By Kendra Prince (KPrince697@aol.com)
Summary: Engaged to Clark for only a few weeks, Lois is caught up in a plot by Lex Luthor. Lex has forced a scientist to use a new drug, which renders the subject susceptible to suggestion, to make Lois think she is still in love with him — and that Superman is the enemy.
Author's Note: Originally, I set this story to occur sometime after the first season finale, assuming Lex was caught in his penthouse rather than leaping to his supposed death. However, the setting just didn't work as well and after some revisions, "Mindbender" is now set after Clark and Lois have become engaged. This is following my version of the revelation and proposal in "Worth The Risk (Elvis Says 'Hi')". At the end of that story, Lex Luthor remains a free man, especially free to threaten Clark and Lois. Many thanks to Leigh Raglan, Evelyn Catano and Amy Roos for their input on this story. (kp)
It had been a slow day at the Daily Planet. Unfortunately, that was the nature of the beast in the news business. It seemed it was always feast or famine. Considering the lack of late-breaking news, Clark Kent and Lois Lane decided to enjoy a leisurely lunch outside at the restaurant across the street from the office.
Engaged for only a few weeks, Clark and Lois relished every moment they had together. They never knew when Clark would be called to duty as Superman, an identity his special powers had forced him to acquire in order to help others, while maintaining a "normal" life in Metropolis. His ability to save others placed Clark on call twenty-four hours a day in the bustling city he now called home. That made moments like the one he was sharing with Lois today even more special. It wasn't just enough to work beside her every day. Now, he wanted to be with her all the time.
The diamond in the solitaire Lois wore on her left hand glistened in the sunlight as she ran her fingers through her hair. She closed her eyes and smiled blissfully when a soft springtime breeze caressed her face. "A slow day at the office and dining al fresco with my fiance'. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day," Lois sighed.
Clark smiled. If someone had told Lois Lane two years ago that she would end up engaged to the "hack from Nowheresville", as she used to call him, she probably would have laughed out loud. Thanks to time and Clark's persistence, he finally won over the cosmopolitan city girl. He thanked Heaven for her every morning.
"I just dare anyone to interrupt our lunch," Lois said.
As if cued by her threat, Lois' beeper went off.
"You just had to say it, didn't you?" Clark teased.
Lois yanked the beeper from her purse and groaned. "It's Perry. Must be important, he's using 9-1-1."
As they stood to their feet, Lois reached for Clark's hand. "Why don't we go flying tonight?"
"Okay, where do you want to go?"
"Anywhere. Just as long as it's far away from phones, faxes and beepers." She held up her beeper with disdain.
Clark bowed gallantly from the waist. "Miss Lane, your wish is my command."
A seductive look crossed Lois' face. "Hmm. I like the sound of that."
They both laughed as they ran across the street and headed back to the office.
"Ah, Lois. Clark. There you are. I need coverage on a fire in the warehouse district that's just gone to five alarms."
Clark and Lois exchanged knowing glances. "We're on it, Chief," Lois said.
"Actually, Lois, I need you to cover something else. Clark, grab Jimmy and go get me a story!"
"I'm on it, Chief." As he turned to leave, he whispered to Lois, "Be thinking about where you want to go tonight." With his back to Perry, he made a subtle flying motion with his right hand.
I don't care as long as I'm with you, Lois thought, as she watched Clark round up Jimmy and step into the stairwell. "What's my story, Perry?"
The fifty-something editor frowned as he rummaged through the papers on his desk. "Now, what'd I do with that? Oh, yeah." He drew out a message and handed it to Lois.
The name on the note wasn't a familiar one. "Dr. Steven Prescott? Am I supposed to know who this is?"
"He's a scientist at Star Labs who supposedly has developed a new drug called "Mindbender". He claims it can be used to rehabilitate hardened criminals."
"Okay, but why me? Anybody could cover this guy."
Perry shrugged. "All I know is he wants to give you the exclusive."
"All right, but I'm not going to believe in "Mindbender" until I see it give morals to someone like Lex Luthor."
Sitting at a large mahogany desk in his study, Steven Prescott hung up the phone. "It's done. I meet Lois Lane in an hour." He turned and looked at Lex Luthor, who had a gun trained on Prescott's wife and children, tied up on the sofa.
"Very good, Doctor. And don't forget for one minute what is at stake." Luthor's eyes burned with the passion of a man on a mission. A mission to make Lois Lane his own at any cost.
Prescott had requested the meeting at an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Metropolis. It seemed he was concerned with security, so Lois accepted the location willingly. After all, this wasn't her first encounter with an eccentric scientist. Still, she couldn't help but wish Clark could be there with her.
Lois pulled into the drive of the warehouse and looked around cautiously. The place was so deserted, she halfway expected a tumbleweed to roll in front of the jeep. "I don't have a good feeling about this," she muttered as she rolled down her window. Looking up into the lens of a security camera, she announced herself. The massive wrought iron gates groaned as they opened to allow her access.
Inside the warehouse, Lois surveyed the clinical atmosphere. Prescott appeared right on schedule. He was wearing a white lab coat but that's where the stereotypical scientist ended. Actually, Lois considered Prescott quite attractive. Probably in his early forties, he looked like a mature version of the boy next door. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he seemed wasted holed up in a laboratory all day.
"So nice to meet you, Miss Lane." Prescott said before escorting Lois into an office off the main hallway.
"Let's get to the reason I'm here, Dr. Prescott. I understand you have developed a new drug you believe can be used to rehabilitate criminals."
"That's correct," Prescott nodded. "Used in conjunction with hypnotherapy, Mindbender has proven to be a powerful tool."
"How do you propose to use it on inmates?"
"I should tell you that participation in this program is strictly voluntary. The inmates are offered early parole in exchange for submitting to treatment. They must undergo extensive medical and psychological testing in order to qualify."
Lois looked up from the notes she was taking. "Aren't you concerned the drug will fall into the wrong hands? After all, couldn't it be used on innocent people to make them act against their will?"
Prescott started to fidget. "Yes, I suppose that could happen. However, the effects are only temporary and dissipate after the drug is out of the patient's system."
"But if the effects are temporary, how will it help rehabilitate someone?"
"That's the reason for the combination of the drug and hypnotherapy. You see, the drug lowers the patient's resistance to post-hypnotic suggestions. It is administered until the desired behavior pattern takes hold."
"How long does the process usually take?"
Prescott began picking imaginary lint from his white lab coat. "It varies, depending on the strength of the subject's will."
Lois had yet to be convinced. "As promising as this sounds, Dr. Prescott, it still seems like brainwashing to me."
"Miss Lane, is that so bad if it prevents another crime from being committed? As long as you've been a reporter, surely you can think of at least one criminal who could benefit from this kind of therapy."
Immediately, Lex Luthor sprang to Lois' mind. What a waste, she thought. She had her doubts that Mindbender could work its magic on him. "I suppose you have studies you can show me proving your claims regarding the drug."
Ah, thought Lois. Here comes the fly in the ointment.
"Actually, the drug is still in the testing phase."
Lois was growing impatient. For all the good this interview was doing her, she could be covering the fire with Clark, getting quotes while he extinguished the blaze. "Then this interview seems a little premature." She flipped her notepad closed for emphasis. "Just how many more subjects do you need, Doctor?"
"Just one. And that's YOU, darling."
The sound of Lex Luthor's voice behind her chilled Lois to the bone. She dropped her notes as she whirled around to face him. Lex had his gun pointed at Lois. "Lex!" she exclaimed.
"Surprised to see me, Lois? I must say the surprise is mutual. It seems fate has thrown us together again."
Lois eyed Luthor's gun. "I wouldn't call it 'fate', exactly."
Lex smiled shrewdly. "Well, if I'm guilty of giving the gods an assist, so be it. The point is we have a chance to be together at last."
Lois recoiled at the very thought. "That's be going to be kind of hard to do, considering I'm engaged to Clark Kent." She raised her left hand defiantly.
With his gun still trained on Lois, Lex strolled up to take her left hand and examine the ring. "It's amazing what they can do with cubic zirconia these days."
"Clark could give me the ring out of a Cracker Jack box and it wouldn't matter, because I love him."
Her words cut Luthor to the core and in his anger, he yanked the solitaire from Lois' hand.
"My ring!" she cried out.
Luthor regarded the ring dispassionately before slipping it into his pocket. "By the time we're through, you won't be needing it any more." Luthor scowled at the scientist who helplessly watched the exchange. "Get to it, Prescott!"
While the tone in Luthor's voice was demanding, Lois heard remorse as Prescott whispered behind her. "I'm sorry, Miss Lane. I really am."
Lois glanced behind her to see Prescott soaking a cloth with chloroform. "It's just a matter of time before Superman comes for me!"
Lex smiled wryly. "I'm counting on it."
With the cloth covering her nose and mouth, the last thing Lois heard was Luthor's sadistic laughter as she sank into the darkness.
Back at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent was at his desk, pounding away on his computer keyboard. Suddenly, Jimmy rushed in, with photos in his hand. "Hey, C. K.! Look at these shots I got of Superman putting out the fire this afternoon." He held them down for Clark to see. "Is he smooth or what?"
Clark smiled humbly. "He did all right."
Just then, Perry strode up to Clark's desk, clipboard in hand. "Clark, you got that story on the fire for me?"
"I just sent it to you." Before Perry could walk away, Clark called out to him. "Who was Lois interviewing today?"
Perry perused the clipboard which was his bible at the office. "A Dr. Prescott with Star Labs. Apparently, he's got some newfangled drug called Mindbender. Says he intends to use it on inmates to turn them into ideal citizens. Wanted to give Lois the exclusive."
"I'm kind of surprised Lois hasn't checked in. What time was her interview?"
"About one, I think. Lois set up the appointment."
Clark was becoming increasingly edgy. "She should have checked in by now. Was she meeting Prescott at Star Labs?"
"She didn't say. Have you tried beeping her?"
"More than an hour ago."
Perry seemed unfazed. "Her battery's probably low. You know Lois. She can take care of herself. Who knows, maybe Prescott is giving her a personal demonstration of Mindbender."
Clark smiled weakly.
"Aw, son, I'm sure she's fine. Now, I've got to go edit your copy if it's going to make the next edition." Perry sauntered off toward his office, making notes on his clipboard.
Clark grabbed the phone and punched in the number to Star Labs. To his dismay, he found out Prescott had called in sick. He called out to Jimmy who was flashing his photos to a pretty young intern.
"C. K., you're cutting into my time here," Jimmy whispered over his shoulder.
"Sorry. Look, the guy Lois is supposed to be interviewing called in sick today. I need you to start beeping her again and keep it up while I try to find Superman. Can you do that?"
Suddenly, Jimmy shared Clark's concern. "Sure, C. K."
With that, Clark tore out of the newsroom.
"I trust you made our guest comfortable," said Lex as he fingered Lois' beeper in his hand.
"Her comfort is the last thing I thought you'd be concerned with," Prescott mumbled. The constant pulse of Lois' beeper was starting to wear on his nerves. "Shouldn't we get rid of that thing?"
"And rid Lois of her lifeline to Superman? I wouldn't think of it. He's probably having her paged so he can hone in on the signal."
Downstairs, Lois paced behind steel bars. Good thing I'm locked up or I'd be scratching Luthor's eyes out right about now, she thought. "Superman, where are you?" she asked out loud.
"I'd like to know the same thing."
Lois spun on her heels. "Lex, so help me, if I ever get out of this cell … What are you going to do with me, anyway?
Lex relished the thought. "Oh, I have a lot planned for you, darling. First of all, you're serving as bait." He held up her beeper for emphasis. "Then, we'll be giving you a complimentary sample of Mindbender."
Fear started to build in Lois. "Why?" She started backing up against the stone wall behind her as Lex eased closer to the bars.
"Perhaps you've forgotten we experienced 'matrimonius interruptus' at the altar, thanks to Perry and the cavalry he brought with him. I only want what is rightfully mine."
Lois was incredulous. "Perry didn't stop the wedding, *I* did, because I didn't love you. I never did and I never will. No drug is going to change that."
Luthor's jaw was set firm. "We'll see about that, Lois."
Suddenly, Superman burst in and landed before Lex and Prescott. Lois cried out in relief, "Superman!"
"Luthor. I should have known you were behind Lois' disappearance."
Lex remained unfazed. "So nice of you to join us, Superman."
When Clark reached for the bars to free Lois, Luthor nodded at the doctor, who flipped a switch. Immediately, the bars became activated with kryptonite and Clark became weak.
Lois shuddered. "Oh, God. It's kryptonite!"
"Right you are, my precious," Luthor said as he opened the door and shoved Clark into the cell.
Lois rushed to Clark's side, only to be jerked to her feet by Luthor and dragged out of the cell. She fought against him, but it was in vain. In desperation, Lois looked back to see the man she loved curled up on the floor in pain. "You can't leave him like this!"
"I can and I will," Lex vowed. As Luthor forced Lois up the stairs, Prescott knew what lay ahead for both her and the superhero and he dreaded it.
"Are any of the straps too tight, Miss Lane?"
"Only the ones keeping me in this chair," Lois said dryly. She couldn't help but notice the good doctor was breaking a sweat. Could it be his conscience was getting the best of him? Too bad it didn't kick in first thing this morning, she thought. Lois viewed the scientist intently. "How on earth did you cross paths with Lex Luthor?" she asked.
"Before his fall from grace, I used to work for him at Lex Labs. One of his contacts in Intergang told him about Mindbender and that's when he looked me up."
Intuitively, Lois cast a glance to the mirror on the wall. "He's watching us, isn't he?"
Prescott struggled to remain neutral as he began taking Lois' vital signs. "I would imagine so."
"How much is Luthor paying you to do this, Prescott? Whatever it is, I hope it's worth it!"
Prescott shifted uneasily as he tied a rubber tourniquet around Lois' arm. "Believe me, this is not what I wanted to happen." His voice suddenly dropped to a scarce whisper. "He's holding my family hostage. If I don't go along with his demands, they don't stand a chance."
"If you don't help Superman, none of us stands a chance!"
The doctor hung his head in remorse. He could feel Luthor's penetrating gaze through the two-way glass. Looking self-consciously over his shoulder, he said, "I am sorry." With that, Prescott rubbed Lois' arm with an alcohol swab. Quickly and efficiently, he administered the injection.
She groaned because the drug burned as it coursed through her veins.
Prescott viewed her sympathetically. "You'll probably feel some discomfort at first, but that will soon be replaced by a profound sense of well-being."
Just as Prescott said, Lois begin to relax. Tension seemed to flow out of her body as she nestled back into the recliner. Try as she might, Lois just couldn't seem to hold onto her anger. She felt as if she left it on the other side of a great chasm.
Prescott was grateful to see the drug take effect so quickly. He checked her eyes with a penlight and made a note in her chart.
In the distance, Lois could hear Prescott calling to her. "Miss Lane, can you hear me?"
"Mm-hmm," Lois murmured.
"Let's talk about Lex Luthor."
A frown crossed Lois' face. "Let's don't … and say … we did."
Prescott continued. "Think back, Miss Lane. Do you remember the first time you met him?"
She nodded slowly. "One of the balls … he used to … throw."
Prescott spoke in soothing tones. "Tell me what you thought of him that night."
Lois almost smiled as she talked dreamily. "From the moment he walked in … he took control of the room. Instantly commanding … everyone's attention."
"And you wanted to be with him?"
"I wanted to *interview* him," she sighed.
"Weren't you attracted to him?"
"I guess you could say that." I don't like where this is headed, thought Lois. She didn't want to think of Lex that way again. Why can't I just say I'd be happy to dance on Luthor's grave and be done with it?
"He's still the same person, Miss Lane."
"That's the problem," Lois fought back. Score one for the reporter. You're not down yet, Lois.
From the next room, Luthor cursed under his breath. "Fight me while you can, Lois. Soon you'll see the light."
In the bullpen at the Daily Planet, Perry walked out of his office to find Jimmy sitting at Clark's desk. There was no question he had something on his mind.
"Jimmy! What are you doing here so late? Waiting for that cute little intern in advertising?"
"No, Chief. I've been waiting to hear from Clark and Lois."
"Lois never reported in?"
"No and C. K. left to look for her hours ago."
"I wouldn't worry about them, son. People in love just don't think half the time. Trust me. They're probably holed up somewhere neckin'. Which come to think of it isn't such a bad idea. Why don't you…"
A gleam sprung to Jimmy's eyes. "See if I can find the cute little intern in advertising? Good idea, Perry."
Prescott could see he had to turn this around and quick or Lois' current perception of Luthor was going to override the past. He had to keep her focus on the Luthor she met and almost married. Picking up a remote control, Prescott roused Lois. He started showing her slides featuring Luthor in his heyday. They included pictures of Lois and Luthor during their engagement, attending various black tie affairs around Metropolis. "I want you to think back. Remember how good it felt to be on the arm of the third richest man in the world?"
The slides continued. There was no doubt Luthor and Lois made a striking couple. In some of the photos, she almost looked happy. However, there was always a tinge of sadness in her eyes.
"Remember how Luthor made you feel when he'd fly you to Paris or Milan on the spur of the moment?" Lois saw a picture of them exiting Luthor's private jet.
She tried her best to ignore the pictures flashing before her, but something kept pulling her in.
Prescott whispered in her ear. "Think of the many gifts he lavished on you, simply because he loved you. Lex Luthor wanted you then and he wants you now."
"No! I don't want … him. I want … Clark."
"Unfortunately, Miss Lane, Clark Kent is not a part of your life anymore."
"No!" Lois was on the verge of tears. Clark was slipping away from her and she'd never felt so powerless. I must help him, she thought. I must…
A smile crossed Luthor's face as he descended the stairs to Clark's cell. He couldn't resist taunting the superhero in his weakened state. "Well, well. The last time I had you in a kryptonite cell was on my wedding day. I thought I had you beat, but you're a wily one, Superman." He bent down to taunt Clark with the keys to his cell. "Maybe I should say you *were* a wily one."
Clark tried to grab the keys, but to no avail as Luthor jerked them back just in time.
"Un-uh. This time, I do have you beat." Lex's spirits soared at the sight of the man from Krypton cringing in pain. "Lois has all but forgotten about you and Kent. She's as good as mine!" His evil laugh echoed throughout the basement.
"Let her go, Luthor," Clark rasped. For him, every breath was agony. But his physical anguish was nothing compared to the mental torture he endured worrying about Lois.
"Poor, poor Superman. Looks as though you have an appointment with 'Death'. Don't let me keep you." Luthor exited, still chuckling to himself.
On the floor of his cell, Clark offered up a silent prayer. Please…keep her strong. His verbal battle with Luthor proved to be too much as Clark fell unconscious.
Upstairs, Lois was still going head to head with Prescott. This time, Prescott shifted his strategy to comparing Lex to Clark. "Come now, Miss Lane, you have to know Lex is prepared to lay the world at your feet. That's hardly something Kent can do on a reporter's salary."
All this served to do was make Lois even more conscious of her love for her partner and her growing hatred for Luthor. "If only you knew."
"But Lex Luthor wants to marry you."
Lois groaned in frustration. "Lex wants to *possess* me."
Just at that moment, Luthor burst through the door. "Well, Lois I trust you've seen the light thanks to Mindbender."
Considering her drugged state, Lois glared as intently as she could at Luthor. "I don't think I've ever despised anyone as much as I do you."
A smirk crossed Luthor's face as he crossed the room. Running his fingers down Lois' arm, he recited a quote he used the night he'd been drugged with Miranda's pheromone compound. "Imprison her soft hands and let her rave…" He leaned close to her face. "…and feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes."
Lois fought against the restraints that held her.
"Ah, I see you *do* remember."
"What I remember is that you were out of your head that night. Apparently you still are," Lois hissed.
"They say there is a fine line between love and hate, Lois."
"I know which side of the fence I am on. Face it, Lex. The best you can hope for from me is utter contempt. Like I told you, no drug is going to change how I feel."
"So you say." Luthor's tone was ominous. He turned his attention to Prescott. "Doctor, could I see you outside for a moment?"
Beyond earshot, Luthor demanded to know why Lois hadn't caved in. "It's been more than six hours, Prescott! Just how long will it take for Mindbender to work it's magic?"
"What can I tell you? She's got a strong will!" Prescott explained.
Lex began to pace furiously. "Are you telling me your drug doesn't work?"
"No drug works on everyone. How was I to know how strong her loyalty to Superman as well as her fiance' would be? Maybe you should just call it a day."
The very thought infuriated Lex. "Lex Luthor *never* gives up and neither will you if you ever want to see your family again."
Clearly, Prescott was concerned for Lois' safety as well as that of his family. He could see her through the two- way mirror, struggling to stay awake. "I've already given her more than twice the maximum dosage I've ever given a patient. If I administer more of the drug, I can't be responsible for the side effects. There's no telling what this might do to her."
Lex would not be dissuaded. Grabbing Prescott's coat by the lapels, he shouted, "I don't care if you have to use an I. V. drip! Lois Lane *will* be mine, body and soul, or your family is history."
Prescott felt he carried the world on his shoulders as he stepped back into the room to take a seat by Lois. They had been at this for hours and the drug was clearly taking a toll on her. Taking her vital signs, Prescott found her skin was clammy and she acted chilled.
Picking up the chart he was keeping on Lois, Prescott could swear he heard her say, "Clark … I've got to save *Clark*". He carefully noted "Nine and a half hours into experiment and subject is experiencing mild delirium confusing her fiance' with Superman."
Lois roused slightly as Prescott covered her with a blanket and murmured, "I don't suppose you convinced him to let me go?" She knew better than to be hopeful.
Prescott was almost at the end of his rope. His conscience was killing him for doing this to Lois, but his family needed him as well. Talk about your proverbial rock and hard place. "For God's sake, Miss Lane! Why don't you make it easy on yourself and give in!"
The reporter couldn't believe her ears. With the small shred of resistance she had left, she argued, "If I do, what hope is there for Superman?"
Running his hand through his tousled blond hair, Prescott asked, "What makes you think there's hope for any of us?" Reluctantly, he began to fill yet another syringe, trying to focus on the needle rather than the weary young woman seated next to him.
Lois was not one for begging, at least, not until now. "Please," she groaned pitifully, "no more."
She could see the muscle in Prescott's tightened jaw flinch.
"I am sorry, Miss Lane. I have no choice."
Lois flinched at the prick of the needle.
Clearly, this bothered Prescott, who stroked her hair and tried to talk her through it. "If you'll just bend, even a little, Mindbender will help you the rest of the way."
Lois stirred sleepily. "Help me…"
Close to midnight, Prescott sighed and ran his fingers through his hair." One more time, Miss Lane. Who do you want to be with?"
Lois had a distant look in her eyes. Everything seemed surreal. Her lips formed a half-smile as she said, "Lex."
Prescott snapped to attention. A breakthrough at last! "And who is your enemy?" he asked breathlessly.
Shuddering with revulsion, Lois declared, "Superman."
In his cell of kryptonite, Clark could hear distinct sounds above him. Tables and chairs were being moved, champagne was placed in an ice bucket to chill and worst of all, Luthor was humming happily. Clark began to feel forgotten and alone, so very alone. "They're having a party without me," he groaned. He was experiencing the worst loneliness of all. Dying alone.
The only thing which kept him from giving up entirely was thinking of Lois. Since she came into his life, she had become his reason for living. He held onto consciousness by thinking only of her. It wasn't hard. He'd had plenty of practice doing that for the two years he'd known her.
Clark remembered the first time they met, when she breezed into Perry's office during the middle of his interview. "All business and no personality," Cat Grant had joked, but Clark didn't think of Lois that way.
At Luthor's ball to announce his plans for building a space station, Lois had swept Clark off his feet, literally, as he hovered above the ballroom floor, hoping for a better look at her.
Later, when she warned the farmboy from Kansas not to fall for her, he could do nothing else. This was the Lois he loved and the one who would come for him if only she could. Where was she?
Lex looked up in anticipation as a bleary-eyed Prescott walked in.
"May I present the new and improved Lois Lane."
As Lex would put it, Lois was a veritable vision. She wore her hair swept up, with numerous curls framing her face, a simple, yet elegant black dress which accented her voluptuous form and a warm smile, guaranteed to melt the coldest of hearts. Luthor was speechless as he walked around Lois, enjoying the view.
She turned to face him and ran her fingers over the lapels of his jacket. Her voice dripped with honey. "Hello, Lex. Been waiting long?"
"All my life," he whispered.
Lois strolled over to a stereo in the corner of the room. Searching for a moment, she found the perfect CD. The music began to play. "Come on, now. Try and understand how I feel under your command…" Lois looked at Lex and said, "Dance with me." It wasn't a request. It was an order, which Luthor was most eager to obey.
Downstairs, Clark could hear the music playing. With the little strength he had left, his x-ray vision lasted long enough for him to see Lois and Luthor moving in tandem to the music. For a moment, Clark thought the kryptonite was getting the best of his vision. Lois looked as though she enjoyed being in Luthor's arms. "Please … let her just be … buying time," he begged. He didn't dare think of Luthor successfully using Mindbender on Lois.
As Lois and Luthor moved across the floor together, Lex could not remember feeling so vibrant, so alive. The woman he ached to possess was about to be his at last. Lois viewed him with eyes full of promise for the night ahead. Please, Luthor thought, don't ever let this feeling end.
The chorus echoed throughout the room as their dance escalated into a rapturous peak.
"Take me now
Take me now
Take me now
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us…"**
When the song drew to a close, Luthor dipped his partner deeply and placed a strategic kiss on her neck. He was pleased to feel Lois' heart racing as much as his own.
As he raised her up, he whispered in her ear, "I always knew you had a gypsy in your soul."
"And to think you were the one to free her," Lois smiled seductively.
Luthor was enchanted. "You want to be with me?"
"I do." When Lex began showering her with grateful kisses, Lois whispered, "God help me. I do."
"A far cry from utter contempt, wouldn't you say?" Prescott spoke from the shadows.
"I must admit, Mindbender is impressive," said Luthor as he caressed Lois' cheek. "However, I still have one test for Lois."
"Oh, Lex," she sighed. "Why delay the inevitable? We were meant to be together."
"We will be, darling. I promise. But I need you to do something for me first."
Lex hesitated momentarily. Could this really be the same Lois Lane who despised him only hours ago? He reached for a leather case and opened it to reveal a gun and six bullets made of kryptonite. "I need you to kill Superman."
It was close to dawn when Clark looked up from the floor of his cell to see Lois descending the basement stairs. She wore a black hooded cape Lex had given her. In Clark's eyes, she easily could have been the heroine from the romance novel she'd toyed with for the last few years.
Lois seemed as if she were on autopilot as she moved gracefully across the floor. When she unlocked the cell door, Clark breathed a sigh of relief. Although the kryptonite had taken it's toll, Clark was still lucid enough to be grateful that help had come at last. "Lois, thank God you're here! I knew you had to be buying time upstairs."
Stepping inside the cell, Lois appeared unfazed by Clark's pain. He couldn't understand why she seemed so distant. Why hadn't she shut off the power that activated the kryptonite in the bars? Then, all too soon, Clark understood.
"Since you know so much," Lois said as she turned to face him, "do you also know that I'm here to kill you?" With that, she drew Lex's gun out of her sleeve and pointed it directly at Clark.
Upstairs, Lex Luthor was jovial as he celebrated with a glass of his favorite champagne. "Just think," he smiled as he lit one of his favorite Cuban cigars, "Superman dead and Lois Lane in my bed. Perfection! Prescott, you *are* a genius!"
Steven Prescott didn't share his sentiment. A sick feeling threatened to overwhelm him. He hesitated for a moment. Then when Lex was caught up in anticipation of being with Lois, Prescott slipped down the hallway. As he reached the doorway to his office, he could hear strains of Lex singing "because the night belongs to lovers, because the night belongs to us…"
To his horror, Clark realized Luthor had succeeded in turning Lois against him. In spite of his weakened state, his mind raced to think of a way to talk her out of her mission. "Lois," he whispered, "it's me, Clark! Remember all we mean to each other?"
Lois would have none of it. "You mean nothing to me!" she snapped. Bending down close to Clark's face, she said, "Except of course, that you're a constant thorn in Lex's side and he wants me to take care of you."
Without Luthor's knowledge, Prescott made it to his office on the first floor of the warehouse. After searching for a moment, he located Lois' purse. Thankfully, he found her cellular phone and wasted no time in dialing 9-1-1.
"Think, Lois! We're engaged, remember?" Clark pleaded. That's when he noticed the solitaire he'd given Lois was absent from her left hand. His feverish touch shocked her as he reached for her hand. "Where's … your ring?" he rasped.
"Lex told me I wouldn't need it anymore." There was something about his touch that troubled Lois. She was so sure of herself when she first entered his cell, and now, she didn't know anymore. Suddenly, she jumped up and walked away from him.
Clark was finding it harder and harder to breathe. "Well … I need you."
This was not what Lois wanted to hear. "Stop it!", she cried. She was becoming increasingly agitated as she started to pace back and forth before Clark. "You don't understand. I *have* to do this!" Clark watched her scrutinize the gun in her hand. Was that a flicker of doubt in her eyes?
"Lois, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. You're the one in control. Not Luthor. Not Prescott. *You*."
Somehow, Clark summoned the strength to scoot along the floor closer to Lois, as she backed away from him.
If only I could stop from shaking, she thought. Her hands were trembling. "Don't come any closer!" she warned Clark.
Clark strained to touch her with an outstretched arm. "Lois, give me the gun. Help me out of here and I promise Luthor will pay for what he's done to you."
The voices inside Lois' head were vying for her sanity. "Stop it!" she begged.
Clark tried to stand, but his legs wouldn't support him. When he looked up, Lois had aimed her gun and was ready to fire. In desperation, Clark called out, "Lois, no!"
Upstairs, Luthor jumped slightly at the sound of the gunshot. He rejoiced. Now, it was just a matter of time before Lois was his.
Just as Lex poured himself another glass of champagne, Lois emerged from the stairwell. Her hair was somewhat disheveled and she appeared dazed.
"Lois, darling?" Lex viewed her with caution. "Did you take care of Superman?"
Lois rubbed her forehead. "I think so."
"Where's the gun?"
"I don't know," she shrugged.
"No matter. The important thing is now we can really be together." As Lex reached to caress Lois' cheek, something about his touch made her recoil. "Lois, what's wrong?"
She began to back away from Lex. "Stay away from me! You did it! You made me kill him!" Her eyes held only fear and loathing for Luthor now.
Lex was startled to say the least. What had happened to the passionate gypsy who was so responsive in his arms earlier? "You're just a little shaken, that's all. It's temporary. It will pass."
Lois was incredulous. "My God, Lex! Is your conscience so seared that you don't have the slightest remorse when someone dies by your own hand?"
"This *is* Superman we're talking about here and I didn't kill him. *You* did," Lex reasoned.
The color drained from her face as she spoke in a horrified whisper, "No!" Suddenly, she turned and bolted up the stairs leading to a catwalk overhead.
"Lois!" Luthor called out after her. She couldn't hear him over the pounding in her ears. She wanted to run. Run from the horrible reality that she had killed the man she loved.
The early morning found Perry White back at his desk, working. Some days,, it seemed he was married to this paper. Thank God Alice understood his devotion to the Daily Planet.
"Chief!" Jimmy rushed in.
"Hey, Jimmy. Ever hear from Clark and Lois?"
Jimmy shook his head. "That's why I'm here. What was the name of the scientist Lois interviewed yesterday?"
"Uh, Pritchard … Preston…" Perry snapped his fingers. "Prescott!"
"That's right. Why?"
"A report just came over the scanner. Someone identifying himself as Prescott called for police and an ambulance. He said something about Superman being in trouble."
Jimmy had Perry's full attention now. "Where?"
"The old Dover warehouse outside of town."
Perry grabbed his coat. "Let's go."
"Where is Lois?"
Luthor turned to see Clark standing in the doorway, aided by Prescott. "Superman? But I thought you were…"
"Dead? Looks like you thought wrong. Now, where is she?"
Numbly, Luthor pointed at the catwalk above them.
"I've got to find her!" Although he was still weak from his prolonged exposure to the kryptonite, Clark felt strong enough to climb the steps.
Prescott cast a concerned look his way. "Are you sure you're strong enough?"
"I have to be," Clark vowed.
When Clark started up the stairs leading to the catwalk, Luthor said, "I'm coming with you!"
"I don't think so," Prescott said, pointing the gun in Luthor's back.
On the catwalk, Clark looked ahead to see Lois running away from him. Enough of his powers had returned to allow him to scan the catwalk. To his horror, he could see many of the braces which held the catwalk in place had rusted with age and disuse. Lois seemed oblivious to the possible danger she faced.
When Lois reached the end of the catwalk, she tried in vain to open a bolted door. Realizing this was the end of the line and there was nowhere else to run, she sunk to the catwalk beneath her. Tears spilled over her cheeks as she whispered, "What am I going to do now?"
A familiar, soothing voice spoke her name. "Lois."
She looked up to see Clark standing close to her. "Oh, my God!" Lois' face went ashen as if she'd seen ghost. "How can this be? I killed you! I know I did!"
Clark leaned down by Lois and reached out to wipe her tears. "No, you didn't. I'm okay."
Even with Clark touching her, Lois' mind wouldn't set her free. "I'm dreaming, aren't I? You're not real."
Taking her hands in his own, Clark placed them on his face. "Feel me, Lois. It's Clark, remember? I'm real and I love you." He kissed her fingertips as they brushed his lips.
Relief washed over Lois as reality finally took hold. "It is you. Oh, Clark." She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on for dear life.
"It's okay, honey. I'm going to take you home. Luthor can't hurt you anymore."
Just as Clark helped a shaky Lois to her feet, the bolts holding the catwalk to the wall gave way. Lois screamed.
Luthor's eyes widened with horror. "Lois!" he called out.
Although Prescott was just as anxious for the couple, he continued to hold Luthor with the gun.
Clark and Lois swung precariously in the air as the catwalk swayed back and forth. "Can you fly yet?" Lois asked.
"Not after being exposed to kryptonite for over twelve hours. We're going to have to climb up. Can you hold on?"
"I think so." Lois didn't want to think of the alternative as she looked down at the floor several stories below.
Clark began climbing, albeit tentatively, so as not to cause the catwalk to give way any further. "It's okay, Lois. Start climbing when you're ready."
Lois tried her best to only focus on the catwalk in front of her. Lacing her fingers through the grid, she began inching her way up behind Clark. Please, she prayed, let us get through this so I can make up for what I've done to him.
When Clark reached the top, he slowly turned around to face Lois. "You're doing great. Keep coming."
Lois was only inches away when the bolts holding the section of catwalk to which she clung started to give way. "Help me!" she cried out.
"Quick! Give me your hand!"
Lois' fear made it hard to pry her fingers from the grid, but she worked them loose just in time for Clark to grab her hand and then her arm. Superpowers didn't play a role in saving Lois. At this point, Clark was operating on pure adrenaline.
Drawing her up into his arms, Clark gave thanks.
Downstairs, Luthor and Prescott watched anxiously as Clark carried Lois across the remaining catwalk and down the stairs. Her head was buried in his shoulder and she was crying softly as Clark spoke soothingly.
The police rushed in, followed closely by EMT's and Perry and Jimmy.
Luthor's heart, provided he actually had one, went out to Lois. "Is she all right?" Luthor asked.
"No thanks to you," Clark replied tersely.
"Still think I'm a genius, Luthor?" Prescott asked.
As Lois was being wheeled out to the ambulance, Prescott rushed up with her chart in hand. He gave it to Clark, who was still appearing as Superman, and said, "They'll be needing this at the hospital."
"Thank you. How is your family?"
"They're going to be fine."
One of the police detectives had additional questions for Prescott. He turned to Clark and offered to meet them at the hospital as soon as he was finished there.
Looking to Perry and Jimmy, Clark said, "I guess I'd better go with Lois."
"I don't understand. Where is C. K.? We've been looking for him since last night."
Clark smiled wryly. "Wherever he is, Jimmy, I think it's safe to assume he looked for Lois throughout the night."
Perry and Jimmy watched as he stepped into the ambulance to take Lois' hand. "I'll find Clark as soon as I'm sure Lois is okay."
Perry White looked up from his desk to see Lois standing in the doorway to his office. "Honey, what on earth are you doing at work?"
"I couldn't stay home. I need to stay busy."
Perry led Lois to the sofa. "I know, but didn't the doctors want you to take several days off? Something about needing some rest?"
"Oh, Perry. The doctors don't know anything. Mindbender is a such a new drug, they don't know what to do for me. Even Prescott doesn't know how far-reaching the effects are, because he's never administered such a high dosage before. He thinks the drug will have to just run its course until it's out of my system."
Just then, Perry noticed Clark step off the elevator. "Wait here. Okay, honey?"
Perry met Clark at his desk. "Uh, Clark. Lois is in my office."
"Seems she thinks she's going to get some work done."
"I don't know how, Chief. She's a walking zombie these days." Clark lowered his glasses and peering into Perry's office, he could see Lois stretching out on Perry's sofa.
"She looks exhausted."
"She is! One of the side effects is recurring nightmares."
"She won't talk about it. All I know is, no matter how heavily sedated she was in the hospital, invariably she would wake up in the night calling my name. Every night. She's not sleeping, which is making everything worse."
"Didn't the doctors bring in a therapist for her to talk to?"
"You know Lois. She likes to believe she can handle things on her own. She won't talk to anybody but Dr. Friskin and *she's* on sabbatical, consulting for a television series. Can you believe it?"
"Well, one thing's for sure. Lois isn't going to get much work done here today. Take her home, son and make sure you stay with her."
"I don't need a baby-sitter, Clark!" Lois snapped as she walked into her apartment with Clark close on her heels.
"I didn't say you did, but I've got orders from Perry."
"You both worry too much."
Clark smiled and said, "Something tells me I could never worry too much about you."
"Well, since it looks like I'm not going to talk you out of it, you can have the sofa. If it's too small, I'm sure you can find an air current that's more to your liking." She made a floating motion with her hands. "I'm going to bed. Not that it's going to do me any good…"
As Lois shuffled off to her bedroom, Clark began to straighten up the apartment. Lois was usually a neat housekeeper, but since the incident with Luthor, she'd let things go. No matter, Clark had the place sparkling in less than five minutes.
He glanced at his watch as he leaned against the kitchen counter. "Hey, a new record!" he bragged.
Later that evening, Clark was floating above the sofa, reading. When a familiar song started to play on the radio.
"She's taken my time
Convinced me she's fine
But when she leaves
I'm not so sure
It's always the same
She's playing her game
And when she goes
I feel to blame
Why won't she say she needs me
I know she's not as strong as she seems
Why don't I see a cry for help
Why don't I feel a cry for help
Why don't I hear her cry for help"
Above the chorus, Clark could hear Lois tossing and turning in her bed. He scanned the wall separating their rooms just in time to see her sit upright in bed. "Clark!" she called out in stark terror.
Clark was by her side in a nano second. "Lois, what is it? Another nightmare?"
"How'd you guess?" She was wringing wet with perspiration as she pushed the bedcovers back and sprung from the bed. Tossing open the window, she leaned against the frame and gulped deep breaths of air.
Clark walked up behind her and put her robe around her shoulders. As she slipped the robe on, Clark said, "Don't you think it's time we talked about the nightmares you're having?"
"No. I can't."
"Lois, you know I love you. There's nothing you can't tell me," Clark offered.
"There is one thing," she countered.
Clark grabbed Lois by the arms. "It's killing me to see you go through this. Now, tell me about the dream. I'm not taking no for an answer."
"You'll hate me."
"Nothing could change the way I feel about you. Talk to me."
Lois moved to sit down on her bed. "This isn't easy for me, you know."
Clark stroked her arm as he sat beside her. "Take your time."
Lois thought for a moment and then began tentatively. "The dream starts off with you in the basement of the warehouse, locked in the kryptonite cell. Then Lex carries me in and lowers me to a bed set up outside your cell. He starts to…" Lois stopped as if repulsed by the image.
Taking a deep breath, she swallowed hard and began again. "He starts making love to me as if he wants to flaunt it in your face. In distance, I can hear you calling out to me, but I can't respond because Lex is making me feel things I know only you can." Lois stood to her feet and started to pace, rubbing her arms as if she was having a chill.
"What happens next?" Clark asked.
"Lex places a gun in my hand and tells me if I take care of you, he and I can be together at last. So, I aim the gun and …" Lois' lip began to quiver, " … and in spite of your pleas, I pull the trigger. That's when I wake up. Oh Clark, I love you. How could I ever try to kill you?"
Clark reached out for Lois and drew her close. "You didn't try to kill me."
"Of course I did! I remember the gun going off and you on the floor."
"Do you remember what happened before the gun went off?"
Lois thought for a moment. "I remember telling you I had to kill you."
"Right. And then I said, 'You don't have to do anything you don't want to…'"
"You're the one in control. Not Luthor. Not Prescott. You."
As Clark had edged toward Lois, she had backed away from him. Her hands were trembling. "Don't come any closer!" she warned him.
Clark strained to touch her with an outstretched arm. "Lois, give me the gun. Help me out of here and I promise Luthor will pay for what he's done to you."
"Stop it!" she begged.
Clark tried to stand, but his legs wouldn't support him. When he looked up, Lois had aimed the gun … at herself. "Lois, no!" Clark called out as he lunged for her. As they fell to the floor, the gun discharged.
"I guess that lunge took a lot out of me, because the next thing I remember is Prescott leaning over me, telling me you panicked and ran up the stairs. So you see, Lois, you were ready to sacrifice yourself before you'd do me any harm."
"That's such a relief. I didn't want to believe I could do such a thing," she said.
"If only I'd known what was bothering you, I would have taken care of this sooner."
Lois reached out to touch his face gratefully.
"Now, do you think you can get some sleep?"
Lois tensed at the thought. "I'm scared to try, Clark." She backed away from him and moved to look out the window. "Every time I close my eyes, Lex is there waiting for me. I can smell his cologne. I feel his hands touching me. His lips on my own. And I can hear his words in my ear, urging me to kill you."
Her pain tore at Clark's heart.
"When I think about what could have happened if he … If we …" Lois shut her eyes in revulsion. "That's why I can't sleep. I keep reliving it over and over in my dreams. He won't leave me alone."
Clark walked up beside her. "What can I do to help?" he asked.
Lois paused for a moment and then unfastened her robe, allowing it to form a satin pool at her feet. The matching gown she wore was one Clark had seen several times, but he never grew tired of seeing her in it. She turned to face the man of her dreams, instead of nightmares. "You can make love to me," she whispered softly.
That was the last thing Clark expected to hear that night. "Lois…" he hesitated.
She eased into Clark's embrace. Tracing his jawline with feather light kisses, she murmured, "Please, Clark. Help me forget."
Lois' kisses were proving hard to resist. It would be so easy to give in to the desire he felt for her.
"Come on, Clark. It's not like it's our first time or anything. I really need you tonight."
He stroked her hair as he studied her face for a brief moment. Then, without a word, he picked her up in his arms and carried her across the floor. Lois saw something in his expression. Was it remorse? Resignation? As Clark lowered her to the bed, he sighed and said, " Lois, I can't do this." He flinched to see the hurt in her eyes.
Lois rolled away from him. "It's the dream, isn't it? I should have known you wouldn't want me any more."
"That's not true. You are the most desirable woman I know."
"If I'm so 'desirable', then why won't you make love to me?"
"Because I think you need someone just to love you instead."
"Does there have to be a difference?"
Clark took her hand in his own. "There does tonight. You're just too vulnerable and I can't take advantage of that."
Half-smiling, Lois said, "I hate it when you're noble."
"There are plenty of wicked times in store."
"Count on it." Clark returned her smile.
"Okay then, Mr. Kent. If it's loving you think I need, then *love* me."
Clark pulled the covers back and motioned for her to crawl beneath them. Then he slipped in beside her. Just as she'd done many times before, Lois laid her head on his shoulder. Clark wrapped his arm around her. This feels so right, he thought. Nobody could ever complete me like this lady does.
Just being this close to Clark did wonders for Lois too. She felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She was so warm and happy in his arms, the last thing she wanted to think about was the world outside her window, but she had to ask. "What if someone needs you tonight?"
"Someone does," he replied, "I'm where I'm supposed to be. Sweet dreams, Lois."
She smiled as she traced an imaginary "S" on his chest. "Sweet indeed," she murmured happily as she drifted off to sleep.
The night proved one of the longest Clark ever spent. Being that close to Lois and not being able to make love to her challenged Clark in a way that he hadn't dealt with since Lois did her infamous "Dance of the Seven Veils", under the influence of the pheromone compound. Her satin gown, which did an excellent job of tracing the curves of her body, actually revealed more than it concealed.
Thankfully, dawn eventually came and when Lois woke, she looked over to find a rose on the pillow next to her. She drank in the sweet fragrance of the flower and smiled. "Straight from Martha's garden. I should have known."
She showered and dressed. Walking into her kitchen, she found the table set and decorated with more of Martha's roses and Clark working furiously at the stove.
Lois stepped behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Good morning," she said.
"Hey there. How'd you sleep?"
"Like a baby."
"No more bad dreams?"
"I think you were just what the doctor ordered. What's for breakfast?"
"How about a Spanish omelet?"
"Hmm. Sounds heavenly." She reached around him to sneak a piece of cheese. "You know, I missed you this morning."
Clark moved to the refrigerator to take out freshly squeezed juice. "Well, I had a couple of errands to run. I see you found the rose."
"Yes, I did. Thank you. So, you went to your parents' and …"
He grinned sheepishly. "Would you believe the Arctic Circle?"
"The Arctic Circle? Why?"
"Well, it *was* a long night and sometimes a cold shower just won't do."
Lois' laughter was music to Clark's ears. "Well, if I turn you on that much, I'm glad."
"You do and you did."
"You know what they say about good things coming to those who wait."
Clark smiled knowingly.
Lois took a seat at the table while Clark began filling their plates.
Besides Lois' plate, there was a small covered dish that peaked her curiosity. "What's in here?" She lifted the cover to find her engagement ring. "My ring," she whispered in awe. "When Lex took it from me, I didn't think I'd ever see it again." She held it up in amazement as Clark knelt beside her.
He took the ring and said, "I wasn't sure you'd want to wear it again after all you've been through."
"Try and stop me, farmboy." She held out her left hand for him to slip the ring back into it's rightful place. Admiring the ring for a moment, she looked at Clark and said, "I'm the luckiest woman on the planet. If only the world knew what a 'super man' Clark Kent really is.
** "Because The Night", Springsteen/Smith
*** "Cry For Help", Astley/Fisher