by Yvonne Connell <firstname.lastname@example.org> or <email@example.com>
Submitted March 2004
Summary: Mary Sue moves into her new apartment and receives an unexpected visitor. A comedy in which your wildest dreams might just come true.
Author's Note: My thanks to Wendy Richards and Elena for beta-reading this and laughing in all the right places. Also to many FoLC friends on IRC who also laughed in the right places and convinced me this was worth finishing.
So there I was, sitting on the carpet surrounded by packing cases in my new home, when the doorbell rang. I wasn't expecting anyone — the removals people had long gone, and the phone guy wasn't due until tomorrow — so for a moment I was a bit miffed at whoever it was for interrupting me in mid-unpack. Still, I was curious to find out who was visiting me when I'd only just moved in, so I hauled myself up off the floor and brushed the worst of those irritating polystyrene packing thingies off my clothes. They get everywhere, don't they? Anyway, I ran my fingers through my hair — pointless really, because it was a mess and needed much more than a quick finger-comb — and went to the front door.
A guy dressed in a burgundy jacket, white shirt and tie stood in the hall. I know you, I thought. I couldn't place him exactly, but he had a really familiar face. A darned handsome face.
"Hi," he said pleasantly, holding out his hand. "I'm your neighbour upstairs. I thought I'd come down and introduce myself — I'm -"
The memory banks had just clicked into place and spat out his name. His identity.
Both of them.
*He* was my next door neighbour?!
Okay, girl, you can handle this. Be cool. What's the big deal about shaking hands with your favourite fictional character? Haven't you always wanted to meet him?
I took his hand — wow, so warm and confident — and clasped it firmly, just to show how good I was at greeting popular twentieth century icons. Hey, I do this every day of the week, I demonstrated with my self-assured handshake and welcoming smile.
So what if my heart rate was just hitting the sound barrier and was well on the way to escape velocity? He wasn't to know that…although, come to think of it, he probably did know that. Maybe that explained the slightly bemused expression on his face when I squeaked, "Hi!"
Okay, so we know he can hear sounds higher than a dog can detect, but you don't have to prove it. Lower, girl — you're not Minnie Mouse. I cleared my throat. "Hi, pleased to meet you," I said.
Hmm — cartoon character to telephone sex queen in one easy leap. Better find a middle ground before he thinks you're suffering from split-personality syndrome. "I'm -" I told him my name in a voice which actually approached something like my normal speaking voice. This was definite progress.
"So, how's it going?" he asked. "Have you found the coffee-maker yet?" His face split into an impish smile.
I laughed. "Oh, yes, I made sure that was right on top. Now, if I could only find the coffee…"
His eyebrows raised. "You want some? I could-"
"No, I'm only kidding," I replied hastily. "I know where most things are — it's just deciding where to put them all that's the problem."
He nodded. "I know just what you mean." He turned to go. "Well, I just wanted to say hi," he said. "If you need anything, I'm just upstairs."
"Thanks," I said. "You wouldn't care to put on a quick burst of superspeed and unpack everything for me, would you? It'll only take you a couple of seconds."
No, actually, I didn't say that. I nodded, and replied, "Thanks. Would you like to come in and ravish me?"
Nope, I didn't say that, either. I just said a feeble, "Thanks," and closed the door. Then I opened my mouth to vent my feelings with a few choice words — and promptly shut it again. What if he heard me? I mean, I know he doesn't make a habit of eavesdropping, but he'd surely hear the woman he'd just met if she suddenly yelled "Holy Superman Fetishists!" mere moments after she'd shut the door on him.
So, instead of that, I walked calmly back into the living room, picked up the nearest cushion, and screamed "Arghhh!!!!!!!!!!!!" into its soft depths.
Having got that off my chest, I flopped down on the sofa and contemplated the excitingly wacky situation I now found myself in. Here I was, a staunch Lois and Clark fan who knew every single intimate detail of Clark Kent's and Lois Lane's personal and public lives — and now Clark Kent himself was living in the apartment above mine. Talk about your amazing coincidences!
What should I do? Invite him down for coffee…no, it was two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. Well past coffee time. Afternoon tea and scones? His Mom used to make him tea and scones when he was feeling down, so he obviously liked that — except I didn't have either of his favourite teas, and certainly no scones! Somehow, supermarket bland plus well- travelled cheese crackers didn't have quite the same cache. Anyway, maybe that was a little too obvious. I needed something more casual. A reason to talk to him that wouldn't look like I was trying to interview him.
A quick burst of 'Help Superman!' ?
No, he wouldn't linger as Superman. Besides, I didn't want to get into the whole dual identity thing just yet — it was enough to deal with one living icon in your apartment block, never mind two!
But perhaps a lesser cry for help might do it. What might a person who's just moved in need that a superhero-cum- regular guy might be able to supply? Muscle power was the obvious answer…and what muscles! Pity it was winter, otherwise he might have stripped off his shirt…
Control that thought, girl!
I looked around the room. The removal people had very helpfully placed all my furniture exactly where I'd wanted it. At least, an hour ago I'd thought they'd been helpful — now I thought they'd been very inconsiderate. I'd have to find something which was not only too heavy for me to shift on my own, but was also capable of fitting somewhere else in the apartment. What's more, it would be best if this was a really, really difficult move, so that he couldn't just do it in two minutes flat.
At least he wouldn't be able to cheat and use his powers if I was watching him — although it would be pretty cool if he did. Imagine — my apartment, as arranged by Superman!
If only the darned place wasn't open plan. That made it too easy to move things around.
Looking around, I decided the most complicated move was to make the living area into the bedroom and the bedroom into the living area. That way we'd have to shift the bed, the two sofas, the coffee table and my chest of drawers. The place was small enough that moving that lot around would be pretty tricky.
Why did I want my bedroom next to the kitchen and the living area close to the bathroom? I could just picture his puzzled look when I explained the move to him. Well, because if I had guests sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room, then they were conveniently close to the bathroom, of course! While, at the same time, I'd be able to fetch my breakfast without disturbing them.
So that was sorted — all I had to do was pluck up the courage to go up to his apartment and ask him. Easy.
"Hi, Clark. I just came up to take a tour of your apartment so I can find out if it's the same as on TV. Then I thought you could come downstairs, help me move some furniture pointlessly around, while I watch your muscles rippling sexily under your shirt — and for afters, perhaps you could ravish me?"
"Sure! Just let me warn Lois I'll be out for a couple of hours and then I'm all yours."
Yikes. Was he going out with her yet? Just what point in his life was he at right now? If he was living in his apartment, then they clearly weren't married. Mind you, they'd started their married life in his apartment, so even that wasn't a definite.
He'd said "I'm just upstairs," though, rather than "We're just upstairs," so that probably meant that he was still single.
Phew. Two popular cultural icons *and* Lois Lane was too much for any normal person to cope with on a Sunday afternoon. But were they an item? Did she know The Secret? Was I in danger of sticking foot firmly in mouth if I mentioned anything to do with cheese of the month clubs or emergency dentists appointments?
My hand was still tingling where he'd touched it. I held it up and studied it. Nope, it looked just the same as usual — no dancing electrical currents or funny marks.
Good God, he was good-looking! And his personality had filled every corner of the room. It hardly seemed like there was any space left for my own weedy little personality after he'd finished exuding confident super- hero-cum-friendly-neighbour vibes all over the place. Okay, so he'd walked and talked just like a regular guy, but good grief — he was so incredibly drop-dead gorgeous, he was positively illegal! A woman could get into serious trouble if she let herself fall for him.
Right, it was time to be brave and walk upstairs to his apartment. Or was it too soon? I mean, he'd only just gone, and already I was running after him. What was a decent interval to wait? Five minutes? An hour? A day?
Whoa! Nope, definitely not a day.
In fact, what if I was in some kind of universe-shift thingy? It might collapse at any second, and then I'd be kicking myself for not taking advantage while I still could.
So wait thirty minutes, then venture upstairs.
In the meantime, I could scream some more into that very understanding cushion. Maybe think up some stunning repartee to dazzle him with.
"Ever wished you could fly?"
No, too obvious.
"Do you think capes are going to make a come-back this year, fashion-wise?"
Mind you, so what if he thinks I'm stupid? He's in love with Lois Lane (even though he might not know it yet), so I don't stand a chance anyway.
How would Lois deal with this? She'd be cool. She certainly wouldn't let him know that she knew his secret. No, she'd use the information to trip him up; test him for honesty or something.
Well, I didn't need to test his honesty, but I could be cool. In a friendly sort of a ravish-me-if-you-really- feel-like-it way, of course.
Twenty minutes later, I was standing in front of the door to his apartment. Yeah, I know, I didn't wait the full half hour, but for heaven's sake, we're talking Clark Kent here! Would you wait that long to speak to him again? No, of course you wouldn't.
Did I mention I was nervous? I was so nervous even the buzzer on his door seemed to be doing its best to unnerve me. I dare you, it said. Dare you to press me and summon the man of your dreams. Hey, I'm only an innocent little buzzer, it said. Press me. Caress me. Touch me with your delicate finger-tip and make me hum with pleasure. I'm Clark Kent's buzzer and I'm ready to be buzzed.
I glared at the buzzer. What business did a small lump of plastic have pretending it was an extension of Clark Kent's…territory? My finger hovered over it. Buzz me, it said. Please, please, buzz me.
I snatched my finger away.
Hey, said the door. Why didn't you buzz him? Clark Kent is just the other side of this beautiful piece of finely- grained wood and you didn't even buzz the buzzer? What kind of fan are you? Don't you want to meet the guy who opens this gorgeous door every single day? Grasps this shiny, high-quality door-knob, inserts his key into this state-of-the-art lock? Leaves his fingerprints on this tasteful paintwork?
The door seemed to have a very high opinion of itself.
Okay, this was getting out of hand. I turned my back on the egotistical door and the perkily suggestive buzzer for a moment, took a deep breath and whirled back, finger at the ready.
Be cool, I told myself. Lois-cool.
Quick buzz on his door bell. Not too long, not too short. Just enough to announce that a confident woman who wasn't at all intimidated by either his buzzer or his door was outside.
Oh, yeah! yelped the buzzer. You buzzed me. Oh, yeah! Yes, yes, yes, she buzzed-
"Hi." The confident, welcoming smile of a man who really wasn't in the least bit intimidated by door furniture.
Couldn't he just be a little less…well, just less, really.
"Hi," I squeaked. We were back to Minnie Mouse.
He'd changed. Black jeans. White t-shirt. Chest. Lots of chest. Also biceps. Dark brown eyes. Glasses. Yup, still lots of chest…don't go down any further…
He coughed. "Um…did you want…?"
"Your body? Yes please."
No, I didn't say that. I said, "Sorry, but you did say if there was anything I needed I should just ask, so here I am. Just asking. Because there is something you could help me with. If you're not too busy, that is. I mean, maybe you're doing something more important, and after all, you were dressed in your work clothes earlier so maybe you were on your way out. But then why are you wearing jeans now? I can't figure that one out, but I shouldn't pry, I guess. Besides, what business is it of mine what clothes you choose to wear? And actually, it's good that you're wearing your jeans now — aside from the fact that you look…um…well, let's just say they're very nice jeans and leave it at that, shall we? I like black, don't you? Well, obviously, you do, because you're wearing it. Anyway, it's good that you're wearing your jeans, like I said, because you might get a bit dusty."
I stopped at that point. Unfortunately, the ground didn't open and swallow me up, so I just stood there and smiled sweetly up at him as if I'd just said something intelligent. Maybe if I smiled hard enough, he wouldn't notice I'd just uttered far too many sentences of complete gibberish.
His forehead puckered into a confused frown. "Was there a part of that where you said what you wanted? Because I kind of got lost somewhere around the work clothes."
I could feel my face turning a rather unfetching shade of scarlet. "Sorry," I said. Something told me I was going to be apologising a lot around Clark Kent. "Let me take another run at that." I cleared my throat and tried to persuade myself that I was speaking to a normal person and not a popular iconic figure of the twentieth and twenty- first centuries. "Okay, here it is — could you help me move some furniture around? The removal men were really helpful, but I just don't think it looks right yet."
His face cleared. "Sure! Just hold on a sec while I unplug the iron."
Iron??? He was ironing? What had he been ironing? One of his capes?
I couldn't resist. When he came back and closed up his apartment, I said — ever so casually, of course, "I hate ironing, don't you? Those modern fabrics are the worst — you know, materials like spandex where you have to keep the heat low and everything puckers up when you try to draw the iron across."
"Uh…yes. I guess. Actually, I wouldn't really know. Mostly I just iron shirts for work," he said.
Oh, yeah, Mr Spandex-tights? I smothered a grin but decided that was enough Lois-cool for now. "So, what do you do? For work, I mean."
"I'm a journalist."
"A journalist? That sounds interesting."
We were walking down the single flight of stairs to my apartment and I had to resist the urge to pinch myself. I mean, I was walking beside Clark Kent! And Superman! Two people in one very nice package.
He shrugged. "Its not always as interesting as people think it is. There's a lot of drudgery involved when you're trying to chase down information for a story. But now and then things do get pretty exciting, I guess."
"What's the most exciting story you've worked on?" I asked.
"Well, let's see…there was the time I and my partner were thrown out of an airplane, I guess. And then there were the terrorists who held us all hostage in the newsroom. Or more recently, we were at a military weapons demonstration where we got shot at." He grinned broadly. "I guess being a reporter can be pretty interesting after all."
"I'll say!" I said, thinking rapidly. Yikes, if they'd just been at the military thing, then their next assignment would very probably be those mysteriously resurrected gangsters. Clark would get shot, he'd pretend he was dead, and Lois would be devastated. Then she'd find it almost impossible to forgive him for putting her through all that when he finally admitted to her that he was Superman.
Well, if you were to believe all the fanfic I'd ever read, that would be the case. She hadn't seemed the slightest bit bothered by the issue in the TV show. Still, the producers couldn't show every detail of Lois and Clark's lives in the show, now could they? So perhaps there was an opportunity here for me to help him avoid messing up completely; perhaps even persuade him to tell her the big secret before she figured it out for herself. Not telling her had definitely been a big issue — that much had been clear from the show. Lois had been very obviously hurt by his deceit.
Oh, boy. How did you fix the lives of two popular twentieth century icons?
Stop staring blankly into space like a dork and start talking to him again. That would be a good start.
"So what does your partner think about all this excitement?" I asked casually.
"Oh, she thrives on it," he said, grinning again. "Half the time, she's the one who gets us into these exciting situations."
We'd reached my front door. I let him in and explained the furniture moves I wanted to make. He nodded, surveying the apartment with thoughtful eyes, and then strode purposefully towards my bed. "I guess we need to get this moved first."
As we began to shift things around, I began to realise just how skilful he was at using his powers surreptitiously. If I hadn't known better, I probably would have just assumed my newly-acquired furniture was lighter than I'd expected. Interestingly, though — and not to mention extremely gratifyingly — his muscles flexed and rippled just as much as if he'd been exerting the same effort as a normal man.
I know this, you understand, because I spent far more time watching him than I did lifting furniture. I mean, what red-blooded, straight woman wouldn't?
"She, huh?" I said eventually.
"Sorry?" he grunted, hefting my sofa with a very convincing grimace. What an actor, I thought.
"Your partner," I prompted. "She's a woman."
He smiled, clearly thinking fondly of Lois — boy, even if I hadn't know he loved her, his face would have given him away. His eyes sparkled and his smile was as happy as they came.
Thinking about Lois prompted him to forget the gosh-what- an-effort-this-is act. My end of the sofa — I was supposed to be pushing while he pulled — flew out of my hands and shifted the final ten feet across the carpet as if it were gliding across ice. In fact, I nearly fell flat on my face and had to execute an extremely ungraceful and un-cool twist and stagger move to save myself.
Darn, I thought just a split second too late. A gold- plated opportunity for Clark Kent to catch me in his arms and I missed it! I decided I might trip over some packing cases later…
"Yeah," he answered, straightening up from the sofa. "Lois Lane," he said proudly. "You may have heard of her."
Okay, what was the Lois-cool response here? "No, but I know who you are, oh hunk of my dreams. Care to ravish me yet?"
Flattery. That was what was needed here.
"Oh, you're that Clark Kent!" I enthused. "Lois Lane and Clark Kent — of course!"
His eyebrows raised. "Oh, so you have heard of us?" he said. "I thought you were new in town."
Oops. I'd forgotten about that quick intelligence and investigative mind. Think, girl, think! "I've got relatives here," I said, in a flash of inspiration to equal his own talent for lame excuses. "Sometimes they mention your articles."
"Oh. Anything in particular?"
Okay, synapse shut-down taking place. Brain activity nil. Memory on by-pass. Switch on blind panic mode. Think of any episode…any episode. Preferably one that occurred in his past. Don't want him thinking I'm some sort of sooth- sayer in a few weeks' time.
Ding! Episode downloading from creaky memory-banks… "That story you did about Viologic. Lois…I mean Ms Lane…she was amazing — the way she figured out that Stuart whathisname wasn't really dead. That was inspired."
Clark frowned. "How did you know about that? We didn't print the details on how we found him in the paper."
Oops again. Okay, so now would be a good time to invent another one of those Clark Kent-calibre excuses. "Oh, well," I said airily, "I just knew that Lo…Ms Lane would have figured out something really clever. She always does. Accordingly to my relatives, that is."
He grinned. "Yeah, they're right there. Lois has some pretty inspirational ideas. Not that I don't have one or two of my own from time to time," he added. "That's why we work so well as partners, I guess. We complement each other, ideas-wise."
"Sounds like you really enjoy working with her," I said.
"Yes, I do. She's a great reporter with a brilliant investigative instincts," he said.
"And you like her," I added.
He nodded. "And I like her." He gazed around the apartment. "Looks like we're all done here. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Well, there is this insane desire I have to be held in your arms and possibly be ravished by you. You could help me with that."
If only he wasn't wearing those darned black jeans and that deliciously tight t-shirt. And if only he'd stop looking at me with those lovely dark brown eyes and if only his hair was so long it touched shoulders — then maybe my head wouldn't keep supplying these ridiculous replies to his questions.
Mind you, ridiculous replies were better than incoherent mumbles.
Get a grip, girl.
"No, but thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it."
He shrugged. "No problem. Any time you need a hand with anything, just ask."
Okay, red alert, red alert! You're letting him get away! Stop him! You're not finished with him yet!
"Can I get you a coffee or something?" I suggested, trying not to sound too desperate to hang on to a hunky man in my apartment. I mean, hunky men dropped by all the time to see me. I was not at all the predatory single woman on the lookout for available men. No way. I was not desperate. Just friendly. "As a thank you?"
"No, that's okay," he said. "I don't want to put you to any trouble."
"No trouble!" I said. "Really. In fact," I added in a rare moment of daring Lois-like cool, "I insist."
Oh, yes, he hesitated!
"Take a seat," I said, pressing home my advantage before it fizzled out again. "I'll just be a minute. You can test the sofa in its new position for me — tell me if it feels right."
Or if you'd rather try the bed…
Get a grip.
I hustled into the kitchen and flung myself around grabbing mugs, coffee, coffee-maker and milk. Two minutes later I emerged with two steaming mugs of coffee, wishing I'd used a tray because my hand was shaking so much that I was in danger of slopping coffee all over the nice clean carpet.
Not to mention the nice clean Clark Kent still sitting on my sofa.
"Thanks," he said, taking the mug carefully from me. Very smooth, I thought. You'd never have known he could just grab the mug in his fist and not feel a thing.
I settled in my armchair opposite him. "So how's the sofa? Did we get it right?"
He smiled. "Just perfect. In fact, I may rearrange my own place along these lines. I like it."
Yikes! What would the prop people make of that on the set of Lois and Clark?
I beamed. "Thanks." I sipped some coffee. "So you said you like her," I said.
"Ms Lane. You said you like her." I shrugged. "Because my relatives…they wondered. If there was any more to it than that. You know, romance-wise. I think they'd like it if there was more." I sipped coffee again. "They're very romantic, my relatives."
Boy, where was all this stuff coming from? I had no idea I was so inventive. Amazing what a desperate…no, friendly…woman will do.
He shook his head. "No, we're just good friends. Sorry to disappoint your relatives."
"That's a shame. Because you really seem to like her," I said. "Your face lights up when you talk about her."
"Does it?" It was his turn to sip coffee.
I resisted the temptation to yell at him to gulp down his coffee manfully like the superhero he was instead of sipping wimpishly like a normal, run-of-the-mill human being. I didn't think that sort of thing would go down too well with him.
"Oh, yes. It's obvious you l…like her. A lot."
He shrugged. "Well, maybe once I thought she felt something for me, but things happened, and…well, now we're just good friends. Plus there's this other woman that seems to like me quite a lot."
Uh, oh… Mayson Drake. Surely he didn't think she was the right woman for him?
"Oh?" I said. "And do you like her?"
He frowned. "I'm not sure."
"Whereas you do like Lois."
He smiled ruefully. "Yes. Confusing, isn't it?" He sipped his coffee again. "Anyway, I can't believe I'm telling you all this stuff when we've only just met. What about you? What do you do for a living?"
"Oh, never mind me," I said hastily. "I'll bore you with my life history later. Yours sounds much more interesting. So tell me, does Lois know?"
A crash from the kitchen interrupted me just at the critical moment. Argh! Where was that understanding cushion when I needed it? I could have done with a therapeutic scream into soft fabric at that point.
"What was that?" asked Clark.
"I'm not sure," I replied, getting up to investigate.
There were coffee granules and glass all over the floor in the kitchen. In my haste to make the coffee, I must have left the jar teetering on the edge of the counter.
There was a soft exclamation from behind me and I realised Clark had followed me to the kitchen.
"I don't suppose I could borrow a dustpan and brush from you, by any chance?" I asked. "Mine's still in a box somewhere."
"Sure. Hold on — I'll get it."
So there I was, standing at the threshold of my new kitchen, waiting for Clark Kent (popular twentieth century icon) to fetch his dustpan so I could clean up. Was there time to fetch the understanding cushion for a quick scream of hysterical incredulity? Or would he use superspeed to get the dustpan? And would it talk to me, like his door and his doorbell had done earlier?
I wasn't sure I could cope with a talking dustpan. Would it be perky? Doleful? "All I get to do all day long is shovel sh-"
Okay, so if he hadn't just used a touch of superspeed to go up to his apartment and back, then I was a banana.
I smiled. "Thanks," I said. A couple of minutes later, the mess was dealt with and we were heading back to our coffees. "I wish I'd unpacked the microwave," I said. "These will be cold."
"Um…" he said, turning away from me to pick up one of the mugs. "No, they're still hot," he said. He turned back and handed me the mug. "See?"
Clark Kent just heated up my coffee with his vision thingy.
Cool. Be cool. Lois-cool.
In fact, use it to your advantage. That would be a really Lois-cool thing to do.
"Thanks," I said, accepting the mug. "So, coming back to Lois — have you told her? Told her your secret, I mean."
The classic deer-in-headlights look. This was fun.
"My…secret?" he replied cautiously. "Which secret?"
I shrugged nonchalantly. "You know…that you like her. A lot."
His face cleared in obvious relief, while I had to sip coffee to prevent myself from laughing. "Oh, that," he said. "Well, no. Or rather, yes, but she thought I didn't mean it at the time."
"But you did?"
"Yes. Absolutely." He shrugged. "It was bad timing."
"So maybe you should try telling her again."
He pulled a face. "It's difficult. She's taken a few knocks recently, so I wouldn't want to put her under any pressure. Plus, I'm not even sure if she likes me." He paused. "I mean, likes me as more than just a partner at work."
"Okay, but one of you has to take the risk of telling the other how they really feel. I mean, for all you know, she's thinking the exact same way you are," I said. "If neither of you tells the other, then you could be stuck in this awful stalemate for ever."
And I'd be stuck screaming all kinds of frustrated things at the TV screen while they prevaricated through episode after episode. Not that I hadn't done that in any case.
He laughed. "Now, that truly would be a nightmare. But it's still complicated. There's this other thing…"
"Oh, your other secret, you mean?" I said.
He stared at me. The deer-in-the-headlights look wasn't so far away, although he was obviously keeping his cool pretty well. "Other secret? What do you mean?"
"Well, earlier you said 'which secret', not 'what secret', so I assume you have more than one to tell," I replied. "Trust me, Clark, you don't want to keep any big secrets from the person you love."
"Oh, I know that. You know, you seem very intent on giving me advice about my love life," he said. "Do you offer this service to everyone who moves furniture for you?"
Eek, he'd found me out. I felt myself blushing. "Sorry, am I being too nosy? Maybe we should change the subject…how about Superman? Now that I'm here in his home town, so to speak, how likely is it that I'll get a chance to meet him, do you think?"
He grinned. "Something tells me you'll meet him pretty soon."
"Really? You think I'm going to need rescuing?" I said.
"If you keep asking strange men about their love lives, then yes, I'd say you'll need rescuing. People in a big city like Metropolis value their privacy."
Oh, boy. Now would be a good time for the floor to open up and swallow me. He was good-natured enough in his manner, but his words screamed 'back off!!!' Unless he really was just trying to warn me off conversations like this with other people less easy-going than himself…
The only way to find that out was to test the theory. "I don't make a habit of this," I said with a smile. "Honestly. You just seemed like a person in need of some neutral advice. And we're neighbours, not strangers."
"True." He shrugged. "And I don't mind, I guess. You were just a little intense there for a second or two."
"Sorry. Look, all I'm saying is that if all you want is a closer relationship with Ms Lane than you have now, you really do have to start trusting her. No-one likes to be kept in the dark by a friend they think they know well. They'll find out your secret sooner or later, and then they'll be hurt. Believe me."
"I know," he said with a heavy sigh. "But it really is complicated," he insisted. "Believe *me*," he added.
"Nothing's that complicated," I said. "And it seems to me that you need to become a little more proactive in this relationship if you want it to go anywhere."
He pulled another face. "I tried that. She rejected me."
"Try again. What have you got to lose?"
"My pride?" he suggested.
"What would you rather do? Salvage your pride or find true love?"
He cocked his head to one side and gave me a quizzical look. "You don't know my Mom, do you? She says stuff like that."
Martha?! He thought I sounded like Martha? Wow.
Or not so wow. He wasn't likely to ravish a mother-figure, now was he?
"No, but hey, we women just know about this stuff, you know?" I replied. Even us young, available, ravish-able women, Clark. "It's in our genes."
"I guess it must be," he replied. He downed the last of his coffee in one gulp. "I really should get back to my ironing," he said. "Thanks for the coffee and the free advice."
I grinned. "Thanks for the muscle power."
He laughed as he stood. "Any time."
I walked him to the door, frantically trying to invent excuses in my head that would make him stay just a little longer.
"Hey, I'm making lasagne for dinner. Care to join me? Pasta is so, so ravishing, don't you think?"
"Oops, I just fell out of the window."
"Is that a touch of blue spandex I can see under your t- shirt?"
But no. We reached my front door and I remained star- struck and dumb. I opened the door, glaring firmly at it just in case it, too, got the urge to give me sage advice on how to interact with a popular twentieth century icon.
"Talk to him, you dummy!" it said, ignoring my assertive glare.
"No, talk," it said. "Preferably in English."
"So will you tell her?" I blurted as he was walking out the door. "That you like her, I mean? And about that secret, of course."
He paused on the threshold and appeared to give the question some thought. "If I can find the right moment," he said eventually.
Okay, this was progress. Nothing dramatic, but definitely progress.
"Okay!" I said. "Make sure you find that right moment soon. And can I give you another bit of advice?" I asked, giddy and feeling rather reckless after my minor success. "It's going to sound really crazy, but trust me, you'll thank me one day."
He raised his eyebrows. "I've heard some pretty crazy things that turned out to be serious enough in the end, so I guess you can try me."
"Okay." I drew in a long, deep breath, looked him straight in the eye, and told him the stupidest-sounding thing I'd ever uttered to another intelligent being. "Don't ever let your prospective girlfriend think you're dead when you're not really dead. You might think you got away with it at the time, but believe me, there's a huge body of carefully researched data out there that says it's generally not a good idea. In fact, it's almost certain to put your relationship back months, if not wreck it completely."
There. I'd said it. In one fell swoop, I'd wrecked pages and pages of fanfic and made the scriptwriters rewrite half the stories in the second season. Such power! Such craziness!
"Oh, and please tell her that secret," I added, just to make sure he thought I was completely nuts. "You know, that really big one you're keeping from her. Whatever it is."
I smiled. Probably made me look even more like a lunatic.
"O-kay," he said, edging away from me. "Thanks for the advice. I think. Um…did anyone ever tell you you're a little…unusual? I mean, not in a negative way," he added hastily. "It's kinda cute, I guess, in a weird…um, nice…sort of a way."
Yes, that's me — the weird but cute lunatic offering dating advice to Clark Kent (popular twentieth century icon).
"I'm no more unusual than you are," I said.
He raised his eyebrows. "Unusual can be good, you know," he said.
"Oh, absolutely," I agreed. "Look at Superman. He's pretty unusual, but he's also very good."
"Yeah, he is." He smiled. "Okay, nice to meet you. I'll see you around, I guess."
"And nice to meet you. Thanks for the furniture moving — perhaps you could skip straight to the ravishing part next time around?"
No, too forward. Perhaps a lesser approach.
"And nice to meet you. By the way, if your apartment ever catches fire or floods, you can always sleep with me."
No, still too much.
"And nice to meet you. Thanks again for all your help. If I can ever do anything in return, just say the word." Especially if you're lonely one night and Lois is out of town…I do a very good line in friendly hugs. Honest.
"Thanks." And he was gone.
Very reluctantly, I closed the door ("why didn't you invite him here for dinner next week?" it asked), and collapsed onto my sofa ("where, oh, where did that nice young man go?") clutching one of the cushions ("you could be hugging him instead of me if you'd handled that better").
"Shut up!" I yelled into the cushion. "I did my best, okay?"
"Yes, but was your best good enough?" the cushion sneered back.
Okay, enough was enough. Not only did I have his door furniture ganging up against me, I now had my own soft furnishings yelling at me. I leapt up and dove into the pile of boxes, hunting for the one which contained my videos.
Two minutes later, I had the correct tape. I shoved it in the player and pressed play.
Now, I knew it hadn't been blank yesterday, because I'd watched it. Clark Kent being shot by gangsters, Lois being devastated by his death, Clark Kent coming miraculously back to life…That Old Gang Of Mine, one of the fandom's favourite episodes. I pulled out it out and inserted the next tape. Also blank.
In fact, after trying five more tapes, I discovered that they were all blank.
A slow grin spread across my face. He'd listened. He'd decided to act. And the result was that every single episode from That Old Gang Of Mine onwards had disappeared off my tapes.
And I was going to be the only Lois and Clark fan in the world who would get to find out what happened instead. Because Clark Kent was my neighbour and I was going to make darned sure that I became a very friendly, confidante-type neighbour…
Forget the ravishing, this was even better…