A/N: This is unbetad but I wanted to get it up. I'm making a concerted effort to update all stories before classes start on Monday! Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys it...I brought in just a little bit more of comics!Lana into my previous depiction of Lana in YoaR, but I think it still is IC for her. And I'm bracing myself for the rage against her that I know is coming!
PEACE TALKS STALL AS TENSIONS ESCALATE IN OCCUPIED ZONE Article by Lois Lane
"Oh, Lois, please tell me you're not really going to read all that!" Clark said with a groan as he dropped the bag he'd been carrying on the floor next to his desk and fell back into his chair. He'd come in to work slightly late, only to find his wife with a stack of newspapers in front of her and a dangerous glint in her eye.
"Hm?" she asked as she glanced up from the paper she held open in front of her. Seeing the look on her husband's face, she explained, "Of course I am! It's interesting!" and turned her attention back to the paper.
"Right," he agreed flatly, and then he sighed and glared at the large blue and white "Metropolis Star" logo on the top of the page as she turned it over. Underneath it in big black text were the words "Who Is Superman's Bride?" Seeing the slight narrowing of his wife's eyes as she read, he ran a hand through his hair and mumbled, "You say it's interesting, and yet somehow I get the feeling that there's no way this is going to end well for me."
Several weeks had passed since the Daily Planet had run the photograph of Superman with a wedding ring on a chain around his neck. It came as no surprise at all that in that time, every paper in the world – from the most respectable to the least reputable – had speculated on the origin of the ring in question. A day didn't go by that there wasn't at least one story speculating on the superhero's love life, and as Superman, he'd taken to avoiding the press or offering a simple "no comment" to the endless litany of questions. Frankly, Clark was getting a little sick of it all, but since he and Lois had yet to find a solution to their dilemma, he supposed he would have to tolerate the stories for a while longer.
Sadly, Lois didn't seem to have managed quite his equanimity on the issue – something which couldn't come as a surprise to anyone who was aware of her general temperament. She tried to laugh all the speculation off, but invariably, it would only serve to annoy her. Actually to say that the stories "annoyed" her was probably being charitable. Even before the pregnancy, she'd had moments when she found it hard to have her husband be the subject of so much speculation, and it seemed that pregnancy – and the hormonal imbalances that came with it – was not helping matters. He could see the signs of her increasing irritation now, and it was with resignation that he prepared himself to her thinly veiled ire for the rest of the day.
"Oh, would you look at this?" she cried from across the table. "They've set up a website where people can speculate about the identity of Superman's wife! I think I'll check it out!" she said in an overly-bright tone as she turned toward her computer.
Clark winced and grabbed his notebook, idly flipping through the pages as he began to wonder if it wouldn't be too obvious if he set his desk on fire in an attempt to distract Lois from her current task. He rather wished he could beat his head against the desk in frustration, but sadly, all that would accomplish would be an all-too revealing splintering of wood. As he heard her mutter something under her breath about people having too much time on their hands if writing on message boards was the best thing they could think of to do, he comforted himself with the thought that at least things weren't likely to get worse.
"Uh…CK? The staff meeting to discuss the Superman stories is about to get underway, and you've got a visitor," Jimmy said as he passed by the desk, and Clark looked up to see Lana Lang heading his way. Apparently he'd been wrong. But at least the reminder about the staff meeting explained in part why Lois was torturing herself (and consequently him) this morning.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched his wife glance up at the approaching woman, and then Lois's eyes dropped back to her computer screen and he saw her grit her teeth. Yup. There was no way this was going to end well for him.
"Hey, Clark. Lois," Lana greeted with a slightly anxious quaver in her voice and a tremulous smile.
"Lana," Lois said tersely as she looked up at her companion with a perfunctory nod. Then she turned her attention back to the computer screen. "Oh, look! They've got a poll!"
Things were rapidly going from bad to worse, and so Clark tried to intervene. Lois and Lana had never been the closest of friends, but though they'd had their disagreements in the past, they'd come to a sort of understanding after the wedding. Still, Clark knew that Lana Lang was hardly his wife's favorite person in the world, and so her presence in the bullpen at present was not exactly helpful at the moment.
But Clark couldn't just show her to the door without finding out what she wanted. It might be important. So he rose to his feet and perched himself on the edge of his wife's desk – just in case – and then said with a smile, "Hey, Lana. What's up?"
"I came to see you about…uh…about your problem," Lana said meaningfully. "I think I can help!"
For a second, Lois looked almost eager as her gaze shot back to Lana's face, and Clark's voice was distinctly grateful as he blurted, "You can? How?"
Lowering her voice, Lana said earnestly, "You guys need to find a wife for Superman, right?" Clark winced and took a quick look around; somehow, it always came as a surprise to him that so many of his friends had no problem discussing his secret identity in the middle of a room typically filled with reporters. Seemingly oblivious to his concern, Lana continued, "Well…I think we should say it's me."
To his credit, Clark stifled his immediate reaction – an entirely inappropriate burst of laughter. Lois, however, seemed too stunned to react. Her jaw had dropped in amazement, and she spluttered, "Y-you what?"
Lifting a hand to shove a lock of hair behind her ear, Lana repeated, "I think you guys should say it's me. I've been thinking about it, and…Look, I know it's going to be dangerous. Whoever it is that's married to Superman would be a target; I know that. I also know that you aren't going to want to put Lois in danger, but you can't keep dodging the press forever. I'm willing to take the chance, and…"
Clark glanced at Lois to see her eyes squeezed shut as she sucked in a few deep breaths, and he recognized the calming technique she tried to employ when she thought her heat vision was about to fire. "Look, Lana," he said hastily, cutting his ex-girlfriend off. "I appreciate the offer, but this really isn't –"
"Lane! Kent! You guys planning to come to the meeting any day now? I didn't realize when I called a staff meeting that I'd said attendance was optional!" Perry's voice boomed out over the almost empty bullpen.
"Be right there, Chief!" Clark cried rather desperately, trying very hard to maintain control over a situation that was rapidly careening out of his grasp.
Lois seemed oblivious to Perry's cry as her eyes shot open finally and she snapped, "Are you out of your mind! Do you honestly think there's a chance that –?"
Lana looked both confused and a little hurt. "I'm only trying to help!" she protested with wounded dignity.
"And we appreciate that," Clark said hastily. "But I don't think…"
"After all," Lana continued as if Clark hadn't spoken, "You'll need to name someone, won't you? You can't confess that it's you, so who else did you have in mind?"
"We were hoping to be able to avoid lying about it at all," he cut her off. "We've been working on how to do that."
Lana looked momentarily nonplussed. Then she frowned and said in a low voice, "Yeah, but have you had any luck with that? Because it seems to me that you can either confess to your relationship with Lois or you can lie about it. This isn't exactly the situation where you can sit back and hope that nobody asks all the wrong questions. And at least this way, it won't be a complete lie because we…"
Lois had apparently decided to pretend like Lana was no longer there, because she waved her hand as if shrugging off a fly and turned her attention back to the computer screen in front of her. "Would you look at that? It looks like Wonder Woman's the front runner! Well, I guess she would be, wouldn't she, what with being a goddess and all."
Lois gave the mouse button a savage click, cracking its plastic casing, and Clark tried once more to intervene. "Look, this really isn't the time to…"
"Stupid bustiere," his wife continued in a dark voice. "If it weren't for that dumb golden lasso of hers, I bet I could take her." At any other time, that comment would have been comical. Now, however, didn't seem like a particularly good time to point that out.
"Lane! Kent!" Perry bellowed again.
"We're coming, Chief!" Clark cried desperately.
"I don't see why you think it's so impossible that I could –!" Lana began, but Lois continued to pretend to ignore her.
"Huntress!" she cried in disgust instead of responding to Lana's comment. "Like Superman would touch that…!"
"Lana, Lois, I really don't think this is the best time…" Clark tried once more.
"Not the best time?" Lois cried, and this time, the mouse shattered into pieces in her palm. Her voice was high and strained, and the edges of her pupils were starting to glow red. Moving quickly, Clark shifted to block her from Perry's sight as he made ineffectual motions with his hands in an attempt to remind her she needed to remain calm.
Perry's voice carried over them once more, and it was clear that his patience was at an end. "Lois and Clark, I realize that you both think you have something better to do, but if it's not too much of an inconvenience, I have called a staff meeting to order. Now I know the story about Superman's wife has become a little overdone, but it's a big story and we're going to cover it anyway! If the two of you don't…"
Perry didn't get to finish his threat because Lois jumped to her feet, her chair crashing into the desk behind her. Whirling to face Perry, she scooted past her husband and yelled, "I know it's a big story, Chief? Don't you think I know that? It's all anyone even talks about anymore! I go to get my coffee in the morning and people ask me who I think it is! I go to grab a paper, and there's two teenage boys in line in front of me, talking about how out-of-this-world hot Mrs. Superman's gotta be because there's no way he would end up with anyone who's less than a 15 out of 10 on a hotness scale! It's all over the place!
"And it's his life! His and…and…and…and whoever he's married to! Has anyone even stopped to wonder how she's feeling right now? Maybe she doesn't want to be the center of all this attention! Maybe she just married the man she loved and didn't sign up for all this speculation and all these people who are crawling out of the woodwork now, willing to pretend they're married to her husband for the notoriety it would get them and never mind the fact that she…Maybe she thinks that the world should stop concentrating on who Superman comes home to at night and just concentrate on how happy they are that he's there! That he's not alone; he's found someone. Maybe it's none of our business! Did you ever stop to consider that?"
Clark tried to stop her, but Lois was on a roll and she wasn't paying him any attention. In fact, her mini-rant was so impressive that several reporters had stuck their head out of the conference room now and were staring at Lois in wide-eyed curiosity. She didn't seem to notice.
"And I know we've got a meeting, Chief, but can't you s-see w-we're b-b-busy?" As her rant came to an end, Lois did the unthinkable. Clark had been expecting her to lose control of her heat vision, perhaps set something in the newsroom on fire accidentally. What she actually did was worse – or at least would be considered so in her view. She burst into tears.
Though Lana had started to try to say something from her position beside the desk and several reporters had been whispering back and forth, the entire newsroom fell silent as the first tears started to trail down Lois's cheeks. Everyone stared at the woman who was usually so hard-as-nails in open-mouthed astonishment, as if the sight before them was so astounding that they simply couldn't process it for a moment. And perhaps they couldn't, because the number of people who had ever seen Lois cry could probably be counted on one hand, and Clark was the only one on that list in the room at the moment. Even he was a bit thrown by the public display of vulnerability, so uncharacteristic of her.
Whirling to face him, Lois looked up at him in horror as a pathetic sob escaped her lips, and she waved her hands desperately in front of her face as if the ineffectual motion would somehow stem the tide. It didn't seem to work, and so instead, she stared up at Clark with eyes filled with a mixture of dismay and mortification, silently imploring him to find a way to turn the tears off. He didn't think he'd be any more at a loss if she'd suddenly sprouted wings.
Though he didn't know what to do to stop her from crying, he acted instinctively as soon as he saw the trail of tears down her cheeks. Reaching towards her, he grabbed her gently by the shoulders and pulled her close, wrapping her into his embrace. His head bowed, unconsciously trying to hide her face from view, as he held her tight. In that moment, he found cause to be grateful for the developing powers that had caused such upheaval in their lives, because for once, he could hold her as tight as he wished and not worry about hurting her.
"C-Clark?" Her voice was muffled against his shirt. "What's happening to me?" she demanded, pulling back to look up at him. She was staring at him as if he held all the answers, when in truth, he didn't have the first clue what to do. He could think of tricks to help Lois control her strength, her heat vision, but he didn't have the first idea of how to stop a woman from crying. Even when it was the woman he loved. Perhaps particularly when it was the woman he loved, when she was crying over a hurt he couldn't take away.
When Clark looked up, he saw that Perry looked completely pole-axed. The older man was staring at the scene in front of him as if it were completely alien, entirely beyond the realm of his comprehension. His eyes were wide, his jaw drooped in stupefaction. "Uh…Lois…" he finally began, and Clark didn't know if the halting nature of the normally imperturbable Editor in Chief's words was due to an effort to say just the right thing or an honest inability to process what was going on before his eyes. "Lois, honey, if you're not…uh…feeling up to the meeting, we can…put it off until later or…or something," he finally offered, still looking confused.
"No, I…" Lois tried, her face still buried against Clark's chest. "I…Clark, what's wrong with me?" she wailed in the face of her futile effort to speak normally. "Make it stop!"
"I wish I could, Lois," he muttered into her hair. He tilted her head back and looked into her eyes, still wet with tears, her face red from both the force of her sobbing and the utter humiliation he knew she felt at having engaged in such a public display of vulnerability. Well aware of the eyes upon the two of them, Clark murmured so that only she could hear, "Sweetheart, I think all things considered, now would be a good time to let the cat out of the bag." The last thing he wanted was for every reporter at the Planet to think too long and hard about why Lois had gown overly emotional over the reminder of Superman's marital status.
Her face scrunched into a grimace, but she nodded. Pulling a handkerchief out of his suit pocket, he wiped the tears off her face and tucked her against his side protectively. "Everyone, sorry to derail the conversation here, but we have an announcement to make. Lois is feeling just a little emotional right now because she and I are going to have a baby!"
Perry's face melted into a warm paternal smile. The congratulations of their coworkers washed over them, and Clark grinned proudly. "Thank you," he told the group as Lois sniffed pitifully and threw a watery smile at the crowd. Addressing their Editor-in-Chief again, Clark asked, "Would you mind giving us about ten minutes? I think Lois could use some fresh air."
"Not a problem," Perry said, giving Lois a quick hug when she stepped forward. "Congratulations, you two." Glancing around, he surveyed his employees and heaved a resigned sigh, though his eyes were still smiling when he said, "Well, I'm too much of an old newshound to think there's any chance of getting or keeping the attention of a bunch of reporters when they've been hit with breaking news like this. We'll take a fifteen minute break, but then I want everyone in the conference room – on time and ready to go." Clark saw Perry give Lois's arms a gentle squeeze as he said, his gruff tone almost apologetic, "The Superman story is big news."
"I understand, Chief. And thank you," she murmured softly.
Throwing his arm around his wife, Clark bowed his head to brush a light kiss across her temple. "C'mon sweetheart. Let's go take a walk." Turning, he walked with her towards the stairs, avoiding the elevator bay with the big sign stating "Elevators out of service. We apologize the inconvenience" tacked against the wall. He didn't notice as Lana trotted along behind them, as he had temporarily forgotten her presence.
"Thanks, Clark," Lois said, squeezing his hand when they finally reached the lobby. "I don't know what got into me back there."
"You've been under a lot of stress lately, and I read that pregnancy plays havoc with your emotions. I'm sure it'll pass," he told her reassuringly.
"I hope so!" she retorted with an abashed smile. "One more outburst like that and I –"
"You're pregnant?" Lana blurted behind them, causing them to turn in surprise. "I mean, for real? That wasn't just an excuse?"
Clark exchanged a glance with his wife, and then turned his attention back to Lana. In consideration of their past, he softened his tone as he said, "It wasn't an excuse. Lois and I are going to have a baby."
"And you're the father?" Lana blurted again, looking taken aback by the news. To her credit, she grimaced as if she'd realized her gaff a moment later, but it was a few seconds too late.
In a voice that was dangerously soft, Lois asked, "Why, Lana, what are you implying?"
"N-Nothing!' the cornered girl stammered. "I mean, I didn't mean for it to come out that way. I just – I didn't think Clark could have children with – ah – with…"
"Clearly you were wrong," Lois cut in.
Before the situation could escalate, Clark intervened. "Lana, we appreciate your offer, but Lois and I have it covered.
"No wait!" Lana cried. "Hear me out!" Pausing, she looked around at the people passing by and asked, "Look, can we go somewhere more private?"
"I'm not sure you want me to get you alone right now," Lois growled menacingly under her breath.
Shifting to stand between his wife and his ex-girlfriend, Clark said hurriedly, "Let's go up to the roof." When Lois gave him a grudging nod, he turned, making sure he walked between the two of them the entire time.
When they arrived on the roof a few minutes later, Lois tilted her head towards the cloudless sky and took a deep breath. Clark watched as she walked towards the ledge, and then he asked, "Okay, Lana, we don't have a lot of time. What is this about?"
"I just want to help you guys out," Lana said, ignoring Lois's snort of disbelief. "You mean a lot to me. Both of you do." Lois snorted again.
In the face of Lois's skepticism, Lana pressed, "This story isn't going away, I'm sure you know that."
Lowering his chin, Clark looked gravely at the woman before him and said in a hard voice, "Superman doesn't lie, Lana. Even if I thought this was a good idea – which I don't – I can't stand up in front of everyone and pretend to be married to you."
Scowling, Lana pointed out, "Clark, you're going to have to, and you know it. I don't see any other way out of this, and neither do either of you or you guys would have handled it already. Eventually, either Superman will have to reveal his wife's identity or some reporter somewhere will stumble across your secret identity. Have you seen the papers? At last count, twenty-six women had stepped forward and claimed to be married to Superman. The Metropolis Star has offered a reward – thirty-five thousand dollars – for proof of the identity of the real Mrs. Superman. It gets worse every day, and until this story blows over, you both are in danger."
Clark had seen the reports, though he found himself somewhat surprised that Lana had noted them. Before he could comment, however, Lois said scathingly, "So out of the goodness of your heart, you're willing to publicly pretend to be married to my husband. And even though this will cause reporters to dig into your background, possibly leading them straight to Clark's secret, you think this will keep us safer?"
"I don't think it'll lead to Clark. They'll find out that he and I were high school sweethearts, but…" she sighed and looked away mournfully, "We haven't been close in a long time."
"That's still a hell of a risk you're willing to take!" Lois snapped.
Clark intervened, "Lana, we appreciate what you're offering to do, but you're right. This story does put Lois and I in danger – not just from the threat of exposure but from any enemies of mine who would do anything to get their hands on someone who means so much to Superman. If you announced that you were Superman's wife, that would put you in danger, too."
"I know," Lana said softly. "I thought about that. I figured after a month or so, I could release a statement to the press that the pressure of public exposure has been a strain on our marriage and we've split up. Eventually, the story would go away."
This comment only seemed to make Lois more incensed. "When? When you're dead? The story will never go away, you little idiot!"
"Lois, it's okay," Clark said soothingly, trying to calm her. He had expected her to be upset, but she was quickly getting more worked up than he had anticipated, and it worried him.
"No, it's not okay, Clark!" she cried. "There is absolutely nothing about this that's okay!" Whirling on Lana, she demanded, "What do you think this, some kind of game? A chance to relive the glory days, back when you and Clark were together? This isn't a game, do you get that? Do you realize that Clark's life is in danger? That my life is in danger? That our baby's life is in danger? Everyone who's ever been close to us – Mrs. Kent, Perry, Jimmy – everyone we know is at risk because of this! Do you realize that this story has kept Clark up nights, worrying about what could happen?" Clark startled; Lois had been going to bed so early as of late, he hadn't thought she'd been aware of the long sleepless nights he'd spent staring at the ceiling, holding his wife close as he thought about all he stood to lose.
"He's terrified!" Lois continued. "I'm terrified! If you'd stop thinking about yourself for two minutes and start looking at the bigger picture, you'd be terrified, too!" But instead of thinking of any of that, you come here under a pretext of wanting to help!"
"And why shouldn't I want to help Clark?" Lana demanded. "I loved him once, and even though we're no longer together, I still care about him! He's my best friend, and he needs me! I want to help him in any way I can!"
Lois scoffed, "And you think putting your life in danger is the best way to do that?"
"If that's what it takes!" Lana replied hotly.
Clark decided it was time to end the conversation. "Enough," he said sternly, looking between the two women arguing in front of him. Lois was definitely getting too worked up, and he wanted the conversation to stop for her health, for the baby's health, and for Lana's well-being since there was a risk of Lois's heat vision going off. Crossing his arms over his chest, he straightened and threw them both a level look. Lana look chagrined, but Lois took one look at his face and burst out laughing.
"I'm sorry!" she said through her giggles. "I'm sorry, I really am!" she repeated. "It's just…you're kinda adorable when you go all Supermanly on me!"
Feeling slightly deflated, Clark gave an exasperated sigh. "Great. Villains flee in terror when they see me coming, but my own wife laughs at me!"
"Aw, it's okay honey," she said comfortingly, though the corners of her mouth twitched as she fought to suppress a smile. "I'm sure you look incredibly impressive to anyone who hasn't had to sew buttons back on those shirts you love to rip off."
Clark spluttered. "Oh, like you have!"
"I did once!" she protested.
With a smirk, he pointed out, "Gluing a button on a shirt doesn't count as sewing it back on."
Looking disgruntled, Lois huffed, "It worked, didn't it?"
Clark shook his head in bemusement. "Not really, honey," he replied lovingly and brushed a kiss across her forehead.
When he straightened and caught a glimpse of Lana's face over Lois's shoulder, he saw that she was looking at the two of them, a jealous expression on her face. As soon as she met his eyes, however, her expression cleared and she said softly, "I only wanted to help."
"I know," he said, placing a hand on the small of Lois's back in a comforting gesture. He had no doubt that Lana did, in her own way, want to help.
On a shaky breath, she confessed, "It's just…it's hard. I mean, you're everywhere, you know? Everywhere I go, there's a news article about you or something. And it's hard, to know you and not be able to say anything. I guess I never really thought of how hard it would be, to keep this kind of secret. It wasn't so bad before, but ever since the photo of the ring was published…everyone's wondered who could be special enough to be loved by Superman. I guess I just thought…well, you did love me, once."
Clark sighed again. "I did. Once," he agreed, feeling a tinge of guilt for never having considered how this situation was affecting Lana. He'd considered Lois, his mom, and even other superheroes whose private lives stood to be at risk, if Superman's real identity was exposed. But he hadn't thought once about Lana. It would be hard for her, to never be able to admit that she knew him, let alone that she'd loved him. After all, she was in a unique position, different even from Lois. Lois and Superman could enjoy a certain level of familiarity; the whole world knew that Lois Lane had been the one to break the first story about Metropolis's resident superhero. She'd discovered him, interviewed him on several occasions, and even befriended him, in a way, as Superman. Lana, on the other hand, had no such privilege, and thus could not publicly betray any particular familiarity with him.
Lana looked down at the ground, and when she looked back up at him, her eyes were filled with tears. "I should probably leave you alone. Just…if you need anything, please let me know. I really did just want to help out." Turning, she walked to the door and then paused. Glancing over her shoulder, she said with a tremulous smile, "Lois, about what I said earlier, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to sound like it did. I-I just want to say congratulations to you both on the baby. I know it's the family you've always wanted, Clark, and I'm happy for you."
"I've had the family I always wanted from the day I married Lois," he said gravely. "But thank you."
When Lana had gone, Lois turned to face him. Looking sheepish, she said, "I guess we should probably head back down or Perry'll have a stroke. But I'm sorry I lost my temper earlier. I don't suppose I could blame the pregnancy, could I?"
"Because you're normally so even-tempered?" he teased. Then, in a more serious tone, he said, "It's okay, Lois. I know this whole situation's been hard on you."
"Not as hard as it's been on you, and I don't want you to think that I've forgotten that. I know you're doing the best you can, even if I do get cranky sometimes." Resting her palms on his chest, she dragged them up to his shoulders and then linked her hands behind his neck, leaning into him. "I guess I'm just a grouchy pregnant lady, jealous of all those people who want to claim a part of you when I want you all to myself."
Clark bent his head to press his lips to hers, and when he felt her smile against his mouth, he stole a kiss from her lips. "You know," he murmured suggestively against her mouth, "We could probably fake a natural disaster and play hooky for the rest of the day. I want to know a little more about what you have in mind when you say you want to have me all to yourself."
"Oh, no you don't!" Lois cried with a laugh as she broke out of his arms. "We don't have time for that!"
"Aw, come on! I can be fast!" he pleaded in a halfway-joking fashion.
"What a way to sweep a girl off her feet!" she teased with a roll of her eyes. "That's not exactly an admirable trait in this context!"
With a naughty grin, he retorted, "I take my time when it counts. Want me to show you?"
She shrieked playfully when he moved towards her. "Smallville! Behave yourself! We have a meeting to get to, and unless you want to still be in Perry's doghouse when our little Clarkie is born, we should get going!"
"Clarkie?" he asked with a raised brow. At her smug smile, he reminded her, "You wanted to name the dog Clarkie."
"That was just for the fun of annoying you. The name's kinda grown on me by now. Anyway, I hope we have a baby boy as handsome as his daddy," she admitted with a soft smile.
"Oh really? I want a little girl as pretty as her mother," he replied, and at his words, Lois stepped back into his arms and tilted her head back for a kiss. When the kiss broke off, Clark's gaze was hot as he warned her," Keep that up, and we really will have to fake an emergency so we can sneak out of here."
"Huh-uh," she said, backing towards the door. "Not so fast. We have a meeting, remember? Besides, aren't you supposed to be a model of self restraint?"
Groaning in the face of her obvious amusement at his expense, he shoved his hands in his pockets and shook his head. "Not when it comes to you." With another muffled moan, he nodded towards the door. "You should head down. I'll be there in a minute. I…need a moment to cool off," he said ruefully.
"I'll do what I can to keep the dogs at bay," she teased and then, after blowing him a kiss, she turned and jogged through the door.
Gazing up at the sky, Clark sucked in a deep breath and tried to calm down. He knew if he attended the meeting in his current condition, he would undoubtedly scandalize his coworkers. He was just releasing his breath when the phone in his pocket rang. Lois's name was on the caller id, so he joked, "Don't tell me Perry's got you cowed already? Whatever happened to my Mad Dog Lane?"
His smile fell when he heard the tremulousness of her voice. "Um…Clark? I need your help. Can you come get me?" she asked.
"Come get you?" he repeated in confusion. "Where are you?" Automatically, he listened for her heartbeat, and his worry grew when he couldn't locate it in the building below.
"I – uh – I don't know." She sounded scared, and so Clark closed his eyes and listened to the surrounding area, gradually concentrating further and further away as he searched for the sound of the heartbeat he knew so well. "Are there any landmarks nearby, anything to help me find you?"
"No, not really," she said anxiously. Her anxiety grew as she continued, "I'm in a field, and I – oh, crap. I think I just set it on fire! Clark!"
He honed in on her heartbeat, which was racing in alarm. He could also hear the quickness of her breath, indicating her fear. "It's okay, Lois. I'm on my way."
Without a second thought, he rose into the air and shot across the sky, speeding towards his wife. When he arrived at her side, he found her on her knees, slapping at some smoldering stalks of corn in front of her. Clark landed on the ground, and at the sound, Lois looked up with a disgruntled scowl on her face. "Okay, honey. I think I've decided that it sucks to be you sometimes." She took his hand and rose to her feet.
He was too concerned to joke with her. "What happened?" he asked. Glancing down, he noticed the new wear patterns on her shoes. "Super speed?"
She nodded. "I was jogging down the stairs to get to the meeting, and all of a sudden, it was like I took off. By the time I managed to stop, I was…here. Where am I?"
Feeling that she would only be more rattled by the truth at the moment, he asked, "You really want to know?"
"Am I at least still in Kansas?" she asked in a small voice. He shook his head in reply. "Oh, boy," she breathed.
"It's okay. We'll practice after work. It takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you'll probably get the most use out of this particular ability." Scooping her into his arms, he took off, heading back to the Planet.
"Well, I – wait a minute!" she said abruptly, throwing him a suspicious glare. "What exactly are you implying?"
"Nothing!" he said lightly, fighting back his teasing grin. "I would certainly never imply that my lovely wife occasionally likes to oversleep."
She snorted. "Jerk."
They landed on the Planet's roof, and Clark walked her to the door. As he pulled it open, she gasped and grabbed his arm. "Wait!" she blurted. "Clark, just when I started to run really fast, Jimmy was on the stairs! I passed him when I was going down!"
"Did he see you?" he asked, a frown creasing his brow.
"I don't know," she answered, biting her lip worriedly.
Clark let the door swing closed as he listened closely once again. Even if Jimmy had seen Lois, there was no guarantee he would say anything about it, but just in case, Clark wanted to be as prepared as possible before going downstairs.
"-been thinking," he heard Jimmy say somewhere below.
"Yes?" Perry's voice was terse in response.
"Um, you know how Lois and Superman were…were close. I mean, sh-she was the one who discovered him and everything," he stammered. "Well, everyone seems to want to know who Superman is…um…is married to, and I thought…I mean, I wondered if maybe…that there was a chance…if you ever thought that maybe Lois…"
Clark found himself unconsciously reaching for his wife's hand, squeezing it tight when he heard Perry grunt in reply. "Is there something you're getting at, Jimmy?" he demanded.
Jimmy sighed. "No. No, I-I guess not." Clearing his throat, he said dejectedly, "Um…I guess I should get back to work, then."
"Well?" Lois asked expectantly, staring at him in concern as he turned back to look at him.
He couldn't say anything to comfort her. "We'll deal with it. Try not to worry about it." Of course, he knew she would anyway.
Feeling the weight of his fears on his shoulders, Clark followed his wife down the stairs to the bullpen. When they walked into the conference room, Perry looked at his watch and threw them an exasperated look. "Sorry we're late, Chief," Lois said automatically, before he could say anything. "We had…uh…"
Clark looked toward Jimmy and saw him staring at Lois. There was a mixture of confusion and excitement on his face. Thinking quickly, Clark cut in, "Superman. He wanted to talk to us about something important, so he came by and picked us up." Jimmy's expression fell, to be replaced by a rueful look, and Clark stifled a sigh of relief.
"Oh?" Perry asked, bringing Clark's attention back to his boss. "Is there a story there?"
"Not rea-" Lois began, but Clark cut her off.
"Absolutely," he said firmly. "He wanted us to call a press conference for next week so he can publicly address the questions about his personal life." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lois's jaw drop as she stared at him in disbelief and outrage, and he forced himself not to turn to her. Instead, he kept his gaze locked on Perry, who leaned back in his chair and stared thoughtfully at the couple before him.
"Really?" he asked over the whispers that had erupted at Clark's announcement.
Clark saw Lois press her lips together angrily as he replied, "Really."
"All right," Perry said with a decisive nod. "Banks, Hoffman, I want you two to cover the press conference."
"Chief!" Lois cried, turning to him in outrage. She had apparently reached her limit.
"That's final, Lois," Perry said curtly. Barking out a few more orders, he rose to his feet, signaling an end to the meeting.
Lois didn't seem to notice that he had no interest in discussing the subject. Instead, as Perry headed back towards his office, she stormed after him, arguing with him as she went. Clark followed in silence. He knew – and he was sure that Lois knew, as well – that Perry would get his way, in the end, but it never stopped her from arguing a point. And right now, he knew that she was trying to do some damage control in the wake of the announcement he'd made.
As she stormed into Perry's office, she tried to slam the door behind her, but it bounced off of Clark's toe. He caught it before it could swing open to slam hard against the wall, and he closed it silently behind him. Lois didn't seem to notice his presence as she yelled, "You can't be serious about giving this story to the two of them! They're rookies! You need your best reporters on the story, and that's Clark and me!"
"It's a press conference, Lois," Perry said calmly. "They can handle it."
She placed her hands on her hips and glowered at him. "It's a huge story, Chief, and you know it! Every newspaper that can get a reporter on a plane is going to have someone at the conference, and that means…"
"And that means," Perry cut in, "that every newspaper in the world is going to be printing the exact same story about whatever it is that Superman has to say. What I need the two of you to work on is the story that everyone won't be getting. I want you two to get in touch with Superman after the conference. See if he'd be willing to give you a follow-up interview."
Clark stepped next to Lois as she tried one last time, "But why can't we…?"
Perry's voice was implacable as he answered her brusquely, "Like you said, every news outlet in the world is going to have a reporter at that press conference if there's any way they can manage it. Everyone's going to wonder what Superman has to say, and they'll be watching any woman there who has any personal ties to him, wondering if she'll be revealed to be his wife. You wouldn't be reporting the story, Lois, you'd become the story. And I'm not in the habit of putting my reporters in such a position. Besides, I think everyone in this room knows how hard it would be for you to keep your temper; do you guys want to take the chance on what would happen if you lost your cool in the middle of a room full of reporters?" Lois and Clark went still as they stared at Perry in thoughtful silence.
Clark had wondered, ever since that night on the rooftop, just what Perry knew about him, but he'd never had the courage to ask. Neither had Lois, though he knew that the uncertainty had be killing her – one of the things that made her such a great reporter was that she always wanted to know everything. Apparently, she could wonder no longer, because she asked, "Perry, is there anything…?" She didn't finish the question, and Clark couldn't blame her. Perry meant the world to them both, but that didn't mean that either of the Kents were ready to have their fears confirmed. But Lois wasn't one to give up so easily and so, swallowing heavily, she tried again. "About this story, I was just wondering if there was…well, if you knew who it was…S-Superman's wife, I mean…if you knew who it was and it was someone you knew…if you'd…."
Glancing up from his papers, Perry stared steadily at them both. As he set the papers in his hand aside, he slowly sat back in his chair and regarded his two star reporters gravely. "Would I print the story, you mean?" Clark nodded, and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lois do the same. "Absolutely. I don't think I'd have any other choice. It's news. As I told Superman once, I don't get to pick what's newsworthy. If it's news, it's news."
Clark clenched his jaw unconsciously, while Lois breathed a soft, "Oh."
Tapping his fingertips on the arms of his chair, Perry said, "Of course, that's only if I knew who Superman's wife was and if I had proof. I've told you both before, we don't print suspicions here at the Planet – particularly not for big stories. We print facts. So if I only suspected, or even if I knew and I couldn't prove it, well…I wouldn't be able to print it. My job would be on the line if I was wrong, and the Planet means too much to me to take that risk. I couldn't ask one of my reporters to print it either, though of course if I knew that they knew, I'd have to tell them to get proof so they could print the story or their job would naturally be on the line."
"I understand," she replied evenly.
"So if you want to know the truth," he continued, "I'm glad that I don't know who Superman's married to. I can't imagine what the two of them are going through right now. Of course, I think the world of him, so if I could help them, I'd want to do so. But since I can't think of anything I could do to help, I'll simply feel grateful that I don't know anything that would put him in an untenable position. If there's anything else I could do, I'm sure he'd let me know, and we would deal with what I knew – or didn't know – at that time." Grabbing the papers off his desk, he returned his attention to them. "Does that answer your question?"
Though Lois had asked the question, Clark nodded. Whatever Perry knew about Superman, he clearly suspected his involvement with Lois. There was even a chance he suspected that Lois had started to develop superpowers. And, in his own way, Perry had tried to convey the message that they could consider him a friend – not that Clark had ever doubted the truth of that, and he doubted Lois ever had, either. "Well, we should probably go," Clark said, unable to completely suppress the grateful edge to his words. "We'll see what we can do about that interview."
"See that you do," Perry said gruffly in dismissal.
Though Clark knew that Lois was angry that he'd announced the press conference without running it by her first – or even giving her a polite warning that he was thinking of doing such a thing – and though he knew that the thought of it looming in the following week was preying on her mind, the prospect of an imminent press conference to break the Superman's Bride story caused such a commotion at the Planet that the Kent couple didn't get another chance to talk privately until the end of the day. Clark expected Lois to bring the subject up when he escorted her to the elevator, but she didn't say a word. Neither did she so much as open her mouth on the entire walk home – an event that was almost unheard of in the entire time that he had known her.
As he stood in the kitchen and watched her idly stir the pot of stew that Martha had sent back to Metropolis with them, he found he could ignore the elephant in the room no longer. "Lois, about what happened today…I'm sure you're mad at the fact that I didn't tell you that I was going to call a press conference, but I –"
"You thought maybe Jimmy had seen me speeding away, and you did what you always did. You raced in to save the day in the best – or maybe the only – way you knew how at the moment," she finished for him, her voice deceptively light. "I get it."
"But you're still angry," he added on her comment. His statement had nothing to do with her tone and everything to do with the fact that he knew Lois very, very well and anger had been the reaction he'd anticipated.
"No," she said softly. "I'm not mad."
"You're irate?" he ventured.
A smile twitched at her lips. "Not really," she replied.
His eyes narrowing in confusion, he tried one more time. "You're…still numb, but you know you'll be angry later?"
Putting her spoon aside, she turned down the heat and turned to him. "I was," she said, resting her hip against the side of the stove. "Angry, I mean. Actually, that's not a strong enough word. I was livid…when we at the Planet. And then, on the walk home, I was still mad, thinking about it all. But now…?" She frowned, glancing away from him. "Now I'm just…scared. I'm scared about what's going to happen, and no matter how hard I think about it, I can't find a way out of this."
She had curved a hand protectively against the baby bump that had recently become visible, causing her to wear more baggy clothing at work so that nobody would notice. But with the fabric of her shirt pressed against her skin, Clark could see the swell of her stomach, and he stepped forward to place a hand on top of hers.
"I know," he said ruefully. "I'm scared too. Ever since you got that call, I've awoken every morning, wishing something would happen that would make all of this go away. And every night when I've gone to bed, it's with the knowledge that somewhere out there, there may be someone who's gotten one step closer to the truth. To you.
"I don't know what Jimmy thought about whatever he saw today. I don't even know that he did anything more than wonder if there had ever been anything between us. But when he talked to Perry, I heard him as about you and Superman, and…it was just too much. I just can't take this anymore. I can't spend every day terrified of what's going to happen tomorrow, just waiting for that other shoe to drop."
"Okay," she said reasonably, turning in his arms and leaning her weight back against him. "So at this press conference, what are we going to tell people?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly.
"We only have a week," she pointed out, as if he could have forgotten. "That's not much time to decide what to do and then prepare for the fallout."
Squeezing her tighter against him, he rasped, "A week, a year, or an eternity – there could never be enough time for me to prepare for you or our child being in danger."
"I know," she murmured, grabbing the hand he still rested against her belly and lifting it to her mouth to brush a gentle kiss across his knuckles. Stepping out of his arms, she kept her back to him as she ran a fingernail idly across the top of the stove. "The thing is, as much as I hate to admit it…Lana was right. If there were a way we could tell the truth about who you're married to without putting me in danger, we would have found it by now. Has a moment passed since we got that call from Perry that you haven't been trying to find a way out of this? Because I haven't been able to get it out of my mind for so much as a second, and I'm no closer to a way out of this than I was a month ago."
Turning to him, she lifted her chin and said, "There's no way out of this, Clark. You're going to have to lie. We're going to have to pretend like you're married to somebody else. And I think you know that."
He wished he could protest, but the problem was that she was right. For a month, he'd been trying to find a way to deal with the situation without lying about it, and he hadn't been able to find a way to do it that wouldn't put Lois in even more danger. She must have seen the truth of it on his face, because she ducked her head and brushed past him without meeting his eyes. As she walked into the living room and took a seat on the couch, he followed.
Once he'd seated himself next to her, she said matter-of-factly, "Well, whether or not we're prepared for it, it's not going away, and I suppose it's better we deal with it sooner rather than later. So, I guess it's time to decide once and for all. Who can we ask to stand in my place at that press conference in a week, to pretend that she's m-married to you?"
Though she had a stubborn set to her chin and her voice was full of resolve, Clark could see the pain in his wife's eyes as she asked the question, and he hated that he'd had to do this to her. He couldn't bear to see the way this wounded her, but neither of them could afford to continue to pretend that this story was going away. So, looking away from her, he rested his arms on his knees and bowed his head. "I don't know," he said unhappily, staring at the floor.
"I think you and I both know that Diana is the obvious choice," she pointed out. "Most of the world is pretty sure she's the one, at any rate." Even as Clark grimaced, he knew he had to admire his wife's nerve. It was the absolute last conversation that she wanted to have, he was sure of it, and yet she wasn't shying away from what had to be done. It was one of the things he loved the most about her, even though at the moment it meant that there was no way to spare her this torment.
"She is," he agreed, glancing over at her to assess her reaction. Her jaw was clenched, but she was brave and met his eyes unflinchingly.
If it weren't for his super abilities, Clark would have probably missed the quick spasm of pain that crossed her features just before she sucked in a shaky breath and asked, "So, do you think she'll do it?"
He considered the question. As Superman, he and Diana were close. She was well aware of the situation he'd found himself in as of late, and she'd expressed both her sympathy and her support for both him and his wife. But would she be willing to stand up and pretend to be married to him? Leaning against the back of the couch, he tilted his head back. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "Maybe. Probably. I'd – I'd have to ask her, I suppose."
"Okay," she said tersely, jumping to her feet. "Ask her, and if she says no, we'll see if we can come up with someone else."
When she strode quickly out of the room, Clark knew she wasn't angry with him, but he couldn't help but feel guilty. Rising to his feet, he followed, knowing there was nothing he could do to help but wishing he could find a way. "Lois," he began. But as he reached for her, she shied away from his touch.
She glanced up at him, her face contorted in pain, and then turned her head swiftly away from him once more. As she occupied herself by grabbing bowls out of the cabinet and filling them with stew, she demanded, "Don't, Clark. I know this isn't what you want, either. But that doesn't really matter, does it? It's what we have to deal with, and I'm – I'm dealing with it." He knew she was trying to sound calm and confident, but the white-knuckle grip she had around the handle of the pot in her hand, which twisted it completely out of shape, belied her no-nonsense tone. Setting the pot back on the stove, she gave it a rueful look and then sighed. Refusing to meet his eyes, she admitted, "It just…it's hard. Maybe I'm shallow for feeling that way, but I do. It's hard to know that nobody in the world seem to think that I'm good enough to be married to you. Every time I turn around, I'm told that you should be married to a goddess, or at the very least a garden-variety heroine, and I know how shocked everyone would be to know that you come home to plain, boring, human Lois at the end of the day."
With a burst of super speed, Clark raced across the room and came to a stop in front of her. Grabbing her forearms in his hands, he waited until she met his eyes and then said forcefully, "First of all, would you listen to yourself? Plain? Boring? You?"
"I'm not talking about what you or I think of me, Clark," she spat. "I'm talking about the rest of the world! And to the rest of the world, let's face it: I'm competing with a goddess, and there's no way that I even begin to stack up! She's got a stupid golden lasso and has been given all the blessings of the gods or some such nonsense, and I…I invariably eat the last bear claw in the box, I steal the covers, and I almost never say I'm sorry! Hell, what competition? I'm not even ranked!"
"And I don't care about any of that!" he cried, pulling her almost forcibly against him. He knew that all the recent speculation had been hard on her, but hearing her say all this…it killed him, to hear that she'd even thought it, let alone that she'd believed it even for a moment. If there was no other comfort he could offer her at the moment, he could try to take this particular pain away. Knowing he had never needed to convince her of anything more, he almost gave her a shake as he declared, "I love you. I don't care about lassos or blessings from gods or anything like that! I love that you live life on your terms! I love the games we play, like when we fight to see who's going to get the last donut or the last piece of cherry pie! I fell in love with you when we were doing just that, if you'll recall. I don't care that you steal the blankets because I don't need them anyway! And I don't need to hear you tell me you're sorry because I always know; I can see it on your face. You think you have to change any of that to –"
"I'm not saying I do!" she cut in. Her cheeks were flushed with color, her eyes flashing with passion. She was angry, but Clark didn't know if she was angry with him, or simply with the world. "I like the way I am, and I know you love me, Clark! But that's not the point!"
"So what is the point?" he demanded.
"The point is that as much as I don't care what the rest of the world thinks about you, or me, or us, 99% of the time, there are those moments when I can't help it! Heaven knows I can't get away from it! And it sucks, okay? It sucks to think that for a month now, the world has been trying to find the woman you're married to, and as much as the very fact that people are curious puts me in danger, let's face it. I'm not exactly at the top of the suspect list, am I?"
Clark shook his head. "And you're mad about that?"
"No! Yes! No, I – You don't understand!" With a stifled cry, she raised her hands and broke out of his grip. Then she stormed a few feet away from him. When she whirled back around to face him, her breathing was heavy and her eyes were bright, though her voice was surprisingly steady when she murmured, "You have no idea what it's like, Clark," she said. "You have no idea what it's like to…I know that you love me. I know that I have nothing to worry about from Diana or any other woman on the face of the planet. But I know something else, too. I know that if the world did find out about the two of us tomorrow, do you know what the first reaction would be, for the most part? Disbelief. Nobody would believe that a man like you would ever marry a woman like me. And maybe it's crap and none of that matters, but the fact of the matter is, if anyone finds out about us, the entire world's going to think that you settled for me when you could have had a goddess. The number of people who would genuinely believe that I was good enough for you…? Could probably be counted on one hand. God knows nobody would ever wonder what makes you good enough for me!"
"Lois," he said gently. "You have to know that none of that matters! The only thing that matters is you and me, and what we have together. I thought you of all people would realize that what the world thinks isn't –"
"Oh, don't you go throwing that back in my face!" she cried. "Of course I don't care about what the rest of the world thinks! Most of the time. But, come on, you haven't thought about it? If worst comes to worse, what our lives would be like – apart from the increased danger and all that? We'd never be able to go out in public; our every move would be watched. Our careers would be shot to hell, because good luck trying to talk to a confidential informant when you've got a fleet of paparazzi on your tail! And the whole time, as our every move was scrutinized and my every sin was reported in excruciating detail, everyone would be asking themselves the same question: 'Why in the world would Superman marry a woman like her?' To the rest of the world, I could only be someone you'd settled for, a massive step down from the woman you deserved. They'd see the picture, and they'd think you should have ended up with a goddess. Not a…" She shook her head and raised her hand to her face, wiping the back of her hand against her cheeks.
With a sigh that caused her shoulders to sag, she said glumly, "Look, I know this is stupid. I know it doesn't mean anything, really, and all that matters at the end of the day is what you think and what I think. Except that now, after being bludgeoned over the head by all of this speculation every day for over a month now, I've gotta send you off to stand up there next to her. Because she's the wife the rest of the world will believe in, and because the very believability of that story will make it safer for me. So you'll be up there with her, pretending to be all in love and…and married. And for my safety, I'll be sitting at home, watching you two on the television, wondering if by asking you to do this – or by supporting you when you do it – I'm not somehow telling the world that I believe what they'd say, that I'm not good enough for you, either."
His heart breaking in his chest, he said her name softly once more. He hadn't really thought about the situation from that perspective. He'd spent a good deal of time worrying about the danger the revelation would put her in; he hadn't really stopped to consider what it would do to her. He had known that Lois hated the idea of pretending he was married to someone else, just as he did. But the thought that she wasn't good enough for him had never even crossed his mind, and so he'd never considered that people might wonder about that, let alone that it might be the stance the rest of the world would take on the subject. If he had his whole life to live over, every choice to be reconsidered, he'd still choose Lois over anyone else in the world, goddess or no. Lois may be a normal woman – most of the time, at least – but she was a goddess to him, and that was all that mattered.
He was sure that she knew all of that, but with everything going on, she wasn't able to believe it right now. After everything that had happened recently – including the reward for information on Superman's wife and Lana's offer – he could understand why Lois was feeling a little self-conscious. He only wished there was something he could do about it.
But maybe there was something, though he suspected she wouldn't like the suggestion. "Listen," he said slowly. "Have you ever thought that maybe…maybe we don't need Diana? You have superpowers now. We could make a costume for you, and then maybe you…" he let his voice trail off hopefully.
"Oh, Clark, I do love you," she said, wrapping her arms around her stomach and hugging herself tightly. "And I appreciate what you're trying to do. But you know as well as I do that we can't do that."
"Why not?" he demanded. Now that the idea had occurred to him, he didn't want to let it go. Granted, it would be somewhat dangerous; giving her a superhero alter-ego wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind when they'd realized they would have to handle the current situation. But while it might put her in a bit more danger, it wasn't likely to be much more dangerous for her than it was for him, and he'd been operating with a secret identity for several years, now. Who better to teach her how to do the same than he?
"You mean other than the fact that it would put me right in the center of the bullseye and that's pretty much the exact place we've been hoping to avoid?" she pointed out.
"I know it's not what we planned, but I think we could do this and keep you safe. I do have practice with this sort of thing, after all, and this way, we wouldn't have to pretend that I'm married to anyone else. It could just be…us. Like it has been from the moment we found each other and like it will be until the day that we die. We can do this," he urged.
Lois's worried expression faded to one of tender warmth. "Oh, Clark, it sounds so tempting, what you suggest. But you're forgetting one little thing: I'm not you. I'm not like you. There's…this." Reaching for him, she placed his hand against the swell of her stomach. "This isn't just about you and me. We have this, and it's not the kind of thing that will be easily hidden with a bit of spandex. I come out in the open with you, people will want to know more about this new superhero that's in town. There will be more pictures taken, and as time passes…well, someone's going to notice.
"And don't forget, I have your powers, but we don't know if I'll keep them throughout the pregnancy. In the first trimester alone, I've managed to make my way to Idaho…"
"More like Nebraska," Clark muttered.
Apparently not having heard him, she continued, "I've lost the ability to drink coffee completely, and I've been stranded stark naked at your mom's place because I set all our clothes on fire! I also have a tendency to go from 'wide awake' to 'coma' in no time flat. So even if we completely ignore the fact that I'd be just as liable at the press conference to fall asleep, burst into tears," she shuddered at the thought, "or set the podium on fire…or something entirely unanticipated…as I would to make a dramatic entrance, that still doesn't take care of our problem! Because what happens next month? Will I keep my powers; will I lose them? As the baby grows, will I get even more powerful, beyond even what you've ever dealt with? You told me once that solar flares cause your powers to go out of control; how do we know that the same thing won't happen to me with a surge of…of pregnancy hormones or something?"
"Well, but –" he began, but she clearly wasn't listening as she paced back and forth.
"Or what if I lose my powers completely? What if I do it right there in front of everyone? That would raise a few eyebrows. And even if we do manage to keep the baby secret throughout my pregnancy somehow, what happens after the baby's born? We don't know if I'll keep my powers after, or if they'll go away on their own or anything! And what if they do go away; what do we tell the world when they notice that Superman's wife has suddenly fallen off the face of the earth? We don't even know what will happen after all this, let alone how or if we'll be able to deal with it when it happens! And if we do this, then we'd not only have to find a way to deal with…with whatever happens, we'd have to find a way to do it with everyone watching but without anyone catching on to what was going on."
Clark stepped into her path and waited for her to look up at him. "Okay, first of all, we'll deal with whatever happens. Somehow, we'll deal with it. And I'm not just saying that to make you feel better; I know it's true. And before you ask, I know it's true because we've always found a way to deal with anything that happens and we always will. The two of us together can handle anything."
Pressing her lips together tightly, she prompted, "And second of all?"
"Second of all," he said, reaching towards her. Though she swayed, as if considering stepping away from him and refusing the comfort of her touch, she stood still and let him put his arms around her waist, "I know that this plan isn't without problems, but I love you. I don't need a goddess by my side; I only need you. And I don't care what the rest of the world has to say or who they think I should be with. They don't know you like I do, so if they don't know that you're worth ten Wonder Women, then it's their loss. And, frankly, if people think you're lucky to have me, than the joke's on them, because I wake up every morning thinking of how lucky I am to have you."
Stroking one hand along the small of her spine, he murmured, "I love you, and I think we can do this. I know it's risky, and I know you're scared because I am too. But I think we can do this, and I'm willing to take this chance if you are."
Lois stared into his eyes and then she placed her hands against his chest, over his heart. "You always have hope that things will work out for the best, and I love that about you, I do. And I'm usually the one who rushes into danger without thinking about the consequences, so this is kinda new for me. I can't afford to just race into danger this time; there's too much on the line."
Pushing him away gently, she stepped out of his arms. "Thank you for the suggestion, sweetheart. I appreciate it, I really do. But I can't do that, and I think you know that."
"I don't know that," he protested.
With a sad smile, she shook her head. Straightening her shoulders, she lifted her chin and rasped, "Tomorrow, ask Diana if she'll, um, do this. We'll decide what to do next from there."
"Lois…" he said in protest, but as he reached for her, she turned and walked out of the room. Staring after her, he sighed. Clearly, it still killed her that he had to ask Diana to publicly hold the position that was rightfully hers. Clark didn't blame her for that, since he was no happier at the thought. Still, he didn't have any better ideas so, bowing his head, he ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Damn it."