Author's note: Last chapter complete at last!! Thanks to all of you who read and enjoyed this fic! Let me know what you think!
Part Eight – Men In Tights
"Okay, I'm ready." Clark's reluctant voice sounded from the bathroom.
"Well, come on out then. We need to get this done or we'll never make the deadline!"
An audible groan sounded from behind the bathroom door as the latch was undone.
Clark gulped and stepped out into the lounge area of Lois' apartment. At least the last time he had worn this outfit in public, he had anonymity on his side.
Thankfully Lois' back was turned as she fiddled with the camera which she had borrowed from Jimmy on the promise that she would be extremely careful with it. Almost new, the sleek and high-spec digital SLR camera was paid for with months of Jimmy's hard earned wages.
She cursed under her breath as she adjusted the tripod legs, muttering that her floor must be slanted, but her grumbling was silenced instantly as she turned to see Spiderman standing right in front of her.
Of course her mind knew it was Clark dressed in a suit, but she instantly felt the same thrill as she had done a few nights ago when she first saw the spandex-clad hero striding toward her. Lois could not hide the blush that flew up her cheeks, and Clark felt the heat in his own face at her awe-struck expression. He was suddenly very grateful for the facemask.
"Ahem," Lois cleared her throat and shook her thoughts into focus. "Right well, let's get one of you crouched on the windowsill, just like the, um, other photo but from inside. That's a good corroboration pic."
Clark nodded and walked to the window, sliding it open and taking up his place. Lois directed him like a professional photographer, taking several shots until the room became frigid with the cold night air.
When she decided she had a useable shot or so, he climbed back in and stepped over to her to look through the thumbnails. As he bent to the camera screen, their faces almost touched, and for a split second his heart stilled as he breathed in her delicate perfume and recalled the way she had rolled his mask up to kiss him, that night. It was those few minutes which had caused all these troubles, and yet he could not bring himself to regret them.
Lois' eyes drifted shut as she, too, recalled that same action. She was intoxicated by drink that night, but now she was only affected by his closeness, by the stress of the last two days and the sudden need to forget it all - identities, lies and cover-ups - and lose herself in strong arms and the heat of attraction.
Clark looked at her closed eyes, her upturned face and longed to give in to the illusion they were both living for the moment, but this time she would not forget everything in the morning. He drew away with a soft sigh, and Lois' eyes snapped open, her daze quickly shattering as she drew herself up crisply.
"Right, well…" she stammered hastily, trying to cover her embarrassment, "Now sit on the couch, and we'll get one of me interviewing you."
"Lois…" Clark said softly, not knowing what to follow it up with, but just feeling the discomfort between then like a cloud.
"Clark, just… don't okay. We can deal with... whatever this is after we've solved the Spiderman problem. Now sit."
Clark decided to shut up and obey, and after they had gotten the faux photographs out of the way he was glad to rush into the bathroom and get back into his own clothes.
Lois brought out a bottle of light white wine and they began work on the interview with Spiderman. As much as they both felt a nagging sense of unease about blatantly faking an article, the tension between them dissolved as they started to relax and have fun inventing the questions and likely responses from the fictitious hero.
Clark really got into character, commenting that he was quite happy for the world to believe him just a cartoon character; because it helped him live a quiet life and do good works in relative secrecy and freedom. Between them they invented that Spiderman and Superman were old friends, and Spidey had dropped by to say hi to his pal when he noticed a woman in danger.
Lois typed up the article, prepared the photos and rushed off to the Planet to meet Perry, who was waiting irritably in the empty bull-pen.
"You're late." He barked when Lois came rushing in and handed him the copy. "You've been drinking." He added with a scowl.
"Psssh, Clark and I had a glass or two to help with the creative process…" Lois began, but Perry cut her off with an uplifted hand.
"Listen Lois, I know a tipple helps in times o' crisis, but remember, your love of the party punch was a large part of the problem in the first place. Now I don't want to tell you this again, got it?"
"Got it, Chief." Lois said, chastened.
"Now, is Clark…?" The Editor mimed flying, adding a soft 'woosh' sound effect.
"Should be over there by now." Lois confirmed.
"Right well, let's go to press." Perry said, and picked up the phone.
Clark had always enjoyed the spectacular view of the Alps from the air, and at this altitude the air was thin, crisp and fresher than almost anywhere else on earth. He noticed a 767 airplane in the distance and smiled as he headed toward it. Usually he would have taken a dive to avoid being spotted, but today he wanted exactly the reverse.
As the plane approached he altered his collision course so as not to alarm the pilots, but as he drifted past both of their mouths dropped open and his superhearing picked up the quick radio call they made to the Geneva control tower. He made a graceful flyby, waving cheerfully to the passengers who all had their faces pressed to the port side windows, and then descended in the general direction of Belgium.
A hot-dog vendor went wide-eyed in surprise as Superman landed outside the police station in central Brussels and strolled in, affecting a similar reaction in every policeman and civilian in the lobby alike.
He strolled up to the desk Sergeant and gave a slight cough, slipping into his flawless Flemish dialect.
"You're holding an American journalist here, is that right? Mr. Bernard Schuster?"
"Yes, sir, we are. He was arrested for… for consorting with certain local woman…"
"I'm afraid he is a very poor representative of the United States, Sergeant. I don't wish to disrupt procedure at all, but can I please speak with the Inspector in charge about it?
The Sergeant got on the phone immediately, and while he was waiting for the call to be answered, he commented, "Your Flemish is excellent, Mr. Superman." Clark nodded his head in thanks.
Within minutes he had been ushered into the Chief Inspector's office and supplied with coffee and biscuits. The Chief explained that Schuster's deportation was in progress but, as with all international diplomacy, these things take time.
"I just thought I'd offer to fly him home for you, save you the expense and the paperwork. I can guarantee he won't be returning to Belgium, sir." I don't even know if Perry'll let him keep his job! Clark thought.
Eager to please, the Inspector bellowed for a junior officer to prepare the American for transport and get his papers. Then, just as Clark hoped, he requested a photo opportunity.
With impressive speed, the local media were alerted and every officer in the station was gathered outside for a formal greeting. The Inspector shook Superman's hand as the cameras flashed, and a reporter held aloft his dictaphone for a quote.
Superman diplomatically thanked the city of Brussels for being so welcoming and allowing him to repatriate Schuster. As the last moment, he added, "Remember if you ever need me, just call. I can hear you across the Atlantic."
At the edge of the crowd, a journalist from a French newspaper raised his voice above the general din.
"Superman! Are you aware zat zere eez anozer 'ero in America right now? Zere 'ave been sightings of zee famous Spiderman in Metropolis!"
Clark grinned. This couldn't have turned out better.
"Well, I didn't know he was in Metropolis! He is usually based in New York, so I'd better get back home and say hello!"
"So, you know each ozher?"
"Sure we're old friends. Spidey is just a little more, well, reclusive than I am. He likes to do his job and stay out of the limelight. We don't see each other often but I appreciate what he does for New York, and for the world. It's very nice to know I am not alone in the fight for Truth and Justice."
As the media circus settled, Clark turned to Schuster, switching back to English. "Right then, let's get home, huh?"
Schuster still seemed quite dazed by the whole experience of being arrested in a foreign country and then rescued by Superman himself. He mumbled his thanks and then awkwardly turned so that Clark could get a decent grip round his waist.
The amassed Europeans craned their necks as they took off, and Schuster's wail of fear drifted away into the clouds. Clark suddenly remembered that his colleague was deathly afraid of heights.
At 8am an aged grocery-store owner heaved up the roller-shutters and opened up his front door. He jumped slightly as a hefty stack of newspapers landed at his feet, thrown from the back of a delivery truck.
Groaning a little as his back creaked, he bent down to cut the plastic binding and place the stack of papers in the holder outside the door. As was his habit, he took the top paper for himself and settled behind his counter to read it.
His mouth dropped open as he took in the first page, for there, in full colour, was the cartoon character Spiderman, arm outstretched as he swung away from the heroic rescue of a Metropolis woman. His first thought was that it must be a joke, perhaps an elaborate advertisement for a comic convention…
The headline was bold and serious: DOES SUPERMAN HAVE A HELPING HAND? And just beneath: He's Real!
The old man adjusted his spectacles slightly to read the tiny by-line. The article was written by Lane and Kent, so it had to be serious – these two were the best the Daily Planet had, and not to be wasted on hoaxes.
He read on avidly, overwhelmed by the knowledge that the comic book hero he had cherished decades ago was truly alive!
Most of the newsroom staff were currently doing exactly the same thing as Lois and Clark arrived for work the next morning, since they had told no one about their upcoming scoop.
As soon as they set foot in the bull-pen Jimmy bounded up to them and began firing question after question about Spiderman, commenting that it was such a co-incidence that Clark had dressed up as him only the other day. Clark received several such comments and kept up his vague but cheerful agreement that it was indeed an amusing chance occurrence.
The article used the snitch's photo of Spiderman leaving Lois' apartment, but they had cropped it to exclude the blurry form of Lois in her Xena outfit.
As Lois and Clark stepped into Perry's office, the Chief beamed brightly at them both and tossed them a newspaper, the French national Le Monde. Clark grinned at the paper's bold headline L'HOMME D'ACIER EN BRUXELLES!
Clark obligingly translated the article for Lois and Perry, paraphrasing. It told of the Man of Steel's visit to Belgium to bail out Schuster and of the friendship between the two superheroes.
Just as Clark folded the paper and set it down on Perry's desk, the editor's phone rang.
"White." Perry barked his habitual answer. The wracking cough on the other end of the line left the editor in no doubt who was calling. Perry put the call on speaker.
"Nice work," the snitch rasped when he had recovered his breath. "My photo looks great, and I told you I wasn't crazy – Spiderman is real!"
"Yessir, sure thing, you were right," Perry affirmed, "And the Daily Planet thanks you. Now if that's all—"
"Not quite," the informant cut in, and Lois and Clark exchanged worried glances.
"You may find it interesting that there is a monster in the sewers… it's huge and deadly, but very elusive. I've been tracking it for days…" Perry tried to stifle a snort of laughter, taking a breath to force the humour from his voice.
"Well, the thing is the Planet has blown its informant budget recently, so I think we'll have to pass on that, err, news. You might try the Herald though, I hear they have some dedicated experts on, um, monsters."
Lois was glad she wasn't doing the talking, clamping her mouth shut to muffle the laughter.
The snitch began to protest, halting for another bought of coughing.
"You might want to see a doctor about that cough, too. Thanks for calling." The second Perry pushed the call-end button all three of them erupted into laughter.
"A monster in the sewer! Great shades of Elvis!"
When they had all worked through their amusement, Perry broke out his serious face and turned it on Clark.
"Now, Kent. You're out of one mess, but let it be a lesson to you that those that know you best should know you best, right. Lies don't become you, son. You or Superman."
"Are you saying I need to tell Jimmy too?"
"Tell me what CK?" Jimmy asked, his head poking round the door.
"Jimmy!" Perry bellowed, "Do you see a doorbell on my door?"
"Err, no Chief…" Jimmy answered, confused.
"Well go get me one! NOW!"
"Right away Chief!" Jimmy yelped and disappeared back round the door. At that moment, a cry went up from several people in the newsroom.
Perry, Lois and Clark dashed out to join Jimmy and the rest of the news staff, their faces transfixed in horror at the images on the TV.
In downtown metropolis, beside an open manhole, a slime-encrusted crocodile-looking creature was tearing savagely into a man wearing a fluorescent vest and a hard-hat. The Channel Six News reporter-on-scene tried in vain to keep the terror out of her voice as the carnage ensued. The beast tossed aside one mangled sewer-worker and aimed for another.
"Oh, thank God!" The reporter exclaimed as a streak of red and blue flashed into centre screen. "Superman has got the monster, and he's… he's wrestling it to the ground!"
"Wow, can you believe this stuff CK?" Jimmy turned to where Clark had been just a moment before. "CK?" He looked around the newsroom.
"Huh. Where'd he go?"
Lois looked over at Perry, sighing.