Learning to enjoy Magic

Clark Kent stood on the Metropolis sidewalk looking down at his cell phone in frustration. Lois Lane had screwed him over again. The worst part was he'd fallen for it, again. He should have known something was up right from the start. He'd been sitting at his desk, typing up a story when she came striding across the newsroom and stopped directly in front of his desk. Lois was all smiles when he looked up from his computer. She had a twinkle in her eye as she invited him to join her for an evening at the theatre. He'd been pleasantly surprised by this and immediately agreed. She said there was a new act starting tonight and it had gotten rave reviews in Gotham. She would meet him in front of the box office to pick up their tickets at eight, which gave them plenty of time to find their seats and order some drinks. He told her it sounded like fun, and she gave him her best smile and said, "it's a date!" Lois held his gaze just a little longer than necessary before turning and walking slowly away from his desk. The rest of the afternoon Clark was in a great mood. He hadn't told Lois his secret yet; concerned she was only interested in the hero in the cape and not Clark Kent. Being Superman was just what he did, not who he was. Perhaps she was finally seeing him for the real man, not the hero. There was a little extra spring in his step as he headed back to his apartment to change for their date.

At fifteen minutes to eight, Lois called. She explained she was onto a hot scoop and wouldn't be able to make it. Clark said he understood and that perhaps they could make it for tomorrow instead. That's when she dropped the truth on him. It seemed the paper's theatre critic had tripped and broken his leg the day before, so their editor had pawned off the assignment of reviewing the show on her and now she was pawning it off on him. Before he could protest she said, "Enjoy the show, Smallville!" and hung up the phone with a laugh. He couldn't believe, she done it to him again! He was starting to feel like Charlie Brown to her Lucy. For the umpteenth time, she'd just pulled the football away and he was in the now familiar position of being flat on his ass. As he made his way to the theatre, Clark chastised himself for being such a rube for thinking she might actually be starting to be interested in him. When was he going to learn she only had eyes for Superman?

Clark continued to browbeat himself the rest of the way to the theatre. As he rounded the corner to the theatre, he saw a sizable crowd lined up in front. In bold letters the marquee said, Opening Tonight, the World's Greatest Magic Show! Great, just great, Clark thought to himself, a show of one of his least favorite things. Maybe there'll be a mime and a plate spinner on the bill so it can be a complete night of hell. Sighing in resignation, Clark knew he had a report to file, so he trudged reluctantly up to the box office. As he waited in line to pick up his ticket, he got his first pleasant surprise of the night. The featured performer was none other than Zatanna Zatara. He only really knew her in passing from the Justice League, but as he looked at her gorgeous picture on the poster he thought there were worse ways to spend an evening. He got his ticket and headed inside. He found a seat in the back, not wanting her to see him or be a volunteer in any of her tricks. If he needed any reminder that he was here alone, the wait staff provided it. Immediately upon sitting down, they practically shouted table for one and then noisily removed all the extra chairs, menus and water glasses. Thanks Lois, I owe you one, Clark thought to himself. Leaning against the back wall, Clark did manage to order a drink when his waitress finally came to his table. Sitting there, Clark noticed that it was a packed house. Scanning the crowd, he recognized several local celebrities, politicians and fellow reporters. There was an opening night buzz and the audience talked excitedly about the coming show. It was easy for him to listen to every conversation to get a general feel for the audience. Many had read about Zatanna's shows in Gotham and were eager to see her for themselves. Taking out a small notepad he always carried with him, Clark made a few notes. If he was going to write an article about the show, he wanted to do it justice, pro or con. His drink finally arrived just as the show was about to begin.

The house light dimmed and a spotlight came up on the stage. Numb by Portishead began to play, a surprising choice, Clark thought. The curtains parted and Zatanna stepped through. A loud enthusiastic applause greeted her, but she gave it no notice. Clark found himself leaning forward as she gracefully walked around the stage in sync with the music. He had seen her before in her costume, but here in her element it seemed much more provocative. Under the spotlight, her fishnet stocking fully emphasized her long, tapered legs, while her form fitting white top and black tails left no doubt to her spectacular figure. Long flowing black hair cascaded down around her slender shoulders. Her black top hat was cocked suggestively forward shielding her eyes and drawing the audience's attention to her enchanting smile.

Her act seemed perfectly timed to the music. Her right arm slowly raised and then a fan of cards appeared. With a quick, graceful spin she launched the entire deck out over the audience. Gasps and nervous laughter came from the ducking patrons as the cards sailed out and then like boomerangs returned to her waiting hand. Surprised applause started, but then stopped, as another deck of cards appeared in her other hand. Fanning both decks, she tossed them towards opposite sides of the room. The cards twirled in the air, arcing back towards the center of the crowd and then with astonishing precision crossed through the other deck before returning to her hands. She didn't give the audience a moment to relax, tossing both decks straight up the in the air and as they came down began to fire them with shocking speed at each of the tables. Card after card hurled through the ducking crowd and embedded themselves into each tabletop. Spinning like dervish, Zatanna ran through both decks, never missing her mark. As Clark watched in amazement, even with his eyes unable to see how she was doing it, she spun to a stop launching the last card straight towards him. As it whirled silently towards him, the man that didn't flinch at bullets found himself ducking as the card embedded itself in the back wall next to him. The ace of hearts quivered there, only inches from where his head had been. As the music came to an end, Zatanna turned and walked back through the curtain. Thunderous applause erupted from the audience as the stage went black. People began to stand as the ovation grew and Clark found himself joining them.

For the next hour and twenty minutes Clark along with the rest of the audience were completely captivated by her performance. In his few encounters with Zatanna in the Justice League, Clark had always had the impression she was a little hesitant and lacking self-confidence, but here in her element she was a different person. With the poise of a seasoned pro she took command of the stage. She gave each magic trick, no matter how standard, her own unique twist. Equal parts, funny, mysterious and sexy, she held the audience in rasp attention. Clark could tell by the heartbeats of the rest of the men in the audience, he wasn't the only one to notice just how breathtaking she looked. Her final trick was the capper of the night. Taking off her top hat, she set it down on a low bench next to her and started to thank the crowd for coming out. Movement by the hat caught her and the audience's attention. Giving everyone a perplex look she went over and reached into the hat. Out came a rabbit and it received light applause, but the hat moved again. Looking confused, she reached in again and pulled out a birthday cake, complete with lit candles. Again there was light applause, but as she looked at the cake, she asked if there was a Larry celebrating his twenty-second birthday in the crowd. Gasps and shocked laughter erupted from one of the front tables. Another spotlight came on and showed a rather embarrassed young man who turned out to be Larry celebrating his twenty-second birthday. Zatanna took the cake over to him as the applause grew. She wished him a happy birthday and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. Starting her bows as if the show were over, the hat moved again. Giving the audience a comical look of frustration, Zatanna went back over and reach in again. Item after item she began pulling from the hat. A toaster, doves, a flagpole, complete with flag, a set of encyclopedias, a ham and cheese sandwich, which she began to eat as she pulled more items from the hat. The audience was rolling, as the hat seemed bottomless. After the twenty-second item was taken out, she reached deep inside the hat as if to pull out something extremely heavy. The strain was evident on her face as she struggled with the item. Then in the most surprising move of the night, Zatanna was pulled into the hat. The audience gasped in shock and surprised as she literally disappeared into the hat. Clark was just as mystified as the rest of the crowd. Even with is x-ray vision; he couldn't see where she'd gone.

"Hi, Clark, enjoying the show," came a silky voice next to him.

"What the hell," Clark flinched and then turned to see Zatanna sitting next to him smiling. "Oh, ah, yeah, yeah, great show, Zatanna," he stumbled to say, caught completely off guard by her appearance next to him.

"Glad you liked it," she said with a laugh, "Excuse me, I've got to finish the act now."

With that, she got up and headed back towards the stage to the overwhelming applause of the audience. Back on stage, she bowed as the crowd stood to cheer her. She said thank you several times and then picked up her hat. She gave it an uncertain look and then put it on and disappeared through the curtain with a smile. The standing ovation last for another five minutes before the house lights came up.

The crowd was still buzzing as the started to exit the theatre. Clark found himself chatting with complete strangers about how amazing the show had been. People seemed reluctant to leave, wanting to linger and talk about their shared experience. When Larry came out, still holding the cake, the crowd broke into a chorus of happy birthday, much to the young man's embarrassment. Everyone seemed in high spirits and Clark found himself joining right in. It was almost twenty minutes before he finally took one last look at Zatanna's smiling face on the poster and headed home. He had a review to file for the morning paper. It turned out to be a very interesting night after all, he thought.

THE NEXT MORNING

Clark was sitting at his desk the next day working on a corruption story, when Lois peaked her head around the corner of his office doorway.

"Are you still angry with me, Smallville," she asked. Clark sighed, but didn't look up from his computer.

"Actually, no, Lois, I must be getting used to your little tricks by now."

"Oh, come on, Clark, you'd have done the same thing to me," she said, stepping into the room.

"No, Lois, I really wouldn't have," he replied.

"That's what makes me the ace reporter," she smiled, "I can't be doing fluff pieces if I'm going to be taken seriously as a journalist."

"But you have no problem pawning them off on me, which I guess makes me less of a serious journalist, right," Clark replied.

"Oh, don't be hurt, it's just you're more cut out for that sort of thing than I am. Corruption, political misconduct, corporate espionage, that's more my style, not covering some Eastern European acrobats," she justified.

'Did you even read what the assignment was?"

"I glance at it."

"It wasn't acrobats, it was Zatanna," Clark said, handing a picture to Lois. She looked at it for a moment, taking in Zatanna in her outfit.

"A stripper?"

"A magician! Give me that," Clark said, snacking the picture back from her.

"Magician, juggler, acrobat, what's the difference? Look I just came to apologize, Smallville, for ruining your evening. It turned out my hot scoop was a dead end, too," Lois admitted.

"So no corporate misconduct," Clark asked.

"No, just a filthy factory on the outskirts of town," she said, brushing imaginary dust from her jacket at the thought. "So we both had horrible nights, if that helps."

"Actually, I had a great time last night," Clark smiled, "you missed an amazing show."

"What? Are you serious," Lois responded, surprised by Clark's smile.

"Yeah, I haven't had that good a time in ages, so apology accepted, Lois," Clark said as he stood up. He could see she was trying to get a look at what he was working on and wasn't going to let her steal the story from him. He gently moved over and ushered her out the door.

"Thanks for stopping by, Lois, no hard feelings."

"What? Oh, yeah, good, good, I'm-I'm glad you had a good time last night, Clark," she managed to say as he escorted her from his office.

"Not a good time, Lois, a great time."

"Whatever, Clark," she said with a huff, "you should probably be thanking me for pulling that trick on you last night."

"Oh, I plan to, Lois," Clark said with an innocent smile. "Bye now."

Lois was just turning around to say something when the door to his office closed in her face. Her mouth dropped open in shock and then anger colored her cheeks. Spinning on her heels, Lois stormed off towards her desk muttering, "country bumpkin" among other choice words.

TWO HOURS LATER

"Boss wants to see you C.K." Jimmy Olsen said, poking his head into Clark's office.

"Any idea why," Clark asked.

"Nope, but great review you gave that magic show. Is it really that good," Jimmy asked.

"Absolutely," Clark smiled, heading towards the editor's office.

"Maybe I'll check it out," Jimmy offered.

"You won't be disappointed."

"Thanks, C.K." Jimmy smiled and then headed off towards the photo lab. Clark knocked on Perry White's office door and heard him gruffly called that it was open.

"You wanted to see me, Chief?"

"Close the door, Kent."

Clark shut the door behind him and took the offered seat.

"I just read your review of that new magic act, Kent. You certainly seemed impressed by her," Perry said.

"It was a great show, I just wrote the truth," Clark defended himself.

"That fact that she's a knockout didn't have anything to do with it, did it," Perry asked with a knowing smile.

"Actually, no, I don't even like magic that much, but Zatanna's show was like nothing I've seen before," Clark replied.

"I noticed you didn't mention any of her specific tricks, so I was kind of wondering."

"I figured that might ruin the show for people. You know, take away some of the surprise. I figured if I just gave a general overview it would peak the reader's interest more."

"Oh, it has, I just got off the phone with the theatre's owner. They've sold out the next three weeks of shows on interest from your review," Perry said.

"That's a good thing, right?"

"For them, sure, but I could care less about that," Perry retorted, "I'm in the business of selling newspapers. You've created an interest and now we need to capitalize on it. I want you to get an interview with this Zatanna for the paper's Sunday's magazine. She's the hot topic in town, so we have an obligation to our readers to let them know more about her."

"And sell more papers in the process," Clark added.

"Now you're thinking," Perry smiled, "Have the interview on my desk by Friday."

"I'll try, Perry."

"Don't try, Kent, do," Perry admonished him, "you're a damn good reporter, but you don't push yourself. You did this Zatanna character a favor, now's the time to exploit it."

"I'll see what I can do," Clark reluctantly said.

"That's what I want to here," Perry smiled, "now get out of here, I'm not paying you to sit around."

Clark shook his head in amazement as he walked out of the office and headed back to his office.

LATER

It was almost two in the afternoon and Lois was instructing Jimmy on why his photos weren't good enough for her articles. He was half listening as it was basically the same argument he had with her every time. The elevator doors opened and Jimmy completely tuned out anything Lois was saying as a striking young woman stepped into the office. She was dressed casually, faded jeans, white blouse and black leather jacket, but they in no way diminished the overall effect

"Jimmy, are you listening to me," Lois asked in irritation.

"No, actually I'm not," he absently said, watching the woman gaze around as if she were unsure of where she was going. Lois was about to say something snide to Jimmy, but she turned and followed his eyes to see the woman standing by the elevator.
"Who's the model," she instantly said.

"I don't know, but I'd love to find you," Jimmy instantly replied.

"Put your tongue back in your mouth, youngster, she's way out of your league. In fact she's way out of everyone up here's league," Lois sarcastically said.

"No wonder you're so popular with your coworkers," Jimmy said in annoyance.

"Oh, shut up, let's see what she wants," Lois countered and headed towards the newcomer. The young woman turned towards them as they approached and smiled.

"Hi, I'm Lois Lane, can I help you?"

"Yes, thank you, I'm Zatanna Zatara, I was looking for Clark. Do you know where he is?"

"Smallville? You're looking for Clark," Lois said incredulously.

"That's right, is he here," Zatanna asked.

"You're here to see Clark? Clark Kent," Lois said, still not quite believing her.

"Ah, yes, is that a problem? Is this the wrong floor? The man downstairs said this was where he works,' Zatanna asked.

"Don't mind her, Clark's office is right over there," Jimmy spoke up, pointing her in the right direction.

"Oh, thanks, I appreciate it," Zatanna said with a smile.

"Clark Kent? Really," Lois muttered, watching the gorgeous woman walking towards Clark's office.

"I guess old C.K. had a better time at the show last night then he was letting on," Jimmy smirked. Lois turned to look at him in confusion, still not believing any of this.

Clark was just doing a few last touchups on his article, when there was a knock at the door.

"It's open," he said, not turning to see who it was. "I'll be with you in just one minute."

"If I'm interrupting, I can come back later," Zatanna said, standing in the doorway. Clark quickly turned to see her smiling at him.

"Hey, Zatanna, no, come in, I wasn't expecting you," Clark said, standing up to offer her a chair. Zatanna accepted his offer and gracefully slipped into the chair in front of his desk.

"So what brings you to the Daily Planet, Zatanna," Clark smiled, taking his seat again.

"I just wanted to come by and thank you personally for the great review. It was really kind of you."

"I meant every word, your show was amazing," Clark replied.

"Wow, amazing, huh, that's quite a compliment coming from Superman," Zatanna countered with a smile.

"Yeah, well, I'm afraid the compliment and the review came from only Clark Kent," he said with a bit of a frown.

"Hey, I was only teasing, Clark. The name might change by the guy's still the same. I'm just as flattered by the great review coming from Clark Kent as I am if it was from Superman," she explained.

"I guess I'm a little touchy on that subject,' he admitted, "Superman's really just a costume I put on for the job."

"I understand, Clark, I do. You don't think I go around in fishnets and high heels all the time, do you,' she said to him.

"Actually, I kind of did," he sheepishly said with a blush, "this is the first time I've seen you not in that outfit."

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I wear regular clothes just like you," she laughed.

"I'm not disappointed at all, you look great," he replied, before he could stop himself. Both of them blushed now and there was an awkward silence.

"I-I just meant that, well, you know, it's really, um," he stammered, trying to dig his way out of his embarrassment. He stopped when she raised her hand and smiled.

"I know what you meant and thank you," she softly said, not meeting his eyes.

"That uncomfortable moment was all Clark Kent, by the way," he said, trying to break the tension. Zatanna laughed and finally looked at him again. She was quietly surprised by his sense of humor and found herself attracted to him. He seemed so different than the few times she'd been around him on the Watchtower. Up there he was Superman, the hero of heroes, but right now, in this office, he was just a handsome, interesting man. She liked the difference.

"Well, I should probably let you get back to work," she said, pulling herself out of her thoughts, "I just came to say thanks."

"Actually, I was going to contact you later today to ask a favor," Clark said before she could leave.

"Oh? What," she asked.

"Well, it seems the review got such a good response, that my editor wants to do a feature on you for the paper's Sunday magazine. I'm the one that was assigned to ask you for an interview."

As she listened to him, the thought of getting to know this side of Clark was appealing to Zatanna. She had just gotten into town, so it wasn't like she had a ton of other things to do.

"Okay, when do you want to do the interview?"

"You'll do it?"

"Sure, it's free publicity for the show and it's the least I can do for a friend,' she smiled.

"Great, thank you, Zatanna," Clark said in appreciation. "We can do it whenever it's convenient for you, but it has to be by Friday to make the Sunday magazine."

"Well, how bout tomorrow after the show? I only have one performance so I should be done around ten," she offered.

"That would be great."

"I don't really know any places in Metropolis, so why don't you meet me in the lobby of my hotel around ten thirty? That way I can change for the interview," she suggested.

'Sounds like a plan, which hotel are you staying at?"

"The Excelsior."

"I'll be there at ten thirty,' Clark agreed.

"I'll look forward to it, Clark," Zatanna smiled and then left his office. Clark couldn't help but watch her walk away, once again reminded of just how good looking she was. A smile came to his face as he turned back to his story, but in the back of his mind he was already thinking of tomorrow night.