A Chief Dilemma

By Rachel Smith Cobleigh <rcobleigh@gmail.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: 1/17/2002

Summary: For months it has lain forgotten in a box in Perry's office. Tomorrow, when Lois and Clark return from their honeymoon, he's going to invite them into his office and show it to them. Since they're friends of Superman, they'll probably know how to dispose of a piece of kryptonite.

This is my first attempt at fanfic, and any feedback is looked for and welcomed. :) This is an idea that's been bumping around in my head for awhile, just waiting for me to find time to write it. To explain the situation, and how Perry ended up in his 'dilemma', refer back to the third-season episode, "Don't Tug On Superman's Cape", with the whole fiasco concerning Tim and Amber Lake. The one particular scene that this entire fanfic stems from is a short one near the end of the episode, where Jimmy and Perry receive that white box from the Lakes. Comments and criticism welcome…hope you enjoy it!


Perry sat behind his desk at the Daily Planet, his chair swiveled away from the doorway, facing the back wall. He was staring at a small cardboard box on the floor that had been pushed back against the wall and partially covered by the office debris that was scattered about the room. He looked at it for several seconds, seemingly unsure of what to do next. He *knew* what was in the box, but he didn't want to look at its contents, for fear of what might happen if he did. He turned his chair back around, slightly, and looked out through his office door to the Planet newsroom. The huge room was quiet, the lights were dimmed, and except for the cleaning lady, Kathy, the Daily Planet newsroom was empty.

His glance fell to the desk directly across from his office door—that of Lois Lane, well actually, now that he realized it, Lois *Kent*. They'd *finally* managed to get to the altar with almost everything intact. Ah, youth…those two must be having the time of their lives right now, what with everything that had conspired to keep Lois and Clark apart for what seemed to Perry to be an agonizingly long time…and if he felt that way about that horrible situation, Elvis only knew what the two of them had had to go through. Perry shook his head. Another more perfect but star-crossed pair he knew he'd never meet again. They'd be coming back from their honeymoon this evening. They told Perry that they planned to start work again at the Planet the next morning…which would be tomorrow. Perry couldn't wait to see their faces when they walked into the Planet. They'd probably both be shining and giggling and having the time of their lives and he wouldn't be the one to stop them. Oh no, they were going to get a good treatment tomorrow…after that, perhaps he'd start cracking down on them again. They had never really needed his 'cracking down' however. They were always working hard— too hard, it seemed at times. Well, whatever happened, he was looking forward to having them back in the newsroom again. There seemed to be a huge hole without them there.

Perry sighed quietly as he looked at the empty newsroom. He could hear Kathy's mop squeaking occasionally as she wrung it out in the bucket. The newsroom seemed uncannily quiet for this time of night. Even though it was late, Perry felt something was missing from the scene. He had sent Jimmy home early that afternoon—he'd been suffering from a pretty miserable head cold and looked like he needed a lot of rest. Perhaps that was it…but no, not entirely. As reluctant as he was to admit it, he missed that nagging feeling that had always plagued him around this time of night for over thirty years—that his wife wanted him to come home, that he'd stayed out too late once again, worked too long, left her to climb into a lonely bed. As much as he hadn't liked the feeling before his…divorce, as much as he'd made jokes about it and grumbled about it, he missed it. He didn't feel wanted, he felt like he'd been left adrift, aimlessly floating about on the sea of life, no really close confidante for him to talk to. Jimmy was a great kid, but he just didn't know the ways of love yet. Perry took a deep breath in, held it for a couple seconds, and raggedly let it out. He could only hope for Lois and Clark…try everything he knew to help them. Which brought him back to the box.

It was a nondescript white cardboard box, one he'd probably seen used for general packaging a thousand times. It was the generic Post Office issue for mailing good-sized objects or a stack of incriminating manila folders to the city prosecutor's office. There were no words on it, no address or return address, no packing tape, nothing. Just a plain, white, cardboard box with a lift-off cover. He reached down, and grunting slightly, pulled the box out from under the discarded office notes and copies of the Daily Planet and a stack of Elvis Christmas cards. The box itself wasn't heavy, or at least its contents weren't. Perry lifted it up to his desk, but after a second, lowered it back down to the floor behind his desk. It wouldn't do at all for Kathy to accidentally catch sight of it. The less people who knew about this box, the better. Perry rested his arms on his knees and looked down at the white cover on the box between his feet. Looking at it, he felt as if he was in the presence of something that could easily destroy law and order in Metropolis, perhaps even the world, if knowledge of what he had fell into the hands of the wrong people. Shaking his head slightly, he reached down with both hands and lifted off the box's cover.

Laying the cover aside, he looked down at the red cape that was unceremoniously pushed down and crumpled in the box. It looked exactly as he had left it the last time he'd seen it. He breathed a deep sigh of relief. No one had touched it since then, and thinking optimistically, he was the only one who knew of its whereabouts. Jimmy had seen it, but there had been no questions asked when it disappeared shortly after the incident that had landed the box in Perry's office. Perhaps Jimmy had forgotten about it. What with the whirlwind of events since that day, the box had even slipped Perry's mind for a few months. It would be better if Jimmy never remembered it.

Perry looked at the red material that held so much symbolism for the entire world. The gold-colored S-shield curved and folded with the material it was affixed to. Perry reached down into the box and lifted the red cape out part way, straightening out the S-shield and smoothing it against his hand. Funny, the thought occurred to him that the shield needed to be ironed before it would smooth out completely. He had never thought of Superman needing to *iron* his clothes before. The thought didn't surprise him, however. He'd always harboured a secret belief that Superman was really someone else who lived a normal life. Watching the superhero's movements, they seemed to him so cardboard-like, so two-dimensional, like their sole purpose was to put on a facade. A real, whole person could never be so…*flat*. Perry ran his fingers over the gold shield, smoothing it the best he could. The material felt so plain, a little rough, even. It wasn't the soft fabric he'd thought it would be. The thought struck him that this cape and emblem seemed *homemade*. It was a strange feeling.

Kathy's floor buffer whirred to life a few feet away from his office door. Perry jumped slightly in his chair at the sound. He lowered the cape behind his desk quickly and glanced out the doorway at the cleaning woman. She was humming to herself over the whine of the buffer and going along, completely oblivious to the man sitting behind the huge mahogany desk in the Editor-in-Chief's office. Perry watched her for a minute, noting her every move. Satisfying himself that she was completely engrossed in buffing the newsroom floor, he turned back to resume what he had been doing.

He pulled the rest of the red material out of the box and left it draped partially across his knee and partially across the arm of his chair. He looked back down into the box and stared for a few seconds at the two things sitting on the bottom: a small, paint-spattered note with a hideous outline of a smiling skull drawn on it and a softball-sized chunk of kryptonite.

The piece of kryptonite was the only one Perry had seen since he'd first heard of the material three years ago in an article that Lois had written. At the time, it had only been theory that the substance could harm or even kill Superman, but now, three years later, it was proven fact that it *could* harm the Man of Steel and force him to his knees. Perry grimaced slightly at the thought. He'd read Lois' piece on that story, too. Her description of the scene between Superman and that kryptonite-powered cyborg was chilling, and it was little surprise that her writing had had such an emotional impact. Her writing had never been the emotional type, usually just cold facts and a lot of hinted accusations, but in that piece, he could tell she'd been deeply affected. He couldn't bear to tell her that she was too close to the story, so he ran her piece on the front page, in spite of its definite bias.

Now that Perry had a piece of this lethal substance, he was loathe to move too quickly in how to deal with it. At the same time, he knew that the longer he kept it relatively unprotected, the more risk there was of someone finding it and using it with disastrous consequences. He had to get the information of its whereabouts to Superman and find out how to deal with it. If he called for Superman himself, there was a good chance he'd show up to help with whatever Perry needed…however, Perry didn't want to let the piece of kryptonite out of his sight, now. And if it wasn't out of his sight, it wouldn't be out of Superman's sight, so he'd most likely be unable to stay near it long enough to effectively destroy it… Perry shook his head. What a quandary. What would the King do in a situation like this? Perry knew well that the fate of the entire city of Metropolis, not to mention the world, could hinge on how he handled the situation. What to do? Perry sat thinking for several seconds, going over every possible way he could contact Superman and not expose him to the kryptonite. None of them seemed to work.

Perhaps he'd have to get word to him through someone else, STAR labs perhaps. No—too risky. He knew there were bound to be people in that huge place whose loyalties definitely tended towards the criminal. He needed someone he could trust and could get word to Superman for him. Then, suddenly, it occurred to him. The only two people who could contact the Man of Steel at what seemed to be a moment's notice. He had no idea how they did it, but they were two people he knew he could trust. Lois and Clark Kent.

Perry left the cape and the note inside the white cardboard box and hid it back against the wall under the office debris and Elvis memorabilia. He took the chunk of kryptonite home, hidden in his briefcase, and slept peacefully the whole night.


Lois got up early the next morning. Well, early compared to what time she'd been getting up over the last week or so. She smiled to herself, remembering some secret joke that she and her new…husband were sharing at the moment. Mmm. The thought was reassuring. Finally, finally, finally, she hummed to herself and the percolating coffee. She was tempted to go over to her husband and tickle him awake, but then, he'd been out late last night with that overturned tractor trailer out on Metropolis' mainway. A few extra minutes wouldn't hurt. He could probably be ready for work in a little under three minutes, anyway, so Lois decided to stay and hum to the coffeemaker.

She heard him shifting around a little on the bed and changed her mind.


When Perry arrived at the newsroom that morning, he arrived to find a small festivity underway for the newlyweds. Slapping backs and female giggling was about the extent of it, but to his strained situation, it seemed to be a minor party.

"What is this, the Sheehawkin' Gazette? Let's get some work done around here!" he shouted with the appropriate volume. Everyone hopped to their desks and made themselves busy quickly, leaving Lois and Clark standing next to her desk raising their eyebrows slightly at each other at the sudden disturbance. They hadn't expected their boss to be so heavy- handed this morning.

"Morning, Chief," Clark said, as Perry walked down to them. Perry broke into a shaky smile when he saw them.

"Good morning, you two. Have a good time?" he asked, with a mischievous glint in his eye. Lois and Clark, however, had had their share of expected ribbing already that morning and took it in stride.

"We sure did, Chief," said Lois, with an equally mischievous glint. Clark just grinned. Abruptly, Perry changed into a serious mode.

"I need to see you two kids in my office as soon as you're able," he said as he continued walking by. As he turned towards his office, Clark suddenly took in a sharp breath.

Lois, misinterpreting the action, turned back towards Clark, and when Perry was out of earshot, mumbled, "I wonder what's happened while we were gone. He seems pretty tense, huh? I expected at least an 'I remember when Elvis married Priscilla' anecdote." Clark smiled at her attempt to lighten the situation. He wondered what had come over him just a few seconds earlier. Oddly, it felt like the sharp, stabbing pains he felt when…but no, the stuff wasn't anywhere around that *he* could see…

Lois looked up to see his reaction to her statement. He was smiling at her, but he looked a little pale. Strange. "Clark, are you feeling okay?" she asked quietly, worried. He nodded and took a deep breath.

"I felt a little strange there for a second. Maybe I overexerted myself last night with that tractor trailer," he replied. Lois looked at him critically. They both knew that idea was pretty farfetched.

"Well, let's go see what the—" Clark started as he looked over at the Editor-in-Chief's office. Perry was pulling all the blinds down on the windows facing the newsroom. "What's he doing?" Clark whispered. Lois shook her head.

"I don't know," she whispered back, "but whatever it is he wanted to tell us, it must be pretty important." Clark nodded. The newsroom seemed to be at its normal fever pitch for this time of the morning. Everything seemed to be in place, and looking through the blinds, Perry's office was in its usual almost-organized order. Clark still had an unshakable feeling of something going on, though.

"Everything *looks* okay. Let's go see what new assignment he's got for us," Clark said quietly. He could tell Lois was building everything up in her mind. She was letting a hundred possible reasons of why Perry would be closing his office off from the newsroom's prying eyes flood through her mind, and there was a definite anticipation in her stance. Clark smiled to himself. He loved to watch her when she got all worked up. They walked over to Perry's office door, which was open just a crack, and poked their heads in.

"Ah, Chief? You wanted to see us?" Lois asked, glancing around the office. The blinds were closed on the side facing the street, too. It was pretty dark with all the light blocked out, and the dimness in the room only contributed to Clark's heightening sense of foreboding. Perry was sitting behind his desk, his chair facing to the side, and was looking at something that seemed to be on the floor. He looked up quickly at the sound of Lois' voice and looked visibly relieved at seeing them there.

"Come in, come in. Go ahead and sit down, too. We might be here for a while. Close that door behind you, won't you?" He sat up a bit straighter in his chair and turned part way around to face them. Lois edged in and sat down in the big armchair across from Perry's desk. Clark shut the door behind himself and heard a tiny *click* as he did so. The door was locked. He tensed slightly and looked quickly around the room. Everything seemed fine, except for a heavy feeling of being closed in. He wondered if Lois felt it too.

"Go ahead and sit down, there, Clark," Perry said as he waved his arm in a small movement towards the sofa on the far wall.

"If it's okay, Chief, I'd prefer to stand," Clark replied. Lois looked up at him questioningly as he took his place beside her and propped his elbow on the armchair. He didn't look down at her.

"Oh, no problem, no problem," Perry said, distractedly, as he looked back down at the floor behind his desk. Lois began to wonder why everything seemed…heavy. Perry usually never repeated everything he said twice. That he was doing so disconcerted her. Clark seemed tense next to her. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. What was going to happen?

Perry turned and looked at his two best reporters. Yes, he could trust them with the fate of the planet. They'd been in the thick of it before and knew how to handle it. He had to do this and get it through with quickly. Besides, he hated the oppressive feeling in the room, something that told him that what he was about to do would not just be passing the lethal substance to his two reporters but would also be endangering their lives. The thought made him hesitate for a second. No, this was the best way to deal with this. He took a deep breath and started.

"Do you two remember that whole situation a few months ago with Tim and Amber Lake?" he asked. From the looks on their faces, that situation was clear as day to them and they didn't want to dredge it all up again. Perry felt sorry for them, knowing what they'd gone through, almost loosing each other and—stay on track here, old boy.

"Well, remember how we thought that you'd…died, Lois?" Perry didn't even want to look at their faces for the reaction to that one. "Shortly after we received that anonymous videotape that we later learned was sent to us by the Lakes, I received another anonymous package…" Perry reached down behind his desk to pick up the white cardboard box. Both Lois and Clark tensed involuntarily as the box was brought up and put on top of the desk. Perry stood up and lifted the cover off of it. "Jimmy and I opened this up and found these things." He reached inside the box and pulled out a red cape with a gold S-shield on it. Clark's eyes widened considerably. Lois' face said nothing. She'd decided to put on a poker face, since anything she said or did wrong could accidentally betray Clark.

Perry put the cape on his desk next to the box and reached inside to pick up a small note from off the bottom. Both Lois and Clark immediately recognized the painted- spattered paper and the skull. What neither of them could figure out, however, was why Perry was telling them all this, and why the big production about it.

"These aren't the only things I found in this box," he continued, "there was one other item that I'd forgotten about all these months. I didn't want to keep it, since I couldn't keep it properly protected." He stopped and looked at Lois and Clark. Were they following him so far? Lois, he couldn't figure out *what* she was thinking. Clark, on the other hand, looked like he was putting some pieces together pretty quickly, but still didn't know what final picture was supposed to look like. Perry turned around and picked up his briefcase from off the floor, where he had hidden it behind a stack of copy paper. As he put it on his desk and started to open it, he didn't notice Clark blink quickly a couple of times and shake his head.

Lois saw Clark's movement out of the corner of her eye, but was too engrossed in watching what Perry was doing to take notice of it. Perry quickly lifted the chunk of kryptonite out of his briefcase and snapped it shut. Before he realized what had happened, Clark let out a weak "No!" and collapsed back against the corner of the couch, his head hitting the carved wood and twisting away from the edge too late. He hit the floor with a sickening thud, crumpled up between the protruding edge of the sofa and the legs of the armchair that Lois was sitting in. Lois gave a little cry and jumped out the chair faster than Perry thought possible. She was kneeling on the floor next to Clark in an instant, her hand going to the blood seeping into his hair on the back of his head. His face was turned away from the edge of the sofa and his skin was paler that Perry had ever seen it before. He was still holding the chunk of kryptonite out above the desk when Lois suddenly looked toward him, her face almost as white as Clark's.

"Get it away!" she hissed. Seeing Perry was still staring at Clark's fallen form in front of his desk, she leapt up, grabbed the chunk of kryptonite, went around the desk, and stuffed the chunk in his coat.

"Help me pull him away from the door," she said quietly, and went back over to support her husband's head and shoulders. Perry woke up and moved around to take Clark's legs.

"On the sofa?" he asked, his throat dry. Lois shook her head.

"He's too heavy for just the two of us…just pull him away enough so that I can open the door.

"Open the door?!" Perry squeaked out. Lois just looked at him and nodded for him to pull. They moved Clark's body out from between the sofa and the armchair, and Lois gently lowered his head to the floor again.

"I'll be right back. Leave the blinds shut!" she whispered as she unlocked the door. "He'll be all right." She slipped out the office door and shut it behind her. Perry stood by Clark's feet for several seconds, dumbfounded by the events in the last forty seconds. What in Graceland…?

He looked down at Clark. His face was already gaining some of its color back. His glasses had been knocked askew by his fall. Perry reached down to take them off and noticed one of the lenses was cracked. He gently cradled Clark's head and slipped them off. How could so much have happened so quickly? He looked up quickly at Lois' insistent knock. *What* had happened so quickly?

When he let Lois in, he noticed that she was carrying her shoulder bag. He quickly shut and locked the door behind him as she moved over to Clark and unzipped her bag. She pulled out a small pouch and gestured for Perry to come closer.

"Put the kryptonite in this," she whispered, handing it to him. He nearly dropped it. It was heavier than a bag its size should have been. He looked at her questioningly.

"Lead-lined," she whispered, as she reached inside her bag and pulled out a pair of glasses identical to the broken ones Perry held in his hand. She looked back up at him, noticing that he hadn't moved since she'd last told him to. "Hurry, Chief, please!"

He quickly moved over Clark and put the piece of kryptonite in the small pouch. Almost immediately, Clark's breathing returned to normal, and he groaned slightly. Lois bent over him and turned his head farther to the side. She took out some dripping wet paper napkins from her shoulder bag and began to wipe the blood from the back of her husband's head.

Perry, still somewhat in shock, watched Lois kneeling on the floor. He looked at Clark's face, the color now fully returned to it, and back up to Lois' calm one. Clark opened his eyes a crack and looked at the base of Perry's desk. He tried to move, but Lois' hand prevented him from turning his head. Perry watched as Clark closed his eyes again. Suddenly, the strangeness of seeing Clark without his glasses struck him, and he gasped. He looked closer, and suddenly all the strange pieces fell together for him. Why Lois was so calm…why she wasn't in tears, why Clark was so strangely calm, too. Why everything had happened so fast. Perry blinked to confirm that he was, indeed, not dreaming the whole thing.

"Great Caesar's Ghost!" he breathed, plopping back down into his chair, in one hand, Clark's broken glasses, and in the other, the lead-lined pouch.


"So, Chief…now that this whole thing is over, what are you thinking?" Clark asked, sitting down at his and Lois' apartment for dinner with Perry. Perry had been feeling alone that evening, with Jimmy at home sick and no one else to go to. Lois, sensing his mood, had invited him over for their first 'let's-entertain-a-guest-for-dinner-now-that-we're-married' feast. Perry grinned.

"Oh, let's see…I've been considering all the blackmail possibilities, but since I already know what you make for a salary, I've come to the conclusion that it wouldn't be worth it," he replied, reaching for the mashed—or should he say 'smashed', watching Lois beat at them with a seemingly unsatisfied vengeance—potatoes. Clark raised his eyebrows at the remark and feigned hurt.

"Oooh. A double insult, there, Chief," Lois shot back, grinning.

"Mm! I hadn't considered blackmailing *both* of you…now *there's* a possibility," Perry grinned as he spooned a rather sizable lump onto his plate.

"You won't have to, Chief. You can get just as much out of us by coming over here to eat instead."

"Oo-hoo-hoo. Now you're insulting *me*, there, Clark," Perry said, putting all his weight of the being Daily Planet's Editor-in-Chief into his reply.

"Isn't he scary?" Lois whispered loudly to Clark. "Maybe we should blackmail *him*."

"It's a thought," he replied, studiously avoiding Perry's gaze.

"Seriously, though. I don't really know what to think of everything, besides the fact that a lot of the things about you two make sense now…like how you're able to find the things you do in your investigations, your constant disappearances," Perry said, nodding towards Clark. "I just want you two to know that if you ever need anything; a getaway, a day off, an excuse for why you've been gone for the past three hours without a word to anyone, advice, I'll do my best. It seems Jonathan and Martha have done an excellent job in that last part already." He paused. "I do have one question, though," he said, looking at Clark.

"What is it?"

"Ah…hmm…ah…" Perry floundered, embarrassed. Lois and Clark looked at each other quickly, their faces turning slightly pink. Clark cleared his throat.

"What do you want to know, Chief?" he asked, slowly. Perry took a deep breath.

"You're a grown man, Clark…don't you sometimes feel ridiculous in that suit?"

Clark nearly choked on his food. Lois broke up laughing. Perry turned bright red. There. He'd finally said it. He never thought he'd get the chance.

Clark took a swallow of his drink, his own cheeks a bit red. The last time he'd been asked this question, it had been by a lunatic who hated him. His reply had been smug and had come easily then, but for some reason, now that he was going to answer Perry with it, it sounded ludicrous. Lois said it for him.

"His mother made it for him," Lois blurted out, still laughing. Perry thought he'd never heard anything so ludicrous in his life.