AN: Is anyone still interested in this? Believe it or not, I've had most of this written for about 6 months now. Then I've spent the last two months working on it at work when my students weren't watching. I figured I couldn't leave the fic where it was, so I had to at LEAST get this posted for my own sanity. I have more idea for this middle or the road fic, but I'm not sure if I will get to them. I have another bunny, believe it or not, that I'd like to post and see if there are any takers. But given that Superman Returns is pretty dead, I don't know how interested readers will be in this any longer.
Anyway, because of how long I've been away from fan fiction, I don't have a beta reader. I read over this several times, but I'm certain I missed typos. If you find one, gently let me know in your review and I'll try to get it fixed!
And hey, thanks for all the Superman love over the years folks. We seriously need to get together for the new film!
For the Record
The footage was on every channel. Still shots from the recording were in every paper. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, Janice Jones detailed our conversation out to the media almost word for word. So much for being off the record. My Mightnight Rondevous with Superman was all anyone could talk about.
Questions were piling up higher and higher. Why had Superman met with this reporter? Why had he done it after hours? Why did he ask for it to be off the record? But the most potentially damaging question of all had to do with the taxes. I should never have said anything about the taxes, because now reporters everywhere were speculating on the idea that Superman may just pass as a normal man who lives in Metropolis and pays taxes like everyone else. Not good. Not good at all.
Trying not to draw attention to myself, I stayed at my desk with my head bowed over my key board and just listened to the various conversations around me. I listened to an angry voice mail message from Jason telling me to fix things as quickly as possible. I heard chatter from other reporters hypothesizing on Superman's motives. Red faced and more ill tempered than usual, Perry stormed around the bull pen spouting off frantic instructions, some of which made absolutely no sense. I ignored most of it until he said something about Lois. Any mention of Lois would naturally catch my attention, but this was very specific.
"When she gets here, I want everyone to just leave her alone to do whatever it is that she needs to do," Perry said.
I turned to look at him, not sure I had understood him correctly. Lois was coming into work? She was at her sister's house. Wasn't she?
"I don't care if she is parked on the roof for the next week, no one bothers her! Are we clear?" Perry pointed a finger at everyone who was looking at him, including me. "KENT!"
I stood up. "Mr. White? Did you say Lois was coming in?"
"That's exactly what I said," he growled, "'cause I'll be damned if I'm going to let some young floozy take Lois' place as Superman's go-to source."
I frowned. "But Lois needs time off. She's mourning and you can't ask her to –"
"I didn't ask her, Kent. She called in about an hour ago saying she was heading back."
Which meant Lois had seen everything. And was probably upset.
I don't know why I believed that she wouldn't know about any of this. She watched the news religiously. She knew how I worked as Superman. She had to know that all the gossip surrounding this issue was pointless. But if she was upset enough to come back early from her time off, then it meant she was buying into the gossip the same way Perry was. I was ready for the full force of her anger. I'd faced it before. However, if there is one thing to expect from Lois it's that she will do the unexpected. That's what makes her Lois.
Her calm demeanor took us all be surprise when she arrived that afternoon. She breezed in with her lap top bag and a cup of coffee in hand looking as if it was just another typical day.
"Good to have you back, Ms. Lane," Jimmy said.
"Yeah, I just wish it were under better circumstances, Jimmy," she said.
"LOIS!" Perry's voice boomed. "I know this was the last place you planned to be this week, but darling, I sure am glad to see you!"
"Thanks, Perry. Just let me log into the system and I'll…" she shook her head. "I guess I'll camp out on the roof like you suggested." Her gaze never even came close to wandering in my direction.
"Good. The first thing we need to do is reestablish the fact that if Superman is going to give an exclusive, it's going to come to Lois Lane at the Daily Planet."
Lois, now typing away at her computer, rolled her eyes.
"Once that's settled," Perry continued, "you need to get the man in blue talking about this tax situation."
"Nope," Lois said. "I'm not here to talk taxes."
Perry rounded on her. "That's the scandal, Lois. Well, that and the idea that Superman and this Jones woman are having an affair. Sex and money – those are the two things that sell papers. How many times have I—"
Lois cut him off. "The whole taxes thing is old news. I'm not digging it up again now just because other people have forgotten about it."
Lois sighed and leaned back in her chair to look up at Perry. "Superman has been here for the last 20 years… minus the five years he went missing…" She ground out the last bit through her teeth. "Most of his work, his minor work, is around Metropolis. Sure he does what is needed around the world, but he's usually doing local things, right? Getting cats out of tress. Helping old lady cross the street. Boy Scout stuff. I think it's pretty obvious that he lives somewhere near here. He has to eat and sleep somewhere. Have we ever heard of Superman going grocery shopping? Or eating in a restaurant? I certainly haven't. So chances are that he does these things in normal clothes. As a normal person."
"Exactly!" Perry pointed a finger at her, driving home his point. "We've speculated about his real identity for years. This idea about the taxes is going to make him own up to it."
"Give me a break, Perry," Lois slumped. "The man stands for truth and justice. If there is one thing I'm certain of, it's that he pays taxes. I bet he pays more than he needs to because he probably thinks it's dishonest to claim things like take-out food or clothing as a job expense."
"Somebody had to make that suit he wears. Unless sewing is a superpower we've never heard about."
My heart hammered in my chest through the whole conversation. I'd never heard Lois talk so openly or candidly about whom I might be and how I am able to live my life. Yet everything she said had a valid point.
Perry just grimaced. "So, you're not going to ask him about the taxes?"
"Nope. But I will talk to him about his suspicions about the mayor and the possible conspiracy between the mayor's office, DOT, and the construction companies currently working on the transportation around the city. "
"Conspiracy? Where the hell did you get an idea like that?"
"It's called research, Perry," Lois countered.
"Trust me. No one gives a damn about any conspiracy right now."
"It's the money side of the story you've been looking for," Lois offered.
"And the sex? Will you confront him about having an affair with this reporter?"
"What Superman does in his bedroom is not my business."
My jaw dropped, and it was all I could do to stay in my chair and keep quiet.
Perry, however, made his opinion known. "Lois, honey, I think you missed the memo that Superman's love life is your business. You made it your business when you announced to the world that you spent the night with him."
Lois frowned, "That was twenty-five years ago."
"Which is why you need to settle the idea that he's moved on to greener pastures."
She huffed and grabbed her purse. "Fine. I'll do what I can."
It wasn't until she was in the elevator and the doors were closing that her eyes met mine. The look was brief, but the message was clear; I'd messed up again.
I waited a very long thirty seconds before leaving my desk and heading for the elevator on the other side of the bull pen. No one paid any attention to me, so at least that much had gone well. When I made it to the roof, Lois was already leaning casually against the wall ledge, her arms folded and her lips pursed. The long look she gave me wasn't friendly or welcoming.
I swallowed hard. "Lois, I know what this looks like—"
She held up a hand to silence me. I obliged. Another strenuous minute or two of silence passed.
I shook my head slightly and quietly offered, "I'm sorry."
She quirked an eyebrow in response.
"You honestly can't believe that I would—"
"Have an affair with a beautiful, young reporter?"
I shook my head again, "I would never—"
"But you did."
"No, it was just—"
"You did. With me. Or have you forgotten that? I know I don't remember it – well, I don't remember the actual affair, but I do remember the private meetings, the off the record flirty comments. You, though… I was certain you remembered the actual affair part."
I simply gaped at her.
"I'm not surprised by the situation, just by the fact that you picked someone so untested… so distrust worthy."
I managed to get past the lump in my throat and defend myself. "Lois, nothing happened."
"Looks like something did."
"How could you even think that?"
She stood up strait, her face contorting in the tell-tale sign that her anger was about to be unleashed. "How could I not? You did the exact same thing with me!"
"It's not the same thing!"
"How is this different, then? You rescue a young, up and coming news reporter from a crisis situation and then arrange to have a private meeting at her place a few days later. Sounds very familiar to me."
Now I was getting angry. Lois might not like me very much, but I had always been clear that my feelings for her had never changed. And she knew it. She had used it against me many times over the years. "You honestly think I have feelings for Janice Jones?" I spat the name out.
"Why not? She's young—"
"She's younger than Jason!"
"Men date younger women all the time, Clark."
"Maybe if she was three or four years younger, but not twenty years younger!"
"She's beautiful," Lois said.
"She blond," I said, rolling my eyes.
"You have a thing against blonds?"
"Nothing personal, but I have never in my life been attracted to a blond woman. I like…"
I stopped myself. But Lois pressed for more. "You like?"
For some unknown reason, I decided to lay it all out there in the open. "Brunettes. Specifically brown, wavy hair that frames a heart shaped face with deep, brown eyes. And she needs to be close to my age. That's my type."
Unfortunately, my attempt at calming Lois' fury backfired. Softly, but bitingly she said, "Don't. Don't even try to smooth talk your way out of this one."
"If you are going to be angry with me, then let it be for the right reason."
She laughed darkly and tossed her hair. "Which is?"
"For being so naive that I put my trust in someone I didn't know very well. For thinking that this person would have the same integrity that you had when we first met."
"As opposed to the lack of integrity that I have now?"
I literally growled at her. "Lois, you know what I mean! Why do you have to make this so difficult?"
"I didn't do this, Clark! You did! I didn't repeat history by seeking the attention of some young girl!"
"It isn't a repeat of history! That's what I'm trying to explain. I only spoke to her last night because I wanted to make it clear that my involvement with her wasn't what the media hyped it up to be. I answered her questions because she was involved in a terrible event. That was the extent of our relationship, if you can even call it that! I wanted to make sure she was clear about that."
Lois popped a hip. "And you felt that the best way to make that clear was to meet at her house after hours?"
I exhaled slowly, closing my eyes and calming myself down before I said something that I would regret. "I can't change it, Lois. What's done is done."
"No, you can't. But you have to fix this. You can't leave it where it is." It was, in my opinion, the first rational thing she said.
"I agree. I just don't know what I can do."
"You can stay away from Janice Jones, for starters," Lois said bitterly.
"Obviously," I said. "What else?"
She sighed, "I think the best thing to do is to draw focus back to the real story about the construction companies, DOT, and the involvement, or lack thereof, of the mayor's office."
"Agreed. There's something going on there that someone doesn't want the public to know about. In fact I…"
She tilted her head at me. "You what?"
I shrugged, "I wonder if the whole situation with Miss Jones has been pit up as a cover for the real story."
Lois bit at her lip. "Could be. Superman starts drawing attention to the problem with DOT so someone in the mayor's office gets the media to hype up this relationship between Superman and Jones." She hummed thoughtfully. "I like it, but it means that Jones is involved."
"You think so?"
"Maybe she wasn't at first, but she is now." Lois eyed me skeptically. "You did ask her to speak off the record, right?"
"Which she clearly ignored." Lois began to pace as she spoke. "Still, no one is slamming her for going against her word and writing a tell all. Like you said, it compromises her integrity as a reporter you can trust. Her name isn't that well established yet. By revealing the conversation she had with Superman, she is very publically demonstrating that whatever is said to her off the record in the future might just end up as a headline."
"It's bad business. Why would she do that?"
She looked off in the distance over the roof tops. "I'm not sure. Money makes the most sense. If there is a connection to the mayor, maybe she was offered a position or an exclusive. Or maybe she wants the notoriety of being Superman's girl."
"She's not my girl," I groaned.
"She could be, though."
"Well, I don't want her."
Lois turned then and looked at me with wide eyes. Moments passed where we said nothing verbally, yet our eyes spoke volumes.
Lois broke the stare and turned away from me again. "Whatever happens, I think Superman needs to stay out of it for a while. You though, and I mean Clark," she pointed at me, "can help me figure out what going on with DOT."
"The public will still talk. They will still speculate about me and Miss Jones."
She crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. "Yes, they will. There will be speculation about you and Miss Jones for the rest of your life, Clark. I mean, look at us. People still speculate about us, right?"
I leaned against the same wall. "True, except that I don't mind when people speculate about us."
She looked over at me. "You don't?"
"No, why would I?"
She frowned, "Because it makes us look like floozies who will do anything for a good story."
"I always thought it just made us look like we were in love." I heard her heart flutter and her breathing change, but I knew better than to acknowledge it for anything other than her anger taking root again. So I said, "But then that's probably my naivety coming out again." I pushed off the wall and took a few steps away from her. "So, you think Superman should just stay out of it for a while?"
"I do," she said softly. "Once you give me a quote."
"I can't leave this roof top without something printable. Even if it's just to say that Superman is taking some time off for a while."
That's when I knew what I had to do. It came to me so clearly that I felt stupid for not realizing it sooner. "Lois, you will have one heck of a quote. The best. The most exclusive. I promise."
"Okay. Good." She paused and looked at me expectantly. "Let's have it."
I shook my head. "I need you to go back to the bull pen."
She frowned. "I can't."
"But I need you to."
"Perry will pitch a fit!"
"Just tell Perry—"
"He won't listen!"
I huffed and removed my glasses, slipping them into the pocket of my shirt. "Tell Perry you don't think a private conversation is what Superman is looking for right now." I looked directly into her eyes. "Tell him that if Superman wants to talk, he knows where to find you and that you have other things you can work on while you wait."
Mouth hanging slightly open, Lois blinked up at me. She blinked again. Slowly. As if she was dazed. "How do you do that?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Never mind. I'll go inside, but trust me when I say that the shit will hit the fan if I don't have a quote in the next twenty-four hours!" She headed back inside but turned to me before reaching the door. "Are you coming in?"
"No, I have um…" I pointed to the sky.
She rolled her eyes. "Sure." As the door was closing behind her she said, "Twenty-four hours!"
I smiled, hoping that my plan would please her. I hadn't been able to please her very much lately, especially if it was something I chose to do on my own rather than clearing it with her first. So this was a real risk, but it had to be done.
I waited about a half an hour, taking my time to fly around the city and clear my head a bit. I worked out what I wanted to say and how I should say it. This would be one of the most important statements Superman would ever say, yet it had to appear somewhat casual. And I had to be careful not to give away too many details on my personal life. Or Lois', for that matter.
When I felt enough time had passed, I headed back toward the roof of the Daily Planet and entered the building. I used the stairs to reach the floor of the bull pen and walked right up to the first desk I came to. The reporter's name was Carver, but I wasn't supposed to know that.
"Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where Miss Lane might be?"
Carver's eyes slowly traveled up to meet mine. The stunned look on his face was echoed on several faces around the room as one by one the reporters took note of who had entered the room. Carver stammered something and pointed to his right, never taking his eyes off of me.
"Thank you," I said, and headed further into the room.
One after another the reporters stopped and turned to look at me. Mouths were agape. Eyes were wide. No one knew what was going on or really what to say. Lois' was talking to Perry and had her back to me. As I approached and Perry's jaw fell open, Lois popped a hip and said, "Perry? Did you hear me? Hello?"
"Hello," I responded.
Lois snapped around and very nearly dropped the papers in her hand. She stared up at me for a moment, not quite believing what she was seeing. After all, Superman had never made a visit like this. The very idea of Superman standing in the middle of the bull pen obviously left Lois and the rest of the staff at the Daily Planet completely speechless.
"I'm sorry to bother you at work like this. I felt, given the recent misunderstandings, that I should talk to you publicly so that no one can accuse you of trying to cover the truth."
I waited a moment for Lois to respond. All I got was a stunned face and a small, "Er," sound from her.
"Miss Lane, I am terribly sorry for the loss you have suffered recently. You too, Mr. White." I glanced back at Perry before settling my gaze fully on Lois. "I know things must be difficult for you and I didn't mean to add any stress to the situation. When I spoke to Miss Jones I believed that my intentions and statements would be presented truthfully. It's something I've come to expect from the many times I've spoken to you, Miss Lane. I was wrong in assuming that every reporter held to your high standards. Believe me when I say that there is no sort of scandalous relationship between Miss Jones and myself. And I apologize for the fact that this has put you in an awkward situation, Miss Lane, because of our long standing friendship."
Again I focused on Perry. "Mr. White, if I heard Miss Lane correctly as I came in, she wants to investigate the mayor's office. I believe this is the correct instinct. I feel that my comment about the department of transportation and the lack of effort from the mayor may have hit a nerve which led to them using my conversation with Miss Jones as a distraction. For as long as I have known her, Miss Lane has had the best instincts which usually lead to outstanding results."
I looked back down at Lois who was still standing nearly frozen in place from her shock. "If there is anything that I can do to help aid your investigation, please let me know. I hope that this situation hasn't done any permanent damage to the working relationship and friendship that we've built over the years."
I held on to her gaze probably a little longer than was appropriate. I hoped she understood what I, Clark Kent, was trying to say to her through Superman's words. Her expression was difficult to read though. I knew she was surprised, but I was hoping to see relief or at least some kind of smile. Instead she licked at her lips and swallowed hard a few times, staring up at me in a mixture of confusion and amazement.
"Well, if you'll excuse me then," I said as casually as I could manage. I needed to leave before I said something more that would give away details that shouldn't be given away. "Mr. White, would you mind if I just…" I signaled to the window.
"No! Yes! I mean, go ahead. Whatever you need, son," he stammered.
With one final look and a smile back at Lois, I exited out the window. In no time at all, I circled the building and walked back into the bull pen, this time in my usuall three piece suit, without anyone taking notice of me. All eyes were still on the window. Everyone was silent. I'd never known the bull pen to be so still.
"Golly," I said softly. "You don't see that every day." Several people, including Lois, turned to look at me. Which was what I wanted them to do. They needed to see Clark and Superman in the same place. Sort of.
A heartbeat later Perry was barking orders. "Don't just stand there! This is the story to beat all stories! Thompson, I want you looking into Janice Jones' history with the mayor. Find a connection. O'Riley, do some back checking on anything Superman might have said in the past to other reporters that has been twisted around – especially if it pertains to the mayor! Kent, dig up whatever you can find on the DOT and the mayor."
"But Chief—" Lois started, snapping out of the daze she had been in.
"And Lois, I need a write up on Superman's appearance here. I want the fact that Superman visited the Daly Planet to be our headline tomorrow, so get cracking! Once that's finished, Lois, you're with Kent for the rest of it."
The activity level jumped from zero to one hundred percent in moments. Not only was everyone busy, but every conversation had something to do with what had just happened. I smiled and laughed a little to myself before heading towards my desk. I was stopped short by Lois' gentle hand on my arm.
I looked deeply into her eyes, understanding the gratitude I saw there. "You heard Perry. We have work to do, Lois."
"But Clark… I…"
I placed my hand over hers. "No buts. Okay?" I smiled and gave a nod.
As I turned away, I felt her hand squeeze at my arm. "Hey. Wait a sec." She stepped in to me, drawing her body very close to mine.
"Thank you," she said softly. And before anyone could notice how close we had moved together, she was walking away, heading over to her desk where she would spend the rest of the day writing. As it should be.