By Shawn V. <Kirshnera@aol.com> ( Kirshnera on the IRC)
Submitted August 1998
Summary: Clark and Lana get jobs at the Daily Planet and are teamed up with Lois and Claude! Lana and Claude look into a suspicious murder while Lois and Clark try to track down the inside scoop on a new mind-altering drug being developed by STAR Labs. This is an alt-beginnings story full of action and surprises.
Thanks go to Mike Nesmith and my sister, Laura, for the title of the story (although it was an accident on Laura's part — she was quoting Mike Nesmith) and to Laura for the title of the drug (which was also sort of an accident — she thought I wanted a gang name and said 'Purple Flower Gang'). Also to my friend Lena, who unknowingly contributed Claude's last name. Special thanks to my other sister, Rachel, for letting me talk out new ideas until they worked in the story and for making me combine my two A-plots into one because she hates the kind of story that switches back and forth. (She also advised me to team up one main character with one new character since I was dividing them, but I refused to make a team of Lana and Clark, Lois and Claude, Clark and Claude, or Lois and Lana for any kind of permanent thing.) I was also inspired a good deal by Marta Olson's "Gypsy Clarkie" — everybody read it! My mom gets extra special thanks because she let me have a laptop in my very own room, so I didn't have to worry about people looking over my shoulder as I typed. As you can imagine, it greatly increased my productivity. :) And don't everybody email me at once telling me I'm terrible at writing 1st season Lois — She hasn't been hurt by Claude yet, so she's not quite so paranoid about men. Clark has already found the globe, and so knows about Krypton, but he is not Superman yet. Thanks to my proofers, Sharon, Susan, Megan, and Jill. And a small beagle named Snoopy helped me with the beginning of my story. :)
It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out. A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
The next day was clear and calm. The shot had actually been a tire blowing out. James apologized for slamming the door. The maid realized that the fuzzy thing was not a spider, but a piece of lint. Sean's mother made him clean up his pirate ship made of legos. Mark turned off the movie when he saw that the king was played by Nicholas Cage. The boy in Kansas grew into a man and became a reporter.
It was a slow day at the Smallville Press. It was always a slow day. Very seldom did anything happen that would merit attention of a real newspaper. But today was especially un-newsworthy. There were no large events in state, nation, or world news. So the SP staff were bored.
Clark sat at his desk, thinking about the future. He seemed to do that a lot. He was only 24, and he had his entire life ahead of him. He could never make a career out of editing this paper. It wasn't the kind of life he wanted. Newspaper, yes. Smallville's, no. He wanted to work on a real paper. One that was always filled with murder, scandal, and all sorts of real news.
Lana knew this about him. She understood that he couldn't stand being so close to what he'd always wanted to do, and yet so far from it. He had talent, real talent, and this was no place to use it. He *should* go to some big city, LA, New York, or Metropolis, maybe, and get a job in one of those big papers. He *should*, but he wasn't going to. This was mostly her fault. She didn't want him to go. They'd talked about it so many times in the past, and they would undoubtedly talk about it again in the future. In fact, they'd probably talk about it tonight. He was bringing it up more than ever before, and days like this were just the kind of days for which brooding about futures were made.
If he went to the big city, it would mean he'd have to leave Smallville, to leave *her*. And she didn't want that. He'd fly away and never come back. He'd always been rather uncomfortable in the country after his parents had died four years ago. Oh, he'd deny it and try to pretend it wasn't true, but it was. She could tell. So once he got out, he would never come home.
But now she was facing a new problem. This disagreement was driving them apart. She had thought that it wouldn't make a difference, that he would just forget about it, but he hadn't. And now there was only one solution. If she wanted to keep Clark and keep Clark happy, she would have to go to the city as well. She didn't want to leave her home, but maybe the big city would be okay. She'd always fancied being a city girl. Besides, it wouldn't hurt if Clark had a bigger salary.
That night, as Lana and Clark were walking home, she told him her idea. He was ecstatic, as she knew he would be. "Oh, Lana, you won't regret this! We'll both love the city! Metropolis! Just think of having a job at the Daily Planet. It's the biggest newspaper in the country! Or maybe the New York Times."
"I've always wanted to go to Metropolis, Clark," she lied. She merely liked it better than New York or LA. She'd heard the people of Metropolis were nicer than those of New York and the city was less polluted than LA.
"Metropolis it is, then." He draped his arm around her and squeezed her close, sighing contentedly.
She allowed herself a smile, too. Pleasing Clark was more important than staying in the country. Besides, she could always make him come back home if she was there, too. Her hold on him wouldn't be able to diminish the way it would if he left Smallville without her.
A while later, in Metropolis …
"Clark, Lana, welcome to the team," Perry White said. "You're good writers, and I think you could be an asset to us."
"Great!" Lana exclaimed. "What can we work on first?"
"Slow down, there, Lang. First of all, you two are not going to be a team. I'm sorry, but I just can't put two new reporters together. Now, Kent, from what I've seen of your writing, and believe me, I'm glad I looked past that 'Knob-Tailed Gecko' thing, you would be a good match for Lois Lane."
"Lois Lane? But she's — " She's what? Referred to as 'Mad Dog Lane'? The most famous reporter in the country?
"She's a good complement for your writing skills. Now, for you, Lang, I think Claude Bardeau. Yes, definitely." Perry leaned out of the door of the conference room. "LOIS!! CLAUDE!!" he bellowed.
They came running. "Yes, Chief?" Lois asked.
"I'd like you to meet Clark Kent and Lana Lang. They're new to the Planet." Lois and Claude knew what that meant. It meant that they would soon have partners, if only for a short time. "Lois, I want you to team up with Clark here for a while, and Claude, you work with Lana. Show them the ropes and write some good stories while you're at it. Lois, what are you working on?"
"The Kelley murders."
"Good. Take Kent and fill him in on what you've got. Claude?"
"The Purple controversy."
"Okay, do the same with Lana. Now, get to work!"
They all walked out of the conference room in a group. "Come on, Clark, let's get to work," said Lois.
"Yes, we'd best get going as well," remarked Claude.
Lana looked at Clark. "See you later. Good luck."
"You too, Lana."
Then the two teams walked their separate ways. Lois and Clark headed for the elevators. "I hope you wore comfortable shoes," said Lois as they got in and the doors closed.
"Okay, here's what's going on with this story. There's a family. Theodore Kelley, his wife, June, and their twins, Charlie and Brian. Last night, all of them were murdered in their house. Four bullets, each through the head. Everything was wiped clean of prints and there were no signs of struggle. Right now, we're trying to find people who have a motive to kill these four."
"What line of work was Theodore in?"
She nodded in approval at his question. "He was a scientist at STAR Labs."
"It stands for Scientific Technological Advanced Research, or something like that. Lots of impressive, state-of-the-art equipment and lots of controversy."
"Is that where we're going?"
"Very good. Yes, it is." They got off the elevator when it reached the basement. Clark followed as Lois walked to a parking space with a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee in it. "And here's something to learn right now. This," she pointed to the space her car was in, "is *my* parking space. Do not park here."
"I don't even have a car."
"Public transportation maniac?"
"Nope. Just can't afford one yet."
"Oh." She unlocked the car doors. "Get in," she commanded. Clark got in the passenger side and Lois got in the driver's side. The doors slammed in unison. Twenty seconds later, the car pulled out of the space and drove out of the garage.
"Okay," said Lana. "What's the deal with this purple thing?"
"Well," said Claude, "Purple is a new drug. It's mind-altering. The creators were thinking to use it as some sort of corrective behavior. An alternative to lethal injection, if you will. Anyways, they've been testing it on animals, but obviously the results will not be the same as they would be on people. So the scientists want to use human subjects. Criminals who have long sentences would volunteer to be guinea pigs for the new drug in exchange for a sentence reduction. Naturally, this creates controversy with two groups of people. The human-rights activists who say that scientists should not test drugs on any people, willing or not, and the people who say that the testers should not offer a sentence reduction to hardened criminals. They say that it is dangerous, that even if a man appears to repent, he may still kill or whatever again. Also, the animal people are still on the scientists backs for testing on animals."
"Sounds like a lot of people hate this new drug."
"Yes, but a lot of people are really hoping that it will turn out to work. Purple could save billions of tax dollars that go into building jail cells and caring for prisoners."
"Has it hurt any of the animals tested?"
"If it had, would they be testing on humans?"
Whoops. That was stupid, Lang. She'd have to get better in this field if she was going to continue here. Her skills might pass in Smallville, but they were going to take some improving to make it in Metropolis. "Okay, so what are we doing now?"
"Well, we're going down to STAR Labs to get a few quotes from the protesters and a few from the scientists. Then we write it into a story."
"What were you expecting?"
"That, I don't know, there'd be more to it than that. I mean, this is Metropolis. Aren't there bigger stories than this?"
"There are, but we aren't currently on them. Lois and that new guy, what was his name … "
"Right. Clark. Lois and Clark are on the bigger of the two stories. A murder case. So what we do is finish this story and then go work on theirs."
"Wouldn't that be too many people?"
"Sometimes you can never have too many people. Not all of reporting is sneaking around. Some of it is good old fashioned leg work. And the more legs, the merrier." He glanced down at Lana's legs, not quite to her embarrassment, with a look that stated that hers were particularly welcome in the job. "Well, ah, let's get going, shall we?"
They left via elevator and went down to the garage to get Claude's car, a black convertible. "Stylish, no?" he asked.
"Very," Lana replied.
"I would have gotten red, but the job occasionally requires me to blend into the shadows, and red is not quite blendable."
"Well, get in, get in. We don't have much time to stand about."
Lois and Clark had to fight their way past a huge crowd that was outside of STAR Labs' door. All the people were protesting the new drug that was being tested, Purple. There was a guard at the gate, preventing their entrance. Lois held up her press ID and shouted, "Lois Lane, Clark Kent, Daily Planet!" over the din of protester's voices. The guard allowed them to enter.
When the door shut, the place was suddenly quiet. They walked to the front desk and showed their IDs. They got permission to go into one of the laboratories, where a Dr. Bernard Klein worked. They walked in and up to a plump balding man in a lab coat.
"Dr. Klein? Lois Lane." She stuck out her hand and shook that of the man in the coat.
"And I'm Clark Kent," Clark said, shaking Klein's hand as well.
"We're with the Daily Planet and we were hoping you could help us with our investigation."
"Teddy Kelly's murder?" Dr. Klein asked.
"Terrible thing, that. He was a great scientist. June was a wonderful woman too, and those twins were so adorable … "
"Dr. Klein, we were wondering if you could tell us what Dr. Kelley was working on when he was murdered."
"Oh. Right. He was working with me. On Purple."
"Purple?" Clark asked.
"You haven't heard of Purple?"
"He's new," Lois offered for an explanation.
"Oh. Well, Purple is a new drug, still in the experimental stage. It would be used for a kind of mind control. Well, that's not it exactly. It alters the brain so that we can program out specific things. We'd use it on criminals to reduce or even destroy their criminal tendencies. It would work best on kleptomaniacs, but it would help a lot of criminals to change their ways. The only problem is that we need to do some human testing. As with a lot of drugs, we would test it on criminals in exchange for a sentence reduction."
"Is that what all those people are protesting?"
"Yes. They think we shouldn't test on humans, they think we shouldn't give criminals sentence reductions, they think we should not be allowed to develop ways to mess with human minds, blah, blah, blah. Personally, I think it's a wonderful idea, as long as it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
"I see your point. So, Kelley was probably killed because of Purple?" he asked.
"Well, that's the strange thing. Nobody really knew that he was working on it. If anybody, they'd go after me. He wasn't in charge or anything. So I doubt it was for Purple."
"Well, thanks for talking to us, Dr. Klein," Lois said.
"It was no problem." He handed Lois a business card. "If you need anything else, I'd be glad to help."
"Thank you," said Clark.
When they got out into the lobby, the receptionist pointed them out the back way. "It's a lot less crowded that way." They thanked her and moved out of the building.
"She was helpful," commented Lois.
"The receptionist. Shirley."
"What makes you say that?"
"Usually when I go in, she's kind of rude or at least cold. She never offers anything useful."
"Well, maybe she's had a change of heart."
"Maybe … " Lois said, doubtfully. She knew why Shirley had been so weird. It was obviously Clark. Some women were so shallow. Just because there was a good-looking guy there, they'd fall all over themselves just to help him. Okay, a great-looking guy. Really, really … Lois made herself stop. He and that Lana Lang woman seemed to be a couple, and that meant hands off. But he could be useful, getting information and getting away from people. As a rule, Lois didn't really love to have partners. One didn't get where she was today by being nice, friendly, and part of a duet. At least she didn't. But now that she was where she was, she could use this to her advantage. And heck, he *was* easy on the eyes, in a way that was different from other people. He just sort of had an aura of small-town charm, good looks, and kindness.
In short, he was unlike Claude. Claude was handsome as well, but in a different way. Claude was more, well, French. He seemed to be more of a James Bond type. So sexy, had a million women at his beck and call, that sort of thing. Clark had the surfer thing going. No, that wasn't quite it. That kind of body, yes, but not that kind of intelligence. He looked smart. Really smart. Well, she'd find out eventually if they were going to be working together.
"So, what do you think?" she asked him.
He could tell by her tone of voice that she already had a theory and was testing him. He said what he had been thinking and hoped it was what she wanted to hear. "Well, I think Dr. Klein is wrong. It's gotta be Purple. There are probably thousands of people who don't want that drug to come out, and not all of them would be content holding signs on the street corner. A drug like that could be extremely dangerous. Things that are extremely dangerous usually seem to fall into the wrong hands."
Well, so far she was pleased with what she was hearing from the new guy. "That's what I was thinking. So now we have to find out who it was. Claude and … ?"
"Claude and Lana are working on the people protesting Purple. They might be able to find out who some of the main people who don't want Purple to come out are. Also, we should find some people that Kelley has been talking to. I've got a hunch that it might prove useful."
"Good. Now where to?"
"Back to the Planet to do some research on Purple, mind-altering drugs, and the people who hate them."
They got into Lois' car and drove off.
"Where are you from?" asked Lois as they drove.
"No kidding? A farm kid … "
Clark wasn't sure whether to take that as an insult or not, so he let it be. "I edited the paper, but I wanted to try a real paper. There was almost never any news at home." Except for the accident.
Clark was startled, not having realized that he'd spoken out loud. He sighed. "I was nineteen when it happened, and still a reporter. It was the only really big story I'd ever done. And I almost couldn't handle it. My parents were … " he paused for a second when his voice wavered. "They were hit by a truck. The truck belonged to some crazy organization called 'Bureau 39'. Alien hunters. It was the biggest thing to ever hit Smallville, and the worst thing ever to hit me." He balled his hand up into a fist, and mentally castigated himself for getting so emotional. Some impression he was making on Lois. She'd probably think he was whiny and juvenile.
She didn't, though. "I'm sorry, Clark. It must be hard to talk about. Especially since it was so recent. Only … "
"You loved them very much, didn't you?"
"Yeah. More than anything." They had been the only ones ever to know that he was different. He hadn't even told Lana, and they had known each other for as long as they could walk. After his parents had gone, he hadn't had anyone to talk to. No one would have understood.
Lois tried to switch the subject. "Is Lana from Kansas, too?"
"Yes. She and I grew up together."
"Well that's nice. Are you two a couple?"
Clark blushed a little. "Yeah … "
"Wow, and she came all the way to Metropolis for you?"
"Well, at first, she didn't want me to go and leave her or something like that. She didn't want to leave Smallville. But then she must have changed her mind because here we are."
So he was only here because she had *let* him come, with her supervision. Lois was starting to really not like Lana, which was not a good thing to start. She was part of the team now, and Lois didn't really know her yet anyway. Besides, anyone who could get this kind of guy couldn't be *all* bad. Clark had to see something in her.
Lana was quite surprised at the size of the crowd around STAR Labs. It seemed like everything in Metropolis was on a larger scale than that of her hometown. Claude didn't seem to be fazed by any of it. She supposed he was used to it already.
"Look, I'm going inside, all right? Get some quotes from the protesters outside. They'll be perfectly willing to talk to the press, but only talk to the ones who look like they know what they're doing. Some of them are just here because there's a chance of getting on TV, and some are just here because friends or relatives talked them into it."
"Okay. You're going to talk to the scientists?"
"Hopefully. They know me in there, so I would be able to get in easier without you. Sorry, but that's the way it is."
"That's okay. I'll just do the work out here."
"Good luck, cherie." With that, he left, pushing through the crowd of people towards the door.
Lana looked around her, feeling rather overwhelmed by it all. She was supposed to get quotes from people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Right. How could she tell what people those people were? She didn't know who to talk to. This was not going well at all.
The first and hardest part was probably getting started. She had to talk to somebody, so she might as well talk to …
Her thoughts were interrupted by a huge explosion coming from the laboratories. All of the windows blasted outward, raining glass along the sidewalk and on the front yard. Smoke and fire poured from the empty spaces.
"Clark?" asked Lois. She looked around the Planet, but her new partner was nowhere to be found. She figured he had probably had to go to the bathroom or something.
People who were in the building suddenly felt themselves propelled outward by some unknown force that felt like a powerful pair of hands. Many ended up on the sidewalk in safety, not knowing how they got there. Just about every single person in STAR Labs got out safely, and not one of them knew how.
Claude felt himself fly through the air and land. There was a gust of wind and then nothing. Had he been blown by the force of the explosion? He didn't think so. He wondered what had caused the explosion. Had it been a bomb? A science experiment gone awry? Now *this* was news. He bet it had something to do with Purple.
Lana ran over to him. "Claude? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. What a story this will be!"
"I have no idea." They looked around at the other people, who were mostly confused. Some of them were on their knees, thanking the Lord for the miracle they'd received. Others were just looking around, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
Police, fire trucks, and ambulances arrived on the scene moments later. The ambulances went away empty, thanks to the "miracle", and the firefighters soon had the fire out. There was surprisingly little damage. The blast had been confined to a small area, although it had seemed tremendous.
Claude had called Lois, who, after finding Clark, pulled him down to the laboratory to investigate. When they got there, they found a shaken Dr. Klein.
"Dr. Klein, do you know what caused the blast?" Lois asked.
"No idea. It was in the section of the labs that was testing Purple. This could be incredibly dangerous. Everybody who was in the area is exposed. We don't know what it can do yet!" he exclaimed. As he talked, his voice had become more and more hysterical. Now he was practically shouting. "They were here protesting the testing of the drug, and now it's tested on them! We have to get back in there now and study it! It may be a matter of life or death!!"
"Dr. Klein, please, calm down!" Clark put his hand on the man's shoulder. "It didn't hurt any of the animals, did it?"
"No. They were all fine."
"Well, then, it probably won't hurt people."
"But we don't know that for sure. It didn't hurt animals in a controlled testing situation, but who knows if it would hurt them in a blast! We don't know how much the people got of the drug. Heat makes it grow! We hadn't tested what a quick intense blast of heat would do, but I think it would grow over 200%. Who knows what that kind of exposure could do to people?"
"The people outside. Would they have been at risk? They weren't in the direct blast. They didn't get the fire. So they should be safe, right?" Lois asked.
"Y-yes. I suppose that's correct. The people inside, however … "
"Well, they were all scientists. They should be willing to help test the effects of the drugs."
"That's right. I'd better go talk to them right now! Excuse me!" With that, Dr. Klein left.
"He's quite a character," Clark remarked.
"Yes, but some of his concerns may be justified. We don't want to start another cancer. Let's find Lana and Claude."
"Lana, are you okay?" Clark asked as soon as they saw the other reporters.
"Yes, we're both safe. All the people who were in the lab got out somehow. We've been talking to them, and they say it was some invisible force propelling them out the nearest window or door and then placing them safely on the ground."
"That's strange," said Lois. "Well, you two keep working on that angle. Make it a puff piece if you have to, but find out different people's theories on what happened. Clark and I are working on how the blast got started and what the effects are."
"Got it," said Claude. He knew better than to argue with Lois when she was hot on the trail of a story.
They parted ways, and Lois turned to Clark. "Let's go inside."
"Inside? But Lois, there are cops and people all over. We can't go inside! Besides, who knows if it's safe in there? We'd be exposed to Purple!"
"Clark! We have to do it to get the story! Besides, all of the smoke and gas is gone. Come on!" She ran off, leaving Clark with no choice but to follow her. He knew he could probably protect her from anything, but he didn't really want to reveal himself unless it was absolutely necessary.
He was also harboring a small, nagging doubt. He wasn't sure if he had remained totally anonymous. It could just have been his paranoid brain, made especially active by this being his first big rescue in what he hoped to be his home, but he had been almost positive that some of those people had looked directly at him.
Still, it had felt so very good to help. He had always tried to help wherever he went. Lana didn't know, but he had traveled around the world. Extremely short trips, as he hadn't wanted to be caught, but he had still taken them. It was what had fueled his desire to move to a big city. He loved the life that pulsed from them. It was so intriguing. It was that life which called to him, begged him. He saw a disaster coming and he just had to stop it. It would be a tragedy to kill all that life. He somehow knew that he had been brought here to help, to make a difference.
He never thought that on his first day on the job, he'd be breaking into a large burnt laboratory, however, with a beautiful intrepid reporter. But then that was the pace of the life he'd chosen. And it *was* kind of exciting. He wondered briefly why it was so exciting. Just being someplace that he wasn't supposed to be? Was that it? Or was it the company? He had to admit, he felt *something* for Lois Lane. He also felt guilty for feeling it. What would Lana think? She'd get jealous and upset, that's what would happen. So he had to hold this feeling in check. He barely even knew Lois anyway, and Lana had been his best friend his entire life.
They poked through the rubble that had been blown into the hallway. There was a ton of broken glass and some strange-looking things. With the eye of an expert, Lois picked her way to where the blast seemed to have originated. She turned to Clark as they walked in the doorway. "I'll bet anything this is the room that they were testing Purple in."
They looked through cabinets and drawers, but most of the things were burnt and unidentifiable. It did appear that they were testing some kind of drug, however, as far as Clark could tell from the remnants of the equipment. He told Lois as much. She seemed rather surprised at his knowledge.
"I did a lot of research while I was in school," he offered by way of explanation.
She bought it. "Okay, then. It was definitely Purple."
"Not *definitely*, Lois."
"Fine. *Probably* Purple. Is that better?" She didn't wait for him to answer. "So it's gotta be someone who doesn't want this drug on the market."
"Well, there are a lot of people like that."
"Disgruntled scientist who was fired?"
"We could ask Dr. Klein if there were any."
"Other than that, we should probably find out what Claude and Lana know about who doesn't want this drug to be tested. It has to be someone who knows people, who has connections."
"Lois, is there any chance it could have been an accident? They do happen, you know."
"I know they happen, but they *don't* happen here. STAR Labs is the most professional, most careful laboratory in the world. They have never had an explosion. It just doesn't happen. Somebody had to have planned this."
"What about Kelley? He was working on Purple. Do you think his murder had something to do with this?"
"Yes. They have to be connected."
"Who is this we're meeting again?"
"Bobby Bigmouth, Clark. He's one of the best sources in the business. He knows *everything*."
"And you think he might have a clue as to who killed Kelley?"
"He always does."
They drove in silence for a few minutes, and then Clark broke it. "Why are we stopping?"
"Lois, it's ten in the morning. How can you be hungry?"
"I'm not. It's for Bobby. It's how I pay him."
"And how he earned his name? I thought it was because he blabbed other people's secrets."
"Nope. It's for his big appetite."
After getting food from an Indian restaurant, they drove to Centennial Park, where they were to meet Bobby. He soon showed up, grinning.
"What'd you bring me?" he asked.
"Indian. What do you know about Theodore Kelley?"
"Scientist for STAR Labs."
"We know that."
"Worked on something called Purple." He took one of the bags of food and started digging through it. "Mmm. I love this."
"Bobby, we know all about Purple. Was Kelley killed because of it?"
"Word on the street is that Kelley was taking bribes from someone to keep him posted on the research, and then later give him the drug. Kelley apparently decided it was too dangerous a drug to give to such a large criminal, and went back on his deal. So he was killed." He rammed some food into his mouth.
"Who is this someone?"
"It's a crime gang known as Intergang. They're not much yet, but the things they're planning — look out, Metropolis. Curry and apples. You wouldn't think that would taste good, but it does."
"Bobby, did this have anything to do with the explosion?"
"Wha?" he asked with his mouth full. "For thith?" He gestured to the bag.
Lois held out the second bag. Bobby swallowed and smiled. "Somebody else knew about the drug. Another scientist. Daniel Moore."
"What did he do?" queried Clark.
"I don't know. He might have had something to do with it, though. He was the kind of person who, if he got it into his head, would be capable of doing something like that."
"About Intergang. Do you know who's involved with it?"
"What did you say your name was again?"
"Right. No, Clark, I don't know. There aren't even whispered names going on right now. But tell you what. Since you're new to Metropolis, and you look like a nice guy, I'll poke around for you. See what I can dig up. I'll call you if I find anything. And if I do, dinner at the restaurant of my choice."
"Deal," said Lois.
"Okay, now I say we go talk to Daniel Moore. See what he knows."
"You're getting good, Kent."
"Don't let it go to your head."
He grinned. "I won't."
Lois turned the car into the driveway. "This is the right house?"
"Yup. Moore said 231 Eastwood Ave. This is it."
"I was surprised he said he'd talk to us."
"Wouldn't it look suspicious if he didn't?"
"Well, he could easily have covered it with something else. He was too busy, or he didn't like the press, or something like that."
Moore was waiting for them at the door as they drove up. He greeted them when they got out of the car. "You must be Lois Lane and Clark Kent. I'm Daniel Moore. Please, call me Daniel."
"Daniel, then. We'd like to ask you a few questions about the explosion."
"The explosion? At STAR Labs? I'm afraid I don't know anything about it." His voice was calm. "You see, I was home sick that day. Amazing coincidence."
"Well, be that as it may, we'd still like to — "
Daniel interrupted her. "Of course, of course. Please come in and I'll answer your questions." He ushered them inside his house and they sat down in the parlor.
"Now," he asked, "what would you like to know?"
"For starters, did you know about something called Purple?" asked Clark.
"Purple?" Brian paused, deliberating over whether to lie or not. He didn't know what they were getting at yet, so he went with the truth. It was easier than a lie. "I've heard of the drug, yes. A very dangerous thing, that."
"Did you know Theodore Kelley?" asked Lois.
"Everybody who worked at STAR Labs knew Teddy Kelley. He's quite the scientist. His morals weren't always in the right place, but his brains were certainly functioning amazingly well." Daniel's eyes widened slightly as he realized he'd just made a mistake, mentioning Teddy's morals. He hoped the reporters wouldn't pick up on it.
But they did. "His morals? What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, it's just a vague impression I got of him when I started working," he tried to explain.
Lois and Clark didn't buy it, but they didn't press further. "We heard that Kelley was making deals with a leader of a criminal gang concerning the drug. Did you know this?"
"No … no I didn't. I guess my impression was right. His morals weren't in the right place. But I never guessed he'd do something like that!"
"Well, thank you for your time, Daniel." Lois stood up, followed by Clark. They both shook Moore's hand.
"No problem. Tell me if I can be of any further service."
Lois and Clark left and drove away. Moore watched them from the window, looking out even after they were far out of sight. He clenched his hands into fists. "Too close. They're too close. I'll have to do something about that. All I wanted was to keep the drug away from Intergang. Was that too much to ask? Obviously." He turned away and let the curtain fall into place.
Lois and Clark were driving home from work about a week later, talking. "What made you want to come to Metropolis?" asked Lois.
"Oh, I don't know. The city just sort of called to me. I didn't want to work at such a small newspaper any more. I wanted to do something real. Something substantial."
"Well, the Daily Planet certainly is that. I understand what you mean about the city. It's something about all the people, all the *life* going on all around you. It's addictive."
Clark smiled. She really *did* understand. But then his smile faded. "Lois, do you see that car in back of us?"
"Yeah … " It was a dark blue Chevrolet.
"Does it look familiar?"
"Now that you mention it, yes. It does. How long has it been back there?"
"I don't know. I just saw it now, and remembered seeing it before."
"Damn. They're following us."
"Intergang, you think?"
"Either them, or somebody Moore hired."
"Can you lose them?"
"Are you buckled up?"
"Hang on tight." She swerved the car into a small side alley. The Chevy followed. Yup. They were definitely tailing them.
Lois took a zig-zagging course through alleys, small streets, and main streets, always avoiding places with lots of traffic and dead ends. She knew the streets of Metropolis like her phone number, and she used all her knowledge. After a while, the car disappeared from their line of sight.
"Yes! We've lost them!"
"Don't celebrate so quickly, Clark. We don't know why they were following us in the first place, and they won't be gone for long. We're going to have to be very careful from now until we really get them." She drove to Clark's apartment and dropped him off.
"Thanks for the ride, Lois," he said, as he did every night. She almost told him to stop saying that, but she kind of liked it. He was so polite, and that was refreshing in a guy.
The next day, Lois came to pick Clark up for work. As they were driving, they noticed the same Chevy behind them that had tailed them the night before. Since they were going to the Planet and the tailers probably knew they worked there, they ignored the car.
When they had been at work for about an hour, Lois got a phone call from Moore. "Lois!" he exclaimed over the phone. "I'm glad I caught you! I've found something out that might help you. But I can't tell you over the phone. Come to the warehouse at 311 Ewing Street and I'll talk there."
"Why a warehouse?"
"I don't want anyone to know where I live if they follow us. I might just be being paranoid, but I'd feel safer in a warehouse."
"Okay, we'll be there in fifteen minutes. Thanks a lot, Mr. Moore."
She hung up and told Clark about the call.
"A trap?" he asked.
"Maybe. But if it is, we can probably get out of it. I know karate, and you look like you could take on Hercules at least."
"Thanks," said Clark.
They drove to the warehouse. It looked like no one was there, so at least Moore didn't have a gang of guys after them. Yet.
They walked up to the door, which was open. "Mr. Moore?" called Lois, as they stepped inside.
He walked out of the shadows, holding a gun. "So good of you to come, Miss Lane, Mr. Kent. Please step over this way." He gestured with the gun, as three other men, also bearing guns, walked out beside him.
They forced Lois and Clark into a small storage room. It was probably used as cold storage when the warehouse had been functional. And it had not been abandoned for very long. The locks were still new, and the door was thick enough so as to be impossible to break down. The cooling system was still in place. It was obvious what Moore's plan was.
"Get in." Lois and Clark were shoved at gunpoint into the freezer. "Now, I asked myself over and over what kind of death you two deserved. At first, I was going to shoot you. But that's too good for reporters. At least, it's too good for you, Miss Lane. But Kent is shaping up to be just like you, so I might as well get rid of you both now. So I opted for something a little longer, a little less pleasant. Perhaps it will serve as a warning to future investigators. You shouldn't meddle in other people's business! All I wanted to do was to make sure Intergang didn't get the drug."
"Then why are you doing this? That's a noble cause," protested Lois.
"No, you don't understand. I didn't want Intergang to have the drug, but that didn't mean *I* didn't want the drug. I wanted to be the exclusive owner of Purple, for distribution in small doses to the criminal element. Intergang would have taken that position and they would have made the millions."
"So why did you *destroy* the drug, if you wanted it?" It was becoming Lois' opinion that this guy was galactically stupid.
"Well, *I* can get it again. It's no problem to make. I just had to blow up the test area because I wanted to keep it a secret that Kelley had been dealing with Intergang. If everyone knew, others might try to strike the deal Kelley had with Intergang. That meant they'd get the drug, and I'd lose. The explosion destroyed all the evidence of Kelley's deal."
"Did you kill Kelley?" asked Clark.
"No. That wasn't me. I don't know who it was, or why. He was probably just mixed up in the wrong company and couldn't take it. I hated him, but I didn't kill him."
"You realize that Intergang will still be trying to get the drug. They won't give up." Lois said it matter-of-factly.
"I know that! But the explosion buys me some more time! So do your deaths. So say your prayers. And you'd better do it fast, because it gets pretty cold in here. And you're not dressed properly for the weather."
Moore walked out and shut the door behind him. Lois ran to it, but it was locked tight. And it wouldn't budge. Overhead, they heard the coolant system kick into place. A minute later, the temperature began to drop.
As the temperature in the room got lower and lower, Lois turned to Clark. "I guess this is it," she said, her voice slightly choked. "I can't believe I was so cocky that I thought the two of us could take whatever Moore had up his sleeve."
"It's okay, Lois."
"I'm sorry for dragging you into this."
"You didn't do any dragging. I came along myself. It's not your fault."
"I feel like it is, though." She bit her lip to keep her teeth from chattering.
"Come here," Clark said. She moved over to him and he wrapped his arms around her. Pressed against his powerful chest, she felt a little warmer. She shivered a little and snuggled in closer. Despite the cold, she couldn't help but feel almost giddy at his nearness. She had been attracted to this guy since she had met him, and she guessed it was fate that dictated she spend her final hours with him.
Clark held her in his arms comfortably. The cold didn't bother him. But he didn't know what to do. If he broke out, he'd have to tell Lois his secret. If he didn't, she would die. She sighed against his neck and he felt terribly guilty for enjoying the sensation.
She was enjoying the sensations, too. His hot breath tickled her ear, and his arms felt *so* good around her, and not just because he was warm. Shivers born not of cold, but of excitement, ran up and down her spine. She pulled her head back enough to look into his eyes. There she saw a thrilling look of forbidden longing. She pressed forward to meet his lips.
At first, Clark was startled, but it was what he had wanted, too. Lord help him, he *wanted* to kiss her. Lana's protesting voice sounded in his head, but it was faint and her words unclear. So he did what he wanted.
Clark put his hand on the back of Lois' neck and kissed her passionately. She responded with a soft moan to the feel of his tongue in her mouth. It felt so *right* for them to do.
But the voice inside of Clark's head grew louder. He pulled away sooner than either would have liked. "Lois, I … "
She was breathing hard and her face had become slightly flushed. "I'm sorry, Clark. I know … Lana."
"Lois, I'm sorry, too. If things were different … "
"But they're not."
He looked down. "No, they're not. Not in that way." He made up his mind. He couldn't let Lois just die. "They're different other ways, though."
"What do you mean?"
"Lois, I can get us out of here."
"You can? How? Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because … I wasn't sure if I could tell you."
"Clark, you can trust me. What is it?"
"Lois, I'm not … from here."
"I know that. Kansas."
"No. Not Kansas. Somewhere else. Farther away. A different solar system."
"Clark, this is no time for jokes."
"I swear, Lois, this is no joke. I'm from a planet called Krypton, and I'm not quite like humans. And I can get us out of here."
"And past the guards that are probably outside?"
"We can go up."
"Up." He lifted her up, breaking through the ceiling, and out a window of the second floor.
Lois looked down at the streets and houses that were getting smaller by the second. "Clark!" she gasped.
They flew over the rooftops of Metropolis and landed on Clark's balcony. "Lois, we need to talk."
"You bet your ass we need to talk!! What the hell *are* you?"
"Let's start at the beginning."
"Maybe you should sit down," he said. They went inside and sat on the couch.
Once they were seated, she turned to him and said, "Okay, explain. What is going on?"
"Lois, there was a planet called Krypton. It was far away and had a red sun. A scientist named Jor-El learned that the planet was going to explode in a very short time. There was no time to build a spaceship large enough to hold both him and his wife, Lara, so they built one for their only son.
"They sent the boy, Kal-El, to a different planet, one with a yellow sun. They did this because they knew that the people there were very close, biologically, to the Kryptonians and that the boy could blend in there and seem to be from Earth.
"He landed in a small field in Smallville, Kansas, where two people who had wanted to be able to have children but couldn't found him and took him in. They raised him as their own, and they were the only ones who knew that he was different. Until their death, five years ago. Then the secret was held only by the boy himself, until … "
"Until he told me."
"Lana doesn't even know?"
"No. I could never bring myself to tell her. I don't know why."
"I thought you two had been a couple for years!"
"Yes, but it never seemed right. I mean, I didn't know what she'd have to say about it. She probably would have insisted that I never use my powers, but I have to, Lois. I have to help when I can. It's part of who I am."
Lois couldn't argue with what Clark thought Lana would do. She knew Lana pretty well now, and Clark had known her for longer. Actually, it was uncertain whether Clark knew her better or not. Lois had seen that Lana's personality totally changed when she was around Clark. So if Clark had only seen that side of her …
"Lois? Are you okay with this?"'
She realized that she had been silent for a while, and that it was making Clark nervous. "Yeah. It's really neat, Clark. You probably have all sorts of advantages over other reporters. What can you do?"
"Well, I can fly, but you already know that. I can see through pretty much anything, except for lead. I can hear things from far away. A lot of the time, if someone's in trouble, my hearing kicks in and I know where to go to help them. I can shoot these sort of heat beams from my eyes, and I can control the diffusion of the heat and the temperature. And then I can blow on things to freeze them. I can fly or run so fast that I'm almost invisible. I can't be hurt by anything."
"Nothing hurts you?"
"Nothing that I've seen so far. And I'm really strong. I'm not sure exactly how much I can lift, but that's because I've never come up against something that I couldn't lift."
"Wow. Do you need to sleep or eat or anything?"
"I need to sleep, but not as much as humans. Usually, I sleep the whole night through, but if I can't, it doesn't make a difference to me. I don't have to eat, but I like to, so I do. That's pretty much it. Oh yeah, the speed thing isn't just flying or running. I can do things like read a thousand page book in half a second, and still have read the entire thing and be able to remember it."
"College must have been pretty easy for you."
"Yeah, it was." He grinned a little.
"You don't have to worry, Clark. Your secret's safe with me."
"I know it is, Lois. I trust you."
"You've only known me for a little over a week!"
"Yeah, but I feel like it's been longer." Boy, did he.
"I feel that way, too. And then it's like I don't know you at all, with these powers."
"But I'm still the same person," he added, a little worriedly that she would look at him differently.
"I know you are," she replied. "It's not your personality that's changed."
He leaned over and hugged her tightly. "Thank you, Lois. For understanding." He wished Lana would be the same way, if he ever got up the courage to tell her.
"It's okay, Clark. Besides, it's got to have been hard, hiding this from everyone. How could you stand it?"
He pulled back a little to look at her. "It *was* hard, and that's why having someone who knows means so much to me." But he still felt guilty. This should be Lana he was having this conversation with. The thought made him drop his arms from around her.
She could almost tell what he was thinking. "Clark, you need a *friend* who knows. It doesn't have to be your lover. Sometimes it's okay if your friend and your lover are separate people."
"She's not really my lover," he told her. Why did he say that? Why should he care if Lois thought he was sleeping with Lana?
Lois smiled a little. "I didn't think she was. I mean, you don't seem to be the kind of person who would get that involved with someone without telling them … well … " She broke off, wondering whether he would think that she was criticizing his decision not to tell Lana.
Clark just grinned. "You really *do* understand me."
ABOUT A MONTH LATER:
Clark heard a knock on his door. He quickly x-rayed through it, and saw that Lana was on the other side. He ran up the steps and flung it open. "Lana! Come in!"
She walked in and hugged him hard as the door shut behind her. "What a month! Can you believe it? All this! I never knew the city would be like this."
"I know. It's pretty amazing. Life in the fast lane." They walked down the steps, hand-in-hand. They sat down on the couch, and Lana turned to face Clark, a serious expression on her face.
"Clark, are you happy? I mean, is this what you wanted?"
"Lana, I can't explain how I feel about the city. I love it — it's so full and busy. This job is a dream come true. It's nothing like I'd expected it to be, but then it's *exactly* what I expected. Can you understand what I'm trying to say?"
"Yes," she smiled. "I understand." She leaned forward and kissed him lightly. She pressed forward into the kiss, forcing him backwards over the arm of the couch, opening her mouth against his passionately. He responded to her kiss, although not with the passion that she'd hoped for. She decided to move on anyway. She'd waited too long as it was. She reached down to untuck his shirt from his grey pants.
This startled him, and he pulled back, except there was nowhere to pull back to, so he stood up suddenly. Lana looked up at him. "What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing, it's just that … I'm … I'm not ready. It's too soon. I-I can't … " He toyed with his shirt cuff nervously.
"Clark, you always say that. You're *never* ready! Why?"
"Why? Um, I don't really know … "
She sighed in exasperation. "You don't know? How could you not know? And how could it be too soon? We've only been dating for over a decade!"
"Lana, I need — "
"*You* need?! I've given you everything *you* need! You needed a friend to help you through your parents' death, I was there. You needed someone to talk to in the small hours of the morning, I was the one on the other end of the phone. You needed to move away from the country, to throw your life away in the city. I came with you. I have needs too! And this happens to be one of them! I don't want a platonic relationship with you, Clark. I *need* a lover!"
Being distracted by a comment in the middle of her speech, he almost didn't hear her last soft supplication. "Throw my life away in the city? Is that what you think I'm doing?"
Lana realized that she had made a big mistake in confronting him like this. Well, they were going to get everything out in the open now, like it or not. "The truth, Clark? Yes. I think that's what you're doing. You're running away from Smallville because you didn't want to be there without your parents, and you're hiding in Metropolis. You never had some burning desire to be in the big city until they died. They're *gone*, Clark. Everyone has to let go sometimes, and you have to, too."
Clark felt like he'd been slapped in the face. "How could you say that, Lana? I'm not *hiding* in Metropolis. *This* is what I've been missing all my life. Maybe it was my parents' deaths that released the final hold that Smallville had on me, but the city has always called to me. Why did you come here with me, then?"
"Clark, you know that if you left you'd never come back. And you obviously weren't content to remain in Smallville with me. So I really had no other choice."
"So you pretended it was what you wanted, too? Lana, didn't you think I could take the truth?"
"No," she said defiantly. "I know you too well for that. Even if I had gotten you to stay, you'd never be mine. You'd be so miserable that we'd drift apart. So I gave you what you wanted, your way. But now it's my turn to get what I need. Do you think it's been easy, Clark? You've always played hard-to-get, and that's fine. But impossible-to-get is not fine. It's too much for me. I can't do this any longer. So what *is* it with you? Why are you so afraid of sex?"
"Why are you so obsessed with it?" he countered. "Is that all a relationship is to you? Physical?"
"Clark — "
"That's all I am? A good body?" Clark had never felt so hurt in all his life.
"No, Clark. That's not all you are. If it was, I'd have been gone a long time ago. You're my best friend, too. And it's just hard. I'm sorry I started this." She really did look contrite.
"Lana, I'm sorry too. I'm just really, really skittish about this. I thought you'd understand."
"I do understand, Clark. I just blew up, and I'm sorry. I think I'd better go now."
"Goodbye." They both got up and Clark walked her to the door. They tentatively kissed goodnight, although it was a bit uncomfortable after their conversation, and she left.
Clark went back into his apartment, wondering what she had not told him and clueless as to where this relationship was going. Lana wanted sex … was that all she wanted? Had she really been his best friend all those years just for that? Why would anyone do that? She was so different from Lois. Where had that thought come from? It was true, though. Lois was constantly there for him, listening to him whenever he had a problem. She understood him completely. And Lana didn't. Well, he'd never given Lana an opportunity to understand *that* about him. But she'd proved that she didn't understand him even in things like why he'd moved to Metropolis. Was it a lack of communication? Or did Lois really know him better than the woman who'd been his 'significant other' all his life did?
But maybe this whole conversation was just a lack of communication. And he *had* known her for his entire life. So he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Lois woke up in the middle of the night, sweating. She put a hand to her flushed face, surprised by her dreams. She had been dreaming of Clark Kent. She knew that she was falling for him, and she hated herself for it. She hated herself, she hated Lana, who undoubtedly didn't deserve Clark's love, she just hated what was happening to her.
Her emotions were closing in on her, a frustrating net that entangled her. She punched her pillow as hard as she could, but it didn't help at all. Why? Of all the men in the world, why him? Why the one that she could be only friends with? It was just not fair. She smashed her face into the pillow and let her tears of frustration flow.
Lana drove home from Clark's house, upset. She had blown up at him, and she regretted it. But what she had said *was* true. She wanted him, and she didn't have the patience to wait any longer. He was really starting to get on her nerves. She had devoted practically her entire *life* to him, to his needs, and the *one* thing she wanted, he was too afraid to give. What the hell was the *matter* with him? What was she missing here?
"LOIS! CLARK! IN MY OFFICE!"
It was a normal day at the Planet. The sound of busy people working hard surrounded the reporters until Perry's voice cut through the noise. They rushed into his office.
"I've got a story I want you two on. You'll have to go undercover. See, there has been a rash of murders down at 'Atlantis', and I want you two on it."
"No," replied Lois.
"No?" Perry repeated.
"No. I'm not going undercover at Atlantis. Not again."
"But Lois … "
"No! Get Claude and Lana to do it!"
"What's Atlantis?" asked Clark.
"A nightclub," Perry replied. "Why not, Lois? You already know the moves. They love you there."
"Forget it. Let Lana and Claude learn the moves."
"But *you* already know how."
"You could teach him."
"Forget it! Nothing doing!"
"Besides, Claude isn't the right type."
"Tough. We're not doing it."
Clark had no idea what was going on, but he had never seen Lois so openly defiant of going on a story that Perry wanted them to do. She had griped to him, but she had never refused like this.
"Lana and Claude are working on something else. You're doing the club."
"It will be easiest."
"Perry … "
He interrupted her. "Lois. Read my lips. You're doing this story. So go. Teach Clark the routine. And don't try to tell me you've forgotten it, because I know it's not true."
"Would somebody please tell me what is going on here?" Clark asked, exasperated.
"Lois will fill you in," Perry said before turning back to Lois. "Now, you've got a spot that you can get in. You're a new act."
"Both of us? Together?"
"Yes. So work out a routine. I know you can do it."
"Perry, please — " Lois began, disgustedly.
"Lois!" He held up his hand. "I don't want to hear it. If you *do* have trouble getting a good routine, I can get someone who will help you. But try it on your own first."
Lois opened her mouth to reply, but Perry's expression convinced her not to try it. So her visage changed into a glare and she turned around and left the room with Clark in tow. "Get your stuff," she commanded him.
He did as she told, and then they got into the elevator. But before the doors closed, a young man carrying a large box rushed in. "Hi," he said. "Lois Lane and Clark Kent, right?"
"I'm Jimmy Olsen. I'm new here. Mr. White wanted me to give you this box. He said you'd need it for your story." He handed the box to Lois, who peeked inside. Something akin to a growl escaped her lips, and Clark wondered what exactly was in the box.
The doors opened out onto the parking lot, and Lois rushed out. Clark paused a second to thank Jimmy, and then chased after her. "Lois, what's in the box?" he asked when they reached her car.
They got inside and Lois tossed the box onto his lap. He opened it to find an Elvis costume and a fifties' outfit, complete with a poodle skirt. "What do we need this for?" he asked.
"Our undercover assignment," she said resentfully. "He's making us do Elvis. I should have known."
"I don't get it."
"Let me put it this way. Congratulations, Clark. You just got a new job. You're a stripper."
Now he understood her vehement protesting in the office. But there was something else that gave him pause. "You've done this before?"
She twisted her face into a grimace. "Yeah, for a different story. Last year. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. At least this time, I won't be the only one."
"Thanks a lot."
"Well, it's easier to face something embarrassing in a group."
"I know. So where are we going now?"
"Your apartment so I can teach you the moves. Mine is too small to dance around in."
Clark was silent for a minute. "You know, this reporter thing is not all it's cracked up to be."
Lana and Claude were called into Perry's office. "What do you want, Chief?" asked Lana.
"Well, there's a rumor that there's some drug dealing going down over at a married couples' retreat up in Maine. I want you two to go there and find out what's been happening."
"A married couples' retreat?" asked Claude.
"Yeah. You'd have to go undercover. I already had some ID's made up for you. Claude and Lana Martin." He handed them a manilla envelope. "This has your ID's plus all the information you need, including the name and location of your contact. Go home and pack. Your plane leaves tomorrow morning at nine. Here are the tickets," he said, handing them another envelope, this one letter-sized. "Good luck."
"I don't like this." Clark frowned as he looked in the mirror at the stupid Elvis costume.
"Oh, I don't know. It's kinda cute." She almost giggled when she saw his glare. "Well, how about this?" she asked, twirling around. "I feel like I'm in a bad period movie."
"No, poodle skirts are definitely your style. And I love the sparkles."
"Shut up. Where's your guitar?"
"I don't want to use it."
"Tough. Get it. You'll throw it into the crowd anyway."
"Good thing it's plastic."
"Are you going to take off your glasses? Why do you wear them, anyway? I know you can't need them."
"Lead crystal. When I was younger, they helped remind me to keep my powers in check. Now, I'm just used to them. They make me feel comfortable."
"Well, if you want to keep them on, go ahead, but I think it'd be better without them. Or you should swap them for sunglasses. Yeah, sunglasses. Definitely."
"I think I've got a pair around here." He walked around opening drawers until he finally pulled out a pair of sunglasses. He took off his glasses and put on the dark ones. "What do you think?"
"Elvis didn't wear Ray-Bans, but it'll do."
"Elvis' costume was a jumpsuit, and it didn't come off in small pieces."
"This is true. Come on. I'll show you how it's done." They walked into the living room.
"Could you move the sofa and stuff?" Lois asked.
"Sure," Clark replied. He picked up the sofa with one hand and put it over by the bookshelves. He did the same with the coffee table and all the rest of the furniture.
Lois grinned and shook her head. She had gotten used to his powers, but when he did things like that, she just had to pause in amazement. When their "stage" was cleared, Lois walked over to Clark's CD player. "Now, we'll have to get something with a good beat to practice with. Eventually, we should do an Elvis song, but we just need to learn for now."
"There was an Elvis CD in the box," Clark offered. Sure enough, he took one out of the box that had contained their costumes and handed it to her.
"Okay. That's good. This way we can learn to the music we'll have to perform to. But first, I'll show you what I learned a while ago. I'm just trying to see if you have a copy of the song I used." She looked through his CD's for a minute until coming up with 'Savage Garden'. "Good. You have it." She popped the CD into the player and skipped to track 6. "You'd better sit down," she advised. "And do *not* laugh. This is supposed to be a serious thing. And besides, I need to concentrate because my outfit's different and I have to change things because of that."
"That, and it's embarrassing."
"Yeah," she admitted. "And it doesn't go outside this room."
"Don't worry, Lois. After all, I'm going to be doing the same thing."
"No, but I'm as close as I'm going to get." She hit the play button and quickly moved into the center of the floor as a pulsing beat and haunting music filled the room.
Then she began to move with the music.
The moonlight …
shines down interstellar beams
and the groove tonight
is something more than you've ever seen
the stars and planets taking shape
a stolen kiss has come too late
Clark couldn't believe how much she was saying with hip and shoulder movement. A gauzy scarf that had been tied around her neck floated gracefully to the floor, and she was really getting into the feel of the music.
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
She faced away from him, undoing the velcro in the front of her skirt that replaced clumsy buttons in only half a second, and bent over backwards to look at him. As the next verse blasted out of the speakers, she reached her hands up and flipped over slowly and gracefully, leaving the skirt to fall onto the floor. She continued dancing, with a red panty with a short skirt on the back half instead of the poodle skirt.
you're never safe 'till you see the dawn
and if the clock strikes past midnight
the hope is gone
to move under …
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
As the music broke off into a more pulsing, demanding beat, she stripped off her shirt and danced in a tassled red bikini, gazing at Clark invitingly over her shoulder, flouncing her hip at him. He swallowed.
Move. Closer. Passion. Stronger.
there's a magic only two can tell
in the dark night
ultra violet is a wicked spell
the stars and planets taking shape
a stolen kiss has come too late
She did not remove anything else, but continued her suggestive dance for the rest of the song, wearing her so-small-it-was-almost-illegal outfit. Clark couldn't imagine what the effect would be if this was in a dark smoky room with flashing lights.
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
in the moonlight
carry on, keep romancing
carry on, carry on dancing
moving on … moving all night
She stood still in the center of the room, catching her breath. She felt pleased at the … stunned look on Clark's face. At least there was one good thing about this story. "Well?" she asked.
"It's … um … I don't think I can do that."
She patted his shoulder. "Neither did I, but here I am. Don't worry. You can. It just takes some getting used to. Do you mind if I open a window?"
She walked to the window and opened it, letting the breeze cool her off. She almost didn't want to put that hot outfit back on, but she certainly wasn't going to walk around in front of Clark in *this*! On the other hand, he was going to have to get used to seeing her like this. The more it bugged him, the more reason she had to keep wearing it. So she could wait another few minutes before getting dressed again.
She walked back over to Clark. "Now, the trick is to use everything. Any props, all your clothes, your body, everything. Since we're going to be dancing together, we have to use each other."
"I thought we'd just sort of be doing the same thing, you know, like a line dance."
"This isn't line dancing, Clark. No, we can't do the same thing. That could get boring."
"I doubt it."
"Well, yeah, but I mean it would be more interesting if we didn't. Besides, it's what they expect. We wouldn't want to get fired before catching the murderers, now would we?"
"Well … "
"Don't answer that. What I mean is that we have to use each other as props. Okay?"
"I guess. Lois, would you mind getting dressed or something?"
It was bothering him. Damn. "Sorry, Clark. You've got to get used to it. This is probably going to be the most difficult part. We have to get really comfortable seeing each other like this. Otherwise it will never work."
Clark was about to protest, but he couldn't think of a good reason. "Okay."
"Now, at the risk of sounding indecent, take off your clothes. Well, as much as you'd take off if we were performing. I need to see, you know, what you … look like so I can plan this routine to our best advantage."
Clark started to leave, but Lois stopped him. "We've got to get used to this, remember?" So she watched as he took off the Elvis costume to reveal something half the size of what she was wearing. A little black thing that only covered the essentials. She bit her lip and pretended as hard as she could not to be affected. It didn't work. She closed her eyes for a second. This guy was *gorgeous*! He had a smooth lean torso with firm, slightly rounded pectorals and an attractive six pack for abs. His arms and legs were covered with muscles and very powerful looking. This was not going to be easy to get used to.
She opened her eyes. "See, we have to get used to this. It wouldn't do for us to get all flustered on stage, now would it?"
"Um, no. I guess not."
"So let's get to it."
Lana and Claude had a lovely hotel room in Maine. It was a very romantic setting, and it was probably meant to be that way. They had spoken briefly to Kerri, their contact, and were now unpacking. Lana took the drawers on the left, and Claude had those on the right.
After she had unpacked, Lana took a good look around the hotel room. It wasn't exactly luxurious, but it was nice. She drew back the curtains to gaze out at the pleasant scenery. From their position on the fifteenth floor, they could see not only the building where there were seminars and recreational rooms, but also all the houses and trees within miles.
"It's lovely, isn't it, Claude?" she asked the man at her side.
"Yes. It is very lovely, but not as much so as you are. In the light, you look like a ray of sunshine and warmth. When it is dark, you are as a moonbeam, cheering the bleak night."
Lana blushed slightly. "Why, Claude!" she tittered. She was not used to being so complimented. Why couldn't Clark be more like Claude? The goodbye they'd said last night had been sweet, but not as romantic as this.
Dr. Klein was busily testing the effects of Purple on human beings. It didn't seem to do much, but appearances didn't count for anything in the world of science and technology. Cancer never looked like much, either. Not until it grew. It started out as a little clump of cells.
It *was* possible that Purple was mostly harmless. That could be it. But Dr. Klein wasn't giving up until he knew for sure.
"Okay, Clark. That's good for today. I'm beat."
"Fine with me. You want to watch a movie?"
"How does 'Tootsie' sound?"
"Sounds great to me." She flopped down on the couch as he moved it back into place, and put her feet up on the coffee table as soon as that was replaced.
Clark shoved the tape into the VCR and hit play. Then he flopped down next to Lois. Both were still in their skimpy ending outfits, but they didn't feel like taking the time to get dressed again. Besides, they were getting comfortable enough with each others' bodies that they no longer minded. Well, it didn't *bother* them, anyway.
They had been practicing their routine all evening, and it was very exhausting. It looked pretty good so far, and they were getting over the "I'm-too-shy-to-touch-you-like-that" thing that they had started out with. And it was a good thing, too. They couldn't exactly bump and grind if they were afraid to touch.
After talking to Perry, they had opted to ditch the Elvis routine in favor of something a little more mature. There had been some question as to what song they would actually use. They had considered "This is Your Night" and then rejected it. There was "My Love is the Shhhh!" by Somethin' For the People, but that was a little too slow. Then Clark threw in "Toucha Toucha Touch Me" from the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' and the conversation went downhill from there. Finally, they narrowed it down to either Garbage's "#1 Crush" or "Carry On Dancing" by Savage Garden, the one Lois had used before. They decided on "#1 Crush" because it was really sexy and intense. Plus, it was just a cool song. It was a good thing Clark had the "Romeo and Juliet" soundtrack.
They settled in and watched Dustin Hoffman deal with his myriad problems.
"Care for a drink, cherie?"
"Sure, Claude. That'd be great."
Claude opened a wet bar in their hotel suite and fixed Lana a drink. She accepted it and smiled winningly at him. Claude was quite the charmer. As she took the glass, her hand brushed his. Both froze for a few seconds, gazing into each other's eyes. Their faces were only inches apart.
"Claude … " Lana whispered, unaware that she had spoken at all. Their lips met, shyly at first, but with a rapidly increasing passion. Lana's drink was spilled on the floor and the glass broken as she wrapped her arms around the French reporter. His arms went around her waist, pulling her closer, deeper into the kiss, his body demanding more in a way she had never felt from Clark. Clark …
"Claude," she moaned. "I … I shouldn't … "
"Why?" he murmured, nibbling on her ear.
"Ummmm … Clark." She sighed as his teeth lightly scraped her neck.
"Clark won't know."
"He'd find out," she said, but made no attempt to pull away or to temper her response.
"I won't tell him."
"Oh … " she moaned. The part of her that didn't want to betray Clark was on the wrong side of the battle. In a coup d'etat, the side that wanted Clark won. She allowed herself to be picked up and carried to the bed, to be slowly undressed, to be taken …
Clark stopped the tape and began to rewind it. "I love that movie," he said.
"Yeah, so do I. Dustin Hoffman's pretty hilarious."
"I wonder how Lana and Claude are doing on that drug story."
"I don't know. I sort of doubt that there is any drug dealing going on there. They might be on a wild goose chase."
"Yeah … " Clark was silent for a moment.
"You're worried about Lana and Claude being together in a hotel room, pretending to be married, aren't you?" Lois asked.
Clark looked startled. "How'd you — "
"I know you, Clark. I can tell. Don't be worried. Trust her. Trust is a big part of any relationship. Trust that she can handle herself."
"But Claude is so … "
"I know. But it takes two to tango, if you get my meaning. If you trust her, trust that she won't betray you."
"Yeah, I guess. I suppose there's nothing to get all stressed over. Lana can take care of herself."
Lana lay in Claude's arms. He was asleep, and she was awake, wrestling with her mind. She had physically betrayed Clark. And it felt so … good. Liberating. She waited for the terrible guilt she had expected, but it came only in a tiny amount. Maybe Claude was just what she'd been needing. A lover. If Clark wouldn't be one to her, Claude was a good substitute. She wasn't really betraying Clark; she didn't love Claude. He was just good in bed, and that was all that mattered in their relationship.
She snuggled a little closer to her paramour, content with her decision. Her eyes soon closed and she was asleep.
The next day, Lana and Claude did a lot of investigating, and came to the conclusion that there was indeed no drug dealing going on. Every single lead they had followed had not panned out. They weren't upset at the loss of a scoop; they were just slightly uncomfortable as they would not know what to tell Perry. He didn't much appreciate it when a source turned out to be wrong.
They were discussing whether or not to remain in Maine. Lana wanted to stay, to spend a little more time together where they were safe from prying eyes. Claude, having known Perry longer, figured that it would take quite a bit of explaining to get them out of trouble if they returned at the regular time, and didn't have a story. The budget was not a thing to be trifled with.
Eventually, Lana decided to go along with Claude. They would leave that afternoon, and be back in Metropolis that night. The only thing was, neither one looked forward to having to hide their relationship. Claude because he enjoyed gloating about such things, and Lana because she hated having to worry about being found out. But they would have to return to their homes eventually, and now was better than later in the big picture.
Lois and Clark spent the day looking into the Atlantis murders. They couldn't find very much in the way of clues, but they figured that once they were undercover, it would be easier to sniff around. They had an audition tonight for the part of strippers. It was rigged; Perry had seen to it that they would get the job unless they were absolutely *awful*, and they weren't.
They were just about to leave to get ready for the audition when the elevator doors opened and in walked Lana. Claude was not with her; they had agreed to come in separately as if they had each gone to their separate apartments, which they hadn't.
"Lana!" Clark exclaimed surprisedly. "What are you doing back so soon?"
She ran up to him and hugged him. "The source didn't pan out, so we came back since there was nothing to do." That was the understatement of the century, but whatever.
"Well, that's really … great!" It wasn't great. He had to audition as a stripper that night, and now he would have to duck Lana. He had hoped that he and Lois could wrap up the entire case before she came back. There wasn't anything going on between him and Lois, he just knew she wouldn't like the two of them together.
"Isn't it? Would you like to have dinner tonight, just the two of us? A sort of … welcome home?" She smiled winningly.
Clark wasn't won. He wasn't paying attention. "Actually, Lana, there's something I have to do tonight, and I won't be back until late."
She put on a pouty face. "How late?"
"I'm not sure, but I think very late. I'm sorry." And he was. He really did want to spend time with her; she was the woman he loved, right?
"Oh, Clark. What do you have to do?"
"It's an undercover work thing."
"Can't I come along?"
"No. I'm sorry, Lana. You can't. It's just not possible."
"Fine, I guess. We'll have to postpone my welcome home for another night." She smiled a little sadly. At least she'd have something to do this evening. She was sure Claude was free. And although she'd rather spend the evening with Clark, Claude wasn't too bad. "Well, I need to go home, get my stuff unpacked. I'll see you tomorrow!" She reached up and gave Clark a quick kiss on the lips.
At this point, Claude walked in the door. He saw Lana kissing Clark and was overcome by a surge of jealousy. 'She's just doing it to keep up appearances' he told himself, but even he didn't believe it. She had known Clark for so long. But just maybe she didn't like him as much as she appeared to. She *had* slept with him, after all, and so she evidently didn't have too many qualms about betraying Clark.
So he pretended he hadn't seen it, that it was inconsequential. It was only a little peck anyway. Nothing like what had passed between the two of them last night … and this morning. And this afternoon before they came into the Planet. He smiled at the memory. Lana might not have quite the amount of experience that other women had, but she *was* pretty damn good.
Lois was dressed up in her stupid outfit once again, and Clark was in his. They looked like idiots, but they were going to get the story. She just hoped it would be worth the humiliation. The humiliation in front of all the people in the club, that was. She didn't really mind doing this in Clark's apartment with him; in fact, she rather enjoyed it. She just wished that something real would happen between her and Clark. But it never could. Not while Lana was still around. And Lois would never try to take Clark from her. Much as she hated the girl, she knew that Clark loved her. And Clark would never give her up. She sighed a little, looking in the mirror. What she wouldn't give for Clark to love her like that …
"You ready, Lois?" his voice came from the other room.
"Yeah," she called back. "Ready as I'll ever be." She walked back to Clark and gave him a rueful smile. "Do we have time to do a quick run-through before we go?"
"I don't think so. We're early now, but that might make us late. I guess we're just going to have to go in cold."
"Okay." She grabbed her coat and they left.
They drove to Atlantis and went inside. The manager, Frank Benson, met them at the door and escorted them into his office. "Welcome back, Miss Lane. We're happy to have you here. And you must be Mr. Kent. I assume you have a routine set up?"
"Yes," said Lois. "Would you like us to perform it for you?"
"All in good time," he said, smiling a slightly greasy gin. "First, we have to take care of the basics. You two are going to be called Chrissy Johnson and Jim Peretti. Okay?"
"Fine," said Lois.
"How do you spell Peretti?" asked Clark.
"P-e-r-e-t-t-i," spelled Frank.
"Thanks," Clark replied, tucking the information away for future reference.
"Now, Lois, you already know your way around here, and you probably remember some of my dancers. That's why you're using the same name. I'm counting on you to show Clark the ropes, get him used to this. Now, let's go do the audition."
Frank led the way out of the room. Lois and Clark glanced at each other and sighed. What were they getting themselves into?
Lana had invited Claude over to her apartment, and they were having a grand old time. The more time she spent with Claude, the more she liked the man. Claude, in turn, was starting to like Lana as well. Not more than he had liked any other women, but he did like her. But Clark was still bothering him. Of course, making her forget all about him was easy, and fun at the same time.
Later that night, as they lay in bed together, heartbeats coming down, Lana kept thinking she heard noises. A turn of the doorknob, or a step in the livingroom. She was afraid that Clark would come in to see her. This was the only part of being with Claude that she hated — the hiding from Clark. It reminded her that Claude was only a temporary solution. Clark was the permanent answer. Eventually they'd get together, she'd dump Claude, and everyone would be fine again. Even better, as she'd have Clark. And this way she wouldn't have to go through the lonely nights before Clark and her.
Bernard Klein had been working off and on, testing Purple. Every test he had done so far had come up negative. But there was something wrong, something that didn't quite feel right. He had learned to trust his instincts about science, as they were usually right. He knew that there was something wrong with Purple. It wasn't the harmless substance it appeared to be. He just didn't know what the problem was yet.
Not only did 'Chrissy' and 'Jim' pass the audition, everyone who saw it agreed that they had real talent. Lois and Clark weren't sure if they should be pleased at that, or embarrassed, and so they sort of shrugged it off. They got a position in the next night's schedule, and everything was set. They could look around during the time they weren't dancing.
The only problem was that they only had one routine. They had to be able to make up spur-of-the-moment ones to any number of different songs. Lois had warned Clark about this, and they had practiced being spontaneous, but it still was rather weird. It was different than having to move this way, then that way. There were no defined steps. They hoped that it didn't look too awkward. At least not as awkward as it felt. But nobody had said anything when they'd had to improvise for their audition, so they must have looked okay.
Still, they wanted to get in a little more practice before the next day's gig. So they made a date for after work.
The next day, Lana noticed that Clark seemed to be a little bit nervous about something. He apparently had something important to do after work that day. Try as she might, she couldn't get him to tell her about it. And that made her suspicious. What made it even worse was that Lois was the same way. She had something to do, too. And although it was unreasonable, Lana just *knew* that they were doing something together.
So when Clark and Lois left, together, as Lana had suspected, she followed them. They got into Lois' car, and Lana hailed a cab to tail them. The driver was more than happy to oblige; he loved this sort of thing, he confided. Lana was upset when she saw that they were headed to no other place than Clark's apartment. "No, not this," she mumbled. She had the driver stop a half a block away from Clark's apartment. She quickly paid him and went towards the place she knew so well.
She waited a few minutes after the doors had closed, and then moved to one of the lower windows in the kitchen. As she was heading towards it, she paused at a different window, one she knew opened onto Clark's bedroom. No, she wasn't even going to think it. She'd go to the kitchen window. Still …
She stood on tiptoes and peeked into the bedroom window, preparing herself for the worst. But it never came. She couldn't even see Clark or Lois from where she was. Uh-oh. Wait a second. Lois was walking into the bedroom, Clark right behind her. Oh, *shit*!
Lana closed her eyes for a second, praying that she was seeing things. But when she opened them and glanced in the room again, she realized that, yes, they were in there, but they weren't exactly doing what she had thought they were. They were talking companionably. Okay, maybe they were on a story and had stopped here to get something, she reasoned. And whatever it is, Clark keeps it in his bedroom. He has a lot of stuff in his bedroom, and in that attic that comes off of his bedroom. That must be it.
No, that *wasn't* it because Lois started unbuttoning her shirt. Lana tried her hardest not to scream. But Clark didn't seem to care. Or at least, he wasn't paying attention. He got some clothes out of a drawer and went into another room. Lois got some clothes out of the same drawer, which caused Lana to fight a scream again, and stayed there. She changed into the outfit, which was extremely skimpy. Then she put more modest clothes over it. At this point, Clark walked into the room, pulling a shirt on. He said something to Lois, and she answered back. Then they both walked out of the room.
What the hell were they doing? Lana couldn't figure it out. She had to see more. She ran to another window to look into the living room. The furniture had been moved to clear a large area of floor space. Clark went to his CD rack and seemed to randomly choose a disc. He popped it into the player, picked a song, and got it ready to play. Lois nodded and waved a hand. Clark hit play and ran over to where she was, just as the music started.
The volume was turned up rather loud, and even Lana could hear the music, albeit faintly. But she no longer cared about the music when she saw Lois and Clark start to dance. At least, it was almost dancing. Lana refused to admit to herself that it was stripping. Well, she tried to, anyway, but it was difficult to refute it when they were both wearing tiny, skimpy outfits, and had their hands all over each other. Lana swallowed and dug her fingernails hard into the palm of her hand. No wonder he hadn't wanted her sexually. He had somebody else.
She tried to turn away from the window, but found that she couldn't. As she watched in horror, her hatred of Lois Lane grew. "Who does she think she is, that she can touch him like that? He's MINE!"
While she was ranting, she must have missed something because all of a sudden Lois was laughing like an idiot, and hanging on to Clark for support. Clark moved over, taking her with him, and stopped the CD. He was laughing too. 'Oh yeah, it's *real* funny,' thought Lana darkly. Lois sat down on the floor, hard, overcome by mirth, and Clark went down with her.
Lana had seen enough. She finally tore her gaze away and left, tears stinging her eyes. Tears not only of the pain of betrayal, but also of anger. Why? Why this? How could he?
"Oh, yeah, we're *great* strippers," Lois said. "We can't even keep straight faces."
"And we have our first performance tonight. Sheesh. At least we get to do our routine first. Maybe it'll … loosen us up a little or something."
"Yeah, and then it'll be easy to dance around a pole in front of a hundred people."
"Well … "
"Now would be a good time to get smashed, I think." She giggled a little again.
"No, then you couldn't investigate. Besides, *I* can't get drunk."
"Right. Too bad, though. It would have been more fun that way."
"*More* fun? You think this is fun?" He raised a fist menacingly, put his other hand on her neck and pinned her to the floor.
She ignored his 'threatening' position over her. "Damn right, I think this is fun. Aren't you having fun?" she asked sweetly.
Clark rolled his eyes and lowered his fist. "Oh yeah," he said sarcastically. "This is just a *ton* of fun. Not only do we get to look like idiots, we get to do it in front of a ton of people. Oh boy, I can hardly wait to get out there!"
"You're boring," she announced.
"Thank you very much. I think I'll stay this way."
"Good idea. Don't ever change." Her voice was suddenly serious, and a wistful smile came to her face. She reached up and touched his cheek gently.
Clark melted inside, but forced himself to pull back. "Not a good idea," he said tersely.
"I'm sorry, Clark. I just — It won't happen again."
"Okay." He stood up, no longer comfortable. "Well, we should get dressed and be leaving. We don't want to be late for our first day at work."
"Yeah," she said, a little subdued. As much as she didn't like being a stripper, she was really going to miss the freedom to touch Clark. It wasn't the same as it could be, but it was still better than it would be after the case was closed. They got dressed and drove away.
Lana was only about a block away, and saw the car pull out. She didn't know where they were going, or if they were both in the car. She prayed that it was Lois, and she was leaving, but she doubted that. No, Lana knew what had happened between Lois and Clark. If not this night, then it obviously had happened before. They were lovers.
Lois and Clark walked into Atlantis, and down to the dressing rooms. They were already wearing the outfits they'd need, so they didn't have to change. They had a half an hour until they were on, so they decided to snoop around. They asked some of the other strippers (*other* strippers- oy!) what they had heard or seen. Most knew nothing, but a few had some idea of what was going on. One even suggested three people who might be responsible.
"What do you think?" asked Lois.
"I don't know. We'll just have to find out what the four girls who were murdered have in common."
"Well, they were strippers."
He grinned. "So are we."
"Don't I know it," Lois said ruefully. She glanced at her watch. "Whoa! We better get going or we're going to be *late* strippers."
They rushed back up to the stage, and got there just as a tall, long-legged blonde was stepping off and heading towards the dressing room.
"Whew! Just in time!" said Clark. "Do they have the right tape?"
"Yes. Don't worry about it."
"I'm nervous. I don't want to do it."
"Pretend we're in your apartment."
'Chrissy' and 'Jim' sauntered onto the stage and got ready to perform for all the sick perverts in the audience. The lights were dim, the air was filled with smoke and the smell of alcohol, the people were rowdy, and the music was starting.
While they 'danced', the room actually got quiet. Clark imagined that they were indeed in his apartment, and that no one was there watching them. Lois disregarded the people in the crowd — she had gotten used to doing that already. She played the part as if she were really in love with Clark, as if they were alone doing this …
As they stood together, back to back, arms thrown up in the air, holding each others' hands, wearing almost nothing, the audience clapped, stunned. The music was over, and they left the stage. "Hey, they really really love us!" exclaimed Clark.
"Ha ha ha. You can tell it's funny because I'm laughing," Lois said dryly. "Come on. We've got some time to snoop around."
They went down the hall and found a woman, who seemed to be arguing with Frank.
"I won't do it! Forget it!"
"Shawna, sweetheart! It's nothing. You'll just make a few bucks, and it'll be over. There's nothing wrong with easy money."
"No, Frank. You can get those other girls into it, but not me! I'm just biding my time here, until I can get a real job. You know that! I'm not getting in that deep."
She stormed down the hall, almost bumping into Lois and Clark.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't see you there. Hey, you're that new act, aren't you?"
"Yeah," said Lois. "I'm Chrissy, and this is Jim."
"I'm Shawna," she said.
"We couldn't help but overhear you and Frank. What's he trying to get you to do?"
"Oh, that." Her voice sounded disgusted. "He wants me to sleep with some of the customers. I said forget it. Nothing doing. I don't want to be doing *this*, and there's no way I'm going to do *that*. Maybe some of the other girls, but not me."
Clark seemed to be almost startled. "People do that here?"
"What did you expect?" Shawna was amused at his naivete.
"Well, I don't know … "
"Anyways, yeah, there are a lot of the girls earning extra cash as hookers. But it's a dangerous profession. Pregnancy, STD's, some of the girls were murdered."
Lois and Clark glanced at each other excitedly. "Murdered?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, four of 'em. All this month. Not something I want to risk."
"Well," said Lois, "it's been nice talking to you, but we've got to change. Goodbye."
They went their separate ways. As soon as Shawna was out of sight, Lois' fist shot up into the air. "Yessss! A lead!"
"Maybe the murderer is one of the customers."
"Exactly. So whoever it is, he's probably going to kill again."
"The question is — why?"
"I don't know, but if his name is Jack, I'm going to scream."
"I don't think Jack the Ripper had too many fans, Lois."
"I guess not. But still … "
"Point taken. Now we need a way to find out where each of the girls were going the night they were killed. Julie Bornig, Janice Ford, Tina Geller, and Michelle France. We need to talk to their friends."
"What about Frank?"
"I don't know if he was involved or not. On one hand, if he was he'd probably not have let us investigate."
"But wouldn't it have looked suspicious if he had refused?"
"I guess. So he might be involved."
"Okay. Talk to the friends first."
They did just that. In a half an hour, they had ascertained that all four girls were indeed going to the same guy's house on the night that each one of them was killed, although the other strippers were starting to ask why the newbies were asking so many questions. Lois and Clark had explained it off as curiosity.
The very next night, an opportunity was dropped into their laps. They were talking to Shawna, and she happened to mention that one of the girls, Jess, had a job that night for some guy. They asked her the name of the guy, but she couldn't quite remember. "Sean, maybe. Yeah, Sean, um, Elman? Eggman? Something like that, I think."
After they were done talking to Shawna, Lois turned to Clark. "Sean Edmand! Jess is going to the murderer!"
"We have to stop her."
"Stop her *and* catch Edmand."
"*I* have a plan."
"Don't worry. It's foolproof."
Lana was in her apartment, still upset. She had barely talked to Clark the other day. He hadn't even noticed! His attention kept wandering, and he explained that he was investigating something really big with Lois. 'Sure,' thought Lana. 'He must have a lot to investigate. I bet Perry never sees the story.'
Maybe she should just ditch Clark, and stay with Claude. No, she wouldn't be happy with Claude. She knew enough to know that. It had to be Clark or nobody. But if Clark was cheating on her … It was probably all Lois' fault. That slut!
The only thing wrong with *that* argument was that Lana had tried as hard as Lois could have to get Clark, and she hadn't. So how could *she* get Clark, when Lana had failed? But it was time to confront them both, or she'd go crazy. Tonight. She'd do it tonight. They were probably leaving together again. Work?! Shyeah, right. Nobody put that much of their free time into their work. There had to be something else going on on the side. Lana had seen it for herself.
Sure enough, they left together, with the false pretense of working on a case. After they were gone, Claude came over to Lana and somehow persuaded her to come back to his apartment after work. She didn't know why she had agreed, but she need not have worried. Even after spending a couple hours with Claude, Lois had still not returned home from Clark's. Of course, they weren't at Clark's place, either. So what were they doing? They had left like this last time she saw them together. A hotel, maybe? So that they didn't have to worry about people they knew coming to visit them?
She sat in the shadows near Clark's house, waiting for their return.
"Are you sure about this?" Clark asked as Lois drove to Sean's house. "I'm sure. It was nice of Jess to let me have the job."
"Well, you *did* offer to give her the money."
"Which is coming out of my pocket, unless he pays me in advance. Because I don't think I'll get much after he's taken to jail."
"There is one problem, though."
"I doubt he would kill them *before* sleeping with them."
"Yeah … that *is* a problem. Maybe if I'm really annoying, he'll just kill me?"
"Right. Try to kill me. And then you can come in and save me."
"I hope this works."
"It will. Either that, or I can get him to confess."
"I doubt that."
"So do I, but maybe. Worst comes to worst … "
"Well … "
"You're right. I wasn't even thinking about it. Well, I wasn't *seriously* thinking about it anyway."
"Worst comes to worst, we don't catch him for murder, just for frequenting a prostitute or something. *Then* we can nail him for murder later."
"Okay. Is this the right house?"
"Yeah. Sure is fancy. Whoever this guy is, he's got money."
"All right. X-ray the house and keep an eye on me. Listen, too. Once he either tries to kill me, or confesses, come in."
"Right. And if things get a bit too … intense."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Okay, Daddy."
She got out of the car. "I'll be fine. How do I look?"
"Good luck, Lois."
"I'll be watching."
"You'd *better* be!"
Lois went up to the front door and knocked. Clark disappeared into the shadows, keeping an eye on her with his x-ray vision once she went inside.
"You must be Mr. Edmand," she said.
"Please, call me Sean."
"Chrissy? I thought your name was Jess!"
"Jess is sick, so I came in her place."
"Oh. Well, that's okay then. Come in. You look … lovely."
Lois twirled around. "Thanks. This is my first time doing this."
"I'll be gentle," he promised.
Lois smiled, and her eyes gleamed. "Thank you."
"Well, shall we … retire to my bedchambers?"
'He actually talks like that?' "Good idea."
He took Lois' arm and, instead of shying away from his touch the way she wanted to, she leaned into it. They walked into a bedroom. Sean turned on a stereo system. "Would you care to dance?" he asked Lois.
"I'd love to," she replied. What a lunatic. He was treating her like she was his date. Well, in a way she kind of was.
They danced close together, too close for Lois' comfort, but she endured it, even when his hand got a little bit too familiar.
Outside the room, Clark tensed a bit. He was very protective of Lois. That's all it was. He wasn't jealous or anything. Lois wasn't his girl. He just felt protective, like he would be towards his sister. She was his best friend, and he didn't want to see her have to suffer this.
Lois forced a smile as Sean's hands slid up and over her breasts. She pretended to be enjoying his fondling. All the time she was thinking, 'What am I going to do?'
Clark looked around the room, and his eyes rested on the contents of a closet. Guns, knives, all sorts of ugly weapons. Sean was definitely the murderer. How to tell Lois …
"Excuse me while I change my clothing for something more … appropriate," said Sean. He left Lois alone in the room. Here was Clark's opportunity. He tapped on the window.
Lois ran to it. "What is it, Clark?"
"See that closet?"
"It's got the murder weapons in it."
"Great. That gives me an idea."
"Get away from the window. He's coming back."
Lois ran over and opened the closet. She was looking in it as Sean returned to the room. He frowned as he saw what she was looking at.
"Sean? What's all this?"
"It's, ah, nothing. I enjoy hunting."
"With butcher's knives?"
"Get out of there and come over here."
"No. What do you need all these weapons for?"
"It's *not* your concern."
"You're the one that killed all those girls, aren't you?"
"Chrissy, I'm warning you. Get away from the closet."
"You *did* kill them!"
"Okay, fine. I did. I killed them, and I'm going to kill you. But not until after you give me what I'm paying for!" He lunged for her, and she quickly moved away. She tried to run out of the room, but he snuck up from behind and grabbed her, ripping her shirt and trying to push her skirt up.
At this point, Clark ran through the door, having come in the window of the next room, and rushed over to help Lois. He grabbed Sean and pinned his arms behind his back. He took a cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to Lois. She called the police, who promised to be there in a minute. Then she called Perry.
"Chief? We've got a page one for you. Murder, prostitution, *and* attempted rape."
"Judas priest! What have you and Clark been doing?"
"Our jobs, Perry. Our jobs."
They hung up, and Lois smiled at Clark. "I'm thinking 'Kerth'. What do you think?"
"Forget the Kerths. We deserve a Pulitzer for this one!"
"Damn right we do. And if Perry *ever* tries to get us to do this again … "
Clark laughed. Sean grumbled. Soon, the police came and took him away. "Lois Lane? Is that you?" one of the policemen asked.
"It's me, Henderson."
"You look … awful."
"And you must be Clark Kent. Inspector Henderson. Nice to meet you."
Clark shook hands with the inspector.
"How'd you get yourself out of this one, Lane?"
"My new partner here."
Henderson looked at Clark. "Good job. You've got your work cut out for you. This one's a handful."
"Don't I know it!" said Clark.
"Hey!" protested Lois. They all laughed and then left.
Lois and Clark were driving down the street. "That was one of the most degrading things I've ever done in my entire life," said Lois.
"I can imagine. It's got to be awful."
"At least you were there. I can't imagine going through that alone, without the knowledge that you were outside, ready to jump in at any moment."
"I'm glad I could help."
Lana saw a familiar silver car coming down the road. She quickly hid in the bushes and watched as Clark and a very disheveled Lois got out. Lois was wearing an extremely short skirt, and a low cut shirt that had apparently been ripped by something. 'Or some *one*' she thought darkly. She was holding it up to provide some cover. Clark was all in black.
They went into Clark's apartment. That was it. Now was the time to confront them. It was past midnight, and they had work the next day, but she had to do it now. She walked up to the door and knocked loudly. As Clark opened the door, Lois was walking back into the living room, buttoning one of Clark's shirts.
"Clark, what is going on? What is *she* doing here?"
Clark knew from Lana's tone of voice that he was in trouble. "Um, Lois and I just got off a story."
"It must have been some story for Lois' shirt to get ripped." She was close to tears, but she hid them with anger.
"Lana, my shirt got ripped by accident."
"Yeah, right. Why are you here at one in the morning?"
"I told you. We just finished a story. We're going to the Planet and then writing up the details so we can get it in the morning edition. My apartment was too out of the way, and I needed something a little more … intact to wear."
"Then what have you been doing every night? You leave together. I followed you once and looked in the window. Why, Clark? How could you betray me like that?"
"Lana, it was part of the story."
"Right. This is just the story of the century here."
"No, it really was," said Lois. "We had to go undercover as strippers, so we needed to know the routine."
"Can't you think of a better excuse than that, Lois? Please! You expect me to buy that?"
"Lana, it's the truth!"
"I saw the way you two looked together. That was *not* undercover I'm-forcing-myself-to-do-this."
"Lana." Clark took her by the arms and looked into her eyes. "I did not betray you. You know I'd never do something like that."
She paused for a minute. When Clark got like that, it was hard not to believe him. "I don't know, Clark. This situation isn't exactly … "
"It's not what it looks like. Trust me. A good friend once told me that trust is a big part of a relationship."
"I … I think I need some time to think this over. If I leave, will she?"
"We're both leaving. We have to work on the story and get it done by the time the paper goes to print."
"Okay, fine. Goodbye." With that, Lana left.
Clark sighed heavily. "What am I going to do?"
"You're going to write the story," Lois said. "Tomorrow, she'll see it in print, and then she'll have to believe what we told her. There's nothing going on between us, and she'll figure that out. She's a smart woman, Clark."
"I guess. Well, let's get to work."
With the help of Clark's super-speed typing, they were done with the story in plenty of time, and got it on the front page of the morning edition of the Daily Planet. Lana read the story, and realized that Lois and Clark hadn't been lying, at least, about going undercover as strippers. And they had an excuse for Lois' apparel and their late return. But she still doubted that there was nothing between the two of them. She could sense it. But without hard proof, she gave them the benefit of the doubt. For now.
She went to Clark and apologized to him for misjudging him. She didn't apologize to Lois, however. She knew the reporter was dying for a chance to take Clark from her. Things were back to normal, more or less.
Lois was walking down the hall when she heard noises coming from the supply closet. As all good reporters, she was curious as to what was happening, so she crept up and put her ear to the door. Her jaw dropped as she realized what she was hearing.
"Ooooh, Claude! Not here!"
"What's the matter, Lana? The door's locked."
Lana and Claude! What the …
"Stop! Somebody'll notice we're missing, or need something from the closet or something." She giggled a little.
"Oh, you're far too paranoid, my dear."
There was silence for a short time. Then, Lana's voice said breathlessly "Maybe you're right. I am being silly."
"Now that's better."
"Mmmm. Much better."
Lois turned away. She had heard enough. She left quietly, although there was hardly any chance of her being heard by the disgusting people in the closet. How could Lana do that to Clark? Just a few days ago, she was all freaked out because she thought he was cheating on her, and now here she was doing it to him? What was going on here?
But the big question was what she was going to do about it. She had to admit, she wanted to tell Clark about it for purely selfish reasons. If he dumped Lana, she'd have a chance with him. But she knew she could never do that. It would cause him too much pain. She loved him too much to hurt him like that, to let him be hurt like that.
She knew she couldn't tell Clark. She wouldn't tell him. She *could*, however, let Lana know that she knew, maybe talk her out of being with Claude. She could use it as a threat. "Give up Claude, or I'll tell Clark." That would be the best solution. That way, no one got hurt. Except for her. Clark would be happy, at the price of her own happiness. Lois sighed. So this was love.
"All right, Lois. Out with it. What's bothering you?" Clark had had enough of her troubled look, and he didn't believe that nothing was wrong.
"Clark, nothing's wrong. Everything's fine."
"Lois, everything is *not* fine. Something is bothering you, and you have to tell me what it is!"
"There's nothing bothering me! The world is wonderful! Now go away!"
"Lois, you can't fool me. Tell me what it is."
"Clark, it's nothing, okay?"
She thought quickly. "If you *have* to know, it's that time of the month, okay?"
"Oh." Now Clark felt like an idiot. "Um, I'm sorry."
She sighed. "It's okay. Now please let me get back to work."
Clark left, and Lois sighed to herself again. Clark kept asking her what the matter was, and she *couldn't* tell him what the real problem was. All these stupid excuses … She *hated* lying to him, and yet she still had to, to protect him. She didn't know if she could keep this up much longer.
She knew that Clark was going out to dinner with Lana that night, and the thought made her shudder. How could that woman do that to such a wonderful man? She didn't deserve Clark, that was for sure. But then, Lois got the feeling that *nobody* would ever be worthy of Clark.
"What are you doing tonight?"
"Oh, Claude. I'm sorry. I have plans tonight."
"With Clark?" he asked testily.
"Yes," she said defiantly.
"Lana … "
"What do you want, Claude? Do you want to come too? We could make it a double date."
"Fine. Good idea."
Wait, Lana hadn't meant it! But it was too late now. She didn't want Claude going out with another woman!
He walked over to where Lois was. "Hey, Lois."
"What do you want, Claude?"
"I need a date for tonight. Lana and Clark want to double-date. Would you like to come?"
Come with Claude? On a double date with Lana and Clark? What a mess that would be. "Sure. What time?"
"Six thirty. I'll pick you up."
"Okay." No, it wasn't really okay. She didn't want to go out with Claude, didn't want to see Lana and Clark together, didn't want to be with Clark and not be able to be with him. Why had she agreed? Oh well, it was too late now.
It was six forty-five, and they were all in an Italian restaurant. All four of them. Lana and Clark and Lois and Claude. Yikes. Lana wasn't speaking to Lois, Lois wasn't speaking to Lana. Claude kept trying to catch Lana's eye, but she was only looking at Clark, who seemed a little bit uncomfortable. He hated seeing Claude with Lois. Lois hated seeing Clark with Lana, and she didn't really like Claude at all. She wanted to be with Clark. Claude was extremely jealous of Clark, and wouldn't talk to him.
The conversation was a total failure. Claude talked to Lana, but she didn't talk back. Lana and Clark talked, but Clark wanted to talk to Lois. So Lois and Clark talked, but Lana wouldn't participate in that conversation because she hated Lois and Claude wouldn't because he was jealous of Clark.
So they ate in a not-quite-companionable silence, any attempts to make conversation shot down by the Red Baron of people who shouldn't be going anywhere together. Lana kept inching closer to Clark, making Claude retaliate by taking Lois' hand and smiling at her. Lois knew what game he was playing. In fact, Lois was probably the only person at the table who knew all of what was going on. And she was not pleased with the information. Not one little bit.
Dinner seemed to last an eternity. Everyone was uncomfortable with each other. It was a complete and utter disaster. Finally, they all left. Claude took Lois home, and she barely spoke to him, knowing what a creep he was, and disbelieving that he could be jealous of Clark. He had no right to be with Lana in the first place!
Lana and Clark went home as well, and Clark was confused about what had happened. He knew why Lana wouldn't talk to Lois — she was probably still upset about what she had thought had happened between him and Lois. But what was with Claude? Why wasn't she talking to the guy? They had always gotten along; they were partners, for crying out loud! And why wouldn't Claude talk to him? Why wasn't Lois talking to Claude? She had no great love for the guy, but she didn't hate him! He got the feeling that he was missing something.
He got out of Lana's car and kissed her goodbye. "See you tomorrow, Lana."
"Bye, Clark." She retained a pleasant smile until she was out on the road again. Why the hell had she let Claude and Lois destroy her evening? She could have had a nice quiet romantic dinner with Clark, but nooooo. Instead, there was a silent battle going on between all the people around the table. What a nightmare.
RING! RING! RING!
Clark picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Oh, hi, Lois. Can you believe that dinner? What a disaster."
"What was going on? Why are you suddenly so mad at Claude? Why was Lana ignoring him? Why wouldn't he speak to me?"
"I don't know, Clark," she said vaguely.
"And something is still bothering you — "
"I told you — "
"Lois, it's not that. I've never seen you like this before. What is it, really?"
Lois sighed. "I shouldn't tell you … "
"But I'm going to. I have to. I just can't keep it from you any longer."
"Lois, what is it?"
"It's hard to say over the phone. Lana's not there, is she?"
"Can I come over?"
"Sure. Do you want me to come over there? It's faster."
"Come — oh. Sure. That'd be great."
"Is your window open?"
He hung up the phone and in a second, appeared in Lois' window. She grinned a little. "I'll never get used to that."
Clark laughed. "Now, what is this thing that's been causing you so much trouble these past few days?"
Lois immediately sobered. "Well, it's like this. A couple days after we had that big blow up with Lana about the stripping thing, I was walking down the Planet hall, and I heard noises coming from the supply closet."
"And … "
She bit her lip. "It was … Claude and Lana."
"What?" he asked, his voice a shocked whisper.
"I didn't want to tell you because I knew you'd be upset. Also, I wasn't a hundred percent *positive* that that was what they'd been doing. So I followed them one day when they left 'on a story'. And I saw … "
"What did you see?"
"Clark, they're … " She took a deep breath. "They're sleeping together. I'm sorry, I didn't want to tell you. I thought maybe I could talk her out of it, confront her, but since she's not speaking to me, it's been that much more difficult, and you know how far I'd get reasoning with Claude, so … "
Clark shook his head, and Lois trailed off. The look on his face was so painfully sad. "How could she do that? Especially after being so suspicious about us … I wish I could say I don't believe you, Lois, but I do. It all makes perfect sense." Well, everything made perfect sense except for why she had done this, until he realized something else. "It's my fault. I drove her to this."
"What? Clark, this can't be your fault. You gave her everything."
He grimaced. "Not … everything, Lois. I wouldn't … sleep with her. We had a big fight about it … about a month after we came to Metropolis. She said that she needed a lover, and I didn't understand why. I told her I wasn't ready. I said it wasn't time yet. And so, obviously, she got what she wanted from someone else."
"Clark, that's not your fault. If she doesn't love you enough to wait for you, then that's her problem. There's nothing you can do about it now. I'm sorry." She moved over and held him close.
He wrapped his arms around her. "Don't be. It's not your fault, either. At least now I have the truth."
"Oh, shit. Oh *shit*! Not this!" Dr. Klein almost smashed the test tube on the floor, stopping himself just in time. "This isn't possible. This can't be happening. This is not happening. It didn't happen. I'll run the tests again, and it'll be fine. Because this never happened. Just — calm down." He took the test tube of stuff over to the lab equipment and set it up for another test.
He sat down to wait after everything had been set up, confident that the results of the test would be negative. After all, it must have been a fluke. There was no way that what he thought had happened had actually happened. Still, he was a little nervous during the waiting period.
When he finally finished the testing, he looked at the results with a quivering hand. Purple was indeed dangerous. More so than any disease ever encountered. Identical to AIDS, but transferred from skin contact with the solution. "AIDS. Lord help us. We've created another AIDS."
His second thought was of the scientists who had been exposed. Every single one of the scientist working on Purple. And all but one of them were married. There had been six people directly affected by the explosion. Six exposed to Purple. Five men, four of whom were married, and a woman who was married.
They were all at work that day and he had them paged. They went down to the lab. "What's the problem, Bernie?" one asked him.
"You know the testing I've been doing on Purple?"
"Yeah, we're familiar with it. Did you find anything?"
"I did," he said quietly, handing the results of the test to one of the people.
The man took it and looked at it for a minute. "No … " he said.
The woman, who had been looking over his shoulder, said, "AIDS? How is that possible?"
"I don't know. It's not quite AIDS; there may be a cure. But I need to see everyone who's been exposed to it. All your wives, or in your case, husband. Any partners."
"What about the reporter?" asked one of the men.
"What reporter, George?"
"The reporter who was in the room with us during the explosion. He was a Planet guy, I think."
"Hello, Daily Planet," Clark said into the phone.
"Oh, hi, Dr. Klein. What do you need?"
"Do you remember all the protesting about Purple?"
"Yeah, that was right when I first came to Metropolis."
"One of the Planet reporters was in the lab during the explosion. Do you know who it was?"
"Let me think." Clark's mind flashed back to the people he had pulled out of the lab where Purple was being tested. His memory served him well. There were six … no, seven people. Five men and a woman, all scientists. And the seventh was … "Claude Bardeau." Ironic that Claude owed Clark his life and now was the one who had taken Lana from him. He still hadn't confronted the two of them yet. He didn't know if he was going to be able to, even with Lois' help. She'd promised to be there for moral support.
Clark realized that his train of thought had jumped the rails, and that he had missed something Klein was saying. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"I said I need to speak to Claude. And fast!"
"Claude!" Clark called. "Call for you on line three!"
Claude picked up the phone and Clark hung up. Lois walked by Clark's desk. "Hey, Clark. How are you holding up?"
"Okay, I guess. It's just — she's been a huge part of my life for so long, and now I'm not going to have that anymore. There's no way we can stay together after this. I can't believe she'd do something like this. I thought I knew her!"
"Clark, I've seen both sides of her. I noticed a long time ago that she was different when you walked into the room. She changes somehow when she's around you. It's all you've ever seen of her, and so of course that's how you'd know her. Don't spend a lifetime criticizing yourself for blindness. You're allowed to make mistakes."
He smiled at her, a little tired, and looking very lost. "Thanks, Lois. I have no idea what I'd do if it weren't for you."
His voice sounded so dependent, so needy. It amazed Lois. This … incredible being needed *her*. "I'm always here for you. You know that, Clark. Anything you need. Anything at all."
He reached up and cupped her cheek in his hand, tenderly. She turned her face and kissed his palm before taking his hand in hers, lacing their fingers together. The way he looked at her, there was no mistaking it. He felt something for her. Something more than partners, more than friends. Something he'd felt all along, but had been hiding. Something wonderful. But the most wonderful part was that she was looking back the same way.
An exclamation from Claude broke the spell that had been woven around the two reporters. "No!" he cried. "It can't be! How is that possible?" He listened on the phone for a second, and then hung up. "Why me, God? Why me?" he asked an invisible entity. He left in a hurry, not telling anyone where he was going.
"What was that all about?" wondered Lois.
"I don't know, but speaking of Claude, I think that we need to get everything out in the open."
"Clark, are you sure? I mean, are you sure you're ready?"
"Yes. I'll invite Lana over for dinner. I don't know how we'll get Claude there."
"I'll call him and ask him to come once we're all there because we have something important to discuss. He'll probably come."
"Well, looks like everything's ready."
"We've still got almost 45 minutes."
"I know. But better early than late, I say."
"You've never said that, Lois. *You* usually say, 'better late than never'."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she said breezily. But then she got serious. "Are you sure you're prepared for this?"
"Yes. Actually, I'm almost looking forward to it. I know that sounds terrible, but … "
The radio was playing softly in the background. "I understand, Clark. Would you like to dance?"
Clark smiled. "I'd love to, Lois."
She moved silently into his arms, rested her head against his chest. It felt so right to be that way with him. Their bodies fit together as if made for each other, and the feeling she got when she was in Clark's strong arms was incredibly powerful. They swayed to an unnamed tune, drinking in the feelings, the emotions that were in the air.
"Lois, this is so … amazing."
She smiled. "It is." She snuggled in a little closer to him.
"Everything with Lana — it felt nice, but not *right*. This is right. I just know it." His arms tightened around her.
"It *is* right, Clark. You and I are right. I've known for so long … "
"I have. I think you knew, too."
"I knew. I didn't want to know, but I knew."
"Why did you hold on to Lana for so long? If you knew?"
"I didn't want to be wrong about her. I didn't want to give up so much of my life. I've always had her, and it seemed like there was nothing else to do; no other options."
"But now you know there are."
He reached his hand up to her chin and tilted her face towards his. She pressed upward and kissed him tenderly. The gentle pressure of his tongue and lips was a feeling that she had wished for for ever so long. It *was* right. Just being in his arms like this. "I love you, Clark."
"I love you, Lois." He held her close against him, and she gloried in the feel of him. Then she noticed that neither one of them had their feet on the ground.
He looked startled. "What?" Then he looked down. "Oh."
She giggled a little. "Wow." She nuzzled her face into his neck and kissed him, slowly moving her lips up to his ear. Clark returned the favor, starting on her jawbone and working his way down to the collarbone. Lois sighed. "Mmmmm … that feels so good."
He brought his lips back to hers, not so gentle this time. He was rewarded with a soft moan and a passionate response. She had never felt so absolutely high, and was thrilled to finally have something so right. "Oh, Clark … " she murmured, pushing in closer.
The phone rang. And rang. And rang. Finally, they pulled away to answer it. "Hello?" said Clark.
It was Claude. "Clark. Have you seen Lana? I need to talk to her right away."
"I don't know where she is now, but she's coming over here in about half an hour. You can come, too. Besides, we wanted to talk to you as well."
"I wouldn't want to impose on your date," he said a little harshly.
"You aren't. Lois is here, too."
"Oh. I'll be there."
They both hung up. "Well, Claude's coming," said Clark.
"So what'll we do until dinner time?"
"I have an idea … "
But Clark's idea was not used, as somebody else had a different idea. Exasperated, Clark picked up the phone again. "Hello?"
"Um, is it okay if I come a little early?"
"I can be there in five minutes."
He hung up and Clark turned to Lois. "Lana's coming in five minutes. We should call Claude again."
So they did, and he promised to be there ASAP. "Well, it was a good thing we were ready," said Lois.
"Yeah, I guess."
Claude arrived about a minute before Lana. After they had all gotten settled in the living room, Clark announced that he had something to say. "Lana, I know about you and Claude."
"What?" Lana was shocked. "How'd — "
"I found out," said Lois. "Almost a week ago."
"I see," said Claude. "I suppose we owe you some answers, then."
"Claude!" exclaimed Lana.
"How long?" asked Clark.
"It started at that retreat in Maine."
Lois winced; she remembered telling Clark not to worry about Lana and Claude at the retreat.
"Clark," said Lana, "I'm sorry. I never meant … "
"I know," he interrupted. "I know. But things get out of control."
"Oh, so you understand! Well, that's good."
"Lana — "
"I'm so glad, Clark. I was so worried that you'd find out and we'd break up and — "
"Wait a minute!" protested Claude. "What about me? After everything, you're going to go running back to Clark?"
"Claude, I was never — "
"Of all the low down, dirty — How could you use me like that?"
"I just — "
"Hold it a second," said Clark. "Nobody ever said that Lana and I were getting back together."
"Lana, you betrayed me! How can I ever trust you again?"
"Well, you know, I — "
"Stop. There's more to it than that. Even if this wasn't true, we couldn't stay together. Lana, we're not right for each other. Can't you feel that?"
"Clark, no, I never — You *are* sleeping with Lois, aren't you? That's what this is!"
"Lana, we're not sleeping together. Clark wouldn't betray you. Too bad I can't say the same thing about you!"
"It's *over*, Lana. It has to be this way."
"Fine," she said. "I'll just go back to Smallville and marry a farmer."
"That might not be such a good idea," said Claude.
"Because I have something to say, too. Remember Purple?"
"How could we forget?"
"I was in the lab when it exploded. I was contaminated with the drug."
"What?" screeched Lana. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I didn't think it would turn out to be dangerous. Dr. Klein's been testing it, and it took him this long to figure out what was wrong."
"What is wrong?" asked Lois, intrigued.
"Purple is a kind of a lab-created AIDS. Transferred through the usual means, plus through skin contact with the drug. It's not too dangerous, as you have to get quite a bit on you to contract it, but I was in the room when it exploded."
"And heat makes it grow," added Clark. "200%."
"I'm getting tested tomorrow. And Lana … "
"No!" she said, horrified. "There's no way that could have happened! There must be something else!"
"Don't you think I've thought that a million times? There *is* nothing else. That is what happened, it's all there is to know. And we can't tell anyone about Purple. They think if we can contain the virus to a small number of people, it will be destroyed after we die."
Lana stood up. "I have to leave now."
"Lana, you should come down to STAR Labs tomorrow at noon for the testing."
"Fine," she said, her voice showing no emotion. "Tomorrow. Goodbye." With that, she left.
"I have to go, too," said Claude. He left.
Lois sighed and moved into Clark's lap. "Well, that was … surprising. I can't say Lana didn't deserve it, but I feel sorry for her."
"There might be something that Dr. Klein can do. I don't think Purple could be *exactly* like AIDS, so there's a chance at curing it. It's kind of strange."
"My entire life changed in just one day. One evening, even."
"Changed for the better, though."
"Yes … " He leaned in and kissed her lovingly. She moved back onto the sofa so that he was on top of her. He seemed unsure for a second.
Lois could feel his hesitation. "Clark, it's your choice," she whispered. And he made his decision, letting himself come down on top of her, causing her to squeal in delight and kiss him gleefully. "I love you so much," she whispered.
"And I love you," he returned. And then they lost themselves to each other. Everything was right with the world.
EPILOGUE Dr. Klein tested both Lana and Claude for the Purple virus. He had discovered that it was less serious than AIDS. They both tested positive. There were 15 people total infected with the virus. The number stopped increasing at that point. Dr. Klein worked frantically for several weeks to develop a cure, but never did. He did, however, develop something that would allow the victims to live with Purple, although experiencing a number of unpleasant side effects.
Lana and Claude were upset, especially when they realized that they could never sleep with anyone else again without risking giving them the virus. They stayed lovers, and continued to be reporters, but were not invaluable to the Planet anymore. Neither had been that great to begin with, and now with all the side effects from the drugs, they were not exactly page-one writers.
Lois and Clark were crazily in love for the rest of their lives. A month after Clark dumped Lana, they got engaged. The writing team of Lane and Kent earned a Kerth award for the Atlantis murders story, and the skills they had learned while investigating that story served them well for years to come. ;)
Lois came up with a brilliant idea for Clark to be able to help people without being found out — it all had something to do with glasses and spandex …
Lana and Claude didn't have much to do with Lois and Clark after all this had taken place, but they got along well enough until Lana and Claude moved to Kansas to write for the Smallville Press.
As always, I love comments and (gentle) criticism. And I'll take all the 'I loved your story's I can get. :) I hope you all had a good time reading this.
Peace, Love, and Superman, as always,