By Katie Green
Summary: Clark's in a sticky wicket when a tabloid journalist thinks she has stumbled upon Superman's secret identity.
I have no idea where this came from… just started typing I guess. Opinions and constructive criticism welcome.
Clark Kent stood watching TV. He was also eating a bowl of corn flakes, tying his abstract tie, and combing his dark hair. To do all of these things simultaneously might be difficult for the average man, but Clark was far from average.
He was watching the morning news and although it mostly consisted of newsmagazine worthy gossip, there was supposed to be a special report on Superman. Special, he thought. Special enough to be a circus act, practically. Clark had allowed himself to be interviewed as Superman for the show, and although it was somewhat embarrassing, it was also kind of fun.
Not that he liked being exploited. It was rather annoying sometimes. And he had been in the Daily Planet more times than he could count. Still, it was amusing to see how certain people reacted to the man of steel.
One of these people who reacted, however, was Lois Lane. Lois was completely obsessed with Superman and that bothered Clark in an awful way.
She thrived on Superman news. Clark loved Lois, he really did, and to see her falling all over Superman was no picnic. There had been so many times when he had wanted to tell her! He had tried to drop subtle clues as to who Superman really was in an effort that Lois would figure it out. But even being the star reporter that she was, Lois was so blinded by Superman that she never gave Clark a second look.
All right, maybe that was exaggerating a little. Lois really cared for Clark as a friend. And they had shared kisses, but nothing more than a life threatening situation or friendship. Friendship was far away from what Clark really wanted. Still, Lois was not completely hopeless. She had been so depressed when Clark had to fake his death, and the look on her face when he returned was one that he would remember forever.
Clark rolled his eyes as the story came on. "Superman; the man under the costume" was the name of it. Oh, how easily fooled the media was. You tell them your favorite color and how much you weigh and suddenly they've got you all figured out. The anchorwoman, Janet Thorne, was talking about Superman as if she'd known him her whole life. Not that it had been bad to talk to Janet. She was quite attractive, though nothing compared to Lois in his eyes. Janet had reddish blond hair that went just past her shoulders and always wore red. Either it was a red jacket, a red blouse, red lipstick, or red earrings. She had bee fun to talk to, except when she started to get personal. Janet had wanted to know if there was anyone special in his life.
Clark didn't dare mention Lois, or else the headline in the tabloids the next day would have been "Lois Lane, Superman's secret lover" or other such nonsense. So he said no and wondered to himself if she was interested. She certainly had seemed interested in him. Later on, after all of the following events had taken place, Clark wondered if it had been an act. She asked him out for coffee, but Clark had replied that he had to be going and maybe another time.
Lois was waiting for him that morning at his desk at the Daily Planet. "Did you see it?" she asked.
"See what?" Clark responded.
Lois sighed. "Clark, sometimes I think you were kidnapped by aliens."
Clark smiled at that remark. "A car exploded two blocks from here this about half an hour ago! It was on Lincoln Street."
"What?" Clark asked, surprised. "I don't take the cab by Lincoln street.
Did a car really explode?"
"It exploded all right. Three people were inside and were killed."
Clark felt a pang of guilt. I should have been there, he thought. I could have saved three lives. But he figured that he'd better get to work and not worry about it. Lois, however, was not finished with him. "Did you see the Superman report this morning on the news?"
"Yes," Clark replied. "You know, sometimes I feel sorry for the guy.
Imagine what it must be like to be gawked at wherever you are by absolute strangers and having people always wanting your picture or an interview…"
"You can't be serious, Clark," Lois interrupted. "The public has a right to know. If Superman didn't want his face plastered around the newspapers, the he shouldn't be saving the day all of the time!"
"Well, just because he wants to save people doesn't mean he wants fame."
"Clark, you are sooo blind. If he didn't want fame then why does he wear that skintight suit? Bright blue, I might add. It's kind of hard to miss him."
Lois had a point, even though it was totally wrong. But he let it go.
She'd never let him win any discussion or argument they had. He turned on his computer and began typing. Suddenly, he heard a scream and turned around. Using his x-ray vision, Clark spotted a man jumping off of a tall skyscraper. There was no way possible for Clark to run out that fast and save the man, especially with everyone around. Lois was less than ten feet from him.
Clark sighed unhappily. It was very frustrating to see someone die and not be able to stop it. But, he reminded himself, people die all the time. I can't save everybody.
The next morning Clark found Lois at her desk looking intently at a copy of the National Whisper, a tabloid paper. Clark saw the headline, "Superman; not the man we thought." She sensed that someone was watching her and looked up.
"Oh, Clark, it's you. Can you believe this trash?" Lois asked, shoving the paper in front of him. Then she snatched it away. "I mean, really!
'Superman once was thought to be the perfect man. Until now. Recent tragedies have been happening that Superman has avoided. In Metropolis yesterday, a man committed suicide while thousands of shocked people watched.
And where was Superman? Probably out joy-flying.' It just gets worse. How completely absurd!"
"You'd better hide that, Lois. Do you know what Perry would do if he caught you reading the Whisper?" Clark was, indeed, outraged. But there was not a single thing he could do. If he had been anyone but Clark he might have contemplated destroying the Whisper building or more preferably, the author.
But Clark, Superman or no Superman, was not that type of person. He had to just sit back and take the punches.
"And you shouldn't be reading this anyway. It's trash, like you said. It belongs *in* the trash." Clark went to grab the paper and throw it away when Lois stopped him desperately.
"Wait!" she cried. "I want to clip the pictures first."
Clark unlocked his apartment and went inside. It was the evening of the Whisper incident and he was concerned. If people lost faith in Superman, as some had in the past, where would that leave him? What was a hero to do if he was booed when he went to rescue someone?
Not that it would come to that, Clark told himself. It was one lousy article in some stupid tabloid that no one takes seriously. If the Planet had published it, that would be a different story. But no, this was not the Planet. That in itself was reassuring enough for Clark to fall asleep.
Clark found a note on his desk the next morning. "Call Janet Thorne at the Channel Five Metropolis News." It was in Lois' handwriting and a phone number was given. Lois came up to him.
"You're late, Kent. I'm starting to become your secretary around here," Lois said. But she didn't really mind. "Who's Janet Thorne?"
"That anchorwoman for Channel Five," Clark replied. "I think she did the story on Superman."
"Oh, that's right," Lois said. "What does she want with you?"
"I don't know," replied Clark, starting to become suspicious. As far as he knew, Janet Thorne had no idea who Clark Kent was. Unless…
No, that was impossible. How would Janet know that he was Superman? He dialed the number.
"Hello, Janet Thorne," said a woman's voice.
"Ms. Thorne? This is Clark Kent from the Daily Planet. I got a message saying you called."
"Oh, yes. I'd like to speak with you later today."
Janet paused. "I've been reading your articles in the Daily Planet about Superman and it seems like you'd know a lot about him. I'm planning on doing a follow up segment on the Superman piece a few days ago and I want more information."
"Okay," Clark replied. "I don't know how much I'll be able to help but I can try."
"How about lunch today?"
"That's fine. Can we meet at the deli on 28th Street?"
"Sure. See you there!"
Clark hung up and saw Lois staring at him. "So what did she want?"
"Oh, she's doing another Superman piece and thinks I can help her."
Lois looked insulted. "And what about me? What could you *possibly* know about Superman that I don't?"
Clark smiled. "A lot more than you think."
Janet Thorne sat across from Clark at Joe's Deli. It was a small place with red checked tablecloths and cracked leather booths. She had ordered a garden salad and Clark had a sub sandwich.
"So, Ms. Thorne-"
"Janet, what exactly did you want to ask me?"
She looked around for her notepad. "I've heard from various people that you can contact Superman. How exactly do you do this?"
Clark paused. "It's a secret. If everyone knew, then—"
"Uh huh. And what about the fact that you and Superman have never been seen at the same time?"
Janet was calm. "I have seen many news reports, news photos, etc. and though there are many reporters in each one, none of them are you."
"So, if you're such good pals with him then how come you two have never been seen together?"
"What exactly are you getting at?" Clark asked, although he knew very well.
Janet smiled. "You and I both know.
"No, we don't."
"Fine. Bring Superman here with you tomorrow for lunch."
"I don't think I can make it—"
Janet looked at him. "If you don't come with him, then the next news in the Whisper will be a whole lot different than it was before. People will really know what Superman is all about."
Clark grabbed the Whisper from Lois as she sat reading it at her desk. He had just returned from lunch with Janet and needed to see something. Lois had not, after all, disposed of the paper.
"Hey!" Lois exclaimed. "I'm reading about how vegetables can experience pain!"
"I need to see something," Clark told her. He opened up to the Superman story and sure enough, the author was J. Thorne. "It's Janet," he muttered.
"This Superman article. It was written by Janet Thorne."
Lois was outraged. "You mean that stuffy anchorwoman you had lunch with?
The one who did the Superman report on Channel Five?"
Clark nodded. "That's the one. Pro-Superman by day, Anti-Superman by night."
"What a hypocrite," Lois mused. "She had such a great report on how wonderful he was and them wham! This is published."
"I guess some people will do anything for money," Clark replied.
"I wouldn't be surprised if she was following him around town. You know, tailing him to gather more dirt."
Clark was about to laugh when suddenly it occurred to him that it could be the case. If Janet had followed Superman one day, she would see him change into Clark.
He was very upset, especially at himself. I should have never agreed to do that interview, the thought. Now because of it, Janet could possibly ruin my life.
"I have no idea what to do," Clark told his parents as he paced back and forth in the kitchen of the farmhouse. He had decided to make a quick visit to his parents in Smallville. Martha was making pie and Jonathan was cooking chili. "Janet Thorne knows, or at least suspects, that I'm Superman. And I've never even met her as Clark before this lunch. She must be studying Superman really hard to have figured it out and that could be a really big problem."
Jonathan looked at his son with concern. "She's not someone you can trust, is she?"
"No, Dad, she works for the Whisper. They spill anything and everything."
Martha sighed. "I guess the only thing you can do is admit that you're Superman and leave it at that."
"This means that my life will be ruined. By tomorrow, everyone will know who I am. And not just in Metropolis. The entire country and possibly other countries will know! I'd have nowhere to go, Mom."
The Kent's had hoped that it would never come to this. "Why does Janet want to do this to you?" Martha asked.
"Probably money," Clark said. "Imagine how much the Whisper would pay Janet if she said she knew who Superman really was. It would be thousands, even millions!"
"Well, I really don't know what to tell you," said Jonathan. "I guess you'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Clark lowered his head. "Okay. Thanks anyway. Bye," he called as he changed into Superman and flew out of the house.
A minute after Clark had left, Martha heard a sound coming from outside. It sounded like somebody running. She looked at Jonathan and could tell that he had heard it too. They walked outside and found a woman running across a field to a car.
"Hey!" Jonathan shouted. But he was too late. The woman had already gotten into her car and driven away. Martha approached him. "Who was it?" she asked.
"I think we've just been paid a visit by an employee of Janet Thorne," Jonathan responded.
Clark couldn't sleep that night. Even though he only needed a few hours, he was too anxious to sleep. Would his life really be over in twenty-four hours? He turned on the TV and unfortunately the Channel Five Eleven o'clock news was on. There was Janet Thorne, talking to millions of people about an accident on the Metropolis Bridge today. At the end of her report she remarked that Superman hadn't been there to save the day. Give it up, lady, thought Clark. I can't be everywhere at once. But it was useless to think these thoughts.
He began to think long and hard about what to do. He would have to just come right out and tell Janet the truth. That way, he wouldn't have anything to hide. But suppose she then went ahead and printed the story?
He could bargain with her. But Clark certainly did not have the amount of money that the Whisper did. She would laugh at anything he offered.
There seemed to be no way out of this dilemma. So Clark decided to let what happens happen. Having not slept in a while, he was very sleepy. So he closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Clark awoke that morning with a start. In his sleep he had remembered that today he had to meet with Janet. He got up and began pacing. Not finding this satisfying enough, he leaped out the window and flew to the desert.
Here he could think out loud with nobody ever knowing.
But in the desert, he could only pace back and forth. He sat in the hot sand and wished that Lois was there with him. Clark was so upset, so hurt by everything, and so depressed that he contemplated staying in the desert forever. No worries, he thought. No one to wonder if I have super powers or not. But, he thought regretfully, no Lois.
Unable to come up with a single answer, he flew back to his apartment and got ready for work.
Lois was waiting for him at his desk that morning looking extremely panicked. As soon as she saw him she began babbling. "Clark, Clark, Clark you have to see this, that Janet woman has gone absolutely insane, look at this!" She threw the Whisper that she had in her hands at him and all of the pages flew apart. "Pick those up!" she ordered, almost screaming. People turned to look at them. In a somewhat quiet voice, Lois commanded, "Read!!!"
So Clark calmly picked up the papers and put them in order. His calmness enraged Lois further. Then he looked at the front page. "Superman's home discovered!" read the headline. Accompanying the article was a large photo of the Kent's farmhouse in Smallville.
"What the hell is this?" he asked in an angry voice. He had never been so outraged, but he kept his voice down low as not to attract attention.
"I'll tell you what it is," Lois replied in an equally angry voice. Clark couldn't exactly tell what she was mad at. Did she believe the article?
"This girl must be so desperate for news that starts to invent it! Janet has one lousy interview with me and she thinks that you're Superman? She follows you to Kansas and starts snapping photos? I swear, you should sue that girl." She stared into the article.
"I feel so bad for you, Clark! This woman is awful to tell such lies."
"Lois!" Clark shouted. Lois snapped her head towards Clark. "What?"
"Lois, I need to talk to you. Alone."
Lois looked at him with sheer alarm. "What… what about?"
He didn't reply. Instead they walked into an empty conference room. "Lois, there's something I need to tell you.
"Listen," he said. "The reason that I'm so upset about all this it that—"
"Clark, don't you dare say another word!" Lois screeched. Aware of the noise she had made, she suddenly lowered her voice. "I never heard anything from you! You didn't tell me anything and I'd like to keep it that way!"
"But Lois, I'm—"
"Don't, don't, don't say it. I will not allow you to say it."
Clark stood dumbfounded. "Fine then." They left the room.
Clark decided to pay Perry a visit. "Hey, chief, can I talk to you?" he asked, poking his head into Perry's office."
"Of course," Perry replied. Clark went in and sat on the chair opposite Perry. "Everything's all right? I saw that article in the Whisper, what a lousy excuse for a newspaper."
"Everything's fine," Clark reassured him. "I have a question."
"Well, I'm in a situation where I'm caught between a rock and a hard place."
"I'm being blackmailed. Someone wants me to do something that I can't physically do. If I don't do the thing, then they will make my life miserable."
"And there seem to be no solutions. No matter what I think of, it won't solve my problem."
"Is it a big problem, Clark?" Perry asked.
"Big enough to destroy my life forever."
"And you don't want to tell me what this problem is?"
"No, I can't."
Perry sighed. "Well, Clark, it seems to me that what you need to do is find someone who can do this… thing… for you. That's about all that I can think of."
Clark suddenly looked as if he had been told that his fatal disease wasn't fatal after all. "Thank you, Chief!" he exclaimed. "You have no idea how much you've helped me. I owe you one."
"Glad I could be of service," Perry said, mystified. Clark got up and practically ran out of the office.
"Not now, Lois," Clark said on his way out the door. "I'm taking an early lunch break. I'll be back in a few hours."
"But Clark… I need to talk to you…" Lois tried to call after him but he was already out the door.
Clark went into Sammy's Look-a-Like Agency, dressed as Superman. It was a seedy place on the third floor of a run down building in downtown Metropolis.
When he and Lois had been there a few months before trying to get information on Bonnie and Clyde look-a-likes, a Superman look-a-like had come in. Lois hadn't been able to tell them apart, at least not at first. But even though the guy had been obnoxious, he could be used.
"Barry?" Sammy asked as Superman went into the office, mistaking him for the look-a-like. "I haven't gotten—"
"This isn't Barry," Superman said. "It's me, Superman."
"Sure," Sammy said, not believing him. "And I'm Madonna." In an effort to prove who he was, Superman lifted a couple of feet into the air. Sammy stared in amazement.
"I'm looking for a Superman look-a-like to help me out with something. Do you know of one?"
"Sure," Sammy said. "Barry Reynolds. I can give you his number if you want."
"Do you have an address?" Superman asked. "I'd like to visit him"
Sammy paused. "I think so," he said, rummaging around his desk. He produced a crumpled blue paper and unfolded it. "Ah, here it is. 677 Macbeth Lane on the south side. Apartment 6B. Though I have to warn you, it's not the best neighborhood." Sammy paused, laughing to himself. "What am I telling you that for? You're Superman!"
"Thanks," Superman said, mentally jotting down the address. Not wanting to hang around, he quickly flew out the window.
"Hey, whaddya want?" called a gruff voice. "I said I'm not interested in them magazine subscriptions!"
"Open up," Superman commanded and Barry's door. "It's Superman."
"Oh, sure," the voice said. "And I'm-"
In an answer, Superman went around and flew in a window. "Can we talk?"
Barry Reynolds may have been the six-foot tall splitting image of Superman when he was in the costume and had his hair slicked back, but Superman hadn't expected him to look even more like Clark Kent. Barry wore no glasses, but his hair and face made him and Clark look like twins.
Barry lived in a junky apartment on the south side of Metropolis. Even though this part of town had been recently cleaned up, it was still far from perfect. Windows and walls were cracked, rats and mice infested the place, and it Barry obviously wasn't a neat kind of person. The entire apartment was littered with old furniture, papers, and a million other things.
"Superman?" Barry asked.
"Yes, it's me," Superman replied. "I've heard that you've been working as a look-a-like."
"Well, I was wondering if you could do me a favor."
Barry looked a Superman, amused. "You want me to do you a favor? What's in it for me?"
Superman sighed. "If you don't help me, I'll see to it that the Metropolis Police Department finds out about all of those recent burglaries…"
Barry looked alarmed. "I wasn't… I mean… a guy's gotta make a living!"
"Not by robbing people."
"Fine… I'll do the favor. Just don't turn me in."
"Okay," Superman said, glad that he accepted the offer. "Now, I need some help." He took Clark's clothes and glasses out from behind him. "Put these on."
"Just do it." Superman waited as Barry went into another room to change.
When he emerged, he looked almost exactly like Clark.
"Now spit out the gum and comb your hair," Superman commanded. Barry did as much. "Listen. We're going to Joe's cafe for lunch today. There we're meeting a woman named Janet Thorne."
"That news lady? Man, is she hot!"
"Barry listen to me. Your name is Clark Kent. You are a reporter for the Daily Planet, and you have been accused of being Superman. You are not Superman, I am Superman. And so you will act like you have met her yesterday at the same place. Got it?"
"Good." Lifting Barry up, they flew into the sky.
"Well hello there, Clark," Janet Thorne said smugly as Barry joined her.
Superman stood watching from outside. "I see your friend Superman couldn't make it. What a shame…"
Just then, Superman walked into the cafe. Janet's mouth formed into a little "o".
"Superman!" Janet exclaimed, shocked. "What… I mean, how nice of you to join us."
Superman tried to smile. "I heard from Clark here that you wanted to interview me for another piece on Superman. That sounds like fun. Where should we start?" He pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Barry and Janet.
Janet stood suddenly. "Actually, I just remembered that I have, uh, an appointment. Right now. So if you'll excuse me…" She got up and practically ran out of the deli.
Barry looked at Superman with a frown. "Hey, you didn't even let me talk to her!"
"And that was probably a good thing," Superman muttered under his breath.
When returning from his eventful lunch, Clark ran into Lois in the Daily Planet lobby.
"Where have you been?" she asked. "You ran out so fast, I didn't even get a chance to tell you something."
"Janet Thorne wanted me to meet her again," replied Clark.
Lois raised her eyebrows. "Oh, she did?"
"Uh huh." Clark could see what she was getting at. Lois was jealous! "But I had to tell her that I'm through with interviews. I like to be the one doing the interviewing."
"Why's that?" she asked, obvious relief on her face.
"Because I'd rather spend my lunch break in other ways," Clark grinned.
"What didn't you get to tell me earlier?"
"Oh!" Lois said, looking through her huge purse. "Well, Mindy Maple from Channel Seven news called. She wants to know if you'll be available for an interview tomorrow."
"You *are* becoming my secretary," Clark observed. Lois frowned. "But tell Mindy Maple that I'll be having lunch with a very good friend of mine."
"Will do, Kent," Lois said as a small smile rose to the corner of her mouth.