A/N: This short story begins directly where the season 2 episode 'Super Menace!' ends. It's a little bit of filler for a 'missing scene' in the episode and an imagined conversation between Superboy and Lana after he is cured from the bad effects of the Red Kryptonite.
As they walked out of the lab to the garage, Superboy couldn't help but notice that Lana kept her distance at least a foot ahead of him. Whenever he came closer she sped up, until they finally stopped by her car. Superboy glanced at the front right tire. She had a flat.
"Lana, do you have a spare?"
"Spare what?…oh…oh damn!" She kicked at the tire. "One of these days when I start making real money I'm going to invest in something cool, like a jeep."
Superboy held out his hand. "This is not a problem, I can take you home, it's a nice night for flying." He smiled, but faltered.
Lana ignored him and rummaged through her trunk until she yanked out a tire. He could have sworn he heard her grumbling something about 'no flights, no tights.' Superboy attempted to help but she nearly shoved past him and set the tire down.
"No thanks, the forecast said rain."
"But I can fly over the clouds, you won't get wet."
"And chance us getting hit by a lightning bolt? No thanks, Superboy."
"Okay, then." Superboy watched her set out the tools disgruntled. "Lana, let me do that, it will only take a few seconds."
"No. I can do this for myself. I'll never learn to handle these things properly if I keep relying on everyone else for help."
Lana adjusted the carjack and cranked it. Superboy crouched down beside her and lifted the vehicle with one hand.
"At least let me hold it up. The tire's all yours."
Lana's steady, crystal-eyed gaze bore into him. "Don't drop it on me, okay?"
"Why in the world would I drop it on you?" He said flustered, but then looked away and nodded. "Never mind. Of course not. Go ahead, change it. Just don't make the lug nuts too tight, they could spring right off and…"
Lana slammed down her tools. "I know what I'm doing, okay? I read the repair book. Are you a Super Mechanic now too?"
Superboy fell silent and waited patiently while Lana worked. Avoiding further conflict, he didn't remark on her distracted handling of the job. As he looked at her he felt a surge of pity. She was furious with him. He tried to understand why. Hadn't she forgiven him just a little while ago? Inside the lab, Lana jokingly said she didn't know if she could, but she laughed it off and assured him she did. The red kryptonite had messed with his mind in a bad way, but now that he was cured, he had no recollection of the damage and trouble he might have caused. He must have done something to her, and she was hiding it from him.
Lana tossed down the wrench and wiped her hands, satisfied with her handiwork. Superboy gently lowered the car and they stood up.
"I can get rid of that old tire for you."
Lana put up her hand. "It's okay, really. I'll dump it tomorrow."
Lana walked around to the driver's side and opened the door. She pulled out some hand sanitizer from her purse and wiped her hands. She looked at Superboy with a half-hearted smile.
"I'm ready to go back to the dorm. Aren't you needed somewhere else?"
Superboy shrugged bashfully. "I don't know. I was thinking I should lay low until General Swan makes the public announcement about the red kryptonite tomorrow afternoon. He promised to clear my name, remember?"
"Right. He definitely should. Well, then, I have to go. I have a pop-quiz in psychology class tomorrow morning."
Superboy held back his surprise. He was glad he had finished studying the book a few nights ago. "If it's a pop-quiz how do you know about it?"
"Word gets around fast at Shuster U. Professor Salk is kinda predictable sometimes."
"Yeah, I guess…I mean, I heard…um, Lana, for what you did for me tonight, he should give you an A+."
When she entered the car, Superboy shut the door. Lana gazed at him. "I don't think he'd count my little reverse psychology trick on you toward an 'Intimate relations' quiz."
Superboy cleared his throat. "Oh, I see. Well, you know what I mean, right?"
"Sure I do. Hey, I gotta run. Maybe we'll see each other soon." Lana gunned her engine and Superboy stepped away from her window.
"Sure thing. Thanks for believing in me, Lana." He sensed a change in the air and humidity. "Be careful on the road, okay? You're right about the rain."
Lana couldn't look at him. She gulped down a lump in her throat and nodded, then took off before he saw her tears.
The rain poured down hard as Lana hit the highway. Her windshield wipers were not working at full speed. She banged on the steering wheel.
"Stupid old piece of junk crap car! I'm gonna tell Superboy to crush you into a tiny square and flick you to the planet Mars!"
Lana's notorious temper was getting the best of her. The last few days were like a waking nightmare for her and she had barely slept. Her best friend Clark jokingly called her a roaring lion when she lacked sleep. She was liable to bite anyone's head off.
Superboy's exposure to red kryptonite caused him to behave outright criminal and he even teamed up with the horrible murderer, Metallo. Superboy, in his altered state, hoped to double cross Metallo and gain more power from the red kryptonite. From the beginning, Lana knew it all had to be a mistake and that Superboy was somehow a victim. She felt like she was the only one left who had faith in him. Clark's roommate Andy McAllister strolled around campus trying to make fast cash by selling Superboy tee shirts with a slash across the red and yellow emblem. The other students bought and wore them proud on campus. Some even had the nerve to start anti-Superboy rallies.
Clark had grown angrier by the day, all but kicking Andy out the window for his obnoxious behavior and growling every time someone mentioned Superboy or Metallo. His sudden transition from good-natured and sweet to furious and volatile was a shock to her that she still couldn't explain. To make the situation worse, the media picked up on Superboy's deepening anti-social behavior. They started attacking him from all sides and dubbing him, 'Super Menace!'
"Never mind all the wonderful things Superboy did for the world and for people and charity." She spoke aloud. "Couldn't they see he needed help? That he wasn't himself?" Lana sniffled. "What am I saying? I just treated him like a total jerk and he'll probably hate me now."
Lana looked away from the road for a moment and gazed at the black sky. "I'm sorry, Superboy." She whispered. "I'll always love you. I just need a little time, you really hurt…"
The blast of a truck horn brought her back to focus. Lana had veered onto the opposite lane. She grabbed the steering wheel and twisted it to the right, narrowly missing the monster-sized tractor. It would have caused a tragic accident, seeing as the tractor was also carrying a cluster of vehicles on top of it. Passing cars blared their horns at her for her carelessness. Lana took deep breaths and gripped her wheel tight, she needed to pay attention and slow down if she wanted to make it home in one piece.
The rain, much needed in these parts, did not let up. As she coasted along again, she felt the car jerk and heard a series of metal snaps. The lug nuts sprang off the tire. Lana screamed as she felt the tire go flying and her car bounced down to its right side. Lana panicked and veered off the road, but not before making a complete spin. She tried desperately to remember what they taught in Driver's Ed about these accidents, but everything was a blur. She screamed as other cars swerved to avoid the impending collision. The rain slicked highway made it hard for her to hit the brakes properly. Lana braced herself. Any second now the car would flip over. She lowered her head and squeezed her eyes shut, awaiting the harsh impact.
"Superboy! Help me!" She cried out.
The flipping and crashing never came. Her car immediately halted in the marshy grass and she only felt a small jolt. Her door flew open…and sailed three feet in the air. It landed in a nearby pond. Lana trembled and opened her eyes to see Superboy kneeling beside her. He gently clutched her shoulder.
"Lana! Are you hurt? I don't see any broken bones. Try not to move so much." He ordered and scanned her for internal injuries. She was only badly shaken with a few bruises and scrapes.
Lana blinked at him surprised. The rain soaked him. She grasped his arm and slid over. She attempted to tug him into the car. Superboy soon found himself sitting behind the steering wheel. Lana slid onto his lap and tossed her arms over his neck.
"Superboy! Thank God you were here. I'm so sorry for how I treated you before. You're right. I was angry and hurt, but I know it wasn't your fault. You never would have done that to me if you weren't exposed to that red kryptonite."
Superboy pushed the seat back to make more space for the two of them. "It's okay, I'm glad I followed you. I didn't trust that tire when I saw how hard you hammered everything."
"I should have listened to you."
"Yeah, you should have, but I know you're not in the mood to deal with me right now."
Lana eyed him and guilt crept upon her. "What do you mean, Superboy?"
"Lana, please, even if I never remember, I need to know what I did to you. You just said I did something."
Lana felt a giant wave of foolishness. She bit her lip and lowered her face against his shoulder.
"Never mind, Superboy. It's over. You're cured and that's all that matters."
Superboy shook his head and forced her gaze. "No. It does matter. I feel so guilty about everything. You have to tell me."
"It wasn't as bad as it seems. I'm just being a drama queen right now." Lana looked around the car embarrassed. "I didn't mean to pull you in here, but it's raining like crazy and you were getting drenched. I didn't want…"
Superboy's soft, blue-eyed stare could have melted her on the spot without the aid of his heat vision. His gaze never failed to send pleasurable shivers down her spine. She leaned toward him with her lips puckered, but then Superboy moved to her right and she was back in the driver's seat.
"Lana, why can't you tell me what I did to you?"
Lana tossed up her hands. "Superboy, you're very persistent!"
"And you're very stubborn."
"You need to let things go. It's over with."
"Not for me. Not until I know how I hurt you."
"You didn't hurt me!"
"Now you're lying."
"I'm not a liar!"
"Well then you're shielding the truth. I can take it, Lana."
Lana sighed as the tears she fought to hold back spilled over. Superboy reached out for her and she sobbed against him.
"Lana…shh…it's all right. I'm in my right mind; I never want to hurt you. I never will. If something like this happens again, I'll fight it!"
"Tell me." He prodded gently.
Lana sat up and took a deep breath. "Okay. I was in the dorm. I had just gotten off the phone with my mother and was dressed for bed. You kicked open my door and that scared me to death. You started teasing me; you even tried to dump my goldfish out of the bowl. I went up to you, begged you to let me help, and that I wanted you to talk to me."
Superboy tensed and made fists. "Did I?"
"For a second you sort of acted like you cared but then you yelled at me to get dressed."
Lana cautiously touched her jaw. Superboy noticed a few bruises through the make-up she tried to conceal them with. He caressed her face and a pang of remorse shot through him when she shuddered under his touch.
"Lana, what did I do? Why is your face bruised?"
Lana tried to smile at him, but gave up. "It didn't hurt that much. You…you grabbed me by the chin and flung me across the room on the bed, then threw my leather jacket at me. You wouldn't leave until I changed, but stood in the doorway blocking the view and making fun of everyone that walked by. Andy came to check on me, but you blew him down the hallway and used your heat vision on his box of anti-Superboy shirts. Better those horrible shirts than him I guess."
Superboy lowered his face in his hands. "Poor Andy. Then what?"
"You flew me to a bar where you met Metallo. During the flight you kept pretending to drop me. At one point you did…about ten feet! I don't know what it was, but you caught me fast and just stared at me, I think…I think you were trying to fight it, but whatever power the red k had on you was too strong."
Superboy wanted to punch a hole through the roof of her car he was so furious with himself. Lana continued.
"In the bar I tried to convince you of what you were doing but Metallo said I had a big yap so you shoved me out the door. You said there were lots of other broads around. I didn't leave. I followed you and Metallo to the army base and spoke to General Swan. The scientists came up with the idea on how to reverse the effects."
"And they took a chance and used you to confront me."
"No. I wanted to do it. I had to." Lana wiped her eyes and smiled. "See, I told you it was nothing."
Superboy banged the dashboard so hard it collapsed. Lana gasped and was about to run from the car but he held her.
"Wait! I'm sorry! Lana, I can't believe I did all that to you. I did hurt you and it could have been much worse if the red k effects were any stronger. Lana, please forgive me."
Lana relaxed. Superboy was no longer a threat. He was just very angry with himself and she even saw tears in his eyes. She clutched his hand to reassure him.
"I already did at the base, but I'll say it again, because I was still upset. Superboy, I forgive you. I know you would have never hurt me like that or do the things you did on purpose. The world will soon know it too. It's not like you went around destroying countries or landmarks or anything…well, the bartender said after Metallo left you shot pecans at all his mirrors across the bar table and shattered them. Then, you just laughed, yelled at a few patrons, but…nothing else!"
"Nothing you witnessed anyway." He sighed.
"No Superboy. You're not like the rest of us. You're an immense force for good, it would take a lot to make you truly evil."
"Do you really believe that?"
"I know it." Lana hated to see him look so defeated. His handsome face went downcast and his shoulders slumped. She moved nearer and sat him up tall. "Hey, buck up, Champ! It's not the end of the world and I'm sure you can repair the physical damages."
Superboy smiled lopsided and brushed his hand through her long, red hair. "But what about the emotional? All the mistrust and hurt feelings I probably caused. To you especially, Lana. I just can't…"
Lana tugged him close and interrupted him with a long kiss. She then slowly pulled away, allowing its sweetness to sink in. Superboy was dazed and she giggled. He licked his lips and smiled. Her laughter was music to his ears.
"Feel a little better? Do you believe that I forgive you now?" She teased him.
"Absolutely…but maybe you can convince me one more time?" Superboy leaned forward to return the kiss and he noticed flashing lights and a tow truck pulling up. He patted Lana's shoulder and she opened her eyes disappointed.
"Help is here, Lana. Someone must have called your accident in. I should go now. Looks like the rain stopped too."
As he exited the car, Lana grabbed his cape. "Superboy, wait."
"What is it?"
Lana tilted her head toward the pond. "Umm…would you mind just putting my door back?"
They both laughed and Superboy fixed the damages to her car.
The following day at lunch, Clark and Andy sat in a fifties-style diner just outside of campus. Andy was back to wearing his normal Superboy tee-shirt after everyone heard General Swan's humble announcement over the Government's failure to monitor the kryptonite experiment properly. Whatever damages were incurred would be paid for by them and the world had nothing to fear from the honorable boy of steel. Superboy then went before the cameras and made an open apology for letting the world and those most dear to him down. The tides of public opinion immediately changed and Superboy's name and reputation was in the clear.
"Clark, did you hear the news this morning? Superboy is all right, he's not Super Jerk anymore."
Clark sipped his soda pensively. "Yeah, I'm glad about that. Look, Andy, I have to…"
Andy waved his hand. "Clark, are you going to apologize again?"
"Of course. I'm really sorry for the way I behaved when…"
"Clark, stop. Let me tell you something, you getting mad like that was the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life! Well next to a man flying of course…uh…among other stuff." He smirked in the direction of a pretty patron in a mini-skirt.
Clark glanced at him puzzled. "What? You actually liked that I was mad?"
"Well, you were being a real dork too, but it was totally awesome!" Andy leaned over and slugged his shoulder. Clark pretended to wince and grabbed it.
"Ouch! Not so hard. That will probably leave a bruise, thanks a lot, Andy."
"Jeesh, Clark, It's not like you even wear tee-shirts. Maybe you should get back to the gym. You're supposed to go more than once every two months."
Clark nodded and bit into his burger. "Yeah, you're right, Andy. Hey, remember the last time I even lifted the twenty-pound sets? Not bad, huh?"
Andy just stared at him like he was a hopeless case. "Clark, it's a wonder you can carry your own weight. Anyway, thanks to your outbursts of anger, now I finally know that you are a part of the human race, buddy. You have put an indelible spot on that goody-goody reputation and decided to join us after all. Fantastic!"
Clark had to laugh. "Andy, I'm not perfect and I don't have wings and a halo."
"None that we can see." Andy tapped his forehead. "But, you're impossibly good, Clark. Thanks for apologizing anyway. I appreciate it."
Clark sat back relieved. Andy was one to get offended quick, but he was good-natured in his own way, and brushed things off just as fast. The bells to the entrance jangled and Andy waved at Lana to join them. She hurried over, looking much more refreshed than the night before.
"Hey, did I miss anything?"
"Same old stuff now that everything is back to normal. I heard you had some car trouble last night?" Andy said.
"Oh yeah, my tire went bad and I was stuck on the road for a while. No big deal." She said fast.
"How do you think you did on the quiz, Lana? It wasn't too hard." Clark asked.
She shrugged and slid in next to Andy. "Okay, I suppose. We all knew it was coming."
Clark sighed. He felt she had avoided him all day. He kept his head down and concentrated on eating his meal. "I think I passed. I had a chance to study earlier in the week."
"Sure, since nobody dared bother you." Lana quipped, but he caught the seriousness in her tone.
Andy looked from Clark to Lana and was about to come to his friend's defense but Clark stared her straight in the eye.
"Lana, I don't know what came over me these last few days. I guess I was feeling the pressure of the deadlines and then with Superboy going bad, everyone on the Herald was breathing down my neck to keep tabs with the story. I was upset just like you both were…but there was no excuse for me to take it out on you or Andy. Can you forgive me?"
Lana crinkled her brow and stared at him. He was as earnest as Superboy, and his words were similar; it was as if…Lana dismissed her thought. She rolled her eyes with a wide grin and switched sides at the table.
"I guess I'm chopped liver again." Andy sulked.
Lana ignored him. She wrangled Clark's arm through hers and leaned her head on his shoulder. Clark smiled relieved.
"Of course I can forgive you, Clark. Besides, it's almost refreshing seeing you show emotion like that."
Andy chuckled. "I rest my case, buddy. Even Lana agrees that now you're finally one with us lowly humans."
"Andy, c'mon. I'm…human. If I wasn't, that never would have happened." Clark insisted, trying to quench his embarrassment. Sometimes he wondered if that were true.
"Andy stop teasing him." Lana scolded. "Why is it so impossible to think that a person can be genial most of the time? It's something to aspire too. I'm learning to work on my temper, what are you doing to better yourself?"
Andy put his hands behind his head and eyed the attractive waitress that pranced by, balancing four plates. "Hey, I'm working on my tan, and my mojo."
Clark and Lana had to laugh. "Your what?" They said at the same time and laughed again.
"My mojo! You know…my prowess…my charm…my sexy…"
"Andy, that's okay, we get it." Clark stopped him.
Andy shoved a bunch of fries in his mouth. "Lana, you wouldn't be glowing so much because of a corny test, what else happened?"
Lana giggled. "Okay, well, I have a date tonight."
"Who's the brave guy?" Andy sat up, feigning disappointment. "Why is it impossible for me to ever go out with you?"
"I don't know! Because you're you, Andy." Lana groaned. "I have a date with Superboy!"
Clark gaped at her and Andy snorted. "Oh, I get it, Now he's being Super smooth. He wants to give you a personal apology for being a Super Jerk!"
"Stop calling him that, Andy. Superboy saved your life a few times and he's our good friend." Lana defended him and Clark had to hide his grin.
"Okay, okay! I didn't mean anything by it. I know. Superboy helped me to have a relationship with my father. We're closer than ever thanks to him. I owe the big guy a lot."
Clark pulled a small envelope out of his plaid shirt pocket. "Actually, Andy, Superboy owes you. He told me to give you this. It's to cover the costs of the shirts he ruined. He said if it's not enough, he'll get the rest to you soon."
Andy took the envelope and counted out a hundred dollars. He wanted to pocket it, but Lana glared at him. He shook his head resolute and slid the envelope back to Clark.
"No. I won't take it. I shouldn't have made those stupid shirts in the first place. I was just mad, and I guess…"
"Yeah. He can keep it, use it on Lana's date or something." Andy smiled.
Clark pocketed the envelope again and pushed his glasses up his nose with a large shrug. "Well, you know, I guess that's what happens when we put too much stock in heroes and idols and stuff, they can disappoint us to the point where we do foolish things. And…I say that for myself too."
Andy and Lana kept silent and contemplated on what he said. Lana took a few onion rings off Clark's plate. "You're right, Clark. It's okay to look up to someone and to be inspired, but not take it to the extreme. Ideals and people can always fall short."
"Yeah. Even with the best intentions."
Andy pushed his plate aside and clasped his hands together. "I love all this psycho babble and I'm sorry to have to dump ya, but that blonde waitress is just waiting for me to sweep her off her feet. I'll catch you guys later, and if she says yes, I'll see ya all tomorrow!"
Clark rolled his eyes and finished off the food. "Lana, are you hungry? Can I get you something to eat?"
"No thanks. I'm trying to save my appetite for tonight. Superboy and I are going to a fancy Italian restaurant and the owner is giving us a private room. General Swan hooked us up with a great reservation."
"Oh, sure. Well, I gotta get back to campus, I have some last minute work to do before the paper goes to press. Are you okay now? Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Never better, Clark. Thanks." Lana was about to walk away, but then she quickly bent over and kissed him on the cheek. Clark blushed and Lana laughed.
"I'm feeling much better because I have you in my life too."
Clark watched longingly as Lana left the diner. He paid his bill a few minutes later and stepped outside. He had a few more damages to undo as Superboy, like re-installing the vault door at the bank, which was still closed for business since he robbed it two days ago. The bar also needed replacement mirrors.
Aside from taking the test, Clark also had another class, and deadlines at the Shuster Herald, He spent the latter half the day as Superboy, apologizing to everyone and fixing public property. The hours dragged on and he finally finished up making amends within an hour before he was supposed to meet Lana.
A slew of police cars sped by as he flew overhead, followed by four fire engines and four ambulances. He listened in on the communications and they were responding to a five-alarm fire. The smell of smoke began to saturate the air. He looked over the horizon and saw black plumes and rippling orange flames shooting out from a tall, white brick building. It was the Crescent City Retirement Home.
"I'm sorry, Lana, but this has to come first." He murmured and flew faster to the scene.
Lana stared wistfully at the sky from her dorm room window and plucked at the royal-blue straps of her dress. She was tired of looking at the clock. It was after eight-thirty. Superboy had promised to meet her over an hour ago. She kept checking herself in the mirror and applying and re-applying make up just for the heck of it until she got sick of her own reflection. She had a feeling her date was not going to show. She pounced on her bed and rested her chin on her arms, blinking back tears.
"Such is the life of a Superhero. He's always there when you need him, but never there when you need him."
She rolled over and grabbed her remote. As she flicked through the channels on her TV she stopped at a news bulletin showing the aftermath of a retirement home fire just a half hour ago. The building had been salvaged thanks to the firemen and Superboy's aide. In what could have been potentially deadly for all the residents, there were two casualties from smoke inhalation. A quick clip showed Superboy and the police offering comfort to the victim's families. The reporter explained that there could have been mass explosions due to the chemicals and oxygen tanks found within the building.
Lana gazed at the footage of Superboy blowing out the fire. In one large heroic feat, he cracked frozen lake water over the building and warmed it to raindrops with his heat vision to put out the flames that spread to neighboring houses. Crescent county called his presence a miracle. Lana clicked off the television and went to her window again. Her heart swelled with pride for him, and at the same time she felt foolish for thinking he just stood her up without a reason. That was not his way.
Superboy obviously had more important things to do with his time than have Italian dinners with star-struck co-eds. She drew the shades, then heard a low knocking at her door. Lana sprinted over to open it and saw Clark standing there with a pert smile. She needed a moment to make sure it was Clark Kent she was seeing. He was dressed in a sharp pair of charcoal slacks with a matching blazer and a dark blue button down shirt and no tie. His dark hair, which was usually plastered down in a side part, was combed back in soft waves. He held a large sunflower in his hand.
"Lana…um…wow! You look so nice."
Lana tugged at her curls, she didn't understand why a compliment from Clark could make her feel so giddy. "Thank you, Clark. So do you! I don't think I've ever seen you like this. You look fantastic!"
"Thanks! Andy put his foot down…and uh…Superboy wanted me to tell you that he's really sorry he couldn't make the date tonight, he had an emergency to handle and then something else came up."
"I know what happened with Superboy. I saw it on the news. He was amazing as always." Lana smiled gently at him. Clark's nervousness was adorable. She waited for him to finish.
"Yeah…well he asked me if I would take his place and I agreed. But it's your date and I don't want you to be disappointed so…well…would you settle for me?"
He pushed up his glasses and held out the flower to her. Lana immediately took it and closed the door in his face. Clark stood open-mouthed and crestfallen and then he turned away. Ten seconds later her door opened and Lana hurried to his side with her purse and gripped his arm.
"Clark, I'll never settle for you. I'll go out with you any day."
Lana and Clark headed away from Shuster's campus and out on the town. For the best friends, it was one of the sweetest times they ever shared.