Clark Kent vs. Superman

By Rhea <rheajediknight@yahoo.com>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: March, 2007

Summary: Lois, Clark, and Superman make for an interesting love triangle, but what if there was another Superman? Could she be in love with one of them? Two of them? Maybe when the dust settles she finds her heart belonging to a certain mild-mannered reporter? (Not an Alt-Clark story)

I'd like to thank Mrs. Mosley for acting as a wonderful beta on this story, and I'd like to thank all the folks that take the time to make the Lois and Clark archive such a wonderful site (and to Larissa too)!

***

"Just who the hell do you think you are, buster?" Lois' words were quick and clipped.

The man smiled appealingly. He was handsome with broad shoulders, dark hair, and strong jaw. His brown eyes twinkled at her and repeated, this time with a note of pleading in his voice, "Dance with me."

"And who are you?" she insisted, refusing to go anywhere closer to the dance floor.

The handsome man leaned in close and said to Lois, as if imparting a great secret, "I'm Superman."

She gasped and her eyes flew to Clark's. He was a couple feet away and there was no way for any one to have heard this man's declaration. He looked surprised anyway. Clark's mouth hung open in astonishment. Did he suspect? Had he heard somehow? No, it must be because she was standing him up for their dance. Well, he would just have to get over it, because she was going to dance with Superman!

Clark watched in stunned silence as the man pulled an unresisting Lois the rest of the way on to the dance floor. He had heard the man's words and wondered what exactly he was trying to do. This was bad in so many ways. He couldn't very well tell Lois that he knew that this man wasn't really Superman without revealing his secret. Even if she did learn that this wasn't really Superman, it might get her thinking in terms about the superhero that made Clark uncomfortable. He really didn't need her trying to picture Superman going about the city as a regular man.

Clark also couldn't think of any good reason for this man to lie about his identity. Did he hope to seduce Lois because he knew of her infatuation with Superman? Couldn't she tell that it wasn't really Superman? He sighed. If she couldn't tell that her own partner, the person she spent hours every day with was Superman, how could he expect that she would know that this person wasn't Superman? He had to think of something fast.

Lois pulled back to look into this man's, no Superman's, eyes. He smiled at her … and she felt a flutter of nerves. He didn't look that much like Superman dressed in a tux. His hair was slicked back in his usual hairstyle, but his face looked different somehow. She couldn't quite place it.

"This is kind of unexpected. Do you do this often?" She tried to keep her voice casual, but she wondered if he could hear the racing of her heart.

"Walk among my people? It sometimes amuses me. How else do you think I can go on dates?"

Was he teasing her? Or did he do this regularly? And just how many women did he date? Lois felt anger growing within her. Did he think that she would just fall into his bed if he showed up like this? Did he even have a bed?

The man leaned down and claimed her mouth in a kiss. Her anger disappeared only to be replaced by confusion. This didn't feel like Superman, it didn't even smell like him. She tried to return the kiss just to be certain. She heard him moan and her ego rejoiced, but Lois was filled with disappointment. The spark was gone. She felt nothing. In fact, as his mouth moved over hers, all she could think of was how she hated the feel of his scratchy jacket on her skin. Her mind told her that she should be enjoying this but all she wanted was to go home and watch some TV or read a good book.

Was she that shallow? Take the cape away from Superman and she wasn't interested anymore? She pulled back to look into Superman's face.

He smiled at her. She tried to return the smile. It was odd. She didn't feel comfortable in this man's arms like this. She was used to the suit giving them an emotional distance, and she certainly never thought that she would meet up with Superman dressed as a normal man. She tried to find Clark and when she did she felt as if everything froze around her. Something was terribly wrong with him.

Clark kept his hearing trained on them and cringed with every word that they exchanged. He strode toward them when they had begun to kiss, intent on separating them, when he felt pain lance through every cell of his body. It took an enormous amount of control to remain upright and he stumbled back. With each retreating step, the pain lessened.

What was happening to him? The only time he had ever felt such agony was when he had been exposed to kryptonite. Kryptonite! Where was it? Did that man claiming to be Superman have it on him? Perhaps he wanted to prevent the real Superman from showing up as proof of his lie. Why hadn't he thought of that right away? He could still do it, return as Superman and Lois would have to question the validity of this man's claims.

If only he could remain conscious.

This was getting worse by the second. He could see Lois looking at him with concern. He must really look awful for her to even notice. After all, she was with Superman wasn't she? He was always faintly jealous of the attention she paid his alter-ego, but he couldn't help his feelings. Now she was in public, kissing a person she had just met all on the basis that he had claimed to be Superman. He felt guilty and envious at the same time: guilty that she didn't know the truth and envious that she was kissing someone else. A small part of him wondered if he should have told her the truth weeks ago.

"Clark?" He could hear her whisper, and the sound of her concern soothed something deep within his soul.

Clark was sweating. Lois noticed because Clark never sweated. His face was getting flushed, turning redder by the second, and he tugged uncomfortably on his tie as if it had suddenly grown too tight. She pulled away from Superman, having to almost shake off his hands from her arms.

Lois strode away leaving him alone on the dance floor. Superman crossed his arms, and his features tightened in anger. The other dancers gave him a wide berth.

Lois never noticed, she didn't glance back even once. "Clark! Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." He swayed on his feet and stumbled back. "It must have been something I ate." He was starting to look almost green. Her eyes darkened in concern. She put her hand on his forehead and said, "Clark, you're burning up. We've got to get you to a doctor."

Clark grabbed her hand, starting to feel a bit better. "No doctor. I think I'll just go home. Would you mind if we left now?" He hated to sound so pathetic, but he needed to get Lois away from the man claiming to be Superman. Clark looked over her shoulder and saw that the man was starting to walk toward them. With each step he took in their direction, Clark felt the pain grow stronger.

Lois grew alarmed. "Yes, yes of course." She dashed toward the man stopping his progress and Clark could hear her say to him, "Clark's sick. He needs help. Do you think you could …" she made a swooping motion with her hand, "get him some help or fly him to the hospital?" Clark watched with narrowed eyes as the man lost his confidence.

"Lois. I can't use my powers in front of all of these people."

Lois's eyebrows drew together and she said, "Are you going to help him or not, Superman?" The way she said the last word, Clark almost felt pity for the man. Maybe this would mark the end of his charade.

"I'll get some help." He jogged out of there with a speed borne of adrenaline. Clark almost chuckled and he realized that at some point he had slumped to the floor. How had that happened?

Lois helped him to his feet. "I'm sorry, Lois. I was really looking forward to that dance."

"Let's just get you out of here."

***

By the time they were in the cab, Clark was mostly recovered. He had been sitting in the back seat with his eyes closed and his head thrown back. He slowly raised his head and saw Lois watching him closely.

She was clutching his hand and they both seemed to realize it at the same moment. She hastily let go of him and placed the back of her hand to his forehead solicitously. "Your fever seems to have gone down and your color is looking better. How do you feel?"

"Much better now. Thank you, Lois." Clark smiled reassuringly. He reached for the hand on his forehead, and pulled it toward his mouth. He placed a gentle kiss on her palm and felt her pulse leap.

Flustered, Lois pulled her hand out of his grasp. Her palm throbbed where his lips had touched. She involuntarily closed her fingers as if to trap the sensation and keep it with her. She wanted to lower her gaze and avoid looking at him, and because of this impulse she brazenly met his eyes as if to tell him that she was completely unaffected.

"Who was that man on the dance floor? Did you know him?" Clark asked with studied casualness.

Lois shifted uncomfortably and then she did drop her gaze. "Oh… uh… I'm not really certain."

Interesting. Either she was determined to keep Superman's secret, or she was in doubt as to his actual identity. "You seemed to know him pretty well."

Lois flushed bright red, realizing that he had seen her kissing him. "Well … about the kiss. I didn't exactly plan that. I was actually kind of glad that you got sick when you did." She looked at him in horror. "That's not what I mean. Of course I didn't want you to get sick… I just wanted to … leave." She ended in a small voice.

The sight of Lois kissing another man had made Clark's stomach turn sour. The feeling had remained even after the effects of the kryptonite had begun to wear off, but hearing her admit that she had wanted to leave the man behind made all his negative feelings evaporate in an instant.

She raised her head to meet his gaze. "You didn't do that on purpose, did you?"

"I have many abilities, Lois, but running a fever and becoming physically ill on command are beyond even my skills," Clark said dryly.

"Of course not. Sorry." Lois became immediately contrite. The cab arrived at Clark's apartment and they both exited.

"Do you want to come up?" Clark asked.

Lois nodded her head. "I still think you should go see a doctor. I've never seen anyone look as green as you did back there."

Clark suppressed a snort. Kryptonite sometimes did that to him, but he couldn't tell Lois that.

"Must have been the shrimp cocktail," Clark said.

"But I ate that with you." There was a hint of worry in her tone that made Clark feel guilty about his deception. In that moment, he felt no better than the man on the dance floor claiming to be Superman.

"Maybe it was something else." Clark unlocked his door and they went inside to the apartment. He had left the entry light on. "Make yourself comfortable, I'll be right back."

Lois waved her hand at him and went into the kitchen as Clark disappeared into the bathroom. For a long time he stood staring at his reflection in the dark. Should he do a quick flight over to the reception hall to see if he could find that man? No, he had a gut feeling that he was long gone and it would only serve to make Lois more agitated. He could hear her wander about his apartment, her step quicker than usual. She really was worried about him. In a relatively dark day, there was a small glimmer of light. He washed his face, flushed the toilet unnecessarily and made his way out of the bathroom.

***

When Clark disappeared into the bathroom, Lois wandered about the kitchen intent on making tea. She gave it up quickly, unable to focus on such a mundane task. Her thoughts continually replayed the events of the evening, trying to make sense of them. Her wandering shifted to pacing. She decided to approach this mystery as she would any story. Lois wrung her hands in front of her as she went over the options.

One, the man was really Superman, and for some reason when he approached her as a normal man she was no longer interested. He had looked a lot like Superman, and he certainly seemed to know her.

Two, the man on the dance floor was an imposter. He was just claiming to be Superman to get her attention. It certainly had worked. She had danced with him, even kissed him. There was also the nagging feeling that he hadn't looked quite right. She tried to picture him in the Superman outfit, but she found that she couldn't remember his face quite well enough. Lois had certainly felt different in his arms. Usually, she was reluctant for Superman to let her go, but this time she was more than ready.

Three, she was more than a little drunk and none of this had really happened and tomorrow she was going to wake up with a hell of a hangover. But she had only had two glasses of wine. That was hardly enough to induce hallucinations. She felt pretty lucid.

Clark reentered the room, and Lois spun on her heel to face him. "Clark, do I seem drunk to you?"

He gave her a puzzled look. "Not really. Do you feel dizzy or anything?"

She shook her head standing there wringing her hands. She hadn't seen that 'Superman' do anything … well … super to give evidence to his claim.

"You know Superman pretty well, don't you? You're friends, right?" She knew the answer to that already, but she needed to hear it from him.

Clark understood her anxious behavior now. This was about the guy on the dance floor. "I guess I know him just about as well as anyone," he answered carefully.

"Does he … Have you ever seen him dressed in anything besides the Superman suit?"

Clark adjusted his glasses nervously and sat down on his couch. This was exactly what he had feared. He had this great desire to give his lamp a quick burst of heat vision, so that they were suddenly plunged into darkness.

Instead, he answered. "Is this about whether the suit comes off? Cause I can't say that I ever tried to see him naked."

That did the trick. Lois flushed and sat beside him on the couch. "That's not what I meant."

Of course he knew that, and he eyed the lamp longingly. This was not the time to use any of his powers. He did not need to arouse any of Lois' suspicions right now.

Unable to sit still under her shrewd gaze as she continued this line of inquiry, Clark jumped up almost too fast, jostling the table lamp in the process. He quickly steadied it.

Lois continued, "I mean, does he ever wear, oh I don't know, sweats or a jacket with a tie. Does he ever borrow your clothes?"

He ran his fingers through his hair and asked, "You want some tea? I think I really need a drink right now." Clark almost ran into the kitchen.

"You'd be about the right size," Lois continued, following his retreat.

"Oolong, Darjeeling or maybe you'd like something decaffeinated?" Clark buried his head in a cupboard.

"Forget the tea, Clark. I'm trying to figure out if the man I met was Superman."

"The one you were with on the dance floor?" Clark finally faced her then, a tin of tea in his hand. "Was he that good a kisser?"

Lois flushed and she moved agitatedly, her hands smoothing non-existent creases on her black dress.

"Not exactly."

"Then why did you think he might be Superman? He didn't look like him."

"What do you mean, he didn't look like him?"

"You know … spandex, red cape, big S on the chest." Clark's voice had a faintly mocking tone and Lois shot him a quick glare.

"What if he was just dressed in normal clothes? Then do you think he would look like him?"

"Lois. I don't understand. Why do you think you danced with Superman?"

"Because that's who he told me he was."

Clark had heard this, but he couldn't admit that to Lois, especially right now when she was in full investigative reporter mode. "He just came right up to you and said he was Superman? Did he prove it to you in any way?"

"Not really. That's kind of why I let him kiss me." Lois turned away, unable to face Clark at this admission.

"Did he …?" Clark cleared his throat and then tried again. "What was your conclusion?"

"I have my doubts." She said in a small voice that Clark wondered if he would have been able to perceive without his exceptional hearing.

This confession made him feel eminently better. "Do you really think that Superman would just throw on regular clothes and arrive at a reception just to tell you his secret? Don't you think that's odd? I mean, why now?"

Lois rolled Clark's words around in her head. Clark had said "his secret". His secret. Did he know something? Why would he know that Superman had a secret unless he knew the truth? Had Superman shared the truth with Clark and not her, or is that why he had shown up at the dance floor? To even the score? Either way, Clark knew something about Superman, and she was going to get the truth, even if she had to pry it out of him.

"To be honest, Clark, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable talking about this if you weren't his friend too. I mean, let's face it, if Superman were really hiding out as a normal person would he just come out and tell me? Unless he's done the same for you."

Clark started coughing, more to conceal the expression on his face. She was watching him so closely now and he had no idea how he was going to survive this conversation intact.

"I've often wondered what Superman does when he isn't flying around saving people. Now I have to wonder if he isn't just walking among us as a regular person. You know, don't you? You know who he really is. Why would he find it necessary to dress in regular clothes?"

"Maybe he wants a normal life." Clark tried to say it casually, as if it had just occurred to him.

Lois studied him closely. She nodded as if that made sense. "If that's true, why tell me now? Don't you think he would try a little harder to keep it a secret?"

Clark shrugged. "I guess. But if you found out, it would make quite a scoop for the Planet."

"Yeah. What a story. It would probably win a Kerth, but we're dealing with a person's life here. I don't think Superman's privacy is worth a moment of fame. He does too much good without asking for anything in return. Don't you think he deserves a little more discretion on our part?"

Clark gave her a slow, devastating smile. "You constantly surprise me, Lois Lane."

"Besides, I don't see you turning in your best friend just for the sake of a story. It doesn't stop you from getting an unfair number of Superman exclusives, though."

He felt his face go warm with embarrassment. Clark put a kettle on to boil, just to keep his hands busy. "I can honestly say that I know him well, maybe about as well as anyone, but I wouldn't call him my best friend, Lois." He gave her a warm smile and reached out to give her hand a quick squeeze.

Lois felt her insides turn to warm liquid. She found herself smiling at him, grasping his hand in response, noticing how dark and beautiful his eyes were. She enjoyed being with him. He smelled good, warm and clean and male. He really filled out a suit coat nicely, and she found herself leaning in toward him, yearning to make the moment between them last.

Clark caught his breath at the look in her eyes. Her smile sent a bolt of awareness through his entire body, and when he caught his breath he could hear that her heat rate had accelerated. Whatever was happening between them was not one-sided.

"You look really good, Clark," Lois said in a surprisingly husky voice. "I mean, you don't look sick at all," she said, waving her hand absently as if trying to diffuse the emotion in her voice.

Her words stopped him. She seemed vulnerable, looking at him with that gleam in her eye that seemed to say 'I dare you to say anything about my comment'. Even so, he decided to take a chance and said, "You look beautiful."

Lois dropped her gaze, lowering her chin and sucking in her breath. Her hair swung like a shield between them and she tucked a lock behind her ear in a nervous gesture that tugged at Clark's heart.

Suddenly Clark heard sirens and focused his attention on a passing police car. He could hear the dispatcher report that Superman was on the scene. It had to be the imposter.

Lois glanced up at him as her mouth tightened and her expression seemed to close. Clark closed his eyes and sighed. He had to go. He had to find out what was going on, and it was going to kill him to leave Lois behind.

"Lois, I've got to go." Clark rose to his feet, his eyes darting around the room, seeking inspiration for a plausible excuse for his sudden departure.

Lois jumped to her feet, recognizing that look, the almost nervous air that Clark got just before he made up some inane excuse for running away from her.

"Forgot to return a video? I'll go with you and we can pick out a new one together to watch tonight."

Clark turned to regard her with surprise on his face. He opened his mouth to say something and Lois continued.

"No? Maybe you need to go buy a new gallon of milk because the old one's gone bad. That's okay, because I don't really want milk in my tea anyway." She had moved closer to him so that her face was only inches from his chest. Their height difference was insignificant in her growing wrath. "Have to go to the post office? Let's go. I need stamps too. Or maybe your doddering old great aunt Matilda needs her medication and you just have to go or she'll die! Well, you know what, Clark? I am sick of your excuses."

He knew that there was nothing he could say that could make this right. He wanted to tell her the truth, but he couldn't do that and then just leave her behind. Not to mention that she would insist on coming along, but since he didn't know what he would be facing, that was out of the question. But above all, right now he really didn't want to lie to Lois. "I'm sorry, Lois. Really. I have to go. I'll be back as soon as I can. We'll talk about this later, I promise." With that he ran for the door.

"Clark!" Lois yelled furiously. He had left her alone in his apartment. What was he thinking? She was just beginning to feel comfortable with the fact that there was something important between them. More than partners, more than friends even. But he had to remind her of his biggest flaw, his constant disappearing act. Well, no more. She was going to find out what made Clark Kent run off all the time and she had a tingling in her gut that it was going to make one hell of a story!

Had Clark left her to pursue a story without her? That was no good … Lois ran to the top of the steps, intent on yelling at Clark's retreating back, but he was nowhere to be seen. The sonic boom that she had grown to associate with Superman rattled the windows, and Lois looked around trying to locate him.

Maybe she could get Superman to help her find Clark. The image of Superman holding Clark by his jacket collar was amusing enough to get her to smile, but the man in blue was nowhere to be seen.

"Superman?" Lois asked tentatively, but there was no answer. She looked up in the sky and saw the entail of a passing airplane. It hadn't been Superman after all.

She went back to grab her purse and then left the apartment, slamming the door shut so hard that a potted plant on the landing toppled over. Lois kicked it out of her way, causing a streak of pain to shoot up her calf. She hobbled her way into the street as she heard sirens blaring in the distance. She waved a taxi to a halt. She was out of leads on the case of Clark Kent, so in the meantime she might as well get another story. But next time she saw Superman, she was going to grill him about Clark Kent!

***

Clark's mind was filled with thoughts of Lois as he flew to the scene, and if he hadn't been so distracted he might have noticed that he wasn't moving as quickly as normal. A fire blazed on the rooftop of one of Metropolis' tallest high rises. The blaze created so much light that it was almost as bright as day on the rooftop. The screams of the trapped people, although they were barely audible above the roaring flames, pierced right through Clark's heart.

As he used his x-ray vision to plan the best route, he saw the imposter on one of the upper levels of the building, dressed in a Superman outfit and gathering a woman into his arms. Startled, Clark stopped suddenly in mid-flight, as if he were standing on the air beside the building. His red cape fluttered wildly around him as the fire created a violent air current that would have taken the breath from a normal man.

Another scream catapulted Clark back into action and he changed plans. It looked like the imposter was helping the people on that level, so he decided to focus on a higher level, closer to the flames. Clark would deal with the imposter at another time. For now, he would welcome any help he could get.

He flew up to the top of the building and used his breath in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Although they flickered violently, they did not go out. Even with all his strength, the fire was too much. Clark felt oddly out of breath, and he was beginning to sweat. He wondered why this particular fire seemed to be so formidable, but he pushed the thought aside as he rushed for the door on the roof. He ripped it from its hinges and dashed inside.

It didn't take him long to find the first victims. They had taken refuge from the flames in a small stairwell, but they couldn't avoid the smoke. He scooped the unconscious forms into his arms and flew them to the ambulance parked on the street below. The flashing red lights gave the scene a slightly surreal feel. The minute they saw Superman flying toward them with his burden the emergency crew sprung into action.

"Thank God, Superman. We didn't know how we would get up there. The power's out and the 40th floor collapsed with some sort of explosion. That's what caused the fire."

At Clark's look of alarm, an EMT said, "They were out of business, so fortunately floors 38-42 were vacant."

Clark laid the last man on the stretcher. He looked up and saw Lois step out of a taxi still wearing her sexy black dress. He wanted to tell her to step away from the building. A large piece of masonry crashed only a few feet from where he was standing.

"Get these people back," he commanded a police officer, and then he turned to the EMT still standing next to him. "There are people still trapped up there. Be ready for them." Then he shot back into the night sky.

He made a couple more trips and each time he felt the heat of the fire more acutely. Clark also felt the weight of Lois' gaze on him. She stayed a safe distance away and he tried to ignore her so that he could focus on his task, but Lois Lane could never be ignored. They had so much that they needed to say and Clark wondered what was going on in her mind. Did she think he was the man who had kissed her on the dance floor just hours before?

His thoughts kept going back to the way she had looked at his apartment. She had leaned toward him and he wondered what would have happened if he had given into the impulse to kiss her. The moment had seemed right. How would she have reacted? Clark wondered how he would have compared to Superman.

He snorted to himself in derisive humor, causing a man who was still trapped under some rubble to look at him in concern. Clark mentally shook himself and gave the man an apologetic smile. "Sorry. Long day," he said.

"Tell me about it," the man said, commiserating as he rose to his feet, and ineffectually brushed at the ash coating what was obviously once an expensive coat.

"Let's get you out of here," Clark said before he scooped up the man and leapt away from the encroaching flames.

"When they said they were planning an executive barbeque, somehow this wasn't what I expected," the man joked as Clark set him on his feet.

Clark felt his mood lighten and he quipped, "Maybe next time your company should plan something that has a little less flare."

He rose into the air before Lois could reach them to do a final sweep. Clark stood on the blazing roof extending his senses, ascertaining that everyone had made it to safety. Suddenly, the imposter stumbled onto the roof. Catching sight of Clark, his eyes grew wide and he stopped in his tracks.

"Who are you?" the imposter asked.

Clark inspected him carefully and noticed that the end of his cape was smoking. His Superman outfit was covered in cuts, burns, and soot. His arms were covered in scratches that were oozing blood. Clark feared he had made a mistake in allowing the imposter to assist in the rescue efforts. This man did not share his invulnerability.

He asked with great concern, "Where is the woman you saved?"

"I managed to get her down a set of stairs that had not collapsed in the fire," he replied. "She should be far from the flames by now."

Clark sighed in relief. "We have to get out of here before the roof collapses."

"Why are you dressed like me?" the imposter asked. He walked closer and swayed on his feet. "And why do I hurt all over?"

Clark caught the man before he could fall. "Actually, you're dressed like me. I'm Superman." The imposter pulled away from Clark's grip with surprising strength. Suddenly, the heat from the blaze seemed to intensify. To Clark's surprise, it actually felt as if the flames were burning him.

Something was wrong.

The imposter's face twisted and he said in disdain, "You're mistaken. You can't be Superman, because I am." And then he leapt from the building. Clark watched in fascination as the confidence slipped from the man's face as gravity took hold. The imposter waved his hands as if trying to grab the very air as he started to fall.

Clark leapt after him and, with some difficulty, increased his speed to catch the plummeting man. It was then that he understood why he had progressively lost agility and strength. The imposter still had kryptonite. How could he have forgotten that? The fire hadn't been hotter than normal; he had become weaker. He fought the impulse to release the imposter and put distance between himself and the source of the burning pain spreading through his body.

Clark used all of his power to slow their fall and managed to direct them to the far side of the building, away from any bystanders. The descent only took a few seconds, but the moments were magnified by his agony and Clark felt as if they plummeted for hours. He absentmindedly counted the floors, twisting in the air so that his back would take the impact.

It took forever to reach the ground, and yet it happened before he could form any thought besides 'Fly'. He groaned as he rolled away from the unconscious man. Their capes had become a tangle and he almost didn't have the strength to free himself. He worked the knots out, noting absently that he must have slowed their descent enough to prevent major injury to the man.

They lay side by side in an alley behind the building. The large trash bins were so close that it was a miracle they hadn't landed in one. He almost laughed, but couldn't for the pain. But Clark hadn't lost all strength and he was able to roll to his feet.

He swayed and began an agonizing journey away from the imposter. With each step, he felt the pain lessen. This alone was motivation enough to continue. He heard a shout from the front of the building. He didn't know what was going on. He didn't want to be helpless and still be clothed in his Superman outfit. Who was the imposter? Why did he have kryptonite? Was someone trying to kill Superman?

Clark feared he was going to lose consciousness soon and with his last remaining reserve of strength he changed back into his street clothes. He was Clark Kent again. No one would give him a second glance as he stumbled away in the alley. He felt terrible, but he would live. He couldn't do anything more to help the imposter. If he spent any more time near him, it would cause his own death.

"Clark?" He turned to face a stunned Lois and wondered why she was spinning around. Why wouldn't she just stay still for one moment so that he could take a good look at her? She really was beautiful. But she was frowning so hard. He tried to smile and found that the ground was getting closer and closer. Was he shrinking? He was unconscious before he hit the ground.

"Clark!" Lois rushed forward, seeing that something was definitely wrong with her partner. She sat on the ground, heedless of what it was doing to her dress, and pulled his head into her lap. His scalp was bleeding and he smelled like a campfire.

It was only then that she noticed Superman lying unconscious only a few feet away. Lois knew she should see if he was alive, but when she saw his chest rise and fall, it was enough. He was breathing. He would be all right. He was Superman, after all.

Clark was a different matter. He had better live long enough so she could kill him! He had obviously been in the midst of the fire. His hair was covered in a fine soot and blood trickled down the side of his face from an injury on his temple. Strangely enough, his clothing looked relatively unscathed.

That dirty snake! He had left her in his apartment to cover the fire without her! He had probably done something stupid, something dangerous, and had managed to get himself in the middle of the action. He probably got a great story, but he obviously had almost gotten himself killed. Good thing Superman had come along to save him!

Why Superman was lying on the ground and not flying away was a mystery that would have to be explored later. Shouldn't he be in some bar right now, telling some woman who he really was so that she would go home with him? Lois sighed. She was going to check on Superman. Eventually. She just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Why hadn't Clark just told her he had a story to cover? Lois could almost be proud of him for his guts if he hadn't been so spineless as to not tell her. She was his partner! What exactly did he think that meant? It meant he shared all of his stories with her. And she shared most of her stories with him. She would have been furious if it wasn't for the fact that she had refused him a byline on a story just last week. Maybe this was some sort of payback?

She heard people milling around the corner just as a piece of masonry fell from the building a few yards away.

"Hey, back here. We could use some help," she yelled. She wasn't certain that anyone had heard, but a moment later some of the emergency personnel came jogging toward them.

The moment they saw the crumpled cape and unconscious superhero, they called for backup. Lois gritted her teeth in frustration. "Over here," she yelled at the small crowd that had gathered around the fallen hero. She gestured to the unconscious man in her lap. One of the men broke away almost reluctantly from the gathered circle and came to take Clark's pulse. Clark's eyes moved under his closed lids like he was having a bad dream.

"Pulse is strong," the EMT said. Another piece of concrete slammed down beside them. Lois yelped and then glared at the EMT for hearing her. He continued quickly, "We better get him out of here." He tried to lift Clark in a fireman's hold, but he was too heavy. He looked momentarily puzzled and then called to one of his co-workers, "George, can you give me a hand here?"

"Getting old, Simon?" he teased, but he got serious when he tried to lift Clark.

"On three." They counted and then lifted together. Lois shifted impatiently from foot to foot as she watched their progress. Lois felt awkward just standing there doing nothing, so she decided to check on Superman.

She jogged over to his inert form and watched as the men easily lifted him onto a gurney. "How is he?"

"We won't know that till we get him to the hospital, miss."

"What hospital are you taking him to?"

"Metropolis General. Please step back."

Lois ran to catch up with Simon and George as they struggled to carry Clark. When it appeared that he had regained consciousness, they set him on his feet with a visible sense of relief. Firefighters were working hard at putting out the conflagration. When Lois got closer, she could hear Clark protesting, "No, I'm fine, really. Just had a bump to the head. I don't need to go to the hospital."

"Clark. I think you should listen to them."

"Lois!" He looked around, wondering what had happened when he was unconscious. Had they found the imposter? Had anyone seen him change out of his Superman outfit? In his weakened and distracted state, he had forgotten to check for observers.

"What? Did you think I wouldn't find out?"

Had she seen? He met her gaze and saw the fury burning there. Did the revelation make her that angry? He knew it. He should have told her sooner.

Clark's eyes darted to Simon and George's fascinated gazes. They smiled as they beheld a furious Lois as if it was the best show going.

"Uh… Lois … do you really think this is the best place to talk about this?" He tried to gesture with his gaze to remind her that they had an audience. Surely, she would understand the need to keep his secret from the general public. Lois was angry, not insensitive.

Lois looked at the two men and smiled a tight lipped grin that almost scared Clark. She ushered him away from the two men as she said, "Excuse us, boys." She pulled on his arm hard enough to hurt. He tugged his arm from her grasp, rubbing at the sore spot her fingers had left behind.

Lois whispered furiously, "It's a big story, Clark, but is it really worth our …" She struggled for the right word and finally settled on, "partnership for your own byline?"

Clark almost fainted in relief. She wasn't talking about him being Superman after all. Unfortunately, his relief made him smile and that was the wrong thing to do right now.

"You leave me alone in your apartment and end up lying unconscious in a back alley behind a burning building. And Superman just about died trying to save your life."

That sobered him and he found himself getting jealous of … himself. "So this is all about Superman being in jeopardy?"

"Yes. I mean, no. Look. Don't go trying to change the subject here. I don't understand you. All those stupid excuses can't be just to get a story without me horning in on the byline. You would have had a lot more exclusives if that was the case."

"Thanks… I think," Clark said with a small smile.

"But then I find you here in the middle of things again. I just want some answers."

"This wasn't about getting the story."

This was it. It was finally time to tell Lois the truth. She seemed willing to hear him, to really listen, and he wanted her to know.

***

This was not going to be easy.

"This was about Superman." Clark glanced around and saw that they were alone.

Lois got a confused look on her face. "You were here to help Superman?"

"No, Lois. I am Superman."

Lois nodded slowly. She took his hand and pulled him further away from the crowd so that they could sit on a park bench across from the burning building.

"Sit down, Clark. You have a head injury and I think you're a bit confused."

Clark shook his head. "I know you wanted to understand the reason for all my disappearances. It's because I had to go help as Superman. I was given these powers and abilities and I couldn't just pretend that I didn't know there were people out there that I could help."

She stared hard at him. Clark looked pale. He was bleeding and he was clearly delusional. Rather than argue with him, because he looked like he was about to pass out again, she said slowly, "Okay, Clark. I'll believe you if you can fly us out of here."

Clark grimaced. Of course, he would have to get exposed to kryptonite for the second time in less than twenty four hours just when he wanted to share his secret. He wondered how long it would take for him to regain his strength.

"I can't," he said in a defeated voice.

"That's because you're only human, Clark." She patted his hand in a way that was intended to comfort, but only served to annoy Clark. "We can't all be heroes, Clark, but you know you're special in your own way too."

"I am?" Clark met her gaze and wasn't certain he liked the knowing gleam in her eye. He recognized that look and wished that he had his powers back. It helped to be bullet proof around Lois Lane.

"I know what this is all about," Lois continued, with utter conviction.

"You do?" Clark asked, feeling as if he was being swept up in a hurricane named Lois. He was less sore, but the world seemed to be tilted at an odd angle. Clark wondered if he had actually hit his head harder than he had thought. He tentatively touched a tender spot at his temple and pulled his hand away to examine the blood on it. He did bleed red … just like everyone else.

Clark was certain Lois believed that she was being kind, but sounded only patronizing instead. "This is about that kiss I shared with Superman."

"Huh?" Clark mentally rolled his eyes. Really good. Way to impress her with his witty repertoire. No wonder he never won a Pulitzer.

"Come on, Clark, admit it. You're jealous! You see me kissing Superman and after getting hit on the head you suddenly believe you can fly. It makes perfect sense. Clark, you don't need to be Superman to get me to notice you."

Clark opened his mouth to protest and then closed it when he heard the last bit. "Really?" Now he was definitely feeling a bit dazed, but he doubted that it was kryptonite induced. "Now, wait a minute, Lois. I think you've misunderstood…"

"It's okay, Clark. I understand how mixed up you can get with a head injury, but this definitely means we have to get you to the hospital. You have a concussion at the very least. How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Lois! I'm fine. Really. I wasn't telling you that I'm Superman because I was confused or injured. I was telling you that because it's the reason that I'm here. I didn't leave you at my apartment to beat you out on a story, Lois. I left because I could hear that people were in trouble. I came to help put out the fire."

Lois looked at the still burning building. It was true that Superman had been here and had saved many people. Then she remembered the unconscious Superman and realized that her … partner… was lying to her again. This was by far the worst excuse she had ever heard. She didn't care if he were hanging by his last thread, if she had a pair of scissors right now she'd cut it in two!

"Uh huh!" Lois crossed her arms in front of her. "You know, Clark, this is by far the worst excuse I have ever heard. Cheese of the Month! I'm Superman! Why don't you just tell me that you're the Emperor of China while you're at it!"

"I've lost my powers, Lois, because that imposter had kryptonite on him."

"You're trying to tell me that Superman carries around kryptonite so that you, Clark Kent, don't help out with burning buildings?"

Clark sighed in frustration and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you earlier. I can understand why you don't believe me under the circumstances." He never would have believed that when he finally told Lois about his alter identity that she wouldn't believe him. There was no way that he could prove it to her without his powers … unless … He had an idea.

He could show her the suit under his clothing. Once she saw the S on his chest, she would have to believe him. "Here." He started to unbutton his shirt, but stopped when he saw that he had only skin beneath. What had he done with his outfit? He must have been too tired to concentrate when he had changed clothing and had left his suit somewhere. He should be grateful that he hadn't ended up naked in that alley!

She almost pitied him when he stared at his chest in shocked surprise. She felt the first niggling of doubt. Clark was many things, but he was not that good a liar. It took her a moment to work out what he was doing. He expected to find the Superman outfit under his clothing. Is that what Superman did? Wore regular clothing until he was needed? It put a whole new light on the life of the hero she had thought she had known so well.

As Clark continued to look at his exposed chest as if willing the big S to appear like magic, Lois lowered her gaze and found herself caught. She had seen him before wearing far less than this, but even when she was angry at him she found that the sight of his skin made her heart do crazy things.

Earlier this evening she had been ready to take a chance with Clark and finally give in to the feelings he always evoked in her. Now, she didn't know whether to be angry at his deception or sympathetic at his confusion. The only way to get past either of these obstacles was to bring Clark Kent to Superman. Only by confronting the actual man in blue would Clark have to face the truth.

Clark raised his eyes to meet hers. There was such a sense of loss visible in his gaze that Lois felt her anger melt away.

"Come on, Clark. We need to get going."

***

It was with a mixture of curiosity and dread that Clark followed Lois through the throng gathered at the hospital. He didn't know which was worse, having the general public know that there was something out there that could hurt Superman, or knowing that they believed the imposter was the real deal. Lois certainly believed the man was Superman, and considering the patch of dried blood on his hairline and dark circles edging his eyes, he wouldn't be able to convince her otherwise anytime soon.

The pain had ebbed away and the dizziness had mostly disappeared. He was lost in his thoughts. Clark leaned against the nurse's station and caught sight of his distorted reflection in the glass of an unremarkable picture of bears with balloons. He looked like hell. Clark tried to use his x-ray vision and a streak of pain lanced through his head. His powers were still nonexistent.

Lois was busy cajoling the nurse to allow her to see Superman, assuring the woman that she was practically family. Clark smiled wryly. He was vaguely flattered at this description and annoyed that her devotion to his alter-ego still managed to stir a whiff of jealousy. But the alternative was not too appealing. What if instead, Lois couldn't care less if Superman was lying on a hospital bed? Was it really so bad that she needed to see that he was all right? He was touched by her concern.

A petite woman in hospital scrubs took Clark unresistingly by the arm and sat him on a nearby couch. She proceeded to clean the dried blood away from his temple and smiled when she saw no sign of any injury on the newly cleaned skin. "I don't care if you're not my patient. I couldn't very well leave you bleeding on my floor," she said by way of explanation.

"Sorry. How's Superman doing?" Clark asked the woman. He needed to find out just what was going on.

"You were in that fire, weren't you?"

He nodded.

She took in the scene of Lois and the nurses' station and seemed to come to a conclusion.

"Come with me," she said with a slightly conspiratorial tone of voice.

When she had started down the hall toward a set of elevators, Clark said quietly, "Lois!"

At first, he thought she would argue with him, but when she caught his eye she must have realized that he had a plan. "I can't wait to write an expose on this ward. And I'll be sure to mention you by name, Ms. Trudeau," Lois said, making a grand exit.

She quickly followed Clark, who led them to an open elevator where the nurse was waiting for them.

"How many people know that Superman's here?" Clark asked.

"Not many. But I don't think that will last for long," she replied. "You're Clark Kent? The reporter?" the nurse asked for clarification as the doors closed behind them.

Clark nodded. "And this is my partner Lois Lane."

Lois was lost in thought and smiled at the nurse as an afterthought. Something about hearing him say he was Clark Kent made her feel as if she suddenly understood something. Now, if only she knew what exactly that was.

Lois tried to put the pieces together, not certain that she liked the picture they presented in her mind. She was replaying the events of the entire evening, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. The only thing that she knew for certain was that Clark had not lied to her. He might very well be delusional. Hell, even she was confused and she hadn't even had a knock to the head!

First, she remembered how 'Superman' had danced with her out of uniform and told her what must be his greatest secret with no provocation. She was good at getting people to divulge information, she conceded with not a little amount of satisfaction, but somehow she doubted that this impromptu confessional was the result of her great reporter's technique.

Nor could she say that their relationship had progressed to a level that would warrant such a revelation. She hadn't even seen more than a streak in the sky for the last month. It just didn't feel right. Superman hadn't felt right. When she had danced with him, it was as if he was a stranger.

"Are you all right?" Clark asked with customary concern. He reached a hand out to her touch her cheek.

Lois smiled and said softly, "I'm fine, Clark. I'm just thinking about Super…" remembering his recent confession Lois quickly amended, "I was just thinking."

Clark dropped his hand and she saw his expression close. It was as if his soul had been shining through his eyes one moment and then the door had been slammed shut. She no longer had entrance. Lois wanted more than anything to gain another glimpse, but she had no idea how to do that.

Lois recalled Clark's confession outside the burning building. This was obviously a night of revelations. She had always wanted to know more about Superman. Who would think that two people would tell her the thing she so wanted to learn on the very same day?

The man on the dance floor had seemed wrong, whereas Clark had been filled with earnestness that was so … Clark-like. There was a part of her that wanted to believe his words, just as an act of faith in him. But didn't he realize that he didn't have any powers? So if the man in the hospital room wasn't Superman and Clark wasn't Superman, what had happened to the hero?

The nurse showed them to the room and quickly explained that they had been asked to be as discreet as possible, not wanting to draw attention to the ailing superhero. She winked at them as she left, making Lois wonder if it were directed at her for her not-too-secret connection to Superman or to Clark because she thought her partner was attractive. Lois straightened her spine and grabbed Clark's arm, pulling him with undue haste into the small room.

Clark pulled back, cautious about nearing the imposter.

"What's wrong?" Lois asked.

Clark shook his head but didn't reply. He didn't feel the indicative weakness and pain of kryptonite, so he tentatively moved closer.

The man was dressed in a pale blue smock and a white sheet had been tucked under his arms. He appeared to be asleep. For the first time, he was able to inspect this man without the haze of kryptonite to cloud his thoughts, and he was stunned. There were differences between them, he could see, but the imposter could have been Clark's long lost brother.

Instead of approaching the man in the bed, Lois was over by a small table where a torn superman outfit had been carefully folded. She put her hand through a tear on one arm, noticing that it had been stained with blood. Lois glanced at the man. Sure enough, a bandage covered the corresponding place on the man's arm. Whoever this man was, he wasn't Superman.

"How's your head? Are you feeling any better?" Lois asked her partner.

Clark knew by the look in her eye that she was really trying to ask him if his powers were back. Did this mean that she finally believed him?

"I don't feel any kryptonite radiation around if that's what you mean."

Lois came forward but stopped when the man on the bed spoke. "Is that why I lost my powers? This stuff you call kryptonite radiation?"

Clark looked at the imposter for a long moment, wishing that he could inspect him with his x-ray vision. The monitor beeped, showing that his heart rate had accelerated. "I don't know."

Lois said to the man in the bed, "Superman." She gave Clark a firm look that said very clearly, 'stay quiet'. "Can you tell me if anything unusual happened earlier today?" It was after midnight now, but she wasn't a stickler for semantics.

The imposter's features grew tight as if trying very hard to remember something. "I remember flying and hearing a woman call for help."

"That was before you had lost your powers? Can you describe where you were flying?"

He shook his head as if it were painful to remember. "I just know that I was walking down the street when a woman called to me and when I turned to face her she threw something at me. It exploded into this ghastly smelling green powder that got into my eyes, my lungs, even beneath my clothing. Once I got home, I changed into civilian clothes so that I could clean my suit, but then I remembered where I was going."

"Where was that?" Lois asked.

"To the reception to meet you."

"Was it the woman who was calling for help that got that 'green powder' all over you? You said earlier that you were flying, but then you said that you were walking on the street when you heard a call for help." Lois looked at Clark.

"I must have landed earlier. I don't know." He sat upright, his movements quick and jerky. "I have to get out of here. That woman obviously had something that could hurt me, make me confused. There are times when I don't even believe that I'm really Superman."

Clark wanted to say something. This last comment made him feel as if he was on the verge of understanding what was going on. Clark and Lois were busy helping the man to his feet, so it came as a shock when they heard a voice from the doorway.

"Well, well, well. Isn't this a charming scene? I didn't expect to see you on your feet so soon, Superman. In fact, I was told that the green meteorite dust would have a more lasting … shall we say lethal result. Tell me, Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane, do you think I should ask for a refund?"

***

The woman was dressed a bit too flashy for Lois' taste. She had a great deal of cleavage showing, fingers flashing with an abundance of jewels, and her red hair was pulled into slick coiffure. She also had a glowing green vial in her hand. Lois guessed that it was the kryptonite in some form. The woman waved it around casually and 'Superman' did not react at all to the meteorite's presence.

Clark however was a different matter. He had grown pale and Lois grabbed his arm to keep him upright. She was suddenly desperate to keep the woman from noticing the effect that the kryptonite seemed to have on her partner. Lois was in shock and was hardly in any condition to confront the woman who had apparently attempted to take Superman's life earlier that day. Lucky for them, she had chosen the wrong man in the blue suit.

Lois gazed at her partner. She could see it so easily now. With his hair matted down with the dust from the fire, he looked so much like Superman that she worried that the woman would notice too.

Clark's eyes pleaded with her and she couldn't allow herself to get angry or to even think too much about the implications of Clark Kent and Superman being the same person. He had tried to tell her. Lois just hadn't believed him. She could deal with her emotions later. Right now, they had other more pressing problems.

Lois managed to maneuver Clark to a stool beside the imposter's bedside without the red head even glancing in their direction. Lois stood protectively in front of her partner, hoping that her body would shield Clark … or Superman… from some of the kryptonite radiation. She wouldn't allow anyone to harm him; she claimed rights to first blood. Lois glanced down at Clark and couldn't decide if she wanted to punch him or kiss him. Maybe both. But right now, she needed to figure out a way to get rid of the kryptonite.

"You! How did you find me?" The imposter sat back down on the bed, still weary from his injuries. He watched them in silence, his face contorted as if he were trying to remember something.

"You don't recall, do you?"

"Of course I do," answered the imposter. "You tried to kill me."

She waved her hand dismissively. "Before that, you insensitive Neanderthal! You don't remember that night we shared together?"

The imposter continued to look at her blankly.

The woman's voice grew harder. "After Luthor's party?"

Clark winced at her tone and managed to share a questioning look with Lois even though he was in a great deal of pain. Lois had to admire his ability to keep silent when he was obviously suffering.

Clark inspected the woman closely, at least as well as he could under the circumstances. His eyes widened in horror. He did remember her. She had practically thrown herself at him at a charity event months ago. It was one of those rare times when he had had to maintain a polite fašade as Superman endorsed one of Luthor's 'charitable' endeavors.

He had planned on making a token appearance, just enough so that the orphans of Metropolis would get the funding they needed. It had been a fancy affair of glittering jewels, a full orchestra and enough food to serve the entire city's poor. The cost of the event could have accomplished what its purported goal was said to be.

Once he had seen the sheer extravagance, Clark had felt like little more than another of the evening's entertainments. But he had given his word and so he accepted the check on behalf of the Metropolis Foundation for Children.

Lois had attended in a beautiful red dress, but she had spent the evening in a dark corner engrossed in interviewing a fast rising star of the Senate. The shadows of the room had deepened the color of her dress to burgundy wine. He remembered feeling vaguely disappointed that Lois seemed unusually oblivious to his presence.

Clark hated to admit it, because he knew it was petty, but the lack of her customary awe had actually bothered him. Any attention from Lois was preferable to dismissal. His heart craved the rare inklings of affection she bestowed on him. While he generally preferred that those gestures be directed at who he was most of the day, namely Clark Kent, he realized that evening that he enjoyed the attentions she showered on his caped alter-ego as well. It was silly, really. When she fawned over Superman, he felt uncomfortable, but when she didn't, that didn't please him either.

So while Superman had stalled in a vain attempt to find an opportunity to interact with Lois, a well dressed, attractive woman in a bright gold dress pressed herself against him. She propositioned him, right there on the steps from the stage.

It was the same woman now holding a vial of kryptonite dust.

Instead of politely brushing her off, he was still preoccupied by Lois, waiting for her to acknowledge him. The feel of a warm body pressing too close for comfort could not be ignored for long and he looked down in surprise as he felt something being pressed into his hand. The woman in the gold dress had obviously taken his silence for acceptance of her suggestion. She had shoved a hotel key into his slack hand and backed away before he could protest.

Not wanting to alert anyone to what had happened, Clark had made a quick retreat. He had dropped the key like it burned and flew out of there just a bit too quickly for politeness. On his way out, he had used his x-ray vision to destroy the film in a camera that belonged to the Daily Star's photographer, afraid of the repercussions of being seen pressed against a strange woman. Now he suspected that Luthor had witnessed that exchange and had formed a scheme involving an imposter to tarnish Superman's reputation. Had he known that Suzette had such a violent temper that she would turn to murder once spurned?

The sound of the other man's voice returned Clark's thoughts to the present. The man in the hospital gown put his hand to his head and said in a dazed voice, "I feel as if I'm two people right now. I still feel as if I'm Superman, but I know somehow that I'm not. I remember putting on the suit dozens of times, but I think it was just a job, something I did on the side for extra money. I don't know why I thought it was real."

"You're not Superman?" the woman asked, lowering the vial in her hand. She didn't even notice when Lois took it from her.

"That night at the Luthor charity event. How could I ever forget you, Suzette? Mr. St. James hired me to go to the Hilton to meet with you." He glanced at the Superman costume folded on the table beside the bed. "He wanted me to go as Superman. For a private party, he told me. But you have to understand, that night was amazing."

Neither of them seemed to notice Lois walking quickly to the bathroom. She dumped the green meteorite dust down the toilet and flushed three times for good measure.

Clark felt the kryptonite's absence immediately. He had no idea when he would regain his strength, but at least the pain had receded. Lois reentered the room slowly and gave Clark an assessing look. Clark smiled wanly at her and silently mouthed 'thanks'.

Suzette's face had turned red, and everyone watched her, wondering if she was going to go into a rage or burst into tears. "But I saw you that night. You had powers; you flew away right in front of me. I don't understand. You were hired to meet with me? But I gave you that key."

"I had never met you until I arrived at the hotel room that night. I was told that you were a special friend of Mr. Luthor's and that you always wanted to meet Superman. I think he did something to me. I do a couple of gigs here and there mostly for parties and such, since I look so much like him. I thought, why not? But ever since that night, I've actually believed I was Superman. I didn't plan for what happened later, baby. But I can't say that I regret it. It was one of the best nights of my life."

"Really." The red flush faded away out of her face and Suzette took his hand. "Me too."

Lois shook her head. "What a minute. This doesn't make sense. Just a minute ago you actually believed that you were Superman. Why were you at that burning building? Why did you think you really had superpowers? And why did you come to see me?"

The man looked at Lois with a confused yet blank expression. "I don't really know. I seem to remember that psychologist doing something to me. I can't believe I really thought I could fly." He turned his attention back to Suzette and continued, "I thought we had something special, baby."

Lois rolled her eyes at the endearment. How had she ever believed even for a moment that this man was really Superman?

Despite the gravity of the situation, Lois' expression made Clark feel like smiling. It couldn't quite make it to his lips, but his heart felt just a bit lighter now.

"Why did you try to kill me?" the imposter asked Suzette.

"I thought that night meant nothing to you. Lex Luthor sold me that meteor dust, telling me that it was the only thing that could hurt Superman. And, believe me, I really wanted to hurt you for leaving me like that. I'm no one's one-night stand."

"They made me forget you, honey. I've been a puppet. I think I even set that building on fire. Why would I ever do that?" The imposter turned to entreat Lois and Clark. "You've got to believe me. I never meant to hurt anyone. I just was so confused."

The sound of someone clearing their throat got their attention. "Perhaps we can discuss this someplace a little more privately." Nigel St. James stood in the doorway with a gun pointed at them. "If you will, please. This way." The nurse that had assisted them earlier smiled conspiratorially behind him.

Lois whispered into Clark's ear, "I knew there was something fishy about her."

Clark groaned as he rose to his feet to follow the others. This was turning out to be a very long night.

***

Lois leaned against Clark in the back of a utilitarian van, bracing herself against the jostling motion as the vehicle departed the hospital. Clark held her tightly, trying to protect her from the worst of the movement. His arm was draped around her shoulders, and Lois rested her head against his shoulder. She wished that she could truly enjoy this closeness.

Lois looked at the couple sitting on the other end of the van's empty rear space. The imposter still wore the hospital gown, but he had an overcoat thrown over his shoulders as well. When Nigel St. James had gotten a look at his bare backside, the older man had sneered and removed his own coat, not wanting to attract any more attention than was necessary from the legitimate hospital staff.

They had followed his orders and had not made a scene, leaving the hospital with no one the wiser. Lois figured that it was best to delay any escape attempts as long as possible. She didn't know how much time Clark needed before he recovered from kryptonite exposure, but it certainly would help if Superman were available to save them.

Once the four of them had gotten to the parking lot, they had been thrown into the back of an unmarked van. Lois immediately searched St. James' coat pockets but had found nothing. Then she sat by the back door working the latch, Clark by her side. But the door was securely locked, there were no exposed wires and she couldn't even pull the brake lights. At least then they would have had a chance that a passing police vehicle would pull the van over.

Suzette and the other man sat whispering with their heads pressed together like old lovers. They appeared to be making amends; Lois heard him tell Suzette that his name was Jordan. Lois snorted and then dismissed them from her mind. She turned her attention to Clark, hoping for some sign that his powers had begun to return.

She still didn't know how to feel about learning about his alter-identity. Normally, she would probably be furious and then irate and then enraged, followed by embarrassed tinged with a good deal of anger. She smiled at that thought, finding the humor in it. Somehow, looking at him now, vulnerable like the rest of them, she couldn't find it within her to be angry with him.

There were so many questions that she needed answers to that Lois wasn't even certain where to start. She remembered a dozen times when she should have seen the evidence and somehow failed to put the pieces together. There was the time that Superman was missing during the nightfall asteroid and Clark had amnesia. When Clark got his memory back, Superman returned to save the day. She should have thought more about how they both seemed to "recover" at about the same time. Images of many more similar memories flashed through her head almost too fast to count.

To be fair to herself, Lois had always known that Clark was hiding something, and she had grown tired of the excuses he used to cover it. With so much practice he should have gotten better at explaining a sudden pressing need to leave, but his inability to lie was a part of his charm.

How had she never noticed that Superman and Clark, supposedly such great friends, were never together at the same time? She should have realized why Clark could contact Superman so easily. Duh! Even when he told her the truth, she hadn't believed him.

Who was the man who spent a good part of each day claiming to be her partner Clark Kent?

Lois looked at him, his heart in his eyes as he watched her assess him, and she only saw the person that she was falling in love with. Clark Kent. He had never intentionally lied to her; she just had failed to see the truth.

Lois didn't know if she was being magnanimous about this discovery because there was a very real chance they were about to die; all she really knew was that she wanted a chance to live so that she could show this man how much he really meant to her. Then she could have the luxury of setting the record straight on a few things.

"How do you feel? Do you know how long it might take for you to be at … full strength?" Lois asked him, her voice lowered.

"I don't know. I've never been exposed to kryptonite that many times in such a short span of time. The pain is gone, but my powers aren't back yet." Clark said this with such guilt in his voice that Lois hugged him briefly. She glanced at the other couple in the van and saw that they were still wrapped up in each other.

She pushed herself flush against him, putting her lips so close to Clark's ear that they brushed against his skin as she spoke. "How do you know that your powers aren't back yet?"

Clark felt warmth flood his body as Lois leaned closer, and he shifted uncomfortably, desire flooding through him at the contact. "I can't hear your heartbeat and I can't see past the walls of the van, so unless they're lined in lead, which I wouldn't put past Luthor, I'm not up to full speed." He wondered if Lois could hear the breathless quality to his voice. This was not the time or place to get distracted by her scent or the feel of her pressed against him.

Lois noticed Clark's discomfort and the seed of an idea began to grow. She shifted her body so that she was straddling him and took his hand to place it on her chest. "Here, let me help. Can you hear my heart now?"

The blood rushed to Clark's head as Lois smiled in that knowing way that made him wonder what she was up to. He was sure that his face was flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and excitement. His hand curved reflexively and he could feel the beating of her heart. The softness of her breast beneath his hand made him ache for something more, but not like this. Not now.

He glanced over Lois' shoulder to see that Jordan and Suzette were oblivious to their presence. They were kissing. "Lois. I don't think this is the best idea …"

Lois leaned toward him. She rocked against him in the process, sending sensations through him, so that he could no longer remember exactly what was so wrong about their current predicament. Her clean feminine scent filled his senses and he couldn't suppress the gasp when her tongue touched the crest of his ear. She began to nibble down his neck, moving her body in a way that was a supreme torture for Clark.

"Lois," he hissed, dragging her closer to him and moving her so that he could claim her mouth with his own. He could hear it plainly now, the thundering of their hearts. They beat in unison and he marveled that they were in perfect synchronicity.

Lois no longer had any notion of what her plan had been. Once his lips were on hers, his tongue gliding against her own, her brain simply shut down. The sensation of his body pressed against hers and the undulating motion caused by the movement of the van left her mesmerized. Without even thinking about, she began toying with the buttons on his shirt.

The van shifted suddenly and Clark banged his head hard enough against the metal for the sound to startle them out of their passion. Lois raised her head, meeting Clark's gaze. His pupils were dilated, his eyes appearing almost black. They could both see the moment that sanity returned in the other.

"Wow," Clark couldn't help saying.

"We haven't even begun. Is that motivation enough to get us out of here?" Lois asked, eyes twinkling.

"Um…I don't know. I might need a little more … motivation … you know, to help me make a decision." His mouth quirked in a grin.

"You!" She punched his arm lightly, wincing as pain shot up to her elbow. "Can you hear my heartbeat yet?"

Clark's expression cleared. "You just did that so that it would speed things along?" he asked.

"I'll take any excuse I can get," she quipped.

"I think it might have worked."

"Got to love adrenalin," she agreed.

He'd have to remember that if he ever got exposed to kryptonite again. Clark didn't know if it was the increase in blood flow or the hormones kicking in, but he certainly felt a whole lot better in many ways.

The sound of someone clearing their throat got their attention. "I think we've stopped," Jordan said.

"Right," Lois replied, scrambling off Clark and straightening her clothing. Clark sat up and tried to think of something that would calm his racing hormones.

Siberia. Arctic. The swing of her hair. Tundra. Kryptonite. Those eyes. Icebergs. The feel of her beneath his hands. Rocky Road Ice-cream.

Nope. Not going to happen.

He usually had much better control.

Lois bent down to wipe a bit of her lipstick off Clark's cheek. Suzette giggled and said, "I don't blame you. You got yourself quite a guy there, but he's no Superman." She jabbed Jordan lightly in the ribs.

"Hey," he replied good-naturedly. "If we get out of this, babe… I still have the suit."

"I'll hold you to it."

Clark groaned and Lois looked at him in concern, but then realized it was because of the other couple's exchange. She couldn't help it, she started to laugh. She sobered quickly when they heard a key inserted into the lock of the van.

The door opened and Lois kicked at the man on the other side. Her foot connected with the man's jaw and Clark jumped out of the van before Lois could follow up her attack.

The man was Lex Luthor. "Lois, my dear. There has been a grave misunderstanding." He rubbed his jaw, a wry grin on his face. "I should have known that Lois Lane would never give up without a fight."

"What do you think you're doing, Lex Luthor?" Lois said vehemently.

"It seems that someone in my employ has been doing some things behind my back without my knowledge or consent," Lex replied smoothly. "I'm terribly sorry for any discomfort you might have experienced. Please come with me."

Lois shot Clark a questioning look, but Clark remained non-committal. The four of them followed Lex Luthor to a beach front manor house. Nigel St. James and the nurse from the hospital were nowhere in sight.

"Where are you taking us, Lex? Where is Nigel St. James?" Lois asked as they followed Luthor past well manicured lawns and up marble steps. Serving staff in uniform scurried out of the way as they entered the plush foyer. Old world elegance with all the modern conveniences surrounded them.

"This is just a misunderstanding that I'm certain I can clear up for you once we are settled in the parlor. If you will, this way." Luthor led them to a room with a glorious view of the sea. The house was situated on a cliff top so that it seemed to perch somewhere in the sky itself.

"I bought this place for the view."

"It's lovely," Lois said, walking to the window.

Clark kept his gaze trained on the billionaire, feeling his senses return in force. Without testing it, he wasn't certain that he was fully recovered. He decided that he would rather wait before acting. There was a large mirror along the opposite wall and with his x-ray vision he could just make out some sort of device on the far side.

"I have many qualities, but patience is not listed very highly." Lois turned to face Luthor. "I think we deserve an explanation."

"You're right, of course. You see, I have always trusted those in my employ to act with the utmost discretion. I had a little problem with a certain man in blue. You might have heard of him. Wears a big S."

"Superman," Suzette supplied for him. Lois rolled her eyes.

"That's right. Superman," Luthor said as if talking to a child. "Instead of taking care of the original as I had requested, it seems that an overzealous employee thought it would be more believable if our imposter believed that he was the real deal. A sound theory, I suppose, but instead our imposter that was supposed to discredit Superman, or at the very least draw him out like the bait he was, became the target."

"Sorry," Suzette said to Jordan.

"So instead of killing Superman, your own imposter got in the way," Lois said.

"Just so," Luthor said. "So you see I was hoisted by my own petard, so to speak."

"Why tell us now?" Lois asked.

Clark moved closer to Lois, ready to protect her even if it meant revealing his abilities to Luthor.

"There's little harm in setting the record straight, but first let me see what's keeping the staff. They should have served us some tea at the very least." Luthor strode quickly out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Lois felt a twinge of alarm at Luthor's sudden departure and looked around the room for possible escape routes. "Clark!" she called, knowing that he would understand what she wanted him to do.

Suzette and Jordan, seated together on a small love seat against the mirror, looked at her curiously. Before Clark could reply, he heard the sound of a mechanical switch coming from the device on the other side of the mirror. The glass began to glow.

Clark took Lois' arm, pulling her towards the door. The handle was locked, but it took little effort for Clark to force it open.

He pushed her through the doorway as the light grew brighter. The glare was so strong that it was doubtful that anyone could see that they were no longer inside the room.

"Close your eyes," Clark whispered fiercely, closing the door behind them. He could hear a monotonous, female voice saying, "There was no imposter. There was no attempt on Superman's life; nothing unusual has happened today. You have never heard of kryptonite. You will forget everything that has happened in the last 24 hours." Clark put his hands over Lois' ears and tried to think about what they should do next.

There was another mechanical click and the voice stopped. Clark carefully opened the door and, seeing the light fade, pushed Lois back inside the room.

Lois looked confused and said, "Clark, what are we doing here?" She gestured to Suzette and Jordan seated on the far side of the room and continued. "Who are they? How did we get here?"

Luthor walked into the room and smiled magnanimously. "Thank you all for agreeing to meet me here. Now I know, Lois and Clark, that you were hoping for an interview." He gestured to Nigel St. James, who was standing in the doorway. "Nigel, please see that our other friends are shown home."

Nigel replied, "Very good sir," and solicitously gestured for Suzette and Jordan to leave. They seemed just as disoriented as Lois as they got up slowly and followed his direction.

"Should we get started?" Luthor asked.

Lois stared at him blankly and Clark felt his heart drop. He hadn't been fast enough. Whatever Luthor had done seemed to have affected Lois. He had hoped that her earlier failure to recognize their surroundings had been for show, but now he saw genuine confusion on her face.

Clark's distress must have been evident, because Luthor gave him an assessing look. Clark shook his head like he was in pain. "I'm sorry, I seem to have a headache."

Luthor turned his attention back to Lois and said, "Perhaps another time would be better."

"No. No. Of course not. But I seem to have forgotten my notepad." Lois almost tripped trying to find her purse. "Where's my purse? Clark, I don't have my purse."

"You left it at home I believe," Luthor prompted.

"I did. That's right. I did," Lois agreed slowly. Clark was unnerved by Lois' attitude.

Luthor handed her a pad of paper from the table. Wasn't that just convenient, Clark thought sarcastically. Lois sat there blankly looking at the pad of paper. Luthor said, almost gently, "We were going to talk about the new waterfront development. That's why I brought you here to my seaside estate."

"Right. Right," Lois said, a little lost.

After a lengthy pause, Luthor suggested again, "Why don't we do this another time?"

"Yes." Lois gave Lex a perplexed look. "I think that might be a good idea after all."

Clark wasn't certain how affected Lois was. Had she really forgotten everything that had happened in the last day? That would mean that their new-found closeness had not happened. And she had no idea that he was Superman. He did not want to go through the last 24 hours again. He closed his eyes and wished that he could grab Luthor and throw him into the darkest, most primitive prison in the country.

When Clark opened his eyes, he swore that he could see a smile in Luthor's gaze.

***

Clark and Lois rode in silence in the back of the limousine Luthor had provided. Clark doubted that Luthor was really feeling generous; more likely he was worried about a record of their departure from his estate. He didn't need any more witnesses to deal with. This way, too, he could increase his chances of learning their intentions. The billionaire probably had the car bugged. Sure enough, when Clark attuned his hearing he could detect the high pitched whine of electronic surveillance equipment in the vehicle.

Lois sat back in her seat, seemingly exhausted, her eyes closed. Clark didn't think he breathed the entire return trip to town as he watched her in silence. As long as she remained quiet, Clark could hope that she was still the same woman he had kissed. Without her memory of the past day, so much would be lost. What would happen if he had to share his secret with her a second time? There was no guarantee that it would go so well under different circumstances.

Clark continued to gaze at her, hoping that some of her memory remained. The limo stopped at Lois' apartment. Lois' eyelids fluttered. She looked like she was sleeping, but her breathing and heart rate were too accelerated to be at rest. Was she having some sort of nightmare?

He reached forward and gently took her hand. It was cold. "Lois, we're here," Clark said as quietly as he could.

Her eyes flew open. She seemed about to speak, but when Clark shook his head minutely, she nodded and remained silent. She might not have her memory, but they had worked enough together to interpret a warning not to speak openly.

"I must have fallen asleep. I know it's still early in the day, but I swear I feel as if I haven't slept all night." She opened the door. "Did you want to come in so that we can work up something for Perry today?"

"Sure," Clark said, glancing at the chauffeur. He glared at them, unhappy with this development but unable to stop them from departing together. Clark had heard Luthor's command to the driver to deliver them to their respective homes, alone.

"Uh … thanks for the ride," Clark said as he left the car.

The long, black vehicle drove smoothly away, the many windows glinting in the bright sunlight. Now that they were alone, Clark was anxious to know how Lois was feeling.

Lois retrieved a spare key hidden under a potted plant and unlocked the door. As they walked in, she said, "I'm dying to get out of this dress."

Clark suddenly realized that she was still wearing the slinky evening gown. It had been through a lot in the last several hours; there was a rip up the leg and a dark smear on the shoulder.

"I guess I'll have to make a trip home, too," he said.

Lois assessed his smudged suit and torn tie. "Too bad. I liked that outfit. Except that tie, even the trash can is too good for it."

"Lois!"

"I think I have some sweats that you loaned me, or you could just…" she made a swooping motion with her hand and raised her eyebrow "… you know. Do a quick flyby?"

Clark's eyes grew wide and he began to smile. "You mean…?"

He was almost afraid that he had misunderstood her and he wasn't quite certain he wanted to say aloud, "as Superman?" until he was sure that she was ready to hear the words.

Lois rolled her eyes, as if to say that he shouldn't have worried. "I have to admit there that I was a bit confused at Lex's estate. But by the time we were in the car, I had no trouble remembering what had happened. Thank goodness that you shielded me when they used that weird mind control thingy. I wonder what's going to happen to Suzette and Jordan? I doubt he thinks he's really Superman, but it's a shame that they don't remember making up in the end."

"Oh, I don't know if it will matter much. I saw the two of them leaving together and by the way they were eyeing each other, I'd say that the interest is still there," Clark replied, a smile still curving the edges of his mouth. He felt as if he had just flown around the Earth ten times fast. He was exhilarated. Lois remembered!

"Do you think they remember that they spent the night together?" Lois looked momentarily worried. "That would be a terrible thing to have forgotten."

"I would imagine that a memory like that would be too hard to erase forever. I think Superman should inform the police about a certain mind-altering device Luthor has at a certain seaside mansion. Then we could check on Suzette and Jordan after we finish filing this story for Perry, if you'd like."

"Maybe later. I have other ideas on how I'd like to spend my time," Lois said suggestively.

Clark blushed and then backed away from Lois. "I really have to take care of things with Luthor. Once I'm done with that I'll be back to pick you up." Then his expression sobered and he asked, "Are you certain you're all right, Lois?"

"Nothing some chocolate, a long nap and then some time alone with you wouldn't cure. Not necessarily in that order," she said impishly.

Clark leaned in and gave her what started out as a quick kiss but rapidly grew more heated. After several moments Lois pulled away and slapped playfully at his chest. "Go on, you smell like a forest fire."

He had never gotten a chance to change clothes after that building fire. Clark's nose crinkled and he said, "Sorry."

"Don't. It has been a long day."

"Why don't you get some sleep before we head into the office today? I'm sure Perry will understand," Clark suggested.

"There is no way that I'll be able to sleep until I get this story finished."

"We're talking about the attempt on Superman's life? And Luthor's use of a mind altering device?" Clark asked for clarification.

"What did you think I meant?" Her eyes grew wide. "You thought I was going to write about Superman's other life?"

Clark shook his head in denial, but he didn't say anything.

"Clark! Why would I do that? Then I'd have to share you. This way, you're all mine." Then she got an uncertain note to her voice. "Right?"

Clark moved in close again, his nose almost touching hers. He said softly, his voice deep, "That's one of the things I love about you. You always do know how to get right to the truth."

"I'm a damn good reporter," Lois agreed before she kissed him again.

***

Clark flew quickly to his apartment to retrieve his spare Superman outfit. Uneasy about losing track of it, he sped to the scene of the building fire and quickly recovered his abandoned suit. It had been damaged and had lain beneath a heap of ash and debris. If it weren't for part of his distinctive S crest and his x-ray vision, he wouldn't have found it. It was destroyed beyond repair. He used his heat vision to incinerate the red and blue cloth so that no one else would ever find it and use it against him. He had had enough of imposters for one week.

Once that was taken care of, Clark informed the police of Luthor's activities and, fearing that Luthor would manage to erase all evidence of his mind-altering device, he picked up a squad car and flew it and its occupants to the seaside mansion. Luthor was nowhere to be seen, but the psychologist who had created the device was still there and she had no problem telling them about what she had created. She was quite proud of her invention.

Unfortunately, it seemed that Luthor had used the device against her and she had no memory of Luthor or any of his employees ever having been involved. She seemed almost surprised when she was placed under arrest and Clark couldn't help but feel some pity for the poor woman.

She had become a victim of her very own device. Once he was certain that he had done everything possible for the police, Superman flew away from the scene. He spun into his street clothes and ducked into the Daily Planet to ask Jimmy to find out who owned the deed to the mansion. It didn't take him very long to determine that there was no evidence linking the billionaire to the attempt on Superman's life or reputation. One day Luthor would pay his due, but not today.

***

The minute Clark disappeared in an ear-popping dash, Lois started tearing off her clothes as she made her way to the bathroom. She didn't know how much time she would have since Clark moved at super speed. By the time the water had warmed, she had removed her jewelry, which had miraculously remained undamaged, and stepped into the shower.

She had intended to make it as fast as possible, but once she was immersed in the warm downpour all speed left her body. Lois threw her head back, closed her eyes and allowed the tension to flow with the water down the drain. It was only when the water began to cool that she realized she had dozed for a few minutes.

When Clark returned to Lois' apartment, he could hear the shower going. He put the spare key she had handed him into his pocket with great reverence. Things had changed between them and he knew how much it meant for Lois to have given him that key. He knew that she intended for him to let himself in when he returned, but it seemed somehow intrusive to do so when she was still in the shower.

Clark could hear her even breathing; she sounded almost asleep in there. It took all of his willpower to not peek in on her to make sure that she was all right. He was sorely tempted, but years of control and his innate sense of manners would not allow him to give in to such an impulse. However, self control would be a lot easier if there was something else to distract him, so he went to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

Despite a night of no sleep and recent kryptonite exposure, he was filled with energy he needed to burn. He could hear her turning off the shower. While she got dressed, he began to work on their story at super speed. He knew Lois was tired, and he didn't think he could sit next to her and concentrate enough to produce anything passable for the Planet. Better to have it done and let Lois make any changes she wanted.

The first thing Lois noticed as she left the bedroom was the aromatic smell of coffee. She tightened the belt on her robe, swept her damp hair away from her face and attempted to walk quietly into the living room. Clark was facing away from her, bent over a sheet of paper. He was writing so quickly that smoke curled from the pencil.

Lois suppressed a smile. She made her way on tiptoes toward Clark's back, intent on sneaking up on him. She saw the way his hand paused and she knew that he was aware of her presence, but he was good natured enough to pretend to be surprised when she placed a kiss on the back of his neck.

"Hmmm," he said, before turning his head to gaze at her.

They contemplated each other in silence for a minute before Clark looked away and cleared his throat. "I think I have the story just about wrapped up."

For once, Lois wasn't upset that Clark had taken the initiative. She loved him, so the normal hostility she reserved for those who failed to tread lightly around Mad Dog Lane no longer applied to him.

"Does that mean that we have time for … other things?" Lois asked, her voice as smooth as black silk.

Clark's throat closed up, and he could no longer hear the outside world. It was as if he were suddenly exposed to kryptonite without the pain. The only thing he seemed able to hear was the sudden thundering of his heart and the way his breath seemed to struggle out of his lungs. "Lois?" His voice came out just a bit too high for his comfort so he tried again. "Lois? I should probably let you get some sleep. You must be exhausted."

"I'm tired, Clark. Not dead," Lois deadpanned. She settled into his lap and began to play with the end of his tie.

"Shouldn't we… I mean… wouldn't it be better… if we maybe dated first?"

It took a moment for Lois to respond. She had been staring at the way the pulse beat in Clark's throat. She wanted to press her mouth against it to see if it would throb any faster. If it wasn't for the fact that Clark was Superman, she would worry that the poor man was about to have a heart attack. To know that his heart beat so quickly for her was a heady feeling. They were adults. They could handle this, but when she met his eyes, she felt herself soften. He was terribly old fashioned at times. It was all part of his charm.

"I love you, Clark. We can date first if you like, but it won't change the way I feel about you. I want you and I've never been very good at the whole patience thing," Lois said sincerely.

Clark's arms tightened convulsively around her body. "Can you say that again?"

"What? I'm not Mother Theresa. You know that. The only thing that happens too fast for me is my alarm ringing in the morning."

"No, the other thing."

"What? Oh. I love you, Clark."

"I love to hear you say that," Clark said reverently before he pulled her to him for a kiss.

Lois buried her fingers in his thick hair as their mouths moved against each other in a heated exchange. She reveled in the feel of him pressed against her body.

Clark pulled back to lean his forehead against hers. "I can't tell you how happy I am being here with you. I love you so much. I feel as if I've loved you forever."

"So does that mean you'll stay?" Lois asked suggestively.

"I'll do whatever you want."

"I like the sound of that," Lois said. "We've never heeded tradition before. I say we make love until we have to show our faces at the Planet and then go on a date later."

Clark smiled broadly and then disappeared in a blur.

"Clark?" Lois found herself sitting awkwardly on the couch Clark had just vacated. She rose unsteadily to her feet and looked around the place as if to find a clue as to where her partner had gone. Lois had just wandered toward the bedroom when someone knocked on her door.

Lois glanced through the peephole and stifled a giggle when she saw that Clark stood there with a dozen red roses. She opened the door and said, "I thought we were going to do the date later."

"I just thought I would give Perry our story. You know, to buy us some more time."

"Hmmmm," Lois said thoughtfully, as she took the roses and smelled them. "So what did he say?"

"He told us to take the next few days off. We have been through a harrowing experience."

"Terrible."

"I think we'd better go straight to bed."

Clark scooped Lois up and carried her into the bedroom. Neither of them noticed until much later that the roses had fallen on the floor, forgotten. Clark brought Lois replacements the very next day.

***

It seemed that their experience was so traumatic that they couldn't go back to work for three days. Perry thought the rest did them a world of good, because he had never seen either of them so relaxed or happy. He had his suspicions about those two, but he didn't complain as the stories they wrote were numerous and top notch.

After things had settled down, Lois and Clark did a little bit of research and found out that Jordan was still working as a Superman impersonator, but no longer had delusions about having superpowers, and that he was happily engaged to Suzette. They were a little fuzzy about the circumstances of their meeting, but chalked that up to too much drink.

Perry didn't have to wait too long for Lois and Clark to come to their senses and announce their engagement, and he was the first to congratulate them. He felt like a father to those two young love birds, and he was glad to see that Clark could finally share his secret with someone close to him. He didn't get to be Editor-in-Chief of a major Metropolitan newspaper without the ability to see past a pair of glasses! He also knew the value of discretion, and he hoped the other reporters wouldn't notice the frequency to which he sent his "star" reporting team to the site of a major crisis.

No one complained, and they won a Kerth award later that same year.

THE END