By Janet Owens (aka TicAndToc) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Summary: Clark has moved to Metropolis, and has the job of his dreams at the Daily Planet. He's also met the woman of his dreams. But that has caused an unexpected side effect…
This story explores a small offshoot of the issue of Clark's control over his powers. He accidentally smashed an alarm clock, crushed a phone, and exploded a pillow when he was distracted. At least some of those little accidents happened when he was distracted by Lois.
The story is mine; but I'd really like to thank all of the writers of the original episodes. I've used many original quotes (and partial quotes) from the series, mostly first season. In a few places, I've edited quotes slightly to make them fit my story better; and in at least one instance, Clark has Lois's lines and vice versa. Hey, it worked better that way. :o)
I also want to thank Wendy — for her quick beta-reading on this despite her other beta-reading duties and her own WIP. And for her delightful comments and encouragement. And, of course, for her firm belief, despite what I thought, that I should be writing. Wendy, you were right and I was wrong! <g>
None of the characters in this story belong to me; all rights belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers. I don't actually have permission to borrow them, either. But no copyright infringement is intended and this story is strictly for entertainment purposes, not for profit. There's really no monetary value in feedback. As Wendy pointed out, it's priceless!
Clark Kent had a problem.
A big problem…
A huge problem.
A huge problem in a small, shapely, fascinating package: his beautiful and vibrant partner, Lois Lane. She had stormed into his life, his interview, and his heart in one single moment… and that was it.
The beginning of his huge problem.
He'd left the newsroom after that first, failed interview, and returned with the 'mood piece' Lois had scorned. It netted him the job — and a partnership with her, something beyond his imagination at the time. He'd have been happy with a job that allowed him to see her from a distance; to be partnered with her was so far above his expectations that he still felt like his head was spinning.
Or maybe that was just part of Lois's effect on him. He was the strongest man in the world, maybe even *beyond* the world… but she made him feel weak, dizzy — and that was part of his big problem.
He'd thought it was just the effect of her initial impact on him, but then there was Lex Luthor's White Orchid Ball. Many of the Planet staff had been invited; after all, it was in essence nothing more than a grandiose press conference. Lex Luthor had used the gathering of the city's most influential people and the substantial presence of members of the press to unveil his Space Station Luthor plans.
And Lois, in an effort to capture an exclusive interview with the billionaire, had outdone herself. When she'd appeared at the ball, Jimmy had been almost speechless, and Clark had found himself inadvertently floating.
And that was Clark's huge problem. He'd floated at his interview, when he'd first seen Lois Lane. Fortunately, he'd just risen to his feet and the encounter was so brief that he'd only been off the floor by a half inch or so — not enough for anyone to notice.
Then the same thing had happened at the ball, upon his first sight of Lois in the midnight-blue gown. That time, he'd floated about four inches. Incredibly, despite the crush of people, no one had noticed — and that was probably due to Lois.
She'd timed her entrance perfectly to coincide with Lex Luthor's apearance, and her bold "Lex Luthor… why haven't you returned my calls?" had turned every head in the room in her direction. No one had seen him floating.
But it was a dangerous thing to have happened.
He couldn't afford to let anyone guess his secret. It had been bad enough in the past, when he'd had to move on because someone started to wonder about him. But now — now he'd found a place where it really mattered to him that he stay.
It was even *more* important to conceal any sort of unusual abilities now that he'd created Superman.
With the entire world's worth of press focused on every bit of information they could ferret out about Superman, even a hint of anything extraordinary about Clark Kent could be fatal to his secret.
So… extraordinary was out.
Unusual, even quirky, was probably okay — Lois already thought he was a bit strange.
But the floating had to stop.
But how? The obvious solution — avoid Lois Lane — would be impossible. He might as well decide to… to live underwater, or find the Holy Grail, or… lay an egg. Any of those would be easier than avoiding Lois, especially since he didn't *want* to avoid Lois. Quite the opposite — he *wanted* to be where Lois was.
Maybe it was just a matter of control.
Just learning to control another ability… although floating inadvertently at every sight of his partner wasn't exactly comparable to heat vision, or enhanced strength or hearing. It was more of a nuisance, really, than an ability… or maybe more like a nervous tic. He didn't have any experience in learning to control a nervous tic.
Since the ball, he'd managed to keep his feet on the ground — most of the time — while they were working together in the newsroom.
There'd been one or two times, particularly at the end of a long day, when he'd found himself rising slightly off his chair if he allowed himself to gaze at her for very long. Fortunately, the newsroom had been almost empty and Lois had been focused on her computer on those occasions.
She'd almost caught him floating, though, that night they'd stayed late at the Planet, trying to piece together Samuel Platt's report.
That was the night he'd brought in the Chinese food, and they'd just finished eating. She had caught him staring at her, but the desk had been between them and he'd followed his return to the chair's seat with a shift of position, as if he was slouching down into his seat. All she'd done was issue a warning — "Don't fall for me, Farmboy, I don't have time for it" — and shortly after that they'd left the newsroom.
After that night, he'd been careful not to daydream in her presence. Of course, she kept him — them — so busy that he didn't have a lot of time to daydream, at least not in the newsroom. He could daydream — and float — all he wanted when he was at home, especially now that he had his own apartment.
But the problem wasn't that easily solved. No sooner would he think that he finally had his reaction to Lois under control, than she'd do something to upset the whole thing.
As they continued to work together, they seemed to be forming a friendship of sorts out of the initial wary… *standoff* was a good way to describe it. *Partnership* wasn't really a good description at this point.
It was a slow process, requiring a lot of patience on his part. Lois was suspicious of everyone; she was extremely driven, and totally focused on her job.
When she'd stolen his story, he'd confronted her about it. She had brazenly admitted to the crime, telling him, "You got what you deserved."
"What?" he'd asked, stunned.
"Never, *never* let go of a story," she had continued. "Trust no one. Period. …Consider this a life lesson. No charge."
His anger and disbelief — and, no doubt, her refusal to admit what she'd done was wrong — had been keeping them temporarily separated.
So had Perry — he'd had them on separate stories this week.
But Clark had apparently earned Lois's reluctant respect, when he'd paid her back for stealing his story.
She had acknowledged that he had set her up.
Slightly uncomfortable, he had admitted it.
Instead of blowing up, she had calmly told him, "You got the story, *and* you took me down a peg in the process. I guess I deserved that."
On that statement, she'd left the newsroom to get cleaned up and changed.
They hadn't really talked to each other much since then, both having stories to finish before deadline. Now, he finished his last read-over on a short Superman piece and sent it to Perry. Leaning back in his chair, he looked over at Lois, who had apparently just finished sending her own story.
She was gathering up some files. "Hey, Lois," he asked, "what have we got on for tomorrow?"
She looked over at him, one eyebrow raised, and answered, "You're using that word again, Clark. There is 'you', there is 'I', there is no 'we'."
"Not yet," he said with a grin.
"Not ever," she replied haughtily, standing up, files tucked under her arm.
"We'll see," he told her, unable to stop the grin from becoming a full-fledged smile.
She huffed at him, tossing over her shoulder, "How long can you hold your breath?
But he could see that she, too, was fighting a smile as she crossed the newsroom and stacked the files on the cart for return to the morgue.
At least she was talking to him again. He could be very patient — and he could hold his breath for a long, long time.
< Help, Superman! >
He rose to his feet, making a show of glancing at his watch, and walked as casually as he could up the ramp.
"Back in a bit," he said as he passed Jimmy, who merely nodded distractedly, his attention fixed on his own errand.
Clark stepped into the stairwell and, with a burst of speed, headed for the roof.
'Back in a bit' turned into 'back in quite a few hours'.
Clark was currently sitting at his desk at the Planet. Lois sat at her own desk, head bent over some files. It was quite late, and the newsroom was deserted, except for the two of them. Lois was finishing some research for one of the stories Perry had assigned her, and Clark was just sitting, staring into space.
He hadn't been floating — much — these last few days. On the few occasions they *were* together, he was too focused on events outside the newsroom to be impacted much by Lois's presence. For one thing, his creation of Superman was causing a worldwide furor. And he was also trying to cope with Lex Luthor's 'tests'.
Luthor was callously putting scores of people at risk for the sake of testing Superman's powers. Creating Superman had put those people in danger by drawing Luthor's attention. While the emergencies themselves were manufactured, the danger to Luthor's victims was real.
And this was in addition to the usual sort of things Superman dealt with. The call for help he'd heard had been another setup; a bomb had exploded just as he had entered what turned out to be, thankfully, a mostly empty office building. He had rescued the few people caught on the upper floors as firemen contained the resultant fire, and had seen the remains of what was obviously monitoring equipment.
As he was finishing up with police on the scene, he had picked up a report of another emergency on a radio newscast.
He had just returned about half an hour ago from that scene, an extremely serious multiple car crash. It had been raining steadily over much of the east coast for most of the day, and a sudden fog had descended on a major highway in upstate New York during the tail end of rush hour. The loss of visibility had led to a domino effect, and as many as fifty cars had been involved.
He hadn't heard about the accident soon enough. As soon as he *had* heard about it, he'd headed up there, but there had already been a lot of injuries and death. All he could do was help the rescue personnel free those who were trapped, and transport the most severely injured people to hospitals.
He was having a crisis of faith. He couldn't be in two places at once. All those people, and he couldn't help them. What good was Superman if he couldn't save them all?
The silent newsroom monitors were showing the aftermath of the crash, with Superman moving among the people and cars. Clark noticed that Lois had stopped working and was watching the news footage.
"Those poor people," she commented. "It's a good thing Superman was there to help."
"To help?" Clark echoed. "What help? All those people who were hurt… all those people who died — he couldn't help them! What good is he?"
She didn't turn around. "What he can't do… it doesn't matter. It's the *idea* of Superman," she said, gazing at the monitors.
She glanced at him, then returned her gaze to the monitors. Superman was freeing an elderly couple — clearly frightened, and probably seriously hurt — from the wreckage of their car.
She gestured at the screen. "Don't you see, Clark?" she asked, "It's someone to believe in… Whatever he *can* do, it's enough."
He followed Lois's gaze back to the monitors.
Superman had just peeled back the roof of the car and was preparing to remove the elderly woman. She reached up and took Superman's hand, and held it.
He remembered that — the couple had been pinned in place, but had been holding hands while he worked to free them from the crushed car. The woman, white and shaken, and in pain, had taken his hand. "God bless you, Superman," she'd said, and her husband had echoed her. She had held Superman's hand until he'd placed her on one of the gurneys the ambulance crew had ready and waiting, and when he placed her husband on a gurney next to her, both of them thanked him.
"You see those two people?" Lois continued. "They probably thought they would die there, in that car. Yes, lots of people were hurt, and lots of people were killed. But a lot more might have died before they could be helped. Superman kept that crash from being any worse. He was there, and he was providing hope, and all of those people needed hope as much as they needed help."
Clark stared at Lois, deeply touched. Her pep talk, unconsciously being delivered straight to the superhero himself, was affecting him profoundly — and incidentally, doing a lot to restore his confidence.
"He can't help everyone, Clark," Lois said. "Even for a super man, it's impossible. But he helps anyone he can, and that knowledge — that he exists, all the things he *can* do — that provides hope, and that's enough."
She rose to her feet, which recalled him to the present and the fact that once again, he'd floated several inches off his chair. He thumped back down onto his seat just before she looked up from where she'd been fishing her purse out of her desk drawer.
He continued to sit at his desk as he watched her cross the newsroom to the elevator. Lois had no idea that she was responsible not only for the creation of Superman, but also for his newly formed determination to stay.
Clark's retaliation and Lois's response to it marked a turning point in their relationship. While still adversarial, she treated him with a grudging respect, and seemed to thrive on their back- and-forth banter.
She had taken to touching him — nothing inappropriate, of course, and he doubted she was even aware of it. But she would tap his arm, or pat his shoulder as he sat at his desk and she read over his shoulder, or swat him on the chest as she made a point.
His dearest dream was to get closer to her, so he reveled in this indication of her acceptance and ease in his presence.
He loved it.
He loved *her*.
But the first time she tapped his arm, and the first time she patted his shoulder, he left the ground — a quarter of an inch at the most, but he was airborne nonetheless.
And the first time she swatted him in the chest — that was another four-incher. He was incredibly lucky she'd swatted backwards over her shoulder at him as they were entering the elevator. If she'd been facing him, his secret would have been toast.
He had been learning to control at least *some* of his reactions to her, though.
Or at least hide them. He probably appeared very clumsy to Lois, with his shifting and stumbling and staggering… or maybe he just appeared crazy.
And really, he could only stagger backwards — as if she'd caught him unaware — once or twice at the most. He could only appear to stumble, or shift around in his chair, a couple of times before she was bound to start wondering what on earth was the matter with him.
She already thought he was strange — she'd told him so. "You're a strange one, Clark Kent… But I think I've got you figured out."
That little exchange had nearly given him heart failure for an instant, until he realized that his secret remained undiscovered.
It was so much easier when he was around her as Superman.
Then, he could float to his heart's content.
When he'd rescued the space station transport from the bomb, true to form, he'd found himself floating when he encountered Lois. He'd been able to ignore that, though, since he'd been in the suit. In fact, it may have even been a benefit because the floating probably helped keep people — Lois — focused, as his mother had said, on anything but his face.
It was so much easier when he was in the suit.
And so much harder.
He found himself in the unique position of being incredibly jealous of — himself. While her affection for Clark as her friend seemed to be growing slowly and steadily, Lois's utter awe of his Super persona completely overshadowed any awareness of him — Clark — as a man.
It defied the laws of geometry. He was in a love triangle with only two people. Three angles, but only two sides.
Once he began to get used to Lois's casual touches, he was better able to control his tendency to float — at least in those particular situations.
He was learning that the most danger lay either in his feeling a particularly intense emotion — love, or desire — in her presence, or in his complete surprise at something she did.
If he kept himself focused on their friendship and pushed his love into the back of his mind, he could even keep himself from floating when he rested his hand on her shoulder, or gave her a casual half-hug as they walked along together. And as he became accustomed to her casual touches, to her tendency to grab his hand — or tie — and tug him along after her, he was finding that, while he was certainly… stepping a bit lighter around her, it didn't seem to show.
Then just as he was once again starting to feel cautiously optimistic in his ability to stay grounded, so to speak, around Lois Lane, everything changed again.
Not content with terrorizing the entire newsroom staff, that madman Trask had kidnapped the two of them and resorted to complete insanity in his quest to find and destroy Superman.
He'd planned to throw them both out of that plane.
Clark had not been completely despairing; he knew that he had a better chance of saving Lois and still protecting his secret if Trask did, indeed, throw them out of the plane. Clark could change into his suit in an instant, and catch Lois before she came anywhere near the ground.
He had been more worried that something would happen inside the plane, where his having to do something super was almost guaranteed to give away his secret. He wouldn't have hesitated to reveal himself if it was the only way in which to save Lois, but he had hoped it wouldn't come to that.
Then Lois made that last request.
She wanted to kiss him goodbye.
She. Wanted. To kiss. *Kiss*. Him.
He knew she'd had an ulterior motive; he knew it was a ploy to get close enough to whisper some desperate plan to him.
But a *kiss* — from *Lois* -
Even surrounded by dangerous men and fearing for her safety, he'd found himself starting to float. The soldier standing behind him must have interpreted his movement as an attempt to rise to his feet, and Clark found himself being pushed forcefully back down into the seat.
Then Lois had stood — Trask's goons watching her almost nonchalantly, but with their weapons ready in their hands — and had bent down and kissed him.
Clark's mind had gone completely blank for a moment, and he could probably have beaten his four-inch record. He'd probably have tripled his previous score, at a minimum — that had been a powerful kiss. Worth at least twelve inches.
But even as he'd felt himself rising, Lois had been whispering her plan.
"Take the one on the right," she'd said, and finding a focus in the sound of her voice, he'd used his involuntary upward motion to surge to his feet, turn, and pin the soldier holding him against the plane's wall.
Trask had wrestled Lois out the plane's door at that point, and Clark had followed her in a desperate dive, the sound of a gunshot and Trask's laughter ringing in his ears.
After Superman caught Lois and returned her safely to solid ground, then disarmed the missile, Clark had returned to the planet to be greeted by his jubilant partner, who threw herself into his arms.
He'd left the floor instantly, and had had to force himself downward quickly. He had swung her up into a lifted hug as he came down, and landed hard, hoping it felt to her as if he'd jumped upward with her. Her comment — "Hey everybody, if Clark's alive, that means Superman saved him and *he's* alive!" — had finished bringing Clark down to earth.
Disappointment wasn't a float-inducing emotion.
Even so, he *had* had to force the memory of that kiss to the back of his mind for the rest of the day, at least until he was safely behind his apartment door.
The reality of that deserted, empty warehouse had also helped keep him focused, of course, but he'd still found it a relief when he could escape the newsroom for the night. Returning to the Planet as Superman, he'd finally given in to the Lois-induced floating, and had hovered six inches or so off the floor during their entire conversation.
The first few days after the Trask incident were fairly quiet, at least from a Lois-equals-floating point of view.
They both spent the following day independently writing followup stories on the Bureau 39 incident, so there wasn't much contact between them. And Superman was busy with a spate of weather- related accidents on the Northeast coast on the following day, so Clark wasn't in the newsroom for a large part the day.
He'd also been pretty distracted and dismayed by the ballooning Superman hype, fueled in part by his — Superman's — being awarded the key to the city.
And he'd been totally blindsided by the celebrity auction last night. He'd had no idea he'd have women *bidding money* for a date with him. He'd had the vague idea that he would be officiating, maybe as an auctioneer, at a more… *conventional* auction. The whole thing was a nightmare; he'd even *had* a nightmare about it.
He'd woken up this morning in a sea of tiny feathers — floating above them, actually, but covered in them too. He must have squeezed or pounded his pillow in his sleep, and it had apparently burst in a shower of feathers. There was a man-shaped area empty of feathers beneath him on the bed, and a fine film of feathers on his body. The empty pillow shell lay on the floor, like a popped balloon.
Fragments of the dream echoed through his mind as he floated to the floor, dusting feathers off himself, and went to get the vacuum. He — Clark — had been at a banquet with Lois, when suddenly he'd been surrounded by leering women reaching out to touch him, grabbing at his clothing, which had suddenly turned into Superman's suit. Then he was wading through a waist-deep sea of money, with some woman — not Lois — hanging onto his arm, and Lois was calling to him. Turning to look, he saw she was sinking into the money, and the faster he tried to reach her, the faster she sank into the sea of green paper. He'd thrown himself forward and grabbed at her, but she turned into a bag of money as he threw his arms around her.
That must have been when he burst his pillow.
Sighing, Clark cleaned up the feathers and threw the empty pillowcase into the trash. Between the Superman-related distractions and independent story assignments, he hadn't spent much time with Lois over the last few days. That had probably contributed to the nightmare. He hoped Perry would assign them to a story together today; he needed the contact with Lois.
He arrived at the Planet just before Lois, and seeing her step off the elevator, went to pour her a cup of coffee, grabbing one of the chocolate donuts for her while he was at it. He met her at the door to the conference room and handed them to her as they entered together.
"Thanks, Clark," she said, rather shortly. The room was still fairly empty, as staff members were still arriving and collecting their own coffee and donuts before the meeting started. Clark held out a chair for Lois and she sank into it, already sipping at the coffee.
Clark knew she functioned better once she'd had additional caffeine in the mornings, so he had taken to bringing her a cup of coffee most mornings. He would cool it just slightly for her, which was easy to do even in a crowded conference room. Everyone blew on their coffee to cool it, and no one could see that his breath was… a bit more effective at cooling than anyone else's.
"Mmmmm…" Lois sighed, beginning to perk up. "Thank you, Clark. I know it's just newsroom coffee, but it always seems to taste better when you fix it for me."
Clark flashed her a big smile. "You're welcome, Lois," he answered. They continued to drink their coffee as the room began to slowly fill up with staffers.
The meeting went quickly this morning; Perry had a conference upstairs with 'the suits', as he called them, for the monthly advertising budget planning.
After a quick recap of the ongoing stories his reporters were working on, he dismissed them all with his usual gruff, "Get to work, people!" and headed out the door himself.
Lois and Clark remained sitting, waiting for the room to clear out a bit first. Clark pushed back his chair, preparing to rise, as Cat Grant passed them on her way to the door.
Without warning or comment, she suddenly dropped into Clark's lap, and before he could utter a word, she kissed him squarely on the mouth. He pulled back in surprise even as she was rising to her feet.
"Good morning, handsome," she purred, and ran a scarlet-tipped finger down his cheek. She flashed a sassy smile at Lois, then turned and sashayed out of the conference room.
Lois glowered at him.
"Lois, I -," he started, but she cut him off.
"Skip it, Clark," she snapped scathingly, "I don't want to hear it. *Some* of us have work to do."
Ignoring his attempts to explain that he had been blindsided by Cat's actions, Lois stalked out of the room. He suspected she would be rather distant with him for the rest of the morning.
With a sigh, he returned to his desk and sat down. Embarrassment, he had just discovered, no matter how intense, was another emotion that did not cause him to float.
Perry returned to the newsroom by midmorning.
By then, Clark had been out on one Superman rescue, a minor car accident on the Hobbs Bay bridge, and had returned to the newsroom. Lois had been on the phone for most of the morning, verifying information for the last of the independent stories Perry had assigned them. She had had very little to say to Clark when he returned.
"Lois! Clark! My office!" Perry bellowed.
Lois glanced at Clark, who shrugged, and rose to his feet.
Once they were both seated in his office, Perry leaned back in his own chair and began, "All right, kids, the suits want to -"
He was interrupted by Jimmy, who knocked on the open door, stuck his head into the office, and said, "Sorry, Chief! Lois, there's a woman out here that says she has to speak with you right away."
"About what?" Lois asked.
"Something about an invisible man?" Jimmy answered, "Or something like that."
"Oh, for Pete's sake!" Lois exclaimed, "Another crank who thinks we're the National Whisper!"
"Maybe we should talk to her," Clark suggested mildly, "just to make sure."
"Clark…" Lois began.
"Look, you're probably right," Clark hurried on, "…but that's what we thought about Samuel Platt at first, too. Remember?"
Lois sighed. "True," she said, and looked inquiringly at Perry.
"Go — both of you," Perry told her, "This'll keep. Who knows? There might be a story here."
Lois sighed again. "C'mon, Clark," she said briskly, "let's go get this over with, okay?"
She looked at Jimmy, who said, "Conference room," before she could even start to ask him where the woman was.
There was nothing unusual or even remarkable about the woman waiting for them in the conference room. She appeared to be in her mid-fifties, with blond hair streaked liberally with gray, and a somewhat careworn face. She introduced herself as Helene Morris, telling them, "My husband's disappeared, and…"
"Have you reported him as a missing person?" Lois interrupted her.
"No, no — I mean, he's *really* disappeared. He's invisible!"
Lois looked at Clark, one eyebrow raised. He could see she was losing patience with the conversation.
"What makes you think your husband is invisible, Mrs. Morris?" he asked quickly.
"Well," she began, "he didn't come up from the basement last night — that's where he has his laboratory — for dinner, so I went down to see what was keeping him. And he wasn't there, but while I was looking for him, the basement door opened and I heard him say 'Goodby, Helene, I'll see you around.' And the door closed. So I didn't… *see* him leave, but… he did leave, so he's invisible."
"Mrs. Morris…" Lois began, and looked at Clark for help.
They were interrupted by Jimmy, who opened the conference room door suddenly and said hastily, "Guys! You gotta come see this!" before dashing toward the pit.
Lois and Clark, followed by Helene Morris, approached the crowd of Daily Planet staff gathered in front of the TV monitors.
An LNN anchor was speaking. << If you're… *not* seeing what I'm… *not* seeing, then you're witnessing a miracle. Captured on amateur home video this morning, a catering truck, loaded with fancy treats for a political fund-raiser, was high-jacked by the 'Invisible Man.' >>
The news report continued with the story, playing the video showing a truck driver being thrown from the driver's seat by… no one, and the truck being driven off with no one at the wheel.
"That's my husband," Helene Morris said in distress, "See? He *is* invisible. But he's not a criminal! I don't understand why he's acting like this, but we need to find him! Can you help me?"
She was becoming visibly upset, and Clark gently escorted her back to the conference room.
Lois followed them, a look on her face that Clark recognized easily. She was in full investigative-reporter mode.
"We're going to need more information in order to get to the bottom of this," she said briskly. "I still say there's no such thing as an invisible man, so we need to know exactly what your husband had been working on, Mrs. Morris," she continued, "in order to find out how he's doing this."
"I don't know what he was working on, specifically, but I know he talked about light and invisibility and things of that sort,' Helene said. "I do know he would never hurt anybody. He's very law-abiding and feels very strongly about that. He doesn't even swat flies! He… he catches them… he made a little net, and lets them go outside…" She began to cry. "I think someone else, some *other* invisible man, is… is impersonating *my* invisible man."
"Clark…" Lois said helplessly, then sat down next to Helene and took her hand.
"Mrs. Morris, we'd like to help you," Clark told Helene softly. "May we see your husband's laboratory?"
Helene Morris took a deep breath and wiped her eyes, then gave them a wobbly smile. "Yes, of course," she said, "I just want my husband back."
Alan Morris's laboratory had been ransacked — utterly destroyed — when they arrived at the house. The outside basement door had been forced open, and the lab was a shambles. The glassware had been shattered, the cabinets were overturned or smashed, and the computer monitor looked like it had been kicked in. Torn and crumpled papers littered the floor.
Lois and Clark stood in the lab watching the police as they moved through the lab, dusting for fingerprints and photographing the destruction. A distraught Helene Morris had been taken upstairs to her kitchen by a sympathetic policewoman, who was both calming her down and taking her story.
"We need to find this Morris," Inspector Henderson told Lois. "The Seabreeze Drive branch of the First Bank of Metropolis was robbed about two hours ago, by what appeared to be more than one… invisible man. The bank's security cameras caught the action."
"Has everyone in the city lost their minds?" Lois exclaimed, "There's no such thing as an invisible man!"
"What about the bank robbery?" Clark asked.
She rolled her eyes at him. "It's some sort of elaborate hoax, Clark," she said in exasperation, "I don't know… they're doing it with mirrors or something. And video records can be altered, you know."
"How do you explain all the witnesses?" Inspector Henderson interjected mildly.
"Not you, too, Bill," Lois said, "Next you'll be chasing big pink rabbits or invisible elephants or something."
Bill Henderson shook his head and, with the closest thing Clark had ever seen to a smile on his face, walked away from them to confer with the crime scene techs.
"I think that's big *invisible* rabbits and pink *elephants*, Lois," Clark told her with a smile.
"Whatever," Lois replied dismissively. "Clark, the poor woman's husband probably has something going on the side; he walked out on her, and now she thinks he's turned invisible."
"How do you know he isn't?" Clark countered.
"Clark, are you serious?" Lois asked, "We're talking about a figment of somebody's overactive imagination."
"What about Superman, Lois? There's a man in this city who can fly. Why not a man who can turn invisible?"
"Clark, I'll believe it when I see it… when I *don't* see it… with my own two eyes, all right?" Lois said, shaking her head. "I don't see anything obvious that would clue us in to what happened here, do you?"
Clark had looked the lab over carefully while they were waiting for the police to arrive. There was only one set of fingerprints he could see; he was sure they must belong to Alan Morris. He'd also seen a tiny scrap of fabric snagged on a nail in the exterior doorframe. He'd somehow missed it when he'd been standing in the doorway, which was odd, because it was shimmery, reflecting the light in a rainbow of colors. He'd plucked it from the nail and tucked it into his pocket; he'd show it to Lois later.
Despite the absence of any other prints, he believed Helene Morris when she said her husband was not a criminal. Why would the man wreck his own laboratory?
"There is one thing," he said, "but I'd rather… talk about it somewhere else, okay?"
"The jeep. Let's go," Lois said immediately, tugging on his sleeve. Startled, he floated upward a half inch or so off the floor before he caught himself and came back down.
Lois hadn't let go of his sleeve. Feeling the backward tug, she looked back at him, one eyebrow raised. "C'mon, Clark, what are you waiting for?" she asked impatiently.
"Uh, Bill Henderson," he improvised, "Do we need to let him know we're leaving?"
She looked at him strangely, then called across the room, "Bill, we'll see ya' later."
Bill Henderson glanced over at them and said, "If I need you two, you'll be available, right?'
Lois waved a hand airily at him, tugging harder on Clark. "Come *on*, Clark," she said, "You can't tell me something like that and expect me to *wait* for the rest of it."
He followed her, smiling. No, he couldn't expect her to wait for it.
Once they were seated in the jeep, he fished the scrap of fabric out of his pocket.
"It might be nothing at all," he said, "but I found a scrap of some kind of cloth snagged on the basement's outer doorframe."
"It's sort of strange," he continued. "See how it reflects the light?"
He twisted it in his hand, turning it over, and to their amazement, the fabric disappeared.
"Where is it, Clark?" Lois asked him. "Did you drop it?"
"No," he said, "I'm still holding it. I can't see it, not even with — well, I can't see it, but I can feel it," he finished quickly. He'd almost said "I can't see it, not even with super vision." That would certainly have triggered some sort of reaction from Lois, he was sure. Probably something… tornadic.
He turned the fabric scrap back over again, and it reappeared. Holding the fabric between his thumb and index finger, he tipped it back and forth. Shiny side up, it reflected the light. Shiny side down, it disappeared.
Lois put her hand on his, sliding her fingers down to where his seemed to be pinched together on empty air. She fingered the fabric, her hand cupped over his. Clark, concentrating on staying on the jeep's seat, almost missed what she said.
"A fabric that can… disappear," she mused.
They looked at each other.
"A fabric that can disappear," Clark repeated.
"You could make it into a suit…" Lois said, taking the fabric from him and tipping it back and forth as he had been doing.
"…And wear it inside out…" he continued, as they both watched the fabric appear and disappear.
"That's how he becomes…" she began, looking up at Clark.
"…invisible," they finished together.
"And why his lab was broken into…" she added, still fingering the fabric.
"And that's how someone else is…" Clark began.
"See?" Lois exclaimed triumphantly, tucking the scrap into her own pocket, "I told you there's no such thing as an invisible man, Clark!"
They returned to the Planet and pulled everything they could find on the truck heist they'd seen on the news, and on the bank robbery. There was very little information other than what had been reported already.
They'd agreed to call it a night, and Lois had dropped Clark off at his place.
He'd been home about half an hour when his phone rang.
It was Lois, and she sounded shaken. Alan Morris had shown up — or, being invisible, arrived but *didn't* show up — at her apartment.
She had been home for about twenty minutes, and had changed into her pajamas, when he had knocked on the door.
She'd put on a robe and gone to answer the door, but when she'd looked out the peephole, no one was there. She'd opened the door a crack, then all the way, again seeing no one. Thinking it was some sort of prank, or her imagination, she had closed the door and headed for her kitchen.
Alan had spoken to her then, scaring the daylights out of her — although she'd been extremely reluctant to admit that, even to Clark.
Alan had confirmed their theory of the invisibility suit, merely by taking it off. He'd told Lois that he needed their help to tell his story, at which point Lois had stopped him long enough to call Clark and ask him to come over.
Clark assured her that he'd be right over, and then had to cool his heels on her apartment roof for ten long minutes before he could legitimately arrive at her door.
It was still too soon to be easily explained when he knocked on her door, but he could hear that her heartbeat was still faster than usual. He couldn't help feeling protective of her, although she would also be reluctant to admit that she needed any sort of protecting.
Now they were sitting on her couch, and Alan sat in the armchair across from them.
Lois was still in her pajamas and robe, and she leaned slightly against Clark as the three of them talked. He had tucked the heel of one foot slightly under the couch when they first sat down, anticipating that their closeness might cause him a little too much… lightness.
He wasn't floating, however, and he suspected that might have something to do with his concern for her. Her posture told him better than words that she hadn't completely recovered her equilibrium, no matter how calm she might appear. He wanted to wrap her in his arms and hold her, but he would have to satisfy himself with just offering his support — literally — tonight.
"Alan, let's start at the beginning," she said. "…Why?"
"It's very simple, Ms. Lane," Alan replied, "I became invisible to become *visible* again."
"What do you mean?" Clark asked.
Alan began to explain, telling them that he'd felt increasingly invisible in his own life. He described his job, an office full of anonymous cubicles where people came and went almost unnoticed.
"…I became so invisible in my own life, that I decided to do it for real. I started experimenting," he told them earnestly.
"Where did you get the idea for the suit?" Lois asked him. Clark was relieved to hear that her heart rate had returned to normal.
"From a fluorescent light bulb," Alan answered. "A fluorescent light bulb turns invisible light into visible light. I reversed the process. It took me fifteen years to build a working suit."
"Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, I'm *not* the one doing all these bad things," Alan continued. "There's *another* invisible man out there!"
"You know your lab was broken into, don't you?" Clark asked him, and when Alan nodded, added, "It's not going to be easy to stop whoever it is; invisibility is an incredible advantage."
Alan nodded glumly.
"We can continue this in the morning," Clark said, "Alan, why don't you stay with me at my place until we figure all this out, okay?"
"And I'll meet you guys there, tomorrow," Lois said.
As he and Alan were leaving, Clark paused in the doorway to say goodnight.
Lois's robe had come untied, revealing Superman pajamas.
"Lo-is, not you, too," Clark said, shaking his head.
Lois looked down at her pajamas and with a quick "Oh!" began to refasten her robe.
Despite his exasperation with the whole Superman hype, Clark was unable to prevent himself from starting to float. He quickly grabbed the edge of the door, trying to keep his grip light enough to avoid damaging it, and managed to return his feet to the floor by the time she looked up.
"Goodnight, Clark," she said, and sort of shoved him out the door. He had to let go of the door's edge, but fortunately, his feet were back on the floor… mostly.
Close enough that nobody would notice, anyway. Lois's door was closed, and Alan had wandered down towards the stairway at the end of the hall.
After leaving Alan Morris at Clark's place the following morning, with his promise that he would stay there, Lois and Clark spent almost the entire day at the Daily Planet.
There had been a rash of 'invisible man' crimes in the early morning hours, including several jewelry stores and a rare coin shop. Lois and Clark, with Jimmy's help, were trying to track down every known criminal who wasn't currently in jail.
Over the course of the day, they'd accumulated scores of files and computer printouts, all of which were scattered around them in the conference room. They still had hundreds of suspects, and it was getting late in the day.
"The problem is, what if this isn't a known criminal?" Jimmy asked them.
"Hmmm… What are we missing, Clark?" Lois asked, "What's being stolen, jewels? Rare coins? And jewelry…"
Clark nodded, replying, "Yes… mostly gold."
They looked at each other, an idea dawning.
"Jimmy! Where's that list of the stuff that was stolen?" Lois snapped.
Jimmy looked around for a moment, then picked up a computer printout and handed it to her.
"Let's see," she said, skimming the list, "… gold rings with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, …gold chains, a gold and diamond brooch, antique gold watch, gold coins…"
"Gold!" Lois and Clark said simultaneously.
"Jimmy!" Lois said again, "can you find me information on that guy, whats-his-name, Golden Boy Something-or-other, that went to jail after that big gold heist a few years ago? Now?"
"On it, Lois," Jimmy said, fingers flying over the keyboard. "How do you guys do that, by the way?" he continued, "It's like you share a brain connection, or something… Here! Golden Boy Barnes — that's who you think is behind this?"
"I think we're on to something, Lois," Clark said, smiling at her.
She smiled back, and said, "C'mon, Clark, let's warn Bill Henderson. They need to have the gold repository watched. And we need to talk to Alan Morris again…"
"…And try to convince him to talk to Bill Henderson," Clark continued the thought. "We need to know more about those suits."
They gathered up the files and papers, stuffing them into briefcases, and thanked Jimmy for his help.
"It's a privilege to watch you guys," Jimmy told them with a smile. "Let me know if you need anything else."
Lois and Clark had returned to his apartment, to find Alan Morris sound asleep on the couch.
They had decided to let him sleep; he'd told them the night before that he hadn't slept more than a few hours at a time over the last week.
They'd stood out on Clark's balcony for a long time, sipping tea and talking. At one point, she'd asked him whether he'd choose to be invisible or to be able to fly.
At his obvious curiosity, she'd told him that she and her sister had played the game when they were small. Intrigued, he'd asked her what she would choose. She'd told him she'd always chosen 'invisible' — "I wished I could walk through all those closed doors. I guess I still do."
She had asked him again, "Invisible or fly, Clark?"
When he'd answered, "Fly", she'd commented that the two of them had something in common. "…Superman. You want to fly *like* him. I want to fly *with* him."
She'd leaned back into him slightly, and rested her head against his shoulder. He'd had to reach down quickly and grab the balcony railing tightly in an effort to keep himself grounded.
And he'd had to bend the railing back into shape the next morning.
They'd gone back inside, then, to start work on the initial draft of the story. Sitting at Clark's kitchen table so they wouldn't wake Alan up, they had finished the first of what they both felt could turn out to be a series, starting with Alan Morris and ending with Golden Boy Barnes.
Lois had laid her head on her folded arms at the table while Clark gathered up their scattered notes and then emailed the story to Perry. He'd returned to find her sound asleep.
Gently gathering her into his arms, he'd carried her to his bedroom. He had made no effort to curb the inevitable floating, reasoning that he'd be less likely to wake her. He'd laid her on his bed and removed her shoes, then covered her with a blanket and retreated.
With only a few hours left until daylight, he'd decided Superman would do an extensive patrol of the city. While he didn't expect to see anything — literally — of any invisible man, he'd found that Superman's visibility was a good deterrent to the more typical criminal element.
He landed on his balcony three hours later, noticing the misshapen balcony railing and quickly bending it back into its original position.
After some thought, he had decided to speak to Alan and Lois this morning as Superman. It would allow him to involve the superhero in finding a way to make the invisible suits visible. He'd explain Clark's absence as doing research on Barnes, or getting breakfast, or something.
And it wouldn't matter if he floated; people *expected* Superman to float.
Lois was sitting up in bed when he stepped through the windows from the balcony to the bedroom. She looked rumpled, sleepy, and very desirable. He felt an intense desire to gather her up and never let her go, and found he was floating about six inches off the floor.
"Superman!" she exclaimed, "What are you — Are you here to talk to Alan Morris?"
"Yes," he answered, still floating.
"Okay, let's go find the others," she said, moving toward the bedroom door. Reaching the doorway, she paused and glanced around the rest of his apartment.
"Where's Clark, Superman?" Lois asked.
He really didn't want to lie to her. Maybe… Maybe telling the truth in a vague sort of way would work? He drifted down to stand firmly on the floor. "He was awake early, and is doing some more research."
"Oh… I wonder why he didn't wake me up…" she said, "Maybe he didn't sleep very well, couldn't get comfortable… Poor guy, I ended up taking his bed, he probably slept on the floor or something…"
She wasn't paying her usual rapt attention to Superman. It sounded like she was more concerned with Clark at the moment. Beginning to drift upward again, he came very close to reaching out for her, to running a gentle hand over her cheek before kissing her… He drifted higher.
He couldn't decide if it was fortunate or not that Alan Morris chose that moment to interrupt them.
"Superman!" he said, "I can't believe it — I'm honored to meet you!"
Clark greeted him in his best courteous-and-kindly-but-remote Superman voice, and suggested that they go into 'Clark's living room' so that Alan could answer some questions.
Lois moved forward and swiftly gathered Alan's blanket and pillow up, placing them on the floor at one end of the couch.
"What do you need to know, Superman?" she asked, sitting down on the couch. Alan chose one of the armchairs, and Clark sat down next to Lois.
"Clark said you got the idea from a fluorescent light?" Clark — Superman — asked Alan, and at his nod, continued, "And he said you reversed the process, turning visible light into invisible light?"
Alan spent a few minutes detailing his research and eventual success in creating the invisibility suits.
"Clark filled me in about Barnes and the gold repository," Superman said. "My problem is, even if they show up there, I can't see them."
"Even with your x-ray vision?" Lois asked.
"No, because I still need visible light," Superman replied.
"Fluorescent light…" Lois said. "How does it actually work, Alan?"
"In a fluorescent lightbulb, invisible light becomes visible by passing it through a coating of phosphorus," Alan said.
"Well, the suits make visible light invisible," Lois said slowly, "because you said you 'reversed the process'. Can you… reverse the reversed process?"
Alan looked bewildered, but Clark understood exactly what Lois was saying. And he also realized that Lois was right. There *was* a way to make the suits visible.
He looked at her in admiration — and floated up off the couch. As usual, Lois was brilliant.
He barely restrained himself from kissing her.
This wasn't the time for that, no matter how much he wanted it.
He rose to his feet, still not quite touching down on the floor.
Lois's cell phone rang, and she answered it with a brisk "Lois Lane."
He heard Jimmy on the other end, saying that Bill Henderson had called to tell them that the silent alarm at the gold repository had gone off.
"Thanks, Jimmy," she said, shutting off the phone, and turned toward Clark — Superman.
"I heard, Lois," he said, still hovering a few inches off the floor, "And you're right, there is a way to make the suits visible, and you gave me an idea. Thank you!"
He left from his balcony, knowing he only had a short amount of time to put his plan in motion. Circling around, he saw Lois grab the invisibility suit and dash out the front door, Alan in close pursuit. There was nothing he could do about that, except hope he stopped Barnes and whoever was with him before Lois got into any trouble.
He headed west, for the nearest phosphorus mine, at a high rate of speed, even for Superman.
Superman had arrived at the gold repository to find the SWAT teams pinned by gunfire coming apparently from nowhere. Standing on the roof of the building, he had dumped phosphorus liberally over the area, bringing the gunmen — there were five of them — into view.
Superman dropped down on them, crushing their guns, and within a few minutes the SWAT team members had the men handcuffed and loaded into the police vehicles.
That was when Clark had suddenly realized that Lois was missing.
Worried, he'd looked around for her, scanning the building. He'd seen and heard her at the same time, and was through the concrete wall of the vault in almost the same moment. When he reached her, locked inside the vault and nearly out of air, he'd swept her up into his arms and held her close; she'd clung just as tightly to him.
He'd been unable to let her go immediately, and they'd hovered over the rubble from the collapsed wall until he calmed down. He was lucky he'd been in the suit, since he'd have been unable to touch down for those few moments even if he'd been dressed as Clark.
He was lucky.
He was lucky he'd found her in time.
If luck operated on the same principle as a cat's nine lives, he was probably just about out of… well, …luck.
Perry officially made Lois and Clark partners after they broke the Invisible Man story. Lois complained about it, but Clark wondered if she really minded all that much. She seemed to have developed a slightly proprietarial air about him with their co- workers, especially Cat.
Clark, himself, was delighted with the arrangement, and had involuntarily floated up off his chair. In an effort to conceal it, he had sort of twitched upward, hitting the bottom of the table with his knee with a solid *thunk*.
Both Perry and Lois had looked at him across the conference table; Clark had grinned weakly and subsided into the chair. "You're a weird guy, Clark. That's a given," Lois had commented.
Perry had also told them that the Planet would be promoting them as a team. That was what he had started to tell them when they'd been interrupted by Helene Morris's appearance in the newsroom.
"The advertising team will use both print and television ads telling Metropolis that Lane and Kent are the greatest writing team in town… and they can read about it in the Daily Planet," Perry had said.
Both Lois and Clark had objected to print ads showing their faces. "It would ruin our ability to go undercover, Chief," Lois had said, with Clark in absolute agreement. Perry had agreed too, and the three of them ended up meeting with upper management.
Eventually, thanks mostly to Lois's complete… unbudge-ability when she was convinced she was right, they reached a compromise. The Planet's ads would show them in one-quarter profile at the most, and one of the advertising department's artists had quickly sketched out an ad showing rough drawings of the two of them, faces hidden behind open copies of the Daily Planet. That had been met with approval from everyone present.
That issue resolved, Perry had assigned them the boxing story. Lois had objected at first, until she realized that it might turn out to be, as she said, "…The biggest scandal in boxing history."
She'd been right. Her father, Sam Lane, was a sports medicine specialist. He'd thought he was designing artificial limbs that would stand up to rigorous daily living, but he'd become accidentally involved in a scheme to create cyborg boxers.
Perry had been right on the money; Lois and Clark — Lane and Kent — made a good team. With Sam's help, they'd broken the story, the headline taking up a huge amount of the Daily Planet's front page. The advertising department had lost no time getting a picture of the two of them — faces hidden behind an open copy of the day's paper, headline prominently displayed — into magazines, onto billboards and the sides of city buses, and as thiry-second spots on the major television networks.
The boxing story had been the same old scheme — weigh the odds artificially and illegally in someone's favor, then make money on it. Once they knew what was going on, Superman had dealt with the cyborg boxers.
There had been one curious and singularly *non*-float-inducing incident; the appearance of Lex Luthor on the scene while Superman was dealing with the cyborg fighters. Luthor had arrived in time to save Lois's life, which had seemed a little bit *too* coincidental to Clark.
It wouldn't be too surprising if it turned out that Luthor had had a hand in the whole scheme.
After the boxing scandal, in rapid succession, Lois and Clark had broken first the Toasters story, and then the Mentamide 5 story.
Both stories had progressed quickly, overlapping somewhat. They'd been digging into happenings at the Beckworth School while they were putting the final touches on the Toasters story.
It had been a busy and frustrating time. They'd had to go undercover at Toni Taylor's nightclub, and Clark had been torn between protecting Lois and his own undercover work.
He'd felt he was forced to blow Lois's cover at the nightclub, and she had been absolutely furious with him. He'd spent several days in the Mad Dog Lane doghouse; she'd spoken to him only when necessary and had treated him much as she had when he'd first come to work at the Planet.
His apparent closeness with Toni Taylor had further irritated her, but he wasn't sure why. Despite her very convincing standoffishness with some people, Lois didn't usually form instant dislikes without reason. But it couldn't be jealousy; she'd made it clear that he was nothing more than her partner.
All in all, there hadn't been a lot of floating going on.
He had been afraid that their friendship would be set back months. He had really missed their intereactions despite his… gravity problem.
Things had improved again between them during their Mentamide 5 investigation, when he apologized to Lois for the way he'd reacted to the threat to their undercover work at the nightclub. Having inside knowledge of Lex Luthor's true nature had made Clark fear for her safety, but that was something he couldn't tell her. Not only because that information belonged to Superman, not Clark, but because she insisted that she could take care of herself and didn't need protecting.
He had limited himself to a sincere apology and an admission that he'd been in the wrong. She had accepted his apology fairly graciously for Lois Lane, merely reminding him what she'd do to him if he ever tried that sort of thing again. It involved his spleen and a spoon, and it made him promise to toe the line despite the fact that he was invulnerable.
They were currently leaving the Beckworth School after a very unproductive meeting with the school's doctor.
Clark, however, had looked carefully at the combination clinic and laboratory while Lois talked to the man. He'd spied a slide labeled 'Mentamide 5' and had appropriated it without a qualm. If they were correct, this doctor was giving an unapproved and potentially unsafe drug to kids, without permission and without regard for their welfare.
For Clark, that meant the gloves were off.
"Well, that got us exactly nowhere, Clark," Lois said in disgust as they left the clinic and made their way out into the hallway. "You know, I'm not real big on kids, but this is just *wrong*. We have to stop this guy."
They were passing the infirmary, which was next door to the clinic. Clark stopped for a moment, glancing around to make sure there were no listeners in the area.
"Lois," he said, "While you were talking to the doctor, I… found this." He carefully slipped the slide from his pocket far enough for her to see what it was and how it was labeled.
She looked up at him, eyes shining with delight, and he could feel his heels start to leave the floor. She tugged affectionately on his tie, and told him, "You took advantage of a privileged interview situation to grab potentially incriminating evidence from an unsuspecting subject. I *love* it…"
He surreptitiously grasped the infirmary door's doorknob, trying to keep himself from rising any farther.
"Let's take it to Star Labs, partner," Lois told him, turning to continue down the hallway. Feeling more in control, he let go of the doorknob.
It didn't survive the encounter; by the time Clark had his feet completely back on the ground it had parted with the door. He tucked it into his jacket pocket, hoping no one would be blamed for the missing doorknob.
Once the Star Labs researchers had analysed the Mentamide 5, Lois and Clark had proof that Dr. Carlton had been using the children as test subjects for his 'smart compound'. He'd treated them as guinea pigs for the sake of his desire to make a name for himself in neuropsychology.
The frightening thing was that the rats tested at Star Labs had stopped responding to the compound fairly quickly. After taking into account the different time frame to maturity between humans and rats, the researchers at Star Labs had concluded that the compound would begin to 'burn out' the children's brains in a matter of months.
Age seemed to also be a factor; the older rats burned out more quickly. The progression seemed to be tolerance to the compound's effects, followed by higher doses to get the same results. That, in turn, was followed by the 'burnout'.
The oldest of the children Dr. Carlton had been experimenting on had begun to show signs that the compound was wearing off rapidly. It hadn't occurred to her, fortunately, that taking a higher dose might give the results she'd been expecting. Frightened by the fact that the Mentamide 5 had stopped working, she had turned for help to Lois and Clark, with whom she was familiar.
She'd led them to the other children, who were also beginning to show tolerance to the dose.
Superman had had the unique advantage of growing up 'different' from his peers, and had been able to convince the children to relinquish both the remaining Mentamide 5 and their control of the city's infrastructure.
Fortunately, none of the children had reached the burnout stage.
The Beckworth School had been put under the aegis of the Sisters of Charity, which already ran the St. Jerome Orphanage and several group homes. Lois and Clark, visiting the children, had watched them — all of them — blossom under the normal, healthy, and caring atmosphere.
"Dr. Carlton achieved his goal of making a name for himself; it just wasn't the one he originally intended," Lois had said thoughtfully when the story broke. "He's infamous and imprisoned instead of famous and printed."
Lois and Clark's friendship had been cemented during the nightmare second encounter with Jason Trask in Smallville. It was one of the few good things to come out of that whole situation, other than the safety of Clark's parents and Wayne Irig.
Losing his powers to Kryptonite had allowed Clark a degree of closeness with Lois that he'd probably have had to avoid under normal circumstances. While the loss of his powers had been frustrating, having the freedom to hug Lois, to gaze at her to his heart's content without fear of floating, had been liberating.
Even so… While the last thing he would ever want to do was discourage Lois from any displays of affection, he had to protect his secret.
<It would certainly be easier if Lois knew about Superman.>
The constant vigilance and subterfuge involved in both protecting his bigger secret — Superman — and hiding his gravity issues was beginning to be a difficult balancing act.
His life carried the idea of multi-tasking to the extreme.
It wasn't the kind of multi-tasking he could put on a resume, though, so it was a good thing he had a job he loved.
He and Lois returned from Smallville with a powerful story; Clark had insisted that it be a Lane exclusive. Lois had reported on the existence of Kryptonite, but he strongly suspected that if she'd believed it was more than a figment of Trask's imagination, she would have suppressed that part of the story.
His confidence in her integrity didn't really surprise him. Though he could be considered biased because he saw her through the filter of his love, Lois was a good person. She hid it well behind the Mad Dog Lane exterior, but inside she was warm and loving, and intensely loyal to her friends.
If only that loyalty was enough, on its own, to save Superman.
She was the only one who was *not* convinced that Superman's activities were the cause of the heat wave that was currently plaguing Metropolis.
Superman was being blamed for the heat, because it appeared to be linked to any Super activity. Today he had been asked to leave Metropolis, and that meant Clark was going to lose the job he loved.
Faced with the rising heat — from both the sun and the citizens of Metropolis — Clark felt he had no choice but to leave the city.
With a heavy heart, he returned to the Planet to collect his things.
He had no choice.
He couldn't stay if he was putting people in danger.
He leaned defeatedly against the elevator wall as it took him up to the newsroom. He had no desire to move any faster than human speed. He didn't even want to move that fast. He had no desire to hasten the end of all his dreams.
He could go back to Kansas. He *would* go back to Kansas, maybe write free-lance from the farm. Get used to living without Lois.
But how could he leave Lois? He'd be leaving his heart, his other half.
No more working beside her. No more watching her on the trail of a big story, no more talking to her, no more bantering with her, no more laughing with her. No more takeout meals with her while they worked on a story.
No more hearing her heartbeat.
He *could* hear her heartbeat. Right now. Slow and steady, bringing his own heartbeat into sync with hers.
She was here, in the Planet building.
He exited the elevator and moved to the top of the ramp. Yes, there she was, arms folded on her desk, head on her arms, sound asleep.
Why was she here, so late at night in the empty bullpen, asleep at her desk?
She'd probably been digging through everything she could find that related even remotely to weather patterns or to Superman, with that single-minded determination that had catapulted her to the top of her profession. She was absolutely determined to prove that Superman was not behind the unseasonal and increasingly dangerous heatwave, and if anybody *could* do that, Lois Lane would be the one.
But, in the meantime, he had to go. He had to assume that the experts were right, that he was the cause of the heat.
He had to leave the city before the heat reached temperatures too high for the elderly, the very young, and the medically fragile to withstand.
He sat down in his desk chair, but instead of packing his things, he simply sat gazing at her for a long time. Committing every feature to memory.
Her face was turned partly toward him, peaceful in repose. She was just… beautiful. He felt an aching emptiness opening wider and wider in his heart.
He couldn't bear to leave her.
He couldn't bear to stay and risk her health, her safety.
Finally he rose, and quietly collected his things, putting them in the box he'd brought with him.
His coffee mug with the Daily Planet logo on it. The desk set his parents had given him when he'd landed the job. The funny magnet Lois had given him that said 'Proofread carefully to see if you any words out'. The framed photo of the Daily Planet staff, taken at the impromptu party in the newsroom the day they'd broken the Space Station Prometheus story. His nameplate.
Turning to leave, he hesitated. Unbidden, his feet carried him toward Lois's desk rather than away from it.
Unable to help himself, he bent and ran a gentle hand over her hair, saying softly, "Lois…"
She stirred and lifted her head from her arms, looking up at him, and as she did so, he touched his lips to hers in a slow and tender goodbye kiss. It was a kiss only slightly less powerful than the previous one they'd shared.
He instantly elevated about four inches inches off the floor.
Only Lois's confusion, due to the fact that she had been deeply asleep, kept her from noticing. By the time she gathered her wits, he had managed to touch down again and was preparing to walk out of the newsroom, his box of belongings tucked under his arm.
"Clark?" she asked, bewildered. "Why did you… What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving Metropolis, Lois," he answered. "For good."
Still bewildered, she said, "But… Leaving? You can't leave, Clark. We have to… Here," she continued, pushing a stack of papers and files toward him, "we need to start looking through all these to see if…"
"Lois," he interrupted gently, "It's over. Superman's gone and there's nothing we can do about it."
"Clark," she said, dismayed, "you're not a quitter!"
He sighed. "I guess I can't live in a place that would do something like this to someone who was only trying to do the right thing."
"Clark," she protested, "the Daily Planet needs you. *I* need you."
This was heartbreaking. He took a deep breath, fighting to keep his composure. She was sitting at her desk, looking up at him with suspiciously bright eyes. He'd known it would be hard to leave her, but this… this was almost impossible to bear.
"Trust me," he finally replied, "it'll be better for you this way. You don't need a partner, Lois. You never did."
As he turned away again, he heard her whispered reply, "I know. But now I want one."
It rocked him.
He wasn't supposed to have heard that.
Devastated by her comment, by what he was going to be missing, he stood partway up the ramp for a moment, head lowered in defeat. Everything in him was screaming at him to turn back, to drop the box and take her in his arms and comfort her, to never let her go.
"Goodbye, Lois," he finally whispered, and walked up the ramp and into the elevator. He didn't look back. If he did, he would lose his last shred of resolve.
The doors closed behind him, and he slumped back against the elevator wall and let the tears come.
He couldn't even take solace in flight; he'd promised not to do anything Super.
While he'd sat in his apartment, mourning his losses, Lois had been doggedly pursuing anything that might solve the heat wave situation.
She'd gone through reams of maps and charts, looking for some clue to what was causing the heatwave.
While he'd been wandering through the city for one last time, she had been matching heat distribution charts and geological surveys and Superman rescues, having Jimmy scan the charts and maps into the computer and then overlay them.
While he'd been putting the last of his things into boxes, she had discovered a leak at LexCorp's nuclear plant only hours before the plant was to be activated.
While he'd sat on his couch, watching a TV reporter wishing Superman good riddance, she had commandeered the man's microphone and put out a desperate plea.
<< Superman, if you can hear this, come back! Or if any of you out there know where Superman is, get him this message, now! We've figured this out. It's not you. You're not the problem and you never were. But it's an emergency and we need you *now*! Meet me at the LexCorp Nuclear Plant and I'll explain everything. And Superman… *hurry*! >>
In a move that would have been amusing if there hadn't been so much at stake, the TV reporter had grabbed back his microphone and promptly changed his tune. << You heard it here first. We need Superman! There's an emergency at Lex Corp's nuclear plant, maybe even a melt down… >>
Clark hadn't stayed to listen. He'd spun into the suit and headed at top speed for the nuclear plant. With literally only minutes to spare, Superman had managed to avert a serious disaster, and the weather had reverted to its normal patterns.
Both Clark and Superman had returned to Metropolis, each in their own fashion.
Lois had let Clark off relatively lightly for his perceived desertion. "That heat made us all more than a little crazy," she'd said.
Life had also returned to normal.
Normal for Lois and Clark, anyway.
That incident seemed to be an eye opener for Lois, as far as their friendship went.
She unreservedly acknowledged that Clark was her best friend. She was openly affectionate with him, and would sometimes spend time outside of work with him, eating pizza and watching a movie or just talking.
And *he* spent a lot of *his* time tucking his foot under a chair rung, or the edge of his coffee table, to keep from floating.
Or stumbling in the newsroom, or shifting around in his chair, or holding onto doorknobs to conceal his… lightness of being.
Lois probably thought he had weak ankles.
Or a terrible sense of balance.
And he'd had to reshape a couple of the Daily Planet's doorknobs after leaving finger indentations in them.
Despite his gravitational difficulties, he'd been thrilled with their deepening friendship.
It had, however, resulted in some narrow escapes.
One morning when he and Lois had lingered in the conference room after the morning meeting, she'd leaned against him as she riffled through the notes he'd taken at the meeting, attempting to prove a point.
He'd grabbed the underside of the table as he felt himself start to rise, and the table had begun to rise too.
Fortunately, Lois had assumed he was lifting the table on purpose, accusing him of trying to distract her. When he tried to apologize, she had laughingly told him not to bother. "Forget it, Kent," she'd said, "…half the time, I don't know where you are or where you're coming from."
He wondered how she'd react if he told her exactly *where* he'd come from.
A few days after the heat wave was resolved, an army of cameramen, lighting technicians, models, and sundry assistants had invaded the newsroom.
Apparently, the Planet was to be the site of a photo shoot promoting some new perfume or cologne. While the event may have been a success for the Marketing department, generating revenue for the paper, it had backfired on the Daily Planet management from a news-producing point of view.
The newsroom had been overwhelmingly crowded with equipment, models, technicians, and scores of onlookers. There had been a miscommunication between the fragrance promoters and the Planet management; the Planet's management thought there would merely be a relatively quick photo shoot, while in reality the promoters had planned what amounted to a premiere party.
And in the general confusion, none of the Planet's news staff was able to work at all productively. Most had stood around, watching and mingling, while a few others — those more dedicated to reporting the news — had holed up in the conference rooms or had left the newsroom altogether.
In addition, the perfumer Miranda had used the event to spray everyone in the room with her pheromone compound, which resulted, ultimately, in chaos.
Once the newsroom had been restored to its former state, later in the day, the Daily Planet staffers had begun to act… strangely.
Clark's first inkling of the trouble to come was when he'd looked up from his computer, distracted, and had found himself looking at the long, *bare* leg of his partner as she perched on his desk.
Fascinated, his eyes had traveled up the smooth expanse, before he had recollected himself and looked up at her face. Completely confused, he had noted her partly unbuttoned blouse, and the dreamy gaze she was directing at him.
He'd helplessly floated slowly up off his chair until his thighs bumped gently against the underside of his desk.
"What'cha working on?" Lois had asked in a singsong voice, leaning toward him. She'd seemed to be fascinated by his face, her eyes glued to his, and she hadn't appeared to notice anything amiss in regard to his slight increase in height.
"Lois…" he'd asked nervously, "are you feeling okay?"
He couldn't have returned to his seat to save his life, so it was a good thing that the entire staff of the newsroom seemed to have paired off and each appeared to be focused only on the other. Nobody seemed to be paying the slightest bit of attention to him or to Lois.
"Never better," she'd replied huskily, leaning in closer. He had desperately tried to keep his eyes on her face, not the… other view her position was providing…
Realizing his eyes had wandered, he had quickly forced them up to her face again.
"I just… couldn't help noticing how very… handsome you look today," she'd continued, running one finger lightly down his jaw.
The penny had dropped. And so had Clark — solidly back onto his chair. "Oh… I get it," he had said flatly. "What do you want? Research? Your VCR fixed? A ride to the airport? Blind date with your cousin?"
"No…" Lois had replied, her voice dropping into a sexy whisper that brought him up off his chair again, "I don't want anything. Except… you." She'd leaned in so close that he could have kissed her if he'd stretched forward only the smallest bit.
Clark had cast another desperate glance around the newsroom. If he hadn't seen the same — worse — behavior all around him, he would have thought Lois *was* attempting to flatter him into doing her a favor of some sort, despite what she'd just said.
By that point, the desk had started to rise off the floor along with him. Again, Lois had not seemed to notice.
He had surged to his feet, backing away from her, and retreated across the newsroom toward the break area, barely keeping his feet on the floor as he went.
Undaunted, Lois had followed after him, and crowded him back against the vending machine. She'd leaned into him, her hands creeping up along his tie, then to his shoulders, then to caress his face. She had attempted to kiss him, and he had pulled back, bewildered by her behavior.
She had had a glazed look, almost as if she'd been drugged; his increasing conviction that the entire Planet staff had been drugged was one of the few things that had allowed him to stay — sort of — grounded.
He'd held her off, his hands at her waist, until she managed to place a kiss on his chin, at which point he'd let go of her and grabbed desperately at the vending machine behind him, fighting to keep his feet on the floor.
He'd felt the metal giving under his fingers as Lois had moved closer, and he'd sidled out of the space between her and the machine, backing against the closed door of Perry's office.
Lois had followed after him again.
"Lois, just a minute…" he'd pleaded, and had looked through the office wall in the hopes of finding Perry and enlisting his help in making sense of the situation.
What he'd seen — Perry pursuing Rehalia, the cleaning lady, around the office — had made him wish he hadn't bothered looking.
"Minute's up, Clark. Come to mama," Lois had purred, her hands starting to loosen his tie.
Once again, gravity had lost its grip on him, and he'd grabbed for the office doorknob behind him, stopping his upward movement but snapping the knob off in his hand.
"Uh, Lois…" he'd said, "…this is making me very… uncomfortable." In desperation, he'd lifted her gently but quickly to one side and fled the newsroom altogether.
He'd spent part of the evening in the air, trying to calm down and searching in his mind for any logical explanation for the Planet staff's behavior.
He'd worked his way backward through the day, and had come to the conclusion that the only common factor among the staff had been the perfume. The *perfumes*, actually, because there'd been that one woman who'd sprayed them all with the dirty-sweatsock-scented stuff.
He exited the elevator the following morning, striding to the railing at the top of the ramp only to stop dead in his tracks at the sight before him — balloons and streamers, flowers, with musak wafting through it all, and on the wall, a huge blow-up of the day's headline: COUPLE REUNITED! LOVE WINS OUT! Little hearts replaced all the O's.
Lois had already arrived; seated at her desk, and catching sight of him, she rose to her feet and began to run toward him.
She was absolutely breathtaking, wearing a low cut and very, very feminine white lace dress; her hair had been curled and there appeared to be flower petals in it.
He *always* found her breathtaking, but the sight of her now was not only breathtaking, but breath*keeping*, breath*not-giving- back* — as well as wit-taking, voice-taking… and, of course, gravity-taking; his heels began to leave the floor.
He stood there — *hovered there* — wide-eyed, speechless, gasping for breath — like a fish out of water.
Like a *flying* fish out of water.
He clutched at the bullpen railing to keep himself earthbound.
She called out, "Clark! Where have you been, my darling?!" and flung herself at him.
He had no choice but to catch her.
Her momentum carried her high up against his chest, putting her face on a level with his. He wrapped one arm tightly around her, steadying both her and himself, and held on to the bullpen railing with his other hand. He felt it bending in his fist, conforming to the contours of his clenched fingers, and yet he still found himself rising an inch or so above the floor.
He almost kissed her; he was barely able to stop himself.
He *wanted* to kiss her, so badly he could hardly stand it. Carefully, he made sure her feet were steady on the floor and eased away from her.
It didn't help. He *still* wanted to kiss her, and probably always would.
All his best and deepest dreams had her exactly this interested in him, but he knew it was a false situation. The knowledge that she was *not* in control of her actions and that he would be taking advantage of her if he gave in to his desire was the only thing that was keeping him from following through on the opportunities she was so blatantly giving him.
Once he felt he'd regained enough control to stay grounded, Clark led Lois to their desks. He pushed her gently into a chair near his desk, and sat down in his own chair facing her.
"Lois, listen to me. You are not in control," he said.
"I know that, Clark," she replied dreamily, smiling sweetly at him. "…For the first time in my life."
"No, no… There is something very strange going on around here," he insisted.
"Yes. Strange and… *wonderful*," she… purred, then stood up from her own chair and sat in his lap.
Before he could even think about hooking a foot under one of the rungs, he shot up off his chair, his arms instinctively wrapping around her. He quickly turned the upward motion into a rise — *more like a jump* — to his feet, Lois cradled in his arms.
Before she could get a good grip on him, he returned her to her own chair.
They were interrupted at that point by Jimmy, who was almost crowing over his photos of the model upon whom he was fixated. "Beautiful, isn't she?" he said proudly. "…And she's *all mine*."
He wandered off just as abrubtly as he had arrived, clutching the photo of the model to his chest and leaving the other photos behind.
Lois picked up a photo of the three of them — Lois, Clark, and Jimmy — standing next to her desk, apparently observing the chaos around them. She began to stroke the photo-Clark's face, a dreamy expression on her own face.
With a sigh, Clark picked up the rest of the photos. At least Lois was distracted for the moment.
He scrutinized the photos closely, zeroing in on a closeup of one of the models. Behind her, the woman who had sprayed the smelly fragrance on everyone could be seen in a three-quarters profile shot. While not face on, Clark felt the photo was enough to allow him to identify the woman when — *if* was a word he refused to entertain — they found her.
Maybe she was featured in a women's magazine, possibly in one of the perfume ads. He stood and turned toward the elevators.
"Where're you going?" Lois asked anxiously as he rose to his feet. She stood too, reaching for him, and only allowed him to leave unhindered by making him promise he'd be back in a few minutes.
On the way up the ramp, Clark encountered Lex Luther.
What was *he* doing at the Planet? Pausing, he heard Lex say smoothly, "Lois, my dear — I stopped in to remind you of our date tomorrow."
Repressing a shudder, Clark forced himself to focus on the man's stated reason for visiting the newsroom, rather than the actual words. Would the millionaire normally confirm a date in person?
Clark was willing to admit to jealousy where Lex's interest in Lois was concerned, but even so, it seemed awfully suspicious that the man had appeared at the Daily Planet right after the newspaper staff had received some sort of mind-altering substance.
As he entered the elevator, Clark heard Lois say to Lex, "…please understand something. There's only one man in the world for me. Clark Kent."
He floated ten inches above the elevator floor the entire way down to the lobby, thinking about that and wishing it were really true.
The sobering thought that it was *not* true had him finally functioning at full gravity when the elevator doors opened.
While he was buying a copy of every fashion and bridal magazine the lobby newstand offered, the elevator doors opened again and Lois appeared, an anxious expression on her face until she caught sight of him.
Fearing a repeat of her greeting upstairs, one he'd rather not have in a lobby full of people who were *not* distracted — blinded — by drug-induced infatuation, he moved quickly toward her, grasped her arm and led her out of the Daily Planet Building.
By the simple suggestion that he wanted to walk her home, he managed to keep them moving… and keep his feet on the pavement. Lois nestled against his side, under his arm, but he seemed to be able to handle that without floating.
His concern for her and his worry over the situation, plus the fact that he'd walked with her in a similar manner — although not quite this… snugly — on one or two particularly cold and snowy days in the past, allowed him to fully obey the law of gravity.
He drifted slightly upward once or twice, but caught himself before his heels got more than an inch or so off the sidewalk.
Once he'd left Lois safely at her place, he went back to his own apartment with the intention of hunting through all of the fashion magazines he'd found, looking for the woman in the photograph.
Given the state of the Daily Planet's newsroom, he felt he would accomplish more at home.
He skimmed at super speed through a multitude of magazines, looking for the woman's picture or any mention of female perfumers. He suspected that she was, perhaps, a chemist or a perfumer. While she was certainly attractive, she hadn't appeared to be a model.
After coming up with nothing, he went out to find more magazines.
He stopped in Milan, London, and Paris, as well as the Central Newstand in downtown Metropolis. He dumped the newest pile of magazines onto his coffee table and got to work.
He finally found the woman — Miranda — in an international professional publication entitled 'Perfumer and Flavorist'. There was a feature article, including a short bio, on her; the article also mentioned her shop, Miranda's, which was located in Metropolis's exclusive Hobbs Hill arts district.
There was nothing more he could do tonight. Except maybe get rid of the extra magazines. Maybe he could box them up and donate them to a nursing home.
He wrote down the address of the shop, and then moved into the kitchen area to make some tea. The doorbell interrupted him and, gazing through the door, he was dismayed to see Lois on his doorstep.
Dismayed, yes… but he couldn't help also feeling that rush of emotion he always felt when he saw her.
And the elation — and the *elevation* — that came with the emotion.
She hadn't stayed safely in her own apartment after all; knowing Lois, he should have expected that.
He wondered if the substance had worn off; after all, by now it had been more than twenty-four hours since Miranda sprayed them.
Perhaps Lois had come to help him investigate the whole situation. It was late, but Lois had never let the time get in her way when she was on the trail of a story.
Or on her way to his place for any reason, actually.
He opened the door hopefully, saying, "It's awfully late, Lois," as he met her eyes. His hopes for Lois's speedy return to normal were dashed with her reply.
"Not *too* late, I hope. For us — for happiness," she said in a bedroom voice that sent shivers down his spine.
Husky and low, her words washed through him in an almost physical wave. He felt his heels begin to leave the floor, and tightened his grip on the doorknob.
Still standing on his doorstep, she gave him a sultry smile and untied the trench coat she was wearing, revealing an extremely abbreviated harem costume that appeared to be constructed out of a few gauzy scarves and little else.
"Oh, no," he groaned, "Lois, please don't…"
He started to drift upwards, despite himself, and tightened his grasp even more on the doorknob. He felt it start to give under the pressure of his fingers.
"Lois, *please*, go home," he pleaded in desperation. Was that… *sweat* gathering on his forehead?!
"You're here. This *is* my home," she replied simply, stepping in close and putting her arms around his waist.
He sidestepped around her and retreated into his kitchen, carefully not looking at her costume. Not seeing the outfit, not thinking about the outfit — and mentally reciting Abraham Lincoln's famous Four-score-and-seven-years-ago address in its entirety, in Latin — helped keep him standing on the floor, but she followed him into the kitchen. He turned just in time to see her advancing slowly and deliberately on him.
Yes, that was actually sweat beading on his forehead. And his collar felt awfully tight. He tugged at the front of his t- shirt. There wasn't any way to make the neckline less tight unless he took the shirt off.
<Not a good idea.>
As he backed up against the refrigerator, she advanced on him, drawing one of the scarves from its fastenings and tossing it in his direction. He grabbed desperately for the refrigerator doorframe and managed to keep at least his toes on the floor.
"Lois, you don't know how many times I've thought about this. Dreamt about this… " he began.
She removed another scarf.
"Well… something like this," he babbled, frantically trying to stay grounded and to avoid looking at… what she was revealing.
As the third scarf came off, both his desperation and his grip on the refrigerator increased. Peripherally, he heard the ominous creak of the refrigerator door hinge. "…Lois, I just can't take advantage of you this way," he pleaded.
She reached up and looped her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe and gazing deeply into his eyes. He could feel her body pressed against his, and his arms came up and around her waist without volition. Having let go of the refrigerator doorframe, he began to float upwards again, taking Lois with him.
And his heart almost stopped when she suddenly said, "Superman. …You know, it's remarkable. I never noticed before."
"What?" he asked apprehensively. He knew they were both several inches off the floor and he braced himself for the worst.
Was there was any level higher than Mad Dog Lane? And could even Superman survive it?
"That you look a lot like… Superman," she said matter-of- factly. She strained upward, and he felt the movement along his entire body. He was shaking with the effort of restraining himself from simply sweeping her up and giving in to what she was offering. She managed to touch her lips to his, and his mind went momentarily blank.
By now he had drifted up high enough that his shoulders were level with the top of his refrigerator. There was absolutely *no way* that she could miss that.
Even as he thought it, however, he realized that she had slumped into him, her head resting against his shoulder.
She had passed out… at either the most opportune moment or the worst, depending on which way he wanted to view the situation.
Still a good foot off his kitchen floor, he took a deep, deep breath and maneuvered her up into his arms. Carefully, he carried her into his bedroom, keeping his eyes on her face.
He tucked her under the blankets, still carefully keeping his eyes on her face.
Then, feeling like he'd just slipped the safety back on the gun, he quietly left the room.
And now, here he was in the middle of his living room, at five o'clock in the morning, alternately pacing the length of the room and back, or sitting on his couch with his head in his hands.
Lois's trenchcoat was draped over the railing at the top of the stairs. The remains of his sandwich from the past evening — the pre-Lois part of the evening — still rested on the coffee table. One of the blue scarves from the harem costume was neatly folded on his kitchen table. There were deep finger indentations in his refrigerator doorframe, and his front door's inner doorknob was pretty mishapen and lumpy-looking. He was still dressed in the jeans and t-shirt he'd been wearing the night before. His hair was unruly where he'd been running his fingers through it.
And Lois Lane was asleep in his bedroom, wearing the briefest of outfits this side of a bikini that he'd ever seen.
The memory of that costume had him drifting upward again; he didn't even try to fight it.
Dents in the refrigerator doorframe and the doorknob. Those, he could fix.
The bigger issue was his relationship with Lois.
It was irrevocably changed anyway; they wouldn't really be able to ignore this whole pheromone thing, once she was back to normal — although, knowing Lois, she might try.
But if she *did* know his secret, would he still *have* a relationship with her at all? Would she forgive him?
He'd spent a large part of the time since she had passed out reminiscing about his life since he'd met Lois Lane.
He'd lost count of the number of times he'd had to conceal his… Lois-induced loss of gravity, but he knew almost every encounter with Lois up until now had been marked by at least one. Sitting on his couch as the hours went by, he had relived many of those times and wondered if he should have confessed his secret to her as soon as he realized what was happening.
But she hadn't been his friend during those early days. He had *had* to protect his secret, because the safety of his friends, his co-workers, and his parents relied on it. Would she have revealed him?
He honestly didn't know.
On the one hand, she was perhaps the most ethical person — when it came to differentiating between right and wrong — he knew. She might break and enter, or cut other corners in her pursuit of a story, but would she have jeopardized Superman's efforts by revealing his secret identity?
When he put it that way, no… he didn't think she would.
But Lois "Mad Dog" Lane had been surrounded by emotional walls that while brittle, were high — heck, they were topped with barbed wire, circled by guard dogs and deep moats, and posted with warning signs and yellow caution tape.
She herself had said she tended to jump first and then check the water level. She *might* have written the story, caught up in the drive to be the first to report it, tantalized by the thought of another Kerth, or even a Pulitzer… and then regretted it later, when it was too late.
That had changed, though.
Lois's drive and determination were unchanged, but her walls had come down, at least with him.
Or if there were still walls, she'd at least taken down the barbed wire and caution tape, drained the moat, and found a home for each of the guard dogs… and she'd put a door in the wall and left it slightly ajar.
Perhaps — if by some strange twist of fate she actually *hadn't* guessed his secret — it was, indeed, time to tell her the truth. Maybe then the involuntary floating would stop.
Or she could help him conceal it.
Clark sighed. Lack of sleep over the last two days had begun to take its toll on him. He was getting punchy — his thoughts were beginning to resemble Lois's babble. And his resolve was beginning to crumble.
In between his pacing and reminiscing, he had occasionally looked in on Lois, to make sure she was all right, he told himself.
And it was mostly that, although if he was honest, part of it was the temptation she posed. She'd spent the better part of two days throwing herself at him, and his resolve was weakening.
He'd been determined not to take advantage of her, because that was what it would be if he gave in to her while she was in this altered state.
But he'd been in love with Lois Lane for months now, and he was only human… <Well, okay, not really> …But still, he could only resist so much temptation. And Lois was a temptation at any time; his involuntary parting from the ways of gravity had demonstrated that time and time again.
But a Lois scantily clad in a very *sexy* outfit, a Lois who was pursuing him with that single-minded determination that only Lois Lane seemed to have — that was a whole different spaceship of aliens.
Treeful of cats.
Newsroom of reporters.
Kettle of fish.
He found himself standing in the bedroom doorway again. Hesitating, wanting to go to her. To slip into the bed beside her and take her in his arms.
As he stood — or rather, hovered slightly — in the doorway, she began to stir. He stepped back, then zipped at super speed to his kitchen and brewed the world's fastest pot of coffee. He poured a cup, added her usual extras to it, and went back to the bedroom doorway.
She was definitely waking up; he heard a groan from the depths of the blankets. Was that an I-can't-function-until-I've-had-my- caffeine groan, or was that more of a hangover groan? As she sat up, he approached her and handed her the cup of coffee.
She looked adorable, sleep tousled, warm…
He forced his eyes to remain on her face. Unable to help himself, he sat on the side of the bed. Hooking his heel under the edge of the bedframe to stay grounded, so to speak, he reached out to gently cup her cheek, and said softly, "Lois… if you really want me, I'm yours."
Lois couldn't — or wouldn't — put the coffee cup down anywhere remotely close by, but her glare was as effective as the slap she would probably have dealt him if her hands had been free.
"Have you lost your *mind*?" she growled at him.
Then she seemed to realize where she was, and after a swift glance around the room, she looked down at what she was wearing. Her eyes came back up to his face, bewilderment and embarrassment in them, as she muttered, "…or have I lost *mine*?"
The stuff had definitely worn off.
Clark stood up. She seemed to need some time alone, if her huddled position over the coffee mug and her refusal to meet his eyes were any indication.
"Uh, why don't I find you some clothes… maybe some sweats… to borrow, and then we can talk about it?" he suggested. He quickly rifled through one of his dresser drawers, grabbed a pair of sweatpants with a drawstring and his favorite Midwest U sweatshirt, and set them on the bed. "I'll just… whenever you're ready…" He gestured vaguely toward his living room, and retreated.
Twenty minutes later, Lois sat on his couch, her head in her hands. His sweats were huge on her; she'd had to roll up the pants legs and the sweatshirt sleeves multiple times.
Her cup sat on the coffee table in front of her, and after a moment, she leaned forward and picked it up. Folding her hands around it, she took a sip and then held the cup against her chest, just under her chin, as if trying to keep warm.
"Are you cold, Lois?" Clark asked gently, and she shook her head mutely.
He'd given her a shortish description of the past two days, trying to gloss over her actions and stress the fact that Miranda's compound had affected the entire newsroom, and that no one would have noticed her actions. They'd all been too focused on their own objects of desire.
He, too, was sitting on the couch, but had chosen a position that allowed some room between them. He hadn't missed her slight stiffening and the increase in her heart rate when he'd approached. His heart had sunk; he hoped they hadn't just lost several months of friendship over this.
He turned slightly toward her, picking up his own cup of coffee.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked.
"No," she mumbled.
He pressed on. "Are you going to talk to me?"
"No…" She took a deep breath, and blurted, "I am *so humiliated*."
"Lois, I told you, you weren't yourself," he said. "It's just lucky that the stuff wore off in time… to… uh, well… that it's worn off."
"Clark, did I *really* do the Dance of the Seven Veils?" Lois wailed.
Lois moaned, and continued, "I don't really remember much… bits and pieces, sort of… I remember being in the newsroom, and the perfume people, and… didn't you walk me home? And… did I… did I sit on your lap? At the Planet? Tell me I didn't!" She had to pause and take a breath, and Clark nodded again.
"Um, yes… yesterday… and… About two hours after Miranda sprayed us with that stinky stuff, you came over to my desk and, uh…" He hesitated.
Lois looked up at him briefly, miserably, and said, "You might as well tell me."
Clark sighed, and continued, "You came over and sat on my desk… right in front of me, and, uh… well, you wanted us to leave for the day. I didn't know what you were doing, but… uh, it was kind of obvious that a lot of the Planet staff were acting the same way. You… um, tried to kiss me -" Lois made a sort of half-whimper, half-moan noise. "- and I realized that you must have been drugged," he continued. "And your eyes were sort of glassy…" He trailed off.
Lois closed her eyes. "I… I sort of remember the desk… and… Oh, Clark, I am *so* embarrassed!" she wailed again. "I don't even know what was real and what wasn't… and you said Lex was at the Planet yesterday? I don't remember him being there… Why was he at the Planet?' she asked, momentarily forgetting her embarrassment and sounding like her normal self. "…And I had these… weird dreams…" she continued, "…and …was Superman there? I sort of remember floating… or maybe I was dreaming…"
Clark winced slightly at her last words. She was confused about what was a dream and what was real, and was assuming her memory of floating had to be a dream.
While he could say that, technically, Superman had *not* been present during the past two days, he knew he was splitting hairs. He was glad that her question did not seem to require an answer.
And though he knew he should be concentrating only on solving this mystery, he couldn't help feeling a moment of elation — and elevation, he realized, feeling himself start to drift upwards — that she didn't remember Lex being at the Planet. Even though Luthor had… supposedly… stopped by to confirm their date.
Clark leaned forward, setting his coffee cup on the table, and used the forward motion to settle fully onto the couch again. Turning more directly toward Lois allowed him to tuck one foot slightly under the edge of his couch to keep himself from drifting upward again.
And… she didn't appear to remember her comment about his resemblence to Superman; his secret appeared to be safe.
He was surely on his second cat's worth of luck.
"Lois, please, let's forget about last night… Okay?" he asked. "We have to find Miranda and find out what's in this stuff. And how and why she's using it."
When she didn't respond, he continued, "I need my partner back, Lois."
That seemed to work; she sat up straight, placed her cup on the coffee table, and turned to look at him.
"I'm going home to get dressed," she stated, a determined glint in her eyes. "I'll meet you back here in one hour. And don't even *think* of making me wait!"
After a… frustrating… meeting with Miranda, Lois and Clark left her shop and started back to the Planet.
Clark had wandered around the little shop while Lois confronted the woman, and finding the atomizer Miranda had used to spray the Planet staff, had… borrowed it. As he reached into his jacket pocket to pull it out, preparatory to showing it to Lois, she spoke.
"She's lying," Lois stated flatly. "…So, how do we prove it?"
Clark showed her the atomizer. "I think a visit to Star Labs may help us with that," he said with a smile.
Lois laughed and clapped him on the shoulder; Clark was pleased to note that he stayed earthbound.
This was the sort of thing he was used to with Lois, the easy camaraderie and casual, unconscious affection. He was happy that for the moment, at least, she had forgotten to feel any sort of awkwardness with him.
They flagged down a taxi and set out for the labs.
Several hours later, Clark sat at his desk in the Daily Planet's newsroom.
Most of the flowers, balloons and banners had been removed, and many of the normal day staff were present. Most seemed subdued; they worked quietly without a lot of their usual noisy banter. Perry had been sporting a black eye. Cat appeared to have been in the copy room for the entire time. Clark didn't want to think about that in any detail.
They had discovered that Miranda's compound contained a pheromone; that was what had made her victims lose all their inhibitions.
"I still don't get it," Lois had said. "I mean… this stuff shouldn't work unless you're already physically attracted to the person. Then it just overrides our normal restraint?"
"As I understand it, yes," Clark had replied. "…All it does is inhibit that part of your brain that acts as an intellectual defense mechanism… it leaves you helpless to control yourself."
Lois hadn't said anything for a moment. Then she'd said, "But that would mean I found you… Clark, you got sprayed… How come you didn't fall for me?"
Clark had squirmed. They'd been sitting at their desks; he had noticed peripherally that he was still firmly settled in his chair. He could add deer-in-the-headlights, on-the-spot trepidation to his mental list of emotions that *didn't* cause him to float.
He'd prevaricated; he was tempted — for a moment — to tell her he didn't find her attractive. "I guess I just wasn't… attracted to you, Lois," he could have said. But he didn't want to lie to her about that.
The truth was, he *was* attracted to her.
Seriously attracted to her.
He couldn't — wouldn't — deny that.
"Uh… Lois, I couldn't take advantage of you… I… Maybe I didn't get much of the spray…" he had said, trailing off.
"Clark, you were standing right next to me. And don't tell me you were holding your breath," she'd said, leaning back in her chair and gazing at him challengingly. "…You got just as much as Jimmy and I did," she had added.
Clark had seized on the excuse she was inadvertently offering him. "Guess not," he'd said with a smirk.
"Guess so," she'd replied, but before she could pursue it further, or challenge his statement, Jimmy had approached them with a sheaf of documents and faxes. He'd found them a longer biography on Miranda, and copies of several research papers she'd authored or co-authored.
That had sidetracked Lois nicely.
Clark was currently occupied in reading through the information while Lois fleshed out the basic facts of their story.
"It says in her bio that Miranda was first in her class at M.I.T.," Clark remarked, reading quickly through the information. "And guess who funded her research? …Luthor Industries."
"He funds half the scientists in Metropolis," Lois replied. "He probably doesn't even know who she is. But I'll ask him about her tonight."
"Tonight?" Clark questioned, surprised. Regardless of what she'd told Luthor at the Planet yesterday, while under the influence of the pheromone, he really shouldn't have assumed that she had cancelled the date.
He knew he didn't have to worry about involuntary floating when they discussed Lex Luthor. Anger, dislike, and suspicion <and jealousy> weren't float-inducing emotions either.
"We're having dinner," Lois stated. "…*He* finds me very attractive," she continued, in what he suspected was a dig to his own supposed non-interest in her.
"Lois…" he started. What could he say, though? She surely didn't *want* Clark to admit he found her attractive, did she?
Before he could pursue the thought further, Jimmy approached them again and handed Lois an envelope. After reading it, she folded it in half and tucked it into her bag.
"Anything?" Clark asked.
"No. Nothing at all," she replied, just airily enough to make him suspicious.
Rising to her feet, she continued, "I'm going to… run some errands. See you later."
Watching her walk up the ramp, Clark decided that maybe he should leave for the day, too — Superman could keep an eye on Lois from quite a distance.
Superman followed Lois to the private airport where she met Miranda, staying high in the sky to avoid being seen.
He arrived in time to watch Lois enter a hangar filled with barrels of pesticide. A crop-dusting plane stood ready for takeoff on the runway outside the hangar.
He saw Miranda spray Lois with something — <not the pheromone compound, please!> he pleaded silently. <I don't think I could resist her a second time.>
He saw Lois slump to the floor — not the pheromone compound, then. He forced himself to stop and observe a moment longer, although every instinct was telling him to get to Lois immediately.
Miranda appeared to be extremely upset, ranting about eliminating her rivals, as she tied Lois's arms and legs. He knew Lois would have her tape recorder concealed in her jacket pocket, and they needed Miranda to incriminate herself.
She dragged Lois toward one corner of the hangar where a large vat — labeled 'Malathion' in big red letters — stood, nearly full. Leaving Lois on the floor not far from the vat, Miranda opened the spigot at the vat's base. As liquid Malathion began to drain out of the vat in a slow but steady trickle, she darted out of the building toward the plane, laughing.
"Bye Lois. Have a nice, *slow* death," she called as she climbed into the plane.
In a flash Superman had swooped down and lifted Lois, untying her and setting her safely out of reach of the sluggishly spreading liquid. She was already beginning to stir.
He looked for the HazMat spill kit that was supposed to be kept on site. He found it easily; it was the mobile-container type with large wheels and was situated next to the building's emergency phone. The kit was in good condition and fully stocked with a good assortment of absorbent socks and pads. He quickly turned off the vat's spigot, then surrounded the spill with several of the socks and laid a thick layer of pads over the area as well.
With the pesticide safely contained, he turned to Lois. She was fully awake and had risen to her feet, and appeared to be unharmed.
"Are you all right?" he asked her.
"Yes, but Miranda — she's going to spray the whole city with her pheromone!" Lois told him urgently.
"Call the police!" he said, and flashed into the sky after the plane, which had just left the runway. As he closed in on it, he saw that Miranda had begun to release the spray. He pinched the release valve closed, inhaling the small amount of spray already released, and moved toward the front of the plane.
When he drew even with the cockpit, he found Miranda staring at him in dismay. It probably wasn't very nice of him, he reflected later, but he couldn't resist puffing the small amount of the compound that he'd inhaled back into her face.
She coughed, then rubbed her eyes, and then looked back at him. She blinked, then said dreamily, "Superman… where are you going?"
"Why don't you follow me?" he replied.
"Anywhere…" she sighed, turning the plane and starting to descend as he flew slowly in front of her.
He felt like someone who'd inadvertently stumbled across a hatching egg just in time for its feathered occupant to imprint on him. He led his… hatchling back to the runway just in time to hand her over to the police.
Lois rushed up to him. "Superman!" she exclaimed. "…It's lucky that stuff doesn't have any effect on you… or does it?
He was tempted — so *very* tempted — to pretend he'd been affected. "Lois Lane, I love you," he could say, and he could kiss her… like he wanted to.
Like he longed to do.
Like he'd wanted to do long before she'd turned temptress on him, nearly driving him past the edge of his control. He had only resisted her during the last two days because he *knew* he couldn't take advantage of her.
He couldn't take advantage of her now, either.
Superman couldn't tell her he loved her — no matter how much he acutally *did* — because Superman couldn't have a relationship with her. He couldn't have a relationship at all, period. He was too public; he belonged to the world, in a sense.
Clark, on the other hand, *could* have a relationship with her. But not if Superman was in the way. And he — Clark — would *still* be taking advantage of her; playing on her hero worship of his alter ego, and kissing her under a mantle of deception.
He couldn't do that to her.
He gazed into her eyes; the look in them caused him to start drifting upward an inch or two. He took a deep breath, hanging onto his resolve with difficulty. But before he could reply to her question, he saw Luthor arrive in his limo.
Clark's feet returned to the pavement.
What was *he* doing here? Another — rather suspicious — *coincidence*? No doubt Luthor had some story concocted that implicated Miranda but kept himself out of it, Clark thought cynically.
These thoughts flashed through his mind as he turned his attention back to Lois, again looking into her eyes.
Apparently, his non-answer — and probably the love he couldn't quite conceal — had led her to her own conclusions.
"Oh, Superman," she sighed. "…You're not yourself, and so I shouldn't take advantage of this situation and… Oh, what the…"
And before Superman could react — although later Clark acknowledged that Luthor's presence as a witness might have had something to do with Superman's nonreaction, considering his super reflexes — Lois stretched up, slid her hands behind his neck and into his hair, and kissed him.
It was the most passionate experience of his life. He promptly forgot all the reasons Superman shouldn't be kissing Lois. He forgot that they were in a public place and that there were various people watching. His arms slid around her and he immediately left the ground. Neither he nor Lois noticed.
When he finally lifted his head, he saw that the police were watching them with indulgent smiles, while Miranda looked distressed. Luthor looked like he'd bitten into something nasty.
Clark felt a surge of purely human satisfaction at Luthor's obvious pique.
As they led her away, Miranda called out, "Don't let them take me! I love you, Superman. …No, wait, I love *you*, Lex. Will you wait for me?"
Luthor brushed at his suit jacket sleeve — <the old nonchalant, face-saving lint-on-the-sleeve routine, Luthor?> Clark thought — and after a moment, replied, "…No."
As Miranda was bundled, tearfully, into a patrol car, Clark realized that he and Lois were still floating about a foot above the runway. He gently floated them back to the pavement, and steadied her as they touched down.
"Wow…" Lois whispered, and he had to agree.
*Wow* pretty much covered it.
With an effort, he broke her gaze and glanced around them again. Luthor had approached them and was trying — rather unscuccessfully — to get Lois's attention.
One of the policemen approached to ask Lois to come to the police station to give a statement. She glanced at him and agreed, saying that she would stop in on her way back to the Daily Planet.
She turned toward where her jeep was parked, seeming to notice Luthor for the first time.
"Oh, Lex… what a surprise to see you here," she said.
Luthor's explanation — that having funded what he thought was Miranda's legitimate work, he felt it was his duty to try to stop her after she made a threat to him the previous day — sounded perfectly acceptable to someone who didn't have Superman's knowledge of the man's true nature.
Clark had to remind himself not to roll his eyes in exasperation; Superman didn't roll his eyes.
"May I offer you a ride back into the city, Lois?" Luthor asked her.
"Thanks, but I've got my jeep," she answered.
With suave charm, Luthor wished Lois a pleasant day, reminded her of their dinner appointment later in the evening, and returned to his limo. Only Clark saw the flash of anger in his eyes.
"If you'll excuse me, Lois, I've got to fly," Clark told her, and she smiled at him as he rose a short distance into the air.
While it was an acceptable way in which to take his leave of her, he actually meant he had to *fly*.
He *wanted* to do barrel rolls.
Loop some loops.
Do handstands in the clouds.
Write 'I love Lois Lane' in huge letters in the sky.
Kiss Lois again.
That had been an amazing kiss… an awe-inspiring kiss.
An addictive kiss.
A kiss he was likely to repeat if he didn't remove himself right away.
And Superman really *shouldn't* be kissing Lois Lane passionately, in public.
<If she knew your secret, Superman could kiss her in private,> his inner voice reminded him helpfully.
Ignoring the voice, he repeated the thought: Superman couldn't kiss Lois Lane. So he'd have to settle for flying.
<That's probably the first time in my life I've ever even *thought* of 'settle' and 'flying' in the same sentence.>
Once Lois was safely inside her jeep, he shot up into the sky.
Their story on Miranda's 'Revenge' was featured on the front page of the Daily Planet's Weekend Edition, which came out every Friday morning.
Lois and Clark received sincere congratulations from the assembled staff, almost all of whom had been affected by Miranda's pheromone compound. Most of the staff members were angry — with the exception of Cat Grant — and embarrassed by the incident, and were happy to learn that Miranda had been arrested.
Of course, no one was really surprised that Lane and Kent had pulled off another big story. The staff had begun to joke among themselves that issues *without* some kind of Lane and Kent exclusive or feature article were rare enough to save for sale to collectors on eBay.
Perry was ecstatic; he was still stewing over the Planet's embarrassing "Love Wins Out" headline, and viewed the news of Miranda's arrest as a vindication of sorts.
Lois had turned to Cat and asked, "How much of that stuff did you get sprayed with? …You became pretty insatiable, even for, well, *you*."
"I don't know what you're talking about. I never *got* sprayed," Cat had replied. "…But I know a good excuse when I hear one," she'd added with a self-satisfied smile.
Lois had rolled her eyes in disgust, even as other staff members who had everheard the exchange laughed. Perry had opened his mouth to say something, and then obviously thought better of it.
As the meeting ended and they all filed out into the newsroom, Clark asked Lois, "How did your dinner date with Lex Luthor go?'
"It wasn't a date, Clark," she replied. "…At least, not from my point of view," she added thoughtfully. "It was actually …kind of strange. Lex wasn't… quite himself."
"What does that mean?" Clark asked. <Not a date?> he thought as they arrived at their desks. He felt his heels begin to leave the floor in a surge of elation, and quickly tucked his fingertips under the edge of his desktop.
It probably looked like he was stumbling, he thought <he hoped>, and reaching for the desk to steady himself. Lois was looking at him, one eyebrow raised; he gave her a sheepish grin and sat down.
Shaking her head wryly, she sat down at her own desk.
"Well, I was trying to interview him, but just like last time, he treated it more as a date," Lois continued. "And he was… very… *attentive*… I guess you could say…"
"What exactly went on last night?" Clark asked, beginning to be alarmed.
"Clark, relax," Lois said. "He just acted… drunk. He's usually so… controlled. He just… paid me some pretty extravagant compliments, and then fell asleep at the table. The only thing I can figure out is that Miranda must have sprayed him, too. At the airport, he said he'd met with her the night before she tried to spray the city; she must have sprayed him then," she continued almost without pausing for breath.
"I hope she used the one that wears off in forty-eight hours," Clark said.
"Hmmmm… Love without boundaries, without insecurities or hangups or reasoning," Lois mused. "You could be swept off your feet by just about… *anybody*."
"Just *anybody*?" Clark said teasingly. "Your problem, Lois, is that you can't admit your true feelings."
"That's ridiculous," Lois shot back at him. "Okay, maybe somewhere, buried incredibly deep inside me, is some eensy weensy, microcosmic — although *highly* unlikely — possibility that I could feel some sort of unmotivated and *completely* unrealistic attraction to you."
"As long as you're being honest with yourself, Lois," Clark replied, laughing, as they both began working on the followup stories Perry had requested.
Lois never let him get the last word if she could help it; today was no exception. "I even figured out why I was blind enough to think *you* looked like Superman," she informed him.
Clark inadvertently snapped his pencil in half.
"Oh… uh, really? And why was that?" he asked, discreetly dropping the pieces into his wastebasket. Did she know after all? Or would the penny drop as that sentence floated in her thoughts?
Fear really could keep a person rooted in one spot, he thought incidentally; or at least, it could keep *him* firmly planted on his chair. He definitely wasn't floating.
"Simple," she tossed at him, grinning, "…every woman in love thinks her man looks like Superman."
She stood and walked away, bellowing, "Jimmy!" as she headed for the copy room. Clark was left to shake his head and stare after her, smiling ruefully.
And floating just slightly above his chair.
He really, *really* needed to consider telling her his secret.
By the end of the day, Lois and Clark had finished their followup stories and sent them to Perry, and had been waiting to see if he wanted them to edit anything.
As they waited, the woman in charge of the Daily Planet's entertainment committee had begun to announce the winners of the monthly drawing.
All Planet employees were automatically entered in each month's drawing, as a sort of bonus. The prizes varied from month to month and often included everything from Daily Planet mugs and t- shirts to movie tickets, restaurant gift certificates, and even lavish weekend trips.
To her complete surprise, Lois had won a weekend in the Honeymoon Suite of the Lexor, the city's premier hotel. She had decided on the spot to claim her prize immediately.
Neither Lois nor Clark had had anything major in the works, news- wise, so there was no reason why Lois *couldn't* take advantage of her good fortune and spend the weekend relaxing at a luxury hotel.
But she'd received some good-natured teasing from the Daily Planet staff; everyone knew Lois didn't take vacations or time off unless Perry forced her to.
"C'mon, Lois, you don't *do* relaxing," Cat had told her.
"Yeah, your idea of a weekend off is covering a revolution in South America, isn't it?" Jimmy had asked with a grin.
"…Or a riot in Miami," Cat had said.
Perry had joined them at that point. "Or a prison break upstate," he'd said.
"I am *not* going on a story. I *do* have a personal life," Lois had told them in exasperation.
"Lois Lane in the Honeymoon Suite?" Cat had asked.
"Stranger things have happened," Jimmy had replied.
"Thank you all very much. I'm leaving now," Lois had informed them loftily.
"Lois, you have to admit: the idea of you spending an entire weekend *relaxing* is a little… well, far-fetched," Perry had said, grinning.
"Oh, ye of little faith," she'd replied, tossing her hair, and had headed up the ramp.
Clark had caught up with her at the elevator, and they'd exited the Planet building together. She hadn't seemed upset at the teasing; there had, however, been a determined glint in her eye. He had had no doubt that she would *relax* even if it killed her, just to prove the point.
They'd walked together as far as her place, as had become their habit. Lois had spent much of the walk enumerating all of the relaxation opportunities the hotel offered: its several restaurants, the upscale shopping mall attached to it, the gymnasium and work-out center which included an olympic size pool, and the eight-screen movie theater.
"That's an awful lot of activity for someone who's supposed to be relaxing," Clark had said with a grin.
"Ah, but it's activity unrelated to work," Lois had announced triumphantly, "so it doesn't count."
On that note, Clark had wished her a good weekend and continued on to his own apartment. He'd spun into the suit and started Superman's usual nightly patrol over Metropolis.
He'd flown over the Lexor at the end of his patrol and had been reassured to hear her steady heartbeat; she'd arrived safely for her weekend off. He hadn't been expecting otherwise, really, but with Lois Lane, one never really knew if she'd be sidetracked on her way to someplace by someone or something that ultimately turned into a story.
He'd gotten into the habit of ending most of his nightly patrols with a fly-over of Lois's apartment. In addition to the reassurance of her safety, he had found that hearing her heartbeat was like getting his own personal goodnight message from her.
Returning from his nightly patrol the following night, he heard the phone ringing as he landed on his balcony. At this time of night it was either his parents calling with an emergency, or Lois.
His second guess was correct — Lois was calling, "Just to say hello," she said with studied nonchalance.
He was elated that their friendship had deepened to the point that she was increasingly turning to him outside of work. She was calling him — just to talk — even though they'd been together in the newsroom for most of the previous day.
He was also floating about three inches off his kitchen floor, but with no witnesses he wasn't concerned about that.
He figured she was probably lonely, or bored, since she'd had the entire day to shop, eat, work out, or see a movie. While she enjoyed those things, she was used to a much less… well, *relaxing* life.
"Working hard?" he asked her; he thought she could probably hear the smile in his voice.
"No, Clark, I'm *relaxing*," she replied snappishly, but her muffled giggle ruined the effect.
"Yeah, right," he said. "How's the view?"
"Wonderful. It's…" She trailed off.
He heard a splash and her muffled exclamation — "Oh! …What?" — before she set down — dropped? — the phone. He heard more splashing, and he tuned in with his super hearing. He heard a door open and close, and then winced as she spoke into the phone again — "…wonderful…" — before he could shift back to normal hearing.
"Lois? You okay?" he asked.
"Fine," she said distractedly. He heard a thump.
"Lois?" he asked again.
"Clark, hold on a sec, I'm in the Jacuzzi and…" she said, setting the phone down again.
Clark waited, trying to figure out what she was doing. Was she in danger? he wondered. Lois Lane attracted trouble on at least a weekly basis.
She picked up the phone again. "I'm back," she said, "That was room service with my order, and I almost dropped the phone in the Jacuzzi when they left it at the door."
"Order?" he asked, glancing at the clock. It was kind of late for a meal.
"*Chocolate*, Clark," she said with relish, "The Lexor's restaurant has the most *wonderful* desserts on their menu, and they'll deliver whatever you want to your door; you don't have to talk to anybody or tip the delivery person… Are they still called waiters if they bring your food to your door? Maybe it's the bellboy's job… they can't be dragging people's luggage around all day long, right? There aren't that many rooms… Anyway, they just put it on your bill, you add the tips when you check out, isn't that great? And the Planet's paying for the suite, the food, *and* the tips. So I'm sitting here in the Jacuzzi with their Death By Chocolate and a Mocha coffee… Isn't that fantastic? Even the *coffee* is chocolate! Oh, this is *great*…"
The last part of that was slightly muffled as she took a bite of the dessert. Clark laughed; he was quite familiar with her devotion to chocolate.
"Lois, I didn't think you had it in you," he said.
"I didn't have what?" she asked.
"The ability to take an entire weekend off. Congratulations," he said, laughing.
Lois laughed, too. "I'm hanging up now, Clark," she said, "I'm going back to relaxing."
That had been Saturday night. The Lexor package had included Sunday night as well, so Lois had planned to leave for the Planet building from the hotel on Monday morning.
She'd spent another day doing much of the same things as she had on Saturday, but Sunday night had not followed the pattern of the previous two days.
She'd been relaxing in the Jacuzzi again, armed with chocolate and coffee, when activity in the office building opposite the Lexor had caught her attention.
The building had been dark all weekend, so when the lights had come on in an office in her direct line of sight, Lois had glanced over in idle curiosity.
Her interest had sharpened considerably when she'd realized she was watching Congressman Ian Harrington, Chairman of the House Defense Committee, in the company of two very… unsavory-looking characters. Both of them looked like common thugs, and one was obviously carrying a gun.
As she'd watched, Congressman Harrington had handed a large manilla envelope to the older of the two men, whereupon the younger man had given Harrington a briefcase. Harrington had opened the briefcase and transferred its contents — stacks and stacks of US bills — to a second briefcase.
The older man had then moved to a wall calendar and circled a date on it. Harrington had followed him, appearing to object to the date in question. After some discussion, though, he had appeared to acquiesce.
Lois, being Lois, had brought her briefcase with her despite the fact that she'd intended to spend the weekend relaxing; she kept a small pair of binoculars and a camera in it.
She'd availed herself of both, taking photo after photo of the men from the darkened Honeymoon Suite. She had been unworried by the thought of discovery; the Lexor's windows, unlike those of the office building, were one-way glass.
She had just presented the photos at the morning staff meeting.
It was obvious that there was a pretty big story in the making. Congressman Harrington was apparently selling some kind of information, probably highly classified — the only kind the Chairman of the House Defense Committee would have that was worth any money — to someone who was obviously *not* on the House Defense Committee's approved list of recipients.
While no one disputed the importance of the story, both as a public service and as an exclusive for the Daily Planet, her co- workers were not passing up the chance to tease Lois about her weekend.
She'd ended up spending part of the weekend working, after all.
"I should've taken that bet," Jimmy said, "I could've used the cash."
"I *swear* this just dropped in my lap," Lois protested. "Stories just seem to *find* me…"
"*Trouble* seems to find you, Lois," Cat interjected, "but you always manage to land on your feet."
"…Even when I'm *relaxing*…" Lois continued, ignoring Cat, "I mean, I was in the *Honeymoon Suite* — that's totally isolated from the rest of the hotel. It's on the top floor of the Lexor, for crying out loud; it even has a private elevator. There's maid service, room service — you could spend *days* in there not knowing what was happening anywhere outside the suite. How much more relaxed could I have been? And I had no idea what was going on in the world; I left the radio and TV off — I only watched movies, because the Lexor even has a library and video-lending service! Did you know they even have a copy of Graeme Clifford's 'Burke and Wills'? I saw that in college in my World History class; they were the Australian equivalent of our Lewis and Clark — that's been out of print for I don't know how long… I'm sure you can find used copies on eBay or something, but the Lexor had it to borrow!
…And I still ended up with a story," she added.
"What?" she asked, noticing that most of the staff members were looking at her in disbelief.
Clark was unable to help smiling; he was used to her babbling but it tended to overwhelm pretty much everyone else who experienced it.
Perry shooed everyone out of the conference room.
"Maybe I should contact my source… *The* source, just to see if there's anything to this, before we get in too deep," he said musingly.
"You don't mean…" Jimmy began, but Perry cut him off.
"Git!" he said, and they did.
Lois commandeered Jimmy as they left the conference room, asking him to try to identify the two characters Congressman Harrington had been meeting with on Sunday night. Armed with several of the clearest photographs, he headed for one of the computers in the research room.
Clark began to track down all the background information on Harrington that was available, while Lois started calling their sources, asking for information. There was nothing immediately forthcoming, but they had expected that.
She and Clark created a rough working outline with the facts they had so far, mapping what they knew and what they needed to find out. Not surprisingly, the 'what we know' column was much shorter than the 'what we need to find out' column.
Jimmy returned briefly to report that the building across from the Lexor had recently been sold, and the office they were interested in had been vacant at the time of the sale.
"I'm still trying to track down who's renting it, but the building's sale was finalized only two weeks ago. Apparently, the rental deal was in the works but the paperwork's who knows where. The new owner's a developer and they're currently moving their own offices, so it'll take a couple of days to locate the rental records."
"Keep digging, Jimmy, okay?" Lois requested, and at his nod, went back to her list of sources.
It had been a fairly productive but quiet morning — business as usual.
And no floating.
But now everything had changed.
After talking to his source, Perry had called Lois and Clark into his office.
The source had confirmed some of what they suspected; Harrington had access to highly classified information, mostly weapons systems information.
And now — *now* — Perry wanted to send them undercover at the Lexor.
Both Lois and Clark had reacted with utter surprise, which was in itself rather surprising. They had already agreed well before Perry summoned them that they would need to stake out the office, but they hadn't really considered what that meant. They hadn't considered that they might be doing more than a few hours' observation.
Seeing their obvious surprise, Perry said, "We're talking a major surveillance operation here, kids."
"But Perry… why would we need to stay there? Why not just have us hang out there for a while, say, a few hours each night?" Lois asked. "That's how we usually stake out a place."
"No hotel's going to sit still for us using it as a base for spy operations," Perry replied.
"Can't we just rent the suite and watch the office at night?" she asked.
"This story is going to be a huge exclusive for the Planet, Lois," Perry replied. "We need to keep it quiet until we have enough to publish. You need a cover. What better cover than honeymooners in the Honeymoon Suite?"
It was a valid point.
Lois and Clark looked at each other. She still looked a little worried, and he wondered if that was because of their recent experience with the pheromone compound.
"I've pulled a few strings and managed to get the suite for the next three nights," Perry said, picking up his phone. "Sit tight for a minute while I get the specifics from Accounting, and then I need to talk to the Resources department about surveillance equipment."
"It would be business, Lois," Clark told her very softly, as Perry began writing down details. "Strictly business."
"Oh, Clark, I know that," she hastened to tell him, equally quietly. "It's just… have you ever lived with somebody? Full time, I mean?"
"Uh… full time? No…" he said, glad she'd phrased the question in a way that allowed him to answer truthfully, if not completely. "Have you?"
"No," she said, "not… full time. I guess it takes a lot of effort, you know, to share stuff and…"
"Lois, this is us," he said, still very softly, "We're… you're my best friend. We'll be okay. It'll be like… it'll be fun. Maybe like a campout… And there's nobody else I'd rather 'practice' living with," he added teasingly, hoping to ease any concerns she might still have.
To his surprise, she reached out and took his hand, holding it for a few moments. "Thanks, Clark…" she said, barely above a whisper. "I… feel the same way." She glanced up, meeting his eyes for a moment, and then quickly looked away.
She released his hand as Perry hung up the phone, which was a good thing because, while he'd rather have continued holding her hand, Clark currently needed both of his to hold onto the arms of the chair to keep him from floating out of it.
She… felt the same way? What did that mean? She wasn't looking at him. Was she saying… that she *wanted* to try living with him? He began to rise higher despite his grip on the chair's arms. The wood creaked ominously. His heart was pounding. The intensity of his longing for her was almost unbearable.
He took a deep breath. He had to give up this line of thought *right now*. She had probably only meant she felt comfortable with him, comfortable enough that their stay at the Lexor wouldn't be an ordeal.
He took another deep breath, feeling himself sink back down onto the chair, and tried to focus on what Perry was saying.
"Okay, kids, you've got three nights at the Lexor," Perry announced. "Accounting has it set up; all you have to do is show up. Jimmy'll set up the equipment for you later this evening. Now finish up whatever you've got to send me today, then get outta here, and get me that story!"
Now Clark sat, completely floored, at his desk. He felt like his head was spinning — and he was definitely *not* floating. He still had to finish a story — a Superman rescue — in time for the evening edition, but for a brief moment he needed to just sit and order his thoughts.
The… other ramifications of their newest assignment had struck him as he and Lois left Perry's office.
Perry wanted them to go undercover.
At the Lexor.
To pose as newlyweds so that they could stay, without causing any suspicion, in the Lexor's Honeymoon Suite, which was so conveniently located across the street from the office they were interested in.
To stay in the suite — together — for the next three days.
Day and night.
There was probably no way — *no way* — to continue to conceal his… problem from Lois.
Who didn't know his secret.
Who didn't *like* not knowing secrets.
Who was almost certainly going to discover his secret.
Who was likely to kill him — figuratively speaking — when she found out.
Clark was doomed.
Five hours later, Lois and Clark sat on the couch in the main room of the suite. Both were dressed in casual, after-work clothing — shorts and t-shirts — and they'd just finished eating the room service meal which had been provided as part of the hotel's 'honeymoon package'.
When they had arrived at the Lexor, the bellboy had insisted on videotaping the 'groom' carrying his 'bride' over the suite's threshold — "It's part of the Lexor Honeymoon Experience," he'd said.
Clark had hammed it up; he'd had to. Lois had initially been stiff and tense when he'd lifted her in his arms. He'd pretended to stagger under her weight, and she'd had to throw her arms around his neck.
They'd both been laughing by the time he'd entered the suite. The lightness of the moment plus holding Lois in his arms had conspired to bring Clark slightly off the floor, but he'd managed to set Lois down before he'd achieved any noticable height.
The bellboy had pointed out the suite's amenities, taken the luggage to the bedroom and — to Lois's amazed indignation — unpacked for them.
She'd still been muttering dire imprecations under her breath about the nerve of complete strangers when Clark had tipped the man and showed him out of the suite.
Shortly thereafter, Jimmy had arrived with a large tote full of equipment.
He'd set up the surveillance equipment for them in the bedroom. He'd brought a video camera with a telephoto lens and a tripod, and a spotting scope with its own tripod. He'd also set up a directional microphone equipped with a digital recorder.
Then he'd moved into the main room of the suite, and had set up a laptop computer and small printer on one end of the table in front of the couch.
"Okay, guys," he'd said, "this is a wireless setup. You can access the Internet, of course, but also — the microphone and camera are networked to the computer and printer. You can print anything you record with the microphone or the camera, or you can import the sound and video files directly into the computer. The microphone's voice activated, and you'll hear an alert when the microphone picks something up. So you can monitor activity from out here, but most of the equipment's not visible to visitors."
Clark had found himself wondering, once again, why Jimmy hadn't pursued a career in computer programming or IT — the kid could probably have become a millionaire. He doubted Perry knew the surveillance equipment he'd authorized was so sophisticated, but Jimmy had made the most of its abilities.
Shortly after Jimmy had left, before either Lois or Clark could begin to feel uncomfortable with the whole situation, there'd been a knock at the door.
The same bellboy who had delivered and unpacked their luggage had delivered their meal. He'd set it up — complete with main entrees, a selection of desserts, a flower arrangement, elegant tapers in heavy silver bases, a fruit basket, and a bottle of very high quality champagne — with much pomp and circumstance at a small linen-draped table near the gas fireplace. He'd lit the tapers and the fire, dimmed the room lights, and then accepted the tip Clark had proffered and had left the suite.
After a brief, somewhat uncomfortable moment, Clark had turned the lights back up while Lois approached the table to inspect its offerings. Clark had returned to the table and started to reach for the tapers, when surprisingly, Lois had stopped him.
"It's okay, Clark, leave them lit; they're kind of pretty," she'd said with a slightly self-conscious grin. He'd smiled back and they'd sat down to enjoy the excellent food. Clark had had to keep his foot tucked under his chair for the entire meal, and even so, he had hovered a centimeter or so off the chair's seat the entire time.
The idea of staying with Lois, in essence living with her, even for a few short days, was already increasing his longing for her. Perhaps here, in the cozy and protected world of the suite, was the 'right place and time' he was looking for before he revealed his secret. If it was, then all he needed to do was gather his courage and… tell her.
Now they were familiarizing themselves with the computer Jimmy had set up for them. Lois had decided to test the system by turning the directional microphone until she picked up voices.
Once she'd zeroed in on a conversation, she had returned to the suite's main room. Clark had confirmed that the computer had sounded an alert when the microphone picked up the voices. The conversation didn't show up on the laptop's screen, but the printer delivered a copy when they tested the print function.
"This is nice, Clark," Lois said, "Everybody travels with computers these days, so the hotel staff won't think twice about our having a computer with us on our 'honeymoon'. And there won't be anything scrolling across the computer screen for just anyone to see, either."
She tried importing the sound file, and the importation and playback also worked flawlessly.
<< …So I told her to stop calling me. I mean, when a thing's over it's over. Right? >>
<< Exactly right. Next time, don't even pick up the phone. Remember when I dumped Tawny? Women hang on like there's no tomorrow. >>
Lois grimaced. "I've heard enough," she said disgustedly. "Turn it off, Clark… and delete the file, too."
While Clark deleted the file and tore up the printout, Lois returned to the bedroom and turned the microphone so that it was once again aimed toward the office where she had seen Harrington and company on the previous night.
"What if no one shows?" Clark asked her when she returned to the main room.
"Then the honeymoon's over," she replied, "…but don't worry, they'll show."
"For now, we just wait," she added around a huge yawn. "I'm going to bed, Clark. You've got the first shift. Wake me up when our friends across the way show."
"Wait a minute," Clark said, "aren't you forgetting something?"
"Like what?" Lois asked warily.
"There's only one bedroom," Clark replied with a grin. "How about we flip for the bed?" He tucked one foot slightly under the front edge of the couch where he was still sitting. <Better safe than… floating.>
"How about: I get the bed, I lend you a pillow," Lois stated, her hands on her hips.
"How about we alternate nights?" Clark returned.
"How about we don't?' she shot back at him.
Clark laughed. "It's a really *big* bed," he said, "We could share."
Lois sighed theatrically, but she was smiling, too. "How about we alternate nights?" she asked.
"Deal," Clark said, delighted that she was so comfortable with him in such an… intimate setting. It was a good thing he was anchored, so to speak, or he would have been hovering above the couch — and trying to explain his lack of gravity to his partner.
Lois retreated to the bedroom and closed the door, only to reopen it a few moments later bearing a pillow and a blanket.
"Here, Clark," she said almost shyly, and returned to the bedroom before he could do more than thank her.
"Goodnight, Lois," he called.
There was no answer.
He stretched out on the couch; not the most comfortable of fits, he was finding.
"Lois? Goodnight," he called again, smiling.
There was still no answer.
"Good ni-i-i-ght, Lois," he sang, and was rewarded with her laughter and a firm "Oh, goodnight, Clark!" from Lois.
He was awakened by the soft beep of the laptop signalling that the microphone was picking something up. He stood up from the couch and headed toward the bedroom, only to hesitate by the closed door.
He lowered his glasses to peer through the door, but stopped himself. It felt like an invasion of her privacy to look through the door.
She had, however, told him to wake her up if there was any activity.
He settled his glasses firmly on his nose and knocked briskly on the bedroom door, then opened it.
"Lois?" he asked. "Wake up; they're back."
She woke surprisingly quickly, and was soon standing at the window watching the office through her binoculars. "Turn up the microphone, Clark," she requested without removing her gaze from the building across the street.
Clark turned the dial and the men's voices sounded clearly in the room.
<< That's the last of the system specs. I'll have the information on the testing for you tomorrow. Dates, procedures, the whole thing. >>
<< Good. What about a new vote? >>
<< I can't initiate a re-vote until after the test results are analyzed and the plan rejected. Hopefully… >>
<< 'Hopefully' isn't good enough. That's why I bought insurance: *you*. >>
Lois and Clark glanced at each other, then turned back to the office.
Clark recognized Congressman Harrington; looking closely at the other two men, he asked Lois, "Are those the same two guys Harrington was with on Sunday night?"
"Yes," she said, "We need to send a video clip to Jimmy and see if he can ID those two."
The older of the two men with Harrington was short, stocky, and dressed all in black. He seemed to be the one in charge. The other man appeared to be little more than hired muscle; he wore a white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, exposing his heavily muscled, tattooed arms, and a gun in a shoulder holster.
Harrington had handed Guy-In-Charge Goon a large manilla envelope, and was now transferring stacks of money from one briefcase to another. Guy-In-Charge Goon leafed through the sheaf of documents he'd taken from the envelope, while Hired- Muscle Goon watched Harrington with an unpleasant smile on his face.
As Lois and Clark watched, Harrington closed the second briefcase, picked it up, and turned toward the door.
Hired-Muscle Goon immediately advanced on Harrington, shoving him hard against the wall, and almost casually lifted the muzzle of his gun and set it against Harrington's temple.
<< I own you lock, stock, and re-election fund, Mr. Chairman. Never forget that, >> Guy-In-Charge Goon said, watching impassively. At his nod, Hired-Muscle Goon stepped back from Harrington, holstering his gun.
Harrington, face white, stepped away from the wall, nodded shakily, and exited the room at a speed worthy of a much younger and healthier man.
Lois and Clark looked at each other again, and Lois said, "Clark, I don't know what's going on, but I think it may be even bigger than I originally thought. And I think Harrington's in over his head. Once we figure out what they're talking about, we may be able to get to Harrington. I think he would probably sell out to save his skin."
"I think you're right, Lois," Clark said, watching Guy-In-Charge Goon leave the office. "Looks like they're done for tonight, though," he continued, "let's get some sleep, and see what Jimmy can help us find out in the morning."
He looked at her properly for the first time since he'd woken her up. She was wearing baggy sleep shorts and a loose t-shirt, and looked utterly adorable. Feeling his feet begin to leave the floor, he surreptitiously tucked his fingers under the edge of the windowsill.
"What?" she asked, catching him staring.
"Nothing. It's just that, well, you look pretty… decent, for the middle of the night," he told her.
"Oh," she said, "…you look decent, too."
There was an awkward moment of silence as they stared at each other. Lois was the first to look away, blushing slightly.
"Well, um… goodnight, Clark," she said, moving away from the window.
He got a strong grip on his emotions, forcing his feet down onto the floor, and with a quickly echoed, "Goodnight, Lois." he let go of the windowsill and left the bedroom.
Clark was glad he didn't need as much sleep as most people did. He was awake long before Lois was stirring, and Superman had done a quick patrol over the city.
He had been floating in his sleep, but since Lois was in the bedroom and he was sleeping on the couch <above the couch> he hadn't been too worried about it.
He had returned to the suite just as she was stirring.
He'd had one bad moment, shortly after he returned, when Lois had exited the bathroom wrapped only in one of the Lexor's huge, luxurious toweling robes. She was swallowed up in it, but there was something about her slight form, flushed face and damp hair that he found very appealing.
He was lucky she hurried into the bedroom and shut the door; if she'd looked back at him she'd have seen her partner floating six inches above the floor. Chances were good she'd have had something to say about that.
By the time she emerged from the bedroom, fully dressed if not fully awake, he'd managed to return to the floor and order the Lexor's signature breakfast, and had it set up and waiting for her. There was coffee, of course, but they had no way to take it with them without appearing suspicious. Lois gulped down a cup while they ate, but she usually needed more than one cup in the morning.
There was always coffee available in the newsroom, however, and there was a coffee kiosk in the Planet's lobby. Clark got them each a cup of the daily gourmet blend before they entered the elevator, and Lois smiled gratefully at him as they continued up to the newsroom.
At the morning staff meeting, there was some good-natured teasing from some of the Daily Planet staff regarding Lois and Clark's accomodations at the Lexor, but faced with Lois's best Mad Dog Lane running-low-on-caffeine glare, even the most clueless got the message and backed off.
Only Clark saw the amusement in her eyes as their co-workers hurriedly shuffled pens, papers, coffee cups, and donuts, avoiding her gaze.
She flashed him a quick grin and a wink, and he had to hastily look down at his notes to keep from laughing out loud. He also had to grip the edge of his chair seat to keep from rising off it. With a supreme effort of will, he suppressed both his laughter and the floating.
Perry entered the room with his usual blustery greeting and immediately demanded his staff's progress reports. While he worked his way around the assembled staff, Clark, feeling more in control, looked at Lois again. She smiled sweetly at him, then turned her attention to Perry as he addressed them.
"Lois, Clark? Any progress?" he asked.
"Some, Chief," Lois replied.
"Some audio and video but still a complete mystery," Clark added.
"Show me what you've got when we're done here," Perry said, continuing, "Friaz! What've you got for me?"
After the morning meeting broke up, they stayed behind and presented what they had so far to Perry. Jimmy was also present, at Lois and Clark's request, since they needed him for a fair amount of research.
The four of them tossed ideas around; the primary theory was that Guy-In-Charge Goon wanted information about some new weapon the Defense Department was currently testing, although *why* he wanted the information was a mystery.
They presented Jimmy with a list of information they sought: Who was Guy-In-Charge Goon? Was he working for someone else? What 'system' were they talking about? What 'test'? What 'vote'? What, exactly, was Harrington selling to Guy-In-Charge Goon?
The 'why' of it seemed pretty obvious — big bucks. No one would court the kind of danger Harrington seemed to be in for anything less than a large amount of money.
"You two need any other help?" Perry asked them.
"Thanks, Chief, but no, we're… coping," Lois answered with a grin, glancing at Clark. At his nod, Perry dismissed them with, "You've got two more days in the suite — make the most of them."
By lunchtime, they had discovered, via Jimmy, that the office suite was registered to a company called Apocolypse Consulting. "No bank accounts or transactions that I can trace," Jimmy had said. "Apocolypse moved in a couple weeks ago. Paid off a five year lease on the offices *in advance*."
After some extensive searching, Jimmy had discovered that the business was a subsidiary of a company called Shore Services, which in turn was a subsidiary of another company, Huxtoller Industries, which was based in the Cayman Islands.
"Tax shelter? Or shell company?" Lois asked Clark. They were sitting at the table in the conference room, surrounded by printouts. Jimmy sat at one of the computers, his fingers flying over the keyboard as he searched for information on Harrington's two goons.
He'd printed pictures of both Guy-In-Charge Goon and Hired-Muscle Goon from the video clip Lois and Clark had sent him, and was searching for them in image databases too.
He had exhausted all of the resources that the Planet had legitimate access to, and had come up with nothing. He was currently seeking information from… other sources, as he'd put it.
"I found him, guys," he said suddenly with glee. "Look at this!"
Both Lois and Clark stood and peered over his shoulder, while Jimmy read the highlights aloud, "Thaddeus Roarke. International arms dealer, electronic weapons system analyst, entrepreneur, and general bad boy. Last known base of operations: Beirut."
"Arms dealer and House Defense Committee," Clark said, "it's beginning to make sense."
"We need more information, Clark," Lois said, "We have video and audio but we need to hear what, exactly, Roarke has planned in regards to this 'test' they were talking about."
"Let's go back to the Lexor, Lois," Clark suggested. "We've still got a fair amount of audio and video files to go through."
"Can you stay at it awhile longer, Jimmy?" he asked.
"See if you can find us the voting records for Harrington's committee, for the past year," Lois added.
"Sure, guys," Jimmy replied, "The Chief told me to help you find whatever you need. I can fax anything I find to you at the hotel."
Lois gathered up the printouts and stuffed them into her briefcase, then headed for the elevators, tossing a quick "Thanks, Jimmy" over her shoulder. Clark followed her after reminding Jimmy to be careful. "I think we may be dealing with some pretty dangerous people."
Lois and Clark spent the afternoon at the Lexor, working their way through the video and audio recordings they had so far. Most of what they had was the conversation they'd witnessed the night before, but there was also a very short fragment of Guy-In-Charge Goon — Roarke — on the phone, possibly to Harrington.
They'd imported all of the video and sound files to the laptop. They were currently sitting on the couch in the Honeymoon Suite's main room, watching one of the video files.
It had been recorded that morning while they'd been at the Planet. The video showed Roarke entering the office with a briefcase, transferring the contents of the briefcase to the filing cabinet along one wall, and then dialing a phone number.
He didn't identify himself to the party at the other end of the phone, nor did he bother with any greeting.
<< … no possible way the test will be postponed? >> he asked brusquely.
And after listening for a moment, << Good. And after the test fails, we'll get *my* system approved and installed. How soon before you can vote again? >>
He listened again for a moment, frowning, and issued a flat << No. >>
He concluded the short conversation with << After what happens at that test, no one will be interested in 'modification proposals'. >>
He hung up the phone decisively, shut the empty briefcase, and left the office.
"It *has* to be some sort of weapons system, Clark," Lois said frustratedly after they'd heard Roarke's phone conversation twice. "He keeps talking about a 'test' and its certain failure. They must be sabotaging something, and I think it's going to happen soon!"
Clark had used his super hearing to listen to the other side of Roarke's conversation; it had, as they had suspected, been Harrington.
Harrington's reply to Roarke's initial question had been << Weather's clear. Naval monitoring ships are en route. Dawn, day after tomorrow. It's set. >>
His reply to Roarke's second queston had been << There'll be delays, of course. Analysis of test results, modification proposals… >>
And lastly, << We have to go through the process, Thaddeus. >>
The entire conversation, both sides, shed little more light on the mystery than listening to only Roarke's side of it had. The only new things Clark knew were that the test in question involved something in the ocean and that they were, indeed, running out of time.
How to tell Lois he knew that? There was no way to explain how he'd heard Harrington.
The sound of the printer coming to life interrupted his rather glum musings.
He read the cover sheet as it was fed out of the machine, and told Lois, "From Jimmy. Voting records of the House Defense Committee."
She leaned across him and took the next sheet as it fell into the printer's tray, and still leaning against him, skimmed down it quickly.
"Let's see…" she mused, "here's something: Harrington's committee voted on something called Shock Wave five weeks ago…"
The feel of her, warm against him, lightened Clark's mood considerably — and with some alarm, he noticed his seat on the couch was also lightening. He hurriedly shifted enough to tuck one foot under the front of the couch, stopping his upward movement.
His sudden movement jarred Lois and she pulled back from him.
He grinned sheepishly at her as she said, with some asperity, "Clark! I bet your mother had to tie you to your chair at suppertime! You take fidgeting to a whole new level!"
He laughed as a quick mental picture of himself, tethered to a chair in his parents' kitchen and bobbing around like a balloon, flashed through his mind.
Lois laughed with him but quickly sobered as she returned her attention to the fax. "…Where was I? Oh, yes… Here! 'Appropriation approval for system installation'. Passed eight to zero, with one abstention…"
"Congressman Ian Harrington!" they said in unison.
Now that Lois wasn't leaning on him, Clark was settled fully onto the couch again. While he was relieved that he was back at full gravity, he knew he'd rather have her near him than not — even if it meant his apparent 'fidgeting' would continue.
They read through the rest of the document, but found no other information that stood out.
"Okay, we know there's some sort of system… a weapons system? …called Shock Wave," Lois said.
"And Roarke is using Harrington to help him sabotage it, whatever it is," Clark said.
"We've got to find out what it is," Lois said. "If we can figure that out…"
"…we've got him.," Clark finished. "We've got video, audio…"
"…research,'' Lois said, adding, "I wish we had enough to publish. Roarke scares me. If half of what we've heard is true… he's got to be stopped."
"Lois, I think you're right — it's going to be soon," Clark said, as the phone rang.
Lois answered it. It was Jimmy calling with more information; she put him on speakerphone so Clark could hear him, too.
<< Is this a good time, guys? >> Jimmy asked. << I'm not interrupting anything, right? I don't want to mess up your stay but I have some information on the other guy with Harrington. >>
"Jimmy, this is *not* an actual honeymoon," Lois told him.
<< Oh, sure, I mean, I know that, but you know, the Honeymoon Suite… and you guys are, well, uh… you know, you might as well be… uh… >> Jimmy stumbled on. Clark was having a hard time containing his amusement, and it appeared that Lois, lips twitching, could see the humor in the situation too.
"Never mind, Jimmy," she said briskly, "just tell us what you've got."
<< Okay, uh… his name is Bart Teller, >> Jimmy said. He sounded relieved, probably that Lois had changed the subject. << He's available to the highest bidder for just about any kind of racket and has been in and out of jail for years. He's usually a bodyguard and sometimes an 'enforcer', and has been arrested at least twice for intimidation. >>
"Anything else?" Clark asked him.
<< That's all I could find, but I've got some ideas where to dig for more information on Shock Wave. It's classified so it's going to take some serious digging, but I might be able to come up with something… >>
"Be careful, though, okay?" Clark asked him, and having assured them that he would be very cautious, Jimmy wished them goodnight and hung up.
Clark's super hearing picked up the soft click of the door latch as their targets returned to the office across the street just before the computer alerted them that the microphone had been activated.
Lois and Clark returned to the bedroom in time to see Roarke, Bart, and Harrington entering the office.
<< …What exactly will happen? >> Harrington was asking apprehensively. Even from across the street, he looked drawn and worried.
<< Why don't I show you? >> Roarke answered, opening a laptop on the desk in front of him. << We had a video made from our computer model. Bart, get the lights and the shutters. >>
Within a few moments, Bart had closed the interior shutters and the office was dark.
"Rats!" Lois exclaimed, "Now what?"
Clark tried looking through the shutters but they must have been painted with a very high lead-content paint. He couldn't see clearly into the office — the men were hazy outlines lit dimly by the glow of the computer screen they were watching, but that was all he could see.
Like many of the office buildings in downtown Metropolis, the windows stretched almost the length of the office, so he really couldn't look through the office walls, either.
Lois had turned up the microphone but the men weren't talking — static filled the bedroom, and she turned it down again.
"This is torture," Lois began, but suddenly light was shining behind the shutters, and then Bart was opening them again.
If possible, Harrington looked even more ill and careworn than before. He wiped at his forehead, asking << …are you sure you can pull this off? >>
<< I guarantee it, >> Roarke said with obvious satisfaction.
<< … Because if you don't, what… happens to me? >> Harrington was asking.
It wasn't a nice laugh. << Pray you never find out, >> he said, gesturing at Bart.
Bart moved forward, took Harrington by the arm, and showed him firmly out of the office.
Roarke shut down the laptop and tucked it under one arm. << Put these with the other ones, >> he told Bart, handing him another manilla envelope. << That's the last of Harrington's 'help' we needed… I'm beginning to wonder if he's more of a liability than I originally thought… >>
Bart began filing papers in the file cabinet as Roarke left the office.
Watching him, Clark spied the wall calendar and suddenly thought of a way to tell Lois the date of the test.
"Let's try the spotting scope, Lois," he said, "Maybe we can see the date on that calendar."
"Good idea, partner," she replied, "And Clark, we *have* to find a way into that office!"
"Let's see if we can get a look at the calendar first, okay?" he asked, "before…"
"…before Bart leaves the office," she finished, already reaching for the scope.
They began calibrating the spotting scope, heads bent close over the equipment. This close to her, Clark was trying to concentrate on maintaining full gravity while still giving Lois his complete attention.
So he heard it only peripherally; he almost missed it, even with his super hearing.
The sound came from the suite's main room — a knock… and then a click.
He whipped his head up and around and looked through the door into the main room. The maid had entered the suite, a stack of towels in her arms, and she was even now halfway across the room.
He snapped his gaze back to the surveillance equipment — in plain sight — and Lois, who was looking at him quizzically.
He was acting on the idea even as it flashed into his mind.
He swept the equipment up and onto the bed, tossing the bedclothes on top of it all. In almost the same moment, he scooped his partner up and tossed her onto the bed, following her down among the rumpled blankets.
Even as Lois began to struggle, her hands pushing at his shoulders, he was gently restraining her arms — and as she started, "Clar-" his lips came down on hers.
He'd envisioned it as a quick but convincing-looking kiss that would end as the maid, discovering her error, retreated from the room — and the suite.
He'd had a vision of himself glancing back toward the door as she left, pulling back carefully from Lois — who would have heard the maid's hasty apology and would understand why her mild-mannered partner had suddenly gone caveman.
But this was not just his partner — heaven help him, this was the curvy, warm, sexy little body of his beloved, wrapped in his arms. If she hadn't kissed Superman like that at the airport… he would have been able to stop, to pull back after the briefest of pecks, as soon as the maid had retreated.
He began drifting upward, hindered slightly at first by the blankets tangled around their feet.
And… was she *responding* to him? She'd gone still when the maid spoke, but now… *Yes* — his life, his heart, his beloved was *kissing him back*.
Dimly, distantly, a little voice in his mind was protesting something about <secret> and <not a good idea>, but he had ceased to listen.
He couldn't stop.
And this was… *heaven*… He stopped thinking and just… *felt*.
The reasoning part of his brain threw up its hands in defeat, and left the arena.
He moaned and deepened the kiss as she arched into him; he kicked at the restraining blankets as he wrapped her more tightly in his arms.
Her fingers had crept into his hair, sending delicious shivers across his scalp and down his back. She pulled her mouth from his, gasping, and moaned his name. Her lips returned to his as her hands slipped to the nape of his neck, and she tightened her hold around his shoulders, pulling him to her as he finally kicked free of the blankets and floated fully off the bed.
He wasn't thinking about floating, or about protecting his secret — or about gravity's stronger hold on Lois. He only knew she wasn't pressed as tightly against him as he wanted, and as they rose into the air, he rolled with her until she was above him.
She was trembling in his arms, and he lightened his kisses until he was sipping gently at her lips, one hand cupped against her cheek. Leaving her mouth, he lifted his head and brushed feathery kisses across her jaw; she blindly sought his mouth again.
"Clark," she whispered breathlessly against his lips, "Clark, I… I want…"
He kissed her deeply once again, and she melted bonelessly into him.
"Oh, Lois… I *love you*," he murmured, overwhelmed by her, sliding his hand from her cheek into her hair, cradling her head against his shoulder as he held her snugly against him.
She lifted her head and stared at him, eyes wide, as she repeated, "You love me? Clark…"
"Clark!" she repeated his name sharply, jolting him back to his surroundings, as she — and he — discovered their position more than a foot above the bed.
She pulled back against his arms, staring uncomprehendingly at the surface of the bed below them, then turned her gaze back to him, as he began to float them down onto the blankets again.
Both of them were breathing rapidly, hearts pounding; Clark's body shook with fine tremors as he fought to bring himself under control.
She still rested easily against him, arms braced on his chest as she stared around her again, and again looked back at him. Her gaze sharpened on his face: he loosened his arms around her slightly, and waited, saying nothing…
He saw the moment she recognized him — *all* of him. Her eyes grew wide; still breathless, she whispered, "Clark?" She reached forward and removed his glasses, dropping them on the bed beside them. She pushed his hair back off his forehead, her eyes rapidly cataloging his facial features.
"Clark!" she said again, in a tone of voice he found hard to decipher. The solid thump she delivered to his shoulder in almost the same moment, however, was easier to understand.
"Lois," he started, and she seemed to recollect herself to her present position. She scrambled off of him to sit back on her heels on the rumpled bed, arms wrapped across her middle. He, too, sat up, carefully avoiding the surveillance equipment still concealed beneath the blankets, and retrieved his glasses.
"When were you planning on telling me?" she asked icily. "…*Were* you planning on telling me?"
"I can't believe it!" she continued before he could even begin to formulate a reply, "I should have figured it out! I'm an *investigative reporter*, for pete's sake!"
"Lois," he said again, "I didn't intend for that to happen -"
"What, revealing your secret?" she interrupted angrily, "You *weren't even* going to tell me? You didn't… you were -"
"No! Yes! I mean, yes, I've been wanting to tell you for quite a while now, but no, I didn't intend for that kiss to get so out- of-hand," he said rapidly, before she could draw a breath and continue.
"What?" she asked blankly. "We're talking about your being *Superman*, Clark! …Oh," she added belatedly, sidetracked. "That was… you didn't?"
"Lois, I… I heard the maid coming," he said. "We're supposed to be a couple on our honeymoon — not hanging over equipment straight out of a spy novel. It was the only thing I could think of in the short time we had before she got to the bedroom."
"So what happened?" she inquired, still icily.
<But more like a northern-Minnesota-spring-icy than the-Arctic- Circle-icy> his inner voice piped up. He firmly quashed the voice.
"I… got carried away," he said softly, looking down at the blankets. "Lois, you tempted me almost beyond my control for the last couple of days, and then — when you kissed Superman at the airport… I… It was *heaven*, Lois," he said, looking up at her again. "I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop. I should have known that would happen — the moment I touched your lips with mine," he continued. "You don't realize the power you have over me, Lois."
"What power? Clark, you're *Superman*!" she said. "And you weren't interested, anyway… Oh," she said, looking at him wide- eyed, "You really *weren't* affected by Miranda's stuff, were you?"
"No, Lois — but I've always been affected by you. I've *always* been interested in you," he told her. "You had to have known."
"No… I, well, yes, I thought so, …but Clark, you didn't respond to me when… well, you didn't respond," she mumbled, embarassment in her voice. She wouldn't meet his eyes.
"I couldn't, Lois — however much I *wanted to*," he said. "I couldn't take advantage of you. Whether you were attracted to me or not, it would have been against your… well, you were under the influence of Miranda's pheromone."
She said nothing for a moment, staring down at the rumpled bed.
"Lois?" he asked. "Look at me… please?"
She raised her head and gazed at him; her expression was hard to read.
"And if I wasn't?' she asked suddenly.
"You weren't what?" he asked, confused.
"What if I *was* interested, Clark? And not affected by Miranda's compound?" she asked him.
Clark immediately rose six inches off the bed.
"Lois?" he asked, "Are you saying…" He trailed off.
Lois was gaping at him, and he fought to bring himself down onto the surface of the bed again.
He'd come down on the surveillance equipment, and hurriedly stood up, pulling the blankets aside and looking for damage.
"Clark," Lois asked, "does that always happen to you?'
He didn't pretend to misunderstand.
"Only with you, Lois," he said, looking up at her again. "I can't seem to stay… grounded around you."
"You know," she said, almost conversationally, climbing off the bed, "I really should have guessed before now. After all, *nobody* could be that clumsy."
"When *were* you going to tell me, Clark?" she continued, pacing toward the bedroom door and then back again toward the window, where he had leaned the surveillance equipment against the windowsill. "When our babies were floating out of their basinets?"
She seemed to realize what she'd said at the same time he did, and a rosy blush surged in her cheeks.
"Clark, were you going to tell me?" she continued quickly, before he could comment.
"Yes, Lois," he answered, "I knew I had to tell you — I wanted to tell you. You're the only person besides my mom and dad that knows. You're the only person I've ever *wanted* to tell. I was waiting for the right moment," he continued, "but it never seemed to *be* the right moment, and then I kept getting cold feet. I was afraid you'd hate me, Lois," he said miserably, "because Superman's just me, Clark — nobody special."
She opened her mouth to reply, then shut it again, shaking her head. She paced away from him again, and he bent with a heavy heart to finish setting up the surveillance equipment.
Defeat kept his feet firmly, solidly on the floor.
"Clark." She spoke from across the room. "You're not *just* anybody. You're Superman. No, -"
She held up her hand to forestall anything he might say, but he was too miserable to even try. She did hate him. He'd ruined any chance he had with her.
"…I mean, you're *Superman*, Clark. I should have seen it," she continued, approaching him again. "I *should* be angry with you, but I'm angrier at myself. All of the qualities that make him so good — they're yours, Clark. He's you. And you're him. You can't conceal that part of you no matter what you wear."
"Lois…" he started to say as she advanced on him, that same indecipherable look on her face as when she'd first discovered his secret. It was a dangerous look.
She continued toward him, crowding him back against the window.
"I should have seen it," she repeated. "I think… I think maybe I *did* see it, sort of… But I could only admit it when I was sprayed with the pheromone stuff."
She had continued forward until she was pressed against him, and his hands came up of their own volition to steady her as she threaded her hands up around his neck and into his hair.
Helplessly, he rose with her slowly into the air.
She looked startled for a moment, then giggled. "We're going to have to work on your reactions to this sort of thing, hoverboy," she said, grinning up at him.
"Clark," she continued softly, taking pity on his confusion, "I couldn't figure out why I was so… attracted to Superman, but… even more strongly attracted to you. How I could be in love with… with both of you. I couldn't explain it — I couldn't even admit it to myself until a few days ago."
"You really should have told me," she continued chidingly, as his jaw dropped and he stared at her in utter shock. "We could have… resolved a few things… days ago."
Clark had slowly drifted higher as he realized what she was saying. Against all expectations, Lois, his love, his heart — was saying she loved him — him, *Clark*.
With an inarticulate shout of joy, he wrapped his arms tightly around her and his lips came down on hers, eagerly uplifted and waiting for him. The world ceased to exist around him, and he lost all sense of time, of what was up and what was down.
Until they bumped against the ceiling.
Lois pulled back from him, dazedly, her breath coming in gasps to equal his own. "Wow," she whispered, in an echo of her reaction at the airport.
"Yes… wow," he repeated, a huge grin on his face.
"Much as I'd like to continue this," she said, smiling, "we still have a job to do. Could you land us, flyboy?" she asked him sweetly.
With a flourish, he took them down, reluctantly letting her go once they were both standing steadily on the bedroom floor once more.
"Help me set this stuff up the way it was, Clark," she told him, beginning to fiddle with the surveillance equipment. "We have things to do."
He couldn't help sighing as he moved to help her.
"Okay, Lois… you're right. We have a dirty politician to expose and a story to write… But I kind of wish we didn't have to stop what we were just doing," he added wistfully.
She tossed a cheeky grin at him as they realigned the microphone and the video camera toward the office windows across the street.
"Who said we have to stop, Clark?' she asked him. "Didn't Jimmy say the system would automatically record what it sees and hears? We're just here to review the data. There's no reason why we can't find… things to do while we wait," she continued with a grin. "Just — this time, make sure the 'do not disturb' sign is hanging on the door, okay?"
Her grin turned to outright laughter as he once again rose involuntarily into the air.
Much later, in the early hours of the morning, Lois and Clark lay on the couch together, Clark's head and shoulders resting back against the cushioned arm, and Lois resting on Clark.
They'd had several very enjoyable — and elevating — kissing sessions. Both of them had agreed that it was too soon for true intimacy; they had been content to limit themselves to kissing, cuddling, and talking. Clark was happy to just hold Lois in his arms with no pretenses between them.
Their reactions to each other were very strong, so some moments had been fairly intense. Fortunately, Lois's tendency to react with laughter when Clark floated them had helped keep their desires in check.
They'd bumped against the ceiling more than once, and had even ended up floating over the hot tub. That time, when recalled to his surroundings, Clark simply dropped down into the tub with Lois, drenching them both. She'd come up spluttering and muttering dire threats while he laughed helplessly, but she'd been laughing, too.
And she'd gotten her revenge on him by kissing him, deeply and hungrily, as they sat on the seat of the hot tub, both of them wet and dripping, until he was completely oblivious to anything else — then she'd taken adantage of his slow but steady rise from the seat of the hot tub to tug him quickly forward and duck him.
Now she lay sleepily against him as they half-heartedly watched a movie neither one of them was very much interested in.
"We never looked through the scope, Clark," she said drowsily into his neck.
"The calendar's marked for the day after tomorrow," Clark replied.
Lois raised her head to stare at him questioningly, and he gestured to his eyes. "Super vision, you know," he said.
"Oh… you could see it from…" Lois trailed off. "It's going to take me a while to get used to that, Clark," she continued.
"I, uh… also, …heard it from Harrington's side of that conversation earlier," he confessed.
Lois's eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed on his guilty expression.
He squirmed uncomfortably under her glare, wondering what she was going to do.
But all she did was say mildly, "You're going to pay for keeping secrets from me, flyboy."
"Pay?" he asked apprehensively. He might be Superman, but this was Lois Lane he was dealing with.
"Pay," she confirmed solemnly, "I'm thinking… Swiss chocolate… a tour of the Eiffel tower followed by breakfast in Paris… maybe a shopping trip to Milan… a visit to a tropical paradise…"
A slow grin had formed on Clark's face as she continued, and she smiled at him in return.
He dropped a quick kiss on her lips — a kiss that quickly escalated into something so powerful that it left them both trembling.
"Hmmm…" Lois murmured against his lips, "We need to practice keeping you grounded, Clark… which could be quite enjoyable…"
Clark wrapped his arms more firmly around her. Holding her, kissing her, being close like this was more than enjoyable, it was paradise, the culmination of his dreams. Looking into her eyes, soft with love — for him — was elating <elevating> and he had never been as happy as he was now.
Clark woke up first, lying in the luxury of the Honeymoon Suite's big bed. He didn't want to move; Lois was still wrapped securely in his arms, although they weren't floating.
They had both dozed off on the couch, waking hours later to a blue screen.
He'd floated to his feet and carried Lois into the bedroom, placing her gently on the bed. He'd kissed her lips equally gently, and had straightened to return to the couch in the main room.
She had stopped him, shyly, saying "Clark… would you… would you like to sleep in here? With me? I… I mean, just to sleep, okay? I… like you holding me, and…"
"Lois, I would *love* to hold you," he had answered, "I wanted to suggest it, but I didn't want to seem… pushy, or make you think I wanted more than you're ready to give…"
In answer, she'd smiled and lifted the blankets for him. He'd slid in next to her, gently gathering her into his arms, and they had relaxed into the pillows — until once again, they'd found themselves airborne.
"Clark," she'd said, as her legs slipped back towards the bed, "we need to do something about this, at least for tonight."
He'd rolled them so that she rested on him, fully supported, still floating above the bed. "That'll work," she'd said around a huge yawn, and had tucked her head against his neck. Within moments she was asleep.
Now he lay on his side, Lois snuggled tightly against him, and he wasn't floating.
Had he managed to conquer his reaction to her? Was it like the early days, where he'd reacted strongly to her intial touches but had become used to them after a while? After all, he no longer floated at first sight of her — usually, anyway. She still managed to surprise him sometimes. And he kept his feet on the ground — mostly — when she tapped him or leaned on him.
Lois stirred against him, tucking one leg between his and murmuring his name sleepily, her breath warm against his throat — and he rose into the air with her, restrained partly by the blankets.
She woke fully with small shriek as they rose, but to their surprise, she stayed completely airborne with him.
"I'm not falling off you, Clark, why is that?" she asked, ever curious — even early in the morning before her daily caffeine. "No, stay on your side, Clark, I want to figure this out," she continued as he began to roll.
He subsided as she continued, apparently talking mostly to herself, "Okay, let's see, I'm hanging onto you pretty tight…" So saying, she loosened her arms from around him, not entirely letting him go. She remained floating with him above the bed.
She untucked her leg from his — and immediately slipped partway toward the bed.
He brought them both down as she exclaimed, "Aha! If I stay mostly pressed against you, even loosely, I float with you. You're not holding me that tightly, the muscles in your arms aren't tight… well, they *are* tight… firm, I mean… so is your chest and your shoulders…" Her hands stroked across his shoulders and onto his chest and he rose an inch off the bed again.
"Oh, uh… where was I?" she asked, a bit sheepishly, as he laughed softly. "…So if I'm just touching you with, say, my arm — " So saying, she loosened her hold so that her arm was merely draped loosely across his chest — "and tuck my leg over yours… " She rested her knee over his leg just below his own knee. "Up," she demanded, and he floated higher above the bed. "…I should stay up here with you!" she exclaimed triumphantly.
Laughing, she stretched along him, lifted her head and kissed him, a gesture he returned with a wealth of affection and enthusiatic dedication. After several delicious moments of exchanged kisses, they both pulled back, breathless.
"Good morning, Lois," he whispered, smiling at her with all his love in his eyes.
She caught her breath as she stared at him, then whispered, "Wow, flyboy… You really put your heart into your good mornings, Clark."
"Only for you," he murmured. Their mouths met again in a kiss that was gentle and reverent, full of promises… a kiss that seemed to reach to their souls.
She rested her head against his neck for a moment, overcome, as was he. After a few moments, he floated them back down to the bed.
She suddenly laughed, and he tipped his head as she raised hers to look up at him, grinning merrily.
"What?" he asked.
"I guess I won after all," she said cheekily.
"Won what?" he asked, confused.
"The whole bed thing," she answered him, giggling. "We're *not* alternating nights, Clark! I didn't sleep on the couch."
He laughed and rolled until she was under him, then proceeded to kiss her senseless.
Raising his head, gazing smilingly into her dazed eyes, he whispered, "I think *I* won the ultimate prize, Lois… your love."
He kissed her again, gently this time, and rolled to the side. They lay there together for a few moments, then separated — reluctantly, but smiling at each other.
"We have a couple of bad guys to expose…" he started, somewhat ruefully.
"…But if we can wrap that up today…" she continued for him, "We still have one more full day here…"
"…And Perry owes us time off, anyway," Clark added. "After this is over, how about that tropical paradise you mentioned? I know one that's pretty secluded and just beautiful…"
"I'd like that," she told him. "I'm not really ready to share you with anyone yet."
Clark made a huge effort to stay grounded.
It didn't work — he floated a few inches off the bed.
Laughing, Lois sat up, then rose to her feet, saying, "C'mon, hoverboy, let's get busy and get these guys caught so we can go on with what's really important — us."
Since Clark needed very little time to get ready, he showered first — in a matter of seconds — and then set about getting breakfast ordered and delivered while Lois showered and dressed.
Neither the microphone nor the video camera had recorded anything new; the Apocolypse Consulting office had been dark and silent for the remainder of the night. Roarke had said he had all of the information he needed, so maybe he was going to just play a waiting game until test time.
They had decided to wait until daylight to break in to the office.
Lois had brought the subject up again last night, asking him, "Clark, *can* you get us into that office?"
"We could wait until later tonight…" she'd coaxed, "It's not really tresspassing since it's rented under a false name for illegal purposes…"
"It already *is* later tonight, Lois," he'd replied dryly, "and I'm not sure that argument would work in a court of law… Still," he'd continued before she could argue further, "it works for me. They do need to be stopped."
He'd been rewarded for seeing it her way with an enthusiastic kiss, which distracted them both for quite some time.
Once they'd caught their breaths again, and after discussing the pros and cons of trying to break in to the office at night — the time Roarke and company most often showed up — they'd finally agreed that accessing the office in the daytime was probably the better idea.
With the exception of that one recorded phone conversation, Roarke and the others had only been at the office at night. Searching in the daytime had the added advantage that they wouldn't need to search by flashlight — not that Clark needed much light to see, but Lois would.
"And now we have an 'ally' who's the supreme lookout…" Lois had added teasingly, "Good thing Superman's one of the good guys."
They knew they were running out of time, so their plan of action was this: they would stop at the Planet first, for the morning meeting, and then work some of their sources. While they were waiting for their inquiries to be returned, they would… investigate… the Apocolypse Consulting office in the hopes of shedding some light on what, exactly, the test involved.
They ate another superb breakfast, then headed in to the Daily Planet.
Clark collected two cups of coffee on their way through the lobby, handing Lois hers when they entered the elevator. They were the only two passengers; she sent him a grateful smile and took a few sips, then stood on tiptoe and pressed a quick kiss to his lips, uttering a contented "Mmmmmmm…" as the elevator doors slid open.
"Lois!' he hissed as his feet left the elevator floor. "What if someone sees…"
She laughed and looped her arm in his, pushing down at the same time, and he settled back onto the floor, albeit lightly, as they stepped out of the elevator.
Shaking his head ruefully, he allowed her to guide him down the ramp until he felt he was back in control, then leaned down and whispered into her ear, "Now I'll have to think of a good retaliation, won't I?"
Both of them were laughing as they settled into adjoining chairs in the conference room. Many of the staff already present studied them while pretending not to, but no one said anything this time.
One look into Lois's deliberately Mad Dog expression decided the few persistently foolhardy ones, who might have otherwise said something, against it. Everyone contented themselves with simple 'good morning's and returned to their notes or coffee or donuts.
Clark noticed that Lois avoided looking him in the eye; laughing out loud would have ruined her whole Mad Dog act.
"All right, people, let's get going!" Perry bellowed as he came through the conference room doorway.
Lois and Clark had very little new information to report.
"We know the test — whatever it is — is tomorrow morning," Lois stated.
"None of our usual sources seem to know anything," Clark added, "although we're still waiting on some of them to get back to us."
"Who's behind Shock Wave, do we know?" Perry asked them.
"Luthor Technologies," Jimmy spoke up. "I found that out this morning, you guys," he told Lois and Clark. "It's the *only* thing I've been able to dig up — and I've been digging in some… unorthodox places."
Lois and Clark looked at each other.
"I think we need to…" Clark started.
"…go talk to Lex Luthor." Lois finished for him.
They both looked at Perry.
"Go," he said, with a shooing motion, "You're — *we're* — running out of time."
Lois and Clark left the conference room as Perry continued with barely a pause, "Edwards! What have you got for me on that trading scandal?"
"Boy, Lex has some pretty diverse interests," Lois commented as they stopped at their desks.
That was another thing he needed to tell Lois about, Clark thought, as she stuffed her purse into a bottom drawer. He really should have expected Luthor's name to come up; he wondered if the man was somehow working a sabotage of his own system for some sort of gain, or if this was truly one of Luthor's legit <well, *more* legit, anyway> ventures.
"Let's go, Clark," she said, interrupting his musings.
"Office first, then Luthor?" he asked her.
"Yes," she told him. "Clark, I'm really worried. What we told Perry is true — none of our sources know anything about this. Not even Bobby Bigmouth, and he's *never* been unable to deliver information if I've needed it."
"Maybe we're going to have to visit Harrington," Clark said, "although we'd have to find him first. Want to have Jimmy check around and see if he's still… okay? Remember Roarke saying he thought Harrington was too much of a liability?"
Lois pulled out her cell phone and was dialing the Planet's number even as Clark finished speaking.
"Lois Lane here — get me Jimmy Olsen," she demanded into the phone, and then, "Jimmy! See if you can locate Congressman Ian Harrington — bring him to the Daily Planet if you can find him, okay?" And at Jimmy's apparent assent, she bit out, "Thanks!" and shut the phone.
They caught a taxi back to the Lexor, but instead of entering the building they continued down the block and around the corner to the building that housed the Apocolypse Consulting office.
The building was open, of course, since many legitimate businesses leased space in it. There was a First Bank of Metropolis in the lobby, and the directory board next to the elevators listed many professional firms and medical offices.
Apocolypse Consulting was not listed.
They rode the elevator to the top floor, exiting onto a deserted hallway. Many of the offices up here seemed to be for lease, and Apocolypse Consulting had unoccupied offices on both sides.
There was a suite of offices several doors down with a small, discreet sign identifying 'Northside Fertility Consultants' as its occupant.
"Excellent, Clark," Lois whispered, "If somebody sees us before we get into Apocolypse Consulting we can pretend to be turned around and say we're exploring fertility options. It's believable; we already have wedding rings."
Clark felt his feet leave the floor at the thought of… *babies* with Lois.
Children, a family.
"Clark, concentrate!" she whispered fiercely, yanking down on him. "We can think about that stuff later, okay, hoverboy? Right now, we've got some information to find! And not much time!"
Clark blinked, and returned to the floor. "Sorry," he said softly, "it's just…"
"I know, Clark — later, okay?" she replied softly. "Here, can you get us inside there before we encounter anyone? Shall I pick the lock? The offices are empty, right?" she added as an afterthought.
Clark looked through the wall nearest him. "Yes, the coast is clear," he confirmed, "and no, picking the lock may take too long. Here -" and he reached for the doorknob, twisting it gently but steadily.
There was a subtle <crunch> as the lock broke, and he opened the door.
"Wow," he heard Lois mutter under her breath.
"You take the desk, Lois, and stand by to copy," he told her.
"Why?" she asked him.
He opened the top drawer of the file cabinet and rifled through it at superspeed.
"Uh, never mind," she said, gaping slightly at him. "You know, Clark, this could *really* come in handy in the future… this sort of thing could be a real advantage in our line of work, flyboy."
"As long as it's nothing illegal," he said. "I'm just glad you know, Lois," he continued, "It's so nice not having to hide what I can do around you."
"See that you don't," she told him with some asperity.
Finding what appeared to be the first group of documents, entitled 'Shock Wave System Specifications — Top Secret, Eyes Only,' he handed it to his partner.
"Good work, Clark! I'll copy these, you keep looking," she told him, already laying the documents out and running the portable copier over each one rapidly but thoroughly.
They were done and ready to leave the office within an hour, and Lois tucked the copied documents into her briefcase as Clark returned the files to their places in the filing cabinet.
"How do we secure the outer door?' Lois asked as they were leaving. "If Roarke *should* come back, I don't want to tip him off that somebody's interested in what he's doing."
"He'll find that the cheap locks in this building just don't hold up to regular use," Clark said with a smile.
He pulled the outer door closed as they stepped into the still deserted hallway, and directed a bolt of heat vision through the door and the locking mechanism. "It will appear that the rachets were poorly formed, and that the lock jammed as a result," he continued.
Lois laughed as they headed back toward the elevators, and they rode down and exited the building with no difficulty.
"This is turning into a pretty productive day already," Lois said with satisfaction, as they walked across to the Lexor.
"Let's collect all our evidence, grab lunch quickly, and go talk to Luthor," Clark suggested, as they retrieved the audio and video tapes from the suite.
He disassembled the surveillance equipment and stowed it in the bag Jimmy had brought it in, while Lois closed the laptop and secured it in its case.
They tucked the tapes into Lois's briefcase, and Clark carried the laptop slung over his shoulder as they left the suite.
Later that afternoon, Lois and Clark sat in the conference room with Jimmy and Perry. They were studying the documents Lois and Clark had copied at Apocolypse Consulting, and discussing what they knew so far.
"Here's something. 'Shock Wave/Preliminary Analysis,' guys," Jimmy said.
Clark took it from him, barely restraining himself from super speed-reading it. "This is it — Project Shock Wave — an experimental coastal defense network," he said, skimming the page. "Let's see… a couple of years ago, the Navy began lobbying for their own version of a Star Wars system… Several proposals were made. The Navy picked Shock Wave. …Roarke's system was the runner-up."
"Why Shock Wave?" Perry asked.
"It says here it's the more sophisticated system," Lois said. She was leaning over Clark's shoulder, reading along with him — and, incidentally, keeping him grounded.
He'd started to float upward when she'd first leaned against him, her breath warm near his ear, but she'd rested one forearm along his shoulder, pressing downward, while she'd apparently casually rested her other hand on the arm of his chair. She was essentially holding him in his seat.
"It's …'designed to automatically analyze any object within sensor range and calibrate an appropriate response', it says here," she continued.
Clark joined in, "It acts as a sonic 'curtain'. Sonic vibrations providing an impenetrable barrier that would disable whatever tried to pass."
"Have you talked to Luthor?" Perry asked, and at their nods, "What did he have to say?'
"He said Luthor Technologies has approximately half a billion dollars in research and development tied up in the project," Lois said, "…and that even the name is top secret. That's how we got in to see him," she added. "We told his secretary to tell him we thought Thaddeus Roarke had some questionable interest in a project called Shock Wave."
"He called Roarke 'a man with whom I've had previous unsatisfactory dealings', and said Roarke is a weapons system expert," Clark said.
"We asked Lex how his system could be sabotaged, and he said as far as he knew, it couldn't," Lois continued. "We asked about a power failure, but he says there are too many back-ups."
"Besides, Roarke hinted at more than a simple breakdown," Clark added, "Something… bigger."
"Another pretty unproductive meeting," Perry commented.
"Not entirely," Lois said. "It confirms our suspicions. But the test is scheduled for dawn, and while Lex described his system to us, we *still* don't know exactly what Roarke has planned."
"I called everyone I know in Washington," Perry said, "No one's interested. And, as far as the navy's concerned, there *is* no test."
"Harrington's in over his head," Clark said, "If we can talk to him, he may turn state's evidence… he *must* know what Roarke has planned. Jimmy! Were you able to find him?"
"Nope, CK — he's dropped out of sight," Jimmy said. "His office staff, his wife, his cronies — nobody's seen him. He's either hiding, or…"
They all sat for a moment, thinking.
"*I* say we publish," Lois said decisively, "We gather up everything we've got, video, audio, research, and put it in the early edition. Roarke really does scare me, and you know I don't scare easily. Apparently everything we've heard about him *is* true… and he has *got* to be stopped."
The conference room computer beeped.
While the others watched, Jimmy got up and went over to it, tapping a few keys.
"I set this up for an automatic search," he said. "…Here! Ships just off the coast, for a training exercise… Could they be the ships you guys were talking about? That would fit, right? Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot — remember when I tailed Bart to a Pier 31 warehouse? Guess who it's leased to? …Apocolypse Consulting."
Lois and Clark looked at each other.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Lois asked Clark.
"…I think so. A test at sea…" Clark mused.
"…and Roarke said a reaction to end all reactions…" Lois continued.
"Essentially, an *over*reaction…" Clark said.
"…It's called a 'sonic curtain'… Shock Wave," Lois replied, "and Apocolypse Consulting…"
"…has a warehouse on Pier 31…" Clark continued.
"Shock Wave. Shock *Wave*…" Lois said.
"If undersea tremors can cause giant waves…" Clark said.
"…Couldn't huge vibrations…" Lois continued.
"Cause a tsunami!" they exclaimed at the same time.
Perry and Jimmy had been looking back and forth between Lois and Clark in fascination. Now what they'd said percolated through Perry's and Jimmy's minds.
"Great shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed.
"Holy smoke!" Jimmy added.
Lois turned and looked at Clark, eyes wide, and in a voice faint with worry urgently began, "Clark -"
"That's it, Lois! We've got 'em," Clark said. Eyes warm, he flashed her a quick wink, hoping she would understand his unspoken message.
Immediately, she relaxed, and taking a deep breath, said for the benefit of the others, "Clark! Try to find Superman! I'll call Inspector Henderson!"
Clark left the conference room at a jog and headed for the stairs. That was his Lois — quick on the uptake and with a brain so adroit he suspected he'd always have trouble keeping up with her. He smiled as he reached the roof, spun into the suit, and took off toward the harbor and the sea beyond it.
Later that evening, after they'd answered interminable questions — from the police, from the navy, from the federal government — they finally returned to the Lexor.
Only Superman's presence had finally convinced the naval commander that there was a serious threat.
Once they were convinced, events had moved quickly. In a surprisingly amicable and effective three-way collaboration, the feds, the navy, and the Metropolis Police Department had set up a trap for Roarke.
Boats, helicopters, and multiple law enforcement units were poised to act, watching the pier and the warehouse as well as the harbor and the larger bay area beyond it. The navy had demanded — and received in record time — two additional destroyers.
And they'd located Congressman Ian Harrington. Superman had found him, bound and gagged, in the warehouse leased to Apocolypse Consulting.
Unfortunately, while Harrington was scared, subdued, and utterly willing to cooperate, he knew nothing more than Lois and Clark already knew, although he had confirmed that the reaction Roarke planned to provoke was, indeed, a tsunami. Harrington seemed to think that, Superman or not, the city was doomed.
Superman had also apprehended Bart Teller, who was currently refusing to talk.
Clark had arrived at the pier shortly after Superman left. He had apologized for the delay, but before he could think of anything to add, Lois had covered for him. "Let me guess" she'd said, "one of our sources finally came through for us."
He'd gratefully picked up her cue. "Yes and no" he'd said, "I got confirmation of what we already know. How Roarke's going to do it exactly — that's still a mystery."
Navy security personnel, in particular, had questioned them both; after all, the whole Shock Wave project was top secret.
Fortunately, Congressman Harrington was able to corroborate their story, confirming that he'd been the one to release the information to Roarke, and that Lois and Clark had simply been in the right place at the right time. He had seemed resigned to the fact that he would probably go to jail for espionage, although Clark had overheard the naval commander's conversation with the President that seemed to imply some degree of immunity for Harrington if he testified against Roarke.
Apparently Roarke was wanted to the extent that the federal government was willing to look the other way to some degree if doing so netted the arms dealer for them.
Lois and Clark — and Perry and Jimmy — had finally been allowed to leave, with the caution that they were to print nothing until after the scheduled test time the following day.
And Clark had confirmed that Superman would be there to help foil Roarke and stop the Shock Wave reaction if the sabotage was successful in producing a tsunami.
They had returned first to the newsroom.
It was too late for the story to make the early edition, which went to press around 9 pm every night. Perry intended to hold the story until after the test at dawn, and then release it in a Daily Planet exclusive special edition as soon as Lois and Clark called the final information in — thereby preventing rival newspapers or any other media from scooping them.
They had written as much of the story as they could. They'd laid out all of their evidence and organized the information into the main story and several sidebars, and once they were satisfied with it, they'd sent it to Perry, who would hold it for the special edition.
He would have the entire special edition laid out and ready to go to press the moment their final story was reduced to print.
"He wants me to take digital photos of the wave, if it happens," Jimmy had said, "so we won't hold up the exclusive waiting on prints."
"I think we've drawn the finest line ever between a story and a deadline," Lois had remarked. "We've got the basic story and all the proof we need to implicate Harrington and Roarke, but we have to wait and see what happens at the system test before we can finish writing it. As soon as we call it in, it goes to press."
Now all they had to do was wait for dawn.
As soon as Lois and Clark had arrived in the suite, they'd set the surveillance equipment up again, just in case… although with Harrington presumably eliminated and Bart an apparent no- show, Roarke was unlikely to show up at the office.
If he somehow got wind of the various law enforcement arrangements that had been made for him, however, he might come to the office to destroy the evidence, so it didn't hurt to have a warning system in place.
And Superman could apprehend Roarke if necessary.
Clark hoped it wouldn't be necessary until dawn, though. Catching Roarke in the act of sabotage would guarantee him much stiffer penalties than would just catching him with incriminating documents.
Clark had taken the time to study tsunamis and wave mechanics, in general. With the potential devastation a giant wave could cause, he wanted to be absolutely sure that he would be able to stop it.
He and Lois had researched the subject exhaustively, with Clark super speed-reading everything they could find. They had both come to the conclusion that he couldn't freeze the wave into a solid wall with his breath — well, he could, but that wouldn't solve anything. They'd still have a huge amount of water hanging over the city — and ice would melt. Or break off in chunks.
After studying wave action at the seabed level, Clark had decided that his best bet was to dig a deep undersea trench just ahead of the wave; it should disrupt the wave enough that it would dissipate before it hit land. The key was to catch it far enough out in the bay that the temporary surge of water before the wave subsided didn't flood areas along the beachfront, or damage any boats in the marina.
They had ordered a late dinner, but once they'd finished eating, both of them were still too keyed up to sleep.
They had tried a couple of board games; the Lexor's lending library included a variety of games as well as books and videos.
They had played several rounds of Monopoly, essentially to a draw — something neither of them had expected and that they found extremely funny.
"I can't believe this, Clark," Lois had exclaimed, laughing. "Somebody *always* ends up with all the money!"
"And yet, here we are, huh?" he had replied, also laughing — and rising a few inches off the floor where they were sitting. "We've bought all the real estate, and it's divided between us equally enough that we have the same amounts of money. I'll bet that's never happened before."
"Shows what good partners we are, partner," she'd told him, tugging on his shirt to urge him back down. He'd drifted down to the floor again, where she'd given him a quick kiss.
"Let's try something else, okay?" she'd suggested, "I'm pretty keyed up now."
He'd had to agree with her — he was also pretty keyed up. He'd never had so much fun with a simple board game. They'd moved to the couch and had settled on Scrabble, another game where they were fairly well matched.
It, too, had turned out to be more invigorating than calming.
Lois's definition of legitimate words had not been the same as Clark's, but that sort of thing had never slowed her down before.
"What's that?" Clark had asked, as she had laid her tiles out on the board.
"It's my word," she'd replied, as if surprised that he'd had to ask.
"There is no such word as 'chumpy', Lois," he'd told her, arms crossed in a mock imitation of Superman, but fighting a smile.
"Of course there is," she'd said matter-of-factly, but she, too, had been fighting a smile. "Somebody's a chump. Therefore, he's chumpy."
"Try again," Clark had said.
"Are you challenging me?" she'd asked him, arms crossed in her own imitation of Superman.
"You bet your sweet chumpy I am," he'd told her, laughing outright. He'd reached out to remove the tiles from the board, and she'd tackled him, knocking him backward onto the couch.
"Unhand my tiles, you!" she'd demanded, mock fiercely.
He'd been surprised at her ambush but had recovered quickly, and the game had dissolved into a wrestling match.
Lois won, naturally, because she didn't fight fairly.
When he'd tried to roll and pin her gently under him, she'd stretched up and kissed him, putting everything she had into it. He'd instantly elevated off the couch, reflexively rolling to keep her from falling. She'd rolled with him, still kissing him.
Long, delicious moments later, when they'd both pulled back to catch their breaths, he'd drifted down to the couch, Lois still stretched out on him — and the little minx had promptly sat up, flushed and out of breath, and claimed victory.
He'd certainly enjoyed her version of Scrabble, but it hadn't been a real relaxing game.
Now he and Lois were sitting in the hot tub, in their swimsuits, playing cards.
Lois had ordered iced coffees and a dish of chocolates — Belgian truffles — from room service. She was sitting at a right angle to him, her lower legs resting across his lap. His own legs were stretched out in front of him, feet tucked under the edge of the seat opposite.
He would occasionally lean forward and kiss her, and had decided that this was his favorite way of sampling gourmet chocolates.
It did, however, make him very distracted, so Lois was trouncing him soundly.
"Gin!" she said, giggling.
"No way!" he replied, "We just started this game!"
"Read 'em and weep," she said, showing him her hand.
He shook his head, smiling, and she laughted outright.
"This is too easy, Clark," she said, "You're not concentrating at all."
"Mmmmm hmmmm…" he said softly, leaning forward and kissing her gently. "Concentrating on what?"
"See?" she said, "You're all distracted and — " He kissed her again, lingeringly, and she kissed him back, sliding closer to him and murmuring approvingly when he lifted her into his lap.
Some time later, she rested her head on his shoulder. "…What were we talking about?" she asked him.
"You said Gin and then I… distracted you," he said.
"Mmmm, but I still won the game," she told him, "*and* I got the prize — you."
He laughed softly and continued to hold her on his lap, wrapped in his arms, in the warm water. Her head was tucked against his shoulder as he leaned against the edge of the tub, and they simply sat and enjoyed their closeness.
Eventually he stirred.
"Are you asleep?' he asked her.
"Yes," she said.
He floated up out of the water, transferring his hold on her so that she was cradled in his arms when he stood on the tile surrounding the tub.
She sighed into his neck, making him shiver deliciously — and float slightly off the floor — and he marveled at the effect she had on him.
"Okay… I guess I'm awake," she grumbled, and he floated back down and set her on her feet, then handed her one of the thick towels the Lexor provided in generous quantities.
She started toward the bathroom, but then halted.
"Clark…" she started, then hesitated.
"Yes, Lois?" he asked, tucking a few strands of her hair behind her ear and smiling encouragingly at her.
"Will you… do you want to… will you hold me again tonight?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered immediately. "I will. I do… I want to. I was hoping you would ask," he added.
His answer was obviously the correct one because she gave him a blinding smile that lifted him six inches off the floor.
His reaction seemed to restore her self-confidence, and she laughed as she turned toward the bathroom again.
"I think we've got a lot of practicing to do, flyboy, to keep you grounded," she said.
"I'm looking forward to it," he told her.
Despite their fairly late night, Lois and Clark were both awake in plenty of time to arrive at Pier 31 well before the test occurred. Lois arrived by Superman Express, as she called it, and Clark showed up a few moments later bearing coffee.
When she kissed him enthusiastically, Clark told her, "I'm not sure who you're happier to see, Lois, me or the coffee!"
"Mmmmm, well, you both taste good," she told him, as Jimmy jogged up.
During their wave research, Lois and Clark had discussed how to handle the fact that both Superman and Clark were supposed to be present during the test.
They had decided that Superman would 'deliver' Lois to the staging area, the roof of a parking garage near the piers. This would establish his presence at the scene early, for the benefit of the law enforcement groups involved. After conferring with Inspector Henderson, who was coordinating the pier area groups, Superman would fly off as if getting into a position to observe unseen.
Clark would arrive next. Once Jimmy arrived, Lois and Clark would split up in order to interview more people, a move Jimmy had seen them use many times in order to get the most thorough information for a story.
Superman had already scanned the area; Pier 31 was deserted. Widening his scan area, he'd spotted Roarke in a small, sleek motorboat hugging the south shore just outside the mouth of the bay.
"Henderson talked to the navy," Lois told Jimmy and Clark. "They've got SEALs in the woods along that shore and a couple of Coast Guard cutters who have long range visual contact with him. They've also got helicopters ready to go. They say if Superman can deal with the wave, they can head Roarke off once he triggers the system."
"So we'll meet here after it's all over, okay?" she continued, and at his nod, grabbed his tie, pulling down on it. As he bent toward her, she stretched up to kiss him swiftly.
"Be careful," she whispered against his lips, as Jimmy goggled at them, "and did you notice? You're not floating!"
He couldn't help laughing as he moved away, especially as he heard Jimmy saying, "Uh, Lois? Is there something I'm missing here? Are you guys… still undercover?"
He laughed even harder when he heard her reply dismissively, in her best Mad Dog Lane voice, "What on *earth* are you talking about, Jimmy? C'mon, let's go — we need to get down onto Pier 31 right *now*."
As dawn approached, events began to move quickly.
The navy ships that were conducting the test went through their preliminary preparations; there was a flurry of signals between the two ships, then a blast of a ship's horn. The test torpedo was fired, and the gathered observers held their collective breath.
As the wave rose out of the sea, Clark dove straight through it for the seabed. Moving so fast that he left a trail of heated water behind him, he dug the sea trench from one end of the bay to the other, across its widest point.
This *had* to work; his only fall-back plan, which was more like plan J than plan B, was to freeze the wave solid if the trench failed to stop it.
He emerged at the far end of the bay only seconds after entering the water, just as the wave hit the trench. To his relief, the wave seemed to melt in on itself, leaving only a broken series of two- and three-foot waves cresting and disappearing in the middle of the bay.
Ignoring the cheers coming from the ships and the staging area, he headed toward the mouth of the bay where Roarke had been positioned. One of the Coast Guard cutters already had him aboard, handcuffed and accompanied by both navy and federal government officials.
Clark circled back around to the pier to confirm Rourke's capture to Bill Henderson. He accepted the congratulations of the jubilant law enforcement team members with Superman's grave courtesy, and then, with hardly any qualms whatsoever, 'heard' another 'emergency' and shot up into the sky.
"C'mon, Jimmy, we need to get back to the Planet… Where's Clark?" Lois said briskly, closing her cell phone. As Clark jogged up, she continued, "Oh, good — excellent timing, Clark. Let's go!" without missing a beat.
Bill Henderson, expansive in his department's successful role in the capture of one of the FBI's most wanted, offered the three of them a ride via patrol car back to the Planet.
Jimmy, sitting in the front, was so ecstatic at the thought of the photos he'd taken that he could hardly sit still during the drive. Under the cover of his excited conversation with their driver, an equally excited young patrolman, Lois tucked her hand quietly into Clark's and leaned against his shoulder.
"Even though I knew Superman was there," she confided to him in a low voice, "there was a moment when that wave was hanging over us that I couldn't move, or even think. Thank you, Clark."
He cupped his free hand over their joined ones, running his thumb gently over the back of her hand. "It was a joint effort, Lois," he said softly to her. "Thanks to your help, Superman was completely prepared to deal with that wave. And thanks for covering for me," he added. "That was a masterful touch, there at the end, by the way," he added, raising their joined hands and kissing hers.
"My 'where's Clark/oh good/excellent timing bit', you mean?" she asked with a grin, still speaking barely above a whisper. "What can I say? You… inspire me. And not just when it comes to work, either," she added with a wink.
Her eyes widened as she felt him start to rise, and she hurriedly let go of his hand to grab his forearm, pushing downward. He settled back into the seat, shaking his head ruefully, while she tried unsuccessfully to smother her laughter.
"Thank you, my love," he murmured, "But if you will insist on saying things like that…"
She grinned at him, then said in a normal tone of voice, "I called in the story; Perry'll have it set and ready for our final go-over as soon as we get back to the newsroom."
As the patrolman pulled up in front of the Daily Planet, she said, "And Superman was going to give you his story, right? Let's get that down so Perry can go to print."
She flashed him a quick playful grin before turning to the young patrolman and thanking him for the ride. Then, in true Mad Dog Lane style, she grabbed Clark's hand and practically dragged him into the building, snapping "Let's go, Jimmy!" at the young photographer, who was already hot on their heels.
Perry was in full editor mode when they arrived in the newsroom. He hailed them at a full bellow from his office doorway. "Lois! Clark! My office! Jimmy! Get those photos downloaded and printed yesterday!"
Jimmy rushed to his desk with a quick, "I'm on it, Chief!"
Perry handed Lois and Clark the transcribed copy of the phoned-in story the minute they entered his office, with instructions to go over it as fast as possible. As they headed for their desks, he turned to bellow at Jimmy again.
Lois shot a saucy smile at Clark, scooting her chair closer to his so that they could go over the copy together. "Too bad there's witnesses — we can't really go through this as fast as possible, can we?
He laughed, tucking one foot under the rung of the chair to make sure he stayed seated. "I can go through it pretty quickly if you'll keep watch," he told her with a smile. "How much do you think we can say about Shock Wave?"
"Well, I don't think either the navy or the government can object; we didn't name it," Lois said. "We're just referring to it as a coastal defense network. That doesn't give any information away; a 'coastal defense network' could be anything from a series of underwater sensors to… to a bunch of guys with telephones living on the beaches. And maybe this'll force them to take another look at the system."
They went over the story quickly but thoroughly. Clark entered the corrected story into the computer, then wrote up Superman's point of view. He typed at a just-slightly-faster-than-normal pace, while Lois stood and leaned against him, reading over his shoulder.
"Okay?" he asked, smiling up at her from the chair. She dropped a quick kiss on his lips, startling him. He rose slightly off his chair, but returned to it in almost the same moment when she leaned more heavily against him.
"Lo-is!" he whispered, trying but failing to sound very reproving, and she giggled softly as she leaned over him and hit the 'send' button.
"There," she said, "Perry's got his story." Dropping her voice, she continued, "Do you think you've got a grip on gravity, there, flyboy? Or do I need to keep holding you down?"
Shaking his head ruefully, he assured her that he was fully seated, adding with a laugh, "You really are high-maintenance, you know."
"Yup," she agreed cheerfully as she straightened up, "but you love me in spite of it."
"I love you because of it, Lois," he told her seriously. He turned toward her as she sank back down in her chair. "I love you because of your beauty, your drive, your tenacity, and your brilliance. I love you because of your stubborness, your competitiveness, and your soft heart. I love your sense of humor and your leaps of logic. I love you for everything you are. Even the Mad Dog Lane part," he added with a smile.
Her eyes had softened as he'd spoken, and she sighed, smiling tenderly at him. "You are the most romantic man I know, Clark. You've almost got *me* floating."
The moment was interrupted by Perry, who stepped out of his office with a huge grin on his face, calling out, "That's it, people! The special edition has been put to bed." He held up a huge mock-up of the front page, continuing, "And people will read about it first in the Planet!"
The mock-up read DAILY PLANET EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL EDITION across the top, with multiple headlines below it, including SURF'S UP next to one of Jimmy's photos of the huge wave. Below that were SUPERMAN BUILDS UNDERSEA TRENCH, SAVES METROPOLIS WITH SECONDS TO SPARE and THADDEUS ROARKE HELD FOR QUESTIONING.
Perry read the first few paragraphs aloud:
"Hobbs Bay is calm, ruffled with small waves as the sun climbs up over the horizon. This is Metropolis at dawn. The first indication that this isn't an ordinary morning is a faint rumble, a vibration that shakes the pier and causes bathtub ripples on the water.
As the sun begins to shimmer on the quickening waves, there is a sudden explosive hum. The ripples become waves that begin to rise in power, rocking boats in the marina hard against their moorings. Is this a storm? But no, the sky remains clear, sunrise tinted pink and orange and blue. There are no storm clouds in sight.
The water suddenly draws away from the dock, as if a drain has been opened at the bottom of the bay. The observer's eyes, following the receding water, lift — to see a towering monster, a massive wave looming high over the city, which lies tiny in its shadow. The wave begins to crest as it rushes forward, and the observer knows there is no way to outrun this.
As the wave begins to curl over, the impossibly tiny figure of Superman flashes across its face and disappears within it. Frozen in horrified awe, the observer forgets to breathe, waiting for the moment the wave will tip over and fall upon the city.
In that instant of frozen fear, the wave collapses suddenly in upon itself and disappears into the bay. The only indications it was there at all are the small craft that are lying undamaged but high and dry on the docks where they came to rest when the water began to rise.
Superman has built an undersea trench and has disarmed a tsunami. He has saved the city and its citizens from certain destruction, with only seconds to spare. And the city sleeps on, its citizens unaware of the fate they've so narrowly avoided."
Lois glanced over at Clark as the newsroom staff began to applaude. "Kinda touchy-feely, there, partner," she told him with a smirk.
He smiled back at her. "I prefer to think of it as drawing the reader in, partner, then hitting them with the hard facts. Besides, *you* wrote it, you know."
She began to laugh. "I did, didn't I?" she agreed. "Good thing the rest of the story is written in my — what did Perry call it when he made us permanent partners? — my hard-bitten-reporter style. I have a Mad Dog reputation to maintain."
Perry interrupted them. "Get outta here, you two! You deserve the rest of the day off," he told them.
Eight hours later, they were sitting on the couch in the Honeymoon Suite together, sipping coffee after another of the Lexor's excellent dinners.
"This whole undercover operation went pretty well, didn't it?" Clark remarked, topping off their cups.
"Better than I ever dreamed," Lois agreed, "and this whole living together thing has been… kinda fun."
He laughed. "You know that Jimmy saw us," he said with a smile, recalling her kiss and her tactics for keeping him grounded when they'd first arrived on the roof of the parking garage.
She giggled back at him. "What can I say?" she asked him, "You already know I like to live dangerously."
He groaned in mock dismay. "Lo-is," he said, "I have a feeling I'm going to have to stay on my toes — literally — around you, aren't I?"
It was her turn to groan.
Remembering her reaction to Jimmy's question after that same kiss, Clark asked her soberly, "What are we going to tell our coworkers… about us, I mean?"
"Nothing, really," she replied blithely, "It's not their business, anyway."
"Do you… want to hide it?" he asked tentatively. He would never force her to do anything she wasn't comfortable with, but he wanted to shout his love from the rooftops. If she wanted them to act as if they were still just friends in the newsroom, it would be hard for him to go back to hiding his feelings for her.
"No," she replied. "Unless… do you?" she continued, biting her lip. She sounded worried.
"No!" He hurried to reassure her. "I love you, Lois, and I don't really care who knows that. I am the most fortunate man in the world that you love me too."
She caught her breath. "And I'll say it again, Clark… you are the most romantic man." She tugged his head down and kissed him sweetly.
He wrapped his arms around her, keeping her with him as he floated up off the couch. He returned her kiss wholeheartedly, stretching out supine with her resting on him.
Some time later, they both pulled back, gasping for breath. "I do love you, Clark," she said in a husky voice that made him want to kiss her again, "And I don't care who knows that, either. As a matter of fact, I want people to know you're not available."
She was promptly rewarded for that statement with a passionate kiss, to which she responded enthusiastically.
When he lifted his head again, she tucked her head under his chin for a moment. His hand came up to cup the back of her head lovingly, and they stayed that way for a while, floating about a foot above the couch, catching their breaths.
Eventually she raised her head again. Resting her chin in her hands, she propped her elbows on his chest and smiled at him. "We'll probably have to avoid those power kisses of yours in public, though, hoverboy," she said cheekily.
He laughed. "We should probably talk about that, you know," he said thoughtfully, as he floated them back down to the couch. "…what about the floating, Lois?" He settled onto the couch in a reclining position, his head on the arm, and she slipped off him to lie beside him, cradled in his arms.
"Hmmm… yes, that's something we need to work on…" she said. "Maybe we could use code words of some sort?" He raised an eyebrow in inquiry. "I could torture you… er, *warn* you… with a trite saying of some sort," she continued, laughing," like 'keep your head out of the clouds'… or wait, I know, 'keep your feet on the ground'…"
He rolled his eyes. "How about if you just use your little trick of pushing down on me when this happens?" he asked her, "or pulling on my tie?"
"Yeah… that does seem to work," she agreed. "I just think we're going to need a lot of practice, though," she continued, giggling.
He kissed the top of her head, and she sighed and snuggled closer against him. "We *are* going to practice, Clark," she said with a smile as she tipped her head to look at him.
He gave her a fake leer, saying, "Oh, believe me, I'm looking forward to more… practice."
She swatted playfully at his chest. "No, not that, you lunkhead…" she said, laughing, and he bent his head and took her lips in another kiss, gentle and loving and full of promise.
"Well, okay, yeah, that too…' she murmured, practically purring, "but you can't keep stumbling and grabbing things to hide the floating. Although it's worked so far, I guess… " she added thoughtfully.
He continued to hold her, content to listen to her as she worked through his gravitational issues.
"But I think we can fix this…" she said, obviously thinking aloud, as she idly walked her fingers up his chest.
Helplessly, he elevated off the couch again, twisting slightly to keep her from falling.
She was startled out of her musings, and stretched along him, making him catch his breath and float even higher. She gave him a quick kiss. "Well, maybe not overcome it completely," she conceded. "But I think we can at least subdue it. It'll certainly be a lot of fun trying, anyway," she purred, deliberately moving against him again.
Without warning, he flipped them in midair and rapidly floated them down to the couch, covering her with his body but careful not to rest his full weight on her. She gave a startled squeak that was cut off as his lips came down on hers. He kissed her deeply, then lifting his lips a hairsbreadth away from hers, whispered, "I will *never* be able to mute my reaction to you, Lois. You will still have this effect on me when you're eighty."
She arched under him, moaning softly, and he feathered kisses along her neck before returning to her lips. "I love you," he murmured, "I loved you the moment I saw you, I love you even more now, and I will love you forever."
"Clark!" she gasped, holding tightly to him. He lightened his kisses, brushing his lips gently against hers before rolling slightly to the side. She turned with him, pulling his head down to hers again.
"Maybe instead of fighting the reaction,' she said, "we can… anticipate it." She punctuated her words with a delightfully thorough kiss. "Instead of a liablility," she continued, as he lifted a few inches off the couch, "we can treat it as an advantage." She tucked one leg over his, allowing her to rise with him.
"An advantage?" he asked.
"Yes," she said firmly. "An advantage. We are in this together — you and I share Superman's secret. We share the secret, and we share the solution. Of course, I have the added bonus of having power over the most powerful being known to man," she added cheerfully.
He laughed. "Oh, yes… you certainly do," he said, still floating with her above the couch. "You also have the most powerful being's heart, and all his love." He brushed a light kiss over her mouth.
"Mmmmm," she agreed, "and he has mine." She slipped one hand into his hair, holding him to her while she deepened the kiss.
Long moments later, she murmured, "Of course, that *does* mean I'll be… testing that power occasionally…"
He laughed again. "You already do, you little minx," he told her.
"Admit it — you like having me in control," she told him sassily. She sobered. "You can relax and just be you, you know," she said seriously.
"Yes," he agreed. "I don't have to hide from you, do I? I don't have to hide who I am, or what I can do — I'm not alone anymore."
He tightened his arms around her, drawing her fully onto him again, and kissed her with all of the love he felt for her. She responded with all of the love she felt for him, and slowly they drifted up into the shadows of the room.
He had placed himself completely into the hands of his love, and she had placed him in her heart.
This story came about because I've always wondered about Clark's control over his powers when he was distracted. He smashed an alarm clock trying to turn it off, probably because he'd been sound asleep; he squeezed the pillow too hard and it exploded… etc.
There've been countless theories and discussions over the years about his ability to control, in particular, his strength. I've never paid a huge amount of attention to *why* he could safely have a relationship with Lois, I've just accepted that he could. An ability, if you will, just like his flying was an ability — not really explainable.
But — there was a short scene in the pilot where the Planet staff is at Luthor's ball, and Jimmy and Clark catch sight of Lois for the first time. Jimmy is in awe, and we see Clark inadvertently drift upwards off the floor. Not just an inch or so, either. A short, almost throwaway scene that really demonstrated Lois's impact on Clark. …So I wondered, what if that sort of thing — inadvertent floating — happened *all the time*? How would that have changed Lois and Clark's story?