The I's Have It

By Sarah C. <gondorian_steel_lily@yahoo.com>

Rating: PG

Submitted: May 2008

Summary: Taken by surprise, Superman blurts out something he hadn't meant to say -- only to realize that some pronouns are very revealing. A rewrite of the Season Two episode "The Eyes Have It."

Author's Note: This story is a "backward" one in that it started because I wanted to "fix" one thing that I never liked in the original episode of "The Eyes Have It," which was when Mayson confronts Clark about standing her up, and Clark is left with nothing to say, especially when Lois asks him where he was all weekend. For some reason, that scene always bothered me, and that germ of an idea grew into this fic. I use several lines of dialogue from the original script, which you'll probably recognize, and obviously do not belong to me.

***

~Part 1~

Thinking about it afterward, Clark was never sure exactly what made him say what he did, what made him decide to tell Lois the way he had. Not that deciding anything had been a part of it, though. He hadn't consciously decided anything; he'd only reacted.

It started, fittingly enough, with Lois beginning to go off on one of her rants.

"Yeah, Superman, I'm okay," Lois had reassured him as she locked the door behind the men who had blinded him, and then corrected herself. "No, I'm not. I'm mad! I'm furious!"

Clark blinked, confused, and turned around, trying to follow the sound of her voice.

"It's always the same thing. *Where* is Clark Kent when anybody needs him?"

The sound of his name was jarring and he frowned as he tried desperately to think up some excuse for where he was. "Lois, I'm sure he--"

But he'd never been so glad of being interrupted in his life, as he had no idea what he'd been about to say as Lois continued heatedly.

"You know, he's *supposed* to be your friend, but is he here for you? Is he here for me?"

"You know, I'm sure there's a perfectly rational explanation," Clark tried again, rather lamely. A rational explanation, well, yes, there was, if moonlighting as a superhero was rational... But that wasn't exactly an explanation he could tell her.

But Lois, being Lois, naturally didn't stop. "No! His best friends could really use his help right now and where is he?"

"If he could be here--" he began again while some tiny part of his mind reflected that this whole secret identity thing was getting more complicated by the second -- the millisecond. Could the situation get any worse?

And then, on that thought, it did.

Lois finished her rant on a triumphant note, satisfied of having made her case that Clark was being an irresponsible friend. "He's in the mountains with Mayson Drake!"

*What?*

A split second's thought was enough for him to realize that spending the weekend with Mayson must have been what he'd hastily agreed to earlier, never mind that he hadn't actually heard what Mayson had been asking in his preoccupation with listening to Lois's phone conversation. Idiot! He should know better than to agree to something when he had no idea what it was, but in that moment of needing to get away, agreeing had seemed like the easiest option, besides which he just had it ingrained in him to be courteous to women, and when in doubt, he figured agreeing was the safest policy. More fool him.

And that was when it happened.

Part of it was simply the utter shock he felt; part of it was that the frustration over having to keep lying and having his secret identity keep interfering with what he wanted had been building up inside him for weeks, even months now, and that moment, on top of the stress of not being able to see, made him snap. Part of it was pure impulse and a desperate need to tell Lois the truth about how he felt and assure her that Mayson was not, nor would she ever be, a serious rival.

It was many things, in retrospect, but he didn't think of that at that moment.

He just temporarily lost his mind. Or something.

Surprise and dismay momentarily stunned him and then he found himself blurting out, "Lois, the only woman I'm going to be spending the weekend with is you!"

His words fell heavily into the sudden silence as he wondered rather sickly just when his mouth had stopped obeying the commands of his brain and then wished with an urgency he'd never felt before, not even when Lois had said that the so-called Dr. Banerjee and his assistant were really the men who'd blinded him, that he could had his sight just so he could see the expression on her face. At least he'd have some warning of how big of trouble he was in.

But there was no miraculous return of his sight thanks to the intervention of some merciful fate or sight god, and he could only wait.

Lois blinked and stared, for a moment too shocked to react or fully process what Superman had just said.

*The only woman I'm going to be spending the weekend with is you...*

*I'm?!*

The switch in pronouns was mind-boggling -- and the implications were earth-shattering.

But it wasn't the words that stunned her; she might have shrugged them off as being a slip of the tongue, a mistake -- if it hadn't been for the look on his face.

The look of a secret blurted out and revealed by accident.

*Oh my God...*

They'd been talking about Clark -- and Superman had said, "I."

It was ironic, almost funny, that such a small word, the smallest word, could have such a huge impact.

*I.*

Superman... was Clark...

She stared at him as he stood there, his expression a combination of nervousness and a somewhat lost look because he wasn't sure where she was.

That look! Not so much the confusion but the nervousness, the uncertainty -- she recognized that look.

And it was so odd to see it on Superman's face; he had always radiated calm confidence -- until now.

And the very strangeness made it somehow easier to see, to recognize, what she never had before.

The face -- Superman's face -- the voice -- Superman's voice -- they were Clark's!

Clark's face -- without the glasses and different hairstyle -- Clark's voice, which she should have recognized sooner...

Lois's head spun with the realization, the recognition, and she could only gasp. "Clark?"

Just the one word -- his name -- in a question, as if fervently wanting to be proven wrong.

But he let out a brief sigh and almost visibly braced himself as he spoke the words that would turn her world upside-down: "Yes, Lois, it's me."

*Oh God!*

It wasn't often that Lois Lane was stunned into complete silence, but then again, it wasn't often that she found out that her generally unassuming partner was also the superhero she'd been more than half-in-love with for more than a year now.

Superman was Clark!

*Clark* was Superman!

He had lied to her! He'd been lying to her for months! Why, that...

"Clark... I... you..." And then all her confused thoughts and burgeoning anger coalesced into one blunt statement that simply spilled from her mouth in horror, completely wiping away any last vestige of anger. "You're blind!"

She winced at the starkness of her exclamation but he didn't react other than to sigh a little and carefully make his way over to the couch and lower himself into a sitting position. The slowness of his movements made her wince again and confirmed that she couldn't be angry at him for not having told her the truth before, not now when he was in front of her and unable to see. He was so vulnerable.

"You're not-- you're not mad at me?" he asked rather nervously although his vacant gaze was fixed somewhere on the wall about a foot to the right of where she was standing.

Lois winced at this clear evidence of Su--*Clark's* disability, swamped with a fresh surge of worry.

"No!" Lois hastily exclaimed but then corrected herself. "Okay, yes, I am, a little, but that doesn't matter. We'll talk about it later when I can really kick you into next week," she added, trying and succeeding in making him smile briefly, before finishing, "Right now, it's not important."

She sat down next to him, reflecting that it was amazing how much more concerned she was about him now that she knew he was Clark and not just Superman. She reached up a tentative hand to touch his face and he sucked in his breath but didn't move as her fingers lightly brushed over his mouth and his cheek and up to brush his forehead where that lock of his hair usually rested when he was Clark.

"Clark, how are you going to live now? What are you going to do?" Her voice had softened from her usual tone, revealing all the compassion and the worry she felt.

"I'm not sure, Lois. I-- I'm sure that this is only temporary," he answered, and she had to suppress a gasp at the difference in his tone, his voice, now that he wasn't acting like Superman -- now that he was being himself. It was amazing how different he sounded as Clark than as Superman, and the realization made her feel better about not having realized it before. He was, she thought, very, very good at pretending, and very careful about preserving the Superman fašade.

But his tone wavered slightly, belying the confidence of his words, before he continued, speaking more slowly, thoughtfully, "But if this does turn out to be permanent, then I'll just have to learn to deal with it, like other people have. We all have to play the card we're dealt. I'll just have to figure out how to be the best blind man I can be, because I really do believe..."

He trailed off, a look that was half-self-conscious crossing his face briefly. "Believe what, Clark?" she asked, fascinated at the honesty of his words. He did really mean them; she knew that, besides the fact that Clark was a fundamentally honest, sincere person. Even if he had been concealing a very big secret for so long and she wasn't sure exactly how she felt about that fact, but somehow, she realized, she still trusted him. She had to.

And she wanted to know him, the real Clark who was also Superman.

"I really do believe," he went on softly, "that we're put on Earth -- or whatever planet we're put on," he added and she knew another odd moment of disorientation and surprise at the realization that *Clark* was really from Krypton, even as he went on, "to do better than we think we can, to be kind and helpful and generous and forgiving..."

*Like you.* The thought darted into Lois's mind and settled there, and she realized it really was true, what she'd told him a few weeks ago when they'd come up against Johnny Corbin. It was Superman's ethics, his integrity and his compassion that she loved, and Clark had all those same qualities, those same values. Superman was who he was because he was Clark; it wasn't the powers that made Superman so amazing, it was the man inside the suit. It was *Clark* who made Superman so amazing. Anyone else could have had the same powers and it wouldn't make them "Superman," as that whole episode with Resplendent Man had proved. Clark made Superman, well, super.

Even more so because, judging from what she now knew about how hard Clark tried to preserve his secret, he honestly did not want the fame or public recognition or adulation that came with being Superman. It was obvious now that she thought about it. Clark was no doormat, but he was no attention-seeker, either, and he had no problems with giving credit where it was due. Was it any wonder he was so careful to preserve his anonymity as Superman? The moment he lost it, he would lose any semblance of a normal life, would immediately be besieged by fans and by requests for help, and his friends and loved ones would automatically be targeted by anyone who wanted hold over him. And he valued his normal life.

Normal... And she suddenly realized yet another ramification of his blindness. How were they going to explain both Clark and Superman becoming blind at the same time? It wasn't going to be possible to hide it for long; Clark had to work and Superman, well, he needed to help. She knew that Clark could not simply stop being Superman, no matter how difficult it might now be, but he would still need to use his powers whenever people needed help that only he could provide.

She put her hand on his arm, filled with a renewed determination and a surge of an emotion which she could only label as tenderness. "We'll find some way of restoring your sight, Clark. I'm sure that those guys who made you blind would know how to do it; they obviously want something more or they wouldn't have come here pretending to be Dr. Banerjee..." She trailed off as she remembered what she'd seen when she walked in.

One of them had been on his hands and knees looking under the chair. They were obviously looking for something -- and they thought that she had it or knew where it was.

She clutched at Clark's arm as she stood up and tugged him up with her. "Clark! When I got here, one of them was looking for something under the chair. If we can find what it is they were looking for, we might be able to make them tell us how to get your sight back."

She let go of him to drop down onto the floor, trying to peer under the couch. She glanced up at Clark, who was looking around confusedly. "Um, Clark, could you lift up the couch so I could check underneath it?"

He looked down at the sound of her voice. "Sure, Lois." And suiting the action to the words, he casually bent down and lifted up the couch with one hand.

Lois suppressed the urge to stare at this demonstration of strength; that was *Clark* who was holding the couch up as if it weighed no more than a feather. She mentally shook herself and bent back down, looking for anything underneath the couch that didn't belong there, anything she didn't recognize.

She spotted a few hairpins amid all the dust, but other than that, nothing. She wrinkled her nose at the dust bunnies and made a mental note to clean under the couch more often.

"Find anything?"

She glanced up and shook her head before she realized belatedly that he couldn't see her. "No, there's nothing," she sighed dejectedly as she got up again.

Tentatively, giving her plenty of time to get up or to stop him if she had still been on her hands and knees, he lowered the couch to the floor.

"I just wish I knew what we were looking for!" she exclaimed in frustration. "It has to be something small or they wouldn't think of looking for it under the couch -- but what?"

"It must be something Dr. Faraday had with him when he came in here. Think back; did he have anything in his hand?"

Lois frowned, searching her vague memories, but quickly gave up. "I don't know. I just can't remember." She glanced around, half-hoping that some unusual object would somehow leap out at her but, obviously, nothing did. "I guess that's it. There's nowhere else to look, really."

She heard a soft sigh and glanced at him.

"I wish I could help." Latent frustration throbbed in his low voice.

"You did! You lifted up the couch; there was no way I could have looked under it without you doing that. It's why I never clean under it, which explains all the dust bunnies," Lois hastened to say and then tried to joke, in a desperate attempt to make him laugh, or at least just get that defeated expression off his face, "I don't suppose you'd be willing to lift up all my heavy furniture some time so I could clean under it, would you?"

A ghost of a smile passed over his face as he felt his way along the furniture to sit down, and Lois winced. It was so hard to see Clark -- to see Superman -- so helpless, so unsure of himself. And, amazingly, it was harder -- it meant *more* -- to her to see it knowing it was *Clark* who was so helpless. She had felt terrible the night before when she had thought it was only Superman but somehow, knowing it was Clark, knowing that *Clark* was the one who was blind, made this whole thing ten times worse. It made it... personal. It had bothered her to see it when she'd only seen Superman; now, seeing Clark and knowing it was Clark made her pity and her compassion and her concern stronger, like an almost physical sensation, tugging at her, filling her, overwhelming her...

She took an involuntary step forward, wanting to touch him, to help him, to tell him something of what she was feeling, even if she couldn't quite put words to it herself, but before she could, there was a knock on the door.

She stiffened. Whomever it was couldn't know that Superman was here, that he was blind; they'd have to hide him!

She opened her mouth to tell him that but he spoke before she could.

"Relax, Lois. It's my parents."

"How do you--" she stopped as he tapped his ear lightly with one finger, a small smile on his face. "Oh, right. I, um, forgot you could do that, Clark."

"Even with me wearing the suit?"

"What? Oh, yes, it's just that now I know it's you, I can't look at you and see Superman anymore," Lois admitted. "I see *you*, Clark."

Another slight smile crossed his face, his expression softening, before he asked in a gently teasing tone, "Could you, um, open the door for my parents?"

"Oh!"

Lois colored. God, she was acting like an idiot! So what if she was beginning to realize that her feelings for Clark were actually much stronger than her feelings for Superman and that, completely contrary to what she might have expected months ago, knowing that Clark was Superman only made her care for and appreciate the man, Clark, more? That was no reason to act like some feather-brain.

Mentally shaking herself, she opened the door.

"Hi, Lois," Martha Kent greeted her.

"Martha. Jonathan. Come in," Lois smiled, trying to sound completely normal.

"Oh, Superman, how are you?" Martha asked, her voice cordial but also rather formal, as if greeting a stranger, and Lois suddenly realized what hadn't fully occurred to her until now, that Martha and Jonathan obviously knew and that they didn't know that she knew. But before Lois could think of some way to tell Martha that, Martha continued, turning to Lois and explaining with a rather embarrassed smile, "We're so sorry; we should've called. Clark wasn't home, so we thought -- well, I guess we didn't think."

For a moment, Lois was almost too surprised to react. Who would have thought that Martha Kent, a farmer's wife from Smallville, Kansas, could actually be such a good actress?

And it was Clark who spoke up, a thread of amusement in his voice. "It's okay, Mom. She knows."

Lois tensed slightly, wondering how Martha and Jonathan would react but both Martha and Jonathan visibly relaxed. When Martha moved over to hug her son, he hugged her back. Jonathan moved over to join them, putting his hand on Clark's shoulder in a supportive gesture, while Lois watched, suddenly feeling rather out of place as she watched Clark receiving obvious comfort from the presence of his parents.

She felt a stab of unfamiliar and unwelcome envy at the sight, which she quickly suppressed. She could count on one hand the number of full-length hugs she'd received from her parents, and she knew that if she were ever in trouble, they would be the last people she would call.

It was a few moments before Clark released his mother. "Mom, when I called you, I told you not to come," he said in a mildly reproachful tone.

"Do you really think anything short of being locked up would have kept your mother from coming once she heard, son?" Jonathan asked, a wry smile on his face.

Clark returned the smile, although his blank gaze was looking past Jonathan's ear rather than at his face. "I guess not."

Martha threw her husband a glance of mock annoyance before hugging Clark again, her eyes misting over. "Oh, honey, you know we had to come. Your dad and I love you more than anything on earth."

Clark hugged his mom again, touched more than he cared to admit, and closed his eyes briefly, deciding that he really was so lucky. He had the best parents in the world, and he had Lois, who knew now, so he wouldn't have to lie anymore, and who would, he was sure, find a way to help him.

Jonathan looked away and turned to Lois. "Thanks for helping Clark, Lois. We appreciate it."

Lois managed a smile. "Oh, no thanks necessary. I couldn't have done anything less. You know how I--" she stopped, realizing she'd been about to say, "how I feel about Superman."

Jonathan smiled. "Yes, we know."

She felt herself flush and looked away hastily. "Oh, why don't you sit down? Uh, would you like something to drink? Martha, can I get you anything? Clark?"

She started to move into the kitchen, but Clark's voice stopped her.

"Lois, relax. It's fine." There was a smile in his voice and, she saw when she glanced back at him, on his face.

He was sitting now, beside Martha on the couch, while Jonathan had taken the chair opposite, leaving room only on the other side of Clark for Lois to sit down.

Lois moved to join them and tried to act as if she were completely calm. "Clark, we should tell your parents what we've figured out." She didn't stop to wait for his response before she continued, addressing Martha and Jonathan, "The men who did this to Clark came back this afternoon. They're looking for something, something small, and they think I have it."

"Why would they--" Martha began curiously.

"Because Dr. Faraday must have had it with him when he came here," Clark cut in.

"Do you have any idea what it is?" Jonathan spoke up.

"No," Lois admitted. "We just know it's something small."

"Hmm, well, that doesn't narrow it down much, does it?" Martha said with a slight smile.

"And do you think that these men who did this to Clark would know how to reverse whatever they did?" Jonathan asked now, frowning a little.

Lois hesitated, and it was Clark who answered, "We don't know for sure, Dad, but it makes sense that they would. They know what it is they did to me, because it was deliberate, and so they would know the antidote too."

"Well, then, we need to find out who those men are and what they want!"

Lois couldn't help a slight smile at the determination in her voice and noticed that Clark was stifling a smile as well. Martha Kent may have looked harmless, but she was clearly a force to be reckoned with.

"We're working on it, Martha," Lois said reassuringly.

On the heels of that, Clark suddenly sat up straighter and blurted out, "We need Mayson!"

Lois stiffened at the mention of the blond assistant DA, whom she just could not like. Really, her behavior around Clark was disgustingly obvious and bordered on unprofessional! The nerve of her, asking Clark to spend the weekend with her! To say nothing of her rather irrational dislike of Superman.

"Mayson? Why Mayson? What could she tell us?"

"Well, she's been looking into Dr. Faraday's death. It makes sense that she might have figured something else out about him which we haven't that might provide a clue. And I trust her."

Lois suppressed a grimace. "But Clark, she hates you!" she blurted out without thinking and then hastily corrected herself, "I mean, she hates Superman. Do you really think she'd be willing to help us? You can't exactly see her as Clark, considering you're supposed to have been spending the weekend with her," she added, not able to help the sardonic edge to her voice.

*And don't think we're not going to be talking about that later*, she added silently.

He winced slightly but answered calmly enough, "I think she can be professional enough to help Superman regardless of her personal opinion of him."

"Clark..." Martha dragged his name out into two syllables, and he threw a sheepish smile in her direction.

"Sorry, Mom, I know you hate it when I talk about myself in the third person."

Martha smiled and patted his knee. "Just wanted to make sure you knew you were doing it, dear."

"Clark, I still don't like the idea of asking Mayson for help," Lois persisted, although she couldn't help but wonder if part of her automatic revulsion at the idea stemmed from her prejudice against Mayson, rather than any rational reason. But it was true that Mayson didn't like Superman! She couldn't imagine Mayson willingly wanting to help him when he asked for a favor!

*But doesn't that matter less to you than the fact that Clark apparently agreed to spend the weekend with Mayson, even if circumstances have now made it impossible?* Another voice in her head asked, and, being honest with herself, Lois couldn't deny that it was true. It had played a significant part in her earlier anger at Clark. It wasn't only that he wasn't around when she wanted him (or so she'd thought at the time) but it had bothered her more than she liked to think that he'd gone off on some pleasure weekend with Mayson Drake, of all women!

"I can't think of any other ideas, though, Lois. Can you?" Clark asked rather pointedly.

Lois sighed and gave in. After all, it was true that finding out how to restore Clark's sight was more important than her own petty dislike of Mayson Drake. "No, I suppose you're right," she admitted grudgingly. "I'll call her and ask her to come over here since you can't really go out."

She was rewarded with another flash of Clark's smile and a "Thank you, Lois," and she couldn't help but wonder, as she went to search for Mayson's phone number in her bag, if he had any idea just how appealing his smile made him look... and just how much she loved to see him smile at her...

~Part 2~

Lois opened the door and forced a polite smile. "Hi, Mayson. Thanks for coming so quickly. I'm sure you had other plans, so I appreciate your coming."

Mayson returned Lois's smile with a tight one of her own. "It's no problem." She stepped inside and stopped when she saw Superman, Martha and Jonathan. "What are you doing here?" she blurted out.

Clark stood up, looking in the direction of Mayson's voice and where he knew the door was. "Hello, May-- Miss Drake," he corrected himself, automatically slipping back into his formal Superman voice.

Lois paused to marvel at how different he sounded and how different he looked, standing there in his typical Superman pose, looking almost too big for the room and very imposing in the bright primary colors of the suit.

Mayson looked confused as she turned to Lois. "You said you wanted to know more about Dr. Faraday. I don't understand; why is Superman here?"

"Why don't you sit down, Mayson," Lois suggested. "We can explain."

At this point, Jonathan stepped forward, holding out his hand. "Miss Drake, I'm Jonathan Kent, and this is my wife, Martha."

Mayson shook Jonathan's hand automatically and then paused as the name registered. "Kent?"

"I think you know our son, Clark," Martha added.

A slight quiver passed over Mayson's face at the mention of Clark, Lois noticed, but otherwise she showed no reaction. "Yes, I do," she said calmly enough. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Kent."

"Same here," Martha smiled. "Clark has mentioned that you're a friend of his."

Mayson stiffened but sat down in the chair. "Why did you call me here?" she asked directly, fixing her eyes on Lois.

Lois opened her mouth but Clark saved her the trouble by speaking first.

"Miss Drake, first of all, we have to ask for your secrecy."

"I'm a lawyer, Superman. I can be discreet," Mayson retorted coolly.

Lois saw a slightly abashed look cross Clark's face at the thinly-veiled hostility in Mayson's tone but he went on, "I asked Lois to call you because we need to know what, if anything, more you've learned about Dr. Faraday and why he was murdered. The men who did it are obviously still searching for something and the truth is," Clark hesitated, but finished his statement in a businesslike tone, "those men have also blinded me."

Now Mayson reacted, gasping a little. "Blind!"

Lois jumped in. "Yes, so you see, Mayson, why we need to know anything you've found out. Obviously, those men would know how to reverse the effect of what they did to Cl-- Superman," she hastily corrected herself, sensing Clark's sudden tension and then his slight relaxing when she did so. Thankfully, Mayson didn't seem to have noticed her disastrous almost-slip-of-the-tongue.

"I see," Mayson responded slowly, studying Superman and Lois thoughtfully. She sat up a little straighter, adopting a businesslike tone and posture as she began summarizing what she knew. "Well, this is what we've learned in the past two days: Dr. Faraday was a genius. His experiments were being funded by a wealthy eye doctor named Harold P. Leit."

"What were they working on?" Jonathan asked.

"Dr. Faraday developed a device which can carry all the knowledge of all the ages -- or any variation thereon -- on a single beam of light directly through the eyes into the brain."

There was a moment's silence as they all thought about the ramifications of that; the sort of power that sort of device would give to its owner.

Lois stiffened. The light Dr. Faraday had shone into her eyes -- that must explain those seemingly random pieces of knowledge she'd been spouting the past two days. Glancing at Clark, Lois knew he'd had the same thought.

"Oh my," Martha breathed. "A terrible thing, in the wrong hands."

"Yes," Mayson agreed, "and I think we can safely assume that Dr. Leit's hands are definitely the wrong hands."

"It would allow him to pretty much control the world," Lois said slowly.

Mayson nodded. "I think it would."

"And this is the device that Dr. Faraday had with him and that they're still looking for," Clark spoke up.

"Yes."

"Do we know what it looks like?" he asked with a flash of impatience.

Lois put a quick hand on Clark's arm and he relaxed. Mayson's gaze flickered to where Lois's hand was on his arm, and she saw the briefest frown pass over her face.

"According to Dr. Faraday's girlfriend, it looks like a silver ballpoint pen."

A silver ballpoint pen!

Lois's hand tightened on Clark's arm in a convulsive grip as he jerked upright.

"Cl-- Superman, that's it!"

"You know where it is," Mayson said, and it wasn't a question.

"Yes." Lois leaped up. "Okay, I'm going over to The Planet to get it, and then we'll figure out a way to contact this Dr. Leit."

"Lois," Clark began, standing up.

She turned back to him. "What other option do we have?"

She saw visible reluctance pass over his face and then he gave in. "Just be careful, okay?"

Her expression softened and she moved back to his side, putting her hand on his arm. "I'll be careful."

"Why don't I believe you?" he asked, his voice quiet, and Lois could almost have laughed and cried at the same time at the teasing light in his eyes. Oh, *Clark!*

"I promise to be careful," she repeated and then added lightly, "And if I'm not back in half an hour or so, you can come find me." She paused, wincing at the slip of her tongue, and opened her mouth to take it back, but he forestalled her.

"Oh, I'd find you, Lois. No matter what it took," he replied so softly that she had to strain to hear him, and she knew that no one else could have heard it.

Martha and Jonathan watched this brief interlude between Lois and their son in silence, exchanging smiling glances. The connection between Lois and Clark was obvious; they, who knew Clark so well, could see the love in his eyes, and any village idiot could have seen the intensity of the emotions Lois felt for Clark.

Mayson narrowed her eyes slightly as she watched Lois and Superman, feeling a momentary pang of envy on seeing the warmth between the two of them. The vague rumors about Lois and the superhero were obviously true -- and then some. She wondered if Clark knew about it, suppressing the flicker of hurt at the thought of him.

She wasn't blind, nor an idiot, and it hadn't escaped her jealous notice that Clark obviously cared a great deal for Lois, and it was clear that her main rival in getting Clark's attention was Lois herself. Which made this revelation of Lois's all-too-clear feelings for Superman even more interesting.

Lois touched his arm briefly, wishing she could do more but restrained by the presence of Mayson and Clark's parents, and stepped back, addressing them all but she kept her eyes on Clark. "I'm going to The Planet; I'll be right back."

"We'll be waiting right here," Martha said, rather unnecessarily, and Lois flashed a quick smile at her before leaving.

***

Forty-five minutes later, Clark was about ready to climb the walls out of sheer worry and frustration.

And he had almost begun to wear an uneven path across Lois's floor from his pacing.

Martha and Jonathan had tried to rearrange the furniture to give him room once they'd seen that no amount of persuasion could make him remain still as the minutes went by.

Mayson watched with a mixture of amazement, incredulity and amusement at this display of almost childish impatience on the part of the superhero. She'd never seen the usually unflappable superhero in such a state and, for a moment, couldn't help but wonder just what it was about Lois Lane that could inspire such strong feelings in two men like Superman and Clark Kent.

"Superman, please, can't you sit down?" Martha tried again, mindful always of Mayson's restricting presence. "You haven't stayed in one spot for more than two minutes at a time for the past 20 minutes."

"It's been forty-five minutes. Where is she?"

"I'm sure she's fine. She could have run into traffic or might have stopped to talk to someone at the office. There's no reason to panic," Martha tried reasoning with her son.

"No, there shouldn't be any traffic at this hour and Lois knows how to avoid or beat traffic better than anyone I know -- from what people have told me," he hastily added, remembering Mayson's presence and that Superman would certainly have had little reason to have been driven by Lois before. "Besides, it takes less than 15 minutes to get to The Planet from here, even in traffic. She should be back by now. She should have been back more than 15 minutes ago."

"Superman, you're overreacting," Mayson spoke up. "So it's taking 15 minutes longer than you thought. We usually wait 24 hours before issuing a missing-person report, you know; 15 minutes doesn't even qualify as a reason to worry."

"Not when it's Lois, and not when this Dr. Leit is out there," Clark responded tersely.

"Superman, Lois is a capable adult. I'm sure she's fine," Jonathan tried in his turn, exchanging helpless glances with Martha.

"Superman, please, sit down. You're making me tired just watching you," Martha said softly, persuasively, putting a hand on Clark's arm.

Clark finally gave in, letting his mother lead him to a chair as she added, "Just give her some more time."

Clark waited -- and fidgeted -- for another five minutes that felt more like five years. He was aware that he was behaving rather badly, and in front of Mayson Drake at that, which wasn't going to improve her opinion of the superhero, but he couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling inside him that Lois was in trouble.

Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore, and the niggling instinct was only getting stronger, so he stood up decisively. "I'm going to find her."

"But-- how?" Martha and Jonathan asked simultaneously.

"I'll start at The Planet and work from there," he answered as he slowly made his way to the window.

"But you're incapacitated!" Mayson protested. "Why don't you just call the police or something. The Metropolis PD are really good at hostage and kidnapping situations. They have a better record than the FBI..."

"Is this the good window?" he interrupted her.

"Yes, but--" Martha began only to break off as he crashed through the window to land with a thud on the ground.

They all rushed to the window to look out, seeing Superman pick himself up from among the debris and summon a taxi with a shrill whistle.

"Is he all right?" Mayson asked rather dubiously of the Kents.

"I'm sure he is. He is Superman, after all," Martha said, exchanging a look with Jonathan.

"I think that's all we can do, Miss Drake," Jonathan spoke up. "Thank you for your help; I'm sure Lois and Superman appreciate it. Why don't I see you back home while Martha waits here in case there's any more news? I'm sure you have other things to be doing."

Mayson hesitated but then relented. "Yes, thank you, Mr. Kent."

Martha smiled at the younger woman. "Thank you for your help, Miss Drake."

"You're welcome. It was good to meet you," Mayson smiled. She hesitated and then added hurriedly, "I can see now why Clark is the way he is."

Martha's smile softened. "Thank you."

"Martha, I'll be back," Jonathan addressed his wife.

"Yes, I'll just be trying to board up the window," Martha replied with a rueful gesture at the broken window.

Jonathan shook his head, though his slight, indulgent smile belied the gesture as he left with Mayson.

***

Lois felt an odd mixture of trepidation and excitement as she was shoved out of the car in front of The Daily Planet by Dr. Leit and his henchmen, whom he called Munch.

They had been waiting and had grabbed her when she'd stepped out of the door of her apartment, too quickly for her to even scream. They'd taken her to their lab/headquarters, where Leit had proceeded to interrogate her about the location of Dr. Faraday's device.

She'd feigned complete ignorance of what Dr. Leit was looking for in an attempt to pump him for information and, she suppressed a surge of hope and smugness, she'd made him reveal the antidote to Clark's blindness. Now all she needed to do was find some way to incapacitate him and Munch, and grab that device in his jacket pocket...

None too gently, Munch forced her to walk forward and into The Daily Planet building.

The elevator door opened and Munch pushed her out of it and into the bullpen.

"Where is it?" Leit demanded.

Lois pointed to Clark's desk and Munch propelled her toward it, his grip on her arms painfully tight.

And then Lois gasped as she drew close enough to Clark's desk to see his pen tray.

The device wasn't there.

She specifically remembered Clark putting it there, but now it was gone!

She stiffened, almost afraid to hope. Did that mean -- could Clark have -- had he come looking for her and retrieved the device already? She knew more than a half-hour had passed, and she knew Clark would be worried. It would be just like him to have come to save her, never mind that he couldn't see.

*Oh, Clark! Please...*

"You lied to me!" Leit accused harshly.

"I did not!" Lois protested angrily. "It was right there!"

"Enough!" Leit cut her off. "No more Mr. Nice Guy. Now I will extract it from you painfully. You will wish you had not lied. Munch!"

Lois suppressed a shiver at the cold fury in Leit's eyes and the expression of glee on Munch's face as he looked at her.

She tensed automatically in expectation of pain.

And then the lights went out.

Thinking quickly, Lois ducked out from between Munch's hands and scurried underneath a table, frantically trying to think of a better hiding spot.

She heard Leit order, "Don't let her get away, Munch! Do you have her?"

"No, Doctor," came Munch's rather stoic response.

"Do you have a flashlight?"

"No, Doctor."

"She can't have gone far. Find her!" Leit snapped, revealing his growing frustration and anger. "You go that way. I'll go this way."

Lois waited, hardly daring to breathe for fear of being heard, listening intently for their footsteps.

And then, she saw feet stopping in front of her and a moment later, Munch's face, smiling evilly.

"I have her, Doctor," he called out.

But before he could grab her, there was a gust of wind, so powerful it knocked him over the table and across the bullpen, resulting in a loud crash. She clung to the table leg for dear life, even as she felt a surge of relief. Clark was here! He must have been the one to turn out the lights too!

The wind died down.

"I know you're here, Superman," she heard Leit call.

She stiffened, slowly coming out from under the table, tensed to make a run for wherever Clark was.

"Yes, Dr. Leit. I'm here. And I have the device."

Lois suppressed a smile. She wasn't out of danger yet, but as she'd once told Clark, Superman's presence always made her feel like everything was going to be okay, that she could do anything...

"Lois, can you get to where I am?" she heard him ask.

She was already moving, but Leit and Munch were too quick and intercepted her, twisting her arms painfully until she gave a strangled cry of pain and stopped struggling.

"Lois, are you all right?" Clark asked and Lois heard the growing worry in his voice, coupled with his frustration at not being able to see and therefore help her.

She opened her mouth to reassure him, but Leit jumped in.

"She's fine for now, Superman. And she'll stay fine, if you'll roll the device this way, toward the sound of my voice."

When Clark hesitated, Munch tightened his grip on Lois's arms. At the sound of her involuntary gasp, he gave in.

"All right, Doctor. Catch!"

Lois watched as the device sailed through the air and landed with a quiet clunk on the floor some distance away.

"Nice try, Superman," Leit said mockingly. "Munch, retrieve the device please."

Lois knew this was her chance. Munch was definitely the stronger one who could overpower her, and at that moment, Leit felt victory within his grasp and was ever-so-slightly relaxed.

She twisted sharply, raised her foot, and slammed her heel down as hard as she could on Leit's foot, hearing his cry of pain with a sense of satisfaction. She grabbed the blinding device out of his pocket and ran.

"Cl-- Superman, look this way!"

Clark blinked and stared forward and Lois hurriedly shone the red light into his eyes.

She was warily aware of Leit and Munch behind her, and it was a long minute as she watched Clark blink slowly and then that vaguely lost expression vanished and she knew he could see her.

She smiled up at him and saw the flicker of a return smile in his eyes before his attention shifted to Leit and Munch. She hastily stepped behind him, out of the way.

"Drop the device!" he ordered sharply.

"No, give it to me! Give it to me!" Leit demanded at almost the same moment.

Munch hesitated and Clark's lips settled into a grim line as he aimed his heat vision at the device.

Leit lunged forward with a scream. "No!"

He grabbed for it but just as his hand closed over the device, it exploded in a burst of searing, blinding, white light.

And then it was gone.

Clark blinked, since the light had been bright enough that even he had had to close his eyes against it, and glanced at Lois to see that she had covered her eyes and was just lowering her hands.

Their eyes met and he couldn't help a smile at the sight of her, feeling an upwelling of pure relief and joy in *seeing* her. Dear, beautiful Lois, whom he'd been afraid he might never see again -- might never be able to rest his eyes on her lovely features, might never be able to watch the play of expression across her face, might never be able to see the flash of her eyes when she was angry or amused...

"I told you I'd find you," he said softly.

Her expression softened and she took a small step closer to him. "I never doubted you would, Clark."

He bent a little nearer, but they were both distracted at a clattering noise as Leit and Munch stumbled against one of the desks.

"Munch!" Leit called out, panic edging his voice. "I can't see! Can you see? I think I'm blind!"

"I can't see either," Munch responded.

Clark met Lois's eyes, seeing the answering amusement in her eyes. "Serves you right, Leit," he addressed him coolly, before turning back to Lois. "I think a trip to the police station with these two is in order. I'll see you later?" It was more a question than a statement.

She smiled. "Count on it. I'll just go back to my place and let your parents know everything is okay. I'll meet you back there."

"Okay, thanks."

He moved up and over to where Leit and Munch were stumbling around, lifting both of them up by their jackets, and flew off with them, serenely ignoring their cries of alarm.

Lois watched him leave with a slight smile, shaking her head slightly. It really was amazing, and she didn't know if she would ever get completely used to seeing Superman use his powers so casually, knowing and recognizing Clark as the man inside the suit. It seemed so obvious, and yet, the differences were still there. Superman seemed taller because of the way he carried himself; his voice seemed deeper because of the formal tone of authority and command he tended to use, and his face looked amazingly different without the glasses disguising the lines of his face and the lock of hair softening his entire expression... So different... and yet so similar, the same...

Oh, yes, she'd be seeing him later. They had a *lot* to talk about...

***

~Part 3~

Clark hovered outside of Lois's broken window before he made a quick decision and landed in the alley outside her building and spun into his street clothes. He paused and then smiled as he kept his glasses in his pocket, not bothering to put them on since there was no need to now, and hurried inside.

Lois opened the door immediately upon his knock. "Clark! I thought you were going to come in through the window."

He shrugged and smiled. "I decided to come in the normal way."

"I was just telling Martha and Jonathan what happened," she explained as he stepped inside.

Martha leaped up and hurried to him the moment he appeared. "Clark, honey, you're all right now?"

He smiled and bent to kiss his mother's cheek. "Yeah, Mom, I'm fine. Back to normal. I tested my X-ray vision on the way back from the police station and it's normal too. Nothing to worry about."

"Well, thank goodness," Martha exclaimed fervently. "I was so worried."

"I know you were. I was too," he admitted.

"And Dr. Leit?" Jonathan spoke up.

"Is in jail," Clark answered, "Along with his henchman. They're likely to stay behind bars for a good long while."

Jonathan nodded in satisfaction while Lois and Martha both smiled.

He met Lois's eyes over his mother's shoulder and felt a surge of warmth and sheer relief at being able to be completely honest with her now. No more misunderstandings, no more lies to come between them anymore... He knew, now, better than ever after this weekend, just how loyal a friend Lois was and how trustworthy -- and he hoped, he suspected, her feelings for him were close to, if not the same as, what he felt for her... But they did need to talk -- and if he knew Lois, she would still want to ream him out for not having told her the truth months ago.

He put his arm around his mother's shoulder as he smiled down at her. "Oh, Mom, I was wondering on my way back, do you guys have your return tickets to get home or do you need a ride?"

"We didn't get return tickets because we weren't sure how long we would need to be out here," Martha answered.

"I'll fly you home then," Clark said.

"Oh, thanks, dear. You take your dad home first; Lois and I will just chat for a while. I'm sure we have lots to talk about."

Clark wasn't quite sure he liked the innocent smile on his mother's face, but couldn't deny her request. "Ready then, Dad?"

His father nodded and Clark stepped back from them to spin back into his suit, glancing quickly at Lois once he was done in time to note the quickly concealed, open-mouthed look of shock on her face, and he grinned at her.

Jonathan had already moved over to the window and opened it and in another moment, Clark had his arm around his father and they were off into the air, with a wave of goodbye for Martha and Lois.

Clark hadn't missed the look his father had given him, so he wasn't entirely surprised when Jonathan cleared his throat a little when they were well above the city lights.

"Um, Clark?"

"Yes, Dad?"

"Earlier, Lois mentioned that you were supposed to be spending the weekend with Mayson Drake, and when we stopped off at your apartment to drop off our luggage, Jimmy told us that you were away this weekend, too. Care to explain what happened there?"

Clark sighed. He should have expected this. "It's a little complicated, but basically, Mayson came to the office a couple days ago and confessed that she liked me and then she must have asked me to spend the weekend with her."

"You agreed?" Jonathan's voice was purely curious and held no hint of condemnation, but Clark grimaced anyway. "I don't mean to criticize, and you're a grown man, son, but we know how you feel about Lois, and you've never said that you felt anything similar for Mayson Drake."

"I don't, Dad. Mayson's a friend; I like her, but that's all. And the thing is that I, um, agreed to spend the weekend with her without knowing what I was agreeing to."

"How did that happen?" Now Jonathan sounded amused.

"I was listening to Lois's phone call so I had tuned out to what Mayson was saying and when she finished, I just agreed, thinking that was the safest thing to do. And then later, when she mentioned something about picking me up, I was going to tell her, but Lois was leaving to go meet Dr. Leit in the graveyard and I was in too much of a hurry to follow her, plus Perry was there, so I couldn't, and then I forgot about it."

"You should tell Mayson the truth about how you feel, son, and not allow her to hope, you know, unless you're willing to give up on Lois entirely."

Clark looked at his dad with a slight smile. "You know I couldn't give up on Lois, Dad. She-- she's *Lois*," he added softly, "and there's no one else like her."

Jonathan smiled. "That's been made clear to me and your mother, even if we hadn't already known it."

"You're not going to give me the 'dissect me like a frog' speech?" Clark asked.

Jonathan shook his head. "You're a grown-up, Clark, and if you trust her, then we trust your opinion. Besides, we know how Lois feels about you, and she'd never do anything to hurt you."

Clark smiled as they touched down in the front yard of his childhood home. "Thanks, dad."

Jonathan characteristically shrugged off the thanks and only made a slight gesture with his head. "You should probably get back to pick up your mother before she has time to tell Lois every embarrassing story she has about you growing up."

Clark grimaced. "Oh God."

Jonathan chuckled. "You saw the look on your mother's face. You should just be thankful that your mother doesn't have any of your baby pictures to show her."

Clark gave a visible shudder and lifted off the ground to hover a few feet in the air. "I'll see you soon, Dad."

Jonathan waved one hand and then stood watching as his son flew up and away, until he was just a speck of color, and then gone altogether. He had seen Clark fly more times than he could count, but it was the only one of his powers which never ceased to amaze him, the careless defiance of gravity.

He paused, remembering Clark's explanation of how he'd ended up agreeing to spend the weekend with Mayson, and when he stepped inside the house, he was chuckling to himself.

***

Left alone with Clark's mother, Lois smiled rather uncomfortably at Martha, who smiled serenely back, seemingly completely untroubled.

After a moment, Lois spoke up. "I hope you know that I would never tell anyone about Clark's secret. I-- I can understand why he wouldn't want people to know, and I'd never jeopardize him in that way."

Martha leaned forward to briefly rest a hand on Lois's arm. "Oh, I wasn't worried about that, Lois!" she exclaimed breezily. "I thought Clark should have told you the truth months ago and I've been wondering why he didn't." She paused and then asked, the smile fading slightly, "Are you angry at Clark for not telling you?"

"I-- no-- well, yes, I was, at first, and I guess I still am, but I can understand that he wouldn't want people to know because he'd never have a moment's privacy."

Martha nodded, her smile fading although her expression was still pleasant. "Plus, I'm afraid we might have made things worse because Jonathan has told him his entire life that if anyone ever found out, he'd be locked up and dissected in a lab like a frog."

Lois gasped a little. "But that's terrible! Why would anyone--" she stopped, remembering the Superman protesters and even Mayson's distrust of Superman, and worse, Jason Trask. She suppressed a shudder at the thought of that madman -- although, come to think of it, he'd been right to think that Clark had some special connection to and knowledge of Superman!

"I wonder, now, if we didn't make a mistake in emphasizing secrecy so much, if we didn't hurt Clark somehow by making him feel like he could never really be accepted for who he really is. But we were so afraid, you see. We found a baby in a spaceship and he was ours, our son, and we just couldn't bear to lose him."

Martha's words startled Lois enough that she thoughtlessly blurted out the questions that were beginning to well up in her mind now that all the worry over Clark's blindness had been allayed. "So you and Jonathan aren't from Krypton? You found Clark as a baby? He really did grow up his entire life in Kansas?"

Martha smiled slightly, a hint of mischief entering her blue eyes. "Oh, in a lot of ways, Clark really is a farmboy from Nowheresville."

Lois colored hotly at hearing some of her early words to Clark repeated back to her. "He *told* you about that?"

Martha laughed. "Don't worry about it, Lois. We thought it was funny, and Clark rather enjoyed it as well. We're not that sensitive about where we're from."

Lois's blush wasn't subsiding. "I'm so sorry! And I hope you know I haven't really thought that about Clark -- or you -- for a long time now. It's just -- Clark really does seem like a small-town kind of person. He trusts everyone; he doesn't even like to lock his doors when he leaves his apartment! And he's always polite and patient and usually cheerful, not like city people." Lois stopped, realizing she'd been babbling when Martha's smile widened.

"Clark loves to hear you babble," Martha commented, inconsequentially, and surprise kept Lois silent for a minute before she recovered.

"Lucky for him that he does because he's been on the receiving end of it more times than I can count," Lois responded lightly, trying to hide how flustered she felt at the knowledge that Clark apparently talked about her to his parents. She cringed at the thought of some of the stories he could tell -- had he -- surely he hadn't, he wouldn't --have told them about the Dance of the Seven Veils... She'd never be able to face Martha or Jonathan again if she thought they knew of that episode!

Martha sobered. "I wanted to talk to you before Clark returns because I thought you would have a lot of questions to ask about Clark, now that you know." She paused but continued on with a slight smile at Lois's unabashedly-eager nod. "We did find him as a baby in a spaceship. Jonathan and I certainly don't have any superpowers; we're just ordinary farmers from Kansas. For years, we thought he might be some sort of Russian experiment or something. It was a relief to discover a year ago where he was from." Her expression softened and her gaze drifted to look unseeingly at a painting on the opposite wall as she continued, and Lois could tell that Martha was probably reliving some favorite moments of Clark's childhood. "Clark seemed pretty normal when he was growing up, except he never really seemed to get sick or hurt. One time, he fell off his bicycle and broke his arm, but it healed in the space of a week, which seemed strange, but we never mentioned it. And then, when Clark was in middle school, he started developing his powers. It was a shock at first, when he discovered each new one. I still remember the way Clark ran shrieking into the house when he set some hay in the barn on fire and then put it out with his breath, turning it into hay-icicles."

Lois laughed and Martha smiled, but it quickly faded as she continued, more soberly, "It was a hard time for Clark. He loved sports but he quit playing for about three years in junior high and the beginning of high school because he was terrified of hurting someone accidentally with his powers, since he didn't quite know how to control them yet. He withdrew into himself a lot, cutting himself off from his friends. He decided on his own and announced to us one morning that he would never tell anyone about what he could do -- although I admit we encouraged him to make that decision with all our talk of what people would do if they knew about what he could do. He spent a lot of time on his own, brooding, in those years. We worried about him something terrible during that time, but he never gave us any trouble, still did his chores and kept his grades up -- but we could see that he wasn't happy. He built a tree house for himself, which he called the Fortress of Solitude, and he practically lived in it for a while..."

Martha's tone was matter-of-fact as she spoke, making it clear she wasn't telling Lois this out of any desire to make her pity Clark, but Lois felt her heart clench as she listened. For the first time, it occurred to her how hard it must have been for Clark to have all these powers and not be able to tell anyone about them, how difficult it must have been for him to not give himself away, the sort of control he must exercise every waking minute of every day... He was -- she had seen it from the first moment she met him -- fundamentally an honest, open person, not given to prevarication or deceit of any kind, which she, foolishly, had mistaken for naivetÚ and weakness before he'd proven her wrong, and yet he had kept this enormous secret for, really, his entire life. He could never completely trust anyone, always had to play a part, hide his true self. She thought about the Clark she thought she'd gotten to know over the past year, and could only marvel at the realization that he was really an incredible actor, a chameleon. And she had thought he was such an open book...

He must have always felt alone, been lonely, Lois thought with a pang -- and from someone who had experienced enough of that emotion to know it well enough never to wish it on anyone, the thought hurt her. To think of Clark, who seemed so friendly and so popular, who made friends everywhere he went, being isolated and solitary...

"Why did he become Superman then and not just keep on hiding what he could do?" Lois asked, recalling her earlier questions.

"He's always tried to help people with his powers; it was only when he invented Superman that it became easier because he could help openly without having to worry about not being seen or something."

Lois straightened, suddenly remembering something Superman had said the first time she saw him. "Then were *you* the one that made his costume? He- he said his mother made it..."

Martha smiled proudly. "Yes, I made his costume. After he suggested the idea, I spent several hours having him try on different ideas, some more ridiculous than others, before we found this one that worked." Her smile widened and she threw a glance at Lois that could best be described as mischievous as she added, "I told Clark when I saw him wearing it for the first time that no one would be looking at his face."

Lois flushed, but then had to laugh given how many times similar thoughts had crossed her mind when she'd first seen Superman -- and the body revealed by that skin-tight costume.

***

Clark returned to Lois's apartment via the still-open window to find a scene that simultaneously pleased and horrified him.

His mother and Lois were laughing together and just as he landed, Lois gasped out, "You didn't!"

His mother nodded, still grinning. "Oh, I did."

They both looked up at him, faces flushed with merriment, and he was suddenly filled with the disturbing certainty that whatever they'd just been laughing over definitely involved him.

He opened his mouth to speak but Lois forestalled him by glancing at his mother and inexplicably -- to him, at least -- saying, "You were right," and for some reason, those three words sent them both off into another wave of laughter.

He threw a suspicious look at his mother -- what had she been telling Lois? -- and his embarrassment made his tone more curt than it otherwise might have been as he asked, "Ready to go, Mom?"

She looked up with a smile. "Yes, Clark."

She and Lois both stood up and, as Lois appeared to hesitate, his mother rather impulsively hugged her, and Lois returned the hug. Clark's irritation vanished, his expression softening at the sight of the two most important women in his life embracing.

And a voice whispered in some corner of his mind, *it looks like Mom is welcoming Lois to the family.* He hastily cut off that wistful thought; that waylay too many dreams and longings which he really should not think of, not when things with Lois were still so uncertain.

His mother drew back and smiled at Lois, though she addressed Clark. "You should bring Lois out with you sometime when you visit us."

He glanced at Lois to see her glance quickly at him before smiling, with obvious sincerity, at his mother.

"I'd like that."

His mother moved to stand beside him and he put his arm around her. He glanced at Lois with a quick, slightly uncertain smile. "I'll see you soon, Lois."

"Bye, Lois," his mother chimed in.

"Bye, Martha."

He lifted off to hover in the air and in another moment, they were out the window and in the air above Metropolis.

"What were you and Lois laughing about?"

"Oh, nothing too important. I was just telling her a little about how you first became Superman." His mother's reply sounded rather too airy and innocent for his comfort but Clark refrained from asking again.

A brief silence fell before his mother spoke up again. "She cares about you quite a bit, Clark. I'm so glad you finally told her the truth."

"I didn't really mean to tell her," he admitted rather ruefully. "It just slipped out."

Martha's laughter was soft and lingered in the night air around them. "Well, I'm still glad you told her. And I know you are too."

"Yes, I am," he acknowledged. "I've hated having to lie to her, Mom."

"Why haven't you told her the truth long before now?"

"It's... complicated," he sighed. "I was afraid, for one thing, of how she'd react and somehow the time never seemed right. And then there's been the problem of her feelings for Superman and her crush on him -- that I, um, have almost encouraged lately with how I've acted around her as Superman. But it's only recently that I've started to hope, just a little, that she might be getting to see me as something other than just a friend and I haven't wanted to jeopardize that. I wanted her to love me as *me* before I told her."

"Don't be silly, Clark," Martha scoffed. "Of course Lois loves you, and I don't mean as Superman, either. She's loved you for months now, Clark. Do you think a mother can't tell when a woman is in love with her only son?"

His breath stilled in his chest but he couldn't believe her words. "No, she doesn't. Really, Mom, she doesn't. I'd *know.*"

Martha didn't respond, but he could sense her disbelief of his words, skepticism positively radiating off her.

"How angry at me is she?" he asked after a moment's silence.

"Oh, I think she'll forgive you," Martha assured him lightly.

"Yes, but when?" he muttered more to himself than to her.

His mother laughed softly. "It'll be fine."

They landed softly in the front yard before he could respond, and he released his grip on his mother. She hugged him tightly, an embrace which he returned, before he brushed a kiss on her cheek and stepped back.

"Goodnight, Mom."

"Goodnight, Clark. You sure you don't want to come in for a while?" When he shook his head, she smiled. "What am I thinking? Of course you don't. You want to hurry back to your Lois."

He grinned at her, not bothering to deny or confirm her surmise. "I'll see you soon," he promised, his feet hovering about a foot off the ground, and waited for her answering nod and smile before he turned his face away, heading towards the stars and back home to Metropolis.

His ears picked up his mother's softly-spoken words as she turned to go inside his house. "Oh, my boy..."

Unconsciously, his expression softened as it usually did when he thought of his parents, but then his thoughts moved, inevitably, back to Lois and the talk -- fight? -- they were about to have. His expression became slightly grimmer as he continued his flight toward home --and Lois.

***

~Part 4~

Clark took a deep breath, mentally bracing himself for what wasn't going to be the easiest conversation of his life, before he knocked on Lois's door.

Lois opened it immediately, smiling but looking distinctly ill-at-ease. "Clark, hi! You-- you're... uh... back sooner than I expected," She stepped back to let him inside.

"I can fly faster when I don't have a passenger," he explained briefly.

"Oh, right. I wasn't sure if you were going to come in through the window or not," she said, going over to close the still-open window.

He sat down, amused almost in spite of himself at Lois's clear skittishness. "I'm not actually that comfortable staying in the suit for extended periods of time when I'm not performing rescues," he answered, falling in with her evident desire to avoid the real issues they needed to confront.

Lois opened her mouth, closed it, managed a rather uncertain smile, and then asked, "I-- er-- do you want some tea? Or... or anything?"

"Lois, calm down. I'm still just me, Clark, okay?"

She sat, coloring in some embarrassment. "Sorry, I-- it just seems weird now. Before, I was just too preoccupied with your blindness to really take it all in, and now that I'm finally managing to process it, it's strange. I feel like I don't know you anymore."

"You know me, Lois, better than anyone." He paused, hesitated and then finally just said, "I suppose you're angry with me. I can understand that and I don't blame you. If you want to yell at me or-- or beat me up or something, you can."

She blinked. "Beat you up? It's not like I really could, could I?"

"Well, no," he admitted sheepishly. "It wouldn't hurt me and it would hurt you but, well, it's more of an expression."

Lois laughed in spite of her nerves and sudden bout of uncertainty. He looked so, well, boyish with that rather embarrassed, self-conscious look on his face. She felt herself relax, her tension unwinding at the sight.

"Actually," she began with more certainty, "I have one question that I want answered first."

"Sure, what is it?" Clark waited with a slight frown in his eyes.

"Why did you agree to spend the weekend with Mayson Drake? Unless," she hesitated and then went on, looking at the floor rather than at him, "you really wanted to go but didn't because you were blinded. And if that's the case, then that's fine and I-- I'm glad for you since it's obvious what she feels, but I think you should just go home in that case. You don't need to explain yourself to me. I won't tell anyone, you know..."

She stopped at the sound of Clark's laughter. "What?"

Of all the questions Clark had been expecting Lois to want answered first, that had been the last one -- or, more accurately, that question had never even occurred to him. Now, he couldn't hide his amusement as he listened to Lois babble. Only Lois would demand to know that first!

"Lois, only you would ask that question first! But to reassure you, I agreed to spend the weekend with Mayson by accident."

"By accident?" she repeated. "How do you *accidentally* agree to spend the weekend with someone?"

"She asked me right when you got that phone call from Dr. Leit telling you to come to the cemetery. I was-- um-- preoccupied because I was listening in on your call so I had tuned Mayson out and didn't hear any of what she'd said. So when she stopped, I said yes, automatically, and I didn't realize what I'd agreed to until Mayson told me what time she'd pick me up."

"Well? Then why didn't you tell her the truth once you did realize it?"

"I was going to but then you were leaving to meet Dr. Leit and I knew I had to follow you, and Perry was there, and I didn't want to humiliate her like that in front of Perry, so I just never got the chance, especially since I was distracted anyway. And then afterward, I forgot because of everything that happened." He paused and then added softly, "Believe me, Lois, the only woman I want to spend a weekend with is you."

She felt herself color. "Really?"

He nodded, his eyes sober and sincere as they held her gaze. "Really."

The moment lengthened, stretched... Lois held her breath, seeing the emotion in his eyes and suddenly realizing just how deeply Clark must care about her. The strength of his emotions scared her, and she was the first one to look away.

"Clark, I--" she began and then stopped, because Clark's expression had changed into that far-away look that he sometimes got before he looked at her, his hand automatically going up to his collar.

"Lois, I-- I have to go. Siren," he explained briefly before standing up and spinning back into his suit. He paused for the briefest instant. "I'll be back, I promise." He gave her a quick, slight smile, and then he was gone.

Lois sat back with a sigh. So this was what life would be like in a relationship with Superman, she surmised. They'd be talking, having a romantic moment -- and then he'd leave because someone out there needed him. He would never really belong to her, could never really belong to her. He belonged to the world, not to any one person.

How could she deal with it? *Could* she deal with it? But even as she thought about it, she knew the answer would be yes. If that was what it took to be with him... he was worth it. Because the important thing wasn't how often he had to leave. or the times he was gone, what was important was how she felt when she was with him. And she'd never felt quite so safe, quite so comfortable, as when she was with Clark. Never felt quite so loved...

And that was really it, wasn't it?

She'd been in love with Superman for months now and, though she hadn't been willing to admit it until very, very recently -- okay, fine, she hadn't been willing to admit it until these past few days -- that she had fallen in love with Clark, too. And it wasn't some strange sort of problem, wasn't because she was, as a person, incapable of being faithful to one person or anything like that; it was simply because Clark and Superman were one and the same, and she'd fallen in love with one man, in both guises.

Now she just had to tell him.

It was a few minutes before he returned, arriving through the window this time, and then spinning back into his clothes.

He grinned slightly at the sight of her open-mouthed expression, and, going over to her, teasingly put his finger under her chin and closed her mouth. "You're staring, Lois."

"Oh, right," she blushed. "I-- just-- this is going to take some getting used to, you know. So, uh, what was it this time?"

"Car accident," he explained briefly. "I flew a little kid who was pretty badly hurt to the hospital."

Lois studied him for a moment, suddenly struck with something she'd never really thought to feel. "It's hard for you, isn't it?"

He blinked. "What is?"

"Being Superman. Having to see so many people in pain all the time."

For the barest moment, he seemed to freeze, and then he sighed and nodded. "Yeah. It's hard. It's draining. Some nights, when it's really bad, I just have to leave, you know. So I fly over to some deserted place, far away, or go up into outer space and just try to forget." He paused. "And sometimes, I fly over here and check to make sure you're all right."

She smiled and blushed. "How does that help?"

He shrugged a little. "I'm not sure how to explain it, but it does. I-- I just like to hear your heartbeat. It... soothes me, somehow."

"Oh, Clark..." she breathed and, without stopping to think about what she was doing, she leaned in and kissed him.

It hadn't been something she'd thought about, or known she was going to do, or she might have managed to talk herself out of it, but instead, she just kissed him.

And, after a fleeting moment of surprise, he kissed her back, his lips softening and his hand sliding into her hair, holding her in place. His tongue slid into her mouth, stroking, caressing her tongue.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, shifting even closer to him.

Good God, but he could kiss.

He'd kissed her senseless before -- as both Clark and Superman -- but nothing could compare to this. Honesty clearly had an explosive effect on kisses.

He was the first one to break the kiss, dragging his lips from hers, though he softened her instinctive feeling of loss by brushing his lips against her cheeks and her nose and her forehead before pulling away.

She opened rather dazed eyes to stare at him, her breath coming in gasps, her entire body feeling heated.

"Lois, wait," he managed to get out. "As much as I'd love to continue this, we really have to talk."

Talk. Talk... Yes, talk, they needed to talk...

Lois valiantly tried to remember exactly what they needed to talk about, but somehow couldn't quite think of much. She knew he was Superman, and had forgiven him for it, knew he didn't like Mayson in that way -- and she knew he could kiss like nothing else.

"I love you, Clark," she said simply. "And I love you, Superman."

His smile began deep in his eyes before spreading to his face. "Really?"

She returned his smile. "Yes, really. Clark, I think I've been in love with you for months. I just didn't want to admit it to myself."

"Oh, Lois... I love you too. I've loved you since the day we met."

"Even when I treated you so badly?"

"Well, you did warn me not to fall for you, but you were too late for that."

Her eyes widened a little. "But I told you not to fall for me the day after we met!"

His smile softened. "I fell for you the moment you burst into Perry's office like a whirlwind of energy and brilliance."

"Flattery will get you everywhere, Kent," she responded lightly, but the look in her eyes showed her appreciation of his words.

She sobered and touched her fingertips to his face very lightly, not quite caressing it but not quite not either. "After all the terrible things I said and did to you... You're quite something, Clark Kent." She tried to smile, but didn't quite manage it.

"So are you, Lois Lane."

Lois decided that she'd had enough of talking, and kissed him again, willingly losing herself in the warmth of his embrace, as his lips moved over hers in a way guaranteed to steal her breath, her mind, her heart, her soul...

***

Lois frowned slightly as she hurriedly typed up the last paragraph of her story on Leit and his device.

"Maybe it's just as well the device was destroyed. Technology and human nature are a volatile mix, aren't they?" Perry said from behind her.

"Like Frankenstein?" Jimmy chimed in.

Lois ignored them as she finished typing with a small flourish and hit the key to send it to the printer with her usual thrill of satisfaction at having another front-page story done.

"Not to mention gene-splicing, and gender-selection, and atom-splitting," she added.

She looked up as she felt Clark's arrival.

"Hi," he greeted them generally, but his eyes fell on her last and lingered there, his expression softening as he gave her a more private hello with his eyes.

"Hi," she said, striving to sound normal but not succeeding as she couldn't keep herself from being distracted by his mouth --the mouth that had kissed her long and thoroughly, with varying degrees of passion and tenderness. She felt herself flush at the thought.

In the next moment, though, all her pleasant memories were pushed from her mind as the elevator dinged and Mayson Drake stepped out. She stiffened automatically, even though she knew -- she *knew* -- that Mayson wasn't a rival, that Clark loved her -- and she did trust him. It was more of an instinctive reaction, the automatic possessiveness of just knowing that any other woman was so obviously interested in her man. No doubt Mayson wanted some explanation for why Clark had stood her up.

Perry and Jimmy were staring with unabashed interest and Lois belatedly realized that they thought Clark had stood Mayson up, too. Jimmy, for one, began to back away slowly, although his eyes never left Mayson and Clark. Perry clapped Clark on the shoulder and opened his mouth to say something, no doubt one of his occasional bits of fatherly advice that made varying amounts of sense, and Lois caught Clark's quick glance at her and sensed his growing dismay.

And before she'd quite realized what she was going to do, she stepped forward, ignoring Mayson but speaking in a voice just a shade louder than normal to ensure that she would hear every word. "Oh, Clark, I completely forgot to ask you. How is your..." she cast about in her mind frantically, "your mom's cousin doing? You told me he'd had a stroke and was in the hospital. Is he doing better now?"

She sensed Mayson stopping short at her words and saw Perry and Jimmy stare at her in surprise. As for Clark, for a fleeting second he studied her as if wondering if she'd suddenly lost her mind.

*Come on, Clark, help me out here. I just invented an excuse for why you were gone this weekend.*

And then he blinked, his expression blanking, and she saw that he'd understood.

"Oh, yeah, thanks for asking. He's-- uh-- he's being released today, actually."

She managed a smile. "Oh, good. I'm sure your mom's relieved."

"She is," he said, although he spoke rather slowly, as if not quite sure of the fact.

Lois stifled a smile at the sudden thought that Clark really was not comfortable lying at all. And this was the man who had a secret identity which meant he had to lie on a daily basis? Amazing.

"Your mom's cousin? A stroke?" Mayson's voice cut across the silence as Clark and Lois turned to face her.

"Er-- yeah," Clark said.

"That's why Clark's parents flew out here this weekend," Lois put in, seeing that Clark wasn't comfortable enough with this lie to perpetuate it for any longer than necessary.

"Oh," Mayson murmured, but Lois saw the acceptance in her expression. She knew the Kents lived in Kansas and she'd probably been wondering what they were doing in Metropolis for a weekend with Clark nowhere to be seen and this rather explained it -- not perfectly, of course, considering the Kents hadn't mentioned a thing and also, why they were with Lois and Superman if Clark was, presumably, at the hospital -- but well enough that Mayson wouldn't question it further.

For a moment, Mayson seemed to hesitate, and then she stepped up closer to Clark, while Lois reluctantly stepped back, more out of automatic courtesy than willingness. "That explains it, then. I-- I thought it didn't seem like the kind of thing you would do." She paused and then continued on, less smoothly, "I wish you'd called to let me know, to explain it. I-- I don't know if I'll ask you out again but if *you* want to ask *me*, then I probably wouldn't say no."

She drew back, hesitating again and that split second was enough for both Lois and Clark to sense her intentions. Lois stiffened again and caught Clark's fleeting pained expression and his glance at her, and then at the last second, he turned his head slightly so Mayson's lips brushed his cheek instead of his lips. It was a small movement, small enough that an observer would be forgiven for not knowing whether it was completely intentional or not.

Mayson stepped back, her expression calm, but Lois just glimpsed the flicker of vulnerability in her eyes, and surprised herself with feeling a pang of sympathy for the other woman for the first time in their acquaintance.

She watched Mayson leave the newsroom with more softness for the assistant DA than she'd ever dreamed she would feel. After all, if anyone could understand being attracted to Clark Kent, it was her -- and Clark loved *her*. She could afford to be magnanimous and pity Mayson for her unrequited feelings.

Clark moved closer to her. "My mom's cousin had a stroke?" he asked, quietly enough that no one else could hear, a thread of amusement in his tone and his eyes.

"It was all I could think of at the time."

"Well, thank you for that."

She shrugged, suddenly wondering just what had possessed her. Why had she helped Clark? Even as she wondered it, she knew. She just hadn't been able to resist the hint of entreaty in that quick glance Clark had thrown her when he'd seen Mayson, hadn't been able to help responding to his dismay at this new complication his secret identity had created in Clark Kent's life. After all, she supposed, this was also what it meant to love Clark -- loving him meant lying for him, every day, to keep his identity a secret.

God, what had she signed up for when she'd fallen in love with Clark Kent, aka Superman, anyway?

But then she saw the warmth in his eyes -- all the love she'd ever wanted or hoped for --and she knew that in the end, it was worth it. Loving Clark, being loved by him -- that was more than any complications his double life might cause.

She smiled up at him. "You can pay me back later."

"How about dinner in Paris, or any other city of your choice, tonight?"

*Oh yeah, that would be a perk of dating Clark and Superman. She hadn't thought of that.*

She smiled into his eyes. "It's a date."

THE END