Clark hated mingling. Period, space, space; possibly exclamation point. It was simply one of those things that he really didn't like to do. He hated making bad impression after bad impression, and stuttering his way through conversations in which he'd otherwise love to take part. But Bruce kept throwing fancy cocktail parties, and kept inviting Clark. And Clark kept accepting the invitation to keep an eye on the guests of interest to the host.
He even made himself inconspicuous by bringing a blonde bombshell (whom he'd met at a bar the night before for the sole purpose of bringing her to Bruce's party) or the like for his date, letting people assume that Bruce had invited her and she'd dragged him along because he was easily ditched at the end of the night if Bruce took an interest.
On this particular night, however, he was escorting none other that Rachel Dawes. She found him amusing and trusted him because he was one of those honest reporters from Metropolis. Sure, she thought he was a bit of a geek, but she also knew that he was one of Bruce's best friends, a friend he'd met in the time that he'd been gone from Gotham, declared dead. He was fairly certain she liked to think that they had met in Kansas or some other pleasant place, though she was aware that they'd both 'trained' in Tibet.
"I don't usually come to Bruce's parties," Rachel admitted after they'd danced a few songs and were standing off to the side with their punch glasses. They were very near a large ice statue of a human-sized faerie, huge wings rising behind her back. It was very elegant, but very nude—the Clark Kent of the Daily Planet bullpen would've been blushing scarlet at the sight of it.
"Why not?" Clark reclined against the nearest wall comfortably, savoring the chance to get a read on the woman Bruce was very nearly in love with.
"They're so much his… public persona," she said the last words in a whisper. "I just can't stand them. The people, the dancing—it's all so fake."
"I'm inclined to agree," Clark chuckled, looking across the grand ballroom to see Bruce chuckling in that devastatingly annoying way he did in public when told a joke he was supposed to think was funny. The man who had told the joke looked pleased with himself, and the women in short cocktail dresses standing with them laughed too loudly, clearly indicating that they hadn't gotten the joke.
"It's infuriating," Rachel ground out, eyes directed at Bruce as well.
"It's the way his life has to be if he wants to make a difference," Clark said. Rachel gave him one of those searching looks he was getting from Lois all the time.
"Why?" Rachel burst out suddenly, setting her empty punch glass on the nearest flat surface and glaring at him. "Why does he have to do it? Why can't somebody else do it?"
Clark glanced across the room at Bruce—he had noticed the turn in conversation between his two closest friends but his guests were arriving and he was the ringmaster.
"Superman," Rachel was saying, snatching Clark's attention immediately. "Why can't Superman do it? I mean, he's single-handedly saving the rest of the world, isn't he? Why not just pay a little closer attention to Gotham instead of Metropolis? It's not like Metropolis is a hotbed of crime and crime lords. It's people aren't living in fear, starving."
"Come now, Rachel; you're going to throw our dear friend into a depression," Bruce said, appearing at her side momentarily before moving away to another neglected group of over-dressed rich people.
Rachel blinked, then turned to gape at Clark. He gulped down the rest of his punch without making eye contact.
"What the hell kind of place in Tibet did you meet at?"
Clark opened his mouth to respond, but none other than Lois Lane appeared a few feet in front of him in a floor-length emerald evening gown.
Funny how all my weaknesses come in green, Clark thought before he realized that Lois was looking from him to Rachel and back. It was then that he noticed how intimate they must look, standing together drinking beneath an ice sculpture. They were leaning close together to have their intense, whispered conversation.
"Clark," Lois finally said, taking a few precise steps and closing the distance between them.
"Lois," Clark said with more surprise than he'd meant. "What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" she put a hand on her hip and tilted her head, raising an eyebrow at him. "I'm working. Remember? Fricking Cat Grant has fricking pink eye, so we're drawing straws for who's covering her events. I lost. What are you doing here? It's supposed to be our night off."
"Oh, well, Rachel and I—" he started, but Lois cut him off.
"Rachel…?" she asked, looking across at Rachel as if for an introduction, managing to be curious and condescending in the same expression.
"Rachel Dawes," Rachel said, holding out her hand, managing to finally snap out of her stupor from Bruce's revelation in passing. "Gotham ADA."
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet," Lois said easily, shaking the offered hand. Clark was glancing between them worriedly.
"Miss Lane," Rachel said, looking at Clark with an odd glint in her eye that Clark knew he should be apprehensive about. "Would you mind if I took Clark aside for a moment?"
"Not at all," Lois said, backing off a little even though the expression on her face clearly read that she was more than a bit peeved by the sudden exclusion.
"'Scuse us," Rachel said, taking Clark by the hand and dragging him off to another corner. "You're Superman?" she whispered.
"Yes," Clark whispered back, letting his voice drop down to its natural register. Rachel blinked at him.
"Seriously, where the hell did you meet Bruce?"
"Tibet. In a converted temple full of ninjas."
"Yes. In Tibet."
"Where did you think he learned the crazy karate, hang-gliding-in-the-inner-city stuff?"
"So what were you doing there?"
"The same thing he was."
"You're a ninja?"
"Technically?" he shrugged," Yes."
"Superman the ninja. There's something nobody expected."
"I wasn't Superman then."
"What do you mean?"
"Superman is a public persona, just like Batman is. I've been Clark Kent for a lot longer. My sister had died, my dad had died, I'd had an entire extra terrestrial civilization's history and technology downloaded into my head; I needed a vacation," Clark quirked a smile at her. "I had my journalism degree, so I was traveling the world in my own unique way, writing for the papers and journals I came across. I ended up in Tibet with a bunch of ninjas. It wasn't exactly a place you were allowed to leave after you'd been allowed through the door."
"You had an entire alien civilization's history and technology downloaded into your brain? Do you come complete with a USB port?"
"No," he shifted, holding back a chuckle. "Not actually downloaded. I just meant I had all the information of Krypton given to me. I can learn in super-speed, too, so… yeah."
"And by all the information of Krypton you mean…?"
"Everything the average Kryptonian at the time the planet was destroyed would have had access to, displayed and taught via hologram."
"Hence the ninja temple shortly afterward."
"So you, what, broke out of the ninja temple after you decided you were done?" Rachel asked, circling back around to their earlier topic.
"Had my say with the ring-leader, then, quite literally, took off."
"How did Bruce get out?"
"I don't know. I've never asked," he lied; it was Bruce's story to tell. He'd given his friend permission to tell Rachel he was Superman if he wanted to, when the time was right, hence the random walk-by exposition. But he'd spent enough time around Rachel and heard enough stories about her to know that he could trust her with his secret if it would make Bruce's complicated life a little easier, particularly socially.
"Your friend is glaring at me," Rachel said, switching gears before Clark realized she had been glancing over his shoulder throughout the short, whispered conversation.
"Yeah. Holding a glass of punch and seriously glaring," Rachel glanced at him, smirking slightly. "Is she jealous?"
Clark shifted in what those of the Daily Planet bullpen would recognize as a nervous shuffle completely expectable from him, getting Lois into his peripheral vision for a moment. She was indeed glaring something fierce at Rachel over the top of her glass.
"Seems to be."
"She so fervently claims to be just your press contact, though. Sometimes even denies that."
"She is," Clark chuckled. "But she's also my partner at the Planet."
"She doesn't know who you are?"
"Why not? I thought, of all people—"
"I haven't found the right time or place to tell her."
"You should," Rachel smirked, sipping her second drink she'd snatched off the tray as she dragged Clark into the corner.
"I know," he sighed, hating to actually converse on the subject so often on his mind. Rachel seemed to follow his thoughts well enough, giving him an odd look and having another sip of her drink.
"So she's a friend, but just with your office persona," she nodded, then smirked. Clark narrowed his eyes at her.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to enjoy this party a lot more that I thought I was."