A Future for Us

By Nancy V. Sont <nancyvsont@superaje.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: November 2004

Summary: Clark decides his only hope for a future with Lois will be if Superman proposes to her. As she gets to know Superman's favorite hangouts and activities, she realizes that she had no idea what a fun guy he can be, quite like Clark actually.

All disclaimers apply.

I wondered how things would have turned out if Superman hadn't rejected Lois on that fateful spring night. I wanted to read some stories with that theme, but wasn't able to find them, so I began one of my own. Any comments would be helpful and much appreciated.

My thanks go to Julia Kraemer, Nan Smith, Ingra, and Verena B. aka Sira, who have been wonderful beta readers. They really helped me turn a raw piece of writing into a real story worthy of the archives!

In this story, the Daily Planet isn't bought or blown up by Luthor.


Part 1

Clark hovered above the clouds, flat on his back, pondering the worst, most important personal problem he'd ever had. Lex Luthor had proposed to Lois and she was actually considering marrying him. How could she? Was she insane? Why was she looking beyond her best friend; Clark, her partner who brought her coffee, who played games with her, teased her, helped her through her troubles, challenged her when things were going smoothly? What did she see in Luthor? He was all flash and dazzle, manners and money on the outside, but she didn't even know him! Clark had tried to talk some sense into her. That hadn't gone well. Then he'd talked to her in the park, pouring out his own feelings to her, hoping that she would forget about Luthor once she realized how important she was to him and how much he loved her.

'You must know I love you, Lois,' he had said. But even though she had said she also loved him in return, she'd clarified that it was the love of a friend. She was too blind to see that their love was the kind that makes a good marriage. It was silly to think what they had was no more than friendship.

He let out a moan, rolling in the clouds, slowly at first, and then spinning more and more, hoping to burn off his confusion. It didn't do any good. His racing mind wouldn't calm down.

After he'd poured out his feelings to her, she'd asked him to let Superman know she needed to talk to him. When Clark had asked about Luthor's proposal, she'd said, 'I won't say 'yes', not until I speak to someone. I think you know who it is.' Sure, he knew who it was. It infuriated Clark that she was so devoted to his alter ego. It was just a load of hero worship! She wanted to be with Superman. But he wasn't ready to go to her apartment in the red and blue suit yet. What was he going to do when he arrived? Would he say there was no future for them, since she'd just rejected Clark's love? What would he say to the woman he loved more than life itself? What would the consequences be?

He shot up in the air, higher and higher, passing clouds until they were far below, and the air becoming dangerously thin. He let himself float slowly downward, watching the bright green land, the blue ocean, and the white clouds move below him.

She'd said she wouldn't say 'yes' yet. What did that mean? Probably that if she couldn't have a future with Superman, she'd say yes to Luthor. But, he couldn't let her marry Luthor, never.

She didn't want a romantic relationship with Clark. Not yet, anyway. He pondered the things they'd been through over the past year of working together at the Planet. So many things had happened. She'd gone from detesting him to loving him as her best friend. That had taken a year.

Given time, she might decide she loved him romantically. He'd been willing to wait for however long it took her to fall in love with him after she'd spurned him when they first met. She'd seen the smitten look in his eyes and warned, 'Don't fall for me Farmboy.' He had anyway. Now the time for Clark to wait patiently was over.

He shot through the air again, circling the globe, finally coming to a rest high above the frozen white arctic. He gazed dully at the light blue icebergs floating in the dark blue ocean.

Whatever happened when Superman went to her apartment tonight was going to alter the rest of Clark's life completely. He'd lose her forever, or he'd have her forever.

If he rejected her, would she actually blindly marry the devil, without investigating him? Where was her reporter instinct when she was around either Superman or Luthor? She was so stupid and pigheaded sometimes. He felt sick to his stomach imagining the most beautiful, brilliant woman being married to that devious fraud, that murderous villain. How he wished she'd listen to reason! But just like she'd fallen for the flash and dazzle of the Superman suit and his powers, she'd done the same thing with Luthor. He'd taken her to Italy for dinner! That wasn't a quick flight like it would have been with Superman. It had probably taken seven hours. One would hardly be interested in dinner after a seven hour flight! Blinded by the bright lights of Luthor's world, that's all there was to it.

When she had talked about marrying Luthor, it wasn't with that same look she had for Superman. She hadn't been swept off her feet. What could Clark do now, but let her dream relationship with Superman develop?

'For Pete's sake, Clark,' he scolded himself, 'what's wrong with her being in love with Superman? What's wrong with Superman being in love with Lois? Isn't Superman already in love with her?'

Of course he was. It took all of his effort to keep himself from showing her his true feelings, to keep her at arm's length, acting as the distant, aloof superhero. What would be wrong with letting her love him, with developing a romantic relationship with her as Superman? It would save her life. It would save Clark's life, too. Was it dishonest to do that? How could it be any more dishonest to love her as Superman without revealing his alter ego, than to love her as Clark without telling her his secret?

Could he even keep his secret from her as Superman? Certainly not for long. When they spent time together, could he just be himself, without the crossed arms, without the distant attitude?

She'd seen Superman humble before. She'd seen the pain in his face when things hadn't gone right in the rescuing business. She knew he wasn't always strong, that he had weaknesses. She just hadn't seen much of them. But she did love him as a man, more than just a two dimensional figure. She'd comforted him before.

So what was she going to say to him tonight when he arrived at her window? Was she going to tell him Luthor had proposed and that she wanted Superman more…but she'd settle for Luthor if Superman rejected her? Probably not. She'd want to see where they stood.

Well, Superman could save Lois Lane and Clark Kent and their future, if he gave her hope for their relationship. But without question, instinctively, he wanted to give her the brush off. What a slap in the face to reject Clark to his face and then to turn to his alter ego and want Superman instead?

Should Superman ask her to marry him? He loved her. She loved him. But, how could they ever marry? Okay, the names on the marriage license wouldn't be that hard. His name was Kal-El. His parents were Lara and Jor El. But what about Martha and Jonathan coming to the wedding? No, marrying her as Superman was ridiculous.

Would she marry Superman if she found out that he was Clark? It was too dangerous to be too close to Superman. She did love Clark, she'd said so already, as a friend, of course. He couldn't actually marry her until she knew he was Clark. Did Superman and Lois even know each other that well? Better than she knew Luthor, that was for sure.

If he didn't propose, but just let her know that there was definitely hope for them as a couple would that be enough to keep her from marrying Luthor? Probably. Luthor would undoubtedly find out and try harder to kill Superman and to woo Lois. Luthor wasn't a quitter. He was behind practically everything bad that happened in Metropolis. But he always came out smelling like a rose! What a case study Luthor was!

Okay, if Clark did let them have a relationship, Superman and Lois, against all his better judgment, what about Lois' safety? Would she be a target if they were seen dating? Of course, she would. But what were the options? If she married Luthor, wouldn't she be just as much a target? Luthor must have many enemies. Wasn't kidnapping Lois from Luthor, the third richest man in the world, as good a way to get something, as it was to kidnap her from Superman? Wasn't she already a target just because she was Superman's friend? If Superman couldn't protect Lois Lane, what better bodyguard existed to protect anyone?

His mind churned out questions and answers as the sun set, spraying color over the clouds beneath and above him. He had to make a decision. He flew back to his balcony, landed and went inside. He drank a glass of water, and then set the glass heavily onto the counter.

If Lois thought she would have a life with Superman, he had to propose something to her, a deeper relationship, or marriage. Otherwise, as soon as she married Luther and woke up from the moonlight and roses, she'd learn the depth of his evil for herself. What would Luthor do to her when she blew the whistle on him, as she certainly would? She'd expose him and he'd have to deal with her. His true selfishness would surface. No, she certainly wouldn't be safe with Luthor; once he found out she was on to him.

If Superman rejected Lois tonight, where in the universe would Clark be able to go to escape the pain of knowing what he'd lost? No, he had made up his mind. He'd give her whatever she wanted from Superman. He'd tell her the truth, and the real truth was that Superman was in love with her.

He stepped to his bedside and removed a velvet blue box from the drawer. It contained the ring Clark had made in case Lois had accepted Clark's love. Superman would do it. He would propose to his true love, let the chips fall where they may. He shot up into the sky from his balcony and headed to Lois' apartment.

He landed gently in her living room in a gust of wind. Lois was sitting on her couch, reading a book. She turned when the wind blew her hair against her shoulders. She stood, happy that he'd come.

"I heard you wanted to see me," Superman said.

"Yes…um…come in." She approached him and put her hands on his folded arms, and touched the 'S' emblem on his chest with her forefinger while looking into his eyes.

He was annoyed to have been put in this position. He wanted her to love him, all of him, as Clark, not just the dazzling superhero.

She began to speak. "I'm just trying to figure out…I have a lot of changes going on in my life and I just want to make the right decision…and I can't do that until I know how you feel. Superman, is there any hope for us? You and me? I'm so completely in love with you. I can't do anything else without knowing," Lois said, looking up into his eyes. She was practically holding her breath as she waited for his response.

All her defenses were down. The businesswoman that Clark usually saw at work had disappeared. Superman could see that Lois was truly humble, ready to accept whatever he said. Her life was in the balance. She was scared of losing him, scared of making the wrong decision. He knew she'd never felt this way about anyone before. She thought he was so good, so completely honest, and so trustworthy.

Seeing her open to him, radiating such love for him; his still partially hardened, broken heart, melted. He dropped his arms to his sides.

"Oh, Lois," he began, unable to hide his love for her behind that phony stone face. She wasn't acting. The woman he'd loved for so long was completely in love with him. She'd do anything for him. She'd fight against anyone who said an unkind word about Superman.

He placed his arms gently around her and kissed her forehead, then drew her to him in a tender embrace. Meeting her eyes he said, "I've tried to hide my feelings from you for so long. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. I've tried to keep you at a distance, to keep you from getting hurt."

She looked up at him, searching his watery eyes. "Oh Superman!" she gasped, her arms going around him, beneath his cape. He didn't look the same as he usually did. She'd never seen emotions like these in his eyes before.

"How do you really feel about me, Superman?" she ventured. She thought she knew, but she had to hear him tell her. She had to know for sure. Everything depended on it.

"Oh Lois," he pulled her closer and rubbed his face in her silky hair. "I've loved you for a very long time." All he'd worked for in trying to keep his distance from Lois when he was in costume seemed of no consequence now. He had no other choice; he couldn't possibly let her turn to Luthor if he continued to push her away, always hoping she'd begin to love him as Clark. Darn it, he wasn't just Clark. He was Superman, too.

"Yes, Lois, there is a lot of hope for us, if you'll have me."

Her eyes were pooling with tears as she looked up into his loving eyes.

Their lips met in a soft caress.

"Lois, you mean the world to me. The more time we've spent together, the more my love for you has grown. You've been there for me from the beginning and I've tried to be there for you. I've watched over you the whole time I've lived here in Metropolis. Every night when I fly over the city to make sure things are calm, I check to see if you are all right. I know your voice, and if I ever hear it, I follow that sound first. I know your heartbeat. When you arrive at a rescue, I hear it and I know where you are and that you're looking for me. Countless times, it's taken all my willpower to keep myself from rushing over to grab you and fly away."

"Really?" She looked up through her tears of joy. She'd never imagined that she'd be hearing these words from the only man she'd ever really loved. Her heart overflowed. "I never knew how you felt about me," she sobbed. "I mean…I knew you liked me! But I never knew you felt that way about me!"

He held her tightly with one arm and wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. If she could accept a proposal from Luthor who she barely knew and probably didn't love, then surely she'd accept a proposal from Superman who she did know, at least as much as she'd been allowed to know. She seemed to love him deeply. Was it really just a crush? He was ready to throw caution to the wind. He had to have Lois as his wife, as the mother of his children, if that was possible. Did he dare just date her? No. If she refused his proposal because they didn't know each other well enough, then they could always fall back into dating. She was already thinking of marriage.

"Lois, I know you don't know me that well. I mean…"

"But I can see beyond that, Superman. I can see who you really are, the good you stand for, the way it tears you up when someone's in pain, when you can't save everyone. How you rush to help everyone, no matter whether they deserve it or not."

"There's so much more to me than you know. I'm not as perfect as you think."

Lois hugged his waist tighter. "I'd love you even if you were just an ordinary man."

He swallowed, trying to stifle the stabbing pain those words evoked. She'd just rejected the ordinary man. He wanted to shoot out of the room, go somewhere far away and lick his wounds. He made himself relax and ignore the pain. What she was really saying was true; the man she loved, Superman was solid to the core, a decent man. He may have been crossing his arms, standing tall and acting aloof and emotionless, but she was looking beyond that, he realized. Even as Clark, she'd grown to love him as a close friend. She had much stronger feelings for Superman. Wasn't that only natural? Superman had always come to rescue her from the jaws of death while Clark had always gone for help. Clark ran away, but Superman came to help. No wonder she loved Superman so much. He was the man who always came.

He swallowed the painful lump in his throat. "Even when you find out that I have faults? I mean, sometimes I don't think you see any of my faults."

She looked into his deep brown eyes and saw pain and sadness there.

"Superman, I know you must have faults, but whatever they are, with so much goodness in you, you're by far the best man on this planet." She grinned offhandedly and continued, "And you know, I always go for the very best!"

He smiled, holding her close. Maybe he should take a chance on proposing.

But shouldn't they develop their relationship more first? Memories of all the times they'd spent together, both as Superman and as Clark, raced through his mind. He thought about dating Lois. As Clark, he'd had to bottle up his feelings for her to avoid her rejection. As Superman, she'd never rejected him. Certainly, they should date before he proposed to her. But at the moment, it didn't seem like there was much standing between them. She knew as much about him as she needed to know. He would make sure he told her the truth about his identity before they actually got married. He certainly loved her.

His arms loosened and he reached around to retrieve the box he'd tucked into his belt behind his back. "Lois, I know that our relationship has been rather strange, and that you don't know everything about me." Then going down on one knee, his cape laying behind him on the floor, he opened the small blue velvet- covered box to face her. "Lois Lane, will you marry me?"

Lois was stunned. Her mouth dropped open. Could this possibly be happening? The man of her dreams was actually proposing to her? She'd had no idea he'd wanted to marry her.

How scared she'd felt when she'd seen the aloof look on Superman's face when he'd arrived. He truly had looked like a man of steel. She'd wondered what she was thinking, pouring her heart out to him. She'd felt desperate. She'd had to find out, to get things out into the open. He'd never given her much encouragement, but he had seemed to enjoy her attention.

All her reservations about men and the terrible way they'd treated her, came to mind. But here was her superhero who would never treat her badly. She knew that as certainly as she knew she was Lois Lane. If she could consider accepting a proposal of marriage from Lex, how much more wonderful to accept a proposal from Superman!

"Oh, yes, Superman, I will!"

The tears were flowing freely as he stood and swept her up into his arms and the air, his lips finding hers. Clark felt wonderful. His sweetheart was going to have him! Or at least part of him. He'd had no idea how wonderful it would feel to tell her his feelings, not just the feelings of Superman the superhero, but his true feelings, the feelings he had as both Clark and Superman. How wonderful not to have to hide them from her anymore. It was bad enough to still keep his big secret. He hated lying to her all the time, but his secret was important. That would come later.

But for now, it felt wonderful to unlock this tightly secured box to let her know just how he felt about her. He wanted to tell her how much it had hurt when she'd rejected him as Clark so many times, but that would have to wait. Actually, she'd see that for herself when she knew who he really was.

Landing on the floor together, he took the sparkling diamond ring out of the box and slipped it onto her finger, then lifted her hand to his lips. "I love you, Lois. Thank you for saying 'yes'." He pulled her close and mumbled into her hair. "Thank you."

"Thank you for asking," Lois giggled, leaning her face up towards his.

They floated as they kissed. He'd kissed her before, but it had never sent such intense feelings through his very soul. This time it had so much meaning. Filled with joy, they floated out the window then quickly up into the clouds. They somersaulted, drifted, and spun in the gentle breeze as they kissed.

Now she'd get to know him as Superman. He'd have to leave her to be Clark, who would now be the secret identity. But he didn't want to think about that, not now. He didn't want to have any secrets from her. He'd deal with that eventually, when the time came, but right now, he just wanted to feel her in his arms, her soft lips upon his, her steady heartbeat close against his chest. He breathed deeply of her intoxicating fragrance and nestled his face into her hair.

Embracing, they sailed through the silence, beneath the moon and the stars, far above the lights of Metropolis, murmuring into each other's ears as they kissed, hugged, and looked at the enormity of space.

It had really happened. He'd proposed and she'd accepted. It had worked. She would forget about Luthor. His dreams would come true. They'd get to know each other better, he'd tell her his secret, and they'd marry, find a place, and have a family. All of his dreams were embodied in this one woman in his arms. He'd never seen her so happy, so radiant, so beautiful. What he had missed out on, not letting her display her feelings for Superman before, always dashing away before she suspected that he was really Clark, never enjoying her kisses or this incredible feeling of love. He'd never known that love could feel like this, a beautiful, heavenly bubble. Lois was going to marry him!

Lois clung to Superman, listening to his heartbeat against the silence surrounding them. How she'd dreamed of him expressing his feelings for her. She'd longed to be with him, to be what he needed in a companion, to soothe him when he was distressed, to listen to his words of wisdom, to learn to be more like him: good, honest and filled with love for humanity and all that was just and true. She envisioned them together, working to unravel difficult cases, him using his powers and her using her digging skills. She'd never imagined he'd really ask her to marry him. She'd never really considered living with him for the rest of her life. She thought about what being married to Lex would have been like in contrast. A man who she didn't love and therefore couldn't hurt her emotionally; versus a man who would accept and return her love, with whom she could truly be full of life and happiness.

What would it be like when he had to dash off in the midst of everything to save someone? Would it bother her? Would she be able to put aside her selfishness and be the wife of a Superman, who like a doctor was always on call? Would she feel second best? It was hard to imagine Superman ever making her feel second best. She looked up into his eyes again. No, he never would. His face displayed utter devotion, hopelessly lost in his love for her. No, he'd have to go answer calls for help. He'd never want to leave her, but he'd do it because he was on the Earth to help. It was his calling in life. But he'd always be there for her. She sighed and smiled.

He stiffened as his attention changed. His eyes clouded over. His brow furrowed. He clenched his teeth and swallowed as he turned to look far below.

Lois followed his gaze. She could barely see a building burst into flames, followed by the sound of an explosion. Their moment of bliss was over. Lois knew they had to go. "Let's go!" she said, embarking on a whole new world with her fiancé.

"Hold tight, this is going to be a faster flight than usual," he said tensely, covering her head and body with his cape.

Lois ducked into his chest. She was safely enveloped in his aura as he sped as fast as he could without endangering her. From beneath the protection of his cape, she'd barely felt the wind, though she could hear its roar as they flew downward. In moments, her feet touched the ground, some distance from the conflagration. She could feel the heat, even from several blocks away.

He kissed her and said goodbye before they landed in a gust. He rushed as a blur to the fire and smothered it with a gust of frosty breath.

The screams of the tenants trapped in the flaming building ripped at him as he moved like lightning. He found the dying, burning and injured. He had to fly much more slowly as he brought them safely to the pavement some distance from the building. Lois ran to them, all the while sirens becoming louder. Soon the sidewalk and road were filled with bodies. It reminded her of a war scene from Gone with the Wind.

She walked among the victims as their numbers grew. Many of them were practically dead, some burned beyond recognition. Superman had brought only the living out first. He flew in the smoke- filled darkness from heartbeat to heartbeat, sending broken beams and flaming furniture out of the way to rescue people. Over and over he returned to the sky, blowing ice wind on new flames, then returning through the billowing smoke for more victims. Many times he paused to suck the smoke from around him and blow it outside.

The high-rise had been full. The residents of the 600 apartments included newborn babies, school children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. They'd returned to the security of home after a day of work, school, and errands. The explosion had been unannounced. No one had been able to run from the building.

Lois watched in horror as the number of people on the road grew. Their cries of pain were deafening as she roamed among them, doing what little she could to comfort crying children. Ambulances arrived one after another. Soon a continual procession to fill the city's many hospitals began. Rescue workers lifted the burn victims onto stretchers.

Hours went by. The flames started up many times. Fire trucks surrounded the building. Water arches reached wherever there were flames. Superman flew the wounded to emergency rooms once his work at taking them out of the building was finished. Then, without any warning, the building fell to the ground, leaving a heap of cement and metal beams on the bodies that remained within.

The pile burst into flame again, while Superman worked as a blur to move the heap, piece by piece, to rescue the dead. He worked all night, recovering all those that were within. The fingers of dawn were reaching over the horizon before he landed on the ground beside Lois.

The road where the wounded victims had lain was stained with blood. None of the rest of those still on the road were alive.

There was no smile on Superman's face anymore. Memories of the joy he'd felt before, when he and Lois had gotten engaged, had vanished. Soot stained his face, suit, and boots. His hands were black. He smelled like acrid smoke, blood and burning flesh. Lois leaned against him, hugging him, in awe of what he had done throughout the night.

"I'm dirty, Lois," he choked out, not wanting to make her clothes any more filthy than they were already, but too tired and in too much emotional pain to remove her arms from around his waist.

"Here, I'll fly you home." He put his arms around her and took to the air. They flew silently over the city. A layer of smoke hung in the air and Lois coughed. Superman sucked it up and blew it high above the city, then wrapped his cape around her. They clung to one another for comfort from the horror they'd just seen. Before they reached her apartment, he let himself fly higher, hovering high above the lights of the city where they'd been before. It was comforting to feel her in his arms, to feel her arms around him, her voice soothing away the horrid visions in his eyes. Eventually, he sighed and lowered them through Lois' living room window.

She looked up at him. "You are so incredible. Thank you for all you did tonight. Thank you for taking me with you. I only wish I could have done more to help."

Any happiness that phrase would normally have imparted to him was lost on his despair. He nodded and mumbled, "I'd better go get cleaned up."

"Where will you go?" Lois asked, suddenly realizing that she didn't even know where he went when he was out of the public eye.

Clark remembered that she didn't know about his other life; that he lived in a perfectly nice apartment where he had a shower and a comfortable bed and a closet full of suits. He almost distanced himself out of habit to say, 'I have places,' but remembered he was now engaged to her.

He wanted his secrets from her to be as few as possible. "I usually swim in the ocean until the smell is gone, then rinse off in a lake," he said. "I'll probably go to the arctic; maybe the ice water will numb my mind." It was the truth, but not all of it. When he was clean enough, he'd go home.

"But where do you shower to get rid of the saltwater?" she continued.

Seeing where this conversation was leading, he hesitated, wearily.

"You can use my shower," she suggested. "I can wash your suit in my washing machine." She pictured Superman wrapped in a towel while he waited for his suit to be cleaned. She pulled her mind away. "Do you have other suits somewhere?"

Her tired mind was curious now. How many suits did he have? Had he brought them with him when he'd arrived from Krypton? Did the suit come off? Oh, of course it did, he was a man beneath it! He was going to marry her, for Pete's sake!

He hadn't thought any of this out yet. He still had to protect his secret from her, until she could finally love him as Clark. But how would that ever be possible? Now, she would have to push Clark away, simply because she would be completely faithful to Superman.

"Lois, I think I'd better go," he managed. He could see her face sadden. He was too devastated by the carnage he'd dealt with all night to talk anymore.

"Oh, don't go, not yet," she said as she reached up and pulled his face down to her kiss.

"Lois, I have to. It's nearly sunrise. You need to get some sleep." He felt bad pushing her away, but was too overwhelmed to communicate with her or with anyone. "I need to be alone for awhile, after all that horror."

She looked into his distraught eyes and could only imagine what he'd seen as he'd been pulling victims out. It had been sickeningly horrible from her vantage point. Her heart had been devastated by the pain of the people she'd seen. How much worse it must have been for him. She pulled him to her again and he buried his face in her hair.

"You can talk to me about it, Superman. I want to be here for you, to comfort you, to be an outlet for your feelings," Lois said, hugging him tightly.

"Lois, it was so awful." She could feel him sob quietly against her head.

"I should have seen it coming; I should have heard more and gotten there faster, maybe smelled the gas leak." The images of children and babies, pregnant mothers and all the rest flooded back into his mind.

"Lois, I love you with all my heart, but I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow." He kissed her briefly and flew through the window before she had a chance to respond.

She closed the window, and then wrapped her arms around herself. She was smoky and dirty with dried blood on her hands and clothes. 'That poor man, how can he possibly blame himself? He has no idea how much he was able to do tonight. Several hundred more workers would have been needed to make the difference he'd made tonight,' she thought.

She looked at her hands, then gingerly picked up the remote and turned on the TV. LNN was showing footage of the explosion; Superman working, the rows upon rows of wounded and burned on the road, the flashing red lights of the police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, and the billowing black smoke rising into the dark night sky. She even saw herself crouching down among the wounded.

She was exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. She turned off the television. What she needed was a nice hot bubble bath. She dragged herself into the bathroom and drew the water, and then lay back amid the bubbles, remembering. Each time she closed her eyes, she saw rows and rows of limp, blood and smoke stained bodies covered in burned and tattered clothing. She watched Superman fly above the building over and over, reliving the night, seeing vividly the light from the flames illuminating the other tall buildings that lined both sides of the street, his flapping red cape and his shiny blue body. That man, that superhero was soon to be her husband. She smiled and sighed.

Finally wearing clean and dry clothes, she rubbed her wet hair with a towel as she melted onto her couch. She pulled her computer onto her lap, opened it, and began to type. Eventually, she clicked send before closing the laptop and heading to bed. She'd be sleeping in late today. She turned off her alarm clock and closed the drapes.


Part 2

Clark flew out Lois' window into the city-lit night sky and off to swim in the Atlantic. The sun reflected on the ocean as he neared. Yellow and silver touched the tops of every ripple and wave.

He swam around the planet to rid himself of the smoke from the fire. Then he headed between the icebergs of the Arctic Ocean and finally into the darkness beneath the polar ice cap. Afterwards, he dove into Lake Superior where the fresh water could remove the salt from his suit. He lay motionless as he floated on his back, letting the waves rock him and eventually push him to the heavily forested shore.

He replayed everything in his mind, the devastation that had overwhelmed him. He had acknowledged that he couldn't have done anything differently; hearing his mother's oft repeated words of comfort and support in his mind. Only then had the memories of the darkness been pushed away by memories of light, love and bliss. The joy of being engaged to Lois had finally replaced the scenes of devastation and sorrow. He felt ready to return to the life of Clark Kent.

The sun was high in the eastern sky when Superman landed on Clark's balcony at 344 Clinton. The tree nearby was covered in the light green leaves of spring. The music of birds filled the air. They sounded like a concert, all the many voices singing together. He knew which birds made which sounds and as he watched them, members of an orchestra. A robin carried bits of grass clippings to a fork in the tree and its mate flew away in search of more nesting material. The wind rustled through the leaves. What a beautiful world the Earth was. What a contrast nature in the spring was to the total devastation and heartache he'd experienced earlier. He walked through his doorway, closing it quietly behind him.

He entered the bathroom, spun out of the suit, and dropped it in the laundry basket as he opened the shower door. He let the water beat on him as he shampooed his hair and scrubbed his body with the strong soap he used for greasy soot. He stepped out of the shower and pulled a towel off the rack, then headed over to look in the mirror. He burned his beard off slowly, too exhausted to bother with speed.

As he headed into the bedroom wearing the towel, he glanced at the red numbers on his bedside clock. He sighed, late for work again. He just wanted to lie down and think about his life, and Superman's engagement to Lois. It wasn't anything he'd ever dreamed of. His fantasies about Lois had always involved him as Clark, not Superman. He had some real mental juggling to do.

He dressed for work, and looked through his many ties for one that reflected how he was feeling today. How could he be so happy about one thing and so miserable about another?

Superman flew over Lois' apartment on his way to work. She was curled up in her bed, hugging the teddy bear Clark had won for her.

When Clark stepped out of the elevator at the Daily Planet newsroom, he felt the absence of Lois' heartbeat, one of the sounds he always noticed. It was a rhythm of his life, the beat of the newsroom, to him. Its absence always meant his day wasn't quite as bright.

He pulled out his chair, booted up his computer, and then headed over to get a mug of coffee and a donut. LNN was on the TV monitors, with pictures of the fire. He moved closer and watched himself work, as he sipped his coffee slowly, recalling the details that LNN couldn't see.

He headed in to talk to his boss. "Chief, did Lois write up the fire last night? I bumped into Superman and wasn't sure what Lois had already sent in."

"Hi, Clark. You don't look so good," Perry said as Clark entered his office. "Except your tie, is it a new one?" At his nod, Perry continued, "Yes, she sent in the story early this morning. It was cc'd to you. That girl never sleeps, does she! She must have spent the whole night out there at the fire."

He nodded. "She's really something, Chief."

Clark returned to work at his desk until the call for the morning conference meeting. He found Lois's story when he checked his email. She had written the details of Superman and the fire, but Clark was going to write about the way Superman felt. He needed to let a bit more of Superman's feelings show to the world. He pulled out his keyboard and began pouring out the pain of the victims, their losses in limbs and life and most of all, Superman's race with the flames and his frustration as the building collapsed further and further until it finally fell into a heap. He studied the screen, reliving the feeling of not being able to do more, of hearing one heartbeat stop while saving another. Had he saved that person first, perhaps both would have been alive now. How terrible to watch people burn, even for the instant before he put the fire out. It was all there. Perhaps it would be of comfort to the families of the victims to know what Superman went through for the victims; that he hadn't in any way neglected something that might have been done. The lives of all those people, their friends and relatives, had been painfully changed.

As he read what he had written about how Superman had felt, a great wave of gratitude for his abilities washed over him. He sent the story to Perry, and then turned to listen to the messages on his answering machine, making notes of who to call and how to organize his day. After making sure that no one was watching him, he scribbled out a note from Superman, sealed it in an envelope, and put it on Lois' keyboard.

LNN began showing new footage of a mall that had collapsed. Perry was standing beside him.

"I'm on that, Chief. I'll see you later," he said, heading toward the stairwell.

Lois awoke with the sun streaming on her bed, remembering why her alarm hadn't gotten her up before now. As she reached up to push her fingers through her hair, her left hand snagged.

Some hair broke off as she pulled hard to free her hand, wondering what in the world that was all about. She broke into a smile, remembering her evening with Superman as she looked at the diamond ring that he'd put on her hand. She tilted it in the sunlight and watched as dots of blue reflected from it. It was a genuine diamond; the real thing, just like the man who had put it there.

She hugged her hand to her chest before looking at the ring again. It was beautiful.

She yawned and stretched, swinging her legs over the side of her bed.

An hour later when she walked into the newsroom, she'd expected to hear Perry's usual, "Well, so happy you could join us today." But he'd only nodded and signaled her to come into his office as she came down the ramp.

"That was a good piece if of work you sent me this morning. I've never seen you write like that before, Darlin'. If that's not Kerth material, then I'm not an Elvis fan! It was outstanding.

"Kent wrote some pretty dynamic stuff, too. What's with the two of you today? Well, never mind, whatever it is, the suits will be singing your praises today."

Lois stood dumbfounded as she listened to her editor lavish her partner and her with praise.

Finding her voice, she thanked him and then asked, "What did I miss today, Chief? I was up so late with that story last night; I just had to get some sleep before I'd be any good to you today."

"Well, we've got a mall that's just collapsed. LNN's been running the story. Kent's over there now. There was also a massacre last night, some sort of a deal gone sour I'd think. I left the details the police sent us on your desk. I want you and Clark to find out what happened when he gets back."

He paused and looked at her for a moment. "Something's different about you, Lois. You look, well, you look darned good for a woman who was up all night."

Lois smiled, "Thanks, Perry, I'll have a look at what you sent me."

Perry noticed the shiny ring on her finger as she left his office. "Well, no wonder!" he nodded and smiled to himself. Although he'd thought she was dating Lex Luthor, it was obvious that she and Clark had gotten engaged last night.

Lois headed over to her desk and dropped her bag on the floor beneath her coat rack, then turned and noticed an open document on Clark's computer monitor. She sat in his chair to read what her partner had written. She was soon mesmerized by the way the words flowed. This was the 'touchy feely' stuff that Clark was so good at. But this was especially good, much better than anything of his she'd ever read. It was like a window into the heart of Superman. She could feel his pain, his determination, his steeled resolve, his concern. Wow. What a piece of journalism.

She pushed 'print' with his mouse, then looked down at the ring on her finger and sighed. She felt more content than she'd felt in a long time, if she'd ever felt this way before. That was her fiancé who Clark had written about. She picked up the piece of paper as it fell into the printer tray and walked back over to her desk while she read it again.

She noticed the envelope on her keyboard. Idly leaving the article on top of the pile on her desk, she opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper.

*"Dear Lois,

Let's talk about when we'll announce our engagement before we tell anyone, okay? I'd like to savor this secret for a little while just between us.


Guess who."*

She smiled and looked at her ring again, then remembered that she'd promised to give Lex an answer about his proposal today. She picked up the phone, wondering if talking in person was better than on the phone for this sort of thing. Rejection might be hard for Lex to take. No, she didn't want to feel him pressure her for her reasons and to try to sweep her off her feet again. In a few minutes, a very bewildered Lex Luthor and a very happy Lois Lane hung up their phones.

She sighed and mumbled, "Done!"

Then she turned to the details Henderson had sent to Perry about the murders in the warehouse district. It was an intriguing case. Several murders. Lois got up and put her head into her editor's office.

"Perry, I'm going to go out there and see if I can find anything out," Lois said, her bag in hand.

Clark stepped out of the elevator as she was waiting for it to arrive. He looked at her ring. "Good morning, Lois." Clark said, looking happy but weary. He couldn't help but gaze into her deep brown eyes and remember their evening together last night.

"Hi, Clark. Perry wants us to cover this murder, come on, I'll fill you in on the way," she said, patting his chest.

"Okay," he said, glancing at his desk before turning back into the elevator with his partner. They stood in silence in the elevator for a moment as the doors closed and it descended. "Quite a ring you've got there, Lois. So you've given Lex your answer, I guess?" Clark asked to keep up his cover.

She nodded, suddenly realizing that if she didn't say she had rejected Lex's proposal, people would just assume it was Lex's ring until she and Superman finally announced it publicly. She decided not to mention anything more about it.

"You must be pretty happy. You look happy." Clark said, not trying hard enough to hide his joy.

She didn't notice the sparkle in his eyes that matched that in her own. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and kiss those warm soft lips that had soothed him last night after the fire. He wanted to float up into the clouds with her. He couldn't keep his eyes off her.

"Umm Humm!" she murmured dreamily, covering her ring with her other hand and stroking it fondly, keeping her eyes down so he'd not ask any questions.

The doors opened in the lobby and they stepped out. "Okay, so here's what's happening, Clark," she said, slipping her hand through his arm in her usual friendly gesture.

Clark felt the ring as it dragged across the fibers of the sleeve of his suit jacket and smiled. He absently squeezed the wrist that brushed against his side as she held onto his arm.

She didn't notice, but began to spill what she knew of the massacre. "The place is riddled with bullets and bodies. A dead guy had a mask partly torn off his face that looked like he was pretending to be Lex Luthor."

"Luthor?" Clark was surprised.

"Yeah, weird, huh?"

From the cab, they could see the crime scene. Yellow tape cordoned off the area. Lois and Clark both ducked under it, flashing their press passes at the rookie police officer who eyed them suspiciously. Chalk powder outlined the spots on the grass where the bodies had lain. Lois and Clark wandered around the area as close as they were allowed to go, making sure not to step on any footprints.

Clark bent his head and raised his glasses, as he studied the ground for tracks. He checked the foot sizes of the victims, and then mentally matched them with the imprints in the grass. There were extra footprints, probably from the police who had removed the bodies.

More prints might lead to a getaway vehicle. He found some narrow ones near the laneway. A woman's perhaps?

Nearby he scanned the ground for anything that might link them to the suspects. He spotted something, reached down and picked up a long piece of reddish brown hair. It must have arrived recently, since it was still lying on top of the grass. Even rain hadn't pushed it in-between the blades yet.

He turned to Inspector Henderson. "Here Bill," I found this by the tire tracks. The tall dark haired inspector nodded, pulled a Ziploc bag from his pocket, and let Clark drop the single piece of hair into the bag. "Thanks Kent. That might give us the DNA we'll need to link our killers to the crime scene."

They poked around, finding scratch marks on top of a large air conditioner housing unit. "These scratch marks and the way the dust has been moved look like there was some sort of exchange of briefcases," Clark said.

Henderson took them over to the cruiser and showed them the one briefcase that had been left at the scene. It contained a piece of granite, a normal looking rock. Lois and Clark exchanged glances, before she began, "Okay, so someone double-crossed the buyer with a worthless rock.

You think it was some kind of a drug exchange?"

"Maybe. Or maybe uncut stones for jewelry?"

"But why would anyone dress up like Lex?"

"Maybe because Luthor is always into bad…" Clark stopped himself, remembering how he and Lois had gotten into a fight about Luthor already this week. If she was pretending to be engaged to him, she'd probably swing into defending him again. "Sorry, Lois. Someone was trying to pretend he was Lex Luthor, I guess."

"Well, obviously!" she retorted sarcastically.

"The fingerprints on the handle will show who brought the rock. The other person must have been bringing the money. Or the goods," Clark said, and then added, "What if the rock was substituted for the goods? What if the Luthor look-alike was the one with the money? I mean, Luther has lots of money." Clark paused to think. "There are three possibilities. One, Luthor sent the look-alike, in case there was trouble. Two, someone was setting up Luthor to take the blame in case anything went wrong. Three, someone was beating Luthor to the exchange but got shot in the process."

Lois shot Clark a disparaging look. "Always thinking Lex is the bad guy…up to something!"

Clark ignored her response. As he neared the air conditioner unit, pain shot through his stomach and he practically doubled over. He instantly backed up until he was out of range of the Kryptonite he'd felt. He scanned the ground, finally finding tiny specks of green crystal on the earth beneath the grass.

"Lois, it was a Kryptonite purchase," Clark said as Lois came over to stand beside him, not having noticed the way he'd grabbed his stomach a few moments before. She shot him a puzzled look and he nodded to the chalked body. "Look over on the ground; there are tiny specks of Kryptonite down there in the grass, right by that twig."

Lois went over and picked at the ground with her fingers where he'd gestured, retrieving some tiny bits of florescent green. She looked up at Clark who was leaning against the tree near the yellow tape.

"Don't touch it Lois," Clark cautioned. "Superman could probably be hurt by even that tiny amount."

Realizing the truth of what he was saying, she made sure there wasn't any on her fingers. She needed a lead box. But this was a crime scene. The less the police knew about Kryptonite being available, the better. She searched her bag, and retrieved a stick of lipstick. Making sure nobody could see what she was doing, she dabbed the lipstick at the pieces of Kryptonite, then wound it down into the case and put the metal lid back on top. She wrapped it up in a handkerchief and put it in her cosmetic bag, hoping that all those layers would be at least some protection for Superman. It wouldn't be enough, but it might work for the moment, just to get it away from the scene.

Clark stood at attention, wanting to find out if he'd be affected by Lois as she came over to stand beside him. When she'd gotten a few feet closer, he began to feel it and backed up, saying, "Lois, I'm going to go see what Jimmy can find out." He trotted around the corner of the nearby buildings and took off into the sky.

"Clark! We just got here!" Lois demanded as he turned and started away. She sighed in exasperation as he disappeared. "Always there when you need him!" She shook her head and looked for Henderson. "Did you already run any checks to see who these guys were and if they matched the prints on that briefcase?"

"Yup, Lois. We've got it right here. The guy under the mask is Mike Smithers; the one by the air conditioner unit is Harold Topac."

"Thanks," Lois jotted down the names. "Who were these other guys?" she asked, waving her hand at the three other chalk-marked body outlines in the grass."

Henderson pulled his pad back out of his shirt pocket. "They're Larry Rankin, Joe Kelly, and Tom Williams."

"Okay," she said as she looked up at him. "Can you tell me what happened here?"

"Well, from the look of it, there was an exchange and a shootout. We've recovered bullets. They're all over this side of the area, so they must have come from the look-alike side. I'll let you know what kind of gun they came from when we find out."

Lois looked over near the body of the look-alike for signs of footprints. She could see tire tracks from a large car and footprints all around the area where the body lay and behind the car's most indented tracks. She'd get Superman to come and blow on these tracks for her so they could take a frozen sample back to the lab to find out what kind of car it had been.

"Bill, do the footprints here match the shoes of the people that were murdered or are there more people that are missing? I guess the car's gone, so there must have been a driver. Were there more people?"

"Lois, we've got one car," he waved his hand over at the other side of the park. "It's riddled with the same prints as these guys, but at least one somebody got away, probably with the money and the goods. If this piece of hair is anything to go on, we have a long haired red-head in the mix."

"Mrs. Cox." Lois mumbled, finding it difficult to believe that the masked man was of any connection to Lex. She looked around for awhile longer, and then flagged a cab to head back to the Planet.


Part 3

Clark couldn't wait to tell his parents about his engagement to Lois, so as soon as he was done at work, he headed to Kansas.

"Mom, Dad," Clark said as he entered the kitchen where his parents were sitting down to lunch.

The television was running the story of Superman's overnight rescue at the apartment building in Metropolis as well as the collapsed mall.

"Hi, Clark! How are you feeling? We saw what you did last night. That was quite a disaster."

Martha got up, came over, and hugged him. She was much shorter than her boy. She looked at him with pride and concern.

"I'm fine, Mom. It w as horrible. Over half the people in the explosion died."

"I'm sure you did the best you could, Son," Jonathan patted him on the shoulder as Clark seated himself in one of the chairs between his parents, feeling their love for him. He had such mixed feelings about the results of the fire and about his engagement to Lois. He needed to talk about what he'd done.

"Thanks, Dad. I did what I could," he responded, ready to tell them about how he'd dealt with Lois' proposal from Luthor. "I didn't come here about that, though. You remember what I told you about how I was going to tell Lois my feelings for her?"

"Yes, what happened, Clark?" Martha smiled and leaned closer.

"I told her how I really felt, and she let me know that she only loved me as a friend."

"Oh, Clark!" Martha began in sympathy, placing her hand on his arm.

"She wanted me to send Superman to see her. She was going to say 'yes' to Luthor's proposal, but not until she talked to Superman first."

"That's rough, Son!" Jonathan added his hand to rest on Clark's arm.

"So I went there as Superman. When she asked him if there was any hope for them, he said there was, and he told her how he felt and asked her to marry him!"

Martha and Jonathan's eyes widened. "You did? But Clark, that's dishonest!" his father responded.

"I know, Dad. But she said 'yes!'" A grin illuminated Clark's face in spite of the worried look on his father's face. Martha got up to hug her son.

"But what are you going to do now?"

"I don't know, Mom. I really don't know. Lois doesn't really know Superman, not like she knows Clark. I have always left quickly when she and I were talking. I have always known, or at least felt that if I spent too much time with her as Superman she'd discover the similarities to Clark too quickly."

"Clark, I get so confused when you talk about yourself in the third person," his mother admonished him.

Jonathan raised his eyebrows and nodded his head in agreement. "So how do you feel about this? She rejected you as Clark and now she's marrying you as Superman. Don't you feel like you've tricked her?"

"Well Dad, what was I to do? I couldn't just let her marry Luthor!"

"But Clark, you can't interfere in her decisions."

"So, are you going to tell her your secret?" Martha asked. "I guess not for awhile, right?"

"No, not now."

"But you're engaged to her? Doesn't she have the right to know?"

"Yes, but…" he hesitated, still unsure how he was going to handle everything. "We could have a long engagement, at least until I know I can tell her. At least until I know she won't hate me because I'm Clark. But I have to tell her before we get married. I could never actually marry her otherwise. I left her a note this morning asking her not to tell anyone we're engaged until we talk about it first."

"Ouch!" Martha grimaced.

"I thought if we wait, then we can announce her fiancé as Clark Kent. It could never be announced as Superman. Imagine how people would try to hurt her to get to me. Anyway if she still wants to marry me when she finds out who Superman really is, then she'll be marrying Clark."

"Okay, son, let's say you're able to do this. Have you thought about the logistics? Where do you live? I mean, will you always be dropping in to her apartment? Where do you go to change and to sleep? She's going to start asking a lot of questions," Jonathan said.

Clark had been raised to have high morals like his parents. It was unthinkable that he would move in or have premarital sex with her. It wasn't the way to treat a woman. It didn't show her any respect. No, a woman deserved security, to know that her man would be there permanently for her before she gave him her virtue.

Clark thought about his answer. "What if Superman moves in with Clark? That way I would have an answer for where I live. Then we could be together at my own apartment, too. I wouldn't have to have an extra bed there, since I usually levitate when I sleep anyway, or I could say I sleep on the couch."

"Won't she get suspicious if Clark's never there when she comes over to visit?"

"Well, I've been thinking about that." He smiled broadly.

"I'm really fast, Mom and Dad. What if Lois, Clark, and Superman had a visit, the three of us, but we sat far enough apart that she couldn't look at us both at the same time? I mean, I could even be Superman in the living room with Clark cooking in the kitchen and whenever she looked at one or the other of us, I could flash over there and be in the right place as the right person!" He paused then added, "I'd usually leave as Clark to give the two of them time to be alone together though. I don't think it would be very good to stick around!"

Clark exhaled with a grin on his face. His mother burst out laughing.

"Wouldn't all of you get dizzy?" Martha asked when she'd gotten control of her voice.

"Well, let me practice!" Clark said, smiling at each of his parents. Suddenly Superman was sitting opposite him at the table.

"I think this will work!" Superman agreed.

"I can still be in the apartment when Superman's there," Clark said from the opposite side of the table. Jonathan looked at the empty seat across from his son and shook his head.

In a flash Superman was occupying the other chair again.

"Well, I sure can't see you leave one chair, I only see you in the next one when you speak. It does feel like there are four of us at the table! Boy, you are fast, changing clothes and everything, and looking like you've been sitting there all along! There is a bit of wind though," Martha said, smiling.

"I could leave the window open to account for the breeze. Here, I'll deal. Let's see how well we can play a foursome of cards!" Clark grinned at his surprised parents and began shuffling. It made sense that Clark and Superman should be on the same team, since they obviously knew the same hands! The game proceeded quite nicely, with Clark shifting from one side to the other after each had played their turn. It wasn't even tiring to keep that up. He still looked comfortable.

All four of them played a good game.

"Well, you're right, Clark," Martha finally said an hour or so later when the game ended. "I certainly felt like I was playing at a table of four people."

Jonathan nodded in agreement at Clark who was sitting across from Superman's empty chair. "It works very well when we've got our mind slightly distracted. I think you could pull this off if you need to. I don't like it though, it's so deceitful."

"I think it's going to work perfectly, Clark! I just wish you could tell her everything, but I can see that is going to have to wait for awhile, at least until this Lex Luthor thing blows over," Martha smiled and nodded as she spoke.

Clark took a deep breath. "You know, Mom, Dad; I just don't know how I'm going to do this with Lois. It's so easy to inch my way closer as Clark. I'm just not sure what to do about being Superman with her. Our lives are so different. We only see each other at crime or disaster scenes; or when she's in dire straits." Martha pursed her lips and nodded as he spoke. "It's just not the same. I mean, I have always *avoided* her when I'm Superman, now I'm going to be doing a complete flip-flop. I don't know how this is going to work out, or if it will at all! I did decide to let part of my real personality in, though. I don't think Superman has enough personality to be a partner with anyone!"

"Well, Honey, she loves you as Superman, and you said tonight that she loves you as Clark, too!"

He nodded with half a grin. "As a friend, Mom, just as a friend." Clark was slowly trying to get his mind around this totally new swing of events.

"It could be a lot worse, Son, she wants to marry you!"

"Yeah, I know, Dad, so far so good!"

"Maybe she's always kept you away as Clark because she's being faithful to Superman," Martha injected.

Clark pursed his lips and thought about that. Maybe.

"So what's your next move, Son?" Jonathan asked. "I'm intrigued by your idea of moving in with yourself." He shook his head. "I thought hearing you talk about yourself in the third person was strange before, but I can see I haven't seen anything yet. What are you going to do about being seen together in public? When the media gets wind of this, it will blow sky high."

"I was thinking, I could talk to Lois about my wearing some regular clothes to go out with her. I'd be in a third disguise, but it might just work. Maybe I could get a fake beard or something, too."

His parents exchanged questioning looks. Martha patted him on the shoulder. "I just hope you know what you're doing son, but don't let all of this make you careless with your secret! It's not only the secret you have to protect, Lois needs protecting, too."

"I'll be careful, Mom," he said, standing up. "I think I'd better get back to Metropolis for my nightly patrol."

They said their goodbyes and Superman shot across the night sky to Metropolis.


Part 4

Lois was at her desk when Clark walked into the newsroom the next morning. Jimmy was discussing something with her. She looked up when she saw Clark coming down the ramp, straightening his tie. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he was about to head over to Lois' desk when the faint beginnings of the stabbing pain of Kryptonite irritated every inch of his body. He backed up as quickly as he could, getting out of range of Lois' purse.

He ducked into the stairwell, and in a moment, with an identifying whoosh, he flew in to the newsroom through the window as Superman. He landed, keeping his distance from Lois, just in case the Kryptonite was on her.

Lois heard the familiar sound and got up from her chair to approach him. He realized he wouldn't crumple from Kryptonite, as she neared and stood beside him. "Superman!" she said, her eyes radiant, a smile covering her face.

He smiled, trying to be discreet, then scooped her up and flew out the window before she had a chance to object.

When they were out of sight of the newsroom, she nuzzled her head against his shoulder, kissing his neck as they flew. He laughed, "Cut that out, Lois!"

She leaned back in his arms. "How are you today?"

He smiled down at her beautiful face. "I'm fine. I'm sorry I didn't come over last night. I was pretty tired after that explosion the night before."

"You don't have to apologize to me. I read the story Clark wrote about you. I guess you must have seen each other before he came into work yesterday. The story really brought out the feelings you had while you were doing that rescue."

"Yes, I stopped by his place to talk to him. He had LNN on and had already heard all about it."

He kicked himself mentally for yet another lie. Couldn't he have ignored the question? Did he *have* to keep lying to her? It would be so nice to tell her who he was. Guilt swelled within him again. Superman had played a dirty trick on Lois. That's the way she'd look at it, wasn't it. It reminded him of the time when his father had said 'No.' and he'd gone to ask his mother who'd unsuspectingly said 'Yes'. Well, here he was. The only man in the world who so clearly stood for truth and justice, and what was he doing? He was no better than any of the other men she'd had relationships with in her life. Take what you want regardless of what she would do if she had all the information. Well, he wasn't *quite* the same, but near enough.

"Where are we going?" Lois was looking around at the thick cumulous clouds that surrounded them. They flew through the large holes in the clouds that resembled rooms.

Finding a good view, he stopped where he could float just above a cloud as if he were sitting on it, with Lois on his lap.

"I have to talk to you. Clark said you found some Kryptonite at that crime scene yesterday. Where is it now?"

"It's in a lipstick container in my bedroom."

Superman pulled a small lead box from the back of his suit and handed it to her. "Could you please put it in here and then I'll get rid of it?"

"Okay." Lois smiled. "I didn't dare leave it at the crime scene in case someone got hold of it."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, when I come to your apartment later, could you get it for me?"


"Good." He paused and looked into her deep brown eyes. "What time do you think you'll be done with work today? I want to take you somewhere."

"I can be ready at seven in my apartment." She smiled, looking at his smooth face as she fingered his cheek gently with one hand.

He caught her hand in his and brought it to his mouth to kiss it, playing with the ring. "Lois, I know it must have sounded bad when I asked you not to say anything to anyone about our engagement yet, but there's…something that you need to know about me first. I have a lot of secrets. I guess that's kind of obvious." He paused as she looked at him.

"Well, you'd have to. If everyone knew where you stayed when you weren't making rescues, they'd all be swarming you for autographs or for a lift somewhere. I know there are a lot of things *I* would like to know about you."

He smiled wistfully at her. "I can't tell you yet. I've never told anyone some of the things I have to tell you, so it's going to take a lot of thinking and courage before I can do that, but I will. Can you wait for me to get up my nerve?"

His face looked strange, a mixture of fear, hope, and determination on it. Lois wasn't the kind of person who could just look a secret in the face and not ask what it was. She was far too curious for that. "Why can't you just tell me? You can trust me."

"I know I can trust you, that's why I *will* tell you. But I can't do it yet. I have to get up some nerve." He grinned. "Can you trust me and just wait until I'm ready?"

"I guess so," Lois said, unconvincingly. "But I don't understand."

"I know. I wish I could just say it all now. You have no idea how much I want to tell you everything. But I can't. After I tell you, then we can announce our engagement, but until then, nobody can know about it. It sounds silly, I know, but you'll understand why later. Please trust me on this, Lois." His eyes revealed the seriousness of his secret. "I know you're a strong woman and an investigator. This is probably going to be one of the hardest things I ever ask you to do, to just sit back, and wait until I'm ready to share this secret with you."

"You're not gay are you?" Lois asked suspiciously, trying to find some reason for his caution.

"No, Lois. Don't be silly," he chuckled at the thought of it, squeezing her.

"It'd sure be a waste, with a body like yours!" she said under her breath.

"I heard that, you know!" he smiled and dipped his face to meet her lips. "Okay, there's another thing I wanted to tell you. Clark and I've been talking and he's agreed to share his apartment with me. I think it would be important for me to have a place where you can find me if you want me when there's no disaster or anything, and it's somewhere that I can live nearby. Oh, and speaking of disasters, I've got this for you." He pulled a thin chain out from behind his belt. It was attached to a small dog whistle. He smiled at her and held the necklace open while she ducked her head to let him put it on her. "It's just a dog whistle, but I'll hear it farther away than a cry for help. It won't do you much good if you are tied up, so if you could try to anticipate danger before you walk into it, I can at least know what you're involved in."

"You're so good to me." She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. "But I really *can* take care of myself."

He grinned at her just like he had for the past year as Clark. "I love you with all my heart, Lois, and I know you're good with Karate, but no, you can't take care of yourself, at least under certain circumstances. Remember the bomb in the space shuttle when we met? How about when the invisible robbers locked you up in the gold vault and you practically suffocated? Or remember the time you were pursuing the tsunami and were about to be wiped out by a tidal wave?"

He could see that he had taken the wind out of her sails, but continued anyway, to drive home the point. "What about when Trask threw you and Clark out of the plane, and when Miranda was lowering you into the vat, while she sprayed Metropolis with her pheromone spray? Remember when you stood in front of the Magic Channel until I came to rescue you?"

"Well, that time you got hypnotized and 'you' were the one who had locked me up to drown in that box!"

"Okay, but I did save you in the end! I did tell you, I'm not perfect, remember?"

"Umm… Okay, I couldn't take care of myself a few times," she muttered softly.

He laughed at her inability to admit her faults, and then continued, trying to help her realize her limitations, so she wouldn't get killed when he was out of town on a rescue, "And when it wasn't me that rescued you, it was Clark. Remember when Clark saved you from being strangled by the make-up man in your kitchen?"

"Okay. Fine, that's enough," she said through clenched teeth.

"Just admit you're wrong, Lois, it's the easiest way!" Clark laughed with her, teasing her, the way Clark always did. It felt good to be open with her as Superman. It had been so hard to bottle up all his feelings for her and to keep her at arms length when he was in the suit.

"So just whistle for me before you get into a bad situation, okay? Please?"

She looked up at him, placing her palm on his cheek, and smiled lovingly. "If you kiss me, I won't make you beg."

He smiled and pressed his lips against hers. Awhile later, he dropped his arms from around her and took her hands. "Okay, I'll take you back to work."

She took a deep, blissful breath. "Did anyone ever tell you you're a wonderful kisser?" She smiled again at that wonderful smile of his.

"Only you! I'm not a Casanova you know, Lois. I only have eyes for you."

She leaned in for another kiss before he lifted her onto her feet and stood up, supporting her in the thin air.

"One thing about being up here, you certainly just can't get up and walk out on me if I annoy you," Superman said.

She followed his gaze down to the dotted scene of Metropolis through the quickly moving clouds.

He smiled. "I think I'll bring you here when I tell you my secret."

Their arms were around each other. It was easy for Lois to forget that she had to be touching him in order to exist up in the clouds. She could just see how sensible it would be for him to bring her up there if he ever wanted to tell her something that would make her fly off the handle. She did have a bad temper. She had to get a better grip on it. Unlike her, she'd never seen Superman let his emotions get out of control, even when he'd been tormented by the worst of criminals.

"So your secret is going to make me mad?" she teased, moving her hands up and down his back under his cape.

"It might. It could. It probably will. You may hate me for awhile."

She raised her eyebrows. "I can't imagine you saying or doing anything that could make me hate you. You're the most wonderful, gentle, kind, selfless, helpful man I've ever known." She held her hand out to look at her ring as it sparkled in the sunlight, and smiled. He looked at it too.

"I made it for you, you know?"

"You what?"

"Well, I didn't make the ring and the setting, but I made the diamond."

Her mouth dropped open.

He nodded and she closed her mouth. "I can do stuff like that, Lois. You know, super strength."

"But how? Where?"

"I have a friend who owns a coal mine."

"So this is really just a piece of coal?"

"Well, it was, for a very long time. It was a lot bigger then, too!"

He smiled at her amazement. "Come on, we've got to get going."

She didn't take her eyes off her hand as she held him with one arm. He pulled her close to him and kissed her forehead.

"Okay, I'm ready," she whispered, hugging him again. "Can we fly like this or do you have to carry me?"

"This is good!" He smiled and then met her lips with his as they descended feet first out of the clouds.

As they neared the globe of the Daily Planet below them, she returned to work mode. "I'm glad you found a box for the Kryptonite. I didn't know what I was going to do with it. I certainly didn't want to bring it anywhere you'd be affected by it, but I didn't dare leave it there! So who do you think wanted it?"

Superman's body stiffened. "Luthor. I'm not sure, but he's let me know on more than one occasion that this planet's not big enough for the both of us. I'm sure he'll use it to try to kill me. He's smart and devious. It amazes me how he gets away with so many things, still looking like he's got clean hands." Clark shook his head slowly. "He has a way of turning things around so he looks really good to everyone, perhaps even saving their lives, while he's behind the biggest mass murder at the same time." Clark landed beside the stairwell door on the roof of the Daily Planet.

"So Lex is really bad? How do you know?"

"Well, the first time I met him, I saw that he was trying to replace the Prometheus with his own space station. He was behind the sabotage. He was having an affair with Dr. Baines. When I discovered his involvement, after the project was saved, I went over there and told him I knew about him. He said he thought of my warning as a welcome challenge. He actually looked forward to seeing how he could win against me." He paused and turned to face Lois. "It's not like it's about winning against Luthor. I just want right to prevail. I just want people to be safe and happy. But he sees me as a threat to his empire and to his freedom to do whatever he wants."

Lois was amazed by what he was saying. "But he seems so nice!"

"That's the thing, Lois, he's convincing and well-mannered. He speaks with such an air of wisdom and sophistication." Clark shook his head again.

"But he has always treated me with the greatest respect and consideration. You know this is really hard to believe!"

"I can imagine. He's pulled the wool over the eyes of most of the world. Most people think he's a benevolent person whose only aim is to help the world and to share his wealth. But I've listened in to his phone calls. I've heard what he conspires. I've seen some of the things he initiates. Do you remember when your father was making those limb replacements?" Lois nodded, dumbfounded. "Well, he was the one behind the whole thing. He was paying for the research and the wrestlers so that he could create an army of supermen. That was his goal. Remember when he saved your life?" She nodded and he continued, "It was all a setup. He was behind the man attempting to kill you in the first place. He was just killing two birds with one stone, doing away with someone and making you appreciate and admire him at the same time."

Lois furrowed her brow. "Are you sure?"

"Positive, Lois. He's an awful man. I really don't want to say too much about it. I can't prove enough to send him to jail, because I learn a lot by keeping my eye on him; looking through his building to see what he's planning. It's unbelievable. Anyway, I'll have to go over and x-ray his penthouse to see if he's got the Kryptonite there somewhere."

Lois was agitated. "I just can't believe how blind I've been! How could I have been right there with him and not known?"

"Well, did you ask him about his work?"

"Yes, a bit, but he was pretty evasive. I just thought he didn't want to bother me with the details of running a huge empire."

"Well, there's more to it than that. Did he take any phone calls when you were with him?"

"Yes, several times. He'd never tell me what they were about. He just left the room and wouldn't tell me what he was involved in, like it would be boring for me to hear about it. But it was obviously something important to him. That 'personal assistant' of his is in on everything that goes on in his life." Clark could hear the bitterness in her voice. "She looked like a lot more than a secretary to me. She's got long reddish brown hair and wears short skirts and does 'whatever is necessary'." The words came out of her mouth laden with distaste.

Clark was nodding. "His private morals aren't any better than his business ones. Well, I know he wants to kill me. I know he supports research and does experiments to further his evil plots. He's no ordinary man. There's absolutely nothing he wouldn't do, Lois."

"So will you go over there and see if you can find any Kryptonite now? Clark and I will see what Henderson has about those prints and see if we can find out more about this look-alike guy and those other people. Do you think Lex was suspecting a double- cross and hired the look-alike to take his place in the exchange, just in case he got shot? It was certainly a well thought out plan."

"He doesn't miss a trick, Lois."

"I can't believe I was thinking of marrying him!"

She felt Clark stiffen in her arms. He didn't say anything, since she'd never told Superman about Lex's proposal.

He just looked off through the clouds into the distance, so grateful that she'd chosen him over Luthor. "I'm glad you chose me instead, Lois." He cradled her in his arms again, burying his face in her hair.

A shrill noise distracted him. He put his head up and spotted a plane on an angle high above the layer of clouds in the distance, spiraling downward. He had to go.

"Lois, I've got to go catch that plane before it crashes," he said pointing upward and pulling the door to the stairs open for her. "I'll come by for the Kryptonite later." He kissed her quickly and shot back into the air.

Lois stood watching him go, and then headed down to the newsroom. She noticed that Clark was still gone. She walked back to her desk, fingering the small box. She slipped it in her satchel, turned to her computer and pondered what Superman had just told her about Lex. She thought about how he'd tensed when she'd mentioned Lex's proposal. She'd not told him about that and wondered how it must have made him feel, knowing everything he'd said about Lex. She felt ill and suddenly made a dash for the restroom. She was ashen-faced and shaking when she returned to her desk. Why hadn't she listened to Clark? How could she have been so rude and angry with him when he'd tried to tell her how bad Lex was when she'd first told him he'd proposed to her? She looked toward his desk again.

Her thumb fingered the ring on her finger and she looked down at it. Oh my gosh! Clark thinks I'm going to marry Lex! She felt her stomach begin to churn again, cramping. Her hands went to her mouth and she took off to the restroom again.

It was some time before she came back to her desk this time, stopping at the coffee stand for a donut to settle her stomach.

"How's that story coming, Lois?" Perry asked as he headed to the coffee stand and began pouring himself a mug of coffee.

"Well, there's definitely a lot to it. It looks like more than we thought." She nodded to his office and began to walk towards it as he followed her. He closed the door while she sat down. "It looks like it was a Kryptonite purchase, Perry. Clark found some specks of it next to where one of the bodies had lain."

Perry let out a low whistle. "Do you think you and Clark can get that rock back?"

Lois eyed him. "I'd like to try. But it could be anywhere. Superman's going to x-ray Lex's building and see if he can find where he hid it."

"Good work, Lois. Keep me posted on this. If you can bring down Lex Luthor…" He caught himself, remembering her fondness of the philanthropist. "I'm sorry, Lois. I forgot you've been dating him. But anyway, if you can bring him down, I think you're going to be looking at that Pulitzer you've always wanted. You and Kent are the ones who can do this."

"You know about Lex?" Lois asked, the pain in her stomach worsening.

"I didn't get to be editor of the best newspaper in the world by choosing the newsroom donuts, Lois."

She didn't want to share a Pulitzer with Clark, but it would certainly be better than not getting one at all. This story was obviously going to be too big to be investigated and written all by herself, as much as she hated to admit that there was anything beyond her abilities. She knew if she got into trouble, Superman wouldn't be able to come and rescue her if there was Kryptonite around. But she could always depend on Clark. Even without superpowers, he was quite a smart guy and had gotten her out of trouble before, like Superman had said. Well, just a few times.

Perry looked squarely at Lois. "What's wrong with you, you look as white as a ghost."

"I've not been feeling too well."

"Lois, you go on home and get some rest."

"No, Perry, I'll be fine. I'm feeling better now," she lied, running her hand through her silky brown hair.

He noticed the diamond ring on her finger. "Lois, is there something you want to tell me?" he asked, and then nodded to her ring when she looked at him questioningly.

"Oh, no. This is a ring my mother gave me. I guess it was her mother's ring. I've just decided to start wearing it, you know, to try to keep certain people away from me."

"Oh," Perry answered, nodding slowly. "Um hum. Well, it's none of my business. Just let me know if anyone's harassing you and I'll see what I can do."

"Thanks, Perry, it's nobody at work! I just go out sometimes and don't want guys to get the wrong idea."

He nodded again, knowing full well she was lying through her teeth, "Well, that's good. So you're free to leave if you'd like, or if you'd rather, you can just rest on the couch for awhile. Just keep me posted on what you and Clark find. Where is that boy? He sure wrote a good piece of journalism this morning. Did you read it yet?"

"Yes, I did. It was really nice. I don't know where he is. I haven't seen him. I thought he came in a little while ago, but I guess he must have forgotten something."

Perry shook his head, "That boy's forgotten more stuff in the year I've known him than I've forgotten in my whole life. He really should take a time management seminar. That boy needs to use a planner."

Lois stood up and headed back to her desk, looking over at Clark's empty workstation. Where was he anyway?

Someone turned up the LNN news broadcast. Lois saw Superman standing beside a plane, talking to reporters. She sighed. What a life he leads. He goes from disaster to disaster, hardly taking time to breathe in-between.

Maybe Perry was right, maybe she should just go home. Lois left the newsroom and drove down Clinton Street, hoping to find Clark at his apartment. She wanted to talk to him about this look-alike case before she went home to rest and to get ready for her date with Superman at seven.

Clark probably wouldn't be there, but she'd pass his place on her way home, anyway, so she stopped by. Just as she was parking her car, she heard a whoosh of wind, and saw Superman drop from the sky into the alley beside Clark's apartment building.

She quickly pulled over and parked her car, heading into the empty alley to see her fiancé. She heard the balcony door of Clark's apartment close and turned back to head up the front steps of his building.

Superman landed on the balcony and stepped inside. He'd forgotten to bring the file Henderson had given him to the office where he and Lois could study it. He was just going to pick it up and go back to the Planet to write up his rescues of the day and his findings. He stepped to his desk where the file lay, when he heard a knock at the door. It was Lois. He exhaled. Was she here to see Clark or had she just seen Superman land? He spun into his business clothes and headed to the door, pushing his glasses up his nose and straightening his tie.

"Hi, Lois," he grinned.

"Hi, Clark!" she said as he moved out of the way, holding the door open for her. She trotted down the stairs past him, tossing her bag onto the overstuffed chair at the bottom and looking into his bedroom as she walked into his living room. "Where's Superman?"

"Superman?" Clark asked before realizing that he'd been seen landing in the alley. "Oh, he's in the bathroom. How'd you know he was here?"

"I saw him land out back." She was heading for the bathroom.

"What are you doing, Lois, give him some privacy. Sheesh!"

Lois turned back to face him, forgetting her pursuit of her fiancé. Her demeanor changed from determination to humility. "Clark," she began remorsefully, "Superman told me about Lex. I'm sorry I got so mad at you."

He grinned; glad she had finally started to listen to reason. "It's okay, Lois." He smiled and added, "Just don't let it happen again!"

"Oh, you!" she said, swatting his chest playfully." His smile widened. He felt like sweeping her into his arms, but he'd have to wait until he was in the suit again. This could certainly become habit forming.

He stepped over to his desk again, picked up the file folder, and headed to the door. "I've got to get back to work, are you driving?" He picked up her satchel and handed it to her, trying to get her to go up the stairs.

"Wait, I want to say 'hi' to Superman."

Clark sighed. "I'll wait for you at your car," he said, stepping out the door and flashing back in again as Superman before the door closed behind Clark. Superman came out of the bathroom smoothing back his hair.

"Hi, Lois, I heard you come in."

"Hi Superman, I saw you land and thought I'd just stop to see you."

They exchanged a few words. "You're not looking so well, are you all right?"

"It was all that you said about Lex. It really makes me sick to think of what he's like," 'and how close I came to marrying him,' she added silently.

"I'll be by for you at seven," Superman said, embracing her and dropping a kiss on her forehead.

"I have to get back out there. Metropolis needs me." He dipped to give her a kiss and headed out the window.

In a flash, he arrived next to Lois' car as Clark, before she left his apartment and came down the stairs.

"Clark, I'm done at work for the day. I just stopped by to see if you'd found out anything new. I've got to get ready for my date tonight."

Clark nodded, noting the early hour for her to be quitting for the day. "Are you okay, Lois?"

She shrugged. "I'm just tired. I was up late. So, where'd you go? Haven't seen you much in the last two days! We're supposed to be partners, you know!"

"I had some errands to do. I went by to see Henderson and pick up this file, but I left it here earlier. I just came in to get it."

"Oh. Why did Superman come over?"

"Didn't he tell you? He's going to be living with me. He said he was going to tell you that."

"Oh, he might have mentioned something about it to me. Anyway, are you going to tell me what's in the file?"

They opened the file on the hood of her jeep and looked over the information that Clark had gotten from the police about the massacre.

"Superman took them some frozen tire tracks. They've been trying to ID the tires. They also printed out the police checks on those guys at the scene for me," Clark explained.


Part 5

At his desk again, Clark quickly wrote up the story about the plane crash that Superman had supposedly told him about. He hoped that Lois wouldn't ask when he'd had time to talk to Superman. Superman had obviously just finished taking care of that rescue when he'd dropped into his apartment alley. Lois knew that Clark had not had time to talk to Superman before she arrived or before Clark left.

He sent the story to Perry, and then got up to get a cup of coffee. He made a few phone calls and checked his messages before he looked at his email. Satisfied that he'd sent in several good Superman stories today, he shut down his computer. It was 5 p.m. He had to hurry if he was going to be at Lois' apartment on time. He turned to the stairwell and left from the roof the way he always did, too fast to be seen by the naked eye. He must have landed at his apartment too slowly earlier, after all, Lois had seen him. Who else had seen him on other occasions? He'd have to be more careful about that.

Later in the day, Superman left the Daily Planet and headed to Luthor Towers to search for the Kryptonite from the sky. Pleased with his findings, he returned home to prepare for his date.

There wasn't a lot he had to do to get ready to meet Lois. It's not like he had a lot of choice when it came to what he was going to wear: red, yellow, and blue suit, or red, yellow and blue suit? He did shower though, and changed into a fresh Superman suit before he flew to Holland to buy Lois a bouquet of red tulips.

He was looking forward to developing a real relationship with her as Superman so that they'd actually be 'ready' to get married. She only knew a tiny bit about him as Superman. She had to be so solidly in love with him as Superman that when he finally told her Superman was Clark, she wouldn't walk out of his life forever. She'd said she was 'completely in love with him' last night, but she didn't really know what *completely* meant in his case.

He landed at the flower market in Amsterdam, selected and bought a bouquet of tulips, and wrapped it in his cape before he took off again. He wasn't fast enough, however. A photographer in the market caught him buying the flowers. He was sure he'd see that photo in the papers soon, with headlines that Superman must have a girlfriend.

Lois had some time before her date. She leaned back in the bathtub, surrounded by mounds of white bubbles. The tap was dripping as she reached one foot up to let the droplets fall on her big toe, slide down over her nail, and disappear into the fragrant bubbles. She picked up the bubble bath container from the side of the tub and read the label…Coconut-Mango.

She breathed deeply of the fragrance and let her shoulders slide under the water. The heat felt good on her sore body. She hadn't felt too well since Superman had told her about Lex.

She mentally re-enacted the look-alike case they'd been researching. She wondered what Superman had seen in Lex's penthouse. She idly searched it in her mind, wondering just where Lex would keep a piece of Kryptonite. Perhaps he'd put it in his safe. Was that lead lined?

Weren't most safes? She didn't know. Superman would.

What would Lex do to Superman? Would he really kill him? How could Lex be like that…evil and calculating? He seemed like such a wonderful man. He'd always been so loving and attentive towards her. She splashed some water on her face and closed her eyes, feeling it run over her chin and up into her hairline before it dripped into the water. She splashed her face again, enjoying the heat penetrating her skin.

She didn't want to think about Lex. She didn't want to have to face her most dangerous weakness *again*. Men! She could do most things very well. She'd achieved high honors, was even a leading public figure. Long ago, she'd stopped counting how many people she'd put away for their underhanded deeds. Superman was always out catching the crooks at crime scenes where there was some sort of known accident or something. If there was something invisible, or something he could hear, like an explosion, or cries for help, he could save those people.

But she'd saved so many other people in a different way. People had been scammed by crooks who hid under the cover of secrecy. She'd caught the bosses behind the crimes. Superman was out catching the dealers while she was out catching the growers, breaking up crime rings, bringing down the crime lords, dashing the black market to smithereens.

She tossed bubbles into the air and watched them spin as the overhead fan stirred the air in the bathroom. She might be terrible at picking men, but she was pretty good at catching them…and women, too. She remembered watching Colombo as a child. Now he was good. He'd been her investigative hero for years.

She threw up another handful of bubbles, wondering what it would be like to be a private investigator. She'd taken that handful from too deep in the tub, and water splashed back down, and slopped more bubbles into her face. She reached for the towel hanging within reach of the tub.

She craned her neck to see her watch on the chair near the bathtub. When she realized the time, she reluctantly abandoned her hot bath and got out of the tub. Soon she was searching her closet for an outfit that would go with Superman's red, yellow, and blue costume. She reached into the closet, pulled a soft yellow dress by the skirt and looked at it for a moment. He didn't have a lot of yellow on his suit. Maybe they would go well together. She pulled it out and stood with it in front of her as she faced the full length mirror. She tossed it to the bed and got out the hair dryer.

At 6:55, she stood in front of her mirror again, admiring her good taste. The yellow dress had a flared skirt and a fitted bodice with capped sleeves. It had a rounded neck with a high back. Her brown hair fell in place, just brushing her throat above the dress. She slipped her feet into a pair of matching yellow high heels and reached for a pair of dangling gold earrings. No. The diamond ones would be better. She'd just finished putting them on when she heard Superman land in the living room.

Lois stepped out of her bedroom and caught sight of Superman calmly standing just inside the window.

"Hi!" Lois said as she approached.

"Hi, Lois. Could you please give me the Kryptonite and I'll get rid of that before we go?"

"Oh! Of course!" She dashed back to the bedroom where she'd put the kryptonite lipstick in the lead box.

Superman received it with a smile. "I'll be right back!" he said and disappeared.

A moment later he returned with a dozen red tulips, looking much more relaxed. He reached out to hand them to her. "Wow, Lois. You look fantastic!" he said, hardly having enough breath to say the words.

She giggled as she took the flowers and looked into his loving, puppy dog brown eyes.

"You look pretty nice yourself!" she grinned. Superman always looked incredible, she thought as she noted his muscular body. She turned her attention to the bouquet and dipped her nose into them. "They're beautiful." She sighed blissfully and headed with them to the kitchen. "I'll just put them in a vase." He followed her over and reached for the vase in the cupboard above her head.

"Thanks, Superman."

Superman responded, kissing her cheek as she worked.

She cut the ends of the long stems off. "There," she said as she placed the water filled vase of flowers on the table. They're so lovely, and they're red!" she noted, knowing that red stood for love and romance. "Let me just get my jacket and I'll be ready to go." She handed the jacket to him.

Unable to keep his mind off her stunning beauty, he opened it up and spread it low across her back as she slipped her arms into the sleeves. When he pulled it up over her shoulders, his fingers rested on the side of her neck. He bent down to kiss where his fingers had touched. She turned around and blushed, then lifted her face to meet his lips. Her arms slid around his neck as his went around her back. "Lois," he murmured. "I love you so much." He nestled his cheek against her hair. "Umm, you smell good."

She smiled and nodded against his chest. "You're so wonderful. I just can't believe this is really happening!" She pulled her head away from him and looked up into his smiling eyes.

"Me, neither," he said, shaking his head slightly, and then bending down for another lingering kiss. Her lips felt warm beneath his own; so soft, so inviting. How long he'd wanted to be close to her, to have the freedom to kiss her. How easy it had been to propose to her as Superman. It was such a contrast to how he had to tiptoe around her as Clark all the time.

A few moments and words of endearment later, he scooped her up and lifted them off into the evening sky. The sun was nearing the horizon, illuminating the world in soft warm colors as they flew through the clear air. Lois' head rested against Superman's shoulder and his chin rested in her hair as they flew in the silent sky, their heartbeats both calm and rhythmic. "I thought we could go to a quiet restaurant on the beach in Mexico. I've always loved being around the Mexican people. The have such a loving presence."

"It sounds wonderful, Superman." Lois breathed deeply, she loved the feeling of flying, the feeling of being held by the only man she'd ever truly loved and who loved her in return. She felt safe, relaxed, and completely accepted. It was a wonderful feeling to be with this amazing man who had actually proposed to her. "You know, I named you Superman. What was your name before that?"

"Kal-El. I'm the son of Lara and Jor El of the house of El," he said, looking into her eyes, inches from his own.

"*Superman* seems so formal, so distant. May I call you Kal?"

He squeezed her shoulders, checking again where he was flying, "Yes, you can call me anything you want, as long as you call me!" His smile was beautiful.

She reached up to kiss his cheek, but he turned his face to receive it on the lips. She snuggled her head back into the crook of his arm and sighed. "This must be what heaven is like."

"I hope so."

They flew in silence again, just content to feel the nearness of one another.

"Did you get rid of the Kryptonite?" Lois asked after awhile.


"Where did you put it?"

"I took it to the bottom of the ocean and put a small mountain on it. That ought to keep it out of the way!"

She chuckled. "I thought you'd want to toss it into outer space!"

He nodded against her hair, "Um hum. I thought of that." They flew southward with the setting sun illuminating the earth from the west. Lois watched the clouds change color and the hue of the earth continually darken from yellow to dark brown.

After awhile he spoke again, "I found the Kryptonite. It's in Luthor's office in a locked desk drawer."

Lois sat up straight in his arms and looked into his face. "Do you think I can break in and get it?"

He readjusted his hold on her, smiled, and looked at her carefully. "Are you asking for Superman's blessing on stealing?"

"Well, yes."

"Why don't I just get a walkie talkie and hover above Luthor Towers and have Henderson go in with a warrant to seize it. I can keep my eye on it and let him know if anyone touches it before they arrive on the scene."

"But what if the police want to keep the rock for evidence?"

"I think I can persuade them that the chances of it being stolen and being used against me are harmful enough that they should just use a photo, or go ahead and show it to the judge before the trial. I think it needs to be at the bottom of the ocean with that other bit of it on your lipstick. I might need to show them that for evidence at the massacre site, actually."

Lois nodded. "Clark wanted it out of the way in case you ran into it somehow."

He nodded in response. "I talked about it with Henderson. He knows I have it." He smiled. "He wasn't too thrilled about you and Clark tampering with the evidence, but I told him it was the best thing to do at the time. We couldn't run the risk of other people finding out that it was there."

Lois nodded, "Um."

The stars were beginning to shine in the darkening sky as they left the mainland and crossed the Gulf of Mexico. Lois was amazed as they flew through a huge flock of white snow geese heading north.

"Wow, they're beautiful. I can hear their wings beating! I didn't know birds migrated at night! Have you ever flown with the birds?"

He nodded his head again as she looked into his eyes which were focused on the tiny specks of light in the distance. "Many times, Lois. Some birds roost at night, but a fair number migrate at night. It's not safe for some smaller birds since the owls are aware of them. The ones that migrate fly high enough that they're pretty safe from all but the raptors. Hawks, eagles, and falcons circle up on the thermals after them, though."

"Have you ever done that?"

"Circled on the thermals or chased small birds?" he answered teasingly.

She nudged him with her elbow. "Kal!" she chided him, enjoying the sound of his real name.

"When I was younger. I used to fly to some high mountain cliffs and wait for the rising hot air to lift me up. It's quite a nice experience. The birds use their wings to make them circle. I don't need to use wings or my arms; I just seem to be able to will myself to go wherever I want. I remember migrating with a flock once. I flew in a kettle of broad shouldered hawks. There were thousands of them around me. I just sailed along in the center of the group. It was really interesting to watch their reactions to me. At first they were scared of me, but after awhile they realized I wasn't going to hurt them."

Lois was watching his face in awe as he carried her in his arms.

"We can ride the thermals sometime if you want, though." He smiled at her and pulled her closer.

"That will be fun!"

As they flew, the sky slowly filled with stars. "They're so close," Lois whispered in awe. "And there are so many of them."

Clark looked overhead, and then rolled over in the air so they were facing the sky. Lois giggled, finding herself lying on her side curled up in Kal's arms. "Hey, I like this!" She wiggled against him cozily.

"Hey, cut that out!" he murmured huskily. He spun back over.

"Aww, I'll be good!" she moaned.

"Okay, but just stay still, okay?"

She smiled at him teasingly. "Okay."

He turned them over again and continued to fly, moving her off to the side of him where she lay on his arm, her leg alongside his. "There, that's better. I wanted to show you some stuff."

She sighed. "Always the gentleman."

He smiled at her and touched her nose with his finger. Then he looked skyward. "That's the Northern Cross," he said, pointing upward.

"Which one?"

"There," he outlined the constellation with a beam of red heat vision.

She turned and smiled at him. "You never cease to amaze me."

He smiled and continued, "That's the big dipper." He outlined another more familiar line of stars, "and that's Cassiopeia over there." He showed her the wide 'W', then paused. "That's the north star, Polaris above the cup of the big dipper at the end of the small dipper."

Lois followed the line of red light, slowly outlining the various constellations, trying to remember which stars had made up which ones. "How do you know all of this?"

He had been about to reply, 'hours of lying on the field in Kansas when I was young, or flying upside down over Kansas' before he caught himself. "I've been flying for a long time, Lois. I can get pretty high where the city lights don't obscure the stars at all."

Lois nodded. "I was never interested in the stars before. I wasn't able to see them, but even when I saw them through an observatory or something they still seemed pretty dull. Nothing ever changes up here."

Clark raised his eyebrows at her, remembering the fate of his home planet. "Some of the stars we're seeing aren't really there."

She'd heard that before. "The light takes so long to get to us that we'll still see them from Earth for centuries or millennia," she completed his thought.

He nodded. "I tried to fly to a star, once."

"And?" She looked at him incredulously.

"Nope. It was too far. I found out I can only hold my breath for twenty minutes. I knew enough to take an oxygen tank, just in case, but when the stars hadn't moved and I'd used up about a third of my oxygen, I decided I'd better head back."

"But what about the asteroid you stopped?"

"Nightfall?" At her nod he continued, "It wasn't that far away. It was just outside of our atmosphere. The stars weren't any closer then, either."

He gently turned them over to face the earth again. "Wow, it's so bright!" Lois realized aloud.

"That's where we're going, down there," Clark pointed at a small cluster of lights. He began their descent.

Lois started in surprise. "That's water down there! I thought that was just more black land. I can see the shore."

"You see that light beside the beach?" He pointed with a short thin ray of red light, making sure not to hit the restaurant.

"Careful!" Lois said, squeezing his hand around her shoulders as he carried her in his arms again.

"I know. It's a short beam. It won't touch them."

Lois let out a breath of air. "Don't scare me like that."

He raised his eyebrows at her. "You forget who you're talking to!" he chuckled. "I am a pretty careful guy, you could say."

She nudged him. "I know. I'm sorry. You'd never hurt anything." Then a moment later she asked, "What do you do about mosquitoes?"

"They don't hurt me, Lois. They can't bite my skin. Invulnerable, remember?" he shrugged slightly. "Comes with the body."

"Oh, you!" She elbowed him jokingly again.

"Okay, here we are. I'll land us in the darkness out behind the building. We'll have to drop down quickly. Hold onto your stomach!" he flashed her a grin. They had slowed down as they arrived over a large mass of lights. He flew to the edge of the illuminated area, and dropped quickly down onto the ground. He held Lois close, making sure Lois had regained her balance; he took her in his arms and kissed her properly, the kind of kiss that needed all his attention. Neither of them noticed the sound of a digital camera recording their affection for one another until it was over.

Kal looked up at an astonished man who was hurrying away clutching a camera close to his chest. He turned away just as Kal thought about zapping the picture.

He turned back to kiss Lois again. When they came up for air, Kal said, "I forgot, Lois. I was going to ask Clark for a change of clothes, and maybe pick up a fake beard so I could be seen publicly with you without the paparazzi having a heyday with us." He nodded at the man leaving the scene. "But it looks like we're too late!"

Lois thought it was a great idea for him to have a disguise. "Is there a shop around? I could go buy you some clothes and maybe a beard or something."

Clark looked pensive. "Yup. There's one over there." With that, they were airborne again. He landed them out of sight behind a row of shops that were still open. He told Lois his size and waited high overhead while she made a few purchases. When she headed back to the darkness where they would meet without being seen together, he was already waiting for her.

She looked around for somewhere he could change.

"It's okay, Lois. Nobody's around." He held the clothes she handed him and spun. A moment later, he stood before her, wearing a wig and a set of loose Mexican pants and a fancy shirt. He slipped the poncho she held over his head.

"Wow!" she said as he stopped spinning in front of her. "You sure move fast! And you don't look like Superman!" She grinned broadly. "This is so much fun! I had no idea you were such a character!"

"You ain't seen nuthin' yet, Senorita!" He grabbed her and dipped her backwards, planting a kiss on her mouth. She was still laughing when he brought her back up. "Ready for dinner?"

She nodded. "Just let me catch my breath, Kal!" She breathed deeply, playing with the design on the front of his woolen poncho.

He met her laughing eyes and pulled her close. A Mexican mariachi band was playing when they landed behind the restaurant. "Aye, aye, aye, aye, canta no llores…" The deep voices of the singers and the melody of the acoustic guitars resonated across the softly illuminated beach.

The couple emerged from the darkness to the front doors of the restaurant. Inside, bright tablecloths decorated the tables.

"Dos, senores?" A man in an embroidered shirt and black slacks greeted them. At Kal's request, the host led them out back to the beach. Little thatch-covered gazebos enclosed candle-lit tables. Thick banana plants and other tropical species formed walls which separated the booths from one another. One open side faced the beach and the lapping water beyond.

The booth had a round table in it with a circular high-backed bench. Banana leaves woven into thick cushions made the wooden bench soft and inviting.

"Tequila?" the waiter offered, bringing over a tray with two salted wine glasses.

"No, thank you," Lois and Clark both agreed.

"Do you have fresh fruit drinks?" Kal asked in Spanish.

As the waiter left, Kal settled in across from Lois, leaning back and looking at her.

"Your face is framed with those banana plants behind you, and the yellow of your dress is lovely against the green of the leaves," he said, his eyes giving away his deep love for her.

Lois blushed and turned slightly to look back at the foliage that surrounded them, her slightly curved brown hair swinging back into place as she stopped moving. A coconut palm rustled above the thatch of the roof. "This is so cozy and romantic, Kal," she said, smiling as she gazed deeply into his eyes. She leaned forward and touched his hand where it lay on the table.

"I like it when you call me Kal. I don't think anyone ever has," he said, taking her hand in his.

"But you said it's your name," Lois looked puzzled.

"Only on Krypton."

The waiter politely interrupted them as he arrived with their mango juice drinks. They withdrew their hands and waited until the waiter had given them menus and left.

"Lois, tell me about you. Where did you grow up?"

As the meal progressed, they discussed Lois' childhood, the things she'd loved to do in the summers when she'd visit with her Aunt, the games she'd played with her sister, and her fascination with investigative journalism among other things.


Part 6

"Lois," he began, not knowing if it was safe to tell her about his past, but sure that it was unfair to be romantically involved in a semi-one-sided relationship. He decided to let nature take its course and continued, "You asked me about my name and why no one had ever called me that before. There are things I can't tell you, about my secret, but I want to tell you all that I can. Will you be okay with getting this in dribbles, as I'm feeling safe about talking about it?"

"Well, it's frustrating and I don't like it, but I guess I have no choice." She shrugged and moved around the table to sit beside him.

He grinned. He knew her so well. He'd expected nothing different. He put his arm around her and took a deep breath. "I was born on Krypton. My parents, Lara and Jor El, loved me very much. They knew that the planet was about to blow up. I'm not sure how they knew, but they were quite scientifically advanced. They built a small space ship for their baby and found that Earth was a hospitable planet where I might be able to grow up and live. They were taking quite a chance, but they knew that I'd die with them if they did nothing. So they wrapped me in my blanket. It had the family crest on it, the 'S'. They closed me up in my little space ship with some of my toys and sent me off towards Earth.

"I landed on this planet and was found by a couple that couldn't have children, my parents. It was a good thing that the space ship made a huge streak in the sky, or I may have suffocated in there.

"I don't know how long I would have been able to live in there if no one had seen the ship arrive. It must not have taken very long for me to get here though, because I don't think I had any food on the way, and there were no traces of food in the ship with me. There wasn't even a baby bottle or anything. Who knows about being in a dirty diaper…I never asked my parents about that."

Lois was riveted by Kal's words as he spoke. "So, my parents raised me. I didn't have any powers as I grew up, but they slowly began to appear. I'd pick up the refrigerator or something." He smiled at her amazed expression, and squeezed her shoulders. "I couldn't fly until I was 18."

He took a deep breath, waiting to see how Lois was going to react to what he had just told her. He'd left out his alter ego's identity. She was a smart woman. He wasn't ready for her to figure out that he was the man she'd rejected in the park, her partner at work.

"So, you were raised on Earth. Where? What's your name, the one y you've gone by your whole life? That means you have a secret identity." She was feeling irritated. What was he saying? That he walked among the rest of humanity as one of them?

"Lois…please. I can't tell you that yet."

"Why not? Aren't we engaged? When are you planning to tell me?"

"Lois, could I just finish telling you what I started telling you? We had to keep my identity a secret. It would have been dangerous for my parents to reveal that I was from another planet. Actually they weren't sure where I was from and why I had powers. That was back in the 60's when the space program was quite a hot topic. They were sure that I'd be taken from them and that tests would be performed on me to see what an extra- terrestrial was like. So they arranged for me to be adopted and they've raised me as their own. They sent me to school and taught me all they could about right and wrong.

"I used to help people at home. I can move very quickly, so I was able to go undetected for the most part, but I was always very careful."

Lois was mentally deciding that she'd do a search for all unexplained rescues since 1980.

"I traveled the world for a few years after I finished university. Then I decided to move to Metropolis, find a girl, marry and raise a family, if that would be possible. My mother made me my suit so that I could help people without having to reveal who I really was." He took a deep breath.

"I thought you were referring to your mother on Krypton when you told Amy that at the space shuttle! You made me believe you had just arrived on Earth when I met you," she accused him.

"I couldn't tell people otherwise, Lois. My parents would be in danger. They are my vulnerability. You are, too. I'd do anything so they wouldn't be hurt."

Lois furrowed her brow, trying to come to grips with the fact that this information had been purposely withheld from her when she'd interviewed him. She tried to see things from his point of view, as hard as that was. "You really love them, don't you," Lois finally said, squeezing his leg. It irritated the heck out of her that she'd not been in on the secret.

They sat quietly for awhile. Kal was hoping that she'd figure out why he had done it. It was better to let her diffuse her anger before going on. One thing about Lois Lane that he'd come to know was that she needed time to mentally sort through things before moving on.

Dessert came and went before she spoke again. Finally she said, "It must have been hard for you to have two identities. Were you afraid that people would discover who you were?"

"I still do have two identities. I hate lying to you, Lois. It's so awful. I have an apartment. I have a job, a career, a life in my other identity. Can you imagine how hard it is to hold down a job when I have to dash off and rescue people all the time? Not every boss will let you just disappear without an explanation several times a day."

"What do you tell him? Your boss, I mean."

"I make up excuses. I'm not very good at it. I should sit down and think up a better way of dealing with it than I do." He looked off into the wall of banana plants across the table, watching the candle light flicker on the greenery. "But, Lois," he paused and sighed, "can you understand why I can't tell you about my other identity? It's always been a heavily guarded secret. If it got out, I'd have to leave Metropolis, I'm sure. My whole ability to even exist as a semi-normal man depends on my identity being a secret."

Lois listened, mesmerized by his fascinating story. Why hadn't it occurred to her that he'd have another identity? "Has anyone ever come near to discovering your secret identity?"

"Well, before I had the suits, people would discover that I could do amazing things. I always had to leave and start over somewhere new." He sighed deeply again. "I know that having met you means that I'll have to tell you everything one day, before we get married." He paused, sighed and added, "But I'm scared. Terrified actually."

She furrowed her brow. "You're scared of me? But you…you're Superman!"

He pursed his lips. "Every cell in my body revolts against revealing this secret. Can you understand that? My father always told me I'd be taken away, locked up in a lab, and dissected like a frog. I've been terrified all my life of that happening. I have always avoided hospitals, at least if I'm the patient."

"But…as Superman…nobody could really do that, dissect you!"

"Have you ever had fears that are so difficult to deal with that thinking about it just shuts you down?"

She nodded. "Men. Rejection. Being used by men and then rejected."

He squeezed her shoulder and bent down to place a gentle kiss on her lips. "It's hard isn't it?"

She nodded. "I've built a wall around my heart to keep men out. You're the first man I've allowed in for a long time. I haven't even let Clark in, and he's been my best friend. Even now, I'm still terrified that you'll betray me and leave me with the whole world laughing at my back." Tears swam in her eyes.

"Oh, Lois, how terrible. I can't imagine what you've been through. I can't imagine being afraid to love. Do you think I'll betray you, too?"

"Well, not intellectually, but emotionally. I just can't help it." Hot tears ran down her cheeks.

He cupped her face, turned it toward him, wiped them away with his thumb and moaned, "It rips at the very core of me when you cry." He looked into her clear, brown eyes. He felt he could see right into her soul. "It's the same for me. Intellectually I know I can tell you my secret, well, I think I can. But emotionally I have so many layers of walls to protect myself, that actually telling you is impossible. There's no way my tongue would form the words. There's no way it would slip out." He smiled lopsidedly. "I guess we're very much alike then. I think it's more than trust. Because I know I can trust you, I just can't get beyond what's deep inside me. Do you understand?"

She nodded, wiping her tears with the back of her hand. But she still wondered who his secret identity might be. It was hard for her not to push for more answers. After all, she was an investigative reporter, trained to ask questions and uncover secrets. But he had asked her to trust him, and she would. He would tell her, eventually. This one time she had to be patient. It would be hard, but it would be worth it.

They sat in silence for a while, each pondering the walls they hid behind.

Finally, Lois spoke. "I've let you in, though. I can't imagine how I did it, but I do feel very safe with you. It's more than just your powers, it's your personality. You care so much for me. Nobody in my whole life has ever cared for me as you do."

He nodded. "I could never leave you, Lois. Never. I think we're soul-mates."

She nodded back, resting her head on his shoulder again and thinking about their conversation.

"When we get married, whenever that will be, I want to get married in my secret identity. I can be with you then, all of me. But if I'm only married to you as Superman, we could never be seen together in my normal identity. People would think you're having an affair with my secret identity if I married you as Superman. Plus it would put your life at great risk if Superman were to have a family."

She smiled and nodded. "That makes sense. So do you go off to work every day?"

"Um hum."

"Do you like your job?"

"Very much."

"Do people suspect anything?"

"I don't think so. My boss once caught me when I was about to change into my suit and fly out the window. He was mystified why I was sitting in the storage closet when I'd told him I was about to make a phone call. I'm sure he thought I was crazy." He laughed. Lois joined in, squeezing his hand.

"What did you do?"

"I told him I'd be out in a minute and, eventually, he left and I flew out the window." He chuckled as he remembered it. "I've been doing this for so long that it's second nature to cover up my powers."

"It must be." She nodded thoughtfully. Curiosity getting the better of her, she continued, "You know, it's really hard for me as an investigative reporter to not immediately go search the databases for all the unexplained rescues in the world and launch a full scale search into who your other identity is."

He nodded. "I know, and you could find out in minutes if you tried. Well, I think you could. You're very good at what you do. But please…" His eyes were pleading with her to be patient.

"No, I won't," she sighed and said honestly as she squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I've gone this long without knowing. I'm amazed I hadn't thought of it earlier. "But I'm sure that if I bump into you and find your other self is quite like this one, I'm bound to start thinking. Secrets and surprises aren't my forte. I don't handle them well."

Kal smiled, genuinely pleased and somewhat relieved. "I feel good that I've told you this much. Are you mad?"

She shrugged. "Well, sort of, but not really. I'll think about it for awhile and then I won't be mad."

He squeezed her again and tipped her head up so he could kiss her. They cuddled for a few minutes, before he said, "I told my parents we'd gotten engaged. They were worried about my secret. My mom thinks I should just tell you, but my dad isn't so sure. None of us have ever unlocked this Pandora's Box. Not even a tiny bit."

The musicians had migrated over to their booth and were serenading nearby. Lois looked out toward the ocean, watching the waves break almost in time with the music, the white caps in the distance appearing and disappearing.

"Why is it so light over the ocean?" Lois asked suddenly.

Kal pointed to the spotlights on the top of the main building behind the musicians. "It's nice, isn't it? I wondered about that myself when I first noticed it." He held her as she leaned back against him, watching the waves breaking.

Kal dipped his head down and leaned his cheek on her hair and murmured, "Thank you for letting me tell you my secret in dribbles, Lois."

She turned to look at him and he cupped her cheek with his hand and brought his mouth down to hers again.

Her hand slid up around his shoulders as she felt the warmth of his lips against hers and returned the kiss. Oblivious to the music, they kissed then held one another close.

Simultaneously, they both whispered.

"I love you, Lois."

"I love you, Kal."

Some time later, they flew back to Metropolis. Kal held her close to him, feeling the warmth of her body against his. He was content. She leaned her head against his chest. All was right with his world.

They snuggled and chatted as they flew, getting to know each other better. Kal already knew all about Lois, but was anxious for her to know as much about him as he dared tell her without giving away that he was Clark Kent. They discussed some of the places they'd both visited, Lois on assignment, and Kal on his travels. They found they'd both been to the same places in the Congo and had a good discussion about the culture of the people they'd met. It had been quite fascinating for each of them, as they had both been involved in very different spheres. Kal had been back repeatedly since then as Superman.

As they landed in Lois' living room, neither of them wanted to separate for the rest of the night.

"Do you have the day off tomorrow?" Kal asked.

"Uh, yes, I do!" Lois responded, wondering what Kal was thinking.

"Would you like to spend the day with me?"

Her face glowed as her smile broadened. "Yes! Of course! I'd love it!"

"Okay!" Kal was as pleased as she sounded. "I want to take you somewhere. Shall I come for you in the morning?"

"Okay! First thing?"

"Yeah," Kal said as he kissed her again, then stepped away back from his sweetheart. We'll have a great day together! Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Kal. I love you so much!"

He smiled again, that puppy dog look in his eyes. "I love you, too. Goodnight."

With that, he flew out the window and soon landed on the balcony of 344 Clinton Street, his red cape falling in behind him as he walked through the door.


Part 7

It was bright and early when Kal tapped on Lois' living room window, then pushed it gently open and stepped into her living room. He looked through her walls and saw her fast asleep in bed. He stepped forward and knocked softly on her bedroom door. "Lois, wake up sleepy head!"

He heard a soft moan from Lois with his superhearing. "Time to wake up. We've got a big day!" He knocked again and then opened the door. "I'm coming in to wake you up," he warned her as he approached and knelt beside her bed. Her eyes flickered open as he lowered his lips to meet hers. Her arms slowly awakened then slid around his back as she responded warmly to his kiss.

"I'll go make coffee for you! We're going out for breakfast!" Kal whispered against her ear.

Kal stood in the kitchen preparing coffee, hearing the water running in the shower. Soon Lois came out and he offered her a mug. He put his arms around his sweetheart and nestled his face into her hair. She leaned against him with her arms around his waist, feeling the comforting warmth of his love and his presence. "You are so good, Kal," she mumbled as he held her.

"Umm," he responded in gratitude. He smelled the shampoo in her hair and rubbed his cheek gently up and down on its softness.

She leaned her head back, looked up into his eyes, and smiled, her whole face radiating at him.

He smiled back and drew her close again. They stood that way for awhile. Then she spoke. "There are so many things that I'm learning about you. You deal with so much death and destruction. I'd never realized how much it affects you. It's so far beyond me what you do in the course of a day."

He squeezed her. "Thanks for listening to me last night." He sighed, remembering yet another disaster last night after they'd gotten home from Mexico. He'd come over afterwards and poured his heart out to Lois who had comforted him better than his arctic plunge had. Looking up at the ceiling, then back at her with a smile, he began, "What do you say we have some fun today? I think I could use a bit of fun."

Lois smiled at him, wondering just what his idea of fun was, now that she had started to get to know the real Superman. "Sure!"

"Okay, how about we go on a tour?"

She raised her eyebrows in curiosity, "Okay. A tour of what?"

"May I take you on a tour of my world?"

"Oh yes!"

"Okay, here's the plan. You'll need to bring a bathing suit and a jacket. Do you have any snorkeling gear?"

"Yes," she responded, enjoying his smile and his good mood, curious what he had planned. This was certainly not the distant man she'd come to know as Superman before. There was so much more about him than she'd ever imagined. She headed to her bedroom closet to find the things she'd need.

After a few moments, she returned from packing her things to stand sideways in front of him, put an arm around his neck and raised a knee for his hand, "Up, up and away?"

He scooped her up, a grin covering his face. When they were above Metropolis, he caught her lips in a tender kiss, which she happily returned. He put his head back up to watch where he was going. He swerved to head southward.

Lois caressed the back of his neck idly with her hand, leaning her head against his shoulder as he carried her through the air. In a few minutes, the city buildings had given way to the hills of the Appalachians and then the cotton fields of the south.

"Wow, they're so beautiful from here!" Lois cooed. "It was dark when we flew over here last night."

"We were more to the west than this. But here, I'll drop down further so you can see them better," Kal said, descending toward the earth. The haze-covered Smoky Mountains gave a faraway feeling. The sun was dotting the tops of the mountains, lighting up the thick forest.

"Nice," Lois sighed, and snuggled deeper into Kal's neck. "Hey, why don't we have turbulence when we fly together?"

He grinned and raised his eyebrows. "Turbulence, Lois?"

"Well, yeah! Airplanes get bounced all around in the wind."

"They only have a few engines to power them. We have Superman!"

She nodded and chuckled, "Yeah, that makes a lot of difference. Like a rocket versus a bird!"

He laughed, "Yes, you could say that."

They watched the mountains move beneath them for awhile. "Okay, time to go," he said, increasing his speed again and rising a bit higher. "We still haven't had breakfast! We don't want to be out here all day!"

"Who says?" Lois protested in jest.

They passed the sandy flatland of Florida and then shot out across the Caribbean over Cuba and onward toward the mountainous island of Jamaica. They landed on a secluded warm beach. He grinned and met her smiling brown eyes as her silky brown hair fell into place.

"Do you like it?" he asked, awaiting her reaction.

"Kal, you're amazing. I'm so lucky. I saved up some money to go to far away places like this and finally settled on Tahiti. I haven't gotten there yet, though. The money's still in the bank, gathering interest." She unzipped her leather jacket. Kal was quickly behind her to help her out of it.

"Lois, it's the most wonderful thing to be able to have you in my life. We've been through a lot together. I remember so many times when you cried for help, but never until you were sure you couldn't get out of the problem yourself. You've seen me do heroic Superman stuff, be depressed, and be weak or sick when I'd been near Kryptonite. The list goes on and on.

"But it wasn't until late last night when you held me and let me tell you about the disaster I'd just faced, that I had really been able to let you know that part of me. You have no idea how wonderful it feels to have you, the woman I've loved from behind the mask of the superhero for so long, love me back, even the most despondent, insecure, and hopeless parts." He gathered her in his arms and held her closely.

"Oh Kal," she murmured, a tear slipping from her eye as her voice broke.

"You've always been so good to me. You've always been there for me to rescue me when I, once again, had to get my way and got myself into trouble, and to point me in the right direction when I was lost."

They stood holding each other in silence. After awhile, the sounds of the birds chirping, the breeze in the leafy trees and the roar of the ocean brought them back to the white sand and the turquoise waters of Jamaica.

She was about to run into the water with both feet until her stomach growled. Lois instead asked, "What about breakfast?"

"Well, my princess," Kal responded. "Would you like to eat in a lovely restaurant, or shall we pick fruit from the trees and sit by a fire?"

Lois giggled and took his hand, looking around at the fruit trees growing near the beach. "Fruit by the fire!"

"Your wish is my command," he replied happily. "We need a nice table." He looked around and dragged a coconut palm leaf over, broke it in half and put one piece down like a large placemat, tossing the other half back into the bushes.

"Okay, now we need something to drink." He looked up into the coconut trees. He flashed a grin at her, ready to show off. He hugged the tree, shaking it until a coconut fell. He picked it up, pulled the thick brown outer layer off as if it were just a leaf, and then looked at the dents in the top. Lois had come over and was now standing beside him, her hand on his shoulder. With a short burst of heat vision, he burned two small holes in the top. "Ladies first," he said, handing her the coconut with a smile.

"What am I supposed to do with it?" She raised her eyebrows, looking into his laughing brown eyes.

"It's filled with coconut milk. You drink it. Well, half of it," he teased. She raised it to her lips and laughed as some of it ran down the sides of her face.

"Umm, that's good!" she said, offering some to him. He drank what she'd left him, and then squeezed the shell to break it in half. Wiggling each half just enough, he made the soft coconut slide away from the shell. He put the halves on his table, and then looked around at the other fruit trees.

"I'll pick us each a mango," Lois said as she dragged her toes in the warm sand and reached up to pluck two soft, ripe, orange- yellow mangos from a spreading leafy tree at the edge of the bushes. She put them on the table beside the coconut.

"Hey, how about some breadfruit roasted in a fire?" Kal asked, moving into the jungle-like thickness beyond the coconut palm. He jumped up, hovered beside a breadfruit tree, and plucked a large ball.

Lois watched him, amazed at his agility, his comfortableness with his powers, and his wonderful attitude. "I'll gather wood for the fire," she offered. She found some deadfall branches beneath the bushes nearby and dragged them to the beach where she broke them into campfire-sized pieces. She piled them a few feet from their flat table. She was surveying the would-be fire when Kal came over with the breadfruit.

"Here," he said, squatting down by the wood and lighting it with a stream of heat from his eyes. It burst into flames. He broke a log in pieces as Lois watched in amazement at how easy it looked.

He leaned them on the fire, and then sat down on the sand. Lois sat down beside him and leaned back on her elbows, looking more content than he had ever seen her before, even more than when she'd accepted his proposal. He stretched out, rolled onto his stomach, and lay with his chin in his hands, looking into her eyes. "You're so beautiful, Lois. Thank you so much for coming with me today."

She grinned. "I can't think of a better way to spend my day off than being with you, wherever you want us to go!" She giggled like a little girl. "I've always wanted to be on an island, alone with someone who loves me, who I love, having a campfire on the beach." She looked at the waves breaking nearby. The water swelled, then rolled, then broke open as white water splashed down in front of it. "Have you ever been surfing?" she asked.

"Yup, but I don't use a board," he teased.

"Can you walk on water, too?" she asked curiously.

He grinned. "Well, I can keep myself from sinking if that's what you mean, but the water doesn't support me. I have to hover while I walk on it."

The smell of the cooking breadfruit was enticing. "Where did you learn to do this?" Lois asked and nodded at the breadfruit which was blackening on the outside.

He smiled back at her. "I stayed in a lot of remote villages in my days of traveling. Breadfruit over the fire is a staple to many of the people who live in the tropics or on islands like this one." He reached into the fire and squeezed the breadfruit while Lois gasped. He looked over at her again, holding it in his hand. "It's okay, Lois, I'm invulnerable, remember."

She pushed half of her mouth into a grin. "Habit, you know. So tell me more about your travels!"

He broke the breadfruit, and then using a flattened piece of stick, he scraped the center seed out of it, leaving the soft, bread-like meat. He tossed the seed into the jungle, putting the halves on their table, and smiled at her, their eyes locking again. "Breakfast is ready, my dear."

They relaxed into a long conversation about the places where people ate roasted breadfruit, and his experiences with the staple food.

Suddenly he looked up in distraction. A feeling of discouragement washed over Lois as she recognized that he was hearing a call for help.

"What is it?"

He listened for a moment longer, and then turned back to her. "I heard a bank alarm and sirens. But it sounds like the police are on top of it."

She sighed; relieved he wasn't about to race away from their picnic. She looked around at the jungle that nearly surrounded their picnic on the beach. "This is so nice, Kal. I just love it! I guess this is what camping with you would be like!" They sat and ate their coconut, mangoes, and breadfruit, savoring the delicate flavors of the freshly picked foods.

Afterwards, she lay back on the sand, resting her head in his lap. He watched her admiringly, brushed a strand of hair out of her face, and sighed.

"It is wonderful, Lois." He leaned back onto his elbows and looked out over the ocean and at the birds flying over the waves.

Lois stood up. "I'm going to go put on my bathing suit," she said, pulling her one piece suit out of her carrying bag and heading into the undergrowth.

Kal made sure no one was anywhere on the beach, then spun into his swimming trunks. The sun felt good on his bare chest and legs as it energized him. He went to stand in the water, stooping down to watch the marine life.

Lois returned wearing a one piece burgundy bathing suit. Kal was glad it was modest. "You look nice, Lois. I think burgundy looks great on you!"

She smiled as she came to stand beside him, amazed at his physique. He looked incredible. He was leaning over the water. "What are you looking at?" she asked.

"The little fish," he responded, pointing to a few small silver fish darting back and forth, touching the skin of the water every now and then.

"You know, you're like Gandhi!"

"You think?"

"Um, maybe."

They waded into the warm water together. Lois put on her snorkling gear, grinned at him, and dove into the waves. Kal dove in alongside her.

They swam out for awhile, and then Kal came over and caught Lois. "Look down here!" He didn't have to wear a mask or snorkel to see the bottom clearly. They swam side by side, their faces in the water. He pointed to a large rock at the bottom. For a moment, it didn't look too interesting, but then Lois saw movement beneath the rock. Two huge sea turtles were beneath it.

One was moving forward, pushing against the sand, with its large flippers, moving the other turtle out from under the rock. Once successful, the stronger turtle took a moment to slide in under the rock and settled down for a nap. Meanwhile, the other turtle angled upward, and rose slowly to the top, its powerful front flippers barely moving. When it reached the surface, it put its head out of the water, opened its large mouth, and floated, breathing. Lois and Kal righted themselves in the water and Lois pulled her goggles up to watch the sea turtle's head above the surface. It was olive green with large dark eyes on its angular head. The edges of its open mouth looked sharp. Although they were treading water only about two yards away from the big beast, it paid no attention to them.

"It's so strange, Kal, to see it in its own world, then to come up here and see part of it in ours!" He squeezed her hand and grinned. They watched it until it sank back into the depths.

"There's more over there." Kal pointed underwater. Lois put her goggles back on and followed his finger, holding hands with him as he pulled her over to where he was pointing. Sure enough, there were more sea turtles either sleeping on the bottom, or pulling at underwater plants.

"How old do you think they are?" Lois said without raising her head from under the water, her snorkel tube still in her mouth. She knew Kal would be able to hear her clearly under the water.

He held up one finger for her to see, released her hand, and dove down to the turtles at the bottom. He looked under the rock and paused to count the shapes on the turtles' backs.

Lois was startled to hear a flock of gulls overhead. She rolled on her back as she took off her gear and watched the birds fly to the trees near where they'd had their campfire.

A thin trail of smoke rose from the small fire. She floated on her back for awhile, watching the flock land. One gull landed on the beach and walked over to their breakfast table. The others were close behind.

Soon a splash announced Kal's arrival beside her.

"The turtles are over a hundred years old." He stated, pointing at the bottom of the sea where he'd just been.

"Wow! Imagine the changes they've seen in their days!" Lois mused.

He flashed her a grin. "Okay, are you ready for some adventure?"

"You mean a different one?"

"No, just, well, this is a tour of MY world, remember?"

Lois grinned. "How could I forget? I feel like the part of you that I know is just so tiny!"

He grinned. "Do you want to take a fast swim? I mean, I won't go as fast as I usually go, but I think you'll like it."

"Just how fast do you usually go?"

"Well, it differs. I swim around the earth pretty quickly, depending on how much of a hurry I'm in. I usually plan on about half an hour to go around it once." To her puzzled look he responded, "I can go all the way around the south pole without having to navigate between oceans."

"So just how fast were you thinking of us going?"

"A lot slower than you drive!" he chuckled. "Don't worry, I won't let you get hurt!"

"I don't want my eyebrows or my lips to peel off, you know!"

He grinned. "The eyebrows you could paint back on…the lips?" He shook his head. "No, the lips better stay." To her lopsided grin, he pulled her onto his underwater lap and hugged her to himself.

"Now, when you need to breathe, just squeeze me, or something. I'll be able to tell by how your body feels in my arms, but just to be on the safe side, let me know if you need air." He took her snorkeling gear from her and tossed it way back to the beach where it landed beside her bag.

"Good strong aim!" she muttered teasingly. "Are you any good at baseball?"

"My favorite game."

"Yeah? Who do you play with?"

"Well, I've got a whole team."

Her eyebrows were up again. "A whole team. Yeah, right. Nobody would play with you!"

"Me, myself and I…plus a few more of me."

"Okay," she said, her eyes laughing. "I get it. I'll have to watch a game sometime."

"Okay, come on now, Lois, we're going for a swim," he said, putting his arms around her waist.

"Take a deep breath."

Lois obediently breathed deeply, then held her breath as Kal leaned them sideways in the water, his hands on Lois' sides, and shot beneath the waves, watching her face. The water rushed between and past them, massaging their bodies as they sped out into the vast ocean. As he began to feel that Lois' body needed air, but long before she was desperate, he shot out of the water and flew them just above the tops of the rolling waves.

"Wow!" Lois gasped, grinning from ear to ear as she watched the whitecaps blur beneath her. "This is fun!"

He smiled and leaned in for a kiss. "Want to do it again?"

"Um hum," she responded as he flew in a circle to face the shore.

"Okay, deep breath!" He watched her inhale and hold her breath before he slowed their flight to break gently through the water's surface. He grinned at her underwater and hugged her tightly.

Without moving much, Lois brought her lips to his, not in a real kiss, but just a safe underwater touch as they sped along. He smiled beneath her lips and kissed her in a real kiss that she didn't dare return, not while she was holding her breath underwater anyway.

As they came within surfing distance of shore, he rolled onto his back, and floated up to the surface of the water. She raised her head up and took a good breath, then laughed. "You're so funny! Kissing me like that when I can't kiss you back!"

He turned his head to look at the waves that were beginning to form ahead of them. "Now, how about some surfing?"

"You may not need a surfboard, but I do!"

"I'll be your surfboard. When the wave comes in beneath me, I'll tell you to stand up on my chest! Don't worry about falling, you won't hit the water as long as I'm around!" He grinned again.

She raised her eyebrows. The thought of standing on someone's chest was bad enough, but to stand on someone who was floating in the water was pretty dumb! That is, unless he was Superman. She seated herself sidesaddle on his stomach. "You're sure about this? I know it sounds dumb, but I don't want to hurt you."

He chuckled. "Okay, stand up!" She climbed on his chest and tried to keep her balance. "Here, I'll hold your ankles so you don't fall off. I've watched people tie their surfboards to their ankles with a long line so the board won't get away from them if they fall, but I'll use my hands!" He tickled her ankle a bit beneath his fingers briefly, till she gave him one of those 'not now, Buster,' looks.

"Okay, here it comes, get ready," he said just before a swell rose up beneath them, moving them toward the shore. The wave rolled beneath him, while Lois used her leg muscles to maintain her balance and to subdue the wave's action. Kal watched her determined face, which split into a wide grin as the wave grew beneath them, crashing just beyond Kal's head.

"This is SOOOO cool!" she shouted, "Oh, Kal, this is SOOOO amazing!"

"Welcome to my world!" he called up to her, enjoying the feel of the muscles in her feet as they pushed against his solid chest, maintaining control of her 'surfboard'. The wave rushed them onward. She bent her knees slightly as the force of the wave beneath her moved Kal up and down.

Experimenting, she pushed downward on her back foot, as if to turn the board to go along the length of the wave. It worked. Well, probably with Kal's cooperation. The 'board' turned sideways, and suddenly they found themselves in the midst of a wave tunnel, skimming the water of the bottom of the tunnel, the smooth water rising in a wall beside and above them, with a roaring white waterfall on the other side. It seemed like a long time that they surfed in the tunnel, before the wave disappeared from around them and they found themselves being washed ashore. Lois jumped off Kal's chest onto the beach just before he jumped to his feet.

She could hardly contain herself. Grabbing his arms by his side, she bent over in laughter. "That was incredible! I can't believe we did that! I can't believe we stayed on the top of the wave, and then were inside it! Oh Kal, I can't believe what a fantastic date you are!" She flung her arms around him in a hug, laughing, and then stumbling down to the warm sand. "Can we do it again?"

"I thought you'd like that, Lois! I figured you'd be up for the challenge. You're good, too. Not many people that can stay up their first time! And certainly not the way you managed to 'control the board'," he said, inserting a wink.

Lois pulled her knees up to her chest, a grin filling her face. "I can't believe I did that! I've never surfed before. I've skied a lot, but never surfed. That was so incredible. How much of that did I do, and how much were you doing?"

"You were great, the way you were using your muscles against me was exactly right. I did help a bit; I didn't let the wave get control of us. It's nice to be able to hover when you need to." He winked at her radiant face. "I tried to stay just on top of the wave. I also kept us in the tunnel without going too fast or slow so it wouldn't break on us. That was pretty neat wasn't it?"

"Darn right!" She patted his leg beside her.

"Ready to go again?" he asked. In moments, they were shooting out through the water to await the next wave, then riding it in through another tunnel and finally landing in the shallow water before heading out to catch the next wave.

She jumped off his chest as the waves beached her surfboard again, falling to the ground. She was exhausted. "Kal! This is so much fun! I just can't believe what you can think of to do!"

His eyes sparkled. "I've always wanted to show you my world. It's one thing to have a wonderful world of your own, but if you can't share it with anyone, it's not much fun!"

"Yeah, I suppose you don't take too many people surfing!" she teased.

"Nope, you're the only one. There are some things that are far more fun when you're with your girlfriend!" He winked at her. "Like kissing underwater!" Lois blushed and turned her face towards the crashing waves, digging her toes into the sand.

When she'd recovered some of her energy, they got up and began walking, hand in hand along the deserted beach, the sun having dried them off. Kal stopped walking and turned to face her.

"Lois…" he began, "you have no idea how much fun I'm having with you today. It's so good to be with you." He leaned over and kissed her. She smiled beneath his lips and put her arms around his neck, running her fingers through his soft hair.

"How can I ever let you know how much I appreciate having you in my life?"

"You already have," he said, leaning back in for another kiss. Sometime I'll show you how 'I' go surfing. My feet are the board. I think it would work for us to hold together and both surf on our feet. It feels pretty neat."

"I bet it tickles your feet!"

"I guess so." He grinned.

Lois not only wanted to see him surf on his feet, but she wanted to do it, too. First he left her on the beach and flew out to surf in, while she watched. Then they both went out hand in hand.

"Your feet are surfboards, Lois. Just hold my hand and we'll wait for a wave. I'll raise us up to the surface, then we just use our feet to move us where we want to go."

Kal flew them out to where the waves began to swell. They waited, treading water as small waves pushed them up and down in the deep aqua water. Lois wasn't all that sure that she could do this, or that it wasn't going to hurt her feet, but she held Kal's hand and smiled. "I'm ready when you are!"

In a few moments, a large wave came along behind them. "Okay, here we go." Kal floated them up to the surface of the water where they stood on the slightly moving surface. He let enough of their weight rest on the water, but not enough to let them sink through the surface.

"You know, I could get used to walking on water!" Lois commented as she watched the wave movement. She could hear the wave coming along behind her as the water beneath her swelled and began to move forward.

"Oooooh! It's working!" she screamed over the roar of the wave crashing in front of them as they rode the top of it.

Kal held her hand firmly, keeping her at the right height. "Move your feet to make yourself go where you want to. We can run…I mean surf…along the top of the wave if you want."

Lois raised her eyebrows, excited but completely unsure of how to do what he was suggesting. "You do it for me!" she declared.

Kal took over, and guided them along the length of the wave. Finally, without falling in, they arrived in the shallow water as the wave beneath them flattened out on the beach. Foam surrounded their feet as they fell into one another's arms and laughed.

Lois had liked it so much that they had to repeat their game several more times. Finally her feet hurt. She collasped on the beach laughing, pulling Kal down with her to the sand. As their laughter subsided, they lay on their backs, holding hands and looking up at the small low clouds moving across the sky. Lois flung one arm above her head, the bottoms of her feet flat against the hot sand. "Oh, that feels good!"

Kal turned his head to see what she was referring to. "Here, let me massage your feet," he offered. Lois smiled but didn't move as he sat up and pulled her feet out of the sand and onto his lap, brushing the sand off them. He massaged them, shooting quick rays of heat on the tightened muscles as he worked. She closed her eyes, feeling his strong hands working the muscles in her feet. She lay on her back with her eyes closed, enjoying the feeling. It was so relaxing. Clark had given her foot massages before. It had felt quite similar to the way Kal was doing it, warm and relaxing. She breathed deeply and moaned with pleasure. "That feels great, Kal, what are you doing to make it feel so good?"

"Heat vision," he responded, glancing at her closed eyes and realizing that she hadn't been looking at him work.

"Um. Sure feels good. It's putting me to sleep though!"

He worked on her feet while she dozed. When he stopped and removed her feet from his lap so he could lay down beside her, she woke up.

"Thanks, Kal," she said, smiling at him again. "You know, I'm getting hungry again. What time is it?"

He looked up at the sun in the sky. "Late afternoon? Shall we find somewhere to buy dinner, or do you want to have another campfire?"

She shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

"I know were there are wild yams in the forest. We could cook them in the fire with some bananas. The wild fruit that grows on this island is amazing." Kal offered. "But you know, it might be nice to go out to dinner. They have some great Reggae music in Montego Bay."

Lois considered for a moment. "I don't have anything clean to change into."

"I only have my suit, too. Want to go shopping again? We can get you another dress and get me some regular clothes!"

"We're going to have a whole array of disguises for you from all over the world! Isn't this getting kind of expensive?"

"American money goes a long way here, Lois. If we go further down the beach to the next town, I think there are shops along the water. That way I don't have to go as Superman. I can just wear my swim trunks. People are used to that along the beach."

"Okay," Lois said uncertainly. "I'm game!"

They headed down the beach hand in hand, discussing other things that Kal did to entertain himself. The day was blissful for them both. As always, when he brought her back to her apartment, it was hard to say goodnight.


Part 8

The paper Lois had printed with Clark's insightful article about Superman's feelings at the apartment building explosion a few days ago still lay on her desk when she returned to work.

Clark looked across the aisle at Lois sitting at her desk, turning in his swivel chair as he played with a pen, remembering the day they'd spent together at the beach. How he wished she knew it was Clark who she'd been with. Finally, he got up to get them each a fresh cup of coffee.

"Thanks, Clark." Lois smiled at her partner as he handed her mug to her. He was looking happy these days. She hadn't spent much time with him since she'd become engaged to Kal. Of course, he was always running off, so it's no wonder they hardly saw each other. She did miss sitting in front of the television sharing pizza with him, though. Could he still be her best friend while she was engaged to Kal? Did she want him to be? She had nothing against him, but she wanted to be faithful to Kal and didn't know what Kal would think of her still hanging around with Clark.

Well, Clark hadn't dropped by, or suggested spending time together, anyway. Actually, she hadn't been home all weekend. Her face was tanned and her feet were sore from surfing barefoot on the water alongside Kal. What a great time they'd had together. It felt good that he had wanted to show her how he lived.

"You're welcome, Lois." Clark smiled as she took the mug from his hands. He supposed he needed to get back to work before Perry started wondering if he ever got any thing done. It seemed that Superman was needed during work hours more than usual lately. He'd just come in from several more rescues earlier in the day. Rush hour traffic was always so much trouble. Couldn't people just learn to slow down?

Jimmy glanced over Lois' shoulder as she re-read the article Clark had written last week about Superman's feelings.

"That was a great piece of work, CK," Jimmy patted him on the shoulder. "I can't believe Superman told you so much about how he felt! It really shows the human side to him. He usually looks so unemotional, you know. It's like you broke into that unknown world of his."

"Thanks Jimmy," Clark said, feeling a bit embarrassed to receive so much praise about his article.

Lois hadn't minded that Superman had given Clark the interview instead of her. He wasn't sure at the time how she'd take that, but luckily she seemed to know that his writing leant itself more to that kind of angle.

Perry came over to Clark's desk. "I think it's time we talked about giving you a raise, son, why don't you join me in my office. I have the go ahead from the suits upstairs."

Lois looked up from his article and smiled as she watched the two men walk away. He deserved it. It was a good piece, she thought to herself. The picture that went with it seemed to capture the black despair in Superman's soot-covered face as he carried the lifeless body of a baby from the debris.

She leaned back, thinking about what had happened in her life in the past few days. Kal had proposed on the same day as Clark had offered her his love. She felt a bit badly about how she'd rejected Clark's love. Just remembering it and the feeling in his voice and his gestures made her feel badly for the way she'd glossed over his most tender feelings. She wished she could make it up to him, but she couldn't give him what he wanted. She smiled as she remembered Kal's proposal, the way he'd knelt on the floor. She'd wondered if he were going to ask her if he should ask her father before he proposed to her. She was glad he hadn't. Her father wasn't on her list of favorite people.

She thought back on the night they'd spent at the explosion. She hadn't seen him that next day, but the day after he'd come and swept her off her feet in the newsroom to sit and talk in the clouds about the Kryptonite. That's when he had given her the lead box. That night they'd gone to eat at the beach in Mexico. He'd come over later to talk about another disaster that had depressed him. The next day they'd picnicked on the beach in Jamaica and played in the waves, then eaten in that little restaurant where a band was playing and singing reggae music. It had been fun.

Clark looked at his screen as he tried to work, but could only replay the events of the day before. It had been another busy day for them. He had been nervous about wasting any more time before removing the Kryptonite from Lex's possession. Superman had gone to the police station to see Henderson, to share his information about Luthor with the inspector, hoping that Henderson would see the value of keeping the Kryptonite out of the public attention. They'd agreed to refer to it as a precious stone.

"I'll come with a warrant and you can keep me posted on where the Kryptonite is," Henderson had agreed.

At four this morning, Superman had hovered above Luthor Tower with a walkie talkie. The Kryptonite had still been in the desk drawer. Luthor and his personal assistant had been fast asleep in his bedroom. Superman had been quite embarrassed to have discovered that as he'd x-rayed the penthouse apartment.

Henderson and a host of policemen had entered the building. Even more policemen had been set up around Metropolis' highest skyscraper. Henderson and his force had arrived at the penthouse, but it hadn't gone undetected. The security guard watching the monitors had activated an alarm in Luther's bedroom. The security guard had explained what he'd seen on the monitors.

Before the penthouse had been sealed off, a dozen officers stormed the apartment, dividing to cover the entire apartment, guns at the ready. "Damn," Luthor had muttered before he emerged from his bedroom to meet the intruders.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen. Am I so inhospitable that you must break into my home?"

"Put your hands over your head! Lex Luthor, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…" an officer had started to read out his rights, as Luthor had approached him.

"My goodness, gentlemen, you can't be serious. What are you accusing me of?"

"I found it," a police officer had declared when he had found the glowing piece of green rock in the locked desk drawer.

Superman had been hovering above, relieved that finally, Luthor had slipped up. Big time.

Distracted by the arrival of the officer with the glowing Kryptonite, the officer had taken his eyes off Luthor for a moment. Luthor had burst into a run and sped from the room, out the open balcony door, just as the officer had shot him in the leg. As he had plunged over the side of the building, Superman had swept down and caught him, lowering an outraged and hostile enemy into the hands of the awaiting police below.

"I'll get you for this, Superman. We're not through, yet," Luthor had snarled.

"You are under arrest for plotting to kill Superman," one of the officers beside him had stated, as he handcuffed Luthor and led him away into a waiting police car.

"My lawyers will sue your socks off. You'll never work again!" Luthor had spat through clenched teeth.

Lois had been standing nearby, watching as Lex threw himself off his top floor balcony. Tears streamed down her face as she watched. Kal had landed beside her momentarily after he'd delivered Lex to the police and had suggested, "Let me finish up here and then we'll go flying."

She nodded and wiped the tears from her cheeks. Kal flew back up into the air to watch over the building again.

After taking pictures of the Kryptonite for evidence, the glowing rock had been placed into a large lead-lined box and locked. Three officers had escorted the box to the lobby of the building where Superman had been waiting for them.

"I'll get rid of that. If you do find you need it for evidence, I can always retrieve it for the trial," Superman had told Henderson.

With that said, he had been off into the sky, heading to his stash on the bottom of the ocean where he had finally deposited this second piece of deadly material beneath the mountainous rock. 'Let them find it here,' he had thought as he had shot back up through the surface of the undulating water and into the air.

It had been quite an ordeal for Lois. She'd flown with Kal for hours afterwards, weeping over her near fatal attraction to the philanthropist. It had taken a lot out of her. Finally they'd spent time just walking in the woods in the isolated but warm mountains of Northern British Columbia.

But today was a new day. Kal had flown her to work. She had partly recovered from her emotional upheaval and was back at her desk, ready to finish up this story and to move on to something else, something of less consequence to her personally.

Clark came over and sat down on the edge of her desk, pulling her thoughts back to the present. "Hi, Clark," she managed to greet him, her thoughts still occupied with yesterday's events.

"Lois, are you okay?" he said, seeing the tears on her cheeks again.

"Superman told me a lot of stuff about Lex the other day," she began. She didn't look so good all of a sudden.

She bit her lip, which had started to quiver. She turned away, picking up her mug to keep Clark from seeing her tears form.

He knew she was about to tell him how bad she felt about almost marrying Luthor. He didn't want her to be confiding in him as Clark when she was engaged to Kal. She'd hate him for that later when he told her his secret.

"I'll be right back, Lois," he said standing up and dashing off to the stairwell again.

Superman landed gently on the newsroom floor. He walked over to Lois' desk, and touched her shoulder.

"Oh, Clark, I feel so stupid," she sighed, turning to face him, then recoiling in shock when she found out that Clark's gentle hand had been Kal's. She hadn't realized that Clark had actually left.

"Come on, let's get out of here," Kal said. She stood up, dumbfounded, and let him pick her up as she turned to look at Clark's desk.

"Where did Clark go?" she asked, figuring that Kal must have seen him leaving.

"He just stepped out," he said. He flew Lois out the window and up into the clouds. "I was watching over you. I knew yesterday was really hard on you, so I've been keeping a close eye on you ever since I dropped you off this morning. It's not hard to x-ray the building to see you. You looked like you were about to cry. I couldn't help myself, I had to come and get you," he said, trying to explain his unexpected appearance.

Lois was touched by how caring and attentive he had become towards her since he had proposed. It was amazing how much she had learned about him. There was a lot more to this man than she'd ever realized. He was sensitive, private, and so utterly good. But there was more. He was funny, and liked to have fun. He was smart and creative. She watched his face as they flew. They hovered above a long, flat cloud.

He touched her cheek. "You've been crying," he said, unable to hide the pain he felt in response to her tears. She bit her lip again. "Oh, Kal, I feel like such a fool. I'm such a bad judge of character.

"I always pick the dishonest people. I can consider myself lucky that I'm not shacked up with some fugitive felon!" she sobbed the words out, her arms still clinging to his neck where they'd been as they'd flown. He wiped her tears off her cheeks and hugged her.

"But now, you're engaged to Superman, Lois!" he said with a sparkle in his eyes.

She met his eyes, and then began sobbing again. "I just can't believe how close I got to marrying Lex." She paused. "Did you know that he proposed to me?"

He nodded as she cursed Clark for being such a blabber mouth. "Why can't Clark just keep his big mouth shut? Does he tell you everything about me? Did he tell you he loves me, too?" Her pain was being dwarfed by anger now.

"It's obvious that he loves you, Lois. Do you love him too?" Kal stunned her by asking. Her mouth dropped open at his remark. "You're engaged to me and going to move in with Clark, and you say he loves me and want to know if I love him?"

"I guess that about sums it up," he said with a smile. "It's okay, Lois. I could never be jealous of Clark."

"Why not? I do have feelings for him. He is a good man."

"It's a long story."

"This had better be good!" she said sarcastically. "I think you should be jealous of Clark, Kal. I mean, he's pretty good looking, and he's a really nice guy." She stopped and listened to herself, then smiled slowly. "And yes, I do love him, but only as my best friend. There's no romantic attraction there, if that's what you mean. It's you I said 'yes' to." She leaned back against his chest again, then sat up and looked into his eyes. "Is Clark gay?"

Kal laughed harder than he'd laughed when she'd asked him that about himself. "Lois, does that brain of yours ever take time off? And no, Clark didn't tell me about Luthor's proposal, you did, remember?"

"Oh. No, I don't remember."

"It was just in passing, you were telling me something else at the time."


They talked and laughed a bit until Lois felt better. "Are you ready to go back to work now, or are you going to cry again if I take you back to your desk?"

"Only if I think about how close I came to getting into bed with the Devil. I just can't believe he had me so convinced of his integrity that I was actually considering his proposal. He's such a jerk." She took a deep ragged breath. "No, I'm going to be fine. I guess you'd better take me back to work." Then looking at his face more closely, she asked, "Did you get any sleep last night?"

"Eventually. I had a tornado to reroute. There were some deaths, a lot of damage, you know. A typical night for Superman," he smiled half-heartedly.

"I swam for awhile, then went home to bed."

"Why do you go to the arctic?"

"It's such a cold ocean. It breaks me out of my depression when I've had a particularly bad time at a rescue. I don't feel the cold too much, but since that water's so very cold, it does a lot of good for me. I go there a lot actually." He thought back to the number of times he'd been there after earthquakes and other major disasters and sighed. "A whole lot, actually."

"You can come to me for comfort, Kal," she said compassionately, looking into his deep brown eyes, cupping his cheeks with her hands.

"I know, Lois. I'm very grateful for that." He paused as he looked into her loving eyes. "Sometimes it's really hard, though. Sometimes I just tear myself up for not being faster, or being able to do more. And sometimes the scenes are so awful that I can't get away from them. When I close my eyes all I see is blood and anguish." He sighed. "There are a lot of times when I just want to be a normal person and forget about all this superhero stuff. It's not as glamorous as it looks." He ran a hand over his slicked back hair, a gesture that was familiar to Lois.

"It's not like Superman can confide in anyone. Sometimes, I think that's one of the hardest things, maintaining this image of being able to handle everything, being emotionally invulnerable as well as physically."

Lois hugged him tightly. "Oh, Kal, I'm so glad you love me. I'm so glad you'll let me be close to you. You're such a wonderful man. I had no idea it was so hard for you to be different."

His arms came around her. She thought about how much of his life he had shared with her this past week. He had never been open to her about himself before he'd proposed. He'd always kept her at a distance, never letting her get close to him, never letting her know what hurt him and how he really felt about things.

He sighed, remembering that they were on company time. "You've got to get back to work, Lois."

He got up, holding her in front of him. She raised her face to look into his eyes and he bent his head to kiss her, letting far more emotion flow into their kiss than he'd allowed himself before.

"Do you want to go out somewhere for dinner tonight or shall we just stay in?" Kal asked her, assuming that they'd be together as soon as she was finished with work. "I can make dinner for you at Clark's place if you'd like."

"That would be really nice, Kal. But aren't you pretty tired? You didn't sleep much last night, did you?"

"No, but I don't need that much sleep."

She fiddled with the cape fastenings at his shoulders and finally admitted, "I'd like to spend the evening with you tonight."

"Okay, I'll pick you up at around seven," he said, that beautiful smile pushing away all the doom and gloom.

"Don't you just want me to drive over there?"

"Wouldn't you rather fly?"

She smiled. "Yes! Of course I would rather fly!"

"See, I knew that!"

Shortly afterwards he deposited her back at work, changed and returned to the office as Clark.

He looked across the newsroom at Lois, hoping that she'd forgotten about Luthor for the moment.

She was sitting at her desk. She picked up her mug and took a sip of the cold coffee, and poured the rest into the plant on her desk. She got up from her chair and took her mug over to Clark's desk.

"So how do you want to proceed with this investigation? I'm sorry about last night. I should have told you about Superman and the police going in after the Kryptonite and Luthor. Superman told me what he'd arranged and flew me over there before I had time to call you. You're not mad at me are you, Clark?"

"No, Lois. I understand. I read what you wrote. It was really good. However, we still do have a lot of work to do to find out who killed who. Superman said that Luthor's personal assistant has long reddish brown hair."

"Yes, she does," Lois replied.

"Let me phone Henderson about that strand of hair we found at the crime scene. They've probably got the results of the DNA test back by now," Clark said, and picked up the phone.

Inspector Henderson answered his phone, sounding pleased to be able to update Clark on the case.

"Yes, we arrested her yesterday and brought her in for questioning. Her DNA matches that of the hair. I think we've got our killer. We just need to link Lex Luthor to this."

"You said the mask was partly torn from the face. Did you check it for prints?"

"We've done that. We're trying to find out who they belong to now."

"Let me know when you find out?"

"Sure, Kent."

Clark hung up the phone and turned to Lois. "They got her!"

"Yes!" she cheered. "So did they recover the weapons?"

"According to the police report Henderson gave me on Friday, the guns of the dead men matched the bullets around the look-alike's body. They haven't found the machine gun, but the hair sample puts the woman at the scene. We're going to have to do some good work to link Luthor to more than just the stolen rock at this point."

Lois picked up the folder that Jimmy had brought them last week on the backgrounds of the five men. She leafed through it. "What do they all have in common?" Lois asked, her mind sifting through the evidence.

"They've all got criminal backgrounds," Clark said with a smile as he leaned over Lois' shoulder to get a better look at the file in her hands. Breathing the scent of her hair and skin was quite distracting, however. He decided to wait until she handed it to him. He sat down and mulled over what they needed to do next.

"Okay, maybe they're all thugs who work together from time to time, " Lois suggested, handing the folder to Clark who read the first page quickly. Jimmy had run a check on their workplaces to see if there were any common links.

"If it was a limo at the scene, Lex might have been there. They have his prints now that they've arrested him. What if he got out of the limo when everyone was dead and pulled the mask off? If the guy was a fall man for Lex, then he'd probably have touched the mask to make sure he was dead. It makes sense to me!"

"Lois! That's great. I bet that's it. I'll phone Henderson again and see what he can find out."

Perry came out of his office bellowing, "Lane, Kent!"

They got up in unison. Clark didn't put his hand on the small of Lois' back as he usually did, out of respect to her engagement to Superman, as they crossed the newsroom. But then, realizing she'd appeared engaged to Lex, maybe it would be a gesture of kindness and courtesy to do so.

"Superman did a lot of legwork yesterday, didn't he! Imagine, catching Luthor red handed with something like that! Now, how are you two doing investigating the rest of the story?"

"Well, the tire tracks at the scene were made by a limo. They've been checking Luthor's cars for matching treads," Clark said. "We're going to see if his prints are on anything."

"Okay you two, this story is looking good." He shook his head. "I can't believe I'm actually going to see Lex Luthor behind bars."

"He tried to commit suicide," Lois said, her face clouding over. "Superman caught him," she added.

Perry nodded.

Walking back to their desks, Clark feared she might be losing it again. He didn't want to have to change personas again to help her deal with it. He put his hand on her shoulder and steered her into the conference room. She stifled a sob and leaned against him for comfort.

Clark's hand went up to rub her back. "I was so stupid, Clark. You tried to warn me, and I wouldn't listen. I'm sorry I was rude to you about it."

"I couldn't explain how I knew he was bad. I didn't have any proof, only what Superman had been through with him."

Lois nodded, sniffling. Clark pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Will you forgive me, Clark?"

"Of course, Lois. I must say, I was pretty worried when he proposed to you and you were considering marrying him." He recalled his turmoil before he'd eventually resolved it by proposing to her as Superman. He sighed, wondering how things would have turned out if he'd not done that. He was glad to be engaged to Lois, though. At least it had forced him into a deeper relationship with her, even if it was with the wrong identity.

"I know. You really care about me. Thanks, Clark. You're a great friend." She wiped her eyes again, remembering something else. "Superman said he's going to be moving in with you."

Clark hated carrying on with these lies. Maybe he could tell her soon. "Yes. He has to give notice and everything first. He asked me if he could have you to dinner at my place tonight. I have things to do this evening, so it works out just fine." He smiled at Lois, who had straightened up, and was suddenly looking much better.

"I don't want to be kicking you out of your own apartment, Clark!" She remembered the many times they had eaten dinner together at his place, as well as the many times they'd snuggled up together on the couch to watch movies. That was one thing she was going to miss being married to Kal. Well, maybe it'd be the same with him. Still, she couldn't get that nagging feeling out of her mind that she would be losing an awful lot if she lost Clark.

"You won't be kicking me out, Lois. I was going to go play basketball with a friend. I don't get to do it often with our long work hours."

"Are you sure? I mean, Superman can come over to my apartment instead!"

"No, Lois. It's fine. I'll be fine. Don't worry about me." He paused as he realized how much she cared about whether he was comfortable with this evening. "I want you and Superman to have a good time, Lois. You deserve it. You've been through an awful lot lately."

She wondered if he knew about their engagement. No, Superman hadn't wanted anyone to know until he was ready for them to announce it to the world. It was funny though, Clark wasn't making any snide remarks about her relationship with Superman. He was usually much more jealous than he was acting now.

"Are you ready to go back to your desk?" Clark asked, bringing her back from her thoughts.

She smiled and nodded, "Thanks, Clark. It feels like old times." She patted his chest. "Back to work, shall we?" She still felt bad that Clark would have to vacate his apartment for Superman to entertain her tonight. Her mind began to wander, wondering about Clark's social life.

She didn't think he really had much of a life outside of the time he spent at work or with her in the evenings. Her guilt compounded as she began to think about it. Well, it had been his choice to let Kal use his apartment tonight. He could have refused if it had been a bother. No, Clark was too much of a boy scout to do that. He'd let Superman have his apartment, even if he had to go stay with Jimmy. Clark was just a nice guy and a great friend she was lucky to have. Maybe she should try to find him a date. He was too nice to be alone. She was going to miss being close to him, she thought again.

Clark opened the door to the conference room and led the way back to their desks and the investigation they were working on today.


Part 9

"Mike Smithers, Harold Topac, Larry Rankin, Joe Kelly and Tom Williams…" Lois mumbled, looking through the papers Clark had handed back to her. Okay, so they've all be in and out of jail for the last couple of years. My guess is Lex contacted one of them to buy the Kryptonite."

"Or, one of them found out about it. Maybe Bureau 39 had a piece of it and one of them found out they could steal it and make some money if Luthor was interested in buying it. So then he had his other buddies come along to try to back him up on the double- cross, so he could walk away with the money and the Kryptonite," Clark speculated, rubbing his chin absently and looking up at the ceiling.

"So we need to figure out which one the leader was," Lois said.

"Oh, that's easy, Lois, the one with the Kryptonite chips beside his body."

"Oh, right." She smiled sheepishly. "So he's the one we need to investigate. We want to find out where he got it. That was Mike Smithers, right?"

"No, he was the guy with the mask. He's one of Luthor's people. Topac was the one with Kryptonite beside him. His prints were on the brief case," Clark corrected her.

"Okay, what do we know about him so far?"

"He's got a brother who works for the FBI."

"Bingo. He got information on Bureau 39 and found out what they had and where he could get it," Lois stated excitedly. "Okay, what about Mike Smithers, who is he?"

"He works for Simon, Inc. That company does various jobs under contract. It's owned by Luthor Industries. He was probably chosen for his body size and stature to pose as Luthor. He has a family…three kids and a wife in Metropolis. Poor guy. He was just set up as the guy to take the bullets. I wonder if his family got the money for the job first." Clark rubbed his chin. "Nah, from Luthor? I doubt it."

"Then Rankin, Kelly, and Williams. They're all unemployed ex- cons. They've all got shady pasts. They were probably just hired as backup gunmen," Lois deduced from the list.

"It beats me why none of them wore bullet proof vests. You know, if you know you're probably gonna get shot, the least you can do is try to protect yourself."

Lois patted her partner on the chest. "It's okay, Clark, not everyone is as worried about safety as you are!"

He raised his eyebrows at her. "See where it got them?"

She sensed a hint of undercurrent. "I got it, but I can still take care of myself," she responded to his insinuation, remembering what Kal had told her when he'd given her the whistle.

She hated to admit that she had needed help from both Kal and Clark at times. She sat down at her desk again and sipped her coffee. She eyed Clark for a moment and wondered how he was feeling about her now. He didn't treat her like she'd expected him to after she had spurned his love.

She looked down at the ring on her finger, knowing that Clark would be thinking she'd accepted Lex's proposal. Did he wonder why Superman was having her to dinner? That didn't look like she was engaged to Lex. Instead of being angry or jealous, he seemed to be more content than usual, even if he was acting a bit distant around her. That was to be expected. She'd spurned his love and now had an engagement ring on her finger. Well, it couldn't be helped. He'd get over it. But it hadn't been like him at all, to run off just when he had asked her why she had been crying. He'd always been so quick to comfort her before. He was such a decent guy.

How many people had two decent men in their lives anyway? She was a lucky woman. Since Clark and Superman were so close, they'd all likely stay friends after she married Kal! That would be perfect.

Her mind flashed back to her fiancé. He was everything she'd ever dreamed of, and even more. It was taking an awful lot of self control not to ask Jimmy to run some searches for her. Kal would tell her his secret when he was ready. It certainly seemed to tear him up to have to open this 'Pandora's Box' as he'd called it.

Who was this other identity of his? Had she met him before? Did he work at a job where she would have encountered him? She had a feeling she was missing something obvious.

Remembering her promise to wait for him to tell her, she tried to put it out of her mind. He certainly was afraid to tell her. But why? Why would it bother her to find out that he worked at the grocery store down the road? Did she know his other identity? Why would he be scared of letting her know?

She thought about it for a moment. 'Okay, what if he were say, someone I'm close to, like Lucy.'

Well, he couldn't be related to me because I would know about him already.' Who did she know anyway? Someone at the Tai Chi meetings? He'd probably go to something like that, to get rid of stress. Maybe he was an instructor. His build wasn't anything like her teacher's build. But Superman didn't use moves on people, he just used strength and speed. How about at the gym? He looked like he worked out. She didn't really know anyone at the gym except for her coach, but she was a woman. That was crazy, the machines at the gym wouldn't do him any good, he could bench press buildings!

How about a police officer? Not Henderson, no resemblance at all, plus they'd been together on many occasions. One of the officers? She tried to picture the men she'd dealt with regularly down at the station. There were a lot of them. But if he were one of them, why would it be scary to tell her? Just because he'd never told anyone before? What if it was because of the way she'd react? She did have a hot temper. It wasn't as bad as it had been when she was younger, but still, Mad Dog Lane was her nickname. But Kal wouldn't be afraid of her temper!

For goodness sake, what was she going to do to him, nothing could hurt him. No, that wasn't true. He could be hurt. He'd been hurt when the city had tried to get rid of him during the heat wave. It hurt him to see her pain, and the pain of those in trouble. Did he think she'd reject him? Is that why he'd always maintained his distance from her in the past, before she'd confronted him? It didn't make any sense. No, it had to be something else.

It was good that he'd at least told her some parts of his secret. At least it was giving her time to process things.

Perry came out of his office yelling, "Turn that up!"

The LNN announcer was standing in front of another burning building. The explosion resembled the all-nighter she'd been at with Kal. Superman was there doing the same type of rescues, flying bodies out of the building, the camera only catching him as a reddish-blue blur. The number of bodies on the road began to mount as she watched, stunned. She felt Perry's reassuring hand on her shoulder, as ambulances arrived on the scene.

Lois looked around for Clark. He'd been right there just a second ago, where was he now? She started to go back to her desk to search for more background information, but Perry stopped her.

"Lois, this looks just like the last building that exploded, do you think you can go cover this now and work on that later? Take Jimmy with you."

"Sure, Perry," she said.

It was much different to watch Kal work in the daylight than at night. "Any idea what caused this?" she asked the fire marshal.

"Natural gas leak." He turned back to the firemen who were working furiously to quench the fires that kept breaking out. They were moving a tall ladder on the top of the fire trucks to reach the victims.

Lois felt the heat abate, and looked up to see Kal hovering above the conflagration, blowing out the fire. He sucked smoke out of the building and spewed it into the atmosphere before a blur indicated he'd returned into the building.

The number of ambulances was mounting as were the number of rescuers on the scene.

Paramedics were kneeling beside victims, calling to others as they performed triage, helping those who would die without immediate attention, first. A helicopter landed a block down the street in the center of the blockaded intersection.

Stretchers were raced to the awaiting aircraft. Lois took notes. Jimmy took pictures.

Before heading back to the newsroom to write it up, Lois drove over to the site of last week's explosion. Men were still working at the site. She asked some questions and got some answers. It too had been caused by a gas leak. She pulled out her cell phone and called the gas company. The buildings had both been inspected within the last few days before the explosions had occurred.

The man in maintenance on the other end of the line gave her the names of those who had been responsible for the inspections. She asked about further sites they were to inspect personally and was given a list. She shoved her phone back into her shoulder bag and headed back to her car. The air was becoming cloudy again due to the smoke of this new fire.

She was glad to return to the newsroom, away from the horror of it all, and from the glaring daylight that didn't hide anything from view.

She looked over at Clark's desk, but he was still out. She sighed. He was so unreliable. Her emotions were on edge. She opened her email program and started a new message.

To: clarkkent@dailyplanet.com

From: loislane@dailyplanet.com


Sometimes I just don't get it. You were here a minute ago and now, once again you're gone.

You're supposed to be my partner. What is it with you? Why don't you at least let me know where you're going to be when you disappear? You're lucky Perry doesn't fire you. Sometimes I don't know why you even think you work here!

I'm really getting sick of all the stupid excuses, too. Perry's thinking of sending you on a time management seminar. He says, and I agree, that you've forgotten more things in the year we've known you than he has in his whole life. Ditto from me.

I'm trying to work on the look-alike case and I got interrupted because Perry wants us to investigate the two explosions. I found out that they were both caused by gas leaks. I've got a hunch the people doing the maintenance have something to do with it. I want to go check it out, but I need to talk to you first.

This is all getting overwhelming for me. First Lex proposes, then I find out what a scum he is when he gets arrested. We've got these two huge stories and now you've disappeared again!


Your partner, remember?"

Tears began to pool in her eyes again as the enormity of what was on her plate faced her. Sighing loudly, she clicked on the send button and headed over to fill her mug and to get a sandwich from the vending machines downstairs. It probably wouldn't have been too much to handle if her involvement with Lex hadn't been on her mind. She just couldn't believe that he'd wanted to kill Kal. How in the world could she have ever been even thinking about marrying a man who could attempt to murder the most wonderful man in the world?

Where was Clark anyway? She had to do something about him thinking that she was wearing Lex Luthor's engagement ring. She fingered the ring as she headed to the vending machines.

Why did everything have to be so complicated? Lois Lane, the woman who chose bad men. Her biggest fear. She'd even admitted it to Kal.

Men. They were always running out on you, always deceiving you in some way. None of them was any good. Just like her father. Just like Claude, Paul, and Lex. Her money dropped noisily into the machine as she viciously pushed the button for a ham and cheese sandwich on rye.

The sandwich dropped to the opening at the bottom of the vending machine. She retrieved it and turned on her heel to head back to the elevators. She came face to face with Ralph. A sneer of a smile spread across his face. "Nice ring you've got there! Word is you're engaged to Lex Luthor, soon to be a prison wife?"

Lois lost all semblances of control and in three swift moves, he lay on the floor, groaning loudly, and holding his groin. She stalked over him, picked up her sandwich, and headed into the elevator.

"Men," she snarled, tossing her hair as she swung around in the elevator to face the door. She pulled the diamond ring off her finger and stormed over to her desk as soon as the elevator doors opened. Jerking her chair out, she pulled the top drawer open and flung it in, then slammed it closed. She fell into her seat, leaning forward. Her head came down onto her arms and she sobbed. She wasn't going to have people thinking she was engaged to that creep, even if it wasn't true. It wasn't like she could explain or announce her engagement to Kal. There was almost nothing worse than being the brunt of newsroom gossip and mocking.

The noises of the newsroom intensified as she finally pulled her head up from her desk and headed to the restroom to wash her face.

Ralph came out of the elevator as she walked past. "I could charge you for that!" he sneered.

"Yeah? Well, just go ahead and try. I've had enough of your harassment. If I were you, I'd put my tail between my legs and run," she snarled as she stormed past him.

"What was that all about?" Jimmy asked him, looking up from the photos he was examining.

"Mad Dog Lane's got a bee up her a#@if you ask me!"

Jimmy's eyebrows went up. Eventually Lois came back to her desk and sat down, unwrapped her sandwich and opened a can of pop. Jimmy approached her desk slowly, unsure what to say.

"Hey, Lois," he said as he sat down in the chair beside her desk and opened a sandwich of his own, putting his can of Pepsi on the edge of her desk, then pulling a file folder out from under his arm. "I got some awesome shots from the fire! I got some of Superman being just a blur. I think they're great."

"Nice, Jimmy," she said, trying to get a handle on her temper, not that she cared whose head she bit off next.

Meanwhile, Superman worked tirelessly until the bodies and survivors had been removed from the debris. He finally left after talking to the fire marshal and searching for the cause of the explosion. There wasn't much to see, but the fire inspectors seemed to be able to make a lot out of what little evidence there was.

"If you can take it from here," he said. "I'm going to be leaving." He glanced woefully at the row of bodies the coroner was looking over, and eventually shot up into the air.

He straightened his tie as he stepped out of the staircase, glancing around the newsroom. Perry was in his office on the phone. Jimmy was sitting beside Lois' desk, having lunch with her. The general hustle and bustle included people from research bringing files over to reporters, a few people were on the stairs up to the stacks.

LNN was acclaiming the latest feats of Superman at the fire. Clark blocked it out as they enumerated the number of the dead and injured. The building had been mostly empty, compared to the one the other night. Most people had been at work or school. The victims had been mostly preschoolers and mothers as well as the retired or disabled. It just wasn't fair. He felt pretty angry about the injustice of it all. It had to have been a planned explosion, the similarities to the one the other night were just too numerous. All except the timing. Who would want to blow up a building full of innocent people? He'd been trying to figure that out for the past hour as he had worked at the scene. What kind of a pattern was behind that anyway?

Swimming briefly, before he'd returned to the Daily Planet, had done him a lot of good. He did feel ready to face being Clark Kent again.

He ignored Lois and Jimmy eating lunch across the aisle from his desk. He just wanted to write up the explosion while it was still fresh in his mind. Even though he had a photographic memory, things did seem to flow better when he wrote them down right away.

Just as he was sending it to Perry, the new mail icon popped up and he clicked on it, opening up a message from Lois. He sat back in his seat and read it, slowly exhaling. He sighed, and then turned to look at her desk. She wasn't there any longer. He could hear her in Perry's office, discussing the gas leaks and the information she'd gotten on it. He felt bad that he'd left her to investigate this on her own, at a time when she had still been so upset about Luthor's arrest and her involvement with him. He watched her body language as she stood before Perry's desk, ranting. He just wanted to scoop her up and fly away with her and to explain it all, but Superman couldn't be dropping into the newsroom every few hours.

There hadn't been much he could do about deserting her. He hadn't had enough time to speak to anyone before he'd left. The building was still exploding when he'd arrived. He knew that each second's delay meant death and tragedy for someone and their loved ones. He was grateful that he'd been able to help, but it didn't seem to be enough. It never did.

He sighed. Sometimes he wished he didn't have to carry people whose pain went through him like a knife. Maybe he should have taken over the family farm from his parents like they'd wanted him to.

"So there you are! What's your excuse this time?" Lois asked him scathingly, as she left Perry's office and walked to her desk.

Clark fiddled with the pen in his hands. "I'm sorry I abandoned you, Lois. I went to cover that fire."

"Oh yeah? Well, I didn't see you when I was there! You know what, Clark, sometimes you're just totally unreliable. I've had about all I can take of this." She looked past him at the document on his monitor and pursed her lips as she read what he'd written. "So you were there?" she finally acknowledged. "Did you already send it in to Perry? Without checking what I'd written?"

He sighed again. "Look, Lois, maybe…" he stopped himself and winced when he saw the grudge in her eyes. He walked past her to get a cup of coffee, taking great care to slowly open three packs of sugar and slowly pour them in. He looked back at her, wondering if it would be safe to talk to her at all today, at least as Clark.

She slammed her keyboard back under the desk and stood up. "I'm going to talk to the maintenance engineers, are you coming or are you…" she trailed off, and pursed her lips impatiently.

Clark drank his coffee, then grabbed his notepad and pen from his desk, and headed after her into the elevator. "I'm sorry, Lois. I wasn't thinking." She glared at him. Groveling in apologies wasn't going to help. No, this was one of those times when she needed to be left alone to fume long enough until there wasn't much left. "Look, do you really need me to come along? Wouldn't it be better if I just concentrated on solving some more of the details of this Kryptonite massacre? I don't really want to sit in the car with you when you're in this kind of a mood. I'd rather wait until you calm down and tell me what's really bothering you."

"Oh you would, would you?" she snorted and swung her head away from him, punching the lobby button. Her hair fell back into place as she stood, facing away from him. This was going to be one of those unpleasant days. Clark went along with her, wishing he could be anywhere but where he was, alongside his irate partner.

While they were out, Superman was called away on another emergency. He had abandoned Lois in the midst of a conversation with the maintenance engineers.

Later, he entered the newsroom, noticing Lois wasn't at her desk. He heard Ralph boasting loudly to one of his colleagues, "She's a real bitch, I tell you. Well, she's not getting away with it this time!"

Clark decided to ignore Ralph's bragging and went to his desk to work on his fire article as well as the accident he'd just cleared up. There had been a bit of overlap with Lois' story, but Perry planned to edit that part out and run both of them in the afternoon edition.

Perry called to Clark when the story arrived in his inbox. "Kent! My office!" Wouldn't an intercom work better than hollering across the newsroom, Clark wondered as he walked briskly to his editor's office.

"I wondered where you'd gone. I may not like the way you do it, but you certainly cover the news." He paused and went over to shut the door. "You know, son, Lois is mighty angry with you right now. I think you'd better not ripple the water for awhile. She's ripping mad."

Clark nodded. "I know, Chief."

"Ralph is threatening legal action. I guess she lambasted him at the vending machines."

Clark ran his hand through his hair as a whistle escaped his lips. Ralph was one bad apple. She'd be in for a battle now!

"I saw the ring on Lois' finger, Clark. I want you to know I'm hoping everything works out well."

Clark stood up, nodded and excused himself. "I've got to get these articles in before deadline, Perry. I'll talk to you later."

Perry stood behind his desk, shaking his head as Clark left his office. If he'd pulled out a skunk, Perry didn't think Clark would have made better time getting out of the office. 'That boy is hiding something. It's funny, he looks really pleased and miserable as heck. I guess being engaged to Lois will do that to a man! I only hope he can hold on. I just wish I knew why he was being so secretive about it all,' Perry thought as he watched Clark return to his desk.

Clark wrote up the rest of the stories for deadline, then made some phone calls about the maintenance of the destroyed apartment buildings. Was it sabotage or arson?

He hoped Lois hadn't gotten herself into any trouble. She hadn't come back to the office since he'd left her. Perhaps he should go check on her, just to make sure.

An hour later, after searching all the logical parks of the city, Superman hovered above her apartment, relieved to find her asleep in her bed. It wasn't like Lois Lane to leave work early. But then, this Luthor thing must have really upset her. Clark felt bad that he'd contributed to her problems. Had she taken her anger with him out on Ralph, or was it the other way around?

It was sure a good thing that Lois didn't know she was inadvertently engaged to Clark Kent. That would go over like a rock right now, that was for sure!


Part 10

A few hours later, Clark was standing in his kitchen, chopping up vegetables. He'd changed into a grey t-shirt and some jogging pants. Soft music played in the living room. His windows were open and the fresh smell of spring was in the air. He'd bought some flowers for the table, and the smell of the daisies reminded him of the farm where he'd spent so many happy days of his life.

He'd tried to put Lois' anger toward him out of his mind, along with all the pain he'd had to deal with earlier in the day. Putting the vegetables in a bowl and placing them in the refrigerator, he was ready to go pick up his mail. He hadn't been over there for a few weeks. It was probably piling up again. He wanted to show it to Lois later. She might be interested in what sort of fan mail Superman received. He spun into the suit and left from the balcony.

He landed just outside the main Metropolis post office and pulled the door open. "Hello, Superman!" a child said, and pulled on her mother's hand to go see him.

"Hi there, what's your name?" Superman asked, going down on one knee in front of the little blond girl.

"Sally," she said, holding out her stuffed animal to him. "Teddy's got a boo boo. Can you kiss it away and make it better?"

"Sally, no," her mother said, putting her hand out to pull the child's arm back.

"It's okay, Ma'am." Superman smiled at Sally's mother. "I'll kiss it better, where does it hurt?"

"Right here!" she said and pointed to the bear's foot.

Superman kissed the fuzzy foot, patted the girl on the head. "That should help!"

"Thank you, Superman," she said, hugging his neck. "It's getting better all ready!"

He smiled, feeling much better than he had for awhile, as he walked into the post office. It was experiences like that which really kept him going.

"Hello, Superman. We've got a big bag of mail for you right here," the clerk greeted the man in the spandex suit and stepped away from the counter. She returned a moment later, dragging a large bag behind her.

"Here, let me get that for you," he offered and reached over the counter to pull it over as if it were as light as a feather.

A moment later, he landed on his balcony and deposited the bag beside his desk. He spun back into his clothes. He felt bad about Lois, but not bad enough to keep groveling before her anymore about where he'd been and why he hadn't left her a note.

When she calmed down, she'd be back to her normal self. Maybe she'd tell Kal what was eating at her tonight.

It was seven p.m. when Kal tapped on Lois' living room window. "Hi, Kal," she said glumly, not looking like she felt a whole lot better than she had during the day.

"Hi, Lois, how was your day?" He took her in his arms and kissed her.

She made a lopsided grin and rolled her eyes. "Don't ask. I think I made more enemies today than I have in a long time."

"Oh, not good." He gave her an encouraging smile. Her brown eyes were clouded over and she looked emotionally exhausted.

"Want to go flying before we go to my place to eat?"

She shrugged. "Okay, I guess so."

"That doesn't sound like you, Lois." He swept her up in his arms and stepped up to the wide window sill, then lifted off into the sky.

The sun was low in the sky. The clouds were turning red on the tops. "Look over there," he whispered in her ear. She followed his finger and saw a circular rainbow.

"Wow," she breathed out slowly. "That's beautiful!" They flew towards it for some time until the air began to feel damp. Rings of bright colors filled the sky in front of them.

"I feel like I can reach out and touch it!" she said.

He smiled and savored the fresh air. "I used to try to do that. I tried to fly so fast I could just go through the center of it. It never worked, though. It was just a game I played. It made me feel like a dolphin, jumping through a hoop or a ring of fire!"

Lois smiled, beginning to relax as she imagined him getting his cape tangled on the hoop and then bursting into flames. She chuckled. He looked down at her and smiled.

"Do you want to see another place where I like to go?"

She nodded. He turned to head north.

"If you stay very close to me, you shouldn't get cold, but let me know if you do, okay?"

"Okay," she said with a trace of excitement in her voice, the moroseness completely gone.

"Oh look," he said, and pointed down to the whiteness below them. "Here." He dipped quickly down until Lois could see the outline of a polar bear, ambling across snow-covered terrain. Kal hung in the air above it, searching the ground. "There, look below her, she's got a cub!"

"Wow! That's amazing!" Lois said as Kal slowly circled the animals, staying high enough to be out of the large white bear's peripheral vision.

"They are migrating north again now. The ice will begin breaking up soon and the polar bears need to be on solid ground. They won't eat until fall when they can get back on the ice after freeze-up," Kal explained as they watched the bears. They were hard to see, their coats were so well camouflaged against the snow.

Lois had a good look at the polar bears, watching them interact with one another. Soon they were flying again. Finally, they hovered just above the thick layer of snow. Kal kept his cape around her, watchful of whether she felt the cold at all. She didn't seem to.

"Are you warm enough?"

"Toasty!" she responded.

"There's the magnetic north pole," he said, pointing to a flag she hadn't noticed. Whiteness spread around them in all directions.

"Oops," he said, levitating them upward.

She could see another polar bear and hear the sound of the snow crunching beneath its feet. A gigantic cracking sound split the silence. Lois turned quickly toward the sound, imagining that Kal would have to leave for some rescue.

"It's okay, Lois, it's just the ice shifting. It makes those sounds all the time, especially in the spring when it's breaking up."

"So this is where you come?"

"Well, sometimes. There's a mountain I go to over there," he nodded to the east. "I swam under here today."

"Today? When was that?"

"After the explosion."

"Did you see Clark there? I went and didn't see him, but then he came back and wrote it all up," she said, remembering how mad she had been at him and reflected on her day. It had gone horribly wrong. "I was pretty mean to him today. I guess I shouldn't have been, but he's always taking off without telling me where he's going. And he's been acting kind of aloof lately. I told him I wanted to stay friends with him, but he's different now, somehow. Oh, he looks happy enough, he's just not the same towards me."

Kal nodded as he held her. After a reflective pause, she began again. "Ralph made some snide remarks about me and I let him have it. I was so mad. Where does he get off making comments about me like that? He's such a jerk."

Her heartbeat was speeding up, as was her breathing. Kal just held her and let her vent.

"I can't believe that Lex turned out to be such a jerk! I feel so sick whenever I think about how he had those people gunned down so he could kill you!" She turned her head from where it lay on his shoulder to look at his face. "Why would he want to kill you? You've never hurt a soul! You've just tried to help, you're just helping. And you're so kind and so gentle and patient. You're a lot like Clark. Well, I guess that's why you're friends. He's like that too, so supportive." She paused for awhile, listening to the ice cracking as they drifted about. She could see another polar bear heading south with a cub. "They don't hibernate, do they? Polar bears, I mean." She began idly, not interested in the answer, then launched into spilling her feelings again.

"Do you think I'm stupid, Kal?"

He raised his eyebrows at her. "No, I think you're brilliant. But sometimes you do fail to see what's obvious when you're looking at something else. That's how you get yourself into so many tight spots." 'Sometimes you're so busy looking at one thing you overlook other stuff,' he added to himself, hoping she wouldn't take this moment to look closely at what she was overlooking with him.

"I feel so stupid. I'm such a bad judge of character, at least when it comes to my own life. I think I'm pretty good when I'm hunting down the bad guys, but in my own life, if my own emotions are involved, forget it. Lex was such a smooth talker. He was so *nice* to me. He really seemed to admire me and he treated me with such respect. I guess whenever I saw him he was always so nice to me. I've seen him be short with other people, I guess, but, you know from the first time I met him at that White Orchid Ball, he just seemed so upstanding, so honest." She sighed deeply and laid her head back against his shoulder.

"I guess that's why I was so mad at Ralph. I was already embarrassed because Clark had seen your ring and I let him think I had said yes to Lex. He's been really nice about it though. Before, he tried to convince me how bad Lex was but I wouldn't listen. I just thought he was jealous."

They were flying again before she realized it and soon came to float over a field of flowers.

"I let him think it was Lex's ring so he wouldn't ask me any questions, since you wanted it to be a secret." She looked down at her hand, which no longer bore the ring. "I was so mad about it I threw it in my desk. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It's probably better not to wear it right now, anyway."

The breeze was floating them across a meadow of lupines of all colors. A grizzly bear was standing in the midst of them nuzzling its cub. "Where are we?" Lois asked, becoming aware of the new surroundings.

"Northern BC. I love lupines. My mother always wanted to grow them, but I guess it was too far south for them to do very well."

Lois nodded, her head still against him where it had been since they'd been hovering above the polar bears. "They smell so good."

A blissful look washed over her face, something he thought was akin to ecstasy. It made him smile.

"Ralph may press charges. I kicked him in the groin and he was pretty mad at me. I think he may have a black eye, too." She looked up into his eyes. "I'd have broken all his bones if I hadn't been too disgusted to be in the same room with him."

"He may." Kal nodded, recalling what he'd heard in the newsroom earlier. "But you could probably defend yourself with harassment," he added somberly. "Lois, why do you get so mad sometimes?"

She was quiet. "I don't know." She looked out over the lupines. "My mother was always raging at my father. I guess it was her first reaction to anything. Yell first, think later."

He nodded. "My parents hardly ever raised their voices. At least, not that I can remember. Sometimes injustice would irritate my dad, but I don't think either of them said hurtful things when they were mad." He smiled then.


"I remember once when I found out I could lift heavy things, my dad was trying to get the cows into the barn."

Lois made a mental note that Kal had been raised on a farm.

He was still talking. "Betsy wouldn't come in, so Dad went on ahead into the barn, and I went out after her. I caught her and tossed her up in the air. She landed on her back on my hand, so I carried her like that into the barn. You should have seen my father's face. That cow was upside down, all four legs flailing, her tail hanging down, dragging along the barn floor. I guess I had her on my shoulder by that point." He laughed heartily and shook his head. "What my parents went through!"

"What did he do to you?"

"I got a sober lecture about treating animals and all living things with respect. He made me fence a whole field at normal speed as punishment. It took me most of the summer." He laughed again as she joined in.

"I just can't see you digging fence holes by hand! I can't believe you did that to the cow! How old were you?"

"I don't remember. I was in school, but I wasn't very old. Ten maybe?"

"Didn't you balk at having such a huge punishment?"

"Yeah. I tried to get out of it, but my parents are pretty firm. I remember sitting against a post, I'd just put in, chewing on the end of a piece of grass, sulking about it. I never cheated though. I mean I didn't do it at super speed when they weren't watching. It kind of felt good to work like that. Of course, I didn't admit it. My father would come out and give me pointers on how to do the job more efficiently. He even helped me with the fence wire. I pulled and he nailed it in place on the posts." He became quiet as he thought about his father and recalled the days in the field. "I'll never forget the look on his face when I brought that cow in upside down."

Kal was shaking with deep laughter. Lois turned around in his arms and leaned her head back on his shoulder, imagining the scene.

"I think my mother heard Betsy mooing from the house and came running out to see what was wrong. She certainly didn't see the humor in it. Not then. We had some good laughs about it as the years went by though." He paused, then after awhile mused, "My dad would make me move fences. He thought a growing boy needed something to do, so he'd have me move fences year after year. He let me do it fast. It was difficult for him to give me enough to do to keep me busy. I was so fast I could always finish a job quickly."

They floated over the field for awhile. "It's so neat to hear about your childhood. Mine was so different. I don't have many good memories. My mother was always drunk and my father was never home. I took care of my sister Lucy as well as I could…"

"Did you ever go to that AA group for children of alcoholics?"

"No. I figured I didn't need any outside advice. I've always been independent. I guess that was why."

He rubbed her back idly with one hand. "Shall we go to dinner now, my dear? After all, I just came to pick you up!"

"Oops." She smiled at him as they sped away toward Metropolis.

They landed on Clark's balcony and went inside. Kal put on some water to cook the rice and opened the fridge to retrieve the cut up vegetables. He put the cut up chicken in the frying pan, washed his hands and suggested they have something drink. "Do you want a cream soda or some apple juice?"

Lois looked at him, standing in Clark's kitchen, noting how comfortable he looked cooking. He seemed to know where everything was, not like a man who was in someone else's apartment. It was a bit odd to see the man behind the stove wearing a Superman outfit. She'd seen Clark cook many times. Suddenly the similarity struck her. From the back, he looked just like Clark, the way he moved, the way he looked for things, the way he spoke when he was working. The smile that covered his face as he offered her a drink.

Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. His secret identity…Clark Kent! Good grief! Of course! All this time she'd known he had a secret identity, and it had been right under her nose. She stood riveted in place, unable to take her eyes off him, her mind whirling.

She remembered seeing Kal land in the alley and then finding Clark in his apartment, saying that Superman was in the bathroom.

She pulled out a chair and sank into it. She was in shock. Slowly the enormity of the deceit sunk in. Her fury at Clark all day had really boiled down to not being told why he was always disappearing. Duh! She felt emotions of all sorts wash over her, feeling blinded by them. Pain, anger, resentment, curiosity…

"I'll be right back," she said, weakly standing up and heading toward the door. She left Clark's apartment, before Kal had a chance to respond.

"Lois, what's wrong?" Kal hurried to her side as she pulled the door open.

"I need some air. I have to do some thinking. I'll be back in a while." She was having a hard time making a coherent sentence. Kal stood in the doorway, watching as she walked down the stairs.

She walked for some time, thinking and stewing and venting. Kal flew out to see where she was, to make sure she was all right. From a distance he heard her thunderous heartbeat as she stormed around, kicking garbage cans and muttering expletives. Gradually she ran out of steam and paced slowly up and down the road.

He watched her, knowing her well enough to know it was best to let her stew about whatever she was upset about on her own. When she had sorted it out she'd be ready to talk.

She remembered the conversation they'd had in the Mexican restaurant, how afraid he'd been to tell her who he really was. He wasn't hiding himself from her, he'd been quite willing to let her know all about his life growing up, and why he'd taken a secret identity. It made sense. Still, the enormity of what this meant in her life was too much. No wonder he seemed so much like Clark. He *was* Clark.

She pictured Clark with the cow upside down on his shoulder and chuckled. She still couldn't put her thoughts in a coherent order. She was speechless. He'd been so wonderful to her lately. The days together had been such a dream. He'd been romantic, yet respectful of her privacy, never trying for what most men wanted. She'd felt safe with him.

She felt an ache in her chest as she remembered Clark's passionate declaration of love for her in the park. He'd given up on being with her as Clark, and had accepted that his only hope for being with her was as his other self. A tear came to her eye as she thought about how much he loved her, how good he had been to her, how Clark had been distant lately while Kal had been attentive, returning all of her affection and developing such a deep and meaningful relationship with her in such a short time.

He really loved her. That was obvious. She felt a bit irritated that Clark would do that, love her as Kal if he couldn't love her as Clark, but her feelings for him were deep, she could see why he had done it, and she could feel the pain he must have felt when she'd rejected him for his other self. She grimaced in remorse.

It wasn't his fault that he had a secret identity. He'd told her why. It made sense. He'd wanted to tell her, to marry her as himself, Clark. He wouldn't have married her as Kal. She thought about the ring in her desk and about Clark's odd behavior. No wonder he'd not been angry at her about Lex anymore.

If Clark and Superman were the same person, he should by rights have still been mad, and deeply hurt. But neither Kal nor Clark had acted that way at all.

She didn't want to break the spell between Kal and herself. Not yet. She'd never been loved like this before. All her life she'd wished someone cared about her and loved her as deeply as Kal did. What if she flew off the handle at him and scared him away. Who knew where their relationship would go if she got mad at him now. Mad for not telling her, for not trusting her for a year. These feelings of the past few days with Kal were the most wonderful feelings she'd ever had. She remembered how Clark had reacted yesterday when she'd been mad at him. He didn't want to fight with her. Of course not, he loved her. How could she have been so blind all this time?

Her words, 'Don't fall for me, Farmboy' went through her mind. Well, he had. Hook, line and sinker. But now, having given up on his real self, the one that worked beside her, always watched over her, the one that had parents she'd met, a full life back in Smallville, he'd turned to Superman, his only other hope to woo her. She remembered how she'd felt when Superman had flown her back to the office that first time she'd met him, how she'd swooned over him and looked down at Clark. For so long she'd treated Clark as a hack, this wonderful man who would do anything for her. Clark had retreated into the position she'd set out for him. Friend, partner, best friend. But she'd let him know from the start that she didn't mix romance with work. He'd understood and respected her wishes.

She'd never realized the depth of his love for her. Given a chance as Kal, and the pressure of Lex on the scene, he'd been able to be freed from her constraints.

Did she even have a right to be mad at him for deceiving her? She could have seen he was Clark in the space shuttle that first day. It had been she who had forced him to split into two people! Well, true, he'd donned the suit. But if she had really looked at his face, his smile, his physique, she could have put two and two together. Even his voice sounded the same! It was a Kansas accent. It certainly wasn't the New Troy accent that surrounded them. She shook her head and kicked the trash container on the curb.

What would have happened if she'd seen the similarity? Would she have begun to respect Clark right away? He certainly wouldn't have looked so lame with all those excuses he could never back up.

Kal watched her from afar as she headed back to Clark's apartment. He opened the door to greet her as she climbed his stairs. She barely glanced at him, ignoring his words. She descended the stairs and went to sit on the couch.

“You all right, Lois?” he asked, concern in his voice.

She nodded and leaned forward to receive the cream soda Kal brought over. When she didn't make any move to speak, he went back to lighting the candles on the table with his eyes. He wanted to put his arm around her, but something told him he'd better keep his distance for the moment.

She looked at Kal in his flashy spandex outfit. He probably wasn't too comfortable wearing it whenever he was around her, all that tight material.

He noticed her watching him.

She stood up and came over to the stove to look into the pots to see what was making the apartment smell good. She leaned against the counter to make room for him to work, so he could put the finishing touches on the vegetable sauce he'd prepared. He loved to cook, that was obvious. She'd eaten his cooking hundreds of times. Well, maybe not hundreds, but a lot.

“Why do you cook at normal speed when you could do it fast?” she asked, not wanting to talk about what was really on her mind.

“I like to relax and enjoy it. I don't do everything fast. I've always liked cooking. When I was a kid, I used to help my mother in the kitchen. We'd talk about the day as we made dinner together. It was a special time for me. She even taught me to make the most delicious apple pie.”

“I'd love to try it sometime!” Lois hinted and smiled at him.

He looked at her and grinned with that drop dead, knock down smile of Clark Kent's. “I've got one ready for dessert!”

He was such a wonderful man, whoever he was. Both of them were. Suddenly she felt very weak and the prospect of having dinner didn't seem to be as tempting as it had been earlier. The events of the day were a bit overwhelming for her. “Is it okay if I go lie down for awhile?” she asked. He looked up from the sauce he was stirring. “Of course, Lois!”

She nodded, walked into his bedroom, and curled up in his bed, snuggling her head into his pillow. Clark's scent on the sheets soothed her troubled thoughts. It was a smell that she associated with comfort. She'd had her head on his shoulder many times when she'd needed a shoulder to cry on. So many thoughts were rushing through her mind; the way her anger may have gotten her into a lawsuit with Ralph and her viciousness toward Clark earlier in the day. That email she'd sent him. She sighed again.

No wonder Clark was always running out. No wonder he'd gotten the story of the explosion. She remembered the poignant piece about Kal. That had been right after they'd become engaged. No wonder it had been good. Clark had been writing from his very own heart about his feelings.

Tears spilled from her eyes as she buried her head in the pillow and sobbed.

Kal heard her from the kitchen. In a flash, he had turned off the burners and was laying beside her, hugging her close.

“There, there, Lois. Everything's going to be all right. Don't cry.”

She sobbed against his chest, making no effort to hide the pain she felt about her behavior towards him. Clark must have felt horrible knowing that she was going to marry Lex if Superman wouldn't return her love for him. She cried harder. How could she have ever even thought of marrying Lex? How could she have looked past the ordinary man to the one in the super colors? They were so similar. They both stood for truth and justice. Clark had tried to keep her from falling in love with Superman. He knew he could never be Clark if he were Superman with her. But then, finally when she poured out her love for Superman, Clark had thrown caution to the wind and had let her see so much of himself. He'd practically told her his whole secret.

So that's what Kal and Clark had been hiding for so long, afraid of being discovered when he traveled and having to leave town. All those stupid excuses. No wonder nobody had called him Kal-El before. He was Clark to most of the world, and Superman to the rest.

She thought of the Lone Ranger's mask. She had thought that Kal's mask was probably a thick beard, but that wouldn't come off and on, unless it was a fake. She'd never really considered glasses. She had also assumed Kal worked in some kind of a physical job when he'd told her about his other life.

She'd wondered if he had a social life with women in his other life. He hadn't said where he'd worked, obviously. That would have been a dead giveaway.

She sighed as the tears began to abate. She felt tired.

"I love you, Lois.” Kal murmured as he held her close. She squeezed him and closed her eyes, her head nestled on the pillow and against his chest.

"I love you, too." Her breathing deepened and her heartbeat slowed. Kal looked down onto her childlike, tear streaked face, gently drying it with his hand. He loved her so much. He had always ached to hold her, to sleep with her next to him, to surrender himself to her kisses. He kissed her forehead gently and relaxed into the softness of the comforter beneath him. She had tucked herself into his bed when she'd gone to lie down, so the comforter now ensured that he'd act appropriately. She looked delicate, so fragile. He had no idea what had upset her so much, but he imagined it had something to do with her blindness about Lex.

Dreams took her mind away on a journey, spinning all her thoughts into a finely woven pattern. She was flying in Clark's arms, and then landing with him in the newsroom where he morphed into Kal at Clark's desk. They flew after the bad guys together. He kissed her passionately, blissfully. She felt calm and content. The man she loved was really, in fact, both men she loved, one as a friend and one romantically. Then the three of them were flying in a trio. But Clark and Kal would bump into each other and become one person, then separate again into two. As they all landed, the two men became one, carrying her, holding her, kissing her, marrying her. Wedding music filled the room as she stood beside Clark. He slid a ring onto her finger, and then their lips met again. The dream went on, taking all her problems and all her doubts and insecurities and weaving them together into a beautiful pattern.

She sighed and stretched under Kal's arm. His gaze hadn't left her face. He watched her eyelids flutter, the muscles in her face tense and relax, her lips move, whispering 'I do, Clark, or Kal, I do'. She smiled and moaned quietly, her body moving sensuously beneath his arm which was draped across her stomach as she snuggled closer to him.

She knew! How had she found out? But much more important, she wasn't mad at him. He blushed, imagining what she was dreaming about. He'd never thought she would dream about him that way. He'd always dreamed of her, though.

For the past year he'd dreamed about being close to her, the way he wanted to be when they were married. He'd thought his dreams were dashed when she'd been almost ready to accept Lex's proposal. He'd felt unbearable pain about her rejection and the idea that she might marry Luthor. He grimaced as he remembered it. It wasn't much different from the way Kryptonite made him feel.

She'd called him 'Clark or Kal,' in her dream. Thankfully, not Luthor. No, it would never be Luthor now. She was now realizing that she really loved her best friend, who was also her fiancé. He wished he could see into her mind to find out what her dream was all about. He studied her face, feeling her presence, trying to feel her mind. Was it wrong to try to read her mind? Could he even do that if he tried? He'd felt at times that he'd been able to read his mother's mind, answering her when she hadn't spoken yet. Was that just from being with her all the time?

He and Lois had often finished each others sentences since they'd started working together as partners. He felt bad that he'd not told her where he was going yesterday. But she'd been way too mad for that, to see what was wrong. Of course, she'd just watched Luthor try to plunge to his death. What must have gone through her mind and soul, seeing someone she'd felt close to about to hit the pavement. But Superman had saved Luthor and she hadn't had to watch something so horrible. There had been tears on her face, though. She'd been very upset.

He thought for a long time, finally letting sleep claim him as well. He shifted slightly, snuggling himself into the bed, both his arms around Lois' warm body, the comforter between them. As his dreams took him into that other world of fantasy and wonder, where many of his problems had been solved, where the woman he loved always loved him. His body began to levitate above the bed, carrying Lois who was wrapped snugly in his arms. The comforter that draped over her was hanging down to the bed below. Unconsciously, he pulled her on top of himself where she was curled up in the comforter, her knees bent, her arms tucked into her body, her head pulled down toward her chest. He stretched out under her as he dreamed, his body going through what it always did when he dreamed of being married to her. He ran his hands through her hair, caressing her back, lost in his dreams. She found his lips and they were lost together in their love for one another as they kissed. His eyes flittered open as he floated back down onto the bed, realizing that not all of what he had dreamed had happened. He blushed, glad to find that she was still wrapped in the comforter and he was wearing his spandex suit. He relaxed beside her on the bed. She snuggled into him, moaning as she searched for his lips again. He squeezed her to himself, turning his face away from her lips, which had found his cheek instead. She groaned in frustration.

“No, Lois, we can't,” he heard himself saying. She opened her eyes slightly, remembering that she had come to lie down in his bed. Her dreams had helped to clear her mind. Her thoughts seemed to be more calm and in order. She nodded in appreciation and contented herself with putting her head back against his shoulder.

“I love you, Clark. I'm sorry I didn't know how much I loved you before. Thank you for loving me and saving me from myself,” she murmured.

Just then, the grinding sound of metal on metal met his sensitive ears. “Not now!” he moaned. “Lois, there's been a train wreck, I've go to go. Shall I take you to your apartment on the way?”

She started into wakefulness. “Do you have time?”

In moments, she was in her own bed, tucked under her own covers with her head on her own pillow. Kal had rushed away in a gust of wind. She rolled over and snuggled her head against the pillow. “I love you, Clark Kent, even if you did lie to me,” she murmured before she drifted back to sleep.

He could hear it as he flew away from her building. He smiled, relieved that she finally knew, that she wasn't mad, and that she still loved him. But this time, finally, she loved all of him. As he flew to the train wreck and as he worked there, he recounted the evening and wondered how she had figured it out. It was better this way; that she knew. It had been hard to let Clark be the disguise. His greatest reason for not telling her, or maybe his only reason, was fear that she'd reject him outright. Since she hadn't, now they could get on with their lives together. He could take her out to visit with his parents. They could announce their engagement. But best of all, they could actually get married. That is, assuming that she still wanted to marry him even though he was only Clark Kent. But, she'd just said she loved Clark.

No, everything would be fine. Wonderful, even. His thoughts were enough to buoy him up throughout his rescue mission. Should he have told her himself? No, he'd already paved the way for telling her. It hadn't been such a shock that there was another identity. The shock would have been that she knew the other person.


Part 11

Not having spoken to her since the night before, Clark walked into the newsroom to the sound of LNN on the TV monitors. “According to Mexican sources, our Man of Steel seems to have found himself a girlfriend.” A photo of Lois and Superman, kissing beside a building on a beach, and another of Superman buying tulips in a flower market in Holland were showing on the set. Clark moved closer to the monitors to join Lois, Jimmy, and Perry who were already standing there. He took a deep breath and went back to his seat.

A few moments later, a smirking Ralph walked past Lois' desk and dropped a copy of the National Inquisitor on it. The cover picture showed Lois and Superman kissing. “The Ice Queen's got the hots for Superman now, too!” he said, loudly enough for Lois to hear him, along with half the newsroom.

“Get that trash out of my newsroom!” Perry barked, striding quickly over and snatching it up from Lois' desk. Ralph shot Lois a drop-dead look.

Beside the photo of Lois and Superman was another one of her tear streaked face, taken right after Lex had jumped off of Luthor Tower. It was paired with a shot of Luthor falling. The caption read, 'Lois Lane Grieves Billionaire Boyfriend, Lex Luthor.' Another shot showed the ring on her finger, questioning whose ring it was, Lex Luthor's or Superman's.

Lois grabbed the tabloid from Perry angrily. “Give me that!” she seethed as she read the captions that made her look like she was cheating on Lex to be with Superman.

“Oh, give me a break!” she snorted, wadding it up and dropping it in her garbage can.

“Looks like some double chocolate ice cream is in order,” Clark said, putting a hand on her shoulder, then whispering, “I'm sorry, Lois.”

She nodded with tight lips. “It all comes from being high profile. They always want to dig up dirt on someone. So today, it's me. Big deal. It's not like it's the first time.”

His eyebrows went up inquisitively. “Don't ask,” she said, pushing him away with a hand on his chest and returning to her desk. Back in work mode now, she asked, “Did you get a story from that Superman thing last night?”

He nodded in response. “Yup. Signed, sealed, and delivered.”

A few minutes later Lois hung up the phone and looked over at Clark's desk.

“That was Henderson. They have the gun. It was a Minimi Light machine gun. The bullets they recovered match it. They've gone to pick up Mrs. Cox now. They've also matched the prints on the mask to Luthor."

“Yes!” Clark slapped his hand on his desk. “Did he say what they're charging Luthor with?

“Conspiracy to commit murder and a host of other things.”

Clark grinned from ear to ear. “Well, Lois, this is truly a cause for celebration. Would you like me to take you out for that chocolate ice cream?” he asked, getting up and extending his elbow to his partner.

She laughed, her brown hair waving gracefully as she stood up and put her arm through his elbow. “That would be just lovely!”

Seated in an outdoor café eating their ice cream cones, Clark touched her free hand and spoke. “Lois? I'm sorry about everything. I can't imagine what this must all be like for you!”

“You mean having the wool pulled over my eyes by three people?”


“Lex, Superman and Clark Kent. That's three.”

He smiled lopsidedly. “Are you mad at me? I put off telling you. I was sure you'd hate me and lock me out of your life forever.”

She nodded, “I know. No, I'm not mad, not really.” She sighed. “I don't know what you could have done any differently. What's it been like for you? I mean hiding and running all these years?”

“Hard, Lois. You have to know that.”

“Yes, I do,” she nodded as she licked her ice cream, getting that blissful look on her face as she swallowed it.

Did she just do that to torment him, or did she really love chocolate that much, he silently wondered.

“You're a terrible liar. Did Perry really catch you in the storage room about to fly out the window when you'd said you were going to make a phone call?”

“Yup. I was looking for you. I thought the gig was up! But he never mentioned it after that. I'm just glad I wasn't spinning into the suit when he burst in. But he's pretty smart; I wouldn't put it past him to have figured things out.”

“You know, Perry would never reveal your secret!”

“I know. But I just don't want to tell anyone. You're the only one who knows, except for my parents. Lex Luthor would give anything to find out about my secret.” He paused to eat some of his ice cream. He glanced up at her nervously as he took a bite, his most important question on his mind. “So, are we still an item? I mean, are we still engaged?”

A smile washed across her face and she took a deep breath. “If you still want me!”

“Always.” He squeezed her hand and leaned over the table to place a kiss on her lips. “But why aren't you mad? I thought you'd be so mad that you'd never speak to me again. I mean, I did lie to you for a whole year.”

“But only about one thing, only to protect your life. You couldn't tell me. I'm pretty amazed I didn't find out. It doesn't say too much about my investigative abilities.”

“Your abilities are great, Lois, you just weren't investigating this.”

“I guess I didn't think that Superman could be one of us, that he'd want to fit in or be just one of the crowd.”

“But that's what I've wanted my whole life.”

“I know,” she laughed.

Lois' reaction the evening before hadn't made sense to him. When she'd realized his identity, he'd expected her to be steaming mad, probably deeply hurt, and, in either case, not speaking to him for days. But she hadn't reacted like that at all. Instead of hating him last night and still today, here she was, teasing him, happy, and ready to start a relationship with him, Clark Kent.

“I still picture you holding that cow upside down!” she said, cheerfully waving her spoon at him and laughing. “You're really something, Clark Kent.”

“So are you, Lois Lane, so are you!” They shared a few intimate moments together, before they decided to walk back to the office.

“Would you mind if I got you a different engagement ring? I think that one may have too much attached to it right now, what with the sleaze bags' interpretations.”

She smiled warmly. “You mean, one from Clark Kent this time?”


“That'd be nice, Clark. I told Perry I was wearing it to keep some undesirables away from me when I went out.”

He nodded. “Did he believe you?”

“I don't know.” She looked up at him, then added sarcastically, “probably not.”

He shrugged, “Don't ask me! He didn't get to be senior managing editor by yodeling, but I think he was assuming it was mine.”


Clark recounted Perry's words to him the other day as the pair returned to the newsroom. Clark perched himself on the corner of Lois' desk as he always had before she'd started dating Superman. She leaned back in her chair to discuss their latest assignment with him. They'd finished up exposing the cause of the explosions. They'd linked them to a disgruntled employee for Minot, who owned the two buildings.

They worked busily as a team, not needing to leave the newsroom for most of the day. Superman had been seen on LNN once or twice for local emergencies, but otherwise it had been a calm day.


He looked up from his desk as Lois strolled over and leaned against it. "Can I talk to you in the conference room for a minute?"

When she'd closed the blinds, she turned to him as he took her in his arms. “It's wonderful to know what you're up to now. It's so different; to be working beside the man I love, instead of just my best friend. You can't believe what a relief it is to know where you are going when you leave all the time. I feel so much more relaxed than I ever did before. It's certainly nice not to be mad at you anymore!” She grinned, meeting his dancing eyes.

“You think it's nice! Whoa,” he chuckled, adding softly, “Have you any idea what it's like always to be on the wrong end of the stick? I'd be out there helping out with some disaster, and meanwhile I was getting into deep trouble with my partner for leaving. It wasn't an easy life, that's for sure. I couldn't in good conscience ignore a cry for help, but I also couldn't in good conscience leave my partner high and dry. It was such a battle to juggle the two opposing roles in my life.”

They talked a bit more, and then returned to their desks and to their research. But Clark's heart wouldn't calm down, though he tried to ignore it and stay focused. As the newsroom emptied out for the day, he turned off his computer and looked at Lois, who was still typing furiously on her keyboard.

“Are you going to be much longer?”

“Nope, I'm just about to send this to Perry. Would you look it over first?”

”You want me to edit your copy?” he asked jokingly, raising his eyebrows as he came over. He put his hands on her shoulders and massaged them as he read the article on her screen. “Should be its instead of it's,” he said. “Otherwise it looks good.”

“Thanks,” she said, pushing send without fixing her grammatical mistake. To his inquisitive look she retorted, “Editors, Clark! I only wanted my facts checked.”

He chuckled as she turned off her computer and picked up her handbag.

“Would you like to have dinner with me? I have something I want to show you.”

“Okay. Come for me at seven?”

“Sounds good.”

They drove together to her apartment, and then Superman flew back to his balcony.

Lois still couldn't believe she hadn't yelled and screamed at Clark when she'd found out his secret. Probably because she had known that there was a secret identity. It had certainly been a stunning revelation, though. She turned it over in her mind. It had been so much easier at work to understand his reactions when disasters had appeared on TV. She felt much better about him as a person since he wasn't just running off anymore. She'd not realized what a burden it had been for him to have to deal with her temper or annoyance on a daily basis.

She tossed her bag on the couch and went to get ready for her date, the first date she'd ever had with Clark Kent. She selected a soft, red, knee length dress and curled her hair.

Clark showed up right on time, looking as handsome as was Kryptonianly possible. His face radiated his happiness as he pulled flowers out from behind his back. A dozen red roses. She sighed as she took them.

It had taken them a long time to get to this point. He'd loved her for a long time, he'd said that the day in the park. Too bad she'd rejected him back in the beginning.

“You didn't have to do that, Clark,” she said, opening the cupboard door to look for another vase. The tulips sat on the coffee table. She'd put these on the table. Clark appeared beside her and reached up to retrieve the vase on the shelf.

“I like to bring flowers when I take a lady on a date,” he said as he set the vase on the counter and cupped her cheek, bringing her face up as he leaned down to kiss her. Her arms went around him as he embraced her.

“My apartment will fill up with them pretty soon, then," she murmured.

“Um hum,” he responded and kissed her again. When they finally broke apart, he whispered huskily into her hair, “I never knew kissing could be so nice!” He held her close and looked into her dark brown eyes. “Thank you for loving me, Lois, and for forgiving me.”

She squeezed him and snuggled her cheek into his warm chest. “My pleasure!” she said and turned to meet his longing gaze. She was rewarded by his beaming smile.

“Shall we go, then?”

“I guess so,” she responded. She loosened her arms and stepped over to pick up her clutch from the end table. “I'm all ready.”

He stood looking at her. “Lois, you look absolutely dazzling tonight. You're so beautiful.”

“Thank you, Clark,” she said, ducking her head and blushing slightly.

They entered his apartment to the smell of braised duck with small potatoes and vegetables. The table was set for two.

Clark lit the candles and asked Lois, “Would you like a drink?”

“Okay. Do you have cream soda?”

“Of course I do! I know its place in your life and in any refrigerator that serves you!”

He pulled out a chair for her, then draped her napkin across her lap and pushed her chair back in.

“Thank you. You're such a gentleman, Clark.”

He warmed the various serving dishes of food on the table and replied, “Madam,” bowing his head slightly before settling himself in his own chair.

“Oh, Clark, this is nice.” Soft music played in the background. Candles throughout his open apartment flickered patterns on the walls. A small breeze from the open window wafted across the open apartment.

“Did you actually cook this?” she said in amazement, savoring the taste of a bite of duck.

“A true chef, at your service,” he said smiling.

They ate in contented silence, and then leaned back in their chairs.

“Would you like some coffee and a piece of apple pie?” Clark offered.

“Oh yes, Clark! We were going to have that last night, weren't we?”

“Yeah, fortunately pies keep very well!” he answered and got up. “Heated, with vanilla ice cream? Or with a scoop of whipped cream and chocolate dribbled over the top?

She smiled happily. “Yes!”

He raised his eyebrows and prepared her the chocolate version of dessert and the same for himself.

When they had finished eating, Clark touched her hand and said, “Lois, I have a surprise for you.”

“Yes?” she wondered what he was up to now. The ring perhaps? It had been such a romantic dinner already.

There was a stir of wind, and then a knock sounded at the door. Another stir of wind preceded Clark rising from his chair. “Let me get that.”

He pulled the door open and revealed none other than his colorful alter ego standing in the doorway. She didn't look to see where Clark had disappeared to.

“Hi, Lois," Kal began as he stepped into the apartment and closed the door. "Clark and I thought you might want to talk to each of us about anything you may have trouble reconciling, now that you know that we're both the same person," he grinned, and crossed his arms, his face reverting to the formal Superman image. “May I join you two?”

Another rush of wind fanned the candlelight as Clark appeared next to his chair. “Why, yes, Superman, won't you join us? I was thinking that Lois may want to talk to each of us. What a good idea for you to drop by!” He motioned to Kal to come into the living room and take a seat on the couch.

Clark pulled Lois' chair out for her and pulled her into his arms. “Nice surprise?” She laughed. “You do beat all, Clark Kent. This is one conversation I wouldn't miss for anything!”

“Well, let's not keep our guest waiting,” he winked and walked with her to the empty living room where Kal suddenly appeared in an easy chair. Clark made sure that Lois sat on the couch where he would be able to be on the other side of her so she'd have to turn her head to see either of them. “I've been practicing this,” Clark whispered in her ear before turning into Superman.

He hadn't quite worked out the amount of wind that his movements were creating. Using his speed, he actually created the illusion of three people in the room. Clark had studied his computer monitor one day, and had watched how the many dots, which compose the screen, had really been flashing at super-speed. He had decided that if he were to change back and forth between the two characters at that rate, anyone seeing him would be completely fooled.

“Lois,” Kal began. “Clark here tells me that he would like to ask you for your hand in marriage. He knows however that you've promised yourself to me.”

Lois giggled and turned to look at Clark who was sitting on the other side of her. Kal was speaking again, so she turned her head back to him. “Now, Lois. We've been through quite a lot together, wouldn't you say? After all, I'm sure the past few days have meant as much to you as they have meant to me.”

She smiled lovingly at him. “They certainly have, Kal. You've been wonderful. I loved surfing on your stomach!” she exclaimed and giggled. “I loved seeing where you go. I loved spending time with you, getting to know the man beneath the suit.”

“Then how do you feel about returning my ring to me and calling off our engagement, which of course we've never announced?”

“I'd rather not, actually, Kal. I've loved you from the first time I saw you. You are simply out of this world. But you're so down to earth at the same time! I've learned more about you this week than I'd ever imagined I could know. I laugh every time I think about Betsy the cow!”

“Oh no,” Clark protested as she turned her head to him. “That was me! I was the one who did that. Superman wasn't around yet, remember?”

“Oh,” Lois said, playing along, “so are you telling me that you have super powers, too? I always thought that Clark Kent was just an ordinary guy from a farm in Kansas.”

“Well, most of the time,” he smiled, unable to stop himself from leaning over and brushing his lips against her cheek. “Lois, I love you. I have loved you from the moment I saw you. We've been best friends for a long time. We've been through a lot together. I know how you must love to fly with the man in tights; but would you really be happy with him? I mean, would you be able to walk to the store together, work together at the Daily Planet? Would you really be happy having to hide your marriage from the world because some lunatic would always be trying to use you to get to him?”

“You're right, Clark, and I do love you. I never knew how much I loved you until last night. I wouldn't want to lose you as my partner at work, or as my best friend. I can see that there would be a lot of talk if the National Inquisitor got hold of a story of Superman's wife being too friendly with Clark Kent! All those all-nighter assignments would be very difficult, too.”

Superman cleared his throat, drawing Lois' attention back to himself. “Lois, think about it. Can Clark Kent, the ordinary man, fly you anywhere you want to go? Can he take you to see all sorts of wonders that no one else has ever seen?”

She nodded. “You're right, Kal. I just don't think I could lose you either. Not just for what you could do for me, but I want to be there for you, to comfort you when you are devastated, to encourage you when you've done all you can but feel it's not enough. I want to hear your words of wisdom. I want to be enveloped in your aura of safety and security.”

“But, Lois,” Clark protested. “I can provide a home for you. Superman has no money. He'll never be able to buy a house or a car. He can't take you out to dinner where you have to pay. He's an alien; perhaps he can't even give you children!”

Lois chuckled. "Actually, Clark, Kal has a secret identity and a job!" Suddenly finding this conversation very funny she added, “I can see that you two have a lot to work out. There's a lot of underlying jealousy between you. Have you ever thought of going into counseling?” She turned repeatedly from one to another, both of whom were always right where she expected them to be.

Clark sighed as she stopped to gaze into his warm brown eyes. “Lois, do you think you could turn from one of us to the other a bit more slowly?” he whispered, holding his thumb and first finger a little bit apart and winking.

She threw her arms around him. “Oh, Clark. You're the best.”

Superman cleared his throat again. The feeling of Clark's shoulders beneath Lois's arms felt a bit spongy. He was working very hard to keep this up; changing clothes and position so quickly back and forth, that he actually appeared to be in two places at once.

“Clark, you feel so spongy!” she said, looking at Superman and laughing, but tightening her grip around Clark's neck.

Suddenly Clark's arms were around her and Superman had mysteriously disappeared, at least for the duration of their deep, passionate kiss.

Then Clark dropped one knee to the floor, took a small box out of his pocket, and opened it to face Lois. A gold engagement and matching wedding band were covered with small diamonds, with a large one in the center of the engagement ring.

Her face lit up as she looked from the ring to his face. She glanced over to see Superman, but he wasn't there.

“Lois Lane, will you marry me?”

“Yes, Clark Kent, but only on one condition.”

His eyebrows went up. “And that would be?”

“That you won't mind if I also have a long term affair with Kal.” Her mouth opened as the smile covered her face.

“Well, dear…” Clark turned into Superman who looked at her lovingly. “That sounds like something I can live with. How do you feel about it, Clark?”

“Suits me just fine," the kneeling Clark responded.

“Good. Then, yes, Clark, I will be happy to marry you!” Lois giggled.

Clark took the ring out of the box and put it on her finger.

Suddenly Kal knelt in Clark's place holding the other ring. "Lois Lane, will you marry me?"

She smiled and teased, "Well, only if I can also have a long term affair with Clark."

“I thought that two rings would be a good idea, somehow I knew that this would be your decision. When we get married, Clark can put this second ring on your finger for me."

Lois looked at her hand blissfully, then took Kal's face in her hands and kissed him again. Clark replaced Kal, and got up to sit on the couch beside her and cradled her face as her silky brown hair fell over his hands.

They hugged and soon found themselves floating. “But, Clark,” Lois protested jokingly, “you can't fly!”

“Wanna bet?” They disappeared from the room, out into the stars, Clark still wearing his Earth clothing, and Lois her red dress. Superman was nowhere to be seen. Not tonight anyway.