Cat took a seat smack in the middle of Lois' desk, nearly upturning a mug of lukewarm coffee, and announced, "So, I went by Clark's apartment the other night," very casually.
Lois looked up from her word processor and gave Cat a look that, by all rights, should have melted her clowny, perfectly tanned face off.
Cat smiled, leaning over to pat Lois' hand in a poor imitation of sympathy. "Just thought I'd let you know before Cat's Corner goes to press. Better that you hear it from a friend."
Lois narrowed her eyes. "Hear what?"
"Oh, that he brushed me off." And before Lois could let out a triumphant Ha! she went on, "He already had a... special visitor."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Cat, if Clark is fooling around with some naive, Smallville corn-queen sweetheart, that's his business."
"Lois," Cat said sweetly, "I know you're not very good at shutting your yap and listening, but trust me, you do not want to miss the next part." Lois glared some more. "So, Clark answers the door half-dressed, distracted, the whole nine yards, but there's one thing missing."
"Class?" Lois offered.
"Lipstick," Lois repeated, humouring her.
"Not a single smudge on his neck, his collar, or his mouth - and believe me, I was looking."
"Do you plan on getting to the point anytime soon, Cat? Because, you know, as a reporter I have actual work to do, as opposed to digging around in people's private lives."
Cat looked very, very smug. "Well, guess what, star reporter? The biggest story since Superman's been sitting right under your nose all this time, and you've missed it. Must be those ace instincts of yours." Lois opened her mouth, and Cat went on, "About a minute or so later, I happen to see Clark's special guest leave his apartment. By the window."
"Only it's not a she, it's a he."
"And he's wearing the weirdest outfit - all this blue spandex, red underwear, a cape..."
Lois digested that for a minute, and then another minute. Then she burst out laughing. "Superman? And Clark? Are you hearing yourself?"
Cat lifted her hands. "I saw what I saw, Lois dear. And it's my duty as a reporter to share it with Metropolis."
If looks could kill, the glare Lois aimed at her would have taken out at least five of Cat's nine lives. "Superman is not gay."
"And you know this because the two of you are so close."
"Neither is Clark," Lois snapped.
"He's managed to resist me," Cat pointed out.
"That's called having standards, Cat."
"Ooh, Lois," Cat said, fluttering a hand up to her heart. "Every time you say that, it hurts a little more." She smirked, and got up to leave. "Maybe you don't know Clark as well as you'd like to think. But don't worry, you'll get to read all about it in tomorrow's Cat's Corner!"
They were on their way to a fire downtown when Clark did that thing again and gave some lame excuse to run off. The first few times he'd done that, Lois had wondered if he had some girl on the side he was sneaking off to meet - until it'd become obvious that Clark was totally incapable of that kind of thing. He couldn't tell lies any more than he could hide his enormous, hopeless crush on Lois. She'd started to wonder if he was trying to scoop her, which was even more ridiculous. Nobody scoops Lois Lane.
He disappeared into the crowd, running in exactly the wrong direction. Lois rolled her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and started shoving her way through the crowd to get to the burning building. Without her partner.
Superman came and went, saving an elderly woman and her cat, putting out the fire single-handed, and not bothering to give Lois the time of day, let alone a good quote. Lois called in the story, then looked around for Clark. No sign of him.
No sign of Superman, either.
Don't be ridiculous, she told herself. Clark had probably had a sudden attack of food poisoning and run back to his apartment - which was only a block or two away from here, come to think of it. She'd probably find him there on the phone with his parents, telling them his tummy hurt and complaining about Lois' choice of street vendors.
And if she went by his apartment and he wasn't there, Lois thought, heading for his building, it wasn't like that would prove anything.
Lois had a key to Clark's apartment. What? They were partners, and sometimes being partners meant that one partner had to barge into the other partner's apartment in the middle of the night because she was being targeted by hired assassins and her phone was being tapped.
He'd given her the key last time he left town to visit his parents, asking her to water his plants while he was away. (She hadn't. There was a whole blackmail, kidnapping-and-being-rescued-by-Superman thing, and of course when Clark got back he was totally clueless and had the audacity to frown at her over the dried-up fern on his desk.)
It didn't matter that much, because Clark's goody-two-shoes Midwestern wholesomeness meant that he forgot to lock his door most of the time anyway, even after that whole fiasco where his apartment got burgled and he spent a week being mopey over that - that globe. The one he'd lied to her about. The one that had something to do with Superman.
Maybe you don't know Clark as well as you'd like to think.
"Shut up, Cat," Lois muttered, inching the door open.
No sign of him. Good. She tiptoed inside, closed the door very quietly, and started snooping around Clark's apartment. What? Partners needed to be able to trust each other, and if he didn't want her to invade his privacy, he wouldn't have given her a key.
Being a reporter meant following your instincts, and more often than not, it meant turning over every single bar stool in every dive in Metropolis to flush out the slimiest, most disgusting excuses for sources imaginable just to follow a lead, even if you had only the faintest idea of what you were looking for.
Lois turned over all of Clark's couch cushions. Nothing there. Not even a lone M&M or a single piece of popcorn.
She rooted through his coat closet, only to find three identical pairs of nondescript shoes and three brown jackets with "mild-mannered" written all over them.
She rifled through the kitchen cupboards, finding dozens of boxes of exotic teas, and three canisters of her favourite brand of instant coffee.
She felt more and more ridiculous as she went on, and increasingly annoyed at Clark for being so boring. Fine, the whole sleeping-with-Superman thing was a little out of his league, but couldn't he at least have some dirty secrets? Some guilty pleasures? A box of powdered donuts hidden behind the Quaker oatmeal?
Only one more place to look: the bedroom. Considering what she was supposed to be looking into - which was seeming more and more preposterous by the second - the bedroom would probably have been the logical place to start, but come on. It was Clark.
Clark, who trusted her enough to give her a key to his apartment and actually expect her to water his plants and not sneak around his place looking for dirty little secrets.
Honestly. She was doing him a favour, really, she thought, opening the bedroom door a crack, teaching him a lesson about -
Wet, naked Superman, a white towel slung around his hips, standing there in Clark's bedroom like he owned the place, the well-defined muscles in his arms rippling as he toweled off his dark, tousled hair. Next to his feet, crumpled on the floor, was his charred and sooty red-and-blue suit.
Lois closed the door. Hard. Then smacked herself on the forehead, very hard. She heard a distinct whoosh on the other side of the door, and suddenly Clark was there. Fully dressed. ...More or less. The top few buttons of his rumpled shirt were undone, and his glasses were slightly askew. "Lois?"
"What are you doing here?" Clark demanded. The look on his face and the nervous quaver in his voice may as well have been signed confessions. "...Lois?"
Regardless of what anyone at the Planet said about her, Lois prided herself on being a rational woman, who never let emotion cloud her judgement, especially when it came to investigating a story.
"HOW COULD YOU?" she screeched.
He flinched. "L-Lois, I've wanted to tell you -"
"All this time we've been partners-"
"- but it was just, I, I -"
"All this time I've been throwing myself at him -"
"- it just wasn't safe for you - for anyone to know -"
"- all the running off, and him ignoring me -"
He'd grabbed one of her flailing hands at some point and was holding it firmly, looking into her eyes. "And believe me, Lois, the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you."
He said it in that perfectly sincere, painfully Smallville tone of his, too, making her stomach drop and her blood boil all at the same time.
She lifted her free hand and slapped him in the face. It was like slapping a brick wall, and now his glasses were even more off-kilter, and that somehow made her even angrier.
"You lied to me," she snarled.
"He lied to me!" she shouted, and couldn't believe that Clark's dishonesty stung so much more than Superman's. Superman was mysterious. He was supposed to have secrets. Clark was - Clark was tilting his head in that familiar way that meant he was going to run off. "Lois," he started, and she noticed for the first time that behind him the bedroom window was open.
She had the sudden urge to throw him out of it.
"Lois," he said again, and she had the incredibly heart-breaking thought that if she did throw him out the window, Superman would show up and catch him, because if Superman was sleeping with Clark then that meant he was probably in love with Clark Kent.
"Lois, I - please don't cry, Lois -"
"I am NOT CRYING," Lois choked out, wrenching her hand out of his grip and wiping furiously at her eyes, "I have smoke inhalation."
"Lois, I have to go," he said, inexplicably reaching for his shirt buttons. "There's a bank robbery on -"
She fisted a hand in his collar and yanked him down to her level. "If you think you are running away from this conversation, Clark Kent, you are very very wrong."
The phone rang. Clark glanced over at it, looking not unlike a caged, frightened animal. "Lois -"
"Don't. Even. Think about it."
The phone rang again. "Lois, I really need to -"
Lois dragged him over to the phone by his rumpled collar, picked up the receiver herself and yelled, "What?" into it.
It was Perry. "Lois? I thought I called Clark. Where the hell are you two? There's a robbery in progress at First Bank of Metropolis. Get down there."
"We're busy," she snapped.
"Now Lois, I'm only going to say this once: story now, quarrel later. The Sun already has someone on the way. Let's go!"
Lois opened her mouth to yell, and Clark snatched the receiver away from her. "We're on our way, Chief," he said, and hung up. "Lois -"
Fine. Lois took a deep breath and let go of him. Story now, yell later. "I'm not finished with you," she warned. "Or with Superman. The bank - is that why he took off?"
Clark blinked. "Who?"
Lois fought down the urge to smack him again. "Superman," she said, as though speaking to a very slow, very stupid, very annoying child. From Kansas.
Clark opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. "I'm confused."
"There's a shocker," Lois muttered, and headed for the door. "Come on, let's go get that story."
"I - I have to - change," Clark stammered out. Lois stared at him. "Go ahead, I'll catch up!"
He disappeared into the bedroom, and Lois made a very rude gesture at the closed door.
Once Superman had handed the robbers over to the police (in makeshift handcuffs twisted out of iron bars), he took off without even looking in her direction. "Superman!" she yelled. "Superman, I need to talk to you!"
Clark reappeared right on cue, wheezing as if he'd just run all the way from his apartment. "Couldn't - get a cab," he puffed.
"I'm not talking to you, Clark," Lois told him, and walked away to flag a cab. Then told the cabbie to wait while she walked right back to Clark - who was still standing there, looking lost - and jabbed a finger in his chest. "And next time you see Superman, tell him I need to talk to him."
She turned back to the cab. Then back to Clark again. "And! That as a reporter, my first responsibility is to the public. And if you two expect me to sit on this story, you'd better have a damn good reason for it!"
She marched back to the cab, and this time he followed her. Which was good, because it gave her the opportunity to slam the door in his face as soon as he said, "Lois -"
After they put the paper to bed, Lois narrowly avoided a talk with Perry about what was going on between her and Clark. She made a beeline for the elevator, feeling Cat's swallowed-a-canary smirk following her the whole time. Jimmy ducked out of her way before she could run him over.
She caught a cab back to her apartment, changed into something a little more impressive than her work clothes, and waited for Superman.
And waited, trying very hard not to imagine him at Clark's apartment, the two of them talking about her, maybe arguing about what to do, what to tell her. Maybe they would both come over, and the three of them would talk about it like rational adults, and Lois could - could even be happy for them, happy that her best friend and the man of her dreams were... together. And they'd lied to her about it!
Well, alright, Superman hadn't lied, of course, and it wasn't like she'd ever asked - because she shouldn't have had to! It was Clark and it was Superman and maybe they would both come, and Clark would be in Superman's arms, and they would be happy and - and -
And maybe he wouldn't come at all! Maybe he didn't care! Maybe all those times he'd saved her life it was just business! What if they weren't even thinking about her at all and right now they were back at Clark's apartment or Superman's... wherever Superman lived, god, how could he show Clark and not her? Maybe they were there right now, drinking wine and lighting candles in preparation for a night of passionate, sweaty love-making! Without her!
There was a knock at her window, and she realized with a start that she had a pint of Ben & Jerry's Death By Chocolate in her hands and no clear idea of where it'd come from or how much she'd eaten.
And there he was, outside her window, his cape fluttering around him and a serious, almost worried expression on his face. Her stomach did a little flip.
"May I come in?" he said, muffled behind the glass, and Lois scrambled to her feet, shoving the ice cream under a throw pillow.
"Superman!" she said, fiddling with the window latch. "O-of course, come in."
He stepped lightly inside, crossed his arms, and there he was, strong and solid and there. What was it about him that never failed to make her breath catch like that? Was it the eyes?
He looked at her, quiet and intent. Yep, definitely the eyes. And the arms. And the... everything. "Clark said you wanted to speak to me," he said.
Clark. She swallowed. "I... I guess he told you that I... know."
He frowned a little, and there was something oddly familiar about it. Familiar and infuriating. "Know what?"
She looked at him, gestured vaguely. "About... you two."
He still had that look, and now he was tilting his head a little in confusion. "Forgive me, Lois, I'm... not sure what you mean."
She choked out a laugh. Was Superman actually going to play dumb with her? "That you're together!" she snapped.
"I'm still not following you," he said.
"YOU AND CLARK ARE SLEEPING TOGETHER!" she shouted.
For the first time since she'd known him, Superman looked completely and utterly dumbfounded. "...I'm sorry?" he said, after a very long, very silent minute.
"I saw you! At his apartment! Naked!" Lois exclaimed, and then immediately vowed never to speak again. Ever.
Superman blinked, several times, and then burst out laughing.
Lois needed to sit down, all of a sudden. She did, and knew right away that she'd seated herself on the throw pillow with the Death By Chocolate underneath.
Eventually Superman straightened up, actually wiping tears from his eyes, and managed, between gasps, to say, "And you think Clark and I are -" He sobered up a little, choosing the next word carefully, "- dating?"
Lois' face felt very hot. "Do you have a better explanation?" she snapped.
Superman coughed into his fist, failing to cover up a small snort of laughter. "I'm sorry, Lois, I -" He cleared his throat again. "After putting out the fire, I stopped by Clark's apartment for a shower and a new suit. Clark lets me keep some extra uniforms in his closet for cases like that, when it's easier for me to stop by his place than to fly all the way back to my... where I live."
Lois snatched at the lead. "And where's that?"
He gave a little half-smile that was, in her unbiased reporter's opinion, devastatingly adorable. "I can't tell you that."
She rolled her eyes. "If he would just tell me things like that, then this sort of thing," she gestured around them, trying to indicate the situation without ever actually speaking about it ever again, "wouldn't happen."
"I asked Clark not to tell anyone," he offered.
"I'm not 'anyone'!" Lois protested. "I'm his partner. He's supposed to tell me these things."
"It's my fault," Superman said.
Lois waved that away. "You know Clark. He was probably so excited just to have a secret that he'd take it to his grave. Honestly," she said, "if I had a secret about you, I wouldn't tell him either. I can't blame him for wanting to... to keep some part of you all to himself." And what was it about Superman that made her need to be so idiotically honest?
He looked at her - just looked at her, for a few long, long moments, then tilted his head suddenly, staring off at nothing. "I have to go."
She managed not to say, Don't.
He focused on her again, and said, "Clark is a good friend." Definitely the eyes. "But... he's not my type."
Lois' stomach did eight consecutive flips, ending on a perfect dismount.
Superman turned and headed for the window.
"Superman!" she heard herself say.
He stopped, one foot on the sill. "Yes?"
"You read the Planet, right?"
He nodded. "Of course."
"...Do you read Cat's Corner, by any chance?"
He arched his eyebrows. "I mostly stick to the Crime section," he said. "And the comics. Good night, Lois." And he was gone.
As she stood at the window, watching him fly off into the night, she could swear she heard Superman giggling.
Lois took a seat smack in the middle of Cat's desk, nearly upturning a bottle of nail polish, and announced, "I spoke to Superman last night," very casually.
Cat stopped in the act of applying a second coat of Violet Vixen to her fingernails. "Oh really? Did he confirm or deny?"
"Please, Cat. As if I would stoop to your level by spreading such ridiculous rumours. I mean, really? Superman and Clark?"
They both looked over at Clark. He was at his desk, eating a donut and carefully aiming a paper airplane at the back of Jimmy's head.
"Look at him," Lois said.
"Oh, I do," Cat purred. "Often."
Lois rolled her eyes, and before she could say anything to that, Jimmy walked by and interrupted with, "Way to go, Lois!"
She frowned after him, but he was already gone. She turned back to Cat. "I hope you came to your senses and cancelled that column."
Cat scowled at her nails. "Perry wouldn't run it without any 'concrete' evidence. Like he doesn't trust me! Said Superman would sue." She blew on her nails. "So, I had to... edit the details, a little bit," she finished, smirking up at Lois from under her lashes.
Lois narrowed her eyes, then nonchalantly hurried back to her desk to flip through today's edition for Cat's Corner.
The Man of Steel Buns has reportedly been spotted leaving a late-night romantic rendezvous with a certain star reporter at our own Daily Planet. Which begs the question: is he as super out of the suit as he is in it?
She looked up in time to see Toby from the mailroom giving her a thumbs up.
When Clark came over to her desk, still chewing on the last bite of his donut, Lois was not blushing. She was just... warm, from the coffee, and, and working hard, on this important story about the city's... newly-designed manhole covers.
"Well?" he said.
Lois tore herself away from the sanitation department's thrilling press release to look up at him. "Well what?"
"Did Superman come see you last night?"
Apparently Clark didn't read Cat's Corner, either. Lois went back to working on her story. "Yes," she sniffed.
"And, it turned out that... a source... had given me some... inaccurate information."
"Uh huh," Clark said, managing to imbue that second syllable with worlds of skepticism. "And what information was that, exactly?"
Lois typed some furiously important details about durable yet inexpensive metal alloys into her word processor. "He told me not to tell you."
"He did." More monosyllabic skepticism.
"And I could never betray Superman's trust," she said. Typing.
"Oh, of course," Clark said, sounding very much as though he were patronizing her.
Lois glared up at him. "Clark, I know this might be hard to believe, but I actually have a story to write."
"And?" he said expectantly.
Lois attempted to set his tie on fire with the power of her mind.
"Are you going to apologize?" he asked. Lois stared at him. "For sneaking into my apartment and then yelling at me for twenty minutes?"
Lois finally took her hands off the keyboard and folded them in front of her. "Clark, I'm a reporter. It's my job to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth. If you try to keep secrets from me, you have to expect that sooner or later I'll find out what you're hiding."
He blinked at her, looking vastly unimpressed. "Sure, Lois. Whatever you say."
He started to head back to his desk, then turned around and came back. "One more question."
Lois resigned herself to not getting any work done in the foreseeable future, and reached for her coffee. "And what would that be," she said flatly, before taking a sip.
"Is he as super out of the suit?"
She was still coughing five minutes later, Clark pounding unhelpfully on her back, when Perry came by and told them both to quit fooling around and get back to work.