By Meredith Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: June 2002
Summary: This story is the sequel to the author's challenge fic, "All Sewn Up." Lois knows Clark's secret, but their relationship is still rocky… until Superman is hypnotised by a magician.
A 30 Minute Episode Extension Challenge Story: Illusions of Grandeur
This is the vociferously demanded <g> sequel to my challenge fic, All Sewn Up, which should be read first to make sense of this one.
Thanks to LabRat, as ever, for faithful and helpful BRing. :) And to Thania St John for the script for the episode Illusions of Grandeur, out of which I used several lines of dialogue. Usual disclaimers apply.
Note: In production/BBC order, Illusions of Grandeur follows straight after All Shook Up.
Lois Lane was upset and, being Lois Lane, was taking it out on the inanimate objects around her. Her keyboard groaned under the angry onslaught of her fingers, sighing in relief as she paused to take a sip of coffee. Banged down too hard, some of the coffee leapt skywards and made a desperate bid for escape. Lois muttered a curse and reached for the box of tissues cowering on the corner of the desk.
As she mopped up the spill, Lois sneaked yet another glance at Clark's vacant desk. It was well after nine, but he hadn't yet made an appearance. It wasn't exactly unusual for him to be in late, and she now knew the real reason he was so often unavoidably detained, but this morning she had good reason to be worried. The last sight she'd had of him was when he'd handed poor, terrified Nicky back to his kidnapper; then he'd turned away with a completely blank face and flown off into the night without a backward glance.
He hadn't answered his phone all night. After a lengthy internal debate Lois had phoned the Kent farmhouse in Kansas, but Clark hadn't turned up there, either. Lois had hated to worry Martha and Jonathan, but they would have heard the bad news anyway as soon as the national networks picked up the story of Superman's unaccountable behaviour. With both Jimmy and Mr Moskal as witnesses, Lois hadn't had a hope of suppressing the story; all she could do was cast it in as favourable a light as possible.
Footsteps sounded behind her, and Jimmy's irrepressibly cheerful voice intruded on her musing. "Hey, Lois, have you seen CK this morning? I've got some stuff he asked for."
"No, I haven't," Lois growled, then wondered if she ought to be covering for Clark. But how could she, when she had no idea where he was or how long he'd be? She took another mouthful of coffee and grimaced — it was now stone cold. She poured the remaining half-cup into her asparagus fern, extinguishing the last feeble flicker of life, and thrust the mug at Jimmy. "Here, make yourself useful…"
"Here he comes!" Jimmy sang out, ignoring her completely.
Lois put down the mug and closed her eyes for a moment in heartfelt thanksgiving, then turned to look for Clark. She schooled her expression to her usual level of friendly welcome while she waited for her heart to finish the flip- flop it always did at first sight of him. The few times she had allowed her face to light up naturally at his arrival, she had seen his instant withdrawal behind a thin film of ice, and it was an experience she did her best to avoid repeating. Until last week, when Clark had told her his secret, she would have sworn that he cherished hopes of a closer relationship with her; but since then he had made it abundantly clear that nothing could be further from his mind.
Unfortunately for Lois, it was seldom far from her own mind. Her genuine admiration and her misty, romantic yearning for Metropolis's resident superhero, together with her warm regard for her best friend and her hitherto ruthlessly suppressed attraction towards her dangerously sexy partner, had coalesced into a case of dizzying, knee- trembling, palm-sweating love for the man who was all three… and who didn't reciprocate. Lois didn't know whether it was her in particular, or whether Clark simply had no interest in non-Kryptonian women, but since his revelation he'd done his best to discourage her from showing anything more than simple friendship.
Not that her reaction to him was foremost in his mind this morning, she realised, spotting Clark striding down the newsroom ramp. She could have tap-danced a welcome across the newsroom in a chicken costume and Clark wouldn't have noticed a thing. He was staring fixedly at the copy of the morning edition in his hand, and looking haggard. "Is this really what happened?" he demanded as he neared Lois's desk.
Lois nodded. "Jimmy saw the whole thing, too," she said.
"I don't understand," Clark muttered. "I don't remember any of it."
Lois glared at him. Did he want the whole newsroom to know his secret? "Of course you don't," she said pointedly, "you weren't there. Did you get enough sleep last night? You look kind of funny. Jimmy, get Clark some coffee, will you?"
She waited until Jimmy had gone, then grabbed Clark's sleeve. "Conference room, buster!" she hissed, adding, "Now!" as he balked.
She shepherded him into the conference room and closed the door behind them. Instantly Clark turned to her, his eyes desperate. "Lois, tell me I didn't hand that kid back to his kidnapper!" he pleaded.
"You did, Clark," Lois said, putting a sympathetic hand on his arm. "You were obviously hypnotised."
"But I *can't* have been!" he cried. "I can't be vulnerable to that…"
"So you're human, Clark," she said calmly, shrugging. "Get over it. Where…"
There was a knock on the door. Lois yanked it open and relieved Jimmy of the coffee mug he'd brought. "Thanks," she said briskly, and closed the door again.
She turned to hand the mug to Clark, and found him staring angrily at her. "I'm not human, Lois," he said tightly. "That's the whole point."
"Oh, Clark," she sighed. "You're human where it counts. Your mind is human. Here, drink this and calm down. We can't work out how to tackle this if you're panicking."
He took the mug obediently, with a ghost of a smile at her tactics, and subsided into a chair.
"Though if you're so upset about it, maybe you'll be able to do something about it," she continued thoughtfully. "Maybe your mind is different enough to fight it off."
"But what if it isn't?" he demanded. "This guy could make me do anything! What if I hurt someone?"
"But you didn't, Clark," Lois pointed out. She suppressed a twinge of conscience about Nicky's plight. "Not that I know of. Where did you go last night, anyway?"
"I don't remember a thing," Clark said glumly. "I woke up in bed this morning in my Suit, at nine o'clock. By the look of the Suit — and the sheets — I seem to have been on a beach."
She smiled at him. "See?" she said. "You didn't hurt anyone, you just played hooky and went to the beach. Probably in the Indian Ocean somewhere, I imagine." The mental image of Superman paddling in the waves like a child struck her as hilarious, but she wasn't about to risk upsetting Clark by laughing.
Perry tapped on the door and walked in. "I just got off the phone with the Chief of Police," he announced. "They're not following up on the hypnotism lead. There was no evidence left on the scene, and nothing in your photographs that pointed to anybody but Superman."
"But we all saw it," Lois protested. "Even Moskal!"
"And he's not talking," Perry said. "Now I'm not telling you to drop this story, 'cause I believe you saw what you said you did. We just need something concrete, that's all."
"We'll get you something, Chief," Lois promised. "Clark, we should go and see that hypnotist, Dr Novak — ask him if there's any way to snap Superman out of a trance."
There was another knock. "Yeah, what is it now?" snapped Lois.
Jimmy stuck his head round the door. "Lois, phone call from someone called Constance," he said. "She wants to talk to you about…" He consulted the note in his hand. "… Darren Romick."
"That could be an important lead," Lois said excitedly. "Clark, you phone Dr Novak — I'll go see Constance."
The interview with Constance confirmed Lois's initial suspicions that Romick must be behind the kidnappings. The obvious thing to do now was to watch Romick and search for Nicky, but for that she needed Clark's super help.
As she left the magicians' club, Lois got a call from Jimmy to say that there was a crisis at EPRAD — some general wanted to set off a nuclear missile. Did Clark know about it, Lois asked immediately, and was reassured by the answer: Clark had left the building just as the news broke, with an odd look on his face.
There was no sign of Superman at EPRAD all afternoon, however. The crisis was eventually solved without his help, but Lois was once again seriously worried about his wellbeing.
As she got out of her taxi outside the Planet, she saw a sight that filled her with simultaneous relief and foreboding. Relief because at least she knew where Superman was; foreboding because he was walking down the sidewalk, muttering to himself and systematically uprooting the parking meters along his way.
"Superman!" she yelled, waving to get his attention; but his blank gaze slid over her without recognition.
As he got closer, Lois could hear the words he was muttering: "Wrong is right. Wrong is right."
Post-hypnotic suggestion, she thought to herself. It was time to put her faith in him to the test. She screwed up her courage and planted herself squarely in his path. "Superman, it's me — Lois," she said. "You have to stop this. It's wrong."
He stopped, almost on top of her, and turned his distant gaze towards her. "Wrong is right," he said tonelessly. Then there was a flicker of something in his eyes. "Lois," he said. "Wrong is right." His expression changed to something she could only describe as a leer. The next instant he had grasped her waist with both hands and taken off straight up into the air.
He headed directly for his apartment, landing on the balcony. At once his hands shifted, sliding gently around to her back, and he bent his head and kissed her.
Lois gasped in surprise, and was quickly lost in a rush of pleasure. Clark was holding nothing back, one hand holding her hips firmly against his, the other caressing her back and the nape of her neck. She yielded to the insistent pressure of his lips, and his tongue took possession of her mouth, plundering her depths over and over. She moaned and slid her arms up around his neck, tangling her fingers in his thick, soft hair and drawing him still closer.
Suddenly he let her go, and she opened her eyes in puzzlement, but it was only so that he could scoop her up in his arms. "Wrong is right," he intoned again.
As he turned towards the balcony door, Lois understood. He wasn't doing this because he wanted to, but because his mind had been tampered with.
The door was locked, but Clark scarcely hesitated. He simply set his shoulder against it and pushed, and with a sharp crack it gave way. Clark strode to the bed and laid Lois down. Then he stretched himself out beside her and resumed his onslaught on her senses, his tongue twining with hers, his hands roaming over her body and finding her most sensitive areas.
Even as she responded with all the pent-up desire of the last week, her mind began to protest. Clark didn't really want to do this. He thought it was wrong.
<Does it matter?> asked a traitorous little voice.
<Yes, it does,> she replied bravely. She didn't just want mindless sex with Clark, she wanted him to love her. And he would be devastated when he came to and realised what he'd done.
He was starting to unbutton her blouse, his mouth lifting to trace her jaw and the side of her throat, his large body looming over hers.
<But you couldn't stop him if you tried,> her inner voice protested. <You've wanted this for so long — and it feels so wonderful, so right…>
And in a flash, she had the answer. "Clark, this is wonderful," she said huskily, as he smoothed back her blouse and kissed his way across to the hollow of her shoulder. "It feels so right… it would be wrong to stop now."
He lifted his head. "Wrong is right," he said uncertainly.
"Clark, please don't stop!" she said; she didn't have to fake the pleading tone.
He drew back, his face bewildered. "Wrong is…" He stopped, seemingly paralysed by indecision. Only his eyes showed the battle that was raging inside him.
"You're doing it, Clark!" she cried exultantly, sitting up. "You're fighting it! Keep going, Clark, you can win! You can do what you know is right, not what someone else tells you to!"
His mouth moved, but the words didn't come out. Instead, he swallowed convulsively and surfaced. His face came alive again; then as his gaze took in the sight before him, Lois's no doubt kiss-swollen mouth and her disarrayed clothing, he sat up and buried his face in his hands with a groan.
"You've done it!" she crowed, hastily buttoning her blouse. "You broke free!"
He flinched as she put her hand on his shoulder. "But… you… I'm sorry, Lois," he said heavily. "I should never…" He lifted his head, and winced as he caught sight of the broken balcony door. "Oh, god — I really did the caveman act, didn't I?"
"It's okay, Clark, you didn't hurt me," she assured him. "You couldn't help yourself."
He grimaced but didn't answer, and she added in a low voice, "I wasn't exactly unwilling, you know."
His face turned a dull red. "I know," he admitted, refusing to meet her eyes.
She hesitated for a moment, but she had to ask. "Clark, you aren't… indifferent to me, are you? And I'm… not indifferent to you, either. Why are you so convinced it would be wrong to, well…" She waved a hand vaguely, embarrassed.
Clark was staring at his hands, gnawing his lip, and for a while it didn't seem as though he would answer. Then he spoke hesitantly, in a strained voice. "You said it yourself, Lois — you love me like a brother. It's Superman you… feel like that about, not me."
She frowned at him, bewildered. "But you *are* Superman! What are you talking about?"
He stood up, looking broodingly down at the Suit, then spun quickly back into his work clothes. "Not really," he said, walking to the window and staring out. "Clark is who I am. Superman is just something I can do."
"That's silly, Clark!" she said, starting to get annoyed. "You're not just any ordinary nobody. You may have been raised in Kansas, but you were born on Krypton. You can change your clothes in a flash, and fly, and… and if I were to come over there and hit you like I want to, I'd probably break my hand, but you wouldn't even feel it because nothing can hurt you, and…"
"Except Kryptonite," Clark interjected.
"Kryptonite? Really — it does exist?" she said, intrigued in spite of herself. "Oh, *don't* try to distract me!" she snapped, catching sight of his smothered grin. "Clark, you're different — and special! What's wrong with that?"
The brief gleam of humour had left his face again. "I don't want to be different. I want… I'm just me inside, nothing special."
"I want you to love me for myself." He hadn't said the words, but they hung in the air nonetheless. Lois looked at him, her anger dying; she was starting to understand just how much he was hurting.
"So you're saying I fell in love with Superman because he can fly and lift rockets into space, and because he wears tight, revealing spandex?" she said slowly, trying to ignore the fact that she was now also talking about Clark in the third person.
Clark shifted uncomfortably and didn't answer, his eyes going to the window again.
"I can't deny that I was swept off my feet by those things at the start," she said deliberately. "But that wasn't love, it was just hero worship. When I realised that Superman was powerful enough to do anything he wanted, but he only used his powers to help people… that was when I started to fall in love with him. That's who Superman is inside, Clark — that's you."
He had turned to face her again, and she could see that he wanted to believe her. "But you didn't fall in love with Clark Kent," he said levelly.
It was her turn to colour and look away. "I couldn't afford to fall in love with Clark Kent. I told you about Claude… Superman was safe — he was this perfect being, who I knew would never hurt me. Clark was human, and he could hurt me very easily if I let him."
"But now that you know I'm an alien, you're safe?" he suggested, raw pain in his voice.
Lois stared at him, shocked. "Of course not!" she exclaimed. "How many times do I need to say it, Clark? You're just as human and fallible as the rest of us. I have no doubt you could hurt me, but that's a risk I have to take, because…" Her voice faltered, and she ducked her head and took a deep breath. "… because I don't have a choice any more. I'm in love with you, and I can't help it."
There was a brief pause, then Clark took a step towards her. "You really mean that?" he said softly.
Lois looked up, and saw that he did believe her this time. "Yes, I do," she said, rising to meet him. "Why, what are you planning to do about it?"
He smiled, his gaze locked on her face. "This," he said, sliding his arms around her slowly as he had done earlier, and pulling her body against his. "And this…"
He dipped his head and kissed her. This time it was slow and tentative, requesting rather than demanding her response. And this time, she realised with a thrill, it was what they both wanted.
A while later, Lois came up for air, clinging helplessly to Clark. Her knees had given way some time ago, but he seemed to be supporting her easily. In fact… She looked around her and chuckled. "I told you you were special," she murmured. "None of my other boyfriends ever kissed me on the ceiling."
He growled, and launched another assault on the side of her neck that left her senses reeling.
"Clark," she said reluctantly.
"I hate to interrupt what you're… mmm… doing, but we have a kidnapper to catch."
Clark sighed, and piloted them back to the floor. "I guess you're right, duty calls. But don't think I'm going to let you get away again, Lois Lane, now that I know the way you feel about me."
"I'm counting on it," she said, smiling at him. "But aren't you forgetting something?"
"What's that?" he said cautiously.
"How do you feel about me?"
He looked confused for an instant, then a broad grin transformed his face. Lois caught her breath; how could she *ever* have thought this man was an ordinary nobody?
"I love you, Lois," he said, his eyes holding hers. "I've loved you ever since I first saw you in Perry's office, but I thought I'd never be able to tell you that." He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Now," he added, his eyes twinkling dangerously, "let's go and find Nicky and get him back to his mother, before I give in to the temptation to sweep you off your feet and finish what I started earlier!"
Next morning, Lane and Kent were hard at work as usual, finishing off the full story of how Constance had been behind the kidnappings, and how Superman had caught her instructing Darren Romick, under hypnosis, to kill Dr Novak. She had been so incensed when Superman had refused to obey her orders that she had said rather more than was wise about her plans to dominate the world using the so- called Magic Channel; and she had continued to rant about it even after she'd been officially cautioned. Superman had retrieved her satellite from orbit, to be used as evidence against her and then destroyed. She was unlikely to see the outside of a prison again for a very long time.
Perry came barrelling out of his office. "Lois, where's your copy?" he barked.
Lois sat back in her chair, and Clark straightened up from where he had been bending over her to study her monitor. "Five minutes, Chief," called Lois.
Perry suddenly caught sight of Clark's left hand, usually positioned carefully behind his back or on the back of Lois's chair, now resting familiarly on Lois's shoulder. His eyes widened. "What's gotten into you two this morning?" he enquired.
Lois smiled and lifted a hand from the keyboard to lace her fingers through Clark's. "Oh, just… magic, I guess," she said airily.
Perry snorted and headed back towards his office. Lois caught a mutter that sounded suspiciously like, "… newsroom, not a singles club," but he didn't sound entirely displeased. Lois and Clark shared a chuckle and a swift kiss before getting back to work.
(c) Copyright 2002, Meredith Knight