"I can't believe you're making me do this!" Lois Lane grumbled.
Chloe Sullivan, her best friend and cousin, turned to face her, walking backwards with a bounce in her step. "Come on Lois, it's your birthday, you should be having fun."
Lois surveyed her surroundings. "Yeah, turning twenty three is bad enough Chlo, without adding a bunch of screaming kids, angry parents, and teenagers in a love fest to the mix. I mean seriously, a carnival?"
"What's wrong with carnivals? I love them."
"Have you forgotten about the incident of 2003?" Chloe, unfazed by her older cousin's attitude, shrugged her shoulders and fell back in step beside her.
"Lois, you've been working non stop at the Planet, you hardly ever take a break. What's the harm in having one night off? To just let your hair down and enjoy your birthday."
"I would enjoy it anywhere as long as I was with you Chlo. But I'm not sure me throwing up after going on something as slow as the big wheel will make me feel any happier."
Chloe laughed as Lois grimaced at the memory. They had just stepped off the big wheel, turning to face a couple of guys who had given them a whistle, and then…Lois lost the recently eaten popcorn and hot dog, along with her dignity, and had sworn never to go on one since.
A rollercoaster she could've dealt with, but the big wheel, come on, those things moved slower than an old lady. She had tried to blame the sandwich she had eaten at lunch but knew that Chloe had never bought that excuse.
"Look, I know that you're feeling a little down lately…"
"I am not down!" Lois disagreed. Chloe fixed her with a sceptical stare.
"Come on Lois, I have eyes in my head. Even Clark's noticed that something's not right with you."
At the mention of her other friend, the farm boy who constantly bugged and irritated her to no end, Lois stopped. "What do you mean Clark's noticed? What did he say?"
"He just mentioned that you didn't seem your usual bossy…well he thinks that maybe it has something to do with working with him." Chloe said quickly, trying to cover her slip, but Lois knew what she was going to say.
"Why on earth would he think that?" Lois asked incredulously.
"Beats me, you know Clark, he's always concerned about everyone else but himself. He just likes to make sure that people are happy."
Lois did know that, it was also one of the reasons that she had started to really enjoy working with him lately. It was confusing her big time. They had always been the kind of friends that were secret friends, on the outside everyone saw the bantering, argumentative couple but deep down, she knew that Clark cared for her. And if she was honest, she cared a lot more about him than she let on.
He had changed in the two months since starting at the Daily Planet. Something was different about him but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. As they had done a few investigations together, she had found herself becoming increasingly less hostile towards him and teased him less. Maybe that was what he had noticed. It was their thing, teasing arguments, insults delivered but not in a mean way, that was Lois and Clark at their best. But lately, the dynamic between them had begun to shift and she had no idea what to do about it.
"Well, be that as it may, it has nothing to do with Smallville. I'm actually surprised at how well he's doing at the Planet."
Chloe stopped, grabbed her arm and smirked at her. "Did I just hear Lois Lane give Clark Kent a compliment?"
"Shut up." Lois tugged her arm free, accidentally hitting someone behind her.
"Oh sorry…" She muttered, turning around to face whoever she had elbowed, and was shocked to see herself looking up into two smiling blue eyes. "Smallville, what are you doing here?" She asked, her tone a little frosty.
He gave her a surprised look. "Chloe said we were going out tonight to celebrate your birthday." He frowned. "She did tell you I was coming didn't she?"
Lois scowled at a grinning Chloe. "No, she left that little detail out. But since you're here…"
"Oh I almost forgot." He pulled something out of his back pocket and handed it to her. It was a card.
"Happy birthday Lois, I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to give you it this morning but you were out all day and…" He trailed off as Lois opened the card. She felt a smile creep up her face as she read the words he had written. Simple but to the point.
Happy Birthday Lois,
He had signed it Smallville? She raised her eyes to his and there was a split second where she felt something pass between them. But that was just her imagination. She cleared her throat and pocketed the card, smiling up at him awkwardly.
"Thanks Smallville. Now…" She clapped her hands together. "Where to next Chlo?"
"Ooh, how about this?" Chloe pointed over at a curtained booth and Lois immediately felt the sarcasm just waiting to find a release. She clamped her mouth shut and looked at the sign in front of it.
"Huh, never seen a hypnotist at a carnival before. I kind of actually wanna go in," She registered Chloe's surprised look. "Just to see what it's like. Tell you what, I'll go in and I'll meet you two over at the hall of mirrors."
Clark and Chloe shared a quick glance. "Okay, if you're sure?" Chloe said, her tone telling Lois that she was pleased she had decided to join the fun rather than grumble about it.
"I'm sure. I'll see you in a few." She headed into the booth, and sat down.
A small circular table with a lamp in the centre was all that was in there, and Lois thought it looked more like a fortune teller's booth than a hypnotist's.
A few seconds later the curtain pulled back to a woman who looked to be in her early forties, with jet black hair that reached down to her butt.
"Well hello there," She greeted Lois warmly as she sat down.
"And what may I help you with today young lady?" The woman asked, her black hair falling in long waves around her shoulders.
"Uh well, what is it that you do?" Lois asked, suddenly unsure.
"I can do anything." She replied sincerely. "From quitting smoking to losing weight," Her brown eyes assessed Lois. "None of which I see you need help any with. So what's it to be?"
"There's actually nothing…"
"Ah, I see something." She said, staring hard at Lois.
"Fortune teller as well are you?" Lois asked, she was beginning to feel a little stupid for even coming in here.
"No, I just see things a little more clearly than most people. Give me your hand Lois."
"How did you know my name?" Lois asked, alarmed that even though she didn't tell it to, her hand had made its way into hers.
"Like I said, I'm very observant. I think I know what you need. Now, I want you to look directly into this and don't take your eyes off it…" She held something up and immediately, Lois' eyes were drawn straight to it. It was a beautiful gold locket on a long chain with some kind of green gemstone in the centre.
"Now I want you to relax Lois…" The woman spoke in soft tones as she started swinging the locket back and forth. "Take a deep breath and focus on my voice."
Lois did as she was instructed, barely registering the world outside fading away as she entered her trance. The woman took a few moments to study Lois, as if reaching into her mind.
"You're confused about something…a man…you don't know how you feel about him."
"Yes." Lois replied.
"You're feeling conflicted. This man, he's a close friend. You spend time with him daily but he's not the same man you knew before. He's different."
"You feel that he's not always as he appears to be. There's something more about this Clark Kent?"
"I see there have been gaps in your history with this man." She said, Lois was too far under to notice that this woman should not know these kinds of things. "I want you to cast your mind back, open the doors that your mind has locked Lois, open them and walk through. What do you see?"
Lois took a mental step towards that door, and on the other side there was… "Nothing. There's nothing there."
Ten minutes of careful probing later, there was still no progress and the woman had decided to give up. Trying another tactic she said. "When you leave here Lois, I want you keep your mind open, let him in. Don't push him away. Do this and I'm sure that in time, you will find yourself entering a place no one else ever has. Now when I click my fingers, you will return to your normal state."
And just like that, Lois was back in the room. She blinked a few times and shook her head to dispel the sudden bout of dizziness.
"Sorry about that, first time is always kind of rough. But just remember what I told you Lois."
"I would if I could actually remember it now." Lois replied, deeply confused.
The woman smiled knowingly. "Don't worry, it will come to you."
With a shaky hand, Lois handed over a bill and quickly made her exit. Once outside, she took a deep breath of fresh air and closed her eyes. What had just happened? She couldn't remember a word that woman had said to her. She was no expert, but she didn't think that hypnotism was supposed to have that kind of effect. Putting it down to yet another carnival rip-off, Lois headed towards the hall of mirrors to find Chloe and Clark.
"Lois!" She heard Clark calling her name and turned to find him and Chloe waiting by the Ghost Train ride.
"Why are you over here?" she asked.
"The mirrors can wait, I love a good ghost ride but Clark here's too scared to go in with me," Lois found herself laughing along with Chloe at the indignant look on Clark's face.
"I'm not scared Chloe. I just don't like being on moving things in complete darkness, I get all disoriented, it makes me feel sick."
"Aw, poor Smallville." Lois cooed sarcastically.
"Come on Clark, man up and get in there." She ordered. "Most men would kill for a chance to be in the dark with two gorgeous women such as ourselves." She laughed as she put an arm around Chloe's shoulders.
"Well…I'm different." He replied, and all of a sudden a bright flash went off in Lois' eyes like the flash from a camera. An image whizzed through her mind, blurs of bright vivid colours, but it was gone too fast for her to even register what it was.
"Whoa." She pressed a hand to her spinning head.
"Hey, you okay?" Chloe asked, grabbing hold of her arm. "You don't look so hot Lois."
Lois dragged in a breath, and glanced up to see both Clark and Chloe watching her in concern.
"I'm fine. Just a little head rush." She replied, feeling a little better, but as she tried to focus on what she'd seen, nothing but a blur of red and blue came up.