Novel Idea

By Matrix

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: August, 2006

Summary: Lois is writing another novel. This one mirroring what's happening in her life. Could real life turn out to be as good as her imagination? (Story takes place immediately following "The Phoenix")

All characters and settings are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros., and whoever else can legally lay claim to them. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written purely for fun, not for profit, but the story is an original idea and belongs to me. A thank you to the writers of Lois & Clark, without them we wouldn't have this wonderful world to play in.

On this story a very special thank you to Sue for getting out her pointy stick, being brutally honest with me (yes, I know I asked for it), and forcing me to make this story better than it was to begin with. Thank you.


He took her in his arms, engulfing her small frame with his muscular physique. He was so handsome, oh those eyes. Mmm, chocolate didn't have anything on those dark brown pools. She could get lost in them, drown in them.

She loved the playful way that one piece of hair curled down over his forehead. She reached up, running her hands through the thick, dark mane, enjoying the way it felt as it slid through her fingers, loving the way his breath caught in his throat as her hands came to the ends of it, tugging ever so slightly.

She let out a soft gasp as he nibbled gently at her ear, whispering soft words. Oh, that voice. The way she could feel the deep tones of it in her chest pressed against his. She felt an excited shiver involuntarily flow through her.

Even though as a man he was much stronger than her, she easily overcame him, pushing him to the bed. He wouldn't resist her, not tonight, not ever. Her hands felt along his muscular chest and down across his perfectly sculpted abdomen before continuing on down his body in further exploration.

A groan escaped his lips and he wrapped her in a close embrace as he turned them over on the bed. He leaned over her, pinning her hands down beside her. She was completely at his mercy. He captured her lips in a long, slow kiss that made her body tremble in anticipation.

"Oh! Yes, Mark! Please don't stop!"

"Lois?" a voice said.

I tear my eyes away from my screen and look around the room in search of the voice. I soon locate it.

"Lois? What are you doing?" Lucy asks me, looking slightly irritated.

"Um, nothing, nothing really. Did you need something?" I ask her.

"Nothing huh? Well something sure had your attention. I've been hollering from the kitchen asking where you keep your peanut butter for the last five minutes. When I didn't get a response I decided to come check on you."

I feel myself blush and do my best to keep my body between Lucy and my computer screen. If she found out I was writing a romance novel, I'd never hear the end of it. In truth I've tried several times to write a novel, and I've written several different ones; I have yet to finish one, though. I started this one yesterday. I had a little inspiration… Mmm, champagne, Clark, the fall to the couch, that body!

I realize Lucy is still standing there staring at me. Okay, what did she want? Oh yeah. "I'm sorry. Just a little something I had to type up. Peanut Butter? Yeah, I think I have some. Hang on, I'll come find it for you."

Thankfully Lucy leaves the room, headed back to the kitchen. I glance wistfully at the words I'd been writing. I'll be back to write more soon, I silently promise as I hit the save button and close the document down from prying eyes.

It's only been two days and one very long night — two if you count tonight — since the evening with Clark in that condo on the marina. I'd felt the need to work out a little frustration… and a little fantasy. Oh, the way that body had felt when I fell on top of him on the couch.

"Ahem! Peanut butter!" I almost fall out of my chair when I hear Lucy holler from the kitchen. Okay, no more daydreaming for now. I hurry off to the kitchen.

"Sorry, Luce. Here you go," I say as I dig the jar out from underneath the kitchen sink.

"You keep your peanut butter under the sink?" she asks me.

"I just got it yesterday and didn't have time to put it away yet. I just threw the whole bag of groceries under there, okay? Satisfied?"

"Not really. You work too much. You need to get out. Live a little. Have some fun."

"I have fun. What's fun to you isn't fun to me," I tell her a little huffily.

"Oh, and writing a make-believe story about a made-up guy is?" She has one hand on her hip and if her eyebrow was any higher it would come off her face.

"You read my story?" I exclaim.

"Yeah, the little bit you'd written. I got bored today while you were at work. I was playing around on the computer and came across it. You know, that last scene you left me hanging on… Wow. I never knew there was so much passion bottled up in that sensible little faŤade you show to the world. So, who is he? Who's Mark?"

"I refuse to discuss this with you. It's none of your business. I can't believe you'd go through my stuff like that."

I'm rewarded for my indignation with a simple shrug of her shoulders.

"Well, you were supposed to take the day off to spend with me," she complains, pointing a finger at me. "You left me this morning sitting here in your apartment. If you'd actually take a day off once in a while to spend with your only sister when I'm here visiting you, maybe I wouldn't have to entertain myself."

"I wouldn't have had to run off if your ex-boyfriend's trial and the recapture of Rollie Vale wasn't such big news right now. That's your fault."

"Sure, like the news about Lex isn't bigger news? You aren't going to blame this on me, you workaholic. So what's his last name?"


"His last name. Mark's last name. Come on, you can at least give me that much. From what I read earlier it looked like we were going to get to a steamy part. Did you finish that part? Is that what was holding your attention so completely just now?" She giggles a little.

I'm indignant. She's getting too much pleasure out of humiliating me. "It's Ghent. And that's none of your business. I can see I'm going to have to password-protect that file. Oh, and by the way, you aren't here to visit me, anyway. You moved back here to Metropolis, remember? I can't help it if you have more free time on your hands than I do."

She ignores the last part of my statement. "Ghent? That's a dumb last name, at least for a romance novel. Ghent."

"What would you know? Are you a writer?"

She's not listening to me. She's standing there mumbling something to herself. I start to protest her disregard when I realize what she's mumbling.

"Mark Ghent. Ghent, like Kent. Clark Kent. Mark, Clark. Ha! You're writing about Clark Kent!" Lucy's eyes go wide in surprise at her discovery.

"No, I'm not," I lie. "That's absurd! He's my work partner." It's a good thing she hasn't seen one of the other novels I started a while back, 'The True and Amazing Adventures of Wanda Detroit'; she'd have a field day with that one. Thankfully it's tucked safely away on my computer at work. Which is where this one should be, I guess, but then again I don't usually have houseguests.

"Uh-huh. Well then, you won't object if I ask him out to lunch tomorrow."

"What?" I exclaim.

"Yeah, I figure that since I can't seem to drag you away from work to do anything fun, I'll ask Clark. I figure I owe him at least a lunch for the way Johnny roughed him up. I never really got to apologize to him for that. Poor guy, I know he doesn't get any sympathy from you. So, you don't mind?"

"Mind? No. Why would I mind? Don't be silly." What does she mean — 'he doesn't get any sympathy from me'? I saved his life, after all, didn't I?

I shift uncomfortably under Lucy's probing gaze. The thought of Lucy and Clark going out to lunch is making my blood pressure rise. What's wrong with me? Am I… jealous? How ridiculous! Jealous? Over Clark? Preposterous. I mean it's not like Clark and I are actually dating or anything. I mean he did ask me out, and we almost had a date; but it's not like we're *officially* dating or anything. Why shouldn't Lucy go out to lunch with him? Why am I even worried? Mayson is a bigger threat than Lucy is. Wait. What am I saying? I am jealous! Over Clark! I'm acting like a jealous, possessive, insecure…

"Great! I'll come by tomorrow morning then," Lucy says, cutting into my inner babbling. She walks off towards my bedroom with a loaf of bread in one hand and a jar of peanut butter in the other.

"Wait! You're not going to eat that in bed, are you? Lucy?" It was one thing that I had offered to let Lucy stay with me until she moved on-campus at Metropolis University, but that didn't mean I wanted bread crumbs and peanut butter spread all over my new comforter. "Lucy!"


I glance down at my watch again. It was almost noon and still no sign of Lucy. She said she'd come by this morning. Maybe she'd decided not to ask him after all.

The thought brings a smile to my face. Wait a minute? Since when is the thought of having Clark all to myself the be-all, end-all thing in my universe? Ugh! This is ridiculous! I've got to prove to myself, and to Clark, that he is not the center of my universe.

I get up and walk over to his desk where he's deep in thought.



"What are you doing for lunch today?" I ask innocently.

I'm rewarded with a warm smile from him.

"Absolutely nothing. I'm all yours."

Ha! Just what I thought. He thinks I'm going to ask him out for lunch. Nope, think again.

"Hmm, that's sweet, but actually Lucy mentioned that she'd like to take you out for lunch today. I think she's supposed to be coming by this morning to ask you. I wanted to give you the heads up. I think you should go with her; it'd make her day."

Clark's face began to fall a little while I was talking. "So will you be coming with us?" he asks, hopeful.

"Oh, no. You know that whole third wheel thing. Besides I've got a lot to do, I think I'll just stay here for lunch."

Clark starts to open his mouth to protest when the elevator door pings. We both look up, and I smile when I see a striking-looking Lucy come walking off. Wow. She really dolled-up for this. She thinks she's gonna get my hackles up. Well think again, Sister.

"Oh, here she comes. Now don't tell her I told you. You'll have fun. Thanks, Clark!"

I walk off smiling at him. I've heard the mutterings and whispers around the office about Clark and I being such close partners, and all the lunches we eat together, how we're *always* together. Why were people so nosy? Well everyone, take notice, we're not going to lunch together today.

I sit down at my desk and pretend to read the screen in front of me while I watch Clark and Lucy talk out of the corner of my eye. I strain to hear what they're saying. Thankfully, since Lucy wants to irritate me, she's not being quiet.

"Hi, Clark!"

"Hi, Lucy."

"Listen, I just wanted to stop by and apologize to you about that thing with Johnny and all. I hope he didn't rough you up too bad."

"Oh. Well I was a little sore, but I'm okay. I'm sorry about how that whole mess turned out. I know you were seeing him."

"Yeah, well I guess my taste in men isn't any better than my sister's."

Why of all the low blows! Lucy, how could you? Clark's face looks a little troubled after her last statement. Oh relax, Clark, she doesn't mean you. She doesn't even know about you yet; I haven't told her.

"Anyway, I came here to see if you'd let me take you out to lunch. I'm sure it's nice to get out of this stuffy newsroom sometimes, and it's a beautiful day out."

Clark flashes a grin — was that a *playful* grin? — at me. "Sure, Lucy," he says, flashing an even wider grin at her.

I know I told him to go to lunch with her, but part of me was secretly wishing he'd turn her down. He at least didn't have to look so happy about it.

Ugh, get a grip, Lois!

"So, where are you taking me?" he asks her. He sounds a little too eager in my opinion.

Why do I feel like I have to prove something? I should just end this right now and go up there and tell Lucy that he can't go with her, that he's going with me.

No. I can't. If I do that, she'll gloat. She'll win. Absolutely not.

"How about my Uncle Mike's place?" Lucy suggests. "He's been complaining that I haven't been by to see him yet since I got back into town."

"Sounds good," Clark tells her. I can see him watching me out of the corner of his eye. He's trying to gauge my reaction! Well, you aren't going to get one.

"Great! Well, I'm starved, so unless you've got something you need to finish up, why don't we go?" Lucy turns her attention away from Clark to look at me. "Lois, I think I'll borrow your Jeep, if you don't care. It'll save us cab fare. You don't *care* do you?"

My Jeep? She wants to borrow my Jeep to go to lunch with my boyfr… no, frien… With Clark? Ugh! This is getting worse by the minute.

"Yeah, sure. Go ahead," I tell her. "I don't care." I'll show you I don't.

But, who am I kidding? I do care. I'd much rather be spending lunch with Clark today than wondering if he's having a good time with Lucy. Maybe I could find a way to go to lunch with them? She is taking my car after all. No, if I do that Lucy will know I'm horning in because I like Clark, and so she'd win. Unh-uh. No way.

The phone at my desk begins ringing, and I have to pull my eyes away from them to answer it.

"Daily Planet, Lois Lane."

"Lois, it's Mayson." Ugh, what did she want?

"Oh, hi, Mayson. What's up?"

"I've been assigned the Lex Luthor trial. I was hoping I could get together with you to go over some information and get some statements from you. You were as close to him as anyone…"

"I wouldn't say close." I watch as Lucy grabs Clark's arm and leads him up the ramp to the elevator. I sigh.

"No? Well you almost married him didn't you?" Mayson asks me, bringing me back to the conversation. "I don't think it gets much closer than that."

Would no one ever let me live that down? Was I going to have to drag that with me the rest of my life?

"Okay, fine. What time do you want me to meet you at the precinct?"

"Actually I was hoping you'd be free at lunch to meet with me. My whole day is pretty much booked. Lunch is all I've got."

"Sure, why not. My lunch plans fell through for today." I can feel myself frowning. Great — no lunch with Clark — lunch with Mayson instead. Oh joy! "Where do you want me to meet you?"

"How about at your Uncle Mike's restaurant? I started to meet Clark there for lunch once, I heard your uncle makes a killer chocolate cake, but, um…something came up and our lunch got cancelled."

No. I can't do this, can I? I mean, I was looking for a way to have lunch with Clark, but this will seem too coincidental. Lucy will never buy this. But how can I turn down eating at my own uncle's restaurant? "Oh, I don't know, Mayson. I'm on a diet and that chocolate cake is pretty rich. Why don't we go somewhere else? There's a great little diner just down the street…"

"Don't be silly, Lois. Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean I can't enjoy a piece. I need some chocolate after the day I've had. And I need a change of scenery. How about I meet you there around noon?"

"Noon? Well, I uh…"

"Great. Noon. I'll see you there."

"Wait!" I say, but she's already hung up. I look back up at the elevator, they're gone. Great! So now *I* get to take a cab to lunch.


"Well, imagine my good fortune at getting to see both my nieces in the same day," Uncle Mike tells me, giving me a big hug.

"Oh. Is Lucy here, too?" I ask him innocently.

"Yeah, she got here just a few minutes before you did."

"By herself?" Of course I know the answer, but he doesn't know that.

"No, she came with your partner, Clark Kent. I figured you were joining them."

"Oh. Yeah, seems like she mentioned that. No, I'm not joining them. I'm meeting a woman for lunch, Mayson Drake. She's meeting me to ask me some questions about a case she's working on."

"Oh, okay. Well, I'll keep an eye out for Ms. Drake. You go on back and pick out a table. I'll be there shortly with some menus."

"Thanks," I say, smiling at him.

I make my way back to the dining area cautiously, trying to spot where Clark and Lucy are sitting. I see them. Lucy looks like she's have a good time and… so does Clark. I feel that little green-eyed fiend trying to poke its head out again. Calm down. This is your own fault. Lucy made a challenge and you stubbornly refused to back down. Clark is just making the best of the situation.

Lost in thought, I fail to realize that if I can see them, they can see me. A pair of flailing arms brings me out of my stupor. They are both waving me over to their table. Oh, no.

I stand up a little straighter and try to compose myself as I walk over to their table. "Well, what are the odds?" I ask, coming up to stand next to them.

"Lois?" Clark looks at me wryly, one eyebrow raised and an amused smile on his face.

I cringe. He's smiling now, but odds are he won't be smiling soon. Oh, he's going to kill me. If he only knew… How could I have let Mayson come here? What was I thinking?

Lucy turns to look at me, raising her eyebrows in accusation. "Yes, what *are* the odds, Lois?"

"I'm meeting Mayson Drake for lunch. The place was her choice. She said she's always wanted to try out Uncle Mike's chocolate cake."

A little liquid spurts out of Clark's mouth as he chokes on the water he's drinking. I pat him on the back and he coughs a little. I can imagine what he's thinking, 'Mayson is coming to lunch, too?' Hmm, are three women too much for you to deal with, Clark?

"Are you okay?" I ask him.

"Mayson? You're meeting Mayson here for lunch?" he asks me.

I note the amused expression on Lucy's face at the mention of Mayson. I've told her on more than one occasion how the district attorney keeps throwing herself at Clark. I mean can't she see how desperate that looks?

"Yeah. She wants to go over some details on the Luthor trial," I explain.

"Oh. Then the two of you should join us," Lucy suggests.

Ah! Lucy how could you? She's using this against me. She knows if I do like Clark, that bringing Mayson into the equation is a sure way to expose those feelings. No way! "Oh, no. That's okay, Lucy. I wouldn't want to horn in on your lunch with Clark."

"Not at all," Lucy says cheerfully. "We'd love to have you join us. Wouldn't we, Clark?" she asks Clark, but doesn't wait for him to answer. She's too busy in the hunt — too intent on the kill. "I insist. After all, she might have some questions for Clark, too," she says, smiling playfully at me. "Unless you'd rather they went to lunch together some other time to discuss the case in private?"

No, as much as I don't want to join their table, I definitely would not rather have them go to lunch together, alone. But what do I want then? I begin to form a response when I notice Uncle Mike bringing the fourth person of this little party towards the table.

I look over at Clark and our eyes meet fleetingly — too quickly for me to read what he's feeling — before he looks away, smiling at Mayson.

"Uncle Mike!" Lucy shouts at him, waving him over. "Mayson and Lois are going to join us," Lucy says sweetly.

Clark's pleasant smile from earlier is still there. Is it real? Or forced? What is he thinking? What have I done? This all started out so innocently. I only wanted to prove a point. Just one little point. The smile is probably just a pretense. Clark is going to kill me.

"Hi, Lois. Clark? I didn't think you'd be joining us," Mayson says, smiling appreciatively at Clark.

"Oh, he's actually here with me. I asked him to lunch," Lucy explains.

Mayson looks at me, then at Clark, then at Lucy, and finally back to Clark. "I see, and you are?"

"Oh, where are my manners? This is my kid sister, Lucy Lane." Lucy rolls her eyes at the word "kid". She hates it when I call her that.

Mayson looks even more confused. I hold out my hand gesturing to the chair next to her. "Clark and Lucy have asked us to join them for lunch," I tell her.

"Oh, okay," Mayson says, sitting down, still looking puzzled. "Clark, since you're here, maybe I can ask you some questions about the Luthor trial as well. You did help expose the insurance and business fraud he was involved in before his supposed death."

"Sure. I'll be happy to do whatever I can to keep that man behind bars," he tells her.

Mayson nods her head in agreement and turns to address Lucy. "So, you're here with Clark on a lunch date?"

"As much as I would like to answer yes, no. I asked Clark to lunch to apologize for my ex-boyfriend kidnapping him," Lucy explains. "I guess I have lousy taste in men — excluding you, of course, Clark," Lucy says and then sighs dramatically. "It seems to run in the family." The look Lucy gives me is not lost on anyone at the table.

I open my mouth to say something, probably something I shouldn't say, but Clark steps in before I can get any words out. "So, Mayson, how's the case coming with Luthor? Good, I hope."

"Yes, it's going well," Mayson confirms. "We're proceeding very carefully. We don't want any mistakes. This creep isn't getting off on some kind of technicality or oversight. When I'm through with him, he'll be lucky if he's only serving one life sentence."

"Good, he's already had another chance at a life and was just as evil the second time around," I tell her. "He doesn't need a third chance."

"That reminds me. Just exactly why didn't you call the police when Luthor offered to let you turn him in?" Mayson asks me. "You could have saved the police… everyone really, a lot of trouble."

"I… I don't know. He just caught me off guard, and I…"

"It wouldn't have mattered, Mayson," Clark says, stepping in to save me. I feel like dirt. Even as awful as I had been to him today, he was still helping me. "He wouldn't have let Lois call the police. It was just a test."

"Maybe, but still," Mayson argues.

"So, Lucy, when do you move on campus at the University?" Clark asks, turning back to face my sister and trying again to change the subject. He seemed to be having trouble finding one that was non-controversial.

"Oh, it won't be long. It may be sooner if Lois gets tired of me," Lucy says, throwing a look my way.

Yes, it may be very soon, Lucy, at the rate you're going.

"Clark, since our lunch has been pre-empted," Lucy says to him, "I was wondering if maybe I could get together with you later tonight."

Tonight? She's baiting me. This time I can't help myself. "That won't work," I tell Lucy. "Clark and I will be working late tonight. We have a big story we're working on right now."

Clark raises his eyebrows at me with a look that says, 'Big story? What, big story?'

"Actually, I had hoped I'd be able to get together with you pretty soon, too, Clark," Mayson chimes in. Oh wonderful!

If I didn't know better, I'd swear Clark looks at me, well, smugly. Then a different look crosses his face. I don't know how to describe it. It looks like he's concentrating on something or hears something. He looks from Mayson, to me, to Lucy, and then back to me. "Would you all excuse me? I'm sorry. I just remembered that… uh… Perry asked me to run an errand for him on my lunch break, and I've really gotta go. It's been fun, and I'll get back with you, Mayson, Lucy, on getting together. Lois, I'll see you back at the Planet."

"Clark?" I shout after him as he rushes away from the table, but he doesn't hear me. Great, so it's just us three girls now. This has turned out to be some lunch.


"Oh, Mark. I'm so sorry. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?" she asked him desperately.

"No, Lola. This is beyond my ability to forgive. I would have given you everything, anything you asked. But you kept pushing me away," he told her. His eyes were heavy with sadness.

No, he didn't mean it, Lola thought, as she reached out for him. He would forgive her. Wouldn't he?

He stepped back, away from her embrace. "You kept denying me the one thing I wanted most. You." He shook his head sadly at her. "Do you want to see me with Macy Lake? Is that what you want? Because every time you push me away, she's there for me. Which is more than I can say for you. At least she doesn't shut me out. Goodbye, Lola," he said, turning his back and walking away from her.

"No! Mark! Please, I didn't mean it to be this way. That's not what I wanted. Please. Come back."


After much deliberation, and the fact that Clark would hardly look at me the rest of the day at work, I've decided I should go to his apartment tonight and apologize.

I look down at the computer screen in front of me and sigh for the… I don't know how many times now; I've lost count. I've sat here for hours trying to work out some of my frustration on my story, but nothing decent will come. Every time it ends up the same. He leaves her. My guilt is blocking out any other thoughts.

I let things get out of control today. I shouldn't have taken it so far. All Lucy wanted was an admission that I've fallen for Clark. But no, Mad Dog Lane wasn't willing to concede that point and instead chose to set up the fiasco at lunch today.

I'm not sure if Clark will be hurt, mad, or just disgusted. I know I would be… all of the above. Maybe he'll just reject me, like the character in my novel.

Yes, I really should apologize. Clark hasn't done anything to deserve what I put him through today. But what should I say?

"What would you say?" I ask the computer screen in front of me.

My cheeks flush in embarrassment at what I imagine it would say… stuff that's only fit to print in a romance novel. Not anything valuable for real life.

Ugh. I sigh heavily as I get up, and I walk to my front door. I'll just go over to his apartment and plead insanity.


I'm almost to Clark's apartment, but I still haven't figured out what I'm going to tell him when I get there. Okay, what to say, what to say. How about just 'Clark, I'm sorry?' Simple, sweet, to the point.

No, no. My English professor in college always said, 'Never say you're sorry. That just makes you sound… sorry, pathetic. If you're going to apologize, then do just that… apologize.'

Well then, 'Clark, I apologize…'

What else though? That doesn't seem like near enough when considering the extent of my childish behavior. But how do I make him understand that I didn't mean to put him in such a precarious position, without sounding like a pathetic, pleading little mealy-mouthed girl? I hate those types, the little mousy "yes-women".

As I'm pondering these thoughts, I hear a very familiar *whoosh* above me. I look up in time to see my favorite super-hero landing on the balcony of Clark's apartment. What is he doing here?

I find myself a little excited. Oooh, I get to see Clark and Superman in the same trip. But why is he here? Kicking back to drink a beer and watch a ballgame with Clark? I can't restrain myself and a laugh escapes my mouth. How absurd! Well, they are friends… But then my laughter stops short. What if something's wrong with Clark? What if Superman is here because Clark needs help? I quicken my pace and practically run up the front steps to his apartment.

I bang on the door loudly. "Clark? It's Lois." I notice a small opening in the curtains on his front door, so I bend down and peer in with one eye. From my limited perspective, I can't see Clark or Superman. I bang on the door again. "Clark? Are you in there? Are you okay?"

From my vantage point I see a half-dressed Clark come running towards the stairs to answer my plea. He has on a pair of casual shorts and nothing else. No shirt, not even any socks or shoes. My eyes are immediately drawn to the well-sculpted muscles of his chest. My stomach begins turning somersaults. I try to pull my gaze up to meet his face. It's such a handsome face, but, try as I might, my gaze falls back to his chest.

That beautiful, bare chest… I had laid on top of it just a few short nights ago. It was so solid and reassuring. I could have laid on it all night, maybe fallen asleep on it.

My gaze drifts across his shoulders and down his arms. Those arms… they had carried me to the bedroom after I'd gotten sick. They were so strong and so comforting.

I watch as he reaches out for the doorknob with one of his hands. His hands… they had ever so gently caressed my stomach in such a loving gesture, and yet it had been a little arousing as well, if only I hadn't been ill…

Focus, Lois. Clark is talking to you. What did he say? Oh, yeah. 'Hello, Lois… What are you doing here this time of night? Is something wrong?'

"Wrong? No, nothing's wrong. Is anything wrong, with you? I mean, what was *he* here for?" I ask, pointing towards Clark's balcony.

"He who?"

"He who? Don't give me that, Clark, you know *he who*."

Clark gives me a puzzled look. What is he trying to pull here? I know I saw Superman land on his balcony. Did he not come in? No, of course he came in. Maybe Clark is being coy with me because *he's* still in there. I look into his face for confirmation and he squirms uncomfortably. His eyes are practically drowning in guilt.

"Superman. I just watched him land on your balcony outside. Is he still here?" I pry. I'm not really sure why, but it seems to me that Clark's face pales just a little.

"Superman? Oh, yeah. Uh, no. He's not still here. He was, uh, in the neighborhood and, um, wanted me to let Mayson know that he'd be willing to testify against Luthor in the upcoming trial."

"Yeah, fat chance of that happening. Mayson's disdain for Superman is as obvious as her crush on you."


"Oh, don't play innocent with me. You know Mayson likes you." I bat my eyes at him and break into my best Mayson imitation, with a little sarcasm thrown in for good measure. "I had hoped I'd be able to get together with you pretty soon, too, Clark."

"I'm sure that's just so that we can go over Luthor's trial."

"You can't really be that naive, can you?" I ask him. He can't, can he?

"Well, tell me this, Lois. If you really think that Mayson has a crush on me, why did you bring her to lunch with you? What was that all about? You fairly forced me to go to lunch with Lucy, and then you came there interrupting our lunch, towing Mayson behind you. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that lunch was for me? Or do you even care?"

His last words sting a little, and I have to bite my tongue so I don't say something snippy. Remember, you came here to apologize, I tell myself, and then I sigh. Nope, apologize isn't the right word. I am *sorry*. Just suck it up, Lois.

I take in a deep breath preparing to speak in rapid succession. Why are apologies so hard? "Clark, I'm sorry. That was undeserved. I really didn't mean for Mayson and I to crash your lunch with Lucy. It really was Mayson's choice to eat there, not mine. And the whole thing with Lucy? I shouldn't have done that."

Clark seems taken aback. He stands quietly, watching me for a few moments. His eyes are dark and full of questions. I start to feel myself getting uncomfortable when he finally breaks the silence.

"Why *did* you do that?"

"Do what?" I ask and cringe as I watch him raise his eyebrow at me. Oh, *that*… Lucy. "Look, I said I was sorry, Clark. Let's just drop it, okay?" I ask.

"No. I think I deserve more than an apology."

"Like what?" I demand. Did he realize what I had gone through just to apologize? What did he want?

"An explanation. For starters, why did you practically twist my arm to go to lunch with Lucy?"

"I told you. She felt bad about that mess with Johnny and wanted to make it up to you." True enough.

"Uh, try again."

He called my bluff! Now what? Um, okay. "She thinks you're cute, and I knew it'd make her day to have lunch with you." Still true. It *would* make her day because she'd know she was irritating me.

"Nuh-uh. I'm not buying it. One more time, try again."

"She thinks I have a crush on you and wanted to make me jealous! Okay?" I blurt the real truth out, exasperated. Whoops.

Clark's eyes widen slightly, and he tilts his head curiously. "Do you?"

"What?" I ask incredulously. Do I? What kind of question was that? …A good one — one that any decent reporter would ask. Was he really going to make me say it?

"Do you have a crush on me?" he asks again.

No. I'm not going to do this. "Clark, this is silly. I came here to apologize to you for the situation at lunch. I've apologized. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going home. Goodnight." I say as I turn to leave.


I halt in my tracks. No? It's not the volume behind the voice that stops me. Actually he didn't speak it loudly, just firmly, resolutely. It's such a simple word… no. But why did I stop moving? Because it was a demand. Clark never makes demands. I feel a strange weakness in my knees. What's wrong with me?

"What?" I challenge him, trying to sound more confident than I feel.

"No, I'm not going to excuse you. Answer the question." He folds his arms across his chest, causing all kinds of ripples… um, through his chest. I sigh inwardly. Who am I trying to kid? Myself? Those ripples ran straight through *me* causing um… *ripples* of my own.

My head is spinning, and my legs feel like noodles; but I manage to keep my wits about me. "No. This is ridiculous and childish."

"What are you afraid of?"

"Afraid? Me? I'm not afraid of anything," I reply stubbornly, letting my eyes flash at him just a little.

"Okay, prove it. Answer the question."

I fidget a little and then start to turn away, to walk away. He reaches out and grabs my shoulders turning me back around to look at him. Oh god, there are those hands again. They're so strong, so commanding… and so warm, so inviting. I look up into his face. His eyes are so intense, searching me as if to peer into my very thoughts.

"No, I'm not going to let you leave until you answer me."

I try to pull away from him, but he has a firm grip on me, much firmer than he's ever exerted against me before. I feel my arousal, but the realization of that only serves to terrify me. I can't do this. I can't expose myself like this, not to anyone and certainly not to Clark. "Clark, please. Let me go. I can't."

"Why? Why can't you?" he asks, pulling me even closer. I can feel the heat from his bare chest. The warmth from it is radiating through me. I've never seen Clark like this before, so intense, so insistent on an answer. The strength in his voice and his body commands me. It breaks through the carefully constructed barrier to my heart.

"Because I'm afraid." I say simply and move to lean against the doorframe for support. I'd die from embarrassment if my legs gave out on me.

We are both quiet for a moment, and then I continue. "You see. This is what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of us being uncomfortable around each other. I'm so comfortable with you, Clark. You're my best friend and my partner, and I don't want to lose that."

"So your answer is *yes*?" he asks me.

"I… Clark… you don't…"


"Yes!" That's it, that final command from Clark is enough to buckle my knees, the last straw. But Clark is faster. He reaches out and grabs hold of me with one arm around my waist, supporting me. Our bodies are close. I want so badly to throw caution to the wind and wrap my arms around him, but I don't; I restrain myself.

"There, was that so hard?" he asks me. He has a gentle smile on his face, and there is a soft, warm glow in his eyes. He begins to pull me closer to him as he leans in.

Oh god, he's going to kiss me.

He stops; his lips dangerously close to my own. I again hold myself back. It's not easy; every cell in my body is crying out to take possession of those lips. All the scenes I've been writing in my novel come flooding back, fueling my desire. What is he waiting for? One, two more seconds pass. Please. Please, Clark.

"Me, too," he whispers, his lips almost touching mine.

Huh? He too what? Is he reading my thoughts? My brain doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me right now. "You too?"

"Have a crush on you. From that first moment we met in Perry's office."

Oh… oh. I can feel his warm breath on my skin. It sends shivers down my neck and the backs of my arms. My mind is whirling. What should I do? What should I say? And then, before I can muddle the moment any further, his lips capture mine in a soft, tender kiss.

He puts his other arm around me pulling me flush against his body. I allow myself to relax into his arms as he deepens the kiss. His lips are so soft and yet so forceful.

When he finally breaks the kiss, I feel the disappointment swelling in me that he's pulling away. It's as wonderful as I imagined it would be, my first *real* kiss with Clark. I've kissed him before but never like this.

"Now you're in trouble," he says to me, cutting through my half-formed thought of recapturing those lips again in mine.

Huh? In trouble? …Hmm, trouble. Part of my brain tells me that sounds promising. But I can tell when I look into his face that *that* isn't the kind of trouble he had in mind.

He must have seen the look of confusion on my face. "You now have two crushes to deal with," he explains.


"Yes, me and Superman," he tells me, his eyes searching mine for confirmation.

I feel my cheeks flush. He's right. I do have a crush on Superman… but what girl doesn't?


"It's okay. I'm just teasing you." But the look in his eyes says he was doing anything but teasing.

"No. I want to tell you something," I pause, and he waits expectantly, so I continue. "You're right. I do have a crush on Superman. But it's really just an idealistic infatuation. I'd be willing to bet more than half the girls in Metropolis have a crush on him. The feelings I have for you are… different. I *know* you, Clark."

"Do you? Do you really?" His face has a troubled expression on it.

"Yes. I do. You're the man who answers my call at any hour of the night, if I need you. You're the man who brings me my coffee, just the way I like it, every morning. You listen to my rantings and ravings and don't try to change me… You accept me for who I am. I know you, Clark, and what I don't know, I'm sure I'll find out in time."

Clark has a strange, far-off look on his face. I can't be sure but it almost seems to look like regret. Uh oh. I have a bad feeling that I don't like that look. What could it mean?

My overactive imagination takes over and decides maybe I should backtrack a little. "Clark, I didn't mean…" I can't get out anything further because he embraces me and is kissing me again. I'm not prepared for this reaction and don't have sufficient breath to outlast the kiss. I have to pull away to catch my breath.

"Wow," I say breathlessly. "Maybe there are one or two things I don't know about you."

"I'm afraid there are more than one or two. Would you come inside with me? There's something I've wanted to tell you for a long time, and it's time to tell you, before things go any further."

Go any further? I swallow the lump that has formed in my throat. What kind of *further* is he thinking about? I work up the nerve to ask him that very question when I notice the worry on his face. My mind immediately switches gears. What is he going to tell me? "You look nervous. Is it bad? Should I be worried? Do I want to know this? Well, of course I want to know. But I…"

"Lois, take a breath. Just hear me out, okay? This *thing* isn't bad; it's just… well… probably going to be a shock, or at least surprising at any rate. And it's not something I can tell you out here. Come on, come inside with me."

His arms release me, grabbing my hands. I allow him to lead me inside. As he's reaching out to close the door behind me, though, a hand shoots in from outside the door, grabbing the door and stopping him.

A decidedly female hand.

"Clark, do you have a moment? We need to talk," Mayson says.

Mayson? Oh, not now.

"Well, actually, I'm kind of…" Clark tries to respond.

"Lex Luthor has escaped from prison," she blurts out.

"What?" Clark and I exclaim simultaneously.

"Yeah, I know. That was exactly my reaction."

"How? What happened?" I ask.

"I don't know. The police are still trying to piece together what happened, but they found the guard for his cell block inside Luthor's cell, knocked out from a hit on the head."

"Do the police have any leads on where he might go? Have there been any sightings?" Clark asks her.


"So you came to see Clark because you think, what? That maybe Lex may come after him?" I ask.

"You, actually. I already requested that the police send a squad car over to your apartment to keep an eye on it. Luthor contacted you before; I thought there might be more than a good chance he'd try it again. I didn't realize you'd be over here."

I feel my face flush, and Clark's looks like it's doing the same. It's not really my place to ask this, but I can't help myself. I just don't like Mayson very much. "Why *did* you come over here?"

Now it's Mayson's turn to blush. "I know Clark and Superman are close, and I know Superman knows that I'm not exactly his biggest fan. But we could really use his help right about now. The longer Luthor is out there, the more danger that puts you in, Lois, not to mention the rest of Metropolis. I thought Superman might be willing to help us find him. Clark, do you think you could contact him for me?"

"I think that can be arranged," Clark says, looking thoughtful. "Would you do me a favor and take Lois back to her apartment?"

"Clark! No, Mayson, that's not necessary," I tell them both.

"Yes, Lois, I think it is," Clark insists.

"I'm a big girl, and Mayson said there's already a police car on its way to my apartment to keep an eye on things. I'll be fine."

"It would make me feel better," Clark says earnestly. There's something in his voice. I can't fight it.

"It would make me feel better, too," Mayson chimes in.

Ugh! "Fine, fine. Take me home. It's too late tonight for me to do anything anyway. Clark, call me as soon as you hear from Superman."

"Okay, I will. And be careful. If Luthor is still fixated on you, you're in danger. Stay in your apartment. I'll come check on you later."

"Sure," I lie. I may be in love with him, but that doesn't mean I'm going to listen to him. Hah, me actually listen to Clark? There's a novel idea. I watch as Clark runs to his bedroom, presumably to put on some clothes before he goes off in search of Superman, and I turn to face Mayson.

"Okay, let's go, you're coming with me."

"Can I ask where we're going? You told Clark you were going to your apartment, but somehow I get the feeling that's not where you're planning to go."

How very astute of her. I give her a mental eye-roll. Why did she irritate me so much? Well, besides Clark? "Correct. You want to take a guess where we're going?"

"Probably somewhere dangerous. Somewhere Clark wouldn't want either of us to go. I'm guessing you're going to visit some of Luthor's old haunts to see if you can find him."

"Ding, ding," I say, touching my fingertip to my nose. "Now are you coming or not?" I'm really hoping she'll say 'not', but no such luck.

"Yes, I'm coming. I told Clark I'd deliver you safely back to your apartment, so I'm not leaving you until we get there."



I'm crouched down in an alleyway, watching a certain spot silently from the shadows. I'm not too convinced that I'll actually find anything here, but it's worth a shot.

"Do you see anything yet?" Mayson asks me.

I look up at the sky and silently plead 'help me'. This is her third inquiry in less than five minutes. Why doesn't she just go home?

Because she actually *listens* to Clark when he asks her to do something, my conscience silently berates me.

Oh be quiet.

"No, nothing yet. He may not even show up here. I have a few other places we can check out too."

"No, I think you only have one more stop to make for the evening," an authoritative well-recognized voice says. I grimace to myself. It's Superman. I'm busted.

I turn to face him with a sheepish look on my face. "And where would that be?" I ask sweetly.

"Home, which is where Clark thought he had asked you to go when he left you to come find me. I don't think he'd be happy to know you're out here looking for Luthor on your own. I think I can handle the search from here on out, Lois. Mayson, I trust that you can make it back home on your own; I'd like to deliver Lois back to her apartment personally if that's okay with you."

"Uh, yeah. Sure, Superman. Thanks for helping out with the search," Mayson says politely. She has a funny smirk on her face as she glances at me before turning to head back for her car.

I start to go after her, to give her a piece of my mind, but an arm reaches out to stop me. I look down at Superman's hand on my shoulder with a little irritation; but I do what the hand tells me, I stop.

As soon as Mayson is safely inside her car, Superman scoops me into his arms and takes us up into the night sky.

The distance to my apartment is flown in awkward silence. It's not that I don't want to talk, I do, but I'm a little embarrassed. I don't know what to say, and Superman seems to be unwilling to start the conversation.

I content myself to just relax and enjoy being in Superman's arms. It's a cool night, but not cold. The wind whips through my hair moving it to and fro across my face. I have to reach up occasionally to tuck it behind my ears or pull it out of my face so I can take in the spectacular sights around me.

The night sky is clear and I can see for miles around. The lights of the city twinkle and dance across the darkness around us. I move my eyes from building to building, neighborhood to neighborhood, until I finally bring my eyes back around to Superman's face.

He doesn't look at me. He seems to be brooding about something. Is he really that upset with me? Or is he just upset about Lex breaking out of jail and being on the loose? I hope it's the latter.

A few more moments of star gazing and we arrive at my apartment. He lifts me inside through my open window, but doesn't opt to follow me in. I hide my disappointment.

"Can I trust that once I leave you'll stay here?" he asks me. I nod my head at him, still unable to find my voice.

"Okay. Well, I'm going to continue my search. Shut and lock this window and don't open your door for anyone, unless it's Clark." And with that, and a small flutter, he was gone.

I obediently reached out and shut my window and locked it, embarrassment again flushing my cheeks. How humiliating to get busted by Superman. Maybe I could turn the experience into something good for my novel. I'm way too worked up to sleep right now. I might as well put the extra energy to good use.

First things first, though. I head into the kitchen and open the freezer. I seize the container of chocolate ice cream and then grab a spoon before I head off to my computer.

Thoughts and ideas are spinning through my head faster than I could possible keep track of them. A surge of excitement shivers through me. It's definitely going to be a while before I'll be going to sleep tonight.


"Why should I believe you?" he asked, turning away from her. "You apologized to me today, but tomorrow you'll be back to your same old tricks. If it suited your purpose, you'd use me again. No, don't bother to deny it. You know it's true."

"No, Mark, it's not. I swear. I'm a changed woman. You'll see. Just give me a chance to prove it," she said, the desperation plain in her voice. She went to him and threw her arms around him, enclosing him in a fierce embrace. Oh how she wanted him to respond. Please hold me, she thought.

He looked down into her eyes, glassy with tears, and his face seemed to soften. He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her in against his chest. His breath teased the hair next to her ear. "Give you a chance to prove yourself?"

"Yes. Oh, yes, please."

He bent down, finding her lips with his own, and kissed her deeply and passionately. He started to pull away and she grabbed hold of him tighter, lengthening the kiss.

"Lois, do you mind if I borrow your black silk dress jacket?" Lucy's voice cut through my thoughts. "I'm meeting with my sorority sisters today at the dorm. If things go well, I'll be moving out of here in no time."

Lucy has impeccable timing as usual. I reluctantly look away from my screen. "Yes, Lucy, fine. Aren't you up a little early this morning?"

"Aren't you still here a little late this morning?" came her reply.

I glance down at my watch. Crap! I had let time get away from me, writing on this story. I'd stayed awake last night until my eyes were about to fall out of my head. I had finally just jotted down a few ideas before surrendering myself to sleep. As soon as I'd finished getting ready for work this morning, I had sat down to work on a few of those ideas. I hadn't realized I'd been writing so long. Perry is going to kill me.

I save the changes to my novel and shut down the computer. I walk into my bedroom to find Lucy modeling my jacket in front of the mirror.

"Thanks. This will be perfect," she says, smiling in satisfaction at her reflection.

"Good. Glad I could be of service. Now would you listen to me for a second? I don't think you should stay here tonight, or the next few nights… at least not until they find Lex and get him back behind bars."

"Oh, and you think it'll be safer for you to stay here by yourself?"

"No arguments, Luce. If you can't get moved into that dorm today, then I want you to pack a bag and stay with a friend for a few nights. Promise me."

She looks like she wants to argue, but the words die on her lips, unspoken. "Okay, I promise."

"Good. I gotta go. You look good in the jacket but stay away from my shoes. I had to give the last pair you borrowed to the homeless shelter. You stretched them out so badly that I think they grew a whole size."

Lucy gives me a playful hit on the arm as I turn to leave the room. I stop and turn back to her.

"Lucy, thank you… for yesterday. I wanted to strangle you, but in the end I guess you…"


"Well, you kind of…"

"Go on, you can say it, Lois. I… helped you. I helped you admit your true feelings to yourself. No thanks are necessary. You're welcome." She gives me a sisterly smirk.

I smirk back at her as I leave the room. Great! I'll never hear the end of this now. I grab my coat and purse and fly out my front door at top speed, glancing at my watch as I go. No, Perry is not going to be happy.


Perry wasn't as mad as I thought he'd be, more worried than mad. It probably helped that Lex Luthor is on the loose and no one knows his whereabouts, my life could be in danger, and so on and so forth…

What actually concerns me most is that Clark hadn't looked at me during the entire meeting. What is up with him? I really want to get him alone so I can find out what he'd been about to tell me last night, but as busy as things are today, it looks like it will have to wait until later.

I turn back to my screen to try and focus on doing some work when I notice Clark walking up to my desk out of the corner of my eye. Oh, so he's going to talk to me now? I turn to look at him with an accusatory expression on my face.

"Where were you last night?" he asks me.

Uh-oh. "What?" I ask him.

"Where were you? I came by your apartment to check on you, and hopefully to finish our conversation, but you weren't there."

"Well I'm here now. Did you get in touch with Superman? What did you find out?"

"Don't try to change the subject. Why didn't you go home like I asked? Mayson was supposed to take you straight home."

"Did she say something to you?" I ask, irritated.

"No. She didn't. You were out looking for Luthor, weren't you?"

"See, how would you know that unless she'd told you?" I trap him in his lie.

"Because Superman told me where you were. He said he found you out snooping around for Luthor and had to escort you home himself."

"Ah, ha!" I interrupt him. "So then you knew I was home. Why didn't you come over then?"

He's quiet for a moment. "Because I was upset," he says finally.


"Yes, upset. How could you do that, Lois? Do you know how dangerous that was? I asked you to go to your apartment and wait for me. Why didn't you listen?"

Well, it's a mark in her favor that Mayson wasn't the one who ratted me out, but did Superman really have to share that bit of information with Clark? I feel myself squirm under his intense gaze. "I'm sorry."

Boy, am I getting tired of hearing those words come out of my mouth. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not really sorry, so why did I say that?

"No, Clark, I'm not sorry. Just because I have these feelings for you, and we may or may not get involved past a friendship level, does not give you the right to run my life."

"I am not trying to run your life. I'm trying to save it. You listen to Superman when he tells you to do something. Why not to me?"

That's not true, is it? I think back. I guess he does have a valid point. I do have a tendency to place more importance on what Superman says.

"That's not entirely true," I say anyway. "Besides, I didn't go by myself, I had Mayson with me, and everything turned out fine. No one kidnapped me or tried to kill me or even threatened me. Superman found us before I'd barely even had time to get started."

"That's not the point," he says, sounding frustrated.

"Look, I'm being careful. I even told Lucy to go stay with some friends until Lex is caught."

"Oh, I see. So it's okay for you to put yourself in danger, just not anyone else," he says, his words wrought with irritation.

"Hey, hey, hey. What in the Sam Hill is all the noise about?" Perry asks as he walks up.

"Nothing, Perry," I say, giving Clark a look that says 'if you ever want to talk to me again, you'll drop this for now.'

Clark takes the hint. "Sorry, Chief." After Perry walks on past us, Clark lowers his voice. "We'll discuss this more later."

You can bet on it.


I stand up from my desk and reach for my jacket to put it on, only to find Clark standing there holding it for me.

I can't help but give him a small smile as I work my arms into each of the sleeves.

"I'm sorry, Lois," he says, pulling the jacket up onto my shoulders. "I shouldn't have jumped on you like that. I just worry about you."

The ice in my heart that's been building all day melts a little. "I know you do, and I know I take risks sometimes; but that's what makes me a great reporter. I just dive in and think about the consequences later. It's how I've always done things."

"Yeah, but I bet you've gotten worse since Superman started hanging around and pulling you out of trouble when you get in too deep."

"I don't know. Maybe. I guess. Okay, probably," I admit.

"Promise me you'll try to be more careful. Luthor is crazy. He'll do anything he can to get to you." The concern in Clark's eyes touches me deeply.

"I promise," I tell him. I'm amazed to discover that I really do mean it.

"So does that mean you'll let me walk you home?" he asks me hesitantly.

"Yes. I'd love it if you would walk me home." I put one arm through his and we head for the elevators.


"Lola, I need to tell you something about me. I've kept it a secret from you too long."

"You've kept secrets from me, Mark?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. I didn't want to. Believe me I didn't. I had to out of necessity."

The anxiety in his eyes caused fear to fill her heart. What could be so bad that it would have him worked up like this? "Oh please, don't tell me you're married; anything but that. Please don't tell me you're happily married with two kids and a mortgage and you take a trip to Hawaii once a year with your family and that this has all been a horrible mistake. Oh my god. You are married, aren't you? I knew it. I should have seen this coming…"

"Lola!" he shouted her name to get her attention. She calmed down and stopped the pacing that she didn't realize she was doing. "That's better. No, I'm not married. You needn't worry; my heart only belongs to you."

She feels her face flush at this honest admission.

"No, what I came here to tell you is that I…"

A knock on my door disrupts my thought. I frown at my screen. With Lucy gone I thought I'd have fewer interruptions.

"Lois? Are you home?" a muffled male voice says, cutting through my thoughts. It's Clark. What is he doing here again?

He had walked me home earlier tonight. It had been lovely. We had talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other in general. We had just started to work our way back to the conversation from last night when he had to leave all of the sudden. He said he forgot the cable guy was coming by his house tonight. The guy was supposed to be there at any moment and if Clark didn't get back there, he'd have to wait who knows how long for him to come back.

Cable guy? He left in the middle of our conversation for the cable guy? Yeah right. I didn't buy that for a minute. Clark has a secret and maybe since he's back here, he's ready to talk about it.

"Yeah, hang on Clark, I'm coming!" I grab my robe and start to throw it around the delicate nightie I'm wearing, but I hesitate. Do I really want to wear it? Part of me would love to see Clark's reaction if I answered the door without it. No. Better not. That kind of stuff was better left in romance novels. "Coming!"

I run to my front door. I quickly unlatch the locks and throw open the door.

"Hi," he says, smiling at me.

"Hi," I answer.

"I'm sorry I had to run off before. Can I come in?"

"Yeah," I say, stepping aside and letting him walk in.

"We left things kind of up in the air last night when Mayson interrupted us. I wanted to finish that conversation with you."

"Me too. It kind of seemed important."

"It is," he confirms. He starts to open his mouth to speak again but closes it just as fast and begins walking back towards my front door. I start to ask him what he's doing when I hear it, a knock on my door and someone running down the hallway outside.

"Clark, did you hear that?"

"Yeah," he says, opening the door and looking outside.

I come up beside him and look out, but whoever it was, is gone.

"I wonder what that was all about," I say.

"I think he was making a delivery," Clark explains, stepping out into the hallway and bending down to pick a package up off the floor.

I step out into the hallway to look at it. It's a box wrapped in newspaper with a note on the outside of it. The note reads, 'IMPORTANT — Please Deliver to Superman'.

My stomach sinks as I take a closer look at the writing on the note.

"I think that's from Lex," I tell him, grimacing.

"What makes you say that?" he asks.

"Because I'd recognize that carefully manicured handwriting anywhere."

Clark frowns a little. He probably doesn't like to think I knew Lex that well.

"Well, come on, let's open it," I tell him, pulling the package away from him.

"Lois, I don't think that's a good idea. There's no telling what's inside it. If it is from Luthor and he's asking you to give it to Superman then it's probably dangerous."

"Exactly… Dangerous to Superman. I'm not going to risk giving this to him to open. What if there's Kryptonite in here?" The thought causes me to shudder.

"Nigel stole Luthor's Kryptonite. What if it's a bomb?" Clark's face looks very worried, and he keeps trying to the take the package away from me. I have to jerk it around, up and down and back and forth like I'm trying to keep candy away from a child to keep him from getting it.

"Now why would there be a bomb, Clark? Lex knows a bomb won't kill Superman… and I'm positive this is from Lex." I run back inside my apartment, slamming the door behind me and locking it. I start ripping the paper off the box as I head for my bathroom when, to my shock and utter amazement, Clark comes barreling through my front door.

Is he insane? I pick up my pace and begin running for the bathroom. He catches me in less time than it takes for me to glance down at the object I'm holding. It's a metal box, a lead box. Whatever's inside is definitely dangerous to Superman then.

My fingers are fumbling for the latch on the box when Clark's arms come around me from behind to reach for it. In my determination to keep it from him, I give it a little toss towards the bathroom. Clark rushes after it, and I grab him trying in vain to hold him back, determined that I'm going to get to it first. In a surprising display of strength, he pulls me with him into the bathroom. We arrive just in time to watch the box bounce off the edge of the sink and down to the floor. The latch bounces free allowing the lid to pop open, and then… it blows up in a small explosion!

It was a bomb!

Clark rolls us both to the ground. I open my eyes, blinking several times. A strange dust is filling the air making it difficult to see; but a green glow from the floor beside me catches my eye. I squint through the dust, and I can make out a couple of tiny, pea-sized pieces of Kryptonite on the floor.

"Clark! Get off me!" I holler at him as I push him off of me. I struggle to stand up and then make my way to the switch on the wall for the ventilation fan. The fan should be able to clear most of the dust out of the air. My hands find the switch, and I turn it on.

"What the heck did you think you were doing?" I ask him indignantly, squinting in the general direction of where I had been laying on the floor. I still can't see very well from the dust.

"I can't believe you broke down my door!" I chastise him. I don't get a reply. Where is he?

I walk carefully towards where I think I got up from. As the dust clears, I realize Clark is still on the floor. Actually, he's rolling around on the floor, clutching his stomach in pain.

"Are you okay? Are you hurt?" I ask him.

He doesn't say anything. "Clark! Answer me. What's wrong?" I ask, bending over him.

"Lois," he grits out through clenched teeth, his eyes shut tightly against some unknown pain. "Get that Kryptonite out of here, please." His body begins a sickening spasm, and a pained groan escapes his lips.

At first, my mind doesn't register what is really happening here. In shock, I just obey him. I gather up the Kryptonite pieces and take them into my kitchen. I throw them into my trashcan and push them down to the bottom as far as I can cram them.

There. That should protect Superman somewhat until I can dispose of the Kryptonite better. But what am I worried about? Superman's not even here. But Clark is here. And Clark asked me to get the Kryptonite away from him.

My brain has finally caught up to what's happening, and it's screaming one singular thought to me — The Kryptonite made *Clark* sick.

I head for the nearest loveseat and fall onto it before my legs can give way under me; it feels like I'm the one being affected by the Kryptonite. All the strength has left my body.

No! My mind screams at me. No, it isn't possible. It can't be. Can it? Then Clark's words come back to my mind. 'There's something I've wanted to tell you…'

I look back towards the bathroom. Get up, I tell myself. He's hurt. You have to check on him.


I want to be mad at him, I really do. Mad that he kept this from me. Mad that he pretended to be someone he isn't… err, well, pretended to be more than one person. The more I think about it, the more irritated I get. In fact… I am mad, really mad.

I stalk back towards the bathroom preparing for a verbal sparing but I hesitate just outside the doorway. I don't hear any movement coming from inside. What if he's still hurt? Some of my irritation changes to concern.

I think back to the time that I dug that Kryptonite bullet out of his shoulder after Arianna Carlin shot him. No, surely he'll be okay, now. I had disposed of the Kryptonite.

I peek my head inside the bathroom. Clark is still on the floor but he has at least pulled himself up into a sitting position. His head is leaning against the wall in an uncomfortable position, and his eyes are closed. I swallow the lump in my throat. It's true, isn't it? Clark Kent is Superman, and I just tried to kill him.

Well, that's not exactly true. I was trying to protect Superman by opening that package for him. If Clark had told me he is Superman I wouldn't have let the thing near him.

I quickly go to him, kneeling down beside him on the floor. His eyes don't open. I reach out and touch his face. His eyelids flinch in pain.

"Clark? Can you hear me? What's wrong?" I know he's sick from exposure to the Kryptonite, but I removed it; why doesn't he look any better?

The rest of my anger melts away. I take his face in both of my hands, holding it gently. He flinches again and tries to pull away. "Lois," he whispers hoarsely, opening one eye to look at me. "Please don't touch me. Get back."

I shrink back from him like I've burned my hand on a hot stove. Surely he's not blaming me for what happened? I start to argue with him but he's whispering again.

"You have Kryptonite on your hands. Please," he lets out a heart-wrenching groan and flinches away from me.

Oh my god. How is that possible? I look down at my hands. I can't see anything. I move to the sink and wash my hands — once, twice, three times. Would that be enough?

I turn around to look at Clark and find he's passed out again on the floor. "Clark! You need to come back to me, tell me what to do." He doesn't respond to me. I don't understand. I've removed the Kryptonite; I've cleaned my hands. What could it possibly be?

I kneel down beside him again, shaking him, trying to get him to wake up, look at me; but he doesn't. Then I notice it. There is a film of dust on his glasses and face. I bend over him and take a closer look. The dust has a greenish hue to it.

Kryptonite dust? It must be from the explosion. When the bomb went off, it sent dust into the air; dust that was infused with Kryptonite particles.

I examine him more closely. The dust is caked over his whole body, clothes and everything; and he's probably inhaled it, too, judging by the soft rasping sound he's making as he breathes.

Should I call an ambulance? No, what would I tell them? That Clark Kent has inhaled Kryptonite dust and needs emergency help? That would blow his cover for sure.

No, I've gotta be the one to help him, and I'm going to have to work fast. I need to get that dust off of him.

What about me though? Do I have the dust on me? Of course I do. I look in the mirror and see the dust caked on my robe and in my hair. Yikes. I've gotta get this cleaned off of me before I can help Clark.

Realizing there's no time to even think about this, I run to my kitchen and grab a trash bag. I shuck my robe, stuffing the contaminated garment down into the bag. I take the bag with me back into the bathroom. Clark still hasn't moved. I realize that before I clean up, I should probably get his clothes off of him, too.

I kneel beside him and lean down, listening for his breathing. I sigh a breath of relief when my hands feel the rise and fall of his chest. Taking his shirt in my hands, I work as fast as I can to unbutton it. My fingers are shaking so bad that it's slow going. I get down to the last couple of buttons and find that one of them is hung up in the thread; I can't get it undone. I finally lose my patience and give the shirt a hard jerk, ripping it open and popping the buttons. He's not going to be wearing it again anyway.

I can't help pausing momentarily to look at the yellow and red S shield staring me in the face. I reach out and touch the suit, feeling the slickness of the spandex under my fingers.

Wow… He really is Superman.

Snap out of it, Lois. Move!

I remove his shirt carefully and pull it out from underneath him. I work with precise movements trying not to stir up more of the dust and then stuff it inside the trash bag.

As I turn back to Clark's motionless form, a lump forms in my throat. Is he going to be okay? Come on, Clark. Wake up. Scold me for opening that package. Tell me I was wrong for not listening to you. Fight with me. Fight, Clark.

I take the glasses off of his face. I examine them briefly before laying them on the bathroom counter. How could a pair of glasses have fooled me for so long?

I roll him on his side, feeling the back of his suit. I find what I'm looking for, a zipper for the suit and clasps for the cape. Thank goodness. I was hoping for an easy way to get it off. I slide the zipper down his back and tug on the clasps, releasing the cape. I pull the cape off and the suit down, undressing him to his waist.

I realize the immediacy of the situation, but my mind balks as I stare down at a bare-chested Superman… err, Clark. Those beautifully sculpted muscles. I've seen him without a shirt before — a memory of Clark in nothing but a towel flits through my mind — but it's different now.

I had laid on this chest just a few short nights ago. I had dreamed of seeing it, feeling the smooth hardness of it under my hands… but never like this. Oh, Clark. I'm sorry. Please stay with me. Hang in there.

I undo the belt on his pants and pull it free. My hands hesitate at the zipper for his pants. Pull yourself together, Lois. He still has his suit on under these. You have to get the Kryptonite-tainted clothes off of him.

I unzip the pants, tugging on them and pulling them down to his shoes. After removing his shoes, I pull his pants and socks off. I stuff them all into the trash bag and run it back into the kitchen away from Clark.

Now to rinse this stuff off.

I don't even bother taking off my nightie. For one thing, Clark might come to while I'm in the shower, that could be awkward, and for another thing there might be some of the dust on it, too.

I step into my bathtub and turn on the water. I don't wait for the water to heat up and so I have to stifle a cry as the ice-cold water hits my scalp. "Just do it," I tell myself through chattering teeth. You have to hurry. He could die.

As soon as I'm thoroughly wetted down and sure that I'm decontaminated, I get out and dry off.

Clark isn't alert yet, but he is awake. He's moaning softly and trying to move.

"Clark. It's Lois, I'm right here. I'm going to help you but you have to work with me. We need to get you into the bathtub so I can rinse you off."

I bend down sliding my arms underneath him and begin trying to lift him. I manage to get him up into a sitting position, but I can't get him up off the floor. He's too heavy for me.

"Clark. I need you to concentrate. I need you to help me. I'm going to stand up and pull on you, but I need you to pull on me, too. Pull yourself up. Can you do that?" His head nods ever so slightly, his eyes half-opened but not focusing.

I stand up still holding his hand and grab onto my bathroom sink, bracing myself. "Okay Clark, pull!"

He pulls against my arm and I pull with all my might against him, and we make it. He's up! I move fast to get behind him and wrap my arms around him before he can fall.

I back up to the counter to brace against it so I can get a better grip on him. I feel his body relax and go limp in my arms. The weight of him pulls on me and I struggle to remain standing. If I hadn't been against the counter we would have both fallen to the floor. I walk him over to the tub and we work his legs one at a time into the tub.

Once I get him down into the tub, I turn the water on. "I'm sorry the water's cold. I've got it on hot, it'll warm up shortly."

While the tub is filling with water, I grab a washcloth. As I come back to the tub, I check his breathing again. It's still coming short and raspy. "Clark? Stay with me. Do you hear me?" I ask, but I get no response. He's faded away again.

I kneel down on the floor next to the tub and run the cloth under the gradually warming water. I wring it out and bring it up to his face; it's going to be invasive, but it has to be done. I open Clark's mouth and swab the inside of it and the inside of his nose. How much of the dust had he inhaled? I hope very little. I had turned the fan on pretty quickly and it had sucked a lot of it out of the room before it could settle.

"Come on, Clark. Open your eyes. Look at me." No response. I dip the cloth back into the water and continue bathing him. I wipe the cloth across his chest and through his hair. I wipe down every inch of him, including the suit. I've had dreams of bathing a man before, but never like this. Please, Clark, wake up.

He moans again and my breath catches in my chest. The man lying here is Superman, there's no denying that, but, above all else, he's Clark; the man I've been slowly falling in love with since I met him… and he's in pain.

I pull the plug on the tub and allow the contaminated water to go down the drain. While it's draining, I run fresh water to rinse out the washcloth. I bring the cool cloth to his face.

"Please. You have to help me," I plead with him. "I don't know what else to do." I lay my head down on the side of the tub, feeling tears come to my eyes.

"Lois?" His voice sounds raspy, etched in pain.

I raise my head. His eyes are open and searching for me. Grabbing one of his hands in mine, I reach out with my other hand and shut off the water. I lean forward over him and blot his forehead with the damp cloth.

"I'm here," I assure him. "You had Kryptonite dust on you. I think I got it off, but do you want me to call an ambulance?"

"No… I'm okay… I think," he rasps. His grip tightens on my hand as he begins coughing violently.

Oh… my heart aches. It did get into his lungs. I lean down into the tub, pulling him to me and I begin softly hitting him on the back, trying to encourage him to cough. Maybe he could cough it out.

After a few agonizing moments of intense spasms and coughing, he relaxes into my arms; his breathing softer and quieter. I hug him to me, cradling his head against my chest. It's only then that I remember I no longer have my robe on anymore. I pull him away from my still wet, silk-covered chest, embarrassed.

"I really think I should take you to the hospital."

"What are they going to do with me there? I'd be better off going to S.T.A.R. Labs, but I think I'm feeling better, though, really." He tries out a weak smile on me.

I pull him in tighter to me again, all modesty forgotten, and just hold him for a few moments. "I'm so sorry. Why didn't you tell me? I wouldn't have tried to open that box if I'd known. I was only opening it to protect Supe… well, you."

"I know, Lois. It's not your fault. I was trying to tell you last night when Mayson came and interrupted us; and that's why I came here just now, to finish the conversation we'd started," he says softly.

"So, you didn't come here to chastise me again for trying to chase down Lex on my own?" I ask, trying to infuse some humor into my voice.

"No. But I do wish you'd listen to me, at least some of the time." I grimace at the implication — that I don't *ever* listen to him.

"Let's save that discussion for later," I tell him and then sigh thoughtfully. Actually we have a lot we need to save till later. We have a lot we need to talk about.

Clark seems like he's beginning to get uncomfortable. Either he's finally alert enough to realize the position he's in or else he's thinking about what I really want to talk about. Maybe both.

I let him off the hook for now and break the silence. "As much as I'm enjoying having you in my arms, I think we'd better finish getting you cleaned up and make sure this stuff is all off of you."

His face brightens a little, and his lips stretch into a small smile. "Are you going to give me another bath? Hmm… Nurse Lois. That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" he asks, the twinkle back in his eyes.

I blush fiercely. "Ha. In your dreams, Kent." I smack him lightly on the arm. "I'll leave you to finish cleaning up and I'll go change into some dry clothes. Then I can run you home. I think we need to get you out of my contaminated apartment."

"Um, I don't think I can go home like this," he says, indicating his half-naked body and his thoroughly soaked Superman suit.

I find myself blushing again. "Uh, yeah, probably not. Let me see what I can find for you to put on… I may have to just wrap you in a blanket and put a bow on you," I say, smiling at him. "I think to be safe we should probably dispose of all your clothing, including this suit," I say, fingering the material of the suit pooled at his waist. "Do you have another one?"

"Yeah, I've got others."

"Others? Really? Well, that's good. Let's scrap this one then, just in case it's contaminated."

I go into my bedroom and get a pair of oversized sweat pants and a large sweatshirt — for those days when I want to relax, watch a good movie, and eat a whole pint of ice-cream.

A notepad and pen sitting on my dresser catches my attention. I grab them and jot down a note quickly -

- Revelation/secret. Mark Ghent = Spy. Give him cool spy name ? Silver Mane? Ha ha. He's trying to tell Lola who he is. Keep interrupting him. -

I set the pad and pen down and smile. I'm going to have fun with that later.

I bring the clothes into the bathroom. Clark is out of the tub and has a towel tied around his waist.

Oh, there it is again. The image I couldn't ever strip from my mind. 'I said nine, I thought you'd be naked…'

"Um, I'll go in the other room," I say breathily. "You can change into these. Just leave your suit; I'll take care of it for you." I wish I could keep it. Oh, if only it wasn't contaminated… maybe I could soak it for a few days. He wouldn't have to know I kept it…

"Thank you," he says, taking the clothes from me. Our hands touch just briefly and it sends a shiver through my body. He smiles at me and I smile back timidly.

I leave the bathroom to give him some privacy and I try very hard not to peek — okay, not *that* hard.

I'm mostly successful.


As Clark and I walk down the front steps of my apartment building, a uniformed officer comes walking up to meet us.

"Ms. Lane? And this would be Mr. Kent, I presume?"

"Yes," we both answer.

"Oh, good. I was on my way up to check on you. Did you notice anyone suspicious hanging around outside your apartment earlier, Ms. Lane?"

"Well actually, since you mention it, yes. Someone left a package at my door for Superman, but they ran off before we could see who it was," I answer.

"We may have apprehended him. My partner and I saw a man come darting out of there a few minutes ago. We yelled at him to stop, that we'd like to ask him some questions, but that just made him run faster. I figured that was as good as a signed confession that he was up to something, so we chased him down. It's a shame you didn't see him though. We can't really hold him without a witness or some proof that he was up to something."

"I saw him," Clark says.

"You did?" I ask and he gives me a funny look. Oh, yeah, I guess he probably could have seen him. Right through the walls if he'd wanted to.

"Yeah. I got to the door before you did, *remember*? By the time you got there he was already gone around the corner," he tells me. Then he addresses the officer, "I could probably ID him for you."

"That'd be great. We've got him in our squad car. I'll go get him."

I watch him walk off, and then I turn to Clark and lower my voice to a whisper. "Did you recognize him?"

"No. Probably just some thug Luthor paid to do his dirty work for him. But maybe we can get him to talk. I'm sure Luthor didn't pay him well enough to go to jail for him."

Good point. The officer comes back with the dirty, grungy-looking man — well boy actually, probably no more than Jimmy's age — in tow.

"This him? This the guy you saw?" the officer asks Clark.

"Yeah, that's him. Did Lex Luthor pay you to drop that package off in front of Ms. Lane's apartment?" Clark asks the boy.

"I don't know who it was. I've never met Luthor, but this guy looked like he could have been him, except that he was bald."

It *was* Lex. Could this kid know where he is? "Where did you meet with him?" I ask.

"In an alley not too far from here. If I cooperate with you, will you let me go? I didn't do nothin'. All I did was make a delivery. I don't know anything. But, I can take you to the alley where I met him."

"I'd better call for back-up before you take us there," the officer says. "Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, I don't think it would be a good idea for you to go. It could be dangerous."

"I agree with you," Clark says.

He agrees? Well I don't. The re-capture of Lex Luthor will be front page news, and I intend to be there. I make a motion to follow the police officer and Clark grabs hold of my arm.

"Let go," I tell him. "If they find Lex, I'm going to be there to cover it."

"Please," he says. The appeal has such intensity and emotion that I stop struggling against his grip. "Please, just this once, listen to me. Let it go."

I don't want to let it go. I want to be there. I want to see that man go down for what's he's done… to me… to Clark. But Clark had made such a point about how I never listen to him. I look up into his face. His eyes are dark with worry, pleading with me not to go.

"Okay," I finally resign. "I need to get you back to your apartment anyway. As good as you look in my sweats," I smile at him and tug on his shirt, "we can't have you walking home in them, especially with no shoes." I point at his feet.

He had fit into one of my bigger pairs of socks, but there was no hope on the shoes. But we're driving, not walking to his apartment, so he'll be okay.

I grab hold of his arm and glance fleetingly in the direction the police drove off.

Clark squeezes my arm lightly. "I promise once we're back at my apartment and I can get into a suit, I'll make a quick trip out and check on things," he says, making a small flying motion with his hand. "I'll make sure you don't miss out on your exclusive."

I smile at him. "Deal."


"So you promise to stay here while I fly over and take a quick peek at things? You won't decide all of the sudden that you need to see things first hand? Or decide that there's something you just have to go check on, before I can get back?"

"I promise," I say. When he looks at me skeptically, I put on a dramatic display of drawing an x-shape across my heart.

"When I get back we'll talk, okay?"

I nod my head at him, and I watch wistfully as he walks out onto his balcony and takes to the air.

I pass the time for a while by looking at Clark's photos scattered around his apartment. There are pictures of him and me, his parents, his life in Smallville. There's still so much I need to learn about him before I really know him.

I've known both sides of him separately. I mean I never truly knew Superman, but I knew him better than anyone else did; just not like Clark. I definitely knew Clark. It was going to be interesting to get to know them both together as one person; my friend, my savior.

I sit down on the couch feeling my eyes begin to get heavy. Come on. Wake up. This is no time to sleep.

Well, maybe I could just lay down for a minute or two. I pick up a pillow from the couch and stick it under my head as I lie down. I smell something nice and I turn my head to the side. It's the pillow — it smells like Clark… a few butterflies start in my stomach.

The phone in Clark's living room begins to ring. I raise up and look at it, wondering if I should answer it. Could it be Clark? The police? Should I or shouldn't I? I hesitate for one or two more rings, but curiosity finally wins out and I answer it. After all, Clark just asked me to stay here; he didn't say I couldn't answer the phone.

"Hello, Clark Kent's residence."

"Yes. Is Mr. Kent there?" a voice asks. An odd shiver runs through me, not at all like the pleasant one I had been feeling. The voice sounds like someone is trying to disguise it — it has a very familiar quality to it.

What's wrong with me? Clark's got me jumpy.

"No. I'm sorry. He's not here right now. Can I take a message?" I wait for a response but one doesn't come. "Hello? Hello, are you still there?" No answer.

I hang up the phone, the weird shiver coming back again. Oh, Lois, it's nothing. We just got disconnected.

…After he found out that Clark isn't here.

Suddenly I don't feel very safe here, without Clark. Promise or not, I think I need to get out of here. I start to walk towards the front door when the lights go out. I continue towards the door and open it to run smack into a man standing there in the shadows. I can't make out who it is.

"Don't you know you shouldn't speak to strangers, Lois? Although we aren't strangers are we? No. Two people who're going to enter into the sacred bond of marriage can hardly be considered strangers, can they?"

I know that voice. "Lex? What are you doing here? What do you want?"

"Well I thought that was obvious, my dear. I want you; and if you won't come willingly, I'll take you by force. Come along. Be a good girl, and maybe I'll put you somewhere with windows."

"No! Help, Superman!" I scream, and he hits me sharply in the throat with the side of his hand, paralyzing my vocal chords. It takes my breath away, and I start coughing. "Why?" I rasp. I move backwards down the steps behind me, trying to put some distance between him and me.

He follows me down the steps. "Because you are rightfully mine. We were to be married until Clark Kent and Perry White got too nosy and messed everything up."

"No, Lex. You've got it wrong," I whisper hoarsely. I look around for anything I could use as a weapon, something I could use to hit him with. "I had already decided I couldn't marry you. I turned you down. Don't you remember?"

"Minor setback, my dear. You would have come to your senses sooner or later. I'm putting my money on sooner. No, dear Lois, we were destined to be together. Soulmates, you and I are." He closes the distance between us and grabs hold of me.

I repress the revulsion that is running through me. Lex really is insane. What can I do? I can't *scream* for Superman, and he isn't likely to hear a loud whisper; but what the heck, I'll give it a try. "Superman!" I scream in a muted whisper.

I'm rewarded for my efforts with a hand placed tightly over my mouth. But that's one less hand holding my body. I twist around in Lex's grip and bring my knee up hard into his groin. He lets go of me to double over and fall to the floor in pain. I turn to run up the front stairs, but his foot shoots out, blocking my progress and causing me to fall.

I try to get up, but he grabs my foot, stopping me. I crawl away from him, pulling myself up the stairs one at a time and pulling him with me.

"No, Lois. You won't get away this time. I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you make me. If you won't give yourself to me willingly, then I'll take you by force."

"Superman, help!" I yell again in a muted whisper as loud as I can muster. I've reached the top of the stairs. I'm still crawling towards the open door with Lex in tow when I see a familiar face come walking around the corner.

It's Mayson. I've never been so glad to see her in my life! "Help me!" I try to scream again.

Mayson reaches into her purse pulling out a can of Mace. She rushes inside the apartment, holding the can out in front of her. "Let go of her, Luthor."

"Ah, this is too good to be true. I can take back my fiance and kill off my prosecuting attorney all in one evening. This is going to be the best night I've had in a while," Lex says, pulling a gun out of his pocket and aiming it at Mayson.

"Mayson, run!" I yell hoarsely. "Find Superman!"

"She doesn't need to," a voice says from behind us. It's him. It's Clark. Oh thank god. He moves in a flash to stand between Mayson and the gun Lex has pointed at her. "Let them go, Luthor. This is over. You're going back to prison."

"Oh? And who's going to take me back? You, Superman? I don't think so," Lex says, reaching into his pocket and walking towards Clark. "I can see you obviously didn't get the gift I left for you earlier." Lex gives me a knowing look and shakes his head softly. "It's a good thing I kept a little part of it." He shoves his hand out at Clark.

I watch in horror as Clark begins to buckle under the effects of the Kryptonite. I run to Lex to try and get the Kryptonite away from him, placing myself between him and Clark. But to my shock, he simply opens his hand and blows something in my face and then on Clark. It's more of the Kryptonite dust! Not nearly as much as what was in the bomb at my apartment, but enough.

I watch in dismay as Clark sinks to the floor, writhing in pain, knowing that I can't go to him or help him. I look back at Mayson just in time to see her sneak out the front door. Please let her find help.

"Oh, this really is too good to be true," Lex says, smiling maniacally. "This night just keeps getting better and better. You know when I commissioned Lex Labs to experiment on Kryptonite to see what we could extract from it and manufacture from it, I never dreamed I'd have any use for this dust."

His eyes are focused on Clark; so I try my best to get behind him where I can inch closer towards him unnoticed. Maybe I can get that gun away from him.

"Oh, but that was before Nigel came up with the plan to build a Kryptonite bomb," he continued, walking closer to Clark. "Oh, poor Nigel. He just got a little too big for his britches, didn't he? It's a shame I had to kill him. But you can't allow insubordination; no one will take you seriously."

Lex lowers his gun to Clark's head and cocks it. "It's time for you to join him, Superman."

"No!" I scream, launching myself towards Lex. I'm not sure how weakened Clark really is, but I don't want to find out. I'm betting he wouldn't survive a bullet to the head.

Lex spins around, pointing the gun at me and I halt, just inches away. "Lois, I love you, but don't ever, EVER, get between me and what I want, and I have wanted this even longer than I have wanted you."

"Lex Luthor, you're under arrest!"

I look back to see two police officers standing just inside the doorway with Mayson behind them.

"Drop your weapon and walk towards us with your hands up."

"Never!" Lex screams, grabbing me and shoving the butt of his gun in my back. "Lois, dear Lois, don't you know that if I can't have you, no one else will?" He looks back at Clark, lying on the floor and then back up at the officer. "Back away or she gets it."

Would Lex really kill me? I'm suddenly not sure. I feel like all the strength has left my legs. I turn to look into Lex's face, into his eyes, and I see a look of pain cross his face. What's wrong? I feel the gun beginning to shake next to me, and I look back at Clark. He's leaning up, with an extreme look of concentration on his face. His eyes are focused on the gun in Lex's hand. I hear the gun clatter to the floor beside me, and Lex lets go of me, shaking his hand in pain. Clark had used his heat vision on the gun.

I watch as Clark collapses back down to the floor. Several police officers are now swarming around Lex and me, and I hear them slap handcuffs on his wrists.

I push through the officers and kneel down beside Clark. "Cla… Superman, are you okay?" I whisper.

He opens his eyes and looks up at me in pain. "Yeah, mostly. I didn't breathe any of it in this time."

"Come on, let's get this washed off of you," I tell him, helping him to his feet.

Mayson comes walking past the group of officers and stops next to Lex. "You'll never breathe the air as a free man again. I can promise you that," she tells him. She walks over to stand next to Clark and me. "Lois, I'm sorry. He must have had the police under surveillance. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks, Mayson. How did the police know where we were?"

"When Luthor attacked you and Superman, I used the distraction to run outside and call for help on my cell phone. Where's Clark, by the way?"

"Oh, um, I'm not sure. After we got back here, he went to find Superman; since Superman's here, Clark's probably still out looking for him. I'm sure he'll be back soon."

"What about him?" she asked, gesturing at Clark. "Is he going to be okay? Do you need me to call an ambulance?"

"No, that won't be necessary," Clark weakly replies. "I just need to get this dust cleaned off."

"I can handle this, Mayson," I tell her, walking into Clark's kitchen. "You go on with the police and get Lex safely back behind bars. Clark and I will check in with you tomorrow. We've got some further information you'll want for your case against Lex."

I grab a towel off of his kitchen counter and wash my hands off, running the towel under the water as I do. Then I rub the wet towel over my face and hair. I rewet it and begin wiping it across my neck and chest.

Mayson watches me skeptically. Come on; just go, I think at her. I need to help Clark, and you need to leave.

"Okay, if you're sure," she says finally. "I'll see you at my office tomorrow, then." She follows behind the officers as they lead Lex out the front door.

I grab Clark's trashcan and remove the jacket I'm wearing. I throw the jacket, and the towel I was using, into the trashcan and set it down as far away from Clark as I can get it.

As I walk back over to Clark, Lex breaks free of the policemen holding him and runs back through the front door. The police quickly regain possession of him by shoving him to the ground hard and surrounding him on all sides. His eyes never leave me as they pull him up off the floor. "This isn't over, Lois!" Lex yells at me. "We're destined to be together. You will be mine one day; I promise you."

"Come on, you," one of the officers says, shoving him smartly in the back. "Keep moving."

Clark grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly. I squeeze back and wrap my arm around him to support him. We watch as Mayson follows the officers out the door, closing it behind her.

I begin to let go of Clark but his legs buckle, and he starts to fall. I grab hold of him tighter, helping him back up. "Come on. We need to get you in the shower. You did say you have *several* back up suits? I'm afraid we may need to scrap another one."

"My mom isn't going to be happy," Clark says, smiling weakly at me.

Martha makes the suits for him? I stifle a giggle and smile back at him as he walks off towards his bedroom. "Um, Clark, are you going to be able to get out of that suit on your own?"

He stops and turns back to look at me. "Why? Are you offering to help…? Nurse?" He tries to smile playfully at me but ends up wincing instead.

"You and your nurse fantasies," I roll my eyes at him and smile. "Go get cleaned up so you'll feel better and we can have that talk."

He reaches around behind him, fumbling with the zipper, trying to get a hand on it. He groans a little bit with the effort.

I can't just stand here and watch him struggle. "Here, let me help," I tell him. I've gotten most of the dust off of me, so I shouldn't hurt him like before. I'd like to get a shower but I need to get him into the shower first. The quicker we get him out of that suit and cleaned off the better. "You do realize that I did what you told me. I listened to you this time. I stayed put in your apartment just like you asked me to," I say as I move behind him.

"Yes, I do. I'm sorry this happened. I shouldn't have left you alone like that with Luthor still on the loose." He sounds miserable.

"I didn't tell you that to make you feel bad. I told you that so you couldn't say that I never listen to you," I tease him, giving his shoulders a light squeeze before reaching under his cape. I release it from his suit and then slide the zipper down his back.

The realization dawns on me that I'm undressing Clark for the second time tonight. My stomach flutters in response, and I feel the need to take a few deeper breaths.

I pull the two halves of his suit away from his back and pause for a moment, to admire his muscular physique. I think back to him breaking down my door, and pulling me along so effortlessly when I tried to stop him from getting to that box. There's so much strength quietly being held in check in this body.

I'm amazed to find myself musing over these thoughts; of course there is — he's Superman. I fight the urge to press against him in an embrace. He probably wouldn't appreciate me pressing my tainted body and clothing against his.

Instead I reach out, laying my hands against his back, enjoying the warmth underneath my fingers. Before I realize what I'm doing, I lean forward and place a soft kiss between his shoulder blades.

His body stiffens under my hands. Oops. I hadn't really meant to do that. I focus my thoughts back to the task at hand, and I pull the sleeves of his suit down his arms and off his hands. He's now naked from the waist up. It has to feel good to get that off of his skin.

Again, before I'm conscious of my actions, I lean close to him and lightly kiss the skin on the back of his neck. I nuzzle him softly.

"Lois?" Clark whispers huskily.

Ah, what am I doing? I pull away from him, embarrassed. Clark is in pain and waiting for me to help him and I'm… I'm what? I'm taking advantage of him. How could I do that? I need to leave now and let him finish this himself, while I still have some sense left in me. I've helped him as much as I can anyway without intruding on his dignity any further.

"I'm sorry, Clark. I don't know what I was… um, I'll leave you to finish undressing."

I begin to walk away, but his hand comes out to stop me. Did he need something? I turn to face him and find his face dangerously close to my own. I can see the pain clearly etched on his face, but he pulls me closer to him. What is he doing?

I try to pull away from him to leave, but I can't. The grip he has on my arm is too tight, too firm. He pulls me closer to him, our lips almost touching.

He's fast, but not fast enough; I catch the twitch in his eye of the pain breaking through on his face.

I'm dismayed. "Let me go. You're hurting. I need to go clean…"

"No," he whispers forcefully and then before I can say anything more, his lips press to mine in a firm, passionate kiss. All the doubt, all the hesitancy leaves me and my body relaxes into his arms.

The tip of his tongue lightly plays against the outer surface of my lips as he deepens the kiss. I allow my tongue to flit inside his mouth, tasting him as he moves his hands down my body in sensual strokes. I hear a groan and realize it came from me, deep within my chest. Oh Clark, Clark, my mind screams at him.

As the kiss becomes more reckless, more fervent, I find myself responding more urgently. I grasp his head in my hands, putting more force behind my responses to his lips. I run my fingers through his hair, gripping it as I move to the end of it. Wanting to hold more of him, I move my hands down his neck, his back, wrapping him in a tight embrace.

A groan escapes from his mouth between our lips; but, much to my dismay, it isn't a groan of pleasure.

I pull back from him immediately. "Clark, I'm sorry. I just got carried away. Please, let me go. You're in pain."

"I've been in pain much worse than this over the past two years."

I blush at him. "Please. I can't do this. Not like this. You're hurting — I can't. Go get cleaned up. You'll feel better." Why am I pulling away from him? I need to clean up as well. Couldn't we share a shower?

No. Oh god. I can't even believe I *thought* that. I need to let him clean up and give him some time to think… give me some time to think as well.

I smile at him, trying to hide my own disappointment. I'm surprised at the longing and passion I see in his eyes in return. One part of my brain is saying, 'Please, ask me not to go. Ask me and I'll say yes.' The other part of my brain is saying, 'Please, don't ask me. I can't do this. I can't refuse you if you ask me.'

Please, please, say something, Clark.

He opens his mouth. "Lois…"

"It's okay, Clark. I promise I'll still be here when you get done."

I walk away from him and back to the kitchen before I can change my mind. After a bit I hear the water running in the shower. I have to restrain myself from going to take a peek.

I finish cleaning myself up and start to work on decontaminating the room, but I suddenly feel very tired. It's extremely late. So I sit down on his couch and let my mind wander for a bit. Before too long, I feel my head dipping down. I told him I'd still be here when he got out but I don't know how much longer I can stay awake.

My thoughts begin to drift towards my novel. I realize I have the perfect ending for it. It's a shame that I'd probably never finish it though. The thoughts swirling around in my head and vivid scenes branded in my mind leave an intense fluttering deep in my stomach and a smile of pleasure on my face. If only the real life story would turn out this good.

Who knows, maybe it would. I could hope, anyway.

Hmm, I could do more than hope.

Deciding maybe I'm not as tired as I thought, I get up from my spot on the couch and head towards the bathroom. I can still hear the water running in the shower.

Could real life turn out to be as good?