By Marnie Rowe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2004
Summary: A rusty nail, a strong gust of wind, a subconsciously significant purchase; these, combined with a pool with high board, all conspire to reveal more than Clark intends…
Clark stood on the edge of the high board, looking like just another vacationer at the resort, and looked around casually. He was looking for Lois, who had managed to disappear on him yet again. Seeing as he could not just take to the sky here and search her out, the high board was the logical compromise.
The family resort where they had been sent to was a busy place; kids were running all over the place, yelling and shrieking occasionally when an especially strong gust of wind hit wet skin. It did not keep them out of the water, though; they were climbing in and out of the pool often enough to have the majority of the surrounding deck wet. Wise mothers were situated to be far enough back to avoid most of the flying water and still keep a watchful eye on their rambunctious offspring.
Fathers and grandparents dropped in to the area haphazardly as they finished or departed for scheduled activities the resort offered, picking up or dropping off other children of various ages. Teenagers were strewn about artfully, trying to catch the attention of their peers of the opposite sex, adding to the throng that Lois had disappeared into. Lois had been hot on the trail of their lead when Clark had paused to help a young mother with one of her children; when he had looked up again, Lois was long gone. She had not even noticed that she had left him behind.
Lois forgetting about her partner was nothing new; she was unable to stand still and would go where her instincts and any information that she managed to glean took her. When she was working, no friendships or any other distractions were allowed to interfere. It was how she got the great stories, but she had an unfortunate habit of leaving him out of the loop; it didn't matter that he was her best friend or her partner.
'Must come from all the time that she spent working alone,' he mused to himself. So he spent about half of his time when he was working with her keeping track of her whereabouts. He didn't mind, really; it was just something else that he had to keep in mind, like her love for chocolate and her penchant for being able to be in just the right place at the wrong time.
He located her fairly quickly from his vantage point and made a mental note of where she was in the throng below as he let himself fall into a graceful dive. Surfacing again, he made his way to the edge of the pool and climbed out, shaking his head to muss up his hair again Clark-style. Carelessness would get him found out, even if it was just a similar temporary hairstyle with his alter ego.
When he caught up to where he had seen Lois, she didn't seem to notice he had not been by her side the whole time except to say, "Where were you?" Clark rolled his eyes in exasperation but Lois didn't give him any time to reply anyway as she told him what she had found out while they walked to a place they were not as likely to be overheard.
"Okay, here's the deal," came her fierce whisper. "See that guy over there? By the pool kiosk. Seems that he is not what you would call the typical family resort-goer, but he has been a regular here for the last two months now." Her excited face turned to Clark as she gloated, "I think we got 'em!"
Clark's heart contracted from the sheer beauty that radiated from his partner's face. He wished that he were the one to have put it there, as he always did, instead of the story. He was so caught up in his wishful daydreams he kept pace with Lois in an absentminded haze.
It was the combined effects of his invulnerable hide and this contemplative thinking that was his downfall. He never even noticed when his swim shorts caught on the nail and blithely walked on, but he definitely noticed the next thing that happened, if a tad belatedly.
A loud ripping sound was followed by a breeze on parts of him that were not supposed to be exposed to the public. The wind picked up with a strong gust at that particular moment and was actually strong enough that it caught the light nylon scraps of fabric and kited them off into the sky. Clark stood for a moment openmouthed in shock and watched as his decency fled with the wind, and then made quick work of getting into some cover.
Thankfully the resort was carefully landscaped so that there was lots of vegetation around for him to use as a shield. He restrained himself from using super speed only with supreme effort as he gracelessly scrambled to a thick and luxuriant bush. The last thing that he wanted was for some impressionable youngster — or the youngster's parent or grandparent, for that matter — to come tearing down the path and see him in his altogether.
"Lois… Psst. Lois!" Clark did not want to yell because that might draw someone else's attention to his predicament but his partner had somehow seemingly become deaf in the last five minutes. "Lo-is!"
Finally. It seemed like it had been an eternity that he had been hiding in the inadequate cover of his chosen bush with the horrible feeling of imminent exposure. Lois heard him.
"Clark? Where are you? What…?" Lois had been looking around to see where Clark had disappeared to but then she caught sight of him mostly hidden in the bushes and walked over.
"Clark, what are you doing in there? We are on assignment here, you can commune with nature on your own time and… oh!" Lois had been about to ask Clark what his problem was when she saw, quite clearly, exactly what it was. Her mind shifted into its problem-solving gear as she absently noted that Clark was darned cute when he was embarrassed — all those red cheeks…
She made a quick mental inventory of what she was wearing. A simple black tankini with a sheer geometric patterned cover-up in dark earth tones. No help there. A towel! Yes, she would go back to the pool and grab a towel for him to use to wrap around himself.
"Stay down, I am going to try and grab a towel from the pool kiosk for you," Lois told Clark and spun on her heel before he could reply.
Walking quickly, she was back by the pool in no time, but when she plotted her course to head to the kiosk she saw that the man that she and Clark had been investigating was still sitting beside it. "Darn it!" She muttered under her breath as her eyes swept over the deck of the pool, searching for other options.
'Just my luck,' she thought to herself in disgust as she looked around, 'the one time that I could use an abandoned towel, there isn't one to be… ahem… appropriated.' The sheer crowd clogging the deck made risk of discovery much higher as well. Getting hauled in as a thief was the last thing that her partner needed her to do. Let alone explaining herself.
Scanning her immediate environs, Lois noticed a side entrance to the resort's lobby. The gift shop! She would just go and buy Clark another suit, or a pair of shorts, or something.
In the gift shop itself Lois was stymied for a moment — what size did Clark wear? Medium, she guessed after a moment's thought. She walked over to a huge bin that had a banner with SALE stenciled on it in large letters. She did not think that Clark would care that she got something from the bargain bin for him to wear. Right now *anything* would be an improvement to him.
She chose the most sedate thing that they had, a pair of speedo-style briefs in neon red, and brought them up to the cash. She charged them to her room and then went back to where she had left Clark.
"Here." She thrust the blindingly red suit at Clark.
He grabbed the suit and put it on without even looking at what she had given him, sighing in relief when he felt decently covered again. It was only then that he looked down and saw what she had gotten for him to wear. He made an appalled face.
"Bright enough, Lois? I thought that we were trying to keep a low profile while we were here. There is no way that I can be inconspicuous in these!"
"I already thought of that. You get to be the man in the pool while I stay on deck. That way you can get fairly close and still be not immediately obvious. Remember, watch to see if anything changes hands and try to find out the room numbers if they are both staying at the resort here. We can do some snooping later on if need be. I'll stay on the deck in case the guy he meets is a day passer; that way I can follow him and get his car make and license plate number."
Clark rolled his eyes as Lois laid everything out for him like he was a rank amateur. "Lois, all I needed to know is where I was supposed to be. Jeez." There were times that he was sure that his partner still thought of him as the wet- behind- the-ears newbie of the Planet.
Lois continued to give him her hurried instructions as they retraced the path they had used away from the pool. Clark ignored what she was saying to pay attention to the way that her mouth was moving along with her other facial expressions. Her arms were twitching as she fought her impulses to put on a show, not wanting to draw attention to them by any grandiose gestures.
This time, however, he made sure to keep some of his attention always focused on his surroundings, even though he was sure that part of the reason that Lois had gotten him the brief- style swimsuit was to head off any problems of his mishap recurring.
He wondered if her mention of getting him a towel reminded her of that day that she had picked him up and made that one very cute faux pas. He would always remember that line, 'I said nine. I thought that you would be naked… er — ready.' The way that her eyes had been glued to his waistline but then snapped up had made him feel very good. If that was egotistical or macho, then so be it; it was just too bad that afterwards she had avoided ever really looking at him again — ever.
Clark sighed as he belatedly realized that Lois had stopped at the edge of the pool deck, and he shot a questioning look back her way. She frowned and motioned him to go and get in the water while she lingered out of sight for a moment. She was mouthing, 'We can't really be seen together here. Go!'
Shrugging, Clark walked over to the pool edge and made a shallow dive cleanly into the water. Surfacing, he began to do a lazy crawl to the other end, making it look as if he was just another guest at the hotel enjoying the water.
At the deep end he floated for a while on his back, letting the sun bask on his face and chest as it recharged his energy. The warm embrace of the water gently rocked him as he lay just under its surface until he thought that he could fall asleep, which of course made watching their guy a bit difficult. Seeing as that was the whole point of this exercise, he thought that maybe he should get moving again. Shaking the fog of relaxation from his brain, Clark swam to the edge and hauled himself out of the water.
Lois watched from the deck at the pool's shallow end as her partner hauled his water- sleeked form from the water. Her mouth dried as the muscles of his back and legs flexed.
She had never forgotten the one other time that she had seen Clark in a state of undress; it had been even more unsettling then because she had not had her mental defenses in place and her attraction to the man had hit her like a ton of bricks.
Clark walked the short way to the ladder of the high diving board and began to climb effortlessly. He was oblivious to her watching his every move, concentrating on his task at hand. Lois was grateful that he didn't seem to notice when she could not help herself from watching him — now more than ever as all his muscles were exposed by the very brief suit that she had bought for him. They rippled under his bronzed skin, making him look like some kind of Grecian Adonis.
Lois absently let her gaze stay glued to the almost naked form of her partner as she wondered if her subconscious had been the one to pick this particular swimsuit for Clark. Then her breath caught in her throat as he launched himself with a powerful thrust of his legs from the board. He seemed to hang in the air for a moment, his face serene, arms extended at his sides at first and then sweeping up to meet above his head.
The pose seemed somehow familiar to Lois. She knew that she had seen something just like it very recently… but where?
Clark's form knifed into the water of the pool as his perfectly executed dive kicked up almost no splash. He went all the way down to the bottom of the pool and swam along the floor. His eerily distorted appearance was wavy and indistinct. His olive skin tinted blue and the obnoxious red of the speedo that she had bought muted to a dark red by the blue shade of the water.
Even with the imprecise view that she had of her partner, Lois could see that his hair was slicked back cleanly to his skull and the pose that had seemed so familiar to her earlier as he began his dive became clear in her mind. The clues added up to one whole and Lois knew without a doubt in her mind what Clark had been hiding from her. He was *Superman*!
She was so preoccupied that she almost missed when their quarry met with his contact. She noted that the contact was a day passer — as she had guessed — and followed him discreetly to note down the make and model of his car along with the license plate number. All her reporting actions were done on autopilot — her mind was entirely taken up with her discovery of whom her partner really was.
As soon as she was finished with her end of the assignments, Lois went back to her room. She was not up to meeting up with her liar of a partner at the moment; her feelings were way too confused and muddied.
On one hand she wanted to exult that she had figured it out, that she knew who Superman was when he was not flying around the city in his tights — but on the other, she wanted to cry from the hurt that Clark had not trusted her. After all, they were friends — maybe even best friends — and you told your friends the important stuff.
This was rather important.
Maybe it was that he didn't know how to tell her? She could understand why he had not bothered to tell her at first — Mad Dog Lane was not someone that you shared a confidence with if it was the slightest bit newsworthy — but as they got to know each other better and became friends he could have told her at any time. But how did you tell your best friend that you had been lying to them from the word go?
"Hey, Lois, guess what? I'm not really a mild- mannered gentleman from Kansas, but an alien from outer space who spends his spare time flying around saving humanity from themselves." Yeah, that would go over real well, Lois thought sarcastically.
Lois groaned and let her head fall into her hands as she remembered all the times that she had actively discouraged Clark. That time when she had thrown out that condescending line of 'Don't fall for me, farmboy — I don't have time for it.' Or even how she had told him that she had figured him out, that her job was to see beneath the exterior. How pompous she must have sounded.
He had thrown so many hints her way, too. 'Lois, I am not your typical male.' The way that he had been so amused at her telling him that she had figured him out. Their second day working together should have tipped her off, when he had rescued the worker in the sewer. He had been identified, for crying out loud, and she had only told him to bring a spare set of clothes to work.
Wait a minute… she had told Clark to bring a spare set of clothes to work and then Superman had appeared for the first time shortly after that — saying, of all the strange things when questioned by Amy Platt, that his mother had made his costume. Could she have been any more blind? Or galactically stupid for that matter?
Hold on… she had told him to bring a spare set of clothes and only after that did Superman appear. Maybe her careless words to her enforced partner had been the catalyst that actually created Superman! The thought was more than a bit scary that she had been part of the creation of such a huge hero. It was also very flattering and ego boosting if she was going to be totally honest with herself. She, Lois Lane, had given Clark the idea for his Superman persona as well as his name.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door to her room and Lois jumped. "What?" she yelled at the person who dared to intrude on her.
"Lois? It's Clark. Where did you go? You disappeared from the pool area and didn't meet me like you said you were going to. Is there something wrong? Do you need anything?" Clark's voice, coming through the door, sounded worried and Lois castigated herself for not thinking that he might get concerned.
"No, nothing, Clark, I'm fine. I just needed to lie down for a bit. I think that I got a bit too much sun today, that's all. I'll meet you down in the dining room for some supper in about an hour, okay?" She called back to her partner.
Clark's muffled, "Okay," sounded for the most part reassured and reminded Lois that her warning of not falling for her had been too late as far as Clark was concerned, if she was any judge of the matter. She wondered if love at first sight was a Kryptonian thing or if the way that he had fallen for her was uniquely a Clark thing.
Lois used this time alone to think. Finally she came to a few conclusions. One being that she understood why Clark had never told her. Two, that she would like to get to know the real man, the one that was both Clark and Superman. And three, that somehow she had to let Clark know that she now knew his secret. They could not advance their relationship in any way unless he knew that she had figured it out.
She knew that one of the first things that he was going to ask was *how* she had figured it out; she decided to let him know that she knew and answer his question at the same time. She would put her plan in motion as soon as they went down to dinner, or at least shortly afterwards. Lois glanced at her watch and jumped to get ready when she saw how close it was to the time that she was supposed to meet Clark.
Making short work of her shower, make-up, hair and getting dressed, Lois made it down to the lobby moments before Clark met her. She couldn't believe how nervous she felt now that she knew.
Lois studied Clark with new eyes as he crossed the lobby to meet her. She began to see how she had been fooled for so long. The different hairstyle he adopted as Superman and the lack of glasses made his face look rounder when he was the hero. And the tight spandex suit he wore accented his muscles and height in a way that his regular clothes tended to hide. Then he was in front of her. "Hey, feeling better?" He asked her softly. The concern in his eyes was plain for her to see and Lois wondered how she had blinded herself to it for so long.
Lois ducked her head shyly and said, "Yes, thanks, Clark." And then, to his obvious surprise and delight, hugged him. What he didn't notice was that she used the hug to filch his room key from his pocket.
Together they entered the restaurant and got a table. After ordering, they sat together in a companionable silence. Lois was finding it very difficult to keep her newfound knowledge to herself and so she launched into what she had found out when she followed the day passer guy back towards his car. Clark hmmed and added some comments about what their quarry had done after she had left.
During their conversation the food arrived and their shop talk continued as they ate. They began to discuss the steps that they would have to take when they got back to the city the next day. When they were done with dinner, Clark asked her if she would like to have dessert.
She was sure that she surprised him by saying 'Yes,' but then asked, "Would you mind if I asked you to order it for me? I have to visit the ladies room." She succeeded in concealing her smirk of triumph when he reacted predictably.
"No, not at all, Lois, I would be glad to — just let me know what you would like."
Distracted by her plans and not really thinking, Lois said, "You know what I like, Clark, order something for me, your choice."
'Clark is such the perennial boy-scout. Sheesh, it makes him positively predictable at times.' Lois left the restaurant and turned as if to go to the bathroom but instead went past the lavatories and up the back stairs to Clark's room after quickly grabbing the bag that she had put together earlier in her own room.
After using the room key she had liberated from Clark's jacket pocket, Lois set about her plan, thinking ironically how this time she had been the one to use a spurious excuse to cover the real reason that she was gone. She had picked her timing for a reason as well, finding out that Lois knew his secret, and that she had figured it out all on her own was going to be Clark's just desserts. He deserved to sweat for a bit when he saw what she was setting up.
'If he sweats…' The thought surfaced before Lois had a chance to censor it. She thought sharply to herself, 'stop that, you ninny; you are just going to get all worked up again for no purpose.'
To distract her from any other destructive thoughts, Lois surveyed her handiwork. The long- sleeved light blue bodysuit wouldn't have been her first choice, but she was limited with what she had packed for this undercover stint. It would do, and the same went for the faded blue jeans that she had gotten from rummaging through Clark's things looking for something suitable.
Her red sundress's skirt was spread out over the bedspread in a credible imitation of Superman's cape when he was in flight; the bodice of the dress was tucked under the bodysuit so that it didn't detract from the effect. The crowning touch, of course, was the brand new bathing suit that Lois had bought for him in the gift shop.
She stepped back to get the whole picture when she was done and decided that it was missing something. Then she had it; she remembered that in her bathroom there had been some complimentary strawberry bath beads. Quickly she went to check if Clark had gotten some of his own. Bingo! He had, and they were Goldenrod, yellowish in color where hers had been hot pink. Perfect.
Scooping them up, she carried them to where her collage of clothing lay on the bed and carefully made an 'S' out of the beads. Then she stood back to get another look and was satisfied. There was no way that Clark could mistake that someone had stumbled onto his secret.
Noticing how much time had passed even when she had been hurrying — no wonder Clark's excuses always sounded so lame, he never knew how long he was going to be — Lois almost ran back down to the dining room. She stopped and took a moment to compose herself before entering, not wanting to appear like she had been rushing. She hoped that Clark would not ask too many questions; she wanted to save most of the talking for after he found her attempt at artwork in his room.
When Lois approached the table, Clark stood up, reminding Lois yet again of an old-fashioned gentleman. It was definitely something that she could get used to — this being treated with respect, yet not being underestimated or coddled. Clark treated her like an equal, he always had. He never let her get away with anything and would call her on any high jinks she pulled, which was another thing that she valued in him. He also gave her full credit when she was due it, something else that was rare in this day and age. Now if only they could be totally honest with each other from here on in — Lois had a feeling that their friendship could be something profound.
Right now, though, Clark had a few things to explain. She had already gone over and accepted in her mind why he had never told her about his secret, but she still wanted to hear his reasons. They could be most enlightening.
Lois glanced at the table before she sat down and saw that Clark had ordered something for her that she would never have had the nerve to order for herself in public — The Death by Chocolate Mudslide. Her eyes lit up and she had to suppress her squeal of delight. Spontaneously she hugged Clark a second time, almost forgetting to take advantage of the embrace to slide his room key back into his jacket pocket.
"Clark, you obviously know me too well! Thank you, this is perfect. But you know that you are going to have to help me eat it… I know that it's such a hardship to ask of someone, but you'll do it, right?" Lois teased her best friend lightly. Clark was still standing where he had been when she released him, any questions that he had stunned out of his head.
Dazedly he managed to reply, "Sure, no problem, whatever I can do for you, Lois." It was obvious that he really didn't know what he was agreeing to, he was just babbling affirmatively.
Lois suppressed a grin at being able to so totally distract Clark with such a simple gesture of affection — a man who could bounce bullets off his chest was made cotton-headed by a simple hug from her.
Leisurely, they ate the gooey confection together, laughing as they slopped on their clothes. "Lord, you would think that we were a couple of kids with all this food that we are wearing," Lois remarked wryly as she surveyed the ruins of her blouse.
Clark grinned engagingly and said, "Yeah, I think that kids might have been neater — or maybe just smarter — because they would have been wearing bibs."
Lois laughed at his sally, and then suggested, "I guess that we mature adults have to go and change our shirts before we hit the resort night life, hmm?"
Clark agreed and they trooped off towards their rooms, talking amicably the entire way. When they reached Clark's, he opened the door, still talking, and absently waved her in ahead of him.
Lois wanted to shout with glee; she had not even needed to maneuver her way into his room to see his reaction to her little collage attempt.
Lois felt like she was standing on tenterhooks. The suspense of waiting was making the breath catch in her throat. Acting normal was becoming very difficult, but then, finally, Clark saw the extra fabric so carefully arranged on the bedcover. The shock of what he saw stopped Clark in mid-word, which didn't bother Lois in the least, as she had ceased to listen to what he was saying when he had waved her into the room ahead of him.
What he had been talking about left his head entirely when Clark saw what was on the bed. He glanced over to see if maybe Lois had missed the cobbled together 'art attack' of his suit, but no dice; she had entered the room before him, and she was not one to miss something quite so obvious.
She was looking at him with narrowed eyes, but oddly without the surprise that he would have expected to see from her and things began to fall into place. He groaned. His reaction to the mock- up must have been very telling to an astute woman like Lois; and she had obviously been watching for it. And now that her suspicions were confirmed — she wanted enlightenment.
"Clark, care to explain?" she asked him in what he thought was a deceptively normal tone of voice while she gestured at the collection of fabric topping his bedspread. She was not asking him to tell her who had done it — she was asking why he had kept the secret from her for so long.
Clark inventoried the bits and pieces; the red sundress, his faded blue jeans, her pale blue bodysuit, the golden bath beads arranged into the famous 'S', and finally the new red bathing suit, which had probably been what had clued Lois in. He thought ironically that he had never known his partner was such an artist; he knew her talents at improvisation, though, so he didn't understand why he was so surprised. He should've known that if Lois ever did discover it on her own, that she would find a distinctive way of cluing him into the way she had figured it out — hence the prominent placement of the new bathing suit.
Clark took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose; he thought that he might be getting a headache. Lois was the only known cause for giving the 'Man of Steel' a headache. This was a claim to fame that she might even like, he thought with an internal grin. Wisely, though, he refrained from mentioning it to her.
Dropping his hand, he went to put his glasses back on and then stopped abruptly. Why bother? She knew already, so it wasn't like he had to keep up the pretense anymore. He folded up his glasses and placed them down on the bedside table.
Bare-faced, he looked at Lois and quirked one side of his mouth upwards in a self-deprecating smile. Then it struck him. "So that was why you disappeared from the pool after the meet! You weren't suffering from external heatstroke — It was more like internal heatstroke."
Lois nodded in the affirmative and Clark shook his head, catching sight of the artwork on the bed when he did so. "And when you were gone so long when I was ordering dessert, you were doing this, right?"
"Yeah, and I now know why all your excuses sound so incredibly lame all the time." Lois rolled her eyes. "It's because you can't really match the first thing that comes to mind with how long it's going to take you to do something."
Her smile invited him to share in the humor of the situation. "Yeah, that's the worst. I'm a horrible liar at the best of times and when you put me on the spot, it makes things even worse. Added to that is the fact that I'm not generally thinking about what I am saying when I spout out with some of those, I'm already thinking about what I heard that needs my help," Clark admitted ruefully.
"Well, I guess that it's a good thing that I know now, isn't it? You're not going to have to make up so many excuses anymore — and when you do need one, you're going to have my expertise at your disposal now," Lois offered teasingly.
Clark full out grinned at Lois's sassing of him about his poor excuses for his absences; he had a feeling that he was going to be taking her up on her offer to provide some for him more than she guessed.
"We'll see how much better you are at it than I am. So — I'm guessing that it was the new bathing suit that tipped you off, but would you tell me exactly what it was that made you connect the dots? I mean, when I first put it on, you didn't seem to recognize me then."
"You're right; it was when I watched you dive into the pool when you were wearing the new suit. Your pose seemed very familiar when you were in the air and then, when you were under the water and the depth darkened the new suit to a dark red and tinted your skin blue it went from a niggle to an out-and-out five alarm siren shrieking in my skull. And I knew I was right when I saw your hair; in the water it was slicked back to your skull just like when you are dressed as… well, you know, him." Lois gestured awkwardly to her artwork on the bed, her face reddening.
Clark stared at Lois in consternation; he had never thought of the blue hue in most swimming pools being that powerful. It made sense, though. He had been very comfortable in the air as he dove — he always had to fight the temptation to soar away when he jumped from the high board, or at the very least to slow his descent. Being in the air was the ultimate freedom to him and he guessed that it showed more than he had ever thought. He had been concerned about his hairstyle being linked to his alter ego, but always out of the pool; he hadn't given the underwater aspect the slightest consideration.
"Lois, have I told you lately what a fantastic investigative reporter you are lately?" He asked admiringly. "Off of such a slight resemblance to a full-out ID, you should have been a spy or agent in the NSA. You have the smarts and the eyes for it. I don't think that there is anyone else in the world that would have been able to make that leap quite so effortlessly."
"Yeah, well, what would have I done with my talent for writing then? Write novels on stakeouts? I don't think so, I have my niche."
Clark laughed at her quick riposte, but then sobered a bit. "Hey, I don't want to seem like I'm ungrateful or anything, but I thought that if you ever figured it out on your own, that you would be more mad than you look like you are. Mad, or upset, anyway."
"Well, Clark, during the time that I was all by myself in my room, I went through a few emotions. One of them, as you guessed correctly, was absolute red-hot fury. I thought that we were best friends and you had been lying to me for almost a year, which led me to feeling hurt that you had not trusted me."
Clark abortively tried to cut her off to correct her, but she shook her head at him to stay silent. She wanted to say her piece all in one go.
"I know that you couldn't have told me when we first met. After all, then I was just Mad Dog Lane — someone who you didn't tell secrets to if you wanted them to stay secret — but after we stopped being mere colleagues and graduated to friends, and then to best friends. I then tried to think of how you might have found some way to bring the subject up and I personally couldn't think of a way — not one that would have gone over well, anyway. It was only then, after I had managed to work through the big emotional issues, that I started to think of the way that I had treated you and Superman differently in the past." Lois began to pace, as her agitation needed an outlet.
"The things that I mocked in the farmboy from Kansas were the same things that I admired in the hero — his honesty, kindness, and caring. Then I also began to remember other times with my new perspective, and I have to say, Clark, that diffused any anger or hurt that I might have still been feeling and replaced it with guilt. You could have used your abilities to get ahead any number of ways in several different situations, but you never took advantage, and that makes you a much better person than I am."
"No, Lois, I'm not a better person than anyone else on this planet. Yes, I believe in what Superman stands for — I created him so that I could help without being discovered, but that in itself should tell you that I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I am fallible and have feet of clay just like any other mortal. I make mistakes, I goof off, and I feel envy and jealousy like other men do. Look at the way that I act when you go off with Luthor. Sullen and miserable. For crying out loud, Lois, I was even jealous of myself, because you preferred the man in the costume to the man who worked beside you every day."
Clark ran his hands through his hair in his frustration, rumpling it, and then looked up at Lois with a wry quirk of the lips. "Still think that I am a better person, Lois? You shouldn't, you know; I am hiding who I really am every day of my life to every person that I know so that I can have a semblance of a normal life. Selfishness is a human trait and not very hero-like, I'm afraid, but I have no intentions of changing my modus operandi in the near or far future. I am still going to hide behind the flashy suit to keep my privacy."
"But, Clark, that's more than understandable. Celebrities do it all the time and it doesn't make anybody think any less of them. In fact, I bet that they would love to have a second identity like you do, instead of having to rely on sunglasses and hats," Lois burst out.
Clark couldn't help it; he chuckled. "Do you realize that besides your giving me the idea for the costume, you have saved Superman several times in just that way, Lois?"
Lois frowned at him, confused.
"Any time that I was faltering in my belief in keeping the hero around, I would talk to you and your unflagging support in what he did made me reconsider."
Lois felt awed and humbled; being responsible for the mental health of a superhero was not something that she had ever aspired to. But it was still Clark that she had been helping ultimately and somehow she could accept that more easily, even when she knew that he was also the other man. Which brought her back to her earlier decisions — she had carried out the first two and now she just had to let Clark know the third and see if he was agreeable.
"Clark, you know that I considered you my best friend, right?" His face fell from its hopeful expression. "Well, now I think that I want to know if you really are. I want to get to know the Clark Kent that only your parents know. Do you think that we can do that? Have a totally honest and open relationship?"
Clark's face had brightened as she kept speaking and his answer was to sweep her up into a bear hug and spin her around. She laughed breathlessly as Clark said exuberantly, "Yes, Lois, there is nothing that I would like more."
Giggling at his silliness, Lois asked, "So, are you going to change your shirt so we can go out?" She squealed with surprise as she was dropped inelegantly to the bed. Clark disappeared into a blur and then was standing in front of her, changed, before she had stopped bouncing.
"Wow." Lois had known, but being confronted with incontrovertible proof was still a bit of a shock.
"So, we going to get going or what?"
Lois slapped at Clark. "We're not all super- powered, you ninny, I am going to need a few minutes in your bathroom with my clothes."
"Okay, okay. Sheesh, you Earth women are slow." He ducked as Lois swung at him with the dress she had harvested from her artwork. His laughter followed her into the bathroom and she smiled. She had a feeling that everything was going to work out just fine.