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  1. #61
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-One

    Lois’ head was pounding and she could feel a sharp ache in her abdomen, far worse than when she had had her appendix out at age nine. She tried to sit up, only to groan and fall back against the pillows.

    “Lois?”

    Frowning, she turned her head to look at the figure in the doorway.

    “Clark.”

    He stepped forward and sat on the bed. “The doctor says you’re going to be fine.”

    “Yeah? I feel like I went eight rounds with Mike Tyson.”

    He nodded, his big hand covering hers. Her first instinct was to pull back, but she ignored it. His hand felt warm where she felt so cold.

    “What, uh …” Her voice was husky. She cleared her throat and tried again. “What happened?”

    “Well, Superman apparently showed up right when that guy Trax was about to kill you. The police turned up not long after and shot him.”

    “Who? Superman?”

    “No. Trax. He’s dead, by the way.”

    “Oh. Good.”

    Clark ducked his head. She had the feeling he didn’t exactly agree with the way the police had handled it, but was resigned to it.

    She looked down at her hand. Clark was rubbing her skin gently with his thumb. He appeared thoughtful, as if there was something he wanted to say but was not sure about it.

    There were so many things she wanted to say to him. Confronting someone like Trax, coming so close to being killed, had made her realise that her life could be cut short in an instant. She’d wasted so much time avoiding her feelings for Clark, reasoning that a relationship between them could never work. She was too impulsive, too hot-tempered. Not to mention the fact that he was her boss. Maybe not her direct boss, but it could still create so many problems for them.

    Then there was the fact that she had a tendency to blur the lines between them. He’d had every right to get annoyed with the way she just seemed to walk all over him.

    “I bet I can guess what you’re thinking,” Clark said.

    “I bet you can’t.”

    He smiled. “You’re trying to give yourself an out. Creating all these excuses as to why it couldn’t possibly work between us.”

    “That’s not exactly what I was thinking,” she said. “Besides, what about Tess?”

    “Tess is no longer in the picture. You were seeing Jack.”

    She frowned at him. “How did you know about that?”

    “He’s practically family. By the way, Uncle Jonathan offered for you to stay with them for a while. If you wanted to.”

    “Thanks, but I don’t even know them. I mean, I had dinner with them, once, but I …” She trailed off, not really knowing what to say.

    “It’s okay. I’m not going to push you into anything you don’t want to do.” He got up and went to the window, looking out over what she assumed was the hospital grounds. He stood there for a few moments before turning back to her.

    “Lois, I don’t know what the future holds. Let’s face it, we’ve spent the last four months or so avoiding what we really feel. I only know that when I heard you’d been hurt yesterday, I couldn’t face the thought of losing you. I mean, don’t get me wrong. There are times when you drive me crazy. You’re brash, and you sometimes act without thinking, but … you accused me once of being uptight and maybe I am. Maybe I need someone like you to help me see that I don’t always have to be that way.” He sighed.

    “I know I’m not perfect.”

    She shook her head. “Maybe not, but … I … I guess even with you I had to put up all those walls because I … I got scared. The general used to tell me that he hated weakness and I always thought that if I let someone see that side of me then they would hurt me.”

    “I never would,” he said.

    “I know.” She paused, sighing. “I don’t know what this is, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you think there is something worth exploring, then I’d like to explore it with you.”

    He smiled and it was as if the room suddenly became brighter. Lois smiled back a little uncertainly. Clark started to approach the bed, but before he could do so, someone came into the room.

    “Well, Miss Lane, I’m Dr Hamilton.”

    She frowned at the man with olive skin and wavy dark hair. She couldn’t recall having met him the day before but then again, she didn’t remember much of what had happened after Trax had thrown her through the glass pane. She had been told she had been unconscious for a while after Superman had brought her in and the rest of that time was a blur.

    Dr Hamilton nodded at Clark. She wondered what that was about. She didn’t know much about body language but there was a sense of familiarity between them. She wanted to ask Clark about it, but didn’t get the opportunity as the doctor looked through her chart.

    “Your vitals are good,” he was saying. “I think as long as you have someone to look after you, we can release you this afternoon.”

    She bit her lip. Would Clark still want her to stay with him, even after they’d decided to explore this attraction they had? Not to mention the fact that she’d promised him she would stay put and she had broken that promise.

    “Don’t worry. She’ll be staying with me.”

    “I don’t want to put you to any trouble,” she said.

    He shook his head. “It’s no trouble. Mom would insist on it anyway.”

    It was still a couple of hours before she was released into Clark’s care. She was grateful for the support as he led her into the apartment.

    “Why don’t you rest on the couch for a bit?” he suggested. “If you’re hungry I can make you something to eat.”

    She shook her head. “I’m not hungry. I could go for a coffee, though. The stuff they give you in the hospital is terrible.”

    He smiled. “Well, I don’t think one coffee would hurt.”

    He left the room, but came back in a minute or so later, the phone in his hand.

    “Mom’s on the phone for you.”

    She frowned, but guessed he’d told his mother what had happened. She took the phone, wincing a little as she reached up. She’d cracked a couple of ribs in her fall.

    “Lois?”

    “Yes, it’s me,” she said.

    “How are you, sweetie?”

    “I’m okay. I’ll heal, I guess.”

    “Is my son taking good care of you?” Lois heard a slight edge to the woman’s voice, as if she was upset with Clark.

    “Yes, he is,” she said. “Did he do something?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, just now you sounded a little … are you mad at him?”

    “Oh no, it’s just been a little stressful around here. Chloe went into labour after she heard you’d been hurt. She and Oliver are still at the hospital.”

    “Oh. Clark didn’t tell me that.”

    “He probably didn’t want to worry you. Don’t fret. Everything’s fine. She hasn’t had the baby yet, but that’s to be expected. Goodness knows, I was in labour with Oliver for almost two days!”

    “Wow! That’s a long time,” Lois commented. She looked up as Clark came back in with her coffee. She smiled up at him and mouthed a thank you.

    “Isn’t it, though? He was a big baby too. Nine pounds! But you don’t want to hear about that. I just wanted to call and check up on you. We were so worried when we heard about that horrible man. I’m so glad you’re safe.” She paused. “I should let you get some rest, sweetheart. I doubt you got much sleep in the hospital.”

    For some inexplicable reason, Lois felt like she wanted to cry. Hearing the concern in the older woman’s voice made her miss her mother, even though it had been twenty years since Ella Lane had died. She bit her lip, trying not to choke on the tears.

    “Okay. Do you need to talk to Clark again?”

    “No, darling. It’s all right. I’m sure I’ll be calling again in a few hours when the baby is finally here. You just get some rest now.”

    Clark appeared to notice her getting emotional as he sat down beside her. She was glad she was able to keep the tears back waited until Moira had hung. She cried, barely aware of him putting his arms around her. It was a long time before she felt able to get things under control again.

    “I’m sorry,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t normally …”

    “No one will blame you for getting emotional,” he said gently. “After everything that’s happened, I’d be worried if you didn’t.”

    “This is going to sound stupid, but … talking to your mom, it almost felt like my mom was here. You know?”

    “That’s not stupid,” he told her, handing her a Kleenex so she could wipe her eyes. “I know when I’m feeling down or unwell, I wish my mom was right here.”

    “I can’t imagine you really needing your mom. I mean, you seem so … um, together,” she said. She frowned. “That didn’t come out right.”

    “I know what you meant. Believe me, I had my moments when I was growing up. Losing my dad and Ollie disappearing … that was a bad time in my life.”

    “Chloe told me a little bit. What happened?”

    He shrugged. “I got into some trouble at school, started acting out. Mom didn’t know what to do so she asked Uncle Jonathan to help. He got me straightened out.”

    “It must have been hard, going through all that.”

    She had the feeling it wasn’t the only thing Clark had gone through, but decided not to question him further.

    She decided to go up to the bedroom to rest for a while. When she came back downstairs, Clark was talking to Detective Jones. The dark-skinned man smiled at her.

    “How are you feeling?” he asked.

    “Okay,” she replied. “Recovering.”

    “Good. I was just telling Clark about the investigation into what happened with Trax.”

    “What did happen?” she asked. “I’m still a little fuzzy on the details.”

    “Well, it seems Trax was part of a study at LexCorp in behavioural modification. However, we think he only volunteered to join the study so he could get early release from his prison sentence.”

    She nodded. “Yeah. It figures.”

    “I’m sorry to tell you that the owner of the bar was killed.”

    “TJ?” she said, getting upset all over again. Her friend had been murdered because of her. Trax must have really studied her.

    The detective nodded. “I’m sorry. He was a friend of yours?”

    “I’d known him for years. He was a friend of a friend.”

    Clark’s housekeeper appeared from the hallway. Clark left the room with her. Lois continued talking to the detective, who related what had happened after Trax had nearly killed her.

    Clark returned looking a little perturbed. Lois was surprised to see Lex Luthor following him in.

    “Mr Luthor came to see you,” he said.

    “Lois, I heard about what happened. I wanted to give you my deepest apologies. I know nothing I can say can make up for what Mr Trax did to you. I also wanted to give you my assurances that I am launching a full investigation into how he escaped from the facility.”

    She nodded. “Thank you.”

    He stepped forward, a smile of beneficence on his face, as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

    “If there is anything I can do,” he said.

    “I’ll be okay. Clark’s taking good care of me.”

    Lex turned and smiled at Clark. “He’s good at that,” he said. “Even in his first day at Excelsior he was always taking care of others.”

    Lois hated the man’s tone. It sounded like he was making an effort not to be condescending but it still came off that way.

    “I’ll be holding a press conference in the morning. I assume it is a long shot, but if you have a way to get in touch with Superman, I would very much appreciate his presence.”

    Again she had that feeling Lex was speaking the words he thought they wanted to hear but his tone implied something else.

    “Why would Clark know how to get in touch with Superman?” she asked. “Usually he just shows up when he’s needed.”

    “Yet isn’t it strange how the Daily Planet seems to manage to get exclusive interviews with him?” the bald man replied coolly. He nodded his head at her. “I’ll let you get some rest, Lois. Clark.”

    “I’ll see you out, sir,” Mrs Adams told him.

    Lois stared at Clark as Lex left the room, followed by the housekeeper.

    “What was that all about?” she asked.

    “I’ve no idea,” Clark returned.

  2. #62
    Forum Whiz TheCloisLover's Avatar
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    As great as usual, looking forward to read more! Loved that they’re on their way to love

  3. #63
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCloisLover View Post
    As great as usual, looking forward to read more! Loved that they’re on their way to love
    Thank you. There will still be a few bumps in the road, but they'll sort themselves out.

  4. #64
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: Sorry for the delay in posting. My mum is in hospital and it's quite serious so I have been spending a lot of my time there.

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    Against Clark’s objections, Lois decided to attend the press conference at LexCorp. He had asked his friend Dinah Lance, also known as Black Canary, to go to Lois’ apartment and see what could be salvaged out of her belongings. Dinah had reported that Trax had done a real number on the apartment. He’d completely trashed everything, setting fire to her clothes and bedding and spraying obscenities in black paint on the walls. She would never get her deposit back from the landlord.

    Fortunately his assistant had anticipated that it would be a few days, if at all, before Lois could go home and had bought a few extra items. It was only jeans and blouses, but at least she would be comfortable, he thought.

    Since he didn’t technically have to be at the press conference, as himself, he decided to take the chance and trust Luthor wouldn’t have requested for him to be there as his alter ego without good reason.

    As he headed downstairs to check on something with Perry, he overheard one of the younger reporters talking with an intern in the break room.

    “I heard Lois was staying with the boss himself. I always wondered about their ‘special relationship’. You know, sometimes I think he just lets her …”

    “Lets her what?” he asked.

    The brown-haired first-year reporter stared at him, wide-eyed.

    “Uh …”

    “Go on, Mr Hage. Please do tell me more about what you think is going on between myself and Miss Lane.”

    “Uh …”

    “Uh isn’t good enough,” he snapped. “First of all, in case you were not aware, Lois was almost killed two days ago. She is staying at my apartment because her apartment is currently unliveable. As for her relationship with me, that is really none of your business, now is it? And for the record, I do not appreciate you spreading such rumours. I would tread very carefully, Mr Hage, or the only thing you will be writing is your resume. Is that clear?”

    Jeff turned red with embarrassment. “Yes sir,” he said quietly.

    Clark turned to leave, startled to find Lois right behind him.

    “Can we talk?” she asked quietly.

    “I thought you would be at the press conference by now,” he said.

    “It’s just across the road and it doesn’t start for a half hour. I just … couldn’t help overhearing.”

    “If you think I was being too harsh with him …”

    “It’s not that. I … it’s about yesterday. I guess this really isn’t the right time or place for this.”

    “I’ll be free in about an hour, I guess. How about I order in lunch?”

    She nodded. “Yeah, that sounds … okay. See you later?”

    He watched her go before continuing to Perry’s office. The editor smiled at his entry.

    “Hey, kid. Lois was just in here.”

    “I figured,” he said quietly, sitting down on the leather chair.

    “Everything okay?”

    “I’m not sure. After the last couple of days, I …”

    “Yeah, I know. It could have been a lot worse. We could have been going to Lois’ funeral.”

    He didn’t really need the reminder and gave the editor a sour look. The older man shrugged and smiled.

    “Just thought you needed a bit of perspective. So how are the new parents doing?”

    His brother had called an hour after Lex had left saying Chloe had had the baby. The proud father was just about crowing from the rooftops. They still hadn’t decided on a name but Oliver thought there was plenty of time for that.

    “Doing well, by all accounts. Mom told me this morning that Chloe should be released from the hospital tomorrow. They just wanted to make sure she was okay with the feeding and everything else.”

    “How about you, kid? You doing okay?”

    “How do you really want me to answer that?”

    Perry snickered. “Hate to say it, Clark, but the answer’s written all over your face. You can try to hide it all you like, but this thing scared you more than you want to admit.”

    “You’re right.”

    “I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. Look, don’t get me wrong. I think you and Lois would be great together, but are you sure you wanna go down this road? You know how complicated it could get.”

    “Perry, right now, I’m not sure of anything except how I feel about her. Almost losing her made me realise that I’ve been avoiding these feelings for so long if I don’t do something about it, I could lose her for good.”

    He couldn’t explain it, even to himself. There was something about Lois that made him feel … well, maybe normal wasn’t quite the word he was looking for, he thought, but it was close.

    All his life, he’d felt that he didn’t really fit in. Despite having a big brother, despite having loving parents. They’d all tried their best but they really couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be him. To be … different. They’d all had to deal with his abilities. When he was younger, it seemed like every time his body changed, a new ability would crop up. It had been hard enough for him to deal with.

    There had been times when he’d looked at his brother wondering if Oliver ever thought of him as a freak.

    Yet, inexplicably, the moment he’d met Lois Lane, he was able to forget all of that. She’d annoyed him, sure, but at the same time, she had treated him like everyone else. That was what had attracted him the most.

    He left Perry’s office and prepared to go to the press conference. It wasn’t the ordeal he had expected it to be. Lex appeared almost friendly, thanking Superman for his quick action. Clark was cynical enough to believe that the bald billionaire was doing it for the positive PR, but he was sure there was some other reason. He’d heard rumours the man was trying for political office again. He already had a failed bid for state senate.

    He returned to his office shortly before Lois was due to arrive. Amanda had already ordered lunch for them and left for her own break.

    Lois entered and hovered in the doorway, looking a little uncertain.

    “You can come in. I promise I won’t bite.”

    Her smile was more of a grimace. “Sorry. Last time I was here, you yelled at me.”

    “I know. I’m sorry.” He gestured toward the sandwiches on the desk. “I hope you’re hungry.”

    “Um, not really.” She stepped forward. “I guess I could eat a little.”

    “You need to keep your strength up,” he said gently.

    “I know.” She took a quarter of one sandwich and went to the window, picking at the bread as she looked out over the street. “I heard what Jeff said. About us.”

    “Don’t worry about him,” he replied.

    He watched her for a few moments. She was so quiet, almost uncertain. It was so uncharacteristic of her that he had no idea what to do. He was used to bickering with her.

    “Clark, what do you want from us?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I mean, where do you see this going?”

    “Don’t you think it’s a little early to be even thinking about that?” he pointed out. “We haven’t even gone out on a date.”

    “Actually, we have, or did you forget the night at the Ace of Clubs.”

    “That wasn’t really a date,” he said. “Are you worried about what might happen?”

    She shrugged. “Sort of. I mean, you’d barely started to go out with Tess and the gossip rags had you practically engaged. Are you … I mean, you did say Tess wasn’t an issue anymore.”

    “She called it quits, but if she hadn’t, I would have. Maybe not quite as soon as that.”

    “Oh.”

    “Lois, what is really the problem here?”

    “I don’t know,” she said with a heavy sigh. “I mean, I get that your life is … complicated. You can’t go out to a restaurant without being chased by a Paparazzi. I know that’s the price you pay for being … who you are. I just …. I kept thinking about it last night. Wondering if that was something I was prepared to deal with. I mean, last time, I was kind of taken by surprise when the Inquisitor published that story.”

    Clark frowned, trying to figure out where she was going with this.

    “Is this your way of saying you changed your mind?” he asked, feeling more than a little disappointed.

    She turned and looked at him, putting the sandwich down on the plate. She hadn’t eaten a thing.

    “I don’t know. I’m just … really confused.”

    “Well, maybe this will help unconfuse you,” he said.

    He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips to hers in a gentle, undemanding kiss. For a moment she didn’t respond, then one arm slid around his waist, her hand on his back, while the other found its way to behind his head. Her mouth opened under his, letting him in as she began to kiss him back with fervour.

    “Then what happened?”

    Chloe gazed at her brother-in-law. She was tired and sore from the birth, but as much as she wanted to focus on letting her body heal, it looked like Clark needed some reassurance.

    He sighed. “Well, then she stared at me and practically ran out the door.”

    “Uh, yeah, Lois has always had what I like to call a tightly-wound bolt reflex. It’s not you, trust me on that.”

    “So why did she?” Clark was holding a teddy bear he’d bought for the baby. He’d flown to Star City as soon as work ended for the day. From what Chloe could ascertain, he hadn’t seen Lois or heard whether she’d gone back to his apartment after he’d kissed her.

    “I think it has something to do with all those walls she puts up,” she told him. “That’s about as much insight as I can give you. The rest, well you’ll just have to ask her.”

    Oliver entered the room, holding a bundle wrapped in a blue blanket.

    “Look who wants to meet his Uncle Clark,” he crooned.

    Chloe grinned at her husband. Oliver had sworn he was not going to do the ‘baby talk’ but the moment his son had been born he just hadn’t been able to stop himself.

    Clark took the bundle and dutifully admired his nephew.

    “So, you guys decided what to name him yet?”

    “We’re still debating between Jonas and something else,” Chloe said, glancing at her husband. Oliver shrugged.

    “We were sort of leaning toward Conner,” he said.

    Clark nodded, smiling for the first time since he’d appeared.

    “Conner,” he said. “I like it.”

    “His middle name could be Robert, after your dad.”

    Oliver grinned. “Yeah, I think Dad would have loved that.”

    “I think it’s perfect,” Moira said, coming into the room. She approached Clark to look down at her grandson. Clark handed him over without protest. “What do you think, sweetheart?” she crooned.

    The baby cooed softly as if he agreed with his grandmother. She rocked him gently, gazing at him adoringly.

    Chloe watched her mother-in-law for a moment before turning back to Clark.

    “So what are you going to do?”

    “I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, yesterday, she said she wanted to explore whatever it is we’re feeling but now …”

    “You have to give her a chance to sort out her feelings,” Chloe advised. “The last few days have been pretty overwhelming for her.”

    “I suppose hearing Jeff saying something stupid didn’t help,” he said with a sigh. Chloe frowned at him and asked for details. When he told her, she felt like kicking Jeff’s ass. She didn’t know him that well, since he’d joined the Planet long after she’d left for Star City, but she’d heard Lois talking about him enough to know he was an idiot.

    “Chloe’s right, Clark,” his brother told him. “You just need to give her a little time.”

    Clark still didn’t look that happy but nodded resignedly. He left shortly after, having done his duty in admiring his nephew.

    Chloe nursed her son before handing him over to Oliver. She looked at her husband. “I could call her.”

    “And say what, exactly? That she’s an idiot for walking out on him?”

    She chewed on her lower lip, watching as he walked up and down, gently rocking their tiny son.

    “I guess you’re right.”

    “I’m always right,” he returned with a grin.

    “You wish.”

    “I did tell you this might blow up in our faces. I said it months ago.”

    “Oh ye of little faith,” she replied. “She’ll come around. You’ll see.”

  5. #65
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your mother. Sending best wishes and warm thoughts for good health, recovery and strength 💌

  6. #66
    Forum Whiz TheCloisLover's Avatar
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    Forgot to post a message when I read the chapter...

    I absolutely love that Lois reflex showed up, makes me miss those times on TV

    You’re great as well, post more soon!

  7. #67
    New In Town Winchesters1967's Avatar
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    Just read this story in a short few hours, and I've loved every second of it! I posted on your A03, so thought I'd post here too. Hope your mom feels better soon. Your family is more important so, don't worry about posting just concentrate on your mom

  8. #68
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Sorry to hear about your mother. Sending best wishes and warm thoughts for good health, recovery and strength 
    Thank you. I'm just waiting for news of how she came out of her operation, so I figured I'd post a chapter while I waited.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCloisLover View Post
    Forgot to post a message when I read the chapter...

    I absolutely love that Lois reflex showed up, makes me miss those times on TV

    You’re great as well, post more soon!
    i couldn't help using the 'bolt reflex' given the circumstances. Things might have moved a little too fast for Lois.

    Quote Originally Posted by Winchesters1967 View Post
    Just read this story in a short few hours, and I've loved every second of it! I posted on your A03, so thought I'd post here too. Hope your mom feels better soon. Your family is more important so, don't worry about posting just concentrate on your mom
    Thank you, I appreciate the comment here as well as on AO3. She's having surgery right now, so I figured while I'm waiting for news, I'd post the next chapter.

  9. #69
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    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Lois spent almost two hours walking around the city aimlessly before deciding to go to a movie to while away the rest of the afternoon. The movie was a romantic comedy and she almost immediately regretted it. The two lead characters had been best friends until their friendship turned into ‘with benefits’.

    She walked out of the movie theatre feeling even more depressed, only to see a couple walking together, their arms around each other.

    “Great,” she said to herself. Was the whole world suddenly conspiring against her, trying to show her just how much of an idiot she had been?

    When Clark had kissed her, it had been … incredible. There was no other way to describe it. The kiss had been passionate and amazing and she had wanted so much more. Yet she couldn’t help thinking that this could change everything. Did she really want things to change between them?

    “You know you do,” she told herself silently. She’d been jealous of Tess and she’d only been going through the motions with Jack. Sure, he was nice enough, but he wasn’t Clark and would never be.

    “Lois?”

    She frowned, pushing the hair out of her eyes, blinking at the woman standing in front of her.

    “Um, Tess, isn’t it?”

    The redhead nodded. “I heard about what happened. I’m glad to see you’re all right.”

    She blinked. Was Tess actually being sympathetic?

    “Are you?” she asked, blurting out her thoughts before she could stop herself.

    “Contrary to rumour, I am not the total Pit Bull in Prada everyone thinks I am.”

    Lois swallowed, wondering how the LexCorp VP had even known that was her nickname.

    “Are you going somewhere?” Tess asked, walking with her.

    “Uh, I don’t know. I guess, um, Clark’s apartment.”

    “Are you staying with him?”

    “Well, right now, I don’t have anywhere else to go. My apartment was trashed. The landlord was not happy.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that. Is there no way to fix things?”

    “I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to stay there now, anyway. I feel kind of … violated.”

    The other woman nodded. “Yeah. That happened to me once. My apartment got broken into. It wasn’t trashed or anything but I could tell someone had been through my things.” She shuddered visibly. “It’s the thought of someone actually touching your underwear, and …”

    Lois swallowed the bile that threatened to choke her. Her thoughts about what Trax had done hadn’t even gone that far.

    “I’m sorry,” Tess said, noticing her pallor. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

    “You were trying to relate,” Lois replied.

    “Yeah.” She stopped walking and reached out. “Lois, I am not the ogre everyone thinks I am. I mean, I may work for Lex, but I don’t exactly trust him.”

    “Why do you stay?”

    Tess shrugged. “For a while I thought maybe, you know, Clark. He’s a great guy, Lois.”

    “You like him.”

    “I do. But he was not into me as much as I was into him.”

    Lois frowned at her, trying to make sense of what the other woman was saying. “Are you telling me you were only sticking around for Clark? Why? I mean, you’re a VP.”

    “I learned a few things. When I first took the job, I really thought Lex believed in the same things I did. He took me under his wing, taught me a few things, but then I found out who he truly is. I’m not trying to justify myself. I let myself be manipulated by someone who is a master at it.” She began walking again. Lois followed her.

    “When Lex found out I was dating Clark, he tried to get me to spy for him. Tell him what Queen Industries was working on.”

    Her eyes widened as she stared at the redhead. “You …”

    “Clark was always careful. I don’t think he ever really trusted me.”

    “If that’s the case, why did he even go out with you?” she asked.

    Tess looked at her. “Because the person he did want didn’t seem to be interested.” The expression on her face told Lois everything she wanted to know. The other woman was talking about her. “I don’t know why he could never let that go, Lois, but I’m telling you now. Don’t screw this up. Maybe what happened to you might be just the opening you both needed.”

    “Why are you so interested in me and Clark?”

    “Because believe it or not, I really do care about his happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I’m jealous as all hell of you. But I know he would never forgive me.”

    “I’m sorry,” Lois began.

    “For what? You can’t choose who you fall for, Lois. Well, mostly. Sometimes it is just a matter of chemistry. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can’t fight it.” She stopped walking and looked up. “Here we are.”

    “What will you do now?” Lois asked.

    She sighed. “I don’t know. I got head-hunted by this company in Miami. I might just go down to Florida, see what they have to offer.” She gazed at Lois for a few moments. “Remember what I said. Don’t screw this up. Make him happy.”

    Lois watched her walk away before entering the clock-tower building. The elevator usually seemed to take forever to ascend to the penthouse apartment but just when she wanted it to go slow, it arrived at the top floor all too soon.

    The first thing she saw when the door opened was a shirtless Clark. He must have been working out, she reasoned. He stared at her, seemingly unaware he was half-naked.

    He stood silently, clearly waiting for her to say something.

    “Hi,” she said. He remained silent. She fidgeted. “Uh, I, um, I’ve been spending most of the afternoon just, you know … I know how it looked when I just …”

    “Do you?” he asked quietly.

    She stepped forward. “Clark, I know I ran out, but I just need you to understand why. I know you’re upset, but I … I got scared, okay? I mean, it’s not just about what Jeff said. Or any of that. I just … things have been so muddled, I don’t know if I’m coming or going.” She was babbling. She knew she was babbling and Clark was trying to say something.

    “Lois …”

    She looked at him. “Shut up?” she said. He nodded, amusement in his eyes. “Right. Shut up.”

    “I know you got scared,” he said. “None of that matters. What does matter is that you’re here now.”

    “You’re not mad?” she asked.

    “Should I be? I have to admit I was confused when you practically sprinted out the door, but then I talked to Chloe and she made me realise that you needed time to process what had happened to you.”

    Chloe. She had totally forgotten to call her cousin and see how she was.

    “I should call her.”

    “Oliver said she should be released from the hospital tomorrow.” He gently advised she should give her cousin time to rest from the birth. Lois imagined she would be pretty sore.

    “How’s the baby?” she asked.

    “Good. They named him Conner Robert.”

    Lois smiled. “Conner. That’s nice. It’s a good name.”

    “Yeah, I like it too,” Clark said with a smile. “So, uh, maybe we should sit down and have a talk. Mrs Adams has gone for the day and I didn’t know if you would come back, so she didn’t cook anything. I could make something, or order something in.”

    She thought about it for a few seconds. “It’s New Year’s Eve!” she said.

    Clark frowned at her, then nodded. “You’re right. It is. The restaurants will be busy.” He picked up a shirt from where it had been apparently tossed over the chaise lounge before going to the kitchen. Lois followed him, watching as he opened the refrigerator.

    “Hmm, I have some steaks here.” He picked up a brown paper bag and opened it. “Mushrooms. I bet I could make a mushroom sauce.” He looked at her. “Do you like mushrooms?”

    She nodded. “Yeah.”

    “I used to date this girl who hated vegetables. Like wouldn’t even touch them. She used to try to make a joke out of it but she told me once it was kind of embarrassing.”

    “Why?”

    “Well, we’d go out to restaurants and she’d always have to ask the server not to give her any vegies as a side dish. Plus she didn’t have a big appetite. She used to look at my plate and just about have an anxiety attack.”

    Lois stared at him. “Why would that worry her?”

    He grinned. “I tend to eat about three times as much as anyone else. Even Ollie. My parents used to tease me about it. My dad used to say it was lucky we were rich or else I’d eat them out of house and home.”

    She smiled back at him. “Your dad sounds like he was a great guy.”

    “He was. I still miss him. When I was a kid, when he had business in Metropolis, he would always pick me up from school and we’d play hooky for the day. Go to a football game with Uncle Jonathan and Jack. It was great.”

    She envied him his family life. If her mother had still been alive, she could bet things would have been a lot better between her and her father.

    She watched as Clark put the steaks on and began to make the sauce. He did some more digging in his cupboards and found potatoes, putting them in the oven to bake.

    “Do you want some wine?” he asked.

    She shook her head. “I shouldn’t drink,” she said sensibly. “I’m taking those painkillers for my ribs.”

    “Right. How are they feeling, by the way?”

    She’d not really given it much thought. The nurse had told her they couldn’t tape them up as it would risk pneumonia so she’d only been taking painkillers every few hours. The medication had taken the edge off the pain, but she had been brought up knowing that complaints just go ignored.

    “They’re okay,” she said.

    “You don’t have to pretend,” he told her. “If it’s bad, then say so.”

    “Really, I’ve had a lot worse. I broke my arm in two places when I was ten. My Uncle Gabe built a treehouse for me and Chloe and I fell out.” She grinned. “Uncle Gabe was about as good a treehouse builder as he is a housekeeper. Which is not at all.”

    Clark chuckled. “Yeah, Chloe said something about her dad’s cooking ability, or lack thereof.”

    She leaned on the counter, the aroma of mushrooms and sizzling steak reminding her that she had barely eaten all day. They continued to chat back and forth as Clark cooked the meal. When the steaks were nearly done he began chopping up vegetables for a salad.

    “What was it like? Growing up in Star City?”

    “I guess you could say we were just like any other family. My dad told me once that when he was a kid, his dad was always working on some business deal and never made time for his children. Dad didn’t want that with us. He made sure we always knew that we were more important than the business. He also used to say that just because we were better off than most people, it didn’t give us the excuse to act like spoiled brats.”

    She smiled at him. “I can’t imagine that,” she said. “You acting like that.”

    “Oh, trust me, we both got into our fair share of trouble.”

    “Was he strict? Your dad?”

    “Sometimes, but even when he punished us, he hated it. Mom too. Then again, Mom would just give us this look and we’d know we were in trouble.”

    She laughed. “Yeah, my mom was the same. I think there’s some kind of patent for that now.”

    Clark turned back to his cooking as the stove beeped, letting him know the potatoes were done. He grabbed a towel and pulled the foil-wrapped potatoes out of the oven, leaving them on the counter while he took the frying pan from the stove and turned off the heat.

    After a few minutes, he served the food, taking the plates to the table.

    “Mom thinks I can’t look after myself. That’s why I have a housekeeper.”

    “Yeah, moms are like that,” she agreed. “This looks great,” she added, eyeing it hungrily.

    They ate dinner, continuing to chat about anything but what had happened that day. Lois enjoyed every morsel, clearing her plate with a slice of bread which the housekeeper had obviously baked fresh.

    As Clark gathered the dishes to clean up, she got up to stop him.

    “I can do that,” she said. “You cooked.”

    “What about your ribs?” he asked.

    “They’re fine. I think I can handle loading a dishwasher.”

    “All right. I’ll just go and look over some papers Ollie sent me for next week’s board meeting. If you need me …”

    She nodded, watching him leave the room. She set to cleaning up the kitchen, rinsing the plates and bending to load the dishwasher. Lois quickly realised she wasn’t as capable as she’d thought, the movement causing searing pain to rip through her chest.

    She hadn’t even realised she’d cried out as she felt strong arms around her. She was barely aware of him lifting her in his arms and carrying her out of the kitchen. The next thing she knew she was on the couch.

    “How long is it since you took the meds?” Clark was asking.

    “Um, I don’t know,” she said truthfully. She remembered taking the painkiller before going to the cinema but hadn’t taken any since then. It was at least four hours. “I guess I’m due for another,” she added.

    “Don’t move. I’ll get them,” he said.

    He left her side then returned a minute later with a couple of pills and a glass of water. She took them gratefully.

    “I’m all right,” she assured him. “I probably just twisted the wrong way.”

    “I’ll finish the kitchen,” he told her. “You need to rest.”

    She tried for a glare at him. “Has anyone ever told you you can be bossy?”

    “Well, technically, I am your boss,” he replied.

    Lois rolled her eyes.

    a/n: The girl Clark talks about is based off my own issues. I was poking fun at myself.

  10. #70
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    Chapter Twenty-Four

    Clark had come home and gone upstairs to shower after leaving Star City. He’d just finished his shower and was drying off when he heard the elevator. He grabbed a shirt and donned a pair of pants, going down the stairs. He supposed he could have used superspeed to dress but he remembered the last time Lois had seen him without a shirt. Maybe it was a little mean, but given the way she had walked out on him earlier, he couldn’t help getting his own back on her in a small way.

    Then she’d started to babble, a sure sign she was nervous, and he’d relented, realising she was more than unsettled.

    He had to admit that when she did manage to relax, she could actually be a good conversationalist. Unlike Tess, who was clearly a woman with almost genius intelligence, Lois spoke with passion. The other woman was often guarded in how she acted and what she said. Clark had felt as if Tess had studied him and spoke about things he was interested in not because she shared that interest, but so she could make him believe she did.

    When he returned from cleaning the kitchen, Lois was sitting almost stiffly on the couch. He wondered if she was doing so to try to ease the pain of her cracked ribs or if she was feeling a little tense.

    “Lois,” he said quietly.

    She turned her head and looked at him. “Sorry, what?”

    He sat down on the opposite couch. “We should talk about today.”

    “Clark …”

    “No, Lois. Look, I’m not upset with you. I realise the past few days have been overwhelming and maybe I shouldn’t have kissed you when I did.”

    She shook her head. “It’s not that. The thing is, I … it was overwhelming, but not because of what happened. I mean, it’s part of it, but … I got scared.”

    She’d already said that, but he let her go on.

    “I’ve had these … feelings for a while. I mean, they kind of snuck up on me, you know? I’ve been … I’ve dated guys before, but none of them ever made me feel so …” She gestured with her hands as if she didn’t really know how to describe the feeling. “I’ve made so many mistakes with men. I don’t want to make that mistake with you.”

    He nodded. “Tell me something. Why did you come to me when Trax threatened you?”

    “I never even thought about it, really. It just felt … right. Like I said. I felt I would be safe with you.”

    It spoke volumes. They’d had their ups and downs in their friendship but the fact was she trusted him more than she trusted anyone else and that said it all.

    She studied him for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”

    “Sure.”

    “Your mom said something a few months ago. I guess that’s why I tried to get you to go out on dates.”

    “What was it?” he asked.

    “She said you had trouble with women. Is that true?”

    He shrugged. “Partly. Yeah.”

    “Is it because of Lana?”

    “Oh, right. I forgot you met Lana at Hallowe’en.”

    “I didn’t like her,” she said.

    He smiled. “Yeah, you and my mom.”

    “So, what happened?”

    Clark sighed. “I met her when I was twelve. I thought she was pretty, but she didn’t want anything to do with me. Then a few days later she told me she’d changed her mind. Oliver was convinced she only went out with me because her aunt told her to. Anyway, we dated for a few years but I found out she was in love with someone else.”

    “She cheated on you?”

    “Technically, I guess. When I caught her with him, she begged me to forgive her. Told me she never wanted to hurt me.”

    He had been hurt, though. Hurt so badly he’d thought his heart would break. His mother had tried to console him. As had his brother. He’d ended up finding some red K and using it to go out clubbing. He’d bumped into some of his friends from school and a girl they all knew. He’d gone out with her for a few weeks then had decided to sleep with her, but it had been a complete disaster.

    “I shouldn’t be surprised you’re so touchy about women,” Lois said.

    “I guess. What about you?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I’ve gone out with a few guys but …” She bit her lip. “None of them hold a candle to you.”

    “Well, thank you.”

    “Don’t let it go to your head, Queen. I wouldn’t want it to get so swollen you won’t fit through the door.”

    “Which one?”

    She rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

    He laughed. “What can I say? I get a kick out of yanking your chain.”

    She shifted forward on the couch. Clearly the painkillers had started to work as she wasn’t moving as stiffly as he had noticed her doing earlier.

    “You are a very bad man, Clark Queen.”

    “Am I?” he asked in amusement. “What are you going to do about it?”

    Her eyes twinkled with merriment. “Tell you what I’m going to do.” She got up with a little effort and came over, holding out her hand so he could pull her down to his lap. He supported her with a hand at her waist as she leaned forward and captured his lips with hers.

    It was every bit as good as the kiss they’d shared earlier, only this time there was no hesitancy on her part. She was a great kisser. Fiery and passionate. If she wasn’t still hurting from her injuries he would have wanted to take things further.

    His hand accidentally brushed her ribcage and she pulled away.

    “Sorry,” he said.

    She ducked her head. “Um, no. You didn’t hurt me. I just thought you were, you know, copping a feel.”

    He raised an eyebrow at her. “Copping a feel?”

    “Well, yeah. I mean, just because you’re my boss and everything doesn’t mean you can take advantage. I don’t put out on the first date. Not that we’ve actually had a date. It takes way more than you cooking dinner, amazing though it was.”

    “You are a handful, Lois Lane.”

    She chuckled.

    Clark wondered what had happened to change her mind after running out earlier. She had obviously had a lot of time to think about things.

    They sat together, talking. Normally he would be on duty at Watchtower, or out patrolling, but Bruce, who had been deputised to command the League when he wasn’t there, had suggested he take a couple of days off just to make sure Lois was on the road to recovery.

    He asked her about her afternoon.

    “I walked around, went to a movie, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about us. I’m sorry I ran out,” she said.

    “So, what changed your mind?” he asked.

    “Actually, I ran into Tess. Not literally, but … She told me not to blow it between us. She also said something about Lex trying to get her to spy for him. On you. Well, your family’s company.”

    He nodded. “I thought there was something else she wasn’t telling me.”

    “She told me she really liked you, but you weren’t as into her as she was into you.”

    He grimaced. He was sorry things had worked out the way they had. If he hadn’t been so attracted to Lois, he might have given things a chance with Tess. Even if he hadn’t completely trusted her.

    That was probably the major difference between her and Lois. The few conversations he’d had with Lois as Superman told him that she understood his need to protect his identity. He had never been assured of the same with Lex’s half-sister.

    “You know, she actually seemed like a nice person. I always thought she was kind of hard, you know? But I guess around Lex you kind of have to be. Like it’s what he expects.”

    She yawned suddenly. “Sorry. I guess everything’s just catching up with me.”

    He kissed her cheek. “Why don’t you go up to bed? Get some sleep.”

    “Yeah.” She rose. He stood up with her, hesitating as she walked away to head up the spiral staircase. She paused at the bottom and looked at him for a long moment.

    He crossed the floor and caught her in his arms, kissing her passionately. She kissed him back, sighing softly as they parted, chuckling a little.

    “You drive me crazy,” she said.

    He watched her walk up the stairs, debating whether to follow her. For the first time in a very long time, he wished he could just forget who and what he was and follow his instincts.

    He went into his study, closing the door softly, and dialled a number.

    “Hello sweetheart.”

    “Hi Mom. I really need to talk to you.”

    “About Lois?”

    “Yeah.”

    “So she came back?”

    He nodded, forgetting for a second that she couldn’t see him. “You and Chloe were right. She was just overwhelmed with everything that had happened. We talked it out, and …”

    “And what?”

    “Mom, how did you know Dad was the one?”

    “Ooh, that is a very long story.”

    “Tell me. I really want to know.”

    “Well, hmm, I should start from the beginning, I suppose. I met your father at a charity ball. Of course, you know, your father’s father was a successful athlete and my father was a successful businessman.” His father's father had turned his sports career into a successful business. "Your dad was more interested in his sports than in working for his father," his mother added.

    “We were so young,” she said with a sigh. “Barely out of our teens. Your father was campaigning to go to the Olympics to compete on the archery team. He was so handsome and all the girls in my social group couldn’t stop looking at him.” She chuckled. “They were such silly girls but he never even noticed them. He kept trying to talk to me all night.”

    “He did?”

    “Oh yes. Of course, I would never have considered going out with an athlete of all people. Still, he persisted. He called me every day for the next two weeks until I finally relented and went out with him. We knew even on that first date.”

    “But how did you know about him then?” he asked, a little confused. If she had been so adamant about refusing to go out with him, how could she have known he’d be the one on the first date.

    “We talked all night. He could make me laugh, but not only that, he could make me feel good about myself. Believe you me, I was not very confident when I was young. I was so shy. That never worried your father.” She paused. “Then he went away to the Olympics and I missed him so terribly. He came back with a gold medal and I was so very proud of him. When he proposed, I didn’t hesitate.”

    She was quiet for a moment. “How does Lois make you feel?” she asked finally.

    “Normal.” He paused. “I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I feel like I can be just a normal guy around her. She doesn’t care about the money, or anything. I … I think she’s the one, Mom.”

    His mother laughed softly. “Oh sweetheart, I knew the moment you two met that night at the Ace of Clubs.”

    “How did you know, Mom? I didn’t even know.”

    “Because of the way you talked about her.”

    He remembered. She had basically insulted him, called him a geek, and he’d immediately responded with something equally snarky. He smiled, now understanding what his mother meant.

    There was only one problem. How could he tell her he was Superman? He’d decided a long time ago never to tell anyone outside the family his secret. As he’d once explained to Lois, if his enemies learned who was close to him and decided to hurt them, he couldn’t live with himself.

    His mother was quiet as he asked that all-important question.

    “Clark, honey, if you are considering being with Lois, then she needs to know the truth. Firstly, she deserves to know what she is getting into and she has the right to decide whether that is something she can handle. Although, given what has happened over the past few days, I think she can. She is a very strong young lady. I don’t know if I could have handled what she did with such fortitude.”

    “What if she doesn’t accept me?”

    “Well, sweetheart, that is a risk you have to take. I know that isn’t much comfort, my darling, but isn’t it better that she know now, before you both get too deeply involved? Besides, what gives you reason to believe she won’t?”

    “I’m wondering if it will be too much for her.”

    “And you already know what I think about that. Clark, I am your mother and while you may think I know everything, the truth is, I don’t. There were times when you were growing up I wished desperately for some sign, something to give me guidance on how to help you. The thing is, and this has nothing to do with your abilities, darling, every parent wonders if they are doing the right thing by their children. No matter how many books they read on parenting.”

    It left him with much to think about. He didn’t sleep much that night, thinking over every possibility in his mind. Would Lois accept him as Superman or would she reject him? He suddenly wished he had J’onn’s mind-reading abilities. Or Zatanna’s magical abilities. Maybe then he would be able to predict Lois’ reaction to learning his secret.

  11. #71
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    Two great chapters! Thanks bunches. Awesome as always☺
    It's funny, and I know, silly, but I can still get worried wondering what type of hurdles and struggles these two will have to endure before they get to be together as a solid couple. Here's hoping the path to true love is not overly heart wrenching or arduous.
    Hope your mom is doing well.

  12. #72
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    Hey, forgot to leave a message yesterday! I loved the chapters as usual and I actually felt so embarrassed about the girl Clark was dating was not eating salad because I’m the same... I felt so bad and was even going to try to eat some and then I read that you were making fun of yourself lol

    We should totally have a non-vegetables lunch one day!

    i missed the part where you mom was sick, I hope she’a doing well!

    Thank you you so much for bringing joy even when you’re having a hard time

  13. #73
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Two great chapters! Thanks bunches. Awesome as always☺
    It's funny, and I know, silly, but I can still get worried wondering what type of hurdles and struggles these two will have to endure before they get to be together as a solid couple. Here's hoping the path to true love is not overly heart wrenching or arduous.
    Hope your mom is doing well.
    There are always hurdles but not too many more. Promise. Mum is slowly improving. Hopefully she will be able to leave hospital in a couple of days.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCloisLover View Post
    Hey, forgot to leave a message yesterday! I loved the chapters as usual and I actually felt so embarrassed about the girl Clark was dating was not eating salad because I’m the same... I felt so bad and was even going to try to eat some and then I read that you were making fun of yourself lol

    We should totally have a non-vegetables lunch one day!

    i missed the part where you mom was sick, I hope she’a doing well!
    I admit to having a bit of a giggle at writing that little bit. Hey, sometimes it's good to laugh at yourself. And yes, we totally should.

    Thanks for the concern for Mum. She is slowly improving but not out of hospital yet.

    Thank you you so much for bringing joy even when you’re having a hard time
    Well, writing, apart from being my bread and butter, is one of the things in life that gives me joy and I do like to share it.

    New chapter coming right up.

  14. #74
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    Chapter Twenty-Five

    Lois stared in horror. The walls of her, now former, apartment were covered in spray-painted obscenities. Trax had left nothing bare. He had obviously spent quite some time in the apartment, destroying almost everything in his wake.

    When her insurance company had asked for a list of items that needed replacing, she’d insisted she go check out the apartment herself. She’d wanted to see if anything could be salvaged. Clark had been hesitant, telling her there was very little point. While he said he hadn’t seen it for himself, he had heard enough from his detective friend to know that it was bad.

    He came out from the bedroom with a glum expression.

    “It’s not any better in there,” he said. “He set fire to your bedding and your clothing and there’s nothing salvageable. The police told me it was lucky you had a smoke detector in the bedroom which alerted the neighbour, otherwise the whole place would have gone up. I’m sorry, Lois.”

    She shook her head. “I’m just glad I wasn’t here, otherwise Perry would probably be writing my obituary.” Clark winced. “Sorry. I shouldn’t say that.”

    “It’s the truth. I’m glad you weren’t here too.” He scratched his jaw. “There was a box of stuff in the closet.”

    “Photos. Me and Chloe, mostly. I should go through it.”

    Clark shook his head. “It looks like he went through those too.” He appeared to be keeping something back.

    “What are you not telling me?” she asked. “What did he do?”

    “Uh … it looks like he, um …” He gestured helplessly. Lois felt ill all over again. Maybe they were only photos but it was a violation of the worst kind.

    Clark wrapped his arms around her in a hug. “He’s dead, Lois. He can’t hurt you anymore.”

    “I know, it’s just …”

    She had never told anyone, not even Chloe, what had prompted her entry into journalism. She had always found high school difficult, not just because she had moved around so much, but she was often restless, unable to settle down long enough to actually find something about school that interested her.

    In her junior year, she had been taken on a field trip to the local newspaper as part of her English class. It was hardly the Daily Planet; barely more than a tabloid rag. A girl who had befriended her on the first day had gone along on the field trip. Denise had reminded her a lot of Chloe with her passionate interest in journalism, proclaiming that she was going to one day be the editor of the New York Times.

    Lois had found her friend one afternoon in the girls’ locker room of the school gym. It was clear Denise had been crying. Lois had talked to her, trying to find out what was wrong. To her horror, her friend had told her that a teacher at the school, a male teacher, had tried to force her to have sex with him.

    Lois had gone to her father, telling him the whole story, but he did nothing. A month after the incident, he’d told her they were moving once again. She had no choice in the matter.

    Just a few weeks after they’d moved to an army base across the country, a friend from her old school called. Denise had been sent away by her devoutly religious parents because she was pregnant. They had refused to believe her when she told them she had been raped by one of her teachers and she had been too afraid to get an abortion. The baby had been adopted out when it was born but Denise’s dreams had been shattered.

    Lois had been angry enough to do her own digging and learned the identity of the teacher. Yet even with that information, the school had done nothing. Her friend’s troubles had counted for nothing. She had never felt so angry and so helpless. She had written an editorial piece for the base rag. While the editor hadn’t run it, he had called her into his office and told her she had potential.

    “You’ve got a great aptitude for writing. Your prose practically leaps off the page. I get that this is something you’re passionate about, but …”

    “It did happen.”

    “I’m not saying it didn’t,” he said. “But to make such accusations without the evidence to back it up is not responsible journalism.”

    Then he’d offered her a job, working for the newspaper, telling her if she kept her grades up, studied hard in college, she could continue to work for them until she was ready for the big leagues.

    Clark sat quietly on the couch opposite her as she told him.

    “I’m sorry that happened to you and your friend,” he said. “That must have been a difficult time.”

    “I swore I would never let something like that happen again, if I could help it. Maybe it can’t change what happened to Denise, but …”

    “It can change the course of someone else’s life,” he said. “I get it.”

    She studied him. “What made you study journalism?”

    “I had this headmaster at Excelsior. He was kind of a hard case. He called me a slacker because I didn’t play sports, and didn’t really participate in extra-curriculars. Anyway, he called me into his office and he told me he’d been talking to my AP English teacher who said I had an aptitude for writing. So I joined the school newspaper.”

    Lois frowned at him, wondering why, with his family’s background in archery, he hadn’t taken up the sport himself. She knew his father had once competed in the Olympics, although once he’d returned he’d begun working for his father and built a successful company.

    “So you went to college, got a masters degree in what … three years?”

    He nodded. “About that.”

    “But how could you? I mean, most degrees take four years, then about two years for Masters …”

    “I took some college papers while I was still at Excelsior and got them credited toward my degree. I had a heavy workload at Met U, but I didn’t mind that.”

    “So what did you do after you finished your degree?”

    “I wrote freelance for a few magazines,” he said. “At least until I took over the Daily Planet. Sadly, I don’t have the time to do any writing now.”

    She gazed at him, confused. “Freelance?” she echoed. “I don’t remember seeing any articles by Clark Queen. I mean, I ‘googled’ you.”

    “That’s because I chose to write under another name so it wouldn’t look like I was cashing in on my family’s fame,” he said.

    “What name?”

    “Jerome Kent.”

    She stared at him. “Really? Oh my god! Your writing is amazing!”

    He looked abashed. “Thank you.”

    “I mean it. There was this series you did on global warming and the effects on the environment and I thought it was incredible. I mean, you really did your homework.”

    She should have guessed, she thought. Especially after learning that he was close with the Kents.

    “Did you ever think about writing a book on it?” she asked.

    He nodded. “The editor of the magazine thought I should compile everything I’d written into a book but I really don’t have the time to devote to it. One day, maybe.”

    She chewed on her lip, accepting his answer for now. She couldn’t help thinking that he was missing out on a great opportunity, but she supposed there was still time. His writing really was amazing, though, she thought.

    Clark rose when the housekeeper came in with the phone.

    “It’s Miss Lane’s insurance company,” she said.

    Lois got up to take the phone, but he shook his head. “Let me deal with them,” he said.

    She doubted they would let him discuss the matter with them, due to the privacy laws, but he appeared adamant.

    “This is Clark Queen. Yes, I know you really need to talk to Miss Lane about her insurance claim, but she’s been upset enough. Who am I? Well, I’m her partner. No, I know I’m not an authority on the policy but … is there perhaps a supervisor I can speak to? I would very much appreciate it if your company could help us out. Yes, I can put Miss Lane on.”

    Lois took the phone. “This is Lois.”

    “Miss Lane, I’m sorry for this, but would you mind confirming your social security number?”

    “Sure.” She gave the number and answered any other security questions.

    “Do you authorise Mr Queen to discuss your insurance matter?”

    “Yes. Sorry, he’s just being over-protective,” she said, rolling her eyes fondly at Clark, who rolled his eyes back at her.

    “Oh, no worries,” the woman said, chuckling. “If you’d like to put him back on the line.”

    Lois handed the phone over. Clark took it and immediately began speaking.

    “Yes, so what is the situation with Lois’ renter’s insurance? Will she be able to claim or not?” There was a long pause. “It was hardly her fault.” Lois watched as he paced back and forth, talking in an increasingly irritated tone.

    She could tell he was annoyed when he finally hung up. “According to the company, the cost of the damages far exceeded the amount you were covered for, and since you didn’t have your contents insured …”

    Lois sighed. She had suspected as much. It was annoying that she was now being made to pay for what Trax had done, but it wasn’t like the landlord could sue the penal system, and there was no likelihood of getting any compensation out of LexCorp. After all, Trax had been LexCorp’s responsibility.

    “I’m sorry,” Clark said.

    “I’m annoyed, but like you said, it was just things.”

    He wrapped his arms around her. She breathed in the scent of his aftershave, feeling comforted by his embrace. She loved his outdoorsy smell.

    “How about I take you out to dinner?” he asked.

    She wanted to say she didn’t have a thing to wear, which was true. Apart from the jeans he’d already bought her.

    “There’s this diner in New Troy,” he continued.

    She laughed, looking up at him. “Clark Queen, are you suggesting taking me to a diner for our first actual date?”

    He looked crestfallen. “I thought you … I mean, I could take you to a French restaurant, or …”

    She laughed and shook her head. “Don’t you know when I’m yanking your chain? For one thing, I don’t have a thing to wear that would be suitable for a French restaurant. And two, you don’t need to wine and dine me at some fancy restaurant to impress me. I already know you. Warts and all.”

    “Warts and all, hmm?” he asked with a smile. Yet she somehow got the feeling that there was something he still wasn’t telling her.

    The diner he took her to was a lot nicer than some of the diners she’d been in. It was clear from the get-go that the staff knew him as they greeted him with friendly chatter. She remembered something Jack Kent had told her. Clark was definitely comfortable in the diner.

    “The great thing about this place is that the Paparazzi don’t know I come here,” he said. “And the staff don’t say a word either.”

    “It must be great,” she said. “I mean, being able to go out to eat without press photographers breathing down your neck.”

    “Yeah, it is,” he replied, smiling at her. “I mean, I get that they’re trying to do their jobs and everything, but I don’t feel like my whole life should be splashed in the papers.”

    His expression turned sombre. He reached across the table and took her hand.

    “Lois, I know you were upset after that incident at the Ace of Clubs. You have to know that things like that happen all the time. Most of the time anyway. If this is something you don’t think you can handle …”

    She remembered seeing the article in the Inquisitor four months earlier and how she had reacted. She bit her lip. They’d already talked about the Paparazzi and what could happen, but she knew he needed that reassurance.

    “I know last time I didn’t exactly handle it well,” she conceded. “But it’s because I wasn’t prepared for it. I mean, Chloe didn’t say just how bad it could get when she suggested I go with you to the function. I know better now. I mean, I saw what they wrote about you and Tess. I won’t say it’ll be easy, but at least I know what to expect.”

    “Good,” he said.

    She studied him as the server brought their food over, wondering why she kept getting the feeling he wasn’t telling her everything. He was holding back.

  15. #75
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Six

    Clark smiled at Lois and held out his hand to help her out of the limousine. He admired her as she stepped onto the sidewalk. She was wearing a charcoal grey gown in silk. The fabric clung to her curves in all the right places and shimmered in the bright lights lining the carpeted entry to the hotel.

    Flashbulbs went off in quick succession as press photographers called them, demanding they give them better angles. Lois clung to his hand as they began what felt like an interminably long walk up the red carpet to the open double doors.

    They’d officially been dating six weeks and the press had had a field day. Lois had gone back to work at the Daily Planet a week after Trax had tried to kill her. As much as he’d hated the idea of shopping, he had taken her to the local department store so she could replenish her wardrobe. He hadn’t cared about the expense but Lois had insisted on keeping to a budget.

    Another thing she had insisted on was getting another apartment. Since it was the middle of winter, finding another place to live wasn’t an easy task. Clark had almost suggested buying an apartment for her and gone as far as looking online at real estate, but she had quickly caught on and firmly vetoed that idea. She had eventually found one, although she had to share the apartment with an older woman.

    The only fly-in-the-ointment in their burgeoning relationship had been Lex. He had started to take an interest in Lois, on the pretext of being concerned about her wellbeing after what had happened. Much to Clark’s surprise, the bald billionaire had insisted on helping Lois recoup some of what she had lost in the vandalism of her apartment. She had politely declined, but it hadn’t stopped the man from further attempts to ingratiate himself.

    Speak of the devil, Clark thought as the very man stood in the lobby talking to the state senator. Lex turned and smiled at them as they entered.

    “Clark. Lois. A pleasure to see you here.”

    Lois nodded, gracious in spite of her dislike of the man.

    “You too, Mr Luthor.”

    He smiled. “Lex, please.” He glanced over Clark’s shoulder at the photographers still trying to get their money’s worth. “Still being harassed?”

    Clark nodded politely. The photographers had practically camped on his doorstep, which didn’t make it easy when he needed to go out as Superman.

    Lex took Lois’ hand and lifted it to his mouth, placing a soft kiss on her knuckles.

    “May I say, Lois, you look very lovely tonight. Doesn’t she, Clark?”

    Clark turned to look at her, once again admiring her in the halter-neck dress. She had worn her hair long and loose and it framed her face in chocolate waves, contrasting perfectly with her skin tone.

    “Yes, she does,” he said, giving her a look full of the love he had yet to verbalise. She dropped her gaze coyly, her long dark lashes almost sweeping her cheeks.

    She pulled her hand away from Lex and turned to smile up at him. Clark smiled at her and placed a hand on her back as he walked with her up the carpeted stairs to the hotel ballroom.

    “Now, don’t forget,” he said.

    “I know, I know. Don’t discuss politics, or religion. And if I see someone like Congressman Howard, don’t mention the congressional hearings.”

    He grinned at her and kissed her cheek. The congressman had had to face the music after hearings into misappropriation of funds. Lois had been covering the story from the beginning when Howard had been caught out.

    Yet another local politician had been discovered to be having an affair with his executive assistant. Clark had barely managed to smooth things over when Lois had begun talking about it at another event they’d been invited to.

    It wasn’t that she lacked tact, or that she just didn’t know when to keep quiet about such things. She was just one of those people who expected elected officials to behave themselves and do their jobs. He was proud of her for that. She treated everyone with equal measures.

    “Clark, Lois, over here.”

    He looked over to the far side of the ballroom. Oliver stood with Chloe, who hadn’t wanted to leave her six-week-old son but the charity fundraiser had been important enough for her to do so.

    Lois hugged her cousin. She hadn’t seen Chloe since a few weeks before the birth.

    “You look amazing!” she said, looking the blonde over. Chloe was wearing a green satin gown. While she hadn’t quite lost all the baby weight, the extra curves suited her.

    “So do you,” her cousin replied.

    Clark grinned at his brother as the two women began chatting. Oliver groaned.

    “They’ll be at it all night at this rate,” he said.

    Chloe shot him a dirty look and guided Lois over toward the bar so they could continue chatting.

    “So how is everything with Lois?” Oliver asked.

    “It’s fine,” Clark said.

    “You told her yet?”

    He sighed. “No. We’ve only been dating a few weeks.”

    “Mom said from the way you were talking …”

    “I’m not sure Lois is ready to believe in a strange visitor from a strange land.”

    His brother rolled his eyes. “Come on. Do you really think she thinks Superman is one of the meteor-infected? Just because she’s been chasing up one of Lex’s pet projects, it doesn’t mean she includes Superman as one of them. Anyone with half a brain would see that he, meaning you, has way more powers than that.”

    Ever since the incident with Trax, Lois had been digging even deeper into Lex’s activities, not buying for a second that the project he’d sold as a behavioural therapy program to reform hardened criminals was as altruistic as he’d claimed it was.

    Clark sighed. “It’s not … look, you don’t get it.”

    Oliver shrugged. “What’s not to get? You spend way too much time worrying about what she’s going to think of you and doing nothing about it.”

    “It isn’t that simple, Oliver.”

    “Look, just because someone like Lana Lang did a number on you …”

    Clark’s gaze was drawn to the main entrance into the ballroom. The very woman in question appeared, gliding through the entryway as if she was royalty. She’d dumped Lex a few weeks after Tess Mercer had left to take a job in Miami. From what Clark had heard from one of the maids who worked in Lex’s mansion, he’d reverted back to his usual ‘charming’ self, abusing the staff. When he’d almost hit Lana during an argument, that had been the last straw as far as she was concerned.

    She was accompanied by her aunt Nell, who had come into quite a considerable amount of money herself when her husband died.

    Clark nudged his brother. “You better go find Mom and keep her away from Lana. You know she hates Nell.”

    Oliver followed his gaze and nodded. “Yeah. You’re right.”

    Lana spotted Lois and Chloe talking and wasted no time in sidling up to them. Clark was tempted to eavesdrop, but figured Chloe, for one, wouldn’t thank him for it. From the expressions on the cousins’ faces, it looked like Lana was saying something that both found offensive. Chloe stalked off in search of her husband while Lois turned her back on the other brunette and went to help herself to a drink.

    Lana, meanwhile, decided to set her sights on Clark.

    “Hello Clark,” she said, her tone suggesting she was trying to be seductive.

    “Lana.”

    “Here on your own?”

    “No. I’m here with a date.” He glanced in Lois’ direction.

    “Oh, yes, I heard you were dating one of your reporters.”

    “Her name is Lois,” he said firmly, not liking the way she deliberately ignored the fact.

    The dark-haired woman sniffed indelicately. “Don’t you think that would look a little odd? You being the publisher and her being your ‘star’ reporter?”

    “How I conduct my lovelife, or my business, personal or otherwise, is just that. My business. It is not your concern.”

    “But she’s so … what’s the word I’m looking for?” Clark noticed Nell had joined them.

    “Uncouth?” the older woman supplied. “Completely lacking in social graces?”

    “Unlike you, I suppose?” Clark sighed as his mother also appeared beside him. “At least young Lois isn’t afraid to speak her mind.”

    Nell gave a tinkling sort of laugh. “Oh yes, she certainly does speak her mind. Didn’t she insult Mayor Smythe just the other week?”

    “By insult, you mean telling him to his face what a lecherous jerk he was?” Lois answered, placing her hand on Clark’s arm. “The man pinched my butt and treated me like a ten-dollar hooker instead of answering my questions like the professional he is supposed to be.” She turned to Lana. “And as for you, Lana, if you ever talk to my cousin like that again, the only reply you’ll get is my fist in your face.”

    “Lois,” Clark warned softly.

    His mother interjected. “Chloe told me,” she said, “and believe me, it is so insulting, it is not worth repeating. God forbid you ever have a child yourself, Miss Lang. I would hate to think how that poor child would turn out if the way your aunt raised you is any indication of where you learned your manners!”

    “Well! I never!” Nell returned.

    The two older women began exchanging hard glares akin to two cowboys facing each other on a dusty street. Thankfully, Chloe and Oliver managed to pull Moira away, while Clark took Lois’ arm and guided her to Senator Jack Jennings.

    “Senator,” he said. “I’d like you to meet Lois Lane.”

    The older man smiled. “Well, I’ve heard all about young Miss Lane from Jon,” he said, reaching out to shake her hand.

    “Jon?” she asked.

    He nodded. “Jonathan Kent and I are old high school buddies.”

    “Oh. It’s nice to meet you,” she said. She frowned, clearly trying to remember his bio. She glanced at Clark before speaking again. “Weren’t you caught up in some scandal a few years ago when you were on the campaign trail?”

    The dark-haired man nodded. “Yes, it’s true.”

    Jack had been cheating on his wife, having fallen for a young woman at a gentleman’s club. The young woman had been murdered after she had tried to expose one of the club’s patrons; a man who had been involved in human-trafficking. Unfortunately, the man had also been a diplomat’s son.

    Chloe had been interning at the Daily Planet and had been the one to take the call from the young woman. Meanwhile, when Jack had been questioned by the police, he had asked for help from his old friend. Jonathan had then asked the Queens to see what they could do to help.

    Jack had suggested stepping down, even after it had been proved that he had had nothing to do with the murder, but Moira had convinced him not to. She had told him to come clean with firstly his wife, then the voters. He had actually won votes by his honesty. Unlike Lex, his opponent in the race, who had tried to win using a smear campaign.

    Clark watched as Lois and the senator talked, both beginning to relax in each other’s company. Jack hadn’t taken offence at all to Lois’ forward question. He’d taken the mistakes he’d made and used them as an object lesson and the people respected him more for it. It was obvious that Lois also respected his forthrightness and willingness to be so open about it.

    Clark just wished he could be as open and honest with his girlfriend as he wanted to be. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her. He’d talked with her enough as Superman to know that she understood his reasons for not revealing everything about how he came to be on Earth.

    He remembered something Lana had once said which had cut deeply. There had been attacks on meteor freaks at Smallville High School. Clark had been at school at Excelsior, so he hadn’t been there when it happened. His then girlfriend had implied it was ‘good riddance’. As far as she had been concerned, they had deserved everything they got. Never mind the fact that the person behind the attacks had also been meteor-infected. It had only made him more determined than ever to keep his secret.

    Lois hadn’t said anything of the sort. In fact, she hadn’t talked much at all about the subject, even after everything that had happened. Once she had realised that the experimental serum used in the behaviour modification therapy was similar to what Lex had been using in some of the other experiments she’d been investigating, she had thrown herself into the story.

    Clark had heard Cat Grant talking to Lois about what had happened the night Trax had come after her, suggesting that Superman had not been doing his job. Clark had been surprised and even impressed when Lois had firmly told the other woman that Superman could not be everywhere at once. More to the point he wasn’t psychic and could hardly have predicted what would happen, since he hadn’t known about the program.

    “Hey,” Lois said, interrupting his thoughts. “You okay?”

    “I’m fine. Just thinking.”

    “About what?”

    “Oh, nothing, really. Senator Jennings seemed to really like you.”

    She smiled. “I liked him too. I mean, yeah, he made some mistakes in the past but you know what? He owned up to them. That takes guts. You have to respect the man for that.”

    “True.”

    A few couples had begun dancing. Clark watched his brother as he walked with Chloe to the dance floor. He took his girlfriend’s hand.

    “Do you want to dance?”

    “Dare I risk it?” she asked with a teasing smile. The last time they’d danced together he’d stepped on her feet a couple of times.

    He rolled his eyes. “Okay, so I’m not exactly Fred Astaire!”

    “Well, no, not with those big feet. You know what they say about men with big feet, don’t you?”

    He stared at her, wondering if she was going to talk about the size of other parts of his body, feeling a blush creeping up.

    “No. What?”

    “Large … shoes!” she said, laughing. He growled softly at her.

    “You, Miss Lane, are trouble.”

    “Is that what I am?” she teased, gasping softly as he pulled her close and planted a kiss on her lips. “That, Mr Queen, is PDA number …” She frowned.

    “Are you keeping count now?” he asked.

    “Hmm, not so much. I think I lost count around number eight.”

    He laughed, sweeping her onto the dance floor.

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