Partners, Friends, and …

By Nicole (CKgroupie on IRC) <>

Rated PG

Submitted June 1998

Summary: In this sequel to the author's fanfic "The Other Lois," Clark discovers that there's more to his Lois than a damsel in distress.

Author's Note: I did it again. When I finished my first story "The Other Lois" I wasn't completely satisfied with the outcome (and by outcome I don't refer to my writing skills but only the actual story). Sure, the alternate Clark had found his Lois, but what would happen next? I couldn't resist writing a sequel and so here it is: My second try.

I wrote most of this story during my trip to NY this May (sunny weather, wonderful city, nice company … do I have to say more?) and as you can see the vacation inspired me to forget about an A-plot and to concentrate on a few hopefully liked WAFFs. I promise you that this is the last "alternate Clark" story you'll get from me, but it just couldn't end like this! I won't do the sequel to the sequel though.

The usual disclaimer — none of the characters is my property and I just write for fun. :) Eh … and I used one of my most liked sentences from "Dead Lois Walking" at the end of the story, as you Folcs will instantly notice of course. So I admit that this sentence isn't my property either.

Edited by Georgia and Lynda L.

I hope you'll have some fun. Feedback is always appreciated. Write to (CKgroupie on IRC)


Two days after her lucky escape from Lex Luthor, Lois was sitting on her bed in the hospital and listening to a long speech by her mother, an expression of extreme impatience on her face.

" … and you know you're far from being able to work yet. You're too weak to stand up! The nurse told me that you even broke down on the way to the bathroom yesterday, because you were too stubborn to ask for help!"

"Which nurse?" Lois used the little pause her mother needed for taking another breath.

"Rosie," her mother answered.

Lois' face showed clearly that poor nurse Rosie should have held her tongue. She started to protest. "But … "

"How can you think of working when you're not able to take five steps without help, Lois?! You are so childish sometimes!"

Lois sighed. The problem was that her mother was right. She really didn't feel that well yet. But on the other hand she felt that she was going to explode if she couldn't get out of the hospital soon. It was driving her *nuts*! Resigning herself, she closed her eyes and let her mother's preaching continue. Most of the words she barely noticed, but suddenly one sentence took her attention.

" … by the way, Superman asked me if he'd be allowed to pay a visit this afternoon. I told him he should ask you himself, so I think he'll be here in a moment … "

Lois opened her eyes. "Superman? Clark?" she asked.

"Exactly. I think it's very nice of him to take some time for a visit. He seems to be *so* busy! You would never guess how much that man has done for Metropolis since he appeared here a few months ago! There's not one day without him in the news, really!"

Lois nodded. She had noticed that, too. He was everywhere — in the newspapers, on television and on radio. One day here in Metropolis, the next elsewhere in the world and sometimes all over the world on one single day.

Her mother was searching for something in her nightstand. "Don't you have some makeup with you?" she asked, horrified.

Lois shook her head. "How could I, Mother? I have nothing but the clothes I had on me when I came here. Even the nightgown is borrowed and I had to buy a toothbrush from the hospital shop in the lobby. What do you want with makeup anyway?"

"Ha!" her mother cried triumphantly and showed her a little compact from her own purse. "There it is." She carefully began to brush some powder on Lois' face.

"Mother! What are you doing?" Lois protested.

"Sit still," Ellen Lane commanded and continued her work. "You don't have to look like living death when such a prominent person is going to pay you a visit. Besides he's *really* handsome. I saw him in person for the first time when he brought you to the Planet and I have to say, *much* better than on television!"

She finished Lois' makeup and eyed her critically. "That's much better. You only have to comb your hair now and … "

" … and he'll wonder why in heaven's name I'm in the hospital, because I'm going to look like the picture of health!" Lois ended the sentence for her sarcastically. But she did what her mother had said and ran a comb through her hair a few times.

"Did he say what time he intended to come?" she asked casually and tried to keep an indifferent expression on her face.

"I don't know, but I think he'll be here any second … " She hadn't finished her sentence when there was a knock on the door. "What did I say? Here he is!" her mother said. She stood up and grabbed her purse. Then she leaned down to her daughter and kissed her on the cheek.

"Come in!" she cried, before Lois could say anything. Then she turned around again, her expression soft. "Goodbye, sweetie. Please don't be so impatient about your work anymore. You know, we're so happy to have you back, we want to keep you now … "

Lois found herself smiling. "Okay, mother," she said, touched. "I promise I'll try to be good."

Her gaze fell on Clark, who was still standing close to the door and who nodded a goodbye to her mother now. She thought that he looked totally different when he was wearing ordinary clothes. He even had put on a pair of glasses. Lois wondered why. He suddenly seemed to be so normal, almost a little shy, as he was standing there in a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. In his hands he held a little bouquet of flowers.

"Hi," Lois said softly.

"Hi," he answered self-consciously.

Lois looked at the flowers. "Are those for me?"

Clark blushed and hastily gave them to her. "Uh … sure, I'm sorry."

Lois took the bouquet and smiled. "They're beautiful, thank you very much! Well, actually I guess *I* should buy you flowers." She reached out for his hand. "I'm so happy you stopped by, because I wanted to thank you so much. I'm so grateful Clark. I don't think I'm able to put it in words, but you should know that I'll never forget what you did for me."

He took the hand she held out to him. "It was nothing … " he said, blushing slightly again. Then suddenly he grinned. "Actually it was a pleasure. You know, I *like* getting vases thrown at my head."

Lois laughed. "I'm afraid Lex Luthor had a lot of those vases to buy during the last two years … "

She motioned to the edge of her bed and Clark sat down. She noticed that he had that worried expression in his eyes again.

"How are you feeling, Lois?" he asked.

Lois shrugged slightly. "I'm fine. Not as fine as I could wish, but I think it won't be long before I'll be able to work on my next story." She stopped and Clark could see that she was fighting with herself. Finally she continued, "It's a pity that I won't be able to write *my* story though. I would have thought that it was my right to write it, but the doctors here won't allow me to leave the bed. When I'm allowed out of here the story will probably be old news!"

Clark nodded. "Well, but that's understandable, isn't it? I mean, you have been through a lot during those past two years. You can't expect to snap out of it in two days."

"But it's *my* story, Clark! Don't you understand? Nobody could write this story but me! I … " She stopped, frustrated, and Clark could see that she had tears in her eyes. He thought about it for a moment, then he hesitantly spoke.

"Lois, what would you think about writing the story with me? You know, as partners? You could get all the information from me. You would *write* the story and I would do the legwork. All we'd need would be a cellular phone and a laptop. It should be no problem to get them. I know it wouldn't be the same as if you were able to write the story alone, but … "

"Clark, you must be an *angel*!" Lois exclaimed excitedly. "I would be delighted! If anybody but me should write the story, it should be you, but I would be so happy if I could work on it with you! And don't think that I'll be stuck in this bed forever!"

"Okay," Clark smiled, "We have a deal then. That is, if your doctor is okay with it."

"He will be," Lois said firmly. "He'll be happy I'm not trying to escape any longer."

Clark cocked an eyebrow. "Escape?"

"Well, actually I tried it twice yesterday, but they caught me in the hall," Lois admitted. "I'm probably not a very easy patient. But I can't stand it much longer, do you understand that?"

Clark nodded. Yes, he did understand her. She had been held hostage for two years and now that she was free, she was confined to the bed. He saw that she was fighting against her tears again, so he said in a friendly tone, "Lois, I understand that you must be very impatient, but I promise it won't be long and you will be totally fine again. What is your freedom worth if you're not feeling well? So please give yourself a little more rest and next week the world will be waiting for you, okay?"

Lois searched his eyes. **Chocolate brown eyes** she thought again. She was feeling better. At least, if she had to stay in bed for a while, it was much easier with a story to work on.

Writing had been the only thing that kept her going during the last two years. In the beginning of her captivity she had focused all her energy on finding a way to escape of course, but after some weeks she had slowly realized that there was none. Even the never-ending power of her will had to accept that the struggle was a lost one. She then became resigned, refusing to fight or even to think. She only existed without really giving any signs of vitality anymore. And she had thought about killing herself more than once. She inwardly was angry about the fact that she *didn't* kill herself. She called herself a coward and tried to find the courage to do it, but something stopped her again and again. And then suddenly she'd realized that there must be some tiny little piece of hope in her subconscious and that even though her mind had given up a long time ago this hope had stopped her from falling into total despair.

Once she had recognized this, she started writing. Luckily, Lex denied her nothing but her freedom, so she had the opportunity to write down much of her inner anguish and her longing. It didn't take long before she was so lost in the stories she wrote that sometimes she didn't even notice if it was day or night or what month it was at the moment.

Clark watched her face as she thought about the past. He could see in her expression that they weren't pleasant memories. As far as he knew she hadn't talked to anybody yet about these last two years, neither the doctors nor her family. Obviously she was refusing to think about it at all, and behaving as if her current weakness was due to some common illness. But the pain, hurt and fear in her eyes betrayed her. No, she wasn't done with this yet. Not at all.

Finally he stood up and said, "I think I'd better go, Lois. But I'll come back tonight and bring you everything you'll need for the story, so that we'll be able to start tomorrow, okay?"

Lois nodded happily and smiled again. "I'm looking forward to working with you, *partner*," she said.

Clark said teasingly, "People say that you used to be *very* … difficult. Should I be afraid?"

"No, of course not," Lois protested. "I'm going to be as good as a lamb!"

Clark laughed. "Well, I really can't wait to see *that*, partner!" He winked and smiled at her again, then he was gone.


The next day he found himself sitting on the edge of her bed again. They had spread out a bunch of papers there and they were arguing passionately about what to do next.

" … but it's *obvious*, Clark, that Peter Meyer had something to do with it!" Lois said, her eyes sparkling. "I know it, my *reporter instinct* tells me that. Besides he always was a slimy rat and he couldn't stand me anyway. He would have sold me to the devil himself!"

Clark sighed. "But we don't have *any* evidence, Lois."

"God, do you *have* to be such a boy scout all the time?! How in heaven's name are you getting your stories? It will be no problem for you to break into his office anyway, you are *Superman*, remember?!"

"That's exactly my point," Clark explained. "I can't break into somebody's office and go through their private property just because I think there maybe could be something suspicious. I mean, where would that end?"

"Boy," Lois groaned "If only I were in better shape. *I* wouldn't have those scruples!"

Clark laughed. "I know, Lois, and I thank God for his judgment in this case."

Lois threw her eyes heavenwards, but couldn't help smiling herself. "Okay," she said agreeably. "You're the boss here and there's not very much I can do about it. Let me think of another way … " She brooded over the papers again, a slight frown on her face.

Clark found himself staring at her. That happened repeatedly these days, but he couldn't help it. He was totally fascinated by her face. It was so forceful and full of expression. Like right now for example. She had this concentrated look that told him she was totally lost in what she was doing.

"Ha!" she said suddenly and looked up.

Clark felt the blood rushing to his face and winced inwardly. **You'd think that someone who's invulnerable couldn't blush, wouldn't you** he thought. "What?" he asked hastily to cover his embarrassment.

Lois showed him the police report about the arrest of Lex Luthor. "If you're going to be so *stubborn* and refuse to break into Peter's office, we'll just have to take the other way around."

"The other way around?" Clark asked, confused.

"As I said, the idea behind breaking into Peter's office was that you would find some clues there which could prove a connection between Lex Luthor and Peter. Now that I realize that this won't possible due to your *exaggerated* morality, we'll do it the opposite way. You could look for clues in *Luthor's* property. He's been arrested, so even *your* morals should be okay with searching for evidence there. You could probably even get the permission of the police!" Lois emphasized this last sentence, as if getting the permission of the police was something really weird for her.

Clark sighed in comical despair. "Lois, do you *have* to repeat again and again that you think I'm some kind of preachy coward?"

Lois chuckled. "Don't worry, you're not *that* bad." She patted his hand slightly and added, "You showed some initiative after all by breaking into Luthor's castle to save me. Wait until you've spent some days in my company and you'll do a lot more of that stuff!"

"I can't wait," Clark grinned. "I guess Superman will have to be careful about his image though." He sobered and said, "I think we can do it this way. Maybe the police will even be happy for some help. They probably searched through Luthor's castle already but the good old x-ray vision sometimes discovers things a normal eye can't find."

Lois nodded but Clark could see that her mind was elsewhere. "What's the matter, Lois?" he asked softly.

She looked up and hesitated. "It's nothing … only … " She stopped.

"Yes?" he encouraged her again.

"Well, it's just that … I mean I asked myself … well, how did you find me, Clark? Was it accidentally? Did you search for me, or … ?"

Clark took a deep breath. He had seen this question coming. "Well, it's a long story Lois … " he started.

He explained how one day the other Lois and H.G. Wells had come from another dimension and how this other Lois made him into Superman. And he told her how he had gone to the other dimension two weeks ago because they needed his help. The other Superman was missing and *his* world needed a Superman. He deliberately avoided mentioning the feelings he had discovered for the other Lois, nor did he mention what kind of relationship the other Lois and the other Clark had, so he simply ended the story by saying:

" … Perry told me that the Lois of this dimension had been abducted two years ago in the Congo and I decided to investigate a bit."

Lois had listened to his words in stunned silence. First he could read disbelief in her eyes but as he had continued this expression was replaced by one of pure astonishment.

"Wow … " she said finally, "What a story! It's amazing to think that there's another dimension with people who look exactly like us … but what can I say … *I'm* so happy you did search for me, I can't say that often enough." She squeezed his arm impulsively.

"It was nothing." Clark said again. "I only did what anybody would have done … "

" … who happened to have the same powers as you … like this famous x-ray vision or the ability to fly or whatever," Lois continued for him, smiling.

"Exactly," Clark grinned. It was nice to see her smile again. She also didn't look so pale anymore. Obviously working on the story had done some good already.

There was a knock on the door and Dr. Klein, the chief of the hospital, appeared, followed by a crowd of other doctors, students and nurses.

"Well, that sounds great, Ms. Lane!" he said when he approached. "You are able to laugh again."

Clark stood to leave the room, but Lois grabbed his wrist.

"Exactly, Dr. Klein. I'm feeling so much better and I can't wait to finally get my freedom!"

Dr. Klein nodded to Clark that it was okay to remain while he was examining Lois and turned to his patient, a hurt expression on his face.

"Freedom? Really, Ms Lane, as though we wouldn't do anything to make you feel comfortable here?"

"*Freedom*," Lois repeated ungratefully.

The doctor shook his head. After a few short questions about her well being and a look at her file he said, "So you should be very happy to hear that we're in a kind of a bind right now and could really use your bed … "

Lois raised the arms above her head like a football player after a touchdown and cried, "Yeah! I'm *out* of here!"

Dr. Klein grinned at her excitement, but added determinedly, "But you must be really careful. *No* hot story, promise?"

"Okay," Lois agreed and gave him her best innocent look.

"And you can't be alone yet. Do you have someone who will take care of you?"

Lois hesitated and Clark came to her rescue. "That should be no problem, Dr. Klein," he said.

The doctor sent him a look and nodded, satisfied. "Well then, I think I'm okay with it and you are free to leave tomorrow morning, Ms. Lane. Please be careful for some time longer, won't you?"

He held out his hand to say goodbye and when Lois took it, he said, "It was a real pleasure for me to meet you, Ms. Lane. I've been a fan of your work for years and I've read the Daily Planet for almost fifteen years now. I'm looking forward to your next story!"

Lois smiled and he left the room, the excited crowd leaving with him.

After the door had closed behind him Lois turned to Clark with a worried face. "Oh, Clark, thank you for rescuing me. I didn't think about this problem before. I guess I really have no place to go!"

"Couldn't you live with your mother for a while, or with Lucy?" Clark asked but Lois shook her head.

"No chance!" she said, horrified. " My mother drives me nuts now when I barely see her more than one hour a day! No, I'd rather stay here than go to her."

Clark chuckled.

"Well, and Lucy … " Lois considered that. " … that's not so easy either. She and Jack only have a very tiny apartment and they're *newlyweds* , if you know what I mean. They really get on my nerves with all that lovey-dovey stuff. I guess I would be totally in the way there." She sighed. "But I think it will turn out to be my only option. So I'm going to disturb the lovebirds … or I could stay in a hotel … "

"No way," Clark said firmly. "Dr. Klein said "not alone"!"

"But I wouldn't be alone, Clark!" Lois protested. "There are dozens of people in a hotel and besides, I'm feeling *much* better and … "

"Lo-is," Clark said earnestly and she shut her mouth.

He thought about it for a minute, then he hesitantly started, "Well, Lois, I know we haven't known each other very long and I really don't want you to take this the wrong way, but if I could help you with this … you could stay at my place."

Lois gazed him doubtfully. "I don't know, Clark. I know you want to be nice, but … "

"My apartment isn't so great, I know, but if you don't want to stay with your mother or Lucy … I mean at least you wouldn't be alone and I have a couch in the living room … " Clark continued hastily, " — *I* would sleep there of course. *You* could have the bedroom … "

"No, that's not what I meant, Clark," Lois said softly. "I'm sure I would be much more comfortable staying with you than with any member of my own family, but we barely know each other! I can't bother you this way!"

"You wouldn't be a bother for me, Lois. Indeed, I would be happy to be able to help and I promise, I'm not a secret ax murderer or anything like that … "

Lois chuckled. "I swear I hadn't thought of that. If I have a reason to trust anyone then it should be you. It's just … " she hesitated, then she asked curiously, "Are you always so kind to everyone?"

He shrugged. "What do you mean?"

She didn't know how to express it. "Well, I mean … first you save me, then you come and visit me, you let me work with you on that story even though we both know it's award-winning material and that you could easily claim all the praise for yourself and now you even offer to let me stay at your apartment!"

"I have never thought about that," Clark said earnestly. "The only thing I know is that you need a place to stay and I can offer you one. No big deal."

"It *is* a big deal and you know it," Lois said and smiled lopsidedly, "And I really shouldn't do this, but as things are, I have no other option and so I'm going to take you at your word. But I promise to feel guilty!"

Clark grinned. "Don't be guilty, that's not necessary. You know the *real* reason behind all this is that you probably are my source for the Pulitzer!"


The next morning Clark opened the door to his apartment and carried in Lois' little suitcase. He pointed around, a little embarrassed. "Well, this is it. I *told* you it's not that great."

Lois regarded the painted walls and the spare furniture. It was a typical male apartment but it showed good taste. "It's nice." she said aloud. "Cozy, handy and … " she turned around to him and smiled, "*very* tidy!"

He seemed to be relieved. After showing her the bathroom and the bedroom he said, "Okay, why don't you make yourself at home here and I'll go examine Luthor's castle in the meantime?"

Lois nodded. Her eyes widened, as Clark spun into the Superman suit. **Wow** she thought.

Clark grinned and thought about from whom he had learned this particular changing habit. Then he was gone in a blue blur.

Left alone, Lois strolled around the apartment. It wasn't very large. There was only a small kitchen, a living room, the bedroom and the bath. On the bookshelf near the door she found a few photographs. One of them showed a pleasant-looking young couple holding a baby. She was small with a nice smile; he was tall and solid and wearing glasses. His parents? Did he *have* parents? She realized that she didn't know much about him yet. She had read that he was an alien from the planet Krypton and she had seen him using some of his extraordinary powers, but she had to admit that while she was with him as Clark she was able to completely forget about all these strange things. He seemed to be the most *normal* guy she had ever met and the weird thing was that he was exactly the contrary!

Another picture showed Clark with a young, blonde woman. He was sitting in a chair and she leaned over his shoulder. Both were smiling into the camera. Who was that? His girl friend? Maybe even his wife? No, that was impossible. She wouldn't be here if he was married and the apartment would look different, but maybe she *was* his girl friend. Lois found her heart sinking at that thought and was angry with herself.

**What did you think, Lane?** she asked herself. **Did you really think that this handsome to-die-for guy waited just for you?** She sighed. If she was honest, she really had thought something like that. She had known Clark for only three days now, but there was something that drew her magically to him. He was so incredibly kind and friendly and he seemed to be so calm and confident at the same time. His smile made her feel as though she were seeing the sunrise and she had to admit that he was much too handsome for her inner peace. She thought about what the Superman suit showed of his body and felt herself get very warm inside.

**Stop it!** she demanded to herself and put the photo on the shelf again with a crack. **You've just been away from the world too long. You haven't seen one nice man for two years. That's the reason you like him so much. You cut it out now; you *never* lost your head before!**

She turned around and briefly considered doing her laundry, but decided against it. She really wanted to get out of these clothes, but she wasn't sure if he was okay with her using his washing machine and besides, she didn't have anything to change into. How embarrassing if he returned unexpectedly! Lois giggled at that thought. So she sighed and decided to go back to her notes on the story instead.


The flight to the castle took Clark a little longer than expected because he had to take a longer route and help put out a fire at a metropolitan factory. Thanks to Superman nobody got hurt and the fire was under control after only a few minutes. Clark exchanged a few words with the firemen, then again headed for the castle.

As Lois had foreseen, the police turned out to be very cooperative. Superman got permission to look through all of Lex Luthor's papers . "We'd be happy about a little help, Superman," Inspector Henderson from the Metropolis police department said to him. "And you're probably a lot faster than our men. I have to admit we haven't been very successful yet." He sighed, depressed, and continued working.

Clark went into Luthor's office. It took almost half an hour to skim through all the papers Luthor kept there. To his disappointment the search wasn't very helpful. He found some mentions of strange business deals and gave them to Henderson immediately, but no sign of a connection between Luthor and Peter Meyer and the abduction of Lois Lane.

Clark was worried. He hadn't told Lois yet, but as things were right now, Luthor probably wouldn't even be charged! It was his word against Lois' and Luthor would probably find enough people who would be ready to testify that Lois had been in the castle of her own free will. Clark knew that his own word would rank high in the opinion of a jury, but as long as there was no evidence of an abduction, Luthor wouldn't be on trial.

He looked around the office again, x-raying the walls for hidden compartments. Nothing. Then his gaze fell on a cupboard behind the secretary's desk and he noticed a few folders with microfiches. Maybe *these* held some information! He went to the cupboard and took two folders with him, the ones with 'C' and 'M'. They had a microfiche reader at the Planet, so checking them out would be no problem.

After finishing his work in the office, he went down to the basement, into Lois' former prison. Here he packed all her clothing in two large suitcases. He was happy that he did it at super-speed so that the officers who were examining the room weren't able to see what he was doing, because the view of Lois' delicate lingerie made him blush again. But he reminded himself that she would need underwear after all and so he tried desperately not to feel like a teenager during puberty again. With one suitcase in each hand he started on his way back home.


Lois was delighted that he had thought of bringing her things.

"You're an angel, Clark. I thought I'd never be able to get out of these clothes! I'm going to take a shower *right now* … I mean, if that's okay?"

"Lo-is," Clark said, and she giggled.

"I know, I know, I'm babbling, but that's just a sign that I'm really happy … okay, so I'm going to … " she gestured to the bathroom and Clark nodded.

"Sure," Clark said. "In the meantime I'm going to prepare us something for dinner."

He took the groceries he had bought on his way home out of their bags. Pasta and salad. He was a real pasta lover and he hoped she would like it, too. He heard Lois walking around in the bedroom. She was humming and Clark smiled. She sounded so happy.

When Lois reappeared half an hour later in the kitchen, dinner was almost ready. Wearing shorts and a white T-shirt, Lois looked as fresh as spring itself and Clark found himself staring at her.

"Hmmm, that smells wonderful! How did you do that in such a short time?" Lois' word interrupted Clark's dreams.

"Uh … that's nothing," Clark stammered hastily and was embarrassed when he felt his blood rushing to his face again. To hide his blush he started towards the bathroom and said over his shoulder: "If you're able to wait another thirty minutes, I'm going to take a shower myself and then we'll eat, okay?"

He didn't really wait for her response and decided that the shower should be a cold one, a *really* cold one.

During the meal Clark told Lois about his investigation at Luthor's castle. Lois took the news that there hadn't been anything interesting in the papers without showing much disappointment.

She merely said, "Well, that's nothing new. Clues and evidence never have been served on a silver platter. You always have to fight for them."

She was happy about the microfiches Clark had found. Tomorrow they would go to the Planet and try to read them.

Clark insisted that she shouldn't help him with the dishes because, he pointed out, he was 'faster than a speeding bullet' and he really only needed a few seconds. Lois thought that was pretty handy.

To avoid any kind of embarrassment Clark suggested watching a movie after dinner, but to his surprise, Lois answered, "No, I think I would rather like to talk a little. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to someone for such a long time … "

They sat down next to each other on the sofa and Clark poured them two glasses of red wine.

"Do you mean you were alone the whole time, when you were at Luthor's castle?" he asked cautiously.

"Most of the time I was … " Lois answered and stared at the glass in her hand. Then slowly, hesitantly at first, she began to tell her story.

When she had realized that Luthor had abducted her she had gone ballistic. She had led him a pretty dance, crying, screaming, crashing the furniture - and got no reaction from Luthor at all. He had always remained the smooth, slightly amused, arrogant man he had been before.

Then she had tried ignoring him completely, but this had yielded the same result.

Lex continued to come to her apartment in the basement every day for an hour or sometimes a little longer. During these visits he told her about his life, his wealth, his power and his plans and didn't care whether she listened or not.

After a while Lois found herself looking at the clock when she knew he would be there in a couple of minutes. She waited for him to come. It was not that she wished to see him or that his stories were of any interest to her, but Lex's daily visits had become the only change in her monotonous life and the only contact she had with another person. Obviously his employees had orders to not talk to her, because the only sentences she got to hear from them were: "You wish Ms. Lane?" or "As you wish, Ms Lane." Lex Luthor was the only human being that talked to her at all.

During the first time she had been terribly afraid that Lex had wanted a sexual relationship with her. He was known as a womanizer and it was the only reason for her abduction she could think of. But to her great relief *that* obviously was not the reason, because he didn't push very hard in that direction.

"No," Lois sighed, " I think the main reason for him to abduct me was simply his desire for power. He is obsessed with power. And something in my character must have been a challenge to him!" Suddenly she started to cry. "He kissed me a few times, Clark. I thought I was going to throw up! It was so disgusting!"

Clark felt as though his heart was being ripped out of his chest and he swore to himself that Lex Luthor would pay for this!

He laid his arm around her shoulder and drew her close. "Lois, it's over … " he murmured in her hair. "He will never hurt you again."

But she only sobbed harder now, leaning her head against his chest. Clark almost couldn't understand her next words.

"No, Clark, I wasn't disgusted by his kisses. I was disgusted by *me*!! I mean, I *hated* him! I *hated* him with all my heart and I allowed him to *kiss* me! I should have spit in his arrogant face, but I didn't! … " She pulled Clark closer again and buried her face in his neck. "I didn't," she whispered. "I felt so lonely, Clark … "

Clark held her in his arms until she grew calmer. It was good that she had started to talk about it. This seemed to be a sign that she had started to work things out. While the sobbing lessened he tentatively stroked her hair.

Finally Lois raised her head again. "I'm sorry, Clark," she said, pointing to his chest. "I ruined your shirt! It's soaked!"

"Hey, don't worry," he smiled. "It will dry, and besides, I'm invulnerable, so I won't get a cold or anything like that … and this is *really* no cause to cry," he added, as he noticed her eyes filling with tears again.

"No … no, of course not." She tried a shaky smile.

Suddenly a thought crossed her mind. "Ohmigod, I must look like *hell*!" she exclaimed, horrified.

Clark grinned. "A little disheveled and weepy, but … sweet."

"*Sweet*?!!" Lois said, glaring at him. "How can someone look disheveled, weepy and sweet?!"

Clark chuckled and she couldn't help smiling back.

"*Men*!" she added and rolled her eyes. Suddenly she sobered again. "Thank you, Clark," she said.

"For what?" Clark asked.

"For listening to me, helping me and just being there for me. You've become a real friend during these last days."

"I'm happy to help you, Lois. I'd really like to be your friend," Clark answered simply.

"Well, then let's drink to that," Lois decided and raised her glass of wine. "To real friendship."

Clark smiled and repeated, "To real friendship, Lois."

Suddenly Lois bent forward and kissed Clark lightly. It was not a *real* kiss, more a brush of her lips against his own, but he could feel the touch through his whole body. He froze and for a second both could hear no sound in the living room but the other's heartbeat.

**Kiss her!** a voice in Clark's head screamed. *Kiss her, you fool. She wants it!**

Slowly, very slowly, he lowered his head to hers as if waiting for her to pull back at any moment, but she didn't pull back. Instead she met him halfway …

At that moment there was a loud knock at the front door.

Lois and Clark immediately found themselves at the other side of the room very confused and desperately trying to avoid the other's gaze.

**Man!** Clark thought, frustrated **These almost-kisses with the different Lois Lanes are driving me nuts!**

He went to the door and found Perry White standing in front of him. Clark had never been less happy to see his boss.

"Hi, Clark," Perry greeted him in a friendly tone. "I'm just stopping by to say hello to Lois and to see how she's doing."

"I'm much better, Perry," Lois answered. "Thank you for asking."

Perry was delighted to see that she wasn't so pale anymore. "I'm so happy, sweetie. I have to admit, when Clark came with you to the Planet last week and told me the whole story about this other dimension and your abduction, I was so worried about you … "

"I'm really feeling much better now," Lois said. "Actually, I can't wait to go back to work … I mean, if there's still a job for me at the Planet?"

"Hey, Lois!" Perry answered immediately. "Of course there is! How can you ask? You were the best reporter I've ever had and even if you've got a little competition in Clark here now, I would never let you slip through my fingers!"

"Okay," Lois said and all three smiled.

There was awkward silence after that during which Perry asked himself what in Elvis' name was going on here! Finally he said, "Okay, Lois … Clark. I guess I'll be on my way again. I just came by to check on you, Lois, but I can see that you're much better now. Our Clark here must be the right medicine for you."

Lois and Clark blushed simultaneously.

**Ha!** thought Perry. ** So *that's* the game we're playing here!** He was sorry he had to add these next words. "Ah … and Lois, Dan called four times since we brought out the story about your return. I didn't know if I should give him your address?"

Lois winced slightly.

"Dan?" Clark asked.

"Dan Scardino," Lois answered.


"Who's Dan Scardino?" Clark asked, after the door had closed behind Perry.

"He's an agent for the DEA … " answered Lois and added hesitantly, " .. we are … that is, we *were* engaged, when I was abducted."

"Oh," Clark said flatly. He didn't know what else to say. Suddenly he felt as though he were falling into a black hole.

**And what about now?** he wanted to ask. **Are you still thinking of him? Did you miss him? Why didn't you try to get in contact with him during these last days? Do you *love* him?!!!**

Instead he said, "I see," even if he didn't understand at all.

Lois looked into his eyes as if trying to read his mind. Finally she asked, "May I make a phone call?"

"Of course," Clark said.

She dialed a number. It seemed like an eternity until someone answered the phone on the other end.

"Hi, Dan," Lois said softly. "It's me … Lois."

It took all of Clark's willpower not to listen in on the call with his super-hearing. Instead he picked up the wineglasses and took them into the kitchen.

"All right," he heard Lois saying, "you can pick me up here at eight tomorrow. I'm at 344 Clinton Street."

Obviously the man on the other end of the line was okay with this because she said, "Okay, I'll see you then, bye."

She put down the phone and looked at Clark. "I'm gonna see him tomorrow." She seemed to be a little confused.

"Are you … are you nervous?" Clark managed to ask.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Well … of course I am … I mean we were *engaged*! What if he's married to another woman now, or … I really don't know."

She watched Clark washing up the glasses. Finally she said, "It's late. I think I'll turn in."

Clark smiled and nodded. "Good night, Lois, and sleep well."

"Good night, Clark," she answered and patted his arm lightly. Then she turned around and went to the bedroom.

Clark sighed deeply. **Damn it!** he cursed inwardly **A fiance!** He hadn't thought about her being engaged! It just could not be. Now that he finally had found her, she was engaged to another man?! He *knew* that they were destined to be together, nothing could ever change that and he would fight for it. He could never watch Lois marrying another man, oh no. He had to show her that he cared for her and hopefully she had the same incredible feeling for him. He couldn't stand this Scardino guy, although they hadn't even met each other yet.


Next morning started with a fight about whether or not Lois should go with Clark to the Planet to read the microfiches.

"I'm fine, Clark!" Lois said fiercely and finally Clark gave in. Actually there really was no reason for Lois to stay home. Reading a few microfiches at the Planet was hardly exhausting and she obviously was well on her way to health anyway. He just hadn't been able to resist the temptation to watch her in an argument. Seeing Lois fighting was wonderful. Her eyes caught on fire and her temper showed in her vehement body language.

Lois noticed that Clark suppressed a grin when he gave in and wanted to know why.

"It's nothing," he answered innocently.

"Come on, Clark. What is it!?" she insisted.

"It's nothing, Lois … " he repeated and shrugged his shoulders. "It's just … you look so charming, when you're in a discussion like this … " He chuckled.

She was surprised and a little pleased. Did he want to flirt with her? He had been so friendly and polite that she couldn't quite say if he was interested in her or not. Of course there had been that little incident the evening before … she was sure he *did* want to kiss her then. So maybe he wasn't indifferent after all? If she only had a clue who the blonde woman in the photo was!

She smiled back. "Thank you. Nicely said."

They left his apartment together in perfect harmony.


When they arrived at the Planet, Lois spent the first hour greeting all her old friends. Perry even got her a new desk and to her delight it was next to Clark's. After the first say-hello wave was over Lois and Clark started their work. They spent a busy morning and were pleased that the microfiches turned out to be a good shot. They were full of clues about Peter Meyer's involvement in the abduction of Lois Lane. He obviously had got his job at LNN as a payment for some special information and one sentence even described the information as an "observation of LL during the Congo operation." This was a lot more than Clark had dared to hope for and he was sure they would find a way to send Luthor to jail.

They were talking about their detective work when Clark's super-hearing cut in. He heard something that sounded like a gunshot and he had to leave Lois alone with the microfiches. As he spun around and changed into the suit, he was happy to see the same admiration in Lois' eyes as the first time he had done that in front of her.

"You promise that you'll go home after you've read the 'fiches?" he asked her.

Lois grinned. "I'll be good. Now go and save the day, flyboy."

He nodded and was gone in blur. Lois stared after him. **Fascinating.** she thought. When he was in the suit he suddenly got something really heroic in his demeanor. He was totally different then!

She sighed, shook her head, and forced her mind back to the microfiches.


When Clark returned home in the afternoon, he found Lois lying in the sun on his balcony. She was wearing a pair of headphones and listening to the music with closed eyes.

Clark stood there for a moment and watched her. She seemed to be so fragile when her eyes were closed, so vulnerable. It was amazing to see this tiny creature lying there before him change to the energetic, forceful woman everybody knew as Lois Lane, just by opening those expressive dark eyes.

As if she had heard his thoughts, Lois suddenly looked up and Clark felt as if her gaze hit him right in his heart.

"Hi." She smiled a little sleepily. "I am very good, aren't I?"

He smiled too. "Hi," he answered. "You really are. I'm proud of you. How could this amazing thing happen?"

Lois chuckled. "To be honest, the sunshine and your deck-chairs seduced me." She looked at him with a dreamy expression. "I haven't had the opportunity to see the sun for a long time, you know … "

Clark laid his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it slightly. "Hey, then you should enjoy it a bit longer, shouldn't you?" he said softly.

"Hmm," Lois murmured and snuggled closer in her chair. She took Clark's hand that still lay on her shoulder and held it. They remained in that position for a few minutes, lost in the feeling of happiness in the other's nearness.

Eventually Lois looked up again. "Why don't you change and keep me company here?"

Clark brought his floating feet and mind back to earth and noticed that he was still wearing the suit. Reluctantly he withdrew his hand from hers and went to his bedroom.

When Lois heard him return behind her, she opened her eyes again and was very happy that she was safely sitting in her chair at that moment. Clark clad only in shorts and without a shirt was a very impressive picture and she found herself staring at him mesmerized!

Clark put his chair next to hers and lay back in it with a satisfied sigh. "Boy, this is nice here, isn't it?"

"Uh … ?" Lois squeaked.

Clark turned his head, surprised.

"Uh … I mean, yes … of course … " Lois stammered, praying desperately that he wouldn't notice her suddenly flushed cheeks. She could have smacked herself in the face. Suddenly her brain refused to work. The only word the brilliant reporter seemed to be able to formulate was **wow**! And again **WOW!!!** in big letters!

They lay next to each other for few minutes in more or less relaxed silence that gave Lois the opportunity to regain her composure and to fight back the sudden attack of hormones. But all her efforts couldn't stop her from throwing a few glances to her neighbor from time to time. Who would have thought what was hidden under that mild-mannered surface of country-cotton shirts and blue jeans!

She decided a normal objective conversation was what she needed now and so she asked, "How was your Superman job?"

Clark sighed. "Not so good," he admitted softly. His voice sounded depressed. "The gunshot I heard earlier at the Planet came from the south of the city. Two teenage gangs had had a serious fight and they shot at each other. I got there pretty quickly, but too late to save the life of a fourteen-year-old boy. He was already dead when I arrived … " He swallowed hard and looked in Lois' eyes. "When you have to see something like that … and you know that you only had to be there two minutes earlier to save a life … It is so hard to accept that. Sometimes you think you're not able to do it any longer … "

He drew his fingers through his hair and stared at the ground in front of his chair. Lois watched him, feeling with him. Impulsively she took his hand and squeezed it wordlessly.

Clark looked at her slender hand in this fingers and held it, thankful for the warmth and kindness he felt in her gesture. He turned around to look at her face and spoke earnestly.

"You know, Lois. You thanked me for rescuing you and for helping you and all that, but *I* really have to thank you, too."

"For what?" she asked, a little surprised.

"Just for being here," he said simply.

She tried to read his expression and suddenly she understood. He was lonely. He was Superman, the strongest and fastest man in the world. A star, a VIP, and everywhere where people needed him. And still, there was so much loneliness in his eyes, so much longing. He was right. He *needed* her, too.

She squeezed his hand again and smiled. "Friends," she whispered.

He smiled back. "Friends," he said happily.

They spent the rest of the afternoon lying there on the balcony, mostly in silence. But it was a comfortable silence, the kind that you can only share with a very good friend. They both felt so good about each other.


Finally, when the sun had almost disappeared, Lois looked at her watch.

"I guess I should go in and change." she said reluctantly.

"Yes." Clark remembered. "Your date."

Lois stood up and disappeared into the bathroom. Clark stood up too. He put away the deck chairs and thought about what he could do with his evening. There seemed to be nothing to do. He was feeling lonely already.

**Come on, Clark** he told himself, **It's not the first evening you've spent alone!**

That was true, but it didn't help. Should he cook something? Actually he didn't really need to eat but most of the time he did it out of habit. Maybe he could read, or he could watch TV. He sighed. He almost wished that Superman would be busy tonight.

When Lois came out of the bathroom, he was sitting on the sofa and zapping through the TV channels. He jumped up when he heard her and sucked in his breath loudly at the sight of her. Until now he had only seen her in jeans and T-shirts. Now she was wearing a silky black dress, simple but very feminine and showing enough of her slender figure to make him feel warm all of a sudden. Her hair was loose, falling in soft curls down on her shoulders, and her eyes sparkled. She looked breathtaking.

"Do you think I can go out like this?" she asked a little shyly, when she noticed his gaze.

"You look great," Clark said honestly. "It's just that … " he took a deep breath and rushed along bravely " … I wish you would go out with *me* instead of Dan."

"Oh." Lois said, surprised, and blushed slightly. "Are you asking for a date?"

"I guess that depends on how your date with Dan goes tonight, doesn't it?"

She watched him thoughtfully and nodded then. "Yes … I guess so. But I promise to think about it, okay?"

"Okay," Clark said softly.

Suddenly a thought crossed Lois' mind. "Clark," she asked, "the other Lois and the other Clark, what kind of relationship do *they* have in that other dimension?"

Clark had feared this question, but he had also known that she would ask it sooner or later, so he looked her right in the eyes when he answered. "They're married."

"*WHAT*?" Lois eyes widened.

"They're married, Lois," Clark repeated.

"But … why didn't you tell me that?!" Her mind raced, she couldn't believe her ears. After all she had heard about the other dimension, she knew the people there were very similar not only in their exterior, but also in their characters and the history of their lives. And in this other dimension she was *married* to Clark! That had to mean something, didn't it?

"Lois, I didn't want you to be embarrassed," Clark tried to explain. "I figured you wouldn't have liked to stay with me then."

Lois suddenly got mad. "You should have told me! I would *never* have stayed here with you If I had known this!"

"Exactly," Clark said. "And that's why I *didn't* tell you! Lois, the fact that in the other dimension two people who look like us are married doesn't really mean anything to our lives here, or at least not very much. Their lives have been totally different so far. And even if there *are* some similarities there are a lot of differences, too. The only thing that matters is what *we* feel."

Lois didn't answer.

"And I didn't push for anything, did I?" Clark asked softly.

She shook her head slowly. Then she asked, "Are they happy?"

"Very," Clark answered.

She sighed. "I don't know, Clark. Maybe you're right and all this really isn't important to us, but I can't help feeling that somebody else wants to make *my* decisions."

Clark chuckled. "Another prison?" he asked, understanding.

"Kind of," Lois said.

Clark took her chin in his hand and forced her to look in his eyes. "Lois, nobody wants to press you or demand feelings from you that you don't have. You'll follow your heart and you'll do the right thing."

She looked back into his soft brown eyes and suddenly became very aware of the place where his fingers touched her skin, but she tried to ignore the sensation and asked instead, "Okay, but what about you? What do *you* feel?"

He let his hand fall and avoided her gaze. Then he answered hesitantly, "I'm happy that I found you."

He could read in her face she wasn't satisfied with this answer, but to his relief there suddenly was a knock on the door. It was eight o'clock.


Dan Scardino and Clark Kent didn't like each other from the first moment they met. Actually Clark had to admit that the "fiance" didn't look so bad. He was quite good looking, tall, with dark hair and a humorous expression around his eyes, but Clark couldn't stand the cool way Dan leaned against the door frame with one elbow when he opened the door. He had this air of slight arrogance that got on Clark's nerves from first sight.

"Oops," Dan said, surprised by the unexpected man in front of him. "Isn't this our Supes in person? What are *you* doing here, making sure the saved lamb is good?"

"I live here," Clark said and had the pleasure of seeing that the DEA agent didn't like that answer at all. But Dan was saved from a response when Lois came out of the bedroom.

Clark remained tactfully in the background when the couple met after all this time. But when he saw the expression on Dan's face he felt as if his heart was being torn out of his chest. There was no arrogance left. Only happiness, relief and the pain of unsaid words and two years of not knowing what had happened.

"Hi, Dan," Lois said calmly.

"Lois … " His voice seemed a little husky suddenly. He closed the distance between them and took her in his arms. Not like lovers, just like friends. Clark saw that Lois didn't know how to react.

"God, Lois, it's so good to see you," Dan finally said.

She smiled. "Yeah … " she said. Then she added, " So much has happened … "

They stood facing each other for a while like strangers. Eventually Lois said, "Okay … shall we?"

Dan nodded and Lois turned to Clark, laying her hand lightly on his arm. "Bye, Clark. See you later, okay?"

Clark went to his window after the door had closed behind Lois and Dan. He saw them climbing in a waiting cab, then they were gone. Suddenly he couldn't stay in the apartment any longer. He had to get rid of all the tension that had built during this past week. So much happiness, so much longing, but at the same time so much pain and fear of losing this new happiness again!

There was one place where he *always* had found his peace again. He changed into his Superman suit and took off towards the stars.


When Lois opened the door to Clark's apartment a few hours later, it seemed to be dark and silent. She thought that this was no surprise, after all it was past midnight. She didn't want to wake up Clark. Without turning on the light she slowly went down the stairs and tested her way along the furniture through the living room towards her bedroom. It was completely dark and she was happy that she seemed to be remembering very well where the furniture was positioned in the room, when suddenly she hit her head against an unexpected barrier.

Clark, who she had thought was sleeping soundly on the couch, obviously had had a wild dream or something, because he was *floating* in the middle of the room!

"Oops!" Lois winced when she bumped into him and pulled back. Unfortunately she didn't notice the chair that was standing right behind her and so she lost her balance. "Damn!" she cursed under her breath when she felt herself falling, but before her body came in contact with the floor, two strong arms grabbed her and pulled her up. To her surprise she suddenly found herself floating with Clark through the room.

Lois felt the urge to giggle, but said, "Hey! What are you doing?"

"I'm holding you," murmured Clark sleepily and added, "so you don't fall."

He had a point there. And Lois discovered that it was nice to float around with him like this. Almost as if she could fly herself. He didn't need to hold her very hard. She decided that he was obviously half asleep and objecting would be a useless effort. Instead she asked, "Do you always sleep like that?"

Clark shook his head without opening his eyes. "I don't think so," he answered. Then after a second of consideration he added, "But I don't know for sure, because I'm asleep then."

Lois chuckled. He had a nice logic when he was sleepy that was really cute, but obviously he was starting to wake up now. At least he opened both eyes and looked at her.

"There you are," he said and smiled.

"Yeeees." Lois stretched out her answer. He didn't seem to have any intention of letting her down to the ground again, and to be honest she didn't want to get down anyway.

"How was your date with Dan?" Clark asked tentatively.

"Dan is a jerk." Lois sighed, put her arms around his neck and looked deep in his eyes. "He made one joke after the other, pretended that he didn't do anything during these past two years but think of me and he didn't listen to one word I told him tonight. I don't think he has any idea of what is happening inside my head."

"Ouch," Clark said compassionately.

"And the worst part is," Lois continued, rather depressed, "I guess he has *always* been like that and I didn't notice it two years ago." Lois shook her head in frustration.

"Maybe *you* were a bit different, too." Clark suggested. "Two years are a long time, especially when a person has to go through something like you had to."

"Maybe," she sighed. She suddenly noticed that they were still floating in the air and that she could feel his body very close to hers. She grinned.

"Cozy, hmm?" she whispered.

"*Very*," he said.

They looked in each other's eyes and suddenly sobered. Lois amplified the pressure of her arms around his neck and felt the glimmering warmth in her stomach rising again when Clark lowered his head to hers … but then he raised it again and stared into the dark with a questioning expression on his face.

"What do you hear?" Lois asked.

"Nothing … *finally* … nothing at all!" he answered happily and then he kissed her.

An eternity later Lois opened her eyes again.

"Wow … " she sighed, impressed.

Clark chuckled. He felt something inside him loosen and open up to a wonderful, unfamiliar sensation of happiness and joy. He was so happy he had the urge to run and dance and laugh and cry at the same time, but in reality he remained where he was, pulled Lois a little closer in his arms, and simply gave in to the experience of this new and delightful feeling.

Lois sighed a contented little sigh and snuggled closer in his arms when she felt his arms tighten around her. But suddenly a thought crossed her mind:

"*Who* is that blonde?!" she demanded to know.

Clark looked slightly confused.

"Blonde?" he asked.

Lois poked her finger in his chest. "The blonde woman in the photograph on the shelf in your living room."

"Oh boy, didn't I remove that?" Clark sighed, embarrassed. "I totally forgot about it. Uh … that's Lana Lang … " he explained, when he met Lois' unforgiving stare. "I … uh … was engaged to her."

"*Engaged?!* And you didn't mention this before?" Lois was irritated.

"Come on, Lois. It was a long time ago, and, by the way, *who* was on a date with her fiance tonight, hm?"

"You have a point there," Lois admitted peacefully. She released another contented sigh. "And I really don't want to exhaust myself over old fiancees tonight. I have to watch my health after all. Dr. Klein said I had to be very careful about that.."

"Exactly," Clark agreed with her and kissed her again. *This* wasn't exhausting, was it?"

"Poor Lana," Lois said the next time she got the opportunity to talk.

"Who's Lana?" Clark murmured dreamily and Lois decided not to help him recover his lost memory.