By B.B. Medos [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Summary: A what-if story in which Lois starts noticing similarities between Clark and Superman very, very early in their relationship.
"Characters in this story are copyrighted by December 3rd Production, Warner Brothers, and ABC. No infringement is intended in any part by the author, however, the ideas expressed within this story are copyrighted to the author."
[Author's Note: This is an entirely whimsical look at what might have been while at the same time using many of the descriptions and characterizations of the current television series as a starting point.]
"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." (Genesis 2:21-22)
Not simply two people destined to fall in love, but two halves of a whole, separated then brought back together. Existing alone, yet each incomplete without the other.
Anyone with an ounce of intelligence would argue male and female are equal, because they have to be. Which is totally logical because they WERE created from the same flesh. Yet, anyone with a grain of sense would also state quite emphatically male and female are so different as to make PROVING that very equality impossible.
The male has a definite advantage because he was created FIRST. In truth, he gives the appearance of being stronger, faster, and smarter. It's interesting to note that the male, instinctively knowing he wasn't complete, took one look at the female and claimed her as HIS. Throughout history, he has repeatedly proven his ability to both pursue and evade the female, with equal agility.
In any situation. In all situations.
Of course, one has to wonder how history might have been different if she'd seen him first.
Lois Lane was angry.
In and of itself that wasn't unusual. The difference this day was she was furious with herself and it was a situation which didn't agree with her.
Lois much preferred to have another person to vent her frustration on. Anyone convenient would do. She derived quite a bit of joy out of being able to tell others just how wrong they were, especially when she was right. Having to tell herself she'd been mistaken about something just didn't give her all that much pleasure.
Particularly when her error had been such a stupid one. A dumb rookie mistake.
Angrily throwing her empty drink cup into the trash can, Lois turned to finish her calming walk through the park, determined to have her emotions under control before she returned to work at the Daily Planet that afternoon. By the time she had to confront her editor, Perry White, she was determined to be able to sit calmly in his office and act as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. It didn't bother her one bit that Perry wouldn't buy her act for a second. The important thing to Lois was to firmly convince herself she'd had good reasons for doing what she'd done. She always had good reasons.
The only problem was, this time she didn't and she knew it. The simple truth of the matter was once again her drive to get the story before anyone else had driven her to act rashly.
Lois approached the stone wall at the far edge of the park and leaned against it. As she stared out over the beach beyond the wall towards the ocean, she sighed. This spot always calmed her and she desperately needed that soothing influence today. After a few minutes of watching the waves, she smiled and knew she was ready to face her editor. Instead of walking away, though, she lingered, needing a few more moments of peace and quiet before returning to reality.
Suddenly, she straightened and looked around.
What the hell was that odd noise?
Whirling around, her eyes scanned the area, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Lois looked up, her brow wrinkled with puzzlement. It sounded oddly like a low flying jet. Extremely low and close-by.
Then, abruptly, the noise simply stopped.
There wasn't anything unusual going on that she could see. The few people scattered along the beach in front of her were still exactly as they had been. Behind her, the pathway was the same, with only a few individuals taking advantage of the beautiful day.
She was turning back to the ocean for a last look when a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Idly, she watched as a young man about her age came out of the trees along the side of the park, straightened his tie and looked around. He glanced down at his watch, seemed to hesitate for a moment, then turned and walked down the slope in front of him towards the beach.
Lois almost turned away then and there to head back to the Daily Planet, but for some reason she couldn't seem to take her eyes off the man. Her attention caught without having any real idea why, Lois continued to silently observe his movements as he strolled slowly down the sand about fifty feet away from her position. While the reporter part of her mind continued to puzzle out what it was about him that snagged her notice, the purely female section of her mind began to reluctantly admit several things.
First and foremost, he was gorgeous. Lois scowled as she grudgingly conceded to herself just how handsome he was. He was one of the most, if not the most handsome men she'd ever seen. And, that was saying quite a bit. His hair was dark, extremely dark raven black and hung almost past the collar of his business suit. Even in the severely cut suit, she could tell he had a body to die for. There didn't appear to be an ounce of fat anywhere on him. He was totally muscular and trim.
Her scowl deepened and her eyes narrowed. What the devil was wrong with her today? Maybe Perry was right and she needed a vacation. Here she was standing gawking at a man she hadn't even met when she should be hard at work.
Instead of turning to leave, however, Lois continued to watch as he caught a wayward ball bouncing away from a pair of small boys playing on the beach. All she could see of his face was his profile and engaging grin as he tossed the ball back to the boys and started talking with them. Amused, she watched as he began playing a game of catch with the two ecstatic boys. She didn't really have to see his face, anyway, because the brief glance she'd gotten before he'd turned away and started for the beach had revealed nice clean-cut features.
Lois made a face, disgusted with herself for several reasons. Why should she care what he looked like? Besides, his face had been better than nice and she knew it. It had been breathtaking. Why did it bother her so much to just be honest and admit he was handsome? She didn't know him, he didn't know her, so what difference did it make? There was only one thing wrong with him that she could see.
He was wearing glasses.
Lois shook her head and her brow wrinkled as she realized the direction her thoughts had taken. So what if he wore glasses? Many people did.
But HE wasn't supposed to.
How she knew this, Lois didn't know, but she didn't question her instinctive understanding. She knew a great deal of her intense scrutiny had honestly been motivated by a purely female response to a great-looking male, but not her reaction to the glasses.
That had come from gut level and she accepted it as fact rather than feeling.
The glasses were wrong, it was that simple to Lois.
Which made about as much sense as why she was still standing there, drooling over his looks.
Suddenly the whole thing became funny and she smiled. Okay, he was gorgeous. Better than gorgeous, he was incredibly handsome. Throwing all her reservations away, Lois stared at him, drinking in just how good-looking he was.
Lois watched him help one of the little boys up after a fall and found herself smiling as the man inspected the boy's knee carefully before letting him start playing again. He was obviously a kind, gentle man.
That observation didn't help. If anything, it made her even more upset. Just because he'd helped a little boy didn't mean anything. But, regardless, she knew she was right. He was a nice person as well as being delightful to look at.
She'd almost convinced herself to drag her eyes away from him when he suddenly looked around as if he'd heard something. Her brow furrowed as she followed the direction he was staring towards the docks in the distance. Glancing back, her eyes widened.
He was gone!
Lois hastily looked both ways, up and down the beach. He wasn't anywhere in sight. Which was impossible. No one could move that fast. Nibbling on her lower lip, Lois struggled to control the disappointment she felt. He was just some strange man, after all, there was absolutely no reason to be upset by his disappearance.
That's right, he was just a man.
It didn't help and she sighed.
Shaking her head, Lois glanced down at her watch and gasped. Good grief, she'd been watching him for almost an hour! She'd be lucky if Perry didn't make her work the society page for the rest of the week.
After one last peek around just to make sure he wasn't in sight, she turned and started walking away. Time to put thoughts of gorgeous male physiques out of her mind.
Even as she strode determinedly towards the parking lot, she acknowledged how foolish that wish was. She wasn't going to forget him any time soon and she knew it. What she didn't know was why.
"Jimmy, is the Chief in his office? There was an explosion at the dock a few minutes ago and I need to see him right away." Lois didn't even break stride as she bellowed the question in the young photographer's direction on her way to her desk. When Jimmy Olsen didn't answer fast enough to suit her, she stopped and scowled in his direction. Jimmy looked as if he wanted nothing more than to hide under the closest desk and Lois narrowed her eyes. "Well?"
Jimmy swallowed and nodded. Lois took a step towards the door of Mr. White's office and he abruptly found his voice. "You can't go in. He's interviewing a new reporter."
Lois was almost at the door when his words penetrated. "A reporter? Which beat?"
Her voice dropped almost to a whisper as she asked the question and Jimmy glanced around, looking for help or maybe safety, but for some reason, the city room was suddenly almost empty. Jimmy turned back to face Lois even as he began edging away. "City news."
Lois didn't even notice as Jimmy hastily scurried away after his bombshell announcement, because she already had her hand on the doorknob of Perry White's office. Without pausing, she opened the door a crack and stuck her head in. "Excuse me, Chief, but I need to talk to you. Urgently."
Damn, the person being interviewed was behind the door, so she still couldn't see them. Not that she wanted to see them.
Perry White didn't appear a bit surprised at the interruption. He smiled and stood up as he motioned her to come into the office the rest of the way. "Lane, I'm glad you're back. There's someone I want you to meet."
"Chief, there was an explosion at the docks. I talked to some of the firemen. They gave me the weirdest story…" Stepping around the door as she spoke, Lois pivoted in the direction of the individual in question, fully intending to dislike them at first glance, and almost didn't halt her gasp of surprise in time.
It couldn't be him.
Even as Lois told herself it wasn't him, she swallowed convulsively, because she knew it was. No one else looked that good.
"Lois, this is the Daily Planet's newest reporter, Clark Kent. Clark, this is Lois Lane, the best damn reporter I've ever had the pleasure of working with."
Lois stared at the newcomer. It took a moment for her to comprehend both her boss and the man were staring back at her with puzzled looks on their faces. Then she noticed Kent had his hand outstretched and hastily put her hand in his.
And promptly wished she hadn't.
The touch of his warm hand made her head swim and she just knew she was going to faint right in front of both of them. That thought got her adrenaline really going and Lois straightened as she pulled her hand away from his, just managing to keep from jerking it away. "Nice to meet you, Kent. Chief, about the explosion, I'll have my story ready in a few minutes, but I wanted to talk to you about a follow-up. There's something odd…"
Her words trailed off because both men again had strange looks on their faces. Perry spoke first. "Lois, we already have an exclusive on the explosion."
That got her complete and unclouded attention. "What?!? That's not possible. It just happened and I was there barely seconds after it happened." Her eyes suddenly narrowed on both of them. They looked extremely guilty. "Whose byline?"
"I'm afraid it's mine, Ms. Lane." Her gaze centered on Kent again. He didn't look a bit apologetic to her way of thinking. If anything he looked like he was downright enjoying the whole situation. His eyes were sparkling way too much for remorse. "I was in the neighborhood and was the first reporter on the scene."
Oh, he was good. His gorgeous brown eyes didn't even flicker as he told that whopper. Lois stared at him silently for a long moment then turned back to Perry. "I see."
"Now, Lois, the important thing to remember is the Planet got the story." He waited for her to nod, then relaxed, slightly. Perry continued to keep a close eye on her expression for any sign of a coming explosion as he continued speaking. "Lois, until he becomes more familiar with the city, I'd like you to show Kent around. Okay with you?"
Since it was her personal opinion the man in question wasn't having any difficulty whatsoever getting around, Lois was extremely suspicious of the need. Perry had phrased it as a question, though, when he didn't have to, so she nodded her agreement. Perry ushered both of them out of the office and Lois let herself be herded along as she covertly studied the newest addition to the Daily Planet.
God, he was even more handsome up close. It simply wasn't fair. How was she ever going to keep her mind on business and her hands out of his hair?
Lois closed her eyes in exasperation with herself. What was she thinking? She'd simply keep her mind on business, that's what. She refused to dwell on his hair at all.
Dragging her gaze away from Kent and focusing on her editor's introduction of the reporter to the rest of the staff, Lois scowled. It was bad enough to get stuck breaking in a rookie but she was never going to survive being close to this one.
On top of everything else, she'd forgotten to tell Perry about what she'd heard from the firefighters. Abruptly her gaze swung back to the newcomer and she stared at him thoughtfully. Turning towards her desk, Lois sat down slowly and quietly and brought the newest articles for today's edition up on her terminal. After scanning his write-up of the incident, she grudgingly nodded.
He WAS good.
His writing style was much better than her own. Not that she'd ever admit that out loud to anyone, especially him. He'd covered everything and even thrown in a few personal interest touches that Perry was so crazy about. No wonder he got the job. Her eyes narrowed as she rolled the screen back up to double check a few details.
"Did I miss something?"
Lois almost slid out of her chair at his deep whisper. She would've sworn he was still standing over beside Perry. Recovering, she tilted her head in his direction and somehow managed to smile. "Well, I was wondering why you didn't mention the firefighters comments about the man they saw helping clear the area seconds before the explosion."
Kent nodded and sat down in the chair beside her desk. "One or two did mention someone, but none saw him clearly enough to even be sure of what they were seeing. Things were pretty chaotic right before the explosion, so I wasn't sure how much of their comments to take seriously."
Their eyes met after his explanation and Lois felt her heart rate speed up as a result of his soft smile. God, this man was deadly. With very little effort he could probably make her forget her own name. However making her forget a possible story was going to take a lot more than a nice smile. She shrugged for his benefit. "You're probably right."
Shifting her gaze away from his intent brown-eyed scrutiny, Lois reached down for her briefcase just as Perry reached the side of her desk. "Lane, there's been a report of a shooting over in Suicide Slum. Take Kent and go check it out."
Taking the papers Perry handed her, Lois nodded. "Sure, Chief. Come on, Kent. Time to earn our pay."
They'd taken only a few steps before Mr. White spoke again. "I haven't forgotten we still need to talk about your little incident last night, Lane. Make sure you come see me when you get back." Clark glanced back at the editor before hastily turning to catch up with the brunette. Lois, on the other hand, waved over her shoulder but kept moving away. Neither one saw the look which came over Perry's face as they walked towards the elevators. He watched them leave together until the doors closed then shook his head and turned back towards his office, muttering under his breath. "I got a bad feeling about this."
"I got a bad feeling about this, Mom." Clark glanced at his parent's to gauge their reaction. He shook his head. "Even if Lois Lane doesn't figure out who the 'mystery man' is, I'm going to be a nervous wreck by the end of the first week. I'm beginning to think I should never have gone to Metropolis."
"Now, Clark, that's pure…" Martha Kent stopped, not sure how to reassure her son. Leaning her elbows on the kitchen table, she studied his downcast expression. Something didn't quite add up, but she wasn't sure what it was. Yet. "Clark, you've always wanted to work for the Daily Planet. You can't throw that away without giving it a good try first."
"She's right, son, and you know it."
"I know, Dad, I know. On the other hand, this isn't working. Lois almost caught me 'helping' twice yesterday afternoon and a couple of times today. After one full day at the Planet, I know she suspects something. I just can't figure out why…"
When his voice trailed off, both stared at him, waiting for him to continue. He didn't, so Martha prodded. "Can't figure out what?"
He shrugged. "I get the feeling she was suspicious of me on sight. It's almost as if she's waiting for me to do something. Expecting me to do something. It's unnerving."
"How is that possible?"
Jonathan's soft question brought Clark's head up and he shook it, rubbing his thumb along his lips, thoughtfully. "I don't know, Dad, but that's exactly what I mean about not being sure I can stay in Metropolis. Lois is too good and, if she does suspect something, she's never going to let it go until she figures it out. Mr. White told me she's the best reporter he's ever seen. I'd already heard of her reputation so that didn't surprise me. What surprises me is how good she is at getting into trouble."
Martha's head tilted as she watched her son's expression. If he was so worried why was he suddenly grinning. She pounced. "Getting into trouble?"
"I've never seen anyone with a nose for trouble like Lois Lane. All she has to do is walk into a situation and something happens, usually to her."
"I suppose that could be an asset to a reporter."
Clark stared at his father after his musing comment. "Sure, as long as she stays alive to tell the story. Frankly, I can't help wondering how she's managed to stay in one piece this long."
His brown gaze swung around to clash with his mother's amused one. "Now, Mom, don't start. There's nothing going on."
"But you like her."
Clark snorted. "Like her? She's the most exasperating, pig-headed, loud-mouthed, stubborn, downright obnoxious woman I've ever met. I swear most of the reporting staff at the Planet is afraid of her."
"But? YOU like her, don't you?"
"There is no but. And I don't know her well enough to like OR dislike her. She's exasperating."
"You said that already."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Well, she is."
Martha decided to go straight to the most important point. "What does she look like?"
Martha's eyebrows shot up at Clark's disgusted, clipped tone. He'd never talked this way in the past about anyone she could remember. Lord, in the last hour, he'd said more about this Lois Lane than he'd ever said about any woman in his life. Without actually saying anything at all. Something was definitely going on and Martha was dying to find out what. Before she could probe further, Jonathan spoke up.
"Clark, are you going to leave Metropolis?"
Clark sighed. "I probably should, but I'm not going to. Not yet." He stared out the kitchen window for a second. "I suppose I simply wasn't prepared for working in a city the size of Metropolis. I'm more used to areas without a lot of people watching everything I do. I'm going to have to adjust my thinking and my behavior."
"And stop helping people."
"Dad! I can't do that."
Jonathan smiled at his son's outraged expression. "I know, Clark, I just wanted to make sure you did."
Mollified, Clark grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, well, knowing it and doing it are two very different things. I'm going to end up on the nightly news, big as life, if I don't find a way to deal with this situation."
All three stared at each other, each lost in their own thoughts, until finally Jonathan whispered. "You need a secret identity."
Lois walked into her apartment and had her shoes off before she'd even turned all the locks on her door. God, she was so tired. The last two days had been exhausting.
As well as quite invigorating.
Breaking in the new reporter hadn't been nearly as bad as she'd expected it to be. In fact, some aspects of the last day or so had been almost fun.
There had been far too many coincidences for Lois to be totally comfortable with calling the last few days fun.
She hated coincidences with a passion.
Lois scowled and went over to the kitchen counter to make a pot of coffee. She had a long evening ahead of her. The coffee started, she headed for her bedroom to change clothes. When she returned to the kitchen in a old, beat-up, but very comfortable pair of jogging pants and tank top, she made herself a mug of coffee and eased down onto the sofa. She took a sip of the hot, refreshing liquid, placed the mug on the coffee table and reached down for her briefcase.
Time to start making sense of the coincidences.
Retrieving the file she'd started on the 'mystery man' from her briefcase, she put it on the coffee table and pulled out her laptop. Once it was connected to the phone lines and running, she picked up the file and her pencil. And started writing.
Thirty minutes later, Lois put down her pencil and stretched. Her stomach was growling, so she made herself a sandwich and returned to the sofa. Munching on the sandwich, she began reviewing her notes.
There had been six sightings of the man in the last two days. Seven if she counted the incident at the nuclear power plant.
Lois chose to count it because while no one had seen anything they'd heard something just before things got critical. A low whooshing sound. Everyone who mentioned it claimed it sounded very similar to a low flying, extremely fast jet. The sound had also been heard at three other sightings. Twice before he appeared on the scene, once immediately after he disappeared.
Coincidence number one.
Taking another bite of her sandwich, Lois looked at her list of sightings again. Whoever he was, he was fast. One minute he wasn't there, the next he was. Then the second after helping someone he was gone again. It didn't seem humanly possible for anyone to be able to move as fast as people claimed he did.
Coincidence number two.
In every instance, he'd made sure the people were safe from danger before disappearing. Apparently, he was an extremely conscientious rescuer. Thinking over the stories she'd heard the last few days, Lois decided he could be described as kind and gentle.
Coincidence number three.
Shaking her head, Lois stood up and moved over to the window. Opening it, she breathed in the fresh air, trying to clear her head and think things through logically, instead of emotionally. Everything on her list had been reported by people who'd just gone through traumatic experiences. There was absolutely no physical evidence the 'mystery man' even existed. She didn't even have any real information to go to Perry. No one could give her a believable description of the man's appearance. The various reports ranged from the ridiculous to the ordinary.
Yet, Lois didn't doubt for a second he existed. She could almost picture him in her mind. The only thing she was having difficulty with was his eyes. For some reason, his eyes stayed hazy to her, hidden behind something.
*Lois Lane, you're being totally foolish. And downright fanciful. In the extreme.*
Sighing, she closed the window and moved over to pick up her dirty saucer and mug. As she carried them to the kitchen, Lois turned her attention from the 'mystery man' to her new 'protege.' Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully on the realization it didn't feel like much of a jump.
What did she really know about Clark Kent?
Only a little more than she did about the 'mystery man.'
Groaning, Lois shook her head and almost stomped her foot in frustration. Okay, okay, OKAY! Since she couldn't seem to get away from the amazing notion forming in her brain, maybe the best thing to do would be to work on disproving it. Then she could get on with the business at hand. The 'mystery man.'
The night before when he'd finally cornered her about her mistake, Perry had ended his scolding by telling her to go easy on Kent. Her editor apparently thought she would do her best to scare the man away before he even got his bearings at the paper.
The very idea!
Of course, she had no intention of scaring Kent off. At least, not until she'd figured him out. Then she'd have to decide whether to allow him to remain.
That decision made, Lois smiled and turned her thoughts to the things Perry had revealed.
Her eyes narrowed.
According to Perry, Kent had spent a great deal of time traveling the world. His resume and portfolio included references and articles from all over the globe.
Damn good ones, too, both the references and the articles. She'd checked herself, for some reason not satisfied with the Chief's glowing reports. Perry would have a fit if he knew she'd looked at someone else's personnel file, but that hadn't stopped her. Lois wasn't sure whether it was her own innate suspiciousness or a teeny, tiny bit of jealousy motivating her interest, and she really hadn't cared. Mr. White had never seemed this enthusiastic about any reporter before.
Of course, she wasn't jealous, but Perry's almost gushing praise of the man was slightly irritating. That was all. Besides, he was a rival reporter. She wasn't supposed to like him.
No, she wasn't. For some reason, though, she couldn't seem to help herself. So far, at least, she hadn't found anything to dislike about him.
Except maybe were he grew up.
Lois grinned when she thought about Kent's reaction to her reaction to his hometown. She'd almost fell off her seat laughing. Who did he think he was kidding? No one grew up in a place called Smallville. Of all the names to make up, that one was ridiculous.
And why had he chosen Kansas?
Why not California, or New York? Some place reasonable. But Kansas? No one was ever going to believe Kansas. She certainly didn't.
Smallville, Kansas. It simply couldn't exist.
Before she could stop herself, she'd reached for the phone and dialed directory assistance.
Lois almost dropped the phone, she was so surprised. "Are you telling me there is a Smallville, Kansas?"
*"Yes. Do you need a number?"*
What she needed was her head examined. Her finger was reaching for the disconnect button when she stopped. "Wait a minute, I can't remember the first name… Oh, yes, do you have a number for a Jonathan Kent."
Lois listened with astonishment as the computer rattled off the telephone number of Jonathan Kent of Smallville, Kansas. She put the phone down on the counter and stared at it as if it had suddenly sprouted a tail and horns.
It existed. They existed.
Was this good or bad? And how the hell was she supposed to find out?
For that matter, what difference did it make if they did exist?
Suddenly, Lois was confused. Very confused. Nothing made sense. She had been SO sure…
She did not like being confused. It always put her in an extremely bad mood.
Without thinking, she reached into the freezer and pulled out a tub of chocolate ice cream. Once she had a spoon, she sat back down on the couch and started eating.
One of the first lessons Lois had learned as a rookie reporter was too many coincidences meant there really wasn't a coincidence. Of the correctness of this journalism law she was firmly convinced.
Therefore, something odd was going on right under her nose.
The spoon tapped on the side of the ice cream carton as she re-ran every single moment of the last two days in her head, starting with the park. Finally, she smiled. No one had gotten a good look at the 'mystery man,' and he seemed determined not to stick around long enough to introduce himself, therefore there was only one thing she could do.
She was simply going to have to introduce herself to him, then she could get some answers.
Even bigger question, did she really want to get answers?
*Answers. I need answers. Until I have them, there isn't a story.*
Lois was sitting at her desk, typing away at her computer, copying down her notes on a fire earlier that morning, but her mind was on the 'mystery man' and ways she could pin him down long enough to find out something about him.
Anything about him.
Starting with what he looked like.
Almost involuntarily she glanced over to where Kent was going over some pictures with Jimmy.
Lois frowned and looked back at her screen. This foolish obsession of hers was getting way out of hand. Obsessions, actually, because if she was honest with herself, there were two. First, with Kent in general and, second, with the absurd notion he was the 'mystery man.'
God, he was good to look at, though. Lois couldn't get over how much she enjoyed staring at him and the last two days she'd been doing a great deal of staring, much to her own disgust and amusement. She simply couldn't seem to help herself.
He was just so perfect.
Except for the glasses.
They irritated her, for some odd reason that she had yet to figure out to her own satisfaction. The day before, her hand had actually gone up in the air towards his glasses right in the middle of their lunch. When she'd realized what she was doing, she'd stared at the appendage as if it didn't belong at the end of her arm. She'd felt like sitting on it to make sure it stayed where it belonged.
Away from him.
Luckily Kent hadn't noticed her strange behavior.
It wasn't only his looks. She enjoyed his company. Immensely.
Lois had always considered herself a loner when it came to her work. And her life. She was plainly too driven and unyielding to put up with someone else interfering or getting in her way. But, for some reason, Kent didn't get in her way. He was just there, tagging along, offering suggestions, generally making her feel comfortable with his presence.
Lois didn't understand it at all. She wasn't even sure she'd like it if she did understand.
Then there was this strange fixation she had that Kent was the 'mystery man.' No matter how many times she told herself the notion was absurd, the impression remained firmly planted in her subconscious. Kent was an ordinary guy and everything about the 'mystery man' pointed to the fact he was very unique. They couldn't be the same person.
Over the last two days, Lois had convinced herself of this countless times. Only to hear of another sighting and catch herself looking around to locate Kent.
Most of the time, he was out-of-sight when he was supposed to be at her side.
Oh, he always had a good excuse, but…
If he wasn't the 'mystery man,' his behavior wasn't helping one bit. For such a great reporter, the man had the attention span of a gnat. She was seriously considering putting him on a leash, just until she solved the riddle of the 'mystery man.'
The idea made her grin and Lois looked around to see if anyone was watching. Then it occurred to her she wouldn't mind putting him on a leash on a more permanent basis and she scowled.
She did NOT need a pet.
Or anything else.
Perry walked up to her desk just in time to catch the tail-end of her frown and he chuckled. "Nice to see having Clark around hasn't affected your sunny disposition, Lois."
Lois refused to dignify his teasing with any response at all. Instead, she questioned. "Chief, do you still want me to cover the reception this morning for the Canadian Prime Minister?"
"I do." Perry glanced down at the newspaper he was holding and motioned for Clark to join them. "Lois, Clark, I wanted to tell you the article you wrote together about the bank robbery yesterday was one of the best written I've seen in a long time. Thorough, too, for the short time you had to work on it."
"It did turn out well, didn't it?"
Perry eyed her smile for a long moment, then mused softly. "You two might want to consider working together on assignments. At least, occasionally."
Perry looked for all the world like a man testing frigid water with his toe and waiting for the reaction to hit. Amazingly, Clark was the one who responded first, not Lois.
"Well, I suppose, if necessary… occasionally, but I'm sure Lois doesn't want a partner, so we wouldn't want to do it all the time."
The instant Clark said the words, Lois began revising her opinion. Of course, she didn't want a partner, never had and never would. But Kent had such a look of horror on his face, she immediately decided having him as a partner was exactly what she wanted. For the time being, at least, until SHE decided otherwise. "I think Kent and I working as partners is a great idea, Chief. Our writing styles are very complimentary."
It took a moment for Lois to realize the sound level in the City Room had dropped to total silence. Glancing around, she noticed everyone in sight was looking in their direction and had shock written all over their faces. Her eyes narrowed and she turned back to her boss. Perry, Clark and Jimmy, who had appeared out of nowhere at Clark's side, were all three staring at her as if she'd grown a second head. Jimmy's mouth was even opening and closing like he wanted to say something, but wasn't sure what.
Lois scowled. "Well, I do. Now, come on, Kent, we have to leave for the reception."
As she sailed away, they continued to stare. Finally, Clark glanced over at Mr. White, silently asking for guidance. Perry shrugged. "Damned if I know, but whatever you do…" he took another look in her direction before continuing as he waved after Lois' retreating form, "…DON'T make her wait."
"Lois, wait up!"
Lois slowed down as Clark rushed to catch up with her on the sidewalk, but she didn't stop. "What is it, Kent?"
As he joined her march along the sidewalk, he frowned. "Lo-is, my name is Clark, not Kent."
She couldn't help the grin which popped out. She'd been calling him Kent for the last two days just to get him to growl her name. The first time he'd done it, she'd felt like she was going to melt like butter right onto the floor. Now, she simply enjoyed and savored the shiver it caused. "You wanted me to wait so you could tell me your name is Clark? I know that already."
"I wanted you to slow down, so I wouldn't be totally out of breath when we got to the reception." He was staring at her again like she was a weird species of bug he was tempted to squash.
Her eyebrows went up. Who was he kidding? The man certainly didn't look winded. "You should exercise more, Clark."
His mouth dropped open, then he shook his head. "Lois, why did you tell the Chief you thought we should be partners? We both know you don't mean it."
"I never say anything I don't mean. I'd remember that if I were you." She eyed his expression for a moment, then questioned softly. "Why don't you want us to be partners, Clark?"
"I… well, I… I just thought…" He frowned. "Never mind."
"No, really, it's important. Why not?"
"It's not that I don't want it. I just didn't think you'd want us to be."
Lois really didn't believe him, not completely. But they'd reached the hotel where the reception was being held, so she didn't say anything more as they entered the lobby.
An hour later after interminable waits during security checks and announcements, they were standing at the edge of a group of people waiting for the press conference by the Prime Minister. Clark was deep in a discussion with one of the reporters from a rival newspaper, while Lois was idly watching attendants fill the refreshment buffet along the side of the large room.
"Clark." He didn't immediately respond and she tugged on the sleeve of his suit coat while turning to lean towards him. "Clark!"
"Shhh! Keep your voice down." Clark made a face at her abrupt command, but leaned closer as she tugged on his arm again. "See those two men bringing in that large flower arrangement? Don't act like you're interested in them."
Rolling his eyes at her hiss, he glanced sideways at the men in question then back down at her. "Yeah, why?"
Lois shook her head, her eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure, but there's something odd about them."
This time his deep growled roll of her name didn't have the same effect on her. She glared at him. "I'm serious. Those two are totally different than the rest of the waiters and attendants." The two in question left the room together and she hissed out the side of her mouth. "Stay here, I'm going to check them out."
Before Clark could blink, she'd left his side and was out the door behind the two men. He stared at the door and took two steps towards it before he stopped and looked back at the table. His eyes narrowed and he glanced around before pulling his glasses down his nose slightly. He pushed his glasses back up and scowled.
He had intended the initial run with the uniform his mom had designed to be later that night under cover of darkness. For several reasons, but mostly his own nervousness about the idea. Even as those thoughts went through his mind, Clark was moving out the doorway.
Seconds later a blur of blue and red swept through the room and back out the door. In the wake of the rush of air created in the blur's wake, a few people noticed the flower arrangement was missing from the buffet table. When the building shook from the force of the subsequent explosion outside, everyone gasped and rushed to the window.
Bedlam resulted as they all started talking at once, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then total silence fell as a man wearing bright blue tights and a red cape entered the room, walked straight to the Prime Minister and whispered a few words. As soon as the official was ushered from the room by his own guards, the unusually dressed individual began striding towards the inner hallway, ignoring the growing sound of murmurs around him.
A scream rang out and he disappeared, literally, leaving a stunned audience staring into empty space. No one said a word until someone outside the hotel screamed. By the time most of the people in the room had reacted and reached the sidewalk, almost all the crowd on the street was staring upwards in amazement.
The only person not looking up was Lois Lane.
Lois was too busy trying to figure out why she wasn't still hurtling to her death to look up or down. She looked around, vaguely wondering if she wasn't in fact already dead and floating towards heaven. She didn't remember any pain from impact, though, and she knew she was floating. She just couldn't decide why. As her head pivoted around, her eyes connected with the softest pair of brown eyes she'd ever seen.
The eyes were still there and they were connected to a face and body. Her hand came up to touch his face, but she was too stunned to speak. She smiled instead, then promptly screamed and threw her arms around his neck as she realized they WERE floating in the air.
"It's okay, I'm not going to drop you, Ms. Lane."
Lois blinked. She leaned back to stare at him in consternation. "I wasn't really worried about YOU dropping ME."
He chuckled. "Really? Could've fooled me."
Her eyes narrowed. Before she could open her mouth again, he dropped to the ground in the middle of the people gathered on the roadway. Ever so slowly, he stood her on her feet and untangled her arms from around his neck. Then he smiled and shot back up into the sky.
Lois closed her mouth with a snap and immediately opened it to bellow. "Hey! Come back here! I want to talk to you."
The man didn't stop. In fact, he was gone from sight so fast, she doubted he'd even heard her scream. Paying absolutely no attention to the curious stares of the people around her, Lois turned to go back into the hotel and came face-to-face with Clark, who appeared to be just now rushing out of the building.
His eyes widened when she stared straight into his brown eyes, scowled and practically spit at him. "Kent! You would show up after he LEFT!"
"And then he just LEFT. Straight up."
Clark sat quietly, listening as Lois completed her report to Perry in a soft monotone. All around them, bedlam and chaos seemed to be the order of the day. When the initial reports of the stranger in the red and blue suit had begun filtering into the City Room, Perry had been extremely skeptical. But when his best reporter had returned looking pale and withdrawn with Clark hovering over her like a mother hen, Mr. White had started to believe. The second the pictures of the man catching Lois in mid-air had been placed in his hands, the Chief had gone ballistic, shouting orders so fast most of the people around him could barely understand what he was saying.
Now, their editor was calm.
Or rather calmer.
The Planet's special edition about the unidentified man was well on its way to being printed and Perry could take a breather. His version of a breather. He was talking quietly with both Lois and Clark about what had happened while the turmoil continued around them.
Clark hid a small smile as he watched the man. Perry was listening intently to everything he and Lois had to say, but he never missed anything going on around them. The second he saw or heard something he didn't like, he'd bellow out an order, then turn and ask them a question in an almost whisper, without missing a beat.
Clark suddenly realized who Lois had used as a role model for her own behavior. The two were almost like father and daughter and he could also tell Perry was as concerned about Lois as he was.
She simply wasn't acting like Lois.
When they'd returned to the Planet, each of them had confirmed the reports of the unique man to Perry and then sat down to type up their separate stories. Lois wrote up a brief, concise report on the stranger, while Clark did a summary of the attempt on the Prime Minister's life, because he had, after all, been inside during the entire thing.
However, not that many people were paying attention to such a small matter as an assassination attempt in the light of the day's other developments.
Once she'd finished her article, though, Lois had remained seated at her desk, quietly staring at her computer, not speaking to anyone, until the Chief had motioned for both of them to come into his office so they could talk over the incident. She wasn't as pale as she'd been right after the rescue, but she was still almost completely withdrawn.
She was making Clark damned nervous.
"Lois, honey, are you okay?"
Clark blinked at Perry's soft question and turned his attention back to their conversation. He watched as Lois nodded, then shrugged and smiled. "I'm alive, aren't I? And I shouldn't be."
"Thank god for that." Perry was back to scowling at her. "One of these days, Lois Lane…"
He didn't finish, but, then again, he didn't have to. Lois actually managed a small grin at his gruff tone. "I know, Chief, I know. Don't worry, I'll be okay. Once the reaction wears off."
Mr. White shook his head. He stared down at the photos Jimmy had just placed on his desk and glanced back at her. "Lois, we need to choose which pictures to run in the special edition. Any preferences for the front page?"
Clark had to hide another grin behind his hand. He'd never heard their editor ask anyone for an opinion in that particular tone of voice, but apparently a subdued Lois Lane rated special treatment from Perry, all the way around. His tactics appeared to working, too.
Lois stood up and moved over to look over Mr. White's shoulder, elbowing Jimmy out of her way in the process. She frowned in concentration, then pointed to one of the pictures. "This one. It's perfect."
Perry smiled and nodded. Clark leaned forward to see which one they'd chosen and had to swallow a groan. The journalist in him recognized Lois had chosen the best picture of the group. The photographer had caught him just as he was taking off, about ten feet off the ground. Technically, it was a great photograph, but it certainly displayed his physical assets in graphic detail.
He was never going to get used to the outfit, even though it appeared to serve his purposes quite well. All his doubts about the necessity of wearing a disguise had disappeared when he'd seen Lois vanish over the edge of the rooftop that morning. In that instant, he'd realized he would've dived off after her, costume or no costume. There was simply no way he could've allowed her to die, even if it'd meant revealing his abilities to the entire world.
Luckily he hadn't been forced to make that decision and, now, he was living with the consequences of appearing in the suit.
"Hell! We still need a headline."
Perry's near-roar brought Clark's wondering thoughts back to the present again. The look on Lois' face promptly caught his attention. She was standing beside the Chief, idly fingering the photo she'd selected, smiling softly. "Wonder what the 'S' stands for?"
Her remark got Perry's undivided attention. "Any ideas, Lois?"
She shook her head. "No. He didn't say anything, either. Whoever he is, he's certainly a super man."
Lois and Perry were suddenly staring at each other while Clark felt like disappearing. Literally. He could see their thoughts as clearly as he could see them and he wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry.
*I can't deal with this. I really can't. I've got to get out of here.*
Except he wasn't about to leave until he found out what was going through Lois' mind and he knew it. The lady was dangerous. She was just too damn perceptive for his own good.
Or his peace of mind.
What he couldn't figure out was why she wasn't already saying something if she suspected what he thought she suspected. Or was his imagination working overtime?
"It's perfect, Lois."
Perry's exclamation brought Clark's gaze down to the single word he was writing on the layout.
Clark let out a breath. Well, it could have been worse. Not much, but it could have been. His gaze locked with Lois' and his eyes narrowed when she smiled at him. Somehow, he managed to return her smile and stand up as she left Perry's office. He'd taken a step towards the door when the Chief's voice stopped him.
"Clark, I'm sending Lois home for the rest of the day. You make sure she gets there in one piece. Okay?"
Clark nodded. The Chief's orders suited him just fine since he had no intention of letting her out of his sight until he got some answers.
Not letting Lois out of his sight meant Clark stayed at the Daily Planet another two hours. Once she snapped out of her stupor, she wasn't about to leave until she was sure both her article and her claim on the new 'Superman' were respected by one and all. By the time he finally got her out of the building, it was almost time to go home anyway, so he asked her if she wanted to go get an early supper.
"Oh, I don't know, Clark. I'm not really feeling up to being out in a restaurant tonight. All things considered." His eyes widened because until she'd said the words, he hadn't given a thought to her prominence in all the hoopla surrounding 'Superman.'
Clark frowned. He was actually starting to like the name and that bothered him.
Noticing his scowl, Lois sighed. "On the other hand, I'm not really in the mood to be alone at the moment either. If I had any food in my apartment I'd invite you over for supper. 'Course there are people who would claim me cooking supper for you could be considered a blatant attempt on your life."
"I'm sure your cooking is not that bad."
Shaking her head after his polite reassurance, Lois laughed outright. "And you've never had to eat my cooking, either."
"Well, I can't argue with that, but how's this. I CAN cook, so let's go to my apartment and I'll fix supper for both of us."
Lois stared at him for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay, Clark. Sounds like a great idea."
"You CAN cook, Clark. This spaghetti sauce is great!"
Clark grinned at her amazed expression. "It's a snap, too. All I had to do was thaw it out."
Her eyes narrowed. "Thaw it out?"
"Um-hum. Mom froze batches of various dishes for me when I moved here." Clark watched her eyebrows rise and her eyes start sparkling. He tilted his head and rushed on. "However, I assure you, I can cook from scratch whenever necessary. This was simply quicker tonight. Besides, I did have to cook the spaghetti and heat up the bread and…"
"Okay, okay. I believe you. I believe you." They both shared a laugh and then Lois shook her head. "I'm lucky if I can heat up a cup of coffee in the microwave. Where did you learn to cook?"
"Mostly from Mom, but I've picked up bits and pieces all over the place."
"Ummm. You and your parents are close, aren't you?"
Clark nodded. "Yes, we are. Being an only child does that, I suppose."
Lois sighed. "Probably. Sometimes I wonder…"
"Oh… nothing." She shrugged and fixed him with an intent questioning look. "Tell me something… how did someone from Smallville, Kansas, end up traveling all over the globe?"
Where had that come from? Clark stared at her for a moment before answering. "Anyone can travel around the world nowadays. You just have to want to."
"So you wanted to get away from Smallville. I suppose I can understand that."
"Lo-is, that was NOT what I meant. I was quite happy in Smallville, if you must know." He rolled his eyes when she grinned, knowing he'd been set up. Leaning back in his seat, he mused. "I just… well, I just wanted to see the rest of the world too."
Lois finished her spaghetti and carried her plate over to the sink. Before she could start washing it, he'd bumped her out of the way, explaining. "My mother would have a fit if she saw a guest washing dishes for me."
"Well, excuse me. I didn't realize I was treading on a family tradition here." Clark glared at her and she laughed. "I'll dry."
"Lo-is, there are only two plates and two forks. Unless you're finished with your glass."
"Then go sit down on the couch and I'll be there in a second."
A minute later he turned to find Lois at his bookshelf peering at his collection of pictures. When she saw him watching her, she smiled. "Is this your parents?"
"Tell me about growing up in Smallville."
Sitting down on the couch and stretching his legs out, Clark grinned. "You make it sound like another world, Lois. It IS part of the United States, you know."
"Ummm, but for someone raised in Metropolis, it sounds like another world, Clark. Another universe, if you must know the truth."
"It isn't. Oh, there are differences, naturally. But people are people. All over the world. I've been in so many different countries, Lois, and I always find someone who reminds me of a person living in Smallville."
"So help me, Clark Kent, if you start singing 'It's A Small World' I'm leaving." Lois was glaring at him in mock horror as she made the challenge.
He grinned. "I wouldn't do that. But it is. The customs are simply different in each place. For instance, in Smallville we have this annual Corn Festival, which you would love…"
Slowly, Clark started describing the yearly event to her. Lois promptly shook her head and accused him of being a crop worshiper, which Clark thought was hilarious. They talked and argued for hours about the differences between growing up in a small town as opposed to a big city. They were still arguing about which had the better educational opportunities when they reached her apartment around nine o'clock.
After he'd convinced her he was going to drive her home no matter what she said to the contrary, that is.
When she invited him in for coffee, Clark almost refused. Then he took a good look at her face and changed his mind. "I'll stay for coffee, Lois, IF you'll tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong. Why would you think anything's wrong?"
"Lo-is!" She glared at him and he sighed. "Lois, you're going to have to talk about it sooner or later. With someone. Why not me?"
Making a face, Lois turned towards her kitchen and started getting out the things for coffee. "I know, it's just… Clark, you probably don't know this, but I have a tendency to be rather reckless." When all he did was look at her, she wrinkled her nose. "I guess you do know."
"I should be dead right now." She was staring down at her hands with her back to him as she whispered the words.
It wasn't what he'd been expecting, what he'd been braced to hear. Clark stared at her, completely surprised. Then in two steps he was at her side and turning her around to face him. "But you're not, Lois. Thank God, you're very much alive."
She looked straight into his eyes. "You mean, thanks to a man with some pretty amazing abilities, who, I might add, didn't even stick around long enough for me to thank him for saving my life."
"I'm sure we'll be seeing him again, Lois."
"Ummm. You're probably right, Clark."
Suddenly, Clark didn't know what to do next. The woman facing him had the power to destroy his whole life and he knew it, yet, at that moment, Lois looked like she was about to start crying. It wasn't until after he'd hugged her against his chest in an instinctive move to comfort that Clark realized exactly how powerful she was.
He didn't want to let her go.
Even worse, Lois didn't seem to want to let him go. Her arms were locked around his waist so tight when he tried to push her back a little they ended up with their faces only inches apart.
Clark swallowed. "Lois, you've had a really rough day and I should go home."
"Ummm. You're probably right, Clark."
If he was so right, how come she was still clinging to his waist. A man could only stand so much, even a superman. Clark leaned over until his lips touched hers softly, murmuring distractedly the entire time. "I shouldn't be doing this."
"Ummm. You're probably right, Clark."
"Will you please stop being so agreeable! It's totally out of character and it's driving me nuts." Her only answer was a low throaty chuckle and Clark groaned, even as he pulled her closer and covered her mouth with his. His lips explored hers for an eternity, then he raised his head to stare down at her. He shook his head to clear it. It didn't help and he whispered hoarsely. "We shouldn't be doing this, we really shouldn't."
Lois shrugged delicately as her arms slide upwards on his chest until they were around his neck. She confided with a soft giggle. "I know. We're supposed to be partners. This will make things WAY too complicated."
"You don't know the half of it, Lois."
"You might be surprised by what I know, Clark."
Their eyes met for a long moment and Clark groaned again. He wasn't ready to deal with what she knew or didn't know. He had other things on his mind. One of his hands slid into the hair at the nape of her neck and he tilted her head so he could more easily reach her mouth. Ever so slowly, his tongue outlined her lips. Lois sighed and opened her mouth for him to probe inside.
Which he did, quite thoroughly.
When he raised his head, they were both breathing hard. Clark stared down at her dazed expression and rumbled. "Damn, I could easily fall in love with you. If I'm not already. Do you know THAT, Lois Lane? THAT is a complication I certainly DON'T need right now."
Lois played with the collar of his shirt as she mused softly. "I'm not sure, but I think I started falling in love with you the first time I saw you."
His brow wrinkled, showing how puzzled he was by that statement. "The first time you saw me? In Perry's office? You looked like you wanted to kill me."
Her eyes shot to his and immediately shifted away. "I… um, I… well, I did want to kill you… at first, but only because you stole MY story. That's an understandable reaction."
"Lo-is, what am I missing here?"
She shivered, but didn't meet his eyes. "Who said you were missing anything?"
"Lois, we need to talk."
"Ummm. You're probably right, Clark."
"Oh, god, don't start that again."
Lois grinned at his groan and Clark smiled in spite of his frustrations.
When he didn't say anything else, Lois sighed. "Look, Clark, you're right, we do need to talk, but I'm exhausted tonight. Could we put it off?"
Letting out a long breath, Clark nodded and shifted his arm around her waist to turn them both towards the door of her apartment. "Yes, but not too long. We can't afford to let this… situation between us get out… of control, Lois."
Clark reached the door and turned to face her. Staring up at him, Lois shook her head. Her hand came up until she was cupping his cheek. "I can't get over it."
"What?" Clark was back to being nervous again. Of course, if he was honest, he'd been nervous around Lois from the moment he met her.
Lois frowned slightly as she considered her answer. "It's just so strange. I feel like I've known you all my life and we only met three days ago."
He blinked, startled by her words. It was amazing how she kept surprising him. "I know, Lois, I feel the same way."
Lois smiled at his low whisper and stretched up on tiptoes until she could place her lips over his. The kiss she gave him was soft and full of wonder and it was all Clark could do not to yank her back into his arms. When she finally pulled back, her hand moved higher until she was almost touching his glasses.
Clark reacted instinctively and grabbed her hand in his. Her eyes opened wide and met his as he tugged her hand to his lips and placed a soft kiss on her palm. "Not yet, Lois. Trust me?"
At his deep rumble, Lois nodded, then sighed. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you to trust me?"
As he turned away and headed out the door, she heard him murmur. "Maybe I already do."
Lois shut the door behind Clark and absentmindedly turned all the locks. There were so many things to consider and her emotions were in such turmoil. Plus, she was SO exhausted, her mind felt like it was practically mush.
First order of business, get some sleep.
Next order of business, figure out what the hell she was supposed to do next.
Yawning, Lois turned to get ready for bed and her eyes fell on the empty coffee mugs sitting on the counter. She smiled as she stumbled sleepily into her bedroom. All things considered, it had been an interesting evening.
Hell, the whole day had been absolutely riveting.
A few minutes later Lois was stretched out under the covers, sound asleep. A deep peaceful sleep. Her peace lasted until the wee hours of the morning when a nagging headache slipped past her pleasant dreams of flying through the air and gazing into deep brown eyes.
Lois tossed and turned fretfully until the pain in her head made dreaming or sleeping impossible. She sat up and looked blearily at the clock on the bedside table.
The exclamation expressed her irritation but it didn't help her headache one bit, so Lois impatiently untangled herself from the covers so she could get up and find something to make the pain go away. Three aspirins and a large swallow of milk straight from the carton later and she didn't feel any better. Which was probably understandable, but Lois wasn't in the mood to be tolerant.
Her head was aching too much for any understanding at all.
Deciding what she really needed was fresh air if she was ever going to be able to go back to sleep, Lois threw on her old jogging suit and a light jacket and headed out the door of her apartment. She almost reached the outer exit of her building when she abruptly changed her mind and turned to the stairs leading up to the rooftop.
Standing at the edge of the rooftop, watching the changing lights of Metropolis, Lois almost smiled. Even at three o'clock in the morning, it wasn't all that peaceful, it wasn't exactly quiet, and the air definitely wasn't that fresh, but it was her city and she loved it.
Leaning against the low wall around the rooftop, she closed her eyes and sighed.
"After what happened today, I'd think you'd stay away from rooftops for the rest of your life."
With a gasp, Lois whirled around.
Superman was hovering in the air about fifteen feet behind her, watching her intently.
Lois immediately forgot all about the city as well as her headache. "Why in the world would I stay away from rooftops?"
His arms crossed on his chest, Superman stared at her, trying to decide if she was serious or not. "Your own safety, for one thing."
A grin popped out. "Are you telling me I'm not safe with you here?"
He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. Her innocent act wasn't fooling anyone, especially him. He chose to ignore her teasing question. Instead he asked another one, hoping he sounded properly severe. "How are you feeling after your… ordeal today, Ms. Lane?"
Lois shook her head. "You don't have to be so formal, Superman. Oh…" Her brow puckered. "Is it okay to call you that? I mean, do you already have a name? Well, of course, you do. Everyone does. And you are wearing that 'S' for some reason. What IS your name?"
"Superman is fine with me."
Lois stared at him incredulously. "You mean you don't have a NAME?!?"
"I didn't say that. I said Superman is okay. There's a difference, Ms. Lane."
"Oh, will you stop that. It's perfectly acceptable for you to call me Lois." Lois wiggled her neck and her head tilted to the side. "And could you come down? I'm getting a crick in my neck talking to you this way." He hesitated and her eyes narrowed. "Are you afraid of me?"
His mouth almost dropped open before he could control his reaction to her words. He slowly floated to the rooftop. "No, Lois, I'm not afraid of you. Why should I be?"
"Why indeed." Thoughtfully, Lois watched as he continued to remain several feet away, close enough to talk but far enough away she couldn't see him clearly in the darkness. She frowned, then decided she wouldn't press him over it. In the first place, she was well aware he could easily fly off if she made a single wrong move and she didn't want to spook him. In the second, she was almost as uncomfortable with the situation as he appeared to be.
Lois shrugged and changed the subject. "It's a beautiful night, isn't it?"
Superman stared at her. He'd fully expected her to start interrogating him. He knew she had to be full of questions about him. Didn't she? "It is."
He didn't say anything else and Lois turned to stare at him. Her eyes narrowed again as it occurred to her he was keeping his voice intentionally low. She bit her bottom lip, suddenly curious about why they were even having this conversation. "Why did you stop?"
Good question and he had absolutely no idea how to answer her. Then, he decided to stick with the truth. "I was flying by, saw you, and got curious about why you'd be on yo… um, a rooftop in the middle of the night."
Lois shrugged. "I couldn't sleep and needed some fresh air."
He laughed. "Fresh air? This stuff isn't fresh."
"Well, since it's all I've got, it'll have to do." Even though she'd been thinking the same thing not moments before, Lois was still slightly miffed by his comment and it showed in her low mutter. She glanced over at him and forgot to be irritated. Even in the darkness, she could see how his eyes were dancing with amusement.
He'd known exactly how she'd react to his teasing words!
As she continued to gape at him, his head swung around in the other direction. When he turned back to her, he was frowning. "Look, I've got to go, Lois. Are you sure…"
She didn't let him finish, but nodded and waved him away. "I'm fine, Superman. Now, go!"
Watching until he was completely out of sight, which was only a second or two later, Lois smiled, then turned to go back to her apartment.
Now, that had been downright fascinating.
Once Lois reached her apartment, she didn't go immediately to bed, but instead went over to her briefcase and retrieved her file on the 'mystery man.' Taking it into the bedroom, she climbed under the covers, leaned back against the headboard and chewed on her pencil, deep in thought.
Finally, Lois nodded, picked up the file, erased MYSTERY MAN from the label and replaced it with SUPERMAN. Then she grinned and opened the file. After an hour of reading over her notes repeatedly, she yawned and set the file aside.
As she slid down farther under the covers, Lois stared at the ceiling, trying to make sense of her muddled thoughts. In her heart, she knew she was right, she just wasn't sure if she was ready to find out if her suspicions were correct.
They were so far-fetched, even for her.
Plus there were still one or two major questions she needed answers to.
Belatedly, Lois realized she'd had the perfect opportunity to ask questions when Superman had been on the rooftop with her and almost groaned. Then she sighed. It simply hadn't seemed like the time to ask him anything. Besides, the questions she WANTED to ask, she seriously doubted he'd answer.
At least, not without the proper incentives.
Of course, if she was right in what she suspected, the answers weren't going to do her any good.
At least, not professionally.
Personally was an entirely different matter, however.
"She did WHAT!?!?"
*"Clark, one more bellow like that and I'm going to be permanently deaf in BOTH ears."*
Clark grimaced and forced himself to lower his voice. Several decibels. "Sorry, Mom… she's supposed to be off sick today. She CALLED in sick."
His mother had the nerve to laugh at his pitiful, aggrieved sounding wail, which only added insult to injury. *"Well, I don't care if Lois did call in sick, she's sitting in the kitchen playing chess with Jonathan as we speak."*
"I… am… going… to… KILL… her!"
*"You're going to do no such thing and you know it, Clark Kent."*
Clark gritted his teeth. "Okay, I won't kill her. At least not right away. I'll torture her first, then I'll kill her. I'll be there in a few minutes."
*"No, you won't do that either, Clark."*
*"Clark, I still don't know if she knows anything. And if she doesn't, you sure don't need to show up here. Do you?"* Silence met her question, so Martha tried again. *"Clark, listen to me. The only reason I left a message for you to call was so you'd know she was here at the farm, but, please… stay in Metropolis and let us take care of this. Okay… okay?"*
When she didn't get any response, Martha rolled her eyes and put the phone down on the counter.
Lois heard Martha put the phone down and glanced at her watch as she moved another chess piece.
Five minutes later she heard a familiar sound and looked at her watch again. Her eyes widened. Two minutes faster than her best estimate.
Looking up, she noticed how Martha was trying to keep from looking towards the back door. Reaching over to place her hand on Martha's, she grinned and whispered. "Martha, it's okay. I know he's there." Even though she suspected it wasn't necessary, she raised her voice. "You might as well come in and join us… Superman."
Standing up to face him, Lois grinned.
Her grin was wasted on Clark. He crossed his arms on his chest and scowled at her accusingly. "I trusted you."
Her eyebrows rose. "And coming to see your parents was a betrayal? Give me a break, Clark."
"Lo-is. Why are you here?"
"To meet your parents." Lois tilted her head and eyed his uniform. "You know, yesterday, I didn't really have time to get a good look at that outfit up close. You did a good job on it, Martha. It fits him like a glove."
Martha's eyes had been bouncing back and forth from the young woman's smile to her son's frown until Lois turned to her. Martha's eyes met sparkling brown ones and widened as she whispered. "How did you know I made it?"
"I seriously doubt he'd go to anyone else. For reasons of modesty as well as others." Glancing over at Clark, Lois shook her head. "He's still extremely self-conscious in it, isn't he? We'll have to work on that. Although, he shouldn't have to worry too much. One thing is a given, not a single woman in the world is going to be paying attention to a thing he says."
"Or looking at his face."
Both Lois and Martha burst into giggles and Clark looked over at his father. He didn't get any help from that direction, because Jonathan looked like he was about to choke trying to hold back his laughter. Clark started tapping his foot. "Excuse me, but I AM standing right here."
"How could we miss you?"
Another round of giggles followed that hysterical whisper from Lois. Finally, both women straightened and took a deep breath. Lois was still having problems swallowing her laughter but somehow she managed. "I'm sorry, Clark, but you have to admit…"
"Okay, okay. Really, I came out here to met your parents. It's that simple."
Clark frowned. "But you called in sick."
"I know I did and I was sick WHEN I called in. I had a horrendous headache when I woke up this morning. I did. I felt awful. By the time I started getting over it, I'd starting thinking about all the things you said last night about your parents and growing up in Smallville. About everything. I don't know… my curiosity about everything got the better of me, I guess, and so… here I am. I needed to see if they were like you said they were… so it was…" Lois knew she was fast passing the point of babbling but she couldn't seem to stop talking. Clark had the most unapproachable look on his face, he was scaring her, so it was his fault. "…so here I am. I needed to know I wasn't going crazy… You know, the other night I had everything figured out, then you had to go and show up yesterday… FLYING of all things."
Clark noticed his parents were looking positively overwhelmed and he opened his mouth, but Lois looked at him accusingly then rushed on. "You being able to fly was rather startling, to say the least. I had to revise ALL my theories. On top of everything else, you saved my life. Just thinking about that still makes me slightly weak… but I can deal with it. The thing I don't understand and the reason I had to come…"
Her words suddenly stopped because Clark stepped over, pulled her into his arms, and covered her mouth with his, all in one smooth movement. When he lifted his head from kissing her and all Lois did was stare at him, dazed, he grinned and turned to his parents. "It's the only thing I've found that makes her stop babbling once she starts."
Her head dropped face down on his chest and she hissed. "It is not!"
His grin only grew bigger. "Works for me, though."
"Works for me, too." At Martha's soft whisper and chuckle, Lois lifted her head and glared at Clark.
"Besides you've only kissed me once, so how would you know?"
"Counting this, I think it's actually three times, but you're right, I don't, so I guess I'll just have to keep testing my theory."
Her eyebrows shot up. "You wish."
She tried to push out of his arms, but he wouldn't let her. Instead he cupped her cheek with one hand as he stared intently into her eyes. "Lois, I wish you hadn't done this."
"Why? If I know the truth, what difference does it make where I am?"
Clark blinked and shook his head slowly as if something was lodged in the wrong place. He chuckled. "In about another century, I might be able to figure that sentence out."
Lois slapped his arm. "All I'm saying is that once I figured out the truth, I'm a risk and at risk. Here or in Metropolis. Why should you wish I hadn't come here? Or do you wish I hadn't figured out the truth?"
Clark sighed. "I see what you mean." Then he shrugged. "Somehow, I think you figuring things out was inevitable. So, I'll adjust."
"Damn right you will. Now, we need to make some plans."
Lois was back to wiggling to get loose but Clark wasn't ready to let her go. His hands moved from her waist to her arms as he held her in front of him. "Excuse me, what do you mean make plans?"
"Contingency plans, of course."
"Oh, will you stop! You're not going to intimidate me into forgetting all this."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Far be it from me to think I could intimidate you about anything, Lois Lane." Both hands were cupping her face as he forced her to look at him. "Lois, listen to me. For all I know, I'm an alien. I'm not someone you want to get involved with. In ANY way. But especially now."
Lois stared at him for a long time, then she smiled. "Well, you should have thought of that BEFORE you came to Metropolis, Sup-er-man. I'm already involved." Suddenly her eyes narrowed. "What do you mean 'for all you know?' Don't you KNOW?" He didn't answer right away and her head tilted as she eyed him curiously. "Of course you don't know. Now, I see what's been so confusing to me. You're so ordinary appearing. I bet you didn't even have powers until a few years ago, more or less. You fit in perfectly, because this is all you've ever known."
Clark groaned. "I gotta sit down."
Martha patted his shoulder reassuringly as he sat down on one of the kitchen chairs, but somehow it didn't help. His mother was grinning way too much for him to feel reassured. So was his father. Not at him, of course, but at Lois. They were both watching the brunette with absolute fascination as if they'd just discovered the proverbial pot of gold in their own kitchen.
Lois glanced at the television which was silently running on the counter then back at him and giggled. They all looked at her and she pointed to the screen. The newscast was showing scenes from where Superman had rescued a sinking freighter earlier that very morning, simply by lifting it out of the water and setting it on dry land. She chuckled. "Clark, did all that hard work this morning take a lot out of you? You look a little pale at the moment."
"This morning was a piece of cake, Ms. Lane. Dealing with you is murder."
Lois frowned and looked at Martha for guidance. "Did he just compliment me or insult me?"
Martha shrugged diplomatically. "A little of both, I think."
Clark shook his head, repeatedly, drawing their attention back to him. "Since you guys don't seem to need me here, I'm going back to Metropolis. They, at least, NEED me."
He was almost out the door, fully intending to suit actions to words when Lois blurted out. "Not without me you're not."
Clark rounded on her. "What did you say?"
She was busy inspecting her nails. "I only bought a one-way ticket. I need a lift home."
"You only… you need…"
Lois whispered in an aside to Martha. *"He's gonna say it again! Just wait."*
*"See, he said it. Isn't it cute the way he does that?"*
Since Clark could hear every word she whispered, he suddenly started laughing. "What makes you think I'd take you ANYWHERE, Ms. Lane?"
Grinning widely, Lois walked over to stand in front of him. "Two reasons, Superman." She held up one finger. "First, Superman owes me an exclusive." Another finger popped up. "Second, if you don't, I'll just stay here and get to know your parents. REAL WELL, partner!"
He shook his head as he stared into her dancing eyes. "Well, since I can't do that to my parents, I guess I'll have to put up with you."
Lois suddenly screamed while Martha and Jonathan started laughing uncontrollably. Between giggles, Martha instructed her son. "Clark, behave yourself and turn that young woman right-side up."
"Why should I? She's had me upside-down for the last four days. AND she's been enjoying it. If I didn't know better, I'd think she knew the truth before she even met me."
Lois peered under his arm at his parents. "Don't listen to him. I haven't been that hard on him. Besides, I didn't know before I met you, Clark. At least, not all of it."
Clark's eyebrows rose as he stared at his parent's equally amazed faces. "What did she just say?"
"Never mind." Lois hastily buried her nose in his cape as she muttered her response.
"Lois Lane, you'll stay upside-down all the way to Metropolis if I don't get an answer."
Lois sighed. "Clark, did you by any chance happen to stop at an ocean-side park before your interview with Perry?"
Clark let her slide down to the ground as he searched his memory of that day. He nodded and smiled. "You were standing at the wall, watching me the entire time. Weren't you?"
Lois shifted uncomfortably as her face heated up. "Well, ah… I wasn't only watching you. Not the whole time. I merely happened to be in the park at the same time."
Clark frowned. "But I don't understand. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary."
Lois shook her head, grinning. "Clark, when I said you 'appeared' ordinary, I was talking about the way you act, not your looks. You are an extremely handsome man. That's what got my attention at first." She watched him grin at her words, then tilted her head and continued. "Actually, that's not true. First I heard the sound you make when you land. Of course, at the time, I thought it was just an extremely odd noise. I saw you come out of the trees and I watched you play with two little boys. Then I saw when you heard, or I assume you heard, the shouts prior to the explosion at the docks."
By the time she'd finished, Clark looked like he was ready to pass out again. He shook his head instead. "You SAW all that?"
"Yes, but I didn't start putting it together right away. It took a day or so for all the pieces to fall into place." She eyed his strained expression and added, softly. "Oh, Clark, relax! Most people aren't like me."
"Thank god for small favors!"
Lois immediately turned to Martha with an incredulous look on her face. "I don't believe this. He just did it again, didn't he?"
Lois turned back to scowl at Clark. "Complimented me and insulted me in the same breath."
Clark grinned and shook his head. "That was neither an insult nor a compliment. It was simply a heartfelt expression of thanks, Lois." Lois didn't believe him and she opened her mouth to tell him so, but Clark held up his hand and she stopped. "You and I need to have a long talk, Lois Lane. Just a sec."
Before her amazed eyes, he took a step backwards and spun back into Clark, complete with glasses.
When she continued to stare at him open-mouthed, Clark chuckled and glanced at his parents. "Would you look at that, it works almost as well as kissing her."
For once, Lois didn't take the bait. She was still too amazed. "You are incredible!"
"I'm incredible? Lady, I probably shouldn't say this, but you scare me silly." Reaching over to grab her hand, he tugged her out the door. "Come on, we need to talk."
Lois let herself be pulled along behind him until Clark reached an old bench sitting outside the workshed and motioned for her to take a seat.
She sat down. "Okay, what do you want to talk about?"
"You're kidding. Right?"
"Actually, no. There could be several things on your list, Clark. I'm not a mind-reader."
She was suddenly staring at him with narrowed eyes and he chuckled. "Well, I'm not either, so stop fishing."
"Just a thought. It'd come in handy at times."
Lois actually looked a little disappointed and Clark groaned. He shook his head when she opened her mouth again. "No, don't say another word. I need to think. I'm still not quite adjusted to all this."
Silently, Lois crossed her arms and her legs. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she watched him pace back and forth in front of her. She didn't trust the look on his face.
Finally, Clark halted with his back to her and spoke softly. "This isn't going to work. Lois…" He turned around and froze. She was already halfway back to the house. "Lois!"
She didn't stop. If anything, she sped up until a blur of motion appeared in front of her blocking her path.
"Lois, where are you going? Why did you take off?"
"Do you honestly think I'm stupid enough to sit there while you break my heart by telling me there can't be anything between us?" She was glaring at him, but there were tears in her eyes. "I'm not."
Clark sighed. "Lois, please don't cry. I can't handle you crying."
"Too bad. Now get out of my way."
"I mean it, Clark. If all you can do it throw up roadblocks for us, you can go back to Metropolis and I'll stay with your parents. At least, here I know you'll come see me SOMETIMES."
Reaching out to tug her up against his chest, Clark shook his head. "You are one stubborn woman, Lois Lane. You know that?"
"Of course, I know it. It's one of my best characteristics." Lois smiled as his arms slid around her waist. "I was wondering when you'd realize it, though."
"I've known it all along, but I…" His words trailed off as he focused on something his parents were saying. Lois opened her mouth and his hand covered it as he whispered. "Shhh… I want to hear this."
*"Martha, that young lady is going to have Clark wrapped around her little finger by the end of the week."*
*"Jonathan, what makes you think she doesn't already have him wrapped around all her fingers? If you ask me, they'll be married by the end of the week."*
Lois almost jumped out of her skin when Clark suddenly yelled out in the direction of the kitchen window. "I SURRENDER, ALREADY!"
"You surrender? Don't you want to hear my TERMS first?"
Clark smiled at her huge impish grin. "No, because I wasn't talking to you in the first place. Mom and Dad were… oh, forget it." Lois looked disappointed and he chuckled. "I wouldn't worry too much. I have a feeling I'll end up surrendering before you're done."
Lois grinned again and Clark laughed at her expression. He looked around and realized they were still standing in the middle of the driveway. "Come on, let's go for a walk and have that talk, a real talk."
Clark held out his hand and Lois put hers in it. This time he walked slowly down the driveway until they were past the workshed, then he turned to follow a path leading around the pond beside the shed. When they reached a large log, he sat down and pulled her down beside him. For the longest, he didn't say anything, but simply stared off into the distance, which would've been quite far if he'd been focusing. He wasn't concentrating on what he could see, though, because he was thinking about the mess his life had suddenly become.
A grand, glorious mess, mostly thanks to the small woman beside him. Oh, he knew it wasn't all her fault but he couldn't help feeling as if he'd tangled with a miniature tornado. The resulting damages were still undetermined, too. Clark shook his head, chuckling. "I think this has alternately been the longest and shortest week of my life and it isn't even over."
"Tell me about it."
Clark turned to stare at Lois after her low mutter. She was staring fixedly at her feet. He murmured. "What's left to tell? As far as I can see you've figured everything out, all on your own."
Lois sighed. "Yes and no. I mean that, Clark. I understand quite a lot and I've pieced together other things, but there are still a great many details I don't know. Or understand." Looking up, she stared at him, then whispered. "I really have no idea where we go from here. Primarily because I don't know how you feel about me knowing your secret. Are you angry with me? Or upset?"
"Because you're one of the most intelligent, intuitive, and observant people I've ever had the good fortune to stumble across? How could I be upset or angry about that?"
"Very easily, I would think. All things considered."
"I suppose." He looked away again. "But I'm not, Lois."
"You would've probably preferred that I, of all people, didn't figure things out. Right?"
"Yes and no." Her gaze swung back to him. "Lois, I do mean that. On the one hand, it's a secret I've kept most of my life. God, in many ways, it IS my life. It's a big adjustment to realize someone other than Mom and Dad knows the truth. But on the other hand, it's almost a…"
He didn't continue and Lois tilted her head to stare at him. "A what?"
Clark sighed. "A relief."
Lois blinked. "I'm not sure I understand."
"Think about it, Lois. You're the first person other than my parents I've been able to talk freely with about this. To be able to trust someone…"
"Do you trust me, Clark?"
Their eyes met and he nodded. "Yes, I do."
Lois bit her bottom lip before she finally whispered. "I'm not sure I would be so trusting in your place." She motioned towards the stable and the house beyond it. "They're wonderful people, Clark. You're absolutely right to do everything possible to protect them and I promise you I'll never do anything to place them, or you, in danger. I think that's a large part of why I had to come out here to meet them."
"Now I don't understand."
"I didn't, either, at first." She stood up and walked to the edge of the pond before turning to face him with her hand over her heart. "Clark, in my heart, I've known you were the 'mystery man' from the very first day. It did throw me when Superman appeared on the scene, flying around. I wasn't expecting that. God, who would be?!?"
For a moment she glared at him with her hands on her hips. Then she shook her head with a smile. "That development took some adjusting to. I was in a fog most of the rest of yesterday, simply because I realized there was a great deal more going on than even I had first thought. Not one report of the 'mystery man' had mentioned flying."
Clark opened his mouth to speak, but Lois held up her hand. "Please let me say all this or I may never get it out." She looked down at the ground, then back up at him. "Honestly, Clark, my emotions about all this have been in such turmoil. On the one hand, I've been attracted to you from the first moment I saw you in the park. It was more than just your looks. I sensed an element of goodness in you I've never found before in my life. Honestly. Then you show up at the Daily Planet and I almost passed out, then and there. Next, there was the 'mystery man' thrown in making things even more confusing." Staring at him, Lois narrowed her eyes. "My gut instinct told me he was a 'big' story even though no one else seemed to be paying much attention to him."
"Lois, I can understand all that."
"No, I'm not sure you can." He started to protest and she shook her head, firmly. "Clark, I mean it. I'm not sure you can understand my point of view in this, anymore than I can understand where you're coming from about your life. YOU are living it while all I or anyone else can do is observe. Since you are the one with the secret and the powers, how can you understand what the rest of us are thinking or experiencing when we look up in the sky and see Superman flying through the air?"
Clark looked uncomfortable with her words, but finally he nodded. Lois walked over and sat back down on the log. "You're not just a big story, Clark. You're possibly the biggest story EVER, past, present or future. As journalists, we both know that."
He didn't say anything and she continued. "I'm a good journalist and I knew what I was sitting on even when it was just the 'mystery man.' I knew I had a responsibility to report the truth. The appearance of Superman only multiplied the problem a hundred times, at the very least."
His eyes swung in her direction and she smiled. "But, Clark, I'm not just GOOD, I'm a GREAT reporter."
The cocky expression on her face may him smile in spite of the discomfort he was feeling. He sighed, dramatically. "People keep telling me that, but I don't know…"
Lois punched him in the arm, then shook her hand. "Ow!"
Picking her hand up and rubbing it gently, Clark chuckled. "That's another thing I don't have to pretend about now."
Lois glared at him, but she allowed him to rub her knuckles. Whatever he was doing felt wonderful. "You enjoyed that. Didn't you?"
"Um-hum." His eyes sparkled at her expression of outrage. "Lois, I'll concede you're a great reporter, but what does that have to do with our current situation?"
"Clark, knowing you were the 'mystery man' was one thing, but when Superman showed up on the scene, everything changed." Her brows wrinkled. "No, that's not true. All along, the thing I was having trouble figuring out was WHAT you were. Are. Whatever."
"I'm a man, Lois. I'm Clark Kent."
"I know, Clark. But you're also much more. Superman complicates things, considerably."
"Tell me about it."
Ignoring his low mutter, Lois continued. "All along I've been weighing the contradictions between what I instinctively KNEW was true with what appeared possible. Both in my heart and mind. Both personally and professionally." Holding up both hands as if she was balancing something, Lois sighed. "On one side, there was this incredible man with these unbelievable, almost unimaginable, abilities." Raising the other hand higher, she shook her head. "But on the other side there was this perfectly normal, average, if great looking, guy. The two DID NOT go together."
Her gaze returned to him. "Even worse, I was being torn apart about what I was supposed to do with my knowledge. A good journalist discovers the truth and reports it. A great journalist doesn't simply report things, Clark, they try to understand. It wasn't only professionally, though, I needed to understand what was happening on a personal level. And to do so I had to ignore how I felt about you and decide if it was really possible for both men to be one and the same. To do that, I had to meet your parents. I had to see for myself if they were exactly what you'd said they were."
Clark frowned, not at all pleased by what she'd said and yet having no idea why. "You said that earlier and I still don't see…"
Lois smiled and nodded. "I didn't either until I got out here. Clark, the simple truth of the matter is… they are EXACTLY what you said they were. But I had to meet them in person for them to become REAL to ME. Once I did, everything made sense."
"I'm glad it does to one of us, because I'm lost."
"Clark, they are perfectly normal, average, decent, hardworking people." He still looked confused and she smiled. "Don't you see? If they raised you, you would be and should be exactly what you are… Clark Kent, average, all-American guy."
"Okay, that I can agree with, but…"
"I'm not finished. They are perfectly normal and average, yes, but they're also much more than that. After talking to them, I can easily imagine them finding a baby and raising it as their own, never questioning whether it was the RIGHT thing to do. For them, it simply would be. I can see them accepting that child and any out of the ordinary things he could do without them even batting an eye. In that, they are most definitely not average OR ordinary. Simply put, THAT explains Superman."
Clark's mouth dropped open. "They told you all that?"
"Of course not, Clark." Lois was scowling at him as she scolded. "You know your parents better than that. They would never tell me without your permission."
Clark suddenly had to stand up. He took a few steps away and then turned back to stare at her with wide eyes. "YOU ARE INCREDIBLE!"
Lois almost smiled, but abruptly stopped and glared at him. "Clark, you have the most annoying habit of making compliments sound like insults."
He grinned. "That's because they're a little of both, Lois. Mom's already told you that."
"Oh, that helps."
Laughing at her mutter, he sat back down and took her hand. "Lois, I think I see what you're saying about needing to meet Mom and Dad. You couldn't trust yourself because of the personal and professional conflict and you couldn't trust me."
Lois shifted, agitated by his words. "It wasn't that I couldn't trust you, Clark. God, you saved my life, how could I distrust you?"
"Maybe trust isn't the right word, but, whatever, I can see why you'd needed to meet them to put everything into perspective. They give me perspective, I know that."
She nodded. "They're the incredible ones, Clark. You don't know how lucky you are to have found them or been found by them. Whatever."
"Lois, I do know how lucky I am to have them." Standing up, he pulled her up to face him and stared into her eyes. "Just like I know how lucky I am to have found you." Lois suddenly seemed more interested in his shirt than his face and Clark tilted her chin back up with his thumb. For the longest, they simply stared at each other, then his fingers slid around her jawline as his other hand at her waist tugged her forward. Instead of kissing her, Clark whispered as he held her cradled in his arms. "I can't honestly say I'm ecstatic about you finding out the truth, for several reasons, but on another level I'm extremely happy to finally be able to simply be myself, open and honestly myself."
His head began lowering towards hers and Lois raised her hand to his chest, stopping the movement and the moment. Clark looked at her questioningly and she moved her hand to his glasses, whispering one word. "Please."
Clark threw back his head and laughed even as he hugged her tighter. "You know, I'm tempted…"
"Clark!" Lois glared at him until he nodded his permission. With a happy grin, she plucked his glasses off and almost tossed them over her shoulder before he could react.
"Hey! I need those." Clark hastily rescued his glasses and pocketed them. His own glare didn't last long, however, because Lois was in the process of sliding her arms around his neck.
As she settled happily against his chest, their lips met hungrily. They each gave themselves over to exploring the other, totally lost in the sensations of tasting and nibbling at the other's mouth.
Finally, Lois leaned her head on his shoulder. "I can't believe this is happening."
Clark dipped his head to taste her lips again before speaking. "You can't believe it? I think I'm in shock. I keep wondering if I'm going to wake up and find out this last week was all a dream."
"Oh, I hope not." Lois smiled as she played with the hair at the back of his neck. "Right this minute I feel too good for it to all be a dream."
"Speak for yourself." Raising her head and her eyebrows at his mutter, Lois stared at him until he shrugged. "Right now, good doesn't begin to describe how I feel."
Her eyes were starting to sparkle and Clark rolled his. "Nevermind."
Clark groaned when she started giggling. Finally Lois managed to gasp out. "Nice to know you ARE perfectly normal. At least where it counts."
Lowering his mouth to her ear, he whispered huskily. "If you only knew how much I want you, have wanted you from the moment I laid eyes on you, Lois Lane, you wouldn't be laughing." She raised her eyes to his and he continued. "You'd probably be running away as fast as you could."
"You might be surprised by what I'd do."
Clark stared at her in consternation and surprised both himself and Lois by bursting into laughter. "I don't doubt it. So far, everything you do surprises me. One way or another."
Lois made a face. She shifted her arms from his shoulders down around his waist. When she was comfortable again, she whispered. "So, what happens now, Clark?"
"I have no idea." Her arms squeezed his waist and he chuckled. "Hey, I never claimed to have all the answers. I suppose, we'll have to take things a day at a time. Minute by minute. Seems to me, the first thing on the agenda is your interview with Superman." Clark smiled down at her when she looked up at his words. Pulling her arms from around his waist, he took a step back and spun back into Superman. When he reached for her again, Lois didn't look all that pleased by his actions and his head tilted as he watched her expression, curiously. "Don't you want your exclusive, Lois?"
"Well, of course, I do… it's just… I was enjoying being with Clark, I guess. Besides, there are so many things I want to ask you." Glancing down at his suit, she made another face. "Can't we do this with you as…"
Clark pulled her back into his arms and covered her mouth with his. He didn't seem inclined to stop, either, but seemed to be trying to absorb her into himself. He finally lifted his head with a soft moan of frustration.
Lois stared at him, dazed. "What was that for?"
Holding her face between both palms, he smiled. "For preferring ME to Superman. Thank you."
Lois looked at him as if he'd lost his marbles. "Of course, I prefer you to him. He's a fake."
Clark's head jerked back. "Excuse me? He's not a fake." He blinked. "I mean, I'm not." He shook his head. "Hell, I don't know what I mean!"
"Superman! Really! You should watch your language. You have an image to maintain, you know." Lois started giggling at the expression Clark made in response to her teasing.
"It's apparently a reaction to having to deal with you, Lois Lane. I've noticed you have that effect on others, too. Now, explain why you called Superman a fake."
"Superman is what you do. The super things are real, but he isn't. Clark is who you are. Don't you know this already?"
Lois was eyeing him with such a puzzled look on her face, Clark almost groaned out loud. "Of course, I know. I wasn't sure you… Oh, nevermind." He chuckled. "About doing the interview this way, I think it's better if we try to keep Superman and Clark totally separate in our minds, for both our sakes." Lois looked like she was going to argue and he held up his hand. "I promise, I'll answer all your questions about Clark, eventually, but this Superman thing is new to me, too. I need to do this first interview this way. Do you understand?"
Lois nodded, then her eyes flashed. "As long as I can still kiss Superman when we're alone. Otherwise I'm going to get extremely ticked off with that… that…"
Her eyebrows shot up. "Uniform? THAT'S a uniform?"
"Yes, it's a UNIFORM, Ms. Lane." Superman crossed his arms on his chest and his expression didn't brook any arguments on the subject.
Lois muttered, even though her eyes sparkled. "Whatever you say, Superman. A uniform, it is."
"So, now, Ms. Lane, what would you like to ask me first?"
Her lips twitched at his formal tone, but somehow Lois managed to keep a straight face. "Well, let me see. How about this for a starter, what does flying feel like?"
Superman's head tilted as he considered how to answer her question. Then he smiled and stepped over closer to her. "I'm not sure I can explain how it feels, because it's such an indescribable experience, Lois. This might help you to understand, though. Look up at the sky and keep looking up." She did and he continued, his voice dropping almost to a whisper. "There aren't that many clouds today, so it's easy to imagine you can see forever. Isn't it?" Lois nodded and he commanded softly as his hands settled on her waist. "Reach up and touch forever, Lois."
Lois muttered under her breath. "I'll feel silly."
"Do it anyway." As her arms stretched upwards, they both started rising in the air. Lois gasped and started to grab for his neck. He shook his head. "Trust me and reach for the sky, Lois."
Their eyes met and she smiled, then stretched out her arms again. Their speed increased as they sailed upwards. They slowly came to a stop, hovering in the air. "Now, look around."
Lois stared around her in amazement. She couldn't see anything but blue sky and clouds and the clouds were below them. Everything was below them. "Oh, my god!"
"I won't let you fall."
Her brow wrinkled, then Lois shook her head, almost surprised by her own feelings. "I'm not afraid, Clark… I mean, Superman… oh, whoever. Not with you here." She giggled. "Of course, I wouldn't be here without you. It's just… we got up here so quickly… so easily."
He watched as she looked around again. "And that's what it's like for me to fly, Ms. Lane."
Her head swung around until their eyes met. Her eyes widened "You're SERIOUS!"
"Yes, I am. I can't explain how I do it. I just DO it. It's that easy for me."
"Oh, my god!"
Superman frowned. Lois looked like she was about to pass out suddenly. He swept her up into his arms, holding her cradled against his chest. "Lois, are you okay? Do you want to go back down? A lot of people have problems with heights. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
Sliding her arms around his neck, Lois shrugged. "No, of course not, I'm fine. Besides, it's not being up here, it's realizing what you can actually do. You're a little overwhelming. It takes a minute to adjust. How is it possible for you to do all this? What else can you do? I know you're strong. How strong? And you can hear quite a distance. How far? What about your vision?"
Superman stared at her, his own amazement showing. Being miles in the air didn't seem to be bothering her at all. Most people would be either totally speechless or screaming to be taken back down. But, of course, not Lois. She was too busy firing questions at him to be concerned about such mundane matters as fear. Suddenly he laughed and she turned to stare at him, suspiciously. He whispered. "So, I'm only a LITTLE overwhelming, huh?"
Lois nodded and her eyes narrowed at the devilish light which entered his eyes. "What's so funny about that?"
"Absolutely nothing. In fact, I'm quite sure I've been insulted." His teasing tone of voice made her eyebrows rise. "Hang on tight, Ms. Lane. You're about to go on the trip of your life."
The sound of her squeal of surprise was the only thing remaining a second later.
Clark shook his head for the hundredth time that day as he walked back into the Daily Planet City Room three hours later. He was having a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the changes in his life the last few days and wearing his new uniform amazingly appeared to be the least of his problems.
"CK, you missed all the excitement."
"What happened, Jimmy?" As if he didn't already know.
Clark sorted his mail and listened with one ear while Jimmy told him all about Superman arriving at the Daily Planet with Lois in his arms about an hour earlier. He even made the necessary exclamations when Jimmy showed him the photographs of the event and told him about Lois securing an exclusive interview with the man. Then Clark looked around and frowned. "Where IS Lois?"
"Oh, that's right. You don't know. She left to cover a hostage situation down at the federal building."
By the time Jimmy finished, Clark was already half-way out of his seat. He dropped back into the chair when Perry came rushing out of his office, exclaiming. "Don't bother, Clark, she's already on the way back. And when she gets here I'm going to kill her."
"What's she done now, Chief?" Clark and Jimmy grinned at each other because they both asked the question at the same time.
"Oh, nothing much. Because she left the scene so fast, the police captain just called to ask me to thank her for single-handedly stopping one of the thugs at the Federal Building. It appears she belted the guy as he was trying to escape."
"Only because he insulted my shoes, Chief."
Three heads snapped around to watch Lois as she stomped off the elevator and made her way to her desk.
"He insulted your SHOES?!?" Jimmy looked like he wasn't sure whether to believe her or not. He kept glancing down at the beige pumps she was wearing.
"I paid $60 for these shoes, I didn't appreciate him making fun of them." Lois didn't look like she was in the mood to argue about it, then or now.
"So you hit him?"
Lois frowned at Clark in response to his soft question. "No, if you must know, I asked him to take it back and when he didn't I kicked the gun out of his hand and then punched him in the nose. Knocked him out cold, too. Satisfied?"
From the expression on all three of their faces, none of them were. Clark actually looked pale again. Perry didn't say a word, but turned on his heel and started back to his office, silently shaking his head. Jimmy continued to stand in the middle of the aisle staring at Lois until she frowned at him. He abruptly remembered something he needed to do elsewhere.
Once he was gone, she glanced back at Clark. He was watching her with the strangest look on his face. "Don't start, Clark."
"What? I didn't say a thing."
Striding over until she was facing him, she shook her head. "Don't give me that. I know exactly what you're thinking. Let me tell you something, Kent… I was taking care of myself before you came on the scene and I'm not going to stop now. Got that? Just because I ALLOW you to be my partner doesn't give you the right to tell me what I can do or can't do. I…"
"You're babbling again, Lois."
She either didn't hear his soft warning or she chose to think he wouldn't dare pull anything in front of the rest of their co-workers. "I am not babbling. I'm telling you how things are going to be, partner. I take care of myself and you take care of yourself. We each take care of the other. But if you think that means…" Clark stood up and she took a hasty step backwards. She'd almost forgotten how irritated he'd been when she'd insisted he carry her into the Planet as Superman so everyone would believe her exclusive. "Now, Clark!"
Glancing around, he grinned. "Oh, relax, Lois. You're perfectly safe. For now!" Her eyes narrowed at his last two whispered words and Clark chuckled. "Now, go write your article, PARTNER, before I change my mind."
Lois grinned and nodded as she patted his cheek. "Okay, partner."
"Hey, hey, hey!" Both Lois and Clark looked up as Perry bore down on them. "This is a newspaper, you two, not a…" He took a good look at both of their guilty faces and shook his head as his eyes narrowed. "I'm too late, aren't I?"
"Whatever are you talking about, Perry?"
"Now, don't you 'Perry' me, young lady. I can see right through your innocent act." He stopped shaking his finger at Lois and turned to glare at Clark. "And here I thought your farmboy wholesomeness would be a good influence on her. Fat lot of help you've been."
Clark's mouth dropped open as Perry stomped away towards his office. Lois burst into giggles. Out of the corner of his mouth, Clark muttered. "I can still change my mind, Ms. Lane."
Lois stopped giggling and sat down at her computer. She grinned anyway, in spite of all attempts to stop. "Well, you have to admit, it IS hilarious. You and me. A citygirl and a farmboy. I'd never have believed it possible myself."
"The jury is still out about it being possible." Clark glared at her. He promptly ruined the entire effect by asking, hesitantly. "Tomorrow's Friday, Lois, would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow night?"
"Oh, my god! Did you just ask me out on a DATE?"
His eyes narrowed. "I suppose I did, but if you keep acting like this, I'm going to take it back. I don't need this in my life right now."
Lois reached over to pat his hand. "Of course, I'll go. Clark, I'm sorry. I guess, my behavior is simply a reaction to the last couple of days."
Clark sighed. "You know, now that I think about it. Maybe it would be better if we…"
"Uh-uh. Too late. What time?"
"I'll pick you up at seven."
Their eyes met and Lois started giggling again. Clark groaned and went back to his desk. He scowled in her direction for a long moment, but his lips twitched when she continued to giggle. Suddenly they were both laughing uncontrollably, but no one else could figure out what the two reporters found so funny.
So, back to the original question of how history might have been different if she'd seen him first. In some ways, the story of the same pair of soulmates could have become almost unrecognizable simply because the beginning played out quite differently. In other important aspects, however, it might be very much the same because they are the same two people.
Sure they are. Either way their story commences, the two come into the tale with the same advantages and disadvantages. The same motivations and ambitions. The same hopes and dreams.
Maybe the question can't be answered until the complete account of their lives is unfolded. History is, after all, an extremely long and complicated process. Just look what happened next to Adam and Eve after THEY were brought together.
"And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:23-25)
Oh, well, THAT is most definitely a story for another day.