By Tank Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: January 2003
Summary: Lex Luthor attempts to solicit the investigative skills of Lois Lane to find out more information about a certain flying strange visitor in Metropolis.
Writer's notes: I wrote this little piece and posted it on Zoomway's boards some time back. I held it back from the archives because the thought had always been in the back of my mind to turn this idea into a longer piece. Now, I've decided to go ahead and post this as the vignette that it started out as. I figure if I ever do decide to write this up as a longer story, everyone will have forgotten this little piece of fluff by then anyway.
I've also decided to include the alternate ending that I wrote and posted shortly after posting the original. Some might call it a Tank ending…
As always, all characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback welcome at TankW1@aol.com
Lois Lane rummaged through the disaster area that passed as her desk top. After shuffling numerous papers and files around, lifting and moving various desk accessories, and repeating her actions several times, she gave up.
A noisy sigh escaped from her lips. "Randy!"
A slender young man poked his head through the doorway between her office and the outer reception area. He was dressed in a bright turquoise shirt and a tight pair of leather pants.
"You bellowed my queen?"
Lois ignored the sarcasm. "Where is the Griffin file? I want to add a few notes to it, and I can't seem to find it." Lois continued to move papers around on her desktop.
"Have you tried the file cabinet?"
Lois frowned. "What?"
Randy performed an overly dramatic sigh of his own. "If I'm not mistaken, and I rarely am, that is a closed case. Therefore the file has been, in my typically efficient way, filed." He gave his boss a mocking smile. "That would be under G, for Griffin, cross referenced under P, for the Prankster." He gave Lois a slight bow. "Will there be anything else, your highness?"
"Yeah, you're fired."
Randy's laugh ended in a little snort. "Right, like you could run this office without me."
"Well, I don't care if our families are good friends, someday you are going to go too far."
The young man nodded. "Uh huh, whatever," he turned to go, then stopped and faced her again. "By the way, hate that blouse." He turned and was gone.
Lois just shook her head at the empty doorway but couldn't help the slight smile which creased her lips. For all that Randy was a cocksure little s o b at times, he was also right. She had no hope of running this office without him. Behind the attitude that he liked to project was the most organized mind she had ever run across. Besides, she secretly enjoyed their little sparring matches at times.
Lois leaned back in her chair and looked about her small but elegant office. Her desk, the casements, and window trim were all real wood. That was mostly because it was an older building, but Lois had done her research early on and found it to be well managed and well cared for. It gave her office an added look of prosperity even in a lower rent building like this one.
She had quit her job at the Daily Planet and had started Lane investigations a little over a year ago. In that time she had managed to build up a reputation for bringing a relentless drive and determination to her cases. She had also fallen into a couple high profile cases which had helped her gain much esteem in the media, which then translated into more cases. But no matter, whether the case be bigtime or a smaller domestic affair, Lois brought the same intensity to each. Even if others didn't think so, Lois was aware of her whispered nickname of Mad Dog Lane, which she wouldn't admit to others, but privately took pleasure in.
A few months back she had taken on a partner, and he was able to bring a lot to the table and her business really began to take off. She may not be the biggest detective agency in Metropolis, but Lois liked to think that she was the best. After all, nothing less would satisfy her.
Lois' musings where interrupted by the sound of the outer door being opened and someone coming in. She couldn't make out what was being said, so she just sat back and waited for the inevitable. It came moments later.
Her intercom came to life with a squawk. "Ms. Lane, there is a Mr. Lex Luthor to see you." There was a slight pause. "He doesn't have an appointment."
Lois smiled at that. "Send him in."
Wow, Lois thought, Lex Luthor, Metropolis' most prominent citizen. The third richest man in the world. Lois couldn't help but wonder what he was doing coming to her modest little agency, especially, in person.
Suddenly there was a yelp of surprise, and Lois looked up to see a somewhat bewildered gentleman enter her office. The look on his face was a strange combination of surprise, shock, and satisfaction?
"Is it just me, or is it standard practice for your underlings to goose prospective clients?" His voice was smooth and cultured, with just the barest hint of irritation in it.
Lois blushed. "Randy!" she yelled. "How many times do I have to tell you not to molest the clients."
A disembodied voice answered from the next room. "I just couldn't resist. He has such a tight little a… "
"Randy! I'm so sorry, Mr. Luthor. Please sit down." Lois did her best to hide a smile as she indicated the chair in front of her desk. She had to admit that Randy did have good taste in men.
Lois used the time that it took Luthor to sit to give him a quick appraisal. He was a striking man. A trim, athletic figure, dressed impeccably in the latest designer fashion. Thick curly brown hair topped a handsome face. He smiled easily at her, but it lacked any real warmth. His eyes were a pale blue grey which seemed to be show intensity, but Lois seriously doubted that they ever displayed any compassion. Lois always considered herself pretty good at first impressions, and her first impression of Lex Luthor was of a dangerous man.
"So, what can I do for you Mr. Luthor?"
His smile widened but looked more predatory than friendly. "Well, Ms. Lane, that should be obvious. I wish to engage your firm's services."
"I don't mean to sound self-deprecating, but why my little firm. I'm sure a man in your position has access to all sorts of investigative resources."
"That is true, but I'm impressed by your reputation, and the job I have in mind requires some special qualifications."
Lois just cocked a brow, inviting Luthor to continue.
"Yes, well first of all, your reputation for persistence and an unyielding pursuit of your goal will be tested by the job I have in mind." Lex folded his hands in his lap as he captured Lois' eyes with his own. "And, it would also be in my best interest not to be too closely associated with the task."
Lois didn't blink as she steepled her fingers in front of her. "I see. You should know, Mr. Luthor, that this agency will not engage in illegal activities."
It was Lex's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Really?"
Lois found herself a bit flustered by his response. "That is, I'm not above pushing things a bit in the name of a greater good, but be advised, there are limits. I'm not sure what you may have heard about me, but I do have ethical standards which I won't cross for any amount of money."
Luthor nodded. "I expected no less. I doubt what I have in mind will require you to go against any of your *ethical standards*."
To Lois' ears, the way Luthor said it, it almost sounded like dirty words. "Suppose you just tell me what you want, and let me judge from there."
Luthor gave her a nod of agreement. "Fair enough." He took a deep breath. "I'm sure, by now, you've heard of the strange visitor we have flying about Metropolis, purportedly doing good deeds because he 'wants to help'." Lex used his fingers to signify quotation marks.
Lois showed no reaction to his words. "You mean Superman."
"I do indeed mean Superman."
Lois leaned back in her chair and studied the man in front of her for a moment. "I take it you don't believe the Daily Planet's article about him?"
"Ms. Lane, please, you aren't that naive. The article said nothing." Lex began to get more animated. "Who is this man really? What does he really want? Why is he here, now, and more importantly, how did he get those powers he so enjoys flaunting?"
"It seems to me that all I've ever heard about him is positive. He's done nothing but good since he's been here." Lois leaned forward again. "I take it you don't trust the motives that this Superman has stated?"
"Really, Ms. Lane, no one with that kind of power does good deeds for their own sake. Everyone has an angle." Lex favored Lois with a patronizing smile. "I would think that in your line of work you'd know that."
"I see… but Mr. Luthor, what about all the charities that you and your corporation have been involved in over the years? Aren't those good deeds for their own sake?"
Luthor's laugh was without humor. "Touche', Ms. Lane, but even though I do derive pleasure from doing charitable works, because I'm in a position to do so, I won't deny that I also receive side benefits in the form of favorable PR, as it were. I have to say that some of the charitable things that I do actually enhance my reputation in my business dealings." Lex placed his hands on his knees in a gesture of impatience. "But my motives are not at issue here."
Lois shook her head. "And you want me to… what?"
"I want you to find out who this *Superman* really is. What is his real agenda, and what are his real plans for Metropolis, and, dare I say, the world?"
"You sound almost paranoid, Mr. Luthor. Why do you wish to know these things?"
Lex shook his head. "It may sound paranoid to you Ms. Lane, but to me, it's just being a good citizen, and I'll admit, good business. Is this Superman, friend, or merely a clever foe? I think that the people of Metropolis, and the world, are owed more of an explanation of who and what this incredibly powerful being truly is. I know I'm not the only one who isn't satisfied with the paltry answers that he has been willing to give." Luthor leaned forward and put his hands on the edge of Lois' desk. "He's obviously hiding something." Lex's voice got a bit more impassioned. "I wish to hire you to find out what it is that this 'Man of Steel' isn't telling us. Find out what he's hiding, and who he really is. I would think your former life as a reporter would make you particularly disposed toward finding out the truth."
Lois gave Luthor a questioning look.
"Oh, I know all about your past occupation, Ms. Lane. I researched you quite thoroughly. It was another reason why I thought you'd be perfect for the job."
Lois had heard enough. She stood, Luthor did also. She held out her hand which Luthor readily accepted with a guarded look on his face. Lois gave him a smile.
"Mr. Luthor, I have to say you've brought up many interesting arguments, but I don't know if I'll be able to help you." She held up her hand to forestall any dispute. "I'll tell you what. I'll think about what you've asked and get back to you by tomorrow." Lois shrugged. "Under the circumstances that's the best I can offer."
It was clear that Luthor wasn't happy with Lois' answer, but he said nothing. He frowned as he dropped her hand and stalked out of the room. Lois sat back down in her chair and whistled. So that was Lex Luthor, she thought. She giggled softly to herself as she replayed his apparent fervor over finding out who and what Superman was.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the door between her office and another office being opened, and a strikingly handsome man entered. Lois looked up at him and smiled. Why was it that she got goosebumps every time she saw him?
"Hey, partner, you just missed it," Lois said, her smile reaching her voice.
He returned her smile with a mega-watt version of his own. "Oh yeah, what did I miss?"
Lois got up and walked out from behind her desk to stand in front of her partner. She draped her arms around his neck and looked into his deep brown eyes.
"None other than the high and mighty Mr. Lex Luthor, himself."
"Really." He shot a quick look toward the outer reception area. "Randy, didn't…"
Lois laughed. "Of course he did, but you know what? I think that Luthor secretly liked the attention."
Her partner joined in her laughter. "So, what did Mr. Luthor want?"
"He wanted to hire us."
"Really, you'd think that he… what did he want us to do?" A wary look crossed his face.
Lois rubbed up against his chest as she turned her back to him. "Actually, for us, it would be a really easy job." She bit her lip to keep from giggling. "He wanted us to hunt down and expose Superman."
Lois turned back to face him. "Oh don't worry, Clark, I didn't say yes… yet." She pulled on his tie bringing his face down to her level and gave him a quick kiss. "I told him I would let him know tomorrow."
Clark pulled back from his partner's embrace. "Lois! You can't be serious!"
Lois gave Clark a mock frown. "Why not? Just think how easy it would be. We could go away together claiming to be hot on the trail of Superman. Say the Bahamas, or Hawaii? After all, Superman would be wherever we went. After enjoying some well deserved, expensive, completely paid for vacation, we could come back and tell Mr. Luthor that Superman was exactly what he appears to be. A wonderful, generous soul with incredible powers who just wants to help people." Lois stuck her lower lip out in a pout. "Would that be untrue?"
Clark shook his head. "Lois, I know you're kidding. You know that we couldn't do something like that."
"Maybe — but something about Luthor just creeped me out. I'd love to stick it to him just a little for even thinking of trying to go after you." She sidled up close to Clark again.
Clark put his arms around Lois. "I appreciate your concern, but I think it would be best if we just forget about Mr. Luthor, and his little job, and concentrate on more important things."
Lois cocked her head and looked up into Clark's eyes. "And just what more important things might those be?"
Clark just smiled and leaned down to capture Lois' lips in his.
Clark Kent entered the office and noticed that the light was on in Lois' office. He was a bit surprised to find that she had beat him in this morning. That was not something that happened very often, and naturally, Randy wasn't in yet.
He poked his head through her doorway. "Hey, what's up?" She seemed startled when she first heard him. Her blush confused him a bit.
Lois bit her lip. "Welllll, if you must know, I took the case."
Clark looked at her questioningly. "What? What case?"
Clark was stunned. "Luthor! You're joking, right?" Clark watched Lois shake her head shyly. "Lois! We discussed this, and we agreed that it wouldn't be right to take Luthor's money under false pretenses."
Lois stood up and, grasping the edge of her desk tightly as if using it for support, she meet Clark's gaze. "I agree. That's why I fulfilled the contract as specified." Clark's confusion was evident. "I've just finished faxing over all the information I had on Superman to Lex."
"Lex?" Her use of his first name was not lost on Clark, but he had a more pressing concern. "What sort of information?"
Lois turned away. "You know; that Superman came to earth from the planet Krypton as a baby in 1966, that he was raised by a kindly farm couple from Smallville. That his real identity is that of Clark Kent, former reporter and current junior partner in a small investigative agency."
Clark had to put his hand against the wall to keep from falling over. He couldn't believe his ears. He couldn't believe that the woman he loved had betrayed him in such a cavalier manner.
"Lois… why?" His voice was barely above a whisper.
Lois did have the decency to look embarrassed. "Well, I called Lex back this morning, you know, to tell him I couldn't take the case." She came out from behind her desk and placed her arm on the arm of her incredulous partner. "But, Clark, he offered me so much money."
"Clark, it was *a lot* of money." Lois heaved a heavy sigh. "They say everyone has their price." She shrugged. "I guess he found mine." She turned back to face him, a slight smile on her face. "Besides, I think he likes me… or maybe it was Randy?" She shrugged again. "Doesn't matter, it was just *so* much money."
Clark stared into the face of his partner, and the person he thought was his friend, and lover. He was astounded. He couldn't believe what he'd been hearing. This couldn't be happening to him.
He stammered. "Lois, I can't believe you sold me out, for money."
"It was a lot of money. I never would have done it for just average money."
Clark stared at the stranger who now stood in front of him. "You realize you have effectively destroyed my life."
Lois reached up and patted him on the cheek. "Oh, I think you'll be just fine. You'll just have to go somewhere else and start over, but you've done that before. It shouldn't be too hard on you." Lois' voice took on a lecturing mode. "And I'll have you know I didn't tell him about kryptonite."
Clark just stood rooted to the spot as Lois stretched up on her tiptoes and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"You'd better hurry," she said. "I would guess that Lex has people on their way over to your place as we speak." Lois looked thoughtful. "And I suppose that you'll want to gather up your folks too. Maybe build them some new place in the south pole or something." Lois paced around the room for a few moments.
She then stopped when she reached her desk again and met his gaze for the final time. "You should know that I've enjoyed our time together. I've enjoyed it very much, but this was strictly a business decision." Her smile was somewhat a sad one. "No hard feelings?"
The look that Clark gave Lois was akin to the look you'd see on a person who was suddenly confronted with a scene that revolted them. Without another word he spun into the suit and flew out the window, not bothering to open it.
Lois stared at the wreckage of her window lying on the floor and let her gaze flash across all the paper and files that had recently sat on her desk that now were scattered haphazardly over the floor.
She frowned. "Well, that was petty!"