Disclaimer: The familiar characters and settings in this story are not mine. They belong to DC Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else may have any legal right to claim them, nor am I profiting by their use. The story is based on the Lois and Clark script "That Old Gang of Mine" and all parts taken from that script are hereby credited to the writers of the show. Any new characters, settings, and any changes in the story, belong to me.

Introduction:

The situation that occurred in the gambling parlor depended on a number of factors. If any one of them had not happened, things would have been quite different. Well, here's my interpretation of the way things would have turned out if one minor detail had changed just slightly...

On the Turn of a Card By Nan Smith

"Clark!" Lois Lane grabbed her partner by the arm. "I just found out Georgie Hairdo is dead."

"Well, Bonnie and Clyde are both here," Clark said. "We've got to call the police. Come on!"

"You go," Lois said. "I've gotta find a grey-haired lady with a bucket of my nickels."

A burst of automatic gunfire interrupted her. Lois whirled, to see several men in classic gangster garb, all holding machine guns, standing confidently before the mass of shocked gamblers. From behind Clark, a man and a blond-haired woman pushed forward, and faced the crowd, both brandishing handguns. Bonnie and Clyde, she guessed.

"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for this little interruption." The speaker was a middle-aged man with a prominent scar on one cheekbone. "I just dropped by to inform you that Georgie Hairdo has wisely decided to retire from the hospitality business. So from this day forward, this joint is owned by Al Capone."

Capone? Lois moved a little closer to Clark, although he was as helpless as anyone else here with all those guns in the hands of the gangster clones. Irrelevantly, it crossed her mind to wonder about the scar. You couldn't clone something like that. Would the gangster have actually scarred his own cheekbone to make himself look like the original Capone?

"Hey, Al." That was a taller, more slender member of the group. Dillinger? He sauntered toward Lois. "Maybe we could make this little cutie our head hostess. I was always partial to a lady in red." He reached up to brush her cheek with a careless forefinger. Lois drew back.

Clark pushed the hand away. "Leave her alone."

"Who are you?" the gangster snarled, thrusting Clark forcefully back. "Her big brother?"

Clark started to step forward and then, all hell broke loose. Clyde Barrow lifted his handgun and fired. Struck in the chest, Clark seemed surprised and then fell.

Lois grabbed him, breaking his fall. "Clark --" She didn't recognize her own voice. "No!"

"You moron!" Capone's voice said in the background. "What did you do that for? Now we gotta get outta here! Joey, pick up the stiff. I can't be linked to a murder."

One of Capone's crowd tried to push Lois aside to seize Clark by the arm, but she flung herself across him. "No! You can't take him!"

And, at that moment, the sound of sirens, distant but growing rapidly closer, became audible.

"Cops!" She heard Capone's voice again. "Forget him. We gotta get outta here, now! Come on, out the back!"

The gangsters were suddenly gone, and around her, Lois was barely aware of confused motion as the patrons of the illegal gambling parlor attempted to make their escape out the side and rear exits.

She didn't move. It was as if the life had been sucked from her when her partner had been shot. Nothing mattered, anymore. Besides, there might be the slightest chance that Clark could still be alive. She couldn't see him breathing, but in spite of the holes in the front of his shirt, she didn't see any blood. She had to get help! The thought occurred to her suddenly. If there was the slightest chance that she could still save him --

The sirens drew up outside and abruptly cut off. And that was when it happened.

Clark's eyes popped open. For an instant, they stared at each other.

"Clark?" Lois whispered. "Oh, Clark! Don't move. Help will be here in a minute."

He sat up. "I don't have time to explain," he said, quickly. "Come on."

Incredibly, he was on his feet, tugging her with him. Lois felt as if she were moving in a fog. Her mind felt numb from too many shocks. From the front of the club, she heard the thump as someone slammed a shoulder against the doors. Clark lowered his glasses and glanced quickly around.

"We're surrounded." She barely heard his voice. Then, she felt herself swept up in a pair of powerful arms and they were rising toward the ceiling. Below them, the front door splintered and burst open, but Clark had thrust open the skylight and they were soaring up into the night sky.

Lois closed her eyes and opened them again. She wasn't dreaming. She was clasped in Clark's arms and they were flying! Slowly, she reached out and touched his glasses. "Clark?"

He wasn't smiling. His expression was hard to read, but she thought she could see the faintest of frown lines between his brows.

They were hovering outside a window and with a start, Lois realized that she was facing the window of her own fifth floor apartment -- from the outside. Almost automatically, she reached out and pushed the sliding glass open. Clark steadied her carefully as she slid over the sill and braced her feet on the rug.

She turned back and saw that he hadn't moved. He still hovered outside the window.

The fog was at last beginning to lift from her brain and the thought processes had begun to grind slowly into motion, once more. "What are you waiting out there for?" she demanded. "Somebody will see you!"

"I wasn't sure you wanted me to come in," he said, his voice sounding very subdued.

"Oh, for heaven's sake! Get in here!"

He obeyed. A moment later, they were facing each other inside the apartment. Lois closed the window and pulled the drapes. She turned back to face him. He didn't speak, and for a long moment, they simply stood there. Then, Lois reached forward to grasp his glasses.

He stood statue-still. Slowly, she slid the glasses off, and watched Superman's face emerge from behind the disguising spectacles. Still, he didn't speak.

"I guess this explains a lot," she said, after several seconds.

"Yeah," he said.

"You're Superman."

"Yeah."

Carefully, she folded the glasses and laid them on a side table, never removing her eyes from his face. He didn't seem amused, she thought. He had fooled everyone for the better part of two years, ever since Clark Kent had come to work at the Daily Planet. He had listened to her make disparaging comments about him, comparing him unfavorably with Superman. Why didn't he seem pleased to see her comeuppance?

He looked seriously back at her, meeting her eyes squarely.

"How mad are you?" he asked, finally.

"I --" Her voice wanted to crack. "I don't know."

He nodded. "I guess I understand that."

"Why didn't you tell me?" she burst out. She hadn't known she was going to ask it until she said it out loud. "Didn't you trust me?"

He shrugged, uncomfortably. "I wanted to tell you," he said, unexpectedly. "I've been trying to figure out how to do it. I guess I waited too long."

"I guess so." Her knees were beginning to shake and she sank suddenly onto the nearest chair. Clark stepped quickly forward and then stopped, as if unsure whether she wanted his help.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

She nodded. "Yeah. Just a little -- stunned, I guess." The enormity of the situation was beginning to dawn on her and she felt a wave of embarrassment. "I guess you think I'm pretty stupid, don't you?"

"What?" The question obviously took him by surprise.

"Stupid. For not seeing it after all this time working next to you."

"No," Clark said. "Not stupid. There's an old saying -- you see what you expect to see. I didn't want you to know, in the beginning. At first, Superman was just a big news story. Then, just about the time I began to think that I could trust you, you began to seriously date Lex Luthor. I didn't believe that you would tell him if I asked you not to, but if he'd somehow found out about me -- " He broke off. "As it was, he nearly killed me."

"*What*?"

"At your wedding. He locked me in a cage flooded with Kryptonite radiation. I barely escaped. That was why I couldn't save him when he -- " He stopped.

"Clark -- " She broke off. What should she say? It was obvious that she had completely misjudged the situation. Wait a minute... "You mean he had *Kryptonite*? Back then?"

He nodded.

"He nearly *killed* you?"

Again, he nodded. "I'm sorry, Lois. I know how you felt about Superman. I'm sorry to have to disillusion you."

"What do you mean, 'disillusion' me?"

"To find out that Superman was just me, Clark Kent. I'm sorry."

That brought her out of her half-shock. "Clark, do you have any idea how I would be feeling if he *had* killed you? Or if those bullets tonight had -- " She couldn't go on. To her embarrassment, tears had begun to slide down her cheeks. "Why do you think I wouldn't let you go?"

He had stepped forward and was kneeling beside her chair, thrusting a handkerchief into her hands. "Don't cry, Lois. I'm sorry."

She snatched the square of cloth and wiped her face, smearing the mascara she had so carefully applied some hours earlier. "You *should* be! I thought I'd lost you! I thought I'd lost my partner and my best friend! If you'd died, and I never told you how much I --"

He froze, and his eyes widened, slightly. She stopped. She couldn't say it. He'd said he didn't love her, after the wedding. She couldn't humiliate herself that way.

"Lois --" He rested a hand on her arm. "Told me what?"

She shook her head. "Never mind. I'd just embarrass myself, again."

"Oh." His eyes remained fixed on her face for several seconds, questioning, then, at last, he smiled. "It was you that saved me that day in Luthor's basement, you know," he said, changing the subject, abruptly.

"Huh?"

"Luthor told me that he thought you were too independent, but that he'd take care of that, after you were married. That was what gave me the extra determination to escape from his trap. I couldn't let him do that to you." He sat down on the arm of the chair. "Am I still your partner and best friend?"

"You're Superman! Do you have a best friend?"

"I hope I do." He dropped a hand gently on top of hers. "If she still wants to be."

"Of course I still want to be!"

"Even after tonight?"

"*Especially* after tonight!" She turned her hand under his palm and her fingers curled around his. "I don't want to lose you -- ever!"

Gently, he lifted her hand and dropped a light kiss on her knuckles. "Am I forgiven?"

She mopped at her face once more. "I'm working on that."

"How about a bribe?" he asked, smiling hopefully.

She looked at him suspiciously. "What sort of a bribe?"

"Swiss chocolate straight from the source?" He raised his eyebrows. "And after that, you and I need to get back to work finding Capone and his friends. They're still a menace to the city."

"That's for sure," Lois said. Was it her imagination or was there something different about his attitude ever since she had almost confessed -- a look in his eyes that she had never seen before. "I guess I can forgive you this time. But don't let it happen again."

"Lois, I haven't got any other secrets to hide from you." He paused, and an odd, almost embarrassed look crossed his face. "At least no important ones."

Just as she opened her mouth to ask him what other secrets he might be harboring, the phone began to ring.

Lois answered it, mildly irritated that someone had chosen to call her in the middle of the most important conversation she had ever had. If it turned out to be a telemarketer, the guy was going to be toast. "Lois Lane."

"Lois, honey!" It was Perry, sounding agitated. "Do you know where Clark is?"

"Huh? Sure, Perry. He's right here. Why?"

Her editor blew out a noisy breath. "Thank Elvis!"

"What's the matter?"

"Henderson called me," Perry said. "There was a shooting inside an illegal gambling parlor this evening: Georgie Hairdo's, he called it. Capone and his gangsters again. Some of the witnesses said that you and Clark were there and that he was the one that got shot."

"No, it wasn't him," Lois said. "We were at the club, all right, but we left before Capone arrived, I guess. Did the police catch any of the gang?"

"No," Perry said. "They caught a few of the patrons, though. They picked up the mayor and his wife trying to slip out a side door, so there's a potential scandal there, but the gang got clean away. Are you sure you and Clark are okay?"

"Positive. We were looking for Georgie Hairdo, but Capone apparently killed him, too."

"Yeah, I know. They hauled him out of the river a couple of hours ago. You two watch your step, got it?"

"We will," Lois said. "Good night, Perry."

She hung up and turned to her partner. He was frowning slightly. "Someone recognized us?"

"Someone *thought* they recognized us. I've already told Perry that we left before the shooting. I doubt anyone will be that sure of what really happened."

"Probably not," he agreed. "It's amazing what people don't notice in emergencies."

"I guess you'd know, wouldn't you," she said, recollecting his alter ego.

He nodded. "In an emergency situation, five witnesses will remember five different ways it happened. I think we're safe." He stood up. "I'm headed for Switzerland to get you your bribe." A smile creased his face. "And when I get back, I guess we need to brainstorm a bit about Capone and his crew."

"While you're gone, I'm going to see what I can find out about this Professor Emil Hamilton, the guy Jimmy said took the samples of the original gangsters' DNA," Lois said. "I'd say he's suspect number one for where they came from."

"I'd say you're probably right," Clark said. "Does he work for a lab here in Metropolis? He must have an address, somewhere."

"I'd think so," Lois said. She reached for the phone. "I hope Jimmy isn't out on a date."

"So do I. Be right back." He stepped back from her and all at once became a spinning blur. Lois's jaw fell open and she stared, the receiver held in mid air, as the blur resolved itself into Superman. Then he was gone in a gust of air.

For a long moment, she stared after him, stunned, and finally managed to shake herself out of her abstraction. "Wow," she said, softly.

**********

She was just hanging up the phone when Clark returned. He landed on her rug and held out a wrapped package, looking so smug that she laughed. "You look just like a little kid who managed to make off with the cookie jar!" she said.

He grinned and sank down on the sofa, sweeping his cape backwards as he did so. "I don't want to sit on it," he said, in response to her questioning look. "I'd choke myself."

"Oh," she said.

"And my other shirt will never be the same," he added. "What did Jimmy say?"

"He's going to find out where Hamilton lives and where he works," she said. "He said he'll call me back."

He nodded. "I guess we wait. Do you mind?"

"No." She couldn't help staring at the costume. "You know, I'd have sworn that you, Superman, was bigger than you, Clark," she said. "I guess it shows you what a flashy image will do."

"I guess. I'm careful to hold myself up straight as Superman. I guess it makes me look taller."

"I suppose so." She found herself looking at him critically, trying to see one man in the other. Where did Clark Kent end and Superman begin?

The phone rang.

The sound made her jump almost out of her skin. It rang again, and she belatedly reached out to answer it. "Lois Lane."

"Lois, I found Hamilton's address." It was Jimmy's voice. "He has a private lab over on Yarley Street."

"Give me the number," she said.

Jimmy did so. She thanked him and hung up.

Clark had risen to his feet. "I'm going to check out the lab," he began.

Lois grabbed his arm. "Not without me!" she informed him. "This is my scoop, too, and besides, I have a personal stake in it!"

"Lois -- "

"Forget it, Clark! Those retread gangsters tried to kill my partner, and no thanks to them that they didn't!"

He closed his mouth. Good, she thought. Even Superman knew when to shut up.

**********

Two hours later, Lois and Clark walked out of William Henderson's office, stopping to watch as the last of the clones was hustled through the door that led to the holding cells. John Dillinger was practically incoherent, but his raving and cursing availed him nothing as he was hauled away by two burly cops.

"One more job done, partner," she said. She glanced at the subdued form of the scientist, Emil Hamilton, sitting dejectedly next to the desk of a young police officer, answering questions put to him by the man. Superman had found him locked in his lab, being forced by Capone to grow more clones of the members of his former gang. "Come on. We need to phone this in to the Planet before anyone else gets the story."

Clark followed her out, and a few moments later, Superman was setting her on the carpet of her apartment just inside the window. Lois headed straight for the phone and called the office. Moments later, she hung up with a triumphant gesture. "There! Another headline for Lane and Kent!"

Clark was sitting in one of her armchairs, watching her. He smiled, slightly. "Nice work."

She frowned. "Is something wrong, Clark? You caught the whole batch before they could do any more harm."

"Not really." His smile disappeared. "It was really the work of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, not Superman. If you and I hadn't figured out where to look, Superman couldn't have done anything."

She stared at him in astonishment. "Do you always talk about yourself in the third person?"

He looked down at his hands. "It's just a costume, you know. I'm the same guy I was this morning. Just Clark Kent."

"Clark, you're Superman!"

He shook his head. "Superman is what I can do; nothing more. Clark is who I am, Lois -- who I've always been. I've been trying to figure out for months how to explain it to you, but it just kept getting so complicated -- " He stopped. "Remember what I told you, after I found out that Luthor had asked you to -- "

"I remember." She hoped he wouldn't notice that she was blushing in remembered embarrassment. She'd insulted him unforgivably that day, she knew now. He'd told her that he loved her, and she'd rejected him -- and then she'd asked him to contact Superman for her. No wonder Superman had been so cool to her that night, especially after she'd told him she would love him if he had been an ordinary man. She had just told that ordinary man that he wasn't good enough. She wasn't sure she would ever live that down, at least in the privacy of her own thoughts. "You were trying to stop me from marrying Lex."

"Yes, I was. But, Lois -- " He hadn't lifted his eyes from his hands. "I didn't lie to you about Superman. I just told you certain facts to keep you from finding out other facts. I've only actually lied to you once -- and then, I had my fingers crossed. And, it wasn't that day."

"But, I thought ... " Her mind was whirling. Was Clark saying what she thought he was saying?

"You didn't need the pressure, then. You needed a friend." Finally, he looked up at her. "I didn't want to destroy our friendship, so I took it back."

"And you crossed your fingers?"

He gave a sheepish shrug. "Yeah."

"Do you know what I was going to say, that day?"

"No."

"I was going to say that I'd been thinking about what you said. I stopped my wedding because of it, because I realized I wasn't in love with Lex. All the way down the aisle, I was thinking about you."

"About Superman?"

"No, about *you*."

"Oh." He dropped his gaze to his hands again and then looked back at her. "Do you still feel that way?"

She sat down on the arm of the chair. "At the time, I wasn't sure, Clark. I was only sure that I didn't love Lex and that if I married him, I'd lose my best friend who loved me and whom I might love. I was going to suggest that we date and find out how we did, together."

"And now?"

"Now, I know I don't want to do without you. Dillinger showed me that, tonight. I know I never want to lose you, but I don't want to jump into anything that fast. I thought I was in love with Superman --" She found that she was staring at her hands, as well. "You were right, though. I didn't know you at all. Obviously. But there was a reason I thought I loved Superman. He was my best friend."

"Are you saying -- "

"I'm saying, I want the chance to find out. If you hadn't been Superman, I would have lost you, tonight. Nothing would ever have been the same, Clark, and I'd have missed you for the rest of my life. Does that make sense?"

Her eyes were fixed on her hands, just as his had been, earlier. Suddenly his hand was within her range of vision, and he laid it atop hers.

"I've never heard anything make more sense in my life, Lois."

"You haven't?"

"No." With his free hand, he raised her chin until she was looking directly at him. "I think it's one of the best ideas you've ever had. Would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow evening, Ms. Lane?"

She felt the corners of her mouth curling in a smile. "Yes, Mr. Kent. I would."

She could have sworn his grin lit up the room.

"Great. Now tell me, which would you prefer -- New Orleans or Venice?"

The End