Professional Rivals

By Daydreamer80 <>

Rated PG13

Submitted January 2000

Summary: When Lois is held hostage and Clark tries to rescue her, the experience triggers many memories for both of them as they look back on their first year together as co-workers at the Daily Planet. But after this terrifying experience will they be able to move forward as they face the next crisis?

Author's note: In this I ponder the question of whether our two reporters would have fallen in love if they had not first become partners and friends.

The story also allows me to imagine what Lois and Clark might have thought while reflecting on some of the events that took place during two of my favorite first season episodes, Strange Visitor and Green Green Glow of Home.

**xxx** indicates thoughts. *x* indicates bold. And [xxx] indicates a change to a direct quote from LNCTNAOS.

And special thanks to my editor, Carol Malo, whose excellent editing suggestions improved the story and made it flow much better.


Clark was worried. Lois had gone out hours ago and still hadn't returned. He called City Hall and learned she had not shown up that morning at the press conference she was supposed to cover. He was just about to don the Super suit and go looking for her when TV and radio stations were interrupted by a message from a terrorist group. Lois Lane, the group's spokesman announced, was being held in a deserted warehouse in a run-down part of the Hobbs Bay area. If the proper negotiator showed up to listen to their demands and pass them on to the media, Lois would be freed unharmed.


Lois Lane and Clark Kent were competitive investigative reporters for the Daily Planet. Lane had already been working for the Planet for a number of years when Kent arrived on the scene; and, having enjoyed the status of star reporter for several years, she jealously guarded the position against all comers.

Clark, like Lois before him, had been hired by Perry White to be a crime reporter for the Daily Planet. The Editor-in-Chief saw in Clark Kent the same kind of initiative he valued in the young Lois Lane and was convinced the two would make perfect partners. However, when Perry tried to convince Lois Lane to take Kent with her on an investigation into the explosion of the Messenger space shuttle on its launch pad, she only agreed grudgingly.

She insisted she didn't have the time to baby sit 'some hack from Nowheresville.' What's more Clark Kent, a green reporter who'd only written for the Borneo Gazette and the Smallville Post, was not her idea of a suitable partner for a senior investigative reporter. Even Perry and Jimmy's praise for Clark's story on the razing of the old theatre on 42nd Street was insufficient to sway Lois.

Clark and Lois worked together successfully to solve the mystery and expose Dr. Toni Baines as the person behind the Messenger explosion. Baines and her known henchman were killed in a helicopter explosion before either could be apprehended and made to implicate others. A week later, wearing a distinctive red, yellow and blue costume, Clark saved the sabotaged Passenger shuttle and 'boosted' it into orbit to join with the space station Prometheus, stunning the world. Lois Lane, who'd been aboard the shuttle secretly, flew back to the Daily Planet in Clark's arms. 'Literally swept off her feet,' as Cat Grant described it at the time, Lois gave the strange visitor the name of Superman, a name that soon became known the world round. Clark managed to fool everyone, including Lois Lane, into believing Superman and the mild-mannered reporter were two different people.

Two weeks later, Kent scooped Lane by writing the first one-on-one interview with Superman, thereby initiating the rivalry. The icing was put on the cake the following year when Clark, not Lois, was the recipient of a Kerth for what Lois sarcastically termed "telling the searing truth about old people" in an expose on conditions in Metropolis's homes for the aged.

Despite working with Clark on a few subsequent investigations, including one involving her own father Sam Lane, Lois steadfastly refused to be paired with Clark Kent on a regular basis. "I work alone, Chief," she told Perry White whenever the subject came up. "Kent's a good man and a good reporter," Perry told her trying to persuade Lois to change her mind, but the damage had been done and rivalry rather than partnership became the norm for the two Daily Planet reporters. In spite of their sometimes heated competition, the two became friends as well as co-workers and Lois developed a grudging respect for the other Daily Planet crime reporter who, she had to admit, had never betrayed her trust like so many others before him.

What Lois was not aware of was that Clark had fallen instantly and deeply in love with Lois Lane the first time he met her. Lois showed no inclination to reciprocate the attraction and Clark's feelings of rejection were only compounded when he put on his Superman facade and the usually cool Lois Lane became infatuated with the Man of Steel, describing him as 'the most magnificent figure of a man' to Clark. Recently, Superman had begun acting more remote and more distant towards Lois so she was now the one who was hurting.

More than a year after their initial meeting, Clark ached silently inside over the current state of affairs between the woman who'd stolen his heart and his alter ego, but he'd decided that the danger to Lois of being known as 'Superman's girlfriend' was too great to be ignored. For her own safety, neither Superman nor Clark Kent could continue to be involved with Lois Lane. Clark had been forced into the unpalatable admission that he was an alien entity, the last of his kind, and a strange visitor on a world not his own. He knew he would have to live his life totally alone once his parents died and Clark was heartbroken.


Inspector Henderson arrived in the newsroom almost immediately after the broadcast to inform Perry that The Metropolis Police Department had received additional 'instructions.' A bomb had been planted, and if Superman so much as flew over the area, the bomb would be set off and Lois Lane would die. "And they say the negotiator must be a well-known individual who can be trusted, preferably a member of the media itself. These guys are taking no chances," he told Lois's co-workers.

To support the terrorists' contention that they had Lois Lane, the police found her jeep in a parking lot in the Metropolis suburbs, nowhere near either City Hall or the warehouse on Hobbs Bay. "We have the warehouse surrounded but, without knowing how many terrorists are involved, we've got virtually no chance of rescuing Lois without detonating the bomb. Perry, we need someone to go in and distract them. That's why I'm here," the inspector concluded.

"I'll go, Chief."

"You, Clark? No offense intended, but… "

"Yeah, me, Henderson. I fit the profile, I can promise media coverage for their demands, and I'm a close friend of Lois Lane and Superman."

"I thought you two were rivals?"

"Friendly rivals, Henderson," Perry pointed out. "Clark's right, he's the obvious choice. Besides everyone knows he's too mild-mannered to try anything. Sorry son, but Lois's safety is paramount."

"To me too, Chief."

**Yeah,** Perry mused. **You don't think I know how much she means to you but I didn't become editor because I can yodel. Too bad, you have no idea how much Lois cares for you. That girl is much better at hiding her feelings than you'll ever be, son.**

Henderson agreed. "Okay, but don't try any heroics."

Perry got in touch with the terrorists and set up the meeting for 1 pm, less than an hour away. Clark would be unarmed. **And with no Superman suit either,** Clark thought, excusing himself to go into the men's room. Perry was accustomed to Clark's nervous habit but, since he returned almost as soon as he left, he never objected. **When ya gotta go, ya gotta go,** he thought. Removing the Superman suit, Clark stashed it in his locker at the Planet.

While Clark was taking care of that small, loose end in his plan, Sam Lane arrived. Sam was already conferring with Henderson and Perry White by the time Clark returned to the newsroom. Using his super hearing, however, Clark had listened in on everything Dr. Lane told the other two.

"I saw the broadcast. Ellen's secretary told me Lois's mother is out of the country. Lois's sister, Lucy, is on the other side of the country in San Francisco attending college. At least one of my daughter's family should be here for her, so I came." Lois's father had left his family when his daughter was only a teenager, but during this momentous year, she began building some bridges between them after Sam Lane was involved in an attempt to create cybernetic boxers. Lois and Clark together had investigated that crime, one of their rare joint efforts. When Allie Danelli, a close friend of both Lanes, was killed because he knew too much, Sam Lane produced the evidence the boxing commission needed to bar the boxers for life. Now, hearing of Henderson's plan, Sam Lane insisted on following in his own car.

Fifteen minutes later, silently vowing he would take no chances with Lois's life, Clark got into the squad car with Inspector Henderson while Sam Lane followed in his own car.


Clark Kent walked into the dark and apparently deserted warehouse. Lois was chained to a chair along one wall, unconscious. No terrorists were in sight, not that Clark could see much with all the lead paint around the old building. **Where are they?** he wondered suspecting a trap; then he noticed a lead box on the table next to Lois. Opening it, he saw a small but powerful bomb about to go off. He had no choice. With no time to delay, he pulled out the bomb, ignored the burning sensation when his hands touched the explosive device, and swallowed it. The bomb detonated safely in Clark's stomach.

Clark was about to release the unconscious Lois when he suddenly felt weak. Familiar with the effects of Kryptonite poisoning, he realized particles of the deadly rock were in his stomach and were breaking down his aura and slowly poisoning him. Using his strength before it left him entirely, he broke the chains and released her.

"Lois, wake up," he called out desperately. Already the Kryptonite was forcing Clark to hold on to the table to stay upright.

Lois opened her eyes. "Clark, where am I? What are you doing here?"

"Lois, there's no time to explain. You've got to get out of here. Run that way," he instructed pointing. "Henderson's men and your father are waiting outside, they'll take care of you."

Lois tried to pull Clark along with her, but he sagged against the table. "Clark, come on. We both have to get out of here."

"Lois, I can't go with you. I'd hold you up; you've got to go alone. Hurry."

"No, I won't leave you. Don't you tell me what to do, Clark Kent."

"Lois, please!"

"Clark," Lois asked, becoming concerned, "what's the matter with you?"

"Simple, Ms. Lane, he's been affected by Kryptonite," said a bull of a man who had entered through a rear door, gun in hand.

"Jason Trask! What are you doing here?" Lois asked, recognizing the man who almost killed her and Clark in his attempts to locate and destroy Superman.


It was Trask who'd been behind the unsuccessful kidnapping of Jonathan Kent's neighbor and good friend, Wayne Irig. When Clark learned about the EPA cleanup of the Irig property, Perry had insisted Lois accompany Clark to Smallville to investigate allegations of an ecological disaster.

"There's this decent guy, a farmer, who gets thrown off his land by Federal agents. Next thing he knows, they're bulldozing his land looking for pesticides," Clark had explained to Perry and Lois in Perry White's office.

"Sounds like a story to me," Perry told Lois. By now Perry trusted Clark's reporter instincts but trying to get Lois to go along was really an effort on the part of her boss and friend to persuade Lois Lane to partner with Clark Kent.

"There's probably no story," Lois protested.

After a long argument between the editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet and his star reporter, Perry found the key to convincing Lois. "Wasn't that what that first reporter said about Love Canal and didn't that reporter win a Pulitzer?" Perry reminded her. Even after having a Pulitzer dangled in front of her, Lois was reluctant, but Perry kept insisting and she finally agreed grudgingly.

**No Pulitzer there, ** Lois now thought sourly. **Just Jason Trask with a rock he thought could kill Superman.** Trask hadn't been there for his environmental virtue any more than Lois and Clark had. It had just been another attempt by Bureau 39 to find a way to capture Superman.

That time, Jason Trask's efforts had been thwarted by Sheriff Rachel Harris, who checked with the DC police and found out that the EPA papers authorizing the testing of the Irig property for toxic materials were phony. Trask and Bureau 39 melted away before they could be apprehended, but the EPA liaison who'd been left behind told Sheriff Harris that Trask had been looking for "some kind of meteorite he thinks Mr. Irig discovered on his property. Trask had a spaceship he claimed Superman came to Earth in. He thought the meteorite, which Trask is sure came from the same planet as Superman, can kill Superman."

"Can it?" Lois had asked, anxious to protect the Superhero she was certain she was in love with.

"Maybe not, but Trask thinks it can," Ms. Sherman concluded.

Neither Jonathan Kent nor Wayne Irig admitted to knowing anything about a meteorite, but Lois saw a look pass between the two farmers. She wondered if indeed Irig had found what Trask had been searching for and together the two neighbors had managed to get rid of it — somehow. **Funny, Clark didn't even want to write up the story for the Planet. Maybe he was trying to protect his father and Mr. Irig.**

When they returned to the Daily Planet, Lois wrote the story up under her byline; although she told Perry, "Chief, we don't know if it even existed," referring to the meteorite Trask was supposed to be searching for.

"Maybe, but this copy would read a lot sweeter if you gave it a name," her editor pointed out.

"Well, it was supposed to be from the Planet Krypton. How about Kryptonium?" was Lois's suggestion.

Of course, that was when Clark had to interfere. "It's a meteorite. What about … Kryptonite?" he said. Perry preferred Clark's name.

"Okay," Lois told Clark sourly, "Kryptonite it is. But from now on I don't want you editing my copy."

Unfortunately, the rock later proved to be real and deadly dangerous to the Superhero. Lois encountered it several times over the next year or so. And when Ariana Carlin tried to kill Superman with a piece, Lois saved the Superhero's life and later rid the world of that piece by dropping it into the middle of the Bermuda triangle.

But Lois recalled fondly that part of the trip she and Clark spent at the annual Corn Festival Smallville was hosting that weekend. She hadn't been able to resist buying and changing into a country-style dress she saw at one of the market tables. Lois shrugged at Clark's raised eyebrow. "When in Smallville … " Clark was impressed enough to challenge her to participate in the square dancing and Lois proved she could keep up with the best of the Smallville crowd.

She spent the remainder of the day and evening with Clark, who seemed to be recovering from the allergy attack he'd suffered the first day. A relaxed Lois ate corn on the cob and cotton candy and enjoyed herself completely. Clark even "hit the bulls eye and [won] a prize … [her] choice," a small teddy bear for Lois. Lois commented that Clark just seemed "so … I don't know, just so … Clark," to which her escort responded, "that's because I am Clark, Lois."

After they returned to the Daily Planet, however, Lois, confused by the strange feelings she'd experienced, became even more adamant about not wanting a writing partner. **Was I afraid of allowing myself a relationship with Clark?**

Trask produced falsified warrants the first time they met him too. He'd tried to force the two Planet reporters to take lie detector tests and tell him everything they knew about Superman. **Which was little enough,** Lois remembered, although at the time she'd hoped that would change. Together she and Clark investigated Trask and discovered alien artifacts stored in a Bureau 39 warehouse, among them a globe that obviously belonged to Superman since it subsequently projected pictures of a strange man and woman who wore the S symbol.

Clark took the globe and he didn't even tell her, his partner on that investigation. He probably wouldn't have told anyone else if the globe hadn't been among the items stolen from Clark's apartment. Clark even lied about the globe when she asked pointedly if anything important had been stolen from his apartment. As far as Lois was concerned that only confirmed her decision not to partner with him. "He lied to me," she told Perry angrily.

"But don't you lie to him?" the Chief had asked.

"Of course, I do, all the time. But I'm from Metropolis, Clark's from Kansas." Perry just didn't seem to understand the difference. At least her boss stopped urging her to work with Kent or any one else for that matter after that incident. **I work alone,** she reminded herself once more.

The worst part was that after Clark finally told Superman about the globe, the grateful Man of Steel began giving the really good stories to Lois's reporting rival instead of to her. **And Clark wouldn't even have told Superman about the globe if I hadn't discovered it.**

That made her think about the recent coolness displayed toward her by Superman. **Well, the 'Superman's girlfriend' thing is over with now. I'm just another reporter to him. Superman obviously doesn't want to become intimate with an Earth woman — with me,** she concluded sorrowfully.

Clark too remembered Jason Trask but his musings focused on very different aspects of the encounters. Clark had only been wearing the Super suit for a few weeks when Trask burst into the Daily Planet newsroom bent on forcing Lois and Clark to take lie detector tests. Clark was grateful when Lois, a reporter with much more prestige then he had at the time, refused Trask's demands. Then she caved in to Trask's demands to stop him from taking her computer with a half-written novel stored on it. "What about the Fifth Amendment, Lois?" Clark pointed out but both Lois and his editor countered that since none of them knew much about Superman, they had nothing to lose and Clark was forced to agree to the tests. Clark felt abandoned as well as frightened.

These, he knew, were the kind of people his Dad had warned him about and Clark, still unsure of his powers, was afraid that someday 'they' might actually succeed in dissecting Clark to find out what gave him his unusual abilities. Those concerns affected him so much that he was caught telling the truth when he answered "yes" to the question, "are you Superman?" and even floated in the chair during the lie detector session. Fortunately, Trask didn't seem to notice or believe him and was forced to call off the questioning before he could go any further.

Ironically, it was also Trask who in Smallville discovered the properties of Kryptonite, the one substance that could actually make Clark's nightmare feasible. Clark subsequently learned how to deal with the problems and moral dilemmas that keeping a secret identity entailed, but it was a while before he got over his feelings of betrayal by Lois and Perry. **I know they had no way of knowing, but those were my feelings,** he sighed.

**That same investigation taught me how much I matter to Lois Lane,** he thought with more than a touch of cynicism. Together, they investigated Trask and broke into the warehouse where Bureau 39 had been storing the ship that Clark had come to Earth in. He began to think that perhaps the two of them did have a future, at least as working partners if not as a loving couple. Later when Trask tried to throw Lois and Clark out of the plane to force Superman to come to their rescue, Lois said she wanted to "kiss Clark good-bye" and Clark's hopes soared, only to be dashed immediately afterward when he realized it was just a ploy to distract Trask. **I would have taken her and flown right out of the plane in my Clark clothes blowing the whole secret identity thing if the kiss had been real — and not even cared. Probably just as well the way it turned out.**

After Superman rescued Lois and supposedly Clark as well (always Superman — the thought was bitter), Clark arrived back at the Planet to a Lois Lane who told everyone in the newsroom how glad she was that he, Clark, was alive. He soon learned she only said that because it meant that Superman was alive as well, destroying the small hope that Lois Lane could care for Clark Kent.

That was almost a classic forerunner of their subsequent relationship with Lois doing something that made Clark's hopes rise once more, then dashing them each time. His own subsequent behavior didn't help either. When his apartment was broken into and the precious globe, the only piece of his heritage he had, was stolen, Lois accused him of keeping the artifact that belonged to Superman and lying to her about it. He had lied and even considered telling her the truth, before he reminded himself that Lois's only interest in his loss was in using it to write a story worthy of a Merriwether award.

She'd asked him how could she trust him, but Clark knew he didn't dare trust 'Mad Dog Lane' either — not with his secret. They weren't even partners much less friends. He was afraid the globe had fallen into the hands of an enemy and would reveal too much about Superman. "Dad, they're closing in on me," he told the man who'd warned him that if they caught him, they'd put him in a laboratory and dissect him. He had no idea what Lois would do with the knowledge, but he knew he couldn't let her find out, not as long as they were rival reporters.

Still as Superman, Clark was unable to resist encouraging Lois's interest in him, while as Clark he seemed to take actions, some in retaliation for hurts suffered at her hands, that only served to increase the distance between them. Eventually he tried to settle for the admiration and, yes, love in Lois's eyes for his alter ego and the friendly, but distant respect she had for her co-worker. He knew at least that, competition aside, Lois liked and even admired Clark Kent, investigative reporter, so he kept his hurt buried deep inside along with his love for Lois Lane.

Today, though, his worst nightmare had come true. Trask had used Lois Lane to get to Superman and the Kryptonite was making it impossible for him to protect her. He had to make Trask let Lois go even at the cost of his other nightmare coming true.


Lois and Clark were brought out of their reveries by Jason Trask's voice. "I'm the one who runs Bureau 39 now," Trask was saying. "For the last year, the government's arm for investigating extra-terrestrials has been focused on capturing one, and only one, creature from outer space, capture him and study him."

"Superman, you want Superman. That's what this is all about, isn't it?"

"That's exactly right, Ms. Lane, and I've succeeded." Turning his attention to Clark, he said, "So, alien, after all these years I've finally got you. I knew you were lying about not knowing Superman when you took that lie detector test. We've been aware all along that Superman landed in Smallville, Kansas, about the same time you were born. There had to be a connection. Secret identity, very clever, but now I know you're Superman."

"Don't be ridiculous, Trask" Lois interjected. "Clark isn't Superman. How could he be?"

"Ms. Lane, the fact that you're alive and the explosive device is nowhere in sight is proof positive that he is indeed the Kryptonian. You see, Bureau 39 developed this plan to smoke out the alien after Superman made his presence known a year ago. You were the bait. We kidnapped you and put you in this building with an explosive containing fragments of Kryptonite. The explosive was rigged to go off as soon as Superman came within five feet of it, the device being triggered by Superman's unique physiology."

"What explosive? If there really is a bomb, let's see it."

"I'm afraid I can't do that Ms. Lane. I don't know how he got rid of it, but he obviously did."

Lois looked closely at Clark. Trask wasn't as familiar with Clark as she was so he didn't see that Clark was in tremendous pain and barely able to stand. **He is Superman,** she thought, beginning to believe. For barely a second, Lois felt angry. **Why didn't he tell me?** her mind wailed. Then she saw what a precarious position they both were in and pushed the anger aside to concentrate on getting them both out of Jason Trask's clutches.

Desperate to protect Lois, Clark admitted, "You're right, Trask, I am Superman. Now that you have what you want, let Lois go. Do what you want with me, put me in a laboratory and dissect me, just don't hurt Lois."

"Oh, no, Superman, that's not on my agenda. Bureau 39 may want to study you, Superman, but I intend to kill you. The rest of them don't understand the danger to humanity you represent. You're the forerunner of the alien invasion and I intend to stop that by killing you now." He went on cajoling, "Clark, why didn't you tell me that this was a family affair? Now I'll have to travel to Smallville and kill the traitors who harbored you all these years. But first I'll kill this nosy reporter who can identify me."

"Pl-please don't hurt Lois or my Mom and Dad, Trask," Clark begged. "Lois won't say anything and my folks don't even know about this."

"You leave me no choice, Superman. If we'd captured you while Ms. Lane was still tied up and unconscious, or if you hadn't shown up and tried to rescue her, Lois would be free right now. We were prepared to let her go as soon as we finished with her, but now she knows everything and I'll have to kill her first and then you."

Despairing, Clark moaned, "I'm sorry, Lois. I'm so sorry."

Lois could see that Clark believed Trask. What's more Trask had a smile on his face. **He wants Clark to think Superman's actions are forcing Trask to kill me. He wants Clark to know I'm going to die before he kills him. Trask is the inhuman monster, not Clark. Well, even if I have to die, I won't let Trask have his way on this.** Turning her back on Jason Trask, she put her hand on Clark's cheek and said softly, "Clark, Trask never intended to let me live whether you showed up or not."

"Oh really, Ms. Lane. And what makes you say that? Surely your other captors treated you well and told you of our plans to release you after we made contact with the 'negotiator' we asked for."

She turned back to Trask and told him coldly, "Trask you came into this room after I was gagged and blindfolded, but while I was still conscious. The others may have thought you were going to go along with that plan, but you knew I would recognize your voice, if not then, later on, and would be able to identify you. You knew you'd have to kill me; I suspect you intended to kill me all along."

"You're right, Ms. Lane, just as I was prepared to kill the negotiator even if Superman hadn't shown up, although perhaps not so soon. I can't leave any clues that will lead to me. Those fools didn't realize that you already knew too much. I couldn't afford to let you live no matter what the outcome of the plan. I had to get away if necessary to develop another plan. The invasion has to be stopped; it's my patriotic duty. I'll kill a hundred people if I have to." Trask was insane and Lois and Clark both knew it.

"This outcome is just what I hoped for. Superman weakened by Kryptonite and powerless to stop me from killing both of you. I'll kill you first, Ms. Lane, so he can watch."

"No!" Clark screamed as he threw himself at Lois, pushed her to the floor and covered her with his body. He prayed that he still had sufficient reserves for his protective aura to safeguard Lois even after he was dead.

"You're only postponing the inevitable, you know. Looks like I'll have to kill you first, Superman, then her, and then Jonathan and Martha Kent." Trask, his attention focused inward, mused: "I've been dreaming of this moment ever since we dug up the spaceship you traveled here in. Too bad none of us put two and two together and realized, from the size of the spaceship, that you'd been sent here while still an infant. It would have been so easy to kill you at the time. I've been following your so-called rescues ever since you finally made your presence known here on Earth, but I know they were meant to lull us into trusting you so you can make the Earth ripe for takeover by the Kryptonian invasion force. Now I'm finally gonna kill you."

Trask, to get a better shot, walked over and stood above Clark, forgetting about the window behind the table. Seeing the gun, and with a clear target, Henderson gave his waiting sharpshooters the go ahead. Shots rang out and Trask was dead before he even hit the floor.

Henderson's people, however, had no idea if they'd been successful, so they waited for word before storming the warehouse. Inside, no longer interested in the fate of Jason Trask, Lois crawled out from beneath Clark and turned him toward her. "Clark, where's the Kryptonite?" she asked all businesslike.

"It's in my stomach."

"What? You ate the bomb? Are you crazy?" She sounded furious, but Clark could hear the fear in her voice, the fear for him.

"What did you expect me to do, Lois? There was no time for anything else." His voice, sharp at first, ended softly.

When Clark tried to stand up, he managed only to pull himself into a sitting position underneath the window. Lois could tell by the look on his face that Clark was still in tremendous pain. Sitting down next to him, she thought, **This is not the time for second-guessing Clark. We need to focus on neutralizing the Kryptonite poisoning together.** "All right," Lois told him, "let's just focus on the problem, not the reason for it. We could have your stomach pumped or maybe ask for a really strong emetic."

"The emetic might work. The Kryptonite probably weakened me sufficiently for it to take effect."

"Clark, we've got to get you to a hospital right away. There's probably an ambulance waiting that can take you."

"No, Lois. Clark Kent is here, not Superman. The doctors at the hospital would try to draw blood and, even if my skin's lost its invulnerability, the blood test will tell them I'm not human. I can't let anyone know that." Clark could hardly believe he was talking about his alien origin so calmly and rationally with Lois.

"Clark, is keeping the secret so important? I know that humans like Trask and the others at Bureau 39 exist, but most people know Superman is no threat and would support him."

"Would they, Lois? Most people say that, but think about it. How many of them secretly envy me my powers, do you think? You even resent the fact that I can eat anything without gaining weight," he pointed out trying to lighten the mood without much success. His attempt at a grin turned into a grimace.

"Clark, being Superman is no picnic. You almost got killed when you stopped the Nightfall asteroid and you had amnesia for three days afterward."

"I know, but most people don't realize a lot of that. If they do think about Superman and his powers, they just remember that he — I — can fly anywhere in the world and bend steel in my bare hands and they resent it. If there's even a hint that my powers might harm them a lot of their fears surface," he told her sadly.

"Yeah, like during the heat wave that leak at LexCorp Nuclear caused last winter." She sighed. Now was not the time to pursue that line of conversation either. "Okay, so a hospital is out. How do we get you the treatment you need?"

Lois and Clark were silent for a minute. Clark couldn't think of a way out of this predicament he'd gotten himself into but Lois came up with a possible solution. "I've got an idea that just might work, but first we have to stash the suit."

"That's not a problem, Lois," Clark told her. "I left it back at the Planet. I didn't want to take … any chances."

**Protecting me, were you?** Lois finally understood the reason behind Superman's recent coolness. "Good. Do you think you can convince the paramedics you're fine?"

"Yeah, I can still control my heartbeat and respiration so they'll read normal."

"Do it. Then you and I are going to my apartment."

"How will that help?"

"You'll see. Come on. We'll walk out together so everyone will think you're supporting me because I'm weak from being without food and water since this morning."


Lois and Clark walked out of the warehouse less than a half-hour after he entered it. Lois supported Clark, but to the observers it appeared as if it were the other way around. "There was only one man inside, Jason Trask, and he's dead," Clark told Inspector Henderson.

"Jason Trask," a clearly surprised Henderson responded, "that was the name of the guy that was the prime suspect in an unsolved murder in Metropolis a while ago. The body they fished out of West River was ID'd as his superior at some secret government agency called Bureau 39." Knowing there were rumors that Lois and Clark were involved in that investigation in some way, Henderson waited for additional clarification.

Hiding his pain Clark only told him, "There doesn't seem to be any bomb, either; must have been a bluff."

Since neither reporter was forthcoming, Henderson said, "Lois, your father followed us here from the Planet in his own car. He's waiting for you across the street. He can take you and Clark home if the paramedics pronounce the two of you fit. My men and I need to finish up here."

Henderson's men went inside and secured the facility, removing Trask's body. No one else was in or around the scene of the crime. Either Trask was working alone or the mysterious Bureau 39 people had faded away when things went against whatever plan Trask had. It appeared the murder would remain unsolved and Jason Trask's reason for kidnapping Lois Lane would never be revealed.

The two reporters were ushered to a waiting ambulance to be checked out. Lois got a fast, but thorough examination and was pronounced fit in spite of her ordeal. She told Clark she had a few things to attend to and would be back for him shortly. Leaving Clark to cope with his own examination, which fortunately was more cursory since he hadn't been held captive for any length of time, she sought out her father, Dr. Sam Lane.

"Daddy, Henderson said you brought your car."

"Yes. It's parked down the block."

"Can you drive Clark and me to my apartment as soon as the paramedics are finished with him?"

"Sure, Princess. We should stop somewhere for a bite to eat on the way to your apartment. It's been hours since you had breakfast."

"No, Daddy. I'm not hungry. My captors took good care of me up until a few minutes before the media negotiator was supposed to meet with them. They fed me a full lunch at noon while they were announcing my captivity to the world. It was only at the last minute that they tied me to the chair, gagged me and chloroformed me. I guess they didn't want me warning whoever came — Clark as it turned out — that it was a trap.

"Daddy, there's something more important to take care of now," she told him earnestly. "I'll get Clark and meet you at the car. Hurry, Daddy, please." Sam Lane had no idea what was so urgent, but he was once again a part of his daughter's life and he wanted to keep it that way, so he agreed.

Lois returned to the ambulance and asked Clark to help *her* walk to her father's waiting car. "I'm just a little tired," she explained to the paramedics. By the time they reached Sam Lane's car, Clark was so exhausted by that small effort he practically fell onto the back seat of the car.

Sam Lane couldn't help noticing. "Princess, Clark doesn't look good. Are you sure we shouldn't take him to Metropolis General for a more thorough checkup?"

"Daddy, you're a doctor."

"Thank you for noticing, Lois."

"When I was growing up, I knew my father was a great doctor. I need you to be that doctor now." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "Clark's stomach has to be emptied. Trask forced him to swallow poison and we have to get it out of him."

"What kind of poison, Lois? You know I need to know that to make a safe and accurate diagnosis. A hospital is the best place for Clark. Without proper precautions after administration, a strong emetic could dehydrate his body and Clark could die."

"I know but I can't tell you what the poison is and Clark can't go to a hospital. If you administer the emetic and tell me what needs to be done, I'll take care of him," she promised.

"Lois, are you sure you want to do that? It could take hours before all the poison comes back up. Honey, it's not going to be a pretty sight."

"Daddy, I can do it," Lois assured him, her face taking on the determined look he remembered from way back in his daughter's childhood.

While they were talking the object of the discussion was weakening, but he managed to say, "Doctor Lane, tell Lois she can't do this. Just take me back to my apartment. I'll be fine."

But Sam Lane, a practicing physician for many years, could see that the young man would not be fine. What's more, when Lois turned to look at Clark, he saw something in his daughter's eyes that he thought he'd never see. **Lois loves him. My girl's finally found someone she cares about more than her career.** Clark couldn't die, he decided, but it was obvious neither of them would agree to hospitalization, so Sam told them he'd swing past Metropolis General, pick up the necessary drug, and administer it himself.


"Thank you, Daddy," a grateful Lois told her father, giving him a hug as Sam was about to leave the apartment. Her father had removed all of Clark's clothing with the exception of his briefs, and placed the now medicated young man on Lois's sofa where he promptly fell asleep.

Sam looked over his daughter's shoulder at Clark. He appeared to be sleeping peacefully, but Dr. Lane knew that was about to change. "Remember, Princess, the drug should start working in fifteen minutes," he told her in a low voice. "He's going to be sick as a dog for a while, throwing up continually for up to two hours before it's all out of his system. Once it starts, you'll need to help him to the bathroom. Probably best to just let him stay there until the vomiting is over. Oh, and you'd better put a bucket next to the couch for the first time. Lois, are you sure you don't want a nurse? I can have one here in under ten minutes."

"No, daddy, I can do this," she assured him.

"I know you can, Lois. All the Lane women can do anything they set their minds to. Keep Clark here until tomorrow and I'll come over and check him out in the morning." He didn't add, "if he's still alive tomorrow." That outcome was too horrible to contemplate.

True to Dr. Lane's prediction, Clark woke less than fifteen minutes later and threw up what appeared to be the entire contents of his stomach. "Lois, please flush it down the toilet," he asked sheepishly. "Even now it's affecting me." He looked with disgust at the green glowing mess in the bucket.

Lois did as he asked and returned to find Clark trying to crawl toward the bathroom. Placing her hands around his waist, she found it surprisingly easy to lift the weakened Superman and help him into the bathroom where he again threw up more green material. For the next 90 minutes, the scenario repeated itself at regular intervals until Clark's stomach emptied and all he had were the dry heaves.

Each time Clark's body rid itself of more of the poisonous rock, Lois held his head above the toilet murmuring words of comfort and encouragement. "It's okay. Just let it happen. You need to get rid of that horrible stuff. It'll be over soon, I promise, and you'll feel better." She bathed his sweating forehead and pushed his wet hair back from his face between episodes and, when his stomach quieted, sat on the bathroom floor next to him holding him in her arms.

After the first few times, Lois began to worry. Clark seemed to be getting weaker with each vomiting. What's more her father had told her that, while the pain in his stomach from the poison would gradually increase between episodes until the emetic rid his stomach of most of it, the actual vomiting shouldn't be painful and would be followed by a period of relative comfort. She could see, however, that Clark suffered terribly during each vomiting episode and was left for a time thoroughly exhausted.

"Clark, are you feeling better? Is the emetic working?" she asked fearfully during the next short interval.

"It's working, Lois, but … "

"But what Clark?"

"Well, it's just that each time the Kryptonite comes back up, it feels like a knife cut would … at least what it probably would to a human."

"Oh. I never thought of that. I should have told Daddy what the poison was. Maybe I should call him. He can prescribe something for the pain."

"No! Please, Lois. Please don't tell anyone. You have to keep my secret." Clark sounded upset; more upset than he'd been since they left the warehouse together. They weren't able to discuss that right then because Clark doubled over the toilet and threw up once again.

As soon as she could, Lois assured him she would tell no one, not even her father or Perry White what she had learned that day. Clark's gratitude was evident as he relaxed in her arms, so she asked, "Why Clark? Why is keeping the secret so important? I know you said people would turn against you out of envy, but surely a lot of them would understand."

Clark tried to use the precious moments he had before the next vomiting session to answer her question. It wasn't necessary to mention the dangers posed to Superman as well as anyone deemed close to him by Bureau 39 and persons of like mind. So he told her of the fear he saw in his own parents' eyes when his powers started manifesting themselves and of how frightened he himself felt when he realized he wasn't normal, wasn't even human. And he told her of his father's warning that if people found out about him, they'd put him in a laboratory and dissect him like a frog. Clark's face turned red with shame at that admission so Lois hastened to assure him he was not responsible for others' evil intents.

"I guess in the end it's for selfish reasons, though. Superman could never go to a ball game with Jimmy or attend a charity magic show with you and Cat and Perry." He couldn't help grinning when he added, "Perry, though, would probably tell Superman Elvis stories just the same as he tells them to Clark. Everyone treats Superman differently, with awe and respect and sometimes like a — a movie star, but no one expects to share a cup of coffee with him much less let him get one for them." He sighed deeply as his stomach once again began to feel uneasy and rushed to finish. "All my life, I dreamed of leading a normal life, having friends, a job …"

Clark's voice trailed off before he let himself confide the most important dream, 'someone to love,' but Lois guessed what he'd left out. "I understand and I won't tell anyone," she pledged earnestly, before the emetic took effect once more.

About midway through the hour and a half, the episodes slowed significantly and the period of time between them increased in proportion. When one interval lasted a full ten minutes, Clark turned in Lois's arms and, his voice openly expressing his mortification, whispered, "Lois, you don't have to do this anymore. Why don't you wait outside?"

Lois was about to point out that her father had told her that the vomiting would continue for up to two hours and that Clark was so weakened that he could barely move much less take care of himself, when the next episode began and made the information moot. Clark tried desperately to move back into a position over the toilet but he only made it when Lois grabbed his head and thrust it into the proper position. Afterwards, he was too weak to even reach the flush handle.

Rather than state the obvious, Lois simply sponged his forehead, planted a small kiss on the same spot and told him softly, "I owe it to you. If you hadn't swallowed that Kryptonite bomb you wouldn't be in this mess and I definitely, and maybe you as well, would be dead by now. Jason Trask played for keeps, Clark. I'm glad he's dead," she finished fiercely. Then she pulled him into her arms to wait out the interval.

Clark, who had felt duty bound to give her the option, gratefully relaxed against Lois's comforting body. **Oh Lois how I wish you would hold me like this when I'm not sick and it's not just out of gratitude,** he thought with a sigh. Lois felt the sigh but now was not the time to pursue that either.

When the vomiting was over, she sponged Clark's upper body and face and dried him off, then supported him as he walked into the living room. She asked Clark if he wanted to lie down on the couch, but he told her he needed to be in the sun.

Lois got a pillow and a blanket, placed them on the floor in front of the window and opened the drapes to the afternoon sunshine. She went over to the couch against which Clark was leaning and helped him cross the room. Still holding him, she squatted down and arranged him on the blanket so that the sun's rays fell on as much of his body as possible. When she had everything arranged satisfactorily, she stood up saying, "I should clean up the bathroom."

Desperately, Clark grabbed on to Lois, "Don't leave me." After a moment, he pulled his hands back and turned away. "S-sorry. You go do whatever you have to."

But Lois had heard the alarm in his voice, so she sank back down to the floor. "I guess the bathroom can wait. I'll just sit here for a while." Seeing Clark's red face, she added, "I'm pretty tired too."

The sunlight appeared to help. Clark's color immediately improved and he napped peacefully until the sun set, although once or twice Lois had to reposition him when the sun moved lower in the sky and the angle of its rays changed. About an hour before sunset, she positioned him one more time, then crept away to clean up the bathroom. When she returned, Clark's upper body was completely in shade and he seemed disturbed. She sat down and pulled his head into her lap, elevating him sufficiently for the remaining sunlight to reach his upper body, and was gratified to note that his agitated movements ceased.

Forty-five minutes later, the sun set and Lois wondered if Clark would become distressed once more. Instead he woke up slowly after full dark and smiled up at her. Then, becoming aware of the fact that his head was in Lois's lap, he pulled away and sat up.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, there's no more pain, so I guess the emetic worked and the Kryptonite is gone. The sun seems to have restored me somewhat." Clark appreciated everything that Lois had done for him. She had saved his life when she, not he, thought of using a powerful emetic to clear out the Kryptonite that was in his stomach, protected his secret by arranging for Dr. Lane to administer the drug, then stayed with Clark and cared for him during the ordeal. And he'd awakened just now with his head in Lois's lap. **If only that meant she loves me, Clark, the way I love her.**

**That's not very likely,** Clark's inner voice reminded him. **You and Lois are competitors. She likes you, you know that, but the tender loving care: that was for Superman, Earth's Superhero, not for you. Stop daydreaming about something that will never happen.**

Not wanting to be a burden any longer Clark offered to take a taxi home, but Lois would have none of it. "*You* are not going anywhere. Your body is still exhausted from fighting off the effects of that horrible stuff, so you're spending the night here … in the bedroom … on my bed. I'll sleep on the couch. No arguments, you need a good night's sleep much more than I do."

Too exhausted by his ordeal to argue and depressed because he loved Lois and she didn't … couldn't love him, Clark acquiesced to her suggestion without much fuss. After she was certain Clark was asleep, Lois tried to get a few hours of rest.


Lois awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of Clark thrashing around in the bed. Alarmed, she went to see what was wrong. Clark, thank heavens, wasn't feverish but he did seem to be having some sort of nightmare. Coming closer she saw tears on his cheeks and could even make out some of the words.

"Lois … don't leave me … please … so alone … everyone's gone … all alone … please, Lois, don't walk away … don't leave me." She also heard, "have to leave her … too dangerous … how can I, I love her so much … I love you, Lois … always loved you … so beautiful … mustn't let anyone find out … can't let Lois be hurt … I love you so much, Lois." Finally she made out, "please look at me, Lois … please see me … No, not Superman! I'm Clark … Clark … I love you, Lois."

Hearing that, Lois understood Clark's reasons for not telling her that he was Superman, and she acknowledged her own feelings toward her reporting competitor. Crawling into the bed, she pulled Clark into her arms and held him. "Hush, my love," she whispered into his ear. "I'm here and I will never leave you. I love you, Clark Kent, both of you. Don't worry about the Trasks of this world, together we're stronger than they are. My dearest Clark, Superman, whatever you choose to call yourself, I love you. You will never be alone," she pledged.

Clark didn't wake up. Instead the nightmare ended and, soothed by her presence and her words, Clark fell into a deeper, more restful sleep. Lois, exhausted as well, soon followed her love into dreamland.


In the early morning hours as the sun shone through Lois Lane's bedroom window, Clark Kent woke up in Lois's bed. When he realized that she was in bed with him, he was too stunned by the implications to move. He could tell that he was recovering from the Kryptonite poisoning, his aura was functioning once more, and the sun was regenerating his body's reserves. For a while, he just lay there absorbing additional sunlight and contemplating Lois's sleeping body. **Did she really say the things I thought I heard last night, or was it just a dream?**

Somehow becoming aware of his scrutiny, Lois woke up and smiled at him, and Clark knew he hadn't been dreaming after all. "Good morning, are you okay?"

"Yeah, getting better all the time," he told her shyly.

Aroused by the nearness of Clark clad only in a pair of briefs, Lois turned passion-filled eyes on him and said seductively, "I want you, Clark and I love you."

"I love you, too, Lois," Clark affirmed.

"Make love to me, Clark, please?" Lois implored.

Clark was only too glad to comply. He didn't need Superpowers for that.


Satisfied, their love at last acknowledged, the two fell asleep in each other's arms. They were awakened by the sound of the doorbell later that morning. "Who's there?" Lois called out.

"It's me, Princess. Is everything all right?" Sam Lane asked from outside her apartment door.

Lois glanced at her lover and was relieved to see an affirmative nod. "Not sure if all my powers are back yet," he whispered, "but I think it's only a matter of time. Thank you for saving my life."

"You've saved mine on numerous occasions, including yesterday, Clark," Lois responded firmly. "Everything's fine, Daddy," she called out, "but Clark needs to go back to his apartment and change. Can you drive him?"

"Sure thing, Princess. Take your time. I'll wait out here." Reassured by the joy in his daughter's voice, Sam had no intention of interrupting something that was none of his business. Lois was after all a consenting adult and had been for many years.

"Get dressed, Clark. I think it might be prudent to let Daddy think you slept on the sofa last night. If he finds out about this morning's … activities, he just might suspect you're no ordinary guy."

Laughing, Clark got up and dressed quickly. He couldn't resist trying out his X-ray vision and, since it worked when he looked at Sam Lane through the closed door, he surmised that the Doctor knew exactly how Clark and Lois had spent some of the morning hours. But Sam Lane was willing to go along with the deception, so Clark said nothing.

"I'll take a cab and go pick up my jeep. I'll see you later at the Planet, Clark." Lois gave her father a hug when she opened the door to admit him. "Daddy, thank you for everything."

"Just glad I could help, honey," her father told her, pleased that he could in some small way make up for the pain he'd caused her while she was growing up.


When Lois arrived at work, Clark wasn't at his desk. The rest of the newsroom staff gathered round to welcome the Daily Planet's star reporter back and express their relief that she was safe.

After leaving Lois's apartment the previous day, Sam Lane had stopped by the newsroom and told Perry White that, as a doctor, he'd forbidden Lois and Clark to return to work until the next day at the earliest. Although Sam had refused to go into details, Perry could tell that, contrary to the conclusions of the paramedics who'd examined his two reporters at the scene of the crime, at least one of them was very sick indeed. It was therefore with great relief that he welcomed Clark back to work earlier today, especially since Clark assured Perry that Lois was well and would be in after she retrieved her Jeep from the police parking garage where Henderson had it stored the day before.

After the bulk of the newsroom staff returned to their individual assignments, Perry took Lois aside and asked her if she felt up to writing the story. Not, he told her, that she had to if she didn't want to, or if she felt she was too close to it, "but it will make one hell of a story, especially since the media has so far gotten very few details from Henderson."

"Did Clark write anything up yet?" Lois asked, and Perry's heart sank.

**Here we go. Rivals again. Doesn't she realize that Clark risked his own life for her, not for the story?** "I don't know Lois, he didn't give me anything when he stopped in earlier."

"Where is Clark, Chief?"

"Don't you know? He left rather abruptly, like he always does. He said you'd know where he'd be."

"Oh, that's right." Lois tried to cover up her mistake. "I remember now, he told me he had to meet a source. You know Clark, Chief. He probably remembered the appointment at the last minute."

**Great shades of Elvis! Now both of them are making up stupid excuses when Clark runs off.** But Clark had been doing that almost since he first started at the Planet and he always came back with good copy, a lot of it dealing with Superman's exploits, so Perry couldn't complain. After all those stories were what sold papers. "Hells, bells, honey; I don't care about the story. I'm just glad you and Clark are both all right after going up against that nutcase Trask a third time. Can't say I'm sorry he's dead."

"Thanks, Chief," Lois told him. Leaving him, she walked over to her own desk and turned on her computer. She checked her e-mail first and, sure enough, Clark had left her a message with three text attachments.


Here's my take on the story. Use as much or as little of it as you want to. Maybe this one will get you that Pulitzer.


Perusing the text attachments, Lois noted that Clark fleshed out the bare details of the story in his write-up by giving the reader insight into Jason Trask's character. He also let them experience Clark's own feelings of desperation at finding himself and Lois in the hands of a killer with no conscience, a man who would shoot them as easily as another might squash an annoying bug.

**He's not just a good reporter and a good man,** Lois thought remembering Perry's assessment of Clark when he was a green reporter, **He's one of the best newspaper writers I've ever read and the best man I'll ever know.**

Clark had given full credit to the excellent police work of Inspector Henderson and the Metropolis police department, making them in effect the 'heroes' of the affair. What's more he reminded his readers, subtly of course, that the City's uniformed workers accomplished that sort of thing almost on a daily basis.

Absent from the story was any mention of Jason Trask's real motives. Clark only reiterated Henderson's public statement to the media earlier that Trask's reason for kidnapping Lois Lane died with him. The Kryptonite bomb was not mentioned and Lois had no intention of including that in the write-up either.

Lois added her unique perspective to Clark's copy and LANed the completed story to Perry White. Five minutes later, Perry walked past Lois's desk and said, "I want to see you in the small conference room, privately. Now, Lois."

**What's his problem?** The story had been completely backed up by 'hard facts.' What could be harder than the official Metropolis police department report which was one of Clark's other attachments and which, Lois had no doubt, Perry had a copy of as well? Could Perry suspect that she and Clark knew more than they were telling? Well, no matter, the information Clark had left out was going to stay out of the story and out of the public record. **Some things about Superman, the public doesn't have to know.**

Motioning Lois to take the seat opposite him, Perry closed the conference room door and sat down opposite her, his back to the newsroom. For a minute or two, he just looked at her.

**Putting me on the hot seat. Well it's not going to work this time.** "Chief is there some sort of problem with the story?" Lois challenged.

"No, not at all. It's a great story." Perry was being unusually effusive in his praise.

"I'm glad you think so, Perry. Your approval is always appreciated."

Speaking slowly as if to a child, Perry began. "Lois, I can tell by the different parts of the copy that you wrote some sections and Clark wrote others."

"Is that a problem?" Lois asked innocently.

"No, of course not."

"Then why haven't you already sent it to printing?" Lois wasn't giving anything away to her editor's probing.

"The byline, Lois. It reads by Lois Lane and Clark Kent."

"So? I'm the senior investigative reporter. My byline should be first."

Perry decided to get right to the point. "I thought you worked alone; that you and Clark are rivals. Even on the few shared bylines, you two never had equal billing."

**Ah, I'm beginning to understand.** "Chief, Clark left his part on my computer. He must have written it before he left to … to meet his source." She almost told Perry more than he needed to know about Clark's extracurricular activities, and Lois got an idea of how complicated her lover's life must be with two separate personas. She would, she vowed silently, think up more plausible excuses for Clark's disappearing acts in the future. "I can LAN you the original copy attachment if you need to see it." She wasn't going to share with him or anyone else the third text attachment. Fortunately, Clark had password protected that one from prying eyes.


Sorry I had to run out on you again. At least you know why now. I'll be back just as soon as I can.

I couldn't think of a good excuse so I told Perry you'd know where I am. Just hedge for a while. Perry usually forgets whatever excuse I give by the time I get back anyway.

You were the only one who cared enough to get angry when I ran off. <bg>

I love you, Clark

"Actually, Chief," Lois began deciding to get a few things out in the open. "I'm getting tired of always working alone. I think it's time I had a partner I can count on and you yourself told me Clark would make a good one."

**At last,** Perry thought. "So is this a permanent partnership or just an occasional one?" He hoped it would be permanent.

"Why don't you ask Clark?" Lois laughed. She'd seen the elevator door open and Clark walk down the ramp into the pit.

Turning, Perry called out, "Clark, in here," to his second most valuable employee.

Clark ran over and joined Perry and Lois at the conference room table.

After telling Clark how much he liked their joint piece on Lois's kidnapping, during which he'd been too absorbed in what he was saying to notice the look that passed between his reporters, Perry asked if Clark was agreeable to putting aside their rivalry in favor of a permanent partnership. Clark's face told him everything he needed to know, so he told them to check over the copy one final time on the networked computer in the conference room. If they had any changes, they'd better send them to him within ten minutes. He intended to send the story to printing right after that.

After Perry carefully closed the door behind him, Lois and Clark sat for five minutes, neither of them saying anything. Finally Clark ventured, "Whatever your wrote is fine with me."

Laughing, Lois told him, "the byline reads Lois Lane and Clark Kent. After all I'm the senior partner."

Instead of laughing with her, Clark said nothing. When he spoke he began hesitantly, "Lois about being partners … "

**Oh no! Maybe Superman really doesn't want to get involved permanently with an Earth woman!** Lois jumped up and turned away from Clark, her emotions going into shutdown mode, although she found that hard to believe. She knew she was bright and attractive and there had been no mistaking Clark's response to their love making this morning. **No ordinary man could fake that.**

**Since when is Clark Kent, Superman, Kal-El an ordinary man?** Lois's inner voice queried sarcastically.

**Maybe I only heard what I wanted to hear last night when Clark was asleep. Maybe I turned him off so often over the past year that he doesn't want me after all.** The anguished thoughts ran through her brain.

Clark had seen Lois's face close off and his own heart plunged. He'd been on such an emotional roller coaster for the past year that he wasn't sure he could survive yet another steep plunge. Whatever the outcome, they had to get this sorted out now. He stood up and said to her back, "Lois I-I don't think I can be just partners anymore, even permanent partners."

"So, you don't love me, is that it?" Lois whispered refusing to turn around.

"No, Lois! Whatever gave you that idea?" Clark had to raise his voice to get Lois's attention. "I love you more than anything or anyone on this Earth," he concluded quietly but forcefully.

"Really?" Lois turned toward him.

"Yes, really!"

"Then, why don't you want to be partners?" Lois wailed, baffled.

"That wasn't what I said," Clark soothed, pulling her into his arms. "I said I don't want to be just partners. Lois, I want more, I want to … to marry you."

Since she didn't immediately reject the idea, he elaborated. "I want to go to sleep beside you every night and wake up every morning to your beautiful face. I want us to lie in the sunshine all day and watch videos all night together." Dropping his voice so they couldn't be overheard, he whispered, "I want to 'fly you to the moon and play among the stars.' Lois I want to be with you whenever and wherever I'm able."

"Oh, Clark, I love you and I want all those things too."

Now Clark hesitated. He wanted this so much, but he knew it had to be Lois's choice and she had to understand what that choice entailed. Pulling her tight against him, he said, "Lois, you said that being Superman is no picnic. Being Superman's wife is not going to be easy either." He released her and stepped away before going on.

"I am that extra-terrestrial that Trask wanted to locate. There will always be people trying to get to me out of hatred or envy or because they want to use my powers for their own ends. You could become a target too."

"Clark, if you're worried about that now, you're a bit late here." Then Lois realized that he'd indeed been worrying about just that thing. **So that explains part of the nightmare, my love.** "Clark, I've been getting into and out of trouble since I was a teenager. I'm probably uniquely qualified to be Superman's wife as far as that's concerned. Nothing like experience you know," she told him with a quirky smile.

Although one anxiety had been abated by Lois's words, Clark had to go on, painful though it was. "I am an alien, not a human. Trask was right about that, but he was wrong about my leading a Kryptonian invasion force." Bitterly he added, "I'm the last of my kind. There is no invasion force because there are no other Kryptonians; they all died in the planet's explosion. My race, my culture, my heritage are all gone. Lois, I'm more alone than any other person on this Planet has ever been."

Lois heard the second part of Clark's nightmare and she said softly, "you're not alone, anymore."

"I know so little about myself, so little about Krypton and its people."

"You have the globe. Clark, it was yours all along and I blamed you for keeping it."

"You had no way of knowing," he reminded her soothingly. "Lois, if you marry me, you'll have to share my alien isolation. You won't be marrying an ordinary man. With my powers come responsibilities.

I'll always be leaving you to do super stuff. You won't be able to plan … an outdoor barbecue with the neighbors because we'll never be typical suburbanites. You won't be able to tell your Mom and Dad why I left you in the middle of an anniversary dinner. You'll be left behind during so many important functions, birthdays, holidays, the Daily Planet Christmas party; whatever it is, an emergency could come up and I'd leave because I have to.

If we have children, and that's definitely not a given, they'll have a father who'll miss, more often than not, teacher conferences and PTA meetings, little league games and school plays. The possibilities are endless. Life for our kids will be just like your own childhood was," he told her regretfully.

It was Lois's turn to be bitter now. "No, that's not true. I resented Dad's absences because I knew that he didn't want to be around my sister or me. His work was more important to him than we were, especially since we were only girls." In spite of her growing accord with her father and her debt to him for yesterday, the pain was deep and would not go away so easily. As one might with a small child, Clark tried to take some of the hurt away by kissing Lois softly on the forehead. Lois understood and was comforted.

"Clark, our children, if we have them someday, will be the luckiest boys or girls in the world because they'll know that their father loves them. Even before they know the secret, they'll know that you're not there because you can't be, not because anything — anything — is more important to you then they are," she concluded putting that fear to rest at least for now.

Clark had one more question that needed to be answered. **Does she love me, Clark, or is it still Superman she wants? I guess I'll never know.** He almost wished she didn't know his secret … almost but not quite.

**Stop complaining, Kent. No matter which part of you she loves, you have so much more than you ever dreamed possible.** It was that little inner voice, and Clark knew it was right. He couldn't ask that question but he could point out a related truth. "Lois you have to be absolutely certain that you want to marry me, no doubts, no hesitation. You have to know you love me the way I know that I love you."

After last night, Lois understood her Clark far more clearly than he realized and she thought, **That's it, isn't it, my love, the last part of the nightmare when you said you're Clark, not Superman. You want to be loved not because of the superpowers but for yourself. Well, my love, it's Clark that I love and I know just how to prove it to you.**

Lois smiled. "Clark when I was sixteen I saw a TV show. A very wise man was answering questions about marriage and love. A girl about the same age as me called in and asked him 'how can I be sure that my marriage will last?' And the wise man said, 'your answer is told a thousand times a day in a thousand ceremonies uniting two people in a hundred different languages. The Christian ceremony says 'will you love, honor and cherish him, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as you both shall live?' Keep all of these vows and your marriage will last a lifetime.'

Then the young girl asked, 'But how will I know if I really love someone enough to marry him? Not a lot of marriages last that long today, you know.'"

Lois put her hands on either side of Clark's head the way she'd had when she held his head while he was sick. "The man smiled and responded, 'there's a test you can perform, a test guaranteed to ensure that you truly love another. Ask yourself, young lady, do you love this man enough to stay with him while he's violently ill for an hour or more, holding his head for him, and love him the whole time and when it's all over still think he's the most wonderful person you've ever known? If you can answer yes to that question, then you'll know you love him.' I can answer yes to that question, my Clark. I love you, not the guy in the red, yellow and blue suit."

A look of joy filled Clark Kent's face, as he reached into his inside jacket pocket, pulled out an engagement ring and said, "Marry me." He slipped the ring on Lois's finger, not needing a verbal answer, and pulled her into a deep, fervent kiss.


The part about the TV show never took place, but I do remember reading somewhere the bit about how to tell if you really love someone and I k it makes a lot of sense.