By Lara Blasingame <email@example.com> or <Lblasingame@cs.com>
Completed March 2000
Summary: When billions of dollars' worth of rare artifacts are stolen from the Metropolis Museum, Lois and Clark investigate the possible culprits as well as their blossoming relationship.
This is my fourth attempt at writing a fanfic and is a sequel to "Revisiting the House of Luthor." I suggest that you read that story before reading this one.
I would like to thank Irene Dutch taking time out of her inordinately busy schedules to help me with this story. I would also like to thank Rachel (AKA LittleOne) for transcribing a scene from Madame Ex and Nancy for offering to Xerox the original script.
There was a point in the story when I needed to come up with some lame excuses for Clark having to leave to do his super duties. I am indebted to Melissa, Paul, Zoomway, Ultracape, Raconteur27, Tara, Lou and Anita. Some of their excuses were downright hilarious. I urge you to all to hop on over (after you've read my story… of course :)) to Zoom's message board and take a look-see.
I mean no copyright infringement whatsoever… I wrote this piece for fun! Please let me know what you think… good or bad. Feedback is good for the soul :)
"Hmmm … you, my own personal super man, are a very good kisser," Lois Lane moaned as she broke off from the kiss.
Clark kissed his way around to her ear and whispered, "Thanks, you're not so bad yourself."
Neither one could believe how their relationship had changed during the last twenty-four hours. It was amazing.
Before Luthor's proposal, Lois Lane and Clark Kent were the best of friends. Their working relationship had developed into a powerful partnership. Yet, each was afraid to take their friendship to the next level.
Lois's engagement had forced Clark's hand in the matter. He had made a declaration of love in hopes of curtailing her plans to marry Luthor. Yet, the only thing it managed to do was cause a rift between the friends. Sure… he had meant it. But, it just hadn't felt like the right time to say anything.
Unbeknownst to Clark, his declaration had caused Lois to rethink… everything. She found herself in a deep depression not wanting to admit that her decision to marry the billionaire might be wrong. Worst of all, she had totally underestimated her feelings regarding her partner.
The two found themselves on an emotional roller coaster. Yet, in the end, they found themselves in each other's arms.
"Have I ever told you how much I love you?"
"Not in the past fifteen minutes…"
"Well, I do love you." Clark enjoyed saying that declaration out loud. He found himself wanting to say it all the time. "And… I'm so happy that you know about my extracurricular activities. No more secrets…"
Lois took a moment to look at her partner. He looked so happy. Clark mirrored how she felt deep down inside, yet she couldn't let him get too caught up in the moment. She wanted to take this newfound relationship nice and slow. "YOU might not have any more secrets buddy. But, I've got one or two minor indiscretions that I plan on holding onto."
She looked so happy. Clark had been having a hard time reining in his emotions. He'd been waiting for her to reciprocate his feelings for the longest time. If truth were told, Clark had loved Lois from the beginning… since that day they had first met at the Daily Planet. 'Thank Elvis for Perry White.'
"Hey! That's not fair. I shared my secret with you… my little…"
"Your 'little' what?"
"Give me a minute." Clark found himself in a very precarious position. But this was too tempting a situation to pass up. "Tornado comes to mind. How about my little hurricane?"
Lois's expression hardened. "You're comparing me to natural disasters. Thanks so much."
Clark couldn't help but laugh. "I meant that in the nicest way. You just seem to overwhelm people at times."
"Kent?" Lois's face turned sour. "I suggest you quit while you're ahead."
Clark had the decency to look shamefaced. "Okay… but you do overwhelm me constantly, and I absolutely love it."
Lois's face softened and she found herself snuggling closer to her partner. "Well, I guess that 'little tornado' nickname isn't too bad." She found herself lost in thought. Suddenly, she bolted upright. "Since we're handing out names, how about…"
Clark quickly interrupted her. "I think that Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman are a few too many names for one guy to have."
"Oh… yeah. You don't know about that one yet. In fact, you don't know much about my alter ego."
"I know he looks good… really good… in spandex and a cape." Lois couldn't help herself.
Clark blushed. "Thanks, but there's so much I want to tell you. I don't even know where to start."
"Well… you can tell me all about yourself tonight."
"Yes, tonight. I expect my new boyfriend to take me out for fine dining and entertaining conversation…our first official date!"
Her boyfriend? Clark found himself gathering Lois back into his arms. He kissed her with all of the passion that he could muster. It felt so right. He had been waiting for this moment for his entire life. He had found someone to love.
When they finally came up for air, Lois had a daffy expression plastered on her face. "Wow, Kent. Where on earth did you ever learn to kiss like that? And should I be jealous?"
"Well, Lane, let's just say that I've been inspired by a small brunette with the prettiest brown eyes that I've ever seen."
"Oh." Lois found herself speechless. Clark Kent had a way of doing that to her.
"Why don't I walk you home, and we can both get ready for our big date."
Lois suddenly blushed and lowered her eyes. "Um… Clark? Could we take another mode of transportation?" Lois slowly looked up at his handsome face.
"What do you have in mind?"
Lois made an 'up, up and away' motion with her right hand. Clark found himself laughing out loud, once again. "So, Ms. Lane, you'd rather be taken home via 'Superman Express'?"
His stunned girlfriend broke out into a fit of laughter as well. "You have a name for flying, too?"
"Why not! What's one more name…Not!"
Clark rushed around his apartment. He wanted this evening to be perfect. After all, they would remember this date for the rest of their lives… he hoped.
First thing on his agenda was to make reservations for dinner. Clark's first choice was a quiet, little French restaurant located not far from the Planet. The bistro was famous for its intimate lighting and its delicious cuisine. Fortunately, the restaurant had a last minute cancellation.
Next, on his agenda was to do a super sweep of his apartment. Clark was already a neat person by design, but his nerves were on edge. He needed some sort of release.
"I know… I'll call Mom and Dad."
Lois was a bundle of nerves. She wanted this evening to be perfect. After all, they would remember this date for the rest of their lives… she hoped.
After Clark had left her apartment, Lois made a beeline to her favorite boutique. She wanted to buy a new dress. Her intent was to knock his boots right off.
The spending spree did little to ease her mind. She was so excited about the prospect of having Clark as a partner, a lover and a friend.
Yet, her recent engagement to a homicidal criminal had made her wary about entering into another relationship.
But, to compare Clark Kent with Lex Luthor was like comparing a teddy bear with a boa constrictor. There simply was no comparison.
In her heart, Lois knew how she felt, but her head kept throwing up caution flags. She just wanted to take things nice and slow this time.
"This time everything will be okay."
"Clark, I'm so glad you called."
"Me too. Things have just been a little hectic lately."
Martha could detect an amount of nervous enthusiasm in his voice. During Lois's engagement to Lex Luthor, Clark had distanced himself from everyone. He'd seemed almost lifeless, except for the underlying anger that simmered beneath the surface. She had never seen her son act like that before and Martha's heart ached for him. "I've been worried about you, honey."
"I know Mom, and I'm really sorry about the way I've been acting. I know I was a little despondent when you and Dad tried to help. I just had to work things out for myself."
"Is everything okay now?" Martha didn't want to bring up Lois or the incidents that had driven her son into utter despair. But, she couldn't help but wonder about his sudden change in attitude.
"Mom, everything is wonderful! Lois said that she loves me… not Superman… she loves me." His joy was evident.
"Oh, sweetie. I'm so happy for you." Martha's heart leapt for her son. She had always liked Lois and felt that the young lady would be a perfect match for her only son. 'Lois has spunk… she'll keep him on his toes.' "How did all this happen?"
"Well, it's a long story. How about I fly out next weekend and tell you all about it?"
Martha immediately cleared her calendar. She had a feeling that this visit would be worth the wait.
Clark continued. "Can I bring Lois, too?"
"Hey… I almost forgot why I called. We're going out on our first 'official' date tonight and…"
"You're about to burst. Right?"
"You have no idea! I just want everything to be perfect tonight."
"Clark, everything is going to be fine. No matter what… she loves you and sometimes that's enough."
Clark took a deep breath and thought about what his Mom had just said. No matter what happened, they were in love with each other.
Lois and Clark arrived at the bistro several minutes early. They had kept the conversation light, allowing their individual nervousness to dissipate.
"I have reservations for two for eight o'clock. The name is Kent."
The hostess looked up for a moment to recognize the couple, and checked her registrar for the reservation. "Yes, sir. You're a few minutes early. Why don't you wait in the lounge? Your table will be ready shortly."
The couple made their way toward a booth in the back of the room. The restaurant had an old-world feel to it: very charming and elegant.
Lois sat down first and Clark made his way around the corner booth so that he could sit close to her.
They spoke simultaneously and immediately broke into a fit of soft laughter.
"I can't believe how we're acting. We're best friends. Why is this so hard?" Lois couldn't help but feel a little chagrined.
"I don't know about you, but I just want everything to go well tonight." Clark looked directly at Lois as he spoke.
"It will, Clark. We just have to relax and be ourselves."
The couple smiled and slowly leaned towards each other. The kiss was soft and sweet, but a gentle reminder of how they felt about each other.
"Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. I was beginning to wonder if…"
The approaching waiter caught Clark's attention. "Would you like something to drink? We have a splendid house wine as well as some fine examples of micro-brewed beers."
The couple placed their order, and the waiter quickly left.
"Well, let's see. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was beginning to wonder if…" Clark once again stopped mid-sentence as a faraway look overtook his handsome features.
"What is it, Clark?"
Clark looked stoic, determined, and very upset. 'Not tonight… please let this be a quick rescue.'
He looked around frantically and tried to convey a quick message to Lois before leaving her. "Lois, I'm so sorry, but I've got to go. Somebody nearby needs help… sounds like a mugging. I'll be right back."
And with that said, he kissed her on the cheek and exited the restaurant.
Lois sat in the lounge… contemplating her situation when the waiter approached. "Madam… your table for two is now available. Should I escort you to the table or wait for your companion to return?"
"Um… yes… er… no…" Lois looked slightly disheveled as she tried desperately to form a coherent sentence. "What I mean to say is that my friend had to… had to… leave for a minute. Why don't you go ahead and show me to our table. Will you be sure and tell him that I've already been seated?"
"Certainly, madam. Follow me."
Superman flew towards the muffled cries for help. He wanted to help the stranger in distress, but it was killing him to have to leave Lois right in the middle of their first date.
Would she be mad at his early departure? Or had she already accepted the fact that Superman saving the day might interrupt occasionally?
His thoughts were disrupted as the yells for help intensified. He augmented his super hearing and flew as quickly as he could towards the scene of the crime.
Lois was seated at a lovely table for two near an elegant indoor fireplace. The warmth emanating from the hearth relaxed her weary mind and she found the low illumination very romantic. 'What a perfect place for our first date. Too bad Clark isn't here to enjoy it.'
She had half-expected her boyfriend to be called away during their date, but she was not prepared to handle making excuses for his absence.
Lois took a sip of wine and began to replay in her mind some of the excuses Clark had given for his continual absences during the past year. 'Most of his excuses were so lame…' and Lois began to giggle out loud. She looked around the room. Several people were trying not to look at her, yet found themselves glancing her way. 'People are going to think that I'm nuts…' This fact only made her laugh harder.
Superman made short work of dealing with the mugger. Fortunately, he had arrived before any real damage could be done. The elderly couple was quite shaken by their attacker's harsh words, but the criminal had not attempted to hurt them physically.
The super hero intervened much to the dismay of the mugger. Superman first made sure that the elderly couple had been unharmed and then easily apprehended the crook. Luckily, the Metropolis Police Department had received a 911 call from a concerned citizen and had immediately dispatched a patrol car. Clark handed the criminal over to the police and made an uncharacteristically hasty retreat.
Within seconds, Clark returned to the restaurant and super-spun back into his charcoal suit.
Clark made his way back to the lounge, but found that Lois was no longer seated at their table. 'I guess that she decided to leave after all.' With slumped shoulders, he turned around to leave and bumped into the headwaiter. "Excuse me, sir… but your table is available. I've already seated your dinner companion. Please follow me."
The waiter led him toward the back of the room and the sight before him nearly broke his heart. 'She is upset with me.'
Clark found Lois slumped over the table. Her shoulders were shaking, and her eyes were red. She had been crying. Clark couldn't bear to see her in such distress. "Lois… Lois… are you okay? I'm so sorry that I had to leave."
Lois looked up at Clark and wiped the tears from her eyes. Then she produced a hundred watt smile. "Hi. You're back."
Clark stared at her with disbelief as her mood immediately brightened at his arrival. He was totally confused… and sat down hesitantly. "Are you all right?"
Lois assessed the situation quickly and realized why he seemed so upset. She had been crying upon his arrival. "Oh… Clark. It's nothing really." He didn't seem convinced. "Really… I was just laughing."
"Yes… laughing. After you left, I had to make up an excuse for your absence, and I have to say that I failed miserably."
"What'd you say?" Clark found the entire situation amusing.
"I wasn't very clever! That's for sure. I babbled so much that the waiter lost interest." Lois took a big breath and continued. "Then after I was seated, I started thinking about some of the lame excuses you've used in the past."
"Hey! They haven't been that bad."
"Yes, they have!" Lois started laughing again. "I used to think that your short-term memory was on the fritz. Returning videotapes, library books, lawn equipment… You don't even have a lawn! That should have been clue number one, but I missed it! And do you realize that you've been to the dentist seven times in the last year alone? You sure do have bad teeth considering the rest of you is invulnerable."
"I have? Geez! I guess I'm not very good at lying. Now you know my other secret."
"Oh, I figured out that you were a crummy liar by your second day on the job. Too bad I didn't figure out earlier about the super hero thing. Just think about the time that we've wasted." Lois reached over to grab Clark's hand. She needed to reassure him that she had truly forgiven him for his deceit. "But don't worry about it. I'm an expert at bending the truth. What we need to do is come up with some sort of list. That way we can coordinate our stories when you suddenly decide to disappear. We can also make sure that we don't use the same story twice." Lois was on a proverbial roll.
Clark merely smiled at Lois during her ramblings. 'I love it when she does that. I love the way she takes care of me. I love…'
The mild manner reporter was abruptly brought back to reality. "Yes?"
"What's wrong? You kinda zoned out on me again. Is someone else in trouble?"
"No! No… I was just thinking about how much I love you." His grin softened as he gently brushed back Lois's hair. "I love the way you want to take care of me. I love the way that I can trust you with my most precious secret. I love the way we work together… our partnership. I just love you so much."
Lois's eyes began to mist over as Clark spoke. The love and devotion she saw in his eyes almost made her gasp out loud. 'He is such a special person…'
"Clark, I love you, too. I just want you to know that I'm trying to get a handle on being part of 'a loving relationship.' But, you're my best friend, and I sincerely hope that this works out. You're my most favorite person in the whole world."
"It will, Lois. It will. I've been searching my whole life for someone to love. I've never really fit in. Always moving from place to place, but that all changed the day I met you. You're my most favorite person in the world, too."
Lois couldn't take much more of this. This incredible man was… was… incredible!
If she didn't grab hold of this intimate moment, she was going to start waxing rhapsodic. "I love you so much… even if you are a pathetically bad liar," she mused. "But, in a way, I'm glad. You'll never be able to hide anything from me ever again." Her soft smile turned into a full-fledged grin.
Clark realized that she was trying to distance herself from their intimate conversation… but at least she wasn't trying to hide behind the 'Mad Dog Lane' persona. She just needed time.
"So what do you have in mind?" Clark had a feeling that she'd given this a lot of thought.
"Just a second…" Lois proceeded to dig around in her small purse. She managed to pull out a small note pad and pen.
Clark just looked at her. "You brought paper and pen on a date? Did you think that the waiter might be involved in plot to rule the world… or that the hostess might be plotting revenge on her evil nemesis, Sara Lee or…"
"All right… all right… You've made your point. It never hurts for a girl to be prepared." Lois leaned over and gently kissed his cheek. "Besides we just so happen to need a note pad and a pen…" Lois trailed off as a smug smile appeared on her face.
Clark laughed out loud. He loved it when they teased each other.
The waiter slowly approached the table. It was obvious that his presence would not be appreciated. Yet, the young couple gladly placed their orders, and the waiter scurried away.
"You start." Clark picked up where they left off.
Lois took a moment before she spoke. "Well, the excuses have to believable, but our goal here is not to be too specific. Details can really screw up a good lie."
Clark smiled. "Is that so?"
"Yes! For instance, you just remembered that you had to file your delinquent tax return tonight or incur further penalties and interest. First of all, who talks like that? Second of all, would you be able to repeat that excuse to me verbatim? Remember, we have to stick to the same story."
Clark chuckled. "Um… no. All I can remember is something about being penalized by a ruthless tax collector."
"WRONG!!! Clark, you're not even trying!"
"Yes! Yes, I am. I understand… simple lies that even I can remember."
Lois took pity on him. "I'll start. You have an appointment to get your allergy shots. Oh and don't forget to sneeze."
"Sneeze… gotcha. How about I forgot to turn off the stove."
"Now we're cooking…" Lois looked both shocked and a little embarrassed that she could have come up with such a pitiful pun. "Sorry, I know that was bad. How about…um… you promised your neighbor that you'd feed his lawn and mow his dog. I mean… well, you know what I mean." Lois began to giggle.
"OK… OK… How about I have to pay my utility bill or my electricity will be turned off again?"
"That's pretty good. OK, I've got one. You forgot your press pass."
Clark smiled at her enthusiasm. "That's a good one. How about I suddenly had the urge to put on some tights and go streaking."
Lois stopped writing mid-way through his fabricated lie. She knew that she shouldn't look up at him, but she did anyway. Once eye contact was made the duo broke into a hysterical bout of laughter.
"Wait… wait…" Clark stopped long enough to gain composure before he continued. He held up his hand and tried desperately to wipe the ever-present grin off his face. "I forgot that I promised Superman I'd get his spare boots resoled and the shoe repair shop is about to close." Clark just grinned.
All of the sudden the waiter approached carrying a tray full of delicious cuisine. Caught off guard, Lois slammed her hand down on the note pad in order to hide their handiwork and gracefully grabbed Clark's knee. The couple resembled the proverbial cat that ate the cannery. The waiter distributed the food and refilled the two wine glasses. It was the longest ninety seconds in Lois and Clark's lives. The second that the waiter departed, the couple broke into laughter.
"That was priceless." Clark bemused as they attempted to eat their dinner.
Clark and Lois literally tumbled into his apartment. Their joyous, booming laughter could easily have been heard by the inhabitants of nearby homes. The couple was so engrossed in their levity that they were only able to focus on one another. Otherwise, they might have been embarrassed by their total lack of decorum.
Lois took off her coat and sat down heavily on Clark's comfortable couch. Clark made his way over to pick up her coat when she finally was able to stop giggling enough in order to make a semi-coherent sentence. "Clark, this has been so much fun! I don't think I've ever had this much fun on a date before. I certainly didn't laugh this much with Lex…"
Before she'd even realized what she'd said, Lois saw a dark shadow pass over Clark's beautiful facial features. "Oh Clark! I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to bring up Lex. I just…"
Clark laid her coat across a nearby chair and immediately made his way back to the sofa. The mood in the room had shifted dramatically. He didn't want the mention of Lois's former fianc
Te to impede upon their first date. But… this particular subject had been discussed very little since her aborted wedding. "Lois…" he gently picked up her hand and turned it over in order to place a kiss on the inside of her palm.
Lois looked into the deep recesses of his soul and saw pain. She'd never wanted to hurt Clark Kent.
They'd been avoiding this topic of discussion for quite some time. They were going to have to put the past few months behind them… and the only way to do this would be by talking to one another. "I'm sorry!" Lois whispered yet another heartfelt apology.
"There's nothing to be sorry about. We've both made mistakes. Luckily the outcome was more of a wish fulfillment than a Greek tragedy."
Lois smiled a small smile. "I just want you to know that I thought about you the entire time I was with Lex; even before I'd admitted to myself that I'd fallen in love with you. I was so depressed. I found no joy when I was with Lex." She stopped for a moment to gather her thoughts. "He was charming and successful. I thought I should settle for that, but our relationship never made me happy. I realize that now…"
Clark listened quietly to her admission. During the month that had followed Lois's aborted wedding, the couple had spent most of their time keeping conversations neutral and topical. But the second that Lois had proclaimed her love for Clark, the stakes had risen considerably.
"Clark, you mean so much to me, and I'm sorry that I didn't realize how I felt about you until it was almost too late. Truth be told, I was scared about loving you."
That statement caught Clark off-guard. "You were scared about loving me?"
"Yes… weird, huh? You were too good to be true. You're sweet, kind, loving, caring… and I was afraid that I might wake up one morning and find out that you weren't that guy."
"What made you change your mind?"
"Well, I'd have to say that it was the time right after my wedding. You let me cry on your shoulder. You took care of me in a way that no other man has before. You never left me. I slowly began to realize that you weren't like any of the men that came before you." Lois's soulful gaze returned as she stared deeply into Clark's eyes. "You loved me regardless of the circumstances. It gave me a courage that I've never known before…"
"Lois, you are the bravest woman I've ever met. How can you say that you lacked courage?"
"Oh Clark… I found the courage to love somebody completely. I've never known that type of courage before."
Clark was floored by her admission and deeply touched that she wanted this relationship as desperately as he did. He put his arm around Lois and pulled her tiny body close to his.
She was bearing her soul to him. It was time for him to reciprocate. "I'm sorry about the way I acted during your engagement to Luthor. I was an idiot. I couldn't control my emotions when I was around you. I was so angry… angry at you for not loving me… but mostly angry at myself for not being the man that you wanted to love…"
Lois took a moment to pull back from his embrace. She looked at the haunted expression that, once again, passed over his face. 'How could he think that? Maybe because you told him that you didn't feel that way about him' her inner voice responded. It seemed that they both had made some foolish mistakes during that period of time.
"Clark, about the day in park. I'm sorry…"
He gently placed his fingers on Lois's lips to silence her apology. "Sweetheart, like I said, we've both made some huge mistakes. I've been kicking myself daily about that lead-lined robe jab. I didn't mean that either. I was just so frustrated!"
Lois remembered that conversation vividly. She'd just told Superman that she'd love him even if he was an ordinary man. Hours earlier she'd told that 'ordinary man' that she didn't love him. What a mess! They could apologize for the next six months over past indiscretions, but that wouldn't help their relationship to deepen and grow. "You're right. We've both made some enormous mistakes, but I know in my heart that we wouldn't intentionally hurt each other. We were both scared and hurt."
Lois took a small breath before continuing. "We just need to talk to each other and make an effort to open up to each other, discuss our feelings, good and bad. Our so-called 'self-imposed borders' have not made our relationship easy…"
"You can say that again…"
"But, I now know that adversity has only made us closer and that's the mark of a good relationship. We don't want to run away from each other. We want to protect. We want to clear the air. So, I guess all of the hardships have been worth it. They made both of us re-evaluate what was really important. I'm truly happy for the first time in my life. I love you so much, Clark Kent."
And with that final remark, Clark leaned in for a kiss that expressed his undying love for his partner and best friend. The kiss quickly escalated from affirmation to desire, and Clark found himself losing control. He had promised Lois, on numerous occasions, that they would take things slowly. So, he pulled back gently in order to put some badly needed space between himself and the beautiful woman beside him.
"Um… Lois? I need to take a little breather," Clark exhaled sharply. "If we keep this up, I may ravage you at any moment."
Lois grinned as she released her anxious boyfriend. She couldn't get over how wonderful if felt to be in his arms.
"How about something to drink?"
"Sure! Do you have any cream soda?"
The couple made their way into the kitchen. Lois sat down at the table to watch Clark prepare the beverages. "How about hot chocolate instead?"
"You're actually asking me if I want chocolate? Let's see… I'd have to say YES!"
Clark grinned at her flirtatious remark, but continued at the task at hand. "I'm sorry I asked…"
He took crumbled bits of Hershey's chocolate and placed them into large mugs filled with milk. Then he stared intently at the concoction.
Lois sat quietly watching Clark's graceful movements as he prepared the beverages. She was immediately shaken from her reverie as steam began to rise from the mugs. Clark was using his super powers in front of her. He had no reservations about doing so. "One of these days you're going to have to tell how you do that."
Clark's grin widened as he placed tiny marshmallows on the molten liquid. "I never did give you that one-on-one interview. Did I?"
Lois stood up and made her way to Clark in order to hug him from behind. "I think that sounds like a lot of fun." She placed a small kiss on his cheek and reached around to take a mug of the homemade brew and made her way back into the living room. Clark followed.
"I do have a couple of questions…"
"Why did you leave Krypton? Why come to Earth? When did the Kent's adopt you? Did you know that you were going to have super powers? When did you decide to be a superhero? Was there one particular event that made you decide to don the Suit? In fact, where did the Suit come from? Is it from Krypton, too?"
The more questions that Lois threw out… the more she thought to ask. Clark joined Lois on the sofa and pulled her within his embrace, again. He quickly captured her lips and the inquisition stopped for the time being.
Lois slowly pulled back and all she could mutter was "Wow…"
"Wow… yourself," Clark leaned back slightly to study her slightly flushed facial features. "Been giving this interview a lot of thought have we?"
"Actually… no. But since you asked…"
"How about I try to answer your first barrage of questions before we enter round two. Okay?"
"Well, I came to Earth as a baby. Mom and Dad think I was about two to three months old when they found me in my space ship. I landed in a nearby field. At first, they thought that the flash of bright light in the sky was a meteorite. I'm sure glad that they checked out the crash site. Who knows what my life would have been like if they hadn't found me?"
"They really are wonderful people, Clark. You're so lucky."
Clark saw her eyes glisten as she spoke to him. 'Maybe they'll be your parents one day, too.' He took her hand and interlaced their fingers as he kissed her on the forehead. "I know I am, Lois. Jor-El and Lara…"
"Jor-El and Lara?"
"They are… were my biological parents. They sent me to Earth before Krypton blew up."
"Your home planet was destroyed? How?"
"I'm not quite sure. The globe's holograms indicated that it had something to do with Krypton's red sun and its gravitational pull. Jor-El really didn't have a lot of time to go into details. He barely had time to build my spacecraft."
"The globe? It was stolen from…you?" It suddenly dawned on Lois that it had been his globe, too… not exclusively Superman's. She had separated the two men in her mind for so long. At times it was difficult to merge the two wonderful men into the one extraordinary man who now sat beside her.
"Yea! Right about the time it was taken I started visualizing wonderful images of my Mom and Dad. They explained that they were sending me to Earth because they felt like I'd be able to fit in… because I looked human. Research also indicated that I'd be biologically compatible with an Earth woman." Clark raised his eyebrow as he winked at a blushing Lois Lane.
"Compatible… huh? We'll have to test that theory out one of these days."
"I know I'm game!" Clark leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss before continuing. "I'm kinda getting ahead of myself. When Mom and Dad… er Martha and Jonathon… decided to adopt me they had no idea whether I was a Russian experiment or a Martian. Neither one really cared. All they were concerned about was giving me a loving home to grow up in… to take care of me. Everything went well until I reached my teenage years."
"I started getting my powers. It was really scary. I didn't know what was happening. The ironic thing is that your teenage years are already supposed to be confusing due to rampant hormones. I had to contend with an unruly libido as well as super powers."
"I'll bet that was hard to deal with…"
"Yea, but Mom and Dad were great. The problem was that my powers appeared sporadically. I hated not knowing what was going to happen from day to day. By my tenth birthday, I was pretty fast and stronger than the rest of my classmates. Then I got x-ray vision. Boy, that one freaked me out."
"I was in my room. Mom had just sent me there. I was kinda in trouble…"
"The boy scout was in trouble?"
Clark eager to make his point ignored her query. "Anyway, she'd said 'wait till your father gets home…'"
"I heard mumbled voices coming from the living room, and I stared at the wall in hopes of concentrating on what the voices were saying. Well, you can imagine how shocked I was when I could see through it. I freaked out so bad that I ran into the den and started yelling at the top of my lungs…"
"Very uncharacteristic of you…"
"You can say that, again. Mom and Dad were shocked. After they calmed me down, I told them what happened. Needless to say, they forgot all about my punishment."
"I guess they'd have more pressing matters to contend with." Lois giggled but allowed Clark to continue.
He described each power and what had occurred due to its unexpected arrival. Lois found herself spellbound as he spoke about the development of his abilities, but heartbroken at the lonely life he'd led as a child. But, the special bond that this man shared with his earthbound parents had helped them all deal with whatever life had handed them.
"After college, I decided to see the world. Being able to fly gave me an amazing opportunity."
"It sure did! Imagine being able to fly anywhere… at anytime. Being able to actually see the Seven Wonders of the World. Being able to visit lands that mankind may have never seen before. What an adventure!"
"Traveling was fun. Don't get me wrong. I've got enough stories and slide shows to keep you bored stiff until at least the turn of the century." Clark grinned at as he played with Lois's fingers and gently placed a kiss on one fingertip. "But the opportunity I was referring to was the chance to find a place where I could fit in. Be myself. Find somebody to love. When I came to Metropolis, I knew that I'd found my home."
"Yes, really. I'd found you."
Lois caught the gaze in Clark's eyes and couldn't help but be drawn into its depth. She leaned forward slowly as their lips tenderly met. Clark's declaration and the kiss that followed would always be one of Lois's favorite memories… she had found her 'home' as well.
One Month Later
Lois and Clark entered the newly renovated Daily Planet building a little before 8 a.m.. The structure looked very much the same as it had before. But, the fresh paint, pristine tile, and new vendors in the lobby were faint reminders of Lex Luthor's destructive behavior and his obsession with a certain female investigative journalist.
The ride up in the elevator was quiet and reflective. But, when the elevator doors opened, the couple's nervousness was curtailed. This was their 'home away from home.'
The newsroom was buzzing with activity as each employee scurried around for the necessary supplies to make their jobs easier.
"Diane, do you have any pencils? All I have are erasers."
"No, I think there are some in the supply closet."
Hector looked around but only saw a computer terminal where the supply closet used to be. "Where the heck is the supply closet?" He yelled to no one in particular.
"Just follow Marty."
"Olsen!?!?" Perry bellowed from the confines of his office. "Does anybody know who the new copy boy is? If you can't find out, guess what?"
"On it, Chief!"
Lois and Clark began to softly chuckle. Things were different… yet they were still the same.
No one noticed the duo as they made their way down the ramp gently clasping each other's hand. Lois made her way to her desk and sat down quietly as Clark made his way to the makeshift break room.
Clark approached with two cups of coffee, but couldn't help but laugh at the sight that greeted him. "I just have two questions for you. Why are you hugging your computer? And should I be jealous?"
Lois's grin turned into a full-blown smile. She gave the keyboard one final squeeze before placing it back down on the desk. "It's so good to be back here! We're partners again. I'm in heaven!"
Perry emerged from his sanctum to find his top reporting team making goo-goo eyes at each other. "It's about time."
"Hey Chief! What's about time?"
"It's about time ya'll figured out you're in love. I thought I was going to have to…"
"Have to what, Perry?" Lois didn't trust her editor's mischievous look.
"You don't want to know, honey. My wife has been itching to work her match-making magic on the two of you for quite some time."
Clark blushed at his editor but asked his question anyway. "Are we that obvious, Perry?"
"Yes! Yes, you are and…" Perry loved funnin' with his kids, "I couldn't be happier for the two of you."
Lois and Clark smiled at their gruff, old boss and simultaneously reiterated that the editor-in-chief of Metropolis' most well respected paper was nothing more than a sentimental softy. "Well, enough of this mushy stuff. Let's get back to business. What have you got for me? A juicy scandal? A Senator involved in an embezzling scheme? A maniac on the loose?"
Lois incredulously stared at her boss. Those employees who'd planned on returning to the Daily Planet after its restoration had been writing for the paper's weekly supplement via e-mail. Most of the news features covered human-interest angles, sporting events and local business developments. Perry had also used Associated Press articles in order to cover national and worldwide events. But, the editor had yet to publish a daily edition since the explosion… nearly three months ago. "What do you mean what do we have for you? We just got back! I don't even have a pencil or I might be tempted to…" Lois began to grumble to herself. "How are we supposed to have a lead?" In a booming voice, Lois yelled in Diane's direction "Has Hector found that supply closet yet?"
When Lois turned back around, she had a glint in her eyes. "It's so good to be back, Chief."
By mid-afternoon, the newly re-instated employees began to feel more at home. Many had brought back personal mementoes; pictures, personal calendars, knick-knacks; in order to brighten up their sterile workstations.
Employees were required to familiarize themselves with new software, interoffice e-mail… even a brand new database.
'How am I suppose to catch the bad guy if I can't even perform a simple background check?' Lois was finding the 'familiarization' process very frustrating.
Clark overheard his beautiful partner mumbling under her breath. He thought that this might be the best time to retreat to safer territory. He made his way to Perry's office and knocked gently on the door. "Got a minute, Chief?"
"Sure, son. Come on in. I'm just trying to figure out this new computer. I could use a break."
"So could Lois, but I'm not about to see if she wants one."
"You're learning. I'll give you that much! What's up?"
"I was wondering if you had any leads?"
"Well, I don't really have much. Lex Luthor's will is going to be read at 2 p.m. today. It's not exactly hard news, but it's still news. The man was worth more than his weight in gold. Why don't you and Lois…?"
Clark's face turned ashen and his eyes darkened at the thought of Lois having to endure one more ounce of pain. "How about I go solo on this one, Chief? Lois is working with that new database right now. I'll go and get a couple of quotes. I'll be back before deadline."
"Be back from where?" Lois Lane entered the room and sat down on the sofa. "What's up?"
Clark knew that she would find out soon enough but it broke his heart to have to conjure up Lois's past. "It's Luthor. They're reading his will today."
"Oh!" Lois remained seated for a moment. She was glad that she'd been sitting down. Her legs would have surely given out. "I forgot all about that." The insecurity quickly passed, and Lois stiffened her shoulders before standing. "Well, we better get going. Maybe we'll have time for a little lunch before the reading."
Clark and Perry merely gazed at the determined woman that stood before them. Her inner strength was an incredible asset to her overall personality.
"Excuse us for a moment, Chief." Clark gently guided Lois to the nearest conference room before continuing. "Are you okay with this? I just thought it might be easier if…"
"If you went alone?"
"Well, yeah. I just didn't want that maniac to hurt you anymore."
"He won't, Clark. I have you now. Besides, I'm a big girl. You can't always protect me. I know you want to but…"
"But talk to you before I do my 'boy scout' imitation."
Lois grabbed his hand before she finally spoke. "Honey, I've never felt safer than when I'm with you. I secretly love the way you're always looking out for me, but… I can't… won't have you making decisions for me personally or professionally. We're a team, remember?" Lois realized that her words were harsh, but she needed him to understand.
"We are a team, Lois. We always have been. I just worry about you sometimes. I just want you to be happy."
"I am happy, Clark." Lois kissed him on the cheek and squeezed his hand one more time for good measure. "Now let's go get something to eat. I'm starved."
Uncharacteristically for Lois and Clark, they chose to sit at the back of the room to watch the lawyer, Sheldon Bender, continue to distribute the criminal's wealth.
"… and Mr. Luthor bequeaths $50,000 to Metropolis' Children's Summer Camp. In addition, the will instructs the Metropolis Summer Music Fair to receive the sum of $25,000."
Sheldon stopped momentarily in order to read the next document. "Mr. Luthor long ago established the ACL Corporation which administers a special annuity for his ex-wife, Mrs. A.C. Luthor. His will bequeaths that the endowment continue until her decease. It was his intention to provide his former wife with the monetary means to live the life in the manner in which she had become accustomed during their seven- year marriage."
Bender took a moment to make eye contact with Lois Lane. He smiled smugly, but continued the oratory.
"As you all know, Mr. Luthor had a special place in his heart for the arts. He spent his entire life collecting rare works of art and contributing millions to the restoration of antiquities that would otherwise be ravaged by time and the elements. It was therefore his wish to…"
Clark realized that Lois needed air. She had become despondent during the proceedings and the reporting team left before the reading was finished. They walked for a while… each in deep thought. Clark slowly led Lois towards a nearby bench at Centennial Park.
They had only been seated for a moment before Lois spoke. "Clark, he was married before! He never told me! That… that… louse… that… snake…"
"Honey, are you okay?"
"Yes! No." Lois turned and looked into Clark's eyes. "He was just so evil and manipulative. I mean we both know that already." She lowered her head. "I thought he might have at least respected me, but…"
"But what?" Clark tilted her chin upward and caressed her cheek.
She seemed to gain strength from his touch. "He didn't. The bottom line is that he never did respect me. I probably just presented some sort of challenge for him, and he was never one to back down from a challenge. Could you imagine what my life would have been like if I'd been stupid enough to marry him?" Her eyes clouded over, yet she managed to continue. "After the wedding… the only way I could deal with his deception was by making myself believe that he was changing, bettering himself for me. During our engagement, he had admitted to some wrongdoings. Of course I never suspected him to have sunk to the levels that he had slithered to, but somehow I thought he respected me enough to want to change. I know it's silly…"
"It's not silly. Maybe subconsciously you knew that he wasn't a good guy. Maybe you thought that your marriage to him might reform him. I don't know…"
Lois took a moment to really look at Clark. He'd spoken as if he was really trying to see the good in Luthor. But, he was unable to. She'd put Clark through hell during her engagement. Yet, here he was trying to help her come to terms with a past relationship. "You're a good man, Clark Kent."
Her comment broke him from his self-induced reverie. "Thanks. You're a wonderful woman, Lois Lane, and I'm so honored that you want to be with me."
"Oh, Clark! If I… If I… ever do walk down the aisle, again… I hope… I hope that you're at the end of it."
He knew how difficult those words were for Lois to say and smiled. "Lois, there is no place that I'd rather be. You know that. And I promise, other than the secret identity thing, what you see is what you get. I'm a better person because I'm with you. I have absolutely nothing to hide from you… no ex-wives… no criminal record. Wait a minute! That's not true. Superman was arrested for supposedly causing that heat wave last year." Clark was desperately trying to lighten the murky mood and smiled a small smile.
Over the past several months, Lois had figured out Clark's diversionary tactics and she loved him even more for doing them. "That's right! I seem to attract that type." Lois hesitantly smiled before responding. "Good thing I fell in love with Clark instead."
It wasn't until that moment that Clark realized what he'd said. He'd referred to himself as Superman. He was touched beyond words by Lois's remark and gently pulled her within his embrace. She preferred him to his alter ego. They sat on the bench for a long while… each comforted by the other.
Lois and Clark made their way back to the Daily Planet forty-five minutes before deadline. Lois immediately phoned Sheldon Bender in order to find out what they had missed due to their early departure.
"Bender, why don't you just cooperate? You know I have ways of finding out the information on my own…"
"Ms. Lane… Are you threatening me?"
"No! Of course not! I was just thinking that the police unmasked a vast amount of information regarding Lex Luthor's private 'illegal' business dealings. Dealings I might add that'd been covered up. Now I'm no legal expert, but I'll just bet that it would've taken a team of lawyers to hide all of Lex's ill-gotten gains. I wonder if I know any of those so-called 'lawyers'. Should my partner and I investigate these multiple cover-ups?"
"All right, Ms. Lane. You've made your point." With that said, Bender proceeded to tell her what she wanted to know.
3 Weeks Later
"Lois! Clark! Get in here right now." Perry bellowed from his office.
They hurried to the editor's office. "Yes, Chief!"
"The Metropolis Museum of Fine Art has been robbed. The police just got there. Apparently a member of the janitorial staff discovered the break-in. Now get."
"On it, Chief."
The duo arrived within seconds via Superman Express. Bill Henderson and his investigative unit were in the process of dusting for prints and gathering forensic evidence.
"What happened, Bill?" Clark Kent asked as he extended his hand towards the weary detective.
"Hey, Kent… Lane…" Henderson shook the extended hand before continuing. "The museum was hit last night between midnight and 2 a.m."
"What was taken?" Lois queried on behalf of the team.
"Picassos, Monets, the original Magna Carta… This has to be one of the largest single heists in American history. He or she stole billions in paintings, sculptures, and precious gems. Apparently this particular exhibit had only been on display for a couple of weeks."
"A couple of weeks?" The time frame seemed oddly familiar to Lois. "Are these the Luthor artifacts?"
"Yeah…" the detective was momentarily stunned by her assessment. "Um… the museum's curator, Larry Neal, said that Luthor donated his collection to the museum after his 'untimely demise.'"
"What else was stolen?" Clark finally asked as he discretely scanned the premises for clues.
"Nothing, just Luthor's collection of antiquities."
"Henderson, how could someone have gotten away with something like this? This is huge!" Lois exclaimed.
"Well, last night around 11:52 p.m., an entire city block lost all electricity. Evidently the grid went down due to all the rain we've gotten lately. At least, that's was what we thought."
Clark shared a glance with Lois. He'd left Lois's apartment the previous evening in order to help out during the power failure. During his outing, he hadn't seen or heard anything out of the ordinary. No screams for help… not even a silent alarm. "What do you mean that's what you thought?"
"Metropolis Gas and Electric called the MPD last night and asked for our assistance. They'd said that until the problem was corrected, we needed to help with traffic control."
"Traffic control at midnight?" Lois said in an exasperated tone.
"Yes… traffic control, Lane. This city never sleeps. You oughta know that by now."
"Yeah… well, why didn't anyone have a clue as to what was going on in the museum?"
Clark was asking himself that very question. How could he have missed a robbery of this magnitude? He'd been helping out with crowd control and had made sure that no looting was going on. 'No cars or personal property were stolen… just some Picassos and Monets and…'
Lois witnessed the distant expression on her partner's face. He was obsessing again. She'd have to be the one to break him out of his doldrums in order for him to focus on the job at hand. She lightly touched his arm and gave him a reassuring smile.
Henderson saw the mildly flirtatious interaction between the reporting team, but decided it would be in his best interest not to comment on it. "We were busy doing our jobs, Lane. No alarms were set off and the museum's security personnel were found bruised, bound and gagged by a member of the janitorial staff. This was the work of a professional."
"Do you have any leads?"
"No, but we're working on it."
"Can we speak with Mr. Neal?"
"Not right now… maybe later this evening… more likely tomorrow. We've got a lot of questions and very few answers. If you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to it."
Clark and Lois surveyed the scene before them. The main exhibit room had been completely striped. The floors were bare and slightly scratched. A light sheen of dust was all that remained. The showroom walls revealed faint outlines of where the paintings had hung the evening before.
"Clark, this is amazing! How could anyone have gotten away with this?" Lois found herself dumb-founded by the entire situation. "We need to find out everything that was taken. We can get the list from Henderson later. Next, we need to see whether any of the items show up on the black market." Lois turned to Clark as she planned their next moves, but found that her partner was not paying attention. "Clark?"
He shook his head and muttered, "Lois, how could I have let this happen? I was right down the street, and I didn't hear anything!"
"Clark, look… no one got seriously hurt. Don't beat yourself up over this. Just some artwork was stolen."
He looked at her incredulously.
"Okay… a lot of art work was stolen, but you can't be everywhere all the time. You're only one man. You do what you can do. No one should ask anymore from you than that. And if they do, they'll have to get through me first!"
He smiled. That remark had broken him from his self-induced pity party. "I wouldn't wish your wrath on anyone, sweetheart. I'm glad you're on my side."
"I'll bet you are." Lois had pushed all the right buttons. Clark was finally ready to investigate.
"Jimmy?!?!" Lois yelled as she made her way towards her desk.
"Yea?" Jimmy hurried over to Lois's desk. She had a glint in her eyes. When Lois Lane had a glint in her eyes, Jimmy new something major was about to happen… and he wanted to be a part of it.
"I need you to get a list of everything that was stolen from the museum. Henderson should have the compilation completed pretty soon. Next, get me a copy of Lex's will. Sheldon Bender should be more than happy to help. And if he won't give us a copy of the actual will… just have him fax over a list of who got what and how much. Got it? It's weird… but something about this robbery seems familiar to me. I don't know why."
"Yeah? Well, where's CK?"
"Uh… he uh… left his press pass at the museum. He had to go back and get it." Lois needed to cross that excuse from their list. She couldn't tell Jimmy that her wayward partner had actually had the urge put on some tights and go streaking. Lois giggled.
Jimmy was just about to leave when he heard Lois's soft chuckle. "What?"
Lois's laughter dissipated. 'Oops! I can't get careless.' "Just thought about something Clark said the other day." Jimmy was a curious young man. She'd have to stop his line of questioning… post haste. Her 'Mad Dog Lane' persona momentarily resurfaced. "Get to work Jimmy! I needed that information yesterday!"
Jimmy knew when to cut his losses. "Yes… Ma'am." He saluted Lois and scampered away.
Clark re-entered the Planet a little after lunch time and detoured toward his favorite reporter's desk. "Hey, what's up?"
Lois put down the reading material and smiled. "You're back!"
"I'm back. By the mess on your desk, I'd have to say that the investigation is going well! I hope?"
"It's going okay… slow… almost agonizing… semi-productive. How did your hover mission go?" Lois smirked as she gathered up some of the reading material.
Clark had stayed behind in order to do a quick scan of the museum and its contents. "Well, I know how the criminal transported the artifacts out of the building. The scratch marks indicate that the thief used several dollies in order to move the merchandise. Probably had a couple of people helping him. There were lots of muddy footprints leading to the back dock." He stopped long enough to sigh. "There were tire tracks by the loading dock, but they were hardly distinguishable. I didn't really find anything unusual. I mean the police know all of this information already. It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to come up with this type of evidence. I x-rayed the premises for about an hour. This, without a doubt, has to be one of the most orderly robberies I've ever investigated. Almost too orderly."
Lois could hear the frustration in Clark's voice. "Clark… you're obsessing, again."
He grimaced at her assumption, but also knew that she was correct. "I know."
Lois smiled at his admission. "Well, stop! We've got work to do." She continued to organize the papers on her desk.
"What's all that?" Clark said pointedly as Lois thrust a folder into his hands.
"Research… what else? I have to say that Jimmy has really outdone himself this time. But don't tell him I said that."
This time it was Clark's turn to grin. "Oh… all right! What should we start with?"
"Since the artifacts originally belonged to Lex, I thought we might concentrate on his will." Lois handed Clark a photocopy of the billionaire's last will and testament.
"How did Jimmy get a hold of this?" Clark somehow knew that Jimmy had had help in inquiring this tidbit of vital information.
"You don't want to know, Clark." Lois smiled smugly.
"You're right… I probably don't." Clark looked at the document closely. "It says here that the museum received most of Luthor's artwork. Some of the minor artifacts were auctioned off. The proceeds went to various charities."
"Yeah, I saw that. He also gave $100,000 to a local antique collector. What was his name? I know it's here somewhere…"
Clark grinned as Lois rifled through the mounds of paper strewn on her desktop. "It says here that the man's name is Henry Jarvis. Do we know anything about him?"
"Here it is!" Lois exclaimed. "His name is Henry… wait you said that already. Didn't you?" Lois put her hand up before Clark had a chance to answer. "Don't answer that. Evidently Jarvis was one of Lex's favorite antique dealers. He apparently procured some really rare artifacts over the years… one in a million pieces."
"Who's Tim Matthews? He also received a hundred grand."
"He's an archeologist. Lex had been funding Matthew's archeological digs for years."
"What was he searching for?"
"I don't know. He's still in town. Maybe we should ask him ourselves."
"Sounds like a plan to me. Were you able to get a hold of the museum director?"
"Yeah, Henderson finally gave us permission to talk to him," her tone mirroring a spoiled child who'd finally been given her way. "Unfortunately, Neal can't talk to us until tomorrow after the museum closes."
"Well, let's start with Matthews and Jarvis tomorrow morning."
The next morning Lois and Clark made their way to the Lexor Hotel. Tim Matthews had readily agreed to an interview. But, time was running short. His itinerary dictated that he return to Egypt by the end of the week.
"I love the United States… don't get me wrong, but I'm eager to get back to my dig site. I've only remained in the States long enough to take care of some personal business. After all, there are very few phones in the middle of the desert…" Matthews found humor in his situation. "… and I only have a short window of opportunity before the winds pick back up. They're very seasonal… it's kind of hard to dig when you can't see your hand in front of your face." Matthews laughed a hearty chuckle.
Clark smiled. "We appreciate you seeing us on such short notice, but we really needed to talk to you. We're investigating the robbery that occurred at the Metropolis Museum of Arts the day before yesterday."
"And you think that somehow I might be involved in the theft?" Matthews smiled dissipated and was replaced by a glare.
Lois quickly responded. "No! No, we were just curious about your relationship with Lex Luthor. You were mentioned in his will. We understand that you two had a long-standing affiliation. What exactly did you excavate for Luthor?"
Matthews sat back in the over-sized chair before side-stepping her question. "Yes… Lex and I go way back. I'm surprised he never mentioned me. Weren't you two supposed to get married?"
The tables had been turned and Clark was quick to defend his partner. "Back to Lois's original question. We noticed that Luthor had been financing your excavations for years. What exactly were you looking for?"
Matthews' attention was drawn back towards Clark. "I looked for anything that Lex wanted. We both had a passion for historical antiquities. We even acquired Alexander the Great's sword. What a treasure! I understand that the museum got that particular relic." He couldn't help but feel a little bitter about the situation, but he knew that Lex had wanted it that way. "That was one of Lex's most prized possessions. He proudly displayed it in his penthouse office. Isn't that right, Ms. Lane?"
Lois was tired of Tim Matthews' games. He was having too much fun at her expense. "Yes, Clark and I have both seen the sword." It was time for her to get the interview back on track… no matter how much the man she was interviewing was getting on her nerves. "What exactly are you excavating now, Mr. Matthews?" Lois was a breath shy from losing control, but she refused to give the archeologist the satisfaction.
"Well, if you most know, I'm looking for some ancient relics thought to have belonged to King Thutmose III. The Egyptian Empire reached its height during the king's reign and I, for one, intend to unravel the secrets behind his success." Matthews smugly smiled at Lois before abruptly ending the interview.
"Well, that was a waste of time!" Lois fumed as they exited the building. "What an arrogant son of a…"
Clark cut her off before she could continue her tirade. He gently grabbed Lois's hand and brought it to his lips. "I know. I didn't appreciate the way he was treating you either." He placed a gentle kiss on the palm of her hand. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. Luthor may be dead, but he still has a lot of supporters."
Lois knew that Clark was right. Even though the man had plummeted to his death, his tyrannical legacy remained. "Clark, you have nothing to be sorry about. I can handle weasels like Tim Matthews. He pledged his support to Luthor for one reason—and one reason only—greed. That's what they had in common." She paused briefly before continuing. "You know… I hope that we find out that he had something to do with that robbery. That would make my day."
Clark smiled at the determined woman that stood before him. She was brave, tenacious; a force to be reckoned with. "Well, let's call Jimmy and see what else he can dig up on our 'friend,' Mr. Matthews."
Jimmy Olsen derailed Lois and Clark's short trip back to the Planet. Henry Jarvis had agreed to a meeting and was waiting for the reporting team at his Hillside Place vintage antique store.
The store was located in an older, yet well maintained part of the city. A heavy must had settled in the room due to the precious contents that it contained… rich tapestries from the 18th century, vases from the Ming Dynasty, sculptures created by the hands of craftsman…
The duo hesitantly entered the establishment. The high-ticket items were proudly displayed throughout the gallery. "Boy, I'd hate to break anything in this store. Jarvis would have to garnish my wages for the rest of my life."
Clark laughed at Lois's attempt at humor. "Try not to touch anything. I'd hate to have Perry bail us out of jail for breaking and fleeing…"
The couple laughed as a small, plain-looking man approached. "May I help you?"
"Yes!" Lois curtailed her laughter in order to respond. "My name is Lois Lane and this is my partner Clark Kent. We're reporters for…"
"… The Daily Planet. Yes, well, why don't we make ourselves comfortable." Jarvis motioned towards the front corner of the store. There sat four, uncomfortable looking chairs. Before allowing the trio to sit, the man broke out into a dissertation regarding the chairs' origins. "… King Louis XVI exhibited these extraordinary chairs in his foyer. Kings, queens, and dignitaries from nations all over the world may have at one time sat in these luxurious examples of French craftsmanship."
He paused to take a breath, and Clark gently interrupted. "They're really… nice." He didn't want to upset the man by saying that Louis' chairs reminded him of upholstered rocks. "How long have you been collecting?"
Jarvis smiled at Clark before motioning for the group to sit down. "For as long as I can remember. It's a passion of mine… to possess riches beyond my wildest imagination… to have the opportunity to touch a part of history…"
'To boldly go where no man has gone before…' Lois thought to herself. "Mr. Jarvis, we're investigating the robbery that occurred at the Metropolis Museum of Fine Arts the day before yesterday. We were wondering if you could tell us about some of the artifacts that were stolen."
"Well, I only know of some of the relics that were stolen. Lex Luthor donated the more priceless artifacts to the museum. The lesser items his estate sold. I believe the money that was collected from these auctions went to several worthwhile charities."
Clark chimed in instantaneously. "Yes, we're aware of those provisions in Mr. Luthor's will. Did you sell him any of the artifacts that were stolen from the museum?"
"I suppose so. I've never actually seen a list."
Lois opened her attach
T case and pulled the itemized inventory out of an unlabeled folder. "Here you go…"
The man took the list and squinted while attempting to read the document. "If you'll excuse me for a moment, I need to get my glasses." He sauntered toward the back of the building and disappeared behind a privacy curtain.
"What an odd little man! He certainly doesn't seem like a criminal. Could he have been involved with the heist?" Lois voiced her reservations in a soft tone, not expecting an answer to her question.
The minutes ticked by while Lois and Clark patiently waited for the man to return. "Maybe he's made a run for it?" Lois gleamed as she looked at her handsome partner. Clark discontinued 'casing' the joint in order to place a small kiss on her cheek.
A few moments later, Henry Jarvis returned expressing his apologies. He was wiping the paper with a dry cloth. "I seemed to have misplaced my glasses… and I accidentally split my coffee on your fax while looking for them. I'm terribly sorry." He smiled timidly at his guests. "But the good news is I found my spare glasses." Jarvis took a second to put on the bifocals. "Let me take a look at this list."
All in all, Jarvis had procured and sold Luthor approximately one-half of the antiquities on the list.
"What's our game plan, partner?"
Lois placed her attachT next to her desk. "Well, I guess we should compile the information we learned today with the research Jimmy did." She stopped the compilation as a thought struck her. "Hey, after the interview tonight, do you want to get some dinner and go through all this stuff? It might be easier if we had a place to spread out…
Clark chuckled at her innuendo. "It has been a while since we've been able to have a quiet night at home. My place or yours?"
"Well, that depends on what you want for dinner tonight… the Great Wall of China or your wonderful stir fry."
'No one can ever excuse Lois Lane of being subtle.' Clark thought to himself. "How about I stir fry? I haven't had a chance to cook very much lately."
Lois and Clark stood in the Metropolis Museum of Fine Arts main gallery. Only empty display cases and crime scene tape remained. The MPD supplied a few off-duty officers in order to guard the remaining artifacts. There was always a fear that the perpetrator might strike again and everyone concerned wanted to prepare for that possibility.
The museum's curator, Larry Neal, approached the reporting team. "Isn't it a shame? The museum's loss is enormous. Those artifacts represented every reason why we got into this profession in the first place." he sighed. "You must be Lois Lane and Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. I'm Larry Neal."
They exchanged pleasantries… each one individually baffled by the enormity of the robbery. "Mr. Neal…"
"Please call me Larry, Ms. Lane."
"Uh… okay… Larry… we have acquired a list of the stolen merchandise. Has the museum's insurance company been able to estimate the actual net loss?"
"Well, yes and no, Ms. Lane. You see many of the artifacts were priceless. Their net worth couldn't be estimated. Our insurance policy compensated us for those items as well as those items that had been insured for a particular amount of money. As of right now, the museum has lost approximately forty-nine billion dollars. Unfortunately, all the money in the world will not be able to bring back the stolen relics."
The two reporters remained silent for an extended period of time. The magnitude of the museum's loss made coherent thought relatively impossible. Clark was the first to recover. "If the artifacts are irreplaceable, what will the money be used for?"
Larry Neal contemplated his answer before replying. "We would be able to use the funds for museum restoration. We could put aside a vast portion of the funds in order to finance excavations of all types. The museum would be able to acquire additional rare artifacts… that is, if the price is right. Like I said, we won't be able to replace the items that were stolen, but we might be able attain new ones."
"Mr. Neal… er…Larry… what can you tell us about the night of the robbery?"
"I went home around 7 p.m.. I stayed late to finish up some paper work. The staff was at a bare minimum. The museum employs six night time security guards. They make their rounds at regular intervals. Apparently, a city power grid went down in the middle of the night. We lost power. A member of our morning janitorial staff found the guards bound, gagged and stuffed in the broom closet. Soon after, we discovered that we'd been burgled."
"What about your security system?" Clark quickly interjected.
"When the city grid went down so did the security system."
"Doesn't the museum have a backup generator?"
"Yes, we do. Detective Henderson said that it appeared to have been tampered with…"
"Did your security cameras catch anything that might be considered suspicious? Surely, you had one in the generator room?"
"Of course we did, Mr. Kent." Neal retorted. "We run a first class operation here. We do not take security issues lightly and if you are implying that we do then this interview can be concluded right now."
Clark knew that he had to pacify the director. "I wasn't meaning to imply anything, Mr. Neal. I was just wondering how someone might have been able to bypass security… that's all."
The museum's curator seemed to accept Clark's explanation at face value. He decided to cooperate. "Mr. Kent, I'm sorry for my outburst. I have been under an enormous amount of pressure lately. I only want to do what's best for the museum. That's why I agreed to an interview with the Daily Planet in the first place." His anger slowly dissipated. "The camera in the generator room was disabled as well. We too are completely stunned by the events that have occurred during the last several days." Neal grew tired of answering the same questions over and over again.
Lois sensed that Larry Neal would only be useful for another few minutes. His wearied appearance made that evident. "Is there any one you can think of that might have been able to pull off this feat… a disgruntled co-worker maybe… someone who wanted the collection all for himself. Any one?"
Neal's eyebrows furrowed. "I can't think of any one person, Ms. Lane. Many people… high profile organizations and businesses… all expressed interest in our Luthor exhibit. The number is, in fact, too high to narrow down to possible suspects. I just don't know…"
"Well, all in all I think the interviews went pretty well." Clark said with a certain amount of satisfaction. "At least we have enough information to compare with the research Jimmy dug up for us."
"Yeah, but something about this whole robbery is bugging me. I can't seem to put my finger on it though."
"We'll figure it out, honey. We're quickly becoming the hottest investigative team in town… hey, what a great slogan!
Lois rolled her eyes. "It would take me about a day and a half to get tired of it. If Perry ever does that to us… I'll…"
"You'll do what?" Clark was amused by this particular threat. At least this time he wasn't on the receiving end.
Lois thought for a moment and her frown turned into a timid smile. "I… I don't know. Maybe I'm losing my edge. Or maybe I'm just so hungry I can't think straight." Lois giggled as a wayward oven mitten was thrown in her direction.
The aroma of sautTed onions filled the apartment. Lois sat at the kitchen table enjoying their light-hearted conversation. "That sure does smell good. I wish my kitchen smelled like this when I cooked."
"I could always teach you how to cook, Lois." Clark smiled as he placed generous portions of raw chicken strips and sliced vegetables into the wok.
"Nah! I like it better this way… you cooking… me watching. It could be like this forever."
"Forever? I like the sound of that…" Clark trailed off waiting for Lois's reaction to his admission. For the past several weeks, Lois had hinted that she might be ready for more out of their relationship. It had been three months since her disastrous almost-marriage to Luthor. Clark knew how difficult it was for Lois to trust people, but he was willing to wait for her. She was his future.
Lois blushed at his statement, but knew in her heart-of-hearts that that was what she wanted as well. 'So much for taking things slowly.' She slowly stood up and made her way over to Clark. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a gentle squeeze. He clasped at her hands. The warmth emanating from his body gave her a feeling of contentment that she had never known before. "I love you so much, Clark. I can't imagine my life without you in it."
"I love you, too. I wouldn't want my life if you weren't in it. You give me stability both as Clark and as Superman. I've never thought I'd be able to find someone that understands me like you do."
She hugged Clark one more time before releasing her hold on him. She laughed. "I never thought I'd find someone willing to deal with my temperament. If you haven't noticed—on occasion—I can get rather hot-headed and stubborn."
Clark's lip curved into a sassy smile. "Really?"
The two laughed as they continued to prepare for dinner. Before being seated, Clark drew Lois into his arms. "I love everything about you! The good and the not-so-good because those traits are what make Lois Lane who she is."
Clark lowered his head and gave her a kiss with as much passion as he could muster. Moments later as the kiss ended they both came up for air. "If we don't stop soon, I don't think that I'm going to be in the mood to eat dinner… or do any research tonight." Clark's husky whisper nearly sent them both over the edge.
Lois saw the passion in her partner's eyes. It both thrilled and scared her… She gently kissed Clark's cheek and whispered in his ear, "I feel the same way, honey."
He gently picked Lois up and cradled her in his lap. For a moment, they were lost in each other's eyes. Clark broke the eye contact long enough to pick up a nearby fork. He scooped up a small helping of vegetables and gently placed the forkful into Lois's mouth.
Throughout dinner, the couple fed each other while exchanging brief kisses. It was one of the most sensual and loving experiences that the two had encountered in their lifetime and certainly since they had begun dating several months earlier.
After dinner, Lois stood and took hold of Clark's hand. She guided him to his bedroom where they made love for the very first time.
Lois awoke the next morning with a smile plastered on her face… remembering the events of the previous evening. They slept facing each other, legs still intertwined from their last bout of lovemaking. She was content studying Clark's finely chiseled facial features. 'He's so beautiful… inside and out.'
In her entire life, Lois had always put her work and accomplishments above all personal relationships. Yet the passion she felt for her partner transcended anything she'd ever known. It was almost as if they were 'soul mates.'
Clark awoke from a wonderful dream only to realize that all his dreams were slowly but surely coming true. He stared at the brown-eyed beauty that lay beside him. She looked as happy as he felt. "Hi."
They slowly leaned towards each other as Clark gently cupped Lois's cheek with his hand. He placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "I can't believe it…"
"Can't believe what?"
Clark heard the gentleness in her voice, and it gave him the courage to continue. "I can't believe that we're together… emotionally as well as physically. It's the most perfect thing I've ever known."
Lois's eyes misted as she leaned in for another kiss. "I can't believe it either, Clark."
The morning passed quickly for the reporting team. They combined Jimmy's research material with the notes that they had taken during the interviews. It was a rather daunting task, but a necessary one.
Lois looked up at her handsome partner. Ever since last night, neither one had been able to wipe the silly grins off their faces. They were both having a difficult time concentrating, but work was still work. It had to be done. Lois tried to direct her attention back to the investigation. "I know that we have a lot of background material on Neal, Jarvis, and the others but maybe we're going in the wrong direction."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, something about this robbery seems familiar to me. Maybe we should concentrate on the robbery itself." Lois paced around the room like a lion trapped in a cage. 'A power grid… billions stolen… why does that seem so familiar?' As recognition struck, Lois stopped dead in her tracks. "Do you remember that movie 'Die Hard'?"
"Yeah, I saw it in college. Good flick. Wait a minute! When the FBI shut down the city block's power grid, the terrorists were able to access the electronically sealed vault locks."
"Did you know that the writers of that movie based the terrorist group on an infamous criminal based here in Metropolis? He never pulled off a heist of that magnitude… but… could it be this simple? Jimmy?!?!"
Clark grinned in Lois's direction, once again bowled over by her brilliance.
"What?" Lois couldn't help but grin in return.
"You my… little Tornado… are the most tenacious women I've ever met. How on earth did you connect the museum robbery with a criminal from over ten years ago?"
"I haven't connected anything, yet!" Lois bent down to place a kiss on his lips.
"You rang? Uh… I can come back later… if you want?" Jimmy blushed as he watched the reporting duo.
Lois and Clark smiled and gave each other one final, sweet kiss before parting. "Jimmy… I need you to dig up anything you can on a string of burglaries that happened about ten to fifteen years ago. The thief used power outages to make his move."
Clark chimed in, "Next, I think it would be a good idea to check out everybody associated with the Metropolis Museum of Fine Arts… from the janitorial staff to the board of directors as well as a list of those who have made financial donations."
Jimmy scampered off to fulfill his duties while Lois and Clark remained in the conference room.
Lois took a seat next to Clark. "So, you think he needed inside help?"
"Well, yeah. Most security systems would necessitate that any unlocked doors or entryways automatically lock in case of a power outage. Whoever orchestrated this crime not only knew how the security system worked, but would have needed someone inside to make sure that the door remained unlocked. The thief had to have known where all cameras were located, silent alarms; laser trip wires… the whole shebang. He'd have to know that place inside and out."
"It looks like we still have a long road ahead of us. Maybe we should get together tonight and try and figure this mess out."
Clark's eyebrows wiggled at her latest suggestion. "Sounds good to me!"
Lois blushed slightly at her faux pas but continued. "Well, I think it would probably be in our best interest to actually work tonight. We're already a day behind, now."
At Clark's hurt expression, Lois realized that he had taken her comment way too seriously. "Oh, Clark! I didn't mean for it to sound like I didn't enjoy last night. I did… very much. But, I'd still like to talk to you about it later."
Clark understood her reservations. Where was their relationship going? He knew where he wanted it to end up, but she probably wasn't ready for the next 'big' step. 'I did promise her that we'd take things slowly.'
At Clark's silence, Lois panicked. 'Is he mad at me now? I told him that we needed to take things slowly… and what do I do? I seduce him. He must think I'm a flake… always changing my mind all the time.'
Clark was the first to break the silence that had settled over the conference room. He needed to reassure Lois that no matter what he'd always be there for her. "You're right, honey. First work, then we talk. Sound good?"
Lois smiled timidly at Clark. "Sounds wonderful, partner."
Papers were neatly strewn about covering the coffee table, the kitchen table and part of Clark's couch. Yet, the two people sitting in the midst of the mess knew exactly how everything had been categorized.
Lois leaned back against the sofa and stretched her arms above her head. Clark noticed her fatigue and suggested that they might take a break for a while. "How about something to drink?"
Lois agreed. Clark prepared some hot tea and brought the steaming beverages into the living room. "Here you go."
Lois gratefully took the warm beverage and slowly blew on the surface to aid in the cooling down process. She took a small sip and sat the mug down. "Just what I needed."
Clark took his place at her side and used a little cooling breath on his tea. He took a small sip before uttering, "Perfect."
Lois giggled, once again amazed at how Clark used his powers so freely in her presence. "Nice trick."
Clark beamed at his ladylove and leaned in for a small kiss. "Thanks." As he leaned in, he brushed the coffee table with his leg and proceeded to spill a small portion of Lois's tea. "Oops! Better clean that up." He picked up the soggy pile and realized that the facsimile of Luthor's last will and testament was on top. "What is it with this document?" He held the pieces of paper towards the best available light, in this case the lamp, and proceeded to towel dry the evidence. Fortunately, the tea only smudged the right hand corner of the will. However, Jarvis' coffee stain warranted his attention.
Lois witnessed the changing expressions on her partner's face. "What is it?"
Clark continued to utilize his enhanced vision before answering. "I can't believe I didn't notice this before. Come here and look." Lois made her way over to the lamp. "See how the stain covers the last couple of items on this page."
"One on the missing artifacts is a Monet's Water Lilies. It was one of his last paintings, Lois. He was almost blind by the time he finished it. It's worth millions and I saw it hanging in Jarvis' gallery."
"What? Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. It was hanging behind his privacy screen. I saw it as I scanned for clues. It was the original artwork… subtle brush strokes, aged canvas, slightly muted colors… it was breathtaking. But, so were all of the other relics in his store. I can't believe I didn't put two and two together. But, I guess we at least have some evidence, now. Not much. But it's a start."
"Don't be hard on yourself, Clark. I've had my mind on other 'matters' as well. I never thought I'd say this but work is no longer the most important thing in my life."
"Well, no. I mean… I still want that Pulitzer and all the perks that go with it." Lois sheepishly grinned. "But, I want so much more now."
They were just about to kiss when a faraway expression passed over Clark's face. "Uh… Lois… I've got to go. There's a fire in Suicide Slum."
"Go. I'll stay here and keep at it."
"I love you, Lois." Clark said as he spun into the familiar red and blue suit.
'Could Jarvis be the mastermind behind the burglary?' Lois only had to ponder that idea for mere seconds. Most likely he was involved. However, he hadn't impressed Lois as a leader; more of a follower. He was just a small piece of a much larger network.
So who was the leader?
Lois decided to concentrate on the pile designated to Jarvis… personal information, employment and financial records. Jimmy had done a nice job indeed.
She perused the information for the third time and was beginning to tire. She wanted to wait for Clark to return. They had a lot to talk about. Her mind was a whirlwind of activity, and her focus was beginning to wane.
Placing the papers down, she headed towards the kitchen for something to eat. She found some salami and decided to make herself a sandwich.
Sandwich in hand and a glass of milk, Lois walked over to the kitchen table and sat down… her mind drifting to thoughts of Clark.
'Maybe he wants to get married!'
Lois was both terrified and thrilled at the prospect of a more meaningful relationship with Clark. For her, making love to him was more than just an act of desire. Waking up in his arms had given her a feeling of contentment that she'd never known before. Yet, she was terrified at the prospect of commitment. Not because of the man, but because of the lack of commitment shared between her parents.
Growing up in the Lane household had been an awful experience. Her father had never been home and when he was there all he ever seemed to do was criticize. It had hurt her a great deal to witness her mother falling into a drunken stupor. She had promised herself that she would never again endure the pain of a failed relationship. Lex Luthor had been the answer.
He was charming, cunning and enormously wealthy. Yet, she had felt no love for him. He would never have been able to hurt her heart… her soul. Even after discovering that Luthor was not the man he appeared to be, Lois had not been… would not be… devastated. She'd been hurt by all of the lies. Who wouldn't have been? But, it wasn't as if he had broken her heart.
Clark could one day break her heart.
But would he? Lois knew that he loved her… but was it a lifetime kind of love. She continued to contemplate her situation as she took her dirty dishes to the sink.
'What if he wants to buy a house with a white picket fence? Real estate… there's a land mine… you spend the next quarter of your life paying off a hefty mortgage. Buying a house is huge… it's colossal!' Lois stopped dead in her tracks. 'Real estate?'
Lois made her way back into the living room and picked up Neal's file. She quickly flipped through his financial records.
A very soiled Superman accompanied a whooshing sound and a thump. Lois continued to scan the documents. Without looking up, she said, "How was the fire?"
Clark smiled. "It was fine. I was able to cool it off before it got too bad. Luckily the area was abandoned. Nobody got hurt." Clark would have gone into more detail, but his audience was no longer paying any attention to him. 'So much for Lois's fascination with the guy in tights.'
"I take it you found something?"
"Come look at this!" Lois waved the two documents in the air. "Neal bought some property in the Cayman Islands for $750,000."
"Does Larry Neal strike you as someone that would be able to afford such an extravagant purchase?"
"I don't know how much he brings down a year, but…"
"Then… No, I'd say he wouldn't have been able to afford an extravagant island getaway. Do you think the real estate agency is a dummy corporation?"
"Yep! I bet he filtered the money through and someone was paid a nice chunk of change for his thieving abilities." Lois's smug look turned into pure glee. Cell phone in hand, she proceeded to call Jimmy at home. "Hey, it's me. First thing tomorrow I need you to track down a company in the Cayman Islands. Yes, the Cayman Islands. Oceanfront Properties. It's a real estate company. What? Oh, I'm sorry. Go back to… err… what you were doing. See you tomorrow. We'll be in early!"
As Lois hung up, Clark made his way over to the intrepid reporter. Before she was able to speak, Clark pulled Lois into his embrace and gave her a loving kiss. "You're so cute when you boss other people around."
Lois smiled and slowly pulled away in order to look at the soiled suit. "You're a mess!"
"Oh! I'm sorry! I'm kinda grimy. Aren't I?" Their earlier embrace suddenly embarrassed Clark. "I hope I didn't get you too dirty."
Lois made her way over to her dirty boyfriend and gently kissed his cheek. "Don't apologize! You're the only man I'd ever want to get close to when he's all stinky." She wrinkled up her nose and began to giggle.
"Why don't I go take a quick shower? Be back in a flash!"
Clark returned within a few moments and found Lois hard at work. "According to Jimmy's research, Tim 'Blackout' Claver was, apparently, a highly touted electrical engineer who had a problem with authoritative figures. He was fired from numerous jobs over a short period of time… and decided to go into 'business' for himself. He pulled off several difficult burglaries. He was eventually caught by the Feds." She skimmed through the documents. "It says here that he was released from prison three months ago. Some high power attorney was able to get Claver's sentenced reduced. Some of the evidence appears to have been tampered with."
"Why now, though? He's been in prison for over ten years!" Clark said as he made his way towards the couch. "Someone must have really wanted him out of jail."
"Yeah… that's what I was just thinking."
"So… what've we got so far? An antique collector in possession of a rare, stolen painting; a recently liberated professional burglar; and a $750,000 land purchase in the Cayman Islands."
"We need to find Claver!"
"How about the archeologist… uh…Tim Matthews? Have you uncovered any of his secrets?"
Lois ignored the teasing tone in his voice and her expression immediately soured. "I've got nothing on him so far. Unfortunately, his only offenses seem to be arrogance and cruelty. Ooh!!! I wanted him to be involved just so I could see his expression when we nailed him for the crime of the century!" Lois attempted to stifle a yawn while maintaining the hard bitten news woman exterior.
Clark smiled at the tenacious woman. He gently took the papers out of Lois's hands and leaned over to give her a kiss. "I think we should stop working on this… for tonight…"
Lois would normally scoff at stopping so early in the evening. It was only 10 p.m.. But, she couldn't disagree with Clark either. She was getting tired. "Well, I suppose. I guess I better get this mess cleaned up and head home."
Clark's smiled deflated a bit. "You could stay here… if you want to?" Clark said softly.
He realized that they hadn't had their 'serious' talk yet, but the idea of spending time without Lois saddened him. His solitary moments now seemed intensified since they had started dating. Before Clark had met Lois Lane, he had resigned himself to a life cloaked in secrecy. But now, he had had the opportunity to discover the joy of companionship… of shared secrets.
Lois looked into his dark brown eyes. She saw love and desire. He didn't want her to leave… but they hadn't had a chance to talk about their relationship. "Oh Clark… I'm not sure if that would be a good idea."
"I know we haven't had a chance to talk… yet. If it makes you feel any better, I'll take the couch and you can have the bed. Okay?"
"Clark! I'm not going to make you sleep on your couch. It's not like I live that far away. I can just go home."
"But, I don't… I don't…"
Lois grabbed his hand and placed a gentle kiss on his palm. "You don't… what?"
"I don't want you to leave." There… he had said it. "I like having you here. I know that this may sound crazy, but I miss you when you're not around."
Touched by Clark's words, Lois took another opportunity to kiss him. Within minutes the kiss turned more passionate. Lois broke away first so that she could replenish her oxygen supply. "Wow! That was what I was afraid of…"
"You were afraid of kissing me?"
"Of course not, Clark. It's just that… it's just that we are soooo unbelievably compatible. I'm so attracted to you! It's just so hard not to want to make love to you every time we're alone."
Clark smiled. "And that would be a problem because…?!?!" He knew that something had been bothering Lois and he was hoping that she might be ready to confide in him.
Lois giggled. "Well, it's not necessarily a problem. In fact, last night was one of the most amazing nights I've ever spent with… anyone." Lois looked down as Clark tentatively grabbed both of her hands. "I'm just scared, Clark."
This was what he'd been afraid of. He'd pushed Lois into something that she wasn't ready for. He'd promised to take things slowly. "I'm sorry, Lois. I'm sorry that I didn't keep my promise about taking things nice and slow. It's just that I have wanted you in my life for so long… I guess I've rushed things a little bit. I'm just so excited that we're finally together."
Lois finally looked up. 'What is he talking about?' For reporters, they sure were having a difficult time communicating. "Honey, you have done nothing to apologize for. It's all my fault. I keep sending you mixed signals. One minute I'm saying let's take things one day at a time and the next minute I'm attacking you."
"I don't mind… really." Clark chuckled. "Why don't we sit down and talk for a little while? If you're not too tired?"
Lois saw the hopeful expression in Clark's gaze. Her heart leapt at the sight. Still clasping his hand, Lois made her way back over to the couch. Clark withdrew his hand and placed his arm around Lois's shoulder. She snuggled into his warm embrace before speaking. "Clark, I can't get over how good it is to be with you… both at work and at play."
Clark could feel her smile against his shoulder. "Me too. But I think we better try to figure out where we go from here. Believe me, I haven't been able to stop thinking about last night. But it wasn't just about sex, Lois. I felt connected to you in a way I've never known before. I felt… complete."
Lois understood that Clark was speaking from his heart and it was only fair to him to try to do the same. "Last night was absolutely wonderful. It's just that with every step we take… we're that much closer to… closer to… marriage."
To say that Clark was stunned would be considered an understatement. He'd known from day one that he was destined to be with Lois Lane… to love Lois Lane… to grow old with Lois Lane.
Her engagement to Luthor had obviously derailed his plans. Yet, he'd never given up hope that one day she'd be his… and he'd be hers. And even though he thought about marriage, he'd never seriously discussed the topic with Lois. He had no intention of scaring her off.
Marriage? He'd no frame of reference for his current situation. He'd marry her right now if she'd let him. But somehow he instinctively knew that she wasn't ready for the ultimate commitment between a man and a woman.
For a split second, Lois wondered if she was reading too much into their one night of passion but her concerns were quelled by Clark's response. "I'd love to marry you Lois, but I have no intention of
rushing you into anything you may or may not want."
Reassured by Clark's words, Lois explained her hidden fears. "I'll be honest with you Clark. I've been thinking about it for a while now. It's just that I've never had a successful relationship, and I'm afraid that I may screw this one up too." Lois's babble gene kicked in and in a rush of air, she continued. "And my parents… their marriage was filled with lies, indiscretions, and affairs. They were miserable. Lucy and I were miserable. I promised myself that I would never endure that sort of pain ever again. That's why I agreed to marry Lex. Not because I loved him… but because I didn't. He would never be able to hurt me because I'd never let him into my heart. But you… but you…" Lois tried to regain her composure and smiled timidly at Clark. "But you could completely devastate me. I don't think I'd be able to handle it if you ever left me." As she spoke her final declaration, Lois eyes misted over. One lone tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.
Clark lovingly cupped her cheek and gently brushed away the tear. He'd never leave her, but how was he ever going to be able to convince her of that? All along, he had feared that she was afraid of commitment, and she was to a certain extent. But first and foremost, she was afraid of abandonment.
"Sweetheart… I may have to leave sometimes, but rest assured, I'll always come back. You are everything to me. I would've hoped that you'd know that by now. And as far as us being married… that would be a dream come true. I haven't said anything because I wanted to give you time to warm up to the idea." He smiled reassuringly before continuing. "I didn't make love with you last night to rush you into matrimony. It just felt right somehow. It was the most wonderful experience of my life… you have to believe that. And if it makes you feel better, we don't have to make love again until you feel more comfortable with our relationship. Like I said, I'm not going anywhere."
His husky voice sent a shiver down Lois's spine. This man who sat beside her was willing to give her time to sort out all of her emotional baggage. He was giving her the gift of time.
Lois got up slowly. Without releasing Clark's hand, she directed him towards his bedroom.
They changed into some more comfortable clothing and proceeded to climb into bed.
Clark pulled Lois within his embrace. She gently laid her head down on his chest. He kissed her on the forehead and wrapped his arms around her. Within minutes, they both fell asleep.
"How was your date last night?" Lois beamed at a very unamused Jimmy Olsen. "Sorry… I… uh… interrupted." She shared a knowing glance with her partner. It was about time that the young Mr. Olsen was interrupted for a change.
Jimmy flushed at Lois's teasing remarks. "It was fine… a good date." Wanting desperately to change the topic, Jimmy handed Lois a manila folder. "Here's the information you guys wanted. Oceanfront Properties is owned by a company called T.A.L.C."
Lois took the folder and scanned the contents. "No names… addresses… nothing. Not much to go on, but definitely a dummy corporation.
Clark's eyebrows furrowed as he read the information. "Did you run anything on Claver? What's he doing now? Do we know anything about the lawyer who got his sentence reduced?"
Jimmy dug through the remaining documents. "Uh… yeah… three months ago he started working for DataTrax. The company creates and develops computerized layouts, blueprints, and conceptual art for architectural firms. Claver apparently took some computer classes while in prison… caught on real quick. Anyway, after he was released from prison he went to work for them."
"What about his lawyer?"
Jimmy looked at his notes, but he'd forgotten to do a background check on Claver's lawyer. "I'm gonna have to get back to you later about that, CK I forgot to have him checked out."
Clark admired his honesty. Jimmy had done a great deal of work during the past several days. "That's okay, Jimbo. We hadn't asked you to." Realizing that Jimmy might need a little ego boost, Clark said, "You've done a good job. I think you'll be a great investigative reporter one of these days."
"Thanks, CK You don't know what that means to me!" Jimmy trailed off eager to fulfill his research assignment. "I better get started on the lawyer."
Lois sat watching the interplay between the two colleagues… the two friends. "That was really sweet, Clark. I think you've made his year. He is a good kid, isn't he?"
"Yeah… and he had this deer caught in a headlight' look. I kinda felt sorry for him. We don't always tell him what a good job he does. So, I thought this might be the perfect chance."
Lois patted his arm as he sat down in the chair beside her desk. "So, do you think that we should talk to Claver?"
"Yeah! We're kind of at a standstill right now."
"The calm before the storm?"
Clark laughed. "That's pretty much how we work. Isn't it?"
Lois and Clark arrived in the lobby of DataTrax only to be told, once again, by the front receptionist that Mr. Carver was 'unavoidably detained at this time'."
Clark pulled her to the side before leaving the building. "We'll come back in an hour or so."
"Okay. Since Ms. Personable won't let us even leave a message for him to call us. The nerve… doesn't she know who she's dealing with? I hate that!"
Clark broke out into a full-fledged grin. "Go get her, honey!"
Lois stopped mid-tirade and saw the teasing expression on her partner's face. She giggled. "I… um… guess I… got a little carried away. Huh?"
"Nah, I've seen you much worse."
"Remember the Godzilla doll…"
Lois's eyes narrowed before she spoke. "Thanks for reminding me. I've been meaning to talk to you about that!"
They arrived at DataTrax (via Superman Express) by 4 p.m.. Clark used his x-ray vision to locate Claver's office. He and his passenger, the ever-tenacious Lois Lane, gently floated through the fifth story window.
"What exactly are we looking for?"
Lois pulled open a filing cabinet and proceeded to thumb through its contents. "I'm not sure. Why don't you try breaking into his computer? I'll see what's in here."
Clark sat down in the plush office chair. He could figure out passwords pretty easily due to the judicial use of super speed, but Jimmy was much better at hacking into computer hard drives. He scanned the available information. "Well, here's a Fortune 1000 client list. The document is too big to print. I'll try to save it to a disk."
Lois made her way toward a large, lateral filing cabinet located behind Claver's desk. Inside, she found stacks and stacks of blueprints. "These must be some of the buildings that Claver's working on. Wow! These are incredible!"
Clark continued to download various documents. He scanned the hallway. Several employees were making their way down the corridor. "We've only got a couple minutes… some people appear to be getting off work early."
"Let's get this room back to the way we found it and get outta here."
"We've got a problem and I'm not taking the fall for this." Claver vehemently spoke into the telephone's receiver. "I didn't agree to this just to get thrown back into prison. Now you fix this… or I will." He slammed down the phone as he replayed the surveillance camera's footage taken the evening before.
"I'm printing the client list, but It's gonna take a while." Clark stated as he strolled over to Lois's desk.
"Clark, something about those blue prints have been bothering me since last night. Would blue prints divulge a company's security system?"
"It might show some of the sensor symbols, but the plans wouldn't necessarily provide anyone with a way to figure out how to navigate around the system. Only the security company itself would…"
"… know what the symbols meant. Clark, I think we're heading in the wrong direction. Maybe we should find out who had access to the museum's schematics."
The two reporters broke out of the investigative mode long enough to greet their colleague. "What's up?"
Jimmy smiled smugly as he handed Lois a piece of paper. "I have only two words for you… Sheldon Bender."
"Bender? Is he Claver's lawyer?" Lois glanced down at the document. "It figures!"
"Hey Jimbo, can you do us another favor? It's, uh, not exactly 'legal' so if you don't want to…"
Jimmy smiled at the mild mannered reporter. "What do you need, CK?"
"We need you to find out who has had access to the museum's security system over the past several months."
"It might take me a while, but it's doable."
Lois took a few deep breaths. They were so near to having the answer and yet so far away. "Clark, I feel like we're running in circles here. Whoever is behind this sure did their homework. I'm just so frustrated! What are we missing?"
Clark noticed that Lois looked rather tense. 'Sometimes it's more effective to step back and take a moment to distance yourself from the problem at hand.' They both needed some distance. "How about we grab some lunch and tackle this when we get back?"
"That sounds like a good idea."
They were making their way towards the elevator when Clark's distracted look alerted Lois that she would be spending lunch alone. "What do you hear?"
"Gunfire… Where are you going for lunch? I'll meet you if I can."
"How about Gabby's Deli?"
"Okay… Gotta go." He kissed Lois before spinning on his heels and heading towards the stairwell.
Superman arrived on the scene to find that the MPD had the situation under control. He was flying back to meet Lois when a faint ticking sound infiltrated his super hearing. The superhero scanned the affected area. His face paled as a tiny brunette stuck her key into the driver's side door.
Lois made her way to the street level. It was a bright, sunny day. The hustle and bustle of city-life penetrated her senses. She loved living in Metropolis. Never a dull moment.
She made her way towards her Jeep Grand Cherokee. She fumbled through her purse and found the car keys. 'Maybe I'll go for a drive. The fresh air could do me some good.' Lois bemused as she unlocked the car door.
The next few seconds passed by in a blur… literally.
Superman swooped down at breakneck speed and moved Lois out of harms way. He picked up the Jeep and flew as high as possible making his way towards the Atlantic Ocean. He watched as the car disintegrated into millions of pieces.
Lois shook her head roughly. One minute she was opening the car door, and the next moment the Jeep disappeared off the face of the earth. 'Clark must have been here.'
She sat down on a nearby bench and impatiently waited for her boyfriend to return.
Superman returned in short notice. Lois noticed that he was unable to make eye contact with her, and she immediately pounced on him. "Where's my car?"
"Well… it… uh… kinda blew up. I'm so glad I was flying by." His face dropped slightly at the thought of being too late to save Lois. She had the panache for getting into trouble at the drop of a hat. Yet in this instance, trouble had found her.
Lois face turned white as a sheet. "My car? I loved that car."
Superman witnessed a myriad of expressions pass over Lois's beautiful face. He so desperately wanted to comfort her and was about to do so when he realized that he was still wearing the Suit. He flew into a nearby alley and changed back into his business suit. He quickly took the seat next to Lois and placed his arm around her. "I'm sorry, honey. I know you loved the Jeep, but I'd rather lose an inanimate object… thousands of replaceable objects… to the alternative!"
Lois was still visibly shaken and it showed in her response. "The alternative?"
Clark turned her head so that she made eye contact with him. "The alternative is losing you, and I find that totally unacceptable." He gently kissed her on the lips.
The kiss broke Lois out of her self-induced revelry. The color returned to her cheeks and her eyes squinted due to the bright sunlight. "Clark, someone blew up my car! Ooh! I can't wait until I get my hands on them. I'm gonna make him pay!"
The fire in her eyes assured Clark that Lois was going to be okay. His heart raced at the thought of losing her, but he hesitated showing Lois his inner turmoil. He had to be strong for her. 'I can obsess about this later.' And he would… he always did.
"We will, Lois. We're obviously on the right track in our investigation. Someone went to a lot of trouble to plant that bomb. We need really watch our backs. They're going to find out sooner or later that the bomb only managed to blow up the car."
"What are you suggesting?"
"I'm suggesting that we stick together. They're probably going to come after us again."
"Not if we get them first…" a determined Lois Lane said as she marched back into the Daily Planet building.
"Larry? Where are you?" Henry walked around the abandoned warehouse. The musty smell and dust particles triggered his allergies. "Ah… choo!"
"Is that you, Larry?"
Larry Neal stepped out from the shadows and approached the timid antique collector. "Have the bosses contacted you yet."
"No! Should they have?"
"Well, maybe they didn't think you had enough spine to handle the latest developments."
Henry Jarvis visibly cringed at the insult. "What are you talking about? I thought this was over. The police are at a stand still and Lane and Kent have…"
"… been snooping around in Claver's office. I heard through the grapevine that someone tried to dispose of Lane earlier today. But surprise, surprise… Superman showed up and saved the day." Neal moved closer to Jarvis as he spoke in a hushed tone. "We've got to move to plan B. Take the up front money and run."
Jarvis appeared shaken. He'd never wanted to hurt anybody. The entire charade was getting out of hand. "I never wanted anyone to be killed. I just wanted to…"
"What Jarvis?" Neal's tone heavily laced with sarcasm. "You didn't really think that we'd be able to get away with this totally unscathed. Did you?"
"No, I suppose not, but what are we going to do?"
"Well as soon as we're contacted, we'll need to get a hold of Claver…"
A very gruff Lois Lane walked down the newsroom ramp. Her hair was slightly ruffled and her clothes slightly askew. She was followed by a rather haggard looking Clark Kent.
Jimmy bounded up the incline in hopes of finding out what was wrong with the reporting team. "What happened to you guys? I thought you were going to lunch."
Lois glared at the cub reporter as she made her way back to her desk.
Clark stayed behind to answer Jimmy's question. "Well, we were unlocking the Jeep when suddenly Superman swooped in and commandeered the Jeep… before it uh… blew up."
"Blew up? You have got to be kiddin' me, man." Jimmy shook his head slowly. "Boy, you guys must be on the hit list of every major whacko in this city." Jimmy noticed Clark's strange look and realized that he had, once again, taken the wrong approach at being empathetic. "Uh… tell Lois I'm sorry about the Jeep. She loved that car!"
Clark placed his hand on Jimmy's shoulder to stop the young man from digging a deeper hole. "I'll tell her, Jimmy. I think the best thing you could do for her right now is to find out who had access to the security schematics."
"Sure thing, Clark." Jimmy left with his tail between his legs.
Clark found his partner rifling through mounds and mounds of documents. 'She needs to focus her energies on the case. She needs to forget about her car… for now.'
"Lois?" Clark softly spoke in her direction. "Are you okay?"
She only nodded her head in affirmation.
Clark knew that she desperately needed to regroup yet still wanted to work on the investigation. "How about we take all of this 'stuff' into the conference room? Okay?"
Lois started gathering up the piles of data when Clark gently placed his hand on top of hers. "How about I take care of this stuff and you get us some coffee?"
She arrived a few moments later carrying two steaming mugs of office brew. Clark closed the conference room door and lowered the blinds slightly. He took both mugs and sat them down on the table and turned his full attention towards his partner. She looked startled yet determined.
Clark approached her slowly… allowing her time to 'warn him off' if she so desired.
Clark pulled her within his embrace and gave Lois a long, comforting hug. They stayed that way for a while… each gaining strength and reassurance from the other. Then he placed a small kiss on her forehead. "I'm so glad that you're okay."
"Me too." She took a shuddering breath before continuing. "I don't know why I'm letting this affect me so much. I'm angry! I'm frustrated, and it has nothing to do with my Jeep being blown to smithereens…"
Clark raised his eyebrows at her latest admission. She smiled a small smile. "Well, it bothers me a little. I guess." Lois took his hand and they sat down.
"Over the past year, I've been held at gunpoint, kidnapped, trapped in a vault with no oxygen, thrown out of an airplane… you name it and it's probably happened to me." Lois giggled slightly in hopes of downplaying her propensity for getting into serious trouble. "But this time it seemed different. I mean, mind you, I wasn't even looking for danger. I thought I was going to pick up some pastrami on rye…" She trailed off for a moment realizing that she was still hungry. She shook her head to ward off this current tangent.
"It's okay Lois. Just talk to me." Clark said in an encouraging tone.
"It's just that I have so much more to lose now… if something… were to hap… were to happen to me. Before it was always about getting the story, but now so many other areas in my life are worth living for, too. You are a part of my life I'm not willing to give up."
Clark knew that she loved him, but he was totally unprepared for her admission. "You are everything to me, Lois." His expression darkened and his tone saddened. "I can't stand the thought of being too late to save you. If anything ever were to happen to you, I don't know how I'd survive without you."
Emotions were running rampant, and for once in their young lives, they weren't trying to run from them. They were merely being honest with one another.
They gave into the moment and kissed each other with such passion that they almost forgot they were still at work. Almost…
The lovers pulled apart slowly. "Thanks! I needed that." Lois said as she placed small kisses on Clark's jaw line. "Now let's find out who destroyed my car and who robbed the museum. Then let's talk some more. Okay?"
Clark grinned at her renewed determination. "Yes, ma'am."
"But I want to make something perfectly clear! Just because I am planning on being a little more careful in the future does not mean that I've given up on getting my hands on the ever evasive Pulitzer." Her smile turned into a full-fledged grin.
Lois and Clark managed to find enough time to eat some lunch (thanks to Superman Express). They spent the next several hours compiling information.
"So, let's see what we've got so far: a stolen Monet, an ex-con working at a high tech architectural firm, three-quarters of a million dollars paid to a dummy real estate company in the Cayman Islands, an attempt on my life, the destruction of a beautiful silver Jeep Cherokee…" Lois grimaced. "Lots of circumstantial evidence but nothing to tie it all together. I wish Jimmy would…"
"…would what? Hurry up?" Jimmy Olsen entered the conference room with a Cheshire grin on his face. He had information that Lois desperately wanted.
"Please, Jimmy. Tell us you found something."
Jimmy had both reporters full attention. "Well, it seems about six weeks ago the Metropolis Museum of Fine Arts requested a duplicate set of schematics. Apparently minor modifications had been made to the museum's security system.
"Who made the request?"
"The museum's director, Larry Neal. The security company, Steel Bars, provided the museum with a basic set of prints. These prints indicate sensors, trip wires, laser placement, things like that… Apparently, the museum's board of directors approved a major renovation and expansion project."
"Did anyone else have access to Steel Bars secured information?" Lois beamed at the newfound knowledge.
"Yeah! About a week later, a computer terminal located at DataTrax accessed additional information. I'm talking heavy duty, ultra sensitive data…" Jimmy trailed off clearly proud of his accomplishments. "Evidently, DataTrax made a bid to complete the renovation." Jimmy referred to his notes before continuing. "The funny thing is that DataTrax wouldn't have needed this type of information in order to make a cost-effective proposal. If you give me more time, I might be able to determine which terminal accessed the information."
The three reporters left the confined space of the conference room and made their way into the newsroom. Lois hypothesized. "If I were to make a guess, I'd say that Neal was our man inside the museum. He probably went home that night, but returned a few hours later. It was probably his 'carelessness' that disabled the security camera in the generator room a few days before the robbery took place. I'll bet that Claver, whose specialty is electrical engineering by the way, most likely dismantled the generator ahead of time. All he had to do was shut down the grid for the entire city block. Then when the museum's security system automatically sealed all entrances and exits, all Neal had to do was make sure that a back entrance… most likely near the loading dock… was unlocked."
Clark carefully listened to her hypothesis. "But how would Claver have been able to shut down an entire city block?"
Jimmy had been thoroughly enjoying watching the investigative team perform as one cohesive unit… but now they were dabbling in his field of expertise. "He's a computer genius, CK He did some pretty amazing things when he broke into the security company's main terminal. He covered his tracks pretty well. Fortunately, I have been doing this longer than he has." Jimmy smiled. "But Lois is right. Most utility plants are hooked up to some sort of mainframe. If he could access Steel Bars data, I guarantee you that he'd be able to break into a utility company. I'm going to try and find out whether or not he had access to Metropolis Power and Light. I'll let you guys know if I find anything." Jimmy hurried off.
"Special delivery for Lane and Kent?"
"We're Lane and Kent."
A tall, slender deliveryman dollied a rather large wooden crate in their direction. "Please sign here."
Lois signed on the dotted line while Clark judiciously scanned the crate. "I don't believe it!"
Lois looked up sharply. "What is it? Is it a… a … bomb?"
"No, it's the missing Monet and a letter from Jarvis." Clark muttered under his breath.
"What?" Lois exclaimed as adrenaline coursed throughout her body. "Let's open it up!"
Clark carefully opened the crate. He was careful to ensure that the painting remained partially wrapped… he didn't want anything to happen to the masterpiece during its short tenure at the Daily Planet. He retrieved the envelope and opened it.
Attn: Lois Lane and Clark Kent Daily Planet
From: Henry Jarvis
October 24, 1994
I, hereby, admit to aiding and abetting Larry Neal and Tim Claver with the Metropolis Museum of Fine Arts robbery. I provided a list of clients for the merchandise to be sold to. In exchange, I acquired Monet's exquisite magnum opus, Water Lilies.
Recent events have made me reconsider the crime that I've committed. I never intended for anyone's life to be taken. That's why I am professing to this most serious of crimes. In exchange for my testimony, I genuinely hope that the justice system will be lenient in its sentencing.
I have also included, as a separate document, a master list of those who moved and transported the artifacts from the museum to a temporary holding facility.
I am meeting with Neal and Claver this evening at 9 p.m. in order to discuss the distribution of the artifacts. Our rendezvous is to occur at an abandoned warehouse located on 4th and Junction. The establishment's previous name was Hidden Treasures. Quite fitting… don't you think?
If you are to involve the police, I suggest prudence. These are dangerous people.
I have signed this document in the presence of a notary public on this day October 24, 1994.
Henry Jarvis Harold Smith, Notary Public
The reporting team perused the letter. In their hands was the final piece of the puzzle. It only took a few moments before they were in each others arms. "We did it, Clark. This is amazing! Who would've thought that one of the crooks would've cracked under the pressure? It's almost too easy…" Lois trailed off as doubt suddenly surfaced.
Clark's furrowed brow didn't go unnoticed by Lois. "It could be a trap. Someone's already tried to kill you once today. I'm not sure I like this…"
Lois understood his caution, but barreled onward. "We can't let that stop us! We'll just have to be extra careful."
"Okay. I guess, but I'm going to have Superman check on that warehouse before tonight's meeting."
"Where the heck is Jarvis? He was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago." Lois Lane grumbled as she placed a tiny tape recorder into her jacket pocket.
Lois and Clark had arrived early in hopes of speaking with Jarvis before his meeting. However, the wayward criminal had yet to appear.
"I still think that we should've called Henderson this afternoon." Clark reiterated. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this!"
"You know how this works, Clark. If we'd told him about this meeting, he'd have insisted that we stay out of it. Let Metropolis' finest handle everything." Lois sighed heavily. They'd been rehashing the same argument for the last two hours. "Are you ready to go in?"
"Have you called Henderson yet?"
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. "I was just about to call him."
Clark listened in as Lois briefed Henderson on tonight's meeting. The detective was clearly angered by the duo's impromptu sting operation. He expressed his concern over their safety and threatened them within an inch of their life if anything went wrong.
"We'll be fine, Henderson. Superman won't let anyone harm us." Lois winked at Clark, but continued to talk. "Listen, we don't have a lot of time. Jimmy Olsen should be arriving any minute with a package. In it you'll find copies of our research and a notarized letter from Jarvis. He's provided a list of accomplices, implicates Neal and Claver, and admits to knowingly abetting the thieves. Not bad for a couple of reporters, huh?"
"Not bad, Lane. You guys stay put. The troops should arrive in ten to fifteen minutes…"
"Oh good! That'll give us plenty of time to get a confession out of them!" Lois taunted the wary detective.
"STAY PUT, LANE. Do you understand?" The line abruptly disconnected. The troubled detective stared momentarily at the phone before replacing it in its cradle. "Simmons! Get in here…"
The duo approached a side entryway and crept slowly into the warehouse. The exterior of the building was quite deceptive. The metal roofing and siding was in need of repair, yet the interior was swept and dust-free. Wooden crates of all shapes and sizes were neatly stacked, cataloged and ready for shipping.
"Where the hell is Jarvis? He was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago." Neal's anger was barely contained. "We can't do anything until we see the shipping manifesto."
Claver looked up from his laptop only long enough to see Neal pacing back and forth. "Relax, Larry. Maybe he had car trouble. Besides, we may not be in need of his services any longer. I've just accessed his hard drive. Won't be long before I find the client list."
Neal's pace slowed as he turned towards Claver. "How can you be so relaxed, Tim? What if he went to the cops? He's always been a little too timid for my taste. I'm not so sure that we can trust him."
"Well, it's a little too late to be second guessing his allegiance. We've already committed the crime."
"I know, but I've got a bad feeling about this…"
"Like you're about to go to jail for a very long time?" Lois Lane stood up from behind the crates and slowly approached the shell-shocked criminals. Clark stayed close by her side. "Now tell me something. Are you two really art lovers or did you just do it for the money?"
"What are you doing here?" Neal quickly reached into his coat and retrieved a 35mm gun. "How did you find us?" Sweat furrowed on Neal's brow as he pointed the gun in their direction. Clark took a small step in front of Lois's body in order to shield her from any gunfire. "Don't take another step, pretty boy. Believe it or not, I know how to use one of these things."
The Metropolis Police Department lined the run-down neighborhood with a series of unmarked squad cars. Sharp shooters were positioned on the roofs of several nearby buildings. Men and women alike double-checked their ammunition stockpile and silently obeyed the order of wearing protective gear.
Henderson surveyed the scene carefully. Lane and Kent's lives depended on the precision of his tactical unit. He was determined that the reporting duo come out of this unscathed.
'Then I can kill them! Nobody has that right but me.' He held a tentative grasp on his anger. Lois' call had certainly ruffled his feathers. 'But if they deliver the goods, I may let Kent live. He's never hung up on me before.'
The museum robbery had placed the detective in a difficult situation. He didn't have the manpower or the resources to concentrate on one act of theft. Admittedly, the theft in question robbed the city, and the world for that matter, of the ability to display various pieces of rare artwork. The financial costs alone were in the billions. The pressure on him to solve the crime had come from the commissioner herself. City officials feared that visiting exhibitors would consider bypassing one of the largest cities in America… all because of one burglary.
Henderson noted that his team was almost ready to storm the premises. He refocused his energy on the task at hand. "Okay guys and gals. Let's get to it!"
Without turning, Neal started shouting commands. "Claver, check out back and see if they're alone. If you see that do-gooder, Superman, don't hesitate using that green rock on him. Luthor seemed to think that it would kill him."
Clark's eyes widened. It'd never occurred to him that there might be Kryptonite in the warehouse. He'd naively thought that the deadly meteorite was no longer in existence. He'd assumed that Luthor had used the entire piece of rock in order to create the Kryptonite cage. After being alerted to the fact that the cell had been used to trap the superhero, the MPD had promptly destroyed the jail cell.
Lois placed her hand on the small of Clark's back reassuring him that Superman would not need to make an appearance.
"I'll repeat the question one more time. How did you find out about this warehouse?"
"Jarvis told us all about it. We have a notarized letter stating that he merely provided a client list and that you and Claver committed the burglary. He also mentioned the attempt on my life."
"He what?" Neal looked genuinely shocked.
Clark continued to shield his feisty partner as he spoke. "Who are your clients, Neal?"
"I don't know!"
Lois rolled her eyes at his latest admission. "Don't play dumb with us. I want to know who blew up my Jeep!"
"I don't know! Jarvis provided the funding and found us the 'clients.' They've been orchestrating the robbery since day one." Neal's anger slowly resurfaced. "I'm going to kill him… that double crossing, no good pansy ass!"
The sounds of gunfire penetrated the quiet of the night. In an organized rush of activity, the men in blue entered the old warehouse brandishing a wide variety of weaponry and several protective shields. Neal saw that he was considerably outnumbered and made a futile attempt at an escape. The police force quickly apprehended the suspect and read him his rights.
"What took you so long?" Lois glared at the approaching detective.
"Well, we had a development. Claver tried to escape through the back exit. We exchanged gunfire. Our sharpshooter hit him in the leg. He'll be all right. A little sore… but he'll live."
"And the kryptonite?"
"Wasn't he carrying a lead-lined box with him?" Lois's anxiety over the poisonous rock was affecting her more than she had expected.
"I'm not sure. Let me check it out. Simmons, get over here." Henderson hurriedly explained the situation to the young lieutenant.
Clark's concern over the deadly rock was evident, but he also had a job to do. "What about Jarvis? Did he ever show up?"
"Jarvis is dead."
"What? Are you sure? How?"
"Breathe, Lane. You're going to hyperventilate." Henderson found himself somewhat overwhelmed by her tenaciousness. "He was traveling on interstate 180 when his brakes apparently failed. His burning car was discovered at the bottom of the ravine."
"Are you sure it was him?" Clark questioned the gruff officer.
"Well, the car was registered in his name. The identification on the body was Jarvis'. He was pretty badly burned. Forensics is ordering an autopsy as we speak."
Simmons arrived a few moments later carrying a small metal box. Clark made a hurried excuse and left the warehouse. Henderson opened the container and a sickly, green glow emerged. Lois soft gasp at the sight alerted the detective that in his hands he held the genuine article. "It's evidence, Lane."
"Yes, it is, Henderson, but we can't take the chance of this getting lost in evidence lockup or getting into the wrong hands now, can we?"
Henderson's eyebrows furrowed… a worried expression darkening his features. Superman had done nothing but help the city of Metropolis since his arrival. It was vital that the superhero be allowed to continue to do his job… more importantly… to live. He closed the box and reluctantly handed it over to Lois. "I trust that you'll let the big guy get rid of this stuff."
Lois smiled at the wearied detective. He was a good man despite all of his attempts to remain gruff and unapproachable. "Thanks, Bill."
He slightly nodded an affirmation and quickly changed the subject. "Where'd Kent go anyway?"
"He… uh…" Lois stalled for a moment before her wayward partner re-entered the warehouse. Behind him trailed a wide-eyed Jimmy Olsen who immediately began photographing the active crime scene. "He went to find Jimmy."
"Don't go touching anything… or you'll have me to answer to." Henderson's gruff attitude abruptly re-emerged.
"We know the drill, Bill." Clark said as he re-entered the conversation. "Oh, and you might want to check Claver's laptop over there. He accessed Jarvis' client list just before the raid."
"We'd like a printout of that document." Lois would not have information withheld from her. "We want a copy of the tape recording as well. We'll need it for our article."
"I'll just bet you do! Did you get their confessions on tape?"
"Yes and no. It seems that Jarvis had a larger role in the robbery than his letter implied. Neal mentioned that someone else had coordinated the robbery, but neither Neal nor Claver knew their identity. I'm assuming it was one of Jarvis' high-powered clients. Whoever it was didn't leave any traces of involvement. All of the evidence that we uncovered led back to Jarvis, Neal and Claver."
"Clark's right. All of the evidence indicated that we had found our culprits." Lois looked around at the room at the various wooden crates when inspiration struck. "I'm assuming that you'll itemize all of the stolen artifacts. We want that list as well."
"I bet you do, Lane. By the way, I'd like to talk to both of you about the legalities of withholding evidence from law enforcement agencies…"
Lois and Clark worked diligently with the police. They shared vital information with each other in hopes of finding the mysterious 'client' who had orchestrated one of the largest heists in American history. There was still a danger that he or she might strike again at a later date.
Most of the artifacts had been accounted for and returned to the museum. Unfortunately, some of the priceless relics were still missing. Neal and Claver were held without bail awaiting their individual trials.
Jarvis' client list had not yielded any clues as to the whereabouts of the stolen relics. The manifesto file had been erased… and even Jimmy Olsen couldn't resurrect the deleted document. Throughout his lengthy career as a highly successful antique collector, Jarvis had conducted business with over ten thousand influential individuals and organizations. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
So it was with mixed emotions, Lois Lane and Clark Kent wrote a series of compelling front-page articles on the museum's robbery. It was a definitive coup for the Daily Planet. The newspaper's circulation more than doubled during this period of time.
The book was never officially closed on this investigation. Congratulations were given, yet the reporting duo instinctively knew that they would one day discover the truth.
"Precious, you know it's really too bad that we weren't able to sell the remaining merchandise." She leaned back on the couch and snuggled within her husband's warm embrace.
"I agree, honey. It certainly would have been nice to have been able to add money to our already vast fortune." He gently cupped his wife's face and kissed her gently along the jaw line. "But, at least we were able to augment our burgeoning art collection."
Amber laughed a sultry giggle before nibbling on husband's ear. "The arms of the Venice De Milo, the original Magna Carta, Jimmy Hoffa… such one of a kind treasures and they're all ours."
"Yes they are, dumpling." Tim Lake's gaze fell upon his bride. "And I promise further rare acquisitions in the future."
"Oh, goody…" A rapturous expression highlighted Amber's face. "Have you heard from Jarvis yet?"
"Yes! He's safely tucked away in a small village in Colombia. Even if the police realize that the body they found wasn't Jarvis', I understand that extradition from South America is somewhat… complicated."
"We're so good…" Amber trailed off with a devilish giggle. "How about a drink, honey? I'm buying."
A very different couple snuggled on Clark's couch, drinking wine and listening to soft music. The romantic evening had begun with dinner by candlelight and a chocolate mousse for dessert.
The last several months had been a grueling yet beautiful time for the young couple. In the face of diversity and professional challenges, they had become a team both personally and professionally. Their close friendship had blossomed into love.
"Clark?" Lois broke the silence with a soft whisper.
"I've been thinking…"
Lois took the opportunity to sit up and turn in Clark's direction. Their eyes locked onto one another and she smiled a shy smile. "I know that the past few months haven't been easy…"
Clark grabbed her hand and squeezed it gently. "I know."
Lois picked up his hand and brought it to cup her cheek. He gently caressed her face and pulled her in for a passionate kiss. She broke away reluctantly, needing to confide in him while she still had the nerve to do so. "I don't think that we need to date anymore."
Clark's face abruptly hardened as if he had been slapped in the face.
Lois suddenly realized how her statement could have been misconstrued. She nervously took his hand as it dropped from her face and gently kissed his palm. Grasping his hand tightly, she found the strength to continue. "What I meant to say is that people date each other in order to find out how physically and emotionally compatible they are. We already know." He solemn expression disappeared instantaneously. "Over the last several months, you have shown me through you actions and kind deeds that you are a strong, caring, compassionate, loving soul. You've given me time to work through my emotional baggage and never tried to rush me into anything I wasn't ready for. But above all else, you have stood by my side through good times and bad. I know that you will have to leave me on occasion, but I also know that you will always come back. I'm secure in a way that I've never been in my entire life… you complete me. It's almost like… we're soul mates." Lois took a deep breath. "And I was wondering if you might want to spend the rest of your life by my side." Tears of pure joy rolled down her cheeks and a small smile played on her lips. "Oh, Clark… will you marry me?"
He pulled her within his embrace once again and hugged her fiercely. She pulled back from him suddenly and their lips met in a tender kiss. Her tears fell on his face as they held onto one another. "Oh, Lois… of course I'll marry you!"
Lois giggled joyfully. "Really?"
Clark's inner joy was about to boil over. His fondest wish was coming true… he was going to marry the woman of his dreams. His hearty laughter filled the air. "Shouldn't I be the one to ask you?"
The man that sat beside her was raised in America's Heartland. His traditional upbringing had always been an asset to his character… so… "Okay! Ask away!"
Clark got off the couch and kneeled before his beloved. He took her tiny hands and held on tightly. He already knew what her answer was going to be… but he was surprisingly nervous. "Lois, I have loved you since the first day we met. Your passion and strength gives me the inspiration to be the best man that I can possibly be. I know that sharing your husband with the rest of the world is not going to be easy… and there may be times when I have to leave. But I will always come back… and I will always love you… no matter what. You embody a stubborn, loving, caring, beautiful soul." His words enlisted a smile from his intended. "And I would be honored if you would agree to be my wife."
"Yes!" Lois abruptly stood. She hugged and kissed her fiance. Their passion for one another ignited quickly as they made their way towards Clark's bedroom.
There would be time later to pick out the perfect ring… to buy a new Jeep… to catch Jarvis' 'clients.'
What mattered now was that two soul mates had found one another. They had been given a special gift… a lifetime kind of love.