By Lote <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: Jan 2003
Summary: Picking up from the end of the episode "Lucky Leon," this story explores what might have happened had Mayson lived.
Author's note: This idea came up when I was reading a thread on the boards regarding whether Lois and Clark would have married if Mayson had lived. It's an interesting what if…what if Mayson had lived, what would happen? While there are elements of the episode 'Resurrection' in this story and some dialogues are borrowed, no infringement of anyone's rights is intended. I have taken the liberty to change some of the details of the episode and played a little with the timeline. In this story, Clark knows Dr. Klein pretty well by the time Resurrection occurred. It seemed perfect that he was working for STAR Labs and Gables wanting to break into it.
I like to take the opportunity to thank Jon Wolff for his contributions to the story. I also like to acknowledge Anita, Laura, Merry, and Tricia for their help in beta reading the story.
*Night, Day 0,
Near the burning car.*
Clark gathered Mayson in his arms as he turned to face Lois. "Lois, she's still alive! Barely." His voice shook and his eyes were filled with pain and guilt. "Look, I didn't want you to find out this way, but her life's more important. Please…please understand."
Before Lois could respond, Clark cradled Mayson near to his chest and flew off. Nothing had prepared her for the revelation. As she stared after them, her jaw dropped and the thought crossed her mind, "Clark is Superman." She was startled by the sound of her voice. She felt as if she had been hit by a tornado as images swirled around in her mind. Images of Clark and Superman kept flashing before her eyes as she struggled to put together what she knew and what she had just found out.
A tap on her shoulder brought her back to the present. She turned around to see Inspector Henderson peering at her, concerned. "You all right, Lois? Were you injured?" he asked.
"Er…no. That's Mayson's car," Lois pointed out, as if the cops crowding around the scene didn't know it. "Cl…Superman came in the nick of time and ascertained that she was barely alive. He took her to the hospital," she managed to report. She was amazed that her voice seemed steady when she could barely manage a coherent thought.
Henderson nodded, relieved to hear that Mayson was being taken care of. He had been afraid that she might have been in the car and that they would be retrieving her burnt body from the ashes. "How did you get here?"
Henderson was concerned once again. It wasn't like Lois to be in a daze, looking so lost. Neither was it like her to be at a lost for words. "Lois?"
"Sorry," she apologized, sighing. "It's just that it's been a long day. Clark and I were on our way to meet Mayson for our depositions when we saw the car blow up. Clark went to get Superman and well, he followed them to the hospital."
"Both of you witnessed the explosion?" Henderson asked. He peered at Lois, coming to a decision. "O.K. I'm not going to get your statements now. Tomorrow is soon enough. Like a ride to the hospital? I'm sure Clark is still there."
She grimaced. Did she want to face Clark at the moment? His words echoed in her ears…"her life is more important." Of course, it could mean that it was more important to save Mayson's life than to keep his secret. That was what she would expect Superman to say. But she couldn't help but think about Clark's feelings for Mayson. His willingness to sacrifice a secret he had guarded for so long to save Mayson showed, at least to her, that somewhere deep down, he cared for Mayson. She needed time to deal with it if he came to realize his feelings for Mayson now that he had almost lost her. Not just time, but also a plan. She needed to be prepared for the time when he would tell her that he loved Mayson.
"Lois?" Henderson was really concerned at Lois's behavior. He had never seen her like this, not even when Clark had died during the fiasco with Capone and his gang. Then, she had seemed lost and sad, whereas this time around, she seemed more dazed than anything else.
"Oh!" Lois realized that Henderson was still waiting for her answer. "No, thanks, Henderson. If there's a story unfolding there, Clark can cover it. I think I'll take a cab home. Thanks for offering, anyway."
Henderson frowned. When did Lois ever refuse to cover a story? What's more, this was a big story since it involved the assistant D.A. — for her to let Clark handle was quite out of character. "Are you sure?"
"Yep. Let me know when you want to take my statement," Lois said.
"How about tomorrow 9 a.m.?"
"Fine, see you then." Lois then left.
*Night, Day 0,
Clark paced the corridors of the hospital. Mayson had been in surgery for close to 4 hours. Henderson came by earlier and informed him that Lois had gone home. He mentioned that she expected Clark to cover the story. When he heard it, Clark's heart sank. Lois was angry with him, and most probably hurt too.
How he wished that he had been able to reveal his secret to her under better circumstances. Perhaps then he could have lessened the impact of the revelation. Right now, their relationship was still too shaky to withstand the impact. He sighed. He knew that he couldn't have avoided the revelation, not if he wanted to save Mayson. He couldn't live with himself if he had let her die. He had to save her even if she was going to reveal his secret when she regained consciousness.
Clark stopped pacing, shocked. How had he forgotten that Mayson knew about Superman? 'I guess I've been worried about her making it that I put it aside,' he thought sheepishly. It was a major concern though. Given that Mayson had never cared for Superman and thought of him as a vigilante, he didn't really know what she would do. 'I need to talk to someone about this. There's got to be some way to head her off if she remembers the secret when she comes to,' he thought.
He could talk to his parents, he supposed, but they couldn't really help him. No, he needed the devious mind of his partner. He just hoped she was willing to listen to him before evicting him out of her apartment and perhaps even her life. 'The important question is, how mad is she?' Clark thought ruefully. He knew he should have gone back to talk to her, but he felt guilty about even thinking of leaving without knowing Mayson's condition. 'I'll go once the doctor comes out.'
Before long, he saw the operating team clearing out of the operation theater. Approaching one of them, he asked, "How is she?"
The doctor looked at him tiredly. "Are you her relative?"
"No, I'm a friend, and was there when her car exploded tonight," Clark explained. "Doctor, is she going to be all right?"
The surgeon thawed a little at Clark's apparent concern. "Normally, it's not hospital policy to inform people other than the family members and/or the authorities in such matter. But since you've been here the past few hours, I guess I'll bend it a little. It was touch and go for a while; she flatlined once on us. At the moment, she's stable but she's not out of the woods yet. The coming 24 hours are very crucial if she's going to make it."
Clark flinched at the word 'flatline'. "May I see her?"
The doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry. Unfortunately, I can't bend that far."
Clark sighed and nodded. "Thank you, doctor."
"You're welcome." He left Clark staring at the window in the waiting room.
Clark didn't know whether he should wait or leave. Someone was trying to kill her; would the person, or persons, try to finish her off? Henderson had assured him that police protection would be extended to Mayson. So he decided it was best he called him. "Henderson, it's Clark Kent. They've finished the operation. She's to be brought to the ICU in a short while. Will one of your men be coming to guard her door?"
"On their way, Clark. I'm nearby too so I'll drop by to see to the arrangements. Why don't you go back and get some rest?"
"Right, I will. Thanks, Henderson." With a glance to the operating theater, he soon left. He hoped that Lois was still awake for them to talk. Much as he would like to postpone the conversation, he knew that procrastination wasn't going to help. Especially given the circumstances. They needed to find out why Mayson was targeted. He suspected that Intergang was behind it, but to prove that would take the team of Lane and Kent to handle the investigation.
*Night, Day 0,
Lois tossed and turned in bed. She had gone home and taken a long, hot shower before turning in. But her chaotic mind refused to settle down, and so left her unable to fall asleep.
A tap on her window distracted her thoughts. Before she knew it, she was out of her bed and opening her bedroom door. There, outside her window, was Superman. A worried, wary looking Superman. "Lois? May I come in?"
She hesitated long enough to discourage him. Clark was about to turn away and fly off when he heard the soft "yes." "Are you sure?" he asked her.
This time she nodded. "Come in," she said, turning away to settle down on her couch.
Clark came in warily, his gaze never leaving her face. "All right, how mad are you?" he finally asked as he leaned against the window sill.
"What makes you think I'm mad?" she countered.
"You're not?" he asked, incredulous.
Biting her lower lip, she considered what she should say. A thousand thoughts and emotions had passed through her mind in the last few hours, wearing her down. Like the pendulum, she had swung from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Yet through it all, one thing remained a constant. In the end, when all was said and done, she loved Clark. That emotion helped her put a lot of things into perspective. "No, I'm not. I was at one point this evening. But after spending the last few hours thinking about it, I finally realized I don't have the right to be mad at you. Given the way I behaved before…"
"Lois, don't blame yourself. I don't really know why I hesitated to share my secret. Perhaps it's because it's been a part of me for, well, for my entire life, that I don't know how to share it," Clark interjected, running his hands through his hair.
With his hair ruffled, Lois could see Clark emerging from the normally stoic figure of Superman. All he needed was a change of clothes and a pair of glasses. "That brings another question to mind: how long have you had these powers? Come to think of that, I've got lots of questions," she flashed him a rueful smile, more comfortable with Clark than with Superman, as he was dressed. That was the thing; Superman, for all her fantasies about him, wasn't quite approachable.
Clark was once again amazed at her reaction. He moved forward and sat down beside her, thankful that she wasn't as angry as she had a right to be. "All right," he agreed.
Lois wasn't expecting him to cooperate so readily that she didn't really know what to say. "Er…"
"I thought you had a lot of questions to ask," he teased her gently.
"Well, it doesn't seem so appropriate to grill you like I would an interview," she admitted sheepishly.
"Thanks," Clark said, grinning. He was relieved that Lois didn't appear to be all that mad at him after all. He knew that he wasn't off the hook though. Making a decision, he spun out of his costume and got comfortable beside her. Lois looked on, her jaw dropping and her voice absent, recovering only when Clark emerged from the miniature whirlwind in the center of her living room, winking at her.
He settled back beside her and took her hand in his. "Look, Lois, please let me explain myself and then you can ask me any question you want."
Lois nodded and found herself listening to a condensed version of Clark's life story from the time he started developing his powers to the fateful event that signaled the start of Superman's career. He also spoke of Lex's imprisonment of him and how it resulted in Superman not being able to save his life when he jumped off the balcony. She could hear the guilt in his voice for Lex's death. How could he blame himself, she didn't quite understand, but she knew it was an intrinsic part of Clark, the boy scout.
She didn't interrupt him when Clark spoke of the painful period when she thought he was dead. His guilt for deceiving her echoed in every word he spoke. Lois fought against the urge to comfort him even as she battled to keep her hurt. He sounded so sincere in taking the blame for a lot of the ill-feelings they had had that she felt the urge to knock his head.
"Clark, stop the pity party, will you?"
Clark looked up sharply, shocked at her words. "Wha…"
"I'm not saying that you are not to be blamed or that you had no part in the misunderstandings that we've had in our relationship, but to be fair, I had some role in them too," she admitted wryly. "That's why I'm not as mad at you as I should be. You said that I shouldn't blame myself, well the same goes for you. So what do you say, partner, a clean slate?"
Clark smiled brightly. "I'd like that, Lois…"
Before he could say anything more, his pager beeped. Lois watched as he checked the number and gave her permission for him to use her phone.
"Henderson? It's Clark Kent."
She guessed that this might have something to do with Mayson, and she wasn't wrong.
"She's regained consciousness? That's great! She did? I'll be over in a while, then. Thanks, Inspector," Clark ended his conversation before turning to Lois. His delight faded as he took in the hurt clearly stamped on her face. "Lois?"
"Go, she needs you."
"Lois, don't get it wrong, please. She's just a friend. Lois, I wouldn't have asked you out on a date if my feelings for Mayson weren't completely platonic. Believe me," he pleaded.
"I know, Clark. I guess I'm just a little insecure." Lois blushed. How could Clark who was also Superman, the strongest man on Earth, have feelings for an insecure little thing like her? It was an idea she still couldn't fathom.
Clark knelt in front of her and took her hands into his. Looking into her eyes, he said, "Lois, you've nothing to be insecure about. I've loved you since the moment I saw you. I believe that the reason I haven't found anyone else to love before you was that I've been unconsciously waiting…waiting for the one who'd complete me."
Lois heard the sincerity in his words in his eyes and couldn't stop her tears from overflowing. How could she deserve someone like him? Lifting her hand she softly stroked his cheek, caressing the familiar face of her best and dearest friend. She tried to voice her feelings, the realization that she was in love with him, had loved him for a long time too, but somehow the words couldn't come out. So she said simply, "Thank you. You better go."
He searched for the trace of hurt that might be lingering and found none. "Come with me," he said, tugging her hand. "I need you there."
"Lois, Mayson saw the costume just before she lost consciousness. I…I'm not sure if she will remember it and figure out who I am."
"So you want me there for support, eh?" she teased him lightly.
Clark nodded sheepishly. "You don't mind?"
She sighed exaggeratedly as if reluctant. But inside, she was happy at his request. It showed how much he trusted her. "All right, I'll go."
"Good, come on. We'll take Superman Express," he said, spinning into his costume.
Lois had only one reaction to it; her jaw dropped again. "Wow!"
Inordinately pleased by her reaction, he blushed. He held a hand out to her. "Coming?"
*Night, Day 0,
They arrived at the hospital sooner than Lois would have liked. She had enjoyed the flight more than any of the previous occasions. No doubt the knowledge that the man cradling her in his arms was Clark made that much difference. Without realizing it, she had snuggled closer to him during the flight. Her arms' position around his neck seemed more intimate than before. As he gently let her down, she awkwardly withdrew her arms. She wondered if he could see her seemingly naked emotions. But as she shyly gazed into his eyes and said, "Thanks for the ride, *Clark*," she saw that he hadn't detected them. She felt slightly guilty for not telling him of her feelings for him when he had declared his for her, but she reasoned out that there wasn't time for it. She vowed silently that she would let him know at the earliest opportunity.
Clark enjoyed the flight just as much as Lois did. Though it seemed illogical, this flight meant more to him because of Lois's knowledge of his secret. It felt as if she accepted him as he was; not just the country boy nor the superhero, but him, Clark Jerome Kent who was both. That was the something that was missing in his other relationships, especially the very brief one with Mayson. Lois had proven him wrong once again; he wasn't only Clark, with Superman being a costume he put on. In one short flight and with a few simple words, especially the emphasis on his name, she had shown him that he was an amalgam of both personalities and that there wasn't anything wrong with that. Her gaze spoke as much. "You're very welcome, my lady," he said, bowing slightly, his eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Oh, Clark." Lois pretended to be exasperated. "Come on."
They walked towards the ICU, hands naturally linked together. However, they parted when they reached the ward. "Henderson," they greeted the inspector.
"Kent. Lane. Glad you're here. Mayson's been asking for you, Clark."
"She has?" Clark was surprised.
"Yes, insisted that she speak to you before giving her statement. The doctor warned not to tire her out though so you only got a few minutes." When Clark was about to reach for Lois, he added, "You're to go in alone, I'm afraid."
Clark glanced at Lois who kept her expression neutral. He hesitated to go alone but there wasn't much choice in this case. He only hoped that Lois understood why he had to see Mayson. He had this nagging feeling that Lois's fears about his relationship with Mayson weren't quite settled. "All right, Henderson. Lois?"
She gave him a small smile before nodding. "Go ahead, Clark. I'll keep Henderson company. Besides, it'll give me a chance to get some details for the story. Right, Inspector?"
Henderson just grimaced. This was the Lois he knew, the tenacious reporter. Clark grinned when he saw Henderson's reaction. "Don't be too hard on the poor guy, Lois," he teased before stepping into Mayson's room.
He wasn't prepared for what he saw. Tubes and machines were everywhere, all hooked up to Mayson, making her seem smaller than she actually was. Her face was pale and her eyes were closed. The fire he had once admired in the assistant D.A. was gone, but neither was she a peaceful sight. What he saw was his failure, his guilt. His failure to save her before the bomb went off. If only he wasn't focused on Lois at the time, he would have noticed the bomb. What's more, his paralysis at the instant of the explosion cost Mayson's chances of survival dearly. He should have reacted faster, rescued her earlier. He closed his eyes to battle the inner guilt.
"Clark?" A hoarse whisper brought him out of his contemplations.
Opening his eyes, he approached the bed. "Hi, Mayson," he greeted her uncomfortably, avoiding her eyes. He was afraid that he would see reproach in them. "Henderson said you wanted to see me."
Mayson took a long look at the man before her. She had awakened, only to have one thing branded into her brain; Clark was Superman. Yet as she studied him, she just couldn't reconcile the two personas. How could gentle Clark be the vigilante that Superman was? There wasn't a trace of the aloof superhero in the fidgeting figure before her. Perhaps she had been hallucinating. After all, she had been dying. Should she ask or shouldn't she? What if Clark wasn't Superman? Would he think that she had gone around the bend? What if he was Superman? Could she really cope with that truth; right now there was a chance that he wasn't, but if he confirmed it, what was she going to do? Finally, she said, "Yes. I wanted to thank you for saving my life tonight. I was told that you contacted Superman to bring me to the hospital, and you even stayed through the surgery."
Clark was so surprised that he looked up to catch her eyes. Had she been so out of it that she hadn't remembered the secret she had inadvertently discovered? Or was she playing some game he didn't understand? "Er…"
Mayson slowly held out her hand and Clark took it in his. "Clark, your life as well as Lois's might be in danger, especially since you're now witnesses to my attempted murder. I want to get Henderson to arrange police protection for you."
Clark smiled weakly. "Mayson, protection is unnecessary and would only get in the way of us carrying out our jobs."
Mayson frowned and would have protested but Clark beat her to it. "Besides, Mayson, you don't know Lois. No police detail will be able to keep up with her. In fact, even Superman barely manages to do so."
"I don't see you having a problem."
At the comment, he grinned. "Well, I'm her partner."
She bit her lips and then started, "Clark, I'm sorry that you got involved in this."
Clark squeezed her hand. "Not a problem. In fact, Lois is outside, grilling Henderson on the details of this case. Perhaps when you're better you might want to explain to me why you said 'resurrection' just before you lost consciousness."
"The news is always top priority, eh?" Mayson asked with humor.
"Something like that," Clark agreed sheepishly. He saw that Mayson was tiring and decided it was best to leave. "Why don't you get some rest? I'd better go and rescue Henderson."
Mayson nodded, feeling her strength fading fast. Still she was reluctant to see him leave. "Clark…"
She hesitated and then shook her head. "Nothing. Just thanks again."
As his guilt returned in force, he wondered what he should do. At last he chose to give her a peck on the cheek, a symbol of caring. "You're welcome. Sleep well." He then left the room, not realizing that Mayson's hand had drifted to touch the spot where he kissed.
*Early Morning, Day 1,
After leaving the hospital, Lois and Clark decided to go back to the Planet to write up their story so that it would be ready in time for the morning edition. As Clark shared with Lois Mayson's last words before losing consciousness, they realized that her murder attempt was only the tip of the iceberg. Like the award winning investigative reporters they were, both knew they were on to a big story and were not about to let it go. Lois suggested they sell the idea to Perry.
"I know that we don't have much to go on at the moment but Mayson was evidently working on a case which threatened her very life, Perry. Evidently even the police department seemed clueless as to what it is," Lois tried to convince Perry. "Since we're already involved, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to keep working on this. My instinct tells me that this could be very big."
Perry turned to Clark who had been silent since coming into his office. "What have you got to say, Clark?"
"Lois is right, Chief. This is a worthwhile story to pursue."
Perry carefully considered their request. An attempted murder on an assistant DA who, as far as the public knew wasn't working on any sensitive cases. There was a mystery here, and his reporter's instinct, though rusty, was telling him the same things as Lois was. "All right. Stay on it and keep me posted."
"Sure, Boss," Lois quipped, breezing out the door since she now had what she wanted. Clark only managed to shrug apologetically.
Once outside, the weary reporters decided to take a little nap in the conference room before leaving for their appointment with Henderson at 9 a.m. that morning. "Clark, in all the excitement, I forgot to ask you something," Lois remarked as she made herself comfortable on the floor of the conference room.
"What is it?"
"What did Mayson say about your secret?"
"Oh, that. Nothing. She didn't seem to remember it."
"That's a relief," Lois said. Then she turned to face her partner. "Something's bothering you. What is it?"
"I'm not sure, Lois. It's just a nagging feeling. Even if Mayson doesn't remember it now, she may remember it later," Clark replied, his face reflecting his unease.
"We'll cross the bridge then, Clark," Lois said, squeezing his hand reassuringly before settling down again and closing her eyes.
Clark watched her for a while, grateful for her support. They really needed to continue their talk. So far he had only managed to tell her about his life while they had yet to address her questions and many other issues. He drifted off to sleep thinking about them.
*Morning, Day 1,
The police station.*
They were shown into Henderson's office where another person was talking to the inspector. At first glance, the guy practically offended Clark's senses. The garish Hawaiian shirt and the wild hair irritated the heck out of him. He wondered at the reason for the man's presence.
"Kent, Lane. Thanks for coming. Let me introduce you to Agent Daniel Scardino, DEA. Agent Scardino, these are the witnesses I spoke of."
Lois eyed the agent curiously. In spite of his foppish manner, there was something about him that spoke to her. Those eyes were serious eyes, deadly serious. She had no doubt that he was good at his job. Offering her hand, she said, "Pleased to meet you, Agent Scardino."
"Please call me Daniel. I've heard a lot of the investigative team of Lane and Kent," Scardino said, returning the handshake and smiling brightly at her.
"If I may ask, why is a DEA agent interested in our statements?" Clark inquired.
"Let's just say that the attempt on Ms. Drake's life is linked to the case I'm working on. Any light you can shed on this matter would be appreciated."
Lois and Clark exchanged looks before silently agreeing to continue. The case had suddenly turned even more interesting.
"Henderson, shall we?" Scardino prompted when he saw that the partners were agreeable to his presence.
"Of course," Henderson agreed, preparing to take down their statements.
For the next hour or so, Lois and Clark went over the incident without revealing Clark's secret. Both Henderson and Scardino interjected a few times to ask questions and clarify details. At last, they were finished.
"I don't suppose that you'd like to tell us what the case you're working on," Lois asked Scardino.
He only winked back at her in response. "Mr. Kent, Ms. Lane, thank you for your cooperation."
"Of course. I don't suppose you know what the word 'resurrection' means?"
This time, he grinned. "I envy the fishes you're fishing, Ms. Lane."
Lois laughed, acknowledging that she wasn't going anywhere with her probes, while Clark gritted his teeth at the agent's attempt to flirt.
At last, Clark and Lois took their leave. "So what do you think?" Clark asked her.
"I think that we should find out more about Agent Scardino and perhaps dig deeper into what Mayson was working on. There must be some paper trail around that Jimmy can track down."
"Hmm…I'm sure he can."
There was something about Clark's answer that nagged at her. "What's wrong, Clark?"
He turned to her, trying to articulate his feelings. It wasn't very pleasant to find out that he could be jealous without basis. "I know you'll be mad at me when I say this. In fact, I'm finding that I don't really like myself too much either at this moment."
"I found myself jealous of the attention Scardino gave you," he admitted guiltily. "Something about the man just rubbed me the wrong way. And the fact that he was flirting with you didn't help."
Lois's first instinct was to get angry; how dare Clark be jealous. It wasn't as if they were involved with each other. Then, as she gazed at his guilt-ridden face, her heart softened. 'You are involved, Lois. It's a matter of to what extent and that is something both of you have to discuss at some point,' her inner voice counseled.
"Oh, Clark," she finally said, hugging him tightly. "We need to talk soon but right now we don't have the time. Come on, partner."
Clark followed her, dazed at her reaction. Why wasn't she mad? He decided he didn't want to question his good luck.
*Morning, Day 1,
Albie Swinson hurried into the study to see his boss pacing the floor in front of the fireplace, clutching a copy of the Daily Planet. "Yes, sir?"
Stanley Gables quit his pacing to glare at his assistant. "Can't you do anything right?" he shouted, shaking the newspaper at Albie.
Albie cringed, and muttered an apology.
"What happened? How can she have survived the bomb?"
"Seems Superman got there on time, sir."
"Grrr! I want results, Albie. Ms. Drake needs to be taken care of before she reveals our secrets."
"What should we do, sir?"
*Morning, Day 1,
Back at the planet, Lois and Clark called Jimmy over. "Jimmy, we need your help. Find out all that you can about a DEA agent named Daniel Scardino, especially any case he's involved in," Lois ordered the young man.
"DEA? Are you working on a case about drugs?" Jimmy asked, curious.
"Drugs…" Both partners looked at each other in surprise. "Resurrection?"
"Possible, Clark," Lois said. "OK, Jimmy. Related assignment; see if there's any mention of the word 'resurrection' in any of the cases he's involved in. Clark, Bobby would know if there's a new drug out on the street."
"Well, then. Let's pay him a visit." Before Lois could respond, Clark overheard a radio announcement about a flood in China. For a moment, he racked his brains trying to find an excuse to get out of visiting Bobby when he realized he didn't have to do that anymore. It was a rather pleasant realization.
Lois saw the distracted look on Clark's face, the one he always had right before he pulled his disappearing acts. She suddenly realized that the look didn't indicate that he wasn't interested but that there was a need for Superman somewhere else. Glancing at Jimmy, who hadn't notice Clark's distraction, she figured she had better handle the situation before Clark gave one of his flimsy excuses. The man couldn't lie to save himself. "Right, Clark. Come on, we'd better go. Jimmy, we'll be back later in the afternoon. Hopefully you'll get something before then."
"No problem, Lois. I'm on top of it," Jimmy assured her cheerfully, happy to be given the assignment.
"Well then. Come on, Clark. Let's get out of here," Lois said, pulling Clark towards the elevator.
Clark wondered how he was going to broach the subject when Lois turned to him in the elevator and placed a gentle finger on his lips. "I'll go to see Bobby by myself. I know Superman's needed," she said.
Clark looked at her in amazement. "How…"
"It's that look on your face, the one that you have just before you give me all those excuses like 'Cheese of the month club'."
"Oh. So you figured out about them? You're not mad?"
"Nope. I wasn't happy that you ditched me then. But now I know the reasons. I can't say I'm happy now either but I guess that's one of the things we need to talk about. Soon."
Clark sighed. He wasn't ecstatic about being interrupted, either. But he couldn't ignore the calls for help. "We will, Lois. I promise. Right now though there's a severe flood in China and hundreds or maybe even thousands of lives are in danger."
The doors opened into the lobby. "Then you'd better go. Don't worry. I'll be sure to leave some interesting parts of this investigation for you," she teased softly, seeing that he was reluctant to leave her.
At that, he grinned. "Yeah, I wouldn't want you to cut my name out of the by-line," he quipped, dipping his head to kiss her forehead. "Be careful, Lois. And get some rest. You didn't get any last night."
"Yes, sir." She mock-saluted him. "Now go on."
They separated outside the Planet and Lois went off to pay Bobby Bigmouth a visit.
"Hi, Lois. Where's that partner of yours? Is he by Ms. Drake's bedside?" Bobby asked cheerfully, unaware of Lois's rising ire at his assumption.
"Why would Clark be by Mayson's bedside?" Lois challenged.
"No offense, but word in the street is that she's sweet on him and he seemed interested at one point. Now that he was the one who saved her life…" Bobby broke off what he was saying when he noticed Lois's black face. "Er…I guess word in the street is wrong, eh? Sorry, Lois."
Lois drew a deep breath to control her temper. "Never mind, Bobby. I didn't come here for such gossip. I came here to ask you what you know about new drugs being introduced in the market. Or if you've ever heard the word 'resurrection' in connection with some drugs."
Bobby grinned. "What do you say if we try this new Italian restaurant that opened recently downtown?" he suggested, slipping an arm through hers. "And I'll tell you an interesting story I heard recently."
Lois quirked an eyebrow but let Bobby lead her. "Sounds intriguing. Besides, I haven't had breakfast and lunch is due soon. Might as well feed my stomach and mind," she agreed, grinning in return.
"I knew you'd say that."
Needless to say, lunch was a revelation.
*Afternoon, Day 1,
She found out that Clark hadn't returned when she got back to the office and had to think fast to make excuses for his disappearance. Thank goodness for the fact that neither of them had much rest the night before. She told Perry that Clark couldn't keep his eyes opened any longer and had gone home in order to catch up on his sleep. Perry, understanding that Clark had held a vigil outside Mayson's operation theater, didn't question the excuse. Instead, he told Lois that she should take the afternoon off too. "The story can wait," he told her.
So, released from work, Lois gathered whatever information Jimmy could retrieve and headed home. She left a message for Clark to contact her when he returned and settled down to sift through the information. Before long, fatigue took over and she drifted to sleep.
That was the position Clark found her when he peered through the window. He debated at waking her up but decided that his partner wouldn't be happy if he didn't. After all she left a message for him to call her as soon as he got the message. He tapped gently on the window.
"Clark! You're back!" exclaimed Lois, hurrying over to open the window. "How was the flood?"
"Bad," he replied softly. "But we managed to evacuate most of the people."
Lois peered at him, sensing his depression. Her heart went out to the pain she saw etched in his eyes and so she engulfed him in comforting hug. "Clark, you may be a superbeing but you're not God. You can't save everyone. I dare say that without you more lives would have been lost. You did your best," she said, trying to reach out to him.
"I know," he said ruefully. "In my mind, I know that. But I still feel so guilty not being able to save them all." He sighed, trying to stop from reliving the memories of those crying out in vain, drowning even as he tried his best to reach them.
"Oh, Clark!" Lois embraced him again, leading him to the couch. "I guess you wouldn't be you if you don't feel guilt. Want to talk about it?"
He considered the offer. "Not right now. But can I take a rain check?"
She laughed softly. "Sure, anytime you want to cash it in, partner." She hugged him tightly, hoping to convey her love and support through the hug.
Unabashedly, he returned it, enjoying the feeling of safety. It was ironic that he found his safe harbor within the arms of this woman beside him; a woman who was a risk- taker and who needed him to save her more times than he could count. But there wasn't anyone else he'd rather be with than Lois.
"Why did you ask me to contact you?" Clark asked after some time had passed.
Lois stirred in his embrace. "Oh, yes. I was excited by what we managed to uncover so far."
"Don't tell me you've solved the crime, Sherlock," Clark teased her.
"Hrmph! Do you want to hear it or not?" Lois pretended to be offended.
"All right! All right! Shoot."
"Bobby had a very interesting tale to tell." She told him about the tale of men being discovered alive when records showed that they were dead.
"Bingo! What is more interesting is that these men used to be in prison. Somehow, someone managed to find a way to make it seem as if they were dead to get them out of prison. When they sent out the bodies to be buried, the person revived them and they were free. It seemed that the police still haven't gotten wind of the scheme but I'm certain that Mayson was working on this case."
"But how does it relate to the DEA's interest in the case?" Clark asked.
"Perhaps they used a drug to simulate death," Lois ventured forth her theory. "An experimental drug, perhaps?"
"Sounds logical. What did Jimmy come up with?"
"I haven't managed to go through them," she admitted, blushing. "I fell asleep."
Clark chuckled and she threw a cushion at him in mock anger. "Well, let's go through them now."
A little while later, Clark whistled, amazed.
"What? What did you find?" Lois asked him.
"Agent Scardino lost his partner a few years ago. Take a look at this," Clark told her, passing the document. "She was murdered. The M.O. is a bomb, just like Mayson. Quite a coincidence, eh?"
"Hmm…it says here that the bomber was Sean Mallory. Seems familiar. Clark, pass me my notebook. Bobby gave me a list of names. I believe I saw his name there."
"Here you go."
She flipped through the list and then grinned triumphantly. "Here, Sean Mallory! Want to bet that he is somehow behind Mayson's attempted murder?"
"I never bet on a sure thing," Clark replied, grinning. "So we have a link between Agent Scardino and this case, even if it's circumstantial. We better get Jimmy to dig up on Mallory."
"Right. I'll go pay the Metropolis prison warden a visit about the deaths."
"I'll check with Henderson if Forensics had I.D.ed the maker of the bomb. And pay Mayson a visit too. Perhaps she'd be more willing to cooperate."
Lois bit her lip, a little insecurity creeping in but she knew what Clark proposed was logical. Mayson would be more open to Clark than her. And that was where the insecurity came in. It wasn't that she doubted him, but Mayson could be persuasive and not so long ago, Clark had been attracted to her. She brushed the thought aside; reminding herself that Clark would never cheat on her, no matter the temptation. He wasn't like her father. "Right," she finally agreed.
*Morning, Day 2,
Clark wished that they could have had their heart to heart talk the previous night, but both of them were exhausted. He had seen her look when he announced that he would try to interview Mayson. Things were still not quite settled on that front. In fact, things weren't settled on many fronts but given the circumstances, they weren't going to get a proper break to discuss things. He reminded himself to be patient, that for now, at least, Lois accepted him as he truly was.
He poked his head into Mayson's room. "Hi, Mayson," he greeted her, seeing that she was conscious. She looked much better even though she hadn't been moved from the ICU ward and there were less wires attached to her. His previous guilt subsided slightly. "You look much better," he said honestly. "Here, I brought something to cheer you up."
She took the heart-shaped balloons, the only ones he could find in the shop below, and beamed at him. She had been wondering when he was going to visit her again. Now that he had and brought her the balloons as well, she felt she was right that he had feelings for her. The evidence was there for all to see. "Thanks, Clark. They're lovely."
Unaware of her thoughts, he helped her tie the strings to her bed before taking a seat in the room's only chair. "So what did the doctors say?"
"That I'm lucky to be alive. My condition has stabilized and if within the next forty-eight hours it continues to improve, they'll upgrade me to one of the normal wards."
"Sounds good," Clark said.
They lapsed into silence for a little while before Mayson asked, "What brought you here, besides checking up on me?"
Clark reddened a little. "Lois and I are working on a story we obtained from one of her sources. Seems like there's a problem within the prison. Prisoners are being smuggled out of jail by playing dead." He watched her very closely and saw her subtle reaction. She definitely knew something about the case.
"Why are you here, then?" Mayson asked, pretending to be innocent. She was a little disappointed that it was a story that brought him to her, but it was better than him not visiting at all.
"Somehow, the word 'resurrection' comes to mind and I believe you might be able to help us out," Clark answered.
"You know that I can't tell you; it's part of a police investigation."
"Mayson, you're here because one of these escaped convicts targeted you. Henderson told me that the bomb signature matched a Mr. Sean Mallory, who supposedly died quite suddenly in prison a few weeks before. From the list Lois and I have, he's one of those who were revived after their alleged death. Whoever masterminded the jailbreak knows that you're investigating him or them and sent Mallory to get rid of you. Before you lost consciousness you uttered to me 'resurrection' which I take to mean that you'd have wanted me to look into the matter if you died. And I would have. So it makes sense for us to work together now."
"Clark, you'd want to publish this story but I can't let you," Mayson said, her stance softening.
"Look, Mayson, both Lois and I are professionals. We know that to publish right now would endanger many people and we won't get the whole story. We can wait until you allow us to print it. Just let us work on this. Let us be your legs this time," Clark persuaded her.
He waited while Mayson debated with herself. Seeing that she still had some resistance to the idea, he added, "Besides, Lois and I are already working on this case. Wouldn't it be better for us to pool our resources together?"
She grinned wryly. "You should be a salesman, Clark. Are you really speaking for both Lois and yourself when you promise to keep a lid on the story until I allow you to print it?"
"Yes," Clark said, hoping that Lois wouldn't mind.
*Morning, Day 2,
While Clark was negotiating with Mayson, Lois was on her way to the Metropolis prison, sipping her hot coffee while driving her jeep. The coffee, together with freshly baked croissants, was an offering from Clark. She had a pleasant surprise this morning when she found them on her window sill. From the writings on the cup, he had gone to France to get them. It was definitely a perk in knowing Clark's other identity, she decided with a smile.
However, she was disappointed that he hadn't stayed for a chat. Especially since he had left early the night before with the excuse of being tired. Of course she hadn't doubted him because she had seen that he could barely open his eyes. The rescue operation had taken a lot out of him. Knowing that she was in his thoughts in the morning more than made up for the disappointment.
She had paged him before she left and when he returned her call, she found out that he had already alerted Jimmy to find out more about Mallory and had taken the liberty to make an appointment with the prison warden for her. He also updated her on the forensics' findings on the bomb. She hadn't been surprised that it was Mallory's work.
Turning into the prison's driveway, Lois presented her reporter's ID to the guards and was granted entrance. "Ms. Lane," said one of the guards, "Warden Chambers is expecting you. This way, please."
Lois meekly followed him while surreptitiously checking her surroundings. The prison looked much like any other prison she'd visited. She wondered if there was an insider who helped in the scheme. They still hadn't the whole picture, something which Clark hoped Mayson could help them with.
"Ms. Lane, welcome," said Warden Chambers as he rose to shake her hands.
"Warden Chambers. Thank you for consenting to meet me," Lois greeted, shaking his proffered hand.
"It's not often that I get a visit from the famous Lois Lane. What is it that I can do for you, Ms. Lane?" he asked, waving for her to seat herself.
Lois sat in the offered chair. "I'm working on a story regarding the attempted murder of the assistant DA and we found out that the bomb signature identified a Sean Mallory who happened to have been an inmate here at Metropolis prison. I was wondering…" She was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in," said Chambers, throwing her an apologetic look. "What is it, Debbie?" he asked his secretary who poked her head in.
"Warden, there are a couple of gentlemen here to see you. One of them is Inspector Henderson."
Chambers frowned but indicated for her to grant them entry while Lois silently cursed her luck. It was just like Henderson to interrupt her investigation. She didn't show her displeasure though as she stood up when Henderson and Scardino entered.
"Chambers, I'm sorry to interrupt your meeting," Henderson apologized as he spared Lois a glance. "Lane, I should've known that you'd be here before us."
"You know each other?" Chambers asked.
"Yes," Lois and Henderson answered.
"Please let me introduce my colleague, DEA Agent Daniel Scardino. He was Mallory's arresting officer. This is Warden Chambers, a long time friend of mine."
"Please call me Daniel," Scardino said as he shook Chambers's hand.
"I don't suppose you're here for the same reason as Ms. Lane?"
"If she's here with regards to Mallory, then yes, we are," Scardino answered.
"How can the bombing be tied to Mallory? The man's been dead for a couple of weeks," Chambers protested, perplexed.
"That's exactly why we're here. To find out the reason," Henderson told him.
Scardino nodded. "Isn't it standard procedure that if any inmate died mysteriously there will be an autopsy?"
"Yes, and I've received the reports for Sean Mallory as well as several others in the last few months," Chambers confirmed.
"There are other mysterious deaths?" Henderson asked, shocked.
Lois wondered if Scardino and Henderson weren't aware of the other deaths. It was unlikely that Scardino had no knowledge of them, so it must be that he hadn't deemed fit to inform Henderson of it. She turned her attention back to Chambers as he answered his friend.
"Well, they died suddenly but the autopsies were inconclusive. Only one of them had heart attack. Others were given clean bill of health. There was no reason for their deaths. No foul play, no nothing," Chambers admitted, frustration evident in his voice.
"Who did the autopsy?" both Scardino and Lois asked at the same time. Scardino turned to grin at Lois.
"Metro. Gen. We have a deal with them that they handle all our inmates' health issues. Just one minute." Chambers pressed the intercom, "Debbie, would you mind locating the autopsy reports that I was perusing yesterday?"
Through the intercom, Debbie assured that she'd bring them in ASAP.
"Thanks," Chambers replied. "You can take a look at them yourselves. So what's this about Mallory being the bomber? Could there be a copycat out there?"
"Unlikely, Warden," Scardino said.
"Warden, have you heard of a drug called 'resurrection'?" Lois decided to take the plunge and ask.
Chambers frowned. "Not that I've recalled. Is this drug why you're involved?" he turned to ask Scardino.
Scardino didn't answer straight away but turned to acknowledge Lois's investigative prowess with a smirk. "Maybe. It's basically still a rumor. A drug that can simulate death. After taking it, it's as if you're dead. But it will only be for a short while. A day or two at the most. That's what been said on the streets. However, no concrete proof has been produced that such a drug exist."
It was Henderson's turn to frown. "Why haven't you informed me about this? Was this what A.D.A. Drake was investigating?"
Scardino nodded. "I'm sorry, Henderson. For one, it is basically rumors. It was only when Ms. Drake came to us about the mysterious deaths and her informer mentioning that a test drug was involved that we became interested in the case. Then Ms. Drake's attempted murder happened. We didn't want to leak anything crucial to the press." Here he glanced at Lois. "Of course, Ms. Lane seemed to be one step ahead of us."
Lois grinned. "I try, Agent Scardino. Warden, was there anything unusual happening during or before any of the deaths? Any visitors?"
"I'll check the records," Chambers promised. "But I fail to see how they're revived after the autopsy."
"They might not have been autopsied at all. This operation seemed to be pretty big. It might involve the coroner's office as well," Scardino speculated.
"Sounds plausible," Henderson agreed. "We'd have a better idea once we studied the reports carefully."
"Ms. Lane, care to join us?" Scardino asked.
Lois just raised her eyebrow to indicate that the question was unnecessary.
*Morning, Day 2,
Over the magazine he was holding, Albie watched as the doors to the ICU room opened and a tall, good-looking man came out. The person took a few moments to talk to the guard outside before leaving. Albie quickly jerked his magazine up as the man passed him. 'I wonder if he's a police officer? Was he taking a statement from Ms. Drake?' He knew from the conversations around him that the assistant D.A. was conscious.
Mr. Gables had sent him to scope out the situation. From what he'd seen, the plain clothes guards outside Ms. Drake's room changed every six hours. Perhaps they could take advantage of the changing guards to slip into the room and take care of Ms. Drake. Unnoticed, he slipped out of waiting room to report to Mr. Gables.
'If he was taking a statement, we need to do more 'damage control' than I anticipated,' he thought, sweating profusely. "Mr. Gables, sir?" he spoke into the phone. "She's awake and just received her first visitor. I think she might have given her statement already."
He quickly put the receiver away from his ear at the reaction. He only placed it back after the voice on the other end died down considerably. "Yes, sir. I'll take care of it. Yes, and the letters too. Got it."
Mayson watched as Clark poured over her notes of the case. She couldn't help but admire his physique from where she was. He had a well-toned body, very much like Superman. That thought brought her thoughts to a complete halt. She narrowed her eyes, thinking of her suspicions. He had quickly returned with her notes after she informed him where to retrieve them. So quickly, in fact, that her suspicions about him being Superman had emerged once more. "Clark?"
He raised his head. "Yes?"
Hesitantly she asked, "Did Superman fly me to the hospital?"
Alarms went off in his head but Clark tried not to let it show. "Yes, I got hold of him just in time. It seemed that he had heard the explosion and was already on his way over." He crossed his fingers hoping that Mayson wouldn't accuse him of lying. It was a childish thing to do but he took comfort in the age-old tradition.
One of the things that attracted her to Clark was his decency and almost transparent face. He wasn't comfortable with lying and it showed, just as it did now. Could she be right? Could this decent man be Superman? If so, why did he become a vigilante?
"Are you upset about his rescuing you?"
"Er…no. I guess he saved my life. But…"
"Clark, you know I've always made it clear that I don't approve of Superman's activities."
"Yes, you have."
"I can't be a hypocrite and say I approve of him now just because he saved my life. Do you understand?" she asked him, watching his face.
Clark mulled over what she said, trying to find any hidden meanings. Finally he replied, "But Mayson, can you see that sometimes he is needed? That when it's a question between life and death, when a split second action is necessary, his powers can make all the difference. Can you?"
She sighed. "Perhaps. But that doesn't mean that he can take the law into his own hand. He's still a vigilante, Clark."
"That's because the law didn't take into account his capabilities, Mayson. The law isn't prepared to deal with someone with his powers."
"The law does make exceptions. Precedence is being set all the time."
"Well then, are you saying that Superman should appeal to the court to be deputized or something?" Clark joked.
"Why not? This way, he will be acting on behalf of the law and is also answerable to the law."
Clark was stumped. He never really thought about it that way. To him, Superman was just a way to use his powers, not to contemplate a career in law enforcement. But now that Mayson had pointed it out, he realized the potential of her suggestions as well as the complications. "An interesting idea, Mayson. But I can see some complications there. For example, police officers aren't allowed to use excessive force. Given Superman's strength, it is likely that all the criminals would claim the use of excessive force."
"The parameters under which Superman can or cannot work can be ironed out," Mayson pointed out.
"But what about citizenship? Superman's not supposed to be limited by borders. By deputizing him, it would indicate that he is a citizen of the United States, and thus bound to respect the international regulations such as customs and immigration laws. That's another thing. He's not a US citizen, so how can he be deputized in the first place? It's not as simple as you make it out to be."
"It's not simple but it's not difficult either, Clark. Why don't you talk to Superman about it? Ask him to consider the suggestion," Mayson pleaded.
He sighed. "All right, Mayson. You know I will. Now shall we get back to the case?"
She nodded. "What have you got so far?"
Before he could answer, a nurse came in with Mayson's medicine and shooed him out. That was where Lois and Agent Scardino found him. "Clark, what are you doing out here?" she asked.
"Mayson's indisposed at the moment. Agent Scardino," Clark greeted.
"Please call me Daniel," Scardino requested. "How is Ms. Drake?"
"Better. Did you two meet on the way up?"
"No, Dan and I came from the police station."
Clark's eyebrow rose at Lois's use of the agent's first name but he decided wisely not to comment. However, the feelings it invoked within him were not pleasant. He wondered if this was what Lois felt when he spoke of Mayson. If it was, he could see why she reacted badly. Especially when it seemed that he and Mayson were involved. Unlike Lois's situation with Agent 'Please call me Daniel' Scardino. He knew very well that they weren't involved even though the agent showed signs of being attracted to Lois. No, Clark decided, jealousy wasn't a pleasant feeling at all. Nor was possessiveness. So he shoved those feelings aside and asked as neutrally as he could, "What were you doing at the station? I thought you were heading to the prison?"
"Lois and I met at the prison when we both had the idea to check with the warden about the mysterious deaths. We managed to obtain the autopsied reports and have been looking through them for past couple of hours," Scardino explained.
"Yes, interestingly enough, except for one, all the rest were forgeries. We just checked with the coroner's office where they were supposedly to have been issued and they confirmed that none of the bodies ever reached the morgue and no autopsy were ever performed on them. Seems like whoever's operating this is a pro," Lois said excitedly. "Dan's going to check another lead we found."
"The van transporting the bodies to the morgue and then to the Whispering Pine Cemetery belongs to a funeral parlor run by a Mr. Sunshine. We suspect that the person switching the bodies to be working for the parlor. Definitely something we should check out."
Clark nodded. "Sounds like you've had a productive day."
"Any luck with Mayson?" Lois asked him.
"She agreed to help us out. We were going through her notes when I got evicted."
"Poor Clark," Lois laughed at his 'lost puppy' look. He could be very adorable at times. She was secretly glad that Clark didn't get to spend more time with Mayson. Not that she doubted Clark, she told herself, but still temptations were best avoided whenever possible. "At least you brought out the notes with you," she said, indicating the folders Clark was holding. "Mind sharing, partner?"
Clark grinned sheepishly, having forgotten about the folders the moment he saw Lois and Dan together. "Oh, these. No, not at all. Mayson was very close to solving the case, it would seem. She was investigating a former STAR Labs employee by the name of Stanley Gables. She believed that he was the one who developed the drug, Resurrection, which enabled the inmates to be smuggled out of the prison though she hadn't been able to get the evidence. That night, she had just received a call from an anonymous source who said that he was able to provide her with the evidence and was heading out to meet him when the explosion occurred."
"Sounds like someone was luring her into a trap. I'll have Henderson trace the call. Even though I think that it'll lead to a dead end, we may get some clues," Daniel said.
"Good idea, Dan. Clark, we should check up on Stanley Gables. Find out more about this drug."
"Mr. Gables disappeared recently and Mayson couldn't trace him. However, she has found a connection between Mallory and the drug. She also has an address for Mallory; it's his mother's house. Once we talk to Mayson, we should go and pay Mrs. Mallory a visit," Clark suggested. He hoped that Agent 'Dan' Scardino wasn't going to tag along. He needed to talk to Lois regarding what Mayson suggested. Or at least give her a heads up about it till they could discuss it further. "While you check out the call, of course, Dan."
Lois looked up at her partner's tone. The saccharine sweetness wasn't exactly the kind of tone Clark normally used. He had that look which was a cross between a grimace and a smile; his constipated look, she once termed it. It was reserved for those he didn't care for, like Lex Luthor for example. She suddenly realized that her partner was jealous.
She had expected to be hit by anger but instead was surprised when the only feeling that arose within her was a sense of pride. She was flattered that Clark loved her enough to feel threatened by Dan. But before she or Dan could say anything, the nurse stepped out of Mayson's room.
The nurse looked at the three people standing out there and frowned. "You do know that this is the ICU and Ms. Drake needs a lot of rest," she said.
Clark flushed guiltily while Dan turned on the charm. Smiling winsomely, he reassured the nurse that they weren't going to impose on her patient, only trying to gain some vital information from her. The nurse relented, letting them in with an admonishment to keep it short. Clark gritted his teeth at Dan's triumph but kept his peace as he followed the agent and Lois into Mayson's room.
Albie saw three people entering Ms. Drake's room as he slipped into the ICU waiting room. Cursing himself, he decided he would wait until they left and find out their identities; find out what they knew. Meanwhile, at least one part of the damage control was working as plan. 'Poor Mrs. Mallory,' he thought as he resumed his surveillance.
Lois was apprehensive as she stepped into the room. Though it was well lit, the room seemed cramped with all sorts of machines, most of which were attached to the single bed, the centerpiece in this drama. The woman in it looked fragile, but Lois could see in her eyes the indomitable spirit of the assistant DA. The fire burning there was as bright as it ever was, but it seemed to soften as it focused on her partner. Lois's heart lurched as she realized what the look meant. Mayson was in love with Clark. She surreptitiously glanced at Clark but saw that he hadn't noticed Mayson's loving gaze. Her partner could be clueless at times. Of course that made him more adorable to her.
Clark walked up to the bed. "Hi Mayson. I see you survived the round with the dragon lady," he joked.
Mayson let out a weak chuckle. "She's not that bad."
"You wouldn't say that if you were the one being booted out. Anyway, while I was outside, Lois came by with Agent Scardino. And I don't know whether you've met, but this is Agent Daniel Scardino, DEA." He turned to Dan. "This is assistant DA Mayson Drake."
"Hello, Lois," Mayson greeted her before turning to Dan. "Agent Scardino, sorry that our first face to face meeting isn't very pleasant."
"Not at all," Dan assured her.
"Clark said that you're better." Lois made it seem a question rather than a statement.
"Yes," Mayson said simply as she turned to smile softly at Clark. "Clark saved my life."
Dan frowned. "I thought that Superman did?"
"Superman wouldn't have been there if it weren't for Clark."
Clark and Lois exchanged alarmed glances. They had maintained that Superman was on his way when Clark found him. Was Mayson hinting that she knew Clark's secret? If so, why? Why hadn't she revealed it if that were the case? After all, there was no love lost between Mayson and the superhero. Lois bit her lips. She had a suspicion of the reason; Mayson didn't want to hurt the man she was in love with, Clark. "Those balloons are cute. Someone special?" she attempted to change the subject.
Mayson beamed at Clark. "I hope so."
Clark turned beet red. "Er…"
"As you can see, he's quite shy," Mayson quipped.
"Mayson…" Clark tried to put things straight but found himself in a quandary. He didn't want to humiliate Mayson but he didn't want Lois to form the wrong conclusion either.
'Poor Clark, how does he get into such scrapes,' Lois thought, hiding an evil little grin. 'Well, here's SuperLois to the rescue.'
"We can see that, Mayson. Clark's not very good at communicating with the opposite sex. He needs a special woman who can bring out the best in him. Someone he has no problem communicating his feelings with. Of course since I've known him, I've not *met* anyone like that."
Mayson's smile grew cold at the dig. She glanced at Clark but found him studying his partner with a decidedly unpartner-like gaze. "I'm sure," she replied shortly, turning back her attention to Lois and Dan. "Now, this isn't a social visit, is it?"
Dan cleared his throat, not really knowing what to make of the previous conversation. There were a lot of undercurrents that he knew nothing of. He was glad that someone changed the topic back to the case at hand. Something he was equipped to handle. "Yes, Clark told us that you have some leads for us to work on."
"Of course, Clark and I were just discussing it."
"Yes, I briefed them on what you had learned. Lois and I are going over to Mrs. Mallory's house while Dan checks out the call you received."
"You think that the call could have been Mallory's work?"
"It's possible. Or it could be someone else who was in on the plan," Dan said. "Whoever it was, he was trying to lure you into your car."
Lois nodded. "Given the number of people smuggled out from prison, it could be any of them. Or even this illusive Stanley Gables."
"I think we should also talk to Dr. Klein, see what he knows of Stanley Gables. He's been with STAR Labs for a long time, he might know something," Clark suggested.
"Dr. Klein?" Lois enquired. She hadn't heard the name before.
"Dr. Klein is Superman's doctor. He's been helping Superman understand his physiology better," Clark explained.
Lois stared at her partner, wondering what other secrets he kept from her. "I see. You think he might be able to help us?"
"Yes. He's quite senior in the establishment. More so than Dr. Hamilton."
Daniel, who had been listening, decided to chime in. "Well, then. Sounds like a plan. Why don't I meet you both at STAR Labs in about three hours? That will give us ample time to dig up something, don't you think?"
"And what can I do?" Mayson asked.
Dan smiled at her. "Rest. You've done enough. If not for your efforts, we wouldn't have been able to get this far so soon."
Mayson was about to protest when Clark and Lois chimed in their agreement. Knowing she was outnumbered, she agreed reluctantly. Besides, the pain medication was already making her feel sleepy.
Daniel spoke briefly with the officer on duty outside Mayson's room before returning to the partners. "He'll be on duty for a few more hours. He'll keep a lookout for any suspicious people."
"He should. She's still in danger, until we catch the people who did this," Lois agreed.
"Right, so I'll see you later?"
The partners nodded before moving towards the exit. Clark threw a glance at the waiting room when something caught his eye. But all he noted was the same gentleman who was reading the same magazine from earlier. Putting it out of his mind, he placed a guiding hand to Lois's back.
*Afternoon, Day 2,
In the car.*
In the car, Lois turned to Clark. "Sounds like Mayson still has a crush on you."
"I know," he sighed, "and I wish there's something I can do about it. She took it the wrong way when I gave her the balloons."
Lois squeezed his hand, turning her attention back on the road. "Things are going to be fine, Clark. Don't worry too much. Mayson will realize it sooner or later. I do feel that I was being a little mean to her."
Clark glanced at the map before saying, "Lois, turn at the next corner. Mrs. Mallory's house is two streets down. As for your remarks, well, you're wrong, you know."
"Wrong?" Lois asked as she eased on the brakes and put the car into neutral gear at the traffic light.
"Yep. You've met the one woman who brings the best out of me."
Lois's heart rate rose as she lifted an eyebrow.
His smile turned mischievous. "My mom."
She burst out laughing. "Sure, Kent, sure. I should have known that you're a mama's boy."
Glancing at his partner, Clark was happy to note the smile on her lips. Soon they were being ushered in by Mrs. Mallory. In her early sixties, the Irish lady was barely half Clark's height. She was happy to talk about her 'little Sean' and brought out all the photos, correspondences, and other memorabilia that she kept. Soon they were comfortably seated on the porch, perusing through the photos while Mrs. Mallory worked on her needle point.
"Sean is responsible for my taking up needle point. After he went to prison, I had to find some way to support myself. Now, I sell these at swap meets." She held up her needlework.
Clark cleared his throat. "Mrs. Mallory, did Sean have any close friends?"
"I'm afraid little Sean didn't make friends easily." She pointed to a to a 5X7 photo of Sean in prison garb, scowling at the camera. "Oh, that was the last picture taken of Sean. Two weeks before he died. Isn't he adorable?"
Lois then asked, "What about 'big' Sean? Did he have any friends?"
"Well…he did have one. They were pen pals."
"They wrote to each other?" Clark asked, confused.
"Heavens, no. They met in the pen." Something struck her. "You know, I think Sean might have mentioned him in one of those letters he wrote me from prison."
She pulled a stack of letters from the box of memorabilia. "It'll be here somewhere." She was about to say something else when the kettle whistled. "Oh, tea's ready. You'll stay for tea, won't you?" she asked, handing over the letters to Lois.
The partners smiled politely and nodded. When she disappeared inside Lois pulled out an envelope and started skimming through it. "Clark, listen to this. 'This is probably the last letter I will be writing you from prison. If you don't hear from me for a while — or ever again — don't worry. Just know that I am in a far better place…I…"
"Excuse me, Lois." Lois was surprised when Clark rushed out of his chair and into the house.
"My. He must be in a hurry," remarked Mrs. Mallory when she came out not a minute later bearing tea and cookies.
"Urgent call of nature," Lois tried to excuse what seemed like rude behavior. It wasn't like Clark at all. "Do you need my help?"
"No, dear. I'm fine…"
They both jumped when Superman crashed through the porch floorboards and floated through the hole amid a cloud of smoke. He was holding some kind of device in his hands.
"Oh, my," Mrs. Mallory sank gratefully into a chair, clutching at her chest.
Lois looked at the superhero in surprised. "What happened?"
"I was in the area when I spotted this incendiary device under the porch. It was capable of burning down this entire house within minutes."
"Oh, my," Mrs. Mallory repeated. "Thanks, Superman. Would you like a cookie?"
"No, thank you, ma'am. I'm watching my calories."
Lois tried to conceal her snort at the remark.
Superman didn't spare her a glance as he continued, "I'll have someone come around tomorrow to fix your floorboards. Have a nice day." Soon he was justa speck in the sky.
"What happened?" Clark came out and looked at the hole as if puzzled.
"Someone tried to burn down the house," Lois told him. The partners exchanged a speculative look.
"But that sexy Superman fellow was in the area and saved us. I'm a bit weak in the knees. Maybe I should go lie down for a while." She struggled to get up. "Why would anyone want to burn down my house?"
"Mrs. Mallory, could we borrow these letters for a few days?" Lois asked.
"Go right ahead." Not waiting for her guests to leave, the old lady headed into the house.
"Want to explain why you didn't give me any warning?"
Clark reddened as he remembered what happened back at Mrs. Mallory's porch. He had heard a ticking sound and found the device underneath the floorboards. The immediate thought was to get away from Lois and come back as Superman. "Would you believe me if I told you I forgot?"
"Forgot? How can you forget when you knew about it?"
He frowned, before realizing what she meant. "No, not forgot about the device. I meant that I forgot that you know about me." He smiled sheepishly.
"I guess we both have to get used to things being different now, eh?"
"I didn't hurt your feelings, did I?" he asked, worried.
She smiled to reassure him. "No, I was just perplexed. Besides, you're not the only one who's got to adjust."
"Well, you seem to be handling it well."
She shrugged. "So, who do you think tried to kill Mrs. Mallory? And why?" she speculated, changing the topic.
"I doubt Mallory would kill his own mother. For all his crime, the guy loved his mother."
"You're right. But who, then? Can't be someone who wants revenge. If so, she would have been dead a long time ago. So it's got to do with this case."
"Right. But for what purpose?"
Lois thought about it as she eased into the late afternoon traffic. She was glad that STAR Labs was located on the outskirts of the city proper, and so the traffic wasn't so bad. "First someone tries to silence Mayson, and now Mrs. Mallory. They're both connected to the case: Mayson because of her investigation, and Mrs. Mallory because of her son. Could it be that someone is afraid that Mrs. Mallory would reveal something important?"
"Okay, though I don't think the lady knows anything."
"Hmm…not something she knows, but something she has."
"Ah, I see. That's why the device is for setting a fire."
"Now you're thinking, partner." Lois grinned as she turned into the STAR Labs parking lot.
"That's my guess. Perhaps Mallory let something slip to his mother in one of the letters."
"The one you read, perhaps? You're brilliant."
"You only realized it now?" Lois teased before getting out of the jeep.
Laughing, she threaded her arm through his. "Let's go meet Daniel and Dr Klein."
Clark groaned. "Can we just meet Dr Klein without meeting *Dan*?"
"Oh, Clark," she sighed. "Give him a chance. He's cute."
"Yeah, to you, maybe. He's got his eyes on you."
Lois grinned. "But I've got my eyes on this handsome partner of mine," she mock-whispered, squeezing the arm she was holding. "Really, Clark. You've got nothing to be jealous about."
Their gaze met and held. The depth of emotion in her eyes took Clark's breath away. He could almost touch the love shining in them. In fact, he itched to touch it. Without conscious thought Clark lowered his head till their lips were scant inches from each other and his hand reached to caress her cheek.
Spellbound, Lois leaned into the touch, her eyes drifting close to savor the feelings it invoked. She knew she couldn't, wouldn't resist if Clark were to kiss her. Their lips were about to touch when a honk from an approaching car broke the spell. Startled, they both jumped apart.
An embarrassed silence ensued before he broke it. "Er…sorry about," he said, gesturing to the earlier spot where they almost kissed.
She reddened. "Yeah. Definitely not where I'd imagine our first kiss to be."
"First kiss?" Clark asked, perplexed. "I thought…"
"That kiss that night, well it's good, but you know…I don't think it counts."
"Why not?" Clark turned to face her. He was trying to understand how Lois's mind works. Most of the time, he had no problem following her but she threw him in a loop this time round.
"Well, that's because we kissed under a misconception," Lois said, nodding for emphasis.
She sighed. "Clark, I only kissed half of you. If we're going to have a relationship, it has to be all or nothing."
"Half of…oh, you mean…"
"Right. Knew you'd get it sometime in the next millennium," she teased.
"Ha!" Clark pretended to be offended. "Lois, we really need to talk about this."
"You're right. Tonight?"
He grinned. "You're on. Now about Agent Scardino."
She smirked. "Hmm…you've got an admirer and I've got an admirer…"
Clark stared at her. "What's going through that evil mind?"
"Hey! Not evil, precisely. But don't you think Daniel and Mayson make a *cute* couple?"
"Come on, Clark," she wheedled. "It'll be fun."
"No way, Lois. You're not going to convince me to…"
"What is Lois trying to convince you to do?" Daniel appeared behind them.
Clark turned and glared at the DEA agent while Lois put on her most charming smile. "Daniel! Nothing. He's just being a coward, that's all."
Daniel smirked, eyeing Clark up and down. "Coward, eh? Whatever you want him to do, I'm willing to help out."
Clark intensified his glare. "It's none of your business. I'm more than capable of taking care of it."
Lois rolled her eyes at the testosterone display. "Boys! Can we focus here?"
Both of them turned to her sheepishly.
"That's better. Now, let's see what Dr. Klein has to say, shall we?"
*Afternoon, Day 2,
Back at the hospital. Albie just heard the bad news; Superman stopped the device from burning Mrs. Mallory's house. The letters were last seen in the hands of her visitors, Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane from the Daily Planet. 'Damn. Mr. Gables is not going to be pleased.'
He needed to succeed in this task if he didn't want to face Mr. Gables' wrath. He decided he couldn't wait for the guards to change. Instead, he planned for a diversion. Counting to three, a wailing sound could be heard all along the hallway. Before long, the ICU staff were running around trying to put out the fire that suddenly erupted in one of the emergency rooms.
In the confusion, the guard didn't notice Albie in his stolen lab coat slip into Mayson's room and inject something into the drips. Mayson, who was asleep, didn't stir as the machine beside her bed beeped in warning. No one noticed him as they rushed in to try and revive her, or when they declared her time of death.
*Afternoon, Day 2,
"Clark, this is a nice surprise." Dr. Klein got up from where he had been peering into an electron microscope. "Oh, yes, Clark. Do you mind asking Superman to come by if you see him?"
"Hi, Dr. Klein. Sure, is it about the tests?"
"Yes, they came back yesterday." Dr. Klein eyed the man in Hawaiian shirt standing in the doorway and the beautiful lady beside him. "I don't suppose this is a friendly visit?"
Clark grinned as he shook his head. "Sorry, Dr. Klein. Maybe next time. We're here to ask if you know anything about Stanley Gables."
"Stanley Gables?" Dr. Klein frowned. "Why do you want to know about him?"
"We believe he's involved in the attempted murder of A.D.A. Drake," Scardino spoke up.
"Assistant DA Drake was murdered?" Dr. Klein asked in surprised.
Clark grinned because he knew the scientist lived in his own little world. It wasn't surprising that he didn't know about Mayson.
"Yes, she's going to be all right though," Clark assured him. "So, what can you tell us about Gables?"
"Shouldn't I talk to the police?"
"This is Agent Scardino from DEA. He's in charge of the investigation," Lois explained.
"Please call me Daniel." Lois saw out of the corner of her eyes Clark mouthing the phrase and shot her partner a warning glance even as she struggled to keep from smiling. He grinned back unrepentant.
"Nice to meet you, Agent Scardino. And you must be Lois Lane," Dr. Klein said turning to her.
"Clark and Superman have spoken about you a lot."
Lois wasn't aware of the slight slip but Clark noticed. Quickly, he decided to step in. "Doctor?"
"Oh, yes, Gables, right?"
All three nodded.
"Gables was fired after he caused the death of four technicians. He wasn't authorized to work on the Omega virus but he didn't care. As a result of his carelessness, there was an accident. The brass decided he was too unstable and so they fired him."
"It's an airborne virus, lethal, and there's no antidote for it. STAR Labs has shelved the project and we've got some still stored here as a biohazard. They're trying to find a way to neutralize it but so far no success."
"Anything else you can tell us?"
"Hmm, I guess he blamed STAR Labs for it and sued us. STAR Labs won, of course."
"Nothing else?" Daniel asked.
"Not that I can think of."
"Do you know anything about a drug that can simulate death?" Lois asked.
Dr. Klein blinked at the change of topic, but answered her, "I've heard of something like that. A new test drug to keep astronauts in stasis on long missions. In fact, Gables was the one in charge of developing it. After he left, NASA lost interest and nothing came out of it."
"Ah," Lois remarked, satisfied while Daniel smiled brightly.
"Thank you for your time, Dr. Klein," Clark came forward to shake his hand.
"No problem. Clark, don't forget about Superman."
"I'll tell him, Doctor," he assured the doctor as he ushered Lois out the door.
Daniel's cell phone rang as soon as they reached the car lot. Answering it with a 'Daniel Scardino,' he soon fell silent and his expression turned serious. It took Clark all of his control not to eavesdrop on the phone call. As soon as Scardino clicked off the phone, Clark pounced, "What happened?"
"It's Ms. Drake. She had a heart attack and died less than an hour ago."
"How can that be? She was all right, so the doctors said. And besides, she doesn't have a heart problem," Clark protested.
Lois's reporter's instinct went into overdrive. "What did they do to her body?"
"It's in the morgue. Going to do an autopsy on it."
"Tell them to wait. Get a blood sample and check it. And we need to get there, fast."
Scardino and Clark looked at her, not quite comprehending. "We need to find out if someone might have slipped her the drug. If so, she's not really dead. If they check her blood, they might be able to detect the drug," she explained.
"Duh!" Scardino quickly called Henderson to convey Lois's speculations. The partners indicated to him that they'd go first and he motioned them on while moving to his car. Soon they were back at the hospital, talking to Henderson.
"You're right, Lois. There were traces of an unknown drug in her blood stream. And contrary to a dead body after a few hours, there wasn't any livor mortis," Henderson told them.
"Livor mortis?" Lois asked. "I have heard of rigor mortis but not livor mortis."
"You know, purplish discoloration of the body," Henderson explained impatiently. "Anyway I verified that there was a chance for someone to have slipped into her room. No one saw anything but then in the confusion, that's not surprising."
"Confusion?" Clark enquired.
"Just before she flatlined, a piece of equipment in one of the rooms mysteriously caught fire. It wasn't very big but it caused a lot of panic and confusion, distracting the guard away from his post."
Daniel frowned. "He assured me that he wouldn't abandon his post."
"Well, it's going to be on his record. As for the equipment, I've sent it to the labs to be analyzed. Our killer might have tampered with it."
"Superman just reported an attempt to burn down Mrs. Mallory's house, and he left the device with the police. You might want to check it out, too," Clark suggested.
"Oh? I'll do that."
"What did you do to Mayson?" Lois asked, curious.
"We're going with the story that she died. And we're moving her to a more secure location," Henderson told her. "I'm arranging for another body to be substituted and arranging for a funeral."
"Oh, good," Daniel said, grinning gleefully. "I hope they'll take the bait."
"Bait?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, remember that the funeral home was somehow involved?"
"Well, Henderson and I found out that the driver who picked up all the bodies, except the guy who died of a heart attack, was a Mr. Craven. Seems like he's the driver and the grave digger. We also checked with Mr. Sunshine. Seems that the person paying for all the funerals is a Mr. Albie Swinson and he specifically requested Mr. Craven for the job."
"I see." Lois turned to grin at Clark who returned it. "So if they administered the drug to Mayson, they must have some plans for her that don't include her dying. And if so, we might have a lead back to their 'lair', perhaps?"
While Henderson and Scardino grinned, Clark voiced out his concern, "I'm wondering why they didn't count on the hospital doing an autopsy though?"
"Hrmph," Bill grumbled. "Well, I'm not sure, but let's see how things play out. Now what did you get from Mrs. Mallory?"
"Nothing concrete. She didn't know anything. But since someone's targeting her, seems likely that she might have something they want. Clark and I got some of Mallory's letters from her. Maybe something in them will give us a clue."
"Good, and Dr. Klein?"
Daniel updated Henderson on what Dr. Klein had told them.
"So, O.K., we have a few names: Stanley Gables, who might be the one making the drug; Albie Swinson, who's been arranging for the criminals to be smuggled out of the prison; Sean Mallory, who made the bomb that blew up Mayson's car; Craven, who's carrying out the dirty work of retrieving the bodies," Henderson summarized.
"Don't forget the list of names of the criminals who got out," Lois reminded him.
"Thing is, the criminals aren't well off. I don't think they're paying Gables to arrange for their escape," Clark speculated.
"Then, what's the motive?" Daniel asked.
Clark shrugged and turned to Henderson. "Inspector, if there's nothing else, I think I'll go."
Lois glanced at her watch, surprised that it was almost five pm. "I should go too."
"All right. I'll see you tomorrow."
Daniel made as if to say something, but stopped and just nodded to them as they left.
*Afternoon, Day 2,
Albie knocked on the study door and waited for permission to enter.
"Sir, Ms. Drake has been taken care of," he reported timidly. He had felt sorry for the woman, and wished that he hadn't been responsible for her death.
"Clever, isn't it? Let them kill her. They can't blame it on us," Gables chuckled.
Albie didn't respond. Instead he asked, "Why should we retrieve the body?"
"Because it is not enough that she dies; no, I want my revenge. I want her to suffer even in death."
"But sir, she didn't do anything to you."
"She let me down. She should have won the case for me. But no, little Ms. lawyer couldn't even put together a convincing case for the judge," Gables fumed. "I bet she was bribed. That bitch! She probably got the job as Assistant DA because she sold me out!" In a sudden mood swing, he smiled congenially and asked Albie, "What about the letters?"
"Albie? Tell me you succeeded." Gables became angry again.
"I'm sorry, sir. Superman came and saved the day."
"SUPERMAN! That boy scout, again?! Urgh." He visibly tried to calm himself down. "He's not there anymore, so why don't you arrange for one of the boys to go and get them?"
"What now?" Gables asked, exasperated.
"The letters were taken by Lois Lane of the Daily Planet."
"WHAT!" He gasped and choked, suddenly finding it difficult to breath. "I'm hyperventilating, Albie. You know how that depletes my anti-oxidants."
Albie hurried over, concerned. "Mr. Gables, this stress isn't good for you. Maybe we should rethink this whole idea."
"No!" He pushed Albie's helping hands away. "I tried the legal system and it failed me. The people of Metropolis have spoken and they're going to suffer the same way I am."
Upset, Albie stuttered, "I…I thought you said it was just STAR Labs you wanted to hurt. You mean you want to kill everyone in Metropolis?"
"If I just wanted to destroy STAR Labs Albie, I could have burned it down. I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of finishing the Resurrection pill. Which reminds me, we've got to ensure Ms. Lane will not stumble on our secret before we can implement my plans."
*Evening, Day 2,
In her apartment, Lois once again glanced at the mirror to assure herself that she was presentable. Clark would be there soon. He had told her that he'd be over as soon as he finished doing his rounds as Superman. The glance told her she looked more than presentable in her white silk blouse and navy blue slacks. Her hair was coiffed perfectly and her makeup was subtle.
She knew the butterflies in her stomach were due to the anticipation of the talk they would be having, but knowing didn't help alleviate the feeling. To distract herself, she went into the kitchen to check on the hors d'ouvres she had tried to make. She hoped Clark liked them.
Just then the doorbell rang. "Come in Clark, it's open," she spoke normally, knowing that he could hear her.
"Lois?" Clark pushed the door open.
"In the kitchen," she said, emerging from said kitchen with a tray of the hors d'ouvres.
"Why was your door unlocked?" Clark asked her, frowning.
"I knew you'd be here."
"But it's still dangerous to leave it open like that."
She just rolled her eyes at the protective streak her partner was showing. "Clark, stop and open your mouth."
Before he could say anything else, Lois popped one of the hors d'ouvres into his mouth. "Chew."
Surprised, he gagged and coughed.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to make you choke. Where's the water? I should know better than to cook. It must be awful, right? Sheesh, why didn't I try one before hand? Cough it out, Clark. I'm so sorry," Lois started to babble, almost in tears as she banged Clark's back.
"Lois, Lois, it's all right." Clark captured her hand and held it close to his heart. "I'm fine. Just wasn't expecting it, that's all. Calm down."
Lois took a calming breath before trying to withdraw her hand from Clark's possession. But he didn't let go. "Better?" he asked her.
She nodded. "I guess I'm nervous."
He grinned in empathy. "I know. I'm nervous too."
They fell silent for a while, neither really knowing how to broach the subject.
Lois giggled, a little nervously. "This is a little ridiculous isn't it? Here we are, two best friends, we've spent time together before and even had our first date, and yet we can't find the words to talk about our feelings."
"So you want to go first?"
"O.K." Lois drew another deep breath before starting. "Clark, as I said, you're my best friend. The one I feel safe with, even when I didn't know you're Superman. And these last few months, well, I know my feelings have deepened. Clark, what I'm trying to say is that, I love you."
She smiled; Clark knew her only too well. "It's Clark I fell in love with. Not Superman."
Clark was about to speak, when she placed a gentle finger on his lips. "Let me finish. Yes, once I had a crush on Superman, but I gave it up when I developed feelings for Clark. Now, suddenly I find out that I'm in love with only half of a person."
Clark tried again but Lois frowned at him, so he subsided. "You're not just Clark, nor are you just Superman. I know you don't believe me but Clark, think about it. Can you, if you were a normal man, bring your girlfriend coffee and croissants from France for breakfast?"
She waited till he shook his head. "See? But can you picture Superman doing it either?"
He immediately shook his head.
She didn't notice her fingers tracing his lips softly. "You're neither and you're both of them. I do love you; both as Clark and Superman. But I'm in love with only Clark. It'll take time for me to revive the old feelings for Superman."
Her fingers traced his eyebrows and his whole profile as she fell silent, trying to find the words to describe what she was feeling. "And yet, I don't think the old feelings are adequate. They're too shallow, too idealistic." Her eyes refocused and met his gaze. "I think I need time to get to know the man behind both your personas. I need to learn to love *you*; not Clark, not Superman. Can you understand this?" she pleaded, her hand caressing his cheek.
Clark bit his lips, weighing his words carefully. " I understand Lois. You're saying you want to take this," he motioned between them, "slowly. Take the time to get to know each other better." He pressed a kiss on the palm of the hand he was holding.
"Right. I'm glad you understand," Lois murmured and looked down, a little embarrassed that she had expected Clark to protest.
Seeing her vulnerability, Clark gathered her into his embrace, tucking her head under his chin. "It's going to be O.K. Better than O.K. You'll see."
"It's your turn," Lois told him, settling more comfortably in his arms.
Stroking her hair, he spoke softly, "Hmm…you know you're not the only one who has to adjust. I meant what I said that night. I love you, no one else. But, as this afternoon proves, I need the time to adjust to someone else knowing the secret. I'm so used to hiding my powers, it won't be easy to share them. So we'll take it easy and go with the flow. O.K.?"
He felt her nod and couldn't help but give her a brief squeeze. "But know this; I'm not going to stop courting you."
Lois turned to see a grin on his face. "Courting? How medieval." She pretended to shudder.
"Ha! First you think I'm a hack; now I'm medieval?" he pretended to take offense.
"Yeah, what does that say about my taste I wonder?"
"Just for that, young lady…" He proceeded to tickle her.
"Clark…Clark…" she said breathlessly, trying to avoid his searching fingers.
"*No*…*way*." Remembering that the best defense is an offense, she started tickling back, where she discovered that Superman was very ticklish. Soon they were both laughing from the effort.
At one point, she found herself nose to nose with him, and their laughter died away as they became aware of the attraction between them. Clark's arms tightened around her waist, while hers stilled from tickling his sides. Neither could say which of them made the first move, but they soon found themselves in a kiss so profound it shook their very souls. It started out soft, tentative, an exploration of the senses, before it deepened into the merging of their souls. If they were asked to identify where one ended and the other began, neither could positively answer. In that one defining moment, a moment that seemed to last a lifetime, Lois knew Clark, the *whole* person. She knew his past, present, and future, intrinsically and intimately entwined with hers.
Clark didn't know what alerted him but he was moved so fast that Lois was still recovering from the abrupt ending of the kiss when he returned to her side.
"Clark?" She blinked rapidly to orientate herself.
"Sorry, Lois. But I needed to stop this before it went off." He showed her a similar device to what she saw earlier in the day at Mrs. Mallory's place.
"Someone planted a bomb in my apartment?" Lois's temper was roused. She couldn't believe that her privacy had been invaded and violated. It didn't occur to her that her life had been threatened too.
"Technically, it wasn't in your apartment. It was in the vacant apartment beside yours."
"Whatever, the intention is the same. Think they know I've got the letters? Is that why they're targeting me?"
"Sounds plausible. They tried the same with Mrs. Mallory after all."
"Then I think we'd better look at those letters again and see what we can find."
Clark nodded since both their minds were focused on the case and the earlier mood had been spoiled by the bomb.
Lois stood and stretched, catching Clark's eye. "Are you all right? Do you want to stop?" he asked her.
She stopped mid-stretch to smile reassuringly at him. "Just needed to stretch. Found anything?"
"Just the last two letters."
"The one I read earlier?"
"And the one before it." He popped another of the hors d'ouvres into his mouth, bringing a smile to Lois's face. She had tried one before reaching for the water immediately, the curry being excessive. But Clark didn't seem to be bothered by it at all and had been systematically demolishing the whole batch she made.
"So, what was in them?"
"In the next to last letter he mentioned his 'pen pal' and some mysterious job they landed. No details, just a passing remark that could have easily been overlooked."
"And based on his last letter, seems like this mysterious work is the reason for him being in a better place."
Lois started pacing as she detailed out a plan, "Maybe we should pay Mallory's 'pen pal' a visit. Though we should wear disguises. Don't want to tip our hand. I could go there as Mallory's girlfriend and you as my brother. How does that sound?" She didn't wait for his reply. "We need a cover story of course. Something that wouldn't alert him. What's his name anyway?"
Clark grinned at the awakening of Mad Dog Lane. That was something he loved about Lois even though it could be exasperating at times. "Big Buster."
"Big Buster? That's his real name?"
"It's what Mallory calls him. His real name's Buster Williams," Clark said, checking out the file on Mallory and seeing his cellmate's name.
"O.K., so we visit Big Buster and see if we can get him to talk about the job."
Lois caught the amused tone and glared at him. "What?"
"What, what?" he countered, grinning.
Rolling her eyes, she said, "You're such a kid."
He shook his head, his amusement now apparent. "Hack, medieval, and now a kid. You don't have a good impression of me, do you?"
"Nah, just being honest." She grinned evilly.
It was his turn to roll his eyes. Turning serious, he motioned her to sit beside him. "Lois, I need your advice."
"What's the matter?"
"I was talking to Mayson this morning."
He explained what Mayson proposed. "Do you think I should?"
"Explore the possibilities?"
"She does have a point, even though I don't see you as a vigilante. Your concerns are valid, too. The way I see it is to work out how you can work within the law and alongside it, while maintaining the universality of what Superman stands for. And when I say the law, it's not just the laws governing Metropolis, or even the US. Superman has to respect the laws of every country and also international laws."
He hugged her, saying, "What are you suggesting?"
"Talk to the United Nations. Put forward your concerns and see what they have to say."
"Hmm…perhaps. Let me think about it some more."
"Sure," she said, snuggling up to him. They stayed that way for a while, enjoying each other's company.
*Evening, Day 2,
"What do you mean, it didn't go off?" Gables was truly frustrated. His every move seemed to be thwarted. He began to doubt whether his plans would work. But he put aside his doubts when he thought about how much he had suffered.
"I don't know, Mr. Gables. I set it just like you told me to." The lackey didn't dare to stare the boss in the face.
Mr. Gables stared at him for a long time, making him sweat for his failure. At last, he waved the guy off. "Fools," he muttered, pressing a button.
Soon Albie came in. "Yes, Mr. Gables?"
"Call Martinez and Mallory. We need to plan."
Albie stood by while they planned to break into the basement of STAR Labs where the virus was kept. He shuddered at the implications if the virus was released. No one would survive.
*Morning, Day 3,
Clark's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he saw how she was dressed. But luckily he kept his mouth shut and his eyes averted. Lois couldn't help but be amused by her partner's reaction. "What, no comments?" she asked playfully.
"If I know what's good for me, I better keep my mouth shut," he told her honestly.
Laughing, Lois hugged him, making him squirm more than a little. "Good ole Clark. Come on, how do I look?"
That earned him another laugh. "Well your disguise isn't too bad, either," she said, appreciating the tight-fitting t-shirt that showed off his muscles and the fake tattoos on his arms. The gold earring dangling on one ear added a dashing look to his biker image.
Arriving at the visitor's room, she whispered, "Just let me do most of the talking."
Grinning to soften the sting, he said, "You usually do."
Entering the room, they brushed past Albie who didn't recognize them. Clark turned around because he found Albie familiar. However, he couldn't place him. Soon he was distracted by Lois's question to the guard. "Buster Williams?"
The guard would have given Lois a once over but found himself staring into menacing eyes. Seeing the well-muscled biker standing protectively behind her, he wisely kept eye contact with Lois while he motioned to Buster who was sitting in a corner table.
Lois found herself looking at a diminutive man. "That's Big Buster?" Lois remarked, surprised. The guard didn't bother to answer as he entertained a beautiful blonde who just stepped in.
Lois and Clark walked over to him and sat down. "Hey, so you're Buster. Just like Mallory said. Best lookin' guy in the joint."
Buster squinted at Lois, the pill he had just taken was starting to take effect. "Who're you?"
"Angel. Mallory's old lady. This is my brother, Spike."
Unlike the guard, Buster had no qualms giving Lois the once over. Clark just rolled his eyes heavenward.
"That's some killer outfit."
Lois pretended to preen. "Thanks."
"I didn't know Mallory had a doll. I thought he was kinda a morals boy."
"Yeah, well, Sean was kinda tight-lipped, you know."
"So, did he send you to fill me in on the job?"
Privately the partners thought, 'Jackpot.'
"Yeah, about the job…"
"I…" Before he could finish, his eyes suddenly rolled back and he toppled over. Clark jumped to check his pulse as the guard came round to check on what's causing the commotion. The guard arrived in time to hear Clark saying, "He's dead."
It wasn't a surprise when they found themselves sitting in Warden Chamber's office like two students called into the principal's office for playing truant. "What are you saying? Big Buster's not really dead?" Chambers thundered.
"Yes, that's what we're saying," Lois answered.
"Why me?" Chambers moaned, burying his head in his hands. "Why on my watch?" Drawing a deep breath, he faced the partners once more. "And you want me to just let him go, if he's not really dead?"
"It's for the good of the investigation, Warden," Clark assured him. "He'll lead us right to the others. Why don't you check with Inspector Henderson?" he suggested.
Chambers glared at the partners. "I'll do that," he said dismissively.
Relieved, Lois and Clark left his office.
*Late morning, Day 3,
Back at the Planet, Lois and Clark changed back into their normal attire and began writing the fake story on the death of Assistant DA Mayson Drake. Clark stood behind Lois, reading over her shoulder, and as usual, editing their article as she wrote. What was different was how Lois felt about it. It was eerie that something so familiar could be so strange. She couldn't help but be hyperconscious of Clark's hand on her shoulder, his breath tickling her ear as he pointed out her mistakes. It was so distracting that she was tempted to turn her head to kiss him. But that would be a mistake; given how their first kiss went, she had no doubt they would need to be hosed down if they kissed again. And the bullpen wasn't the right setting for it. No, she wanted their second kiss to be private and without interruptions. She moaned softly at the thought of the previous night's short-lived kiss.
Clark picked up on the moan and looked at Lois curiously. "Are you all right, Lois?"
Unable to control herself, she turned beet red when she realized Clark had heard her. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You look flushed," he said, eyeing her worriedly. "Are you coming down with something?"
She became even more flustered and was about to open her mouth when Jimmy came bouncing up to them clutching a stack of notes. "Hey, guys! Have I come through for you or what!"
'Saved by the bell, or in this case, Jimmy,' Lois thought with a sigh of relief. "What have you got, Jimmy?"
Clark threw her a glance to say that their conversation wasn't over yet before giving Jimmy his attention.
"Well, I dug up all the info I could get a hold of on the names you gave me. And I hit the jackpot on one of them."
"Diego Martinez. Seems like he's an expert at bypassing security systems. He had a great career at bank robbery until the last time. He was serving a twenty year sentence when he died of mysterious circumstances."
"Found his link to Mallory, Swinson or Gables?"
"Yeah, Mallory shared a cell with him before he got transferred. As for his connections to Swinson or Gables, I checked his visitor's records. Seems that Swinson had been to see him on four separate occasions last month alone. From the records, Swinson started visiting him about four months ago.
"Get this, he also started visiting another name on the list besides Mallory at about the same time. And the guy is known to be an arsonist."
"The device we found at Mrs. Mallory's."
"And the one at your place last night."
"What?" Jimmy squeaked. "Are you all right, Lois?"
"I'm fine, Jimmy. Superman found the device before it could do any damage."
"Oh, good." Relief was evident in his voice. "I don't know how you guys do it; being a target for criminals."
"Be glad you don't know, Jimmy," Clark told him.
"Definitely. I'll leave these with you. Good luck."
Clark watched her as Jimmy left; Lois tried to avoid his scrutiny by pretending to be absorbed in the notes.
"What are you trying to avoid, Lois?" Clark was definitely amused as he watched his partner, and maybe, just maybe, his girlfriend, putter around her desk, avoiding his gaze. He was reassured that she was fine, though his curiosity was pricked.
"Nothing. Does it look like I'm avoiding anything? I'm not avoiding anything. As you can see, I'm trying to work."
"Sure, Lois, sure. That's why you're doodling on Jimmy's notes."
She raised her eyes to encounter laughing ones. "Oh you! O.K. so I was trying to avoid this conversation. What are you going to do about it?" She put her hands on her hips.
Lois caught the teasing light in his eyes, and her ire melted away. "Come on." She dragged him into the conference room, shut the door, and lowered the blinds.
"Lois?" He watched her as she paced up and down the room.
"I can't do this, I really can't," she kept muttering.
"Can't do what?"
"This…this thing we have between us."
"Oh." The hurt expressed in that one word was palpable.
"No, no." Lois quickly reassured him. "I don't mean…Clark, stop thinking I'm going to reject you, will you?"
"Then, what are you trying to say?"
"You know what I was thinking out there?" She gestured to the bullpen.
"I was so tempted to kiss you. I kept thinking of last night's kiss and how I wished it weren't interrupted so abruptly." She sat down heavily across from him.
"Well, you're not the only one," he pointed out.
Exasperated that he didn't get it, she reiterated, "I was *so* tempted to kiss you just now. I wanted to just chuck aside the article, grab you by your lapel, and kiss you senseless. Do you get it now?"
Clark grinned. "Why didn't you?"
Lois rolled her eyes; her boyfriend still didn't get it. "Clark, what have I told you about my rules?"
Light finally dawned. "Oh."
"Right, no office romance. And here I was…"
"But Lois, if there's an us, wouldn't it violate that rule anyway?" Clark tried to understand Lois's logic.
"Not as long as we don't mess around in the office."
"Oh. Okay, let me get this straight; it's all right for us to date and do the other stuff as long as we do them outside the office?"
"And after office hours."
"Right." He still didn't quite get it but as long as it made her happy, he wasn't going to object. "O.K. then it's settled. No kissing, no touching, no dating in the office or during office hours."
Now that he put it that way, she was finding the rules a little silly. "Well, at least for the time being. Until they're comfortable with our change in status," she hastily added.
Clark was amused but kept it to himself. "Right."
Clark had to answer a call for help, so Lois went to meet Henderson and Scardino by herself. They had been tailing the funeral van ever since it left the prison, and Daniel called her just as Clark disappeared up the stairwell to inform her of their unsuccessful attempt to track it.
"You mean you lost the trail?"
"Yes," Daniel admitted sheepishly. "The morning traffic made it difficult for us to follow it."
"And you didn't put any tracer on it?"
"There wasn't enough time."
"Tell me there's something that went right?" She looked from Henderson to Scardino and back but only found discouraging looks. "I can't believe this. What about the van picking up 'Mayson's' body?"
"Hasn't happened yet. They're going to collect it tomorrow."
"We can't wait till tomorrow. Whatever job they're embarking on, it might go down today instead."
"We could go and question Craven," Daniel suggested.
"All right, you go ahead. I still need to make arrangements for Mayson," Henderson told them.
Daniel and Lois agreed, leaving the police headquarters in her jeep. "So, where's your partner?" Daniel asked.
"He's busy chasing a lead for another case," Lois lied. "This isn't the only story we're working on."
"Of course." Then a surprise question: "So are you two a couple?"
Trying not to appear tense, she asked as casually as she could, "Do we give the impression of being a couple?"
Scardino shrugged. "He's very protective of you; bordering on possessive. And so were you, especially with Mayson. Besides I've noticed the way you interact. You aren't fooling anyone," he said, grinning.
Lois blushed; she hadn't thought they were being obvious. But her mind latched onto the reference to Mayson. "Mayson has a crush on Clark, and I was just helping him out of the situation. Anyway, what do you think of her?"
"Never gave it any thought. Why?"
She smiled slyly. "She's quite attractive, isn't she?"
"I guess, if you like the type."
Lois turned into the small lane leading to the cemetery. "What type is that?"
"She's too forceful. Not subtle at all. She's the type who knows what she wants and goes for it."
"That describes me as well." Lois glanced at him to gauge his reaction.
"I don't think so. You're more like my old partner. She was strong and tenacious, but she wasn't ruthless."
Lois caught the underlying sadness and ache in his voice. "You loved her, didn't you?" she asked gently.
"Yes. Her name was Jena. I wished I had known then what I know now. I wouldn't have wasted so much time." He turned to stare at the tombstones as they passed them by. "I would have told her earlier how much I love her. I was so worried about the logistics of being partners and lovers. Whether or not we're violating the rules. And what would our colleagues have to say.
"If I could go back in time, I'd have done it differently. Forget about what others think. What mattered was our love."
Lois bit her lips as she listened intently. His words struck her as she was reminded of her conversation with Clark that morning. Clark might be Superman but that didn't mean he was indestructible, nor was she. Did she want to waste precious time together because of her insecurities? "I know what you mean, Daniel. Perhaps one day, you'll meet someone who you'll feel as deeply for."
"I thought I might have." Their eyes met. "But I guess I'm too late."
She lowered her gaze.
"Yeah, I'm too late. Clark's a lucky man."
Lois blushed, but shook her head. "No, I'm the one who's lucky."
"Don't put yourself down, Lois."
She sighed as she parked the jeep on one side of the narrow lane, and turned to face him. "I'm not. I'm just telling you that Clark's the best thing that happened to me. The perfect partner and best friend I've ever had. As for being in a relationship, we're still in the early stages, taking it slowly. O.K., shall we find this Craven fellow?"
"Sure. Let's split up so we can cover more ground."
"All right. You take left and I'll take right."
*Afternoon, Day 3,
Whispering Pine Cemetery.*
Lois knelt at one of the open graves. She had been circling the place but hadn't met even one soul, which was weird, since there were graves to be dug and covered. She wondered if it was lunch time and so all the grave diggers were at the canteen or wherever it was they ate. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't notice a figure activating a nearby earth-mover, aiming it right at her, and running away. The noise startled her but by the time she was aware of what was happening, the earth-mover was nearly right on top of her.
"Lois!" Daniel tackled her and rolled them away, narrowly missing the oncoming earth-mover. At the same moment, Superman swooped out of nowhere and landed in front of the machine, effectively stopping it.
"Lois? Are you all right?" Daniel asked, concerned as he helped her up.
"Yeah, thanks, Dan." She dusted the dirt of her clothes and didn't notice Clark moving to her side.
"Here, Lois. Let me take care of the cut." Clark gently took hold of her arm and stared at the cut on her lower arm. He focused a low-intensity beam along the injured arm to cauterize the wound. He didn't dare look at her, not while he was battling his emotions. He had been on his way over after Henderson told him where Lois and Daniel had been headed when he saw the machine heading straight at her. He knew that he might not be able to get there in time, and he almost didn't. If it weren't for Daniel, he could have lost her.
"Thanks, C…Superman." She found herself involuntarily blushing at the solicitous way he was treating her. Of course, it might be just her imagination. This was the first time since she knew the Secret that she was interacting with him as Superman.
Daniel frowned as he watched Superman caring for Lois. There's an attraction there, he was sure. He wondered if they ever acted on it. No, they wouldn't. Lois was involved with her partner and he was sure she wasn't the kind to cheat. Perhaps they just didn't realize the attraction. He cleared his throat. He found it funny that they jumped apart at the sound.
"Dan. Thanks." Lois belatedly remembered how the agent saved her.
"No problem, Lois. Just there at the right time and right place." He glanced meaningfully at Superman.
"Oh." Lois caught the glance. "Superman, this is Agent Daniel Scardino."
"Please. Call me Daniel."
Clark resisted rolling his eyes. "Lucky you were nearby. Now, if you'll excuse me." He then launched himself into the sky and disappeared.
"Abrupt fellow," Daniel commented.
"He might have heard an emergency somewhere," Lois defended his behavior just as Clark came round the corner.
"Lois? What happened?" He didn't have to pretend to be concerned by Lois's appearance.
"Clark! It was probably an accident," Lois said, trying to make light of the incident.
"I don't think so," Daniel countered. "I saw someone get off the earth-mover just before it came at her. Someone just tried to kill you." He scowled at her. "Why don't you go home and rest?"
"Don't fuss. I can take care of myself."
"Agent Scardino has a point; I'll take you home."
"I'll take her. After all I'm better qualified to protect her."
"Stop it!" She didn't know what game Daniel was playing but Clark's jealousy was getting on her nerves. It didn't help matters when she just realized how close a call she had. Daniel's words of regrets rang in her mind. "I'm going home by myself."
*Late Afternoon, Day 3,
"Well, did you succeed?"
"No, sir," Craven answered timidly. "Someone came by in time to save her. And so did Superman."
"Superman again! That guy seems to be hindering my every move," Gables grumbled. "But never mind. He won't be able to stop me. Albie!"
Albie came into the study. "Yes, sir?"
"Has Big Buster revived yet?"
"He's coming to, sir."
"Once he's fully conscious, I want the team to be assembled. There's a lot for us to do beforehand."
Albie just nodded and left, his face grim. As Martinez, Mallory, and Big Buster trooped into the study, he slipped out of the house to prowl the grounds. He was truly disturbed by Mr. Gables's plans to release the virus. It wouldn't just be the people in Metropolis who would be affected but those in the surrounding area. He thought of contacting Superman but didn't know how. 'Lois Lane! She often gets exclusives from him. Maybe she knows how to contact him.' With that in mind, he went in again to look up her address.
*Evening, Day 3,
Lois went straight to her bedroom the moment she stepped into her apartment. Digging up some comfortable sweats, she deposited them on the bed and stepped into the shower to wash the grime off. As she lathered herself, she flashed back on the day's events. The conversations she had with Clark and Daniel, and the narrow escape she had less than an hour ago, reverberated in her head.
By the time she finished her shower, she had come to a decision regarding her relationship with Clark. "Daniel's right. There's no way of knowing how much time we have together," she mumbled to herself as she put on her clothes. "This afternoon's fiasco just emphasized that fact."
Given his reactions that morning, she was sure Clark wouldn't mind if they didn't hide their relationship from others. "Yeah, it's not like they can hurt either of us. Well, not if we don't let them. Besides, I'm sure that Perry and Jimmy will be overjoyed that Clark and I are dating." She couldn't help but be pleased with her decision. It wasn't that big a leap; it wasn't as if she decided to rush their relationship. No, Clark's declaration to court her was very welcomed even if she did tease him about it. She was sure it would be polar opposite to Lex's courtship. 'What sweet anticipation,' she thought almost gleefully.
Suddenly, her ears pricked. A dull thud and a muffled curse came from the living room. Lois's eyes widened and she wildly casted a glance around for something to arm herself. Remembering her sensei's words that everything around her could be used as a weapon, she decided she'd go out there first and assess the situation. There were better 'weapons' in the living room.
Creeping softly, she peered out the door and saw the stranger struggling to right himself at the window. She grabbed a lamp and rushed to clobber him. Unluckily he turned at the last minute to grab her wrists. She let go of the lamp on his feet, then pushed against the wall with her feet, falling back and flipping the intruder at the same time. The moment he hit the ground, she did a cross between a roll and a back flip, straddling him and pinning his legs. She reached out and flipped on the light switch. "You!"
Daniel grinned at her unrepentant. "Wow! You've got some moves!"
Lois narrowed her eyes as she released him and got up. "Just what the heck are you doing here, breaking in like that?" she demanded angrily, her heart rate yet to slow down.
"Sorry." His grin turned sheepish. "I rang the bell, but no one answered."
"And that gave you the right to break into my apartment?"
"Hey, I was worried. You were nearly killed this afternoon, Lois. Who knows what's next? Mallory could've planted a bomb."
'Please protect me from well-meaning macho men,' she sighed to herself. "I already told you I can take care of myself."
Right at that moment, the doorbell rang. Daniel's grin widened. "Wanna bet it's Clark?"
She threw him a quelling glance before striding to the door, wrenching it open and catching Clark with his hand hovering near the bell. "Come in, Clark."
Clark's eyebrow rose at the exasperated tone. He realized why when he spotted Scardino lounging lazily on the sofa. "Am I interrupting?" he asked neutrally.
"No, Agent Scardino just decided to *drop* by." Sarcasm dripped with every word.
Clark couldn't help but grin. There was no doubt that Lois was very angry. Taking a glance, he saw signs of scuffle. 'The 'poor' guy probably surprised her with his entrance through the window,' Clark thought when he 'saw' the rope hanging outside her window. 'I wonder why he didn't try gaining entry like normal people.' He then realized the irony of his thought. After all, it was the same window Superman normally used to gain entry.
"What are you holding?" Lois spotted the paper bag that Clark was cradling.
"Oh, I thought I'd cook dinner for us. Er…I hope you don't mind?" he asked tentatively, suddenly realizing how presumptuous it might be to just turn up at Lois's place to cook dinner.
Lois didn't notice the hesitancy, her eyes fixed on the bag. "Ooh, good. I was contemplating ordering Chinese but…What are you planning to cook?" She reached for the bag and dug through it. "Hmm…you're going to make lasagna?" Her stomach growled at the thought. "Oops, I guess you're right on time."
Relieved, Clark grinned. "Yeah, seems like I'm right on time." He looked to Daniel. "Are you staying for dinner, Agent Scardino?"
Lois, who had forgotten her unwelcome guest, turned to glare at Scardino.
"Er, no. I guess since Clark is here, I'll keep an eye outside." He hastily scrambled out of the couch and through the door.
Lois slammed the door after him. "I can't believe the nerve of the guy," she groused. "He had the nerve to try to break in."
"You don't mind me coming here without telling you before hand?"
Lois stopped unpacking and stared at him. "Why would you think that?"
"Well, I just presumed you'd let me cook dinner without consulting you."
"Yeah, presumptuous, aren't you?" The tone and twinkle in her eyes belied her words. "But since you're here, you might as well make yourself useful."
"As my lady wishes," Clark bowed low, and took over the kitchen.
Lois sat on the stool and watched Clark work his magic. Leaning against the counter she asked, "What can I do to help?"
"Nothing. Why don't you straighten out the living room?" Clark suggested.
She grimaced at the thought. "Nah, I'll do it later."
"Lois, Lois. Procrastination isn't good for the soul," he teased.
"Uhuh." She ignored his comments and continued to watch him cutting the tomatoes and chopping the herbs for the sauce. "Clark, can I ask something?"
"Sure," he said, his attention on his work.
"You don't use your powers to cook?"
The chopper stilled, hovering over the chopping board, as he tipped his head and considered the question. "Hmm…I never really thought about it before."
"So. have you?"
"Sure, there are times when I use my powers to heat up stuff, or cut things up at superspeed. But most of the time, I prefer to do things the normal way. I guess it's just the way my mom trained me. It's more natural to do it the normal way. Besides cooking is an art; to use my powers feels like cheating to me." He threw in the tomatoes into the simmering sauce and stirred.
"Ah. I get it." Lois walked around the counter and casually slipped her arms around Clark's waist, leaning over his shoulder. "Can I taste it?"
Clark was thrilled by Lois's impulsive embrace and her nearness. Her fresh scent overwhelmed his senses. Putting down the ladle, he turned around to return the embrace. "Hold on a bit. I need to add a little spice to it first," he said, dropping a kiss on her forehead.
"You can do better than that." She pulled his head down for a real, if brief kiss. She resisted the impulse to deepen it and released him, knowing it wasn't the right time. He would have protested but she put her hands on his shoulder and turned him back to the stove. "I'm not about to allow you to burn my dinner."
"Ah, I see now how this relationship is going to be," he teased, picking up the ladle with his right hand and the salt shaker with his left. Adding the salt and pepper to the sauce, he scooped a tiny amount of the sauce, blew on it, and presented it to Lois. "Go on."
She dipped her head forward and licked the spoon. "Hmmm…you missed your calling."
"How did you know? That was my second career choice," he remarked, his eyes twinkling.
"O.K. Chef Kent, finish the dish before this client becomes overly hungry."
"Yes, ma'am." He mock saluted before turning his attention back to the meal.
She watched him for a while before deciding to tackle the mess in the living room. It was just too tempting to watch Clark work. By the time she finished straightening up the mess and setting the places for dinner, the lasagna was ready. "Hmmm…that smells great," she said, her eyes following her partner as he carried the lasagna to the table.
They had a great time with the meal, chatting about everything under the sun except for work. Later, Clark surprised her when he brought out a tape. "To Catch a Thief?" She raised her eyebrow.
"I know you like Mel Gibson. But I thought I'd broaden your horizons a little."
"With an oldie?"
"Hey, it's a classic!" He looked like an excited kid as he explained the movie that she had to resist the tug on her mouth and keep it neutral. "Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. In the story, he's an ex-thief trying to catch a copy cat thief. She helped him, and in turn caught him." He paused dramatically. "He is the coolest ex-cat burglar ever," he declared.
She lost the battle and let the mischievous grin grow. "Why do I get the feeling that he was once your idol?"
His answering grin was a little sheepish. "Maybe."
"All right. Next time, it's my turn to pick the movie."
"Yes, dear," he quipped.
The movie had just ended. Clark glanced down at his partner as she snuggled closer, trying to find a comfortable spot. She had fallen asleep midway through the movie but protested when he tried to move her. So he had raised her legs and laid her head on his lap so that she would be more comfortable. He had continued watching the movie while his hand played with her hair softly, enjoying her companionship.
Slowly raising her head so that she wouldn't be disturbed, he replaced his lap with a pillow and leaned down to kiss her forehead. He took a moment to watch her sleep before reaching for the remote to switch off the video. At that moment, his pager vibrated. Seeing that it was Henderson's number flashing, he swiftly but quietly placed a call to him. "She wants to talk to me? Do you know why?"
He listened to the other end before saying, "O.K., give me thirty minutes."
Placing the receiver back to its cradle, Clark squatted beside Lois. "Lois?" he called gently.
"Hmm.." she stirred awake. "Clark?" Her voice was husky from sleep. "Oh, the movie's over."
"Yeah, but that's not why I woke you. I need to leave."
That snapped her wide awake. "Emergency?"
"No," Clark admitted, shaking his head. "Henderson paged me. Seems that Mayson wants to talk to me."
"About what? Oh! You think it might be because of…"
"It might. She hinted at it yesterday."
"What are you going to do?"
He sighed, "Perhaps I should tell her the truth."
"No!" She calmed down immediately. "No," she said more softly.
"But I can't figure out how to convince her that Superman and Clark Kent are two different people."
"Hmm…how did you manage it during the press conference? You know the one connected to Stride's story?"
"Oh that. My mom had a built a three dimensional hologram. We modified it so that it showed Superman flying and hovering."
"Right. I remembered thinking it was strange that Superman didn't land. O.K., back to your problem with Mayson."
"That trick wouldn't work with Mayson."
"No, it wouldn't. We need to think of another." Lois scrunched her face as she pressed her tired mind to the problem.
Clark smiled fondly and touched her forehead, soothing it. "You're tired. It can wait."
"I'll just go and see what she wants. It may not even be related to this problem. Really, Lois, you had quite a day today. I'll be back soon. I promise."
Seeing that he wouldn't budge, she nodded. "O.K. But if she gives you trouble…"
"I'll call out for SuperLois," he said amused.
Her eyes widened. Can he read minds too? She had used that term just yesterday.
Clark didn't notice as he bent to place a soft kiss on her lips. "Go to bed," he murmured.
"Hmm." She pulled him closer for another longer kiss, her arms locking behind his neck. Neither of them knew how long it actually lasted as their senses were drawn into that single, narrow world consisting of just the two of them.
"Wow," Clark breathed when it ended. "That was…"
"…indescribable," she finished as she fiddled with his hair. Their faces were scant inches apart and their breaths mingled as they sat there with identical smiles.
Reluctantly, Clark extracted himself from Lois's embrace. "I've got to go."
"Are you coming back?"
"Yes. Between yesterday's device and this afternoon's episode, I'm not leaving you alone tonight anymore than necessary."
"That's the real reason you came over, right?"
He reddened. "One of the reasons."
"Fair enough." She couldn't be mad at him even if she wanted to. "Better go."
She couldn't sleep after he left and decided to watch the parts of the movie she missed. By the end of it, she knew why Clark loved the movie. It had witty dialogue, the plot was excellent, and most of all, it was romantic. She had this suspicion that her boyfriend was a closet romantic. It boggled the mind to picture Superman romancing anybody, and yet she knew he was; after all, she was the recipient.
Yawning, Lois switched off the video. The phone rang but she decided to err on the side of caution. Letting the machine screen the call, she went to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. She half-listened as her greeting message played.
"Ms. Lane. You don't know me but I need to contact Superman and you're the only one I can think of that can help. Please if…"
Lois dived for the phone, answering breathlessly, "Wait! Don't hang up!"
"Yes. Who's this and why do you need to contact Superman?"
"I have important information to pass to him."
"How do I know that's for real?"
"You're currently investigating Ms. Drake's murder, right?"
She frowned. "Yes. What do you know about it?"
"I can't say much on the phone. Get Superman to meet me and I'll explain everything."
"You might be setting a trap for Superman," she accused, fear for Clark making her harsh.
"No!" The person on the other side tried to deny. "Look, Ms. Lane, I can't talk much. If he finds out about this, I'm going to be dead. Whatever it is, meet me in two hours in the cemetery. I'll be at the gates."
She started to speak but a click signaled the end of the conversation. She had the impulse to throw something but didn't really think it was wise to wake her neighbors up in the middle of the night. It was going to be a long night.
*Night, Day 3,
Clark flew to the address Henderson gave and ducked in an alley to change. Looking around to ensure no one was following him, he walked up the front door and knocked. A burly butler opened the door and let him in. "She's upstairs to the right, Mr. Kent."
"Thank you." He eyed the ornate staircase with the red carpet. The whole house screamed of money. Definitely not what he expected of a safe house. Glancing back at the butler who indicated for him to go ahead, he shuffled up the stairs. His heart felt very heavy; he wasn't looking forward to seeing Mayson at all. Hesitantly, he knocked at the door.
"Clark!" Her face brightened upon seeing him. "Henderson managed to get you after all."
"He said you had something important to tell me?"
"Would you have come otherwise?"
Guiltily, he shook his head.
"I thought so. So, she finally realized what's in front of her," Mayson said almost as if to herself.
Mayson looked up. "Lois. She finally realized who her dream guy is. Lucky her," she told him, her voice tinged in envy.
"No. I'm the lucky one." He looked away, out the window. "I've finally found someone I can be myself with. No expectations, no misconceptions. She accepts me for who I am."
"That's important to you, isn't it?"
"And that's why we wouldn't have worked out. You don't think I can accept you as who you really are." Accusation warred with resignation in her tone.
He avoided the implications. "It wouldn't have worked, Mayson. I've loved Lois since the first time I met her. Perhaps even before that."
"You really believe in the soulmate theory, don't you?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I just know how I feel. I'm sorry, Mayson. I should have made it clear to you from the onset. But…"
She held up a hand. "It's my fault. You might not have said it, but your actions or in this case, inactions indicated very clearly your feelings. I guess I just didn't want to accept it. Just one thing: don't give me the 'let's be friends' speech, O.K.?"
He flashed her a sheepish smile. It was on the verge of his tongue. "All right."
"Tell Lois, she better treat you right or else."
"Good. Now what have you got so far on the case?"
"Er…Henderson instructed me specifically not to discuss the case with you."
She just gave him the 'eye' until he caved in. Pulling up a chair, he updated her on the various findings.
*Night, Day 3,
Lois waited for Clark until the two hours were almost over but he didn't turn up. She didn't know whether to be glad or mad. She had debated a long time whether it was wise for Superman to come along. If it was a trap, they might have some kryptonite ready. But on the other hand, Clark wouldn't want her to walk into a trap by herself. So she decided it was best to wait for him. After all, he promised to be back. But it was nearly time and he hadn't shown up. And there wasn't any emergency locally or internationally that she knew of. So on top of everything, she was picturing Mayson seducing Clark.
'Well Lois, you can't wait any longer. Better get your butt moving.' She wrote a short message for Clark in case he returned, and left.
When Lois got to Whispering Pine Cemetery, she parked her car outside and trudged up the gates. She didn't see anyone there, but she was early. 'Perhaps…' She didn't manage to finish her thought when she heard footsteps behind her. Turning, she found herself face to face with a gun barrel. Her eyes trailed the barrel to the hand holding the gun and up to the face. "Mr. Albie Swinson, I presume?" she asked daringly.
"No, ma'am," the man replied, smirking. "Albie's kind of tied up at the moment. As for me, we didn't meet formally yesterday but I was there when you nearly kicked the bucket."
"You! You tried to kill me."
"Yes, and I'm gonna do it right this time." He cocked the gun.
Lois would have panicked, but her sensei's words kept coming back to her. "You're going to kill me in cold blood?" she asked, hoping to distract him with her questions. Meanwhile she groped behind her for anything to be used as weapons. Luckily she chanced upon a wooden plank propped up by the gate.
"I didn't have any complaints before," he said, laughing raucously. He aimed to shoot and 'BANG.' The gun misfired when Lois swung the plank at the guy's arms. Taking advantage of his pain and distraction, she broke away from the gates and ran into the cemetery.
Before she could go far, arms caught her and held her tightly. She would've screamed but a cloth was immediately shoved inside when she opened her mouth. Lois struggled to free herself but her captor was too strong. She watched the man who tried to kill her approach. "What are you doing?" he asked the guy holding her.
"The Boss changed his mind. We can't afford to alert the police. And 'sides, by tonight she'd be infected by the virus just like everybody else," the guy explained.
"Well, the Boss's paying, so whatever he says goes," the former decided, shrugging. "You're a lucky lady," he told Lois.
They threw her into the van and closed the door. It was a cargo van without any windows, so she had no idea where they were taking her. She tried to measure time, hoping it would help give her a frame of reference with respect to the cemetery. But being bound in the dark did strange things to the senses, even the sense of time. She had no idea how long the actual journey was until they opened the door and yanked her out of the van.
Soon she was deposited on an uncomfortable couch facing another bound and gagged figure. "Welcome, welcome. Haven't had any visitors for a long time. Now I seem to have an abundance of them. How rude. Do forgive me, I should have introduced myself. I'm Stanley Gables."
Gables came into view at that moment, smirking. "What? You're not going to introduce yourself? Cat got your tongue?" He laughed almost maniacally.
"Well, that's it, boys." He turned to address Martinez, Mallory, and Big Buster. "We're finished here. Better get a move on it before dawn comes. I want Metropolis to wake up to a truly brand new day."
"Whatever you say, Boss."
"Well, Albie. You'll keep Ms. Lane company while we're out, won't you?" Gables addressed the man tied up across from Lois before sweeping dramatically out of the room. Lois just rolled her eyes at the theatrics.
*Night, Day 3,
Clark pressed the doorbell a few times but there wasn't any answer. Worried, he lowered his glasses and scanned the apartment. No sign of Lois. His worry escalating, he ran out of the building and flew into the apartment via the open window. Scanning once again, he found no trace of Lois anywhere excepting the note she left him.
He was about to fly out when the door bell rang. Scanning, he saw Scardino standing outside with a file he was flipping through. Coming to a decision, Clark spun back into his clothes and opened the door. "Agent Scardino, what can I do for you?"
"Huh?" Scardino was thrown off by the person answering the door. Peering around Clark, he asked, "Where's Lois?"
Cark frowned, his worries coming to the fore. "She wrote me this note."
Scardino took the note and read it. "A trap."
"Well, I don't think going there will help."
Clark agreed. "What do you suggest?"
"In this entire case, who has motive, means, and ability?" Daniel queried.
Clark's eyes narrowed as he tried to put it all together. "Each of the guys who were sprung from prison had their own talents, but no means nor any real motives for the things that are happening. Swinson has the means…"
"We've found out that Albie Swinson was actually working for Stanley Gables."
"Ah…so Gables is our guy."
"Yep. He created the pills so he has the ability; he's actually very rich, that takes care of the means; and his motive has got to do with STAR Labs."
"Okay, but he's disappeared. How do we find him?"
"Henderson's researcher dug up every single property Gables or Swinson owns." Daniel showed the file to Clark. "I'm positive that's where he is; and probably Lois too," he said, jabbing at one of the addresses in emphasis.
"All right, let's go then."
*Night, Day 3,
Clark and Scardino arrived at the mansion, Scardino whistling sharply. "This guy's loaded."
Clark ignored Scardino as he surreptitiously scanned the building. Seeing Lois trussed up like a turkey, Clark's blood began to boil. He was impatient to get to Lois. Fortunately Daniel had the same idea; grinning at Clark, he picked up a stone and smashed a window. "After you."
Clark led the way, not really bothering to cover the fact he knew where to head. His main concern was for Lois and it overrode any instinct to keep his identity a secret. Bursting into the room where Lois was kept, he all but flew to Lois's side and ripped the ropes binding her apart. "Are you all right?" he asked as he gently untied her gag.
"Fine. But Gables is gone."
Albie, who was released by Daniel, chimed in, "Someone needs to get Superman. He's the only one who can stop Mr. Gables now."
"Stop him from what, exactly?" Daniel asked.
"He intends to release the Omega virus on Metropolis!"
Lois looked meaningfully at Clark, and then turned to catch Daniel's attention. "We'd better get there fast. You're a cop, Dan, so you can wave your badge or whatever to give us access. Clark, you go and call Henderson. Get us some backup."
Albie frowned. "No, no…if they already got the virus, only Superman can stop it from being released into the atmosphere."
"Well, Clark can try to contact Superman, too. Go on Clark. Time is of the essence," Lois said, shooing him out of the room.
"O.K." He hurried from the room and disappeared round the corner.
The other three ran out to Daniel's car, hoping to reach STAR Labs before anything happened.
*Night, Day 3,
At STAR Labs, Gables tapped his foot waiting for Martinez to bypass the security systems. "Well?"
"A moment," was the response from the expert.
Gables sighed and turned to watch Mallory boosting Buster into one of the air vents. Mallory passed a tiny device to Buster, and gave him instructions on how to detonate the bomb. Soon Martinez gave the all-clear sign, and they watched Buster disappear into the vent. The rest hurried up to the roof to wait for Buster. It didn't take long for Buster to collect the sealed container of Omega virus and rejoin his companions.
"Boy, that was easy. What's next, Boss?" He passed the container to Gables.
"Put on your masks, boys. Metropolis is about to experience its worst nightmare." Gables looked triumphant as he admired the little container. "Just imagine the damage this little amount can do."
"I advise you to return that."
They turned to find Superman standing in his classic pose of hands crossing his chest, a fierce forbidding look on his face. An exchange glance summed up what the boys thought of the situation before they hightailed it.
Superman didn't bother to capture them since he knew the police were waiting for them in the lobby. Instead he focused his attention on Gables who was laughing maniacally, and on the open container. With his sharp eyesight, he could see the particles of the virus slowly diffusing into the surrounding atmosphere. Superman knew he had to create a containment field such that the particles weren't able to diffuse any further. To do so, he very rapidly circled the infected area, creating a vortex which trapped the virus particles in it. With infinite care to maintain the velocity and acceleration of the vortex, he maneuvered it away from the rooftop, through the atmosphere, and out into space. Only then did he allow the vortex to die and the virus to disperse.
Flying back to STAR Labs, he found Henderson reading Gables his rights. "If you don't mind, Inspector, I'd like a word with Mr. Gables."
"Of course, Superman." He withdrew to a respectful distance, giving them some privacy.
"What do you want?" Gables asked belligerently.
"An explanation. Why did you do this?"
"To see justice served. The people of Metropolis did this to me." He ripped his shirt to expose a large hideous patch of blistered skin.
Except for a brief glance at the injury, Superman kept eye contact with Gables. "I know of the case. It was neither STAR Labs's fault nor the fault of the people of Metropolis that the accident happened. Your own arrogance and negligence was the cause."
"NO!" Gables lunged at Superman, only to be restrained by several cops.
Henderson looked at him in disgust, and gestured for his men to take Gables away. "Glad you were around to help."
"No problem, Inspector. If nothing else?"
"No, we've got everything we needed. Thank you." Henderson watched the superhero fly away.
Clark tapped Lois's shoulder. "Did I miss much?" he asked loudly, winking at her.
Daniel didn't notice the wink but heard the question. "You missed all the action. How do you survive as a reporter, I wonder?"
Lois immediately came to her partner's defense. "Clark's one of the best reporters I've worked with. He doesn't have to be here to cover the action because I'm already here. That's how we work."
Clark was touched by his partner's defense but felt the need to justify his actions. "Actually I was doing some follow-up at Gables's mansion. He had his lab located in the basement. Forensics was there to gather evidence. And STAR labs personnel were called to help analyze some of the stranger samples. I thought that a sidebar on Gables's background and his obsession might just be the selling point."
"Good thinking, partner." Lois beamed with pride while Daniel only shrugged.
Soon everything was wrapped up and Clark was free to take Lois home. They had taken Superman Express home, and soon Lois found herself sipping a cup of coffee and munching donuts for breakfast with Clark in her dining room.
She looked up at the questioning tone. "What's up, Clark?"
"I'm sorry I wasn't there when you went to meet Albie."
"You were busy," she said, dismissing it.
"I did promise you I would be back."
"And you were, that was how you knew where I had gone; Daniel told me."
"Yeah, he mentioned you were really worried about me when you came back to find the note."
Clark was pleasantly surprised. "And here I thought he was trying to undermine our relationship."
"No." She then grinned mischievously. "Of course, it doesn't mean that he's not interested."
"Just as long as he doesn't act on it. Actually, Mayson said almost the same thing."
"Want to tell me about your visit?"
"Sure, after all, Perry said we could have the day off."
Getting comfortable, he told Lois all that transpired in the meeting. After he finished, Lois asked, "So do you think she knows?"
"I'm not sure. But we need to find a way to ensure she has no doubts at all that Clark and Superman are two different people."
"Clark, why did you ask me to be your date?" Mayson asked as she stepped out of the limousine.
Clark got out after her and offered her his arm. "Well, Lois is the MC and she didn't think I should come alone. I think she's a little afraid that the women might throw themselves at me." His eyes twinkled at the mental picture.
"And she's not afraid I might try to steal you?" Mayson asked amused.
"No, I think the talk you two had went a long way to quell her fears."
"Good, that was the purpose of the talk, anyway."
They were met by the Whites. "Mayson, you look very beautiful," Perry complimented her.
"Thank you, Perry. Alice, good to see you."
"I'm glad you're fully recovered," Alice told her.
The ushers took the ladies' coats and one of them showed the two couples to their table where they made small talk with the others at the table while waiting for the event to start. One of them was the police commissioner who congratulated Clark on his coverage of Superman's inauguration as the head of UN's new peacekeeping/law- enforcement unit. "Great job, Kent. You gave a balanced coverage on the whole event. I like the way you highlighted the importance of the unit in changing the role of the UN. And Superman is the right man for the job. If you see him, tell him I said so."
"Thank you, Commissioner. I will. But I think Superman would tell you that the idea for the unit originated from Ms. Drake," Clark pointed out, giving Mayson her due. "If not for her concerns, the unit would never have materialized."
Mayson blushed when the others started congratulating and thanking her. Soon the lights dimmed and conversation died down as everyone waited eagerly for the start of the show.
"Excuse me," Clark whispered to Mayson.
"Where are you going?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh," she blushed slightly.
As soon as he disappeared behind a pillar, the spotlight centered on the stage where Lois was standing in a sleek black dress. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Orchid Charity Auction, an auction organized by the Superman Foundation in conjunction with the Daily Planet in support of the orphans of Metropolis. I am Lois Lane, your MC for tonight.
"I have the pleasure to present to you today someone who needs no introduction…"
Clark slipped back into his chair. "Did I miss anything?" he asked softly.
Mayson shook her head just as Lois announced, "…Superman." There was a slight widening of her eyes as she stole a glance at Clark before shifting her focus back to the stage.
From the back of the stage, Superman calmly walked out, flanked by two cherubic little orphans and carrying one in his arms. Setting the little girl firmly on one arm, he took the mike from Lois and started the opening speech. His passionate speech about the fate of the orphans was well received and no one had any doubt that the auction would be a success.
After he left the stage with the kids, Lois started the auction with a parade of models walking down the catwalk in clothes donated for the event by Metropolis's most famous designer.
"Mayson, I need to catch up with Superman for a while before he leaves with the children," Clark whispered to her.
She eyed the superhero who was discreetly leaving with the children by a side entrance. "Sure. I'll just enjoy the pageant."
"Thanks. I'll be back soon."
Barry ushered the kids out of the door and scanned the area for Superman to arrive. Seconds later, Superman landed a few feet away to the delight of the three children.
"Supes! Glad you could make it."
"I did promise the kids a ride back to the orphanage. Barry, thank you for covering for me tonight."
"No problem. The foundation's been generous," Barry said, grinning. "Ms. Lane said you had another important function to attend which you couldn't avoid. Things went O.K. there?"
"Yes, it went well. Thanks again, Barry. Now kids, how about that ride?"
Carrying two of the kids and another one piggy-back, Superman flew off into the night.
True to his words, Clark was back within minutes, and didn't leave her side again till the end of the auction and the commencement of the ball. As her escort, he asked her for the first dance.
As they twirled around the ballroom, Mayson decided to satisfy her curiosity. "Clark, what did you need to consult Superman about?"
"Oh, I was reminding him of his promise to fly Lois and me to my parents' farm this weekend."
Mayson's eyebrow shot up. "Does he do that regularly?"
Clark grinned. "No, this is a special case. It's a deal between Superman and Lois; she'd be the MC if he flies us to Kansas."
"Oh." She then saw her dance partner's attention straying. Peering behind her, she saw Lois standing just inside the door, wearing a long red evening gown that emphasized her hourglass figure. Her hair was brushed back and held together by an ornate silver clip. Mayson looked back to Clark who hadn't blinked since laying his eyes on the love of his life. "I see someone who's in need of a dance partner. Perhaps you should volunteer," she suggested gently.
Clark blinked and turned to her in surprise. "You don't mind?"
"Clark, you'll only keep stepping on my feet if we continue."
Clark looked down at his feet and sheepishly removed his right foot from Mayson's left. "Oops."
She laughed, "Go on."
Like the gentleman he was, he brought her back to her seat before hurrying to Lois's side.
"I was told my lady might be in need of an escort. Might I be worthy enough for her consideration."
Lois turned at the familiar voice, and met laughing eyes. She tipped her head, and gave him the once over. "I was hoping for a white knight to sweep me off my feet and ride off into the sunset, but since that's not meant to be, you'll do, kind sir. You'll do, indeed," she said, sauntering up to him. Placing an elegant hand on the lapels of his tuxedo, her other hand pulled him down as she tiptoed to meet his lips halfway. Before they knew it, they were lost in the sweet kiss, and didn't notice the raised eyebrows of their colleagues and acquaintances.