By Dawn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 1999
Summary: In this sequel to the author's "What If I Never Left Krypton," Clark has decided to stay on earth with Lois, but can they lead a normal life together? An alternate take on the episode "Sex, Lies & Videotape."
Written April 5, 1999 — July 1999
First, I would like to thank my editors Carolyn, Irene, and Rich for their input and guidance. Their feedback has helped to make this a better story. And Dana for her help on editing the story for the archive.
I would also like to thank everyone who sent me feedback on my first story, "What If I Never Left Krypton." Your positive comments have helped to encourage me to continue writing.
This story is a continuation of "What If I Never Left Krypton". I was listening to "Walking On A Tightrope" from Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I liked this episode and premise, except I wanted Clark to discuss this important decision with Lois and his folks. This story is a different approach to that theme.
One of my favorite quotes from this episode is when Clark is talking to Lois and he says, "We're so used to the suit being a disguise, honey, but it can't disguise how I feel about you, how we feel about each other." I thought it would make a good basis for a continuation, but I wanted to explore a different way for Superman to get caught up in the love triangle.
To summarize part one, Kal has come to Earth to be with Lois, taking the identity of Clark Kent in order to lead a normal life with her, and as Superman to help people in need.
Usual disclaimers apply about who belongs to whom. This is rated pg-13. The original story is nfic, and if you would like this version, please email me at email@example.com with the usual disclaimers. Also, please do not redistribute in either version without my permission. Constructive comments welcome. I hope you enjoy this story.
Lois had gotten just about every exclusive interview with Superman since he first appeared on the scene, several months earlier. She and Clark had decided that would be safest, to avoid anyone getting too close to Superman and possibly making the connection to Clark. They didn't want to take any chances. They both realized that Clark needed to be Superman. That was just who he was. He couldn't sit by and not help people in trouble when he was able to make a difference. Neither of them wanted that. But they also didn't want Superman to be connected to them outside of the professional arena. They wanted to be able to have a private life together.
Of course, Perry was thrilled with the Superman coverage, as circulation for the Planet had dramatically increased since Superman made his debut. Clark had even contributed to some of the stories, and eventually Perry agreed to let Clark share the byline. Lois and Clark had explained to Perry and others that once Clark had spent some time in Metropolis, he had decided that he liked it and wanted to stay. And it was obvious to on-lookers that he and Lois were developing deep feelings for each other. After seeing some of the articles he and Lois had written on Superman, Perry offered Clark a job as Lois's partner. Clark was a fast learner and quickly picked up the newspaper business. It wasn't long before he had a few stories of his own, but his best work was with Lois, as their writing styles complimented each other well.
Clark's powers had also continued to develop. He had gotten faster, and discovered that not only could he float, he could fly. This made getting to the scene where he was needed much easier. He was also strong, able to lift any object that was in the way of a rescue. And, along with seeing through walls, he could focus his eyes and discharge a beam of light, heating whatever object he focused on. And he could make his breath extremely cold, freezing any object. All of these skills had come in handy, not only in rescuing people in distress, but also in stopping the criminal element.
Clark had continued to live with Lois, but had gotten a post office box for his mail. They had decided they didn't want anyone to know just yet exactly what their relationship was. They had settled into a routine of Clark going off to be Superman at various hours of the day and night, and Lois was becoming quite good at coming up with excuses for his quick exits. When he returned, they would write the story together. Occasionally Lois would go with him, which gave her the opportunity to write from her own perspective, and sometimes even allowed her to help him out. They tried to avoid having Lois and Superman be seen together very often, so no one would connect Lois, Clark, and Superman together outside of their writing. So far things seemed to be going smoothly.
Lois and Clark were on stake-out one night, trying to get the next piece in the LexCorp puzzle.
"Lois, I have something I need to talk to you about."
"Uh oh. I'm not going to like it, am I?"
"Don't tell me. Your people contacted you and you have to leave."
"You're suddenly feeling guilty about what's her name and you don't want to see me any more."
"You've found someone else here and you want to leave me for her. You want us to just be partners and friends. That's it, isn't it! I knew this would happen! But that's okay. I can accept…"
"Lois! I want to marry you!"
Lois looked at him in stunned silence. When she finally found her voice she managed to ask "But what about … ?"
He turned more toward her, taking her hands in his. "Lois, the longer I'm here, the more I realize I really do belong here, with you. I've never felt so alive, so fulfilled. And when I help someone, I know that it's what I was meant to do. I'm making a difference here. That's not something I could say about being on Krypton, even though I was to become their leader."
"Wow. I don't know what to say. What will your people say?"
"I don't know. It's not like there are no other alternatives for them. I'd been studying ancient Kryptonian customs before I left and it is possible to perform a ceremony where I could abdicate the rule to someone else, with the approval of the Council of Elders. That's the tricky part; getting their approval. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Are you willing to take the chance, that they won't agree and I'd have to leave?"
"That is what you and I are all about. Taking a chance."
"Yes, Clark Kent, Superman, Kal-El son of Jor-El of the House of El, I will marry you, all of you," she finished with a smile.
Clark reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jewelry box. "I got this, just in case." He opened the box and, taking her left hand, he slid the ring on her finger. She pulled her hand back to look at the light reflecting off the diamond.
"It's beautiful. Thank you. I never thought I'd have one of these."
"Lois, you have made me the happiest man in the entire galaxy. Let's go out to dinner tomorrow," he looked down at his watch "or tonight rather, to celebrate. How does Venice sound?"
"Like one of the most romantic places in the world."
He leaned toward her to seal their new relationship with a kiss. After breaking the kiss, he lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed her ring. "I guess we'd better call it a night. It doesn't look like our source is going to show. This has been some stake-out."
Lois sighed happily as she admired her new ring. "Yeah, you're right. This really has been some stake-out!"
Lois and Clark made it into the Planet later that morning. They were working on another story that was due by deadline. Lois finished up the last bit, with Clark reading along over her shoulder. She then printed it out, and after retrieving it from the printer took it to Perry's office for his approval. She handed the copy to Perry, a grin on her face.
Somehow Perry knew the grin had nothing to do with her copy, and as he took the paper from her, he caught sight of the engagement ring on her finger. "Lois, honey, is there something you would like to tell me?"
"Clark and I got engaged last night!" she smiled happily, proudly displaying the ring for him to see.
"Ah, honey, that's great, but don't you think you should try dating first? You only just met up with him again a couple months ago, and you've spent most of that time working. Elvis and Pricilla didn't move this fast."
"But, Perry, I really love him."
Perry moved around his desk to take his top reporter, who he thought of as a daughter, into a big embrace. He glanced over her shoulder at her new partner, who was sitting at her desk waiting for her, smiling at the scene. Perry nodded to Clark, showing his approval. Even in the short time he had known Clark, he knew Clark would be perfect for his special girl. Lois had needed someone, even though she wouldn't have admitted that to anyone. But Perry knew. Being the closest thing to a friend, or even a father to Lois, he had known. And somehow he knew that Clark was the one for Lois. Just as he had known from the beginning that Claude wasn't, but it hadn't been his place to interfere. All he could do was stand back and watch her get hurt. But he knew that wasn't going to happen this time. He released her and looked into her eyes, which were shining with joy and love. "I'm happy for you, honey. Now why don't you get back to your desk and write up that announcement for the society page." He couldn't let her see too much of his soft side. After all, he was still the chief.
"Yes, sir." Lois happily headed back to her desk to tell Clark what Perry had said and suggest they write the announcement together. They had just begun when Jimmy strode by on his way to his desk, arms full of proof sheets.
"Morning, guys." He stopped when he noticed their smiles. "What?" A sparkle caught his eye, drawing his attention to Lois's ring. "Oh, guys this is great! Congratulations! Have you set a date?"
Lois looked at Clark then back to Jimmy. "Not yet, but you'll definitely get an invitation."
"Thanks! Hey, this is really great! Congratulations again!" Jimmy walked toward his desk, lost in thought. He didn't know Clark real well yet, but somehow he, too, knew that CK was right for Lois. Jimmy knew that Clark didn't have many friends outside of the Planet, and he had seemed pleased when Jimmy had given him that nickname, starting the bond of friendship.
It amazed Jimmy that CK and Lois spent most all of their time at the Planet or out on a story. But how else could they get all those great articles? And since Superman had come on the scene it seemed those two got just about all of the exclusives on the superhero. Jimmy had even tagged along a few of those times and he had been able to get some great photos for the Planet. Those two had been a big help in getting his photojournalism career off the ground. And to return the favor he'd ask CK if he could throw him a bachelor party. This was so cool!
Jimmy was really thrilled for Lois. She had gotten badly hurt by Claude. She wouldn't talk about it, but everyone knew he had done her wrong. Jimmy had known Lois was working on that story that Claude had published. He had even helped her with some background material. And then one day the story appeared with Claude's byline, and Jimmy had overheard him joking with another guy about how frigid Lois was in bed and that she couldn't satisfy a man if she wanted to. The rumor had gotten back to Lois after Claude had left the Planet. He had even won an award for that story. Lois had always been driven, and even seemed to enjoy her nickname of 'Mad Dog' Lane. She had worked hard to get where she was in what was seen as a male-dominated profession. But even though she was competitive, she was still friendly with her co-workers until the Claude incident. After that her walls came up and she didn't socialize with anyone; just buried herself in her work. He knew it really bothered her that people were talking about her and that Claude had stolen her story. But from the instant he met him, Jimmy knew CK was different and that he really cared about Lois. Jimmy was really glad for Lois that she had someone. He had his own fantasies about her, and knew her well enough to guess that Claude's take wasn't accurate. She was too passionate about her work for that not to carry over into other aspects of her life. And she was too competitive not to try to be the best, no matter what she was doing. He also knew that there would never be anything between him and Lois. She was more like an older sister to Jimmy now, and he was really happy for her.
'I'll bet CK knows how good she is' he thought to himself, with a touch of jealousy. But he also knew CK was too much a gentleman to discuss it with anyone, even if she was incredible. And Jimmy respected CK for that. He had come to really admire and look up to CK since he had moved to Metropolis and considered him a friend. He looked over at the two people who he considered his closest friends and smiled. Yes, he was really happy for them.
Lois and Clark had just about finished writing their engagement announcement when Clark's super-hearing picked up a siren.
"This one sounds bad, Lois. You better stay here, finish this and that other story up. I'll fill you in when I get back."
"Okay, sweetheart. Be careful." He bent down to give her a quick kiss, then, reaching for his tie, he headed toward the back stairwell.
Lois sighed and went back to work. Clark returned several hours later and, after reading over the announcement and other story they had been working on, and writing up Superman's latest rescue with Lois, they turned these in to Perry and then left to go to dinner, stopping by Lois's apartment first to change. By the time they arrived in Venice it was late for dinner by local standards, so they were able to land unnoticed. Clark set down in an alley behind a restaurant he had found on an earlier trip there that he thought Lois would enjoy. Going around to the front of the building, they entered the restaurant and requested a quiet table in a corner. The restaurant was mostly deserted, with only a few late diners scattered throughout. Lois and Clark were led to a small table well away from any other patrons. Taking their drink order, the maitre'd left, returning moments later with drinks and menus. The waiter arrived to take their order then left them to their privacy. Clark reached across the intimate table to take Lois's small hands in his, bringing her hands up for a kiss, first kissing her ring then each finger in turn.
"I can't tell you how happy you've made me and how much it means to me to be here with you, sharing your life. I never felt this alive on Krypton."
Lois's eyes filled with tears. She never thought she'd feel this loved. "Keep talking like that and I might not ever let you out of my sight."
"Is that a promise?"
"Clark, I never imagined it could really be like this. If this is a dream, I don't want to wake up."
"It's not a dream, Lois. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. I promise."
"I know. In my heart I know. I just have trouble getting my head around it sometimes."
"Well, I have a suggestion. I was thinking of this the other day when I was landing. Your apartment isn't very private when it comes to Superman's activities. What would you think of getting a place that's more private, maybe with a hidden compartment where I can put my suits, you know, just in case. A place that would be ours."
"I definitely want to keep Superman as far removed from us as possible, except, of course, for the stories. If anybody ever found out that you are him we'd have no private life. And I definitely want a private life with you. So much of my life is public. I need this to be private."
"I agree. So let's go look at some places tomorrow. Is there someplace you've always dreamed of having?"
"Oh, I don't know." Lois became suddenly quiet, a sad look on her face.
"Lois, honey, what is it?" There was no mistaking the concern in his voice.
She hadn't told him about her family. It just hadn't come up in the months they had been together, and she really hadn't wanted to dredge up all those hurtful feelings. Besides, if he knew what her family life had been like, he might not want to be with her, thinking that she might turn out to be the same way.
The waiter arrived with their food and they began to eat in silence. Clark didn't want to push her to talk about something she wasn't ready to. After all, this dinner was to celebrate their engagement. "How's your dinner?"
Ignoring his question she plunged ahead. "Clark, it's not that I don't want to move to a new place with you. It's just that, well, my family life hasn't exactly been idyllic, and you living at my place and the reality of our engagement is finally hitting me. I don't know if I'll be any good at this."
Clark was used to her changing subjects at a moment's notice, and her babbling when she was nervous. He smiled gently at her. "Lois, whatever it is, you and I can work it out. Together. Our being together is bigger than anything. Look at the odds we've overcome just to get to this point."
"I guess so."
"Do you want to tell me about it?" he asked gently. He remembered one of their early conversations, when he had contacted her from Krypton, she had thought things that she hadn't known he had heard. She had been hurt by her father, and it even went so far that she thought of Perry more as her father than her biological one. And after meeting Perry, he could tell why. There was a special affection between them that went beyond reporter and boss. Clark was sure this had to do with her father and her childhood. But he didn't want to push her if she wasn't ready. He would just patiently work through it with her when she was ready.
"Sometimes I just find this hard to believe."
"What? That I can fly?" His smile broadened, turning on that boyish charm she couldn't resist.
She smiled back. "That too. But meeting you. I mean, even if you were an ordinary man, from Earth, but still you… I guess what I'm trying to say is that I can't believe I've met someone like you. You are the man I never thought I'd meet."
He reached across the table to take her left hand, gently squeezing it. "Lois, I can't tell you how happy you've made me. When I was on Krypton, I knew what my life would be like, and, frankly, I really wasn't looking forward to it. I wanted to meet someone and be in love, like my parents are. And when I met you, I knew I had found that someone. Lois, you and me together are stronger than me alone. And I'll be here, no matter what, because my love for you is forever because … it just is."
"Oh, Clark. How did I ever get so lucky?"
"I've asked myself that everyday for the past few months."
Lois squeezed his hand and smiled back at him. 'Wow. This is really happening' she thought.
'Yes, it is.'
'Hey, I thought you weren't going to do that anymore?'
'I had to make sure you were all right.'
'I'm fine now. Thank you. I love you.'
'I love you, Lois.'
They finished their dinner, the conversation on lighter topics like work and Superman's activities. After dinner they strolled through the streets hand in hand. Then, coming to the waterfront, they decided to take a gondola ride before flying home.
"You know, Nigel, ever since this Superman appeared on the scene a few months ago, I sense that things have taken a turn for the better."
"How do you mean, sir?" Nigel was a bit confused. Superman had definitely put a damper on some of their criminal activities, and thus affected their cash flow, albeit slightly, but still noticeably. He was unsure how his boss could be happy about this turn of events.
"It seems that I not only have one worthy opponent, but two. The challenge of that is worth a little loss in revenue. But somehow I sense more of a connection between our Miss Lane and this Superman than just a reporter interested in a major story. Have them watched a little more closely. I may find an edge to make this game a little more interesting."
The following week
Daily Planet City Room
Perry stuck his head out of his office to yell at his top reporter. "Lois, I want you out there covering this Superman-gets-the-keys-to-the-city thing, and take Kent there with you…"
"This should be interesting." Lois mumbled under her breath.
"… and get me an exclusive with Superman. That should fit in real well with your Superman series."
"On it, Chief," she yelled back. She smiled up at her fiancé sitting on the edge of her desk. "Well, getting the Superman interview should be easy."
"Yeah, especially since you're sleeping with him," he whispered teasingly.
"Shh. My fiancé might find out and get jealous," she teased back. "But, seriously, let's get moving. I sense another page one."
"Lois, don't you ever take a break? I mean look how many awards you've won. You've proven yourself."
"Can't afford to take a break. Not in this business. You have to get back on the beat because you're only as good as your next story."
"That's one of the things I love about you."
"Come on, 'Mad Dog' Lane, let's go get that story."
She slapped him playfully on the chest, secretly loving the nickname that meant she was a tenacious, hard-bitten newswoman. Of course, that was more fun than it used to be. They headed toward the elevators, and resumed their conversation once the elevator doors closed, affording them privacy.
"I can't believe I'm getting the keys to the city."
"You deserve it, Clark. Superman has made quite an impact on Metropolis since his arrival. Our stories and the drop in the crime rate attest to that. And you should be proud of the difference you've made."
"I guess you're right. It's just seems weird sometimes. Like it's a dream and I'm going to wake up on Krypton."
"You're not going anywhere, and besides, you're from Kansas, remember?"
He smiled at her reminder of their cover story for him. It still remained in the back of his mind that one day he would have to face his real past.
The elevator had reached the parking garage.
"We shouldn't arrive there together. See you there?" he asked as he leaned in for a kiss.
"Okay. See you in a few minutes." She returned his kiss. As they separated, Clark reached for his tie while Lois headed for her Jeep.
Lois arrived in front of city hall about ten minutes later. A makeshift stage had been constructed for the press conference. A throng of reporters, photographers, and camera crews had already gathered.
'Clark should have been here by now,' she thought.
On the stage at the podium stood the mayor. Seated behind her were the assistant mayor, other city government officials, and several prominent citizens. Lois looked up as she heard the familiar whoosh signaling Superman's arrival and watched as he descended to land beside the mayor, extending his hand to her.
"I apologize for being late. There was an emergency."
"That's quite all right, Superman. Shall we get started?" Turning to the gathered crowd the mayor began. "Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for coming on this momentous occasion. First I would like to introduce a man who needs no introduction. All of you know of the good works he has done for this city through the many charitable organizations he has set up, as well as being one of our most prominent businessmen, employing thousands of our citizens. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you last year's recipient of the key to the city, who will present this year's award, Mr. Lex Luthor!"
As she watched Luthor approach the podium, Lois thought 'One of these days, Luthor, your empire is going to come crashing down, and I'm going to be the one to make it fall.'
Clark caught her eye as he heard this thought and raised an eyebrow at her. He hadn't meant to listen but he had been curious as to what her reaction would be to seeing Luthor. They had discussed her suspicions even while he was still on Krypton, and he knew there was some reporter's instinct that told her there was something up here. She was convinced that he was "The Boss" and the one who had had her 'detained' at OmniBuisness.
'I meant 'we', really. And that should teach you not to listen in.' Though she wouldn't admit it to him, she liked that he could read her thoughts. It reinforced their bond. She had asked him if he could do that with anyone else, and he had assured her he couldn't. That had made her feel even more special to him.
Luthor had begun speaking, introducing Superman. He was saying all the right words, Lois noted, but still something didn't ring true. One of these days all the pieces would fall into place and she would expose him for who he really was.
Clark had avoided making eye contact with Lois. He didn't want to draw anyone's attention to her and he knew once he caught sight if his fiancé he would not be able to hide the love in his eyes. He wanted so much to communicate with her, to let her know that this award was as much hers as it was his, that it was theirs together. He may have been the one with the special gifts, but he would not have been able to continue at times, especially when he saw so much of the bad in people, without her support and encouragement. And, after all, the costume had been her idea. But he didn't want to risk communicating too much telepathically for fear of giving something away. He would tell her this later, over a nice romantic dinner together.
Luthor had finished his introduction and Superman stepped up to the podium. He was hardly able to begin over the cheering and applause. Lois glanced at Luthor. He was smiling and applauding with everyone else, but she noticed his smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
Superman motioned for the crowd to quiet down, but was only able to express his gratitude for the honor before the crowd erupted again in applause, and this time began approaching the stage to get closer to the Man of Steel. Seeing that a near riot was about to ensue, Superman turned toward the mayor and other guests seated on the stage, thanked them again, then flew off.
Lois watched him leave, as concerned about the reaction of the crowd as he had been. Sure there had been fans before, asking for autographs and just wanting to get close, but nothing like this. Maybe before it had always been after a time that his services had been required, and this occasion had been an opportunity for the public to show their hero how much they appreciated him. They hadn't interfered with his job, yet.
3 months later
The Meriweather Awards Ceremony was in less than two hours and Lois still didn't know what she was going to wear. She and Clark had been nominated for their first award together, and she wanted everything to be perfect. She stood in front of the full-length mirror in her new bedroom, in their new townhome. At least she still thought of it as new. They had found the place a few weeks after their engagement, both now listing this as their address. Now that they were engaged, they didn't mind if others knew they were living together.
Clark walked from the bathroom into the bedroom and stopped, slightly stunned by Lois's appearance. He looked at her reflection in the mirror, watching her. She was holding a black dress in one hand and a deep burgundy one in the other. She switched between putting first the one and then the other in front of her, trying to decide which to wear. At this point she was wearing only a black lace strapless bra, black lace panties and garter, black hose, and black heels. He swallowed, hard. Lois felt his presence and looked up at him in the mirror.
"Hey, I can't decide which one to wear. What do you think?"
"I like what you're wearing now."
"Cute! But I can't wear just this to the awards." She took a moment to really look at Clark. He was stunning in his black tux and white shirt. He looked elegant, the suit fitting him perfectly, accenting his build. "You look pretty good yourself. I never get over how well defined you are."
He blushed slightly and looked down at himself, then back at her. "You think it looks all right? Now, you, you look incredible." He walked up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders, looking at her full reflection in the mirror. "You know it is gonna drive me crazy all night knowing what you've got on under your dress. You know what black lace does to me." He grinned down at her.
She smiled back. "It'll give you something to look forward to. Now which one should I wear?" she asked again, holding the dresses up for his inspection.
"You look beautiful in both of them, but I'm not quite ready for you to cover that up."
"Clark, we need to get going."
He reached to take the dresses from her to hang them back in the closet as he began kissing her neck. "Don't we have a few minutes? We can be a little late for the pre-awards stuff."
"I think I can be convinced. Hmmm."
Clark moved his hands down her arms as his lips kissed a trail down her right shoulder. He moved his hands over her body, and he marveled at how perfectly she fit him. A soft moan escaped Lois's lips as she leaned back against him, enjoying the feel of him against her.
"Here," he whispered. He held her against him as he moved across the room to retrieve the chair from the desk. He sat down, positioning her on his lap. He picked up where he had left off, his hands roaming her body, memorizing her. His lips gently suckled on her ear, causing her to shiver at the mixed sensations of his warm breath and cool tongue.
Lois was completely lost in the sensations he was creating in her. She wanted to pleasure him as he was pleasuring her, but found she couldn't move. She resigned herself to relaxing and enjoying what he was doing to her.
As her breathing returned to normal she opened her eyes again to look at him in the mirror. "Wow, that was … incredible."
"You are incredible. You are the most beautiful woman in the world, and sometimes I can't believe that you are all mine."
"You keep doing that and there won't be any reason to doubt," she teased.
Glancing over at the clock she noted the time. "Oh my God, Clark! Look at the time!" She jumped up and started to get dressed again. She turned back to quickly embrace him, giving him a kiss filled with passion and promise. Just wait, buddy. Later, it's *your* turn!"
"And don't think I won't hold you to that," he said as he watched her rush around and he straightened his suit.
She paused long enough to give him a quick kiss. "I promise to make it worth the wait," she whispered huskily.
"I know you will."
They finished dressing and then proceeded to the awards. When they returned home much later, both were tired from the evening of hobnobbing with other journalism professionals, and the excitement of winning another award. Perry had insisted on a congratulatory drink afterwards, then just as they had arrived home, there was a call for Superman. By the time he returned, it was nearly morning. Clark was able to catch a few hours of sleep before they had to get up for work.
Lois let him sleep in while she dressed. He was still asleep when she was ready to go so she left him a note that she would see him at the office. They usually rode in together, but he looked so tired and peaceful sleeping that she decided to let him rest. The time alone in the car gave her a chance to think of how she wanted to thank him for his pre-awards celebration. She smiled to herself as a plan formed.
Clark awoke to a quiet apartment. He tuned in his super-hearing to determine if Lois was in another room. Nothing. He got out of bed, showered and dressed quickly, then went downstairs to the kitchen for a quick breakfast. He saw her note that she had let him sleep, and that he had looked like he needed it. He smiled. She was always thinking of him in little ways. He decided a walk to the Planet would do him good. It would take him a lot longer, but the fresh air would help to revive him.
When he arrived at the Planet, he walked through the parking garage. Lois's Jeep was in its usual spot. 'Good,' he thought. She was in the office and not out chasing a lead or interviewing a source. He had missed seeing her this morning. He strode to the elevator, anxious to see his beautiful fiancée.
As he stepped out of the elevator in to the city room, his eyes went immediately to Lois's desk, only to discover her chair was empty. Next he checked the coffee and snack machine area, but still no Lois. The door to Perry's office was closed, but with a nonchalant pull down of his glasses he was able to determine she wasn't in there, either. Maybe she was in the ladies room. He finally decided to head toward his desk and watch for her return. They needed to compare notes to see what they would be working on today. And besides, he wanted his good morning kiss.
He sat down at his desk and began to go through his mail. Under the third piece of mail was a folded note. He opened it to read in Lois's flowing handwriting "Meet me in the research library". He creased his brow in a frown. Research library? He hadn't thought they had any research to do for any of the articles they were currently working on. With the note in hand, he got up from his chair to head toward the library.
On his way to the stairs, he nearly ran over Jimmy, on his way to the darkroom with an armload of film to develop. Clark had been reading over Lois's note, trying to figure out what research she could be referring to, and not paying attention to where he was going.
Clark looked up. "Oh, sorry about that, Jimmy."
"Where are you headed so deep in thought?"
"Uh? Oh, research."
"Good luck." Jimmy shook his head as his friend past. 'That must be some story you're into, CK,' he thought.
"What? Oh, thanks," Clark called back over his shoulder. He climbed the stairs, still lost in thought.
At the top of the stairs, he opened the door and entered the archive room. Though most of the Planet's records were on computer and microfilm in the electronic library, some reporters and researchers still preferred to actually get their hands on the information they were looking for. Occasionally, Lois would get frustrated with technology and retreat to the research library. This must have been one of those mornings, Clark mused.
He looked around the room. Most of the desks were visible from the door, some were scattered throughout the stacks. Since Lois was at none of the tables in view, Clark lowered his glasses and scanned through the stacks. She wasn't sitting at any of the desks. In fact, as far as he could tell, there was no one in the room. Where could she be?
"Lois?" he called out tentatively.
"I'm here, Clark," she called.
"Where? I don't see you." He tried to follow the sound of her voice.
"Half way back at the desk between the shelves on the left."
He frowned. How had she gotten there without him seeing her and how had he missed her on his scan? There was only one way in and out of the room, and he was standing near it. He walked to where she said she was. As he passed the shelf near the desk he turned, only to be facing an empty desk.
She was definitely there. Not only could he hear her loud and clear, but he also heard her heartbeat. He was so tuned into her right now, he was actually able to hear her heart beating. He hadn't noticed that before. And as she realized that he was getting closer, her heart rate had increased. He'd have to explore this new skill later, but right now he wanted to find out what she was up to.
"Lois, what are you doing?" He x-rayed through the desk to see her curled up under it.
"Waiting for you." She poked her head up over the edge of the desk, an impish grin on her face.
"What are we researching?"
"The plan was to research … you."
"Remember last night I told you that I owed you one? Well, I had an idea…"
"Here?! What if we get caught?"
"Well, there's only one door, and with your super-hearing you should be able to hear if anyone's coming from a mile away."
"Um, well, Lois, there's actually something I haven't told you about that."
She gave him a puzzled look. "What's that?"
"Well, have you ever noticed that when we … make love that there're no calls for Superman?"
"Now that you mention it, once we get going we don't stop."
"Have you ever wondered why?"
"No, not really. I hadn't really thought about it. I've just be grateful the world decided to take break at those times."
"Well, it doesn't. I'm just so tuned into you that once we get started everything else is tuned out."
"Wow, Clark, that's so sweet."
"Lois, when I'm with you, especially like that, I can't think about anything else."
"Oh, Clark!" She thought about that for minute. "So are you saying that you are totally focused on us and what we are doing?"
"Yep, that's what I'm saying."
"Clark, that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me." She paused to smile at him mischievously. "I'm still willing to take that chance. I owe you one and I have been planning this all morning."
Clark looked at her, weighing the consequences of getting caught. But he couldn't let her down. She had planned all this to surprise him, and she looked so cute peeking out from under the desk. And just what could she have in mind at the office under a desk in the research library? She had gotten his curiosity up.
He smiled back at her. "Okay, what do you want me to do?"
She gave a little giggle. "Sit here in this chair and I'll do the rest."
He obliged her. Moving around the desk he sat down in the chair as she repositioned herself in front of it under the desk. At least if anyone walked by he would see them, if he kept his eyes open, and they wouldn't be able to see her, as long as she stayed under the table.
She began to run her hands over his body. He moaned softly, his head falling back and his eyes closing. He snapped his head forward. He couldn't close his eyes. He stared ahead, fixed on the desk across the aisle from them. Concentrating on the feel of her hands, he was momentarily confused when the contact was lost. Then he realized why.
"Hey, CK, there you are. Have you seen Lois?" Jimmy took a moment to really look at his friend, and noticed that he looked a little strange. "CK, are you all right?"
"Yes," Clark managed as he felt Lois freeze. "I'm fine. And, no, I haven't seen Lois for awhile." It wasn't a total lie. He hadn't *seen* her since she had disappeared under the table.
"I needed to ask her about that resear…" Jimmy's gaze shifted toward the floor. There was a shoe sticking out from under the desk. And from the style and angle it couldn't be Clark's. That explained a lot. "Er, ah, I think I'll look for her downstairs and let you get back to what you were doing," he babbled, backing away. When he was out of sight of the desk, he ran for the door closing it behind him. He leaned back against it to catch his breath. Way to go, CK!
Clark let out the breath he had been holding. "Do you think he knows?"
"Even if he does he knows better than to tell anyone. Now, where was I?" Lois was determined to finish after having gotten this far.
"Lois!" His protest turned to a moan as she resumed her task.
When Clark's breathing returned to normal he said, "Wow, Lois, you are incredible!" He gently ran his fingers through her hair.
She turned her head to kiss his palm. "My pleasure, believe me." She smiled up at him.
"I, ah, guess we'd better get back downstairs."
Getting up from under the table Lois blushed. "I don't think I'm quite ready to face Jimmy yet. Though I do need to have a talk with that boy about his timing."
Clark laughed, standing up. "Yes, we definitely need to have a talk with him about that. You know, we'd better go down separately, or at least take some research with us. Otherwise it'll look a little suspicious." He glanced down at the chair he had just vacated and grimaced. There were large indentions on either side where his hands had grasped the edges. He'd have to come back soon and replace it or try to fix it. He trotted to catch up to Lois.
Lois reached out to the shelf they were passing by on their way to the door, grabbing the closest set of files. "There. That should do it."
Clark laughed again as they headed downstairs. Lois couldn't help but smile. She loved that sound.
2 days later
Lois waited in the stairwell near the roof access. Superman should be back soon, and she had missed him. He had been gone when she had awoken that morning, so she wasn't sure what type of emergency had arisen. He had contacted her telepathically, letting him know that he was on his way and that he would fill her in on what had happened when he arrived. She heard the soft thud of his boots hitting the roof. He opened the door to find her waiting for him. He gave her a brilliant smile and bent to kiss her gingerly on the cheek, not wanting to get soot on her clothes or skin.
She smiled back, taking a sniff. "Let me guess. A fire."
He smiled back. "You're good."
"They don't call me 'Mad Dog' Lane for nothing," she teased. "So, what happened?"
"Southern California again. It wasn't too bad, but took awhile to get under control."
As they talked, a figure slipped into the shadows in the stairwell, just out of sight. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he could tell from their body language that this was more than just a normal interview. Though they weren't touching, their eyes communicated that they wanted to do, but from the looks of Superman, it appeared the recent heroic act prevented that. He had even seen her reach her hand out to place it on Superman's chest, as if this was a familiar gesture. The Boss would reward him for this information.
Nigel St. John entered the plush office to find his employer at his desk, his high-backed chair facing the window. He was looking out over the city he considered his domain.
"It would appear that our Ms. Lane has an affinity for a certain alien in blue."
"And she being engaged to her partner." The Boss turned his chair around to face the desk, picking up the section of the Daily Planet that announced the engagement of its star reporter and her up-and-coming partner. "This should serve us well, Nigel. Clark Kent is inconsequential to us for now, but being Ms. Lane's partner and now her intended, I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before he will be added into the equation. Have our paper run the story. That should keep Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane preoccupied and keep their attention away from our activities, with possibly the added bonus of driving a wedge between them. Alone, Ms. Lane is quite a challenge. Together, they have the potential of making a formidable team. If they pass this test, it should make the game more interesting. As for Superman, the media reports him as being revered as a god, and the common man does not like to see his god fall. This should create enough animosity towards him to keep him distracted as well. Follow the usual precautions so that it can't be traced back here. Set up someone expendable if need be."
"Based on so little?"
"We've never worried about that before."
"But this time we are dealing with Superman."
"Which will make it all the more interesting."
Lois entered the newsroom for the second day in a row alone. Clark had had to go back to California to help with the fires, promising he would be back as soon as it was more under control, and give Lane and Kent the exclusive. A radio was playing softly in the background and she recognized the song.
"Oh, I like this one," she mumbled to herself, singing along as she made her way to her desk.
People are talkin', talkin' 'bout people I hear them whisper, you won't believe it They think we're lovers kept under covers I just ignore it, but they keep saying We laugh just a little too loud We stand just a little too close We stare just a little too long Maybe they're seein' somethin' we don't, darlin'
Let's give 'em something to talk about Let's give 'em something to talk about Let's give 'em something to talk about How about love?
I feel so foolish, I never noticed You'd act so nervous, could you be falling for me? It took a rumor to make me wonder Now I'm convinced I'm goin' under Thinkin' 'bout you every day Dreamin' 'bout you ev'ry night Hopin' that you feel the same way Now that we know it let's really show it, darlin'
Let's give 'em something to talk about A little mystery to figure out Let's give them something to talk about How about love?
Let's give 'em something to talk about, babe A little mystery to figure out Let's give them something to talk about How about love?
Lois looked up as she reached her desk. She hadn't been paying attention to anyone as she had made her way absently to her desk, distracted by the song. She looked up to discover her co-workers staring at her.
"What?! It wasn't that bad. I'll have you know I went undercover as a lounge singer once and got a standing ovation." Then it hit her. Could Jimmy have told? If he had…
Perry, hearing the indignant voice of the reporter he thought of like a daughter, poked his head out of his office. "Lois, can you come in here a minute?"
'Uh oh. What have I done now? He's using his calm-before-the-storm voice. He must know!' Lois braced herself as she walked toward her boss's office, trying to ignore the stares of her co-workers. 'Everybody knows I'm in Perry's doghouse! That's not fair! I should have a chance to defend myself. It wasn't *that* bad. Nobody saw. Jimmy, I'll kill you! Or maybe it wasn't that. Maybe it's something I don't even know about.'
By the time she had reached Perry's office she had talked herself through several emotions. She opened the door and approached his desk. "Okay, Perry, what did I do this time?"
"Have you seen this morning's 'National Whisper'?
"I'm surprised you allow that tabloid trash in your newsroom, Chief."
"Well, normally I wouldn't. But Jimmy brought something to my attention that I thought you and Clark should know about. By the by, where is that fiancé of yours?"
"Um…" She hated lying to Perry. Her boss, friend, and father-figure. But she and Clark had agreed, especially with their occupations and the desire for privacy, that it would be better if no one, not even Perry, knew about Clark's alter-ego. "He's out … meeting with a source." That wasn't a total lie. Superman was a source.
"Well, I'd rather talk to both of you at the same time. Do you know when he'll be coming in?"
"No," she shook her head, "No, I don't know when he'll be done. What is it, Perry? And what does this have to do with that tabloid rag?"
"Lois, honey, I want you to know that I don't for a minute believe this. If I didn't know you any better I'd think it was just a last fling before you settle down, but I know you wouldn't do it, not even with Superman. You wouldn't do that sort of thing to Clark."
"Perry, what in the Sam Hill is going on?!" If he could babble, she could use his saying.
He slowly opened the copy of the 'National Whisper' that was lying on his desk. The large black print on the front claimed "SUPERMAN SCOOPS REPORTER". Lois quickly flipped through the pages until she found the article. Of course it was buried in the middle of the "paper" to encourage people to buy it. The article quoted an "inside source" as stating that Lois Lane and Superman were having a secret relationship.
"I know it's not true, honey, but you know the saying 'once the rumor spreads, the truth is just a thing of the past'. It's out there and now we have to figure out a way to deal with it."
"But, Perry, this is ridiculous! And if we acknowledge this rumor, it is just as good as saying it's true and giving credence to this… this… trash!" She threw the "paper" back on Perry's desk. Great, Just great. Just when things were starting to come together and she and Clark were getting their private lives moving forward, this had to happen. But how? And who? And what could they have seen? She and Clark had been so careful when they were together when he was Superman. How could anyone have made a connection? Now she was starting to get mad. How dare someone mess with her and Clark!
"As soon as Clark gets in we'll get right on this, Perry."
"Okay, honey. Keep me posted."
Clark stepped off the elevator, looking involuntarily towards Lois's desk. She wasn't there, again. Next he checked the coffee machine. Not there either. Not likely she'd be at the vending machine unless her stash of Double Fudge Crunch bars hidden in her desk had run out. He noticed that the door to Perry's office was closed. Maybe she was in there. He casually pulled his glasses down and peered over the rim. Yep, there she was. Darn. He was starting to hope for another meeting in the research library. Maybe Perry was filling her on a hot new story for them. As he made his way to his desk, several staffers expressed their condolences. Clark gave them a puzzled look. Condolences for what? As he reached his desk and sat down Jimmy approached.
"Hey, I'm really sorry to hear about what happened, CK."
"Apparently so is everyone else. Exactly what did happen?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"You haven't seen this morning's 'National Whisper' or 'Dirt Digger'?"
"No. Jimmy, would you just tell me what's going on?" Clark was beginning to get exasperated. What would the 'National Whisper' or 'Dirt Digger' have to do with him, or Lois? And why would he need condolences? He had a least a passing knowledge of any papers that printed articles about his alter-ego, and he knew he hadn't granted either of them an interview, and wouldn't.
Jimmy opened the 'National Whisper' so Clark could read the headline.
"What?!" He stood up quickly. This couldn't be good. "I need to see Lois."
"Um…" CK was his friend, but he had known Lois longer, and Clark sounded mad. Jimmy didn't like the idea of CK being mad at Lois.
Perry had heard Clark's outburst and stuck his head out of his office. "Son, I think you had better get in here."
Clark walked towards Perry's office. What he really wanted to do was get somewhere alone with Lois so they could talk and figure out where this had come from. He walked in and stood beside Lois, giving her a what-do-we-do-now look.
Perry, interpreting the look as anger, as Jimmy had, moved to intervene. "Now before you say anything, son, I just want you to know I've known Lois for a long time and I know she would never do anything like this, not even to get that Pulitzer."
"Chief…" Clark began.
Perry held up his hand to interrupt him. "Let me finish. We can't change that it's out there and that people will run with this like it's the gospel truth. Now we just recently printed the announcement that you two got engaged. Maybe this is someone with a grudge against you two and Superman trying to stir up trouble, or keep you from investigating something. I want you two on this like stink on old fish. Find out who's behind this."
Lois spoke for them. "Thanks, Chief. We're on it. Come on, Clark. I have some ideas where we can start."
Clark just looked at her. How could she be so calm? Someone had to have seen something or knew something to go to press. Even the tabloids had an ounce of truth somewhere in there. And now their whole world could be crashing down around them. But she must be on to something. He could almost see the gears moving in that brilliant mind of hers. And he did want to talk with her alone. He followed her out of Perry's office and into the nearby conference room, closing the door behind him.
Lois needed to get with Clark and talk, and she knew that wasn't going to happen in Perry's office. Telling their boss she already had a lead was as good an excuse as she could think of to get them out of there and into some place where they could figure this out together.
The Planet staffers looked on in curiosity. They had heard Clark angrily ask for Lois, and then be ushered into Perry's office, only to leave shortly thereafter and enter the conference room alone with Lois, closing the door. Unfortunately the blinds had been closed when Lois and Clark had gone in, so that was no help to the onlookers. Would they be able to hear the angry outbursts? It was obvious to them that Clark was mad and trying to control it, especially in front of others. He was generally a very private person. He was always friendly to his co-workers, but very quiet about his personal business. They already had plenty to gossip and speculate about. Maybe they would be able to hear more, and maybe even find out why Lois had turned to the superhero for other than the obvious reasons.
Clark slid his glasses down and peered through the door. "We have an audience. This isn't exactly the best place for us to discuss this." Even with the blinds closed, it would be easy for anyone to eavesdrop.
"What do you propose we do? Fly out the window?"
"Lois, honey, let's not take this out on each other. We need to work together to find out what's going on. Perry's right. Someone is out to get one or both of us." As he spoke he walked over to where she stood and took her in his arms.
"You're right. I know, you're right. It just makes me mad. Just when our lives are starting to come together, this happens. So what do we do?"
Clark looked at his watch. "Well, it's only 10:00 and we obviously aren't going to be able to get much done here. Let's go home and start digging through our files there. Maybe we can come up with a lead."
"Good. Investigating for leads. That's something I can do. But how do we get past the vultures?"
"We walk out of here together like everything is okay. We haven't done anything wrong."
"You're right. That tabloid trash said that Lois Lane cheated on her fiancé and we both know that isn't true. The rest of the world may not know it yet, but we'll figure it out. Together." She gave him a quick kiss before opening the door to face the hungry wolves.
Lois and Clark emerged from the conference room hand in hand to be greeted by the curious stares of their co-workers. They hadn't been in the conference room very long, there had been no raised voices, and now they were walking out hand in hand. That couldn't be it! Everyone knew what a great guy Clark was. Maybe it didn't matter to him as long as Lois promised to stop seeing the superhero aside from the occasional scoop, no pun intended, and he had forgiven her. Nah. Clark *was* a great guy, but that had to be tough for him that she had chosen the superhero over him. And there was no doubt why Lois had chosen Superman! Superman was god in a cape! There was no comparison. No offense to Clark. He was a good friend to many of them, but if they were in Lois's place there would be no contest. Maybe this was just the calm before the storm. That was it! They were leaving so they could fight it out in peace, much to the disappointment of many. Well, the Planet's rumor mill would get wind of the details soon enough and if not, the details could be filled in as needed. Just watching them leave hand in hand was enough grist for the mill for a while.
Perry had heard the door to the conference room open and poked his head out of his office in time to see his star reporters walk up the ramp to the elevators, watched by their co-workers as if they were going to the guillotine. "Don't you people have jobs to do?" His voice boomed across the newsroom. He took pleasure in watching his staff scatter quickly back to work, allowing his star team to leave in peace. Lois and Clark smiled their thanks as the elevator doors closed, but not before Perry was able to return their smiles with an encouraging one of his own.
Their peace was short lived. As they walked out of the front doors of the Planet, a colleague, as Lois would loosely refer to 'his kind', was waiting for them.
"Looiis, Claarrk. Care to give me a quote for my story?"
Lois knew Nunk hadn't written the original piece to start this whole mess, but she was ready to go after him as if he had.
Clark felt her tense. She heard his calming voice in her head. 'Don't give him anything to work with.'
She smiled up at her fiancé and proceeded to walk past Leo Nunk and his cameraman, Lamont.
"Come on, guys, as one reporter to another."
Lois started to retort but caught Clark's warning glance. Lamont snapped a picture. That should be a good one, he thought. Clark looked as if he were mad at Lois. This was going to be better than he and Leo had thought. They hadn't expected to get anything out of these seasoned reporters.
Clark turned to look directly toward the camera and surreptitiously lowered his glasses, directing two quick laser bursts toward the film. 'That should take care of that,' he thought, smiling down at Lois, sharing the thought with her. She had seen him lower his glasses and guessed what he had done. She smiled back at him as he placed his hand on the small of her back and guided her toward their Jeep. Nunk decided not to press his luck. He had seen some of the shots Lamont was able to get and decided that would be enough to work with, for now. Nunk and Lamont headed back to their office to develop the photos and write up the story. The 'National Whisper' may have broken the story, but the 'National Inquisitor' would have one heck of a follow-up.
Lois and Clark arrived at their townhome without further incident. After letting themselves in, Lois headed toward the computer to boot it up while Clark retrieved their disk files and hard copies.
"We have to figure out which of us they are after, who 'they' are, and why they are after us, then we can decide how to fix this mess."
"That's going to be a pretty big list, honey. I mean, look at how many people you and I together have exposed or put away in the short time we have been partners, and the number of people Superman has stopped or helped to arrest since he's been here, and the number of times *you've* covered one of those. Not to mention the number of people you went after before me or Superman came along. It could be anybody with the right connections and a little imagination. We've been too careful in public for anyone to have seen anything between you and Superman. It has to be someone with a grudge against one of us, or someone trying to distract us, like Perry said. That could cover a lot of people."
"I don't think so. This is targeted mostly at me and Superman. No offense, sweetheart, but I think it is between the two of us, and this certainly has us distracted. Here we are, at home, focusing on this problem instead of investigating our other stories, or you rushing off to save the day. I say we focus on that angle and see where it leads us."
"Sounds like a plan."
Several hours later, Lois moved to stretch. She hadn't realized how many people would be on that list, and it was growing. She had to smile as she realized just how much of a difference she, Clark, and Superman were making.
Clark moved from his position on the couch to stand behind her as she sat back at the computer desk. He began to massage her shoulders.
"Oh, that feels wonderful. Hey, I was thinking. How about some lunch?"
"I'm not sure that I'm ready for us to face going out there yet, or the questioning looks of a delivery person. How about I fly out for something. Thai food okay?"
"Sounds great. I'll keep digging here."
With a blur and a whoosh Clark was out the window, only to return in less than five minutes. At least he had hot food with him.
"That was quick."
"You will not believe this. Our 'story' is even hot news in Thailand. Several people on the street waved their country's equivalent to the 'Whisper' and 'Inquisitor' at me angrily and the restaurant owner where I usually go just gave me cold stares."
"Could you tell what they were saying?" Clark language skills had improved since he had come to Earth. He had learned enough of some languages so he could at least order their favorite foods in other countries.
"Only that they didn't like the idea of a fallen hero."
"Then we better get this resolved soon."
"Let's compare notes while we eat."
Nunk had been disappointed that the pictures had not come out, though neither he nor Lamont could figure out why. One good shot of Clark Kent looking angrily at Lois Lane would have made his story sing all the more sweeter. He'd just have to use a stock photo of Lois, maybe doctor it up a bit with a shot of Superman to make it look like they were together. Either way, he knew what he saw, or at least how he chose to interpret it. The next day's front page would read 'CLARK KENT LIVID, LOIS LANE SILENT, SUPERMAN NOWHERE TO BE FOUND'. He'd made that last part up, but there hadn't been any major Superman sightings, so he didn't feel he was stretching it too much. Now to start on that follow-up.
Several days later
The 'Boss' sat back in his chair, looking out over Metropolis. Things were going according to plan. His informant at the Planet had reported to his contact within Luthor's organization that Lois Lane was so wrapped up in her investigation into this Superman scandal that she had halted her other investigations, including the one into OmniBusiness. True to form, Ms. Lane had latched onto this attack on herself and the object of her award-winning stories with fierce determination.
And the blue boy scout had hardly been seen since the story broke; an added bonus since he had not yet gotten close enough to significantly interfere with business, but Luthor was convinced that that would only have been in a matter of time. Better to nip the potential problem in the bud rather than deal with the repercussions later.
As an added bonus, that reporter for the 'Inquisitor' had made things easier by helping to facilitate the rumors. The day following Luthor's planted story, Nunk had run a convincing follow-up piece. Luthor was more than pleased to let Nunk and his reporters compete for the next exclusive on this story. The more distractions the better.
According to his source at the Planet, Ms. Lane and her partner were attempting to discover who would have motivation and means to attack them in such a manner. At this point, as far as was known, they had made no progress. The problem was, or as in Luthor's case, the advantage was that the list was quite large, occupying both their time and energy in tracking each false lead down. No suspicions had been voiced about "The Boss" yet, and even if there had been, only Nigel knew that "The Boss" was Lex Luthor.
With the alien, Mr. Kent, and Ms. Lane otherwise occupied, it was time to move on to the next phase of his plan.
Daily Planet Conference Room — Staff Meeting
"Okay. That should take care of all the pending stories. Now, about this Superman scandal. I want everybody who isn't currently on something else hot to work this."
"But…" Lois stated to protest.
Clark, who was sitting at the opposite end of the table from Perry beside Lois, placed his hand over his mouth to hide his grin. She was so protective of her stories, a quality he found very endearing, especially when he was the story.
"Now, Lois, before you say anything, I know this has been yours and Clark's from the get go, but the stakes are higher now that several other, uh, 'papers' have picked up the story, and I need every available reporter on this one, especially since you two haven't come up with anything yet. Now. Cat…"
"Perry!" Lois practically screamed. How could he put the gossip columnist on Superman!
Clark's grin suddenly faded. This couldn't be good. He'd been interviewed by other reporters before as his alter-ego, partly to ensure that Superman wasn't always associated with him and Lois, but they had been under circumstances he controlled. It had always been a concern that someone would make the connection, but he'd tried to be careful and be as un-Clark like as possible. Now this full court press, with Cat at the lead no less, and one in which he had little control over, could be a problem. She'd always been a little too friendly toward him ever since he first arrived, even when she knew he was interested only in Lois.
"Now, Cat," Perry continued, after giving Lois a look that said keep quiet. "There's been some … rumors about which way Superman leans, if you know what I mean…"
That was it. "He most certainly does not!" Lois jumped up, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.
"Lois? Is there something you would like to share with the rest of us? We all realize you think a lot of Superman. We all do. And that you think of him as your personal source. Is there something you aren't telling us that could help here?"
'Calm down, honey,' she heard the voice in her head. 'We'll work through this, but now is not the time.'
Lois took a deep breath. "Um, no, Perry, there isn't." Lois sat back down, glancing at Clark. "It just that these rumors are as unfounded as the ones about *me* and Superman, and even though I don't know much about him, outside of the professional realm, I don't think he appreciates all of this. I know I don't."
"Opinion noted. Now, Cat, find out if there is any truth to these. One of your high society contacts may know something. Does seem unusual that we haven't heard of some love interest. And he does seem to shun all the attention he gets from fans, both male and female."
"Maybe he has someone but doesn't want everyone to know," Lois mumbled under her breath.
Perry shot her another look. "Okay, people, let's get to it." Dismissing the meeting, he turned to Lois as the rest of her colleagues left the room. Clark stayed behind. As her partner he felt he was entitled to know what Perry would say about *their* story, and being the focus of the story he needed to know as much as possible about what was going on so they could best decide how to proceed.
"Lois, honey, I know this was yours and Clark's, and I gave you a shot at getting me some answers, but now I have to pull everybody in on this one. It's too big. The Planet has gotten just about every exclusive covering Superman's activities since he first arrived, and now we get scooped by a tabloid again! And you're right in the middle of it. I know how you get about a story, Lois, but I've got to take you off of this one. You're too close."
"Oh, all right. Can we still cover the *news* about Superman?"
"That's fair, since it was yours to start with."
"Thank you. Come on, Clark, let's go cover the news." Lois stood and walked out of the conference room, Clark close behind.
Perry watched them leave, shaking his head. "There's more there than that girl is telling me."
"Lois." Clark began, following her to her desk.
"Clark, what are we going to do?" she whispered, looking around to make sure no one was close by.
"Let's take a walk so we can talk in private."
They walked in silence until they reached the sidewalk outside of the Planet. Clark placed his hand on the small of her back to help comfort her, as well as himself.
"Lois, how am I supposed to do my job, my other job, knowing that I'm being scrutinized at every turn?"
"I'm sorry, Clark. I guess I wasn't thinking about how this would affect you. You can't stop being 'you know' any more than I can stop being a reporter. What we need to do is find out how this whole mess got started and put an end to it so we can get back to normal, whatever normal is for us."
"I'm wondering if we're not spinning our wheels on trying to figure out the 'who' angle, honey. We just keep running into one dead end after another. Whoever is behind this has covered their tracks pretty well."
"Maybe you're right." She paused to consider that a moment. "You know, I just had an idea …"
"You've got that I've-got-a-plan-that's-sure-to-get-me-killed tone."
"Oh, come on, Clark. Not all of my plans are dangerous."
"Uh huh. What about after I went back to Krypton and you promised me you'd be careful and I ended up having to rescue you telepathically."
"Hmmm. Yes, I remember that. Led to the discovery of a very interesting skill." She smiled impishly up at him.
"You ain't seen nothin' yet." He grinned back.
"Have you been holding out me?"
"Have to save some surprises for the honeymoon. But," he rushed on, trying to distract her, "at least I'm here now. That was kind of tough."
"It was? I'm sorry, Clark. I hadn't realized how difficult that had been for you."
"Oh, no, honey, *that* was great. It was worrying about you that was the toughest part."
"So you don't worry about me anymore?" she teased.
"All the time. At least I'm in a better position to do something about it."
"Well, I was taking care of myself just fine before you started worrying about me and I can still take care of myself."
"So are you saying you don't want me to take care of you?"
"You know, before I met you that was what I thought I wanted. But now…"
"Now I wouldn't trade any of it for anything." She laid her head on his shoulder and put her arm around him as they continued to walk down the street. To those observing it looked as if they were trying to work out whatever problems they'd had.
And this is what would be reported back to "The Boss". Though he couldn't hear what was being said, their body language was enough to let the informant who had been following them know that they had reconciled and were a team again. He wondered what the boss would do with this information. He hoped he didn't have a "shoot the messenger" policy. He casually headed in another direction to report in.
"You mentioned having a plan."
"Yes, I think we should just ignore it."
That comment brought Clark up short. "Wait, where's Lois Lane? She was here just a second ago."
Lois stopped and looked back at him. "Very funny."
"Seriously, Lois. Since when do you back away from a story?"
"I'm not backing away. Just changing tactics."
"So what do you have in mind?"
"I think we should go back to business as usual. Let whoever is behind this see that it is not going to interfere with us doing our jobs. For several days all three of us have basically been in hiding. None of us have been able to do our jobs. Until the staff meeting this morning we've been sneaking around, apart, tracking down leads. I say we come back, together, full force. May even smoke the guilty party out. Besides, there is no proof, or picture. It's just speculation."
"The vultures will be all over us. I'm not sure why they aren't right now."
"Because you and I together aren't news. Superman with Lois Lane is."
"What do we tell them when they ask?"
"Well, Superman can't lie. We'll just have to be creative with the truth. In the mean time, I'd like to approach this from another angle. Instead of trying to find the big fish, let's go after a smaller one. Maybe that'll give us a lead."
"Okay. It's great to have Superman back. It has been tough ignoring all those calls for help."
"I know it must have been hard for you. It's been hard for me not doing my job. Let's head back to the Planet and get to work, partner."
Later that evening
Lois eased her glasses off her nose and stood up to stretch, laying the papers she was studying on the couch. The hottest story she had going right now was the OmniBusiness merger. She'd been working on that for months, but knew she was close to proving illegal activities. Maybe the rumors had come from someone connected to that. She looked up as Clark landed just inside the open window. One reason they had chosen this place was the window that allowed Superman to come and go without being seen by neighbors. He spun to change into shorts and a black tank top. She smiled her approval. He was getting better at that.
Sitting back down on the couch she asked, "How'd it go?"
"It didn't. I got either cheers or jeers. It was too distracting and I couldn't concentrate on really doing my job."
"I thought about that while I was flying home. I was thinking of holding a press conference."
"What would you tell them? That you are really Kal-El, disguised as Superman and Clark Kent, and that you are from another planet that is more technologically advanced than ours, and that Earth is not the only inhabited planet in the universe?"
"I still don't think they are ready to hear about other worlds, and I certainly don't want to tell them that Superman can not be having a fling with Clark Kent's fiancée because Superman and Clark Kent are the same person. We would never get a moment's peace. I couldn't work at the Planet anymore; that wouldn't be seen as fair. You couldn't work at the Planet anymore, either. You'd be mobbed for Superman secrets everywhere you went, you wouldn't be able to write Superman stories, and you'd be seen only as Superman's woman. That's not the life I want with you, honey. I want us to be Mr. and Mrs. Clark Kent, reporting team for the Daily Planet. Superman is just what I can do. Clark is who I want to be."
She got up and walked to where he stood by the window and put her arms around him. "Oh, Clark." She kissed him gently. "That's what I want, too. More than anything I've ever wanted. So how will you handle this?"
"'We', honey. We are in this together. And even though the world doesn't know Superman has a partner, he, or rather I, do, and I want us to handle this together."
The throng of reporters and camera crews gathered at the makeshift podium set up in front of city hall. This was Superman's second press conference since his arrival six months earlier and it was big news.
Superman had asked the mayor's permission to hold the conference in front of city hall again. He had explained to the mayor how the rumors about himself and Ms. Lane of the Daily Planet had interfered with his ability to assist both local and international law officials with crime reduction, and as he had declared Metropolis his Earth home in his first press conference, he would appreciate the opportunity to address the rumors at the site of his previous conference. Putting the rumors to rest would allow him to resume helping, which was why Superman was here. The mayor readily agreed. Not only was she anxious to get Superman back on the job, since crime had risen slightly with Superman not available, but the international exposure of Metropolis as Superman's home could only help to increase tourism revenue.
Lois watched the crowd of her colleagues. She and Clark had decided that she should be there, even though Perry had taken her off the story. This was still news about Superman, and Superman was still her story.
She could hear the whispers of those around her. Many wondered why she was there, if Superman would admit to the rumors and she would fly off with him, and where her partner and fiancé was. None of them approached her, as her only comment since this had come out was that she would let Superman explain, and he would be here soon.
As if on cue, Superman landed gracefully behind the podium. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. I'd like to get right to the point so that I can get back to doing my job. The rumors about Ms. Lane and myself were started to distract us, to keep us otherwise occupied. I, along with Ms. Lane and her partner, have been investigating the situation and will continue to do so until the guilty parties are found. As to my relationship with Ms. Lane, though that is really no one's business but ours, we are friends, and I have been reluctant to admit this due to the nature of her work and mine. I did not want anyone feeling as though I was showing favoritism towards Ms. Lane or her partner when it came to reporting my activities, which I realize, are newsworthy. The reason Ms. Lane has the number of exclusives about me that she does is that, quite frankly, she has gotten there first. And she has the awards, even before my arrival, to prove her excellence as a journalist. I would ask that these speculations be put to rest. Thank you."
Questions came from all directions.
"Where's Clark Kent and what does he have to say about all this?"
"It is my understanding he is covering this for his paper." Not a lie, really, as he would sit down with Lois afterwards and write the story. "And he is as upset by this as I am."
"Are you seeing anyone?" Lois recognized the voice. 'It figures,' she thought. Cat. She'd already slithered up to Clark after the rumors had surfaced and tried to convince him that if Lois had something on the side that he should too. Lois had rolled her eyes when Clark had told her about it.
"Yes, I am, but at this time we are not ready to make it public." He couldn't lie, but he and Lois had anticipated that question. They knew they would have to be more careful while he was in the suit, especially now that this "cat" was officially out of the bag. People would want to know who Superman's girlfriend was. The tabloids had already made a few speculations, even before this. This was the first one that even came close to ringing true for many, which explained the ensuing problems.
There was no mistaking the sound of a bank alarm in the distance. Apparently, the criminal element had decided that Superman would still be distracted, or mobbed by reporters, and thought this would be a good time to make their move.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you will excuse me. I think that about covers it." And with that Superman was gone in a blur of red and blue.
Lois put on her best I-told-you-so expression, as the crowd dispersed, many looking her way. Whether that was about the rumors not being true or about her being the best reporter, no one wanted to ask. They now had the answer to both questions, she thought smugly.
Several weeks later
Nigel entered Lex's penthouse office, carrying the latest edition of the Daily Planet.
"Sir, we may have a problem." He laid the paper on the desk. The headline read: OMINBUSINESS DEAL UNCOVERED by Lois Lane and Clark Kent. "It seems that our little distraction was short lived."
"It's okay, Nigel. I'm prepared to lose a few battles to win the war. And this will be quite a challenge. First Ms. Lane, then Superman, and now Mr. Kent is proving to be a worthy opponent. It's just getting good."
"If you say so, sir."
Lois sat at her desk, admiring the headline. She had worked on this story for months, and now all her hard work, and her partner's, had paid off.
He walked up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Admiring our work?"
She smiled up at him. "Yes. We finally cracked this one. You've been with me on this one almost from the beginning, you know. From helping me get loose from whoever stopped me from snooping in the office to the final piece of the puzzle. This was a tough one. I'm not sure if I could have gotten it without a little super-help. Thanks, partner."
"You're welcome. And thank you, though knowing you I'm sure you would have cracked it eventually without super-help."
"I knew there was some reason I kept you around. You're good for my ego," she teased. Her expression became serious. "There's still more to this, though, and I still have a feeling that Lex Luthor is behind this somehow."
"You really don't like that guy, do you."
"There's just something about him that doesn't ring true. And I intend to prove it."
"If anyone can, you can."
"Along with my partner."
The "Boss" sat at his desk. Behind him, his balcony, and beyond, Metropolis, at his feet. He turned at the sound of a soft thud behind him. There, in its blue costume and billowing red cape stood the alien. And cradled in its arms, his other nemesis, Lois Lane. He opened his arms in a false welcome.
"Superman, Ms. Lane! To what do I owe this honor?"
Superman eased Lois to her feet then turned to face the man before him, arms crossed over his muscular chest in his usual authoritative stance.
"We know who you really are, Luthor."
"I don't know what you mean, Super-man."
Lois took up the accusation. "We don't know, yet, how you do it, or how you staged that distraction for us, but know this, we will expose you for who you really are."
"Ms. Lane, I assure I have no idea what you are talking about."
"If that's the game you want to play, Luthor, then fine. But we will bring you down. Neither Superman, myself, nor Clark buy your act and we will prove it."
With those last words, Superman scooped Lois into his arms and flew back out over the city.
"Let the games begin," Lex Luthor declared to himself.
When they were away from the building, Lois turned to look at Clark.
"Do you think I was too forward?"
"No. He needed to be brought down a peg or two, and nobody does that better then you. That's one of the things I love about you. You don't pull any punches."
"I didn't want to scare him off. Just get a reaction from him. Let him know we suspect and will be watching him."
"I think we accomplished that, but he's pretty far removed from the action or we would have found a connection by now. But I promise you this, Lois, one day you and I will bring Luthor down. You have my word."
To be concluded in Part 3 — But before Clark can fulfill his promise, his time on Earth is up…
I liked in the series how Clark was the real person and Superman was the disguise, and that he seemed uncomfortable being Kal-El. I thought it would make an interesting angle having him be Kal, but want to be Clark.
"Something To Talk About"
Road Tested, 1996
'Once the rumor spreads, the truth is just a thing of the past'
Taken from "The Rumour"
Written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Appearing on "The Rumour" by Olivia Newton-John, 1988
(Dawn July '99