By Louette McInnes (email@example.com)
Summary: Knowing Clark is worried that being intimate with Lois might harm her, his parents try to find a solution. Meanwhile, Lois and Clark's story on drug use in Metropolis gyms lands them in hot water — and lands Clark on his back, repeatedly, in the judo classes he's taking to provide a cover for his investigations.
This is for all the FOLCS who have heard of, read, or just debated about the implications of Larry Niven's essay. The idea came from someone who posted in the news during the debate, and I lost the name. Can't remember if it was your idea or supposed to be from the comic. I hope you like the way it turned out. Sorry to the few pervs out there - this carries a strictly GA rating.
"Great work, kids!" Perry said, slapping Clark on the back and beaming at Lois. "Not only did you get two muggers off the street, but nearly getting mugged yourselves gave you the human interest angle for your story."
"Thanks, Chief," replied Clark, "but I think there must be safer ways to get a story. Suppose Lois hadn't managed to kick the gun out of that thug's hand? She could have been shot! I still wonder if it wouldn't have been better to hand over our things than run that risk."
"What, and lose all my notes on the drug investigation? You knew I wouldn't let that happen, Clark!"
Lois had been over this argument with Clark several times already during the hours at the police station while they gave their own statements and waited for the two attackers to be "processed". She certainly hadn't wanted him to risk revealing himself as Superman when the two muggers bailed them up outside of her apartment late one night after work, holding a gun aimed at her. Superspeed, heat vision, super breath to chill the gun, any move like that would have given him away, but she hadn't been able to see why a normal person couldn't stop the muggers. At least they had gotten a good story out of it. And the information they had started to collect on the use of banned drugs in some of the city gyms hadn't been lost, either.
Perry turned to Lois, "Now, Lois, you know I don't mind my reporters running some risks, and you're pretty capable at taking care of yourself. But I agree with Clark. I'd rather not lose one of my star reporters in a mugging. I can think of other ways you can supply me with a headline! Which reminds me, how is that drug piece coming along?"
"Bobby Bigmouth gave us the names of two gyms to investigate," Clark answered, "but we haven't got inside yet."
"Well, you two kids take the weekend off and put your nerves back together after last night's little fracas, and then see what you can dig up on Monday with the drug story," Perry said as he headed Lois and Clark toward the elevator. "Even Elvis needed time off now and then."
Lois felt covered in flour from head to toe. There was flour in her hair, and smudges of it on her face, too. But she wasn't about to give up. If she could take on a mugger, how hard could it be to squash a small mound of dough into shape? She patted the dough out into a flat rectangle.
"Is this too thin?" she asked Martha hesitantly. "Should I use a ruler and measure it?"
"No, that's just fine. Here's the knife to cut it into big squares." Martha was just checking the oven temperature and getting a tray for Lois to put the raisin scones on for baking.
"How big?" asked Lois, again sounding unsure of herself.
"Well, Jonathan and Clark looked pretty hungry when they came back from the barn. Besides, if we make the scones too small, they'll complain they can't get enough whipped cream on them."
For the next few minutes, the two women worked quietly, getting the scones in the oven and getting the jam and cream ready. Then they had a few minutes to relax before it would be time to make the tea.
Lois broke the silence. "I didn't want him to change right there in front of the muggers, but just giving in isn't very useful, either, no matter what the cops recommend. I thought at first he could heat the gun or something, but that would have raised questions at the police station. And a bullet bouncing off if he made any other move would be, well, a little obvious. That's why I decided I should do something."
"I'm, sure you did the right thing, Lois. You know he just can't stand the thought that you might have been hurt. Besides, he just never really got in any fights at school."
"But he played football!"
"Well, yes, but that's not exactly like a street fight. Jonathan just always taught Clark to *avoid* fights if possible so he wouldn't hurt anyone or have anyone find out about him. So he never really learned much about fighting or self defense like a "normal" person would use. Well, after all, he wasn't normal."
"Oh!" said Lois, "I never thought of it that way."
"Well," continued Martha, "I certainly think it's never too late to learn something new! Do you think he could learn karate or something in case you got in a situation like that again? He would feel better about being able to protect you as Clark and not always depending on his super powers."
"Martha! You're a genius! That's just what we need! *I* should have thought of that. Clark can learn a martial art, and at the same time it will give him an excuse to take some classes at one of the gyms we're investigating!"
The timer on the oven interrupted the conversation, and Martha started the tea brewing while Lois organized a tray for the "Devonshire tea" they had been preparing.
"Do you think he'll like the scones?" Lois asked in a suddenly anxious voice. "I mean, he complained the ones he had in London weren't even as good as yours."
Martha continued to pile them on the plate. "Don't you worry, he'll eat them and like it. With all the jam and cream he puts on, I never understood how he could taste the scones, anyway. I used to really worry when he was little, and try to watch his diet, but he always looked so healthy, no matter what he ate. And teenagers! When his friends came around at that age, they'd go through a tray of scones in about 5 minutes - they *all* seemed to be able to eat at super speed! If I ever did make a mistake, I just told them it was a new creation, and they always ate it. Sometimes they'd come back and tell me how clever I was to invent it. THOSE versions got repeated. Clark never knew these should have currants or sultanas instead of raisins, but I was out of those the first time I tried the scones! Maybe that's what was wrong with the ones in London? Now, lets get this outside and the boys can pour the tea and *we* can sit down."
Jonathan and Clark were sitting on the porch steps when Lois and Martha arrived with the trays of tea and scones. Clark took Lois' hand and gently pulled her down beside him.
"Smells good and looks good, Mom," Clark said as he picked up one of the scones.
Martha sat down on the top step and said, "See, Lois, I said he'd like them."
Clark turned quickly to Lois, managing to look both surprised and slightly worried. He started to look more carefully at the scone, turning it over and over, before he at last smiled brightly at Lois and said, "I guess I'll take a chance."
"Take a chance?! Is that all the appreciation I get for my hard work? And I'll never get all the flour out of my hair," came an indignant reply from Lois. The bantering over her cooking ability, or lack thereof, was a game they both played. The teasing was fun, but the making up after was even better. Clark's parents both burst out laughing at this interchange, then hastened to describe a similar scene some 30 years before but involving bread instead of scones.
"It *really* was awful compared to the store bought bread, which was a lot lighter," Martha admitted.
"But it was fresh and hot… and it smelled so good," added Jonathan, "that we ended up eating half of the loaf on the spot."
By this stage, Clark had managed to pile the split scone with jam and cream. He put his arm around Lois, and she snuggled a bit closer.
"Just as well you've got a stainless steel stomach," she remarked, eyeing the cream dubiously. This was part of the game, too, now that she understood how he could eat so much of what she considered "junk food".
A short while later, Lois smiled up at her man as he reached for a third scone. "Your mother had a great idea for working off all that cream," she said, pleased that Clark was obviously enjoying the "afternoon tea", as he had said it was called in London.
"Oh?" came a cream muffled reply.
"Would you rather do karate, tae-kwando, Thai kick- boxing, or something else?" she asked.
"Mom! What have you two been cooking up besides scones?"
"We were just talking about the attempted mugging," came the answer from Martha, "and I agree with Lois that there must be something you can do as Clark in a situation like that. I said you weren't too old to learn some self-defense."
"AND," added Lois, "it's the perfect cover for you to get into that gym Bobby mentioned. I can do one, and you can do the other. So pick a sport, sport!"
Clark realized he had no way to win this argument with both his mother and Lois working together. "They're all too, well, aggressive and attack oriented. The whole aim seems to be to hurt someone else, kick their teeth in. Isn't there something more, well, defensive? Something more in keeping with me as Clark?"
"What about judo?" asked his mother. "Do they have a judo class at that gym?"
"Probably," said Lois, "Why? What makes you think that's less aggressive?"
"Graeme Linton, who used to come through every so often to tune pianos in the area, sometimes stopped in for coffee. He had a black belt at judo. He was about as un- aggressive as you could want."
"But could he stop a mugger?" asked Lois.
"Could he! Some college boys stopped in town on the way home from a football game one Saturday night. They were a bit under the weather with drinking and were getting rather rude. Graeme asked them to keep the noise down a bit, and the biggest took a swing at him. Next thing anyone knew, that young man was flat on his back. When he tried to get up and shove Graeme, who was half a head shorter, Graeme just grabbed his collar, and the boy seemed to pass out," Martha finished.
"That sounds okay," commented Clark. "I couldn't imagine Graeme ever deliberately hurting anyone."
"Great! That's settled." said Lois, relieved at getting Clark to agree. "We'll call the gym as soon as we get back to town. Then if you run into any situations like the other day, you'll have something you can do that would be considered a normal response. If you just do it a *little* bit better and faster than normal, no one is likely to notice."
Lois and Clark were standing on the porch after dinner preparing to leave for Metropolis. Clark was standing behind Lois, and his arms were wrapped protectively around her waist as they stared at the night sky filled with stars, enjoying the quiet time together.
Lois wished they could stay longer - she would have enjoyed making Clark "make up" for the cracks about her cooking earlier. They couldn't seem to get past a certain point, though, on the rare occasions when they had much uninterrupted time alone together. Clark kept saying he wanted to wait.
Martha and Jonathan came out on the porch to see them off, and Martha brought out a small box and held it out to Lois. Clark released her and moved so he could see the box, as well.
"Jonathan and I wanted you to have this, Lois, now that you and Clark know how you feel about each other."
Lois took the small box and carefully opened it to reveal an antique gold locket and chain, the kind you might see on fashionable ladies in portraits from the turn of the century. She carefully lifted it from the box and held it in her hand. "It's beautiful!"
"It was my grandmother's," added Martha, obviously pleased with Lois' reaction. "Open it. You need to know what's inside."
Lois carefully pressed the small release, and the locket opened. Inside were two pictures of Clark, one of a small and chubby baby, the other of a mischievously grinning small boy. Lois looked up to the face of the man she loved, trying to see the small boy inside him still. But he was standing there, mouth open, looking with a stunned face at his mother. Lois looked back at the locket.
"They made jewelry to last in those days. It's very heavy for such a small locket," she said to make conversation, puzzled by the locket and Clark's reaction to it.
"No," said Martha. "I lined it with lead." She turned to her son and put a hand on his arm, "I know you've been worried about something, Clark, and I think this may be the answer."
Clark was still looking intently at his parents. They seemed so concerned as Lois looked at them, and they looked back at her.
" Lois, he's scared he might hurt you by accident," Jonathan explained. He looked embarrassed, and turned to Clark. "We knew how worried you were, Son, and we've been thinking about this for a long time, worrying ourselves, about what would happen if you found someone to love. We've been searching for the last few months, all over Shuster's field. And last week we found it. That's why we wanted you two to come out this weekend."
"Found what?" asked Lois.
Martha answered, "A tiny chip of kryptonite. It's in the locket under the baby picture."
Lois looked horrified, and started to shove the locket back at Martha.
Instead of taking it, Martha wrapped Lois' hands around the locket. "You've held his life in your hands for a long time. He loves you and trusts you, and so do we." Then she grabbed her husband by the arm, pulled him into the house and shut the door quickly.
Lois looked at Clark, who was looking down at the floor. Then he raised his eyes to look straight at her, and gently took her hands, which still held the locket, in his hands. "I…wanted a normal life. But I have to face up to the fact that I'm not normal. I can control my powers, but suppose I got…distracted, not thinking, just reacting. And you DO distract me." He was smiling almost shyly as he uttered the last sentence. But he was also beginning to turn a nice shade of pink. "I think you're supposed to use it on our wedding night?"
Lois looked down at the locket lying so innocently in her hands, and felt amazed and overwhelmed at the fear and trust that had put it there. His fear FOR her and his trust IN her. She felt his arms encircling her and look up into those brown eyes that she loved so much. Her mouth formed a small O as comprehension hit, then she smiled, and closed the locket and distracted those brown eyes with a long and passionate kiss.
The next day and back at work, Lois enrolled for an advanced class in karate at Cooper's Gym while Clark found he could take a beginning class in judo at Yamashita's Martial Arts. Jimmy managed to find a few books on judo for him, and he spent a few minutes quickly flipping through them. Judo turned out to be more wrestling than kicking, and he liked the idea behind it of using the other person's strength rather than his own. It reminded him of the little bit of training he had done with Lin to retrieve the dragon heart bracelets, but since that was not one of the martial arts at the club they wanted to investigate, he thought the judo looked the next best option. For the next few weeks, he and Lois would practice at the clubs and see who they could meet and what they could uncover.
Clark's first class that evening surprised him. He had seen some videos that day and expected to see people thrown around the room, but instead the instructor spent nearly all the lesson teaching the class to fall safely in just about any direction imaginable. And they fell over, and over, and over, and over. Clark kept getting told off for not tucking his chin down so he wouldn't hit his head on the firm mats when he fell backwards.
The instructor wasn't at all what Clark had expected. Adam McKenzie could almost have walked under Clark's arm, he was so short. His hair was completely grey, and Clark guessed his age at close to 60. But quite a few of the young men in the class were having trouble keeping up with his pace. And he showed them no mercy, telling them off in a thick Glaswegian accent. As he fell "on the count" for the 214th time that night, Clark wondered how recognizable the new terms he was learning would sound with an American accent overlaid on the Glaswegian pronunciation of Japanese words.
At last the instructor said they were ready to try one "throwing" technique. He asked Clark to rush up and try to grab at his arms and push him. Clark thought this sounded easy enough and was preparing not to push too hard, only to find Adam standing over him and telling him off.
"Ya didne do yer breakfall right again, lad. Put the arm there!" he said, moving Clark's arm to the correct position. "And tuck yer chin onto yer chest! Thet's the wey! Now didje all see whot ah did?"
The next 10 minutes were spent getting the class, in pairs, to learn the correct position and movements.
"Ye don't youse YOUR strength, ye let the other fella use HIS to throw hisself." The instructor called over an assistant and explained, "Ye've got to breek his balance. Grab his right arm with yer left hand. Pull out with thet left arm. Grab his collar with yer right hand, then keep yer right elbow DOWN, here, against yer opponents chest. As ye tern, like yer tryin' ta stand beside him, he'll go off balance. Yer right leg should cum across and jest ketch him there, above the ankle. Keep yer heel down. Tern yer head and look where ye want him ta fall. Look in the direction of yer left foot. If ye jest straighten the leg a wee bit as he goes, it'll help. Now ye all try it."
It looked easy, but Clark couldn't seem to get everything to work.
"Tern yer head, Kent!" the instructor snapped. "He's not thet good alookin to bother with, so let yer head lead and don't be lookin at yer partner!"
Clark wasn't sure how much more of this he really wanted to take - the instructor seemed to enjoy telling him off at every chance. Adam came over and watched Clark.
"Let's see thet agin. See! Jest stop there. Yer tryin ta pick him up and throw him. Ye big fellas only know how ta use strenth. Back out and starrt agin."
This time the instructor took him through the moves almost inch by inch.
"There!" he said, "yer weight shood be balanced between yer feet, not fallin over like thet." He moved Clark's hips to the correct spot. "Now jest tern! Tern yer head!" he snapped at Clark.
This time, Clark's partner seemed to go over with no effort at all, and land on the mat with a bang.
"Thet's it! Ye've got tha idee. Jest, when he goes over, pull up a wee bit soes he dinna land so hard. Ye got to look after yer partner."
That idea certainly struck a chord with Clark, in more ways than one, and he thought maybe the class would prove bearable after all for a few weeks.
"Could ye FEEL the diffrence thet time, lad? Ye didne need much strenth then cause ye had broken his balance and he threw hisself."
Clark *had* noticed a real difference, and thought maybe there was something to this sport after all. He realized he HAD gotten used to depending on his strength, rather like Adam had said. Seeing what could be done with skill and timing and balance rather than strength was like opening a window on a different view.
His days playing football as a small boy suddenly sprang into a different focus. He had needed skill then, before his full strength developed, but the last few years he had come to depend on that strength, assuming it would always be there when he needed it - until that first experience with kryptonite. He remembered how helpless he had felt then, so frustrated at not being able to do what he normally could do - well, normal for him. Had he really got so very dependent on his super powers? Sometimes, he knew, he had acted with over- confidence. Maybe a few weeks of learning to depend on skill rather than strength would be a good exercise. How little strength COULD he use? It certainly was beginning to look like an interesting challenge. And maybe he could learn to protect Lois better without always having to use super powers. Anything that would reduce the risk of someone connecting Lois to Superman was worth a try.
Lois was sitting on the edge of Clark's desk while they shared a donut and the information they had gotten, or in Clark's case not gotten, at the gym the previous night.
Jimmy bowled up breezily with a sheaf of papers in hand. "So, did you two find out anything last night?"
"Yes," said Clark. "Fifteen ways to fall over my own feet."
Jimmy leaned over to look at Clark's feet under the desk. "I didn't think they were THAT big," he said, grinning at Lois.
"Well, I found something," said Lois. "Is that the background check you were doing on the club officials, Jimmy?"
Jimmy handed her the papers. "Efficiency is my middle name! Some of these guys have pretty impressive records in their sports. Some guy, McKenzie, even had a Commonwealth Games title, but that was in 1966. The club listed him as an instructor, but, like, he must be WAY too old to actually do anything except watch."
"Think again, Jimmy," said Clark, "come to the class with me tonight and I'll let McKenzie work YOU over instead of me."
"Jimmy," Perry said as he came up behind his young assistant, "a good vintage improves with age, which you won't have a chance to do unless you get those front page photos up here for me to check," he looked pointedly at his watch, then yelled, "in the next 3 minutes!"
"I'm gone, Chief!" came back from the direction of the elevator.
"What have you got, Lois?"
"Not enough, yet, Perry. I thought I saw something change hands, and I even got it on film, but that alone doesn't prove anything. *I* might be sure what was in it, but without concrete proof, we can't print anything."
"Clark? What about you?"
"Nothing, Chief. I had a chance to do a good search of the locker area while the next class was on, and if anyone is selling banned drugs, I'll be surprised." (Clark didn't mention the search took less than 3 seconds, including an X-ray scan of the office.)
"Well, you kids keep working on it, but, hey, no practice fights in my newsroom. You keep any - wrestling," and he rolled his eyes up and around, "where you'll have more privacy!" Then he walked off laughing.
At the judo class two nights later, Clark performed so well that he was asked to demonstrate his tai-o-toshi throwing technique for the class.
"The rest of ye goo and practice thet at least 50 times," Adam admonished them. "I tole ye last time ta practice, thet you wouldne have it come natrul til ye'd done it at least 500 times. At least Kent here listened." Adam couldn't know, of course, that Clark had done his practicing in less than 2 minutes.
Clark was pleased that things were going so well, only to find himself smarting from a tongue lashing for dashing off the mat without permission. He had heard someone calling from the weights room below and gone to help, forgetting dojo etiquette that required him to get the sensei's permission, and then "bow off" before stepping off the mat.
After the class, Clark waited to speak to his instructor. He couldn't imagine Adam being involved in drugs in any way, but he and Lois had found Bobby's information too often correct to assume no drugs were being used at the gym.
"Excuse me, Sensei," Clark started, "I do practice, but isn't there some faster way to help me build up my muscle bulk, something I could take to help?"
"Lad, yer verry mistaken if ye think thet's a good idee. Thet's no whot judo's all abot. An if thet's whot ye came ta the class for, ye'd best quit now!" Adam was even more abrupt than usual.
"But some people here are using drugs to help them, aren't they?"
"Not in THIS class, no' if I kin help i'. They miss the whole idee of judo. It's a battle, alright, but wi' yerself, in here, ever' time ye goo on the mat." He tapped the side of his head with a blunt finger. "If ye need a crutch ta hol' yerself up wi', yuv no' won atall. Yamashita feels the same wey, I'm sure, but some of the other folks who use the gym, they may think different. Ye kin try one o' their classes, lad."
"No!" Clark hastened to answer, " I want to continue. To be honest, I'm a reporter. I was told drugs were available here, and I'm just checking out the story. Can you help me do that?"
"Too many people know ma opinion aboot drugs ta tell me much, but ah kin give ye some idee of who ta watch. Yamashita wood luv ta have an excuse ta boot them out the club."
After they got changed, the two men talked outside for the next half hour.
Meanwhile, Lois had been luckier in her attempts to find someone willing to help her "improve" her strength quickly with something out of a bottle. Between her work and the leads Clark got from Adam, the two of them got enough proof, by way of documented purchases, and from interviews with former club members who had suffered health problems from the drugs, to convince Perry they could safely publish their story.
That night, after finishing the story, they decided to celebrate with a quiet dinner together at Clark's apartment.
"You've really got hooked on this judo, haven't you?" Lois asked as she washed some lettuce for a salad.
"It's the - attitude," Clark searched for words to try to explain. "I have to control myself there, but I actually feel more free than I ever have before in Metropolis. It's like the control isn't a negative force holding me back any more, but instead, it's a positive drive to be better, more skillful at what I can do. When I first came to Metropolis, I complained to Dad about always having to control myself, not use my powers. I felt - constricted, bound, not able to BE myself. The suit helped. At least I could do some things. I know I act different then, more confident, even over-confident, like going to Luthor's apartment to show him what I could do when he arranged those tests of my abilities."
"I wish I had known then what he was doing! I'd never have been mesmerized by him. I still can't believe how I misjudged BOTH of you then." Lois had put down the salad and leaned against Clark. Her arms encircled his neck as she looked up at him sadly.
"You were what kept me going, Lois, when you said people would get hurt, and even if I couldn't help all of them, whatever Superman could do would be enough." He paused, then added with a little smile, "I DID feel bad about that little trip I sent you on, though, looking for the spaceship."
"Yeah, but not enough to stop me from being bitten by all those mosquitoes at the sewage reclamation project! I think, mister, it's time you made up for that little trick…just as soon as we finish dinner."
Lois had worn the locket Martha gave her, in the hope of having a chance to try it out on Clark. An oil tanker overturning in an accident interrupted their evening rather earlier than she had hoped.
The early edition of the paper had barely hit the streets the next day when Perry took a call from the paper's lawyers, and immediately after that, one from Mr. Stern. Lois could see Perry through the glass, even if she couldn't hear him. His face looked like a black cloud, and he was waving his arm and arguing. She couldn't imagine anyone but Mr. Stern standing up to Perry in that mood. He slammed down the phone, then went to the door of his office.
"Lois! Clark! get in here!"
As soon as they had closed the door, he started to explain, "Zane K. Mink, the landlord who owns those two clubs you investigated, has got his lawyer suing the Planet, says the story is a frame by the Planet to get a headline! He claims you two were the ones supplying the drugs! Great shades of Elvis! Can you imagine the NERVE of that man! Lois, you got everything on tape and video, didn't you? You got it in a safe place, darlin'? We'll need that."
Then Perry gave them the bad news, "Oh, and Mr. Stern is insisting on a blood test on the two of you, to prove you haven't taken any drug. I tried my damnedest to argue him out of that, said my top two reporters shouldn't have to submit to something like that, but he insists it will help the legal case and if you two are "clean" you have no reason to refuse. What can I do, kids?"
"But Perry," objected Lois, clearly annoyed, "why should WE have to prove our innocence?"
"I agree, Lois, but Mr. Stern holds the checkbook that pays all our salaries."
Clark had kept quiet during this exchange, trying to think of a way around the test. He gave a slight shake of his head when Lois looked at him, about to continue arguing. She closed her mouth stubbornly, and sat still.
"Well?" said Perry.
"We haven't agreed yet, Chief. Can we have some time to think about this?"
"Sure, kids. The test is for tomorrow morning. Maybe you can come up with something by then."
"I can't take a blood test, Lois. I don't even know if my blood is like everyone else's." Clark was definitely worried. "And how will they get a sample. As soon as they try to put the needle in, they'll know something is wrong."
"Your blood looked as red as mine when you got that paper cut in Smallville. How did you do that?" she asked.
"That was when Wayne Irig found the kryptonite, and I got exposed. I got really sick, then I was just - like normal for awhile."
"Well, let's take the easier problem first. We can at least find out about the tests. Professor Hamilton should know what they do. And we have enough contacts in the medical profession to find out, if he doesn't know. I might even manage to get my father on the phone. So - let's get to work!"
An hour later, Lois felt sure that the test procedure, itself, would pose no threat, once they somehow got a sample.
The test would not look at, or type the blood, only test for a few specific banned substances. The sample would be disposed of afterward in a high temperature furnace. Prof. Hamilton did suggest, however, that a photographer and the Planet's lawyer follow both hers and Clark's samples to ensure it could not get contaminated, either by accident or design. That way no one could slip in any drugs to make them look guilty, or claim the Planet had somehow switched samples to make Lois and Clark look innocent.
Lois agreed this was a good idea, especially since she realized it would guarantee no one could get the sample of Clark's blood after the test was done.
After a long day of writing up their current stories, and thinking about the problem of the blood test, the two partners had decided to walk to Lois' place and were just approaching the front entrance. Clark heard some hurried steps and a swish as someone's arm swung at him from behind. Without thinking, he moved into one of the defensive throws he had practiced a thousand times the previous week. His attacker was suddenly in front of him - and sprawled on the pavement with a dazed look on his face.
Lois looked at Clark in amazement. "How'd you do that?" she asked.
"I don't - know! It just happened," he answered, looking almost as surprised as his attacker. He looked from the man up to Lois. "That's what Adam said it would be like if I got it right!" Clark smiled, grabbed the front of the man's shirt, and hauled him to his feet.
Meanwhile, Lois was taking the carry strap off of her bag and said, "Use this to hold him while I go call the police."
"No, Lois, we'll go together. It may be a coincidence, but this could have something to do with Zane Mink. Let's just be a bit cautious."
They tied their attacker to the metal railing of the steps. Over Lois' continued objection that she could take care of herself just pushing buttons on a phone, they made their way up to her apartment. The door was ajar, and Clark used his X-ray vision to be sure no one was still inside. What he did see was a mess. Lois' apartment had been "done over" except for a few drawers, which suggested a hasty exit by the culprit.
"You stay in there and bolt the door!" He ordered as he firmly but gently put Lois inside. But the diversion of the attack had done its job and any outside search was just too late to be able to distinguish whoever ransacked the apartment from the other people on the street. Clark returned to Lois' apartment.
"Just look at this mess! They must have been looking for my tapes and video. Nothing of value is gone. The first thing I checked was the locket. That was my biggest worry when I saw the door open. I think I'll have to wear it or find somewhere much safer to keep it."
"Now do you see why I didn't want you to come up here alone? Have you called the police yet?"
"No, I was just about to when you got back." Lois answered.
"Just wait a minute and let me do a thorough search, in case they left any little presents. Remember the honeymoon suite? There was a little "surprise" in the sofa there, too, after the break-in, but I muffled the explosion and you didn't hear it."
"What! Is that why you were sitting down when I came out? And I told you off for it. We WILL talk about that, but not right now."
Clark carefully went over the whole place but couldn't find anything like a bomb.
"Did you lose a sock down the side of the sofa?" he asked. "Wait, there's something in it. Mmm, maybe our friends are more clever than we thought. You may have some odd quirks, and I love every one of them," he added the last part quickly as Lois looked at him sharply, "but you don't keep socks in your sofa, and drugs in your socks."
"Which explains the little attack outside! We thought they were stealing, and they would have taken the tapes if I'd been dumb enough to keep them here, but they needed time to find them AND plant the drugs. And they WANTED us to call the cops. Neat. We would think we were safe about passing the drug test, but if the cops arrived to investigate a burglary, and found the drugs while they were here, Mink's lawyers would have a field day in court with the law suit."
"We'd better not disappoint them, then. You'd better phone the police while I go over the place once more very carefully, to be sure we have everything they left. Our friend outside will keep a little longer."
After the police left, Lois and Clark settled down with some coffee to sort out what they knew, and more importantly, figure out how to deal with the drug test. Lois yawned and stretched, and looked at the wreck of her apartment.
"Well, I did need to clean my cupboards," she tried to be philosophical. "It's one of the hazards of being a journalist, I guess." She leaned over and rested her head on Clark's shoulder.
"I can fix it in a jiff," Clark assured her.
"Don't you dare move! I LIKE my pillows to stay in ONE place for a few minutes, at least." She sighed and made herself more comfortable. "Besides, the big problem is that drug test. They'll never get a needle through your hide. If I'd known it was that tough, I wouldn't have been so soft on you that first month we worked together."
"Soft! Soft as nails, maybe."
"I could be REAL soft now, and make up for that," came Lois' answer back to him in her sweetest teasing tone as she snuggled even closer. She fingered the locket suspended on it's gold chain. She had put it on as soon as she found it still safely hidden in her room.
Clark found Lois almost impossible to deal with at times, but this was one time he was happy to give in and just relax with her so close and warm and safe. So he was surprised when she suddenly sat bolt upright and stared at him, mouth open.
"Would just a little kryptonite weaken you enough so someone could take a blood sample? Without making you sick?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Mom just intended it to take the edge off my strength," Clark looked puzzled, then his expression changed. "Oh, I see!"
"If you have the locket, or if I can wear it and get close to you, maybe we can get around the blood test. It would sure put off anyone who was suspicious of you being Superman!"
"We should try it. Now," Clark suggested. A few experiments with Lois' small sewing kit showed how far away the locket had to be. They were both so tired by then and it was so late that they both agreed rest was the main thing they needed so they would be clearheaded the next day. Lois sat down while Clark quickly tidied her apartment. She was asleep even in that short time, so he carried her to her room, put her bear in her arms, gently kissed her on the forehead, and tiptoed out to the sofa.
"Well, what have you two decided to do about the drug test?" asked Perry the next morning when they appeared at the Planet.
"Perry, I'll tell you the truth. Clark faints at the sight of blood!" explained Lois. "So we'll agree to the test. But I want to be right there beside him in case he faints."
Perry was standing beside Clark, and therefore didn't notice the slight look of amused surprise on Clark's face. It was gone by the time Perry turned to him for confirmation of his willingness to undergo the test.
"I just get a bit embarrassed about it, Chief, but I'm sure with Lois there, I'll manage the test."
"That's all set then," Perry said. "You'll report to the Weston Clinic at 11:00 a.m. The Star found out and is probably going to send a reporter and photographer. We can't keep them out, but I don't like providing headlines for the competition! But if you kids come through okay, they'll have nothing to print anyway. WE will, so Jimmy can go with you to do some photos for us. The Planet's lawyer is all set to meet you, like you asked."
Jimmy was supposed to meet them at the clinic, so Lois was watching the front of the building as their cab drove up. Lois pointed ahead and asked, "Isn't that the greasy photographer who worked with Diana Stride? I thought he'd left the country. He always seemed so sleazy and slippery to me, I half expected him to slide rather than walk when he moved."
"Yes, that's Rolf," answered Clark, "but he obviously hasn't left the country." then he added quietly to Lois, "and I can imagine why he might be here, too."
"We'll give him a good show, even more convincing than the one your parents did." Lois gripped Clark's hand tightly in her own, and he turned and smiled at her, but he still looked a little worried.
"Now, if you'll just sit here, Miss Lane, this won't take but a moment," the doctor said to her a short while later after their arrival in the room where the test was to be conducted. In a moment it was over, and Lois had a small band aid over the place where the sample had been taken.
Clark was next, and as he sat down, he seemed decidedly nervous, looking around as if trying to find a way to escape from the needle the doctor was holding.
"You need to roll up the sleeve of your shirt, Mr. Kent, so I can find a good vein to use," advised the doctor.
"Oh, right," Clark looked up and hastened to comply.
Lois moved close to the doctor and said, "He really is a basket case about this. He faints at the sight of blood. Even talking about it yesterday meant he had to sit down!"
"Never fear, Mr. Kent, we haven't lost anyone yet during a blood test," the doctor reassured him.
"I'd really rather not do this -isn't there some other test you could do?" Clark asked with a slight nervous edge to his voice.
Rolf smirked when he heard this and hastened to get his camera properly adjusted.
Lois, meanwhile, turned to the doctor, "Just in case Clark starts to feel funny, could I sit by him and give him some moral support, doctor? I won't get in your way."
"That's fine, Miss Lane, no problem at all, especially if it will make him feel better. Nurse, would you get her a chair?"
Lois sat down on Clark's left and patted him on the shoulder. Rolf, who had not even spoken to them and had been slinking in the background, suddenly moved up to where he would have a clear camera shot of Clark's blood test.
The doctor took a swab of disinfectant and cleaned Clark's arm where the needle was to go in. Clark seemed to tense up and try to pull his arm back from the needle. Lois leaned over and put her head on Clark's shoulder and put her left hand over his hand, as if to hold his arm steady, and whispered very softly, "You are such a ham! Rolf is nearly drooling in anticipation."
"Miss Lane," Rolf interrupted, "I cannot get a clear shot of ze test. And I want absolute proof that Mr. Kent did take ze blood test, for my paper. Otherwise, someone will say he HAS used the drugs."
Lois moved her head off Clark's shoulder at this request, but turned so that her lovely gold locket, which had come partly open, was only inches from his arm as she looked steadily at him and smiled.
The doctor moved forward, and Clark closed his eyes and gripped Lois' hand. He clearly looked a little paler than before. As the doctor pressed the needle into Clark's arm, Rolf's camera blazed flash after flash.
"That's fine, Mr. Kent. We're all done. You can look now if you like." The doctor was transferring the sample to the test equipment, and Rolf was looking very puzzled and crest- fallen.
"Does the Star want a statement as well as a photo, Rolf?" Lois asked, just to drive her own needle a little deeper.
"No, zat will be fine," he answered still very puzzled, and left immediately.
"Jimmy, did you get your photo all right?" Clark asked.
"Sure, CK! Are you okay? I felt a bit dizzy myself."
Lois gave Clark a kiss on the forehead, took his hand and pulled him up out of the chair. "Enough rest, partner, we have a story to write."
Perry was happy. Mr. Stern was happy. Adam McKenzie and Master Yamashita were happy. Jimmy was delighted since his photo made the front page and helped beat the lawsuit against the Planet. Martha and Jonathan Kent were very happy, after they saw the photo and once Clark explained everything that had happened.
Rolf and Zane K. Mink were not at ALL happy. Lois and Clark were seated on her sofa once more, but this time with a neat apartment and a good Chinese meal in front of them.
"It didn't leave you very weak, did it?" Lois asked, letting the worry she had felt show now that all was safe.
"No, as soon as you moved away and closed the locket, I was fine. It has to be very close for such a small piece to do anything." He pulled Lois over onto his lap and started kissing her cheek, along the line of her jaw, then her ear, then her neck. "I still think we need to find out just HOW close, though, don't you?"
"I always liked science experiments," came the answer, "mmm…let's collect some more data…"