By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 two of a two-part series.)
The Other Woman — Part Two (A parallel dimension story)
Read 'The Other Woman — Part One' first or this story won't make much sense. This story is a parallel dimension story. We begin a month after Clark Kent quit working at the Daily Planet.
Clark looked at the envelope. 'Lake.' He pushed it into the slot for the third floor. 'Graydon.' He pushed it into the slot for the fifth floor. 'Green' — second floor. At least he finally didn't have to look at the list each time to know what name went with what floor. 'Potvin.' It went in the slot for the eighth floor. He could now give a complete list of every employee who worked in this building from memory — for whatever good that did. 'Clair' — tenth floor.
Daniel Lang told him that, before he could take up the role of an executive, he needed to learn how the business ran by spending some time in each of the departments. So he had been doing this job or jobs like it for Lang Industries for the past month now. He picked up another handful of envelopes. He took a deep breath before continuing. 'Skelton.' He pushed it into the slot for the fifth floor.
Clark missed reporting almost as much as he missed Lois. They had not as much as spoken since he had left the Daily Planet. He carefully examined every story she wrote in every edition of the paper. She would refer to a source in the mayor's office and he would see her talking to Lorna. He would find references to the police and see her bugging Henderson. He would notice some slightly off-handed comment in the paper and he would imagine her arguing with Perry that it was essential to the story. She had obviously won that round. He read the story almost more in an effort to relive her day than to get the story itself.
He had promised to get her the inside story from Lang Industries. However, in his various joe jobs he had not had access to any such information. He could tell that she had not managed to get much further with that particular story. At least, there hadn't been much about it in the paper. Her articles were on unrelated topics. Obviously, when the story wasn't continuing to pan out, Perry had assigned her to other tasks. However, knowing Lois, she was likely to be working on it in her spare time. He looked at another envelope. 'Thomson' — Ninth floor.
"So why are we meeting here for lunch?" Lucy asked suspiciously.
"I just thought it might be nice to try someplace different."
"Lois, this is a chain. It is exactly the same here as it is in at least a dozen other places around the city that are much more convenient for both of us."
Lois just shrugged and studied her food.
"It wouldn't have anything to do with the location, would it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Luce."
Lucy chucked softly. "Come on. Is there any reason in particular that we're having lunch in a restaurant directly across from the headquarters for Lang Industries?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm over that."
"Is that why you chose a table and chair that give you a clear line of sight to the front door of Lang Industries?"
"Okay, so maybe I just wanted to see him at a distance if he took a lunch break. He's likely involved in some big corporate luncheon anyway. So what does it matter?"
"You're in trouble, Lois."
Lois looked down briefly before meeting her sister's eyes. "I know, Lucy." She paused. "I just miss him so much."
"Look, from what you've told me there's not much chance of anything happening between you two. He might not even feel the same way you do. He danced with you for, what? — not even one full dance. And he's kissed you twice. Once as a cover and once as a good-bye. And you're even the one who initiated the good-bye kiss by throwing yourself at the man."
"He feels the same way I do."
"How do you know that? Did he tell you?"
"Well, then… Don't you think that maybe if he felt the same way, you would have heard from him by now? It's been a month since he left."
"I know he feels the same way because I sort of saw something that I wasn't exactly supposed to see."
"Well… I guess it was sort of like his journal."
"You read his journal!!! Lois!!!"
"Well, sort of. I guess."
"You are unbelievable," Lucy said accentuating every word. "So what did he say?"
"He said that I make his heart play Mozart's Turkish rondo from the Sonata in A Major," Lois said softly.
"What does that mean?"
Lois laughed. "That was my first thought, too. But it's so beautiful. I listen to it over and over again."
"You've got to give this up. He is married. What happened to your rule about married men?"
"I think you…"
"There he is, Lucy!!" Lois suddenly exclaimed.
Lucy looked over to see a man in a t-shirt and blue jeans step out the door of the Lang building. He had a jacket slung over his shoulder. He suddenly seemed to stop dead in his tracks, as if straining to hear something.
Clark stepped out of the doors of the Lang building and stopped. It couldn't be. It was. He shook his head slightly. Usually he had to be listening to hear a heartbeat. But somehow hers just seemed to have the right beat to burst through the rest of the noise of the city. What should he do now? He slowly looked in the direction of the sound — desperately trying not to look too obvious.
Lois watched in fascination. She knew instantly that he knew that she was here. She watched in a mixture of horror and pleasure as he began a slow sweep of the area. She wanted him to see her and she didn't want him to see her. He looked in her direction. She looked away immediately. He couldn't possibly have seen her. After all, he wore glasses, so his eyesight couldn't possibly be as good as his other senses.
Clark stood for a moment on the sidewalk deciding what he should do. He knew he should just pretend not to see her and go about his business. He didn't know if he could handle actually talking to her. The pain of just seeing her from this distance was incredible. Finally he made his decision. He would just go on with his day. Get his lunch and go back to work. It was the right decision. She needed to get on with her life, too. Speaking with him wouldn't help her do that. Satisfied, he started walking.
He crossed the street and entered the restaurant. He looked around briefly in confusion. This hadn't been his decision. Still, in spite of his best efforts not to, he looked around until his eyes met hers. He heard the pace of her heart quicken as he made his way directly across the room toward her table.
"Lucy, Lois," he said, as casually as he could. "What are you doing around these parts?"
"She wanted to try someplace new," Lucy snorted. She stopped at the look of warning in her sister's eyes. "If you two will excuse me, I think now might be a really good time for a washroom break." With that, Lucy left the table.
Clark just stood there for a moment in silence before Lois looked at him. She was nervously biting her lower lip. "Hi," she said softly.
Clark instantly understood why she was here. He quickly took Lucy's recently vacated chair. "Lois, what are you doing here? You shouldn't be here." The words were spoken gently, but they were almost a plea.
"I had to come. I just miss you so much." She paused for a moment before trying to get things on a slightly more casual basis. "I miss my best friend."
"I just wanted to see you. Is that a crime?" She looked at him defiantly. "If you didn't want to see me, you could have just walked past."
"What?" Lois demanded. Her voice was like steel, but her eyes were on the verge of tears.
"Of course I wanted to see you," Clark said softly.
"Then come by my place this evening," she said. But even as she did, she could hardly believe that she could be so bold.
Clark looked down. "What would be the point, Lois? Or are you suggesting…" his voice trailed off.
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting."
Clark's eyes snapped back up. They held eye contact for a long moment. "Do you really understand what you're asking for?"
Her heart started to race. She could hardly believe she was doing this… suggesting this. She hadn't exactly been suggesting that they have an affair when she asked that he come by her place. She hadn't exactly thought about what she was suggesting. But as soon as he intimated it, she jumped on it. She knew she was about to break her unbreakable rule. But she wasn't prepared to stop now. If that was the only way she could have this man in her life, then that was what she was going to do.
"Lois, no." It was not a rejection of her proposal. It was a plea to her not to do this.
"Why not? You love me. I know you do. I love you too. If this is the only way…"
"Do you know what our having an affair would be like?"
A small grin played briefly around the corners of her mouth. "I think I can imagine."
Clark leaned across the table and took her hand in both of his. "I'm not sure you can. So let me tell you."
"I don't need you to…"
"Lois!" She fell silent and he continued. "I want you to understand what it would really be like to be the other woman in my life." She looked down at his hands as he continued to speak. "It would mean constantly finding excuses and inventing stories so that we could spend, at most, a couple of hours together. Never being able to be seen together in public. Meeting in grungy restaurants or grungy hotels. It would mean that, afterwards, you would have to watch as I got out of your bed to go back to my wife. Have you thought about how that would feel?"
Clark fell silent for a moment for Lois to really think how it would feel to have him return to his wife afterwards. She could feel the pain just envisioning it. Clark began to speak again. "It would mean watching at public functions… Seeing me with my wife. Knowing that I could hardly even acknowledge your presence. Always having to take a back seat to her. It would mean living with a secret that, if it ever came out, would ruin your reputation. A reporter's reputation is her most valuable asset, Lois. Once it's lost…" He shrugged his shoulders.
"Now let's assume that this affair lasts. Because I know that if we ever did…" he swallowed hard, "I would never be willing to let you go. So then what would that really be like? No family of your own. No hope of kids. Spending holidays alone as I'm off with my wife. Waking up day after day without me. Knowing that there wasn't anything beyond that."
"How would it feel to always know that I was ashamed of what we were doing? Knowing that what was meant to be a beautiful expression of love between two people was something that I was consistently feeling guilty about. How long would it be before you came to believe that the shame I was feeling over our actions meant that I was ashamed of you? What would that do to your self-esteem?"
He finally fell silent. That is how Lucy found them. Sitting, not looking at each other, with Clark holding Lois' hand across the table. She stood there for only a moment. The tension in the air was so thick you could almost see it.
"I think I'll just sit at the counter for a few minutes, if you two don't mind." With that she gathered up her lunch, turned and walked away.
As soon as she left, Lois looked up. Clark was staring intently at the table. She removed her hand from his and gently reached across and placed it under his chin. She raised his head to look into his eyes. She saw the helplessness in his. He saw the steel in hers.
"I don't care. I want you in my life."
"You don't understand. That's not only what you would have to endure. That is what you are asking me do to you. I can't do that. I love… I care about you too much to do that. Please…" His voice trailed off, and his eyes reverted to their previous spot on the table. They sat there for a moment longer before Lois got up.
"I'll be home tonight by seven. If you want to come over sometime after that… If tonight's no good you can always come by anytime you want. My door is always open to you." He continued to just sit there staring at the table as Lois went to collect her sister. They paid the bill and left. Clark sat listening to her heartbeat until it faded into the distance.
Luthor and Lang were meeting with the new mayor this afternoon. He had given them a call yesterday to set up this appointment. They already knew that the meeting was to tell them that he would be taking their proposal to City Council. They knew this because this was their mayor. They picked him. They got him elected, and now they owned him.
However, they still had to go through the motions. That was why this meeting was taking place. The mayor would, of course, suggest a few changes to their proposal — changes that they had already told him to make. If the final draft came out exactly the same as it was first proposed, that might lead to suspicions. So they calculated in changes.
Both Lang and Luthor were ecstatic. This new deal would make them in excess of a hundred million dollars. They could already taste the champagne and caviar.
It was about ten minutes after seven. Clark stood outside the door to Lois' apartment holding a dozen, long stemmed, red roses. He had been standing there now for about five minutes staring intently at the door.
"Can I help you?"
Clark jumped at sound of the man's voice. He looked over and saw an older gentleman with gray hair and a gray moustache, standing a few feet away.
"Oh… I'm fine. I'm just here to see… someone."
"Well then, don't you think that MAYBE you should knock?"
"I guess," Clark said nervously.
The man looked down and noticed the wedding ring on the hand holding the flowers. He looked back up at Clark. "I've been there, son. Don't do it."
Clark looked down.
"It's not worth it. Trust me. It's not worth all the pain it will cause everyone involved."
"What about the pain it will cause her if I don't show up tonight?"
"It's not as much as the pain it will cause her in the long run if you do. She may think this is what she wants now, but, trust me, it isn't." Clark continued to stand there. "Why not just leave the roses? It will let her know how much you wanted to be here, but that you just couldn't."
Clark looked absently at the flowers in his hand. When he looked back up, the man was disappearing into an apartment down the hall.
Lois had spent a lot of time trying to decide how to dress for tonight. She had even slipped into some sexy lingerie. She finally decided that casual was better. She slithered into some sexy underwear but then, over it, put on a pair of jeans and a blouse. She spent the next ten minutes trying to decide how many buttons to leave undone on her top. She finally decided to leave it undone, just low enough for him to get a glimpse of the lacy bra she was wearing.
Lois had been pacing in her apartment since about six-thirty. In spite of her bravado to Clark in the restaurant, she really wasn't so sure about her proposition. It wasn't that she didn't want to be with Clark. It was just that she had fallen in love with a certain kind of man. A man that was thoroughly decent. If they had an affair, it would change him. Part of her actually hoped that he wouldn't show up.
Lois suddenly heard voices in the hall. She laid her ear against the door and listened.
"Well then, don't you think that maybe you should knock?" She heard a man's voice on the other side of the door. She recognized it as belonging to her neighbor.
"I guess." She jumped at the sound of Clark's voice. He had come.
"I've been there, son. Don't do it. It's not worth it. Trust me. It's not worth all the pain it will cause everyone involved." Clark was obviously standing outside her door trying to decide what to do. She had mixed feelings about what his decision should be.
"What about the pain it will cause her if I don't show up tonight?" She looked down, feeling guilty for a moment that she was placing this pressure on him. Even now, standing outside her door, he was more concerned about her feelings then he was about his own.
"It's not as much as the pain it will cause her in the long run if you do. She may think this is what she wants now, but, trust me, it isn't." There was a pause during which Lois was tempted to throw open the door and tell this noisy neighbor that she could decide for herself what she wanted. The problem was she really wasn't sure what that was. "Why not just leave the roses? It will let her know how much you wanted to be here but that you just couldn't."
'Don't listen to him, Clark,' she silently begged, 'Please just knock,' but even as she thought it she found herself almost hoping that he wouldn't. She heard the neighbor's door close. A minute later, she heard steps retreating down the hallway. She leaned her head gently against the door as tears began making their ways to her eyes. He had done what she hoped he would do. But it still hurt so much.
Eventually she made her way into the kitchen. She opened the freezer portion of her fridge and removed a tub of rocky road ice cream. She grabbed a spoon out of a drawer and sat down to eat ice cream directly out of the tub. Suddenly she heard a knock on the door. She shoved the ice cream back into the freezer, spoon and all, and rushed for the door.
When she arrived she took a moment to fix her appearance. She dried her cheeks. She straightened her blouse. He had obviously come back, and, in spite of her doubts, she felt her heart begin to race. When she was ready, she opened the door.
She just stared for a moment into the face of Lex Luthor.
When her expression changed from excitement to shock, he spoke, "Expecting someone else." His eyes wandered over her body, noticing the trace of lace showing from her undone buttons.
"Of course not. Lex, this is a surprise." She glanced down at the roses in his hand. "Roses?"
"Yes. Do you like them?" he asked, handing her the bouquet.
"They're beautiful. Are they from you?"
He gave her his Cheshire cat grin and said, "Who else would they be from?"
She smiled back. She knew they had to be from Clark, after what she had overheard at the door, but Lex was obviously planning to capitalize on the situation. "Well, thank you," she said, ignoring his question. It was then that she noticed Lex taking in her appearance hungrily. She quickly did up the next button on her blouse. "So, would you like to come in? I wasn't expecting to see you tonight," she said, trying to sound causal.
"Thank you, my dear," Lex said, coming further into the room. He looked around. There was nothing overtly seductive about the room. There was no candlelight or wine on the table. There was no soft music in the background. When he had first seen her, he had been of the opinion that she was expecting a romantic liaison. But the room was laid back. There were the roses found at her door, but that didn't mean she was expecting someone. After all, why would someone who was expected just leave roses at the door? He relaxed.
"I was wondering if you would like to go out for a little supper," Luthor said.
"Thank you, but I had a hard day. I think I'll just go to bed early."
"You know, when I go to bed this early, I find that it is very difficult to sleep through the night. Instead, why don't you join me for supper? I promise to get you back and tucked in to bed by nine."
Lois smiled. That actually sounded nice. A bit of distracting conversation was better then what she had in mind — crying into a tub of rocky road ice cream. She agreed, and, after putting the roses in water, went out for supper with Lex.
"LOIS," Perry's voice bellowed through the news room.
Lois quickly got up and made her way into Perry's office.
"What is the meaning of this?" Perry said, holding up Lois' latest story.
"It's my story on the Mayor's presentation of the keys to the city to Lex Luthor, Perry."
"Did you bother to read it after you finished writing?"
"Of course I did," responded Lois indignantly.
"Well, it's garbage. Try a rewrite. This time don't send it back here until it's right." Lois snatched the article from his hand and spun on her heel, heading for the door. "Wait a minute," Perry said. She stopped and turned back around. "Close the door, Lois, and have a seat," he said softly. She did.
Perry looked at her for a long moment before speaking. "What's wrong, Honey? Ever since Clark left, your work has been… well, for lack of a better word, substandard."
"My work's fine, Perry."
"That's what I mean, Lois. It's fine. But fine is what I expect from someone like Ralph. Not you." Lois looked down. "Is this about Clark?"
"I miss him."
"I know, Honey, but you have to get over it. He's gone, and, unless I miss my guess, Dan is going to make sure he isn't coming back." He looked sympathetically into Lois' eyes. "How far did things go between you two?" He finally asked.
"It's not like that. Clark would never be unfaithful. I know that; it's just…"
"You fell in love with him. Didn't you?" She nodded. "Well, may I make a suggestion here?" She nodded again. "Why not throw yourself into your work for a little while. It may help you get over it quicker."
She actually managed a smile. "And you might get some award winning stories."
He smiled too. "The thought has crossed my mind."
Lois was actually feeling better when she left Perry's office. He was right. There was nothing like a good story to get her blood flowing again. But first there was a little business to take care of. She called Clark.
"Kent here," came the familiar voice.
"Hi, Lois," Clark responded cautiously. Lois closed her eyes briefly. He was obviously preparing himself for another assault.
"I just called to apologize for the way I behaved the other day." She heard Clark let out a long breath.
"That's not necessary…"
"It is. You're right. I never could live that way. More importantly, you couldn't."
"I just think… If you and I were together I would want to shout it from the rooftops. I can't stand the thought of making you a dirty little secret that I have to be ashamed of."
"I know. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that. You're still my best friend. I just hope that I haven't lost that by being too… well, too me, I guess."
"You haven't, Lois. You never could lose me."
Lois smiled into the phone. "Good. Oh, Clark. There is something else. I wanted to thank you for the flowers."
"Well… please tell me there wasn't a card with them."
"No, there wasn't. I was planning to give them to you in person. Why?"
"After you left them the other night, Lex came by. He gave me the roses but no card. I just hoped that he didn't take the card."
There was a pause before Clark said, as casually as possible, "So you're still seeing Luthor?"
"Well… just make sure he treats you right."
"I will. By the way, how do you like your new job? All sorts of new responsibilities, I bet. Must be exciting." She really didn't want to know, but she wanted to end on a more pleasant note.
"Not really. They've got me in the mail room."
"The mail room!" Lois gasped.
Clark laughed. "Dan thinks that if I'm going to be prepared to take over the business I need to…"
"Be able to sort mail?"
"Not exactly. He wants me to know how all the various parts of the company work. So he has been shuffling me around. Right now I'm in the mail room."
"I guess that makes sense."
"Maybe. But, I tell you, I sure miss reporting."
"Anyway, that's why I haven't got back to you on that revitalization project yet. I haven't had access to anything. I will keep my eyes open, though. At least pretending that I'm actually investigating may help me stay awake."
Lois laughed. "Well, I really should be going here. Perry just bawled me out for one of my stories, so I guess it's rewrite time."
"I know how that is. I'll look forward to reading it tomorrow."
"You still read my work?"
"Always. I even try to imagine you talking to the various sources. It lets me feel… I don't know, like I'm still sort of reporting, I guess."
Lois looked at the phone for a long time after she hung up. Well, if her stories kept him feeling like he was still reporting, then she was going to give him something spectacular to read. "Jack," she yelled. People stopped to look. Yes, Lois Lane was indeed back.
In his office, Perry White smiled.
"What do you mean, you still have no leads?" Lois asked into the phone.
"Just what it sounds like. We searched the car for clues, but everything had been washed away in the bay."
"So you just gave up?"
"Yeah, Lois. We just gave up," came a sarcastic voice on the other end. "Haven't you ever had a story run dry?"
"Of course, Simons. I just meant…"
"The case is still officially open but without any new leads… Well, I doubt that the guy who killed Sandberg will ever be caught."
Lois took a deep breath. "Detective, I was looking through the report again. You don't seem to have many notes from people in the area where the car was found. Have they all been spoken to?"
"Yes. We canvassed the area thoroughly."
"Why isn't any of that in the report?"
"There was nothing relevant. No one saw anything."
"Did you take notes on it that are not in the report?"
"Do you mind if I take a look through them and see what I can find?"
"Be my guest. Look, I'll put everything I have together for you, if you want to pick it up."
"Great. I'll see you in a little while." Lois hung up the phone and jumped to her feet. She was halfway out the door when she heard Perry yell.
"LOIS!! Where's that rewrite?"
"Not now, Perry. I've got to go." The elevator doors closed behind her on the last word.
'Damn that woman,' thought Perry. 'Never doing what she's supposed to be doing. Why do I tolerate it?' But he knew it was because Lois could find a needle in a haystack if it would make a good story. Besides, after watching her mope around here for the past month, it was good to see her all fired up again.
"It seems you have mastered the task of sorting the mail," Robertson was saying.
Clark bit his tongue to keep from responding that he figured he had mastered it the first day. He really hadn't needed a week and a half. But the man was his boss, after all. So instead he just nodded.
"Good. Then tomorrow let's put you on something a little more challenging."
'Finally,' thought Clark.
"You now know how the mail is sorted, so tomorrow I'll teach you how to deliver it."
'Great,' thought Clark bitterly, while wondering what strange and wonderful things Lois was doing to get a story for tomorrow's paper.
"Okay, then. You need to be here first thing in the morning. I'll go around with you to be sure you get it right. Since I'll only be going with you the first day, you'll have to pay particular attention. So I want you to get a good night's sleep tonight."
'Is this guy anal retentive or what?' wondered Clark to himself. "Yes, sir," he responded.
Lois began searching through all the information she had obtained from Simons. She figured there had to be something here, and she was determined to find it. She looked up to see Perry White glaring at her.
"What is it, Perry?"
"Oh, sorry. I forgot."
"Yeah. I'll get right on it."
"Ten minutes. I need it in ten minutes."
"I'll have it done," she promised.
This time when she wrote the article, she did so thinking about Clark reading it. It was not an important story, but she still wanted him to enjoy it. She LAN'd it to Perry and then went back to her research. A few minutes later, a very different Perry White was standing by her desk.
"That was a great rewrite. I'd buy tomorrow's paper just to read that article."
Lois smiled. "I decided to take your advice."
"Good," said Perry, walking away to leave Lois to her work.
For about an hour, she continued reading through statements taken from neighbors where the car was found, when she came across something interesting. One of the neighbors had noticed a man with an English accent in the area the night before. He had seemed a little out of place. Too well dressed. Lois stopped for a moment and tried to recall why that seemed to ring a bell. She couldn't remember any men with English accents in connection to this story. Finally she gave up. She was just about to flip to the next interview, when on impulse she decided to write down the name and address of the witness. Just in case something came to her later.
Clark arrived back at his apartment. He glanced at his wife's bedroom door. It was once again closed. His new job certainly did not seem to be helping on the domestic front. He went quietly to the kitchen and fixed himself some supper before settling down to watch some television.
Clark knew his wife was not in her room. He also knew that he was supposed to believe she was. But he knew that, in fact, she was having an affair. By his calculations, she had had seven affairs since their marriage. This latest one was by far the longest. He looked at her closed door again and sighed as he thought back to the first night she had left the apartment with her door closed and locked.
They had been married about seven months at the time. Whenever they had a fight she would go to the bedroom and lock the door. So there was nothing new about this particular night. However, what Lana didn't know was that he would check on her periodically to make sure she was all right. He would do this by checking for her heartbeat. Then, one night when he checked, he couldn't hear anything. He panicked. He looked through the door and was relieved when he didn't find her lying dead on the floor. He tried calling her dad and even her mom. They didn't know where she was. He made quick trips to the various places they normally hung out. He even tried calling emergency rooms. Since one had received a blond-haired Jane Doe, he quickly rushed out. It wasn't her.
He was sitting in the darkened apartment, absolutely terrified, at four in the morning. Suddenly he heard the elevator doors opening. He sat there, trying to calm his nerves, when she finally stepped into the apartment. He felt his breath catch in his throat. He could smell another man on her. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to get control.
She quietly made her way to her room without even seeing him. He sat there for a moment, trying to decide how to react. He was more furious than he had ever been in his life. He was afraid of what he might do to her if he confronted her now, so he decided to wait till morning.
He lay in bed the rest of the night, just thinking. 'Why did she need another man?' he kept asking himself. By the time morning rolled around, he knew. He believed that she loved him. Otherwise she would just ask for a divorce, surely. But he was an alien. She obviously needed human contact, and that was the one thing that he couldn't give her. At first she had seemed okay with their making love. She even seemed to enjoy it. But then she withdrew from him more and more. He assumed that it was because she couldn't quite stomach having him — a creature from another planet — touch her. That had to be it.
So in the morning he merely went along with the idea that she was in her room all night. He was afraid that if he confronted her he would lose her. Then he would be truly alone. He couldn't bear the thought. If she, who loved him, was repulsed by his secret, what chance did he have to find happiness with someone else?
Clark noticed every time she changed lovers. He could smell their cologne, so when it changed he knew they had changed. He never knew who they were. He didn't want to know. But this latest one certainly had more staying power then the rest. The affairs usually lasted only a few weeks. This one had lasted now — well, of course Clark wasn't quite sure, but he would say, for at least three months.
He sighed and pulled his mind back to the television. It still hurt so much. Especially now when he could be doing the exact same thing. But he couldn't do that. He had chosen to tolerate her affairs. But there was no way he could do the same. He wouldn't turn the woman he loved into the other woman. He wouldn't do that to Lois.
The next day, Lois was at her desk bright and early. She was determined that today she would make some progress on the story. After all, the City Council meeting about the revitalization project was tonight. She was looking carefully through the information from Simons again, when she pushed some papers, causing her pen to roll off the desk and into the crack between the desk and the wall.
She tried to reach it, but to no avail. She silently cursed and got out of her chair, trying to get her hand into the small crack.
"Now that's what I call digging for a story," Jack's voice said behind her.
"Very funny, Jack," Lois responded, pulling her hand out. "Here. Help me pull my desk out. I lost my pen."
"So? Just get another one."
"It's my lucky pen."
Jack sighed and helped her move the heavy desk a few inches from the wall. Lois crawled back in and pulled the pen out triumphantly.
"Are you ready to move it back now?" Jack asked.
"Just a minute, there are some papers here, too. I wonder how long these have been here?"
"Probably since before the beginning of time. Would you hurry up, Lois? I have work to do."
Lois rolled her eyes at him before grabbing the papers. She tossed them on her already cluttered desk before getting back up. "Since when are you so all fired up to get back to work?" she asked as they moved the desk back.
"Since my work is easier then moving this stupid desk of yours."
As Jack moved off, Lois began to look at the various papers she had recovered. Most of it was garbage, so she would toss one piece in the garbage can as she would go on to the next one. Finally she picked up a piece of pink phone message paper. She looked at the name. It was a message from a George Wade. Why did that name seem familiar? Suddenly it hit her. He was the man that had been tortured, killed and left naked tied to a flag pole. But she had never had any dealings with him before. She stared at the paper.
He had obviously called. The message was: 're: waterfront development. Please call,' and it gave a number.
'I've never seen this before,' thought Lois. 'When did he call?' She looked at the date. She quickly booted up her computer and entered the Daily Planet archives. She looked at the date. He had called the night he had been killed. And he wanted to talk about the waterfront development!! Okay, so now there was a connection. Sandberg was a vocal opponent of any project to revitalize the waterfront. Wade had called her to talk about the project. Both had died within a day of each other. She grabbed her coat and headed for the 12th precinct.
"So then you load the mail on this cart. You start with the items for the top floor and work your way down. The executives on the top floor growl if they don't have their mail first thing in the morning."
Clark followed. He hadn't said a word. He didn't dare. He knew he was on the verge of telling Robertson what he thought of this whole thing.
"So," said Luthor into the phone. "Are all the councillors on line?"
"Enough to get the proposal approved. The rest know enough to keep their mouths shut."
"Good. We don't want any surprises tonight."
"There won't be, Lex. Everyone is well aware of what they have to lose."
"What about protests? We don't want the press drawing attention to the people who will lose their homes."
"Well, obviously there's going to be some noise. But I think we have enough arm breakers on board that we can take care of the leaders fairly quickly. I would imagine some of them will reveal themselves tonight. I had a meeting with our men last night. I'm planning to have some of them at the meeting to identify the potential troublemakers."
"Good. So how's your son-in-law working out?"
"I think he is probably climbing the walls by now. I've had him working in every inconsequential department in the company for the past month. He's in the mail room now."
Luthor laughed. "What makes you think he won't just quit?"
"Clark? Nah. He promised to give me a year. He won't break his word."
Henderson spotted Lois as soon as she arrived at the station.
"Lois. So good to see you. Just stop by for a chat?"
"Can it, Henderson. I think I have something for you this time. You're in charge of the investigation into the death of George Wade, aren't you?"
"Well, have you found out who is responsible?"
"I thought you had some information for me."
"I do. But I expect a little quid pro quo."
Henderson smiled. "Come on."
Once they had settled into his office, Lois began to speak.
"Okay. You know that we were investigating the death of Richard Sandberg."
"Yeah. I remember that. Wasn't his death found to be a mugging? What's the connection?"
"Well… Richard Sandberg was a vocal opponent of the waterfront redevelopment project."
"This morning I found this." She handed the phone message to Henderson.
He looked at it and then looked back at her. "And?" he prompted.
"Okay. Try to follow me here." Henderson gave her his most disgusted look. "Sandberg was an opponent of the redevelopment project. The day he died, Wade called me about the redevelopment project. They both died within a day of each other."
Henderson looked at her for a moment. "Okay. Try to follow me." Lois rolled her eyes. "Sandberg was killed by a mugger. Wade was killed in a public execution."
"Henderson, Sandberg wasn't killed by a mugger."
"How do you know that?"
"Call it reporter's intuition," responded Lois. When Henderson looked skeptical, Lois continued, "If you aren't going to follow up on it, could I at least take a look at the Wade files?"
"Well, sure. Why not? We aren't getting anywhere on it anyway."
By the time Lois had finished going through the Wade file, it was supper time. She decided that she would get a bite to eat before heading over to City Hall to sit in on the City Council meeting. After all, they were dealing with the redevelopment project tonight.
She just got settled in at a restaurant near City Hall when Clark walked in. She looked up in astonishment.
"Clark, what are you doing here?"
"Well, I was thinking of sitting in on the City Council meeting. After all, it's my father-in-law who is in part making the bid. So… I just thought I'd grab a bite to eat on my way. I'm surprised to find you here."
Lois suspected that he had known she was here but didn't push it. "I'm covering the story. Why don't you join me?"
"Thanks," said Clark. "So, any interesting angles?"
She looked at him for a long moment. They were no longer partners, and she had a paranoia about sharing her stories. But she trusted Clark. "Actually, there are a lot of things I've been wanting to run by you. Another opinion and all that."
With that, Lois brought him up to speed on the phone message she had found. She also mentioned reading through the entire files on the deaths of Sandberg and Wade.
"I would think that studying the Wade file couldn't have been very pleasant."
"No. Clark, the man's body was seriously… well, demolished, I guess, before he was killed. Then to be strung up that way in so public a place… I don't know, but it sounds to me like someone was trying to get a message across."
"Well, if it is connected with the waterfront development project, we know who the two main suspects are."
"Come on. Lex is not like that." Lois just couldn't imagine Lex being party to something like this. After all, the evidence to date seemed to implicate Lang, not Lex. Just because Lang was doing something illegal didn't mean that Lex knew anything about it.
"Are you sure? No, wait. Ignore that remark. Who you see is your business." He looked down for a moment. "So, what else did you find?"
"Not much. Oh, yeah. I did find something that caught my attention, but I can't quite figure out why."
"Well… It's just that one of the neighbors in the area where Sandberg's car was found mentioned seeing a man with an English accent in the area the previous night. I don't know. It's probably not important." She glanced over at Clark. He seemed to be lost in thought.
"I don't know. Something about that seems familiar to me, too." He continued to concentrate. "I've got it. Do you remember when we investigated the mayor's prostitute blackmail scam?"
"Of course. What… Right!!! The girls said they were paid by an English man they called 'The Saint.' Do you think there could be a connection?"
"I don't know. You're the one who didn't buy the story that the mayor was behind it."
Lois broke out into a wide grin. "Thanks, Clark."
"Any time. I really do miss this."
"Me, too, Clark. Me, too."
By the time Lois and Clark arrived at the council chambers, the room was already filling up. Dan noticed Clark enter.
"Hi, Clark. I didn't expect to see you here tonight."
"Well, I figured that this was your big night. I just thought, even if I am working in the mail room at the moment, I should make it my business to be here."
Dan smiled at him before instructing Clark to come and sit with him. Clark looked over at Lois for a moment. She just jerked her head in the direction Dan had gone. He smiled before silently mouthing to her, "Bye." She smiled and silently said the same back to him.
Once he left, Lois made her way to a good spot for asking questions and took a seat. She was placing a tape in her recorder when suddenly a man came up behind her and gently kissed her on the neck. She jumped, spinning around in her chair.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you, Darling."
"Lex. You scared me. I didn't see you come in."
Lex smiled. "What do you say that after this is over we spend a little time together?"
Lois smiled back. "That sounds nice. I'd really like that, Lex."
"Good," Lex said before walking to a place near Dan Lang.
Lois watched him go. She didn't love him. She knew that. But she enjoyed spending time with him. But then there was Clark. If he were available she knew that she wouldn't give Lex a second look. But he wasn't. She smiled. At least tonight she wouldn't have to worry about spending another evening thinking about Clark.
The meeting was relatively uneventful. There was little discussion about the project before the vote was taken. The project passed without opposition. There was one tense moment. It came as a man from the neighborhood that would be leveled stood up and demanded to be heard. He was told that he was out of order. Although this was an open meeting, it was not a public discussion. When he refused to sit down, he was escorted out by security. At one point in the meeting Lois caught Clark's eye. She looked at him curiously. He was obviously trying to tell her something. She looked where he indicated. She immediately understood. Sitting near the back was the one of the men who had come to inspect the Jeep the day they had kissed. She glanced back at Clark and smiled.
After the meeting, Lois was preparing to follow the man they had spotted. But that was not to be. Luthor approached her, and by the time she looked back the man was gone. So she went with Luthor.
"Where are we going?"
Luthor smiled. "I thought it might be nice to look at the lights of the city tonight."
"From where?" But even as she asked, the limo was turning into the airport. "From your jet?"
"Well, I like making people look up to see me."
She shook her head in wonder as she boarded the plane. She loved flying. She always wished there was some way that she could soar above the clouds under her own power. This was the next best thing.
After they took off, Luthor dimmed the cabin lights so they could look at the lights of the city out the window.
"It's beautiful, Lex."
"It's only lights. You're the one that's truly beautiful."
She looked over at him and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear before looking out at the city again.
"Lois, there's something I want to ask you."
"What?" Lois asked, looking back around.
"I want to ask you to be my wife. Will you marry me, Lois Lane?"
Lois was stunned. "Umm… I'm not exactly sure what to say here. I guess I just need a little time to think about it."
Lex smiled. "I love you, Lois. I'll wait for you to make your decision." There was an awkward silence for a moment. To break it, Luthor said in his most casually charming voice, "In the meantime, the new observatory is opening this week. Will you accompany me?"
Lois smiled. "Yeah. I'd like that."
The next day, Robertson was allowing Clark to deliver the mail by himself. Clark was flattered by the level of trust. He was sorely tempted to start on the bottom floor just to get Robertson's reaction. He almost laughed as he thought about it. However, he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. He thought about Lois in the same situation. He was certain that she would. That caused him to be even more amused.
In order to ensure that the executives on the top floor had their mail first thing in the morning, he had to start especially early. The top floor was abandoned as he went around delivering the mail. He found it amusing to realize that the mail that they were getting 'first thing in the morning' had actually arrived and been sorted the day before. They would get their mail sooner if they wanted to receive it last thing in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning.
As he went from office to office, he suddenly had an idea. Since the floor was deserted, he could deliver the mail in a few seconds, if he used his super-speed, and then do a little snooping around. Maybe he could find out what the truth was about the revitalization project. He quickly checked out the top floor to ensure that he was alone and then put his plan into action.
He searched Dan's office and then swept through the rest of the offices the same way. When he finished, he was frustrated. Nothing!! How could there be nothing? He sat down briefly behind Dan's desk. He had to admit the chair was comfortable. He spun the chair around and looked out the window. He had to admit it was a great view. It almost made him feel like he did when he would float on the clouds. Okay, so that was an over-exaggeration. But it was still a good view. He spun the chair around. He admired the desk. He looked over the items on the desk before taking a look at the computer. He stopped.
The computer. Of course. The information had to be on the computer. He listened for a moment to make sure he was still alone before turning on the computer. It was password protected. He typed in everything he could think of but wasn't able to get in. He heard someone coming. He switched off the computer and began making his way down to the next floor to deliver their mail.
Lois sat down at her desk. She had been in a daze ever since Lex's proposal. She had absolutely no idea what she was going to do about it. Every time she would try to consider it, she would think about Clark, and her heart would feel like it was about to break. She forced her mind to push it all to the side, and she dove into her work.
She thought about the information Clark had given her last night. On an impulse, she pulled out the file on the investigation into the prostitute scandal. She noticed the list she had made in Clark's notebook. She glanced through the list. Suddenly a wild idea came to her. She pulled out the list of companies that had made bids on the waterfront redevelopment project.
After looking over both lists, she sat back and thought for a moment before making her way to Perry's office.
"Perry, I think I may have found something, and I need to run it by someone. Do you mind?"
Perry looked past her for a moment before saying, "Well, I don't mind, Lois, but if you turn around you may find someone else who would enjoy that honour."
She looked at him oddly for a moment before turning around.
"Hi, Lois, I just wanted…" But before he had an opportunity to finish, she had already grabbed his arm and was leading him to the Conference Room.
"I think I found something. I need to run it by you. Oh, umm… do you have time for this? I mean, I guess I didn't think. Do you have something else you need to be doing? I can always…"
Clark laughed. "What have you got?"
Lois smiled and instructed him to wait while she grabbed her file.
"This is the list I made from the police officer that was killed when we investigated the underage prostitute scandal." She handed it to Clark. "Now, here are the extra names we added to it by talking to some of the prostitutes." She handed that to Clark also. "Now, here are the list of companies, along with their C.E.O.s, that made bids for the redevelopment project." With that she handed Clark a final piece of paper. "Do you see anything unusual?"
Clark looked at what he had been given briefly before sitting down. He immediately saw what Lois had seen earlier.
"All the companies that made bids have C.E.O.s who made use of the child prostitutes."
"Exactly! And look at this," she said, pointing to Wade's name on the list of men alleged to have used child prostitutes.
"Okay, so Wade was also on the list. What are you getting at here?"
"I think Wade was approached by Mr. X and told to make a bid or his wife would be given the tape of him with the prostitutes. When he refused, Mr. X had him killed as a warning to the rest of the men."
Clark looked thoughtful for a moment. "It's possible. But there's not enough to make that connection yet. What else?"
"Well, we have an unidentified English gentleman who's paying the girls. I say he's either Mr. X or he's working for Mr. X. Now he turns up again during the investigation of Sandberg's death."
"And Sandberg is a vocal opponent of the waterfront project."
"Exactly. Now we also have a connection between the girls and Dan Lang… Clark, if you'd rather not…"
"No. It's okay. Go on."
She looked at him briefly before nodding and continuing. "Okay, so we know that Lang visited the girls but he doesn't seem to have had his picture taken. We also have Lang meeting with some tough looking men who are suspected of being hired to quell all protests against the waterfront redevelopment project. One of those men shows up at the City Council meeting. Finally, Lang is one of the men involved in the proposal that was accepted."
"And all of the other proposals that were made were substandard. So you think…"
"That Mr. X is none other than Daniel Lang."
Clark sat back and thought for a moment. "I guess it does look that way, but there's not enough here to go to press."
Lois looked down for a moment. He was right. "Okay, so where do we go from here?"
"That's why I came by…"
"You found something."
"Not exactly. I wanted to speak to James Olson."
"I've been promoted." Lois raised her eyebrows. "I now get to deliver the mail."
Lois smiled. "Congratulations."
"Thank you. Anyway, when I was delivering mail this morning I discovered that the top floor was deserted. I used the opportunity to search the place but didn't find anything."
"So you want to speak to James because…"
"I want him to show me how to break into a computer."
"I can show you. James showed me when I… well, never mind, it's not important. So then, when do you plan to do this?"
"Okay. I think I'll try to follow up with Louie. Maybe he knows something more. Also, that guy who made a scene at last night's City Council meeting… Oh, I forgot his name."
"Right. I think I'll try talking to him. I'm also going to get a better description of the Englishman."
"All right. Listen, I really want to be involved here. What do you say we meet up after work today to compare notes? Well, actually, I guess, for you to let me know what you found out."
"Sure, Clark, but…"
"Lois, I think it is wrong that all those people will lose their homes. I'm against the project, especially if it's being done through the use of threats."
"Okay, well, I would love the help. Why don't you come by my place after work? I'll bring you up to date on what I find."
Clark didn't respond immediately. "I guess that will be okay," he finally said.
She immediately realized his concern. "Clark, I realized something when I heard you outside my apartment the other night." He looked up. He hadn't realized that she had heard. "I realized that you would be miserable if we had an affair. I think that we do need to have a serious talk sometime, especially given the fact…" she shook her head. "But I promise not to force you into anything that you aren't comfortable with. Whatever happens, I couldn't bear to lose your friendship."
Clark smiled. "Okay. Then why don't I pick up some Chinese on the way over?"
"Oh… one more thing. When we were looking at the list of those who availed themselves of child prostitutes, there were quite a number of City Council members on the list. Now, I've watched the City Council argue for two, three hours over the placement of a stop sign. Maybe you should see if you can find out why this proposal that will cost the city hundreds of millions went through without as much as an interesting question."
"Good point. Now, let me show you how to break into a computer."
Lois' first stop was to see the witness who mentioned the Englishman to the police after Sandberg's death. He gave her a description.
"Why did you notice him?"
"He didn't seem to fit in around here. His suit was expensive, and he was extremely proper."
"Would you recognize him if you saw him again?"
"Did you get a name or the license number or the make of his car?"
"I got a partial plate, actually. I wrote it down…" he shuffled through some papers. "Yeah, here it is." He handed Lois a slip of paper. 'XMJ.'
"So you saw his car?"
"What type of car was it?"
"I don't know. I really don't know cars. But I do know that it was black."
"Why didn't you give this information to the police?"
"They didn't seem to think this guy had any bearing on the case. They couldn't see how a well-dressed Englishman could be involved in a robbery where so little was taken."
"Have you ever seen him around here before or since?"
Her next stop was to revisit the two prostitutes who had given them information previously. Only one was willing to risk talking. Apparently, all the girls had been let go after the mayor's resignation. However, the one that would speak to her had heard rumors that another group had been established. But she was unable to give Lois any solid leads on that front. It was just rumors. But she did confirm the description of the Englishman that the last witness had provided.
Lois went back to the Planet and got Jack working on tracking down the car. She had three things. The last thing she didn't think would be particularly useful — that the man had an English accent. However, she hoped that she could narrow down the number of potential candidates by finding a black car with a licence beginning with the letters 'XMJ'.
After giving the information to Jack, she headed out to talk to Louie.
"Hi, Kid. Where's that partner of yours?" Louie asked when Lois arrived at the pool hall.
"Clark? He's not working at the Planet anymore."
"Really? I could have sworn there was something going on between you two the last time you were here."
"I wish, Louie, but, no."
"He break your heart, Kid? Do you want him tossed around a little? I know guys who know guys."
"That's okay, Louie. Actually, I'm looking for a little more information about the revitalization project."
Louie looked at her for a long moment before saying, "If you want information it's going to cost you." Lois looked stunned as Louie continued, "Since the only time I ever get to see you anymore is when you need information, if you want information, this time it's going to cost you a game of pool."
Lois laughed. "Rack them up." They played as they continued their conversation.
"So, what's the word on the street about this project?" Lois asked as Louie sank a ball off the break. He lined up for a second shot as he answered.
"Shaun Thatcher is working to get people organized. He's apparently doing this up big time. He's working out of the shelter house. Apparently he's getting an amazing number of volunteers."
"What actions are they taking?" Lois chalked up her cue as she moved into position for her shot.
"I think they are planning a big protest in front of City Hall. They are also renting billboards and taking out television ads."
"Where are they getting the money?" Lois asked, sinking a second ball.
"I think most of it is donated. You'd have to ask them. I'll give you their address. I imagine they would love to talk to you. After all, you can offer them free press coverage."
"Thanks, Louie. Have you heard anything more about those 'good old boys' that were supposedly hired to silence protestors? We arrived a little too late last time."
"Yeah, Kid. Apparently they're meeting again at the same spot early tomorrow morning." Both players examined the pool table before Lois decided on another shot.
"How early tomorrow morning? Last time we had to wait for a long time."
"I thought you said you arrived too late."
Lois missed her shot, remembering how they had been a bit distracted that day. "We sort of… we took too long getting into the warehouse."
Louie looked at her for a long moment before taking a missing a shot. "I'd feel better if you didn't go alone tomorrow, Kid. These are some serious people."
"I'll be fine," she said, sinking the black ball in triumph.
"Good game, Kid."
Lois smiled. She liked winning.
Lois arrived at the shelter in a few minutes. The place was bustling with activity. She made her way in, only to almost get run over by someone rushing by carrying a bundle of signs. She looked around for the person in charge. The makeshift office was the perfect picture of organized confusion. The noise level was remarkable.
"Can I help you?" a woman asked.
"Can you tell me where I can find Shaun Thatcher?"
"Shaun?" Lois nodded. "Come with me." She led Lois across the room to a private office.
"Someone to see you," she said into the office.
Shaun was on the phone. He gestured her in and told her to close the door. The noise of the next room receded into the background. Lois took a seat as Shaun continued to talk on the phone.
"Great, David. I'll have someone over to you with those in about an hour." With that he hung up the phone. Lois went to speak, but Shaun indicated that he needed a minute. He got up and opened the door.
"Debbie, we need to get someone over to David's with another thousand pamphlets." He turned back around, closing the door again. "Sorry about that. I'm Shaun Thatcher, and you are…?" he asked, holding out his hand.
"Lois Lane. Daily Planet."
"Great!! Just what we need — a little press coverage. I've got some people you need to meet," he said, before even giving her a chance to ask a question. He returned in a minute with an older man who was dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a bush jacket. "This is Lois Lane. She's with the Daily Planet. Tell her your story."
"I grew up in this neighborhood. I was born in the house I now live in. I raised four kids there. They all now live with their families within four blocks of my home. My wife died last year, so now I live there alone. I receive a small monthly pension from working on the docks for thirty-five years. I supplement it by working part time down at the neighborhood laundry. It's not much, but with my house paid for it's really all I need. I have my family close, but I'm not a burden to them. I have my independence, and when I die I can be confident that my family will get a small inheritance from my house. If this redevelopment project goes through, I lose it all."
"But won't you be compensated?"
"Sure. They'll give me money for my house, but I'll lose my job when the laundromat closes down. Some of the money from my house will have to be used for living expenses. That means that I won't be able to use it to buy a new house. Even if I could, it wouldn't be around here. The housing nearby that won't be leveled by this project is far too expensive. So I would have to move further out of the city. My family would need to find a place close by so that they could continue their work at the docks. I'd never see them. I'd probably end up having to move into a home. I would lose my independence."
Lois looked down. Until now, this had just been a story. Now it was something more. This would have serious consequences for the people who lived here.
"But, you know, that's not the worst part. Since my wife died, the only thing that has kept me going is the fact that after so many years of marriage I can feel her presence in our house. When I go home at night, she is always there waiting for me. It feels like now I'm going to lose her all over again."
Shaun introduced Lois to four or five other people who had very different stories, but there was a common thread — how all their lives would be drastically altered if this project went through. Thatcher then answered all her questions. It was a very sober Lois Lane that left the shelter.
Lois went back to the Planet and wrote a story for tomorrow's paper. It was about the lives that would be changed by the redevelopment project. It was written straight from the heart, and Perry White was moved. Lois didn't usually go for the touchy-feely pieces.
Lois then placed some calls to City Council members. Only one said they had time to see her today. She headed over to the Council member's office.
"Councillor, thanks for seeing me. Your colleagues don't seem to think talking to the press about this redevelopment project is a high priority. Why is that, anyway?"
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lane. I can't answer for my colleagues. Do you have any questions for me?"
"Sure. I want to know why you are supporting the waterfront redevelopment project."
"Well, Ms. Lane, the area around Hobbs Bay has one of the worst crime rates in the city. It's an eyesore, and it's about time that City Council did something about it."
"Did you ever consider revitalizing it instead of leveling it?"
"The cost of revitalizing it is just too steep to justify it. I…"
"Mr. Sparton, I was speaking today with Shaun Thatcher. He told me that over six months ago he submitted a proposal to City Hall to revitalize the waterfront. The majority of the work would be done by the people in the community. The cost to the city would be less than this redevelopment project."
"Ms. Lane, didn't I hear somewhere that you are dating Mr. Luthor?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Maybe you should try talking to him about why he is doing this, instead of me."
"I imagine he's doing it for profits. What I want to know is why the city is going along with it."
Sparton looked away. "This interview is over, Ms. Lane."
"Mr. Sparton, are you being blackmailed into supporting this project?" Sparton looked at her in absolute shock. He didn't seem able to find a response. 'Bingo,' thought Lois. "That's it, isn't it? I sympathize, but have you stopped to consider how many lives will be destroyed if this goes through?"
"Ms. Lane, I think you should go now."
Lois rose to leave. Suddenly she had a thought. She pulled a piece of paper out of her briefcase. "Mr. Sparton, I believe you really do want what is best for the city. I would like you to take a look at my article for tomorrow's paper. If you decide you want to talk, here is my cell phone number. You can reach me anytime." She handed him the paper and her business card. He looked at it thoughtfully before opening the door.
"Clark, I tell you. He practically admitted it."
"Practically isn't enough. We need him to ACTUALLY admit it."
"But, Clark, we're so close. I can feel it. He's being blackmailed and I'd bet a year's wage that it has to do with the child prostitute case. I knew it. I knew that the mayor wasn't behind it. Now we're going to prove it."
"Well, that's the only part I haven't quite worked out yet."
Clark loved watching Lois when she was so fired up. It had been so long. She ignored him as she continued on her tangent. Finally she seemed to notice that he wasn't participating in the conversation. She looked over at him and noticed a soft smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"I was just thinking how much I've missed this," he said, leaning further back onto the couch.
She looked at him for a moment before walking by him and lightly touching his shoulder. He felt his breath catch in his throat. He had to get out of here now. He rose.
"I really should be going. I assume you're going to be checking out tomorrow's meeting. Be careful. I'll give you a call when I find out if there's anything in Lang's computer."
"Clark, before you go, there's something I need to tell you."
She didn't respond. She wasn't quite sure how to say it. But she did know that she couldn't let him find out by reading about it in the paper. She was leaning toward accepting Lex's proposal. After all, she knew that, although Clark had obviously fallen in love with her, he was committed to his marriage. She had to get on with her life. Marriage to Lex Luthor might help her do that.
"It's about Lex." Clark was silent so she continued, "He asked me to marry him."
The silence in the room was so oppressive that neither felt quite able to breathe.
"Congrat…" Clark's voice broke. He cleared his throat before trying again. "Congratulations."
"Clark…" she said softly.
"So, are you going to accept?" He was trying to keep his voice casual.
"I'm considering it. I just didn't think you should hear about it by reading it in the paper."
There was a period of silence again before Clark asked, "Do you love him?" He did not look at her.
"No," she answered softly. He finally looked up and their eyes met.
"Then how can you marry him?"
"Well… he is good to me. He's exciting and charming. He's intelligent, charismatic and fun to be with. I'd never again have to worry about being able to make the rent. He could give me access to segments of society that I never expected to be admitted to. I'd have a good life, Clark."
"But you don't love him."
Lois chuckled dryly. "Love… What's so great about love? After all, look how happy it's made us."
"Don't, Clark, please. I didn't tell you this in order to get a response from you…" She turned and stood looking out the window as she finished, "I just thought you should hear it from me."
Clark felt his knees go weak. He sank back down to the spot he had recently vacated. He closed his eyes.
Clark suddenly knew what he had to do. He couldn't lose her to Luthor. He got up and went to her. She was still standing at the window with her back to him. He wrapped his arms around her and bent to kiss her neck. She turned in his arms, and her lips found his. He pulled her close.
Clark opened his eyes. He was still sitting on the couch. Lois had turned and was watching him intently.
She had known that telling Clark would be hard. But this was unbearable. The thing that she hadn't told Clark, the thing that she couldn't tell Clark, was that part of the reason she was seriously considering Lex's proposal was because of him. If she were married to Lex, then maybe this need for a man she knew she couldn't have would die just a little. When Lois turned back around to face Clark, his eyes were closed, but the expression on his face cut to the deepest part of her soul.
Clark cleared his throat. As much as he might want to, he knew that he could never go to her. But there was something more that needed to be said. He looked for a way to say it without stepping across the moral boundaries he had erected in his own mind. When he finally formulated what he wanted to say and how to say it, he spoke slowly.
"Lois, if you decide to marry Luthor, I want you to know that I will fully support your decision. I want you to be happy. So if you think that Luthor can make you happy, marry him." He saw her face fall. "But I do have one thing I want to say to you before you make your decision. It's sort of… a story, if you will. Will you hear it?"
Lois looked at him for a long moment before nodding.
"Then why don't you have a seat?" He moved over on the couch to allow her to sit down next to him.
"I know a man. I know him quite well. He's married. He's been married now for almost two years." Lois made the connection immediately. He was obviously talking about himself. But was doing so in a way that wouldn't directly compromise his marriage.
"Happily married?" she asked.
He chuckled dryly. "Do you want to hear this story or not?"
She gave him her most sheepish look and fell silent.
"Anyway… This man has been alone most of his life. His parents died when he was quite young. He never let people get close for reasons very personal and complicated. He had actually come to believe that he wasn't capable of falling in love. Then one day he did. The only problem was that he was already married."
For the first time since beginning his story, he looked briefly at Lois. Her eyes were moist. Satisfied that she knew what he was saying, he returned to his story.
"I guess in today's society people would probably tell him to divorce his wife so that he could be with the woman he loved."
"Why doesn't he?"
He looked at her thoughtfully trying to think how to formulate his response. Finally he said softly, "He never understood divorce, Lois."
"What's to understand? You go to court. They issue an order, and, bingo, the marriage is over."
"That's just what he doesn't understand. He took vows. He made promises. How can a court take away those obligations by issuing an order?"
She fell silent.
"Anyway, there is a point to this story. He once told me…" He paused as he sought for a way to say this. "…that his wife likes to dance. He said… well, he said that when he is dancing with her, all he feels is pain. You would think having her in his life would take away some of the pain of not being with the woman he loves. But it doesn't. It only accentuates it." There was silence between them for a moment. Finally Clark said, "Well, that's my story. It probably doesn't apply to your situation, but I just thought you might find it interesting."
She nodded. She understood. Getting married to Lex if she didn't love him would not alleviate the pain of not being with Clark. It would only accentuate it.
"But, Lois… If you think Luthor can make you happy…" His voice broke again. "I want you to be happy. I really do."
They looked at each other for a long moment before Clark rose to leave. Lois followed him quietly to the door.
"Thanks, Clark," she said softly as they arrived.
He turned toward her and gently ran his fingers across her jaw line. "You know, I think Luthor's a really lucky man," Clark said before exiting her apartment.
She walked into her bedroom. She thought for a long time about Clark's story. She closed her eyes briefly as she remembered his comments about divorce. But then, that hadn't really been a revelation to her. It was just so much a Clark way of seeing the world. She also thought about what he said about marrying someone you don't love when you are in love with someone else. Although he had not said it, she knew he was telling her what he was experiencing. Would marrying Lex solve her problem with Clark?
After thinking about things long and hard, she made her decision. She finally decided what her answer would be to Lex's proposal.
Lois was at the warehouse before dawn the next morning. This time she was determined to get the information. She wore her sweat pants and a t-shirt with a sweat shirt pulled overtop. She parked the Jeep a long way from the warehouse so that it would not be spotted. She then jogged to the warehouse.
She figured it would save her from having to work out in the gym later. After all, the opening of the observatory was happening this afternoon, and then there was a dinner and dance afterwards. She heard that Elvis Presley himself would be singing. He didn't do many performances anymore. But, apparently, since it was a charity function, and since his good friend Perry White was on the committee for the observatory, he agreed to do it. She had never heard Elvis Presley sing in person before. She was looking forward to it. Afterwards she would give Lex her answer.
She found that the window she and Clark had used to get into the warehouse previously was still open, so she lowered herself through the opening and behind some boxes to wait.
Lois was growing impatient by the time people began to arrive. There were about a dozen tough-looking men. She quietly slipped around to get closer. She wanted to be sure to hear every word. A small voice in the back of her mind warned her to be sure she had a direct escape route, but that voice lost out to the one telling her that the best place to hear and see what was going on was from a corner filled with crates on the other side of the room.
As Lois settled into her hiding spot, Daniel Lang finally arrived.
"Whatcha want from us, Mr. Lang?" asked the man that Lois recognized from the City Council meeting.
"I want to know why you still haven't taken care of Shaun Thatcher. He is becoming quite a problem."
"We tried threatenin' him. But he ain't got no wife or kids so he don't scare easy."
"Well, then," said a patronizing Dan Lang, "I guess we'll just have to let it go."
The big man looked relieved. "That's what we thought, too."
Dan looked at him in disgust. "Don't you people understand what I'm paying you for?"
"To stop people who wanta stop your project." The big man looked confused.
"And how do you think you can do that with Shaun Thatcher?" he asked. When no one answered he continued, "I want him killed. I want his body left in front of the shelter. I want everyone to know that they could lose a lot more than their homes if they keep up this futile protest. Is that understood?"
The faces just stared at him. "Is that understood?" Lang repeated louder. "Or do I need to get someone else to do the job?"
This brought a response from the men. They all quickly assured him that they were capable of handling it.
"Okay, then…" Lang continued in a much softer voice, making the men move closer in an effort to hear him. "… what I want is…"
Lois moved closer. In her effort to get close enough to hear Lang's next words, she bumped against a pile of crates. She watched in a mixture of fascination and horror as the top crate teetered for a moment before crashing to the ground.
Lois jumped out of its way and was in full flight across the room when she heard Dan Lang's voice yell, "Get her."
Clark stepped out of the elevator and looked around. He breathed a sigh of relief. The top floor of the Lang building was empty. Robertson had accosted him downstairs with some additional instructions about how to deliver the mail more efficiently. Clark had been worried that people would have begun to arrive before he could get up here. He delivered the mail at super-speed before going into Lang's office and turning on the computer. He waited impatiently for it to boot up.
It blinked, asking for a password. Clark ignored it, using the method to by-pass it that Lois had shown him the previous day. He growled in frustration as he hit a wrong key and the computer informed him that he had performed an illegal operation. He shut the computer down and then had to wait again as it rebooted. As he waited, his mind drifted again to Lois. It hurt more then he would have believed possible to think about her marrying Luthor. The thought of her with another man was almost unbearable to him. But maybe it was for the best. He knew that he would love her for the rest of his life, but he didn't want that pain for her. He wanted her to find someone and be happy. He just couldn't stand to think about it.
Lois knew that she wouldn't be able to make it to the door, so when she took off, she headed straight for the window. Unfortunately, one of the men saw where she was heading and made it there before she could. She looked around in desperation. There was only one option. She made a dash for a nearby flight of stairs. As she arrived on the first level, she heard a rush of feet following her. She ran down the long hall, trying doors. She found one that was unlocked and rushed inside. She locked the door.
She jumped as she heard voices on the other side.
"I'm sure she went in here," came the voice.
She looked around the room desperately. 'This time you've really done it,' she thought to herself. 'Think, woman, think!!!' She rushed to the window as she heard the locks on the door being shot. The window was barred. She pulled futilely at the bars for a moment before turning back into the room. She rushed for the closet just as the door to the room burst open. She ducked into the closet and closed the door.
She found a broom. She jammed it in the door handle. She knew that wouldn't hold them long. She looked around the small room and knew this was it. There was no way out of here except through the closet door, and there were men with guns on the other side.
The computer came on, and this time Clark didn't make any mistakes. It wasn't long before he was looking at Lang's computer files.
He found a file folder entitled 'Waterfront Project'. He opened it and began to read. At first he began reading at normal speed, as he usually did, given his promise to his wife. But the further he read, the faster he went. Finally he was scrolling through the document at full speed, reading every word.
The document began by giving the actual proposal that had been submitted to the city. The changes were attached in a second document. Following that was a list of the others making proposals. Under each name was information about how to ensure that he would submit the proposal. It gave the name of his wife, the date the man was blackmailed and the dates of the man's visits to the prostitutes. A picture or two had been scanned in for good measure.
The next part dealt with the murders of Richard Sandberg and George Wade. It confirmed that Wade's death was, in fact, an execution. It was also a reminder to all those who were being blackmailed exactly how dangerous it was to oppose the waterfront project. Clark was horrified. He was almost unable to comprehend that his father-in-law was responsible for this. He continued to read.
He read about Lang's decision to hire people from the neighborhood to keep protestors in their place. It told about the meeting that Lois and Clark had seen but not heard a month previously. It then told about Lang's intention to meet with them again today to tell them to kill Thatcher.
Clark jumped up. Lois was going to that meeting. He turned off the computer and immediately rushed for the roof. He had to make sure Lois was safe. That was the only thing that mattered to him. Without thinking through what he would do when he arrived at the warehouse, he rushed through the doors to the roof and was immediately airborne.
Lois heard a loud noise as one of the men threw himself against the door. She watched in horror as the broom cracked. There was another assault on the door. The broom broke. She grabbed a plunger, the closest thing to a weapon she could find, and waited for the door to open. There was some sort of commotion in the other room. Suddenly the door was thrown open. She swung the plunger but the target of her assault jumped back.
"Come on," said a familiar voice.
"Clark!!" Lois exclaimed, dropping the plunger and throwing herself into his arms. "How did you…"
"Later. We don't have much time." Clark grabbed her hand and began running toward the door with her. She glanced around, seeing three big men unconscious on the floor. There was no time to think about it. He began taking her back down the stairs. Just then there was a voice from downstairs.
"See what's taking them so long. I want that woman found and brought to me."
Lois crashed into Clark's back. He stood motionless for a moment. Suddenly he turned around. "Up the stairs," he commanded. She followed his instructions. Just as they began to run, a burst of automatic gunfire broke the air. Lois could feel Clark tight behind her, once again protecting her from the gun shots with his body.
The steps took them onto the roof. Once they stepped through the doors, they looked around. There was no way off this roof except over the edge. Lois rushed for it hoping that when she looked over it there would be fire stairs or something. She looked over the first edge. Nothing. She made a dash to the second edge and again saw nothing. As she headed for a third edge there was a loud crash and men with guns stood on the roof.
"I guess it's over now," said the first man looking at the two people standing near the edge of the roof.
"Jump," Clark whispered.
"What?!" Lois exclaimed. However, before she had a chance to object, Clark had thrown them both over the edge. Lois closed her eyes. She could feel Clark's arms tight around her. This was it.
Suddenly she knew something wasn't right. They should have hit the ground by now, but it didn't even feel like they were falling. She opened her eyes. They were flying above the clouds. Lois gasped and immediately began to struggle against Clark's arms.
Clark closed his eyes briefly. When they had gone over the side and were out of sight of the men on the roof, Clark had simply flown them away. His only thought had been to get Lois out of there. However, when he felt her begin to struggle in his arms, he knew that she was as scared of who he was as she had been of the men who had been after her. He had known this would happen. She was repulsed. But he had to get them back on solid ground before letting go.
"Hold on or you'll fall," he said simply. She quit struggling.
When Lois had opened her eyes to see them suspended in the air, her first reaction had been like that of a drowning person when they try to climb over their rescuer in an effort to get to safety. At Clark's words she stopped struggling. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face tightly against his neck. Finally she opened her eyes again and looked around. This was incredible. She was just getting to enjoy flying when he gently landed on a small uninhabited island in Hobbs Bay. He set her down.
"Wow!!!" she finally said. First she took in her surroundings. Then she looked at Clark. He looked terrified. "Why are we here?" she finally asked.
"I just thought we should talk. I was afraid that…" his voice trailed off.
"That if you set me down somewhere else, I would take off," she finished for him. He merely nodded.
It was a very confused group of men that stood in front of Daniel Lang.
"What do you mean, she just disappeared?" he demanded.
"I swear, sir. She jumped over the edge with some guy. When we got to the edge we expected to see a bloody mess on the pavement, but…" He shrugged helplessly.
"What about you guys? What happened to you?" Lang asked of the three men that had been knocked unconscious.
"We don't know. There was a rush of wind, and then…" the man speaking shrugged also.
"They didn't just disappear. I want you men to search this place again. We can't very well kill Thatcher until we find them. Did anyone get a good look at either of them?"
"The woman had dark hair and a fabulous body. I didn't really notice the man," answered one of them. None of them were able to give anything beyond that.
"Great!!" Lang said, pulling out his cell phone. When the men continued to stand there he stopped. "Well, get looking for them." They all scurried to search the place again.
"Lex, Dan here," Dan said into his cell phone. "We have a problem."
"Why would you think I would run away from you, Clark?"
He shrugged helplessly. "I just thought…"
"What? That when I found out it would change the way I felt about you?" she asked defiantly. He looked down. She stepped over to him and went to place a hand under his chin. He jumped back.
"What did she do to you?" Lois asked softly when she saw his reaction to her touch. He said nothing. She stepped up closer to him and laid a hand on his chest. She felt him shudder briefly, but he managed not to shrink from her touch. "Are you ready to talk to me now?" she asked softly. He finally met her eyes.
"I don't suppose I have much choice."
She smiled. "I would say not. Explaining away the flying might be a little difficult."
Clark gave a humorless laugh. It was a long moment before he spoke. "I'm not exactly sure where to start."
"How about we start with the fact that you're from a planet named Krypton." He looked at her in shock. "I know that you came here and were raised by Martha and Jonathan Kent, although why is still a mystery to me."
"How? When did you find out?"
"I found out before you left the Daily Planet. As for how… Well, let's just say, I'm not an award-winning journalist for nothing."
"But if you know, then…"
"Relax, Clark. No one else knows."
He took a deep breath before nodding. Then a thought struck him. "If you knew before I ever left the Planet, then when you suggested…" his voice trailed off. He didn't know how to say this.
She helped him out. "That we become lovers? Yes, I knew then."
"But how could you…"
"I admit that when I first found out it did throw me a bit. But that was before I realized that it doesn't change the way I feel about Clark Kent — my partner, my best friend… and, yes, the man I'm in love with." He looked down. When he looked back, she could see the unshed tears in his eyes.
There was a moment of silence. Lois broke it. "So how about you start by telling me how you came to be here."
He nodded and took a deep breath before saying, "I think maybe you better sit down." She looked around and noticed a large rock. She made her way over there and settled herself. Clark remained standing. She gestured for him to sit down beside her. Clark just shook his head. He was too nervous to sit.
"I don't know too much. Apparently my parents — my Kryptonian parents — sent me to Earth in order to save me. Krypton exploded just as I was leaving."
"How old were you?"
"I was just a baby."
"Then… do you remember Krypton?"
He shook his head. "No. There was a globe in the craft I was sent here in. It spoke to me. My parents, my Earth parents, told me that they had found me in a spaceship, but it wasn't until the globe spoke to me that I knew where I came from. The first time it spoke to me was shortly after the Kents died. I guess it somehow knew that I needed some idea about where I came from when I began developing these weird powers. If the Kents had lived it may have waited. But it was terrifying enough as I suddenly would discover things about myself. I never told the people caring for me about them. I was… I don't know… afraid, I guess."
"Why? What did you think would happen?"
"I guess I figured I would be locked up in a lab somewhere with scientists studying me."
Lois felt her breath catch in her throat. That hadn't occurred to her. But he was right. Before she could respond, he continued. "I guess that's not a serious concern now."
"Well… they would never be able to hold me."
"Why? Clark, what can you do? I mean, I know that you can fly. I know that your hearing is incredible and I know that somehow you can deflect bullets, but…"
He smiled at her. This was the one part that he was looking forward to. Lana had never wanted to know. Of course she knew the basics: that he could fly, that he was extremely strong and that his senses were somehow enhanced. But other then that she didn't want to know more. Here was Lois asking about them. He had always wanted to share who he really was with someone. The fact that it was Lois made it that much more incredible.
"Why don't I show you instead?" he responded.
She nodded. "Come here," he said, offering her his hand. She took it. He lead her over to a medium sized tree. "Try pushing it over."
"Go ahead." She looked at him for a moment before sighing and slightly pushing the tree. "You call that trying to push it over?" She looked at him for a moment before putting all her effort into pushing the tree over. It didn't move. She stepped back.
"So what now?"
He stepped over to the tree. He watched with satisfaction as her mouth fell open as he pushed the tree over with one finger.
"Wow!! Okay, so I'm impressed. What else can you do?"
"You look a little chilly. Maybe you could use a jacket."
"I don't want to take time…" Her sentence trailed off as he suddenly disappeared. Before she even had time to say his name he was once again standing in front of her holding her jacket. "How did you do that? My place must be a good five miles away."
"Well, I'm fast."
"I can see that, show-off," she said in amazement. "What about your hearing? How much can you hear? I know you heard me when I whispered that I loved you. How far can you actually hear?"
"Well, it's not exactly that easy. There are some sounds that just seem to break through even though they are miles away. Others I have to concentrate to hear."
"Well, I heard my folks when the car went out of control on that icy road. I moved as fast as I could. I was fast even then but not fast enough. When I arrived the car was too close to the edge of the cliff for me to stop it. I didn't start flying till I was eighteen so I just watched helplessly as it plummeted to the ground." When he finished he looked dejected. Lois walked over and gave him a hug. He accepted it with gratitude. In a moment he pulled away.
"What about your other senses? I mean, your eyesight is obviously not as good as your hearing."
Clark looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"The glasses," she responded.
"Oh, I don't wear these for my eyesight. Well, not in the way you mean, anyway."
"No. There are a few things I can do with my eyes. Like…" he used his heat vision to warm her. He then used it to start a small fire before blowing it out with his breath. She looked at him in amazement.
"That's incredible. What about your eyesight? How far can you see?"
"Well, quite a way, I guess, but what's really interesting is looking through things."
"Through things? What do you mean?"
"Well…" he looked around for a moment. When he looked back, Lois noticed a mischievous look in his eyes.
"What?" she asked suspiciously.
Clark didn't respond. Instead he lowered his glasses far enough to look over them. He glanced at her quickly before moving his glasses back up.
"What did you just do?" she demanded.
"I like black underwear, Lois," he said softly, trying to bite back his smile.
She pulled at the front of her shirt and looked down. She was wearing the black. She looked at him in horror. "You didn't?" she whispered. He looked down, the smile still playing at the corners of his mouth.
"Lucky guess," she said.
"Well, I could always tell you what size bra you wear, if you like."
"Well, I could read the tab," he said, lowering his glasses again.
"Don't you dare!!!"
Clark laughed, pushing his glasses back up.
"Have you ever done that before, Clark? With me, I mean."
Clark turned serious. "Of course not, Lois. Although I must admit I've always wanted to." She smiled at him. She reached over and removed his glasses. She looked at him.
"You look a lot different without them. Why do you wear glasses? I mean, if you don't need them."
"Well, for a few reasons. Those are not ordinary glasses. They're lead crystal. Lead is the only substance I have found yet that I can't see through. I started getting my x-ray vision when I was going through puberty."
"And you didn't trust yourself not to look into the girls' locker room?"
"Well, not exactly. You know how when a boy's voice is changing he'll be talking in a deep voice and then suddenly his voice is much higher?"
"Well, it was something like that when my x-ray vision began developing. Before I learned how to control it, I would find that my x-ray vision would suddenly click in at the most inopportune moments."
"Well, I would be sitting in class, and suddenly everyone would be naked."
Lois laughed. "It wasn't funny. Have you ever seen Mr. Harper without his clothes? It's scary." Clark gave a shudder.
"So why wear them now? Is that still a problem?"
"No. I guess they sort of make me feel more human."
"How do you mean?"
"I guess when you've always been able to run farther and faster then everyone else, you start to want to be more normal. Letting people think I have problems with my eyesight makes me stand out a bit less."
"So can you do anything else?"
"Well, I can read an entire book in seconds." Lois thought back to the mayor's office when they had been handed the press kits. He hadn't been thinking. He had been reading it.
"What about the bullets at the dock? Can you deflect bullets?"
He nodded. "So far I haven't found anything that can hurt me. I don't even get sick."
"Are you serious?" He nodded. "You mean you have never had a cold…" he shook his head, "the flu…" he shook his head, "a headache…" he shook his head. "Have you ever skinned a knee or stubbed your toe?" He again shook his head. She just looked at him in amazement.
They continued to talk about all the ways Clark was different for about a half an hour before they turned their attention to the story.
"How did you know I was in trouble?" Lois asked.
"I broke into Dan's computer this morning. You were right. He's been behind everything — the blackmail scam, the death of Wade and Sandberg, everything. The last entry said that he was meeting at the warehouse today to instruct the men to kill Mr. Thatcher. It suddenly occurred to me that you were in danger." He shrugged.
She gently stroked his cheek. "So you rushed over to make sure I was okay?" He didn't answer. "Thanks." There was a moment of silence before she asked, "So was there anything in Lang's file to indicate that Lex is involved?"
Clark shook his head. "No. I guess you were right about Luthor after all." There was an awkward silence as both remembered the proposal.
"Well then, I'd say we have enough to go to the police. After what I heard, and with those computer files…"
"I didn't make a copy of the files."
"Well, when I realized you might be in trouble, I guess…"
"Okay." Lois let out a long breath. "Well, I guess I can't really be mad, since you did save my life. Anyway, it's almost time for the observatory opening, and I told Lex I'd go with him, so I guess this can wait till tomorrow, but first I should warn Shaun Thatcher."
"You're going to the opening?"
"Well then, I guess I'll see you there."
Lex Luthor was livid. "What do you mean you don't know who she is?"
"All we know is that she's a brunette with a great body."
"How much did she hear?"
"Enough to know that we're planning to kill Thatcher. So I told the boys not to do anything. Right now it's just her word against mine."
Luthor calmed a little. "Okay. Well, keep me informed, Dan."
The cream of Metropolis society was present for the observatory's grand opening. At a thousand dollars a head for the dinner, only the cream could afford it. But the observatory was supported primarily by donations, so such events were necessary. Not that the price made the food any better.
Lex was talking to the mayor, with Lois hanging dutifully on his arm. She was bored. She kept looking around. He had said they were coming, but she couldn't see him anywhere.
Finally Clark and Lana arrived. She immediately sensed his presence. She glanced at the door. Their eyes met briefly before Lois looked at the woman next to him. She was looking in their direction too. Lois looked away.
Clark knew Lois had already arrived when he approached the building. He braced himself for the impact that seeing her always had on his heart. He would have to get used to seeing her at this type of affair if she married Luthor. After all, his wife's family were often at the same functions that Luthor attended. It would be hard, constantly seeing them together.
Lana was ecstatic about the party. She knew that Lex would be there and was looking forward to the game of tormenting him with Clark. Her excitement died the moment she stepped into the room and saw Lois Lane on Lex's arm. She immediately directed her husband toward Lex and Lois.
"Lex, Lois, I didn't expect to see you two here together," Lana said casually.
Lex smiled. "Well, I'm hoping that Lois will be seen with me at a lot more of these functions in the future," Lex responded just as casually. He had been looking forward to coming here with Lois today. He knew that Lana would not take the news of his intended marriage to Lois well. Informing her in front of her husband would keep her ability to react to a minimum.
"Oh. Why's that, Lex?" Lana asked.
"I've asked her to be my wife. I'm hoping she will accept."
"What?" Lana gasped. Then, to try to recover, she said, "Well, I'm just surprised my father didn't mention it."
"I haven't told Dan. I wasn't actually planning to tell anyone until she accepted. But…" he shrugged as if telling them had just sort of slipped out.
"Congratulations," Clark said casually.
Lois looked at him before saying, "Thank you, Clark."
It was announced that the tour of the observatory would begin. The two couples joined the crowd. They were shown sky charts and a moon rock that had been brought back to earth by the astronauts.
"However, this is our most prized possession," announced one of the astronomers. Everyone strained forward to see a lead box being held out. Before opening it the scientist wanted to set the stage. "More than thirty years ago a planet, which we called P-17, exploded."
"Just P-17?" asked one of the guests.
"Yes. There are so many celestial objects that we haven't come up with names for all of them. So we identify them by a series of numbers and letters. This one was known as P-17. Anyway, after the planet exploded, some of the pieces from it crashed into earth. Now, keep in mind that this occured at a time when tensions between the United States and Russia were at an all time high. So when rocks began raining down from the sky on the midwestern United States, the government quickly sent crews in to investigate. They discovered a number of meteorite fragments. This is one of them. It was found in Kansas.
"Now, although the pieces they found were not ratioactive, the crews that had been sent in to investigate were concerned that they could have been part of a Russian attack. So they put them in lead-lined boxes until a determination could be made confirming that they were no danger to humans. We have kept this one in the lead-lined box because we decided that the recovery of the meteorite was an interesting part of the story."
Lois was listening intently. She glanced over at Clark. He was obviously wondering the same thing that she was. Was this planet that they named P-17 really his home? Was it Krypton? After all, the piece had been found in Kansas. The planet had exploded around the same time Clark was born. Lois turned her attention back to the scientist.
"Now, meteorites have hit the earth before. So you might wonder what is so special about this one. Well, this one is composed of a substance we don't have here on earth. Also…" he opened the box to the delight of the crowd, "… as you can see, it glows. It seems to have some internal energy source. Other pieces are being studied to see if they can lead us to an alternate energy source. However, we are lucky enough to have obtained this one to use as an exhibit."
The instant the box was opened Clark felt a searing pain invade his system. At first he didn't know what it was. He had, after all, never felt pain before. He doubled over.
Lois was transfixed by the green, glowing rock. She noticed a slight commotion to her left. She glanced over and gasped. Clark had gone as white as a sheet. He was doubled over and seemed to be having difficulty standing. She could see Lana with her hand lightly on his back probably asking what was wrong. Clark collapsed.
The scientist's lecture was interrupted as people noticed the unconscious man on the floor. Lois glanced back at the annoyed-looking scientist. The green rock. That had to be it. Clark had told her this morning that he never got sick. It had to be that green rock. The problem was how to get that rock away from Clark. She saw Perry White standing nearby. He was one of the organizers, after all. She made her way over to him.
"Why don't we have the people move into another room?"
"Good idea. Ladies and Gentlemen. Why don't we move on with the tour?" Perry suggested. The crowd murmured but did as they were told. The scientist closed up the box and followed along dejectedly. His big moment, and some guy who had a little too much champagne had spoiled it for him.
"Lois, Honey, I think you better come along too," Perry said.
"His wife and that doctor are taking care of him. Let them handle it."
She looked at him for a moment before nodding and allowing him to lead her out of the room.
It was a few minutes later before Lana rejoined the party. Lois immediately approached.
"Fine. They have him resting on the couch in one of the offices."
"What happened?" she asked casually. Lana only shrugged and excused herself. Lois looked around briefly before going to find Clark. When she finally did, he was lying alone on a couch with his eyes closed. She watched him for a moment before speaking.
"How are you doing, Clark?" she asked softly.
Clark jumped. "Lois!! I didn't hear you come in. I'm fine, I guess. I'm not sure what happened. One minute I'm listening to the lecture. The next I'm lying on the floor."
Lois approached the couch and sat down next to Clark. She placed a hand on his forehead.
"I'm okay. Well, except that it's so quiet."
Lois looked confused. "What do you mean, quiet?"
"Well, I can hear you fine. But…" he glanced around to be sure that they were alone. "… usually I can hear what's going on around. Even when I'm not listening, there is always background noise. Now… nothing."
"What if you try to listen?" He did and then shook his head.
"I have a theory," Lois continued. This time it was her turn to look around to ensure that they were alone. "I think whatever happened to you has to do with that rock."
"But how can that be? From what the scientist said, it sounded like it came from the same planet I do."
"That I can't tell you. But, Clark, you collapsed as soon as he opened that box. Since you told me earlier today you never get sick, it must have to do with that green rock."
He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. "Do you know where it is now?"
Lois nodded. After you collapsed the party moved out of the room. The man with the rock… I hate calling it 'the rock.' There must be something better then that. I know, 'kryptonite,'" she exclaimed in triumph.
"Well we know it's from Krypton — and don't bother arguing with me about it, because it is — and we know it's a meteorite. Hence, 'kryptonite.'"
Clark smiled. "Okay. So where did he take the kryptonite?"
"He placed it in the observatory's vault. Why? Do you want me to try to get it?"
Clark shook his head. "No, it's okay. I probably should just avoid visiting the vault." He smiled, and she returned his smile. She reached up and gently pushed the wet hair off his forehead. "Maybe you should get back to the party, Lois. Luthor might miss you if you stay too long."
Lois nodded. She wasn't in much of a mood for a party before. Now all she wanted to do was stay here and be sure Clark would be okay. But he was right. "Okay, Clark," she answered before rising. As she was about to leave she turned back to Clark.
"You do know that I would never tell anyone about you."
"Thank you, Lois."
Lana made her way over to Lex. She dragged him to a semi-private spot and said in a low voice.
"How could you marry Lois Lane?"
"Well, you're married, my dear."
Lex raised his eyebrows. "How?"
"My relationship with Clark never interferes in our relationship."
Lex smiled. "Well, we may have to arrange things a bit more carefully, but I don't see how my marriage to Lois Lane will interfere in it either. I still want you as a lover. But, Lana…" his eyes turned to cold steel, "… you do not own me. Never forget that."
Her eyes became slits. "And you don't own me," she responded.
Lex looked at her carefully. "Well, we could always just end things now, if you prefer."
"Quit being melodramatic, Lex. It's not your style," Lana said casually. However, she felt her heart stand still for a second. She couldn't lose him. It would kill her. She just couldn't let him see that.
When she got back to the party, Lois looked around. People were chatting and laughing and drinking champagne. She hoped they were at least writing big enough cheques to pay for all the champagne. Otherwise Perry would be in a bad mood next week.
She noticed Lex on the far side of the room in an intense conversation with Lana. She felt a surge of anger. If Clark hadn't sent her away, she never would have left him. If she were his wife… She sighed. She decided against joining them. She spotted Perry and made her way over to him.
"How's Clark?" Perry asked.
"How would I know?" Lois asked innocently. Then, to his raised eyebrows, she said, "He's fine, Perry."
"Well, he… he fainted."
"Really. He's okay, though, isn't he?"
"He's… just been under a lot of stress recently."
"Maybe I should have a chat with that father-in-law of his."
"I don't think that's it." She looked around briefly. "We have a great story."
"You two have been working together? I thought he was working for Lang."
"Sort of." She lowered her voice before continuing, "We discovered that Lang is guilty of blackmail and murder."
"You're kidding. So where's the story?"
"We should have it for you tomorrow."
"Just be sure you have all your facts straight."
"We will. We intend to tell Henderson. Then we'll report the arrest. That should ensure that we don't get sued."
"So that's what's stressing Clark out? I guess I can understand that. His wife is not likely to be thrilled about him having her father arrested. Okay. Well, just be careful, Honey."
"I will, Perry."
Clark rejoined the party for supper. Lois didn't talk to him but thought he looked better. It wasn't until the dance started, and Lana dragged Clark back over to Lex and Lois, that they spoke again.
"So, Lex…" Lana said casually, "Would you like to dance? I'm sure Clark here would be happy to dance with Lois." Clark looked down briefly. There was nothing he wanted more than to dance with Lois. He just wasn't sure he dared.
"I'm sure Clark has better things to do," Lois said, sensing Clark's discomfort.
"Nonsense. This is a dance. Right, Honey?"
Clark looked up at that. "I'd love to dance with you, Lois," he honestly told her. Now it was Lois' turn to look down.
Lana looked triumphant as she led Luthor out to the dance floor.
"I guess Clark is good for something," commented Luthor. He was thoroughly enjoying watching Lana manipulate everyone to spend every possible moment with him.
Lois and Clark watched them go. Clark turned back to Lois.
"Would you like to dance?"
"Lana doesn't realize the position she put you in. You don't have to feel…"
"I really would like to dance with you. I just am not sure that it's a good idea. I just think…"
She nodded. "It's okay, Clark. I understand."
He looked at her for a moment."Well… while we wait for our significant others, how about we get a glass of champagne and talk?"
She smiled. "I'd like that."
Just as they settled at a table, Elvis Presley stepped up to the mike.
"Please, folks. Keep dancing. I just want to add a few words here to our orchestra's fine music."
"It's probably just as well we decided not to dance," said Lois.
"He'll probably decide to sing Jailhouse Rock." Clark laughed softly. They both suddenly fell silent as the music started. It was definitely not Jailhouse Rock. They just stared into each other's eyes as Elvis' voice filled the room.
*Wise men say Only fools rush in
But I can't help
Falling in love with you*
Lois and Clark both caught the parallel to their own situation. Falling in love had not been a choice for either of them. Clark watched Lois' eyes fill up with tears at the words.
*Shall I stay
Would it be a sin
If I can't help
Falling in love with you*
* Like the river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be*
The room disappeared for both Lois and Clark. There was no sound but the music that encased them. She reached across and lightly laid her hand over his. He turned his hand over. They watched as their hands lightly touched each other. The power of the emotion that overran their systems was totally out of proportion with the simplicity of the action.
*Take my hand
Take my whole life too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you*
*Like a river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be*
Perry was watching his reporting team. Their eyes were fixed on their lightly touching hands. They were obviously completely lost in each other. He looked around to be sure no one had noticed. No one had. He was relieved. Although he was fairly confident there wasn't anything going on between Lois and Clark, watching them like this, others might not be so sure. At this moment Perry realized that Lois wasn't the only one who had fallen in love.
*Take my hand
Take my whole life too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you
For I can't help
Falling in love with you*
When the music stopped the sounds of the room suddenly came back to them. Lois softly cleared her throat. Clark withdrew his hand and looked absently at the table. It wasn't until Perry joined them that they started to breathe.
"So Lois tells me that you two are about to bring in the biggest story of the year. Are you sure you are comfortable with this, Clark?"
"Not really, Mr. White. But I can't sit back and do nothing just because he's my father-in-law."
Perry looked at him for a long moment. "Okay. I'd like to meet with both of you tomorrow before you decide on a course of action, to take a look at what you've found."
Lex and Lois went back to his place after the dance.
"So have you thought any more about my proposal?" Lex asked casually.
"Yes. I've thought about it a lot."
"Have you come to any decisions?"
She nodded and looked down. Had he any doubt that she would accept, he would have noticed from her body language that she intended to say no. But he didn't. After all, he was considered Metropolis' most eligible bachelor. Who could turn him down?
He sat down on the couch beside her. "So what's your answer? Will you marry me?"
"I'm sorry, Lex. I just can't."
He looked at her in disbelief. "What do you mean, you can't?"
Lois looked down. "I don't love you, Lex. Don't get me wrong. I really like you. I really like all the time we've spent together. But I can't marry you."
"Sir," a very proper voice with an English accent interrupted. Lois looked up to see a distinguished looking older English gentleman.
"What is it, Nigel?"
"Mr. Lang would like to speak to you, sir. He says it's important."
Luthor got up. Lois did also. "Lois, I don't believe you've met Nigel St. John."
"No, I haven't," Lois said, putting out her hand. St. John took it.
"I have to take this call. Can I call you tomorrow so that we can talk about this?" Lois nodded, although she knew that she wasn't about to change her mind. Her decision had been confirmed tonight. She knew, without any doubt, that marrying Lex wouldn't change her feelings for Clark. She would have to find another way to deal with them.
"Nigel, would you see Ms. Lane to her car?"
"So do you work for Lex?" Lois asked casually as Nigel walked her out.
"Yes, Ms. Lane."
"What do you do for him?"
"A little bit of everything."
"So how long have you worked for him?"
"Almost ten years now."
"Really. You must enjoy it."
"Yes, Ms. Lane. There is always something new that needs to be done."
With that, Nigel put Lois in her car and sent her on her way. It wasn't until she was out of the parking lot that it suddenly hit her. The Englishman who the prostitutes had called 'The Saint'… could it be Nigel St. John? Maybe Lex was involved. After a brief trip home to change, she headed to the Daily Planet.
Lois was already in Perry's office when Clark arrived the next morning. She had been at the Daily Planet most of the night. Clark noticed that she was tired, but most people wouldn't have, due to her animated state.
"Clark, you won't believe what happened during the night. You were right. Lex is involved in this as deeply as Lang."
"What?" Clark gasped, remembering that Lois had left the party with Luthor.
"Why don't you have a seat, Clark?" Perry suggested. "This is going to take a while."
"Thank you, Mr. White."
"Look, Clark. Why not call me 'Perry' or 'Chief' like everyone else does," Perry tried for the umpteenth time.
Lois noticed that Clark was about to object. She now understood that Clark used these formal addresses to keep people at arm's length in an effort to protect his secret. She also knew that he needed to let people in, so she stopped his protest.
"Come on, Clark. He's not the President of the United States."
"Okay, then… Perry."
Perry looked briefly at both Lois and Clark. Lois had accomplished with one comment what he had been unable to accomplish in all these years. He nodded and smiled.
"Okay. I went back to Lex's penthouse after the party so that I could give him my answer. After we talked…" She saw the question in Clark's eyes "… I told him 'no,' Clark." Perry looked at her oddly but didn't comment. "Anyway, while I was there, I met a man who works for Lex. His name is Nigel St. John. Apparently he's been working for Lex for almost ten years. It didn't occur to me until after I left, but, Clark, he's a distinguished-looking English gentleman. He fit the description of…"
"'The Saint,'" Clark finished.
"Exactly. So after I left Lex's, I came back to the office. I managed to find a picture of St. John on Lex Corp's web sight. I took that picture over to the girls. They confirmed my suspicions. I then took the picture to see if it was the same man who was seen down at the docks where Sandberg's car was found."
"It had to have been after midnight."
"So I woke a few people up. But I had to know."
"Anyway, after that I came back here. I dug up the information on cars that had licences starting with 'XMJ.' Now that I knew what I was looking for it was easy to find the car. There is a black car with a licence starting with the letters 'XMJ' registered to Lex Corp and used by one…"
"Nigel St. John."
"Okay, but that doesn't prove that Luthor was involved. St. John could have been working on the side for Lang."
"Yes. But he wasn't."
"How do you know?"
"At about three a.m. I got a call from John Sparton."
"The city councillor?"
"The same. Apparently he hasn't been sleeping much lately. He admitted that he was being blackmailed by Lang and Luthor."
"You're kidding. Why would he have done that?"
"He said that he read my article about people losing their homes and he knew he couldn't stay silent. He's giving a statement to Inspector Henderson right now. So did you get the computer files?"
Clark nodded and handed her a floppy disk as well as a hard copy. "I went back there this morning and got the information."
"Great!!" Lois exclaimed, reviewing the hard copy before handing it to Perry.
"Well then, boys and girls, what's next?"
"Henderson is going to contact us before arresting Luthor and Lang. We'll get the inside scoop on that as well."
"Great. Well then, get going. Oh, by the way, Clark, when this goes down you're probably going to be looking for a new job. I just want to remind you that your job here is always open."
"Thank you, Mr… Perry."
As they left the office, Clark took Lois' arm and led her to the conference room. After closing the door, he said, "I thought I should tell you… When Henderson arrests Dan… Lana is likely to take her father's arrest hard. I'm going to get her out of Metropolis."
"I don't know. Maybe permanently." Lois just nodded, but Clark watched as she fought to remain in control of her emotions. She did.
"Well… what are we hanging around here for? Let's get going. Maybe we can catch up to Henderson," she finally said.
Clark nodded and started to follow her out of the conference room. Suddenly she stopped abruptly, causing Clark to crash into her.
"By the way, how are you feeling today?" she asked.
"Fine. I just don't seem to have any of my powers."
"Are you okay with that? I mean, what if…"
"They don't come back?"
"I've always wanted to be normal." He shrugged. "Maybe now I will be."
"I think I'd miss the flying thing," she said longingly.
Henderson decided that they had to arrest both Luthor and Lang at the same time to prevent one from warning the other. Since Henderson would be in charge of Luthor's arrest, that was the one they were invited to observe. He told them to stay far enough out of the way to avoid getting hurt. Lois rolled her eyes in response and then gave Clark a dirty look as he promised that she would.
The police stormed through the doors of Lex Towers at the prearranged time. Henderson flashed his badge at the doorman, who immediately picked up the phone. He was stopped by a police officer.
"Okay, I want two uniformed officers to stay in the lobby in case Luthor tries to avoid arrest. I also want two of you to watch the back entrance. The rest of you, come with me. If he does get past us, we'll never see him again. After all, with his money, he could disappear anywhere." Henderson glanced at the doorman. "Is Luthor here?" he demanded. The doorman nodded.
The remaining policemen and Lois and Clark took the elevator to the penthouse. Once there, they burst past the started secretary and into Luthor's office.
"Henderson. This is a surprise. What can I do for you?" He noticed Lois. "Lois? Do you mind telling me what this is all about?"
It was Henderson who answered. "You're under arrest, Luthor, on four counts of murder as well as blackmail, conspiracy, fraud and a whole truckload of other charges. If I could get you on jaywalking, trust me, I'd throw that in too. It's over, Luthor."
"Well, gentlemen, I see this isn't a request for a donation to the police ball." He was speaking as calmly as if that were exactly what they were asking for.
Lois noticed the control and suddenly considered warning the officers. However, before she could, two of the uniforms went to physically take Luthor into custody. Given how calm he was they were not prepared for what happened next. Luthor waited until they were almost on top of him before landing a blow that knocked one of them out instantly while spinning the other one into his grasp. He grabbed the officer's gun, which had been still in its holster, and held it to the cop's head.
"Back off," Luthor demanded.
"Sorry, Luthor. I can't do that." Henderson's gun was already in his hand. "You'll never get out of here. I have cops all over this building."
Luthor was silent for a moment. If he couldn't get out here, there was no way he intended on going to jail. He let go of the cop and threw himself against the window. It broke.
Clark saw what Luthor was doing and yelled, "No!!!" before throwing himself into the air to fly after the falling Luthor. However, since his powers were not back, the only thing he managed to accomplish was to collapse on his ankle. He heard a tearing sound as his foot landed under him.
Television crews had somehow received word about something going down at Lex Towers. They were in full force as Luthor crashed through the window. They managed to tape his entire descent from the moment the window broke to the moment he hit the ground. It was some really impressive camera work. Although they didn't know the reasons, they realized the dead man was none other than Lex Luthor. LNN immediately began broadcasting the footage. The other stations interrupted their regular programming to cover the news.
Lois waited for the medics to leave Clark before approaching. They had wrapped his ankle but didn't think he had broken anything. He had probably just torn a ligament. But, to be sure, they advised him to go to the hospital for x-rays. He refused. Clark looked completely dejected. Lois looked around to make sure no one was watching before walking over and gently running her hand through his hair.
"You couldn't have done anything?" she said softly, knowing instantly what was bothering him.
"Maybe if I…"
"You couldn't have saved him." She squatted down in front of him before continuing. "Clark, if your ankle hadn't given out you probably would have jumped after him expecting to be able to fly. But you can't. I would have lost you. I…" her voice trailed off.
He looked at her tenderly. "But, Lois, if I hadn't gone to the observatory yesterday…"
"You couldn't have known what would happen. Even if you had known about the kryptonite you would not have known that it would affect you like this. It's…" Her voice was cut off by the ringing of Clark's cell phone.
"Clark…" came his wife's voice. "Is it true? Is my father under arrest? Is Lex dead? Is it true?"
Clark could tell that she was extremely upset. He instantly felt the need to protect her. "I'm afraid so," he said softly.
"Then there is no reason to keep on living. Good-bye Clark." The line went dead.
"Lana!! Lana!!!!" Clark demanded of the dead line. He punched his home number into the cell phone. There was no answer. "The answering machine isn't on so that must be where she is. I've got to get home." He jumped up on his feet and immediately collapsed.
"You can't, Clark," Lois replied. Then, at the look of desperation in his eyes, she said, "I'm driving."
Lana watched the death of her lover over and over again. Every time Lex hit the pavement, she felt her own life being sucked out of her. If she couldn't be with him in this life, then she would join him in the next. If there was no afterlife, death would at least kill the pain.
She removed the small revolver from her dresser and went to the living room. She alternately stared at the gun and the television screen. Although the picture was still running the sound was muted so the only sound in the apartment was her labored breathing. She checked the chamber. The gun was loaded. She placed it under her chin.
Lois stopped the Jeep in the no-parking space in front of his apartment building. Clark was out the door limping toward the building even before the Jeep was stopped. He hadn't said anything on the ride over, but his expression told Lois just how serious the situation was. His wife was obviously taking the news hard.
Clark opened the door to his apartment. Lana turned at the sound but didn't remove the gun from under her chin. Clark rushed into the apartment.
"Don't come any closer, or I swear…" She never finished the sentence as Clark screeched to a halt. Lois gasped behind him as she took in the scene.
"Lana, don't," Clark pleaded. "It will be all right."
"How? It will never be all right again."
"We'll get your father the best lawyer. We'll work something out. I promise…"
"You think this is about Daddy?" she asked incredulously.
"Well, if it's not… Look, I know things have been strained between us. Let's just get away from Metropolis. We'll… I don't know… wander around Europe for awhile. I'll even learn how to party all night. Things will be all right. I promise you."
"Clark, you are such a fool."
"This isn't about you… about us."
"Then what…" suddenly realization hit him. "Lex Luthor was your lover, wasn't he?" Behind him he heard Lois gasp.
"You knew?" Lana asked.
Clark shook his head. "I didn't know who he was until now."
"Then you know why I have to do this."
"No, you don't have to do this. We'll work it out. I promise."
"Lex wasn't the only one you know."
Clark let out a long breath. "Oh, Honey, I've known about all of them , and I've already forgiven you."
"How could you forgive me, Clark?"
"I figured you needed something that I couldn't give you. The first time, I must admit I was ready to kill you, but, Lana…"
"I loved Lex."
Clark was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry. I really am. But that's still no reason to kill yourself. Please just give us a chance. We'll get counseling. We'll find a way to work it out."
"It's too late."
"Don't say that." The desperation in his voice was clear. "It's not too late. Please don't do this. It would break my heart."
Lana looked at Lois. "He's a good man," she said softly.
"I know," Lois answered.
"Take care of him." With that Lana squeezed the trigger.
Clark screamed, "No," and flung himself at the gun in his wife's hand.
Henderson was just finishing up at Luthor's. He had noticed Lois and Clark leave in a hurry but assumed it was to get the story out. The coroner's van had just taken Luthor's body when Henderson's cell phone rang.
"Inspector. It's Lois Lane."
"Look, Lois, it's late. I've just finished up with Luthor. I really want to get back to the station and finish the paperwork so that I can get home."
"Inspector, please, I need your help. It's about Clark."
"What about him?" Henderson asked, suddenly concerned in spite of his previous comments.
"I need you to come over to his place."
"Lois, what's happening?"
"His wife… She just committed suicide. He's taking it hard. I think it might be easier for him to have someone he knows handle this."
"Okay, give me the address. I'll take care of everything."
After the gun went off, Clark sat with his dead wife in his arms. When he didn't let go, Lois made her way over to him. He didn't even seem to notice she was there. It took her some time before she could convince him to put down his wife's body. She settled him on the couch before calling Henderson.
Clark was just staring at his wife. His clothes were covered in her blood. Lois sat down beside him gently running her hand through his hair. He didn't respond but didn't push her away, either. Lois was relieved when Henderson arrived.
Lois answered his questions the best she could. Henderson tried to question Clark but was just ignored as Clark continued to sit on the couch, staring at his wife as the paramedics came in and covered the body.
"Listen…" said Lois, "… what if I get him down to the station in a couple of days to answer any questions you have? I don't think he's in any shape right now to deal with this."
"That's not standard procedure, Lois." Then, seeing the look on her face and the blank expression on Clark's, he conceded, "Okay. But just because this is Clark we're talking about. Where will he be staying if I need to get in touch with him? He can't stay here until the investigation is over."
"He'll be staying at my place." Henderson raised his eyebrows. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Henderson. Look at him. He's my best friend and he was my partner. What do you suggest I do? Take him to a hotel?"
"You're right. He needs to have someone around who cares about him. Are you going to be okay?"
"We'll be okay. Thanks, Inspector."
Several hours later, Lois placed a call to Perry, filling him in on everything. He was horrified. She informed him that she had LAN'd their story on the fall of Luthor and Lang to him.
"I don't know. I got him back to my place, undressed and into the bed in the spare room. He didn't say a word. He hasn't said a word since Lana killed herself. He hasn't cried. He's…" She began to cry.
"Do you want me to come over?"
"I don't know," she said when she got her crying under control. "I checked in on him before calling. He seems to be sleeping now. Maybe he will be all right in the morning."
"Okay. Well, if you change your mind, just call, any time. Otherwise I'll come by first thing in the morning."
"Thanks. I need a few days off. I want to help Clark through this."
"I understand, Honey. Take all the time you need."
It was about midnight when Lois was awakened from a fitful sleep by the sound of crying coming from the spare room. She grabbed her robe and rushed in. Clark was curled up in the fetal position, crying in his sleep. She woke him as gently as she could, but it took some time. He looked at her briefly before wrapping his arms around her.
She held him while he cried against her. She was overwhelmed by his level of grief. He began to talk, slowly at first, but then the words came faster and faster until they were tumbling over each other in their effort to get out. She just held him and listened.
That he blamed himself completely for Lana's death was obvious. He chastised himself for not taking the time to find out who her lovers were. Maybe if he had known that she was involved with Luthor, he could have handled things differently. Maybe if he had been faster. Maybe if he hadn't gone to the observatory the day before. Maybe if he had truly been able to love her, she would not have felt the need for other men.
Lois just held him and made reassuring noises. She knew this wasn't his fault. She also knew that he needed to get it out, so she just listened.
From Lana's death he went to Luthor's, expressing the same remorse and guilt about that. From there he was back in Kansas on that slippery road, and, for the first time since his parents had died, he wept for them. The level of grief and pain Clark was experiencing had tears running freely down Lois' face as well. He cried about the death of the Kents as if it had happened today. He even grieved for his Kryptonian parents and the horrors of growing up as a freak on a planet that could never understand or accept him.
Lois held him through all of it. When he finally calmed and she felt his breathing deepen, she tucked him back in bed before crawling in next to him and pulling him to her. She lay awake holding him in her arms most of the night. As dawn began to approach she finally drifted off for a few hours. She woke when she heard someone at the door. She quietly slipped out of bed to avoid waking Clark. She made her way to the door to admit Perry.
TWO MONTHS LATER
Lois glanced up from her desk. She smiled as she saw Clark enter the newsroom. He met her eyes and returned the smile. The two months since Lana's death had been hard on both of them. Lois was glad that the camaraderie that she had had with Clark when he worked at the Planet previously had returned. She had been beginning to mourn the fact that she had lost her friend.
Immediately following the death of his wife, Clark retreated into himself. During the day he would remain calm, controlled and distant. Only Lois knew the agony he was going through as he cried himself to sleep in her arms night after night. Lois began to realize he this wasn't just mourning over the death of his wife. This was a release of all the pain he had experienced in his life. The man who felt that he was incapable of emotional depth finally broke.
Although Clark made sure that Lana's estate was disposed of, he refused to accept any of it. He simply said that he didn't want her money when she was alive and certainly didn't want it now that she was dead. He gave everything to her mother.
Clark's powers returned a couple of days after Lana's death, but he refused to acknowledge them. It was almost as if he felt guilty over their return — as if he blamed them for letting him down when he needed them the most.
Then there was their relationship. Although she had held him nightly for more than a week after the death of his wife, when daylight returned he would withdraw from her. He was still living in her spare room and they were once again working together at the Planet. However, other than that, he had closed himself off from her. So while he grieved for the death of his wife, she grieved for him. It was only during the past couple weeks that he started to relax in her presence.
Lois returned her attention to the computer screen in front of her. She was struggling to find a way to express her idea as Clark approached. He sat on the corner of her desk until she looked up.
"Would you have supper with me tonight, Lois?" Clark asked.
"I have supper with you almost every night, Clark," Lois responded offhandedly as she went back to studying the computer.
"That's not what I mean. I want to take you out for supper."
Lois looked up at him. "You mean like… what? A date?" She wanted to be sure she was understanding.
Clark looked a little nervous. "Well… yes."
She looked at him for a moment. She was not questioning her answer. Her feelings toward him had never changed. What she could no longer read were his feelings. "I'd like that a lot, Clark, but are you sure?"
"Yes," he said simply.
The restaurant Clark had chosen was very classy. It had dozens of smaller rooms. Clark had made arrangements for them to have a small room in which they would be the only occupants.
At first their conversation was stilted. As they finished the first course, Lois, unable to stand trying to make small talk any longer, broke the tension.
"I would never have believed I could be so nervous having supper with you."
"I know. I guess I'm not handling this very well. It's just…" His voice trailed off.
Lois reached over and touched his hand. "You're doing fine. But there is obviously something on your mind. Why not just tell me what it is?"
He looked at her hand on his and nodded. "Okay. But you're going to have to give me a little slack here. I've practiced this. I really have. I just can't seem to remember how I wanted to say this right now."
She felt her heart stand still. She nodded, silently willing him to continue. She wasn't sure where this was going, although she knew what she was hoping for — a proposal, or at least a declaration of love.
"I think I need to start with an explanation of my actions since Lana's death."
"That's not necessary."
"Yes, it is. Because until we deal with this we can't go on from here." Clark cleared his throat. "When Lana died I felt guilty about a lot of things. One of those things was that I had never been able to love her. I kept thinking that maybe, if I had, she wouldn't have turned to Luthor. I guess I made you take the brunt of that guilt. I needed you to hold me at night and then I pushed you away as soon as the sun came up. There's a reason for that."
"Lois, I fell in love with you the day we first ran into each other outside the Daily Planet. Until that moment I hadn't even known that I was capable of falling in love. I never loved Lana. For some reason she never seemed to expect me to tell her that I loved her and I never did. But you…" He looked directly into her eyes "… I couldn't tell you, and I felt incredible guilt about it, but I have always loved you."
"I know, Clark. But I must admit it is good to finally hear you say it."
He thought about that last remark. "I hope you understand why I couldn't tell you when Lana was alive."
Lois nodded. "Unless I miss my guess, you saw telling me how you felt as much a betrayal of your wife as if you had slept with me."
Clark nodded. "But that didn't affect the fact that I had fallen in love with you. Then when Lana committed… suicide…" He looked down briefly before looking back at Lois. "I kept wondering if somehow I had caused it to happen because I wanted to be with you so badly."
"I figured that was the case."
"Anyway, that's why I pushed you away. At the same time, I continued to live in your spare room. I couldn't let you into my heart but I couldn't stand the thought of letting you go, either. I know that wasn't fair to you."
"It's all right."
"No, it isn't. I think the time has come for me to move out of your spare room."
Her heart felt like it would break. She was losing him for good. As long as he was physically with her, she knew that he couldn't let go. Now he was letting go. Lois could feel tears coming to her eyes. She was hardly listening to him anymore.
Clark cleared his throat before continuing. "It's just… I can't keep living in your spare room. I can't keep sleeping so close to you and not being able to touch you."
"Please just hear me out. Living in your spare room is driving me crazy. I'm so completely in love with you. After the way I've treated you over the past couple of months, I understand if you don't want the same thing. But, even if you don't, I can't continue to go on the way things are. So I guess what I need to know is… do you still want to be with me?"
Lois began to cry.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset…"
"Clark, would you shut up and let me speak?"
Clark fell silent. Maybe he shouldn't have approached the topic this way. But it was the truth. He was so in love with her. He could hardly stand staying in that room anymore — with her but not with her. Well, now the truth was out. It was up to her.
"Let's go home," she said softly.
"We'll talk about it there."
Clark heard Lois' heart begin to race as they entered the apartment. He closed and locked the door before turning toward her nervously. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. His entire body responded. She was making her reply without words. He pulled her to him and returned her kiss. He had not kissed her since the day that he had stopped working for the paper. This was intoxicating. He felt the backs of his knees go week.
She felt him almost collapse against her. She pulled away from him and began to giggle before saying, "Maybe we should take this further inside."
All he could do was nod. She took his hand and led him over to the couch. When they arrived she gently pushed him onto it. She crawled onto the couch beside him and pushed him back into a reclined position before saying, "Now, where were we? Oh, yeah. I remember." She lowered herself back into his arms and resumed kissing him.
It was some time later when Clark finally pulled back. Lois looked at him curiously.
"Clark?" she asked.
"It's just… Well, I don't want you to think… What I said at the restaurant… I don't want to pressure you into anything here. I can't keep sleeping in the room next to you but that doesn't mean that we have to… I mean… I could find another place to live, and we could just take things slowly. I don't want you to feel…"
Clark fell silent.
Lois looked at him for a long moment before saying, "Would you just shut up and kiss me?" She started to lower herself into his arms again.
"But, Lois… if we keep… I just don't know if I will be able to stop."
A small smile made its way to the corners of Lois' mouth. "Good," she said before finding his lips once more.
Under normal circumstances, Lois might have opted to take things slowly — to drive each other to the point of distraction before making love, savouring each look, each touch, each kiss. But she knew that the man she loved was incredibly insecure in this area, and she desperately wanted him to understand that she wanted him just as badly as he wanted her. So tonight there would be no holding back.
It was a good thing they had the next day off, because the sun was coming up before they finally fell asleep in each other's arms. It was Lois who woke first. She glanced over at Clark, sleeping next to her. After all these months, he had finally become 'her Clark'. She was content. She moved out of his arms and grabbed her robe before making her way to the kitchen to make some coffee.
Clark woke in the unfamiliar room and sighed. He could hear her in the other room. He listened to her in absolute contentment as he drifted in and out of sleep. He opened his eyes when he heard her come into the room. She was standing in the doorway watching him.
"Good morning," he said softly.
Lois smiled. "Well, actually it's closer to afternoon."
"I guess I was a little tired," he replied with a grin.
"Well, if you're awake now, I made some breakfast." She turned to leave.
Just then the phone rang. Clark picked up the phone next to Lois' bed. It was for him, so she continued out the door. She was stopped by Clark's voice.
"Lois, where can I find a pen?"
"Inside the drawer of the night table," she replied.
She was back in the kitchen when it suddenly hit her. Her night table. She rushed back to the bedroom. Clark was off the phone and staring absently at hard copies of the letters he had written to Lana. There were also her notes on his powers and her theories about it.
"I can explain," Lois pleaded.
Clark shot her a wholly heartbroken glance. He said nothing as he got up, pulled on his pants and headed past her.
"Clark, please. Don't do this," Lois said, grabbing his arm in desperation.
"Don't do this?!!" Clark pushed her hand off his arm. "I'm not the one who did this. What was this anyway, Lois? You break into my computer. You read my private letters. You have your story notes. What? Was this all just some elaborate scheme to get information on the alien for some award winning story?"
"What was last night anyway? Was it just some research project to you? Find out how the alien makes love. I hope I didn't disappoint you."
It only took Clark a moment to dress before he headed out of the apartment.
Lois was in shock as he left. This couldn't be happening. After all the time it had taken them to get together, it couldn't really be over. After all, she hadn't really done anything so bad. If he wouldn't tell her the truth, he should have known that she would dig it up. How had he suspected she found out about him anyway? This was how she spent the first hours after his departure — justifying her actions.
The next few hours were spent being mad at him. If only he wasn't so stubborn. He at least owed her an opportunity to explain herself. He was the one responsible for the pain they were going through. If he came back right now to ask for her forgiveness she might consider giving it to him. Otherwise… Well, she would just have to see.
It was early evening before Lois broke. She knew Clark as well as one person could know another. She knew that Clark was incredibly insecure about his heritage. He had always doubted that he could be loved for who he was, and, for years, Lana fed that belief. When he had seen her research notes and those letters, he had naturally jumped to the conclusion that she was just trying to get the story. It was a conclusion that years of believing that he was unlovable had reinforced in him.
Lois got her notes and the letters and looked through them again. She had never meant to hurt Clark. She loved him, heart and soul, but was at a loss about how to get him to believe that. Suddenly it came to her. She had violated his privacy. The only way for him to see the truth was for her to give up hers.
Clark spent most of the day drifting above the earth. He felt so lost. So incredibly vulnerable. How could she have done that to him? He loved her so much, and she was using him. He should have known that she couldn't really love him. She had only been after the inside story. Lois was, after all, fanatical about getting the story. Why else would a woman as incredible as her be interested in him? What he didn't understand was why she hadn't printed it already. Unless last night was the final step in her research.
He had to disappear now before his picture hit the front page of the paper. He would go back to the apartment to get his stuff tonight after she was asleep. With his ability to fly he could be anywhere by morning. He would find somewhere that didn't get newspapers. In time, without his presence, surely the media furor would die down and he could find a small community where they wouldn't connect him to the story. If he was really lucky, they might even have a small newspaper that could use some help.
It was after midnight when he flew over the apartment. He x-rayed it quickly and saw that she was asleep. This might be his best opportunity.
Lois woke almost the moment Clark turned the key in the door. She didn't move. If he heard her, he might disappear again, and she couldn't have that. So she lay in bed with her eyes closed, forcing herself to keep her breathing calm and controlled, and listened.
Clark walked into his room and began to gather up his things. He was just finishing when he spotted the book on his bed. He walked over and read the note on top.
After spending the day trying to justify what I'd done, I realized how I had hurt you. I hope this makes up for it.
All my love,
p.s. — please forgive me, Clark
He looked briefly at the book. It was her journal. He dropped it back on the bed and picked up his stuff. He was at the front door before curiosity got the best of him. He made his way back to his room. It would, after all, only take him a few seconds to read it.
Clark sat down on the side of the bed and began to read. He speed-read through her initial arrival in Metropolis but suddenly slowed down when he got to the night their source had been killed on the dock. He read about her suspicions and her feelings for him. He could feel her frustration about his marital status. He saw her anger over his avoidance of certain topics. He read about her determination to find out what made him different in order to prove to him that she could be trusted.
He held his breath as she discovered his secret. He sighed in relief as she made it clear that it didn't matter. He felt her pain when he left the Daily Planet. He experienced her struggle as she proposed they become lovers and her mixed emotions when he turned her down. He saw her relief when he finally told her about himself, her concern when he lost his powers and her pain for him when his wife died.
He was just beginning to read about her fears that she had lost him following Lana's death when a noise startled him. He looked up to see Lois standing in the doorway. He had been so lost in his reading that he had not heard her approach.
"Hi," she said softly, not sure of her reception. "I saw your bags at the door. Are you leaving?" Clark could hear how close she was to losing it. How could he walk away? Even if she destroyed him, how could he leave her?
"I was thinking about it." He looked down at the book in his hands. "Now I'm not so sure."
"Clark, please. Hear me out, okay? I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I just… I guess I tend to get a bone in my teeth and I can't seem to let go. When you wouldn't talk to me I just went over the edge. I broke into your apartment, and I broke into your computer. That's how I knew that you were from Krypton. I spent most of the day trying to justify my actions. I realized early this evening that there is no justification. I'm sorry. I just don't want to lose you over this. It would kill me."
Clark just sat there looking at her. "I…" He shook his head slightly.
Lois closed her eyes. There had to be a way to get him to believe that she loved him — that she wanted to be with him. It suddenly occurred to her how to do that.
"Clark, I love you. I don't know exactly when it happened, because, after I found out that you were married, I tried not to think in those terms. But I think I have probably loved you all my life, and I know that I will love you till the day I die. So I guess what I need to know is…will you marry me?" she asked tentatively.
Clark looked up at her in shock. He searched her eyes in an effort to see if she was serious. She was far too nervous to be anything but sincere. He let out a broken breath. There was only one possible answer to that question. "Yes," he whispered.
Lois gave a sob and was in his arms.
A couple of hours later, as they were curled up in bed together, Clark said, "Are you sure you want to marry me?"
"In case you didn't know, I am hopelessly in love with you. There is nothing I have ever wanted more than to marry you."
"Even though I'm an alien?"
She pulled away from him so that she could look into his eyes. She ran her hand lightly over his chest. "Okay. I think it is about time we dealt with this."
"What do you mean?"
"I know you feel different. But that's not how I see you. I love you. I love the way you care. I love the way you treat people. I even love the fact that you wouldn't have an affair with me."
"Really?" When Lois nodded Clark asked, "Why?"
Lois shrugged. "I figure that if you wouldn't have an affair with me, you wouldn't have an affair on me, and I promise never to cheat on you." She paused briefly. "Clark, I also love the way you look at me and touch me." She looked down slightly before shyly whispering, "And I definitely love the way you make love to me. I don't care where you were born. I only care that you are here with me."
"Are you sure?"
"I've never been more certain of anything in my entire life. But, Clark, until you come to terms with who you are, you will never be able to believe that." She paused briefly. "You have some remarkable gifts. As you know, I read the letters that you wrote to Lana. So I know how much you want to help people. I think that if you ever want to understand how special you are, you are going to have to use your gifts to do that."
"But aren't you concerned about what people will say if they find out about me — if they find out that you…"
"What? Married an alien? I'm not marrying an alien. I'm marrying you. Sure, it would cause us some problems if people found out, but I'm willing to take that risk. You need to be, too. That is, if you are ever to get any peace with who you are."
"So what are you suggesting?"
"I think you need a secret identity."
"Think about it, Clark. If you had a secret identity, no one would need to know that it was you doing these things. You could help out using this other identity and then return to be just Clark — in particular, my Clark."
"I don't know, Lois."
"Well, we don't have to decide this right now. But I don't intend to let it go, either. But for tonight I have something else I'd rather be doing."
She just smiled and whispered, "Will you take me flying, Clark?"
"Flying? You mean?" He made a wavy motion with his hand.
"Definitely. Two of my favourite things at once: being in your arms and flying over the city. Besides, the sun will be coming up soon, and I think it would be incredible watching the sunrise with you."
Clark smiled. "I'd love to take you flying, Lois." After all, having her in his arms and flying over the city were two of his favourite things, too.
My thanks to Mozart and to Elvis Presley, although neither of them gave me permission to use their work.
My apologies to fans of classical music if I misunderstood Mozart's Turkish rondo from his Sonata in A Major. I don't know anything about classical music. But I do know what I feel when I listen to it. My apologies also to all astronomers out there. Although I know that celestial objects are marked by a mixture of numbers and letters, I am sure there is a specific object that is already known as P-17 and I doubt it is Krypton.
I also want to thank Emily Crawford for her patience in putting up with all my gramatical and punctuation errors and helping me correct them.
Finally, as you all know, the characters of Lane and Kent and the supporting cast are the property of DC Comics and W. B. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit.