By Amy Rupp (lib010.jccv05.jmsaca.sunyjcc.edu)
Summary: A Superman costume and a clue involving Double Fudge Crunch Bars lead Lois to discover a new side of Clark.
Puzzle Pieces (another LNC revelation story)
Mariner's Pier Restaurant Metropolis Marina Mid-Afternoon
I'll meet you back at The Planet, Lois," Clark said as he opened the taxi door for her. "I've got a couple of things I need to do."
"We've still got to finish our story so don't be too long." Lois kissed him lightly on the cheek before climbing into the taxi. As it was beginning to pull away, she stuck her head out the window. "Clark," she called after him. "If you're going past the drugstore, could you pick up some aspirin and shampoo…oh, and a couple of double fudge crunch bars?"
Clark waved an okay and watched as the taxi sped off down the street. He quickly scribbled down Lois' shopping list on a scrap of paper so he wouldn't forget to stop and buy them. He'd always had trouble balancing his job at The Planet and his responsibilities as Superman. Now he had to find time, uninterrupted time, to spend with Lois. He wasn't complaining of course. He could think of nothing he'd rather do than spend time with her, but his responsibilities as Superman were becoming harder and harder to keep from her. Business, as they say, has been too good. He couldn't help everybody, but how could he decide who not to help? He'd been out the last three nights, *all* night and he couldn't keep that up for very much longer. Lois wouldn't put up with being abandoned all the time either. He'd rushed her out of the restaurant rather quickly today, but she didn't seem to notice. They'd enjoyed an uninterrupted lunch, but as they were leaving he'd heard someone calling for help. As he rushed into a deserted alleyway, Clark hoped he wouldn't be too late.
City Room Daily Planet Late Afternoon
"CK, where ya been?" Jimmy asked as he bounced up along side Clark. "You won't believe how lucky I got. I was on my lunch break when I saw this crowd gathered down by one of those new apartment buildings down by the wharf. One of them *collapsed* today! I got some really great pictures of Superman. The Chief said he's gonna put this one on the front page! Isn't that great?! I mean it's awful what happened, but THE FRONT PAGE!"
Clark stared at the picture Jimmy had handed him. There it was in print, the image that had burned itself into Clark's mind. He'd done everything he could, but he couldn't get to that woman in time. Clark would never forget the look on that little girl's face, those big brown eyes, rimmed with tears as she looked up at him, or the question she asked Superman, "Why couldn't you save my Mommy?" It had been running through his head ever since. He'd tried to get away from the scene as quickly as possible, but the press and the public had swarmed around him, like they always did.
"Front page, that's great, Jimmy," Clark stuttered, unenthusiatically as he handed the photo back to Jimmy.
"Nice of you to join us, Kent," Perry bellowed from his office. "I don't suppose you've been at the wharf getting us an exclusive to go with the pictures the kid got."
"Clark, where have you been?" Lois asked tugging on his jacket. "I finished the story, but Perry wants us to start investigating this building collapse. It was a new building, Clark, it shouldn't just fall down." Lois looked toward Perry's office, then in a whisper, "Did you get my double fudge crunch bars?"
"Are you two still here?"
"We're leaving right now, Perry. C'mon Clark, we need to get to the Hall of Records before they close." Lois pulled him into the elevator. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Lois," Clark mumbled. "Just a headache."
Lois knew it was more than that, but she was hesitant to push. Since Mayson's death, Clark hadn't really been himself. She thought he'd finally come to terms with it in the last week, he'd seemed like his old self again. They'd gone to a couple of movies, out to lunch and dinner. Lois looked over at him as he stared off into the distance. Maybe she should try to get him to talk.
Clark was numb, he couldn't think of anything besides that little girl. He knew he couldn't save everybody, but how do you explain that to a seven year old girl who doesn't have a mother any more. What about Mayson? If he and Lois had been on time, she might still be alive. There was only so much one man could do, even a super man. Absent-mindedly, Clark reached up, took off his glasses and rubbed his hand over his face. He needed to talk to someone, but who? His parents were off at some art show in Kansas City, he couldn't tell Lois without…that was out of the question right now.
"Clark, is your headache that bad? Maybe you should just go home, you look really tired. I'll cover for you." Lois reached up and brushed Clark's hair back off his forehead. She didn't remember ever having seen him without his glasses on. He looked really different, but familiar too.
Realizing what he had done, Clark quickly put his glasses back on. "I'll be OK, let's just go."
He obviously wasn't in any mood to discuss what was bothering him. Unable to think of anything to say, Lois slipped her hand into his. He squeezed her hand slightly and gave a her a sweet little don't worry, I'll be OK smile.
Clark's Apartment Late Night
"This is great! If you hear anything else, you give me a call. What? Yeah, it was great talking to you too, Eddie." Lois hung up the phone and looked over at Clark. They'd been working on this story for hours and nothing seemed to fit. Everything in the official paperwork seemed okay. It wasn't until she called Eddie that she got the information they needed to make this article work. "Clark, look at this. Eddie says it was Waterman Construction that built that complex. It seems that after the City Council approved Allied's bid, they pulled out and with them went the approved specs. Some "behind closed doors" dealing led to Waterman doing the job."
"So?" Clark's interest seems piqued. It was about time, Lois thought, he'd been pretty useless all evening. The only thing he'd done was go out to get them some supper. It took him over an hour and a half and he'd gotten the order completely wrong. Whatever possessed him to order squid she would never know.
"The wrong paperwork is on file at the Hall of Records, including the specs that belong to a job that wasn't done. See, look at this." Lois held out a copy of the building plans they'd gotten from the Hall of Records. "According to these plans the buildings were to be two stories and built around a central courtyard. Clark, the building that collapsed was four stories and it faced the wharf."
"Lois, that doesn't prove the building structure was unstable." Clark seemed slightly annoyed that Lois was even considering this theory.
"I know that, Clark. But, Eddie says he can get us a copy of the plans that were used and that will prove the building's design was structurally unsound. He also says he can put me in touch with someone who can name the councilman who worked out this deal." Lois sat down with a satisfied expression on her face. "What do you think about that, partner? Pretty good work, huh?"
Usually, when one of their contacts came through, Clark believed the information they provided, but now he seemed less than convinced. "What's the matter, Clark, don't you believe Eddie's information?"
"Yeah, I believe him."
"Is you headache still that bad? You just aren't acting like yourself. Here, why don't you lay down for a while." Lois urged Clark on by lifting his feet onto the couch. Clark complied, flipping off his loafers.
Clark looked at her standing over him. She was so beautiful. She'd always been there for him, maybe it was time to be honest with her. Clark reached up and brushed his hand across her cheek.
"Clark?" Concern filled Lois' voice. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Clark pulled her down to his level. He studied her carefully for several minutes. "Lois, there's something I have to tell you," he said, nervously looking away from her. "I'm not sure how you're going to react, but promise me you'll listen to everything I have to tell you."
Lois pulled away from him. "Boy, I'm starved. Are you hungry? Why don't I fix us something."
Clark sank back onto the couch, crushed. It was all becoming too much for him. His life as Superman was getting out of control, costing him everything he cared about.
Lois had hurried out to the kitchen and began rummaging through the refrigerator. "I know what you're thinking," she called in to Clark. "But I've been working on my cooking. Yuck! Don't you ever clean this thing out? You've got stuff in here that's way past being a science experiment."
Afraid of what faced her outside the confines of Clark's kitchen, Lois was content to clean. She scrubbed everything in sight until it shined. She was being silly and immature she thought as she emptied the contents of the last two containers into the garbage disposal and started it up. In the living room was a man who she trusted and cared very deeply about. What was the worst he could say? The disposal grunted several times and then splattered food all over the sink, the counter and Lois.
"Clark! Why didn't you tell me that thing didn't work?!" Lois stormed out of the kitchen, but her tirade went unheard. Clark's head was flopped back on the arm rest, eyes closed and glasses askew. It figures, she thought, first he's lost in his own little world, then I get cold feet and now he's asleep…good work, Lane. Lois wiped a bit of food from her face and decided to shower and put on some clean clothes before she went home.
After showering, Lois found a pair of sweats and a T-shirt but she still needed something to put on her feet. Sweats and high heels were not part of any fashion statement she wanted to make. As she rummaged through Clark's closet, a bit of bright blue material caught her eye. It appeared to be stuck between the back wall of the closet and the corner. Lois tapped on the wall, it sounded hollow. Why did Clark need a closet with a secret compartment? Lois felt around until she found the small trigger that released the panel. Inside, she found a trio of Superman costumes.
At first, she just stood there and stared at them. Then, after a quick look over her shoulder, she took the closest one out of the closet, cape and all. First, she just held it up and looked at it. Standing in front of the mirror, she wrapped the cape around her. It made her feel safe and protected. She chewed on her lip for several minutes, debating, before she quickly undressed and slipped the suit on. The suit was too big, of course. It fit kind of like Clark's clothes had. It even had the faint scent of Clark's cologne.
Lois scratched her arm absent mindedly as she thought about the two men in her life. They were so different and yet very much alike. It was strange that after so many years of not being able to find the right guy, she now had two men in her life. Lois thought back to when she met each of them. They'd arrived in Metropolis at about the same time. Who'd have thought she'd end up in a relationship with the farmboy…the Hick from Nowheresville. She'd been so mean to Clark when he first started working at The Planet. She wouldn't even give him the time of day, especially when Superman was around. Of course, Clark wasn't usually around when Superman was.
Lois looked at the pictures on Clark's dresser. There were photos of him when he was growing up, his parents and even one of her with Superman. How strange that of all the pictures of her that Clark had, he displayed one with Superman in it. Lois picked up a picture that was half hidden behind several others. It was a picture of Clark. It couldn't have been more than a year old. It looked like he was standing in one of his parent's fields with his arms crossed over his chest. The Superman pose, she thought. Scratching her arm again, she looked at Clark's picture more closely. She'd never noticed how much Clark and Superman looked alike, same build, same hair color. If Clark didn't wear those glasses…
Lois clawed at her arm again. How can he wear this thing if it itches this much. Lois reached up into the sleeve hoping to find whatever it was that was making her scratch. She pulled out a slip of paper with a note scribbled on one side. It read: Shampoo, Aspirin, DBL Fudge Crunch Bars for Lois DON'T FORGET!!! and underneath was that funny little squiggle Clark always made at the bottom of his lists.
Lois reached for the photo of Clark…same build…same hair color…She stared at the picture, trying to imagine Clark without glasses. The image of him in the elevator flashed through her mind. She broke out in a cold sweat and her heart raced. Clark IS Superman. Why hadn't she ever noticed? All the puzzle pieces were in place, but she'd never seen the picture. She was flooded with emotions, relief, joy, fear, love, but the most powerful, at this moment was anger.
If Clark was Superman, then he'd lied to her! He'd been making a fool of her all this time!
Lois gave a determined tug on her tights and stormed out to the living room. The sight of Clark floating over the sofa stopped her in the doorway. Picking up the first object she could find, she threw it at him. The impact woke him and he crashed down on to the sofa.
"You lied to me," Lois screamed. "How could you?"
Still half asleep and shocked to see Lois in his Superman costume, Clark couldn't manage any more than, "Lois?"
"Don't Lois me, farmboy. I trusted you! I thought we were partners. I *thought* we were best friends! I THOUGHT WE WERE…" her voice trailed off as she was overcome with tears.
Clark rushed to her side and took her in his arms. Lois tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her. Finally, she gave in needing the security of his grasp. She cried uncontrollably. For several long minutes Clark sat there, knowing he was to blame for all the pain and betrayal Lois was feeling, but unsure how to comfort her.
Lois held tightly to Clark's shirt. It was all she had. She hated him for his lies, but she didn't want him to leave her. Why did he do this to her? Lois sobbed, her breath coming in short gasps. Clark tried to move away from her, but Lois clung to him.
"Lois, I'm sorry," Clark said, almost inaudibly.
"Why?" She almost choked on the word.
Clark looked into her red-rimmed eyes and his heart bled. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt her and that was the one thing he'd managed to do. Wiping the tears from her face, he made a silent vow to never hurt her again.
As they sat together in the doorway, Clark told her everything there was to know about him. He told her how his parents found him. He told her how alone he'd felt his whole life, about his desire for a normal life and his frustration at not being able to help everyone. He told her about all the time he just wanted to shout, "Lois, I'm Superman!" He told her about all his fears, all his dream, but most importantly, he told her how much he loved her.
After a few silent minutes, he spoke again, "Lois, I'll understand if you never want to see me again. I'll even leave Metropolis if you want me to."
She looked up at him without giving away any emotion. "Clark, I should hate you for all your lies, for all the times you've left me, but right now I have only one thing to say to you. I don't think you'll be needing these anymore." With that, she reached up and took off Clark's glasses and tossed them aside. She looked at him as if she were seeing him for the first time. "I love you, Clark."
Lois reached up and threaded her fingers through Clark's hair. She brought her lips up to meet his and they kissed a long, passionate, all-forgiving kiss.