By Daydreamer80 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 1999
Summary: Can Lois Lane ever learn to trust the Planet's newest reporter, Clark Kent? A story about learning to trust again even after you've been badly hurt.
This story takes place a couple of weeks after the premiere. It is not so much a Superman story as a Lois and Clark story. It concerns the relationship between a mistrusting Lois Lane and the new reporter who told her 'you can trust me, Lois,' and the effect that mistrust might have had on their relationship at this early stage. The story is ultimately about learning to trust again even after you've been badly hurt.
Lois went to work excited on the morning after the arrest of a number of prominent scientists at EPRAD as well as several captains of industry, all of whom had been implicated in the murder of Dr. Samuel Platt and the sabotage of the Messenger.
Most of the world's press lost interest in that story after Superman appeared on the scene and boosted the shuttle into orbit, but Lois, with the help of Clark Kent, continued the investigation over the past two weeks. Even Perry shook his head at his star reporter 'beating a dead horse,' as he termed it instead of going after the big story, Superman. But together she and Clark persevered and eventually uncovered evidence that showed a far-ranging conspiracy to turn the space program into a commercial venture worth billions.
As she dressed carefully, Lois told herself it was only because she and Clark had an exclusive that would scoop every paper in town. It's not because you're looking forward to the prospect of working with Clark Kent again. *After all, how can Clark compare with Superman,* she thought dreamily.
She stepped off the elevator and looked around. It felt so good to be here. Jimmy saw her first and announced: "To Lois Lane, still going where no reporter has gone before."
There was enthusiastic clapping, interrupted by Perry White's admonition: "Jimmy, don't encourage her. She has a head as big as the Metrodome" and what did she want anyway, garlands thrown at her feet?
"No, but I would like a raise," she told him.
"Well, I'd like a 145 foot, triple-masted schooner with a teak interior but Lois … times are tough." He pulled out his empty pockets.
Lois laughed and went to sit down at her desk. Clark didn't seem to be around. She walked past his desk and noticed that he'd cleared it off. *Probably just Clark's compulsive neatness,* she thought.
"Lois! In here," Perry called. "How's this for our headline?
'Conspiracy Behind Messenger Disaster; Prominent Scientists and Industrialists Indicted.'
Too bad you weren't able to nail the ultimate perpetrator of the whole plot, but, as it is, it's at least Kerth material. If it's okay with you, I'd like to put the story in this afternoon's edition."
"Sure Chief, I'll get right on it. I should have it written up by noon."
"Take your time, honey. The story's already been filed and is down in layout. We'll keep your in-depth version for the Sunday edition."
"Already filed. Who wrote it? It wasn't Jimmy, was it? He's a good photojournalist, but … "
"No, Kent wrote it up last night and LAN'ed it in. It's good, honey. It'll do you proud."
But Lois wasn't listening. She hadn't heard another word after he told her that Clark wrote it up. *Just like Claude, he's just like Claude.*
Lois Lane was haunted by the memory of Claude. Claude, he was French, and he'd stolen her story. Lois was young and inexperienced and had just moved out of Metropolis University housing into an apartment of her own. After a whirlwind romance that was the talk of the newsroom (Perry tried to warn her to be careful, but she was in love) she threw caution to the winds and she and Claude made love almost every night for a month while Claude whispered promises of undying love.
It was heaven until one night when an excited Lois Lane told her lover about a story she was working on. In the morning she woke up alone. Claude was gone and so was her story.
When she arrived at the Daily Planet, she found that Claude had filed the story without even thanking her for her input. Angrily, she confronted him only to be laughed at. He'd told everyone at the newspaper that they'd been lovers and when he tried to break it off, she tried to steal *his* story.
The next few weeks were among the most miserable of Lois's life. Unable to counter Claude's accusations, she endured knowing looks and sneers from people in the newsroom most of whom refused to believe that so young a reporter could have uncovered the diabolical plot. It had to have been Claude. Some staff people even suggested that the young intern be fired for trying to steal Claude's story.
Perry White didn't trust Claude and he spoke up for Lois. He couldn't prove anything nor could he stop the suspicious glances turned Lois's way, but he did save her job. He told Claude privately of his suppositions and suggested it would be best for all concerned if Claude looked for another job. Lois never knew about that, however. Six months later, Claude received the Phillips award for investigative journalism and moved back to France.
All Lois could think now was that it was happening to her all over again. "I-I don't feel so good, Perry. I'd like to go home," she told her boss.
"Honey, don't you want to wait until your partner comes in?"
That was the last straw. "Clark Kent is not my partner," she shouted at her astonished editor. "I don't need a partner. I work alone. I never had one before and I don't intend to start now."
"Lois, I thought you and Clark …" His voice trailed off at the hard look on Lois's face. "Well, if that's the way you want it …"
Sighing, Perry told her to take all the time she needed. It had been a long investigation and he figured she'd need a little time before starting her next assignment. But Lois was convinced he was trying to console her over the loss of yet another story. "I-I'll be in later to finish the write-up. I just need a little time to unwind." And with that, she practically fled the newsroom.
When Clark arrived at work, he looked around eagerly for Lois. Her desk had been occupied, he saw, but there was no Lois Lane.
"Clark! In here," Perry called from his office.
"Sure Chief," he told his editor, grabbing a notebook. *Maybe Lois has already gone out on the new assignment,* he thought, anxious to get on with it and join her.
Perry's face was serious as he shut the door behind Clark and began talking. Clark was at first bewildered as he listened to his boss — no, his former boss — go on about money being tight but eventually the news sank in. He was being fired. Lois Lane didn't want him for a partner.
"It's not you, Clark," Perry assured him. "Lois just prefers to work alone. I thought that you and she … but I guess not."
Perry had spent the past half-hour arguing with his superiors to no avail. When Clark Kent interviewed for a job at the Planet, he'd had to turn the promising young man down because there was a hiring freeze in effect. But he'd noticed the look on Clark's face as he introduced Lois Lane to Clark Kent.
When Kent came back the next day with the well-written piece about the razing of the old Bernhardt Theatre on 42nd Street, Perry White looked at Lois and made a decision. "Clark Kent, welcome to the Daily Planet," he said, after spouting some nonsense about appreciating initiative. But the real reason he hired Kent was because of Lois Lane.
Lois had been hurt badly before and Perry felt it was time for her to start trusting again. She needed someone who could thaw out her frozen heart and needed a partner at work, too, someone she could depend on. Perry had a feeling that Clark Kent could be that someone for Lois.
Of course, Perry's action didn't go over well with his superiors until he pointed out that Kent would be working with Lois Lane. That was different. Lois Lane brought in stories that boosted circulation; if she wanted someone to work with her, then, of course, they approved. The Vice President in charge of circulation asked suspiciously: "Are you sure Lane will work with him? I heard she always works alone."
"Absolutely," Perry lied. They agreed to approve the hiring of Clark Kent for a one-month trial. Perry, however, did not tell Clark his position was only temporary as he waited impatiently for a chance to force the two of them to work together. It came when Lois needed a partner to investigate Dr. Samuel Platt's allegations about the sabotage of the Messenger.
"Take Kent, he's a good man," he told Lois after turning down all her other suggestions. "Kent's a hack from Smallville. I couldn't make up that name." But Perry insisted and Lois agreed, but not without having the last word. "Don't ever say I am not a team player."
The rest he'd thought had been history. The two seemed to be working out together and when he saw the great exclusive Kent had filed yesterday, he was sure he'd been right. *You should stay out of the matchmaking business. You can't even get two people to be partners, much less friends,* he thought sourly. *I wonder if it's her infatuation with this Superman. Can't she see that Clark's perfect for her and he's attainable,* Perry thought as he watched the young man's face fall.
But Lois was his chief investigative reporter, for all intents and purposes a department head, and if she didn't want Kent he couldn't very well force her to take him. *She's just not a team player, I guess. *
"I'm sorry, son. I just don't have anything for you," he finished sadly. "Your byline will go on the story with Lois's, Kent. That should help you get a job on just about any newspaper in the world."
"Thanks, Mr. White, but I'd rather not be mentioned. The story is Lois's, not mine. I was just the means she used to get the goods on those involved in the conspiracy." He couldn't help the bitterness that crept into his voice.
"Okay, son. Whatever you want. I can get you two weeks' severance pay, if you want it."
Clark really didn't but he figured he's better take it. At least he could pay his dad back for some of the money Johnathan Kent had sent Clark to tide him over until he was settled in his new job. "Thank you, Mr. White. I'll see to it that the Planet gets the money back some day."
He stood up and held out his hand. "Thank you for givin' me the opportunity to work for the Daily Planet. Goodbye then."
"Goodbye to you, too, Kent." Perry tried to smile but it came out sickly. He looked at his hand after Clark left the office. *What a grip that boy has,* he thought for the second time in a month.
Lois went back to her apartment and cried herself to sleep. She woke a little after noon. It wouldn't do to be here when Lucy got home from classes. Her sister would know immediately that something had happened. She dressed hastily, splashed water on her face, and returned to the Daily Planet. As she parked the Jeep in the Planet's parking garage in her designated spot, she tried to fortify herself for the ordeal she was sure awaited her now that her story was out under Clark Kent's byline.
*Guess I'd better see how he wrote up our story,* she thought, picking up the afternoon edition of the Planet in the lobby. Quickly scanning the text, she was forced to admit grudgingly that Clark was a much better writer than Claude had been. *A better story stealer too. He didn't even have to endure a passionate affair with me to get it. * Suddenly she wondered if he'd lie about that to his peers at the newspaper as well. She snapped out of her depression thinking,* not this time,* as she threw the paper in a nearby trash can and headed for the elevator.
Joe Wilson from accounting got on the elevator with her. "Hey, Lois. Congratulations on that great story on the Messenger explosion. You really pulled it off."
"The one that just came out in the afternoon Planet about how Dr. Baines and the rest were behind the destruction of the Messenger and the attempted sabotage of the passenger shuttle. You saved Dr. Samuel Platt's reputation, too. That sidebar on Platt's wife and his daughter, Amy, was amazing, warm and touching. I didn't know you could write that kind of touchy-feely stuff."
The elevator had reached the newsroom's floor. As Lois stepped off it, she grabbed another copy of the Planet from the stack that was always there for staff and this time looked closely at the headline.
Conspiracy Behind Messenger Disaster Prominent Scientists and Industrialists Indicted Exclusive report by Lois Lane
Her byline was proclaimed in bold type. No mention of Clark Kent was to be found anywhere in the story, not even on the sidebar that she knew had been entirely his contribution.
She went over and checked Clark's desk and was dismayed to see that it was empty of papers and the computer was gone too. *Maybe Perry just forced him to give back the story,* she told herself, pushing aside the thought that she'd made a mistake. She had to be sure, so she marched over to Perry's office and asked: "Chief, where's Clark?"
"He's gone, honey."
Lois got an unfamiliar sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. *I won't miss him. He's just like all the rest,* she reminded herself.
Perry peered intently at his star reporter. "I had to let Kent go. There're no other openings and, like I told you, money is tight." With a sudden flash of insight, he thought he might know what the problem had been. Probing, he continued: "I told Kent he should let the byline on today's feature stay the way he sent it to me, that it'd help him to get another job. But he asked me to take his name off of it."
"Perry … how did the byline originally read?" Lois asked in a strangled voice.
*Bingo,* Perry thought. "Oh just what you'd expect, honey; 'Exclusive by Lois Lane, with assistance from Clark Kent,' the latter in much smaller type of course. After all, you are the senior investigative reporter."
This time it was Lois Lane's face that fell. Perry didn't want to upset Lois, but he knew she had to understand exactly what she'd done. In effect, she'd 'stolen' Clark's first story for the Daily Planet, even if it had only been part of a joint effort. "Clark did help with the story," he reminded her. "He was entitled to the credit."
Perry had nothing more to say. Lois knew what she'd done. She even had tears in her eyes and Perry knew no matter what happened in the future, a little crack had appeared in Lois Lane's impenetrable shell.
"Th-thanks Chief," Lois said as she went back to her desk. She noticed Jimmy looking at her suspiciously.
Perry had asked Jimmy to put the computer on Clark's desk back into storage. When the grapevine surged with the gossip that Kent had been fired even before Clark had handed in his press pass, he'd asked Perry what had happened. He only received confirmation that Clark was leaving the Daily Planet along with the admonition not to listen to idle gossip.
He still wondered if Lois had anything to do with it, but she was not in the newsroom to ask. When the afternoon edition came out an hour earlier, Jimmy, who knew the investigation had been a joint effort, was even more upset with Lois, who until now could do no wrong in his eyes.
Cat, of course, had been convinced that Lois was at fault. "Little Miss Star Reporter can't stand the thought of someone else being in the limelight around here," she sniped. Jimmy, following Perry's advice, refused to be pulled into the speculation, but the bulk of the newsroom staff seemed to agree with Cat. The consensus was that if Lois Lane didn't want to work with a great guy like Clark Kent, none of them wanted to work with her.
For the next hour, Lois was treated to icy stares instead of the usual newsroom camaraderie. She could have endured it if she'd been in the right, but now that she knew Clark had not stolen her story, she felt even worse than she had earlier. Close to two, she checked her e-mail and found a message from Clark.
I just wanted to say goodbye and to thank you for all your help. You really taught me a lot this past month. I'll miss working with such a great reporter.
Lois got up and, once more, went into Perry's office.
"Perry, how tight is money? Is there a chance the decision to let Clark go could be reversed?" she asked.
"As far as the Daily Planet is concerned, it's your call, honey. If you want Kent on the staff, as a full partner or just an occasional one, we'll keep him. Otherwise, he goes. I'm just not sure anything can be done to persuade Clark to come back now. He sounded bitter," he told her gently.
Lois was silent for a minute; then her face took on a determined look. "Tell Jimmy to put that computer back on Clark's desk, Chief. I've got to go," she said running out. She grabbed her coat and purse and started down the back staircase, in too much of a hurry to wait for the slow elevator.
Perry smiled and picked up the phone to Personnel. "Doris, send down Kent's press pass and the rest of his stuff, will you? And Doris, I don't want a word of this to reach the Planet's grapevine. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Doris promised. She was disappointed, but had to comply. Doris's job often depended on her ability to keep things confidential, so Mr. White's request was not unusual. And he could, she knew, make her job at the Planet of very short duration.
She placed the requested items in a plain envelope addressed to "Perry White, Editor, Daily Planet," then called Pete in the mailroom. She repeated Perry White's warning to him and he nodded. A long-time Daily Planet employee, Pete could be trusted.
Indeed no new rumors surfaced, although eyebrows were raised when Jimmy placed the computer back on Clark's desk. "Jimmy, do you know something that I don't?" Cat asked seductively. Sweating, he denied — truthfully, he told himself — having any idea why Mr. White had ordered first the removal, and now the replacement of the machine. Cat concluded, especially since nothing else was placed on the desk, that Perry decided the staff needed a spare computer desk.
"He probably had it wiped clean of poor Clark's stuff," she told her eager listeners as she continued to bad-mouth Lois. Cat was upset that she would be unable to make any further plays for the new "tight end." She'd already asked Clark Kent out twice, two more times than she had to ask any man before, and was enjoying the challenge. She really liked Kent too even if he'd ducked her advances. *He was probably too busy working with Lois all month. * That thought made her even madder, so she — a 'gossip professional' as she liked to refer to herself — proceeded to fuel the rumor mills.
Lois whistled for a taxi and told the driver: "Hotel Apollo and step on it." At first she knocked politely on the door of Clark's furnished room, but when she got no response, she started banging loudly. *Please be there, Clark,* she pleaded. Just as she was about to give up, the door opened.
"You'd better come in before everyone in the building comes to see what the noise is all about," Clark told her coldly.
The place looked even barer than it did the last time she'd seen it. The bed had been stripped and the few personal items Clark had around were now packed away. Not certain how to start, Lois sat down on the cheap sofa and stared at the floor. Clark sat down next to her, making no move to approach her as he became lost in his own thoughts.
Clark had arrived back at his room an hour earlier. He packed up his meager belongings, and was about to call his parents and tell them the news. Then he remembered that he'd inquired about an apartment on Clinton Street and thought: *I'd better call the landlord and tell him I won't be staying in Metropolis after all. *
Instead of doing either of those, he sat down on the sofa, his mind whirling with questions. *What went wrong? * He wondered, confused. He'd been sure he and Lois were getting along well. He had made that nasty crack about how far was she willing to go to get a story when she turned down his offer to have dinner together, but he figured she'd gotten over it.
When they were tied up in the EPRAD hanger, she'd actually confided in him. "You can trust me," he told her. He hadn't uttered a word to anyone — anyone, not even his folks — about what she had confided concerning Claude. No one, he was certain, could have deduced what had been said from anything he said.
Maybe she wasn't as impressed with him as she seemed to be with the man in the red, blue and yellow suit, but he thought they had worked well together on the Messenger investigation. She seemed to value his comforting hug when they found Dr. Platt's body and to appreciate his help in finding Dr. Baines's secret files with the names of most of her coconspirators. Clark suspected one name had been missing — he thought he knew whose name that was — but together they'd identified the other major players left alive who'd been responsible for the deaths of Dr. Platt, Commander Latimen, and the others.
Clark used his x-ray vision, but of course Lois didn't know about that — or did she? Could she have guessed that he and the man in the suit were one and the same? Was that why she told Perry she didn't want a partner? He found that hard to believe. She'd probably have been elated. Lord knows she seemed much more attracted to Superman than she'd been to Clark Kent. One thing was certain; she couldn't know anything about that.
*So why are you so upset about being fired, Kent? Doesn't it make more sense for you to … oh move to France where you won't have to interact with Lois and your secret will be safe? * But he knew no matter what the risks, he wanted to be near her, to work with her, to see her every day. *You've got it bad, Kent. *
Lois didn't seem to be forthcoming, so Clark finally said: "Lois, if you came here to tell me something, I wish you'd get on with it. The last bus for Kansas leaves in less than two hours and I need to be on it." He was mortified when his voice cracked harshly on that last part.
Lois's head came up at that sound and she finally spoke. "Clark, do you have to leave?"
"What choice do I have, Lois? What choice did you leave me? Everyone at the Planet knows Perry fired me."
Lois heard the bitterness that Perry had told her about and her heart sank. "Most of the people in the newsroom, Cat, Jimmy, Eduardo, Diane, none of them blame you. And Perry wouldn't give them a reason for your leaving," she assured him.
Clark knew that, but it didn't matter. "What difference does that make, Lois? Sooner or later, they'll start to wonder if I was fired for cause and, if no one gives them a reason, someone will make one up. You know how that works," he finished, getting up and walking over to the other side of the room.
"Lois," he whispered, "I don't care what anyone else thinks, I only care about what you think. I-I'm sorry. What did I do? Please, I have to know."
In an equally low voice, Lois responded: "Clark, you didn't do anything."
His face communicating his shame, Clark told her: "Perry told me he had to fire me because you … don't want to … to work with me anymore. There has to be a reason. I've been racking my brain for over an hour trying to think of what I said or did to offend you and I can't. Please, won't you just tell me?"
Lois knew she'd hurt him deeply and tears filled her eyes. She had to confess. "I thought you'd stolen my … our story. When Perry told me you already filed it, I thought you were gonna … take the credit, put it under your byline, you see."
"Why would you think I'd do something like that?" Clark asked clearly upset. "I told you that you can trust me. Have I ever betrayed that confidence? You know I would never do anything like that."
*Not like Claude,* she thought. *He's not like Claude. * A single tear escaped and ran down Lois's cheek as she patted the sofa seat next to her. "Clark, please come over here and sit."
He did as she requested, but perched stiffly at the far end of the sofa. That wasn't very far away, the sofa being rather small, more of a loveseat in fact. *How ironic,* Lois thought.
Taking a deep breath, she began: "I'm gonna tell you the whole story, not the one Claude told everyone at the Daily Planet, not even the one that Perry White knows, but the full story of me and my relationship with Claude."
She told him how happy she'd been, those months when Claude "courted her." She'd at last found someone to share her love of the newspaper business with, especially the excitement and, yes, the danger of investigating crime and corruption.
She'd been reluctant at first to get involved with anyone. "All my … my previous relationships had been federal disasters," she admitted with a mocking smile. But gradually, Claude had broken down her barriers and she'd given her heart and, she blushed, her body to him.
"It was wonderful, Clark, he was so wonderful. He told me he'd never really been in love before. He said we shouldn't care about any previous affairs because for us it was new, the 'first time.' I was so happy; I would have given up my career, the Daily Planet, my friends, all for him.
Jimmy, Perry, Cat, none of them trusted Claude, and they tried to warn me, but I knew better. I was the only one who really understood Claude. Then came the night that I told him about my story." She halted her narrative, looking thoroughly miserable.
Clark wanted so badly to take her in his arms and soothe her but he knew it was too early in their relationship. She might be ready to confide in him this time under a stressful situation of her own making, but if he made the slightest movement that could be construed as coming on to her, her barriers would slam down and she would retreat into the depths of the dungeon behind them. So he only said softly: "Go on, I'm listening."
"We were alone in my apartment after having had dinner at an elegant restaurant, French of course. Claude started talking about how proud he was to be working for the Daily Planet. 'It's one of the world's great newspapers,' he told me. 'Too bad it doesn't have much of a chance to garner any industry awards in the investigative journalism area this year. There just doesn't seem to be much going on in Metropolis, right now.'
I was so proud that I could assure him that was about to change. I told him about my investigation of safety violations covered up to save maintenance money at Metropolis Power and Light's nuclear generating plant. 'It's a disaster in the making but I'm gonna stop it,' I assured him. 'I have all the evidence I need to write an expose for tomorrow's Daily Planet and I'm gonna file it first thing in the morning.'
'Ma petite, let's celebrate,' he said in that wonderful French accent that I love … loved. He opened a bottle of sparkling red wine he'd given me a few weeks earlier. He said he'd been saving it for just such an occasion. After a wonderful, giddy evening, during which we laughed and made love and I drank way too many glasses of wine, I fell asleep in his arms contented and happy. Well, I already told you what happened in the morning. He even ransacked the apartment and stole my evidence while I slept. Claude filed the story and won an award for it."
She couldn't go on for a while. Finally, she took a deep breath and imparted the most humiliating aspect of the entire episode. "The worse part was when he told everyone at the newspaper that he'd been in love with me, but he had to … to break it off when I demanded a joint byline on his story in exchange for continued sexual favors.
He … he told me that if I persisted in my 'allegation,' as he termed it, that the story was mine, he'd tell everyone that, when I confronted him about it at the Planet, it was really to beg him to take me back. 'They'll believe me,' he insisted, sneering." After a full minute of silence she moaned: "none of it was true, Clark."
"I know it, Lois," Clark told her and Lois could tell he accepted what she said as the truth without question and was content.
"I was so stupid."
"I guess when you're in love it doesn't matter how smart you are or how many rules you set for yourself, you're still vulnerable."
"Everyone at the Daily Planet, everyone believed him, Clark. For weeks I was sure I was gonna be fired." She stopped horrified, realizing she'd just gotten Clark fired and he was no more guilty than she'd been.
All Clark said was: "I don't think everyone at the Planet believed Claude even then and I know none of them believe what he said was true anymore."
"Clark, I sometimes … do things … like jump into the pool without checking the water level first. But Clark, it's the only way I know how to do it … how to get the job done, to get the respect that I want, that I deserve."
"Lois, everyone at the Daily Planet thinks you're just about the best reporter they've ever seen. Perry told me that the day I interviewed. And for what it's worth coming from a hack from nowheresville, I think you're pretty terrific, too."
"Oh, Clark, I'm sorry," she said tearfully. "Please come back. Perry says you can have your job back if … if I approve. It's not fair, I know, but … "
Greatly daring, he took her in his arms and, putting all the sympathy he could in his voice, he said: "Shhh, we can fix this." Lifting her chin, he looked her straight in the eyes and added hesitantly: "If … if you really want me to come back, that is."
"Oh, yes, I want my partner back," she assured him, an enchanting smile spreading over her face like sunshine in the early morning. Clark wanted nothing more than to bask in that glow forever but the smile disappeared as swiftly as it had come. Lois tapped his arm affectionately and said: "Let's go in right now. We still have time before Perry leaves. Hurry and get dressed and bring your box of personal items for your desk," she told him, pulling herself out of his embrace.
Pretending not to be hurt, Clark sighed inwardly. *Oh Lois, how I want to be more than just your partner. * But he knew better than to try to make her do something she wasn't ready for yet.
As they were about to leave the apartment, Lois turned to Clark and said: "If you ever breathe a word about anything I told you in here, I will deny it and I … "
"Lois," he told her solemnly, "you can trust me."
He expected her to say something similar to what she'd said after she confided that she'd broken every one of her three rules: "Right, I've heard that one before." Instead she just said softly, "I know," as they walked out the door together.
As Lois and Clark walked across the Daily Planet's lobby to the elevators, everyone who saw them stopped and stared. Some of them favored Clark with a warm smile, but all of them regarded Lois with open hostility. Lois's expression didn't change but Clark knew she'd been affected. His super hearing told him that her heartbeat had increased and her respiration was erratic.
The up elevator was empty this late in the afternoon, most people going, not coming, so Clark pulled out the stop button as soon as the door closed. Her face pale, her voice shaky, Lois asked him: "So what do you want me to tell them when we get to the newsroom, Clark?"
"Nothing. Not one of them is entitled to an explanation."
"But Clark, like you said, if they don't get a reason, someone will make one up. I-I can't let that happen, I can't let everyone think that Perry fired you."
*My Lois,* Clark thought,* How can everyone fail to see what a warm, caring person you really are? It wasn't me that everyone in the lobby looked daggers at, it was you. But it's me you're worried about. * "Don't worry, Lois, they won't. With both of us still working for the Daily Planet, the rumors will become just rumors. Perry won't say anything either and before long the gossip will die out and everyone will forget about today. You'll see." He grinned and continued: "Besides, I plan on working at the Planet for a long time."
"No moving to France for you?" Lois asked, a tentative smile forming.
"Nope. I've still got a lot to learn about being a reporter and who better to learn from than the youngest reporter to win three consecutive Kerths."
"Oh, you looked that up, did you?"
"Uh huh. I want to be your partner and share the excitement and the danger of investigating crime and corruption … sometimes."
"Maybe you will … sometimes," Lois returned softly.
Clark bent his head to give her a friendly peck on the forehead, but Lois turned her face up and planted her mouth against his descending lips. After a fleeting moment during which the kiss set Clark on fire, Lois broke it off, turned away and started the elevator on its way again.
Clark was afraid Lois would be upset at losing control, but when they arrived at the newsroom, she squeezed his hand and whispered: "Let's go, partner." She transferred her grip to Clark's tie and pulled him after her down the ramp, her expression daring anyone to comment. Everyone at the Daily Planet knew better than to cross "Mad Dog Lane," so after a brief pause, they decided they had more important things to attend to and scattered.
Lois was relieved to see Clark's computer back on his desk and couldn't help but smile. Jimmy, who been watching them closely, wanted to cheer, but knew Lois wouldn't approve of that action this time. He had no idea what had taken place today but, with Clark back, he didn't care and he doubted anyone else would either. He just grinned at them both.
Cat was simply relieved to have Clark back and determined to get him alone at her apartment. *Soon,* she promised herself. Perry, who'd come out of his office at the sudden, unexpected silence in the newsroom, sent Lois a look of inquiry and, when she nodded affirmatively, walked over and slipped Clark his press pass.
Lois told Clark to put his personal stuff back and he set about organizing his desk without a word to his puzzled colleagues. She went to her desk and quickly wrote up the in-depth story she'd promised Perry that morning. "Clark, come over here and check my copy."
"Looks okay," he told her after scanning the text, but "why did you include this line about the sidebar in today's article being actually authored by me?"
"Clark, do you really believe that I want people to think I wrote that part? I'm Lois Lane, investigative reporter. You stick to the 'touchy-feely' stuff, you're good at it. I'll write the serious, factual articles."
"Oh, okay," he said, knowing her well enough to understand that was as close to a retraction as he was going to get. Then he saw the byline and did a double take. "By Lois Lane and Clark Kent," he whispered. "Lois, you didn't have to do that."
"Yes, I did. But don't get any ideas Kent, this will probably never happen again," she told him decisively as she LAN'ed the completed copy to Perry.
Clark had noticed the soft smile playing along the edges of Lois's mouth and he thought *I think it's going happen more often than you think, Lois. Lane and Kent, the hottest team in town,* he thought dreamily after returning to his desk.
"Lois, come into my office for a minute," Perry called. "I see you included Clark's name in the byline. So does this mean you two are partners again?" Perry asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Only when you want us to work together, Chief."
"I see, so … " he began, but the phone rang interrupting their conversation and Perry picked it up. "There's a gang rumble on the south side I want you to cover, Lois," he told her after he hung up. "Take Kent … unless you're not permanent partners?"
"Well, we're permanent partners, Chief," she acknowledged, "just not permanent, permanent partners … yet."
"Well, take your partner, honey, however much of a one he is. You're gonna need backup for this one."
"Right, Chief," she told him, running out. As she passed Clark, who was standing in front of his desk, she tapped him on the shoulder and said: "Let's hit it."
"Can I ask you where we're going?" he responded, grabbing a notepad.
"Rumble on the south side," she told him, leading the way to the elevator. "And let's get something straight. I did not work my buns off to become an investigative reporter for the Daily Planet just to baby-sit some hack from Nowheresville. You are not working with me; you're working for me. I ask the questions. I call the shots. You are low man; I am top banana. And that's the way I like it, Comprende?"
"You like to be on top. Got it."
Halting, she turned toward him. "Don't push me Kent. You are way out of your league."
When they were in the elevator and Lois turned to face forward, Clark's face broke into a satisfied smile. Lois was her … complicated … self again, domineering, uncompromising, pigheaded … brilliant, and he was relieved. He didn't want to change her; he loved her just the way she was.
He would give her time, time to get to know him for who he really was. *She may not know it, but she's gonna marry me. It's just gonna take time,* he thought happily. And however long it took, he would have the memory of that brief kiss in the elevator to comfort him so he could wait, he could wait as long as she needed. After all, he was a very patient man.
Perry saw that smile before the elevator door closed. *I was right. Those two belong together. Clark's right for Lois and he'll make her see it. * It wouldn't be tomorrow. Lois had been hurt too badly, and then there was that new guy, Superman, that she seemed infatuated with. There was a bumpy road ahead of them full of twists and turns, but he was sure that in the end Clark Kent would prevail.
*It's been a long day and it's time I went home,* he decided, as he picked up the phone and called Alice.