By ML Thompson <email@example.com>
Submitted February 2000
Summary: What if Tempus never altered the events of the alternate universe? Perry White would be editor of the Daily Planet. Clark Kent would have married Lana Lang. There would be no Superman. Now imagine that Lois Lane returns to Metropolis … (Part one of a two-part series.)
The Other Woman — Part One (A parallel dimension story)
What if… Tempus had never figured out how to get to the parallel universe that we have all come to know and love. What if… because of that Perry White never felt the need to go into politics in order to defeat him in the Mayor's race. What if… Tempus never took the Lois Lane from our world into that parallel dimension.
Perry White would be editor of the Daily Planet. Clark Kent would have married Lana Lang. There would be no Superman.
Since the Clark Kent of this parallel dimension lost the moral guidance of his parents when he was ten, his moral standards are bound to be slightly different. Having said that I would state that although this Clark may react somewhat differently in a given situation, he still possesses much of what the Lois from our world called 'his innate goodness.' (This is actually just a disclaimer clause in case you don't like the way I navigate this moral minefield)
Also having lost his folks so young Clark would have grown up without their knowledge of his powers and their unconditional acceptance of him in spite of them. As a result I think Clark would be much more insecure, feel like much more of an outsider and think that he was something of a freak.
Moreover in the alternate world, Lois and Clark have never met. Lois was lost and is presumed dead while working on a story in the Congo before Clark began working at the Daily Planet.
Furthermore I am of the opinion that if she had not been distracted by a pair of blue tights, Lois would have noticed Clark's unique abilities sooner. I also think that her intense feelings for Superman kept at bay her feelings for Clark. In this story however there are no blue tights to divert her attention. The only problem is a little gold band that Clark now wears on his left hand. So then… What if?
One final word. Although this is an alternate world I have left most of our supporting cast as they are in our world. Of course there are some differences which I'm sure you will notice.
Don't worry. I like happy endings.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." — I Cor. 10:13 N.I.V.
So then, without further ado…
Clark sighed contentedly as he leaned back in his chair. He had landed the inside story on the latest drug bust of the Metropolis P.D. Henderson had been particularly helpful. Clark liked Henderson. He was a tough but honest street cop.
Clark wished he could spend the evening with someone like Henderson instead of going to this dinner party. He had never been able to warm up to Lana's friends. He tried over the years, but he just couldn't get into discussions about the stock market and various other ways of making money. But that was the price of marrying the only child of a man as rich as Daniel Lang.
Lana was always trying to bring Clark into the family business, but that was the only thing that Clark was able to deny his wife. In everything else he just let her have her way, because he simply did not have the will to fight her.
He was not even using his powers much anymore. Before he married he tried to help where he could. But after enough times of being rebuked or threatened by his wife, after seeing her weep in fear over what would happen to them if anyone found out about him, he gave in. He had to kill a piece of himself to do it, but he did not want her hurt.
He ran his hands through his hair before getting up. He grabbed his jacket, heading for the door and another night of endless conversations about money. That was the one thing Clark really had no interest in.
Lois Lane stepped out of the airport and into the summer sunshine of Metropolis. She filled her lungs with air. She still didn't have a lot of her memory back. But the smell of the city was familiar to her. She saw a yellow cab coming down the street. More from instinct than memory, she stuck her thumb and index finger in her mouth. She let out a soul shattering whistle, and the taxi screeched to a halt. She smiled and entered the cab.
"Daily Planet," she instructed the cabby.
Lois Lane was still not sure of a lot of things. At least she now knew three things without a doubt. She knew that her name was Lois Lane. She knew that she had worked at the Daily Planet. She knew that Perry White had been her boss.
There were other things that she felt more than knew. She felt that she had been a good reporter. She just wasn't sure why she thought that. She also felt good when she thought about Perry White. Part of her cast him in the role of a father, but that didn't seem quite right. So here she was on her way to the Daily Planet to try to put back the pieces of her life.
Lois stepped out of the cab in front of the Daily Planet. She stood on the corner looking up at the large globe. Although she couldn't remember seeing it, looking at it now felt comforting.
Clark exited the front doors of the Planet. His head was down as he walked down the sidewalk. He was late. His wife hated it when he was late. He wished he could fly. He missed flying so much. But he had promised her. So he would have to make up time in the traditional way by rushing. He never even saw the woman until he crashed into her. Lois went flying.
"I'm sorry," Clark gasped. He rushed over to the woman now lying on the pavement. He offered her his hand but she just lay there looking up at him. It took her a moment to regain her breath. When she did, she let Clark have it.
"Why don't you watch where you're going? What were you trying to do, kill me? Is that it? You look for innocent women on the streets and you try to kill them by rushing them. What type of moron are you anyway?" Lois was in full rampage mode now. "They shouldn't allow people like you on the street. At least if I had been in a car I would have had the protection of the vehicle. Instead you just…"
"I guess that means you're okay?" Clark asked softly.
"Do you really think I would be lying here on the sidewalk if I was okay? What are you made of anyway. It was like being hit by a brick wall. What are you grinning about?"
"I'm sorry," Clark said as he fought to bite back a grin. Lois looked at him curiously. She looked down briefly before she began to laugh.
"I guess I do get sort of carried away."
Clark offered her his hand. This time she took it. The instant their hands touched both felt a surge of electricity. Clark helped her to her feet. They just stood there for a moment. Neither moved to separate their hands. Suddenly Clark backed away, releasing her.
"I… um… well, if you're okay… I guess I should be going. Once again, I'm sorry." With that Clark rushed away.
Clark was consumed by guilt. He was a married man. Yet the feelings that involuntarily cascaded through his system when their hands met was… He couldn't even put it into words. He had no frame of reference for what he had felt. But he did know he had no right to feel what he felt when he had taken the hand of that brunette.
As Lois watched him walk away she noticed what a great physique the man had. She let out a long breath. It had been a confusing moment for her. Did she know him? He didn't seem to recognize her but there was a moment when her heart felt like she knew him. Surely if he did recognize her, he would have said something. She shook her head and turned to enter the Daily Planet.
"What the Sam Hill is this?" a familiar voice bellowed through the newsroom. "What do you people think we are running here? The Borneo Gazette?" Anyone not in the direct line of fire quickly shrank into the background. "These pictures are unusable. Would someone tell me who is responsible for…" His voice trailed off as he caught sight of the brunette standing in front of the elevators with a small smile on her face.
This was so familiar to her. Until this moment she couldn't have said what Perry White looked like. But she recognized him instantly.
Perry just stood and stared for a moment. Then he slowly began walking toward the elevator. The targets of his latest tirade, thankful for the interruption, quickly slunk out of the newsroom.
"Honey, is that you?" he asked softly as he approached her.
"It's me," she responded. In a moment she was in his arms.
"How is this possible?" he finally asked. "I must have sent a dozen people looking for you when you disappeared over there. Where have you been? What happened?"
"Can we go somewhere to talk, Perry?" He nodded, led her to his office and closed the door.
"I'm not exactly sure where to start. This is going to sound crazy but… well, I don't remember much of my life before… well, before the accident. I find that certain things seem familiar to me but until a few months ago I didn't even know my own name. The people at the mission that took me in called me Lucy. I chose the name, though I'm not sure why."
"Lucy is your sister's name, Honey."
"Wow." Lois paused for a moment, digesting this information. "Anyway… apparently I was found almost dead at the sight of a plane crash. I don't remember that at all. The natives came across me and took me to a medical mission in the area. They nursed me back to health, but I couldn't remember anything. The doctors there said that I was suffering from traumatic amnesia. They told me that I would eventually begin to get my memory back. I had almost given up hope when I started having dreams."
"What kinda dreams?"
"They were disjointed… the way dreams are. But when I would wake up I would remember things. In one I was hiding behind a stack of boxes holding a camera. In another I was eating fudge from a place called the Fudge Castle." Lois shook her head. "I have a lot of inconsequential memories. But soon I came to know three things. I knew that I was Lois Lane. I knew that I was a reporter at a paper called the Daily Planet, and I knew that you were my boss."
"Didn't you have any identification on you when they found you?"
"Apparently not. They said that the plane had been stripped. They figure someone came across the plane and thought everyone was dead. They stole everything worth stealing, including my identification."
"What about a passenger manifest? Couldn't you track down who you were through a passenger manifest?"
Lois shook her head. "Apparently it was some sort of private charter so there was no record of passengers. I tried asking if anyone had seen a woman get on the plane in Brazzaville, which was where the plane took off from. No one remembered. Before I was able to get to Brazzaville, it was several months after the accident. I even managed to track down the company that chartered the plane, but they didn't know of any women who were scheduled to be on the plane either."
"What was the name of the company?"
"Niocorp. It was some sort of import/export company."
"Niocorp was the company you suspected of smuggling guns into the States. That was why you were in the Congo."
"Well… maybe I was a stowaway or something."
"I would think that is a good possibility." Perry paused, "So then what have you been doing for the past few years?"
"I've been helping out on the mission. The people there were great. They took me in, gave me a home and a job. Then when my memory started coming back and I told them I had to come to Metropolis to try to find my life, they gave me a plane ticket and two hundred dollars cash. The mission was always short of funds so I know what that cost them. I promised I would pay them back as soon as possible."
"Don't worry. You just give me an address and I'll get a check in the mail today."
"I can't ask…"
"You didn't. I want to do this. You've always been like a daughter to me. I want to pay them back for returning you."
'Okay,' thought Lois. 'I guess that means that he is not my actual father, but it does explain why I think of him in that role.' "Thanks, Perry," she conceded.
"Do you have a place to stay?" Perry asked.
"I was thinking that I would try to find a cheap hotel…"
Perry waved his hand. "Enough of that. You're staying with Alice and me."
"Alice? That's your wife, right?"
He looked at her for a moment. She had seemed fine until this moment. Suddenly he realized that she really had lost her memory. His heart broke. He nodded.
"Are you sure that will be all right with her?"
"She'll be thrilled. Trust me."
"Thanks. I'm also hoping… well, I do need a job. Do you think…"
"Well… How about we do this? You come with me to work Monday morning. I'll team you up with another reporter and we can see how you do? You may need some time to recover before coming back to work."
"I don't really see myself as the partner type."
Perry smiled. "Neither do I, but you do need someone to show you the ropes. Don't worry. I'll team you with the best. His name is Clark Kent. He has as many Kerth Awards as you do."
"Journalism Awards, Honey."
"I knew it!!" Lois exclaimed. "I knew I was good."
"You were the best, Lois." She beamed in response.
The blond-haired Lana Kent was in an animated conversation with a tall, attractive man that Clark knew as Bill Wilson. He was a friend of Lana's from college. 'He is much more her type then I am,' thought Clark. He never understood why Lana had chosen him. They had gone to their final year of high school together the year Lana lived in Smallville. Her parents had separated and her mother had taken her and gone to live with an aunt and uncle in Smallville. Lana's parents divorced that year.
Lana seemed lost and out of place in Smallville. Clark understood that feeling. As a result he had been drawn to her. She immediately latched onto him. Soon she had told everyone that he was her boyfriend. He didn't have the heart to correct the impression, so he fulfilled that role. They were separated when they finished school. Lana went to university immediately while Clark spent a couple of years seeing the world.
Clark had a job at the Daily Planet when Lana returned to Metropolis after a series of wild affairs in France. He was glad to see her but never had any intention of marrying her. But here he was. Married now for a year and a half.
Lana spotted Clark.
"Where have you been?"
"I had a bit of an accident. I…" he fell silent when she resumed talking as if he had never spoken.
"You know how Daddy hates it when you're late."
"I'm sorry," he mumbled softly.
"Sorry? Clark, you're always sorry. Yet you're always late. How am I to believe you're sorry when you keep doing the same things over and over again?"
He looked down. She had a point. "I'll work on it, Lana. I promise."
"Well, now that you are here, come and hear what Bill was telling me about his latest real estate plan. You know, you really could learn something from Bill. He has made more money. If only you wouldn't be so stubborn and would come work for Daddy. That way we could have the life we deserve. I don't understand why you keep insisting on working as a reporter for that newspaper. You could make so much more money working for Daddy."
"I like my job," Clark said softly.
In the half light of the room Clark's lips met hers. He groaned softly as she undid his shirt and began to plant soft kisses across his chest. He pulled her further into his arms, his hands reaching around to undo the zipper on the back of her dress. She pulled back slightly to allow the dress to fall to the floor. Her hands began to unfasten his belt. He picked her up in his arms. He carried her to the bed and gently lay her down. He bent over her and felt her hands snake up his sides as he began to kiss her throat, losing himself in her soft brown hair…
Clark awoke with a start. He was floating. He dropped the three feet back down on the bed. Brown hair. No. That wasn't right. He was breathing heavily. He looked around the darkened room. Fortunately he and Lana didn't share a room, because, for a second night, the woman in his dreams — he didn't even know her name — was not Lana. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to banish the image. Guilt once again invaded his system.
At least he was thankful that he didn't know who she was. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.
When Clark entered the newsroom on Monday, Perry's voice bellowed, "KENT!! My office now!!" Clark quickened his pace to comply.
"Yes, Mr. White?" Clark didn't notice the young woman sitting across the desk from the Chief with her back to him.
Perry White sighed. It had been three years and yet he still couldn't get Clark to call him Perry. Clark was always courteous and friendly. But he seemed to hold everyone at a distance. This was accomplished with Perry by the formal address of 'Mr. White.'
"Clark, I'd like to introduce you to someone," Perry said as Lois rose and turned to face the man. "Clark Kent, this is Lois Lane. Lois…"
"YOU!!" both Lois and Clark gasped in unison.
Their joint exclamation cut Perry off. When they didn't continue, Perry said, "I take it you two have already met."
Lois' face broke into a smile; Clark looked stunned. Lois finally spoke. "Yes Perry. We… um… sort of ran into each other the other day outside the Daily Planet."
"Um… I mean…" Clark's voice trailed off. Here she was. The woman from his erotic dreams. "I mean… it's nice to meet you." Out of habit he held out his hand. When she gently took it he fought to retain control. Their hands never really shook. They just stood there for a moment holding hands, before Perry interrupted.
"Well, anyway… Lois Lane worked here before you joined us, Clark. She…"
"You mean this is the Lois Lane I have heard so much about over the years?" Clark looked confused for a moment. "But, Mr. White, I thought you said she had been killed investigating a drug smuggling operation."
"I thought she had. Apparently I was wrong."
"I was in a plane crash. I lost my memory. I've only recently begun to get it back. As soon as I did I made my way back here. There are still a lot of gaps, but… at least I now know who I am." Her voice got soft as she finished. Clark felt an immediate response to her pain. In an effort to lift it he responded.
"Well then… it really is an honour to meet you, Ms. Lane. I have heard a lot about you over the years. Mainly whenever we would get scooped. Mr. White here would inform us that that would never have happened if you had been here."
Lois laughed. "Well that is bound to make me popular around here." She paused for a moment before adding, "And please call me Lois."
"So are you coming back to work here?"
"Actually, Clark," Perry responded, "I want you to team up with Lois at least for the time being — while she tries to get her memory back."
"Certainly, Mr. White," Clark responded, swallowing hard.
Perry nodded. "Okay, then… Let's get to work. I heard a report this morning on LNN that a police officer has stepped forward claiming that a large number of high ranking city officials have been making use of the services of underage prostitutes. I want you two on it."
"Do we know who the officer is?" Lois asked.
"No. We also don't know who he is naming or whether the allegations are true. That's what I want you to find out."
"Yes, sir," said Clark. He looked at his new partner. "So are you ready to get to work?" She smiled in response. Yes, she was certainly looking forward to getting to work, especially with this new partner.
"Where do you think we should start?" Lois asked when they arrived at the desk.
"I think we should start by talking to Inspector Henderson, Ms. Lane. He is often quite helpful and he might be able to give us the name of the police officer making the allegations."
Lois looked thoughtful for a moment before saying, "Henderson. That name sounds so familiar." She paused. "By the way, Clark, if you call me Ms. Lane one more time I'll scream. My name is Lois."
Clark looked slightly uncomfortable. He was desperately trying to keep an emotional distance from this woman. Calling her by her given name would not help. But he was inclined to believe that she would indeed scream. He didn't relish that kind of attention. He nodded.
Lois perched on the corner of Clark's desk as he sat down to pick up the phone. She noticed a photograph on the desk. It was of Clark and a blond-haired woman. 'Damn' she thought. She put on her most cheerful voice and asked, "Your wife?"
"Thank you," he said. Then he looked confused. Somehow that didn't seem to him like the correct response but he couldn't think what else to say.
Lois noticed the reaction and read his mind. She smiled. He really did seem a little naive, but she found it absolutely adorable. In fact, she found everything about this man absolutely adorable. Well, except for the fact that he was married. She looked briefly at his finger and noticed for the first time the band of gold there. She could hardly believe she hadn't noticed it before. Lois had one rule in her relationships with men — no married men. How could she have managed to overlook it so easily this time?
Clark placed the call to Henderson as Lois watched. She had been thinking about this man a lot since they met. She hadn't even considered the possibility that he would be married. Somehow that just didn't seem right to her. But then, why wouldn't he be? After all, he was gorgeous, nice and successful. Any woman would jump at the chance to marry him. She looked at the woman in the picture again. She instantly disliked her. But that didn't change the fact that she was Clark's wife. Lois tried to push the thoughts of a possible relationship with Clark Kent as far from her mind as possible. No matter what immediate attraction she may have felt for him, he was definitely off limits.
Clark couldn't get through to Inspector Henderson. Apparently he was somewhere in the station, but they were unable to locate him. Clark left a message asking him to call back as soon as possible.
"Perry said there was a report on LNN. Why don't we watch it and see what we can find out from it while we wait to hear from Henderson?" Lois suggested.
Clark smiled. "You catch on fast," he responded.
They got a copy of that morning's report and stuck it in the VCR in the conference room.
A reporter who was looking particularly pleased with himself was asking questions of a man whose silhouette was all they could see. The reporter started by providing the background for his audience.
"A member of the Metropolis Police Department, on the condition that he not be identified, has informed LNN that a group of the city's leading citizens are using the services of child prostitutes.
"So how exactly did you come across this information?" the reporter asked.
"It turned up in another investigation. I thought that, given the age of these girls, the men have to be stopped. That is why I am coming forward."
"Can you tell us who is on the list?"
"I'm not prepared to do that at this point. However, I will say that it involves people from as high as the mayor's office to leaders of industry in Metropolis."
"Why aren't you prepared to provide us with names?"
"I don't want to destroy anyone's career or family. I just want it to stop. I am hoping that by going public, the people involved will cease their activities."
The reporter came back on the screen. "We caught up to the mayor earlier today." The camera flashed to a picture of the mayor exiting his car.
"Mr. Mayor, do you have any comment about the allegations made this morning about some of this city's highest officials being involved with underage prostitutes?"
"I have no comment at this time except to say that I am not prepared to respond to allegations made by a man who refuses to identify himself." With that the camera came back to the reporter.
"And that's what we have on this breaking story at the moment. Back to you, John…"
Clark hit the button on the VCR and sat down at the table. He ran his hands through his hair trying to think. There was nothing in there, even with his enhanced vision, that they could use to identify the cop. His thoughts were interrupted by Lois.
"Clark, what exactly did they say when you tried getting through to Henderson?"
"Not much. Just that Inspector Henderson wasn't at his desk but that he was somewhere in the station. Why?"
"Don't they have a PA system?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"Then why didn't they page him?"
Clark only looked confused for a moment. Then the light dawned. "You think he's trying to avoid us," he stated.
Lois smiled. "Come on," she said, heading for the door. Clark followed.
Three men met in the plush executive office.
"So do we know who it is?"
"No, Mr. Luthor. I have people working on it right now. Until we have closed off this leak we can't use the hookers to keep everyone in line. However, given what's at stake, I don't think anyone will get careless."
"So then unless this leak talks the network is still in place," stated Dan Lang.
"Then we have to find the leak. You two do what you can on that front. When you do find him, give the information to me. I'll take it from there," instructed Luthor.
"You realize that, if we lose this, our grip on the city will crumble."
"I am well aware of that, Mr. Mayor."
When the Mayor left the other two men sat in silence for a moment. Finally one of them spoke.
"If it comes down to it, I say that we give them the Mayor as their sacrificial lamb. Once they know the Mayor's part, or at least the role we will invent for him, I doubt they will look beyond that."
"I was thinking the same. Besides, everyone involved knows how dangerous it is to cross either of us. So I think we can count on their discretion."
"And the Mayor?"
"I doubt he would risk talking. He knows what we're capable of too."
Lois and Clark finally spotted the inspector. Henderson noticed Clark first.
"Sorry, Clark. I know why you're here, but I'm under strict orders not to talk." With that Henderson began to walk away.
"Whose orders?" Clark called after him. Henderson stopped and came back over to Clark. He was about to speak when he noticed the woman standing beside Clark.
"Omigod!!! Lois? Lois Lane? I thought you were…" He paused, looking helplessly back and forth between Lois and Clark.
Lois laughed. "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." She looked at Clark. "I've always wanted to say that."
"But then… well, where have you been? Why didn't you tell anyone you're alive? Does Perry White know? I heard he took your dea… your disappearance badly."
Lois was about to respond when Clark cut in. "How about a little quid pro quo? She will tell you her story if you will answer a couple of questions for us."
Lois looked at her new partner with admiration. Under that soft-spoken exterior was a sharp mind. Henderson's natural curiosity, which is what made him a good cop, would make Clark's proposal almost irresistible. Henderson looked back and forth between them for a moment before coming to a decision. He led them into an empty office. Once he closed the door, he spoke.
"Okay. I know who this guy is. I will try to set up a meeting for you tonight. But you have to be certain that you tell no one about this."
"Tonight?" Clark asked. Lois noticed a trace of concern in his voice.
"Is that a problem?"
"No… No problem," Clark responded while at the same time thinking, 'Big problem.' Lana hated it when he worked evenings, and, after being late for the dinner the other night, he knew he was on thin ice. But this was his job and this could be a big break.
"Okay, then, what's the story, Lois?" She filled him in. He was amazed.
"Well, it's good to have you back. Even though you can be a pain in the neck," Henderson commented. Lois and Clark were about to leave when Henderson asked, "If I do manage to set up this meeting and you aren't at the Planet, where do I get ahold of you? Can I leave a message at your place, Clark?"
Clark thought for a moment. Given how opposed Lana was to him working evenings, he wasn't sure she would pass on the message. When he hesitated Lois jumped in. "Henderson I'm staying with Perry White at the moment. Leave a message there. I'm sure Alice will get the message to me."
Henderson nodded. "After all those years of being married to Perry, I'm sure she will. Oh, by the way, I've seen the list. In case you were concerned, Perry White's name is not on it."
"Thanks, Inspector, but we weren't," Clark responded.
Lois was ecstatic as they left the station. "This is big, Clark. I can feel it." She was heading out as if she had a destination in mind.
"Do you mind if I ask where we're going?" Clark asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I have a source in the mayor's office. I think we should pay her a little visit. Well… assuming that she still works there."
Lois walked several feet before she noticed Clark was no longer beside her. She turned and looked at him curiously.
"How did you know that, Lois?"
Lois looked startled for a moment. "I remembered!! Clark, I remembered!!" She threw herself into his arms without thinking.
He held her for a moment before releasing her and stepping away. He looked uncomfortable. The problem for Clark was that having this woman in his arms felt so incredibly right. Yet he knew it was incredibly wrong.
"Sorry. I guess I got a little carried away," Lois said, sensing his discomfort. "Anyway her name is Lorna Bowman. She always has the inside story from the mayor's office. At least, she did before…" she trailed off.
Clark looked thoughtful and then said, "She's still there. I'm just not sure that barging into the mayor's office asking to speak to her is the right course of action." Lois stopped for a moment.
"You're right. If this thing is as big as we think there will be a hush order over there too. It's almost noon, and if I recall correctly she always left city hall for lunch. What if we wait for her to take her lunch break?"
Clark smiled. "Sounds like a plan."
Lois and Clark settled down on a park bench outside city hall to wait for Lorna Bowman.
"Are you sure that Ms. Bowman will talk to us?" Clark asked. "I've tried to get information from her on and off for two years now. She's never cracked."
Lois smiled at him. "Her father had some… well, let's just say trouble, a few years back. I came across it in my pursuit of a story. I didn't include her father in the story. Since then she has been my source in the mayor's office."
Clark looked horrified. "Are you saying you're blackmailing her?"
"Relax. It's not like that. She was just grateful for my discretion. That's all." Lois looked at Clark for a long moment in concentration before continuing, "How did Perry ever hire such a boy scout?" Clark looked seriously embarrassed. Before Lois could comment, Clark noticed Lorna. They got up and made their way over to her. She noticed Clark first.
"Sorry, Kent. No comment."
"No comment! You don't even know what he's going to ask," Lois responded.
"Sure I do," Bowman said, turning to address the woman speaking, "He wants to know about… Lois Lane? Is that really you?"
"In the flesh," Lois responded, before giving the explanation yet again. Clark had now heard it enough that he could probably tell it as well as Lois. However, he enjoyed watching the people she was relating it to for the first time.
"So then, given the fact that you are with Kent here, I assume that means you are back working at the Daily Planet," Lorna stated more than asked.
"That's right… and we need some information."
Lorna looked around quickly before suggesting they go somewhere more private to talk. Once they got settled around a table in a nearby coffee shop, Lorna took a deep breath.
"This will have to be off the record. If the mayor realizes that I spoke to you it will cost me my job."
"Is it really that tense over there?" Clark asked.
Lorna nodded. "It's as bad as I've ever seen it. Normally the mayor battens down the hatches when he sees a storm coming, but this… Well, I've never seen anything like it. I spent most of the day cancelling appointments for the mayor. Of course, any that were too high profile were kept, in order to give the press the appearance that everything is under control."
"But it's not," Lois prompted.
Lorna shook her head briefly. "The mayor took off for some secret meeting earlier today and was gone for a couple of hours. When he returned he looked like he'd been to his own funeral. He placed a call to the chief of police demanding that they track down the cop making these allegations."
"But wouldn't an investigation be in order here?" Clark said, not seeing anything unusual about what the mayor was doing.
"That's just it, Clark. I overheard the mayor's phone call to the chief of police. He told the chief that he didn't want any sort of official investigation started here. He just wanted the guy located and the name provided. He also made it clear that he wanted this information kept under wraps. Personally I would bet my last dollar that the mayor is involved in whatever is going on here."
Lois and Clark looked at each other. This was big. "Thanks, Lorna. I promise we will keep your name out of this," said Lois as Lorna rose to leave. "And if anything else comes up…"
"I'll be sure to let you know. By the way, Lois… It's good to have you back. It was getting a bit dull around here without you. Somehow things just seem to happen when you're around."
"Come on, Clark," Lois said after Lorna left. "I think we have tomorrow's headline. Let's get back to the Planet."
"What headline?" Clark asked.
Lois gestured in the air as she read the non-existent headline, "MAYOR'S OFFICE IN UPROAR OVER ALLEGATIONS." When Clark continued to look at her she continued, "Look, we won't be meeting with the cop making the allegations till tonight. In the meantime the activity in the mayor's office is a good story. If there was no truth to the allegations the mayor wouldn't be so panicked."
"I agree. But all we have is the word of a woman who won't go on the record. You know what Mr. White will say…"
Lois let out a short breath. "I know. I know… 'Hard facts… What I need are hard facts,'" Lois said, using her best Perry White impersonation.
Clark smiled. "You see… your memory really is starting to come back."
"So do you have any idea where we can get confirmation?" Lois asked.
Clark looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think I can find out who the mayor was supposed to be meeting with today. If we can confirm with them that the mayor has been cancelling appointments…"
"Great!" Lois exclaimed. "Who do you know that can help us with that?"
Clark looked uncomfortable for a minute. "Actually, Lois, I think I should do this alone."
"When pigs fly!!"
Clark let out a short breath before saying, "Okay. Just let me make a phone call first." Clark made his way to a phone and pretended to call. He normally didn't work with a partner and now had to come up with a plan that Lois would believe. He used the time at the phone to formulate his idea.
"I talked to my source. He will meet me at city hall on the floor below the mayor's office. He thinks he can get us the information we need. Why don't you wait here while I…"
"Let's go," Lois interrupted as she rose to leave. Clark followed.
They arrived in city hall and made their way to an area directly below the mayor's office in a few minutes. Clark spotted a men's room.
"You stand look out. If anyone sees me talking to my source he will likely lose his job." When Lois was about to object, he continued, "If that should happen we would lose a good source." With that Clark quickly walked into the men's room.
Clark stood just inside the men's room staring intently at the ceiling using his x-ray vision to find the desk of the mayor's secretary. He then allowed the desk to fade from view as he examined the books on top of the desk until he found the mayor's appointment book. He read the names that were crossed out and wrote them in his notebook. He had just done that when an impatient Lois Lane stuck her head in the men's room. Clark quickly exited.
"Was he there?" Lois asked. "I didn't see anyone go in and I didn't hear you talking to anyone." Clark pulled out his notebook and triumphantly showed her the names he had written there. She looked at him oddly before smiling. She had doubted his source story but he did seem to have the information.
The first cancelled appointment was a meeting with the city workers. The union boss was only too happy to see them.
"Well at least someone is taking these talks seriously," stated a portly-looking, older gentleman. "The mayor doesn't seem to think these talks are important enough to even show up."
"What was the meeting about?" Clark asked.
"We're in negotiations for a new agreement. The old agreement ends in six weeks. The mayor's office has been playing hardball with us for some time now. We've been trying to negotiate with the city negotiators. Today the mayor was supposed to come personally to hear our demands. When he didn't show up the city negotiators wanted to continue without him. We walked out. If he doesn't think our contract important enough to put in a personal appearance, why should we stay?"
"Were you given any reason for the mayor's cancellation?" asked Lois.
"Just that something had come up and he wasn't going to be able to make it." The union boss then launched into a tirade about how the mayor's record was dismal in dealing with the city workers and that this was the last straw. He told Lois and Clark that if that didn't change immediately the mayor would find out the hard way just how essential the city workers are to the running of the city. He had been on the phone with the heads of some of the other unions and they were beginning to discuss a city wide walk out.
The rest of the afternoon was spent talking to the others that the mayor was supposed to have meetings with today. None of them could give them any real idea what was so important that the mayor had had to cancel.
One of the items on the mayor's list for today was a tee-off for a charity golf tournament. It had not been cancelled. It was to take place at four o'clock.
"Why wouldn't he have cancelled that instead of a meeting with the city workers?" Clark wondered out loud.
"Think about it Clark. The tee-off will have press coverage. He wouldn't cancel that if what Lorna said about trying to keep up the appearance of a normal day is true. I say that we should be there and maybe ask a few questions."
"Mr. Mayor," Clark said as the mayor stepped on to the green, "I take it from your appearance here today that you are not concerned about the allegations made that your office is involved with child prostitutes?" Lois looked at him in disbelief. What was he doing? He was actually giving the mayor a perfect opportunity to use this activity just the way he intended it — as a cover for the siege in the office today.
"Sorry, Mr. Kent," said one of the mayor's assistants. "We don't have time today for any questions from the press." Lois was about to object, when she felt Clark's hand lightly on her shoulder. She looked at him for a moment and then relented as the mayor spoke.
"That's all right, Bruce. I don't mind responding to Mr. Kent's question. You're right, Mr. Kent. This is just a normal day. Business as usual. The allegations that were made do not concern our office in the least."
Clark glanced over at Lois knowingly and suddenly she understood. He was setting the mayor up for her question. "Then why did you cancel your meeting with the city workers this morning?" she asked.
The mayor looked around, desperately looking for a way out. "And you are?" He finally asked.
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet. We have learned that there was an important meeting with the city workers this morning that you cancelled. I think the people of Metropolis deserve to know what was so important this morning that you would risk a city-wide walkout of city employees."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lane," said a very uncomfortable mayor. "Something came up…"
"What came up, Mr. Mayor? Would it have anything to do with the allegations made against your office?"
"No comment," said the mayor before his assistant stepped in and informed them that the mayor would not be answering any further questions.
When they stepped away, Lois looked over at Clark appreciatively. "That was good thinking," she commented.
Clark shrugged. "I figured if we hit him with the hard questions first he would just say he didn't have time for questions. I wanted to get him answering questions. So I figured…"
"That getting him to think that you were supporting his illusion was the way to do it."
"Well, yeah… and I figured I could count on you not to let him get away with it."
Lois smiled and pulled his arm. "Let's get back to the Planet and write this up."
Luthor sat back in his executive leather chair and stared at the T.V. The spectacle that the mayor had made at the golf course was being broadcast again and again on LNN. He looked at the screen thoughtfully before picking up the phone.
"Lang, Luthor here. Have you seen?"
"Don't you have some way of controlling your son-in-law?"
"Well from the looks of it, the woman with him did most of the damage."
Luthor snorted. "I'd say they worked together for that coup."
There was a moment of silence before Lang responded, "I'll see what I can do on that end. Have we heard anything about the squealer?"
"Hi Daddy," Lana said as she recognized the voice on the other end of the line.
"I have a bit of a problem that maybe you could help with."
"Sure. What's up?"
"Well I can't go into details but your husband is messing around in matters that are causing us problems. Can you see what you can do to distract him for a few days while we clean this up?"
"Is it important?" sighed Lana. "I have plans of my own for the next few days and they DON'T involve Clark."
"It's important or I wouldn't be asking. Besides, whoever he is… well, I'm sure he'll wait."
Lana sighed as she began pulling out a shirt that she had just stuck in her suitcase. Well, so much for a little fun in the sun. "Sure, Daddy. I'll see what I can do."
"LOIS, CLARK, MY OFFICE NOW!!" bellowed Perry White.
Lois and Clark looked at each other briefly before making their way to the Chief's office.
"Mr. White?" Clark asked when they entered.
"Close the door, Clark," Perry instructed before gesturing them to a chair. "I just received a call from the mayor's office…"
"Mr. White, we…" Clark began but was cut off immediately by a look from Perry.
"And after reading your article for tomorrow's paper, I can understand why. Good work, you two."
"Thanks, Perry," Lois responded.
"If this is any indication, I'd say you two have the potential to be the greatest news team since… Woodward and Bernstein. So where do you go from here?"
"We're hoping to meet with the cop making the allegations tonight," Clark responded.
"Good!" exclaimed an ecstatic Perry. "I'll look forward to tomorrow's story." With that he motioned for Clark to leave. "So, Honey, how's the memory coming?"
"Good. I seem to be remembering more and more as I work on things."
"Great. How's working with Clark? I'm thinking of teaming the two of you up on something like a permanent basis if this is the type of work I can expect from you. How does that grab you?"
Lois thought for a moment. She was concerned about working so closely to a guy who was both married and very attractive to her. But Perry was right. They were a great team. "I think it could work well. Well, that is…" her voice trailed off.
"It's just… Well, he's married and…"
"Did he try something?" Perry asked indignantly.
"No… No. It's just that I sort of want him to." Lois shyly pushed a strand of hair behind her ear at the admission. Perry just chuckled.
"Well, Honey, I think you may be kicking a dead horse there. Clark doesn't strike me as the kind who would cheat on his wife. Besides, he has always held everyone at a bit of a distance. I have been trying for years to get him to call me 'Perry'. I can also tell you that a lot of woman have tried to lure him away from his wife since they got married."
Perry nodded. "From what I can tell they have all been spectacularly unsuccessful. Besides you don't want to get involved with a married man. It's always a bad scene."
Lois sighed. "I know. There is just something about Clark… But I know. At least if he doesn't try something I won't have to make a decision, right?"
"Right. But if you don't think you can handle it…"
"I can handle it."
"Good. Because if today is any indication… I'd hate to lose you two as partners."
Lois got up to leave and then stopped. "Perry, I was just thinking. My family… I really don't remember them yet. But if my name is going to appear on a by-line in the paper tomorrow I think that maybe I should…"
"Omigod. I never thought of that. Take the rest of the afternoon and go see them."
"Um… do you have their names, addresses and phone numbers?"
"Of course, Honey." Perry flipped through his rolodex. "I have your sister's… she's here in Metropolis. I'm not sure where your mother is."
"What about my father?"
"Sorry, Lois. Your father died when you were just a child."
Lois nodded. "I guess I'll call my sister and take it from there."
Lois left Perry's office with a concerned look on her face.
"Is everything all right?" Clark asked when she approached.
She looked up, distracted. "Oh, Clark. Um… yeah, everything's fine… It's just…" she looked at him for a long moment before sitting down on the edge of his desk. "Could I ask a favour of you?"
She nodded briefly before continuing. "I just think that I need to tell my family that I'm alive before my name appears in the paper tomorrow. I'm just not sure how to do it. It doesn't seem like the type of news you give over the phone. Besides, I don't even remember them… well, not really. I do have a few images now that I think are my family, but…"
Clark waited as she tried to assemble her thoughts. Finally she continued, "I am afraid that if I just show up at the door of my sister's place she will be so shocked… I won't even know if I'm telling the right person…"
"Do you want me to go with you?" Clark offered.
Lois looked relieved. "Would you?"
"The mayor asked that I give you this envelope personally, sir."
Luthor looked at the lackey carefully before taking the envelope. Luthor waited until the man was gone before opening it. He smiled when he looked at the note inside. He made his way over to the phone.
"Get me Robert Hardway," he ordered his secretary.
It was only a few minutes more before a large gruff looking man was standing in front of him.
"I have a job for you," he told Hardway. "There is a cop who will be meeting with a couple of reporters on Pier 7 on Hobbs Bay at 11 o'clock. I want him unable to talk to anyone ever again. If you get there in time just take care of him. If he has talked kill the reporters too."
Hardway smiled. "When you want someone taken care of the hard way, call Hardway."
Luthor gave the man a patronizing smile. He had heard that same tired line so many times it almost made him want to kill Hardway. But Hardway was the best in the business, so instead Luthor just let it go.
Henderson had been overheard talking on the phone to an unidentified person. But his message was unmistakable. Considering who the reporters were he wasn't at all opposed to killing them too. But he really should let Lang know. After all, Kent was his son-in-law. If he wanted him alive he would have to keep him away from the docks tonight. Otherwise… no promises. He picked up the phone and made the call.
Clark placed a call to Lucy. Lois sat on the corner of the desk and listened anxiously. She didn't know exactly what Clark was going to say but for some reason she trusted him to handle this.
"Hello. Is this Ms. Lucy Lane?"
Lois couldn't hear the response.
"My name is Clark Kent. I'm a reporter at the Daily Planet. The reason I'm calling is that I have some news about your sister, Lois." There was a brief pause before Clark continued, "Well… I think it would be better if we speak in person Ms. Lane… Is half an hour good for you? Okay I'll see you then."
When they arrived at Lucy's apartment Clark got out of the car. When Lois didn't move Clark got back in.
"I can't do this. I don't even remember this person. I don't think I can handle walking to the door and…" her voice trailed off as she shook her head.
"What if I go in first and tell her about you. I'll come back out afterwards to get you."
"Thanks, Clark." He was about to get out of the car when Lois' hand on his arm stopped him. "I really do appreciate this, you know. I mean, I don't understand why you…"
"It's okay. You're my partner. I figure it's all part of the job."
She smiled slightly. "You know… you're okay, Mr. Kent."
Ellen Lane paced nervously in Lucy's apartment.
"I don't know why he couldn't have just told you over the phone," she asked for the umpteenth time.
"I don't know, Mom. He just indicated that it was better to do this in person."
"After all this time, could she really still be alive? He probably just wants to give us some information the Planet received about her death. Why isn't Perry White doing this? After all, it's his fault that she was there in the first place."
"Mom!! Take a pill or something."
Ellen looked at her daughter in disgust and was about to respond when there was a knock at the door. Lucy got up and admitted their guest. "Lucy Lane?" he asked.
Lucy nodded. "And I imagine you're Clark Kent. Please come in. This is my mother, Ellen Lane." Clark extended a hand to Lois' mother but was ignored.
"So what do you know about my daughter, Mr. Kent?"
Clark took a breath. "Could we sit down, Mrs. Lane?" he asked her. She shrugged and stepped aside for him to enter. When they got settled, Clark looked at the two women.
"I have some good news, Mrs. Lane," he finally said. "Lois is alive." This brought a flurry of questions from both women. They were being fired so quickly that Clark did not have an opportunity to answer. When they finally quieted down, he continued. "Apparently she was in a plane crash in the Congo years ago. She was injured… She's fine," he added to forestall their apparent concern. "However she has lost her memory. She just recently remembered her name and that she was a reporter at the Planet."
"Trust that to be the first thing she would remember," remarked her mother.
Lucy looked over at her mother briefly. "So where is she?"
"She's in the city. She is just a little nervous about seeing you. Unfortunately she has very little memory of her family. So she asked me to give you this news before seeing you herself. She needs you to be calm. Do you think you can do that?"
"I don't need instructions from you on how to treat my own daughter, Mr. Kent."
"Of course not. I just meant…" Clark was interrupted by a knock on the door. "And that's probably her." Both the women he was talking to were on their feet but neither answered the door. Finally Clark stepped forward and opened it to a nervous looking Lois Lane. He gave her his most supportive look and then took her hand and led her into the room.
"This is your mother and your sister, Lucy," he told her before melting into the background as the women took Lois in their arms. After their initial greeting, Lucy and Ellen had a million questions. Lois seemed to be handling it well, so when Clark's cell phone rang, he answered it.
"Clark Kent here."
"Clark," came his wife's voice. "I need you to come home now."
"I'm sort of in the middle of something here."
"Is it more important than me?" she asked.
"Of course not, Sweetheart."
"Well then, I'll expect you in half an hour." With that the line went dead. Clark sighed as he hung up the phone. He walked over to the women and addressed Lois.
"Are you okay here? I seem to have another matter I need to attend to." Lois got up and walked him to the door.
"I'll be fine, Clark. I'm beginning to remember. Well, at least Mom's ranting seems familiar. Go tend to whatever you need to do. I'll give you a call when we find out when and where we are meeting our source tonight. And, Clark… thanks." She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek.
As soon as Clark left, Ellen Lane piped in. "That man has a gold ring on his hand, Lois."
"Mother!!!" Lois exclaimed in exasperation turning back into the room.
"What's wrong, Lana?" Clark asked when he walked into their apartment. It was a beautiful apartment. It was much more extravagant then he wanted or needed or could even afford. It was Lana's money that paid for it. At first Clark had objected, but it was so important to her that he just went along with it.
"Does something have to be wrong for me to want to spend some time with my husband?"
"No, of course not, but I was working."
"Since when is that more important then spending some time with your wife? I made us airline reservations for a week in Hawaii. We leave in a few hours. I thought you would want to pack." Actually the reservations had been for her and her personal trainer. The man had little grasp of the English language, but he was gorgeous. But with Daddy's phone call that was now off. She decided that, rather than wasting the tickets, she would use them to get Clark out of town for a little while. At least this way she could still enjoy the sun.
"I'm in the middle of a story. I can't just up…" Clark stopped talking when Lana started to cry. "What's this all about?" Clark asked after he took his wife in his arms.
"I just want us to spend some time together. It just seems like we are drifting apart recently." Clark was stunned. He felt the same thing but it didn't seem like Lana was interested in rectifying the problem.
"Why does it have to be right now? Give me a week and…"
"A week!!" Lana exclaimed, pushing Clark away. "If this marriage doesn't mean enough to you to try to save it now, maybe we should just forget the whole thing."
"Lana, please! I care about our marriage. I just need a week to clean a few things up, and then I'll go anywhere you want." This started the waterworks again.
Lois Lane went back to the Daily Planet after her meeting with her mom and Lucy. She was feeling better. She still didn't remember a lot, but she did remember those two people. Lois and Lucy made plans to get together again in a couple of days.
When she got to the Planet, she began looking through the archives. She decided to try to find out what she could about the past, including looking at some articles she had written. She also wanted to find out about her new partner.
It didn't take her long to find Clark's wedding announcement. She read it carefully. 'Lana Lang.' Why was that name so familiar? As she continued to read it came to her. In high school her mother had insisted that she go to a private school. She could remember being mad because she wanted to attend Metropolis High with her friends. However, her mother prevailed. She could remember a girl a couple of years her senior who was there when she first arrived. She had been sent away for her senior year because of family problems, but Lois was sure it was Lana Lang.
Lois hadn't known Lana well but she could remember the reputation she had. The expression 'she has a mattress tied around her back' was what she most remembered. Lois shook her head. She could hardly believe that a girl like that could have married someone like Clark.
The phone rang.
"Lois Lane here," she said as she finished reading the article.
"Lois, it's Henderson. I have things set up for 11 p.m. tonight on Pier 7 at Hobbs Bay."
Lois hung up and quickly called Clark's place.
"Hello," said a seriously annoyed female voice.
"Is Clark Kent there?"
"He's not available."
Lois could hear a voice in the background. "Lana… please. Give me the phone." There was a moment of silence before Clark said, "Hello."
"Is it a bad time?"
"No, it's okay. I assume you have some news."
Lois paused for a moment. She could hear the strain in Clark's voice. "Listen, I heard from Henderson. He set up a meeting with our source at Pier 7 on Hobbs Bay tonight at eleven. Look, Clark, I can handle it. Why don't you take care of things at home and I'll see you tomorrow?"
"I'll meet you at the Planet at ten."
"Are you sure?"
Lois smiled slightly as she hung up the phone. 'Stop thinking this way,' she rebuked herself. 'I don't seriously want Clark to be unhappy. He has, after all, been really good to me.' Still, there was something almost satisfying to realize that all was not domestic bliss for Clark. 'Get a grip, girl. He's still married. You might as well hope he's happy. After all he is such a sweet guy. He deserves to be happy.'
It was a very different Clark Kent that met Lois at the Planet that night. He was as tense as Lois had ever seen a man.
"Everything okay, Clark?" she asked quietly as she got in the car. He nodded but didn't speak. "It's just that I can take care of this tonight if you need…"
"Lois, please!!" Clark interrupted. Then, realizing how abrupt he was being, he continued, "I'm sorry. I just can't talk about it, okay? It wouldn't be fair to… I'm sorry. I just don't want to talk about it."
Lois was silent for a moment. "If you ever do need a friend, I'm here. I take this partnership thing seriously too, Clark."
That got a smile out of Clark. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." The car was silent for the rest of the trip. Both Lois and Clark were lost in their own thoughts.
Lois was now feeling bad about her thoughts earlier. Whatever was happening between Lana and Clark was tearing Clark apart. She had no right enjoying his marital discord.
Clark was feeling guilty. He wanted to talk to Lois about what had happened when he got back to his apartment earlier in the day. He wanted to talk to someone. But he couldn't. He was extremely attracted to the woman sitting next to him. For him to open up to her about the problems in his marriage would be unforgivable.
The car rolled to a stop on Pier 7. Lois and Clark opened their doors and exited the vehicle. A man approached. Suddenly the night air was interrupted with gun fire.
Lois spun around and looked in the direction of the shooter. She saw the gun turn in her direction.
"NO!!" Clark yelled.
Lois never even saw Clark before he had her on the ground and was covering her body with his own. She heard the gunfire begin again. Before she was able to react, there was a loud crashing sound. Clark moved off her and over to a beam that had suddenly fallen between them and the shooter. She crawled after him. The gunman was looking for a target. He seemed to spot something and raised his gun again. Lois noticed the gun glow red slightly before the gunman yelled and dropped the gun. He rushed to a car and drove away. Lois headed in the direction of the gun as Clark made his way to the man who was lying on the dock.
Lois bent over and touched the gun. She pulled her hand back in shock. It was hot. She made her way back to the beam that had fallen from nowhere. The end looked like it had been cut. She touched it and pulled back again. It was also hot. She glanced over at her partner. He was bending over a man. She rushed over. She noticed Clark had his hand on the man's neck, feeling for a pulse.
"He's dead," Clark informed her. Lois looked away for a second. Clark pulled out his cell phone and called the police.
"What happened back there, Clark?" she asked when he hung up.
"What do you mean?"
"Well let's start with how the shooter missed us." Clark looked very uncomfortable. "Then a beam falls between us and him. The end looks like it was cut with a blow torch. In fact, it's still hot. The gun was also hot when I touched it. I don't know what happened but I'd bet that you do."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Lois. We got lucky. That's all." Lois looked at him for a long moment before nodding. She knew it had to be more than that, but he wasn't prepared to talk about it right now, so she let it go.
"Thank you, Clark. You saved my life."
Lois noticed a piece of paper that was caught against a crate near the cop's body. She picked it up and opened it.
"Clark, look at this." Clark came over. "It looks like the list. We have a lead."
"We have to give that to the police. It could be…"
"Important to the murder investigation? Of course I know that, Clark. It doesn't mean we can't copy it. Give me your note book." Clark did, and Lois began copying the information. By the time the police showed up, Lois was finished.
Henderson was horrified when he got the call. Lois and Clark spent a long time answering Henderson's question. The shooter had been wearing a mask so Lois couldn't identify him. Clark could have if he had x-rayed the mask. However, in his hurry to defend Lois and his concern about the fallen man Clark hadn't had time to get a look at the shooter.
It was a couple of hours later before Clark drove Lois back to Perry's place. She had not mentioned her questions about their survival to Henderson. But as they reached Perry's place, Lois turned toward him. "Are you going to tell me what happened out there?"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Clark responded. Lois nodded and got out of the car. She wouldn't pressure him for now. But she had no intention of letting it go, either.
Clark drove back to his place deep in thought. He knew that he was partnered with a woman who was a brilliant investigative reporter. She hadn't said anything to Henderson, but she knew that he was holding back. How long would it be before she discovered that he wasn't exactly normal? Maybe he should just come out and tell her. But he noticed the way she sometimes looked at him. In spite of the fact that he would never act on it, he didn't want to lose it, either.
How would she react to the information that he was not human? He didn't even want to speculate about it. Lana was the only person who knew. He had let it slip when they were in high school. She had accepted it and even married him. But it did make a difference — he often felt like it made her skin crawl when he touched her. He couldn't stand the idea of Lois reacting the same way.
Clark had been shuttled from foster home to foster home after the Kents died. He hadn't developed most of his powers till after that time. He hid them from everyone, terrified about what would happen if anyone found out.
He desperately wished that he didn't have these powers — that he was normal. He constantly felt insecure. Lana made it clear how people would react. They would see him as a freak. They would want to study him. He would be ostracized. So would Lana for actually marrying him. It would ruin both their lives.
Clark arrived home to find the door to his wife's bedroom closed. He sighed and made his way to his own room.
Lois went to her room and pulled out her journal. She began a list of unusual behaviour on the part of her partner — the 'source' he had apparently met in the men's room as well as what had happened tonight. Where had that beam come from anyway? It had to have fallen from a building a good fifty feet away. How had it been dragged over in front of them? She had felt a wind but no wind was strong enough to do that, surely. Then there was the heat at the end of the beam and the gun. Then there was a question about why they hadn't been killed by the gunfire. She knew why she hadn't been: Clark was using his body to protect her. But why hadn't he been killed or, at the very least, injured?
She also told her journal about her feelings for Clark. No matter what he had done tonight, it had been to save her. After she finished writing she reread her words. She was amazed as she read it exactly how strong her feelings already were for her new partner. They fascinated her. They terrified her. 'He is married,' she told herself again. The problem was that her heart wasn't listening.
Lang placed a call. "Luthor, please. It's Dan Lang." He was asked to wait. It was very late, but he knew that Luthor would still be awake.
"Luthor here," said the familiar voice.
"I found out who talked. It was one of the hookers. Her name is Susan Grosgean."
"Good. I'll have it taken care of immediately. The cop is dead."
"What about Kent? Lana couldn't stop him from going. Is he still alive?"
"Yes. Apparently the cop was killed before he could speak to them. It's still important to try to get him away from this story. I have an idea for the woman though. If you take care of your son-in-law, I'll take care of the Lane woman."
"I'll see what I can do. It's about time that I start insisting that he learn the family business anyway. Don't worry; I'll keep him away from the waterfront redevelopment project."
Lois was poring over the notes she had made from the cop's notes the previous night when Clark arrived. She now had her own desk, which had been located directly across from Clark's.
Clark ignored her on his way to his own desk. He was still smarting from the events of last night and how close he had come to giving away his secret. He needed to keep as much distance as possible from this woman. He was psychologically preparing to do that.
Clark was also feeling guilty about the death of the cop. He didn't know if he could have saved him. He hadn't seen the man until after he had heard the first shot. But he was tormented by the thought that maybe, if he wasn't so used to denying his abilities, he could have.
Finally, Lana was still not talking to him. She was awake when he left. He suggested that they take some time to get away in a couple of weeks. She ignored him.
It was a completely miserable Clark that settled in at his desk. He didn't even see Lois sit on the corner of it until she began to speak to him.
"Take a look at this, Clark," she said. He jumped at the sound of her voice. "Are you okay?" she asked, using her hand to tilt his face up to look into his tortured eyes.
"Fine," he said, pulling his face away. She looked at him for a moment before continuing.
"The notes I got from our source…" Clark looked away. "Clark?"
"We got that man killed."
"No, we didn't. He made some people mad. The only thing we can do for him now is to try to find out who did this to him." He remained silent. "There was nothing you could do."
"Are you sure? Maybe if…" his voice trailed off.
"It's not your fault. Let's try to find out whose fault it is."
Clark continued to look grim but nodded. Lois showed him the names she had written down from the cop's note. The list included the name of one woman as well as a number of men. Lois specifically pointed out the name of the woman.
"Why is there a woman's name topping the list? I thought this was a list of the men who had used the services of child prostitutes. I suppose a woman could have used their services too," Clark commented.
"I don't know. The men… Do you recognize their names?"
Clark looked over the list quickly. He nodded. "It's just like he said. They are all men of prominence in the community."
"What about the woman? Do you know this Susan Grosgean?"
"No, I've never heard of her."
"Then I think it is more likely that she is one of…"
"The child prostitutes."
Lois nodded before saying, "Come on."
"Is it done?" Luthor asked.
"Yes. She's dead."
"I hope you made sure it looks like an accident."
"Yes, sir. She died of a heroin overdose."
By the time Lois and Clark found Susan Grosgean's place, the police were already there. Henderson noticed them as they drove up.
"So I assume that your investigation brought you here."
"What happened, Inspector?"
"Susan Grosgean was found dead of an overdose this morning when her roommate returned to their apartment."
"Was the dead girl a hooker?" Lois asked.
Henderson nodded. "And we are treating this as a homicide for now. The problem is that there is no sign of forced entry and all the doors and windows were locked from the inside. If, as I suspect, the drugs only have her prints on them my superiors are probably not going to have us pursue it."
"But surely you can see the connection. She was on the list."
"I know, Clark, but there are some pretty impressive people that want this thing to just go away."
"But who? We looked at the list and the mayor was not on it. He was our primary suspect," Lois commented.
Henderson shrugged and then turned to address an officer. Lois glanced over at Clark. He was looking intently at a young woman sitting dejectedly on the steps to the building. Lois just watched as he made his way over to the woman. She then turned back to Henderson to ask some more questions.
Clark made his way over to the young woman. It was obvious that she had been crying. He removed his handkerchief from his jacket pocket and handed it to her. Clark sat down quietly. They just sat there for a few moments before Clark spoke.
"You were her roommate?" he asked quietly. The woman nodded. "I imagine it was quite a shock to find her that way." The woman remained silent. "What's your name?"
"If you want to talk about it we can go to the restaurant across the way and talk."
"Are you a cop?"
Clark shook his head. "I'm a reporter."
"Are you going to report everything I say?"
"Only if you want me to. If all you want to do is talk to someone to get things off your chest, I can do that too."
The young woman studied Clark. The man sitting beside her seemed to really care. Besides, she needed to talk to someone, and experience told her not to trust the police. She asked his name. After he told her, she mentioned that she could use some coffee.
Lois noticed them head across the street to the coffee shop. She didn't join them. If Clark had gained the young woman's trust, she didn't want to interrupt.
Clark sat down. All the girl wanted was coffee, but Clark ordered her some breakfast anyway in case she changed her mind. When the food arrived, she virtually inhaled it.
"They say she died from injecting herself with a heroin overdose," the girl stated.
"You don't believe that?"
"Susan didn't do drugs." To Clark's look of disbelief, she continued. "Okay, sometimes she smoked a little marijuana, but nothing heavy. If she did do it last night, she didn't do it alone. We live… lived together for over a year in a one room apartment. She didn't have track marks."
"So what do you think happened?"
"I don't know." She thought for a moment. "About six months ago Susan went exclusive."
"'Exclusive?' What does that mean?"
"Well we've both been working without Pimps. We decided that it was safer. Pimps provide you with protection from the Johns but no one protects you from the Pimps. It seemed safer to take our chances with the Johns."
"Did it work?"
"Mostly. Sometimes we would get beat up by some sicko but… Well, it's one of the risks."
"So what do you mean that Susan 'went exclusive?'"
"Well, she told me that she had a contract to service a group of important men. I don't know who. She had been told not to talk."
"So she didn't talk about it?"
Linda smiled. "Of course she talked. What do these men think? Of course we talk about it with each other."
Clark almost laughed. "Okay, so what did she tell you?"
"Look… You seem like a nice guy but I think that what she was involved in got Susan killed. I can't take that risk."
"What if I could get you into a half-way house in another state. I have some friends in Kansas. I think I could make some calls and pay for a bus ticket there."
"What would it be like?"
"Well… I stayed there for a short time in my senior year in high school, and I think I came out okay. I know the couple who run the place. They're good people. Or if you would prefer I would be happy to pay for a bus ticket home."
"I'm not going home."
Clark nodded. He had done enough reports involving prostitutes in his days as a reporter to know that most of the girls on the streets were there because they were worse off at home.
"Do you want me to make the arrangements at the half-way house in Kansas?" She nodded. "Do you want to tell me what you think happened to Susan?"
Linda looked at him curiously. "Isn't that the condition for you to help me get into the half-way house?"
Clark shook his head. "If you want help leaving this life behind I'll help you out even if you don't give me any information. But you're right, there is a condition."
Linda looked at him suspiciously. There was always a condition. "What?"
"No more hooking. Deal?"
Linda smiled. "Deal," she said. She was relieved at the prospect of getting out of this life. Especially following the death of her friend. "But before I go, I think someone should know what I think happened to Susan."
About half an hour later Linda and Clark exited the coffee shop. Lois was waiting for Clark in the car. She was surprised when Clark informed her that they would be waiting for a few minutes for Linda to pack her things. Clark took them back to the Daily Planet and made a couple of calls.
"Well, everything's set. Steve or his wife Debby will meet your bus. They will make arrangements to get you back into school. But after that it will be up to you to take this chance to change your life. If you have any problems, call me." He handed her his card. She stuck it in her bra. Lois smiled slightly at Clark's obvious discomfort with that action.
The partners took Linda to the bus and got her safely away before speaking about what she had told Clark.
"Well, what did you get?" Lois asked when they got back in Clark's car.
"She tells quite a story. Apparently Susan joined a group of young woman who work exclusively for businessmen. They never paid for these services. Instead the women are always paid by the same man. Video tapes are made of the encounters, without the knowledge of the men, of course. Most of the men only came once. However, if they did return, no further pictures were taken."
"Sounds to me like someone was using a ring of girls to blackmail influential men in Metropolis."
"That's what I was thinking. But I do find it interesting that there were some repeat customers."
"Yes, that is curious. Unless the men liked the services, and as long as they did what… whomever is behind this, told them to, they were welcome to continue using the services. Did she know who was behind it?"
"No, but she did mention that an older English gentleman payed Ms. Grosgean."
Lois smiled slightly. Clark referred to prostitutes with the same respect he afforded everyone else. "Anything else?" she asked.
"Yes. She gave us the names of two other girls she thought were involved. But she warned me that we may not get anything out of them. Apparently this was the best job Ms. Grosgean ever had."
"Well… if I know you, you are likely to have them all headed off for homes and good educations before this is over." Clark looked embarrassed. "It's okay to care, Clark. You know, I think I have you figured out."
"Yeah. You aren't trying to get the scoop. I mean, not really. You just want to save the world — one person at a time if necessary." Clark looked down. "I find it adorable," she added shyly. She knew she probably shouldn't have said it, when she saw his blush deepen, but she couldn't restrain herself. Besides, she really did find his blushes irresistible.
When they reported back in at the Daily Planet, the Chief called them into his office. They brought him up to date.
"By the way, while you two were out you both received these." Perry held out two invitations. "And I expect both of you to be there."
Lois and Clark took the invitations to Luthor's ball. Clark hated these functions.
"Well, Lana will love it," he finally said.
"Perry, do I have to go? I don't know anyone in Metropolis and I really hate going to these things alone," Lois said.
"You can come with Alice and me. We have invitations too."
Lois sighed. She really didn't relish going to this function alone to see Lana with Clark. She hadn't seen them together and was concerned that if she did it would finally set in that Clark was married. But there didn't seem to be any way out of this without admitting the problem. Even if she did, she wasn't sure that Perry would be exactly sympathetic. He would probably just point out that maybe it was about time that she accepted Clark's marital status.
Next Lois and Clark went to see the two other girls that Linda Kopp had told them about. Both took one look at Clark and, on the condition of anonymity, spilled their guts. Lois enjoyed watching Clark's discomfort to their obvious attraction to him.
They confirmed Linda's information and added to it. For example, one stated that she had had an encounter with the mayor. But in that case no pictures were taken. Both confirmed that they had been paid by a man with an English accent. They called him 'The Saint' but they didn't know his real name. They were also able to include the names of a few other people to the list that Lois and Clark already had. One such addition was Daniel Lang, Clark's father-in-law.
"Were pictures taken of him?" Clark asked.
"Not when he was with me. But I don't know if I was the only girl he was with."
After they left, Lois turned to Clark.
"If this is hitting too close to home, we could talk to Perry about taking you off the story."
"No, Lois. This is important. If someone is controlling the leaders of our city by using blackmail, this story has to come out. If my father-in-law is mixed up in it… well, I'll deal with that if it happens."
Lois wondered about the effect that decision might have on his marriage but didn't comment.
Their next step was to talk to the men on their list, who systematically denied the allegations. This occupied them the next few days, until the evening of Lex Luthor's party.
Lois looked around briefly when she first arrived with Perry and Alice. Clark didn't appear to be here yet. She was annoyed with herself for even noticing. There were at least a dozen completely eligible men within sight. She concentrated her efforts. She was involved in a conversation with one such man when Clark and Lana arrived.
Lois glanced up to see Clark enter the room with a stunning blond woman on his arm. Clark swept the room with his eyes until he found Lois. They both looked away as each realized the other was looking. Lois quickly asked the gentleman she was speaking to if he would like to dance, and within moments they were on the dance floor.
Lana dragged Clark across the room. "Lex, I don't believe you've met my husband, Clark Kent," said Lana.
Lex grinned his Cheshire cat grin as he extended a hand to Clark. "No, I believe you're right, Lana. Quite an oversight, given the fact that I work so often with your family."
Clark took the man's hand. "I've heard a lot about you over the years," Clark admitted. "Lana often mentions you. Glad to finally meet you."
Lex looked over at Lana. He had in the past seen her only as the daughter of a business associate. But seeing her tonight, on the arm of a young man, made him realize that she was no longer a child, but very much a woman.
"Would you mind if I asked your wife to dance, Kent?"
"Not at all," Clark responded.
Although Lois was dancing with another man when Luthor lead Lana out to the dance floor, she was watching. She saw Lana positively light up when Luthor took her in his arms and swept her around the floor with ease. She watched as Lana, at least from Lois' point of view, threw herself at Lex Luthor. She was beginning to think that Lana hadn't changed a bit from the girl she knew in high school. How had a man like Clark married so obvious a flirt? She reminded herself that for all she knew that was all it was. But the way Lana was looking at Luthor sent a rush of anger through her all the same. She glanced over at Clark. She looked away quickly as she realized that Clark was watching her, not his wife. Did he even see what had to be so obvious to everyone else in the room?
Lois decided this pretending not to watch each other at a distance had to stop. So when the dance ended, she made her way over to Clark.
"I see you made it," she said casually.
Clark smiled. "Yeah. Lana loves this kind of thing." There was a moment of awkward silence, when suddenly Luthor and Lana joined the conversation.
"Thank you for the dance, Mrs. Kent," Luthor was saying. He didn't leave immediately, instead looking at the woman who had joined Clark. "I don't believe we've met."
"I'm sorry," Clark jumped in immediately. "Lex Luthor, this is my partner at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane. Lois, I don't believe you have met my wife Lana."
"Actually, I knew Lana in high school," Lois corrected, giving Lana her best attempt at a smile. "Although I doubt she would remember. I was a couple of years behind her."
Lana didn't respond to Lois' comments. "So this is the Lois Lane who's been keeping my husband away from home." The words were said pleasantly, but Lois was well aware of the hidden meaning.
"Ahh… Lois Lane. I saw the piece that you and Mr. Kent here did on the uproar in the mayor's office as well as the stories on the deaths of the police officer and the prostitute. That was pretty impressive work. Didn't I hear somewhere that you were killed working on a story in Africa years ago?" This led to another explanation of the situation by Lois.
Lana was annoyed by the attention the two men were giving Lois, so she excused both herself and Clark, saying that she wished to dance with her husband. He dutifully complied.
"So, Ms. Lane," Luthor said when the others had left, "are you interested in some information I have for you about the whole prostitute issue?"
"Definitely!" exclaimed Lois.
"Then let's say we meet tomorrow morning at about ten."
"Clark and I will be there." Luthor frowned slightly but just nodded. He would have to see what he could cook up to delay Mr. Kent.
"Well, then… since this is a dance, would you do me the honour…" He gestured to the dance floor.
"Certainly," replied Lois, allowing herself to be taken in the arms of this impressive and powerful man. However, as they danced and talked, Lois' eyes kept finding their way toward her partner and his wife. Lana looked almost bored — a look that was remarkably different from the way she looked dancing with Luthor only minutes before. Lois really hated that woman.
It was later in the evening, and Lana was once again dancing with someone else when Clark approached Lois. "Um… Lois. I was sort of wondering," Clark hesitated. He knew he shouldn't, but she looked so beautiful tonight that he couldn't seem to resist. "Would you like to dance?"
Lois smiled. "I'd love to, Mr. Kent."
Lois slid into his arms easily. She shuddered involuntarily as Clark's hand came to lightly rest on her bare back. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to drink in his presence.
Clark knew the instant that he had her in his arms that this was a mistake. He had been thinking about the possibility of dancing with Lois since the invitation to this party had come. But he knew that he felt too much for this woman to dance with her. Still, he closed his eyes and held her in his arms.
As the dance progressed, the distance between them seemed to close. Lois sighed softly as she lay her head gently on Clark's shoulder. They were both startled at the sound of a woman's voice.
"Do you mind if I steal my husband, Ms. Lane," Lana asked. Lois noticed the edge of steel in her voice. Unlike Clark, Lana had obviously been watching the activities of her spouse.
"Of course not. Thanks for the dance, Clark." Lois pulled away, and Clark followed his wife off the floor. It was only a moment later when Luthor approached.
"Ah… married bliss," he commented, watching the retreating couple. Lois looked at him for the meaning but was unable to tell if he was being sarcastic or sincere. "Would you care to finish the dance with me?" Lois nodded and was immediately back in his arms.
When the dance finished, Lois decided to slip out. She looked around for a last glimpse of Clark, but he seemed to have disappeared. She made her way toward the coats. She jumped back into the shadows when she heard Lana's voice.
"Why can't you at least think about it?"
"I already have a job I love. There is nothing to think about."
"But Daddy is getting older. He wants to leave the company to me. I am his only child, after all. He needs to train you to take it over."
Clark let out a long slow breath. This was obviously a long-standing battle. "Listen Lois… I mean Lana…"
Lana immediately interrupted. "If you call me that woman's name one more time I swear I'll kill you. Assuming, of course, that you can even die."
'Huh?' thought Lois.
"Is that why you want to stay at that stupid newspaper? Is it because of her? I saw you dancing. Is she what's keeping you from helping Daddy?"
"Of course not, Sweetheart. She's only been at the Planet a week or so. I told you even before we got married that I didn't want to work for your dad."
"Maybe that's the reason we're having so many problems. Don't you care about our marriage at all? First you take off in the middle of the night to be with that woman instead of being spontaneous and going to Hawaii with me."
"Wait a minute. I didn't leave to be with Lois. I left to meet with a source. Where is this coming from, Lana? You know I would never cheat on you."
"She spends more time with you then I do," Lana pouted. Clark bit his tongue to keep from saying that she could spend more time with him if she were at the apartment occasionally. But this was already a big enough fight.
"We work together."
"Well then, come work for Daddy. I need you to do this for me, for us." The final words were said in her most seductive voice.
"Lana, I've already given in to you on everything else. I don't use my powers in order to ensure that people don't find out about me so that you won't be humiliated. I live in that extravagant apartment because you want it, even though it makes everyone believe I married you for your money. But… I'm a reporter. It's what I do. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do. You know that. You know that working as a reporter for the Daily Planet has been my dream since high school. I can't just walk away from that, too. I would cease to exist."
"But what about Daddy's company?"
"If you want to learn the business I'll support you a hundred percent. I actually think you would be good at it."
"That's work for my husband, not me."
"Not this husband. I'm sorry. I'd do it if I could… I just can't stand the thought of someday becoming the C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company."
"Daddy always said you had no ambition."
"Well, if he means I have no ambition to head his company, he's right."
With that, Lana stalked out the door with Clark trailing dejectedly behind.
After they left Lois reemerged. 'What did Lana mean "if he could be killed?" What did Clark mean "I don't use my powers?"' Lois quietly got her coat, and, after taking enough time to be sure that she wouldn't run into Lana and Clark outside, left the party.
Luthor watched Lois depart from a distance. Yes. He had been right. She would make a worthy consort. However, while he used all his charms to woo the lovely Ms. Lane, maybe he would also look for a little distraction with Mrs. Kent. She was definitely interested, and one couldn't be expected to abstain from sexual pleasures just because one was pursuing something more serious. After all, he doubted that Lois would be easily seduced. That made her that much more irresistible to Luthor. He loved the challenge.
Lois took out her journal and began to write. She needed to try to clarify some of her feelings. She began by expressing regret for hoping that Clark was having marital problems. It hurt so much to see him so miserable. Why couldn't Lana see what she had? Lois also knew that, in spite of the problems he may be having in his marriage, and in spite of the attraction they obviously shared, Clark was not the type to cheat on his wife. She would simply have to find a way to put that idea out of her mind for good. If all that gave her was a friendship with Clark, then she was determined to be the best friend he had ever had. After she had written it all down she reread it. It felt right. It still hurt, but it felt right.
She then turned her attention to Luthor. It was certainly flattering, the attention he paid her tonight. She didn't know if she sensed correctly, but she could even have sworn that when she said that she and Clark would attend for an interview tomorrow he seemed a little upset about the prospect of having Clark there. But that could just be her imagination.
Finally she told her journal that she intended on getting to the bottom of Clark's secret. She added to her list of unusual behavior on the part of her partner the unusual comments that both Lana and Clark had made in the conversation she had overheard. She decided to go back to the site where the cop was killed before going into work the next day to see if there was anything there. She would invite along Officer Stevens from the 18th precinct, whom she had learned was an expert at reconstructing crime scenes, so he could look at the bullet angles. She was certain that some of those bullets must have hit Clark. If she was right… If she was right, what? What did it all mean? On that confusing note, she closed her journal and crawled into bed.
"Okay, so where did you say the shooter was again?"
"Over there. About fifty feet away."
"And where were you?"
"And how many shots did you say there were?"
"I don't know. It was a burst of gunfire from an automatic weapon. I told you this already."
"So then I assume he was holding it at mid-height and shooting indiscriminately in this direction."
"Yes, yes and yes."
"Then we have a problem."
"What do you mean?"
"Follow me here. If he had been standing there and shooting in this direction there should be bullet holes in this wall or buried in the dock."
"Look for yourself. There is only one hole, high up in the wall."
Lois looked around. He was right. There were no bullet holes where they should have been. Lois thought for a moment and then said, "Tell me, if I had been lying here with something that reflected bullets lying on top of me, where would you expect to find the bullet holes?" This was crazy but what else could it be.
"Well, that would depend on the shape and angle of the thing covering you."
"Just give me an idea."
"Well…" he looked around. "… here… look at this!!" Lois looked to where he was pointing. "If you were covered by something that reflected the bullets it is conceivable that they could end up in this area." Lois looked in disbelief at the bullet holes in the crates piled nearby.
"Could those have been made when the gunman was shooting at the other man?"
"No way. Besides, there's a predictable bullet pattern around where his body was located. No, these were reflected from whatever was covering you. What was it?"
"Um… I'm not exactly sure. Look it's a long story."
Officer Stevens shrugged. "Is there anything else?"
"Just one quick question. Is there any way that that beam could fall off that building and somehow tumble over here?"
The man just laughed. "If that beam fell off that building the only way it could get here would be by using a crane."
The man left Lois Lane to contemplate this information.
Clark Kent got in his car and turned the key. Nothing happened. "Stupid car," he quietly cursed as he tried again. This expensive car had been a Christmas present from Lana. Personally, he liked his old four wheel drive better. This car was always having the most bizarre problems.
He got out of the car and opened the hood. He checked all the regular problems but couldn't see anything. He pulled out his cell phone and called the auto-repair shop. Half an hour.
He suggested to the shop that he just leave the car here for them, but they would have none of it. "We need to see your proof of ownership before we can tow your car. There has been a serious crackdown by the police recently." Clark agreed to stay put. He hung up, called the Planet and asked for Lois.
"Clark, where are you? We have to get to that interview with Luthor."
"You're going to have to go on without me. I'll try to meet you there."
"Why not just grab a cab?"
"I would, but the repair people insist that I be here when they arrive."
"Okay. I'll go on alone and catch up with you later."
Lois wondered about Clark's convenient car problems for an instant. Surely Luthor wouldn't go to all that trouble just to prevent Clark from coming to the interview.
"Ms. Lane," said a very pleased Lex Luthor. He came over and took her hand warmly, holding rather than shaking it. Lois withdrew her hand.
Luthor looked around. "Where's Mr. Kent?" he asked innocently, although he knew exactly where Kent would be.
"I'm afraid he couldn't make it." She watched Luthor carefully. He gave nothing away.
"I guess that just leaves us. I'm just having a late breakfast. Will you join me?" He gestured Lois to a chair. She noticed that the table was set up for three. Okay, so maybe she was wrong.
"I will have some coffee, but I've already eaten, Mr. Luthor."
"Lex, please. Well then, you can watch me eat. If you change your mind, these croissants were just flown in from France this morning."
Lois took a seat and the offered coffee. Lex made a quick call, and a man came in to remove the extra setting at the table.
"You said something about having information about the child prostitute scandal?" Lois said, taking out her tape recorder. Luthor frowned at the recorder.
"Umm… all business I see, Lois. Well, I never discuss business while I eat." He reached over and turned off the recorder.
Lois let out a short breath. "Mr. Luthor…"
"Lex," Luthor corrected her.
"Lex… I am working here."
"Then let's work," he held up a hand before adding, "on the condition that you will have dinner with me some day next week to discuss anything but business."
Lois started to object but was interrupted by Luthor. "That's my condition," he said with humor in his voice.
Lois laughed. "Fine. So then…"
"Which night? I believe in ending one negotiation before beginning another."
"Is that what everything is to you? A negotiation."
"Absolutely. So which night?"
"How about Friday?"
Luthor smiled. "Friday it is. Well, then… why don't we start by what you think you have so far?"
"Why?" asked Lois.
"So I know where to start."
Lois nodded. "We think someone is using child prostitutes to blackmail city leaders and businessmen. But we don't know who. Can you shed any light on that?" She turned the tape recorder back on. This time Luthor did not object.
"I guess I don't know anything for sure. But I have heard rumors. I imagine you would like to hear them."
"Apparently the mayor has been controlling much of the city by tricking the men he needs into visiting the prostitutes. He gets their pictures to blackmail them into supporting his proposals. I hear that, in some cases, the men in question don't even know they are visiting a prostitute. They certainly don't know they are underage."
"Were you one of the men that he set up this way?"
"No. I'm not married. How would photographing me with a woman be a threat?"
"Then how do you know about this?"
"One of the men who was blackmailed confided in me."
"What was his name?"
Luthor shook his head. "Sorry, Lois."
It was a good hour later before Lois could get away. Clark was still not there. She called him as soon as she got out.
"Where are you?" she demanded.
"Still waiting. I don't know what is taking them so… Wait. They're here. I'll be in the office as soon as possible. Was the interview with Luthor helpful?"
"Good. I'll get the details when we meet at the office."
"Get me Lang on the phone," Luthor demanded of his secretary after Lois left the office. This had gone too far. Lois Lane and Clark Kent had put too much of the plan together. It was time for the sacrificial lamb. He was sure that the mayor would become that lamb. At least if he wanted to continue breathing, he would. If not… Well, suffice it to say that he would admit his guilt in his suicide note.
Lang decided to add a bit of realism to the role. He would get one of the girls to give a statement to the press. That would make the mayor's admission seem more believable. After all, it would show that the mayor had little choice but to come forward.
"I don't know, Lois," Clark said when Lois brought him up to date on her meeting with Luthor.
"What's not to know? It all makes sense. The mayor has been using child prostitutes to keep the city leaders in line."
"It's just that I don't trust Luthor."
"Just call it reporter's instinct."
"What? And I don't have any of that?"
"That's not what I meant."
"I'm not naive, Clark. I know that Lex didn't get his fortune by being a boy scout, but what he is saying fits with what we already know. It explains why the mayor was not on our list, but one of the girls could place him there. It explains why the mayor's office was in such a state when the news of this broke. He is using this blackmail scheme to control the city."
"But then why not include Luthor among the blackmail victims? After all, he is probably the most influential businessman in the city."
"Well, after your father-in-law."
"Maybe, but then it seems from what we have so far Dan may be one of the victims here, too. Why not Luthor?"
"Look… I asked Lex why he wasn't a target and he pointed out that because he isn't married he couldn't be blackmailed that way."
"Even if he isn't married, sex with an underage prostitute is still a crime. And when did it become Lex? What happened at your meeting with Luthor this morning?"
"He asked me out and I accepted. Besides, what business is it of yours?"
Clark looked down. "None," he said quietly. There was an awkward silence.
"Look, Clark, I just think it's worth following up on."
Their discussion was interrupted by Perry. "I think you two should see this," Perry said pointing at a T.V. screen. The two reporters got up and made their way over to the television. A pretty young girl, looking no more than her fifteen years, was on the screen.
"So can you tell us what exactly your role was in all of this?" the interviewer asked.
"Well, I would be set up with a man. We would have sex. My job was to make sure that he was photographed by a video camera during… well, during it."
"Do you know what the purpose of this was?"
"I overheard the mayor talking to one of the men afterwards. He said that if he did as he was told, his wife would never have to see the tape."
Perry turned to Lois and Clark. "Why didn't you two get this?"
"We did this morning, Perry," Lois jumped in.
"Not in time to scoop this pretty boy," the Chief snarled. "Well, get writing. Do you think you could MAYBE add something to the information they've given us?"
"It appears that we have the names of the men being blackmailed. However, we can't seem to get confirmation," Clark stated.
"What the Sam Hill is going on here!!"
"Chief," said Jack, running up. "The mayor's giving a press conference in an hour."
"We're on it, Chief," Lois said, grabbing Clark. "So I guess your reporter's instincts about Lex were wrong after all," she added to Clark as they headed for the door. Clark didn't respond. Maybe it was just jealousy after all. He had noticed the previous night how Luthor looked at Lois. In spite of his mind telling him that Lois was a free agent, his heart broke to watch it. Maybe he was just reacting to that.
The day was clear but there was a chill to it as the mayor stepped up to the podium that had been set up outside city hall. Lois pushed her way through the crowd to get a better position for asking questions. Clark followed behind her, quietly making apologies. Fortunately for him, Lois didn't hear his expressions of regret to the people they were inconveniencing.
The mayor cleared his throat before beginning.
"Given the allegations that have been made against me and my office in recent days…" He paused and seemed to look off in the distance for a moment. Lois glanced over her shoulder in the general direction the mayor was looking but couldn't see what the mayor saw. Luthor and Lang were standing outside a near-by building, watching. However, because of the angle of the building, although the mayor could see them, Lois could not.
The mayor cleared his throat again. He saw Lang slowly draw a finger across his throat. "What I mean to say is…" he glanced again in the same direction, "… the statements made on LNN this morning about my using a child prostitution ring to blackmail people…" The mayor paused briefly.
Lois leaned over and softly whispered to Clark, "Deny, deny, deny."
"They are true. I accept responsibility for those crimes as well as the death of both the police officer and the young woman who originally leaked the information. I would like, for whatever good it will do, to apologize to the families of the two people killed as well as for the pain I caused to the good men of this community who I have abused in this way." The mayor was silent for a moment before concluding, "I acted alone. None of the people in my office or elsewhere knew anything about my activities." He stepped away from the podium, obviously not prepared to take any questions.
However, he need not have worried. The audience in front of him was completely silent. Not a soul seemed to breathe. Then suddenly, as if of one accord, they were moving and talking all at once. All that is except Lois Lane. She was standing looking at the now vacated podium deep in thought.
"Lois." Clark waited a moment before saying again, "Lois."
"Hummm?" she finally responded.
"Well, I guess that settles it. You were definitely right."
"No ,Clark," Lois said slowly. "No, I don't think so." She looked over at Clark meaningfully but saw his bemused expression. "It doesn't make any sense."
Lois looked around her, noticing the number of reporters milling around. "Not here," she whispered, pulling him away by his suit jacket.
Lang and Luthor looked briefly at each other and smiled. The mayor had taken the fall. They could always get a new mayor elected. Even their little blackmail scam was mostly intact. It had been a good day.
Neither had any real fears that the mayor would talk. He knew that the day he did would be the last day of his life. When he was brought up on the murder charges, they would promise that they would make sure the judge was lenient on a guilty plea. However, if they got one hint of an intent to plead not guilty, he would not see the morning.
Lois and Clark settled down in the small restaurant and ordered coffee before Lois spoke again.
"Okay, let's look at the facts…" Lois began counting them off on her fingers. "One. When the mayor first started to speak he did not intend to confess." She pushed the rewind on her tape recorder before hitting play. The voice of the mayor sounded loudly.
Given the allegations that have been made against me and my office in recent days… What I mean to say is… the statements made on LNN this morning about my using a child prostitution ring to blackmail people…
She hit the stop button on the recorder and looked at Clark in triumph. When he looked confused, she snorted and said, "Clark, you don't call something an 'allegation' when you are about to admit it."
"And that proves?"
"That's just my first point. Two…" she continued, holding up a second finger. "Why would he kill two people and then just confess?"
"He knew the jig was up."
"But that's just it. It wasn't. All they had was one sixteen year old prostitute making allegations. If he had just ridden it out, he still could have survived this. He was prepared to kill two people and then turns around and crumbles on the word of one easily discredited witness."
Lois smiled. She could tell she was making headway. "Okay, three. Who was the Englishman the girls talked about? You know. 'The Saint.' I've never heard of an Englishman in connection to the mayor. Of course, I'm not still up to speed on what's been going on in the city. Do you know of an Englishman in connection to the mayor?"
"No… All right. Assuming that you're right… and I'm not saying that you are… why would he confess if he didn't do it?"
"I don't know. But did you notice the way he kept looking off to his left during his speech?"
"Sort of. You think there was someone over there who was making certain that he did as he was told?"
Lois raised her eyebrows and gave him a knowing look.
Clark conceded, "I guess it's possible. Let's run it by Perry." Lois smiled and they headed for the door.
When they were in Clark's car heading back to the Planet, Lois began asking Clark questions about himself. The questions were innocent enough, but Lois had her own reasons for asking them. She intended to investigate her partner. She found out where he was from and who his parents were. Then she asked if his folks still lived in Smallville.
"They were killed when I was ten."
"I'm sorry. How did it happen?"
"A car accident." Clark paused for a moment. "I watched it happen. There was nothing I could do to stop it. Lana says I shouldn't blame myself but…" His voice trailed off.
"She's right. You were ten years old, after all. What could you have done?"
"I don't know… I should have done something."
Lois reached across and gently stroked his arm. There was a moment of silence before she continued, "So who raised you?"
"Well… I didn't really have any other family. So I sort of lived in foster homes. People liked my folks, so they managed to keep me in Smallville. But I lived in a number of different homes between the death of my parents and finishing high school."
"Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. It was a long time ago."
"Is that what makes you so kind?"
Clark looked embarrassed. "Does that embarrass you?" Lois asked. When Clark didn't respond she continued, "It shouldn't, Clark. You are the most compassionate person I have ever met. Since I met you, you have taken time to talk to my family for me, saved my life and put a young prostitute on a bus for a new life. I like that in a partner." That got a smile out of Clark.
"Thanks," Clark said softly.
She looked at him as he drove. When he said nothing else she prompted him. "But?"
"Well, 'kind' isn't exactly… well, sexy."
Lois laughed. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. I'd have to be dead not to notice how sexy you are."
When they arrived back at the Planet, Lois burst into Perry's office. Clark trailed behind, thinking they really should have knocked. Perry was on the phone and immediately waved Lois and Clark to a seat. It was a moment before he said good-by and addressed the intruders.
"What do you think this is, Lois? You can't just bust into my office and…"
"Chief. I think we have something," Lois cut him off.
"So what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? What do you have?"
"I think the mayor is taking the fall for someone else."
Perry looked at her for a moment and then turned to Clark. "Are you in agreement, Clark?"
Clark looked a little uncomfortable. He wanted to support his partner but he didn't want to lie. "I don't know, Mr. White, but I do think you should hear Lois out. She makes some good points." He decided this was the right answer, because both people in the room looked happy with it.
Lois recited her points for Perry. He looked at her thoughtfully.
"Do you have anything to back up these hunches?"
That took the wind out of Lois' sails. "No. But, Perry, there is something more going on here. I can feel it."
"Sorry, Honey." When she started to object he held up his hand and explained his comments. "You can work on this on your own time if you want. But I need the story we have right now. Then I have a new assignment for you."
"I'm sorry, Lois, but you don't even have any leads on where to start with this. I can't let my best team get bogged down in a story that doesn't look like it will go anywhere."
Lex and Dan enjoyed a glass of champagne to celebrate their latest success a few days later. The press had milked the mayor's confession for all it was worth, and no one seemed to be questioning it. They were pleased with their own resilience. Luthor was especially pleased that he had been able to use this near catastrophe to get close to that new reporter at the Planet. She had possibilities. He was looking forward to their date tomorrow night.
THREE MONTHS LATER
Lois looked exhausted when she arrived at work in the morning. Clark glanced up as she entered the newsroom.
"Big date?" he asked as she made her way to her desk, coffee in hand.
"Why do I do it, Clark? I know when I go out with Lex he is going to have me out somewhere till all hours of the night. Yet he asks, and I say yes. It's only the next morning that I regret it."
Clark didn't respond. Lois had been dating Luthor now for the past three months, and it was driving him crazy. Yet he kept his opinions to himself. He had no right to prevent Lois from being happy even if he wasn't. Lana was becoming extremely insistent that he quit his job. With his continued refusal, their relationship was becoming more and more strained. If it were not for the pleasure of working with Lois, Clark would have no joy in his life at all anymore. To see her relationship with Luthor becoming serious was terrifying him. What would happen if he could no longer see her, talk to her, work with her? They had become the best of friends, and, although Clark yearned for more, he knew they could never be more then that. Lois should find someone, his head told him. His heart, however… Well, that was a different story.
"So where did you go last night?" he finally asked. He didn't really want to know. On the other hand, he couldn't stand not to.
"He flew us to Paris for supper."
Clark's eyebrows went up. "Impressive."
"Well, that's Lex," she responded. "So what's on for today?"
"Not much. Mr. White just gave us this." He handed Lois a brief article from the Metropolis Star. It was about a plan from City Council to revive the waterfront along Hobbs Bay. Lois looked at it briefly.
"What does he want us to do with this?"
Clark shrugged before saying simply, "He thinks there's a story there."
"That's all he said?" Lois asked in disbelief. When he nodded, she turned around and headed at breakneck speed toward Perry White's office.
"Lo-is!!" Clark said in exasperation, getting up to follow her. She really was a handful. Especially when she was in her take-no-prisoners mode. But that did more to get Clark's heart racing than almost anything else this woman did. She had so much life — something he no longer had.
"Chief!!" Lois exclaimed, bursting into Perry's office. "What's the meaning of this?"
"Lois, I've been expecting you." He glanced up at the clock. "Running a little late this morning, I see."
Lois refused to be distracted. "Perry, what kind of story is this? Every few years someone else comes up with a plan to revitalize the waterfront. They always die out. There's no story here."
"This one's different."
"How?" demanded Lois defiantly, folding her arms across her chest. Clark stood at the door to Perry's office, enjoying the exchange.
"You're not the only one with reporter's instincts," Perry responded. Lois just raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue. Perry sighed. He really hadn't wanted to share his suspicions. But Lois could be stubborn, and he realized that telling her was the only way that he was going to get her moving on this.
"Close the door, Clark," he said, gesturing to Lois and Clark to take a seat. "I didn't want to tell you this, because I'm getting some pressure from the boys upstairs. But you'll see why in a minute." Lois now looked fascinated. "Okay, first this proposal is different from the others. You're right. Every so often some industrialist or another comes up with a proposal for revitalizing the waterfront, but it is always thwarted by City Council because of all the low cost housing in the area. Revitalization, as they call it, would put a lot of people out of their homes. This proposal is coming from City Counsel. Specifically, it is coming from our new mayor."
"Also last night Richard Sandberg was killed."
"One of the owners of the Daily Planet?" Lois gasped.
"The police are calling it a mugging."
"But you don't buy that," stated Clark.
Perry shook his head. "Sandberg was a vocal opponent of any plan that would put the people on the waterfront out of their homes. Over the years he has used this paper to convince the people of Metropolis of that fact."
"So then why are the cops calling it a mugging?"
"That is certainly what it looks like."
"And your superiors don't want you taking up his crusade?" Clark speculated.
"That's right. They maintain that there is no connection, and they don't want the Daily Planet trying to make one in order to destroy the mayor's plans."
"So then," said a suddenly understanding Lois Lane, "you just want us to do a story on the plan and…"
"And if we come up with a connection on our own…" Clark interjected.
"Well… that would be a different matter," concluded Perry. Lois smiled and got up to leave the office. She was stopped by Perry's voice. "Just keep this little investigation low key enough that I don't lose my job."
"Don't worry, Perry. I'm the soul of discretion."
Perry looked in desperation at Clark. "Keep an eye on her, will you, Clark?"
"Yes, sir," Clark chuckled, but he quit at the look of murder in his partner's eyes.
"Mayor's office?" Lois asked as they walked out of the room.
"Mayor's office," Clark confirmed.
Lana stretched out in contentment between the blue silk sheets. She gave herself a moment before sitting up on the edge of the bed. She wrapped a man's robe around her small form and made her way through the thick carpet to the door. She peeked cautiously outside before making her way down the hall.
Luthor looked up when he heard her approach. He had already put in several hours of work.
"I don't see how anyone can sleep as much as you do," he commented.
"I don't see how anyone can sleep as little as you do," she replied. "Where were you till after midnight, anyway? I almost thought you were going to make me spend the night here alone."
"Nothing important. Just business. Besides, you really should let me know before coming over."
"I don't know that I'm going to be able to get away until the last minute. You know that, Lex."
Luthor shook his head. "I don't understand how you can spend the whole night so often without making Kent suspicious."
Lana laughed. "It's not so hard. Since we got married, I've complained when he works late. So when he comes home late, my bedroom door is always closed and locked. He simply assumes that I am inside. He thinks I'm there because I'm mad at him, so he leaves me alone."
"He can't be that naive?"
"Trust me, he is," Lana laughed as she settled herself down on Luthor's lap. "You have to understand Clark. He would never cheat. So he assumes that I wouldn't either."
"So you have the best of both worlds. A husband who is faithful and a husband who would never suspect that you aren't."
"Why do you think I married him? Do you know he was a virgin on our wedding night? He thinks I was too."
"No, I'm not."
Luthor looked at her for a moment. He knew that he could only believe about half of what Lana told him. But if what she was saying about Kent was true, Dan had his work cut out for him if he wanted to bring Kent into the business. He hated the idea of a man with Kent's morals getting control of Lang Industries. He would have to keep an eye on that situation.
"So that's the reason you married him?"
"Well, that, and I knew you liked your women married." Luthor smiled. Part of him wondered if he should have married Lana. After all, a merger of their two fortunes would be outstanding. But although he trusted Lana when it came to business — she was as corrupt as he was, and she was, after all, the daughter of Dan Lang — he knew she would never be faithful to any man. Although he never intended to be faithful to any woman, he had no intention of extending the same liberties to his wife.
"And you like your husbands kept in the dark, my dear." She smiled at him, leaning over to kiss him passionately.
"Come back to bed," she purred, pulling at the belt on the robe she was wearing, allowing it to fall open. He took a quick look at the clock on his desk before deciding he had some time to take her up on her offer.
Lois and Clark reached the lobby of the Daily Planet on their way to the mayor's office.
"Just a moment. I want to grab a danish before we go. Do you want something?" Clark asked.
"Coffee would be nice." He nodded and pulled out his wallet as he walked over to the counter to place their orders. Lois joined him there.
She fixed her coffee and put the lid on before saying, "How do you do it, Clark?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, let's see. You eat whatever you want and yet you look…" she let her eyes sweep over his body before shaking her head slightly and sucking in a breath through her teeth. A blush made its way to his cheeks.
"I work out."
"When? You work long hours. How can you possibly get enough exercise to burn off all the extra calories you consume?"
Clark shrugged and began to make his way toward the front doors of the Planet. Lois shook her head and followed after him.
"Oh, I get it. This is another one of those things we can't discuss."
"There's nothing to discuss. I guess I just have a fast metabolism."
"Clark, you're incredibly laid back. You don't get flustered. If anyone has a fast metabolism it's me. Yet you're the one who can eat whatever you want."
He shrugged again. Lois stopped in her tracks. He took a few steps before he noticed that she wasn't beside him. He turned back toward her but didn't quite look at her. They were heading onto dangerous ground — ground she kept coming back to. "What, Lois?" he said in frustration.
"Why won't you talk to me?"
"I do talk to you."
"Only about what you want. I tell you everything, but you… there are certain subjects that you just clam up on."
Clark looked down briefly. When he raised his head again he finally looked at her. She saw a look of pain in his eyes. "Lois, you are the best friend I've ever had. I don't want to lose you." He looked down before continuing, "Please just let it go."
'I was right,' Lois thought. 'There is something.'
"Look, Clark, I think I can understand the reasons why you won't talk to me about your marital problems, but…"
"I never said I was having marital problems," objected Clark.
Lois gave a humourless laugh. "I'm with you almost every day. Did you really think I couldn't tell?" He looked down. "But, Clark, why can't you tell me what makes you different?"
"Please, Lois." He was almost begging. She backed off her questions. If he wasn't going to tell her, well… she was Lois Lane, after all. She would just have to find out on her own. But for now she nodded, and they headed on their way.
Lorna Bowman met them as soon as they arrived at the mayor's office.
"You said you wanted information on our new mayor's plans to revitalize the waterfront," she stated.
"That's right, Ms. Bowman."
Lorna smiled. "Well, the press kits have just been completed." She walked over to a box on her desk and handed one each to Lois and Clark. Lois glanced at Clark, who simply flipped through the papers. She was trying to tell what good he could hope to accomplish that way. But he must have just been thinking, because a moment later he came up with a question.
"I understand the mayor is taking proposals for the project."
"That's correct, Clark. He asked companies to make proposals."
"Has he made any decisions about who he will get to do it yet?"
"Well…" she looked around briefly before gesturing them to close the door to her office. "I have heard that he is favouring a proposal put forward in joint cooperation by two companies."
"Well… this has to be off the record, but… Lex Corp and your father-in-law's company."
"Do you know what the proposal is?"
"No. Sorry. But couldn't you get that information from your father-in-law?"
Clark shook his head. "I'm afraid my father-in-law and I seem to disagree when it comes to business." 'In particular, what business I'm in,' he thought but didn't say.
"Well, that's all I know."
"Do you know how the bids were obtained? Was it opened up to the general public?" Lois asked.
"No. Apparently a number of well established companies were asked to put forward proposals. The mayor is going to choose the one he likes best and sell it to City Council."
"If you hear anything else…" began Lois.
"I'll call," promised Lorna.
Lois and Clark decided to make their next stop the police station. They asked for Inspector Henderson.
"I suppose you two are here for information on something?" growled Henderson.
"Actually, we came to take you to lunch," Lois responded. Both Henderson and Clark looked at her oddly. "What?" she finally asked.
"Are you saying you don't want information?"
Lois laughed. "Oh, we want information, but since it is lunch time…"
Henderson smiled. "Well, if you're buying… After all, what cop can turn down a free lunch?"
"Well, actually ,Clark's buying," Lois said ,giving Clark a friendly jab. "After all ,he's the one who married into money, not me." Henderson just laughed, but Lois noticed that Clark visibly cringed. She knew instantly that she had hurt him. She gently rubbed his arm and communicated a quiet apology through her eyes. He saw the look and smiled sadly at her. He knew it had been said in jest. But Lana's money was a sensitive subject for Clark. Henderson didn't seem to notice the exchange.
"Well, then, if you'll just give me a minute, I'll grab my coat."
When they finally got seated and had placed their orders, Henderson asked what they wanted to know.
"Do you know anything about the death of Richard Sandberg?"
"It isn't my case, but I understand it was a mugging."
"Why do the police think that?"
"I would assume the usual. Watch, wallet, etc, gone. Would you like an introduction to the guy in charge of the case?"
"Okay, then. After lunch I'll introduce you. Detective Simons is a good man. I think you'll like him. Besides, if you hit it off with him, maybe you'll quit bugging me so much." Lois and Clark laughed.
"So then, Lois, what's this I hear about you and Lex Luthor?"
Lois glanced over at Clark. He didn't say anything. However, Lois knew that it was a topic he didn't particularly like. Every time his name came up, Clark would unconsciously shred whatever he was holding. This time a napkin was meeting its fate. Lois understood. Although he had never said or done anything to promote it, Lois knew that Clark was crazy about her. But his sense of right and wrong would never let him take it anywhere. Thus he would never allow himself to interfere in her personal life. As a result, she usually played down her relationship with Luthor, or tried to, without ever actually lying to Clark. Actually, it was getting pretty serious lately. She suspected Clark realized it. But she wasn't about to torment him with it. After all, she felt the same way about Clark that he felt about her. If only…
"Why would you think there is something going on between Lex and me?" she finally asked.
"Come on, Lane! A buddy of mine swears he saw Luthor kissing you just outside Lex Towers the other day."
Lois glanced at Clark again. His hands were shredding the napkin at a speed that was just a little bit too fast to be normal. It wasn't seriously abnormal, but it was another one of those things that Lois would see from Clark every now and then. However, she doubted Clark wanted Henderson to see. As she addressed Henderson's question, she quickly reached over and gently touched Clark's hand momentarily. The motion stopped.
"We've been seeing each other. That's all."
Henderson gave a snort. "Well then, maybe Clark won't be the only one married to money on your team."
Lois shook her head. "Who knows? Maybe not."
"So, Clark, what do you think of all this?" Henderson asked, turning his attention to Clark.
"What?" asked Clark, somewhat distractedly. He knew that Lois had seen his hands, and he was still trying to recover from her having made a move to protect a secret that she didn't even know.
"About Luthor and Lane here."
"Well…" Clark cleared his throat. "If he makes Lois happy, I'm all for it." The words were said pleasantly enough, but Lois could hear the underlying strain in them. Her heart felt like it would break.
When they got back to the police station, Henderson introduced them to Detective Simons.
"I've read your work," Simons said, extending a hand. "It's good stuff."
"Thank you, Detective," Clark said, taking the hand warmly.
"So what can I do for you?"
"We're looking for information about the death of Richard Sandberg."
"Sandberg. Yes, quite a tragedy. As I understand it, he was one of the owners of the Daily Planet."
"Yes. Can you tell us what happened?"
"Well, apparently he was killed in a mugging while getting his car in the parking garage below the Daily Planet."
"Why are you so sure it was a mugging?"
"The usual. His watch, wedding ring, wallet and car were all missing."
"Have you found the car?"
"Yes. Apparently it turned up today in Hobbs Bay. We are examining it for fingerprints or any other clues."
Lois chewed on her lower lip. "I don't know, Detective. The Planet parking lot has security. How did the thieves get by it?"
"We spoke to the security officer on duty. It was quite late at night, and apparently he fell asleep. I doubt he works for the Planet anymore."
"Could we get a copy of your report?" Lois asked.
Now it was Simons' turn to look thoughtful. "I know your reputations, so I guess it's all right. Just don't let anyone know where you got it."
It was late that afternoon when they submitted their story on the death of Richard Sandberg, being sure to say that the police believed it was a regular mugging and were examining the car now for clues. They did not submit a story on the mayor's proposal to revise the waterfront. They didn't want anyone to make the connection that they were investigating both stories yet.
"Well, I need to get going, Lois. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Big date?" she asked.
He smiled ruefully. "Sort of. Lana and I are having supper with her father and his wife. I promised her that I wouldn't be late."
"I'll walk you out."
"Yes, it is. I think we need to talk."
Clark sighed. He was fairly certain this had something to do with what she had seen in the restaurant earlier.
Since there were other people on the elevator, they rode in silence to the lobby. When they finally disembarked, they waited for the others to move on before Clark, in a resigned voice, said, "Okay, so what is it, Lois?"
"Clark, please talk to me. I'll understand. I promise. I know…"
"There's nothing to understand," Clark cut her off.
"Good night, Lois." Clark turned and began to walk away.
When he was at the other side of the lobby, Lois whispered in a voice that would have been barely audible to anyone standing right beside her, "I'm in love with you, Clark. Why won't you trust me?"
Clark stopped but didn't turn around.
Lois was stunned for a moment. "You heard that, didn't you?" Lois whispered, no louder than the first time. Clark started walking away again. "Please, Clark."
'I can't, Lois. I can't have you thinking of me as some kind of freak,' he thought in response.
Lois watched the retreating figure as tears silently made their way down her cheeks. Since anger was a much easier emotion for Lois Lane than pain, she allowed the pain she felt to slowly be replaced by anger. She would show him that she could be trusted with whatever his secret was. She stormed into the elevator.
Lois Lane sat down at her desk. Okay, so she knew there was something different about Clark. She knew he could hear things he shouldn't be able to hear. She knew he could move his hands very quickly. She knew he could deflect bullets. She knew that somehow he had managed to cut a beam and drag it over to protect them without ever leaving her. She knew he had somehow made a gun malfunction. She knew he could eat whatever he wanted, and she had heard him mention his 'powers' to Lana. But what it all meant… She was at a loss.
She took out a pad of paper and quickly wrote down what she knew. Then she wrote down the word "Theories." She stared at the word for a long time. What could possibly explain it all? She knew she was out of the realm of the normal. So what about the abnormal? Maybe he was part of some experiment that somehow altered him. That might explain why he was so reluctant to talk about it. Maybe he had escaped and was scared that whoever had done this to him would find him again. She wrote it down. Maybe he was the next step in human evolution. Maybe he was some sort of cyborg. She stared at her pitiful list.
She sat there for a moment, trying to think. She needed more clues. She stared at his desk, trying to come up with an inspiration. His desk! Of course!
She jumped up and went over to it. She decided to start with his computer. She turned it on. 'Damn,' she thought. It was password protected. She tried a number of words, including Lana's name and even her own, before trying "Kansas" and "Smallville." Nothing worked. So she began rooting through his desk. Pencils… paper… some notes about an old story… Suddenly she noticed a silk scarf. It was the same one she had taken to the Luthor ball shortly after they first met. She thought she had lost it there. Obviously he had taken it. She pulled it out and gently ran it through her fingers. She laid it carefully back in the drawer. She had just started looking through another drawer when she noticed a man standing nearby, watching her. She looked up in shock.
Clark was dressed appropriately for dinner at Daniel Lang's. Lang insisted that dinner was an occasion for dressing up. The current Mrs. Lang, Dan's third wife, didn't look like she could be much older than Lana herself, although Clark had never asked. In Clark's mind, Mrs. Lang was all show and no substance. But she hung on Daniel Lang's every word as if he had hung the moon.
They had just settled down for dinner when Dan brought up the subject that Clark had been dreading.
"So, my boy, when are you going to quit being so stubborn and come work for me?"
"Dan, I just don't…"
"Clark, please!! Just hear him out, okay?"
Clark took a deep breath and nodded.
"I'm not getting any younger, Clark. I need to start thinking about turning the company over to someone. Lana has never taken any interest in business. You are the logical choice. Surely you must see that. Otherwise the company may end up in the hands of someone who would not protect my daughter's best interests. I know that you always will. So, you see, there really isn't a choice. Not if you care about my daughter."
Before Clark had a chance to respond, Dan continued, "Now, I know that you two have been having some problems recently. Have you ever considered that some of that may be due to your job? Maybe a change of pace would do you both some good. You could always ask for a one year leave of absence from the paper. If it doesn't work, out you could always go back to reporting. So, you see, it's a no-lose proposition. All I'm asking for is one year. Then at least you will understand the business enough when I die to be sure that whoever takes over will not abuse that position."
"Ms. Lane," said a very amused voice, "I don't believe this is your desk."
Lois looked sheepishly into the eyes of James Olson. "No sir. I just…" Suddenly she was struck by a thought. "Mr. Olson, how much of the paper do you own?"
"Umm… I guess it's no big secret. I own a third."
"I was sorry to hear about your partner. Were you close?"
"No. I really didn't know him that well but my impression was that he was a good man. He certainly did love having a newspaper. Why?"
"What about your other partner?"
"Jeff. Well he's… I think the main reason he invested in the paper was that he felt it would give him power."
"And you? Why did you invest?"
"To tell you the truth, Ms. Lane, I'm not really sure. It just seemed like my destiny was somehow tied to this place. I know it sounds corny but…" he shrugged his shoulders and let his thought end there.
Lois looked at him carefully for a moment. She didn't think that he was involved with whatever had happened to Sandberg. She felt that she could trust him although she couldn't exactly say why.
"I need your help, Mr. Olson."
"James, please. I still look over my shoulder for my dad when someone calls me, 'Mr. Olson'."
"Okay, James then. Please have a seat." She gestured him to the extra chair beside Clark's desk. "If I remember correctly you made it big in computers right?"
"Then I need you to show me how to do something. But I need you to promise me not to ask why I'm doing this or to tell anyone about this."
"Is it illegal?"
"No, of course not. Well, not exactly. I don't think."
"I don't know."
"Well, what if I just tell you what I need. Then if you don't think you can help me we can just pretend this conversation never happened."
Olson looked at her for a moment before nodding.
"Good." Lois took a deep breath and then said quickly, "I need you to help me break into Clark's computer."
"I need you to help me break into Clark's computer. You see, he has a password and I don't know what it is."
"Why on earth would you be breaking into your own partner's computer?"
"That's the part I can't tell you. Look, Mr… James, I promise you it's not…" she paused and looked down before continuing. "I care about Clark. You have to believe I would never do anything to hurt him. I just need to break into his computer. I can't tell you why. Can you help me?"
He stared at her for a long moment before saying, "Move over." She happily did so, and he slid his chair up beside her in front of the computer screen. She watched carefully and in a few minutes was staring at Clark's computer files. Olson got up then and placed his chair back where it had been before saying, "I hope you know what you're doing."
"Thanks, James. So do I."
James headed off as Lois began to study Clark's files. After about half an hour she determined that there was nothing there she could use. She flipped off the computer in frustration and finished her futile search of Clark's desk. She sat back and thought again.
His apartment. Of course. He said he was going to his father-in-law's for supper. Surely that meant that neither he nor Lana would be there. Well, there was no time like the present. But she would have to hurry. She had already wasted more than an hour here. She grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
Lex Luthor glared at the man seated across from him.
"How dare you refuse me?" Luthor snarled.
"I won't be party to this anymore, Luthor. This waterfront project is wrong. There are too many lives at stake. If you are going to show that tape to my wife… Well, I guess there's nothing I can do about that. But I won't submit a substandard proposal to the mayor just so that yours will be the only logical one for him to choose," George Wade stated before rising to leave.
"I would seriously reconsider my course of conduct if I were you, Mr. Wade. Showing those tapes to your wife is not the worst thing that could happen to you."
Wade looked at Luthor for a long moment. "At least my replacement won't be one of your lackeys," he replied evenly before walking out.
Luthor looked in anger at the door for a long moment before hitting the pager switch on his phone. His secretary immediately showed up at the door. "Get me Hardway immediately," he demanded. The secretary scampered to obey.
Lois got past security at the entrance to Clark's building easily enough. She tried the elevator but discovered quickly that you needed to insert a key to get to the penthouse suite. She decided to take the stairs, since she wasn't sure that she knew enough about that type of locks to break it without locking herself in the elevator.
She slipped into the stairway and made her way up to the top floor. She was breathing hard by the time she got there, not just from the exertion but also from nervousness. She figured she had enough time to get in and out before Clark and Lana arrived home. But if she was wrong… She dreaded that confrontation.
She tried the door to their floor. Locked. She pulled out her lock picking equipment. She was through the door in seconds. She looked carefully around before stepping inside. She was now in the hallway where the elevator was located. She looked around. There was only one door. That must be their place. She tried the door. Again it was locked. 'Damn,' she thought. She finally got the door unlocked. She carefully pushed it open. The room was dark, so she stepped quickly inside, pulling the door closed behind her.
She decided against turning on the lights in case Clark or Lana noticed them when they drove up. She opted instead to use a flashlight she had brought with her from the Jeep. When she turned it on and looked around the penthouse suite, she let out a low whistle. "Nice digs, Clark," she commented to the empty room. She then began her exploration. She found nothing that might help in the living room or kitchen, so she made her way toward the bedrooms. She found the master bedroom and walked in. She looked around. It was immediately obvious to Lois that this was a woman's room. However, she might just have been the one to decorate so she quickly looked through the dressers and closets. No, these were all women's clothes. 'They don't share a room,' she suddenly realized.
She made her way down the hall until she found another room. She knew instantly that this was his. She began looking through dressers and closets but was again unsuccessful. She left and began searching other rooms until she came across a den. She searched the drawers.
She was just about to give up when she spotted a laptop computer in its travel case. She pulled it out, set it on the desk and powered it up. It had a password, too, but she had been paying attention to Olson. It took almost no time before Lois was staring at a number of files. She chose one called 'Letters.' In the folder she found a number of dates. She started with the earliest one. It was almost two years ago.
I thought that maybe if I put this down on paper I would be able to find the words to tell you this. After all, writing is what I do for a living.
'Bingo,' Lois thought. She looked around until she found a disk and copied the letters onto it. She closed up the computer and stuck the disk in her jacket. She had just made her way out the door to the apartment when she noticed that the elevator was moving. It was almost to this floor. She closed the door to the apartment and quickly exited into the stairwell. She had just closed the door when the elevator opened. She froze. If he could hear a whisper across the room, he might hear if she tried to dash down the stairs. She would just wait for a moment for them to go into their apartment.
"You told Daddy you'd think about it, Clark. Yet here you are not even… what? an hour later, trying to explain to me why you can't do it."
"Lana, please, I…" he stopped in mid-sentence. Lana didn't notice as she went on talking, telling him all the reasons why what her dad was proposing made sense. He wasn't listening. His ears had picked up a familiar heartbeat. But it couldn't be. Why would she be here? He quickly glanced over the top of his glasses in the direction of the noise. He saw Lois standing just on the other side of the door holding her breath. "Umm… Lana, I just remembered that I left something in the car. You go on into the apartment. I'll be right back."
"Oh, no, you don't, mister," Lana responded. "We are in the middle of something here. You are not leaving until it's done." Clark sighed as Lana pulled him into the apartment. When the doors closed he could hear Lois' steps retreating down the stairs. He considered for a moment why she may have been there. He thought he knew. When he had refused to confide in her today, she had obviously determined to find out his secret on her own. He relaxed. The only items he owned that could tell her about himself were the globe and the spaceship, and he didn't keep either of them here.
It took Hardway a good hour to arrive.
"What took you so long?" Luthor demanded.
"Well… it is late and I was… well, sort of in the middle of something, if you know what I mean. I couldn't very well leave the woman in question unsatisfied."
Luthor actually managed to smile. "I have another job for you. I want you to make this one as painful and public as possible. I want everyone to know what it means to cross me."
"Yes, sir." Hardway smiled. He liked the painful ones best. It gave him a chance to experiment. Hardway fancied himself something of a scientist in the field of human pain and was glad for another chance to increase his knowledge. Luthor filled him in on the details before sending him on his way.
Clark arrived at the Planet before Lois the next morning. He had been up most of the night trying to think things through. He knew that Lois would not give this up. The only way he would be able to stop her was to put some distance between them. His heart broke at the thought of not seeing her every day.
Then there was Lana. It was only a year she was asking for, after all. He had made his decision. He hated it, but it was the only way he could think of to solve both problems. Besides, if he did this for Lana, maybe things would be better between them. Maybe he would also be able to get over Lois. He doubted it, but being so near to her and not being able to touch her or say the things to her that he wanted to say was so hard. Besides, not being around him might allow her to fall in love with someone else. After the remark she had made yesterday about being in love with him, he knew that she would also be better off if he wasn't around. After all, he had nothing to offer her.
He sat at his desk for a moment before another thought came to him. If Lois had broken into his house, she had certainly also gone through his desk. The scarf! He opened the drawer and saw it lying there. He picked it up gingerly. He ran it gently between his fingers before lifting it to his nose. It still smelled faintly of her. That was what he loved about it so much. But she obviously knew that he had it. He slowly got up and walked over to her empty desk. He lay it gently on top before heading to Perry's office.
When Lois arrived, she looked around for Clark but didn't see him. After she had gotten back to her apartment, she had been too tired to look through the files, so she had left them for tonight. At least he didn't know what she had done. She walked over to her desk and saw the scarf lying on top. Her heart sank. At first she wondered if she had simply forgotten to put it back, but, no, she distinctly remembered having done that. He knew. That was the only possible explanation.
She sank into her chair, staring at the scarf. That must have been why he tried to get away from Lana last night. Somehow he knew and intended to confront her but had been unable to do so without informing his wife as well.
Before she had a chance to decide how she should react, the Chief called her into his office.
"What is it, Chief?" she asked, holding the scarf. It was then that she first noticed Clark.
"Clark here just told me that he needs to take a year's leave of absence from the paper."
"WHAT!" Lois exclaimed, throwing her partner a wholly heartbroken stare.
"I need…" was as far as Clark got before Lois turned and bolted from the room. Clark gave Perry a helpless look before rising to follow her.
Perry White watched them go. For the first time he was having serious doubts about his decision to team those two up. He knew that Clark was committed to his marriage. He now realized that Lois had fallen in love. He just hoped he hadn't managed to lose both his star reporters.
Clark caught up to Lois just as she was entering the elevator. Another person was about to get on but stopped as Clark informed him that the elevator was full. The words were spoken with such authority that the man stepped back. Lois looked up at the unfamiliar tone in Clark's voice. The doors closed, and Clark pulled out the stop button.
They stood in silence for a moment before Lois asked softly, "Have I lost my best friend?"
"This isn't about you." At the look of disbelief in her eyes he continued, "Well, not exactly. Try to understand that I have to save my marriage. This might be the only way to do that." The space was once again engulfed in silence as Clark silently added, 'Because when I'm around you I don't want to save my marriage.' Lois silently added, 'But I don't want you to save your marriage.' It was Clark who finally spoke again. "And you need to get on with your life. I think you might be better able to do that if I'm not around," he said quietly.
"Why don't you let me decide what I need?" she snapped back.
Clark looked down but remained silent. Lois immediately regretted getting angry with him. He was obviously in as much pain over his decision as she was.
"So when do you leave?" she finally asked.
"I told Perry I'd stay till the end of the week."
She nodded. "Well, then, I guess that means we have some work to do." She pushed the stop button back in and the doors opened. She began to step through the doors of the elevator and stopped. She used one hand to hold the doors open before turning back toward him. She looked down at the scarf still in her hand before quietly saying, "I think this belongs to you." She handed him the scarf before turning back around and heading for her desk.
Clark looked down at the soft silk in his hands for a moment before following her. When he arrived back at his desk, he once again opened the drawer of his desk that had held the scarf the previous evening, and Lois watched as he gently returned the fabric to its place.
"So where should we start today?" Clark asked. Lois cringed inwardly at his controlled tone of voice. He was trying to pretend it was just another day. But instead of confronting him, she played along.
"I'm going to give Lorna another call."
"I want to see if she can give us a copy of the various proposals that were submitted."
"So you can…?"
"See if there is anything there that might tell us what's going on," she said in exasperation. "Then I think we should take a drive down to the waterfront and see if we can find out anything there. I'm sure those people have heard rumors."
After her phone call they headed down to the beach. Lois suggested they take her new vehicle. It was a Jeep. After being cooped up in his car Clark was looking forward to being back in a vehicle that allowed him to stretch his legs, so he agreed.
"So where exactly are we going?" Clark asked as Lois pulled out onto the road.
"I know a guy who's pretty well connected. I thought we'd talk to him."
"So how do you know him?"
"His daughter and I got to know each other in college. She used to have me over to their place a lot. He has some shady connections, but…" Lois shrugged. "Anyway, he usually knows what's happening in the area along Hobbs Bay."
They arrived at the pool hall a few minutes later.
"Hey kid," said a middle aged man with a large belly and a seriously receding hair line.
"Hi, Louie. This is Clark Kent. We work together."
"Yeah, yeah. I've been reading your work. You two make a great team. Hey, I was a little upset that you didn't come by as soon as you got back into town. I had heard that you were dead."
"Sorry, Louie, but I lost my memory. It's only fully come back in the past couple of weeks."
Clark looked over at her. He had known that she was remembering more and more but was surprised to learn that she felt she now was fully recovered.
"So what do you need?"
"We heard that the mayor is proposing to rejuvenate the area. We were wondering what you've heard about it."
"There is something fishy there. That's for sure."
"How do you mean?"
"I don't know nothing for certain, understand… but I got the impression that some powerful crime figures are behind this. I heard that they were supposed to be meeting down here sometime today for a strategy meeting with some good old boys. Apparently they want some heavy tactics used if there's any outcry from the people around here."
"How do you know this?"
"Hey, I know guys who know guys."
"Do you know where this meeting is supposed to take place?" Clark asked.
"Yeah. They said it was in the old warehouse across from Jack's Fisheries. Like, 'fisheries,' my eye. That place is really a place for storing stolen merchandise. But you never heard it from me."
"No problem, kid. Hey, don't be a stranger."
They had been sitting in the Jeep for almost three hours. Lois turned on the radio to help relieve the tension. Both were painfully aware that, with Clark leaving, this might be the last time they would ever be alone together. Lois was certain that he had heard her comment the previous night. So now, with no pretenses to maintain, she found herself wanting to force the issue — to force him to admit that he felt the same way about her, to prevent him from ever leaving her. Clark felt like his heart would break. He wanted so badly just to take her in his arms and never let go. Of course, neither did anything.
Lois pushed the seat back as far as it would go in order to stretch her tired and cramped muscles. She had just begun to have a feeling of normalcy back in her legs when she heard Clark's voice.
She did. Heading toward the warehouse were a couple of tough-looking men with beards and tattoos.
"It looks like this is going down now," Lois commented. Clark nodded.
Just as the men were about to enter the warehouse, one of them looked toward the Jeep and stopped. The other one glanced at him for a moment and then turned and looked where his companion indicated.
"They've seen the Jeep, Clark!"
Clark looked around desperately. The Jeep had obviously been spotted and the men were coming to investigate. He did the only thing that came to mind. He kissed Lois.
Lois was stunned for a moment when his lips met hers. However, she instantly knew what he was doing. He was making it look like they were just a couple looking for a quiet place to make out. This realization took only an instant. But then there was the feel of his kiss, and she suddenly didn't care why he was doing it, just that he was. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
The men approaching saw the couple and smiled. They were obviously wrong, and, although it was tempting to stay and see how far this might go, they had work to do. So they turned around and walked back to the warehouse.
A few minutes later Clark forced himself to pull back. He was breathing hard. He only got a few inches away before he seemed completely unable to move further from her. His eyes were fixed on the spot that his lips had been only a moment before. She tasted so incredibly sweet.
She opened her eyes and looked at her partner. He was only inches away. She looked over his face for a moment before her eyes looked at his mouth. He was licking his lips. She silently begged them to return to their previous activity.
He glanced up at her eyes. They were fixed on his mouth. That was all the encouragement he needed. He moved back in and they began to kiss again. This time their tongues found each other. The tentative kisses of only a moment ago were replaced by hungry, passionate kisses as both partners struggled to get as close to the other as possible. A small groan of surrender escaped from the back of Clark's throat as Lois ran her hands slowly over his chest underneath his now undone shirt. All Clark knew for certain at this moment was that he needed to feel her skin under his hands. He gently pulled her blouse from her slacks and slipped his hands underneath.
The moment Clark felt the soft skin of Lois' stomach under his hands, his mind, which had been mercifully silent until now, began to scream at him. He knew that if he didn't stop now he wouldn't be able to stop. He suddenly thought about Lana. He couldn't do this to her. He couldn't do this to Lois. If they did make love… It still wouldn't change anything. He would still be married to Lana. How could he ever tell Lois that… oops… I have to go back to my wife now? So, calling up every bit of strength he possessed, he pulled back.
Lois felt her heart being torn out of her as he did. She knew that his mind had just won and she had lost him. She looked at him. He was still only inches from her. His eyes were tightly closed.
Finally he whispered softly, "I'm sorry, Lois. I'm so sorry.
She felt her heart go out to him. He didn't want to stop any more then she wanted him to. She reached up a hand and gently stroked his cheek. "It's okay, Clark," she responded. He allowed her hand to finish its journey over his cheek before he sat back in his seat. They both sat with only the noise of the radio for a long moment before Lois spoke.
"So will I…" she cleared her throat. "Will I ever see you again?"
"Of course you will." It was a long moment before he continued, "And if you ever need anything…"
"I know, Clark."
He looked over at her for a moment. She could see the pain in his eyes just as clearly as he could see the tears on her cheeks. They both turned back toward the window and straightened out their clothes before Clark took out his handkerchief and began to wipe her lipstick off his mouth. She watched as he went to replace the handkerchief.
"I think you better give that to me," she said.
He looked over at her in confusion so she continued, "It's just… Well, if Lana sees that she might get the wrong idea."
"The problem is, Lois… she might get the right idea." He looked over briefly at her while handing her the handkerchief.
"Nothing happened, Clark. You kissed me to distract the men who were coming to inspect the Jeep. That's all."
He looked at her in disbelief before turning back toward the window without responding. He knew that she was only trying to alleviate his guilt, but it wasn't working. He knew what he had done and what he wanted to do. That was enough for Clark.
"I need you to do something for me," Clark finally said.
"I need you to forget about me when I leave tomorrow, Lois."
"But, Clark…" Lois sobbed.
"Please, Lois. I need you to find a good man and fall in love. I want you to be happy, and unless you forget about me that will never happen. Please, Lois." With that they once again fell silent.
Fortunately it was only a few minutes before a black limousine pulled up in front of the warehouse. Lois picked up her camera and began to snap pictures. She stopped when it became obvious who was getting out. It was Daniel Lang.
"Omigod," she whispered softly. As Lang disappeared into the warehouse, she went to get out of the vehicle.
"Where are you going?" Clark asked.
"We have to find out what they're doing."
"It could be dangerous." She rolled her eyes at him. "Look, in a couple days I'll be going to work for Lang Industries. I'll look into it from there. I promise you will get whatever I find."
"Clark!!" Lois gasped. "You can't do that."
"You would be spying on your own father-in-law. Have you stopped to consider what that will do to your marriage?"
Clark was silent for a moment. "A lot of people are going to lose their homes if this deal goes through. I can't just stand by and do nothing."
"That's all well and good. But there is no way I'm going to allow you to be the one to do this. No' I need to go see what's going on in there. I say that, as of this minute, you're out of it." With that, Lois jumped out of the car and headed for the warehouse.
"Lo-is," Clark groaned. He couldn't let her go in there alone. It was too dangerous, so he followed. He caught up to her just outside the warehouse. She glanced over at him and then looked back toward an open window. She made her way inside. He was hot on her heals. They ducked in behind some crates.
"I thought you were staying in the car," she whispered.
"I wasn't letting you come in here alone."
She shook her head slightly but didn't comment. Instead she began making her way toward a group of men on the far side of the warehouse. It took some time to do so without being seen. When they finally got there the meeting was beginning to break up.
"Well, Mr. Lang. I'd say that went well."
"We'll see, Bob. We'll see."
With that Lang walked back outside the warehouse, got into his limousine and drove off.
"Damn," said Lois softly when they were alone. "Well, let's go by the mayor's office and see what she has for us. We're not going to accomplish anything else here."
Lois and Clark looked through the proposals they had obtained for Lorna Bowman. Except for the proposal put forward by the joint team of Luthor and Lang, they were all pretty lame. However, other then that there didn't appear to be anything here that was especially useful.
"I can see why the mayor chose the proposal that he did," Clark commented. "It's the only one that seems to make any sense at all."
"True," Lois agreed. "But, I tell you, I'm having problems believing that such respected companies could submit such idiotic proposals."
Clark shrugged. "Lois, did it occur to you that if Lang is involved in something fishy here, Luthor could be too."
Lois looked over at him. It was the first time since his comments after her first interview with Lex that he had expressed any negative attitudes about the man. Either he felt bolder given what had transpired between them in the car earlier, or he was seriously concerned for her. She couldn't decide which it was.
"Don't worry. I'll take care of myself," she said softly. He looked over at her briefly, but she didn't look back. He let it drop. He had given his warning. Now he knew that he had to back away. Luthor might turn out to be the best thing that had ever happened to Lois. He wouldn't try to stop her from being happy. He wanted her to be happy, after all.
Just as they were about to call it a day, Jack came over.
"Hey, did you guys hear?"
"About what, Jack?" Clark asked.
"Some guy was found dead this morning tied to the flag post outside city hall."
"Yeah, and apparently he was naked."
"Do you know who it was?"
"Nah. I just remember the important things."
Clark went off in search of details. When he came back, he filled Lois in.
"Apparently the man killed was George Wade. He's the C.E.O. of…"
"Shipton Technologies. Yes, I know. Clark, that's two prominent members of the community in as many days. Do you think they're connected?"
"I don't know. But apparently Wade was tortured before his death. Given that and the public exhibition of his body, I would say it was a warning. Did Wade's company make a proposal?"
Lois looked through the list. "No, he didn't. So what's the connection? Did he ever make any statements opposing waterfront development?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Let's call Detective… Oh, what was his name… Oh yeah, Simons, and see what he's making of it."
Lois picked up the phone and made a quick call to Simons. When she got off the phone she was frustrated.
"What did he say?" Clark asked.
"Why, didn't you hear him?" Lois shot back. Clark looked down. "Sorry," she said much more softly. "He said that he didn't see a connection. Sandberg was killed in a mugging. Wade was killed in an execution."
"Do they have any idea who was behind Wade's death or why?"
"No, apparently not. No known enemies. Good solid family man. Respected member of the community. Blah Blah Blah."
"Sort of grouchy this afternoon, are we, Lois?"
"It's just… Clark, there is a connection here. There has to be. Sandberg, Wade, Lang and the waterfront development. I just can't see it."
"Well, look. It's getting late. Why don't we try going at this fresh tomorrow? Maybe we will see the connection after a good night's sleep."
"Yeah. You're probably right." Lois said, thinking about the files she had found at Clark's apartment. She got up and pulled her purse out of her desk. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow." As she said it she suddenly realized that this would probably be the last time she would ever get to say that. She gave him a sad smile before heading for the elevator.
Clark sat and watched her go. When she disappeared into the elevator, he lowered his glasses to continue watching her. He watched as she slowly sank against the back of the elevator and closed her eyes. "Clark," he heard her whisper sadly as the elevator made its descent. He closed his eyes and concentrated on listening to her heartbeat until a hand on his shoulder brought him back to his surroundings.
"Are you okay, son?" asked Perry softly.
"Umm… yeah. Just a little tired, I guess." Clark rose to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Perry nodded and then watched as Clark made his way out. He could feel for both of them. He could tell that they were both desperately trying to do the right thing here. But he'd be damned if he knew what that was, so how could they?
"The meeting at the docks went well today. I think we have enough arm breakers to keep any serious protests from getting out of hand," Lang said into the phone.
"Any word from the press?"
"I've seen a couple of small articles about rejuvenating the waterfront but nothing major. Getting rid of Sandberg was a great idea."
Luthor chuckled. "I've been wanting to do it for years. I just never had a reason before to justify it as a business deduction."
Lang laughed in response. "By the way, I enjoyed the Wade scene today."
"Well, Hardway can be counted on to make things fun. I told him to make it dramatic."
"He certainly did that. I guess all that's left now is to have the mayor make his decision. Then we can work on getting it through City Council. I think we now own enough of them to get this passed without complications."
"Especially now that everyone is well aware of the stakes of non-cooperation."
Unlike Clark, Lana Kent was content with her marriage. When she first went to Smallville, she was seen as an outsider — a big city snob who was always looking down her nose at their Smallville traditions. So when Clark started hanging around she latched on to him. As Clark's girlfriend, she was accepted. Clark was not close to people, but he was well-liked and respected. As his girlfriend she shared this acceptance.
Throughout college and then in her travels abroad, Lana had a number of wild and often scandalous affairs. Her father finally insisted that she marry to end the scandals. If she did not, he threatened to cut her off. When she returned to Metropolis to find a husband, she had a specific type of person in mind. Clark fit the bill perfectly.
She wanted someone who would not get in the way of her having a good time. That meant he had to be naive, but she didn't want to be married to some dork either. Clark was naive and yet he was absolutely gorgeous. Also, because she knew his secret, she figured she would always be able to keep him in line. She knew he was insecure about his heritage. She figured that some of it was due to the death of his parents. Had they lived, he may have grown up to accept his powers and know that he was loved even with them. As it was, Clark never knew that anyone could accept him for who he was. Lana constantly fed that belief. It kept him dependent on her and, thus, unlikely to challenge her.
The only problem was that so far she had been unsuccessful getting him to join her dad's company. She wanted this to happen for a few reasons. First, she really did need someone she could trust running the company after her dad died. She knew that Clark would never hurt her — that he would never milk the company dry in order to increase the fortune in his own Swiss bank account. Second, by having him under Daddy's control she would have more freedom and less risk. Lang knew about the weaknesses of his daughter. He would make sure that Clark did not find out. He would not want the inevitable scandal that would result. So if she told him that she wanted Clark kept busy on a particular night, Daddy would comply. Finally, if Clark took this job, it would increase the amount of money they had available. Although she had a trust fund, it did not give her unlimited access to money.
Then there was her relationship with Lex. She had been in love with the man since she was a little girl. When he hadn't recognized her existence, she had been morose. Over the years she observed his relationships with women and discovered that he seemed to like his woman married. So now that she was married, she tried again. This time he was receptive. She was satisfied. She had the ideal husband and the perfect lover. Life was good.
Clark arrived home earlier than usual and found Lana in a somewhat cheerful mood.
"I've been thinking about your dad's proposal…" Clark began as they finished eating supper.
"Oh, Clark please. This has been such a pleasant evening. Don't ruin it by giving me all the reasons why you can't…"
"I told Perry White today that I was taking a one year leave of absence."
She looked at him in disbelief. "Really?" she finally asked.
"Yes, Lana, really."
She jumped out of her chair and pulled him to his feet. She threw herself into his arms. He was stunned. After so much rejection — she hadn't so much as hugged him for more than a month — he wasn't quite sure how to react. Unlike Lana, Clark was unable to make the change from 'I can't stand to touch you' to 'you're wonderful' quite that quickly. So when she began undoing his shirt and kissing his neck making it very clear that she was expecting to end up in bed with him, he pulled back.
Now it was Lana's turn to be stunned. No man had ever pulled away from her before. The fact that it was Clark doing it made it that much more of an insult.
"I just think that maybe we need to talk a bit first," he said softly. "After all, things have been… well, difficult, between us recently. I just can't come around that fast."
Lana went from stunned to furious in an instant. "It's that damn woman, isn't it?" Of course, she seriously doubted that Clark would cheat on her. But she was determined to hurt him the way she was hurt.
Clark gulped. "What woman?" he asked.
"That partner of yours. That Lois Lane."
"I am not sleeping with Lois Lane. I wouldn't do that to you."
"Sure!!!" she said, stomping into her room and slamming the door.
Clark sat down in confusion. That woman had gone through about ten different mood changes in less time than it took him to change his clothes — and he could do that very, very quickly. Clark buried his head in his hands.
In part she was right. He could still remember the feelings that had cascaded through his system when he kissed Lois. So when Lana had thrown herself at him, all he felt was a need to make her stop. He hadn't lied. He wasn't sleeping with Lois. But she was right, too. It was Lois that had caused him to pull back. He had to leave the Planet. He had to try to find a way to get Lois out of his system. Unless he did, his marriage wasn't going to work.
Lana came out of her room a few minutes later and announced that she was going out. He tried to suggest that they needed to talk, but she wasn't interested. When he asked where she was going, she told him it was none of his business. When he asked when she would be home, she told him not to bother waiting up, because she wasn't sure if she was coming home.
Lois sat down at her computer and inserted the disk. She was amazed that Clark hadn't confronted her about breaking into his house last night. But then, what would he have said? How would he have explained knowing? If he had run into her in his apartment building, he could have come up with at least a semi-believable explanation. But to confront her the next day would have been more difficult. After all, how had he known? It wasn't like he could see through walls or anything, was it? She laughed slightly at the very idea. Maybe he didn't know. She thought about that for a moment. No, he knew. There was the scarf, after all.
She uploaded the first letter and began to read.
I thought maybe if I put this down on paper I would be able to find the words to tell you this. After all, writing is what I do for a living.
I don't know why I left this so long. I know how unfair it is to do this the night before our wedding. I guess the only thing to do now is to come right out with it. I don't want to marry you.
Lois gasped. She had been so certain when she read the first paragraph last night that he was going to tell Lana what Lois was trying to find out — what made him different. She hadn't been expecting this. She knew that she should turn off her computer. This was DEFINITELY none of her business. But she couldn't seem to do it. Instead she kept reading.
In fact, when I think about it, I don't even remember asking you to marry me. For some reason you just sort of assumed it. It was wrong of me not to stop it right then, and for that I apologize. I never wanted to hurt you, and now I am about to humiliate you in front of all your friends and family.
If you feel more comfortable, I would certainly be prepared to tell everyone that it was you who broke up with me. I owe you at least that much.
I am so sorry, Lana. I really hope that some day you will be able to forgive me and that we can be friends again, because my world will be a lot darker without your friendship. After all, you are the only one who has known the truth about my heritage since my adopted parents died.
Lois sat back as she waited for the computer to load the next letter. She kept thinking about Clark's final words 'the truth about my heritage.' What could that mean? She couldn't imagine how his heritage could give him his powers. Of course, that may not have been what he was referring to at all. She began reading the next letter, which was dated the next day.
Well, here I am, writing to you again, although I won't give you this letter any more than I gave you the last one. I didn't think breaking up with you was something I could do in a letter, but when I tried to see you in person everyone told me that it was bad luck to see the bride on her wedding day.
I don't know why I didn't just insist on seeing you. I guess I kept hoping I'd get a better opportunity. Dumb, I know. But then we were standing in front of the preacher, and… well, I just knew that wasn't the time.
Anyway, we are now married, and maybe that isn't such a bad thing. After all, who could accept me but you? I can't imagine any other woman who wouldn't run screaming in the opposite direction once she learned about me. I hate the idea of being alone, and I'm sure I can make you happy.
Lois stared at the letter in front of her for a moment. In particular, the words, 'I can't imagine any other woman who wouldn't run screaming in the opposite direction once she learned about me.' "Is that why you won't tell me, Clark?" she asked out loud before continuing to read.
As I type this, you are asleep in the next room. So on this, our wedding night, I want to make the following promises. I promise never to give you a reason to regret marrying me. I promise to try to make you happy. Finally, I promise always to be faithful.
The one regret I do have is that I can't promise to love you. I don't think my Kryptonian make-up is such that I can fall in love. Watching other people over the years, I have come to accept that I am not capable of that depth of emotion. Did you know that I have never even cried over the death of my parents — my adopted parents, since I never even knew my natural parents. I guess some people would call that repression. Maybe it is. I just think I am incapable of that level of emotion.
Anyway, sleep well, my wife, and know that you are safe with me.
'Kryptonian make-up' — what the hell was that? She grabbed her dictionary and looked up the word. There was no reference to it. Maybe it was a country. She grabbed her atlas but again had no luck.
She turned to the next letter. It was dated about six months later.
Today you asked me to move out of our room. You told me it was because it scares you when I float in my sleep.
Lois gasped. She must have misread that. She reread the first two sentences of this latest letter. She wasn't mistaken. He was actually claiming to float in his sleep. Still, it couldn't mean what it appeared to mean. She continued reading.
You say you are scared that if I wake suddenly I will fall and hurt you. Although that has never happened, I guess I can understand your concern. I just hope that is the real reason, because lately it just seems like my greatest fear is coming true: that it makes your skin crawl to have an alien touch you.
Lois just stared at the word 'alien.' "Omigod," she barely breathed. Of course. It was the only thing that made sense. She could certainly be forgiven for not realizing it sooner. After all, who thinks that one's partner, one's best friend, is from another planet? Well, seriously, anyway.
She suddenly didn't want to know any more. She turned off the computer and after writing in her journal, climbed into bed. She had fallen in love with an alien. She felt sick to her stomach.
Luthor was pleased when he opened the door to his apartment and saw Lana standing on the other side.
"I take it Kent is working late again."
"Actually, no. I just needed to get away from him."
Luthor chuckled. "So where did you tell him you were going?"
Lois tossed and turned in bed. She was desperately trying to sleep and failing miserably. She kept thinking about what she had learned. She had fallen intensely, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with a creature from another planet. But Clark wasn't a creature. She lay in bed and thought about Clark. He was the kindest, sexiest, most compassionate, most decent human being she had ever met. But that was just it: he wasn't a human being. She struggled with it for a good hour before coming to a very simple realization. She didn't care.
She didn't care if he was from another planet. He was still her Clark. Well, not exactly her Clark, but he was her best friend — the only man she had ever completely trusted or loved. Probably the only man she ever would. She got out of bed and walked back over to her computer. She sat for a minute before powering it up again to continue reading the letter she had started before.
Today you asked me to move out of our room. You told me it was because it scares you when I float in my sleep.
You say you are scared that if I wake suddenly I will fall and hurt you. Although that has never happened, I guess I can understand your concern. I just hope that is the real reason, because lately it just seems like my greatest fear is coming true: that it makes your skin crawl to have an alien touch you.
She reread the words again. She felt her blood boil this time at the thought of Lana making Clark feel like it made her skin crawl to have him touch her. She then thought for a moment about what it must be like to float in your sleep. She marveled before continuing to read.
I realize now how terrifying it must be for you that someone will find out about me — how humiliating to have people know that you actually married someone who is not from this planet. I guess I never really understood that before. I promised you that I would never do anything to make you regret marrying me. I guess this is where it becomes a question of whether I really meant that promise.
All my life I have been quietly using my powers, my strength, my speed to try to help others. I knew there was a risk involved, but I figured it was worth taking the risk if I could help. I now know that I have to stop taking that risk. It breaks my heart to do that — to hear cries for help and be able to do nothing. But it is not just me who is taking the risk. I am forcing you to take that risk too. So today I promise to stop using my powers if there is any chance of someone finding out about me as a result.
Lois reread the words. She recalled the day he had saved her life. He had risked his identity to do so. He must have been terrified when as a result she began to ask questions — questions he was afraid would ruin his life and that of his wife. She took in a jagged breath and continued to read.
My sincerest desire, my wife, is for you to be happy. It breaks my heart to see this making you so miserable. So today my insistence that I have to help will stop.
She loaded the next letter. She recognized the date. It was the day she had first arrived back in Metropolis. Surely his need to write a letter couldn't have anything to do with that fact.
I need to write this letter today because I just learned that my Kryptonian make-up does not mean that I am incapable of falling in love. What a time to realize that.
"Omigod," whispered Lois. He couldn't have fallen in love with her when they first bumped into each other outside the Planet. Could he?
Anyway, you don't need to worry. I don't even know her name. Even if I did I would never be unfaithful to you. I just need to tell someone, and, since you will never see this letter, you were the logical choice. Ironic, don't you think? Here I am, writing a letter to my wife because I need to tell someone that I just learned that I am capable of falling in love.
So then, let me tell you what happened. I was on my way home. I was in a rush because I was running late and we had a party to attend. As a result I wasn't watching where I was going. I ran right into her in front of the Daily Planet building. Fortunately, she was fine. But the moment she started to speak — well, rant, actually — I was hooked. Don't you think it's rather ironic that after years of believing I wasn't capable of love I should find out that I have fallen in love at first sight?
Lois reread this letter several times, each time being more moved than she was the time before. She had felt the power of that meeting as overwhelmingly as he had.
She took a moment before uploading Clark's final letter. It was dated the day after Lex Luthor's ball. It briefly occurred to her that now that she had uncovered his secret, she should quit reading letters which he obviously never intended for her to see. But she pushed that disturbing thought aside when her curiosity got the best of her.
I want to talk about Lois again. I didn't set out to find the woman who has been haunting my dreams. It just sort of happened. Now Perry has teamed us up. I know I should have told him that it wasn't a good idea, but how could I, without telling him the reason? For the first time, I question my ability to keep my promise to be faithful. But don't worry, Sweetheart, I will. I could never hurt either of you that way.
Last night was incredible. I knew that I shouldn't ask her to dance. I knew that I felt too much for her to hold her in my arms, but she looked so beautiful that I couldn't seem to resist. Then when we were dancing… I don't even have the words to describe it. It was like I had just been reunited with the other half of my soul.
But then, every day is incredible. When she enters the newsroom, I immediately smell her perfume and am intoxicated. But the most incredible moment for me is when she first enters the Daily Planet in the morning. I try to be there before she is, just to experience it again. No matter what I'm doing, I instantly hear her heartbeat. Suddenly my own heart feels… Now I'm really at a loss. I guess the only way I can think to describe it is by saying that my heart begins to play Mozart's Turkish rondo from his Sonata in A Major.
Lois growled in frustration. What was that supposed to mean? How dare he compare what she did to his heart to classical music? After all, she didn't know enough classical music to have any idea what that meant. She glanced at the clock. It was still early. She picked up the phone and called a record store. When they informed her that they had that particular piece, she threw on her clothes and headed out the door.
When she returned she tore open the cellophane covering her new CD and stuck the CD in the player. She impatiently found the piece he had referred to and listened.
She almost burst out laughing at the first notes. She had been expecting to hear some deep passionate piece of music. What she heard instead was… Well, it could only be described as pure joy. The notes seemed to almost tumble overtop of each other in their effort to escape the piano. She listened in fascination at the thought that she could make the heart of this calm, controlled man do something like this. As she listened to the song a second time, tears began to make their way down her cheeks.
Finally she glanced back at the computer screen. The remainder of the letter was his continued reassurances to his wife of his fidelity. She reread the letter again, this time picking up other things that had been forgotten in her effort to find out what she did to his heart. She smiled when she reread the part about haunting his dreams. He had been haunting hers as well. She wondered if his were as vivid as hers.
She pondered the meaning of the words that he would never hurt either of them that way. She found herself marveling at how he saw things. To him having an affair with her would not only hurt his wife; it would hurt her, too.
She was amazed at the range his hearing had. He was able to pick out her heartbeat from among all those around her, and he was able to do it the instant she entered the Daily Planet. Well, that certainly confirmed that he heard her when she said she loved him. She briefly panicked, wondering what else she may have said under her breath. But then she realized that there was nothing she had said since they had met that she would not want him to hear. It also explained how he had known that she was at his apartment the night before. He could hear her heartbeat. She couldn't silence that in her efforts to be quiet. In fact, it was probably beating faster than normal, given how close she had come to being in the hallway when the elevator arrived.
He also obviously had an incredible sense of smell, to smell her perfume from the other side of the newsroom. She wondered if his other senses were that good.
But after reveling in the way he felt about her, reality suddenly hit. He was another woman's husband and he would never, ever forget that. On top of that, tomorrow was his last day of work. She buried her head in her hands and had a good cry before grabbing her coat and heading for the door.
Clark heard her heartbeat as soon as the car pulled up outside his building. He jumped up and looked out the window. Yes, it was her car. He pulled on a coat, and, without thinking it through, headed out the door. He wished he could fly down but was afraid of being seen. So instead he took the stairs. He bounded down them as quickly as possible without using super-speed to do it.
Lois stopped the car in front of his place and looked up at the window of the penthouse. The light was on. She watched as a figure appeared at the window, but from this distance she couldn't even tell if it was a man or a woman. She sat there for a moment. She didn't even know why she was here. She couldn't go bursting in on him and Lana at this time of night. She pulled the car back onto the road and drove off into the night.
Clark burst through the front doors just in time to see the taillights of Lois' Jeep as it pulled around the corner. He walked out into the street and stood there watching them disappear.
Lex Luthor growled at the interruption.
"This better be important," he said as he snatched the phone from its cradle. On the bed beside him, Lana laughed. "What?" he snapped to the person on the other end.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but I have Lois Lane down here. She is wanting to speak to you."
Luthor was silent for a moment, glancing over at his naked companion. "Send her up," he finally instructed the man. When he hung up he grabbed his robe before looking back at Lana. She had an obvious pout planted on her lips. "Sorry, my dear, but duty calls."
"Who is it?" she asked.
"Lois Lane, as in my husband's business partner?"
Luthor smiled. "The same. I suggest you might want to stay in here, my dear. You don't want her telling stories to your naive husband. I doubt she is as gullible as he is."
"What's she doing here, Lex?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but it's business."
"What sort of business?"
He just looked at her and smiled before walking out.
Lana stayed in bed for a good half hour waiting for her lover to return before getting bored with that and getting dressed.
When she was finally decent she walked out into the hallway. She crept up to the mostly closed sliding doors to the study and listened.
"So I'm just a little down about losing my partner," Lois was saying.
"Well, I'm sure they will find you another partner, my dear."
"But Clark's good. I don't know. All the other partners I've ever been teamed up with I've had to carry. Clark pulls his own weight."
"I'm sorry," said Luthor consolingly.
"It's okay. I just needed someone to talk to."
Both occupants of the room turned around as Lana pushed open the doors and walked in. Lois was stunned. She glanced over at Luthor who was completely unshaken.
"Lana, my dear. What a pleasant surprise," Luthor said, walking over and giving her a friendly kiss on the cheek. "You know Lois Lane, I believe."
"Yes, Lex, I do," Lana replied, just as calmly.
"So what are you doing here this time of night?"
"Well, I was just at Daddy's, and he asked that I drop off some papers on my way home."
Lois watched the exchange, trying to gauge its truthfulness. Unlike herself, Lana must have just walked by the doorman. But then, it was well known that Luthor and Lang had a lot of very close business connections. She supposed it was possible. However, she really didn't relish the idea of an evening spent chatting amicably with Lana Kent, so she excused herself, explaining that it really was getting late and that she had a long day ahead of her tomorrow. Luthor walked her to the door, giving her a brief kiss goodnight.
After Lois was well on her way, Luthor headed back to Lana.
"What was the meaning of that?" Luthor demanded.
"You told me that it was business. That didn't sound like a business conversation to me."
"I believe in keeping the press close. Especially a reporter with the ability of Lois Lane."
"There better not be anything more to it then that, Lex."
Lex stepped up close to her. He didn't like threats — well, not when he was on the receiving end, anyway — and that sounded dangerously close to one. He took her chin in his hand and looked into her eyes. He could see the danger hiding deep in those soft pools. He suddenly laughed. He really did like this woman. She was as dangerous as he was. He backed away.
"So, my dear, why didn't you tell me that Kent agreed to go work for your father?"
"I didn't think it was important."
"It is," Luthor said, pushing the button on his speaker phone. He pressed a number in memory. A moment later, Lana heard her father's voice come over the line. "Dan, I hear that Kent has agreed to come work for you."
"You have good sources. Yes, I just received the phone call tonight."
"Do you think that's a good idea? If he is as decent as I have heard, he could be a problem."
Lang laughed. "Don't worry. I intend to keep him in jobs of no account until after the waterfront deal goes through."
"Good," replied Luthor. He was just about to hang up when Lana's hand stopped him. She settled herself into Luthor's lap before speaking.
"Daddy," she finally said.
"Is that you, Lana? What are you doing with Lex?"
Lana merely laughed. "Look, has Clark called there for me tonight?"
"Well, we had a fight. If he calls, just tell him that I'm fine but that I don't want to talk to him right now."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
Lana gave Lex a leisurely kiss before responding, "Oh I do."
Lois thought about what she had witnessed at Lex's apartment. She had the distinct impression that Lana and Lex were having an affair. But they both seemed so relaxed that she couldn't be sure.
However, those thoughts were displaced almost immediately when she suddenly realized that if Lana was with Lex that meant that Clark was alone. She turned the car back toward Clark's penthouse. It was only a short drive.
Lois spotted Clark the moment she pulled up in front of his apartment. He was sitting dejectedly on a park bench in the small park across from his apartment building. She stopped the Jeep in a no-parking space and got out. She made her way across the street and silently took a seat next to him.
"That's a no-parking space, Lois," Clark finally said.
Lois just laughed and they were once again submerged in silence. "How long have you been sitting here?" she finally asked.
"Since you were here earlier," he responded. He suddenly realized what he had said. How had he known she was here earlier? He expected to be engulfed in questions. However, Lois merely nodded.
She had intended to tell him that she knew his secret and that it didn't matter to her. However, when she felt how he tensed up after his last remark, she decided against it. He was obviously terrified of her finding out. It would have to wait until he was ready for her to know. So instead, she contented herself with sitting beside him in companionable silence. It was a long time before Lois broke the stillness.
"I just wanted to make sure you were all right. I mean, after what happened between us today. I can see that you are, so I guess I should be going."
He nodded. It was some time later before she finally got up. She lightly caressed his cheek, gave him a soft smile and headed toward her car. He walked her over and opened the door. She got inside. As he was about to close it, she said, "Go back inside, Clark. You'll catch your death of cold sitting out here." He just smiled.
He watched until she was out of sight before sighing and walking back into his apartment building.
The next day Lois was deliberately a little late getting in. She decided that if his favourite part of the day was hearing her arrive, she would give him that one last time. She felt her heart begin to race when she stepped through the doors of the Daily Planet building, as she imagined him listening to it.
Clark noticed that Lois' heart seemed a little fast when she arrived but wrote it off to the fact that she would be rushing because she was late. He settled back in his chair and listened for one last time as that familiar heartbeat made its way up in the elevator. He heard her step off the elevator and kept his eyes closed as he allowed the smell of her perfume to invade his system. It was a good minute later before he realized she was still standing just inside the newsroom. He opened his eyes and immediately caught hers. She was standing at the railing watching him. He looked at her curiously, noticing the small smile playing around her lips.
When Lois stepped into the newsroom she immediately looked for Clark. When she saw him, eyes closed, sitting back in his chair, she instantly knew what he was doing. She stood there, completely transfixed, watching him, until he opened his eyes and the mood was broken.
The day was a complete bust as far as work was concerned. As it drew to an end, the people at the Planet threw Clark a going away party. Lois slunk into the background and watched as people said good-by to Clark. He looked uncomfortable with all the attention. Several times he sought her out with his eyes, silently begging for her assistance. But she ignored his request. It wasn't that she didn't want to help him. She was terrified of breaking down in front of all these people.
Finally the party began breaking up. Perry White and James Olson came over to wish Clark well and promise that if he decided to come back early, his job would be here for him. Once they finally made their way out, the newsroom was quiet. Clark looked around the newsroom one last time, till his eyes landed on Lois.
They just looked at each other for a moment. He could see the unshed tears in her eyes. She could see his chin quiver slightly. Neither made a move toward the other. Neither had the words or the heart for a good-by. Finally Clark turned to leave.
"Clark," Lois finally sobbed.
Clark turned back around just in time to wrap his arms around Lois, who was already in mid-flight into them. He pulled her in and held her tight. She buried her head against his chest, and he could feel hot tears wetting the front of his shirt. It was a long time before they pulled back. Neither had any words. None were necessary. Clark gently raised a hand to her face before leaning over and gently kissing her. The kiss was short, sweet and incredibly painful. It was the good-by they couldn't put into words. Then, with a final look into her eyes, he turned and entered the elevator.
As the doors closed behind him, she whispered softly, "I love you, Clark. I always will." She knew he could hear her.
Okay, okay, I'm only joking. The end of part one (some people can be so sensitive).
Continued in "The Other Woman, Part 2"