|The Newlywed Game
Author: Nan Smith PM
What if the 2 percent solution of Miranda's perfume didn't affect Clark but the 100 percent solution did? This is the sequel to Pheromone.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Words: 11,097 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 3 - Published: 03-18-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3447241
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: The recognizeable characters and settings in this story are the property of DC Comics and of anyone else that can legally claim them, and no infringement of their copyright is intended. The story, however, is mine.
The Newlywed Game
By Nan Smith
Clark Kent opened his eyes and closed them quickly at the unbelievably bright light that leaked through the curtains of the hotel room. Over the hum of the air conditioner he could hear the distant sound of surf and the cries of sea birds. Somewhere Hawaiian music was playing from somebody's radio. He dropped back with a groan, one hand over his face. He'd never had a headache before but if this was what regular people felt like with one, then he was glad it was a rare occurrence for him. The bed in which he lay felt as if it were rocking like a ship at sea, and the room beyond his closed eyes seemed to be slowly revolving, and tilting unsteadily as it did so. Where was he and how had he gotten here? He lay still, grasping at the confused memories of the dreams that had been chasing themselves around in his head. Something about having married Lois, and flying them to Hawaii for their honeymoon ...
Beside him, a warm body was curled tightly to his side and he seemed to catch traces of the familiar scent of Lois's shampoo and the lilac cologne that she usually wore ...
Cautiously, he cracked an eyelid.
His first impression had been correct, he thought in dismay. And the person beside him was definitely Lois. She had her left arm crooked across her eyes and on the third finger of her left hand she wore a diamond engagement ring next to a band of gold.
Uh oh ...
Cautiously, he lifted his own left hand. There was a broad gold band on his third finger as well.
Oh boy ...
"I'm almost ready!" a woman's voice responded. "Just a minute while I get my sunscreen on!"
"If we're too late it's not my fault!" the man's voice said clearly.
"Okay! Okay!" A pause. "All right; let's go!"
Clark didn't make the mistake of opening his eyes again. The brilliant light from the tropical sun that was leaking through the crack between the curtains made sharp pains shoot through his pounding skull every time the curtains shifted in the breeze from the air conditioner. He crooked his arm across his eyes to block out the light.
The conversation that his super-hearing had picked up wasn't a bit reassuring. Clark lay still while he attempted to piece together the vague, dreamlike memories of the events that had led to the situation in which he now found himself.
The last clear memory he had, he discovered as he searched back through the foggy impressions of the last couple of days, was of the Metropolis private airport. Lois had kissed him, completely without resistance on his part. And it had been a spectacular kiss.
After that, his memories became less clear. He vaguely recalled being upset about something, and flying off to the Arctic for a long, cold swim. By itself, that wasn't so unusual. He'd been known to do that occasionally, anyhow. But something else had happened, for now he was here in a very nice hotel room, in what was manifestly not Metropolis, with Lois, and neither one of them was wearing a stitch of clothing. As a matter of fact, the only item of apparel -- if you could call it that -- he had on was the wedding ring. The conclusions that he could draw from that led in only one direction.
Lois groaned faintly. "Clark?" she whispered.
"Yes?" he answered automatically.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"Uh ..." He hesitated and then decided that honesty was not only the best policy, it was probably the only policy that stood a chance of not getting him killed. "I think we're in Hawaii," he said. "Do you have any idea how we got here?"
A faint moan answered him. Lois hadn't removed the arm that was over her eyes. "I feel awful," she groaned. "What on Earth did I drink last night?"
"I don't feel so good, either." He attempted to lower his arm, but the brightness of the light that smote his burning eyeballs made him wince and crook it across his face again. He had never felt this bad, he thought, even when he had encountered Kryptonite. He lay still, listening to the sound of the air conditioner and wishing he had the courage to get out of the bed, close that crack in the curtains and get himself a drink of water. He'd never felt so thirsty in his life. It didn't occur to him for several more minutes that Lois was reacting rather oddly to the fact that she was here, in bed with him and that neither of them was wearing so much as a handkerchief. If she felt so sick that the circumstance had no effect on her, then she was worse off than he was.
"Lois? Are you all right?" he asked, finally.
"No," she grumbled. "And keep your voice down."
Since he had spoken at a level barely above a whisper, he wasn't sure how to answer her.
"What happened?" he finally settled on. "Do you know?"
"Sort of," Lois mumbled. She didn't remove her arm from over her eyes. "It must have been Miranda's pheromone. I wondered why you didn't react to it the first time. But the 100 percent stuff got even you."
"What happened after that?"
"I kissed you at the airport. I must have picked up a little of the pheromone from you. The last thing I remember clearly was leaving the newsroom, intending to go to your place."
"Sort of. Don't you remember anything?"
"Maybe. Kind of." Clark cast back into his jumbled memories. The headache and the general unsteadiness of his stomach made it hard to think. He had gone to the Arctic right after capturing Miranda, he recalled. Lois had been the reason. He'd decided to present himself to her as Superman. That was it. Then he'd gone back to Metropolis, to the Daily Planet, and asked Perry about her ...
"You were at my apartment," he said.
"Yeah," Lois mumbled. "Can't this wait until the headache goes away?"
"Is this what you felt like when you came out of the pheromone in my apartment?"
"Yeah. Shut up, will you?"
"Okay." Clark gave up the effort and allowed himself to drift. Going back to sleep wasn't an option while his head was splitting like this but gradually he was beginning to piece together the sequence of events. There had been that dream of Lois saying to him that she loved Superman but she loved Clark, too. That was when he'd told her that he was both.
He had to restrain a groan of despair. Lois knew and it was obvious that she remembered that part. Was that why she was reacting like this? Because she knew he was Superman?
But she'd told Superman that she loved him and Clark. Would that hold, now that the pheromone was wearing off? -- Actually, he guessed, it had pretty much worn off. Like him, she was dealing with the after-effects. At least she hadn't kicked him out of the bed, but what were they going to do now?
It wasn't that he didn't want to be married to Lois. That had been his ultimate goal almost since he had met her. But, up until her encounter with Miranda's pheromone, he'd just about decided that, at best, he was her work partner and that she was completely indifferent to him as a man or, at worst, that she regarded him with contempt.
But then, Dr. Friedman had told them that the pheromone wasn't effective without some attraction in the first place. So she was attracted to Clark Kent. But did she love him?
"So, Superman," Lois's voice said. "I guess you want to divorce me, don't you?"
What? He lowered his arm, wincing at the stab of pain that shot through his head, and turned to look at her. Her arm was still across her eyes, but he could see moisture leaking down the side of her face. Lois was crying.
"You don't love me anymore, do you? It was just the pheromone. It doesn't matter that I told you that I love you - as both Clark and Superman. You didn't -"
"Lois, no!" he said, appalled. Suddenly the questions that he had been obsessing over were unimportant. "Don't cry!"
"I'm not crying!" Anyone else would have believed her, but he caught the little hitch in her voice.
"Of course not," he said, quickly. "You never cry."
"Don't worry," she said, her voice tight. "I won't contest it."
He swallowed. "Is that what you want?" he asked. "Now that you know who I really am?"
"What do you mean?" she whispered.
Aware that he needed to tread carefully, he hesitated. Her heart was beating fast. Lois was more upset than she was willing to let him know. "I mean, you don't want to be married to Clark Kent, do you?"
"I don't want to be married to someone that doesn't want to be married to me!" she burst out. "None of it was real, was it?" she sat up suddenly, swung her feet to the floor and started toward the door that led to the bathroom. The sudden change in position must have been too much, for she reeled almost at once and started to fall. Clark was out of the bed instantly and caught her before she hit the floor.
"Hey, take it easy!"
She rested her head against his arm as he swung her back onto the bed and, as an afterthought, pulled the sheet over her. The motion set his own head swimming and the pounding behind his eyes intensified, but he forced himself to ignore it. Where were his clothes?
He spotted them a moment later, lying scattered carelessly on the floor. Lois's were similarly strewn about. Evidently they had been in quite a hurry to lose their clothing when they had checked in here. If Lois felt about him at all how he felt about her, he pretty much knew why, but the memory remained cloudy. That figured.
Quickly, he grabbed his underwear and slipped them on before Lois regained her equilibrium. He sat down beside her, telling himself that what she saw at this point hardly mattered, considering what must have already happened.
"Lois," he said, before she could speak, "do you think I'd marry someone -- even under the influence of the pheromone -- if I didn't want to?"
"You weren't responsible for what you did," Lois said. "I don't blame you."
"Yes, but I'd blame myself," he said. "I married you because I wanted to. Because --" He took a deep breath. "Because I've loved you since the day I first saw you. Remember what Dr. Friedman said -- the pheromone doesn't work unless there's attraction there in the first place. There was more than attraction for me. But my question is: what do you want -- now that you know that Superman is only Clark Kent?"
She didn't try to hide the tears this time. "I told Superman I loved both him and Clark. Don't you remember?"
"Kind of," he said. "I remember bits and pieces."
"I'm starting to remember some of it," Lois said. "Just like I did before. Maybe a little faster than the first time."
"Well," Clark said, "I'll tell you what." He slid one hand under the sheet and took her hand. "Why don't we wait until we both feel better -- and until our memories are a little clearer. I don't want to make any life-changing decisions while I feel like my head's about to explode. What do you think?"
She scrubbed at her wet cheeks. "Okay. Maybe we should get some aspirin. I had a bottle in my purse. Did I bring it along?"
"I think you must have. We couldn't have gotten married without the right identification. Just a minute -- I see it." Clark got up carefully and crossed the room to where Lois's purse lay by the door. He retrieved it and brought it to her and then decided that while he was up would be a good time to make sure the curtains were pulled tightly together. He didn't want to get up again until the effects of the pheromone hangover went away. It wasn't often that he envied ordinary people their frailties, but this was one of them. Aspirin might work for Lois but he was going to have to ride it out.
"Thanks," Lois's voice said as he excluded the beam of sunlight.
"Just a minute and I'll get you some water," Clark said. At least he could get a drink while he had the chance. His mouth was as dry as a desert.
Shortly, he returned to the big king-sized bed and handed Lois a glass of ice water.
"Don't you want one?" Lois asked.
"Aspirin doesn't affect me," Clark said. He pulled on his slacks and lay down on top of the covers. "I'm just going to have to wait until it goes away. It's starting to feel better -- after I got a drink."
"Oh," Lois said. "I never figured I'd feel sorry for Superman." She paused. "Except when they were trying to run you out of Metropolis."
"And you saved me that time," he said.
"And you left," Lois said accusingly. "I didn't know who I missed more -- you or Superman."
"You didn't?" Clark was stunned. He'd known she was glad to see him when he returned but she'd never told him that.
"No." Lois gulped down the aspirin. "Of course now I understand why. I guess I couldn't love one side of you without loving the other -- even if I didn't know it."
"Yeah." Clark reached out a hand to touch her arm. "As soon as we're over the hangover, why don't we go out and just have a little fun together? We don't have to make any decisions yet."
"Shouldn't we call Perry?"
Clark shrugged. "I feel like playing hooky, and I suspect we've been gone long enough that another day isn't going to matter. Besides, this is important."
"How long have we been gone?"
He closed his eyes, scanning the area for news reports. After a moment he opened them again. "It's been nearly three days. I guess the 100 percent formula took longer to wear off me -- and the diluted stuff probably was stronger than the 2 percent formula, so it took you longer, too."
"It sounds like whatever we do, Perry's going to have a fit," Lois said. "We might as well get our money's worth."
"That's how I feel," Clark said. He closed his eyes. "Do you mind if I try to get a little sleep?"
"Go ahead," Lois said. "It will probably make you feel better."
Lois, on first glance, didn't appear to be here but he could hear her heartbeat not far away and, after a short search with super hearing and x-ray vision, he saw her sitting on the balcony outside their room, relaxing in a reclining chair, watching the surf rolling in. Gulls wheeled and dove against the brilliant tropical sky and four stories down a narrow beach, consisting of Hawaii's black sand and edged by boulders of black volcanic rock, stretched down to the water line.
He regarded her for several minutes, trying to decide exactly what to say. His dreams had been uneasy, but the theme that ran through them was the fear that Lois would decide that she didn't want Clark Kent, Superman or not -- that she wanted someone more sophisticated than her hayseed partner, as he had once heard her describe him.
On the other hand she had told him, while under the effect of the pheromone, that she loved him, Superman, but that she also loved Clark Kent -- and that had been before he'd told her the truth. Maybe it wasn't the hopeless situation that he'd at first feared it was.
He got out of bed quietly, still thinking. The bottom line was simple. Did he want to stay married to Lois? The answer to that was emphatically yes. Given what had already happened, that Lois knew his secret, that he was already married to her, and -- He glanced back at the bed with the clear image of Lois, unclothed, next to him -- that they had almost certainly -- well, never mind. Anyway, what did he have to lose at this point if he tried to convince her that they should give it a shot?
But that meant he had to show her both sides of Clark Kent -- the ordinary man and the alien from Krypton. She had to learn who and what he really was, and that both sides of him loved her. If he was going to succeed, he had a narrow margin of time in which to do it, so he'd better get cracking.
The first thing he needed was a shower and a shave. Fortunately, that was easily taken care of. He whisked into the bathroom, turned on the water and stepped into the shower without bothering to adjust the temperature, lathered himself with the flower-scented soap provided by the hotel, poured the shampoo, also supplied by the hotel, over his hair and scrubbed his scalp thoroughly. He rinsed, finger-combed his hair into a semblance of Clark Kent's usual style, turned off the water and stepped out of the shower two minutes after he had begun.
The mirror had just barely begun to fog. He dried it with his heat vision and leaned forward to give himself a quick heat-vision shave.
As he finished, he became aware of a light rapping on the door. "Clark?"
He wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the door.
Lois was standing there, wearing a pair of shorts and a Hawaiian blouse. Obviously, she had taken the time to run down to one of the local stores and find herself some clothing more suited to the current climate.
"Hi," he said. "Did you need something?"
She started to speak but, at the sight of his towel-wrapped form, she froze, her mouth half open, and her eyes flicked from his face down his body and back up, lingering for an instant on his chest before she wrenched her eyes back to his face. She swallowed. "Uh ..." Abruptly she seemed to recollect what she had been going to say. "Oh; I went to the hotel store and got us some supplies, since we uh -- don't seem to have brought anything with us."
"Yeah." Clark found himself grinning a little sheepishly. "I guess we were in too much of a hurry."
"Yeah, I guess." Lois looked down and he saw her cheeks reddening. "Anyway," she resumed, "I bought you a toothbrush and some aftershave and a comb. They're in the left-hand drawer of the vanity. I didn't know what kind of razor I should buy you, though, since you're -- well, you know. So I figured I'd better ask."
"Thanks," he said. "That was thoughtful of you. I'll be ready in a few minutes."
She reached out a finger and just barely touched his chin before snatching her hand back. "I guess you already -- how do you do that?"
"Heat vision," he said. "I've been breaking razors since I first started growing a beard." He caught the hand. "Lois, you don't have to be afraid of me. I'm the same person I've always been."
"I'm not afraid of you," she said quickly. "It's just that I never expected to be looking at Superman in a towel." She was blushing more deeply, but he noticed that her eyes still strayed occasionally to his chest. That was a good sign.
"You're not," he said. "You're looking at your partner, Clark Kent, in a towel. And you've already done that before. Remember during the Messenger investigation when you knocked on my door and I answered? I'd been talking to my parents on the phone, and --"
"I remember," she said, a little more slowly. "I asked you how you could eat like an eight-year-old and still look like Mr. Hardbody."
"Well," he said, not releasing her hand, "now you know. Just remember; I wasn't even Superman then. I was just your greenhorn partner. I didn't become Superman for almost another week -- and you named me. I'll be finished here in a minute. Then we can go down to the hotel store and I can get myself some tourist clothes, and we can go out and find something to do for fun."
"Oh," Lois said, seizing quickly on the new topic. "I checked the sizes of your clothes and picked you up some things at the store. Do you know how hard you are to buy for with that build? It's a darned good thing that a lot of Hawaiian clothes are loose. I mean, you have a narrow waist, but your thighs are so muscular and so is your --" Her voice trailed off and her cheeks had grown positively scarlet. "Anyway, I found a pair of Bermuda shorts that look like they should fit."
He had to work hard not to grin at the typical Lois-babble. "Yes, I'm familiar with the problem. After I hit my teens, Mom had to either make my clothes or buy them a size too large and alter them to fit. By the way," he added, "while I was asleep, did you by any chance happen to find my Suit?"
"Uh ... yeah. It was under the bed. I folded it up and hid it under the mattress."
"Good idea. I'll hide it a little more securely as soon as I'm done. We don't want the maid to find it."
"That's for sure," Lois said. She hesitated, glancing furtively once more at his chest. "I'll get your clothes and let you get dressed. I'm hungry."
"So am I -- a little. Which island are we on, by the way?"
"Hawaii," Lois said. "The Big Island. We're in the King Kamehameha Hotel."
He nodded. "In that case, I know some good places to eat. Then after that, maybe we could take a flight over the volcanoes. I know a private pilot that I think we could talk into taking us for free. There's a luau here just about every night, too. Would you like to go -- maybe tomorrow?"
She nodded, swallowing again. "Are we going to be here tomorrow?"
"If necessary. Remember, this is important."
She gulped and then nodded determinedly. "You're right. We'll just have to think up some kind of explanation to give Perry when we get back." A drop of water fell from the lock of hair that persistently flopped onto his forehead, landed on his collarbone and rolled down his chest to vanish into the towel. Lois's eyes followed it all the way down, and when she looked up the blush, which had begun to fade, had deepened again. "Well -- uh -- let me get your clothes. I hope they fit."
Fortunately, as Lois had pointed out, the clothing was loose, which had allowed her to buy shorts that were only slightly too large at the waist and still fit his other measurements. A cloth belt made up for the difference and he ignored the fact that the shirt that she had bought him had to be two sizes too big for his narrow waist in order to fit at the shoulders. He simply tucked it into his shorts and declared himself ready. Apparently she had used his shoe size as a guide, for the sandals she had purchased for him were a perfect fit.
"Where do you want to eat?" he asked.
"I was hoping you'd suggest a place. It's past three, so --"
"Do you trust my judgement?"
She cocked her head at him. "When it comes to food? Always. Now I know how you manage to find all those great places for takeout and I never can."
He smiled. "Guilty as charged." He opened the door for her. "I hope you're wearing sunscreen. The ultra violet index around here is fierce, even at this time in the afternoon."
"I am," she said, reaching for the broad-brimmed hat that lay on a chair next to the door.
"Good. Then let me show you around," he said. "Assuming you haven't been on the Kona Coast before."
"I suppose you have?"
"Several times in the last few months and while I was traveling, of course."
"I remember you said that you'd traveled, but I didn't really pay much attention," Lois said. "I'm sorry."
"Back when you first came to work at the Planet, I kind of wrote you off as a hack. I shouldn't have pre-judged you. I was mostly angry that Perry forced me to take you on as a partner in the Messenger investigation, so I didn't give you a chance."
"How did you --"
He tapped an ear. "I'm afraid I listened in." He looked at the toes of his sandals. "I'd met you when I interviewed the first time and --" He shrugged. "I fell pretty hard for you. I knew I shouldn't eavesdrop, but the temptation was too much. I'm sorry."
The door closed behind them. The area outside their room was a broad walkway around a central open square. Looking down, he could see a small, marble pond and lush tropical plants growing in the enclosed garden. Three huge coconut trees soared upward, the actual coconuts carefully removed, he noted, passing even the fourth floor of the hotel and shading the area below them with their spreading fronds.
Lois was silent for a long moment as they traversed the walk toward the elevators. Clark rang for the car.
"You felt that way about me back then?" she asked in a small voice.
The bell chimed, announcing the arriving elevator. The door slid open and they boarded an empty car.
"It was you that saved us when Antoinette Baines chained us up in that hangar, wasn't it," she said.
Silence, as the car dropped toward the first floor.
"Are you mad?" Clark asked finally.
She shook her head. "How could I be mad?" she asked. "I feel awful about the way I treated you."
"But I knew why," he said. "I didn't blame you -- especially after I got to know you a little better. You were the most incredible woman I'd ever met. You still are."
"You were a lot nicer than I'd have been," she said. "Did you really learn ballroom dancing from a Nigerian princess?"
"Yes," he said. "I attended her Coming of Age party three months ago, and her wedding last month."
"If she just came of age, how old was she when she taught you to dance?"
"Twelve." He grinned. "I helped tutor her in English for about four months. In return, she taught me to dance."
The elevator reached the first floor and the doors opened. They exited into the lobby of the hotel and Clark steered her toward the front doors. "There's a little coffee shop called the Lava Java a couple of blocks down," he said, pointing. "We can get a snack there. Then maybe we could try that flight over Kilauea. If we do, though, we don't want to wait too long or the clouds roll in and you can't see much."
"What's that?" Lois pointed to an enormous gout of steam that appeared to be rising into the sky to the south and east of their position.
"That's the spot where a lava tube hits the sea," Clark said. "Lava is flowing into the water and, not surprisingly, it produces all that steam. It's called Pele's Fountain. If you like, we'll fly close to it and you can get a good look before we head for the caldera."
"It's amazing," Lois said. "I've been to the Islands a couple of times, but never to the Big Island. Mostly I stayed on Oahu because that's where the Journalism Conferences were held."
"There's a lot more to Hawaii than Oahu," Clark said. "I first visited the Hawaiian Islands back when I was nineteen or twenty, not long after I discovered I could fly. I've seen wonders all over the Earth, but not one of them has matched this."
"You mean, flying over Hawaii?"
"I mean flying over Hawaii with you," Clark said. "And if that sounds corny, then it's corny, but it's still true."
He wasn't kidding, Lois thought. Superman, it seemed, was more of a romantic than she could have believed. Ever since she'd awakened this morning and begun to recall what she and Clark had done while under the effects of Miranda's pheromone, she had been dreading the thought of him telling her that it had been a terrible mistake. Only he hadn't. Her mild-mannered partner, who was also somehow the hero from Krypton, had surprised her repeatedly. He'd seemed far more worried about her than himself, which went against everything she thought she had learned, through sad experience, about men.
The pheromone had taught her something the second time around. Her memories were still indistinct but they were becoming clearer by the hour. She'd told Superman that she loved him and that she loved Clark, too, and he had astonished her by turning into Clark before her eyes. And he'd told her that he loved her. And after that ...
Clark was watching her soberly. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
She smiled a little. "I'm flying over some of the most incredible scenery in the world," she said, "in the arms of the most incredible man in the world. And the most incredible part of it is that he's been my partner for months and I didn't see it."
"I didn't intend for you to see it. At least so soon."
"Were you ever going to tell me?" she asked.
"Yes, I think I was," he said. "I had to be careful, though. Not much can hurt me, but my parents are a different story, and so are you and Jimmy and Perry. If someone found out who Superman really is, all he would have to do to control me would be to threaten someone I care about. Remember Trask?"
Lois nodded. "I was just thinking about him."
"He wasn't the only one," Clark said. "As of now, three other people besides me know the truth: my mother, my father and you."
"And the more people who know, the more likely it is that someone will make a mistake," Lois said. "I guess I understand that."
"I hoped you would," he said. "You've become part of a very select club." He smiled suddenly. "You know what, though?"
"I'm glad you know. I didn't like lying to you. It felt wrong."
"It's probably just as well I didn't find out until now," Lois said, surprising herself. "If I'd found out before I realized how I felt, that Pulitzer might have been too much temptation. It was smart of you to keep it secret."
"Well, whatever might have happened before, you know now," he said. "What's important now is the rest." The scenery was passing under them at a pace that looked leisurely from their height in the air but was actually, Lois realized, faster than one of the small planes that they had seen in the distance. Well behind them, she could see one of the black helicopters that carried tourists over the island, but she had her own private pilot, and the flight was probably considerably smoother and more comfortable. Not to mention, a lot less noisy.
"What are you smiling about?" Clark asked.
"Nothing. Everything." She looked down at the rings on her hand and at the gold ring on the hand that Clark had slipped under her knees. They still had that decision to make, but for now they were just having fun, as he had suggested. Later, they could decide what to do about their marriage. It was doubtful that they could get an annulment, she acknowledged. Judging by their clothing -- or lack of it -- when they had awakened, neither she nor Clark could truthfully claim that the union hadn't been consummated. As a matter of fact, some of those memories were beginning to surface as well.
Best to not think of that, she decided. She had to stay sensible about this, and that particular recollection certainly wouldn't help her keep a cool head. She glanced quickly up at her companion, wondering how much of those three days he remembered. Probably more than he was letting on, but Clark could always be counted on to be a gentleman.
While she had been thinking, they had covered a lot of distance, she realized abruptly. Pele's Fountain was suddenly off to her right, a huge plume of steam, whipped about by the wind that was prevalent over the sea. Below them rolled the aquamarine waters of Hawaii. Looking down toward the base of the Fountain, she thought she could see glimpses of the actual lava as it poured through the lava tube and out into the ocean.
Clark circled, moving in as close as it was safe to do so. "What do you think?" he asked.
"Wow," Lois said.
"Yeah. That's what I thought the first time I saw it," he said. "It's making new land, even as we're watching. It was this kind of volcanic action that formed the Hawaiian Islands." He glanced over his shoulder. "We'd better go. We've got a small plane full of tourists coming this way."
The flight over the caldera was less picturesque, as the clouds had begun to move in. Clark headed back toward the hotel. "We can come back another time," he promised. "The next time it erupts, I'll bring you back and you can get a bird's eye view of an erupting volcano."
"I'll try to remember to bring a camera," Lois said. "Now what?"
"Well --" He glanced at the sun. "It's nearly five. I thought we could go get some dinner and then we might find a deserted beach somewhere and go swimming. Maybe we could get some take out and eat on the beach. It's going to be warm enough."
That was for sure. "Are there any deserted beaches on the island?"
"Well, maybe not on this island, but I'm sure we can find one somewhere."
"Will he come down here to see what's going on?" Lois asked, a little nervously.
"No. He's only here from January through April," Clark told her. "There's nobody here but the caretaker, and Superman put in a call, while you were buying that swimsuit, to be sure that no one disturbs us."
Lois bit her lip. "Do you know how overwhelming all this is?"
"I think so." He set the ice chest and their picnic basket down on the sand and spread out their picnic blanket with a minimum of fuss. Lois put chunks of rock down on each corner of the blanket to hold it in place and Clark laid their folded towels on one corner of the blanket. Finished with the simple arrangements, he dropped beside them. "It's pretty overwhelming, all right. Especially since I'm afraid that if I do the wrong thing I could ruin everything." He patted the blanket. "Let's sit down for a minute and watch the sunset. Then --" he gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile, "you can ask me anything you want."
"There's a lot I want to know," she said.
"I know. And I owe it to you to tell you as much as I can."
Slowly, she sank down on the blanket beside him. Clark reached out, giving her plenty of room to refuse, and took her hand. "Do you hold hands on a first date?"
She laughed a bit nervously, but didn't pull her hand away. "I've been known to."
"Good." He interlaced his fingers with hers. "It's a beautiful sunset."
She nodded without replying, but he could feel her body relaxing as the sun sank slowly into the Pacific Ocean. The air was warm and scented with the exotic flora blooming in profusion on the island.
"What's your name?" Lois asked suddenly.
"Your name. It isn't Superman. I named you that, and since you're from another planet -- Krypton, you said -- it sure isn't Clark Kent."
"Actually, it is," he said. He paused, and then took a deep breath. This was it. "Do you want the whole story?"
"Okay." He lifted their joined hands, examining the rings that he barely remembered slipping onto her finger in a Las Vegas chapel. "For most of my life I didn't know where I came from or why I have these strange powers," he began. "I guess the story begins the night Mom and Dad -- my Earth parents -- were driving past Shuster's Field on May 17th, 1966 ..."
He continued to talk, relating to Lois the story his parents had told him. She listened without speaking until he had finished.
"So you had no idea where you came from?" she asked, finally.
"No. Mom and Dad thought I might be a Russian experiment or something. When I came to Metropolis, I knew that I'd finally found the place where I wanted to stay. It was a few weeks later that I found out what little more I know."
"How?" she demanded.
"Do you remember the warehouse on Bessolo Boulevard?"
"What does that have to do with it?"
"Everything. Remember all the stuff that Bureau 39 had there? One of those UFOs was my ship. They'd somehow found it."
"How could you tell it was your ship?"
"It had the 'S' crest on it. That must have been how they connected it to me. Anyhow, that's where I found the globe."
"I'll show it to you when we get back. I took it off the ship, and something in my head said 'Krypton'. It communicated with me somehow, and that's when I learned the name of my home world. I'm not human. That's why I have these strange powers -- but that's all I know. I may never learn why I was abandoned here on Earth. So --" He shrugged. "So when I tell you that my name is Clark Jerome Kent, it's because that was what my mom and dad named me. If I ever had another name, I don't know what it was."
He felt her squeeze his hand. "'It's the not knowing that kills you.'"
"Me and my big mouth."
"You couldn't have known," Clark said. "Who knows? Maybe I'll find out more, someday -- if I ever find my ship again."
She lifted her free hand to her mouth. "That's right! Bureau 39 still has it!"
"When we get home," Lois said in no uncertain terms, "we're going to start investigating. If we can track them down, maybe we can get it back for you."
"I don't know how likely it is that we'll even find a trace of them -- after what happened in Smallville," Clark said. "Trask died, and the rest just seemed to vanish."
"We'll find out," Lois said. "But, what about Trask? Was he right? You were awfully quiet about that whole episode. I didn't think about it at the time, but that was because I didn't know what I know now."
"I know." He looked out over the water, where only the faintest trace of the sun's disk was still visible above the horizon. "Yes, he was right. The 'rock' -- the Kryptonite -- was there, in Smallville. Wayne Irig had given it to my dad, and Dad hid it in the barn. That first night, he showed it to me."
"It knocked me out and took away my powers, so yes, Kryptonite exists and it can hurt me. I destroyed that piece when Trask tried to use it against me but there's still the one that Wayne sent to the lab."
"The one that disappeared."
"So someone out there has something that can hurt or kill you," Lois said. "And you have no idea who it is."
"We'll find out," Lois said. "And when we do, whoever took it will wish he'd never gotten involved with you or Kryptonite, or anything else about you."
He found that he was smiling at her. "You are incredible; did you know that?"
She looked up at him in the dusk that was descending with the setting of the sun. "Clark, why on Earth did you become Superman? It's made you a target for every criminal, xenophobe and general lunatic on the planet."
"I know," he said. "But I was given these powers for some reason. I can't stand by and do nothing when someone is in trouble and I have the means to help. That was why I moved around so much after college. I'd be somewhere, and sooner or later I'd do something that made people suspicious -- and so I'd move on. When I got to Metropolis, I knew I had to find a way to stay. I'd always dreamed of working at the Daily Planet, and I'd read your work, of course -- but then I met you. That morning when a workman was caught in an explosion and trapped down a manhole in front of the Planet, I helped get him out. You noticed how dirty my clothes were, and told me to bring a change of clothes to work. And that was the beginning of Superman. It was a way to use what I've been given to help, and not give away to the world that Clark Kent is different."
"You mean I helped you create Superman?"
"Yes. You've helped me so many times, I've lost count." He smiled down at her. "Now that you know all my deepest secrets, how would you like to go swimming?"
She nodded. "That sounds like fun."
He got to his feet and lifted her to hers. He heard her catch her breath at the exhibition of strength. "Do I scare you when I do things like that?"
"What do you mean?"
"When I -- well -- use Superman's strength? I'm completely in control of it, you know. I'd never hurt you."
"I know that," Lois said, softly. "You're the gentlest person I know -- both of you are. But will you answer one question for me?"
"I want you to promise to tell me the exact truth," she said, very seriously. "Don't fib to save my feelings or anything. Promise?"
"All right," he said, a little warily. "I promise. I don't like to lie, dual identity or not."
"I know," she said. "But I want to know if you really wanted to marry me. Did you -- or was it just the perfume?"
Clark had not released her hand when he lifted her to her feet. He was still clasping it, and at her question he turned to face her. He could feel her pulse pounding fast and hard. He swallowed. "You want the whole truth?"
He could feel her stiffen slightly, bracing herself, but she nodded.
"All right then -- the whole truth." He raised their joined hands and put his left hand with its wedding ring over them. "I wasn't affected by the perfume the first time, as you know, but I guess the stronger dose was too much even for Superman." He tightened his grip slightly. "The truth is that I've been in love with you since about two minutes after we met." Only he could have heard the soft intake of her breath. "One minute I was interviewing with Perry, and the next this whirlwind burst through the door. I can't even describe what I felt then. As I've gotten to know you better, it's only become stronger. I love your fire, your passion, your take-no-prisoners attitude. You take on a challenge with everything you've got. No half measures for Lois Lane. The pheromone lowered my inhibitions, but it didn't change the way I feel about you." He paused to take a breath. "If either of us had been a little more sober, this probably wouldn't have happened -- but we weren't. I didn't care what the sensible thing was to do -- I only knew what I wanted. If it hadn't been for the pheromone, I wouldn't have married you -- yet. I would have tried to get to know you better -- but that would have been my ultimate goal, pheromone or not. So yes; I really wanted to marry you." He took a deep breath. It was time, he thought, to make his position clear beyond the possibility of doubt. "And unless you don't want to," he said slowly and clearly, "I want to stay married to you -- for as long as we both live."
"Don't cry, Lois," he murmured in her ear. "It doesn't matter what I want. What you want is what's important. If you don't think you can handle it --"
"Just shut up!" she said fiercely, her voice breaking on the word. "Damn it, Clark! Just for once, will you stop trying to please everybody else and just please yourself? You're married to me, for better or worse, and I'm not letting you out of it! I --"
Quite suddenly, she found her words cut off as his mouth closed on hers, and then she was kissing him as if her life depended on it. She wasn't aware of it when her feet left the ground, or that they were lying on the picnic blanket, but she noticed it when her bikini seemed to disappear. She reached out to pull at the cloth of the Hawaiian shirt that he had been wearing, and her fingers encountered smooth skin.
"I love you," Clark's voice whispered roughly in her ear.
"Shut up," she said. "You talk too much."
"Hi Mom!" Clark's voice said.
"Hi, honey!" she said. "Your father and I were going to call you this evening. We haven't heard from you in nearly a week. Is everything all right?"
"Everything's great," Clark assured her. Martha cocked her head, trying to interpret the note of elation in her son's voice.
"We haven't seen you in the news for several days," Jonathan's voice said. Her husband must have picked up the extension in the barn.
"Yeah, I know," Clark said. "I've been kind of busy with personal stuff. Lois and I will be dropping by to tell you the whole story, but we wanted to let you know that we're in Hawaii, on our honeymoon. We got married three days ago."
Martha almost dropped the phone. "You did what?"
"We got married," Clark repeated. "We didn't exactly plan it and there's a long story behind it, but we didn't want you to worry in case someone phoned you and asked if you knew where we were."
Jonathan appeared in the doorway, the receiver in one hand and a stunned expression on his face. "Uh -- well, congratulations, son," he said, sounding almost as dumbfounded as Martha felt.
"Thanks, Dad," Clark's voice said. "Would you like to say hello to your new daughter-in-law?"
"I certainly would!" Martha said, regaining her voice abruptly. There was the sound of motion and muffled words on the other end of the line and then Lois Lane's voice emerged from the receiver.
"Hello, Mrs. Kent.
"Martha," she said quickly. She had known for months that her son had fallen head over heels for this hard-driving reporter, but the news of their wedding was certainly a surprise, especially for her.
"Martha," Lois corrected, almost as quickly. "I know this is awfully sudden. I hope you're not disappointed."
"Oh, not at all," Martha assured her at once. "Clark's been crazy about you since he met you."
"That's what he told me," Lois said. "We can't really explain over the phone what happened, but I promise we will when we come by."
"We'll be looking forward to it," Jonathan said. "Uh -- when will that be?"
"We aren't sure yet," Lois said. "We have to phone our editor and ask him for a couple of weeks off first, but we'll let you know ahead of time."
"That will be fine, honey," Martha said at once, raising her eyebrows at Jonathan. "You and Clark just have a good time on your honeymoon and we'll hear all about it when you get back. Be sure to take pictures!"
"We will," Lois promised.
They talked a few moments more and finally hung up. Martha looked at Jonathan, trying hard to choke down the laughter that was bubbling up. "Well, that was -- interesting," she said. "I can't wait to hear the story behind it."
"Yeah," he said. He met her eyes, but a faint grin was twitching his lips. Suddenly Martha began to laugh and her husband joined in.
"Well, it's seven in Metropolis," Lois said, glancing at her watch, which informed her it was just after two A.M. Hawaii time. They had returned from their picnic on Maui an hour ago and, at Lois's insistence, waited until it was six A.M. in Kansas before phoning Clark's parents. "We're going to have a lot of explaining to do when we see your mother and father."
"I know," Clark said. "They'll understand, though. You'll see. Mom and Dad have been hoping you and I would get together for months. Mom knew almost from the time I joined the Planet that I was interested in you. I don't know how she does it. I used to think that she could read minds."
"I love your parents," Lois said. "They're just so down-to-Earth. Okay, let's call Perry next." She stifled a giggle. "I can't wait to hear what he has to say." She punched in the number of Perry's office and listened as the phone rang.
Someone picked it up on the second ring. "White," Perry's distinctive voice said.
"Hello, Perry," Lois said. She glanced at Clark, who sat down next to her on the side of the king-sized bed. Clark met her eyes with a smile, and leaned forward to kiss her.
Perry's voice emerged from the receiver. "Lois? Where the Sam Hill are you? Are you all right? Is Clark with you?"
"We're both here," Lois said. "We're in Hawaii."
"I said, we're in Hawaii. We're at the King Kamehameha Hotel on the Kona Coast."
"What in the name o' Memphis are you doin' there? Or do I want to know?"
"Well -- it took us a while to figure it out, too," Lois said. She waved her crossed fingers at Clark. "I was at the airport when Miranda sprayed some of that 100 percent pheromone perfume from the crop duster. You remember; I wrote it up for you. Superman inhaled the stuff to keep it from affecting everybody in Metropolis. I interviewed him right afterwards. It turned out that Clark was headed for the airport, too, and he talked to Superman on his way out -- just before he went to wash the stuff off. The only thing we can figure out is that Superman had enough of the pheromone still on him that we were both exposed to it. The last thing I remember is leaving the Planet after I turned in my article. The next thing I knew, it was three days later and I was waking up here -- and Clark was here, too."
There was a long silence at the other end of the phone. "Uh -- do I want to hear any of the rest of this?" Perry asked, finally.
"Well, just a little," Lois said. "The only thing we could figure out was that the stuff we were exposed to was stronger than the 2 percent solution Miranda sprayed us with the first time, so it took longer to wear off. But it turns out that while we were under the influence of the pheromone, we got married."
Dead silence answered her. "Perry?" she asked.
"Did you just say what I thought I heard you say?" Perry asked.
"Yes," Lois said, fighting the urge to giggle. "Clark Kent and I got married."
"Are you thinkin' the Planet's lawyers might be able to arrange an annulment?" Perry asked. "I'm not sure that's possible, considering the -- uh -- circumstances. Of course, since you weren't in your right minds ..."
"No," Lois said. "We don't want an annulment. What we wanted was for you to arrange for two weeks off for us so we can have our honeymoon."
The coughing at the other end of the line led her to suspect that Perry might have inhaled some of his coffee. "Did I hear you right, honey?" he finally managed to choke out. "Are you sure you're really over the pheromone stuff?"
"We're over it," Lois said. "Clark and I just decided to stop pretending that we weren't -- well, attracted to each other. So --"
"Never mind," Perry said hastily. "You've got two weeks. Congratulations -- I think."
"Thanks," Lois said.
"Is Clark there?" Perry asked.
"He's right here," Lois said. "Here, Clark. Perry wants to talk to you."
Clark took the receiver. "Hi, Chief."
"I just wanted to ask you if you're sure about this, son. I know Lois is quite a woman, but she's a handful, even for your old editor. Are you sure this is what you want?"
"I'm sure," Clark said. "I've never been happier than I am now."
"Well, in that case, I guess all I can say is 'Congratulations'. Have a good honeymoon -- but I guess that's already started. I'll expect the two of you back at your desks in two weeks."
"We'll be there," Clark said. "Thanks, Chief. Oh," he added, "would you ask Jimmy if he'll drop by Lois's place and feed her tropical fish for her? The spare key is in her bottom right desk drawer."
"Perry's a romantic at heart," Lois said. "I guess we're going to have to put up with some ribbing when we get back, though."
"Probably," Clark said. "If we take it with good humor it'll die down pretty fast, though. Nothing is so boring for people to talk about as a normal married couple. They don't have to know about anything else."
"I suppose so -- and I can feel pretty smug about the rest," Lois said.
"We both can," Clark said. He slipped an arm around her, beginning to kiss her neck. Then he paused. "Shouldn't we call your parents, too?"
"I'll tell them when we get back," Lois said. "Unless you want my mother out here giving you the third degree -- or else arranging for a wedding reception that would make a royal coronation look like a two-year-old's tea party."
"Take my word for it."
"Okay," Clark said. "I will. I'd rather concentrate on the here and now, anyway. We'll need to get a camera tomorrow," he added, "if we're going to take those pictures Mom mentioned." He reached over to turn down the sheets. "What would you like to do tomorrow?"
"Well, we could visit the Rainbow Falls," Lois said. "Or the Orchid House. Maybe we could go snorkeling. I've been looking at the brochures they have down in the lobby. There's a lot to do here and since you have that pilot friend, we don't have to limit it to this island. Maybe we could find another deserted beach."
"That sounds like a great idea," Clark said. He turned sideways and pulled her down across the bed. "On the other hand, we don't really have to wait for a deserted beach, do we?"
She giggled, sliding her arms around his neck. "Why Mr. Kent, whatever did you have in mind?"