By Amy Heins (aka Ames) AerinSky@aol.com or Amesville@juno.com
Summary: A simple investigation into a truck crash and a murder leads to several pleasant results — including a friend for Lois and a deeper relationship between Lois and Clark.
This story takes place somewhere in the second season. I've taken a few liberties (CK isn't completely a disappearing jerk!) but heck, it's my story! <g> You will see that I have given my pet themes a chance to play here. Lois gains a friend outside of the workplace (sort of) and she and Clark get to spend a lot of quality time together — ahhhhh. WAFF me, baby! Enjoy! Any responses can be sent to:
Lois entered the Daily Planet office, coffee in one hand, various papers in the other. She was reading so intently that she ran smack into Jimmy, spilling her coffee all over her research in the process.
"Jimmy!" she said, exasperated. "Look where you're going, please."
"Sorry, Lois," the boy tossed back. He had felt the Wrath of Lois too many times to be as affected by it as he once was.
"Hey! Have you seen Clark?"
"No, he isn't in yet. Want me to tell him you're looking for him?"
Lois sighed. Where was he when she wanted him? This disappearing trend was going on way too long. "That's OK, I'll see him soon enough."
She shook her research pages over her trash can, mentally dratting Jimmy. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a patch of yellow. It was a small bouquet of flowers, card attached.
"Lois — thanks for lunch yesterday. I've gone away on assignment, but I'll call you when I get back — Dan" Well, now, there's a guy you can depend on. He never shied away from saying what he feels, not like…
She jumped as Clark cleared his throat behind her. It was spooky the way he was able to sneak up on her like that!
"Scardino?" he asked, in not the nicest voice she had ever heard.
"Mm-hm." Go ahead, Clark, get jealous, she mentally dared him. If this upsets you, tell me!
Clark got his typical "Why are you wasting your time like this?" look. "Really, Lois, I don't know what you see in him. I mean he's not exactly…"
They were spared what was building up to be a terrific fight by Perry calling them over. He was coming from the copy room and looked furious.
"Where's my story on the truck explosion?" he demanded.
Lois sighed. "Really, Perry, can't you put a cub on that one? There's really nothing — investigative — about it. I mean, just because a truck driver can't drive and crashes into an empty store doesn't mean there's something crooked going on."
"Superman thought it was important enough to look in on last night, so you two go check it out — NOW." It was not a request. Lois and Clark began gathering their notebooks as Perry stormed into his office.
"Great shades of Elvis!! What is that smell?"
They rushed into the office as Perry began to look around. There WAS an awful stench — like three day old garbage. They had just started looking for the source of the smell when a girl crawled out from under Perry's desk. She was an absolute mess. There was slime in her hair, coffee grounds in her clothes, and bits of unidentifiable stuff clinging to her.
"Lois, has Perry been hiding sources in the office again?" Clark whispered.
"No, look at her clothes," Lois replied just as quietly.
"I can barely SEE her clothes!"
"Trust me, they're very nice. I smell a story here, don't you?"
Clark wrinkled his nose. "I smell something, that's for sure."
In the meantime, Perry had been haranguing the girl. "This is my office — the office of the editor of the Daily Planet — not a hotel! Now go home!"
The girl looked at Perry, then at Clark. Her eyes came to rest on Lois and she whispered, "I'm sorry, I didn't know where to go. After the truck, and the man, and…please, help me." She collapsed on Perry's couch and began to cry softly.
Perry looked at her. "You know something about that truck that exploded last night?" His tone suddenly became more friendly, almost father-like. He gestured his favorite reporters closer. "Take her somewhere to get cleaned up. I think there might be something in this and she could be a valuable witness. Lois, try to get something out of her — Lois, are you listening?"
She wasn't. She was watching the girl, with a strange look on her face. Lois slowly knelt down next to her, placing an arm around her shoulders. The girl leaned on Lois' shoulder, then, apparently in response to something Lois said, stood up. They headed for the door, Lois with her arm still around the girl.
"Lois, wait up!" Clark said. "Where are you going?"
"To my apartment, Clark. She needs a bath and a rest, and she obviously can't go home now. Do you have a better idea?"
"Fine, you can come by later. Maybe this evening?"
OK. I'll try to dig up something about the store and truck until then." Clark said resignedly. "But Lois…"
They were already on their way. Clark watched them leave, Perry at his side.
"Well, Clark," the editor said. "It looks as if Lois has a lot of work on her hands."
"You're right there, Chief," Clark responded. "I just hope that Lois won't be too hard on her."
"Don't worry about that!" Perry laughed. "Lois looked positively maternal!!"
It was late that afternoon, almost evening. Lois had not left her apartment except to run out for food for her unexpected guest. The girl had spent most of the afternoon asleep. Once, when Lois checked in on her, she was crying quietly. Lois thought about going in, but decided that it would be better if she didn't. After all, she had thought, I don't even know her name. Funny how that doesn't seem to matter yet. She'll tell me soon enough, when Clark gets here.
Now, however, Clark was there, and they were gathered in Lois' living room, listening to the girl's story.
"My name is Morgan Lee," she began simply. "I'm twenty-five years old and I just moved to Metropolis. My friend Ann had come down to visit me for a few days. We aren't — weren't really that close. I think she just wanted to get away from life for a while and the big city seemed to be the place to do it. Anyway, we went to the movies and were on our way back home (I live about a block away from the store) when we saw this huge truck come flying around the corner. We were really more interested than scared, I guess. We just stood there, kind of talking about what was going to happen. You know, was the driver drunk, would it stop, would it hit anything. I guess we never really thought it would drive straight into a store. I mean, how often does that happen?" She looked at Lois as if asking for confirmation that trucks driving into stores was indeed a rare thing.
"Please, go on," Clark quietly urged.
Morgan glanced at him then continued, mainly directing her story to Lois. "Well, we were too amazed to run even then, and we didn't think to. Ann even mentioned going over to help, but that was when the men started pouring out of the truck."
"Wait a minute," Lois interrupted. "There were men in the truck? I thought the driver was able to jump out. Wasn't it on fire by then?"
"Fire?" Morgan asked quizzically. "No, no fire. Just a lot of glass and stuff. Why do you…oh, that explains the sound I heard!"
"What sound?" Clark asked.
"Well, later, when I was hiding, I thought I heard something, I don't know, explode. I didn't want to think about what it was, though." She shivered slightly.
"Do you want something to drink?" Lois asked. "I actually have a clean glass or two, if you'd like."
"No, that's all right," Morgan smiled faintly. "I think I'd like to get this over with, if you don't mind." Seeing that they obviously didn't, she continued. "When we saw the men, we got scared and began to run away. I didn't hear any shooting, but I wasn't really listening. I heard someone shout to follow us and we ran faster. There wasn't anyplace to go except for this alley. I ran in there, telling Ann to follow me. I guess she wasn't quick enough, or didn't hear me or something. I was able to hide in a trash can with some bags over me — they broke later, by the way — and hope they didn't look too hard. You would have thought that Ann would have found a place to hide too, right?" She looked pleadingly at the reporters, asking for their agreement.
"Morgan," Clark said. "You didn't betray your friend, if that's what you're thinking. Don't believe that you killed her by not hiding her — that's not the way it works."
She looked at him gratefully, took a deep breath, and continued. "I heard a shot and Ann cried out. Not very loudly, but I could hear it. I just kept praying that he wouldn't find me, that he'd leave and think that there was only one of us. I guess he did, or something, because he left. That's when I heard the noise."
"The truck," Lois murmured, glancing at Clark. He nodded grimly.
"Anyway," Morgan continued. "I stayed in the trash can for a while, but then got the panics and had to leave. I saw Ann's… body…lying on the street. She looked like she was still alive, so I went over there to check on her. I wish I hadn't. I ran, and ran, until I saw the Daily Planet building. It was the first unlocked door I found so I went in. I don't know why I was under Mr. White's desk — I guess I wanted somewhere to hide."
"Why didn't you go to the police?" asked Clark.
Morgan shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I wasn't really thinking straight just then." She sank back into the couch.
Lois leaned over and touched her arm. Clark marveled at how gentle she was being. Lois amazes me a new way every day, he thought.
"Do you mind going to the police station and telling this over again?" she asked Morgan. "They need to know about the men with guns and Ann. Right now they're just calling it another accident caused by too much alcohol."
Morgan shook her head. "No, I don't mind. Only, can we go now? I don't think I'll remember much later. I'm trying to block it out as quickly as I can."
"Sure," Lois said. "And I don't think you should go home either. You're welcome to stay here with me…that is, if you want to."
What was this? Doubt in Lois' voice? Clark gazed at her, surprised. This was not exactly the Lois Lane, intrepid reporter, he had come to know. He looked at Morgan to see her reaction. Unsurprisingly, she looked like she appreciated the offer.
"I'd like that, thanks," she said. "So, when do we go?"
Clark spoke up. "I think we should go now, if we can. Lois, we can drop Morgan off at the station and get Jimmy to stay with her. Then he can bring her back here after. That way we can go check out this store and see what we can find."
Lois nodded. "Good idea. Shall we go now?" After a quick phone call to the Planet (and Perry) they left.
Lois and Clark had to walk to Elliott's General Supply, the site of the explosion, due to some road construction. Morgan was at the police station, looking through mug shots and giving her statement. As planned, Jimmy was there (looking like he felt very lucky to have this particular assignment) and would take her back to Lois' afterwards.
"You know," Clark said. "You were really nice to Morgan back at the apartment. I don't often see you so friendly with a stranger, unless you're looking for a story, that is."
"Well, Clark, I'm not always selfish. She needed a place to go — she can't go home, and alone in a hotel is not really the place to be at a time like this."
"True, but I don't remember you ever offering your place like that. Even with Sarah you had to practically be knocked over the head before you invited her over."
"Yeah, well, let's just say I didn't feel like being psycho-analyzed by a third-year college kid."
Clark hid a smile. He'd overheard (really overheard, not by superhearing) some of Sarah and Lois' conversations and thought they were pretty funny, although there was one that he missed the beginning of that didn't make sense — bananas? Chocolate?
"You know," Lois mused a moment later. "Superman was right there, on the scene. Why didn't he help Morgan?"
Clark had been wondering that himself. He had gotten there in time to put out the fire, but there didn't seem to be anything else necessary for him to do. But, how could he have missed gunshots, screams?
"Maybe he simply didn't hear them," he offered, somewhat lamely in Lois' opinion.
"Right, Clark. Whatever."
"No, really. He told me his superhearing is somewhat — selective. If the girls weren't screaming very loudly, he might not have known they were there."
"Well, we'll have to get an interview with him soon." Lois' eyes got that dreamy look Clark hated. "Maybe over dinner, or dancing, or…"
"Lois, get real. All he did was put out a fire. If he had seen anything suspicious, don't you think he would have checked it out?"
"You think?" She was still eating chocolate covered strawberries on the ceiling with a red cape wrapped around her.
"It makes sense, Lois. Think about it." This was really too much. She almost ran into a fire hydrant without seeing it, she was daydreaming so hard.
"I guess," she sighed. "I must be…lucky…that he always manages to save me, huh?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "Well, Lois, you have fallen off your share of buildings," he pointed out, not exactly sweetly.
"Ha, ha," she said, not amused. "Anyway, here we are."
The store was a complete wreck. The police had blocked off the area with yellow police tape, but there was no guard at the time. "Our tax dollars at work," Lois muttered.
"Well, at least we can get in without having to do anything rash," Clark said.
How boring! Lois sniffed inwardly. Doesn't he see the excitement in a little illegal breaking and entering? Lois rolled her own eyes heavenward. They carefully opened the door, waiting for loose boards to fall on top of them.
"Look for anything unusual…cards, fabric, letters…"
"Yes Lois, I know the routine."
She gave him a dirty look and began to poke around. Clark dug around in the filing cabinet. It was locked, but he had little problem forcing the door open. Lois sifted through papers on the desk. They were singed, but still readable.
"Good thing Superman got here when he did, or we'd have nothing to go on," she mentioned.
"Can I help?"
The two spun around, both of them sure they were caught, one of them trying to find a way to fly them out of there with no one getting suspicious. But it was just Morgan, standing in the doorway and looking like she knew she wasn't suppose to be there.
"What are you doing here?" Lois demanded. "You're supposed to be home, sleeping and watching TV and all that. Where's Jimmy?"
Morgan sighed. "I know, I know. But I couldn't just sit there and not DO anything. I sent Jimmy home — he was staring at me a little too much. Besides, Lois, you have a lousy movie collection." She grinned wickedly.
"Thanks a lot," Lois said, but she smiled. "I guess since you're here you can help us look, don't you think, Clark?"
"OK, but remember to be careful. There may still be loose boards around." There weren't, though. He had already checked that out before he and Lois entered. Still, it would have sounded funny if he hadn't said it.
Morgan grinned. "Yes, Dad."
The trio looked around some more. They were just about to give up when Morgan held up a thick binder.
"Could this help?" she asked. "It looks like financial records of some kind."
Lois stared at the book incredulously. "People don't still write down all their records, do they?" she wondered. "Have they never heard of computers? This is practically primeval!"
"Believe it or not, Lois, not everyone has embraced technology as eagerly as you have," Clark observed dryly.
"Well, we might as well take them," Lois sighed. "You never know. We can run them to Accounting and get Max to look at them Besides," she crossed to a back door, opening it. "It'll give Morgan something to…" She froze.
"Give me what, Lois?" Morgan teased. "Lois?"
"There's a…a body here, " Lois whispered, backing up rapidly. She crashed into Clark and grabbed his arm. "Look at him," she whispered. "What did they DO to him?"
Morgan glanced at the body then turned away, feeling a little green. The man's body was riddled with gun shots. What once was white hair was now a sticky mass plastered to his forehead.
Lois started towards the body but Clark held her back.
"Clark, let me go," she said struggling. "I want to see if there's anything important there!"
"Lois," Clark said gently, holding firmly to her arm. "Do you really want to go closer to that?"
Lois took another look at the body. "Uh, no. No. Let's just call the police and phone in the story, shall we?"
"Morgan, are you OK?" Lois asked. They were back at Lois' apartment. Clark had gone to tell Superman about the body and then to the Daily Planet office to get his research on the store — Elliot's' General Supply Store. He had offered to stay with the girls but Lois had sent him on his way.
"Are you sure?" he had asked, his eyes searching Lois'. He was worried about Morgan, but there wasn't really anything else he could do.
"Go, Clark. Superman needs to know about Ann and this man, and we have to have your research. There's got to be a reason for all of this." Her reporter instincts were kicking in. Clark left, but not without several warnings to be careful and a secret promise to check in on them.
Now that the girls were alone, Lois was concerned. Morgan seemed to have retreated a little. It must have really been a shock to see that, Lois thought, especially after Ann.
"No, really, I'm fine," sighed Morgan. "I just can't quite get the picture out of my mind."
"It was pretty bad, wasn't it?" Lois shook her head trying to clear the unsettling images from her mind. She got up, rummaged in the freezer, and brought a carton of ice cream (chocolate, of course) and two spoons back to the couch. Morgan absently dug in, lost in thought.
"Mmmm?" (through a mouthful of chocolate.)
"I'm really glad you're here," Lois said. "I would hate to have to spend the night alone here — if I were you, that is," she said, thinking that this would give Morgan the chance to open up a little.
Morgan nodded. "It's nice to have someone to talk to," she agreed. They ate in silence for a while. "I miss Ann," Morgan said sadly. "She's really the only person I've kept up with from college. We weren't that close, but she was a link to the past, you know. We did talk a lot, but just silly stuff — guy problems, the like."
Lois groaned almost inaudibly. Guy problems, she thought. You have NO idea…she shook her head.
Morgan settled back into the couch. "Who do you chitter chat with?" she asked.
Lois looked at her, surprised. "Who do I do what with?"
Morgan grinned. "Chitter chat! You know, girl stuff. Who's your best pal?"
"Well," Lois replied, nonplused. "Clark's my best friend, and there's a couple of other people, but … why do you ask?" And why am I having such a hard time answering?
Morgan smiled a little shyly. "It's just that I only moved here a month ago and I've just lost the one friend I imported in, and we weren't that close to begin with. I really need someone to talk to about… things. and I don't know anyone. I feel really comfortable with you…" she stopped.
Lois looked at her. Morgan suddenly seemed so alone. "Well," Lois said as she plopped down on the couch next to her. "You have to realize that I'm bossy, competitive, and not exactly the nicest person in the world. I also happen to have tons of popcorn and When Harry Met Sally, the best movie ever made." She grinned.
"So," Morgan said, grinning herself. "you think this will work? After all, it's not everyone who chooses to hide in a trash can for fun!" The women fell back in peals of laughter, almost knocking the ice cream onto the floor. Superman hovered outside the window, watching. He smiled — good for Lois, he thought as he flew away.
Exactly where he was going, he didn't know. He wondered briefly if he should stay, guard Lois (and Morgan too, of course) but then he remembered the almost psychic link between Lois and himself. That is, he thought, at least on my side. He wondered (it seemed to be for the hundredth time) if other people — humans — felt that connection with the people they cared about. Mom and Dad seem to always know what each other is thinking, but…he shook his head. They had been married forever, and you would have to expect that. With Lois, I feel kind of protective. I've always been able to save her, to keep her from danger (when she lets me, that is.) But, of course, that's just when I'm being Superman. There's more to it than that. I know when she's happy, angry, distracted, babbling, or going off on some random idea of hers. Even fighting with her is fun, at least when it's not about us.
He banked left as the Daily Planet offices came into view. Does she know the same about me? His brow furrowed in thought. Does she feel this link too, or is it just the "Super" part of me? One day I'll ask her, but not now. I'm not ready.
He landed on the top of the Daily Planet building and let himself in. He considered changing, but decided against it. What was the point?
"Superman!" It was Perry, coming around the corner. "What a surprise! Lois and Clark aren't here, although Clark is supposed to be coming shortly to pick up some research."
"I know, sir. I'm going to get it for him — he's gone home, probably to bed. Did he tell you about the body they found?"
Perry looked grim. "Yes, it turned out to be Mark Elliott, the owner of the store. I just talked to the police and they have a positive ID. I don't like this. His store's been around for years. I'm also worried about Morgan. That girl's seen a lot in the past couple days. But," he glanced slyly at Superman, "she can talk to Lois, right?"
Superman grinned. "Last I saw them they were gorging on chocolate ice cream and talking about movies."
Perry laughed. "Good for them. Morgan needs that, and for that matter, so does Lois. She keeps to herself too much, that one. Well, anyway," he handed Superman a thin manila folder. "Here's Clark's research. I'm going home to Alice. She's been waiting supper and I think the lecture I'm going to get will be worse than when Priscilla caught Elvis…"
"Sorry, Perry, I've got to go," Superman interrupted hastily. That was one definite drawback to this secret identity thing — having to listen to the same Elvis stories for the umpteenth time.
"Sure, sure, I understand. Go and get some sleep — if you do that, that is."
"Don't worry, I will," Superman called as he floated out the window.
The next day saw Lois, Morgan, and Clark at the office gathered around a skinny awkward looking man.
"Well, Max?" Lois demanded. "What have you found?"
Max looked at her nervously and smiled. Maybe grimaced is a better word. He had heard tales of Lois' quick impatience when she couldn't get a straight answer and, to tell the truth, he had always been a little afraid of her. He cleared his throat, adjusted his tie, looked as if he thought that Mars would be a preferable place than here.
"Well, Ms. Lane," he stammered. "Well, I looked through the books and noticed that a lot of checks had been written to one company: Actel Inc. This company doesn't seem to have anything to do with a small store like Elliott's." He looked nervously at Lois, who (truth be told) was tapping her foot. "Actel accounts for about 25% of the store's checks. Also, the dollar amounts of these checks are larger than a store this size has any right to be writing. There's no way they're pulling in the profits these books say they are."
"I know it's possible to change the numbers for a while and not get caught," Clark said. "But don't they have to be audited by the IRS?"
Max shook his head. "Not necessarily, and if you're a clever enough bookkeeper you can get away with stealing money for years."
Lois frowned. "So, you think that Mark Elliott was killed for stealing from his own store?"
"No, not exactly. Look here," and Max bent over one of the ledger pages. "These checks aren't written for random amounts, but a set amount over a set period of time, almost like payments."
"Or like blackmail," Morgan suggested.
Max smiled at her. "Yes, it could be that. The thing is, we don't know, and we're not likely to find out from these books either. I would say your best bet, short from stealing their bank records," he laughed here, then saw the look in Lois' eyes and wished he hadn't. "That is, the best thing for you to do is talk to them directly. Here's their address, but anymore I can't help you with."
"Thanks, Max, we'll do that." Clark had also seen the look in Lois' eyes at the mention of the bank records. He grabbed her arm and steered her away.
"Careful Clark, this is silk!" she exclaimed.
He parked her in front of her desk, folded his arms, and glared at her.
"Don't even think about it, Lois. Stealing bank records is a Federal offense, and I don't think Perry could get you out of it, and I'm certainly not going to help you get INTO trouble like that."
"Clark, I don't even know what you're talking about," Lois huffed. "The thought never even crossed my mind!"
Clark just looked at her.
"Well, OK, it did. But only briefly, I promise."
Clark picked up the paper with Actel's address. "We should be able to visit Actel today. It looks pretty close," he said.
Lois nodded. "That's a good idea. Morgan, why don't you and Jimmy go try to get some more of Mark Elliott's background. Read Clark's file again — there must be something there."
Morgan nodded. "What will you be doing?"
"We have to get a little background on Actel before we go there," Clark explained. "Once we know a little about the company, we'll know what to ask."
They drove to Actel in Lois' car.
"So," he asked. "How did you and Morgan do last night?"
"What did you do?"
"This and that."
Clark smiled. This was frustrating, but fun. "Talk much, Lois?"
"As a matter of fact, yes!" Lois almost snapped, but she saw Clark's unsuccessful attempts at hiding a smile. "I'm sorry, we were up late," she replied more softly. "We talked about movies, people…you know, stuff."
Clark glanced out the window. "Scardino?"
"He didn't come up."
"Neither did you, if you're wondering," she said pointedly.
After a moment's silence, Clark mused, "She seems to be pretty nice."
"What did you say you talked about?"
Lois sighed in exasperation. "You know, Clark, it's really unbecoming for you to poke and pry like this. Your journalistic skills do NOT fall over into my private life!"
"Oh, sorry Lois, I was just wondering." It was not said kindly, but Clark was smiling.
"Besides," Lois pointed out. "I don't ask you what you and your friends talk about, do I?"
Clark looked at her incredulously. "Do you ever! Not in so many words, but you definitely want to know!"
"Really, Clark, what do I care what a bunch of …
Clark groaned audibly. "Lois, give up. You haven't used 'farm boy' to describe me in over a year now. You've lost and you may as well admit it."
"Oh, look.," she said brightly. "We're here!"
Actel was housed in a huge grey mammoth of a building. There seemed to be a minimal amount of security, but, like Lois said, it was nothing they had never seen before.
"Tell me again about this place," Lois asked quietly as they approached.
"It's an electronics and communications firm. They supply various companies, but none of them are huge."
"Then how can they afford the overhead on a place like this?" Lois wondered. Clark didn't have a chance to answer, though. They were at the door.
Surprisingly enough, they had little trouble getting in to the building. Lois marked it up to their (read: her) reputations as investigative journalists. Clark was inclined to be a little suspicious, however. It was just too easy. When Lois wasn't looking, he quickly scanned as much of the reception room as he could, but didn't see anything suspicious. Of course, he didn't know exactly what to look for. The cool-looking receptionist didn't seem to be offering much help.
"My name is Lois Lane, and this is my partner, Clark Kent. We're from the Daily Planet," Lois announced.
The receptionist, a Ms. Rees, just looked at her. "And… ?" she asked in exactly the same tone Jimmy used when he was smarting off at her.
Clark came up beside Lois and smiled his most charming smile. After all, if he had learned one thing from Lois, it was to use what you've got! "We were hoping to be able to talk to one of your finance officers — perhaps Mr. Gentry?"
Ms. Rees softened visibly to Clark. Lois groaned — this was too much!
"As a matter of fact, I think he's in the office now," she said brightly. "If you'd care to come this way?" She led them into a well-lit waiting room, knocked on the double doors at the end, and entered.
"What was that?" Lois asked. "One look from you and she melts?"
"Well, Lois," Clark teasingly replied. "If you've got it, you've got it!"
Ms. Rees opened the inner office doors. "You can come in now, if you'd like. He's on the phone, but he should be off in a minute."
Clark thanked her as Lois led the way into the office. Mr. Gentry was indeed on the phone, but it looked as if he was more than ready to hang up.
"Yes dear, I'll certainly try to…" he said exasperatedly into the phone, gesturing them to sit down. "No honey, I don't think that's possible right now.. yes, I know there's a time limit, but if you really think I'm hiring a mariachi band for your sweet sixteen then you need to sit down and think some more. I have to work now. I'll talk to you tonight." He hung up the phone and shook his head. "Do you have children?" he asked the two of them.
Lois and Clark looked at each other laughing a little. "No, sir," Lois replied. "We're partners — reporters with the Daily Planet."
"Well, when you do have them, don't promise your daughter anything she wants for her Sweet Sixteen party!" Mr. Gentry was clearly at the end of his rope. "It wasn't enough to buy her a million new dresses, a new car, and reserve the country club for the entire weekend. Now she has to have three different bands so they'll 'have a good mix of music, Daddy!' Arrgh!" He hid his face in his hands, sighed, and looked at them. "I'm sorry about that. I just keep thinking that however expensive this is going to be, her wedding will be worse. Now, how can I help you?"
"We're investigating the truck explosion downtown last night," Clark said.
"Oh, yes," Gentry said. "It was some little dime store, wasn't it?"
"Elliott's General Supply," Lois said slowly. "I would think you'd remember, since your company does business with them."
Gentry laughed. "We do business with a lot of small stores, and frankly they're all the same — struggling to make their monthly payments, always ready with an excuse. But let me pull up Elliott's record for you and we can get a better idea of what we did for them, not to mention what they probably owe us." He turned to a small computer terminal on his desk and typed for a minute. Lois shifted her chair so she could get a clear, yet discreet, view of the screen.
"OK, here we are," Gentry said. "It seems as if we did a little maintenance work for them."
"Maintenance work?" Clark asked.
"Phone systems, the like. That's a sideline of ours. We supply the systems and offer a sort of care package for the small business owner, " Gentry explained. "It brings in a little money and we don't generally have to do much actual maintaining."
"How much does it bring in?" Lois asked. She had a good view of the numbers on the screen and they seemed a little high for simple maintenance.
"Well, the average contract runs between $50 and $300 a month. Generally the larger the store, the more expensive the maintenance." He frowned at the screen. "It seems that Elliott's was running about $100 a month, so that would explain why we're in his books." He smiled at the reporters. "Anything else I can help you with?"
Lois quickly stood up. "No, thank you, I think that's all. Have a nice day." She shook his hand, glared meaningfully at Clark, and strode out the door.
Clark rushed to catch up. "Lois, what are you doing?"
"Clark, he was lying," she whispered excitedly. "Don't you remember the amount of the checks Elliott was writing to Actel? It was a lot more that $100 a month!"
Clark nodded, confused. "Well, yes, but shouldn't we have asked him about that?"
"Come on, Clark, do you think he would have told us the truth?" Lois demanded. "I saw the screen, and the number he was reading was definitely *not* on it. The amount in the checkbook had a few extra digits, if it was supposed to be $100."
Clark nodded. "You're right, but why would Elliott pay all that extra money to Actel for 'maintenance' if he wasn't making that much to begin with? It doesn't make sense…"
"Unless," Lois broke in excitedly, "unless Elliott's isn't a real store at all but just a cover — no, that's not the word — a front for something Actel is doing. Then, if Elliott had messed up somehow, by lying or skimming a little off the top, Actel would feel justified in trying to kill him."
Clark considered this as they climbed into the car. By common consent, he was driving today. "OK, but that brings up the question of how deep does this run in Actel. Is it just Mr. Gentry and a few others or is the entire corporation corrupt? And what about Trident Lumber and Trucom? Are they in it, too?"
Lois frowned, watching the scenery scroll by. "I don't know, but we'll have to find out." She sighed and wriggled more comfortably into her seat. "In the meantime, I'm starving. How about some food?"
"OK, " Clark said. "I think there's a small Chinese place around here. I seem to remember passing it on the way up — oh, there it is."
They drove through, got some fried rice, dim sum, and everything else a body could want for lunch and decided to have a picnic in the beautiful day. Clark drove until he found a small park with lots of shady trees where they could rest. Not to mention have a little privacy, he thought to himself. It had been a long time since he and Lois had spent any time together away from work and he was missing the chance to just talk to her.
They settled on a comfortable rise, stretching out on the small space Clark's jacket provided. Lois leaned back, stretching her face to the warm sun. "Mmmm," she said quietly. "It's so nice to get away for a while."
Clark watched her, enjoying the look of absolute pleasure on her face. Well, that and the beautiful picture she made. He slid a little closer to her and leaned back himself. "Yep," he agreed. "It certainly is." They stayed like that for a while, side by side, relaxed and easy in the sun. Clark noticed Lois' eyelids drooping a little as she blinked slowly. It was no surprise when she slumped on his shoulder and promptly fell asleep. He smiled at her and, ever so gently, adjusted her so that she lay on the grass beside him. Now he could look at her full in the face, examine the way her eyelashes fell on her cheek, the gentle curve of her lips. The very sight of her was enough to make him giddy for the rest of the day. He brushed her hair off of her forehead, reveling in its soft texture. If only we could be like this every day, he thought. Then I think the world would be just fine… He too fell asleep.
Lois woke up to find herself cradled in Clark's arms, her head resting on his chest. She didn't want to move for fear of waking him up, but a small twinge of guilt spurred her on. After all, this was company time they were sleeping away. She slid out of his arms, noting again how strong they were and, with a little thrill, how he seemed to notice her absence, even in his sleep. He frowned and shifted slightly as if reaching for something. She patted his arm to soothe him, thought about moving her hand, and was mildly surprised to see that it had moved of its own accord. To his chest. His chest that was very smooth and strong and basically everything all good male chests should strive to be. She caressed it lightly, liking the way it felt beneath her fingers. He seemed so vulnerable in his sleep, she mused. Not child-like, but more — open — than when he was awake. She settled down next to him again, to better study the contours of his face (contours that were very studiable) and follow this train of thought. Clark was open with her, that was the thing. After all, he was her partner. More than that, he was her best friend. Still, there was something she could never quite figure out about him, something he seemed to keep hidden back. Their one true date had been wonderful, except that she had ruined it by slamming the door in his face in a moment of panic. She knew now that she had been afraid to take that step and change their relationship. Would it work? she questioned herself. I mean, will we work? There's still Superman to think about, although her feelings for him were changing, too. I don't think I really love him like I thought I loved him. I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, flying, dancing… but what then?
She smiled ruefully. After all, what kind of history did she have with him anyway? Dinner, a few dances, a few kisses — now those were something to remember. But, she and Clark had kissed too, and those kisses were just as memorable. Better, in fact, she realized, her head jerking up. Kissing Superman was like kissing a dream — you never knew when he would disappear, off to save the world. She looked back at the sleeping Clark and smoothed his hair. Clark was always there for her when she needed him. Even when she didn't realize that she needed him until after he came, he somehow knew. And that was just as comforting as the chocolate ice cream Sarah had compared him to, except better because he was warm, and caring, and genuinely concerned about her. She laughed quietly, careful not to wake him. Sarah's chocolate-vs.-rocky- road analogy had impressed her at the time, but now she decided that it was the stupidest thing she had ever heard. After all, you CAN put whipped cream, and cherries, and syrup, and marshmallow cream on Clar—on CHOCOLATE! She stopped THAT thought quickly. Don't go there, my girl, she scolded herself. Not now.
Clark stirred. She sat up quickly, adjusting any bits of wayward clothing she happened to catch. His eyelids fluttered beneath his glasses and slowly opened. They fixed on her steadily, with no surprise, only warmth and something unreadable. She leaned closer, bending over his chest, to try and see what his eyes were saying. His hand grasped the back of her neck and pulled her closer. She closed her eyes, allowed him to bring her even closer. She could feel his breath on her face. "Oh Clark," she whispered, and they kissed.
The kiss was wonderful. Her lips felt so soft against his, her body so right. He broke the kiss gently, but kept his hand entwined in her hair, gazing into her eyes. She looked a little shaken, but completely adorable. Her face was slightly flushed, her hair disheveled, and her eyes were shining.
"Hi," he said softly.
"Hi," she answered, just as softly.
They kissed again briefly. Lois couldn't believe the feelings that were swirling around in her. Chocolate? Oh no, this was much better than chocolate. This was ambrosia. She shivered as a cool breeze wafted over them. Clark sat up, pulling his jacket around her shoulders, considerate as always. He stood, pulling her off of the ground in one easy swoop. They held each other briefly, each enjoying the other's closeness.
Why is it so easy now? Clark wondered. All the times I've dreamed of doing this, and I fall asleep in a park and it's easy? He buried his face in Lois' chestnut hair, breathing in the clean scent of her. "Lois," he murmured.
She angled her head to look at him. "Yes?" she whispered.
He half-laughed. "Nothing. I just needed to reassure myself that you were here."
She smiled and snuggled closer to him. Ohhh, this felt good. She wished that they could stay like this forever, without having to meet sources, fight with Perry, go to.. PERRY! She jerked out of Clark's arms and stared at him with wide eyes.
"What is it, Lois?" he asked, trying to hide the hurt in his voice.
"Clark! We were supposed to meet Perry hours ago!"
Clark was confused. "What? You're thinking about work now?"
Lois shook her head as she grabbed his arm, pulling him to the car. "No, no, it just popped into my head. I was thinking…" she paused to enter the car and wait for Clark to get in. While she waited, she organized her thoughts. Careful, she warned herself. Don't be mean to him — you know how he feels about you, you've known that for a long time…
Clark closed his door and turned to face her, his expression totally closed. "You were thinking…?" he prodded.
Lois placed her hand on his (wonderfully strong) arm. "I was thinking how nice it was to be with you, to kiss you, and how much I wanted just to stay here and not have to go anywhere or meet anyone. And Perry — intruded." She looked pleadingly into his eyes, begging him to believe her.
He stared at her, hardly believing what he had just heard. She wanted to stay with him? No, that she actually admitted it to herself? That was the amazing part. He broke into a smile, planted a kiss on her mouth that left her breathless, and peeled out of the park.
She fell back into the seat, hard. Well! she thought. Who'd have known it was in him? Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she caught him looking at her and smiling. She laughed happily.
Perry was not pleased to see them when they finally made it back to the office.
"About time you two showed up," he growled. "I've been waiting all afternoon. What were you doing?"
He saw Lois' guilty flush as Clark answered.
"It took us longer at Actel than we had thought, Chief. Then we were hungry so we ate lunch."
Perry grunted. "For three hours you ate lunch?"
Lois chimed in. "It was a really — good — lunch, Perry." She glanced at Clark. "Very, um, satisfying."
"Well, I think you need to hear what Morgan and Jimmy found out about our Mark Elliott," Perry said gruffly. As he turned away from them to call Jimmy over, though, he was smiling. I'd bet my best Elvis 45's that they've been doing a little more than just eating! he thought to himself.
"JIMMY!!!!" he bellowed.
Jimmy came running. "Yeah Chief?"
"Go get Morgan and tell Lois and Clark about Mark Elliott."
"I'm right here, sir," Morgan said as she came up behind Jimmy. This had been an interesting, albeit long afternoon. She had spent half the time deep in research (which was interesting) and the other half fending off Jimmy's fumbling attempts at asking her out (which was cute, but really, he's barely 21!). She came aside Lois and squeezed her hand briefly in greeting.
"Well?" Perry asked.
Jimmy started. "It turns out that Mark Elliott was not exactly your friendly neighborhood shop owner. For the past few years he's owed money all over town to various bookies and loan sharks. Then, all of a sudden, he was able to pay them off."
"He didn't win the lottery or anything like that, though," Morgan interjected. "No one really knows where the money came from, only that he had a lot of it."
Lois frowned in thought. "It sounds as if he found the criminal equivalent of a Sugar Daddy."
Jimmy nodded eagerly. "Yeah, and that's what makes this so neat. One of your sources called, Lois. He said that there were rumors that Elliott had practically given his store over to Intergang in exchange for full payment of his debts."
"So I was right!" Lois exclaimed triumphantly. "His store was just a front! And Actel is part of Intergang!"
"Now, Lois, you don't have any proof yet," warned Perry. "And besides, you don't know how these other companies fit in."
"But they do, Perry," Lois insisted. She told him about what she and Clark had discovered at Actel and their theories. "If we can find any more evidence, then we'll have enough to go on!"
"No, you do not," Perry countered. He sighed at Lois' frustration. "IF you can find evidence that Actel has dealings with Intergang and IF you can prove that Elliott was mixed up in all this, THEN you and Clark have a story. Until then, you have nothing but unfounded rumors."
Lois glared at him.
"Rumors that have a lot of merit," Perry added. "But rumors and theories nonetheless."
Clark , Morgan, and Jimmy followed a storming Lois out of the office to her desk.
"Rumors!" she sniffed. "Theories!"
"Lois, Perry's right," Clark said. "We only saw part of Actel's records. We have no hard evidence of what we saw there, and no proof of anything wrong at all. The best we can do is to write a follow-up to the truck."
Jimmy looked a little embarrassed. "Uh, no, you can't." he stammered, backing up.
Lois turned to him. "And why not?"
Jimmy looked ready to flee. "Because I already did." He fled.
Lois glared after him, ready to explode when she heard the sounds of stifled giggles behind her. She slowly turned to face Morgan, who immediately burst out into gales of laughter.
"Oh, Lois!" she gasped mirthfully. "Your.. FACE!" She plopped down in the chair next to Lois' desk, holding her stomach as she laughed.
Lois turned to Clark for support and was miffed to see him snickering too.
"Well," she said witheringly. "It's nice to see my friends supporting me." She stood there listening to them laugh and caught her face twitching. Finally she gave in to the humor and giggled.
"My face…" she said, barely able to breathe from laughter. "Did you see Jimmy's?"
About a week later, Lois and Morgan were back at the apartment, trying to decide between pizza or delivered sub sandwiches for dinner.
"What about Chinese?" Morgan suggested.
Lois blushed. "Um, Clark and I had Chinese for lunch the other day," she said quickly.
Morgan looked at her, a glint in her eye. "Oh, yes," she said with a classic butter-wouldn't-melt-in-MY-mouth expression. "That three hour lunch that Perry was so upset about. Must have been REALLY good food for it to take three hours to make."
Lois immediately began rummaging noisily in the pantry. "Mm-hm," she answered.
"I mean, they must have been harvesting the rice or something!" Morgan was thoroughly enjoying herself. Seeing Lois squirm like this was definitely a treat. "Three hours! Wow," She shook her head and oh so casually leaned on the counter, where she could see Lois' face. Lois promptly moved to the refrigerator, muttering something about being thirsty. "You know, that must have been a BIG waste of time. I mean, the waiting, you know. It's just that there's so much you can do in three hours, don't you think, Lois?" she mused innocently.
There was a choking sound from the fridge. Morgan suppressed a smile. "As a matter of fact, come to think of it," she maliciously continued, "some of the best dates I ever had didn't last but three or four hours, but what wonderful three hours they were! It's actually amazing the things you can…"
Lois whirled around, slamming the fridge door into the counter in the process. "OK! OK! Stop it!" she exclaimed exasperatedly. "Sheesh, I thought I was a tough interviewer! You just never quit, do you?"
Morgan grinned and shook her head. "Nope. Not when it's as juicy as this apparently is."
Lois rolled her eyes and sat at the kitchen table. "OK, here's the story. You may as well sit down for it."
Morgan closed the fridge door and sat.
Lois sighed. "Clark and I have been …well, not exactly dating, but kind of SEEING each other, if you know what I mean. We had one great date, an even better kiss and nothing since then."
Morgan looked at her, wide-eyed. "Nothing? I could have sworn you two were a hot item, the way he looks at you."
Lois raised an eyebrow at that. "The way he looks at me? How does he look at me?"
"You know, all smoldering brown eyes and beating heart."
Lois smiled. Well good, she thought. "Well, we're not a 'hot item.' Not yet anyway. So, that day we went to Actel, which I told you about, and then we DID stop for lunch, but I don't think we actually ate much." She sighed, remembering. "It was such a beautiful day, and the park was so nice that we ended up falling asleep there."
"No, I'm serious, we did. But I somehow ended up asleep in his arms, which was really nice, and when I woke up, he looked so… so… "
"BUFF!" supplied Morgan excitedly.
Lois grinned. "OK, buff. But sweet and relaxed, too. Then he woke up and just looked at me and the next thing I know, we're kissing."
"KISSING?" shrieked Morgan.
"Yes, kissing. Haven't you heard of that yet? Get a grip!" Lois glared at the younger girl, willing her to cool it. Morgan subsided, but was still grinning widely.
"So," she demanded. "How was it?"
Lois sighed again. "Wonderful. Definitely wonderful. I could do that all day, I think… I wanted to, but then I remembered the meeting with Perry and we had to leave."
"Yuck. What wretched timing. So, you like him?" Morgan asked.
Lois smiled. "Yeah, I like him — a lot."
"You love him?" Morgan asked.
"I don't know. Maybe…"
"Does he love you?"
Lois stared at the girl. "What is this, Twenty Questions? I don't know that either! Well, maybe I do. I know he cares for me as more than just a friend but I haven't —"
Morgan looked at her with a disgusted expression. "Have you talked to him about this?"
"No, not really…"
"So, do it already!"
Lois groaned. "If we ever had any time together we would. And don't think I'M the one always rushing off when things get serious. THAT would be Clark. And it's not just then, either. Every time something exciting happens, he goes flying off to get help and leaves me with the job. Besides, Morgan, he's my best friend! What if we date and it doesn't work out, and I lose him totally?"
Morgan stood up and reached for the phone. "What if you don't date him and never find out how you feel?" She looked up the number for pizza (she was starving) and dialed. "I mean," she said as she listened for the restaurant to pick up, "What if you lose the love of your life before you even have it? Lois, there's — yes, hi, I'd like to order a large pepperoni pizza."
Lois sat there, half-listening to Morgan. This is nothing I haven't asked myself a million times already, she thought. Do I love him? I love being with him, that's for sure. She stood up. I don't want to think about this now, she said to herself. This will involve hours of thought — and gallons of ice cream — and, I think, maybe, Clark. "I'm going to take a shower," she called to Morgan, who was fighting with the pizza guy over the cost of the pizza and whether they delivered.
Lois stood in the shower with her eyes closed, letting the hot water stream the day's confusion away. She tried to push the memories of Clark away, but they kept coming back. Clark bringing her Chinese on that first day, Clark fighting with Trask, that awful day when she thought she had lost him, his smile, his laugh, his touch…his kiss. She smiled unconsciously. Oh yes, his kiss. And she HAD noticed the way he looked at her when he thought she couldn't see. The look in those puppy-dog eyes was unmistakable. This boy definitely wanted to be more than friends. Her eyes flew open. Well, damn it, so did she! She got dressed quickly and began to towel her hair. That does it, she thought. Mr. Kent and I are going to have a little chat — soon.
She faintly heard the doorbell buzz. "Pizza's here!" Morgan yelled.
"Go ahead and get it, " Lois called back. "There's some money on the mantel, and Morgan? Check the peephole!"
"Morgan?" Still no answer. Frowning, Lois wrapped the towel around her head and walked into the living room. Morgan was staring at something in the doorway.
"Morgan? What's wrong?" Lois began to ask, but froze as she felt something she all too readily recognized as a gun pressing into her back.
"Don't scream, Ms. Lane." A deep voice grated in her ear. She could feel his breath on her neck, sending chills down her spine. "Don't scream, don't call for Superman, don't move, unless you want your friend here blown apart all over your nice apartment. Nod if you're planning to be cooperative."
Lois nodded, desperately trying to think up a plan.
"Go on, get her out of here," Lois' captor said gruffly. A man appeared from the hall, grabbed Morgan and dragged her out of the room. She cast a glance back at Lois, her eyes wide and terrified.
"Now, Ms. Lane," Lois' gunman said smugly. He moved in front of her, keeping the gun pointed in her direction. "Let's talk about the truck explosion and the records you stole." He perched on the arm of her couch, wriggling around until he was perfectly comfortable. "You do know that stealing is against the law, don't you? I think that we'll have to — HEY!" Lois, taking advantage of his momentary distraction, kicked the gun out of his hand. Before he had a chance to react, she delivered a solid roundhouse kick to his head, knocking him onto the couch. "Hey, you, don't think that you…" The thug struggled to get up from the couch but was knocked back down as Lois smashed a lamp on his head. He fell back and lay still.
Lois ran to the door, hoping to catch Morgan, but it was too late. As she stood in the doorway, she heard a screeching outside and hurried to the window, just in time to see a nondescript van pulling away. Lois grabbed her binoculars, but was too late to catch the tag number. "Oh, no," she whispered. Her mind reeling, she snatched up the phone and, almost without realizing it, dialed Clark's number.
"Clark! You've got to get over here right away! Some thugs just grabbed Morgan and I need your help!"
"Lois, I'm on my way," Clark said anxiously. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Hurry! And call Superman!" She slammed down the phone, picked it up again and dialed the police.
Lois was sitting at the kitchen table talking to a police officer when Clark made it to her apartment. Police were all over the place — dusting for fingerprints, examining the smashed lamp, and, as Clark entered the door, dragging a handcuffed and obviously furious man away. The man glared venomously at Lois, who gave it right back and then some.
"Lois, are you all right?" Clark asked anxiously, kneeling down by her chair to get a better look at her. She looked like she had been crying, but he knew better than to mention it. "Did he hurt you at all?"
The police officer, Sergeant Stone, smiled. "Your friend here took good care of him. Knocked him right cold, she did. Embarrassed him a little too, I'd say."
"Yeah, well, a lot of good it did me," Lois muttered. "They still got Morgan, didn't they?" She dropped her head in her hands.
Clark had never seen her like this. Even when things were really bad, she had never been as depressed as she was now. He gently put his arm around her shoulder. "Lois, you can't save everybody," he said. She just stared at the table despondently.
Sergeant Stone rose. "Well Ms. Lane, I think we're done for now. If you could come by the station tomorrow we'd much appreciate it."
Lois nodded, not looking up. Clark escorted the police to the door, locked all three locks, and went back to the table.
"Clark," Lois said softly. He immediately lifted her from the chair and enfolded her in his arms, giving her all the support he had in him. She rested there, taking comfort in the safety of his embrace. "Why didn't Superman come? Didn't you call him?"
Clark's mind raced. He had almost come over in the suit, but for some reason decided against it. "I told him what happened and he's keeping an eye out. But, Lois, you didn't give me much information to go on." He hated the lie, but Lois needed him with her now, not Superman. At least, he tried to convince himself of that.
Lois told him the story, including the mysterious van. She held him tighter during the bad parts and he could feel her drawing strength from him.
"Clark, please don't leave yet," she whispered into his chest." I don't think I could take it." She began to cry, hating the exhaustion that drove her to this point.
"I'd never leave you, Lois," Clark assured her. "Not when you needed me." Not when I could have helped you, kept you from this. If only I had known… He guided her to the couch and forced her to sit down. She leaned against him, resting for a moment. Clark held her close, waiting for her to relax, fall asleep, jump up, anything but this strange lassitude. He didn't like to see her like this. She seemed almost defeated. Finally, he decided that he needed to get her jump started.
"Come on, Lois," he said, roughly dragging her up from the couch. "We're going to do something about this. Maybe Superman has found out something." And then, maybe not. His lie, perhaps the worst one he had told yet, was pressing tight around him. How could he get out to find Morgan when Lois needed him?
"Clark," Lois said with renewed energy. "I'm going to the Planet and call my sources. They should be able to keep an eye out for the truck. Maybe Bobby Bigmouth has heard something."
He nodded. "Do you want me to go with you?"
She shook her head decisively. "No, I'll be OK. What I want you to do is get hold of Superman and tell him everything — the van, the men, everything. He'll have a better chance at doing something if he knows the details."
"Lois, at least let me take you to the office," he insisted. "I don't want you going there by yourself. I don't want you going there at all!"
"Clark, what else can I do?" she asked helplessly. "I couldn't help her here in my own home — I need to do something!"
He looked at her for a minute, then decided. "Lois, why don't we go to Actel. That's the only link we have to the truck and Elliott's." After all, he thought, THIS time I'll be with her and nothing can happen. He shuddered briefly, thinking of what could have happened an hour earlier.
"OK, fine," she said. "Let's go." She grabbed her bag and headed for the door.
"Lois," Clark said.
Lois looked down. She was still wearing her pajama top and a pair of ratty shorts, grabbed from the clothes hamper while the police were on their way. She blew her breath out in frustration and stormed back to change. While she was gone, Clark used his telescopic vision to zoom in on the street where the van had been. He thought he saw a sheet of paper, but it was too far for even him to see clearly, at least without concentrating more than he could at the moment. He would have to remember to pick it up when they left.
Lois came back, more suitably dressed for an evening of breaking and entering. "Come on!" she said, grabbing his arm.
It was near midnight when they finally made it to Actel. Lois pulled the Jeep up just to the outside of Actel's property and shut off the engine. They sat there for a minute in silence.
"Clark," Lois whispered. "We need to get inside."
He nodded. "But how?"
Lois opened her door. "No way to find out until we get up there. Come on."
They crept around to the back of the building. Clark used his X-ray vision to see through the doors into the hall.
"No one's there," he whispered.
"What?" Lois turned to him sharply. "How can you tell that?"
"I, ah, I don't think anyone's there," Clark covered quickly. "It's a little late, I would think."
"Yeah, well, we better be careful anyway," Lois said. "You never know, there might be a guard or something." She began to fumble with the lock in an attempt to pick it. Clark held the flashlight for her, but kept his ears tuned for suspicious sounds.
"Lois, listen!" he whispered. She stopped, having learned to trust his odd instincts. They listened for a minute.
"Clark, I don't hear anything," she whispered back, then she heard them. The footsteps were coming through the grass towards them. Clark grabbed her and they quickly hid in the bushes next to the door, peering out through the branches.
Morgan was being shoved forward by a huge man dressed in black. He pushed her roughly to the wall, holding her there at gun point. It looked like she had been beaten up a little — there were bruises on her face and her clothes were torn. She was gasping for breath and glaring furiously at her kidnapper.
More men with guns came around the corner. Lois recognized the leader as Frankie Trublood, one of Intergang's main operatives. She strained to see what was going on but couldn't without moving closer and betraying their hiding space. Clark held her arm gently, calming her down.
"Well, Miss Lee," the burly man said. "Before we take you to your new home," The other men laughed, "Mr. Gentry wants to know exactly what you saw at the store?"
Morgan didn't say anything.
"Come on," Trublood said gruffly. "I don't want to have to kill you here, not in this unappealing setting." When she still didn't answer, he strode forward and slapped her hard. Lois started in the bushes, trying to go after her, but Clark held her back. She struggled with him briefly then froze as a branch snapped loudly under her feet.
Trublood's head whipped around. "CJ! Go check those bushes out!" he snapped.
"Yes sir," one of the men said and began hunting in the bushes close to where Lois and Clark hid.
"Come on," Trublood growled. "Take her to the truck." The rest of men followed as Morgan was pushed to a truck that pulled up a few feet away.
Lois looked anxiously at Clark, beseeching him to do something. Clark thought a minute. "Keep an eye on Morgan," he whispered. When Lois looked away, he used his super-heat vision to burn a hole in the man's shoe, singing his feet. CJ jumped back in pain, muttered something about critters being in the bushes, and limped towards the truck.
"What did you do?" Lois whispered.
"Nothing, really," Clark answered. "A mouse found him before I could do anything. Look, they're leaving."
"Come on, let's follow." They waited until the truck pulled out, then ran to the Jeep. Lois jumped in the driver's seat and started the engine. She left the lights off and pulled out as Clark climbed into the passenger seat. The truck could barely be seen ahead of them as they wound their way through the dark night. Clark lowered his glasses slightly and peered out. With his acute vision he could see better than Lois and gave her whispered directions.
"Clark, how can you see them?" Lois asked.
"I can barely make out their taillights, but I can see them."
She glanced at him, frowning. "Hmph. Those glasses must be good for something, I guess." They followed the truck to a huge warehouse outside of town. Lois pulled over on the side of the road and they slipped into the night. The men were taking Morgan inside the building.
Lois and Clark tiptoed up to the door and pressed against it, trying to hear what was happening inside. Clark looked through the door and saw the men disappear behind a large stack of boxes. He waited, but didn't see anyone else.
"I think we can go in now," he whispered. "I don't hear anything, do you?"
Lois shook her head. She pushed the door open and they slipped inside.
It was dark, dank, and gloomy inside the warehouse. Lois and Clark crept around the stacks of boxes and crates, walking carefully. Their brush with CJ had taught them a good lesson — silence is indeed golden. Finally they heard voices. Lois dropped down on her knees and peered around the corner. She saw Morgan tied to a chair (a random thought about how these guys could have been a little more creative wandered through her head, probably spurred by all the times she had been tied to chairs). Lois gestured for Clark to come behind her and look. He leaned over her shoulder and watched as Trublood pulled out an overflowing key ring.
"Well, Miss Lee, this is your last chance," he said menacingly. "What do you and Lane and Kent know?"
Morgan just stared at him defiantly. I will NOT tell him and lose two more friends! she thought.
Lois looked back at Clark and jerked her head to the side, motioning him to back up. He did and she pointed upwards. He followed her eyes to the catwalk above them. Oh no, Lois, you're not going up there, he thought, and grabbed her arm. She glared at him and he glared just as hard back. He sighed, pointed to himself, then to her, then to the catwalk. Comprehension dawned in her eyes and she nodded. They slipped back and to the side, looking for the stairs up. Lois found them first and began to climb, Clark close behind her. This way, he thought, I can catch her if she falls. He climbed slowly, scanning the entire way for rusted metal that might collapse under their weight.
They made it to the top without incident and crawled across to where Morgan was being held. Clark kept getting distracted by the sight of Lois in front of him, and finally stopped crawling. This is ridiculous! he scolded himself. Get a grip, Kent! He shook his head and continued the trek across the catwalk.
Lois, moving fast, was already in the middle. She glanced back at him, frowned at how far behind he had fallen, and gestured for him to get over there, NOW! As she did so, the section of walk below her groaned slightly. She froze. Clark scurried across to grab her, but got caught on an errant railing. He saw Lois' eyes grow wider as the framing groaned again and began to sag.
"Lois!" he whispered hoarsely. "Get moving!"
She seemed to jump a little and began to crawl backwards. Clark jerked hard at the railing that was holding him up, ripped his shirt, and headed over to catch her. It was too late. The frame holding Lois collapsed in a shriek of metal and she fell down. Clark zoomed over to her and grabbed her hand through the hole in the walk. He pulled her up enough so that he could grasp her arms, but was prevented by doing more by the mesh they had been walking on. It had bent down and was now blocking any way he could have pulled Lois up. He glanced over the edge and could see the men below peering up into the gloom, looking for the source of the screeching sound.
"Clark, pull me up!" Lois whispered, her voice shaking. She was in very real danger now and she knew it.
"I can't, Lois," Clark whispered back. "There's not enough room. Let me think."
"CLARK!" A louder whisper, tears in the voice.
Clark was afraid to crawl over the gaping hole. If he fell through he would be OK, but there was no guarantee of Lois' safety. Besides, the men were beginning to explore the catwalks, shining lights up from below. He thought a minute, threw the consequences out the window, and hovered above the catwalk. He switched his hands' position on her arms so that he was holding her from outside the railing and could move her easily. She whimpered as she felt him briefly let go of one arm.
"Trust me, Lois," he whispered. "Do exactly as I tell you. Don't look up, don't look down."
She nodded, eyes closed against the fall she was sure would come. Her arms were screaming from the pain of dangling like this and she didn't know how much longer she could take it without crying out.
Clark continued floating to the side, pulling Lois along with him. They were away from the hole now, and he could pull her above the railing, if he could stand up. That, however, he could not do, not without attracting unwanted attention. If he stood up, he would have to literally haul her over the side as she clambered on the rails and that would be far too noisy. He sighed, willed her to keep her eyes closed and not think about what was going on, and floated up.
Lois felt the gentle pull as she was carried upwards. How is he doing this? a part of her wondered. He must have really been working out lately. Further thoughts were stopped by the welcome feel of floor beneath her feet. Catwalk floor, yes, but floor nonetheless. She opened her eyes and turned to see Clark right behind her. She wanted to rush into his arms, but he frowned no and pointed behind him. She peered into the gloom and saw the pinholes of flashlights bobbing up the stairs towards them. She looked at Clark, nodded, and began along the catwalk again.
Clark put a hand on her shoulder firmly, stopping her. He moved in front and went first, testing the floor well before letting her cross. I should have done this before, he chided himself. If I hadn't been — distracted — she might not have fallen. He lowered his glasses and X-rayed the walk ahead of him, picking out the sturdiest way across.
They made it to the other side without incident and crept down the stairs. They were now a lot closer to Morgan, but this time were behind Trublood and the rest of the Intergang goons. Trublood, unaware of their presence, pulled a key off his key chain and gave it to the lackey standing beside him.
"Go get the forklift," he said. The man grinned and ran off.
Forklift? What can you do with a forklift? Lois thought. She looked at Clark quizzically, but he shook his head to show he was just as confused. He pointed to the other side of the crates they were behind and conveyed through gestures that he was going to go over there and see what he could do. Lois nodded and returned her gaze to Morgan. She watched as the forklift pulled up behind Morgan and picked up the dolly her chair was resting on. She cried out as her chair almost fell off the lift.
"That's right, Miss Lee," Trublood said, grinning. "If you struggle, you'll fall and Danny here will run over you. If you don't struggle, you won't fall. But, you will get dropped into the biggest empty crate here, sealed up, and thrown into the Metropolis harbor." His voice became menacing. "So, you better SPEAK UP!"
"It's not nice to yell at ladies, Trublood."
Trublood turned around to see who was speaking. Superman was hovering directly behind him, cape and everything. Trublood quailed at the sight of him.
"Put Morgan down, Trublood, or I'll have to do something you might regret." Superman said in an almost friendly tone as he lifted Trublood off of the floor by his shirt collar.
"Dan—Danny!" Trublood croaked. "Turn off the engine!"
Superman turned around and picked Morgan off of the forklift. Lois silently cheered as her hero untied Morgan at superspeed. She jumped up and was shocked at the feel of a strong hand gripping her arm unkindly.
"Oh, Superman?" the voice attached to the hand called out. Lois craned her head around to see who had captured her — it was CJ. Superman turned quickly. "Superman, I've got your girlfriend here, and I think you'd better go away before something happens to her, don't you think?"
Superman folded his arms and asked, "What do you plan to do if I don't go away?"
"Huh?" CJ asked. Clearly his mental processes did not go that far.
"I mean," Superman said as he calmly picked Trublood up and floated to the ceiling with him. "What would you do if I didn't go away?" He hung Trublood on a crane hook, divested him of his gun, and floated down.
Lois glared at Superman, willing him to get on with it already. Really, this showing off was too much.
CJ blinked at the sight of his boss dangling up above him. He tried to think of what he would do and shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno," he said. "We were just told that if you came along, to grab Lois Lane and you wouldn't do anything."
Lois whipped her head around at that. "WHAT?" she exclaimed. "That's hardly fair!"
Superman grinned. "You're right, Lois, it isn't." He walked over, took the gun out of CJ's hand and hung him up next to his boss. The other men were rounded up quickly enough, tied together, and placed on the top of a large truck to stew. Then, with a wave to Lois, he flew away.
Lois ran to where Morgan was standing, her mouth agape. "Did you see that?" she asked Lois in an awed voice. "I mean, I've heard of Superman before, who hasn't, and I guess I always kind of believed in him, but to actually SEE him at work flying, and the way he wasn't scared a bit and how he just calmly rescued you and hung those awful men up…"
Lois grinned. It looked like she shared her babbling tendencies with someone else in the world. "Yeah, well, you get used to it," she lied. She still thrilled at the sight of his red, yellow, and blue costume soaring away. "Where's Clark?"
"Right behind you," he said, coming up to them.
Lois looked at him witheringly. "And where were you all this time?"
Clark grinned. "Well, Superman seemed to have things well in control, and I had already saved your life once tonight, so I thought I'd take a break."
Lois glared at him, remembered the catwalk, and changed the glare to a very big, very nice smile.
"You saved her life Clark?" Morgan asked. "How?"
Lois shook her head. "I'll tell you about it later."
It was several days later. Gentry had been nabbed by the police (who had a good time picking Trublood off of the crane, too!) and had made a full confession about Elliott's murder.
"So, Gentry was up to his eyeballs in this, huh?" Perry asked.
"It turned out that Elliott was running the biggest money-laundering scheme in Metropolis," Clark said.
"But, he wasn't running it well," laughed Lois. "The IRS was about to jump on him hard."
Morgan had moved out of Lois' apartment to move into a new one on the other side of town. Jimmy had finally gotten over his crush on her and was back on the prowl. Perry had even offered her a job as a roving reporter for the Planet, but she had turned it down.
"I really think," she had said, laughing, "I really think that the reporting should be left to those who know what they're doing. And that would be Lois and Clark, not me. Besides, I've had about enough excitement to last me the rest of my life!"
Clark had grinned. "You mean, no more dead bodies?"
"No more kidnappers posing as pizza delivery guys?" Lois chimed in.
"No more debriefings in the police headquarters?" That one from Jimmy.
Morgan shook her head hard. "No, no, NO! None of that anymore. The most exciting thing I want to do now is pick out wallpaper."
Lois leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Of course, you realize that this also means no more rescues from Superman!"
"Oh, I don't know, Lois," Morgan mused. "After all, I'm still friends with you, aren't I? That should count for something in the rescue department!"
That was all days ago. Tonight, it was very quiet in Lois' apartment. Quiet but for her hammering heart, that is. Clark was coming over for dinner, she was cooking, and she was extremely nervous. There was something important she had to ask him that had been bothering her for some time now. She had been wondering about the way he rescued her from the catwalk. The more she thought about it, (and she thought about it a lot) the more disturbed she was. It was just a little nagging thing, but the roads it led to were scary and she wasn't sure she wanted to go down them. At least, not alone.
The doorbell rang. She opened the door, and there was Clark. She practically melted at the sight of him. She just stood in the doorway, drinking him in.
"Lois?" Clark asked. "Can I come in?"
"Oh! Of, of course!" She stood aside to let him in, taking in every aspect of him from the solid gray suit and polished shoes to his thick dark hair to the bottle of wine he held in his left hand.
Clark was noticing her too. She had worn burgundy tonight, a long sleek dress with what he thought were called spaghetti straps. Whatever they were called, he loved the way they looked. He thought she looked spectacular in burgundy, but then, he thought that about the way she looked in everything. Her hair shone in the soft candlelight. He wanted so badly to reach out and stroke it. Why not? he thought suddenly.
Lois held her breath as Clark's eyes seemed to grow deeper, darker. His hand moved slowly to caress her hair, smoothing it in long, slow strokes. She was mesmerized by his eyes, by the way they had never left her face from the moment he had arrived. She found herself swaying towards him, hoping he would understand what she couldn't say.
He did, and their lips met in a long luscious wonderful kiss. When they finally pulled apart, Lois was faintly surprised to see that she had yet to close the door and, in fact, still had her hand on the doorknob.
"I, ah, probably need to close the, um, the door," she whispered.
"Probably," Clark whispered back, not moving.
They kissed again. Clark's mind was whirling. This was what he had dreamed of for so long, this was his ultimate fantasy, this was actually HAPPENING, and there would be no sirens, no cries for help, no kittens stuck up in a tree, for that matter. Nothing was going to stop this kiss from lasting forever.
Nothing, that is, except Lois. She broke the kiss gently and closed the door. His eyes followed her as she walked into the kitchen.
"Go ahead, sit down!" she said, smiling back at him. "Or better yet, turn on the CD player."
Music? He smiled. She had thought of everything. He strolled to the CD player and selected an Ella Fitzgerald CD. He programmed the player to repeat the CD over and over, so there would be no interruptions.
Lois hurriedly placed the food on the table. She really wanted to ask Clark her question, but wasn't sure of just when. If I don't get an answer I like, she thought, I might kick him out, and then when would I get to kiss him again? I really LIKE kissing him…
"Yes, Clark, it's ready."
They sat at the small table and began eating the Italian dinner Lois had prepared. They didn't speak much but the silence was a comfortable one. Ella sang "Angel Eyes," and every now and then they would stop eating to share a sweet kiss. Clark stole glances at Lois, admiring everything about her. But, he puzzled to himself, she seems to have something on her mind. "Is there something you want to ask me, Lois?" he said.
Her head jerked up. "How did you…well, yes, there is." She chewed in silence for a while, thinking. "Clark, when you were saving me from falling off of the catwalk, I was wondering…"
Uh-oh, he thought. Dangerous territory here.
"When you were pulling me up over the catwalk, I remember it being very smooth," she said. "I mean, there was no jerking, no tugging — it was —" she paused, her heart racing. Did she dare voice what she suspected? Did she really want to know? Clark was giving her no clues at all, just staring at her impassively. She took a deep breath and continued. "It was almost like flying, Clark."
Silence. Clark was wondering just what to do with this. Of course, he had planned to tell Lois all about Superman one day, but was this the right time? His face must have shown something of his troubled thoughts, for Lois rose from the table. She walked towards him and, taking his hand, led him to the couch. They sat down facing each other. Lois framed Clark's face in her hands and looked deep into his eyes.
"Clark, if there's something you need to tell me," her voice shook slightly. He could feel her hands trembling and hear her heart racing. "Tell me now, Clark. Please." Oh, Lord, she thought, please let me be strong enough to take what I think he's about to tell me…
Clark gazed into her eyes and took the plunge. "Lois, I've wanted to tell you for a long time." He took a deep breath. "You're the most wonderful woman I've ever known. I find myself thinking about you constantly — the way you look, your laugh, your beautiful smile. Lois, I love you." He hesitated, not sure how to continue, or if he even should continue. Wouldn't it be easier to leave it this way?
Lois' eyes filled with tears. She swallowed once, gave him a watery smile, and told him to go on.
"I've loved you since the day I met you, but there's something I haven't told you about myself." Oh this was hard… "I haven't been completely honest with you and I think it's time that I told you the truth about me and who I am." She removed her hands from his face and sat back, composing herself. Lois, she t hought, don't fly off the handle, don't go berserk, just listen…
Clark stood up, took off his tie, and slowly unbuttoned his shirt. Lois' eyes followed his hands as they opened his shirt, button by button. She gasped as the famous blue suit was revealed. When Clark got to the emblem on his chest she stood involuntarily. "Stop, Clark," she said shakily. "Stop there. I need to think about this, take this in."
He stood there obediently, miserable inside. How will she react? What will I do if I lose her? Ella sang about having one for her baby and one more for the road. How appropriate, he thought.
Lois stared at her partner. Her best friend. The stranger before her. She couldn't drag her eyes away from the red and yellow "S" that told her he was Superman. She had to say it aloud. "You're Superman," she whispered. "You're Superman. All this time you've been disappearing, and running away, and you've been Superman all along."
He nodded, not knowing what to say. "Lois, " he said quietly. "I didn't know how to tell you. It was a good idea at first, a secret identity as a — a mystery hero who could save the world. But the closer our relationship got the harder it became to be Superman and Clark. I would want to be with you but there would be a bomb or a bus would fall off of a cliff. I wanted to tell you so much, but there never seemed to be a good time."
She nodded absently, still mesmerized. "I thought, I mean I wondered after the catwalk, but I didn't want to know… all those times you visited me as Superman, all those things I said…" She was beginning to get mad now as she remembered the times she had practically thrown herself at Superman to no avail and then moaned to Clark about it. Her anger erupted. "How DARE you! How dare you exploit me like that! Clark, I just don't know what to say to you, I don't know who you are!"
Clark moved towards her and took her hand. "Lois, I'm Clark. With or without the costume. I'm just plain Clark and I always —"
She jerked her hand out of his. "Just plain Clark?" she gasped. "Just plain Clark who can fly and catch bullets and pretend to be dead?"
"No, Lois," he said firmly. "I'm the same Clark who listens to you babble on, and brings you Chinese, and gives you yellow roses when you're having a bad day. Lois, I can do all those things, but it's nothing more special than anyone else. I was just born this way, I didn't choose it!" His voice softened. "Sometimes I wish I didn't have my powers, because then you could love me for just being Clark, and not for being Superman."
Lois chewed on her lip in thought. "That might not have worked," she said under her breath. "If you didn't have all these — powers, I probably wouldn't be alive to be mad at you." She sighed. "Clark, you just told me you — loved me. I want nothing more than to be able to say it back, but I don't know if I can."
His heart stopped. He was losing her.
"I mean, I've seen you and Superman as two different people for so long that I need time to reconcile what I feel to what I know," she went on. Tears welled in her eyes. "Not to mention the things I've said, the dreams I've had…"
She shook her head firmly. "No, Clark. No more explanations. I don't want to hear them." She went to the door. Clark watched dismally as she pulled it open. "I really think you'd better leave..
He nodded and buttoned his shirt. Suddenly the blue suit felt cheap and tawdry. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to think of something to say to make it all better between them. Lois just stood at the door. She was no longer crying, but he could see the traces her earlier tears had left on her cheeks. As he passed her in the doorway, she placed her hand on his arm.
"Clark, I'm not throwing you out because I'm angry," she said softly. "I am angry, but I'm also happy, and confused, and a little embarrassed. I need time to sort through what I'm feeling, and I can't do that with you here." She hesitated, then leaned forward and kissed his cheek. He turned his head quickly and caught her mouth as she was pulling away. The kiss was salty and sad.
"I feel like I'm losing my best friend," he said somberly. "All I wanted to do was to let you in on the rest of my life and now…"
Lois rested her forehead on the door frame. "Clark," she whispered through the tears that were threatening again, "Please, just leave. Just…go."
His shoulders slumped, defeated. Lois closed the door gently on him as he walked out.
Clark sat staring into space. He had come to work that day and the day before, half hoping to see Lois, half afraid to. However, she hadn't come in yesterday and was not to be seen today either. He had thought about calling her, but her words from two nights ago still haunted him. "I don't know who you are… How dare you exploit me like this…you're Superman…" and the worst of all, "Clark, just leave." By just closing his eyes he could see her hurt expression, taste the tears on her face, feel the pain anew. Was it too soon? he agonized. Was there a better way to tell her, a way that wouldn't hurt her so much? He groaned, and dropped his face in his hands. He had never felt so desolate and alone in his life.
Perry and Jimmy were watching from Perry's office. "What's wrong with him, Chief?" Jimmy asked. "Where's Lois?"
"Son," Perry said. "You are witnessing one of the greatest reporters of all time check into Heartbreak Hotel."
Jimmy looked at him, amazed. "You mean he and Lois…"
Perry nodded. "What Clark is going through I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Now, I don't know what he did to her, but it must have been pretty bad."
"Wow," Jimmy said softly. "Should we talk to him?"
Perry shook his head. "No, better to let him sit there and mope. We'll just leave him alone for a while — let his work help him."
However, Perry put the lie to his own words that afternoon. Clark had accomplished nothing but to drink all the coffee and write a measly two paragraphs. By midday, Perry had had it. "Clark!" he boomed. "Get in here!"
Clark wandered into the office and slouched in the overstuffed couch. "Yeah, Chief?" he mumbled.
"Now, Clark," Perry said gruffly. "I don't know what's going on with you and Lois, but I do know that one-half of the best reporting team in Metropolis is AWOL and the other half is mooning away on company time. Now, when Elvis and Priscilla had their marital troubles…" He stopped as Clark glared at him through bleary eyes.
"Perry," he said very deliberately. "It's not going to work this time. Elvis stories can only go so far."
"Excuse me?" Parry sputtered.
"What is going on between me and Lois is totally out of your range of experience, trust me." He sighed heavily.
"Now see here, Clark," Perry bristled. "I know you think that I'm an old fogey and that I'm not with the times, but —"
Clark shook his head wearily. "No, Perry that's not it at all. I'm sorry I snapped at you, it's just that there are — circumstances — surrounding mine and Lois' relationship that are — difficult."
Perry sat for a moment and decided to accept that. "OK, son, but remember you can always come to me if you need to."
"Yes, sir." Clark stood up and returned to his desk.
Perry shook his head. That boy's got it bad, he thought.
Lois sat at the kitchen table brooding over a cup of coffee. I should go in today, she thought, but then I'd see Clark and I don't know how to react. Do I act like nothing happened? No, that would not make sense because something obviously did happen and it has changed EVERYTHING. Superman…Clark. Do his parents know? Wait, he once said that his mother made his suit, so I guess so. I can't believe it. I can't believe I didn't SEE it! Some hotshot investigative reporter I am. It was right there under my nose the whole time and I couldn't see past the blue suit.
She stood up, dumped the cold coffee in the sink and flopped on the couch. She turned on the TV — turned it off — picked up a magazine — put it down. "Darn you anyway, Clark!" she shouted. "I don't need this right now! Life was going so smoothly and here you come in with your glasses and your farm-boy ways. It's not fair!" In her anger, she seemed to actually be able to see Clark standing in front of her. She directed all of her anger at this illusion, letting it flow through her.
"I don't think you realize how used I feel! All those times you came to me as Superman, all those sweet things you said…you've had the advantage over me all along!" She jumped up and began to pace the floor agitatedly. Her hands flew about as she argued with her imaginary Clark. "I bared my soul to you, I told you my most intimate feelings about Superman — and now you tell me that YOU'RE Superman! How do you think that makes me feel? Just WHAT was going through your mind, Clark Kent? What were you thinking?" She whirled around and shook her finger at the empty room. "Let me tell you one thing, Mr. I'm-a-superhero-and-won't-tell-anybody. Let me tell…" She stopped. Mr. I'm-a-superhero-and-won't-tell-any…was that what was bothering her? That he didn't want to let her in on his secret? She sat down, stunned. He doesn't trust me, she thought. He doesn't trust me to keep a secret! "But I can," she whispered. "I didn't tell about the kryptonite, did I? I didn't tell about how your powers can be transferred, did I? I didn't tell about Jimmy's surprise birthday party or when you left your coat in Perry's office and we had to break in to get it. Oh, Clark, why don't you trust me?"
But he did tell you, a voice inside her seemed to say. He told you and you threw him out — again.
"Yes, but he waited so long," she half-moaned. "So long, Clark. What if we had gotten married? Would you have told me then? I practically had to pry it out of you this time. I had to figure it out for myself.
"What do you think I should do, Mom?" Clark was on the phone to his parents. He had told them about his confession to Lois and they had been appropriately surprised and pleased.
"Son, " his father had said. "You were going to have to tell her sometime. At least this way she got to hear it in her own home."
"That's right, Clark," Martha agreed. "Also, it sounds as if she had figured some of it out for herself anyway. You know Lois. She would have pulled it out of you sooner or later."
Clark had agreed, but was still left with the problem of what to do now. "But she's not speaking to me," he complained. "She hasn't been to work in two days, she won't pick up her phone, it's as if she's dropped off the face of the earth. And what's worse, Scardino has been prowling around her apartment building lately. I do not want him near her now."
"Then, Clark," Martha said firmly. "You need to go over there and see her. Talk to her. Tell her how much you love her and how much she is hurting you by doing this."
"But Mom, what if she doesn't love me back?"
"Son," Jonathan said. "You're just going to have to take that risk. You won't know unless you go see her, and in the meantime this Scardino character may be able to waltz in and take your place."
Clark thought about Scardino and Lois, caught himself squeezing a dent in the phone handle, and changed the subject. "Do I go in the suit?"
"Clark, you are not Superman," Martha said quietly. "You are Clark Kent who every day has to dress in a flashy costume and do wonderful deeds to help mankind. The idea of Superman has almost outgrown you. You need to be yourself around Lois, remind her of why she fell in love with you."
"In love with me?" Clark asked, stunned. "You think she's in love with me?"
"Honey," Martha said quietly, smiling at Jonathan. "I'm sure of it."
Clark sat there, taking this in. He made a decision. "Mom, Dad," he said firmly. "I'm going over there right now and talk to her."
Of course, it took a little more time than that to get ready. First he had to shower and find clothes. He could have done that at super-speed, but he wanted the extra time it took doing it at normal speed. He needed to think about what he was going to say. Then he had to find the perfect bouquet of flowers (roses, white pink and red), the perfect bottle of wine. Wait, he thought. Wine may be too much. Maybe just flowers. A slow grin spread across his face. And chocolate ice cream — with nuts — and whipped cream. If everything goes well, he thought, I can make her a sundae and she'll love me forever.
So it was with high spirits and soaring hopes that he arrived at Lois' apartment. These left him the minute he knocked on her door. His heart pounded. He chewed on his lip. He almost felt dizzy. What if she slams the door in my face? What if she looks through the peephole and turns away without even opening the door? What if…
Lois opened the door and stood blocking the doorway. "Hi," she said quietly.
"Hi." His mouth was dry.
Her heart was pounding.
They stared at each other.
"Can I come in? Please?" He hated the pleading tone of his voice but couldn't prevent it.
Lois stood aside to let him pass. As he walked by she caught the scent of his after-shave and wondered. Would he grow a beard? Does he shave? She shook her head and closed the door.
Clark was standing by the couch. The bouquet of flowers was hanging limply from his hands. She took them from him and carried them into the kitchen. She started to dig out a vase to put them in, but stopped and dropped them on the counter.
"I've thought, and thought, and thought," she said wearily, leaning on the counter, her back to Clark. "I've done nothing BUT think for two, three days now. And I think what really hurts about this whole charade you've pulled is the fact that you didn't trust me enough to tell me the truth." She looked over her shoulder at him. "Do you realize that you have lied to me more than any other man I have ever known?" It was not a condemnation, just a statement of fact.
"I know," he replied just as quietly. "I have also hated every single lie and lame excuse that I have told you. There just seemed no other way to do it."
Lois ran her hands through her hair. "Why a secret identity, Clark?" she asked. I mean, why keep it a secret from me?"
Clark sat down and took a deep breath. "When I first came to Metropolis I still wasn't sure how to really use my powers. They came on kind of gradually. I didn't learn how to fly until I was eighteen. So, when I came here I didn't really know how to help people without being discovered."
"Why were you worried about that?" she asked. She walked over to the couch and sat down beside him.
"We were, that is my parents and I, were afraid of what would happen to me if people knew that I could do these things. We didn't know about Krypton then, or that I wasn't from Earth. All we knew was that I could do things that no one else in the world could do and that this would scare people. So, we came up with the idea of a secret identity, a way I could use my powers and still have a normal life. You named me Superman, remember?" He shook his head ruefully. "We had no idea how complicated it would get. I'm literally living two lives, Lois. The life I want to lead is as Clark, but I don't want to give up the Superman either. I can do so much for people that way."
Lois nodded slowly. "But why didn't you tell me, Clark? I'm your partner, and more important, your best friend. Doesn't that count for something?"
Clark took her hands in his. "Lois, would you believe I was afraid of telling you? You seemed to be so dazzled by Superman that you didn't notice me at all. What if I did tell you? How could I be sure that you were attracted to me, and not to Superman? I had to be sure that you loved me as Clark first."
"But Clark," Lois said quietly. "Superman is a part of you. If I loved you as Clark without knowing, would I really be loving all of you?" She squeezed his hand. "I did fall for Superman pretty hard, but it doesn't compare to how I feel about you. And, believe me, that was beginning to be a problem for me. How could I be in love with two men at the same time? Am I fickle?" She laughed. "You have no idea of the names I called myself. Knowing that Superman and Clark are the same person… it confused me. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The qualities I loved in Superman were the same I loved in Clark Kent, too. And it was fine to be in love with both men because they're both you, Clark." She paused. Clark held his breath, waiting.
"And Clark," she said very softly. "I do love both. I love you."
Clark stared at her for a minute, not daring to speak. He let his breath out in a little laugh, pulling her close to him. "Lois…you are something else."
She smiled and dropped a kiss on the tip of his nose. "And just think…you're stuck with me!"
And that was just fine with him.
Special thanks to my friends Paula and the great Deena for reading it! Also, thank you to the ever-talented Debby Stark for her encouragement.