By Jennifer Baker (JijiB@aol.com)
Summary: Superman is accused of having an affair with the wife of Clark Kent! How will Lois and Clark keep the secret?
— to prove it could be done
— this story was begun around the airing to TOGOM and finished around the week before the airing of WWW. Go figure!
(Thanks to Rhen, who probably doesn't even remember suggesting this concept; Zoomway and JonK who gave me the time frame, but probably don't know it; and the FOLCS on fanfic IRC for helping to answer my macabre questions. Special thanks to Leigh for *extensive* proofreading and for writing the first draft of Chapter 2, since I've never been there.)
The Lex Oil tanker came to a screeching halt in the middle of the expressway, flames licking out ominously from underneath it. Around it, drivers maneuvered desperately, and sometimes hopelessly, to avoid hitting either the tanker or each other. The fire slowly spread up the sides of the tanker, threatening to explode the fuel inside. Then, just as it seemed an explosion was inevitable, Superman swept down from the sky, extinguishing the fire with his freezing breath.
Landing next to the tanker to ensure the danger was past, the hero was immediately bombarded by thanks from the drivers whose lives he had saved. Minutes later, the police and firemen arrived on the scene. With them came the reporters. The police immediately moved the public back to a safe distance, thwarting the reporters attempts to get interviews with either the eyewitnesses, who were being examined by the paramedics, or Superman, who was talking with the police and fire chiefs.
One of the reporters, a slim brunette, pushed her way through to the front of the crowd and ducked under the police line.
"Hey!" Police Sergeant Jackson saw her, and moved to stop her.
At about the same time, Superman finished speaking with the chiefs, and, hearing the commotion behind him, looked around to investigate. He smiled when his eyes landed on the reporter.
"She's with me, Sergeant." Intercepting her before the policeman could, he steered her away from the rest of the crowd.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Well, when I got here, the tanker was on fire. It looked like the gasoline inside was going to explode, killing everyone nearby, so I put out the fire with my breath. Easy when you know how," he added, smiling.
She smiled back, her eyes full of concern.
He noticed the look. "Hey, Lois, I'm invulnerable. Remember?"
She shrugged. "I know, it's just … " she glanced over her shoulder at the tanker. "That's an awful lot of gasoline … "
He couldn't help but laugh at that, earning himself a warning glare from Lois. "I'm sorry, Lois. I'm really touched that you care. Honest." As he spoke, he briefly brushed her cheek with the back of his hand.
Lois sighed, releasing her tension. "Okay."
Seeing her relax, and the near anger fade, Superman leaned towards her. "See you later tonight," he whispered, and, with a final parting wink, he launched himself into the air.
Lois stood there for a few seconds, watching him leave, a slight smile on her lips. Then, as he disappeared behind the clouds, she turned, and, pushing her way through the crowd to her Jeep, opened the door and got inside.
The image of Lois in her Jeep went blank as Horace Green pushed the stop button on the VCR. Stepping back, he addressed the assembled crowd.
"Ladies and Gentlemen … " he began, pausing for a moment to enjoy the way his voice echoed through the auditorium. "The tape you have just seen was filmed earlier today, shortly after that filthy alien claimed to stop a tanker from exploding on the freeway. As you could see, Superman," he nearly spat the name, "and that reporter for the Daily Planet, are quite obviously in love."
Green turned back to the crowd. "You see, this creature, this alien has made a fatal mistake. He claims to stand for justice. He claims to stand for truth, and honesty, and everything else that is good noble. But now, my friends, we know the real truth. This alien who claims to be a modern Knight in Shining Armor is as noble as Sir Lancelot! And when we have strong enough proof, we can expose this truth to the world, and the world will no longer be deceived. People will know Superman for the dangerous, lying alien he is.
"Yes, my friends, we can finally begin our operation - the plan to destroy Superman."
Clark Kent woke with a start. Even in his sleep, he had heard the ringing of the alarm and the desperate cries for help. Trying to get up without waking Lois, he gently slid out from her embrace. As usual, even that much motion managed to wake her. After over a year of marriage, he would have thought she'd have gotten used to his all too frequent departures.
"Wha' is it?" she asked, propping herself up on one elbow and watching him through half open eyes.
"Go back to sleep, Hon," he said, "it's a robbery down the street. I'll be back shortly." With a blur, he threw on his suit and was out the window of their new high-rise apartment.
Lois gazed sadly at the window for a few minutes. She hated these late night emergencies. Other women didn't have to put up with their husbands flying out the window at all hours of the night. Still, Lois knew that, as much as Clark loved her, he could never be completely hers. Part of him would always belong to the city. Unbelievable though it might seem, she knew that she would gladly give up a lifetime of moonlit flights and soaring dances for just one night free from the threat of interruption. She would be more than satisfied with just Clark Kent, a farm boy from Kansas, her partner in both work and life. She smiled at the irony, remembering her reaction when she had first learned that Clark was Superman. After her initial shock, she had been overjoyed. She had finally given up on Superman, realizing that a real man she could be friends with and share a life with was more valuable than a hopeless crush on a Superhero she hardly even knew. Then, to learn that she could have both. The Superhero was a real man: she could have her cake and eat it too. But sometimes, she wasn't sure she wanted the cake anymore.
It wasn't just these emergencies that bothered her, either. It was the day-to-day deceptions, and the knowledge that there were things she'd never be able to share with her sister or her friends. Clark had warned her about this when they had first started getting serious, but she had shrugged off his concern. She had told him that being with him was worth any sacrifice and, while this statement had proven true, she still wished things could have been different. Especially at 3 a.m. in the morning lying alone in a cold bed.
When Clark returned half an hour later, Lois was still awake. She had given up on trying to get back to sleep, and was sitting up in bed reading a book.
"I made some tea. Would you like some?"
"No, thanks." Clark looked at her, sitting there all alone in bed. In the middle of the night. She should have been asleep. They should have been asleep, together. Instead, she was up making tea, hoping to help him get back to sleep after yet another midnight rescue. This wasn't the first time this had happened, and they both knew it wouldn't be the last, but he had never once heard Lois complain. This in itself was a stronger indication of her feelings than any words she might have said. Lois did not normally keep her complaints to herself.
"I'm sorry." Clark knew it was inadequate, but it was the best he could do.
She smiled at him, a sad half smile. "For what?"
"For having to leave in the middle of the night like that."
"Someone was in trouble. You were the only one who could help. What else could you do?"
"I know, it's just … " Clark desperately wanted to make it better, but he couldn't. Instead, he moved over to the bed, sitting down on its edge.
"Lois … since I'm in the suit … " he reached for her hand. "Would you like to come fly with me?"
Instead of taking the offered hand, Lois reached up and gently brushed his hair back down over his forehead, "No," She smiled. Slyly. Seductively. "I think I'd like Clark back now…" She slowly reached behind his neck, fumbling for the clasp of his cape.
Returning her smile, Clark reached behind his back, helping her pull off the cape. Moments later, the rest of the costume lay heaped on the floor beside it. The city would have to do without Superman for the rest of the night.
Lois and Clark woke up a few hours later to the sound of their alarm clock ringing.
Next to him, Lois had already gotten out of bed and thrown on her robe. Lois headed towards the bathroom. "I'll take the first shower. You start breakfast."
"You always take the first shower," Clark complained, teasing.
Lois turned to him, smiling. "I could make breakfast—"
"No, that's okay, Lois," Clark quickly answered, "you take the first shower." Lois was still not a safe person to let in the kitchen.
"See?" And with a final smile, she darted around the corner and into the bathroom.
Clark could hear as the water was turned on and, using his super-hearing, he could hear the robe hit the floor. As always, the temptation to peek was strong, but he had promised to give Lois her privacy in the bathroom. Or rather, he had promised never to cheat and peak on her in the shower. Smiling, Clark rose from the bed and moved towards the bathroom. He had never promised *complete* privacy …
He had made it no more than halfway across the room when the phone rang harshly. Clark grimaced as he reach for it "Um … Hello?"
"Clark? This is Perry. Sorry to bother you so early, but I want you and Lois to go over to Metropolis Federal. It seems there was a break in over there early this morning. See what you can drum up and report back in ASAP. I want to get something out in the afternoon edition."
"Sure, Chief." Clark hung up the phone.
Clark ducked his head into the bathroom. "Lois?"
"You going to join me, Clark?" Her voice drifted out invitingly from behind the shower curtain.
"No such luck," he sighed. "That was Perry on the phone. He wants us to head over to Metropolis Federal to investigate the break in."
"The break … Oh, this morning, right?"
"OK, I'll be fast. But you still better have breakfast ready … "
"Of course, I can be real fast." And with that, he shut the door and raced to the kitchen.
By the time Lois was done in the shower, Clark had fried eggs and toast waiting on the table. Sometimes, there *were* advantages to being married to Superman.
Lois and Clark arrived at the Daily Planet later that morning after interviewing the bank manager and the security guard who had been on duty during the night. Sitting down at their desks, they began to work on their story. When they were finished, they brought it in to Perry.
He scanned it quickly. "Okay, this is good, kids. But I want more for tomorrow's morning edition. I want you two to get out there, and get me Superman's story on this."
Taking this as a dismissal, Lois and Clark left Perry's office. "Well, I guess we should go find Superman," Clark said, a twinkle in his eye.
Lois looked up at him. "Where do you think he is?"
He leaned towards her, whispering so that only she could hear. "Paris."
Chapter 2: Interval in Paris
Back at their apartment, Lois quickly slipped on one of Clark's favorite evening dresses: the plain black one with the spaghetti straps which she had worn on their first date, and her high heeled black suede evening shoes. She came out into the living room a moment later with her purse and a beautiful heavy black silk brocade shawl.
"All set, mon cheri," she teased.
Clark was suited up in his famous costume waiting for her. He took one look at her and his eyes glowed. "Lois, vous allez tres belle (you are very beautiful)! Je t'aime (I love you)."
"Je t'aime, too, Clark," Lois giggled. "Show off."
"Sorry. I can't help it if I'm multi-lingual," he replied giving her a warm hug before wrapping her carefully in the heavy protective dark blue hooded cape that Martha had given them as a wedding present. Made of a light weight special flame retardant fabric, it prevented Lois from injury whenever Clark flew long distances with her. It also contained some pouches for carrying a few essentials. It completely enveloped Lois, covering her from head to heels.
After ensuring the cloak was secure, Clark bent down and gently kissed Lois on the lips. "Ready?" he asked picking her up in his arms.
"Onward and upward, Clarkie," she smiled back, then buried her face in his chest as he walked out onto their balcony.
"Allons au Paris (Let's go to Paris)," Clark said leaping up into the air. Within moments they were soaring out over the Atlantic. At the three-mile-limit, he quickly broke the sound barrier as he rocketed into supersonic speed.
As they flew, Lois could hear the wind whistling around them, but safely nestled in the cape and hood, with Clark's strong arms holding her protectively to him, his warmth kept her from feeling cold. She felt as if she were wrapped in a cocoon. The feel of Clark against her, the sound of the wind and his steady heartbeat became her only connection to reality, slowly lulling her to sleep. She had just begun to nod off when her personal pilot announced their final approach.
"Welcome to Paris, my love."
Clark had slowed down and was now drifting towards the City of Lights. It was dusk and the city was aglow in lights, living up to its name. He gently pulled back the hood of the cape off Lois' head so she could see the fabulous view. As the cool breeze hit her face, she felt instantly alert. Looking about, she spotted the famous skyline with all it's landmarks: the bright white domes of Sacre-Coeur Basilica high on the hill of Montmartre overlooking the city, the river Seine winding through the center of Paris around the two islands of Ile Saint Louis and Ile de la Cite past the Louvre and down past the Eiffel Tower which rose in the distance. On the Ile de la Cite they could see the magnificent medieval gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame with her many flying buttresses, on the Right Bank was the famous Louvre, the Place de la Concorde, and the wide tree-lined boulevard of Champs-Elysees leading up to the Arc De Triomphe. And on the Left Bank they could see The Invalides and the Dome Church which housed Napoleon's tomb.
"It's so beautiful, Clark," Lois said into his ear. "I never tire of seeing it."
"Me neither," he replied giving her the aerial tour as he slowly flew from famous point to famous point drinking in the sights.
"Kiss me over Paris," Lois demanded and Clark willingly obliged, his lips sealing over hers in a warm moment of passion. As their lips slowly parted, she sighed softly against him, relaxing into his arms. "God!"
Clark smiled, understanding completely, and brought his lips back down to hers. Long moments later, he released her. "Time for a superspeed landing," he announced and, after covering her again with the hood, safely landed them in a dark and secluded spot behind the Musee de L'Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries, or Tuileries Gardens. When they stepped out a moment later, Lois was wrapped in her shawl and Clark was in the double-breasted charcoal grey suit which he, too, had worn on their first date. He adjusted his glasses while Lois reached up and straightened his burgundy and grey tie.
"Oh, it's a bit chilly," she commented, wrapping her shawl more tightly around her, and glancing up at Clark.
He took the invitation. "Here, I'll keep you warm." He slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him.
They strolled out into the gardens and towards the bright lights of the Place de la Concorde, then stopped and admired the view.
"We need to convert some money," Clark said. "There's a place on the Rue de Rivoli." On these type of travel junkets, they knew better than to use credit cards. It wouldn't do to leave a paper trail for anyone to ever follow and wonder about.
After stopping by the currency exchange, Clark led Lois into a small shop where he bought her a beautiful silk scarf and a small bottle of expensive perfume. Then, stepping outside, he flagged down a taxi.
"So where are you taking me for dinner?" Lois asked settling back in the seat against Clark.
"It's c'est tres cher (very expensive)."
"I didn't ask how much it cost. Besides, that doesn't mean it's any good."
"Would I intentionally take the love of my life to a lousy place?"
Lois laughed, and nestled her head under his chin. "So where are we going?"
"Okay," Clark laughed, tilting his head to kiss her hair. "It's called Maison Prunier. It's on Victor Hugo Avenue and dates back to 1925. The seafood there is outstanding."
They arrived and were seated in the white marble bar—where no reservations were required. Lois admired the art deco decor, the giant vase of forsythia and white lilies, the black marble with the huge brass "mural" set into it. The place was like an art deco temple.
"It's so beautiful here, Clark."
"The Belon oysters are out of this world," Clark boosted. When they decided what they wanted, he did the ordering for them both in flawless French, impressing Lois with his fluency. As the waiter left, he explained, "Well, I did tell you I could order dinner in 361 languages …" As she laughed, he continued, "Actually, I spent some time in Paris before coming to Metropolis."
"What did you do?"
"Articles, of course. Freelance, for whomever would take my stuff. I was pretty successful, really. An American's point of view was something of a novelty for the Parisians."
"Then why'd you leave?"
He looked up, straight at her, and smiled. "I guess I never really found my niche …"
It was a conversation they'd had before, and she knew her next line. "Really, and where exactly would this 'niche' be?"
His smile broadened still further as he began to ad-lib, reaching across the table. Ever so gently, he lifted the strand of hair which was forever falling across her forehead, tucking it behind her ear with one finger before slowly pulling back across the table. "Now that's the interesting thing," he answered huskily, "Because, ironically, I think my 'niche' is in Paris—at the moment."
Her eyes teared up as she reached across the table herself, resting one hand lightly on Clark's. "Then I'm awfully glad you found your niche," she whispered. She looked up and their eyes locked. They sat there for long moments, and might have sat there longer, drinking each other's souls, if the waiter had not arrived with their hors d'oeuvres.
They lingered over a delicious dinner which was complimented by a bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse. While they awaited dessert and coffee, Lois toyed with her wine glass, flirting with Clark as if they were still dating. For his own part, Clark played kneesies with her under the table, brushing her knee with his own, trying to distract her from whatever train of thought she was on at the moment. As had become their tradition, they both ordered coffee, but only one desert. Since Lois had chosen, it was a rich chocolate confection. They placed it on the table in front of them, and ate from it with two forks. As they talked, neither of them were paying attention to what their forks were doing, until they both reached for the last forkful at once. They looked up as their forks collided. Lois giggled, and pulled her fork back, offering the last bite to Clark. He smiled, and scooped it up. But instead of eating it himself, he offered her the bite.
She opened her mouth, accepting his offering. She closed her mouth over the fork, and, as she tasted the bite, rolled her eyes in ecstasy. "Mhmmmm …"
"Lois," Clark mumbled through clenched teeth as he slowly drew the fork out of her mouth, "You know what that does to me … "
She refocused on him, and grinned. "Uh-huh."
"Wicked woman," he replied, and leaned across the table again. But this time, instead of offering her his fork, he cupped her chin with his hand, and drew her mouth to his. After kissing her lightly, he bent to her ear. "Let's take this outside."
He quickly moved back and stood up, crossing to her side of the table. He pulled back her chair, and offered her his hand. She took it and stood up, shifting her hold to his arm. Having paid for the meal when the waiter brought desert, they stepped directly out into the cool night air.
Arm in arm, they walked to a deserted alley where Clark grabbed her close and, without bothering to change, flew them to the dark and partially deserted gardens at the end of the Champs-Elysees behind the Petit Palais.
Without letting her go, he looked down into her face. "You know what happens to little girls who play with their food?" he asked, clasping the back of her head, forcing her to look up to him.
"I hope so." Her eyes gleamed at him in the moonlight.
Without another word, he pulled her to him. As their lips met softly, they hung there, savoring the closeness. After a minute, Clark pressed harder against her, deepening the kiss. He gently brushed her lips with his tongue, and she opened for him. He took her mouth, pulling her body closer as he did. Her arms slipped around his neck and she arched against him, leaning her head back and giving him fuller access. He accepted the invitation and drove deeper, tasting all of her. She tasted him in return, her tongue darting against his as he slowly explored her, caressing each sensitive spot he knew so well. She moaned against him as he finally, slowly, withdrew from her mouth.
"Is that what you wanted?" he asked breathlessly.
She nodded, still dazed and clinging to him for support. "Mmmm. Much better than chocolate."
Turning her head, she leaned against his chest. He held her like that for long moments, savoring the feel of her slowing heart beat against his and the magic of the city all around.
Separating slightly, they walked arm in arm for a few blocks along the banks of the Seine to the Alma Bridge. There, they caught one of the Bateaux-Mouches boat rides.
Sometime during the hour long boat ride, one of the other tourists, an elderly woman, pointed out a well-dressed young couple to her husband. The pair were cuddling together towards the back of the boat, and as the woman shivered, the bespectacled young man gallantly removed his jacket and draped it around his wife. Putting his arm around her, he pulled her close for added warmth, never once showing any signs that he was suffering from the decided chill in the air. Smiling, the elderly gentleman squeezed his own wife's shoulders. Such gallantry was a rare and beautiful thing in the younger generation.
It was around ten when Superman took off from another dark and secluded place. Lois lay securely in his arms, wrapped once again in the protective cape. Paris was seven hours ahead of Metropolis and they weren't due back at the Planet until around five p.m., giving them just enough time to fly home, change into some work clothes and get to the Planet.
Chapter 3: Something Rotten in the State of Metropolis
The next morning, Clark approached the coffee vendor in the lobby of the Daily Planet with his normal, "Good morning, two cafe au laits, please."
Instead of the normal cheerful response, he received a cautious, "Are you all right this morning, Mr. Kent?"
"Sure, why shouldn't I be?" Clark asked hesitantly. "What happened?"
"You don't know?"
The coffee vendor looked embarrassed, and quickly tried to change the subject. "Nothing, Mr. Kent. Um, well, try not to be… I mean … It might not be … Have a good morning, Mr. Kent." Clark could hear almost hear the unspoken "if you can."
Puzzled, Clark walked to the door of the Planet, where he nearly bumped into Lois, who had just finished parking the car. As he handed her a coffee, she asked, "Clark, have you noticed anything strange this morning?"
"Yeah…the coffee guy seemed real—oh, I don't know— sympathetic or something."
"Well, that's not what I've been getting. Everyone seems positively, well, hostile."
"I can't imagine why," Clark commented, opening the Planet doors.
They crossed the lobby towards the elevators. Instead of the normal good-morning waves they usually received, people seemed to be avoiding them. It was the same when they arrived in the newsroom. In fact, Jimmy got up and went into Perry's office as they approached their desks.
"Chief, they're here." Perry looked up at Jimmy's announcement. "And, I don't think they know."
Perry continued looking at Jimmy. His mind was clearly miles away. Then, with a sigh, he pulled himself back to his office. "No, Jimmy. If they knew, I don't think they would have come in together this morning."
Perry was still having trouble believing what he'd seen on the news last night. He'd known Lois and Clark for years. He'd watched their relationship grow. Hell, he'd been the one to introduce them. He could still remember how Clark had jumped to his feet when Lois had entered his office, that first day at the Planet. And how Lois had blown him off. Perry smiled bitter sweetly. Yes, Clark had always had it bad for Lois. Poor guy.
"Well, send them in."
As Jimmy disappeared into Perry's office, Clark looked at Lois and shrugged. He had no idea why everyone was acting so strangely. The couple was just sitting down when Jimmy stepped out of the office. "Clark, Lois, the Chief wants to talk to you."
Lois tried to joke, to lighten the mood. "Aren't we a little old to be sent to the principal?" But instead of laughing, Jimmy scowled at her. "Geez, what's gotten into everybody today?"
"You should know." Jimmy responded flatly, and then added to Clark, "Good luck," before sitting down at his desk.
Cautiously, Clark and Lois walked into Perry's office.
"Shut the door." Reaching behind him, Clark shut the door.
When he heard the door shut, Perry looked up. His utter calm chilled them more than any shouting ever could. "Did you two see the evening news?"
"No, Chief. Clark and I didn't watch TV last night. Why?" As she spoke, Lois could have sworn she saw a look of disgust cross Perry's face.
"Then you don't know." This comment seemed to be directed more towards Clark than Lois.
"Know what, Chief?" he asked.
"I think you'd better step outside for a minute, Clark. I need to talk to Lois."
"No!" Lois grabbed Clark's hand, pulling him towards her. "Whatever your going to say, say it to both of us." Lois had no idea what was going on, but everyone's reactions all morning had upset her more than she cared to admit, and she was not about to let Clark leave her side.
Perry looked surprised. "Are you sure? I was hoping to give you a chance to state your case before I talked to Clark."
Lois did not loosen her grasp on Clark's hand, and he gave her a reassuring little squeeze.
"What's going on, Chief?" Clark asked.
"Son, I hate to have to be the one to break this to you, like this. But everyone else in Metropolis knows, now. Thanks to those irresponsible journalists on the TV."
"Lois, should I tell him, or will you tell him?"
"Perry, I honestly don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"If that's the way you want it." Perry turned towards Clark. "Clark, son, there's no easy way to say this—Lois has been having an affair with Superman."
Clark had no idea how to react. He REALLY had no idea how to react, "Chief. There, uh, must be some mistake. I mean, Lois would never—"
Perry held up a hand, waving Clark to silence. With the other hand, he pressed play on his VCR remote. "Just watch the tape."
It was a tape of last night's news broadcast. The announcer came on, looking shocked.
"This just in. Channel 4 News just received this tape from an anonymous source."
The newscast switched to the video monitor, where the tape was being played. Lois and Clark could only stare at the screen in hopeless shock. Someone had been video taping their apartment. The tape showed Superman two nights before, flying in the window, meeting Lois sitting in bed, obviously waiting for him. It showed their brief conversation, then Lois reaching for Superman, pulling him towards her. As Superman lowered Lois to the bed beneath him, the tape was stopped, cutting back to the anchor woman.
"As you can see, Superman is not what we thought him to be. He claims to stand for truth and justice, but as you can see, this is a lie. For he has been having an adulterous affair with his professed best friend's wife, Lois Lane Kent …"
Perry stopped the tape. When Lois and Clark turned around to face him, Perry was glaring at Lois. "Lois?"
She couldn't believe it. Perry actually believed that she could cheat on Clark. "I—I mean—really, Chief. I wouldn't—" There was nothing she could say. There on the screen, captured on tape for all the world to see, literally: her and Superman. And no one, except Clark, was going to believe her innocence. Not her mother, her sister, Jimmy, anybody! She looked at Perry. She could tell that, as far as he was concerned, she was lower than dirt for cheating on Clark. She looked up at Clark. He looked stunned as their situation hit him. Looking at her, his eyes welled up with tears.
"Lois—" he began, but his voice trailed off as he realized there was nothing he could say. He was trying to think faster than he'd ever thought in his life, but he didn't have any idea what to do, the implications were so damning and Lois was caught right in the middle.
"Clark, I—" Lois began, grabbing his arm.
Clark could see the helplessness in her eyes. He desperately wanted to help, to hold her, to reassure her, but he couldn't. Clark let the tears begin to roll down his cheeks as he jerked his arm away. "Lois, I … can't."
She understood. There was nothing they could do here. And she couldn't stay; she had to get away from Perry's, Jimmy's, and everyone else's accusing glares. Before the tears could fall from her own eyes, she turned and ran from the newsroom.
Perry grabbed Clark's arm as he started after Lois.
"No, Clark. There's nothing you can gain that way. She'll come to you when she's ready."
Clark nodded numbly. "Sure, Chief. I just can't believe it. There must be some explanation."
Perry clapped Clark on the shoulder. " I understand, Son. I'm having a hard time myself. But you saw the tape … Take the weekend, think it over. Talk it over. I'll see you Monday."
"Thanks, Chief." Turning, Clark followed Lois' path from the newsroom.
Lois pulled herself into the driver's seat of her Jeep, slammed the door behind herself, and sat there reviewing her options. At first, the shock of seeing the tape and realizing how everyone must hate her had been too much for her, and she had reacted emotionally. "Stupid, real stupid Lois. You need to stay calm. There's got to be a way out of this. You've never been in a situation you couldn't get yourself out of." Which wasn't exactly true. After years of independence, she'd finally come to depend on Clark, and she knew she was never going to figure a way out of this situation without him. But he couldn't be there now, because he had to play the part of a wounded husband. Her emotions threatening to overcome her again, Lois turned the key in the ignition, jerked out of the parking space, and pealed out of the garage. Hopefully, Clark would go back to their apartment, too.
When Clark returned to their apartment, Lois was there, sitting in front of the TV. She looked up as he entered. "Clark, we need to talk…"
He silenced her with a motion. Pulling down his glasses, he glanced around the room before speaking, "It's clear." In response to her questioning look, he added, "I was afraid someone might still be watching. But no one is watching the apartment now."
Lois nodded, then glanced back at the TV. "Come here, you've got to see this."
He walked over to her, and turned to face the TV. The news was on, and they were showing what appeared to be a rally of some sort. As the camera panned the crowd, Clark could read the slogans on the various signs they held, among them, "Superman? NO!" and "Not a Hero Anymore." After a few minutes, a man climbed up on the stage in front and addressed the crowd.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. I am so glad you could make it here this morning. As most of you saw on the news last night, Metropolis finally knows the truth about Superman. For years he has deceived our city, pretending to be noble and honest. Pretending to be a hero, a savior, the perfect role model for our children. We trusted him, but last night he was exposed for the liar and cheat he really is. Tell me, do you want your children making a hero out of someone who would cheat on his best friend?
"Yes, we finally know the truth: Superman is no hero. We have been deceived, my friends. But we are deceived no longer."
As Horace Green finished speaking, the crowd broke into cries of agreement. Looking out, he recognized most of the faces as members of his group. But some of the faces were new, people caught up in the mob. He smiled, and knew that, with a little more work, their numbers would grow, until Superman could no longer show his face in Metropolis, or anywhere else, ever again.
Meanwhile, the television newscast switched from the rally to the anchor desk, where Martin Kine continued his commentary. "So, there you have it. Live from Metropolis Park, where an Anti-Superman rally is just concluding. This rally was a result of the report on this channel, and several others, that Superman has been having an affair with Lois Lane Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, and wife of his best friend, Clark Kent. More on this story as it develops."
The newscast moved onto another topic, and Clark got up to click off the set. He turned to Lois, "We're in serious trouble this time, Hon." He attempted to make light of the situation, trying not to upset her further than she was already.
She wasn't buying it though, not this time. She turned to him, her eyes wide, still in shock from the news. "Clark, how can you stay so calm? People think I've been cheating on you. They think I've been cheating with Superman!" She slumped down onto the sofa, half hysterical between laughter and tears.
Clark sat down next to her, and gathered her to his chest. Held like that, in his strong arms, she was finally able to release all her frustrations. And all her fears. "Its just that nobody's going to believe me. I mean, there it is, for everyone to see. And I can't tell anyone the truth. They all think I cheated on you. And you have to act like you think you do, too." She looked up at him, tears forming in her eyes. "How are we going to explain why we're still together? How are we going to stay together? You're the sweetest, most patient, best, most forgiving man on the planet, but no one's going to believe you could just forget something like this! And what about Superman? Everyone's going to hate him, for cheating on you! You won't be able to show his face in Metropolis, ever again! Clark? What are we going to do?" She lay against his chest, utterly exhausted.
Clark gently pushed her away. With one hand, he brushed the tears which had fallen on her cheeks while, with the other, he lifted her chin up until her eyes locked on his. "Honey, its not the end of the world. I mean, *I* know you weren't cheating on me," he smiled. "We'll figure something out, together, just like we always do. Okay?" Like Lois earlier, Clark knew he didn't have a chance of getting out of this alone.
Still sniffing, she nodded. "'Kay."
"Good. Now, let's get changed into something more comfortable, and go somewhere where we can really talk." Standing up, he offered her his hand.
"Okay." She took his hand, stood up, and together they went into the bedroom to change.
Chapter 4: Sunset in Smallville
"Dorothy was wrong," Lois remarked to Clark, staring at the forest around her in wonder, "there's not a bit of gray anywhere."
He smiled and squeezed her hand. "Fall's always been my favorite time of the year out here." He pointed up at a beautiful old maple, its golden leaves bright against the sharp autumn sky. "Nothing like that in Metropolis."
She smiled back in return, laying her head against his shoulder as they continued down the path in silence. They had arrived in Smallville several hours earlier, having called in to Perry that Lois was also starting the weekend early, so they could "talk things out." Which was definitely not a lie. They had been talking almost continuously since then trying to figure a way out of their dilemma. But at least with his parents on their farm, Clark and Lois could be themselves, and not worry about what anyone else might see or do.
Martha and Jonathan Kent, Clark's parents, had been surprised to see the couple drop in on them at 10 am on a Friday. But they had seen the report on the news, and understood the problem. Martha made tea, and they all sat around the table, trying desperately to find a way out of their problem.
"But how could someone tape you inside your apartment?" Martha asked the question that Lois and Clark had asked themselves a million times. "I thought the windows were at bad angles like the windows in your old apartment, Clark?"
"I don't know, Mom." Clark waved his hands in frustration. "We went to so much trouble to find a larger apartment with a similar setup to my old one—where no one could see in, where I could do Superman take-offs and landings without worrying about being spotted. The new place seemed perfect. I just don't know," he said with a sigh.
"But," Martha said, "assuming they could find a way to tape your place, how would they even know when to tape— How would they even think of taping there in the first place?"
"Maybe they saw Lois and Sup—I mean, me, together sometime. We try to be professional, but maybe we let something slip. Or maybe someone remembered the way Lois used to treat Superman, and figured it was worth a shot? I don't know."
"Well, what about the night the tape was shot?" Jonathan asked. "Did you do anything unusual? Or did anything unusual happen?"
"No, not that I can think of," Clark said, looking at Lois for confirmation.
"No," she replied. "It was just a normal night. Well," she glanced at Clark, smiling despite the situation, "as normal as a night can get when you're married to Superman."
He squeezed her hand in response.
Jonathan continued, "Well, it all looks pretty damning. I mean, there you two are, together, and there's the suit, for everyone to see. To the world, it really looks like Superman is, well," he shifted uncomfortably. Jonathan would never be comfortable with some topics.
Martha helped him out. "Sleeping with Lois. Of course, we know that she's married to the man inside that suit, but to everyone else, Lois is sleeping with the superhero in the cape."
Clark felt Lois' hand tighten in his, and tried to lighten the mood. "Well, I was in the cape at first …"
Martha looked up, startled. "No, son. You were in the costume the whole time." She paused. "Don't you remember?"
"No, Mom. That's impossible. Lois and I have *never* … I mean, you made it … I don't think you *can*—"
Martha cut him off. "My God, Clark! You're right." She rushed over to the TV in the corner, and reached for a tape next to the VCR. Sliding it in, she pushed play, moving the tape to the news segment on Superman and Lois. "We were away last night, and you now how your father likes his news … So we taped it. You can imagine our surprise … Here it is." She had found the proper position. "There."
Sure enough, Superman was lowering Lois to the bed *in his suit*.
"But that's not what happened!" Lois exclaimed, excited. "Remember, Clark!?"
"Of course I remember." He blushed slightly, and changed the subject. "But that can only mean …"
Lois jumped to it before he could—"The tape was faked!"
They looked at each other triumphantly. Then Clark broke the mood with the realization, "Of course, that makes *us* feel better, but it still doesn't help the problem."
They looked at him, not understanding.
"I mean, we know I never—sleep—with Lois in the costume, but we can't exactly go up to anyone and say, 'The tape is faked because Clark always takes the Superman costume off before he sleeps with Lois.'" He laughed bitterly. "See? We're back were we started from."
"Except for one thing," Martha broke in, trying to break her son's unusually negative mood, "We know someone has faked the tape, and they can't possibly know we know … "
"But who could hate Superman enough to do something like this?" Clark asked.
"Trask?" Jonathan asked.
"Or Luthor?" Lois added. "But of course, Trask is dead and Luthor is in jail. So who else could hate Superman that much? … Clark!" She clutched his arm. "The man in the park—that man at the rally. He was able to get a rally together pretty fast for someone who only saw the tape the night before!"
Martha looked at her daughter-in-law with shock. "You're right, of course. But why?"
Lois could only shrug.
"Whoever it is," Clark said, "this would really make a great story … exposing a group which has been faking tapes to try and frame Superman. If only we weren't in the middle of it."
"A great story…" Lois' voice drifted off, her mind clearly occupied elsewhere.
Clark turned to Lois, recognizing the tone. "Lois … what are you thinking?"
She looked around at them, a real smile on her face at last. "I think I have an idea…" Several minutes later, when Lois was done outlining the plan, they were all smiling.
"That's a great idea, dear," Martha congratulated her. "And I think it will work. Now," she noticed the warm gaze Clark was giving Lois, and got up from the table, "I think you and Clark need to figure out the rest of this plan of yours. Jonathan and I," she looked pointedly at her husband, "have work to do around the farm. It doesn't run itself, you know." And smiling, she pushed her husband out of the room.
Clark and Lois watched them leave. Then, with a smile, Clark leaned towards his wife, whispering in her ear, "Lois, have I ever told you how brilliant you are?"
She chuckled against his cheek. "Yes … but I wouldn't mind hearing it again."
"Lois," he whispered, even quieter, his lips brushing her ear, "you're brilliant."
She had smiled and, withdrawing a little, faced him. "You better believe it, partner."
Lois and Clark had then continued talking alone for awhile, fleshing out Lois' plan. When the plan was complete, Clark suggested a walk around the farm before heading back to Smallville. Lois had never seen it in the fall, and who knew when they would find another quiet moment alone. So here they were, hand-in-hand, while Clark showed Lois around the autumnal farm.
"Here," he hurried down the path, pulling her after. "This is what I really wanted to show you." He pointed up, where she could just make out an old dilapidated tree house nestled in the branches overhead. "You won't believe the view from up there at this time of year."
Clark reached around her, grasping her waist, and pulled her towards him. They slowly rose into the air together, and into the house. As he set her on the boards which served as a floor, she asked, "Fortress of Solitude?"
"Huh? Oh, you saw the name. Yeah," he had been hoping she wouldn't notice, "When I was a kid, especially a teenager, when I was starting to get my powers, I used to feel, well, different …"
"Thank God!" Lois remarked.
"Well, I didn't have you to appreciate me then." He kissed the tip of her nose before continuing. "As a kid, it was real hard. Never being able to show the other kids everything I could do, or tell them everything I was feeling. I mean, my parents were great, and they were always there for me, but it wasn't the same …" he paused, remembering all the times he had come home in tears, frustrated at his inability to find a friend he could really relate to.
Lois sensed his reluctance to discuss the subject … and his need to do just that. "I understand. Even for normal kids, growing-up's not easy." She thought about when they had dealt with the Smart Kids, and she instantly understood his reaction to them. "I remember once, it must have been about fifth grade, when my parent's were going through their divorce … I guess I really threw myself into school. It was easier than talking to my parents … Anyway, we were studying long division, and I must have done well on the test … The teacher called me up in front of the entire class to congratulate me," Lois looked up at him with a tight smile. "How was she to know only nerds did well on long division? But you know, I can't even remember that teacher's name anymore …"
Lois stopped speaking as Clark pulled her tightly to him. He held her there for a minute, not speaking, his face buried in her hair. "Lois …" he began tentatively, before the dam burst and the words came tumbling out, "you have no idea how long I've wanted to bring you here, to show you this place—hoping you'd understand. As a kid, I'd come up here whenever I couldn't stand to be around anyone else, even my folks. When I needed to be me." He paused then, before continuing more thoughtfully, "I guess I never realized it then, but sometimes, I didn't even want to be Clark Kent anymore. And that's what I'd do here; I'd practice my heat vision, see how high I could jump—I could jump pretty high, even as a kid, before I could fly. Stuff I couldn't even do around my parents. I mean, I *could*, they knew I could do it, but it always worried them. They were always afraid someone would find out, and 'dissect me like a frog,'" his voice dropped in an imitation of Jonathan Kent.
"That's what they'd say, whenever they caught me doing something where others might see. Of course, they never said it to my face when I was young, but I always knew. There was that look, you know? But something inside me wanted to do those things, so I built this place, where I could do everything I could never do anywhere else. Where I could be free."
Lois pulled back from his chest, and glanced once more at the old sign. "And alone?"
She smiled, and gently brushed his cheek. "But you're not alone anymore."
He smiled then, "No, I'm definitely not alone anymore." Cupping her chin in his hand, he pulled her to him. Their lips met only briefly, more a caress than a kiss, before he released her. They stood there, inches apart, gazing into each other's eyes for long moments.
Clark broke the gaze first, glancing around the tree house. "I can't believe you're here. When I think of all the hours I've spent up here … Oh!" he exclaimed as he remembered why he had brought her up there in the first place. "Look!" He pointed out the door at the view.
Lois followed his finger with her eyes. In front of the door, the late afternoon sun was just touching the distant treetops, highlighting them in brilliant gold and orange. "Oh, Clark, it's beautiful!"
Smiling at her reaction, he gently maneuvered her down until they were sitting next to each other in the tree house door. "Whenever I would come up here, no matter how upset I was, there was always that sunset, watching over me. I wanted you to see it."
"Thank you." With a sigh, she lowered her head down onto his shoulder and together, they watched the sun set over the Kansas fields.
Later that evening, Lois and Clark said goodbye to Clark's parents in the living room of the farmhouse. Clark had on his Superman costume and carrying Lois' hooded cape in preparation for the flight back to Metropolis.
"Remember, kids," Martha said, "You can always come visit us here." She smiled up at her son. "We're only a flight away."
"Of course, Mom." Leaning down, Clark gave his mom a goodbye kiss on the cheek.
"And, Lois," Martha turned to her daughter-in-law, "you know you can call us, anytime, if you need to talk." Martha pulled Lois into her embrace.
"Thanks, Mom." Lois returned the hug, knowing she would probably be taking Martha up on that offer a lot in the near future. "I will."
Martha stepped back as Jonathan opened the front door. "Goodbye, Clark … Lois. Have a safe flight."
"Always, Dad." He put an arm protectively around Lois. "I have a perfect safety record."
Clark ushered Lois out the door, and, with a final wave, Jonathan shut the door behind them. Outside, Clark gently wrapped the protective cape around Lois. Then, holding her tightly in his arms, he rose into the air and was gone.
Chapter 5: Alone
"Lucy? Hi, it's me, Lois."
"Oh, hi Lois." Lucy sounded less than enthusiastic to hear from her sister when Lois rang her up the following morning.
"Come on, Lucy. It's me. Lois. Can't we talk?"
"Well, I don't know, Lois. I'm kind of busy …"
"Lucy!" Lois sounded desperate. "Please. I really need someone to talk to …"
There was a pause on the other end of the line. Then … "Okay. Sure. I guess."
"Thanks. I'll be right over." Click.
At her apartment, Lucy looked down at the receiver in her hand, which had suddenly gone silent. Shaking her head slightly, she replaced it in the cradle. Well, at least some things about Lois would never change. Still, Lucy had probably been more shocked then anybody when the news about Lois and Superman had hit. More than anyone else, Lucy knew—or thought she knew—how much Lois loved Clark.
Lucy smiled to herself, remembering. Lois had been so funny when she had finally decided to pursue Clark Kent, and give up on any possible relationship with Superman. Which, of course, was something Lucy had been suggesting for quite a while. Lois had called Lucy up, all excited, to announce that she was in love with Clark. As if that wasn't obvious to everybody who saw Lois and Clark together. And then, when the two had become engaged, Lucy could remember how happy Lois was, and how she couldn't have a conversation without bringing up Clark's name every two seconds. More importantly, where before Superman had been one of Lois' favorite topics, nearly all references to the big blue cheese were gone from Lois' speech. This, among other reasons, was why Lucy found it so hard to believe that Lois could cheat on Clark with Superman.
And besides, if Lois WAS having an affair with Superman, couldn't she have told Lucy? I mean, sleeping with Superman! Lucy couldn't believe that Lois wouldn't want to talk this over with somebody, and Lucy was her only sister, after all. It wasn't like she would EVER betray such a confidence. It was perhaps this thought, more than Lois' actual infidelity, which caused Lucy to answer Lois' knock on the door with a gruff, "It's open. Come in."
Lois entered the apartment to find her sister sitting on the couch, not looking at her. Lois crossed to the windows and drew the blinds, before moving to stand besides her sister. Lucy looked up as Lois approached. "Well, you wanted to talk. Have a seat."
Lois sat down on the couch next to Lucy, and turned to face her sister. "Lucy, I know it looks bad … You have to believe me—I didn't cheat on Clark."
"Lois … I saw the tape on the news. Are you saying it was faked?" Lucy couldn't help sounding just a bit hopeful. Such an explanation was infinitely preferable to the alternative.
"Absolutely. Lucy, you know how I feel about Clark. I could never hurt him like that!"
"And Clark believes you?"
"Yes. He trusts me, Lucy. I was hoping you would, too."
Lucy still hesitated. "So, you and Clark are still together?"
Lois just looked at her sister. "Lucy, if anything were up, don't you think you'd be the first to know?"
"Well, I thought so—that's why I was so shocked when I heard." Lucy smiled, finally convinced. "Man, am I glad to hear nothing's going on between you and Superman." She turned suddenly serious. "Clark's a great guy, Lois, and you are so lucky to have him."
"Don't I know that!" Lois said emphatically, inwardly cringing at having to once again conceal the whole truth from her sister. "Um, Lucy—" There was one more thing Lois had to ask.
"Well, I was wondering if I could maybe stay here with you till this whole thing blows over?"
Lucy smiled. "Of course, Lois."
Lois gave her sister a quick hug. "Thanks, Lucy. I'll just go down to the Jeep and grab my bags." She jumped up and headed for the door.
"You mean you brought them over?"
Lois smiled from the door. "Well, you weren't going to throw your only sister out in the street?" Turning around, Lois darted out.
Lucy rolled her eyes as the door closed behind Lois. Some things about Lois would REALLY never change.
Clark looked around the empty apartment, at Lois' empty half of the closet, her half of the dresser. He had to get out of the place. Since it was Saturday, and Perry had told him in no uncertain terms that he was to take the weekend off, he couldn't exactly show up at the Planet. But that didn't mean he couldn't start his investigation. Part of him knew that, the sooner he started, the sooner his life could get back to normal. On the other hand, this was the first time in years he was going to have to investigate without Lois, and he was not looking forward to it at all. But now was as good a time as any to start. Grabbing his notebook, he headed out the door.
His first stop was at the LNN building, which would be open despite the weekend. He approached the clerk behind the front desk. "Clark Kent, Daily Planet. I have some questions about the news report you did Thursday night—" His voice trailed off, as he was unsure exactly how to proceed.
The receptionist, thankfully, or maybe unthankfully, knew exactly what he was talking about. "Mr. Kent. Of course. You want to speak with Miles Flemming. He was the reporter who brought that story forward." She paused before continuing. "And Mr. Kent, I want you to know how sorry I am about what happened. Everyone is—"
Clark cut her off. Sympathy was the last thing he wanted. "Thanks. Now, where can I find Mr. Flemming?"
The receptionist sensed his mood. Pointing towards a door at the end of the hall, she replied, "Right down that hall, through the door, third door on the left."
"Thank you. Bye." Turning, he headed in the indicated direction.
Finding the proper door, Clark knocked softly. "Come in."
Opening the door, Clark went in. Miles Flemming looked up as Clark entered. "Good morning. How may I help you?"
"Good morning, Mr. Flemming. I'm Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet." He extended his hand.
"Ah, yes. Mr. Kent." Flemming was obviously unsure why Clark was there.
"I just have a few questions to ask — about your report Thursday. Off the record," he added. "My interest is purely personal."
"Yes?" Flemming did not seem about to give anything away. Interesting.
"Mr. Flemming, can you give me any information about where the tape came from? I'd really like to get in touch with the person, or persons, who made that tape. I have some questions to ask them."
Clark wasn't quite sure how to read the expression on Flemming's face. He could almost have sworn Flemming looked wary. As if he was trying to gauge Clark's reactions. Maybe …
"Well, I was wondering what led them to make the tape in the first place? I mean, what led them to conclude that Superman would do something like that? I've spent more time with him than anyone," Clark paused at the irony, "and I had NO idea anything was going on, that he was CAPABLE of anything like this. Yet, somebody obviously did — I'd like to talk to him, or her, about Superman," Clark concluded with a poorly concealed sneer.
The bait was out. Clark could only hope he had found the right pond and that the fish were biting.
"Er, yes," Mr. Flemming hesitated, "Well, Mr. Kent, I'll see what I can do for you. Do you have a number where I can reach you if I come up with anything?"
Clark took out his business card, and sprawled his home number on the back. "You can reach me here," he pointed to his home number. "I'd prefer if you didn't call me at the Planet about this."
"I understand. Well, is there anything else I can help you with?" It was quite obviously a dismissal.
"No, thank you. You've been a big help." They shook hands again, and Clark left the office.
As the door shut behind Clark, Flemming reached for the phone on his desk. Quickly dialing a number, he spoke into the receiver. "Mr. Green, Miles Flemming here. You'll never believe who was just in my office—"
Clark, listening from outside the building, smiled to himself. The fish WERE biting today. Hailing a cab, he headed back to his empty apartment.
Later that afternoon, Clark was sitting on the sofa, watching the football game. He should have been getting ready to go see the re-release of "Bringing Up Baby" at the Metropolis Fine Arts Theatre. He and Lois had been planning the evening ever since she had found out about the showing. It was one of her favorite movies, but she had never seen it on the big screen. He hoped she would still go, but he had no intention of spending the evening in the same theatre as her, unable to avoid listening to every sound she made and knowing it could be some time before they were together again. Football, however, was safe. Lois had no interest in watching the sport, so she usually came up with any excuse to avoid watching a game with him.
The phone rang, suddenly, breaking into his thoughts. Clark reached for it, picking up the receiver, "Clark Kent, here."
"Mr. Kent, you don't know me, but I know you. I heard you were interested in finding out information concerning a certain tape which contained, shall we say, compromising footage of your wife and Superman?"
Clark had stopped breathing. He had not expected action so soon. "Er, yes. That's right. Can you help me?"
"That depends. A group of us have long suspected that Superman was more than what he appeared, and this tape is merely proof—" The voice hesitated, clearly waiting for Clark to react.
"Well—" Time to reel in the line. "I had no idea Superman was anything more than he led everyone to believe. And I still can't really believe what I've seen. There must be some other explanation, and I would sort of like to talk to anyone who might have more information on what was really going on."
Clark could hear the person on the other end slowly blow out his breath, relaxed at last. "Mr. Kent, I may be able to help you, after all. This group is having a meeting tomorrow afternoon. We were wondering if you might be interested in coming, maybe get to meet the man who made the tape. Ask him a few questions."
"I'd like that a lot."
"Good. Meet me tomorrow morning, 10 o'clock, in front of the Metropolis Grocer on 5th and Wade. Know where that is?"
"Yeah, but how will I recognize you?"
"Don't worry, Mr. Kent. I'll know you." And with that rather enigmatic comment, the line went dead.
Good grief! Clark thought as he hung up the receiver. These guys have been watching way too many spy movies which, as he considered, was probably a good thing, as it would, hopefully, make them more predictable. Having nothing to do until the next morning, Clark curled up on the couch to finish watching the game.
At the same time, Lois was herself curled up in front of the TV, watching the football game. Sure, she hated it. Hated it a lot, actually. But she had gotten kind of used to it, and, besides, she wasn't exactly anxious to go out and do anything. Having your face plastered all over the media for cheating on your husband isn't the best way to become famous.
Lucy came in to the living room to find Lois dozing off on the sofa. Lucy chuckled to herself. Lois had always found it easy to fall asleep watching TV when she was emotionally exhausted. Well, it would probably do her good. Without making a sound, Lucy picked up the remote and turned off the TV.
Several hours later, Lois woke up, realizing with a start that she'd been asleep all afternoon. She glanced at her watch. "6 o'clock. Good. I can just make it."
"Make what?" Lucy called from the kitchen, where she'd been making dinner. She had figured Lois would wake- up when she smelled the food.
"'Bringing Up Baby' is playing tonight at the Fine Arts. Clark and I were planning on going, but I was thinking of going anyway. Wanna come?"
Lucy popped her head in through the door. "You sure you still want to go?"
Lois looked at her. "Of course. I've been looking forward to this for weeks. I'm not just going to bury me head in the sand, you know …"
Lucy rolled her eyes. Figured. "OK, I guess I'll go. What time is the show?"
"Then we'll just have time for dinner." Lucy walked into the room, setting dinner on the table.
"Good." Lois got up and crossed to the table. Sitting down, they began to eat.
Clark didn't get up the next morning until nearly 9:30. He had woken up once, around 7. Of course, this was his normal Sunday morning wake up time, but, since even Lois never worked Sunday mornings, they were never in a hurry to start the day. When he woke up this morning, despite the fact that there was no Lois next to him, he was still not in any hurry to start the day. Instead, he rolled back over and went to sleep, hoping to delay the inevitable. Finally waking up only half an hour before his 10 o'clock appointment, he quickly got up, dressed, and ate breakfast. He was standing in front of the Metropolis Grocer 10 minutes before the scheduled time.
Promptly at 10 o'clock, a man wearing a long, brown trench coat approached him. This man *has* been watching too many spy movies, Clark thought to himself.
The man walked up to him. "Follow me." Without another word, he turned and headed down the street. Clark had no choice but to follow him.
Several blocks later, the man walked into what looked like an old warehouse. Inside, however, it had been turned into an auditorium. The man led Clark to a set of seats on one side of the room. They sat down just as a man stepped onto the stage to speak. Clark recognized him as the man who spoke at the rally in the park.
The man started to speak. "Welcome friends." He glanced around the room. "I can see we have been joined by others since our last meeting. Thank you all for coming today. I'm sure most of you are just curious. You're wondering how we know about Superman."
"Myself and others have long suspected Superman was not really what he seemed. I mean, who could have all that power and *really* use it only to help others? Superman seemed *so* good, *so* noble, and that is exactly why we knew he had to be hiding some dark, dark secret. But we could never prove anything. Until now."
Clark couldn't believe it. He had never heard such terrible reverse logic. Well, he had to admit, after being around Lois for so long … He pulled himself back to the present. The man was saying that Superman was bad because he was good. How could you argue against something so completely absurd? But they did have the tape, which proved their point. Well, sort of.
"We now have proof that Superman has been using his powers to seduce his best friend's wife. And we have shown that proof to the world! What woman could withstand the temptation of a 'Superhero?' Lois Lane Kent didn't stand a chance."
This man had obviously never met Lois. He only wished he had that kind of influence over her. But he could see what the man was driving at. He could still remember how Lois used to react to Superman. And he didn't think he was being too immodest in thinking he still had some influence over her.
"And he used that, and her husband's trust, to worm his way into her—affections. Among other things." The crowd laughed with the man.
As the man spoke, Clark took the opportunity to glance around the room. He noticed that there were quite a few well-dressed persons among the crowd. He would have expected to see street bums and out-of-work alcoholics attending this kind of a meeting in a place like this. The kind of people who would usually follow anyone who spoke to them. Clark wondered what kind of a draw the speaker had on these people.
The man continued speaking, but he didn't say a word that was of any help to Clark. Just a bunch of paranoid nonsense, the type of thing heard in hate speeches throughout history. Clark soon realized this was just a recruitment speech, meant to get people interested in the group without saying anything which could be used against them. But at least he had his foot in the door.
After the speech, the man with Clark remained seated until the auditorium was nearly empty. Then, he turned to Clark. "So, you interested?"
"If it means I can prove what is really going on between Superman and my wife … Yeah, I'm interested."
The man nodded. "Good. Well, Mr. Kent. Our business is concluded for now. We'll get back to you." And with that, the man stood up and left Clark alone in his seat.
Rising, Clark left the deserted room, and headed for home.
Chapter 6: Back at Work
Lois was only too happy to return to work Monday morning. She had spent Sunday moping around her sister's apartment, and she needed to get away. However, she had only been at the Planet a few moments before she realized she had been mistaken. No one was outwardly hostile, but no one was particularly friendly, either.
Jimmy, who usually dropped by her desk every few minutes for advice on something or other, was clearly avoiding her. Even Jack was avoiding her. Furthermore, because she had missed work Friday, she had no assignment to finish off before the 10 a.m. staff meeting. So she sat at her desk, pretending to by busy … and pretending she couldn't notice the glances being cast her way. At least Clark was off on an assignment somewhere, so she didn't have him ignoring her, too. She could not have handled that.
Within an hour of arriving at the Planet, Lois no longer had to worry about finding something to do. Someone had obviously figured out that Lois had returned to work, and her phone was ringing off the hook. Tabloid reporters from all over the world were calling her up, offering her more money than she could imagine for her exclusive story. To each one she said the same thing: she couldn't possibly give them an exclusive story because there was no story to give. She didn't know where the tape had come from, but it wasn't true. She was not having an affair with Superman. Unfortunately, it was terribly obvious that not one of the reporters believed her.
After the fifteenth such phone call, Lois had had enough. Reaching behind her desk, she ripped the phone cord out from the wall. That should shut the phone up.
Lois had just managed to get her temper under control when a familiar figure flopped into the chair next to her desk. Amanda Davis, the Planet's gossip columnist who had replaced Cat Grant years earlier, was the last person on earth Lois wanted to talk to that morning.
"So, Lois …"
"What is it, 'Manda?" Lois looked up, resigned to the conversation.
"Lois! Come on. You've become the biggest story to ever hit the tabloids. Don't you think that, since you work here at the Planet, I deserve the inside story?"
Lois cringed as Amanda reminded her of the tabloids. "There is no inside story. I have nothing to say. I have work to do," Lois repeated for the sixteenth time that day.
Amanda looked at Lois empty desk. "Right." She looked back up at Lois. "I can see that … Come on, Lois. You can tell me …" Amanda gave Lois a confiding smile. "What's it like?"
Lois sighed. She should have seen this coming. "What's what like?"
"You know. Sleeping with Superman? I mean, is it, well, different?"
"Well, for what it's worth, I wouldn't know, since I have never slept with Superman."
Lois saw Amanda's sneer. "You really expect anyone to believe that? We all saw the tape, Lois. We all *know*. Perfect Lois Lane, cheating on her husband … with an alien. But if you don't want to share with the rest of us, that's *your* business."
Lois couldn't take it anymore. "You're right, it is! Even if I were with Superman there is no way on the planet I would tell you! Or anybody else." By this time, Lois voice had escalated into a shout. Every eye in the newsroom was on the two women. Lois noticed the stares, and continued more calmly, but loudly enough that everyone could hear, "Not that I am. But that doesn't matter, does it? Because nobody will believe me, anyway." Standing up, she slammed her chair back under her desk, and stalked into Perry's office.
"Perry?" she asked, entering the room.
He looked up from his work, as if he hadn't heard her storm in from across the newsroom. "Lois—just the person I wanted to see."
"Yes. I've been hearing your phone ring all morning … Listen, Lois. I spoke with Clark this morning, and he seems willing to at least give you the benefit of the doubt, that maybe the tape was faked, like you claim. But that doesn't change the fact that your presence here is seriously disrupting the functioning of this newspaper. You may not have noticed, but very little work has gotten done here this morning."
"But, Chief …"
Perry cut her off. "I'm not saying it's your fault. Just that it's happening. I think, maybe, you should consider taking some time off … just till this thing blows over. You've got some vacation time coming. Why don't you get away, somewhere where you can think?"
Since Lois had been thinking something very similar, she was only too grateful to Perry for sparing her the humiliation of having to ask for herself. "Um, sure, Chief. In fact," her expression lightened slightly at the thought, "maybe I can get some more work done on my novel." Lois' novels were, by this time, legendary. No one had any doubts that, the way she worked on them, none of her books would ever get beyond the first few chapters.
Perry thought it safer not to mention this, though. "Sure, that sounds good." As Lois turned to leave, he added, "And, Lois?" She turned around to look back at him. "Call me if you need anything, OK?"
It was a peace offering, and she took it as such. "Thanks, Chief. See you in a few weeks." And with that, she turned and, after gathering her things from her desk, left the Planet.
While Lois was sitting at the Planet with nothing to do, Clark had been making his way back to the warehouse auditorium he had visited the day before. During his conversation with Perry that morning, he had gotten the Chief to agree to letting him investigate the Superman hate group. He had convinced Perry that, whether or not Lois was guilty or innocent, he had to know the truth. Investigating the group seemed the best way to go about proving that the tape was faked. Not to mention that the group would make a great story, whatever the outcome. Of course, Clark himself knew the tape was faked, but this way, he had official backing from the Planet, and could use his weekday hours in the investigation … While avoiding dealing with Lois in the newsroom.
Clark was just stepping out of the taxi, in front of the warehouse, when he heard an all too familiar sound: "Help! Help! Somebody help us!"
Sliding his glasses down his nose, he looked in the direction of the scream. As he zeroed in on the sound with his super-vision, he saw that the shouts for help were coming from the MetroBurger down the street. Inside the building, someone had locked the staff in the freezer. Still using his vision, he could see a man running from the store, a bag in one hand and a gun in the other.
Quicker than thought, Clark had become Superman, racing towards the restaurant.
Superman arrived on the scene just as the armed robber was getting into his car. He grabbed the car door before the thief knew he was there. "Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
The man looked up from where he was sliding into the seat. "Superman!" he cried, and immediately slid across the front seat, trying to get out on the other side.
"Oh, no you don't!" Superman grabbed the robber's arm, effectively preventing his escape, and pulled him from the car. "Come on … you're not going anywhere."
Superman marched the thief back into the restaurant. As he was freeing the workers from the freezer, he heard sirens outside. "That will be the police," Superman told the restaurant manager. "I'll just go turn this one," he pointed to the thief, whom he still held firmly by the arm, "over to them."
As Superman stepped outside, he was confronted by the mob of reporters who, predictably, had arrived with the police. After turning the robber over to the cops, Superman turned to face the press.
"Superman," one reporter, who Superman recognized as Bill Mains from the Gazette, asked, "can we have a comment from you on your supposed affair with Lois Kent?"
Superman had been expecting this question, and, since he'd have to answer it eventually, he figured now was as good a time as any. "Mr. Mains, and all the rest of you," Superman's gaze flickered over the crowd, "I saw the tape shown on the news last week. And I emphatically deny that anything is happening between myself and Lois Kent. Lois, Clark, and I are good friends, and I would never do anything to endanger our relationship, or to hurt either of them. I don't know how it was done, but I assure you that tape was faked. And I intend to prove it."
Christina Evans, another local reporter, asked the next question: "Superman, do you really expect anyone to believe this story?" She had never been a fan of the Man of Steel.
"Well, what people believe is their own business, Ms. Evans. I can only say, though, that Clark Kent himself believes me, and is planning on helping me prove the tape was faked."
"Superman, how do you plan on doing that?" came the next question from the group.
"Sorry, I can't answer that," Superman answered. "And now, I have to be going. Good day." With a wave of his hand, he shot up into the air and was gone. Even before the wind of his passage had died away, the assembled reporters had scattered, each desperate to be the first to get the story out.
On the TV screen, Superman had just flown away when the anchorwoman's face reappeared on the screen. "So as you can see, Superman claims the tape was faked. When we questioned Clark Kent himself later in the day, he confirmed Superman's statement, saying that he, too, believes the tape to be faked. Lois Kent was, unfortunately, unavailable for comment. Rumors are that she has left town, needing some time to herself …"
A hand reached out and clicked off the set with a touch of the remote. "It appears as though Mr. Kent is still not quite convinced, eh? Well, let's see what we can do to convince him." The figure looked up at Horace Greeley, who was standing at his elbow. "I think it's time the press receive further proof of the affair … especially one specific member of the press …"
"Very good. I'll see to it at once."
The figure smiled. "Thank you." There was no hint of thanks in the tone, though. "That's as I had expected."
The next morning, as Clark approached his desk, he noticed an unmarked envelope sitting in his in-box. Picking it up, he turned it over in his hands, uncertain what was inside. Glancing to make sure no one was looking, he looked over his glasses, and x-rayed the package. Inside, he saw a video tape and a folded slip of paper. Nothing dangerous … at least physically.
Sitting down, Clark opened the package and pulled out the note. It read: "Mr. Kent. Since after the first tape, you are still not convinced, we thought you should see this." Predictably, it was unsigned. Clark next pulled out the tape. Like the envelope, it was unmarked.
Standing up, Clark moved into the empty conference room. He turned on the TV, slid the tape into the VCR, and pressed the play button. At first, Clark couldn't recognize the location that appeared on the screen, but he soon realized he was looking at the inside of his apartment. Or, he added to himself, what must be a very good mock-up of his apartment.
As Clark watched, Superman flew into the apartment, with Lois in his arms. He set her down on the floor, and, hand- in-hand, they crossed to the sofa. Superman put his arm around Lois as they sat down on the couch.
"Isn't it a little dangerous, coming here like this in the middle of the day?" Lois asked.
"Clark is gone on assignment. And no one else will see us," Superman assured her, "Besides, if someone did, who'd believe them? I'm Superman, remember?"
"How could I forget?" she asked. Smiling seductively, she reached one finger up to slide along the collar of his uniform, before slowly tracing a path down his chest to his waist.
As her hand scooped below his belt, Superman pulled Lois to him with one hand , while the other fumbled with the buttons of her blouse. The video tape continued playing as the two melted together, entwined on the couch. Then, as Superman's passion took control, the couple slowly rose, to continue their lovemaking suspended in the air.
The tape stopped playing and Clark sat back in his chair, stunned. He didn't know what to think. The idea that anyone could be twisted enough to go to such lengths to convict Superman filled him with horror and disgust. At the same time, the cold rational part of his mind was amazed at the quality of the tape. If he hadn't known absolutely, through first hand knowledge as it were, that the tapes were faked, he would have found this convincing. The actors looked and sounded too much like him and Lois. And the special effects faked. He had played out the trusting husband and friend. It was time to move on to the next step in the plan.
Clark pulled the tape out of the machine, and moved back to his desk. No sooner had he sat down then his phone began to ring.
"Clark Kent, Daily Planet."
"Mr. Kent. You've seen the package left on your desk this morning?"
"I've viewed it, if that's what you mean."
"And your reaction?"
Clark's voice hardened. "Mr … Whomever you are. Since I assume you've seen the tape yourself, I'm sure you can imagine what my reaction must be."
"So, you no longer believe that line Superman was giving you, about the tapes?"
"After seeing that," Clark let his disgust seep into his tone, "how could I?"
"Can I also assume you might want to do something about it?"
"Do you mean get back at my wife … or Superman?"
"Considering the charms Superman could doubtless use on your poor wife, can you really blame her for this … situation?"
"So you mean to get back at Superman?"
"Mr. Kent. I'm sure you can understand my not wanting to discuss that here."
"I'll be at your apartment tonight." And with that, the overly dramatic voice on the other end of the line hung up, leaving Clark wondering what kind of adversary could produce such a convincing tape while working with such bumbling idiots.
Clark didn't get back to his apartment until late that evening. Over the last couple days, he'd had plenty of reason to miss Lois—and not purely on a personal level. It amazed him how much longer it took to write, re-write, and proof-read articles without her input. So he was already a bit frustrated when the elevator doors opened and he found the same man he had spoken with earlier waiting for him in the hall.
"It's about time you got home," the man commented as Clark unlocked the many locks on the door and led him into the apartment.
"I've had a lot on my mind." Clark threw his keys onto a nearby bookcase and stepped over to the sofa. "And you seemed to indicate you could maybe help me…?"
The man stood up. "Absolutely. Mr. Kent, the organization I'm with has long known that Superman was far more than the friendly, benevolent alien he appeared." The man paused, waiting for a response. When none was forthcoming, he continued, "and after watching him for a while, we have finally, as you well know, gotten the proof we need to fully discredit him in the eyes of the public. However, he claims we are somehow faking the evidence."
This time when the man paused, Clark spoke on cue, "Based on what I saw this morning, that's impossible."
"Exactly. We were hoping you'd come to see through the lie."
"Who is 'we'?"
"That's not really important right now, Mr. Kent. What is important is that you have finally come to understand that Superman is a menace. He was trusted before because his morals were beyond reproach. But now, he's shown himself to be a lying sneak. There's no knowing what he wouldn't stoop to. It's critical the American public come to understand the danger they are in—we all are in—from this creature. And something needs to be done about it."
"I agree. But what do you want me to do about it?"
"As a journalist, you doubtless know just how easily manipulated the public is. Until now, they have resisted believing our tapes because you have refused to believe them. But if you were to denounce Superman, his story would suddenly sound like just that, a story. No one would believe he was innocent. And then, having discredited Superman …" His voice trailed off as he realized he had said too much.
"So all you want me to do is go to the press, and admit to believing that Lois is having an affair with Superman?"
"Exactly. Just tell the truth."
"Easy enough. And then…?"
"Then wait, Mr. Kent. If we need you again, we know where to find you." And with that, the overly enigmatic gentleman stood up and left the apartment.
Clark crossed to the window, and watched as the man got into a taxi and drove off. Still not trusting that there wasn't someone watching the building, he left his apartment and stepped into the elevator. He hit the down button, but by the time the door opened on the ground floor, the elevator was empty. High above the building, Superman was streaking across the night sky, faster than anyone could possibly see him move.
Chapter 7: Fortification
*She looked up suddenly, to see his piercing blue eyes staring at her across the room. Blushing slightly, she looked down. Had that instant been enough for him to see his own desire reflected back at him through her eyes?
After a moment, she glanced back up. The temptation had been too strong. He was still there, seemingly unmoved since she last looked. This time, though, she was prepared. Instead of looking down, she met his eyes.
It was like drowning. She could feel herself falling into those eyes, but she made no attempt to swim. Instead, she reveled in the sensation. Those eyes could see straight into her soul. Before, she had always shut the door, refused to let anyone gain entrance to those hidden places deep inside her. But now was different. She knew with him it would be okay. He saw everything, but was willing to accept it without question. She smiled at the realization, and was rewarded with the answering gleam from deep within those beautiful chocolate eyes.*
The chuckle at her shoulder pulled Lois out from the far away place of her writing. "Sweetheart, it looks like your hero has a bit of an eye problem."
She looked up from the screen with a start, to find the very eyes she had been thinking of staring down at her.
"Clark!" she cried, standing up into his embrace.
Still laughing, he pulled her to him. It felt so good to hold her again. "Looks like you missed me."
Caught in his infectious laughter, she asked with a giggle, "What makes you think that, farm boy?"
He pointed to the computer screen, where Lois' novel finally seemed to be nearing completion. She followed his hand, reading, *his piercing blue eyes,* and then as he moved his finger down, *beautiful chocolate eyes.* Twisting around in his embrace, she faced him again, and punched him lightly in the stomach.
"Don't flatter yourself," she replied airily, "There are plenty of brown eyes I could have been thinking of when I wrote that." She couldn't help laughing as she concluded. Then she continued more seriously, looking up at him. "But you're right. I did miss you …"
He smiled, "Me too. But I figured you'd come up here to the cabin. For as long as we've had it, it's always been your favorite place to get away from the city."
"Yeah. But normally, the goal is to get *you* away from the city. Up here alone, it gets a bit dull." She smiled coyly. "I was sort of wishing there *were* more interruptions …"
"I thought you might feel that way," Clark returned the smile.
"So you decided to interrupt me?"
"Absolutely," he replied emphatically, before continuing with a wicked gleam in his eyes, "Haven't you heard, honey? Now a days, they're even allowing some prisoners conjugal visits." He hoped she didn't hear the catch in his voice.
She opened her mouth on a quick rejoinder, but quieted when she saw the need hiding behind the gleam in his eyes. Reaching up, she ran the back of her index finger down his jawline. "Has it been that bad?"
Lois hadn't even been sure what "bad" she was referring to, but Clark interpreted the words the way he needed. With a soft moan, he pulled her even tighter against him, burying his face in her shoulder. Her arms tightened around his neck as she felt her hair dampen with his tears.
After a moment, he began to speak, "I've never seen people look at me like that before." He paused, trying to control his wavering voice. "They wanted so much to believe, I could see it in their eyes. Silently pleading with me not to betray them. To be the hero they so desperately wanted. And now I'm going to have to betray that trust."
"It's working, then?" she asked softly.
She could feel him nod against her. "Too well. I'm going to the press again tomorrow, but this time, I've got to convince the world that Superman is evil. How am I supposed to do that? How can I betray their hope?"
She pulled away, and took his face in both her hands. Silent tears glistened on his cheeks as she looked at him. "Clark. You are *not* betraying them. You haven't done anything wrong." As she spoke, her eyes pleaded silently with him. "You're not taking their hope. You're giving it back to them." He had to understand, or he couldn't go on.
With a sigh, he collapsed back into her arms. She waited silently for a moment, unaware that she was holding her own breath. Waiting.
Finally, he spoke, and his words brought tears to her own eyes. "God. I love you, woman."
He drew back again, but only slightly. His face mere inches from hers, he searched her eyes, trying to understand why it was that she believed in him. Why she always believed in him, long after even he himself had given up.
As if in answer to Clark's unspoken question, Lois wordlessly closed the distance between them. Her lips brushed his softly, barely touching, and paused. Against his lips she whispered, "I love you, too."
As they stood there, barely touching, Clark could hear her heartbeat as if it were his own, breathe her breath with every one of his own. Her scent permeated his nostrils. And it wasn't enough.
With a low moan, his arms went around her neck, and he pulled her to him. Hard. She melted into his strength, her mouth opening to the pressure of his own. As their tongues met in silent communication, all thoughts fled from Clark's mind except the desperate need to join with the woman clutched tightly to him, to become one with her and never be alone again. His mouth never leaving hers, he slowly lowered her onto the sofa behind them at the same time her hands finally triumphed over the fastenings at his waist.
Several hours later, Clark woke up slowly. Even before opening his eyes, he could feel the familiar weight resting upon him. Smiling, he tightened his arms around her. For long precious moments he lay there, savoring the feel of her chest rising and falling with his, and the soft duo of their heartbeats.
As if sensing he was awake, Lois stirred slightly in her sleep.
"Honey?" Clark gently shook her. He had resisted waking her as long as possible, but he had to be going. He had a long day ahead of him. "Time to wake up."
"Huh?" She peered up at him with one eye. She opened her other eye, to find herself staring at a broad expanse of chest. "Clark?"
"Hi, honey. I'm home." She looked up again, fully awake now, to see his familiar cock-eyed grin. His grin disappeared. "But I'm afraid I can't stay for long. You've gotta get up."
With a sigh, she lay her cheek back down against the warm skin of Clark's chest. "No way," she replied, nestling into him. "I get up, and you're gone."
"But you know I have to go back …" Clark tried to sound persuasive, but he was quickly losing his resolve, along with a certain measure of his self-control, as Lois' body shifted against his.
Lois smiled, feeling his reaction at the same moment he did. She looked back at him, arching an eyebrow, "Really? You don't think you could maybe stay, say, another hour? You could fly back *real* fast."
"I should fly back right now, real fast, if I knew what was best for me."
"You could," she conceded, slowly turning her face away from him. She looked back at him from the corner of her eyes before continuing, "but then, you never know what you might miss." In accent to her words, she gently nipped his chest with her teeth.
"Lois …" But his complaint was silenced as nipped again, shifting against him as she did. Helplessly overcome, Clark reached down and pulled Lois up his chest, to cover her mouth with his own.
Considerably longer than an hour later, Superman streaked through the sky back to Metropolis, carrying with him the memories that would have to last through the next few difficult days.
Clark Kent was still adjusting his tie as he stepped up to the podium. Turning to the microphones, he looked out over his audience. The last time he'd been in front of so many people had been when Superman was made Man-of-the-year. He grimaced slightly, remembering. How different this situation was!
"Good morning, fellow citizens of Metropolis," he paused, remembering just how many people would hear this speech through the assembled press, "and citizens of the world. Last week, a tape was brought forward which seemed to suggest my wife had been having an affair with Superman. As many of you know, Superman has long been a close friend of both myself and my wife. I found it impossible to believe that this tape could be true, and I believed Superman's story that the tape had been faked. However, new evidence has recently come to my attention, evidence which clearly indicates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Superman has indeed been having an affair with my wife."
A stir went through the crowd at these words, and several hands shot up.
Clark motioned towards a woman in the front row. She spoke up, "Mr. Kent, what exactly is the nature of this new evidence?"
Clark had been expecting that question. "I'm sorry. Due to the nature of the evidence, I don't feel it would be in the best interest of the public to see it." Even though he knew the tape to be a fake, he had no intention of seeing its contents publicly displayed. "However, you have my word that the evidence is there. And I should be the hardest person to convince, considering."
The woman nodded, convinced. Clark breathed a sigh of relief. "Any more questions?" He pointed to a gentleman near the back.
"Yes, thank you, Mr. Kent. What do you suggest be done about this?"
Clark licked his lips nervously. "Well, it's not really up to me, is it? I just think that, if Superman is capable of such deceit and treachery in this one thing, there's no knowing what else he is capable of. And I thought the world had to be warned."
"So are you saying something *should* be done?"
Clark nodded. "Absolutely. Someone with as much power as Superman, and questionable morals, is definitely a menace. And something should be done to control this menace."
The man nodded, satisfied. Clark motioned for another reporter to ask his question.
"Mr. Kent, I know you said action is not up to you, but do you have any suggestions of what should be done?"
"Well … not really. It's just that, like I said, something *has* to be done. Until then, we are all in danger." He hoped he hadn't gone overboard. But then, considering the melodrama of the people he had talked to, he doubted overboard was possible.
Hands were still raised, but Clark had said enough. "No more questions, please." Turning, Clark left the podium, and the crowd.
The television coverage of Clark Kent's press conference had just concluded. A figure clicked off the television before turning to the man seated next to him. "Well, our plan seems to be working perfectly. Do you feel it is time to proceed to the second phase?"
"Absolutely. *My* plan is working exactly as I intended. Of course. We have discredited Superman, and destroyed Clark Kent's opinion of Ms. Lane. Now on to Mr. Kent himself."
"Ever so much more satisfying than mere death, wouldn't you say?"
The man in the seat chuckled mirthlessly. "As I've often said, killing an opponent should be the *last* alternative. It's like announcing to the world that you lack the savvy and finesse to deal with the problem more creatively. But not to worry, I believe that this time, nobody can accuse me of a lack of creativity."
Upon arriving at the Daily Planet the following morning, Clark was met by two police men standing at his desk, obviously waiting for him. Clark approached them cautiously, unsure what to expect.
"Mr. Clark Kent?" the first cop asked.
"Can I help you, officer?"
"Clark Kent," the cop resumed, not directly answering the question, "you are under arrest …"
"… for the murder of Superman."
Chapter 8: In Which We Quickly Dispense with the A Plot
Lois saw it all on the evening news.
"Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, was arrested today for the murder of Superman," the anchorwoman began. "Kent announced, yesterday, that he had positive proof that Superman had, indeed, been having an affair with Lois Lane Kent. He called for action, suggesting that something be done to control the menace. And the president had been in the process of forming a special committee to discuss options. However, it now seems as though, before official action could be taken, Kent took the situation into his own hands. Our sources say that, last night, Kent met with Superman. There is no information on the reason for this meeting, but it seems that Kent had somehow obtained a rock, referred to as Kryptonite, which proved deadly to Superman. Kent trapped Superman in a warehouse on 31st and Buzolla, and left him there with the Kryptonite until Superman was no more."
The cameras showed scenes from the warehouse, including a security camera scanning the interior from the corner. "As you can see, there is a security system at this warehouse. The police are saying the recordings from this system are what led them to arrest Kent for this crime. An autopsy on the remains is scheduled for tomorrow morning, and authorities are hoping to discover more on the exact cause of death. Channel 6 News will, as always, continue to carry the latest information on this breaking story."
The news went on to other topics, but Lois sat there staring blankly at the screen. This was not a part of the plan at all! Was Clark involved … Could he be the Superman that was dead?! Or the Clark in jail? One thing was certain, she could find out nothing from the cabin. Standing up, she grabbed her purse, secured the cabin, and jumped into her Jeep.
Lois woke the next morning with a start. She must have finally fallen asleep sometime in the early hours of the morning. Throughout the ride back to Metropolis, and the long sleepless hours lying in bed, she had come to no decision about what she should do next. All she knew was that Clark might be in trouble, and she was damned if she was going to wait around in the cabin wondering what had happened.
"Think, Lois, think," she chided herself, "there's got to be something you can do." She couldn't just march up to the police and demand to speak with Clark. She was supposed to be upset at him. And asking to examine Superman, even if they'd let her, would do no good. What could she tell from the body that the police couldn't? She pounded the pillow in frustration. She was not about to keep going forever through the same thinking she had gone through for so many hours already. Better to just act, and damn the consequences!
Getting up, she quickly threw on some clothes. As she dressed, she listened to the morning radio. "This just in … police have confirmed that the body of Superman was indeed stolen from the county morgue early this morning. I say again, the body of Superman was stolen early this morning. Police sources say that, at this time, they have no idea how the body was stolen. We will have more on this story as information becomes available."
Lois froze in her dressing. Ironic though it might be, this was exactly the kind of break she needed. She finished dressing and headed out the door.
Fifteen minutes later, Lois barged into the Metropolis Police Department's Headquarters. "Ms. Lane!" the receptionist exclaimed as she stormed up to the desk, "What are—"
"I need to speak with Inspector Henderson!"
The receptionist hesitated for just a moment, but Lois, clearly agitated, pushed past the desk and towards Henderson's office. She knocked, and then walked inside without waiting for a response.
He looked up from his desk, to see the one person he had been dreading questioning standing like a storm cloud before him. "Ms. Lane," he began, using the professional title he was accustomed to, "I needed to speak with you."
"Needed?" she scoffed. "You *needed* to speak with me? Why? Because you arrested my husband for murder and then *lost* the body of the man he was supposed to have killed?"
Henderson didn't even blink an eyelash. "I needed to speak with you because I have good evidence to support the conclusion that your husband murdered the man you were having an adulterous affair with, yes. Unfortunately, I didn't know where to find you. Thank you for making my job easier."
Lois harumphed softly. "Well, from what I hear, you *need* all the help you can get. Did I hear correctly, that you managed to *lose* Superman's body?"
For the first time, Henderson looked visibly upset. But only slightly. "Yes."
"Then what proof, may I ask, do you have that it really was Superman? Were you able to perform an autopsy?"
Henderson smiled. "No, but there is little doubt it was him. Remember, we have the incident on tape off the security cameras."
Now it was Lois' turn to smile. "Inspector Henderson, did you ever consider that the body might have been stolen to prevent you from such an examination?"
Lois' smile increased. "Inspector, I think maybe we should go talk with my husband …"
Inspector Henderson and Lois left Clark in his cell later that afternoon. Now, all he had to do was wait for the next card to be played. Dropping onto the cot, he reached underneath it to pick up the paperback book he had been reading. He began to read, hoping he wouldn't have to go through too many books before something happened.
Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long at all. He hadn't been back in his cell for an hour when the guard came to the door.
"Someone here for ya, Kent." The guard fumbled with the keys, finally finding the right one and inserting it in the lock. "Come on."
Clark stepped out through the door, and preceded the guard down the hall to the visiting room. Stepping into the room, he found the same mysterious man he had been in contact with waiting for him.
Neither of them spoke until the guard had left. Then, the man spoke, "Well, Mr. Kent. This is quite a situation you've gotten yourself into."
Clark nodded. "But I didn't do it. I think I know who did, though." He stared at the man.
The man stared back. "And have you shared these— suspicions with anyone else?"
Clark shook his head. "No. But I've been thinking about it. I don't see why I should take the blame for a crime I didn't do."
"Oh, really, Mr. Kent, and who would believe you?"
Clark grimaced. "No one, probably. But *I* would feel better."
"Maybe," the man conceded. Then he looked directly at Clark, and his eyes flashed steel. "Maybe *not*."
"Then what do you—*suggest* I do?"
A voice spoke from behind Clark. "I suggest you come with us." A hand went over Clark's mouth, pressing a rag to his face. The smell of formaldehyde was strong. After struggling briefly, Clark slumped forward, apparently unconscious.
"Good," he heard the first voice say. He felt two arms grab him, and drag him from the chair he had been sitting in.
"Uhf! He's the heavy one. Give me a hand, will you?" A second set of arms grabbed his feet, and Clark felt himself carried off. How they were leaving the prison room, Clark could only imagine. For now, he would have to bide his time, and wait until his "captors" chose to make things clear.
His captors carried him like that for awhile in silence. Then, Clark could feel himself lifted onto a soft bench. It felt like it was probably the back of a car, but when the vehicle moved, it was unlike any car he'd ever ridden in. In fact, it felt more like the monorails at Disney World. After several minutes, the vehicle stopped, and Clark was once again lifted up and carried. Finally, he felt himself set down on what could only have been a bed. And not a cot, like the one in the prison, but a real bed. The situation was getting steadily more bizarre.
Finally, the two men spoke again.
"The boss said leave her 'ere till he came to."
"Right then, I ain't stayin' round 'ere no more 'n I gotta. Come 'n."
And with that, Clark heard the door slam, a key twist in the lock, and the two men leave.
Clark lay there for what, from his perspective, felt like a very long time, though in reality it couldn't have been more then half an hour. His wait ended when he heard footsteps approach from the same direction the other two men had left. Again, he heard the key turn, but this time, the door opened instead of closed.
"He awake yet?" a new voice asked.
"Don' know. Eh! You awake?" Footsteps crossed to where Clark lay, and a hand roughly shook him.
"Careful, Stan. The boss wouldn't 'a put 'im in 'ere if he'd want 'im 'urt." The man's cockney was unmistakable. With the mix of accents he'd been hearing lately, Clark realized whomever was responsible for his present situation had to have an international organization. The name Intergang sprang quickly to mind.
"Well, the boss don't want to wait forever, does he?"
Clark took that as his cue. Moaning softly, he stirred in the bed. He slowly opened his eyes, staring about him in confusion. "Where am I?"
As Clark scanned the room, he realized that, instead of a dank prison, he was in an opulent bedroom of some sort. More proof of Intergang involvement, Clark thought, as Intergang was more apt to try to impress its captives with luxury than intimidate them with squalor. Of course, his elegant surroundings were in sharp contrast to the two poorly dressed thugs standing before him.
As his eyes came to rest on the two men, the Cockney spoke again, "Well, wouldn't ya like to know, mate?"
"You'll know soon enough," the other man interrupted. Reaching down, he pulled Clark to his feet, and together, the two thugs led Clark outside the room.
As they led Clark down the hall, Clark realized that his captors had made no attempt to physically restrain him beyond their presence. Which must mean they were pretty sure he could not escape from wherever he was. Clark wished he could use his x-ray vision to determine where exactly that was, but he didn't want to do anything which might look suspicious. Better to let the other side play their hand before risking his own.
The two men stopped before a door at the end of the long hall. One of them knocked softly. The knock had barely faded away before an all too familiar voice spoke, "Bring him in."
The man opened the door, and motioned Clark through. Stepping inside, he found himself standing in a rich, dark study. A fire burned briskly in the huge brick fireplace at one end. In front of the fire, a wisp of smoke trailed up over the back of a tall wing-backed chair.
The man in the chair spoke again. "It's been a long time, Mr. Kent. A very long time. So long, in fact, that you probably thought I had finally resigned myself to the prison life."
"I had hoped so."
"But you see, Mr. Kent, that I have not. And the beautiful thing is, in spite of your and Superman's best efforts, or rather," the man chuckled. "Because of them, no one would ever suspect the truth."
The man rose, his bald scalp gleaming in the firelight, matching the feral gleam in his eyes. "That Lex Luthor, who is supposedly rotting away in jail, is actually in control of the most powerful international crime organization ever imagined: Intergang."
If Luthor had expected Clark to be upset, he was in for a disappointment. Instead, Clark smiled politely. "Congratulations. But what does that have to do with me?"
"Why, Mr. Kent. You are too modest. I just brought you here to thank you."
"Of course. Without your help, and of course Superman's, I could never have risen to the position I now hold."
In answer to Clark's confused look, Luthor continued, "You see, when Bill Church, Jr. was, shall we say, taken out of the picture, his father needed someone else to take over the day-to-day control of Intergang. Since his son had proved so inept, he needed someone he could trust the organization's future to. The entire organization was in danger, until Nigel, you do remember Nigel?" Clark nodded. "Good. Yes, Nigel suggested me. Having worked for me in the past, he knew first hand that I had the skill, cunning, and determination—"
"You mean ruthlessness."
"Why, thank you, Mr. Kent. Yes, ruthlessness, to lead Intergang into the 21st century."
"And of course, the fact that I had, thanks to Superman and you, been placed in prison actually helped convince Mr. Church that I was the perfect man for the job. After all, for an organization with Intergang's resources, arranging to have me spirited out of prison was simple, as you yourself know.
"Of course, in my case, Mr. Church arranged for my release to go unnoticed. You'd be surprised, Mr. Kent, how difficult it is for the Federal Prison system to keep track of its prisoners. It's all in the paperwork, really. But enough of that."
Luthor's gaze fixed back on Clark. "Gratitude, as you can imagine, isn't the only reason I've brought you here, Mr. Kent. Despite the help you have inadvertently given me, both you and Superman have been a repeated source of vexation to me. Working together, you have destroyed first my marriage plans with Ms. Lane and then my good name. Really, I'm sure you can see that such actions could not be allowed to go un— rewarded.
"So I decided to repay you. Both of you. And, most fortunately, as a side benefit, I was able to extract a small payback from Lois as well. You see, Mr. Kent, Superman was right. He *was* innocent, and so was Lois."
Luthor was looking at him expectantly, and Clark did he best to look suitably shocked. "You mean …"
"That's right, Mr. Kent. I destroyed your marriage, and your relationship with Superman. And Superman's reputation, and that of your wife, have been destroyed. Not to mention the slight business of your 'murder' of Superman." Luthor chuckled. "You're a man on the run, Mr. Kent. A fugitive of justice. You all tried to destroy me, but instead, your life is in utter ruins. Ironic, isn't it?"
"But how did you do it—I mean, that tape— and Superman, how did you …"
Luthor shook his head, "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Really, Mr. Kent. After all I've told you? I would have hoped you would have learned by now not to underestimate the power, and the reach of Intergang." Luthor lazily blew a smoke ring, watching it float slowly to the ceiling before continuing. "Hollywood, Mr. Kent. Hollywood. It's amazing what you can do with special effects these days, if you know the right people."
"But what will you do when Superman comes forward, as he ultimately will, to show that I did not kill him?"
"I wouldn't worry about Superman. Even as we speak, the resources of Intergang are hunting him down. Closing in on him. With Kryptonite. And this time, with Intergang behind me, I will not fail to destroy Superman." The insane gleam in Luthor's eyes chilled Clark more than anything else. Despite his outward calm and debonair attitude, Luthor had finally crossed the line into insanity.
"So, now that you've won, what are you going to do with me now?"
"Why, nothing, Mr. Kent. I plan to let you go."
"Let me go?"
"Yes. As you said, I have finally won! Think about it. Where can you go? Why, back to jail. You remember jail, don't you? Where you and Superman put me?!"
It was obvious that Luthor had been pushed just about as far as he could go without snapping. "Yes, I remember jail, Luthor. And I hope you do too, because that is where you will be spending the rest of your life … after you've been cured of whatever delusion you seem to have developed concerning Superman and me. We might have helped get you convicted, but only you are responsible for your crimes."
"Very pretty, sort of reminds me of Superman," Luthor spat. "And look at how far he's fallen!"
"Maybe not as far as you might think." A voice spoke from the shadows.
Luthor spun to look at the voice, instantly recognizing it. "Lois?"
She stepped forward, and besides her, Inspector Henderson. And around them, a team from the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, guns trained on Luthor. "Hello, Lex."
Henderson answered, "A tracking device. We knew that Clark was innocent, so we planted the device on him. And it led us straight to you. We heard everything."
"But—but—" Luthor could obviously not believe that anyone had defeated his intricately woven web of deceit.
Clark crossed to Lois, placing one arm around her, sheltering her with his body. "You underestimated one thing, Luthor. I know Lois. Better than I'm sure you have ever known anybody. And I know she would never cheat on me. With anyone. So I had no reason to kill Superman.
"I had faith in her, Luthor. Because I love my wife."
"Very touching. But then why did you say those things you did, about Superman?" Luthor was quickly losing the last vestiges of calm.
It was Lois' turn to speak. "Because we knew that something was up. Someone had to be behind this. And we had to prove who it was." She smiled then. "Besides, it was a *great* story!"
Besides her, despite the situation, Clark chuckled. That was Lois!
Luthor, however, was clearly not amused. His veneer finally melted away completely as he cried, "Well! You'll not take me back to jail. Lex Luthor does not go to jail!" And, in a last moment of desperation, he sprinted to the back wall and pulled down a hidden lever in the corner, exposing a secret passage. In a second, he had sprinted into the darkness.
Seconds later, Clark was after him, disappearing behind him. The police had just started for the far wall of the room when Superman stepped from the shadows, pushing Luthor before him.
"Look what I found down there." Superman thrust Luthor towards the police. "Sorry I'm late, Inspector. Something came up. But at least I didn't miss all the excitement." He nodded towards Luthor.
"Thank you, Superman," Henderson answered as the police slapped cuffs on Luthor and led him off. "It looks like Metropolis is once again in your debt."
"Just glad to be of help, Inspector. And besides," he glanced at Lois, "This time, it was personal."
Speaking of which … "Where's Clark?" Lois asked, peeking past Superman as if expecting to see her husband standing behind him. "Didn't you see him in there?"
"Oh, he's um—" Clark hated having to come up with spur of the moment excuses.
"Took the wrong tunnel?" Lois prompted.
"Uh, yeah," he smiled gratefully, sure Henderson wouldn't interpret the glance. "I'm sure he'll be along shortly … but maybe I should go look for him?"
Lois nodded, "Please."
"If you don't need me, Inspector?"
"No, go on ahead. We'll just be taking Luthor down to the station and booking him—for the first bus back to prison. But if you, and Lois and Clark, could come to the station later, I'd appreciate your statements."
"Right, then," and with a final wave, Superman quickly darted back into the tunnel.
Lois stopped Henderson as he moved to leave. "Just one thing, Henderson."
She smiled. "*We* get the exclusive!"
Jimmy looked up from the headline article in the next morning's Daily Planet. The first article in a long while to bear the now famous byline: Lois Lane and Clark Kent. "Great work, you two! Imagine Luthor's being out of jail and no one knowing! But there is one bit I don't completely understand."
"What?" Lois asked. She was sitting on the edge of Jimmy's chair, Clark standing at her shoulder. They were both smiling broadly, glad to be back together in the newsroom where they belonged.
"How exactly did you convince Henderson that Superman was alive, and Clark was innocent?"
"Simple." Lois looked over her shoulder at Clark and winked. He squeezed her knee in response. "When I took Henderson to see Clark in jail, we went to the area where Superman had told Clark he was hiding. We split up to find Superman, and when Henderson found Superman, it quickly became obvious to Henderson that something was up—"
Jimmy laughed, "I guess a clue like that would be picked up, even by a cop." After so many run-ins with the law, Jimmy was hardly a fan.
"And the rest, as they say, is history," Clark concluded, tapping the paper on Jimmy's desk.
Their conversation was interrupted as a loud shout echoed through the newsroom. "Clark! Lois! Get in here!"
Lois swung herself off the desk. "Well, looks like no rest for the weary."
Together, they walked into Perry's office.
"What is it, chief?" Clark asked.
Perry waved the day's newspaper edition in front of his face. "This is good kids, real good! You did good work."
"Thanks Perry," they both replied.
"And thanks for your faith in us—in me," Lois added.
"No sweat, honey. You don't get to be editor by misjudging people's character." Perry cleared his throat. "Which reminds me, kids. As your editor, I've decided that you both need some time off. The last week or so have been real rough on the both of you. So go! And I don't expect to see either of you back until Monday!"
"But chief … "
"No buts, Lois. Move!"
Before Lois could protest further, Clark had taken her elbow and steered her from the room. "Come on, Lois," he whispered in her ear. "I know exactly where we can go."
An hour later, Lois and Clark were once again seated on the floor of a tree house in Kansas. Only this time, no shadow of separation hung over their heads.
"You know, Clark," Lois said, leaning her head on his shoulder. "It really is beautiful up here."
His arm tightened around her waist. "Yeah, it is." He glanced down at her. "Very beautiful."
She looked up then, meeting his admiring gaze. Her face brightened into a smile. "You did good work, Kent," she teased.
He returned the smile. "You too, Kent."
Then, bending down, he caught her lips with his own, gently lowering her to the tree house floor beneath him. After lingering for several minutes, he left her lips, raining soft kisses from her mouth to the base of her neck, where he nipped lightly, eliciting a small moan. As his kisses moved still lower, the increasing sounds of their passion drifted through the open door to mingle with the gentle breeze outside—and with the creaking of the old sign hanging by one rusty nail, declaring the place to be The Fortress of Solitude.