MAN OF STEEL, HEART OF GLASS
AN: I'm using the Golden Age versions of Lois, Clark, Steve, and assorted villains in this story but sticking them into the present. I don't own any DC Comics characters or content.
Clark Kent put a finger in his ear and wriggled it. He was sure that he had just heard someone say his name. It had been too faint for him to be sure.
"What's wrong, Kent?" Lois Lane asked absently as she shuffled through some of the papers on Clark's desk.
"Oh," said Clark, blushing simply due to the fact that it was Lois talking to him, "I thought I heard something."
Lois snorted. "What, not looking square enough already? You really need a hearing aid to go with those glasses?" As an afterthought she added, "…and that tie?"
As valiantly as Clark tried to ignore Lois's little comments – he dressed like this for a reason, after all, it was part of a disguise – this one stung just a little. Ma had picked out this tie for him, and as a matter of fact, he liked it very much.
He heard his name again, this time a little more audible, enough to convince him that he hadn't been imagining it the first time – "Superman?"
As the voice sounded only inquisitive and not in distress, Clark decided to ignore it for the moment. He heard lots of funny things when he let his mind wander – he came up in conversations surprisingly often; just the other day while he was brushing his teeth he heard a woman in Palau –
This time, not louder, but definitely more strained.
"I'll be right back, Lois," announced Clark as he stood to take his leave.
"Oh no," she said at once, yanking his arm and pulling him down. "It is almost midnight. I am here because you are here working on a story that you have been putting off all day because you keeping 'coming right back.' I want that shared byline, Clark, and there's no way that you're going to elbow me out of this one." She crossed her arms and glared him into compliance.
Obediently, he returned to typing on his computer, when he heard it again, "Superm—oh please!—Supe-ngh-omff!" This was then followed by a definite cackle of the evil variety by a different voice. Clark knew that he had to go.
"No, Lois," he said as he stood up again. "I'll be right back. It's an emergency." He certainly wasn't lying, but he pointed towards the restrooms for good measure, and Lois wrinkled her nose in response.
"Don't let me stop you," she grimaced. When she wasn't looking, he grimaced at himself too.
At first, Clark was surprised that such a place even existed in Metropolis. The unmarked building he stood in front of obviously housed some kind of torture chamber. Why hadn't he noticed it before tonight when someone from its depths finally called for him? The screams coming from inside were violent, agonized, blood-curdling. Not to mention the flashing lights spilling from the high-set windows and the thumping – bass line?
Suddenly, he understood what the building in front of him was…and he blushed.
Shaking the image of a disapproving Ma and Pa that had suddenly popped into his head, Clark flung open the door of the building to reveal a room full of women. He noticed with some distress that he even recognized some of these women. There was Star Sapphire lighting her friends' cigars with her violet energy beams. Dr. Poison was serving drinks, mixing bottles from behind the bar with vials she carried on her person. The Scarlet Widow, sitting in a corner and nursing a whole pitcher of beer, was thumping her foot to the beat. In fact, there were villainesses everywhere: sitting, standing, chattering, laughing, raising martini glasses full of sparkling pink drinks. Many of them were brandishing wads of cash, and some of them were stuffing bills into—
In horror, Clark squeezed his eyes shut. Then he remembered that he was Superman, and then he realized with some regret that this meant that he was obligated to open his eyes and face what was before him:
On stage, bent over a chair with his arms tied behind his back and wearing nothing but a black sequined G-string was Major Steve Trevor of the United States Army. Steve happened to turn his head at the exact same moment that Clark was stealing a horrified glance at him; as he had an apple stuffed in his mouth the only greeting he was able to give Superman was a frantic sort of eye-goggle.
This caught the attention of the woman onstage wielding a peacock feather. She followed Steve's gaze to the door and recognized the new addition to the party. "Superman!" she cried over the ear-splitting music, her arms outstretched. At this, every eye in the room turned to look at him; a loud cheer resounded through the room.
Clark slammed the door shut behind him. "Cheetah," he yelled over the music in as dignified a way as possible, and puffed out his chest to hide his discomfort, "What are you doing with Steve Trevor?"
"What aren't we doing with him?" Cheetah teased. She turned to tickle Steve's bottom with the peacock feather, and Steve was compelled to wiggle it in response. In fact, in order to avoid being tickled again, he stood up, but Cheetah continued to stroke him with the feather and thus Steve continued to dance across the stage. Clark tried not to look away in embarrassment.
"Let him go, Cheetah," demanded Superman.
"Relax, Superman," purred Catwoman as she slunk onto the stage and twirled to face him, "He's only the entertainment at our little bachelorette party." She nodded to a tall woman in the audience.
"I'm getting married, Superman!" cried Giganta in her incongruously high-pitched voice.
He caught himself from automatically replying with "congratulations" – so well had Ma Kent raised him in the art of etiquette. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest. "Major Trevor is a military man," he chided, "and a committed man. He's committed to Wonder Woman."
"Exactly the reason why he's here, Superman," Cheetah replied with a roll of her eyes, "We wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Why should Wonder Woman have all the fun?"
"Look," Superman continued to reason, "We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way."
At once, the music stopped. Many of the villainesses had risen from their seats, ready to attack. All of them were glaring at him.
"Oh, it's going to be the easy way," growled Giganta. "I knew one of you would try to spoil my fun tonight. So my friends here and I took the liberty of planting explosives under every pillar of every bridge in Metropolis. Any trouble from you, and kaboom! all together."
Clark clenched his jaw. There were too many bridges in Metropolis. Not even he was fast enough to be able to remove so many explosives spread over so much space all at once. And other than snatching away Steve Trevor, none of the ladies present at this get-together had caused any trouble tonight, which was good for the city, and for them too in fact.
"Fine," Clark consented, "I won't shut down your party. But you have hand over the detonator to the explosives, and you have to let Steve Trevor go."
Giganta was about to protest, but Cheetah leapt onto her table at once and put her hand over the oversized bride's mouth. "Fine," Cheetah said, eyes narrowed, "But you have to promise us something in return."
In three minutes and thirty-two seconds, Metropolis and Steve Trevor would both be safe, Clark told himself. It took him longer than that to get rid of Mxyzptlk. Heck, he spent more time in line waiting for his coffee. Three minutes and thirty-two seconds was nothing, he consoled himself.
The lights dimmed, the sound of an uptempo drum machine filled the room, and a spotlight hit the stage.
"Presenting," Catwoman's voice bounded across the room, "the Man of Steel, as you've never seen him before – in a sparkly red top hat and doing something completely, and incredibly…naughty!"
He wanted to protest that he wasn't going to be that naughty, but then the music became too loud for him to be heard. Okay, Clark, thought Clark, blinking as he stood center stage, just wave your arms like you're scaring off the crows in Pa's cornfields. He began to move his hands: in, out, in, out. Then: up, down, up, down. Then he began to move his feet too, because it seemed like the right thing to do.
To his relief – and mortification – the villainesses in the audience were cheering for him.
"Woo! Now work that cape!"
"Drop the spandex!"
"When are you gonna show us Big Blue?!"
With each passing comment, he blushed even deeper – which, thankfully, went unnoticed under the strobelights. To make matters worse, his dog-goned superhearing was picking up each wolf-whistle, each accelerated heartbeat, each whispered comment about his...you know, body. If his audience was this brutally forthright about him even when he had his costume on, he couldn't imagine how awful poor Steve must have felt standing on stage without a stitch on.
Clark stole a glance over at poor Steve, who – to his utter bafflement – was calmly sitting in the wings and tapping his foot to the disco beat.
So lost in thought became Clark upon seeing this that when he heard "Show us those buns of steel!" yelled from the audience, he obliged at once, spinning around with his back to the audience. The villainesses roared in delight as Clark realized what he had done. His stomach sank – and for some reason he couldn't shake the words "Lois" and "Kansas" from his mind – but then, in a sudden burst of inspiration, he lifted his cape over his shoulders and then moved his hips as chastely as he could – left, right, left – and then let the cape flutter back into place.
The song was over. Clark turned around to face his audience. The villainesses applauded and whistled.
"Get me a one way ticket to Krypton 'cause I ain't never coming back!" howled Dr. Poison.
"I could turn good for you!" shrieked the Scarlet Widow – which was really something, considering that she was the largest black market kryptonite dealer in the world.
But while the women in the room were on their feet in ecstatic celebration, Superman himself stood on stage feeling the complete opposite. It had been a job for Superman, but why did Clark have to be involved in it too?
Safely back in Washington, a fully clothed Steve Trevor offered Superman a cup of coffee. As Lois was the only other person who had ever offered him coffee after he got her out of a scrape, Steve's gesture felt a little too…well, intimate. But as the last thing Clark wanted to do was to hurt Steve's feelings, he accepted.
They sat on Steve's balcony, sipping silently until Clark finally asked, "Are you doing okay?"
"Me?" Steve answered casually, "Oh yeah, being kidnapped is kind of my thing." He took another sip and gave Clark a flippant grin. "This was one helluva night, though."
Clark couldn't help it. His jaw dropped just a little. "…But you wanted to be rescued?" he reminded him meekly.
"Uh, yeah," Steve replied slowly, "It was a room full of villainesses."
Clark furrowed his brow. He knew that big city folk were a tad more permissive than he was used to back in Smallville, but wasn't Steve being a little too brazen? And then, if Steve had such liberal leanings, then why—
He asked the question that had dogged him since he first saw Steve onstage at the bachelorette party. "Steve," he began, embarrassment threatening to swallow him whole, "why did you call for me tonight?"
Steve put down his cup. "Because I couldn't let Wonder Woman see me like that," he said quietly, "Not unless it's on my own terms. You won't tell her about this, will you?"
Clark shook his head. He understood perfectly.
"And plus, I have a big squishy crush on you, Superman," cooed Steve.
His companion whipped his head in surprise, and saw that Steve was laughing at him. "I'm just kidding, big guy," the latter assured him. "Don't worry, I'll get rid of every trace of tonight. I think I'm going to stick that G-string into my boss's secretary's bagel tomorrow morning. A bit of harmless fun, really."
Clark knew exactly who Steve's boss's secretary was. He knew that Diana, as Wonder Woman, would rebuke Steve for his prank, but he felt sorry for his friend anyway. Diana was so good, so innocent, and so gentle. Not for the first time, he wondered how someone as mild-mannered as her could have fallen for someone as mean as Steve Trevor.
"Where the hell have you been, Smallville? There's a welt on my rear the size of Kansas from sitting around waiting for you."
"Oh, sorry, Lois," Clark managed as he collapsed into his seat with a sigh. Tonight had given him a lot to think about.
Lois almost bared her teeth at him, but instead, she yanked her coat from her chair and shoved it on. "I finished your story and took your byline," she informed him curtly, "And I'll have you know that an anonymous tipster just told me about the hottest story of the year, which I will not be sharing with you." She stood in front him, bursting with importance, but when Clark wouldn't meet her gaze, she slammed her fist onto his desk.
"Superman just saved Metropolis by dancing to 'Macho Man' at Giganta's bachelorette party!" Information out, she gave him a triumphant arch of her eyebrows.
"I know, Lois," Clark sighed dejectedly.
Lois jerked her head. "What do you mean, 'you know'?" she demanded. When she saw that Clark had turned white, she leaned forward to stare him down, bringing face very close to his shoulder. But then it was her turn to look white. "You smell like cigars and cheap perfume," she sniffed. Her eyes widened. "Why, Clark Kent – you were at that bachelorette party!"
He faltered. "Well, now, Lois, I—"
"Well now nothing!" Lois fumed. She spun around and charged towards the elevator. "At least Superman was there because he had no other choice. You on the other hand are a sneaky, two-faced, no-good…" Her voice trailed off as the elevator doors closed.
With a groan, Clark buried his face in his hands. How could he tell Lois that this mission had crushed his spirits more than any other ever had? And how could he tell her that the reason he was crushed was because of her? In his wildest dreams, the ones he was too shy to finish, he imagined himself dancing for Lois – nothing racier than the Charleston, of course – and Lois clapping her hands in delight and affection. But tonight had ruined it – it hadn't been special. None of those women had been her. But he couldn't tell Lois any of that, so he stayed quiet, like he always did.