By Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted: July 2001
Summary: Another rewrite of TOGOM (the episode "That Old Gang of Mine") by the TOGOM rewrite master <g>. What more is there to say?
Yes, this is yet another TOGOM rewrite! As the title indicates, I seem to be somewhat obsessed with this episode… <g> I want to acknowledge and thank the enormous contribution made to this short (yes, *short*!) story by Kaethel, beta- reader, nagger and bullier extraordinaire. If it wasn't for Kaethel, this story would never have been finished and would have been deleted weeks ago. Of course, you the reader may well decide that it should have been deleted… <g>
All rights in recognisable characters in this story belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers (I'm not sure who Bonnie and Clyde belong to! <g>)
As if in slow motion, Clark watched as Clyde Barrow aimed his gun. At the same time, his brain was working at lightning speed, calculating his various options.
He could move out of its range; but then Lois would be in the direct line of fire.
He could grab Lois and pull her down to the floor, covering her with his body so that she'd be safe; he could just about manage that before Barrow pulled the trigger. But if he did that, then the dozen or so people standing just behind them were in danger, and he couldn't let that happen.
And in any case, he'd have to move at something close to Super-speed to accomplish either of those things.
No, he realised in resignation, his only option was to wait for the bullet to hit him. It would simply bounce off him, he knew, but he could stagger backwards, pretend that it had penetrated his body. And if he managed it well enough, he could ensure that he was hit somewhere which wouldn't be life- threatening for a normal human — the upper arm, the side, somewhere like that — and he could pretend that it had just been a flesh wound. He could wear a bandage for a few days, and pretend to be in some degree of pain.
So all he needed to do was twist his body very quickly as the bullet approached, as it was now doing…
Again, he was able to watch its approach, although he was well aware that it was coming towards him at a rate no human eye could follow. Taking a sharp breath, he turned a little, as planned… but a fraction of a millisecond before the impact, he felt someone shove him.
It was Lois… he could hear her frightened intake of breath as she stood beside him. And she'd pushed him, not realising that he'd already moved. He was now directly in the path of the bullet again, and it was too late to recover. He felt the bullet strike him in the chest, directly over his heart.
He had no choice but to stagger backwards and let himself fall to the floor, one hand pressed firmly over the point of impact so that no-one would be able to see that there had been no penetration.
He would have to play dead. Part of his consciousness was screaming at him to think of the consequences, but there was no time. Unless he pretended to be dead, his secret would be revealed.
Suddenly Lois was crouched beside him, sobbing his name over and over as her hands clutched at him. Through one half-open eye he could see the agonised expression on her face, the tears gathering in her eyes. One large tear fell in a splash on his face. He wanted to pull her into his embrace, to tell her that he was all right, that she shouldn't get upset… but he couldn't. If he did, his identity would be revealed.
He clung to the thought that, maybe, if he was able to get away, or if the gangsters left soon, he might be able to pretend that the bullet hadn't actually penetrated his body; perhaps he could pretend that he'd had something inside his jacket which had absorbed the impact, and that he'd only been stunned and perhaps unconscious. He could pretend to have severe bruising, perhaps, and act as if he was in pain for a few days.
But then he heard Al Capone castigate Barrow for firing the shot, and instructing his companions to remove the 'stiff'. That was a lucky break, Clark thought; if he could keep up the pretence, then he might be able to implement his survival strategy as soon as they dumped him. He could hold his breath for twenty minutes; that ought to be enough.
He felt people grab hold of his arms and begin to drag him. But, to his horror, Lois didn't let go of him! She kept her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, and her body pressed hard against his.
"I'm not letting you take him away!" she yelled. "You can call an ambulance for him! And I'm staying right here until it arrives."
"You got to be kidding, lady," Capone replied sardonically. "The stiff's going. And if the broad won't let go," he added in a louder voice, clearly directed at his fellow gangsters, "take her too. Dump them both somewhere they won't be found."
<Let go, Lois!> Clark willed her; he would have subtly pushed her away himself, or quietly ordered her to let him go, except that he knew that would give him away to more than just Lois.
He heard lots of voices from nearby; bystanders advising Lois to let go, to keep out of it, not to risk her own life. Hoping that she would take the advice, he was disappointed to hear her reject it. "He's my partner. And my best friend. I'm not letting them take him!"
"He's dead!" someone pointed out. "You want to get killed too?"
"I'm not letting him go," she said stubbornly.
Clark lay still, fervently hoping that someone would just pull her away from him. As soon as the gangsters had dumped him, he would evaluate the situation and if he could come up with a way of explaining his apparently miraculous survival, he'd go and see Lois as soon as he could, to reassure her.
But she didn't let go.
He heard someone sigh, then Dillinger said harshly, "You want to go with him, lady? Okay then, you got it!"
Through his partially-opened eye he could see Lois being grabbed around the waist and carried out by Dillinger, while Barrow dragged him out. Once outside the club, Clark was thrown — not without some groans and complaints about his weight — into the back of a large car, and Lois was then pushed in on top of him. She rolled so that she was lying against him, then wrapped her arms around his neck again. Clark could feel moisture on her face, and his heart twisted as he wished there was a way to comfort her.
The car shot off at a speed far in excess of the limit. Lois was jolted initially, and she grabbed at him to steady herself; it occurred to Clark that she didn't appear at all squeamish about clutching what she presumably thought was a corpse. On the other hand, he realised, if she kept holding onto him, and stroking his face as she was now doing, she was going to realise that she *wasn't* holding a corpse! He concentrated hard on controlling his body temperature, making himself appear cooler than normal.
"Clark… oh, Clark, it's all my fault."
He almost gave up his pretence right there and then, on hearing Lois's sobbed words. Now he understood why she'd refused to let go of him. She was blaming herself for his shooting. But why?
"If I hadn't insisted on going in there…"
<It's *not* your fault, Lois!> he wanted to exclaim. If he'd really thought it was too dangerous, he would never have agreed to go to the gambling club. He'd never have got them the password to get in. And since they wouldn't have got in there in the first place without the password, he could just as easily say it was his fault!
"Oh, Clark… Clark… how will I manage without you?" she sobbed, barely audible. "I love you, Clark…"
She stopped speaking then, and simply lay beside him, half on top of him, with one arm around his waist and the other gently stroking his face and his hair.
Shocked by her words, Clark had to exert considerable pressure to prevent himself reacting in some way. Lois *loved* him?
Of course, she probably meant as a friend. That was, after all, what she'd always meant when she'd told him she loved him. So he shouldn't put too much store by it. All the same, it seemed that she cared about him more than he'd realised. That, at least, was gratifying.
"I should have told you… Why did I never tell you?" she was whimpering, her face pressed against his neck. "All this time, I knew… and I left it too late… I let myself be scared instead of admitting how I really felt…" Her voice trailed off, and more tears dampened his neck and collar.
He so badly wanted to put his arms around her and comfort her, tell her that he was alive and well, and that he loved her too. And that he understood that she'd been scared, that he'd been scared too. But again he had to force himself to recognise that this was *not* the right time or place. He had to wait until he could get her safely away from their captors without compromising either her safety or his identity.
Instead, he forced himself to concentrate on what was happening. As it was dark inside the car, Clark was able to keep one eye open, which enabled him to work out where they were headed. He was none too surprised when they ended up by a disused dock at the Hobbs River.
"Right, into the river with them," Dillinger said harshly.
"What, the broad too?" Barrow queried, clearly surprised.
"She's too nosey for her own good. Yeah, her. Tie her to the stiff, that should do it."
"Kind of a waste, isn't it?" Barrow complained.
"You better not let Bonnie hear you say that!" Dillinger pointed out caustically. "And if you don't want me to tell her, you'll do as I say! Get her out of the car. And no, I'm not waiting while you have some fun with her. Get moving!"
<Lois, run!> Clark screamed mentally. He knew that Lois wouldn't be in any real danger; if it became absolutely necessary, he'd find a way to save her, even if it meant letting the gangsters into his secret. But surely she couldn't allow them to tie her up and dump her in the river?
He felt her move, hunching up over his body. After an infinitesimal pause, she caressed his cheek tenderly with one hand and kissed his lips; he could taste the salt of her tears, and his heart twisted painfully yet again. "Goodbye, Clark," she whispered, in a voice which he knew would haunt him for a long time.
Then, carefully, slowly, she was scrambling off him. He saw her crouch by the door, and it was clear that she was preparing to run as soon as the door was opened.
But they were ready for her. She was seized and held tightly by Dillinger, while Barrow began to tie her up. Lois refused to remain docile, however, lashing out and using the variety of self-defence tricks she'd picked up over the years. After a couple of hard kicks had connected, though, Barrow drew his gun and simply hit Lois over the back of the head with it. She gave a low moan and slumped to the ground.
Clark was about to rush out of the car and grab her, seizing the gangsters at the same time. But he reminded himself that since there were two of them, and they had guns, a normal person wouldn't be able to overpower them. Which would mean that he would be identified as Superman — which he'd do in a heartbeat if Lois's life was at risk. She was unconscious right now, which he hated, but if they were tying her up then they weren't planning on killing her right now. He could afford to wait to see what they were planning, he thought.
If the car door hadn't been standing wide open, he could have done a lightning- fast change and appeared as Superman before anyone could realise where the Super-hero had come from. But that wasn't possible either.
And anyway, if he did anything right now it was perfectly possible that one or both of the gangsters could shoot, and the last thing he wanted to risk was Lois getting hurt by a stray or ricocheting bullet.
<Wait> he told himself. Once the gangsters had gone, he could help Lois. She was only unconscious, and he could see that she wasn't bleeding. She would have a headache, and possibly concussion at most. He could wait a little longer.
They dragged him out and lashed Lois to him. Her thin red dress represented very little covering, and he felt both embarrassed and guiltily aroused by the fact that he could feel every curve and line of her body. The gangsters dragged the two to the water's edge; Clark made sure that he remained underneath the whole time, so that Lois wouldn't get hurt, and he also deliberately made himself heavier, so as to make it harder for Barrow and Dillinger to move them — not because he wanted to delay matters, but because exacting that small measure of revenge made him feel better.
But finally, they pushed, and Clark felt himself and Lois roll over the dock and into the inky-dark water.
He took one deep intake of breath before they hit the water, then covered Lois's mouth with his own. He intended to let them sink, and remain submerged until Dillinger and Barrow were satisfied; therefore, he needed to ensure that Lois had sufficient oxygen in the meantime.
Breaking the bonds which lashed them together was simple. As they sank, Clark held Lois to him with one strong arm around her waist, and pinched her nose with his free hand to prevent her accidentally inhaling water. At the same time, he breathed gently into her mouth.
He controlled their descent with swift movements of his feet; they'd sunk, but he was also ensuring that they moved horizontally at the same time. By the time he heard the two gangsters commenting that they couldn't see their prisoners any longer, Clark had manoeuvred himself and Lois some way upstream.
Keeping Lois supplied with oxygen was making his own reserves deteriorate more rapidly; he would have to surface very soon. He had to hope that it was dark enough for Dillinger and Barrow not to see two human figures emerge from the river.
But just as he was bringing Lois and himself up to the surface, he heard the car start. They were leaving!
With a sigh of relief, Clark shot upwards. Once his head cleared the water, he pulled his mouth away from Lois's and breathed deeply. At the same moment, he heard her cough, and her hands clutched at him.
"What… happened?" she gasped, in between coughs. "Why…?"
"It's okay, Lois," Clark said quickly, still holding her firmly and keeping them floating. "Barrow and Dillinger have gone, and I can get us out of the water now."
"*CLA—*???" Lois began.
Clark had to act quickly; he had no idea who else might be in the vicinity and he didn't have time to check. He was holding Lois afloat, so his hands weren't free. He covered her mouth with his in a hard kiss, stifling the remainder of her shocked yell.
She was dead. Or dying. She had to be. There was no other explanation for what was happening. Either this was some sort of after-life experience, or she was unconscious and dreaming.
Clark was dead. She'd seen him shot at point blank right in front of her; she'd seen him clutch his chest and fall. She'd been pressed up against his body ever since, and he *hadn't been breathing*. She knew that for a fact.
And in any case, there was no way that he could have survived that gunshot wound. If it hadn't killed him instantly — and she was convinced that it had — then he would have died of his injuries, or bled to death, within a very short time.
Not that she remembered much blood…
But that was beside the point. Clark was dead. He had to be. And Dillinger and Barrow had been about to dump her in the river along with him, tied to his body so that she would drown. And she was *in* the river… so she should be dead too.
Not floating half-out of the water, Clark's hands supporting her waist, her hands clutching at him, and with Clark kissing her!
Apart from the fact that Clark was dead and so this couldn't really be happening, *if* by some totally ludicrous chance that it was real they wouldn't be floating like this, as if one or both of them could walk on water. Neither of them appeared to be treading water or holding onto anything, so they should be sinking.
And yet she was simply floating upright, without any means of support, and a dead man was kissing her.
He'd just spoken to her, too, and he'd sounded so like Clark…
But of course he would, she told herself. She was dreaming, or dead, or something. Of course she'd hear Clark's voice just as she remembered it.
Well, she thought, as long as she was dead, or hallucinating, she might as well enjoy the kiss… Clark always was a good kisser, she thought dreamily. Not that they'd ever kissed for real, which was a pity… he was definitely a very handsome man and, even though she'd always denied it, she *had* been attracted to him. More than just attracted; as she'd confessed in the car, far too late, she'd been in love with him.
She slid her arms up and around his neck, sliding her tongue forward to touch his lips. His arms tightened around her, pulling her even more closely against him. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she noticed that his clothing was soaking wet, and it felt cold against her very thin — and also soaking wet — dress. That was odd, she thought, surprised; surely mundane things like that shouldn't be part of her hallucination?
But she pushed that aside and raked her fingers through Clark's hair, which was also very wet. She heard him moan deep in his throat, and she exulted at the power she had over his response. If only they'd tried this while they were both still alive… She'd wasted over a year which they could have had as a couple, if only she'd known just how good they could have been together…
He tore his mouth away from hers. "Lois!" he hissed urgently.
"No," she moaned, trying to pull his face back down to hers. "Kiss me again…"
"Lois!" This time his tone was sharper. "Lois, we have to get out of here! You'll catch your death of pneumonia!"
"Can't! I'm already dead, so there!" she threw back at him, again seeking his mouth.
"Lois!" His hands moved to clamp over her shoulders, holding her away from him. "You're not dead — neither of us is. And we have to get out of the river!"
"What?!" she exclaimed, staring at him. He certainly looked whole and normal, the Clark she remembered. But if they were both dead, why would he look any different? If she was hallucinating, she'd certainly remember him as he was.
"I promise you, we're both alive and well — though you won't be for much longer if you don't let me get you out of here!" he said impatiently. "Look, I'll explain everything later, okay?"
Lois hesitated. Could he be telling the truth? For the first time, she took proper notice of her surroundings. Yes, they were in the river, though she still had no idea how they were being supported. And she was *cold*! As soon as she recognised that, she began to shiver uncontrollably.
"Come on," Clark said bracingly. Then she felt herself moving upwards, out of the water, and with no knowledge of how it had happened she found herself standing, dripping, on the dock. Clark was beside her, dragging himself upright.
"Clark… you're really alive?" she choked out, staring at him as if to imprint every single feature in her memory.
He nodded. "Yeah. Not a scratch."
Lois took a stumbling step in his direction, and he opened his arms to her, embracing her warmly. She felt his lips in her hair, and she reached up to stroke his face. His *beloved* face; she knew that now.
She'd come so close to losing him, and she'd never told him how much he mattered to her.
That was a mistake she wouldn't make again.
She had Clark back, alive and, it seemed, in one piece, *and* they'd just shared that blissful, wonderful kiss which had made her forget everything but his closeness and his skilled, talented mouth. Her best friend had come back to her, and she had never been so grateful for anything in her life before. She loved Clark, had finally realised it only when she'd thought it was too late, and had been contemplating a long and lonely life without him. And now she had him back, and this time she wouldn't waste her opportunities. This gorgeous, special man was very dear to her and, she thought, she was dear to him too. If he didn't love her the way she loved him, she certainly knew that he was very attracted to her.
She was about to tell him how much she cared about him, but he was beginning to speak.
"This isn't really the time or the place, but I have to tell you before we do anything else. Lois, you asked how come I'm alive. I have a… cover story, but I owe you — *only* you — the truth."
"The truth?" She stared at him, bemused.
"Yes." He removed his glasses and tucked them in his jacket pocket. She stared harder; it was dark and she couldn't see him clearly, but even in the dim light she thought he no longer looked like Clark. Instead, he looked like… someone else.
Someone she knew well, or thought she did.
Someone she'd been in love with from the moment she'd seen him.
Someone she'd declared her love to, and who had rejected her.
Someone she'd finally decided was out of reach.
"S…Superman…?" she stammered, unsure whether it was due to nervousness or the fact that she was dripping wet and freezing cold. Superman was Clark? But… how could she not have seen? How could he not have told her? What kind of games had he been playing with her?
He'd *lied* to her! He'd been pretending, for as long as she'd known him! And as she stared at him, a whole series of embarrassing images flooded her mind… telling Clark that he was the before and Superman the way, way after; swooning over Superman the whole time and ignoring Clark; practically throwing herself at Superman any chance she got; rejecting Clark's declaration of love and then telling Superman that she'd love him even if he was an ordinary man with no powers at all… oh, that was the worst! She cringed inside, even as she continued to stare disbelievingly at Clark.
Clark inclined his head. "Yes, I'm Superman. And I need to get you warm and dry," he added quickly, sounding concerned, then seemed to rake her up and down with his gaze.
She felt the heat instantly, like a warm blanket cloaking her. Within seconds, her dress was dry, her hair less drenched, and her body considerably warmer. And if she'd needed concrete proof that Clark was not what he'd seemed, she thought bitterly, she now had it. In spades.
As her shivers died away, anger continued to boil up inside her as she took in all the ways in which Clark had been deceiving her; how this man, whom she'd thought of as her best friend, in whom she'd confided more than she'd ever done with anyone before in her life, had hidden this most important truth about himself.
"You *bastard*!" she yelled. "You never told me! You *lied* to me!"
"Not here!" Clark — Superman — said crisply, and before she realised his intent he'd scooped her up into his arms and was shooting skywards.
She thumped at his chest, a mistake, she quickly realised. "What are you *doing*?" she demanded.
"Taking you somewhere where we can both get dry clothes and we can talk," he said calmly, ignoring her temper.
"Always assuming that I want to talk to you!" she retorted.
"Well, there is that," he conceded, and she was convinced that he was smiling, even though she was unable to see his face. "But I think, knowing you, that you probably have a lot of questions, and if you don't talk to me you won't get a chance to ask them."
"You think you're so smart!" she threw at him.
"No." Now his tone was quieter. "I'm not smart at all, Lois. If I had been, I'd have figured out before now how to tell you the truth about me. Because, believe me, Lois, you're the only person — other than my parents, who know it all anyway — I ever wanted to tell."
She caught her breath at that. Superman — okay, Clark, but he was still Superman — had actually considered telling her his secret, out of all the no doubt thousands of people he could have chosen to confide in?
But then she had to ask herself whether she could believe him.
If anyone had asked her, before this evening, whether she would believe implicitly anything Clark said to her, she'd probably have answered in the affirmative, without hesitation. Oh, she knew that he didn't always tell her the entire truth about everything — there were the pathetic excuses he gave when he ran off, for example. But, somehow, she'd always known that his motive was not to hurt or deceive her.
She hadn't believed him when he'd tried to warn her about Lex Luthor a few months earlier, her conscience pointed out; she'd assumed that he was simply jealous. But then, she'd been wrong to ignore his warnings, and that had taught her — or rather, reminded her of what she'd known all along, deep down — that Clark wouldn't make claims like that without being sure of his ground.
So, Clark was probably one of the very few people she would have trusted implicitly — and Superman was one other.
Yet Clark — and, by the same token, Superman — had been lying to her and deceiving her as long as she'd known him. So much for the oh-so-moral partner who frowned at her whenever she wanted to use a little white lie in order to get at information for a story! When she remembered all the little lectures he'd given her over the past year…! What a hypocrite! He'd even deceived her tonight; all the time she'd been weeping over what she'd thought was his dead body, he'd been alive and, no doubt, listening to everything she'd said.
She cringed at the memory of one or two of the things in question…
And yet Clark wasn't a deceiver. She could have sworn to that. So why had he deceived her about this?
<Because he had to. Because this is no ordinary secret. Because if he told you, that would be one more person who knew and one more person he had to worry about. And you're a reporter… even if he trusts you as his friend, how could he risk having a *reporter* know that truth?>
Because, Lois admitted to herself, no matter how much Clark valued her friendship, this was probably a secret too deep even for him to confess. And anyway, what reason had she ever given him to confide in her about this?
She was his best friend, she reminded herself in irritation, glad that Clark was now concentrating on flying and not trying to talk to her.
<Some friend!> her conscience pointed out. <You treated him like dirt for weeks, while at the same time you fawned over him in the Suit! And then you accepted him as a friend, but still fawned over his alter ego, and even moaned to him when Superman didn't take you up on any of your blatant hints! *And* then you blew him off when he told you he loved you, then pleaded with him as Superman to love you instead — *and* you had the nerve to tell him that you'd love him even if he didn't have any powers!>
Lois groaned inwardly at the painful reminders of how she'd treated Clark. She must have made some sound, however, for he looked down at her.
"Lois? Are you okay? We're almost at my place…"
The concern in his expression shook her to the core. It wasn't just that she'd seen that anxious, caring look on Superman's face many times before. It wasn't even that she'd seen Clark looking at her like that, as if he was desperately worried and wanted to help.
It was that, suddenly, she'd recognised his expression as one she'd seen on *both* of their faces on several occasions. The same expression. The same gentle, worried brown eyes. The same caring look. And she'd never realised.
She'd be angry with herself later. But for now, she could only remember another time when she'd seen Clark look at her in that anxious, desperate-to-help way.
On the day of her wedding to Lex Luthor. When she'd come running out of the ceremony, followed by Perry and Jimmy and her mother, and the only thought in her head, and the only words in her mouth, had been, "Where's Clark?"
And he'd been there, in spite of everything; he'd been waiting for her, even though he had to have believed that she was inside getting married to Lex. There was no way Clark could have known that she'd stopped the ceremony, or that the police had arrived to arrest Lex. But he'd been there anyway, in case she might need him — of that she was sure.
And he'd opened his arms to her, holding her close to comfort her — and had even ensured that she hadn't had to witness the sight of her almost-husband crashing to the pavement from the penthouse suite. Putting aside his own hurt over what she'd done to him, rejecting him in favour of, first, Superman and then Lex Luthor, he'd held her and been the best friend she could have asked for.
It occurred to her briefly to wonder why he hadn't rescued Lex, but put that aside for now. Maybe he just hadn't felt able to leave her; maybe the situation wasn't one in which he could have made his escape to change.
What was important about the memory of that time was how she'd hurt Clark.
He must have seen it as a double betrayal, made worse by the fact that he'd told her all along that he didn't trust Lex Luthor.
So, after all that, was it remotely surprising that he hadn't told her about Superman?
Probably not, she thought miserably, and shivered again as Clark set her down gently on his balcony.
"Hey! Come on, let's get you inside," he said, still sounding concerned. "The best thing is if you go straight in the shower. I'll find you something you can wear. And I'll call Perry, in case he's heard — let him know we're okay."
Lois gave him a sharp look as she let him escort her into his bedroom. "You'll call Perry? But if he's heard, he'll think you're dead!"
"I know," Clark agreed quickly. "But I have a plan. It'll be okay."
"Oh, that's right," she said, remembering, her tone faintly sardonic; despite her thoughts on the flight to his apartment, she seemed unable to rein back the sarcasm as his words awakened other memories for her. "You said you had a cover story. Of course, you *always* have a cover story! What is it this time? You weren't really at the club at all — you were returning a video?"
He sighed, looking away for a moment, then turned back to her, his mouth taut. "You really do need to shower and get into some warm clothes, Lois!" he told her, clearly deciding to ignore her outburst. "But okay. I'll show you first." He reached into his jacket pocket — it was only then she realised that he'd somehow managed to change back into his normal clothing — and pulled out his pager and something else. A small cylindrical item, made of metal…
"The bullet!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah; I caught it when it hit me," Clark explained. "See, I can wedge it into my pager and put the pager in the inside pocket of my jacket. And then tell people that the impact stunned me and made me stagger backwards."
"That would work," Lois said slowly, wondering why she was remotely surprised that Clark had come up with a convincing explanation for his survival so easily. "But why did you pretend to be dead, then? How can you explain that? Especially as I was dragged away with you."
"Yeah, and I still want to know why you did that, Lois," he said, sounding exasperated. "Good point, though. *You* know that I pretended to be dead then because I hadn't had time to do *this* yet — " As he spoke, he pushed the bullet firmly into his pager, then put the wrecked pager inside his jacket. "I need a hole here, for the bullet's path, but that won't be hard," he murmured, almost to himself.
"Well, what if we say you hit your head when you fell?" Lois suggested. "If you were unconscious, then that would explain it."
"That would work — thanks." Clark smiled warmly at her. "I really didn't want to say that I just pretended to be dead, even if I did — it would look like I deliberately left you at the mercy of those gangsters. Which I *didn't*!" he added forcefully. "If you hadn't insisted on being brought with me, the first thing I'd have done when they dumped me was go back to make sure that you were okay."
She knew Clark — and Superman — well enough to know that was true, so she simply nodded.
"Now, please, go and shower! We both stink of the river."
"But what about you?" she protested, more out of good manners than anything else; the thought of a hot shower was very appealing.
Clark shook his head. "I think it'd be better if I stayed as I am. I want the police to be able to see the bullet's apparent trajectory for themselves, so I'll leave the suit on. If you can put up with the smell, of course!" He gave her a rueful grin.
It made sense, Lois thought. She was about to turn and head for the bathroom, feeling a sudden longing to get out of her ruined dress, but then Clark spoke again.
"Lois, just what were you thinking of?" he demanded abruptly. "I mean, hanging on to me like that, forcing them to take you with them? You could have been killed! If I had been dead, you would have ended up killed!"
She grimaced, shaking her head slowly. "I don't know. Or… no, I do. I wasn't thinking straight at the time, and yet I knew exactly what I was doing." She gave him a crooked smile, then continued, her voice faltering despite her determination *not* to cry. "They'd killed you, or that's what I thought. They'd … they'd taken you away from me. And then they were going to take you away again, steal your body away and… and just *dump* it somewhere where no-one could find it, and I'd have lost you again. And…" She halted, swallowing, and brushed a stray tear from one eye. "And I just couldn't let them do it."
"Oh, Lois…" Clark's own voice sounded choked, and he took a hesitant step towards her, his hand reaching out. But she took a step backwards, knowing that sympathy or comfort from Clark now would bring on more hot tears which she simply didn't want to deal with right now.
"I need to get cleaned up," she told him abruptly. "I… we can talk after, okay?"
"If you're sure," he said awkwardly. "But, Lois…"
"I'll be okay," she interrupted quickly. "I just… need a few minutes alone, okay? It's not… I'm not mad at you. I just need some time to take this all in."
He nodded. "I'll be in the kitchen."
She hurried into the bathroom and, less than a minute later, was standing underneath clean and blissfully warm water. She was also glad of the space, giving her another opportunity to think.
Now that they were back in his apartment, Clark seemed so… just so *Clark*! If she hadn't seen him push that bullet into his pager, she wouldn't have been able to think of him as possessing Super-powers. He just seemed so normal, the ordinary guy who couldn't open a peanut-butter jar sometimes.
And how many times had she been in this apartment, never realising that Superman lived here?
Superman… or Clark? That was something she was going to have to ask him. Which one was he?
Though she should be able to work that one out for herself, she thought. From what she knew of him, Clark had been Clark Kent all his life. He'd told her once, in the context of some conversation or other, that he was adopted, she remembered; she'd asked whether he was curious about his birth parents, or whether he'd ever tried to find them. He'd said, she remembered, that he thought he knew everything he was ever likely to find out about them and was content with that.
So, he'd grown up as Clark. And Lois knew *exactly* when Superman had first put in an appearance: she'd been there. Superman, therefore, had only been around something over a year. That all suggested that Superman was some sort of under- cover disguise, just like the ones she and Clark wore sometimes when they were investigating. Only much more flashy, of course!
And, of course, something Superman had said to her on that terrible night when she'd tried to tell him she loved him bore that one out. He'd said, "there are things about me you don't know, you may never know." Now that she knew the truth, it was obvious that he'd been hinting that Superman didn't really exist in the form she believed him to.
So, if Superman was a disguise, then she could understand why Clark had invented him, too; that wasn't difficult to work out. Which meant that if she could understand his motives for having a dual identity, and she could understand his motives for not telling her, what was there left to be angry about?
Except that he'd let her think he was dead, and he'd allowed her to weep all over what she'd thought was his dead body — and he hadn't been breathing, and he'd gone so cold! — instead of somehow letting her know that he was okay. And that had been cruel. Very cruel… and very unlike the Clark she knew.
But then, she didn't really know Clark at all, did she?
Emerging from the bathroom wrapped in Clark's large bathrobe, she was grateful to see that he was no longer in the room, and that he'd laid out some clothes on the bed. A sweatshirt, she saw, which would no doubt be swimming on her, and a pair of sweatpants — if they were Clark's, she'd have to roll the legs half-way to her knees before she could wear them!
But, to her surprise and alarm, they fitted almost perfectly. There was no way those clothes belonged to Clark! And, given the size, they almost certainly belonged to a woman.
What woman left her clothes in Clark's apartment?
Did he have a girlfriend she knew nothing about?
But then, if he did it was hardly her business. After all, she was just his friend. Best friends; that was what they'd agreed.
Of course; that was who it would be. After all, Mayson had made it very clear that she liked Clark — more than liked him. And he obviously liked her, too; he hadn't exactly pushed her away when she'd kissed him that time! Though her attitude to Superman seemed a little more ambivalent… how would Clark feel about that, Lois wondered? Or didn't he look any further than Mayson's obvious attractions and her blatant admiration for him?
But then, why should she expect Clark to turn Mayson down? He was a free agent, after all. And he'd told *her* that he didn't love her after all, that it had all been a lie to try to stop her marrying Luthor. So he was entitled to date Mayson. And kiss her. And… make love… to her…
Suddenly Lois felt cold again, and very lonely.
Clark hung up the phone after speaking to their editor, and considered X-raying through to his bedroom to see whether Lois was okay. He'd heard the shower stop running about five minutes or so ago, but there was no sign of her as yet. It wouldn't have taken her long to get dressed, so he wondered what was detaining her.
She knew his secret. At last, he'd been able to tell her — well, he hadn't really had a lot of choice, which had actually made it a lot easier for him. Oh, he could probably have given her the same excuse he planned on giving anyone else, but that thought had barely crossed his mind. He'd *wanted* Lois to know the truth.
He was glad she knew, even if she was still mad at him; even if she did think he'd lied to her and deceived her. That was something they could talk about, and he knew Lois well enough to know that she wouldn't be able to stay mad at him indefinitely. Her innate sense of fairness would make her understand, soon enough, that he hadn't had a lot of choice.
And, the way things had worked out, he'd found out that her feelings for him — Clark — ran a lot deeper than he'd ever imagined; he experienced a guilty frisson at the knowledge that this mattered to him. One of his reasons for not telling Lois the truth had always been that he was afraid she'd want him for Superman and not for Clark; that wasn't something he was proud of, because it suggested that he didn't trust her, or considered her shallow. Regardless of whether it was a commendable motive, however, he now knew that she cared about him.
He didn't place too much weight on what she'd said in the car about loving him, though. At least, he didn't interpret it as anything more than the love he'd known for some time that she felt for him: the love of a very close friend. She'd been upset, shocked, grieving and traumatised; she'd been saying goodbye to someone she'd cared about very deeply. It'd be hardly surprising if, under such circumstances, she misunderstood what she'd felt for him. And he certainly couldn't take advantage of what she'd told him then, or even place any kind of faith in her helpless, devastated confession.
No matter what, no matter if she still insisted that she only loved him as a friend — or as a brother, he thought with a flash of bitter memory — he was still glad that she knew the truth. Now, there were no more secrets between them; he no longer had to lie to her and feel guilty about doing so, knowing that she could see right through some of his flimsy excuses and was no doubt putting her own interpretation on them. She knew he was Superman, and he was glad.
A slight sound from behind him made him turn. Lois stood there, dressed in the clothes he'd left for her and looking waif-like and very vulnerable. His heart twisted at the sight of her, and he fell even more deeply in love at that moment.
"Oh, hey," he said, smiling, hoping that she wouldn't notice his reaction to her. "So Mom's tracksuit fits okay?"
A look of intense surprise flitted across her face, and she blinked. "These belong to Martha?"
"Well, yeah," Clark answered, puzzled. "Who did you think…?" He stopped himself abruptly as the answer occurred to him. "Lois, you *know* I don't have a girlfriend!"
"No?" She gave him a direct look. "What about Ms Assistant District Attorney? She sure acts like she is, the way she drools over you all the time!"
"Mayson?" Now he was really confused. "Lois, I went out with Mayson once! And even then she accused me of having lunch with her just to get information from her." But at the same time, he was wondering why Lois would have thought that Mayson might have left clothes in his apartment… and why her expression suggested that the idea bothered her.
Could Lois be… jealous?
That was a good sign, surely. But he didn't have time to explore the possibilities there any further right now, unfortunately — nor the seemingly- relieved expression which flitted briefly over her face as she took in his denial of a relationship with Mayson. They needed to go to the police, and as soon as possible. And then, he had something else he needed to do… some criminals to catch.
"I spoke to Perry," he told her, making himself focus on their immediate tasks. "He'd had a call from a duty officer, telling him that there'd been an 'incident' at Georgie Hairdo's club and that we were both missing. Seems someone who was there recognised you — I have no idea how — and told the cops, and then a police officer recognised me from a description and showed the witness a photo — he ID'd me. Perry thought we were probably both dead."
Lois winced. "Was he upset?"
"Well, when he heard my voice, I think he'd have hugged me if I'd been anywhere near him!" Clark joked, but he remembered the emotion in Perry's voice and quickly sobered. "He was pretty cut up, Lois. When I told him that you were safe and here with me, he just couldn't speak." He'd never heard his boss sound like that before, and it had given Clark quite a shock. He'd known that Perry was fond of his staff, some more than others, but hadn't quite appreciated how deep those feelings ran before now.
"Oh, god…" Lois said, her voice sounding choked. "I guess he was probably pretty shook up… devastated… like I felt earlier. When I thought *you* were dead!"
It was Clark's turn to wince. "Lois, I'm really sorry for what I put you through! But I honestly couldn't think of any other way around it. I couldn't pretend the bullet hadn't hit me, I was too close to Barrow for that. And it hit me straight in the chest. I'd either have been killed outright or been fatally wounded."
"Couldn't you have moved out of the way?" she shot at him accusingly. "You *are* Superman, after all!"
Clark closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. "Lois, I *did* try to move! But you pushed me, and that put me right back in the path of the bullet again! I'd turned so that the bullet would've hit me in the arm — I could've pretended that it'd glanced off me or something. But then you shoved me, and it was too late to move again."
He saw her eyes widen, an expression of horror on her face. "*I* pushed you into the line of fire?" she choked out.
Clark nodded; he hadn't wanted her to know that, but she'd asked the question and he had to be honest with her. "I know you were trying to help. And I appreciate that, believe me! But… well, it meant that it was too late to avoid getting hit, at least not without some questions I wouldn't've been able to answer."
Lois visibly swallowed. "Oh, no… I never meant…" She trailed off, turning away, and went to sit down at the kitchen table. Dropping her head into her hands, she muttered, "You mean that if I hadn't pushed you, then you wouldn't have been killed?"
It took all of Clark's Super-hearing to catch her words. Then he hurried to her side, hunkering down beside her and reaching up to cover her hands with one of his. "Lois, no! Come on, you know I'm not dead!"
She raised tortured eyes to his. "But if you weren't Superman, you would be! And it would be my fault!"
Up until that moment, despite the fact that he'd heard her anguished cries in the gambling den, felt the dampness of her tears for him against his skin, and listened to her sobs and pleas as she'd lain against him in the car all the way to the docks, Clark hadn't fully understood just how much his apparent death had meant to Lois. Even though she'd told him, while thinking him dead, that she loved him, even though she'd sobbed that she didn't know how she was going to live without him — and even though she'd kissed him as though she was dying of starvation and he was her only source of sustenance — he hadn't fully appreciated the depth of her sense of loss.
No wonder she'd been overjoyed to discover that he was alive. And no wonder she'd been so upset to find that he'd never died, never even been hurt, but had allowed her to believe both of those things. He'd left her to suffer agonies over him, and he'd blithely assumed, or so it seemed to him now, that she'd be fine once he explained the truth to her. Not only fine, but so happy to have him back that those moments of despair would simply not matter.
How shallow could he be? No, how shallow had he imagined Lois to be?
"I'm sorry," he whispered, shifting to pull her into his arms. She came, unresisting, and he scooped her up, sitting on the chair and holding her cradled in his lap, uncaring of his still-damp business suit or the fact that he knew he smelt of the river still. Childlike, she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in the crook of his shoulder. And Clark put aside any thought of going straight to the police precinct, at least for the moment. Lois needed him here.
Clearly, shock was now setting in, which was hardly surprising, he thought, dropping a tender kiss on the top of her head. She'd had a pretty traumatic evening, in all. And, while almost getting killed was certainly nothing new for Lois, thinking she'd lost her best friend, and then discovering that he wasn't who she'd imagined him to be, was something out of the ordinary. He couldn't think of many other people of his acquaintance who would have coped with it all as well as she had so far.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that," he murmured, stroking her back in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. "I wish I could've let you know sooner that I was okay, but I was afraid that if I said anything you'd react and they'd hear. And I was determined they weren't going to hurt you."
She sniffed a little, and he realised that she was choking back tears. His heart twisted, and he automatically tightened his arms around the fragile body pressed against his.
"It hurts, Clark!" she mumbled after a few moments. "I mean, you're my best friend, and you knew I thought you were dead! You knew I was devastated, and you never said a word. You never even made any attempt to let me know that you weren't dead! You could have… you could have squeezed my hand, or whispered to me or… or something!"
"Lois…" he said on a long sigh. "How could I? If I'd squeezed your hand, you might have screamed! I couldn't take that chance. Not when there were two bozos with guns in the front seat!"
"I know…" she murmured, so softly her words were barely audible. "Doesn't stop it hurting, though!"
"I know." Unconsciously echoing her words, Clark brought one hand up to comb gently through her hair. "And I'm sorry, Lois, you know that."
"I know," she agreed, her voice still soft, her words almost lost against his hair, where she'd buried her face. "And I know you told me the truth — the *whole* truth — as soon as you could." Then, pulling away from him a little, she added, "But what if I hadn't been with you? In the car, I mean, and then in the river. Would you have told me the truth then? Everything?"
Clark blew out a long breath. "I just don't know, Lois. I know — I'm *sure* — I'd have gone to see you just as soon as I could, to let you know that I was alive. I mean, I had a way to explain my being alive anyway. Whether I'd have told you about Superman… I just don't know." He paused, then sighed.
"See, I *have* wanted to tell you the truth for so long. But then something always stopped me — not knowing how you'd react, afraid it would change how you see me, knowing you'd be mad… and I guess I was avoiding the inevitable confrontation. Call it cowardice, maybe, but it was just easier to put it off."
He'd expected a combative response to that, but Lois surprised him. "I know. I mean, I understand why you didn't tell me before. I was thinking about that earlier, while you were flying me here. And I know my behaviour didn't make it any easier for you to think about telling me."
Taken aback, he gave her an arrested look. "Really? I'm… glad, Lois. Really glad. It wasn't all you, though. I mean, sure, the fact that you seemed to… like Superman a lot made it difficult. And then you got engaged to the one person I — Superman — considered an enemy, so there was no way I could have told you the truth then. And then after…"
"After, we were too busy learning how to be friends again," Lois said softly. "I guess telling me about your disguise then would've complicated things too much."
"Well, either that or I was just being a coward," Clark said with a wry grin. "I'd just got you back in my life, even though I had to lie to you to do it, and I couldn't face the thought of you hating me because of another lie."
That made her stare at him, frowning her incomprehension. "You lied to… get me back? But… Do you mean when you told me you lo — loved me?"
He shook his head. "No; when I said I didn't. That was the lie."
"What?!" Lois jumped off his knee and stood facing him, arms akimbo and a disbelieving expression on her face. "You mean you humiliated me like that and it was all a lie?"
Clark got to his feet, raking his hand through his hair and staring at her in confusion. "Humiliated? Lois, I didn't —"
"You *humiliated* me! I was all set to tell you how I really felt about you, and you cut me off and told me you'd *lied* about loving me!"
Now she was angry again, her tears forgotten, and Clark sighed inwardly. She'd only just got over being angry about his being Superman, and now she was venting her fury about something else altogether — something he'd done with *her* interests in mind!
"Have you any idea why I lied then?" he demanded. "Think about it, Lois!"
She glared at him. "You know, Clark, I really have no idea. But then, as I've just found out this evening, I really don't know you at all, do I?"
"That's not fair!" Clark accused. "You knew me better than anyone else other than my folks. There was only one thing I hadn't told you about me. And how many things have you not told me about yourself?"
"Yeah, well, I don't fly around in a Spandex suit as a hobby!"
Clark sighed suddenly and spun away from her. "Lois, why are we fighting again?" he said tiredly. "You almost got killed tonight. I don't want to fight with you. In case you missed what I was telling you, I *love* you. Even if you never love me back, or want me as anything more than a friend."
There was silence for several seconds. Then, to his surprise, he felt a hand pressing gently against his back.
"Clark, I'm sorry. I'm being a bitch, aren't I? Especially when only an hour ago I thought *you* were dead. You probably think I didn't mean a word of anything I said in the car." Her voice cracked on the final sentence, and Clark immediately turned around and pulled her back into his arms.
"Shh, it's okay, it doesn't matter. It's been a traumatic night," he murmured, stroking her back and trying not to think of what she meant in relation to her words to him earlier. She was still over-wrought; it wouldn't be fair of him to take advantage of the fact that her grief had led her to say more than she probably felt. He ignored that and focused on what they'd been talking about a minute ago. "Oh, and you want to know why I lied then?"
"Yeah," she answered immediately.
He took a deep breath. "Okay. It was for you. You'd just been through all that traumatic stuff with the wedding and finding out that Luthor was a criminal. You needed your friends — you needed me, I think. And I figured that the last thing you wanted was a friend who was in love with you. So I didn't think we could go back to what we had if you thought I was in love with you. And that's why I took it back."
She was silent again for several moments. Then she pulled back from him and looked up, smiling. "You know, if it was anyone else… But that's just so typically you, Clark! And you haven't a clue what I wanted to say to you, I'll bet?"
Clark shook his head. "I didn't even want to think about it. I… guess… I thought you wanted to reiterate that you only saw me as a friend."
But Lois shook her head, lowering her lashes as she continued to look at him. "I wasn't. Not that time."
That made Clark frown. What was she hinting at? And what had she meant when she'd said something about how she really felt about him? And why was she looking at him in that way? Her expression was almost shy. And Lois never looked shy…
…except when she'd been with Superman, in the early days, desperately hoping that he'd notice her as more than just a competent reporter. In the days when she'd had a crush on Superman.
He had a mental flashback to those long minutes while he was pretending to be dead and Lois was weeping over him. She'd said then that she loved him.
But he'd been sure that she'd meant it in the same way she always had — that she loved him as a best friend, perhaps as the brother she'd never had. Or that she was too overwrought to know what her real feelings were, and that she was building them up into more than she really felt.
Could it be that she'd meant it differently? That she'd really *meant* what she'd said? That the expression in her eyes now was telling him a completely different, and entirely unexpected, story about her true feelings for him?
There had been that kiss… Okay, from what he could tell she'd thought they were both dead, or that she was dreaming. But she'd responded so beautifully, so enthusiastically, as if kissing him had been the one thing she most wanted to do at that moment. And when he'd stopped, she'd pleaded with him to continue…
But was he reading too much into all this?
"Clark?" Her hesitant voice interrupted his inner debate.
"I… uh, I mean, you have to have worked it out," she began, now sounding unsure of her ground. "Unless it's not what you want…?"
She was beginning to back away, putting distance between the two of them. In an instant, he'd moved towards her and caught her hands. "Lois, are you saying what I think you're saying…?"
He saw her swallow. "Clark… you said you love me. Did… do you mean it?"
Holding her gaze with his, Clark said intently, "Lois, I have never meant anything so much in my whole life. I have loved you since the day I met you. And I love you now, so much that it hurts."
Her hands tightened around his. "Me too. I mean… I love you too. I only realised it tonight, when I thought I'd lost you…" she said, causing Clark to catch his breath as he stared at her, still afraid to let himself believe that she meant it. "No, that isn't true," she corrected herself then. "I've known it for a while. But I wouldn't admit it to myself. I… figured… it was safer to keep you as a friend."
She *really* loved him? It wasn't just an emotional reaction to his supposed death? He wanted so much to believe it… But then, she'd said that she'd known it for a while. And in that case, it couldn't just be a reaction to what had happened tonight. Finally, he let himself believe that it was true. Lois loved him. But she'd been scared to acknowledge her feelings.
"But why?" Clark objected, though a part of him suspected he already knew the answer.
"Because… my relationships always ended up as disasters, and I didn't want to lose you," she whispered. "I figured that if I kept you as a friend, then I wouldn't lose you."
"Lois, haven't you worked it out by now?" Clark demanded. "You're stuck with me. I'm not going to let you go that easily. And I am not going to desert you. Even if this thing between us didn't work out, I'd always be your friend. I promise you that."
She gave him a shaky smile. "You know, you're about the only guy I know who could make me believe that."
"Because I'm Superman?" Clark asked cautiously.
But she shook her head. "No. Because you're *Clark*. And even though you didn't tell me about Superman, I've always known I can trust you. With anything. And I know I was angry when I found out you'd lied about Superman — and about loving me — but I can understand why you did it. And I realised it doesn't change how I feel about you one bit."
Clark stilled, his heart almost in his mouth. "Lois… are you saying… that you want us to be together? As more than friends, I mean?"
She nodded, despite the nervousness which he could see in her expression. "I think tonight taught me that I shouldn't be afraid to take risks where my feelings for you are concerned," she whispered. "I was scared before, and it was just too easy to play it safe and keep you as a friend. But tonight I almost lost you… or I thought I'd lost you. And I realised what a mistake I'd made by never telling you how I felt about you."
"Oh, Lois…" he sighed, tightening his grip on her hands again and twining their fingers together. "Lois, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you, if you'll let me. And I promise I'll never keep secrets from you again."
She sighed audibly, then leaned forward, allowing her body to sink against his. He wrapped his arms around her, hesitating momentarily as he remembered his damp, malodorous suit, but then remembered that only minutes earlier she'd been curled up on his lap, cuddled in his arms.
Seized by a sudden longing, he reached up and tilted her chin towards his face. She gazed up at him, love and need in her eyes; he bent and kissed her, a real kiss, for the very first time unafraid to show her with his lips how much he cared for her. They'd kissed several times before, of course, but those occasions had been pretence in one way or another; now, finally, he was free to express his feelings through their embrace.
All the love he felt for her was there in that kiss, in every brush of his lips over hers, in every stroke of his tongue against hers. She parted her lips for him, allowing him access and returning his kiss fervently, bringing back memories of that kiss while they'd been in the river. Only that had been passionate and desperate; this was deeply loving, sensual and giving. It was a promise, a mutual vow for their future together.
<No longer 'you' or 'me'> Clark thought; <from this moment on, it would be 'us'>
Why had she never before known that Clark kissed like an angel? Or that being held in his arms made her feel like she finally belonged?
She'd always known that there was something special about Clark; something within him which seemed to call to her, which made her trust him and need to have him around. But she'd been too stupid, or too downright cowardly, to recognise it for what it was.
He was her soulmate. He was that one man she'd waited for, longed for, ever since she understood what it was to need someone special in her life.
She'd known it, too; that was why she'd fallen so hard for Superman, she supposed, while at the same time feeling drawn to Clark almost in spite of herself. It had sometimes been hard to understand just why she felt so attracted to Superman; after all, he almost never gave her any encouragement, and he'd been so unattainable. Everyone had assumed that it was the flashy suit and the Super-powers and his chiselled good looks which attracted her; but she'd known it had never been that. Oh, maybe at first it was those which had caught her attention, but it had been the occasional glimpses he'd allowed her to see of the vulnerable, kind, sensitive man underneath which had made her love him.
And at the same time she'd been falling in love with Clark too.
But that was something she'd refused to see, instead preferring to concentrate her affections on the distant Super-hero. After all, Clark was just the guy she worked with; he'd always be there, she'd thought carelessly, even if not consciously. He'd always be around; be her friend and confidant.
Until one split second this evening, when she'd thought she'd lost him for ever…
And she'd finally grasped just why Clark was so special to her. Even without knowing about his sideline.
She loved him. Absolutely and completely, without reservation. Not without trepidation, though; it would be some time before she could get over that fear that something would go wrong, that he'd leave her, that he'd fall out of love with her once he knew what she was really like… but she was willing to trust him when he said that he wasn't going to desert her, that whatever happened to them as a couple he'd always be her friend.
She pressed herself closer still to him, whimpering softly in her throat as she clung to his lips, wanting their kiss to go on for ever.
But eventually she had to come up for breath; inhaling deeply, she rested her head against his shoulder and smiled hazily up at him. He rested his hand in her hair, pressing her closer to him, and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
"I wish we could stay like this," Clark murmured then. "Right now, there's nothing I'd like better than to scoop you up and carry you into the bedroom — just to sleep," he added quickly. "Just to hold you close to me while we sleep."
Lois quivered at the thought. "I'd like that too," she said softly.
"But we can't." Slowly, Clark released her and stood back, sighing. "We still have to go down to the precinct and give our statements. And then you have to go to the Planet and write the story. And Superman has to go out and find Capone and his henchmen. All of which, I guess, is going to take the rest of the night."
Clark was right, much as Lois hated to admit it. She would prefer to stay exactly where they were too, but they had to ensure that reports of Clark's death — and possibly hers too — didn't spread too widely, and it was vital that Capone and the others were apprehended before they killed anyone else. Superman was best placed to find the gangsters, so Clark would have to go anyway.
And there was a big story to write. If she hurried, it might even make the final morning edition, instead of having to be held over until the afternoon. Perry was no doubt holding space in the paper for it — and, if she knew their editor, he wouldn't be at ease until he actually saw that his two star reporters were safe and unhurt. Well, he'd have to see Lois for now, and she'd have to make an excuse for Clark's absence. That made her grin as she considered some of the excuses Clark had made for himself over the past year or so; she couldn't possibly come up with any explanation as thin as some of his had been.
"Okay, so let's go," she said, grinning at him and winding her arms around his neck. "You *are* going to fly us over there, aren't you?"
"Do I have a choice?" he replied, laughing, and lifting her up to hold her against his heart.
His heart. Where she belonged; had always belonged in his dreams, and was now present in reality.
Moments later, they were soaring through the night sky again, just as he'd flown with Lois on so many previous occasions. Only this was different; now, there were no more secrets between them. She knew he was Clark, and she loved him as Clark.
And all thanks to one small bullet… He grinned, vowing to get the bullet back from the police when it was no longer needed for evidence. But then Lois's lips brushed his cheek, and he bent to kiss her again; as their lips met he realised that he didn't need anything else as a reminder of this precious night. Everything he needed was right there, in his arms.
(c) 2001 by Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>