By Dandello <>

Rated: PG

Submitted August 2007

Summary: More than two years after losing Clark to gangsters' bullets, famous writer Lois Lane suspects her late partner isn't so 'late' at all.

Copyright 8/18/2007

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. No money is being made from this.


Lois Lane placed her book selection on the cashier's counter and pulled out her credit card.

"You know, we've been trying to talk the publisher into getting the author to do a book tour," the girl at the register gushed. "We have so many requests for his books…"

Lois gave the girl a disingenuous smile. "Mister Keene doesn't even answer fan letters," Lois told her. "Believe me, I've tried." Lois had tried contacting C.J. Keene via his publisher to arrange an interview with the best-selling author. Even Lois Lane's infamous wiles had failed to do the trick. The now famous recluse did not do interviews.

"But, you're Lois Lane…," the girl said in wide-eyed amazement. "You're famous too. You used to know Superman."

*I used to know Superman — that's my claim to fame. Not the woman who left Lex Luthor at the altar or the reporter who broke the back of Intergang but the woman who used to write about Superman.*

Lois simply smiled at the girl, signed the receipt, and took her purchase. *An American in Tiananmen Square* was the title of Keene's newest book. Like his previous works, Keene not only covered travel in the country concerned, but also history, culture, and language. His writing was literate, knowledgeable, friendly — like a good teacher, or well-traveled friend — like her late partner.

Two Years Earlier:

"I'm not so stupid that I don't recognize Clark's writing when I see it," she told Perry White. She had Keene's book in her hand and was waving it under her editor's nose.

"Lois, hon', I know you miss him. We all miss Clark, but he's gone… you know that," Perry explained patiently. "If he was alive, don't you think he would have found a way to contact us?"

"I know the police never found his body after Capone and his thugs took him away," Lois said. She took a deep, shuddery breath. Perry was right. Clark was too gentle a person to have left his friends and co-workers grieving for him. But Keene's writing was so familiar.

"You miss him a lot, don't you, hon?"

"Yes, I miss him a lot. He was my best friend. We did good work together. Heck, we were the famous Lane and Kent. Best on the Planet."

"You did good work before him, and you're still doing good work even though he's gone. You've been nominated for another Kerth this year," Perry reminded her. "That piece on Intergang shook a lot of people up. Did a lotta' good."

"It would have been better with Clark," she told him.

"Maybe, maybe not," Perry said. "You're still one of the best."

"Damn straight," she said with a shaky grin. Perry was right, as always. Clark would have tried to contact them, wouldn't he?

Two weeks later Perry was dead in the middle of the bullpen of a massive heart attack.

"He was a good man," Superman said at the funeral. "A crusader for truth and justice. One of the true heroes of this city. He was also a good friend. He will be missed."

Franklin Stern sold the Daily Planet to Wayne Enterprises out of Gotham City. Lois moved on to take an editorial position at NewsTime. Staying at the Planet without Perry was simply too painful. Losing Clark had been bad enough, and there had been times in the days and weeks after he'd been shot by Clyde Barrow that she'd thought she couldn't go on — she'd lost her best friend in a futile and stupid attempt to get the goods on some gangsters. Clark hadn't wanted to go to Georgie Hairdo's club that night, but he'd gone along with her anyway. He died defending her and Superman hadn't shown up to save the day.

She spent a lot of time grieving, blaming herself — for not being there for Perry when it was obvious he'd been grieving too. For not recognizing that Perry's health had started failing after his kidnapping. She spent a lot of time talking to Dr. Friskin, getting it through her head that it had been Clark's choice to go with her, his choice to face down Dillinger. It had been Perry's choice to ignore his doctor's advice to take early retirement.

Perry had been like a father to her. Clark had been her best friend. *Their choices that the two men she had loved were now dead?*

Even then she had realized there had been no blood on Clark's shirt or on the floor when Capone's thugs dragged his body away. Then there was the matter of the reclusive C.J. Keene, whose writing was so similar to Clark's, even in the subject matter. Lois's sister Lucy had given Lois the first of Keene's books — *An American in Egypt* — when it first hit the Daily Planet's best-seller list. Lois avoided reading it at first. She preferred romances and mysteries, and was surprised Lucy had bothered to give her a travel book. Then curiosity and boredom finally overtook her one night, and she found herself not only finishing it in one sitting, but wanting more.

There was no mistaking the writing. Lois couldn't decide whether to be glad that Clark wasn't dead, or furious at him for the same reason. But as a journalist, she knew that suspecting something was true was not the same as *knowing* it; and knowing was not the same as proving it.

By the time Keene's second book, *An American in Borneo*, hit the shelves, Lois already had a file started on the best-selling author C.J. Keene. She had copies of his magazine and newspaper articles from all over the world. He was as prolific as he was mysterious.

The London Times printed a series by him on Superman, explaining the Man of Steel to the European public. Clark Kent's stories on Superman had assuaged many public concerns about the superhero early on. Now apparently Keene had taken up the mission. The series was reprinted all over the world, mostly because it was the first one-on-one interview anyone had with the superhero in nearly two years…Since the last one with Lois Lane.

"You used to interview Superman all the time," one of Lois's office mates commented when the series hit the Daily Planet. "What happened?"

"Calvin Dregg happened, among other things," Lois told them. "I know the judge threw out the lawsuit and all. But the last time Superman actually talked to me he said he felt he needed to be out more in the rest of the world." Her mind went back to the last real conversation she'd had with the man in blue, four months after Clark's death. Superman's last interview until now.

Superman had come to her apartment the evening after the trial. She suspected he'd been waiting outside her window until her date left. Maybe date wasn't the right word. She was an investigative journalist, Dan Scardino was a government agent — DEA, FDA, NIA, her sources hadn't been able to tell her which part of the alphabet soup he belonged to — and he was a potential source for her investigation on Mayson Drake's death and other odd happenings in the city.

"How was your date?" Superman asked. He seemed unsettled, nervous even, as he paced her living room, red cape fluttering behind him.

"Okay," Lois told him. "Dan's a nice enough guy. Not Clark, of course. Nobody's like…"


"No, please don't," Lois said. She'd heard that tone in his voice before. He was going to apologize for not rescuing Clark, *again*. "We've been over this. I know you can't be in two places at once. And you couldn't be there for Clark. It was unfair of me to expect otherwise. I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault."

"I've been trying to be here for you at least," he said. "And you have no idea how much I appreciate the help you've been to me…with, the blindness thing, and the red kryptonite, and now the lawsuit."

"Well, the lawsuit is done with and every major city in the world has declared you're under their version of the 'Good Samaritan' rule," she reminded him. "Most countries, too."

He sighed. "You've been a good friend, Lois." He cupped the side of her face in his hand, caressing her cheek with his thumb. It was a familiar gesture, one he'd repeated over the past few months, once she had gotten over the worst part of her grief for Clark, once she had stopped blaming Superman for not being there to save her partner. But there was something different this time. She could see it in his eyes. There was pain in those deep brown eyes.

"You're leaving Metropolis," she said. It was a wild shot, but it scored. He almost seemed relieved that she'd gotten it. A little of the tension went out of his shoulders.

"I'll be around when I'm needed," he said. "I love Metropolis, its energy, its openness. But I need to be out in the rest of the world more. The kittens are just going to have to fend for themselves." He chuckled a little at his own joke. "I've let Mister Brown know I won't be available for any more personal appearances."

"No more bachelor auctions?" Lois asked with her own chuckle.

"No more hospital openings, golf tournaments…"

"I thought you liked doing those."

"I did," Superman told her. "But they just don't seem to be as important any more." He sighed and it sounded like the weight of the world had settled on his shoulders. "I miss Clark so much… I miss having a place I can go and not be the man in the costume for a while."

"You can always come here if you need someone to talk to," Lois offered. She thought she saw a spark of hope in his eyes then the shutters closed over again, shutting her out.

"Thanks, Lois," he said. "I'll remember that."

A memory flickered through Lois's mind of another pair of warm brown eyes that had shuttered down in resignation and disappointment: Clark's eyes when she told him she didn't love him the same way he loved her.

Superman leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips and then he was gone. The drapes on her front window fluttered, signaling his departure. But her lips still tingled from the touch of his lips. Only one other man had done that for her — Clark.


"Clark old chap?" a voice called out. Clark Kent looked up to see Charles Moore crossing the street toward the open air café on one of the side streets in the student quarter of Strasbourg. Charles was a stringer for the London Times and Clark had worked with him often over the years, first in Italy then in London.

"Charles," Clark called. Charles grinned and grabbed a seat at Clark's table. "What the devil are you doing in Strasbourg?" Clark asked.

"The Court of Human Rights has called Superman to testify on the ethnic cleansing in Podansk," Charles said. The waitress came and took Charles's order and refilled Clark's coffee. "My editor has me trying to get a word out of the famous man himself. So, what are you doing here, old chap?"

"The same," Clark told him. "Trying to keep up with Superman."

The two men chatted amiably for a while, catching up on old times. Charles was married now with a baby on the way. Life had been treating him well. Clark was happy for him.

Charles checked his watch. It was getting late and the staff at the café were starting to get the restaurant ready for dinner. Clark paid the check in cash. Charles headed back to his hotel and Clark headed back to his rooms.

It felt odd to run into someone he hadn't seen, or even thought about, in ages—someone who knew him as Clark Kent instead of C.J. Keene or Jerome King. It felt good. Not as good as being with Lois, Perry, and Jimmy at the Planet, but good.

When he'd traveled the world after college, he had found it convenient to stay in rooming houses, cheap hotels, or to sublet apartments. He lived out of his suitcase — many times he never even bothered to unpack. His year and a half in Metropolis with his own apartment had spoiled him, and he'd found it hard to return to that old lifestyle, at least in the beginning. It was better now. He was back in the swing of things, staying about four months in a place before moving on.

At least now no one got suspicious when miraculous rescues happened — Superman was all over the world.

He had actually tried living only as Superman for several months, sleeping in the sky and eating only what he could forage unseen or when he went home to his parents in Smallville. He couldn't do it. He had spent his life as Clark Kent. That was who he was under the blue spandex and red cape and the ability to fly without wires.

Superman didn't have friends he could go out to games with, or sit down for coffee, or shoot pool with. Superman didn't discuss politics or religion or last night's soccer game or the latest movies. Clark Kent did that.

His friends in Metropolis all thought he was dead. The rest of the world didn't care. Clark Kent had simply moved overseas and was plying his trade as a writer using a nom de plume. He paid his taxes on time and kept a low profile otherwise.

He kept two concessions to his life in Metropolis — he still read the Daily Planet when he could get it, and he still followed Lois Lane's career. She was doing well: A best-selling mystery novel with plans for another one, an internationally syndicated column, a contributing editor for the NewsTime magazines. She was famous and he was happy for her. Being away from the mendacity that was his life had only helped her.

His pager buzzed in his pocket and he checked the number. His parents. The pager was something they had insisted on, and they were footing the cost for it. He found a phone, fed in tokens and waited for the other end to pick up.

"Mom, what's up?" he asked as soon as his mother answered the phone.

"Lois called," Martha Kent told him.

"What did she want?"

"She wanted to know if we knew where you were," his father said from the second house phone.

"She's figured it out, Clark," his mother added.

"Well, she knows something, at least," Jonathan amended. "She knows we never turned in any life insurance claims on you."

"Mom, Dad, without a body, or at least some blood, the Metropolis police have me listed as missing and presumed dead," Clark reminded them. "If I'm not dead, you can't make an insurance claim."

"Clark, if you're simply missing, that means you could come back," Martha said. "So why haven't you? Why have you been hiding out in Europe and Asia for the past two years?"

"I haven't come up with a way for Clark Kent to not be dead," he explained simply. "Nothing made sense. Lois… Lois saw me die. She saw me take three bullets. And nothing can change that."

"Son, you need to talk to her," Jonathan told him. "She knows you're not dead. She knows you've been working overseas."

"Lois was never stupid, Dad. If anyone was going to figure it out, it would be her."

"Clark, talk to her," Martha ordered.

"I'll think about it," he promised.


"Jimmy, can you do me a favor?" Lois asked the Daily Planet's lead researcher over lunch. Even though Lois was working for NewsTime, she still kept in contact with a few of her former co-workers. Olsen was making his mark as a photojournalist. He'd been nominated for a Kerth already, but his true gift was still in research. If it was on a computer, Jimmy Olsen could access it.

"Sure, what do you need?" Jimmy asked.

"Clark Kent's tax records for the past three years," Lois said.

Jimmy nearly choked on his soda. "Lois, CK died over two years ago."

"If I thought it was easy, I wouldn't need to ask you to do it," Lois told him with a grin. "Besides, they never found his body."

Jimmy studied her face for a long moment. "Do you really think he might be alive?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out."

Two days later: "Lois, you're not going to believe this… or maybe you will," Jimmy's said over the phone speaker in Lois's office. "Clark Jerome Kent filed tax returns *after* he allegedly died in 1994. His last in-country employer was the Daily Planet but guess who's been paying him the past two years…"

"World-Times Press," Lois answered for him. "And his addresses were outside the country, right?"

"Right," Jimmy confirmed, sounding surprised. "1995 he filed from the Philippines and 1996 he was in France. And you would not believe his income. How did you know?"

"Just a hunch," Lois admitted.

"So, if CK really is alive, why didn't he let anybody know?"

"That's a very good question."

"What do you plan to do?" he asked.

"I don't know yet," Lois admitted. "I'll let you know when I do."

Another piece to the puzzle of Clark Kent had come together, but she still couldn't quite make out the picture. Clark wasn't dead, but he wanted his friends in Metropolis to believe he was. Clark wasn't involved in anything criminal; that part she was absolutely certain of. The Kansas farm boy simply wasn't cut out to be a crook. He was much like Superman that way — honest, trustworthy if not altogether reliable, patient, morally upright — a real boy scout in a day and age when being honest and upright were passé and old-fashioned. Had he or his parents been threatened? That might make sense, but then why keep up the charade for so long? Why not ask her, Jimmy, and Superman to help? Why stay away?

And then there was the fact that she'd seen him shot three times at point blank range. *There had been no blood when they shot him.* Was that the key? Clark ran because he couldn't explain why he *wasn't* dead. Barrow couldn't possibly have missed him. Only Superman could have survived those shots.

Only Superman… "I miss Clark so much… I miss having a place I can go and not be the man in the costume for a while." *He missed having a place where he wasn't Superman.*

Most people assumed that Superman was in the costume 24/7, that if he wasn't on the news on a rescue that he was simply somewhere without cameras. The few people who put more thought into it figured he had a place somewhere remote or well-hidden where he could rest and do those things super heroes do in their off time. There were even speculations that Superman occasionally took off the suit and wore regular clothes so he could mingle with humanity incognito.

But what if they were all wrong? Lois had worked side-by-side with Clark Kent for a year and a half. They'd been partners. He had even told her that he loved her just before her disastrous almost-wedding to Lex Luthor. She would have staked her life on the fact that Clark Kent was a normal man, even if he did have a habit of running off for no apparent reason at the most inopportune times. She had seen him in just a bath towel, seen him in jeans and t-shirts, in suits and in sweats. She'd seen him asleep, innocent as a baby.

She knew his parents. They were good, honest people.

Lois also knew that Clark had worked the same forty to sixty hour week that she did when they were partners. So what if… what if Clark had simply been Clark most of the time and Superman wasn't disappearing to another part of the world when he left a rescue but just went back to the office to write the story? It explained so much—even why Clark's parents had been so helpful when Superman was stuck at her apartment after Dr. Leit blinded him. They hadn't been helping Superman. They'd been helping their son — Clark.

The picture on the puzzle was looking more recognizable, although she admitted to herself that some of her leaps of logic were a little lean on substance. But the equation was elegant in its simplicity. Clark was alive because he was Superman, and Superman is invulnerable to anything but kryptonite. Clark disappeared from Metropolis because he couldn't explain how he had survived the gunshots unless he was Superman.

And finally, Clark didn't want people to know he was Superman because then his parents and friends would be targeted by every sicko around who wanted vengeance against him. Lois knew about that one first hand. More than once, crooks whose careers had been shortened by one of her investigations had threatened to avenge themselves on her co-workers or family. So far they had all been idle threats, but would that be true if it was Superman's family they were going after?

Then it struck her. *It was Superman who had known about Luthor. Superman knew the details about Luthor's threats and criminal activities but he didn't have proof. Clark said he loved me, but that wasn't enough for me. I wouldn't listen to him.*

"There are things you don't know about me," Superman had warned her only hours after Clark had professed his love and she in turn told him that she cared for him only as a friend.

"It doesn't matter," she had told the superhero. "I know *you*. And I don't mean you the 'celebrity' or you the 'superhero.' If you had *no* powers, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I'd love you just the same. Can't you believe that?"

"I wish I could, Lois. But, under the circumstances, I don't see how I can."

She hadn't understood at the time and thought he was rejecting her. She ran into the arms of a man she didn't know. A man who turned out to be a sociopath and a criminal. A man who chose suicide over arrest.

She had willingly marched up to the altar to marry Superman's mortal enemy. The fact that she didn't go through with it meant little — she never told Clark *why* she had said no to Luthor at the last minute. She never told him that it had been *his* name she'd been repeating in her mind, his face she wanted to see waiting for her while she got ready to get married.

*Clark didn't trust me not to betray him. He didn't trust me enough to ask for my help. So now, how do I fix this? How does the famous Lois Lane get us both out of the hole we've dug ourselves into?*

One of the office people, Marjory, knocked on Lois's open door. "You wanted to know when Superman showed up for his testimony at the Court of Human Rights?"

"He's there now?"

Marjory nodded. "Speculation is it's going to take a couple days just to get through his initial testimony. And then there's all the official protests from Podansk *and* Latislan on whether or not he should even be allowed to testify since he went and stopped their war."

"They asked him to mediate their peace talks. That's not exactly the same as stopping them from attacking each other," Lois reminded her. "All he did was stop what they both claim were rogue elements in their own militaries."

Marjory shrugged. "Anyway, LNN's got live video of the swearing in. It's on now."

Lois turned on the monitor in her office to watch the broadcast. Superman looked suitably solemn as he stood before the court tribunal who was to determine the validity of the complaint against Podansk.

*'Why didn't I ever see it before?'* Lois wondered as she watched him raise his right hand for the swearing in. They had a same nose, same eyes, same chin, even the same build. She had even joked with Clark about his ability to eat like an eight-year-old and still be 'Mister Hard-body.' *'Was I galactically stupid, or is he simply that good at hiding in plain sight?'* She studied the images on the screen. Superman always stood tall, shoulders straight, head high — the image of composure. He exuded strength and confidence as well as compassion. You knew he could do anything because that was the image he presented to the world.

On the other hand, Clark rarely stood tall. His posture was always relaxed — almost to the point of slouching — and he even sauntered a little when he walked. Superman strode on a scene. Clark loped, or didn't arrive at all. Superman exuded an aura that made him seem larger than life. Even on camera you could feel the strength of his presence. Clark was simply 'Clark'. If he had an aura, it shouted 'I'm just a normal fellow you can ignore.'

And so she had. And then he was gone. Instead of Lane and Kent, it was just Lane. It just wasn't the same.

Lois picked up her phone and dialed the in-house agency that arranged for NewsTime's employee travel. Being an award-winning journalist had its perks as did being a best-selling author. She could go wherever or whenever she wanted in the world and if the company didn't want to pay, it didn't bother her. She'd just expense it out to her book publisher.

"This is Lois Lane. I want to be on the next flight to Strasbourg, France."


The reception of his testimony was better than he'd dared hope. It was the second day and the representative from Podansk had finally dropped his objections to the actual testimony concerning the villages Superman had seen burned to the ground along the border between Podansk and Latislan. The fact of the villages' destruction and the inhabitants murdered and buried in mass graves was no longer in question. The question now was simply whether or not it had been Podansk's troops that were guilty of attacking the ethnic Latislan villages on the Podansk side of the border.

That was something even Superman couldn't prove one way or another. But at least the matter was now going to be properly investigated. Score one for the good guys. So why did it feel like he was trying to sweep out the tide?

Clark was glad to get out of the Suit and into his slacks and shirt. It had been a long day and he wanted little more than to sit down to a good meal with a glass of wine and a book. He walked over to his favorite café, a worn copy of *Cat on a Hot Tin Roof* in his hand. The staff was used to him sitting and eating alone with a book. A couple of the servers were at university, and when things got quiet after the dinner rush, they would sometimes sit at his table and they would discuss literature while finishing off a bottle or two of wine. This week Tennessee Williams was the author of choice.

"Mendacity is a system we live in…" Clark quoted to himself softly. Williams had the truth of it : even Superman, famous guardian of truth and justice, lived inside a system of mendacity, of lies and half-truths. Maybe being famous was part of the problem. It was definitely something to think about.

"Hello Clark," a woman's voice said from behind him. His heart jumped at the familiarity of the voice. He tried to stay calm as he looked over his shoulder to see a woman with short dark hair wearing a fashionable skirted business suit.

"Hello Lois."

She stepped closer to his table and he could now see the tension around her eyes as she looked back at him. "May I sit down?"

He nodded, afraid to speak for fear of embarrassing himself by stuttering. She pulled out the chair opposite his and settled into it, ankles crossed demurely, burgundy leather briefcase at her feet.

"You're looking quite well for someone who's been dead for more than two years," she told him. Her voice was level, evenly pitched, pleasant. Lois at her most dangerous.

He took a long moment before responding. "I guess 'I'm sorry' isn't going to cut it?" He managed to keep his voice from cracking at least.

"Hardly," she said. "You let us think you were dead. All your friends grieving for you, missing you, and here you are alive and well. Why didn't you tell us you were okay? Why did you let us think you were dead?"

"Lois, Clark Kent died that night. The moment Clyde Barrow pulled the trigger, Clark Kent was dead."

"So you ran?" Lois asked. "I can't believe that the man who worked so hard to save the Planet, the man who refused to give up on his friends, on me when Luthor was holding all the cards… I can't believe that man simply ran away from all those things just because of a few bullets."

"My being alive is an impossibility," Clark said earnestly. "We both know that. Don't you think I wracked my brain for a convincing explanation so I could come back home? Don't you think I know how much it hurt you and Perry and Jimmy to think I was dead? Don't you think I was torn up inside because of all the pain I caused you?"

"You could have called," Lois said. "We could have helped. That's what friends are for."

He wanted to believe her. She was so beautiful sitting there, poised and professional — a dream come true. A dream he'd prayed for every night. But it was just a dream.

"Lois, why are you here?"

She shrugged and he could hear the silk of her blouse rubbing against her jacket. He could smell the scent of her perfume and the tang of sweat under the silk.

"I came to bring you home," she said. She studied his face and a frown creased her forehead. "You do want to come back, don't you?"

"More than anything," he admitted. "But… there are things about me you don't know, that you may never know. Things that still make it…"

"Clark," she interrupted. "I know why the bullets didn't kill you."

Her heart rate didn't change but his sped into high gear and a block of ice settled into his gut. "You do?"

She nodded. "There was no blood," she said simply.

"How angry are you?"

"Hurt more than angry," she said. "Hurt that you let us believe you had been murdered. The rest had been sitting right in front of my nose the whole time… I was too enamored of the man in spandex to see it. That day when you told me you loved me, I was too blinded by the fantasy of both Luthor and Superman vying for my hand to actually listen to what you were trying to tell me. By the time actually I realized what you have been saying, it was too late. My best friend was gone."

"I'm sorry."

"So am I." She sighed and looked around a café. He followed her gaze. She took a moment to look over the two young women sitting at one of the nearby tables watching them. "Keene groupies?"

"University students." He indicated the book on the table. "We have a little literary discussion group going when they get off work… You know about Keene?"

"I would know your writing anywhere."

"So what do we do now?" he asked. She was too calm. He had run scenarios through his head ever since inventing Superman. Scenarios on what Lois would do if and when she found out he'd been living a lie, that the Man of Steel was little more than a costume and an attitude. That Superman was really Clark Kent and Kent was a coward.

Most of those scenarios ended up with her either screaming at him in hurt rage or walking out in cold fury. This composed woman in front of him was scaring him to death.

"Clark, only three people in Metropolis even care whether or not you died that night. Me, Jimmy, and Detective Wolfe… and the only reason he cares is that he can't close the case until he knows what happened to you," she told him.

"And what do I tell him?"

She chuckled and smiled at him. "You went to the club wearing bullet-proof vest. You played dead hoping they'd say something that would give you a lead into what they were planning only you hit your head when they dumped you out of the car. You've had amnesia before, it's not too much of a stretch that you went into a fugue state and wandered off. You've only now really come out of it… or maybe you're still confused."

"It might work," he conceded.

She gave him a triumphant grin. "Of course it'll work. Of course, we could just move to Paris or Berlin."

"We?" Now she was just confusing him, but in that confusion he felt a lightness of spirit he hadn't felt since that night in the club. She didn't hate him. She wanted him back in Metropolis. There was even a chance she might forgive him.

"Clark, after all this time I've found you. My best friend. Do you honestly believe I'd let you go again?" she asked, studying his face.

"Lois, you don't really know me…"

"Yes, I do know you, Clark Kent," she said. "Even when you couldn't be there openly for me and Jimmy and Perry, you were still there for us, hovering in the background helping any way you could. I watched you running yourself ragged all around the world even if I didn't realize it was you at the time… It's time to stop running. It's time to come home." She placed her small hand over his large one and he felt the same thrill he had the first time she touched him. "Or do you prefer to be the famous recluse C.J. Keene?"

"Being famous isn't all it's cracked up to be, you know," Clark chuckled. "The groupies, the rabid tabloid reporters…"

"The paparazzi?" Lois chimed in with a laugh. "God, I've missed this. I've missed *you*. Come back with me to Metropolis."

"I do want to come home…" he said softly. A radio nearby announced an earthquake in the Philippines. "I have to go." He stood and started to move away from the table.

"I'll be waiting here with Mister Williams." She picked up the book and opened it to where he'd bookmarked it.

"Mendacity is a system we live in…" he quoted, looking back at her.

"Ah, but the trick is knowing that it *is* the system," she shot back. "Unless you know it, you can't fight it. So get going. I'll be here and then we can go home where we belong. Then we'll figure out *us*. Mendacity, fame and all."