By Jenni Debbage <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: April 2007
Summary: When journalism student Lois Lane meets Clark Kent at a seminar in Chicago, she's surprised at how deeply they connect. Will Clark's mysterious disappearance prove to her that it's not worth trusting her heart to any man?
A 2006 Fundraiser Story
A few days before Christmas I was driving home, listening to a local radio station which was playing 'golden oldies'. I was very happy when one of my favourite classics from my youth began and I was singing along to it when an idea for a Lois and Clark story popped into my mind.
Again, it seems that music inspires me to write short stories, though this is not quite a vignette. To tell the truth, I was quite surprised by how easily this story flowed onto the page.
This is a definite 'what if' story and is a different take on Lois and Clark's first meeting.
The story continues on into one of the scenes of the Pilot, but this story is only a very loose adaptation and the dialogue isn't an exact copy of the show.
Once again, I claim no rights to the characters of Lois and Clark. I have simply borrowed them from their owners for a very short time in order to derive some enjoyment from writing and hopefully to give some pleasure to whoever may choose to read it.
Year : 1988
Lois Lane gazed up at the young man before her and couldn't believe her luck. She felt like pinching herself just to check that she wasn't dreaming. How could she have known that her trip to Chicago would turn out to be the best time of her life, and all because she'd met one very special person?
At first, she'd been reluctant to attend the journalism student seminar, especially since it meant leaving her younger sister, Lucy, alone in the days before Christmas to mediate between her warring parents. To tell the truth, she could never understand why her divorced parents still chose to spend Christmas day together, trying to create the charade of 'happy families'. The Lane family had been dysfunctional since Sam had decided many years ago that spending time at work, and with his attractive secretaries, was more important than sharing quality time with his wife and daughters.
Lois supposed she ought not to blame her mother for seeking refuge in a 'bottle'. Being displaced in a husband's affections by a string of younger women would no doubt send many wives to seek solace elsewhere — Lois just wished that Ellen Lane hadn't chosen alcohol as her constant companion. On this night before Christmas Eve, Lois had no doubt that her mother would be well into her second bottle of Scotch, while her father would be acting morally outraged by the drunken antics of his ex-wife and Lucy would have long since escaped to her room.
All good reasons why Lois should be feeling guilty that she was having such a good time. Only there was no room for guilt in Lois' soul, and even the prospect of returning to the war-zone of her home in Metropolis had no power to daunt her happiness.
She was in love. First love. Wonderfully, excitingly engrossed in her feelings for a boy she'd met only a few days ago. That Lois would admit to being in love, and after so short a time, was a miracle in itself. Having witnessed her parents' disastrous marriage, Lois had sworn never to let herself become involved with romance. She was going to be strictly a career woman… until she'd met Clark Kent in the lobby of the Chicago Hilton and it had been a case of love at first sight. Luckily for Lois, Clark had felt just the same.
They'd quickly paired up in the classes and found that their working styles complemented each other's extremely well. Their success had even been remarked upon by a couple of the lecturers when they'd submitted their joint projects. Lois shared an affinity with Clark in every area of her life and strangely, she wasn't afraid of having her heart broken. She trusted her farm boy from Kansas, via Midwestern State University's journalism school, with all of her soul.
"A penny for your thoughts, Lois?" Clark asked as he swayed slowly round the dance floor with Lois in his arms.
"I'm just thinking how lucky I am that we met." She smiled shyly back.
"Precisely what I was thinking." Clark nuzzled his nose into her silky hair. "Only, tonight will soon be over and tomorrow the course breaks up and we have to say goodbye. I don't think that's so lucky," he whispered sadly.
"Will you miss me?"
Clark lifted his head and returned her stare. "More than you'll ever know, Lois."
"I think I know. I feel the same. I wish I didn't have to go home!"
"Lois, maybe things won't be so bad. Maybe this time your parents will have signed a truce for Christmas."
For the first time in her life, Lois had confided the story of her sordid family life to another human being. Lois found Clark so easy to talk to that it had all just poured out of her. He'd sympathized but perhaps he couldn't quite understand how bad the state of affairs were between her mother and father. The elder Kents appeared to be the exact opposite to her parents — kind, understanding, and still in love with each other after many years of marriage.
"I doubt it, Clark. You don't know them. They can't be in the same room with each other without World War Three breaking out. Daddy snipes and Mother whines… and it's just so exasperating. You have no idea how lucky you are to have parents who get along. Your mom and dad sound so nice… and I'd really like to meet them some day."
Clark pulled Lois in close for a hug. "I'm sure that can be arranged, Lois. And I really am sorry about your family. I wish there was something more I could do to help than just offer sympathy."
"There's nothing wrong with sympathy, Clark. In fact, it's much appreciated."
"Do you think I could phone you now and then… in Metropolis… and write too?" Clark pressed a kiss on Lois' brow. "I can't say goodbye to you and walk away forever. This hasn't been just a casual fling for me, Lois. You have to know that."
"I do," Lois whispered, turning her face and pressing her lips to his neck, just above the collar of his shirt. "It isn't for me, either. I'll hold you to keeping in touch. I know long-distance romances aren't all that easy, but I think we could make this work."
A smile lit up Clark's face and Lois' legs turned to water. He had such a wonderful smile. On the stage behind them the singer announced the last dance and the band launched into a hit tune from long ago. Clark tightened his hold around Lois and she went happily into his embrace, humming along to the song.
"Your voice is as lovely as you are, Lois."
"Clark Kent, do you say that to all the girls?" Lois giggled.
"No, never!" he protested. "Only when it's true… and that's only with you. I think I'm falling in love with you, Lois."
Lois stilled. Was she ready to proclaim her undying love? Normally, she'd laugh at such a gushy line, but she believed in Clark. Yet she couldn't restrain a tease as she echoed the words of the song.
"Ah, but will you still love me tomorrow?"
"Always, Lois. I will love you for all your tomorrows."
The phone slammed down so hard in its cradle that Linda King was surprised to see it still in one piece. She raised her eyebrows as she regarded her room-mate.
"Still no answer from Clark?"
Lois looked daggers at her friend. Theirs was an uneasy friendship, marred often by petty rivalries both professionally and romantically. Though, since Lois' return from Chicago the romantic jealousies hadn't been a problem, since it seemed that Lois had fallen head over heels in love. For a few weeks the relationship had deepened. Lois and Clark had exchanged letters and called each other regularly every few days… but then the situation had drastically altered. Clark had missed his phone call on Saturday past and there had been no mail from him in days.
"I think you can guess the answer to your question, Linda. There's no need to rub it in!"
"Lois, I'm not. I'm sorry, but I did warn you. You just can't take these holiday romances seriously." Linda gave a worldly shrug. "The trouble with you, Lois, is that you don't understand how to play the game."
"Clark wasn't playing games," Lois objected, though she was beginning to suspect that she might not have known him as well as she thought.
"Oh, then where is he?"
"He could be sick…"
"Is that what his friend told you?"
A tiny shrug lifted Lois' shoulders. "Not exactly."
"Then what exactly?" Linda asked again, a little more kindly. Lois was a baby when it came to men.
"He's not there," Lois admitted, her voice so low, Linda had to strain to hear. "They say they don't know where he is."
"Do you believe that?"
"I don't know." Lois moved away from the desk with the offending phone… the one which refused to connect her to the person she wanted so much to hear from. "Perhaps something's gone wrong at home and he had to go back to help his parents."
"I suppose that's possible… unlikely, but hey, stranger things have happened." Linda was now feeling sorry for her friend. She was fairly sure that this Clark Kent was a louse who had found another 'babe' to fill in time at a boring student conference. Now that it was over, he wasn't man enough to face Lois and was just getting his room-mates to cover for him. "Can you get in touch with his parents?"
"Me?" Lois squeaked. To tell the truth, she'd been wondering about that herself, but she didn't have their phone number nor their address.
She knew Clark came from a place called Smallville in Kansas and that his parents had a farm. That was probably enough information to get a phone number, provided they weren't ex-directory… and provided she had the nerve to call them, and therein lay the biggest quandary. Had Clark even told his parents about her?
He'd mentioned that he wanted Lois to meet with them, but it was looking more likely every day that Clark had been feeding her a line. Only for what purpose, she had no idea. It wasn't like he'd been trying to get her into bed with him… not that they hadn't shared some very intimate kisses, and Lois wasn't totally sure she would have been averse to the idea of sleeping with Clark… if he'd insisted. Only he hadn't. He'd acted like the perfect gentleman. Unless he'd been schooling her for more… but why then back off?
That was it! He'd probably meant what he'd said at the time, but like every other male she'd ever known, he was scared of commitment. Once she was gone and was no longer there to influence him, he'd gotten cold feet. It happened all the time, and Lois had been crazy to believe that Clark should be any different… but she had.
"Phone them, Lois." Linda's voice broke into her meditation, her tone more friendly and sympathetic than Lois had ever heard before. "You're one of the best reporting students at MetroU; OK, probably the best… Finding a phone number should be a piece of cake for you. Give them a call. They might not know about you, or you might get the same reply as you did from his college mates, but, at least, you'd know where you stand." Linda crossed to the desk and lifted the phone. "Try national directories."
Lois reluctantly took the handset, holding it gingerly like it was a poisonous snake intent on biting her.
"Oh, and Lois, if you ever repeat my admission about you being the best, I will totally deny it…" Then Linda laughed, reverting to her cynical self, and headed for the door. "Go on! You know what they say, 'faint heart never won fair… Adonis.' Believe me, Lois, going by those photographs, if Clark had been interested in me, I'd think he was certainly worth some effort. What have you to lose but a little pride? You'll survive."
"Easy for you to say, Linda. You don't have an inferiority complex when it comes to the opposite sex."
"No, I don't. And if you only believed in yourself a little more, you wouldn't either. Look at you. You're gorgeous. You have a lot to offer… but again, savor this moment, I doubt I'll ever feel so complimentary again. Now I have a hot date. Bye, Lois, and good luck!"
With those parting words, Linda grabbed her coat and flounced out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her. Lois was left in the empty room, holding the phone and feeling very alone. Was Linda right? Surely knowing the truth would be better than wondering what had gone wrong. Taking a deep breath, she dialed the operator.
So, knowing the truth wasn't necessarily better than living in ignorance, Lois decided as she moved to the window to stare into the gray sky. The weather reflected her dismal mood. Obviously, Clark had never mentioned her to his parents… and even though she did get the impression that they were nice people, she wasn't a complete fool and she had no doubt that they were hiding something from her. Their son — their handsome, brown-eyed Mister Congeniality — was a rat, who'd schooled them to give nothing away to any stray 'conquest' who happened to come looking for him.
Lois had been played for a fool, a silly gooey-eyed fool, and no doubt Clark Kent and his buddies were having a great laugh at her expense. Well, never again. No one would fool Lois Lane again. It wasn't that she was unaware that sexual predators existed… Boy, she'd lived with her father for most of her life and he certainly fell into the category. She really should have spotted the warning signs. Clark Kent might have slipped under her radar, but that would be the last time any man would.
She would forget about him. From this day on, she was strictly a career woman and any relationship she had with the opposite sex would be under her own terms. Who needed them anyway? Her mother was the perfect example of how a man could mess with your life, and Lois was not about to follow in Ellen Lane's footsteps. She had much better things to do… like winning that Pulitzer Prize. Course, first of all she had to get an internship at the Daily Planet. That would be her goal for the foreseeable future.
With renewed energy and resolve, Lois turned and switched on her computer. She had work to do.
In a backwater of Kansas, on the edges of a small town, Martha Kent replaced the phone and glanced uncertainly at her husband. "Oh, Jonathan, I hated to lie to that poor girl. That was Lois Lane, the young woman Clark met at the seminar last month. We know how much Clark was smitten with her…" Martha's hands fidgeted nervously. "I'm sure it was love at first sight for him. Maybe we should have told her the truth."
"Oh yes, and I wonder how that would have worked out, Martha? I know Clark liked the girl, but how were we supposed to tell her that our son has been snatched by aliens… or maybe we should go the whole hog and tell her Clark is an alien? I'm sure that would have gone down a treat. She probably would have thought we were lying, or we needed to be committed… or both!" Jonathan's normally quiet voice had an edge to it… a sure sign that he was worried sick about his son's whereabouts.
"We don't know Clark is an alien," Martha said a little forlornly.
"Come on, Martha. We've always suspected it. After all, we did find him in a spaceship when he was a baby. Not to mention we have that technological message thing from his kidnappers…"
"That could be a hoax, Jonathan…"
"No, Martha. This is no hoax. The 'letter' didn't come by mailman. This messenger flew down here to deliver it then disappeared into the blue." Jonathan's words were accompanied by his finger pointing upwards.
Martha, threw her husband a hurt look and turned to walk away. She was trying very hard to place a normal set of circumstances on her son's disappearance, but in her heart she had to concede that Jonathan was only voicing the truth.
Jonathan placed gentle hands on her shoulders and pulled her into his arms. "Martha, I know how hard this is to accept. But we both know that part of the message came from Clark… and I don't think he was coerced into writing it. I agree those New Kryptonians probably didn't give him much chance to refuse their offer to return to his home planet, but I do believe he felt he needed to go. His people are facing a civil war, and if Clark can do anything to avert that war, then he'd choose to do his duty. I know my son, Martha."
"I agree, Jonathan." Martha buried her face into her husband's chest, her voice sounding very tearful. "I just wish they'd allowed him time to come back and say goodbye in person." She leaned back against his encircling arms. "What if we never see him again?"
Jonathan gently wiped Martha's tears from her cheeks. His own eyes were awash. "Clark promised he'd return if he could… and even his own people said they'd let us know if anything happened to Clark." Actually, they'd said that he and Martha would be notified in the event of Lord Kal-El's death. "Sweetheart, I know it's hard, but I think all we can do is wait and cover for Clark as best we can. Then if he ever does manage to come home, he'll be able to be Clark Kent again."
"When, Jonathan, not if," Martha declared, a fire kindling behind her eyes once more. "When! My son is coming home, Jonathan. My son is coming home!"
Year : 1993
The line of uniformed people moved forward in an orderly fashion. While most of them talked infrequently, a sense of suppressed excitement bubbled in their voices. The space programme had been beset with problems. Only a week ago the Messenger had been subjected to sabotage, yet security had been tightened and the second shuttle would take off as planned. Space Station Prometheus was orbiting above the Earth awaiting its inhabitants and the world watched in anticipation… and Lois Lane would be there to record the event for posterity… unofficially.
Lois ducked her head as she slipped past the remaining security guards. She'd really done it! She'd sneaked on board and was about to witness a world-changing event. Of course, she'd have to reward her contact at EPRAD for supplying the uniform and fake boarding pass, and she would, just as soon as she returned to Earth. Hopefully, the crew of the shuttle would still be willing to give her a lift back home, regardless of the fact that she'd stowed away, and after she'd interviewed the colonists for her story. The one story that would be bound to win her the coveted Pulitzer.
As she entered through the thick bulkhead doors, Lois moved aside, allowing the other eager passengers to pass her by, every one of them anxious to get to their selected berths for takeoff. Needless to say, Lois didn't have an appointed position, so she looked for the little room that housed some of the spacecraft's internal electronics systems, which her source had pointed out on the shuttle blueprints. She didn't take long to find it, since it was just a little way down the main corridor. Opening the door, quietly she sneaked inside. She couldn't believe she'd really made it aboard without being discovered by the authorities. Even for Lois Lane this 'stunt' was a biggie.
She quickly found the maintenance crewman's emergency seat and strapped herself in, while the disembodied voice from the control room counted down towards blast off. In this tiny room the public-address system was more muffled, but Lois composed herself to wait with patience… a quality she didn't really have much of. Still, it wouldn't be long now. She prepared herself for a bumpy ride, as her fold-down chair was meant only for use in an emergency. She vaguely heard the far-off voice approaching the latter minutes of the final checks and she screwed up her eyes… tightly. She didn't exactly know how that would help her predicament, but, hey, every heroine worth her salt did that in the movies…
What the heck was that?
Lois opened one eye. Had she heard a beep? But all was silence and she had almost convinced herself it was only her nervous imagination when the 'beep' sounded again… then again. Both Lois' eyes opened wide and she craned her head around the machinery that filled the room. There was something on the far wall. Something a little too haphazardly attached to be built in with the fittings.
Ignoring the fast-approaching firing of the engines, Lois undid her belt and hurried to investigate the foreign body. A little box was stuck to the wall close by the door, and in a tiny window in the box red LCD numbers counted down towards zero… parroting the voice of the official count-down.
It didn't take rocket science to know that whatever this little package was… it wasn't there for the good of the shuttle. Lois might not be an expert in explosives, but she knew enough to know it was a…
"Oh, my god. It's a bomb! There's a bomb!" she screamed as she rushed out of her hiding place. "Someone help, there's a bomb." She ran towards the exit doors, only to find them sealed up tight, yet nevertheless, she banged against the metal, hoping to attract attention. "Help!" she shouted, but there was no one to hear her. The shuttle had been disconnected from the loading platform in preparation for lift-off.
She was alone… with no way of getting help… and only she knew what sort of danger the passengers and crew were in.
OK, so it was Mad Dog Lane to the rescue. Well, that shouldn't be too difficult. She was known for her inventiveness… but even she was prepared to admit that she'd need all her ingenuity to get herself and her fellow travelers out of this tricky situation.
Lois re-entered the room with determination and made for the bomb. For a second or two she tried peeling it off the wall, though even if she succeeded, she wasn't quite sure how to disarm the thing… or how to get rid of it. She abandoned that idea.
What she really needed was help from the EPRAD people outside. After all, the shuttle hadn't yet taken off. With that in mind she speedily began searching for a tool box. There, that was what she needed. Opening the metal crate, Lois lifted a pair of huge insulated pincers from their place and marched towards the massed electronic cables. If she could somehow disable the shuttle, the engineers would be bound to come to investigate the fault. She just hoped they would be in time. The small numerical display was getting perilously close to zero.
Lois desperately cut into the cables, fear lending her strength. Surprisingly, after a moment or two, the wires began to yield to the pressure of the sharp blades. Sirens began to peal from all directions of the shuttle and in the background, she heard the monotonous voice falter, then come to an abrupt halt. She could imagine the scene back at headquarters. They'd be rushing around trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She just hoped some men in those green jumpsuits would soon be rushing in here, or all her efforts would be too late. Maybe she should get back to the entrance hallway and direct them to the whereabouts of the bomb.
Noticing the ever-decreasing numbers on the bomb, she ran for the exit, only to collide solidly with a blue-clad torso. A torso? And not one dressed in green coveralls. Well, what did the color matter? She'd take whatever help was available. Only this guy's tailor had definite exotic tastes. Blue, with a yellow shield on the wide chest area… and a red cape. Yes, definitely a suit from one of those scifi-movies.
Lois' gaze strayed up towards the stranger's face and she let out an audible gasp.
"You! What are you doing here? And where have you been for the past five years?"
Lois had no doubt at all about the identity of the person in the colorful suit. The black hair was now slicked back with gel; the mouth wasn't smiling either and the eyes were no longer hidden behind glasses, but she'd have known him anywhere. She'd been dreaming about him frequently for such a long time… even though she'd determined to forget Clark Kent.
"What are you doing here?" she repeated, folding her arms and straightening her back. "And don't tell me you work for EPRAD, cause you're wearing the wrong uniform."
Clark mimicked Lois' stance, though it had to be said, his shoulder's sagged just a little. Lois' reaction could have left him in no doubt that he'd been busted.
"Lois," he whispered. "Please, I can explain, but everyone is going mad out there in the control room… and did you say something about there being a bomb?"
"You heard that?" Lois was distracted enough by Clark's unexpected presence that the emergency seemed to have taken somewhat of a back seat.
"Yes. I knew there had been trouble leading up to the launch, so I was just sort of… hanging around to make sure everything went well."
Lois' expressive eyes opened wide. Just who was Clark Kent? Some kind of spy? That could certainly account for his disappearance from her life.
Beep, beep, beep!
Suddenly the bomb had gone into overdrive and Lois was no longer distracted. Terror had a way of focusing the mind.
Together, Lois and Clark raced towards the bomb. The lines on Clark's brow deepened as he realized the urgency.
"You have to get rid of the bomb," Lois suggested helpfully, though her tone rose a little higher, verging on hysteria.
"I know! But how?" Clark's deft fingers were trying to pry the bomb from the wall.
"How should I know? You're the one who said you were here to help." Actually, Lois wasn't sure of that, but she couldn't see why else he'd been… hanging around, or what other reason would have brought him here.
She watched as his expression changed from one of desperation to resolution. Then, if it were at all possible, her eyes opened even wider as she saw him disconnect the detonator and pop it into his mouth, swallowing with a little difficulty, just as the timer reached the red zero.
There was a hollow popping sound, followed by Clark giving a loud belch. His hand went to his mouth as he took in a couple of deep breaths. Then he remembered his manners.
"Excuse me," he said, smiling ruefully… and Lois recognized that smile.
At least, part of her brain did… the other part remained firmly stuck in the 'twilight zone'.
"You swallowed a bomb!" she said, though it was more of a 'mouthed' declaration. "Just what the hell are you, mister?" This last was spoken a little more loudly.
Clark cleared his throat. "It was the only thing I could think of to do in the time we had left," he said by way of explanation. "I thought it might work…"
"But you weren't sure? You idiot! Do you know that swallowing bombs could kill you… or maybe in your case just give you a stomach ulcer." Lois was still staring at Clark with a mixture of confused anger and a certain awe. She lowered her voice again, remembering her thought of earlier. "Do you work undercover for the government?"
The wide smile she remembered so well lit up his face. "Undercover? In this suit? Come on, Lois, a three-time Kerth winner should know the answer to that one."
"Seems you know a lot more about me than I do about you, Clark Kent," Lois huffed and half-turned her back to him.
He leaned closer. "Lois, there's CCTV inside this shuttle and it sounds like the passengers are beginning to look for the source of their problem. I know I have no right to ask you to trust me, but I can explain where I've been and why I wasn't able to keep my promise to stay in touch."
Lois felt his hands rest softly on her shoulders as he tried to turn her round to face him again. At his touch, her insides began to melt, just as they had long ago… but she wasn't ready to give up on her hurt anger. Not after long years of wondering what had become of him… years spent fluctuating between rage at his betrayal, or sorrow that something untoward had happened to him which had ended their relationship.
She swung quickly round and following with her hand, slapped his face with all the force she could muster.
"Ow!" Lois gasped out as pain jarred up her arm. "What the hell was that?" she challenged, holding her hand with the other.
Clark looked completely shocked, but he reached out his hand to her. "Lois, I should have warned you not to try something like that… but I just didn't think…"
"What did you think I'd do?" she hissed. "Rush into your arms like they do in the movies?"
"Not exactly." Clark tried again to take her hand, and this time she let him.
He pried open her fist and concentrated solely on her fingers and palm. A warm, soothing balm seemed to soothe Lois' pain. She was tempted to pull her hand away, but this just felt so nice. Instead, she decided to ask, "What are you doing?"
"I'm heating up your hand, trying to take the numbness away." He glanced up quickly at her face and Lois' breath almost caught at the warmth and concern she saw in the depths of his eyes. "Your hand does feel numb, doesn't it?" Clark's stare returned to Lois' injured hand.
"It feels like I hit a brick wall," she admitted, allowing him to continue with this unique type of first aid.
"That's because I have a dense molecular structure. I would have relaxed my stance so you wouldn't have hurt yourself, but you took me by surprise. Fortunately, you haven't broken any bones, but I am sorry… " Clark's head cocked to the side as his voice died away. Then he said with some urgency. "Lois, we're about to be interrupted. Can I ask you to please wait until we've had a chance to talk before you say anything about who I am?"
Lois delayed a moment before answering. He did look so cute pleading with her… kinda like a puppy hoping not to be punished for some wrongdoing. Besides, this could be an even bigger scoop than she'd first imagined. But she did need more facts. She smiled at him sweetly, at last disengaging her hand. "It's a deal… but I'm not letting you off the hook so easily. This conversation has just been postponed."
The door behind them was opening and both turned to greet the colonists.
Once again Lois was left pacing around just outside the large entrance to EPRAD's main building. No matter how hard she'd pleaded… or even pointed out that without her the space shuttle would have been toast, those in charge had refused to allow her on board the flight to the space station. She supposed she should be thankful that they hadn't thrown her off the base but had permitted her to wait for the return of the 'flying' man.
Actually, there wouldn't have been a journey to Prometheus at all, due to the aborted firing of the shuttle's engines, if it hadn't been for her friend in the blue tights and red cape. He had stunned everyone, herself included, when he'd suggested he could transport the shuttle to the space station all by himself. The staff of EPRAD and the watching crowds had been totally awestruck as the caped figure slowly lifted the transporter off its launch pad and headed into the sky.
Clark Kent was certainly full of surprises. Obviously he wasn't a spy… not an ordinary one anyway, and not undercover, either. Clark was right about that. It would be hard to skulk about in that multicolored costume of his… and thinking of how he looked in that suit almost made her legs turn to mush. He had a body to die for! She'd suspected that when she'd met him in Chicago, but they'd never got quite far enough down that road for her to know for certain. However, that situation could change now. They were both adults and that was the sort of thing that adults did together…
Wait a minute! How had she arrived at the point where she was sharing a bed with Clark? She was mad at him… and he had a lot of explaining to do. Not to mention that, while her expose of a flying alien could certainly win her that Pulitzer Prize, Clark would probably never speak to her again.
Yet even as she thought about fulfilling her dream, she realized she could never reveal Clark's identity without his permission. Whether she liked it or not, she still cared about him. Not that he didn't deserve to be tortured for a little while… but she did have other plans for him.
Gray clouds had covered the sun and Lois shivered in the cooler air. Picking up her pace, she hugged her body with her arms. Just how long would she have to wait? She could hardly estimate the exact timing of his amazing trip. In fact, what did she really know about this strange visitor from another planet?
She surmised he was from another planet, since the authorities here at EPRAD, and thus the government, were just as mystified by his arrival as she was… No, make that a lot more than she was. Clark was not a stranger to her, though clearly there had been a lot about him that he'd kept from her. Which was another point she'd have to make clear to him. If he wanted their relationship to work… and she assumed from the look in his eyes that he did, then there couldn't be any more secrets between them.
So, until he told her differently, she'd go with the notion that he was an extra-terrestrial, since people from Earth couldn't heat up your hands with just their eyes. Also, as far as she knew, humans had never been able to fly… not without planes… and definitely not in outer space where there was no air. Thank goodness he was better looking than ET!
Lois gasped aloud to no one in particular as a frightening possibility took hold of her. Clark hadn't even taken an oxygen supply with him. God! What if he'd forgotten that little detail? After all, he didn't seem to be too organized as a hero. He certainly hadn't known how to disarm a bomb. His only answer to prevent it from blowing up the space shuttle was to swallow it. Maybe he was just learning how to be one of these superheroes you read about in comics and wasn't too experienced. To her knowledge, this was his first appearance in the suit. This had to be his debut. Perhaps he was even now gasping for breath in the outer reaches of space…
Had she found Clark only to lose him again?
Just as her brain was assimilating that dreadful scenario, she heard a whoosh and Clark stood back on firm ground, his legs flexing a little to prevent a heavy landing.
"Hi, Lois. Did you miss me?"
"Yes," she blurted out without thinking, then had to backpeddle a bit. "I was worried about whether you'd managed to deliver the space colonists safely."
A tiny grin curled up the corners of Clark's lips, proving he'd noticed Lois' hasty admission. "Then you'll be pleased to know that they're all safe and well on board the Space Station, and I checked it over to make sure it hadn't been sabotaged too. Everything seems fine. I've already spoken with the Head of the Space Project." Clark gestured to the building behind them. "I had to tell the committee as much as we know, which I suppose isn't a lot. I'm sorry. I know how you like exclusives. But, at least, we're free to go."
"I suppose that was unavoidable," Lois conceded, refusing to look directly at Clark. She was still a little embarrassed by her disclosure and his choice of the word 'we'. Did she want there to be a we? Returning to professional matters was a much safer place for Lois at this moment in time. "That bomb didn't find its own way on to the shuttle."
"No it didn't. I'm guessing that's something the redoubtable Ms Lane will be looking into in the near future."
"You're darned right I am. Whoever planted that bomb almost killed me. So now it's personal… and I never give up until I uncover the bad guys."
"I know that too. You've earned yourself quite a reputation, Lois. I'm proud of you," Clark said, walking towards her. "Are you ready to return to the Daily Planet?"
Lois couldn't repress a feeling of pleasure at Clark's words, but she wasn't about to let him off so lightly. "I thought we were going to talk…"
"We are," he assured her quickly. "But somewhere more private… and after you write up your story for the Planet. Only you have the inside scoop on the bomb and the stranger who disarmed it. I thought you might like an interview."
"Of course I do… but most of the questions I want to ask aren't for public consumption… for now." Lois shifted a little uneasily as Clark came up close and wrapped his arms around her. "What are you doing?" She batted his hands away. "I didn't give you permission to hold me!"
"I'm sorry, Lois, but I don't see how else I can fly you back to Metropolis without holding you in my arms. If you have another idea, I'm open to suggestion." His voice was light, but his brown eyes were shadowed by hurt at her rejection.
"No, that's OK," Lois quickly lost her prickles in her desire to experience flight. "You know, I've always wanted to fly, ever since I was a kid."
"I think I can grant you that wish," Clark said smiling, happy to be able to make one of her dreams come true. He did lift her very carefully though, and didn't hold her close, obviously unsure of his reception. "So, is the first stop the Planet?"
"Yes, it has to be. I do need to write my story about the shuttle sabotage… and I would like an interview, later."
"Anything you want, Lois."
"Don't say that, Clark, you might regret being so generous with me. I'm high maintenance."
Clark smiled again, but his look was a mixture of tenderness and contrition. "The only thing I could ever regret in relation to you, Lois, is the fact that we've been apart for so long. I never meant to leave you alone."
Lois blushed, though her heart did a double flip. But now he'd brought up the subject, she wasn't sure she was ready to hear his explanation. Not when she was trapped in his arms, traveling a few hundred feet above the surface of the Earth. "Clark, I know we have a lot to talk about, but not right now." She said firmly, but not unkindly, hoping to convey her ambivalent feelings about his reappearance in her life… and in such a bizarre manner.
"That's OK, Lois. You're feeling pretty shell-shocked I'm sure. Believe me, I know exactly how that feels."
"I can't see how that can be… you're the one who is flying!" Lois snapped, her bruised ego returning to sharpen her tone.
"I wasn't always able to fly, Lois."
"What about when you were in Chicago?" Lois twisted so she could see his face more clearly.
Clark gave a disconcerted shrug, not an easy move when holding onto his precious passenger. "Yes… I knew about all my powers then."
"You have more powers?" Lois asked, forgetting she'd suggested putting off Clark's account till later. "I mean, I know you can heat things up with your eyes, and you've already told me about your dense molecular structure. You must be really strong, too, to lift a space craft into orbit. Oh, and you heard me shout above the roar of the engines."
"Yes, super-hearing… and I have a few more," Clark answered, though he looked decidedly abashed at the thought of listing his powers. "I'll tell you about them later, when we have more time."
"Why didn't you tell me when me met in Chicago?" Lois was beginning to sound more and more annoyed.
"Lois, we'd only just met. I was already falling in love with you," he admitted, as his face flushed red, reflecting the bright tones of his cape, which rippled out behind them as they flew onward. "I didn't want to scare you off by confessing I was an alien."
"So, you definitely are an alien?"
"Oh, yes." Again Clark seemed to shrink visibly, giving Lois the impression he was unhappy not to be human. "Though, I didn't exactly know that part back then. Look, Lois, there's the Planet just ahead. Why don't I take you inside, then go up to the roof to wait till you've finished with your story. Mr White will want it for tomorrow's headlines."
Lois wondered for a moment how Clark should know about Mr White, but then Perry was a well respected character, especially amongst newspaper people… and Clark had once studied journalism. Then another thought overtook the first. "Clark, you do know that you'll show up in those headlines? I can hardly kill that part of the story. Too many people have seen you… know what you can do."
"I'm aware of that, Lois, and I have to say that I'm glad you're the one reporting the story…"
"And you can trust me, Clark. I won't tell the whole truth… not about your real identity. I suppose that this…" Her eyes moved over the parts of his body that she could see. "That this uniform is from your home planet."
"No, not exactly. That suit is black and is even more revealing."
"Oh, that's right, you did tell the colonists that your mother made your suit." Lois grinned at the idea that the nice homey woman she had talked to over the phone all those years ago had actually designed such a revealing costume for her son. One thing was certain, hardly anyone would be looking at his face. Then the penny dropped. "Is it some sort of disguise?"
"Lois, I needed to create a character who was completely different to Clark. Someone who can use all these powers openly to help out at disasters and such without everyone realizing I'm just ordinary Clark Kent."
"Clark, from what I've witnessed today, I doubt you could ever be deemed ordinary. Clark, those things you did… they were super!"
"But I want to be normal. To live a normal life… get a normal job. Do you have any idea what sort of circus my life would become if people knew what I could do? My parents and my friends could be in danger from any criminal who thought they could bend me to their will. I can't risk that happening, Lois. You have to see that."
Lois silenced Clark's anxious outburst by placing her fingers to his lips. "I do understand… and I'm not about to give away your secret." She emphasized her words by smiling softly at him. "Trust me, Clark. Between us we'll make this dual identity work. Now fly me into the Planet through those big windows. There's nothing like a dramatic entrance for stunning the opposition into submission. I've used that device a time or two myself."
The subconscious part of Lois' brain marveled at the transition she'd made in this particular context, regarding the press as the other side, and already thinking up devices to throw them off the superhero's scent.
Lois' audacity made Clark grin, but he did as he was instructed, gliding into the middle of the newsroom and setting Lois down gracefully. He flushed as the Planet employees gathered round them, chattering in surprise, but he kept his composure as Lois addressed him.
"Thank you for saving my life and the lives of the colonists. We all owe you a great deal." She leaned up to place a brief kiss on his cheek, while whispering in his ear. "I'll meet you on the roof as soon as I can."
Then she was taking a few steps away from him and gesturing with a tiny lift of her eyebrows towards the open windows. Clark followed her cue and began to fly towards the sky, but Lois wasn't finished with the charade.
"Wait a minute. How will I find you?" she called after him for the sake of their audience.
"Oh, I'll be around," he said over his shoulder, his smile beaming at her from above the heads of the gaping staff. "I'm sure we'll meet again, Lois."
The freedom of the open air beckoned to him and he was soon heading upwards, the city growing smaller in his wake. Of course, he couldn't fly directly to the Planet rooftop, and it could be quite some time before Lois was free to join him. She had a job to do. Meanwhile, he could patrol Metropolis; maybe even find some more rescues to do… Today had been even more successful than he'd ever imagined. Today he'd found Lois again.
"I see it, but I don't believe it." From the building he'd left behind another woman's voice drifted to him on the wind. "Lois Lane swept off her feet. Too bad he's an alien. Did you find out what the 'S' stands for?"she asked Lois.
"Super," Lois answered wonderingly. "Superman. He's called Superman."
Some hours later, Lois gingerly opened the door to the roof and craned her head around it. She only took a few moments to find what she was looking for. Superman was leaning against the parapet, facing the setting sun, yet she could tell by the tightening of his shoulders that he knew she'd arrived. She slipped outside, closing the door quietly.
"I hear you've had a busy evening," she said as she walked towards him.
"Yes." He swung to face her, his eyes brightening at the sight of her. "I've managed to help out at a few more emergencies. Metropolis appears to have taken to Superman pretty well, thanks mainly to you, I think."
"But my story hasn't been published yet."
"Maybe not, but I believe word of this Superman has hit the streets. LNN has been covering your escape from the bomb on the shuttle for most of the day. It appears that Lois Lane attracts quite a lot of notice." Clark pushed away from the wall surrounding the edge of the roof and came to meet her.
"Oh, I've been told that I have the intelligence, the spirit and the vision to transcend the mundane," Lois informed him with a touch on irony.
"I agree completely, though probably not in quite that language. Can I ask who told you that? I'd say he was fairly smitten with you." Clark was interested in assessing any competition he might have in winning Lois' heart.
"Metropolis' resident billionaire, Lex Luthor. And you're probably right. I wanted an interview; he saw it as something quite different. To tell the truth, I'm not sure I trust him… But I prefer to write the news, not actually be in the story," Lois stated with a grimace as she dropped the subject of Luthor without a second thought. However, she couldn't really be annoyed that she was part of the shuttle incident. Try as she might, she couldn't deny that her heart had felt lighter since Clark had walked… no make that flown… back into her life. "It doesn't help with undercover work if your face is too well known."
"I suppose that makes sense. You and I are a lot alike, you know. We both want to remain anonymous."
"I wouldn't say that, exactly, Clark." Lois walked past him and gazed out over the city. "I want the respect of my peers. The recognition my hard work deserves."
"You've already won three Kerths, Lois, but I'm guessing you won't be satisfied till you've won that Pulitzer."
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to be successful. But have you been keeping tabs on me, Clark, since you know about my Kerth awards?" She glanced over her shoulder at him, her fine eyebrows arched in question.
Striding back to her side, Clark placed his spandex-covered arms next to hers on the wall. "Not exactly. But I did do a quick check on how you were doing. The Internet is a wonderful thing. I hope you don't mind."
Lois bowed her head, not wanting him to know how much that information pleased her. "I guess not. Though I think that leads us neatly onto the next question. Just where did you come back from? And when did you go away?"
"That's two questions, Lois."
"Only two? Believe me I have a whole parcel of them, but let's just start with those."
"OK." Clark turned and slid down the wall till he was sitting on the ground. "But I have to warn you, my story sounds pretty unbelievable."
A shocked laugh escaped Lois' lips. "Clark, after today, I don't think anything you tell me about yourself would surprise me."
"I guess not," Clark said joining in her laughter. "So, here goes. I've been on a planet called New Krypton."
"Is that your home?" Lois interrupted.
"No, actually it's not. Krypton, the original world, is where I was born, but it exploded shortly after my parents sent me off into space to save my life."
"Wow, they did that? They must have been so brave… and they must have loved you more than their own lives…"
"You think so?" Clark squinted up at Lois.
"Of course I do. I take it they couldn't save themselves, but they must have wanted you to live very much to take such a risk. I'd say that takes a lot of love."
Clark smiled. "That's the way I see it. But, Lois, if you keep interrupting me, we're going to be here all night. Besides, my biological parents don't have anything to do with where I've been for these last few years… or only indirectly."
"Sorry. Go ahead and I'll try to keep my questions until you've finished."
Lois made to join him on the stone floor, but Clark stopped her until he'd spread his cape out. She sank gratefully onto the heavy silk material, finding it strangely warm.
"Comfortable?" Clark asked and when Lois nodded he continued. "My Earth mother and father found me in a space ship near their home. I was just a baby. They managed to adopt me and I grew up as Clark Kent on a farm in Smallville, Kansas. Apart from my unusual origins, I was a pretty normal kid until I hit puberty. Then slowly I developed all these strange powers… some of which you've already discovered, and the others we can talk about later.
"Like you, I wanted to be a reporter and I was over the moon to be chosen by my college to attend the Journalist Student Conference in Chicago… and when I met this brilliant female student called Lois Lane, I thought I had everything in the world I could ever want, especially since she seemed to feel the same way about me as I did about her. But that was when my life got really weird."
A shudder coursed through Lois' body as she sensed they were getting close to the reason why she'd been abandoned by the one man she could have loved. Who was she kidding? As she looked over at Clark, sitting somewhat dejectedly by her side, the ice inside her heart began to melt. She shivered again, though from a totally different cause, as Clark swiveled to face her and she could see into his eyes.
"Are you cold, Lois?"
"A little," she prevaricated. For now, she wasn't ready to admit she'd forgiven him. She had yet to hear his excuses and they might not satisfy her… might even be a pack of lies. But she was prepared to listen, and for Lois Lane that was quite an unusual circumstance. "Oh, my," she exclaimed as she felt herself warmed gently by his gaze passing over her. "That's quite an amazing talent, Superman. You kind of take my breath away, so I'd rather you didn't do things like that for the moment. I'd prefer to keep a clear head."
"You mean you want to be able to judge my explanation in a detached and professional manner… I guess I can live with that."
"Clark, you walked out on me. I was the one left feeling betrayed!"
"I didn't walk out on you, Lois. I flew… and not exactly willingly either."
"Are you saying you were abducted? 'Cause after what I've seen today, I find it very difficult to believe that anyone could carry you off without your permission."
"There were four of them and they each had the same powers as I do," Clark said with a touch of bitterness. "I can assure you, I did try to resist."
Lois felt her bristles subside. "Who were they, Clark?"
"My own people, you might say. New Kryptonians. They'd come to take me home." Clark's hands fisted in the material of his cape. "I couldn't make them understand that I already was home. They said I had to do my duty… fulfill my destiny."
"They kidnapped you?" Lois whispered, horrified, recognizing that she'd accepted the truth of his statements without question. She knew the truth when she heard it, so stark and painful in his tone.
"To their floating palace. I suppose yes… but in the end I did agree to go with them… I wasn't exactly pleased about it, but I could see they had their reasons. Besides, I don't exactly know how far I can fly in deep space or how to navigate out there, beyond our solar system. I can only hold my breath for 20 minutes," he added, sounding forlorn. "And I'm not sure they would have provided me with an oxygen tank."
"Sounds to me that they did force you against your will, if they made it impossible for you to leave. That's abduction in any court of law," Lois huffed. "What kind of people are they to take you so far away from your home without a by-your-leave? And without letting your parents know where you'd gone?"
"Kryptonians aren't really like us. They believe in obligation more than feelings, duty rather than love and obedience to the cause as opposed to free will. Yet I found that they weren't all bad. They do have a code of ethics… and emotions, but they bury them very deeply. Oh, and they did send a messenger to my parents, to let them know where I'd gone." Clark raised his gaze to Lois' and flushed when he found her staring at him with something akin to compassion. "By the way, Mom and Dad want to apologize for not telling you the truth. They just didn't know how to…"
"And they couldn't know how I would react. Back then, I'd probably have thought they were lying… or maybe that they were a little crazy," Lois admitted.
"You mean totally out of their minds to suggest I'd been abducted by aliens…"
"And yet it was the truth."
"You do believe me, Lois?" Clark asked anxiously.
There was a long silence as Lois considered the evidence. Her heart already believed him, but old habits died hard and Lois had been taught to look for proof. Yet, today, she'd been shown that the truth was stranger than fiction… and that sometimes life required you to take a leap of faith.
"I think so, well… I don't know. I have so many questions. Why did they want to take you back to this New Krypton, I think you said it was called? Was it a much better world than Earth?"
"Yes, New Krypton… but no, it certainly wasn't a better world than here. Not for me, anyway. It was a barren rock of a planet, but the people could hardly be blamed for that. They had to find somewhere to live after Krypton exploded, and the new world could support their physiology. I could have lived with that, though. But it was their politics I couldn't accept. They are a highly advanced race technologically, as I'm sure you've guessed, but they live in the dark ages. The people are ruled by an oligarchy and know nothing of democracy." Clark's voice sounded stilted, as if he found these memories difficult to recall. "I tried to change them, but it was pointless. On New Krypton, one man can't make a difference."
"But you thought you could?" Lois asked with a flash of insight.
"Maybe. But that's not the only reason I agreed to go. They were facing civil war, Lois, and I was the only person who could stop it."
"How? You didn't even know them."
"That's exactly what I thought. It wasn't really me they wanted, though. It was my title… the influence of my position."
"I don't understand…"
"Bear with me, Lois, and I'll try to explain… but remember we're talking about a culture that is very similar to the feudal system on Earth a few hundred years ago. It appears that I was Lord Kal-El, the sole survivor of the Royal House and without the First Lord's presence the ruling houses were dividing into factions…"
"Exactly. My wife and I…"
"Your wife?" Lois stood up abruptly and glared down at Clark, who was so lost in his reverie that he didn't notice Lois' physical and mental withdrawal.
"Yeah. It hit me like a ton of bricks too. It's something they do on Krypton if you're born into a noble family. Marry you off when you're a baby to cement a political alliance," Clark explained, staring bleakly at the opposite wall. "My parents married me to this Lady Zara, of the House of Ra, before they sent me off into space. She left with the escape flotilla along with a few thousand others before Krypton was destroyed. Don't ask me why my parents or I didn't go with them, because I have no idea. Nor did anyone else, though Lord Trey did wonder if there had been some conspiracy to leave us behind. He delayed the spacecraft's departure for as long as possible, but no one from the House of El showed up. I guess we'll never know, because apart from me, everyone left on Krypton died… and I was just a baby, so didn't know about anything that was going on."
"You're married?" Lois finally managed to speak, outrage evident in every fibre of her being.
"Well, not any more," Clark said reasonably. "I had the marriage annulled just as soon as was possible."
"How long were you married?"
"About three Earth years. We couldn't dissolve the bond while Lord Nor was threatening to take my place as her husband. With Zara as his wife, the balance of power would have shifted and he would have acquired the support he needed to rule New Krypton. That would have been a disaster for the whole planet." It was beginning to dawn on Clark that Lois wasn't paying too much attention to New Krypton's historical details and he stood to face her.
"Lois, it was never a real marriage; it was in name only… for the sake of the people. I made sure the ruling council accepted that before I arrived on New Krypton and that they'd allow me to come home once Nor was defeated. I made them take an oath to fulfill my wishes. Most Kryptonians believe in honor and keeping their word, but when that particular agreement became public I was almost executed for treason. Thankfully, in the end, common sense prevailed. I guess they preferred an eccentric 'human' First Lord to the megalomaniac who was trying to depose me."
Now Lois was completely dumbstruck. Not only had she almost lost Clark to another woman, but by the sounds of things, he'd nearly been killed too. She was beginning to appreciate that the years they'd spent apart might have been fraught with danger for Clark… For goodness' sake, he'd been fighting in a civil war… and she'd been concerned about a hypothetical rival. "What happened to this Nor person… the one who was your enemy?"
"I killed him." His voice was full of angry regret and somewhere in the depths of his eyes tears sparkled. "After years of skirmishing and terrorist attacks, it came down to a duel between the two of us… and I killed him." Clark looked off into the darkness and Lois felt he'd forgotten her existence, but after a moment or two, he came back to her. "Lois, when my powers were developing I promised myself I'd only use them to do good. I'd never maim anyone. I don't believe in killing… and yet I was responsible for Nor's death."
"He was trying to kill you… and he had the same powers. It must have been an equal fight."
"Actually, on New Krypton none of us had any powers and it wasn't exactly an even fight. Nor had trained all his life with the 'drey'. That's an ancient Kryptonian dueling weapon. I had about 24 hours to learn…"
"So, Nor had the advantage. Clark, you can hardly be blamed for protecting yourself… Everyone is entitled to defend themselves." Lois tried to reach him with reason, until the sense of his words struck her. "But wait a minute… You said 'I was responsible'… that sounds like you didn't actually kill him."
"I didn't, though I tried to… I thought I had, and I turned my back on him. Only he wasn't dead and he tried to stab me in the back. Ching killed him to protect my life."
"But, Clark, you didn't strike the final blow. It seems to me that Nor was to blame for his own demise. I might not know this Ching, but I'd suspect he doesn't lose much sleep over killing Nor!"
Clark nodded slightly. "You'd be right about that, but then Kryptonians are also very pragmatic."
"That might be a trait you should try to adopt." She smiled to show she was only teasing. "So this war is over?"
"Yes, Lois, and as you see, they brought me home, finally. Though I had to wait until the council reorganized itself and the people began to rebuild their lives."
"Good, that's good." Lois nodded her head, wondering if she had any right to inquire. Oh, well, when did Lois Lane ever need permission to ask a question. "And your wife?"
Clark's grim look softened as he hurried to reassure Lois. "Zara is now my ex-wife and very happily married to Ching, who is now ruling Krypton in my place. I renounced my position as a noble lord when I came back home. Now I'm just plain old Clark Kent and very happy about it."
"Clark, believe me, there is nothing plain or old about you. Look at you." Lois' hand swept over him.
Clark glanced down at himself and grinned broadly. "I guess I do look a little colorful, but this is just a disguise. This is Superman — I think your choice of name seems to be pretty popular. This isn't Clark Kent, though."
"Where did you get the idea for wearing a disguise?" she asked, relieved to drop the painful subject of New Krypton. Lois suspected Clark might still need to unburden his soul of some nightmarish memories of his time spent on that planet, but she was content to leave that for the future.
"From you, actually," Clark said, his grin widening. "I read your article about the ring of car robbers. How you infiltrated their gang disguised as a young man and found the evidence to bring them down. That was very ingenuous, Lois, but also very dangerous, I have to say."
"But it worked, Clark! I might even win another Kerth for that one." Lois wasn't averse to blowing her own trumpet when she considered she'd done something worthwhile. "And you must have approved if you copied me."
"Lois, I have the advantage of being invulnerable. You're not. You might want to remember that before you jump in with both feet. You take too many risks."
"Don't you dare tell me what I can and can't do, Clark Kent." Lois' defense mechanism sprang immediately into place. "I've been taking care of myself for quite sometime and I've been doing just fine on my own. I may be grateful for your help earlier today, but don't go assuming that gives you any power to run my life… because no one has that right but me!"
"I'm sorry, Lois." Clark realized he'd committed a cardinal sin in Lois' eyes and quickly tried to recover lost ground. "I do worry about you, but you seem to have managed your affairs pretty well without me. Three Kerths and a Merriweather. That's quite an impressive resume."
An arrested expression spread over Lois' face and when she continued speaking she'd changed direction. "Clark, from some of the things you've said, I get the feeling you've been back on Earth for quite some time. You seem to know a lot about me. Just when did you get home?"
Clark recognized the trap which had opened before him, but saw no way to escape. In fact, he didn't want to. He just hoped he didn't mess this part up. His whole life depended on this conversation and he wasn't really experienced when it came to relationships. "I came back a little over a year ago."
"And you didn't look me up?" Lois felt like kicking herself. She'd been surprised into betraying her eagerness to reconnect with Clark… and she wasn't quite ready for that… not yet.
"Lois, what did I have to offer you? A college drop-out without a real job, while you are one of the most successful reporters in Metropolis… maybe even the whole US. I thought you might think I was trading on our friendship in the job market if I came to visit. Besides, I was pretty sure you'd have gotten over your feelings for me long ago."
"Did you get over your feelings for me, Clark?" Lois demanded.
"You know I didn't, Lois."
"Then don't insult me by imagining that my feelings are any less enduring than yours." Lois pointed her finger directly into the shield on his chest and the man who claimed to be invulnerable recoiled. An enraged Lois was a pretty formidable opponent.
"But, Lois, I know about the speech you gave at the Women in Journalism Seminar… Weak Men and the Wise Women Who Love Them. It was pretty apparent that you hold most men in contempt."
"You heard my speech? Have you been stalking me?"
"No, of course not. I wouldn't presume." At last, Clark was stung into defending himself. "Lois, that speech is all over the Internet. You're like some sort of icon for women's rights. Feminists admire you."
Lois nodded, blushing furiously and folded her arms across her chest. She wasn't sure she wanted to be an icon. "Right. I didn't know that. I don't have time to check out the Internet much. Not unless it's to do research for a story. And you know, Clark, it's all your fault that I don't have a life outside my work… and that I have a low opinion of men."
"Me?" Clark looked stunned and more than a little discouraged. "Lois, we only knew each other for a few days. I couldn't have influenced you that much."
"Well, I'll admit you're not totally to blame. I didn't think much of the male sex before I met you. Mostly, it was my dad's fault, though I also had a bad experience with a guy I had a crush on in high school. To tell the truth, I was amazed by how quickly I fell for you. I believed in you, Clark," Lois said, her voice echoing with a despair she was now prepared to acknowledge. "You were the one person who I was sure would prove I'd been wrong about men all my life."
Clark's shoulders drooped and his voice was quiet. "Then I disappeared and confirmed your belief that all men are untrustworthy. I hurt you so much and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I'm sorry, Lois. How you must have hated me." He drifted a few feet off the ground, poised for flight, while Lois stayed silent. "Maybe I should leave."
"Don't abandon me again, Clark." In that moment, Lois made a choice. She was prepared to risk her heart a second time, but only if she could be sure Clark shared her commitment. "We've already established the fact that you couldn't help what happened to you after Chicago. And I can just about forgive you for being stupid enough to think that you being jobless would matter to me. But if you want us to be together, then I need to know you won't run out on me ever again."
"Lois, are you saying you'd be prepared to take me back?" Clark sank down to the surface of the roof and took a few steps towards her, though he still felt like he was walking on air.
"I think that's what I'm saying," she said shyly. "As long as I can trust you to stay around and not go flying off to an other planet."
Clark was now very close to her, but still he didn't touch her. "No! No, I won't… though I'd have to fly off to rescues and stuff. I think people kinda like the idea of having a resident superhero around to help them out."
"Oh, yes. Me, too." Lois smiled into his eyes. "I don't mind you being Superman at all. Just don't leave the planet… unless of course, there's something like a meteorite heading for the Earth. You might want to take care of that. Just don't leave without telling me first."
"I won't. You'll know everything about me… only please don't print everything."
"I won't. Though I would like an exclusive interview."
"I think that could be arranged, Ms Lane." Lois moved towards him, involuntarily, and Clark reached out to place his hands on her shoulders. "Lois, are you sure you don't mind me being an alien?"
Lois' skin tingled beneath his touch. "You're the most human alien I know…"
"Oh, and you know a lot of aliens?"
Clark looked as if he were enjoying the banter and Lois hadn't felt so lighthearted in such a long time. "You'd be surprised at some of the freaks I've dated since we last met. Believe me, Superman is a huge improvement." She allowed her hand to trace the 'S' on his chest.
Clark sucked in his breath as desire surged through him, but he schooled his instincts. There were still a few matters that needed to be addressed, and he wasn't quite sure how Lois would react. "That might be, Lois, but, unfortunately, Superman's job doesn't pay too well and I don't intend to live off my girlfriend… if it's all right to call you my girlfriend."
"I think girlfriend is suitable… and you know, I might be able to get you an internship at the Planet," Lois said with just the tiniest touch of smugness. "I do have some influence with the boss, and if my memory serves me correctly, you used to be pretty good at the journalism stuff way back in college. Of course, you'd have to continue with your studies."
"Too late, Lois. This past year I've been traveling around the world, finishing my degree by correspondence course and working freelance for some foreign newspapers. They weren't exactly the Daily Planet, but I did pick up some work experience, both as a reporter and a superhero." Clark's hands slid down Lois' arms and he took her hands into one of his own. "Mind you, I kept having to move on after a few covert rescues. I just couldn't stand by and watch people in trouble, but then they'd begin to suspect there might be something a little strange about me and I'd know it was time to leave. Fortunately, you gave me the idea of how to solve that problem with the 'suit'… and last month I finally got my degree."
"But that's great, Clark. Isn't it?" There was something he wasn't telling her. Had he found a job somewhere else? Long range relationships weren't ideal, but with Clark's abilities, they could work something out. "Just tell me, please."
"Lois, tomorrow I have an interview with Perry White. My old college tutor arranged it. I'm not just here by accident, Lois. I was hanging around trying to pluck up the courage to speak to you when I heard your shout about the bomb."
"Clark Kent, you are a fraud…" Lois tried to look disapproving at his deception, but she didn't resist as he entwined her fingers with his. "And I'm not so sure you're superhero material. Aren't you supposed to never tell a lie?"
"I think that might have been George Washington." Clark was still smiling and drawing her closer. "But I do believe in truth and justice."
"You're going to have to work on perfecting Superman's PR… not to mention Clark might need a little help in the field of reporting." Lois stepped inside the haven of his embrace. "Lucky for you, I know just the right person…"
Clark stopped Lois' ramble by closing his lips over hers and the intervening years faded away as she was reminded of how wonderful Clark's kisses had been. She hadn't imagined them better; reality was such an improvement on dreams.
As her legs grew weak, she let him cradle her in his arms, unsure if her feet… or his… were actually touching the ground. Floating wasn't just a state of mind in Superman's world. When eventually he let her up for air, and her brain re-engaged, she recollected there was one last question she needed an answer to.
"Clark, do you remember the last night we spent in Chicago?" She cocked her head a little to the side as she spoke, and he stared entranced at her cute little gesture.
"I remember every moment we shared in Chicago and I have total recall, Lois. How else do you think I got through those long lonely years on New Krypton? But what particular part were you asking about?"
"Wow, Clark, you're amazing…" Lois' eyes twinkled even more as a new thought came into her head. "You and I are going to make a great reporting team. Those superpowers will come in handy on difficult investigations."
"Lois, I'm not sure that's going to be possible. I don't believe Superman should use his superpowers for personal gain."
"But we're not talking about Superman. Clark's the one who'll be doing the investigating." At Clark's doubtful look, Lois decided that perhaps now might not be the time to discuss work ethics… besides, she did want an answer to her more personal question. "But maybe you're right. We shouldn't use your powers lightly… not unless we've exhausted every other possibility. Yet don't you think that exposing criminals and fraudsters is a worthwhile cause?"
"I suppose that's true, Lois… and if there was no other way…"
"Let's not think about that now, Clark. We have plenty of time to talk about work later. I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that you've come back to me… or to discover that you never deserted me in the first place. What do you say to carrying on from where we left off five years ago?"
"I'd like that, Lois, more than anything in the world." He kissed her again… and again, just to make sure she understood how overjoyed she'd made him. "What did you want to ask me?" he whispered huskily, moving his mouth to caress her delicate earlobe.
"The night we said goodbye, I asked would you still love me tomorrow…"
"And I told you I was sure I'd love you tomorrow. The answer is still the same, Lois. I never stopped loving you and I will love you all my tomorrows for the rest of my life."
At last Lois knew without a shadow of doubt that Clark spoke the truth and her soul was set free to join him. "Me too, Clark. Me too."
They smiled into each other's eyes as they moved together until every inch of their bodies were touching. They were still smiling as their lips met in a kiss that sealed their vow.