By superach <email@example.com>
Submitted: October 2001
Summary: When Lois inadvertently discovers the truth about her partner, loyalty leads her to perpetuate the lie, even before she is certain of just what she is protecting, and what might come of it…
Author's Notes: See end.
Disclaimer: I have no legal affiliation to "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" nor anything else related to the characters, situations or other things you might recognize. Quite simply, I own nothing but my own words, so please don't sue me!
Clark came rushing into the office, straightening his tie and looking slightly frazzled. He quickly ran a hand through his hair, unconsciously allowing a dark lock to fall naturally over his forehead. He straightened his glasses and then looked around rapidly, immediately zeroing in on his partner, who was on the other side of the room with her back to him. Wincing slightly, he started to make his way over to her, stopping only to pour her a cup of coffee. He knew she'd be mad. Actually, knowing Lois, she'd be furious and not only he, but most of the Daily Planet, would probably be hearing about it for the rest of the day. But Clark did have the element of surprise, and perhaps a caffeinated peace offering would do the trick.
He cleared his throat. Nothing happened. Trying again, Clark offered her the mug. "Lois, I -" he started, but she cut him off.
"Shut up, Clark. Look at this!" Her eyes didn't move from the television screen perched at an angle on the wall. A pretty brunette was reporting prettily on what Clark could only guess was another Superman sighting. Of approximately fifteen minutes ago, to be precise. He rolled his eyes and offered her the coffee again. Without a glance, she took it from him. At that moment, Clark felt more invisible than a four-week old classified.
A couple of seconds later, he took the mug back from her, deciding to claim it for himself before it went cold. She hardly noticed. Clark fought a wave of resentment and told himself that her interest in Superman was purely journalistic, but every time, believed it a little less. For the longest time, Clark had wished that he could tell Lois the truth about his identity, but that urge had already begun to dissipate. Although she was undoubtedly his best friend, Clark knew that Lois would never see him the same way again. However, he mused, given his current, seeing him in any way at all might be a start. He tried again, gently touching her arm. "Lois?"
"Shut *up*, Clark!"
Clark finally snapped. "C'mon, Lois, it's only Superman."
That got her attention; aided in part by the neat conclusion of the story and switch to something on drainpipes. Lois whirled around to look at him. "'*Only Superman?*'" she repeated incredulously. "Clark, that is *not* 'only Superman' — that is… he is…" She trailed off dreamily and Clark didn't dare wonder what suitable description was forming in her mind. He sighed. At least he was off the hook for being late.
Apparently though, somebody else had noticed his speedy departure — while Lois was still blissfully daydreaming, Perry stuck his head out of his office and rudely interrupted. "Kent! Get in here, pronto!" With all the delicacy of a garbage truck at six am, Perry made his point.
Quickly, Clark glanced at his partner. Their eyes met and they shared a simultaneous thought: "What now?" Clark opened the door for Lois and she slipped inside, still looking at him questioningly. He shrugged, quite confident that whatever trouble they were in, he hadn't been the one to cause it. A year of working alongside Lois "Mad Dog" Lane had taught him at least that much.
Inside, Perry looked at them both for a moment. He studied Clark, who smiled back tentatively, somewhat uncomfortable under his boss' scrutiny. He started doing a mental checklist of anything that could possibly be out of place — hair, no; glasses, no; shirt, no; tie, no… When Perry finally redirected his gaze at Lois, Clark breathed a silent sigh of relief.
"Um, Chief?" Lois spoke up, also looking uncomfortable. Her inquisitive look spoke volumes, and Perry stared at her for a moment, as though trying to make a decision on some gravely important issue. He seemed to reach that decision when he shook his head and gestured towards the door. Clark's heart sank at Perry's firm words.
"Lois, honey, you go on outside. I want a word with Clark first."
Lois looked alarmed. "Clark?" Instinctively, she moved closer to him. "Why?"
"Dammit, Lois, stop being a reporter and get back to work!"
"Um, Chief…" A slight quirk of the mouth betrayed her.
Lois scuttled out quickly.
There was another awkward silence in the room before Perry turned to Clark, looking mildly puzzled. 'Contemplative' might have been a better word, but Clark barely had time to think of it before the grilling started. "Kent, where were you just now?" The tone demanded absolute truth; Clark steeled himself. Cool and confident — why could he never seem to manage that?
"I had to meet a source." The twinge of guilt he felt wasn't pleasant, but necessary. He knew he was a rotten liar, but something told him that right now, it was imperative.
"Oh." Perry looked at him suspiciously. "Anyone I'd know?"
Clark shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "Maybe. Probably not, though."
"What's his name?"
He tried to sound affronted. "Chief, I —"
"Kent, whose your source? And don't give me that 'a good reporter' crap!"
"I really can't say, Chief. I'm sorry, you know I would, but…"
Seeing the resolution blazing in his reporter's eyes, Perry decided he'd better not push it. After all, he might be talking to… but he needed to be sure. He'd sit on the news, of course, but he had to know whether he *was* sitting on anything. He wasn't an old reporter for nothing. He had a hunch. Unfortunately, interrogation had never been one of his strong points, although intimidation had worked marvellously well on occasion. Clark, however, was not a man who was easily intimidated. Perry knew that from experience, having seen him keep his cool in almost — hell, *all* — tough situations. The only time he ever seemed to worry was when Lois was going off on one of her tangents — or when, in the middle of conversation, he would suddenly seem to tune out, an action that was almost always followed by a hasty departure and weak excuse. Perry had witnessed it innumerable times.
"Does *Lois* know this 'source'?"
"And did she know you were meeting him this morning?"
"Of course, sir." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Clark wanted to take them back. He should have said no, but then Perry would have known that he was lying because he and Lois always shared their sources. But now Perry would ask Lois about it — of course he would — and when Lois said no, the answers he should have given would be forcibly extracted from him. Clark, you're an idiot, he told himself furiously.
"Uh huh. So why is she mad at you?" Unlike Clark, Perry seemed to have interpreted Lois' attitude towards her partner as more "the silent treatment" than the misguided adoration Clark saw it to be. Still, he decided to work with it, and shook his head in bewilderment.
"Beats me, Chief. You know Lois."
"I do, son, and that woman never gets mad without a reason for it. Although when she does…"
Clark considered challenging that, then decided it best to let it pass. "Well, whatever I did, I didn't do it," he shrugged, trying to play it off.
"Seems like you don't do a lot of things around here," Perry replied cautiously. He knew he was treading on thin ice here, and could admit only to himself that he was more than a little intimidated by the thought of giving Superman the third degree. Not that he knew for sure, but he had his suspicions. For one thing, why did Lois always get the scoops on Superman? Why was Clark never on camera with him; in the pictures, on TV… He'd asked Jimmy to look for him, trying to be subtle about it, and the kid had pulled up nothing. Not one single picture of Clark and Superman together. *Lois* and Superman was another issue, but Clark… Nothing. Add to that the fact that only weeks after Clark joined the Planet, had Superman made his debut. Plus, Clark's mysterious and ill-explained disappearances seemed to be inevitably followed by Superman sightings — maybe not always, but it sure seemed like it at times. Tied to that was the fact that Superman sightings never occurred simultaneously with *Clark* sightings — which brought him back to the pictures. From a purely investigative perspective, Perry's journalistic instincts were screaming at him to get to the bottom of this.
Clark looked blank. Perry continued, hinting, "A lot of things that somebody else has been getting the credit for."
Clark frowned. "What do you mean, Chief? If this is about Lois, she's a good reporter, you know that, she wouldn't — never —"
"I don't mean Lois, son."
Perry started to pace, gathering his thoughts. "Kent, I've gotta admit you've hidden it well."
"The suit — you know — nobody would think to link you with him, but… Kent, this is a newspaper we're running — we're *reporters*. That means we see and hear things, and try to make sense of it… The suit, *your* suit, the glasses, the cape — in the name of Elvis, a cape! — the running off, the scoops you never get and Lois does, the pictures…"
"I don't understand." Clark was suddenly cold with fear. He could feel the terror slicing through his veins and pulsing heavily through his veins like a tidal wave. The pen he'd been holding suddenly snapped in two and fell to the floor in a puff of pieces and dust. Perry didn't seem to have noticed, he was still talking, trying to explain to Clark how he knew. For his part, Clark remained silent and tried to look innocently confused, as though shocked that anybody could consider something so lucridous.
"… and you're always disappearin' from us, Kent, and I've gotta say, I don't like it one bit. If it's not one thing, it's another — and often in the middle of conversations. Like this… Kent?… Kent, you hearin' me?… Dammit, Kent! Where are you going?" Clark was already moving towards the door.
"Uh, just remembered an appointment, Chief — I'm really sorry, I'll be as quick as I can. Sorry," he added again, as he slipped out the door and nearly ran into Lois, who was curled up on the floor and had obviously been pressing her ear to the crack.
She started guiltily. "Clark!"
"Lois…" he began warningly, then she shook her head.
"You'd better go," she told him, and he felt an unexpected rush of gratitude towards her. "Same source?"
"Uh, yeah," he replied awkwardly. He kind of appreciated the fact that although she'd been eavesdropping, she didn't have a problem admitting it to him. It bothered him what she might actually have heard, but right now, he didn't have time to dwell on it. Besides, the way she was looking at him — her expression a mixture of concern and affection — was enough to distract him from any lucid thought. Clark blinked, realising belatedly that Lois was still talking and that, again, he had tuned out.
"So I'll meet you at Tony's for lunch, then — if you're back?…"
"Yeah, yeah, sounds good — see ya."
Lois frowned as Clark pushed past her, walking swiftly to the elevator. His hand was already at his neck, hovering distractedly, ostensibly loosening a noose-like knot. Lois followed him with her eyes as he wove through the maze of desks and bodies, moving quickly towards the elevator. She wondered… Could Perry be… It wasn't possible. Or was it? At any rate, it didn't matter right now. Whatever it was, it was Clark's problem and he'd tell her eventually. (Wouldn't he? A small voice nagged inside of her.)
Lois glanced uncertainly through the window of her boss' office. She knew she had to say something. Perry had obviously already jumped to his own conclusions, and if he was — God forbid, if he was right, Lois had to convince him otherwise. She didn't even think about the implications of what she'd heard, but knew that she had to protect her partner. She had to. After all, it was *Clark* — Clark! Or… But he was her best friend, and just *supposing* Perry was right, she had to protect his secret. If Perry was wrong, she'd just be buying Clark some more time until he could tell her what was bothering him.
She'd sensed for a long time that Clark was worried about something — the look of distraction on his face when he seemed to stop listening to her; the way that he was so apologetic about running off on her, yet continued to do it; the way… Hey. She never *had* seen Clark with Superman. Had she? Lois suddenly couldn't remember if she had or not. But that he would *lie* to her was in and of itself disuasive — it was not in Clark's nature to lie. Not Clark. Not her best friend, sweet, considerate, cool- headed, even-tempered, honest Clark. They told each other everything, and the implications of something so phenomenal were, to say the least, incredible.
Incredible. That was it. Fantastic, unrealistic, unbelievable — in short, not credible. That she would even devote a serious thought to it just betrayed her natural gullability and trusting nature, something which, despite her hardest efforts, had never been scrubbed out of her. Lois frowned. Not Clark.
But… Her training had been good, and Lois could smell a story a mile away. There were so many little inconsistencies in her partner that she couldn't help but wonder… Perry seemed to have noticed them, too, so it wasn't just her. And Clark had hardly tried to defend himself.
'Dammit, Clark,' Lois thought, 'you're an idiot. There's obviously something you have to protect, something pretty darn important if you won't even tell me. Why didn't you say anything, Clark? If you don't stand up for yourself in this world, nobody will do it for you.'
Then she scolded her own hypocrisy as she glanced in again through the window…
Lois knocked tentatively on the door, and entered without waiting for a reply. As far as she was concerned, the knocking part was unusual enough. Any more and he'd start to think that *she* was… Not funny, Lois told herself. Quite the opposite, actually.
She looked over at her boss, hunched over his desk. He was scribbling frantically and didn't look up at her. "Um, Chief?"
"Get back to work, Lois." Perry's voice was gruff and he kept his eyes on the page.
Lois sauntered over to him and leaned over his shoulder. Reading the page, her eyes widened. "Chief! You don't seriously think that —"
"Dammit, Lane, get out of my office! You shouldn't have read that!"
Unlike Clark, Lois was an excellent liar, if she did say so herself. She looked at him curiously. "But — Chief, I can explain *everything* on that list! It's not what you're thinking — although," she added graciously, "under the circumstances, I can almost understand why you would think so…"
Perry looked at her tiredly. "You can explain this?" He waved a hand at his notepad.
"Sure, Chief! I mean, most of it is because of the one reason — and I'm not sure I should tell you… I mean, it's really Clark's business…" Perry glared daggers at her. "But I'm sure he wouldn't mind, seeing as it's you and all — just don't let it get out, okay?" He nodded slowly. Lois lowered her voice confidentially, with a glance out the window, just for effect. Nobody was watching. She bit her lip, as though indecisive, then blurted out, "Clark has a… daughter."
"He *what*?!" Perry hit the roof.
Lois looked startled, more by the words that had spilled out of her mouth, than her boss' reaction to them. Clark had a daughter? Where had *that* come from? Oh yeah… She nodded, trying to look furtive. "Mmm, she's really young. Lives with a foster family — I don't know what happened to her mother; Clark never talks about her. But between you and me, I think that's the reason he came to Metropolis in the first place. That and, I think he was in trouble with some — gangsters…" Her eyes sparkled as she realised how far she could run with this plot.
Perry's eyes widened. "But this — this stuff — how does it explain — ?"
"Oh, it's quite simple, Chief. You really should get your facts straight before jumping to conclusions, you know." The jab was softened by a wry smile. Perry still frowned at her. "The thing is, Clark's scared — scared for his little girl. He worries — constantly — that something will happen to her, and because he's a pretty intuitive guy, he gets these *feelings* every so often. I wouldn't called them *psychic* experiences, exactly, but one of them saved her life, and now, every time he gets a feeling, he has to rush off and make sure she's all right." At Perry's look, she hastened to add, "I know it's unbelievable — I mean, I didn't believe it at first, either — but look at the evidence, Chief. The disappearances, the fact that he refuses to pose in press photos or on camera, the way Superman is always looking out for him and protecting his daughter… I mean, you can understand why he's scared. He's a reporter, Chief; he wrote a story. Offended the wrong people, and now he's lying low for a while. Can't say I blame him, really — if *you* had a daughter, wouldn't you…"
Lois continued her explanation, secretly revelling in the rare chance to not only tell a story, but also perpetuate gossip and tell a big, fat lie. Clark would kill her, she realised belatedly, but what the hey, it was too late now. Meanwhile, Perry ate it up, seemingly eager to find a more rational explanation for his findings.
"Great shades of Elvis," he breathed, as Lois concluded her diatribe.
"I know, Chief. And like I said, I could hardly believe it myself when he told me. Don't say anything to him about it — he'll kill me — but just… Show him your support. Don't be too hard on him, Chief — he can't help it."
Perry nodded. "Lois, thank God you came in here and talked some sense into me. If not for you, I might actually have believed that — rubbish! Pure, speculative trash!" He ripped the page from his notebook and wadded it up, tossing it at the trash can across the room.
"Oh, don't be too hard on yourself, Chief," Lois added sympathetically. "You weren't to know." Neither was I, she added, recalling the reason for her whopper. Suddenly, she remembered that she was supposed to be meeting Clark for lunch. Smiling sweetly, she excused herself from the office, after extracting yet another vow of silence from Perry. Clark, please forgive me, she thought, beating a hasty retreat to the elevator.
Arriving at the cafe, Lois was pained to realise that she was almost half an hour late. She was even more pained, however, when she realised that Clark wasn't there. Where *is* he, she thought impatiently, unwilling to admit to herself the surge of terror she felt at the thought of what he *might* be doing. Now that she knew — no, she didn't know, Lois corrected herself — it was impossible to think of him without fearing for his safety. It wasn't Superman doing all those things — the flying, the fighting, the rescues, with bullets bouncing off his chest and knives bending against his back — it was Clark. Her best friend, Clark. How could she *not* be worried about him?
Lois paced nervously. A teenager behind the counter watched her hesitantly, a hand on the phone to call the police if she started getting crazy.
Another fifteen minutes went by, and Lois chastised herself. Stop being so paranoid, she told herself. Don't be an idiot; he's probably back at work. The inspiration struck her — she went over to the counter and asked to borrow the phone. Ignoring the "I'm sorry, it's against our policy" reply, she leaned over and picked up the receiver, dialing the number upside down. The cashier made no move to stop her.
"Hey Jimmy, this is Lois. Have you seen Clark?… You have? Oh, thank God… No, *since* this morning, Jimmy! I meant *lately* — is he there now?… Well, can you go check?… Jimmy?… Jimmy?…" After waiting approximately 45 seconds, Lois hung with with a sigh. Damn it, she thought. A look from the cashier convinced her that she'd outstayed her welcome, so Lois took to the streets.
It was fortunate that she did, because she'd hardly gone five steps before a kid came screaming past her, yelling "DADDADYOULLNEVERGUESSWHOIJUSTSAW!" Her ears pricked up and she upped her pace to eavesdrop better. "ITSSUPERMAN!HESINTHEPARKDADCOMEQUICK!"
Lois turned around about face and raced towards the park. Seeing Superman — no, Clark — Clark? Superman — talking to a couple of teenagers, and noticing a MET-TV van pulling up, she suddenly had her second inspired thought for the day. It was exactly what she'd lectured Perry about — proof. A reporter needed indisputable proof to back up any story, and this was much more than just 'any' story. Besides it being the scoop of the century — she had to admit it, even knowing full well that it would never come from her — it had stunning implications on her relationship with Clark. Just what implications, she wasn't sure, but it was terribly important that she find out. More than it just being the journalistic imperative, she wanted to know for Clark's sake. Not to mention her own.
If he's really Clark, then where does the suit come from? Lois thought to herself. He must wear it underneath, otherwise, how could he change so fast? Reminding herself that he was faster than a speeding bullet, she still thought that it would be a hassle to change into and out of his suit ten times a day. Maybe the cape was detachable, but the suit definitely was not.
So, that meant that somewhere, Clark's clothes were lying around.
Feeling like a character from an old fairy tale that she couldn't quite remember, Lois started scouring the surrounding alleyways and streets, looking for any article of clothing that might belong to Clark. She knew that he might not have changed nearby, but it did stand to reason, and since he was a little preoccupied to be watching her right now, Lois took the opportunity to do a little hunting.
It wasn't long before she turned up a couple of bums fighting over a hideous patterned tie. One look at the tie — ugly as it was, she'd know it anywhere — and she barged it, ripping it away from both of the men, who were too stunned to speak. Taking advantage of their state, she started demanding to know where they got it. A glance around the corner betrayed Clark's hiding place, and Lois started rummaging around the trash in the alley. Ew, she thought with distaste. How did he manage to smell so clean when he kept his clothes in a place like *this*? Then Lois decided that maybe she didn't want to think too long about that one, as the answer was probably something she'd never even considered before…
Smiling to herself, Lois gathered up the stinky suit and folded it neately, pushing it into her large handbag, from which it protruded only slightly. She kept the tie out, though, and impulsively slipped it around her neck, indulging her inner dork. It actually didn't look too bad — at least to any stranger with chronic colourblindness — livening up her white business shirt and black skirt suit.
Then she headed back over to the park.
Superman smiled politely to the girl, as she begged him to take her flying. "I'm sorry," he told her, for what felt like the hundredth time, "I can't do that."
"But you *can*," the girl protested. "I've seen you do it!" Her eyes pleaded with him, large and blue, and he hoped she was above crocodile tears. Then again, she was all of fourteen, and desperately wanted to go flying with him. How could he refuse without hurting her feelings? Yet, he couldn't exactly say yes; he wasn't an amusement park ride.
Clark sighed. "Okay, let me put it this way — in a life threatening situation, where I perceived no other option than a flying rescue, yes, I could do it. But it's dangerous, despite what it might look like. And what if I dropped you? Gary would beat me up!" He slipped a covert wink at the girl's boyfriend, who was standing at a distance, looking simultaneously jealous and miserable.
Tessa sighed wantonly, but turning to her boyfriend, her eyes lit up again. "Gar? Get over here! Come on!" she insisted. Gary hung back, looking reluctant.
Superman just shrugged, and told her, "Don't worry about it. I'd better go soon anyway. You take care of yourself, though, won't you?"
"If I don't, will you take me flying?" Tessa grinned coyly, giving it one last try.
Clark shook his head. "'Fraid not," he grinned back, then glanced up — and froze. Lois was standing at the edge of the playground, watching him silently.
She was wearing his tie.
Lois watched her partner as his face went from delight, to confusion, to understanding and finally settled on apprehension. As though afraid to tear his eyes away from her lest she disappear, Clark started walking away from the kids who were crowded around him. He looked devastated, Lois thought suddenly, as though he was watching his whole world fall apart and rebuild itself upside down. She didn't smile, but returned his gaze as he moved towards her. A hand came up to finger the tie at her neck, and Lois suddenly felt shy.
All this time, and she'd had no idea. Not one single clue — had she really been so blind? Looking at him now, it was obvious. They weren't just similar in appearance; they were identical. One and the same — her best friend and her fantasy, suddenly merged into one incredible being. Her eyes were wide and hungry, sucking in his gaze like a child at a milkshake, wanting more sweet sustenance. "Superman." Her lips moved wordlessly, and the man in front of her shook his head almost imperceptibly. Lois clenched the tie in a fist. So it was true. All of it, everything Perry had been saying was true. Clark *had* been keeping a secret from them — from her — all along. Lois was too shocked to be upset about it. For some reason, it just made so much *sense*. Like the final piece of the puzzle falling into place, that slight acknowledgement answered everything she could have thought of to ask.
Clark Kent was Superman.
Lois felt galactically stupid — she should have known! Those eyes, those lips, that body… The way he smiled, his mannerisms, his sense of humour… His integrity, his sense of honour and justice… That infuriating superiority… Of course he was Superman. It was the only logical explanation. But now, Lois wondered how he would react to finding out that she knew. Would he kill to protect his secret? She discounted that almost immediately. Would he be angry with her? Well, maybe after he found out about his "daughter," she admitted. If he ever did. She hoped Perry would be able to use a little discretion and never mention it again — would that be too much to ask for? And would Clark hate her for figuring it out — for ruining everything? Lois searched his eyes for the answer, but found none forthcoming. Questions had started tumbling through her mind like twigs over a waterfall, and she let them come, half-wondering which would be the first one out of her mouth when she opened it.
When he came within a meter of her, Clark stopped short, uncertain. He had never been more shocked or scared in his life, than when he had seen Lois standing there, so lovely and so — knowing. He couldn't tell what she was thinking, but his heart was constricted with fear at the thought of all the things she *could* say. He knew that whatever it was, he deserved it all for his deceit. She had every right to hate him — but he hoped desperately that she wouldn't.
"Lois," he began.
"Shut up, Clark," she whispered, stepping towards him. Ever so gently, she reached up to place her hands on his chest, tracing the "S" with her fingertips. Slowly, she slid them up over his pectorals, feeling every millimeter of hard muscle beneath her, and marvelling at her own audacity. Her hands slid up around his neck, and she felt his own arms curl warmly, possessively around her waist.
"Lois, I'm so sorry," he whispered hoarsely. "I never meant to-"
"Ssh," she instructed soothingly. Right now, she didn't want to think about it. It was too weird, too disconcerting to try to put into context right now. It felt like a strange, surreal dream, more so than anything she had ever dreamt before, and yet, more real than anything she had ever experienced. Clark tightened his arms around her and for what seemed like an endless moment, they just stood there, holding each other.
Finally, Lois stoop up on her toes and, letting her lips brush his earlobe, asked almost inaudibly, "Where do we go from here, Clark?"
Their bodies began to rise simultaneously, as he leaned into her ear to whisper his reply.
Author's Notes: First of all, I'd just like to say that this is the first Lois & Clark story I have ever written, despite reading my first one some seven or eight years ago. It seems oddly appropriate that I should return to Lois & Clark fanfiction, but really, it was quite unintentional. I was drawn back to L&C fics during a certain plagiarism incident, and while I wrote this way back then, I never got around to posting it. Oh well, no time like the present!
As a dedication, I'd like to thank Pam and LabRat for their kind words and belief in the universality of fanfiction and friendships. I'd also like to thank my beta-readers Christy and Nicole, who as you can tell, did an excellent job! Oh, and a special mention to Kaylle for her kind offer. ;)
If you feel like sending me some feedback on this little fic, I'd love to hear from you — my address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you liked it, but either way, let me know! Also, if you *did* like it, feel free to check out more of my stories at http://fanfic.withinrach.com. And thanks for reading! :)