By Kermtzu <firstname.lastname@example.org >
Submitted: May 2007
Summary: It takes all of Superman's powers to keep pace with his fiery partner. How can Clark cope when Lois puts her energies into high gear?
Author's notes: Words in single quotation marks indicate a character's thoughts.
Words between asterisks indicate emphasis.
My thanks to the many talented people who contribute here, to those who maintain the site, and to the creators and writers of Lois & Clark. You make a whole world which all can enjoy. I hope you like my small contribution. My thanks to Larissa for her excellent suggestions and help.
Warning: Some physical violence.
"Clark, I still don't understand why you aren't coming to this energy demonstration with me!"
"I'd like to, Lois, but Dr. Klein said that attendees mustn't have any trace of metal on them or their clothing. I can't see a thing without my glasses and can't wear contacts. Dr. Klein said there was a danger of an arc attraction to metal, which would include the frame in my glasses." Clark didn't add that as Superman, he'd already promised to be at STAR Labs as an emergency backup, and he had no desire to switch back and forth as Clark and Superman to appear there as both men, arc attraction or not. With his luck, he'd be Clark if Superman were needed, or Superman if Lois wanted something from Clark.
"Oh, I know," grumbled Lois. "But it's a great story, and I need you for it! This generator has the potential for a near-unlimited energy source, but it's all scientific mumbo jumbo, and you're so much better at that. If there were corrupt corporate sharks ready to seize control of the new power source, or if the generator ran off Soylent Green, I'd be on it in a heartbeat. Exposing the naked underbelly of criminals — that's my job. I'm just not interested in writing about plasma and quirks and protons."
"That's what I mean! You seem to read the encyclopedia for fun, and know more than anyone who's not wearing a white lab coat about this stuff. You probably get Scientific American magazine, *no*, I'll bet you *write* for Scientific American in your spare time, not that we have much. Spare time, that is. You know a quark from a quirk, a proton from a futon, and are leaving me in the lurch on this story! I'm the action on this team. You're the description and touchy-feely part. Although touching and feeling are discouraged this time, I guess—"
Clark laughed at her babble. It was one of the million things that kept him, like a trapped electron, as close in orbit to Lois Lane as possible.
"Just take good notes, Lois. I've got the technical sidebar already started and will be more than happy to get your electrons excited in it."
Lois glanced at him, not sure whether he'd just made a pun, a pass at her, or both.
Clark just smiled, sipping at his coffee. Lois glanced at her watch; she had about ten minutes left before she had to leave for STAR Labs.
"Whatever. What will you be doing while I'm watching the mad scientists perform their diabolical demonstration?"
Clark hated lying to Lois, but for now, it was still necessary. He planned to stop the lying and tell her everything, and soon. Invulnerability or not, he knew that Lois would probably skin him and hang his hide on her apartment wall once she knew. Maybe he could wait for her volatile temper to bring about her arrest, yet again, and tell her while she was behind bars? No, she'd bend the bars apart faster than he could move, and then flay him with her bare hands.
He sighed, drawing a sharp look from Lois, who undoubtedly was uncertain why he was so anxious not to attend but seemed also unhappy at *not* attending.
"I'll just be moping along until I have the pleasure of your company once again, Lois."
She blinked, clearly not expecting that answer. Her quick smile, though, made it clear that it was the right thing to say.
"I guess so, Farmboy! Who else in this office could put up with your high maintenance but me? Good thing I have an excess of patience — it's fortunate for you that Perry saw my ability to handle you, and paired us up!"
Now it was Clark's turn to be stunned, before joining in her laughter. Patience, her? High maintenance, him? If Clark didn't know that Lois made her living with words, he'd suspect a sort of pronoun dyslexia.
"Thank Elvis for Perry, Lois. He's far better than I'd realized. I guess it isn't just his yodeling skills that made him editor of the Planet!"
Lois arrived late to the demonstration. She wasn't certain what constituted fashionably late for a scientific demonstration, but since scientists were always cleaning their test tubes or calibrating something, she doubted they'd start on time, anyhow.
She was checked into a chamber leading to the display area, with technicians examining her for traces of metal, checking her health and assisting her in donning a protective disposable suit and plastic booties over her cotton clothing and canvas shoes. Thanking them for their assistance, she moved forward to where she heard excited voices.
The laboratory setup for the display was impressive. Jimmy had already gotten shots for the paper earlier, but they failed to show the full scope of what was being attempted.
Drs. Kettering and Klein had, they said, created a device which was capable of stripping off electrons at an accelerated rate, with an immediate replacement from a fuel source. The new electrons were then pulled away as well, and the difference in electrical charge, coupled with the rapidity of the process, created a state of matter composed of plasma. This had to be done in the absence of metal, however, as the electron flow in metals could provide an attractant to the plasma, short circuiting the process.
Forcing her way toward the front, oblivious to the yelps of her colleagues as they gained new bruises, she spotted Superman standing next to Dr. Klein. Apparently they were discussing some feature of the plasma generator, an impressive round and clear plastic device roughly the size of a Volkswagen. Tubes, plastic lines and odd features were set up in a semicircle around the globe. She noticed Superman nodding as Dr. Klein talked excitedly, acting like a small boy at Christmas with a new train set. Either Superman understood particle physics or was an incredible actor. There was no sign of glaze over his eyes as Dr. Klein chattered away.
Gently clearing his throat, Superman broke into Dr. Klein's ramblings. Klein looked up, apparently noticing the massed reporters and businesspeople for the first time. Dr. Kettering also looked up as Dr. Klein became quiet. She had been making some final adjustments inside the globe, which she now sealed shut. The seam was flawless; Lois could not see it, even though she knew the exact spot at which the panel had been closed. She could see the lump of fuel inside. Amazingly, the fuel chosen had been simple clay. Lois admired this deft touch; such a common material had the potential for great energy production? Clever of STAR Labs, and sure to attract more interest than if it were blabbonium or something.
"Oh, hello everyone! I'm glad to see you all here. It's a pleasure to see so many of the media interested in scientific advancement!"
A woman wearing a suit that Lois figured cost as much as her monthly Jeep payment whispered to another businessperson to her right, apparently a cohort.
"Advancement of science, he says. Advancement of our stock options if this plasma generator does what we've been told is possible. We've put four hundred million dollars into research and development on this, and if it pans out, we'll make that back in the first quarter after operations begin and we undercut the oil companies!"
Lois thought of that. It *would* be a powerful resource. From her research and what Clark had said, plasma energy could come from ordinary materials, not radioactive ones, and had very little waste other than a slight ozone production. Clean, cheap, and a much-needed alternative to fossil fuels. 'Almost too good to be true,' thought Lois. She remembered the debacle of cold fusion some years earlier.
"Before we begin, I'd like to take any questions." Dr. Klein beamed.
Clark hid a grin as Lois jumped to the fore, all 110 pounds of her. How did she do that?
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet. Dr. Klein, does the large electrical current necessary for the super-cooled superconductor which keeps the generator hovering pose any potential for interference with the energy produced by the generator?"
Dr. Klein launched into an explanation of how the two energies, one directed inward and one directed outward, were routed in a method to keep them separate. Lois was paying only partial attention, however. She'd noticed Superman's eyebrows raise as she'd posed her question. What, did he think she was stupid? Her usual drive for the guts of a story had resulted in yet another late night research session. There was no way that Lois Lane was going to be less prepared for a story than any of her competitors, whether Clark Kent was there or not!
Other questions were alternately handled by Klein and Kettering, but there were few asked after hers. Lois noticed a few of the other reporters giving her a wary glance. Not her fault if she understood the topic better than they might. 'Research, people! Investigate!'
Dr. Kettering finished answering a question, explaining well without using jargon yet not talking down to her audience either, as technicians passed out plastic goggles for everyone present. Even Superman put on a pair, although it was likely this was for show and to make the others comfortable in wearing their protective eyewear. Lois was certain that the Man of Steel needed no such protection.
With a last check to ensure that no one was wearing jewelry, metallic buttons, metal-framed eyewear or other items which might distract the flow of plasma, the scientists began their operations for the demonstration. Lois and the others were slightly disappointed that rather than a series of toggle and lever manipulation, blinking lights, a Tesla coil display and similar fancy effects, Dr. Kettering merely flipped a switch.
Immediately, the plastic sphere began to slowly rotate. It lit up from within, a clear and clean light, while a faint purplish light began to coruscate along the globe. The sphere spun gradually faster, and the purplish color soon overwhelmed the light shining from within. Unencumbered by gravity, thanks to the levitation provided by the superconductor, the globe was soon spinning in place so quickly that it was nothing but a whirling mass of purple hue. Lois was reminded faintly of the red spot on Jupiter.
Dr. Kettering and Dr. Klein conferred briefly, and then Dr. Kettering spoke, louder than was really necessary, as the spinning generator was completely quiet.
"The generator is now at maximum speed, and the purple color you see is plasma being generated from the fuel inside the generator. We're now going to open the circuit to allow the energy to be diverted away from the core of the generator unit, along a line of Lucite, to the storage unit you saw on your way in. There it will be used to operate an electrical generator. From this kilogram of clay —"
'Just over 2 pounds,' thought Lois.
"— we expect to generate twenty-one thousand kilowatts of electricity, with only one cubic meter of ozone produced. The fume hood above the generator will collect this ozone, after which we can dispose of it safely. Dr. Klein, if you are ready—"
"Am I ever!" exclaimed the eccentric theoretical scientist. He flipped a second switch, and Lois had a brief pang of sympathy for the balding man. There were no other switches to flip on the panel; this toy was pretty much now assembled.
With the sound of a soft snap, the purplish hue could now be seen flowing, mist-like, to a nearby clear line which hadn't appeared all that important earlier, jumbled as it was amongst all the other coiled plastics and tubes. The elated scientists bent over a panel of instruments, speaking science unintelligible to anyone else. Lois noticed how closely Kettering & Klein stood to one another; it reminded her of herself and Clark, for some reason.
A clicking noise to Lois' left drew her attention away from the awesome display. Linda King, lately tossed unceremoniously from Hollywood and now grubbing for the Star, was clicking her pen absentmindedly as she watched the flow of the new energy source. Lois was ready to grab the annoying pen from her grasp when she noticed the ferrule. At the end of the pen was a metal clip.
Turning in alarm to the plasma generator, Lois was stunned to see the faint purple changing to a darker hue, and swirling almost angrily along the surface of the globe.
With no thought for her safety, Lois unceremoniously shoved Linda back and toward the end of the room.
She never saw the surging blast of energy which sped toward Linda, with only her body between the two.
Clark was dazzled by the shimmering light which illuminated objects in the room with a light violet glow. The beauty of the energy generation aside, this was history in the making, and he felt fortunate to be present to see it. A nearly unlimited source of energy, clean and able to be converted to electricity without appreciable amounts of greenhouse gases or particulate emission. Mankind had thus far been unable to harness solar power to its full potential, but what Drs. Klein and Kettering had here was a miniature sun, millions of miles from the original. This sun, however, could be manipulated and used fully. The implications were staggering.
He wondered idly, carrying the analogy of the sun further, if he could absorb any emitted energy from this power source. The yellow nature of Sol, the Earth's sun, gave him his incredible powers. He felt a pleasant sensation of warmth from the direction of the generator. Whether from his awe at its capability or actual power transferal, he was unable to determine. It felt nice, though.
He looked over to Lois, who was watching the display with fascination. She'd stunned him earlier with her grasp of the principles involved. After her grumping earlier about not really understanding the process and her pretended lack of scientific knowledge, she'd managed to surprise him once again. Clark considered deliberately putting in an incorrect fact for his sidebar on this display, then asking Lois to edit his copy. He looked forward to having her correct his error and his subsequent chance to then tease her about her supposed disinterest in technical matters!
He saw her look to her left with annoyance, and wondered what had interrupted her thoughts. With a jerk of her head, she stared back at the generator. Her startled look made him turn to it as well.
Its color had changed, darkened. The peaceful swirls were now an angry, dark violet. With horror, he watched as a tendril of pure energy flung itself outward from the globe, directly toward Lois.
With a speed borne of desperation, he moved more quickly than he ever had, and threw his body toward Lois, hoping to shield her from the burst of what was certain to be a discharge capable of killing her.
Time seemed to slow, oddly, as he moved more quickly than thought itself. He had time to notice that Lois herself was moving, shoving someone aside. He turned his head, seeing the bolt of energy racing evenly alongside his body, competing to reach Lois first. With a final surge of energy, he reached and surrounded Lois' body with his own, just in time to feel the blast discharge on his back. It tingled and actually hurt. He and Lois hit the floor, with him striking first and rolling to protect her from the fall. The tingling slowly faded along with his senses. His last clear image was Dr. Klein switching off the generator. With relief, he closed his eyes and allowed darkness to claim him.
Lois felt like a slice of bologna in a sandwich. She fell against Linda King as she herself was pushed from behind. The world rolled as she hit the floor, with the odd sensation of hitting something warm and yielding, rather than the hard, polished floor she'd expected. She noticed absently that the globe was no longer glowing, was indeed slowing its rotation, as she looked down to see what had cushioned her fall.
She was lying atop Superman. A position she'd often imagined, but not under these circumstances.
He was unconscious, not moving. She felt for and found his pulse. Unsure of what was normal for his pulse rate, it fortunately didn't seem much too fast or slow. His chest rose and fell, and placing her head close to his face, she could feel his breath. Uncertain of what other vital signs she could gain without instruments, she rose to examine him for signs of trauma.
His cape, what she could see of it from where it splayed outward from beneath his body, was smoldering and blackened. Jagged holes were everywhere, and not a hint of red color remained. His suit was undamaged, however, and she saw no livid marks or blood on his exposed skin. From the comments and conversations circulating in the room, she quickly gathered what had happened.
He had deliberately placed himself between the energy blast and her, just as she'd done for Linda. Had he not done so, she was certain that at this moment she would look like his cape. Hopefully, his aura had protected him from the unimaginable energies released in that discharge.
She turned to the startled people surrounding her and the fallen superhero. Scientist or businessman, reporter or technician, all were stunned at the sight of the world's only superhero fallen and unconscious. It wasn't the reaction of a rubbernecker, but instead, the fear of a child seeing an adult injured. Uncertain of how to help, or even if help were possible, they stood and held their breath, waiting for Superman to rise, to get up, for things to be right again.
More calmly than she would have imagined possible, she spoke to those near her.
"Call 911. Tell them it's Superman. We may need a Medivac unit. Dr. Klein, please come help me."
She was relieved to see the balding scientist rouse himself from his daze.
"Of course!" He turned to a technician. "Teresa, please bring my kit, the orange one, from my office. Second shelf, on the left," he said, bending down to examine Superman.
He jumped when Superman opened his eyes.
"I'm here, Superman. Hold still. Help is on the way."
"Lois. Are you okay? I was so sc—"
She hated to interrupt him, but he needed the help, not her. Always putting the welfare of others ahead of himself, Lois had expected him to ask about her safety.
"I'm fine. Really. You took the blast squarely in the back, from what I can see. Please lie still until paramedics and doctors can examine you."
He turned his head in both directions before either Dr. Klein or Lois could stop him. "No, I'm fine. I don't hurt at all save for a small sore spot on my back and a slight tingle. Let me get up." He reached up and pulled off the goggles.
Lois was incensed. "You are as stubborn as Clark, I swear. What is it about men? They can have an arm sawed away and would shrug it off, if the arm were still attached! Quit with the testosterone display and let us help you, for once!"
Superman chuckled inwardly at Lois as he continued to push himself up from his supine position. Leave it to her to chew out Superman as she would anyone else!
He had to get up, though. He could feel all his extremities, minimizing the possibility of spinal injury, and had no symptoms consistent with a concussion. He was sore, unusual as that was, as he'd told Dr. Klein and Lois, but Clark didn't feel comfortable lying still to be examined. In addition to the mantra drummed into him from his father about avoiding medical examination, he didn't think it wise to allow the criminal element to believe him vulnerable, susceptible to injury. The knowledge in the underworld about kryptonite was bad enough. He didn't need criminals working on plasma generator rifles or grenades as well.
"Well, if you're going to be pigheaded, I'll help you up, Superman," grumbled Lois. She put her tiny frame between his arm and shoulder, and lifted.
With a look of surprise on his face, mirrored by hers, he flew upwards and through the ceiling.
Lois looked up in astonishment. Had he lost control of his powers? Or had he just taken off in order to keep up that tough superhero image? This day was getting just plain weird. First Clark abandoned her with a flimsy excuse, ('his eyesight can't be *that* bad'), and now Superman takes off, again, after saving her life. She stamped her foot in frustration. Men!
She looked up, startled, to see Superman looking down at her through the new hole in the ceiling.
"What are you doing? Come back down here! The medics are on their way, and you really need to be checked out, Superman," demanded Lois.
Her comments were repeated by the others present, many of whom still were shocked at the rapid turn of events. They needed reassurance that he was okay.
"Um, being examined might be a good idea after all. Just stay there, and send the medics up to me, okay?"
Thus said, Clark started counting. He'd bet himself it would take Lois ten seconds to find a stairwell, four seconds to climb the stairs, and two to burst through the door.
It took her 13 seconds. Clark had underestimated Lois again, but did know her well enough to know that the one way to get her to him was to ask her to stay put.
"Okay, what's wrong, Superman?" Her eyes flashed, and he recognized he was on dangerous ground.
Clark swallowed nervously. "Um, Lois, do you feel okay?"
"I told you already. I. Am. Fine. You are the one that will be hurting if you don't quit this macho, 'I don't need anything, I'm Superman — excuse me, I have to go put the Moon back into orbit' stuff," glowered Lois.
"Sorry, Lois. It's just that…"
"What? What is it?"
"It's just that, when I got up off the floor, I didn't fly up here."
Lois looked puzzled. "Sure looked like it to me!"
He shook his head. "I didn't even try to fly."
"Then why are you playing wrecking crew with STAR Labs?"
"I didn't fly. I think you threw me!"
She couldn't help it. Her mouth dropped.
"I threw you? How hard did you hit your head on the ceiling? You really do need a medic. Stay there, and I'll grab one. No, I'll grab a dozen."
He reached for her. "Please, Lois, stay. If what I'm thinking is true, we need more than a medic."
He gestured toward a piece of metal framing which had been thrust upward by his body. "Lois, please hand that to me."
"I think it's still attached, but okay —"
She gulped as it not only came free as she pulled, but it flew upward to stick in the ceiling, quivering.
"I know just how that piece of metal feels. Lois, I think that blast of plasma energy has given you my powers! I'm still super, but I think you are too!"
She stared at him for a moment, unbelieving, then narrowed her eyes at him. And blinked. Twice.
"Hmm. I guess you're right. I've got some of them."
"How can you tell, just from looking at me?"
She looked guilty for a moment. "Well, I, um, looked. I guess the Suit does come off."
"Not my fault, Superman. This is new to me! I'm just trying you— I mean, I'm trying *things* out."
Clark put his arms across his chest, more self consciously than usual. "Lois, we have to get out of here and find out just what you've gained and whether it's temporary. I grew into my powers, but if you've got them all at once, you'll need training."
She leaned forward, arms akimbo. "What makes you think I can't just handle them myself, buster?" she glared.
He looked down at the sizzling spot on his chest, where her angry eyes were burning a hole in his Suit.
She squeaked, "Sorry!"
"QED, Lois. Let's get out of here and figure out what we're going to do." He moved back to the hole in the floor and looked down.
"I'm fine, everyone. Ms. Lane has convinced me, however, to be examined." He heard a few laughs at that. Lois Lane had the reputation for forcing just about anything upon anyone.
"I'm heading out now with Ms. Lane. I'll check back with you later, Dr. Kettering, Dr. Klein." The two scientists waved upward at him. They didn't look too happy, although the accident clearly wasn't the fault of their equipment or application.
Approaching Lois once again, he asked, "Well, shall we go?"
She frowned at him. "I thought Superman didn't lie! You told them you were going to see a doctor."
"Lois, for a journalist, you're quoting me inaccurately. I said I would be examined. Apparently, you've been doing just that — I didn't say anything about a doctor."
Lois blushed. She now apparently had superpowers equal to Superman's, but felt like she had all those months ago when she'd first met Superman, tongue tied and breathless. She'd seen him in a new way. Literally.
"I'm ready, yes. Sorry about that. Guess I'll just have to get some lead glasses or something until I can control that, y'know."
He gestured toward the window. "Shall we?" She started to place her hands around his neck, then stopped.
"Hey, if I've got your powers, I can fly myself!" she exclaimed excitedly.
"Lois, it took me months to figure out how to control my flight, speed and dir—" he trailed off.
A Lois-colored flash of light had zipped out the window.
He found her floating in the Pacific Ocean. Several trips around the world had narrowed down where she wasn't, so he'd simply listened for her heartbeat to find where she *was*.
Hovering above her was an effort, and not a physical one. Her light cotton clothing, necessary for attendance at the demonstration, was clinging to her and fairly transparent, no x-ray vision necessary, and he felt slightly smug at returning the favor of her surreptitious look earlier.
"Lois, may I ask what you're doing?"
"Oh, you know me. Just needed some relaxation, so here I am taking a swim. La la la!" She splashed water lightly up at him as she sang.
"Uh huh. You usually relax in a hot bath, Lois."
"And you would know that how, exactly, Mr. 'I would never use my x-ray vision to spy on Lois'?"
"I don't spy! You just told Clark that you take a hot bath to relax."
"So you and Clark talk about me and hot baths, do you? Maybe I'd better get my lead glasses ready before I see that pervert of a partner again!" she protested. Although she *had* seen Clark before, wrapped only in a towel. She knew the towel came off, but it wouldn't hurt to practice her vision gizmo. You never knew when it could come in handy to stop a criminal from doing— criminal things.
Clark sighed. Seeing Lois floating, soaking wet, while talking about hot bubble baths, wasn't doing anything to keep him feeling like his usual standoffish self. Perhaps he could take a quick swim in the Arctic while Lois swam here? No, Lois needed him. He could never leave her in need.
"So what did happen, Lois?"
She put on a little girl face, and said almost in singsong, "Well, I was flying, much better than you obviously started out, and it was wonderful! I went whipping around the world, faster and faster, seeing just how fast I could go, and then—"
"Then?" he asked gently.
She pouted. "Then I couldn't stop." She looked up at him, ready for chastising, but he wore his usual friendly face. "I couldn't stop, and I was mad, and scared, and I thought if I did stop all of a sudden, I'd be like that coyote that always falls once he goes over a cliff and looks down, I don't know why he does that, 'cause everyone knows that you don't fall until you look down, but I knew I'd have to look down sooner or later to see where I was, so I just looked down and sort of crash landed here. And then you showed up to laugh at me."
Clark had been ready to laugh at her, but the combination of her pout and honesty prevented it. Just barely.
"Don't worry, Lois. It took me 18 years to fly, and you had it down in seconds. C'mon up here, and we'll head back to Metropolis."
With a look of concentration, she floated gently upward and took his hand. "I would like to go home. I thought this was already a weird day, but it's only gotten weirder."
Her eyes flew open wide.
"Clark! I need to tell Clark! Omigosh, Clark will know exactly what to do. He's good at that, you know. Nothing against you, Superman — if I ever need a train stopped, or a volcano plugged, you're my first choice, but Clark knows how to fix things. He puts up with me, my moods; he's my best friend. If anyone can handle this, he can. If I need something, I go to Clark: he keeps me grounded." She looked briefly down, glad not to do a coyote fall back into the Pacific Ocean.
She practically wailed, "Superman, I need Clark!"
Clark stared at this remarkable woman. Was he hearing properly? Lois had all his superpowers, was floating under her own power over a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean and was holding the hand of the man she'd called a Greek god. And she needed Clark? Maybe it was finally time.
"Lois, fly with me. I know a small atoll about two hundred miles from here. It's beautiful, deserted and a good spot to talk."
"I need Clark, though, Superman. I mean, you're a friend and all, but for this, I really, really need Clark. That is, if you can find him. He might be returning his overdue cheese of the month club shipment to his dentist at the library."
Clark winced. It was definitely time.
"C'mon, Lois. I'll get Clark for you."
They flew to the atoll, hand in hand. The two hundred miles took but seconds to reach, and that was only because Clark wanted both for Lois to enjoy the view and for him to prolong his revelation as long as possible.
Landing on the white sand, Lois walked over to a shady spot beneath a palm tree. Looking down at her wet clothes, she concentrated gently and Clark was startled to see wisps of steam coming off as she dried them with a burst of heat vision. It was incredible how quickly she adapted to the powers. Sure, she had seen him use his abilities many times, but the ease with which she put them to use was pure Lois in nature. If she had arrived from Krypton instead of him, Clark had no doubt that Metropolis would be now crime-free and all nations would live as one. Her non-powered glare had scared away hardened criminals; what could this woman now do with her innate abilities coupled with his powers?
She made a vague waving gesture with her hand. "Okay, Superman. Since you know how to get back to Metropolis from here, would you please go get Clark? If he's not at the Planet or his apartment, just look for the brightest flash of color you can see, which will be his tie, and you've found him."
This was it. This was the time.
"My ties? What's wrong with my ties?" he asked, and with that he spun into a whirl of colors. His heart, though, spun upwards into his throat.
Lois stared in amazement. What was Superman doing? He was undoing his burnt cape, held in place with Velcro. Turning as he did so, he shrugged off the Suit after removing his boots, hopping around on one foot as he pulled each off. She'd learned earlier that the Suit came off, but to have him perform a strip tease to show her was *off* the Superman-fantasy scale and *into* the realm of the bizarre. As he slowly continued to turn, he stepped out of the suit and was wearing only a pair of black boxers. He put the boots, Suit and cape aside, somewhere — they just seemed to vanish — and just as mysteriously had in his hands a pair of blue jeans, T-shirt, socks and a pair of tennis shoes. He continued to turn in that odd, slow manner, as he put on first his socks, then T-shirt and pants, followed by the tennis shoes. He stopped his circular motion and looked at her, expectantly.
She was staring at him. Just staring. She wasn't yelling, throwing things, running or flying away. Where were the accusations? The anger? Nothing!
He looked at himself. Yes, he was dressed. He looked at her again. Nothing.
"I thought you were going to get Clark, not do a strip tease. Don't get me wrong, I like the black boxers, but if you wanted more comfortable clothes, couldn't you have just put some on in Metropolis when you got Clark?"
Clark closed his eyes. Maybe that trip through the ceiling had scrambled his brains, after all.
"Strip tease, Lois? I'm— I'm— I *am* Clark," he mumbled.
She snorted. "I never thought I'd see the day that you'd be jealous of Clark. Sorry if I hurt your feelings, Superman, but doing a slow spin dance and changing clothes isn't going to distract me. Much. I just need Clark here. If you don't know where to find him, I can understand. He's always running off; just say so, though, if you don't know where to look. You don't need to keep me occupied."
She was still calling him Superman? And what was this about a strip tease? He definitely had wonked his head harder than he'd thought.
"Lois, it's me. Clark. We definitely need to talk!"
Lois closed her eyes tightly. Superman was acting oddly. Almost as oddly as Clark could at times, especially when he ran off. Stripping on the beach, something she'd never even imagined in her steamiest of dreams, and now Superman was insisting he was Clark. Wait! What if he *had* been hurt after all? Maybe STAR Labs had used red Kryptonite instead of asbestos as insulation in the ceilings! Superman could be completely confused, and here she was clamoring for Clark. If only he were here! He'd manage to figure out how to help Superman, keep her powers in check, and probably build a raft out of coconuts while he was at it, using only the migration of geckos to get them back to civilization.
She cracked an eye open at Superman. He was still standing and looking at her, complete confusion on his face. The poor man. He needed her help. She rose quickly. Really quickly, she noticed.
"Here, Superman, why don't you sit down for a while. I think you're getting tuckered out. It's already been a full day for you, I'm sure. Rescuing me from being flash fried, getting zapped with a bajillion volts of purple power and then flying around the world to find me, and here I am asking you to zip back to Metropolis and bring back a care package in the form of Clark Kent. Just sit down. A little time for both of us to relax will help."
He didn't budge. "Lois, I'm Clark! Didn't you see me spin from Superman to Clark?"
"I saw you turn around like you were doing the Hokey Pokey, Superman, and change clothes. Just wondering, though — where did the cape and boots go, and where did you get the other clothes?"
"You saw me? Saw me change? How? I was moving at superspeed! How would you— Oh. Of course. I guess you *would* see me at normal speed if you now have my powers." He covered his eyes with a hand. "I am going to die of embarrassment."
"Don't you worry about it, okay? Just sit down. Relax. Trying to reason with you is keeping *me* from relaxing!"
He sighed again. "I don't know what I can do to convince you, Lois. I'm Clark, but you still see me as Superman."
"Of course I do, silly. You don't wear glasses."
"Oh, these?" He reached into his pants pocket and put them on. He looked up.
And stared into the eyes of whatever stage Lois hit beyond Mad Dog Lane.
"You rat!" she said as she poked him in the chest.
"You fink!" Another poke.
"Ow! Lois, that hurts!"
"You're lucky I don't rip out your spleen, you no-good, lying pond scum! You and your alter ego have been playing tag team against me ever since I've known you, and I don't like it!"
"Lois, I can explain, if you'll just let me!" exclaimed Clark.
"Don't bother, Farmboy! Just run, run for your life!" She floated up and grabbed a couple of coconuts.
"Lois, what are you doing?" he asked, ducking a second later as a coconut went whizzing past his head.
"Hold still, so I can clobber you!" she hollered, throwing the other coconut before turning to grab more.
Bonk! Clark figured that discretion was the better part of valor. He ran.
"Fink! Jerk! Come back here! If you thought you got hit on the head this morning, just wait until I'm done with you!"
They were flying back to Metropolis the next morning. Lois stubbornly refused to hold his hand.
"Lois? I'm sorry."
"I'm really, really sorry."
"How much more groveling do you need?"
"You're not even close, yet, Kent."
"I'll bring you croissants from France for breakfast."
"You already do. Try again."
"I'll do your laundry?"
"That's better. Getting closer."
"Um, scrub your grout?"
"Of course you will. And go clothes shopping with me, get any background information I need at work for a story — I figure, why waste Jimmy when *you* can do it faster — take me out to that new movie, 'Battlefield of the Heart'—"
"Lois, that is the chick flick of all chick flicks!"
She smiled, "Of course it is, Clark, at least until the next one comes out. You'll be taking me to that one, too."
Clark groaned. Was Metropolis even close yet?
The write-up for the plasma generator fiasco had been in the morning's edition of the Planet, and Perry hadn't been happy to have his star reporter, who had been on the scene, not send him a story. He mellowed, though, when Lois promised him the story on Superman's heroic actions, along with the details of the accident for a follow-up. Things had been so hectic at STAR Labs, few people realized that the generator *did* work exactly as planned, and the accident had been avoidable. Clark gently suggested removing Linda King's name and associated adjectives from Lois' story, over her protestations. He almost wanted to leave them in, so Lois could vent at someone other than him.
Lois found to her surprise that typing at superspeed allowed her to finish in seconds. 'This might not be so bad after all' she thought happily. No more worrying about Perry's doom and gloom deadlines! Snooping made easier by x-ray vision, and death threats seemed inconsequential now. Plus she could understand Clark's sudden exits and follow him if necessary for the inevitable story that required Superman's presence. Time to add another shelf for the next batch of Kerth Awards, and a special spot for the Pulitzers.
The next few days saw Lois and Clark working on Lois' new powers. She had all of his powers at full strength and to their mutual surprise, was much faster than he. There was no difference in strength, as they found out after arm wrestling. Their only difference apart from her speed was his stamina. Lois tended to expend all her energy in a burst, while he was more slow and steady. He wisely refrained from any comments on this.
They made several trips to Smallville, to the only experts aside from Clark on dealing with superpowers. Martha and Jonathan were delighted at the development, and even happier that Lois now was part of the family secret. Lois pointedly stared at Clark when the topic came up, but he noticed the slight smile she couldn't quite hide. He hoped she'd soon tire of his groveling; he suspected she purposely dirtied clothes just to make him do extra loads of laundry.
As she had with everything else following her acquisition of superpowers, Lois adapted to her investigative work quickly. She and Clark could now gain information, track stories and bad guys, and Clark was relieved that while Lois might still dangle above the jaws of death, those jaws would now be sore if they ever tried to chew on her.
Four large pizza boxes lay strewn about Clark's apartment, while a buddy cop movie played. Explosions and gunshots in equal measure filled in what was otherwise a pretty threadbare plot. Lois grabbed another slice of pizza, sighing comfortably at her new invulnerability. 'Mr. Hardbody, meet Lois Lane.'
He hesitated. "Have you thought about, you know, wearing a costume?"
She raised her eyebrows. "You want to see me in spandex?"
"Yes! I mean no, not for that reason. Well, yes I would, but I'm being serious here."
"I know, silly, just teasing. What do you think? I've felt useful wearing dark clothing and helping you on disasters, but you seem to have crime and the other things under control. I'm not sure yet whether I can see myself flying around in a costume and cape. Maybe just a costume."
"No, you'd have to have a cape. Mom will insist."
"Oh, I don't know, Clark. I don't think I could do it! You're all good and noble and you rescue kittens from trees and I'm just a grouchy investigative reporter. I can't see myself even comparing to what you do, how people see you! You're a hero!"
"Lois, you're not *just* anything, least of all a reporter. How many criminals have you put in jail because of your hard work? How much corruption have you exposed, how many people have you helped by your stories? You're loyal to your friends, witty, have terrific instincts, don't put up with nonsense and are the smartest person I know. Not to mention beautiful."
"You're not getting out of doing my laundry that easily, Clark!"
He chuckled with her. "Seriously, Lois? I have no doubt that whatever you do with your powers, you will be the best, just as you were before any of this happened. You'll never be anything less than the best investigative reporter in the city, and the best friend I've ever had. Neither of those take superpowers, they just take being you. Being Lois Lane."
Lois threw herself into his arms for a hug. How could this man dispel doubts and fears with words? No, it wasn't just words. It was his steady, comforting presence and friendship. It was his constant support and encouragement. She'd known, even before she knew *all* about him, that he would always be there for her. If she fell, Clark would catch her.
Now she just knew that sometimes, he'd caught her from fifty stories up.
"Maybe I will talk to Martha about a costume. I'll have to think about it."
"Take your time, Lois. Between the team of Lane & Kent and Superman, we've got things covered for now. Superwoman would be the icing on the cake."
Following an anonymous call promising a hot tip, Clark left Lois at the Planet to visit an abandoned tenement building. He scanned the building and saw a man sitting calmly on a chair with a small carrying case at his feet. He walked inside.
"Ah, Kal-El! So good to see you!"
Clark stopped in surprise. "I'm not sure what you mean, sir."
"Polite to a fault, Superman, as always. You know, for being so predictable, I've had an incredibly difficult time destroying you. I've decided to quit the grandiose but fun plans and just get it over with."
Clark was unsure what the man meant, but it was obvious he knew, or suspected, that he was Superman.
"If I can —"
"Oh, stuff a sock in it, Superboring. Here, enjoy!" He reached into the bag and held a glowing green crystal. "I'll bet you're not feeling so super now!"
As Clark sagged to his knees, the man pulled him upward. "Oh, how I've longed to do this!" he sneered, as he pulled back a fist and hit Clark, knocking him down. He leaned over and pulled Clark up again, only to strike him a second time. "Ah, I'm having the time of my life! Once you're dead, then I can take of the incredibly annoying and galactically stupid Lois Lane!"
At the Planet, Lois had been feeling at unease for the past several minutes. Clark was out to meet an anonymous source, there were no major disasters and she'd just had her second chocolate donut. Things were good, so why was she anxious?
At that moment she thought she heard Clark cry out in pain.
Clark? In pain? Only Kryptonite could have that effect on him. She had to find and help him!
Jumping up from her desk, she forced herself to stop and listen. If she *had* heard Clark cry out in pain, she had to listen and try to locate him rather than just rushing out. Sensing Jimmy approaching, she held up her hand in a signal for quiet as she closed her eyes and listened for Clark.
She heard him again, as if he'd been struck and knocked down. The sound came from the south, and the man hurting Clark was obliging enough to keep talking after hitting him. Running to the stairwell, she headed for the roof, toward the man who dared hurt her Clark.
Clark fell to the dirty floor of the old apartment. Whoever this man was, he knew his secret, about kryptonite, and appeared willing to simply beat him to death. Unable to use even normal human strength, Clark was completely unable to resist. His thoughts turned to Lois. Would he ever see her again?
Laughing, his assailant slapped his face. "How's it feel, Superdud? You can't do a thing to stop me. Why I didn't do this a long *time* ago, I'll never know!" He seemed to find this incredibly funny.
Kicking Clark in the ribs, he smiled down. "I forget, Clark-El, we haven't met yet, at least, not so you remember. I'm Tempus. I'm from the future. And I'm going to kill you right before I kill Lois Lane."
"Don't you dare—"
"What? Touch her? Scare her? Stick my tongue out at her? I can do whatever I want, since you'll be long past caring when I meet up with dear, dear Lois. Ah, how I wish she were here to see this!"
The wall behind him burst open, and Lois stepped through. "Hello, Tempus. I hear you want to see me."
Tempus stared in amazement, but to his credit, recovered quickly. "Lois Lane. For once, you show up when you're wanted. How original of you! And it appears you've been keeping a secret as well. When did this all happen? It's the first I've heard of Superwoman!"
Lois gritted her teeth. "I hate that name."
Tempus barked out a laugh. Then I'll just make certain it's the last word you ever hear! I didn't expect you to show up with all the bells and whistles, but take a look at the little present I brought you and Superpunching Bagman. Don't get too close to Superman, now, or you'll just feel awful like poor little Clarkie."
Lois looked at where Clark lay on the floor. Her eyes blazed as she moved toward Tempus.
"Uh uh! I don't think sickly green is your color, Lois! Might want to stay back!"
"Moron! I'm not from Krypton. I'm from Earth, and you just hurt the man I love."
With a look that would send anyone who knew Lois Lane fleeing, she glared at Tempus.
And knocked him through the wall.
She grabbed the Kryptonite and flew several miles into space. Grinding it to dust with her hand, she then used her heat vision to vaporize the powder into nothingness. Within seconds, she was back in the abandoned apartment and tending to Clark. Fortunately, he was already awake and looking better than when she'd arrived. Kneeling beside him, she gently stroked his hair.
A sudden glimmer of light attracted her attention, and three strangely-dressed women and one man appeared out of a portal.
"Ms. Lane? We're from the future, and—"
"I don't care where you're from. Leave me alone while I take care of Clark."
"But, Ms. Lane, you and Clark, and Tempus, of course, are why we're here!"
She turned as Clark sat up. As one, they asked, "What?"
The youngest of the three women introduced herself as Lora, and explained the future: Lois and Clark's descendants, the founding of Utopia and the threat of Tempus to the perfect society. Tempus didn't appear too threatening, though, as he was brought from the next room over, coughing and covered in drywall dust. He cringed when Lois looked him in the eye. The man and the other women took Tempus with them through the apparent time portal as Lois and Clark heard the last of the story of their future.
"And that leaves us where we are now," finished Lora. "Tempus has been captured and will be comfortably kept within the peaceful future he so despises, and we must finish putting things right."
Clark looked at Lois, and back again. "Tempus is captured, so what's still wrong?"
"Ms. Lane's powers, of course! There is no history of Lois Lane having powers similar to Superman's. Fortunately, we have figured out how to remove them safely, and thus allow the future to unspool as it should."
Lois stood up and held out a palm. "Hold it, sister! You've been telling us that Clark and I are going to get married and have children. That's for *us* to decide, and not for you to tell us." She looked at Clark. "Right, partner?"
"And what makes you think that I can let some future girl tell me how to live my life? Do your history books have anything in them about me other than my name?"
The young woman flinched. "The history books are testament to your strong, um, will, Ms. Lane. Without you, there would have been no Superman, there will be no Utopia. We need you, just as you are, or as you were, before."
"Nope. Not going to happen."
"What!" exclaimed Lora, her eyes opening wide.
"Nobody tells us whether to marry or not, and *nobody* tells me what to do. I like these powers, and I'm keeping them."
Lora squirmed in a near panic. "But the future! Utopia!"
Lois crossed her arms across her chest.
"You're still here, aren't you?"
Lora was now surprised. Lois Lane was putting her through a crash course in emotional fluctuation. None of the histories were even close to describing how strong-willed this woman was. "Yes, why?"
"Well, if you're still here, then so is Utopia. If there's no Utopia, you can't come here and try and tell us what to do. Use your head, Lora. Clark and I will get married if we want —"
"Hey, Lois, want to get married?"
"Shut up, Clark. We will get married *if* and *when* we decide, and have kids *if* we choose—"
"I like kids, Lois!"
"Shut up, Clark. Now toddle off back to the future, Lora, and leave us be."
The young woman nervously pulled a small device from her clothing and, looking at it, raised her eyebrows in astonishment.
"Utopia! It's still there!"
Lois didn't even try to hide her smugness. "You'll just have to add a chapter in your history books, Lora. Just don't write down that I was *ever* called Superwoman."
Lora bowed nervously, if happily. "It was a pleasure to meet you both, Mr. Kent, Ms. Lane."
"Whatever. When you see Tempus, tell him I've got something for him if he ever bothers us again."
"What would that be, Ms. Lane?"
Lois held up a fist. "A knuckle sandwich."
Soon afterward, Metropolis was treated, as it had been for the past several weeks, to the sound of twin sonic booms.
And a faint cry, barely audible. "Aw, c'mon, Lois! That'll be the third chick flick this month!"
If folks like this, I'm thinking of continuing in this "universe". I want Lois to stay super, and of course, Clark will need revenge on her for his mistreatment at her hands. We all know she doesn't like "chick flicks", she's just making him squirm!