By Pam Jernigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2005
Summary: "As soon as people find out that I'm dating Superman, they're going to want to know all about me. Clark and I figure that a joint appearance on a chat show should give us some control over those all-important first impressions…"
Author's note: This is the sequel to "My Interview with Superman" and "My Date with Lyn." If you haven't read those, this might not make much sense. Thanks to everyone on IRC who encouraged me when I thought this was rubbish, and thanks especially to CC Aiken, Sarah Luddy Maksim, and Chris Carr for taking the time to beta-read for me. I'd also like to thank Erin Klingler for once again being my GE and putting up with my last minute tweaks.
It's not easy being dead.
Legally, I mean. If I were physically dead, I doubt I'd be bothered over the lack of a valid driver's license or credit card. Still, with some help, I'm managing.
In less than an hour, I'll be alive again. Officially, publicly, "Hey, Superman, guess who?" alive. Clark and I discussed several approaches to this big announcement. A press conference, or maybe a written statement. But neither of those really seemed to suffice. The big story isn't about me or where I've been. It's about the woman Superman's obsessed with. What will he do? How will I react? There's going to be a lot of interest in us. Oh, joy.
So here I am pacing in the green room, in strict seclusion from any other guests, waiting for "Morningside Metropolis" to begin taping. It's an Oprah-type interview show, hosted by my old friend Molly Flynn. I teased her some about journalistic slumming, but really she's pretty good at the gig. And when I suggested this, she jumped at the chance. Since she's letting me stay at her place, I figure it's the least I can do.
The opening music draws me to the small monitor showing the main stage. The audience cheers as Molly walks out, waving to them. She starts with some general chitchat, and I try to breathe slowly. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
Molly's voice turns serious, and she finally gets around to starting on the important stuff. **Eighteen months ago, we witnessed an incredible scene at a mayoral debate. Let's see it again.**
A tape starts playing, and I see Superman's debut in living color. I've seen it before — who hasn't? — but this time I know who's impersonating me. It's, well, me — but me from an alternate universe, apparently. Maybe that explains the hair.
The scene plays out and ends rather abruptly, shifting the focus back to Molly. **Tempus was defeated and Perry White won the election, but of course all eyes were on Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. In a few short moments, we discovered that an ordinary man had extraordinary powers, and his life was abruptly altered. Clark Kent, of course, has been Superman ever since. The woman with him said she was Lois Lane, a Daily Planet reporter who'd been presumed dead. Within a day of these events, however, she seemed to disappear into thin air.**
**Sadly for Superman, his fiancee chose to leave him. Happily for the rest of us, that made him available — and the world's most desirable bachelor. I think we can all see why.**
Heh. There's an understatement.
**He's never shown much interest in any of us, though… and soon thereafter, he began searching the world for any trace of Lois. So who is Lois Lane, and why does Superman think she's so important? We'll talk to the people who know right after this break. This is Morningside Metropolis with Molly Flynn. Stay tuned.**
Molly stays in her seat smiling towards the cameras for a few seconds. The stage crew brings in a guest chair and does whatever else it is they do.
I close my eyes and breathe deeply. This is going to work.
There's a soft tap at the door. I swing around in time to see Clark sticking his head in. "Is the coast clear?"
"As if you didn't know." I laugh. He's wearing a dress shirt and slacks instead of the Superman costume, but he never wears his glasses anymore. "And you're not supposed to be here!"
He just grins and slides inside, closing the door carefully behind him. "I won't let anyone see me."
"You'd better not. Molly was all excited about arranging the very first meeting between us — 'Superman meets obsession, live on Morningside Metropolis.' If she catches you in here it'll ruin everything."
He shrugs, walking over toward me. He hesitates when he gets close. We've only gone out a few times, so this is still new to us. I close the gap between us and kiss him. Even a short kiss leaves me feeling giddy. Such an amazing, gorgeous man — a man I've admired from afar for over a year — and if I want him, he's mine.
Who wouldn't want him?
I'm trying to be cautious. Sort of. But he's hard to resist.
"They're back from commercial," he points out when his lips are free again. We move back over to the monitor, and his arm somehow ends up around my waist.
**Lois Lane,** Molly starts off, **was a reporter for the Daily Planet for several years, but before that, she was my friend in college.**
"Oh my god, where did she dredge up that old picture?" I close my eyes, leaning sideways into Clark. "Is it too late to go back to Europe?"
"You were cute," Clark says, quietly amused. I don't know whether to thank him or hit him.
**She was incredibly smart and driven, and dedicated to making the world a better place. When we graduated, we drifted apart, but we kept in touch. We've managed to track down another of her old friends, too.**
What's Molly doing? I don't have that many "old" friends, and if she thinks—
**Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Daily Planet's star reporter… Linda King!**
Oh. My. God.
I shut my eyes; I must have heard that wrong. But when I look again, it's Linda walking out to applause. Same pinched face and orangey hair. The Planet's clearly gone downhill since Perry left.
"What's the matter?" Clark asks.
"Linda King is *not* an old friend. She is an *ex*-friend. Molly knows that, too — what is she up to?"
Linda seats herself, and I make myself pay attention. **Hi, Molly,** she gushes. **It's so good to be here.**
**Thanks for coming, Linda,** Molly says sweetly. **So, when did you know Lois?**
**We met in college junior year — both worked on the school paper, you know. I think that was the year before she met you, right?**
**Yes, that's right. How would you describe her then?**
**Very smart, very driven.** Linda laughs — is that a note of bitterness I hear? **Very, very driven. I remember, one time…**
"So why is she an ex-friend?" Clark asks quietly.
I tune out Linda's whiny voice. "She worked with me on the paper, all right, at least until she stole one of my stories. And then she used that to steal a guy from me, too. He was the paper's editor. I forget his name — Pete? Something." I could probably remember it if I tried, but I really don't want to. "Last I heard, he was going to graduate school and she transferred schools to follow him. I was glad to see them go."
"Really? I didn't know you'd known her — she's never mentioned it to me."
"And that's another thing — she's at the Daily Planet now? Yeesh, she's even stolen my career."
Clark rubs my arm in silent sympathy. "You'll get it back, if you want it. And…" he hesitates, and I look up at him. "Well," he continues, looking earnest and just a bit embarrassed, "she's not going to steal your current guy."
I lean into his side, savoring his warmth. "Good to know."
**So, Linda,** Molly asks, **let me ask you a hypothetical question. If Lois Lane did come back to Metropolis, will that impact your job? **
Heh. Good question.
**How do you mean?**
**Well, Lois was the star, and now you are. Would you worry about her taking back that top slot?**
She ought to!
**No, of course not. Look, after all this time, I have to think she's gone. But even if she's alive… well, whatever she's been doing for the past four years, I doubt it's included any kind of journalism.**
"Hey!" It included all sorts of journalism. Not that I can prove it.
Linda smiles sweetly. **If she did come back, though, I'm sure we'd be glad to have her on the team.**
"Hey, it's okay," Clark murmurs. "Just picture her face when she sees you come on stage."
Now there's an entertaining mental image. And it'll be on tape. Maybe I'll forgive Molly after all.
**Of course,** Molly says with an especially innocent smile. **Now, Linda, you work with Superman…What do you think his interest is in Lois?**
**Well, he doesn't like to talk about it, but it's such a romantic story. I just hope that if he did find her, he wouldn't be disappointed. Her reputation has grown over the years, I think. Plus people can build up idealized images, you know? She might not be what he's expecting.**
"Yeah, I was kind of worried about that," I concede.
"I hope I've set your mind at ease."
"Oh, to say the least." I smile up at him and kind of lose track of everything else for a moment. Eventually, I wrench my attention back to the TV. Molly's speaking to the cameras now.
**Then, as you all know, four years ago, Lois went to Africa for an investigation, and didn't come back.** Molly's voice chokes up just a little.
Long-forgotten guilt starts creeping back in. "I should have tried to call or something," I mutter.
Clark gives me a gentle squeeze. "You couldn't. Luthor had spies everywhere, and if he'd realized you were still alive…"
**There was always some mystery about what happened there. One man in particular searched long and hard for her — no, not Superman; not yet. It was her editor and mentor, Perry White. He's since been elected Mayor, of course, but he's been kind enough to come down here to join us today. Come on out, Perry.**
The curtains beside the stage open, and out walks… Perry? He's about the same height as I remember, with a little less hair, maybe even a bit, um, plumper. But there's something about the way he walks — just a little slower and smoother or something. As he walks over to Molly, the crowd claps for him. He just smiles and waves.
"Oh my god," I whisper. "I'm stunned. When did he turn into a politician?"
Clark chuckles. "After he was elected Mayor. For some reason, the City Council didn't do everything he said, just because he said so… so he started learning how to compromise and persuade instead of just bellow all the time."
I almost giggle, but I want to hear what Perry's saying.
**Good morning, Molly,** he says, shaking her hand. **Thanks so much for asking me to be here today.** Linda moves one seat away from Molly, and Perry shakes her hand, too.
**We're so glad to have you, Mr. Mayor,** Molly replies. **Please, have a seat. How are things over at City Hall?**
He extends a hand and waggles it in a "so-so" gesture. **About as well as can be expected, Molly. It's always interesting.**
**I'll just bet it is. While I've got you here, can you tell me if you've decided to run for re-election?**
Perry grinned at her. **I'm not ready to make that announcement, Molly, but when I am, you'll be one of the first to know.**
"Is he sucking up?" I ask.
"Yeah," Clark says, "but not to Molly — to her audience. He was a little weak in the married women demographic last time."
**Thank you, Mr. Mayor,** Molly replied with a big smile. **I'll tell my staff to take your calls. But if you're not going to tell us about your re-election campaign, what can you tell us about Superman's mystery woman?**
He smiles wryly, settling back into the chair. **Well, she was one of the best investigative journalists I've ever had the privilege to know.**
"What?" I stare at the screen, surprised, touched, and… now that I think about it… just a little cynical. "He never mentioned that to *me.*"
Clark gives me a little sideways hug. "He told me, if that helps. When I first started."
I look up at him. "Really? He said that?"
"Yeah, he said that. He was missing you a lot at the time."
That guilt thing creeps in again, but I push it away. I had no choice; it was disappear completely or be killed. At least this way, I get to come back.
When I turn back to the screen, I see Perry's going on about some of my early stories. I'm torn between hoping for praise and squirming in embarrassment.
Molly rescues me. **And then she went to Africa.**
Perry sighs. **Yeah, she did. After she disappeared, I searched… sent in armies of people looking for her, it seemed like… but we never found a trace. After a year or so, I had to face facts.**
**That must have been hard,** Molly says warmly. **But in the meantime, you'd hired another reporter, hadn't you?**
**More than one, actually,** he replies with a smile. **But I suspect the one you're talking about is Clark Kent.**
Molly chuckles. **You're right. What was he like, when you first met him?**
**He was a quiet guy,** Perry says. **Good at his job, but new to the city. After a little while, he became one of my stars.**
I glance up at Clark to see how he's enjoying his turn.
He looks down at me and gives a tiny shrug. "That's pretty much what he always says."
**Actually, Molly,** Perry continues, **he was one of the *other* best investigative reporters I've ever known — until he got too famous for it. Even though I was stepping down as editor at the Planet, I hated to lose him.**
I peek at Clark again. I think his cheeks are slightly red. "Is that the normal spiel, too?"
"Actually, no…" He looks really touched. I guess he's not had a lot of people comment on his non-super talents lately.
"He's in a good mood, I guess. And you notice who he's not bragging on? Linda." From the look on her face, Linda's noticed that, too. "Hah."
"Linda's okay — I don't know her much, but she's a decent reporter." I frown at him, and he adds, "but nowhere near as good as you."
That's better. "I'd have enjoyed working with you, I think."
He looks at me, a warm glow in his eyes. "Well, you'll have to settle for … doing other things with me."
I grin at him. "I'll say this, it's never been boring. Of course, I've only known you a week…"
"And we haven't really had a lot of time together, what with one thing and another. But after today, we won't have to sneak around so much. Lots of time to get bored."
"Yeah, right. That could happen." I see graphics flash on the screen and realize Molly's gone to another commercial break. I check my watch. My, how time flies. I'll be out there in less than half an hour.
"You know," Clark comments, the teasing tone gone, "if you *do* get bored with me, or annoyed, or… anything, all you have to do is say so."
I turn towards him, putting my arms around his neck. "Don't worry, big guy. If I get tired of you, I promise I'll tell you to scram." I kiss him lightly. "Can't see it happening, though. But that reminds me… it's time for you to scram."
He raises an eyebrow, looking uncertain.
"You've got to get ready to go on stage," I elaborate. "You're going to be up soon. Just remember, I'm a surprise."
"You sure are," he agrees, kissing the tip of my nose. "Okay, I'll get out of here. See you on stage — I'm looking forward to meeting you."
"Just make sure you look the part. You know, totally smitten but entirely respectful of my personhood, etc, etc."
"Totally smitten?" he asks, grinning. "I don't know, that might be overstating things a bit… and you've got to let a guy keep his dignity."
I put on a big sigh. "Okay, fine, be partially smitten in a dignified way, then. Now go!"
I feel a quick brush of his lips against mine, and then he's over at the door, peering into the hallway outside. The coast must be clear; he slips back out of the room.
It feels so empty in here without him.
It's funny, really. I've met so many different people over the years, around the world… got pretty close to one or two of them… but there wasn't ever this sense of connection. I felt it long before I met him, actually, but I didn't trust it until I'd actually talked to him, face to face. When I was in Europe, I missed my life, friends, family… but I could go on without them. I'm starting to suspect the same wouldn't be true if I lost him.
I'll just have to make sure I never lose him.
Speaking of which… the show's back.
**Welcome back to Morningside Metropolis! I'm Molly Flynn, and today we're talking about one of our local celebrities, Lois Lane, and her connection to one of our other local celebrities, Superman. We've talked with an old friend of Lois's, and her old boss — now our mayor — and next, we'll be talking to the big man himself. Please give a hero's welcome to Superman!**
I guess they didn't expect him to show up very early. In fact, they were probably biting their nails over whether he'd show up at all. It's a good thing he can change clothes so fast.
Clark comes out from behind the curtain to thunderous applause, wearing his famous "S" suit. I must admit, it looks good on him. Very, very good on him. Considering the year and a half I had a crush on him from afar, it's kind of weird to see him on screen again now. Now that I know him, I can see he's still a little embarrassed at all this attention. He hides it well, though.
**Superman, thanks for being here!** Molly beams as she shakes his hand. He smiles, shakes Perry's hand, waves to Linda, and automatically arranges his cape so he can sit. **We know what an unpredictable schedule you have.**
Clark smiles at her. I'd probably have called it a warm smile, before. Now I notice that his eyes aren't crinkling with it, as they do when he smiles at me. **Unpredictable is the word for it, yes. But you said you had something major to unveil today, and as you know, we journalists are cursed with curiosity.**
Molly grins. **I was hoping that would work. Trust me, you'll be glad you came. But before that, if I may, I'd like to ask you a few questions.**
He nods permission, his smile fading, and I remember he said he hated TV interviews. Poor guy.
**Now, just to make sure everyone's up to speed. Lois Lane was there when Superman began, and you've been searching for her ever since.** Molly sure does repeat herself a lot. I guess she has to, to catch the channel-surfers, but it would drive me nuts. **Last week, however, you did an interview stating that the Lois Lane on the tape isn't the same Lois you're searching for?**
**It's confusing, I know, and I can't explain it fully. But the woman on the tape was an imposter. We were all taken in by her.** He glances at Perry, who's nodding confirmation. **But once I'd met the fake Lois, it got me curious about the real Lois.** He smiles at Molly. **Cursed with curiosity, you know.**
He is just so cute.
Molly smiles back. **I know exactly how you feel. But this global search does seem to be carrying idle curiosity to a new level.**
He shrugs. **Call it a hobby.**
**And of course, you specialize in rescuing people,** Molly adds. **But there does seem to be a romantic element to this drama. Are you in love with a woman you've never even met?**
He smiles. **No, Molly, I'm not in love with a woman I've never met. If she'd agree, I'd love to spend time with her, get to know her better… but anything more than that would be totally up to her.**
I know that's a good answer — reasonable — but still, I'm a little disappointed to hear him say he's not in love with me. Although he *has* met me, so I guess the question's beside the point. Right? This secret identity thing gets complicated.
A knock on the door pulls me out of that train of thought. A production assistant sticks her head in the room. "Ms. Lane? We need to get you ready for your segment."
"What, *more* make-up?" Is it too late to back out of this?
"Just a touch-up," she assures me, "if it's needed. And now that all the other guests are out there, you've got to be in place backstage."
She guides me through the hallways to a large open area. She turns on the microphone I'm wearing, and I endure one last round of hair spray and face powder. My throat feels very dry. "Can anyone get me a cup of water?"
The music starts up again and the studio audience applauds briefly before settling down again. Someone hands me a cup with a lid and straw — I guess they don't want to chance me spilling on myself. With the way my hands are shaking, that's probably a good idea.
I can do this. Really. Though at the moment I can't think of a single reason why.
**Welcome back.** Molly's voice startles me, coming out of both the monitor and studio speakers. **Today we've been investigating Lois Lane — former Daily Planet reporter, missing and presumed dead, and sought by none other than Superman. Well, we've found the one person who knows everything that's been happening with Lois these last few years. Please welcome… Lois Lane herself.**
That's my cue. I know that. My legs aren't working. A pair of hands comes from behind me, gently gripping my shoulders and pushing me forward. Toward Clark. I need to focus on that. I'm going to Clark. Right. With that thought firmly in mind, I step through the curtain onto the stage.
There's only scattered clapping from the audience at first, almost drowned out by a hum of low-voiced speculation. I keep walking, and I even remember to wave. Slowly, the applause builds.
I look at Clark. He's standing beside Molly, just watching me with a suitably stunned look on his face. I have to work at not grinning. This isn't real; it's role-playing. We're going to play this very cool — hi, nice to meet you, no obsessive behaviors at all, nothing to see here, move along, move along. That won't last, of course; pretty soon people will know we're dating for real. Still, first impressions are important, so I've got to stay in character.
I reach Molly and give her a hug. "You're doing great," she whispers. As the applause dies down, she lets go on one side and turns so that we're both facing the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, when Lois contacted me three nights ago, I was stunned. And I knew I had to have her on the show, so that I could say this…" She turns me again, toward Clark. "Lois Lane, meet Superman."
I hold out a hand, and after a moment, he reciprocates and we're shaking hands. The crowd is going nuts. "Pleased to meet you," I say, and allow myself a little smile. Seeing him in the suit, right there in front of me, is unexpectedly thrilling. I yank my eyes back up to his face and find that he's smiling at me. Eye crinkles and all.
For a moment, everything else fades away. Then there's movement from behind him, and all of a sudden I'm being hugged by Perry. I lean into the embrace — it feels weird, but I've missed him. He lets me go so he can look at me again. "Really, it's me," I offer, though I don't know if he can hear me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Linda holding out a hand to me. I turn back to Molly.
Molly's trying to get everyone calmed down, and to my surprise, it works. Everyone sits, and I breathe deeply. Molly looks at me, eyes sparkling. "So, Lois… you know everyone's got to have a million questions. As we used to say in college — spill it."
"Right. Here's the story." I lay out the whole 'death threat/flight to Europe/play dead' thing as coherently as I can. Molly asks for clarification a few times, but then it's all out there. "So when I was ready, I came back to Metropolis, looked you up, and… here we are." Okay, so I'm leaving out a few details.
"That's an amazing story, Lois," Molly says. "And I'm sure that there are still questions. Superman?"
I glance over at Clark, who's still smiling. "Uh, yeah… so, all this time I've been looking in Africa, you've actually been in Europe?"
I shrug, feeling kinda sheepish. "Yeah. I'm sorry for all the worry I caused everyone."
"You did what you had to do," he assures me. Again.
"And on that note," Molly breaks in, "we have to take one last commercial break. Lois, you get a few minutes to chat with your friends off the air, then it's time to tell Metropolis what you think of Superman." She faces a camera. "We'll be right back — don't any of you disappear."
The music briefly swells, and then someone says, "And we're out. Back in three."
I sag back into my chair, my heart racing, but I can't relax yet. The cameras may be off, but the studio audience is still avidly watching.
"Lois, honey… I can't believe it." Perry's looking delighted. "And don't let any of this talk about Clark's 'obsession' with you spook you. He's a good man."
Clark smiles. "Thanks, Perry."
I look him over again. "Yeah, I know… I've read all about Superman."
"Well, that's only half the story," Perry says firmly. "You come on over to dinner with Alice and me tonight — we'll catch you up on everything."
"Perry, I would love that. Can Molly come too? I'm staying with her until I get all the legalities settled and I can get a place of my own."
"Sure — Molly, we'd be happy to have you; it'll be very casual. And, ah… we'll have to have a formal dinner soon. You two ladies… and maybe James and Clark to even out the numbers."
I grin. "Subtle, Chief. But sure, that sounds good. I've got a lot to catch up on."
"Okay, guys, we're coming back from break," Molly warns us, and we straighten in our chairs. At some signal I can't see, Molly says, "And we're back. If you're just joining us, well, let me just say that sitting with me I've got Lois Lane *and* Superman — their first meeting, in fact. And speaking of firsts," Molly turns towards me, "Lois, do you think there will be a first date to follow?"
"Well, that depends." Might as well get this over with. I turn to face Clark, looking as serious as I can. "Are you or are you not an obsessed lunatic?"
He matches my serious expression, but his lips twitch. "That would be… not."
"Lois! Of course he's not," Perry adds.
I ignore him, intent on Clark. "If I say I never want to see you again, what will you do?"
His eyes are dancing. "Try to stay out of your way."
"If I start dating some ordinary Joe?"
He gives a tiny choke but manages to keep a straight face. "I'd hope you and he were very happy together."
I smile. "And if I decide I like you and would be an idiot to pass up the chance to get to know you better…?"
"I would be delighted," he replies with aplomb.
I turn back to Molly. "Yeah, I'm thinking there'll be a first date."
Molly's laughing too hard to talk, but that's okay — the studio audience is clapping too loud to hear anything. I can't keep the goofy grin off my face any longer, and apparently, neither can Clark. Perry's chuckling, and while Linda's trying to smile, it's a poor attempt. Molly finally gets control of herself. "So when will this date take place? And what on Earth — literally — will you do?"
I glance at Clark. "We'll have to talk about that. I'd like to do it without a media circus, if that's possible." I'm not hopeful, but who knows.
"Lois," Molly says, "somehow, I don't think you'll have any trouble handling the media."
"We'll think of something," Clark says, then turns to me. "Perry can tell you how to get in touch with me."
"Okay." That's a good touch — nicely understated, very non- stalker-ish. "I'll give you a call when I get settled in."
He smiles that gorgeous smile of his. "I hope you do."
"And that's about all of the budding romance we'll get today, folks," Molly concludes, talking to the cameras. "We're all out of time — thanks for being with us, and I hope to see you again tomorrow. This has been Morningside Metropolis with Molly Flynn. Have a great day!"
I sit back, feeling drained by my big television debut, but happy. I look at Clark and smile. We're now officially at the beginning.