By Nan Smith <>

Rated G

Submitted November 1999

Summary: This well written rewrite of the second half of the episode "Top Copy" develops a more plausible medical scenario as well as looking more closely at how the threat to Superman's life affected the relationship between Lois and Clark.

I was always dissatisfied with the episode, "Top Copy". The doctors' helplessness in the face of the Kryptonite poisoning struck me as kind of silly. There were several things that they almost certainly would have tried, rather than just throwing up their hands, and the solution that Lois came up with was just plain hokey. So I rewrote it to my own satisfaction, and threw in a few other little tidbits besides — in my continuing quest to learn to write WAFFy scenes a little better. It's not high drama, but I had fun with it.

Disclaimer: The recognizable characters and settings in this story are the property of D.C. Comics, Warner Bros., December Third Productions, etc. Some of the scenes and dialogue from the episode "Top Copy" have also been used, and are hereby credited to the writers of the show. The changes in the story are mine.


"So we've hit a big wall on the Diana front. What next?" Lois led the way from the elevator, her partner following behind. It occurred to her that Clark was being uncharacteristically quiet, and she turned to look curiously at him.

Clark Kent ran a hand through his hair and shrugged at her questioning look. Something about his appearance caught her attention. "Hey, you look a little pale. Are you feeling all right?"

He rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm fine. I just have a headache."

Lois's eyes narrowed. It didn't look like just a headache. Clark's face looked drawn and pinched under his olive complexion, and she could see a faint sheen of perspiration on his forehead. She couldn't recall ever seeing him sick before.

Jimmy approached before she could pursue the subject, a sheet of paper in his hand. "Mayson Drake just called. She says you have exactly one hour to answer her questions, or else." He, too, glanced curiously at Clark before turning at a shout from someone else.

Clark glanced inquiringly at her. She grimaced expressively. "So how do we play this?"

He rubbed his neck again. "Your call. You're my partner. Whatever you decide."

Clark was so loyal. He always backed her up, even when he disapproved of her behavior. It was almost enough to make her want to relent in her anger over his desertion of her during their chess game a couple of nights ago. She was opening her mouth to speak when she saw his face contract in what was unmistakably a grimace of pain, and he stumbled slightly. She grasped him by the arm. "Clark, are you sure you're all right?"

He had gone deathly pale. "Yeah, I — "

The elevator doors opened. Lois saw Diana Stride and her cameraman emerge.

Clark saw them, too. He tried to pull away and was forced to grab at her as he nearly lost his balance.

"Clark?" Her anger with him evaporated to be replaced with concern. Her partner was really *ill*. She put an arm around him to steady him, and felt him shaking. "Clark, what *is* it?" she whispered.

The expression on his face was equal parts of fear, desperation and decision. "Lois," he breathed, "help me get out of here … quick!"

His glance at Diana Stride told Lois that, for some reason, he didn't want the anchorwoman to see him. Stride had some sort of device in her hand which blinked with colored lights, and she was turning it about the room as if searching for something. Lois gripped him about the waist and helped him as unobtrusively as she could across the newsroom floor toward the conference room, keeping a file cabinet between them and the intruders. Whatever the problem was, she was as willing to back him up as he was for her, no questions asked.

As the door closed behind them, Clark half-collapsed into a chair. Without waiting to be told, Lois pulled the blind, and turned to him in concern. "Clark, you're sick! What *is* it?"

"Lois … " He dropped his face into his hands. "Get her out of here. You've got to — "

"Clark, you look awful! We need to get you home and into bed."

He caught her wrist. "Lois, help me! Don't let her near me!"

He looked desperate. Lois bit her lip and nodded. "All right, stay here. But I want to know what's going on, later."

She turned toward the door and exited, careful to close it quickly behind her so as not to afford Diana Stride a glimpse of her partner inside. The anchorwoman was headed in a straight line toward the conference room, the instrument in her hands pointed at the door.

Lois intercepted her. "Diana! How nice to see you again!"

The woman paused. "Miss Lane."

"Back for your interview so soon?" Lois asked. "It's too bad I don't have time right now. I'm meeting Clark downstairs in a few minutes. We have an interview of our own in half an hour, but I'm sure Perry would love to talk to you. This way." She steered Diana Stride and her cameraman toward Perry's office.

Her editor emerged from his office as they approached. Lois hailed him. "Perry, Miss Stride is here for the interviews. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Diana!" Perry smiled widely. "I was just thinking about you! Why don't we go into my office?"

"Of course, Perry!" Stride forced a smile and glanced at Lois. "Um, Miss Lane, is there anyone in the conference room, right now?"

Lois put on her best puzzled expression. "The conference room? No, no one."


Lois stood watching as Perry ushered Diana Stride and Rolf into his office. The minute the door closed behind them, she was reentering the conference room. Clark lifted his face from his hands, his complexion a pasty white. "Is she gone?"

"She's in Perry's office, and the blinds are closed. If we move fast we can make it to the elevator before she comes out. Can you walk?"

"Yeah." He started to stand up, and she grabbed him as he staggered.

"Hang onto me," she directed. "Come on."

Somehow they made it to the elevator without attracting attention and Lois rang for the car. It opened before them after what seemed like hours, but was, in reality, barely more than a minute, and she ushered Clark inside. He leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes, and looking so ill that she felt a pang of real fear.

"Clark, you're really sick!" She put a hand against his cheek and was horrified at the hot feel of his skin. "You're burning up! You need to get to a doctor."

"Just … to my apartment," he muttered. "It's only the flu. I'll be okay."

"All right, but I'm not leaving you alone," she warned him.

He didn't seem up to the task of arguing with her. His olive complexion seemed sallow, his skin drained of its usual healthy color. In short, her partner looked terrible.

The elevator released them on the basement level and she helped him to the Jeep, which was fortunately parked only a few feet away; by the time they reached it, Clark was reeling on his feet. She got her wobbly partner into the passenger seat with some difficulty. For all his efforts, Clark could barely stand upright, and when she finally got him into the seat he dropped his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes.

The trip to his apartment was accomplished in fifteen minutes, something of a record considering the traffic. He made it up the steps with sheer willpower and her help, but once in the apartment his willpower gave out and he collapsed onto the sofa.

Somehow she got him stretched out on the cushions and went to get a pillow and blanket from his bed. Privately, she suspected it wouldn't be long before he was in the hospital; she had never seen any illness progress so swiftly.

When she returned, Clark had gotten the phone off the hook and was dragging it weakly toward him. Lois hurried to help.

"Got to phone my folks," he muttered.

"I'll do it." Lois put the pillow under his head and spread the blanket over him, then picked up the phone. The address book yielded the phone number and a moment later Martha Kent answered.


"Hello, Martha. It's Lois."

"Lois?" Martha's voice sounded a little surprised. "Is everything okay?"

"I'm calling from Clark's apartment. He's pretty sick."

"Sick? What's the matter with him?" Martha asked, her voice suddenly sharp.

"I don't know. He says it's the flu, but I've never seen the flu hit anyone like this."

"May I talk to him?"

"Just a minute." She turned, extending the receiver to Clark. He reached weakly for it, and as she watched, horrified, his body rolled and he crashed to the floor.

"Clark! Ohmigosh!" She dropped the phone and went to her knees beside him. Clark lay limply, unmoving, his eyelids half open and the breath rasping in his throat.

She put a hand on his face. The skin was hot and dry. Clark's eyelids flickered and he muttered unintelligibly.

She picked up the phone. "Martha, Clark's passed out. I'll call you back in a few minutes."

"Lois, wait — "

"I've got to help Clark, Martha. Hold on." She put down the phone, leaving the receiver off the hook, and ran to the bathroom. In a moment she was back with a wet towel in her hands. She pulled off his glasses, set them on the coffee table out of the way and began to wipe his face with the cold water.

At first Clark didn't respond. Lois went back for more cold water and brought the towel back wringing wet to bathe his face and neck, all the time debating the wisdom of calling the paramedics, but his brown eyes opened at last. Clark looked up at her, a confused expression on his face. "Lois?"

"Clark! Thank God!" She put the towel across his forehead. "Clark, I think we should call the paramedics. You're really sick."

"No, I … "

The telephone receiver was still squawking faintly at her. "Oh no! Martha!" She picked it up, hurriedly. "I'm sorry, Martha, I was really scared. He's come around, but he's awfully sick. I think he should be in the hospital, only he doesn't want to go."

"Let me talk to him, Lois." Martha's voice sounded almost grim.

"Okay. Just a minute." She put the phone to Clark's ear.

She saw Clark frown a little, and she could hear Martha's voice, if not the words. Clark listened, and the frown deepened. He closed his eyes at last. "Yes, Mom … of course I trust her." His rasping voice made her wince, and she almost missed what he was saying. "You're right, it's time. But she's gonna kill me … sorry, bad joke." His head fell back and his eyes closed. Lois was alarmed by the exhaustion she saw on his face. The phone dropped from his hand and she picked it up.


"Lois, he has something to tell you." Martha's voice sounded worried. "Please help him now; you can be angry later, if he survives. Hurry now. I'll wait."

Lois turned to her partner. He was lying back, the wet towel sliding from his forehead, his eyes closed, the thick, black hair pushed back from the face. Lois shook her head, trying to dispel the sense of deja vu.

"Lois … " Clark's voice was losing strength as he spoke. "Help me." He pulled feebly at his tie. "Take it … off."

Lois loosened the tie; perhaps he was having trouble breathing. As soon as it came free, Clark fumbled at the buttons of his shirt with clumsy fingers.

Lois brushed them aside and undid the buttons. Clark was wearing a blue undershirt …

Clark pulled the shirt open.

Suddenly it made sense. Lois stared, shocked past words, at the very familiar shield on his chest, then her gaze darted up to Clark's exhausted face.

The flash of humiliation was gone in an instant. This was not only Clark lying here on the floor, too weak to get up; it was *Superman*! And Superman didn't get sick. The only time she had ever seen him brought down was …

"Clark, what happened?" she demanded. "It has to be Kryptonite, doesn't it?"

He nodded, eyes still closed. "Inside me."

She grabbed the phone. "Martha, he says the Kryptonite is inside him. What should I do?"

Jonathan's voice interrupted. "Get him to the hospital, Lois. Never mind what he says."

"Right, Jonathan." Lois hung up the phone, suddenly all business. Clark was lying so still it scared her, but she called 911, and then she busied herself removing his clothing. If the situation hadn't been so serious she would have found it a little embarrassing pulling off Clark's slacks, but now it was a different situation altogether. There was no sign of the cape or boots, and she didn't waste time wondering where they might be. Clark Kent couldn't go to the hospital with Kryptonite poisoning. It had to be Superman.

Two other pairs of eyes watched the paramedics arrive, and the drama of Superman being carried to the waiting ambulance, from the safety of an automobile parked across the street. When the ambulance pulled away, siren wailing, they got out and hurried across to Clark Kent's apartment.

The emergency room was usually a hectic place, but the staff had never had an emergency like this, as the ambulance crew wheeled a gurney bearing on it Metropolis's resident superhero through the double doors. Superman wasn't conscious, and Lois hurried along beside him, the only person who could tell the medical personnel anything about the substance which had felled the Kryptonian.

That fact was recognized within minutes. Lois found herself explaining to the emergency room attending doctor and two assistants about the properties of Kryptonite and its effects on the Man of Steel. They let her stay through all but the most private of treatments. Superman seemed to respond more readily to what was being done to him if she was holding his hand, a fact that was not lost on either the staff or Lois. One of the younger doctors told her that they were trying radiation treatments in conjunction with other procedures for clearing the system of toxic substances. Lois kept her eyes focussed on the hand she gripped between her own. Somehow a gastric lavage on Superman, in order to remove as much of the deadly stuff from his body as possible, still upset her, even knowing the intent was to save his life. It certainly seemed undignified for the superhero, and the thought that this was Clark who might be dying before her eyes did little for her peace of mind.

Eventually they were left alone in a curtained booth. Clark lay on his back, propped up by pillows, and various monitoring devices beeped softly in the background.

She hadn't really had time to think about the enormity of what she had learned four hours ago, in the mad activity to save him; but, now, left sitting beside him, still holding his hand, she had nothing but time to reflect.

Why hadn't he told her?

Well, in the beginning he hadn't known her well, and she had made it plain what she thought of him. She had even stolen his story, rationalizing that she was doing him a favor, teaching him a lesson.

She had stolen *Superman's* story! He had trusted her then, and she had shown him how misplaced that trust had been! Even now, over a year later, the memory made her burn with embarrassment. He had been rightfully angry; she had seen the anger in his face — and he had retaliated, using her own obsession against her. She had deserved it and she knew it. The incident with the Godzilla doll had shown her two things — the hick from Kansas had class, and no matter how easygoing he might be he wouldn't let her push him beyond a certain point. He had taught her to respect him.

So, in the beginning she had given him reason not to trust her.

But hadn't they gotten past that? She'd thought so. Of course, he made those ridiculous excuses to run off — well, at least that part was clear now. He'd heard someone in trouble and gone to help. But why hadn't he trusted her?

But she'd heard him tell Martha over the phone that he did.

So it wasn't trust or lack of it. Then what was it?

Martha had said it. "You can be angry later."

He was afraid. It was as simple as that. He'd made it clear how he felt about her — if it hadn't been for his secret they could have straightened this out a long time ago. It took him being poisoned with Kryptonite for her to discover the truth.

Well, things were going to be different from now on. If Clark recovered.

A nurse stuck her head through the curtains. "Miss Lane? You have a call. A Perry White is on the phone."

Lois glanced at Superman's face. "I don't want to leave him. If he wakes up while I'm gone … "

The woman smiled. "I'll stay with him for a few moments. If he wakes up, I'll call you."

"Well … all right."

The nurse glanced at his face. "It's scary, you know — that something could have done this to Superman. Did he tell you what happened?"

Lois shook her head. "He wasn't able to. Maybe when he wakes up he can."

"Lois?" Perry's voice sounded irritated. "What are you doing there? I get this cryptic message that you're at Metro General. What in Elvis's name is going on?"

"Perry, Superman's in the Intensive Care Unit. I'll let you know what happened later when I find out. I have to go."

"Superman? Judas Priest! But … "

"I have to go!" she repeated. "Tell Mayson Drake I ran into an emergency and I'll answer all her questions as soon as I can. Okay?"

Clark hadn't moved when she returned to the cubicle. The nurse rose from her chair, straightened the blanket covering him, and left quietly. Lois resumed her vigil.

It was barely fifteen minutes later, however, that he stirred and quietly opened his eyes. Lois stood up, not releasing his hand.

"Superman?" she said softly, mindful of listening ears. "How are you feeling?"

He turned his head and looked at her, then around at the curtained area. "Lois?" His voice sounded hoarse.

"Yes. You're in the hospital. How do you feel?"

He pushed himself farther up on the bed. "Better. Much better. What happened?"

"They treated you for radiation poisoning. It was the only thing they could think of that might work."

"I guess it did."


Clark squeezed her hand gently. "We've got some things to talk about, Lois." His brown eyes looked tired, but they were smiling into hers with an expression in them that made her heart turn over. "But I wanted to tell you I'm sorry — for a lot of things. And to thank you."

She looked down to where his hand clasped hers. It was a strange feeling. Superman was holding her hand and gazing at her with a look in his eyes that she had dreamed about, but the thing that made her heart rate accelerate was the fact that this was also Clark. When had it dawned on her that it was Clark that she wanted, not a half-mythical superhero? When had she fallen in love with her partner as well as in lust with Superman? Because here he was, both of them in one man.

She looked up and met his eyes. She had to swallow before she was able to speak, and what she said had very little to do with what she was feeling. "Your apology is accepted. And, you're welcome. We can talk about the rest tomorrow."

He nodded. "Now, do you know where Diana Stride is?"

She shook her head. "I didn't see her after we left the Planet. Why?"

"I need you to tell Mayson Drake that Diana was the one who did this to me — and that you were right. She's almost certainly the hit man — or woman. I think Mayson's supposed to be at Metro General, coordinating the situation around Mr. X."

"I'll tell her now." Lois looked around as a nurse pulled back the curtains, and reluctantly let go of his hand. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"All right." He smiled at her, and it was Clark's charming, boyish grin. "I'm not going anywhere."


Mayson Drake was incredulous. "Diana Stride is the assassin for Intergang?" Around them, the police officers guarding the room where the D.A.'s crucial witness was being treated went efficiently about their business.

Lois nodded. "She nearly killed Superman. I know you don't like him, but … "

"That doesn't mean I want him dead! That's why you and Clark didn't meet me this afternoon?"

"Yeah." She hesitated. "Here."

Mayson took the pager Lois held out to her and looked at it silently for a moment. "You stole my pager."

"Yeah." Lois looked at the floor. "It's not the first time I've bent the law for a story, but I did feel bad … because after I finished rationalizing it I realized that a big part of why I did it is because … " She took a deep breath. " … I don't like you."

Mayson's eyes widened. "Really? Oh, God, that is such a relief! I don't like you, either!"

Lois felt her own eyes widen. "Really?"


Lois heaved a sigh. "That makes me feel so much better! I couldn't stand the idea that I was just jealous because of Clark! It's just so … so "

"So petty! I know!" Both women smiled at each other.

The moment of harmony lasted less than a moment. Lois glanced up at the ventilator at a faint change in the sound of the air flow, as a cloud of vapor began to pour from the opening.

She gulped air and held it as Mayson Drake and the police officers around her collapsed to the floor. Lois scrambled on hands and knees across the floor to an oxygen tank. With one hand she turned it on, with the other she seized the attached mask, pressed it over her face and took several deep breaths. Holding her breath once more, she slipped the mask over Mayson's face, scrambled to her feet and ran toward the informant's room.

Diana Stride was standing over the unconscious figure of Mr. X as Lois pushed the door open. The woman whirled to face her, and dropped into a defensive crouch. So did Lois.

The contest was fortunately short. Diana Stride was undoubtedly better trained in the art of hand to hand combat, but Lois would almost certainly be followed shortly by reinforcements. The killer fled through the room's window and Lois rushed after her, just as the police burst through the door. In the resulting confusion, Diana simply disappeared.


"You're all right? She didn't hurt you, did she?"

Lois looked up into Superman's warm, brown eyes and wondered briefly how she could possibly have missed the fact that this was Clark, her partner. True, he held himself more stiffly and behaved in a more formal way with others, but his mannerisms … they were all Clark.

"No," she said, to reassure him. "I might be a little achy in the morning, but … "

Mayson Drake approached at that moment, cutting off the conversation. She glanced sideways at Superman.

"Diana Stride made a clean getaway," she said. "We can't find her." Again she glanced at Superman. "Maybe you could — I don't know — help with the search?"

Clark smiled, and his eyes flicked to Lois's face before he answered. "I'll be happy to, Miss Drake."

"And Lois — " Mayson turned with an expression of noticeable relief to Lois. "I have to say thanks. I owe you an awful lot. Keep this up and we may have to — like each other."

"Oh, no," Lois said, softening the words with a smile. "Anything but that."

She glanced back at Superman, and found that he was looking at her, not Mayson. Her dislike of Mayson *had* been based on a certain amount of jealousy, she conceded very privately, although she would never have admitted it to anyone else, especially not Clark. Now, she could look at her with a new perspective. The assistant D.A. might be misguided in her dislike of Superman, but in most ways she was a perfectly nice person. She was not a rival for Clark. She never had been, except in her own mind, because Clark certainly would not be able to sustain a relationship with someone who couldn't accept both sides of him — the reporter and the alien from another world.

Could she, Lois, accept both? No, put it the other way around. Could she *not*?

"Tonight on Top Copy," the voice of a television announcer interrupted Lois's thoughts, and drew the attention of the three of them. "Diana Stride with an exclusive on — The Secrets of Superman."

Diana's face smiled at them out of the screen. "Does the Man of Steel have a secret life?" she asked of all and sundry. "Find out tonight — only on Top Copy."

"Boy," Clark said, "people will do anything for ratings. Excuse me."

Lois spoke up. "Superman, could I hitch a ride to the Planet? I don't have my car."

"Sure, Lois. Let's go."

He held out an arm to her. Mayson Drake turned away, an odd expression on her face. Was it distaste? Lois couldn't be sure, but she had to restrain a smile. She wasn't about to allow Clark to see it.


A few moments later in the air over Metropolis, Lois asked, "What about Top Copy, Clark? What happened with Diana Stride?"

"You heard." He looked grim. "She's convinced that Superman has a secret identity and she's been stalking me. If she's able to expose me, my private life is over. I have to come up with a way to stop her."

"This afternoon when she came into the newsroom … ?"

"She was tracking me. She kissed me last night. Right after that I started feeling sick. The only thing that I could figure out was that she was wearing Kryptonite-laced lipstick."

"She *kissed* you!"

A corner of his mouth twitched. "I was more kissed than kissing, Lois. Superman doesn't go around kissing women, as a rule. It's not good for the image."

She couldn't help smiling. "I guess I was the exception?"

"Well … " He chuckled softly. "You were different."

"I hope so." She sobered. "Why didn't you tell me, Clark?"

He grimaced. "I wanted to. I just couldn't figure out how to do it."

"You were scared," she said.

"Yeah. Funny, huh? But I had a lot to lose if you … well, if you told me to get lost."

"Clark, I'd never do that!"

"Yeah, but I didn't know that. I was going to tell you as soon as I worked out how. I wish I'd done it sooner."

"If you had, we might not have gone through so much misunderstanding. I promise not to get mad about your running off anymore, if you promise to tell me where you're really going. Deal?"

"It's a deal." His arms tightened around her.

"Now, about Diana Stride — "

"I've got an idea. Mom's got this laser sculpture thing that produces holograms. We might be able to use that … "


Lois stood next to Perry and Jimmy as the evening's "Top Copy" unfolded; and, as Diana Stride stood inside Clark's apartment, exposed Superman's suits, and made her great revelation, Lois's stomach turned over. Clark had expected something like this, she knew, and the plan they had worked out with Martha and Jonathan should work. But what if it didn't?

"I don't believe I," Jimmy was saying.

"Me neither." Perry looked at the TV screen with distaste. "I'm sorry I ever let that woman interview me."

"I mean, they always kind of looked alike, though," Jimmy said, doubt creeping into his voice.

"Jimmy," Perry said, "some people say I look like Richard Nixon. But I ain't ever been to the White House." He glanced at Lois. "You buying this, Lois?"

She shook her head. "Not for a minute, Perry. I've talked to both of them — at the same time. Even Superman can't be in two places at once."

"Can't argue with that." Perry gave her an enigmatic smile. The elevator doors opened as he spoke, and everyone in the newsroom turned to look. Clark stepped out.

"Hi," he said in his best boy-next-door voice. Lois had to turn away from Perry and Jimmy to hide her twitching lips.


The press conference Clark had arranged was held in front of the Daily Planet. Lois held her breath as Clark stepped up to the microphone to speak.

"My name is Clark Kent" he said. "I'm sure you all saw the story on television tonight, and I'd just like to say … "

And Superman arrived.

She knew it had to be a hologram, but it was convincing. If she hadn't known the truth it would have fooled her, she acknowledged privately. The newsmen and other spectators were certainly deceived.

"Hey, Clark," Superman said. "I don't mean to interrupt, but it would probably be a lot easier if I explained everything." He folded his arms and appeared to survey the crowd below him. "Diana Stride is now a wanted fugitive. Her contention that I am Clark Kent is an attempt to deflect the fact that she has long been using her celebrity status as a cover, so that she may operate freely as an assassin for Intergang.

"Clark Kent is a friend of mine. My uniforms were hanging in his closet because he was kind enough to clean them for me. I don't have a washing machine, and I don't have a place to hang my spare capes. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got someone to pick up."

They had succeeded this time. She could see it in the faces of the people around her, and hear it in their voices. And, if there was a next time, then she would be right there in the front lines, helping to protect Clark's secret, she knew, watching as the hologram vanished. Life showed signs of becoming *very* interesting in the near future.

Clark smiled at the assembled men and women. "Any questions?" he asked.


"Well," Lois said, "how did it go?"

They stood in front of the Daily Planet a couple of hours later. The headlines blared "Diana Stride's Superman Hoax Exposed!"

He smiled down at her with an expression on his face that took her breath away. Something had changed about Clark since this morning, she thought. Perhaps for the first time, she was seeing the real man behind the mild-mannered facade. Not the face he showed to everyone at the Planet, not Superman, but someone who was both and neither, someone who was excitingly different; the man that, perhaps, only his parents really knew.

"Superman caught Diana Stride, and I got us the story."

She nodded, knowing what he was really saying. "You're some partner."

He took her shoulders, drawing her a little closer. "Is that all I am, Lois? A partner? I was sort of hoping I'd be something more … now that you know the truth."

"Because of Superman?"

"No. Because you know now that I wasn't running away from you." His hands were sliding slowly from her shoulders to her back, his arms beginning to tighten around her. "Because I love you — and I have from the beginning."

Her own hands came up involuntarily from their places at her sides, slipping up his back to his shoulders. The air around them was bitterly cold, but she felt warm. "Well," she said, "we do have a lot to talk over, you know."

He nodded, his face slowly approaching hers.

She felt almost breathless. "And I don't want to jump into anything without checking the water level, first."

"Uh huh." His face was inches from hers.

"So why don't we finish what we started a couple of days ago? The chess game? And we can talk while we're playing." It was hard to concentrate with him this near.

"That's a good idea. In a few minutes. I've got something more important to do, first." His face came down closer, and his mouth closed over hers.

Perry and Jimmy, exiting the Daily Planet a few seconds later, were treated to the sight of the newspaper's top reporting team locked in what could only be termed a spectacular kiss. Perry raised an eyebrow and Jimmy grinned widely, resisting, for once, the temptation to cheer.

He had the distinct feeling that CK wouldn't appreciate it at all.