By Zoomway@aol.com

Summary: Wish you could have seen that date promised at the end of the episode "Individual Responsibility," when Clark promises Lois he'll be there at 7:00, and 7:01, and 7:02 … ? Here is what it might have been like — a night out on the town as could only happen to Lois and Clark.

This story is dedicated to awin (Angie) who wanted very much to see the date we heard Lois and Clark make in Individual Responsibility, but never actually saw. Thanks also to Chris Ruppenthal who wrote the bit of dialogue I transplanted here that establishes the date. Thanks to Teri Hatcher for Lois's charming acceptance of Clark's date proposal. Thanks to Vip and Angie for some valuable information about India and its customs. And thanks to Rhen for editing and spell checking the whole thing for me. Oh, and thanks to Demi for making me break just a bit of continuity, but it was a clean break :)


Clark detested DEA agent Daniel Scardino almost instantly. He was a smooth operator with well-rehearsed pick-up lines, and the terminal hots for Lois Lane. This wouldn't have been so bad since Scardino had been so transparent, but there was something else there, something of a genuine interest he could see in his rival's eyes that scared him. Scardino had been left empty by the death of his partner. Obviously someone he cared a great deal about, but he never got around to telling her how he felt. She must have been fiery and indomitable like Lois, and so seeing Lois as a second chance, he didn't want to be left wondering a second time. The combination of Scardino's persistence, and Clark's disappearances led to Lois sharing a date with Scardino. Time was now collapsing around Clark's hopes, and if he didn't move quickly, time would run out. Taking advantage of a narrow window of opportunity, Clark made his move after Lois had been handed a note stating that Scardino would be detained, and could not keep their date.

"Then you're free to go out with me tonight." Clark had said in a casual tone.

Lois fixed her gaze on Clark, and he could tell, though weary, Lois was still angry. "Dan's availability, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with our relationship, and your continual disappearing act."

It was now or never. "Lois, I'm not going to try and stop you from going out with Dan. That's your choice." Clark noted that there seemed to be a flash of anger and disappointment in Lois's eyes, and so he pressed on, hoping to see something else as he continued. "Instead of dancing around my feelings for you, I've decided to meet them head on, and verbalize my emotions. And your going out with Dan—" Clark saw the anticipation fairly dance in her eyes, and so quickly continued, "It *does* upset me." There was the look he wanted! There was a smile of victory, mingled with relief in Lois's eyes. She had needed to know that Clark had cared enough about her to be upset by Scardino's intrusion.

Lois, somewhat dumbfounded by Clark's confession replied, "I don't know what to say."

"Say you'll go out with me tonight." Clark insisted. "And I promise you I will 'not' disappear." Clark's heart sank as he looked at the hurt and fearful expression on Lois's face, and it pained him to know that he had placed it there. If she would only say yes, he would take that pain and hurt away.

A faint smile crossed Lois's lips. "All right."

Yes! Relief washed over Clark like a wave. A grin split his face wide open.

Lois's smile grew as well. "You can pick me up at 7:00."

"Okay." was all the more response Clark could manage.

The fear darkened Lois's face again momentarily. "But you have to promise you won't disappear!" This was not a plea for herself, but for both of them, and any future they might hope to share. If he failed to keep this promise, they were through.

Knowing that Lois cared so much caused Clark's smile to intensify to the point that his eyes became mere crescents. He shook his head, reassuring Lois that he would not disappear. Lois then became playful, and took on the tone of a little girl. "And you'll be there at 7:00."

Clark nodded.

She placed a hand on his shoulder. "And 7:01." followed quickly by her other hand on his opposite shoulder, "And 7:02."

Clark nodded again. He had seen this coy, girlish behavior before, but only when he was Superman, and so he was quite happy to see Lois lavishing it on 'Clark' for a change. But just like the tempestuous weather on the Gulf coast, Lois shifted from coquettish girl, to sensual woman, and Clark now found he had to keep the smile on his face, or he'd be all over that luscious mouth in an instant. She teased him along all the way up to 7:05 hugging him closer with each tick of the clock. They ended forehead to forehead, just grinning at each other.

The blood thundered in Clark's ears. He could feel them burning. He was burning all over. He had never embraced Lois like this before. There had been hugs of sympathy, reassurance, comfort and happiness, but never one of a romantic, or sensual nature. They had even kissed. The *big* kiss the day after their first official date, and that was a hungry kiss, Clark recalled, but even that was not accompanied by an embrace. He could not believe how overwhelming the feeling was of her body pressed tightly to his. How could she undo him so thoroughly, and with only an embrace? "Heaven help me if we ever make love," Clark thought to himself, and then mentally added, "*When* we make love."

Jimmy, his head down reading a scrap of paper, began to speak, oblivious to Lois and Clark's intimate embrace. "Lois, this note from Scardino says—" Jimmy, finally glancing up, saw his co-workers…no…his friends, still snuggled in their warm embrace. He saw the loving glow in their eyes, but mainly fixed his gaze on Lois. Perhaps it was the openness, adoration, and vulnerability all mixed together in her eyes that dictated Jimmy's next action.

Lois and Clark separated from their embrace rather sheepishly. Lois folded her arms and looked at Jimmy. "Well?"

"Huh?" Jimmy asked, but then seemed to snap back from his trance. "Oh, the note…it says…um, that Scardino can't make it for your date."

She nodded, "Thanks, but I already got that note, Jimmy. So Clark and I are going out tonight."

Jimmy smiled weakly, "Okay." Turned on his heel and left. He had not walked twenty paces before he felt a pain in the pit of his stomach. He had lied. The note clearly stated that Scardino *would* be back in time for their date. Jimmy swallowed, but the lump in his throat refused to move southward. He shoved the note into his pocket, took a deep breath, and entered Perry's office.

Perry glanced up, and then went back to editing the copy on his desk. "What's up, Jimmy?" he asked, but never lost a beat with his red pencil.

"Chief, I…I—"

Perry looked up, and noticed that the young man was obviously in some kind of emotional distress. He removed his glasses, and tucked the red pencil behind his ear. "What is it, son? You in some kind of trouble?"

"Yes. No! Well…maybe. I don't know!" He blurted the words out. The exasperation in his tone was quite clear. "I mixed into something that was none of my business. I don't even know why I did it!" He paced over to the large plaid chair and folded his arms on the back. "Yes I do," he said softly. "It was her eyes."

Perry smiled and nodded, "Ah, female trouble?"

Jimmy lowered his gaze, "Maybe. I mean it's Lois, and—"

"Whoa, son! I hate to drop a flag on this play, but you're way too young to be mooning over—"

Jimmy shook his head vigorously, "No, no, Chief! I don't mean that!" Jimmy managed an embarrassed grin. "I admit I had kind of a crush on her, but hey, what guy who's worked here hasn't? Maybe that's it! I mean when I had a crush…and then she met Superman…the way she looked…yeah!…her eyes were the same!"

"Hold it, son. Your train just jumped the track and is making a rut in a dirt road. Mind getting it back on the rails."

"Sorry," Jimmy smiled. "Well, like I said, I had kind of a crush on Lois, nothing serious at all, but she made coming to work a whole lot more pleasant. Anyway, after she met Superman, she would get this look in her eyes, Chief. It's hard to describe, but when I saw it I, well I—"

"Would've shot craps with the devil himself to have Lois look at you like that…just once?"

Jimmy sighed with relief, "Exactly!"

"Well, I'm with you so far, son. I've had my share of crushes, but why the sudden foxhole confession?"

"Because I saw that look again, Chief. That look in Lois's eyes, but this time she was looking at C.K."

"You're not telling me you're jealous of Clark, are you?"

"No! In fact," Jimmy blushed. "I'm kind of rooting for him."

"Rooting for Clark?"

"Sure! I mean nobody had to root for Superman, he's got it all, but C.K., he's a regular guy. If C.K. wins Lois, then it's like a guy like me has a chance some day with a woman like Lois."

"Uh huh," Perry nodded. "It's sort of like Lois is the beautiful cheerleader falling for the shy quiet guy at the back of the classroom that no one notices, instead of falling for the star quarterback?"

Jimmy nodded enthusiastically, "That's exactly it…well, that and I think that Lois needs someone like C.K. I want her to be happy."

"That much we can agree on, but you still haven't—"

"Here," Jimmy sighed, and gave the note to Perry.

Perry glanced up from the note, "So you're afraid that Scardino will make some big play on their date tonight?"

"There won't be a date for Lois and Scardino tonight," Jimmy swallowed nervously. "I lied to Lois and said Scardino couldn't make their date, so Lois said that she'd be going out with Clark instead."

Perry tipped his head back and laughed, "Well, Jimmy, the phrase 'all's fair in love and war' didn't become a cliche from lack of use."

"But I lied to her, Chief! What happens when she finds out?"

"That depends entirely on how things go with Clark tonight, don't you think?"


Lois paused a moment while applying her makeup. "Why are you giving Clark a second chance?" She asked her reflection. "Never mind," she sighed, and turned away from her silent counterpart. "You're falling in love with him. Oh, God," Lois groaned, "I *am* falling in love with him!" She walked into the living room and sat down heavily in an attractive, but decidedly uncomfortable chair. She folded herself up tightly into a ball, hugging her knees to her chest. "Why Clark?" she whispered, and then a wry grin lifted the corners of her lips. "You know why. Because he's real…because you can smell the fabric softener on his shirt when he has his jacket off…because you can smell his aftershave when you find an excuse to whisper in his ear…because you find yourself wanting to touch him for no particular reason…because you feel so comfortable when you talk to him…because you feel so warm and safe in his arms…because you fantasize about making—"

Lois unfolded with a start in response to the knock on the door. "He's early," she whispered, and slipped on her shoes as she made her way to the door. She smiled, and swung open the door. She was just about to mention that he had arrived early, but that was unnecessary.

"Hi. Hey, you look terrific! I thought we'd check out that new French restaurant that got all the rave reviews from your lifestyles editor."


"Hey, don't worry. I know the place is booked months in advance, but I was able to pull a few strings, and 'viola' as the French restaurant crowd says, we're in!"

"Dan, what are you doing here?"

"Didn't Olsen give you my message about being able to make our date after all?"

"Uh, yes, I mean no…I mean the last message I got said you couldn't make it."

"Oh," Scardino said, suddenly reappraising the situation. "Then I take it you're not all decked out for me."


Lois and Dan turned around just as Clark stepped through the doorway. "Hi," Clark said softly, looking only at Lois.


Dan narrowed his eyes. He could see the soft glow of electricity sparking between Lois and Clark. He figured this was the time to be magnanimous if he was to keep his tallied points with Lois. "Well, Kent, don't say I never did you any favors. If you use my name at that four star joint on Hennesy, there's a table waiting."

"Thanks, Scardino, but I've already made reservations at this great Indian restaurant I know."

"Ah," Scardino sniffed. "I gotta admit that's different, Kent. Me, I guess I'm just a romantic at heart. French restaurant, thoughts of Paris. The city of romance. When I think of India, I think of—"

"Adventure," Lois said, and hooked her arm through Clark's. The couple departed leaving a defeated and deflated Dan Scardino behind. At least for this round.


Lois smiled to herself as Clark pulled the chair out for her. He was a man of old-fashioned manners. He would even rise from his chair when a woman entered the room. He did that the first day they met. It seemed so long ago. "Well," Lois smiled, "I'm in virgin territory here." She noticed her wording elicited an odd expression from Clark, and so clarified, "I've never had Indian food before. Well, not authentic Indian food anyway."

"I'm surprised. Being a lover of spicy food as you profess to be."

"Ha! I've had chicken curry before, Clark. It wasn't even as spicy as pepperoni pizza."

"But you admitted you never had 'authentic' Indian cuisine." Clark smiled. "Here, you'll have your choice of mild, medium and 'call the ambulance'."

Lois laughed, and then reached her hand across the table, and laid it atop Clark's, "Thanks."

Clark's voice dropped to a softer octave that always seemed to accompany her touch, "Shouldn't I be the one thanking you? I mean I wouldn't have blamed you if you turned me down."

"I like you, Clark, and I always seem to have a good time when I'm with you." She rubbed her thumb against the back of his hand, "And I'd be lying if I said I didn't find you…well, attractive."

Clark's pulse quickened, "And I love…being with you." Clark swallowed, he'd almost gotten way ahead of himself. "And I think it's no secret that I've been attracted to you since—"

"How are we doing this evening?"

Lois and Clark, who had been leaning ever closer across the table, snapped back into their chairs like children caught by a surprise clap of thunder. Clark cleared his throat, "Just fine, Rajiv, thanks." He took the offered menu.

"Is this the lady, Mr. Kent?"

Lois looked up from the exotic words on her menu, "The lady?"

"Oh yes, Mr. Kent always talks about this beautiful lady."

Clark looked mortified, "Please—"

Lois laughed nervously and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm sure Mr. Kent has talked about a lot of beautiful ladies."

"Oh no, never!" The waiter smiled. "He comes in alone, and so one time I had to ask him if he had someone special he might like to accompany him. He said yes, but that she did not know he was alive."

"God," Clark whispered, and lowered his head behind the menu.

"I am so glad you found his heartbeat…Ms. Lane. Enjoy your dinner." Rajiv pressed the palms of his hands together, and moved them to just under his chin. Bowing his head slightly, he said, "Namaste," and departed.

There was an awkward silence, and then Clark heard a cry for help, "Uh…I have to use the restroom, and if I'm not back in five minutes, just assume I died of embarrassment."

"It's okay, Clark," Lois smiled. "Really."

Clark hurried into the restroom, transformed himself into Superman, and left through a window that was almost too small. Once in the sky he began to scan. Finding his target, he swooped down and picked up a police officer. A few seconds later he set the officer down at the scene of a robbery. The robber immediately dropped the knife he had been using to menace a young couple. Though not a terribly bright man, the robber knew that a cop and Superman placed his chances of escape somewhere between slim and none. Clark put his hand on the officer's shoulder, "This isn't my usual style, but I've got kind of a hot date tonight, and I really should be getting back."

The officer raised his eyebrows, "For real, Superman?"

Clark smiled, "For real." He lifted into the sky.

"She must be some woman."

"Trust me. She is!" Clark's words still hung in the air as the officer watched the distinctive form and shape of Superman morph into a red and blue blur.

Lois glanced up as Clark approached. She saw him smoothing his necktie. "Must be a nervous habit," she thought. "He's always messing with his tie." She appraised him as he drew nearer. He was certainly a well put together man.

"Well," Clark smiled. "See anything you like?"

Lois blinked rapidly, "What?"

"I mean is there anything you'd like to try?" Clark reseated himself. "You've always been the adventurous type."

"I…oh…on the menu!" Lois said, finally falling back into sync.

"Yes, the menu," Clark laughed. "What else would I mean?"

Lois blushed fiercely. "Nothing. I guess I kind of drifted." Lois straightened in her chair, and made an effort to refocus. "The only thing I recognize on the menu is chicken curry."

Clark drew his chair around the side of the table so that he could look at Lois's menu. They both leaned towards each other and Lois felt her scalp tingle when her head came to rest against Clark's cheek. It might have surprised Lois to know that Clark felt an irresistible urge to kiss the top of her head, but settled instead for reaching his arm around the back of her chair as if necessary to brace himself in the leaning position. "Well," Clark began, his voice dropping that octave again. "There's tandoori chicken. I don't think it's quite as good as curry, but that's just personal taste I guess."

Lois leaned farther over to point to a dish on the right-hand side of the menu, which caused her head to slip beneath Clark's chin. "What's this?" she asked.

Clark swallowed, and hoped his voice would not fail him. "That's sarson bhara kekda, a Bengali specialty if I'm not mistaken. Shrimps with mustard basically."

"Ah, so some of the dishes are regional."

"Um, yes," Clark cleared his throat. "Or just favored in some regions, like murgha kari in the Punjab, or the soowar ka gosht is a favorite in Bombay, although I guess I should say Mumbai now after the state of Maharashtra—"

"Mm," Lois rolled her eyes and leaned her head back against Clark's shoulder, "That sounds so romantic."

Clark's eyes softened. This was one of the many things he loved about Lois. She found romance in the exotic, rather than the traditional, "I thought Paris was supposed to be for romance mavens."

Lois half-smiled, "Is that a shot at Dan?"

"No," Clark laughed softly. "Just what most people think if they haven't traveled much outside the states."

"But you admitted my seeing Dan upset you."

Usually Clark waited for Lois to make the first move, and he would then follow her lead, but seeing as how Clark felt several points behind Agent Scardino, he decided to take the initiative, but in a way that felt natural. He slipped his arm up from the back of Lois's chair, and placed it softly around her shoulders. "It does upset me, Lois. I want this to work…this relationship…you and I have this…we're—" Clark was overwhelmed by his feelings. He had a million things to say to her, but they all seemed to want to pour out at once. The end result made him hopelessly tongue- tied.

Lois reached up and rubbed the hand Clark had placed on her shoulder, "I'm sorry. It wasn't fair to bring up Dan."

Clark saw the genuine regret in her eyes. They looked so deep and tempting. He leaned forward.

"Are we ready to order?"

Lois and Clark straightened in their chairs again. "Well," Lois sighed, trying to put herself back together. "I think I'll just try the chicken curry, but the next time we visit, I'll experiment a little."

Clark beamed. Just having her say 'the next time we visit' was enough to lighten his mood considerably. "I'll have the Aloo Matar."

"Certainly. Chai as well?


"You will have your usual 'medium' spiciness?" The waiter marked on his pad after Clark nodded. "And the lady?"

"Well, Lois?" Clark's expression became a facial dare.

Lois met his gaze, "Hot."

"Oh!" the waiter cooed. "Very good, Ms. Lane."

"Make both thali, please."

"Straight away, Mr. Kent." He nodded, and left.


"It just means a complete dinner. If you order chicken curry here, that's all you'll get. The thali dinner comes with daal, raita, probably naan, but I prefer chapati."

Lois shook her head, "I think I'll wait till the dinner arrives before I ask for a translation, besides—" The beeper in Lois's purse began to squawk. "No, Perry, please, not tonight," she sighed and pulled out the annoying device. "Oops, no, it's my sister. Do you mind, Clark? If I get this out of the way now, it won't spoil the rest of the evening."

"No, please. Go ahead."

Lois leaned over and kissed his cheek, "Thanks. You're a sweetheart."

Clark rose numbly to his feet as Lois departed. "Sweetheart," he repeated the word in his mind.

The waiter returned with the chai, and placed both glasses on the table. "Did Ms. Lane have to leave?"

"Huh?" The fog slowly lifted. "No, she had to use the phone."

The waiter smiled, "Well, the lipstick on your cheek means she'll be back."

Clark blushed and touched his cheek. "It was nothing."

"I see. Perhaps the lady was just testing your temperature?"

"I hope not," Clark said, and smiled rather ruefully. "Because 'the lady' gives me a fever."

"Well put, sir," Rajiv nodded, and then spoke a phrase in his native language.

Clark cocked an eyebrow. "I understood some of what you said, but—"

"It is mostly archaic. It would be as uncommon today as an American saying 'forsooth'."

"You're right," Clark grinned. "I haven't said 'forsooth' in nearly a fortnight. What does the phrase mean?"

"It is an ancient poem about an incurable fever," the waiter shrugged. "And you, my friend, have the fever."

"Is it fatal?"

"Let us say that it lasts until death do you part," he smiled, and then hurried back to the kitchen.

"I hope so," Clark thought, but had little time to dwell on his 'fever'. There was another cry for help. Clark sighed loudly. He dashed into the restroom, out the window, rescued a drowning victim, and made it back to the table just two seconds before Lois appeared around the corner.

"Sorry. Lucy just wanted to tell me about her latest lose…um boyfriend."

Clark pulled out Lois's chair. "Let's hope this one is one hundred percent organic."

Lois, to Clark's surprise, took the reminder of the Vale cyborg good-naturedly, "He'll be like *all* her boyfriends. One hundred percent recyclable."

Clark chuckled softly as he pushed in her chair, and Lois felt his warm breath next to her ear. She began to say something, but then sniffed, "Something smells like the ocean."

Clark cleared his throat and moved quickly around to his side of the table. "Maybe you're psychic," he suggested. "I thought after dinner we could take a walk on the pier."

"I'd like that," she said, and then placed the napkin in her lap as she saw the waiter approaching. As the waiter arranged things on the table, Lois thought about how much she was enjoying just being with Clark, but that one quirky and frustrating facet to his personality, his need to vanish when things got too close, was the only reason Scardino existed in the equation at all. If Scardino upset him, why couldn't Clark just…just what? What made him run? Why the contradiction? Why the sweet guy who doted on her every word one minute, and then a stranger who ran the moment things started to sound serious? Was he some kind of psycho gigolo with a great new way to hurt women? Was he secretly married?

"Still feeling adventurous?"

Lois snapped back to the present, "Sure."

Clark moved his chair back around next to her, and picked up her eating utensils and set them aside. He took her right hand. "To be traditional, you'll eat with this."

"My hands?"

"No, no, just your right hand." He then took her left hand, "This one is unclean."

"Clark," she said flatly, "I wash *both* my hands."

Clark closed his eyes and kissed her hand. He then tilted her hand, and kissed her palm. "Now, it's unclean."

"Ah," she smiled. "I like that." She reached over and took Clark's left hand in both of hers.

Clark's breath caught as he watched Lois bring his palm slowly to her mouth. She pressed her lips into his palm, and though he wanted nothing more than to watch her, his eyes rolled back, and his lids dropped as if they were shades being drawn by a spinster wanting to preserve propriety. When he opened them again, he saw Lois's dark eyes fixed upon his. She then did something that caused Clark's heart to skip a beat for the first time in his life. She slowly traced her bottom lip across his palm and whispered, "Unclean." If Clark's life had depended upon his ability to swallow at that moment, he'd have been a dead man.

Lois, though surprised by the boldness of her own maneuver, and not even certain what made her kiss Clark in that manner, was gratified by the effect it had on him. He impetuously leaned forward and kissed her softly. He pulled away only slightly and whispered, "Don't ever forget how to do that."

Lois laughed against his lips, "I'll save it for a special occasion," she said, and then straightened a bit in her chair. "I guess we'd better start eating before it gets cold."

"Lois," Clark smiled, and tore away a piece of chapati. "You ordered your spices hot, so I think you'll find there is no such thing as cold."

"We'll see."

Clark handed her the chapati, and she studied it for a moment. "It looks a little like a flour tortilla. How do I manage this with one hand?"

Clark took a piece of the chapati, dipped it in a sauce, and then used it to scoop a vegetable off his plate. He held the captive vegetable in front of Lois triumphantly, "Nothing to it," he said, and then popped all of it into his mouth.

"Well," she sighed. "It doesn't look too difficult. At least not as bad as chopsticks." She took the chapati and scooped up some chicken, "Tada!" She smiled and took a small bite, "Mm, that is so—" Lois did not finish her sentence. Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open.

Clark instantly recognized the distress signal. He grabbed the glass of chai, and handed it to Lois. She guzzled the milk- sweetened tea in a decidedly unlady-like fashion. Clark loved it. He loved her. "Better?" He asked, as she came panting from the tea.


"Here," he said, and retrieved a discarded spoon. He filled it with raita and stirred it into the curry. Then he filled the spoon with the combination, and offered it to Lois.

"No thanks!" She insisted. "I surrender. Whatever that new stuff is, I don't even want to try it!"

"No, no, no," he soothed. "The raita sort of cuts the spiciness. Like putting sour cream in Mexican food."


"Come on," Clark teased, and swayed the spoon in front of her mouth. "Where's that adventurous Lois Lane that I know and…admire." He had almost slipped again. It was difficult for him to avoid that word when he felt it so strongly around her.

Lois eyed Clark and the spoon warily, but there was something about Clark, and there was something about Clark feeding her. She fondly recalled the chocolate on their first date, and beyond anything else, it was quite sensual. She relented and pulled the mixture off the spoon with her lips. "Mm, much better," she purred. She looked at Clark, and saw that mesmerized expression. A kind of innocent wonder, but tinged with a healthy wickedness and longing. A contradiction perhaps, but also the best synonym for Clark Kent. As their dinner progressed with Lois stealing Clark's raita to further mellow her curry, and Clark occasionally feeding her a vegetable she had pretended to find interesting, Lois began to get that crazy foolish feeling again. It did not surprise her that the last time she had experienced this feeling was also with Clark. That first date; dinner, chocolate, wine, conversation all swirled together in one tiny speck of time. A few hours in her life, and yet, a wonderful few hours. It was so unexpectedly wonderful that it had sent her into a complete panic. How could she feel that way about her friend and partner? It couldn't be happening. Yet, it had then, and was happening now, and she realized that it was not the date they had shared that had been so wonderful, but that being with Clark had *felt* wonderful.

Yes, she was looking at him, and drifting, and letting that crazy foolish feeling wash over her. Clark smiled and chatted on and on about various adventures in India, but Lois was only tuned to his words on some sub-frequency. A key word here or there would filter through enough for her to respond appropriately with a nod or laugh, but for the most part, just as she had on her first date with Clark, she was thinking how perfect it would be to see his face across a table sharing dinner with her for the rest of her life. This time, however, she felt no panic, only a kind of contented solace.

Clark wondered if he was boring Lois. He could tell she was not exactly hanging on his every word and that was obvious by the delayed laugh or nod she would send his way, almost as an afterthought. He was beginning to feel a bit panicked. Perhaps a change of tactics. "Would you like to dance, Lois?"

Lois blinked out of her reverie, "Dance? Here?"

Clark laughed uncomfortably. He felt he was losing the comfort zone he'd been building with Lois all evening. "No. I meant after dinner we could head toward the pier, but stop off at the Ace o' Clubs in Hobs bay first and—"

"That place in Suicide Slum?"

Clark felt deflated. He was on a sudden downward spiral with Lois and didn't know how to undo the damage. He could feel the panic rising, "Well, I—"

Lois smiled broadly, "Clark, you're full of surprises." She rose from her chair, "I'll just go wash up. I have *two* unclean hands now, and then we can head that way." She gave him a quick kiss before departing. Clark placed a hand to his chin and shook his head. He would never understand Lois Lane, but he hoped to spend a lifetime trying, and it would take at least that long.

The Ace o' Clubs was smoke-filled, noisy, crowded, and every aspect of it seemed to make Lois glow with life. Clark loved seeing her like this. Less than a year ago she would have hated a place like this, or more accurately, she would have pretended to hate a place like this. Heaven forbid that Lois Lane should ever be moved, touched or amused by anything. It was the mask she constructed and wore for appearances, protection, and salvation. Peeling away this carefully applied mask had been painstaking, time-consuming, and often frustrating. Clark hated to admit it, but he had to credit Lex Luthor with loosening the edges of the mask, and therefore making it accessible for its gradual removal.

Lex, through deceit, cruelty and a brilliant battle plan, had nearly broken Lois completely. The fragile woman wearing an expensive wedding gown who came running teary-eyed for sanctuary in Clark's arms, was just a shell of the Lois Lane who had existed before Lex had nearly destroyed her. As hard as her fall had been, it did seem to open her eyes to how she had been deluding herself. Lex had been just one more elusive 'father' she turned to when vulnerable. Lex had been the powerful controlling father, Claude, the older wiser father, the Daily Planet had been the provider father, Perry the indulgent proud father, and Superman, the protective loving father. Clark had been the only one who did not fit the pattern. He had been the caring big brother she turned to when daddy turned away.

Clark had watched Lois slowly recover from her fall, and struggle with building a genuine strength to replace the bluster and bluff that had served her so well. Had Lex not started huffing and puffing, knocking down her stick and straw defenses, Lois might never have seen the need to rebuild. Clark couldn't help her in this struggle, other than to be supportive. She was the one who had to put each new brick into place, and she had to do so on her own. He smiled when he remembered the Kerth awards. Lois had not been nominated for the first time since she had been eligible, but *he* had been. Lois, at first, behaved like her old self; childish, hyperventilating, tantrum-prone, demeaning and sarcastic. However, a new facet appeared. She apologized for her poor behavior, and not only seemed sincere in her apology, she made up for her tantrum by escorting Clark to the awards, and being the 'perfect date' for him.

"Here you go." Lois said, and handed Clark a drink. "Sorry it took so long, but the bar was pretty crowded.

"That's okay," Clark smiled, and pulled out a chair at the table he'd been saving for them.

"The guy at the bar said a jazz combo would be on stage in about ten minutes, and then we can have that dance."

"Sounds great," Clark said, and now he became the one to drift as Lois related a story about investigating protection rackets in Suicide Slum. As Lois rambled on, punctuating her story with very animated gestures and facial expressions, Clark realized he had hit *that* moment. The moment where he could not possibly accept, envision or entertain the possibility of sharing his life with anyone other than Lois Lane. On the surface, it did not seem an amazing discovery, but there had been times when Clark had been discouraged, hurt, or angry enough where Lois was concerned to actually consider looking elsewhere. If for no other reason than the sake of his own sanity.

Lois had been like an addiction. He was hooked instantly, but kidded himself into believing he could quit any time. Then, just when he thought he had gone through the most excruciating detox, and was finally free, she'd do something else that would unwittingly seduce him back. Unwittingly, because Lois had no more idea of what she was doing to Clark than heroin knew what it was doing to the addict. Lois had put up her public service warning right in the beginning, "Don't fall for me, farm boy…" but like all addicts, he had laughed off the disclaimer. He had paid the price repeatedly for his arrogant self-confidence. A self- confidence that had never failed him…until Lois Lane.

Looking back, Lois had probably done Clark the greatest favor of his life by rattling his cage and knocking him out of his hamster wheel. Had his dealings with her initially not been such a complete and utter failure, he could never have survived similar failings as Superman. So, if all Lois could handle was a friendship, he would be that desperately needed friend. He also discovered that he had needed a friend too. As time passed, and Lois learned to trust him, he also hoped that no matter how deep and satisfying their friendship was, that she too would see that it was not enough. He felt the time had come for them to move forward, and though hesitant, Lois agreed, and a wobbly attempt at romance had begun.

"Hey," Lois laughed. "You should have interrupted my wild tangent. We're missing the music."

"I love your wild tangents," Clark said softly.

"Oh," Lois blinked, and was clearly taken aback by his honesty. She recovered quickly and stretched out her hand, "Come on, masochist. Dance with me." Clark happily took her hand and escorted her to the dance floor.

The jazz combo was playing a slow blues riff, and though Lois and Clark had started their dance in the standard ballroom configuration, complete with the modest gap separating their bodies, they began diminishing the gap until finally they were firmly pressed against each other. Clark wasn't sure how it happened, nor did he care. The reality of Lois's hips pressed into his as they moved slowly together across the floor was all that mattered. He wished he wasn't wearing the glasses though. That was the only thing preventing him from nuzzling Lois's hair. Just the thought of some component of his glasses getting tangled in her hair, and pulling them from his face was enough to prevent him from making the attempt.

The jazz riff ended, and just as Lois and Clark were about to pull apart, the combo immediately started another tune. The couple happily shrugged, and relocked into their rhythmic embrace. "Mm," Lois purred in Clark's ear. "This is one of my favorites."

"Mine too."

Lois craned her head back in order to look into his face, "You? Cole Porter?"

"Lois, I'm from Kansas, not Kazakhstan. Believe it or not, Topeka is getting indoor plumbing this year." When Lois tried to suppress a laugh, Clark brought his hand, still interlaced with hers, under her chin and tipped her head up, "Coming soon to Kansas City."

Whether it was Clark's delivery, that second glass of wine, or a combination of both, Lois dissolved into helpless laughter and dropped her head onto Clark's shoulder. Clark sighed a contented sigh. His heart was melting by degrees with every passing moment. Did Lois feel the same? Did she care? Did he touch her in any remotely similar way? "Five bucks," Lois said, finally recovering from her laughter.

"Five bucks?"

"Five bucks says you don't know the first four lines of the song. And," she said, placing a finger against his lips, "I don't mean the traditional first four lines that usually get sung."

"I can't sing, Lois."

"I'm not asking you to sing. Just say them."

Clark shifted uncomfortably, "Well, they're…I mean it's just kind of—"


Clark looked at the rather rough trade peopling the scene at the Ace o' Clubs, "Yeah."

She smiled, "Then whisper. Five bucks is five bucks."

Clark cleared his throat, pulled her in tighter and began to whisper the little used opening lyrics, "I'm sure you'll hate to hear, that I adore you, dear, but grant me just the same, I'm not entirely to blame."

"I'm impressed!" Lois said, and did seem genuinely surprised. She then began to softly croon the more familiar lyrics to "You'd Be So Easy to Love."

Clark was in a private Heaven. The woman he had loved since the moment he met her was in his arms, and singing a romantic old standard as she gazed softly into his eyes. Clark felt his mind haze over. He had to check more than once to make certain that his feet were still on the dance floor. Could Lois sing that song to him and not feel…something? Was she sending signals, and if so, was he reading them right, or was it just that he wanted so badly for her to return his love that he was reading a little bit too much into things that weren't signals at all?

Lois hoped Clark was getting the message. She felt she'd done everything short of dragging out semaphore flags to tell him that she was more than a little interested in him. This was not easy for Lois. She had made a fool of herself in the name of love more than she cared to remember. She vowed each time would be the last time, and yet, here she was in the arms of her best friend and partner and wanting even more of him in her life. She felt an almost selfish desire for him. Selfish, because she had genuinely come to believe that she was poison in a relationship, and Clark did not deserve that. However, since Clark had been the one to initiate this, then it was clearly 'caveat emptor' on his part. "Hey, lady, would you mind doin' that on the stage?"

Lois, startled from her cosmic housecleaning, turned and beheld a shabby, middle-aged man who appeared to be wearing an old letterman's sweater. It might have been white at one time, but now was a mottled grey and brown patchwork, and the sleeves were nearly four inches short of reaching his wrists. "I'm sure if Bibbo was here, he'd ask you himself, but he got plastered earlier tonight and started flingin' old vegetables at some tricycle motors in the alley, and so he's in the tank tonight."

"Tricycle motors?" Clark asked, as his eyebrows rose above his frames.

"Yeah, you know; ankle biters…um…crumb snatchers—"

"Kids," Lois laughed and placed a hand on Clark's chest.

"Sure," the man shrugged, "What else?" He then leaned close to Lois and whispered, though rather loudly, "I thought guys what wore glasses was s'posed to be smart."

Clark folded his arms, "Listen, Mr.—?"

The man rubbed his right hand on his filthy trousers, and then extended it to Clark, "Pockets."

"Okay, Mr. Pockets, I think—"

"No, no, just Pockets," he said, and enthusiastically added, "Your girl is quite a babe. How's about sharin' her?"

Clark's grip seemed to instinctively tighten around Pockets' hand, "Ow!" the shabby man winced, "I didn't mean nothin' dirty! Just let her sing with the band so's we can all hear her."

Clark released Pocket's hand, "Sorry," he said, and as was his habit, adjusted his glasses slightly.

"Well," Lois said, speaking to Pockets, but looking at Clark, "Since my boyfriend nearly broke your hand, the least I could do is sing for you."

"You got class, lady," Pockets smiled, and began escorting Lois to the stage."

Clark stood back and beamed. Lois had called him her boyfriend, and though she may have said it only to be a convenient identifier for Pockets, Clark didn't care. He decided to believe Lois meant it, even if it was just for this night. As he watched Lois approach the stage, he heard a cry for help. He decided to simply leave at super speed since he didn't have to vanish in front of Lois, and therefore needed no excuse. Aside from some napkins sent flying, and a toupee shifting slightly, his exit went unnoticed.

Clark returned, and Lois was well into the song. Fortunately the stage area was lit from the front and so the audience was no doubt an obscure dark mass to the performers, and the house lights had been dimmed. Lois seemed a bit nervous, though her lovely voice did not seem affected. Clark zeroed in on the slice switch that controlled the house lights, and blew towards it with sufficient force to cause it to move. The house lights came up just enough so that the audience was visible from the stage.

Lois fixed on Clark's face, smiled with relief, and finished the song:

"We'd be so grand at the game, "So carefree together that it does seem a shame, "That you can't see your future with me…cause, "You'd be oh so easy to love."

As Clark pondered the irony of those lines coming from Lois, rather than himself, the enthusiastic audience lost what control it had, and two Marines in the front row made a grab for Lois, one saying something about showing her how easy they were. Before Clark could get to her, Lois had kicked one of them in the face, which only succeeded in making him angry. As the neckless bull of a man charged at Lois again, Pockets interceded, but being a man of little weight, he was sent sprawling like a toy pitched by lawnmower blades. Clark acted as a backstop and broke Pockets' fall, and then grabbed the Marine by the shoulder, and spun him around. The Marine butted Clark in the face with the top of his head, which opened a small gash on the Marine's scalp, spraying Clark's face with a fine mist of blood.

"Clark!" Lois shouted, and leapt from the stage to reach her blood-coated partner. Before she could take one step, the other Marine grabbed Lois from behind, and wrapped his arms around her waist, "What's the hurry, baby?"

The neckless Marine, seeing Lois captive, lost interest in Clark and rushed forward again. Lois, being securely held, lifted both feet off the ground, and planted them in the charging Marine's chest and propelled him backward. Helped by the spilled drinks on the floor, the Marine slid backward jamming his fist into a well-used spittoon. The Marine lifted his arm, and streams of tobacco juice and cigarette butts poured down the sleeve of his dress blues. Pockets was just drunk enough to laugh and applaud at the Marine's misfortune. The Marine, long bereft of a sense of humor, launched himself at Pockets. Though Pockets was not much of a fighter, he did have fast reflexes, and managed to duck the instant the Marine's spittoon encased fist would have impacted with his face. To the Marine's misfortune, the spittoon did impact with the chest of a shady character known alternately as Big Joey, and 'the mangler'.

Perhaps on Wall Street, as the television commercials suggest, all traffic, speech and activity cease when EF Hutton speaks, but in Suicide Slum, an attack, no matter how unintentional, against Big Joey could achieve the same effect. All was silent, not even the sound of ice clattering in a lifted glass could be heard. "Boys," Big Joey said, and three equally shady characters appeared virtually out of nowhere. "This gentleman has soiled my new boots with tobacco expectorant." The three henchmen grabbed the Marine, and began to drag him from the club to an unknown fate. Though it is common in the protocol of the American armed forces for one branch of the service to be at war with another, a common enemy, especially a non-military one, will create the rare unified brotherhood. So, seeing a Marine manhandled by thugs in expensive civilian suits, caused every man in uniform to attack Big Joey's henchmen, this in turn caused every denizen in the bar who wanted to get on Big Joey's good side, to attack the servicemen.

As chairs, bottles and fists flew, Big Joey placed his foot on a chair, and dabbed at the tobacco on his ostrich leather boots with a monogrammed handkerchief. Clark shook his head. He used his x-ray vision in the club and found enough guns and knives to make manhole covers for the city of Cleveland. He zipped through the combatants at super speed alleviating them of their hardware, and then melted them into slag to fill in a pothole in the street in front of the club. He returned quickly and noted the fight showed no sign of diminishing. He found Lois, Pockets, and a couple of others sitting on the edge of the stage exchanging money. "You okay, Lois?" Clark asked, appraising Lois's disheveled hair, torn sleeve and the heel missing from her right shoe.

"Sure, I just—" She looked at Clark's face. "Oh, Clark! Are *you* all right?" She asked, and touched the blood on Clark's face left behind by the Marine.

"Believe it or not, Lois, I don't feel a thing."

"Well that's not a good sign. Go into the washroom and put a cold rag on your face."

"Lois, I think we should leave."

"No!" Pockets protested. "We ain't got to the last man standing yet, and she's in the pool with us."

"You're betting on who's left conscious after this brawl?" Clark asked, and looked reprovingly at the gamblers.

"Hey, ya wanna preach, then go to the Good Hearts mission down the street, you wanna play, make a bet."

Clark sighed and reached into his pocket, "Okay, twenty bucks says the police raid the game before you get to the last man standing."

"A twenty!" A thin man shouted. "Somebody help me fade the bet from the guy in the cheaters."

Clark raised his eyebrows, "Cheaters?"

"Glasses, college boy, glasses." "Hey, your boyfriend's got a good idea, lady," Pockets smiled, "I'll put a fin on Superman raidin' the game, and if I win this pot, I can bail Bibbo outta the tank."

"Ooh," the bartender groaned. "My boy's out. You're a bum, Chevski!"

"Speaking of bets," Clark smiled. "You owe me five bucks, Lois."

Lois, always looking for a way to wipe a smirk from Clark's face, held up a five dollar bill, but when he reached for it, she said, "Unclean."

"Then how—" Clark didn't, or rather *couldn't*, finish his sentence. Lois took the bill and slipped it into Clark's trouser pocket. Not deeply into the pocket, but far enough to temporarily derail his train of thought. He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, "You know in some parts of the world, you'd have to marry me after doing that."

"Really," Lois laughed, "Well, if there's a minister conscious after the fight, does that mean I have to make an honest man of you?"

Clark shrugged, "I'd be willing to bet there isn't a minister here, Lois."

"How much?" Pockets asked, "I can fade it."

"Hey," the thin man shouted, "A ten spot says there ain't a padre in the whole joint."

The bartender snatched the ten, "You lose, pal. That's *Father* Chevski who just kissed the canvas."

"You're right," the thin man sighed, "He's a bum."

Clark put a hand on Lois's shoulder, "I'm going to go get cleaned up, but please stay out of trouble."

"Me stay out of trouble! Which one of us has a bloody nose?"

"Ha," Pockets laughed, "You tell him, sister."

Clark shook his head, but couldn't help smiling as he made his way to the washroom amid flying objects and fallen bodies. Lois Lane, less than two hours ago, looked completely at home in the upscale part of Metropolis, and yet here, among what some politicians would call the 'dregs of society' she looked equally at home, and was instantly accepted by them. Maybe that was a slightly more subconscious reason Clark was attracted to Lois. She could fit in almost anywhere, and Clark fit in almost nowhere. He, unlike Lois, could not afford the closeness necessary to achieve that kind of social camouflage. Though the ladies found him quite attractive, Clark felt awkward around them sometimes. He had reached adulthood without ever having been in a relationship, but this lack of social interaction, like all of the others, was due to his *secret*. Get close, but not too close, be honest, but not completely honest…

Clark ran water over a towel, and then began wiping the blood away. He tipped his head to one side. He could hear police sirens in the distance. He smiled, "As much as I'd like to win that bet, I think I owe Pockets one." Clark began to spin, and in an instant he had changed into Superman. He left via the washroom window, and dramatically re-entered the club through the skylight. The bartender pointed at the caped figure, "It's Batman!"

Pockets smiled, "It's Superman, ya pinhead!" He began scooping the money with both hands, "Which means I win the bet and can bail Bibbo outta the tank. Whatever's left I'll give to you so's you can buy some specs or some dry time at Happy Acres."

Lois patted Pockets on the back, but kept her eyes on Superman. He set about separating the warring parties, and those who insisted on continuing to fight, he tied their wrists with bar rags, and made them permanent fixtures of the foot rail. Big Joey stepped forward, "This is none of your concern, Superman. Why don't you fly back to the nice part of town. I'm Superman here."

Clark folded his arms, "Sorry, Big Joey, but I don't think the police would approve of your brand of justice. I've heard about how your enemies vanish without a trace."

"I call it slum clearance. It's better than being a puppet for the cops."

Lois, who could resist everything but temptation, hopped angrily from the stage and moved toward Big Joey. Clark noticed that even with a heel missing from her shoe, she still managed to move very quickly, but it did make her gait resemble that of a peg leg pirate. With her in-your-face brand of diplomacy, Lois confronted Big Joey, "You wouldn't be so tough without an army of goons doing your dirty work! Try doing the job yourself sometime and see how far your slum clearance gets!"

Big Joey shrugged, "Good idea," he said, and all but obscured Lois's face with his oversized hand. He then propelled her backward with a not so gentle shove. Clark dashed backward and caught her. Lois, not the least daunted, began to charge towards Big Joey again. Clark restrained her, "Please, Lois. I'm all out of bar rags. Besides," he said, as he grabbed Big Joey and easily lifted him from the floor, "I think our friend's crude behavior is due to a blood sugar imbalance." So saying, Clark dumped Big Joey onto a salmonella experiment officially known as Bibbo's Big Buffet. The table, too flimsy to hold the weight of the large man, gave way and Big Joey and the buffet crashed to the floor. Lois took a business card from her purse and stuck it into the clump of tuna now adorning Big Joey's chin. "Send the cleaning bill to the Daily Planet. It was worth it."

Lois smiled and folded her arms in a diminutive imitation of the superhero who stood by her side. As Clark felt himself being drawn into her eyes, he quickly shifted gears, "Would you like me to take you home, Lois?"

"No!" She said plaintively, and sounded like a child begging an extra hour before bedtime, "I'm here with Clark. We'll look out for each other." Clark smiled warmly. He loved how she worded that. Unfortunately, Lois misinterpreted the smile, "What? Do you think Clark and I can't take care of each other?"

"No, I—"

"Let me tell you something, Superman. Never underestimate Clark Kent!"

"Never, Lois," Clark said softly. His voice dropping that familiar octave. Perhaps too familiar. Lois looked at him, as if she had not seen him before. "Superman," a familiar voice interrupted. "Just the man I need."

Clark, thankful for the interruption, turned in the direction of the voice, "What can I do for you, Inspector?"

"We had a couple of units in pursuit of a carjacker, but the suspect twentied out into a dog urinal."

"A dog urinal?"

Lois laughed, "A fire hydrant, Superman. I think I need to get you and Clark slang dictionaries for Christmas."

Clark saw that look in her eyes again, "Well, I'd better take care of that hydrant," he said, and was gone.

"I figured you'd be here, Lane," Inspector Henderson remarked dryly.

Lois eyed him warily, "And why is that, Henderson?"

"We have this hurricane tracking chart down at the station," Henderson said, and glanced at the debris that was once the Ace o' Clubs, "And it said something slammed into Suicide Slum this evening. I'm just glad I have a name to go with the destructive force."

"Cute, Henderson."

"Well, I think I got it all out," Clark said as he exited the washroom dabbing at his tie.

"Kent?" Henderson shook his head. "I thought you'd have more sense than to take an assignment in this part of town."

"Well, I—"

"We're on a date, Henderson, and it was Clark's idea to come here."

"Ah," Henderson nodded. "Love induced idiocy. I can accept that."


"Save it, Lane," Henderson said, and glanced down at Big Joey. "Who did this?"


Henderson looked over his shoulder at a couple of uniformed officers, and then pointed down at Big Joey. The officers helped the groggy man to his feet, and escorted him out of the club. "No telling how many lives Superman saved by putting Bibboski's buffet out of commision."

Clark laughed, and then felt Lois place her hand on his chest, "I'm going to go break off my other heel, comb my hair, and then we can go."

"Here," Clark said, and knelt down in front of her.

"Perfect place to propose to Lane."

Lois sighed, "Go chalk some tires, Henderson."

The Inspector smiled, "I'm going."

"Put your hands on my shoulders, Lois, so I can take your shoe off."

Lois complied. Clark made the appropriate grunting sounds as if removing the heel was difficult, and then placed the shoe back on her foot, "There ya go," he said, and rose so quickly that Lois's hands were still on his shoulders. Clark swallowed, "Better?"

"Yes, thank you." She said, her breath soft against his face. Then impetuously, she kissed him.

"Woo!" the thin man cheered. "Pay up. They kissed."

Clark sighed, "We should head to the pier. I hate to think every time we do something, money's riding on the outcome."

"Good idea," she said, and the couple moved into the crisp night air. Lois rubbed her arms. Clark began to remove his jacket. "No," she protested. "Then *you'll* be cold."

Clark smiled as he slipped the jacket around Lois, "I have a long-sleeved shirt on. You don't."

"I think I'm doomed to keep thanking you tonight," she said, and very casually slipped her arm around his waist and hooked her thumb into his belt loop.

Clark, who had managed to keep his hand on her shoulder after helping her on with his jacket, hugged her tightly to his side momentarily, and then the couple walked toward the end of the pier in silence. Their footsteps, and the bay water lapping at the pylons beneath them were the only sounds. They reached the end of the pier where the wind was much stronger without the manmade canyon blocking its full force. Lois snuggled more deeply against Clark seeking his body warmth. Clark closed his eyes, "Mm," he moaned and reflexively held her closer.

"Oh, God," Lois thought to herself. There was that foolish feeling again. She could not remember being more comfortable in a man's arms. No, more than comfortable, it felt natural to be in Clark's arms, as if she were born for this moment. Born for this man. Lois could tell by Clark's physical responses that she was at least reaching him on that level, but was she touching the same foolish places in his heart? She made a quarter turn in his arms, and the sudden movement made the jacket fall away from her shoulders. As Clark began to pull it back around her, she stopped him, "I have a better idea," she said, and slipped out of the jacket completely.

"Lois, you'll freeze."

"No I won't. Put your jacket back on."


"Trust me."

Clark, though unconvinced, put his jacket back on. Lois then slipped both her arms under his jacket and around his waist, "See? We both stay warm."

Clark wrapped his arms around her. She seemed so small sometimes, so fragile. Perhaps it was this thought, or the ocean breeze, or just that in the quiet night with no one interrupting, Clark slipped, "I love you, Lois."

Lois was taken completely off guard, "What?"

Clark felt an instant surge of panic. He had been so careful all night, "Lois..I…I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I mean I *did* mean that…I just know that it's not the right time yet. I mean that you're—"

"Shh," Lois said, and nuzzled against his shoulder. She felt warm and drowsy, and now had her answer. His heart was indeed just as foolish. "Don't worry about it, Clark," she said, and pulled back slightly to look at his face. There was just enough ambient light from the city to reflect the soft glow in his eyes, "I want this to work between us as much as you do," she hooked a finger playfully under his necktie, "And though this one date can't make up completely for your 'disappearing act', it came pretty darn close, partner."

Clark, relieved and strengthened by her reassurance, leaned forward and initiated a kiss. It was not born of passion, but rather of joy. They mutually sampled the flavor of each other for several minutes, and then began a silent, but satisfied journey back to Lois's apartment. After a brief goodbye at Lois's door and a plan to spend the afternoon together at the Daily Planet street fair, Clark walked back into the night, and began to levitate. He held his arms out from his sides, tipped his head back, and smiled as a faint mist began to fall, "Thank you," he whispered, and vanished into the night sky.