A Little Incentive

By Cory Sitko csitko@phoenix.kent.edu

Summary: Exactly what will it take to get Lois and Clark to admit their feelings for one another?

This is my first attempt at fanfic. Thanks Laurel for the proofreading, and the cyberspace-brainstorming sessions. And Thanks Gail for the title idea. I was never very good at titles. All comments will be appreciated, but please be gentle.


Lois stepped out of the elevator and looked around the Daily Planet newsroom. It was busy as usual and in the midst of it all Clark sat at his desk. Of course he was there already. He had probably actually shown up early. Sometimes that guy was just too perfect.

"Good morning, Lois!" Clark said as Lois approached his desk.

"Well, the morning part at least," Lois shot back. Mornings were definitely not her time of day, and today was no exception. "So what's going on around here?"

"Not much yet. The day seems to be starting off pretty slow. You didn't happen to run into anything newsworthy on your way in, did you?"

"No. I guess there isn't any crazed lunatic out there trying to take over Metropolis today. I guess that's a good thing. At least it gives Superman some time off," Lois replied.

"I suppose you're right, but it means we have nothing to write about."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that, Clark," Perry interrupted. "Have you two ever heard of Dr. William Gretsinger?"

"Isn't he the biological engineer who thought he'd found a cure for AIDS some time back?" Lois asked.

"Exactly. Well, it seems this time he really has done it. His research has been studied and verified by three other top doctors in the field, and he even has a patient he says has been cured!"

"My God! That's probably the biggest news story of the decade!" Clark exclaimed.

"That's right, and I want you two to get it. I want an exclusive from Dr. Gretsinger. This information hasn't hit the wire yet, so you two should be able to get a jump on the rest of the reporters in town."

"We'll get right on it, Perry," Lois said as she dragged Clark out of his chair. "And you said it was a slow news day."


Lois and Clark walked up to the door to Dr. Gretsinger's office at Biolab Inc. and knocked. A man wearing jeans and a Chicago Cubs T-shirt came to the door. "Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yes, we're looking for Dr. Gretsinger. Could you tell us where we could find him?" Lois inquired.

"As a matter of fact, I can. He's standing right in front of you," the man answered.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Gretsinger. For some reason, she seems to think that all scientists go around wearing lab coats with pocket-protectors and glasses," Clark apologized. Lois shot him a look of disapproval that Clark knew all too well.

"That's all right. I try to avoid the stereotypical scientist-nerd persona as much as possible. Now that you know who I am, might I ask who you are?"

"My name is Clark Kent and this is my partner, Lois Lane. We're reporters for the Daily Planet."

"The Daily Planet, huh? I guess I really have done something amazing if they've finally sent someone to interview me. I've been trying to get some press for quite some time. It's difficult to do the kind of research I've been doing without money, and it's hard to get money when no one knows who you are."

Dr. Gretsinger backed away from the door and invited Lois and Clark into his office. The reporters sat down, as did the doctor, and Lois took out a pad and pen.

"So what would you to like to know?" Dr. Gretsinger said, smiling. He knew exactly why they'd come and he was glad to finally be getting some attention from the media even if it wasn't really meant for him.

"We've heard that you may have found a cure for AIDS and that your findings have been confirmed," Lois explained.

"I don't know who your source is," the doctor remarked, "but he certainly is well informed. I've been working on this for the last few years and have had the experiments closely monitored by several of my colleagues. I have found the cure. If you two would like to follow me to my lab, I'll show you some of my research."

"That would be great, Dr. Gretsinger. Are any of the doctors who've verified your findings available for interviews?" Clark asked.

"No. I'm sorry, but they are all away attending a conference in Europe. They should be back in a few weeks if you would like to interview them for a follow-up story." *Too bad you won't be around that long*, the doctor thought to himself.


Lois and Clark followed Dr. Gretsinger out of his office and down a hallway to his lab. It looked ordinary enough, with specimen samples strewn about, and microscopes and other scientific instruments on the tables. Dr. Gretsinger led them to a table on the opposite side of the room and walked over to a filing cabinet nearby.

"Here's a copy of the report I've submitted for publication and some supplementary notes. I'm sorry that I can't answer any more questions right now, but I have a meeting shortly that I have to attend. If you have any questions, feel free to call and leave me voice mail. I'll try to cooperate as much as possible." He didn't want to give them any more information than was necessary to set his trap. He knew Miss Lane's reputation well enough that he was sure she would not be satisfied with the information he'd given to them. If his plan were to work and look like an accident, she had to become suspicious, and this should do the trick.

"Thanks for the information, Dr. Gretsinger. We'll get in touch if we have any more questions," Clark replied. He could tell by the look in Lois's eyes that she didn't want to let the doctor get away without asking him a few more questions. Clark felt it was best not to push the doctor or anger him by making him late, so he grabbed Lois's shoulder and started walking to the door.

"Clark, what are you doing? I'm not finished yet. I still have a few questions for him," Lois whispered angrily.

"That's what I was afraid of, Lois. If we're going to get an exclusive, it's best not to ruffle the good doctor's feathers too much. We'll take this report back to the Planet and see what we can find out from it. Dr. Gretsinger will still be here tomorrow."

"I still don't see why I can't ask him just a few questions. Just two or three, that's all."

"Lois, with you it never stops there," Clark said as they walked out of the building. Why did he put up with Lois anyway? Because he was in love with her, and how did he ever let that happen?


Lois sat at her desk, looking through the article Dr. Gretsinger had given to them. "This doesn't seem right, Clark. All of the people listed here for corroboration are out of the country, and even when they are in the States they are nearly impossible to contact. I think something is not quite as it seems with our Dr. Gretsinger."

"Lois, just because the people are hard to reach doesn't mean that he's lying. It's possible that he was able to get their help despite their lack of availability."

"Yes, but he was not well respected enough to get help from these people. His work is generally considered ridiculous and even dangerous. Most of the people listed here are the most highly respected people in their field. They would never allow themselves to be associated with such controversial research." Lois was sure that the doctor was hiding something, and she was determined to find out.

"Come on, Clark. The doctor said he was going to a meeting. That was only an hour ago and those things can last forever."

"Where are we going and what are we doing?" Clark asked as he followed Lois to the elevator.

"We're going to go have a look around the doctor's lab ourselves." She stepped into the elevator and Clark followed her.

"Lois, this is crazy. We have no proof that he's done anything wrong. All we have to go on is one of your crazy gut feelings, and those always get us in trouble!"

"Feel free to stay here if you want, but I'm going to the lab and nothing is going to stop me." The elevator reached the ground floor and the doors opened. "Well, are you coming?"

"I'm not going to let you go by yourself, so I guess I have to come along. I still think we should wait and speak to him directly, though"

"Clark, if we wait for him to contact us, The Star will scoop us. Hurry up. We've got to get there before he gets back."


The reporters walked down the hall toward Dr. Gretsinger's lab. There seemed to be no one else in the building. "I told you he'd be gone for a long time, Clark." Clark shot a concerned look at Lois and put his finger to his lips. There may not have been anyone visible, but there was no need to draw attention to them.

When they came to the door to the lab, Lois looked through the window in the door. "There doesn't seem to be anyone else in there," she whispered. Clark was probably right. There was no harm in being quiet. She tried the door knob just in the off chance that it was unlocked. She didn't figure it would be and was prepared to pick the lock. The door, however, was unlocked. She shrugged at Clark and walked into the lab.

"What exactly are we looking for, Lois?" Clark asked.

"Anything that looks suspicious. You know, office memos admitting guilt, that sort of thing."

"Yeah, right. Like a note to his secretary telling her how he duped two stupid reporters?" Clark peered over his glasses and scanned the room quickly. He noticed a test tube holder behind a stack of books. The labels on the test tubes said "AIDS Anti-virus." Clark walked over and picked up one of the test tubes. "Look at this, Lois."

Lois walked over and took the test tube from Clark. "Yeah right, Clark. He's really just going to leave the cure to the plague of the twentieth century sitting around on a table." She smelled the test tube and shook it a bit. "It looks and smells just like grape juice. That's sort of odd for an AIDS cure, don't you think? Maybe a kids' cough medicine." She stuck her finger over the top of the test tube and shook it so that a small drop stuck to her finger. She licked the drop off of her finger. "It tastes just like grape juice too. Here try some." She got another drop on her finger and offered it to Clark.

"Lois, I don't think you should be doing that. You don't know what that could be. It may be dangerous." Clark pushed her finger away.

"Oh, Clark, don't be such a wimp. I'm sure he wouldn't leave anything that dangerous laying around in plain sight. Who knows who might get their hands on it." She pushed her finger toward Clark again and managed to avoid his arm trying to block her. She stuck her finger to Clark's pursed lips. "Come on, taste it."

Clark licked the drop of liquid left on his lips. "Okay, Lois, you were right. It does taste like grape juice. Now, will you please put it back?" Just then the door to the lab opened and a older man with graying hair walked in.

"Who are you and what are you doing in my lab?" the man asked.

"Your lab?" Lois and Clark asked in unison.

"Yes. My name is on the door. Now, do you mind telling me what exactly you're doing here?"

"But you can't be Dr. Gretsinger. We met him earlier this morning," Lois stammered.

"I was out of town until just an hour ago. Obviously the man you met earlier was someone trying to impersonate me. What is that you're holding, and one last time, who are you?!?" The doctor began to walk towards the partners, but stopped when he saw the vial in Lois's hand.

"My name is Lois Lane and this is my partner, Clark Kent. We're reporters for the Daily Planet. We're working on a story about the cure for AIDS that you've supposedly developed." Lois noticed the doctor's concerned expression. "What's wrong, Doctor?"

"Cure for AIDS? My attempts at that failed miserably years ago. I gave up after being laughed at every time I attended a conference. Please tell me that you haven't touched any of that serum."

"And what if I can't tell you that?" Lois was beginning to get scared. What if Clark had been right? What if it was dangerous?

"That's a virus that my assistant has been working with. It is only transferred through direct contact with the serum at first, but within an hour it mutates into a highly contagious airborne strain. I've told him to destroy it, but he insists that it will be a valuable weapon and it's going to make him a rich man."

"Clark, I think we're in trouble here." Lois said, trying her best to hide the intense fear she was feeling.

"Then you have touched it? Both of you?" The doctor started to back away.

"Well, yes," Lois admitted. She looked at Clark. What had she done? He tried to warn her, but she had once again jumped in without thinking. This time her behavior had apparently put both her life and Clark's in danger.

Clark looked at Lois. How could this have happened? Why hadn't he stopped her from going in the first place? He knew her schemes always led to trouble, but he couldn't stop her. Why did he give in so easily? "Are you sure about this, Dr. Gretsinger?" Clark asked hopefully.

"Did it taste like grape juice? That was the part he was most proud of. Making it something that seemed so harmless and even desirable."

"Yes, it did. Isn't there any cure?" Lois asked.

"He wasn't concerned with a cure, and I just wanted the whole thing destroyed. I'm afraid a cure would take longer to develop than you have left. He says the virus will kill a person in about 24 hours. I'm horribly sorry. I can't believe this has happened." The doctor backed further away from Lois and Clark. "I'm afraid you'll have to stay here to wait out the disease. I can't let you out to infect anyone else."

"Oh, great! Just what I want to do…spend my final hours in a laboratory!" Lois had to avoid showing her fear. She couldn't let Clark see how scared she really was. "Is there at least a phone so we can call some people?"

"There's one over there on the desk," Dr. Gretsinger said, pointing to the desk in the corner. "I'll see if I can find Tim. It's his creation; maybe he can find a way to fight it. I'm truly sorry this happened to you. I'll alert the authorities to your situation as well." With this, the doctor left.

"Clark, I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me? I can't believe I got us into this! I'm going to go call Perry. I assume you'll want to call your folks." Lois walked to the phone and picked up the receiver.

"Oh, yeah. I'll call them when you get done." Clark wasn't thinking about his parents right now. He could talk to them later, but he couldn't let Lois know that. There had to be some way he could save Lois. How could she be so calm? How could she think of calling Perry before her family?

"Lois, don't you think you should call your parents, or at least Lucy?" Clark asked her.

"Well, Dad probably won't be able to take calls, Mom won't be home, and Lucy has classes."

"But don't you think you should at least try? I mean, they are your family. I'm sure they would want to talk to you, especially given the situation."

"Look, Clark. You can call whomever you'd like. I'm still a reporter. I have a story to get out and I'm going to do that, no matter what."

"I think you're going a little overboard in the dedication thing here, Lois. Perry isn't going to expect a story from us under the circumstances. He can find another reporter to write the story."

"If you think I'm going to let someone else get this story, you are out of your mind, Clark. This is my…I mean, our story and I'm not going to give it up."

"Fine, Lois. If you want to act like this is any normal day and there is nothing more important in your life than getting the story, so be it." Clark walked over to the opposite side of the room and sat down in a chair. Only Lois could get him angry at her when he should be feeling sorry for her. She was so exasperating!

Clark heard Lois talking with Perry and telling him that she and Clark would write the story. She told him if he tried to let someone else write it, she would come back and haunt him. Why did she have to hide her feelings under that veneer? When she was finished, she asked if he wanted to call his parents. He said that he needed time to figure out what he was going to say to them. Actually, he needed time to sort through the events of the day.


Clark felt so helpless. Lois was going to die and there was nothing he could do to save her, not as Clark or as Superman. All he could do was try to comfort her. Clark also knew that this could be his last chance to tell Lois how he really felt. If she were going to die, then she deserved to know the truth, the *whole* truth.

Clark approached the table where Lois sat writing. "Lois, there's something I need to talk to you about."

"Hold on, Clark. I'm almost finished. If this is going to be my last story, then it's going to be my best." Lois flashed a half-hearted smile at her partner. She didn't want him to see the fear she was feeling. She wanted Clark to remember her as the strong-willed woman he had always known. Not that his memory would last very long. They had both been exposed to the virus and he wouldn't be around any longer than she would.

"How can you think about your story at a time like this, Lois? Even with death staring you in the face, you can think of nothing but work." Clark realized as the words came out of his mouth that he had said the wrong thing. He knew Lois was afraid even if she didn't want to show it. His reminder wasn't going to make her feel any better. "I'm sorry, Lois. I didn't mean to say that. It's just that you amaze me. I can't think about anything else right now, let alone write a decent story."

"It's okay, Clark. I need to work on this to get my mind off things. It's just my way of coping." The words were difficult for her to say, but she didn't want Clark to think that she wasn't as worried as he was. She knew that these were going to be the last moments she would be able to spend with her partner and best friend, and she didn't want them to be spent bickering about unimportant things. Clark meant too much to her for that.

Actually, maybe now was the time to admit to Clark and herself how she really felt about him. She had known for some time now that Clark was more than just her best friend, but she hadn't allowed herself to acknowledge this or act upon it. If things got out of hand or didn't go right, they wouldn't be able to work together as partners. Now, that problem had been solved; their partnership was about to end. Lois felt that she owed it to Clark to tell him the truth.

"Actually, I'm glad you interrupted me, Clark. I have something to tell you, too."

"Okay Lois, but I go first," Clark told her. He didn't want anything to get in the way of his confession. It was going to be hard enough telling her without her rambling on about something else.

"No, Clark. This time I'm going to talk first!"

"But Lois, I really…"

"No. I'm not going to let you interrupt me," she said. Her expression became more serious, and she looked into Clark's eyes. "We've been working together for quite a while now, and you know that you are my best friend." Clark nodded. "Well, you're more than just my best friend, Clark."

"I know, Lois. I'm your partner too."

"I said I wasn't going to let you interrupt me. Now be quiet and listen. For some time now, I've been thinking that our relationship needed to go beyond friendship. What I'm trying to say Clark is that I…I.. " The words were stuck in her throat. *Come on Lois, you can do this*, she told herself. "I'm trying to say that I.." *Just say it, girl!* "Damn it, Clark! I love you!"

Clark stood in front of the table staring at Lois. Had she really just said what he thought she said? Clark didn't know how to react. He had planned to tell Lois he loved her, but he hadn't really expected her to return the sentiment. He had hoped that she would, but he hadn't let himself believe that it could happen.

Lois was almost as shocked as Clark. She couldn't believe she had been able to say it. It had been held inside so long that she became numb to the feeling, but now all of her emotions were overflowing. She wanted to grab Clark and hold him. She wanted to spend her last moments in the arms of the man she loved.

"Lois, I…I've loved you since the first time I saw you. You are the only woman I've ever felt this strongly about. I'm so glad that you feel the same way…but why haven't you said anything before?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Lois replied. She had suspected that Clark had lied that day in front of the Planet, and now her suspicions were confirmed. "I didn't want to ruin the friendship we have. I've never had much luck in relationships and I didn't want to lose you, too."

"You could never lose me, Lois, no matter how hard you tried." Clark's mind was in overload. All the missed opportunities…he was going to lose the woman he loved, and now she had told him that she loved him too. He wanted to hold Lois with all his strength. He needed to hold her, to protect her, but even he couldn't do anything to save her now.

"I know that, Clark. You aren't like the rest of the men I've had in my life. You put up with a lot of crap from me, and you're always there for me when I really need you, even more so than Superman."

Superman. Should he tell her about this? He had intended to tell her the whole truth, but now it all seemed useless. Maybe he had only wanted to tell Lois he was Superman in hopes that she would then love him. However, she had chosen him as Clark over him as Superman, and the fact that he was Superman now seemed superfluous. Deep down, though, he knew that Lois did deserve to know the truth, perhaps now more than ever.

"Lois, there's something else that I have to tell you," Clark said quietly, as if he hoped she wouldn't hear.

"Clark, I've had enough talking for one day." She stood up and started walking towards him. He had moved over to a wall for more support as the shock from her admission hit him. She stood about six inches away from him and stared into his eyes. She could see the love and devotion in his eyes. She knew that he would never leave her, that he would do anything for her.

Lois was standing right in front of him. He knew he should do something, say something. She was obviously in pain, and she didn't have long to live. It wasn't fair that Lois had to die! He finally had everything he wanted in life standing in front of him, and he was going to lose it as quickly as he got it. Clark put his arms around Lois and pulled her to him. She rested her head against his chest as tears began to form in her eyes.

"Why do I have to be so damn stubborn, Clark? If I weren't so obsessed with my job and the story, we wouldn't be in this situation. It's all my fault. I've gotten myself killed and you too." She couldn't keep her emotions in check any longer. She buried her face in Clark's chest and began to cry.

Clark just held her. He knew that nothing he could say would make her feel better. It was best to just hold her and let her cry.

After several minutes, Lois felt somewhat better. She looked up at Clark's worried expression. "It's okay. I'm better now. I promise not to fall apart on you again."

"Don't promise that, Lois. You have every right to cry." Clark brushed Lois' hair away from her tear-moistened face and cupped her face in his hands. He bent down and kissed her softly.

His heart was racing. There were no false pretenses. They weren't on assignment, there was no maid carrying towels coming down the hall, and he wasn't wearing the blue suit. It was just Lois and him. At that moment, they had the world to themselves and time stopped.

Lois wrapped her arms around Clark's neck and pulled him closer to her. Their kisses became deeper and more passionate. What had she been missing? She felt so safe and comfortable in Clark's arms. It felt as though she had finally come home. This was where she belonged. It felt as though the kiss was releasing years of passion that had been locked up inside both of them.

After what seemed an eternity, the kiss was broken. Lois buried her head in Clark's chest again and was lost to the world. It had been a long day and it was getting late. "Do you mind if we sit down, Clark?"

Clark would have agreed to just about anything Lois said right then. "That's fine, Lois, but there really isn't anywhere to sit except the floor."

"Clark, as long as I'm with you right now, I don't care where I am." They slid down the wall and Lois rested her head on Clark's shoulder. She pulled his face to hers and gave him another light kiss. "Thank you, Clark."

"For what, Lois?"

"For being you. For being here with me now." Lois snuggled closer to Clark and was asleep in a matter of minutes. Clark spent hours staring down at the woman he loved before falling asleep himself.


Sunlight streaming in through the window awakened Clark. When he looked down at the woman he loved asleep, every second of the previous night's events flooded into his head. Those memories gave way to sorrow when Clark realized that Lois had almost no time left to live. She was asleep now, but in only a few hours he would lose her forever. It had nearly killed him when Lois agreed to marry Lex, but then at least she would have still been alive. There would have been a chance for him to win her back. Death didn't give second chances.

Clark couldn't imagine his life without Lois. She had been the center of his world for so long, and now it seemed as though his world were falling apart. Why had he allowed Lois to come here? He sat staring at Lois for some time, and his eyes began to moisten. A single tear began to roll down his face just as Lois began to wake up.

Lois looked up at Clark. She saw the pain in his eyes and the tear making its way down his face. It was all her fault. She had ruined Clark's life. The only man who had ever been there for her, who had ever really loved her, and she had killed him.

Lois sat up and gently brushed the tear off Clark's face. "Good morning," she said as cheerily as she could. She kissed him on the cheek and wrapped her arms around him. "Did you ever call your parents?"

"Oh…yeah, Lois, I called them last night after you fell asleep."

"How did they take the news? Probably not too well, huh?"

"They did as well as could be expected. My mom said to give you a kiss from her." He leaned down and kissed Lois one more time, maybe for the last time.

Lois wanted to stay like this forever. When Clark kissed her, it felt as if nothing in the world could harm her. She even felt protected from the virus which she knew was killing her.

As the kiss deepened, the door to the lab swung open. "So this is all it would have taken to get you two together? Lock you in a room for a night and tell you that you were going to die?" came Perry's voice.

"Perry, what are you doing here? You're going to get infected too!" Lois shouted.

"That would mean that there was something to get infected by. Dr. Gretsinger has spent the whole night studying that serum. He's discovered that his assistant has actually been spending his time on a virus that is no more deadly than the common cold. Actually, it has no effects on humans at all, but it gives rats an awful headache." Perry chuckled.

Clark couldn't believe what he was hearing. Lois wasn't going to die, and now he knew that she loved him too. As they walked to the door, Clark spotted Dr. Gretsinger waiting outside. "Dr. Gretsinger, thank you for your help," Clark said as they left the lab.

"It was the least I could do. I should have stopped Tim a long time ago. I'm going to see to it that he never sees the inside of a lab again. I'm just glad that you and Miss Lane are all right." The doctor walked toward his office as Perry, Lois, and Clark headed for the exit.

"I'd better be getting home. Alice is going to be pretty angry. I spent all night with the doctor waiting for news. You kids want a ride home?" Perry asked.

"No thanks, Perry. I want to walk. I thought I was going to die in there and I need to enjoy life today. Will you be joining me, Clark?" Lois looked at Clark in as innocent a fashion as she could muster.

"Sure, Lois. A nice walk would do me some good today. Thanks for the offer though, Perry."

"Okay, but I don't want to see either one of you at the Planet for the next couple of days, all right?"

"Okay, Perry. I think we can find something to do to pass the time for the next few days," Lois said, flashing a quick smile at Clark. Perry walked away chuckling. She turned back to Clark. "About back in there…I don't think that was exactly what your mother had in mind."

"Oh, Lois, I wouldn't be too sure about that. I definitely wouldn't be too sure about that." He put his arm around Lois and started walking. He didn't know where they were going, but it didn't matter to him. He had all the time in the world, and finally he had Lois too.

The End