By Poussin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2006
Summary: Superman has just announced his marriage… but it's not to Lois Lane! How will Lois react? Read and find out.
Here is my second fanfic. I inspired myself from an episode of the show "The Adventures of Superman" with Georges Reeves to write this story. I even borrowed the title of the episode. So any resemblances are not accidental.
And I hope you'll enjoy my story, even if it begins VERY SLOWLY before becoming interesting.
Any feedback is very welcome, the bad ones like the good ones.
PART 1: THE MESSAGE
Like every night, Andrea went home alone. She didn't have anybody to share her life with. She had decided long ago that her job was more important than a social life. And since her job was a dangerous one, it would be irresponsible to start a family, anyway.
But sometimes, like tonight, she thought that it could be great to have a boyfriend who would be waiting for her when she got home. Someone to talk to about her day at work. Someone to help her relax.
She had thought about that all day. Maybe she was wrong to consider her career more important than her personal life. And when she finally went home, she felt depressed at the sight of her empty apartment.
Most of the time, that was okay, but some days, she didn't want to be alone, and she doubted that her job was worth it.
She put a pizza in the microwave and sat in the kitchen waiting for the ringing that would tell her she could eat. While she waited, she thought that maybe she felt this way because nothing had happened at work for some time now. She had become a police officer because she wanted to catch the bad guys. So when there weren't bad guys to catch, after a few days, she began to think that her work wasn't worth the sacrifice of her personal life.
She was a young and pretty girl, and she could find a boyfriend easily if she wanted to, and when the crime rate was so quiet in Metropolis, she really had trouble remembering why her job was more important.
The ringing of her phone interrupted her thoughts.
"Andrea Flynn," she said tiredly when she picked up the phone.
"Andrea, it's Murray."
Immediately Andrea forgot her bad mood and felt adrenaline rise. Her heart raced. She'd known Murray for months. He lived in the street and always heard very interesting things. When he called her, it was always because something was happening. Maybe the city wasn't so quiet after all…
"Yes Murray. What's going on?"
"I heard something that will interest you. But it's really big, so I can't tell you on the phone. Come see me; you won't regret it. I'm pretty sure you will have that promotion you're waiting for after this."
"I'll be there in half an hour. Wait for me."
Forgetting the pizza in the microwave, she put on her coat and her shoes and went out with a smile on her face. She remembered pretty well, now, why her job was important. Even if the bad guys went quiet sometimes, they were still there.
And anyway, if she had a boyfriend, he would probably be kind of upset right now to see her go out at this time of the night for work, she added mentally to herself. So it was definitely better this way.
On the road, she smiled again, remembering the comments Murray made about the promotion she'd been waiting for.
She'd finished her classes to become a police officer a little more than a year ago, just before Superman came to town. She was the best student at the police academy, so she was sent directly to Metropolis's central police station after the exams. Since then, she'd worked for Inspector Henderson. She liked him; he was her friend and a good detective. It was great to work for him.
But since childhood, her dream had been to become a police inspector herself, and do all the things she saw in the police movies: working under cover, setting traps for the criminals…
When she grew up, she understood that being a police detective wasn't like in the movies, but she still wanted to become an inspector. She hoped that her boss, Inspector Henderson, would help her to get the promotion she wanted. And to convince him that she'd be a great inspector, she had decided to help him to do his job in any way she could.
She began to develop friendships, or become acquainted with, people who knew people… to know what was happening on the street. Murray was one of them. He was a very reliable source. He never told her anything that wasn't true. He was a good guy, and if he told her that he knew something important, she could trust him.
She didn't have a clue about what it might be, but she was sure that Henderson would be happy when she repeated to him what Murray told her tonight. And maybe soon, she'd become an inspector.
The ringing of his phone woke Clark up in the midst of a very pleasant dream about Lois. He looked at his clock. 3:18 in the morning. He sighed but picked up the phone anyway. Who else, apart from Lois, could be phoning him at 3:18 in the morning? And hearing her voice for real was probably better than dreaming about… Err… Or maybe not.
"Clark Kent?" asked a male voice. The voice was familiar but definitely not Lois's.
"Yes. Who is this?"
Clark was incredulous.
"Inspector Henderson? It's 3:18 AM."
"Really Kent? Sorry. It's important. Can you contact Superman quickly and discreetly?"
"Superman? Why? What's going on, Inspector?"
"Sorry Kent. I can't tell you. Can you contact Superman?"
"Yes. He will be at the police station in a few minutes. I'll contact him right away."
"Than… No, Kent, wait. Hang on a minute, please."
Clark waited. Through the phone, he heard Henderson talk to someone else, a woman, but he couldn't really understand the words that were spoken, even with his super-hearing. He began to get anxious. Henderson had never phoned him before to ask for Superman. Apparently, something really serious was happening.
"Kent? You still there?"
"Sorry to have awakened you at this hour of the night. I won't need Superman to come right away. Can you tell him to come to the police station tonight, please? At 8:00 PM? That will be great."
"You sure? He can be there in a minute."
"Yes. I need to make some things happen before he comes."
"Okay, Inspector. I'll pass the message on to him."
"Thanks Kent. Oh, and… say nothing to Lane. Say nothing to anyone, but especially not to your partner. Can I count on you?"
"Thanks again. Goodnight, Kent."
As the policeman hung up, Clark was really puzzled. Something was
wrong, really wrong. And he wouldn't know what that was for many hours. Why would Henderson want to see Superman? And why so much discretion? The comment about not telling Lois was worrying him still more. What was going on?
Clark got out of bed and put his Superman suit on. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep any more tonight. He needed to make a patrol of the city to be sure everything was still quiet. And maybe check on Lois's apartment as well. Just to be sure she was all right.
He launched himself towards the sky, really tense, all memories of his sweet dream about Lois forgotten.
Clark arrived early at the Planet. Jimmy and some other co-workers seemed surprised to see him. He had a habit of being late. And even when he was at the Planet on time, he still came in after Lois, except when she picked him up at his apartment to go to work together. But today, he was there before her, and that was the first time ever.
He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn't even notice the surprise of his colleagues.
His patrol over the city hadn't revealed anything. Everything was very quiet in Metropolis, but obviously something was going on. Henderson wouldn't have phoned in the middle of the night for nothing. But he couldn't figure out what was wrong.
He had talked to his sources and nobody knew anything. Apparently, everything was as quiet as it looked. But obviously not. When he had checked on Lois's apartment during his patrol, he had seen two guys waiting in a car, watching her building. He knew those guys. They were policemen; they worked for Henderson, and they were watching Lois's apartment in civvies.
Seeing that hadn't calmed down his anxiety. Henderson wouldn't do such a thing without a strong motive. Why was he spying on Lois?
He checked the time. Only 8:04 AM. He still had twelve hours to wait before he'd know.
When he saw Lois come out of the elevator, he mentally hit himself. He had to act normal or Lois would guess something was wrong, and Henderson had been very precise about that. Lois couldn't know a thing.
Still, he was on alert the entire time, ready to protect her if there was trouble. But the workday went pretty well. Nothing happened, and Clark was beginning to go crazy. He was wary of everything, since he didn't know what the danger was. Still, there must be a danger. When Lois and he were going out of the mayor's office, after the interview the mayor gave them, he noticed two other men who were following them.
He knew them, too. They were also Henderson's men. He'd seen them many times when he was dealing with emergencies as Superman.
Just… what was going on?
PART 2: SUPERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND
Clark paced in his apartment, thinking again and again about the phone conversation he'd had with Henderson the night before. The detective hadn't said much but the little he'd said was making Clark crazy. He felt useless. He knew something was seriously wrong. Something that concerned Lois. Something that required Superman. If the past year was any clue, she was in danger again.
And that danger must be very real. Henderson had never tried to contact Superman using Clark before. He had never phoned Clark in the middle of the night either. And, most of all, he had never used policemen to follow Lois all day and watch her building.
So Lois was more than likely in serious danger. He had to do something to help her! He couldn't stay in his apartment, worrying. But he didn't even have a clue of what was happening. He needed to talk to Henderson.
Changing into his Superman suit at super speed, he decided to go to the police station and talk with the detective. And then he realized that it was only 6:27 PM. Henderson wanted to talk to him at 8:00. He had said he needed to do things first. Maybe it was important to let him finish what he had to do… so he still had one hour and half to wait.
Changing back into Clark's clothes, he sat before the TV screen and tried to focus on the basketball game that was playing, but he couldn't think about anything else. He needed to help Lois. He checked the clock one more time. 6:33 PM.
"Oh god, not later?" he grunted.
He couldn't stand it anymore. He made his decision and spun into Superman's suit once more. Even if he had to wait to speak to Henderson, he still could check on Lois. He needed that. He needed to see her safe and sound.
From his balcony, he launched himself towards the sky of Metropolis, and towards his partner's building.
Sitting on the roof of the building next to Lois's, Superman looked through the walls of Lois's apartment. When he first arrived, she was sitting on her couch, working on her laptop. Probably doing some research on their next story. And then, when she put away her laptop, he saw her watching TV. Some insipid soap opera called The Ivory Tower.
That made him smile. But he felt ashamed, spying on her like that. She probably wouldn't want anyone to know that she was watching something like that. So he stopped watching through her walls and noticed that the policemen were still in their car in the street. Losing visual contact with Lois, added to the reminder of the presence of the policemen, made him nervous again.
To reassure himself one more time, he looked again into Lois's apartment. She was still okay. To see her fine calmed him down a little, but he couldn't help but feel anxious.
He checked the hour one more time. 7:51 PM. Soon. Soon, he would know. He watched Lois again, still quietly sitting in front of TV, unaware of his troubled mind, and of the danger that was threatening her. 7:52 PM. Maybe being eight minutes early was acceptable. Henderson had probably finished doing what he needed to do, anyway.
Impatient to talk to the detective, Superman flew away from Lois, towards the central police station.
Superman landed near the police station and entered the building, eager to hear what Henderson had to say.
The policeman at the reception desk lifted his eyes from the crossword he was doing in the newspaper open in front of him, and almost jolted when he saw Superman standing there. Before he could say anything, the superhero was talking.
"Good evening. May I see Inspector William Henderson, please? I think he's waiting for me."
The young man quickly regained his composure.
"Really? I don't know about that. He hasn't said anything. But I'm sure he will see you. Actually, he's still in his office. I'll tell him you're here. Please, wait."
He watched the young policeman go away and waited for him to return. He didn't take long. Henderson accompanied him, and after greeting Superman, asked him to follow him into his office.
When Superman entered the office, he saw a young woman sitting on a chair, waiting. He was surprised. Henderson had asked for discretion, yet a woman was here, probably knowing more than he about what was going on. He knew her. He'd seen her at many rescues. She was a police officer who worked with Henderson. Another one.
The sound of the lock made him turn round towards Henderson, who had entered the office behind him and bolted the door. The inspector sat on the chair behind his desk, facing the woman, and showed the other seat with his hand to Superman, inviting him to sit down.
He did, and the policeman made the introductions.
"Superman, Andrea Flynn…"
He greeted her with a move of the head, but Superman's impatience
became too strong, and he interrupted him.
"What's going on, Inspector? Why have your men been following Miss Lane all day, and watching her building?"
"You saw them?" asked Henderson.
"Of course, Inspector. What's going on? Is she in trouble?"
"Yes and no. She's not in trouble in the sense that she's 'suspected of a crime', I can reassure you on that. But she's in trouble. She is in danger. My men are following her to protect her. That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about. Have you ever heard of Intergang, Superman?"
Now the conversation turned interesting and the policeman had the
complete attention of Superman. The superhero frowned and replied, "No, never. Who are they?"
"That's the problem. We don't know. No one knows who is behind Intergang. It's a powerful criminal organization with illegal affairs all around the world. Interpol and all the police agencies of the world are working on them, but with no results whatsoever, so far."
"And… you want my help. What's the link with Miss Lane?"
"Intergang was miraculously absent from Metropolis until recently. Of course, now we know that it was Luthor who was preventing them from doing their business here, but since he died five months ago they are trying to install themselves here. The problem for them was you, Superman. Even without knowing it, you stopped some of the criminal activities they were trying to develop. That's where Lois comes in."
The police inspector made a break in his explanation to think of a way to say to the superhero what was coming next, but Superman was really impatient to know what Intergang wanted to do to Lois.
"Inspector?" prompted Superman, eagerly.
"Yes, Superman, I'll come to the point. Agent Flynn has a source, a very reliable one, who contacted her last night and told her that Intergang was fed up with your interventions, and wanted to prevent them."
At that Superman couldn't help but chuckle. The old inspector, as well as the young policewoman, looked at him, surprised.
"Sorry. But I suppose that's the wish of all the criminals in Metropolis, as well as some from other countries," replied Superman.
"Yes, but Intergang has a plan to act on it," cut in Henderson.
Immediately, Superman became serious again. Slowly, he spoke.
"A plan… involving Miss Lane. Are they thinking of putting her in
danger every time they don't want me around, or something like that? Inspector, some other criminals have tried that, too. I've always been able to stop them. Why do you think it will be different this time?"
"Because that's not exactly what they want to do. They want to kidnap Lane and hold her somewhere forever. And they don't want you to fade into the background and let them do what they want. They want you to work for them. Against the city, the USA, and the whole world. That's the way Intergang works. They are powerful because they always find a way to compel powerful people to work for them. You're their new target."
All the time Henderson was explaining Intergang's plan, Superman was thinking about the situation. He'd never agree to work for a criminal organization, at any cost. The fact that Intergang could even think about the possibility made him doubt their efficacy. And the fact that the police seriously considered the possibility made him slightly angry. He'd proved what he thought about the criminals' blackmail.
And then, in the silence following the end of the explanation, Superman thought again about the situation. If Lois was in their hands, and if he couldn't do a thing to find her and save her, and they would probably make sure that he didn't, he knew he'd do anything to keep her well and alive. Sure, he'd try anything to find and save her, until he succeeded, but in the meantime, he knew that he'd do what they wanted him to.
<But that's because it's Lois! I'm nothing without her!> he argued with his conscience.
Finally, resigned, Superman broke the silence.
"Why does it always have to be Lois?"
The question was totally rhetorical, but Henderson looked almost
embarrassed to have heard it. After a few seconds Andrea took the lead for the first time since the beginning of the conversation. Softly, she answered the question as if she was expounding evidence.
"Because she's your girlfriend."
PART 3: IT'S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
In the silence of the office, that easy assertion seemed to echo.
Anyway, that was the feeling Superman had, as if the words kept repeating themselves in his head. He was stunned for a moment before the implications of being linked that way to Lois sank in.
After a few seconds of shocked silence, he recovered enough to deny the assertion.
"No, she's not. Miss Lane isn't my girlfriend."
He hated himself. He couldn't even keep his voice steady while denying it. She really wasn't his girlfriend, so why was it so difficult to sound convincing? And he obviously failed to convince that woman, who looked back at him with her eyebrows raised, doubt clearly written on her face. Even Henderson looked doubtful.
Superman felt himself reddening, but he persisted.
"Really. We're not together. We don't have that kind of relationship. She's not my girlfriend. She's just a friend. Sure, she's a girl…"
<Great! I'm babbling, now! I spend too much time with Lois!>
He stopped in mid-sentence, not wanting to say things he would later regret, and blushed even more when he realized that Henderson was now frankly amused by his attempt to deny any love story with Lois. His face probably matched his cape by now, he thought.
Mildly exasperated, Andrea sighed and took up the argument again,
clearly ready to ruin his denial. In an overly patient tone, she began to make her point.
"Superman, I've been working here for a year and half, so I came here a little before you. The first time I actually saw you, there was a hold-up at a bank, staged by "invisible men". You made them visible, so we could arrest them. You want to know what else I saw that day? I saw you destroy a wall in the bank to enter the bank vault. There were hostages in it and they were suffocating. You saved their lives by breaking the wall. Some colleagues and I walked into the room just after you to help the victims get out. And you didn't even seem conscious of the fact that there were people there, except for the woman you had in your arms. You were just hugging her as if your life depended on it. She was obviously very special to you. At the time, I didn't know who she was, except that I'd seen her many times before at various crime scenes. Later, I found out that she was Lois Lane, a famous reporter for the Daily Planet. You never looked at the others who were prisoners with her. You just took her in your arms and left, carrying her as if she was the most precious thing in your life."
Superman remembered that incident very well. He had been so afraid that she could have died that he was maybe a little careless about the others, but not that much! He had been perfectly conscious that there were other people there as well; it had been hard enough to keep himself from kissing her in front of them all because he was so glad he hadn't lost her.
Andrea didn't give him time to protest and defend himself. Without giving him the time to talk, she continued to lay down her arguments.
"I was there, too, when you were ordered by the judge to leave Metropolis because everyone thought that you were responsible for the heat wave. I was there to contain the crowd and I saw you stop just in front of Lois Lane. She was about to cry. You took her face in your hand and you stroked her jaw. A very sweet gesture. The gesture of a man in love; you can't deny that."
Superman remembered that day very clearly, too. Yes, that was the gesture of a man in love, just like the kiss he gave her later that day at the Planet. But… was he really that obviously in love? Heck, there were a lot of journalists there, as well as the crowd of demonstrators. Wow. Maybe he should be more careful in the future.
"Superman, I was even close enough to you in that crowd to hear you sigh when you were doing that."
At that, Superman felt himself blush even more furiously, but Andrea kept talking without letting him respond.
"And the day after that, I was at the LexCorp nuclear power plant to assure the security of all the officials that were here for the inauguration. And I saw you flying in with Lois Lane in your arms."
This time, he interrupted her.
"But she was the one who discovered that there was a leak!"
"Yes, Superman. But you didn't need her to be there to stop that leak. Taking her with you wasn't necessary. I'm even pretty sure that that slowed you down. You can't fly as fast as you can when you have a human with you, for his or her safety. So why bring her with you, if not because you like her to be with you?"
He stayed silent. He didn't know what to say. She had a point. He
hadn't needed Lois to be there. He had just taken her with him without thinking about it. That had seemed to be the natural thing to do when she'd explained to him what she'd discovered. And he definitely liked her to be with him.
Luckily, Andrea didn't wait for him to answer the question. She resumed her speech.
"More or less a week later, I was sent to the airport with some of my colleagues to arrest a woman whose name I don't remember. Lex Luthor warned the police that the woman wanted to spray the entire city with a toxic compound. And when I was there, I heard you, like everybody else who was there, declare your love for Lois and I saw you kissing her passionately."
Superman interrupted her a second time.
"I have an explanation for that one!"
He stopped abruptly at the sound of the chuckle that escaped Henderson. The older man tried immediately to hide it with a cough.
<Great! Now I made it sound as if I don't have explanations for the rest! Think!>
Before he could explain himself very much, Andrea spoke again.
"Yes, that toxic compound made the people crazily in love…"
Glad that that point at least was clear, he exclaimed "Yes, exactly!"
But maybe he had agreed a little too quickly with her, he thought, when she continued with what she was saying.
"…but only the people already attracted to each other, if we believe what our scientist said."
He felt a heat wave overwhelm him, and he knew he had reddened even more. And the sound of the laugh that Henderson was trying to hide wasn't helping. Was it possible to be redder than his cape, he wondered briefly, before she once again resumed her chronological testimony of his relationship with Lois.
"Actually, that wasn't the only time I saw you two kiss. You remember that meteor you destroyed, of course. I was there, too. I was forming the police cordon to prevent all the reporters and the crowd from getting too close."
<Oh God! I really kissed her in front of reporters from all around the world? Oh God!>
Apparently unaware of Superman's agitated mind, Andrea kept speaking.
"I was the one you told to let Lois Lane through. You said, and I
quote, that 'she was with you'. And you kissed her just before…"
"Okay, that's enough. I see your point. I know what happened, I was there too. And actually, SHE kissed me. But, really. She's NOT my girlfriend. It's not what it seems…"
Even he could hear how weak that sounded after all she'd witnessed, but nevertheless, that was the truth. Lois wasn't his girlfriend. He would like it… but she wasn't.
Andrea was still insistent.
"Superman, maybe you're not a couple, but she is in love with you, and you're in love with her. That's enough to…"
Henderson entered the conversation soothingly.
"Superman, it doesn't matter what the police think about your relationship with Lois. We're on the same side. We don't want to harm her to control you; don't worry. What matters here is that Intergang thinks that she IS your girlfriend. And I don't think that your denial will be enough to convince them to leave her alone."
Superman thought about it a moment and proposed, "I can stop being friendly with her in public like I have, and stop giving her exclusives, but she'll make my life a nightmare. You know Lois, Inspector… She'll chase me to death to have exclusives… What can I do?"
"Yes, I know her. Anyway, we need you to do more than just stop giving her exclusives. To convince the criminals that Lois Lane isn't your girlfriend, you'll need to do much more than that. But lucky you; I have a plan."
PART 4: THE PLAN
Okay, Henderson had Superman's attention. He leaned forward, waiting to hear more, but the inspector stayed silent, looking the super-hero in the eyes.
"A plan?" prompted Superman.
"Yes, Superman. A plan that would protect Lois by convincing Intergang that she isn't your girlfriend, and which will give the police a chance to identify the criminals behind the organization, and put them away. For the first time, we have a chance to stop Intergang."
Superman was astounded. If Henderson really had a plan to do all that, then it was a chance that they couldn't pass up. To stop a dangerous international criminal organization, without putting Lois in any kind of danger; that was a great plan.
But something inside Superman was nagging him. If Henderson's plan was so great, why hadn't he announced it yet? Obviously, there was a "but" somewhere. And he had the strange feeling that he wouldn't like it. Henderson wouldn't be so hesitant about telling him what the plan was, otherwise.
"If you're sure that you can do all that, that's great, Inspector. So, what are you thinking?"
Superman noticed that Henderson hesitated a second or so before answering, looking towards Andrea, as if he didn't quite know how to tell him what he had to. Definitely not something he would like, Superman thought again.
"I was thinking about giving a deserving young police officer who's dreaming of working under cover a chance to do just that."
Henderson smiled at Andrea, who returned the smile, clearly pleased. Superman looked from one police officer to the other. Henderson's response wasn't quite the explanation Superman had hoped for. Still, he didn't need to be a genius to figure that this woman, Andrea Flynn, would be part of the mysterious plan.
Superman had just opened his mouth to ask the inspector what the plan was, exactly, when Henderson turned back to him and spoke again. His tone was casual and friendly, as if he had forgotten all about the urgent business they were supposed to be discussing.
"Superman, have you ever thought about marriage?"
Superman was taken aback by the question, very surprised by the abrupt shift in the conversation. And it was a conversation he didn't want to have with anybody, much the less the brusque police officer in front of him. But now that the question had been asked, how could he escape answering it, and protect his Superman persona at the same time? He didn't want anyone to think of Superman like an ordinary guy. If they were beginning to imagine him that way, it wouldn't take long before people saw through his disguise… Plus, he knew he couldn't lie and say that he never thought about it and be credible at the same time. He always dreamed of the day he could marry the woman he loved…
Superman shifted uncomfortably in his seat, praying Henderson would just get back on track before the pause in conversation stretched into awkward silence. Fortunately, he didn't have to answer. Henderson spoke again, as if he didn't notice the lack of response from Superman. Actually, he seemed completely oblivious of the superhero, completely lost in the memories that his apparent non sequitur brought to the surface.
"I was married once. She was a schoolteacher. She was great. We had two children, you know. My family was the most important thing in my life. Once, a guy, a criminal, tried to kill them. I had put his brother in jail, and he wanted revenge. His family against mine. I was lucky; he failed. But, you know how life is for a police inspector. You're never sure when you can go home. You're called in the middle of the night. You're threatened, as well as your family, almost every day. My wife had enough of all that, and there were difficulties in my marriage. So when this guy tried to kill her and the children, she couldn't take any more and she filed for divorce," explained Henderson with a little trace of pain in his voice. "She had custody. That was a long time ago. The kids are in college now," he added more soberly, looking anew at Superman, as if remembering that he wasn't alone.
Superman could understand why the threat against Lois had stirred up memories of Henderson's own situation, but it was still a bit awkward to listen to him tell such a personal story, and he didn't really want to hear more. That was way too close to what he had always dreaded for those he loved. His parents. His friends. Lois…
He also didn't want the conversation to stay on the personal level it had somehow ended up on. He didn't want to answer any questions about his personal life, not when he was in his Superman persona, anyway. And definitely not when he'd done such a pathetic job of convincing the two police officers that he wasn't Lois's boyfriend.
And most of all, he didn't want to lose sight of the fact that Lois's life was in danger because of Intergang's threats. And he still hadn't the slightest idea of what Henderson's plan was, except that Andrea would play a role, and that he probably wouldn't like it.
He really needed to bring this conversation back to the point.
"Inspector, I'm sorry, really. That's a horrible thing to have to go through, I'm sure, but can we get back to the subject at hand, please? What's your plan?"
He tried not to sound heartless or impatient, but they really had much more important things to discuss, and he needed to make that clear.
"The subject at hand? But that's exactly what we're talking about, Superman. What better way to prevent Intergang from attacking your girlfriend — I mean… your 'just-a-friend,' Lois," he chuckled," than to give them a better target. And to blackmail you, who's a better target than your beloved wife?"
Maybe he was dense, or maybe he just missed some clue, but he didn't understand a word that Henderson was saying.
"My 'beloved wife'? But I'm not married! And even if I was, I certainly wouldn't run around announcing it to dangerous criminal organizations!"
Superman began to feel a little angry. He wasn't married, but if he had been, then how could Henderson suggest that he ask his wife to become a target for criminals in order to save Lois? Was the man crazy? Hadn't he learned anything from his own experience? But surprisingly, Henderson was smiling during Superman's speech.
"And I totally agree with you, Superman! Of course you'd have to
protect your wife by keeping it a secret if you were married. I'm 110% behind you. Protecting the woman you love and your family from criminals should definitely be the most important thing to consider. The problem is that, right now, your hypothetical wife isn't the one in danger. It's Lane's life that's at stake. And you want to change that, Superman, right?"
Oh, he played dirty! Of course he wanted to change that. He loved her! And here he thought that Henderson had figured out that Lois was the only one he wanted to marry one day? After all, he didn't seem to believe him when he denied that she was his girlfriend.
"Of course, Inspector, I want to save Miss Lane."
"Well, do you have another idea to prevent Intergang from attacking her? Because I really think the best way to push Lane into the shadows would be to put another woman under the light."
Superman began to see a pattern, but he was just appalled by the idea. Surely Henderson wasn't saying what he thought he was saying? No… that just wasn't right. He had guessed that he wouldn't like the plan, but… if Henderson was really implying what he thought, then he'd have to make it clear that he'd never do such a thing.
"You want me… to pretend I'm married to an innocent woman who'd be bait for the criminals so that you can arrest them when they try to kidnap her?"
Henderson smiled again, amused by Superman's horrified tone. Yep, he'd guessed right. Superman didn't like his idea. He'd have to play his cards very carefully to convince him to agree.
"Not an innocent woman, Superman, but a well trained police officer for whom that is the job. And she'd be very well covered by our services. She'd be one of us, and we don't let down our partners. Don't worry. She'll be safe."
Superman frowned. He wouldn't ever agree to do it, and Henderson must know it was absolutely out the question. But before he could tell him that he'd never do such a thing, the inspector spoke again.
"She'll be completely safe," he repeated. "And so will Lois Lane."
Superman clenched his teeth. Henderson played really dirty.
"Superman, help the police do their job. Let the undercover police officer do her job and pretend to be your wife, and help us to assure Lane's safety."
A police officer… Hadn't Henderson implied that Andrea would have a role in this cockamamie plan? Afraid to have guessed right, Superman looked at the silent young woman who'd grilled him on his relationship with Lois.
Henderson watched Superman looking uncertainly from himself to Andrea, and back again. He smiled. He'd figured it out, and, even if his face spoke volumes about what he thought about the plan, he still hadn't said anything against it.
"Superman. Andrea. I now pronounce you husband and wife. You can
introduce the bride to the world."
PART 5: THE CHOICE
Oh no, no, no, no, no! That was totally out of the question.
"Oh no, Henderson. Never. I won't do it."
Superman's tone was categorical. His choice was made, and he wasn't open to options. His resolute expression told Henderson so. But the police inspector knew he had to convince him to play along. That was the only chance a police organization had to stop Intergang. They had to do it! He had to convince Superman to agree! Quietly, he retorted, "Superman, why not? You know that's the only way to keep them from going after Lois."
"Actually, I don't know that, Henderson. I think there is inevitably another solution, something else I can do, but not *that*. I won't do it."
Now the superhero was almost angry. How could Henderson ask him to do something so morally questionable?
"If there's another way, please tell me what it is, because I don't see one," insisted Henderson.
Something wasn't right. The plan wasn't so great, anyway, so why did the older policeman refuse so stubbornly to try to find another way? He hadn't told him everything.
"Why are you insisting on this? Why aren't you considering any other options?" Superman's eyes narrowed. "What's going on, Henderson?"
Immediately, Henderson looked guilty, and Superman knew he was right. There was definitely more behind all of this. But the policeman quickly recovered, and remained silent.
"I thought you said we were on the same side?"
Superman took on his superhero pose, the one he used to intimidate criminals, and deliberately stared sternly at Henderson. Lois was in danger; he wanted to know everything that was going on, and if he had to try a threatening attitude to get some answers, then he'd do it.
Henderson seemed to make a decision, and sighed.
"I have orders."
His response was short, and said quietly. Superman wasn't sure he'd heard it correctly.
"Sorry. Can you say that again?"
This time, Henderson's response was firmer.
"I have orders. I have to make you agree."
Superman was astonished. What was all that about? Someone gave Henderson an order to convince him to pretend to be married to a police officer? But why? That made no sense! Henderson, seeing the incredulity on Superman's face, resumed his explanation.
"Superman, you must know that the officials of the city, and of the country, are very worried that Intergang could kidnap Lois Lane. You can deny that you two are together as much as you want, but the fact remains that everybody knows she *is* your girlfriend," insisted the old policeman.
"But we're really not…" Superman began, tired of having to deny the assumption again.
"Okay," Henderson cut the superhero off. "So let's say that the fact remains that everybody thinks she is your girlfriend. And everybody knows you'll do *anything* to save her life. Am I wrong?"
When Superman shook his head to say that he was right to think so, Henderson went on.
"So that means she *is* a way to blackmail you, girlfriend or not. And the authorities of this country are very well aware of the risk that you could become if any criminals ever succeed in forcing you to work for them. Haven't you ever noticed, Superman, that the National Whisper, the Dirt Digger, the Inquisitor, and all of the other tabloids never write a word about your relationship with Lois? That was never the subject of Top Copy, either."
No, he had never noticed that all of the stories written about him in those papers never mentioned Lois. But then, he'd never noticed that he was so careless about showing his feelings for Lois when he was Superman before Andrea had pointed it out to him, either. Henderson didn't stop talking.
"It'd be easy enough for them to create something out of nothing if they wanted to cause a scandal, but whatever there is between you and Lois, it's not nothing." Henderson raised his eyebrows to punctuate his point. "And it's not like they don't have the material. There was that kiss before you intercepted Nightfall, for example. Cameras were there from all over the world and yet afterwards it was as though it never happened. Strange, don't you think?" asked Henderson in a sarcastic tone.
Henderson was right. He should have been more careful. He already
recognized the truth in that, and swore to himself again to be more careful in future.
"Just for your information, the owners of all those papers I talked about, and the producer of Top Copy, are friends of President Garner. Close friends, since you've come onto the scene."
Wow. The White House was really working on hiding his love life from the public as if it was some National Security secret? Cleaning up after him, so to speak? He almost chuckled; the idea was so funny to him. But then he felt guilty. Of course they were worried that if he responded to blackmail, he could become a threat; so it was natural for them to do their best to minimize the risk that criminals might use Lois to blackmail him. He really should have been more thoughtful. He'd really messed up. But Henderson hadn't finished his speech.
"And Intergang isn't just a group of random criminals. It's a powerful, international criminal organization. They always act by kidnapping and blackmailing the people they need. And right now, you are the one they want. That's enough to make this a problem of national security. You could become pretty dangerous for the world if criminals could force you to do what they want. Do you understand, now, why they want to persuade everyone that you're *not* in love with Lois Lane?"
Oh yes. He did understand it, now. And he had to do something about it. It was time he took responsibility for his actions.
"And Superman, can you really be sure that you'd *never*, on *any* occasion, do something Intergang asked you to in order to save her?" asked Henderson, finally coming to the end of his speech.
Yes, he was right again. He'd even thought earlier that maybe he could go along with Intergang for a while to buy time for Lois if he really had no choice. But only if he had no other choice, and he'd always try to find another solution before even considering something like that.
"I'd find another way, Henderson. There's always another way," he
"What if you don't find one? What if your choice is obey them or let her die?"
Superman didn't respond to that. He remained silent, but his expression told to Henderson that he was right, and that he'd choose to obey if that was the choice he had.
The three of them remained silent. Henderson and Andrea were waiting for Superman to speak, and Superman was thinking about the whole situation and all the things the police inspector had said. He had a lot to think about.
The silence had stretched out endlessly long, when Superman finally spoke.
He spoke so softly that Henderson barely heard him, but he didn't ask him to repeat himself, nor did he pretend not to understand which question Superman finally responded to, since it was clearly not the last one.
"Okay. So here's your cover story. Superman, sit down, please."
Superman noticed for the first time that he was standing. He'd gotten to his feet earlier, when he was refusing Henderson's proposal. He sat down again and listened to the police inspector explain what he had to say to the press.
"Since there are many criminals who can identify Andrea as a police officer, we don't want to pretend otherwise, because if Intergang learns that she's working for the police when we've given the media another story, they'll know we're trying to trap them. So Andrea keeps her identity and her story. She came to Metropolis a year and half ago after having graduated from the police academy, and began to work at the central police station, under my orders, right away. Exactly as it had happened in reality. The fewer things we change, the more credible this story
will seem. So we won't change the fact that you two have encountered each other many times at rescues all over the city, either. Okay, now, the part of the history that we will change: At these rescues, you noticed her, Superman. You found her attractive, you got to know each other, and then, with time, you began dating and fell in love. Then, a few weeks ago, you asked her to marry you and she agreed. The story is quite simple. That's what might make it seem possible."
Superman listened to the entire speech without interrupting Henderson. But there were still some things that needed more explanation.
"Yes, you're right; a simple story, close to what really happened, has more chance of being believed, but there are certain details that complicate everything. First off, how could I marry her when I don't even have papers or anything that's needed for a wedding to be legal? And then, it'll be hard to hide that she and I aren't living together from the press…"
Henderson was about to respond, but Andrea answered first.
"Superman, your second concern is quite simple to solve. Like Bill said, it's better to stick close to reality on this. Everybody can know where I live, but nobody knows where you do. What if we tell the press that you're moving into my apartment? My building will be surrounded by paparazzi who will want to take pictures of you and me, but you're fast enough to fly without being seen, right? You can fly in at night to be seen and then go away to your own home too fast to be seen. You'll come back without being seen in the morning, then go out of my window again for the paparazzi's benefit. A little show for the press that will convince them, hopefully, that we are living together. Do you think that's possible?"
"Yes, I think that could work. I can actually fly fast enough to be invisible to the human eye. But there's still the problem of my lack of papers, and lack of identity, for that matter. I'm not from the US. I'm not even from Earth…"
This time it was Henderson who explained the solution.
"Superman, you're now aware of the importance of this story for the public authorities. So don't worry about the legal, administrative side of the plan. They'll help us. Actually, they've already taken care of it. I already have the wedding certificate along with all the legal stuff required to prove that you two are really married if we need to do so. Don't worry, you're not legally married, but the records will say otherwise if someone checks it out. I've spent the entire day getting that all straightened out."
He handed one copy of the papers over to Andrea, and gave another set to Superman.
"And for you, Superman. The president himself signed that letter. He gave you the right to marry an American citizen without papers since he's aware that you don't have any. That's legal, by the way. You can use it later if you really do want to marry someday."
Henderson leaned back in his chair, relieved that the superhero had finally agreed to the plan. "So… Do you have any other concerns, Superman?"
"Err… no. Yes. How and when do we announce the 'wedding'?"
"How and when you want. I think you could give a press conference. And if you don't have any reasons to postpone it, I think maybe we should do that tomorrow. The sooner the better. We have to remember that there's a threat against Lois Lane's life."
"I guess I can do that. I have an agent, Murray Brown. I'll tell him to send the news of my wedding to all the press agencies of the world tomorrow morning, and organize a press conference at noon to introduce my 'wife'."
"Great. Do that. And if there's nothing else, I think we can go home. It's late, and Andrea and I have been up since yesterday. I don't know about you, Superman, but I think we can call it a night."
Superman looked at the clock on the wall of the office and saw that it was 9:25 PM.
"Okay. So I'll go talk to Mr. Brown. I'll come by tomorrow morning to tell you where and when we've scheduled the press conference. Goodnight."
Superman was about to open the door and leave Henderson's office when the inspector called him back. He seemed hesitant to talk.
"Err… Superman? You do understand that no one outside of this room can know that the wedding isn't real, don't you? Not even Lane…"
Superman looked incredulous.
"What? Inspector, come on! You know her! You know she'd keep the
"Yes, I know that. But…"
When Henderson trailed off, searching for the words he needed to
explain the situation tactfully, Andrea took up the reins, less interested in treating the superhero gently than in making him understand why he couldn't talk to Lois.
"Superman, every single person who's ever approached Lois Lane or
talked to her, or even just read her stories in the Planet, knows that she is crazily in love with you."
"Even if you're not together, " Henderson interjected, cutting off a new denial from Superman before letting Andrea going on.
"If she's not devastated enough, if she doesn't react the appropriate way when she learns about your wedding, then nobody will believe the marriage is real, even if she keeps the secret."
Superman didn't want to let Lois suffer like that. But her safety was more important to him, and they had a point. Lois had to be completely destroyed by the news to convince Intergang… Finally, he nodded reluctantly at Henderson to indicate his consent.
God, he hated this plan! If only he had another solution to propose. He could really use a brainstorming session with Lois, except she couldn't know anything… He had to go along, he knew it, but that didn't help him to assuage his guilt about lying to the entire world. About lying to Lois.
Sighing, he said, almost to himself, "She's gonna kill me."
That last comment, from a demoralized Superman, made Henderson smile.
"Yes. I'm sure she'll try."
PART 6: THE BROKEN HEART
In the morning, when Clark entered the Daily Planet newsroom, he saw Lois at her desk, already working. He stopped to look at her. It was 9:00 AM. In three hours, he'd break her heart.
Before going to work, he had gone to see Murray Brown, who told him that he had arranged the press conference to be in front of city hall at noon, and that he'd send the news to the press organizations around 9:00 AM. After that, he went to the police station to tell Henderson and Andrea to finalize the last details.
So, in few minutes, Lois would know about Superman's wedding. And in three hours, he'd have to introduce his 'wife' to the press, and probably do it right in front of Lois who would more than likely want to cover the story.
Sighing, he walked to greet her, the way he did every day. But something in his expression or face must have betrayed him because she immediately asked:
"What's wrong, Clark?"
A little surprised that she could read him so easily, he jumped to deny that anything was the matter. Maybe a little too quickly.
"Nothing. What makes you think that something's wrong?"
She opened her mouth to respond when Perry appeared besides them,
apparently not happy.
"Lois. Can I see you for two minutes in my office, please?"
Lois nodded, stood and followed him into his office. He closed the door behind her and showed her to a seat in silence. He seemed very worried about something and looking for a way to tell her. Lois didn't need to be a genius to guess he had some bad news for her. Maybe her latest scoop wouldn't be published or she was being sued or something, but she was ready to fight. Clark and she had proof for everything they wrote!
Finally, he spoke.
"Lois, I don't know how to say this, but you'll know about it soon, anyway, and I think it'd be better if I tell you myself."
"What's going on, Perry? Is there a problem with my story?"
"No, no. Your story's fine. Really great. You'll probably get another Kerth nomination for that one, honey. No, that's not it…"
Lois was very relieved and pleased at the compliment, but Perry still had something to tell her, so, more hesitantly, he went on.
"Few minutes ago, a communiqué came from Superman."
She was very surprised. That wasn't his habit at all. Normally, when he wanted to say something to the press, he gave her or Clark an exclusive… But a communiqué to the press? That was a first.
When Perry nodded, she asked again:
"What did he say? What's going on?"
"He announced his wedding."
Lois was stunned. She stared at Perry, trying to process what he'd just said. Some crazy voice in her head that sounded a lot like the southern editor had said something about Superman announcing his wedding, but that just didn't make any sense. She closed her eyes. She must be working too hard. Opening her eyes, she smiled and said:
"Sorry, can you repeat that, Perry?"
"You heard me, honey. He's married."
There was that voice again! She really did need a vacation; she was going crazy! Or Perry was joking. But, no; one look at him and Lois knew he was deadly serious. So… she must really be losing her mind. There was no other explanation because there was no way that what Perry had just said could be true. Superman wasn't married! He couldn't be married! She loved him!
Perry was afraid to see Lois immobile and silent like that. She hadn't talked or moved in almost three minutes. He'd known that this news would come as a shock to her, but he hadn't imagined that she'd feel so numb, she'd become catatonic. He was really worried.
"Lois? Honey? You okay?"
She blinked, as if she just awakened.
Her voice was barely a whisper, but at least she was talking.
How he hated to be the one to break the news to her! Her lack of
reaction worried him deeply. That was so unlike her. He'd thought she'd be angry, furious… He wasn't prepared to see her completely numbed by the news.
"Honey, maybe you should take the day off…?"
She was like a daughter to him and she really seemed to need to rest. But he barely finished suggesting the idea to her when she came back to life, with fire in her eyes.
"A day off?! I'm fine, okay?! I'm Lois Lane; I don't take the day off!"
Perry couldn't help but smile. She was angry. She was still the woman he knew and loved so dearly. She was suffering right now, but she'd be okay. But he was still worried for her. He knew about the feelings she had for Superman, and he knew how badly men had treated her in the past. This news must be hurting her. He really thought she should take the day off.
But before he could voice his thoughts, she spoke again, insisting that everything was okay, that there was no way she'd go home without any reason.
She seemed so angry that finally, he gave up. She walked out of his office to go back to her desk and resume her work as if nothing had happened. Only her tense movements and the paleness of her face betrayed that she was falling apart inside.
When Clark saw her come back to her desk, he walked towards her. He'd listened in on her conversation with Perry. He knew she needed her best friend right now, even if she was apparently denying that she felt a mess.
"I'm okay, Clark."
Her response was quick and abrupt. The message was clear. She didn't want to talk about what was bothering her. When she saw her partner open his mouth again, she interrupted him.
"Look. It's time for the staff meeting. Come on."
Without waiting for his answer, she headed towards the conference room where their colleagues were gathering, confident that he was following her.
She sat at the table, Clark beside her, and remained silent, deep in her thoughts. To everybody who didn't know what had just happened, she looked as if she was just waiting for the meeting to begin.
But Clark knew better.
Perry entered the room, and all the employees took their places around the table and stopped their conversations to listen their editor in chief.
"Before we discuss your stories, I have something to say. A communiqué came in a few minutes ago, from Superman, to announce his wedding."
After a moment of shocked silence, everyone started talking at once. Superman was married?! This was huge! All eyes made their way to Lois, who was sitting straight in her chair, apparently focused on Perry. She seemed not to notice the attention her colleagues were giving her. The truth was that she had obviously decided to ignore them all, and to act as if everything was normal, but her posture, just a little too straight, betrayed her true feelings. She was just counting on her anger to sustain her.
Seeing their colleagues look at Lois like that, waiting for her to fall apart, as if they were watching a movie, infuriated Clark. He was impressed by Lois's apparent calm, but he knew what she was feeling, and he felt bad about letting her suffer. In a comforting gesture, he put his arm around her shoulders. And even if she ignored it in the same way that she ignored their colleagues' reactions, Clark knew that she was grateful for the support. The fact that she hadn't rejected his gesture told him that.
Perry restored the silence among the reporters and resumed what he was saying.
"He will introduce his wife at noon today, at a press conference in front of the mayor's office. I would have preferred to send a senior reporter, but since the reopening of the Planet a few weeks ago, we're still a little short-staffed, so… Ralph, you're still new here, so be careful. I want a GOOD story on this one, you hear?"
Before Ralph could respond, Lois spoke.
"We can do it, Chief. That story is too big for a newbie. Clark and I will do it."
She looked very calm and reasonable, but Perry was hesitant. How could he ask Lois to write the story of Superman's wedding? That was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
"Lois, I'm not sure you should write this story…"
"Perry, we've been writing almost all the Superman stories for the Planet. What's the problem?" she interrupted him.
How could he respond to that? He definitely couldn't say that she
shouldn't be writing this because she was in love with him in front of the entire staff. Heck. That wouldn't even be easy to say to Lois in a private conversation. But he was sure that he couldn't let her do this. He looked for an excuse but found none that sounded good.
"Lois, that's not a story for the city desk. That's a society story."
He knew his excuse was lame. He knew that even Clark's excuses were better than this one; and when Lois rolled her eyes, he knew she was about to argue. So when he saw Clark nodding to him, as if to reassure him that he could give them the story, he knew that Clark would look after Lois, and make sure she was okay. He continued to speak before Lois could insist.
"But if you're sure you want to write it, do it. Lois, Clark, you'll go to the conference."
When the morning meeting ended, Lois and Clark came back to Lois's desk. She sat on her chair and he sat on her desk, facing her, looking at her with concern in his eyes. After a few seconds of silence, she looked at him, seemingly annoyed by all his attention.
"Look, Clark. I'm fine! Why doesn't anyone see that? You don't have to look after me like that, as if I was about to fall apart or something… I'm not!"
"Lois, I know you better than that. I know how shocked you must feel by the news about Superman. I know how you feel about him, remember? You don't have to pretend around me."
Really annoyed now, Lois stood up and headed to the coffee machine. Clark followed her.
"Clark. I know what you think, but, really, I'm fine."
Clark looked doubtful, and Lois resumed, articulating each word as if she was speaking to a little child.
"*I — am — fine!* Which word in that phrase don't you understand?"
"If you say so…"
"I'm really fine, Clark. Except that I'm starting to be really fed up with having to repeat that."
He stayed silent, but Lois could see that he didn't believe her.
"I don't have any reason to fall apart. I don't think Superman is
really married. It's a hoax, and I'll prove it."
Clark's heart began to race. He knew she was a great reporter, but how could she know that it was a hoax? It was, of course, but how could she know it? Did she really have proof that he was lying?
"I know what you're thinking, Clark, but I'm not crazy or in denial. It *is* a hoax."
"How do you know that?"
"He can't be married. It's not like him to act that way… He can't be, so I know he's not," affirmed Lois quietly, sure that her logic was clear enough to everybody to see the truth behind her words.
Clark began to relax. She didn't know a thing. She was just in denial, even if she was right in this particular case.
"Lois, don't you think Superman has the right to a private life too? And to marry the woman he loves like everybody else?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Clark. That's not what I mean when I say he can't be married. Of course I think he has a right to a private life, and to marry someone."
"So, what did you mean?"
"I mean he couldn't marry HER, so he's not married. Look, Clark, in my life, all my relationships were disasters because all the men I was involved with were bastards, and I thought for a long time that all men were just bastards or idiots. You know that. But during the last year I've changed my mind because now I know two men who aren't like that. You. And Superman. So, tell me, Clark: Could you flirt with a woman, spend evenings with her, when you're about to marry someone else, the *big love* of your life?"
"No, I couldn't do that."
"Well, I'm pretty sure Superman couldn't, either. So, he can't be married."
"Lois, Superman isn't seeing another woman. As far as we know. And you can't be sure Superman isn't married just because he is friendly with you. I'm friendly with you too, and that doesn't mean I'll never fall in love and propose to someone else."
That was less than likely, Clark amended mentally, since he was still deeply in love with her, but Lois didn't have to know that.
"It's not the same, Clark. Superman is more than just friendly with me. I know I told you last spring that he rejected me when I told him how I felt about him, and he never mentioned it again. But his attitude towards me has changed since then. We spend more time together than before. We spend some nice evenings together. Nothing ever happens, but they aren't evenings between friends either, and I'm not imagining things, Clark." They sat on the couch beside the coffee machine, and Lois resumed her speech.
"When I came back from my cruise to Bermuda, Superman came to my
apartment to thank me for… err… something personal I did to help him. I invited him to dinner. He accepted, but he insisted that it was he who was inviting me, to thank me. We had dinner, just the two of us together, Clark!"
Clark remembered the evening as well. She'd saved his life when Arianna Carlin had shot him with a kryptonite bullet, and then disposed of the meteorite in Bermuda. After the awkward weeks last spring that followed the declaration of love Lois made to Superman, and his subsequent rejection of her, he wanted to thank her and try again to be friends with her as Superman, so he brought her favorite foods and they had dinner in her apartment. They had both enjoyed the evening. Clark was brought back to the reality by Lois's voice.
"The week after that, he came back. That was the night of the Kerths. After the ceremony, he came back to my apartment. He only stayed a few minutes. He said that he wanted to thank me for helping him to arrest Lenny Stoke. That didn't make any sense, Clark. We always do our best to help Superman arrest criminals. He's never stopped by to say thanks before. And why thank only me, and not the both of us? No, I'm pretty sure he just wanted to see me. Thanking me was his excuse. And if you saw the way he looked at me that night, you'd be convinced of it, too."
Clark was dumbfounded. Yes, she was right. It had just been an excuse, but he'd thought that it was a good one… Apparently, Lois hadn't believed it for a second. Were his feelings for her that obvious when he was in the suit? He remembered all the things Andrea said to him the night before, when he denied having a relationship with Lois. Yes, apparently it was very obvious, and even Lois had noticed it. Heck. What a mess he was in. But Lois still wasn't finished.
"And last week, he came back again, the night of the Church Ball. To thank me for our help in our investigation, again. And again, that was just an excuse."
"How can you be so sure? Maybe he realized that he never thanked us before, and he wants to be polite now."
Even he could hear how flimsy that sounded, and the glance that Lois gave him made it very clear that she thought so too.
"How can I be sure? Well, I invited him to dance; he accepted, and he closed the window behind him while we were dancing. Tell me, is that the way a guy acts when he doesn't want to spend the evening with you?"
Clark heard the sarcasm in Lois's voice and grimaced. Had he really done that? Yes, he had. They had danced and talked until late in the night. He should remember all that the next time he wondered why Lois was in love with Superman and didn't notice Clark.
"And even two days ago, when the city was in darkness during the
blackout and I was pushed out my window. He saved me, and then we heard an accident, and he hesitated to go. He wanted to stay with me. I had to *tell* him to go help."
"Okay, Lois. I get the picture. But still… you have to admit that it is possible that he's married."
"No. He's not. He'd never act that way with me if he was in love with that woman. It's a hoax, and I'll prove it," she repeated.
"And how will you do that?"
"I don't know yet, but I'll find a way. I know I'm right."
Clark could hear in her voice that she was less assured than she wanted to appear, less sure about her theory now than while she was remembering the good times she'd spent with Superman over the last few weeks.
"Maybe he'll give me an exclusive interview, or his wife will. Then I know I'll be able to prove it."
Clark could detect an almost desperate tone in her voice now. The hope of proving the wedding to be a hoax was the only thing that was holding Lois together, but deep within her, she wasn't completely convinced that it was a lie.
"Lois, what if it's real?"
Clark didn't want to ask, but some sadistic voice in his mind pushed him. He needed to ask her, to really know, not just only guess, how she was feeling.
After a few seconds of silence, she suddenly started crying. They were tears of desperation. She was completely wrecked, and couldn't hide it anymore. Clark took her in his arms to comfort her.
"It can't be… It can't be… real," she responded while crying into the cradle of Clark's arms.
He wanted to tell her the truth, and he even opened his mouth to speak, but he knew he couldn't. He'd known the night before, when he'd agreed with Henderson, that it would be very difficult to see Lois like this and go on lying to her, letting her believe he was married to someone else. Yet, he'd agreed to do it. So he resisted the urge to confess everything, and held her tighter.
He saw some of their colleagues looking in their direction and that made him angry. All of them were enjoying the sight of Lois suffering and crying, as if it was just a good show. But he couldn't do a thing about it; it was why he couldn't tell Lois the truth in the first place. People had to see her like this to believe that his wedding was real. But he couldn't help feeling that he was being too cruel to her.
He couldn't let her go on like this. She was crying out her soul in his arms, and he just wanted to make her feel better.
"Shh. Maybe you're right, Lois. Maybe he hasn't married her. Shh"
"I just have to prove it to the world," responded Lois softly, still crying.
PART 7: THE PRESS CONFERENCE
It was almost noon, and it was time to go to City Hall to attend the press conference. Lois looked at her partner, who was sitting at his desk typing some notes, and went to him.
"Clark. It's time to go."
"Yes. I'm coming."
He turned off his computer, put his notes in his drawer, and went
towards Lois to help her put on her coat. While they were waiting for the elevator, Clark looked at her. It was obvious she was still very upset, but she was trying to hide it. He hated what he was doing to her. And he hated what he was about to do.
The elevator's doors opened, and Lois entered. Clark stopped and said to Lois, "Huh… Sorry Lois, I've forgotten something. Go ahead, I'll meet you there."
Lois was about to protest, but the doors closed. She sighed. She didn't want to go alone to Superman's press conference. She needed Clark to be there with her, when he introduced his wife to the world. How could she do it without her best friend to support her? But no. Clark was always forgetting something, and he'd never be there when she needed him. She sighed.
Clark really hated the situation. Not only did he have to break Lois's heart as Superman, but he couldn't even be there for her as Clark. He sighed and went towards the stairway doors. It was time to pick up Andrea before the press conference.
Lois arrived at City Hall. It wasn't yet time for the conference, but there were a lot of people there already. Reporters from the whole world were there, waiting. Many had cameras or video recorders with them.
The police were there too. They had put barriers up to prevent the hundreds of people in the crowd from coming too near. Everybody wanted to see Mrs. Superman.
Lois found it difficult to advance through the crowd, but she finally managed to get just in front of the barrier. A policeman blocked the way. Lois showed him her press card, and he let her pass, but then she was in the crowd of reporters and that was as difficult to move through as before.
She finally reached her goal. She was just in front of the podium set up for the conference. And it wasn't too soon; Superman just appeared in the skies, with a blond-haired woman in his arms.
<Oh great! A blond! Superman goes crazy for a blond, now! Humph!>
Lois was jealous. She knew the second she saw his wife that she hated her. She thought that seeing the woman would upset her, and she prepared herself to face that feeling. But she felt more angry than upset. Seeing Superman with that… *blond* really made her angry. And definitely jealous.
Superman began to talk in front of all the microphones.
"Hi, everyone. I think you all know why I organized this conference, so I'll come straight to the point. I am married. The wedding was a few days ago, actually. I'd like you all to meet my beloved wife, Andrea Flynn."
At that, the blond woman approached the microphone and waved with a smile for the crowd.
A thousand flashes of cameras blinded her for a few moments, but she kept smiling. Superman resumed speaking.
"We have time to respond at your questions."
Still smiling, Andrea interjected in a humorous tone, "Except the very personal ones, of course."
Superman took the podium again.
"Of course. Okay, so… first question…"
Immediately, all the reporters began speaking at once. Superman designated one, and right away, everybody fell silent to listen to his question.
"How did you meet?"
"Andrea works for the police. We met many times, on various rescues or arrests…"
While Superman was responding to the question, it was clear to every observer that he was ill-at-ease doing so, so Andrea took over.
"Yes. I guess we can say we met at work. It was difficult for me not to notice him. The girls know what I mean, but I'd never thought he'd notice me too…"
At that, her joyful smile turned tender while she looked for a long second to her husband. Lois felt even more jealous.
<God! He's smiling back at HER!>
"But he did! And then… you know… we started dating… and then… well… without the details, let's say that today I'm a happily married woman!"
She smiled again at the crowd, looking definitely happy, and Lois felt her jealousy rise still higher. One friendly voice from the crowd of reporters said, "Oh, come on! Without details? Our viewers would LOVE to know the details…"
The comment made Andrea laugh.
"Definitely without details! I'm sure you have viewers under 18…"
The crowd whistled at the response, and laughed at the embarrassed expression on Superman's face.
"Well… What my wife is trying to say is that the details of our first encounter and our wedding are a little too personal."
"Yes, honey. That's what I said, and I'm sure they understood me pretty well…"
She winked at him, grinning, and Superman smiled back, and began to relax. She obviously had the situation under control, and was definitely more prepared than he was to face the crowd of reporters. He might as well let her do it, and play along.
Lois saw these smiles and felt rage invade her.
<God, I hate her!>
Lois didn't really listen to the rest of the conference. She was vaguely aware that questions were asked and that the couple responded with good mood, and humor. She was vaguely conscious of the crowd laughing a couple of times around her at his wife's jokes. But nothing really registered.
She just watched the couple. The joyful, smiling woman. And even angry and jealous, Lois had to admit to herself that she seemed like a nice girl, and that she was pretty. And the reserved superhero beside her. Even if he was a little tense in the beginning, he was now completely relaxed, and even joked a few times himself with the crowd.
<I've never seen him relax except when we were alone. And I've never heard him joke…>
That thought made Lois even more depressed. She realized that she'd skipped almost all the conference, and since Clark wasn't here with her, she needed to focus on the questions that her colleagues were asking, or the Daily Planet wouldn't have anything to print.
"Superman, are you considering starting a family?"
The superhero's smile faded a little, and Andrea was quicker to respond.
"We haven't discussed it yet. I'd be glad someday to expect the children of the man I love, but… later. I guess it's a little too soon for me. I prefer to enjoy my life as a married woman first."
"Anyway," added Superman, "I don't know if I can… I'm an alien. I don't know if I am… biologically compatible with humans. We'll see, in time."
In the basement of CostMart, Billy Church looked from the television to his father. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.
That was just so surprising. He couldn't believe it. And he couldn't believe, either, how calm his father remained. That broke all their plans for the superhero, but his father wasn't reacting in any way. He continued to look quietly the press conference on the TV.
From the loudspeaker, Billy heard the reporters now nagging, with the crowd of curious onlookers, "A Kiss! A Kiss! A Kiss!"
"A Kiss! A Kiss! A Kiss!"
Lois was fed up hearing that. Everybody was crying out, and that just added to her misery. The only good thing in that was that Superman was responded negatively.
"Oh! Come on, honey! Don't be so shy! We don't have to hide anymore…"
The voice of her rival really gave her the creeps.
<What? She doesn't understand that he doesn't want to kiss her? Give the guy a break!>
Superman was still hesitant, but his wife took the matter in her own hands. She caressed his cheek and kissed him.
The crowd whistled, happy, but Lois's heart was definitely broken. She felt like dying. She just wanted to cry, and cry again, but she couldn't. Not here, in front of everyone. In front of Superman. In front of the cameras of the whole world. In front of her rival. She'd break down when she was alone.
Her anger was her ally. It gave her the force to get through the end of the conference. She battled inside her head and her heart to make her anger rise again, through her despair. She thought again of her previous certainty that the marriage was a fake. To all the evenings she'd spent with Superman, even just a few days ago… And now, he kissed another woman!
She was angry.
The kiss ended, under the applause of the crowd.
She had to scream to make herself heard.
"Superman, a question, please! Lois Lane, Daily Planet."
Superman looked at her a friendly smile. He hoped that his smile would reassure her a little about his true feelings. He saw how she'd looked throughout the conference and he hated himself for having to put her through that much pain.
"Yes, Lois. I know who you are," he responded softly.
<The nerve of the bastard! He kisses her, and now he looks me in the eye and smiles?!>
"Why did you decide to reveal your marriage to the world?"
Superman looked puzzled, and the crowd was now interested in her. Her icy tone, and the reaction of Superman, who wasn't relaxed anymore, caught their attention.
"It's a simple question, Superman. Why did you reveal your marriage to the world? That doesn't make any sense! You say you love her, but saying to the world that you married her puts her life in danger. Every single criminal you stopped would want her dead. By introducing your wife to the world, she becomes a target. No one had any suspicions about your relationship, so why did you do it? You've always kept your private life secret, but now, you're playing the happy husband in front of the world? Why? That doesn't make any sense! What are you hiding, Superman?"
She spoke with a little more vehemence that she intended. Her anger got the better of her, but she couldn't bring herself to regret it when her brain registered the new curiosity of the crowd for her question. And she was proud of herself when she saw Superman hesitate, and stay silent, obviously not knowing what to say…
PART 8: MRS SUPERMAN
When he had left Lois at the Planet before the conference, Clark had felt very bad. He had known that it would be hard on her, and he'd wanted nothing else but to be with her to support her, as her best friend. But he couldn't. Not even he could be in two places at the same time. He had known how hard it would be for her to attend this conference, but he'd had to let her do it alone. And knowing her like he did, he had known that it would go wrong, but he'd never anticipated this.
He was really surprised by her question. That was a frontal attack, not even disguised. She'd never spoken to Superman in that angry tone before. She'd never accused him of anything. But she had just said to the world that she didn't trust him anymore.
"What are you hiding, Superman?" she asked.
Clark was hurt by the realization that Lois didn't trust Superman
anymore. He knew, of course, that she thought that the marriage was a fake. She'd told him that, as Clark. At the time, he just didn't realize the implication of that assertion. She thought now that Superman was a liar. She was right, but to know that he'd lost her faith in him hurt him more than he had thought it would.
He'd lost her faith in him. He'd probably lost her love for him, by doing so. She'd never look at Superman anymore with love in her eyes.
He'd thought that was what he'd wanted. That she would stop looking at Superman as if he were the love of her life, but he knew now that he would miss it. Terribly.
How could he even have contemplated that she could go on like it was before, when everything was over? It wasn't even a remote possibly. He'd broken her heart. It was a woman wrecked that was standing in front of him, angry, confronting him in front of the whole world.
"What are you hiding, Superman?" she asked.
The angry voice resonated again in his mind.
He should have seen it coming. When he had begun the press conference, he'd felt really bad about what he was about to do. He saw her, of course, in the first row of reporters, just in front of him. But he put his feelings aside, and he did what he had to do. He tried hard not to look at her. He was afraid that if he did, his eyes would betray his true feelings.
He was just so uncomfortable. But he was lucky; Andrea was well prepared for her role. Sensing how uncomfortable he was, she just took over. And she did a great job at convincing everybody that they were in love. She just lightened the atmosphere enough with her jokes and her smile to make it possible for him to relax enough to play his part.
He'd stayed well conscious of Lois's every move, but he was able to play the part of the happy husband. Until the crowd began to chant for them to kiss. He didn't want to do it. Kissing another woman in front of Lois was a step too far for him. Well, he'd done it in the past, with Toni Taylor, but that wasn't the same. Kissing Toni would never have broken Lois's heart. Kissing Andrea definitely would.
But once more, Andrea took over and kissed him. And he had to choose between breaking the kiss and letting everyone know that he didn't want to kiss his wife, or kissing her back and keeping up the pretence. He'd made the only choice he could, but he saw the expression on Lois's face, and that hurt him almost painfully.
"What are you hiding, Superman?"
While the question echoed once more in his head, he realized that he'd been silent a long time, staring at Lois without responding. What could he say to that? But the reporters, and the crowd, were now looking at him curiously.
It was obvious that Lois's question, combined with his petrified
reaction, had convinced all of them that he was hiding something. They were becoming suspicious of him. He had to do something, say something, anything… but he really didn't know what. And if he did, he'd hurt her even more. He didn't want that either.
While he was struggling with himself, between the need to convince everyone that the marriage was what it seemed to be, and the desire to erase the pain from Lois's face, Andrea once again took over and responded to the question herself.
"Miss Lane, my life is in danger, anyway. I am a police officer. Every criminal that I have sent to jail wishes me dead. Telling everybody that we are married doesn't put me in danger, it just adds to the list of the criminals who want to get at me. Why would we choose to announce our wedding to the world when we could have kept it secret? That's simple. Miss Lane, have you ever had an affair with someone, a relationship that you had to keep secret? That's destructive. You can never talk to anyone about the most important person in your life. You can never have a tender gesture towards the one you love when there are people around… And you'd be ignored by him every time that you're with him at the same emergency… We've lived it, and it wasn't easy. Yes, it will be difficult to live our love with the eyes of the whole world on us, on our relationship, but it would have been impossible to live our love in secret forever. I would never have felt like his wife, but like his mistress. I couldn't bear it."
She paused, and Lois could see the logic behind her words. Yes, of course they had to tell the world. She never thought about what it would have been like for them before the wedding. But by the sound of it, it wasn't great. They had to overcome many obstacles, and they had many others in front of them, but they were ready to do it.
<They truly love each other.> thought Lois desperately, before Andrea's voice resumed speaking.
"You can add to all these reasons that my husband hates to lie, and you'll understand he wouldn't have been able to keep it a secret, anyway. That would have been too much for him."
She continued looking at Superman.
"Because you really hate lying, right, honey?"
"Oh yeah! That's for sure. I hate lying," responded Superman in a tone surprisingly serious and almost disgusted. Andrea turned again towards the crowd of reporters to finish her explanation.
"Maybe our decision seems crazy to you, but to us, it looked as if that was the best choice we could make for our future."
Superman's voice interrupted the noisy crowd of reporters that wanted to ask more questions.
"The press conference is over. Thanks for your time. Goodbye," he
announced with an abruptness uncharacteristic of him.
Still under the shock of what she just seen and heard, Lois saw Superman, looking tense again, take his wife in his arms and fly away with her.
Superman brought Andrea back to the alley behind the police station where he'd met her before the conference. Henderson was waiting for them, smiling.
"I saw the show on TV. Good work, Andrea."
The old policeman turned towards Superman and noticed his disgusted expression.
"Superman, I know it was hard for you to try to convince Lane that you loved someone else, but it was important to…"
Superman, looking even more disgusted than before, interrupted him angrily.
"I know, Henderson. I wouldn't ever have done such a thing if I didn't think it was important. Now, excuse me, I have to go."
Henderson and Andrea looked a little taken aback by the show of anger from Superman, but they didn't have time to add anything. The superhero was gone, leaving them alone.
Clark went back to the city hall building. The crowd was dispersing itself. The curious were going back home, and the reporters, back to their respective newsrooms to type up the story. There were still a lot of people, but the crowd was diminishing.
He looked for Lois, and sure enough he saw her at the exact same spot where she was during the press conference. She hadn't moved an inch since the end of the conference. She looked as if she had been struck by lightning. Clark felt his heart hurt even more by the sight she was giving him.
He'd hurt her badly. He sighed and approached her from behind.
"You're late, Clark."
The words, pronounced so softly when he joined her, took him by surprise. She hadn't moved, she hadn't looked at him, and she seemed oblivious to the external world. He didn't think she'd notice him, but she had.
He was expecting an angry Lois. That was the way she dealt with strong emotion, and she obviously was desperate now. But she spoke without any hint of anger. She spoke as an automaton, and he ached for her even more. But he knew she wouldn't be grateful to him if he showed her that he was aware of her distress.
"No, I'm not…"
"You missed the press conference," she said still without looking at him or moving. That was a simple statement on her part, without any recrimination or anything. As if she didn't care anymore.
"I did not. I was there, from the beginning to the end. I was just at the back of the crowd. I just didn't succeed in joining you in front of the podium. There were too many people, and I didn't even know where you were in the crowd before you spoke."
She really didn't seem to care for anything. He needed her to have a reaction, something. He couldn't bear to see her like that, like a zombie. He showed her his notepad, full of his notes on the conference, which he had written quickly just before going back, since he had noticed that Lois hadn't written a thing for the entire time.
For the first time, she moved. She dropped her gaze to his notepad, and then to hers in her hand and noticed it was empty. She mentally shook herself. Aware now of the worry in Clark's eyes, she felt the need to talk.
"It's over, Clark. Everything's over."
Her tone wasn't neutral anymore. Clark could hear restrained tears in her voice, and her eyes were suspiciously bright. She was about to lose it completely.
"It's a real marriage."
She was barely able to voice her last word before crying.
The outburst of tears came so quickly it took Clark by surprise. It was so powerful she almost couldn't stand upright any longer. If Clark hadn't taken her in his arms, she would have just collapsed. She sobbed repeatedly against his shoulder, gasping for air.
She was so completely wrecked Clark didn't know what to do to help her, so he just held her close to him, caressing her hair, and murmuring soft endearments in her ear. He knew she wasn't able to hear them, or understand them, but the soft sound of his voice combined with his touch on her hair seemed to have a soothing affect on her.
Gently, without releasing her from his arms, he conducted her towards the nearest bench. Sitting, with Lois in his arms, Clark saw that they had attracted a lot of attention. Many of the reporters who were still there looked at them with interest.
There was no doubt that Lois's despair would be the object of gossip in all the newsrooms in Metropolis. 'Mad Dog Lane cries in the street when Superman reveals to the world that he is married.'
He knew that letting people see how wrecked she was was a part of the plan to convince Intergang that the marriage was real. He still remembered Andrea saying, "If she's not devastated enough, if she doesn't react the appropriate way when she learns about your wedding, then nobody will believe the marriage is real".
<Easy for you to say, Henderson! You don't have to see the woman you love cry her soul out because she thinks you don't care for her!> thought Clark angrily.
He wanted to tell her the truth so badly, but he couldn't. Not now, not before everything was over. So he stayed silent, and held her tighter.
When she calmed down and stopped crying, Clark spoke softly in her ear.
"I'll take you home. I'll write the article myself. Perry will understand."
Without a word, she nodded her acceptance, and stood, ready to follow him.
When the press conference ended, the Churches turned off the television. They were dumbstruck. They really weren't expecting the news they had just received.
"I guess we'll have to change the plan, Dad."
Bill Church Sr. turned towards his son with contempt.
"Don't be ridiculous, Billy. We'll just have to change the target."
PART 9: THE BEST FRIEND
Clark had just finished writing the last sentence of the article about the press conference. He'd had trouble writing it. He couldn't focus on the story. Every time he wrote about one of the questions that were asked of him, or about the responses he and Andrea gave, he saw again Lois's haunted expression when the conference was over. He couldn't think of anything else. God, how he hated doing that to her!
But he finally finished the story. This wasn't one of his better
pieces, but it would do. He sighed and sent the story to Perry for editing. Now he just had to wait for Perry to give him permission to go, then he could check on Lois, see how she was feeling. In the meantime, he occupied himself by arranging his desk. Lois always said he was a little obsessive, but he knew how her drawers were, and he didn't want his to be like hers! He really didn't know how she could find what she was looking for in her desk without the help of super-powers.
Lois. He was so worried about her. How long would it be before Perry told him he could go?
Just at the moment, Perry came out of his office.
"Kent! My office!"
Clark sighed. If Perry wasn't satisfied with the story and wanted him to rewrite it he'd never be able to leave. He wasn't able to do better right now. He just wanted to see how Lois was coping. Nevertheless, he stood up and joined his editor in chief in his office.
"You signed Lane and Kent."
It was just an observation, but in his state of mind, Clark took it almost like a reproach, and he felt the need to defend Lois.
"Of course, Chief. Lois deserves to have her name on the article; she covered the press conference, too."
"No, son. Don't get all defensive. I'm okay with that. Actually, if you had signed the article with just your name, you would have heard from me. No, what I wanted, I guess, was to know where Lois is. Is she all right?"
Clark felt contrite. He knew, of course, that Perry wouldn't have
removed Lois's name from the article. He just wasn't thinking straight.
"No, she's not. She feels really bad, actually. She completely lost it after the conference. She thought that she was becoming closer to Superman, and she was hoping for a… well… She feels betrayed."
"Hm. I'm not surprised. With her past, that's quite understandable. All the men in her life have betrayed her! I don't know much about her past relationships but she was already very wary about men when she first came to the Planet. But then she let herself be seduced by a prick who was working here. He used her to get the story, and left. That's when she became so hard with everyone. You know Lois is like a daughter to me, but for years, I just thought she'd never be able to have friends. She was just so…"
Clark smiled at the words that came straight from Perry's heart.
"Yes. I remember how she was when I first got hired."
"Yeah. I like her, but I have to admit she's not always very nice to people. She never trusted anyone after what that prick did to her. Never. Until Superman came," explained Perry.
"I guess she saw him as a… perfect man, or something," said Clark.
"Yeah, that's it, exactly. But today, she saw once more that the
perfect man is a just a myth. And I'm afraid for her, afraid that she'll never trust anyone again. You know, even her father left her, when she was a girl…"
Clark could feel in these words the fatherly feeling that Perry harbored for the young woman, as well as his guilt at having been as bad a father as hers to his own children.
"I know," he responded briefly.
"Clark, Lois trusts you, too. It's taken time, but she does trust you, too. Don't let her shut you out. Go and see her. You're probably her only friend, and she needs one right now. Don't let her be alone or she'll close up and she'll never let anyone close to her again."
"I won't, Perry. I'm so worried about her. She was really bad, there. She had a real attack of nerves… She… She cried… She… almost collapsed. In front of everyone. And you know how important her image of a tough journalist is to her…"
"Go and see her. Tell her she can take as much vacation time as she wants."
Clark nodded and headed towards the door, but Perry's voice held him back.
"Clark. Take care of her, son."
"I will, Perry."
"You know… I know how you feel about her. Don't lose hope. Maybe
Superman's wedding will open her eyes, and will allow her to see that there is a good guy who's always there for her when she needs him…"
Clark was a little embarrassed. His boss was talking about his love life, or lack of thereof. But the reassuring smile on Perry's face was helping him to relax, and he smiled back.
He went out of the office. Perry's encouraging words were good to hear, but Clark didn't want Lois to turn towards him just because she couldn't have Superman. He wanted her to love him because she felt that way.
As much as he wanted to go straight to Lois, he had something to do first. He took the stairs to the roof and flew into the sky, heading for Andrea's apartment.
That was what they had decided to do in order to convince the reporters that they were living together, as they'd said at the press conference.
As he came nearer to the apartment, he noticed that there were many paparazzi who were trying to hide on the street below, watching Andrea's windows.
Showtime! He slowed a little to let them take all the shots they wanted of him "going back home", and then he entered the apartment by the open window.
He felt like an intruder, entering the apartment without knocking first on the window, but that would have looked suspicious if Superman didn't feel welcome to enter his own home.
Andrea was sitting on her sofa, with Henderson in front of her. They stopped talking when he appeared in the room, and immediately, Superman felt the need to apologize for intruding.
"Sorry. I didn't want to intrude… I'm early. I know we said I could do the show at 8 PM but I have… well…"
He stopped himself, searching for words. He was about to say that he had something else planned tonight, but it wasn't wise to let anyone know that he had a real life.
"No problem, Superman," reassured him Henderson.
"Yes. You're welcome here, Superman. You can come when you want, as you want," added Andrea.
"Actually, we were talking about the mission," resumed the inspector. "I was just explaining to agent Flynn how we're assuring her security."
"And how are you doing it?" enquired the superhero.
"I have six men all around the building who are watching the place."
"I didn't see them. I watched who was there when I came, but I didn't see anyone else but paparazzi," insisted Superman.
One of the reasons why he had accepted Henderson's plan was that the man assured him that Andrea's security would be assured.
"That's because my men are disguised as paparazzi. That way they are more discreet. Just a few more in the crowd around the building," responded the older policeman. "Well, I think I need to go now. I'll leave you newlyweds alone."
Henderson's eyes twinkled, and he raised his eyebrows suggestively. Andrea smiled at the joke, but Superman wasn't in the mood to appreciate it. He rolled his eyes and sighed.
Andrea followed Henderson to the door, and came back to Superman.
"So. Maybe I should check your apartment to see if Intergang… or
reporters… have bugged it," proposed the superhero.
"Go ahead," responded Andrea.
He X-rayed the apartment and was glad that he didn't find a thing. He was reassured.
"Nothing. Your place is clean. No bugs, and no cameras either."
"Good! I wouldn't have liked to see naked pictures of me, showering, in the papers. My mother wouldn't have liked it, either!" joked Andrea.
Superman smiled back at her.
"Well, I have to go. See you tomorrow. Err… At what hour can I come tomorrow morning?"
"Is 7:30 okay with you?"
"Fine," replied Superman. "And I promise I won't come early this time."
"Okay. See you tomorrow, then, Superman."
She showed him the way to the window, but he didn't follow her.
"I guess I should leave by the door… Less chance of being spotted when I fly away if I go from the roof of the building than by the window. I can be very quick, quicker than the human eye can see, but that'll cause a lot of wind in here and your apartment will look as if there was a tornado inside…"
<Geez! I'm babbling again!>
"Okay. You don't need to explain, Superman. The door, then. And I suppose you'll come back by the roof, too, tomorrow?"
After the departure of the superhero, Andrea went to her kitchen,
looking for what she'd eat for dinner. Looking into the fridge, she decided to reheat a leftover of pasta and chicken. She opened the microwave.
She removed from the microwave the pizza she'd forgotten the night before, when Murray had called her.
Finally, Clark was on his way to see Lois. He was really worried about her. She had been feeling so bad when he had to leave her in her apartment earlier that day, just after the press conference, to go and write the article Perry needed.
After leaving Andrea, he thought for one second about heading straight to Lois's, but he was well aware that she wouldn't welcome him if he came just because he was worried for her. He remembered very well her reaction this morning when Perry had informed her of Superman's wedding. She'd reacted badly at the least sign of worry for her, insisting that she was fine. He knew she wasn't, but he knew, too, that she would prefer to avoid the topic.
So he made a detour first, to bring her pizzas and videos. That was an excuse she could accept, even if she was able to see right through it.
He knocked on the door and waited. But she didn't respond. He knocked again, but the door remained closed.
Even more worried than before, he X-rayed the door to see into the apartment. She was there, and she was physically fine. But she was crying.
He could see her, prostrate on her sofa, crying hard and hugging a cushion. His heart ached for her. He really didn't like to see her like that. And knowing he was the cause of it made it even worse. He felt bad. He wanted to tell her the truth, but that wasn't an option. But he could comfort her, be here for her, as her friend.
He knocked a third time, but she still refused to respond.
"Lois. I know you're in there," said Clark through the door, in vain. He insisted. "Lois. I can hear you crying. I won't go away."
"Go away, Clark."
Clark sighed, relieved. Even if her voice was tearful, she sounded as much okay as she could be in that situation.
"No. I'm staying right here. I won't leave you, Lois."
After a short silence, Clark heard Lois's locks, and then the door opened. He wanted to ask her if she was fine, but she threw herself into his arms almost immediately after having opened the door, sobbing softly on his shoulder.
He put the pizzas and the videos he was holding on the little table that was beside her door, and then lifted her in his arms and walked towards her sofa. He sat down with her on his lap, and let her cry silently.
He held her tight, murmuring some little nonsense words soothingly into her ear, and stroking her hair softly.
Little by little, she calmed down, and her tears dried. But she didn't move. She felt so good in his arms like this. She felt protected and cherished. She had never felt so cherished in her life. This was good. This felt good.
She slowly became aware of the body of the man against her. He had such a hard, well-defined body. He was strong, yet nevertheless, he was tender. So tender with her. She was all right in these arms.
She blushed a little. Did she really just think these things about Clark's body? About her partner, her best friend? Had she lost her mind? No, if she was honest with herself, she had to admit that she had always found Clark attractive. She had noticed it from day one. She had just never wanted to admit it, even to herself. Dreaming about Superman was safer, she thought.
But in the light of what happened that day, she knew that she was
wrong. Superman wasn't safer. He was just a man, and he wasn't any better than the average guy. On the other hand, Clark had proven himself trustworthy many times. And now, she was able to admit, at least to herself, that she was attracted to him.
She was conscious that Clark found her attractive, too. But she knew that he'd never act on it. And she'd never do it, either. Their friendship was too important to her for her to ruin it over a physical attraction and a need for tenderness. She knew that she wasn't able to offer him what he truly deserved. A woman in love with him.
And even if she was hurt, and angry, and jealous, and even if she felt betrayed, she couldn't help but love Superman. Clark deserved better than that.
But right now, she didn't want to move. She was sitting on his lap, with her head on his shoulders, and he was holding her tight, stroking her hair. And that felt right. She needed that, so she stayed. And she finally fell asleep.
Clark held Lois for a long time after she fell asleep on him. When he was sure she was deeply asleep, and didn't risk waking up, he lifted her and carried her into her bedroom.
Gently, he put her down on her bed, and tucked her in before sitting on a chair in a corner of the room. For hours, he watched her sleep. She looked so peaceful.
In the morning, a hangover wakened Lois. God, she felt so bad! She was thirsty, she had a lump in her throat, and she had a headache. Slowly, she remembered why. She'd cried all day long the day before.
She slowly opened her eyes. The feeble light hurt them, but she forced herself to keep them open and looked at her clock. 6:48 AM. It wasn't yet time to get up, but she didn't feel like staying in bed, or she would think again about what happened. She needed to occupy herself, and going to work was the best thing she could think of.
She sat in bed, ready to get up, and saw Clark asleep on a chair in a corner of her bedroom. She was pretty astonished.
<God. He must have been very worried for me. That's so sweet.>
Almost against her will she found herself smiling at her sleeping
partner. He looked so good like that; she didn't want to wake him up, but she couldn't let him sleep in that chair. It must be pretty uncomfortable, plus he'd have problems with Perry if he missed work. So she shook him gently.
"Hi. How are you?"
His show of concern for her, even though he'd just woken up, really touched her. She felt the need to cry again, but she held back her tears and forced herself to smile.
"Not so bad. It's okay, I'm fine."
At the doubtful look he gave her, Lois felt that she had to be honest with him.
"Okay, it's hard, but I'll be fine. I… I don't really want to talk about it, Clark, or I'll… I'll probably cry again."
Actually, he could hear in her voice that the tears were probably
closer than she wanted him to see.
"Oh, before I forget… Perry asked me to tell you that you can take as much vacation as you need."
"Thanks, but… no thanks. I prefer to go back to work. I don't want to let myself go."
"Okay. If you're really fine, then I'd better go back home and prepare for work."
"Okay," responded Lois. Clark could hear the deception in her tone and understood that she felt really bad still, even if she didn't want to talk about it.
"I… I can come back after, to pick you up for work, if you want."
This time, her smile was genuine.
"I'd like that, Clark."
"At 8 AM?"
He went home, and she went into her bathroom to take her shower and prepare for work.
Today was the day when super-speed came in really handy. Clark flew home and prepared himself for work when his phone rang. It was his parents. Things had just happened so fast he forgot to tell them what was going on. They were pretty shocked to have received the news of his "marriage" by watching the TV. He had to explain everything to them, and by the time he finished, it was all ready after 7:30 AM. Time to go to Andrea's.
He changed into his Superman suit and flew at full speed towards
Andrea's building to prevent the paparazzi from seeing him. He landed on the roof and descended the stairs towards her apartment.
She opened the door almost immediately after he knocked.
"Good morning. I know you said you wouldn't be early, Superman, but I didn't think you were meaning you'd be late," said Andrea teasing him.
"Good morning. Very funny. I'm sorry I'm late, but I was kind of busy this morning," explained Superman.
"Really? They haven't said a thing on the radio. A rescue I should know about?"
At the puzzled look on the superhero's face, Andrea explained herself.
"You know, if you do rescues during the night, or early in the mornings, when you're supposed to be with me, well… I should know about these in case someone tries to grill me about them."
"No, it wasn't a rescue," responded Superman, debating with himself how much he could tell her. "I just forgot to tell my parents about what was going on and… well… they saw the news on TV, and they were pretty shocked and upset, as you can imagine."
<God! I can't believe I said it. That was probably not my brightest idea, but I know she won't repeat it. Would she?>
"Err… You'll never tell anyone that I have parents, will you?"
The question sounded so idiotic that she was once again frankly amused. Before meeting him in Henderson's office, she would never have believed that Superman could be so clumsy, shy and insecure.
"I promise. But now you have to go through the window and put on your show. I have to be on my way to work in ten minutes."
"Oh god! It's almost 8 AM; I have to go, too. See you tonight."
He flew away through the window, letting the paparazzi take his picture, and went directly to Lois's apartment.
On the way to work, Lois turned to Clark. For once, she had let him drive her Jeep.
"Clark. I saw the pizzas and the videos on the table. I… I just wanted to say… I wanted to thank you. That was sweet. It's good to have a friend like you."
He could hear the honesty behind her words and was touched. It wasn't often that Lois opened her heart to him that way. He smiled at her.
"You're very welcome, Lois."
"Could… Could we… have our evening video and pizzas tonight?" asked Lois in a very insecure voice. Clark looked at her, surprised. "I… I don't want to be alone," she added.
"Of course, Lois. I'd be glad to come for an evening of video and
pizza," responded Clark, grinning at her. And he was glad to be awarded with a real smile, completely genuine.
PART 10: IN THE COMFORT OF HIS EMBRACE
Clark was flying towards the police station. It made a week now that he was pretending to be married to Andrea, and he was fed up with all the lies… Nothing had happened, and it was time to stop the masquerade. He couldn't do it anymore.
Since the day he had announced the wedding, he had spent all his nights at Lois's apartment. The first night, she cried herself to sleep. After that, every night she invited him. Video and pizzas, games, take-outs, or even work… And every time, at the end of the evening, she asked him if he could sleep there, because she didn't want to be left alone. It was so unlike her to show herself so dependant, that it made him want to cry.
He'd spent seven nights on her uncomfortable sofa, and that was okay with him. What wasn't okay was seeing her cry all over him. He was glad to be able to comfort her, to hold her in his arms, but he didn't want her to need his comfort. He wanted her to be the strong woman he knew. He didn't like seeing her like this. And the fact that it was all his fault wasn't helping him to deal with a tearful Lois.
Though he had to admit that she hadn't cried at all, the last two nights. He smiled as he remembered the evening they'd spent together two nights before. They'd had so much fun.
He had cooked for her. To help her forget her dark thoughts, he tried to make her participate in the cooking. Just the evening before, she'd cried one more time on his shoulder when something triggered a memory of Superman while they were working on a story. And he didn't want a repeat of that evening, or any other previous ones. When he began to ask her to do some little things to help him in the kitchen, she moaned and protested that she didn't know how to cook. So he tried to explain it to her. And finally, she tried. She failed, but… at least she tried. She seemed happy that he hadn't mocked her efforts and she began to joke herself about her culinary skill. And little by little, she began to really enjoy herself. At the end, they did a battle with the food spoiled by Lois's cooking. She even laughed, and it was Clark who almost cried when she did. It was so good to hear her laugh. Luckily, she hadn't noticed, and had really enjoyed the evening. So did he.
And the night after that, while they were playing games, she hadn't cried either. Actually, he even heard her laugh again a few times. It sounded good to him. Her laugh had become so rare in the last week. But Clark wasn't fool enough to think that she was okay again, that she wouldn't cry anymore.
The fact that she still needed him to stay in her apartment at night was proof enough, if proof was needed, that she was still feeling frail.
But he wanted it to be over. He didn't want her to begin crying again. How could he bear it, knowing that it was all his fault? Knowing that he could end the tears, the heartache? It was just time to end it all.
And so Clark was on his way to the police station to do exactly that. Put an end to Lois's misery. Put an end to his own misery, too.
He was fed up with lying, especially to Lois. He was fed up with his coming and going, morning and night, by Andrea's window. He was fed up with this whole story, and he just wanted to end it all.
He slowed his pace at the sight of the police station, and prepared to land. It was time to warn Henderson that this was over.
"But you *can't* stop, Superman!"
"Yes, I can. And I will, Inspector! It's been an entire week that I have been pretending to be married, and Intergang hasn't showed up! Face the facts; your tip was wrong! They won't make a move, and I don't want to lie any more!"
The superhero and the policeman were face to face, both screaming. The conversation had quickly degenerated into an argument, when Henderson started to argue about why the superhero should keep up the deception. Superman reacted badly. It was the first time that Henderson had seen Superman angry enough to scream. He never even heard about anyone who had argued with him before. That made him perfectly conscious of how emotional the superhero could be about lying to the world and deceiving Lois.
But the police inspector couldn't believe that Superman was really threatening to stop such an important investigation. No. Not threatening, he amended to himself, he'd made his decision. Now it was Henderson's mission to make him agree again. And to argue about it wasn't the best way to do it.
Sighing, Henderson tried to calm himself. He took a few deep breaths and spoke again, trying to be the voice of reason for Superman, who was obviously much too emotional about the whole story.
"Superman, look," began Henderson pacifyingly, "You know I have men following Lois to protect her in the case of something going wrong…"
"What?!" exclaimed the very angry superhero. "Are you threatening to stop protecting her life if I don't obey you?! And you think that kind of blackmail makes you better than Intergang?!"
"No! No, no! No, Superman, that's not what I'm saying. I'm not even thinking about it! Lane is my friend too, you know, even if I'd never admit it to her."
Henderson saw a contrite look on Superman's face, even if he didn't apologize for his accusations. The policeman should satisfy himself with that since it was obvious that the superhero was still too angry and unhappy about the situation to apologize for what he'd said.
"So, what I was saying was that the policemen who are following Lois reported to me that they have spotted another guy spying on her since the day after the press conference. We've identified him. He has a very long record, and we suspect him of working for Intergang. Please, Superman, reconsider your position."
At the stubborn expression on the superhero's face, Henderson felt that he had to insist.
"You know what that means, Superman? You know why Intergang is following her? This guy would do that for only two reasons. First, if Intergang doesn't believe our story, that means that they still want to attack her…"
"It won't change a thing, then, if I stop!" cut off Superman, still angry and clearly unhappy about the situation.
To make himself heard, Henderson had to raise his voice.
"Second hypothesis. Intergang is following her to be sure that your marriage is real! If that's the case, then you just have to wait until they are convinced, and they'll bite the hook!"
At that, Superman became even angrier. He began to pace the room,
obviously trying to control his fury. Henderson was a little worried to see that such a powerful man could be so close to losing his self-control because of anger.
"If they wanted to see her cry because of my marriage, they should be happy by now!! She's desperate!!! I don't want to see her suffer anymore! I want to stop everything! Tell her everything!"
The way Superman paced and the angry tone of his screams infuriated Henderson. The superhero was treating him as if he were the bad guy in the story! He was just trying to help Lois. He was just trying to help Superman protect the ones he loved. He was just doing his job! And the superhero was angry with him!
"You can't!" cut off Henderson, screaming as loud as Superman, now. "You'd destroy everything we've done!"
"I don't care! I want to stop!"
"Do you want Lois's death?! Is that what you want?!"
"How can you say that!?! I *love* her!!!"
The two men were both trying to yell louder than the other, cutting the other off. The replies burst out very quickly, but that last sentence threw a chill into the room. It had the effect of an icy shower and calmed them both immediately. They stayed silent a few seconds, catching their breaths.
Henderson couldn't believe that Superman had just admitted, out of anger, exactly what he'd been denying from the beginning. He'd just admitted his love for Lois.
Clark couldn't believe what he'd just said, either. Just a week ago, when Andrea had told him everything she'd witnessed of his relationship with Lois, he'd sworn to himself to hide more carefully his feelings for her in front of people, especially when dressed as Superman. And now, he was crying out loud his love for her in front of Henderson, just because he was too angry to think straight.
"Err… I mean… She's… She's my friend… and… and we all love our friends… err… as a friend. I… I love her… you know… as a friend…"
<God! I'm babbling again! What's wrong with me? I never babble, usually, and I'm almost stammering…>
"It's okay, Superman," interjected Henderson soothingly. "I know you love her. You don't need to justify yourself or to deny your feelings. It's okay."
Sighing, Superman sat on the chair facing Henderson's desk, and looked at the police inspector, defeated.
"But, you know, it's true what I said the other day. Lois and I… we're not together," said Superman. He knew that didn't matter, but he felt the need to clarify it. "It doesn't matter what I feel, we're not together. That's the truth."
"It's okay, Superman. You don't need to convince me. I believe you, if you say so." Henderson smiled reassuringly at the sad but now calmed superhero. "But you know," he added more seriously, "if you really love her, you'll keep up the pretence until we stop Intergang. Otherwise, she would have suffered all week long for nothing at all. And her life would be in danger again…"
Superman sighed again, defeated.
"You've won, but Henderson, I don't know if I'll be able to go on lying for much longer. If Intergang doesn't act quickly, I won't be able to continue… I… I just can't bear to see her cry any more."
"I understand, Superman, really. But you made the right decision. And don't worry too much about Lois. She's not alone in all this. My men reported to me that Clark Kent is always with her to help her and support her."
Superman smiled bitterly at the reassurances that Henderson tried to give him, but nodded nonetheless.
<And I'm back in Lois's apartment for another night,> thought Clark sadly.
He leaned back dejectedly against the kitchen counter where he was occupying himself cooking for Lois. He hadn't wanted to eat take-out again, so Lois had told him to feel free to cook. He remembered with a smile what she said, "Well… now that you have given me a cooking lesson, I'm so good in the kitchen I could give you a complex if I cook, so I guess you'll have to do it."
Clark was glad Lois was able to joke again sometimes. It meant she was feeling better. But, while he was happy to see her becoming herself again, he was more than ever afraid of a relapse. It was hard to see her broken the first time around, but he didn't know if he could bear to see her that way a second time after such an emotional week.
The situation was killing him. He hated to lie to her, especially when his lie was so upsetting for her. And he hated himself for having agreed to pursue the deceit.
He would do anything for Lois to continue to stay well. He couldn't bear to see her devastated again. Actually, that was why he'd become so angry with Henderson earlier. He was just so afraid of seeing her cry again after two whole days without tears. He wanted her to feel well so badly…
<Well, for now she's okay,> he reassured himself.
Decided, he turned towards the counter and finished preparing the meal.
A few minutes later, he heard noises in the bedroom. Lois was done with her shower, and she'd come back into the living room shortly. He shook himself to prevent her from seeing how unsettled he was.
"Hm. That smells good! What are you cooking?"
Clark turned towards Lois's voice. She was advancing towards the
kitchen, smiling, and clearly interested by the saucepan on the stove. Clark smiled back, but shook his head.
"Uh-uh. It's a surprise."
Lois looked at him with a pout and he couldn't help but smile wider.
"Come on, Clark. You know I don't like surprises!" she begged.
"Okay. Just a clue then. French cooking."
"Ooh!" she exclaimed, "I'm impressed. Your mom taught you how to cook French too?"
"No. I learned it in France, when I was travelling the world, before I came to Metropolis," he explained.
"Well, I'm eager. And since you don't want to tell me more, I guess I'll try to be helpful."
"You? Helpful in the kitchen, Lois?" he joked. "I guess we proved the other night that it wasn't possible."
Lois tried to look at him nastily but couldn't stay serious very long and chuckled with him. She loved when he teased her that way.
"Well… I'm able to lay the table, you know. Not all take-out comes with disposable dishes," she responded in the same light and teasing tone.
She went towards the kitchen cupboards and took out the dishes. On her way, she turned on the radio and one of her favourite songs could be heard in the room while she was laying the table. But the song soon ended and the joyful voice of the presenter replaced it.
"Whoa. 'Fly Me to the Moon'. That's a romantic song! You think Superman could sing it to his wife? It sure looks as if he's very much in love. I heard that he went to the police station today! He missed her! How sweet is that?"
Abruptly the silence came back in the room. Lois looked at Clark who had just turned off the radio, and was looking back at her worriedly.
When he took her in his arms, and murmured soothingly in her ears, she became aware that she was crying softly, and began to cry harder.
Clark felt bad. He felt so bad. All this was his fault. She was once again crying because of him. She was feeling better, and he made her cry again. He went to the police station because he wanted to stop her pain, but he'd just made her even more miserable. Of course everybody would think that he went there to see his wife.
The guilt assailed him. Feeling Lois's tears against his shoulder once again was too much. Damn Henderson! Damn this plan! Damn Intergang! He just couldn't stay silent. She had to know everything. He'd tell her, and she'd stop crying.
He opened his mouth to speak, explain everything, but no sound came out. Consciously, he didn't understand completely what was holding him back. But deep inside, he knew why he felt so much difficulty in talking to her. How could he explain that much cruelty against her without making it even worse? It wouldn't be just Superman who'd be betraying her, but Clark as well. And right now, she didn't need another man she trusted revealing that he'd betrayed her faith, that he'd lied to her.
If he told her everything, she would be truly alone to face the situation. She wouldn't have her best friend with her and she needed that friendship. Henderson was right when he said that at least she had Clark with her to face the situation. He couldn't take that away from her, too. He couldn't do it. He couldn't tell her. Not right now. Not when she was so emotionally weak.
Plus, there was that old fear of revealing to anybody that he was
Superman. Because there was no way he could tell her what was happening and leave that aside.
Clark was so engrossed in his thoughts and guilt that he didn't even notice that in his arms Lois slowly had calmed down, stopped crying and began to kiss his throat softly. Not until she kissed him lightly on the corner of his mouth.
He looked at her, surprised.
"Lois, what are you doing?" he asked uncertainly.
"I'm kissing you," she responded quietly before kissing him again, more fully, on the lips.
At first Clark couldn't help but respond, but then, very quickly, he regained his mind and broke the kiss off.
"I'm sorry Lois, but… I don't want to be just a way to forget him," he explained softly, but with a resolute expression.
Lois could see sadness in his eyes, and knew that she had hurt him. That wasn't what she wanted, but she clearly had. Nonetheless, in spite of the rejection expressed in his words, nothing in his demeanor was rejecting her, and she felt reassured by it.
"That's not the case, Clark," Lois denied. "I love you."
The words came out before she could think them through. The astounded look on Clark's face made her realize how she'd made it sound. As a declaration of love. All her instincts were urging her to deny it, explain it away. She'd done it once before; she'd told him she loved him… like a brother. But she didn't feel able to do it this time.
Surprised, she realized she meant it. For during the week he'd spent with her, she'd come to realize how much she loved him. Since the day of her almost wedding with Lex she knew that she had stronger feelings for him than what she wanted to recognize, but the past week with him had really opened her eyes on the depth of her love for her partner. And she didn't want to deny it any more. It was time to be honest with herself and time to be honest with him. Completely honest.
Her voice shaking, she began her confession of love:
"Clark, you're my best friend. And I… I want you. I won't lie to you. I love Superman, too, you know it. I'm still crying every time I hear about his marriage. But… look, I never thought it was possible to love two people at the same time, and yet… I do. I love him, and I love you. That's true, you know. I really fell in love with you."
Clark was speechless. Instinctively, he knew he wasn't dreaming, and yet this couldn't be true, either. He'd hurt her! How could she love him? He felt happier and more ashamed than ever before in his whole life, and all at the same time. He felt so much at once he didn't know any more how he felt. He couldn't move or talk or breathe any more. This was a dream come true, and he wasn't prepared for the wave of emotions that were overwhelming him.
Lois was afraid that Clark could reject her. She was terrified that saying her true feelings was making him angry or feeling as if she wanted to use him to forget Superman. He hadn't reacted at all to what she'd said. Every man she'd ever loved in her life had rejected her, and she'd survived. But this time, she knew that if Clark rejected her, something inside her would die. She needed to make him understand that her feelings were true, that she wasn't using him…
"Clark, I know you deserve better than that, better than a woman in love with two men, and… I'll understand if you don't want me," she added softly, even though that wasn't the truth. "But you know… I realized something else, apart from my true feelings for you. I realized that I couldn't ever be happy with him, while I know I can be with you. And I'm not saying that he can't make me happy because he's married to someone else, but because… I know now that, even though I spent a lot of time with him, I don't really know him. I don't know much about him, and therefore, I can't… trust him. Not the way I trust you. I know I can trust you completely."
Now, Lois was about to cry. She had never exposed her heart so much in her whole life, and she was absolutely petrified. Clark was still looking at her completely shocked and speechless, and she could feel him shake against her. She felt the need to run and hide, but she forced herself to stay and finish what she wanted him to hear.
"I love you, Clark. And please, believe me," she begged. "You're not my second choice. I can understand if you don't want me because of my feelings for him, but please, never doubt that I love you too. Because it's true."
Her throat was tight from the tears she was holding back and she was barely able to speak any more, but she needed to say it.
"You're not just a way to forget him. I'm really in love with you."
There, she'd said it. And she was so terrified of his response that she wanted to die. If he rejected her, she would have lost everything. Everything would be over. This was the moment of truth. She looked Clark in the eyes to gauge his reaction to her speech and saw silent tears on his face. He raised a shaking hand to caress her hair, and smiled at her.
"I love you too, Lois," he responded, his voice hoarse with emotion. He'd never felt so happy in his whole life.
Relieved, she broke down and cried harder in his arms. This time, they were happy tears. She had been so terrified to hear his response.
"I love you too," he repeated.
She raised her eyes to his happy face and kissed him again, harder, to make him feel everything she felt for him.
PART 11: THE KIDNAPPING
An incessant beep awakened Clark. He blinked a couple of times to clear his head. He just needed a second to realize that the beep came from a clock. Why was it not on the radio settings? The beep stopped as he opened his eyes on an unfamiliar environment. He turned his head and saw the woman besides him. He remembered. He was in Lois's bed. He smiled.
She was lying with her back to him, her head still buried in her pillow. She had turned off her alarm clock automatically and she didn't seem to have noticed him yet. He grinned and cuddled against her. She jumped a little.
"Hello, Sleeping Beauty," he murmured tenderly, kissing her hair.
She remembered and relaxed. The night before, she had admitted to Clark her growing feelings for him, and he'd said that he loved her too. They had spent hours cuddling and kissing, and speaking of their love. Late in the night, they were lying in her bed, cuddling more comfortably, and they fell asleep. Nothing more happened, but she was truly happy, maybe for the first time in her life. She turned towards him, grinning too.
"Hello, Prince Charming. I don't think you're supposed to wake me up by kissing my hair."
He laughed softly.
"I think you're right."
He kissed her very tenderly and drew back, too soon for Lois's taste.
"I love you, Clark."
It felt so great to say it, even after having said it for hours the previous night. It felt great to say it, knowing that he felt the same way.
"I love you too, Lois. And you know… I'm really glad you finally
realized it," he said in a joking tone. "Your bed is definitely more comfortable than your sofa."
She laughed softly and she leaned over him to kiss him again when her alarm clock went off again. The few more minutes of sleep that she allowed herself every morning were over. It was time to get up and go to work. She turned off the alarm, and sighed.
"We need to prepare for work," she announced without any enthusiasm.
"I guess so. You can take your shower first. I'll prepare the breakfast."
"Thank you, Clark."
They got up, still fully dressed, and Lois went to the bathroom. When Clark heard the water go on, he went through the window unhappily. It was time for him to do his show for the paparazzi's benefit at Andrea's window.
Lois was trying to focus on her computer's screen, but she couldn't keep her mind off Clark for too long. She lifted her head again and looked across the newsroom towards him and found him looking back at her. He smiled at her and she grinned back before lowering her eyes to her computer again, a little embarrassed at having been caught staring one more time. But she was also very happy; he wasn't working either! He looked at her, too…
Clark couldn't keep his mind off her, either. All day he thought only about her. About their night together. It had been the best night of his life. He'd dreamed for a long time of hearing her say that she loved him, and to be able to say it back. And the night before, it wasn't a dream anymore. She'd said that she was in love with him, with the two parts of him, what was more, and he had finally been able to admit his feelings to her without the fear of being rejected.
He had never been so happy in his life. Everything was just perfect. Well… Almost, he amended with a frown. There were still some clouds in the sky.
He hadn't told her yet he was Superman. He still had to pretend that he was married to Andrea and let Lois suffer because of it. No. Not any more. He wouldn't let her keep suffering. He'd made his decision. It was time for him to tell her the truth. The whole truth. And this time, no one would keep him from doing it. He wouldn't discuss it with Henderson first. He'd just do it.
Now that the decision was made, he felt a surge of relief within him. But he felt worried, too. How would Lois take the news? Probably not well. But he couldn't let his fear keep him from telling her the truth.
He saw her look at him again and smiled. Apparently, she had as much difficulty as he did at thinking about something else apart from their new relationship. He smiled more widely and left his seat to go to her.
"Hey. What do you think about leaving work early?" suggested Clark with a smile.
"Why? Do you have something in mind?" asked Lois suggestively.
"Actually, I would like to talk."
"Talk?" repeated Lois in a teasing tone. "You're definitely not an average male."
Clark smiled. He liked to see her joke. It was so much better than seeing her upset or crying… and he'd seen that too much lately. He appreciated very much seeing her better, and felt happy to know that it was because of him and her feelings for him. He couldn't really bring himself to believe that they really were together, at last. It was a dream come true and he hoped that she wouldn't be upset again by what he was planning to tell her. But it needed to be done.
"To be honest, Lois, I have something important to tell you."
Lois felt him tense and she worried. Surely he wasn't about to dump her, like everyone else, was he?
"Wow. You sound serious. Something's wrong? Please, tell me nothing's wrong."
"No, Lois. Don't worry. Nothing's wrong, I promise," cut off Clark. "Yes, this is a serious subject, but… nothing's wrong. Actually, maybe it's even a good thing. I hope you'll see it that way, anyway."
Clark interrupted himself when he noticed that Lois was trying not to laugh, and stared at her.
"I'm sorry, Clark, but you're so cute when you're babbling," Lois said, smiling.
He smiled back. "I guess I'm a little nervous. So… what do you think about leaving work early?" asked Clark a second time.
"Fine by me."
It was only 4:00 PM, but what the heck. She saved her work, not that she'd really written much during the day, and turned off her computer. While she was putting on her coat, Clark turned off his computer too, and then they headed for the elevator.
As the doors of the elevator opened, Clark heard the news on the television behind him in the newsroom. There was trouble at the nuclear facility in Philadelphia. Big trouble. He needed to go.
Lois's worried voice brought him back to his surroundings. She was inside the elevator, and he still hadn't moved an inch to follow her.
"Oh no. I know that look. Don't tell me you forgot something, Clark."
"Yeah, I did," responded Clark. "I'm sorry, Lois. Go back home; I'll come to your apartment as soon as I can."
Lois sighed in frustration, as the doors of the elevator were closing without really giving her the time to protest.
They had been following the police car for hours. Like they had every day. And he was really fed up with it. When the boss had first talked to him about his mission, he'd thought it would be exciting. Not everybody could brag about kidnapping Superman's wife. He'd become famous!
But now, he was just really bored. A whole week of watching her from afar without doing anything. Boss's orders. Something about 'waiting for the right time.'
<Yeah! And I'm Santa Claus! They're just afraid of Big Blue!>
Ricky snorted. He preferred the time when Lex Luthor was the boss of the city. He wasn't afraid of his own plans, at least. Now, he worked for Intergang, and one thing for sure, they were amateurs compared to Luthor. Not surprisingly, they couldn't do their business in Metropolis until the great man died.
But he had orders, so he was boring himself to death following Superman's wife all day long, waiting until the time was right according to the boss.
His cellular phone rang. He looked at the number of the caller. It was the boss. Probably more boring orders! This man really wasn't up to the task of controlling the city as Luthor had. He picked up the phone.
"Yeah, boss?" he asked with a slightly disrespectful tone he couldn't completely hide.
In his office, Billy Church Jr. heard the contempt in the voice of his man and became angry. He'd have to teach him some respect. Or maybe he'd just kill him. But the images displayed in front of him on television reminded him that he had more important matters at hand right now. And he needed Ricky for just a little longer. He forced himself to ignore his anger, for now.
"You're still following the woman?"
"Good. We've made sure Superman will be busy for a long time. It's time," announced Billy.
"The time is finally right, boss?" asked Ricky, surprised.
"Yes. The time is right," responded Billy, still looking at the television screen displaying the images of Superman's rescue at the Philadelphia nuclear facility.
"Oh! And… Ricky? I don't care if you need to hurt her, but I want her alive, understand?"
Andrea was inside the police car with her two colleagues. They were finishing their patrol and then they could go back to the police station, write their reports, and go home. She was looking forward to that. When would her colleagues grow tired of asking her embarrassing questions about her husband?
Henderson had insisted that they couldn't know the truth; that she had to lie to them in the same way that she was lying to everybody else. She didn't have anybody close to her, so it wasn't really difficult, most of the time. But she would have liked to tell the truth to her colleagues and family, at least. Heck, these guys were probably the closest thing she had to friends, and they were risking their lives by still working with her. She really thought that they should know the truth.
But Henderson was adamant. She couldn't tell anyone. He'd ordered her colleagues to go to work with a discreet Kevlar vest for protection but insisted that they remain in the dark. So now she spent her work days fending off the questions of her partners, and her days off fending off the questions of her big sister.
"Come on, Andrea. Tell us. You know you can tell us everything,"
insisted Michael, one of the two policemen she was working with, in a cajoling tone.
"Guys, please! I won't tell you! Anyway, why is it so important to you to know what Superman is like in bed? Are you fantasizing about him, or what?!" blew Andrea, finally losing patience.
Her two colleagues burst out in laughter. "No. We just want to be sure he's keeping you satisfied. Nothing's more dangerous that a frustrated woman," joked Bryan, the other policeman.
She really was fed up with hearing that for days. She really wished Intergang wouldn't wait too long before attacking her. Being their hostage couldn't be a worse fate than this.
Suddenly, a shock shook the vehicle. Pretty surprised, she shook her head, trying to clear it. She didn't have time to understand what was going on, when a second shock moved the car, propelling it out of the road, into a wall.
Andrea and her two colleagues were pretty shocked. They looked at one another in surprise and turned their heads towards the exterior of the police car to find out the source of the shocks that had provoked the accident. They jumped as they saw four men armed with semi-automatics.
Michael was the first to recover and unsheathed his weapon, but he had no time to shoot before the four men pelted the car. He ran out of the car to hide on the other side, joining Bryan, who had gone out already. Andrea followed them quickly.
The fusillade was violent, but short. Soon after the beginning of the gunfire, the four men came around the car to shoot at them directly. Three of them were shooting at Bryan and Michael, while the last one attacked and disarmed Andrea.
In a few seconds, the two policemen were down. Their bullet-proof vests had protected them at a minimum, and probably saved their lives, but they had received numerous bullets in the arms and legs and they were bleeding seriously. They were unconscious, and Andrea feared the worst for them as the four men took her away in their van.
As she was struggling and screaming, one of the men punched her, and she fell unconscious, too.
"Ricky, are you crazy?!"
"No. The boss said he didn't care if she was hurt, as long as she was alive," responded the guy who had knocked her out. "Come on. Help me carry her."
Clark came back to the Daily Planet around 6:00 PM. While he descended the stairs from the roof and looked at his watch, he couldn't help but curse.
Lois had been waiting for him in her apartment for two hours now. He was so dead. His only hope was that she'd understand his need to go, and forgive him the deceit, after he'd told her the truth. But he still wanted to write Superman's interview about the Philadelphia rescue before getting on his way. It wouldn't be too long; it wasn't a front page story, thanks to his quick appearance there. It could have been a big disaster, otherwise.
When he entered the newsroom, the noise of his busy colleagues, who were running everywhere, startled him out of his thoughts. It looked as if something big was happening, and he doubted it was his rescue at the Philadelphia nuclear facility that had provoked such a commotion.
Before he could ask someone what was going on, Perry spotted him.
"Kent! Where have you been?" asked the old editor in chief angrily, coming towards him. "Tell me you were at the police station."
"Err… No, Chief. Why? What's happening?"
"Superman's wife was abducted an hour and half ago. Her police car was attacked while they were finishing their patrol. She was taken, and two other policemen were seriously injured. They're at the hospital. The doctors are operating on them right now. The police refuse to comment, but apparently the criminals left a message at the scene for Superman. Apparently, someone's trying to blackmail him. Clark, I want to know exactly what they want and who the police suspect to have done this, understood? I've already called Lois and sent her to the police station. You join her and you bring me an exclusive, ya hear?"
"Yes, Chief," responded Clark briefly.
He went out immediately, changing back into his Superman persona as he ran into the stairwell towards the roof.
PART 12: BLACKMAIL
He landed in the parking of the police station, just beside the entry door. The parking lot was full of reporters. They became completely overexcited when Superman came into view.
Before he even landed, they were already shooting questions at him, all at once. He couldn't have understood one of them without the ability to concentrate on only one sound with his super-hearing. But he wasn't in the mood to respond to any questions, so he didn't even bother trying to make sense of all the hubbub.
He didn't feel anything more for Andrea that for any stranger. They hadn't become closer, in the week that they had pretended to be married, than they had been before that night when they met at Henderson's office. But all the same, he really was worried for her more than for a simple stranger. He'd feel a lot of guilt if something happened to her. He couldn't forgive himself for having accepted the inspector's plan, if Intergang did her any harm.
So as soon as he landed, he entered the police station without a word or a glance for the crowd of reporters. He had higher priorities than to give them an interview. He didn't even bother to respond with a "no comment". He just entered the building and headed straight to Henderson's office.
Superman reached for the letter that Henderson showed him, and read it. The message was quite simple. He was ordered to respond via the phone that the kidnappers had left with the letter on the police car they attacked, he and nobody else, when the phone would ring at 8 PM.
"It's 6 PM. That leaves us two hours to wait until they call you," said Henderson.
"Why?" asked Superman.
Henderson didn't understand what Superman was asking.
"Why should we wait? I thought you told me that Andrea would have a tracer," insisted Superman, a little irritated by the whole situation.
"Yes, she does. We grafted a little tracer under the skin behind her ear to know exactly where she is at every moment," explained Henderson.
"So, I repeat. Why are we waiting?"
Superman was losing patience quickly. A woman had been abducted because he'd told the world she was his wife. He had done it to save Lois, but now another woman's life was in jeopardy. He felt very guilty, and Henderson wanted to wait two hours more before helping her. He didn't understand why, and that was making him angry.
Henderson sensed the superhero's mood. It wasn't difficult. During the first year he'd known Superman, he'd never seen him anything other than mild mannered, but over the past week he rarely saw him in control of his emotions. He had never thought Superman to be a fiery type of man, but during the past few days, he'd learned that even the superhero could be bad tempered or have bad days.
He knew that the whole situation was really difficult to bear for the superhero, and it worsened every day. It was only the previous day that he had come to the police station wanting to stop everything. That hadn't gone well. He'd never seen Superman that angry before. He'd never ever thought that Superman had it in him to be that furious.
So he was well aware that now, with the kidnapping, Superman probably was a complete nervous wreck. And Henderson didn't want this discussion to evolve into the same kind of furious argument they'd had the previous day. He began to explain his decision by making soothing gestures with his hands towards the angry superhero.
"Look, Superman. Yes, we know exactly where Andrea is. And right now, policemen are all around the place, watching it as discreetly as possible. But I can't order the assault until I'm sure the Intergang leaders are there, too. If we can't get them, the whole operation will have been for nothing. That phone call will hopefully permit us to locate them at the same place. It could be our only way to stop them."
Superman sighed, resigned. He'd done it for a whole week; he could bear it two hours more. He breathed deeply, trying to calm down. He needed to be in full possession of his mind when Intergang called.
"You know, Superman," Henderson said more softly, "Andrea isn't just a police officer. She's my friend too. I don't like it any more than you do, but she knows how we work. Everything will be fine, Superman."
"How can you be so sure everything will be fine, Henderson?" asked Superman a little more harshly that he intended to.
"I can't," responded Henderson more honestly than he should, "but I need to believe it. And you need to believe it, too."
Superman sighed one more time but he finally nodded his consent and sat. After a while he raised his head and looked at Henderson again. He was a lot calmer now.
"And the two other policemen. Are they… are they OK?"
"They've been shot multiple times, and they've lost a lot of blood. But the doctors said that they'll probably survive their injuries."
Lois had been standing in the reporter's crowd for almost an hour now, and still had no new information. She was thinking about going back home. It was obvious that the police wouldn't release any information soon. No point in staying.
Clark had said he'd join her at her apartment after he was done with whatever it was he was doing. And she wanted to be with him more than she wanted to write an article about the kidnapping of Superman's wife. She wasn't even sure she could handle it if Superman showed one more time his love for his wife.
Sure, she had Clark now, but she still felt something for Superman. She couldn't deny it. Maybe she shouldn't have agreed to come to the police station when Perry called her to ask her to take the story. She should have said no and stayed in her apartment, waiting for Clark to show up. He had said he had something important to tell her, and she wanted to hear it.
But no. The reporter in her jumped at the story as soon as Perry talked to her about it. Sure, she left a note in her apartment for Clark, in case he showed up while she was gone. But still, she hadn't waited for him. And she was beginning to regret it. She felt less and less confident about her ability to handle the story.
She had turned to go back home when she heard the crowd screaming
questions. Her heart began to race; Superman had just showed up at the police station. She knew that she should have kept on her way and left, but she couldn't help herself. She turned her head and looked at him landing in front of the police station.
She'd thought she'd be overwhelmed by her feelings at the sight of him. This was the first time she'd seen him in the flesh since the press conference a week ago. But she wasn't. She saw his expression. He was tense and obviously worried for his wife. She'd dreaded that. She'd thought that seeing him worry for her would have made her cry all over again. Heck, it was just yesterday when she'd cried just because she heard on the radio that he went to see his wife at work. But it didn't happen. So much had changed since the previous evening. In that second, she understood that Clark was even more important to her than she'd realized the night before. She loved him much more than Superman.
She felt very relieved by that knowledge. Sure, she had been very
honest with Clark the previous evening when she had told him that she was in love with him, but that she loved Superman too. And he had accepted that. That hadn't seemed to bother him to have to share her heart with Superman, as long as he had a place in her heart.
It was she who hadn't been comfortable with that. Clark deserved better than that, and she felt guilty at not being able to feel the kind of love he deserved. That was over, now. She knew that she could completely commit to him. She was aware that she'd always feel something for Superman, but she was truly in love with Clark. And that realization felt great.
But now that Superman had showed up, even if he hadn't spoken to the crowd, the story could break at any moment. She couldn't go back home now, as much as she wanted to see Clark at this very moment and tell him that she loved him, without the shadow of anyone else in her mind. She longed to tell him, but that would have to wait.
It was finally approaching 8PM. The atmosphere was tense in the room as Superman, Henderson and some other policemen were silently waiting for the phone to ring.
In the last two hours, devices had been put on the phone to record the call and trace it down. Henderson gave him orders, too, for the way he'd have to act when they'd call him, the way to handle the conversation.
He had to ask them to talk with his wife to be sure she was still
alive —and God, how he hoped that was the case! He'd never be able to assuage his guilt if she wasn't okay— and to know for certain if the callers were at the same place as the one indicated by the tracer. If not, trace down the phone call would give them another location to look at. Twice as many chances to stop Intergang. But in order to trace down the phone call, he needed to keep them talking a long time.
Now that it was almost time, everybody was very tense. There was just so much at stake, Andrea's life and the chance to stop Intergang, one of the most dangerous criminal organizations worldwide. And everybody was well aware of the high stakes of what was about to happen.
8PM. The phone rang. Superman breathed deeply and picked up the phone.
"Hello?" asked the superhero nervously.
"You shut up and you listen, Superman. You don't say a word. We know the police are recording this phone call and trying to trace it down. Not a chance, don't place your hopes on it. We have your wife, you know it, and we are serious, so listen carefully. She'll die otherwise," explained the voice before ordering: "Say okay."
"Okay," responded Superman obediently.
"Here's the rules. From now on, you work for us. You keep the phone with you, always, at all times. Every time we need you to do something, we'll phone you. And you will comply right away. You do, and you'll receive, at home, a video of your wife to see she's safe and sound. You don't, and you'll receive a video of her execution. Say okay."
"I want to speak to her."
"Wrong answer. That was your first mistake. We'll give you a second chance. It will be the last. We just gave you an order by the phone. You obey, or you don't? Choose your video."
Superman felt the primal need to send him to hell, but his good sense prevailed.
"Okay," he responded angrily.
Immediately, the line went dead. Superman turned towards Henderson.
"Tell me you had time enough to get their location."
"No," responded the policeman after consulting his men. "They kept the conversation too short, and they had protection on the phone line to prevent us from locating them. We don't have anything."
That wasn't the response Superman had hoped for, and that wasn't what he needed to hear in order to calm down. If Henderson wanted more proof against them he'd need to keep the pretence much longer, and that was completely out of the question! He'd agreed to tell everybody he married Andrea in order to stop Intergang when they attacked her. She had been abducted. End of the plan. He'd never agreed for more and he wouldn't play along. It was time to save Andrea, even if that blew their chances to stop Intergang.
"I'll tell you right now, Henderson. I won't play anymore. You rescue Andrea right away, or I'll do it myself. The game is over, period," announced Superman categorically.
"Don't worry, Superman," responded Henderson. "I actually agree with you. We'll never have a better chance to stop Intergang. I'll give the order to assault the place right away."
As soon as the order was given, the police stormed the Costmart Supermarket warehouse they were surrounding. It was the place indicated by Andrea's tracer as the one where she was held hostage.
They'd been thoroughly briefed before the attack. They all knew how important it was to find as much proof as possible of the illegal activities of the kidnappers, and so they were instructed to be more careful than usual.
They'd spent the last three hours, since the abduction, being briefed about the map of the Costmart building. They all knew exactly where they needed to go to cover as much room as possible quickly enough to prevent the criminals from destroying the needed proof or getting away.
The order came just a little after 8 PM and immediately, they went into action. They entered the building, arresting everybody who they encountered on the way, and dispersed themselves into the corridors. Some ran into the offices and began searching for proof of criminal activities while some others went into the basement, from which came Andrea's signal.
When they turned into a corridor of the basement, approaching the room where she was held hostage, they came face to face with a gang of armed guards. They were immediately shot at.
The fusillade was long, and a lot of policemen were seriously hurt. They asked for reinforcements on the radio, just to be told that nobody could come since everybody was already there.
In Henderson's office, from where Superman was following the action on the radio in the company of the inspector, the superhero heard the need for help by the policemen in the basement and went to help.
He quickly put an end to the fusillade, taking away the weapons of the criminal guards and arresting them. And then he began to fly to the hospital the more seriously injured men, while the other policemen kept up their search for Andrea.
Sure enough, they found her in the room that the armed men were guarding. She was tied up, wearing a gag. Her cheek was swollen, and she had a large dark bruise where Ricky had hit her.
She had been unconscious a long time. The loud noise of the fusillade in the corridor on the other side of the door had woken her up. She was still a little groggy when her colleagues entered the room and freed her.
She was stiff. She ached everywhere. There was no part of her body that wasn't painful. She could see marks on her wrists because of the rope that had tied her up. And the pain on her cheek was shooting. But she knew that she was mostly fine.
Her colleagues helped her to stand with solicitude.
Later that night, at the hospital, Andrea was finishing the papers that the hospital needed before she could go back home.
After she had been rescued by her colleagues, Superman had flown her to the hospital to be examined, as he had done with the other policemen who were hurt during the attack.
She'd spent the next two or three hours being examined thoroughly to make sure she hadn't suffered any serious injuries. The blow to her head was especially worrying the doctors.
Finally, when everybody had been reassured that she was fine, they gave her painkillers. They wanted her to stay the night it the hospital, just in case, but she refused. She'd never liked hospitals and she felt okay. There was no point in staying.
Reluctantly, they gave her the forms that she needed to complete and sign in order to be allowed to go home.
Superman was standing in front of her. When his help hadn't been needed anymore at the Costmart warehouse, he had come back to the hospital to ask how all the policemen injured that day were doing. Luckily, only one died. He heard news of Andrea, too. He felt so responsible for what happened to her that he stayed in the corridor while she was being examined.
He didn't need to play the husband part any more, but he felt so guilty that he felt the need to make sure she was taken care of. When he heard her ask the doctors to be granted permission to go back home, he naturally offered her a lift.
So he was now waiting for her to be ready to go. In the meantime, he could hear the pack of reporters surrounding the hospital. They'd heard about the police attack on Costmart, where Andrea was found, and they now wanted to know everything about Mrs. Superman's state of health.
They needed to reveal to the world that it was all pretence, that they never ever were married, but he wasn't feeling up to the task right at the moment. It was almost midnight. It had been a very long day, which had followed a very long and distressing week. Talking to the press could wait until the next day.
Right now, he just wanted to go back to Lois. He'd left her hours ago, as Clark, telling her he'd forgot something and that he'd come back to her apartment as soon as possible. That was almost eight hours ago. It was the longest he'd stayed away from her since the beginning of all this.
<Geez! She's more than likely worrying to death! I am so dead!>
He'd created his Superman persona to make his life easier, but in the last few days it really had complicated it!
"Done! We can go," said Andrea tiredly.
Her voice broke into his musing. He looked at her.
"Okay. Let's go," responded Superman.
At that moment, Henderson entered the hospital room with another young blond-haired woman.
"Andrea, Superman, I'd like you to meet Mayson Drake, assistant DA. She's the one in charge of the investigation on Intergang," said Henderson.
They all shook hands.
"We just came to let you know what we've found so far," explained the assistant DA. "We thought you'd want to know. There was an office in the basement with a lot of papers and computer files about many of Intergang's criminal activities. We have more details and more names than we'd ever believed possible. The operation was a complete success. We'll need time to sort everything out but it seems obvious at this early stage that Intergang was led by the Church family. We've put them under arrest and the police came just in time to prevent them from executing a man, Ricky Ramirez. He has a long record, but he has agreed to testify against Intergang. We can nail them!"
"Great!" exclaimed Andrea as enthusiastically as she could manage in her state of tiredness.
PART 13: THE EXCLUSIVE
Clark stopped in front of Lois's door and inhaled deeply. It was well after midnight. Lois would kill him for having disappeared for so long without even having told her anything.
Earlier, he'd envisaged telling her the truth about the marriage and his alter ego. But it was very late and he would have preferred to wait until tomorrow to confess. That wasn't an option anymore. She deserved an explanation and he didn't have any other one to give her. So, it was time to tell her the truth.
He knocked on the door, but he didn't get any response. He used the keys Lois had given him a few days ago to let himself inside. The apartment was dark. She wasn't there. He put the light on, and saw a sheet of paper with his name on it put in obvious sight on the table.
He read. It was a letter from Lois. She told him that Perry had called her and asked her to go to the police station to cover the kidnapping of Superman's wife. He put down the letter, worried. That was hours ago, and she apparently hadn't come back since then. He was afraid something had happened to her while he was busy with saving Andrea and arresting Intergang.
He heard the lock on the door and turned to see Lois enter the room. Unharmed, to his relief.
"Oh. Clark! I know it's late. I'm sorry. I wanted to come home sooner, but…" She stopped her babbling in mid sentence. "Oh God! So much has happened; you'll never believe me."
She sat on her sofa tiredly. Clark followed her. He was surprised by his sudden luck after such a difficult week. Lois hadn't seemed to notice that he'd just come back too, and therefore she didn't even think about asking him what took him so long. Well, he could do with a little luck for a change. He'd tell her everything next day.
When he was seated next to her on her sofa, she went on.
"Clark, you'll never guess what happened! Superman's marriage was a fake!" announced Lois quickly.
"How do you know?" Clark couldn't help himself to ask, surprised that she already knew.
"Henderson talked to the reporters who were at the hospital half an hour ago. He said that it was all an act to trap Intergang, and apparently, it worked."
Clark could hear suppressed anger in Lois's voice. Well, he wasn't as lucky as he'd thought. Obviously Lois took Superman's deceit badly. She'd kill him when he told her he was Superman. He was so dead!
"But you don't seem very surprised by the news, Clark. Did you know it already?" Lois asked suspiciously. That brought him back to reality immediately.
"Err… I… err… I talked to Superman earlier, when he was waiting for… Agent Flynn, while she was being examined. He told me. And… they'll give us an exclusive interview," responded Clark, hoping that the last bit would divert Lois from his flimsy excuse. He wasn't proud of himself. One more lie to add to the list. But the time definitely wasn't right to confess.
"Great," said Lois with a total lack of enthusiasm. She obviously
didn't want to talk to Superman, even for an interview. He was in trouble.
The next day, Lois was seated on the conference room, face to face with Superman and the policewoman he pretended to be married to, for an exclusive interview. Under normal circumstances she would have been ecstatic. She loved to have exclusives, especially ones about Superman, but not this time.
She was angry, really unhappy about having to interview Superman. But she didn't have a choice. Clark had disappeared from the newsroom a little while ago. He hadn't even bothered to explain to her why when she asked him. He just looked ill at ease and promised to tell her later, in private. It was making her angry as well. She wanted to know where he went and he hadn't told her. So now she had to interview Superman and Andrea Flynn all by herself when she would have much rather let Clark take care of it. She wasn't particularly happy to speak with Superman.
So she was angry with Clark and with Superman, too. Superman could have said something to her sooner. He *should* have said something to her sooner. She had thought that they were becoming closer in the last few weeks. She'd thought that she was special to him. But now, it was more that obvious that she didn't matter that much to him, and that he never had trusted her one little bit. And that hurt. He hadn't even cared about her feelings. He had let her think he was married. Nevertheless, he should have known that it would hurt her badly to think he married someone else, but he didn't care enough to tell her, to soothe the pain he caused her.
Superman wasn't the good guy she'd thought he was all these months. He was a rat. A liar. A real bastard! He'd let her suffer in vain, without saying anything. She'd even cried in the streets, in front of a lot of her colleagues from every paper she could think of. How could he do that to her?
But she was a professional. This interview was a big exclusive for the Planet. A front page story that would stay in the memory of their readers. She couldn't let it pass. Perry would kill her. This was too big to refuse to write the story. And since Clark hadn't come back in time, she had to do it. She did her best to hide her anger, her hurt, and to act as a real professional while interviewing them.
They'd already answered most of her questions, so she'd be able to end the interview soon. They'd told her that they had learned that Intergang was trying to find a way to force Superman to work for them, so they'd pretended to be married, making it clear in the eyes of the world that he would do anything for Andrea. That way, they had diverted Intergang from attacking poor innocents to try to blackmail him.
It was a logical and caring explanation, but somehow Lois was sure there was more than that going on behind the scenes. She didn't think Superman would agree that easily to deceive the world just because of a vague threat against the people of Metropolis. They probably had something more concrete to make him collaborate with them. Something big, her instincts were telling her. But she wasn't in the mood for digging deeper. She wanted to end the interview as soon as possible, and she already had enough information to write the official story.
Just at that moment Superman made his excuse to leave. He'd heard an emergency where they needed him.
"No problem, Superman. I'll finish responding to Miss Lane's questions on my own," responded Andrea smiling.
He flew away, leaving Lois and Andrea alone in the room.
"Well, I'm done anyway," said Lois to the young woman, still pretty despite the ugly dark mark on her cheek. Ending the interview, Lois stood from her seat and began to show Andrea the door when Andrea stopped her.
"You're really furious with him, huh?" asked Andrea softly.
"Sorry?" responded Lois, astonished. Was that woman really sneaking into her personal life?
"You shouldn't be mad at him."
Lois felt her anger rise higher. Andrea didn't know her. She didn't know anything about her and Superman's relationship. How could she tell her what to do and not to do?
"Look. How I feel is none of your business, so I'd appreciate it if you…" began Lois curtly.
"He wanted to tell you," interrupted Andrea. That got Lois's attention. "We forced him to stay silent," continued Andrea. "He wanted to tell you. Badly. He couldn't bear to think of you upset. It really was tearing him apart. It made him really crazy, but we didn't let him have the choice."
Her anger at Superman was slowly dropping but she still felt badly hurt.
"No one can force Superman to do what he doesn't want to. If he really wanted to tell me the truth sooner, you couldn't have prevented him," responded Lois with bitterness.
"You're almost right. There is only one way to force Superman to do what one wants him to. Putting *you* in danger," stated softly Andrea.
"Sorry?" Lois wasn't sure she heard it right.
"Intergang wanted to abduct *you* to blackmail him. They weren't about to hurt some unknown person to make Superman comply with their will. They were about to hurt you. That's the only reason why Superman agreed to go along with our plan. And that's why he stayed silent. It was your safety that was at stake. Everything he did, he did it for you."
Lois was dumbstruck. She wasn't expecting that.
"He loves you, you know," resumed Andrea after a short silence.
Lois smiled sadly.
"You know, a few days ago, I would have been ecstatic to hear that. But… I have someone else in my life, now. He's a great guy, and I'm really in love with him. It's too late for Superman," said Lois.
Andrea looked a little disappointed.
"That's too bad. You know, I saw you with Superman pretty often in the past year. You both looked very much in love with each other. I would have been glad to know you're finally together."
"Well, it won't happen," responded Lois. "I already found my Prince Charming."
"I hope you'll be happy with him. And I hope you're not furious anymore with Superman for lying to you. It hurt him badly, too."
To her surprise, Lois realized that she didn't have a grudge against him anymore. The hurt hadn't completely disappeared —of course not— but Andrea's words did have a soothing effect on her bruised feelings. She thanked her with a smile.
Lois was now more comfortable with the whole situation, and wasn't as eager as before to end the interview. This was a very big scoop. She couldn't botch it up.
"Err… I just realized there are still aspects of the story I didn't cover yet in the interview. Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions, all things considered?" asked Lois, changing the subject.
"I don't mind. Go ahead."
Lois took advantage of having only Andrea in the room to ask her about the aspects of the situation that touched her personally. It could be an interesting thing to write the story from her point of view instead of writing about Superman, as always.
She asked questions about how it had affected her daily life and her professional life to be perceived by everyone as Superman's wife. She asked about the attack of her police car, and her abduction. The ugly mark on her face was a sad reminder of what had happened to her the previous night. Luckily, she was unscathed except for a few bruises.
Their conversation lasted a long time and slipped little by little into personal matters. Lois was surprised to realize that she actually liked her. She was a nice person, with a strong sense of humor. But she also was very lonely because she chose her job as her top priority in life. They had a lot in common. Lois began to think of her as a potential friend. It was weird to remember that a few days ago she completely hated her.
It took Clark almost an hour to come back after his rescue. He came back as himself, not Superman, and was surprised to see that Lois and Andrea were still talking in the conference room. He stopped to look at them for a few seconds.
Lois seemed to sense him. She turned her head and looked in his direction. She saw him and smiled wildly. She was happy to see him.
Clark felt his heart melt when she smiled at him. It was the smile of a woman in love, and that smile was directed toward him. He still wasn't used to the idea that she loved him. It was too good to be true. He pushed quickly out of his mind the thought that he still had to tell her about his secret.
Clark saw Lois say something to Andrea, and then both women went out of the conference room. Obviously, Lois had ended the interview as soon as she saw him. They came his way, and Lois made the introductions.
"Andrea, met Clark Kent, my partner. Clark, this is Andrea Flynn, the police officer who pretended to be married to Superman."
"Hi. Nice to meet you."
"Yes. Me too. Well… I need to go. Bye, Lois. Mr. Kent," said Andrea before heading for the elevators.
Clark was astonished. One hour ago, when he'd let them alone, Lois was almost hostile, and they were saying "Agent Flynn" and "Miss Lane" when addressing each other. And now, that was "Andrea" and "Lois", and they looked like old friends. He would have never believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
"So, Clark. Where have you been?" asked Lois as soon as Andrea left them.
"I… err… my neighbor. He is… on vacation. I promised to spray his
plants," stammered Clark.
<Lame, Clark! Think again!> he admonished himself. But nothing better came to his mind when Lois asked him the question.
"You were spraying your neighbor's plants?" repeated Lois unbelievingly. "You were gone almost two hours, Clark!"
"I… It's because of his cat. I… I have to feed him, too. And… he
escaped. I had a hard time to find him," explained Clark even more lamely.
"You know, Clark. Sometimes you really give the impression you lead a double life you want to keep secret," stated Lois.
Near the elevators, Andrea stared at Clark, unbelieving. He and Lois had now moved near their desks, and she couldn't hear more of the conversation. It didn't matter anyway; the conversation had apparently moved on to professional topics since Lois was now showing him her notes.
But it was the part of the conversation she'd heard while she was going away that had her so astonished.
The way Clark Kent was stammering when explaining to Lois what he was doing… There was simply no way! She'd heard that babbling voice a lot these last few days, but she'd just met Clark Kent for the first time.
She stared attentively. The way he looked at Lois, lovingly. She'd seen that same look on Superman's face while looking at Lois, too…
His face… Also a lot alike.
The day Superman had let slip he had parents and panicked right away at the idea that she would repeat it to someone, she'd figured that he probably was just a normal guy with a normal life somewhere. But to meet him in a suit and tie… and glasses… that wasn't the same as imagining it. But what were the chances that there were two good looking, insecure, babbling men who looked alike? And both of them in love with Lois Lane? It had to be him.
Andrea chuckled. She had been sad for Superman when Lois told her she had moved on and fallen in love with another guy. When she had seen Lois looking and smiling at her partner, she didn't doubt for one second that he was that other guy. And finally… Lois was Superman's girlfriend. But she didn't seem to be aware of it.
She entered the elevators smiling. She'd never tell his secret to
anyone. Superman, or Clark Kent, whoever he was, was a good guy. He deserved some privacy.
At the end of the day, Lois and Clark were on their way to Clark's apartment. They wanted to spend a nice evening together to make up for the separation of the previous night.
They entered the elevators, and as soon as the doors closed, Lois took his hand and approached to kiss him. She still wasn't comfortable with showing their new relationship in front of people, especially co-workers. She'd talked about it with him that first morning after revealing her feelings to him, and luckily for her, he was a very understanding and patient man.
A little ringing signaled them that the elevator had reached their floor, and they broke the kiss.
As they exited the building and entered a cab, Lois remembered the little time she had spent with Clark since the change of their relationship. That first night, when they had kissed for hours; the previous day, when he had asked her to go home early…
"Clark, what did you want to tell me?" asked Lois abruptly, just
remembering that he had suggested going home early to talk.
"What are you talking about, Lois?" responded Clark, without a clue.
"Yesterday. You said you had something important to tell me."
Clark stayed silent, dumbstruck. This was it. He had to tell her
tonight. Not now -they were in a cab- but as soon as they got to his apartment.
<But I'm not ready! I didn't even have time to think about the best way to tell her! Oh God! How do I do this?> he panicked.
He stayed silent a little too long, so Lois decided to push the issue.
"Clark, you said that you wanted to talk about a very serious subject," she prompted him.
"Yeah. Actually, I really need to tell you something, Lois," responded Clark, his voice coming back as the panic receded. "But… We'll talk in private," he added, with a discreet look at the cab driver.
Lois was a little puzzled. What did he want to talk about, in private? He was nervous since she'd asked him what he had to say, as he was nervous when he first broke the subject. It was startling. She became eager to hear it, whatever it was.
He had already told her that he wasn't about to dump her. Except if he had changed his mind, amended Lois mentally.
<No! He hasn't changed his mind!> Lois hit herself. <Okay, what else did he say?>
He had said that it was a serious subject, but not a bad one. He had said that he even hoped that she'd see it as a good thing. But it was making him terribly nervous. He had even admitted it. What could that be?
<Oh God. No! Surely he isn't about to… propose, is he? Oh God! It's too soon! But how could I refuse him without hurting him? Everything could be over if I do that! Oh God!>
By the time the cab reached Clark's apartment, Lois was as nervous as Clark. They sat on the sofas, and Clark began to speak, very quickly.
"I love you. I never wanted to hurt you. I would never have done what I did if I had a choice, I swear to you. I didn't want to. Please, forgive me," begged Clark, almost forgetting that she still didn't know the truth.
"Clark, you're scaring me," responded Lois. "You said I could think of it as a good thing, but by the sound of it, you did something terribly wrong! What did you do, Clark?" she asked, dreading his response.
He took a deep breath, and said it.
"Lois. I'm Superman."
She stared at him without any reaction. He took off the glasses and started to open his shirt, but before he could show her his emblem, she stood up quickly and ran to the door.
Putting his glasses back on his face, he followed her.
"Lois, please! Forgive me! Lois!" begged Clark.
As she kept running without looking back, he stopped. He knew she'd be even more furious if he tried to catch up with her. She needed time to calm down and digest the shock before they could talk about it.
Sighing in frustration, he went back inside his apartment, letting her run away from him.
When Lois entered her apartment she was crying, hard. That jerk! How could he? He really was the worst man she'd ever known!
Not only had he lied to her, he'd played her for a fool!
Drying her tears, she went to the kitchen and took a carton of ice cream from her freezer, and then sat on her sofa eating it. Soon, she started to cry again, from rage. He'd laughed at her for more than a year! She'd never felt so humiliated in her entire life. Was it possible to humiliate someone more than he did to her? To make someone suffer more? Did he take pleasure in seeing her suffer? How she hated him!
She began to cry harder and harder, eating her ice cream, dwelling on everything that had happened since she'd met him the previous year, and even more, everything that had happened in the previous week.
After a few hours, she calmed down a little and began to think about it a little more rationally. She remembered what Andrea had said to her earlier, "Everything he did, he did it for you." Was that true?
She thought again about what had happened in the last week. Perry had announced Superman's marriage, and then while the entire newsroom was looking at her, hoping to see her fall apart, Clark had been by her side, supporting her.
He had let her go alone to the press conference. Of course. But then, he had played the perfect husband in front of her! She felt a new surge of rage at the memory. Nevertheless, Andrea had told her that he loved her. Maybe she had been so engrossed in her pain that she'd missed some hints that he wasn't that happy to play house with Andrea?
But then, just after the press conference, when she was falling apart, he had been there to support her. He had comforted her while she cried on his shoulder. He had done that a lot in the following days. She couldn't deny that he had been there for her when she'd needed him.
She felt her anger melt a little, remembering how Clark had taken good care of her. For days, he had always been supporting her. He really cared about her. "Everything he did, he did it for you." Well, considering the way Clark had acted with her, that probably was true. She was less and less angry with him.
He really had spent all his time with her. She had fallen in love with him, with the guy who always put all her needs before his. Could that really be the same guy who had lied to her and made her cry like no one before him had?
"That hurt him badly, too." Lois again heard Andrea's voice. She had to admit that he had looked very depressed every time she had been crying because of his deceit. He could have told her, then, she thought with a new surge of pain. He hadn't, but she couldn't deny that, whatever his reasons had been to keep the pretence with her, that it had been making him unhappy too.
He had been such a great guy during these last few days. She'd fallen in love with this guy. Too bad he was also this liar…
<He told you the truth,> contradicted her conscience.
"He loves you, you know." Lois heard Andrea's voice again. And she couldn't deny it, either. Clark had told her time and time again since they had revealed their feelings for each other. But that wasn't what had convinced her of his sincerity. She knew it was true because of the way he had cared for her and stayed with her when she needed him. Because of the emotions she could read in his eyes when she had confessed her true feelings to him.
"I love you. I never wanted to hurt you. I would never have done what I did if I had a choice, I swear to you. I didn't want to. Please, forgive me."
This time it was Clark's voice that echoed through her mind. And she knew. He was in love with her, and she was in love with him. So why was she alone in her apartment? He was a great guy, even if he wasn't perfect. But she needed him in her life. She knew she needed him. And the fact that he was Superman was just an extra bonus.
Resolutely, she left her seat and went out, directly to Clark's apartment.
She knocked and waited anxiously for a few moments before the door opened. She immediately noticed his reddened eyes. It looked as if he'd cried, too, since she'd left him a few hours before. Her heart melted at that obvious proof of his feeling for her. He seemed surprised to see her.
"It hurts, Clark. What you did to me, it was very wrong," she launched immediately.
"I know. I'm so… so sorry, Lois. If I could, I'd erase all the pain…" responded Clark in a begging tone. He wanted so badly for her to forgive him.
"I know, and… I understand," said Lois softly. "That doesn't mean I'm not angry with you anymore," she added more curtly. "But… I guess that… What I'm trying to say is that… I'm still in love with you anyway."
He looked at her with a new hope in his heart.
"I love you too, Lois," declared Clark solemnly.
"I can forgive you, Clark."
Happy, he kissed her, but she pulled away quickly.
"This time," she added in a menacing tone.
"There won't be another time, Lois. I swear. I'll never break your heart again, I'll never lie to you again," he promised. "I've been so scared I had lost you. I just want us to live happily."
That was the promise she wanted to hear. She kissed him back, accepting the future he was offering her.
It's over! I hope you enjoyed reading my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I'd like to thank every person who posted or emailed me feedback, because when I started to post, I was almost done with the story for months, but I wasn't able to find the strength to finish it. Thanks to your comments, I wrote the 3 1/2 last parts that were remaining in less than a month.
I'd like to thank Kristal, too, who beta-read for me for a few parts. I lost contact with her. I don't know what happened to her, but I hope she's okay. And I wanted her to know that I am very grateful for her help.
Very special thanks to Ray, who edited my story (and that was definitely a tough job!). You did great; thank you. And to Janet, too, who was my General Editor for the Archives. Thank you so much for your hard work.
And thank you to all my other readers, just because I'm glad I have readers.