It Takes Two...
All in all, it was a typical social evening for the Kents. A building had collapsed in China and Clark Kent had spilled water all down the front of him and ducked out to "clean up in the bathroom." What made this evening more of a challenge was the fact that this happened at the banquet for the Reeve Philanthropy Award, which the Planet had just won for its "Newsboy" program of internships and sales jobs for disadvantaged youth. After the actual awards had been handed out, the acceptance speeches had taken place, and everyone, on their second, or third, (or fourth, Lois strongly suspected of Steve Lombard) drink, was looking for something else to entertain them through dessert.
"He's such a spaz. I don't know what you see in him." Evidently Cat Grant had had a few herself. Usually her insults were more veiled.
Lois took a sip from her water glass and tried to hold on to her temper, focusing instead on the live orchestra Planet-owner Bruce Wayne, proving his extravagant playboy status, had insisted on hiring for the occasion and then on pushing back the tables to create a makeshift dance floor earlier in the evening, promptly asking Perry's wife Alice to dance. Perry and Alice were out there now, but the sight of their editor and his wife slow-dancing was apparently not enough to hold her co-workers' attention.
Cat went on. "Oh, he's easy enough on the eyes, but the man can't walk across a room without tripping on half the furniture."
And he's not available, Lois reminded herself, which was Cat's real problem with him.
"And now he's passing it on to your son," Cat pressed when Lois still didn't respond. "Or haven't you noticed how Jason is starting to bump into everything, too?"
Cat would never know how carefully calculated Clark's pratfalls were to have maximum noticeability and comedic effect without causing real damage. And she hadn't been at the Planet to see Jason bumping into things long before Clark came back. Like father, like son, Lois thought, barely managing to keep in a fond smile.
She felt Steve edge his chair a little closer to hers. "Kid needs a real man in his life."
That caught her by surprise. "Excuse me?" she asked, eyes narrowed.
Steve leaned back in his chair. "I'm just saying that if I'd been around when White died, you wouldn't have had to settle for Kent."
Across the table, Lucy and Ron wore identical expressions of disgust. Jimmy had gone pale with horror, and even Cat blinked in shock.
Lois' temper hit the boiling point. "And you think I'd 'settle' for you?" She glared at him. "Clark is ten times the man you claim to be."
"Really?" Seve scoffed. "And that's why he dashed back into the building when the Prankster had the Monarchs and Metropolitans' statues fighting in Schuster Square last week?"
"Running back into the building when two large robotic mascots are tossing masonry around is prudent, not unmanly. And he got a great aerial view of Superman stopping them to write up for the story, which you missed hiding out behind the trash cans the way you were." Lois tried to use the memory of that little fact to keep herself from dismembering Steve right there.
"So what you really mean is that he doesn't get in your way when you go after a story and doesn't mind playing second-fiddle. A man you can control." Steve tried to lean in closer, bringing the cloud of alcohol fumes with him. "But that's not the kind of man you really want, is it?"
Now Lois did shove him-and he could be grateful she'd given him credit for the fact that he was drunk and not fully in control of his actions, and hadn't leveled him the way he deserved. "I don't make Clark do-or not do-anything. And his reporting speaks for itself, or did you forget the Pulitzer-prize winning exposé he did on the Genesis disaster, or that he was the one who managed to actually get Lex Luthor held legally accountable for some part of his attempt to flood the United States-because even if you have, I assure you Lex hasn't."
Steve shrugged. "So he's bumbled his way into a few good stories."
"You don't 'bumble' your way into stories like those. You do good solid reporting. Or Clark does, at least." Her implication that Steve didn't went right over his head.
Lucy, with her own share of the Lane temper, sprang to defense of her brother-in-law. "Even our sister was impressed with his coverage of the military situation in Umec when he was sent over there last summer, and Lou's a tough one to please when it comes to the military."
"Whatever," Steve said dismissively. "I'm talking being a real man, not writing about real men."
Lois glared. If Steve didn't knock it off soon he wouldn't have to worry about writing about "real men"-or anything else-for a while, let alone being one. "Clark is one of the best men I know," she said hotly. "Between the Planet, his book, and going back to help his mother out on the farm," -not to mention his other job, which he was off doing right now-"he puts in an incredible amount of work but still makes time for his family every night. And he makes an effort to keep Richard's memory alive for Jason, which is amazing considering-" she closed her lips to stop the next words from coming out: considering Jason is Clark's son.
Lucy knew, which probably meant Ron knew, too, and she suspected Perry had guessed, but they had never told the office that Clark was Jason's biological father, and Clark wanted to keep it that way-an extra layer of protection in case anyone found out Clark and Superman were the same person. Clark had adopted Jason, which settled the legalities, and that was all anyone needed to know. Yet, here she'd almost blurted it out in front of the senior Planet staff, with Cat smugly sitting there waiting for some juicy bits of gossip to pounce on.
Jimmy nudged her. "Hey, there he is, now."
Indeed it was Clark, making his way over the orchestra's conductor. She hoped that he'd been too focused on the survivors in China to have paid attention to the conversation. And that there'd been a big play in the Monarchs game, or a bank robbery that the police had under control as he was flying back. Anything to have avoided hearing their coworkers discussing him.
No luck. His Clark-smile was as bright as ever, but as he approached their table, she could tell that there was an edge behind it.
"Everything OK?" she asked, reminding herself that she really shouldn't hope that the reason for the edge was that someone had died in the building collapse.
"Much better now," Clark said cheerfully, his voice not betraying any hint of what she'd seen in the lines of his face. His tux was dry now-probably thanks to heat vision. "Would you care to dance?"
Lois didn't need to be asked twice. "What were you asking them to play for us?" she asked as he led her out to the dance floor.
He told her.
She stopped. "Clark, that's a tango!"
"And we were dancing one just last week at that milonga in Buenos Aires."
She shook her head. "Aren't you worried about your secret identity?"
"Sometimes Clark Kent can perform a rescue or two," he said calmly.
Lois bristled. "I don't need rescuing."
"You never do." Clark smiled. "I was talking about them." He jerked his head back towards the table. "Anyway," he added, "This secret is already blown for anyone who takes the trouble to look."
When she shot him a confused look, he explained, "Back when I was going all over the world freelancing, I did an article on this one couple in Salta, who swore the secret to their 60 years of marriage was the fact that they danced the tango together every night. The article got picked up by the wire services and ended up in most of the major papers."
"Clark, that was years ago! Nobody is going to remember one article you wrote long before you came to the Planet." Even she hadn't known, and she considered herself something of an expert on Clark Kent's journalistic work.
Clark moved them into position on the "dance floor". "It could happen. Besides, do I really need an excuse to dance with my wife?"
When he put it that way... And then the music began and pushed aside all other thoughts.
Lois had expected to feel self-conscious, since they almost never danced in public, or at least, in front of their friends, but Clark was a superb dancer, and it wasn't long before she lost herself in the music. They could have been anywhere-the back patio, that milonga in Buenos Aires, the rooftop of the Daily Planet, and it wouldn't have made any difference. She could feel the tension and anger start to drain away as she focused on keeping up with Clark in the dance.
Ginger Rogers might have done everything backwards and in heels, but in Fred Astaire she'd had a partner she trusted, who knew how to lead and when to let go. Someone who was her perfect match. And, that, Lois reflected, was what Clark was for her-someone who was intrigued, not intimidated by her determination. Who supported her decisions, but wasn't afraid to tell her when he disagreed with her. Who could lead, but was strong enough and smart enough to let go when the situation called for it. Unlike guys like Steve, Clark never really needed to prove anything to anyone. Even tonight Clark wasn't showing off-not really-just letting people see a hint of his true self.
And he was doing it for her, Lois reflected, her heart warming at the thought. Clark spun her around, and she focused on his face, using it as her reference point in the turn while the rest of the room spun around in a blur of color. Her world narrowed to those warm blue eyes, more brilliant than the sun. Coming out of the spin, Clark pulled her in closer to his chest. She smiled up at him, letting the rest of the world stay gone.
The music swelled into its finale and Clark spun her around once more before dipping her back in perfectly in time with the last chord. He held her there for a moment as the last note died, a question in his eyes. She smiled her answer at him. He smiled back, and pulled her up.
He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm as they headed back to their chairs to pick up their coats, the applause-and even a few whistles-from their colleagues and co-workers nothing more than background noise.
At their table, Steve had a look of disbelief, Cat wore a slight scowl and Jimmy was grinning ear to ear. Perry beamed approvingly and Lucy and Ron shared knowing smiles. "Did you want us to pick up Jason for you?" Lucy asked, "We could put him on the spare bed in the boys' room."
"Thanks, but he's off camping with Clark's mom and her husband this weekend," Lois explained as Clark held her coat for her.
"Ben's taking Jason fishing." Clark added, donning his own coat. "Have a good weekend, all," he nodded politely to their colleagues, in farewell.
"I still don't think anyone would know about that story from all those years ago." Lois said as they headed towards the exit.
They ran into Bruce Wayne at the door. "Something you picked up when you were doing that article on the Garecas?" He nodded towards the dance floor.
Clark cocked an eyebrow at Lois.
She rolled her eyes. "Anyone who isn't the World's Greatest Detective," she said, exasperated.
Clark laughed and even Bruce smiled. Then Clark took her arm and the two of them headed home.