where's the pizza?"
"Oh!" he said, suddenly remembering what he'd forgotten to do. He patted his pocket, "Forgot my wallet." He slipped into his bedroom. "Got it," he called as he dashed up the stairs and left again.
"Humph!" Lois said and turned back around. He never took his wallet out of his pocket, did he? Of course he didn't! She paused. Where did his wallet go when he was wearing the suit? Did he come home to change each time? Was there time for that?
She got up quickly and went to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. There it was. Hair gel. Clark doesn't use hair gel.
Remembering the moment when she'd come in to his apartment with him, she wondered if he had heard her putting the suitcase back. Panic raced up her spine again as she remembered. Big deal. She did stuff like this all the time, she told herself, seating herself back on the couch and poking the spoon back into the ice cream. And anyway, he was the one who should be on the hot seat.
He's the one who's been lying all this time.
She poked around in her ice cream, remembering her moments with Superman. She knew from the look in his Clark's eyes…Superman's eyes, that Clark cared about her a great deal. Sure, he'd hidden it pretty well since she'd told him not to fall for her, but he had anyway. Much more discreetly than the way she'd fallen for Superman. That was probably why she felt so comfortable with both of them.
She should go home. What was she doing here, anyway? She needed to change. She needed to sort her head out. She'd not come over here to watch the game. She'd been over here to investigate Superman and find out if he was Clark Kent when he wasn't rescuing people.
She was torn between grief over losing Superman, anger at Clark, and satisfaction for having accomplished what she'd set out to do this morning.
The door opened again. "Got it!" Clark announced, skipping lightly down the steps the way he always did. He turned on the light at the end of the couch as he set the pizza on the coffee table and went to the kitchen for the juice container.
"Clark, do you have anything I could wear?" Lois asked. "I'm going to ruin this suit if I sit here and eat pizza in this suit." He was looking at the tub of ice-cream she was holding against her chest. She looked down at it sheepishly. "Well, yeah," she said and waved the spoon off to the side of her shoulder, and then got up to put it back in the freezer.
"You upset about something, Lois?" Clark asked, pulling the juice from the refrigerator.
"Why do you ask?" She loved that line. It was good for diverting questions she didn't want to answer.
"Well…" Clark smiled at her, his straight white teeth showing just a bit as they always did when he was teasing her. "You're eating my ice cream.
"Oh that," Lois waved the spoon nonchalantly and glanced across at the game.
"Yeah, that," Clark said, laying a hand on her shoulder and smiling. "Here," he said, "I've probably got something that would fit you." He disappeared into his bedroom. She could hear him opening and closing his drawers.
Would he notice that she'd pawed through his drawers? Of course he would, this was Clark, Mr. Just-So Neatness himself.
Actually, this was Superman! Her eyes followed him. Well, she really hadn't made a mess. She'd only lifted the edges of the piles. It'd been pretty obvious there weren't any red clothes in the drawers.
"Lois, my mom left some clothes here the last time they came out. Will these fit you?" He held up a pair of pants. She came over to the arch separating the bedroom from the rest of the apartment.
"Thanks, Clark," she said, taking them as he pulled a grey Smallville High t-shirt from his top drawer and handed it to her as well. "I'll just go change in the bathroom," she said awkwardly, smiling and backing out of the bedroom doorway.
When she'd gone, he gave in to his curiosity, flashed over to the couch and picked up the remote. He pulled down the lead crystal glasses he wore, mostly for his disguise, but also to keep him from inadvertently looking at things he shouldn't be seeing, like Lois changing in the bathroom. He zeroed in on the fingerprints on the back of the remote. Most were his own, but there were a few new ones, Lois'. He sped over to the closet and compared them to the ones on the door. He knew she'd been snooping. He opened the closet and quickly scanned the items, surprised to find her prints on the sides of one of his running shoes. He quickly scanned the tie rack for her fingerprints. There they were. The suitcase hadn't been pushed back as far as it usually was. He took it out and examined it. Her fingerprints were all over it. On the handle, on the sides, on the gold lettering. He drew in a deep breath, realizing she knew all about him.
Hearing the bathroom door knob turn, he flashed back over to the couch, sat down, and pulled a piece of pizza out. Lois came out of the bathroom, shaking her silky hair out of the back of the t- shirt. It fell into place as it always did; cradling her face.
"So what did you do this afternoon after I left?" he asked her, biting the end off the piece of pizza in his hands and looking up through his eyelashes at her.
Lois shrugged and pulled a piece out of the box for herself. "Well, I was thinking of going for a walk with you, to talk about what Polly had said, but you'd already disappeared," she said, equally offhandedly. "Like usual. I searched the whole neighborhood for you and you were gone."
"So, are we going to go to that SAVED meeting she was talking about?"
Lois looked up at him, not knowing exactly where she wanted to go with this. Maybe she could just play stupid. He must have thought her to be incredibly stupid to have overlooked so many things in the past. "I wondered what I'd find out from talking to that Michael guy."
She was so used to taking everything he said at face value. Here he was, leading her along again. He was such a jerk! Then she reflected on what she was doing. What *was* she doing anyway? Who was the real jerk here? He had a secret. She'd found out his secret. He was still lying to cover it up. She was lying to keep him from knowing she had discovered it. She looked at his face. Superman's face. Because the glasses reflected the action on the television, it wasn't too easy to see his eyes through them. It never was, was it? She snapped out of it.
"Want to go with me to talk to him?" Lois asked idly. What a stupid question. They weren't going to go over there together; she'd already talked to him. One thing about lies, they sure multiplied quickly. She changed the subject when he didn't answer. It was time to let him squirm around in his lies, instead. "Did you see Superman when you were out today? I see he saved the day again at a big pileup this afternoon."
This was a typical question she would have asked him any other day, she thought. Why did it sound so silly now? She took a deep breath and relaxed back onto the couch. This would be good. She didn't like the hot seat too much. He was pretty used to it, though, she guessed.
Clark launched into his oft used excuse, "I heard about the accident and took a taxi over there and talked to Superman. Perry's going to want an article on that…exactly what happened…you know, maybe a follow-up on truck accidents…tire sabotage, drivers drinking or working too many hours without sleep."
He played along at this foolish game. Maybe it wasn't a foolish game, maybe she still didn't know. But she'd been suspicious. Leave no stone unturned, that was Lois. But what about the suitcase? She knew it was his now. What about the fingerprints on the tie hook? She must have found the suits. Yes, she had to know. Did he dare tell her if she didn't know? What was she going to do with this information? Nobody knew his secret except his parents.
He'd never told a soul. He wouldn't be thinking about letting Lois in on the secret either, except that she may have already found out. Did he want her to know? Eventually, she'd have to know, but not while she still had that crush on Superman. One day, if she ever came to love him instead of Superman, he'd tell her, but not a moment before.
"I called the story in before I came home. Perry won't be too upset about us wasting the day today."
"Wasting the day, Clark?" Lois rebutted him. "Do you think it was a waste of time talking to Polly? Do you think it's a waste of time trying to find out who Superman is?" She remembered her fairy tale experiences with Superman, why she'd gone to all this trouble today. She sighed, to give him the idea that nothing had changed for her. "He's so handsome Clark. He just means the world to me. I only wish he felt the same way about me." She peeked a sideways look at his reaction. "Don't you think?" She looked up at him directly and smiled.
He had heard all he wanted of her fawning over Superman. What did she think he was anyway, an emotionless looser? Superman this…Superman that.
"I just wish he cared about me like I care about him!" Lois continued to taunt her partner, knowing full well that he had feelings for her. But he WAS Superman.
He pulled the pizza back from his mouth. "Lois, do you have to do this again? Can't you just drop it? Don't you know I have feelings? Maybe I don't want to hear about how much you want Superman and how little you think of me?" he blurted.
"Why, Clark, are you jealous?"
He wished she hadn't come over. Maybe there was a reason to leave, or to ask her to leave.
Lois was startled as he got up and left the room, heading toward the bathroom. She expected to hear the door slam, but it didn't.
Clark sat on the edge of the tub, his elbows on his knees, and his cheeks on his palms. She was so much trouble! She was so blind! She was so…so… He stood up and looked at himself in the mirror. He took off his glasses, spun into his suit, and looked at himself again. He noticed her fingerprints on the edge of the glass where she'd opened the medicine cabinet. He opened it and scanned the bottles of aftershave. They were polka dotted with her prints. He took one down. The lid had her prints on it, too. He scanned around; the hair gel had her prints on also. So she knew he wore hair gel, even though his hair was puffed up at work. She'd checked out his aftershave, too! He closed the cabinet door and scanned down to the cupboard beneath the counter. Her prints were on the handles. He opened the doors, but didn't see any prints on the cleaner containers.
He pursed his lips and put his hands on his hips, looking back at himself in the mirror. He spun back into his clothes. She had really searched his place! Had she found the suits? He pulled down his glasses and looked through the several walls to the suits and boots in his closet. Sure enough, her prints were on them. Well, she knew, that was for certain, unless she thought he was keeping Superman's suits for him. No, she was way, waaaay too smart for that one.
Why had he just reacted to her taunting him for being jealous? It usually just rolled off his back. Was it because she had gotten too close to his secret? The lines between Superman and Clark were getting too blurry? Wasn't this what he'd tried to avoid, having her fall for him because he was Superman? Why would she care if Clark was jealous, anyway? A feather in her cap, that's all.
He splashed water on his face and buried it in the soft towel hanging on the rack. He wished he could just yell, 'Help, Superman!' It was so much easier saving the day than trying to figure Lois out, than trying to talk to her! Than trying to hide anything from her, or get her to do things his way, like fall for him first.
He thought again about her massive crush on Superman while she was just friends with Clark. He thought about his two identities. He'd been keeping this secret for his whole life.
Keeping a secret eats at you, he'd heard someone say once. It does. It eats away at you. You build walls to surround it. You learn ways to defend those walls. You dig moats and trenches to keep every drop of investigation away from it. It becomes so huge it nearly consumes all your time, all your energy, at least when someone gets near it. It would help if he were just the commander of the army, if there were soldiers all around the walls who could let him know what was going on. Maybe that's what his senses were for. His mind was reeling. He heard her approach the door before she knocked.
He noticed her suit and slip hanging on the back of the door. A paper was on the floor beneath it. He picked it up and read it.
"Clark?" Lois was knocking on the door. "Clark, I'm sorry."
He straightened his tie, and pushed his glasses back up his nose and the paper in his pocket before opening the door. Her eyes were red and watery. She was actually sorry she'd upset him, driven him so far that he'd lashed out at her? She wasn't usually sorry about making him mad.
She threw her arms around him and hugged him. Clark put an arm around her back and laid his other hand on her soft dark hair, stroking it gently, as he leaned his cheek against her head. She smelled good. She felt warm. She was sincerely remorseful.
"I'm sorry, too, Lois, I shouldn't have yelled at you like that. It's just," he hesitated, "I've been bottling up my feelings for you for so long, it's just so hard." He stroked her head again and hugged her, turning his head to kiss the top of hers.
She began to sob quietly against his chest. Thinking about what he must be feeling. He was her friend and her partner, so naturally she'd shared her romantic fantasy about Superman with him. She'd swooned over Superman from the first time she'd met him, which just happened to be on the second day she and Clark had worked together. Boy, he'd carried this pain for awhile. This pain must have just been a part of their relationship, something that went with being friends with Lois Lane.
She'd been hiding from a relationship with a real man for a long time, ever since that last bad relationship had ended. Had Superman just been safe, the man she'd never have? Here was Clark, a real man. Well, in a way, anyway. He certainly had real human feelings.
They let go of each other and walked back to the couch. Clark sat down first, and Lois sat beside him, resting her head on his side while he put his arm over her shoulders. They didn't talk. Neither of them knew what to say. Lois was feeling guilty for snooping in his apartment. Clark was feeling bad for yelling at Lois, for lying to her, for being her fantasy man, and upset that she'd found out who he was. What was she going to do with that information?
They sat for a long time pretending to watch the game. The pizza was nearly gone; the jug of juice was empty. Lois liked leaning against Clark. He was good to her. It felt good to be beside him, trusting him, in spite of this big secret life he'd been leading behind her back. Was she content with whatever their relationship was?
She felt guilty for snooping into his private life. She wasn't ready to talk about what she'd found out. She might not ever be ready to do that. It was just too big, too much of a life changing experience.
She looked at the gold watch on her wrist. "Oh my gosh, it's getting late, I'd better get going,"
Clark took his arm back down and leaned forward, looking at her as she stood up. "Lois? Why did you break into my apartment?"
Her resolve to keep quiet fell along with her countenance as the words just poured out. "Clark. I'm sorry. I just had to know. I kept looking at the picture and thinking about the letters on that suitcase. I just had to find out if CK stood for Clark Kent."
"You forgot to lock the door, you know. I always lock the door, except to the balcony. You also dropped this in the bathroom." He pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to her.
It was her list of similarities between Clark and Superman. She took a deep breath and took it, looking over it. Then she quickly crumpled it up and stuffed it into the pocket of the pants she had borrowed.
"Lois, we've got to talk," Clark said putting his hands gently on her shoulders.
"Clark," Lois began. "I had to find out."
"And did you?"
She reached out to hug him and his arms went around her, holding her closely. "Oh Clark!" She wailed, tears streaming down her face. As the floods subsided enough to speak she sobbed, "I feel like I've lost my two dearest friends in the whole world. The Superman I loved doesn't really exist, and now I don't know my partner, anymore!"
How it tore at him when she cried. He wanted to move heaven and earth to mend her broken heart. "Lois," Clark began slowly when her body had stopped shaking. "I'm so sorry. I just couldn't tell you. It's so dangerous for anyone to know. I couldn't take that chance with you, Lois. I was going to tell you eventually. At least, when I was sure you'd stand by me forever, once I knew for sure you loved me as much as you loved Superman. But that time never came. It may never come." He stopped talking, realizing how much he'd said.
She met his eyes. So he did still have feelings for her. That meant Superman did, too.
He touched her cheek with his palm, "But you wanted to know now." He let out a deep sigh. "I'm just so sorry you had to find out this way.
Tears filled her eyes again as she held him tightly.
"Can I take you flying?" Clark asked, wanting to comfort her. She nodded against his chest.
He peeled her arms away from his waist, backed away and held up a finger. "Watch this!" He spun into his suit while her mouth fell open.
"Wow, I knew Superman…I mean you…were fast, but I had no idea you changed into each other like that.
He grinned sheepishly. Nobody does. "Here." He scooped her up and flew up into the silent night sky, higher and higher, above the clouds until the stars surrounded them. He sat just above a cloud and held her on his lap.
"Lois?" He finally said. "Will you keep my secret? My life as Clark Kent depends on it."
She nodded. "I never intended to publish your identity and get a Pulitzer; I'd only gone searching to find out who you really were because I needed to know. I just couldn't stand for Superman to have a secret I didn't know. I wanted so much to get to know him better, to see if he could feel about me the way I felt about him.
Clark was touched and pulled her close to him again, overcome with emotion. He bent his head down, tipped her chin up, and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Lois Lane, even if I really think you just have a big crush on Superman."
She smiled and said, "Maybe. But maybe it's more than that. Do you think we should find out? Of course, it is pretty weird that you're still my partner who I only like as a friend. And I do have rules about relationships with men I work with. But maybe I can manage to get past that!" she flirted teasingly.
He touched her lips tenderly with his, feeling the warm softness of them, the scent of her body, the sound of her heartbeat.
"Who knows," he said finally, "maybe it's more than a crush and hero worship. You're kissing Clark and you're not disgusted, right?"
She whacked him gently, "You never disgusted me, Clark. Actually, on the contrary…well…oh…never mind. Just kiss me again."
When they finally looked into each others' eyes, they had left the clouds and life, as they knew it, far beneath them.